The Destructive Force of Adultery
by Mike Genung
July, 1991. I had been binging on porn daily, and had lost all control to stop. Prior to getting married in 1989, I’d assumed that having marital sex would resolve my problem with lust, but a year into our marriage I succumbed to the pull again. No one knew about my secret; least of all Michelle, my young wife of two years.
I’d started a new business in March of that year, and had decided to take a three week driving trip across the U.S. to visit customers and get sales jump started. My plan was to drive from our home in Los Angeles to Missouri over the weekend, and start making sales calls in St. Louis that Monday.
Saturday morning I woke up at 5:00am, with nerves on edge. The idea of facing the temptations that come with the roaring silence of a hotel room for three weeks straight was like looking down over a precipice with a steep drop–off where I couldn’t see the bottom. The anxiety was so intense that I rushed to the bathroom to give up my breakfast. Michelle rushed to me in concern, but I couldn’t tell her what I was going through. “I’ll be okay; something I ate didn’t sit well,” I mumbled.
I made it to Blue Springs, Missouri that night; a drive of some 1,400 miles. Exhausted, I went to sleep not long after checking in. “I made it through the first night without falling,” I thought. “Maybe this trip won’t be so bad.”
As I made the 240 mile drive into St. Louis the next morning, the ache of loneliness started its assault on my emotions. I thought about being alone in a hotel far away from home for most of the day with nothing to do… and then thoughts of sexual fantasy fluttered in my mind like a butterfly—one I started chasing. By the time I checked in to the hotel I’d already decided to buy some porn.
Later that night I went to a convenience store and bought several adult magazines. As I flipped through the pages I was shocked to find that one of the “articles” had to do with Satan. Although I knew was playing with the demonic, it didn’t matter; I was determined to have what I wanted regardless of the consequences.
I spent that week in St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit, with the same pattern repeating itself: binge on porn and masturbation all night, wake up with a shame hangover, and then function in the business world on a few hours of sleep the next day. By the time I arrived in Dayton, Ohio on Friday, pictures weren’t enough. Lust always leaves a man or woman a little emptier and hungrier than they were before, and I had hollowed out my soul to the point where I craved a bigger fix.
After dinner, I called Michelle. She was sweet, caring and kind as usual; when she finished the conversation saying she loved me, a needle of conviction poked at my rock-hard heart… and I reached for the phone book.
I found an ad for a company that offered the “service” I was interested in, and made a phone call. A woman was dispatched to my room; it was promised she would be there in a few minutes. I looked at my wedding ring; I couldn’t have sex with another woman and think about my wife, so I took it off.
$150.00 and an hour later, I had committed adultery with a woman who sold her body for money. Something was wrong though—I didn’t enjoy it; I wanted to get it over with almost as soon as it started. I felt like crying inside, as if something had died.
I had been with prostitutes before I’d been married, and the look in their eyes was often a reflection of what I was doing to myself—and them. When a man or woman gives them self up to sexual sin, there is a death within that takes place that goes beyond the searing of conscience. When I looked into the vacant eyes of a woman who was a prostitute, the life behind the eyes was missing.
Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
1 Corinthians 6:18
After she left I had a strong sense that I was filthy, inside and out; a quick shower didn’t relieve this feeling. I put my wedding ring back on and thought of Michelle back home, who was unaware of what her Christian sex addict husband had done. Her words at the end of our last phone conversation came back to me, and I broke down sobbing. How did it get this far? I never would have imagined that after just two years of marriage I, the one everyone thought was a “good Christian guy,” would have committed adultery with a prostitute.
The next morning I checked out of the hotel as soon as I could; I couldn’t stand being there. The memories of what I’d done the night before haunted me like a demonic nightmare I hoped I would wake up from. There was no more hunger for lust, no thoughts of sexual fantasy; I was sick of it.
