Aftershock Devotional Series #2: Understand Your Emotions

Learning of a spouse’s sexual sin can cause a wide range of emotions. But learning to understand and work through them will strengthen you. And it will let you devote energy to moving forward with dignity and healing — and hopefully save your marriage in the process.

Your emotions matter, no matter what you’re feeling. Emotions aren’t right or wrong; they just are. Still, it’s wise to avoid extremes of overreacting (venting feelings without regard for time, place, or word choice) or underreacting (burying or denying feelings). How? Commit to identifying, understanding, and working through your emotions.

There are five basic emotions: mad (anger), bad (shame), sad (grief), glad, and afraid (anxiety). Since it’s safe to assume you’re not glad, we’ll look at the other four.

Anger

It’s natural to feel mad at your spouse for betraying you and destroying your trust. But there are two types of angry responses. The first is healthy, protective, righteous anger. This is anger in the face of sin or injustice. The second is destructive anger. This happens when people respond inappropriately or in sinful ways.

It’s possible to be justified in feeling righteous anger — and at the same time be so wounded that you’re tempted to ruin your spouse’s reputation, career, and friendships. However, revengeful actions only worsen pain and create more chaos. Ask God for grace to respond to your anger in a healthy way.

Shame

Feeling bad or ashamed is often the result of anger turned inward. You may blame yourself for not suspecting your spouse’s sinful sexual behavior sooner. Remember, though, that your spouse is responsible for their own actions. Yes, you always want to examine your own life with integrity and humility. However, don’t take on someone else’s guilt as your own.

Grief

While sadness is part of the grieving process, it’s not the whole picture. You might feel sad about a lot of things, but it would be misleading to compare sadness with the overwhelming emotional weight of grief from betrayal or marital infidelity. Fortunately, grief can be a doorway to the truth that God is in the business of healing and restoring lives.

Anxiety

Fear is closely tied to grief. Grief is about past events — what did happen. Anxiety is about the future — what might happen. And when your marriage is in trouble, it’s easy to escalate your current situation into a worst-case scenario and become afraid.

Counteract anxious fears by repeatedly grabbing hold of God’s hopeful promises. You can do this through prayer, journaling, and turning to your most trusted support-team members. Bringing your what-ifs before God and others will help you identify, evaluate, and release your specific fears and anxieties. It will also increase your comfort and calm your heart.

These principles are drawn from the book Aftershock: Overcoming His Secret Life with Pornography—A Plan for Recovery by Joann Condie and Geremy Keeton.

Next month: Action Steps to Manage Emotions