What Did You Contribute?

Were you ever asked that question?

What did you contribute?

To your divorce?

To the affair?

Maybe it came from your cheater’s own mouth?

Maybe it came from a pastor?

Maybe it came from family?

Maybe it came from the marriage counselor?

wpid-img_20140912_150104.jpgMy intention is not to cause further trauma on this website. However, I suspect this question is a trigger for many who have gone through divorce and experienced the discovery of their spouse’s adultery. They likely are sent back to a time when they heard these words coming out of the mouth of a pastor or marriage counselor who turned on them utilizing such words to blame them. It probably came in the form of the lie telling them to “own their part.”

I had a high denominational official and longtime evangelical pastor ask me a version of this question after knowing the intimate details of my former spouse’s repeated lies, infidelity, betrayals, and utter abandonment of me. What did you contribute to your divorce? He was even so deluded as to think asking this question was a form of pastoral care.

It wasn’t.

Rather, it was one more example of his participation in my experience of being emotionally and spiritually abused.

In my situation, I did not cause my divorce. I had no control over getting divorced. My former spouse decided to divorce me over my protests. (Now, I thank God that I am divorced from her. As He mercifully spared me from much and opened the door to my current, wonderful life with Mrs. DM plus plucky munchkin.)

The only one who causes a divorce is the one who decides to divorce. And I would add, if you filed for the divorce due to your spouse’s adulterous behavior, you have very good reason to divorce. It is Biblical (e.g. Mt. 19:9). Anyone who decides to shame you–the faithful spouse–for making the decision to divorce does not have the mind of Christ towards you. As such, their stance towards you is downright ungodly. They are the ones acting shamefully.

Back to the traumatizing question:

What did you contribute?

A non-clumsy and possibly helpful rephrasing of this question might be:

What marital problems did you contribute to your marriage?

Or, how did you contribute to dysfunction/function present in your marriage?

We all contribute problems to our marriages as we are all sinners (Ro. 3:23). And we can learn from past mistakes and grow as spouses/individuals. However, that is a different sort of question.

Marital problems do not cause divorce.

A choice to divorce causes a divorce.

Marital problems do not cause adultery.

A choice (or more exactly, choices) to cheat cause adultery.

From the pastor or Christian marriage counselor asking the broad question, I would like to know what verse justifies divorce or adultery when a man is being an allegedly “bad” husband or a woman is being an allegedly “bad” wife.

Did Jesus say go ahead and divorce if your husband is a bad communicator or struggles at providing? Did Jesus say to go ahead and divorce if your wife is a nag or weighs too much?

Did anyone in Scripture say go ahead and have an affair if you were displeased in some way with your marriage partner?

No one said that in the Bible, you say?

Okay. Then let us not ask questions that suggest such things are legitimate grounds to divorce or commit adultery.

My pastoral advice: Stop such stupid and damaging lines of questioning!*

The faithful spouse or abandoned spouse has already experienced the greatest relational trauma known to a human being. They don’t need a pastor or counselor suggesting to them that they deserved it.

They didn’t.


*Ironically, these sort of lines of questioning are usually absent in the discussion with adulterous spouses. Arguably, that is the only instance where such a broad question ought to be employed Biblically. The adultery destroyed the marriage. In that sense, the adulterous spouse “caused” the divorce. However, my experience is such questions are usually reserved for the faithful spouse alone. As such, they need to be taken out of the pastoral tool box and put in the trash where they belong.

5 thoughts on “What Did You Contribute?”

  1. After d day, My soon to be ex husband told me that he was really sorry that he cheated, but I need to admit what I contributed to the fact that our marriage was so bad. He didn’t want to talk about cheating, instead he wanted to discuss what I have contributed to our bad marriage.
    I had no clue that our marriage was bad or boring as he sad. Two weeks before telling me that he wants divorce, he bought me a card telling me how happy he was with me and how lucky he was that he met me. We took long walks together where we discussed having another child. I had no clue about affair or his unhappiness.
    Now he tells people that our marriage was dead a long time ago. That he was unhappy during almost 8 years of our 10 year marriage. That we are getting divorced because I fail to admit what I contributed to the fall of our marriage. He destroyed all cards that he gave me while we were married where he wrote how happy he was with me.
    He said surely in any divorce both parties are usually at fault and you are being a hypocrit because you refuse to admit. You sin as much as I am by refusing to own to your part.
    I still disagree.

    1. Mommy of two,

      Cheater revisionist history could be another post own on its own. It is part of why I distrust studies of infidelity, which cite unhappiness with the relationship as the cause. Too much is invested in calling it bad for the cheater for their input to be reliable. Anyways, I am sorry you went through what you did (and continue to do so). You know the truth. People who are worth keeping in your life will choose truth over lies. Don’t forget that.

      1. “Cheater revisionist history” is a way of self preservation. It is blame shifting, gas lighting and DARVO. All of these are emotional abuse and lies. I think everyone of us that goes through this is a victim of these things. All tactics are used, because as one fails, they enlist the others to try to steadfastly hold onto the false reality they are trying to create in order to cover up their sin and not deal with reality and the fact that they are the ones that did something wrong. I consistently teach my kids that I make mistakes, point out my mistakes and apologize for them with a commitment of really trying to not let it happen again. People who blame shift aren’t sorry for what they have done, they are sorry they have been caught. Anyone else on the outside who supports this blame shifting or tries to make you responsible for the actions of others is wrong.

        I was not a perfect wife. I made mistakes, especially early on in our marriage. However, that in no way justifies the emotional and verbal abuse I put up with from x and his family and friends for 15 years. Two wrongs don’t make a right. That’s vindictive thinking. Not to mention that any wrong doing on our part in no way justifies the extreme one upping that is an affair. That is the ultimate betrayal. It includes lies, deceit, triangulation, slander, physical health risks, and much more.

        The non cheating spouse doesn’t have a role in the infidelity and should not take responsibility for it. Do we need to take responsibility for our words and actions? Yes. Does that mean that we caused our partner to cheat? No. Don’t own that! They had choices and took ours away from us.

        Thanks DM! So many victims are further abused by this and shouldn’t be. I hope people reading this have the courage to confront anyone who further victimizes them this way with this knowledge.

    2. Mommy of 2-I also disagree. “My soon to be ex husband told me that he was really sorry that he cheated, but I need to admit what I contributed to the fact that our marriage was so bad. He didn’t want to talk about cheating, instead he wanted to discuss what I have contributed to our bad marriage.” That sounds just like DM’s ex, she also wrote him cards saying how thankful she was for him and his support yet then instantly turned around saying he never supported her. Classic cheater 101 move. Bits of DARVO and blame shifting.

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