Date Your Mate Nonsense!

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.

3 thoughts on “Date Your Mate Nonsense!”

  1. I am the betrayed spouse. Multiple physical and emotional “affairs” (I don’t like using that word as it has sort of a whimsical/fun connotation that I take offense to.) 3 1/2 yrs into healing and recovery which of course has not been linear. While we have had good therapists who recognize or so they profess betrayal as trauma for the victim, there is still an underlying “find the love that you once had for each other” that comes up &/or ways to “jump start connection.” I have never gotten how this is possible. I don’t want the “love that I once had” because it was a lie. A 38 yr year lie. There is also talk of “pursuing your spouse.” I agree with this concept however as I’ve told my husband, the type of pursual that I need is not romantic but a willingness on his part to be empathetic whether he feels like it or has the true ability yet or not; to show true, genuine remorse and brokenness over his sin which I believe really only comes when a Godly sorrow is present, and a willingness to push through the difficulty of initiating conversation about his betrayal even though he is conflict avoidant as there is certainly the chance of conflict arising. Although I believe that over time this can actually decrease the amount &/or intensity of many of the conflicts.
    I just stumbled upon this website. The article about not giving betrayal specifics in disclosure is what caught my attention. I am a lay co-facilitator for a women’s group for betrayed spouses and it seems that I am hearing more and more about the ‘non-specific’ therapeutic disclosures which include the betrayed spouse not being given a copy of the written disclosure. The reasoning for this is that the spouse will “continue” to go over the disclosure & subsequently delay the healing process. I am fearful that this is the therapeutic betrayal “norm” and I agree with each of your points about why this is NOT the way for genuine and lasting healing and recovery, as I try to remain hopeful that that is really possible.
    Thank you for your ministry

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Yes, I agree that therapists allowing just a general confession are not truly helping faithful spouses. The sin needs to be exposed for any hope for the wounds to be healed.

    2. Ann, I’m not sure if you will see this but are you still with your husband and is he working on reconciliation?

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