Infidelity
September 9, 2013

Dear Theo,

I am a 33 yr married woman with a 13 yr old daughter from a previous marriage. My spouse/wife and I have been together for 4 1/2 yrs and married 3. This last fall I had a friend who had come out of a long relationship and was all alone and I felt bad for her. I introduced her to my family and talked to my wife and we decided to have her come to our home and hang out with us.

We welcomed her to family activities, our church, and introduced her to our other friends. She then stopped coming to our home and instead invited my wife to hang out at her house. Because my daughter had activities I needed to be at I was not able to go.

I had always trusted my wife and my friend. I was soon hurt. They started an emotional affair. As soon as I realized, I begged my wife to go to therapy with me, to go have a date night to reconnect, anything. But all the while this "FRIEND" was telling her she should leave me and that she could be a better wife. That all her attention would be for my wife, since she is childless.

My wife ended up having the full affair. I was devastated! Not only my wife betrayed me, my friend also betrayed me. My wife and I have just completed couples counseling and are in a much better place. There are still feelings of hurt there, and a lack of complete trust. But she understands that with time it will get better and I am grateful she respects that and is giving me the time.

My problem is, after I brought this friend to church she has now become a member and I see her every Sunday. We are a small congregation and it isn't like I can mix in the crowd to avoid her. Seeing her each week brings to the surface the hurt and betrayal. I hate this feeling so much I have thought about leaving church. I know Jesus taught forgiveness and I am ok forgiving.  It is the forgetting I am having a problem with. How can I find a way to attend my church I love and am actively involved in when she is there without wanting to bawl my eyes out?

Infidelity

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Oh, Infidelity. You are in a really tough situation. I think it's pretty amazing that you have been able to repair your marriage and to forgive both your wife and your "friend."

But I'll be honest: I don't think your church is big enough for the both of you. You can't un-know what you know, and you deserve not to be re-traumatized every single time you go to a place that is supposed to be a space of healing and mutual trust.

Does your wife know how you feel? Have you told her to what extent it upsets you to have to worship in such a minefield? The first thing to do is sit down with your wife and be completely honest with her. Make sure you are, as much as possible, on the same page before taking further action.

Then, sit down alone with your former friend, and tell her using "I statements" what it is like for you when you see her at church, how it brings up painful memories. Ask her to find a new religious community, out of respect for you and your wife and the path you are trying to make forward. You can speak calmly but strongly about your own needs. I don't know where you live, or if there is another LGBT-friendly church within driving distance, but even if there isn't: I still think you need to ask her to go.

If your friend won't listen, I would then go and talk to your pastor, and ask your pastor what they think. Don't expect your pastor to be the heavy and execute your will—that would be triangulation, which won't get anyone to a healthier place—but tell them the whole story and see what solution they might come up with.

If you still can't arrive at a satisfactory outcome, and you know for certain that the relief would outweigh any resentment you might feel at starting over to find a spiritual home, you might want to find a new church for your own family. Choose this for yourself—a way freely taken, an investment in your own, and your family's, fullness of life and spirit.

And, too, there's this: it could be, member or no, that once you have left your church your friend won't "stick" there either. Perhaps she, in a bent way, just wants what you have, and once you have given it up, won't want it anymore?

Bless you, and may you be a blessing,

Theo

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"Dear Theo" is written anonymously by three UCC ministers of different ages and backgrounds—one main writer and two respite writers. We welcome questions spanning all kinds of topics: from sexuality and relationships to church culture and conflict to mental health, family drama, ethical and moral dilemmas...and everything in between.

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