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Surviving Infidelity: 10 Things to Know to Make it Through

  • Jen Ferguson
Surviving Infidelity: 10 Things to Know to Make it Through

The very, very first thing is that you need to know before you continue reading is that this is not a checklist. No checklist can ever bring healing from something so devastating and raw as adultery. There are no “10 steps to follow” that will guarantee that this mess will be cleaned up in any given time frame. Everyone going through this process will need different things at different times.

The second thing you need to know is that infidelity comes in a myriad of ways. To name a few: physical affairs, emotional affairs, and viewing pornography. Jesus went so far as to say in Matthew 5:27-28 that looking at another person and having lustful, covetous intentions (real or imagined), counts as adultery. Along those same lines, what it means to “survive” for one may be different for another. For one it may mean that the marriage continues. For another, surviving means they can get out of bed in the morning.

Knowing all this, here are 10 things I’ve found helpful to others and to myself who have been down this road of healing:

1. Healing will not be a linear process.

There will be days when you feel that the entire world has crumbled. Then, there will be days where you feel yourself moving into a place of peace and healing. And then, something will trigger you, and your world will be shaken once again. This doesn’t mean you’re moving backward. It simply means that healing happens in layers, not in timelines. Live in the moment you’re in and allow God to tend to you right where you are.

Isaiah 40:11, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”

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2. In no way are you responsible for your partner’s choice to step outside the marriage.

Every marriage has issues. Every marriage has problems. Every marriage involves two people who make mistakes and who can sometimes make loving each other a difficult job. But never, ever does this justify going outside the marriage for sexual or emotional affairs (in person or on screen). You are responsible for your own sin. You are not responsible for your partner’s sin. Own only what is yours.

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3. It will take introspection on both sides if your marriage is going to survive and thrive.

There was a catalyst to this infidelity, but it may take some digging to figure out not only what it was, but also why it started something that should have never been. It’s probably not just one reason. Often times, it’s a perfect storm of factors colliding together. But it’s worth the effort to take a long, slow look into each other’s hearts and the state of your marriage so you can get to the root of the behavior that precipitated the action.

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4. Many adulterous actions are born from a wounded place in the spouse’s heart.

In our hurt and anger, it’s natural to want to paint our spouse as the “bad” one. But, I wasn’t able to move to a true place of forgiveness until I recognized that my husband’s actions were born out of his own hurt and pain, caused by wounds that happened in his childhood. As I saw my husband in the light of someone who had also been hurt, I could access a place of compassion for him.

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5. You may not be able to trust your spouse, but you can trust Jesus.

I remember going to bed one night, devastated by the realization that I couldn’t trust anyone. Everyone either had failed me or would fail me at some point. In that moment of darkness, I couldn’t fathom how to have any relationship where I could be safe. But somewhere in my own healing process, Jesus showed me that I could trust Him and because of His infallibility and unconditional love, He would show me how I could safely trust, even when I knew no one could ever love me perfectly.

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6. Make a plan to combat the lies.

The best way I’ve found to overcome the lies of the enemy is the truth of Scripture. Infidelity flings wide the doors to so many lies that Satan wants us to believe. Whatever lies you’re battling, memorize God’s Word—read it constantly, write it on index cards, and put them all around your house. Here’s a dose of Truth to get you started (just click on the links) if you’re feeling inadequate, like a failure, unworthy, guilty, unwanted, alone, and/or hopeless. God’s Word has a way of working itself into the very fibers of your heart, even if you don’t at first believe what you read.

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7. Seek outside help.

Sexual betrayal is a big deal, and dealing with it on your own is incredibly hard. Regardless of what you choose to do about the state of your marriage, seeking out trusted friends, pastors, and licensed counselors are all great options. If the adultery seems rooted in a sex addiction, it is advisable to seek out a counselor specifically trained in this area. How do you know? They will have CSAT certification and training. Here’s a resource to help you locate one in your area.

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8. Resist the urge to micro-manage and control your spouse.

Any control you think you have is a delusion. Even if you “order” or “force” your spouse to do x, y, or z, true change comes from his or her own choice to move towards freedom, healing, and forgiveness. You don’t want forced reconciliation. You don’t want to be a prison warden constantly trying to keep your spouse on the right path. Not only does that not work, but you will exhaust yourself in the process.

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9. Communicate your needs.

Trying to control your spouse is very different from communicating what you need from your spouse. Your needs can change on any given day. But knowing what you need at that moment and communicating that honestly with your spouse lays the groundwork for productive communication.

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10. Keep your eyes open to what God is doing.

It is very easy to constantly see the situation through the lens of pain and fear. But if you choose to see everything through those glasses, you will miss what God is doing. Healing from betrayal and childhood wounds usually happen in small, incremental steps. Sometimes, they are so small, our human eyes cannot even see them or recognize them. But if we ask God to help us really see our spouse, ourselves, and Him, we will be amazed at the good work He is doing in us and around us.

Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. Jen is also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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