What To Do With A Marriage After An Affair

I wish it never happened to anyone and I hope it never happens to you, but in my job I hear it almost every week.  It’s a word we are afraid of, one that can destroy,  and certainly one that will break a heart.  Sometimes people admit to it, but mostly they deny it.

The word is AFFAIR.

I once thought that word was guaranteed to end a marriage, but after seeing countless marriages put back together and actually strengthened following an affair, I now believe it definitely does not have to be the final chapter of a marriage.

Again, I hope you never hear the word, but if you do, here are some steps to take:

  1. Expect numbness.  For the first few days or even weeks you may not feel anything. That’s okay.
  2. Decide where you want to go with the marriage.  Do you want to make it work or not?  This is something both of you must decide. You will not be able to move forward in any direction until you do.  (This may take a week or a month or more, but if you want to save the marriage, you have to make that decision.)
  3. Get counseling quick.  This is not an issue you can solve on your own or just ignore.   If you intend to save the marriage (which I hope you do) then you will need help.
  4. Get a plan to restore your marriage and work the plan.  This will be a difficult, long process, but the results are worth it.
  5. Eventually you will need to forgive your spouse for the hurt he or she has caused you.  This is a work of grace, but it is necessary to restore the marriage.
  6. Build safeguards into your life to protect your marriage in the future.
  7. Invest in other marriages.  Once your marriage is healthy and you’ve recovered, you will have valuable experience to help others.  Don’t be afraid to let God use you in this way.

This post addresses the offended party, not the one in an affair, but even for you, the word “affair” doesn’t have to end your marriage.  I’m praying for those who read this that it won’t mean that for yours.

Feel free to comment with tips, stories, resources, or suggestions of your own.  Our goal should be to strengthen and save marriages.

Witnessing to Family and Friends

Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” (Mark 6: 4 MSG)

Jesus experienced something I think most of us have at times as believers.  Sometimes the hardest people to witness to are those we love and know the most.  I know countless pastors who have lost siblings, parents and childhood friends, but have limited success witnessing to them.  It’s been a struggle for me at times also.

Do you share this experience?  Is it hardest for you to witness to your own family and friends?  Why do you think that’s the case?  How do you combat the fear or do you?

The Best Comment I Ever Received (So Far)

I always said that I wanted to be a father deserving of those corny plaques displayed at the Christian bookstores.  If my boys ever gave me one of them, and I deserved it, then I would feel I had accomplished what God called me to do as a dad.  I’m thinking now that I may need to contextualize that standard with the culture of the day.

Recently I posted on my blog “How My Family Has Shaped Me”.  One of the comments will possibly be one of my favorite comments of all time.  I will treasure this always.  Here’s the comment:

New comment on your post “How My Family Has Helped Shaped Me ”
Author : Nate Edmondson
E-mail : nathanieledmondson@gmail.com
URL    : http://www.nateedmondson.com
As much as I critique, I also want to say that I realize the only reason I’m able to succeed at all the things I succeed in is because you have worked with me my whole life. You’ve taught me how to speak, how to lead, how to love, etc. So thanks for that. Don’t expect another positive comment for another 62 days…

I love it!  Have your children honored you recently in some small way? How did it make you feel?  What signs do you look to know that you are on the right track in your parenting?

Parenting Observation From the Supermarket

As a counselor and pastor who teaches on parenting issues, I can’t help observing the parenting I see in public.  Tonight at the supermarket I saw an extreme example of bad parenting.  I realize how difficult parenting is and we all have bad days, but thankfully the situation I witnessed tonight presents a couple of important lessons and reminders all of us need.

A mother was shopping with her two small children, both I would guess between the ages of about 4 and 7 years.   The children were hyper, excited, and inquisitive.  In my observation they were not misbehaving as much as acting their age, but I had not been with them all day and have no idea what stress the mother was under at the time.  I’m not casting any judgment on her frustration, but looking at the situation from the outside, I think most of us can agree it was not the best way to handle it.

