Your Husband’s Infidelity Is Not Your Fault

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Jim's picture

 Following the Ashley Madison leak, her husband, Josh, admitted to several affairs and a porn addiction. Then, the Duggars’ family pastor in Arkansas addressed the leak in a sermon on infidelity. “If a husband or wife fails to keep his or her partner happy sexually they are opening themselves up to the attack of the enemy,” he said. “And that enemy is going to take your spouse away from you.”

A recent blog post from Anna Duggar’s mother-in-law Michelle carries that implication. When asked to share marital advice, the mom of 19 said that wives should always be available to meet their husbands’ sexual needs, even when they are exhausted or pregnant. “He can get his lunch somewhere else,” Duggar wrote. “But you are the only one who can meet that special need that he has in his life for intimacy…. So be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you,’ no matter what.”

Normally I ignore dramas involving reality TV stars. I’ve never watched Keeping up with the Kardashians or the Duggar’s former TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting. However, these stories caught my attention because I have heard this blame-the-wife rationale expressed both inside and outside the church.

Of course, no one but Michelle knows how she intended her advice. If her words were offered innocently, she should say so and apologize for her insensitivity and bad timing. But it’s ludicrous to believe that Anna was responsible for Josh’s immorality. He admitted to molesting five girls when he was a teenager, including two of his sisters. Like Odom, Josh Duggar’s issues began before his relationship with Anna.

T Howard's picture

Jim, how do you understand 1 Corinthians 7, specifically, vv 1-7? Doesn't Paul seem to imply that withholding sexual intimacy can leave your spouse vulnerable to sexual temptation?

Ron Bean's picture

Men who are immoral have no excuse. It isn't the woman's fault; whether it's his wife who is unwilling or unable, if it's the woman who dresses provocatively or takes a bath on her roof, or the woman who beguiles him with her flattering tongue. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

T Howard's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Men who are immoral have no excuse. It isn't the woman's fault; whether it's his wife who is unwilling or unable, if it's the woman who dresses provocatively or takes a bath on her roof, or the woman who beguiles him with her flattering tongue. 

I understand what modern feminist-influenced culture thinks, but what does Scripture say on the issue? How does Proverbs describe a woman who dresses provocatitvely and uses her speech to beguile and seduce a young man?

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that David had plenty of female companionship--multiple wives plus the concubines he inherited from Saul (ewww...), but that didn't stop him from sinning with Bathsheba and continuing to take more wives.  In the same way, how are we to argue that Solomon somehow was lacking for sex?  So perhaps a wife's ministrations help, but they are not fool-proof?

Perhaps we would argue that an ordinary man would burn with passion without marriage, but some men indulge their lust to the point they cannot fill it with their wives alone?  We might think of this if we come into contact with writing such as Mark Driscoll's "Real Marriage".  Is Driscoll encouraging men to be too lusty with their wives?  Does Douglas Wilson have a point when he, in his books on marriage, discourages the pursuit of the "Perfect Orgasm Every Time"(TM)?  Can we somehow use the implications of 1 Cor. 7--that husband and wife ought to joyfully come together often--to tell men that their behavior ought not injure, repulse, or humiliate their wives?  And vice versa?  And might we infer that such behavior will lead to unbridled lust?  Wilson certainly makes this case, at least obliquely. 

Side note: One interesting thing about Solomon to me is, for what it's worth, that I can only think of two children that are mentioned by Scripture--Rehoboam and a daughter?  So we knew he wasn't totally sterile, but for whatever reason his descendants do not appear to be very numerous.  Was he mostly sterile, did his pagan wives sacrifice his children, or did he simply get hooked on non-procreative activities?  Or did God shut the wombs of the pagan wives to prevent Judah from being filled with even more pagans?  I don't have an answer, but it's an interesting question.  Scripture tells about his money, his books, his palaces, his forts....why not his children?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Dan Miller's picture

I think we need to draw a fine line here. Because even though what the Duggar woman said is WRONG, there is a kernal of truth in there:

“If a husband or wife fails to keep his or her partner happy sexually they are opening themselves up to the attack of the enemy,” he said. “And that enemy is going to take your spouse away from you.”

