Tag Archives: Adultery and Christianity

Q&A with J: Can God Heal Any Marriage after Infidelity?

The emotional pain caused by a spouse’s infidelity is hard to imagine. Plenty of marriages do manage, however, to get past the heartbreak and build a better, more intimate marriage than before. Today’s question is on that particular subject. Here’s what the reader says:

I found out 3 days ago my husband had an affair… After he had planned a weekend away [secretly] this past weekend..I assumed this was the only time He had wandered. We have been having issues for a long time. Our relationships with God haven’t been good. I feel unsure if this relationship will work. We have two small kids. I don’t feel in love. He has had an issue with porn and was talking to girls online in chat rooms…. I don’t want to leave him but I wonder if I can truly heal being so close. I feel like maybe my insecurities are also keeping me…. He cheated with my neighbor.

I know God can restore our marriage and make it better than before but I’m hesitant. I’ve had sex with him since the affair unknowingly…. I just don’t know how I could have sex with him after knowing this.

blog post title + craft heart stitched up in the middle

What struck me about this email and why I wanted to address it is that, yes, I agree that God can absolutely restore a marriage and make it better than before. But what this email lacks is any indication of what this husband is doing to keep and improve the marriage.

What we do know is:

  • He secretly planned a rendezvous with his affair partner.
  • His affair partner was their neighbor.
  • The marriage has had problems for a long time.
  • He’s had an issue with porn.
  • He’s visited internet chat rooms to talk to other women.
  • He had sex with his wife after having sex with his affair partner.

Affairs rarely happen in short order. There are steps spouse take as they head into marital infidelity, which I cover in this post. You can probably see from the list above how this all might have come together: a troubled marriage, a man without solid sexual boundaries (porn, chat rooms), a woman nearby (neighbor) who tempted the husband, and a string of lies and secrecy.

It’s not just that the husband slept with another woman. It’s that he planned it, he lied about it, and he tried to have his cake and eat it too (sex with both women). I can’t sugarcoat this — his actions were horrible.

Now if you discover your spouse has cheated and still had sex with you, you should both get tested for STDs. It’s not unreasonable to ask your spouse to willingly get tested. (In fact, if either spouse has had other partners, even before marriage, they should get tested and share results with their spouse.)

But the next step is this question: Do you both want to have this marriage?

Here’s where I’m not sure about this couple. This husband watched porn, went to chat rooms, lied to his wife, cheated on her, and not one iota of her explanation said that he was sorry, cut off contact with his affair partner, begged her to stay, etc. How did she even find out about the adultery? Did he fess up (a good signal) or got caught and couldn’t wiggle out of it?

In answer to “Can God Heal Any Marriage after Infidelity?” … yes, if you’re both willing to make an effort. But if the cheater feels zero remorse for what they did, what do you do then?

If the cheater feels zero remorse for what they did, what do you do then? #marriage Click To Tweet

Now, there could be some who don’t feel bad about the affair, but they could be motivated to work on the marriage by other issues — losing the mate they’ve partnered with in other ways, being separated from their kids, having concern about the financial cost. If he’s still willing to come to the table, there’s definitely hope. Jesus often took people who came to Him for selfish reasons and turned them toward the truth.

Dealing with all the issues brought up by this question, here are some resources to check out:

Intimacy After an Affair. This post addresses how you really could sleep with your husband after an affair, assuming certain criteria are present.

Rebuilding Trust in the Bedroom. This post gives specifics on how to rebuild the necessary trust for sexual intimacy.

Book Review: Healing from Infidelity by Michele Weiner-Davis. Michele’s book talks about how a couple can actually put a marriage back together, and she includes a chapter on what you can do if your spouse is not willing to engage. That said, part of her prescription is an area with which I disagree: That is, she offers one path of just letting your husband go his way while you hold things together and wait for the affair to fall apart, and that is not a biblical approach. Rather, as Christians we don’t enable sin but rather confront it and look for ways to bring a straying person back into the fold. With that in mind, you can still find some wisdom in this book for your situation. Just keep your Christian thinking cap on. 😉

Redeeming Marriages. Jack and Janet write this blog about strengthening your marriage, but they come from a background where, at different times, both spouses cheated. Yet, they fought their way back to a godly, happy marriage. You can read their story here. You might also want to check out their post on What If You’re the Only One Holding On?

Counseling. Yes, counseling. If I were you, I’d be on the phone to a Christian counseling center figuring out how soon hubby and I could sit down for a session. And if we meshed well with that counselor, we’d continue. If we didn’t, I’d try another and even another, until I found someone who could work with both of us to rebuild our relationship. Good counseling is a great way to reestablish a relationship, as God often uses others to assist our restoration.

