Are You to Blame if Your Spouse Cheats on You?

by | Jul 26, 2019 | Uncategorized | 157 comments

Did you cause your husband to cheat? Why you are not to blame if your husband has an affair.
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If your husband has an affair, are you partially to blame?

That’s been something I’ve been debating heatedly on Facebook and Twitter this week, because I saw this Facebook status by Focus on the Family:

I found this rather disturbing, and posted it both on Facebook and Twitter. I’d say that about 80% of people agreed with me, but some pushed back. So I’d like to spend today talking about why I think this approach to infidelity is toxic. 

I really don’t want to talk about this. I had another post all planned for today–how a husband can know if his wife has had an orgasm. I’ve been planning posts on sexual tips for the rest of the summer, and I want to get back to fun stuff! But when an organization as influential as Focus on the Family says something this off-base, I feel like I have a responsibility to respond, because I know that this message is hurting people.

Please note, too, that I’m not commenting on the book itself. I don’t know the book; I haven’t read the book; I don’t plan on reading the book (I currently have a backlog of 11 books that are waiting for endorsements I need to read!). My issue is with the way that Focus on the Family chose to introduce the book–just those few words, 

Her husband’s infidelity didn’t mean the end of Tina Konkin’s marriage. Her willingness to answer the question, “What role did you play in this?” saved her marriage.

So let’s jump in!

Rebuilding a marriage after an affair is a two-step process: Repentance of the one who cheated, and then addressing the relationship

Many people, in the comments, were conflating the two. “Knowing how you played your role in marriage problems is essential if you want to rebuild!” I’d agree. It is.

But here’s the thing.

You can’t rebuild until the cheater repents. 

The first step must be repentance. No ifs, ands, or buts. If Focus on the Family had said something like:


He had an affair and repented. She found the strength to forgive–and the humility to rebuild the marriage.

I’d be fine with that. But the way that Focus worded that status, the thing that mattered was not his repentance but her acknowledging her role. That’s toxic thinking. Here’s why:

A cheater is solely responsible for the infidelity


but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

James 1:14

Cheating is a sin that one person does. Nobody else causes it. We are solely responsible for our own sin. The Bible lays the blame for lust and adultery at the cheater’s feet:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell.

Matthew 5:27-30

Even if a spouse is acting badly, there are other choices than infidelity.

Jen Grice, one of the people interacting about this on Twitter, put it this way:

Exactly. Even if a spouse is doing something truly awful–withholding sex for months or years at a time; ignoring you; even abusing you–there are other choices. You separate. You see a counselor. You draw boundaries.

Infidelity is a sin, and it needs to be treated as such. 

Let’s give someone the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume that the cheating husband was actually wonderful, but the wife drove him to it because she was an ogre and a nag and emotionally abusive. It is still up to him to repent of the cheating BEFORE they can work on the relationship. Once he’s repented, he may find that they can’t rebuild because of her issues, and he may separate as he should have done in the first place. But he still has to repent first.

It does not always “take two to tango” in the case of cheating

The “it takes two to tango” line can be very toxic, because it does NOT always take two to tango. I have known many marriages where one spouse is legitimately trying to have a good marriage, and one spouse isn’t putting in any effort at all. In many cases the problems even predate the marriage! A man walks down the aisle with an unconfessed porn issue. He continues to text other women and watch porn. She tries everything she can to be sexier and to be available, but he isn’t interested. That story is repeated time and time again.

Even if we do believe that it takes two to tango, does that mean that if you’re not perfect, your spouse’s cheating can partially be blamed on you? I’ve written before about how Keith and I went through a season of distance in our marriage a few years ago. It wasn’t anyone’s fault; it was just life, and we eventually realized it and changed some things to stop it. But if, in the middle of all that, one of us had had an affair, would the other be partially to blame? Neither of us was being cruel to the other or ignoring the other. We were just growing apart.

When you say that normal changes that happen in a marriage, that normal human interactions, can be part of the “cause” of someone cheating, then you create an environment where cheating can always happen, because no relationship, and no person, can be perfect. The expectation that someone will not cheat must be absolute. If it is not, then we end up justifying horrendous sin, and we give the person cheating an excuse and a reason to keep doing it. 

When you say that normal changes that happen in a marriage, that normal human interactions, can be part of the “cause” of someone cheating, then you create an environment where cheating can always happen, because no relationship, and no person, can be perfect.

The Bible says that infidelity is grounds for divorce. We should not heap more blame on the innocent spouse than God does.

If the Bible tells you that you can divorce due to adultery, without saying something like,

Divorce is permitted in cases of adultery, unless that adultery is partially your fault.

then we should not heap more guilt on someone that the Bible does. God considers infidelity a breach of the covenant. He does not say, “but you may have played a part in that, and so sometimes infidelity really isn’t the problem–you were.” No, God considers it a grave evil. We should as well. That does not mean that you cannot rebuild. It simply means that the gravity of the sin must be faced first before we can move on to rebuilding. Why? Because:

You can’t rebuild until the cheating has been dealt with, or there will always be an element of emotional blackmail.

Until the cheater has said, “I am fully to blame for the cheating, I own the cheating, and I will not do it again no matter what”, you can’t move on. You cannot rebuild trust in a marriage until both parties know that the person is truly committed and won’t cheat again. If the cheater is justifying the cheating based on something that you did, then no trust can ever be rebuilt, because you have no guarantee that they will not cheat again.

No spouse can be perfect. To say that a spouse has a role in their spouse’s cheating puts an undue burden on people that we aren’t meant to have and that Jesus does not put there.

If your lack of libido caused his cheating, then what happens the next time you go through a dry spell? How are you supposed to embrace sex and get a high libido if you’re doing it under the threat of blackmail–if you don’t keep him sexually satisfied, he’ll stray? If your busy-ness with the children caused him to stray, then what’s going to happen if one of your children is diagnosed with an illness and you go through a period of time shuttling back and forth to the hospital while still trying to manage the household? Do you have to fear that he will stray again?

That’s why rebuilding the marriage MUST be a separate step than dealing with the cheating.

The cheating must be confessed and repented of first before you rebuild, before you address relational issues. Yes, quite often there was drift going on in a marriage, and a marriage slowly disintegrated. That can leave a spouse vulnerable to cheating. But that choice to cheat is still entirely on them. Once they’ve owned it and committed to the relationship again, THEN you can address those things that caused the drift. But you can only do it when the threat of cheating is lifted. But there’s another problem with this “let me figure out my role in the cheating” mindset, and it’s this one:

Not all marriages with infidelity can be saved, even if the innocent spouse is willing to work on things.

When we make it appear that the key to saving a marriage after infidelity is for the innocent spouse to figure out what her role in the cheating was, then if the marriage isn’t saved, the blame for that is also partially laid at the innocent spouse’s feet. Sometimes a marriage can’t be saved, no matter how hard you try. You cannot change another person. But there’s a broader issue that I see with a lot of marriage advice, and it’s this one:

When we make marriage the idol, we often give advice that focuses on keeping a marriage intact rather than advice that focuses on pointing people to Jesus.

Advice tends to get directed at the spouse that most desperately wants to save a marriage, and frequently that’s the spouse who is cheated upon. She (or he) wants to rebuild. So you look for advice that tells you what to do. You’re desperate for an answer that will make your spouse come back to you.

Much of that advice will heap blame on you, because you’re the only one whose actions can be influenced. What often ends up happening, then, is that a whole ton of marriage advice focuses on victim blaming–how to stop him from cheating by being sexier, more available, less critical, less tired, less involved with the kids. But it never really addresses the problem. It just gives fodder to the cheating spouse–“I cheated because you did X and Y. You’re still doing X and Y, so it’s not my fault.”

I do believe that most marriages can rebuild after infidelity, IF the cheating spouse takes responsibility for the cheating, and IF they are both willing to work on the relationship.

I do believe that both spouses need a lot of humility and introspection if a marriage will be rebuilt. But it can only be done once the cheater has repented.

The first step is always the cheater recognizing his (or her) sin; not in the innocent spouse accepting blame. When we get the order wrong, we seriously distort the emotional dynamics in the marriage and cause huge problems.

I thought that Focus on the Family would have known that, and I am grieved that they presented this book in that light. I only hope that with all the negative feedback they’re getting, they’ll reconsider and recognize how toxic their approach is.

Other posts about my interactions with Focus on the Family:

Again, I don’t want to sit here and beat up on organizations or other authors. I really would rather write the stuff that I like to write–about how to make sex great, or how to fun in your marriage! But sometimes big things happen and I feel like I have to respond. Jesus said, about His mission, that:

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Luke 4:18b-19

A lot of teaching that is directed at women in the Christian church has women in bondage, and I really want to set them free (and, in the case of men whose wives have cheated on them, set them free, too!). 

But I’m still looking forward to some posts about orgasms and feeling sexy coming up soon!

For today, I’d like to end with this comment left on Facebook, which I felt summed up everything well:

The problem isn’t that a wife saw how she contributed to a rocky marriage. That absolutely does happen. 

But a choice to cheat is on the cheater. 

And the problem is that there is a HUGE problem of women being blamed for things without there being proper blame on the husband. 

A woman is cheated on – well what did she do? Did she sleep with him enough? Disrespect him?

A woman is raped – well what was she wearing? Did she go out somewhere alone? Why didn’t she scream louder?

A woman is abused – well did she make him angry? Did she start the argument? Was she struggling to submit?

Marriages are two people. These people are flawed and I actually believe marriages can survive infidelity. And I think it is totally great to look at ourselves and see how we can improve in a marriage. But it isn’t about accepting the blame for the sin of others. 

And it is such a slippery slope that we know occurs – where women get the blame and men get off without blame because they were “pushed”. 

There needs to be caution in how we approach this. Because a woman who was just cheated on could see only this post and think she was the problem. She wasn’t.

Julia B.

Facebook Comment

Yep. Great way to sum it up.

Are you to blame if your husband has an affair? Why his cheating is not your fault.

So what do you think? How should we be talking about recovering from infidelity? Is it ever someone else’s fault? Let’s talk in the comments!


Due to the volume of comments, and the great discussion on Facebook, I’ve written two follow-up posts to this on whether you are to blame if your spouse cheats on you:

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of 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

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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

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  1. Becky

    YES to all of this. I’ve shared before that I’m the second wife to a man whose first marriage ended because of infidelity. His ex was the cheater, and she did not want to save the marriage. I know there is a lot that went in his heart and mind during the fallout that he’s never shared with me, as he does not like to talk about this time in his life. What I do know is that no one ever asked him how he was responsible in this (which is a whole side issue, since the question was raised in the FB discussion about whether the husband would be blamed if the wife strayed), and that is a good thing. It was hard enough for him to heal enough to give another relationship a chance without having that burden put on him.

    I have to admit I’ve been getting into it a little with one of the commenters who replied to me with the do not deprive verses as well, since it’s a sensitive topic for me. Given that I’ve had pretty much every single physical issue with sex that you mentioned in yesterday’s post about the purity culture fallout, and am approaching the end of yet another physically difficult pregnancy that has kept us from even attempting sex for months (hard to get into it when I’m already back in PT for hip pain and even standing still makes it so I can’t breathe well), I could very easily be accused of being the spouse who deprives. It wasn’t my choice to do so, I’d love for sex to be something I’m excited about, but life has been unkind to me in that so far. Even so, I’ve had enough struggle and guilt about my situation to deal with, without having to also shoulder the blame if my husband had chosen to give up on me and get his kicks elsewhere.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So well said, Becky! And totally agree with both of your points–he should not have been asked what he did to cause it, and being sexually “deprived” because of health issues (or even other issues) does not give someone license to cheat. How are you even supposed to work on your issues if you have to fear that he’ll cheat? It’s a terrible way of seeing marriage. It really is.

      I’m sorry you’re having such a rough time with this pregnancy! Rebecca’s been having hip issues, too. I’ll add you to our prayer list for a healthy delivery!

      • Missy

        Focus on the Family is irrelevant and has been for years. It is patriarchy at its best. Can you imagine Jesus looking to an abused woman and asking her what she could have done differently?! This is ridiculous! Dear sister who has been cheated on, you are loved and it is not your fault! #wtffotf

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I can’t imagine Jesus saying that, too. They also allow for separation “for a short time” in the case of abuse, but not divorce, and they don’t recommend long-term separation. It’s very crazy.

          • Taylor

            Please show me scripture in the Bible where divorce is endorsed outside of infidelity. There is none. I don’t condone abuse but there is only one way out and no amount of writing will your opinion will change that. And perhaps you should read the book to determine why it’s advetised that way. Bloggers who claim to be experts give their own opinion just like focus on the family. Your interpretation isn’t always right either.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Taylor, I explain more fully my stance here. Abuse is a form of abandonment; it is a breaking of the covenant. And God does not condone that.

