What if My Wife is Having an Affair?

I just talked to my wife on the phone about forty-five minutes ago. Everything seemed fine. She was a little distracted and wanted to get off the phone for some reason at the end. She did not tell me why. It was an abrupt ending.

As many of you know, my marriage to Kristie has not been the “ideal” marriage by any means. For the last fifteen years, we have had many more downs than ups. We both believe we could be happier, we just have never figured out the formula to make this happen. I suppose we have as many scars as just about any couple I have ever known that has made it this long. Some people who are close to us wonder how it is we are still together. I often wonder the same. Let’s put it this way: Dennis Rainey is not going to call us to host a Family Life Conference anytime soon (which, by the way, are wonderful!)

Human nature, being as it is, yearns for self-indulgence. We default to making ourselves happy. We always choose according to the greatest desire of the moment and if we have not been primed for battle prior to encountering certain moments, the greatest desires can lead to the greatest destruction. Whether it is the drug we need to pick ourselves up, the stroking we need to feed our ego, or the sex we need to feel loved, these greatest desires leave lives in ruins.

Someone may ask me, “Michael, do you think your wife is having an affair?” For fifteen years my answer is the exact same. With full and certain confidence, I say “Absolutely not!” “But how can you be so sure?” someone responds. “As you said, you know human nature. You know our tendencies and needs. You know how sinful we are. Your marriage, according to your own admission, could be much better. Besides that, you are out of town and you just talked to your wife and she said that she had to go without explanation. Maybe she is with another guy. You need to quit being so naive. Many people have been surprised by an affair. You don’t want to let this sneak up on you. My point is that your ‘certain confidence’ needs to turn to doubt and you need to adjust your thoughts and faith in your wife accordingly. I am just being the one who thinks deeply. You are being naive and blind to the reality that your wife might be having an affair.”

No, my wife is not having an affair. I live according to this confidence. Yes, we may have our problems, and yes, we are sinners. But I say again with certain confidence that my wife is not having an affair. You see, while we have our issues and wounds aplenty, we do love each other deeply and we would not do that to each other.

Okay, push my back against a wall and bring up what could happen. Force me into an epistemological game and I will admit that I am not absolutely certain she is not having an affair. I am not all-knowing and never will be. I can make mistakes and be naive. I can also read all kinds of things into my marriage and Kristie’s comings and goings that could further evidence that something fishy is going on. She could do the same to me. And you know what? You could do the same with your spouse and vice versa. We could all live according to unwarranted suggestion. We could all live according to our doubts. I could begin to check the mileage on her car. Call her wherever she goes. Track her iPhone every time I call her to see if there is consistency in where she says she is and where she actually is. I could check her Facebook every day. I could monitor her email, phone calls, voice mail, and smile as she encounters other fellows. I could probably even hire a private detective to follow her around. I could adjust my entire life and thoughts and redirect them according to what could be.

But do you know what this would amount to? Insanity. You think my marriage is hard now, just wait until I started living according to my uncertainty. No. I will not. There is no sane reason, there is no warranted cause, there is no suggestion that my wife is cheating on me. Therefore, I say with qualified certainty that my wife is, has always been, and will always be a faithful wife. I refuse to live according to my doubts, even though, when my back is pushed against a wall, I could be wrong.

I could be wrong about Christianity. I could be wrong about the way I interpret the historical evidence for the resurrection. I could be wrong about God’s involvement with and love for mankind. I could be wrong about the inspiration of Scripture. I could be wrong about just about everything I believe. Does this mean I have doubts about my faith? Yes…so long as we qualify this “yes” a great deal. You see, I don’t let the doubt which says “I could be wrong” paralyze my faith or my marriage. Why? Because in both cases it is unwarranted.

Today, many atheists are not unlike the person who whispers over the shoulder of a husband all the “what ifs” about his marriage. No matter how secure you think you are in any area of life, there are always “what ifs.”. There are always qualified doubts and uncertainties. But this does not make our beliefs unwarranted or even unmandated. The atheists say, yeah, but what if they stole the body? What if the disciples were delusional? What if Jesus never existed? Then they push Christians to live according to these “uncertainties.” Of course we could be wrong about our beliefs, but there is no rational reason to live this life according to the “what ifs.”

