Dear DM, What does restitution look like in my situation?

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?

Sincerely,

Wondering

Dear Wondering,

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.

-Pastor David

4 thoughts on “Dear DM, What does restitution look like in my situation?”

  1. I hope your wife is sincerely disclosing everything and repenting. However, I recommend DM’s suggestion of a dissolution agreement.
    Cheaters like to play victim & set things up so others believe it. In your case, the affair was 16 years ago. She could claim you’ve held that against her and have not been able to forgive after all these years of her working so hard to make up for it!
    Cheating women that I have met can blame their husbands for anything, even being too good to them & for not taking responsibility for their part in her decision to cheat!

  2. Wow! After16 years!!

    That is honestly my biggest concern after being told there was no affair. The circumstantial evidence was ridiculous! Although he’s been working his tail off to try to prove that he wants our marriage( over 30 years here) for a year and a half, I still don’t have answers for some very important things.

    I’m concerned that the truth will come out down the road. This is hard! I wonder what he decided to do?

    1. Marie, from my experience — if you have circumstantial evidence that he was cheating, then he probably was. I’m now 100% convinced my ex had an affair when I was pregnant with our daughter (this is way back in 1999). All the signs were there. At the time, I thought he was having an affair, but couldn’t prove it. He even went so far at the time to say to me, “You and the kids will be financially fine without me.” From that comment, he was planning to leave me. Men don’t leave a perfectly fine marriage and two beautiful kids unless there’s another woman waiting in the wings. He will deny the affair until his dying day, but I know he’s lying. These cheaters are expert liars. Case in point: Way back in 1992, I found letters from a woman he was writing to who was his “friend” that went into the Army. She got stationed in England and he and another guy friend went to visit her and also do a lot of sight-seeing. While he was gone (we weren’t married yet and he still lived at home with his parents), I read the letters she sent him (long story on why I had access to his letters). In the letters she said, “If you come visit me, we can spend the whole night together and have sex.” Naturally I was devastated. When he came home, I asked him about her and he lied and said she was “just a friend.” Stupid me believed his lie. Fast foward 22 years and I told him that I read all the letters she sent him. All the blood drained from his face. He got caught again. But what did he do? He lied again. He didn’t deny she said that to him, but said, “She probably said that because she was lonely.” Um, no. Women don’t say things like that unless a man is writing her love letters and saying romantic things to her. So when caught in a lie, they lie again to cover it up. If your gut is telling you he had an affair, I’d trust your gut. I learned this lesson the really hard way. I trusted my now ex-husband for 24 years and I did this so many times when my gut was screaming at me that something wasn’t right. I’ll never ignore my intuition (Holy Spirit) again.

  3. Wondering,
    DM has given you some great counseling here. I don’t have any advice to offer. But what I do have is just my own testimony (I’m a daughter of divorce with a Christian mom and abusive, lying, adulterous dad).

    My dad always wanted to stay married to my mom. She brought a lot to the marriage: good character, good mother, hard working, attractive, sacrificial, constantly forgiving and trying to move forward. But he filled my mother’s life with misery and hardship and loneliness. He treated her with contempt, deception and disloyalty. He depended on her to remain dedicated to the marriage and him, while depriving her of a loving, respectful, devoted partner with whom she could enjoy life and feel appreciated. Of course he wanted to stay married! It highly benefited him, but at supreme personal cost to my mother. And she felt that she had to stay out of loyalty, for us children and because of she believed divorce to be wrong. Until she couldn’t live like that anymore.

    My very humble opinion… marriage is not worth it when one spouse commits big sins against the other (adultery, abuse, etc.) and has the gall to expect their anguished partner to absorb it all and keep going. Marriage to someone you cannot trust, causes you heartache and disappointment, someone you don’t feel safe with… this isn’t living. My mother had grounds to divorce my dad throughout their marriage, but she didn’t exercise it until she saw that living with him was destroying both her and my last sibling at home (abused). I thank God that she divorced him.

    Whatever you decide to do…remember what DM says: “You have a choice”. You always have a choice. The adultery may have happened 16 years ago and perhaps never repeated (maybe), but you have newly revealed info now. Proving that she was ok with *deceiving you for 16 additional years*. Proving that she *protected her own selfish interests and goals at your expense*, by keeping you in the marriage under deception regarding the extent of her adultery.

    BTW, my dad had a saying, he would chuckle and say “children are marriage glue”. Counting on my mom’s desire for an intact family to trump all of his horrible, selfish behavior. Some of us kids rejoiced that my mom got away from him, and others blamed her because they believed my dad’s lies. Regardless, we all became adults and went on to live our own lives. Now she is living life her way, in peace and freedom… no longer shackled to a disordered, selfish person.

    Sorry I went on for much longer than anticipated. I guess this letter struck a nerve.

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