The Pain of Infidelity: Do We Treat Cheating too Cavalierly?

by | Jan 18, 2018 | Uncategorized | 85 comments

Infidelity is so normalized that we don't realize the true consequences it can have.
Merchandise is Here!

Infidelity really is playing with fire.

When a spouse betrays you in an affair, the pain is just so real, as we’ve been talking about all week.

I know this is a hard week for many of you to read, but I just want to take a moment today and say this: for those of you who have walked through this, I am so, so sorry. I really can’t imagine anything much worse (and I’ve lost a child). The idea of Keith betraying me is staggering. When Christopher died, it wasn’t my son’s fault. He didn’t reject me. But for Keith to reject me? (and I don’t believe he ever would, by the way). That would be awful.

A woman recently wrote me to say this:

I am so angered over divorce! And I was thinking lately how the church is so consumed with its stance on homosexuals, and politics, and drinking etc… all these issues.. where is the stance on the cheating spouse? It seems that once the cheater has remarried, churches preach forgiveness of past sins and grace for mistakes. We as Christians should extend grace to sinners, but not in a way it can be abused. What if cheating was the biggest taboo in the church? It seems instead to be the pardonable forgivable sin. PS: I was not cheated on, I have a loving faithful husband, but my dad cheated on my mom, and I have numerous friends where this has happened.

I get you. I really do. I think we just don’t give credence to how much affairs just plain HURT.
I remember a news report of a crime that really didn’t surprise me.

A guy was fooling around on his wife with three different women, none of whom knew any of the others, including the wife, existed. The wife finds out and calls the three women to tell them. Instead of confronting the cheat, they decide to get revenge. One lures him to a hotel room where she manages to get him to agree to being tied up. Then the other two enter and do things with him that include crazy glue.

They’re now on trial for assault.

I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be charged with a crime; but at the same time, I don’t think our society gives enough weight to the devastation involved when someone we trust cheats on us sexually. That is a huge betrayal.

Why do we treat infidelity so lightly in our society if we know how painful and destructive it can be? The betrayal of a spouse is so much more than a one-time act. It is a shattering of trust and a lifelong battle to regain it.

Adultery Causes Immense Pain

I remember reading the story twenty years ago of the housewife who was married to an upper class guy. She had dropped her career to care for their four children, and nurture his career, and then he had dumped her for a gorgeous secretary or something like that. To top it all off, he arranged for his wife to get very little money, and humiliated her in the divorce proceedings. One night, she sneaks into his bedroom and shoots both him and his new lover.

I forget what sentence she got, but again, I couldn’t help feeling a little uneasy. Should she be tried? Yes. She broke the law. But so did he, just in a different way. And when you go about cheating on someone, you should realize that you’re putting in place a chain of events in your life that you won’t be able to control. You’re playing with fire.

The Pain of Infidelity Naturally Leads to Other Horrible Things

Our society denigrates the true feelings of betrayal that people have. The idea is that we should all just “act like adults” and “get over it” is predominant in our legal system, and indeed, our culture. In my extended family, for instance, one woman cheated on her husband, who had been a great provider and who was a great dad, and walked out. But she still gets joint custody, she still gets a huge chunk of his money (and any raises he gets in the future), and she gets half of the retirement savings. It’s all part of “no fault divorce”. No one can be blamed, so everything’s divided up equally.

But imagine that. Your husband cheats, and now you have to go get a job, he gets the kids halftime, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The law expects you to grin and bear it, because these things happen.

Maybe they do, but they’re not supposed to. I don’t think that scorned wife would have been charged in that double homicide a hundred and fifty years ago. I think people would have assumed he had it coming. And in the first case, the one with the three women and the crazy glue, I don’t think there would have been charges even 75 years ago. No real harm was done (although I’m sure he lost some skin), and again, he had it coming.

We think that we have progressed because we no longer allow these kinds of “crimes of passion”, but I wonder if in the meantime we have begun to excuse major sexual sin. We don’t realize the true consequences of sexual betrayal. And to say that all parties should move on, and not assign blame, is treating the human condition in a rather naive manner (I’m obviously not condoning crime as a response to an affair, but do we as a society fail to understand how devastating it is by not holding the guilty party to any sort of justice?).

The Only Way to Find Healing from the Pain of Infidelity is in God

When you are betrayed, there is a little part of all of us that flips out. And the only way to avoid the revenge is just to take it to Jesus and ask for His grace. And even then, it’s going to be hard to get over infidelity. At least God acknowledges that this kind of betrayal is very serious, unlike our legal system. Only He can help us forgive and move on (and here are some wonderful books on surviving an affair). I don’t think it’s easy to do this on your own. And that’s why, whenever I hear stories like this in the news, I find myself perhaps a little too sympathetic to the woman with the Crazy glue, or the gun, or the knife. I can only imagine what that must feel like. And I can only pray that God gives them grace–and me grace if I were to need it after something that bad.

I’m not saying our legal system should excuse these crimes; I’m only saying that I’m uncomfortable with how nonchalantly we treat adultery. And I agree with this woman–too often someone will cheat on their spouse, divorce, remarry, and then happily be accepted into a new church (or even a new pastorate).

How do we balance forgiveness with acknowledging the incredible destructiveness and pain of infidelity? What do you think? Let’s talk in the comments!

SDB Coming Soon Desktop

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Is Someone Stepping on Your Air Hose?

So many women--and many men as well--honestly feel like the church is hurting them. I do not believe that it is Jesus that is hurting them, but the things that the church teaches, especially around sex and marriage, do cause harm. Our surveys have shown that...

Can Sex Be Hot and Holy at the Same Time?

Can sex be hot and holy at the same time? One of my big picture passions that I want people to understand is that sex is more than just physical--it's supposed to be deeply intimate too. And maybe to understand that, we need to take a step back to see what God thinks...


We welcome your comments and want this to be a place for healthy discussion. Comments that are rude, profane, or abusive will not be allowed. Comments that are unrelated to the current post may be deleted. Comments above 300 words in length are let through at the moderator’s discretion and may be shortened to the first 300 words or deleted. By commenting you are agreeing to the terms outlined in our comment and privacy policy, which you can read in full here!


  1. Kelly

    Well know my story & how my husband of then 11 yrs cheated on me with his old high school crush. It STILL hurts & it was over 6 years ago now when I discovered their emails. She denied denied denied! Misled her own husband, Who still, I believe to this day, has no idea that his wife cheated on him. They have been married for over 20 years their oldest daughter graduates from Ohio State this year and their youngest is a junior in high school. She came off like an innocent victim while my husband has been shamed amongst his high school classmates over this whole deal because nobody would ever believe that she would cheat on her husband with my husband of all people. LOL some days I’m half tempted to write her husband the letter send it to his work via certified mail and say look this is what happened. We used to hang out with this family quite a bit before I discovered the affair like every weekend pretty much. And then all of a sudden, we never saw each other anymore. I’m sure she told her husband that she didn’t care for my husband’s beer drinking. Using that as an excuse for why we no longer did things together as couples . But I will let sleeping dogs lie. God will deal with her someday and I fully expect her to rot in hell. I know that sounds bad but I am pretty certain that this woman will never repent for her own sins in this matter.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      I’m sorry for your hurt, Kelly. So sorry. And you have really stuck it out and tried to rebuild! I admire that. I’m sorry that this woman has fled from truth, too. If it’s any consolation, she can’t have any real peace.

    • Angie

      Wow Kelly! I feel like we could have almost the same story! After 12 years of marriage my husband cheated on me with a woman who had only been married for 2 years, both my husband and his mistress hid their infidelity from spouses until I found emails and started calmly investigating. I confronted my husband, he denied, denied, denied until I had so much info that he couldn’t deny, I sent the woman a stern yet polite message via private Facebook message and told her to get out of my marriage and fix her own and better yet tell her husband or I could and I asked her to be a real woman and reply and told her to think about her two toddlers….she never replied, she blocked me from sending her messages even though that’s the one and only I ever sent. I know her husband’s name, I know their address, phone #s, etc…but Its been almost 3 years and I have yet to destroy her life like she did to me and I know she hasn’t confessed to him. I go back and forth with it but then I remind myself that for the sins we don’t repent on earth we will pay for in due time. And don’t get me wrong, my husband is just as guilty, however, he has chose to face his sin and live a truthful life. But it’s hard to move on from, I think moreso when it feels like the other person is “getting away with it” If that makes sense.

      • Sheila Gregoire

        I never really thought about that side of it. What do you do if your husband’s lover hasn’t been caught? I don’t know. I really don’t. I think a lot of prayer and counsel! There’s likely not a one-size-fits-all answer, but it must be tough.

