Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Trying Hard Will Never Be Enough

"Why doesn't my husband just get it?"

That's the kind of question we've heard so many times. We receive a steady flow of comments and emails from this site and from our Facebook page. Each story that you all share with us has its own unique facets, and yet we hear many sorrow-filled questions and pleas over and over again. This is one of them. What makes the recovery process stall out, exactly?

It seems only logical to think that, if a cheater were bold enough to admit their mistakes, and they had the courage to stick around for the aftermath of this revelation, then they'd have the fortitude to see it through. It's not quite that simple, though. The path is often unclear and filled with obstacles. Why doesn't the transgressor just... get it right? One of the most alarming signs for a betrayed spouse is the notion that nothing's changed. After all, if nothing's changed, it could happen again. If nothing's changed, the threat is still so real.

The idea of not making progress is a nightmare to someone who's been betrayed.  It's an ever-present reminder of the possibility for future harm.  It can be maddening, and I can tell you from the transgressor's perspective... the healing process can be maddening for us in its own way as well. Because it seems like, no matter how hard we try, we just aren't gaining the traction we want.

Therein lies the folly of our thinking, because trying hard will never be enough. Putting on a performance so your spouse will stay is not what your marriage needs. Your relationship needs renovation and nothing less. I believe that when the victim feels unconvinced of their marriage's progress, it's often a matter of repentance. Let me explain.

The way I see it, repentance requires two things -- a change of heart and a change of ways. If your spouse strayed, but they confessed their sins and they want to find reconciliation, that's merely step one. When their heart still seems hardened towards you, and they furiously insist that you should "just get over it" or "trust them already", their heart is hard. They're not fully repentant. Likewise, when they claim to be penitent for their affair, but their behavior shows otherwise, their ways haven't changed -- they're not really that sorry. Repentance is essential for the future of your healing journey, and it requires a change of your heart and your behavior.

Sadly, when spouses stray, their heart is in a place of calloused coldness. An affair only serves to exacerbate this. Once the affair ends, the callouses on your spouse's heart can remain. Changing behavior is easy -- changing your heart's posture is not so simple. Remember that a person must be in emotional and spiritual shambles to cheat, and that broken nature does not suddenly heal itself once confession occurs. Mending takes time.

If you find yourself wondering why you've lost footing on this road to redemption, take heart. Restoration is possible, but you must first strive for a true transformation in your marriage. Anything less is building towards what you had before... but don't you want more than that?  As always, thank you so much for reading, and feel free to contact us by email or on Facebook if you need anything.

You are reading The Meaning of Repentance, a blog about The Hartsfields and their journey to recovery from infidelity. We encourage you to subscribe via e-mail for regular updates.  Please share your thoughts on this post by emailing us or commenting!


  1. I agree with what you've said. My issue is that my heart hasn't seemed to change. No I don't want to ever cheat again. No I don't want to hurt my wife ever again. Yes I want to help my wife heal from the situation that I caused. And yes I want to show my wife that she is loved. It just doesn't seem that my heart is into it. All I have to hold onto is my will to do the right thing from here on out. And from what you're saying, and from what my wife is saying, that's not enough... thoughts?

    1. Well, I commend you for your honesty. I've said it before, but marriage is about obligation. Obligation isn't a bad word, like our society treats it. Doing your duty because you believe in it is virtuous. Emotions ebb and flow for a variety of reasons. Maybe you're still a little emotionally blunted from the affair. Maybe you're depressed and need to see a doctor. Maybe you're in need of some serious healing yourself. Either way, you're doing the right thing and that's step one. Now step two is putting your heart into it.

      Many people who cheat need to kind of emotionally detox from their affair because it screws with their head. You might need that too. It'll take time to run its course through your system, just make sure that you both verbalize your disdain for your marriage and you act accordingly. Don't ever reflect on your affair with gladness. Treat it like the mistake it is, both outwardly and inwardly. Find a way to commemorate your new life with your spouse... start a tradition, take a trip. My wife and I have a whole new set of behaviors now. Just a thought.