So you've found out that your spouse loves someone else. What can you do to win him or her back?
You suspected it long before you knew it for sure.
Your spouse changed but you couldn’t quite explain the changes in a way that seemed to make sense to anyone else. You thought that you were imagining things, being insecure. Then you began to vacillate, worrying that you must be right but telling yourself that surely you aren’t. When you asked questions, the answers seemed a little too slick, too rehearsed. Sometimes your questions hit harder and your spouse reacted with anger or sarcasm, telling you that you’re paranoid. If you suspected a particular person, your spouse reassured you that there was nothing going on and that this person is a friend…maybe even your friend…and it wasn’t fair to think that about them.
Finally, you made the discovery. Maybe you checked the cell phone bill, read emails, found a note or letter in a pocket or purse, or, even worse, someone saw them and told you about it. When you confronted, denial reigned.
But not forever.
Eventually, your mate told you that it’s over between the two of you. He or she is in love with the other person. Prepare for divorce. Cooperate and they will make things easy for you. Refuse to cooperate and you will find yourself in a bloody legal battle. Maybe your spouse cajoled, or threatened, in a concerted effort to keep you from telling anyone what was happening. He or she did everything possible to keep you from going to your church leaders, their boss, your family, your in-laws, and maybe even your best friend. Secrecy helped them, not you, but because you thought there might be a chance to keep him or her calm and possibly stop this nightmare, you allowed yourself to be manipulated.
Maybe your abandoning spouse had a period of hesitation. He or she tried to end the affair, and told you that they were willing to work on the marriage. Maybe the paramour found a way to get to him or her, rekindled the passion and convinced your spouse that he or she will never be happy without them. If your spouse went back to the affair the second time, it seemed to have much more power over them than in the beginning.
By the time you broke your silence, things had evolved to an almost impossible situation. Your church leaders tried, but had no success in righting the wrong behavior of your spouse. They found themselves listening to how terrible it is to be married to you, or how hypocritical they were to tell someone else to do right. They might even have heard the startling news that God Himself sent the lover and that He wants them to be together. Or, they might have heard that your spouse no longer believes what they once believed, so the church folks may as well go bother someone who buys into their malarkey.
The fact is that even in these situations a possibility exists that the marriage can be saved and, with time, made good again. That may sound Pollyannaish, but I’ve personally witnessed it repeatedly over the last sixteen years.
A straying partner who has convinced him- herself that life will be wonderful with the new person seldom decides that before he or she leaves they should take one more run at saving the marriage. It’s much more likely that the abandoning spouse will avoid anything that might convince him or her to stop the new relationship and heal the marriage. However, I’ve witnessed case after case in which those marriages were saved, sometimes even after the divorce took place. One couple remarried after being divorced ten years! I don’t mean to give false hope. There are marriages that are doomed and no matter what happens, it will end and never be healed. On the other hand, for many years I’ve seen the salvaging of marriages that seemingly everyone else has given up on.
Admittedly, I become frustrated with leaders or counselors who too quickly encourage the abandoned spouse to accept that it’s over and move on. Yes, that advice is sound when there is no hope. However, my experience is that too often we make premature judgments about how hopeless a situation might be. I’ll make another admission; I’ve gone through marriage intensives with couples that at the end I would have predicted there was no way they would heal their marriage. Yet I saw it work out.
For example, recently a couple came through our weekend intensive workshop for marriages in crisis that shared a remarkable story. Though highly involved in their church, she had gotten too close to another member and that had gradually led to adultery. Neither meant for it to happen. No one went looking for that kind of relationship. Like so many others they didn’t understand the danger and forged ahead with a friendship that was destined to become a passion. By the time they realized they were on the wrong path, they were so enmeshed with each other that they were convinced that the best thing for everyone – spouses, children, church – was to divorce their spouses and marry each other. The night she told her husband her plans, the emotion was so intense that soon she was in a deep sleep. He interpreted that as her not caring. The real cause of her deep slumber was the depth of her emotional state. Nevertheless, he spent the rest of the night praying over her sleeping body. He prayed that God somehow reduce or remove the emotions she had for the other man.
The next morning she awakened with the realization that she wanted to save her marriage and wanted very much to get past the feelings she had for her lover. Shortly thereafter they were in our workshop to learn how it happened, how to heal it, and how to grow in love like they never had before.
That’s the only time I’ve heard the story work just that way.
More often the abandoned spouse prays and prays but the abandoning spouse reacts callously. They don’t want to see the error of their actions. They don’t want to face the guilt of their wrongdoing. They seek any counsel that empathizes with their position and gives any encouragement whatsoever.
God works directly on a person’s heart in ways beyond human understanding, and sometimes He uses other methodologies. Praying is powerful. So is doing the right things.
If your spouse has told you that he or she is in love with someone else, I suggest you do the following things.
Ask Yourself This Question
Before giving up on a straying spouse, it would behoove you to ask, “Is my spouse a bad person doing a bad thing, or a good person doing a bad thing?”
Good people sometimes do really stupid things. However, if at heart they are good people, they are worth rescuing. It’s your choice, of course, and you can tell your straying spouse to leave and never return. Or, if he or she is a good person involved in a bad situation, you can fight to save your marriage. Our experience is that if a good person gets straightened out, not only can the marriage be saved, but it can be stronger and more loving than it was before.
Things NOT to Do
If you decide to try to save your marriage, immediately stop allowing your spouse to manipulate you in any way. Don’t make things easy for him or her. Slow things down and drag things out even if it makes them angry. Time is on your side, especially if you continually pray for God to intercede and bring trials and tribulations into the sinful relationship.
At the same time, do not cling, beg, whine, plead, or manipulate. It makes you less attractive and intensifies whatever justification he or she has mentally made that allows leaving you. Be strong. Make it clear that while you would like to save the marriage, your life will go on and you will prosper if they don’t come back.
This is very, very important.
When a person believes that you are there no matter what they do, they have no compulsion to do right. When they see that you can live happily without them, you become more attractive.
Things to Do
Take care of yourself physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Your life will not end if your marriage ends. God will still love you. Other people in your life who care about you will still care about you. No matter how much you love your spouse, life can go on and be good if he or she leaves you. The time to take care of you is NOT after the chaos has ended. You must do it now. It benefits you. It benefits your family. And, believe it or not, it often helps bring the spouse back, though you cannot do it for only that reason.
When you are sure that your spouse is involved in something, or with someone, that is wrong, arrange a group to do an intervention. There are time-tested and proven ways to do interventions. You cannot be part of the actual intervention, so pick people that he or she respects or cares about. If your children are old enough, add them to the group; they make great interveners. For step-by-step instructions, see my intervention document. Share that link with everyone who will help in the intervention.
Make an offer of some benefit that will come to your straying spouse if he or she agrees to try at least one thing to save the marriage. Pray for wisdom as to what may motivate your spouse. Our experience is that they are unlikely to agree to a lengthy counseling period, but that likely they will agree to come to our three-day marriage intensive workshop. People have come to our workshop to salve their consciences, to get their church leaders off their backs, to make the children happy, to get a better deal in the divorce, and more. Are those good reasons to come? Any reason is a good reason because for over a decade our success record is three out of four couples, even for those who did not want to be there and for those who came while madly in love with someone else.
Whether you use our services, a counselor full of faith, a minister, or any other help, do something. If you have a desire to save your marriage, act. Sitting alone while having a pity party does nothing good for you or anyone else. You cannot make your spouse do right, but you can make yourself get out of the dumps and back on the road of faith in the God who speaks universes into existence. He will not abandon you, even if your spouse does.