Sunday, July 26, 2009

Adultery: Equal Opportunity Sin

Have you ever thought only the really bad sinners (just ahead of murderers and rapists) had extra-marital affairs? Or that adultery was only something that happened to pretty people (because no one would be interested in the ugly or even average ones)? Or that YOU could never be caught in this trap?

Think again. Nearly 25 percent of men and (surprise!) between 10 and 15 percent of women (in national surveys) admit to some kind of marital infidelity. I've been married 30 years and helped lead a marriage ministry so I've learned first-hand that no one is immune even though they believe it's wrong.

''People in the United States almost universally think adultery is wrong even while they are doing it,'' said John Gagnon, a professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and one ofthe authors of a study by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

Bill was becoming increasingly frustrated with his job and began taking it out on his wife. She began to expect his bad attitude when he got home, so her mood was not welcoming as he walked in the door. Linda, Bill's associate at work, knew exactly what he was going through...and so it began.

Lisa had been married many years and felt like every day was the same. She dressed the same, got the same response from her husband, did the same job and went about life on auto-pilot. One day she ran into an old friend from high school at the store. His face lit up and they had a warm, friendly chat. She learned that he was divorced and trying to recover. Her compassion seemed to help. It felt so good to be needed as she advised and encouraged him...

People don't often go on the prowl for an adulterous affair. They let life's challenges control their attitude and behavior. As they focus on surviving in their competitive world the focus is on the problems at hand— at the expense of relationships at home.

We simply believe the people we love will always be there...we don't have to expend a lot of energy on them. Better put out the fires all around us and come back with attention to our loved ones later.

Mistake! Our husbands and wives need our best, not the other way around. As much as we may consider our vows a binding promise, marriage isn't a license to take our partner for granted or to be complacent. If love isn't attended to, it withers and begins to die.

Sadly, when we feel neglected and isolated at home, there always seems to be someone in our path to notice, appreciate and need us. The connection is instant and explosive. Like heroin, it becomes addictive and people keep coming back for more.

I'm often amazed at the adulterous partners people choose. They may have a stunning wife at home and be having an affair with Shrek's uglier sister. Or be married to a young, handsome man and fall "in love" with a George Costanza type guy. The physical connection is secondary.

Three things I hope you'll consider: 1. No one is impervious to the snare of adultery and it always starts off innocently, so run away! 2. Love and kindness are more useful than judgment if your friend falls 3. Guard your marriage and let all the other demands of life take second place.

Any experiences or insights? Feel free to share comments anonymously! We can all learn from experience.

Diane Markins

*A great resource for couples struggling in this area or for people who'd like to coach other couples: Grace and Truth Relationship.


Anonymous said...

Diane, this is such a problem. This is so heavy on my heart right now for the condition of people’s hearts that temptation can become reasonable. I will never forget my affairs. I can play out the process of the mental and emotional deterioration. Wow what a cunning and baffling power it is. It scares me to death! Urgh!

Jeff Williams said...

Diane, thanks for continuing to tackle difficult yet essential topics.

Thank you too for referring to Grace and Truth. We continue to see great results when couples approach relationship growth with heart and skill.

Early in our marriage a friend suggested Jerry Jenkins book, "Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It". The suggestions about establishing boundaries to protect us have proven priceless.

Later, in seminary for a counseling degree, a wise professor purchased and distributed, "The Snare: Avoiding
Emotional and Sexual Entanglements". His point to us was that if we though ourselves to be above adultery that we might as well do it. Pride goes before a fall.

Finally, the late Steve Judah wrote "Staying Together: When An Affair Pulls You Apart." It is a brilliant work on how to recover as well as how to prevent affairs.

The proactive protection on which Jill and I depend (in addition to God defending us from attacks from which we are not aware) is vigilance to know and try to meet each other's needs. Dr. Willard Harley, "His Needs, Her Needs" has sold millions of books about this simple yet profound principle for marriage insurance.

Finally, the recipe for intimacy that works for couples in a covenant relationship (marriage) is the same principle found at work when a post-mortem is done on affairs: emotional openness + physical closeness = intimacy. When we chance emotional openness with a person of the opposite sex that is not our spouse we are playing with fire in the same way that we would if we would run across a field of fire with a stick of dyamite dragging by a rope from out waist.

Here's hoping that you wise words will be heeded by a few. If they do, then unnecessary pain might be avoided.

From a child of divorce due to parental adultery,

Jeff Williams