For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.
-Romans 8:16, NLT
So, you have discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful. He (or she) cheated on you and hid the double life with copious lies for months and possibly years. Now, you must decide what you do with new information.
What does God want you to do with your marriage?
How do you discern this important choice?
Let’s start with a few key questions to help you discern God’s direction regarding your marriage.
1. What does the Bible say about your situation?
Scripture is clear when it comes to adultery situations (see Deut. 22:22, Jer. 3:8, Mt 5:32, etc). The faithful spouse is no longer expected to remain in the bonds of the marriage. He or she may divorce without shame.
This simply clarifies that filing for divorce is a real option on the table for a faithful spouse. It does not tell you whether or not God wants you to file, unfortunately. That will take further discernment and observation on your part.
As a caution, we all probably know someone who has twisted Scripture to their agenda. Perhaps our cheater did this? Maybe “friends” did this to stay “neutral” over the whole tawdry matter?
A classic example in the world of infidelity is the cheater who claims that God wants them to be happy as a “justification” for their cheating. Maybe they even point to a verse about Jesus giving his followers a prosperous life? They then use this personal “happiness” value as cover for their adulterous sin.
They are believing a lie when they do this. God has spoken clearly in the Bible that committing adultery is sin and is thereby forbidden for followers of Christ (see Exodus 20:14, James 2:11, etc). Their happiness does not trump God’s consistent stance against committing adultery found throughout the Bible.
2. What do you feel or sense the Spirit telling you to do?
I suspect many faithful spouses already have experienced Holy Spirit speaking to their own spirit on this matter. It is less a matter of hearing from God than overcoming the fear that comes with acting on what the faithful spouse knows is the right path.
Is what you are hearing aligned with the Fruits of the Spirit (e.g. love, joy, peace, patience, etc.–see Galatians 5:22-23)? These are indicators that the words are coming from God. I especially like to focus upon whether or not you have peace regarding this choice.
Furthermore, Holy Spirit is not going to tell you to violate God’s clear commands in the Bible. That is your corrupt flesh or the demonic telling you to cheat on your spouse in revenge. Don’t do it!
3. What do trusted and wise friends or advisers tell you?
This is a little more tricky of a source as we all know having experienced numerous betrayals in this area as faithful spouses. Be careful who you trust or allow to speak into your life in these matters. If they are trying to control you (via guilt and shame) as opposed to just offering their advice when invited by you, then they are not someone whose advice is good and safe.
God invites us to follow Him; He does not coerce us. Godly advice ought to have this character feature as well.
You are ultimately the one responsible for your choice and action (see 2 Corinthians 5:10). Do not use outside advice as an excuse not to make this decision for yourself! You are the one who will have to live with the choice’s consequences both good and ill.
That said, these friends and advisers may have valuable perspective for you. Some may have walked a similar path to you or walked with people who have had similar story. Plus, they may be able to see the obvious path without having to deal with the emotional turmoil that you are currently undergoing.
4. Do you have anything to work with in your cheating spouse?
Staying with an unrepentant cheater is unwise. You are opening yourself to all sort of danger to your physical, emotional, social, financial, and spiritual health. An unrepentant cheater is not giving you anything with which to rebuild the marriage that he or she just destroyed through their callous disregard of your feelings and their marriage vows. It is still your choice as to whether or not to remain. However, I would discourage staying in such a destructive relationship. God offers faithful spouses the mercy of divorce precisely for these situations so that faithful spouses can escape such abuse.
If the cheater is truly repentant, this does NOT mean that you HAVE TO stay in the marriage. It took only one instance of adultery in the Old Testament to end a marriage (e.g. Deuteronomy 22:22). The only difference here is that you are not killing the cheater for his or her adultery. You may have a shot at rebuilding the marriage if the cheater is truly repentant and fully owning the infidelity as their sin. You may decide it is too painful to rebuild a marriage burned to the ground by such adulterous treachery. As I read the Bible, that is an acceptable choice as well. It isn’t sinful to exercise a permission given by Jesus Himself (see Matthew 19:9).
Clear as mud, right?!
I hope some of these pointers aid you in making this tough choice discerning what God would have you do. As I have written elsewhere, no real good options are left for faithful spouses once spousal infidelity is uncovered. It is a “Buffet of Bad Options.” That said, some options are more destructive in the long run than others.