Domestic violence or abuse has many dynamics, adultery is just one of them. Let me explain.
About a year ago, a few people from church and I, were making conversation about abuse. I cannot remember exactly what was said, but I do remember one phrase that has troubled me since. One woman said, “My ex-husband cheated [committing adultery] on me but he never abused me.” (It was the underlined phrase along with the attitude that bothered me.) At the time, I could not even reply.
This is not an open letter to her specifically. But more of an open letter to those who think like her. Knowing one person believes this about adultery saddens me, but I am sure she is not alone. So something needs to be said. We need to change this attitude about adultery!
Adultery is abuse!
These are the reasons why I believe infidelity (cheating, affairs, adultery, sneaking around, “we’re just friends” or whatever you call it) is just another form of hidden abuse.
Reasons why adultery is abuse.
1.) Adultery is soul-crushing for the innocent party.
Most everyone confronted with the truth about their cheating spouse’s infidelity has felt the deep despondent feelings that come along with. We call it “D-day” for discovery day. We all know it to be one of the hardest days of our lives. The emotional hurt, pain, and despair feel like an 18-ton boulder rolled onto our chest. Your mind is in shock while your heart is shattered into a million pieces. The person who promised to love you unconditionally for the rest of your life just violated every inch of your being… as well as your marriage vows promised before God.
Once you start thinking, you get angry. Angry about all the deception. How you believed the now liar. Angry at yourself. How could I have been so fooled? At that point, the brain tries to process every conversation, every phone call, and every experience trying to make sense of all that has been going on. Which only leads to more pain, more hurt, and more anger.
Additionally, I can confidently say “innocent party” (about the victim) because there is never any excuse that justifies adultery. Oh, abusers will try to make you believe that they’re the victim and the affair was his/her only choice. Don’t be fooled! This is just another abuser tactic to escape the disapproval that they rightfully deserve.
2.) Adultery is psychological abuse.
Adultery is the ultimate way to show another person disrespect. The adulterer has to lie and deceive the innocent parties in order to keep the affair a secret. Actually, an adulterer will lie to almost everyone in order to cover their sin. An abuser has to be totally heartless to carry on that level of deceit with people that he/she says they love. Often times, the adulterer will share lies about the victim to others – smearing her good character to cover their own bad character.
Also, under the definition of “emotional abuse,” I found, “… any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth” [of a victim].
A woman’s (or man’s) sense of worth and value as a human being is often destroyed at the knowledge of a spouse’s adultery. Future relationships are often tarnished. A victim who has been demonized in this way will have to face the erroneous thought process that they just were not pretty enough, smart enough, and just not good enough to keep her/his spouse. How does one recover from that?
This psychological abuse destroys a marriage, most times beyond repair.
3.) Adultery puts the victim (and children) at risk of death.
This may seem harsh, but it is the truth. Seriously, most times the adulterer/abuser (like I talked about above) has no care for the emotional and physical well-being of the one they pledged to love. Being frank here, most times the affairs are unprotected and even then no protection is 100% secure. At this point, how can a victim know that her/his spouse is telling the truth about anything (like stating that protection was used or that nothing physically happened)? They cannot and should not. All trust has been ruined.
A “married” victim must see a doctor and explain why they need STD testing. And since a huge majority of infidelity (by males) happens while a woman is pregnant, she’ll be explaining it to her OB/GYN or midwife. Do you know how embarrassing that is? Trust me! Not fun! What happens when the tests come back positive? More long-term consequences, when none of it is her fault.
Lastly, husbands have killed their wife and children to escape the family and/or any financial burden. This is when adultery is very dangerous for the innocent party.
Abuse is about power and control.
When someone commits adultery they have the power to devastate the marriage, as well as the other person. They control the dynamics and the situation. Serial adulterers are undoubtedly abusive! The only outcome is severe destruction.
I believe that when someone clearly has no care for another person’s emotional or physical health, or what their actions will do to your self-worth and self-esteem, they do NOT love you. Love is a verb. A loving, caring person would never want to jeopardize or violate another person by committing adultery. Maybe I believe this because I have never done it to anyone.