You can indeed rebuild a marriage and intimacy from a situation that seems hopeless. But if I were you, I’d be hesitant too. Because I’d want to know that my spouse is willing to put forth some effort to make things better. If not today, then within a certain amount of time after I’ve invested everything I can into improving our marriage.

I’m praying for you.

When You’re Sexually Sinning

The last three weeks, I’ve taken the time to talk about building a wall around your marriage to keep out Satan’s attacks on your marital covenant, the biblical response to sexual temptation, and the steps that lead to an affair.

This topic has come about primarily because a good friend of mine is going through the total destruction of her marriage due to the adulterous actions of her husband. This came from a man I would have never suspected was capable of such a thing. However, I believe that given the right combination of circumstances and a lack of intentionality in preventing adultery, sexual temptation can creep up and take just about anyone hostage. We must be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as snakes regarding this issue (Matthew 10:16).

So what if you’re already there? What if you are already in a compromised situation with someone outside your marriage?

I have discussed here my sexually promiscuous past before my marriage. In effect, that was adultery too because I was having sexual contact with someone other than my husband. God desired for me to focus all of my sexual energy on the spouse that He would provide for me. I’ve done a lot of thinking since then about what would have prevented me from getting trapped in sexual temptation. I have a list of things that would have helped me never arrive at that point. However, I am less certain what someone could have said at that time to pull me out. The one direct challenge I received, I rebuffed like a volleyball and then stopped talking to that person.

So what can I say to you either? What words can get us to wake up and understand that things can be different?

I think the words are What if. When you are in the midst of sexual sin, you don’t see how you can go without and you don’t want to. You also don’t want to feel the horrendous guilt or hurt others in the process. So you feel stuck.

Here’s what someone might have said to me then, and it could have made a real difference:

What if you could have the pleasure you experience without the guilt?
What if you could have this experience within a secure, committed relationship?
What if you knew that you would be able to stop yourself before going too far?
What if you could feel pure again?

Quote bubble with "What if?"In a similar vein, if you are in a compromised sexual position with someone other than your spouse, you need to ask some important what if questions:

What if you could have all these feelings of romance and desire for the spouse you already covenanted with?
What if you knew your relationship with God and your spouse could be restored?
What if you knew the other person you’re falling in love with would be okay without you?

Time after time, couples have survived infidelity. These are not hypothetical what-ifs. They can happen. In fact, I suggest you follow Marriage Life Ministries and My Beloved Is Mine blogs to see stories from people who not only survived but thrived after adultery. AffairCare also offers resources for renewing a marriage after infidelity.

And I assure you that making that other person into an adultery partner is not doing him or her any favors: You are hurting their reputation, their family, their future, and their relationship with God. Step away and let them find an appropriate mate for life.

If you don’t believe that God can redeem your marital relationship, I pray that you will reconsider. I believe in every fiber of my being that’s exactly what God wills to do. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'” And Psalm 37:3-6 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

Read The Gospel in the Bedroom for more on God’s desire for your marital intimacy.

Stop and ask yourself What if? What if this affair doesn’t work out? What if things could be better in my marriage if I would give it my all? What if the way that seems right to me isn’t the way I should go? (“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12) What if my marriage could not just survive, but thrive?

What if.

I also highly recommend that you check out the powerful post and the video presented by the Mission:Husband blog: ‘Til Death Do Us Part.

7 Steps to an Affair

The last two weeks, I’ve been talking about the temptation of adultery: first with an admonition to protect your marriage with boundaries and then with the Bible’s answer to sexual temptation: flee. If you’ve ever witnessed someone in your Christian circle fall to sexual temptation and become entangled in an affair, the question that we all ask is how. How did this person go from being a spouse who promised to “keep myself only unto you” to the person sneaking around to cheat on their marriage partner?

Painting of King Solomon

Simeon Solomon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Proverbs 5 breaks it down. In this passage, King Solomon tells his son not only the importance of avoiding adultery, but how to keep from becoming entrapped. His words of warning show how this happens. Knowing the progression of an affair means that we can see the steps and stop the process anywhere along the way.

Step One: Don’t admit you need a plan.

My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.

That’s where this all starts — with a willingness to believe that you could fall if you don’t heed the warnings and encouragement of God.

Step Two: Start with words.

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil; 

but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.