I met with a customer later that day, and then drove to Kitchener, Canada the next morning. I knew I needed to tell Michelle that I’d broken our marriage covenant, but was terrified of what her response might be. Looking for some advice (and hoping it would be that I shouldn’t tell her), I called a friend of in mine. John was in his fifties, and he and his wife had recovered from the multiple affairs he’d committed. When I asked John if he thought I should tell Michelle, his words sank all hope: “You have to tell her, or there will never be true intimacy in your marriage again; the person you committed adultery with will always be between the two of you.”
Then I asked him how long it took his marriage to heal: “Years,” he said. My mouth dropped. “Years???” I said in disbelief. “Years??? I thought surely you were going to say a few weeks or maybe even months, but years??!!”
“Yes, years” John repeated firmly. “The old marriage you had is dead and you have to build a new one. This is going to take a lot of time and effort on your part; you’ve got to kill her with kindness and win her all over again.”
There are some moments in life that are never forgotten, the impact is so intense that the memory burns into the mind. That phone call from Canada when I told my wife I’d betrayed her was one of them. As I unfolded the ugly account of my adultery, with porn, and then the prostitute, Michelle started crying. While I spoke, her sobs increased in intensity and sorrow: “Oh Mike, Mike, Mike…” she said… it was as if I was listening while she discovered that I had stabbed her in the back with a nine inch stiletto.
The napkins from our wedding day had said “Today, I married my best friend.” For many women, the shock and horror from uncovering the impossible truth that their best friend has betrayed them is far more traumatic than what was done.
When I heard Michelle’s reaction, I knew that the damage I’d inflicted on our marriage was far more severe than I’d anticipated. Most men are blind to what they’re doing to their wives until it’s too late. Even months later, some don’t get it; it’s not uncommon to hear a man say “when is she gonna get over this” when only a few months have passed.
In the Richter Magnitude scale,1 earthquakes that measure an intensity from one to 5.9 are defined as “very minor” to “moderate.” A moderate earthquake “can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions… slight damage to well-designed buildings.” Very minor to moderate earthquakes are reported to occur more than 60,000 times each year.
Earthquakes measuring 6.0-6.9 are labeled “strong,” and occur 120 times per year. At the top end of the scale is an earthquake measuring 9.0, known as a “rare great” quake, an event that takes place once every 20 years. A rare great earthquake is estimated at having 32 gigatons of explosive force; no building near the epicenter of a 32 gigaton blast will be left standing. Everything is obliterated and must be rebuilt from the ground up.
All marriages have their “very minor” to “moderate” earthquakes which are easily withstood, but adultery is a 32 gigaton blast that decimates everything. The relationship is razed down to its foundation, wiping out all of the trust, love, and joy that had been so carefully constructed over the years.
Before I confessed my adultery to Michelle, she was passionate about our relationship. She loved talking to me; we enjoyed a closeness that I’d never experienced with another person. We freely laughed together, and shared our hobbies, fears and dreams with each other.
All of that changed overnight; what our marriage had been was irrevocably lost. Now, my mere presence would cause her to start crying. Laughter vanished, and our marriage became a desperate struggle for survival. In place of the open door of trust, barriers were constructed to protect against further damage.
Progress was dreadfully slow; there were days when it felt like healing might be impossible; I couldn’t “fix her” because I was the source of Michelle’s pain. Even apologizing caused crying and explosions of anger.
Masturbation with porn, by the way, is adultery; worshipping, loving and lusting after another woman by using self-sex to enhance the experience. I’ve heard stories of men whose wives walked in on them as they were acting out with pornography; the recovery process for these marriages take as long as if their wife had caught them with another woman. (The reality with porn is that they were having sex with another woman emotionally and spiritually while having sex with themselves physically.)
If the physical act of adultery is a rare great earthquake, porn with masturbation is a 7.0—a “major earthquake” with the destructive force of 50 megatons. While a 50 megaton blast isn’t as severe as the 32 gigaton version, major earthquakes occur 18 times a year. Since pornography is highly addictive and takes time to overcome, the continual trauma done to a marriage by successive 50 megaton blasts can be just as devastating as that caused by the rare great quake of physical adultery.
