Mailbag: Feeling torn between divorce and staying for the kids



I wonder if you could write on topic that deals with clash of emotions/feelings being a coward for allowing unfaithful partner back into our life without much consequences and at same time feeling like traitor to kids if choosing divorce instead.


Dear Broken_Hurt,

It is not a betrayal of your children to act in a way that supports your morality and values. That includes deciding to divorce an unrepentant cheater.


It is their mother who let them down in destroying the marriage via cheating. You are simply enforcing a biblically allowed consequence–i.e. divorce–for being unfaithful (see Jeremiah 3:8, Matthew 19:9).

Also, what I hear in your question is the torment that comes when you fail to respect and obey your conscience. It seems to be telling you to divorce your cheating spouse. The Bible is clear that we need to respect our conscience and not violate them (see Romans 14).

In sum, I have two points for you to consider to get out of this soul-deadening loop:

1) Take responsibility for living out your convictions and values. If unrepentant cheating is unacceptable to you, then you need to be prepared to divorce over it. I am not talking about “punishing” a cheating wife; rather, I am talking about ensuring real repentance has taken place. To do anything less is to signal that you will tolerate such sinful, unrepentant behavior, and that teaches your children that message as well. 

2) Do not take responsibility for the consequences of another’s choices and actions. Once again, I encourage you not to accept the narrative that you are to blame for this divorce. If you decide to divorce, you are doing so because your wife has refused to repent from cheating. It is not the rape victim’s fault that the rapist is in jail. He is in jail for choosing and committing a crime. The same idea here applies to divorcing a cheating spouse.

Divorce is hard. It is painful and comes with awful realities and loses. At the end of the day, you are answerable to God for your choices on these things.

Would you rather accept the loses that come with divorce and gain the opportunities that follow or continue to tolerate the contempt and sinful unrepentance of a cheater?

I think God clearly teaches us not to accept unrepentant marital infidelity. That is why He provides divorce as a option to faithful spouses (e.g. Jeremiah 3:8, Matthew 19:9). And my experience is doing the hard thing in following God brings forth blessings.

Hope that helps!

-Pastor David 

4 thoughts on “Mailbag: Feeling torn between divorce and staying for the kids”

  1. As far as I know, the relationship with religious preacher friend has ended. It has been over a year now. I set my boundaries and these were followed. Yet, I got very little empathy. “I’m sorry I fell for this, yet if you have not done so and so this wouldn’t of happen”. I cannot accept that. If I press on it, she’ll concede, yet will try to say that it all in the past and lets move on. My older kids know what happened, little ones do not fully understand. I lived w/out them for almost 6 month, and I would be OK w/out her, but it broke my heart every other weekend to be without my kids. Now that they are with me I do not wish to separate with them again. Some days I feel nothing and glad I took them back, then there are those days where I think I made a mistake and should of continued my “other weekend” relationship instead. I wish to see that true repentance, but my hopes are slowly dying and my heart closing shut in this stagnant situation.

    1. BH,

      It’s going to be rough either way. But if you choose to divorce, you won’t have to live with someone who blames you, her victim. There is a chance for you to become healthy and no longer be dragged down with her (plus her family’s) mind games.

      Blaming you is precisely what she is doing when she starts talking about “your part.” It is pure and simple blame-shifting. I would be nervous about her cheating again with her saying such things. That sort of talk reveals that she hasn’t repented as she hasn’t fully taken responsibility for her sinful choices. You can’t repent of something you blame upon someone else.

      No good options remain in these scenarios but some might be better in the long run.


  2. I’ll share how my conscience works. It kept me from any intimate physical relationships before marriage. My wife was the only person I have been intimate with. My conscience told me not to take advantage of people. Told me to financially help my in-laws when they were in need (who were welfare recipients all their life in one form or another and milked the system). My conscience told me to work all my adult life, even when I attended college, it told me to choose large family over financial advantage of two incomes, it told me to choose stay home mom raising our kids and be content forgoing fancy vacations instead. This same conscience prompted me to fight in court to see my kids, keep my good paying job and pay child support. Same conscience is telling me I would be a traitor for choosing my pride over my kids if there is HOPE. Yet my mind on the other side understands simple logic that my marriage foundation is broken, trust gone, hope is only supported by efforts I question/doubt, inside emotionally I’m alone going fwd.

    1. BH,

      I guess I don’t see it as “choosing [your] pride over [your] kids” when it comes to choosing to divorce an unrepentant cheater. It is about setting healthy boundaries and getting out of a sick relationship that even God recognizes is worthy of ending.

      As I see it, you are not in this position because of your overblown pride. It is your wife’s pride and unwillingness to humble herself to truly repentant that has landed you and your kids in this place. Plus, you are hear because she chose to serve HERSELF over you and the kids in getting involved with a third party. And she still chooses to care for herself over helping you to heal.

      Sorry but I don’t see much hope here in such a situation. As long as she externalizes what caused her cheating, she is helpless to prevent herself from cheating again in the future. She hasn’t repented as long as she is blaming you or the marriage. This means she hasn’t truly “turned away” from this sin. Do you want to stay around for round two? Just a thought. It may or may not happen again. However, “past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior” is what I’ve been told.


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