Many of you are paralyzed by doubt in your Christian faith. The “what ifs” are terrifying you. Atheists often make is sound as if doubts are more reasonable to live by than those beliefs for which you have justified reason to hold. More than that, they call it “free thinking!” Finally, you are free to live according to unwarranted doubts that we will supply! This is more like a prison. You are left checking the odometer of your faith every night, your GPS is positioned on God, and you question God’s actions at every turn. Your live according to your doubts in the evidence rather than the evidence itself. And some would call this rational. I think it is insanity. But somehow it works. Somehow unwarranted doubts are able to paralyzes believers’ marriage to God and cause them to accuse him of infidelity at every turn.

I love my wife and will continue to believe in her. I love my God and will continue to believe in him. In both cases, I am making the most rational and “free thinking” decision I can make. A closed mind is one that lives according to doubts while ignoring the obvious.

26 Responses to “What if My Wife is Having an Affair?”

  1. One of the best sermons I ever heard was from Chuck Swindoll where he preached about being “sensible.” He made the argument that people today are not using much common-sense. This is a God-given ability that people can throw into the wind and make it seem that it is the only decision a rational person could make. I think that the doubts that paralyze our faith often come because we are simple not using common-sense. Common-sense is definable and directive, and we need to reengage this power.

  2. BTW: I read this to my wife. Upon hearing the title, she said “Oh, no.” Then when I got to the end, she loved it.

  3. It always amazes me how transparent you make your life out to be. You reveal so much to us who have less courage and even less audience to reveal the inner man to. A very encouraging article, Michael. Thank you.

  4. I get your point Michael. However, after totally trusting my wife for 17 years, I DID start tracking her iPhone and DID find she was having an affair. So your illustration doesn’t work for me at all.

  5. John, I am so sorry. I suspected that there would be someone with such a story. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great point here. I ran into an old friend from HS I hadn’t seen in 25 yrs. the other day & we were catching up. They are dedicated parents & LifeChurch-goers. He said they’re among the few who won’t touch facebook, not because they wouldn’t like to keep up w/ people, but because of all of those suspicions it would arouse (since so many affairs have been blamed on social media).

    It occurred to me that, as much as I’m a real pain in the rear-end to live with on many counts, I have zero worries anywhere in the remotest part of my mind regarding my wife’s 100% fidelity, and NOT because I’m such a fantastic person to be married to, but because of the unshakable firmness of her commitment to God. She would no sooner do that than gut her children with a hunting knife. Not in a million yrs.

    God is the reason, not my manifold wonderful perfections. If it were the latter, I’m screwed a long time ago & many times over.

  7. I think the lesson isn’t that one should never attempt to find whether one’s spouse is having an affair… But rather that one should not treat “suspicion” as one of the criteria for deciding to begin detective work. Because if you start investigating merely because you’re suspicious, you’ll never stop investigating, even if you never find anything.

    Whenever you do start investigating, set a time limit.

    And if you find yourself investigating a second time, it’s time for marital counseling.

  8. Speaking as a Christian husband guilty of infidelity several years ago – your post hits me from a different angle, but with good effect. My sweet, forgiving wife does not treat me how I expected she would after my transgression was exposed. Not only did she Not boot me out the door, she forgave me, reaffirmed her love and happy commitment to her marriage vow and to this day exhibits that gutsy, trust in me to stay true to her. She does not remind me of the shame of my failure by constantly watching me with a suspicious eye like you described. She is the best example I know personally of unconditional, God-like love. It can’t be easy to love and live with me after I betrayed her so deeply – but she has been captivated by a God who sacrificially loves the unsavory and undeserving. Amazing grace.

  9. C Roberts… Call me a cynic, I don’t think I can ever trust a person to such an unshakeable extent. In my Christian life, there has been occasions where I doubt the character of God, so I don’t think there is any chance I will 100% trust any human.

    That said, I agree with Michael, that we are NOT to live according to our doubts. It would be insane and impractical to do so.