      • Becky

        Thanks, Sheila! 6 weeks to go (hopefully not more!) and then I am DONE. God willing, for good. I think we really just need some time where I’m not pregnant/sick, or nursing, or having less than a year between wrapping up nursing and getting pregnant and sick again, to deal with getting past the bedroom issues for good!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’ll pray for that, too, along with a healthy delivery!

      • Blessed Wife

        Side issue: I had significant problems with my lower back and especially hips during my second pregnancy, and they turned out to be because my son was breech. If your OB determines this to be the case with your baby, your therapist or a good chiropractor may be able to help. Breech tilting can help the baby turn sometimes too. Good luck! Blessings on your pregnancy!

    • Paul Byerly

      “A cheater is solely responsible for the infidelity”

      That sounds nice, but there are too many scriptures that say we can contribute to others sinning/ (Malachi 2:8, Matthew 18:6-7, Mark 9:42, Romans 14:21).

      In some cases, the wronged spouse is without blame, in others they did play a part. Being able to ask yourself if you played a part seems to me to be a sign of spiritual maturity. And waiting to do that till there is repentance doesn’t seem at all wise to me.

      Having not read the book, I don’t know if the balance is good or not, but I don’t have a problem with the FoTF promo pharagraph.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Paul, as I have repeatedly said before, there are two issues here: one is marital drift and one is infidelity. A spouse can play a role in the marital drift, even the primary role. But they do not play a role in the infidelity. WE are all responsible for our own sin.

      • Judy

        The problem with this logic is that it leads to endless circular reasoning. If one spouse did something to cause the other spouse to cheat, then did the other spouse commit some wrongdoing which lead to the wrongdoing that led to the other spouse cheating? Ultimately, we must all be responsible for ourselves.

      • Jacqueline O

        As a woman whose husband committed adultery while I was pregnant and nursing our firstborn child, I’m sorry, but this is not a Biblical way of thinking. I did not deprive my husband, physically, emotionally, or mentally during that time. There was NOTHING he was lacking from me, and yet, he still chose to continue his porn habit as well as escalating to hook-up apps, having virtual sex, and having multiple emotional affairs with both men and women. Turns out his porn habit and unhealthy sexuality existed YEARS before he met and married me, born out of an abusive childhood. Repentance is always, let me repeat, ALWAYS necessary before anything in the marriage can be rebuilt. To say otherwise is directly in contradiction to God’s word. Just as you must first repent of your sin before Jesus can come into your life and bring salvation, so also must an unfaithful spouse repent of their sin before any other issues in the marriage can be addressed. Otherwise, as Shelia has pointed out, the cheating spouse has emotional weapons to force the innocent spouse into compliance. For example, there was one point my husband threatened to go back to porn and masturbation if I didn’t offer him enough sex (again, while adjusting to a newborn and motherhood.) God never accepts someone as His son or daughter without confession of sin and acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord, and neither can a marriage rebuild without first experiencing the confession and repentance of infidelity.

  2. C

    2 things.
    The two to tango thing usually is referring to 2 people doing something wrong together I believe. I’ve never heard if used where it refers to a cheater and a cheated on. I think it means if you’re blaming only the man for the affair (or say teens get pregnant and only one is blamed) and not also including the other person that he cheated with. Or some spouses go crazy and blame *only* the person who “stole” their spouse. That’s where I’ve heard that.
    Second, make sure everyone realizes James Dobson is no longer affiliated with Focus on the Family.
    But I agree with the premise of this post for sure.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’ve seen the “it takes two to tango” to refer a lot to a married couple and an affair–it’s been used on Twitter a lot when talking about this book, by people saying that we should examine the role we played in the affair. But I agree–that may not have been its original meaning.

      And, yes, Dobson hasn’t been there for a long time, maybe even 10 years. Very true.

  3. Steph

    I had the choice when my spouse was making poor choices to have integrity or seek comfort outside of marriage. I choose to have integrity and be the beloved daughter of Christ. His actions hurt me but could not make me behave in such a way to hurt myself worse by having an affair.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s wonderful, Steph! Exactly. I’m sorry that your husband hurt you. I hope he’s turned a corner and smartened up.

    • Colleen Gleason

      Ugh! I looked up the book on multiple sites. All the descriptions include blaming the wife. Supposedly the wife, whom the book is about, felt that God was asking how she had contributed to her husband’s affair. One description even said her coldness “pushed” him into the arms of her best friend.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Isn’t that just tragic? So sad.

      • Lea

        He cheated with her best friend?? Ugh, that’s so awful. I’m just sad for her now. How much of this is her trying to convince herself? Maybe it’s easier to forgive the husband if you just blame yourself, as women are so often socialized to do. (this may also be why they blame the ‘other woman’ rather than spouse too. Easier to forgive if you are misplacing blame.)

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I think this is a big part of it. If we actually let the blame fall where it should–with the husband–then we may lose the chance that we’ll keep the husband. If we blame ourselves, then maybe we’ll keep the marriage together. And so women debase themselves (and men, too, when they’re the ones cheated on) and blame themselves because to blame the husband seems too dangerous. But Jesus is the Truth. That means that when we confront things with Truth, Jesus is there. He can help. We don’t need to be scared to walk in truth.

  4. Diane Eberly

    So well said!! I had this happen to me while in my “6 wk period” of having a baby and having a csection on top of it!! And I had more than one lady tell me it’s my fault!! To this day I still struggle with it…having 3 busy boys with the oldest being 6 and having fussy babies I’m always afraid its gonna happen again…I need to keep reminding myself that’s it’s not my fault!! I had one lady tell me if I dont give my husband wat he needs he will find it elsewhere…PLEASE PLEAS dont ever tell a woman that!! Especially just having had a baby!!! This post was so so good! Thanx for Sharing!!

    • Jane Eyre

      Imagine this: an intruder breaks into your house. Your husband shoves you and the babies into a bedroom and tells you to barricade the door. He alone fights the intruder, and in doing so, gets rather hurt. Two days later, he’s discharged from the hospital, with ongoing pain, a lot of difficulty in walking, and instructions to not engage in intercourse for six weeks.

      Does anyone say that he’s obligated to satisfy his wife during those six weeks, or would people tell the hypothetical whiny wife to shut her trap and be grateful that he put his body in service to the family that way?

      I swear, the way women treat other women regarding pregnancy is crazy.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Isn’t that just disgusting? What I’m amazed at, too, is how little we expect out of men. So we think a perfectly good husband, who presumably loves God, will abandon his God and his wife and his covenant and jump into bed with someone RIGHT AFTER HIS WIFE GAVE BIRTH because he’s a sex-crazed maniac? And his libido takes control of all moral functions? Is that really what we think of men? If so, then why get married at all?

      • Natalie

        Amen!!!! We don’t hold men to a high enough standard as a society as a whole! Men are not victims of their sexual desires, like both men and women are told. (And this goes along with the teaching in the church that a man’s sex drive is just so outrageously high that no woman/wife could ever possibly comprehend it, so she should just give him sex whenever he wants it, no matter if he’s done his part to make sex appealing to her and making her feel loved and wanted or not). Lacking in self-control and discipline should not be brushed off as a man being a typical man! 🙄🤦🏻‍♀️

      • Mae Drake

        Well said! I cant imagine God allowing wifes to give birth and during the after birthing healing process to bring shame and guilt to her husband cheats on her because she is to sore from the birthing to have sex. Who tells a broken leg man to get up and go to work soon after surgery to fix his broken legs anyway , else his wife will cheat with a man who has both healed legs !

      • Hannah

        Shelia, this hits so hard with me. I grew up thinking that exact same thing and grew up so depressed. The church rammed those thoughts into my head. I use to think men were pigs and that they were prone to cheating and liking at women. I grew up always feeling like I wasn’t enough, bring on top of the church telling these girls such harmful messages and I always thought I would never be enough for my future husband. I grew up hating being a woman and felt like I was cursed because this “truth” was hurting me mentally.
        Thankfully to this day, I have a healthy whole marriage and my husband has been a huge part of my healing! He is such an amazing man that I trust and respect so much. He didn’t grow up in the church but he is a Christian. I feel like since he didn’t grow up in church he didn’t consume such harmful messages as a man. I am so thankful for you guys to talk about this. I am thirty and it’s given me so much freedom and healing. I never knew that this is what I’ve needed to hear for so so long. I am so grateful to God for this.

  5. Erin

    Read the book. She doesnt take blame or responsibility. There is much more to this.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad to hear that! But then I would hope that Focus would change the way they are talking about the book. As I said, my issue is not with the book. My issue was with that Facebook status by Focus, which shows a remarkable lack of insight into marriage dynamics.

      Incidentally, I’ve had others on Twitter tell me that in the book she explains that her husband had an affair because he was in a “trance-like state”. She talks about him being in a trance 30 times. Do you know what she meant by trance? This sounds disturbing to me.

      • sheep

        Trance like state… Really? Admittedly, I haven’t read the book but that throws up a lot of red flags for me. From someone that has heard a lot of blame shifting and excuses, that sounds a lot like a line of baloney that an adulterer would feed to someone so that they don’t have to really dig into and deal with their sin.

  6. Sheep

    Thanks for this article Sheila and well said.

    My wife committed adultery multiple times and in the beginning I was willing (and even begging) to save our marriage but in the end, I have never seen evidence of repentance. In the beginning I did everything I could to make myself better, more attractive, and anything I could think of to make my wife want me. I racked my brain to figure out what was wrong with me and what I could change that would make my wife accept me. But nothing was good enough. Why? Because the problem wasn’t me, the problem was her adultery and the wrong thinking that led to it.

    I actually had people who, when they found out, asked me “What did you do to make her have an affair?” Wow, that one really stings, especially for someone that is already having a hard time because of the typical “christian” thinking that seeks to blame both parties because they don’t have the courage to confront sin.

    People like to use the excuse of “nobody’s perfect” to justify a lot of things. Of course nobody is perfect, but nothing justifies adultery. Go back to the garden, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. Did God fall for their blame shifting? Nope, each was responsible for their own sin.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Perfectly said, Sheep, and I am so sorry about your wife’s actions, but even more sorry about the callous things that were said to you, especially by Christians. That’s awful. I hope that this post can do a tiny part in changing that conversation.

  7. Jane Eyre

    Regardless of what precipitated it, cheating is a vicious, sinful, and counterproductive way of dealing with the problem. You can get counseling, get a divorce, talk through the issues, or pray, but you don’t get to commit adultery. It’s sort of like aborting a baby if pregnant – yeah we all understand you might be in brutally tough situation, but that particular solution is evil.

    Ultimately, the person who cheated needs to repent, and then to figure out why adultery is the “solution” of choice, as opposed to counseling or divorce. The latter usually reveals some ugly truths about control, retribution, and lack of respect for the spouse as a person.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire


  8. Anonymous

    Did you read the whole book?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      No, I didn’t. As I said very clearly at the top of the post, what I am responding to is the way that Focus framed it. That’s why I put the picture of Focus’ Facebook status, stated what I would have rather Focus on the Family said, and stated that my issue was not with the book per se, but with Focus on the Family’s handling of it.

  9. Jen Grice

    On a recent post on my blog, I reminded readers (mainly divorcing/divorced women) that if a husband were to rob a bank (even if the couple needed the money) if the wife was totally unaware of his actions, we wouldn’t blame her for his criminal activity. I think that helped a lot of women see they weren’t to blame for his choice to commit adultery either.

    I personally survived being blamed for multiple affairs in my marriage by my ex-husband, pastors, books, and articles on the topic. The way this book was marketed does nothing more than further that same narrative – that it’s the wife’s job to “keep her husband from cheating,” which is represented in many other books on this topic already.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for the work you do, Jen! It’s very important. And that robbing the bank analogy is a good one!

  10. Brokenhearted

    Sheila, from all of us who have experienced this excruciating pain, thank you for standing up and speaking the truth that we were not to blame.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re so welcome! And I’m so sorry for your pain.

  11. Susan

    I’m really surprised that Focus put this out this way. I’m in the divorce process from a husband who left and moved far away. I friend recommended that I re-read Dr. James Dobson’s “Love Must Be Tough.” It’s an older book, but he was strong on what we now call boundaries and that there must be repentance before the marriage issues can be addressed in a very careful, God-honoring way. He focuses on how the spouse should act in these situations. I found it very encouraging and confirmation of how my church and counsellors have advised me.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I know, Susan. I really liked Love Must Be Tough. But I think they may be changing their stance towards divorce. I know that they do not support divorce for abuse, for instance. It is problematic. I’m glad that you found that book, though, and I’m so sorry for the pain that you’re going through!

  12. Nathan

    This mindset is similar to the “98 ways in which a wife can sin against her husband” list that we talked about a while ago.

    Yes, the non-cheating spouse may be contributing to overall marital problems, but only the cheating spouse contributes to the cheating. “The Devil made me do it” is a tired old excuse.

