Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple


Adultery Doesn’t Work: Ask the Children

posted by Mark Herringshaw

Yesterday afternoon Angela, an articulate and talented thirteen year-old sat in my office trying to make sense of the train wreck that had blown apart her family. I don’t think I helped much. Help will take a miracle, but then God is good at miracles…

For the last 18 months I’ve been working with Angela’s parents, Dan and Tina, now divorced, as they try to learn to communicate civilly, for Angela’s sake. So far, it’s been a frustrating effort. Their problem is trust. Dan and Tina’s 20 year marriage died in a bloody mess after a betrayal of adultery. Many issues, on both sides preceded the infidelity, and more followed, but the spark that lit the inferno exploded the moment they broke the 7th Commandment. That one decision mortally wounded their marriage, and with it, the peaceful, “fairytale” childhood this precious girl had enjoyed. Now her security and hope for her own future have became a secondary, but painfully real casualty. We may debate adultery on philosophical grounds; practically, there’s simply no debate – it doesn’t work. Just ask the children.

Tonight ABC’s “Nightline” is staging a debate about the validity of monogomy. Some people, as we will hear, argue that our sexual instincts pull us away from monogamy. We’re primates, and by the rules of our DNA, playing the field simply runs in the family. But those of us who believe there is something more to our humanness than genetics, hold out for a higher vision. We believe a Designer – God – has implanted something holy within us, a destiny that calls on us to govern and direct our impulses, not simply yield to their demands. Sex, we believe is more than physical; It’s actually sacred, a form of worship that participates with God in creating new life and nurturing the life of another we hold in our arms. Sex reaches its ultimate intent only when it’s bounded within the circle of a covenant promise – one man, with one woman, for life. This is the intent of God’s Command, “You shall not commit adultery.” He’s not ruining our fun; he’s explaining how our relationship hardware and software  actually run.

Fidelity nurtures human life on both personal and interpersonal levels. In addition to providing security for children and the extended family associated with a marriage, couples themselves flourish best within a monogamous commitment. Studies have shown measurable advantages in physical and psychological health among people who marry and stay married. Other research studying sexual fulfillment has found that monogamous couples enjoy far richer “feelings of intimacy,” more physical satisfaction, and more frequent encounters in their sexual experiences. The primary issue here seems to be trust. When each partner trusts fully that the other will “be there in the morning,” they are willing to abandon themselves in sexual expression. Abandonment is key to pleasure; trust is key to abandonment; Fidelity is key to trust. It seems counterintuitive, but the numbers are overwhelming: monogamy works, adultery does not. 

Weighed in the balance of human experience, adultery fails the pragmatics test. Whether measuring the health of the marriage itself, or more significantly, the health of the children as products of that marriage, it’s fidelity that delivers. Still skeptical? Spend the afternoon with a child who’s parents broke their vows…

Here’s a prayer for them:

“God I pray for the children of parents who have broken the covenant promise to be sexually faithful to one another. Restore the hope for a future in them. Free them from the guilt that somehow they were at fault. Protect their own sexual purity. Give them confidence and security in a strengthened relationship with you. As they can, help them rebuild trust with the parents, and give them the grace to be honest and yet to forgive. Let them know that they are not themselves destined to a cycle of ruined relationships. Anchor their joy in you!”  



  • Tracy

    Being the parent of a child who has survived this disaster, I feel that I can only explain that sometimes the accusations are a defense mechanism for the guilt. I was accused for years of adultery and finally figured if you can’t beat them join them… This being said I live with the guilt of having acted upon my lust. I feel that there is only one way to enter into a new relationship and that is after you have finished another. A child is a precious gift and needs the love of both parents. Cherish and respect the gift of your children!!!

  • r keith rytaran

    adultery is an utterly destructive act of will. i saw is wreak havoc in my parents’ lives and nearly ended my own. for more on this please consider the newly released true novel by Eloquent Books entitled Euclid Avenue, Our scars mean something. the press release can be seen at eloquentbooks.com/euclidavenue.html. the book is also available at barnes & noble, books & co, books-a-million, borders, select hallmark book stores and amazon.com

  • Mark Herringshaw

    Tracy, you really don’t have to “live with the guilt.” It sounds like you have lived through a lot of pain and a lot of distrust. Truth is, God can and will forgive this failure and beyond forgiveness he will begin to rebuild your life and your relationship with your child. The Bible promises that if we confess our sin – our failures to live up to his standards – he will forgive us and wash us clean (I John 1:9).
    Here’s my prayer for you: “Jesus, you have paid the price for Tracy’s failures. You have offered to take them and exchange with her your perfection. She feels the weight of this past compromise. As she gives this to you, give her in exchange a new life with hope and a future!”

  • ljb

    a 26 year marriage fell apart– reason: Infidelity.
    Once caught, the promises came The subsequent counseling had the guilty party saying the non-guilty party was at fault. Non guilty party attempted to change to guilty party’s wishes but when there is no trust, no confidence, no faith in the partner the marriage cannot survive. THe promises made were broken again. THerapist reason: lower level of maturity of the guilty party; inability to exercise self control (there were other issues); need for immediate satisfaction; selfcenteredness and high egocentrism.
    Non guilty party had very high blood pressure, stress headaches, weight gain, ulcers. Post divorce all illness resolved due to reduced stress.
    The thing is, the children, although adults and out of the home were still severely affected. Forgiveness of the guilty parent came hard and only over a long time.
    There are marriages that survive and I see those as the ones where the desire is not to satisfy only the self, but the mate.

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