This resource is taken from the “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery” seminar notebook (February 12, 2012; 5:00 to 8:00 pm; The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue; 2415 Presidential Drive, Suite 107; Durham, NC 27703; Free – No RSVP Needed).
If you’re question is, “What is the easy way to end a relationship that should have never started, but has become emotionally connected and/or sexually active?” The simple answer is, “There is not an easy way.”
The rebuttal would probably be, “But I really care about this person and don’t want to hurt them. I am more to blame for what has happened as they are. I couldn’t bring myself to hurt them.” The reality is that when a sinful relationship gets started someone, usually multiple people, are going to get hurt and hurt badly. The choice you have is not “if” someone is going to get hurt, but “who.”
Stop and think about it. How are you going to get out of the situation you’re in, where you have committed to love two people with a love that can only belong to one person, without hurting someone? You can’t. You will not make any wise, or even sane, decisions as long as you are holding out hope that an impossible reality is possible.
It is likely that a big reason why things have gotten to where they are is that you have been looking for an option that doesn’t exist. Several things are true at this moment and you will have to accept them all. Even if you choose to ignore them now, you will have to acknowledge them as reality at some point, and the longer you wait the more intense the consequences will be for everyone involved.
1. You are going to hurt one or more people that you care about.
2. You are going to have to be more honest with more people than you want to be.
3. An “easy” answer is not going to present itself that makes this situation “just go away.”
4. The rest of your life is going to radically change based upon what you do with what you’re reading.
5. Not just your life, but generations of your family, will be affected based upon what you do.
Three Steps to Freedom
Step One: Cut Off All Contact
Willingly cut off, disclose, and surrender all contact with your adultery partner in an open communication in which your spouse is overtly present and aware of all that is said. All five pieces of this step are vital and defined below.
1. Cut Off All Contact: It should be clearly stated that you are requesting no future contact for any reason, because you realize a romantic relationship outside of your marriage covenant is evil. It is appropriate to apologize for the harm you have caused this person, but you should equally affirm that any genuineness to your apology requires ending all contact. What Arterburn and Stoeker say about pornography is equally true of adultery, tapering down only increases the appetite for something that is still not being treated as evil and powerfully destructive.
“What works best with sexual impurity? Cold turkey. You cannot just taper down… With tapering, whatever impurity you do allow seems to multiply in its impact, and the habit won’t break (p. 109).” Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker in Everyman’s Battle
2. Disclose All Forms of Contact: Any form of contact should be disclosed to your spouse (i.e., secret cell phone, secret e-mail address, rendezvous times in your schedule, etc…). When you end the relationship you should tell your adultery partner that all of these forms of contact have been disclosed to your spouse as a way to reinforce that you are serious that no future contact is desired.
3. Willingly Surrender All Contact: You should hand over every form of contact to your spouse like a suicidal person needs to hand over their gun. You are not giving up something good, but something intended for self-inflicted destruction. Like a suicidal person looks at their gun as a friendly thing that is there to give them relief, you likely still look at these modes of contact through distorted lenses. You won’t feel like doing it until after you’ve done it.
4. Open Communication: Secrets have been part of the excitement of the illicit relationship. “Open” should mean that (a) you do not meet privately or in person to talk, (b) what you say is e-mailed to your adultery partner with your spouse carbon-copied, and (c) if married, you encourage your adultery partner to confess to their spouse.
Documenting the request for no future contact is advised in case a restraining order is needed should your adultery partner not comply with your request. In this kind of situation obtaining a restraining order requires proving that a clear request to cease communication has occurred (documented by your e-mail) and that continued “harassment” is occurring (documented by continued phone call, showing up at work, coming to your home, etc…). Taking these two pieces of evidence to your local law enforcement should be sufficient to obtain a restraining order if needed.
This step may have legal, safety, or employment consequences. The consequences of sin are part of the trap Satan sets to keep us in our sin. Forsaking sin is always an act of faith in God. In this case, it may not only be faith in God’s superiority to sin, but also faith in God’s ability to provide or protect when the consequences of sin are realized. You must realize and remember that prolonging a sinful relationship does nothing to make the situation “better” for anyone involved. Delayed consequences only grow and make obedience to God harder.
5. Spouse Overtly Present: One way we communicate who we love most is by who we talk to about another. When you talked about your spouse to your adultery partner that revealed your primary allegiance. By now talking about your adultery partner to your spouse and refusing any communication with your adultery partner, you are reversing this allegiance. If you communicate the termination of the relationship by phone, your spouse should at least be in the room while you talk, or if by e-mail, your spouse should be carbon-copied on the e-mail.
Step Two: Avoid the “Closure Trap”
There is no such thing as closure after adultery. Closure is a word that gives the impression of a settled, happy ending. One of the two romantic relationships in your life will die an awkward painful death. More uncomfortable still, you are going to decide which relationship (marriage or adultery) dies and then stand over it; watching it die. This will either happen in divorce court or now. But in either option you choose, there will be no “closure” for the dying relationship.
You might ask, “Why are you being so graphic and harsh?” The reason is simple—“closure” is the lie most people follow back into adultery multiple times while trying to restore their marriage. Closure is an innocent word that masks its devastating consequences. Naively following the closure lie will make the already difficult road ahead of you longer, steeper, and rockier. When you hear the lie, plug your ears and run!
Step Three: Disclose All Attempted Contact
Ending an adultery relationship requires more than doing the right thing one time after you’ve been caught. If your adultery occurred in an ongoing relationship, the other person will likely not want the relationship to end. Your sin will not stay away while you pursue godly character. Your adultery partner is very likely to fight for the relationship they thought was theirs to have.
It is absolutely vital that you disclose any contact, attempted contact, or potential attempted contact by your adultery partner to your spouse. Even if you get a phone call from an unknown number, choose not to answer it, and no voice mail is left tell your spouse. If a friend of the adultery partner gives you a note refuse to read, tell your spouse and (if necessary) take the note as the second piece of evidence needed to get a restraining order.
This relationship should be treated like a poisonous snake in the house with your children. Even if the snake is in another room, you would take every measure possible to destroy the snake because you know the snake is a predator and its presence, even in another room, puts them in mortal danger. Any undisclosed contact from your adultery partner is just as deadly to your relationship with God, your marriage, and the future of any children you have.