Have you ever gone back to your browsing history to find something only to find out it has been wiped clean? As the wife of a man who struggled with an addiction that was a red flag. About 10 years ago, I found myself asking google a question… Is virtual infidelity a ground for divorce?
Why Ask, “Is Virtual Infidelity a Ground for Divorce?”
Hi, my name is Tiffany, and I am a Christian marriage coach for wives struggling with the hard parts of marriage. Most of these wives are struggling alone, their husband is not willing to be a part of the change – yet.
I coach wives in difficult marriages because I was a wife in a difficult marriage. When marriage is hard, and change doesn’t seem to be coming – it’s easy to lose hope. My job is to spread hope.
If you are reading this… if you searched out the question, “Is virtual infidelity a ground for divorce Biblically?” things in your marriage are difficult.
I want to begin today by telling you, there is hope today, dear wife of a husband living in addiction.
Biblical Reasons for Marriage
Before we look at Biblical grounds for divorce (Answering the question, “Is adultery grounds for divorce in the Bible?”) I find it helps to remember the Biblical reasons for marriage.
Marriage is not a contract or covenant anyone should sign lightly. God’s view on the lifelong nature of this covenant is clear.
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6 NASB)
Why did God create the institute marriage?
- To point the lost world back to Him
- For companionship
- A safe place for sexual intimacy
I’m going to pause here for a moment because this is the topic of our study today.
What do you do when your marriage is no longer a safe place for sexual intimacy?
- An Emotional Affair
All of these are actions that lead to a physical affair… but are they enough cause for a divorce according to the Bible?
Let’s Talk About Divorce
What does the Bible say about divorce? Especially when dealing with virtual infidelity.
“For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16 NASB)
When my first marriage was failing because of infidelity all of my church friends and several preachers quoted Malachi 2:16 to me.
Stay in your marriage.
Fight for your marriage.
A wife has no Biblical grounds for divorce in the eyes of God.
Those are words that cause hopelessness to sink into the soul of a wife as little else can.
I, of course, tried to fight for that marriage. I set boundaries, scheduled appointments for marriage counseling, prayed for healing, and waited for a miracle.
Through the process, I learned something I try to be very honest about with the wives I counsel today.
Is virtual infidelity a ground for divorce? Yes. But does virtual infidelity have to be the end of your marriage? No, God can save your marriage while you are being safe and protecting your family. Click To Tweet
It takes two willing people to reconcile a broken marriage.
Biblical Grounds for Divorce
When I found out my second (current) husband had a pornography addiction I began to search scripture intently about divorce. What I found was that those well-meaning friends many years ago were wrong. There are several instances when God allows for divorce.
Yes, there are grounds for divorce in the Bible. Below I will share several grounds for divorce Bible verses that helped me work through this confusing topic!
We have to know this stuff because over and over again, people ask when to walk away after infidelity in Christianity. And over and over again the answers don’t line up with Scripture.
- Infidelity, abuse, and abandonment are the three primary Biblical grounds for divorce.
Bible Verse About Abandonment and Abuse
This grounds for divorce Bible verse clearly shows God’s heart.
“Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace, those who abuse their spouse go against God’s teaching acting as an unbeliever” (1 Corinthians 7:15 NASB)
See these articles for more on this:
Bible Verse About Adultery
“but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity (sexual sin), makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32 NASB emphasis mine)
Adultery is in the Bible specifically. Is emotional adultery in the Bible? Let’s see.
What Are Forms of Adultery?
Today’s world is much the same as the world 2000 years ago when Jesus walked the earth. The eyes lead to lust. Lust, when left unchecked leads to sexual sin. These are things that destroy marriage!
I want to answer two questions I am asked often in ministry with one scripture.
- Is having an online relationship considered cheating?
- What counts as infidelity in divorce?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28 NASB)
Lust and Adultery
What does the Bible say about emotional affairs and virtual infidelity?
Lust is a sin at the root of pornography, sexting, emotional affairs, and the like. (And if you wonder, “Is an emotional affair Biblical grounds for divorce,” just know it fits right in with this topic. Yes it is as well.)
Yes, virtual infidelity is a ground for divorce Biblically. Technically, Jesus gives you permission to divorce over those issues.
BUT… I would like to add a word of caution, or perhaps make the case for trying to salvage your marriage.
The Case AGAINST Divorce on the Grounds of Virtual Infidelity
First, you should know that I make the case to fight for your marriage – as a woman who divorced her first husband for infidelity. That feels like a wobbly place to stand, but it is from that place of experience that I lovingly interject.
Divorce hurts. It doesn’t matter what the grounds for divorce are, divorce hurts.
Divorce hurts in ways and in places you never knew you could hurt.
Marriage is a covenant. A covenant is more than just a contract on a piece of paper. No, a covenant is a soul-deep commitment you make between God and your spouse. Somehow, when you break that commitment, no matter the reason, your soul hurts.
That sounds like mambo jumbo even as I type it, but it’s the only way I can explain the pain of divorce. It is hurt at the soul level.
