By Deacon Tom and JoAnne Fogle
When Tim and Maureen, like all married couples before them, stood before God and the community and pledged their love by repeating the words “for better, for worse” or “in good times and in bad,” they totally committed themselves to each other. No matter how difficult, they committed to making it work “until death do us part.”
I just found out Maureen has been having an affair with one of her coworkers. I feel completely betrayed. She says it’s over, but I don’t think I can ever forgive her — or trust her again. Should I file for divorce?
I feel so guilty. I never meant to cheat on Tim, but my colleague at work was so flattering and made me feel young and pretty again. After a few weeks, I really regretted having this fling and I want to work on my marriage. I swear I’ll never do anything like this again if Tim will give me a second chance.
It is easy to forgive in good times and difficult to forgive in bad times. Yet, if God can forgive us as individuals, if he can be committed to each of us, why do we have such a difficult time forgiving our spouse? In the good times, Tim and Maureen see God’s love for them reflected in the eyes of one another. Likewise, in the bad times, they can find God’s forgiveness in each other’s eyes.
This is an occasion when Tim can demonstrate God’s unconditional love by beginning to forgive Maureen and helping her rid herself of guilt. That is what Jesus would do and that is what we are called to do for our spouse when they, like us, slip and fall from grace periodically. This is not an easy situation to overcome, but nothing is impossible with God’s grace and mercy.
As a spouse, our primary role is to build up our spouse, to help them attain eternal life with our heavenly Father, to help them be a living example of Jesus. Too often, couples see their role as a loving spouse only through rose-colored glasses when experiencing good times. We show our true commitment to God and to our spouse in the dark times of our marriage. It is easy to see God’s hand at work from the mountaintop; it is the mark of a truly committed spouse to see God’s hand at work in the dark valleys of life.
For us humans, rebuilding trust in a relationship takes time, commitment from both parties and a lot of forgiveness. It also takes unconditional love. Most couples who have experienced the same situation as Tim and Maureen find that once their relationship has been rebuilt, it is stronger than it was before the indiscretion.
The immature and cowardly way to handle this would be for Tim to run immediately to the divorce court. The mature and Christian way to handle this would be through prayer -— asking God’s help in living out the commitment made on their wedding day — and through open and honest communication between Tim and Maureen.
Through the love and forgiveness that Jesus demonstrated for us and offers in the sacrament of reconciliation, Tim and Maureen can begin to rebuild their sacramental union. We don’t want to underestimate the amount of communication and rebuilding needed to heal from infidelity, but with God’s grace all things are possible.
Sometimes it may take professional help to work through the issues surrounding infidelity, but if we believe in the commitment we made on our wedding day, even infidelity cannot destroy our marriage. It takes prayer, it takes honesty about what led to the indiscretion, it takes time to rebuild trust, and it takes forgiving like Jesus forgives — but it is possible, given the will to remain together.
August 23, 2013