An aspect of my journey towards healing following adultery discovery and divorce was dealing with all the counsel I received. If anything, I was far too open to people’s advice in the early stages of my marriages disintegration. Part of this was a reflection of my passivity where I was not owning my choices and ceding such power to others to dictate. To some degree, I was looking at outside authorities to make me safe and help me do the “right” thing.
A major problem in this was that these outside voices had conflicting opinions as to what the “right” thing was to do. I even had advice from good friends be wrong in the midst of all of this. We remain friends to this day because I realize it is on me to decide and they realize this as well not engaging in any sort of manipulation games with me.
To those of you–faithful spouses–under counsel bombardment (and some of it may be good counsel), I have a few things to keep in mind:
1) You are not responsible in any way to repair the utter destruction done to your marriage by the unfaithful spouse’s lies and adultery.
It’s not your fault.
The onus to “save” your marriage is on the adulterous spouse, not you. They need to demonstrate actual repentance for the marriage to have any real and godly chance. However tempting it may be to take on this job of “saving the marriage” as suggested by various well-meaning Christian advisors (or even your cheating spouse), DON’T! Sound Christian pastoral care will realize the issue here is sin, and adultery is a marriage killing sin (e.g. Deut 22:22 and Mt 5:32) that must be stopped pronto.
2) Divorce is a Biblical and legitimate option at any point for a faithful spouse who has discovered his/her partner’s adultery.
The death penalty in the Old Testament was not proscribed for only repeat offenders. Similarly, Jesus does not teach us that sexual infidelity must recur repeatedly for it to be a legitimate grounds for divorce (see Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9). My point here is divorce is a legitimate option for a faithful spouse at any point following the discovery of infidelity. And it is an option no Biblical Christian ought to shame another faithful spouse for taking regardless of how many times the other spouse was unfaithful. It’s a real option (even if it is just another bad option among many). And sound Biblical counsel will not use shame–like calling you or making you feel like a “bad” Christian–for exercising or considering this option.
3) Look for the fruits of the Holy Spirit to liberally season the counsel (Gal 5:22-23).
Consider the person speaking and the advice given:
Is it loving and kind? Or is the counsel domineering and condemning?
Is it patient and gentle? Or is it strict and impatient?
Is it full of peace? Or is it irritable and annoyed?
Does it encourage goodness–namely godliness and holiness? Or does it encourage secrecy and the enabling of sin?
If it is the former, it is seasoned with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And if the advice falls in the later half of questions, then it is likely worldly or worse. The fruit will give you useful hints in sifting through the chaff.
The Counsel Bombardment is a tough experience especially for those of us who want to be faithful to God. Above all these things remember that you alone are ultimately responsible for your own actions and choices, not your counselors. You alone must live with the decisions you make.
Do not hand over your power to decide. You are the one who must answer for your deeds before God (2 Cor 5:10). And ultimately, you are the one who needs to be at peace with God.
And sometimes it may be best to limit those you allow to speak into your situation. Too much noise makes it difficult to discern God’s voice. Pick people with demonstrated track records of true love of you and of God.