Welcome to the real world that I was not prepared for upon graduating from seminary! Early on in my pastoral career, I was faced with a host of marriage situations including marital infidelity. Consider the following potential scenarios:
- Robert and Susan entered my office. Robert looked sheepish. Susan’s mouth was tight and angry. After they sat down, Robert said, “I had an affair with a woman at work that ended a year ago. Susan and I both want to save our marriage, but we’re stuck. Susan doesn’t trust me, and I am tired of always having to talk about it. I want to make things right with her, but I don’t know how.”
- Greg sat silently as Rachel struggled to tell the story. She had become emotionally involved with her best friend’s husband. They weren’t sexually intimate, but he had replaced Greg emotionally in Rachel’s life. Rachel was relieved because everything was out in the open and Greg still wanted to work on the marriage. Greg, though, was reeling from the initial shock and struggling with hurt, anger, self-doubt, and fear.
- Joe called and asked if he and his wife, Melissa, could meet with me. He told me that when he was on the road for work he had a series of one night stands. A few months ago Melissa caught him, and he promised to stop. They wanted to keep their marriage going because of their children, but they were fighting all the time—was there hope for their marriage?
It is encouraging that each of these couples is trying to put their marriage back together after it was ruptured by some degree of infidelity. After the initial shock, they are attempting to rebuild their marriage, but it is harder than they expected.
According to Peggy Vaughan, in her book The Monogamy Myth, 60% of men and 40% of women will engage in some form of an affair. She says that these numbers are conservative. What pastor, friend or counselor has not faced the challenge of walking with a couple through the difficult season of unfaithfulness? Typically, what is true in the broader culture is reflected in the church. We should assume that people who are in our congregations are facing these temptations and be prepared to offer help.
Are you and your spouse struggling to rebuild your marriage after adultery? Don't give up. Are you a pastor, friend or counselor trying to find your way as you seek to help a couple in the midst of unfaithfulness? Whatever you do, don't be shocked and see this as yet one of many opportunities for Christ-centered ministry.
Over the next several days I will highlight some things that have been helpful for couples who have experienced the hard reality of adultery.