        • Angie

          I just keep telling myself that she is the one that has to live with that enormous lie on her shoulders and go to bed with her thoughts and guilt at night not to mention I would assume she watches her back as we live in the same small town 1/4 mile apart and I wouldn’t want to end up face to face with the wife of someone you committed adultery with especially If she couldn’t even respond to the email/message I sent. I hate to sound spiteful but I hope she is miserable with guilt, one of the big reasons I’ve chosen to not tell her husband thus far is I know the pain and my son knows the pain, It’s unbearable and I don’t care if I hurt her but I don’t want to bring that pain on her husband and kids. Plus my marriage is going strong, I don’t want the subject to over-take my life like it did. (Unfortunately though, I was a silent sufferer so it’s made for a longer recovery) I hope this makes sense, I could go on and on about that time in my life up until now and how there’s been so many peaks and valleys of emotion. Ugh!😧

          • Sheila Gregoire

            I’m sorry, Angie. Just don’t let the anger eat you alive. That won’t help you, either. It’s understandable, but I hope that you can move forward, too. She’ll have the internal consequences regardless, and you eating yourself up won’t make those worse for her. Again, I’m so sorry.

          • Mere

            I feel your pain. In anger, do not sin- what held me back from doing what the other woman loves, and that is to create drama and not deal with her own psyche. I am seeing a therapist who is so helpful. Hopefully you and your husband got help and are healthy. All you can do is pray and your best, have patience. Don’t let her take up much room in your mind or leave anger within your soul — she took enough. I need to act what I preach as well, here for you!!

        • Lisa

          Her husband needs to confess to the husband of his affair partner. He stole from him. He took something that did not belong to him. He can never make amends for it but he needs to apologize.

          The only exception is if there is a legitimate fear of violent retalliation.

        • Ann

          My husband of 42 years became involved with a married woman from our church. Same scenario, denial until I nailed him with conclusive evidence. ( He was remorseful and repentant, and we are working on our relationship) The affair ended 1 1/2 years ago, her husband is still unaware. I am waiting for a legal issue to run its course. At the end of that time (2 years total) I am prayerfully contemplating telling her husband. As the betrayed spouse, if someone else knew what was going on, I would have wanted them to come and tell me the truth. How can she and her husband build their marriage with a false or cracked foundation?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, Ann, that’s a tough one. I’m honestly not sure. I think maybe asking a counselor who knows all of you? Or having a meeting with the wife and saying that you’re very uncomfortable with her husband not knowing, and you think that she should tell him? I’m really not sure. I don’t know that there is an absolute answer for that one. Pray really hard, and talk to someone who is good at working through things like this!

          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            First off, Ann, I just want to say how sorry I am you’re having to deal with all of this. And I think your concern for this woman’s husband is really admirable, too.

            I have a slightly different opinion here than my mom (Sheila), actually. I personally see this as a matter of safety. If you know someone has had sex outside of a marriage, you need to make sure everyone gets tested for STDs. It may very well be that it was only one partner, but if you know that this wife has slept with one person you can’t be 100% sure there have been other affairs in the year and a half since her affair with your husband ended.

            The reason you can have unprotected sex in marriage is that you know 100% the other person does not have any sexual partners other than you. As soon as you know that is not the case, the wronged party needs to be warned immediately in order to protect their health. Otherwise you’re putting the innocent party’s health and wellbeing in the hands of someone who has already broken trust once before. If they were to contract a serious illness as a result, but could have been warned months before, that would be horrible.

      • sheep

        Angie, I totally understand where you are at. It has been one year since I discovered my wife’s affair. I didn’t tell his wife. I don’t know her, but I do know who she is. I feel really guilty about not telling her. I know that if the situation where reversed, I would want her to tell me. But I also know that there are some people that would rather live in ignorance. I also have an extra “problem” I also feel guilty for not telling his work. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but they were carrying on their affair for a year and they would get together once or twice a week for several hours. This all happened while he was supposed to be working. He cheated his employer out of many hours of work.

        Now it has been a year since I caught her, and I am on the verge of filing for divorce. It has been my desire to reconcile, but she won’t, she just wants to pretend nothing is wrong.

        I don’t know how to decide what to do on this. I’m not a vindictive person, and in may ways I mostly blame my wife for the affair. And in todays society you don’t know what anyone is capable of, so in many ways I just want to let it go. But on the other hand I feel guilty for not telling them.

        I do know this, you telling him or me telling her, is not us ruining their lives. They have ruined their own lives. They made that choice when they decided to hop into bed with someone other than their spouse.

        • Angie

          You are so correct, they definitely chose the decision they did and they will and or have to live with those decisions daily. Personally I still don’t understand the “why”, “how”….it seriously disgusts me to think about being in a place of treating someone that I vowed my life to so horribly.

          I wish I had all the answers for you, myself and everyone who’s been betrayed like this because dang it’s a feeling that I wish upon nobody. It was by far the worst thing that I have experienced and it still affects me 3 years later. I hope that I can regain the trust again.

          • sheep

            I understand what you mean about not getting the “why and how” I am in that place as well. She has refused to talk about either affair. She will not answer any question from me about the affairs. In talking to our counsellor (by myself, she quit going) I told her that I am realizing that I will never have an answer to any of my many questions. I will never find out why, how, when, where, what. I will never know any more than what I was forced to discover on my own so that I could confront her with irrefutable evidence so that she couldn’t deny it. (trust me, that leaves some awful images in my head.) Now, most likely looking at divorce, I have to learn to accept that I will never know the answers to any of my questions.

        • Sheila Gregoire

          Hi sheep,

          Your last paragraph is so true. It is on them!

          As for whether or not to tell–I really don’t know. I think you need to pray about, make sure that your motives are in line with God’s, and then just listen. But I am sorry.

  2. Phil

    Good Morning Sheila. This one hits home for me a bit. – I was the person with infidelity issues. By the grace of God it was not direct with another person. Porn and other methods that need not be gotten into here were my methods. It really doesn’t matter because it was still infidelity. However, I do believe my marriage was saved in part by that factor. There was no “relationship” with another person. That is the part that takes the sting to a bite I imagine. I guess the point I wanted to make today is this: People who are adulterous do get punished. Everyone of them. Sometimes it is by the law. Other times they end up with a sexual disease. Other times their thinking is so screwed up they hurt themselves. For me it was bad business decisions that lead to bankruptcy. So not only was I adulterous but I caused more pain for me, my wife and my family. It is a downward spiral. There is ALWAYS repercussions. Everyone of the men I work with in sex addiction recovery has a price they have paid for their behaviors. It ranges from jail to lost jobs to sexual diseases, financial disarray..crimes against them as you mentioned or crimes they committed to get out of it…just name it…there are consequences. My close family friend who acted as a father figure to me cheated on his wife 5 times. This last time he finally left with a woman that everyone knew well, even his adult daughters. He has paid a price. Estranged relationships including..I have just lost touch with him…the relationship he left for is over and he lives alone with very little friends to speak of. I get your article Shiela. We watched my friend sing in the choir while he was dating another woman from the choir and he was not divorced yet while his daughter was the Youth Pastor at the church. Our Pastor suggested ALL parties leave at one point or another. Everyone just walked around not knowing what to do or what to say. I knew what to say….but I didn’t either. I don’t support his choices but was I going to estrange this important relationship? Turns out why not? I don’t talk to him now anyway….what would I have lost if I called him out on it? What would Jesus have done? Amen he would have called him out. Not sure I have an answer for you Sheila. I think maybe your just right. We treat it too Caviler. People just don’t know what to do..not only the victim but others around them. I did want to just repeat my message here. We have consequences for our actions. I pray this morning for all who have been the victim of adulterous people. It causes such wreckage and havoc. I bet the pain is worse for the victim than what we cause for ourselves. I am humbled today.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      I think you’re right. We’re really, really bad at confronting sin when we see it. It seems rude, in a way, and we don’t like to get in other people’s business. But maybe if we did just a little bit more, and made people face up to their own shame, maybe there’d be more of a price for doing this.

      It makes me so mad to see a guy who cheated on his wife, married his lover, and then just moves to a new church in town and everybody loves them, while the abandoned wife struggles to make ends meet. It’s not right.

      (and in two cases I know in my town it’s reversed; she cheated on him. So it’s not always the guy who’s at fault, obviously).

