Worst Piece of Advice Given

“Plead with your mother, plead—
    for she is not my wife,
    and I am not her husband—
that she put away her whoring from her face,
    and her adultery from between her breasts….”

-Hosea 2:2, ESV

 

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While I do not mind the end result–the merciful divorce paving the way to my marriage to Mrs. DM–I am still struck by a certain piece of bad advice that just hastened the end of my first marriage. Mrs. DM just shakes her head when I share this piece of advice that I occasionally followed towards the end. My “excuse” in following it: I was too desperate and willing to be humiliated trying to save a marriage that I could not save due to my ex-wife’s lack of repentance.

Stop talking to her about the other man.

This was the worst piece of advice that I shamefully followed (at times). Those that encouraged me to follow this advice were well-meaning but were dead wrong in their advice. They wanted me to keep talking and communicating with my (now) ex-wife thinking such connection might save the marriage. You see, the price to do so was to be silent about her adultery. She always became belligerent in the conversation–as I remembered it–when I brought up the OM insisting she end it.

A major problem with the advice to stop talking about the OM/OW is that it is built on a false assumption. It assumes there is anything left of a marriage to save with the OM/OW still in the picture and the adulterous sin still hidden by lies. A marriage is already over and chosen against as long as the adulterous spouse refuses to end the adultery and expose the illicit relationship(s) to the light of truth. The whole “forsaking all others” bit is rather important for a marriage to exist!

So, learn from my mistake:

Never take the focus off the adultery until you are satisfied it is over and the lies are fully exposed.

For pastors and faithful spouses, I exhort you to keep this in mind when dealing with infidelity. Do not fall for the temptation to look at the faithful spouse’s relational imperfections taking the pressure off of the adulterous spouse to repent. The adultery needs to be ended, and the lies need to be exposed to light and truth. And the adulterous sinner needs to take full responsibility for their sin in order for a chance to exist for healing/restoration. For how can one choose better in the future if one fails to realize one chose poorly and wickedly in committing adultery?

While I do not beat myself up for my choices being thankful for where God has taken me today, I do realize it was a mistake to take the focus off the OM even for a short period. I wished had stuck by my guns in refusing to talk about my first marriage+ until I was certain the OM was out of the picture and my ex had confessed her dirty secrets to me to my satisfaction. This I write to you as an encouragement who have found yourself wavering like I did. It is okay. However, I encourage you to stand firm making it clear the marriage is over unless the evil of adultery is stopped and fully exposed.* Anything less would be to tolerate wickedness.

 


 

+I emphasize not talking about the marriage until the OM/OW is out of the picture and the covering lies exposed for two major reasons. First, it is important for one’s own legal safety to do basic business with the adulterous spouse like hammering out assets and child-custody things. Please do that wisely and civilly. Second, it is important to send the clear signal that the adultery is the problem of the marriage, and without it addressed, the marriage is over as absolutely no safety (physical, emotional, or spiritual) remains in such a union. To focus on other areas is to minimize adultery’s wickedness and to enable blameshifting on the part of the adulterous spouse. So, it is vital the focus remains on the adultery and exposing the lies protecting and enabling it.

*Again, I encourage remaining civil in this as well. Be firm but not mean. The point is not cruelty or to crush the adulterous spouse but to find the truth and empower the adulterous spouse to repent and truly change. It may seem crushing to the adulterous spouse to have their sin exposed, but it is a necessary soul surgery. Plus, I fail to see how actual repentance can happen while the adulterous spouse remains in adulterous sin or continues protecting the OM/OW through maintaining lies (of omission or commission).

 

 

18 thoughts on “Worst Piece of Advice Given”

  1. Hi Divorce Minister,

    You post inspired me to share a great article I read today online. It is entitled Understanding Relationship, Sexual and Intimacy Betrayal as Trauma (PTSD): http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2012/09/understanding-relationship-sexual-and-intimate-betrayal-as-trauma-ptsd/ . It explains how truly traumatic a spouses’ betrayal is to the faithful spouse. I’m happy to say that it puts absolutely no blame on the betrayed spouse and all the blame on the cheating spouse. A great line from the article says “…it’s not so much the extramarital sex or affair itself that causes the deepest pain. What hurts committed partners the most is that their trust and belief in the person closest to them has been shattered.” I know this is so true for me. So when people tell us we need to win them back, I think that just increases our trauma. My husband showed up at church today and the anxiety it caused me had me sobbing through half of service today. That’s embarrassing and traumatic! I couldn’t figure out why I reacted so dramatically until I read this article. Betrayal is abuse and unrepentant abusers like my husband and your ex-wife really are soul rapists. Just like victims of rape, trauma can be brought up again when seeing their attacker and I think this can happen to us too. So to ask us to win back these abusers back is like asking someone to tell their attacker to do it again.

    Also, do you think you’d be as far along in your recovery if you were still single? Was your new marriage a big part of your recovery? I’m really curious about this.

