I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my then husband about the woman he was having an affair with.
“It’s just exhilarating that someone like that would be interested in me,” he said.
Adultery hits at the core of your being. Every ounce of self-confidence and self-respect that you carry is destroyed. You look in the mirror day after day, criticizing every aspect of your appearance. You question everything about yourself, doubting even your greatest strengths. You begin to see yourself as worthless, unlovable.
You ask the question: Why was I not enough to keep my spouse satisfied?
And here’s the answer: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!
Your spouse’s adultery is not about you. It is not about your weaknesses. It is not about your appearance. It is not about your failures or even your successes. It is not about what you are doing or not doing. The truth is that your spouse’s decision to have an affair has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU.
I absolutely encourage you to evaluate your marriage and see what you contributed to the demise of your marriage. Maybe you nagged. Maybe you were too busy with the kids or your career. Maybe you contributed to financial problems. Maybe, like me, you enabled your spouse to live in a selfish manner by not confronting their sinful behaviors.
But no matter what your contribution was, the affair IS NOT ABOUT YOU.
Let’s take a quick look at a couple of American icons. Tiger Woods was married to an absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous woman, and yet he strayed. It’s not about your appearance. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been married to his beautiful and successful wife, Maria Shriver, for over 25 years when it became public that he had fathered a child with his employee. It’s not about your abilities.
But, adultery is not limited to Hollywood and sports icons. The news is full of pastors who have fallen from grace by engaging in adulterous relationships, leaving their loving and supportive spouses to pick up the pieces. Christian recording artists are caught, leaving their careers a pile of rubble. Our churches are full of amazing spouses who are left devastated by the affairs of their Christian spouses.
Even in the Bible we see adultery, forbidden relationships that developed in spite of faithful, loving spouses. I wrote a post some time ago about a biblical love triangle. In it, I focused on David, Bathsheba, and Uriah. Despite Uriah being a faithful, responsible man, a man of integrity and courage, his wife chose to participate in an adulterous relationship with King David. IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH URIAH.
Hear me out: If your spouse has chosen to have an affair, it has nothing to do with you! It is not a reflection on who you are. It is not a reflection on your successes or failures. It is not a reflection on what type of spouse you have been. It is not a reflection on your inner or outer beauty.
It is a reflection on who your spouse is, the condition of his/her heart.
And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:20-23
Adultery is about a hardened heart, a heart that is harboring evil, immoral thoughts deep within. Adultery is about a person who has refused to let God and his word penetrate the deep recesses of the heart, allowing him to have free reign and transform from the inside out. Adultery is about the deceit and evil of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). Adultery is about failing to allow God to replace the heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
While there are many contributing factors to an affair, I have found some themes that seem to be very common among the stories I hear each and every day.
Pornography. I was visiting with a pastor one day, telling him my story. He looked me in the face and said, “Your ex-husband has a pornography problem.” Sure, I knew there had been some small issues with pornography, but I didn’t know just how big of a problem it actually was. And, I had been reassured that it was no big deal, that it was just something all men do.
The pastor went on to suggest that I read “Every Young Man’s Battle” with my boys and help break the cycle. Although I was uncertain, I decided to at least peruse the book. The reality of my life began to unfold through the pages of that book. I suddenly came face-to-face with the reality that pornography was a much bigger problem than I ever realized. My ex-husband’s mind was so warped by pornography that women had become nothing more than objects used to gratify his selfish desires. I was nothing more than an object to gratify his selfish desires.
Pornography is devastating. It rewires the brain, changes the way men look at women. It destroys a woman’s value. And, once it is in the mind, those images are burned there for eternity. It takes a lot of time, energy, and counseling to overcome the hold that pornographic images have on a man. (Women may also succumb, but it is a different type of pull).
I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman. Job 31:1
Discontent. One of the last sermons my ex-husband preached before I learned of his affair was on temptation from the book of James. He made the statement that temptation happens when Satan gets us to doubt the good gifts that God has placed in our lives. That statement has stuck in my head for years, because that was the exact method of operation used on my husband. You see, my husband was surrounded by a loving wife, three amazing kids, and a great church. And yet, rather than focusing on all that he had, he was focused on what he perceived he didn’t have. His church wasn’t big enough. Finances were tough. Rather than recognizing all of the good gifts in his life, he felt as if God was withholding better things from him. He began to doubt the good gifts in his life.
Discontent happens when we focus on those things that we don’t have. Discontent happens when we fail to see all of the blessings God has given us. Philippians 4 tells us to think on those things that are lovely, noble, true, right, excellent and praiseworthy so that the God’s peace that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Paul then continues with:
I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Philippians 4:12
Contentment changes the way we view life. Contentment changes the way we view circumstances. Contentment changes the way we view our spouse and our marriage. Contentment keeps our eyes from wandering to those things that would seek to ultimately destroy us.
Selfishness. I have yet to hear a story of adultery in which the offending party was always looking out for the good of his/her spouse. Instead, I hear repeatedly that the offending spouse was concerned only about his/her needs and desires. I hear about the one-sided nature of the relationship, how in retrospect it was all about one person.
Selfishness is a work of the flesh, in direct opposition to the fruit of the spirit. A selfish spouse often seeks to fulfill his/her own wants and desires instead of seeking to be a blessing to the faithful spouse.
The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other… When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures… Galatians 5:16-19 (selected portions)
Could it be any more clear?
Addiction. I had an addiction counselor define addiction as self on the throne, as an attempt to fill a God-shaped void with something other than God. It is an attempt to mask a deep pain, perhaps a deep wound that occurred in childhood. Of course, we all think of drugs and alcohol when we think of addiction. The truth is, however, that we can attempt to fill that void with anything. Have you ever known someone who was addicted to shopping? Or books? Or anything else? Have you ever known someone who couldn’t understand the concept of moderation, that everything was done to an extreme?
As I look back, I see the seeds of addiction in my ex-husband. It wasn’t drugs or alcohol. But, he used socially acceptable items to try to mask his pain. We had more books than a Christian book store. We had more movies than a Blockbuster video. We had more music than iTunes. I now realize that each obsession was about masking a pain that was deep inside of him, perhaps wounds inflicted during his childhood.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. Isaiah 26:3
Our only addiction should be to God, his word. If we fix our thoughts on him, we will be at peace.
If you have been the victim of adultery, please hear me when I say that IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. You are precious, greatly loved, chosen. You are the apple of his eye, his treasured possession. You are child of the King, heir to all the treasures of heaven. Your spouse’s actions are about him/her. They are not a reflection on you.
Look in the mirror and love the image looking back at you. Hold your head high knowing that you are approved. Remind yourself daily that your spouse’s actions are simply not a reflection on who you are. It is not about you.