Several times in the course of a few minutes the mother yelled at her kids, “Shut up or I’m gonna break your teeth.”  (I’ve never heard that line before, but that’s what she said.)

Problem One:
The problem with that, aside from the abuse standpoint, is that even if she doesn’t intend to do this to her children, she’s talking to very literal thinkers. Does she realize what her children hear at that age?  “My mom’s going to break my teeth.”

Reminder:  Young children are listening and the way you communicate with them must be age appropriate.  Not to mention that children should never be scared of their parents.  Threats produce fear.  A reverent fear or respect is one thing, but terror is another.

Problem Two:
She said this several times, which probably means she never intended to follow through.  I’m glad she wouldn’t break her children’s teeth, but that really exemplifies another problem. When a parent makes a commitment to punish the child and nothing happens, the child begins to quickly learn there are no consequences for wrong behavior, and so the misbehavior continues, further frustrating the parent and the child.

Reminder:  Don’t make threats to your children you aren’t prepared to carry through.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  (Just be nice in how you say it and say it with love.)

Again, I’m not trying to pick on one mother.  I don’t know her and she will probably never read this blog.  I really do believe, however, that our children are too important not to continually evaluate our parenting techniques.

How are you doing in your parenting this week?  Since the ultimate goal of this post is to help parents, for some parenting tips, check out the parenting category of this blog.

Would You Hire These Boys?




Sorry to pimp my sons on this blog, but it is my blog.  My boys need a job this summer.  Are you hiring? 


My 20-year old son Jeremy is a people-person. He builds relationships faster than anyone I know.  He’s intelligent, dependable, and is finishing his third year of college remaining pure.  He’s a leader among his peers and always has the best interest of others at heart.  He has sensed a call to ministry, but is still discovering his next steps of what that means.  He has a good part-time job now, but this summer he also wants a dependable full-time job where he can gain experience before he graduates.  He has successfully completed a church internship.  He wants to stay in the Nashville area, but if your company or church needs an employee you can depend on and trust, he’s your man.    



 My son Nate is 17 years old and a high school senior.  He surrendered to ministry several years ago.  He has one of the greatest passions for the Kingdom of anyone I know.  He has been super busy this year leading in our student and children’s ministries, as well as serving as student body president for his high school.  Next year it looks like he’s headed to Moody Bible College in Chicago.  He’s looking for something to do this summer.  This weekend, as we sent him off to lead another group of middle school boys in a discipleship program, he said, “All I want to do is preach this summer.  If I could preach every Sunday I’d be happy.”  If your church needs a speaker for church or youth services or camps, he’s available.  He’s not looking for money, just experience.  (BTW, he’s also an accomplished speaker on his school’s speech team.)

Things She Says To Get Me To Slow Down


Cheryl and I were driving in Nashville today and she said, “Speed limit strictly enforced” as she read a sign on the roadside.  I knew what she meant.  She thought I was driving too fast.  I Twittered this and got several comments on Twitter and Facebook from other women regarding their own tactics to subtly tell their husband they are driving too fast. 


Here are some comments Cheryl has used before:


“Wow, I didn’t know the speed limit was 35 here.” 


“They must really be strict about speeding on this road, because I’ve seen several people pulled over lately.” 


“I wonder how much speeding tickets are now.”


“I’ve noticed Jeremy (our son) sure has been driving fast lately.  I don’t know where he gets that from.” 


“We don’t ever get to just talk.   Let’s just slow down today, take it easy, and catch up.”  (Okay, she hasn’t actually used that one, but it’s only because she hasn’t thought of it yet.) 


So my question is: Why not just say, “YOU ARE DRIVING TOO FAST YOU IDIOT!”? I think I’d understand that one better.  When talking to men, it’s best to be direct.  They may get mad at first, but that’s the way we handle things.   (For more on this subject, read my post “My Right to Get Angry/Your Right to Cry”) 


Women, what tactics do you have to get your man to slow down?   (or speed up as the case may be) 

Do You Really Want This Marriage To Work?

