This post is merely a brief introduction to this weighty topic of dealing with a physical, sexual affair. It would take a book to do this issue proper justice. I cannot possibly touch on all of the things a wife would need to do in such a situation in one post. And what works for one wife in one situation may not be the best thing for another wife. Thanks for understanding! If your husband is cheating on you, please seek one-on-one counsel with a trusted, godly, experienced, Spirit-filled counselor. And most importantly, seek the Lord wholeheartedly and allow Him to lead you each step of the way. Let Him heal and transform you for His glory! He has the great wisdom and discernment we all need for every moment.
Adultery is a terrible thing. It is always totally inexcusable.
As are all sins.
God never gives anyone a free pass to sin against anyone else. God hates sin – and we should hate it, too. Sin destroys people and relationships. Let’s look at a few basic things about this issue before we get into how a godly wife could respect a cheating husband:
- Adultery is never acceptable. It is a severe breach of trust and of the marriage covenant and is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments.
- A wife can’t ignore infidelity or act like things are fine. That is not godly love. There is such a thing as righteous anger against sin.
- She would need to humbly, lovingly confront sin in a godly way (according to Matt. 7:1-5 and Matt. 18:15-17).
- God doesn’t call wives (or anyone else) to love or respect sin.
- A wife who is being cheated on is not required by the Lord to continue having sexual intimacy or to continue to live with her unfaithful husband. Separation is an option that may be very wise when there is a serious violation of the marriage covenant.
- A wife who is being cheated on will probably need some help from some strong, experienced, godly believers who can help counsel her, pray with her, and individually help her navigate the attacks of the enemy that she will inevitably face on this journey.
- Adultery is a terrible sin, but it is not the “unforgivable sin,” even though it sure can seem like it at times.
- A Christian whose spouse is unfaithful is not required to reconcile with that spouse and get back together, although, they may be able to do so with the Lord’s healing for them both at some point after genuine repentance has occurred and the offending spouse is willing to be transparent and willing to rebuild trust. If the offending partner will not repent and will not help to rebuild trust, then the marriage cannot be rebuilt at that point.
How God Views Sin
Something to keep in mind is that no sin is ever acceptable in God’s eyes. ANY sin that goes unchecked for long enough can destroy a person, a relationship, and/or a marriage. Sin always progresses if left to fester. It leads to more and more sin and pain, and then, ultimately, to death. (I’ll share a list with some links to various other sins that can be extremely spiritually and emotionally damaging to our lives and marriages at the bottom of the post.)
Any sin – in thoughts, motives, words, or actions – would send any of us to hell if it were not for the gift of grace offered to us on the cross by Jesus. Of course, we must receive that grace and yield our lives to Him as Savior and LORD to experience His forgiveness. But His forgiveness and the gift of the cross is available to us all.
God is love. But He is also holy. He can’t tolerate any sin in His presence at all. Whether our sin is that we ate a piece of fruit He told us not to eat (like Adam and Eve), or our sin is something we would label today as “a big sin,” it all destroys our relationship with the Lord. We all need a gracious Savior who is willing and able to pay the price for our sin on our behalf that we can’t pay.
We all are on level ground at the foot of the cross. We all need Jesus desperately – and equally. A wife is not “better than” her husband morally or spiritually – no matter what his sin may be. According to Jesus, only God is good. No people can be good in their own strength. On our own, we are all wretched sinners without hope. I’m so thankful God loved us too much to leave us condemned but that He made a way for each of us to be right with Him through Christ! No one is beyond His reach!
A Godly Wife Can Refuse to Repay Evil for Evil Whatever Her Husband’s Sin May Be
She doesn’t have to cuss him out, hit him, throw things at him, threaten him, be bitter at him, insult him, call him names, lash out at him in sinful anger, ridicule him, smear him to everyone she knows, gossip about him, slander him, hate him, teach the kids to hate him, condemn him, have a “revenge” affair herself, be bitter at God because of her husband’s decisions to sin that he made in his own free will, etc…
She doesn’t have to respond in sin. It would be extremely tempting to respond in the flesh, but she is no longer a slave to sin if she is in Christ! (Romans 6:1-14)
She doesn’t have to try to make him change or control him. That won’t work. He has a free will, just like we all do. He has to make his own decisions. She can’t verbally drag him into being a good husband. He has to want that on his own. She can seek to inspire and influence him and make doing what is right attractive to him – but what he does is up to him.
