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Infidelity is devastating to a marriage. There are many reasons why sex happens outside of marriage. Some people get trapped in affairs to give a conscious or subconscious “wake-up call” to the spouse. This might happen if your spouse has a different kind of lover outside of the marriage, such as a consuming career. Another reason some people get wrapped up in affairs is to inflate a bruised ego. You might want to get back at your spouse for something he or she did that hurt you rather than offering forgiveness and dealing with the root issue. Then, there are the friendships that get out of control where one thing, leads to another thing. Another big reason why people have affairs is because their spouse doesn’t live up to their expectations anymore. You know your spouse’s good and bad qualities, while you may not know those of the other partner because you don’t know him or her well enough. This is when you begin romanticizing a relationship, fanaticizing about what could be with the person who isn’t your spouse and creating barriers within your own marriage.

Infidelity or adultery is one of the most frequently and severely condemned sins in the Bible. Adultery is mentioned 52 times, including in the Ten Commandments, all four Gospels, and ten other books of the Bible. Only the sins of idolatry, self-righteousness and murder are mentioned more often.

In the Old Testament, adultery was understood as sexual relations between a married (or betrothed) woman and man other than her husband. It was therefore a sin against the husband. In the New Testament, Jesus extended the definition of adultery to include sexual relations between a married man and a woman other than his wife. Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12). People often wonder if an exception is allowed in cases where the spouse cannot or will not have sex, or if the couple is separated, or for other reasons. However, the Bible doesn’t mention any possible exceptions. Therefore, as long as a couple is legally married, sex with anyone else is considered adultery.

The Bible mentions that adultery is grounds for divorce but does not require it. In many cases, the husband and wife can be reconciled and the marriage saved after adultery. It is not a sin to continue to live with and have sex with a spouse who has committed adultery.

While there are a number of reasons for infidelity, the majority of the cases occur because of a need to be emotionally connected. Human beings have a deep-rooted need to be wanted, needed and understood. Ideally, this need is met in a marital relationship. However, if it isn’t, a spouse may look for emotional or physical fulfillment elsewhere, which results in marital infidelity. God designed sex to be enjoyed within a committed marital relationship. When it is removed from that context, it not only perverts its use, but also limits its enjoyment. Sex involves a level of intimacy that’s not possible in any other human relationship. When God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage, He established the “one flesh” relationship (Genesis 2:24). The Bible tells us that a man should leave his family, join his wife and become “one flesh” with her. This idea is carried through the New Testament as well. It is also clear in Jesus’ words. Paul expands on the “one flesh” idea in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. He says that when a man has sex with a prostitute, they have become “one body” (1 Corinthians 6:16). It’s clear here that sex is not simply a biological function.

When it comes to sexual pleasure in the Bible, it is often spoken of in the context of marriage. There are some Christians that feel that the only reason for sex is reproduction and there are others that believe that there are higher reasons for sex, including the ultimate joining together of a married man and woman – joining their two spirits, joining their two minds, and joining their two bodies. The Bible is not explicit on sex practices between married people. In Hebrews 13:4 we are told that the marriage bed is to be undefiled, it does not say what it means. There are a number of practices of love and sexuality in which the Bible is silent. Because of this, it is difficult to determine what is right and this is wrong. The general rule here is if it’s not from faith, it is sin. In the Old Testament, the term for sexual intercourse was “to know” a husband or a wife. The most intimate knowledge of a partner comes through this joining. Rather than prohibit sexual pleasure, the Bible shows that it is a gift from God and should not be applied outside the context of marriage.

It’s important to remember that marital infidelity, like all sins, can be forgiven. The adulterer or adulteress is not beyond the reach of God’s grace. As the sinner repents and God forgives, the betrayed partner is also obliged to forgive. Jesus said that if we don’t forgive the sins of others, our own sins will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:15. While forgiving and forgetting is not instinctive or easy, God’s grace is always sufficient.

Even though God will forgive adultery, the damage it causes can’t be undone. While marriages can last after a partner has been unfaithful, the impact the infidelity had on the relationship continues to last. Be mindful of your actions with others outside of your marriage. They do have consequences.

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