    BHB

    1. BHB,

      Yes and no. Yes, I think I would be close to this far along in my healing process as I was making good strides with excellent help prior to meeting Mrs. DM. In other words, I had to face the major obstacles prior to meeting her and was healthy enough to walk away from a relationship if I thought appropriate. In fact, Mrs. DM was a little skittish at the start 😉 , and we broke up for about a week before starting up dating again. However, I am sure God has used my relationship with her to bring healing to me. So, no in that sense. My relationship with Aubree forced me to confront my trust issues and not project my ex on her. However, I don’t advocate looking for a relationship as a way to heal. It is important we are whole prior to dating again so that we aren’t easy “marks” for dysfunctional characters or return to codependent ways of any sort. I came into my relationship with Aubree recognizing it was a gift and an addition. It was not a “healing plan.” In all good marriages, I think they provide places for healing and growth for all sorts of pasts. I just happened to have a divorce and a former spouse who cheated on me in my past. That said, my experiences of traumatic loss and all the pain around my first marriage’s ending helps me to be grateful and appreciate Mrs. DM all that more. She and Munchkin are real perfect gifts from my Heavenly Father.

      Now, I bet that is about as clear as mud…I will stop 😉

      DM

      PS Yes, BHB, that does look like a fairly good article. Towards the end, the author seems to miss the point that faithful spouses are twitchy for good reason. It is reasonable to expect more cheating from the same person than not after being cheated on by him/her.

      1. Actually, that is very clear. I notice a lot of people on Chump Lady say they got much better when they met someone. That just doesn’t sound right to me but that is a secular place. Christ should be enough for us and I feel my complete recovery should not hinge on finding someone else. Plus, since I have kids, I’m not sure that’s something I would want to consider anyway. That’s a bit off topic but I do understand what you are saying.

        Yes, the ending of the article was a little disappointing but it did help me understand why I reacted the way I did today. Thanks for your response! I told my Christian counselor about this blog this week and she said she was going to share it with others! I do think it is a big help.

        1. Thanks for passing the blog along, BHB, and for your kind words! And I can see how the article you found could be helpful…it did have some good and empathetic points for faithful spouses.

  2. “I wished had stuck by my guns in refusing to talk about my first marriage+ until I was certain the OM was out of the picture and my ex had confessed her dirty secrets to me to my satisfaction.”

    I feel for you, DM, and wish your best healing. But this statement and other statements on this blog give me pause only in thinking about your readiness to counsel others. I get a sense that you may not be ready to lead others to healing when your pain is still pouring out throughout your posts. There is no shame in where you are – just be careful in how you guide others. I offer this as a survivor of cheating myself and a minister of the Gospel. Often we think we are ready buy God has just begun with us.

    Take good care and bless you. I understand if you do not wish to publish this comment.

    1. Time,

      When God calls us to do something, we are to obey God and not the human naysayers. Your comments strike me as one of the naysayers. I have no doubt in my mind or heart that God has called me to minister NOW through this blog. I have had far too many confirmations of this to turn back now.

      Furthermore, you claim I am expressing pain when I am not. Sharing what I consider a mistake–not sticking to my guns–is not the same as sharing pain. I am showing that I am real and human. My hope is that others will benefit from learning from my mistakes. Lot of pastors who have survived adultery do what you suggest I do–i.e. be silent and not counsel. And that’s problematic in my view. People need to hear the perspective of pastors who have survived adultery. And it is people–like yourself–who act in ways to silence them by labeling them “too hurt” to minister.

      Am I perfectly healed? No. Is anyone? No. That does not mean I am unfit.

      DM

      PS I am not afraid to publish your comment but point out your comments are condescending and cowardly as you do not share your name choosing rather to launch criticisms from a place of anonymity.

      1. DM,

        I’m sorry that I said things that upset you. I did not intend to imply that you are unfit for ministry. I’m sorry that my words communicated that to you. I am not responsible, however, for what other pastors have said to you but am sorry for the ways they have mishandled their ministry with you. I’ve experienced that as well in my life.

        I am not your enemy, nor a naysayer, nor one who has been silent about their experience as a victim of adultery. I did not suggest that you be silent – just take care with your words and never forget your position of power and authority to people who are broken just like we are.

        Peace be with you,
        An experienced and equally-flawed stranger on the internet whose identity does not need to be known

        1. Time,

          I’ve been trained professionally not to judge intentions as I cannot judge hearts. I look at what is said and done. What I can do is remind you of what you wrote: “But this statement and other statements on this blog give me pause only in thinking about your readiness to counsel others. I get a sense that you may not be ready to lead others to healing….” These are statements of judgment on my fitness to minister, especially to adultery survivors. To be clear: you made statements questioning my “readiness to counsel others” and my readiness “to lead others to healing.” Such judgments are problematic on their own apart from any history I have with other pastors for which I agree you are not responsible. However, you are responsible for your own words, and they ARE words of judgment on my fitness suggesting being unready to council–i.e. suggesting silence.

          It gladdens me to hear that you are willing to share your story and are not silent about it. And I agree, being careful with our words is wise counsel for all pastors and teachers to remember. However, I stand by my response and posts. And my bishops stand by my ministry in support of me as I write this blog. I defer to their wisdom as experienced ministers who care about me personally over an anonymous person who may or may not be someone who knows and cares about me.

          DM

  3. DM,

    I did not speak with sensitivity or enough thought or clarity in my first comment and I am sorry for that. May God bless you and your ministry. Take very good and gentle care of yourself.

  4. I agree with what you have said in this post. How do you know that an adulterous spouse is truly repentant?

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