I have spent so many hours with couples or individuals who come for counseling because they say they want to save or improve their marriage only to find that what they really wanted was some justification to get out of the marriage.  They were hoping I would be so convinced their marriage was beyond repair that I would encourage them to end it.  I would have to admit, I have encountered some seriously damaged marriages, but I have not found one beyond repair if both people are willing to try to make the marriage work.

I have learned one thing about life and it applies very well to marriage relationships.  You cannot take people where they do not want to go. If someone is convinced their marriage is over, they will either have to change their mind or God will have to intervene.  I have seen both happen, but if it doesn’t, the time in counseling is often wasted.  With that in mind, I begin quickly in the counseling process to ask couples three powerful questions. These questions kind of “cut to the chase” and help all parties determine how serious the couple is about saving or improving the marriage.  Here are the questions:

Where do you want this marriage to go?

You have to know where you want to go before you can make a plan to get there.  So many couples have never talked about what they want out of a marriage.  One person may think living two separate lives within the same house is enough while the other person wants to share everything.  Many people, especially men, think that if there isn’t much fighting in the marriage, then the marriage must be doing well.  The other person in the relationship wants deeper intimacy.

When a marriage is in trouble one person may have already decided they want out of the marriage.  Until this question is answered any attempt to help the couple is not going to be very effective.  Getting people to be truly honest in answering this question is critical.  I usually ask people to take a few days to answer this one; to search their heart and pray about their true feelings.  (Just so you know, I don’t write the marriage off if one of the couple is not ready to make this commitment.  It just alters the counseling process.  Instead of couple counseling, individual counseling with the party that wants out may be more effective.)  If they say they want the marriage to work we go to question number two.

How are you going to get there?

Once a couple knows where they want to go in the marriage the next step is developing a plan to get there.  This step is where the meat of help for the marriage is realized, but those plans cannot be implemented until all three questions are answered.  Sometimes couples want to jump straight into the solutions, but if each person’s heart is not into the changes they will be short-lived.

Taking the goals each person has for the marriage and where the couple says they want to go as a marriage, the couple then thinks through what must occur in the marriage in order for that goal to be realized.  If the couple wants their relationship with each other to be continually growing closer, for example, then the couple might need to plan more time to be alone with each other. It’s difficult to grow closer to someone you never see.  After these first two questions are answered, it’s time for question number three.

Are you truly willing to do whatever it takes to get to the place you want to be in your marriage?

This is by far the most important question, but it cannot be answered until the other two questions have been answered.  I have had people say to me when I ask them this question, “Well, of course I am willing to do what it takes. Would I be here if I wasn’t?”  That’s a fair question, but the fact is that if most of us were willing to do what we say we are willing to do, our marriage wouldn’t get into a desperate enough place to be seeking help.

People are usually willing to do things they want to do and, likewise, they aren’t willing to do things they don’t want to do.  That may sound like common sense, but it is so important to understand.  This third question helps to shake out the truth of the other two questions.  Sometimes it is easy to answer the first two questions, but this third question forces the person to take another serious look inside their heart.

These questions are not a shortcut to professional counseling.  Many couples need counseling to work through deeper or more serious issues.  Answering them in a way other than you want the couple to answer them is not a reason to give up on the marriage.  These questions will, however, provide couples with a basic understanding of the current condition of their marriage.  These questions can be helpful at any stage of marriage and regardless of the condition of the marriage they can assist in encouraging the marriage to grow in strength and intimacy.

How My Family Has Helped Shaped Me

I was reflecting this week about how much my family has shaped the person that I am today.  Without them, I would not be near as effective in ministry.

