Mrs. Divorce Minister Speaks



Guest post from my wife today. Good stuff! Here you go:


Pain is something that we all feel. It’s also something that we seem to try so desperately to avoid. Pain sucks. Yes. We all understand that. Yet the pain we go through is also the key piece when it comes to ministry, empathy and compassion. 2 Cor 1:3-4 ESV, “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Adultery is pain. It’s betrayal, hurt, lies and deception. The cheating spouse has violated and broken the sacred marriage covenant to the nth degree on every level (spiritual, emotional, physical, financial etc). Adultery is deliberate, premeditated murder. Yes, murder.

The path of destruction is wide. It’s a father holding a negative paternity test on the child(ren) he thought were his the past 10 years. It’s the 3 kids that are now stuck in the middle, having to learn what sleeping around is. It’s the STD test because the cheating spouse won’t own up to how many people they slept with or tells you that there’s 25 prostitutes that they remember. They lost count over the past 15 years. It’s the faithful spouse hearing over and over how it’s their fault that the entire life they knew to be true was just blown sky high.

The despicable thing is, every faithful spouse will hear various versions of: “you had this coming to you,” “well you’re not dead yet are you?” “You were getting on with your life just fine before you knew, right? Why has that changed?” “Look at your spouse, they’re broken, they’re the victim, they have FOO (Family Of Origin) issues,” “you sound too hurt,” “you just need to get over it, “oh, you’re divorced? “Oh, you’re a single parent?”

I’ve heard these variations come from friends, family, counselors and pastors. The very people that the faithful spouse needs to support and comfort them end up completely denying the destruction right in front of them, shunning them completely away or keeping them at arm’s length, as if they don’t want to catch some nasty disease. It’s patronizing, invalidating and minimizes pain. “I don’t know what you’re going through but you need to see it how I see it. Your reality is wrong and mine is right.

The sad truth is people don’t know how to handle pain. Henry Nouwen has a great book called, The Wounded Healer. His quote sums it up well: “If there is any posture that disturbs a suffering man or woman, it is aloofness. The tragedy of Christian ministry is that many who are in great need, many who seek an attentive ear, a word of support, a forgiving embrace, a firm hand, a tender smile, or even a stuttering confession of inability to do more, often find

their ministers distant men who do not want to burn their fingers.”

No. No. No. No. NO!!! STOP IT!!!! Stop it NOW!!!

Where in Scripture do we have an example of Jesus approaching someone in pain and him saying “not now beggar, you’re too damaged.” This is NOT how we are called to respond to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!  God protects the weak and the vulnerable. When we call to Him, He answers (Mt 7:7-12).

Pastors, your duty as a Minister is to love, protect and feed the sheep!! (John 21:17) The adulturer/ess is a lost sheep, and yes, they are important because we know God the Shepherd will go to look for them. But they’re a sheep that’s running away. On purpose. They’re not lost, they know exactly the path they’ve chosen, and they will not understand or value any love you try and show them until they truly recognize what they’ve done and repent. That is when the Shepherd will have a chance to succeed. The Shepherd can’t do much for a sheep that hears his calls and runs the other direction.

Some of the pastors, church leaders, friends and family out there are holding cheating spouses accountable. They are caring for the family that’s left in ashes. To them I say, keep it up, stay strong, we need more of you. To the ones who aren’t, I challenge you to step up and change.

The sheep you, and everyone else for that matter, need to pay attention to are the faithful spouse and family that have just had their world crumble to pieces. They need someone to listen and respond with the love that Jesus calls us to give. Period. It’s NOT appropriate, or Biblical, to pull the “shared responsibility” plug, or pretend like you don’t see what’s going on. You see brokenness in the cheating spouse yet you fail to see the pain, questions and brokenness in eyes of their betrayed spouse and children, the ones who actually were faithful and are the true victims? What you’re doing is focusing on the baseball that you see through the broken glass window. Focus on the window, not the ball.

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” (Henry Nouwen, The Wounded Healer).

Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another.”  Iron sharpening iron is not a pain free process (see here), and yet when it comes to “one man sharpening another” we think suddenly it’s supposed to be an easy road that needs minimal involvement.

We’re under the false assumption that we won’t need to get our fingers dirty, that we don’t need to go through the desert.

“It seems necessary to re-establish the basic principle that no one can help anyone without becoming involved, without entering with his whole person into the painful situation, without taking the risk of becoming hurt, wounded or even destroyed in the process. The beginning and the end of all Christian leadership is to give your life for others…real martyrdom means a witness that starts with the willingness to cry with those who cry, laugh with those who laugh, and to make one’s own painful and joyful experiences available as sources of clarification and understanding.” (Henry Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)

Henry’s nailed it yet again. We will never learn from the person in pain in front of us if we don’t enter the fire of their pain.

