Asking Faithful Spouse About “Their Part”

2014-07-25 14.09.51

The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

– Deuteronomy 24:16, KJV

“What did you contribute to the breakdown of your marriage?”

-Inquiring Christian

I do not like this sort of question leveled at a faithful spouse following divorce for several reasons:

First, I think one needs a considerable amount of emotional capital already invested in a faithful spouse to get permission to probe such a sensitive area. The snarky side of me wants to respond:

Tell me all the ways that you are a crappy, sinful husband in your marriage, then I might share about I contributed to the ending of my first marriage.

My point in my snark is that the person asking is ignoring how vulnerable the question makes the faithful spouse. They fail to see how off-putting it is to assume a victim of adultery and/or abandonment owes you a discussion of their deep hurt and possible shame regarding maybe the most traumatic event in their life.

Second, the question assume the faithful spouse contributed to the ending of the marriage. The Shared Responsibility Lie” rears his ugly head here again. In logic class, we would call this a false assumption. This particular question would be classified under a reasoning fallacy entitled “The Loaded Question.

Any answer to this question regarding the faithful spouse’s behavior implicates the faithful spouse as responsible–at least, partially–for causing the divorce. This is unbliblical thinking. 

God did not blame the faithful spouse for the ending of a marriage in the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 22:22 and Leviticus 20:10). He laid the full blood guilt upon the adulterous parties alone for their sin (see Deuteronomy 24:16).

That said, the snarky side of me wants to respond to such questions here:

You’re right I did contribute to my marriage’s demise. I chose to marry a cheater and a quitter. 

But the reality is that God says adultery is a marriage killer–as per His Old Testament instructions–and no further discussion is needed. At least, that is what I see in Scripture.

Finally, this question is hurtful and puts a faithful spouse on the defensive. I immediately feel my chest conscript and sense my fight/flight impulse start to take over imagining answering this question.

As just stated in point two, this question assumes I am responsible-in part, at least–for the ending of my marriage. It implies I had some control over whether or not I was divorced, which is actually false in my case. Plus, I get the feeling such a question is presented as a way to judge me:

Will he respond in a way that shows he has healed or is a “good” Christian? 

That place of being under judgment is what triggers the fight/flight feelings for me. It is an issue of feeling accepted and worthy that is being challenged–i.e. worthy of belonging and not being treated as morally inferior/crazy.

Plus, it is a hurtful question. I find it hurtful as a spouse who was abandoned. The question implies I had control over something I did not. The question rubs salt into that wound.

For spouses who had to choose between tolerating unrepentant infidelity or divorce, it can be similarly hurtful. They may have filed for divorce but came to that conclusion based on their spouses’ adulterous sin. A marriage devoid of adultery was not on the table. They had to make a choice from the Buffet of Bad Options. Jesus says divorce was and is permissible in their case without moral censure (see Mt 5:32 and 19:9).

I much prefer a different sort of question:

What did you learn in your divorce experience?

This does not imply blame for the traumatic event. We could ask this sort of question to someone who lost a loved one to cancer or an accident.

Another reason I like this sort of question as it suggests the questioner might learn something valuable from the divorced spouse. It is a way to approach the faithful spouse acknowledging them as having valuable wisdom to share from going through a difficult experience.

I suggest asking a question like that is a good way to practice the Golden Rule (e.g. Luke 6:31).

And the world could certainly use more Golden Rule practitioners!

3 thoughts on “Asking Faithful Spouse About “Their Part””

  1. Love this remark : You’re right I did contribute to my marriage’s demise. I chose to marry a cheater – but I would change it to “I chose to marry a deceitful person who chose of their own accord to cheat, and in the process of raping my soul destroyed the kids’ sense of serendipity to further his selfish desires. And tried to say I made him do that. You are right, very tragic and your prayers for all involved are appreciated. ”

    You are a great resource for encapsulating the effect the raw destructive emotion divorce inflicts on the faithful spouse and offspring. To be able to articulate it so concisely has been liberating. Thanks DM. Happy Holidays.

  2. I’d say, “I unknowingly chose to marry a liar and a cheater.” A cheater who chose to spend his free time away from home, his family, so he could drink and be with other women. How could I have possibly known those things would happen when I stood before all those witnesses and God on my wedding day? How can anybody expect me to have prevented or stopped what he was doing, when I do not have the power to control another person?

    After years of lying, cheating, excessive drinking, threats of physical violence, gaslighting, no remorse, lack of effort to save our relationship on my spouse’s part, I filed for divorce. And because I filed, my in-laws, the people that told me they loved me and cared about me and would do anything to help me through the rough times (as they knew what their son was doing), have cut ties with me. Their son/brother that barely spoke to them over the last several years, is now who they must help.

    I’ve not only been betrayed by my spouse, but by my in-law family as well. It hurts. Does the Word say anything about helping the guilty over the innocent? Do I consider them enemies now? Does any of it matter since they don’t speak to me anymore anyway?

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