If you are a believer, we have been given God’s thoughts in the Bible. But does He tell us how to end an affair? What if you suspect your spouse is physically or emotionally unfaithful, what do you do? Here are the biblical steps you can take to End an Affair.
First, do not despair! There is hope! An affair does not have to mean the end of your marriage. In fact, consider this:
- Approximately 20% of affairs last less than two months
- Approximately 50% of affairs last more than one month, but less than a year.
- The remaining 30% last more than a year
- Very few last more than four years
- Around 3% result in marriage
There are specific steps you can take if you have reason to believe your spouse may be unfaithful. There is no guarantee, but these steps will give you the best opportunity to recover after the affair ends. These steps make the assumption that both of you have, at minimum, professed that you’re a Christian.
Step 1) Find out the TRUTH!
It is very typical for the disloyal spouse to deny they are having an affair. Even if you walk in and catch them “in the act.” they might say “It’s not what it looks like!” So this step is not intended to make the disloyal spouse confess. This step is for the loyal spouse to ascertain if something REALLY IS going on.
One word of caution: accusing someone of a sin is serious business, so be sure keep an open mind. Be sure that you pursue discovering THE TRUTH and not some pre-decided agenda. Make sure you gather proof–evidence–to either prove or disprove that your spouse is cheating.
It is illegal to tape someone without their knowledge in some states, so check your state’s laws on electronic surveillance. High tech surveillance is not your only option. You can also find Low Tech evidence.
The one exception morally allowed for divorce is infidelity. From this point forward, we advise that you follow the Matthew 18 model for dealing with sin:
Step 2) Confront one-on-one
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15)
Once the loyal spouse is sure via evidence that there is an emotional or physical affair, the next step is to go to the disloyal directly. Tell them to their face that you know about the affair and have evidence. You don’t have to give them all of the proof–just let them know that you know. Then state right out loud that in order for the marriage to work there can not be infidelity. Ask them point blank to end the affair.
During this step, it is advisable for the loyal spouse to “stand for the family.” This means that marital funds go toward financing the family, not toward paying for the affair. It also means that the marital home is for the family and the children. The loyal will not be moving out and the affair partner in! There is no reason for the children to leave their home, their bed, their neighborhood, their friends, their school. The disloyal is free to choose to leave, but THEY will be the ones doing the leaving!
Sometimes a disloyal spouse falls apart when the affair is discovered. Sometimes they wanted a way to get out of it but didn’t know how. Consider yourself blessed and move to the phase of recovering your marriage if this is your case! If it is not, move to step 3.
Step 3) Disclose to one or two witnesses
“But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ (Matthew 18:16)
If your disloyal spouse continues the affair, disclose the affair to one or two respected authorities. Choose people whom the disloyal admires and to whom they will listen. They should be.pro-marriage and tell the disloyal that having an affair is not acceptable. They should also insist that the disloyal spouse end it and work on the issues in their marriage. Ideally this respected person is your pastor or minister, but it may also be a parent, teacher or boss.
Meet with the one or two people in confidence; explain that you need help; and then explain that your spouse is having an affair and give them the facts. If you can, show them the evidence. Then, ask them for help. Ask them to encourage your disloyal spouse to “come home”. By selecting pro-marriage, wise, trusted witnesses, your disloyal has the opportunity to “do the right thing.”
This is the point at which the loyal spouse would start working with the pastor or counselor on examining their own issues. The loyal spouse should be working on examining what went wrong with the marriage and why. In addition, we recommend working on any habit they may have that is unhealthy in a relationship.
Sometimes a disloyal spouse listens to the person they trust and respect, and end the affair. Consider yourself blessed and move to the phase of recovering your marriage if this is your case! If it is not, move to step 4.
Step 4) Expose “to the church”
“If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church” (Matthew 18:17a)
If the disloyal spouse hardens their heart and rejects ending the affair and repenting, the next step is to expose the affair “to the church”. Ideally, for a believing couple, this means to take the witnesses and evidence and go to your church’s ruling body–the elders,the presbytery, the consistory, the representative authorities of your church. This step should discover any complaints that are groundless, since the church leaders should be well trained in Scripture and theology and have great wisdom and experience.
If the church leadership finds that a complaint is frivolous, then they have a responsibility to rebuke the complainant. On the other hand, if the church leadership finds that the complaint is true, then they have a responsibility to reprove the unfaithful spouse and act!
