Adultery Is a Very Public Disease

You would think that a person who commits adultery would feel ashamed, remorseful, and guilty. You would think that a person who betrays his or her spouse would want to deny that it ever happened and hide all the evidence. You would think that a person who has an extramarital affair would avoid telling others about his or her infidelity.  You would think all of these things, and you would be right, to a certain point.

Initially, that’s pretty much how adultery plays out. The wayward spouse crosses that moral line in the sand and betrays his or her spouse. It’s often an impulsive act; the initial contact with the adulterous partner very often is exactly that. The sexual transgression could be either impulsive or premeditated. Regardless, when that line in the sand is crossed, there is no turning back. The wayward spouse has started the clock on a time bomb, and that clock is ticking away to the ultimate destruction of the affair. The wayward spouse is unaware that there even is a time bomb, and he or she certainly is not aware of that countdown to some specific moment in the future when the walls will come tumbling down.

After that line has been crossed, the coverup begins. The wayward spouse feels guilty, and tries to hide his or her actions. At the same time, however, the wayward spouse feels as though he or she has discovered the most fantastic drug on the planet. The feelings of euphoria are unprecedented, as is the thrill of being involved in a secret dalliance. A truly narcissistic bond develops between the adulterous partners, with each masking the insecurities of the other, helping the two to feel as though they have met someone utterly perfect, someone better than their soul mate. The process of self-deception thus begins.

Once the adulterer is on that drug, there seems to be no getting off it. The adulterer knows deep down inside that this new “relationship” is unhealthy, wrong, and immoral. But there are still those feelings of euphoria, a very strong infatuation that all too easily is mistaken as “love.” The adulterers profess love for one another, make plans for the future, promise to spend all eternity with one another, swear to leave their spouses, and so on. It is all utterly delusional thinking. They believe that they can find a quick and easy way out, and that is through the destruction of their marriages.

There is, however, a problem: this wondrous new “relationship” is still a secret that is being hidden from everyone. This fact is wholly incongruous with the feelings that the wayward spouse is having toward the adulterous partner, feelings that tell him or her that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this new “relationship,” a relationship that clearly will last indefinitely. So, the wayward spouse begins to make up all sorts of reasons why the affair is not wrong, and why he or she is justified in committing adultery. Take your pick: my spouse ignores me, my spouse does not sleep with me, my spouse is lazy, my spouse never does housework, my spouse is a jerk, etc.; there are literally thousands of reasons that a wayward spouse can come up with to justify the affair. These justifications are  knitted together to form a story that makes him or her out to be the hero or heroine, the adulterous partner to be Prince or Princess Charming, and the betrayed spouse to be the villain.

Now that this story is in place, it is just a matter of time before the wayward spouse has an epiphany, and it goes something like this: “If I don’t think I’m wrong, then I’m not wrong. If this relationship feels so right, then it must be right.”

This leads to the next stage of the affair: the adulterers go public. They tell everyone who will listen. They broadcast that information to the world in every way possible. They seek venues for introducing the adulterous partner to others. The seek the approval of the world, which they sometimes find explicitly (which is disturbing), and more often find implicitly, in the reticence of others to speak out against their behavior. The adulterers are appropriating the consciences of others to help clear their own.

This all leaves the betrayed spouse in a rather difficult place. At some point, the wayward spouse will want to talk about the affair to the betrayed spouse as well. This simply cannot be allowed to happen. The betrayed spouse has an obligation to shut down any and all talk of the affair. This does mean that the wayward spouse will need to lie about it from then on, but what are the alternatives? For the betrayed spouse, listening to the wayward spouse speak of something so grossly immoral and horribly hurtful is unbearable, and the thought of giving any sort of approval to this situation is simply unacceptable. A moral person would certainly never condone other forms of immoral behavior, like, say, theft or physical violence, so why should any talk of adultery be allowed? Adultery is theft, and it is an emotionally violent act, and it absolutely should be shunned. It should be shunned by every single person to whom the affair is exposed. 

Sadly, adulterers can be very wily individuals who create very clever and convincing arguments. They will say things like, “I’m getting a divorce,” or “we’re already separated,” as though either of those situations would in any way justify their vastly inappropriate behaviors. All too often, the people who hear these explanations end up buying into them, or at least end up not as repulsed by the idea of adultery as they should be.

And sadly, for the adulterer, the day of reckoning will occur. The clock is ticking down to zero on that time-bomb that is the affair, and when it hits that point, the whole thing will implode. This countdown cannot be stopped; the most that can happen is that all of these other people who fail to register their objections just lengthen that countdown somewhat. But when one acts in contravention to the laws of the moral universe, there really isn’t any way to stop the implosion from occurring.

This hopefully raises the question, “What should I do if someone I know is committing adultery?” The answer is very simple. If it is your spouse, you shut down the conversation immediately and make it clear that you will not talk about it. If it is a friend or acquaintance, the obligation is the same: you must not let this person talk about it. Your relationship with that person is being violated at that moment, and you should be clear that any talk of the matter is incredibly distasteful to you and you will not allow it.

Adultery is a disease of the conscience that is all too rampant in society. Your refusal to participate in any way is very much a part of the cure.

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