    Sheila, your three main points are solid.
    1. Cheating is ALWAYS the fault of the cheater.
    2. There may be problems in the marriage, and it’s possible that both are contributing to the problems, but only the cheater is cheating.
    3. A marriage can heal, and likely needs to examine ALL of the issues (which may involve both), but it has to start with the cheater confessing and repenting.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Perfect synopsis! Thank you.

  13. finally free

    Yes, your comments in this article are right on. No one is to blame for the sin of another person. Having just gotten divorced from a covert narcissist who emotionally, verbally & spiritually abused me….and then blamed me for it, I feel you could substitute “abuse” for “adultery” in this article. I can’t tell you how many times people have questioned me about what I did to cause my ex to abuse me. Or how marriage problems are the fault of both people. Wrong. First of all, abuse is not a “marriage problem..” Second, the abusive behavior was his choice…and he did it to his first wife, and then to me, his second wife. And just like adultery, abusive behavior must be repented of, and dealt with first (individually by the abuser) BEFORE any marriage problems can be worked on, since trust gets destroyed by abuse. You can’t work on marriage issues without trust first being restored. Thank you for a great response to FOTF.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly! Just want to highlight two things you said:

      “abuse is not a “marriage problem.” Yep.

      “You can’t work on marriage issues without trust first being restored.” Double Yep.

    • Rachel L Smith

      That’s my divorce story too. We had a lot of issues at first, and I definitely bore some blame in some of it. I repented, though, and did what I could to fix me and my approach.

      Once I did that with myself, his behavior got worse. And worse and worse and worse. He ended up kicking me out via email, where I told him exactly where I’d end up going if he did so. Refused to talk to me, refused to acknowledge he’d done anything wrong, and refused to submit to any kind of authority.

      Then he had the audacity to try to divorce me for abandonment. I printed out the email, took it to my lawyer, and he said don’t worry, honey, we got this. The ex made the choice to abandon, with willful intent. And I made sure he was the one who filed for divorce. He was here on a work visa a decade ago and I have no idea if he was able to renew it, since he had a domestic assault charge on his permanent record because I called the cops on him.

      The abuse scars left me with some PTSD issues and even a decade later, the idea of trusting another man that much is something I can’t even begin to contemplate. Maybe someday I can again. But in the meantime I’m safe and content and have built a life I love.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m so sorry you went through all that, Rachel. So sorry. I’m glad you’re in safety now!

  14. Allison Thompson

    I think this seems like a bit of an overreaction to a little tag line that was purposely meant to make readers curious. It was meant to make people talk about it and wonder how on earth the one who didn’t cheat could be the difference… That’s the whole purpose of tag lines!
    And it also could merely be pointing out that no matter what the one who committed adultery does, and no matter the level of repentance, the OTHER spouse also has the power to bring healing to the marriage. Because both people have to decide to stay (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) in order for a marriage to be saved. The faithful spouse has an important opportunity to look at unhealthy patterns they’ve been a part of.
    However, either way – good job on the part of the marketing department for getting more attention on the book’s release!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Allison, I know what you’re saying, but I think our choice of words matters. It really does. And if you look at the comments on Focus on the Family’s status (almost 1,000 so far) they’re overwhelmingly negative. People had the same reaction I did. I think this was a big blunder for the marketing department. You don’t want to launch a book and have that many people angry about it. Controversy doesn’t SELL books. It may get people talking about them, but it doesn’t sell them. It turns off prospective buyers.

      But even more than that, the introduction that they have posted online pretty much sums up the book just as Focus has. I don’t think this is just a blunder in wording. I think the problem is far more serious!

      • Maria

        1. Tag lines that tell a lie are not just “attention grabbers.”’ They are also lies. Telling cheated on spouses that they are responsible for the betrayal they suffered is a particularly harmful lie.

        2. You cannot heal your spouse of his or her free will. That also includes not being able to heal them of their sin. Only God can do that. And he requires us to accept the healing he offers by repenting. A person cannot be healed of their sin while pretending that it’s someone else’s sin.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          EXACTLY, Maria!

    • Emmy

      Tag words maybe. But such tags words can be dangerous. If someone who is suffering and looking for real help, stumbels upon such tag words and reads them out of context,
      she (or he) may really get hurt.

      Perhaps we should not judge a whole book by its cower…but in this case, I believe we can say the cower is not good even if the inside of the book is better.

    • Tina konkin

      I’m right here and I’d be more than willing as the author to share if you would like to question me publicly. I agree with everything you are saying and more!
      Tina Konkin

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Hi Tina,

        I’m not sure if your comment is meant for Allison or for me.

        I think my questions and concerns are not about your book per se, since I haven’t read it, but I do have real issues with the way that Focus on the Family has framed it, as I have stated in this post. Do you understand how the marketing could be very hurtful to people? Do you think that the marketing could be changed for the book? Or is the marketing and the introduction really what the book is about?

        I have tried to ask Focus to change the way they are marketing this, but they aren’t responding to me. Perhaps they would respond to you?

        I know that you want to help marriages, and I hope that we can find a way to talk about rebuilding and restoring marriages after an affair in a healthy way.

      • Allison Thompson

        Hi Sheila,

        I decided to go get the book and read it over the past few days since I didn’t want to encourage anything that would hurt those who are victims of infidelity. In all honesty, it appears that Focus on the Family wanted to make it clear that this book was for the person who is trying to decide whether or not to stay with a spouse who has cheated. It also addresses how to keep from just going back to the status quo for those who decide to stay in the marriage.
        The author does a great job of describing the brutal reality of the pain that comes when you discover your husband has cheated on you with your best friend. She in no way takes responsibility for her husband’s choices, and she talks about how he had to go on his own journey as well. But this book is more about the one who has been cheated on. She talks about how sometimes divorce is the best choice. She talks about the wisdom in taking a moment to seek God and not make a life altering decision based on emotions such as anger.
        I think the tag line will do a great job of grabbing such readers who are in the midst of discovering marital infidelity and are trying to decide what to do. As a pastor, I’ve seen the pattern of one spouse cheating, repenting, asking for forgiveness, and the other spouse taking him or her back. But often nothing deeper ever gets addressed. It’s just about survival. And the author provides insight into how she felt God leading her to address some unhealthy patterns in her own life that needed to be dealt with in order for her marriage to have a chance at flourishing. Her three steps are to reveal, rewrite, and renew… She discusses them in depth.
        Her story seems to me to be a great example of how what the enemy intended for evil God used for good. I believe these sorts of resources are very important. It is not an excuse for adultery. It is not meant to encourage it or place blame on the one who got cheated on. It’s about the reality that in our world for any number of reasons (including our society’s very casual/free for all approach to sex among other things), infidelity has occurred in far too many marriages. And although before God, it is grounds for divorce, there are also reasons that many spouses feel led to stay in the marriage. The impact on their children is often a huge factor. The Bible is full of God’s redemption and a grace we could never earn and certainly don’t deserve. So for this author to take the time to bare her soul and offer her experience as hope to readers struggling with the same thing… I think it should be honored and celebrated. And we should be careful not to get caught up in putting down a fellow human being’s attempt at bringing health to hurting marriages. Just a thought…

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Allison, I’m all for redemption stories. Absolutely! But we have to be very careful with the way we talk about them, so that we don’t hurt others. To imply that a woman plays a role in her husband’s affair is just plain hurtful, period, besides being theologically wrong (as I’ll show in depth on Tuesday). Yes, to rebuild we must examine ourselves, and often in that rebuilding the marriage can be stronger. Absolutely. I wish she had simply framed the book like that, rather than insinuating that the wronged party is to blame.

          What did you think about her statement that her husband wasn’t really to blame because he was in a “trance like state”?

          • Allison Thompson

            I guess I missed that phrase about her husband not being to blame. It seemed throughout the book that she was really talking more about her own internal journey. The trance like state she described was that often with infidelity comes a rush of excitement with the new experience. And a person can get caught up in the deception of sin without seeing the reality of where it can take them long term. This was in regards to her choice to go visit her husband after the affair. He had gone to a relative’s house and was caught up in saying that he loved both women and wasn’t sure what he wanted. The author felt that her husband had gotten caught up in the sin and wasn’t seeing clearly. She felt God leading her to go to him and sort of bring him back to reality and confront the lies of sin.
            Anyway, you can choose to infer whatever you want from someone else’s words. Some people aren’t the greatest writers and you have to read sentences over and over before you can really understand what they meant. But this woman is talking about taking responsibility for your own life and health and for what you bring to any of your relationships. She talks about Scripture that says no one is without sin and all have fallen short of God’s glory. The author has clearly worked with a lot of people who have experienced infidelity but have refused to take a look at their own life choices and how they impact their marriage.

    • Taylor

      I agree! I think way too much is being I to this article. Firstly the woman has no bearing on why her husband cheated. Infidelity is the reaction but doesn’t treat the problem. Both parties will have to question their role in the problems in the marriage that led to the infidelity because there were problems before.

      A title is a title. No different from the titles listed on this site.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Taylor, I would note that you are in the vast minority here. That post on Focus’ Facebook page has about 1000 comments now, overwhelmingly negative. No other post on their page has anywhere near that interaction. People are not reacting well, because what they said was harmful.

        I’m curious why you did not see it that way. So would it have made a difference if it were about abuse? What if there was a tagline (and a whole introduction to the book, by the way, which says the same thing) which asked, “what role did you play in the abuse?” Would you find that hurtful and harmful?

  15. Nathan

    > > I feel you could substitute “abuse” for “adultery” in this article.
    Or porn use or almost anything. While we can help our spouses avoid bad things, ultimately we are responsible for our own choices.

    > > Or how marriage problems are the fault of both people.
    This one is a little tricky. While I believe that a cheating spouse is entirely responsible for the cheating, if a marriage has problems overall, it’s likely that both are contributing at least a little bit, although each may be contributing different things.

    • Natalie

      “While we can help our spouses avoid bad things, ultimately we are responsible for our own choices.” So true, Nathan! When my husband and I first sought counselling for issues in our marriage that were increasing in severity, his advise was for me to stop focusing on my husband and to focus on myself instead and better myself. I as the spouse can encourage and help guide my husband towards behaviours that better him as a man; I can’t force him to do those behaviours or do them for him. I feel like we in the church and the culture at large need to start taking more personal responsibility and stop blaming our spouse for our shortcoming, and stop looking at one spouse and asking them why they didn’t do xyz based on the other spouse’s behaviour. It’s not fair to the non-offending spouse and let’s the offending spouse off the hook too easily.

  16. Nathan

    Sheila writes
    > > I don’t think this is just a blunder in wording. I think the problem is far more serious!

    I think so, too. It’s all from the same place as “women, dress modestly, or men will lust and it’s your fault” and so on.

    • Natalie

      “From the heart, the mouth speaks.” How one words their thoughts means everything!

  17. Lea

    If someone wants to cheat they will cheat. No matter how good of a partner you are, no matter what you look like, it does not matter. So to tell someone it’s their fault is so wrong, and so damaging.

    I think this is part of the whole ‘men just accidentally fall into infidelity’ mindset that leads to silly rules making to try to stop these ‘accidents’. That’s not generally speaking what happens at all in my experience. They are not accidents they are choices.

    A relationship can have problems and you can talk about them and try to fix them, sure. And if you can’t fix them you have hard choices to make, but cheating never has to be one of them.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Well said.

  18. Blessed Wife

    There may be good reasons to kill someone, but there is no good reason, EVER, to cheat.

    Shame on those who ask victims of adultery to “look at how they may have contributed to the problem” while ignoring the elephant in the wrong bed! This is craning around the log to look for splinters. Get rid of the log first, no matter whose eye it’s in! Then, as Jesus said, you can see to deal with the splinters.

  19. Roger

    I cheated on my wife. I spent 37 years with sex withheld, with criticism, with contempt, with stonewalling, with apathy.
    Counseling was not effective. She elected to not take any responsibility.
    I’m with my affair partner. She is kind, gentle, respectful, a helper, cordial, and loving. We are both Christian’s and know God has forgiven me and us.
    Our goal now is to give the ones around us a Godly marriage.
    My ex states “I didn’t do anything wrong”.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Roger, your wife definitely should take her share of the responsibility of making the marriage an unhappy one.

      But it’s not her fault you cheated. She didn’t make you cheat. You could have left her before sleeping with someone else, you could have drawn boundaries, and you could have just not slept with someone else.

      Other people doing bad things doesn’t negate the responsibility we have of our own actions. I’m really sorry for the intense pain you experienced for so long, but to anyone else reading this, if you’re in this position adultery is not your only option. Get some support around you, draw boundaries and separate if necessary. But nothing can make you sleep with someone while you’re married to someone else. It’s always a choice.

    • Blessed Wife

      I’m sorry for what you went through, Roger, truly. Verbal and physical abuse by spouses is awful, painful, debilitating, and should not happen to anyone.

