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1 – It’s hard, or maybe impossible, to describe the pain of adultery. But I don’t have to with you since you’re living it. It will take years to recover, and the “time it takes” depends on the type of person who is struggling with it. For example, some folks are given to worry or are insecure. The deception and pain of adultery are harder for these types of people, and it takes longer for them to recover.
I don’t know you, so depending on the kind of person you are will make a difference as far as the length of the pain, ongoing conflicting thoughts, and regular bouts of despair.
2 – You have to talk with someone about all your struggles with the adultery. It will help you to talk it out with a trusted friend who can listen with compassion, has the courage to speak the truth from a heart of love, and is competent in handling God’s Word practically. Find this friend and be honest with him.
3 – As you’re meeting with your friend, start learning how to apply the Scriptures to your issues. You will have two types of struggles: (1) what is happening in your soul and (2) the mundane, daily affairs of your life, ex-wife, and children (if you have kids).
For example, (1) your thought life will be a regular battle while (2) there will be legal and familial issues that will crop up as you move along as a divorced parent. You will need steady counsel for the ongoing soul struggles and specific advice on the “life issues” that happen between you and your ex-wife.
4 – You want to start serving others in your local church and community. Make a strategic and practical plan to push yourself outside your self-imposed shell. The “other-centered effect” of the gospel has a cleansing impact on the soul. And if you’re already tempted to retreat inwardly, it’s even more vital that you “put yourself out there.”
5 – You must not ask for details about what she did with the other man (or men). It’s easier to forget what you don’t know than what you know. If you get the details of her adultery, those things will stay in your mind for years. If you only wrestle with the betrayal and infidelity, you’ll have enough of a battle on your hands. You don’t want to make it any more complicated by asking “intimate intrusive” questions about what they did, no matter how much you think you want to know.
6 – You must guard your heart against all legalistic thinking, specifically thinking if you had done (fill in the blank), you would be married today. The lust-filled heart of your wife is not content and it will continually crave. What she did is not because of you but an insatiable desire that she has for her cravings.
My point here is that nobody will satisfy her because no man can. Only God can. And until she finds satisfaction in the Lord alone, she will toggle from craving to craving, always blaming (fill in the blank) for why she’s not happy. Repeat after me: “It’s not about me, but about her unquenchable lusts.”
7 – Pray for your wife (or ex-wife if you’re divorced by now), asking God to be merciful to her in a way that He was gracious to you (Matthew 18:33). There are only two kinds of people in the world, the lost and the saved. There aren’t people who are better than others (1 Corinthians 4:7).
You’re totally depraved, or you have Christ’s alien righteousness. Only by the grace of God are you any different from her. This attitude will defeat any self-righteousness that tempts your mind while keeping you in an attitude of humility and prayer for her.
8 – Ask the Lord to reveal things about you that contributed to the adultery since you know you were not perfect during the marriage. And then seek to change those things. Your friend will help you. Don’t fall for the “her sin was worse than my sin” trap.
No doubt, what she did is consequentially worse than what you did, but those who compare themselves to others are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). We can always find “worse sinners,” and if that is your attitude toward anyone, you’re in a worse place than you think.
9 – Guard against the despair that leads to apathy. What I mean is that some folks can feel the weight of the betrayal so much that they “quit God” for a moment and react sinfully by doing something dumb. In a moment of deep hurt, anger, and tired of wrestling with it all, they escape through sin.
Know that your heart is capable of throwing off your responsibility toward God by jumping into a regretful sin. When despair comes, it’s vital to have already a plan to keep you from doing that dumb thing.
Let us help you with the specifics of your crisis because each situation is different. I have given you a few ideas, but not an exhaustive treatment of this life-altering problem. Let us serve you.
As I was building out this podcast, my friend Julie shared this with a man going through adultery and divorce. I could not say it better.
“The big thing that helped me was remembering that God is good, and He is sovereign. He has a good purpose in this trial that I can not see, and I trust Him. That perspective takes the focus off of me: what is wrong with me, and what can I do to change? And it puts my focus on what is right about God. And I know He can change this, and I know He may not change this. But I will submit to His will because of Who He is.” – Julie
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).