Betrayal: To deliver into the hands of an enemy in violation of a trust or allegiance; To be false or disloyal to, to lead astray; deceive.
American Heritage Dictionary
Only a close friend has access to the deepest, most secret places of our heart, and it is only a close friend who can enter this place—and destroy it.
For the Christian sex addict, there is another who they betray:
While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
Like Judas, I kissed Jesus one moment and then betrayed Him the next. I would proclaim my love for Him during worship on Sunday mornings, and then fall down before the evil goddess of lust from Monday through Saturday. Every porn binge and act of adultery was a betrayal of my relationship with the Lord.
How does our adultery affect Him?
Have you ever noticed how God often describes the nation of Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him as adultery? At times, He sounds mad:
If you say in your heart, 'Why have these things happened to me?' Because of the magnitude of your iniquity your skirts have been removed and your heels have been exposed. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil. Therefore I will scatter them like drifting straw to the desert wind. This is your lot, the portion measured to you from Me, declares the Lord, Because you have forgotten Me and trusted in falsehood. So I Myself have also stripped your skirts off over your face, that your shame may be seen. As for your adulteries and your lustful neighings, the lewdness of your prostitution on the hills in the field, I have seen your abominations. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will you remain unclean?
God’s response isn’t far off from how Michelle reacted to my betrayal; she was angry and bitter for months on end, and deeply hurt. Seeing God as angry is easy, but could we also hurt Him?
Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations to which they will be carried captive, how I have been hurt by their adulterous hearts which turned away from Me, and by their eyes which played the harlot after their idols; and they will loathe themselves in their own sight for the evils which they have committed, for all their abominations.
The Lord exposes His heart to us and offers us His best, which included all the grace, love and life available through Jesus’ death on the cross. If He didn’t care deeply for us, He wouldn’t be so angry—and hurt—when we betray Him.
But He does love us, and He wants us back.
Fortunately, we serve a God who heals broken hearts. The rebuilding process begins the same way with Him as it does with our wives: by honest confession of our betrayal and adultery.
David wrote about the blessing that came from such an admission:
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.
In spite of how I hurt Him, God’s grace and forgiveness were extended to me when I confessed my sin. Such forgiveness and love still amazes me today; there is no sexual sin that the blood of the cross doesn’t cover.
I will share that one of the most precious moments of my life was when Michelle forgave me for my betrayal of her. For a man who has committed what could have been the unpardonable sin in marriage, receiving such grace is priceless.
In 2006, fifteen years after that day in 1991 when I called Michelle and confessed my adultery, I asked her if she had ever forgiven me. We’d been through marital counseling and worked through the pain and anger in years past, but I couldn’t remember if she had ever said the words “I forgive you.” In response she wrote the following letter to me, which she read aloud one night:
When you called me and told me what you had done, I felt this heavy weight on me that I couldn't get off; my stomach felt like lead. I felt like I had to vomit. I think I kept repeating your name because if I did, somehow it wouldn't be true. It was more of a feeling of bemoaning. Why? Why? Why?
You were my first real boyfriend. My first real lover. The only man I had ever given my heart to. The only man I allowed to see me vulnerable. To see my flaws. You were my knight. You told me you loved me. You accepted the things about me I didn't accept.
That phone call made me question all of it.
My low self-esteem became lower, almost non-existent. I was trying to measure up to something unattainable I thought would make you happy.
You took something that was ours and gave it away to a dirty whore. You just gave it away—it wasn't even something that you could have asked me if I cared. It wasn't something meant to be shared or loaned. It was ours and only ours.
You made it cheap. Expendable. No longer special.
You took my knight away. You made me grow up in a way I didn't want - or I wasn't ready to see the harsh reality of life. I had an innocence still, and that was destroyed.
I know today you are not that same person, nor am I, but you really hurt me, Mike. It was a blow I was unprepared for.
I don't remember if I ever said I forgive you, or if I was ever ready because I probably hadn't expressed what you had done to me. I do forgive you, Mike.
John was right; recovery from adultery takes years. The good news is that the Lord rebuilds and restores broken marriages.