She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

An affair starts with words. This woman’s words are described as being like “honey” and “smoother than oil.” The most reckless affairs can begin with seemingly harmless conversations in which someone makes you feel good about yourself. Maybe things aren’t going so well at home, and you don’t feel appreciated. And then your co-worker or friend compliments you, converses about interesting topics instead of how to juggle the family schedule, or even comments on how you are not being treated as well as you should be by your spouse.

According to that last line, she/he may not even know that they are on a crooked path. This person isn’t thinking clearly either about where it will all lead, how the destination is death . . . the death of your marriage. The conversations may not feel like betrayal to your spouse since it’s just words, right? You haven’t actually done anything.

And it’s true that you can stop it here. If you realize that you have become more comfortable talking or listening to a man other than your husband, you can back off and stop anything else from happening. If this is where you are, think right now about how this could be the beginning of the end for you and your marriage.

Step Three: Keep in touch.

Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your best strength to others
and your years to one who is cruel,
lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich another man’s house. 

So far it’s just words, but Solomon is very clearly in his prescription: “do not go near.” Even if you think you’re strong enough to handle a close opposite-sex friendship, the wisest man ever is saying, “Don’t risk it. Stay away.” The Bible’s answer to sexual temptation is not to master your urges in the moment but to avoid being in a compromising position to begin with.

If you are starting to have feelings, ties, or sexual thoughts about someone outside your marriage, do not go near that person. Break off contact. Be bold about protecting your marriage.

Step Four: Ignore others.

At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.
You will say, “How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction! 

I would not obey my teachers
or listen to my instructors.
I have come to the brink of utter ruin
in the midst of the whole assembly.”

The next step is not listening to others. This can be exhibited in different ways. You may have someone who actually speaks up and voices concern about your contact with this person, and you rationalize it and avoid further conversation. It could be that you simply don’t tell anyone. You know in your heart that others would have an issue with the close relationship you’re developing with someone other than your spouse, so you don’t tell anyone. You just don’t want to hear their correction. Whatever form this takes, you are listening to your own desires and your new found love interest.

You can stop now. Tell someone about your thoughts and feelings. Get discipline. Get correction. Avoid ruin.

Step Five: Let your spouse go.

Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 

A loving doe, a graceful deer —
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.

An affair takes full force when one diverts emotional and sexual energy away from their spouse and gives it to another. You wanna have lots of great sex? Keep it in your marriage.

This may be a challenge for some. Perhaps the relationship or couple’s sex life isn’t flourishing. It needs work, commitment, and time to become a situation where you are “captivated” by your spouse’s love. Believe that God can re-energize your marriage if you will recommit to it. Drink water from your own cistern.

Step Six: Commit to the affair.

Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?

You’re full in now. You’re captivated by someone other than your spouse. You are embracing the affair partner in a sexual way. You have given your heart, your energy, and your body to another outside your marriage.

Is it too late? The message of the Bible is that it is never too late to do the right thing, to get on the right path, to repent and find forgiveness. If the Rahab can go from being a prostitute to a grandmother in Jesus’ bloodline; if King David can find favor in God’s eyes after adultery and murder; if the Apostle Paul can turn his life around from persecutor to proclaimer of the Gospel; then you can leave this affair, seek God with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:13), and do everything within your power to restore your relationship with Him and your marriage.

Step Seven: Sow what you reap.

For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all his paths. 

The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
the cords of his sin hold him fast. 

He will die for lack of discipline,
led astray by his own great folly.

The world around us is constantly teaching that you can get away with sexual relations outside marriage. Think of all of the books you’ve read or movies you’ve seen that get you rooting for an adulterous relationship. We may even know of someone who left a marriage, married their affair partner, and seems to be doing well.

However, I fully believe Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” And the passage above says that “a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord.” There are consequences to sin. Ask those who have been down this path and suffered the hardship of divorce and separation from their God, their church, the family, and their friends.

An affair leads to the shattering of expectations, promises, and lives. It is not a private choice between two consensual adults. It is sin.

If we can see how this could happen, we might see how to prevent it. Stop the progression at any point before the physical affair begins and damage can be mitigated. If you are on this path and are flirting with danger, stop, flee, heed the warnings. If you have gone too far, go back. You can turn your heart away from the affair partner. You can ask your spouse for forgiveness. You can recommit and do everything in your power to reclaim the love you had lost with your spouse.

There’s a fabulous song in Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie called “Second Chances.” In it are the lyrics:

You can be restored from your darkest circumstances.
Our God is a God of second chances.

Note: For those of you who track my blog, my apologies for missing Monday’s post. An unexpected visit from a friend and a funeral kept me offline. I’ll return with more Q&A on August 27.