      We need to bring back public shame, I think. Or at least churches need to talk to each other, and not just embrace every new body that comes through the door. I’m not sure what that would look like, and I know churches who ostracize some people when they shouldn’t, but we also shouldn’t treat cheating like it doesn’t matter and if you’ve asked forgiveness everything is all hunky dory now.

      • Phil

        Grace told me recently there were so many times where she wanted to stand up and scream and tell everyone who I was and what I did. “Cuz everyone loves Phil”. When she told me, I realized that this is her method of healing. However, when you write bring back public shaming that scares me. I am not sure how much that would change people though. I will add that some public shamaing has been happening in the media with the big stuff so maybe we are on the right track? Maybe a few would change and maybe quite a few after they got caught. Maybe someone needs to start a movement. I am just glad I am not in that place anymore. Whew.

        • Sheila Gregoire

          Yes! I can imagine that is a relief. I don’t even know what I mean by public shaming, but it seems like often the wrong ones are shamed. Abuse victims are shamed for leaving abusers and “breaking up the family”. Victims of infidelity are shamed when they divorce. We need to put the shame back where it belongs. I just don’t know how to do that.

          (And I also don’t mean to say that there isn’t forgiveness in Christ. But we do reap what we sow; and in that reaping, we often learn how much we need God. When the church allows people to NOT reap what they sow, I’m not sure we do anyone a favour.)

          • sheep

            I so agree with you, that the victims of infidelity are shamed when they divorce. I am almost to the point of divorce now, I have worked over a year to reconcile, but she won’t. I showed her unconditional love, expecting nothing in return. She hasn’t done anything to be accountable, She won’t even say that she won’t do it again. With all of this and much more, I still make myself feel guilty and ashamed that I most likely will divorce her.

            What price has she paid? Nothing, past having a few people know what she has done and who tell her that she is wrong in that as well as her actions since. She is able to ignore this and just pretends like everything is fine.

            I am thankful that I have a good support system and I know they pray for me continually. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t know how I would have made it this far.

          • Sheila Gregoire

            Sheep, you know, I think it’s okay for this to be widely known in your circle of friends/family. I think that’s important. If you do decide to divorce, you can let that be known as the reason. It’s important if you have kids for them to know the truth, too, when they are old enough to handle it. I think keeping it hidden doesn’t help very many people.

          • Lisa Manske

            I do not believe in public shaming. At all.

            However, victims are FREE to tell their stories. There is absolutely no reason that the victim of infidelity needs to be silent. Including infidelity from pornography and emotional affairs. Phil, your wife should have felt free to tell people what was being done to her. She should not have had to carry around that burden in addition to the burden of your betrayal.

            And, if the adulterous spouse is truly repentant, that will include telling family and friends about what they did. My friend’s husband did this. He told EVERYONE about what he had done (not specific details) and completely accepted it if people who wanted nothing more to do with him. He volunteered to his wife, “I’ll put it on a billboard if you want me to.” He accepted FULL responsibility for what he did. I am sure it was hard and humbling and scary but he was determined that she was going to get the support and compassion she needed. And he refused to hide behind his “nice guy” reputation. He knew he needed to start over and earn trust. He knew he had no right to continue in the life and relationships he had that were based on lies.

          • Sheila Gregoire

            Lisa, that’s a GREAT story. I think that’s what real repentance would look like. If someone is truly repentant, then they should let others know and have to earn trust!

      • Jen

        While I agree with the sentiment of churches talking to each other, I see two problems. First, you may end up with the reverse case, as Natalie from faces. She is the innocent party and her former church that she left (and they after the fact decided to ex-communicate her from) is now trying to get her current church to do the same. Second, because I have to believe that Jesus can change some of these people (or what is the point of faith) what happens then when they actually are radically changed? Yes, there needs to be some form of accountability. Perhaps the person willingly going to a church from the getgo and sharing their testimony and asking for an accountability partner upon deciding to become a regular attender of a church is a sign that the change is truly from Jesus and legit. Of course, that has to be taught from the pulpit, ingrained through study of the Word, and upheld by churches across the board in order to actually work. That’s the challenge. Great discussion!

        • Sheila Gregoire

          Yes, I was actually thinking of Natalie when I wrote that, too. We often shame the wrong person! And churches are notorious for this.

          But I think if you checked in on the story and did your due diligence, you’d see the truth in the matter (at least I would hope we would). Yes, some churches are crazy, but not all are.

          I think the issue with restoring those who have married their lovers to fellowship is that it isn’t enough to just repent. They must also make restitution or amends to their children and their former spouses. And if that has not been done–if they aren’t supporting their families well monetarily, and if they haven’t properly apologized and owned up, and if they are still fighting for custody–then they shouldn’t just be restored, I don’t think, because they haven’t demonstrated real repentance. If they were the one to break up the family, then I think they must be the one to support their former spouses as much as possible.

          (I know one different case, where the wife had an affair and left with the kids, but the husband was the one with quite a bit of money. He had to pay her a large amount of alimony and fix up her house and even buy her a new one, even though she had been the one to cheat. And then he had to go from having the kids full time to half time, even though he was a great parent. Somehow that didn’t seem just to me.)

  3. Craig

    Very thoughtful Sheila. Malachi 2:16 should not be taken lightly.

  4. Ashley

    Another thing you didn’t mention, but I know you agree with, is that cheating is cheating, no matter what form the cheating takes! My husband didn’t ever physically get into bed with another woman, but he’s still a cheater, and he still destroyed our marriage.

    And I have experienced people (in church leadership, which adds a whole other level of ARG) acting like it’s not that big of a deal, and it’s probably my fault, anyway. (As in, I probably wasn’t sexually available, which is hogwash.)

    Yep, I would say you hit the nail on the head today.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Thanks, Ashley. I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I hope the transition process is at least giving you some hope!

      • Ashley

        Yes it is. I no longer feel as if I’m in a huge battle every day, if that makes sense.

  5. Pam

    My ex husband had affairs with at least 2 different women that I know about. These weren’t only sex either. The devastation I felt when I found out was awful…especially since my ex denied it until I found pictures (that he had taken) proving the affairs and pretty much shoved those in his face.

    We went to counseling, but come to find out he was continuing to see at least one of the other women. This led to me filing for divorce, because I wasn’t goin g to put up with the behavior. I prayerfully considered this before filing. However, most people in the church see it as “giving up” on the marriage because I couldn’t forgive him and move forward, despite the behavior continuing. It’s almost as though blogs and churches make people feel inferior when they get a divorce due to infidelity…like the wronged spouse didn’t try hard enough.

    In truth, infidelity in marriage causes so much pain and doubt in the wronged spouse, and that lasts even after the divorce is finalized. It has taken a long time to heal from that pain and betrayal and it changed my life forever. The church and society really needs to realize that this pain is deep, and perhaps show more grace and compassion to the wronged spouse.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Totally agree, Pam! And I just want to point out that YOU did not divorce your husband. YOUR HUSBAND divorced you. He was the one who broke the covenant; you simply put that reality down on paper. But he was the one who did it. Filing for divorce is simply stating truth, no ending the covenant. I’m sorry that people didn’t support you in that.

      (PS: None of that is to say that you MUST divorce in the case of infidelity. I do believe that many marriages can be rebuilt. But they cannot be rebuilt unless both parties are committed to the process, and when one is still seeing the other woman? Well….)

    • Amy

      I could have written this exact response, Pam. I grieve daily the life I had dreamed of as I struggle, along with my kids, to live this life turned upside down. That my ex only visits for an hour or 2 at his convenience every week or so, complains about his $300 child support (total for 3 kids!), then talks about the vacations he’s going on with his new live in is pure salt in the wound.
      The unfairness is overwhelming and I cling to God, begging him to step in as my husband/provider and my kids father. And begging for godly mentors.
      But, I will say, I’ve gone back to school, gotten a nursing degree, and am employed, able to support us, in spite of what’s happened. But our life is very difficult and different than I ever wanted.
      All because of my husbands choices. I really tried all I could do to “save our marriage”, but he kept up cheating with others. The unfairness and pain is extreme, and the loneliness is overwhelming because others don’t understand.

      • Sheila Gregoire

        Oh, Amy, I’m so sorry. Way to go to rebuild yourself and rebuild your life, but it is unfair. You’re right. Sometimes the only hope we have is in God–that knowledge that there is ultimate justice one day, even if we don’t see it now. And Jesus sees how hard you’re working right now. He sees your sacrifices for your kids. He does.

        And if it’s any consolation, my mom was so worried after my dad cheated and left about the effects on me. But God had me the whole time, and I grew up to cling to God like crazy. God took care of me, even when I didn’t have a dad that cared.

