Should I marry a partner who has cheated on me?

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Question

Hi Ernest. I would like to say thank you for the ministry that you and your wife are doing. I have personally been blessed and I have learned to put my trust in Christ whenever I face obstacles in my life. But I’m writing to you on a different note. I am a born again Christian and I was in a courtship relationship that was leading to marriage. I say “was” because the relationship ended one month ago. I found out from a friend that my fiancé had slept with another friend of mine. Apparently, everyone in our circle of friends knew but me! I was so embarrassed. I confronted him and he denied it completely. However, later, he confessed it himself and told me it was true. Ernest, I was so angry and hurt. I shouted at him and cried a lot. Naturally, I called off the engagement and the relationship. I have been unable to sleep on some days because I feel I have wasted so much time being in a relationship with this guy. He has been calling me and asking to meet up. He says he is sorry and he just wants us to be together again. The thing is, I really love him. I thought we would be together. Other people even look up to us. The guy is born again as well, which makes me even more angry. To add to my anger, we were walking in purity and were both waiting for sex until marriage and I feel he has betrayed me. He has persisted in reaching out and still wants us to get married this year. He says he asked God for forgiveness and he will be a good husband to me. I forgave him, because Jesus Christ demands that we do so, but the pain is still raw. He kept calling and I started to ignore him. There are days I think, “This is just another obstacle in life, why shouldn’t I marry him?” Then there are days I feel so hurt and I think evil thoughts towards him and I feel like I haven’t forgiven him at all. As crazy as it sounds, I have actually considered marrying him despite him cheating on me. Recently, we met at an event and he was so sorry I even felt bad for ignoring him. I told him I would respond in two weeks about the marriage. My biggest worry is that I don’t trust him. So, the question is, should I still marry this guy? (PS: if you can write an article about this in your blog, it can help many people, I believe)

Answer

I have read through your email and my heart goes out to you. Firstly, I am very sorry for that breach of trust and for the hurt that you feel. I want you to know that I am praying for you and that God is with you in the midst of the pain. Sexual sin hurts a lot and is a deal-breaker for so many people. Here are some guidelines to help your decision:

  • Firstly, do not marry someone you do not trust.
  • Secondly, getting married does not cure sexual sin and bad character
  • Thirdly, the joy of marriage will not take away the pain of infidelity.
  • Fourthly, sexual sin does not happen overnight.
  • Fifthly, do not marry someone you have not forgiven from your heart.

Firstly, do not marry someone you do not trust

Marriage is a very sacred institution in God’s eyes. It binds you for life. The scriptures are clear that God hates divorce. He loves divorcees but he hates divorce. In your case, you are not married so God wouldn’t hate the break up if you go that route. God’s answer to any unmarried person would be to ensure you marry well so that the pain of divorce is miles from you. You’d rather start off a marriage with a strong foundation and live in peace than start it off with a poor foundation and live in torment. You said that your biggest worry is broken trust. If a breach of trust has occurred and you have no confidence in your partner, do not marry them. Marriage brings out our vulnerability to the highest degree and you must get into it only with someone you trust. Do not marry someone you do not trust. Trust is a foundation for a marriage. Infidelity shatters that foundation. It will take lots of time and healing to restore the trust from a cheating partner.

Secondly, Getting married does not cure sexual sin and bad character

One of the most deceptive trains of thought among many unmarried people that we meet is a train of thought that sounds like this: “I can fool around now but when I get married I will be serious and faithful.” Loving faithfully and living honourably is not a superpower acquired by slipping a wedding band on your finger. Having a wedding and saying vows to be faithful till death do you part does not make you capable; it makes you accountable. Getting married will not transform him into a fantastic husband. That is a fantasy of irresponsible living. If you relate loosely and carelessly when single, a change of relationship status will not result in a change of heart. Getting married does not cure sexual sin and bad character.

Thirdly, the joy of marriage will not take away the pain of infidelity

In a bid to suppress the pain, some people imagine that the joy of marriage will erase the pain of infidelity. Not true. The human heart does not have an on/off switch on its emotions. The heart feels and the soul craves- and his is part of our nature. Unless the pain and bitterness in one’s heart is done away with, no alternative joy will replace it. The joy of marriage will not take away the pain of infidelity.

