Not even a Christian marriage is safe from infidelity, affairs, and cheating spouses. A pastor’s wife asked for help healing from an affair; her experience inspired me to write this article.
“I must be doing something wrong, for my pain seems to get worse by the day,” says Samantha on How to Heal Your Heart After Your Marriage Falls Apart. “Ten years ago my husband of 27 years, a Baptist Minister, divorced me in one month and less than two months later married my friend, our sister-in-Christ. They’re building a ‘Christian marriage’ while I am drowning in my sorrow and tears. I know my marriage is over and I tried everything to heal from my husband’s affair. Most pastors’ wives I’ve read about don’t take as long to heal, and that makes me think there’s something wrong with me. How can I feel worse today, 10 years later, than I felt the day my husband told me about his affair? Why does the question ‘How could my Christian marriage end in an affair?’ keep torturing me? Years of therapy and antidepressants are not healing me.”
There are no easy answers or quick tips for healing after an affair in a Christian marriage. I share a few thoughts in this article, and welcome your ideas and experiences in the comments section.
At the end of this article you’ll find resources for getting over an affair for Christian pastors’ wives. Remember that different women heal in different ways, and have different rates of recovery.
Here’s why I suspect some Christian wives have a difficult time healing from an affair: their hearts are still wrapped up in their husbands and marriages. If you can’t forgive your husband for cheating, it’s possible that your hope isn’t in Jesus. Your life, joy, peace, and spirit doesn’t come from your relationship with the Holy Spirit. You aren’t receiving healing because your heart is hurt – which is a natural response to finding out that your Christian husband cheated on you.
But, you may be allowing your heart to dictate your emotions and responses to your husband’s affair. You’re allowing your hope to rest in your Christian marriage instead of where it belongs, with Jesus. Perhaps that’s why you’re still emotionally devastated because of your husband’s infidelity.
How to Heal From an Affair in a Christian Marriage
The devastating emotional impact of an affair on a marriage is too painful for words. And, I think it’s even worse when your husband is a pastor. If he may have cheated with a woman in your church – a friend, even – the pain goes from bad to worse.
You WILL heal, recover, and become brighter and stronger after this affair. You are a pastor’s wife, and your husband’s decision to cheat is part of your life for a reason. We don’t know why your marriage unfolded this way, and there’s no point asking or blaming God. Your husband made a bad choice, and the Bible is no stranger to bad choices.
Take heart. You are not alone. Be strengthened by hope and emboldened by faith. Know that you will arise, and you will feel joy, light, hope, and faith again one day. Sooner than you think, perhaps!
But you will experience the valley…for that is where you’ll find healing.
Experience the dark night of the soul
Grieve the pain that your husband’s affair is causing you personally. Your heart is shattered, your soul crushed, your trust broken, your faith tested. You’ve been betrayed. The pain of your husband’s affair cuts deep into your heart, and there are no words to describe your feelings of sorrow, anger, and disappointment.
And the embarrassment! Your church family may be kind and supportive, but there is no erasing the shame, guilt, and humiliation of your pastor husband’s affair. You were the wife of one of the respected leaders of your church. You were the pastor’s wife, you were in ministry alongside your husband, you were his partner.
Weep for your loss. Grieve the pain you feel, for it is great. Allow yourself to wail, cry, beat the pillows in anger and frustration. This is how you’ll start getting over your husband’s affair: by allowing those overwhelmingly painful emotions to course through your body, out into the atmosphere.
Part of grieving is expressing your deepest disappointments, thoughts, and fears. If you’re reluctant to talk about your pastor husband’s affair, read Why You Need to Talk About Your Husband’s Affair – and Who to Tell.
Set the tone for your children’s healing and recovery
Maybe your children were first on your list of “things to grieve” after you found out your husband had an affair.
Maybe your kids already knew their dad was cheating, or maybe they haven’t found out about the affair yet. Maybe you and your husband are protecting them from the truth, or maybe they’re too young to understand.
The kids may not know your husband cheated, but they know when their father doesn’t live with them anymore. Your children know when mom and dad are fighting, living in conflict, not loving or supporting each other. They can feel the weight of the emotional pain, the physical distance, the spiritual unrest. Your kids may not know the details, but they know when things aren’t right at home. This is why it’s so important for you to learn how to get over cheating as a pastor’s wife. Choose to get emotionally and spiritually healthy for your kids’ sake. You’re setting the tone for their own recovery and healing process.
Mourn the image of God you had…and lost
This is the most important tip on how to get over an affair when you’re a pastor’s wife: wrestle with God in the dark nights and long days. Who is the God you thought you knew, believed in, and trusted? He isn’t the same loving Father — protective and compassionate, loving and kind — you once knew.
Or…is He? This is the season for exploring your feelings about Him.
Your relationship with God is different now. You’re different, aren’t you? Your life has changed in ways that can never be undone, and your world will always be less colorful and vibrant. Learning how to get over an affair – especially when your husband is a Christian – is a lifelong process of rebuilding trust and reestablishing your relationship with God.
