Rebuilding Marital Trust—Recovering from Marriage Infidelity

marriage infidelity

Adapted by Alan Heller from Learning To Trust … Again by Dr. Ed Delph, and Alan & Pauly Heller

“My cooperation with God’s operation leads to a Jesus revelation.”—Dr. Ed Delph

Fred and Patty — The Danger of Codependency and Lack of Communication

The Codependent Husband

Fred was a peace-at-all-costs kind of guy. He hated conflict and avoided it whenever he could. At college, he met Patty, whom he would eventually marry. They dated and had fun together—it seemed like a match made in heaven. They never thought that just a few years later, their marriage would be hell on earth. The first three years were wonderful. Both Fred and Patty worked, traveled and enjoyed a carefree lifestyle. Then they started having children.

The Distant Wife

Their firstborn daughter, Emma, changed their lives drastically. Patty’s attention shifted away from Fred as she doted on the baby. Her hormonal changes caused her hormones to fluctuate erratically, and her exhaustion meant that sex was put on the back burner.

Fueling the Fire of Marriage Infidelity

Fred kept his irritation and resentment off to himself because he didn’t want to make waves, so Patty had no reason to suspect a problem. Occasionally, the two would have a fight and Fred would retreat to his “cave”, giving Patty the cold shoulder for a while. Other than that, things seemed pretty normal between the two.

Over time, Fred developed an infatuation with his coworker Daphne. His skin tingled with desire whenever he was around her. Unlike Patty, Daphne actually listened to him and accepted him for who he was, never criticizing him. What began as harmless joking at work progressed to clandestine conversations, e-mails and phone calls. Fred even bought a separate cell phone so that Patty wouldn’t find out how much he and Daphne talked.

Giving in to What Feels Good

Fred and Daphne continued to meet in private—at coffee shops, at restaurants, and eventually at a hotel. Like the “young man lacking sense” in Proverbs 7, he went “like an ox to the slaughter” and slept with Daphne. In one moment, Fred betrayed his Christian values, his wife, his kids, and all that he held dear.

And yet Fred felt exhilarated. The tryst with Daphne had satiated his lust and Fred felt justified in his actions. Euphoria soon gave way to guilt. Controlled by his lust, Fred couldn’t bring himself to end the affair with Daphne, who had become increasingly demanding of his attention. Somehow, he still managed to maintain the façade of devoted husband and father at home until Patty discovered his marriage infidelity in an e-mail.

Betrayal and Beyond Marriage Infidelity

“How could you do this to me and the children?” she demanded. “I’ve been faithful to you all these years!” Fred apologized, and promised never to do something like that again. He understood her devastation, and that he was at fault. He knew he deserved her initial outbursts of grief, shock and anger, but her bitterness did not subside. Sometimes she flew into a rage over when he did something she didn’t like, other times she scoffed at his promises to be a better husband and father.

Marriage Counseling — The Beginning, Not the Cure

Fred and Patty decided to see a marriage counselor to break the stalemate. Even after a few years in counseling, they hadn’t been able to restore the trust they once had. Fred wondered why Patty hadn’t gotten over the affair. After all, he was a changed man. Patty’s hurt was always close the surface. Whenever a TV show or movie dealt with marriage infidelity as the subject matter, Patty’s anger would burst forth anew at Fred. Their burden seemed unshakable. Neither of them knew how to heal the situation.

Unfortunately, scenarios like this play out in my counseling room all too often. Couples whose trust has shattered like a dropped china vase ask me, “Can you put us back together again?” I always tell them no.

Luckily I know someone who can.

How Can I Begin To Trust My Spouse Again?

How can we trust in other people? The answer is simple: We can’t. God’s word says we are not to put our trust in other people. Paradoxically, there is a way that we can effectively trust in others. In the classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote: “Put God First in Trust.”

John 2:24-25 says, “Jesus did not commit Himself unto them for He knew what was in man”. Christ trusted no man, yet he was never suspicious, bitter, or disdainful about any man. Because he put God first in trust, he trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for any man. If I put my trust in human beings first, I will end up with despair and bitterness because human nature is to fall short of perfection.

Christian Marriage Counseling Helps You Let God Do What You Can’t

Never trust anything but the power of God’s grace—in you and in others. Jesus trusted God to work through the disciples to preach the Kingdom of God to the entire world. He knew what was in man, but these men had been given the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit that he trusted completely. As we deal with trust issues in our own relationships, we have to trust the Holy Spirit.

Here are three things you can do when you have lost your trust.

  1. Go directly to the Lord tell him your feelings and thoughts. He can take it. Confess and then repent of any wrong reaction or action.
  2. Tell somebody, not just anybody. A trusted mature friend, or counselor who can help you sort through your next steps. And give you some objectivity.
  3. As the Nike commercial used to say, “just do it”. That is, do what you know is right and let scripture guide your steps. “The word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” It may take time and a process to see it through, but it is worth it. Remember, If it is going to be, it starts with me. Take responsibility for your actions; don’t blame your spouse.


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