If the disloyal is not a believer, expose the affair to those affected by a potential divorce. This exposure is not to air dirty laundry, but rather to bring the ugly truth of the unfaithfulness to the light of day. A disloyal spouse may say this exposure is dragging their name and reputation through the mud, but do not be fooled. Their ACTIONS are doing that! A non-believing disloyal may believe that their actions will only affect four people: the two couples. But in reality, a divorce will be like the ever-widening wake of a nuclear bomb, affecting possibly hundreds of people!
However, we must caution the loyal spouse. There will be a focus to the exposure.The loyal spouse should contact their own family (parents and siblings), the disloyal’s parents and siblings, the loyal spouse’s employer, the disloyal spouse’s employer, and the other person’s spouse and inform them that the disloyal spouse is having an affair, that it is serious, that the marriage is in trouble, and ask for help. The focus and main concern here is to contact those who may be harmed by the affair, give the facts, and ask them either to support the loyal or talk to the disloyal and tell them to return to the marriage.
And by the way–YES you speak to your employer so they know why you seem distracted, cry at work, and aren’t as productive–and you contact the disloyal’s employer because they are seriously in jeopardy of a sexual harassment lawsuit! Business property, time, and resources are being used for unwanted sexual contact (you, as the spouse, do not want it) and they need to address it or they could be sued. And YES you contact the other person’s spouse and ask, “Are you aware that my spouse is having an affair with your spouse? I have evidence… ” Nothing ends an affair faster than the other person’s spouse screaming and putting their foot down!
The disloyal spouse is likely to be pretty upset with you for exposing their affair. A) Affairs are much more “fun” when they are a clandestine romantic rendezvous and not brought to the truth of being adultery! And B) you are trying to cut them off from the sin to which they are “addicted”–the affair. But your marriage can survive your disloyal spouse’s anger–it can not survive ongoing adultery. Sometimes the affair dies when a disloyal spouse realizes that everyone knows about their affair–and the affair partner’s spouse screams and puts a stop to it. Consider yourself blessed and move to the phase of recovering your marriage if this is your case! !! If it is not, move to step 5.
Step 5) Consider them an unbeliever
“…and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17b)
Let’s review. You confronted your spouse privately, one-on-one and asked them to stop their affair. Next, you disclosed your spouse’s affair to one or two witnesses who spoke to your spouse with you and asked them to repent and end their affair. You exposed the infidelity to church leaders. Despite all these actions, your spouse has hardened their heart and does not show the fruit of the Holy Spirit moving in their life to work repentance. They refuse to obey God, rebel against church authority, and reject all requests to end the adultery. Matthew 18 tells us to treat them as if they are an unbeliever.
Now, “considering them an unbeliever” does not give free reign for revenge or for hatred! Jesus tells us that we are to love our enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Look at Jesus’ example how He treated pagans and tax collectors. He gave them the gospel and called them to repentance! Jesus named their sinful actions–no euphemisms! But they were not His close intimate friends, and He did not commune with them, meaning they were not “in fellowship” with Him.
The Christian must do all they can to hold the marriage together, and by following the Matthew 18 model, the Christian loyal spouse has done that. The disloyal spouse says the marriage is dead by their actions of continuing the adultery,
Step 6) You decide
“But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.” ( I Corinthians 7:15)
If the unbeliever is expressly desirous of separating by divorce, the believer must not try to hinder the unbeliever. If an unbelieving disloyal spouse is actively continuing in adultery, and is not expressly communicating their desire to continue in the marriage via ending the affair and actively working toward rebuilding, then they may wish/hope/want to avoid the painful consequences of their refusal to repent and end their sin, but they are communicating that the marriage is dead. The believer must not obstruct or hamper the leaving/cutting off/separating of divorce.
If they choose to end the affair and reconcile:
“To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.” (I Corinthians 7: 12-13)
“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” (I Peter 3:1-2)
Ending the affair means that they can never, EVER contact the other person ever again, and they agree to be accountable for their time by sharing passwords to their accounts (Facebook, all email accounts, cell phones…etc.).
If the disloyal spouse does choose to end the affair, repent, and reconcile, a believer must do all they can to hold the marriage together. And we have the strength of the Holy Spirit to empower us (Philippians 4:13). A believer is restored into fellowship with God, with the person they wronged, and with the church when they repent. In addition, these verses tell us that if an unbelieving spouse is willing to live together, that the believer can win them to Christ!
If you commit to reconciliation, bear in mind that staying with an unbeliever is a very difficult road. Believers and non-believers have a difference in goals and worldviews. Believers are god-centered, whereas an unbeliever is centered on self. The believer lives to serve God and others, but the unbeliever lives to be served. Thus, recovering and rebuilding a new marriage will require much more work…but that is another topic!