What if your spouse cheats? Adultery is a reality no married person wants to confront, but so many couples deal with each day. There’s so much to process when you discover your spouse has cheated on you –the lies, the fear, the broken trust, the anger, the pain, the betrayal. No matter what the circumstances of the cheating were, you are still left confused and responsible for picking up the pieces of your life. Ever person that’s dealt with an unfaithful spouse has to confront important question: Should I forgive them? And in the face of infidelity, what does forgiveness look like?
Christians can turn to God for the answer. Adultery is a sin against God and one’s spouse, an attack on the sanctity of marriage. The seventh commandment God gives us is “You shall not commit adultery”. We know from reading the Old Testament that God declared adultery to be a sin deserving death. “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10 NIV). When two people come together in marriage, they are making a vow to be faithful to each other. Adultery is not a sin to be taken lightly. However, we know with God, there is grace. Though the sin has already been committed, your spouse can repent and seek forgiveness from God. If this is what your spouse chooses, you too have the opportunity to choose forgiveness and offering the same to your spouse.
Forgiveness is a word that shows up commonly in the Bible, a concept that God has been explicit about. The Bible tells us: “For if you forgive me when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14 NIV). “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13 NIV). “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV). As Christians, we are called to open forgive those who sin against us. It comes up each time we say the Lord’s Prayer “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Forgiveness doesn’t mean you dismiss the realities of the infidelity. Best-selling author, writer and preacher Max Lucado once said “Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prison.” It’s important that we let go in an effort to free ourselves from our own slavery. It is important that you let go of the sin you are also carrying in your heart by not forgiving them.
Before you take the steps towards separation or divorce, or decide that forgiveness is not in your heart, you should consider your spouse’s character. Many good people have done bad things, and those bad things don’t mean they are unworthy of forgiveness. If prior to the adultery, your spouse demonstrated integrity, love, and goodness in the marriage, they are capable of being rescued by God, and are worthy of your forgiveness. If you noticed your spouse appearing to be someone else, he/she was most likely in a dark emotional place, doing a bad thing. These good people often participate in behavior that is inconsistent with who you know them to be. If he/she is asking for forgiveness and reconciliation, remember who your spouse was before the infidelity and give them the opportunity to show you that they want to do right by you again.
On the other side, if prior to the adultery, your spouse consistently lacked integrity, and gave little consideration to your emotions or your well-being, this is another case. These people often lie, manipulate for personal gain, with little thought of the impact those decisions will have on you. Only God has the power to change this person’s heart. This is outside of your control. If his/heart is never turned, it will become very difficult to rebuild. As Christians, we should pray that our spouse’s hearts are turned and leave it in God’s hand. You can still allow forgiveness into your heart, even if it means walking away and doing what’s best for your own well-being.
If you are ready to open your heart to forgiving your spouse, pray this prayer:
Dear God, I pray for my (wife or husband) right now that has been tempted to (emotionally or physically) chat. They may desire to justify their actions or downplay what is really going on, but You know the truth. I pray Your Holy Spirit will convict them with truth and give them the courage to resist and flee temptation. Lord, protect (him/her) from the snares fo the enemy and the destruction the flesh can bring about. Whatever is motivating them to do this, please remove and replace with a desire to be righteous and live a life that honors You, respects their spouse, and reflects you. Amen.
If your spouse has been unfaithful, open your heart to forgiveness. Don’t forgive for selfish reasons or thoughts of personal gain. Forgive to free yourself from the bondage of sin. Forgive because it is what we are called as Christians to do, just as our heavenly Father forgave us. Forgiveness may mean no longer being “on it” and giving your partner a second chance –a chance for reconciliation. Forgiveness may also mean walking away from the relationship in an effort for both parties to be restored. Look deep into your spouse’s heart and character, and listen to how God is calling you to move.