Whether it’s before an affair, to #affairproof your marriage, or after an affair to reconcile, there are specific actions you can take to problem solve in your marriage.
The #1 topic in our Affaircare Topic Survey was Problem Solving, and today we tackle how to solve those issues that are damaging your marriage.
The first thing that MUST be ascertained
Are you trying to get someone else to solve the problem for you? If you hear yourself saying, “I can’t make my mind up” “I can’t help it” or “What should I do?” those are typical clues that you want someone else to do your job. Ask yourself if you are trying to avoid taking personal responsibility. Do you manipulate things so you can avoid the natural consequences of your choices? In essence if this is the issue, than “the problem” is not the real problem. The REAL problem is that you don’t want to be responsible. The solution is to make a choice, and act. Make the decision and accept the benefits of the choice you made and live with the consequences of the choice you made.
If, on the other hand, you are worried about making the RIGHT decision, then the answer to that is simple.
5 Actions You Can Take to Problem Solve in Your Marriage
1. Secure commitment from both to Christ and His Word as the standard for all that is done and said.
1.a. Study together what the Bible has to say about the problem. Keep an open mind.
2. Foster and establish companionship between the spouses (making sure they have a right understanding of what marriage is)
3. Unity in intimacy
a. United “the two are one”
b. Intimacy: physical/sexual and emotional/mental
4. Growth, which means sanctification. Grow in Christ as a couple because of this issue.
5. Exemplify the relationship between Christ (The Groom) and His Church (The Bride)
If you take these five actions, and there is not a resolution, then it comes down to personal preference. Honestly, discuss it with your spouse and agree to pick one. Do not assume and agree together that you will do nothing until there is earnest, mutual agreement.
Example: Arguing about money–husband bought a “man toy” without speaking to his wife and now they are in more debt than they can afford.
As Christian counselors who have worked with couples for 17 years, we frequently meet couples where one of the spouses just does not think what they are doing is an affair. “It doesn’t seem like an affair to me!” they say. So we thought we’d dedicate an entire episode to discuss some of the most common objections to why their “friendship” could not possibly be an affair.
If that friendship you have with someone at the office or at school is affecting your spouse, in what way is it showing your spouse love? After all:
“the essence of married love, to which each party pledges himself or herself, is to put the other first.” ~Jay Adams
1. “Well they need to get over it”
But that’s not how Scripture deals with those things. In I Corinthians 8:8-12 Paul writes: “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. …When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.” He’s talking about a big controversy they had in Corinth about whether a follower of Christ could eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. Further, Paul was Jewish and some in Corinth even said that Christians had to keep kosher! Paul answered all this by saying that there is only one God from whom all things come and for whom we live, thus “where a meat is cooked” does not make the meat sinful or non-sinful. BUT if eating that food causes a brother or sister in Christ to fall into sin, we not only sinned against a fellow Christian, but against Christ! And he goes on to say that if something he does causes someone to fall into sin, he would rather not do it AT ALL then to cause them to fall. This is the way of Christian maturity.
The mature Christian does not put a stumbling block in front of the baby christian, even if it is the baby Christian’s “weakness.” If you’re spouse is stumbling because of your actions, you are not loving them. And if you are not loving your spouse and loving someone else (a “friend” or someone “who needs you”) then that is the very definition of infidelity. You need to end that “friendship” and refocus on your marriage.
It may be it is a weakness, and they need to grow, and there are ways you can help your spouse do that that don’t involve hurting them or the marriage or the family. PUT OFF the sin of causing them to stumble because of your actions, and PUT ON the godly action of helping them to grow in Christ.
2. “Well I wouldn’t be friends with the Other Person if my spouse wasn’t such a grouch!”
Wait a minute! Let’s define right here and now who is responsible for what in your marriage.
