To Stay Or Go

It’s one of the biggest questions people ask themselves when they are recovering from an affair. “Should I stay or should I go?” People probably ask themselves this question hundreds if not thousands of times in the first year.

It’s a deeply personal question. Each of us, cheater and betrayed, have to decide: Is it worth it? Is it right? Can we recover? Do I even want to recover?

The person who had the affair caused the crisis leading to the questions. They are the one who put the marriage in jeopardy. The cheater can’t blame the loyal spouse for ending the marriage if the loyal spouse doesn’t decide to take them back and work it out. However, for the marriage to be saved, both spouses have to agree to work it out.

In the past, I’ve almost certainly given the impression that I think people should always stay together when the cheater wants to make it work. That’s simply not true. It’s not my place to decide for others, especially not for the betrayed spouse.

Divorce or separation are warranted in the case of infidelity and the Bible makes clear that it is not sinful for a couple to divorce over infidelity. I’m personally sad when I see a marriage break up, but I have no condemnation for the loyal spouse when they say “I can’t and I won’t do this.”

Where I think I’ve given the opposite impression is on my blog and in comments elsewhere I counsel people to repent and to forgive. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation or staying married, although I strongly believe it is a necessary part of both. That’s why when I talk to someone who has decided to stay, I stress the importance of repentance, grace, mercy, and forgiveness as keys to restoring the marital relationship. But just to be clear, that advice presupposes that both partners want to recover, want to have a loving marriage, and think it is worth trying for.

The bottom line is, the cheater dealt a mortal blow to the marriage by having an affair. The cheater needs to repent, regardless of what happens next. The loyal spouse is under no moral obligation to take back the repentant spouse. As a Christian, I believe they should forgive, but that is not the same thing as taking the cheater back. Either way, they need support and compassion for what they’re going through.

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About Anonyman

Recovering adulterer and husband of an awesome wife who has given me a second chance. Sinner and Christian, saved by grace alone. I cuss a lot
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9 Responses to To Stay Or Go

  1. julesedison says:

    The cheater wanting to make it work certainly gives more options to the betrayed spouse, but does not make it required of her/him. I do worry that my husband has given me a get out of marriage card that could make it easier to walk away during hard times. In any event, even if there are no children involved and the betrayed spouse walks away, acceptance and/or forgiveness is needed for the betrayed spouse to find peace. IMHO.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonyman says:

      Agreed. My wife said much the same thing about having an out. Around the one year mark she told me that she no longer felt that way, that she could no longer walk away in good conscience. I imagine most BS get to that point eventually if they’re healing, but you’re the first commenter to say that.

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  2. 15gen says:

    I also agree. I think I’m to that point now (where I’m in this for the long haul).

    One of the things I have thought about (lately) is how much is “preached” from the pulpit about God hating divorce. However, in all those sermons, not once do I recall the Pastor saying “God hates divorce, but how much more must He hate adultery? Because He has given the option of divorce to the betrayed spouse!” And now (as a bs) I understand why He permits that. I do think it is about the sin, but I think it has even more to do with the amount of hurt that has been brought in to the marriage and place upon the shoulders of the bs. I am beginning to understand that the ws is also dealing with a lot – knowing what they have done, memories that can’t be erased, hurt they caused to many…including themselves. And sometimes recovering from that (on both sides) seems impossible. The forgiveness has been the easiest part. “Forgetting” (or pushing it back anyway) has been the hard part. And I’m convinced that’s the part that needs to happen in order for a marriage to recover – to forget the old and replace it with new.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonyman says:

      Absolutely. In our zeal to try to save marriages, we must not lose focus on the sin and the person who committed it. Yes, we have a Christian duty to them, but as you say, God hates divorce but he allows it because the sin, pain, and destruction that causes it are so much worse. We must not be so quick to do the “Christian thing” that we behave in an insensitive, unchristian way towards the loyal spouse. I also absolutely believe that a Christian wife can forgive her husband for an affair (or abuse, for that matter) but still divorce him without sinning because the marriage is just too broken. Forgiven sins have lasting consequences. We see this over and over in the Bible, but God in his graciousness provides comfort even as he allows us to live with the consequences of our actions.

