The Affair As “A Cry For Help”

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. – James 1:13-15


How many have heard the old saw that adultery is just a symptom of a bad marriage?

It was “a cry for help.”

This is Biblically false.

Adultery is a symptom alright. But it is not a symptom of a bad marriage. It is a manifestation of the evil desires of the adulterer/adulteress as James makes clear in the above quoted passage.

Honestly, treating adultery as a marital symptom is a really stupid understanding of adultery.



And harmful.

It does further damage to faithful spouses by shifting blame (unbiblically) onto them for adulterous spouses sinning against them.

Let me explain by metaphor:

Imagine a Christian accountant working for a Christian boss. This accountant unilaterally decides that he is not being paid what he ought to be paid. His salary is too low in his mind. Instead of having an adult conversation with his Christian boss on this matter asking for a raise, the accountant “corrects” this perceived “injustice” by embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Eventually, he is caught, fired, and prosecuted for embezzling funds then sent to jail.

How many pastors or Christian counselors would tell the Christian boss that the embezzlement was simply “a cry for help”? He just wanted to be paid a six figure salary. What’s so unreasonable about that?!

Also, how many pastors would be angry that the Christian boss fired his accountant for stealing? Would they come down on him for being “unforgiving”? How dare he allow the justice system hold a brother accountable for his crimes?!

See how insane this line of reasoning is?!

Yet when something far more precious that money is stolen from a spouse (i.e. intimacy and safety), Christian leaders lose their senses and start blaming the defrauded spouse. They join in with the cheater in shifting the blame onto the faithful spouse calling it merely “a cry for help” as opposed to what it is–i.e. adultery (sin). The adulterous spouse successfully throws them off the scent of the real problem and its Biblical cause–i.e. the evil desires in his/her heart that led to the affair.

We don’t look at the boss’ relationship with his accountant for a good reason. The boss did not embezzle the money. The accountant did.

Similarly, we ought not to look at the relationship between the faithful spouse and the adulterous spouse for answers to why adultery took place. We need to ask the hard questions about why the adulterous spouse decided stealing intimacy and raping the soul of his/her spouse is acceptable behavior. Only they (and God) can tell you why they gave into temptation and sinned.

And the sooner we put the focus where it ought to be, the better. Sin is a spiritually terminal condition as James teaches. An urgency exists for soul caregivers to halt the spiritual cancer by correctly identifying it and exhorting repentance before this individual goes to his/her gave as an unrepentant adulterer/adulteress.

17 thoughts on “The Affair As “A Cry For Help””

  1. My therapist said that one finds and marries a partner with equal mental (dys)function. That is very hard to hear since my ex is a passive-aggressive serial cheater who never directly protested anything in the marriage. Maybe my walking on eggshells to avoid the sarcasm and blame-shifting is dysfunctional (how I let it go on for so long) but I refuse to equate the immoral and hurtful actions to my attempts to “keeping the family together”. I take responsibility in my staying in the relationship under the delusion that there actually was a family and looking at him after D-Day as “crying for help”. A double/triple life surely doesn’t consider the sanctity of the family – there wasn’t anything to keep it together when only one side puts the family as a priority. So now it’s Me-And-The-Kids and HIM in another place. And it surely is more sane.

    1. I think it is time to find a new therapist. Dr. George Simon would tell you that disordered individuals are masters at hiding their dysfunction at first and purposefully look for partners who are very caring. I’m betting that describes you.

      1. Agreed. Well stated, BrokenHearted Believer. I think it is important to find a specialist who understands “character disorder” just as you’d want to go to a cardiologist if you had heart issues. -DM

  2. Hello,

    Great article and thanks for posting. This caught my attention because of a situation with a friend. Since I can only talk to one party (my friend being the faithful spouse), It is easy to go down that road. He desires reconciliation with his wife, but we can only focus of what he can do at this point. He is still learning and correcting his own mistakes, but his wife’s actions were ultimately not his fault. He should not have to live with that. I also appreciate the relevant article “Not Responsible For Spouse’s Adultery.” Keep up the good work!

