Explosive love relationships develop rather readily in our society with its warped concept of love. Some extramarital relationships stay hidden for a long time, but sooner or later the marriage partner begins to sense that something is going on. Eventually the problem is exposed and major decisions have to be made. At that point a couple wanting to save their marriage may turn to an understanding pastor.

The offended partner will, naturally, be deeply hurt. He or she may at first think divorce is the only solution. Though Christ permitted divorce in cases of adultery, he did so only because of the hardness of men’s hearts. A better solution is to forgive the offender and rebuild the marriage.

To begin the restoration, the hurt partner needs time to express his pain, bitterness, anger, hostility, or sorrow. Eventually, however, he must face the hard but necessary question, “What have I done that contributed to this situation?” Because the extramarital relationship often supplies what the marriage lacks, the answer is frequently one or more sins of omission, such as taking the other for granted, neglect, failing to provide reassurance, negligence in expressing appreciation, or failure to be attractive, accessible, approachable. Sometimes a spouse with a busy scheduled life appears disinterested or cold. Children, clubs, business, and church activities, important as they are, need to be kept in perspective.

When the offended partner realizes his own shortcomings and their contribution to the breakdown, he can, with God’s help, begin to forgive the offender and rebuild trust. Although man’s forgiveness is—like all else that he does—imperfect, both partners must be willing to forgive as totally as they can. As divine forgiveness ...

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