Doing Life Together

bedWhen the cheating website, AshleyMadison, was recently hacked, names were released. Affairs were revealed. Couples, families and churches are dealing with the revelation of loved ones and leaders who used the site to secretively have an affair. The aftermath has left many wondering, can I repair the damage to my marriage and to the people who trusted me?

When couples are willing to repair the damage, it begins with admission of the affair. This is not an easy step but necessary. People react to the admission with anxiety, anger, grief-like symptoms, and more. The reality of an affair awakens a deep sense of loss for the betrayed spouse.

It is important to allow the betrayed spouse to feel whatever comes, and to work through those feelings over time. The intensity of the feelings will eventually diminish, but the reality of betrayal remains. Prayer helps. God knows your pain and is a source of comfort. He can bring peace to your mind when you trust him to help you work through feelings of loss.

The betrayer needs to be prepared to share remorse often and allow questions. They must give needed reassurance whenever requested and be empathetic to the pain caused through their actions. Patience is needed as the couple works through the root of the issue. The betrayed person needs time to process and question.

After the admission of an affair, the betrayer needs to make sure that every aspect of the affair has been stopped. I call this the “no more contact rule.” If a spouse can’t agree to this, it indicates a lack of remorse or ambivalence regarding reconciliation.

Next, acknowledge the feelings related to the crisis and, as painful as it is, tell the story in whatever level of depth the betrayed person wants. Then identify what made you vulnerable to this wrong action and work on rebuilding after forgiveness.

If you are the one who was betrayed, then part of that rebuilding means letting go of judgment. Too often, a partner forgives but continues to judge the person. Let God do that! Go back to the basics of working on friendship and building positivity in the relationship. Don’t ignore what happened, but once it has been dealt with, don’t use it as a club over the person’s head.

Reconciliation cannot happen without forgiveness. Forgiveness is your choice and critical to moving forward. It frees you from bitterness. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and relieves stress. Forgiveness jump-starts the process of reconciliation. Forgiveness is an individual act, but reconciliation requires a mutual restoration of trust.

Can the relationship be put back together? With God’s help, it can; I have witnessed this many times. In Joel 2:25, God promises to restore the years the locust have eaten. God can do miraculous things in the lives of people who repent and desire reconciliation.

Adapted from We Need to Talk  by Dr. Linda Mintle

GrandparentsHappy Grandparents Day!

I’m not a grandparent yet, but I have many happy memories of my grandparents around Sunday dinners, family get togethers and special occasions. My dad’s grandmother loved to stay with us when my parents vacationed. She would spoil us, cook our favorite meals and tell us how good we were. My mom’s mom came to live with us once my grandfather died. She spent many of her days baking up strudels and German baked goods. The warm kitchen on cold Michigan winter days was welcoming and inviting. Stories of the war, hardships and overcoming, encouraged us and made us grateful for the sacrifices family made to give us education and opportunity.

Most importantly, my grandparents passed down a rich spiritual history. Always integrating God into the conversations and daily life, we learned a set of beliefs and values we live by today.

Grandparents, do you know how important you are, especially to those teens in your extended families? If you have a close relationship with those teens, you are improving their emotional and relational health.

A study published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry online found that grandparents have a useful role when it comes to complementing good relationships between parents and teens. But the benefits are best when the grandparent has a close relationship with his or her own child as well. So if grandparents have a happy relationship with you as the parent, that filters down to your teen.

Today on Grandparents Day, give a hug, a shout out to the people who brought you into the world and where possible, strengthen those relationships. A good relationship with your parents will benefit your teens as well. It will help keep the teen out of trouble and emotionally healthy! And we could all use that support in today’s world.

IMG_3827On my visit to NYC this summer, I went to the 911 Memorial. This was a picture I took as I stood at the footprint of the two missing towers. I don’t know David Brady or any of the other names around the wall, but I feel the loss. They were average Americans, at work, doing life when suddenly everything changed.

I can’t imagine how scary it must have been, the panic, the confusion, the adrenalin pumping…for the friends and families, this memorial reminds us of a day in history we will never forget.

I saw it all unfold on television because I was having my car serviced at the Jeep dealership. The TV was on. No one in the waiting room was really watching. I looked up at the news report and thought the pilot of the plane must be having a heart attack or medical emergency. The room was quiet. All eyes were now on the TV as the reporters tried to make sense of it. We couldn’t. It was inconceivable. And then the second plane.

My children’s school dismissed. We lived in the largest naval base area in the country. News reports were speculating we could be a target as well. When the family arrived home together, we huddled and prayed. How much should I tell my young children? I didn’t want to frighten them and create nightmares. We shielded them from the footage but tried to explain the news. Like most families we did our best to be factual but protective.

For the families that lost loved ones on 911, their lives will never be the same. I know as I too lost a brother from a terror attack. He’s missing at graduations, weddings and family celebrations. I miss our relationship and at times, wonder how different it would be if he was still alive.

We heal, we hurt less, but the loss remains. We don’t forget. Revelation 21:4 reminds us that one day, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” And we will once again see those we love. 


smaller worryWhen I wrote the chapter on Sex and Affection in my latest book, We Need to Talk, I referenced the infidelity site I couldn’t believe a website  promoted married dating. A a therapist, I know how devastating an affair can be to a couple, a family, the church or place of employment.

The website’s motto, Life is Short, Have an Affair, does nothing but propagate the myth that infidelity is harmless. The website’s promise to be 100% discreet is obviously no longer valid, but its tag line, as the most recognized and reputable married dating service, is equally flawed. How can married dating be reputable? You are helping people secretly cheat, an ingredient to destroy relationships.

Married dating, as AshleyMadison calls it, is a throw back to the sexual revolution of the 1960s when immorality was reframed as empowerment, and choice was supposed to not have consequences. But choice did and still does. Secretive married dating doesn’t ends well. While it is possible to work through an affair,  your partner may not be willing and the consequences can be life long.

So what do we learn from the AshleyMadison outing? The same lessons we already know:

1) Lies and secrecy lead to relationship diaster. Healthy relationships are built on trust. Without the foundation of trust, intimacy doesn’t grow. No one wants to be transparent with someone they can’t trust. And what is hidden will one day be revealed, bringing light to the mistrust.

2) Secrets birth betrayal. For some, betrayal will cost more than anticipated. It may be too much to recover from and sets the stage for wondering what else has been a lie. Secrets are kept. Emotional distance grows. A coalition with another person is formed. The betrayer has to justify their actions and thoughts by continuing to turn away from their partner. This purposeful behavior is rationalized and justified.

3) Whatever the short term need an affair meets, does not fix the root problem. If the root is a lack of intimacy, sexual satisfaction, or boredom, an affair is like masturbation. It only satisfies the person and does nothing to help the relationship. Infidelity is typically the result of something that has been simmering below the surface of a relationship. For example, discontent, loneliness, and resentment are produced by negatively comparing the person to someone perceived to be better. Betrayal can be fueled by all sorts of relationship issues—marital dissatisfaction, family problems, friendships that have become too close, physical proximity, spiritual decline, convenience, sexual stimulation, need for love and validation, and more.

4) The unintended consequences of married dating reaches far beyond the couple— The possibilities of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional fall out, regret, guilt, shame and psychological distress are realities of allowing hormones to drive behavior. Families are destroyed, communities shaken. Yet, these consequences are rarely shown or talked about in the media.

Sex is never truly casual, but instead creates a biological bonding with another person. When a sexual betrayal happens, it is devastating. The breach of trust is enormous. The covenant relationship is broken. And one has to ask, was it worth the price?


For more help: We Need To Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle