When sex is abused in such a way that the joy and intimacy of the sexual relationship is ruined between man and wife.
Readership: All; Men;
Theme: The Integrity and Fidelity of Marriage
Author’s Note: This is a more or less original post based on a previous comment with some added input from Jack.
Length: 2,300 words
Reading Time: 8 minutes
This post is about adultery, but instead of tackling the typical arguments about “sin”, I’m going to build this argument by going back to the foundations of marriage.
The Purpose of Marriage
Marriage is supposed to serve a small number of very important purposes.
- To glorify God. (Headship is necessary to do this, among other things.)
- To serve as a vehicle of sanctification for the man and wife. (Headship and regular sex plays a central part of this, among other things.)
- To hedge against sexual immorality.
- To create the dominion of a family. (Again, Headship.)
- To produce Godly offspring. (Not possible if all of the above are not in place, including Headship.)
- To provide a safe harbor from the world.
An ideal marriage should fulfill all of these purposes. As far as I can see, the Catholic and Orthodox conditions for marriage serve to uphold these purposes.
The Conditions for Marriage
I stand with the Roman Catholic Church on the ontological definition of marriage. Ontologically, marriage requires four distinct elements:
- There has to be a mental assent and agreement between man and woman, a “meeting of the minds” concerning their mutual intentions to be joined together inseparably.
- There has to be a heart assent and agreement to engage in everything that marriage entails, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In other words, they are both agreeing to the inclusion into the union of God, Who then completes the work and mystery of knitting them together.
- There must be a public acknowledgment to the world of their mental and heart assent. This usually takes the form of some kind of public declaration each makes (e.g. in a wedding ceremony): “This is my husband.” “This is my wife.”
- There must be a physical (and better if emotional) consummation in the form of sexual congress.
This definition of marriage never changes, and has been so since God joined Adam and Eve.
Other Notions of Marriage
Now, I want to point out that this concept of marriage is different from two other very common notions of marriage: (1) Legal Marriage, and (2) Sex = Marriage. I’ll contrast the differences briefly here.
1. Legal Marriage
Legal marriage is only a legally recognized union between two individuals which grants the woman certain benefits, encumbers the man with certain burdens, and ostensibly creates obligations and rights for both, allegedly flowing both ways. Legal marriage is whatever the State says it is, and is ever changing. It’s why legal marriage today is an arrangement in which women get everything and men get nothing; women have all the rights and men have all the burdens. In today’s version of legal marriage, women need not do anything while men must do everything; women have all the authority and no responsibility while men have all the responsibility but no authority. We really don’t have too many true marriages, or many of them don’t start that way. Many marriages are legal marriages that eventually evolve into marriages, or end before they do. Most marriages include only the third and fourth ingredients, but never include the first or second.
2. Sex = Marriage
In a sense, this is true, as we typically regard those who are in a sexual relationship to be “off the market”, and, as I will describe in the next section, sex is the central defining element of a marriage. However, this concept of marriage is quite distinct from the ontological definition of marriage, because it lacks certain elements of (1) and (2), i.e. their mutual intentions to be joined together inseparably, the inclusion into the union of God, and a faith-based commitment to remain loyal and true to one another.
So to me, and to most of us, the act of sex does not by itself mean you’re married.
Now, you can have all kinds of sex with someone; but you ARE NOT married until all four of those conditions have happened with one other person.
So to those who might say, “if you’ve had sex, then you’re married”, well, I can get your drift, but I can’t take such a marriage seriously, because without all four of these conditions, people just have sex or enter into relationships of varying duration and intensity.
Note 1: A common-law marriage is nothing more than the state’s attempt to define cohabitation as a legal entity and thereby assign rights and responsibilities under the law.
Note 2: No Fault Divorce transforms marriage into an arrangement of convenience because it undercuts the sense of permanency offered by a life-time commitment. Jack has comically and accurately called this living arrangement, “playing house with a revolving door“.
Sex is the sine qua non of marriage
Most people (especially Christian Manosphere men) believe that when someone in a committed relationship has sex with someone else, then that breaks all bargains, mostly because sex is the sine qua non of marriage. Christians especially identify sex and marriage as concomitant (or they should), simply because the Bible is very clear that sex should be contained within marriage.
In case you’re not following me, let me break it down.
Sex is the only thing I can do with Mrs. deti that I am not permitted to do with anyone else. So if she evades or refuses having sex with me, it demonstrates that the one thing I get from her that I cannot get from anyone else has been taken away from me and I’ve been deprived of it. If in my marriage, I cannot get even sex from my wife, even the one thing I cannot get anywhere else, then I can rightfully consider myself to be no longer married. Here, I’m not necessarily referring to commitment or legal status, but it could. I’m saying that the marital relationship we had that once was is now broken and gone, and whatever relationship we have from thenceforth will be fundamentally different in a multitude of ways.
Jack once said something to the effect that if a husband and wife aren’t screwing each other, then it’s only a matter of time until one or both of them start screwing someone else — if they haven’t already. In my opinion, a woman who refuses sex to her husband is cheating on him. She’s depriving him unfairly of something that his marriage entitles him to, and that’s sex. Wives — if you’re not having sex with your husbands whenever they reasonably ask or expect it, then *you are cheating on them!*
Adultery is when the sine qua non of marriage is defiled
Similarly, if she has sex with someone else, I can rightfully consider that her having sex with another, and not with me, means she has left and abandoned the marriage, and has left and abandoned me. Again, I’m not necessarily referring to abandonment in the physical sense, although that may very well be the case. I’m saying that the bond we had that we once shared is now broken and gone, and whatever relationship we have from then on will be markedly different in many ways.
