Adultery is painful. Adultery is particularly painful to the spouse who was cheated on. But in more subtle ways, adultery is also painful to the one who commits it.
Adultery can be defined as any act of sexual union, with or without genital penetration, with any person outside marriage. That includes members of the same gender.
However, adultery can take many forms.
Emotional adultery is where a spouse idolizes and pays all due attention to a person outside the covenant of marriage, even though there may not be sexual union. The emotional adulterer emotionally abandons their spouse.
Cybersex adultery, is where a spouse engages sexually with another person on line, via video cam or more intricate electronic media. Where a partner is addicted to, or regularly uses pornography alone, to stimulate solitary orgasm, their spouse may well feel as though adultery has been committed. The adulterous violation in that circumstance is the lewd gaze at others’ nudity, and a rejection of, or supplement to, intimacy with the spouse.
The pain of the one betrayed through Adultery
Sex is a gift given by God to celebrate, consummate and consecrate marriage. Whenever 2 people are joined by sex, they are joined. That is the power of sexual union. Their joining is not merely physical. Nor is it just the mutual excitement. The joining brings a bonding. The hormone, oxytocin, which is released in orgasm is known as the bonding hormone. The joining creates a physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual union. This occurs whenever 2 people have sex. It occurs whether they realize it or not.
This is evidenced by what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:16. Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For God says, “the two will become one flesh.”
There is no such thing as casual sex. ‘Casual sex’ is an oxymoron.
Husband and wife are bound together through their conjugal love, physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Such is the power of sex. God made sex to be that powerful, in order to bond husband and wife together. Because sex bonds two people together God decreed that it must remain exclusive to the two. Breaking the marital covenant with adultery, tears at the very bonding that God gives, and that marital love creates.
Adultery tears at the emotions, both of the one sinned against and the one committing adultery. Not only does the victim feel betrayed, a deeply destructive emotion, he or she may also feel empty or worthless. The feeling of betrayal cuts deeply, stinging the soul. Adultery causes them to feel jilted, spurned and forsaken. Their very heart seems torn apart.
Often a deep loneliness accompanies the discovery of a spouse’s adultery. The victim feels that he/she cannot tell others about it, lest they judge. Often their love for their spouse, as deeply as it has been torn, still wants to protect. Or there can be a feeling of shame that prevents them from sharing their spouse’s adultery with others.
One of the deepest emotional pains that the adulterer’s spouse feels is the loss of trust. Trust takes years to build up, but can be torn down in seconds. Trust comes from the heart, and is a part of who you are. When your trust is broken, there is even a feeling of, ‘Can I trust myself anymore, to trust?’ Hence adultery causes the victim to wonder about their own sanity, security and self understanding. It is very painful.
Adultery also plays with the mind, psychologically, often causing the victim to feel inadequate or to blame. Adultery causes the victim to realize that they have lost something exclusive, to grieve the fact that something they thought was unique and very special to them, has been opened up or spilled out indiscriminately, somewhere else. Their mind runs wild, trying to make sense of the desertion, considering whether they could have prevented the adultery in some way.
Am I to blame?
Am I not sexy enough?
Have I failed my spouse in some way?
Physically, adultery feels as though their union has been divided and conquered.
Spiritually, adultery causes many problems. The sacredness and consecrated nature of a married couple’s exclusive love is violated by adultery. It is as though something has been violently torn from their soul. This has consequences. After the initial shock of the adultery, there may be a period of may be a numbness, but this usually subsides, to give way to feelings of anger, the need for revenge, the desire to hit out and hurt, or to hatred or rage. Adultery often causes these feelings to rise up within the soul of the betrayed. These are understandable, but sinful reactions. Thus adultery affects the victim spiritually, both by the tearing of covenant, and the sin it incites. This is why the Scripture decrees:
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Hebrews 13:4
The pain of the adulterer
It is not as easy to describe the adulterer’s feelings. If committed addictively, the feelings will be an adrenaline filled excitement. The self-centered narcissism of the pursuit will preclude the adulterer from having insight to the devastation caused to their victim. If committed cautiously, where the adulterer has been torn in the decision to commit adultery, their feelings will be filled with confusion. There can be many other feelings. Adultery might have been an act of revenge. Adultery may have been a cry for attention. Adultery may have been the result of a drunken one night stand, leaving much regret and guilt. Whatever the circumstances, and feelings, adultery causes another form of pain to the adulterer, often unperceived. Spiritually there is guilt, whether it is felt not. This may lead to depression, whether the connection is made or not. Certainly it leaves a hardening of heart. And as the Scripture above indicates, the adulterer will face judgment.
