How a spouse’s sin affects their partner

When a man and wife are married, they become one. But what exactly does that mean? Is a wife held responsible for the sins of her husband, or does a wife’s sins affect her husband in any way? This is a question that was posed to Msgr. Stuart Swetland on a recent episode of Go Ask Your FatherTM.

“So what we talk about in the two becoming one is a one flesh unity. You are one flesh in marriage. Now, you still uniquely have your individual souls,” said Msgr. Swetland.

Even when united in marriage, we freely make our individual choices when it comes to our eternal home. “As frightening as this sounds, it is possible that a husband could go to heaven and a wife not, and vice versa, a wife could go to heaven and her husband not. So our souls still remain ours to say yes or no to God,” explained Msgr. Swetland.

Despite that reality, our actions are not without consequence to our spouse and family. In fact, as a spouse or a parent, we hold greater responsibility for living virtuously.

“What one does, for good or ill, does affect the other for good or ill and we have to be cognizant of that. That why it’s even more incumbent upon a husband, for example, to live chastely. It’s more incumbent upon him to be a virtuous man and to fulfill his obligations as laying down his life for his wife and if they have children, for their children. So it becomes more incumbent because now if he sins not only does that affect on him directly, but it affects his wife and his children. So he has even more responsibility,” said Msgr.

He gave the example of how one spouse’s lack of chastity would greatly affect their spouse. “If they wanted to view inappropriate things or do inappropriate things … you can imagine that the closeness makes it—the technical term for this in theology is—scandalous. Scandalous behavior leads the other astray.”

Scandalous behavior also affects one’s children. “When parents don’t go to Mass, not only do they sin by not going to Mass, but they are scandalous in setting a terrible example for their children, who don’t sin because they can’t make the choice for themselves about going to Mass, but they objectively miss Mass,” said Msgr Swetland. “And that makes that sin greater than the single person who doesn’t go to Mass and that affects them but it doesn’t affect others the way that a husband or a wife affects their family.”

Lord, help us to lead good and virtuous lives that help us to fulfill our vocations as spouses and parents. Let us encourage our families to grow in holiness through the example of our words and actions. Amen.

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