Fickle Is Fully Fake Repentance

“Get busy living or get busy dying.” – Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption


I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live….” – Deuteronomy 30:19, ESV

With such incredible pressure in Christian circles not to divorce, many faithful spouses may find themselves living in limbo wondering if his/her adulterous spouse is truly repenting. I remember being in that place for months! Each little glimmer or hint of kindness stoking my hope that maybe the marriage was not doomed.

This is no place to live.

“Miserable” is a good word to describe such an existence in marriage limbo.

When I think of that time, I think of some sound advice I received from a fellow chaplain intern during the summer of 2012. She told me her impression was that my (now ex) wife was cruelly toying with me. My friend pointed out the compassionate thing was either for her to file divorce (as she was claiming she was going to do) or get busy reconciling. Such reminds me of Andy Dufresne’s quote posted above:

“Get busy living or get busy dying.” Sound advice for life and marriage following adultery.

Unlike me, maybe you–faithful spouse–find yourself in the driver’s seat as it comes to deciding to divorce or not. That comes with a whole new set of challenges. Perhaps you really, really want the marriage to be resurrected?

Let me share some advice from my experience:

1) First and foremost, you do not have to resurrect the marriage after adultery. You are free Biblically to divorce (see Deut 22:22 and Mt 19:9). In other words, you do not owe it to your adulterous spouse or the Church to restore the marriage. If God has set you free, you are actually and truly free to decide to divorce. A repentant adulterous spouse will recognize this and approach the opportunity to resurrect the marriage as an undeserved gift from the faithful spouse. An entitled and selfish adulterous spouse will try to use religious language to steal this freedom from the faithful spouse and continue abusing him/her. Don’t buy the hype from the cheater or “well-meaning,” wrong Christians.

2) If the adulterous spouse starts to blame you for “your stuff” or “your contribution,” that is a clear sign he/she has not grasp the awful magnitude of what he/she did to you. They raped your soulA repentant rapist does not wax on about how she had it coming to her. He owns his sin and acknowledges he was wrong, period. A wise pastor and/or Christian counselor will understand this and give no quarter to the blame-shift game.

3) A truly repentant adulterer/adulteress will make your needs and your pain the focus. The adultery was all about his/her sinful selfishness. It is time he/she starts thinking about the one he/she deeply wounded. This means that the adulterous spouse will not whine about hearing your anger and pain over his/her betrayal. He/she will patiently listen to your pain validating and supporting you emotionally as a true and godly friend would do. Also, he/she will not insist on keeping the OM/OW as a friend. You do not remain friends with someone who raped your spouse’s soul. That’s just to name a few indications of care for the faithful spouse. I would also add complete honesty to the faithful spouse and whatever accountability the faithful spouse needs to start trusting again. This is to repair the damaged done by his/her sins of lying as all adulterous spouses lie. If all that is too difficult, then I suggest the adulterous has likely not repented, and divorce is the best of the bad options in that case.

To paraphrase Shawshank RedemptionGet busy resurrecting the marriage or get busy divorcing. Don’t get stuck in marriage limbo. If you are getting mixed messages from your adulterous spouse, then consider that a clear message: it’s over. He/she doesn’t get it, and that leaves you especially vulnerable for future adulterous affairs.

Repentance isn’t fickle or flighty.

Fickle is fully fake repentance.

So, don’t buy it.

It’s a ticket to marriage limbo.

Scripture encourages us to make choices and enforces the consequences for those chosen choices (see Deuteronomy 30:19 quoted above). It is vital that you follow this model if you decide to explore resurrecting the marriage. Like the advice my friend gave me that awful summer, this will save you much grief and lost time spent in marriage limbo. And it is a kindness to both parties. By your example, you are teaching him/her not to take mercy for granted and consequences come from actions and choices. In the end, God may even use this to save his/her soul. However, whether that happens or not, it will spare you from a long languishing stay in the misery of marriage limbo.

13 thoughts on “Fickle Is Fully Fake Repentance”

  1. Thank you. I so needed to be read this and get over my sorrow for filing for divorce.
    Yes, I have lived in limbo and did the pick me dance as my ex proclaimed regularly he wanted a divorce and that he was in love with the other woman. Yet, he would not file. I took the crumbs hoping for a reconciliation. “Get busy resurrecting the marriage or get busy divorcing.” That is just gold! Shout it from the rooftop.

  2. Beautifully, forcefully written in the Love of Our Lord. Thank you. I lived the misery of marriage limbo for far too long. Marriage limbo, like the phrase rape of the soul… It seems clear you have found your ministry, and Praise God that you allow yourself to put these words down so we can use them as tools and armor in this awful battle of betrayal we, your readers have unwittingly found ourselves. Blessings to you and your family in this holiday season.

  3. Marriage limbo is exactly where I am! However, I don’t have proof of a physical affair. I just have proof of an emotional affair and my husband has abandoned us. I think it was headed to a physical affair but our church thwarted it. I think the OW cut if off, not my husband. I have even hired a private investigator to find proof of sexual infidelity and none has been found. So where do I go from here? I’m not allowed by God to divorce without adultery. The only thing I know to do now is put up every boundary possible and see if that pushes him into getting busy divorcing or reconciling. Any other ideas? My boys don’t want to stay with him at all so I’m no making them do so (they are teens). Maybe that will get my husband moving. Limbo is not fun but I loved the post!

