Is it possible to rebuild trust in my marriage after it has been broken?
In this special roundup post, you will hear what some of the leading marriage voices in America have to say about recovering from an affair. Many of them have walked through difficult times and have learned first-hand how to restore their own marriage after it was broken. I can’t wait to share their excellent and practical advice with you.
Let’s start with some good news. Are you ready?
All of the experts say that it is possible to rebuild trust in a marriage that has been broken. Here are the steps every couple must take to repair the damage that has been done.
Immediately cut off any contact with the other person.
In an article she calls 8 Rules to Help Your Spouse Heal From Infidelity, Abigale Hassel says, “This is rule number one for a reason. In order to be fully emotionally available to your hurting spouse, you must not be emotionally connected to the other person.
You must cut contact completely and fully. I will use the analogy of the alcoholic. In order for an alcoholic to stay clean and sober, he must never take another alcoholic beverage again. He must remove himself from the people, places, and things that tempt him.
He must learn new coping skills so that the need for the alcohol disappears. You must sever the attachment you had with the other completely so that you can emotionally re-attach to your spouse.”
Find out the whole truth about what happened.
It is important to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Why? I asked Roy & Lainey Hitchman, co-founders of a relationship rebuilding ministry called Hitched, about this and they made some great points.
They said, “Secrets build walls, not bridges.
When you hide things from your spouse whether it’s messages, internet activity, friendships or spending, it creates a barrier in your relationship. Your spouse may not know what is causing the wall between you, but they can sense it.
That sensing skill is what the Bible calls discernment; they know that something is wrong no matter how well you try and bury the secret. If you don’t want certain things uncovered, you need to ask yourself the question why?
Instead of blaming your spouse’s possible reaction take a look at your own heart and see if what you are doing is wrong. Chances are, if you are hiding it, it is! If this is the case, then you need to ask God to help you to take responsibility for your actions rather than blaming others.”
Forgive your spouse and then ask God for forgiveness.
I’m going to quote Jesus on this one.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times'” (Matthew 18:21-22).
This is one of my favorite verses on forgiveness. I love it because it implies something about forgiveness that is so true. Without question, with a circumstance as devastating as an affair, you may have to forgive that person every day for a long time until the pain begins to subside.
Forgiving over and over has a way of solidifying God’s work in your heart and weakening the attack of the enemy.
I also can’t help but think about Matthew 6:15. Again, this is Jesus talking. He says, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
This is the very reason I worded this step the way I did. If you want to receive forgiveness from God, you must first forgive others. There is no other way to interpret this verse correctly. Start with your spouse.
Seek the support of godly family and friends.
You and your spouse can’t do this alone. The late Greg Smalley, former vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family, reminds us, “The enemy would love to feed you the lie that no one else has been down this road, and he’ll try to deceive you into remaining isolated and alone.
Don’t give into the enemy’s lies! Seek the support of godly friends who are willing to stand with you to help fight for your marriage. We encourage you to consult only with same-sex friends so you protect yourself from temptation.”
This group of people should also include a Christian counselor and one of your pastors. In one of my recent posts called How to Safeguard Your Marriage From the Ultimate Betrayal, I talk about the kind of people that should surround you.
A few years back, I had a chance to see the Christian singer, Tiffany Arbuckle Lee, also known as Plumb, in concert. Toward the end of her concert, she shared the story of her broken marriage.
I recently found an article that was written about her experience called How Community Kept Plumb’s Marriage Alive. Here’s a short excerpt from it.
“Two days after Jeremy left me, 40 of our closest friends gathered to pray for us in the chapel we were married in. They held us up in prayer, then in the following weeks and months they held us up physically — with calls, food, and babysitting.”
Notice what her friends did. No one judged her. They showed her and her husband the incredible love of Jesus and that was ultimately what brought them back together.
Determine to fight for your marriage together by both giving it 100%.
Both partners must give it 100% if they are going to rebuild the trust between them. I can’t emphasize this enough. None of these steps will work unless you are both working toward restoration.
What should you do if you want the marriage and your spouse does not? I encourage you to pray that God will change your spouse’s heart. Does this always work? Sadly, it doesn’t.
However, you can then move forward knowing that you did everything you could to restore your marriage.
It takes years, not weeks or months, to rebuild trust.
Casey and Meygan Caston of Marriage365 recently posted an excellent video they called Affair Recovery – Next Steps. In this video, they outline 4 steps that the spouse who cheated must take if there is going to be any chance for restoration.
After watching their video, the point that jumped out at me the most had to do with the length of time healing normally takes. Based on their experience, it takes an average of 2 years! They point out that this is the time frame for a couple when both partners are 100% committed to finding healing.
For most of us, this seems like a very long time, especially in a culture where we can get so many things so quickly. Unfortunately, we can shatter our marriage to pieces in minutes by one bad decision.
Restoring other major breaches of trust in your marriage have a similar time frame. Author and blogger Jennifer Smith at The Unveiled Wife wrote about the experience she had after her husband confessed to her that he was addicted to pornography.
She writes, “I know God has healed us from the destruction of porn use. BUT, this healing took place over the course of a few years!” Again, it’s not a quick fix.
By doing this, you leave much less room for the enemy to get a foothold in your marriage. Cheryl and I have this practice as well and we can attest to the effectiveness of it. I have also known couples who merged their Facebook accounts in an effort to weaken the temptation to connect with an old boyfriend or girlfriend.
Bringing things out of the darkness and into the light has a way of lessening their hold on you.
Identify what was missing in the marital relationship and repair it.
Dave Carder of FamilyLife makes a great point about a marriage that has suffered an affair. He says, “An entangled affair is always the result of an intimacy deficit in the marital relationship.”
Carder points out that every marriage is built with experiences that make that relationship unique. “Part of the lure of the affair for an unfaithful spouse was the opportunity to be himself (herself) in his own little private world that he constructed with the partner.
He desperately needed that freedom to be himself and be accepted and appreciated. He didn’t feel that he had to pretend or stay within a certain mold since it was a brand-new world with no rules except those he chose to create with the partner.”
Have you ever seen that before? Some people call it a midlife crisis. Bottom line, the cheating spouse starts acting young again, completely different than he or she has for decades! They stay out late, go to the movies, go on vacation, and more.
Carder goes on to say that the unfaithful partner is doing this because those behaviors have been allowed to atrophy in his current marriage. These are the experiences that kindled the flame of your love for each other.
Dave says that couples who have experienced an affair go back to the things they used to do together. They must recreate that world they started when they first fell in love.
Rebuilding is possible
Without question, rebuilding is difficult, but it is possible with the help of the Lord.
Can I share with you one of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve worked with couples who’s marriage suffered an affair? Sadly, I can think of many relationships that did not survive.
However, the couples that worked hard to rebuild their marriage now have relationships that are stronger than they once were. How is that possible? It’s the healing power of Jesus!
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