    • Becky

      That’s so true about the pain and doubt continuing. My husband was cheated on in his first marriage, and it still brings up insecurity several years into our marriage. When we do fight, I still have to reassure him that I’m not going to leave him, and he still refuses to talk about her.

  6. Denise

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. My husband also walked out – 3 months after our 20th anniversary. He rarely pays the minimal child support. He told me he was too broke to pay it and took two months “off” when our daughter was graduating and I was trying to give her an open house, etc. But then he found money to go to Mexico for 2 weeks w his lover. Of course, like most, I could tell you story after story like that; meanwhile, I work a full-time job, a part-time job, have cleaning jobs on the weekend and donate plasma to provide for our children.

    The part that infuriates me is that they just go to another church, are welcomed fully and everyone seems to admire what a great Christian man he is.

    The church needs to stand up. Repentance isn’t just saying “whoops, sorry, let’s move on. We made it legal w the state so it’s all water under the bridge now”. The thing is, I don’t buy the lies. You know a true Christian by their fruit so….I recognize it as spiritual warfare. I pray everyday and fast for my husband because he is lost and I want him to be saved. His life is slowly falling apart but you know what they say, sometimes rock bottom is where we find Jesus. There is hope for him.

    But I am SO on board w the church stepping up to stop allowing unrepentant sin be part of the fellowship. That is not what making disciples is about. There are actual scriptures, (in the NT!) that tell how to handle these issues. 😉

    Thanks for saying some brave words. God bless.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Thank you, Denise! And I’m so sorry about your husband. That is terrible. (Mexico?!? Really? When the child support isn’t paid?)

      It truly is wonderful to see how God is working in your heart and leading you to pray for him and have compassion for him, despite what he’s done. I know that God sees that.

      And God sees your sacrifices, too. I’m sorry the Christians around you do not, but God does.

  7. Eliza

    There is nothing in my life that has ever been more painful than my husband having an affair. Not childbirth and the subsequent hemorrhaging. Not broken bones. Not my father’s abandonment and rejection. Not growing up in extreme poverty. Nothing. And while we have been able to stay together and work things out (with Christian counseling and a lot of support from a couple of wonderful Christian mentors and friends), sometimes certain events, dates, songs, and even tv shows trigger that feeling of pure and utter despair. It took months and months to stop feeling like I was drowning, and I still think about it every day (although it no longer totally consumes my thoughts).

    If it has never happened to you, you have absolutely no idea what it feels like. Before the day that I found out what had happened, there were some things that were givens- the sun would always rise in the east, no matter how cold the winter was spring was coming in March, and my husband would never cheat on me. But on February 3 of last year, the sun fell out of the sky and the earth stopped its rotation. And while God has been so faithful, it is something that has changed me as a person and is something you never truly “get over”. Yes, I have forgiven my husband. But that doesn’t mean I have to pretend like it never happened. Forgiveness and trust are two very different things. For couples trying to make their marriages work and especially for men seeking forgiveness and reconciliation with their wives, I recommend a book called Worthy of Her Trust. It is so good and so helpful, and honestly very validating for the betrayed spouse.

    Adultery is such a destructive sin and the effects are so wide-spread. The church needs to do more to acknowledge the pain and devastation it causes. They also need to stop with the harmful notion that it is in any way the victim’s fault. “If the wife would have paid him more attention instead of always worrying about the kids, this wouldn’t have happened.” “Well, if she would have put out more…” “He was always working and never at home, she was lonely.” Really?! We don’t ever allow sinners to blame others for their sin, except in the case of adultry. Why is that?

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Eliza, I’m so sorry. I really am. Thank you for your comment; I think it really matters.

      I have a theory about your last paragraph: ““If the wife would have paid him more attention instead of always worrying about the kids, this wouldn’t have happened.” “Well, if she would have put out more…” “He was always working and never at home, she was lonely.” ”

      The church’s focus too often when it comes to marriage is not to glorify God; it’s to save the marriage at all costs. (I’ve written about why that’s a bad aim here). Because the aim is to save the marriage, then they’ll look for whoever is the most likely to hold the marriage together. And in an adultery situation, it’s often the wronged party. The adulterer is often in love with the other person, or has one foot out the door. So the only way to get the person to stay is to lay the blame at the other person’s feet.

      That’s my theory, anyway. What do others think?

      • sheep

        I totally agree. But I would add that even if the church/family puts pressure on the adulterer, they…

        1. End up being too “nice” to avoid offending or driving away the adulterer.

        2. Buy into the incorrect but prevalent notion that both parties share the blame.

        3. Don’t take into account that the adulterer is already living in sin and doesn’t really care what the church says.

        It is just so much easier to tell yourself that divorce is the worst possible sin or outcome. (even if it is biblically justified) Thereby putting unbelievable pressure on the victim to “make it work” The victim is already so emotionally/physically devastated that we reach out for any advice that we think will heal our broken marriage, even if it goes against all evidence that shows that it can’t or shouldn’t be healed.

      • Ann

        In reference to blaming the betrayed spouse- only the betrayer took action to betray. No one but that person made the decision to compromise their own integrity and break their marriage vows. Certainly there are problems in any marriage, but no one and nothing is a cause for someone to “act”. So to excuse the sin as being caused by another person is blindness. Do you excuse a child molester for acting out his problems on an innocent? In no way. The same holds true here. The root of the betrayer’s problem is within the betrayer. Once that is uncovered, then the betrayer can begin to work on himself/herself, and then learn how to deal with problems in their marital relationship.

    • Amanda

      I completely understand every word you typed. My husband had an affair almost 2 years ago our marriage was restored I finally trusted him again. He began some of the same patterns that he had shown before the last time he had an affair. I tried to investigate and talk with him about it he of course denied everything. The truth always comes out. God has already put it in my heart the truth of what was going on. When someone lies they can only keep up with it so long. Finally the truth was revealed another work affair with a married woman. I felt sick and ashamed I was made a fool of again at his work place. She quit the next day. He’s come home and wants to make things work we have started counseling again. I know I can forgive but I don’t know if I will ever be able to trust again. I’m so disappointed and I’m disgusted with affairs. I too feel as I have PTSD when a song comes on or I drive by a place that reminds me the affairs the pain is comes in waves. God is working on me. It’s a pain I wouldn’t wish on my enemies because it’s a such an excruciating pain. Eliza you are in my prayers. I’m sorry you were hurt and still hurting I understand your pain.

  8. sheep

    Sheila, I must say that adultery is taken far to lightly in our society. Modern music glorifies it. TV and movies either make a joke out of it, or they portray it as so much more sexy and satisfying than married sex. But in some ways, we all contribute to making it less serious than it actually is. Almost all of us have bought into the terminology that somehow makes the horror of adultery more palatable.

    We all call it “having an affair” Really? does the word affair reflect how awful adultery is? Look it up, “affair” is short for “love affair”. Affairs have NOTHING to do with love! “Affair” the word just makes it sound like something you do on the weekend to entertain yourself.

    So, what other words do we use? Cheating, fling, romance, dalliance, unfaithful. It seems to me that the very language we use makes adultery a little more palatable, if not actually desirable. None of these words have the same feel as Adultery, Adulterer, or Adulterous. I’m not really sure of other words that have that impact. There is a difference between saying “I had an affair” and “I committed adultery” God certainly doesn’t make light of it. Remember the old testament gave adultery the death penalty. Now, we entertain ourselves with sitcoms and movies about it.

    It has been one year since I discovered my wife’s long term adulterous affair. She has done nothing to try to heal our marriage even though I have continually tried to reconcile with her, showing her forgiveness and love even though she has asked for neither. Now I am almost at the end. It has been a year, but the pain is deeper and more acute today than it was a year ago.

    Just this week I was thinking about the word “cheating” and what the real implications of it are. It isn’t simply cheating on me by giving herself to another man. I realize that my kids and I have been cheated out of the life we should be living. We have been cheated out of a future we will never have. Now I am realizing that I have been cheated out of a past that I thought I had, but really never did.

    These words just don’t convey the pain of the memories, the anguish of the rejection, or the horror of the flashbacks. The don’t represent all the tears that have been shed, the multitude of broken homes, or the ruined lives.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      You’re so right. Words do matter. “I committed adultery” is way worse than “I cheated” or “I had an affair.” We should push to use the right words!

