Summer 2004 Rapport: Cleansing the Streams of the Soul: Spiritual
Recovery After an Affair
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Recovery After an Affair
News of an affair can be devastating. Statistics estimating
the number of marriages affected by this experience are sobering.
What can be expected when the unexpected becomes reality?Consider
the merging of two streams as a picture of the unity of marriage.
As joined waters, they flow over stones down the path of life’s
journey. Yet, they remain one stream—inseparable. An affair
is a bend in the stream, an unexpected turn deviating from the
stream’s natural course—a perfect collection point
for debris. The once free-flowing water becomes dammed by rocks,
trash and grime. The water begins to stagnate; its movement inhibited,
its beauty disfigured.
But God is in the stream cleaning business!
His desire is to restore unity in the marriage by cleansing and
healing the waters of the soul. Both spouses carry emotional
and spiritual baggage after an affair, and it takes both spouses,
in unity with God, to recreate a beautiful, healthy stream that
flows on course.
If an affair hits home, it is an understatement
to say the marriage relationship will suffer hardship. But hardship
is not impossible to overcome. In order to move beyond this unforeseen
bend in the stream, there are several key components to consider.
yourself to experience the reality of your emotions. Denying
that you are hurt and confused does not cause the hurt and
confusion to disappear. Common initial feelings include shock,
numbness, disbelief, anger, grief and despair. Acknowledge
your feelings and allow God time to bring healing to inner
- Avoid the tendency to constantly replay the details
of the affair in your mind. As your marriage is moving toward
health, refuse to allow yourself to dwell on the ways you’ve
been wronged. Your mind is the battleground where the war for
your marriage is won or lost.
- As you take your thoughts
captive, replace negative, hurtful thoughts with life-giving
sharing the details of the affair with your children.
from publicly criticizing your spouse.
- Find a trusted,
accountability partner to help with spiritual and emotional
socially active and resist the temptation to isolate from
others. Godly friends are a source of hope and strength through life’s
Marriage was meant to flow with life and zest,
but it’s difficult to flow when it seems your motivating force
is gone, dammed with the debris of emotional and
spiritual pain. When couples find themselves in this situation, it
is common and appropriate to seek godly counsel from Christian helping
professionals. Issues that might be dealt with
- hurt, rejection, shame, isolation;
- restoration, intimacy; and
Personal and marital healing is a
process, and there are no easy answers or quick fixes. But there is hope.
In times when our strength fails, we know the grace of God
will sustain us, as His strength is “made perfect
in weakness” (2
Building Strong Marriages: Suggestions
for Spouses of Ministers*
- Regularly pray with and for your spouse. Help your
spouse set a prayer time with you at home.
- Regularly spend time with your spouse. Evaluate how
much time is being invested in others as opposed to each
other. Make time for your marriage and guard it zealously.
If your spouse asks you out or for a time away, go.
- Strive to meet your spouse’s greatest needs.
Learn about intimacy, closeness and needs—both
your spouse’s and your own.
- Regularly communicate with your spouse. Explain to
your spouse how you feel. Are there any reasons your
spouse might feel you think less of him/her than you
do? Write, tell or show your spouse what you would like
from him or her.
- Practice listening with approval. Avoid the temptation
to shoot down ideas with practicality.
- Enter into sex with abandon. Just not turning him/her
down is not enough. Read; think up new ideas. Forget
about the dishes, meetings, etc. It only takes a few
minutes for what one writer called “a kiss with
- Let your spouse see that you need his or her help and
- Tell your spouse when someone/ something makes you
feel uncomfortable. Don’t shrug off people who
flirt with your spouse. Be aware of the person who is
delighted to implement the pastor’s wishes and
hangs around the church a lot.
*Adapted from Heather Bryce, “After the Affair: A Wife’s Story,” Leadership:
A Practical Journal for Church Leaders 9, no. 1 (1988): 65.
Wednesday, September 8, 2004 4:37 PM