The commandment of the Lord regarding fidelity in marriage is very clear: “Thou shalt love thy wife [or husband] with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her [or him] and none else.” And then He added, “Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out.” ” (D. & C. 42:22 & 24)

Loving your spouse with all your heart and being true to her or him is a joyful way to live your life. We know the Lord’s plan is called the great plan of happiness. He gives commandments that ensure this happiness and keeping this particular commandment will bring eternal joy. Satan knows this all too well. His plan is the opposite, to bring us misery, so he is going to do all he can to stop us from “cleaving unto our spouse and none else.” He is clever and crafty, so we must be on guard at all times. When a person violates this commandment, hearts are shattered and deep pain is inflicted on the whole family. When this happens Satan rejoices. And recently he seems to be having a heyday.

How Deeply it Hurts

We are surrounded with a barrage of marital infidelity in the news. We can’t forget Elizabeth Edwards’ heart-wrenching story. It seemed too private to be shared, but since she did, we’re going to quote her to show you how deep the hurt goes. When her husband told her he’d had an affair she said, “After I cried and screamed, I went to the bathroom and threw up.” As she found out more of the details she said, “I felt that the ground underneath me had been pulled away.” (“Elizabeth Edwards: How I survived John’s Affair”, TIME, May 5, 2009)

There is no adequate way to explain the pain infidelity causes. We’ve seen it too many times in the lives of clients and others we care about. Elizabeth’s effort to forgive her husband and move on to salvage their marriage and family is ongoing, and admirable, yet filled with daily challenges. Facing the reality of it all, she said, “There is still a great deal of sorting through to do – the lies went on for some time. And we both understand that there are no guarantees, but the road ahead looks clear enough, although from here it looks long.” Good for her for holding on. Good for him for repenting and seeking her forgiveness. Still the process of recovery is very painful.

Others in the News

We were bombarded with news of Jon and Kate’s (of the Jon & Kate Plus 8 TV reality show) divorce, with the accusations that Jon had been unfaithful to his wife, and intimations that it may have been a two-way street. The problem is, their highly visible lives are blatantly in our faces, even if we don’t watch the show. This tragedy is one more of their realities that people shouldn’t be seeing. You don’t put your personal lives out for all the world to see without suffering some serious consequences in your marital relationship. We agree with FoxNews commentator Bill O’Reilly’s who said, “Personal stuff should stay personal. Splattering your life all over the place never works out well.” (A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity, p. 241) That goes for all of us regarding personal matters.

Then there’s the case of South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford. His media-confessed infidelity has to have cut deep into the hearts of his wife and four sons. It’s a devastating turn of events. Not only are they painfully affected by his selfish adulterous actions, but so are all the people who voted for him, who trusted him to be a person with values, as he touted. His behavior has adversely effected the lives of far too many.

It’s Happening Among Us

If these were the only cases in such plain view we might be able to dismiss it as uncommon. The sad thing is, it’s becoming all too common, and right in our own neighborhoods, wards, and families. Too many marriages are suffering the stabbing wounds of infidelity. And it’s not just men who are the offenders. Sadly, many women have fallen into Satan’s trap as well. For this reason we’re including a section from our book Love That Lasts, that deals with this subject. We hope it will open people’s eyes to the absolute necessity of being true and faithful to your spouse. We hope it makes people think carefully about their sacred marriage covenants. We hope it helps those who have violated their covenants to repent and save their marriage and family. We hope it helps offended spouses to eventually be able to forgive and find peace.

From Love That Lasts:

There is nothing more sacred or important than remaining faithful to the best friend you have in the world, your spouse. Married couples owe this to themselves and their children. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I believe that it should be the blessing of every child to be born into a home where that child is welcomed, nurtured, loved, and blessed with parents, a father and a mother, who live with loyalty to one another and to their children.” (“Stand Strong against the Wiles of the World,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 98)

President Hinckley concluded this address by introducing The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which includes this statement: “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” (Italics added)

Adultery is the ultimate broken trust and one of the most devastating and selfish acts perpetrated against a spouse. Sexual intimacy is one of the most precious shared gifts a couple has. Once this trust is broken, it is extremely difficult to mend, but not impossible. If you still love each other, there is a way. If you can’t stand him or her for doing it, but you want to save the marriage and both spouses are willing, it can be done. If there are children, do everything in your power to restore the marriage and make it stronger and happier than it has ever been. Though it may be very difficult it will be worth all it will take to make it happen. The first step is to completely sever all contact with the illicit partner.

Forgive and Forget?

Some people may tell you that as time goes on you just have to forgive and forget your spouse’s adultery. Forgive? Yes. Forget? Impossible. At least not for a very long time, and perhaps not at all. That still does not prevent you from restoring your marriage and enjoying happiness beyond what you thought possible. Sometimes the silent remembering keeps it from happening again. It is possible, however, that the memory will finally fade into the background as a new and loving relationship is built between the two of you.

Chris and Shelley’s story (names changed) is one example of how this tragedy can be handled.

Chris and Shelly had been married for twenty-two years. They were active members of the Church and attended their meetings together every Sunday with their six children. One evening Chris could no longer carry his dark secret. He had had numerous affairs in the past eight years and finally confessed it to his bishop and admitted it to his wife. The affairs were only brief ones, with no desire on his part to continue the relationships. He loved his wife and children and didn’t want to lose them. Shelly was devastated by the news. She was stunned, then filled with overwhelming anger, and then with the deepest sorrow she had ever known.

