Before infidelity happened in my marriage, I believed as most do, that the transgressor deserves all he or she gets, including divorce papers. Furthering this mindset was the fact I had repeatedly warned David infidelity would be a deal breaker. I was adamant that there would be no mercy for such disgraceful disrespect, especially considering what I had seen as a child.
Splashed on the pages of every newspaper and television screen, stories of infidelity are exposed and the world screams out for justice. Divorce is expected. This worldview also lines up with scripture. Adultery is the one reason Jesus gave for divorce (Matthew 19:1-12).
So why did I stay? After all, David had given me grounds for divorce culturally, legally, and Biblically.
My initial response was to run as fast and as far as I could. If I had not stopped long enough for prayer and counsel, I would have been long gone. My pastor recommended I take time before making this life-changing decision. He assessed the situation to make sure it was a safe environment and encouraged me to pray and carefully consider what God’s best for my family was. He supported my decision either way but emphasized caution rather than an impulsive reaction. This counsel rang true.
Time was the caveat needed in which to allow my tumultuous emotions a chance to calm and to know if the change in David’s heart was legitimate. His repentant attitude delayed my immediate flight and created just enough pause to let the crisis settle before reacting.
I started counseling immediately and my counselor told me that most people regret a hastily made decision to divorce after adultery. She also said that shock, grief, and anger consume a lot of energy, and decisions are best made after these emotions settle somewhat. Though hard to believe, this caution stilled my running feet. I knew I needed to concentrate on working through some of the shock and pain first. There would be plenty of time to assess as the circumstances unfolded.
The thought of staying in my marriage felt as impossible as sprouting wings to fly, yet leaving a marriage of twenty-five years seemed just as crazy. A process of taking one day at a time and living 2 Corinthians 12:10 became my lifeline: That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Never had I felt so weak, and yet so strong. As I called to God, He showed up moment by moment, day after day. He gave me strength and opened my thinking to view the situation from His perspective.
I have come to the realization that God’s heart will always be moved by repentance and that He will encourage restoration if possible. In Matthew 19:8, Jesus replies to the Pharisees of that day concerning the question of divorce: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” In other words, when hearts are soft on both sides, and repentance coupled with a willingness to change is evident, God will want to restore the marriage.
I observed those who quickly divorced or ran into another relationship. Sadly it did not facilitate healing. The pain followed them. More often than not, the subsequent relationship failed, and deeper wounds occurred. I knew that wasn’t the answer.
Healing was the only option that made sense, whether my marriage survived or not. My prayers took on new direction. I knew intuitively it would not be David who mended my broken heart, but God.
This decision to stay did not mean I was about to turn a blind eye to the cancer in my marriage. The disease of adultery had to be excised as surely as a malignant tumor. The sacredness of marriage is too precious to dilute in such a destructive way. Had David carried on in the same behavior and not embraced change, I would have been a fool to carry on.
I have witnessed this destructive cycle firsthand, starting back in my childhood, where the betrayal was swept under the carpet. I place no judgment on my mother. She was trapped in a difficult marriage with nowhere to turn. She had eight children, no job, and no help. In those days, very little information was available on healing or emotional recovery after betrayal, and divorce was shunned. Little wonder that this unresolved situation perpetuated a cycle of destruction that progressively worsened over time.
Even in today’s culture, I have seen adultery handled in this way.
Heather is a soft-spoken, easygoing soul, who never needed to work outside the home. From childhood to marriage she enjoyed an affluent life. She both loved and needed the security of her husband. When her world came crashing in due to the unfaithfulness of her high school sweetheart and husband of twenty-eight years, she chose to bury the pain.
Still very much in love with her husband and afraid of losing the life she was accustomed to, she demanded nothing. No counseling. No change or repentance on the part of her husband. He in fact kept flittering between the two women unable to make up his mind. Each time he came home, she did his laundry, made him gourmet meals, and welcomed him into her bed. There were no consequences. Though she felt the pain, she denied the pain. He in turn adopted the belief that this kind of disrespect was acceptable.
The marriage died a long and excruciating death. Eventually Heather could no longer contain the injustice. Best said in her words, she explains: “The pain turned to poison, and when I finally gave birth to the anger within me, it was ugly, real ugly.”
Divorce followed, but that, happily, is not the final page of Heather’s story. She has since pursued inner healing and has emerged a confidant, joyful, Godly woman. She is an inspiration to many.