Although the road to rebuilding trust in marriage requires careful maneuvering, couples can find their way back to a happy home. When a husband or wife has an extramarital affair, it may take years to mend broken hearts and reconcile severed emotions. The offended spouse experiences feelings of betrayal; and the loss of trust can set off an avalanche of emotions that could very well end up in divorce. Whether a couple has been married for two years or twenty, the end of infidelity is the same: the offended and the offender suffer pain, anguish, guilt and shame. "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). There is judgment for those who commit adultery, but God also offers second chances. The love between a husband and wife can quench the fire of infidelity, if they choose to forgive, let go and let God repair the breach.
Couples can begin rebuilding trust in marriage by applying biblical principles, especially forgiveness. Seeking the aid of an impartial marriage or spiritual counselor to help guide them through the process of reconciliation is also a viable option. Counselors help partners alienated by adultery discuss innermost feelings and determine whether the marriage can be saved. In spite of wounded hearts, both parties must examine what is at stake should they ultimately divorce. Are young children or teens involved? Who would get custody? Can the two afford to live separately in an uncertain economy? Is this the first transgression or has infidelity been a pattern throughout the marriage? And finally, is there enough love left to continue working towards reconciliation? If the couple decides to reconcile, rebuilding trust in marriage requires that the victim forgive and strive to forget. While the adulterer must be willing to refrain from activities that eventually led to the affair. The Book of Proverbs offers a wealth of counsel for those struggling with the sin of adultery:
"My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them. Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly. Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth." (Proverbs 5:1-18).
Crucial to rebuilding trust in marriage is for the unfaithful spouse to completely separate from the person they were involved with. If it is a coworker, changing jobs or departments may be the only option. Avoiding all contact via telephone, email or in person helps brings closure to an illicit affair, while ensuring the husband or wife that the unfaithful spouse can be trusted again. Ending an online extramarital affair may involve unsubscribing from social networking sites, blocking instant messages and inboxes from cyberspace lovers, or using a home computer only if their spouse is present.
As the offender makes a sincere attempt to separate from any third party, they should also make an effort toward rebuilding trust in marriage by becoming more accountable. Calling a husband or wife before leaving work, avoiding long periods away from home, curtailing overnight travel for business or pleasure, or inviting the spouse to come along whenever possible will help alleviate a partner's fear of future infidelity. Establishing a pattern of accountability and increasingly constant companionship also helps husbands and wives refrain from straying outside the home.
Rebuilding trust in marriage also involves rebuilding an intimate relationship and closing doors to opportunities to cheat again. Couples in marital crisis must examine why the affair happened in the first place. What doors were opened that need to be closed? Were there too many hours spent alone? Had they grown apart due to career challenges, chronic illness, or personality differences? Were there casual relationships with the opposite sex that met emotional needs? Whatever the case, doors opened to unfaithfulness must be closed, and new doors opened to rediscover intimacy solely with the husband or wife.
Couples seeking methods of rebuilding trust in marriage may consider attending weekend retreats designed to rekindle emotional ties. Many secular and Christian organizations and churches sponsor two- to three-day events designed to provide counseling and support for struggling partners. During these kinds of retreats, ministers and counselors are on hand to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation. Detailed information, including registration, accommodations, and fees, are included on organization websites. Partners may find that spending time and money toward rebuilding trust in marriage is an invaluable investment and an effective safeguard against future infidelity.