The more I talk with people who have walked the dark path of adultery, the more I realize not all affairs are the same.
I have a dear friend who walked the dark, painful days of adultery with me. Her husband had been a pastor at a local church when he had an affair. Through many painful days and tearful nights, they worked hard to redeem their marriage. Today, nearly a decade later, they are madly in love with one another. She had to choose forgiveness; he had to choose repentance and the consequences of broken trust.
I received an email today from another man who committed adultery. He longs to have his wife back, tells of the pain he experiences daily facing his sin. He talks of the many consequences, from financial ruin to loss of everything he held dear. His tone to me is one of great anger, disdain, condescension.
“You say you’re a woman of God, a minister….Did he repent? … Would you take him back if he truly repented? … God allows you to divorce for his infidelities … but why would you do something Jesus despised? … all I need is one more chance…”
It’s obvious he is struggling with tremendous pain and anguish, the pain of the consequences for a sin he committed. He longs to make it all right again, and yet his wife has chosen to walk away.
Or there was the email I once received from a lady who made it clear I must have done something to push my husband into the arms of another man. She talked of her critical nature, of how she pushed her husband away by her negativity. Eventually, he found intimacy with another woman.
“You didn’t forgive. If you had forgiven, your marriage would have been saved. Your family would still be intact.
I kindly responded that I only wished my story had been like hers, an affair caused by lack of emotional support. I only wished my offer of forgiveness had been accepted and we had been a shining example of what God can do in a broken marriage. I only wished…
Yes, there are the adulterers who, for whatever reason, have a momentary lapse in judgement. They step away from their vows and immediately regret their actions. They understand the consequences, the broken trust, the pain they have caused their spouse and their children. If they could go back and change it, they would. They are broken over their sins and long to be right with God and their family, no matter the cost.
There’s another kind of adulterer. The serial adulterer. The abusive adulterer. The addicted adulterer. The manipulative adulterer. The victim adulterer. The narcissistic adulterer.
I lump them all into one category, far different from the above adulterers. These cheaters are not the ones who regret what they did, who are willing to pay the consequences of their actions. They aren’t the ones who long to make things right.
These are the adulterers who twist the circumstances to make you think it’s all your fault, you were the cause of the problem. These are the adulterers whose minds are so twisted and warped by pornography that their “love” is truly just a lust, an attempt to get what they want no matter the cost. These adulterers are the ones who will promise never to do it again and yet get caught on an online dating site within a few short weeks. These are the adulterers whose rage controls you and keeps you in the marriage out of fear.
These are the adulterers who make your life a living hell whether you stay in the marriage or you leave.
“My husband’s addiction always put tremendous pressure on our relationship once he decided recovery was no longer for him…. He started having an affair with a coworker and left shortly after…”
“I lived for my husband. Today, with psychological help, I recognize that I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I feel very emotionally tired…”
“I’m married 34 years and I want a divorce…I can no longer put up with his drinking…help!”
“I have … children and a successful career but am married to a man that is a cheater, pathological liar, and has an extreme anger problem. Just this morning he said he was leaving in front of the kids and called me [expletive], [expletive], and retarded as he has numerous times. He’s broken various objects, thrown things at me, and punched holes in walls…I can’t believe I’m in this position and fear the judgement from Church and family…”
I read stories like this daily. Pornography. Alcohol. Drugs. Emotional abuse. Verbal abuse. Narcissism. Anger. Control.
Can this type of adulterer change? With God’s help, yes. Unfortunately, most see themselves as the victim, rationalize away their sins. Their minds are so warped, so deceived, they can’t see the truth. They’ve told so many lies they believe they truly are the victim. Most don’t have any desire to change.
Do they want to keep their family together? Yes! But, they also want to be allowed to continue their relationships on the side. They don’t want to face any consequences for their actions. They want to be able to continue with life and never face the truth of who they have become.
My heart aches when I hear of anyone walking through divorce because I know the pain, the heartache, the devastation. I know the far-reaching consequences of divorce.
But I also understand there are subtleties the outside world does not understand. Occasionally, I see the repentant adulterers walking through divorce…and it breaks my heart. I wish I could help their betrayed spouse understand their marriage can survive. I applaud the couples who take time to look deeply into their own lives, to evaluate their faults, and do the hard work of restoring broken trust. It’s a long, hard road, but it is worth the journey.
And then there’s the second type of adulterer. My heart aches for the victimized spouse, and I long to help him/her catch a glimpse of the vision God has for their future. I long to help him/her know the amazing work God can do in them and through them because of the pain. I long to help him/her understand that divorce may often be the only option, and that it can be a new beginning not an ending. I long to help him/her understand they cannot tolerate the sinful behavior of his/her spouse. I long for him/her to experience freedom in Christ!
I hope no one ever thinks I recommend divorce to anyone walking through adultery. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
But to those married to adulterer #2? Sometimes, it’s the only option….