Our culture says adultery is exciting, fun, and guilt free. “Consequences? It’s just two consenting adults having a good time.”
There’s a dark side to adultery that often gets left out; one that includes trauma and destroyed marriages and families.
In 1983, in my early 20’s, I worked at a distribution company in California, and became friends with one of the managers there. He was 36, married, and had three children. I had walked away from God in my teen years, and had given myself to partying with drugs and alcohol, which my friend was into. He and his wife had a spare bedroom in their house, and invited me to live there. It sounded like fun; one continuous party.
A month into my stay, I learned that my friend had had an affair with another woman several years prior; his marriage had never recovered and was prone to volatile moments, complete with screaming and flying objects. As I became immersed in their lives, my friend’s wife started sharing her heart with me. A relationship formed; one day I let my growing attraction go too far, and asked if she wanted to meet for lunch.
Bad move. That lunch moved the relationship from “friends” to “adulterous affair” that turned physical fast. Although we tried to keep it a secret, married couples know instinctively when something’s wrong; it didn’t take long for my friend to sense that his wife was hiding something. I told him it was me, and he kicked me out of their house.
In the ensuing months, my world went insane. My friend started seeing the woman he’d committed adultery with years prior. Meanwhile, I moved into an apartment with his wife and their three kids.
That was just the beginning. My friend’s wife bounced between living with me and going back to her husband, twisting my emotions like a pretzel. Then the woman my friend was seeing called and asked me to “meet with her.” I declined. As lust-driven as I was, I knew that to double down on my friend’s rage and infuriate his wife for committing adultery with the same woman her husband had would be dangerous.
My friend, who was a Vietnam vet with a white-hot temper, hated me. Statements were made that involved guns; one night he came to the house his wife and I were living in and broke down the door, looking to tear me apart. Fortunately I was out of town on a business trip.
After their divorce, I had my friend’s wife to myself. I got what I wanted… so I thought. But all of the emotional turmoil had worn me down, which added friction to my relationship with my friend’s wife. We started drifting… it wasn’t working any more. I felt trapped. I had developed an attachment to her kids, and they to me; leaving them after they lost their father seemed cruel.
After the second year, I was a depressed mess. In addition to my relationship problems, drugs and alcohol weren’t doing it anymore, I wanted out, but didn’t know what to do. (Did I mention I was using porn too?)
One Sunday night, an idea formed in my mind to go to the church my parents were attending. It had been years since I’d set foot in a church, but I figured I’d give it a try and see what happened. I invited my friend’s wife to go with me; she declined, so I went alone.
That night the pastor taught on Genesis 12, when God called Abraham to leave his father’s household and go to Canaan. At one point, he said: “God is calling some of you to leave the place you are now and move on.” His words hit me right between the eyes; I knew the message was for me and that I needed to do something about it. The drive home was miserable; the idea of hurting my friend’s wife and her children made me sick.
Once sex is introduced into a relationship, bonding takes place. I was tied physically and emotionally to my friend’s wife, and I loved their kids. Severing these bonds would involve breaking four hearts (not to mention what it would do to mine).
I began with a “semi-break up.” My friend’s wife and his children would remain living at the condominium I owned (and would continue to pay for), while I moved out and would rent a room in another man’s house. It didn’t work. I would visit my friend’s wife, and we’d end up getting physical. We were still a part of each other’s lives; I just didn’t live there full time.
Months later, I finally worked up the courage to tell my friend’s wife she had to move out. It didn’t go well. She started screaming and threw herself into the sliding closet doors, collapsing them. I lost my temper and raged at her. Meanwhile her kids were exposed to more trauma.
They moved out, and I continued to help them financially for months. It wouldn’t be until 1987 when all contact was broken.
If you’re considering an affair, or are in one, I want to leave you with the following. Some of this is what I wish someone had told me when I was going through it.
