Pushback Re: “Bad Marriages Cause Infidelity” Lie Post


Today, I received a comment on my post Lie: Bad Marriages Cause Infidelity. It typifies the common “wisdom” that I have encountered from various Christian counselors, authors, and pastors when comes to marriages ravaged by adultery. I am not shocked that I got push back for unmasking this particularly destructive lie.

John wrote,

I am not sure you are on solid ground here.

Bad marriages do not cause adultery, but it sure as heck can contribute to it. Individual vulnerabilities can all lead to adultery, and by refusing to recognize this, the problem remains unresolved. You seem fixated on placing blame, which is not helpful, instead of fixing the problem.

While Good Marriages do not prevent adultery, Bad Marriages can certainly contribute to it. And I have seen far too many cases where a bad marriage, in which an adultery has occurred, has gone unrecognized and unaddressed, while attempting to place blame, instead of addressing the pre-existing problems in the marriage, and the new problems created by the adultery. Finding the cause of the distance and breakdown in a relationship, where this has happened, is essential to restore the trust in the relationship,

Let’s process this comment piece by piece.

I am not sure you are on solid ground here.

Ok, you disagree with me. Why does your opinion matter more than mine, though? Who cares if you disagree with me? Are you a pastor? A counselor or psychologist with degrees behind your name? Or do you disagree based on Scripture that you failed to cite in your comment to me?

Bad marriages do not cause adultery, but it sure as heck can contribute to it.

Really?! Let’s follow this logic substituting another form of abuse in the same statement. For example, the situation could be a black and blue wife who got a beating in a reaction to spilling her husband’s beer. I hope you would not respond to this abuse victim: “Clumsiness does not cause wife-beating, but it sure as heck can contribute to it.”

Adultery is abuse. It is soul rape. Saying the adultery victim “contribute[d]” to it is just as insensitive and wrong.

Individual vulnerabilities can all lead to adultery, and by refusing to recognize this, the problem remains unresolved. You seem fixated on placing blame, which is not helpful, instead of fixing the problem.

You cannot fix a problem without understanding its cause. You call that “placing blame” while I call that diagnosing the problem. And we, by the way, have dramatically different diagnoses here.

The problem as I see it is a partner chose cheating and views it as an acceptable choice. The problem is not the bad marriage or as you put it “individual vulnerabilities.” Priority one needs to be halting the adulterous, deceitful abuse and teaching the abuser that choosing cheating is never acceptable. Never. 

While Good Marriages do not prevent adultery, Bad Marriages can certainly contribute to it. And I have seen far too many cases where a bad marriage, in which an adultery has occurred, has gone unrecognized and unaddressed, while attempting to place blame, instead of addressing the pre-existing problems in the marriage, and the new problems created by the adultery. Finding the cause of the distance and breakdown in a relationship, where this has happened, is essential to restore the trust in the relationship,

If the couple is struggling with “attempting to place blame,” I suspect the problem lies not in a failure to discover the pre-existing marriage problems and to address them but rather in an adulterous spouse failing to repent accepting full responsibility for his/her sinful choices and actions.

Those uppity faithful spouses are refusing to take partial blame for the adultery, and that explains why it is an ongoing struggle “to place blame.”

The solution is not forcing faithful spouses to stop pushing the adulterous spouse to take full responsibility for the infidelity or “place blame” as you call it. It is in guiding the unfaithful spouse to true repentance, which includes helping them see that God will hold them fully responsible for their own choices and actions (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Final thoughts:

Good and bad marriages are ravaged by adultery. The state of the marriage isn’t the issue. Circumstances–even marriage circumstances–do not cause infidelity; choosing sin does. 

The real issue is that one partner decided lying and cheating is an acceptable way to behave in a marriage.

Last time I checked, God did not provide an exception clause–e.g. unless your marriage is bad–to the commandment prohibiting committing adultery (e.g. Exodus 20:14). Nor does God blame bad marriages or “individual vulnerabilities” for causing adultery (see Mark 7:21-23).

21 thoughts on “Pushback Re: “Bad Marriages Cause Infidelity” Lie Post”

  1. Hi Divorce Minister,
    You are on fire lately! So helpful in unravelling the lies.
    The last couple of weeks I have been struggling a bit, and you have helped me with every post.
    Wish I lived closer so I could attend your church.
    Blessings to you and your ministry.

