Three Markers Unwanted Journey Wives
September 24, 2022

Three Markers on an Unwanted Journey: Wives Facing Sexual Betrayal

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Marriage creates a powerful opportunity for a husband and wife, in covenant before God and witnesses, to enter into a oneness-of-life relationship. The marriage covenant is unique, in part, because it’s the only God-blessed context for sharing sexual intimacy. The lifelong, exclusive, loving relationship provides a protected context for spouses to share themselves completely with one another. Both spouses commit to this in dependence upon and out of love for Christ. When experienced according to God’s design and intent, shared sexual love is indeed a beautiful gift that keeps on giving.

What happens, then, when sexual sin intrudes upon the marriage covenant? It’s more than a physical act of betrayal. Spouses experience covenant treason from the one they promised to love, cherish, and faithfully honor, and from whom they were promised the same. The impact of sexual betrayal forces a spouse onto an unwanted journey that is excruciating, yet is within the reach of the healing, redemptive hand of God.

Let’s consider three markers of this unwanted journey from the view of a wife. These common experiences of suffering will help you not only understand what wives face, but also how to compassionately engage and walk with them.

1. Shattered Dreams: A Fractured Marriage Is Revealed

When my husband’s sexual sin was revealed to me, it was like peeling the layers off an onion. As each layer of truth was revealed, more tears flowed. He had lived in a lie for 30 years! How could I have been so blind? I suddenly felt like I was living with a stranger. I walked around in a daze, with a hurt inside of me that I never could have imagined. My shock soon gave way to anger and then grief. I felt a livid, raging anger—an ungodly anger. It was directed not only at my husband, but also at God. I was overwhelmed with grief over the “loss” of the perfect marriage I thought we had. — Former member of Harvest USA wives’ group

Like the pastor’s wife above, most wives experience a shattering of dreams—of reality as they understood it to be—when a husband’s sexual sin comes into the light. Some women may have known going into marriage that he had a problem with pornography, but assumed that, once married, his lust issue would fade away. Some men choose not to disclose the whole truth about their battles with sexual sin to their wife. Their intentions may seem noble in not wanting to hurt or overwhelm them with the depth of their struggle. However, the impact of hiding the real deal generally compounds a wife’s hurt and broken trust as it serves to ‘teach’ her that her husband isn’t telling the whole truth. This is exacerbated each time he is caught, rather than taking the initiative to confess on his own.

2. Painful Emotions Explode in Radically Different Directions

I’ve rarely met a couple facing sexual infidelity who were at the exact same place in the timetable of emotional response. Actually, I’ve never met a couple in the exact same place!

Consider the husband caught in a duplicitous life of adultery and porn usage. This man may be respected in his church and perhaps his family has been perceived to be a model of faithful engagement in the gospel of Christ. Then, the truth comes out when his wife discovers secret accounts and messages on the family computer.

The husband may initially blame shift, erupt in anger that she “thinks she’s so much better than me,” then collapse in shame, feeling some sense of relief that the hiding, lying, and covering his tracks can stop now. He’s exhausted from it all.

While the guilt is heavy, he’s glad to have it off his chest. He may also respond with godly sorrow and have a broken heart over his sin, hoping his wife will be able to forgive him.

The wife, however, faces a shattered reality, which results in shock, profound grief, shame, fear, rage—all within minutes or hours or days of the initial exposure of sin. 

She may feel and try to explain to others, “I feel like I’m going crazy!” She’s been tossed into a stormy ocean of pain and unbelievable, yet real, circumstances.

Her heart screams out:

Save me, O God!

For the waters have come up to my neck.    

I sink in deep mire,    

where there is no foothold;    

I have come into deep waters,   

and the flood sweeps over me.     

I am weary with my crying out;    

my throat is parched.    

My eyes grow dim    

with waiting for my God.    

More in number than the hairs of my head    

are those who hate me without cause;    

mighty are those who would destroy me,    

those who attack me with lies.    

What I did not steal    

must I now restore?     

— Psalm 69: 1–4

I’ve found that even the most well-intentioned helpers wound wives further if they mistake a wife’s initial raw emotional response for something it isn’t. She may be told she is unsubmissive or being overly sensitive because, after all, so many Christian men struggle with lust, or that she is just being too emotional. Remember, sexual betrayal is treason to the marriage covenant. It is normal and to be expected that a wife’s emotions may be all over the place.

3. A Sympathetic High Priest in the Valley of Suffering

God, in eternal compassion, included the painful wrestling of Jesus in the Scriptures so we have an example to follow as those called to die to self. All four Gospels give details of what Jesus experienced in the hours immediately before his arrest:

  • He faced his closest friends falling asleep on him, then all his followers running away.     
  • He agonized alone in pain and fear, crying out to God for help.     
  • He cried out to God for rescue from the cross.
  • He submitted to his Father, saying, “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:42).     
  • He rose up and went forward by faith to endure the cross, death, and resurrection.

Praise be to God that hurting wives can heal. They can rise up and move forward in a costly, painful journey. Helpers will patiently hold this amazing gospel promise of life after death in their hearts, not rushing past a wife’s traumatic pain or urging her prematurely to say she forgives him.

Wise helpers will pray she’ll grow to believe that, regardless of how her husband responds to the disclosure of his sin, she can find the deep comfort of Christ in the pain of sexual betrayal.

This journey will, however, lead her through a valley of questioning, grief and suffering. Eventually, she will need to trust God to carry her through an excruciating death of what ‘was’ and embrace his strength, compassion, and wisdom for the journey in front of her. She has been forced onto an unwanted journey that can lead her to know Christ as her true eternal husband more deeply and intimately than ever before, understanding his love, care, and protection for her (see Hosea 2:19–20; Phil. 3:10). 

After I found evidence of my husband’s affair, I took off my wedding ring and told my husband in anger and pain, “You left me, and God is my husband now.” Then, [as I read] through Hosea, I realized I had something “special” in common with God; we are both betrayed spouses!

Then my mind quickly went to the realization: I have also been unfaithful; not with my husband, but with God. Throughout our eight-month separation and long, bumpy road toward marriage reconciliation, I found great comfort in picturing Christ as my Bridegroom, who loves me with an everlasting, perfect love. Who      comforts me when I’m down, always listens to me, and cares for me deeply. And will never betray me.    — Former member of Harvest USA wives’ group

These markers are important to understand if you want to really love a hurting wife with the comfort of Christ. Her healing, growth in Christ, and the possible restoration of her marriage cannot be rushed; this is not a linear process!

For further guidance, please check out the workbook that I wrote after years of journeying with wives and marveling as so many clung to Christ, finding his comfort, and growing more and more into his likeness. You may download Harvest USA’s new curriculum for wives, Jesus and Your Unwanted Journey.

More resources you might like:

Ellen Mary Dykas

Director of Equipping for Ministry to Women

Ellen joined Harvest USA in 2007 as our first full-time women’s ministry staff. Ellen received her MA from Covenant Theological Seminary and a graduate certificate in biblical counseling from Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF).

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