Christian Marriage Infidelity Recovery: How To Deal With Relatives and Friends

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Posted: March 20, 2024

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

In This article

You have taken the brave and painful step and sought out help to start addressing the infidelity in your marriage. You are experiencing the realities of this vulnerable work with your spouse, processing full disclosure of the infidelity, the inventory of its impact on you, and the steps needed to restore trust in your marriage. While sorting through the mountain of emotional, physical and spiritual debris of the events, how do you respond to your relatives and friends who want to know “how to help” you?

What to expect in this article:

  • Your story in your timing
  • Your needs versus others’ opinions of your need
  • Quick reference for interacting with both the betrayed and betraying spouse’s families
  • Action steps for family or friends of a couple going through infidelity recovery
  • Consider these areas as you connect and share your experience and needs with your family after discovering the infidelity or beginning work with a therapist for infidelity recovery. 

    1.) YOUR story in YOUR timing

    This work happens in stages – similar to an intensive hospital treatment process for a major surgery or accident – at different points of your process, certain people have access to the details of your experience because they are skilled at engaging care needed for your recovery. Not everyone in your family has this level of skill. The same is true here in dealing with infidelity recovery work. 

    Your family or friends may express their care for you by repeatedly asking how you are, what they can do, or what happened and you might feel pressure to respond to them quickly. This could easily take up large amounts of time and energy in your day as you try to stay current and connected with each well-intentioned person. 

    However, this is intense emotional work you are doing with your spouse and within your own heart.  It takes time for you to emotionally and mentally  process each step of the work and make decisions. The pressure you may feel to respond to others and keep them informed of events is not your priority in this work at this time. 

    The rug has been pulled out from underneath you by your spouse’s decisions; you did not ask for this to happen. It is ok to protect your pain and your story right now. 

    Taking ownership of your ability to choose who you talk with, how much detail you share, and how frequently you talk about this with them can help give some sense of control and stability and make the work more manageable.

    Something like, “No, I’d rather not share more about that today; our therapist is helping with that part,” is ok to say. This is your marriage and your experience, not their’s. 

    You can ask for help from your therapist in processing the pressures you feel in those relationships and/or wording your refusal to share those details. 

    You can check out our resource here also in identifying those safe people to share this part of your life with –

    2.) Your needs versus others’ opinions of your need

    As you set boundaries for your time, resources and the updates you choose to share about your work with your spouse, your family and friends’ care for you may show up in several ways. 

    Since they do not know all of the steps you are taking or the process of change your spouse is engaging in, they may reach out with a plethora of resources to try to help you manage your pain or make decisions. When experiencing their own hurt for you, or their desire for you to have the best things for your life, their concern for you may show up like frustration, tears or impatience at times.

    When they feel helpless and worried about you, sharing resources and their strong opinions is often a way others feel connected to and supportive of you in your pain. 

    Most of us humans just want the pain to stop for our loved ones as quickly as possible; we hate to see others suffering.

    However,  their perception of your pain is not your reality. 

    Their reaction to your pain is not your responsibility to manage. 

    It is their own responsibility to process their pain and anger for your experiences and to navigate their own emotional triggers separately from yours. 

    Not all resources or opinions are helpful to your unique situation and healing process. It is ok not to follow up on or read every resource they share with you.  If you have decided to engage in the work of marriage infidelity recovery, trust the process with your trained relationship therapist. You do not have to appease others’ opinions of how you should heal from this betrayal trauma. 

    Ask your therapist for help in navigating your emotional responses to family’s reactions and opinions.

    For more on recognizing relational trauma triggers, check out this article from expert relationship therapists –

    3.) Quick reference for interacting with both the betrayed and betraying spouse’s families 

    The reality is addressing broken trust and healing betrayal trauma is a slow process. 

    Both of you will have family members and trusted friends who will not understand how or why you are choosing to do this work. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you walk through this with your families:

  • Some details are not for anyone but your spouse and therapist. Family or friends may want to feel closer to you by knowing more of the event details, however, exposure of the relationship trauma wound is not the same as strategic care for it. Work with your therapist to determine the level of detail that is helpful or harmful to your healing process to share with family at this time.
  • This will take longer than you or your family prefer; research has shown it takes at least 18 to 24 months to process pain and re-establish trust in a couple’s infidelity work.
  • This will be challenging and messy, not everyone will understand why you are choosing to do this work, and that’s ok. Their urgent desire to stop the pain from happening in your life as quickly as possible is well intentioned, but simply ejecting from the relationship is not the reality of how our human hearts repair after betrayal.
  • You will have less physical, emotional and mental energy for others than you expect and will need more kindness than opinions – it’s ok to ask for that.
  • In your couple’s therapy, you are learning to take this work with your spouse and your decision making processes in sections of time to make sorting out the emotions and facts more manageable. 1 week or 30 day time periods are often used to do this.

    Set aside a little time each week or month to check in with yourself about your circle of supportive, safe people. Review what your needs for support are from them and make a plan to ask for the specific help you need. Here are a few basic areas to begin with:

  • Your physical health/nutrition/exercise needs
  • Your children’s support of their routines/education/emotional care needs
  • Your employment or means of financial support available
  • Your living space care and maintenance
  • Your spiritual health
  • 4.) Action steps for family or friends of a couple going through infidelity recovery

    Give your family member(s) grace to share their story at their own pace.

    Before you ask for updates, ask if they feel like sharing anything at all. 

    Be honest with your own emotions and take those to your own safe people; do not expect your family member(s) to be able to comfort you in your fear, pain or anger for their experience.

    Ask if there are small actions of practical care you can give them routinely and plan to give it for several weeks or months.

    Consider some like these: 

  • providing a meal or 2 each week for the month
  • help picking up/dropping off kids from soccer practice for the whole season
  • baby sitting for counseling session times or self-care breaks each week
  • Respect their requests for your role in their life

    Respect their requests about any limits regarding who knows the details about their story, even if they are asking you not to share yet with prayer partners at church.

    Honor their time constraints. This is heavy emotional work and they will need both time with friends or family and time alone to rest, pray and refuel.

    Pray for them in your own private time as they do this work together. 

    Other resources with MyCounselor.Online for Christian Affair Recovery:

    Types of infidelity, the affair recovery guide. Part 1
    Types of infidelity, the affair recovery guide. Part 3

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