Getting married is a big commitment. It’s not something that you do and then decide a few months or years later that you want to try out something new. When you get married you are making a commitment to your spouse that you will love them forever and always work on your marriage. You make vows that you should never want to break. Yes it’s true that marriage is hard, but don’t let those hard times be an excuse or give you an opportunity to break the vows that you made. Infidelity is something that should not be taken lightly.
Scott Gardner says, “A misconception in the world today is that infidelity involves solely the commission of sexual acts outside of marriage. However, being completely faithful to one’s spouse requires more than avoiding adultery.” Be careful in thinking adultery is the only way you are hurting your marriage. There are many, many other things that can cause you to break the vows you made when you got married. Be aware that Satan has ways of tempting us and tricking us into thinking what we are doing is fine and it won’t hurt our marriage. DO NOT GET STUCK IN THAT TRAP. Be strong enough to overcome Satan’s temptations, especially when they involve your marriage and could potentially hurt it in some way.
Gardner gives four different types of infidelity. They are: fantasy, visual, romantic, and sexual. I will go into detail about each one and then I will discuss how to heal and repair your marriage. I strongly encourage you to keep reading if you or someone you know is struggling with this.
This is when a person is “having an emotional affair with someone who has no knowledge about what is taking place, or with someone who is anonymous (such as a person in a chat room) or will likely never be encountered in person (such as a celebrity), or all three. This type of infidelity involves fantasizing romantically about someone other than a spouse.” This is dangerous because fantasizing about someone else can lead to unrealistic expectations, which a person’s spouse can’t fill for them.
This is infidelity is connected to pornography and “is perhaps the most common type of unfaithfulness.” This is especially dangerous because it can become an addiction.
This is when “an individual becomes emotionally involved with a specific person other than his or her spouse. Romantic infidelity is characterized by a ‘second life’ and commonly is a result of trying to escape the monotony of everyday life.” This is dangerous because it can lead to a person thinking their marriage won’t ever be good enough.
This is when “a person engages in sexual acts outside the bonds of marriage with or without emotional attachment. In some instances, sexual infidelity can be detached, such as infidelity with a prostitute. In some instances, visual affairs or fantasies will lead a person into committing the more serious sin of physical, sexual infidelity. What begins as a detached fantasy or romantic affair can lead to physical infidelity.” This is dangerous because it can lead to wanting someone sexually that isn’t your spouse.
Each of these things can lead to a disconnect in both the emotional and physical relationships of a person’s marriage, which can cause more problems. Many times if there continue to be issues in a marriage a person will continue to find ways to cheat to fulfill their needs or wants. They don’t feel that their marriage can ever be fixed so why stop doing things that give them pleasure? This is not the right mindset. If you are struggling and have found yourself in any of these situations please, please seek help. Try to make your marriage work and find ways to remember why you love your spouse and how you can improve your relationship with them. No matter how far you think you have sunk there is still hope and help waiting for you.
Now, I want to discuss how you can repair your marriage if you are going through this. Gardner gives five steps that will help you. Those five steps are: rebuild trust, gain perspective, repentance and forgiveness, overcoming addiction, and making the choice to stay together. Each of these is key in repairing a marriage that is struggling.
This can be difficult when you have been cheated on. Questions like, why are they late getting home from work, who are they talking to, are they still hiding things, and many others will continue to pop into your mind as you are working to rebuild your marriage. This is normal. Do not feel bad to have those questions come up.
If you were unfaithful then you need to become accountable and take responsibility for your actions. Gardner says, “after disclosing the infidelity, an unfaithful spouse may need to give his or her spouse time to deal with the emotions precipitated by the disclosure. This is part of taking responsibility for the pain the offending spouse has caused. This time is best spend focusing on personal behaviors and what changes need to be made.” Understand that if your spouse says they need time to think they aren’t leaving you. They just need to process their feelings. This is a good time for you to sit down and think about what has happened as well. Time to think away from each other is going to help with conversations you have in the future.
