By Mary Isaacs
“I want to be cherished and especially loved. Who can do that as perfectly as God? He will never fail me, betray me, damage me, slander me, abuse me, reject me, abandon me, or anything else that I have experienced at the hand of mankind. He will always want me, always believe in me, and always offer me the strength to overcome my problems.”
Jane was having various tests done in hospital as part of her routine prenatal examination. The nurse insisted that since a HIV test was among the tests that would be carried out, she should have counselling first. Being the wife of a pastor, Jane was sure that she was not the type to get HIV/AIDS and therefore went flippantly through the counselling session. She had to go through two tests before she could even register in her mind that she could be HIV positive. The knowledge that her husband must have been unfaithful and had given her the Aids virus was so traumatizing that she went into shock and had to be admitted in hospital for two days.
Marital infidelity is the single most important cause of divorce in the world. It happens a lot even among self confessed born again Christians. Using the rates of divorce as an indicator of its prevalence, a study in the US did not find any significant difference between rates of divorce in the general population and that of the Christian Community. Another study showed higher rates than average divorce prevalence for certain Christian faiths. If these polls are to be believed and it is assumed that in our region the trend is the same, this means that a great many Christians do not walk the talk. Many do not live within Christian moral principals with many living dishonest and hypocritical lives. There are those of course who may not be Christians or of a faith that takes adultery to be wrong. Some see nothing wrong with infidelity especially given the patriarchal African culture and the common myth that it is in the nature of man to be unfaithful
Psychologists say that some spouses may succumb to the lure of an extramarital relationship as the result of experiencing abnormal stress over a normal lifestyle change, such as becoming a parent or an empty nester and many other issues. So adultery can occur in happy marriages as well as unhappy ones. In some cases, the marriage partners may appear contented to outsiders, but the husband or wife begins an affair because of their own low self-esteem, habitual conflict avoidance, or fear of intimacy. No matter how hard the faithful spouse has worked for the marriage, the unfaithful spouse is going to have an affair because of their own deficiencies.
Other reasons for marital infidelity are typically symptomatic of an unhealthy, and often, failing marriage. These are things like the lack of affection between the marriage partners, the sexual addiction of one or both spouses, the feelings of sexual entitlement based on gender or status, and the means of exiting from an unhappy marriage.
The statistics and common behaviour patterns for adultery mask the intense feelings of anger, hurt and humiliation when someone finds out that their spouse has been cheating. For many women, their marriage is the very foundation of their life with all their expectations for the future wrapped up in it and especially those who believe that they are in a loving, mutually monogamous faithful relationship. When such a person is betrayed she becomes immobilized and unsure of the next move. The scars of infidelity do not heal easily and damage done to the marriage may never be completely repaired especially given some long term consequences like sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS and pregnancy.
When faced with your husband’s infidelity you need to be strong, get beyond the hurt, forgive your husband and work towards saving your marriage. This could take a long time. You need to do the following:
Pray. You need to ask God to guide you in the direction your marriage will take, taking cognition of the fact that your marriage will never be the same again. This does not mean however that it will necessarily end. Depending on how you and your spouse approach the situation, it can be saved and even become better.
Talk to a trusted friend or counsellor. With the discovery of infidelity, there is a lot of trauma and one is too emotionally distraught to think, much like when one is given the news of the death of a loved one. It helps in such a circumstance to speak to someone who is supportive and non- judgemental. You have to be careful who you talk to because some friends cannot keep secrets. You may regret it later when intimate details of your personal life become common knowledge. If you talk to your family members they might keep the grudge for a long time while others might find justification for negative feelings they may have had about you over the years. A counsellor may be a better idea especially when they do not know you personally and therefore can be objective.
Cry if you must. It relieves the stress to enable you to think more clearly.
Do not make any major decisions when you are in the initial emotional high state. You need to cool down and think objectively.
Decide on confronting your spouse. After the initial shock has subsided, you need to decide if and when to confront the cheating spouse. You need to consider your safety because your spouse could get very angry at the accusation of unfaithfulness especially when it is true. If you Have no hard evidence he can wear away your argument with various incredible lies You also need to realize before the confrontation that it is very likely that your spouse could admit having an affair and initiate a break up which you may not be psychologically, emotionally and financially ready for. On the other hand, affairs thrive in secrecy and to pretend not to know means fuelling it. It is only when both parties acknowledge the infidelity that they can work on the possibility of salvaging their marriage otherwise problems will fester like an open wound
You should know that the affair was not ultimately your fault. Traditionally, most people blame the wife. They think she must have failed the husband in some way. There might be many problems in the marriage but they cannot be resolved by marital infidelity. They can only be made worse. There are many constructive ways to deal with problems
Accept the grieving process. Your marriage has changed and the mixture of feelings, confusion and mistrust will not go away even if you have made a commitment to save it. Even if it is possible to renew and strengthen it, it will be different, and you need to grieve that. Recovery will be a long process and will include the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Reassure your children. If you have children, you will not be able to hide from them the fact that you have a major crisis in your life. You will need to be honest with them but do this with minimal details of the actual infidelity. . Reassure them that you will be fine but do not make promises you cannot keep. You should try your best not to turn them against their father..
Lead a healthy life. In order to combat the strong negative emotions, the heartache, nausea, difficulty concentrating and other similar reactions, you need to discipline yourself to eat a healthy diet, drink a lot of water, have regular exercise, sleep regular hours and lift your spirits by seeking healthy situations where you can enjoy life and laughter.
Restoring a marriage needs extreme measures and the participation of both spouses. Due to the devastating nature of adultery, it is the only reason for divorce allowed in the Bible. However, the Bible also says that God hates divorce. As far as possible therefore one must try to save her marriage. This is possible if both partners are willing to revive it. This can be done through open discussion which can be facilitated by a counsellor. If one party is not willing to work at the marriage it is difficult for the other partner. It is a difficult and stressful life for a woman faced with the abuse of habitual adultery
Avoid blaming and taking revenge on either your husband or the third party. Any vengeful actions you may contemplate in the heat of your emotions like beating up the other party can go horribly wrong. It could make the relationship worse and you could also find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Keep your dignity and remember “Vengeance is mine” says, the Lord. He also said “Be still and know that I am God”. It is God that keeps you and you will always be complete with Him.
Your marriage, your choice. While the counsellor, close friends and relatives can guide you in looking at alternative choices, ultimately it is your decision because only you know all the issues in your life and marriage. It is possible to wait and pray for your partner to change and it does happen You should both be tested for HIV/AIDs and other STDs before you resume an intimate relationship without protection. You should also decide what boundaries you need in order to stay in the marriage and discuss them with your spouse.
Build your self esteem. If you are fearfully and wonderfully made by GOD, the creator of the universe, you are important to Him. Know that you are loved by God. You are a daughter of our Lord. You should therefore also love yourself. When you love yourself, you love Our Father, because he created us in His own image. He loves you and will guide you, protect you, and wrap his loving arms around you. Pray and then walk in confidence and faith in your decisions, with the Lord. People don’t always have to agree with you nor do we have to agree with them. God created us all differently. YOU are important and loved. Praying for you that God will guide you with clear thoughts and words and that others may understand and accept your decisions. ”You, Oh Lord keep my lamp burning. My Lord turns my darkness into light.”
This article first appeared in the March – April 2010 issue of Woman of Faith magazine.
Copyright Woman of Faith Magazine. All rights reserved. For comments write to firstname.lastname@example.org