I have been married for seven years. The first five years were wonderful. Then I started hanging out with an ungodly crowd, and I ashamed to say I cheated on my husband. I didn't sleep with any men, but I did fool around with several. I confessed this to my husband and he forgave me. Then I met a Christian man who was very much like me, I fell in love with him, and we did have sex twice. He's married also. We realize what we have done is wrong and have both asked God to forgive us; however, we haven't told our spouses -- should we? I'm afraid if I tell my husband he won't forgive me this time. Also I'm afraid if I do tell him he'll figure out who the man I cheated with is, thereby possibly destroying his marriage. There are two innocent spouses here who would be terribly hurt if we confessed to them. I feel it is better to ask God's forgiveness and repent, but I also feel terribly guilty keeping this secret. What do you think I should do?
I thought for a while about your question. I'm glad you realize your sins, but do you see how you are still seeking to justify what you have done?
- You mentioned that you committed adultery with a Christian man. He may claim to be a Christian, but he is certainly not acting like one. "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 6:9-10). Whether he was a Christian in your neighborhood or a drunken atheist living on the streets of New York City doesn't alter the fact that you both placed your souls in jeopardy by your foolish actions.
- You say that the two of you are very much alike. The statement is truer than you think. You both were willing to break God's law against adultery. You both were willing to throw away your marriages for someone who is a dishonest covenant breaker.
- You claim you fell in love with him. Tell me, how is helping a man destroy his marriage "love?" Paul said that love "does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil" (I Corinthians 13:5). Was not having sex with another woman's husband rude to both her and your own husband? Wasn't the motivation a desire to seek your own pleasure, even if it was for just a moment? Were not your thoughts full of evil? I believe you are confusing the lust of your flesh with the concept of love.
I'm sorry to come across so harshly, but unless you see the extent of the damage that you have done, there is little hope of repairing the breach. My greatest concern is that you have not severed your ties to this adulterous man. You know that he has yet to confess his sin to his wife and you wonder if "we" should tell. Any act of sex is an act of bonding -- not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. "Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. ... Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:13, 15-20). Your continued communication with this man and your concern as to what he (as well as you) should do demonstrates the bonds. Unless you wake up to the danger, you will easily slip back into sin. The truth is that the greatest damage was not done to your husband, but to yourself. You proved yourself to be faithless. You willingly became the wrecker of another woman's home. And all for a few minutes of sex. It will be hard to look in the mirror. It will be hard to remain committed to the Lord when you flaunted Him in the bed of sin. Will you be able to claim to be the temple of the Holy Spirit when you know that you defiled that very temple?
Behind all your questions is a hope of avoiding the consequences of your sin. "Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent. People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; he may have to give up all the substance of his house. Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul. Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away. For jealousy is a husband's fury; therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will accept no recompense, nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts" (Proverbs 6:27-35). You fear that your husband will easily discover to whom you gave yourself. If so, I suspect that he already has an inkling of what has been going on. Sin is not easily hidden. "Take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). David found that out when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. Her unexpected pregnancy caused him lie, make a man drunk, and ultimately arrange the murder of Bathsheba's husband -- all in the attempt to escape discovery.
The church in the city of Corinth was involved in numerous sinful actions, for which Paul severely scolded them in the first Corinthian letter. Yet, in the second letter, Paul praised them for their change. "For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:8-11). Notice the definition of repentance in this passage. Repentance is not being sorry. It starts with a sorrow that causes a desire to completely change. How do we know the Corinthians repented?
- It produced within them diligence. They didn't sit back and say "woe is me." They got up and worked hard.
- They worked to clear themselves of the matter. They corrected what they did wrong.
- They were indignant about their past weakness and sins. They saw the truth and were disgusted with themselves and their past.
- They feared the consequences if they did not change.
- They had a vehement desire to change.
- They approached their change with zeal.
- They vindicated themselves.
- They proved their change.
You need to sever all ties with this foolish man, but more importantly you need to repair your marriage. You've lost your love for your husband and you should desperately want it back. Work at showing your husband in everything you do how you appreciate him. You know you have a weakness that Satan is able to exploit, so decide to today not to go places where such temptation might exist. Make a hard fast rule for yourself not to be alone with other men -- period.
Should you tell your husband? Perhaps, though it will be very hard. You already demonstrated faithlessness once. Having it proven twice will be even more difficult. One aspect of love is that it "bears all things" (I Corinthians 13:7). You will be asking him to bear a terribly large burden. He might not be willing to accept it. He would be within his rights to demand a divorce. Jesus said, "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 19:9). Understand that a consequence of your unfaithfulness is that you have given up the right to marry another man. If he chooses to divorce you, you must remain unmarried or one day be reconciled to your husband (I Corinthians 7:10-11). You must remain faithful to your vows to prove yourself changed. If you decide to tell him, do so knowing that you are willing to face whatever consequences come of it. Know that it may be he who brings it up. Or you may have contracted a disease and he will need to know for his own safety. As I said, sins are often hard to escape. Honesty must be followed: you may not have the choice whether to tell or not tell.
A marriage is built on trust. You have undermined it by your past actions. Telling your husband about the adultery will further undermine his trust of you. If you remain only weakly committed to leaving the sin of adultery, your husband ought to know to protect himself and any children involved. If you manage to totally and firmly change, then demonstrate it in your commitment to your marriage. Will the shame of your past sins bother you? Yes! Just because we have been forgiven doesn't mean we forget what we have done. Our sins ought to bother us. We don't ever want to become so calloused to sin that it doesn't affect us (I Timothy 4:1-2). It is the wicked who have no shame over sin (Zephaniah 3:5). But David told us, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." David is not advocating protecting the sinner in his sins, but protecting the repentant believer from the shame of his sins. Yes, I have committed errors in my past, but why bring those errors up over and over again? If I have done as God had asked in confessing my faults and I have repented of those sins, then it is time to leave the faults behind and press on to better things. "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). Hence, if you truly left your adulterous past behind, then there is no need to bring up your past sins. Bring it up will not help your husband or enhance your marriage.
Should the other man tell his wife? Perhaps, but that is a matter between the two of them. You are no longer involved. You have to face the consequences of your sins; he will have the face the consequences of his sins.
I realize I have sinned and I am terribly sorry for what I did and I am trying to repent and do the right thing and so is the man I was with, we realized what we did was wrong and now we're trying to do the right thing. I'm not trying to justify anything. I needed encouragement and guidance, not being told what a terrible sinner I am. I know what a terrible sinner I am and am trying to turn around and do the right thing. All you've done is make me feel like there is no forgiveness for me, now I feel worse.
But I did say what needed to be done:
1) Sever completely the ties you have to the man with whom you committed adultery
2) Implement plans to keep yourself pure by avoid tempting situations
3) Work fervently at rebuilding your marriage
Only if you feel that you cannot give up the adulterous man would you say that you cannot gain forgiveness, and such would be true. You cannot expect forgiveness while remaining in an adulterous relationship, whether physically or mentally.
Yes, I'm coming across hard. You have grievously injured a number of people. Own up to it and then truly repent by correcting your life (II Corinthians 7:8-11). Fix the problems you created to the best of your ability. You cannot continue your current track and make it to heaven.
The cold, hard fact is that some consequences of sinful actions cannot be avoided. Even though David was forgiven of his adultery with Bathsheba, they still lost the child of their adulterous relationship. "So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die."" (II Samuel 12:13-14). You need to be prepared to face those consequences if they should arise.
"For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance" (II Corinthians 7:8-9).