Is adultery a form of abuse?
Great question. And I’d love for you to weigh in.
For those of us who have experienced this we might be inclined to say yes. There are definitely some elements of abuse involved in cheating. Particularly perpetual cheating.
Domestic abuse of any kind, emotional, physical, mental, psychological has long-term physical and emotional affects on the victim. They experience triggers that create panic attacks and anxiety, they develop depression and have issues with low self-esteem.
Infidelity leaves a spouse hurt, betrayed, and completely humiliated. What they experience is akin to an enormous loss such as the death of a loved one. In fact, there are those out there who would suggest that healing from infidelity is actually more difficult than healing from the loss of life of a loved one. I remember one woman whose first husband had cheated on her and then she went on to remarry and was married for over 30 years. This second husband passed away. Even after all that time, this woman said that the pain from the infidelity was far worse then the pain of the death of her husband. It’s that traumatic.
The thing about affairs is that our spouses choose to put us through that pain and trauma. Most affairs get found out one way or another. Either the cheating spouse confesses on their own or the spouse who was cheated on suspects something and finds something out and confronts their spouse and exposes their sin for them. Either way, it’s not something that never impacts your spouse. In fact, Clint and I were just having this talk the other day. So often, spouses (not just cheating spouses) feel that by keeping secrets and fabricating things to make things seem better than they are that they are actually protecting their spouse. Clint would tell you that he has in the past used the phrase “I didn’t want to hurt you.” Well, the truth is that the choices you are making in secret are hurting me. They are hurting the marriage. Even if I never ever find out what you did you have hurt the relationship by the choices you’ve made. Those choices find their way into the very fabric of the marriage and become apart of you and the underlying manner in which you interact with each other.
Like I said, my two cents is that infidelity can have abusive properties to it if the cheating spouse is unrepentant and continues to live in a cycle of betrayal, confession, repentance and back again. That’s what we call a cycle. An incredibly unhealthy one. If that’s what is happening in your marriage you do have choices. Of course, we’ve always encouraged couples that if the cheating spouse is repentant to do everything in their power to choose restoration of the marriage. But be honest about what your spouse’s choices are doing and if you’re sensing true healing or unhealthy patterns and behaviors that are just going to continue to rear their ugly heads.
What do you think? Is infidelity a form of abuse? If so, why? If not, why not?