I found out last year my husband of 25 years had been having an affair. He was a pastor when we first got married and we were teaching a Sunday-school class at the time he was having the affair. I’m just trying to figure out how to deal with the betrayal of someone who supposedly claimed to be such a wonderful Christian person?
Dr. Zoe Answered:
Dealing with betrayal is devastating no matter what the circumstances. The gut-wrenching blows to marriage and your psyche created by infidelity can only be understood by someone who has been through it.
To be honest, when we are struggling to understand something, we hang our hats on the lowest hook, whether it is the right one or not. It’s easy to feel that your confusion is “because he was a pastor”, but the fact that it hurts so much and you never thought he would betray you like this, is not just because he was a pastor or Bible school teacher, but because you trusted him and he is your husband. We can see from history that even pastors and wonderful Christian men are not immune to sin or temptation.
The first thing to do is stop expecting that you will ever fully understand the affair. It will likely never make sense to you because you are a different person than he is. Sometimes an affair happens because something in the marriage created a space of vulnerability for it. Sometimes it happens because there is a deficit in one spouse that leaves space for the affair, which means that the affair had nothing to do with you or the state of the marriage. Either way, the affair is always a choice of the adulterer.
You didn’t mention if the affair was recent or a long time ago. It doesn’t really matter because you just found out last year and that is when the lens through which you saw your marriage crumbled.
Often, when both spouses are still very much committed to the marriage, there is a rush to try to heal quickly and put the affair behind them. I have found this to be a big mistake. You need to honor the devastation that the affair created and take the time to process, rebuild, and heal in a proper way.
You’re not being fair to yourself if you have a “should” about how long your process is or how difficult it is for you. An affair is like a death—the death of the marriage you thought you had. You may grieve this to a certain extent forever—but that doesn’t have to be a death sentence at all!
Many couples who diligently work through their issues will say that the affair is the best thing that ever happened to their marriage, that they are stronger now as a result. The reason is that it forces them to get super honest and vulnerable in a way that they may not have been before. Vulnerability fosters connection. This may seem unimaginable to you right now and that’s okay because that’s not where you are in your process…yet.
But the road of vulnerability, honesty, and connection is one that you two need to be walking on for ultimate health in your marriage. I wonder if part of why you are still struggling to understand is because there are some questions still left unanswered.
Unequivocally, you two should be in couples therapy and both of you could benefit from individual therapy to understand as much as possible and work on healing if you choose to stay together.
You’ve got this! It just takes some grit and grace.
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