  9. Michael Edwards

    Sorry, but this article grossly misses a major point, and I am pretty surprised by it.
    “Your husband cheats, and now you have to go get a job, he gets the kids halftime, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
    You completely miss the point of having your children after divorce. It really is not about you: it is about your children. They have already had major trauma in the family disruption. Not allowing them time with both parents furthers the injury, and extends it. Children are not pawns in a break-up and they are not rewards or “winnings” in the divorce. Kids are lives for which parents are responsible, and the dialogue here suggests that in some way the other parent does not deserve to have their child. Nothing could be further from the truth. Kids need to feel the love of both parents and need to be raised by both. All guilt and fault put aside, the children should not suffer the relational loss, and it is for that reason both parents are given custody today, when this is appropriate. To imply that the spouse “done wrong” should feel that the other shoukd not get their kids totally misses the real reason such arrangements are made; the children’s needs matter.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Hi Michael,

      I guess I don’t agree with you. I know that’s what the law says, but I’ll tell you–one of the things I am ever so grateful for in my childhood is that, after my dad’s affair, he wasn’t a big part of my life. He was not a good influence, and my mother was wonderful. And the reason he wasn’t a good influence was because of the affair.

      I don’t think that we can automatically say that joint custody is a good thing. I’ve seen so many instances where it’s just not, and the kids would have been better off with primary custody with one parent and simple visitation with the other. Sure, in some cases, even with an affair, joint is likely better. But not all.

      Like I said, I turned out the way I did largely because, in God’s grace, only my mom raised me. And I will always be grateful for that.

      I think the character that makes one cheat often makes one an unfit parent, too. Not in all cases, but in many. And being shuffled around does a tremendous amount of damage. Kids having stability, I think, can be much better.

      • Michael Edwards

        Everyone is different, but regardless of the cause of divorce, I don’t believe you’ll find many counselors who would find your experience normative, Shelia. There are too many kids in my own life, inclding my step-son, who just would never tolerated, emotionally or otherwise, s lack of contact with their biological parent. There are some parents who aren’t “healthy” enough to have time with their kids; I would recommend the blog “A Father’s Walk” for a sensitive look at the side with which you don’t agree. I am very sure Ron Deal would agree as well. “The Smart Step-Family” and related books would confirm this for you…

        • Sheila Gregoire

          Oh, I’m not saying they can’t have contact. Just that joint custody, while it is always sold as the “best” thing for kids, isn’t necessarily the best thing.

          I’m not even saying it’s not the best thing in MOST divorces. I just think the assumption that kids are automatically better off with both parents is wrong. Each situation is unique. And in many cases of adultery, when the parent commits adultery, they are becoming very self-absorbed, and their personality actually changes. In pretty much all of the divorces that I have seen in my small town where joint custody has started out that way, it eventually morphed into mostly one-sided custody, with the parent who didn’t have the affair having the kids most of the time, because the other parent had totally changed and really wasn’t interested in the kids anymore. And that period, when the kids still had to live with that parent, was very difficult.

          I agree that we should still try to make it work, because courts are going to give joint custody regardless, and we must do our best. I’m just saying that assuming that joint is best for everyone automatically is silly. Yes, kids may need contact (though I would still argue that I would have been better off with even less contact; I can think of several others of my friends in my generation who would have said the same). But that doesn’t mean they need equal contact. I don’t think adults understand how truly difficult it is to always be going from house to house; to never have a room that is truly yours. To always be on the go. We, as adults, would never put up with that, but we ask kids to. What if you’re spending the week at your mom’s, and your friends decide to go skating, but your skates are at your dad’s house? What if you, like my daughter did, have a big hobby of making jewelry, but you can’t transport it back and forth all the time? What if you want to start going to youth group on Wednesday nights, but Dad has you every Wednesday, and he doesn’t want you going, so you miss out on your friends?

          Having to go back and forth is terrible. It just is. And what it results in is much weaker relationships with both parents, while kids tend to emotionally rely on siblings instead. No one person knows their whole life anymore, so they basically walk through life alone. Mom knows 1/2; Dad knows 1/2, but no one knows the whole thing.

          That’s an incredible strain on a child. You feel as if you’re the one in charge of your life, when it never should have been that way. Read the book Between Two Worlds to see what it’s like from a kid’s point of view.

          Anyway, like I said, the joint custody arrangements I have seen in extended family and friends have all morphed over the years into mostly one-sided custody, because the parent who had the affair just wasn’t interested in being a full-time parent (even if they pushed for it at the time). And it really hurt the kids in the process. So I just don’t think we should always assume that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to custody. There isn’t.

          And when a parent has a character defect, that’s going to be super hard on the kid. When a parent has a character defect, and you’re living together and parenting, one parent can compensate for the other. But once you’re divorced and there’s joint custody, that child is no longer protected. I’m not talking about abuse, I just mean general selfishness, irresponsibility, over-sharing or being overly emotional, exposing the kid to way too much too fast, etc. When the responsible parent doesn’t have custody for 50% of the time, that hurts the child. It just does.

          If both parents are responsible, and both are good, that’s great. But if they’re both so good, then why was the divorce necessary? In most divorces I see, one parent definitely is NOT good. I used to believe it was 50/50, and it takes two to wreck a marriage. I don’t think that anymore. And that’s why I don’t think that joint custody is automatically best.

          • Sheila Gregoire

            I also do think there’s a justice issue here. If one spouse has dedicated themselves unselfishly to the family, and truly loves his or her kids, and is truly committed to being the best parent they can be, and then the other has an affair–why should the one who didn’t choose to break vows lose those kids for half of his or her life? Being with your kids only 50% of the time radically changes your relationship with those kids. Why should a spouse who had an affair get to do that to you?

            If it were honestly in the best interests of the kids, I’d see it differently. I’m just not sure it is.

            It’s like the book Anna Karenina. She agonized over whether to have the affair, but in the end she chose her lover instead and forsook her son. When someone has an affair, even today, that’s what they’re doing. They’re putting their own wants and desires ahead of their kids and their family. Why should they then get joint custody? They’ve demonstrated they don’t have the moral fortitude for it.

            And my heart just breaks for the spurned spouse, who is already heartbroken, now having to see his or her kids going to the ex-spouse half the time, especially when, quite frequently, those kids don’t even want to go.

          • Michael Edwards

            Sorry, put this in the wrong place…
            Regarding “social justice,” while agreeing with much of what you said, most counselors I am familiar with would tell you that we must consider the child. The adulterous spouse did not commit adultery against the child, of course, and does not give up their parenthood rights in that case. I believe, especially as Christians, that we must remember that grace has power that we cannot imagine in the lives of others. Children simply should not be the victims. I have seen the difficulty of split time on a young child, and understand the points made in “Between Two Worlds,” which I also recommend. Often, the 50-50 thing is not even sensical, but there just has to be a better time solution . Children shouldn’t be the victims of adults’ inability to live together and honor their vows; alas, they frequently are. But I would challenge you to find a child who really does not want time with the other parent. I learned to tell, in our family, when there were problems on the other side by how my own step-relationship was going. I can confirm that step-parenthood is one of the single, most difficult and frustrating places to be in life, but one which truly teaches grace and forgiveness like few others as well.

          • Sheila Gregoire

            Hi Michael,

            I think we’re likely taking about apples and oranges here. I really wasn’t meaning to say that kids can’t have meaningful contact with a parent. What I was saying is that primary custody to one parent is often far healthier than a 50/50 split. Maybe it’s different in the jurisdiction where you are vs. where I am, but the 50/50 split is normal here, and it is so disruptive for the kids. I just don’t think that’s right or fair in most cases. And I also don’t think better communication can help. In my daughter’s case, her best friend was a 50/50 split, and she and her best friend had a business together making jewelry when they were teens. But how does the friend do that if she only has access to materials half the time? It’s really denying her the ability to do what she wants to do. And it isn’t feasible to move all a kids’ stuff every time they go to the other parent.

            Even having primary custody but temporary visits can be difficult. My girls had other friends when they were teens who saw their dad every other weekend. That meant the girls’ friends couldn’t get part time jobs they wanted (since they were often on the weekend) and couldn’t go to youth group, or even youth retreats. It really is a big mess. And when that parent is the one who broke up the family in the first place–it’s not in anyone’s best interests, I don’t think.

            As for kids who don’t want contact, I do know some. I would have put myself in that category at times. Those teen friends of my girls would have preferred to have been able to set the schedule themselves, but their dad wouldn’t let them, and to force it would have made Dad angry. So instead they lost out. All because Dad had decided to have an affair and run off with his lover. It really was an unfortunate situation for them.