Certainly it would be easier if to be faithful if your spouse was loving and pleasant … Certainly it would be easier if they were always what you wanted them to be! But God has told husbands to be loving PERIOD! Ephesians 5:25 and 28, Colossians 3:19, I Peter 3:7 And God has also clearly told us that wives are in submission to their husbands, whether their husband is loving or not! Ephesians . 5:22 and 24 and 33 and Colossians 3:18, I Peter 3:1 You don’t do it in hopes of getting your spouse to do what you want them to do -OR- “only on the condition that…” You do it because God expects you to and has given you the power to do so. PUT OFF the behavior of self-centeredness, and PUT ON the behavior of God-centered obedience.
3. “But this is just the way I am! I’m friendly!”
Doubtless that is the way you WERE as a non-Christian, and being friendly is not the problem. But allowing the guise of friendliness to corrupt your good character IS! It’s not the way God wants you to be and with His power it’s not the way you will be in the future, so continuing to use that as a reason to keep sinning is not valid–you’re still harming your spouse! Scripture is full of warnings to keep away from outside influences that lead to occasions to stumble. In I Corinthians 15:33 Paul writes: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.‘“Proverbs 12:26: “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Proverbs 13:20 “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (There are so many in the book of Proverbs we could go on and on.) Psalm 1! Keep away from all whose lives are displeasing to God; otherwise, you are likely to be influenced by them…and being pleasing to God would be building your marriage relationship and honoring your commitment! PUT OFF the rationalizing of “that’s just the way I am” and PUT ON the confidence that in God you are a new creation, as promised in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
4. You may just be in outright denial that it’s an affair.
The examples above are ALL affairs, and I bet the disloyal spouse in those scenarios didn’t think they were! If you have convinced yourself that what you’re doing is justified even though you know it’s harming your marriage, in that case, you obviously need to stop. If you are the only person in the world Other Person has to lean on, then you have an inappropriate relationship–you’ve given a third person the support that’s due only to your spouse. If you have told yourself “I deserve better” or “Love shouldn’t be this hard” and crossed the line of honoring your vow to forsake all others, then you have been unfaithful. Stop using euphemisms! PUT OFF the denial and justification, and PUT ON admittance and repentance.
The end result is the same in all instance: the relationship outside the marriage needs to stop forever. There needs to be a rebuilding of your primary commitment–your marriage. Whether your spouse is weak, there’s a flaw in your spouse, you don’t want to change, or you are in denial, all of those instances indicate a deep issue in your marriage that needs to be addressed.
Your spouse had an affair. You followed the steps to end the affair, and now you and your spouse have made the decision to try to save your marriage and recover. You listened to our series about Recovering After an Affair. But now you want to learn more about the tools you can use to help you reconcile (the final step).
Today we conclude our series all about the Reconciliation tools–how to use them, and why they are helpful–and we add this new BONUS tool! Although there is no guarantee your marriage will be saved, but these tools can help you build a new, more healthy marriage.
In today’s episode we talk about the sixth new tool–Cognitive Distortions.
As Christians, we know that our inner dialog is tainted by sin. Jeremiah says: “…The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?…” (Jeremiah 17:9) Dealing with our sin is the responsibility of all Christians. Our sin is a product of, the result of, and caused by our thinking: “…For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander…” (Matthew 15:19), and so on.
Cognitive Distortions is an elaboration on the different types of distorted inner dialogues that we discussed in REBT. This tool gives you 15 examples of distorted inner dialogue–specifically examples from infidelity–and then 8 ways you can fix your cognitive distortion.
We would point out that as Christians, changing that inner dialog so that it is in line with the Bible is part of growing as a Christian. And as a Christian, we have the Holy Spirit who helps us grow and change. In this instance, this tool can help us focus directly on where sin and error have been so influential.
NOTE TO SELF: This is a self-help tool – it is not meant for use on your spouse: you use it on yourself. This tool gives you a method to ease your aching heart, to calm yourself, and to give yourself the strength to handle the difficult road ahead of you. It gives you some clarity of mind with which you can then prepare and make better decisions. It can help you avoid those bad situations which arise from acting on impulse, or without considering further consequences.