Healing from Affairs (Part 1 - Case Story)
For several months, I'd facilitated a biblical inner healing group composed mostly of single moms. I rediscovered how the need for "healing from affairs" or the adultery of a spouse is seldom being addressed in ministry.
Last year, I read of a schoolteacher who caught her husband having an affair. She and her son were refused by her husband to stay in their house. Severely depressed, she checked into a hotel and killed their five-year-old son by poisoning. And then, she hanged herself inside the hotel’s bathroom.
How badly the betrayed needs first aid! Such growing need is apparent nowadays. Adultery has become a serious social problem today. Startling statistics reveal the pervasiveness of this serious sin and source of wounding.
According to Dr. Bernard Greene’s well-known medical research on marital infidelity, between 60 to 75% of married men and women cheated on their spouses. Countless similar studies and surveys of thousands of unfaithful men and women reveal the same disturbing trend.
The following case story helps us recognize the nature and dynamics of this abuse. And, it alerts us to principles and practicalities of where we can apply His healing grace. This is part 1, just to present to you the case information for reflection and learning. Maybe some of the circumstances apply to you if you're a betrayed spouse your self. I'll give you Part 2 next time for the biblical principles that can be applied for healing and Christian therapy process.
A Christian missionary by the name of Helen Park (not her real name) discovered her husband’s extra-marital affair with a non-Christian woman two years his junior. He met her online. Inside an internet café together, she caught him having a foreign-sounding common email inbox with another woman. Later in their home, she was able to open his inbox containing their messages/photos.
He confessed having an adulterous cyber relationship with another woman for almost a year. Helen was even shown pictures of the other woman posing provocatively to her husband on web camera from their home computer.
To Helen’s utter shock, he also confessed taking a secret trip (prior to his discovery of the affair) to another country to meet this other woman. This was while Helen took care of their three kids at home because he said he’s vacationing in his parents’ place.
Helen was devastated. She just couldn’t believe it. They had struggles like everyone. But their marriage seemed intact. She felt they’re even getting more intimate prior to her discovery. For about a year (or maybe more) of the confessed affair, he lived a double life.
Helen could only grieve deeply for them and their kids after hearing his confession. For years, she sacrificed herself a lot to support him so he can be comfortable working on his career. What happened was a bewildering revelation of the one she loved she thought she knew. Still, Helen assured him that they can trust God to heal them despite what happened.
Initially, he confessed and expressed regret. A number of their church pastors prayed for them. Together, they underwent difficult times of counseling with a pastor/couple in the church. Face to face with their counselors, Helen’s husband verbalized his repentance of what he did.
But later, Helen discovered that while doing these, he was in fact intentionally lying to her (and their pastors). He continued to contact the other woman even after confession and during counseling. These were evidenced by dated secret messages that Helen again discovered in their home computer and mobile phones. Staring at him a number of times, Helen wondered about what happened to the man whom she thought was of noble character.
Unremorseful after being caught again, he became hardened. He began to angrily blame Helen and tried to make her feel guilty for what he did. In his words, Helen failed miserably that he was forced to be unfaithful.
Helen next saw how he’d cover up his deeds through malicious gossip and slander -- hoping their children, relatives and friends will side with him. Trivial things got magnified and blown out of reasonable proportion. These were swords of hostility, secrecy, deceit, and blame that only intensified Helen’s pain.
Two times, sliced by these wounding acts, Helen almost physically wounded her husband through some means. But each time, she was “strangely restrained” to be able to instantly back off and apologize. She cried and prayed to God for His strength. Physical hurting was never a part or norm during their years of marriage. The pain of the wounds he inflicted was simply so deep for Helen to bear at that time.
After a few months, unable to endure the pain of going through a personal and marital healing process, Helen’s husband secretly fled again to another country to be with this other woman.
Then after only a few days, he’d phone/text Helen a number of times thereon. He’d cry and say words of care to her. But he found a new excuse too-- it’s because of work and their children that he fled and would not go home.
Appearing strong for the sake of their three young children that were left to her, Helen often found herself in tears each day. The inner pain was simply unbearable. Tempted a number of times to be with other men in revenge, she chose to follow God.
As new dimensions of her husband’s darkness cast a shadow on her, Helen began to wonder if he was truly a Christian. In the war for family wholeness, adultery is treason. In her mind, real people with a real relationship with Jesus do not commit treason. They keep commitments even when personal needs are not being met.
Unanswered questions and doubts also begin to abound. How could God allow this to happen to her? Why would He allow her marriage and family to be broken up like this that’s almost similar to a pattern she had with her own parents?
After a little over one and a half years, her husband went back home again. This was while Helen was overseas. Upon her arrival the next month, they talked again. They stayed together (with the kids) in their own house. They even managed to have family devotions and prayer times together despite the lingering pain and awkwardness between them.
One evening, she had a bible study with him, his father, and other relatives in their house. During that time, Helen even managed to pray for him and with the others. In itself, for Helen, that was a miracle of God’s grace.
According to him, he separated with the other woman since several months ago. He managed to find work in a far place in the country where he went. He then transferred to live in a housing complex with other foreign workers. Hearing all these, because of his previous “pattern,” Helen struggled about whether she can believe him or not. How hard it was for Helen to instantly trust him again! Though they tried to heal and had some moments together, they needed more time to pray and work out their marital recovery.
Before God and each other, the personal and marital challenges and tests they faced in their recovery were enormous. It’s a complex, longer process. It cannot be just a quick moment of engagement. However, that time, he had to return to his work commitments overseas. He said that he’d be back home again after a few months.
Did Helen see real repentance and change in him? Honestly, with the short time given them, Helen confessed that she needed more evidence. How she wished she could tell people that her marriage had become much better.
After the deep wounding of adultery, lying, and deception, the process of personal and marital healing require enough time, presence, and spiritual/emotional support. Despite her own frailties, Helen did still value him and want to honor God in their marriage.
NEXT: Healing from Affairs (Part 2 - Case Application of Principles for Christian Psychotherapy)