You were once two, then the two became one flesh, now the one flesh has been savagely torn in two again. You are never the same as you were before you began.
Related Post: 4 Steps To Become One Flesh In Marriage Again
Dealing with Virtual Adultery Differently
Years later, my second husband faced an addiction to pornography. (I have his permission to share that it hurt our marriage deeply.)
God helped me see that this betrayal, had little to do with me and everything to do with my husband. Addiction is rarely about those hurt in the process.
What is Virtual Adultery?
Sexual addiction is about lust, and pride as well as other sins that a person is struggling through.
Virtual infidelity is, at its root, a sin problem.
Your spouse sins. Sexual sin, however, hurts in deeper ways.
“Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NASB)
What if, instead of railing at your husband for hurting you with his pornography addiction, you chose prayer?
Why Pray Over Pornography?
Sin is sin. No one ever gave up a habit of sin because someone nagged them, cried at them, or lectured them about it. No, sin is a heart issue.
Somewhere along the way, the sinner decided to be the god of his life over this issue.
I can attest to that in my sins of fear, jealousy, pride, and anger.
Sexual sin is no different except it is not your own private sin. Sexual sin is among the many things that destroy a marriage and family.
Because sin is a heart issue, praying over virtual infidelity is a way to bring real change. God can influence the heart of a sinner. God convicts us of change, softens our hearts, and opens our ears to make lasting changes.
Prayer and possibly prayer and fasting are ways to humbly take the real battle to the ultimate victor.
Prayer can bring radical change to virtual infidelity, pornography addiction, and any other sexual sins.
A helpful resource for this is: Your Sexually Addicted Spouse
How to Pray Over Virtual Infidelity
As I set out to pray over my husband’s pornography addiction I made a War Room Prayer Plan over several key issues:
- That God would open my eyes to see internet cheating signs
- For God to help me as I was dealing with the emotional hurt of virtual adultery
- That God would save us from divorce from infidelity
- For God to heal my heart and teach me to forgive
- That God would let my husband get caught every single time
- For our children to be shielded from this sin
- That my husband would have a soft heart and a willingness to change
I prayed over these things for months before change began. The day my husband came to me to talk about his addiction to pornography was the day healing began in earnest.
God moved in a powerful way. He had been wrecking my husband (though he had shown no signs outwardly) about the effects of this sin on us both. Because I had already been praying over this, God had softened my heart. Instead of reacting with, “I told you so” I was able to come alongside him in the journey to change.
We were able to set boundaries around technology (Aff Covenant eyes or other protection software) and create accountability to help him change.
Prayer wins battles that human confrontation alone can never effectively fight.
Is Prayer the Right Approach for Your Marriage?
I believe that prayer is always the right first step when marriage is under attack.
The Bible tells us to pray continually about everything. So know that prayer is always God’s will.
Now, will prayer be the answer that saves your marriage from virtual infidelity?
There isn’t a hard and fast answer to that.
- You may be hurting tonight, asking, “Should I be upset that my husband watches pornography?”
- Yes. You should be upset. That is a betrayal of the trust you placed in him when you took your vows.
- You may have found this asking, “Is flirting online considered cheating?” Or, “Do people get a divorce over sexting?”
- Yes. Lust is as bad as committing adultery. That is a sin that destroys a marriage.
- You could also be considering a divorce after infidelity has been found out.
- The trust has been so far breached that you don’t feel you could ever love or trust him again…
One wife confided in me, “My husband makes me cry every day, placing the blame of his addiction at the feet of my insecurity. What is considered cheating in the Bible?”
Infidelity is a difficult situation whether it is virtual or not. When marriage is hard like this, prayer can be the bridge of healing and hope.
God can save your marriage in any of these situations. In fact, I have seen Him step in, in miraculous ways so many times that I always advocate for prayer first. Prayer is one of the characteristics of a godly marriage and is a cornerstone characteristic of a godly wife!
Use Wisdom About Safety
However, I also advocate for safety alongside prayer. Your safety matters to God. If you are in danger, seek protection. If your husband has been caught in an act of infidelity, yes pray, but also protect yourself.
- Go see your doctor.
- Separate yourself and your children from any danger.
- Set boundaries around finances.
- Involve your pastor, a counselor, and trusted friends or family for accountability.
Your safety matters.
Yes, God can save your marriage but no that does not mean you stay in danger while you wait.
Even if you are in NO immediate physical danger, you still need to protect your heart and mind. Once sin takes root, the flesh is loathed to give it up and will place blame everywhere but on itself. Be prepared and prayed up over that.
Sometimes the most loving thing a wife can do, when faced with such tough issues is separate from her husband until he is ready to change.
Related Post: Why Men Don’t Change
What If Prayer Doesn’t Work?
I would be foolish to write this from the position that prayer saves every marriage going through seasons of pain and sin.
It takes three people to change the direction of a difficult marriage. God, you and your spouse.
I always advocate prayer as a first strategy when marriages hit hard times because it invites God into the situation. Many times it takes difficult circumstances for us to realize we set God outside the door to our homes and have been pushing through the hard parts on our own strength.