Fourthly, sexual sin does not happen overnight

When you say your partner cheated on you by sleeping with someone else, you must realize that sexual sin does not happen overnight. People don’t fall into sexual sin; they drift into it. By the time you sleep with someone, you had been flirting and compromising on your purity a long time ago. It may not have been purely physical, but you may have started lusting after them a long time ago in your heart. To get to the point where you sleep with them means that you already did it in your heart before you manifested it in the physical. The choice of your flesh over the truth did not happen when you were in the heat of the moment; it happened at the desire stage. That is why the scriptures in 1st Peter 2:11 teach us to ward off sin at the desire stage:

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.” 1st Peter 2:11

If the person who cheated is a genuine follower of Jesus, it means that they ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit and they ignored the respect and love they had for you. They chose to give themselves brief moments of carnal pleasure as opposed to a lifetime of love with you. Those brief minutes joins the souls of the person they slept with. It is a big deal. The scriptures say in 1st Corinthians 6:16 that if you sleep with someone you become one with them. It’s more than a flesh on flesh experience. It’s a binding emotional and spiritual connection even if it just happened once. Sexual sin may be brief but its repercussions are miles long and we must realize its genesis isn’t an overnight experience. If they slept with someone else, they had already cheated on you long before it was manifested physically. People don’t fall into sexual sin; they drift into it.

Fifthly, true repentance is characterised by change

Sometimes we are sorry we were caught; we are not sorry that what we did was wrong. Paul the Apostle calls the former worldly sorrow and the latter godly sorrow.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2nd Corinthians 7:10 (NKJV)

Worldly sorrow feels bad it was caught but never turns away from its evil. Godly sorrow is proved genuine in that it turns away from the sin. I know of a man who cheated on his girlfriend. After she found out she was obviously hurt and I can guess she was livid. He begged her for her forgiveness. She was, of course, confused and perplexed but did forgive him and they resumed the relationship. However, he repeated the infidelity and she found out again. She was doubly hurt and she felt like a fool for trusting him again. Later, she found out the infidelity was more than the two times she knew. She realized his repentance was worldly and selfish. He was sorry he was caught. He wasn’t sorry for what he did. Another man I knew cheated on his girlfriend and she found out.  Amidst the pleas for forgiveness he proposed to her. The proposal was perhaps a way to placate her to forgive him. I warned the girl that the proposal was a rush especially in light of what was going on. Love is patient, the scriptures say. A girl I knew cheated on her partner several times and he kept accepting her back whilst telling us “This time she will change.” It wasn’t long before he realized she was sorry she was caught but she was not sorry for the hurt she caused. True godly sorrow and repentance is characterised by doing away with the sin. Does the person agree with God about their sin? Have they taken steps to seek spiritual restoration? Have they asked for forgiveness and are open to what their partner will do, including ending the relationship?

Sixthly, do not marry someone you have not forgiven from your heart

Do not marry someone you have not forgiven from your heart. I don’t say this to judge your partner’s repentance, but rather because the breach of trust with sexual sin is an indicator of character flaw. Character is not restored through an apology. It is restored through refinement of virtue and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Sexual sin kills a person’s vision. Sexual sin kills destiny. An apology means one is sorry for the hurt but only restoration guarantees a person you can marry. If true repentance is not in place, do not think the offense of infidelity will not be possible when you are married. I would not encourage anyone to continue with a relationship after an unmarried partner has cheated on them. Why?

  • Firstly, you are not bound by law or by God to be with this person.
  • Secondly, sexual sin draws in multiple consequences unlike other sins. (Not that other sins are better. They just bring less repercussions)
  • Thirdly, sexual purity prior to marriage is a test of our patience and self-control. A wedding band around your finger does not grant you commitment and anti-infidelity powers. People choose not to cheat because they choose not to cheat. It’s a character issue.
  • Fourthly, forgiveness does not mean you must stay in that relationship. Nothing binds you. Forgiveness just means you must release the hurt and bitterness in your heart and get right with God and the person who hurt you. Forgiveness does not mean you have to marry them. Wisdom may dictate that you forgive him but you leave him for the sake of peace.

But Ernest, you ask, is it possible to forgive, get back together and move on? Yes it is, Beloved. But for that to happen, you must understand forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not an option; it’s the only choice

For a born-again Christian, forgiveness is not an option; it’s the only choice. Beloved, forgiveness is a must. If you are a follower of Jesus, you realise that the scriptures teach us if we do not forgive others who sin against us, God will not forgive us when we sin against him. The biggest incentive for forgiveness is the cross of Christ. If the Son of God dying and bleeding, bruised and battered, mocked and jeered (all in your place) does not move you to genuinely forgive one who has hurt you, nothing will. Unbelievers who do not have the Spirit of God in them will see forgiveness as weakness. It is not weakness but meekness. We must forgive because it also frees our hearts. One author said that forgiveness is like opening the prison doors only to discover that the prisoner was you. Unforgiveness is spiritual toxicity. However, many people when hurt misunderstand forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not mean you are endorsing this person’s bad behaviour. Some people think that if they forgive their partner, they will be letting them go scot free. But hear what the word of God says in Romans 12:19-21 “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NKJV)

People, through the power of God, can repent, be restored and have a marriage up ahead. But we must remember to NEVER start a marriage if the foundation is shaky, unsure or unstable. You are compelled and strengthened by the Gospel to forgive but remember you can’t change people. They must be willing to abandon their sin and return to God. You have to ask God through prayer to help you forgive him. For more on forgiveness, download for free this four-sermon series by Pastor John MacArthur: http://www.gty.org/resources/sermon-series/227.