You thought you knew who He was, you thought you knew who your husband was, and you thought you knew your place in this world. But everything is different now. Being forced to heal from an affair in a Christian marriage changes everything.
Choose to get over your husband’s affair
After you get through the worst of the grief— the loud wailing, weeping, keening — you are ready to learn how to heal from an affair in a Christian marriage. It starts as a hope, a little glimmer of wishing you could get over the affair. You want to be ready to heal, you yearn to let go of the pain of your husband’s cheating, you want to be free from the hurt, lack of trust, and grief…but it’s not that easy.
In her comment above, my reader said she’s holding on to her anger, pain, frustration, and grief. She’s questioning God. She’s suffering emotionally, spiritually, emotionally, and even socially. She is prolonging her own pain because she isn’t choosing to learn how to get over an affair as a pastor’s wife. I don’t think she decided she wants to heal and be free from her past. She hasn’t chosen to forgive her husband for cheating on her. Rather, she’s choosing to keep spinning her wheels and wondering how to get over an affair as a pastor’s wife.
Learn how to forgive your husband for cheating
As a Christian woman and a pastor’s wife, you know that you have to forgive your husband for having the affair. Pastor or not, believer or not, religious or not…forgiveness is the only way to recover.
“Forgiveness of our spouses is for our benefit,” writes Joseph Warren Kniskern in When the Vow Breaks: A Survival and Recovery Guide for Christians Facing Divorce. “The attitude of our hearts is critical. Forgiveness frees us from the spiritual bondage of hatred, resentment, and a desire for revenge. We need this release to move on with our lives.”
It’ll be hard – and feel impossible – to forgive your pastor husband’s affair. Forgiveness feels unnatural because you’re so hurt and betrayed, and because your husband’s decision to cheat and break your vows is devastating. Healing from an affair in a Christian marriage isn’t like forgiving your husband for cheating on his taxes or being careless with his words.
Forgiving your Christian husband for having an affair with another woman may be the most difficult thing you’ll ever face in your marriage or life. And, forgiving your husband will be the healthiest, most free-ing thing you’ll ever do for yourself.
Decide where to place your hope – and your heart
If you’re emotionally devastated and spiritually shattered because of your Christian husband’s affair — and you think you’ll never recover — you need to look at where you placed your hope. For where your hope lies, there too lies your heart.
Before your husband cheated, was your hope, identity, and reason for living in your marriage and role as a Christian man’s wife? Then your husband’s affair will be the worst thing that could ever happen to you. It’s the most painful, devastating, shattering event – and you’ll never get over it. If your identity as a woman is bound up in your role as a pastor’s wife, then your very identity has been destroyed.
That hurts, and but I’m not sorry for your loss. Why? Because if your identity was in your role as a Christian man’s wife, then it wasn’t in Jesus. And now you will get over the affair by re-establishing your identity in a fresh, new way. You can dig into your identity as a child of God, dearly and unconditionally loved. And, you can start looking forward to a new season in your life.
It’s time to stop asking why your husband cheated, or even how to heal from an affair in a Christian marriage. Now is the season for moving forward. It’s time to let go of your husband and cling to the cross.
For the cross is where your pain ends and your healing begins.
Resources for Pastors’ Wives – Getting Over the Affair
In Torn Asunder, Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair pastor and marriage counselor Dave Carder sorts through the factors that contribute to cheating in Christian marriages, and maps out a recovery process for both husband and wife.
In this book, you’ll find the answers to questions such as:
- Why did this happen?
- We didn’t actually sleep together, so is it still an affair?
- Can I trust my husband again?
- Should I reveal a secret affair?
- What if we can’t get over the affair?
- What do we tell the kids?
With compassion and wisdom rooted in the Bible, Carder offers insight for couples and families who want to learn how to get over an affair.
In Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration In A Broken World, Ray Carroll takes a deep look into his own story of adultery and the stories of so many pastors like him, who lost so much in the wake of their choice to cheat on their wives.
Ray identifies the common decisions and cultural issues that continuously lead to the exact same outcome, issues such as isolation, the church mistress, judgmentalism, and idolatry. Ray offers no justification for cheating pastors and husbands – or why he chose to cheat on his wife. But, he does seek understanding that leads to a Biblical response of restoration.
Ray’s story may help you understand why your husband had an affair, and help you move forward in your life.
In My husband is a cheating pastor, and I am at a loss on the Divorce Minister website, you’ll learn how other wives of Christian pastors cope with affairs in their marriages.
You will heal, if you choose. You will come alive again, if you put your heart and hope in God! You will even love and laugh again – if you keep learning how to get over your husband’s affair. And you will feel the joy, peace, hope and love that surpasses all understanding. You’ll glimpse God’s glory, and you will dance again.
May you find healing, freedom, and joy in your life. May God strengthen and uplift you as you heal from this affair in a Christian marriage. May you let go of the past, dig into your identity in Jesus, and blossom into the woman God created you to be.
If you’re hoping you and your husband can rebuild your relationship, read How to Rebuild Trust After a Marital Affair.