      But I stand by my statement. Nothing she did could ever justify your cheating. Not abuse, not cheating herself, not depriving you of sex, not anything. Leaving her on your own, I think would be completely justified, even necessary to your healing and preservation of health. But not having an affair while still married to her. She sounds like an awful piece of work, and I’m glad you’re away from her. I’m glad you and your cheating partner have sought God’s forgiveness, but it sounds like you’re still trying to justify your choice to cheat. Not buying, not sorry.

  20. Lori Pyatt

    My husband and I have talked with couples/researched for over 20 years about this issue. From that I can say this: Sure the cheater had a huge role to play, but focusing on blame (as this title seems to do,) only keeps her–and him–stuck.
    It also leads to enabling the cheater. I could share story after story of this being the case.

    I haven’t read the book, so it could be that the title is just a way to grab attention to sell more books, but if the message of the book is that the spouse of the cheater is at fault, hmmm…

    To me, this could be extended to the line of thinking that says, “If your adult child sins in a way that really harms others, it’s your fault as parents.”

    To which I always think, “But if God is that kid’s parent too, does this mean God’s at fault?”

    Of course not. But right along with the spouse who got cheated on, He is the cheater’s spouse too.

    If the message of the book is solidly that the one cheated on is to blame in most cases, that’s called the Codependent Model.

    And the Codependent Model flies in the face of the Betrayal Trauma Model. (Which in my experience is light-years quicker than the “codependent” approach in healing the spouse/couple after betrayal… we’re talking months compared to decades!)

    If that’s the approach the book uses, I’m concerned it would do what’s called, “Treatment Induced Trauma” to those who trust FOTF…

    It also begs the question: Could it serve as a green-light to those who are, like my husband was, ‘an affair waiting to happen’?

    Personally, early after my husband confessed to his near-affairs, I felt tremendous GUILT.

    But instead of allowing that to keep me frozen this time around, I brought that mindset to God… several times.

    What I heard in response:
    ‘Everyone has to account for their own sin.’

    (Because it’s the men we work with who have sexual integrity issues) I now always say to the wives who struggle with guilt,

    “If you brought issues into the marriage that were damaging the relationship, it still didn’t warrant him going outside the relationship. Nope, that’s what marriage counseling is for. He should have taken you to counseling.”

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Lori, I would love a post on the difference between the Codependent Model and the Betrayal Trauma Model. That sounds very important! I’ll email you about it. Thank you for this insightful comment.

      • John triplett

        If you are considering an affair, don’t do it …….. it’s truly not worth it, I have been married over 30 years, sexless totally for at least 5 years… first blamed myself, not in good enough shape….. based on little things she said in passing, so I changed….. everything….. became the best of everything I ever was and it changed nothing. I struggled with other women being flirtation with me….. but I knew it was not right, so the deep sad part of this, finally asked God to take my disire for it all from me ….. I even researched how to chemically do it on my own, but didn’t. I believe he did finally, I have so much more energy now……. projects and more projects…. that alone should keep a man out of trouble. Never is cheating right…. change yourself, change your life, don’t let anything overpower and control you…… we wear the chains we forge is so true. Have a fulfilling life, it can happen even without sex in your life….. God will be pleased.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That is a GREAT letter, Jay. Just great. I’m going to use it as a post next week if I may. I know it will speak healing to so many women’s hearts. Thank you!

      • Jay Pyatt

        Absolutely, please let more women know about it. Thanks for reading it.

  21. wifeofasexaddict

    I didn’t want to comment on Facebook under my real name, so I’m glad I have the opportunity to comment here.

    I think many Christians have this idea that infidelity in a Christian marriage goes like this: two basically good, albeit sinful, people, who love God and try to do the right thing get married. After some time passes and the new has worn off the relationship, one of them gets into a difficult situation. They have to work extra hours, or care for an elderly parent, or they have a child with an illness, or one of them has an extended illness. Maybe one of the spouses is even neglecting the other. They start to drift apart. One of them starts confiding in someone who happens to be of the opposite sex. (Bonus points if the someone is a pastor, just to make sure pastors’ wives stay scared.) They start to feel more romantic feelings for this person than they do for their spouse. And suddenly they’re having sex. And then they feel great regret, and also conflicted because they love both their spouse and their paramour.

    In other words, Christians tend to think that there is a slow slide from happy marriage to distance to confiding in another to sex with the other. And at any point either spouse could have woken up from their stupor and done something to prevent the affair. They think this happens 99.9% of the time and that abusive or addictive situations are exceedingly rare.

    I’m here to tell you, sex addicts are not rare. And many go into marriage with their addiction already well entrenched. They don’t disclose it to their fiance, because they think being able to have “legal” sex will cure it. Wrong. I’m here to tell you that abusers are sneaky. Narcissists appear charming at first, and can keep up a ruse long enough to get someone down the aisle. Abusers and narcissists don’t abuse everyone. They can keep lots of people fooled while doing horrible things (including infidelity) behind closed doors.

    I live in a small town in a conservative US state. In the 3 years I have lived here, I have met 8 other women who are wives of sex addicts. All have been given bad marriage and sex advice from church people or pastors. I know there are more than 8 of us in this town.

    Books that ask a spouse how they contributed to their spouse’s affair are very harmful and hurtful to spouses of addicts or abusers is very harmful to them. While it may be helpful to repair a marriage(if both spouses are willing, and after repentance) in the above scenarios, it isn’t good as go-to advice or or in every situation. Marriages where one spouse is not acting in good faith are not as rare as you think!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re so right! When I started blogging, I would have described affairs exactly as you did at the top. And, yes, those do happen. But there are also many sex addicts.

      And you know what? Even if an affair DOES happen like that–it doesn’t mean someone contributed to it. A child in the hospital? For pity’s sake, have some self-control! Just because you’re feeling distant doesn’t give anyone a license to do anything. Sheesh.

      But you’re right–we need to be more aware of the narcissists in our midst, because there are a lot of them. I’ve known many, too, and it’s scary.

      • wifeofasexaddict

        Sheila, I used to think that too. I think it’s important to note- I got this idea from the preaching I heard, including Focus on the Family. Back in the 80’s and 90’s when Dobson was still in charge. I ate up everything he said or wrote. That’s why I believed that false idea about bad marriages. Love Must Be Tough has some good stuff, but it also has some problematic stuff, like advising women with angry, unreasonable husbands to refuse to comply and provoke an attack. Very dangerous advice! And then adding a caveat- longer than the original thought- that sometimes women are the abusers and provoke a husband to attack them to gain sympathy. So Dobson is not without blame.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I really need to reread the book. Like I said, I haven’t read it in almost 30 years now. The big thing I remember was “don’t be a doormat” and if you let him get away with it, he won’t respect you, and he can’t love you without respect. I appreciate those points. I’m not surprised there’s problematic stuff in there, too, though. I just can’t believe that over the years, instead of getting BETTER, they’ve actually gotten worse. Love Must Be Tough is still better than this book!

        • Blessed Wife

          I know it’s an unpopular opinion here, but I have known such women, and known of others. More women than men, actually. We are not being honest if we don’t acknowledge that female abusers exist, and are much more common than many people realize or are willing to admit.

          I am not excusing males who abuse their partners. Not at all. But it doesn’t quite seem fair to call men who have been physically, violently attacked “abusers” when they fend off the attacker, who then calls the cops on them.

          What I am saying is that we should acknowledge, support, and defend abuse victims regardless of their gender, and discuss the topic honestly, instead of trying to suppress discussion of abuse by women because it supposedly detracts from recognition of abuse by men.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, absolutely female abusers exist! I’ve got a post on that here–about male victims of abuse.

    • Lori Pyatt

      I agree with you, Wife of a Sex Addict. There are soooo many Sex Addicts out there. A 2015 Christian survey says 40-70% of men. the 2008 non-church surveys said 80-90% of men (both were Barna Surveys).

      But I’ve heard it said a few times from group leaders, “At our conferences for men, when we ask for a show of hands “Who here struggles with porn?” 98-100% of the men raise their hands.”

      But here’s the curious thing: Several men who took the 2015 Christian survey said,

      “Christian men use it just as often as non-Christian men…

      we just lie about it more.”

      (God have mercy on us all!)

      • SLS

        Calling half of all men sex addicts is unjust and uncalled for. God designed men and women with different but equally powerful sexual drives. Sometimes things are broken due to our sinful world but treating a God given desire like its an addiction is just as bad as blaming the other spouse for adultery.

        Yes, a sin like porn is very pervasive among males. So is gossip and backbiting among females. Does that mean all men are sex addicts and all women are gossip addicts? Of course not. The sad truth is some sins are more appealing to one or the other gender.

  22. Sandy Vanderveen

    This all makes sense Sheila. Thank you for so clearly laying it out. My husband and I went through some very difficult times about 8 years ago where we could easily have called it quits. I was not a very lovable person then and intimacy was infrequent and very stressed. He is an amazing man and even though his emotional needs were not being met and he admits that he was struggling deeply, he chose to remain faithful to me and obedient to our Lord. We thankfully came through those dark times and I love him even more now than ever because he loved me and stuck by me when I was unlovable. I’m not saying it’s easy but it is possible to remain faithful when the other person seems to be working against you and the marriage when that person has integrity and relies on the Lord, because they know it’s worth preserving the marriage.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amen, Sandy!

  23. Tabitha

    Ugh this was exactly what was told to me when I sought help in our church. I was told that I wasn’t fulfilling his desire because we weren’t having sex enough and I wasn’t praying enough for our marriage. Then I was given a copy of The Excellent Wife to read. Somehow everything was my fault even though I had remained faithful.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Tabitha, how awful. I hope you’ve found a real body of Christ now, rather than that one.

  24. Andrea

    I have come up against that line of thinking — the betrayed spouse’s “culpability” — so much since I discovered my husband’s unfaithfulness.

    I am the wife whose husband was a secret porn user which progressed to chat rooms, sexting, phone sex and then in person no-strings attached sexual encounters (some short term/some long term) with over 20 women spanning 15 years of our 19 year marriage. The secret porn use and chatting predated our marriage. The physical infidelity started after we were married 2 1/2 years and our son was just a wee toddler. I HAD NO IDEA. I was an attentive, loving and supportive wife who loved sex and intimacy. He had a job (police officer) which allowed for unaccounted pockets of time to indulge his fantasies and which has a bro-culture that supported and encouraged infidelity.

    It was my husband, not me, who grew distant as this behavior became more and more entrenched in his life. He attributed the distance and his waning libido to “work stress” and pain issues (back problems). I believed him. I doubled down on being supportive and making sure I didn’t in any way add to his stress load. I was laid back, cool, and made myself fault-free lest his libido further decline. I made sure to stay pretty and desirable, maintain my weight, etc. I took on almost all of the parenting. Nothing I did worked. By 2015, he had found dating apps and the cheating escalated even further.

    Again, I had no idea. I started to think my husband was gay because over the years he had come to have ZERO interest in me sexually. In an effort to get to the truth, I did a deep computer dive in July of 2018 and found a text conversation he had neglected to delete. The truth started to be revealed and it took months to get the whole story. A whole hidden world, a double life, of sordid sexual sin was uncovered. Some of it even deviant (BDSM). This side of him was NEVER shown to me. I was and remain utterly devastated and shattered.

    Upon discovery, he immediately repented and we entered marriage counseling. I was completely shattered and shell-shocked. I still am a year later although I am slowly climbing out of the hole this thrust me into.

    When I read how I’m supposed to look my marriage for “problems” which “contributed” to his choices, I want to SCREAM. When I read how I “should have known” and I must be defective to have not recognized what must have been clearly evident, it is salt in my raw wounds. I did what any good wife is supposed to do, I trusted my husband. I believed him to be a man incapable of this type of behavior. I’m not stupid or in denial. I believed the lies I was told by someone who was very good at hiding and lying.

    Thank you for this article.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Andrea, my heart just hurts for you. I’m so sorry. I hope the counseling you’re getting is good. I have known so many marriages that have come back from this, but I know it’s so hard, and he has to deal with the sexual addiction. Again, I’m so sorry. I wish you all the best!

      • Andrea

        Thank you, Sheila. It helps to hear there are marriages that were able to come back from this. I’m not at a point where I am able to hope. Rather, I think I’m in a place where I am watchfully waiting to see how it unfolds, knowing that whatever happens, God has a plan for me and he will use this for my ultimate good. Beauty for ashes!

        God is faithful. I have felt him holding me throughout this ordeal. Before I found out what my husband was up to, it was like I was wandering in a desert. I’m not in the desert anymore and for that I am truly grateful.

        Thanks again!

