I don’t like writing on this subject at all, but my pastoral practice and heart troubled for the safety of children compels me. It is a minefield of self-justification, identity confusions, desperate human failings and more. But most of all it’s trauma and deep grief and security demolition for young children. It’s the fact and the effect of adultery.
Yes, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, pornography and failure of parents to train their children all mess with kids critically, but another big one that gets almost zero attention as a scourge on the safety of our children in our nation is the effect of adultery.
David Curl who cares for young kids suffering the trauma of family breakup states that “Divorce is a health and social issue-one of Australia’s greatest public health crises”.
He laments the failure of the Family Courts. “About 70,000 Australian children experience their parents’ divorce or separation in an average year and our family law system casts its shadow over every one of them”
Adultery features in the Ten Commandments. Jesus, the foremost interpreter of Law, taught that it went deep into the human heart and needed a deep remedy. The famous Biblical episode that gave the world the non-judgmental ‘let him without sin cast the first stone’ also gave ‘go and sin no more’. Redemption and liberation together. It is serious. Anyone reading this and holding to the illusion of a so-called secret relationship or affair (read adultery) better turn around, repent, and cry out for mercy help and hope.
It happens terribly frequently, when a parent (and I’ll focus on the father) simply leaves his wife and small children because ‘he has begun a new relationship’, justifying it with something like ‘I feel like a new man. I’m alive again.’
It’s about time too, that we did the research exploring the relationship between adultery as sexual/identity gratification and the effect on young (and older) children of the adulterated marriage, ranging from mental instabilities right through to suicide.
My wife and I have seen it in our ministry and counselling work. It’s one of the greatest tragedies in human experience. It causes unabated trauma with long-term consequences to our children. It’s a dark tragedy when a dad gets tired of his wife, the mother of his young children and simultaneously infatuated in an adulterous relationship with another woman. The blind hypocrisy of a parent saying to the teacher of their young kids as they drop them off: ‘O, just a thought, please watch out for little so and so. His mother and I have just separated, and he may be a little off himself but he should be OK’. Not!
No one uses the word; doctors, politicians, celebrities, the media, no one. And most regrettably of all, those who should, church leaders, either. Except when Prince Charles did it with Camilla then the media so hypocritically blazoned out the actual word, adultery!
Adultery, then divorce. A couple said they wanted to talk things through with us. He seemed willing but it was just a moralistic cover. She desperately wanted marital improvement especially for the sake of the two kids, 7 and 5 years. But he pulled the old trick at counselling: ‘we’re getting nowhere. What’s the point of going on?’ He was living apart; the kids were yearning for more time with their dad. Mum was trying to hold it together, but he was so stingy with money and often changed plans to the grievous disappointment of the kids. ‘I just don’t feel I’m living’, he said to me, ‘there must be more for me.’ I tried every possible tack to help him see his responsibilities to his kids and family. To rekindle the passion of love he once knew. But no. Then it all tumbled out to his wife, he was seeing (having sex with) another woman. In exasperation I called him exactly what he was. His wife agreed, he shrugged and agreed. So what!
Our Lord says if you cause a little one to sin it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck. Christ the Redeemer spiritually empowers forgiveness and a new heart today, as he promised the woman of old ‘go and sin no more’. I’m not saying it’s easy to come to moral sense and repent when all the lust fires are blazing. Its mountainously hard but the alternative is hellish.
We changed the Marriage Act to sanitise adultery out of the picture. Foolish. Note the recent accounts, for example, including sporting celebrities leaving the mothers of their children. How awkward those descriptions with hints from observers and commentators of the effects of broken promises and abandonment.
Remember the celebrity racing driver interviewed after leaving his wife, declaring how he was a new man and had found himself, the interviewer exploring it as a lovely expression of self-realization? Pathetic. And what about national political leaders? The adultery of political leaders. The media should have shamed such behaviour. How many Australian fathers were just that more inclined to adulterate, just a fraction more inclined because national leaders did it and put that veneer of ‘OK-ness’ on it with nary a public rebuke?
Remember the Barnaby Joyce event? The media coverage. Dig out the interview with Natalie, in the Women’s Weekly. It’s typical, so typical of what happens. The sense an affair is happening. The attempt to make it look like there is an effort at marital restoration, but the heart isn’t in it because an unrepented infatuation and adulterating is going on.
I wrote to Barnaby, I cared for him (as a pastor) urging him to repent and perhaps his wife would have him back. Maybe there was a chance, an opportunity for restoration.
If you’re a man out there (or you may be the new woman, fully knowing what you are doing and equally guilty) reading this and you’re playing around I tell you, you are playing with the fires of judgement. Yes, there are fantasies and dallyings and by the searching judgements of Jesus none of us are unstained at some time, but better quit right now. It’s called repentance and it is a gracious gift from God, not to be despised.
Pastorally, I have seen the abandoned wife and mother left for a ‘preferred one’. She has lost some of her shape and spark maybe, all part of working hard raising a family. He fails to see the beauty of her character and forgets the one he fell in love with. He goes off with someone who strokes his ego, and teases up his senses, he’s never felt this way in his life he says. Get real! “The Lord will avenge all such acts, as we have already told you and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us to impurity, but to holiness” our Holy Scripture declares.
There is a solemn warning to such men (and women). It comes from the same source as that document we swear on in court and our highest officials swear upon in front of the Governor General. And our Constitution takes from this holy text with the words ‘humbly depending on the blessing of Almighty God’.
I heard of a pastor who listened to one of his congregation explain he had found someone else and was falling in love all over again and felt ‘so young and as if reborn’ from the tedium of married life. ‘What should I do? I am contemplating leaving my wife and young children’ he said. ‘I am finding a new ‘me’. I am alive in a way I have never felt for a long time.’
Go into your shed the pastor said, get down on your knees and plead with the Living God to give you the love you had for your wife when you fell in love with her. And don’t get up or leave the shed until He has given it to you in your heart. Only pastors can do this. Therapists and doctors can’t or won’t. Friends, good strong ones could. Pastors should.
Several days later the man came back to his pastor to say it hadn’t worked, he hadn’t experienced a change of heart. Of course not, his mind was filled with adultery not a plea for a fresh start. He was on his way to death along with the woman who had seduced him.
Pleading his case, the man said, ‘if I have to stay with my wife, I think I will die.’ The pastor lowered his head and with piercing truth said; ‘Well, die then’.
The deceitful thing is, we would sooner live in sin at the cost of dying in sin. Tragic. But I have known cases of men, and women, who have returned in repentance and dependence on the Living God for help. And how blessed they have become. How grateful. There is powerful hope even for those caught in this overpowering web of deceit.
Yes, it is hard, superhumanly hard. But it’s your young family, it’s your honour, it’s your soul. It’s life or death. And it’s the children and the health of our nation.
 David Curl, “We can do without the combative family contests” The Australian, 1/1/2020
 David Curl, ‘For Kid’s Sake, The Australian,15/3/21