Dr. Wall gives advice to someone thinking of coming clean after an affair.
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.
Anybody can have an affair. Everyone is vulnerable. Let’s be clear about this. Statutes in ancient Israel’s law of death for the adulterers didn’t keep people from having them. Threats today of divorce don’t keep people from having them. Public humiliation doesn’t keep people from having them. Loosing one’s job in absolute disgrace doesn’t either. The possibility that one’s children will reject the parent having an affair doesn’t even do it. Putting oneself at risk for a deadly disease and opening up one’s spouse to this Russian Roulette isn’t strong enough. Having a child with someone else and having to pay child support for years and years makes no difference. Creating a potential monster in one’s affair partner who would be willing to publicly humiliate you or, at worse, even kill you (as in the movie, “Fatal Attraction. This isn’t just a fictional notion.) does not keep people from it. Loosing one’s integrity and being an absolute psychological mess….no matter.
So if you find yourself in an affair and it’s finally dawned on you that, ahh, this wasn’t a good idea, here’s what to do next:
Jesus’s statement above has a broader principle that goes beyond court cases. The broader principle is this:
If you have wronged someone, it is better for you to go make peace directly with the offended person than for them to come to you and bring how you hurt them to your attention.
If you are on the receiving end of hurt, it’s psychologically easier to handle if the person who hurt you comes to you and says, “I was wrong.” Let’s hypothetically say you get up in the morning and your car has been hit from the behind and it’s all smashed up, a couple of thousand bucks worth. There’s no note on the car. Nothing. Who? Are you kidding me? I can’t believe… You call the police and file a report. You call your insurance. You wonder who would be so inconsiderate. You find yourself having a few sleepless nights. You get the bid back from the shop. You’re mad. You’re violated. And then a few weeks later, the police stop by and tell you they found out through some fluke that it was your neighbor that did it, somebody you knew. How creepy is that? And he didn’t say anything? What kind of a neighbor is that? And now I have to go over there? That isn’t right. This is just too weird. What kind of a person wouldn’t own up to his wrong? Why would he put our relationship on the line like that? How am I ever supposed to look at him without hurt if he doesn’t come and apologize and make amends? How long will you carry this resentment around? Even if he does eventually come and tell you, yeah, he did it and here’s his insurance card, your opinion of this neighbor is now forever changed. Apologies and insurance cards are pretty lame if it comes after the fact.
Let’s say instead that the night before you get a knock on your door and your neighbor apologizes for waking you up, but that he inadvertently backed into your car and he’s so sorry and you can tell he’s sorry and you say it’s just a stupid car, that by the time you are 50 you will have had 20 of them and cars can be fixed and you’re glad he’s Okay and sure we can talk about this in the morning and when you go to lay down after that and try to go to sleep you might lie awake for awhile miffed that your car is banged and you have to go to the stupid body shop but you won’t be reaming out your neighbor in your head unless he was an absolute drunk. He’s come clean. It’s just a dumb inconvenience and you won’t have your car for a while. It’s no big deal.
Making peace with the person you’ve wronged before he or she knows about it is the best way to go.
Imagine now, that instead of a dumb car, we’re talking about your integrity and your marriage and your spouse and your affairee and you’ve been lying and sneaking around and giving your body and heart and soul and interests and affections and longings and dreams and hopes and aspirations and tenderness and kindness and good and bad feelings to somebody else. We got a little more invested here, a little more at stake. We’re not going through 20 spouses by age 50. One is plenty. Add another to the mix and, well, ahh, yeah, it’s a mess, one you’d rather avoid. No doubt. It’s understandable you would feel this way, but not helpful. Let’s come clean instead. Go to your spouse. Confess your failure. Don’t let her find out on her own. Don’t let it be that your affairee’s wife calls your husband. No. You don’t want that. Please. Just do the dirty. Suck up your pride and go to your husband or wife and confess what you have done. Yes, you are right. It’ll be a mess. You’ve no idea how she will take it. Will he leave me? Who knows? Let’s not worry about that now. Let’s just do the right thing. You’ve done the wrong thing. Not it’s time to do the right thing.
Don’t know how to approach this? Give us a call. Or, if you live outside Central Iowa, find another counselor or pastor and confess your wrongdoing and get some guidance from a clear head. Tell your spouse. Then bring him or her to therapy. Let’s clean out the wound together so it can heal.
See these other blog entries by Dr. Wall on affairs:
Dr. Wall explores two lessons we can all learn from the recent news that golf legend Tiger Woods had an affair.
Dr. Wall draws another lesson from the recent Tiger saga.
The first question that comes up after a trust violation in marriage is: Do both partners need to come to therapy or just the person who violated the trust? Dr. Wall clears the air on this issue and describes the therapeutic process around trust issues.
Dr. Wall discusses how most affairs start: With opening up to someone of the opposite sex about your problems.
Dr. Wall explores what happens when we don’t let integrity rule our hearts: Affairs are right behind.
Dr. Wall contrasts a life of faithfulness with a life of doing your own thing (having an affair).
In this blog Dr. Wall tells the story of a couple he saw where both had had affairs and they were able to work together to heal their wounds and reconnect and have a happy marriage.
To see other blogs from Dr. Wall on affairs click here.