Guilt, Hope, Surviving Adultery and Divorce

It’s Not About You

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my then husband about the woman he was having an affair with.

“It’s just exhilarating that someone like that would be interested in me,” he said.

Adultery hits at the core of your being. Every ounce of self-confidence and self-respect that you carry is destroyed. You look in the mirror day after day, criticizing every aspect of your appearance. You question everything about yourself, doubting even your greatest strengths. You begin to see yourself as worthless, unlovable.

You ask the question:  Why was I not enough to keep my spouse satisfied?

And here’s the answer: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!

Your spouse’s adultery is not about you. It is not about your weaknesses. It is not about your appearance. It is not about your failures or even your successes. It is not about what you are doing or not doing. The truth is that your spouse’s decision to have an affair has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.

I absolutely encourage you to evaluate your marriage and see what you contributed to the demise of your marriage. Maybe you nagged. Maybe you were too busy with the kids or your career. Maybe you contributed to financial problems. Maybe, like me, you enabled your spouse to live in a selfish manner by not confronting their sinful behaviors.

But no matter what your contribution was, the affair IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of American icons. Tiger Woods was married to an absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous woman, and yet he strayed. It’s not about your appearance. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been married to his beautiful and successful wife, Maria Shriver, for over 25 years when it became public that he had fathered a child with his employee. It’s not about your abilities.

But, adultery is not limited to Hollywood and sports icons. The news is full of pastors who have fallen from grace by engaging in adulterous relationships, leaving their loving and supportive spouses to pick up the pieces. Christian recording artists are caught, leaving their careers a pile of rubble. Our churches are full of amazing spouses who are left devastated by the affairs of their Christian spouses.

Even in the Bible we see adultery, forbidden relationships that developed in spite of faithful, loving spouses. I wrote a post some time ago about a biblical love triangle. In it, I focused on David, Bathsheba, and Uriah. Despite Uriah being a faithful, responsible man, a man of integrity and courage, his wife chose to participate in an adulterous relationship with King David. IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH URIAH.

Hear me out: If your spouse has chosen to have an affair, it has nothing to do with you! It is not a reflection on who you are. It is not a reflection on your successes or failures. It is not a reflection on what type of spouse you have been. It is not a reflection on your inner or outer beauty.

It is a reflection on who your spouse is, the condition of his/her heart.

And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you.  For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.  All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:20-23

Adultery is about a hardened heart, a heart that is harboring evil, immoral thoughts deep within. Adultery is about a person who has refused to let God and his word penetrate the deep recesses of the heart, allowing him to have free reign and transform from the inside out. Adultery is about the deceit and evil of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Adultery is about failing to allow God to replace the heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

While there are many contributing factors to an affair, I have found some themes that seem to be very common among the stories I hear each and every day.

Pornography. I was visiting with a pastor one day, telling him my story. He looked me in the face and said, “Your ex-husband has a pornography problem.” Sure, I knew there had been some small issues with pornography, but I didn’t know just how big of a problem it actually was. And, I had been reassured that it was no big deal, that it was just something all men do.

The pastor went on to suggest that I read “Every Young Man’s Battle” with my boys and help break the cycle. Although I was uncertain, I decided to at least peruse the book. The reality of my life began to unfold through the pages of that book. I suddenly came face-to-face with the reality that pornography was a much bigger problem than I ever realized. My ex-husband’s mind was so warped by pornography that women had become nothing more than objects used to gratify his selfish desires. I was nothing more than an object to gratify his selfish desires.

Pornography is devastating. It rewires the brain, changes the way men look at women. It destroys a woman’s value. And, once it is in the mind, those images are burned there for eternity. It takes a lot of time, energy, and counseling to overcome the hold that pornographic images have on a man. (Women may also succumb, but it is a different type of pull).

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman. Job 31:1

Discontent. One of the last sermons my ex-husband preached before I learned of his affair was on temptation from the book of James. He made the statement that temptation happens when Satan gets us to doubt the good gifts that God has placed in our lives. That statement has stuck in my head for years, because that was the exact method of operation used on my husband. You see, my husband was surrounded by a loving wife, three amazing kids, and a great church. And yet, rather than focusing on all that he had, he was focused on what he perceived he didn’t have. His church wasn’t big enough. Finances were tough. Rather than recognizing all of the good gifts in his life, he felt as if God was withholding better things from him. He began to doubt the good gifts in his life.

Discontent happens when we focus on those things that we don’t have. Discontent happens when we fail to see all of the blessings God has given us. Philippians 4 tells us to think on those things that are lovely, noble, true, right, excellent and praiseworthy so that the God’s peace that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Paul then continues with:

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Philippians 4:12

Contentment changes the way we view life. Contentment changes the way we view circumstances. Contentment changes the way we view our spouse and our marriage. Contentment keeps our eyes from wandering to those things that would seek to ultimately destroy us.

