Extramarital affairs occur more than any of us realise. Perhaps like the prevalence of many homosexual relationships — with no aspersions cast, by the way — they hit the underground and stay there, for obvious reasons.
Let’s see who might be hurt by an affair:
1. Our marriage partner – the marriage is a place where two people have become one flesh. Involve another party (or parties) to that concern and we rip at the sinews of the original bond of marriage. Recoverable, yes, but the one most affected is our marriage partner.
2. Our marriage – it might be the biggest test for any marriage, and many don’t recover from such betrayal and destruction of trust. Forgiveness is a grind beyond many; people unable to draw upon God’s power. Besides, there are many who are disposed to affairs who’ll want to end the marriage so they can play out the new fantasy.
3. Our lover – what we would have with them is temporary at best. Sure, the ‘fling’ might excite and stimulate — but how fleeting? Anyway, the real person is never the one we originate relations with; once the bling of romance has worn off. They and we will later determine this affair was not worth it — and not even for what was lost, which adds a ton of salt to the wounds of betrayal.
4. Our children – they’ll be betrayed at the most basic level. A parent has not only strayed and betrayed another parent, they’ve betrayed the child as well.
5. Ourselves – we’ll know innately the sense of deriding shame and guilt for having concealed such a wrong.
6. Potentially three sets of parents – our parents, our spouse’s parents, and the lover’s parents are all potentially implicated. Shame, disgust, anger, guilt... a whole range of negative emotions will be felt; and these parents are dishonoured.
7. Tests and divides friendships – the “blended” phenomenon is one proven to not mix so much as curdle, to use a milk analogy. Not unlike blended families, the process of estranging friendships is asking our friends to choose which partner they love most. This is placing a huge strain on these relationships, not to mention the personal burden they’ll carry for this choice of infidelity of ours.
8. Community liaisons are affected – into schools our children attend, clubs we belong to, and various other alliances we have, and affiliations we maintain; all these are potentially compromised, and gossip is a thing that tempts many. Gossip is never a good thing. We can be assured that it will occur.
The ripple effect goes much deeper than this brief analysis can determine.
Many of these effects will last the rest of our lives, despite the reconciliation that God can engineer for us.
Affairs hurt more than the lover because relationships, at source, are part of a web of life, the living foundation for which is marriage. Compromise the institution of marriage in these ways and we begin to tear away at the fabric of morality, which is the sustainability for which society richly depends.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
Disclaimer: this article is not intended to bring guilt or further shame to those who’ve had affairs, for every sin is mortal forgivable in Christ. The purpose, moreover, is to motivate people who might be close to deciding to stray, as well as all of us, who at some point might consider it. There are so many reasons not to do it.
Graphic Credit: Steve Baccon.