How can an offended spouse move on when his or her partner has been unfaithful? Let us reflect on this question from the basis that the couple intends to stay together, since reconciliation is usually best. However, what should the offended spouse do? Pretend as if it nothing happened? Ignore it? Overlook it? Use it as a leverage to manipulate? For the marriage to be restored, forgiveness must take place.
To forgive is a decision, but healing is a process. To sincerely forgive a loved one, the issue needs to be confronted. When wronged, we often try to avoid the situation by pretending it didn’t happen, or by playing the blame game – always blaming the spouse for the failures in the marriage. This is not to suggest that an unfaithful partner does not bring great harm to a marriage, but that as long as the offended spouse focuses on passing blame, he or she will not react responsibly. Reacting responsibly involves voicing the hurt to the person who committed the offence; in this case, letting the unfaithful partner know how deeply you have been offended. Jesus spoke about the importance of confronting wrongs in Luke 17:3, which says “Take heed to your selves: if thy brother trespass against thee rebuke him; and if ye repent, forgive him.”(KJV) Without making that step, it is doubtful true forgiveness has taken place. After voicing one’s hurt, the offended spouse can simply make a decision to forgive their mate. Can forgiving be as simple as making a decision? Yes. Well, some may be wondering: “what about the hurt and the anger that I still feel?” Good question, during those times remind yourself that you have willingly made the decision to forgive, even though your emotional feelings may not immediately reflect that truth. The emotional and spiritual bond in the marriage will take time to be healed.
Forgiveness, however, does not mean denial of the problem. The offended spouse needs to take the responsibility of seeking the support of the local church. When couples are faithful members of a local church, support and discipline can be helpful in a wounded marriage. The problem needs to be taken to the local pastor or appointed marriage counselor in the church. A healthy church will counsel, correct, and discipline as needed without broadcasting the issue to the entire church body. Tough love is needed. The unfaithful spouse may not want the local pastor or leaders to know of the offense. It’s best for the offended partner not to allow the unfaithful spouse to persuade them from taking the matter to the church. Under the best circumstance, the unfaithful partner would seek the help of the church for the sake of the marriage. Submitting to church discipline on the matter is a major deterrent to the escalation of hurtful actions. Furthermore, the offended spouse will receive the support to move beyond the resent and bitterness.
When a marriage has been wounded in such a deep way, counsel is needed for the healing process. The offended spouse may need to undergo counseling to confront the issue, and come to a decision to forgive, especially if the unfaithful spouse is irresponsible in taking steps to heal the marriage. Both parties in the marriage will need to submit to good counseling. God will often use others to help us overcome our hurts, and rebuild our relationships. James 5:16 tells us, “confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed..”(KJV) There is no shame in seeking help; the true shame is in failing to ask for help. Counseling may be sought from the local church pastor or a qualified Christian counselor, someone who can be trusted.
The great thing is that God is a God of restoration, who reconciled us through Christ despite our sins. He will provide the grace necessary for those who have been hurt to forgive, so that a marriage can be restored. Yes, a couple can move on after infidelity. By lovingly confronting the problem, making a decision to forgive, and submitting to a process of healing, The process will not be easy. Trust and unity has to be restored. However, God will sew cords of love into the marriage again.