This ambivalence in one or both parties can often lead to resistance when it comes to regular household activities or interaction within the home. Getting to the root of this ambivalence and finding a way forward is a crucial step toward repairing a relationship affected by an extramarital affair.
Why People are Resistant
- If the betrayed partner is only staying in the marriage for the sake of the children, they may not be in an emotional position to connect with the unfaithful spouse.
- If the involved partner is hesitant to show affection to their spouse, it may be because they feel they are being disloyal to their affair partner. In this case, the emotions related to the infidelity have not yet diminished – or worse, the affair has not ended.
How People are Resistant
- Lack of effort to recognize spouse’s positive qualities or efforts.
- Making up excuses to avoid spouse or not spend time with them.
- Unwillingness to answer questions or have meaningful conversation.
- Aversion to discussing important issues regarding the status of the marriage.
- Refusal to please partner by agreeing to meet requests.
- Continual dissatisfaction with accomplished tasks (e.g. “Yes, you washed the dishes but you didn’t even dry them or pack them away”).
What to Do When People are Resistant
If you are battling with resistance or you are sensing an air of ambivalence from your partner, it’s time to remember the definition of Christian love. Rather than being swayed by a fairytale version of what Hollywood would like us to believe about love and relationships, we need to ground our hearts and minds in the truth of God’s Word.
This is particularly important for an involved spouse who still has feelings for their affair partner or for the betrayed individual who is staying in the marriage for the sake of the children.
Love is not a feeling; love is a verb. It requires intentionality and purposed action.
Christlike love is being kind and thoughtful toward others even when you do not feel like it and they may not deserve it. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Rom. 12:9-10) As the Apostle Paul reminds us, loving others is one way we can serve the Lord. When your emotions fail to comply, let God’s Word motivate you.
By constantly dwelling on or pointing out your spouse’s weaknesses, you are only fueling your own hostility. If you want to save your marriage, you need to “use whatever resources you have to create a warm, loving family environment. Over time, your original motivation can evolve into staying together because of the pleasures in the marital relationship.” These “pleasures” will never be experienced if you refuse to see or participate in them.
Here are some ways you can take steps toward reconciliation in your marriage:
- Tell your partner you appreciate their efforts to be considerate or loving. For example, if they tidy the kitchen or call you just to say “hello” during lunch.
In order to recover from infidelity, you’ll need to stop responding negatively toward your spouse. First, it kindles your animosity. Second, it discourages them from making an effort. Eventually, they will see that nothing they do will ever be good enough and quit trying.
- Don’t expect them to always be the first one to make an effort, as if they owe you something.
In her book, “NOT ‘Just Friends,’ Dr. Glass notes that this kind of resistance can come from either spouse. The betrayed partner may feel that the unfaithful spouse needs to make up for what they’ve done. The involved partner may be too afraid to initiate a first move, for fear of being rejected. Whatever the case, be the bigger person take the first step. Bottom line: If you see an opportunity to do something nice, do it. Make an effort to praise your mate or do them a favor. When you were dating, what kinds of things did you do to make them happy?
- Be the partner you would like to have.
If a partner responds to their spouse based on whether their mate has done something nice for them recently, the marriage is not likely to succeed. Conditional love is not the standard laid out in Scripture for Christian marriages: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal. 6:9-10 NIV)
Rather than being nice only if you’ve been treated nicely, follow the example of Jesus and rise above the temptation to treat your spouse as they may deserve to be treated.
In her book, Dr. Glass urges couples to be the spouse they would like to have. In doing so, you will never look back and wish you had tried harder, or wonder what may have happened if you had made a genuine effort to better your relationship. Besides, you may be surprised by what happens when you show love.
- Know when and how to give.
As Glass points out, there is a difference between “giving” and “giving in.” Giving to your spouse and the relationship is essential if you want to repair the damage caused by infidelity. However, “giving in” to avoid a fight or because you feel obligated will only create resentment in you both. Your spouse will resent your lack of genuine willingness to give, and you will resent them for coercing you. “If you think sticking to your guns and refusing to please your partner is a winning position, think again. There is no way that you can win if your partner loses. Think of your caring actions as giving to the relationship – a definite win-win situation for both of you.”
After infidelity has been discovered, it may feel as if recovery is not possible. However, according to Dr. Glass, couples who survive infidelity often end up in a deeper, more intimate marriage relationship than before. Yes, the process of repairing such hurtful damage requires diligent effort. Consider finding a professional Christian marriage counselor in Spokane who can provide a safe space for you and your spouse to deal with your feelings toward one another. Your counselor can help you to process your emotions and walk with you as you seek to restore your relationship.
“NOT ‘Just Friends’” by Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D. with Jean Coppock Staeheli
“The Discussion,” courtesy of Loic Djim, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Planting Seeds,” courtesy of Neslihan Gunaydin, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License