There are probably few things more disruptive to a marriage than adultery. The trend toward what is now called extra-marital sex may be one of the major factors contributing to a divorce rate in the United States that is expected to approach 50-60 percent in the next two decades.
No one knows what the rate or frequency of extra-marital sex really is. It has been estimated in the past to involve about half of the husbands and nearly a fourth of wives in the United States. More recent research, however, indicates the trend has increased. The majority of both husbands and wives in the United States are now projected to have a sexual relationship with someone other than spouses during their married lives.Those who have had such experiences are well aware of the devastating effects it usually has on a marital relationship. Adultery does not always lead to divorce but frequently does. Wives seem to be somewhat more tolerant of husbands who stray from the marital fold. Husbands tend to be less forgiving. When a wife has an extra-marital affair, nearly 80-90 percent of such couples later divorce.
The disruptive impact of divorce was vividly portrayed in a recent drama production at Brigham Young University. Last week Susan and I attended "Broadway Bound," the play by Neil Simon based on his years at home with his parents when he was struggling to become a writer of comedy. There were many delightful, humorous scenes scenes from his life that were skillfully portrayed by the cast, much to the delight of those who attended. But right before the intermission there was a dramatic scene in which Kate Jerome, the mother, confronted the father, Jack Jerome, about her belief and suspicion that he was seeing another woman.
During the confrontation Kate alluded to the fact that they hadn't been together (sexually) as husband and wife for over a year and he must be going somewhere else. In addition, a neighbor had called and told her about the supposed affair. (Such relationships are seldom kept secret.) Jack Jerome gradually confessed he was seeing another, woman but said the relationship was over. But Kate pressed for more information. Was she a younger woman? Jack indicated he was attracted to the woman's inquisitive conversation. Kate wanted to know why. And what had been lacking in their own relationship that he felt justified in seeing another woman?
Finally, Kate tearfully informed Jack she could understand, and to some degree expect, a husband who wanted to touch another woman. But she said she could never accept, nor would she tolerate, her husband having feelings for the woman involved.
It was one of the more moving parts of the play. Jack later confessed that the relationship was not yet over, and that he likely would be seeing the woman again. Not for sexual purposes, he said, but for reasons of emotional support he felt the woman now needed.
Kate indignantly, and rightfully, told Jack that under such circumstances it was best that he leave the home. He eventually did. And a few years later he remarried still another woman. Kate Jerome never remarried. The humiliation and indignation of the experience was apparently too much for her to bear.
The subtle truth revealed during the play was that most extra-marital affairs do not begin with lust or sexual passion. They often start when one person fills a seemingly innocent emotional need in another. The sexual relations that usually follow are consequences of the initial emotional attachment.
Let us be aware.
Evidently there are additional consequences of adultery that are sometimes unnoticed. Perhaps more marriage and family ties are impaired. Years ago it was noted: "Whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding; he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul." (Proverbs 6:32)