    • wifeofasexaddict

      Andrea, my story is similar. I am now 7 years on, still married, and struggling. My husband has made good progress, and I have made a ton of progress, but our relationship is about the same. I would encourage you to look for a Betrayal and Beyond group in your area. Hopefully there is one! This is not your fault. You are not to blame for any of it. He is a sex addict. He shows all the signs. I hope you get some good advice and support. Let me know if you would like to talk.

      • Andrea

        Thank you so much. It helps to know I’m not the only one going through this. I think it’s a lot more common than people realize now that porn is so readily available for free 24/7 on the internet. Also, dating apps (Tinder, etc.) make finding no-strings sex hookups very easy. It’s mind-boggling. There are also apps designed to cloak the behavior on electronic devices.

        I’m simply amazed by the ease with which someone can find so many willing no-strings attached sex partners today. There’s hardly any work involved at all! I guess I’m naive.

        Spouses betrayed in this way mostly live in secret, hiding what happened, only sharing it anonymously on the internet or with the closest of family/friends (who get the edited version because they’d freak out if they knew how really sleazy your husband can be).

        Thank you for the suggestion of Betrayal & Beyond groups. I’d never heard of them but, thanks to you, did a web search at Pure Desire and there’s a group in my area. I contacted the church and hopefully will hear back that I can attend.

        My husband is repentant, has done a 180 degree turnaround, and we have instituted multiple checks to prevent a return to unfaithfulness, including a very generous post-nuptial agreement and complete transparency. He knows that a return to any part of that life means an immediate divorce, no further contact between us, and no chance for reconciliation. He says he’s 100% committed to his marriage, will never jeopardize it again, and is filled with remorse for the choices he made. He says he ruined a great marriage and wishes more than anything he never went down that road. His actions match his words but we will see whether or not he’s able to maintain it for the long haul.

        I absolutely will not have that behavior in my life. I’m horrified that (unbeknownst to me) it was a part of my life for 75% of my marriage. It started small and intermittent (as sin does) and grew so large it became a lifestyle. My husband followed the devil’s playbook to a T. Boy oh boy, did Satan ever find a live one when he got his hooks in my husband!

        I’m here to talk as well anytime you’d like. It’s a hard path to walk alone.

        Thanks again for your support. It means the world to me!

    • wifeofasexaddict

      Andrea, my story is similar. Try looking for a Betrayal and Beyond group in your area. Your husband should also join a Pure Desire group if he is serious about restoring the marriage. Hopefully you can find them in your area! I also recommend counseling for both of you, separately. He needs someone trained in sex addiction. Pure Desire can help find those. This is NOT your fault. You didn’t cause it. You couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. Sorry you’re suffering. I’m happy to talk if you want.

  25. Chris

    The Bible does say a person can cause or force another to commit adultery (Prov. 7:23; Matt. 5:32). One can be made to sin through matters of indifference by being a stumbling block (1 Cor. 8:9-13; Luke 9:42). Children can be provoked wrongfully (Col. 3:21).

    While a person guilty of committing adultery in marriage bears responsibility for committing such, it isn’t necessarily true the other is completely free from causing it. To imply only one person is to blame for their adultery in every case is just as extreme and wrong as saying both of them are.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Chris, you are so, so wrong. A stumbling block does not mean that you are to blame if they sin. In fact, if you read those passages, who is it that Jesus ultimately holds accountable? The person who actually sinned! And the passages about causing someone to sin are about CHILDREN, not adults. It’s about leading people who are infants in the faith, or very young, astray.

      Let me throw up another example. In the story of the Prodigal Son, the Son rebels against the father. Was the father to blame? Did the father do something wrong? In your logic, he must have. But in that story, the Father is GOD.

      Or take Judas. Did Jesus do something wrong so that Judas betrayed Him? No, Jesus chose to do the wrong Himself. Stop with this victim blaming and bear responsibility for your own sin.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      To add to what Sheila said above:
      Prov 7:23 is warning young men NOT to fall for an adulteress’s tricky ways. Warning implies that he believes his son doesn’t have to fall for her tricks. Therefore, inherently not “caused” or “forced” to sin. Also doesn’t blame the person who was cheated on in the slightest.
      Matt 5:32 is rebuking men who would divorce their wives and leave them abandoned and destitute without due cause.
      1 Cor 8:9-13 is about eating meat sacrificed to idols, which is NOT a sin. It’s about not telling someone to go against their convictions. A better example would be not trying to trick your vegan friend into eating meat because you think it’s better for them health-wise–it’s about respecting other people’s journey and not putting up stumbling blocks, not saying “Well it’s your fault that I did something wrong.”
      Luke 9:42 has literally nothing to do with what you said at all (it’s about a demon-possessed child)
      Col 3:21 is about not exasperating children so that you don’t discourage them (break their spirit). It has nothing to do with adultery or causing someone to sin.

      Just in case anyone was wondering what those verses were ACTUALLY about. Because literally none of them blames the woman being cheated on for being cheated on.

  26. Natalie

    Dear Shiela,
    I hear you saying that you cannot rebuild until the cheater repents. Please let me know where you get this from!! I am so grateful I did not succomb to such teaching. When learning of my husbands affair, he told me he no longer wanted to be married. I chose to seize the opportunity to not try to change him, but to grow more and more into the wife God wanted me to be. I totally left changing my husbands heart to God. Our marriage is growing as a beautiful flower. He recently started sharing his heart with me in beautiful ways.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Natalie, I am so glad that your marriage is being restored. I am! And God does work in different people’s lives in very different ways.

      HOWEVER, let me please caution you with something. When you do not hold someone to their covenant, you do run a greater risk that they will feel emboldened to continue to sin. Holding people accountable for their actions is something that is intrinsic to the way that God designed the world and the way that He designed human nature–God cannot be mocked, a man reaps what he sows. When we “disrupt the law of sowing and reaping”, and don’t require someone to reap what they sow, then they no longer feel a need to repent. Sometimes they don’t even realize they’ve done anything wrong!

      We are called to forgive, yes, but reconciliation in relationship is a two-way street. It is based on honesty and confession; it is not based on letting someone off the hook who is constantly taking advantage of you. This rarely works well, and is talked against throughout the book of Proverbs.

      There’s another element, too: when we decide that a person can treat us badly and bear no repercussions, then we become a pushover, a doormat, so to speak. It is very hard to respect a doormat. And when you cannot respect someone, love often disappears over time. It is hard to love someone whom you use. That person becomes more a servant to you rather than an honest to goodness partner.

      Again, I am not arguing AGAINST forgiveness–that should be done regardless. I am not even arguing against reconciliation. What I am saying is that reconciliation without confession and repentance can be dangerous. God doesn’t even do that with us! God says that the relationship starts with our repentance.

      Sometimes we decide that it’s worth it to fight for the marriage and forego our right to our spouse’s repentance, perhaps for the kids, or because we don’t want to go through divorce, or for whatever reasons. And sometimes those reasons could very well be valid! But you cannot build true intimacy when a covenant has been broken and the one breaking it does not own up to the breaking. Once a spouse has cheated, the marriage has been broken. That doesn’t mean it can’t be rebuilt; but the covenant is based on faithfulness, and the spouse has now been unfaithful. It still can be rebuilt, but the foundation should be one of truth and faithfulness. Someone who will not repent of an affair cannot walk forward in faithfulness or truth. That means that the marriage relationship is now compromised. In some cases, God does use these situations and brings things back around. He can change hearts, and He can work in a whole variety of ways! But, in general, research has consistently shown that allowing someone to get away with a breach of a covenant, without properly confronting it and dealing with the sin, does not bring intimacy.

      Also, stuffing down your own feelings means that intimacy can’t really happen. If you decide to stay and ignore the fact that you have been hurt–even in the name of being Christlike–those feelings don’t go away. You just may choose not to face them because they’re too scary. But they are there. And they will stop you from ultimately experiencing real intimacy. An affair needs to heal. It is a huge breach of trust. And to heal, it means you have to confront your own feelings, and he has to admit his guilt. You may choose to do this differently, over time, but ultimately that will have to be done. And I pray that you will find a way to come to real healing that doesn’t paper over problems, but that acknowledges them so that you can be healed. “Confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.” Confession comes before healing.

      • Natalie

        Dear Sheila,
        Are you saying that when my husband was bent on leaving, I should have told him that he needs to be accountable to me??? I can tell you for sure that he would have laughed in my face…he didn’t even want to be with me, let alone be accountable to me. Is that what Hosea did?
        I feel you belittle the power of God by putting responsibiities on wives that they simply were not meant to bear. Do you say it is a wife’s responsibility to cause our husband’s to reap what they sow? My God is bigger than that. I can simply follow His simple command to honor and respect my husband unconditionally and He will take care of the reaping and sowing deal.
        A lot of what you say makes sense, but it simply is not based on scripture. Such as how to build intimacy…to which I may add…ii simply not even somethng that God holds us responsible for…building intimacy. He simply says honor and respect our husbands.. Sometimes I think we like to make His commands much more complex than they really are. And so often when we follow those simple commands, in turn, he blesses us with gifts such as intimacy.
        It bother me that you assume that I am miserably tolerating my husbands sin. Nothing can be further from the truth. Instead, I am beyond blessed to simply follow Christs commands and enjoy His awesome blessings free from the burden of fixing my husband. My life is not about holding people accountable and changing their hearts.. It is about living my life in accordance to God’s Word, and loving and praying for others…and allowing God to do the heart work. I agree, for anyone to be right with God, they need to repent…but that will not and neither should it keep me from keeping MY vow.s I also agree that when/if my husband repents we will experience a jump in our marital intimacy, but it still is not my responsibility to make it happen… God delights to do that and no one does it better than Him.
        I don’t get offended easily, but I do find myself offended that you judge me to paper over problems. I do not stuff any ill feelings as you suggest, I simply have learned to give my problems to God…my God loves me and asks me to to that.
        Please forgive if I come across strongly…this subject is very close to my heart…. I used to believe as you do and I can tell you I was beyond miserable and my heart simply goes out to the many women that feel they only have two choices… change thier husband…or else be unhappy.

        • wifeofasexaddict

          Natalie, I’m glad things have gone well for you. But for most people who take this approach, things get worse, not better. Many, many women are advised by church people to do this, but it usually makes the problem worse, and makes a woman stay in a bad, even abusive, situation much longer than necessary.

          • Natalie

            I agree that simply surrendering our wayward spouse to God and then working on ourself may not always “work” to bring our spouse back. But neither will trying to reform them. What I am saying is that only God can change their heart and we can only have peace when we surrender them to God. And I must disagree with the idea that this way usually does not work. I belong to 2 different groups that advocate this way and many marriages have been saved. No, definitely not all….but many have experienced their partners leaving their affair partners and coming home to work on their marriage after months and even years of seperation. I agree the ultimate intimacy happens when the wayward spouse repents. But I do NOT agree that we cannot work on our marriage until they do. And when I say working on our marriage, I don’t mean trying to fix it or the other partner, I mean focusing on being open before God and allowing Him to show me what He wants ME to do. Probably most important thing is that whether it “works” or not is not even the reason I do what I do…I simply do it because it is how I found true peace and joy….knowing I can simply give the burden of fixing my husband back to God and in the meantime rest and enjoy the blessings that come from living my life open before Him. Every moment that He blesses me with is another opportunity to allow Him to show through me as I rest in Him… He is so good. 🙂

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Hi Natalie,

          I’m truly not meaning to offend you. I’m just very, very worried about some things that you have said.

          I think the proper response, when a husband has cheated, is to say that you will not tolerate that, and that he needs to stop the affair, admit what he has done wrong, and then look at how to rebuild. That’s not a question of holding him accountable. That’s simply drawing boundaries around what YOU will tolerate.

          Here’s the simple truth: Sometimes when someone hurts us deeply, we want to rush to forgive and paper over the problems because we’re so desperate to hang on to the relationship. If your spouse does something to blow your marriage apart, minimizing it or ignoring it in order to keep the marriage together isn’t really forgiveness.

          Forgiveness is looking full on at what they did. Naming it. Admitting how much it hurt you. And ONLY THEN letting it go.

          When we decide that we are going to carry on as if nothing happened, what we’re really doing is repressing the feelings that come with the betrayal, in the hope that we can keep the relationship together. That may work for a time, but it does not work in the long term.

          If you look at reconciliation in the Bible, you’ll see that forgiveness is always accompanied by repentance of the person who did wrong. Forgiveness CAN be given unilaterally, but the relationship cannot be restored that way. Relationships are restored when we speak out loud what has been done–when we confess and repent.

          I don’t know what’s happening in your relationship. I don’t know where your husband’s heart is, or where your heart is. I’m just saying that in the long run, you cannot have a marriage that is not built on a foundation of trust, because intimacy is not possible without trust. From what you have said, I have heard nothing about your husband repenting.