  2. “Individual vulnerabilities can all lead to adultery,”

    YES! One person makes the unilateral decision and CHOICE to cheat on their unaware partner instead of honesty facing the relationship electing to CHOOSE secrets, lies and deceit over honest communication and a willingness to be disturbed in order to understand. Those “vulnerabilities” are a narcissistic sense of sly – entitlement. In other words a character issue fueled by cowardice. Individual vulnerabilities given power, like a snake.

    “And by refusing to recognize this, the problem remains unresolved.”

    WHO leaves it unresolved? The unaware spouse? They are supposed to be mind readers? Guess? Do you know how many betrayed spouse sense something is wrong and even ask? What do you think they are told by their cheating spouses repeatedly…….various forms of…..”Nothing is wrong”

    You seem fixated on placing blame, which is not helpful, instead of fixing the problem.

    Instead of fixing the problem? Is a betrayed spouse who is purposely gaslight supposed to have super human abilities to fix their partners issues without being told what they are?

    Blame the rape on the rapist

    I know it’s so hard to stand accountable for the cheaters it feels like death.

  3. I am so grateful for all of your posts and how clearly and lovingly you point out the truth (and how crazy all the crazy making really is). I have been saving quotes from your posts and reading them daily (especially when I let myself get sucked back into crazy, even in my own head.) I have quoted you a few times and pointed out your blog in my own within some posts I have written (I think only one person I reads my blog). But still, I am sorry. I should have checked before I included your words and linked to your blog in mine and if you would like me to remove them and not do so in the future please let me know. I will be happy to do what I need to. I’m trying to write and be honest as I’m going through all of this so sometimes I’m not thinking or seeing clearly. I am very sorry.

    1. No worries. Keep the quotes. I just want the word to get out there. If you would back link to my blog (put up the link to the post you’re quoting from), I would appreciate that. Plus, it will help your readership find more on their own here at DM if they so desire.

  4. Oddly enough, I was paraphrasing Dr. Glass, who you previously mentioned agreed with you, She said…

    “Regardless of what is seen as the factors leading up to an affair, people are responsible for the choices they make and cannot blame anyone else for the risk to their marriage and family which their infidelity creates. However, it is important to understand the vulnerabilities in the individual, the marriage, and in the social context in order to strengthen those weaknesses. A search for the meaning of the betrayal is the only way to establish honesty and trust and offer reassurance that another infidelity is unlikely to happen.”

    In the case of the abused spouse, if she meets someone who is compassionate, understanding, and a refuge from her abusive husband, does the husband not share some responsibility for creating a toxic relationship? If the abuse is emotional instead of physical, does the responsibility for the toxicity lessen? At what point is the abusive husband not partially responsible?

    Or is the abusive husband not responsible at all? If a man beats his wife, and she commits adultery, is the responsibility all on her?

      1. There are a few points in this article that jumps out at me.
        1. In his closing paragraph the author concedes that people are responsible for their own choices but it is important to understand, in a social context, the vulnerabilities of the individual, and the marriage (vulnerabilities as a team). IE, marital problems, social influences and general weaknesses in character. However, she is not suggesting that these are direct causes of infidelity but are things that weaken the marital bond. And referring back to her opening sentence, the responsibility of the affair is with the individual and no one else – regardless.
        2. The author does not list said weaknesses as justifications or a reason to absolve the unfaithful spouse nor is she splitting responsibility (opening sentence).
        3. To support her stance on personal responsibility even further, notice that her conclusions after each scenario is describing a very selfish and self-indulgent individual.
        4. In a Biblical context, and in the context of any court system, personal responsibility is key.
        5. There is no call to action for the faithful spouse to diagnose and solve the adultery.

        To answer the question, ” Or is the abusive husband not responsible at all? If a man beats his wife, and she commits adultery, is the responsibility all on her?”
        The husband in the scenario is not responsible for her adultery but he is responsible for assault. The proper response from the wife would be to report the assault to authorities and make plans to secure her safety. Maybe file for divorce. Not have sex. If she does then yes, the responsibility of adultery is all hers. One sin does not justify another.

    1. John, the scenario you suggest does not support your point. The abused wife can (and should) seek compassion and refuge…through honest relationships such as understanding, caring family members, friends, a pastor, a counselor and of course the Lord. Her abusive husband would be 100% responsible for destroying the marriage through his cruelty.

      Her having an affair doesn’t make him any more guilty of abuse than he already is. She would be 100% responsible for her sin if she sought adulterous “comfort” in the arms of another man.