The Bible’s Answer to Sexual Temptation

Last week, I got a case of righteous indignation after learning that two couples I know have been impacted by adultery. I suggested that we need to stop talking about building a hedge for our marriage and instead erect a strong wall to keep out Satan’s attacks on our covenant. This week, I want to look at what the Bible says about what someone should do when directly faced with sexual temptation.

You can’t stay behind that wall all the time, of course. While I personally established The Rule that I will not be alone with a man who is neither my husband nor a male relative, that isn’t practical for everyone. I recognize that you may need to be with someone of the opposite sex for work or in other circumstances. You may even find yourself tempted by someone when in a group. You may be contacted on social media by a person from your past that brings up residual feelings. You may receive overt come-ons from someone when you didn’t ask for them. You are human. You were designed by God as a sexual being. You may one day be tempted to engage in flirtation, romance, or physical contact with someone other than your spouse.

So you should know how keep things on the up-and-up, you should have a ready response, you should prepare for battle . . . Nope. That isn’t it. We often think that the way to handle an adulterous opportunity is to talk our way out of it — explain to the presenting party that we love our spouse and we want to remain friends and nothing more, blah, blah, blah.

Hey, we are never instructed in Scripture to do hand-to-hand combat with sexual temptation! Do you know what the biblical teaching for such temptation is? FLEE. That’s right. Create distance between you and the temptation. Go away. Run for your life. Get the heck outta Dodge.

Joseph is the prime example for how to handle sexual temptation. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, he went to work in Egypt at Potiphar’s house. He is described in the Bible as “well-built and handsome.” So yeah, he was the Israelite version of Brad Pitt, Ian Somerhalder, Robert Pattison, or whoever you think makes nice-viewing. In fact, Scripture says that Potiphar’s wife “took notice” of that nice view. And then she made her move. At first, Joseph explains that he will not do that to her, his master, or his God. But that doesn’t do it, of course.

Joseph and Potiphar's wife - illustratoin

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Genesis 39:10-12: “And though [Potiphar’s wife] spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” Do you think Joseph would have stood a chance with Potiphar’s wife if he had kept trying to reason with her? To push his sexual desires aside when a beautiful woman begged him to sleep with her? To stay in close proximity to easy sexuality without lusting? Fleeing was the not simply the best, but the only option.

A few years down the road, the son of an adulterous relationship, Solomon, decides to instruct his son on sexual morality. You might think that his love of his mother Bathsheba and his father King David would sway him toward giving them a pass on their adultery. Things happen, right? King David wasn’t trying to be an adulterer; he just fell in love with Bathsheba one day, and there you go (never mind that he was supposed to be at war with his army).

But Solomon passes along the wisdom he received from God to his own son. Rather than telling him to “look but don’t touch” or “just stop before you doing anything really wrong” or giving him some speech about free milk and cows, Solomon says in Proverbs 5:8: “Keep to a path far from [the adulteress], do not go near the door of her house.” The entire chapter is worth reading, but the lesson Solomon wants his son to receive is that the only way to avoid sinning sexually is to avoid the temptation altogether. Just don’t get near it. If you find yourself on the wrong path, take a detour. Don’t go there.

One other verse from the New Testament puts this concept in as straightforward a manner as possible. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul says: “Flee from sexual immorality.” The Greek word for “flee” here is pheugo, which means “to be saved by flight, to escape safely out of danger.” Sexual temptation is a danger zone. You don’t manage danger, so much as you get away from it. I don’t talk my way out of an oncoming car; I get out of the road!

So if you find yourself tempted (and it is my belief that almost every married individual will at one time or another), FLEE! That means that you cut off opposite-sex friendships that begin to include flirtation or feel too familiar (“do not go near”); you avoid places where you will run into those who may tempt you (“he refused to . . . even be with her”); you deal with come-ons with physical distance (“ran out of the house”); and you know your escape route (“flee from sexual immorality”).

Have you ever been in a tempting situation? Confession time: I have. When my marriage was struggling in prior years, I had a male friend whom I realized I enjoyed seeing a bit too much. Temptation to interact, flirt, or being physically close to someone outside marriage often happens when the marriage itself isn’t meeting your needs for safety and intimacy.

What did I do? I fled. I stopped spending time with this couple (I was never alone with him during this time, since I was following my own rule). Whenever a stray thought about him appeared, I pushed it out and refocused myself on my husband. I confessed my inappropriate thoughts to a close female friend who was clearly on the side of my marriage. I created physical and mental distance. And you know what? A few months later, I had no such feelings for the guy. The feelings untended simply went away.

