Beth sat and stared at the television, seeing nothing. Her thoughts were a million miles away or, more accurately, a few months in the past. The guilt and self- condemnation were becoming unbearable to live with day after day. She anxiously chewed her fingers as she wondered how she would tell her beloved husband she had been unfaithful to him. “What have I done?” she wondered, her heart wrenching inside. “How do I tell him?” she asked, bursting into a fresh round of deep, wracking sobs.
Beth is fictional, but the situation is not. This scenario is being played out in millions of homes today. Women who have been unfaithful to their husbands are coming to grips with their sin of adultery. They are tired of living a lie and know they have to admit what they have done. They are terrified that their actions have ruined everything they once held so dear.
As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.” Psalm 41:4
Adultery is the antithesis of 1 Corinthians 13; it is not patient, kind or loving. Adultery is self-seeking, selfish, prideful and arrogant. Adultery destroys the oneness God intended in your marriage; the exclusiveness of your relationship is blown away as you have joined with another person outside of the covenant. You promised to be faithful and true to him, to keep yourself set apart only for him, to honor and cherish him forever. You broke your vow to love your husband, and you have sinned grievously before God.
Against you only have I sinned. Psalm 51:4
Getting honest is going to require that you look very hard at yourself, and you probably won’t like much of what you see. You must see that at the roots, your sin was about fulfilling the sinful desires of your heart. Sexual sin is a heart issue that reveals the seeds of dissatisfaction that have grown in your marriage. Perhaps you were desiring greater emotional intimacy, more sexual contact, someone to pay attention to you, be your companion, or just spend time with you.
Confess it all to God, pour out the contents of your heart to Him. Admit everything that has been going on inside, all your thoughts, beliefs, and desires; everything that has led you to where you are today.
Repent before God. Repentance is more than stopping the wrong behavior, it is understanding the seriousness of your sin, how God views your sin, accepting full responsibility for your sin, and hating your sin.
Pray for your husband. While you are frightened at the thought of how your confession will affect you, it is time to think of him.Pray God would prepare his heart for what is to come. Learning you have been unfaithful to him may be the worst possible news he will ever receive. Some say it is worse than learning you have cancer or some other disease. The only words that can even come close to describing it are utter devastation. Ask the Lord to comfort him and give him supernatural abilities to think clearly and to have the mind of Christ. Ask the Lord to fill him with compassion. Pray in advance for your husband’s broken heart, and that He would comfort him as only He will be able to do.
When you deliver the truth, be totally honest with him about your role in the adultery. Don’t minimize what you’ve done, don’t withhold information that will come out in future days. Your husband will most likely demand to know all the details. He might conduct what seems like an interrogation and demand to see your emails, phone texts, charge bills and so on. He will most likely want to know the details of all your activities. Be prepared, he will have questions about how long this has been going on and will want to pry inside your mind and learn what drove you into the arms of another man. Men seem to want the explicit details of the sexual encounters. With that in mind, I strongly caution you from giving him every gritty detail right now; it is not helpful or healthy for him.
However, it is very damaging for him to think he knows everything there is to know and learn months or years down the road that there was unconfessed sin. At some point you will have to make a full and accurate disclosure to him because it is a part of the accountability for your actions. Some planning and preparation on your part will make a great deal of difference. I would urge you to get the help of a good biblical counselor.
Don’t react to his words, threats of divorce, or anger. His emotions might swing from paralyzing shock to expressing a desire to die. He is going to be dealing with disbelief and possibly overwhelming rage, crushing pain, grief and sorrow that defies description. Your husband may be frighteningly angry and he may say things that are hurtful and ugly (of course, physical violence or abuse are not acceptable). Do not retaliate or make excuses for what you have done. You are most likely turning him inside out with pain and probably disgust. Wait for the first part of the storm to pass and continue to pray for him as he comes to grips with this news.
Be ready for the consequences. Even though you are covered by grace (if you are a regenerated Christian), there are always consequences for sin. He may leave you or order you out of the house. If possible, humbly ask to stay together for at least a few weeks while you both come to terms with this. Many bad and regrettable decisions are made in the first few hours and days after learning this news. Ask him to meet with your pastor or a good biblical counselor as soon as possible to talk through what he has just learned. Ask him to take some time and think about any actions he wants to take; to think through them all carefully.
Seek restoration. Be mindful that your husband may not be at all interested in reconciliation and restoration in the initial days following your confession. Don’t give up on him and don’t give up on your marriage. I have seen God do amazing things in the lives and marriages of people who were determined to work through the causes and effects of adultery.
Be hopeful. God is the God of hope and restoration. What looks very bleak initially may in the end result in a much better and stronger marriage.
This is a very, very hard situation to be in. If you are dealing with the consequences of adultery, I want to encourage you to get help now. Please don’t wait, and don’t deal with this alone. There are thousands of competent, caring biblical counselors around the world who are willing to walk through this time with you. Contact me (include your zip code), I will help you find one in your area.
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