Is it possible to have fun again in your marriage after an affair? This is a heavy question, but I believe it is absolutely possible.
The marriage covenant is serious because it is the promise between a man and a woman to "love, honor, and cherish" each other "til death do us part." And when there is a sexual betrayal of that covenant, a type of death is felt.
God's Word tells us that sexual betrayal in marriage is so serious that if it is committed, the offended spouse is allowed to divorce. (Although it is best to first seek reconciliation, especially if the betraying spouse is repentant and submits to appropriate help.)
With sexual betrayal being so serious a violation of the marriage covenant, how is it possible for a couple who has faced this to reconcile, let alone have fun again?
I'm not going to cover in this article all that is involved in reconciling a broken marriage. You can learn a little more about what that journey looks like here.
So this article is for the couple who has decided to reconcile and work on their marriage, and wants to know what does "having fun" again look like.
Here are 4 key guidelines to help you have fun again after an affair:
1. Let the betrayed partner set the pace for pursuing fun
When sexual betrayal is committed, the spouse who was betrayed carries the heaviest burden. They are the one that feels used, deceived, and "less than." It will likely take them longer to feel "safe" enough to be vulnerable with their spouse.
If you are the spouse who committed the sexual betrayal, you need to be extremely patient and gentle with your wounded partner. They will need a great amount of gentleness and compassion from you as they navigate a whole new universe of emotions.
Therefore, the "pace" of pursuing fun again needs to be primarily directed by the betrayed spouse. They need this "power" because it is directly connected to how safe they feel.
When they feel safe, they become more open to fun activities.
When they feel unsafe, they are less inclined to want to pursue fun.
My wife and I were separated for 9 months when all my lies of betrayal came out into the open. I got in recovery and my wife got some great counseling. When we reconciled and moved back in together it was difficult navigating our "new" marriage.
I wanted my wife to feel safe so that she could be herself around me. Probably the biggest way I helped this to happen was to take my recovery and sobriety seriously -- to truly be a man of integrity.
As I proved myself to her in my recovery, she felt much safer and therefore more open to doing fun things together.
And during this "rebirth" it wasn't as if I had no voice or opinion to offer about things to do, but it was important that my voice be softer and gentler, and that my pace be in step with my wife's healing journey.
Relearning how to have fun together will likely be a roller coaster for awhile, but that's okay. Healing and restoring a marriage wounded by sexual betrayal is not a quick, seamless process. It takes time, but it's worth the time taken.
2. Explore both old and new interests
If you have been married for more than 5 minutes you have history together. You have shared activities and memories. You certainly had things at the beginning of your relationship that you mutually enjoyed -- it's why you fell in love.
Sometimes when couples are recovering from the devastation of sexual betrayal it can seem like everything in the past was a lie, or at the very least is now completely and utterly tainted or irreparably damaged. This is not true, even if it feels true.
Because it can feel like the past is totally destroyed, the rebuilding process can seem like everything moving forward has to be NEW. New routines. New job, new phone, new house, new gym, new Internet filter, etc. New clothes, new communication skills, new church, new car. New movies, new TV shows, new social media (nah, none of that!), new restaurants, and even new shoes.
Whew! Are you exhausted yet?
When rebuilding after an affair there are certainly going to be some new ways of living established, but not everything you enjoy doing together has to be new. In fact, some of the best stuff for rekindling your intimacy will be found in reforming some old activities from your history together.
My wife and I have always loved to travel together. We love to drive around old towns looking at the old buildings and learning the history. We love to ask the locals where to eat and what they do for fun. These activities didn't have to be eliminated from our lives after our reconciliation. They were simply reformed and enjoyed in new ways because of the healing we experienced.
But it is also good to explore new ways of having fun together. After all, in a very real sense you are building a "new" marriage. It is only fitting that you explore new things together that bring joy and delight into your relationship.
Work together on exploring both old and new interests that are fun and interesting. Never stop learning and growing together.
3. Make sure fun obeys the Golden Rule
Jesus said, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 7:12) This is commonly referred to as the "Golden Rule." And it's important to remember when learning to have fun again after an affair.
In many ways the restoration process for a marriage that is healing from an affair is a journey of "learning" each other in new ways. You are learning how to talk openly and honestly, how to make decisions together, and exploring what intimacy really looks like.
As you pursue fun activities together make the Golden Rule the "litmus test" for your decision. Is the activity something your spouse will enjoy, or simply endure? Are you being considerate and thoughtful toward them? Have you been listening to what they have been saying about what they find fun or enjoyable?
Now, I know what some of your are thinking. If you are the betrayed spouse, you are probably shouting at me: "I've done this before and got burned by my spouse's deception before. Why would I want to do this again and risk getting hurt in the same way?"
I get it. It is definitely a risk to explore having fun again and to place your spouse's interests ahead of your own. And I'm not suggesting that you take a blind risk if your spouse is not showing signs of repentance and true pursuit of a changed life. But even if all those things are present, it's still a risk; there is no guarantee that you will never be hurt again.
But when you are both seeking to apply the Golden Rule to your decision-making about fun activities together, I think you will find that you will land on some mutually agreeable activities that really will be fun together. Yes, it's a risk, but it's a risk worth taking.
(Also, if you were the betraying spouse, be extra sensitive and caring when making decisions about fun activities. You still have a voice, but be extremely empathetic to your spouse's emotional sensitivity in this season of rebuilding.)
4. Keep fun in its proper place
Finally, remember that fun is simply fun. And fun is good, but it isn't the ultimate goal for restoring your marriage. Other issues like glorifying God and rebuilding oneness should take precedence over simply having fun together.
But at the same time you must acknowledge that having fun together is not unimportant. If you focus all your energy only on super spiritual matters and intensive counseling, but never spend any time together just having fun, I will argue that you are not fully rebuilding your marriage.
I believe God absolutely wants us to be out-of-this-world happy! Happy in Him and happy in each other. I also believe that such happiness comes by way of being whole and holy. So, happiness is not disconnected from righteous living, but it also isn't devoid of real fun, true enjoyment in the creation God has made.
Explore fun in the context of pursuing God together. I believe God will show you how to have fun in ways that you never thought of before. And I also believe that God will be delighted in seeing you smile together again, not merely for the sake of smiling, but instead because something worth smiling about is truly happening in your restored marriage.
Is it possible to have fun again after an affair? I believe it is. Do you?
(This is not a comprehensive or exhaustive list of ideas or insights for having fun again after an affair. It is simply meant to be a starting point. We'd love to hear your ideas and insights in the comments section below.)
Written by Jonathan Daugherty
Founder of Be Broken Ministries