What Is Adultery?

Adultery is one of the easiest ways to damage your marriage. Sometimes the damage is so heavy, the marriage can seem beyond repair. It can collapse even the strongest bonds and destroy your relationship from the inside out because it decimates trust.

Heather Riggleman
Broken heart in two wedding rings

I saw him in class. I could tell right away there was something different about him. He wasn’t a flirt and he certainly wasn’t disrespectful. The more I got to know him, the more I knew Chris was the one. The one I would spend my life with. The one I could give my heart to. The person I could give my body, soul, and life to in an exclusive partnership of selfless love.

I knew I could trust him with all of me. I knew I could enter into a lifelong commitment that would be filled with making breakfast together, folding endless amounts of laundry, afternoon and evening delights, and sharing the headaches and joys of being parental units to three kids. As the Song of Solomon says, “I have found the one my soul loves.” 


Whether you’re married or not, whether your marriage is good or not, you’re looking at the person who will commit their lives to you for a lifetime. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Our culture screams that monogamy is “so last decade” or so you would think by looking at the growing trend in American marriages ending in divorce. One of the biggest factors is adultery. Typically, adultery occurs when a married person engages in a sexual relationship with someone other than the person to whom they are married.

According to the infidelity statistics, about 40% of unmarried relationships and 25% of marriages see at least one incident of infidelity. An issue of Marriage and Divorce journal also stated that 70% of all Americans engage in some kind of affair sometime during their marital life. Adultery is one of the worst things that can happen to a marriage and violates everything you’ve built with your partner in such a painful way.

When you commit adultery, you are literally tearing the bonds of your marriage. The wise King Solomon even said the adulterer “destroys his own soul” (Proverbs 6:32). The author of Hebrews tells us that “marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4). And the pain it causes your partner? It’s a hot white pain, like being stabbed in the heart and twisting the blade that never fades without God’s supernatural healing.

This was never how God intended marriage. It was intended to be a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman. The Bible begins its teaching on marriage with the first marriage of Adam and Eve: One man and one woman, husband and wife, united by God (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7-9).

Adultery is also forbidden by the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). The fact that this law was simply stated meant that the meaning of adultery was well understood at the time Moses gave the law. Scripture is consistent in the prohibition against adultery. We know there is a hard line drawn in the bonds of marriage when it comes to understanding sexual adultery but that’s not where it ends.

King David and Bathsheba knew first-hand the danger of adultery and how the effects of their choice stayed with them the rest of their lives, hurting them and those who were innocent in the matter. The guilt, pain, and regret never further than a thought away.

Like most parents, they wanted better for their son and so warned him of the costly mistakes they had made. It’s almost like you can hear King David telling his son, King Solomon, about how with one look the white pain of his mistakes in Proverbs 6:27-35 all started.

You can almost hear him say: “Son, honor your marriage vows. Keep your eyes for your wife only. Don’t play with fire. It’s not worth the thrill...you will get burned. You will feel the pain for the rest of your life. And the sin of it all? You won’t be the only one crushed by the weight of your actions.”

Visual Adultery

Visual adultery is conferring adultery with your eyes. Some men and women seem to think it’s okay to look but not touch. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re reminded that our eyes are the gateways to the soul in Matthew 5:27-30 when Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to depart into hell.”

Women were the pinnacle of God’s creation. He created us to be the beautiful feminine version of himself. And God wired men to be visual creatures to appreciate the beauty. However, God did not want us to distort what he meant for good through adultery.

As a woman, I know my husband’s eyes will naturally catch God’s beauty. But I also know Chris will “ping pong” off of other women because it’s the second look that leads to thoughts that lead to sin. As a woman, I appreciate how Chris is created and I appreciate every effort he makes.

Emotional Adultery

Couples often think of physical infidelity when it comes to adultery. However emotional adultery is dangerous and often leads to the physical. Based on emotional intimacy, emotional affairs are one of the biggest threats to relationships, and because they are often framed as innocent friendships, they aren’t always the easiest to detect.

It could be the guy at work, at the gym, on the PTA, or at your child’s soccer practice. You begin to open up and share about your life and that personal connection is established. Even when you say you are “just friends” there is an attraction between you and the person.

When there are problems in your relationship, you or your partner may look to someone else to fill the void. You begin to share intimate and confidential information about your relationship and ask your “friend” for advice. When things get tough, you turn to them for support instead of your spouse.

This is why social media, the workplace, and phones are breeding grounds for emotional infidelity. Protect yourself and your marriage. Limit contact with the opposite sex. Set boundaries that your personal life is off-limits and if you find this person to be an issue — make the necessary changes to cut off all contact. Don’t let your marriage become part of the statistics.

Why Does This Matter?

Adultery is one of the easiest ways to damage your marriage. Sometimes the damage is so heavy, the marriage can seem beyond repair. It can collapse even the strongest bonds and destroy your relationship from the inside out because it decimates trust. Trust is the foundation of marriage, so treasure what your spouse gave you — themselves. Value it. Protect it at all costs.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/AndreyPopov

Heather Riggleman is an author, national speaker, former award-winning journalist and podcast co-host of the Moms Together Podcast. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 21 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal,  Mama Needs a Time Out, and Let’s Talk About Prayer and a contributor to several books.  Her work has been featured on Proverbs 31 Ministries, MOPS, Today's Christian Woman, and Focus On the Family. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.  

Originally published August 31, 2020.