Excuses might be found for a thief
who steals because he is starving.
But if he is caught, he must pay back seven times what he stole,
even if he has to sell everything in his house.
-Proverbs 6:30-31, NLT
Dating your spouse.
It is not that I am against having one-on-one romantic evenings or vacations with one’s spouse. I think those are wonderful. Lots of fun. They are good investments in the marriage.
But I am against dating one’s spouse as a primary strategy in repairing a marriage ravaged by emotional affairs and/or adultery. Pastorally speaking–as I am a pastor and not a marriage counselor–suggesting spouse-dating after infidelity sends the wrong messages about sin and its origin:
If only you had paid her more attention, your wife wouldn’t have cheated on you with that guy from the bar scene.
If only you had worn more sexy lingerie and been more sexually available, he wouldn’t have strayed with that other woman.
Notice: These suggestions–while possibly not spoken explicitly–are blameshifts.
The victim of the infidelity is blamed for being victimized. That is the number one reason I reject this sort of advice as a pastor. It is unjust and cruel.
Second, I reject it as it is bad theology.
Sin does not come from outside of us. Our spouse does not make us sin. Conversely, we did not make our spouse sin against us.
James is very clear on this matter (see James 1:13-15). Jesus is clear as well (e.g. Mark 7:20-23). The sin flows out of the heart of the sinner alone.
Returning to Proverbs passage quoted above, I want to point out how ridiculous this sort of advice is using the analogy there:
Taking the example of a theft, do we insist on the victim giving more to the thief afterwards? Of course, not! That would be awfully unjust. And it really does not address the wrong committed.
Why then would we insist on the faithful spouse–who has had intimacy stolen from them–give more to the thief?
Yes, the idea of restitution is in play. However, that flows from the cheater to the faithful spouse and not the other way around. Restitution is on the victim’s terms, not the perpetrators.
Infidelity is not a romance deficit problem. It is a sin problem. Sin comes from the heart of the sinner alone. Only the sinner has the power to choose not to sin the future and turn from his or her sin.
Suggesting dating your spouse as a marriage repairing solution gets the theology wrong. It misdiagnoses the issue as a romance problem. And it blames someone–i.e. the faithful spouse–for the sin chosen by the cheating spouse.
So, if you are a pastor or Christian leader, please do not give this awful advice to a congregant/spouse whose marriage has just been ravaged by the sins of infidelity.
And if you are a faithful spouse, be aware that anyone giving such advice is truly clueless as to actual, Biblical dynamics of your situation. They are blind guides best avoided.
*A version of this post ran previously.