Boy, am I glad that I didn’t confuse sexual temptation with covenant intimacy. I have a better marriage now than ever. God honored our faithfulness and commitment to one another by giving my husband and me a heart makeover that surpasses anything I had imagined.

Feeling tempted? Flee. That’s the Bible’s answer to sexual temptation.

Forget the Hedge, Erect a Wall

I’ve often heard the admonition to “build a hedge” around your marriage as a protection from temptation. That hedge may consist of setting boundaries for if, when, where, and how you will be with someone of the opposite sex. It can include talking to your spouse about who you’ve spend time with throughout the day and even any struggles with lust you may have experienced.

But I think I’m done with the word “hedge.” In the last month, I have learned of two Christian couples whose marriages have been struck by adultery. I ache for them and what the adulterer’s actions will do to their families. Considering them and what the Bible says about adultery, we need to forget the hedge and build a wall.

Defensive wall

By 猫猫的日记本 via Wikimedia Commons

A hedge intimates that you can see over to the other side — how good it looks over there. You can wave at people or shake hands. Good gracious, I could even kiss someone over a hedge. I can crawl under a hedge, jump a hedge, squeeze through a hedge, etc. No, I want a wall for my marriage — a sturdy, rock-hewn boundary that keeps my marriage safe inside and invaders outside. If some guy wants to hang out with me, he can ring the doorbell and come in through the front door that my husband opens. Then our friendship is all on the up-and-up.

Yes, definitely a wall. Remember Nehemiah in the Bible? God sends him back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city’s wall as the time of Babylonian captivity is ending. Why did the City of David need a wall? Walls were constructed to secure and protect the people within the city limits. Marriages need the same thing: a WALL to secure and protect the relationship that you have committed to and that God will bless.

We need to be marriage Nehemiahs erecting thick walls to provide security for our relationships. We will also likely experience pushback from those who believe that building walls is a foolish task. You may have friends that suggest that if you loved each other, such walls would be unnecessary or proclaim that they can have opposite-sex friendships and wonder why you can’t. Nehemiah faced opposition, anger, and ridicule when he and his fellow Israelites built the wall. But he encouraged the Jews by saying, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14). We are fighting for the same thing when we make the effort to protect our marriages from the temptations and opposition that may come from outside.

Given my premarital history of promiscuity, I have a rule that I do not spend time alone with a male who is not my husband or a relative. I don’t care if you are my co-worker, a family friend, a church elder, or my literary agent, we are not chatting it up over lunch somewhere alone. Does this make logistics difficult at times? Yes. However, it makes my marriage a lot easier. And my marriage takes precedence over inconvenience.

Some married couples assert that they can maintain friendships with opposite sex people because their marriage is strong enough. Perhaps it is…now. But in many situations I’ve seen and heard about, the marriage hits a rocky spot (which happens in just about every marriage) and suddenly an innocuous friendship becomes a temptation because it seems better and easier than the relationship at home with the spouse. If you want to maintain friendships with opposite sex people, include your spouse. Do double dates; invite your hubby to get to know your male best friend from high school or college; host a group event. But be very cautious about having alone time with a man who isn’t your hubby.

If someone of the opposite sex is flirting with you and won’t take no for an answer, get firm. Be frank. Push them back. Get away.

Is that clear enough?

Why am I adamant about this? Because in the worst years of my marriage — when I was about 80% sure we wouldn’t make it — I was ripe for an affair. Had there been another man in my life who was attentive, kind, responsive, attractive, etc., at that moment he would have looked much better than the painful prospect of working on my failing marriage. Thank goodness — no, thank GOD — that I had set up that rule for myself and did not have such a guy on the horizon. Because I was committed to my marriage, and because I didn’t have another option, I stuck it out. My husband and I worked on our relationship, and we are happier now than ever before. I love and adore my husband, and he feels the same for me.

Also, consider the children. When a parent leaves the home to take up with another woman or another man, the child does not see that the marriage wasn’t working, the parent fell in love, sometimes things happen, they will still see their parent, and all of the other rationalizations the adulterer gives. They see that the adulterous parent chose someone else over them. It is not the same as divorcing and then remarrying someone else. Breaking up a marriage over adultery has a more profound effect.

If you are unhappy in your marriage right now, you are even more susceptible. Get help for your relationship! Things can get better. God desires you to have a quality marriage.

If you have already engaged in inappropriate activity, break off contact with the other person. Ask for a transfer to another work department or shift if needed. Build a wall around your marriage and get help. Tell your pastor or a counselor what has happened, and figure out together whether/how to inform your spouse.

Forget the hedge, build a wall. Remember your vows to keep yourself only unto your spouse.

“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.'” Nehemiah 6:9