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I have a difficult dilemma. About a year ago my wife came forward to disclose that she had an affair with one of my very good friends. The affair lasted a few months. My wife and I decided to move forward and with repentance and forgiveness we are still together.
I am very thankful that we made it through a very rough time in our marriage.
However, a few months back I saw that my wife was still communicating with this other man. Not daily but there is texting and they have had lunch together and have been to a few activities in a group setting.
I was stunned and concerned. My wife and this other man wish we all could be together like old times and enjoy activities as friends again. She doesn’t see anything wrong with this continued connection and tells me I should not be worried and that she loves me.
I am stuck with anxiety and I worry that the affair can be sparked again because of the continued connection. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Yes I have forgiven them but should it mean that I don’t need to be concerned?
What is the right answer moving forward?
You can forgive your wife for having the affair, but you can’t move forward in your marriage if she’s rekindling a relationship with her previous lover. It would be understandable if you were nervous with her connecting with another man, but when it’s the same guy she cheated with, your warning alarms are going to ring loudly.
Couples who heal from infidelity turn toward each other and let the other relationship go. The unfaithful partner has a responsibility to turn away from the other person and focus on building connection, trust, and security with their injured spouse. They have a long-term responsibility to create conditions that foster complete confidence that an affair won’t happen again.
Your trust in your wife has everything to do with her repentance. In Doctrine and Covenants 58:43, it reads, “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them”. Forsaking a sin means giving it up completely. If her sin was a relationship with another man, it means to give it up completely in any form.
President Spencer W. Kimball spoke clearly about what it means to be faithful to your spouse. He said:
There are those married people who permit their eyes to wander and their hearts to become vagrant, who think it is not improper to flirt a little, to share their hearts and have desire for someone other than the wife or the husband. The Lord says in no uncertain terms: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22).
And, when the Lord says all thy heart, it allows for no sharing nor dividing nor depriving. And, to the woman it is paraphrased: “Thou shalt love thy husband with all thy heart and shalt cleave unto him and none else.”
The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.[i]
There are two major concerns with your situation. First, your wife sought out a renewed relationship with him. He’s not a safe individual and he’s no friend to you or your marriage. All marriages, especially betrayed marriages, need lots of support from people who encourage couples to turn to each other. I highly doubt he has any interest in turning her back to you.
Second, she began this relationship with him again without talking to you about it first. The secrecy, hiding, and sneaking around only undermines the trust and security you need to heal from her infidelity. If she had approached you to see if it were possible to be friends with him again, you could discuss how this would affect your relationship. When she moves forward and decides to connect with him, she is putting him before the marriage.
You have some important conversations ahead of you. Why does she need to have a friendship with him? Why is he so important to her? What promises has she made to him? Why isn’t he coming through the front door of the marriage and reconnecting with you?
I hope she will remember the pain she caused you and work to see how her current behaviors are threatening the trust she worked to restore. Forgiving her frees you from the toxic emotions that come with betrayal. Trusting her completely depends on her behavior. She’s not giving you a reason to trust her. I don’t believe it’s possible for a couple to have a safe and secure marriage post-affair if one partner continues to have a secret relationship with their lover. The hard reality is that your wife is starting another affair with him, despite what she tells you. Emotional affairs of the heart are just as damaging as physical affairs.
Don’t stop talking about this with her until you feel things are fully resolved. There is so much distorted thinking during affairs. Pick up a copy of “Not Just Friends” by Shirley Glass and educate yourselves on the nature of emotional and physical infidelity. There is also an excellent article in the September 2009 Ensign that specifically discusses emotional affairs.[ii] It’s not too late to save your marriage if she’s willing to end that relationship and put your marriage first.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
[i] Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 142–43.