Adultery is one of the most serious sins. Hence Jesus gave permission to the one betrayed by adultery to divorce the adulterer. This is because adultery tears at the heart of the marriage covenant. God takes covenant very seriously. He made a covenant with us through the shedding of the blood of his Son. Indeed, He likens marriage to His relationship with us, His chosen people. When Israel forsook Him in the Old Testament He accused her of committing adultery against Him. In the New Testament Paul likens marriage to Jesus’ relationship with His church. (Eph 5:25) To break the covenant of marriage by adultery is to cheapen the very concept of covenant, and to show scant respect for the God of covenant. It is to demonstrate no reverence, or fear of God. In turn God does not expect one who loves Him and is faithful to Him and His covenant, to remain bound to someone with no respect for it, or for the one they betray.
On the other hand, God is a God of mercy and grace. Because of the very covenant He made through the blood of Christ with us, He is ready to forgive adultery, and the adulterer. And He gives grace to the one who is betrayed, to forgive the adulterer and the adultery. Forgiveness is essential whether or not the marriage is restored.
Why is Forgiveness essential?
First, because Jesus commands us to.
Jesus admonishes his disciples to forgive whatever offense they incur. The purpose of the Christian life is to be re-created in God’s image, growing into his perfect heart of love. Jesus commands us to forgive so that we can be conformed to his love. Jesus died, not only for the sins that we commit, but also for all sin, even as offensive as adultery, that are done to us. He bears our griefs and carries our sorrows. In all our troubles God comforts us. Having done this work for us, and because He loves us, He desires that we rise up into His love. Being willing to forgive is an essential ingredient to receiving the fullness of His love. Where a severe breach of trust, such as adultery has occurred however, forgiveness does not necessarily mean restoration of the marriage. In His love God does not sentence us to abusive relationships.
Secondly, because it releases us.
Forgiveness Defined: Forgiveness is our decision to give up the right that we think we have for vengeance, justice, retribution and anger towards both our spouse and the one with whom adultery was committed. This is so that we can be free from our obsession with them and their adultery. It restores inner peace to us and prepares the way for reconciliation of relationship, if that can be countenanced. If not, ii releasing them, we are freed from the bonds which have tied us to them. Unforgiveness has meant that we have wanted their revenge, have fumed with anger at the thought of them and their adulterous partner, have despised their successes or have relished in their failures. Forgiveness releases us entirely from these bonds to bring us freedom, and a capacity to bless them and leave them to God, without telling Him how He should judge them for their adultery and the pain adultery has caused us. Forgiveness brings true release and freedom!
Forgiveness is not forgetting, condoning or enabling ongoing adultery.
It is a process that takes time. More often than not, the adulterer is readily able to move on and expect the one they betrayed to be able to do the same. Alternatively, the victim usually needs to process much more deeply, because they are the one who has taken the brunt of the adultery’s wound. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation. That can only really occur if the partner who committed the adultery comes to understand the depth of pain and the consequences of their adultery for their wounded spouse.
Healing is a process. Because adultery cuts deep to the heart of the betrayed, it takes much time to heal. Adultery causes a vicious tearing of the heart. The bond of love is broken. But love itself doesn’t die that quickly. In fact, love for the adulterous spouse may not die. Love is the most powerful positive emotion. Love is the foundation of the soul. Love is the basis of stability. Love is held precious in the depth of the soul. When love is torn at, so too are these fundamentals of our sense of well being.
Just as love isn’t an instant fix, but a growing and consolidating gift over time, so the damage of adultery, done to it takes much time to heal. At the beginning, it seems as though healing is beyond reach. But God’s grace is steady and faithful. His love never abandons or cheats. His love is a healing love, which doesn’t rush, but faithfully sustains.
He binds up the broken hearted and brings peace and strength to the weary.
Our hope is in His healing, and His healing is our hope.
Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles……
2 Corinthians 1:2–4
God’s healing grace for the ravages of adultery comes to us in many ways. Sovereignly and quietly as we pray, hope and wait on him. It comes through the comfort of others. It can come through counsel and prayer ministry. It flows to us as we read His word.
Living Waters provides a framework for healing. The 22 week course enables participants to grow a deeper appreciation of God’s great love for them, a deeper receptivity to His love and offers opportunity for leaders to minister the healing gifts of the Holy Spirit. The course provides a safe and confidential place to work through the wounds and mental and emotional torment that adultery causes.
Living Waters also sponsors a 7 week course called, Your Marriage Matters. Written by Ruth and Ron Brookman, it enables couples between whom there has been serious wounding, especially through adultery, to process healing and reconciliation together. The course book can be purchased for $15 from our office.
Finding Freedom is a course for men who have committed adultery, or who have a sexual addiction problem. It provides accountability, ministry, teaching and strategies for overcoming, and wisdom in the way of slowly rebuilding trust, integrity and damaged lives and marriages from the ravages of adultery.
Contact our office for more information 02 9529 0022