          • Sheila Gregoire

            Or, to put it another way, in cases of divorce, more often that not one parent is simply a bad parent. That’s quite normal, since there had to be a cause for divorce in the first place. Two emotionally healthy, mature people who parent well do not tend to divorce. So this is going to be a mess, in most cases. And I think our culture saying, “Divorce can work because the parents can just all get along!” ignores some basic things about human nature and the causes of divorce in the first place.

            Again, I hope that parents DO get along, and that they do make the effort. But in most cases I’ve seen, there is still a primary parent (in terms of who loves the most, does the most, and is most involved), even when there is joint custody. And 90% of the time, that primary parent is NOT the one who had the affair.

          • Michael Edwards

            Your questions here about going back and forth are real, and true, but they imply total lack of communication and decision-making on the part of both parents and failure on both parents’ parts. But, make no mistake, in the eyes of God, “none is righteous….” and we must focus on working together for the sake of the kids. Regarding, “moral fortitude,” I really do not believe that was the focus of Christ as recounted in John 4.

          • Michael Edwards

            To some degree apples and oranges. But the error is to fix it at 50-50. Meaningful contact is more than a day every two weeks. Here, there is some leeway, and adults must be able to work together for the best of the child. But once kids hit their teens, here at least, most of the time they seek to change that schedule. I think that may largely be on the basis of their own lives, but if the other parent is not allowed sufficient time to continue to build relationship, speak into their child’s life, do things which are meaningful, then their decisions are a foregone conclusion. If made for right reasons, fine. If made on basis of bitterness harbored by either spouse, then it is the child who loses, either in the short-term, or into adulthood. Parents need to work together to prevent that. Making everything about the child is the best way.

          • Nathan

            Agree with you Sheila. Michael, if you’ve been the one who’s been unfaithful, please be up front. If you point to unknown Grace, or Grace that ‘cannot be imagined’, then I’m wary. Adultery IS against children, as the shittest modelling of how to be a parent and spouse, so owning up that this was crap is actually how to know Grace, through humbling yourself. Even David’s family was wrecked! The guy who had the “sure covenant”, and who’s heart was after God, was guilty of crap parenting and his family, esp. his children, paid a severe price for his folly. Yes there’s Grace, but own it through humility.

          • Rachel

            So I’m not sure if you recommended it, but the book (can’t remember name now) but it was written based off a study done over the course of 30 years, the most comprehensive study done on divorce. It followed tons of kids and families (those who ended up divorcing and not) and the findings were very conclusive.

            There was only ONE situation in which children of divorce ended up better than before.

            When there was an abusive spouse and the victim left with the kids and cut off contact with the abuser.

            In every other situation?

            It was worse for the kids. The point of the book was not to shame, but to say that the lie that “kids are better off if parents are happy” is crap and that actually kids want to feel secure and safe and when one parent (or both) is unfaithful they lose that. They lose stability, safety, and the sense that everything is going to be okay.

            Wives whose husbands have cheated (or vice versa) and then justify it that they’ll be happy thus the kids will, there is no research to show this and in fact children usually end up angry at the “innocent” parent because they are safe to show their feelings there.

            It is SO SAD to me that people will throw away the safety fabric of their families for adultery and then disrupt the lives of every person in the family and force them to create new normals and then act like there was nothing wrong.

            It is selfishness, if you ask me.

  10. Anonymous

    Thank you for the words of wisdom and balance. Your words have encouraged me to move forward in my healing journey …
    My marriage was touched with emotional infidility a couple of weeks before my 25th wedding anniversary just over a year ago.
    He says it was only one kiss (problem is it was with my best friend…) We go every where together as couple/family (her children are my childs only friends). She doesn’t know that I know.
    He says they talked about it and realised they stepped over a boundry and have both agreed to work on their own marriages and cut off any messaging. {In hindsight I knew something was up …}

    Moving forward in forgiveness is incredibly hard.

    I agree with you that within the church this is something important that needs to be addressed especially now in the current open digital age. I don’t think either of them understand the depth of pain that this flirtateous, texting one kiss afair caused and just how devasting it is to find out

    The praise I have is that I now see that this was the catalyst that God has used to turn our hearts back to each other and for this I am eternally grateful. We had been drifting apart for a while.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      I’m so sorry–especially just before your 25th! That’s awful.

      I’m glad you’re moving forward, though, and rebuilding. It really can be rebuilt, and it sounds like your husband is dedicated to that. That’s amazing.

    • Michael Edwards

      Regarding “social justice,” while agreeing with much of what you said, most counselors I am familiar with would tell you that we must consider the child. The adulterous spouse did not commit adultery against the child, of course, and does not give up their parenthood rights in that case. I believe, especially as Christians, that we must remember that grace has power that we cannot imagine in the lives of others. Children simply should not be the victims. I have seen the difficulty of split time on a young child, and understand the points made in “Between Two Worlds,” which I also recommend. Often, the 50-50 thing is not even sensical, but there just has to be a better time solution . Children shouldn’t be the victims of adults’ inability to live together and honor their vows; alas, they frequently are. But I would challenge you to find a child who really does not want time with the other parent. I learned to tell, in our family, when there were problems on the other side by how my own step-relationship was going. I can confirm that step-parenthood is one of the single, most difficult and frustrating places to be in life, but one which truly teaches grace and forgiveness like few others as well.

  11. J. Parker

    So a few years back, a dentist wife was convicted for running over her dentist husband in a Hilton hotel parking lot after catching him there with his mistress. I live in the town where they lived, and I pass by that particular hotel now and then. As you might imagine, this news story was the topic of much conversation around that time in my neck of the woods. We wives all joked that the problem wasn’t the first time that this woman ran over her lying, cheating, no-good husband — a Texas jury might have excused such an act of understandable fury — but she ran over him a second time. *sigh*

    But seriously, you’re right that cheaters are playing with fire. Proverbs 6:27-29 says so: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.”

    • Check is

      J, (love your blog by the way). This is an interesting topic. In the time of christ, adultery was the “unforgivable” sin. Look at the gospel references to it. I had a theology teacher in high school who once said, and i am paraphrasing here: “that if you want to understand the gospel message today, read through them again and replace “adultery/adulterer/adulteress” with the term “child molester” and you can start to understand how hard it was for the people of the time to forgive.” Today, things like child molestation are the unforgivable sin, just as adultery was then.

      • Sheila Gregoire

        Ouch. That does put it in perspective, doesn’t it?

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Oh, I remember that story, too!

      That Proverb is so true. It is playing with fire. I wish that we treated it more seriously, but I’m not surprised that in our culture we don’t. Our culture is clamouring to say, “sex is no big deal”. In the world where we want to have sex as often as possible with as many people as possible, we’re convincing ourselves that sex doesn’t mean anything. It’s simply like using the other person as a sex toy. And if sex doesn’t mean anything, then affairs no longer mean much, either.

      But they do. Because it matters. And it really does hurt.

  12. Samantha

    I look at the world the way it is now and I am not surprised that adultery is glossed over and adulterous people are accepted back into society whether they have repented or not. We live in a society that wants people to feel great about themselves all the time. There are “pride” and “positivity” messages shoved down our throats at every turn. People don’t want their children to ever experience things like disappointment, criticism, stress, hard work, shame (when they have done something wrong). And those children become adults who think they have the right to feel great about themselves all the time despite their choices or how they affect others. And it really makes me mad when the Christian community turns the act of confronting sin into judging others. Especially when it is somehow ok to confront certain sins (like lust and the use of porn), but not others (like calling a woman out for BLATANTLY dressing and acting in a way to get sexual attention from random men). And this may not be the place for it, but the body positivity and body shame discussion has become just as warped and corrupted as the feminist movement. We’ve gotten to the point where we can’t call women out for lusting after sexual attention through the way they dress and act because they might feel badly about their bodies or themselves. Or *dramatic gasp* shame for doing something wrong. Women are NOT responsible for a man’s lust. But she SHOULD be held responsible for her own lust just as a man should be held responsible for his lust. And that is all I will say on that matter.

    And here is the point I’m trying to make. We shouldn’t treat shame like it is an evil. Shame and guilt are important stepping stones to get to the humility required for repentance and ultimately reformation. Shame and guilt are only bad when we decide to stay on that stone. To make it our home and never move forward. It’s not that God never wants us to feel shame. Shame is natural after we do something wrong. It’s what we do with the shame that counts. Do we shove it under the rug and allow it to fester as we go about our lives pretending it’s not there because acknowledging it makes us feel bad? Or do we allow the shame to humble us enough to run back into our Father’s open arms?