  3. I just found your site yesterday through Chump Lady and am so grateful. This is my favorite post of yours I’ve read so far. I suspect my husband of 19 years of being unfaithful to me with his Sunday School teaching partner. (Yes that is a very tough pill to swallow.) I confronted him about it, he denied it but then started treating me and our boys with extreme verbal abuse soon after the confrontation. I think that says a lot and I do have other circumstantial evidence. I demanded he move out of the house once this got out of hand a few months ago and he happily left with no signs of remorse. Although the large majority of my friends and family (including my minister) do not blame me for his behavior at all, there are still those few who are still questioning me as to what I’ve done to cause him to do this. To me this is similar to a woman getting raped and then people asking her what she wore to see if she was “asking” for it. It is like he shot me through the heart with an arrow and then a few of my “friends” and family members are coming behind him and twisting the arrow a little deeper. Thank you for giving us devout Christians a voice in all this. I am going to do my best to help you in this crusade to educate our fellow believers on supporting the victims of adultery.

    1. BrokenHearted Believer,

      Glad you found us. And my heart goes out to you. That is awful. Sometimes religious people are the worse (just consider the Pharisees). Also, I agree. The Shared-Blame Lie is very hurtful. As you can see, I believe it is a spiritual truth that adultery is soul rape (taken from applying I Cor 6). People who have not lived it or do not know someone that they love who have are wont to be very insensitive. I suspect they do so to feed the lie that they are safe in their own marriage from this happening (because they are “good wives/husbands.”) I encourage you to surround yourself with those who truly care and get it in this difficult season.


      1. I completely agree that people look for fault in us victims so they can feel safe in their own marriages. You know people get it when they say something like “if this happened to you, this could happen to anybody.” Yes, it could.

  4. BrokenHearted Believer – my husband went off with my fellow sunday school leader, he used to come and play for the singing so was pretty involved. The summer before he went off she started suggesting they meet for coffee as sometimes she worked near where he worked. Until after Christmas I think that he actually just thought of it as meeting up for a coffee, as did I, well if you can’t trust your fellow sunday school leader you’ve known 20 years , whom you met after being with your husband for nearly 20 years, who’d been your daughter’s guide leader, who can you trust. Looking back though at things she said and did, with good old 20/20 hindsight I think she had him in her sights, and tried to take it further when he was under stress with his parents’ ill health, and he went along with it. Then it started, more coffee, dates, texts, deceit; I am told that he did not actually commit adultery until he left,. But I’m sure they got inside each others underwear. I think he thinks it not so bad as he did not actually do the deed until he went.
    Not long before he actually went he tried to get me to confess to any indiscretions I had done. All I could think of were kissing a colleague at a christmas party over 35 years ago, and hugging a gay friend again at Christmas. That’s all. He told me about other women too in the past that I absolutely never suspected.
    Where would I find things that Dr Simon has written? What you mention I think describes things well for myself and my husband nearly 40 years ago. I wish I was a better judge of character

    1. Nell,

      Dr. George Simon has an excellent and short book called, In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. I have a link to an interview with him on my “Resources” page as well. The book is good reading. Hope that helps! You are not alone in trusting others not worthy of such trust.

      And adultery is adultery. Do not take responsibility for choices not yours. He wasn’t married to her but you! God sees that as adultery, and it is irrelevant where it happened while you remained married. Now, it’s on him to repent. He ought to know that but probably disagrees. Good luck disagreeing with God is all I have to say on that one!


    2. Nell- I’m so sorry we are in similar boats. I read the “In Sheep’s Clothing” book and found it very helpful. I’m now very aware of people’s behavior and what that means about them. I can spot a manipulator and immature person a mile away now. I’ve read a lot about narcissism too which is very prevalent in cheaters, but ultimately it all comes down to a sinful heart. Prayers to you!

  5. Sheep’s clothing book on order now, thanks for the recommendation. And I will listen to the recording. While I am not looking for anyone else, I am still married after all, and am not sure about afterwards, who knows perhaps at some point in the future. Once I am free to do so I don’t feel I would be ready until I get my head sorted, and more savvy as to whom to avoid.
    OW’s father was a clergyman, she was brought up in a vicarage, so it is even harder to understand that she did not manage to pick up a few morals along the line, she was at one point the chair of our local branch of the Mother’s Union. I still cannot understand how she thinks it is right.
    Legally too it is adultery even when separated. Much denial on husband’s part, here in England and Wales when you file for divorce on the grounds of adultery the easiest way is for the adulterous spouse to sign a statement admitting it. He wouldn’t, not for a month. Incredible. But his solicitor admitted it on his behalf, saying yes he did but that the marriage had not broken down because of it. I did once talk to him about repentance, and all he said was ‘ wow – that’s an emotive word isn’t it’ Well, ok yes. Not much you can say about that is there

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