Never an Excuse, But Always A Reason

Our vision for RefineUs is to be a place that focuses on our hearts and not our relationship status.

Married, single, dating, single again, remarried, or anywhere in between, this is a place for you. There are times we paint in broad strokes to speak to as many people as possible.

Then there are times God lays something specifically on our heart that we want to share with a specific group of people.

The number one blog post of 2011, 2012 and the most viewed blog post of 2013 so far is, 5 Things You Must Do to Restore Your Marriage After An Affair.

While not everyone that is a part of RefineUs has experienced infidelity, many, many people come here looking for hope and direction in the midst very intense pain.

Today, I (Justin) want to share with you what I believe to be the biggest mistake couples make as they recover from an affair. This mistake usually isn’t made intentionally, but it is made often.

The biggest mistake you can make restoring your marriage after an affair is to focus on what and not why. 

Short of losing a spouse or child, there is no greater pain that is experienced in a marriage than infidelity. It is heart-breaking, destructive, dark and sinful.

There is never an excuse for an affair, but there is always a reason.

But unless we are willing to go beyond the what of the situation to determine why this is a part of our story, we limit the parts of our heart God can redeem and restore.

Many couples get stuck in two very broken places: anger/resentment (for the one who’s been betrayed) and shame/guilt (for the one who’s cheated). When you’re stuck in either of these places the path of least resistance is to focus on what happened and stop short of digging into why it happened.

Here are some differences between a marriage that focuses on what and a marriage that is willing to focus on why: 

  • What focuses on what they did; Why invites God to change me.
  • What desires payment and retribution; Why is willing to forgive.
  • What wants all the pain to go away as quickly as possible; Why wants all the pain to have purpose and is willing to endure it.
  • What drifts toward that which is safe and guarded; Why shares all of the truth and risks being vulnerable.
  • What wants everything fixed; Why allows God to make all things new.
  • What focuses on all we have to do to heal our marriage; Why gives God free reign into all parts of our heart and marriage.

Choosing to focus on what and not why will alleviate the pain temporarily but leaves the sickness in the relationship. What allows many couples to experience the same mistake again in a few months or a few years. But there is another way.

When you choose why over what, the cost is greater upfront. Conversations are more difficult and honest. Mistakes by both spouses are admitted and owned. Making them pay gives way to forgiveness. Shame and guilt are overcome by grace and mercy. The focus moves from what he/she did to “How did we get here?”

Brokenness and repentance become the cry of both person’s heart…and God shows up in powerful ways.

The greatest gift I’ve received is a wife that wanted to know why. It changed everything about our recovery and provided the path to restoration.

The most important thing you can do in the restoration process is to not focus on what happened, but allow God to teach you why it happened.

That is the place of true life change.

12 Responses to Never an Excuse, But Always A Reason

  1. Amber

    My husband tells me that it just happened because he got drunk and though I ask over and over why, he says there is nothing wrong and it was just an accident. It was a one night stand. So, how do I still look at him the same way? I was attracted to this man that had so much integrity and honor and had amazing morals. He isn’t that man at all anymore. I wish there was a WHY then we could work through this. Instead there are no answers and I am constantly worried that another “accident” will happen.

  2. Exercisegrace

    Never an excuse but a reason? No there is no excuse for cheating. The reason? Brokenness in the cheater. Emotional immaturity that doesn’t allow the cheater to seek help, and lets face it help is everywhere these days (even anonymously online). Am I saying i am perfect? No absolutely not. But that is not connected to his cheating and three Christian therapists tell us that is dangerous ground to tread. A hurting and betrayed spouse, whose heart is already crying out WHY and a guilty remorseful spouse who (human nature) would LOVE to share some of the guilt and blame, can be a lethal and destructive combination. The cheating spouse needs to own what they did, exhibit genuine remorse, and begin therapy to work on their issues that led to such poor decision making. The betrayed spouse needs tons of support to understand that the affair had nothing to do with them. It had nothing to do with what they did or did not do. None of us are the perfect spouse. We get distracted, we forget date nights, we put the kids first, other things such as elderly parents pull on our time, etc etc. But most healthy adults recognize these things as seasons. Smart and healthy adults act proactively to keep the connection strong. But spouses with issues, be them childhood abuse, brokenness inside due to addictions, or just a selfish nature will let their broken moral compass point them out of the marriage.
    We have talked a LOT in therapy about how to strengthen our marriage for the future and safe guard it. Set boundaries, etc. But no one, not even my husband, had EVER said that I am or had reasons that let him to cheat. Thank God he is stepping up and taking responsibility for what he did.

  3. JW

    How do I find Trish’s part 2 to “5 Things you must do to restore….”?

  4. By focusing on WHY instead of WHAT, will put help put things in perspective of THEN and not NOW. I think this is also key in helping spouses that are in their second marriage that had an infidelity in the first.

  5. Sara

    This is a tough one for me. Yes I agree you need to ask “why” but it seems to take the focus off the pain that the cheater has caused the cheated. It’s like saying “yes but I wouldn’t have cheated had you not done such and such…” Keeping Jesus as the center is the only way to keep fidelity in your marriage. Short of that, it’simpossible. I’ve been through this heartache. I know. Sometimes there is nothing you can do if the other Spouse has strayed from their relationship with God.

    • Exercisegrace

      Sara, love your reply. My husband did stray from God. Keeping our marriage focused on Jesus is key, keeping our personal relationships with Jesus strong is essential. That’s really where it all seems to go wrong. Too bad as a culture we like to play the blame share game.

  6. Lori Yeater

    You’re wife is both smart and brave. She’s a godly example of God’s faithfulness and restoration for all of her hurting sisters. I love how she always points us back to Jesus.

  7. diane1230

    Great post. I also think this can apply to friendships, etc. — A friend of mine & I are going through a disagreement & have been having some ups & downs. I’m trying really hard to remember my self-worth is not from her, but from God. I’m also trying to make sure I give her grace & God is in control, no matter what.

  8. Right on. I believe God was preparing my heart before my husband confessed his infidelity. As a couple we were able to focus on the why and not the what. Neither way is easy, but one leads to life. Thanks for these words.

  9. Wendy

    I agree completely! It is much harder to ask Why but it is so worth it! I think it is very important that BOTH see where they have made mistakes. I think to many times the spouse that was betrayed sees the affair as the only mistake made but we made mistakes too. So being willing to see that and take responsibility for your own mistakes is very important. Excellent post!!!