That’s when her tears started, and she couldn’t make them stop for days on end.

He begged her to forgive him and promised absolute fidelity for the rest of his life. He pled with her not to leave him. She was repulsed by him and wouldn’t let him touch her. How could she ever let him touch her again? she wondered. He pleaded for her forgiveness. She didn’t know if it was possible to stay in the marriage even if she could forgive him. She was certain she would never be able to trust him again. And if that were the case, how could she possibly stay married to him? But what about the children? They loved him and needed him. She loved him. She had always loved him. And she needed him. He had been a good provider. How could she make it without him? How could he have done this to her? All of these things went through Shelly’s mind as she mourned this tragedy in her life and worked to find a solution. She agonized and prayed for guidance about what to do and whether to stay in the marriage.

Chris had to pay the ultimate price of excommunication, but was determined to do whatever it took to fully repent and remain faithful in the Church and to his family.

He did not press Shelley for a decision and let her vent her anger on him whenever she needed to, always asking for her forgiveness and expressing his sincere love for her and his understanding of her disgust and disappointment in him. When she would shout, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you for this!” He would respond, “I hate me for it, too. Please forgive me.” He had learned not to ruin the healing Shelly’s anger could bring by using any defense or justification. He just listened and tried with all his might to understand her feelings from her perspective. It was a deeply painful time for both of them, but Shelley decided to stay in the marriage.

It took many months before she would let him touch her in any intimate way. And when they finally made love, her imagination went crazy thinking about what he had done. They would talk deep into the night as she questioned and cried. He answered her questions, held her, and listened, pledging his love and fidelity again and again. He also made this same promise to God in his daily prayers and asked Him to help him keep the promise. And he meant it. He never wanted anything like this to ever happen to him and his family again.

It took several years of patient understanding on both Shelly and Chris’s parts until finally the trust was restored. When he had proven himself worthy, he was re-baptized and has remained faithful ever since. Their lives are witnesses to the reality of the words of Elder David E. Sorensen: “Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God’s love in our hearts.” (“Forgiveness Will Change Bitterness to Love,” Ensign, May 2003, 10)Their love for each other grew through the years, and now they share a wonderful life together, not only enjoying each other, but enjoying their children and grandchildren and serving missions together, something they would have lost had they not been willing to work through the pain.

No Explicit Details, Please

Dr. Carlfred Broderick gives wise counsel on how to deal with questions the betrayed mate has regarding what actually took place during the illicit sexual encounter:

[D]emands for clinical sexual details should be resolutely resisted. In response to an informed spouse’s assertion of the right to know “everything,” repentant mates all too often supply details so vivid and concrete that they can scarcely be set aside. Months and years later they flash into memory, triggered by a date, a place, a word, a circumstance-and they lose none of their power to hurt. It is natural, of course, to be morbidly curious about such things, and injured spouses may argue that nothing could be worse than their fantasies. They are mistaken. Fantasies fade; but sharply etched visions of certified reality live on and on. (Dr. Carlfred Broderick, Couples, (New York: Simon and Schuster,1979) 168.)

Forgiveness is the key to rebuilding the marital relationship after adultery. It is not always possible, however, as Ruth and Brandon’s (names changed) experience shows. Brandon simply could not forgive Ruth. She had been the unfaithful one. It had only occurred once, and she felt horrible about it; but Brandon would not let it go. He kept it alive in his mind as though it had happened yesterday and yet it had happened many years ago. He kept pressing for explicit details and verbally beat her with those details. His lack of desire to set it aside and move on destroyed their relationship. It’s heartbreaking when that happens because it doesn’t have to.

Dr. Broderick makes another important point about the benefits of working through this devastating betrayal:

When infidelity is turned into a profitable experience by a couple it is because a combination of two things occurs: 1) despite marital hurts and resentments, there is a fundamental commitment to the marriage; and 2) through the terrific jolt which the infidelity and the discovery caused, the couple take a new hard look at their relationship and what they can do to revitalize it. (Ibid.)

Take Responsibility

Sometimes the only way to go through the process of healing your marriage is to have professional counseling and keep a close relationship with your ecclesiastical leaders. Many couples work through this heartache of infidelity and regain happiness and trust in their marriage.

There is never an excuse for being unfaithful to your spouse, but there are reasons why it happens and both partners need to explore and understand what events led to the infidelity. Each must be willing to take his or her own responsibility and look openly at what needs to be changed. For instance, one partner may not be getting his or her needs met and may not be telling this to the other. The other mate may not be willing to listen. If there is a conscious effort on both his or her part to create a friendship and to use the different principles in this book, an affair can be avoided or forgiven.

To those of you who have remained faithful to your spouses: Please, never break your sacred marital trust! It causes too much agony and suffering for everyone concerned.

True Fidelity

The Apostle Paul gave us the key to happy married life when he said, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it; . . . and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” (Eph. 5:25 & 33) This is true fidelity.

When husbands and wives are faithful to each other our Father in Heaven rejoices, because He knows the eternal blessings this will bring into their lives and the lives of their children.

[Excerpts from Love That Lasts: 14 Secrets to a More Joyful, Passionate, and Fulfilling Marriage by Gary and Joy Lundberg. To learn more and to order the book click here or call 801-224-3447]