You keep fighting about the same things and, once again, you’re going to bed mad at each other. You think it’s just a phase and that every couple has its ups and downs, but then you find messages on his cellphone . . .

Whether you have been married for three months or 30 years, your marriage is never safe from the possibility of being wrecked by an extra-marital affair. Two couples tell their heart-breaking stories about infidelity. In both cases, the couples said that God saved and renewed their marriages.

“We both had misconceptions about marriage”

On paper, Laura (25) and Russel’s (28) marriage looked like a fairy tale. Shortly after getting married, they quickly realized that the idea of happily ever after was very different from the reality of marriage.

“Our wedding day was perfect and we had a fantastic honeymoon,” recalls Laura. They met each other through a mutual friend in February 2011 and a year later they were heading to the chapel. Laura’s friends and family were crazy about Russel.

“Initially I was a bit skeptical about Russel. I thought: How can such an attractive man be a good man?”

Laura’s mother encouraged her to give Russel a chance. “I gave him a chance and we developed a fantastic friendship and relationship. We were the couple that people would point to, saying: ‘Look how happy they are.’” The dynamics between them changed shortly after the honeymoon and things started to become unpleasant.

The couple moved to a new town, where Russel got a job as an electrical technician. Laura started working at a local high school.

“Both of us felt a lot of pressure to perform in our new jobs,” says Laura. They were not prepared for the big changes that would hit them as newlyweds.

“We battled to get onto the same page, especially regarding household tasks like who would do the washing and who would do the folding up,” she says. These seemingly small arguments would escalate into larger fights, and sometimes they just avoided the drama by fleeing to hang out with friends instead of spending time together. They started to drift apart, and they were not investing time in their faith or each other.

“It was upsetting to be unable to hold my husband at night, as we were often sleeping in separate rooms,” recalls Laura. Russel said he felt like he had failed as a husband because he was unable to make his wife happy. Laura’s friend, Rachel, started sending Russel messages to cheer him up and to find out how he was doing. Russel and Laura had been married for four months when Rachel started to send him messages.

Warning bells started to go off in Laura’s mind, but she reasoned that suspecting Rachel and Russel would be ridiculous. After a while, Russel admitted that he had feelings for Rachel but that he never acted on these feelings. This revelation destroyed Laura. After a lot of introspection and by recommitting to the relationship, Russel was able to win back Laura’s trust. Laura could see that she should also be blamed for the negative patterns that were damaging their relationship.

“While I didn’t realize it at the time, mainly because I had a victim mentality, Russel wasn’t the only one at fault. My selfishness also played a part in how everything panned out.”

Today, slightly more than three years later, Laura and Russel have a strong relationship without any signs of scars and wounds. “When God takes over, everything will heal,” says Laura.

“God says he will rebuild the walls of my marriage”

Sara’s (53) first marriage ended as a result of her husband’s infidelity. Her second marriage almost ended the same way when her current husband, TJ (46), had an extramarital affair.

The couple was getting ready to immigrate and Sara traveled alone to the country to prepare for their move. During this time, Sara noticed how TJ’s attitude towards her started to change. “Infidelity was already rearing its ugly head,” says Sara.

“When I noticed that my husband was attached to his cellphone and that he even took his phone with him to the bathroom, I knew something was up.” A flood of emotions washed over her. “Shock, rage, disappointment, sadness and rejection. Not again . . .”

Sara confronted TJ and although he initially denied the affair, text messages on his phone proved otherwise. Sara decided to kick TJ out, but unfortunately this decision led him straight into the arms of another woman.

Sara needed to clear her mind. She went to live with her brother, where she could recover. She filed for a divorce. “My husband sent me messages every day, telling me that he loves me and that he made a big mistake.”

She kept looking for answers from God and for His wisdom. One day during Bible study, the message arrived. “Zechariah 1:14-16 spoke to me. I had to go back to Jerusalem (which I see as a symbol of marriage) to rebuild the temple (to God, my marriage is sacred, like a temple). This is where my journey of healing and rebuilding began.”

It took Sara and TJ more than three years to rebuild their marriage, but today they are renewed people thanks to God. “The most important message that I want to get across, is to fight for your marriage and against attacks from Satan.”

Sara also did a lot of introspection and was able to recognize her role in their marital problems. “Rebuilding a marriage takes work. It’s a gradual process and even today, it requires ongoing work.”

What does a marriage therapist say?

Affairs are common and in some circles, it’s the norm, says marriage therapist Carien du Toit. “We often address differences in an aggressive way, instead of looking for win-win solutions.”

These approaches push partners away from each other. “At the end of the day, a third person comes in and fills the need of admiration and acceptance, while partners ignore their problems or continue fighting about the same old issues.”

The definition of what an affair entails also had to be rewritten as a result of modern technology. “A sexual encounter is the extreme definition of an extramarital affair, but intimate e-mails and text messages can be signs of an emotional affair, which can eventually lead to a physical relationship.”

An affair is almost always the result of another problem or a lot of problems between partners. “While there is never a good reason to have an affair, it’s vital that both partners acknowledge their role in the marriage’s dynamics,” says Carien.

It remains the responsibility of the partner who strayed to rebuild trust and recommit to the marriage. “It will take time for trust to be rebuilt. Commit to being totally transparent – turn off pass-code features on your phone and always be exactly where you said you will be. The one who crossed the line, owes it to his or her partner in order for trust to be rebuilt.”