Here’s what I mean:

Cheryl:  (My wife)

  • Models patience for me.  (I haven’t copied exactly, but it’s a work-in-process)
  • Keeps me grounded in life.  (Her greatest joy in life is being with me and the boys.)
  • Gives me a consistent goal in life. (I want nothing more than for her to be happy.)
  • Teaches me to be a kinder, gentler person.  (Our church should be glad!)

Jeremy: (My 20 year old son)

  • Models forgiveness for me.  (He is the most forgiving person I know)
  • Encourages me to slow down and enjoy the moment (He’s a strong P in Myers-Briggs language)
  • Shapes an “it’s okay” attitude in my heart.  (He never seems to stress)
  • Opens me up to deeper conversations.  (He’s a talker and a tremendous relationship builder.)

Nate: (My 17 year old son)

  • Models reality for me.  (He sees things more in black and white)
  • Holds me accountable (Nate can be my biggest critic, but he’s usually right!)
  • Stretches my innovation.  (Nate is a creative thinker.  He is always challenging status-quo)
  • Keeps me light-hearted (No one makes me laugh more than Nate!)

Has your family shaped you?

Will You Hold Me Accountable?

Will you hold me accountable?

People always ask me about my relationship with my boys and what I did to cultivate it. I have two amazing sons who I deeply love. I am certainly one of their biggest fans. Thankfully, I think they like me too. It is a privilege to have them continue to come to me for wisdom now that they are 20 and 17 years old.

Some reasons:

  • I prayed for them daily
  • We spent a lot of time together. I never missed a game, practice, or school event unless I was out of town.
  • We threw, kicked, shot, and bounced a lot of balls
  • We talked a ton
  • I shared Biblical principles with them
  • I extended lots of grace (They did with me too)
  • I made sure they knew they always had my heart and my attention
  • We had mucho fun! (We laughed a lot!)

Our relationship has changed over the last couple years. My boys have gotten older and I’ve gotten busier. Still, we very much enjoy being together as much as we allow ourselves the time.

Lately, something has apparently gotten in the way that wasn’t there when the boys were younger. I have always been an “A” type personality. People ask how I can balance so much, and honestly it’s just because I’m never still. That hasn’t changed.  One thing has been added to my life though since the boys were younger. My Blackberry! Thankfully son number two is never afraid to call me on something. He loves to hold me accountable.

Recently he and I were going to breakfast together and when we arrived at the restaurant and were about to get out of the car the conversation went like this:

Nate: Are you going to take that (Blackberry) inside?

Me: I was planning on it.

Nate: Well can you not this time?

Me: Okay, but remember Nate, I am a pastor.

Nate: Yea, but you’re also a dad.

Okay, I’m slow, but I’m not that slow. I could argue that my family never leaves their phones in the car, but their argument would be that I receive 10 or more calls, texts, or emails every 30 minutes, so I left it in the car. My intent is to do a better job of putting it down when I have precious time with my family. Nate leaves for college in a few months. I want our time together to continue to count.

Will you hold me accountable? Periodically feel free to ask me how I’m doing.

How are you doing in this area?

Dr. James Dobson’s Resignation an Example for Leaders

Dr. James Dobson announced last week that he is stepping down as chairman of the board at Focus on the Family. He will continue to do his daily radio program.  You can hear him talk about it in today’s broadcast available at the site. It will be interesting how they will replace Dr. Dobson. For some of my thoughts in that area of leadership check out this previous post.

Recently I posted a criticism of some of the direction Focus on the Family has taken in recent years. You can read that post HERE, but basically I encouraged the organization to return to its roots of helping families and leave politics aside.

Today I need to compliment Dr. Dobson for his example to all of us to do what he feels is right for the ministry at this stage in its life. Many times leaders, especially founders, hang on too long to the reins of power and the succession of leadership becomes much more difficult.  I have had similar questions about leadership and when it’s time to leave in this post.

Dr. Dobson, I look forward to your continued investment in my family through your radio program.