Additionally, I’m tired of hearing that adultery is a product of love. I won’t even watch movies that portray infidelity as love. Never is this true! No! Society (and the devil) push these lies.
[socialrocket-tweet quote=”Adultery is not love. It is a sin. And it is abuse.” tweet=”Adultery is not love. It is a sin. And it is abuse.”]
Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery. – Hebrews 13:4 NLT
There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things He detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family. – Proverbs 6:16-19
God hates many things… yes, even divorce. But let’s be clear… God dislikes intensely, lying, abuse, and sexual immorality…(meaning more so than divorce). He loathes His precious children being hurt by sin.
[You may also enjoy my 3-part Betrayal Trauma series.]
Have you experienced this type of abuse? Feel free to share your story in the comments. (Real name not required.)
God bless your healing journey,
Hi Jen. You are so right about adultery being soul crushing. My wife of 27 years was unfaithful with an old boyfriend. She also, according to her, made out with one of my former friends. She doesn’t consider this adultery…I do. It has been 4 years since d day and I have no trust in her even though she says she is sorry and that it will never happen again. After I found out, she remained in contact with her lover after she said she had broken it off. It is hard for me to stay with her, but I am trying to honor my marriage vows. I suffer in silence. I don’t think adulterers understand the devastation they sow.
Thanks for listening.
Jen Grice says
You’re welcome! Praying for you.
Michael, my husband did the same thing. It’s devastating. I stayed 2 more years then he did it again. I managed to make it to our 20th anniversary. Then I told him to leave. I was slowly dying inside. I hope you live a joyful, fulfilling life. You deserve it. I am praying for you.
But what about the alduterer who is claiming addiction??
Jen Grice says
I believe someone who is claiming addiction to excuse their adultery is using it for that… a justification for their behavior. I’m addicted to chocolate but if it ever became such a problem that I was going to lose my family or hurt anyone else (or even myself) because of that addiction, I would seek professional help and stay away from chocolate (out of those aisles at the store, out of candy stores, not bring it home, etc.). A healthy person seeks help for their emotional, physical, or sexual issues. A toxic person justifies and makes excuses while continuing the choice and behaviors. They feel entitled to continue to do so and no one will stop them. But even someone with a character/personality disorder can seek help.
Yes, people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs are still held accountable for their actions! They don’t get a pass on abusing others because of their addiction. People who claim sex addiction can’t expect to avoid accountability by applying the addict label.
An adulterer who claims addiction must show remorse and take accountability by actually getting help for their problem. They must commit to many changes. Sex/love addiction is a real thing. I am one and it has devastated my husband, my child, and myself as well as impacted many other family members and friends as they have to use energy to support what we’re going through due to my infidelity. Typically an addict is a repeat offender. The old phrase, “once a cheater always a cheater” is typically true. Only when their addiction becomes so unmanageable and causes so much pain, will they realize and admit the problem is THEM, not everyone else. Sometimes they can never face the truth.
After therapy, working the 12 steps, getting a sponsor, going to meetings regularly, giving my life back to Jesus, and staying faithful in church, have I been able to stop my addiction. And not just stop it, but have absolutely no desire for it. I was lost and blind but now I’m found, I see, just like the song says. I see adultery for the pure wickedness that it is because it causes so much harm. That’s why God gave us laws. Not to control us but to protect us!
Not all adulterers are heartless. A lot of us are in so much pain, confused, bound by sin, and have deep soul sickness from a traumatic upbringing. We learned a lot of bad behavior from our family and friends early on. There are so many factors that make an addict but not all of us are a hopeless case.
If you are married to an addict, pray and listen to the holy spirit and allow Him to guide you. Watch and see if your partner invests time and energy in developing new daily habits of becoming aware of him/herself. If they get defensive and want to hide, they will cheat again. Only openness will heal an addict. We are people with so many walls around our hearts, we fear intimacy because most of us have endured a lot of abuse ourselves.
