1. Not seeking professional mediation/counseling - Marriage is a complex relationship to maintain. Keeping yourselves healthy as a couple is hard. In fact, it’s so hard that I would never expect a struggling couple to be able to survive without help from someone trained to help people in a broken marriage.
If your marriage is broken, or injured badly, there’s no shame in seeking professional help. The two greatest benefits that counselors typically offer are (1) helping with honest communication and (2) setting appropriate guidelines for each person moving forward. Your marriage needs both of these things to heal.
2. Making decisions too soon - When an event, like an affair or job loss, breaks your marriage, the worst thing you can do is make decisions too soon. The worst time to make life-altering decisions is when you’ve just experienced a trauma, and the death of your primary relationship is just about as traumatic as it gets.
Rarely do big decisions need to be made in a short time line. Most of the time we create false urgency when tragedy strikes our marriage, but you have time. Don’t rush to sell your home, move out, or quit your job.
3. Keeping it a secret - This one is simple. If no one knows about your pain, no one can help you. You don’t have to be as public as Erica and I have been about your marital issues, but you should find someone close that you can both confide in.
Try to avoid only having one-sided support relationships. Your own best friend is almost always going to take your side. Instead, find a couple that you both trust and can talk with honestly about your situation and lean on them for guidance, prayer, and support.
4. Forgiving too quickly - Forgiveness will need to happen if there has been hurtful things said or done in the course of breaking your marriage. But forgiveness isn’t something that can be forced, and rushing to forgive someone before you’ve both confronted the damage that’s been done is like rushing to repair a bridge before you’ve inspected it.
Take your time to forgive. Seek to find the root of the pain through honest communication with each other first. Then take time to internalize it and understand your spouse’s actions and their motivations. Then, out of a heart of understanding and patience, be ok with finding forgiveness slowly.
5. Punishing your spouse - Many spouses feel it’s their job to punish their partner when they’ve done something to break their marriage. It makes them feel like justice is being served or that a balance of pain is being accomplished. “You hurt me. So I’ll hurt you just as badly.”
I did this to Erica when she admitted her affair to me. I forced her to tell her family and friends unceremoniously. I constantly brought up *her* failings in conversations, reminding her of her sins. I made it clear that my newfound insecurities were her fault.
Thankfully, Erica endured my unkindness, but those moments of my unloving attitude toward her created a larger gulf between us down the road when our bridge was being rebuilt.