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Confessing Adultery to Your Spouse

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
Dr. Dunlap provides insight into what is required of Christians who have committed adultery.

Family Counseling Ministries -

When a person breaks the marriage vow and commits adultery, should that person tell his or her spouse about the transgression? Would it be helpful or hurtful to the wronged partner to do so? What is the correct action for a Christian to take? This first part of a four-part case study by Dr. Don Dunlap provides insight into what marriage vows mean and what is required of a person biblically should he or she break them.

A man came to me for counseling because he had been involved in an adulterous affair several years earlier. The affair had gone on for several months before he finally responded in repentance to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. He admitted to God that his behavior was sinful, and he broke off the relationship. He even went so far as to ask the other woman who was involved for forgiveness.

He told me that he could not decide whether or not he should tell his wife about his adulterous affair.

He told me that he had agonized for weeks over whether or not he should tell his wife about the affair, but finally decided that he had done everything that was biblically required of him. He told me that he had been tormented by guilt ever since his involvement in the affair, but he was afraid that it would make matters worse if he admitted his infidelity to his wife now. He believed that God had forgiven him, but he couldn’t understand why he continued to have overwhelming feelings of guilt.

I assured him that he would be hurting his wife far more by not telling her about the affair.

I told him that I believed he was experiencing guilt because he had not made full restitution for his sin. He needed to confess the extramarital affair to his wife. I explained that there were compelling scriptural reasons in support of telling her. The first reason was that he had broken the vow he had made as part of his wedding covenant to be faithful to her. The statement that is included in most marriage ceremonies is worded:

I take you to be my wedded husband/wife, and I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband/wife, for richer or for poorer, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.

When you get involved in an extramarital affair, you are breaking a holy and sacred vow that you made in the presence of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:4,5 sternly warns, “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” Numbers 30:2 also points out the utter seriousness of making a vow before God: “If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” Clearly, Christians should not take vows lightly.

The second reason for confessing spousal infidelity is that deceitfulness is an integral factor in the sin of adultery. A person has to lie to his spouse in order to explain where he was at specific times, or what he was supposedly doing or whom he was allegedly with. He must weave a web of deception to cover up his moral impurity. Proverbs 12:22 declares, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.”

Someone who has lied can clear his conscience only by confessing his sin of lying to the person he has deceived and by asking for forgiveness. Until then, his conscience will plague him with intense feelings of guilt. We should praise God that confession and repentance are the remedies for guilt.

Dr. Don
Dunlap, a pioneer in the placement of Pastoral Counselors in the offices of
Christian physicians, has conducted over twenty thousand appointments during
his ministerial career. His counseling practice includes adults, children and
families in crisis. Dr. Dunlap is committed to facilitating a network of
telephone counselors. His goal is to provide help for the many people unable to
meet face to face with a competent Bible-based counselor. For a complete
library of Dr. Dunlap’s articles, indexed by topic, go to Family Counseling
Ministries. You may make a telephone appointment for personal counseling by
clicking on Family Counseling
. Family Counseling Ministries is a href=""> Partner Ministry.

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