    • Sheila Gregoire

      I hear what you’re saying, Samantha. I actually wrote a column a few years ago on why we need to bring shame back! I don’t believe a Christian should really feel shame, though. I think shame is feeling like YOU are somehow wrong; guilt is feeling like something YOU HAVE DONE is somehow wrong. Guilt is a very good thing; shame is not. But we do need to return to the idea that actions have consequences, and that there is a certain level of behaviour that is expected. I don’t know how we do that without becoming legalistic, but we have definitely gone too far in the other direction.

      • Samantha

        Totally agree. And I think people need to remember the fact that while God truly does love us unconditionally, He really HATES sin. Sin makes God very angry and I can only imagine how mad it makes Him when people, especially Christians, gloss over sin. And I think people like to conveniently forget that God’s forgiveness comes after we confess. 1 John 1:9. People don’t just get to live horrible sinful, hurtful lives and get off the hook because God loves them and wants them to be happy no matter what they do or how many people they hurt in the process. I believe that’s what we call a dysfunctional parent. And God is not a dysfunctional Father.

    • Samantha

      And I do want to add, because of the way society mollycoddles people (especially those who are blatantly making poor choices) nowadays, some people DO need help feeling shame. There is absolutely nothing wrong with shining a great big light onto sin as long Jesus is that light.

  13. Trish

    “I don’t think that scorned wife would have been charged in that double homicide a hundred and fifty years ago. I think people would have assumed he had it coming.”

    I find that statement a little disturbing and probably off base. 150 years ago, women had fewer rights and little recourse if their husbands strayed. A woman who killed her husband due to adultery would have probably cooled her heels in prison for the rest of her life (and rightfully so in my opinion). Irregardless, let’s not even hint that adultery gives one the right to strike back in anger, especially physically.

    As for parents losing rights to see their kids due to adultery…. um, no. A bad spouse does not necessarily equal a bad parent.

    • sunny-dee

      An adulterous spouse is ABSOLUTELY a terrible parent. They’re cheating on their entire family, not just their spouse. They put their own desires and impulses above absolutely everything and everyone else.

      Would you say an abuser was still a good parent if he “only” beat his wife? Or an alcoholic?

  14. Anon

    In a situation thats happened close to me infidelity has absolutely been taken too lightly. Now I will sound a little contradictory here but the wife (whose husband cheated) immediately acted out on emotion and made choices that did a ton of damage to steps of reconciliation with no thought given to her role in the marriage all the while saying she wanted reconciliation. To her, the affair was everything and the only thing and she would make sure her husband knew that every day. The affair justified her hurt, so it seemed she no longer needed to use judement in her speech or actions. If she was approached on this, she would hear it as that person saying the affair isnt a big deal.
    The husband did some things to try to reconcile but couldnt get past the whole picture of things that started breaking down before the affair. He seemed to want to justify the affair while admitting it was wrong. He’d seem mournful by what he’d done but not go the full mile to work it out.
    So to both of them I’d say “stop being so selfish” and then continue to say to the man he made a gravest mistake in breaking his marriage covenant made under God and so it is on him to do everything to reconcile, no matter how crazy his wife acted because infidelity is a very serious issue and hopefully his wifes heart would soften. And as the God appointed leader of the home, the man is accountable to lead his family to God and be the initiater of reconciliation.
    Unfortunately this has not happened yet, the man has retreated (and justfiied himself because of his wife’s actions) and found himself a very small circle of people who see him as a victim now and would like the wife not to take the affair so seriously (or not to view it as the only issue here). Their view of God’s love and grace is the most important thing here and so it seems ok that the man has stopped trying to work on the marriage, because he’s been so ‘broken down and beat up emotionally.’ He regrets what he’s done but not in a capacity where he’s made effective changes.
    So yes, infidelity is often taken way too lightly. But I also believe even when we are in the craziest emotional amount of pain inflicted by someone else we cannot first act on our emotions, (the affair would have also been acting on those emotions) We’re human and we can’t trust our desicion making when we’re entering a thick mental and emotional fight. But we can trust God with the desicion making. The gospel is real, its applicable to every aspect of our lives. In this case of infidelity the choices made by both spouses before and after the affair have been self focused, not gospel focused. And its detrimental affects far reaching.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      That’s so true, Anon. Often in our pain we do really selfish things to punish others, and it doesn’t help anything. It’s so hard, but at the time of our greatest pain, that’s when we have to totally turn to God rather than turn to hate.

  15. AC

    Although my husband never had a physical affair, his betrayal of lies, deceit and secrecy to cover his habitual porn use came out this past year in our 20th year of marriage. Betrayal trauma is very real and very damaging and has been my reality for the past 7 months as we have begun to work through this process of healing and starting over again. I have never felt pain and loss like this before, but I also have never felt the presence of God like I do now. Our society wants to normalize adultery, but they don’t want to acknowledge that it causes lasting damage and massive wounds that take a long time to heal. My husband is also a pastor, which has further complicated all of this, as he has not disclosed his sin. People who think it is a woman’s fault that men lust are blinded to the truth of God and his power and love.

  16. anon

    I’m late to this post but I just have to comment on why none of the comments here have not made a single mention of the spouse who forces his/her spouse into a sexless marriage, or worse celibacy. I say that if a spouse steps outside of their marriage in a moment of weakness but has been on the receiving end of a sexless marriage for no good reason then they’re both equally responsible for the cheating. Marital problems are hardly entire one person’s fault. There’s almost always a shared responsibility so why are people so quick to condemn the spouse who steps out but not those who gatekeep? Both of which are sins.

    I say all of that to not imply that I condone cheating but we must hear all sides of how marriages reach this point. Gatekeeping is far more common than peole like to think and when we condemn the “cheater” we let the gatekeeper off the hook.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      I agree with that, actually, and I’ve written so much on this blog about sexless marriages and withholding sex. I hope those help! It is a big problem.

  17. Torre Shanks

    1.) “No fault divorce” was a horrible idea. Totally out of line with the Bible.
    2.) Why is adultery not a punishable crime? It is a breach of a legal contract. Marriages are legal agreements licensed by a government authority. Furthermore, Christian wedding vows include “forsaking all others”. I don’t know one person who gets married and gives their spouse permission to cheat on them as part of their original agreement. Once adultery occurs, a legal contract as well as a holy covenant have been breached. Breach of secular legal contract and breach of Christian covenant.
    “You do the crime, you do the time” in other words “You choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.” Tragically, reasonable consequences have been removed for this breach.

    The enemy has been whispering in our human ears “did God really say _______? for a long long time. Remember Adam and Eve taking their eyes off God , ceasing to be thankful, believing the enemy’s lies that there was certainly something more that would make them happier than they already were? They listened to the wrong voice, made a bad choice, and there were consequences. BIG ONES. Isn’t it about time that we as the church respond to this age old question “Yes, He Did and He Still Does! Yes, in His holy and sovereign role and for the good of His creation, God really did say NO to adultery and we as His representatives on Earth are going to behave in accordance with His good plan for all of us. Saying yes to anything God has said No to should not be enabled by the church (or the state). The chirch’s refusal to enable destructive behavior that God said No to by allowing consequences to occur is for the good of both the sinner and the oppressed. Letting the chips / consequences fall, painful as they can be, is the way people learn that God says what He means and means what He says.
    “No fault” perpetuates No consequences for bad behavior which perpetuates not only No learned lessons but No opportunity to learn which guarantees a continuation of bad behaviors. Yes, adultery is bad. The Bible tells us so and so does life.

  18. Doug

    I think this is a very important topic, and there are a lot of heartbreaking stories in the commentary, but I am absolutely opposed to public shaming for the sake of shaming. If there is a chance of reconciliation, or any number of other reasons, discretion may be a much more useful tool. That is not to say that it should be kept secret, jist that it should not be broadcast without serious thought and prayers.

    For the record, I had an affair almost 15 years ago. I won’t give specifics, but I will say there are more than one ways to be unfaithful to your spouse. I don’t say that to excuse my actions, but I think it is important to remember that not every case is the same.

    Ultimately, a couple of years ago, I confessed the affair to my wife. She had never known of it, and there was almost no chance that she would ever learn of it. We had spent about 6 months seriously working on our marriage, and I couldn’t leave that in the dark. We had a few weeks that I didn’t know if she would stay, but talking about that time in our marriage, and how utterly bleak and deserted I had felt in our marriage, was out in the open as well. When she really SAW AND UNDERSTOOD that, it was like a switch was flipped, and we were both able to put a lot of hurt behind us. We have a really amazing marriage now, not without its own difficulties, buy with a renewed commitment, and abundant portions of humility and grace.