  10. This is an excellent description of who we really are. Thanks for the honesty. Something tells me that my relationship with Christ shouldn’t mirror so closely my marriage but the other way around. Like you I say I believe in Christ and trust my wife. Lord help my unbelief…

  11. C Roberts: “I have zero worries anywhere in the remotest part of my mind regarding my wife’s 100% fidelity, and NOT because I’m such a fantastic person to be married to, but because of the unshakable firmness of her commitment to God”.

    Yup. That’s what I thought… until it happened.

  12. I guess I should have anticipated that. I know how it must have sounded. But the truth is that I am just about that confident. It is less about my naivete & more about the kind of person she happens to be.

    I certainly don’t think it is the norm, unfortunately, and most people probably cannot and should not feel so confident. Blind or apathetic assurance is no virtue. I wouldn’t say what I did were it not warranted.

    And of course neither is a neurotic distrusting jealousy a sign of a healthy relationship. Don’t be like Othello, who at the bitter end, through painful tears described himself as “one that loved not wisely but too well,
    Of one not easily jealous but, being wrought,
    Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand,
    Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
    Richer than all his tribe.”

  13. This is kinda departing from Michael’s point.. but…

    As I see it now, after all that’s happened to me, there three possible attitudes:

    1) Gullibility. It won’t happen to me and my wife.
    2) Paranoia. When is going to happen to me and my wife?
    3) Realism. You’d better make sure your relationship is fulfilling enough for your spouse, so that it won’t happen, otherwise it will.

    I think everyone here is making option (1) to be the virtue, but I don’t think it is.

  14. Bit like flying innit? We jump on that plane knowing that some goes down, with human casualities. Stepping on equals risk, but the reward outwheighs the risk. Knowing that ratio, being aware of it being able to talk about it, lecture others does not reduce or increase the risk. If we expose ourselves to it, we’ve made that decision. With some airlines it’s more common, we can choose who we fly with. But that’s about it. Or we can walk.

    So, if we don’t want to expose ourselves to the risk of getting cheated at, we don’t commit to another person. Is that life worth living?

    So if we don’t want to risk finding out we lived all our lives praying to, trying to obey the will of this God in vain. If it turns out he does not exist, or he does but does not stick to his word. If we opt to live our lives without him. Is that life worth living?

    I like black and white in these matters. I chose to live with doubt put to bed. Knowing what I know, making my decision and living with the consequences. If I cannot be 100% sure about something, I am 100% sure I can live without being 100% sure of that. Or I won’t take it on. What’s the point constantly worrying about crashing when flying? Especially since there is nothing we can do about the risk, the minute risk, once we’ve taken off.

    But hey, that comes down to personality. I’m not a worrier. Someone else is and would feel different about this, although understanding my line of arguing.

    My conclusion: The original post sounds more like a very clever person trying to rationally intelligently explain part of his personality. The part about faith. On a scale 1-10 ranging from reckless/naive to wary/overanalytic he positioned himself as a 5.

    I’m a 2. I know that there is a risk, I don’t care about quantifying it. If there is something I can do to change it, I do it. Otherwise I just sit down, enjoy. Worry won’t change the odds either way.

  15. I have let doubt paralyze my faith, especially about a year and a half ago. I think one reason is religious doubts create a strong emotional response. And emotions seem to be unconcerned with how reasonable or justifiable the doubt is. This column was helpful. I think one of the things I’m learning in this season is what it means to trust in God.

  16. @John:

    2b) Conditionend paranoia: Letting something that happened in the past dictate the rest of our life.

    First of all, I found the original post a little bit like this: “I am not afraid of flying. I know the risks bla bla bla, but…. Then to all of you guys out there afraid of flying, you’re being silly.”

    We’re either someone who has crashed, or we are not. In the future, regardless if we have or have not, we may be destined to crash.

    So how do we relate to it? If we are worriers, we worry. If we’re not we don’t. If we want to change our personality, well, to start worry is not difficult. To stop, if we are worriers, that could be harder. I used to worry about everything, it did my head in. I made a decision to stop, and see what happens. You know what, nothing changed. Some things went good, others bad. Still does. But, I feel better. Worry used to consume me. I am free now.

