I know that divorce is frowned upon by God. There are exceptions to this, abuse being one of them, along with adultery.

However, when one reads through the Bible, "marital unfaithfulness" gets thrown into the mix. I have run across items referring to this aspect from Matthew here: "What is the exception clause?" Another with several translations is on biblehub.com. So it looks like there are two separate entries: Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9.

Would "marital unfaithfulness" encompass emotional abandonment? I do not refer to one of the partners having an emotional affair, but more along the lines of just not being there for their spouse emotionally.

Or does this fall more along the lines of abuse, and does God see emotional abuse as he does physical abuse, as wrong?

  • There is an interesting discussion on this from Catholic perspective forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=67107 where this is understood as "when marriage is invalid". ie, divorce is never permissible, except in the case where it never occurred.
    – Greg Bala
    Jun 28, 2013 at 18:35
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  • So this is odd, the Bible that I have on my tablet does not include any of which is listed within the post that @GregBala lists. It's an ESV Bible.
    – IndigoGirl
    Jun 28, 2013 at 18:54
  • @RyanFrame thank you for the link, and it leaves even more confusion on this subject from 1st Corinthians especially. As it sounds like a person should stay in an abusive relationship because God deems it. Which would leave me to wonder why God would want such a thing.
    – IndigoGirl
    Jun 28, 2013 at 19:03
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    You may want to consider 1 Cor 7, in which husbands and wives are actually commanded to have sex - or it's inverse - when a marital partner refuses to be intimate - as a possible grounds for emotional abandonment. The question then becomes, does emotional abandonment become the non-intimate partner's breaking of the vows, meaning that the abandoner is the one who "divorced" first. Jun 29, 2013 at 1:42

3 Answers 3


"Marriage unfaithfulness" is not a term used in the Bible, so one would have to define it in order to determine a biblical answer. Where did you get the words from, and how were they used?

Since you ask "What MIGHT the Bible refer to as marital unfaithfulness," then I would consider what the husband is supposed to do for the wife and fails to do it as unfaithfulness. Eph. 5:25 tells the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church. No one can do that perfectly, but at least we can aim our (husbands') love in that direction. To point his love away from his wife would be "unfaithfulness" to God's command here.

1 Peter 3:7 tells the husband to dwell with the wife, giving her honor. He should make an effort to understand who she is and deal with her in her weaknesses (the "weaker vessel"). Is it honorable treatment to treat her as a slave, to place greater burdens on her than she should bear, to demean her with controlling commands that turn her into a slave instead of a person made in the image of God? To deliberately treat the wife with dishonor or with less than chivalrous motives is to act in "unfaithfulness" to commands in the scriptures.

These are areas the Bible might consider actions as marital unfaithfulness to the scriptural role the husband is called to uphold. I do not mean to imply that these are the same as sexual sins and worthy of divorce. I do mean to state that these are potential areas of abuse (emotional or physical) that would be considered wrong if they are practiced against the wife with evil intent.


When we get married we take VOWS (promise) before GOD to LOVE, HONOR and CHERISH our spouse. By definition "unfaithfulness" - unfaithful

— adj 1. not true to a promise, vow, etc 2. not true to a wife, husband, lover, etc, esp in having sexual intercourse with someone else 3. inaccurate; inexact; unreliable; untrustworthy: unfaithful copy 4. obsolete not having religious faith; infidel 5. obsolete not upright; dishonest

Is abusing your spouse, lying about your spouse or emotionally abandoning your spouse keeping within those VOWS? Is this what LOVE, HONOR and CHERISH is? I think not.


Its also something that shouldn't be done, something that causes a believer to run from God. I believe that a Church should be rebuked if a Church doesn't rebuke that abusive husband/wife but after that Christian TRULY repents it wouldn't hurt to forgive if he TRULY doesn't want to do it again


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