I don’t know what the statistics show but I would venture to say that there aren’t very many married couples that are able to repair a marriage after one spouse has been flagrantly unfaithful. It takes two special and very complementary personalities in order for there to be a true reconciliation. True forgiveness on the part of one, and for the other, amending one’s behavior by actions. In my professional life I’ve had the privileged of witnessing three of these.
Counseling married couples to repair and reconcile a challenging marriage is a challenge in itself. Typically the offending spouse wants nothing to do with drawing attention to their transgression and breach of marital vows, typically feeling guilty anyway but not wanting there to be attention drawn to their offensive and hurtful behavior, often projecting onto the other their own deficiencies.
In one of the instances I witnessed, the husband, who’d had a singular fling, realized on discovery how much it hurt his wife. He became quite contrite, realizing his mistake and how much more enriching to his life was his wife than was his floozy, the lust notwithstanding. She presented in emotional distress but during the medical interview shared that her husband seemed to be truly contrite. Long story short, he consented to joint counselling with a marriage counselor, and because he was able to show by his actions his contrite feelings and desire to repair the relationship, the couple was able to reconcile and move on with their lives. But not before mutually agreeing to move to another town, in another county, establishing new friends. A somewhat radical move but one that worked for them, she along the way being forgiving, but not without conditions to be satisfied by his actions.
In such a situation one spouse saying one thing and showing by their actions another will not bring the couple closer. Only by walking the talk can a reconciliation take place.
The three fundamental things that are expressed in the true love of another is the desire to dwell with the beloved, the impulse or acquiescence to sacrifice for the other, and desire to commune or unite with the beloved. In diagnosing a problematic relationship you can look to one or more of these three things being absent or broken. The remedy to a broken relationship involves the repair of these three things. To the extent the couple can make the repair will determine whether they are progressing toward wholeness or brokenness.
In the instance of the couple above, the offending husband demonstrated by his actions these three fundamental aspects of loving another. While he was already living with his beloved, he agreed to pick up and live (dwell) anew in another location. In my conversations with her, she said he was very agreeable, as was she, to giving up (sacrificing) his time for his personal things in order to comply with her requests for errands and other events. Also he abandoned those influences that led him astray. And finally of course, though there was a prolonged chill in the bedroom, things eventually warmed, allowing the marital act (uniting) to occur with more regularity than it had before.
Some women, in the interest of security, will enter a relationship with a man, and subordinate these three important aspects in the interest of a more secure situation. Giving of themselves not so much in the interest of being one flesh as in the interest of being secure. Sharing of bills, etc. When determining if there are grounds for a long-term relationship, even marriage, I think most men and women innately sense if these three aspects are present, then reject the dude, or gal, if they aren’t. Some, on the other hand, will rationalize and appease their need for security.
And so it is with our Lord, who because of his great love for us, gave us the gift of himself in the Incarnation, dwelling with us on earth, but also wanting to be with us until He comes again, giving us Himself in the Eucharist. A profound mystery indeed that defies the senses, but not reason. And in accordance with that required of any sacrifice, He desired that we commune with him (consume, eat), hidden as he is, under the species of simple bread and wine.
If your marriage is in distress, make an inventory of these things: Does he/she want to continue living with you, to be with you more than to be with others? Is he/she willing to sacrifice, give of their time, their talents, to you, for your benefit, even at the expense of theirs? Are you and your spouse coming together in the marital act, or communing on different levels intellectually, emotionally, at mealtime and other times, manifesting privately and publicly, your oneness?
If so, then there is present the means by which a challenging marriage can be made yet better. Take heart. For in the same manner our Lord left himself to dwell with us, sacrificing himself for us, and wanting to unite in communion himself with us, so too you and yours can do likewise in clearing the fog on your way to an enriching relationship and marriage.