SB wrote in a comment,
I am cheating with a married man who is my pastor. I am a wrenched woman, I know I am wrong and am in sin. After reading several of your blogs, I need your help to end the affair the Godly way. I am not afraid of the consequences because I made these stupid, destructive choices.
Thank you for writing to me! I have hope for you as you clearly are owning your sin and are willing to turn from it. That is a great place to start. Such follows the general godly response to sin–i.e. we need to stop sinning and repent turning away from the sin.
Now, here are some concrete details to what that might mean in your situation:
1. End it completely and definitely with the pastor.
What I have read about executing this is that no good way exists to do it. But ending the relationship completely is important. Don’t deceive yourself that you two can remain friends. That is to invite temptation into your life. Like a drunk no longer going to a bar, you need to avoid feeding an unhealthy relationship by contact or time together even with others present.
Write a letter or an email telling him that the relationship was sinful and is now over. And find another church to attend! This is important both to help you end this and not keep the door open to temptation. Also, this is important for the healing of his spouse. Seeing you and knowing you cheated with her husband will likely be very painful for her.
2. Get tested for STDs pronto!
You know the pastor is willing to lie and cheat on his wife. He may have cheated with others beside you. Get tested for STDs. When you know the results, I encourage you to let his spouse know these results as her life is in danger as well. And this brings me to my next point:
3. Communicate the truth of what happened to the pastor’s wife.
I see this as a manifestation of the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). You have wronged the pastor’s wife and family by committing adultery with her husband. If you were in her shoes, what would you want from the OW? I would want to know the truth as the faithful spouse. She deserves to know what took place. Knowing this beyond a doubt helps a great deal in the healing process.
Part of repenting of these sins is to aid the one you wronged in her healing process. A letter with facts would suffice here along with your STD test results.* His wife has likely been kept in the dark. Knowledge is power. It will be painful knowing the truth but having definitive proof in her hands will arm her to deal with reality as opposed to continue being deceived by her husband pastor (and possibly, others).
4. Don’t give into self-pity!
You wrote, “I am a wretched woman.” What you did was wrong and wicked but do not get caught up in such shaming language. It will paralyze you from making better decisions. I say this because the reasoning is easy to follow: If you believe you are a wretched woman then why bother trying to choose better and do better? Don’t give up before you start. Don’t give into self-pity and shame.
You are a daughter of God (John 1:12) and were bought by God’s own blood. You now have the opportunity to live like a true daughter leaving this sin behind you by the power of God. Don’t forget that. Do not give into the lies of Satan saying you are doomed to a life of sin. God has called and equipped you for more!
5. Get qualified help!
I am not a counselor or therapist. My expertise ends at being an ordained pastor, board certified chaplain, and adultery survivor. Also, I am not there with you physically. You need a professional counselor that you can visit physically and who will walk with you through the details in confidentiality.
Also, I see issues of spiritual abuse here. When your told me that this is your pastor, I saw major red flags. This is what is called ministerial abuse. It is akin to a counselor having sex with his client. It is inappropriate and an abuse of power. Let me explain: you were under his spiritual care as a congregant, and he exploited that power dynamic whether or not you agreed to have sex with him. The power differential made that agreement moot. This is another reason to leave his church. Also, he may–hopefully–be in trouble with his denomination for doing this.*** Having sex with one’s congregant is spiritual abuse and predatory behavior.
Finding a good therapist to figure out your vulnerabilities and discovering why you chose to go against your values (i.e. committing adultery seems against your values by what you wrote) is important work for you to do once free of your relationship with this pastor. Please seek to discover the underlying lies you believed that you told yourself to excuse the sinful behavior to make it palatable. A therapist trained in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) can help you with such work.
SB, I hope this has given you some help in your difficult situation. As I wrote earlier, hope exists for you as you turn from your sin. You are a very valuable person in the eyes of God–bought with Christ’s blood. It may not be pleasant taking some of these steps but dealing with sin and its consequences usually are unpleasant.
May God’s peace, courage, humility, and strength go with you!
[***Update*** Church leadership (e.g. elders, board of directors, bishop(s), etc.) ought to be notified of the pastor’s adultery. They are responsible for looking out for the flock. He has failed morally and abused his power. He is not fit as a pastor and needs to go through a time of discipline/correction minimally. The leadership needs to know the truth as well.]
*What do I mean by a letter with facts?
I suggest letting her know how long this deception and illicit relationship was occurring–i.e. we started our improper relationship on x date, and it continued for x period of time. Also, I think it is important to let her know you had sexual intercourse with her husband on more than one occasion (if you did). Then let her know the STD test results so that she is not in fear about that repercussion from your and her husband’s sin.
In your letter, do not blame-shift or try to justify what you did. Do not minimize what you did. And do not ask her to pity you (e.g. I am a horrible, awful person). Stick to the facts of what happened. Do not paint a graphic picture (e.g. sexual positions) for her.
Let her know the reason for this letter as well. For example, you feel she deserves to know the truth and hope she can forgive you someday even though you do not deserve forgiveness. By the way, none of us deserve forgiveness. Then let her know you have ended the relationship completely and will not continue any contact with her husband.
That’s my suggestion strictly as an ordained minister and adultery survivor.