Immediate Actions To End An Affair

The Importance of Getting Wise Counsel

Start by encouraging the couple for seeking help and explain why this step is so important. Any struggle with sin benefits from outside accountability. The writer of Hebrews in 3:12-13 and 10:24-25 encourages us to seek help. In situations like adultery, this is critical. Both husband and wife need someone who is wise and mature in their faith to walk with them through the initial and longer term issues that are a part of the affair.

Begin by Giving Thanks to God for His Forgiving Grace

Help the couple know how to pray. The spouse who has committed adultery needs to remember that their sin cannot trump God’s grace if they are sincerely sorry for what they have done and have genuinely begun the process of repentance. The person who has been betrayed must believe that the grace of God is powerful enough to enable them to begin the process of forgiving. The battle of the betrayer to stop the affair will be equal to the battle for the one betrayed to forgive. Both spouses need God’s enabling grace to move in a new direction.

Cut Off the Relationship Right Away

Most resources on adultery say that this is one of the most important steps to take if a foundation for reconciliation is going to be built. All communication (phone, email, text messages, social media connections) must be cut off. Any mementos that have an association with the other person need to be discarded. Other than asking for forgiveness, this is the first way that the one who had the affair can display how serious their commitment is to their spouse. It is important to deal radically with sin. See Matthew 5:29-30 and Jesus’ use of hyperbole.

Immediately get a Medical Exam to Determine if There are Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

If the affair was sexual in any way, this is imperative. A commitment to be examined for STDs is yet another way to express commitment to the marriage. If the married couple has been sexually active while the affair was occurring, it is important for both spouses to seek an examination.

Confess to Your Spouse What You Have Done

In conjunction with severing the relationship with the other person, the spouse who has committed adultery must confess what he or she has done. This needs to be done without excuses or justification. Even if the marriage needs work, it is unhelpful and unwise to bring up broader issues in this context of confession. If so, it will appear to the spouse who has been betrayed that they somehow are responsible for the affair. When making a confession, it is important to own the sin, tell the spouse that it was wrong and ask them for forgiveness.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.