It’s a delicate road to traverse but it’s never hopeless if the addict does a complete 180 and continues to do healing work for the remainder of their lives. I’m serious about that. They can never give up church or meetings or they’ll fall again. Pray for your spouse but if they don’t seek help and stay committed to it, leave them. You’ll be better off.
Jen Grice says
Thank you, Amy, for sharing your story! Much appreciated. I wish you well with your healing journey!
What are your thoughts on habitual pornography? I feel cheated out of healthy intimacy with my husband. Then being objectified by him and belittled for some extra pounds after I turned 40.
I don’t presume to place this on the same level as adultery, but I feel violated, demeaned, cheated, and objectified.
Would this be classified as abusive? Are there any psychological implications for the ‘victim’ spouse as a result?
I think of it as a ‘cowards’ affair. Maybe that doesn’t sound very nice, but it’s an ugly, heinous sin against a marriage, specifically the purity of the marriage bed. And against God.
Thanks for the great writing and support you share with us all.
Jen Grice says
Pam, I totally agree with you. Pornography is still an affair of the heart. And I can see where your husband/ex-husband used his lust problem to make you feel less than enough for him, which is psychological abuse.
Personally, I don’t rate any abuse or “adultery” worse than another. It’s all pain that we’re trying to process and get through together. Your pain and someone else’s pain is still pain. We all have every right to how we feel. Give yourself permission to work through those feelings however you need to, without comparing them to others or allowing anyone to invalidate you.
Like I tell my clients if I drown at 10 feet and you drown at 300 feet does that change the fact that we both drown? No! We’re in this together, Pam. 🙂
This may be along the lines of porn but I caught my husband going to strip clubs. He did it for a stretch of time while I was pregnant, then he started up again while my kids were all teenagers. He went at least 30 times when my kids were older then yelled at me for spending too much on groceries with 3 teenagers in the house while he blew all that money at the strip club! Now we are in divorce proceedings and is calling this a ‘youthful indiscretion’. He was 54 years old!
Jen Grice says
They try to find excuses or rational reasoning for their behaviors but it really comes down to they need to hold the power and the control, and adultery is abuse. There is no excuse. I’m sorry for what you’re going through but I’m glad you can now find peace in your life – to spend whatever you need to spend on groceries. 🙂
I am going through the divorce process right now. My husband of 10 years told me (on our 10 year anniversary) that he had “emotionally moved on from me,” but he would never cheat on me because that was “socially unacceptable.” He had been viewing pornography for the majority of our marriage and this was the final straw for me. We decided to get a divorce a month after he told me these things, and I found out later that he slept with his co-worker (and now “love of his life”) only 2 weeks after we decided. He doesn’t think he is cheating.
Jen Grice says
Hi Hilary, glad you found my website. Your husband can rationalize his behavior all he wants, but God knows what is going on, He sees to the heart of the matter, and I will tell you… the truth always comes out!! If he’s a narcissist, he’s covering up to keep his reputation clean. But God brings everything hidden out into the light. I’m sorry you too are going through this. And glad to have you along on this journey to healing.
My d-day was Valentine’s Day of this year. My husband of over 30 years found the “love of his life” on a secret Facebook porn site. He was exchanging “I love you”s and pictures via text on a secret phone that I found. He didn’t meet her in person until a month later. Our 25 year old daughter can’t emotionally handle having a relationship with him at this point. He blames me for this. He says he is the same father and grandfather he’s always been. He’s just not going to be married to me anymore. He thinks everyone else should view and treat him exactly the same.
I am thankful a friend showed me this site. It has been a big help!
Jen Grice says
I’m so glad to hear when a friend refers someone here. And I’m happy to hear it’s a big help.
Adulterers usually blame the innocent party. Even when someone else has harsh feelings about what he did. It helps them feel justified in their choices rather than seeing themselves as an awful person who can’t be honest and stay faithful. It’s like as a wife he expects us to cover and hide his sins so no one sees. But that NOT our job!! Each of us makes an account of our actions/sin, both on earth and in heaven.