When I say the relationship will be different, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that with a little love and forgiveness, it might somehow become better, “by the grace of God”. No, that’s not how God’s grace works. Sooner or later the gavel of divine judgment will drop. There might be a rare exception, but not for most. The sexual bond is defiled, meaning that I can never again view her with the same abandoned passionate sexual interest that I once enjoyed. It gets worse. Every time I touch her or kiss her, I’ll be fighting bitter memories and feelings of jealousy and anger. I will never find contentment and by extension, sanctification, with my wife. Marriage then becomes a spiritual battle that is fought daily, and daily lost. At worst, we’re flirting with ħәll fire.
Look at all the men who stumble onto the Manosphere after being shoved through the meat grinder of wife-initiated divorce. They think they’re looking for P_ssy, but in fact, they’re seeking the satisfaction of the sanctification they rightfully expected in marriage and were wrongfully defrauded of. That should give us an idea of how much sex is identified with marriage, as I described above. They’re looking for God, and they don’t even know it.
We cannot deny that sex is the sine qua non of marriage – an indispensable condition, element, or factor. It’s something essential to the foundation of a marriage. You can’t remove that piece of the puzzle. You can’t change the equation and still get a real solution. No way. Nada.
What Constitutes Adultery?
So now let’s talk about exactly what “adultery” is in terms of what “marriage” is.
“Adultery” is putting something into a substance, which “something” isn’t supposed to be in there. That act impurifies and contaminates the substances. It’s where we get our word “adulterated”. If you put vinaigrette into milk, you’ve adulterated that milk. That vinaigrette isn’t supposed to be in there. You’ve made the milk impure. You’ve contaminated it. It’s good for nothing except to induce vomiting.
When you “marry” two things, you put them together such that two become one, each is indistinguishable from the other, they are inseparable, and you can no longer separate them. Or, at least you cannot separate them without ruining or destroying them both. When you “marry” a half-gallon of milk with another half-gallon of milk by pouring them both into a gallon container, you now cannot separate them. They’ve become one entity, one substance, one thing. The milk from the first half gallon is indistinguishable from the milk from the second. Two became one.
Now when we put this into the context of marriage, we see how insidious adultery is. Adultery ruins all 6 of the purposes for marriage outlined in the first section.
- Instead of glorifying God, a sordid affair celebrates and glorifies sin. The marriage becomes the laughingstock of the town. Worse, it implicates and inspires others to commit adultery.
- Instead of being a vehicle of sanctification for the man and wife, the marriage is now a source of anger, bitterness, distrust, jealousy, and other signets of perdition.
- The hedge of spiritual protection is broken down as sexual immorality becomes a reality.
- The family is placed in jeopardy, socially, emotionally, economically, and spiritually.
- The children are much less likely to become Godly, and are more likely to engage in promiscuity themselves.
- Instead of being a safe harbor from the world, the marriage becomes a daily battleground.
It also taints all 4 conditions for marriage listed in the second section.
- The mental agreement about their mutual intentions to be joined together inseparably is jeopardized and placed in doubt.
- The Heart Trust needed for mutual engagement is transformed into fraud and intransigence. It rejects God from the relationship and prevents Him from finishing the work and mystery of sanctification.
- Their public acknowledgment to the world becomes as meaningless as their lack of commitment.
- The physical, emotional, and sexual consummation in the form of sexual congress becomes permanently defiled, and thus, wholly unable to inspire joy and humility.
Notes on Terminology
- Unmarried individuals cannot commit adultery. They fornicate, but they don’t commit adultery.
- Only married women can be adulterated.
- Unmarried women having sex with unmarried men are fornicating.
- An unmarried woman having sex with a married man is fornicating.
- A married woman having sex with a man she is not married to commits adultery.
- Men cannot be adulterated. Only women have things put into them during the act of intercourse (naturally, anyway).
- A man can commit adultery but only by having sex with a woman married to another man.
- A man fornicates with a never married woman.
Most of the time, all these arguments about fornication, marriage, adultery, and remarriage arise when someone wants to remarry, because humans in this situation will devote every ounce of their mental effort to come up with rationalizations to access sex.
The hardline Christian churches say, “OK, legal divorce, but in the eyes of the Church, you’re still married. You’re not free to remarry. You’re not free to have sex with others. If you remarry legally, you’re not married in the eyes of the church. If you have sex with anyone else, you’re fornicating or committing adultery and you cannot do that.” The Catholic church has been known to be excruciatingly exacting about this, dishing out excommunications as a consequence of divorce. But I’m not sure if this still happens as frequently as it used to.
The less ascetic Christian churches recognize that it’s better for divorcees to remarry than for them to live the rest of their lives in rotating polygyny or serial polyandry. So they will allow remarriage. The Orthodox church allows remarriage twice.
The more liberal churches don’t set much of any guidelines about divorce and remarriage, or at least they don’t enforce them.
But regardless of how any particular church might deal with it, if any woman, once married to one man, then has sex with another man, even within a second marriage, it is technically adultery. Jesus said this very specifically, and there is no way around it. (See Matthew 5:31-32, 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3.)
- Σ Frame (Jack): Is there any honor or benefit to slut shaming an adulterous wife? (2018-11-24)
- Σ Frame (Jack): How is illicit sex related to one’s spiritual state? (2019-05-22)
- Σ Frame (Jack): Why is illicit sex so enticing, and so prevalent? (2019-05-25)
- Σ Frame (Jack): On the Concept of Sin and the need for Marriage (2020-04-24)
- Σ Frame (Jack): How other cultures deal with adultery (2020-08-05)
- Σ Frame (Jack): Why is premarital sex a sin? (2020-08-14)
- Σ Frame (Scott): Adultery in the Military (2021-02-27)
- Σ Frame (Jack): The Influence of Culturally Imposed Sexuality on Women (2021-08-02)