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?
My 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.
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.
*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.