Walking with you. Glad to have you along on this journey to healing.
My husband found a hooker on the Craigslist casual encounters. I would catch him perusing the ads from time to time since February 2017. He would always claim he was trying to collect pictures and it was harmless because he likes to look at nudey pics. Well D Day was June 15 2018 when my doctor called me on the phone to tell me that I had an std and needed medication to treat it. I felt like I was going down a black hole of a vortex. He confessed only because I had this evidence of the disease. How foolish I was. I don’t know this man at all. He wants to stay and work it out. I can’t seem to get him out of the house. I’ll never trust him again. Especially knowing how he lies with a perfectly straight honest face. My life is in shambles. I need to pull myself out of this vortex. I like your article and agree with all the points.
Jen Grice says
You can do this… survive plus even thrive after divorce. Glad to have you along on this journey to healing.
Thank you so much for This ministry! And thank you for speaking the truth! Adultery is abuse on so many levels! When a spouse commits adultery, they are taking their spouse’s very life in their hands and disregarding it! The innocent party bears the STD’s for the rest of their lives!
Also, people don’t be fooled! It is way more common for someone to repeat adultery than to do it once and learn their lesson! DO NOT TRUST YOUR SEEMINGLY REPENTANT SPOUSE!!!!!!! Most likely they’ll do it again, or already have.
So many lives destroyed!
Jen Grice says
I’m going through this right now. I could have written this myself, almost verbatim. My first husband was physically violent and abusive. I had no income, no college education, no support, nothing. After a particularly violent incident that brought the police and Family Services into our lives, I finally filed for divorce and got sole custody of the kids.
I was remarried a few years later to a man who was deeply involved in his church, leading support groups and Bible studies, mentoring other men, you name it. Almost as soon as the honeymoon ended, I was seeing little glimpses of things that confused me… phone calls and texts in the middle of the night, long midnight trips to the bathroom with his phone, no interest in sex (strange for a newly married man?), and extreme irritability and frustration with my children.
Thereafter followed five years of video chats, sexting with complete strangers, porn, and at least one actual affair that I knew about. Every time I confronted him, he would cry and apologize, play Christian music and post devotionals to his Facebook page, and act like he was determined to make a fresh start. But he always went right back to the porn.
Three weeks ago, I found page after page of daddy-stepdaughter porn, with many of the searches being for adolescent stepdaughters and rape porn. I had found pictures of my teenage daughter on his phone a few months earlier and confronted him about t because he didn’t have pictures of all of my children on his phone, only her. He had brushed it off and I had forgotten about it. But now it all came together for me.
The kids and I are in the process of moving, and I will be filing for divorce as soon as we do. I am devastated at the thought of being a twice-divorced woman. I have always been faithful and loyal to my husbands, and both of them begged me to stay, saying I was their “best friend” and the best wife they could have ever had. As much as I would love to have someone to love and to love me back, I just can’t put up with any more abuse.
And yes, adultery is definitely abuse. My teenage sons have seen porn when they have walked up behind him on his phone or laptop, my daughters have been made to feel uncomfortable with his constant staring at them, I have been exposed to unknown STIs, my husband’s lover was told things about me that are absolutely untrue (for which my husband apologized later… too little too late) and she now stands on the sidelines and talks about me to her friends when I see her in the grocery store or around town, and I have just this week found out that prostitutes are likely the reason my husband racked up $25,000 in debt in the last three years (after I paid off $18,000 of his debt five years ago so that we would be entering our marriage debt-free). Oh, yes, adultery is *absolutely* abuse!
Jen Grice says
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure your story will help others reading this article too. It’s a hard place to be, but we’ll all get through this together. 🙂
I am new to your blog and I am glad that you posted something that has affected me so bad. I have been married for 22 years. In the 18th year I discovered he had a relationship with a very young girl, half of my age. He had many reasons for this affair and all were my fault. I was a cold wife and that he was tempted by this girl. I was overweight and had skin pigmentation all over my legs due to an allergy. I was not sexy enough, etc.