I pray this helps, Beloved. After the two weeks, do not feel compelled to give an answer on marriage if you have not resolved all these things.  On April 10th at CITAM Valley Road, my wife, Turi, and I will be hosting the 4th Volume of BOY MEETS GIRL. The theme is FOUNDATIONS. We are getting back to the basics because we realise that things don’t go wrong; they start wrong. If you have a good foundation in your faith, you can build without worrying. I welcome you to come. Meanwhile, we are praying for you. Psalm 34:18 says “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted”

 

 

Comments

Ernest Wamboye is a disciple of Jesus Christ, a husband, a father, an author and a speaker. He has been married to the lovely Waturi since September 2012. They have a passion for youth ministry. Together they minister to young adults on the gospel and pre-marital relationships. Ernest has authored two books, The Human Temple, a novel, and Lust and the City- a guide on sexual purity.

Discussion20 Comments

  1. Ernest I would like to point out something in this article that breaks my heart.. One your advice to such a hurting young woman in this relationship has not been one of encouragement and strength.but one of rebuke and things to do.I would like you to consider that God doesn't give us perfect partners but one who God is still in Gods workshops..Never a final product.So our love to our patners brokeness and shame and sin is the best gift She could give him..Her pain is valid but her broken relationship is the breeding ground of Gods redemption and restoration..whether they end up Married or not. What is does the cross really mean to us..let us consider that..God give you wisdom for your words make or break destiny.Shalom

  2. I think the post is very comprehensive in tackling the issue. I'll say this openly, I don't think you should marry a person who cheated in you during courtship. It doesn't mean that they won't get married, but they broke a covenant and that cannot be healed in a day. Sexual sin requires a restoration process beyond the confession and prayer. The guy in this context must submit himself to spiritual authority and be guided to purity before he can consider marriage. The fact that he still wants to get married hurriedly this year is not a good sign. He sure feels guilty but that doesn't mean he's good to go.

  3. I totally agree with Earnest. Well said.
    Dear Lady, listen to your heart. You know it. You know the answer already, you are just scared to admit it. Do not marry the man. Let him live with the consequences of his actions.

  4. This is very unfortunate how we walk with such self-righteousness.. Now If no grace is offered to this young man by his fiancee it renders the cross of no effect. Do then why did Christ die for us?????? Now then shouldn't our encouragement be that she loves him regardless of his sin..whatever and however he handled it! She is not in denial if she walked in love.. Isn't marriage the example of Christ and the church…Dear brethren, we have lost sight of grace and fallen captive to self-righteousness..forgetting we to are a product of a love that loved us before we knew Him that loved us..

  5. Grace Muhia, did you not read what Ernest wrote about forgiveness? I doubt you did. Otherwise your response wouldn't hold that vitriol. he evidently echoed that forgiveness and release to that gentleman is a must. Is that not grace? Many Christians today think that grace means we don't live with the consequences of our sins. Christ does love us and show us grace, but when we suffer the repercussions of our sins, does it mean he doesn't give us grace? I don't think you understand what grace is.

  6. Dear Grace, how is grace not offered by the fiancee? Have you read the whole article? Especially the part on forgiveness. Biblical grace is centered on Christlike forgiveness and it does not trump wisdom. Would you say that staying in the non-marital relationship is proof of grace? There are many people today who cry foul when the consequences of sin sets it. They use the term "grace" to ignore the call of wisdom. I pray you don't do that. If it was a married person, the stakes change drastically because a covenant is made. But nothing binds you outside that covenant. Let's be wise about relationships- foundations are paramount. Many believers today ignore the wisdom because they think grace and obedience are opposing forces yet they are not. And because of that many don't want to be free from sin; many want to sin freely. If the girl chooses to walk away from the courtship, I wouldn't consider her wisdom as self-righteousness. In fact, I would be worried for the church if any believer labels her so.

    "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NKJV)

  7. I'm sorry but my concern just goes to this young woman.Not in a religious debate…

    When we know the power of Love and Grace through the cross…Our words to her would truly reflect that.May God use this relationship that is the inspiration of this article for His glory..

