| March 26, 2008
Advance for March 29, 2008
Adultery: A Destroyer of Marriage?
By Mike McManus
Adultery has been hitting Page 1 every other day.
N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer's dalliance with a prostitute is followed by the
admission by his successor, Gov. David Paterson, of multiple affairs he
claims were provoked by his wife's infidelity. This week Detroit's mayor
was charged with using millions of city funds to buy off police officers
who threatened to expose his affair with his Chief of Staff.
Just how common is adultery? How often does it destroy marriage?
Most couples are faithful. A study by E. O. Laumann and others reports
that a tenth of both men and women have had an affair by their tenth
anniversary. By the 30th anniversary, 30 percent of men and 20 percent
of women confessed to adultery. It is not as common as Hollywood's
"Desperate Housewives" suggests.
However, many affairs do not threaten a marriage because they are kept
secret. In only 12 percent of marriages, do spouses learn that their
partner cheated on them, according to a 20-year study of 2,000 married
people by Penn State's Paul Amato. He acknowledges that this estimate is
low, because some people don't want to talk with researchers about it.
And others divorced soon after the affair and could not be interviewed.
What happens when adultery is discovered? "There are two bad outcomes,"
Amato reports. Three years later, 24 percent of couples have divorced.
Another 42 percent remain married, but are unhappy. Only 34 percent have
rebuilt trust enough to say they are "very happy."
The Sexual Revolution has changed public attitudes about premarital
sex. Almost no one thinks it is wrong, though Scripture is certainly
clear. "Flee fornication," Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Chastity is
not a subject of many sermons.
However, attitudes about adultery have not changed over 50 years, Amato
reports. Nine-tenths believe it is wrong. Even sociologists are
convinced that sexual fidelity is the central characteristic of a good
marriage. "Marriage implies obligations and responsibilities, the core
obligation of which is to be sexually and emotionally faithful,"
The Internet is increasing the likelihood of affairs. One study reports
that 57 percent have flirted over the Internet, 38 percent engaged in
explicit online sexual conversation, and 31 percent had sex with someone
they "met" on their computer. Stephen Judah reports in his book,
"Staying Together," that infidelity was a primary or contributing factor
in a third of divorces. That is double a 1989 Gallup Poll in which only
17% of the divorced blamed adultery.
How can a marriage be restored after adultery?
Judah's book, "Staying Together: When an Affair Pulls You Apart,"
outlines several steps. First, the adulterer needs to examine his/her
own failures in the marriage, the dysfunctions and dissatisfactions in
the marriage which led to the affair:
"If my wife does not give me enough attention, or approval, respect, sex
or if there is some basic difference, instead of being the person I want
to be - honest and faithful, I can become dependent on the other and
react to what I am not getting," by cheating Judah says.
The offending spouse will experience a mixture of excitement and shame.
However, if wholeness is to be restored, "revelation of the affair
becomes the first order of business." The alternative is that the
offended spouse will discover it. That exacerbates the offense. The
sin's trail is easy to spot: unfamiliar but repeated "recent calls" on a
cell phone, suspicious credit card charges, odd behavior during phone
calls, reports from friends of suspicious behavior. By contrast, being
honest about the infidelity earns respect and builds a bridge back..
Judah, a therapist, recommends that the revelation be done in a
counseling session, which decreases the volatility inherent in the
situation. What must be revealed is what happened in general terms -
who, when, where, current status, and who else knows.
Next, both spouses need to learn communication skills, the most
important of which is to be an empowering listener. After the offender
tells the story, he/she has to paraphrase the outrage that their spouse
will express. That will empower the offended spouse and build hope. A
letter must be written to the third party terminating the relationship.
Finally, Judah believes that both spouses must choose to define
character traits they want to develop. Do they want to be known for
honesty, fidelity, being a promise keeper, or for dishonesty,
unfaithfulness and as a promise breaker? All of us are a mixture of good
and evil, but we can choose a higher path, which can attract back one's
Results? Judah has helped 87 percent of his couples stay together.
30+ Years / 1700+ Columns
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Cohabitation: A Growing Problem - Part I
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abortion and infanticide,