I am seeking your advice on how to restitute wrongful relationships. Many years ago I dated a number of married men. Sometime later, on a friend’s advice, I sought out the wife of one of them, confessed and apologized to her. But the husband (my ex-partner) called me in a great fury afterwards to scold me about the immaturity of what I did. That has made me very reluctant to do such for the other cases. But those other cases have been bothering me because I want to get right with God. How do I restitute the other cases?
You don’t restitute the other cases. The Bible does give us clear language for the fact that we are – to the best of our ability – required by God to make right the wrongs that we have committed against others. However, those Scripture references must also be taken in context with other Scriptures. Perhaps the most practical approach to the topic of restitution can be found in programs like Celebrate Recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous. Let’s look at how they address it.
Principle #6: “I evaluate all of my relationships. I offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve don’t to others, except when to do so would harm them or others.”
Scripture Reference: Happy are the merciful. (Matthew 5:7) Happy are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), et al
Step #8: “We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”
Step # 8: “We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
Scripture Reference: Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31)
I’ve underlined sections of the statement for your benefit. It is important that you – as a Christ follower – become willing to contact each of the wives of the men you’ve been intimate with and offer a sincere apology for what you did to them. But, you now must also love those women enough to not contact them and apologize if it is likely (or even possible) that they could suffer pain or anguish from your doing so.
Let’s suppose, for example, that the married man you were intimate with did tell his wife what he’d done. They got counseling and their marriage is once again on solid ground. Now you enter the picture to rid yourself of the guilt by confessing and asking for forgiveness. But in doing so you re-open an old wound. That’s very painful for the wife and possibly even for the husband. Similarly, maybe he’s never told her, and she’s been living in ignorant bliss all this time.
You enter the picture to confess and end up rocking her world, shattering her sense of security in her marriage and send her reeling. But you feel better. Do you get the picture here? It could actually be selfish of you to contact those women and break the news to them. I have done a great deal of counseling with men who struggled with sexual addiction. In order to free themselves of the guilt for an addition to pornography, they’ve dumped it all on their wives. The man feels free, with a clean conscience and all. But as a counselor, I now have to try to pick up this poor woman who is in a puddle, sobbing and wondering why she wasn’t enough for him. But like I said, he feels better.
The thing is it is most important that you become willing to make amends. But once you do so, it is equally important that you ask someone to help you determine if making amends is really appropriate. Perhaps you could contact the man, and ask him if it would be appropriate for you to apologize to his wife. If he thinks it is, then I would suggest you do it. But if he doesn’t, then you’ve been willing and you’ve satisfied the Lord’s requirement by putting your heart in the right place.