Dear Divorce Minister,
My wife committed adultery 16 years ago. I forgave and renew my vows on tremendously incomplete information. She recently confessed to the entirety of the adultery after we have had 3 wonderful children. I can say with out hesitation I would have not continued in the marriage if I would have known the full truth.
Now I am a situation wiTh poor choices. What can she do to make restitution to me for so much deception, lies, stolen years, and mental/psychological abuse?
I have been searching for restitution and making amends for adultery and find very little. What have you recommended in cases like this?
Before answering the question regarding restitution, I think another question needs to be answered. Is staying in this marriage acceptable to you?
You have a choice.
As far as I can tell, there is not statute of limitation for the permission given to faithful spouses to divorce their (once) adulterous partner (see Matthew 19:9). The permission is there for you to decide.
Now, I gather you hesitate to exercise that permission today as you have three children from your union. Remember that whatever others say or what you may feel, you are not the one “breaking” their home.
What broke the home is your wife’s adultery and then years of manipulative lying cover-up.
Plenty of people who love Jesus divorced cheaters while loving their children. You do not have to choose between the two.
Knowing what you do now, you need to be clear that you are choosing to stay if you do. It is important to take agency after such matters have happened. You are in charge here.
What restitution do you need to feel safe and have a restored marriage?
I cannot answer this question for you. Phrased another way, what are your deal-breakers and deal-makers in the relationship going forward?
Complete honesty and transparency is a must, IMO. It sounds like a start on that has finally happened. However, I would be cautious here.
Habitual liars–as your wife is to have lied about this for 16 years!–do not change over night. What other areas has she engaged in deception?
Some people recommend getting a dissolution agreement that is highly favorable to the faithful spouse so that they have an out should they need it.
If the cheater really is done lying and cheating, they should have nothing to fear in granting this. The faithful spouse should not have to take all the risk going forward.
After all that, I would recommend looking at the things that first attracted you to your wife. What activities or things did she do that won your heart? Ask for more of that.
I agree you do not have any good choices. That is what adultery does to marriages–whether married with or without kids. It leaves us with a buffet of bad options.
Either way, it will be a long road to recovery. You are not a bad person or a bad Christian if you decide the slightly easier path is to divorce your wife and rebuild without having to deal with all those trust questions.
It is up to you.
Blessings on your journey! Know you are not alone on this journey and many have made it to the other side to discover very rich, blessed lives.