What does a Christian do when adultery is discovered? We were taught to value the sanctity of marriage. We learned that marriage was for life, and that God can save any marriage. But does that mean we required to smooth it over and "forgive and forget" over and over? Sure, we want to follow Jesus and forgive, but how do you know real repentance from fake repentance? It's a tough decision, so I've asked Sandi Moore, a devout Christian who's walked in your shoes, to discuss why you can love God AND get a divorce, if you choose.
Help! I’m Married to a Cheater. Go or Stay?
A Guest Post by Sandi Moore, CrownedWithJoy.org
You can’t believe what you’ve discovered. Like an unexpected plot twist, you’re stunned. But this isn’t a movie; it’s your life. Shock. Confusion. Despair. This unwelcome triad of betrayal grips you the moment you discover you’re married to a cheater.
You never thought you would be in this position. Adultery happens in other families, and now you are that “other family.” You’ve never believed in divorce, yet you're facing the possibility head-on because you can’t imagine life with someone who would betray your trust in such a devastating way.
First, I’m so sorry. What has happened to you is wrong, and you have done nothing to deserve this awful trauma. If you feel shame from your spouse’s choice to cheat, release it. Nothing about their infidelity is your responsibility. Their self-centered decision says nothing about you, your value, or your identity.
What should you do now? Should you go or stay? You have three options; stay, separate, or divorce. As someone who loves God, your question at the core might be, “Which option will honor God now that I know I’m married to a cheater?”
Let’s take one step at a time.
Is it Really Cheating?
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 New International Version)
So what constitutes cheating? Some people believe infidelity only includes physical intimacy outside marriage, but that isn't true. Jesus tells us cheating is a heart issue, not a physical problem. Adultery in marriage consists of any secretive behavior by your spouse that causes you to feel betrayed. This means viewing pornography, and emotional infidelity is cheating. If your spouse felt the need to hide it, it’s infidelity.
In fact, it's common for betrayed spouses to report the most devastating aspect of discovering their spouse’s cheating is the reality that their spouses repeatedly lied to them to conceal their secret lives.
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 English Standard Version)
Who are the unfaithful spouses? The Scriptures give us insight in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. They lack self-control and love themselves and pleasure above anything else. They are abusive and will heartlessly slander you to maintain their deceptive appearance of godliness.
How can this be? Your partner is charming and likable. You think, “Who is this person I’m married to?” The facade cheaters project is incredibly disorienting for betrayed spouses who wonder if they ever knew their partners at all.
Avoid these people.
The Lord has a similar warning in 1 Corinthians 5:11:
“But now I am writing to you not to mix together with anyone who is being called a brother if he is sexually immoral or greedy or an idolater or a slanderer or a drunkard or a swindler – not even to eat with such a fellow.”
Understand that you’re not alone. According to researchers Joan D. Atwood and Limor Schwartz, approximately 60 percent of married men and 50 percent of married women have cheated on a spouse. The statistics are the same in Christian communities, and this data only accounts for physical infidelity. 31% of couples stay married after infidelity.
Doesn’t God Hate Divorce?
As someone who loves God, you want to honor Him as you decide how to move forward. Some people believe saving the legal marriage is more important than protecting the people in it. They will tell you divorce is always wrong, even in cases of adultery. This belief stems from a misunderstanding of God's Word and missing the heart of a good Father.
This view keeps faithful spouses in bondage by wielding Malachi 2:16 as a weapon to keep spouses entrapped in destructive marriages to unrepentant adulterers. It claims the message of the passage is that God hates divorce.
The central message of Malachi 2:16 is that there are things God hates far more than divorce – including treachery. He specifically hates it more when a husband has so much hate for his wife that he oppresses her and unjustly betrays her by breaking their marriage covenant.
In Malachi 2:16, the Lord is saying because he hates his wife; he should let her go.
If you examine the text’s grammar and pronunciation in Hebrew, the correct rendering of Malachi 2:16 is, “Because he hates, let (her) go,” says the LORD, the God of Israel . . .”
It all makes sense.
I encourage you to take a look at Pastor Sam Powell's post, God Hates Divorce, part 2, where he describes Malachi 2 in detail. It may help bring new understanding to long-held beliefs.
If you decide divorce is best for your situation, your safety is the top priority. Other types of abuse usually accompany cheating. Love Is Respect has advice for a safe exit-plan.
What If My Unfaithful Spouse Appears Repentant?
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2 Corinthians 7:10)
A repentant spouse will experience godly sorrow vs. worldly sorrow. The thing to keep in mind about cheating is that it requires patterns of lying and deception over time. Unfaithful partners can create false realities, and this includes feigning repentance. If an unfaithful partner is demonstrating signs of repentance, the key for you is to observe it over time.
Betrayed spouses almost have a supernaturally accurate “gut” sense, so trust it!
If you are open to reconciliation, many spouses will separate and watch their partners' behavior over time. You aren't observing the fruit of genuine repentance if you can answer "yes" to any of these questions:
- Is your spouse shifting blame to you for their cheating?
- Is your spouse making excuses for their cheating (i.e., their bad childhood, etc.)?
- Is your spouse unwilling to seek outside help and expecting you to simply get over their cheating?
- Does your spouse have a pattern of cheating?
- Is your spouse demanding your forgiveness or anything else from you?
- Is your spouse still deceptive, lying, or trying to cover up behavior?
- Is your spouse frustrated or angry about your pain caused by their cheating behaviors?
- Does your spouse still have any contact with former partners?
- Is your spouse unwilling to take responsibility for their healing/recovery
The decision you are facing feels overwhelming. Take one step at a time, trust your gut, and keep safe people around you.
Everything in your life seems to have changed, but one thing hasn’t changed, the Lord’s steadfast love for you. Whether you go or stay in your marriage, you will remain in your Father’s love, and you are going to be ok.
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Bio: Sandi Moore is a web content writer who advocates for the voiceless and oppressed through her writing. She is passionate about helping Christian women restore their shattered identities and empowering them to flourish after the devastating triad of betrayal trauma, spiritual abuse, and divorce.
Sandi has experienced the pain that accompanies adultery, betrayal, gaslighting, “D-Days,” and high-conflict divorce from the person you counted on to love and protect you. Her compassion flows from her relationship with Christ, professional training, and walking through her own process of restoration.
Sandi loves being a mom to four married adult children and grandma to seven grandchildren. She received her BA in Applied Behavioral Science at the young age of 53. She is also a Certified Life Coach and a trained Domestic Violence Advocate in the church.
Sandi provides resources at www.CrownedWithJoy.org.
Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/crowned.with.joy/
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