“This is the way of an adulterous woman:
She eats and wipes her mouth
and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’”
-Proverbs 30:20, NIV
It is pointless to engage in “reconciliation” efforts while a partner continues cheating.
You are wasting time and treasure.
The worst piece of advice I got was to take my focus off this truth. When a spouse has cheated–emotionally and/or physically–the focus needs to be on making sure this unfaithful spouse has closed the door firmly on all other partner options. The cheating needs to be front and center as that is the existential threat to the marriage!
As a pastor or elder, you reinforce a bad, sinful habit when you allow the cheater to keep the door open to other partner options. You signal that the cheating was not “all that bad.” Focusing on communication or other issues, signal that those are and were more problematic for the marriage’s viability than the sin God says is marriage ending (see Deut. 22:22, Jer. 3:8, Mt. 19:9).
Plus, you feed false hope for the faithful spouse. They really do not have a fighting chance at staying married–even if they really want to–unless their cheating partner commits completely to the marriage.
As long as the cheater has the door open to other partners, they are free to escape to “Partner Fantasy Land.” This fantasy land does not make them take responsibility for their actions. It does not force them to work. They can be pitied as “the victim” all day long in partner fantasy land. And they do not have to deal with the nitty gritty details of life together forever in “Partner Fantasy Land.”
In other words, a real partner working with such a cheater in “reconciliation” is trying to compete with the cheater’s fantasy world. It is not a fair fight. And it usually results in the real partner “loosing.”
As I said earlier, it is a waste of time and treasure.
I wished the “Christian” marriage counselors I had seen with my (now) ex-wife had been that blunt with me. Instead, they focused on about everything except her cheating feeding me false hope that I had some power to save my marriage. This while the door remained wide open to her cheating (because leaving the door open is what ignoring the cheating does). Such poor counsel, I am convinced, hastened the demise of that marriage.
Make it a sine qua non–i.e. “without this nothing”–of marriage “reconciliation.”
As long as the door remains ajar, you can reasonably expect the cheating spouse to escape to “Partner Fantasy Land.” It isn’t fair to either the faithful spouse or yourself as a pastor/leader to waste anymore time, effort, or treasure under such circumstances. So, do everyone a favor, insist that door is firmly closed before engaging in marriage rebuilding efforts!