On oath Esau traded away his rights as the firstborn. Jacob gave him bread and the stew of lentils. He ate and drank, got up and left. That’s how Esau shrugged off his rights as the firstborn.
– Genesis 25:33b-34 (THE MESSAGE)
“Why would you just throw away _x_ number of years of marriage?!”
Obviously, this line of questioning is a way for the questioner to discourage the faithful spouse from choosing divorce. Still, the question strikes me as odd to be leveled at a faithful spouse following adultery discovery.
It is odd on a number of levels:
First, it assumes the marriage being ended is the same marriage that existed all those years before the adultery discovery.
It is not.
Innocence is forever lost. You cannot turn back the time and undo the “doing” of a third party. Trust must be rebuilt from the ground-level up following infidelity. Marriages that truly make it after adultery are miracles. It is a resurrection.
The natural course of action is death–i.e. divorce or lifelong misery–and not new life.
Second, the question assumes the divorcing faithful spouse is the one that throwing away the marriage flippantly.*
They are not.
The cheating spouse is the flippant one who sold his “birthright” (i.e. marriage) for a pot of porridge (i.e. side-piece, sexual romp). They are the ones who treated their marriage with utter contempt as Esau did his birthright.
Cheaters are the ones who took the pleasures of the moment (i.e. stolen intimacies with a third party) over the pleasures of the lifetime (i.e. a lifelong fidelity to one’s spouse). So, it makes far more sense to level this question at the cheater, not the faithful spouse.
Furthermore, God considers adultery a reasonable reason to divorce or end the marriage (see Deut. 22:22, Jer. 3:8, and Mt 19:9). God takes adultery that seriously.
Certainly, we would not say God takes marriage so flippantly?
Asking this question of a faithful spouse reveals ignorance–at best–or a need to manipulate–at worse. It fails to grasp the reality that no good choices really remain for faithful spouses following adultery discovery. All involve immense pain and suffering for the faithful spouse due to the selfish, contemptuous sin of the adulterous spouse.
The reality is the first marriage is over.
It really is only a question of whether or not the faithful spouse wants to engage in the rebuilding effort (assuming the adulterous spouse is actually willing and repentant as well). The Bible says that choice is freely given to the faithful spouse alone without shame either way (see Deut. 22:22, Jer 3:8, Mt. 5:32, and Mt. 19:9).
*Remember: The faithful spouse might not have a choice in this matter. The cheating spouse may request a divorce and continue cheating without filing. Or they may just leave the faithful spouse without filing for divorce. To then ask this condemning question of the faithful spouse is downright cruel.