She can separate herself from his sin and not take on any guilt for his sin, knowing he is responsible for his decisions and sin before the Lord. She is responsible for herself. She can also humbly acknowledge that God is the primary one being sinned against by her husband’s adultery.
What She Can Do Instead of Responding in the Flesh
She can set a powerful, shockingly holy and supernatural example that makes him have to see Christ in her.
As he sees Jesus in her life, he will see the stark contrast of his own sinful life and the lack of holiness there. She can be a godly influence. She can conduct herself with dignity, grace, poise, and honor in her interactions with him. At the same time she gives him space to make his own choices, she can also trust in God’s sovereignty and rest in Him. As he sees the difference in his live vs. her life, God may open her husband’s eyes and he may be moved to genuine conviction and repentance.
I am not saying any of this is easy. Or that there are guarantees that a wayward husband would repent.
Humanly speaking, responding in godly ways is impossible. But with the Holy Spirit, a Christian wife can absolutely respond in God’s power.
She can seek to remain faithful to the Lord and continue on in the peace, joy, and security of God’s love for her. Yes she will hurt. Yes she will grieve. The pain of adultery is greater than the pain of widowhood, in my estimation. But she also has so much hope in Jesus! She can depend on the Lord to make something beautiful from this situation. She can entrust her husband and his soul to God. She can be free from fear, living in great faith in Jesus.
A godly wife can respect her husband, God, their marriage covenant, and herself. Meaning – she can think rightly about all of these things according to God’s Word.
She can claim God’s promises to her and proclaim His truth out loud over herself, her husband and her family. She can go through the house when he is gone and sing praises to the Lord at the top of her lungs and invite His Spirit into their home and into the family to heal all that sin and Satan have stolen. She knows that the Lord is able to repay her for the years “the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). And she can truly have His joy and peace in the midst of her pain. She knows this is not the end of the story. She keeps her eyes on Christ, not the storm. In Jesus, she knows she is unshakable.
How Could a Wife Respect Her Cheating Husband in a Godly Way, Not an Unhealthy Way?
A lot of these things are ways a wife would seek to respect her husband at any time and with any sin going on in his life. Infidelity would be one of the most extreme situations that would be a very big spiritual test for any spouse. But no matter what her husband may do or not do, every wife has the choice and ability to obey the Lord for herself and to receive His reward for her obedience. How she thinks, speaks, and acts is all about her walk with Christ.
- Respect that her husband is a person created in the image of God.
- See him with God’s eyes to know what he could be if he turned to the Lord. She knows he is a beloved son of God for whom Christ died.
- Speak respectfully to him and about him.
- Be very cautious about sharing about his sin with others, only sharing when appropriate so that she can get the help she needs. She doesn’t have to tell all her coworkers or everyone at church or everyone on Facebook.
- Look for any good she sees in him and affirm that.
- Refuse to look down on him in self-righteousness, knowing we are all capable of any sin if we are far enough away from the Lord.
- Deal thoroughly with any sin in her own life and repent to the Lord and to her husband, if she realizes she has sinned against him.
- Respect that she is married to him and she can still honor her vows to the Lord and to her husband, although he has broken their covenant.
- Humbly, respectfully introduce appropriate new boundaries and consequences because of his sin as she follows God’s leading and His Word (like separating and not being sexually intimate, for example).
- Continue to honor her end of the covenant by avoiding adultery herself and by depending on the Lord to help her respond in the Spirit not the flesh.
- Treat him in ways that honor the Lord because that is her character in Christ and it pleases Jesus for her to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21) – not because her husband necessarily “deserves” honor and respect.
- Feel her feelings and even express them to him, as appropriate (after she takes her thoughts captive for Christ), in God-honoring ways. She can express her pain and hurt without sinning as she abides in Christ.
- Purposely not seek to turn his kids against him.
- Do whatever she needs to do to focus on Christ and to experience His healing for her broken heart.
- Surround herself with a godly support system, with the Word, with prayer warriors, and with God’s truth.
- Avoid those thoughts, resources, and people who tempt her to react in the flesh.
- Make sure she has on her spiritual armor.