I Never ONLY advocate prayer.
Now, to be clear, I believe in prayer, and whew don’t even get me started on the power of prayer and fasting, but prayer alone will not change your marriage.
Let me repeat that. Prayer alone will not change your marriage.
4 Steps To Confront Virtual Infidelity
Matthew 18:15-17 tells us that when someone is caught in sin we are to follow a few steps.
“Now if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17 NASB)
- Talk to them one on one.
- If no change takes place we talk to them with someone trusted in the faith.
- This could be a Sunday School leader or someone else in the faith who cares for your spouse.
- We can go further if no change takes place at that point and bring the matter before the church (or the elders of the church).
- This is the point you should be pursuing counseling, with or without your spouse to help you set clear boundaries.
- Then there is separation from the person to prompt change.
- Separation is a last resort, but it hurts and can prompt a lot of things. Some of which could be fake remorse and empty promises. Be sure to have a trusted counselor helping you set boundaries and discuss what reconciliation will look like.
Know that reconciliation will always include repentance + proof of believable behavior. Those build trust over time (be sure you have set a time frame) that can bring healing and real hope.
Not All Marriages Survive Infidelity or Addiction
The hard truth is that prayer doesn’t always bring the change you want. Following the steps to change and reconciliation doesn’t always stop the hurtful behavior. Not all marriages survive infidelity.
It hurts when you’ve fought so hard. When you’ve done everything you could and let God do everything He could and still your spouse chooses sin over your marriage – the pain is soul deep.
Yes, divorce is Biblical in those cases. It won’t make the pain of the past go away, but it will stop new pain from happening.
“But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” 1 Corinthians 7:15 ESV
A Broken Covenant
The Bible says, when a believer chooses to walk in sin we are to consider them an unbeliever. That releases you from the marriage covenant. Just to be clear, they chose the sin over the covenant – they broke the covenant -you only submitted to their choice.
You didn’t break the covenant. You are not held responsible for the divorce. I wish I had known that 20 years ago. So much religious guilt was put on me that I walked away from God and church to try to shake it. But I had done nothing wrong! Anyway, a rant for another post.
Also, related to this is the issue of addiction. Is addiction Biblical grounds for divorce? Read about ways to deal with addiction in marriage here: 11 Steps to Start Overcoming Pornography Biblically for Life
Real Talk About The Consequences of Virtual Infidelity
I want to talk specifically to the cheating spouse in this section. As your pursue this new relationship and take for granted the committed relationship you had, there are serious consequences.
The truth is, not all marriages can survive online affairs or online infidelity. A healthy marital relationship depends on trust… especially in the sexual relationship inside of marriage! An affair destroys all the trust that was built up in your marriage.
People rationalize it saying it was just a bunch of text messages or it was not in real life in the real world and the virtual world does not count any more than playing a video game counts toward murder charges. but physical contact or not, virtual relationships or virtual sex hurt your marriage.
The Detrimental Effect of A Cyber affair On You And Your Family
Breaking that trust with your spouse leads to divorce. You may call it irreconcilable differences instead of marital misconduct or an adulterous relationship, but it is serious. There are real world consequences for virtual affairs.
- Lost emotional connection not only with your spouse but with your children.
- Child support and child custody battles
- Spousal support when you are no longer in the home
- Painful divorce proceedings
- Having to find and deal with a family law attorney
Real consequences! These affect more than just the married person in your life. They affect your whole family and play a significant role in the mental health of all involved.
The New Will Wear Off
The other truth I want to state clearly is that the new always wears off of sin, leaving you heartbroken in the wreckage. The new partner will eventually become an old partner. Only chat rooms lose their appeal. The normal online sexual encounters stop giving you the same high and you have to up the sexual activity to enjoy things. Where before online chat rooms or sexting isn’t enough and you seek out more extreme forms of arousal.
In today’s digital age that could be anything, but it all loses the newness it once had. Such acts of sexual sin give a pleasurable feeling at first, but the potential impact on you and your loved ones is negative. It rewires your brain to not enjoy the simple pleasures of healthy sexual interaction. It leaves you irritable and angry. And it is a breach of trust that is difficult to repair.
Virtual infidelity often leads to physical cheating. Period. You may not have meant for it to go that far, but the enemy always pushes us farther than we intended! Get help! For your sake and your family’s sake.
How Will You Respond to Virtual Infidelity as a Ground for Divorce?
No, not every marriage will survive infidelity, but many can.
Is virtual infidelity a ground for divorce? Yes.
Is an emotional affair grounds for divorce. Yes.
But does virtual infidelity have to be the end of your marriage? No, God can save your marriage while you are being safe and protecting your family.
If you are a Christian struggling with adultery, know that there is still hope in Jesus.
Will you respond to virtual infidelity with prayer? Prayer changes things in a powerful way! Prayer, plus a solid plan for reconciliation can be an effective way to hope for your marriage today.
Regardless of what route you decide to take today, can I pray over you? Leave a comment below “Pray for us” and I will begin covering you and your marriage in prayer today.
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