Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.
-Proverbs 25:18, NLT
One of the many things that baffles me about the accepted Christian “wisdom” on healing marriages ravaged by adultery is how often pastors and counselors seem to take the cheater’s narrative as a truthful account. They view it as valuable for the process of helping the faithful spouse “improve” as a spouse and heal the marriage.
How could supporting lies ever help a relationship heal?!
It baffles me because these pastors are trusting the word of a proven liar–i.e. the cheater–who has taken a stance of utter contempt for their partner by the very act of committing adultery!
Further, pastors often seem completely tone-deaf to the damage the cheater’s marriage narrative has done and continues to do to the faithful partner. In fact, they engage in supporting that deceitful narrative by giving cheaters space to degrade their partners in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for their own adulterous sins.
What is real and what is not is a tenuous thing for faithful spouses to grasp in the midst of the gaslighting campaign waged by many cheaters for months or even years! Just imagine if your spouse spent that length of time telling you (and others) that you imagined things when in reality they were actually having sex with another person (or two).
A wise pastor does not trust the word of a liar and treats the faithful spouse with some added grace considering this awful ordeal inflicted upon him/her by the cheating partner.
A wise pastor recognizes that someone who is willing to lie for months and years is not qualified to provide an unbiased or really even helpful perspective on the marriage condition until that person has truly repented of such contempt-filled behavior.
A wise pastor does not hand a proverbial sword back to the adulterous aggressor and tell him/her to take another whack at his/her victim. Such are the words designed to put the blame for cheating on the faithful partner.
Cheaters have already demonstrated a willingness to choose their own pleasure over their partners’ pain. Until the cheater grasps the damage they have done and learns to respond with empathy for the faithful spouse, I find talking about the relationship sins or dysfunction unhelpful.
A sinful habit of inflicting careless or malicious verbal wounds must first be unlearned.
Trying to piece together a marriage history with a cheater is like sticking one’s head in a blender. It is painful and confusing. Important pieces of information usually are missing. And malicious lies like blades are poised to take out chucks from the faithful partner inflicting significant trauma and pain.
It is best to disarm the retroactive marriage history blender first.
This can be done on one’s own through being well-established in the truth and calling out a lie for a lie when it appears. With a cheater, it can be done only if the cheater is willing to repent of his or her cutting, deceitful words and approach the marriage with humility plus empathy for the one he/she wounded.
*A version of this post ran previously.
Republished with permission from www.divorceminister.com.