Rick Reynolds, LCSW
by Rick Reynolds, LCSW
Founder & President, Affair Recovery

The Seven Mistakes Churches Make When Dealing With Infidelity

  1. Focusing on the marriage:
  2. The most significant mistake that churches make in the aftermath of infidelity is taking a cause and effect approach. Infidelity is about a breach of trust and has to be treated as such. While it causes a marital problem, marital problems aren't the cause of infidelity. Two people can be in a miserable marriage, but typically only one has an affair. Certainly there are marital problems, but until the unfaithful spouse repents and turns to God, there is little ground from which to rebuild.

  3. Discouraging the unfaithful spouse from telling the truth:
  4. Infidelity is the keeping of secrets. Intimacy is a willingness to be fully known (naked and not ashamed). Therefore, infidelity inhibits intimacy. It is impossible to be loved unconditionally if you only conditionally let another person know who you are. Admittedly, disclosure needs to be limited to the relevant details, (too much detail increases the probability of intrusive thoughts), but discouraging the truth not only inhibits intimacy, it robs the hurt spouse of their choice. The unfaithful mate can never regain trust unless they first trust their mate with the information.
    "Those who live by the truth come into the light. . . " John 3:21a (TNIV)

  5. Failure to help the couple find the necessary resources to recovery from infidelity:
  6. Recovery from a betrayal is difficult at best. Couples desperately need others who are like them that can testify to God's hand in their recovery. The stories of these couples provide hope for recovery. They need support to help stabilize their relationship when things get out of hand. They need people who will stick with them for the long haul. They need to be taught about what's normal and what's not in terms of their reactions. They need to be shown how God can redeem their situation. Begin by educating yourself concerning what these couples need.

  7. Allowing the unfaithful spouse to blame their mate rather than having them take personal responsibility:
  8. Far too often (as mentioned in number one) a therapist or pastor will look at the problem from the cause and effect perspective. When the unfaithful spouse claims they were unhappy and speaks of their lack of sex or their mate's weight gain (or whatever), then the cause of the infidelity is laid at the feet of the hurt spouse. It's important to acknowledge the existence of problems in the relationship, but explain that they first have to look at the plank in their own eye rather than the splinter in their mate's eye. Recovery is a two-step process where first the infidelity is addressed, then the marital problems.

  9. Pushing too quickly for the hurt spouse to get over it:
  10. Moving beyond the pain of infidelity normally takes 18 to 24 months. Trying to hurry the process of forgiveness and reconciliation prior to knowing what happened sets the couple up for continued distrust. Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted. Help them grieve the pain and fully forgive.

  11. Failure to support the couple:
  12. Far too often when a church becomes aware of a couple dealing with infidelity, instead of giving support, they abandon the couple. Many couples have reported never receiving a single call from church leadership or small group members. Probably more than anyone else in the church, these people need someone calling and asking how they are doing and asking how to pray. They need support and encouragement to walk through this process.

  13. Failure to provide realistic expectations:
  14. For most, dealing with infidelity is much like swimming under water in the dark. They have no idea if they're making progress or if they're on their last leg. Providing realistic expectations, allows them to hang on, even when the going gets tough. Failure to provide these milestones can leave them feeling discouraged and may lead them to give up. Providing other couples who have already experienced God's forgiveness imparts hope, encouragement, and direction.

Three Steps for Success

  1. Identify the problem:
  2. Use the Affairrecovery.com Affair Analyzer (a free tool) to give relevant suggestions and resources to the hurting couple.

  3. Educate them about the recovery process:
  4. Provide your couples with realistic expectations of what the recovery process will be like. If you don't know what recovery is like, find out.

    Have them take the Free 7 Day First Steps Bootcamp for Surviving Infidelity.

    Supplement your work with couples through EMS Online, provide additional support for the hurt spouse with Harboring Hope, help the unfaithful spouse develop a life plan to stay safe with Hope for Healing. For more information visit our Programs and Courses page.

  5. Normalize the experience:
  6. Provide a community of other recovering couples and mentors to minimize isolation and emotional flooding. Being able to speak with and witness the journey of others is the most effective way of normalizing the recovery process for both couples and individuals. Help them deal with the shame by allowing them to safely interact with others in their same situation. Affairrecovery.com provides a safe and supportive community, which assists your efforts in stabilizing your couples. Help them get the support they so desperately need.


Additional Resources found at AffairRecovery.com:

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