As has been pointed out already in this thread, 1 Cor 7:1-7 tells us that:

  • Marriage [sex in marriage] is help in avoiding temptation to fornication.
  • Withholding sex from your partner is wrong (Paul sex the "right" of each and withholding is "defrauding").
  • If you do decide together not to have sex for a season, don't make it any longer than you need to.
  • "so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

It is incontrovertible that [ IN GENERAL ] to refuse sex inside of marriage is wrong. Of course, there times and situations like illness, pregnancy, previous sexual abuse, etc. that will make it very difficult or impossible to give what one would like to give his or her spouse.

It is also incontrovertible that to refuse sex is unwise because it will reduce your husband (or wife's) self control and leave him more open to the attack of the enemy.

HOWEVER (all caps for emphasis), every adulterous husband is at fault for his own sin. 

Saying that the actions of someone else caused you temptation (or increased your temptation) is NOT the same as saying that they are at fault for your sin.

And reduced temptation can still be temptation. So a wife can do her honest best and another woman can still be a temptation.

-=-=-=-=-

Consider this story:

A young couple comes to you for counseling. They were married 6 months ago and have been having troubles ever since. He is interested in getting things going and she is not so interested. You come to find out that she was sexually abused many times by her uncle between age 11 and 16. She finds sex disgusting and scary and can find no pleasure in it.

He knew nothing about the abuse - only that his wife wasn't interested and couldn't be made to be interested in sex. He might be tempted to leave her (he shouldn't). He might feel that she married him under false pretenses because she didn't tell him about her problems. He shouldn't think that. He should trust that since God married him to her, she is the right wife for him. 

Whose fault is it that he has these temptations?

  1. His own fault. James 1:14 "But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."
  2. His wife? - she is defrauding and not giving him his right. BUT(!) she is hurt and her hurt is very very deep. She might not be able to give very much without a lot of help, healing, and grace.
  3. Her uncle? - sin has many victims and this man's sin damaged this poor girl and her marriage.

And if this husband sins by divorcing her, whose fault is that? His (that much is sure.)

Mixed fault is tough to talk about because we tend to assume (as critics of the Duggar woman have) that saying to a wife, "You've partially at fault," amounts to relieving the husband of any and all fault. 

Perhaps it's best to lay the fault of the sin squarely on the husband. ("Wife, your husband's adultery is NOT your fault.") And to name temptation-causing as it's own sin. ("But it might partially be your fault that he was tempted as he was.")

T Howard's picture

Dan Miller wrote:
It is incontrovertible that [ IN GENERAL ] to refuse sex inside of marriage is wrong. Of course, there times and situations like illness, pregnancy, previous sexual abuse, etc. that will make it very difficult or impossible to give what one would like to give his or her spouse.

It is also incontrovertible that to refuse sex is unwise because it will reduce your husband (or wife's) self control and leave him more open to the attack of the enemy.

HOWEVER (all caps for emphasis), every adulterous husband is at fault for his own sin. 

Saying that the actions of someone else caused you temptation (or increased your temptation) is NOT the same as saying that they are at fault for your sin.

And reduced temptation can still be temptation. So a wife can do her honest best and another woman can still be a temptation.

Dan, we are agreed.

Dan Miller wrote:

A young couple comes to you for counseling...

Dan, in this situation, the woman was dishonest going into the marriage and the man could justifiably seek an annulment (not the same thing as divorce) for fraud (see Deut 22). That being said, if he desires to remain with her now that he knows about her past and its implications on his marriage and future family, he will need God's grace to remain faithful, loving, and understanding to his wife in seasons of intense longing and extreme frustration. He is basically signing up for celibacy. If he remains in the marriage with this understanding, then he is completely culpable for any infidelity on his part.

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting that something like a quarter of young ladies, and a somewhat smaller portion of young men, are said to have experienced some form of sexual assault--that ranges from inappropriate exposure by another to rape, really.  I actually got an impromptu, and somewhat lewd, sex ed lesson from a neighbor who was suffering more when  was about ten.   So I cannot discard what Dan describes--it probably happens a lot. In my case, the result was "that was weird", and I'm not able to point to any long term effects, thankfully.  Others obviously have a different, and less benign, experience.  

I've also heard that there is some portion of people who go into marriage without that abuse, but who yet don't clue in to the requirements of 1 Cor. 7.  Thankfully I am not among them, or the spouses of them, but that's another case we would have to address. 

Finally, there's the case that I'd assume Josh & Anna Duggar fall into--at least Anna.  That of the willing wife who finds her husband in adultery, much like a few wives of David did.  I am guessing that each case will fall into a different area of counsel, and we ought to be careful about how that counsel is directed.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.