- Look to Jesus alone for her ultimate security, purpose, peace, joy, and hope.
- Respectfully, humbly, lovingly ask that he genuinely repent and show proper fruit of repentance and that he be willing to rebuild trust before allowing him to attempt to re-establish physical, spiritual, and emotional intimacy.
- Recognize the vast difference between forgiving her husband (which is an unconditional command of the Lord) vs. trusting her husband (which is not a command and is conditional depending on what her husband does).
- Remain committed to obeying the Lord for herself, yielding to His Lordship in everything.
- Plead over her husband for his soul before the Lord that he might find repentance, salvation, and regeneration knowing that his relationship with Christ is the most important thing, not the marriage.
- Know who her real enemy is, and it is not her husband. She knows this is a spiritual battle.
A Godly Wife Knows:
- She is not her husband’s Holy Spirit. She isn’t divine. She can’t convict him. Only the Holy Spirit can convict him or anyone else.
- She is not his judge. God is his judge – and hers, too. The Lord will take vengeance appropriately and He will ensure justice is served. Either each person will pay for his sin in hell forever or he will receive Jesus’ payment for his sin and repent and turn to Jesus. A godly wife doesn’t want her husband or anyone to go to hell. She wants everyone to turn to Christ and receive salvation and new life in Him!
- She is not and cannot be her husband’s Savior. Jesus is the only Savior.
- She doesn’t want to be the Accuser of her husband. Satan has that role covered just fine without her help. She doesn’t want to make her mouth available to the enemy.
- Her husband is ensnared by the enemy, like we all are at one time or another, and that he needs Jesus to set him free.
A Harvest of Righteousness Awaits Those Who Walk in Obedience to the Lord
As she avoids sinning against her husband, because she is abiding in Christ, all her husband will have to look at is his own sin. Eventually, her godly life will pour conviction on him without her having to preach or lecture or tell him how sinful his life is. If He is going to hear God’s voice and repent, a believing wife’s willingness to do things God’s way make it as easy as possible for a husband to see his sin and experience conviction. She can’t make him repent. But she can influence him in amazing ways.
Whether he ever repents or not, she will have the satisfaction of knowing that she has no regrets and that she handled herself rightly. She won’t have to apologize or repent when she walks in the victory Christ has provided for her. She can wait with joyful anticipation to hear God say those wonderful words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And she will enjoy the rewards of her obedience forever in heaven.
She may even get to see her husband there, too, forgiven before the Lord, radiant and spotless, part of the perfect bride of Christ. Not only that, but God may use her obedience and faithfulness to Himself and her godly example to draw countless other people into the Kingdom. What a glorious celebration that will be!
Ultimately the goal has to be, “Whatever will bring You the most glory, Lord – do that in my life!”
If you have been in a position like this or similar to this, and God has shown you how to respond in godly ways, I invite you to share the wisdom He has given you with our struggling sisters.
If you have a very difficult marriage and you need spiritual healing in Christ so you have His wisdom and power to know how to handle your husband’s issues, check out Nina Roesner’s Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity eCourse!
What Should Be the Response of a Christian to a Spouse’s Affair? – www.gotquestions.org
Resources for those whose spouses have committed adultery from John Piper
When Your Husband Says, “I’m Done.”
25 Ways to Respect Myself
25 Ways to Show Reverence to God
25 Ways to Show Real Respect for Your Husband
17 Tips to Ask for What You Desire Respectfully
How to Be a Safe Place for Your Husband
Husbands Share What Is Disrespectful to Them
Is It Possible to Disrespect Myself?
I Am Responsible for Myself Spiritually
Are We Responsible for Our Spouse’s Happiness?
I Am Responsible for My Emotions
POSTS ABOUT VARIOUS SINS THAT ARE ALSO VERY DESTRUCTIVE:
- Idolatry of self, of her husband, of romance, of marriage, of happiness, and other things.
- Rage, Violence, Hatred, Murder.
- Trying to control other people.
- Disrespecting her husband.
- Dishonoring the leadership of those in positions of God-given authority in her life (unless they are asking her to sin or to condone clear sin).
- Rebellion against the Lord, refusing to submit to His Lordship.
- Sinful Jealousy.
- Dishonesty or deception.
- Lust, porn use, porn addiction.
- Fear and worry.
- Pride (the root of all other sins)