Bob Sorge has a sermon about going through the fire. He says that God has a purpose when fire comes. He’ll never let us go, He’ll be there every step of the way. When God is there with you in the fire He’s giving you an authority that you didn’t have before. When God gives you that authority, you are the one to speak on that fire. Do not let anyone deny the fire you’ve been through. Adultery leaves a scar. A scar that says “I’ve been through the fire and I survived. I have an authority that you don’t have. Listen to me.

I leave you with more Nouwen. I could not hope to try and trump what he has so eloquently written.

“I have found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others.” (Henry Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)

Those of you with scars, get out there and speak. Share your stories. Those without, shut up and listen.

14 thoughts on “Mrs. Divorce Minister Speaks”

  1. This compassionate blog clearly articulates the complete devastation victims of adultery are subjected to, especially the unspoken “well… what did the victim do to provoke the other person to go looking”. All the better, it is absent the anger, which is a waste of precious emotional energy that needs to be conserved for healing purposes.

  2. Amen to that!! wonderful post! I hope you don’t mind me sharing it on my blog. I know a few people who will appreciate it.
    So glad I found this blog.
    God bless

  3. Wow, I , words fail me as I type this. You have eloquently put into words exactly how I was treated by my church. When my husband confessed what he had been doing for the past 8 years I was shell shocked, and eldership went into damage control. My pastors wife who I counted as a friend (a woman in her 60’s) would not visit me unless she had the wife of the elder was with her. I have since come to realize as this has happen on more than one occasion and some very hurtful things have been denied through this method but it came to a their account v’s my account senario. But one true thing was spoken ‘ those in ministry will be held to greater account for their actions. So as much as I am hurt by what has happened it is not for me to play judge and jury. But what you have shared in your blog is very powerful, which was and is still to this day my biggest grievance with the church. You can not minister to anyone by standing on the sidelines and just assuring the person that you are there for them. If a person is drowning your words alone will not get them to shore. While I struggled with my husbands infidelity a month later I was hit with the devastating news that my daughter (9) had cancer. Non of those who were managing my marriage breakdown came to the hospital and sat with me and cried or held my hand in reassurance or shared scriptures with me to help keep my head above water in the weeks that followed, as I felt I was drowning in a sea of overwhelming grief. And when I pointed this out weeks later that I had felt abandoned that no one had come along side me to ensure that I was ok , I was told that my issue is that I suffer from a spirit of rejection and that I do not understand how much they love me and with that I was rebuked for being ungrateful and disrespectful. More abuse for the already abused and wounded. I needed a safe haven so I contacted a local church that I knew of spoke to them about the whole issue and asked if I could fellowship their if my daughter was well enough, they have been amazing. They are as you have described in your blog of what ministry should be. The minister of the church I now attend has also commented on the Henry Nouwen, book ‘Wounded Healer’ So I am off the the local Christian book shop with my kids to pick up a copy. I also want to read his book ‘Compassion’.
    Thank you for you honest and sound Biblical insight. I wish for the sake of many you were not a lone voice in the shouting crowed of lies that currently pervade our churches but hopefully if enough people share what you have here, a difference can be made.

    1. Reminds me of the response of my former church. Went to them regarding my ex-wife’s affair. Pastor asks me what I did to force her to have the affair.

      Suddenly, I really wasn’t welcome there anymore. Stayed in our couples Sunday School class until the divorce she sought was final. Asked the Sunday School director what class I should attend and never got an answer. Volunteered for ministries, was never called.

      A few years later, I get an e-mail from the new Sunday School teacher in that couples class, asking why I haven’t been in class. So I shared the whole thing, how the pastor responded about my ex-wife’s affair, how the church was far more interested in my signature on an anti-same-sex-marriage petition than it was concerned about my marriage. How the new pastor (we had a change) wouldn’t engage in the church discipline process spelled out in Matthew 18 and how when I said I didn’t think the couples class was the right place for me given my divorced status, no alternative was offered.

      I said I simply didn’t feel the friendly written on the marquee outside the church.

      His response, “sorry you feel that way.”

      Not a, “Wow, we as a church really failed you.” nor a “I can see how that wouldn’t feel very friendly.” Nope, it’s all about how you feel and your feelings are wrong.

      The upside is I’ve never heard from that church again 🙂

      1. uniballer1965,

        Sorry to hear that your church failed you in such an epic way! Apparently, that pastor failed to read his Bible on the matter of adultery. That ought to have warned him not to blame you, the faithful spouse.

