A few months back, an article appeared in a cutting-edge, evangelical Christian magazine. This article was inspired by a write-in request from a woman, Laurie, who was both the divorced faithful spouse and later the other woman in an adulterous relationship with a married man. She was writing into the magazine for advice how to move forward after ending the improper relationship with the married man. Eddie responds to her letter, and his credentials are listed as a minister, counselor, and regular contributor to the magazine’s Podcast. Here’s the link to the article: How Do I Recover From Being The ‘Other Woman’? | RELEVANT Magazine.
While not completely bad in his advice, I think Eddie’s advice misses the mark on several points:
1) Laurie sinned against the spouse of the married man.
The faithful spouse’s righteous anger and pain soon becomes invisible as so often happens in Christian circles as I experienced personally and through others’ stories. I wished Eddie had exhorted Laurie to let the faithful wife know about her husband’s infidelity or inquire about whether the wife knew already. This would serve two purposes: 1) It would ensure she was not party to his lies of concealment and 2) It would make it more costly to restart the adulterous relationship as now the faithful spouse would know (and this would buttress Eddie’s advice to cut it off completely). However, the most important reason to tell the faithful wife is that Scripture calls us to confess our sin to the one we sinned against (see Mt 5:23-24). Also, Laurie ought to know how not knowing is torture for a faithful spouse being one herself. The Golden Rule employs her to do this as well. The wife of her adultery partner deserves to know of the sin.
Also, I would suggest Laurie ought to get tested for STDs because this married man cannot be trusted (lies always come with adultery) and her former husband was unfaithful. Once she knows the results, Laurie ought to let the faithful wife know as she put her at risk as well by sleeping with her husband. This is part of dealing with the real world consequences of sin.
2) Laurie needs to do more than admit and convince herself adultery was and is wrong.
I find it hard to believe a Christian (Laurie) is ignorant of the Ten Commandments and its prohibition against adultery. The problem is not ignorance concerning adultery being wrong as Laurie seems to realize by saying her connection with the married man “… has to be severed.”
As I see it, the problem is believing root lies that one believes to excuse or justify committing adultery. Laurie wrote, “We have a very strong connection on many levels…” I will point out the present tense she uses and suggest a lie underneath this is such a strong connection excuses or “drove her” to commit adultery. She fell victim to his pursuit and the “strong connection” is the lie. Laurie needs to reclaim her agency in this so that she does not remain in bondage to such sin.
We are not victims to our connections or relationships. God gave us wills, and the ability to choose how we invest our time and hearts. He even instructs us to guard our hearts (see Proverbs 4:23). Time and attention was poorly and sinfully invested here. As Eddie exhorts Laurie, now is the time to withdraw completely and sever the improper relationship. She made need help at this phase to strengthen her will against falling back into the trap of the “strong connection” or other root lies behind this sin. This is where having Godly community is key.
3) Don’t minimize the sin and don’t minimize the grace God offers us.
Adultery no doubt brought heartache to the wife of this married man. It is not just a “could” as Laurie writes. Adultery is horrible (Biblically, I argue that it is soul rape). And her sin with the married man may result in the destruction of his home. It has already obliterated the bedrock foundation of trust in his marriage minimally.
Also, I do not buy her line, “I’m a woman who has found herself in a huge mess.” This once, again, minimizes her agency: “has found herself” is passive. It sounds as if her choices had nothing to do with her messy destination. She needs to recognize she made choices and now has the opportunity to choose better.
By God’s grace, Laurie has the power to say, “No” to ungodliness (see Titus 2:12). However, the choice is before her: does she truly want to continue life choosing adulterous sin or does she want to repent choosing godliness. The Good News is that she does not have to remain in bondage to the old lies and her sin because God empowers her to say “No” to these things and offers full forgiveness if she is willing to confess (I John 1:9). However, this mercy and grace does not minimize the horribleness of the sin she committed. It does means she need not remain in it or be defined by it. God has provided a way out and a new identity as a precious daughter of God who is empowered to choose to walk in righteous like her heavenly Father.
Finally, I have more hope for Laurie finding redemption and healing than I do for the married man. While what Laurie did was sin, I am harder on the married party than the unmarried one. They chose not to uphold their covenant and invited the third party into their marriage bed willing. That said, I was initially very angry with the man who had sex with my (then) wife until I realized the problem was with my wife and not him. If it wasn’t this man (or Laurie for the married guy), then it would have been another man (or another woman). Perhaps this is why Scripture is so hard on the adulteress in Proverbs painting her as one who preys on human life (see Proverbs 7)? As I see it, I have about as much hope for the married man mentioned in Laurie’s letter as I do for the adulteress in Proverbs 7. Laurie made some foolish and sinful choices admittedly, but I have more hope for her learning from her foolishness than I do for a married person who pursues adultery as this man and the adulteress in Proverbs 7 did.
I think Eddie is naive when he writes,
The community knows what to do with him. They know he’ll grovel, apologize, repent, go to couple’s therapy with his wife, and then lace up his boots and save the marriage—and they’ll get behind that narrative (which is great!)
The community does not “know he’ll grovel…repent…” etc (emphasis mine). They cannot possibly know that as they do not know his heart. He may choose sin over godliness. Plus, from personal experience and the stories of people I encounter through this infidelity blog, I am highly doubtful this will be the response of the adulterous husband. It rarely is.
The normal response is to blame-shift onto the faithful spouse and continue on the course to divorce as opposed to true repentance as such takes true humility. Unfortunately, such humility is a character trait often lacking in someone who has pridefully defied God and one’s spouse in committing adultery.