Selfishness. I have yet to hear a story of adultery in which the offending party was always looking out for the good of his/her spouse. Instead, I hear repeatedly that the offending spouse was concerned only about his/her needs and desires. I hear about the one-sided nature of the relationship, how in retrospect it was all about one person.

Selfishness is a work of the flesh, in direct opposition to the fruit of the spirit. A selfish spouse often seeks to fulfill his/her own wants and desires instead of seeking to be a blessing to the faithful spouse.

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other… When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures… Galatians 5:16-19 (selected portions)

Could it be any more clear?

Addiction. I had an addiction counselor define addiction as self on the throne, as an attempt to fill a God-shaped void with something other than God. It is an attempt to mask a deep pain, perhaps a deep wound that occurred in childhood. Of course, we all think of drugs and alcohol when we think of addiction. The truth is, however, that we can attempt to fill that void with anything. Have you ever known someone who was addicted to shopping? Or books? Or anything else? Have you ever known someone who couldn’t understand the concept of moderation, that everything was done to an extreme?

As I look back, I see the seeds of addiction in my ex-husband. It wasn’t drugs or alcohol. But, he used socially acceptable items to try to mask his pain. We had more books than a Christian book store. We had more movies than a Blockbuster video. We had more music than iTunes. I now realize that each obsession was about masking a pain that was deep inside of him, perhaps wounds inflicted during his childhood.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. Isaiah 26:3

Our only addiction should be to God, his word. If we fix our thoughts on him, we will be at peace.

If you have been the victim of adultery, please hear me when I say that IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. You are precious, greatly loved, chosen. You are the apple of his eye, his treasured possession. You are child of the King, heir to all the treasures of heaven. Your spouse’s actions are about him/her. They are not a reflection on you.

Look in the mirror and love the image looking back at you. Hold your head high knowing that you are approved. Remind yourself daily that your spouse’s actions are simply not a reflection on who you are. It is not about you.



27 thoughts on “It’s Not About You”

  1. Yes. I found after my divorce that God was still active in the relationship, though we were apart. Healing was painfully slow but steady on my end. On his end it was a slow ride to an even darker abyss. We eventually became somewhat friends because we had a child together. That wasn’t enough to keep him on this planet though. His death from addiction was another painful journey, but knowing he was a believer made me at peace. The forgiveness I choose while he was still alive was the best and right decision for closure at that end. He is at peace now and so am I.
    God bless you and your children.

    1. I’m so sorry for your painful journey, but glad you are at peace. Forgiveness is essential. It can be a daily decision that must be made, but it is the only right way. God bless!

    1. Yes, you may! You can find me on Facebook at Dena Johnson or My page Dena’s Devos. The link is on both pages and you can share from there. Or you can copy the link and share. God bless!

      1. Dena, I too was betrayed by my husband a Pastor. Thank you so much for your ministry! You have touched my heart, blessed me so much! You need to write a book for all the people going through this! I had no on to turn to but God and He has been with me and I am so thankful! It has been many years and I have never healed completely and don’t know if I ever will until I get to Heaven! I have forgiven him and the other woman but it took awhile! May God Bless you and I hope you know how much you have helped me! Pray for me and I am praying for you!!

      2. My next step is to finish that book! 😉 I just continue asking God to open doors and pour out his power. I am so sorry for your pain, but so thankful for your testimony of God’s faithfulness…and so blessed to have you on this journey! You are in my prayers, and I so appreciate your prayers!

  2. Thank you for letting God use your pain to minister to other women who are hurting. You’re writings have been an encouragement and blessing to me.

    1. That has been my prayer from day 1: “Lord, don’t let my pain be in vain!” I would walk through it all again for one comment such as yours! God bless!

  3. Dena,

    I chanced upon your post during my time of healing and meditation. I divorced in November, 2014 after 14 years of marriage after I found out that my husband was cheating on me with his second cousin. The sadness and the ripple effects of this on my kids and myself have been tremendous.

    I was so touched with this post. I’m working on forgiveness. God has been working on healing me and the kids.

    Forgiveness will come with time but I have been blessed with my kids, a good job, my mom and sister and genuine friends that have helped me along the way. I go in and out of feeling okay and not okay because I thought we were truly a happy family. Every thing will come in God’s time.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and displaying God’s power in your life. I pray that you keep me and my girls in your prayers.

    1. I am so sorry for what you are going through. But, you WILL be ok. There are no quick fixes, no easy ways to heal. But God will see you through. Pour into him. Pour into your kids. Let him do an amazing work in you so he can do an amazing work through you. You may find at the end of the road that you’ve experienced far more blessings than you ever dreamed possible! Praying God’s comfort and direction over you today!

