“Contend with your mother, contend,
For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband;
And let her put away her harlotry from her face
And her adultery from between her breasts…“
-Hosea 2:2, NASB
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).