  8. well, am just as confused as the lady in this situation.. but am male. firstly, because all the things you have said make sense from a third-eye angle. i hurt my girlfriend in similar fashion (not with a lady she knows but i believe breach is breach). I have never felt so bad in my life, I wished i was the one on the receiving end of the act of betrayal. I had betrayed 3 personalities: God, the Lady and myself. I have since obtained the forgiveness of the first two. I am still dealing with myself. Concerning the matter of forgiveness, I don't know if she really means it but I need it and so I took it. As with the case in point above, I also happen to be a "believer". And like your case, my lady had also had some suspicions for some time but I was always "on top of the situation". God intervened and long story short, I told her myself. I didn't want to lose her but I wanted her to know, to forgive me, and to still be with me! Astounding!! I have assessed a lot of things lately(majorly spiritual aspects) and I knew somewhere along the way I had lost the Light of the LORD. I have since purposed to know God. Now when I was reading this piece it was like I was reading an autobiography, only that am the offender in this. All the things you have said are true. If I were to advise the lady I would probably tell her the writing is on the wall. However, as the offender, I know am seeking genuine change. God's sacrifice on the cross meant that I can be forgiven as well and the person I hurt can find the peace in her heart to forgive me so she can enter the Kingdom God. Her forgiveness wont determine if we get back together. There are so many parallels here that I think its not a coincidence. I know I haven't added any value to the talk, but it's good to put on record that that I feel there is like 3% chance that the perpetrator is genuinely sorry. But I would get fishy if i was put to serious deliberations on marriage. As long as God's grace abounds, you have time to do other things. marriage is not an emergency that you need to land at at a specific time. On the contrary, when you take your time and focus on God, some things will be revealed to you. Of course you must have fasted on this particular thing. Jesus fasted as well. Listen to God. Listening may require patience and knowing God never arrives late, the timing of His response will be perfect for you. God bless you all. Ernest, your articles are always reproof materials for me. I am still growing.

  9. Well,I think this discussion is great.I totally agree with you Ernest.Let us be gentle as doves and wise as serpents.

  10. One thing I would add to this, if this lady should choose to remain in the relationship, do not marry the man until he can prove himself in terms of making an effort to make amends and better himself.

    There shouldn't be talk of marriage at this point even if the relationship resumes. At which point it becomes a question for this lady in terms of how much time she is willing to invest in this as it could be a lengthy process.

  11. In my experience, most people prefer black-and-white answers, crisp edges and straightforward beliefs. I should know—I used to be a legalist. In theory, I believed in grace. But I viewed it more like the extra help your workout partner gives you when you’ve already completed nine reps on your own and you need to get your chin over the bar to finish the last one in the set. Grace for me was an additive to my personal effort, perfectly blended in a 90/10 ratio, with law as the main ingredient and just enough grace to sweeten the pot and get me to the finish line.

    On the surface, rules are easy and straightforward, virtually formulaic; do this, get that. Grace, on the other hand, doesn’t always afford this luxury. The problem with grace is that it’s messy. There are no hard-and-fast rules to apply; no lists to check; no i’s to dot or t’s to cross. That’s because grace in its purest form is about a relationship—specifically, a relationship with God through the person of Jesus.

    What if the guy was addicted to pornography and masturbation.and maybe the finance caught him a week to the wedding?God extends Mercy beyond theology.

  12. I am a man of the world though I've been brought up a christian. This is a character issue. Firstly – the guy cheated on you with a friend… He doesn't respect you. Secondly he will be insecure about you. I have cheated on a girlfriend or two before and the first time it happens I think 'that was easy..maybe she's also doing it' Thirdly- the both of you had agreed not to engage before marriage. He did it with someone else. I dont have an appropriate word for it-Ernest could help- but in future if you decide to save money, he might squander it. If as a couple you want to loose weight, he might eat chips chicken in your absence. Because I've done it, forgive him yes but he must prove himself coz people trip and sometimes they emerge stronger and more refined. Love is beautiful and IF you have found real love fight for it.

  13. As John Angell James remarks, "When a preacher of righteousness has stood in the way of sinners, he should never again open his lips in the great congregation until his repentance is as notorious as his sin."

  14. What if you had premarital sex with your boyfriend? What do you do then, do you stay together do you break up? Both of us have sinned, are repentant but am at a loss on what to do? Am I a good influence on this person? I should have stopped this from happening.

  15. Ernest this post is very insightful, thanks.
    On BMG they are always during our exam period, is there a way we could probably have them in early March instead? Because even the December one we also have exams at around that time,probably do November?
    Thanks.

  16. Hi Ernest, what a beautiful blog, will this Foundations in Relationships be recorded? If so please send us a link.

    Your sister in Christ

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