Getting past betrayal in a marriage
I would have given you
all of my heart
But there's someone
who's torn it apart
And she's taken just
all that I had
But if you want I'll
try to love again
Baby I'll try to love
again but I know
The first cut is the deepest
It is not an easy task to let go of your partner's betrayal. Once trust has been abused, it is hard to be repaired. Being a Christian does not make it any easier to forgive your cheating spouse and commit fully to the relationship like before.
Once, you would readily accept that they are working late, or going on a legitimate assignment out of town. Now, there is no stopping the doubts on whether it is the truth or not.
To be fair, that spouse might have really learnt their lesson and is putting their all into making it work, but wounds don't heal so easily.
While the offended party might 'hang in there', especially when children are in the union, feelings of resentment and hurt will linger. Every argument will see the situation being hurled back in the offender's face.
Family and Religion reached out to Reverend Dr Edina Bayne, associate pastor and member of the American Association of Christian Counselors on whether a harmonious relationship of love and peace can be restored following such a situation.
For her, only "an uncommon commitment to loving the offender can cause a marriage to survive in this situation".
This tense situation will need an understanding on the forgiveness of God to strengthen the offended partner to be willing to forgive, reconcile and work on keeping the marriage vow.
"Many marriages equally survive the betrayal because of the desperate need of both individuals - an unhealthy co-dependency. The marriage can survive betrayal, but it is not always a psychologically healthy situation."
Another reason to look past the betrayal and stay together, according to Bayne, is when both have issues and have taken ownership of them and identified how they have contributed to the current situation.
Baynes pointed out that if the offended party decides to stay in the union, then the first thing to be done is to get rid of the laundry list of past hurts.
While it will take some effort to take the relationship back to the trusting level, she said it can be done, although it will take some effort on that person's part.
"The trust can totally return if the offended individual realises the following: If you are working on trusting, it must mean that you survived the effects of the infidelity; you vowed for "... better or for worst ..." and God kept you when the worst came. Don't even consider reconciliation if you are not willing to risk being hurt again, knowing that God kept you through this and is able to keep you again. This is the only way that you can together create the atmosphere that is conducive to bringing intimacy back into the relationship."
Worth the risk
The repair process also helps if from his/her perspective the relationship is seen as worth the risk.
According to Bayne, the healing process can be made easier when the cheating party makes some effort, too.
"Own your stuff and don't try to blame your spouse, in any and all discussions, do not compare the object of your indiscretion with your spouse, discontinue any contact with the other (especially if there are no children as a result of the affair), recognise that your heart has deceived you, so refocus and lean heavily on the Lord and not to your [heart's] understanding, if you don't leave the marriage, you must commit to staying in - not just be there."
Another no-no for her when it comes on to the cheater is persons lacing their stay with ultimatums. As far as Baynes is concerned, that is non-negotiable.
Moving forward, Bayne said the hurt party can ensure the pain recedes each day and the closeness is restored when the practice of forgiving - not sympathising, rationalising or justifying the spouse's infidelity - is played out.
"Recognise that it is not a mistake, he or she made a conscious decision, you must be proactive - do something; renegotiate the relationship. If the clay is marred in the potter's hand, don't try to fix it; start over."
For those who decide to stay in the relationship because children are involved, she said this should be avoided as the vow was made with the spouse and not with the children.
"An unhealthy relationship might be more destructive than beneficial to the children. Some form of marital problem caused the affair, and this problem, if unresolved, will cause a salvaged relationship to be worse than it was before."