Thinking Of Having A “Payback” Affair?

Q: We’ve been married more than 30 years, and I had an affair 20 years ago.It was very uncharacteristic of me, but I felt so lonely in the marriage because my husband was so extremely attached to his large, close-knit family. We never really had a chance to develop our own family traditions and rituals. He has never really forgiven me, and he, in fact, had an affair in retaliation. Lately his verbal assaults and accusations have become unbearable and more “hitting below the belt.” Neither of us wants a divorce. Help!

A: Your story helps to underscore two things I consider much more important than love in sustaining a satisfying, long-lasting marriage. One of them is commitment, which youtwo obviously have, and the other is forgiveness, which has been sorely lacking these pasttwo decades. Your story illustrates that time, by itself, does not heal all wounds as the saying goes.

You know the Bible teaches that when a man marries he is to leave his parents and cleave unto his wife. It sounds like your husband never really “left” his family, that is, made you the top priority of his life. This does not excuse the affair you had, and I hope you have sincerely expressed your outright remorse and sought his forgiveness in past years without blaming him for the affair. If you have not, it’s not too late to do so.

I strongly recommend couple’s therapy in order to help you guys face the elephant in the room head-on, and kill its distracting influence. Forgiveness is a process and often needs someone to facilitate it and is usually the result of a conscious effort focused on steadfast prayer, reading, realizing our own flaws, and seeking Godly counsel and support from helpful others.

The long-standing issues in your marriage will not just disappear because you want them to. Call a truce and discuss with your husband what you minimally need to feel respected and committed to staying (e.g., an end to the accusations, an end to inappropriate friendships with members of opposite sex, a commitment to seek help together, etc.).