      1. I think the societal acceptance of adultery is a big reason why people keep committing it. Now, if you are treated atrociously and hit your spouse, you could still face criminal charges. I know a man from my Divorce Care group who was dealing with criminal charges for domestic violence. He was not violent until his wife cheated on him and showed him cruelty. One could say that her individual vulnerabilities contributed to the bad state of the marriage and led to him becoming angry and lashing out. Certainly, an argument could be made that her cruelty is responsible for his ONE moment of violence. But, he still faced charges because domestic violence is NEVER acceptable no matter what your spouse does! Many men and women face terrible situations without ever becoming violent. If it wasn’t frowned upon by society, more men and women might physically lash out at their spouse.

        Back in the day, I tried to take responsibility for my “part” in the affair. I finally realized that I was the only one taking any responsibility. Ironically, I would have fared better if he had hit me once like the guy in my Divorce Care class did to his ex. I could have healed from my bruises whereas now I have high risk hpv for life. The treatment of that involved two invasive biopsies, a minor surgery and a hysterectomy. I paid for all those surgeries myself and suffered in silence during the recovery. My ex received zero consequences. In fact, he was actually rewarded when I tried to be a “better” wife to win him back unsuccessfully. I am proud of myself however. I have been very strong and I went through the entire marriage without ever even kissing another guy. And I had offers from other guys. I turned them all down even though my marriage was very bad and my needs were unmet.

  5. It is interesting. Here are what some of the medical professionals I looked up said…

    Mayo Clinic: “Infidelity often points to underlying problems in your marriage. Examine your relationship to understand what has contributed to the affair, and what you need to do to prevent it from happening again.”


    Contributions come from both parties. Most people I know who have had affairs in their marriages involved good people, who had problems and made mistakes. But both parties made mistakes.

    Here is another…

    “First, the reframe should put the couple on the same level and help them see the situation systemically, instead of the linear view couples often hold in which one partner is good/right and the other is bad/wrong. Couples are invited to see their relationship in circular terms, and a systemic reframe helps them begin to accept that both members share responsibility for their relationship. A systemic reframe brings to light the underlying relationship dynamics, rather than the overt symptoms.”

    I see this website as extremely good/bad, with a very strong attempt to frame the ex- as a monster. Based purely on my experience, there is blame to go around in most cases involving non-sociopaths.

    “In a majority of the cases we have worked with, infidelity is related to relationship dissatisfaction or dysfunction. Although the unfaithful spouse is not justified in the betrayal—and the therapist must carefully articulate in a nonjudgmental way that infidelity and the associated dishonesty are unacceptable in a committed relationship—the affair can be viewed as a symptom of the relationship problems. From a systemic perspective, both parties have participated in the troubled relationship and share responsibility for the quality of the relationship. ”


    By failing to take responsibility for marital dysfunction, even if it the other individual made the mistake and is responsible, is to perpetuate the problems into the future. It is self-limiting, it is self-defeating, and in the end it is self-destructive. There is no reason to demonize the ex-, but there is plenty of reason to try to make the “me” better than he or she was when they started.

    There is nothing wrong with admitting that the aggrieved party could have been a better husband or wife. In fact, it should be required.

    1. This happens to be a blog run by an evangelical pastor and professional chaplain. The tagline of this blog is “Taking Adultery Seriously.” Guess what? I take adultery seriously here.

      Plus, the authority I follow is God as reveal through the Bible. Nowhere in that book do I see God blaming the victim of adultery for being victimized. Nowhere.

      As to this being a demonizing website, I have a question for you, John: When the legal system convicts an abuser of physical assault and holds him accountable for his actions, does that mean the law is framing this person “as a monster?” I don’t think so. But perhaps you think the legal system is acting too harshly and needs to delve into the Family of Origin (FOO) issues in the abuser as they are likely present as well. My point is that holding someone accountable for their choices and actions is not a demonizing act.

      I am clear elsewhere on this blog that I am not making the statement that faithful spouses are perfect spouses. We are all sinners. And we all can grow in being better partners, imo. That said, a partner’s performance at being a spouse never causes adultery. Focusing one’s energy on fixing that performance is a waste, IMO, because the real problem is that one partner felt entitled to cheat as a legitimate option.

      1. I agree. In being part of a number of prayer groups, I have come across many, many stories where the aggrieved party did admit he or she could have been a better husband or wife. Many aggrieved people do put forth great effort in trying to rectify their shortcomings for the other party. If both people in the couple are willing to do this, I believe marriages can be saved, even after infidelity. Unfortunately, many of those aggrieved people were cheated on again (and again) despite their efforts. Also, the unfaithful partner isn’t always willing to work to rectify his or her other shortcomings that may have contributed to marital problems.