      1. Dena,

        Thank you. It has not been easy but God. It has been a very slow recovery but I have come to realize the amazing blessings that God has provided for me. The fact that I chanced upon your blog has allowed me to meditate and thank Him for everything.

        Please continue on with your writings. You have an amazing gift.


      2. Thank you. Each and every person who reads my blog and finds peace, comfort, and encouragement is counted among my many blessings. Never would I have imagined that my deepest hurt, that the most unwelcome event of my life could be the door opened for the greatest blessings ever. He can do the same for you!

      3. Dena,

        Thank you. Your blog has allowed me to look upon the blessings that God has bestowed upon me. I lift up all the hurt up to God. It is only through Him like you that I have been able to get through everyday. Continue to write and I know that you will touch people like me who have been hurt tremendously.

        God’s blessings upon you and your wonderful children.

  4. In all the years since this happened to me your teachings have been the greatest help to me! Praise God for leafing me here!

  5. Dena, I admire your strength and faith. I do think you have written and validated a lot of hurt spouses who want to look back on their marriage and feel the offending spouse is the evil sinner and they are innocent bystanders. At least that is what I walk away with by reading this blog.

    Don’t get me wrong, your feelings and experience are what you live with everyday and have lived through. Trust me I know. I am one of them. But before you raise that hurt voice, I encourage you to read what I have to say. I agree there are those who are selfish and have no regard for their spouse and their commitment and vows. Your biblical references are good and your desire to encourage those spouses (wives) who have been cheated on is good. There are lots of spouses (yes, even men) who have such low self esteem of themselves, feel everything that bad happens is their fault. They need to know, that they are valued and loved by Christ. However….

    Not every spouse who cheats is an evil selfish jerk. I concede it is a sin. ALL mankind is guilty of sin. The root of all evil is not money but of pride and we all are experts in it. I do feel there are some who are truly evil, history has shown that. But I do feel most enter marriage with love and high expectations and a desire to live happily ever after. But because of our sin factor, which we are all guilty of, as none are righteous, we marry each with our own expectations, selfish agendas and secret hearts. We are supposed to become one, serving one another sacrificially to the betterment of our ‘team’. I dare say there is not one spouse who has ever lived that did not break some part of the marriage vows. Remember the vows are not with one another but to God. Therefore we are ALL guilty of not holding up our part of the contract. Sin is sin. We want to distinguish adultery in some other category as humans but God does not, for His measure is standard to measure by. Its like this, you are either on the plane or out…without a parachute!

    The offending spouse is guilty of cheating. He/she owns that sin and they will have to answer to God for their sin. As that spouse who was hurt, I am not the one to answer to God for that action. But I do have to answer to God as to why I did not respect or honor my husband and why I did not accept his leadership and why I chose to fill my emotional needs with friends, children, work and others instead of him. You see we all come to the marriage table each bringing our sin or God’s influenced goodness. What we eat off that table is our individual choice. My husband saw a table of my sin and chose to sin himself. He owns that, but I ALSO have to realize my own sinful nature and what I delivered him emotionally. I gave him nothing because I was selfish in my own right and keeping myself for me instead of us. Now from a humanistic view, who can blame him. He came to me time and time again and I kept serving him sin on that table. From a believer’s point of view, yes, he should have persisted in demanding more from me. But until I could admit my own failures as a wife then and follower of Christ and stepped off my own throne I was snuffing out our marriage one cubit of air at a time.

    He told me, my life crumbled, my world collapsed. My life changed at first for good because he repented. He changed. He worked 10 times harder to rebuild us. I was the recipient of all the work. God had threw him to the ground and there is no question he lost that war. He suffered his own guilt and pain for years. Then I grew bitter. I was a better person than he was. I could never stoop so low to cheat. I was his wife, working a job, raising his kids…. Why did he do that? He had to be flawed….(more on that later)

    I could have used that verse on adultery as my ticket out, But then I read something in a book by Cindy Beall, a pastors wife who also was in our shoes. And she said another elderly pastor told her…”Yes you can leave, but you are not a fool to play a huge part in redemption of your husband as he reconciles with God.” (paraphrased)….wow that hit me in the eyes!

    I do not blame me, but I had to own up to my failure as part of the team. I have to own my sin as well. And when I did, I saw that I needed forgiveness as much as he did…..I had to forgive him like Christ did me. The Bitterness went away. I cried for hours on my knees as my pride dropped out of me with the tears. I awoke the next day and began a new life. Now, I love my husband like he is the greatest man on the planet. My world changed! I stopped putting the blame on him. I can not forgive if I kept reminding him of what he did. Cause my motive was pride. I was better than that selfish cheating …err…beautiful handsome man who rocks my world!