When I was dating him he was working but earned little and I had to help him out with his expenses. He had no problem accepting my money and in fact he used to ask me all the time for a little bit here and there and this became a habit. A red flag but I was not aware of it. Two years after he got married he said his company had let him go because he was not good at his work. He has not worked since and that brings it to 18 years of unemployment. I pay for all the expenses and he manages our joint account. There is hardly any money in the account and I think he is saving a nest egg for himself for his he future in case the marriage does not work out.
He watches porn and masturbates sometimes next to me on the bed. He has refused counseling saying that it will not help him as he cannot bring himself to be intimate with me (the hint is that I am not attractive enough for him). He refused to divorce when I suggested it. He probably stays to maintain the comfortable life he has with me and that he does not have to work.
I have come to a place where I cannot trust him at all. Cash in the house disappears and he blames our son. Our house was once burgled and all my jewellery was stolen. But the way the burglary was executed has always left me suspecting that he staged the burglary and took my jewellery, which included my wedding band. My son was not even born then. He just was not concerned at all that my jewellery was stolen.
My son is close to my husband and I feel that I cannot leave. I want my son to have that connection with his dad. I know I have no future with my husband but he has a good side to him like he cooks and does other chores around the house and surprises me sometimes but this seems to be surface level. I know he does not love me as a wife.
I just feel used and ugly and worthless all the time. Reading that God loves me just does not help at all when the person next to me finds that I have no value apart from the fact that I bring the paycheck. I ma in my mid fifties now and feel that my life just passed me by with no sight of a second chance or escape.
Jen Grice says
I’m sorry you are going through this and feeling this way. I hope you find a good counselor to see by yourself, for yourself. I think it will help as you need to rebuild your own worth and realize you have value in this world, just as much as your husband and son do.
Understand completely. 30 year marriage..he said he was born again.
Handed me unbiblical divorce papers when I called him out for porn..dating websites , and 17 and under voyorism. He has turned our whole church against our daughters and I along w his parents and family. I married a deeply steeped narcissist.
Holy Cow! Leaving a no remorse after completing scaring and devastating our family. I’m 53 and starting over. Feel like I have been hog tied and pulled through broken glass…all over holding him accountable for pornography addiction.
He is a wicked and vile man..so cruel. Divorce is almost over and it has rocked me to my core.
Hello, I was married for 14yrs now and been separated 4-5 times since married as of now we been together the longest since 2014 tell now, well let me state this one thing about infidelity, it is sin, and that is what both partners need to stay away from because once one partner sins against the other, in some cases both do it, because of loneliness or revenge the mind is the weapon the enemy use, and we do not think of the heartbroken-ness the enemy uses all we think about is our pain and how to end it.. My spouse cheated on me with women at our church and will cuss you out because they have his back why? because even they know its sin, so what do they do, they cover it with him, and acts as if it never happened so only God, can fix it, and expose what the devil meant for evil God will turn it around for our good and that is e
I found out about my husband’s secret life after being married to him for Nine months. He had been having the affair since we got engaged. The women was a 73 year old woman and she called me to inform me of their affair. They saw each other while I was at work and sometimes my husband would sneak to have quickie with her while I was at home. My husband took him life after I came to know their affair. He stated in his letter that she was threatening him to reveal their affair.
Infidelity can cripple your life. I don’t know when or how I will heal from this. I don’t understand how my husband could do this to me without considering the physical, emotional and spiritual impact on me. He always told me that he loved me and never to doubt his love.
Michelle G. says
I definitely identify with adultery and/or serial cheating as a form of emotional abuse. At times it felt like emotional rape – as you relieve DDay over and over again as the triggers keep coming. Doesn’t matter whether it was a one time affair, hook ups on Craigslist, occasional strip clubs, or several affairs. I’ve been through all three and didn’t discover the depth of the serial cheating until my former husbands most recent year long affair with an Ashley Madison married woman. They are still together and broke up both their marriages and leave children in both sides in their wake. God does let sun come into the light and they couldn’t hide it and are trying to pass it off as “soulmates”. Justification at its finest. God will find a way to release you from your marriage if it’s right, but never at a place where you sacrifice your soul to do so. Soulmates don’t go seeking one another on a website specifically designed for married people to cheat.