          It is not about making him change. Please understand. It is simply deciding what you will or will not tolerate. Choosing to tolerate infidelity, or to allow him to not confess it, is to put up a roadblock for real intimacy. Intimacy means being able to share your heart and knowing that you are safe and completely known. Where there are secrets, where there is no trust, there cannot be intimacy.

          That’s why God speaks so much AGAINST infidelity. Just read the prophets, and see what God has to say about those who are unfaithful! He takes this seriously. And it’s okay if we do, too.

          I know this sounds harsh. I really don’t mean it to. I’m just worried that you haven’t really admitted the gravity of what he did–and when you keep that under wraps, it will tend to surface later, and it will impact everything. I’d urge you to see a licensed counselor who can walk you both through this wisely, and show you how to rebuild not just the marriage but real intimacy as well, because it totally is possible!

          • Natalie

            Thank you for your response, Sheila. I think we both have made ourselves quite clear and repeating is not going to change either of us. This will be my last post.. I do notice you changed from us being resposible to making our husbands accountable to instead drawing boundaries for ourselves, which I appreciate. I see that as a huge difference. I only wanted to offer hope to the many hurt women out there that hurt as deeply as I have. The pain is real. And the intense need to fix it is also real. But God has a plan of pain to purpose. It is in our deepest pain that we can feel our burdened lifted as we give our burdens to Him. Regardless of what you may call it… surrendering my husband to God and focusing on my relationship with Him and the blessings He sends has been such a game-changer for me. The people around me have noticed and many whose husbands have betrayed them have come to me for advice. I am so happy when I can help others… I suppose I will never be able to explain myself clearly to all…but I hope that I may have given hope to even just one through my posts. I appreciate your desire to help those struggling. Thank you.

      • Eliza

        I think the key point here is the *marriage* cannot be rebuilt until the cheater repents. When my husband left and moved in with someone else, I could definitely work on myself and become a better, stronger person. I could hold the door open for him to return. I could even reach out and rebuild our friendship. But the marriage couldn’t be rebuilt until he repented because a marriage takes *two* people.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          YES! Absolutely.

        • Natalie

          The idea that a marriage cannot be rebuilt until there is repentance is not found anywhere in scripture and leaves many women either driven to try and change their husband or to feel defeatea as I had for years. Finally, I have found the alternative of surrendering my husband to God and instead allowing Him to work on me is where I found freedom, peace….joy and happiness.

          • Lea

            Natalie, I know this is hard stuff and you’ve found something you think is working. I don’t understand how it possibly could if your husband would have laughed in your face if you talked to him honestly, though, or set any kind of boundaries for yourself.

            I hope that works out for you, but I am also, like Sheila, deeply concerned.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I think the key is reading Isaiah 1–how God longs, so desperately, for a relationship with Israel. How God promises great things for Israel! But first Israel has to turn from its sins. Reconciliation can’t happen until Israel turns from its sins. That is the story, over and over, in how God treated Israel, with whom He had a marriage covenant (so much so that he even issued a “certificate of divorce” when Israel refused to stop committing adultery). God was gracious. God longed to forgive and restore. But ultimately, God left the ball in Israel’s court. God could not fix the relationship without Israel first repenting.

    • Maria

      Natalie, I am sorry for the pain you experienced in the past. At the same time, I am glad for what progress you have made since then.

      Something about your posts seems like bad advice. I’m not trying to change you by typing this. I’m simply engaging in dialogue, knowing that you are your own person and make your own choices. After I say my piece, you are free to dismiss it. For any reason. Even just a hunch that I my words are wrong.

      So, here goes.

      Boundaries are not about controlling people. They are about changing yourself, often in response to another person’s actions simply as a way of protecting yourself.

      Holding someone accountable for their actions is perfectly reasonable.

      I agree with you that holding him accountable to you would be bad. We each are accountable to God, right?

      Finally, setting boundaries is not meant to say “I will protect myself until you change” so much as “I will protect myself, period. If you stop harming me, there will be no need for me to protect myself from you.”

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Maria, very well said.

        I want to add one more thing to the conversation. Sometimes something works for us, but it could still be bad advice. For instance, I know a couple who got married after knowing each other for two weeks. That marriage is now 35 years in, and they love each other and have done great. That does not, however, mean that it is wise to get married after two weeks.

        Similarly, it could be that choosing to ignore the affair and not draw boundaries will work for some people. However, it is still not wise, nor is it in line with how God reconciles. Thus, it should not be held up as a model. I truly hope that Natalie and her marriage are well; but I do have some concerns, and I would say that this is not wise.

        • Maria

          Good point.

        • Emmy

          Perhaps we could put it something like this: You can not realy build on the marriage untill the cheating partner repents. You can, however, build on your own life and happiness, regardless what your spouse is doing. And when you do that, there is a chance your spouse will see it and want to change too. He sees it and does not want to miss the boat, so to speak.

          And in that way, you might be building up the marriage also, not directly but indirectly.

          And even if you are not able to save your marriage you can save your own life and stay healthy.

          I believe it is true there can be no reconsiliation without repentence. On the other hand, no repentence does not mean you can’t do nothing. You can, and you should always walk before God and be the happiest and healthiest Christian woman you are meant to be. Regardless of what he is choosing to do.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            That’s a very good way of putting it! The only thing I would add is that if a husband is in persistent sin, part of you walking in truth and walking with God MUST involve setting up boundaries for yourself of what you will and will not tolerate. Just going on with business as usual, saying, “I’m just working on myself right now”, but letting him break the marriage covenant with impunity, is not part of walking with fullness in Christ. Reality still does need to be dealt with.

          • Emmy

            Sheila, I completely agree on boundaries! I consider setting boundaries as one of the ways to build on your own life an happines. Boundaries are essential so no one can ruin the very thing you are trying to build.

            Been there done that :). My husband never had an affair put he did practice a for of financial abuse which I had to resist by setting effective boundaries.

  27. Natalie

    [Editor’s Note: I’ve removed this comment because I don’t allow email addresses to be public on the site, even when people want to share them. It can corrupt search engine results, and can cause a lot of bots to descend on my site. I hope you all understand!]

    • Natalie

      Sorry, Sheila.. I was hoping I could leave my contact info, just in case someone would like to contact me. However, I am assured in James 1:5-6 that if you diligently seek wisdom from God with faith and an open heart He will give generously. It is a promise from God and He always keeps His promises. 🙂 And after all…His wisdom far exceeds mine or anyone elses either for that matter. Human opinions will always vary, but He is our solid unchanging rock…never doubt the wisdom that comes from Him. Love to all! <3

  28. Ariana

    I like to think of it this way. My husband is not only my husband, but also my Christian brother and friend. If I would call my friend out for sinning, why wouldn’t I call my husband out? He is truly my closest Christian friend.

  29. Arwen

    I might get some flak for saying this but a couple of months ago i was getting to know a guy who was 33 years old, divorced because his wife cheated, divorced and left him. My reaction to that was, “What did you do to cause her to commit adultery?” to which he gave me a look of hurt and i though to myself, here i go again running my mouth with no control on it. I apologized that was not okay of me.

    I really, really, hate to say this but i still broke up with him because i truly believe if a woman cheats on her husband he must have contributed some way. It’s easy for men to lay down with random women but for women it’s much harder. It’s for this reason that i find it very, very suspicious that the husband didn’t play a part when a wife cheats. I only think like this when it’s the wife cheating but if the husband cheats he’s 100% at fault.

    I know, i know, i KNOW my thinking is wrong and shows partiality, but i just can’t help it. Knowing how careless men are and how careful women are if a women runs into the arms of another man SOMEHOW the husband contributed to that. I’m sorry. I have zero regrets breaking up with him for that reason. I didn’t want to live with a man who i was going to be suspicious of for the rest of my life. Suspicious of what he did, suspicious of why he didn’t fight for the marriage, suspicious of many, many other things.

    I’m working on changing my attitude, not show partiality and treating both sexes equally. I love this article Sheila. Has me thinking and chewing over your words!

    • Madeline

      If I can be really honest, I think that your premise that it is easier for men to sleep with random women actually perpetuates this behavior. In an earlier comment on this post Sheila mentioned how sometimes we expect so little of men. For obvious reasons this is attitude towards men is really damaging to women too. You already said that you’re trying to change this attitude so by my comment I’m not not just trying to heap more blame onto you, just pointing that out as a “food for thought” type thing. I tend to side more with the woman usually too, mostly because of the hurt that men have caused me so I’m also trying to work on that. It helped me to realize that everyone, including women, benefit from healthy expectations of men.

      It takes a lot of courage to admit when you have a toxic attitude the way you did, so honestly, I’m very impressed with you. Keep it up!

    • Emmy

      A young man I know very well (a close relative) recently divorced from his wife who had repeatedly committed adultery with several partners and separated from him two times. 🙁 He also head “how did you contribute” several times and it really breaks my heart because I know he did fight for his marriage.

      And the reason he finally settled for divorce was not her adultery. He would have been willing to forgive. The final reason was that she simply would not come back after she had separated for the second time.

      The “how did you contrubute to the affair” is just as hurtful for a man to hear than it is for a woman.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, I agree. I have known men very close to me who have gone through this, too, and it’s heartbreaking.

      • Lea

        “The “how did you contrubute to the affair” is just as hurtful for a man to hear than it is for a woman.”

        I completely agree with this! I do think it might be helpful to ask about the relationship generally, if there were other issues that led to the breakup aside from cheating. I am wishing I had asked these questions in previous relationships honestly.

        But I get that gut distrust, especially if it is rooted in past experience. I had an ex who said his wife abused him…well he turned out to be lying about many things and I would not be surprised to find he was the abuser so I think I would think long and hard before dating someone seriously who told me this about their ex.

  30. Marcy

    An excert from this article by CJ Hauser The Crane Wife sums up the whole issue! How we not only take on blame but also make ourselves less. This is NOT what Christ wants for us. Making ourselves less and accepting blame for a spouse’s sins should not be confused with humility.

    “I convinced myself that I was a logical woman who could consider this information about having been cheated on, about his not wearing a condom, and I could separate it from the current reality of our life together.

    Why did I need to know that we’d been monogamous? Why did I need to have and discuss inconvenient feelings about this ancient history?

    I would not be a woman who needed these things, I decided.

    I would need less. And less.

    I got very good at this.”

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes! And I think when you combine that with a warping of Christian ideas that we should suffer, it can get very toxic.

  31. Nathan

    Catching up over the weekend…

    > > I HAD NO IDEA. I was an attentive, loving and supportive wife who loved sex and intimacy

    Sadly, this happens a lot. The theory that “You won’t have sex with me, so I’m forced to turn to cheating and/or porn” is actually a very rare case. Far more often, the cheater/porn watcher has a satisfying sex life and turns that anyway, or already has an addiction to it. Even in those rare cases, though, it’s still wrong to cheat or watch porn, and it’s still the cheater’s fault.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep! And today, most porn use/sex addiction predates the marriage as well.

  32. Nathan

    > > The Bible does say a person can cause or force another to commit adultery (Prov. 7:23; Matt. 5:32

    That’s not what I got from reading those verses. Proverbs was talking about a woman seducing a man. True, people can tempt one another, but nowhere in that chapter do I get the sense that the woman forced or tricked him into doing anything. As Al Pacino said (as Satan in “The Devil’s Advocate”) “I only set the stage. You pull your own strings”.

    And Jesus in Matthew was talking about divorce, and being the victim of something. Again, not forcing somebody to commit adultery.

    Jesus has always held people accountable for their own sins. Yes, both partners can cause issues in marriage, but nobody forces you to do anything like having an affair.

  33. Daniela B

    Dear Sheila
    Thank you SO SO much for writing this article!! My soon to be ex-husband cheated on me ( and he did it totally consciously). He had turned his back on God a while before but it was never a reason for me to leave him. I also was willing to work on our marriage, especially because of our daughter. But he never truly repented apart from saying sorry to have hurt me. But he still said things like: You weren‘t passionate enough, I didn‘t truly feel wanted by you and other things. He also had a porn problem which I ( naively) believed he dealt with…I thought that I was a supportive & submitted wife like God wanted me to be. Oh how wrong I was! I learned a lot since then, also through you, God showed me how He really see things.
    Something really important I learned is setting boundaries ( Danny Silks book ‚keep your live on‘ is amazing) and I‘ve always said that not setting boundaries was my part in the whole mess.
    So reading your article truly set me free. Free from the burden that it was my fault too. I carried that for the last 5 years… seriously, reading your words brought healing tears and a lightness back into my heart, God spoke so clearly and personally to me!!!!
    And the crazy thing is, I got the email a few days ago but didnt really had time to read it yet- this morning I got your same email a 2nd time, ( which never happened before)so I read it and I‘m so glad I did! ( this is an understatement ;))Thank you Jesus and thank you Sheila for listening to the Holy Spirit and writing things which might not be your own choice but the truth! God will continue to bless you !!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yay! I’m so glad it could be a relief to you, Daniela! That’s wonderful. And I’m so sorry that you went through that with your ex. Let me just assure you that my dad did the exact same thing, and my mom left when I was very young–and I turned out well (if I do say so myself). God was so gracious to me. I know Mom as really worried about me growing up without a dad, but God was there.