If the fantasy of a close relationship with a married person of the opposite sex has been playing in your mind, and especially, if you know they might reciprocate, shut those thoughts down now. Adultery starts with a single, “innocent,” untethered thought… “She’s having a hard time; maybe I can help… ‘minister to’… or comfort her.” Stay away from the other person as much as possible. Do not share your emotions and feelings with them. You’re not meant to be their counselor or savior. You’ll mess up your life, and will inflict immense pain and chaos on others.
If you’re in an affair today, get out now. Expect breaking up to be difficult and painful, especially if you’ve had sex. There will be a strong pull to go back; the only way to handle this is to do whatever it takes to permanently sever all contact, even if it means changing jobs or moving. If I’d have just obeyed God completely when He first told me to leave, it would have saved me and my friend’s family at least 18 months of emotional turmoil. Partial obedience is disobedience; there’s no such thing as a fence. I was in a relationship that never should have been; sticking around only prolonged the sin and pain.
Don’t pull a “Lot’s Wife” and look back; walk away, and keep going as fast as you can.
If you’re on the other side and have ended an affair, come to the cross, confess your sin, and let Jesus take have all of the guilt, condemnation, and shame. You’re not meant to carry the weight of your sin; it will wear you down and tear you up. Give yourself space to grieve the damage that was done. Pray for healing and restoration for those who were hurt; ask the Lord to bind up the wounds in your heart. Learn from what happened, and move on.
This was a hard article to write, not because I haven’t accepted God’s forgiveness or am struggling with guilt, but because there’s a scar from the knowledge that I played a major role in destroying a family. Adultery is a traumatic experience that promises fun and excitement at the front door, but takes you and others to the woodshed of insanity for multiple beatings once you’re in.
Don’t go there.
Playing Ostrich with Porn and Sexual Sin Won’t Work.
Recently a local Christian school reported that a father of children who attend school there is under an investigation involving porn. Years prior, that same school reported discovering a man masturbating while in his car in the elementary parking lot.
I watch the news on porn issues, and there are arrests going on daily, often with child porn. It’s not uncommon to read of someone whose church thought was an upstanding member getting arrested—including a pastor.
Last year, Josh McDowell called porn the greatest threat to the church in the last 2000 years. Some like to wait until the building is engulfed in flames before they take action. The fire’s roaring and the foundation is crumbling; it’s time for the water hose.
With statistics showing that 50-60% of Christian men are viewing porn, God’s people cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and watch more families and marriages burn to the ground, just because we don’t want to blow our reputation, or we’re afraid of saying “sex” in church. In truth our reputation is already shredded; every time another Christian is discovered in sexual sin the world snickers at our hypocrisy.
Think I’m over-exaggerating? Chuck Swindoll wrote an open letter to the church encouraging it to get in the game and face the fact that large numbers of Christians in every corner of the Church are viewing porn.
See How Your Church Can Take on the Porn Epidemic for action steps.
New Book in the Works
The rough draft of my second book is done; the editing process is next. This new book will be a devotional with 100 readings for those who struggle sexual sin. I hope to have first copies in hand by May.
For a preview, see the RTG devotional page on the Road to Grace website.
More Reading & Newsletter Archives
Healing a Broken Marriage
It’s Just a Little Porn; I’m no Sex Addict
Sexual Sobriety isn’t Enough
The Destructive Force of Adultery
Winning the War in the Mind
January 2013: Speak, Lord, Your Servant is Listening
December 2012: Healing the Wounds of Rejection
November 2012: A Look at Grace
October 2012: When Someone Shares their Sin
September 2012: Willpower Doesn’t Work
August 2012: Look Who’s One of the Porn Industry’s Biggest Customers
July 2012: For Those Who are Control Freaks (and Don’t Want to Be)
June 2012: Blazing Grace on a Sunday Morning
For my husband is not at home, He has gone on a long journey; He has taken a bag of money with him, at the full moon he will come home.” With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, ao he does not know that it will cost him his life.
Blazing Grace’s purpose is to minister to the sexually broken, encourage believers to draw closer to God, and equip the church to effectively deal with the porn epidemic.
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All material copyright 2013 Mike Genung