    Don’t know if that is of help to anybody. But it worked for me. Decision process: What is the worst that can happen, can I live with that? That’s the only thing, at the point of decision. Make it (the decision), leave it. Live, breathe.

    Then again, I’ve been there with doubts, worrying about everything. Maybe I was never a worrier, just taught/brought up that way and all I needed was to discover I was raised to be someone I am not. How did I discover? I just found myself walking around in circles, getting nowhere and trying to justify my behaviour all the time. Life was leading no where. Other people were walking past, bruised and bleeding, but smiling, filled with hope and faith. Faith to me = do my best, that’s all I can do, the rest is up to me.

  17. Worrying is a good thing. As long as its in proportion and correctly directed. Most of us worry about things that either don’t matter, or aren’t real. To restate my previous list:

    1) Gullibly. Planes rarely crash. I don’t need to have my aeroplane serviced. I don’t need to make a will, or have life insurance.
    2) Paranoia. I’m not going in the aeroplane. I’m going to have every single part taken out and reinspected before every flight. I’ll be frozen with fear during the whole flight.
    3) Realism. I’d better find out the right servicing regime for my aircraft and do it correctly. I weighed the risks, I’m comfortable with it, so I’m not going to be fearful. But I will make a will and have life insurance just in case.

    If you have zero worries that your wife will have an affair, I think you are the man in (1) who won’t bother get his aircraft serviced because of his great confidence. A little bit of worry will do you good.

    What do you think about someone who has no worry whatsoever about their salvation? Does it make you glad, or do you think it is a concern? It sounds like a concern to me. It sounds unlikely they are working out their salvation with fear and trembling if they are just totally unworried about it.

  18. @ John:

    Good point. Again, I am a 2 out of 10 on a worry scale. I don’t like to worry, I like to trust. Neither alter the outcome and worry makes me feel….. worried, as in uncomfortable. :) But that’s just me.

    So, for me, faith or trust is blind, knowing that I cannot be 100% sure. Slightly agnostic. :)

    In other areas I will be concerned about things that I can do something about. I can try to get inside the airplane, rather than clinging on the outside. That will increase my chances of survival. Comfort will increase if I stay out of the luggage compartment and in my seat, etc, etc. Those things I can do something about, but I leave it to the pilot to do the stuff that I clearly cannot do antything about.

    Think we are saying the same thing. Perhaps I automatically put negative connotations on the word worry.

    You say good worry is good. I say no worry is good. I say concern, interest, consideration, involvement is good. You may call that good worry. Then we agree. We just put it differently. :)

    Funny story. The time before (yes, there was that time) cell phones. Me and my mate were waiting for the bus which was late. My mate wanted to go into the station and ask what had happened. I said “Don’t worry! It’ll be here, it’s just late”. He goes “I want to find out what happened. I don’t want to be late for the occasion. I am not worried.” We ended up him going into the office and me staying. A minute later the bus showed up, my mate was in line waiting to ask about the bus and I was trying to get the driver to wait for my mate. Which he did not. I let the bus go. We both had to wait another 3 hours for the next one, and missed the appointment. I gave him stick for being such a miserable doubter. LOL

    We are still friends, he worries about stuff that I would never think twice about. That’s just who we are. He’s happy about worrying, I’m not. Although I do worry about some things, I am more selective than him. Not better, just…

  19. Excellent post, Michael. Christian faith is reasonable but because we’re human and sinful we’ll always wrestle with doubts, on some level. But this is not a bad thing because like other trials, they can function as challenges that ultimately cause us to grow stronger in our faith. I think the Holy Spirit helps us through this process, though sometimes doubt does seem to completely overtake some.

