ESTABLISH THE FACTS
It’s important to address the situation without delay, since things could get worse if you wait too long to take appropriate action. But having said this, we should add that it’s equally important to get your bearings first, and then make a calm and deliberate effort to gather all the facts. As you do so, resist the temptation to jump to unwarranted conclusions or to make unjustified accusations. Wounded, hurting, and resentful people may create worst-case scenarios and act on the basis of hearsay and half-truths. This should be a prayerful process, and one that is best done with the help of a wise and trusted counselor, pastor, or friend.
Bear in mind from the beginning that the damage infidelity inflicts upon a marriage is primarily a matter of betrayal and broken trust. There’s a sense in which the presence or absence of sexual activity is a question of secondary importance. That doesn’t mean, of course, that it isn’t helpful to know whether the affair was physical or emotional in nature. On the contrary, a physical affair can have serious medical implications and consequences, such as sexually transmitted infections (STI) or a pregnancy, that you will need to take into account. If sexual activity has been part of the relationship, testing for STI’s for both of you must be an early and essential element of the recovery process.
If sex hasn’t been a part of the equation, you’ll want to verify as much as possible that the relationship was more than just a friendship. Has your spouse directed his time, attention and affection to someone other than you? It’s important to have whatever facts are available confirmed and in hand when you confront your spouse as it’s very possible he or she will offer this defense. To the extent that you are able, you want to put forth a careful and cautious case to define your spouse’s behavior as accurately as possible without making unwarranted accusations.
Finally, try to determine whether the connection between your spouse and the other individual is a past or a present reality. If the affair occurred in the workplace, it stands to reason that the possibility of ongoing contact between the two parties will remain a problem and will require your spouse to seek out new employment. If all contact has ceased and the relationship is clearly “over,” you can begin to think in terms of forgiveness, reconciliation, and reconstruction of your marriage. If not, or if there are indications of a lack of remorse or repentance, you will have to proceed along very different lines.
As noted earlier, it would be a good idea to enlist the support of a wise and trusted friend as you go through this process. We’d also strongly encourage you to consult with a pastor or a licensed Christian marriage counselor before deciding on your next step. Remember that “in a multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 24:6).
Focus on the Family’s Counseling staff would be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone if you think this might be helpful. You can contact our Counseling Department for a free consultation Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). They'll be happy to assist you in any way they can. You may also visit our Help Center at http://family.custhelp.com/app/home.