I’m convinced that the one of the saddest part of ministry is watching marriages fail, especially due to infidelity. To sit in a room with a husband or a wife weeping over the betrayal of their spouse is almost too much for any shepherd to bear. It’s the kind of scene that must never cross your mind in the midst of the affair, but it is where you will inevitably end up if you violate the covenant of marriage.
Wendy Plump of the New York Times paints a graphic picture of the affects of sexual infidelity in this article at the new York Times. It is a “must read” article and one that I will be using in pre-marital counseling to remind couples of the awful effects of unfaithfulness.
Here’s an excerpt:
IN the end your marriage may not need to be trashed, though mine was. The affairs metastasized in our relationship from the inside out. By the time all was said and done, there was little left to save. Our marriage had become like a leaf eaten away by caterpillars, where the petiole and midrib remain with some ghostly connective tracery in between. Not enough to hold even a drop of rain.
I look at my parents and at how much simpler their lives are at the ages of 75, mostly because they haven’t marred the landscape with grand-scale deceit. They have this marriage of 50-some years behind them, and it is a monument to success. A few weeks or months of illicit passion could not hold a candle to it.
If you imagine yourself in such a situation, where would you fit an affair in neatly? If you were 75, which would you rather have: years of steady if occasionally strained devotion, or something that looks a little bit like the Iraqi city of Fallujah, cratered with spent artillery?
From where I stand now, it all just looks like a cheap hotel room, whether you’re in that room to have an affair or to escape from the discovery of one.
And despite the sex and the excitement, or the drama and the fix of everyone’s empathetic attention, there is no view from this room that is worth having.
Randy Alcorn has some excellent suggestions for pursuing sexual purity in marriage. Here are a few of the highlights:
1. Regularly evaluate your relationship with your spouse. Beware of poor communication, inadequate conflict resolution, poor sexual relationship, discontent, and other red flags. Keep your fingers on the pulse of your marriage!
2. Spend regular uninterrupted time together to communicate on all levels: spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. (Date your spouse. If it’s not happening, put it in your schedule!)
3. Share openly with each other—don’t harbor secrets or withhold personal struggles. (Every adultery begins with a secret.)
7. Be fiercely loyal to your spouse; speak highly of her/him and never downgrade her to anyone.
12. Anticipate, and then act to prevent, avoid and resist sexual temptation.
17. Take care of your physical health; be as attractive to your mate as you can.
18. Be modest with others in public, and sexy with your spouse in private—not the opposite!
20. Rehearse in advance the devastating consequences of immorality and a broken marriage. Count the cost of neglect and unfaithfulness!
National Review Online has a great article on the serious affects of Pornography. Here’s an excerpt:
Perhaps the greatest hardship for women who fear they have lost (or are losing) a husband to Internet porn is the absence of a public consensus about the harmful effects of pornography on marriage. Consider what we know. In a study published inSexual Addiction and Compulsivity, Schneider found that among the 68 percent of couples in which one person was addicted to Internet porn, one or both had lost interest in sex. Results of the same study, published in 2000, indicated that porn use was a major contributing factor to increased risk of separation and divorce. This finding is substantiated by results of a 2002 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, during which surveyed lawyers claimed that “an obsessive interest in Internet pornography” was a significant factor in 56 percent of their divorce cases the prior year.
Porn use creates the impression that aberrant sexual practices are more common than they really are, and that promiscuous behavior is normal. For example, in a 2000 meta-analysis of 46 published studies put out by the National Foundation for Family Research and Education at the University of Calgary, regular exposure to pornography increased risk of sexual deviancy (including lower age of first intercourse and excessive masturbation), increased belief in the “rape myth” (that women cause rape and rapists are normal), and was associated with negative attitudes regarding intimate relationships (e.g., rejecting the need for courtship and viewing persons as sexual objects). Indeed, neurological imaging confirms the latter finding. Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, used MRI scans to analyze the brain activity of men viewing pornography. She found that after viewing porn, men looked at women more as objects than as human beings.
There have been a lot of great resources on the web lately for young people struggling with issues of sexuality. Here are a couple that I’m sure I’ll be passing on to some of the teenagers and young marrieds that I work with.
1) Sexual Detox – This is a series of posts from Tim Challies for young men living in our pornified culture. Tim does an excellent job of addressing a very common and yet mostly ignored issue that young men struggle with.
2) Breaking the Pornography Addiction – This two part series from David Powlinson is an example of biblical counseling at its best. Powlinson does a masterful job of dealing with an extremely difficult topic.
3) False Messages – Men aren’t the only ones who struggle with sexual issues. These 3 posts from Aileen Challies speak to one of the most common and most difficult issues for any young married couple from a woman’s point of view.
And that’s what I mean by a “rite of passage.” Every young girl growing up becomes a sexually mature being, and we used to have ways to help her handle that fact: primarily, a culturally sanctioned (if sometimes nebulous) belief system that portrayed sex as one important part of marriage and life, not the be-all and end-all of existence. Good parents still teach their daughters this, but the culture all around them is teaching them something else: that the natural result of growing up — not just an option, but the very definition of growing up — is becoming a “girl gone wild.” (No wonder we use the term mature themes to mean one thing and one thing only. I use it myself, because it’s a useful shorthand, but I cringe whenever I do.) And even the stars who profess faith generally compartmentalize it out of their way, because apparently faith means one thing before you reach adolescence and another thing after. It can’t be allowed to interfere with real life, and especially with real “growing up.”