        This doesn’t make an unfaithful person a monster. It just means the aggrieved party may be very justified in leaving. Why not become a better person for those who are actually willing to reciprocate?

        1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surprised-love/201201/once-cheater-always-cheater-maybe-not

          Also, here’s an interesting article from a licensed clinician and former cheater who decided to stop being a cheater by doing some serious soul searching. He realized that the six factors that led to his affair had everything to do with him.

          1) He believed the rules didn’t apply to him
          2) He confused significance and self-worth with certainty and success. In other words, he erroneously thought his wife only loved him for the stuff he could provide.
          3) He made up that his wife was the cause of his unhappiness and disappointment in their marriage.
          4) He says he was an accomplished liar
          5) He confused sexual attraction and fantasy for love
          6) He didn’t take responsibility for his health.

          When someone does that level of soul searching, I believe that he or she is done being a cheater. If the unfaithful partner can’t say that he or she needs to become a better person too, then I have concerns about reconciliation attempts.

          Taking responsibility for my own actions is the only thing that has ever helped me grow and change. Responsibility needs to be a requirement for the aggrieving too – not just the aggrieved. Otherwise, the aggrieving person is selling him or herself short. While I’ve never cheated, I’ve done other things in life that I shouldn’t have. I could always say that I wouldn’t have done x if someone else hadn’t done y… However, since I’m being candid, the major reason I did the things I did is because of myself. I needed to grow up. I needed to change my negative thinking patterns. I needed to learn to set boundaries.

      2. John, why do you have a passion for this subject and how does this affect you personally?

        Also you said, “Based purely on my experience, there is blame to go around in most cases involving non-sociopaths.”

        What are the experiences you keep mentioning?

    2. John you have no idea how painful your words are to people like myself. People who loved and adored their spouse and then were left when a new more exciting model came along.

    3. OMG REALLY!! Did John really just say all that? Well it’s obvious he DOES NOT GET IT! DM is helping us all to make a stand to finally stand up for ourselves and say NO MORE!!! Taking a shared responsibility in an affair is what has always been done and taught – GUESS WHAT – that is wrong!!! That is not how it is, there is only one person responsible for an affair in the marriage and that is the cheating spouse, there is only one reason for the cheating and that is because they wanted to cheat!

      No marriage is perfect even the best of marriages. And by this logic anyone who cheated or even wanted to cheat could find a reason! Anyone of us could find some kind of flaw in our spouse or marriage and tell our selves- “Oh ok this is going on or not going on in my marriage and my spouse has theses flaws – so I’m going to go have sex with this cute guy that has been paying attention to me and making me feel better about myself – since my husband is busy working all the time and helping his sick mother, it should be ok if I cheat!”

      That would be like saying – ok my car has broke down and I am having to walk a long way to and from work each day, and on my way I pass by a car with the keys in it, its ok if I take that car right? My car is broke down, I’m so tired from the far walk and working all day, and the keys are just sitting there in the car so I should just take it so I have a way to get to and from work!!!

      Come on with this faithful spouse is to blame shit!!! I’m so sick of it – if you think your spouse is so bad and they are making you unhappy GO FILE FOR DIVORCE!!! Why would you not file for divorce – let me guess – things aren’t that bad are they – I didn’t think so!

  6. All I know is I had a good marriage and my husband still cheated. How do I know because he told me even after BD. He said “you are my best friend, a great wife and we have a wonderful relationship.”

    My now XH has never blamed me or picked on any faults to excuse his need to go cheat. His therapist concluded with his own acknowledgement that the marriage didn’t seem to have underlying problems.

    I being blind-sided had no idea that this once wonderful husband would ever treat me in such a disrespectful manner. If he wasn’t happy within himself then he should have let me know so that we could move forward together or decide together to part.

    Now I realize that he nor I were perfect be we were in a mutually comforting, supporting, and contentfull marriage for over 20 yrs. The truth is that the breakdown in someone’s moral code or character deficiency is what leads to adultery.

    Fact is that not all marriages break down due to pre-existing issues sourced from the marriage relationship itself. Many times the breakdown comes as a result of internal issues the non- faithful partner has not resolved.

    1. You just described exactly what happened in my marriage.

      Let’s face it. At some point in our marriage. we may be attracted to another person but we don’t have an affair with them. I had a really good marriage too. I knew my husband was going through a rough time and was busting my chops to help him. It took a few months before it all began to come out. I was never more surprised in all of my life. Whatever!

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