Coping with Husband’s Affairs

It would be hard enough to discover your husband had a lover — but when your teenage children are the first to stumble across the news — the difficulty must be doubly hard. Not only does a woman then have to deal with her own emotions, she now must also try to manage the unfiltered blows dealt to her children.

Grace* had every reason to divorce her husband and considered it, but before she had married David* she made a vow to God: she would never again divorce. She had done that once and didn’t want to repeat it. However, by the time she realized the truth about her second husband, she strongly questioned her vow. David* had not had one affair one time, but at least two and maybe more. Grace had every right to leave the marriage. Plus, there was no value in further exposing the children to the situation. Right?

After the initial shock wore off, her bruised heart continued to bleed and even though she wanted and needed help, she didn’t know where to turn. She had not counted on addressing issues like this, not with this man; they were both professionals with multiple degrees and high-powered jobs. And she came from a family of strong and faithful Bible-believing Christians. How was this happening?

The questions and their answers wouldn’t quit making noise whenever she had a moment to think. The trust she had extended had been done so in vain; and the feeling of security, although now understood to be false, was replaced with doubt and insecurity. And the “why,” and the “what did I do wrong” questions, were at times overwhelming. She was suddenly in a battle she had not expected.

As Grace fought to understand what happened and what steps needed to be taken next, she encountered women to pray with whose husbands had similar issues; and they stood with her through the ups and downs of possible divorce, and possible reconciliation. They asked God for help and for David’s deliverance and salvation, which did occur three years later. In the mean time, Grace renewed her commitment to follow God more thoroughly regardless of what happened in the coming days and weeks. Also of great help, was her discovery of a workshop for those seeking coping methods and skills for dealing with sexual addictions. She was relieved to realize she was not the only woman dealing with this type of addiction in her husband. Later, Grace found further strength in Dr James Dobson’s book, “Tough Love.”

And yet even with this growing support, it still took three years for Grace to become strong enough to set firm boundaries with her husband. Finally, she chose a date and informed David he had 30 days to get into a counselor’s office to begin addressing the issues motivating his unfaithfulness, or she would ensure he moved out of the house. Even though that got David’s attention he resisted. On almost each of those thirty days he challenged her. He mocked her, blamed her and threatened her financially — but she stood and repeated her boundary: for him to stay he had to do what she was asking.

By the end of the thirty days, David conceded to engage professional help and for a while ceased his extramarital activities, but he had not yet hit bottom, so within a few years again picked up the activity. This time however, his girlfriend became pregnant and with the need to put the new baby on his insurance, the situation threatened his career and professional identity. Finally, with the resulting pressure from his employer, the long standing prayers on his behalf and his wife’s firm stance, David determined to ask God for help. He was finally willing to change.

But David faced two giants. The first was that throughout his career and personal life he had long-practiced lying, so completely no one knew when he engaged in it. No one. It was his strong suit, which over time became a strong hold for the enemy of his soul. Secondly, having multiple affairs was common in his family of origin, after all he’d seen his dad do it for years while his mother sat by and endured. So in his mind it was normal.

Even though David had begun his recovery, all was not yet well with Grace. She was tempted to become deeply embittered, similar to what she witnessed in her mother-in-law. But as Grace assessed the option she determined she would not follow suit because she wanted to be happy, not embittered. She also remembered the scripture about a root of bitterness and concluded the only person bitterness hurt would be herself, and she didn’t want to hurt the rest of her life. That decision nurtured growth and a strength arose to empower her to make other life choices.

Next she determined she was not going to own other people’s “stuff”. She would answer to God for her life but not her husband’s. And if David didn’t or couldn’t enrich her life in a correct manner, she’d do it herself — not in retaliation but in right ways.

As these decisions were made and their accompanying concepts took hold, Grace surrendered David to the Lord along with what he had done and his position in the family, and announced to God that David was now His problem. She knew she couldn’t change him or really even influence him, so placed him into God’s hands. And interestingly enough, years later David stated publicly that God wasn’t able to start working on him until his wife quit doing so.

As Grace continued growing in mental and emotional health, another significant turning point came when she realized her sin, although different from her husband’s, was as much an offense to God as David’s was to her; and if God forgave her of her wrong doings, and He had, how could she not forgive her husband? Forgiving David didn’t make what he’d done acceptable, but she refused to allow unforgiveness to rule her life.

As she prayed, it seemed God wanted her to refocus on her life and walk with Him, not on her husband’s walk or lack thereof. She agreed, so she picked up her own life again and began living it. She assessed her talents and abilities, and acknowledged friends and important things she wanted to do. She had made and would again make high-value contributions to society and her family. Besides, regardless of what David did or didn’t do, God had promised He would never leave her and He had good plans for her.

Grace found encouragement in the scriptures when reading about Sarah and husband, Abraham. Twice Abraham denied they were married. Out of fear he had stated Sarah was only his sister and not his wife, and in doing so allowed other kings to take her into their harems. Strength again rose within Grace, because if God would keep Sarah when women had no rights or a voice, He would certainly keep her today.

Now, several years after discovering her husband’s affairs, David and Grace continue working on their marriage. Each has grown stronger and more reliant on God. David is becoming vulnerable with other believers and willingly tells them part of his story. He no longer has unhealthy relationships with women and is devoted to the repair of the relationships with his wife and children. Without Grace’s endurance and commitment, it is probable David wouldn’t have had much contact with his older children after their discovery of the affairs. But instead, today David is strengthening relationships with them, relationships that impact not only their lives for good but also those of their families.

True to His nature, Grace found that after committing David to God, He really did change him. She has seen what she thought was impossible take place in her husband and their marriage. It is not a perfect marriage without occasional difficulty but it is a good marriage, and that in itself is a miracle.

In my mind, what now defines Grace is her love for and acceptance of the child her husband fathered with another woman. And Grace and David’s adult children know the little one had no choice about coming into this world, so determined to treat her as one of their own. With open arms and an open heart they all embrace her. Grace says the little girl is a delight to her soul, and often states God really can make beauty come from ashes!

But the jewel in Grace and David’s achievements is that their children love them both. Grace taught them to endure hardships, rely on God when it is crazy hard, trust Him with the impossible, and forgive and love the way God does. David examples what it’s like to be restored, to love his family deeply and see them renewed, to watch trust be rebuilt and forgiveness received. Now what could be better than that?!

Grace and David
*names changed to protect identities
Albuquerque, New Mexico

* * * * * * * *

Make sure … that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many. Hebrews 12:15 Holman

I will never leave you nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5 ESV

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram (Abraham) said to his wife, Sarai, (Sarah) “Look, you are a very beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’ So please tell them you are my sister….they sang (Sarai’s) praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace. Genesis 12:11-13a, 15 NLT

Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, by saying, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar sent for Sarah and had her brought to him at his palace….God (responded to the king) I know you are innocent….return the woman to her husband. Genesis 20:2, 6a-7a NLT

… He (God) will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, (and) festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3 NLT

So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. Romans 15:17 NLT

“Lori truly captured my spiritual and emotional journey into love and relationship with God, my husband and family.” — Grace