I’ve come to understand that I’ve now been in an ongoing abusive relationship for it to go on for 20 years, there is a lot of hiding, lying, deceit, omission, gaslighting, misdirected anger, drinking to offset his conscience. Usual repeat cheaters can also have a concurrent issue with an addiction.
As hard as it was for me to walk away, I was willing to go to 12 step and any length to save him, I realized I needed to save myself. I love myself more than I love him.
I’ve been there. I totally agree that it is abuse. I would like to see this concept become more recognized. I tried to stay with my husband through all of the abuse, but when he started to physically abuse our child, it was time to leave. I don’t think God wants us to stay in marriages like that. I guess you could say that he and I were “unequally yoked.” It took Christian counseling to help me to see that I could leave and be set free.
Loren K. says
A man cheating repeatedly does not value “commitment”. They tend to have a life littered with women they have discarded or abandoned.
A mature person would feel guilt and shame. They would stop themselves from continuing or going forward with any mistake they made in cheating on their wife or partner.
But some men who possibly have narcissistic traits, are not grown-up or emotionally mature. They don’t feel that guilt and shame they don’t value commitment, honesty and integrity. They will do whatever they want to get narcissistic supply.
Your feelings, your heart, and your emotions are never taken into consideration. So if they end the relationship abruptly then that alone causes you, maximum emotional damage and maximum hurt. Quite often, a person who has long term affairs, and repeatedly cheats is someone who could possibly have a “narcissistic disorder” their infidelity and cheating is emotional abuse.
It takes a special type of person to not feel empathy, guilt or any shame. How do they still play that character of a loving boyfriend or husband or partner? That’s not a normal healthy person whatsoever. It is someone who does not value honesty, commitment and integrity.
Healthy people do not destroy the person they have been in a relationship with. Healthy people do not jump from one relationship to the next. They take responsibility in the relationship for what is going wrong, they could then communicate in a responsible way.
I was in a relationship, where we planned to marry, and always wanted simple acknowledgement of this man’s actions to forgive and move forward.
He was unwilling to do so because, as stated, the cheating was his way of abusing me. It became violent when I unknowingly kept him from his “encounters” by begging him not to go or accidentally losing the phone or even coming back way too early when an errand was omitted or my plans were shortened. I literally found myself being pummeled by this man only to later discover it was some form of demonic mating dance he was involved in. He was actually using me, and my tears, as serial stimulation.
It was sick, ungodly, and disgusting. I am still healing. I fear I will be damaged forever, but I KNOW our Lord heals the wounded souls ensnared by the devils followers.
Jennifer S. says
I am having a hard time moving past my husband of 15 years affair with our neighbor (who was also our youngest daughter’s soccer coach). I suspected the affair, but didn’t have proof…yet! I was extremely depressed, but I had to remain strong for our two daughters. The pain was so unbearable that I tried to end my life. As I was in the hospital getting help for my mental breakdown due to his lies and gas lighting, he filed a TRO forbidding me in my home and contact and communication with our children. Long story, I was able to uncover the affair by our bank statements where he bought our neighbor flowers every month, Diamond rings, met secretly at her job and places to eat, bought designer shoes, expensive sneakers, Victoria Secrets, cards, and much more. I am so mad at myself because I wish I was stronger because our situation would be different. We are going through a high-conflict divorce and he is using our children as pawns to destroy me. He has filed five Motions trying to terminate my parental rights and delay our divorce. He is trying to replace me as my children’s mom with the neighborhood whore (who is married to a cop and has two children also). In addition, he didn’t pay his 2020 taxes (cashed out his 401k) and the IRS garnished all my money. I have a lawyer, but I owe her so much that she is putting in minimal work. I need help and I am having a hard time because I am without my children and I am struggling financially.