    I liked your analogy that seems to say that you trust your wife now and in the future not to have an affair because of what you have seen demonstrated in her character up until now. In the same way we can trust God with the future when we consider all He has done for us through Christ both in the past before we were even born and in our walk with Him. We find through these things that His character is trustworthy and faithful and hopefully this grows us in faith, trust and obedience. Yet sin is so very insidious and grips us tightly in some areas, causing us to lose focus and trust, which in turn reinforces disobedience and distance from God, in a negative cycle. This is why it’s critical to stick together and remind each other of God’s goodness through the Word and in our daily lives. Thanks for your honesty and your encouragement.

  20. Unlike some of you here, i don’t equate trusting God with trusting another human being’s faithfulness as much I do His.

    We are all sinners, and while I trust my dear husband to be faithful, and he does me, I don’t equate his human good faith or mine with God’s sovereignty, or holiness.

    I think it is a big mistake to assume otherwise.

  21. Hi mBaker–

    Of course, I don’t think the OP (or I) was saying the same level of trust should be given to one’s spouse as to God. One deserves our complete trust, as our God and as impeccable, the other is a fallible human being as we are. I think he was trying to say though that if on some level we can trust our spouse based on their record of faithfulness to us, and because we have come to trust their character based on this, how much more should we trust God, who has never failed us

  22. I wonder sometimes if for some of us, losing the sacramental language of marriage has brought on much of these problems. mbaker is right of course that there is actually no equality of trustfulness between human marriage and the husbandship of Christ. It may also be true though that holy matrimony would glorify God if we would strive to make it more Comparable in practice. In the fear of being Called Hi church My tradition has removed the sacred from the sacrament Thus deflecting The two Parallel lines Of matrimony And our Godly relationship. Equality might be the wrong word to use. Sure as individuals we are fallen, But God’s idea of marriage is not.

  23. I really have appreciated this post and the discussion that has followed. My two cents: God is the only being that is unaffected by exterior circumstances: ie He can’t go back on His promises. I believe that’s what mbaker is saying. It’s the argument Paul makes in 2nd Cor. 1:15-24 when he is being challenged for not getting to Corinth after saying he would go there. Paul promised to go but couldn’t because of circumstances beyond his control. We can trust God to finish his promises because nothing is beyond his control.
    (I grant that this is of no consequence to the one given to doubt God in the same way that fidelity in marriage is no promise to the one that expects something different but I find peace in the thought that my bad day doesn’t change God’s mood)

  24. Michael, I am so sorry for the pain you have felt but so grateful that you have allowed Gods redemptive power to use it for the edification of others. Since my sons unexpected death, life has become a series of what ifs. I have not framed this in terms of living in the what ifs. Giving it a name, I think, will help me better receive Gods mercy and grace as I know it to be, not as I am afraid it won’t be.

  25. My husband left me for another woman and we got divorce after 25 years of marriage. Then I got involve with my best friend who is also divorce from his 17 years of marriage, to only find out why he got divorce.
    My best friend cheated on his wife with his friend’s wife. But his wife could never prove it, he left his wife. His affair continued with his friend’s wife. When I got intimately involved with my best friend I didn’t know that he was in an affair with his friend’s wife.
    Until my intuition kicked me one day and I drove to his house to catch him with another woman, still not knowing who she is until I had a chat with his daughter. I put all the puzzle together and confronted him. He at least had the balls to admit that I was correct. We remained friends, but our relationship as a couple fell apart.
    As his friend I am sickened to know that he likes how he is living his life. He continues to socialize with his friend and the wife. I don’t understand how he can sit and visit with his friend and the wife, knowing how he is deceiving his friend. To make it worse I don’t understand how the wife can sit infront of both men knowing she is playing both men. This apparently has been an affair for 20 years!
    So I find myself questioning God. How is it that god allows people to get away with deceitful act such as this? I feel sick to my stomach to know that there are people out there having affairs as long as 20 years under their spouses nose and the spouse is oblivious or in denial of the affair? Why? how? I question how god have allowed these people to get away and never get caught.
    My friend is now 59, the woman is 63 they have been having an affair for 20 years! it broke his marriage and she stayed with her husband. These men are professionals well educated men, engineers, she is also educated. How is it possible?
    I don’t understand, I am very hurt by all of this because I was caught in it and it took me a long time to accept that my best friend will…

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