  34. Scott

    Let me start by saying I have not read the book nor the Focus on the Family Facebook thread. Instead, I want to explain why the FotF message was wrong, regardless to intent of the book or FotF. The reason?: many readers INTERPRETED FotF as putting blame on the non-cheating spouse.

    I will explain why this is so destructive using my story:

    I have never “cheated” on my wife. Never touched another woman that way. No emotional affairs. Even counting before getting together, my wife and I are each other’s “first and only” on everything–kissing, touching, foreplay, intercourse, everything.

    But I still broke my vows with porn/masturbation. I disclosed my problems when we first started dating, but managed to avoid porn (not entirely masturbation) while dating, engaged, and first married. But 7-8 months into marriage, I looked at porn/masturbated on a business trip. It happened on additional trips over the years, and then got worse once we got the internet in our home. My wife had no idea.

    We have now been married for 12 yr with four children. After working for weeks to improve our intimacy (with great results) after a stale season, I felt convicted to confess to my wife my recurring addiction three weeks ago. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.

    It crushed her.

    I sat there and watched as my words (describing my actions for ~11.5 yr) broke the heart of the woman I love more than any other person. The look on her face and the tears she shed will forever be etched on my memory. I can only say the memory-etching thing about a few moments in my life: the first time we were sexual (no intercourse but regrettably before getting married), our wedding, our first time having intercourse (awkward!), the birth of our children, etc. Notice all those memories are joyous ones? Now there is a painful one added to the list. Despite how profoundly awful experiencing that was, there was something worse during that confession, and it’s the point of this comment:


    When I finally stopped spilling the beans long enough to ask her what she was feeling/thinking, I was completely devastated to hear this: she wanted to know what she could have done better to prevent this from happening (more sex, better sex, taking care of her body better, more emotional support, etc). The response obliterated me in ways I cannot describe–I was much more expecting and would have preferred anger, yelling, telling me to sleep on the couch or at a hotel, marriage counseling demands, or even a discussion on a trial separation. Instead, my beautiful bride took my sin and tried to blame herself.

    She has taken things well and our relationship is growing stronger. But she is still blaming herself, and I cannot stop her. So the point is:

    One should not write things that may imply in any way that spouses (women or men) of porn-using or affair-indulging partners are to blame even in part for their spouse’s sin(s). They are probably already blaming themselves!

    My sin was my own and was AGAINST my wife, not because of her. The cheating spouse is still the one responsible for their sin. Doesn’t get any simpler than that.


    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Scott, your truthfulness and humility here is truly inspiring. Praying for you as you and your wife work through this, for strength for you, and for healing for the both of you.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I actually think Scott’s story does an excellent job of explaining the potential danger of these types of messages. Just because it doesn’t affect everyone the same way doesn’t mean we shouldn’t avoid what is harmful to many. (For example, many medications only have bad side effects for 30% of the population. But we still don’t prescribe them because even though the majority would be fine, it’s still harmful for too many to be called “safe”.)

      Let’s not confuse what we’re talking about here: we’re not talking about whether or not all women are saints. We’re saying that we are each responsible for our own actions–full stop. Even though that may not be a fun truth to swallow, it simply is. And until we recognize that fact, we get stuck in sinful ruts that make true repentance and true healing impossible.

  35. Gracefilled

    Dear Sheila
    I have never commented but this is very fresh for me. My dad passed away two months ago and a lot of baggage will never be dealt with
    Let me first say that sin is sin. No where in scripture does God ever say otherwise
    I wonder if you have ever lived or experienced someone with BPD. That was my mother. She destroyed him bit by it until he had zero dignity. He stayed with her because it was his duty. All his children are also abused and affected.
    When my dad was in his 60s She caught him with porn. This was wrong and he acknowledged that and for the rest of his life she assured him and his children he was going to hell
    I loved my dad. I miss him. I still live with a tormented and sometimes devil filled mother.
    There is no excuse for sin but sometimes there is a reason
    I lived in it for many years and only now am getting counselling how to deal with my past
    It is a sad story. I could write a book.
    I know God is full of Grace
    Sometimes the story is two sided

  36. Fin

    WHY WHY WHY… Do most people keep pushing all the blame all to one side or the other???

    Where a man cheats, and a woman has not been there for him emotionally/physically… BOTH are to blame. And NEITHER are innocent.

    The man who is starved and longing for emotional /physical connection is ultimately responsible for his decision to cross the line and cheat.

    The woman who denies him emotional/physical intimacy is ultimately responsible for helping to lead him to that line.

    BOTH are equally culpable and responsible for their part, and (generalizing) BOTH could have made changes to prevent the final outcome.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      The issue, Fin, is that what caused the state of the marriage and the actual action of having sex with someone who is not your spouse are two separate things.

      BOTH spouses are culpable in the marriage breaking apart. But only ONE spouse was responsible for having sex with someone else.

      The spouse could have behaved in a way to make the temptation to sleep with someone else worse, yes. But it is still that spouse’s choice to give into the temptation.

      So I agree with what you are saying to an extent. But it’s important to separate the two and to deal with the covenant-breaking behaviour FIRST and then and only then say, “OK, if we want to work towards reconciliation, what do we need to fix as a couple?” That’s when you deal with the marital problems–AFTER the actual covenant-breaking action has been dealt with.

      Otherwise we run the risk of saying, “Well, if your marriage isn’t perfect there’s a risk your spouse will cheat on you.” And that is not healthy, because sometimes life isn’t perfect. Sometimes you have a kid with intense medical needs and the marriage takes a toll. Sometimes there are multiple deaths in the family one after another. Sometimes you get into car accidents that leave you in excruciating pain for years and unable to have sex for long periods of time. No matter what happens, we need to be able to trust our spouses will not cheat, and it’s not appropriate to say “Well she wasn’t giving him enough sex so he had to get it somewhere else.” We are each responsible for our own behaviour. That’s literally all we’re saying. Not that if you were a horrible, abusive spouse you’re let off the hook if your spouse cheats–just that the cheating spouse needs to take full responsibility of the fact that they had sex with someone else. Then you deal with everything else.

      So if any of you who are reading this are in terrible marriage situations, just know that there are things you can do other than having sex with someone you’re not married to. You can draw boundaries, you can bring in friends to confront, you can separate, you can even get courts involved if necessary to curb harmful and unacceptable behaviour. But don’t have sex with someone who’s not your spouse. It’s never the answer, and never the only choice or option (1 Corinthians 10:13).

  37. Chrysti

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so forgive me if this has been brought up already.

    What if the wife has left the marriage because of reported abuse, and thus has an affair? I get that she made the choice to enter into the affair, but the husband has also failed in his responsibility as a Godly husband to love his wife as Christ loves the church. Sometimes both are at fault in these messy situations.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely they both could be at fault, but it was still her choice to have an affair. In the case of abuse, however, likely the marriage was over anyway. But she should have ended the marriage first. Just because someone has sinned doesn’t give you the right to sin. Does that make sense?

  38. Budgie

    I went and found the book on Google and read as much as I was allowed to for free and I must say I was very disturbed by it. It really makes the cheating husband sound like a good man who loved his wife but wasn’t appreciated and the cheating “just happened”. Maybe it comes later, but I failed to see any strong feelings of repentance. He seemed sorry he was caught, but I didn’t sense he was deeply sorry for his sins.

    In the introduction of the book, the author addresses the betrayers and says something along the lines of “You are not scum. We all make bad choices.” I agree that I wouldn’t call anyone scum, but I don’t agree with using the words “bad choices”. I think that is the big problem. Adultery is not a bad choice, like choosing the wrong bank account. It is sin! And there is a root sin that comes before adultery, and that is selfishness. Before people cheat they are already going down a path where they feel their feelings are most important and it doesn’t matter how they hurt others. That is the SIN that leads to sins. But for some reason, as Christians we seem more concerned about dealings with the sins than addressing the Big SIN that leads to all other sins. Sin is always a matter of the heart.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Budgie, I totally agree with you! And I have a theory as to why people are writing books like these. I think it’s because the emphasis is on keeping marriages together, rather than on creating healthy people. Jesus allowed for divorce for adultery, yes, but I honestly think that some are trying to make that not an acceptable choice as well. If you are to blame for the spouse’s affair, then it isn’t really right to divorce, is it? I think that some streams of Christianity have made marriage such an idol that they can’t see how divorce may be actually the RIGHT choice in some circumstances (abuse, being married to a narcissistic spouse, etc.). I agree that for many cases of adultery the marriage can be rebuilt, but only if the adultery is taken seriously. Calling it just a bad choice doesn’t take it seriously. It may convince the innocent party to stay, but it doesn’t heal the underlying issues.

  39. Budgie

    One other thing – why do these books always have the women repenting of what they did to cause their husband to stray? Not once have I seen men talking about how they “drove their wife to cheat” and worked on changing the marriage. They would be more likely to righteously declare their right to a divorce. I just find it interesting.

    • Doug


      I have to say that when I first read this remark, I immediately went on the defensive, but I think this post already has enough rancor, too much finger pointing, and too much divisiveness, so I am just going to leave this with you. I hope it serves to soften your heart a little bit.

      For the record, I am in a recovery group that includes all sorts of brokenness, , and there are many men who own their wrongdoings, maybe not as publicly as you would like, tho, some have been even more so than I can imagine. I have seen many reconciliations that can be described as nothing short of miraculous, marriages healed and lives changed.

      You wanted a story of a broken man taking his share of the blame, and I will leave you with this. It is my story. It isn’t published and never will be, because to do so would be to violate a promise I made to myself never to do anything to hurt my wife again. but I share it where I think it might help. I’m sorry I can’t offer you more.

    • Ryan

      I am a betrayed spouse, and I do believe that there are instances in which we have to accept responsibility for causing our marriage or our spouse to be vulnerable to infidelity. However, the responsibility for taking that step and committing adultery lies solely at the feet of the unfaithful spouse. My wife had a long-term affair in which she moved in with him, but I chose to stay married and open to reconciliation. Needless to say their affair ended horribly, and I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy watching it become a dumpster fire, but I expected her to finally see it for what it was but that hasn’t happened yet. Reconciliation has not begun, and it won’t until she accepts responsibility for what she did. It’s a process with cheaters, because their pride and shame keeps them from accepting the blame totally. Instead they appear to take some responsibility while assigning part of the blame to you, which translates to them not taking responsibility at all. Last night my wife looked straight at me and said that I perpetuated her having an affair, and I just laughed. You bare no responsibility for your spouse cheating or any other form of abuse you’ve suffered from them, and yes cheating is a form of abuse. Don’t let others shame you, blame you, or guilt you into accepting blame or forgiving too easily, and don’t do it to yourself either just because you love your spouse and want to reconcile. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation, and there can be no reconciliation without total repentance.

      Sorry for being late and lengthy.

  40. Jim

    Shelia, I haven’t had the time to read through all the comments, so I apologize if this has been addressed, but I think you might be reading more into the FaceBook blurb than what is actually there. First, though, let me premise my statements below that I agree with your statements that without repentance there can be no healing. a cheater IS solely responsible for his or her sin. A lot of what you wrote is good advice, and good Biblical truth. I’m not “hating” here – I am glad you do what you do!

    However, I disagree with your reading of the Facebook blurb (at least with what you presented of the blurb above – if there is more I am missing then I apologize for not having done my research).

    Being an attorney, let me be pedantic in my explanation 🙂

    The blurb has three sentences:
    The first sentence reads: “Her husband’s infidelity didn’t mean the end of Tina Konkin’s marriage.” The second sentence reads “Her willingness to answer the question, ‘What role did you play in this?’ saved her marriage.” The last sentence says to buy the book. There isn’t a lot to go on in these three sentences (only two of which aren’t a sales pitch . . .)

    From what I understand of your blog post, you are reading the second sentence as if it saids Tina’s understanding was THE thing that mattered. I took this second sentence to say this understanding was A thing that mattered. A subtle difference, perhaps – but also perhaps the difference that negates any reason to take umbridge with the book (especially when one hasn’t yet read the book in question.)

    In more detail, I disagree that the wording of the blurb implied that (in your words) “the thing that mattered was not his repentance but her acknowledging her role.” One could almost read what you wrote to say “the [ONLY] thing that mattered was not his repentance but her acknowledging her role.” However, is it possible (even with the less-than-elegant wording Focus on the Family uses in its blurb) that maybe BOTH his repentance AND her answer to the question were important? That is the way I read the blurb – and was quite surprised at the light in which you took the blurb.

