“I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
-Matthew 10:16, CEV
Just because an adulterous spouse goes to the pastor’s office for pastoral counseling does not mean he or she is repenting. This move can simply be a cover for further abuse of the faithful spouse. The adulterous spouse may like the legitimacy such meetings afford him or her. It is a way to support their false narrative of claiming victim-status in the divorce:
“See, I tried! She/he was just so unforgiving. And it is not like he/she was without sin.”
“The pastor couldn’t even get her to stop being a nag. It is sad, but sometimes divorce is necessary.”
“He has an anger problem that even the pastor couldn’t fix. No, he never hit me or did anything that indicated he would. But I couldn’t live in that environment. We needed to divorce for both our sake’s.”
It sickens me to see how easily pastors and Christian counselors play into this manipulation. Too often they think going to counseling means the cheating spouse is invested in saving the marriage. They do not see that tough love means taking this veneer away and requiring repentance.
What they do not “get” is how truly wicked humans can be.
Some adulterous spouses just use these sessions to beat up their spouse and control the narrative so that they look good to outsiders who expect them to “try.” They may even enlist the pastor or counselor in the session who often feel obligated to join in as to maintain a “balanced” perspective in the matter (i.e. “I see both sides, blah, blah, blah…”). The focus is taken off the catastrophic sin of adultery and placed on matters–that while may need addressing at some point–are futile while one spouse is blowing up the marriage boat’s bottom with infidelity bombs.
Do not underestimate the depravity of “man” in these situations!
If you–pastor/Christian leader–do, you may end up looking like a fool who was used to hurt the true victim in this matter. Keep your eyes wide open and be wise as a serpent.
Faithful spouse, please realize that counseling does not equate to repentance either.
True repentance involves actual action. It does not involve blame-shifting or excuse making. And it certainly does not involve continuation of contemptuous behavior. The truly repentant adulterous spouse owns his or her sins fully and does not try to play the “you’re a sinner, too” game.