Why Does “The Shared Responsibility Lie” Persist?

And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

-Leviticus 20:10, KJV

The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

– Ezekial 18:20, NIV


The Bible is crystal clear that we are not responsible for another person’s sin. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people were not instructed to kill both the adulterous and the faithful spouse. Only the adulterous partner faced this serious act of justice.

My point in highlighting this is not to say that we ought to reinstate the death penalty for adulterous spouses. It is to help us see that when adultery takes place God’s stance is never to blame the faithful spouse.

Not ever. Not even partially.

The Bible is clear:

We do not “stone” the faithful partners. That would be unjust.

Since this is the case,

Why, then, is “The Shared Responsibility Lie” so pervasively believed and promulgated among Christians?

By “The Shared Responsibility Lie,” I mean the belief that a faithful spouse is responsible–even partially–for the sinful infidelity of the other. It is labelled a lie because–as I explained above pointing to Scripture–God does not hold us even partially responsible for the sins of another person–spouses included.

Here’s a few theories for why I believe this lie persists:

1) It is built upon a twisted truth.

The most powerful lies are the ones Satan seeds with a little truth. In this case, the lie about shared responsibility trades on the truth that relationships take two people. Where things get demonically twisted is extending this truth to mean both parties must always contribute to a given sin in the marriage. That is false.

We are responsible for our own choices and actions–whether married or not.

It only takes one spouse to decide to commit adultery. And it only takes one spouse to decide to flippantly discard his or her marriage vows abandoning his or her family. The choices and actions are fully upon the soul of the one choosing such sin.

The marriage–i.e. the relationship–is not what answers to God on Judgment Day (see 2 Cor. 5:10). It is the individuals who have to give an accounting for their actions. Blaming their spouse or Satan won’t cut it on that Day.

2) It fosters an illusion of control and safety from vulnerability.

If you are partially responsible, then that means you have or had some control over protecting your marriage from its violation or implosion. This is a false assurance.

Each of us are vulnerable to the sin of our spouses. We can no more control their actions than we can control the inner-workings of their minds.

This fact is scary and another reason for Christians to promote this lie as security–even false security–is far more comfortable than dealing with the harsh realities of living in this actual world broken by sin.

3) It strokes people’s pride.

“See how smart I am?! I can see both sides of this issue, and like the marriage experts say, it takes two to tango.”

-Smartypants Christian

Personally, I can see this line of thinking being especially tempting for pastors who feel intellectually insecure. They seek the validation of playing psychologist in this area selling their Biblical birthright–of godly wisdom–for a porridge of putrid soup. It is all about ego when that happens.

Others might buy into the lie because it is a way to look morally superior to the faithful spouse. They, too, suffer from petty insecurities where they need to put people down in order to make themselves feel better.

Plus, these fleshly Christians fail to see the truth that the faithful spouse may very well be morally superior to them as soul rape can happen to anyone–including the righteous (just ask the Prophet Hosea).

So many dynamics are at play keeping this lie going in the Christian community. These are just three theories off the top of my head for why.

Finally, I would add that Satan has a vested interest in seeing the lie continue; so, I am certain he is stoking the fires as well as this lie causes untold pain and suffering to its victims plus the community.

And never forget:

We are in a spiritual war! 

Satan certainly isn’t forgetting (I Peter 5:8).


7 thoughts on “Why Does “The Shared Responsibility Lie” Persist?”

  1. DM

    Oh yes this is war! against Evil and as Simon Baron – Cohen redefines the word “Evil” as empathy erosion.

    The other night as I feel asleep the following came to me. But I did not write it down and had to re-word it. Taking the many terms I’ve learned from you and other veterans of betrayal.

    The person who cheats emotionally and sexually in their marriage commits a crime of misrepresentation, deception and the ultimate manifestation of intimacy fraud.

    So what do these have in common? And something to ponder as we witness Global cultural phenomenon trends of intimacy deceit.

    Universal Cowardice
    Gaslighting-Blameshifting-“Shared responsibility Lie”
    Unilateral decision making
    Theft of narration and unaware partners story line
    One Up position (Privileged and the select)
    Intimacy fraud, swindling and larceny
    Need to hold unaware partners hostage (ad infinitum if possible)
    Violence (covert or overt)
    “Soul Rape”
    Objectification, making intimate partners and children abstractions
    Willful invidious Lying and deceit
    Unprotected Sex
    Infidelity Ebola

    Media (you may add the church) and cultural common responses to “The Rugged individual’s “Need to lie in order to achieve “happiness,” and/or mere sanity, exonerating deceit towards intimate partners as ‘Divine right,’ resulting in a colossal willful turning away from unaware victims of intimacy-crime. Examples (for me) include:

    Esther Perel: “ Exuberant Defiance”
    Dan Savage: ‘Truthiness’
    Glenn Greenwald: Puritanical Scold (Intellectually myopic (tunnel vision)

    Denial: (we turn away from the victims of intimacy crime).

    “If my husband/wife does not know then it won’t hurt them”

    “It could never happen to me”
    “It happened to you not to me.”
    I’‘m like Switzerland (I am neutral about lying, secrets, and deceit in intimate realationships)
    Collude (I am contemplating doing it, I am doing it myself, I have done it, I will do it again)

    This is a human rights issue for EVERYONE. It is emotional and sexual abuse by stealth.

  2. “The most powerful lies are the ones Satan seeds with a little truth.”

    Well put DM. Cut and dry and to the point. The essence of that quote IS the mother of the shared responsibility lie. It does take two to nurture a relationship but what is left out is that it only takes one to destroy it.

  3. Yes. Some people have told me things like “people don’t leave good marriages”. Somehow implying that it is my fault that my husband committed adultery. People are responsible for their actions. One can share responsibility in making a relationship not great, but not in the cheating or in the moment when your spouse chooses to throw their life away for selfish reasons.

  4. We are at war…

    “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1Cor. 7:5

    But if a spouse deprives the other of sex they are responsible for empowering Satan to tempt the other spouse!

    Now no temptation is without a possible escape. So the responsibility is shared. Just as Romans 14:13ff tells us not to stumble a brother, we all have certain weaknesses and need encouragement from spouses and those around us to follow Christ’s teaching.

    I used to live in a ministry house and we would have beer in the refrigerator from time to time. One day a new guy came to live with us who confessed to being a recovering alcoholic. We immediately got rid of all alcohol in the house and it didn’t enter after that. If we had stumbled him by drinking in front of him and given him easy access, of course we would have “Shared responsibility.”

    So when wives deny their husbands sex for weeks and then discover they are turning to pornography, do we think that Romans, and 1 Corinthians would convey that, “There is no shared responsibility,” for the wife?

    Seems like we still need a case-by-case examination of root cause before we can make a determination.

    I think your point was that, “Always” assuming shared responsibility in the case of adultery, is wrong.” So I don’t think we are in disagreement.

    1. I do not agree that we need a case-by-case assessment. The sex-starved husband who chooses to view porn is still responsible for that choice. 100%. We are all responsible for our own choices and actions. The husband could have made a different choice–e.g. talk to his wife about why they are not having sex, enlist a marriage counselor, etc. The circumstances did not CAUSE the sin. It was the husband choosing the sin that caused the sin.

      Certainly, we can make things easier or harder for each other to choose godliness. But that is a separate conversation than assigning blame for another person’s sin.

      I’m a former collegiate football player. We were taught not to retaliate after a cheep shot, because the second person is usually the one who is caught. The penalty is still justified as the reacting player still CHOSE to hit the other. He could have chose more wisely and just walked away.

      I stand by my stance that “The Share Responsibility” idea is a lie.

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