This is a key question when faced with a spouse’s betrayal. Unless someone has walked through the valley of a spouse’s infidelity, they have no idea what the pain feels like and how deeply the soul and spirit are wounded. Finding out your spouse has been having an affair is traumatic. Describing the pain and the myriad of emotions experienced when faced with a spouse’s adultery is impossible. There are no words that adequately describe the depth of emotions and hurt.
I had been hurt, betrayed and rejected by others whom I trusted before I met my husband and long before I discovered his unfaithfulness. The two situations, however, are not comparable. My husband is the one to whom I have bared my soul. He has seen the most vulnerable parts of me, and he has seen the darkest side of me. He knows me like no one else has or ever will, and that is the way God intended marriage to be. My husband and I are one flesh, which is one reason why his betrayal was much worse and much more profound than any other time I have been betrayed. Because we are one flesh, the shredding, tearing, and ripping of my soul and spirit were much more pronounced than any other time I have been rejected and hurt by friends or family. Imagine one flesh as being like glue and paper. When you glue 2 pieces of paper together and try to tear the papers apart, there is no clean break. Part of the paper rips and tears because you cannot separate the papers from the glue or from each other without obvious trauma to the paper.
You will ask yourself many times how much more you can take, how much longer you will hurt, and how long your pain will last. You will ask those same questions of God. But, you will not get an answer. Trust that God’s grace is sufficient to carry you when you can go on no longer. Trust that God will hold you up with his strength long after you have exhausted all your human resources and abilities. Trust that you can heal, and believe that God desires for you to heal. God does not desire for you to spend the rest of your life in the pain you are feeling and living with every waking moment. With that being said, however, you have a part in how long you will hurt and how long it will take you to heal. There are many emotional, psychological and spiritual factors that will affect how long the healing process takes. There is no magic number or length of time that anyone can give you. It may take months or it may take years. The healing process is different for everyone.
Often, when I questioned how much longer I would hurt, I found myself trying to rush the process. I began to think that I should be past certain feelings or thoughts affecting me so deeply. There were some areas where healing took place rather quickly, but there were also areas where the process seemed incredibly slow and I struggled greatly. I came to realize eventually that I could not rush healing. Healing was not going to be a one time and it’s done event, either. Instead, it was much like peeling an onion–each layer being pulled off only to reveal another layer until you get to the core. With such profound pain and betrayal, there are many layers to work through, and each layer presents unique challenges and issues. I gradually realized that I had to confront each issue, each feeling, each thought, as it came. I could only look past one aspect for so long. Eventually, I had to face each one and resolve it. As part of this, I had to discipline myself to bring my thoughts and emotions captive to God, and I had to learn to recognize when my thoughts and emotions were getting out of control. Please do not ignore your feelings and thoughts or the issues that your spouse’s infidelity caused. You must deal with them or they will nag you and eat away at you, and you will never heal.
Healing can be a painful process because we have to face parts of ourselves that we would rather ignore. In order to move past the pain, we have to confront all the pain, anger, fear, and trauma that exist. When you are in such enormous pain, the last thing you want to do is confront the pain and deal with the trigger of the pain. You would rather remain numb, but numbness will never lead to healing. Confronting these things takes much courage and strength, much of which will have to come from God. Further, you have to be determined to heal. You have to make the choice at some point to deal with your feelings and thoughts so that the wall of pain begins to crumble. At first, you may think that you are not making any progress in your path to healing, but do not let that perception hinder you. Remember, there are numerous layers to confront and the issues and feelings are complex. Healing will take much time and effort. It is not easy and there is no quick fix. Your heart and life have been shattered. Picking up all the pieces, trying to sort out the mess, and beginning to put yourself back together requires hard work, commitment, and great resolve. Much like the process of forgiveness, many things will have to revisited, and with it, you must make a new commitment to continue to move forward and allow yourself to undergo the healing process. You will have setbacks, so expect that and realize setbacks are a normal part of healing.
I want to admonish you to remember the importance of forgiveness. If you have not forgiven your spouse, you cannot move forward to healing. You must not allow yourself to continue to dwell on and rehearse the wrongs done to you. Stop heaping more damage on your wound by constantly messing with it. These things will only lead to more anger and bitterness, which are the very things that will keep you from being able to truly and fully forgive. You cannot move forward as long as you choose to remain tied to the past. Also, if your spouse remains unrepentant and continues the affair, your healing process will be hindered. If you are serious about desiring to be healed and restored, forgive your spouse, release all your pain and negative emotions and thoughts to God, and surrender to His leading. He knit you together in your mother’s womb, so He most definitely can put your heart, soul, and life back together, even if your spouse refuses to repent and your marriage cannot be salvaged. God’s hand is not too short to reach out to heal you in the midst of such circumstances.
My husband’s affair lasted for approximately two years. The affair ended in 2009, and I still have unexpected and errant thoughts and the accompanying sting of pain on occasion. You may think that because I still have momentary seconds of pain that I have not healed, but I disagree. The pain is from a scar that was the result of tremendous emotional and psychological trauma. From time to time, the scar is rubbed the wrong way, so to speak, and a brief sting of pain arises. To use a practical example, I have a scar on the little toe of my right foot that has existed since I was about 16 years old. To this day, if my toe is touched in such a way to aggravate or rub against the scar, I feel a little pain. My toe completely healed, but the scar remains. That is how your healing will be, too, so do not get discouraged.
I want to share a story from Genesis 32:22-31 that illustrates this concept and message of this post. In this passage of scripture, Jacob, who had spent most of his life lying, deceiving, and tricking people, is visited by an angel of the Lord. The angel and Jacob wrestled all night, and Jacob refused to give up. The angel realized he could not overpower Jacob, so he reached out and touched Jacob’s hip, wrenching it out of socket. As morning approached, Jacob told the angel he would only stop fighting against him if the angel blessed him. In verse 28, the angel of the Lord told Jacob: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and you have overcome.” In verse 29, the angel of the Lord blessed Jacob. What is interesting about this passage is that Jacob’s name (which means “supplanter” or “one who undermines”, a trickster) was changed to Israel, which means God contended or God prevailed. As a result of wrestling with God, Jacob’s character was also changed. The struggle then, resulted in not only a change of character, but also in a blessing. However, Jacob was left with a reminder of his struggle with God–he had a limp that resulted from the injury to his hip during the struggle (see verse 31). That was the “scar” that Jacob carried.
Just as Israel (Jacob) had a reminder of his struggle with God, I have a scar that reminds me of the struggles I faced. Like Israel, I overcame; I prevailed, because I refused to give up or surrender. I pressed through and am now reaping the blessing. My character and soul have been forever changed for good because of my struggle. God used the pain to refine me, even though the process was painful. I have been healed, and my marriage has been healed and restored, but the scars are still there. I guess you can say the scars keep me humble and serve as a reminder of God’s strength and faithfulness in my darkest hours. I know without a doubt that I was able to overcome because of the power of God.
God is no respecter of persons. He healed me, and he can heal you, but you have to want it and to pursue it. You have to embrace the struggle as part of God’s refining process. You have to remain determined and committed to moving past what Satan tried to use to destroy you into the glorious redemptive plan of God. If you stay the course, if you refuse to surrender, you can receive the blessing God has for you. Just remember that you will have a scar, but a scar can be quite beautiful!