Infidelity really is playing with fire.

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

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

A woman recently wrote me to say this:

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

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

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

They’re now on trial for assault.

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

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

Adultery Causes Immense Pain

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

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

The Pain of Infidelity Naturally Leads to Other Horrible Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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