Jim walks in and shares this story ... “My wife May is pregnant by her lover. She says she has come to her senses, loves me, and wants to save our marriage. My family practically hates her and wants me to divorce her and have nothing else to do with her ever. I don’t know what to do.”
Every year situations such as this are repeated more times that one might imagine. One person does wrong, consequences arise, penitence hits and the straying spouse begs for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Jim’s case illustrates a pinnacle of marriage problems; May is carrying her paramour’s baby. If Jim takes her back, what happens to the baby? Do they keep him? Do they put him up for adoption? Do they give him to his biological father? In a stressful time like this they might even ask if May aborts?
Tough questions, but essential if they consider reconciliation. May is pregnant and weeping, worrying, or wanting things to be the way they used to be does not change that.
Most times the cases are not quite as severe in consequence as that of Jim and May, but they are almost universally bad. One spouse has an affair but no disease transmits, no babies germinate and no physical evidence remains. Or one spouse has some kind of addiction rather than involvement with another person; gambling, porn, alcohol, or drugs. It might be that one spouse verbally, mentally, or emotionally abused the other. The similarity is that the actions of one cause the other to want out of the relationship.
Whether one person actually leaves depends on many factors including religious beliefs, cultural expectations, the depth of hurt, influence from family or friends, how close the couple was before the occurrence, alternatives for the future, repetitiveness of hurtful behavior and more. For example, a woman may stay with her physically abusive husband because her religious beliefs are that she can divorce him only if he commits adultery. On the other hand, a woman may discover her husband had a one-night-stand more than twenty years ago and decide the pain is so strong that she cannot live with him again.
Deciding whether to forgive and reconcile, or to end a relationship and move on, often is not an easy decision to make. However, there are certain things to consider that may help in making the best decision. Consider these:
Be Careful Who You Listen To
When one is hurt, taking advice from friends and family may be the least wise thing to do. Typically, people who care deeply feel hurt by what someone has done to the person they love. They tend not to think in terms of forgiveness and reconciliation but in terms of punishment and alienation. In short, rather than being objective, they may be anything but. Wiser counsel typically comes from those who are not directly involved. Even better, listen to third parties who are skilled and experienced in working with people and know something about relationships (like us).