Q: My husband had an affair about six months ago. He has apologized, and we are trying to repair our marriage. The problem is that he refuses to stop texting her. They don't see each other, just text. What should I do?
Juli: You need to absolutely insist that your husband cut off communication with this woman, including texting. Apologizing for his affair is just one step. His actions after the apology will demonstrate whether he is truly remorseful and taking steps to ensure that your trust isn't broken again. His unwillingness to stop texting this woman is a red flag. It begs two questions:
First, does he really understand how much his infidelity hurt you and damaged the trust in your relationship? Having an affair is the most serious breach of trust in marriage. If he's really sorry, he'll understand that and do everything required to win back your heart. The second question is: Has he burned the bridge to this relationship? By continuing to communicate with this woman, he's keeping the flame alive and keeping his options open.
The process of restoring your marriage is at a standstill until he puts a total and complete end to his relationship with the other woman. I would encourage you to stay strong on that.
If you are not already working with a counselor to help you in this process, please call Focus on the Family for a free counseling session as well as a referral to a counselor in your area.
Jim: It's normal to be annoyed with some of your spouse's habits. It's also common to discover that the two of you have conflicting personalities. But it is a couple's differences that can help them learn to complement one another and forge a relationship that will go the distance. The key is to work together to change the habits that can be changed, and learn to accept those that may take more time or may never change. Marriage helps us cast off the selfish acts and attitudes of our heart. We must learn to lay down our own desires for the sake of our spouse. It's a process of sanctification.
In an effort to coax change in a spouse, some people resort to manipulative measures. They leave books around in the hope that their partner will get the hint. Don't take that route. Instead, if you have a concern, assume ownership of your feelings. Voice them honestly and respectfully.
You should also ask yourself why you want your husband to change. Is it merely to make him more like you? Would this change make things easier for you while causing your husband to feel imprisoned? Or do you want to address behaviors that are genuinely preventing him from growing emotionally and spiritually? In other words, is your goal to liberate your spouse or to restrict his freedom?
Ultimately, nobody can change another person. The only person you can change is yourself. This doesn't mean, of course, that there are no limits to what's appropriate in a marriage: You should not tolerate physical aggression or abusive behavior. Still, in the case of smaller, less pernicious habits, it may be worth addressing the issue if you think the alteration would truly benefit both of you and put your relationship on a stronger footing.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.)
(Submit your questions to: ask@FocusOnTheFamily.com)