I know many of you are in really rough places in your marriage, and you need some help.
I find myself getting lots of emails from women whose husbands are having affairs, or are heavily involved in porn, or are texting constantly with a woman. And these readers don’t know what to do.
And I also find myself recommending the same books to different people, over and over. And so I thought today that I’d put together a resource post of two of the best books I know of if your spouse is having an affair, or flirting with having an affair, or if you are trying to recover from an affair. I’ll likely add to this later, so if you have other favourites, leave them in the comments! (And I would count heavy porn use as an affair, too, as I wrote in this post on “Is Watching Porn Cheating“?)
In the meantime, in no particular order, here we go:
Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson
In Love Must Be Tough, Dobson asks the question, “what do you do when only one person wants to save a marriage?” As a counselor, he says, he’s used to seeing couples. Two people walk into his counseling room, and they start talking about their issues.
Yet Dobson was finding that this model wasn’t really helpful to many people, because in most cases when a marriage goes sour, only one person wants to save it. The other seems content to let it go.
So what do you do if you’re the spouse who wants to save the relationship, and your spouse is having an affair, or is heavily addicted to porn, or is doing something else that is completely destructive to the relationship?
Dobson walks you through a process of “waking the other spouse up”, showing them the consequences of their actions. Most people, he says, when confronted with a wayward spouse, panic and try to bend over backwards, thinking that if they’re just nice enough, and if they’re just forgiving enough, and if they’re just sexy enough, the spouse will return. Actually, says Dobson, the exact opposite is true. Becoming a doormat is not going to save your marriage. Allowing your spouse to experience the repercussions of their actions and be jolted into doing the right thing is a better course of action.
And it’s also better for you spiritually. So he shows you how to rely on God during this time, how to make wise decisions for you and the kids, and how to leave the door open so that reconciliation is not only possible, but far more probable than if you turn yourself inside out for a cheating spouse. And if reconciliation doesn’t happen, you’re still in a stronger place with God, and you’re able to move forward.
A great book if you’re the one being treated horribly in your marriage.
Surviving an Affair
Dr. Willard Harley Jr. and Dr. Jennifer Harley Chalmers tackle these sticky problems in this excellent and practical book which walks couples through the recovery process.
They start the book with analyzing affairs and how they end, and I learned something important here: 95% of affairs which are exposed die a natural death within 2 years. In contrast, if affairs remain secret they can last decades. This makes sense to me. Once an affair is public, and it has to then be a real relationship, it likely won’t last because it’s built on such a shaky foundation. But if it remains in secret, it’s really just a fantasy. It has nothing to do with real life. And you can carry on a fantasy for a long time.
So if a spouse learns of an affair, chances are that affair will end.
And that’s what the Harleys insist upon–if you want an affair to end, you MUST cut off all contact, cold turkey. They walk you through how to do that, sharing different stories that are poignant, that all readers will relate to. They talk about what to do if your spouse won’t cut off contact. And they talk about how practically to make sure that the person involved in the affair can no longer reach you–even if you have to change emails and phone numbers. And they strongly recommend switching jobs if the affair was with a co-worker.
They walk couples through how to be accountable with their time and money, so that the other spouse knows that they can trust again. And then, and only then, do they start to rebuild the relationship.
And if the offending spouse refuses to end the affair? They walk you through how to expose it–because it expose it you must. They say:
Reality has a way of bursting the bubble of illusion, and an affair is one of the biggest illusions that anyone can experience in life. It’s based almost entirely on emotions with almost no logic to support it.
That fact becomes clear when children, employers, clergy, family, and friends all hear about the affair. Because they are not in the fog, they see the affair for what it really is: the cruelest, most devastating, and selfish act anyone can ever inflict on a spouse. With so many people seeing the situation logically and not emotionally, the unfaithful spouse has an opportunity to be advised and influenced by these people. Furthermore, the betrayed spouse gains support when he or she needs it the most.
If that doesn’t work, they walk you through Plan B, showing how having the unfaithful spouse face true consequences often jars them into reality.
When the spouse does want to rebuild, they walk through the psychological drama that often accompanies it–the unfaithful spouse suffering withdrawal; the innocent spouse desperate to rebuild RIGHT NOW.
They spend the rest of the book talking about the concept of Love Banks: how we are to avoid withdrawals, and try to make as many deposits as possible during this turbulent time. And they’re really practical about it.
That’s what I like about this book–it’s super practical, and it tells you exactly what to do in each situation to rebuild your marriage and deal appropriately with a wayward spouse. And reading through it, I felt hope, even for desperate couples. It really can be done. I highly recommend Surviving an Affair.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.