What To Do When Your Husband Is Having an Affair
A woman wrote to me:
"My husband has expressed that he does not love me and now is involved with another woman. I have read your book and have applied many things concerning this respect message. For instance, my husband even saved the ‘respect’ letters that I wrote to him. Any suggestions on how long I keep saying this or what else I can do to help him realize that our marriage is worth saving? Right now with him it seems to be hot one day and cold the next. Please help."
When I replied to her I said, “He is in sin. He is offending God and you. There is no question about this. Your husband is disobedient.” This she no doubt knew already and had probably already been told by well-meaning friends and family. But then I took my response to another degree, something every wife in a similar situation needs to know: I assured her that respect will continue to work with a husband who has done what her husband has done.
Peter wrote to wives in exactly this woman’s situation: "In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior" (1 Peter 3:1–2).
No doubt, her husband has been disobedient to God and does not deserve respect. However, Peter reveals from the heart of Abba that his wife’s respectful behavior can win him. Could Peter be clearer? "They may be won . . . by . . . respectful behavior."
But let's take a look at what else Peter reveals.
One, as a wife stops her disrespectful behavior and starts respectful behavior, THIS FINDS FAVOR WITH GOD. She is doing what God the Father wills for her. Though touching the heart of her husband is her longing, more importantly, she touches the heart of Abba Father who she loves more than her husband.
It is important to point out here that this does not mean a wife is to stay in harm’s way (1 Corinthians 7:11). However most wives are not threatened with bodily harm but live with a man failing to be to her what she desires. In this passage from Peter, he is referring to the husband who is disobedient to Jesus Christ.
So why does God favor the wife who chooses to be a respectful woman even though her husband is not respectable? Earlier Peter unfolds this teaching of unconditional respect: "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God" (1 Peter 2:17–20).
Showing unconditional respect is showing a positive regard toward the spirit of the other person regardless of their behavior. In a marriage with an unloving husband, this is done in order to win the husband, especially after the wife has respectfully communicated her concerns and he does not listen to her. God favors this wife and she needs to trust that God knows her heart and situation.
Putting on a respectful demeanor toward someone who is not good, gentle, or reasonable gets God's attention! This is a faith venture. A wife must trust that God will respond to her and her circumstances.
However, showing respect to a person who is unreasonable is unreasonable to this culture! Yet, upon reflection most would agree that when we show disdain toward another, it is never productive. So, a wife has two choices: put on a contemptuous demeanor or a respectful attitude. Again, this is about respectfully confronting her husband unless he refuses to hear what she voices, and then her respectful behavior without word can still win him. There is incredible power in this teaching. This is the stuff that brings men under conviction. Men respond to honor and respect, and when he is not deserving of it, his conscience bothers him. I say tongue in cheek, he knows his wife is a better man than he is! She is living by the honor code and he isn't!
First Corinthians 7:14 shares with us another way in which the respectful wife brings favor from God into the situation: "Your husband or wife who isn't a follower is made holy by having you as a mate. This also makes your children holy and keeps them from being unclean in God's sight" (CEV). Good things can happen with the children!
Will God favor the marriage of the wife who wrote to me? There is no guarantee the husband will respond. But she must not lose sight of the incredible favor coming to her and her children as she acts in the way God calls her to act and react.
In part 2, we will discuss the second major reason that a wife has to put on unconditional respect toward her husband: By doing so, she imitates none other than Jesus Christ!
How have you seen your husband observing your behavior, as Peter wrote about? Has there been a time when this has had the effect on him that Peter writes about?
Why is it so much easier to show disrespectful behavior, rather than respectful behavior, toward a disobedient and unloving husband? Just because something comes easier or more natural, does that mean it is the right response?
Emerson wrote, “Showing unconditional respect is showing a positive regard toward the spirit of the other person regardless of their behavior.” Do you oftentimes have difficulty believing in the spirit of the person showing you their unloving and disrespectful behavior? Why or why not?
Is it enough for you, if you “only” find favor in God’s sight and favor upon your children? Assuming you are not in an abusive relationship, can you continue to put on respect toward your husband, even if you never “win him,” as Peter says?