“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
-Acts 2:36, NIV (emphasis mine)
Some Christians who have never experienced the very personal and humiliating betrayal of an adulterous spouse can be incredibly insensitive to those of us who have.
One way this insensitivity manifests is through assuming a faithful spouse must be buddy-buddy with his/her ex-spouse.
Such an expectation comes with a judgment if it does not happen:
These insensitive–and Biblically mistaken–Christians judge a faithful spouse as unforgiving or bitter for not being buddy-buddy with the cheating ex.
They are confusing forgiveness with reconciliation in making that judgement. Further, they are operating with a deficient, weak, and ungodly version of forgiveness that is bereft of the repentance requirement for forgiveness as outlined by Jesus (e.g. Luke 17:3).
Forgiveness does not entail becoming best buds with the (former) spouse that blew up your life with lies and adultery.
That is a picture of thriving reconciliation, and that does not happen unilaterally. The adulterous partner is required to rebuild the relationship he or she blew up for reconciliation to happen.
Such rebuilding starts with repenting of the adultery and all the lies that went with it. Marrying the Other Woman/Other Man and/or denying the affair(s) even happened means reconciliation is not on the table. The cheater has taken it off!
Insensitive Christians fail to grasp a basic reality about surviving infidelity:
Surviving the adulterous betrayal(s) of a spouse is traumatic!
Adultery is soul rape. And the trauma does not stop there. It is compounded with copious cheater lies, often times financial abuse, sometimes even legal abuse, almost certainly emotional abuse, plus the turning of “friends”/family against the faithful spouse to name just a few elements faithful spouses experience. Cheaters are downright nasty.
Just because we forgive someone does not mean the damage done to the relationship disappears like nothing happened. Something did happen, and that will be true forever.
Jesus forgave those who crucified him, yet it remains forever historically true that those people killed him as Peter highlights in Acts 2:36.
Let’s look at this situation under a different lens.
As a Christian, we are supposed to care for one another as if each is family. Since adultery is soul rape, let us consider the situation of a father or mother responding to the situation as if his or her child was raped.
If you are a father or mother, can you imagine expecting your child to forgive his/her unrepentant rapist as evidenced by the child being buddy-buddy with this person?!
Only a cruel fool of a parent would hold such an expectation for his or her child. Such a parent is “cruel” in the sense that he or she is minimizing the trauma the child experienced by dismissing it as relevant to the relationship. Such a parent is “foolish” in the sense that he/she is pushing the child to ignore the child’s God-given fear that is present to warn and protect him/her from further damage.
Yet Christians behave like such cruel, foolish parents all the time in expecting faithful spouses to become buddy-buddy with their remorseless soul rapists.
This is a cruel and foolish expectation.
Christians, faithful spouses are victims of adultery. And that experience is highly traumatic. Highly.
Just seeing a picture of my ex-wife to this day evokes a sick feeling in my gut as my body remembers how our marriage ended. This happens literally years removed from the experience!
To be clear: this reaction is not a hatred or bitterness thing. I do not harbor unforgiveness towards her as I have given her over to God to deal with as He pleases.
My reaction is simply what happens naturally when the emotional and spiritual scars are scratched. A sensitivity likely will always be there like a frostbit toe is forever sensitive to weather’s extremes.
At this point, I have two final thoughts:
To those who hold this expectation especially of faithful spouses who have kids with the cheater: Please consider whether you would hold the same expectation of a rape victim who had a kid with the rapist. Would you expect the victim to be buddy-buddy with her remorseless rapist? If not, then I suggest adjusting your expectations for faithful (divorced) spouses. Remember: Faithful spouses were soul raped.
To the faithful spouses who encounter this expectation: I want to validate your feelings and support your healthy boundaries in this. It is more than okay not to become buddy-buddy with a unrepentant cheater. And it makes sense that civility is the best one can do under the circumstances. The feelings of discomfort you have when you see your ex-spouse and your inability to pretend that your soul wasn’t violated intimately does not necessarily mean you are bitter or unforgiving. It simply means you suffered a horrific and traumatic betrayal. God gets it. And those who have God’s heart towards you do, too.