    I’m sorry to say this, but your blog post here – while containing a lot of Biblical truth – could be predicated on a straw man argument (in that, while seeming to refute a position you think Focus on the Family is taking, you might instead of been refuting a position Focus didn’t take).

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Jim, I hear what you’re saying. But imagine that you’re in a marriage where a spouse cheated on you, and you saw that Facebook status. The simple fact is that the vast majority of people interpreted it just the way I did (seriously, you should see the number of comments on that status). Simply put, they should know better. They claim to be the experts on family, yet they posted that, knowing how people could take it.

      In addition, if you read the intro to the book, and the quotes that are being posted on Twitter, you’ll find that my take on the book is quite accurate. She talks about how her husband wasn’t morally to blame because he was in a “trance-like state”. This is very problematic.

      If Focus on the Family wanted to say something like, “He had an affair. He wanted to rebuild the marriage. Her willingness to examine her role in how the marriage fell apart saved them,” I’d have no problem. But that’s not what they said. And pretty much everyone reading it heard the same thing I did. In addition, Focus on the Family was aware of this issue for a full three weeks before I wrote on it. They had multiple people telling them, “this is highly problematic.” But they did nothing. I also find that very disturbing.

      And I didn’t think you were “hating”. Thanks for being gracious!

      • Jim


        Thank you for your response to my reply. My reading of the blurb might be an artifact of my profession – I read what is written and try to remove emotion from my analysis (imagine my surprise when I got married and found out just how differently my wife analyzes things 🙂

        That different people can have different interpretations of a given text does NOT surprise me. That somebody whose spouse cheated on them might have a visceral response to the blurb is totally understandable. I am just hoping that the blurb was an example of in-artful drafting, and wasn’t meant to have the meaning to which you (and seemingly others) applied – especially in light of the plain meaning of the words not containing exactly the meaning many applied.

        I make no defense of the book – as I said, I didn’t read it. If there are errors in the book (he wasn’t to blame because he was in a trance-like state? Hmm, I think the effective range of THAT excuse in my house would be meters 🙂 then I freely admit that lends credence to your analysis of the blurb over mine.

        I also can’t agree with you enough that repentance MUST come before the relationship can be healed. Like I said above, much of your blog post I can heartily agree with. I just didn’t start off with the same analysis as you did, so your post didn’t “ring” with me in the way it seems to have for others.

        I guess I would have preferred a more complete analysis of why the book was wrong and not why the blurb was wrong (but seeing the pile of books next to my night stand, I can’t say my “glass house” of “why didn’t you read this book” is feeling all that shatter-proof right now 🙂

        And once you are done reading all those books you can hire yourself out to write book blurbs. Your restatement of the blurb in your response above would have been much, much better. 🙂

        Again, please keep doing what you are doing (even when some of us men just don’t “get it”). I can say that, from the XY perspective, your posts are useful – and when you post directly for us men it can be very useful indeed (the post from Aug 5th for instance?)


  41. Doug

    I do have a legalistic sort of question to ask.

    It has been said several times that the adulterer had many options other than adultery, especially in the case of what amounted to abandonment. One option that was mentioned was divorce.

    Now, it you are acknowledging that divorce is justified, then you also have to be saying that the covenant is already broken biblically. You have already acknowledged that some forms of abuse, including abandonment, constitute breaking of the covenant.

    I realize that this is a terribly legalistic question, but I find the entire premise of this thread to be legalistic and without grace, but if the covenant was already broken prior to the affair, by the “victim”, then why does that person not have to repent first if the marriage is to be restored.

    • Jim

      Legalistically, divorce was permitted (not ever wanted) by God due to the “hardness of their hearts”.

      While others here may see a different path, My guidelines for divorce are as plain and as simple as the Bible states it, for fornication. Matthew 19:7-9. Old Testament scriptures could make a case for abandonment, but Christ always puts the bar higher.

      Which in all honesty divorce in those times because of fornication was a reprieve. As stoning was what could have legally been done.

      You want an amazing view of how God sees this, go see Hosea and Gomer. Hosea wanted to wipe out Israel as they went astray and didn’t deserve Gods love. Later Hosea plays out Gods feelings as God tells him to marry a woman who would be unfaithful. God then tells Hosea (simplified in my words obviously), go kill her you have every right in the laws eyes. He wept and pleaded for Gomer to be saved. In fact Gomer didn’t come back to Hosea, Hosea has to go purchase her back on the slave block (sound familiar? It better with Christ coming to pay for us). That’s how God loves even the unfaithful.

      And to delve into what some were saying above, To those saying that Christ requires us to repent first to be saved, you’ve skipped the first step entirely. Christ paid first for something He did not owe and was not His fault. Then and only then are we able to repent and be saved. If you want to use this illustration then our actions should be to forgive what’s seems like an unforgivable debt THEN take the first step to show love. If it’s not reciprocated then we have done what God has done. Is this even possible for man, I would say no. That’s why God isn’t an option to most of us, He is a necessity. To continue this point God does tell us as we step towards Him, He steps toward us. Further showing us we do have a part in our relationship and a responsibility. Likewise to the marriage, both must take steps.

      I do believe that in abusive situations the person needs to get out.

  42. Jim

    I’m sorry if this does not come out in the best manner as I don’t have the best way with words.

    I don’t take offense to how they advertised the book. I do think they could have done better. I’ll explain below.

    To those ranting here about the bashing of “women” by this question being asked, just stop it. Stop treating this as an affront to women. If you feel this way about it then call it what it truly is, an affront to the person being cheated on! Too many people pull race or gender into comments when it shouldn’t be there.

    I’m a 34 year old man who had his wife cheat on me. We are still reconciling after a long period.

    During me being open and honest (and on my face) before God, He posed this same question to me.

    While she made that choice herself, I cannot deny that I had some kind of hand in the creating an environment that Satan could use. This wasn’t abuse or me being a bad husband. It was merely complacency and distance. Marriage drift I believe Sheila puts it.

    God posed this question to me because of one very important concept, if I chose to reconcile (forgiving the act itself wasn’t a choice as I am commanded to do so and I did take my time till I was fully ready to do so) that I had to see what I didn’t see before or didn’t care enough about to take action before. The following months I spent making myself whole again (as it takes 2 complete individuals to make one whole individual in marriage) and after I worked on myself, I delved into working on what I was responsible for. Which was some of the things that created an easier path to her choice.

    I at no time believed it wasn’t her choice nor did she could justify it because of the bad choices I made prior. That’s what marriage is about, and life as a whole. Making yourself accountable for your own actions before a holy and just God.

    If a freely chose to continue the relationship with my wife then I needed to tackle the problems in truth. Which were my fault also.

    That’s why I think their caption was alright, but definitely could have been better. In the book, If she chose to reconcile then she had to take responsibility for what she did or didn’t do prior to the horrible choice that was made by her husband. She chose to reconcile so she chose to face the problems she was responsible for. I don’t think at any point the caption let her husband “off the hook” which is why I didn’t take offense to it.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Jim,

      I certainly never meant to imply that it’s just about women–which is why I mentioned men in the post and the follow-up posts! And I completely agree with you that the innocent party may well have played a part in the marriage drift, absolutely. And reconciliation will require that party to also look at the role he or she played. But I also think that the starting point, biblically, must be repentance for the cheating, and I look at that at greater length in this follow-up post: 10 reasons why rushing forgiveness ruins intimacy. I hope that clarifies some things!

  43. Anonymous

    I wish someone had told me that 30 years ago. Husband, MIL, SIL, Pastors all put the blame on me. Just recently found out that he’s been into porn the whole 36 years and I’m reeling. He blamed me again and kind of took it back, but he’s still here even after I told him he needs to move out. I have been a SAHM/W the whole time, homeschooling too, and I have no resources to get out on my own, or even stay out.

    Realized he’s an emotional abuser, a controller, and manipulator. I’ve been overfunctioning because he seemed incapable of functioning without being told what to do, down to brushing his teeth!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s so awful. You are not to blame for someone else’s bad behaviour.

      Please make sure that you’re in a healthy community. You can’t do something like this alone. And don’t be afraid to seek out a licensed counselor, too, to work through some of these things. It’s really tough after 36 years. You’ll likely find you’re stronger than you think, though!

    • Jodi @ Wealthy N Wise Woman

      You are SO not to blame. 30 years ago, I imagine the world’s messaging looked a lot different and I’m so sorry you went through that. I imagine it was awful.

      But I also want you to know that you are not powerless to stop this!

      It sounds as though you’ve chosen to stay. (Leaving would certainly be acceptable in your situation.) If you plan to stay… I seriously suggest that you start looking for some resources to help your husband change. Just remember that real change doesn’t come from making demands.

      Also… when considering your options, remember this: living miserably shouldn’t be one of them.

  44. Jodi @ Wealthy N Wise Woman

    So… I have to be honest and say that I actually DON’T agree with you. (That doesn’t happen often.)

    And here’s my reason why: different people need different messages.

    I’ve been personally affected by an affair and I have a blog where I do share my whole story.

    I think it’s true that for some people that tagline could be harmful. But I also think it’s true that some people NEED to hear it. I know I was one of them.

    When I discovered my husband’s affair, I was completely unwilling to consider that I played ANY part in his choice.

    And while I’ll be the first to say that an affair is NOT the fault of the betrayed, I also think that there are enough people in the world saying “you don’t deserve to be treated that way.” We get it. We deserve better.

    When people said “Your spouse needs to show remorse or you should leave him,” they meant well but they were wrong.

    My husband didn’t feel ANY remorse at all for at least one full year after his affair ended. And for 2 years thereafter he still didn’t feel COMPLETE remorse.

    But I felt God telling me to press in and that there was a war going on for my husband’s soul.

    I would have given ANYTHING to have found a book like the one above. But all I found were books calling me “codependent” and telling me that my spouse would never change.

    Well… here we are 5 years later and we have the most amazing marriage.

    My husband, who grew up in a really tough situation, NEEDED me to be willing to lay down my own needs and “entitlements” for a little while. He needed someone who would love him unconditionally and when he didn’t deserve it.

    He needed me to acknowledge the fact that I had checked out of our marriage before he had an affair. He needed to forgive me before he could feel remorse.

    But in my pride, and through endless messages that told me that he show remorse before I forgave him, I believed that I was right to withhold my forgiveness and my remorse… after all, he was “more” wrong than I was. I didn’t step outside of our marriage.

    Then… even after I decided that I would “go first” I was made to feel weak and pathetic because I could “hold out” until he gave in.

    Now, I realize that I was the strong one.

    I was the one who was whole enough that I didn’t need his remorse in order to forgive him. Back then, I could really have used the messaging from Focus on the Family. In fact, I was actively searching for it but couldn’t find it anywhere.

    I’m so glad I didn’t leave and I’m so glad I didn’t wait to forgive.

    My husband was a broken man who’s now whole. He was a weak man who’s now strong. He was a selfish man who’s now selfless. He attributes that to the fact that I showed him a kind of love he never knew existed and for the first time in his life, God became more than just a book of rules.

    And I’m so grateful that God kept me in a “bad” marriage because our life and our family are beautiful now and I’d go through it all over again to be where we are now.

  45. Juniper

    Hi there. As someone who has almost zero sexual desire for my husband – after finding out about his affair with a close friend of mine and all the ensuing fallout – I wonder if I can ever be sexually intimate with him again. I never withheld from him. I’ve been fortunate to have no history of sexual trauma or pain, and had no hindrance with him in that regard. But he seemed “meh” about it. Rarely took initiative. My mom and our culture told me a husband wouldn’t be able to keep his hands off me, and then this one in particular just never seemed very interested (at least in comparison to what I expected). Then he dabbled in porn. Then had an affair with my “friend”. I came across The Great Sex Rescue online just now, and thought you might have something to say about infidelity. And you do! THANK YOU for this post. The amount of victim-blaming in marriages infiltrated by infidelity is prolific. It’s so discouraging. And damaging. I’ve been reading books and articles on infidelity for over two years now, and you are certainly one of the most clear and eloquent voices differentiating between 1) one person’s adultery and 2) a marriage. TWO SEPARATE THINGS. Thank you so much. Please keep talking/writing – please keep speaking truth. Ordering your book as soon I post this comment.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad it helped you! And I’m so sorry about the betrayal. Truly sorry.

  46. Steve

    I have been married to my wife for 32 years and have be living with a very unsatisfying sex life the whole time. There has been sex buy little of it and I am not permitted to touch important parts of her body. It has been misserable but I have not had an affair. I agree that the person who has an affair is morally responsible and needs to repent. However, I think often the spouse is responsible for other sins that are wrong and need to be repented of as well. The Bible does clearly say the a couple should come together again so they will not be tempted. While a spouse is not responsible for a partner who commits adultery, they may be very responsible for adding to the temptation. That does not give the person who commited the adultery to lesson their responsibility or transfer ownership of it. However the other party definately has another sin that they need to be responsible for


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