    Dena, this is my issue with this blog entry. If you are married, you are part of the team and no one is blameless for failures of a team. You see in a lot of situations adultery occurs because something is missing. If you are sailing along seemingly everything is good, trust me its NOT! We are not perfect and never once did God shape the greatest men in HIS Word with happy go lucky joyful times. God sharpens us through tough times. In our greatest failures, He is waiting for us to reach to Him. If you find yourself in smooth waters, to me this is FIRST sign you need to perk up and see what is wrong! Satan is in the complacency business. You have to step back, get off the throne and ask Him daily to bring your pride to its knees. You have to decide what is most important to you after God…your marriage? If there is anything else, including your kids, be prepared for a fall. You have to remember the enemy is not your spouse, but Satan. My marriage IS about me, including my husbands failures and mine. We became one, not three.

    Read the Marriage Bible by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, it is the best thing for couples!

    1. Erin, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I understand where you are coming from. But, there’s a lot you don’t know about my story. I, too, have read Cindy Beall’s book. I attend the church where his husband pastors. I extended forgiveness and believed with every ounce of my being that God would restore my marriage and use it to point the world back to him! I did my best to walk in integrity, to continue being the loving supportive wife I had always been.

      However, he chose to continue walking in infidelity. He chose to expand his mistresses to more than one. He wanted to keep me but I was never to mention it again. He wanted life to continue as it was without dealing with the core issues which brought us to that point. He wanted me to change without him having to do any changing.

      I fought for a year after I found out, stood faithfully beside him praying for a life-changing intervention.

      Instead, I was accused of multiple affairs. I was belittled to the point where I had no self-esteem. I was told I needed to submit to his authority. I was verbally and mentally abused. I was made out to be the cause of every problem in our marriage…while he stood perfectly faultless.

      You see, I would have loved to see God redeem my marriage. But, there’s a point where God’s sovereignty and man’s free will collide. It’s beyond my comprehension. But, I know that in that collision, God still takes and makes good come out of a situation.

      I always encourage women and men to look at their marriage and take responsibility for their own sinful actions. For me, I was an enabler. It was easier for me to let him walk in sinful ways than to deal with the rage that would inevitably be thrown at me if I attempted to help him see things from a different perspective. Sure, I was busy raising kids, serving the church, and doing all the things we do. But, I WAS A GOOD WIFE. Perfect? Absolutely not. But I was a good wife.

      There are too many spouses like me who have been victimized by sick, abusive spouses. Society (especially Christians) want spouses to share the blame equally. I was one of them. That simply is not always the case. Sometimes, yes. But in my experience I have found that there’s a HUGE number of individuals who have truly been victimized, abused. Those are the ones I am writing for.

      My decision to leave my marriage was not taken lightly. It was made through MUCH prayer AND counsel from a MULTITUDE of godly counsellors who knew us and knew the details of the situation. I would never counsel anyone to walk away at the first sign of adultery. Quite the contrary, I encourage them to do everything they can to save it, to forgive, to move forward. But there sometimes comes a point where God gives permission to walk away.

      I am thrilled for you that God redeemed your marriage. I truly wish I could have had that testimony. But God, in his sovereignty, has given me a different testimony of redemption.

      God bless.

      1. Dena, I appreciate your words. In no way was I to accuse you of not trying or following God’s will. I guess the difference is that my husband did repent, he did everything right in trying to rebuild us and worked his butt of doing it…therapy, met with our pastor weekly, accountability partners and group meetings….it was MY bitterness and my own pride that wanted to think he was the flawed one because of what he did and that I was good enough. He actually had 3 affairs over a 2 year period. But when God brought him to his knees spiritually, he confessed to me. He did not get caught. He hated himself that much.

        But once that happened, it was on me to forgive if we were to move on. Dave Carder in his book Torn Asunder, mentions it clearly, until I could extend that forgiveness, my marriage was still torn and still in danger of Satan’s attacks. I held my heart even tighter and contempt, bitterness, and apathy kept me from working on my issues. I expected him to save our marriage, while I did nothing. After all, he is the one who cheated.

        I understand your situation. Your husband did not repent, did not change. One day, God will bring him to his knees. I also do understand why in my life, my wrongs seem to get noticed and corrected by God in a timely manner but others never seem to hear Him knocking….

      2. And I took no offense. I would love nothing more than to see my ex-husband repent. I would love nothing more than to see him become the man God created him to be. Yes, my husband had to be caught red-handed. Even then, there is no accepting of any responsibility on his part. And that is why I must fight so hard to keep in mind who I am in Christ. Otherwise, I would believe the lies that he has told about me. I also read Torn Asunder as recommended by the couple who was counseling us (actually just me as he refused to have anything to do with counseling). It’s heart-breaking to see such a gifted man become so ensnared by Satan’s deceit. But that’s where we are. But by God’s grace, he has redeemed every hurt and every pain. My marriage didn’t survive. But God gave me a new, amazing life in spite of his choices!

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