    I am a lot more open about my sin than she is, and I have told everyone that I consider to be a friend, and some of my family. To my knowledge, she has not told anyone.

    I know that not every marriage can be saved, but a public shaming can get in the way of reconciliation. I know that when I was in my sin, I felt justified in it, and something like that would have made me very defensive.

    Can’t say I know the right answer, but I am uncomfortable with some that have been suggested here. Justice would seem to be served, but little else.

    I felt justified in my sin, which is to say that I thought it was fair. Our marriage is a lot stronger now that what is fair is a lot less important than repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Justice would be a poor substitute for that.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Oh, thank you so much for sharing that! I think you did absolutely the right thing to confess it, and I do agree that sometimes the actions of the other spouse do make a spouse desperate.

      Thanks for sharing your hopeful story!

  19. Anonymous

    It is a spiritual war. I have been in the battle field the past 7 months since I found out about my husband’s infidelity. We have been married and together for 35 years. I trusted him wholeheartedly. This is the hardest part to recover. He was in a 5 years love affairs with his high school girl friend and they practically shared their lives together. They took numerous trips from Japan to Turkey. He cut off the relationship now after lengthy confrontations. The healing process has been very difficult. He seems to be fine and focus on his business as away to ‘forget’ and ‘move on’ – totally wrong focus and wrong priority. I have proposed for a separation but he pleaded to work it out. Only God can change one’s heart. As a victim, I am struggling hard to recover from this betray. The wounds are so deep and I am no longer the same person…and the battle continues…

  20. Alan

    Why is it that most infidelity posts seem to based around the husband cheating on the wife. There seems to be little support for husbands that have been betrayed.
    I have and still do struggle with this. It was about 5 years ago I discovered my wife’s affair and although she ended it and we stayed together, and I do truly love her, the pain is still very real. It hurts and I just want it to go away!

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Hi Alan! I have written posts about wives cheating, too, and I tried to use the word “spouse” here as much as possible. This is predominantly a woman’s blog, though, so I do tend to write to the issues that women have! I’m glad so many men read it, though.

      • Alan

        I appreciate you taking the time to reply. I hope you don’t feel this was aimed directly at you, as it wasn’t, It was more of a general observation towards the internet in general. The post you mentioned was actually the first ever post I read on your blog which my wife sent me the link to after I decided to spend some time away from her. I’ve followed you site ever since (over 4 years now).

  21. Rachel

    BAM I love this and that I think 50 years ago a man with a bit of super glue damage to his junk would have felt too ashamed to have been lying to 3 women to show his face at the police station, much less press charges.

    I don’t know if you follow Lysa Terkeurst whose husband cheated on her, she filed for separation, and I believe they’re trying to work it out but I enjoy reading her Instagram posts where she does not show that life is all gravy, but it’s painful. It’s hard working things out. Life is never the same.

    I think the church gives SUCH WEIGHT to forgiveness and redemption that victims (of abuse and adultery alike) are almost nearly ignored and told to turn the other cheek and move on that we nearly empower bad behavior and leave wounded people bleeding all over the church.

    Does my head in.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Totally agree, Rachel! And I did feel so deeply for Lysa. What a hard road she’s on right now, especially with the cancer, too!

  22. Eya

    I’m 27 years old female who is still single but has a bf now for 3 years. He cheated on me on the early stage of our relationship. After I found out I forgave him but he wont stop stalking her on fb even told me after a month that he was missing her, the woman was engaged to be married already that time. After another month another woman came along and he flirted with her, they flirted badly and she even asked him to choose between me and her. I was not yet healed with the pain of his first betrayal and there he went again with another woman. It hurt so badly, I was able to cut her off his life too. But he wont let go of those two easily. After a year a found out he had another fb just to view their fb. I was so angry and made him delete it. Now I am called controlling when all I want is faithfulness which I think I deserve. He only didnt betray me but he disrespected me so much. He talked badly about me to other people that those people had courage to call me a piece of shit on my face and he just agreed to them. I am hurting so much. I am still crying over this even after years. I forgive him and we are still together but the pain sometimes just creeps out and I feel it all over again. I know he is not my husband but the pain is intense how much more if he was like other women’s experiences here. If I talk about it we just end up arguing which hurts me more. He told me I could cheat on him as well and he wouldnt care, he would just breakup with me as simple as that? How can I be happy with this relationship when i know I am not valued? I sometimes feel tempted to cheat or find someone else but I find that impossible cause I feel so guilty, I feel scared that if I do I will lose him. Well anyways I am mostly alright already these days but like what I said I still feel the pain inside. 🙁

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Eya, I’m sorry you’re hurting so much, but can I ask you a question? It sounds like you’ve been with this guy since you were 22 (and you’re now 27). I understand that you love him. But let’s be honest here: This is a man who, early in your relationship, cheated on you. He followed it up by flirting with someone else. He has told you that you should have an affair too. He has said that he would just break up with you.

      What about this man makes him good relationship material–let alone marriage material? A man like this is not a good man. His fundamental character is bad. If you want to be with someone who will cherish you and treat you well, then you must not put up with someone who does not do that. You cannot change this man into a good human being. So what I’d suggest is this: Get yourself a group of friends who reflect your values. Try going to a church and joining a College & Careers group. Hang out with people who are good people. Don’t hang out with people like your boyfriend. And then ask God to show you how much you are worth. Because I think if you honestly saw your true worth–you would realize that this guy does not deserve you.

  23. Stephanie Carpenter

    I feel for all of you that have been through this hell of infidelity. In Feb 2017 I discovered that my husband of 20 years had been cheating on me for a little over two years, with a married woman that worked at a law office he did business at. To say that I was devastated would be an understatement! I cannot put into words the pain that I felt at the moment I heard the two of them talking (I put a hidden recorder in his car, & he uses Bluetooth). I knew in that moment my life would forever change. I felt like the innocence & purity of our marriage was gone. I’m not sure how I would’ve made it then & now, without my faith in God!
    Listening to the two of them talk for dozens of phone calls, professing their love for each other, was enough to send me spiraling into heartbreak, despair, fear & rage (just to name a few). I called & confronted her, she was 100% non-apologetic, rude, & told me all the ways that had I been a ‘better wife’ to my husband that she wouldn’t be having an affair w’him!! I was beyond livid!
    He ended it with her, but the roller coaster that we & our 17yr. old twins have rode this past year & a half is a ride that I wouldn’t wish on anyone (except maybe her!). I’ve cried more tears than I can count.
    I not only was punched in the gut by the affair, I also was shocked to hear on that tape my MIL asking him all about what this ‘woman’ got him for his b’day, where they’d had lunch together & her telling him, her married son…my husband…her grandkids father, that she sounds like she’s a wonderful cook! I definitely didn’t see that one coming, the affair I suspected, the MIL…nope! And she herself had been cheated on by my FIL before they divorced! She knew firsthand the pain of infidelity! Me & her no longer speak to each other. I wanted to talk w’her, explain my hurt feelings & as angry as I was I actually wanted to resolve this so we could continue to have a relationship. She sent me a passive aggressive text to say that she did not ‘condone’ his actions BUT she had unconditional love for her son, ….ok I fully expect that she would, as any mother would, but what does that have to do w’this?! And I’m sorry but her asking about what the mistress got him for his b’day, where they’d had lunch etc, seems like you’re just fine with it to me! She would like to have a relationship w’me again but only IF I act like she did nothing wrong. She has made herself to be the victim in this. I am civil to her at holiday gatherings, for the sake of my kids…..they’ve been through enough. My husband adamantly denies that she knew, & I’m sure he didn’t set her down & say “mom I’m having an affair” BUT does she honestly excpect me to believe that she’s that blissfully ignorant?! In reality she can’t face/handle the truth. She goes to church regularly & her ‘condoning through ignoring’ her married son’s affair doesn’t look so good. I feel like not only was I betrayed by him but by her as well.
    Having your pain ignored & not acknowledged by ‘family’ only adds salt to an already open wound. I don’t know how I’d have gotten through many of the days if it weren’t for God’s constant love & knowing He is always there for me.
    Infidelity is a pain that affects EVERYONE, not just the couple. It has a ‘ripple effect’ that spreads wide & far…..& it doesn’t discriminate against anyone. Trust takes years to build & seconds to destroy is a quote that sums it up so well.
    We’re working to save our marriage & hopefully make it stronger than before, some days are better than others. Any prayers are greatly appreciated & needed! Thank you for ‘listening’ especially when I so often feel that the only way to have peace in the family is by sweeping my feelings under the rug.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *