Steps to Rebuild a Marriage

 Every marriage is flawed and susceptible to temptations. Every marriage has strengths and weaknesses. Every marriage needs to improve. While this series has focused on infidelity, all couples can benefit from these areas of growth in grace.

Each Spouse Can Work to Make the Marriage Better

Even though an affair is a devastating trial, it can be used by God to redeem a marriage and move it to a place that is far better than either partner imagined. An affair can reveal the small fissures that were there but were never addressed. Issues of communication, conflict resolution, intimacy, finances, children, common interests, and expectations are now on the table in ways that they were not prior to the affair.

The problems in the marriage did not cause the affair and this in no way justifies the adultery. Yet it can still be a place where both people grow. Both can admit their own failures, sins and weaknesses and make new commitments to the marriage. This happens more effectively when the spouse who has committed adultery is honest and open about what they have done and clearly states their spouse was not the cause of the affair.

It is Imperative to Get Beneath the Surface

For the person who has committed adultery, he or she must begin to gain clarity on why they did what they did. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus says that all behavior grows out of our hearts. James 1:13 says the same thing. We sin, not primarily because of our circumstances but because we are dragged away by our own desires. What Jesus and James mean is that all sin begins inside of us - not outside of us. It is important to begin to understand the motivations that drove the person to commit adultery. If they don’t tackle sin at this level, they will not deal with the real problem nor will they go deep enough with their repentance. They may also be more susceptible to another affair.

Trust Must be Re-built Over Time

It is hard to conceive of anything more devastating to a marriage than an affair. An affair does not end the marriage because a marriage can only be dissolved through divorce. However, something very personal and substantial has been treated carelessly. It is a breach in the relationship and the fallout for both people is devastating. For the spouse who was unfaithful, trust must be re-built over time through a consistent lifestyle of transparency and humility. While confession is an important first step, that does not immediately reinstate trust. Trust takes time.

Forgiveness Must be Practiced as a Lifestyle

For the person who has been betrayed, this will be where the war is waged. While they may grant initial forgiveness, practicing forgiveness on a daily, moment-by-moment basis will be critical. It will be tempting for the spouse who has been sinned against to become bitter and resentful if they are not guided to continually practice forgiveness. Since the unfaithful spouse must build trust; the spouse who was betrayed must practice forgiveness. Both of these can only be done by the empowering work of the Spirit.

Finally, remember every couple is unique. Take the time to get to know them and make a commitment to be there for the long haul. You will be glad you did.


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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 a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. 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.