    1. Moxie wrote,

      @ broken heart believer- I personally believe an emotional affair is cheating, but unlike DM I do not have biblical research to back up. My ex for a year and half said he was “just friends” with ow. Check out Shirley P Glass’ book Not “Just Friends”.

      1. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28 (NIV) I definitely think emotional affairs are very serious. Some Christians feel it is included in a biblical reason for divorce, others do not. I need to decide for myself. Jesus words seem pretty clear. Thank you for the book suggestion!

        1. I wish I’d taken my husband’s emotional affairs more seriously. I didn’t like them, couldn’t stop them but thought at least that was all they were. At times he abandoned me emotionally. But he did confess just before he left me to having gone further with one of them, not all the way but deffo inside the underwear. And knowing the person[ knew her for 35 years] I believe that it was what he wanted not really what she wanted, but not sure about her daughter, another EA that went about as far]. Who knows who else that he didn’t confess to. I got a call out of the blue from an old workmate of his, who hadn’t known he had gone, getting in touch as she was moving, and she said what a terrible flirt he was, so was there anyone at work? Much harder for me to find out about anything like that as he worked 15 miles away at that time and I had no car
          But deffo they took him away from the marriage, and did nothing to make things better [ he said he confessed to them so that things would be better between us but expected that to be the end of it, no questions or anything allowed]. I do wish I’d recorded what he said, he is starting to deny things he said, but it is burned on my soul
          It should be obvious, but Jesus is right as always.
          Where does one draw the line though? What is the difference between being really fond of someone of the opposite sex, much as you are with someone of the same sex, loving them even, or at least having a bond. I’m sure most of us have people of the opposite sex who are great friends, we’d miss them like heck if they moved, but that is all, we’d never dream of it going beyond
          One of my husband’s was with someone who did not reciprocate or give him any encouragement at all, but in his confession he actually told me something that made me so sick. He’d at one point id should he get a vasectomy, didn’t think we ought to have another baby, ,even though I’d have loved another one. I thought about it, and looked at whether there were any side effects, and read that there might be an increased risk of prostate cancer, so I said no, there are no side effects from the diaphragm for me, only drawback is remembering, so didn’t want to increase his cancer risk. Last year when he confessed he told me that he was so glad I had said no, as he was feeling so sorry for this other woman, who wanted children before it was too late but had no boyfriend, he had wanted to go off with her and give her children, this after saying no to more for us. He did actually confess to this one a couple of years before he left, and was surprised when I said I klnew – it was b obvious. But he did nothing about it and it didn'[t stop him doing it again with someone else. Fortunately with her she did put her foot down and told him where to go [by this time she was having an affair with someone else, and left her husband for him, but she kept options open until he did something really stupid which was the nail in the coffin
          I think that the difference between her and the woman he left me for is that everyone else said no at some point. Had they said yes it would I am convinced have happened sooner.
          But I don’t know with your husband, but sure as anything he needs to leave her alone and they need to cut back the relationship to saying hello and goodbye at the most
          a couple of books arrived this week, looking forward to reading them

          1. All of your comments have been very helpful. I got my answer this morning and was served with divorce papers. I’m very sad for my kids but am glad I’m getting away from such a disordered person. The 1John3:6 was perfect. I think Pastor David hit the nail on the head when he said some men are like King Saul who started out strong but gave their hearts to sin. That’s exactly how my husband was. He was such a great husband and father for many years, then he started hanging out with a new group of people with a new hobby and it was all downhill from there. If someone is that impressionable at 40 years old, they have never protected their heart with Christ. I may never know exactly what happened but their is no doubt in my mind he had a very adulterous heart and Jesus told us that was just as bad as the actual act. At this point the only thing I care about is my boys and will do everything in my power to educate them on better ways- which I’ve done since they were little anyway. We need fine godly men in this world and that’s what they appear to be so far. I gratefully don’t feel bitterness in my heart, just anger. God is good always!

          2. Sorry you’re in the boat to begin with, glad you have an answer though. We’ll be praying the process goes as smoothly as possible for you and your kids. You are mighty!

    2. If your husband has abandoned you and refuses to repair/resurrect the marriage when confronted with his sin, I would classify that as Biblical grounds to divorce under I Cor 7:15. He physically is not there, and he is not acting as a Christian. He knows what he needs to do and continues in sin. That’s incompatible with being a Christian (I John 3:6). Just because he was active in the church does not make him a Christian as there will be many who do works in Christ’s name who do NOT enter the Kingdom of God (see Mt. 7:21-23).

      Also, he probably knows evidence or admittance of extramarital sex would be taken more seriously. In other words, he has a major reason to lie. If he had opportunity and interest (as the EA suggests is the case), I would be more inclined to think it was sexual and not just an EA. Having the church intervened may only have made him more cautious or stopped it from continuing. It does not prove he was not already active. His resistance to addressing what he did is further evidence of something being “off” (and I’d read it as likely that he was more involved than he shared or continues his involvement with the OW). Being formerly married to someone who claims to be Christian, I can tell you from my experience that getting the admission of the sexual impropriety was harder than admission of an EA.

      Hope that helps! Btw, Dr. Glass’ book is an excellent read.


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