It’s one of the biggest questions people ask themselves when they are recovering from an affair. “Should I stay or should I go?” People probably ask themselves this question hundreds if not thousands of times in the first year.
It’s a deeply personal question. Each of us, cheater and betrayed, have to decide: Is it worth it? Is it right? Can we recover? Do I even want to recover?
The person who had the affair caused the crisis leading to the questions. They are the one who put the marriage in jeopardy. The cheater can’t blame the loyal spouse for ending the marriage if the loyal spouse doesn’t decide to take them back and work it out. However, for the marriage to be saved, both spouses have to agree to work it out.
In the past, I’ve almost certainly given the impression that I think people should always stay together when the cheater wants to make it work. That’s simply not true. It’s not my place to decide for others, especially not for the betrayed spouse.
Divorce or separation are warranted in the case of infidelity and the Bible makes clear that it is not sinful for a couple to divorce over infidelity. I’m personally sad when I see a marriage break up, but I have no condemnation for the loyal spouse when they say “I can’t and I won’t do this.”
Where I think I’ve given the opposite impression is on my blog and in comments elsewhere I counsel people to repent and to forgive. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation or staying married, although I strongly believe it is a necessary part of both. That’s why when I talk to someone who has decided to stay, I stress the importance of repentance, grace, mercy, and forgiveness as keys to restoring the marital relationship. But just to be clear, that advice presupposes that both partners want to recover, want to have a loving marriage, and think it is worth trying for.
The bottom line is, the cheater dealt a mortal blow to the marriage by having an affair. The cheater needs to repent, regardless of what happens next. The loyal spouse is under no moral obligation to take back the repentant spouse. As a Christian, I believe they should forgive, but that is not the same thing as taking the cheater back. Either way, they need support and compassion for what they’re going through.