The Adultery of a Husband Equals the Treason of a General

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Sadly, over the years I have received many emails from husbands who have committed the worst of marital offenses—adultery. Fortunately, those writing me are doing so because they have confessed their sins to their wives, as well as to God, have repented of their iniquities, and have recommitted themselves to the sacred vow they had previously made to their wife. However, just because they have made such strides does not mean their wife has accepted them fully back, and they often write me and ask for advice in navigating through this desert of distrust from their wife.

One word picture I like to give them is that of two marine generals who were also best of friends. “I will die for you,” they both vowed to the other, “and remain loyal always to our cause.” But when things got tough, not only did one general fail to support his fellow general and friend, but he also jumped to the other side for a while, giving all his energy to the enemy.

Eventually this general came to his senses, returned to his friend and country, and requested that things resume as they once were. But in the United States, an act such as this is called treason, of which there is no second chance. Legally, the general who betrayed his friend and country should be executed.

In marriage, treason is called adultery. Jesus holds the betrayal of the marriage vow in such high regards that he even allows it be grounds for divorce. That is certainly not his preferred method for dealing with the matter, but that just shows the horrific act of treason adultery truly is.

The wife who decides, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive her disloyal husband and work on the marriage would be like a general who chose to forgive his treasonous friend and not call for the punishment he deserves.

But place yourself in the shoes of the forgiving general. Imagine things go relatively well for a few months. Then one day the once-treasonous general gets frustrated with you, maybe yells at you. Maybe you catch him in a small lie.

What would you do now? Before the act of treason, such minor conflicts would just be chalked up as normal stuff that you work through without too much problem. But post-treason, wouldn’t you agree that these minor acts of offense are magnified greatly, causing you to wonder if you can really keep trusting him? You ask yourself, Did I do the right thing by accepting him back into my life?

Back to the husband who previously cheated on his wife, can you now understand why it is almost unthinkable for him to expect her to trust him completely on day one? That she is willing to forgive and move on is tremendous. But while she is learning to trust him again, which has no true time frame by which it should be done, what is he to do as he adjusts to loving a wife who understandably does not currently trust him?

As odd as this may sound, the thing that is most likely to ruin this marriage now—post adultery and reconciliation—is not the past problems of adultery. She has forgiven him, as has God, and is working toward the success of their marriage. No, what will kill this marriage now is the husband’s negative, unloving attitude toward his wife when the topic of trust/mistrust arises in their current conflicts.

But if the once-treasonous husband truly seeks to respond in loving and positive ways to his wife’s concerns, specifically around the topic of her current mistrust in him, over time he will win back her heart. Sometimes he will fail and have a moment of being negative and unloving, but he can rebound quickly by saying, “I am sorry. I was too negative and unloving. I understand your struggles in trusting me fully again. I really do.” This, too, can win back her heart.

If he commits himself to be an honorable, courageous, and strong general, and to love her heart and respect her slow journey to trusting him again, this next battle can be won as well.

Love and respect. It really is that simple, even when dealing with such complex issues as adultery.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. What comparisons work for you between treason and adultery? What are some differences?

  2. Why do you think Jesus mentioned adultery specifically as an exception for divorce? Though the exception was given, why is divorce still not his preferred answer for resolving the conflict?

  3. What types of thoughts might be running through the mind of a wife when the husband she has given a second chance, despite his adultery, grows impatient and angry with her or even lies to her once again? Why would something that she would have once labeled as a minor conflict be now magnified to one much more major in her mind?

  4. In a marriage that survived the sin of adultery, how does a negative, unloving, and impatient attitude now become the more likely weapon to destroy the marriage? How can the offender win back the heart and trust of the offended?