Jim sits across from his wife, Kim, who is sobbing deeply. They are each
trying to find words that will help them go forward.
It’s been three months since Jim confessed to Kim his adulterous behavior
with two different women. It’s been two months since Kim learned that she knows
one of the women. Jim had initially decided he didn’t want to hurt Kim by
telling her it was her friend Bonnie. But he later decided nothing but the
entire truth would begin releasing them from the deceit that was destroying
Today, as they sit across from each other, Jim has already said he’s sorry
and asked Kim to forgive him. He has tearfully promised he will never do it
again. Kim is full of emotion, but still very emotionally disconnected from Jim.
She knows she loves him, yet she is plagued by a disturbing lack of peace. Why
hasn’t forgiving him brought her heart to rest? The two have agreed to stay
together and to negotiate the problems. They both know Kim must once again trust
Jim, but how? Why is she still in so much pain?
In order to successfully navigate the road to reconciliation, Kim and Jim
must overcome four essential hurdles. If you and your spouse are trying to
rebuild your relationship after an affair, you will most likely face these same
hurdles. Awareness and understanding of the challenges that lie ahead can be
your first step toward recovery.
Hurdle #1: Wrong Thinking
Many people mistakenly think that adultery is simply a wrong action, but it
is also a violation of God’s divine order for marriage. A person who has had an
affair must seek his spouse’s forgiveness, not just for the adulterous act, but
also for violating the marriage covenant, or sacred commitment. An intact
marriage covenant creates an atmosphere of security and trust. That security and
trust is what Kim needs in order to give herself freely to Jim. Only a restored
sense of security and trust, borne of Jim asking and receiving forgiveness for
breaking the covenant, can begin to restore Kim’s confidence, peace and joy.
Hurdle #2: A Multi-Faceted Struggle
It is important to realize that a wounded spouse, such as Kim, will struggle
with multiple issues. On one hand, her own sexual identity has become confused.
Because of Jim’s act of immorality Kim finds herself asking deep in her soul,
What is wrong with me that he would want someone else? There is also the issue
of shame emerging in her spirit: shame that he would want any other woman, and
especially that it was her friend Bonnie. How could it be Bonnie? Bonnie of all
people! Another facet of Kim’s struggle is her confusion over her lack of peace.
Although she has forgiven Jim’s acts, she needs to process and eventually
forgive him for the ways she has been affected by his violation of their
Hurdle #3: Getting to the Real Problem
On the surface, it may appear that one’s behavior is the problem, and that a
promise “to change” is the solution. However, the real problem with someone like
Jim is the fact that in his mind, he granted himself permission to break his
marriage vows. To address only his behavior and overlook this issue of
permission will leave both Kim and Jim in limbo. Without getting to the real
problem, both spouses are destined to continue feeling as though something is
wrong, but neither will understand what. They will limp along, wondering why
their relationship is so tentative and distant.
Hurdle #4: Inability to Trust or Be Trusted
This ties in closely with Hurdle #1. Once a marital covenant has been
breached, trust will be difficult — but necessary — to restore. Without trust, a
couple cannot know intimacy. To set the stage for restored trust, Jim must be
able to humbly admit that he is unable to manage his sin or keep his promises,
and that he is deeply addicted to the pleasure of sin. At that point, he will be
in a position to receive God’s freeing grace and empowerment to choose
differently. By being humble and openly dependent on God, Jim will also be
putting himself in a position where Kim can begin to trust him again. As renewed
trust grows between them, the couple will be able to enjoy rich intimacy, true
fulfillment and sustaining joy.
By conquering these hurdles together, hurting spouses can overcome the damage
of infidelity. By learning to trust God in a new, much deeper way, they can
enjoy a stronger, more fulfilling marriage.
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