Dealing With Adultery


Adultery -

Facts, Fears, Forgiveness

y the Irreverent Reverend

" We put so much emphasis on the concerns and so-called "sins" of our ephemeral bodies, when what really matters are things like love and our spiritual natures. "


 Maybe it's my imagination but in my counseling it seems that affairs and their consequences are popping up more and more.

I originally thought that was because now people are more open about this issue. But then I found that statistics on adultery appear to support an ever-increasing number of affairs, especially among women.

I think their are three main reasons.

  • In this era of effective birth control and safe sex the traditional religious rationales against premarital and extramarital sex are making less and less sense to people.*

  • The TV and film media typically portray pre-marital and even extra-marital sexual liaisons as relatively common.
  • Modern urban men and women typically work close to each other  — often for long hours, day after day.

    In the process they can get to know each other, often better than their spouses.

I've found that there are two typical responses to the discovery of an affair within a committed relationship.

 At one extreme there are those who immediately and without any real attempt to discuss and work through the issue, respond in anger by contacting a lawyer and seeking a divorce.

Generally, everyone comes out worse off except attorneys.

       In the second category there are those who "count to 10" (at least) and try to see if they can work through the issue.

This may involve marriage counseling, or it may involve just sitting down and very frankly trying to talk things through.

The latter, although not easy, often results in some major discoveries about the relationship, including in many cases, what's lacking and how things should be changed.

I've found that there is a world of difference in the consequences of these two approaches.

The first response often continues to plague the offended person, even poisoning subsequent relationships. I've even seen people go on to live a lonely and bitter life, never feeling they can risk love again.

We put far too much emphasis on the concerns and so-called "sins" of our ephemeral bodies. What really matters are things like love and our abiding spiritual natures.

" There are two powerful and related testimonies on this site.  One is 'I Was Wrong; I Made a Mistake.' and the other is 'The Biggest Mistake in My Life.' "


Our Fears

      >>   Setting aside the issues of jealousy -- and I guess we know the corrupting elements of that -- I've found that what really bothers people about this issue is fear of abandonment.

We seemingly invest "everything" in a person, and we are faced -- or at least we think we are faced -- with the prospect of losing "everything."

But... one should be dependent on anyone else for their happiness or well-being.  If nothing else, that gives one person far too much power.

Can we be genuinely happy with ourselves if our happiness depends on someone else -- or are we actually living with a certain amount of repressed fear?

If you think you can't live without someone else, it's time to do a serious personal inventory.

For any number of reasons that "special person" may disappear from your life some day and you will be forced to go on without them.

The more adequate you feel about yourself the better you will be able to handle this.

I've seen people suicidal when thought they couldn't go on without someone.

 I've also seen people grieve, as would be expected, and then with a certain amount of resolve, pull their lives together, and go on -- probably even stronger for the experience.

       Two files in this site should help with all this: The Sin of Adultery, which defines adultery in a way that will surprise many people, and Dealing With Adultery, which provides advice on working through adultery.

       There has to be a better way, and there is. 

My advice is the same as it is in most respected religions — forgive

Forgive, seek to understand, get through it, and move on.

"  Relationships should be held together by love and not simply be dependent on sexual exclusivity. "

As we've noted on this site, some men are even married to prostitutes and the relationship continues.

       And then there are the relationships where one spouse is "cheating" unbeknownst to the other (Yes, I hear the rumors too) and things continue, maybe for years, as if nothing is wrong.

It's only if or when it's discovered that things can blow up.

So it's not be the affair, itself, that causes the problem, but knowing about it.

The "harmed person" may assume they have to respond, and possibly even "save face" according to the beliefs handed down about this "unforgivable sin." 

       But how can we forgive such a transgression?

If for no other reason, for our own sake.

      Some people are now considering options to traditional marriage.  "Love partners" represents one approach. A more controversial one is open marriage.

While this site has gotten letters lauding open marriages, it has also gotten letters saying they don't work. Dr.'s Lee and West advise against them for most couples.

At the same time, you might also want to consider this thought provoking letter from a wife whose marriage has held together far longer than those of many of her friends and associates: "Better than Cheating and Divorce."

* "Just do as we say and don't ask for a logical explanation" doesn't cut it for most people any more. Probably not unrelated, we find it interesting that many ministers decline invitations to be in TV discussions on this topic.