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 Vol. 4, No. 7 

July, 2002


~ Page 8 ~

The Pain of Adultery

By Alan Cole

(South Green Street Biblical Studies, Vol. 13, Issue 3, March 2002, pgs. 1-2.)

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "adultery" as the "voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than the lawful spouse." Ezekiel 16:32 similarly defines it: "You are an adulterous wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband." Although this passage is not literally describing a wife, its definition is accurate.

We understand from the Old and New Testaments that adultery is sinful and harmful. We comprehend from the many biblical warnings the consequences of infidelity. However, do we fully grasp the devastation adultery has on the innocent spouse and children?

For twenty-two years as a husband, I understood the verses that condemned adultery and explained its consequences. I faithfully honored my marriage vows -- "forsaking all others." However, I never really grasped the ravaging effects of adultery until it happened to me! The betrayal of one's partner in a marriage is probably the most devastating event that can occur in life. Few other forms of treachery touch us as deeply. Love is shattered, trust is destroyed, families are torn apart, and spouses and children bear the pain. The most difficult decision I ever made was putting my wife away for adultery (Matthew 19:9) when reconciliation was impossible due to her impenitence. I still believe in the sanctity and beauty of marriage and look forward to being married again, but I abhor adultery with a greater passion than ever imagined.

It is important that we sense the pain of adultery from the innocent spouse's perspective. I wish to address those who may have adultery in their hearts (Matthew 15:19). I desire to reach those who have lusted after another person (Matthew 5:28). I want you to know before you commit the act of adultery, the pain, sorrow and misery you will cause those who love you. I pray that you will repent and find fulfillment with the spouse of your youth. Perhaps you are thinking, "This is just a problem with non-Christians in society. It can't be a problem in the church. Certainly the moral standards of Christians are higher." Well, there is growing evidence that adultery is also a problem in Christian circles. An article in a 1997 issue of Newsweek magazine noted that various surveys suggest that as many as 30 percent of male Protestant ministers have had sexual relationships with women other than their wives. Adultery is in society and is sadly in the church.

The initial shock is unavoidable when the jilted spouse learns of the adultery -- "this can't be real." It is like having a horrible nightmare from which you cannot escape. The thought "this can't be happening to me" replays itself over-and-over again in your mind. The only interruption is the anger and hatred that must be battled to maintain one's sanity. Adultery leaves the innocent spouse with feelings of depression, guilt and humiliation. Self-esteem reaches an all-time low, whereas, self-pity reaches an all-time high.

A dearth would accurately describe how much sleep one gets during the first few months after the adultery. When you do sleep, the dreams are so troubling that you begin to abhor the thought of sleeping. The hurt spouse also begins to lose or gain an incredible amount of weight. I lost twenty-five pounds in just a matter of months. Eating becomes a nauseating necessity. Crying is about the only thing one feels like doing and doing often. The broken-spirited spouse will cry in the morning, throughout the day and at night; will cry alone, with children and with friends. Only God will see many of the tears shed, especially those shed by the innocent children of these broken homes. We must never get the impression that grieving over death and adultery are the same. I would much rather grieve over a marriage partner who died in the Lord than to grieve over a marriage that died in adultery!

It is incredible how lonely and empty the discarded spouse feels. You feel as if there is no life left in you. Your heart is broken. Your dreams are shattered, and you don't want to go through another day. Adultery, the ultimate act of betrayal, blinds one to everything that is good. If suicide were a scriptural option, it would be considered as an alternative over living and facing the unknown future. "Will I ever find someone to love, who will love me?" is an ever-troubling thought. Marital infidelity has the devastating power to crush one's hopes for the future. You repeatedly ask yourself: How could this person I loved with all my heart destroy OUR future plans? Together we planned to play with our grandchildren, to enjoy retirement and to rest in peace beside each other -- plans and dreams that will never be fulfilled.

The euphemisms that society has developed over the years to excuse or soften the perception of adultery include: fooling around, sleeping around, flings, affairs and alliances. These and many other phrases perpetuate the notion that adultery is guilt-free and hurts no one. God still calls it adultery. God makes it abundantly clear in his Word that adultery is not only devastating to the guilty but also to the innocent. Please, joyfully love the spouse God joined you with for life. The passing pleasures of sin are not worth the lasting pains of adultery!

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