Remember that, “most couples enter marriage with high levels of trust. Once an affair has occurred, that same level of trust is hard to recover. Rebuilding trust takes time, and progress typically is made only in small steps.” Each of you need to recognize that trust will not be rebuilt over night or even in a week, a month, or year. It will take time and patience to have that trust again, but as it is worked on each day it will become easier to trust again.
This is important in moving forward because if you can find and understand what was lacking to have the infidelity happen then you can work on fixing it together. Gardner says that some “possible factors might have included high amounts of conflict, lack of emotional connectedness, lack of physical intimacy, high amounts of stress, and other influences. Once again, it is important to remember that reasons are not excuses.” Take time to discuss areas of your marriage where things might have been lacking and then figure out ways you can improve in those areas. This will help for each of you to gain perspective. It will take time and finding out the cause of infidelity can’t happen in one conversation. Continue to explore your marriage and talk about things you can improve on.
For those of you who have been cheated on please know one thing: YOU DID NOTHING WRONG. I can’t stress this enough. Do not start to question yourself. Please understand this as you try to gain perspective for why it happened.
Repentance and Forgiveness.
We are so blessed to have a Savior that Atoned for our sins. This is a big deal, especially for those who have been unfaithful. Repentance is an important step of healing for the person who has been unfaithful and confessing your sins and beginning the repentance process will bring a weight off your shoulders. Please seek help from your bishop if you have committed these types of sins and work on forsaking them. Elder Scott said,
“Decide to stop what you are doing that is wrong. Then search out everything in your life that feeds the habit, such as negative thoughts, unwholesome environment, and your companions in mischief. Systematically eliminate or overcome everything that contributes to that negative part of your life. Then stop the negative things permanently.”
Be willing to use the Atonement to do this and to work hard on it each day.
Forgiveness is another thing that will take time. Each person in the marriage should work on this. The person who was unfaithful should seek for forgiveness and the spouse that was cheated on should work on giving forgiveness.
Those of you who are working on giving forgiveness please remember that it should not come easy. Forgiving your spouse of something like this will take time. Gardner says, “Although it is difficult and seems unfair, forgiveness is the only way the injured spouse can find healing. Forgiveness is difficult because it requires letting go of the role of victim and its benefits. But while vengeance may feel satisfying in the short run, it will keep the injured spouse stuck in the past.” Forgiveness is not just for your spouse it is also for you. Once you can forgive your spouse you will feel free from what has happened. However, do not rush into forgiveness just to feel this way. Your forgiveness needs to be genuine and when it is you will feel a weight lift off your shoulders.
Gardner says, “Overcoming an addiction is a process that requires a great change to take place. Even a strong desire to stop and long periods of abstinence are not signs the addiction is gone. It is similar to trying to kill a dandelion plan by mowing off the top. As long as the roots are still present, the addiction is guaranteed to resurface. Counseling by a professional trained in helping people to overcome addiction may be needed.” I don’t have much else to add to this besides, please seek help if you need it. Do not feel ashamed. There are people who want to help you and can help you if you let them.
Making the Choice to Stay Together.
This choice needs to be mutual. If both of you are not in your marriage to stay and make it work then it won’t ever work. Gardner says,
“When a couple chooses to stay together [it] means the choice is also being made to commit to, strengthen, and maintain the relationship.”
By making the choice to stay together you are essentially renewing the vows you made to each other when you got married. You need to heal the past, strengthen the present, and enrich the future. As you do this you will become closer as a couple. Take time to remember why you got married in the first place, what you love about your spouse, and what each of you can do to improve your marriage.
I know this is already a long post, but I just want to say that I can personally relate to those of you struggling with this. I won’t go into details, but I will say those five steps listed above will work magic, but only if each of you is willing to work on them. Yes, there are many, many hard days and there will continue to be, but look forward to the good days that follow. Seek help if you are struggling and know that you can overcome this trial in your life and marriage. Marriage is hard and sometimes confusing, but it is also beautiful, exciting, and joyous. Choose to see the good instead of the bad and your days will be brighter. Be willing to work through the hard times and the good times will be sweeter. And know, no matter what, your Heavenly Father loves you, He is aware of you, and He cares for you.