      We both still struggle with the memories, too. We both had to decide not to focus on the memories of what happened and to let sleeping dogs lie. But sometimes it’s beyond our control and we have to make an effort not to dwell when memories do come to mind. That’s why we’re focused on making new memories and making new plans for the future. It’s easier to not look at the past when you have something else to turn your gaze towards. This also includes turning our eyes towards our Savior, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. julesedison says:

    Just needed to say that I have committed for the long haul. What I meant was that I worry that if life became hard (there are SO many ways in which this can happen, besides betrayal), that he has made it easier to walk away. Maybe this continues to go back to my faith issue. My commitment to our marriage was firmly planted in my faith. Without that faith, it feels as though the anchor has been taken away, and the thought process that walking away is not an option is no longer there. I also think it comes from reading blogs of betrayed spouses who are years and years out. They were tooling along feeling that their marriage was healed, and then years down the road they find that they need to walk away. Maybe these are the blogs I shouldn’t be reading…eh?

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    • chely5150 says:

      Oh the stories i’ve read of how it SEEMED that all was going well. 2-3 years of reconciliation and you feel that you’re on the right path. BS has moved away from the past,feels everything going well between the two of them, but then they find out that the WS only got better at hiding the truth and continues the affair. This is not my story but I certainly fear that this could happen to me. Yes some BS, after time, finally realize that just cannot continue to be with someone who deceived them so totally, and find the strength to end the marriage. Most likely the recovery wasn’t going as well as it seemed, more superficial than true recovery. No matter how much effort one puts into it, the fact remains either spouse could still leave the marriage. I gave myself two years to make that decision (1-year out) so I am currently still working on saving marriage. I hope he is too. To the few that know I’m sure it looks like all is going well in my recovery. Even family and friends that don’t know will comment on how well the two of us seem to be getting along. And we are on the outside, (maybe he is on the inside but he never really shows me). So I could see how someone might think oh the BS just up and leaves now. Most likely there really never was a chance to recover, an attempt yes, looks like recovery, but truthfully sometimes there isn’t much hope that it could happen. I hope I haven’t just wrote out my future as I am trying to forget, (never happen totally) move forward and heal together. But truthfully if he never can outwardly (to me) display anything that is going on inside him, let me know him flaws and all, I don’t know how I could continue for the long haul. What was once there will have passed away. So frickn’ sad to have lives completely overturned, for what?

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      • julesedison says:

        That IS the tricky part:

        ‘But truthfully if he never can outwardly (to me) display anything that is going on inside him, let me know him flaws and all, I don’t know how I could continue for the long haul.’

        We have talked alot about this. It seems that it is difficult to be vulnerable with someone you are afraid to lose. My feeling is, if I’ve stayed through this, then dear God what will it take to trust me. Crazy!

        We also have people constantly telling us how wonderful our marriage is. Boy, does that make me cringe. We DO have a great marriage, but it hasn’t always been like that. I generally feel obligated to mention that it hasn’t always been like that, and it always seems like I’ve disappointed them by saying it. It just feels more authentic to be honest.

        And, no, it wasn’t worth it. My husband has been very clear about that point.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Anonyman says:

          Crazy is right, but I never said I was sane! I don’t know what your husband or Chelly’s husband were like before their affairs, but I’ve had trust issues for as long as I can remember. The affair and recovery have not helped those issues. It’s not an excuse to say “I have trust issues” because ultimately I have to trust my wife if we’re to recover. Refusing to do that is a form of cowardice, in my opinion.

          People need more honesty in their lives. My wife and I are not doing anybody any favors by pretending that our marriages have always been great. Far better, in my opinion, to say it like it is. Our marriage is great, or getting there, because when we’ve stumbled and when we’ve fallen flat on our faces, we recovered with love, commitment, hard work, and faith. I think that is a far more encouraging message to hear than “our marriage has always been effortlessly easy and wonderful”.

          Liked by 1 person

        • chely5150 says:

          I understand completely. I feel like such a phony to everyone on the outside. Because of the continued turmoil and conflicted feelings I have inside. If I ever do leave many people will be surprised and wonder what? why?. They get along great- (yeah on the outside, I’ve never felt less close to him in all the years married (even when we were very distant all those years). So sad.

          Like

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