        Also, I too wonder at such a focus on same-sex relationships to the exclusion of talking about adultery. You’d think there are more verses in the Bible prohibiting homosexual sex than verses prohibiting adultery by such actions. That is not the case, though. I am sure Satan is happy that adultery is such an “under the radar” sin, though. It sure causes a lot of devastation.

  4. For ten years I listened to my husband speak ill of the church and Christians. Then after his second affair, he goes to a retreat and says he found God. Maybe it’s true, I certainly hope so but I don’t believe him. He says that the men in church know what he did, and they might because I shared my pain at an earlier women’s retreat, but they act like he has done nothing wrong and everything is wiped clean now. It makes me so mad. They support him. And I’m left behind. Now that our marriage is over and I see all the support he receives it makes me feel so alone. I was the one who wanted to go to church, I was the one who fought for our marriage after the first affair while I was pregnant, and a high risk pregnancy at that. I was the one that wanted to go to counseling and kept going after he stopped. And now that it’s over and he’s a “Christian” all that he did is forgotten? For putting my life and our daughter’s life at risk while having unprotected sex. I’d already had three miscarriages and he further jeopardizes my pregnancy by having an affair. Then he does it again two years later, this time resulting in an illegitimate child. (Now it might not be his though). Why do they support him? This is why I can no longer day I believe in God or Christianity. Because they embrace him.

    1. Angie- I am angry for you after reading what your wrote. Our slates are wiped clean, yes, and that’s a good thing. But I think those guys are missing the mark a bit with forgetting. I really hate the phrase “forgive and forget” because when we forget we deny anything we learned or can learn from it. We need to remember in order to rise above it or to protect ourselves from something down the road. God may be able to forget, (and that’s good for our sake), but I don’t think we’re really capable of forgetting, especially not something as destructive as adultery. God’s also a just God though and He knows true repentance versus the fake. He’ll get what’s coming to him. If your ex was really truly repentant you would know and you would be the one that he’s truly aiming to show, not the crowd he wants to impress at church.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they got a warped story from your ex about how you’re okay with all of it. I think they’re probably misunderstanding pain, under the “shared responsibility” mentality and/or just too scared to reach out any further. They have their own beliefs that they don’t want shaken so it’s easier for them to keep them intact and just forgive him. They haven’t lived your pain. Sure, they can just give him a clean slate because they haven’t been effected to the extent you have. We need to be able to forgive those around us yes, but again, if he’s really seeking forgiveness it would mean far more coming from you than from people so far removed from it that they really have nothing to forgive. I also think if they really understood forgiveness they would also call him out on that and say something like “we forgive you but we’re not the ones you should be asking.” It sounds like the people in both those churched have failed you. I wish I could help fix that.

  5. Thank you Thank you for this! I truly needed to hear this.. I’ve been particularly hurt by very close friends who see my husband as the victim because he’s paying support.. After he cheated on me with over 8 women in a 13 year marriage, had a child with a colleague in the 6 the year if our marriage and emotionally abandoned and abused me throughout the marriage …yet he is the victim because I had the courage to finally file for divorce.

    Should I stay away from friends like these?

    1. 13-My take is yes. If you have to ask yourself the question “should I stay friends with them?” then there’s probably a good chance you shouldn’t. Something is in conflict to make you ask the question. Genuine friends that will stand by us don’t make us ask the question about staying friends to begin with. Adultery is not a neutral topic. They’ve got your back or they don’t. Ditch the ones that don’t. Him paying support is a consequence of his actions.

      1. Adultery is definitely not a neutral topic.. I needed that reminder! I have been blessed with some really wonderful friends who made me realize the ex was bad news when I was still “spackling” but some people want to be “neutral” with the “it takes two mentality” …..I’ve realized who my real friends are through filing for divorce… I truly trusted these particula couple but I have become so uncomfortable around them as a result of their actions & words recently and their recent closeness with my ex that I felt it was time to steer clear.

        I was torn by my loyalty to them as they have been good friends in the past & their son is my son’s closest friend but I believe truly the uneasiness I feel with them may be God telling me to stay away.

        Thank you for taking the time to reply and I’ve been really encouraged by the blogs I read here by you and your husband when I was feeling pretty low tonight. Going to bed with peace and joy in my heart tonight and you both had something to do with that. Thank you.

  6. You all are a breath of fresh air, a light in the dark, a comfort in times of trauma and a voice of wisdom for the betrayed spouse. Thank you so much. I wish I’d found you a few years ago. I too received horrendous counsel from pastors during my most painful times. Counsel suggesting that I get over my anger, that I was responsible for his philandering. Unbelievable to me the ineptness of clergy to offer truly helpful counsel to the wounded spouse. Keep blogging.

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