Can marriage survive adultery? The answer is yes, but it can be a difficult process. Jesus
allows for divorce in the cause of unfaithfulness, but He does not command it (Matthew 19:1-
Survival depends upon four things: 1) whether the guilty party wants to remain in the marriage;
2) whether the wronged party wants to remain in the marriage; 3) whether the guilty party
repents; and, whether the wronged party can put the incident behind them.
1) Does the guilty party want to remain in the marriage?
Marriage is not a slavery relationship. No one can make someone remain marriage who does
not want to be. There is a difference between someone who commits the sin of adultery, giving
in to the temptation, and one who decides to leave their spouse. Granted, their wish to remain
married needs work (serious work) or they would not have committed adultery. But, the desire
to remain married provides a foundation to work upon. Without that foundation it is not possible
for the marriage to survive adultery, or any other problem for that matter.
It is a difficult situation when a spouse expresses a desire for a divorce, moves out and
commits adultery, or when they give in to the temptations of the flesh. The difference, in many
respects, is one of degree, but that degree of difference is the willingness to work on the
problem that brought about the adultery (whether it is a problem in the relationship or whether it
is a personal moral problem of the guilty spouse or both).
Paul in speaking of marital separation in 1 Corinthians 7 deals with this question showing that
is impossible to keep a spouse who wants to leave – “you are not under bondage” – never
were and never will be.
2) Does the wronged party want to remain in the marriage?
Love loves not only because of what a person is and does, but many times in spite of what they
have done. Marriage is the most intimate of relationships. Mistakes, offences, and behaviors
that are less than acceptable occur with the spouse, but love looks over those indiscretions
and behaviors. Infidelity is such an intimate fracture in marriage that God has realized that even
righteous men and women can find it difficult to impossible to remain in a marriage after it
The question is, can the injured spouse, and does the injured spouse, wish to remain
married? Many times this decision is made easier if children are involved. But, the sacredness
of marriage does not change whether there are children involved or not. If the spouse would
remain married if children were involved, perhaps they should consider remaining in the
marriage without children.
Again, marriage is not bondage. The marriage depends upon the wish of both parties to
remain married under any circumstances. There is no possibility of a marriage if the wronged
party does not wish to remain married.
3) Has the guilty party repented?
Does the guilty party want to continue committing adultery? Are they going to continue, and are
they continuing in the behavior that led to the adultery? Have they done what they need to do to
make it right in the sight of God, both privately and publicly?
“Godly sorrow works repentance.” It is not only realizing that they shouldn’t have got caught; it is
realizing that what they were doing was wrong in and of itself. Repentance is the decision of
mind, realizing that an action is wrong, to do what is necessary to correct the wrong committed
(in as far as that is possible), and to change the actions in the future.
For a non-Christian, before God, that calls for the individual to commit themselves to following
Christ by confessing their faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and obtaining the remission of their
sins in baptism in the name of Jesus. Then it calls for a continued walk in righteousness.
For Christians who have fallen, it calls for prayer confessing the sin to God, and if public, a
public confession of the sin. Then it calls for a continued change of action.
Does such repentance assure that the behavior is behind the Christian? It should. But, it is a
continual struggle with many behaviors as one repents. With some it is done and over without
help from others. With others help is necessary – help from the spouse, help from family, help
from friends and brethren, and many times help from counseling.
Repentance, as others can perceive it, gives hope and a reason to believe that by the power of
God things can and will be different. Without it there is no hope.
4) Can the wronged spouse put the incident behind them?
Forgiveness can be difficult when it is personal! The closer the relationship, the more difficult it
can be, because the closer you are the deeper the wound, and no relationship is closer than
husband and wife.
God promises us in Christ that “our sins and our iniquities will be remembered no more.” God
through Jesus’ blood, in His grace and mercy, will and is able to forget our sins. Unfortunately,
we as mere men can forgive, but we do not necessarily forget. Sometimes, especially when the
sin is grievous and personal, we never can forget. Sometimes the harder we try to forget, the
more we remember. But, forgiveness means that we do not hold it over the person’s head.
Does that mean we never verify? No. Forgiveness can be given but also allow us to be careful.
Trust and verify is the by-word of international treaties, and it can also be the by-word in
repairing broken relationships, and the trust that is needed to maintain them.