A reader asks:
My husband received sexual text messages & pictures from a female “friend” about 11 months ago. I only found out about it by looking at his phone. I’d like to say I’ve forgiven him but I’m not sure I have, I no longer trust him in general and especially when he talks to any other female friends. He continues to talk with the other females. Is this grounds for divorce? I don’t want divorce, but I also don’t want to live a life where I don’t trust him. He’s told me he will no longer talk with female friends but continues doing it. We have 2 children; the sexual messages happened while I was pregnant with our second child.
Forgiving is not the same thing as “trusting”. You should forgive him as an act of your will in thanks for all that Jesus have forgiven you. However, he will have to earn back your trust; that’s just the natural consequence of his betrayal. Trust is hard won and easily lost. It must be protected with ferocity.
“Talking to other females” can take many forms appropriate or otherwise but if he is having private personal conversations with other women this is generally a bad idea in all cases for a married man… and particularly bad when you been caught exchanging sexual messages with other women. He should be going to great lengths to prove his fidelity and earn your trust at this point. You deserve it, and he is obligated to do this as a consequence of his choices.
No, receiving text messages is not Biblical grounds for divorce. Most non-Christians don’t ask a question like that, so I assume that’s what you mean. The Bible specifically states that physical adultery and abandonment are the only two situations where God allows divorce (see my other post here: http://www.brentriggsblog.com/2009/08/a-reader-asks-could-you-clarify-adultery-according-to-scripture-several-sources-now-define-emotional-affairs-as/ ). I have seen cases of egregious pursuit of pornography that were, in my opinion, tantamount to abandoning the marriage but even in those cases, I tell people that is something only THEY can answer between them and God. From what you’ve said, you are a long ways from that. It doesn’t make it easier, loss of trust never is, but as a Christian, “divorce” is not in the picture here.
Marriage always has difficult times, sometimes severely difficult. That often involves significant issues like trust, security and fidelity. It is only the Christian commitment to marriage that allows a couple to endure them and come out on the other side stronger and more in love. No one WANTS to live in a relationship devoid of trust (or happiness) but you must not be controlled by your feelings and allow this to push you to an obsession (mild or otherwise) with divorce or your own personal happiness. Far too many people dictate their life decisions on the grounds of “personal happiness” and deceive themselves (with the encouragement of other immature Christians) into elevating “God doesn’t want me to be unhappy” to the number one consideration.
Happiness is Not Number One
God our Father of course doesn’t want us to be “unhappy” (unless its unhappiness with sin) but He puts it in proper priority. Holiness, obedience and marriage vows are higher in priority and sometimes our “happiness” has to be subordinate; no spouse is perfect and every marriage has times of unhappiness (negative emotions based on circumstances). When we get our spiritual mind right, we realize that true happiness comes not from circumstances but from our proper alignment and fellowship with God. So I would encourage you to find happiness in honoring your vows, being a Christian example to your husband and obeying God in all ways you possibly can. This is long term, truly fulfilling happiness as opposed to short term shallow personal gratification based on fleeting emotion.
Your husband’s actions could eventually lead to a Biblical divorce but you don’t want to be at fault too because 1) that’s what you wanted so you “helped” it along; 2) your fixation on personal happiness kept you unhappy to the point where you bear some accountability for driving your husband into the arms of a “happy” woman.
All political correctness and psychobabble-self-esteem-nonsense aside, typically both men and woman fail to consider their part when a spouse commits adultery. Yes, there are times when someone is relatively free of culpability and their spouse is simply an unfaithful degenerate, but just as often, an objective observer can see a lot of strife, discontentment, selfishness and poor behavior on both sides that made the adultery a much juicier temptation. It’s important as mature Believers that we honestly evaluate whether we are cultivating a fertile ground for marital problems. If we make our spouse dislike us by how we treat them, don’t be surprised when they turn to someone who does like them. I’m not saying this is this case with your marriage, I have no idea. I’m just covering the bases. If you do end up in divorce, you want to have a clear conscience.
Your Husband is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
Specifically about your husband, he is patently wrong to continue inappropriate or private conversations with other women especially in light of the mistrust now present in your relationship. He is to love YOU like Jesus loves His Church. Is there any question about what is more important? More honorable? More necessary? Being able to chit-chat and flirt with other women for a cheap selfish thrill… or to focus on your marriage and your wife? Is he a Christian? Then you have that foundation to appeal to.
If your husband is continuing to do these things even those he says otherwise, then you may need to consider involving the spiritually mature leaders of your Church if in fact you attend Church. He may need a little manly Christian butt-kicking and yes, embarrassment. Sometimes, this is the only kind of wakeup call that can get a distracted man’s attention.
As Christians, spiritual accountability and Godly peer pressure can be very effective. If you are not in a Church or not a Christian, I’m not sure how you achieve the same thing because marriage vows not based on any higher authority (God) than your own personal feelings are in reality based on whim and circumstance which have no true foundation for commitment.
Christian marriage vows are based on a promise to the God of the Universe. Sometimes I feel bad writing that because I don’t want people to feel even more discouraged but it’s simply the truth: if you aren’t a Christian, you have no reason to honor a vow other than your own individual desire, or at best, the pain of negative consequences. There’s no transcendent authority to put teeth into your promises and commitments, especially marriage. The world says “don’t be unhappy; life is too short; dump that loser and find your true love.” That’s why marriage has become musical chairs in our culture. Marriage has become whatever two or more people want to pretend that it is with a commitment level commensurate to that flimsy premise.
Man or Boy?
Your husband is not acting like your marriage is top priority (specifically a sin for a Christian), not treating you like the cherished blessing you are, and not putting away childish needs to flirt and enjoy the attention of other women. He needs to grow up and quit acting like a hormonal teenager. Christian or not, is he a man of honor or childish passion? Is he a man, or a boy? What kind of legacy is he leaving for his children? What kind of example is he teaching them? Is he being a courageous leader or an undisciplined, selfish man-child? If he is not serious enough about his faith to appeal to his Christian duty, perhaps he can wake up with a call to be a real man.
He needs to look this square in the face: you reap what you sow. He is planting the seeds of adultery, a broken home, screwed up kids, financial loss, generational dysfunction, violated vows and a sorry personal legacy. Is flirting with other women more important and gratifying than his destiny and legacy?
Readers, many of you have faced this or seen others fact it. What is your advice? Leave a comment…
Here are a few links to related posts that may help:
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