“You Shall Not Commit Adultery”

Exodus 20.14

Most ancient societies were patriarchal; laws and customs were established by men for the benefit of men. Women had very few rights. Husbands could divorce a wife for as minor an offense as burning the soup; wives were almost never permitted to divorce. Strong arguments have been made that one purpose of this commandment was to ensure the paternity of children.

And yet, there is another purpose for prohibiting adultery. It can tear families apart, leaving children traumatized. Who stays with which parent? How do they make the switch? How often do the children see each parent? Difficult questions, but it must be said that if the parents are constantly fighting, and if the atmosphere in the home is toxic, divorce is far better for the children than “staying together for the kids.” The children are still traumatized, but when and if calm returns they can begin to heal.

Adultery not only breaks marriages, it breaks trust, and it breaks hearts. Some betrayed spouses never fully regain their sense of self-worth. They wonder what they didn’t do that they should have, or what they did that they shouldn’t have. They may even wonder if they actually did do anything wrong. They find it difficult, if not impossible, to ever trust again.

Marriages end; it happens. People grow together or they grow apart; that happens too. The best advice is for a couple to work on their relationship. If they cannot make it work; if they cannot give their hearts to one another, then by all means end the marriage as graciously as possible. Then give themselves time to heal. When the kids are all right, then, and only then, are they free to find someone else.