But he only cheated on you once…

Adulterers/adulteresses and their apologists say the cruelest of things:

I still love you. It only happened once. We all make mistakes. Can’t we just pretend it didn’t happen?”

“It was only just one slip up. Why can’t you get past it?”

“He just had one bad night. Why are you so hung up on one instance of infidelity? Can’t you forgive and move on? I thought you are a Christian.”

Maybe you heard these words or a version of these words come out of your cheater’s mouth?

Perhaps, a well-meaning but horribly insensitive pastor said these things to you or another Christian trying to make the ugly uncomfortable truth go away.

All of this reminds me of an exchange from the movie “Silver Linings Playbook.” This movie follows the story of a man who was cheated on by his wife and exploded violently on her affair partner when he discovered him naked with his wife in the shower. The scene that comes to my mind from this movie is when Pat (the faithful spouse) is in therapy for his explosion. Dr. Cliff Patel is his therapist. Here is what they say:

Pat: My father is the explosion guy. I’m not that guy. He got kicked out of that stadium he beat up so many people at Eagles games, he’s on the exclusion list. I had one incident.
Dr. Cliff Patel: One incident can change a lifetime.

“One incident can change a lifetime.”

I wonder if that resonates with you as it does with me?

It is applicable to all sorts of situations even beyond adultery. And it is a reminder that some moments are weighed heavier in consequences than others. It is a sobering thought.

Pastorally, I am firm in the believe an act of adultery is one of those heavy consequence moments. You do not “just get over” an act of adultery (presuming that it only happened once and ignoring all the deception around it). It is like asking a rape victim why she isn’t over her rape because it only happened once. Adultery is soul rape. That’s the spiritual truth on the matter.

Once adultery has happened. The world is a different place for the faithful spouse. A wise pastor and a compassionate Christian would understand this.

Scripture does not say only kill the adulterer/adulteress if they’ve committed adultery more than once. It simply states, “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 22:22, NIV).

Adultery is minimally one moment.

And yes, that moment does change lifetimes (plural).



8 thoughts on “But he only cheated on you once…”

  1. Well said. I’m tired of my lying cheating wife saying move forward, get over it, etc.. Our church counselor is casually addressing the betrayal, not promoting disclosure, stretching out discussion for months, allowing more time for “I don’t remember”, “that was so long ago why bring it back up”, etc.. Sweep it under the rug is their approach, and address problems and needs in the marriage. All may seem fine to them, but I’m losing hope and faith in recovery and the prospect of ever trusting my wife again.

    1. Noah,

      I’d encourage you to look at Dr. Clarke’s materials (see my resource page). If your marriage has any hope of surviving, his process needs to be followed. It gives no inch to sweeping adultery under the rug. And it is Biblical.

      So sorry that you are experiencing such failure in counseling and further insult to injury, brother!


    2. Noah- “Sweep it under the rug is their approach, and address problems and needs in the marriage.” Yet again another example of how counselors fail to recognize infidelity as the problem, not the symptom. Just because they’re a counselor, pastor, it says ‘LMFT’ etc behind their name, does not mean they’re going to take the appropriate response, especially in cases of adultery. Glad you found the blog.

  2. Oh Noah I know exactly how you feel although our pastor really tore into my husband… Everyone was still at me to forgive and move on. So I tried for a while but I can’t seem to move past it and I have filed for divorce and waiting on him to be served. This is such a horrible situation to have to deal with and I am so sorry you are going thru it too. I never knew such pain existed and I really don’t see how anyone ever fully recovers from it

  3. Pastor David, does the Gospel not have something to say to all this? PLEASE, apply the Gospel! Do you find no redemption for yourself or others at the Cross? The Gospel speaks to sin, betrayal and injustice like nothing else in history! The only answer is at the foot of the Cross, for the sinner and victim alike! Don

    1. Don,

      I agree. The forgiveness Christ earned for us on the Cross is available to all. However, I do not make the mistake of saying sin does not matter nor promote the lie that sin does not have lasting consequences. King David still lost his first son by Bathsheba and suffered greatly afterwards through Absalom’s rebellion. This was true even though he was forgiven as the Prophet Nathan attests. I believe in God’s mercy and grace for us all. However, I do not promote “cheap grace.”

      “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Comments are closed.