Women have been a special target for the enemy since the dawn of humanity in the garden. The enmity established between the woman and the serpent in preparation for the salvation of humanity has recruited many into the spiritual warfare arena. The enemy uses a varied assortment of things to try to distract and destroy women so we cannot focus on our God-ordained assignments and share our testimonies of His goodness. One of the most destructive weapons he uses is infidelity and the resulting trauma, especially when the offender is a narcissist. When you better understand what you're dealing with, you can respond from a place of power and strength, greatly assisting your healing process.
To further consider this topic of trauma and healing as it relates to infidelity, read Intimate Deception: Healing the Wounds of Sexual Betrayal, by Sheri Keffer.
Here are 12 things I've learned about infidelity.
1. Infidelity is a choice. Private parts do not just fall out.
2. Sometimes infidelity is used as a tool of emotional abuse, especially by narcissists who also take great satisfaction in withholding affection from their spouse. Both are examples of sexual abuse. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with gaslighting and scapegoating you in their efforts to make you suffer as a result of their unresolved issues (often with their mother).
3. Society often blames the woman for what she is or isn't doing to "cause" an affair. The reality is that affairs happen all the time, betraying the "perfect" spouse. Certainly, take ownership for any ways you can help improve your marriage, but also be perfectly fine with knowing that you are not the one with the problem. The reality is that especially in the case of the narcissist, the other woman is not pursued because she is somehow better than you or because of some notion of love. She is simply supply for a broken, personality-disordered person who is seldom—if ever—content in any area of their life, including with themselves. 4. Piggybacking on #3, there are husbands who don't cheat, although they have sexual needs that are not being met or are experiencing other factors in the marriage that may be deemed deficient. Adultery is an individual character problem, not a marriage problem. Healthy, mature spouses are committed to their union and honor it by communicating and addressing needs and desires in an effort to make it stronger.
5. A counselor once told me, "You can't both be crazy at the same time." One of the best decisions I made was to choose to let God handle the consequences of my spouse's decisions. When a friend (one of the very small number of people aware of my situation) offered the retributive help of her cousin "who doesn't mind going to jail," there wasn't even a slight consideration of this unconventional solution. Further, my slashing tires and burning clothes would've been a waste of time, energy, and resources, as well as an invitation to more demonic activity. I coveted God's favor and needed Him to hear my prayers.
6. Pay attention to patterns and pretty much ignore promises. You know that the narcissist, especially, lies about almost everything. Too, they're really good actors who also know how to cry on demand, so bottom line, you need God's discernment when dealing with a cheating husband.
Speaking of patterns, be aware that apparent peaceful times are also part of the abuse cycle. Narcissists will lovebomb you throughout years and decades of a marriage, not just at the beginning during the dating and courtship phases. After committing yet another breech, they give you enough space and placations so that you are lulled once again to a place of false and toxic hope. They then live to see another day to do exactly what they want, with no regard to you and your wellbeing. The cycle continues in which they position themselves to reap the benefits of relationship without sharing the responsibility of relationship.
7. Yes, people who hurt others have been hurt themselves. However, love encourages accountability. People may not be responsible for what hurt them, but they are responsible for their healing so that they don’t bleed on people who never cut them.
8. Accepting infidelity is not evidence of unconditional love. I had a conversation once with an older couple who “counsel” individuals in marriage. The wife shared that a woman they know demonstrated unconditional love when her husband asked her to take him to the airport to catch a flight that she knew he was taking to meet the woman with whom he was having an affair. This wife heralded the woman for her "unconditional love."
That is not unconditional love. Love doesn't condone sin. We are called to suffer for righteousness' sake, not to perpetuate evil. Infidelity is traumatizing and destructive and you are not called to suffer in the face of an unrepentant betrayer.
9. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. Forgiveness requires one person; reconciliation requires two with the offender in a posture of repentance.
10. You can pray and fast, engaging in faithful spiritual warfare as you seek God for the greatest of miracles, but He will not override a person's will. A person must be convicted of their error, see their need to change, and then actively pursue a course of renewal.
11. Yes, a relationship takes two people to make it work. However, it only takes one person to destroy it. In cases of abuse especially, it should be noted that God values individuals above institutions. Divorce is an option. The Bible gives substantial instruction on responding to individuals who are determined to breech His ways and live a life of destruction.
12. When facing the issue of infidelity in your marriage (especially serial infidelity), determine whether you are in a Difficult, Disappointing, or Destructive marriage. Leslie Vernick does a good job explaining this on her website and in this video. Each situation needs a different approach. Be sure to seek help from a trauma-informed Christian counselor who understands the spectrum of narcissism.
You matter. Your voice matters. Your story matters.
Your valley will be exalted, and your triumph will bring glory to God!