“None of us is an island.” I had heard my pastor share this imagery time and time again over the years. Now that I was walking through a separation and divorce as the result of adultery, I understood this phrase in a way I had hoped I never would. That was almost 20 years ago and I still see the effects of the unfaithfulness of a spouse on my children today.
There is a biblical principal at play when we actively participate in sinful behavior:
“He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:7 NASB)
We are told in the Word of God that our children and even our grandchildren will bear the iniquity of the sinful choices we make. I have had to witness, live through, and work with the leadership of the Holy Spirit to reverse the effects of the iniquity of my ex-spouse as well as my own choices of sinful behavior.
The effects of adultery can infiltrate and affect the lives of our children. If we honestly look at the detriment of adultery on the lives of our children, we can help them choose righteously, overcome abandonment and rejection, and have healthy whole relationships and marriages. Some of the damaging effects of adultery on our children include:
SEE ALSO: Healing a Family After an Affair
1. Children blame themselves.
He sat on the floor playing cars. I heard him say under his breath to no one in particular, “Maybe if I would be better, daddy would stay.” The lie had been planted: “If I was better, people I love wouldn’t leave me.”
Oftentimes the unfaithful spouse is not willing to comprehend the damaging effects his actions has on the children. Many times he is living in a state of deception, even rationalizing his sinful behavior. A child who has not developed emotional maturity feels that the separation of parents is their fault. Our children see the world through child lenses that says it’s all about me (good or bad) and take the blame for the sin of their parents.
A child will attribute the wrong actions of the parent to himself or herself; they have no emotional maturity to separate themselves from the behavior. In the child’s eyes, the behavior of the parent is a direct reflection on themselves. They feel unworthy of love because the parent has withdrawn affection and love from the family and given that attention to someone outside the family unit.
This becomes the reality for the child, and they may continually absorb the blame for the wrong action of those they love, entering into enabling and codependent relationships.
2. Children begin to question truth.
“Dad did it, why shouldn’t I?” All of a sudden, this daughter who was raised to remain pure until her wedding day gives herself into the arms of multiple lovers. A new moral law was established when the truth of adultery came out. Overnight the parenting perspective becomes, “Do what I say, not what I do.” That doesn’t hold much credibility.
Christian parents raise children to be honest and truthful. Suddenly a child finds a parent has been hiding something, cheating, and lying. Their world is rocked and what was truth is brought into question. An earthquake has devastated the solid foundation that we have attempted to establish for our children.
As a result, many children turn their back on God and the truth of a right and wrong moral code. This affects how they live their lives. Statistics show that girls who grow up without a father are more likely to be sexually promiscuous and get pregnant before marriage.
3. The pain of rejection and abandonment is lasting.
The adult child reacts in withdrawal and anger when disappointment occurs. He pulls away in an effort not to be hurt when a significant person in his life is unable to attend an important event. The lies rage: “I am not important; no one cares.”
Children are created with the intrinsic desire to know they are loved and accepted. When a parent is unfaithful, he pulls away from the family emotionally as well as physically, leaving a child to feel abandoned and rejected without even knowing why.
Without the emotional capacity to understand, the lie is planted deep in the heart of the child that they are unlovable. This is a lie that is set in the wet cement of the hearts and minds of our children. This lie can affect they way the view relationships and respond to disappointment the rest of their lives.
4. Patterns repeat themselves.
My husband’s father had committed adultery; now our family was living in the aftermath of his choice to do the same.
Statistics show that the likelihood of adult children following in the same patterns of behavior that their parents demonstrate is high. We see this trend in the areas of abuse and addiction; now research is showing it to be true of extramarital relationships as well. Without walking through a healing process, our children are much more likely to have marriages that end in divorce and more likely to repeat the cycles that lend themselves to unhealthy marriages.
With godly counselors, a home that is established in the truth of the Word of God, emotional healing from the deep wounds unfaithfulness causes, and the work of the Holy Spirit, healing and restoration can and does happen. However, it takes time. For those who are suffering because of the unfaithfulness of a spouse, healing is needed at different stages. We can raise our children to understand the challenges that their intimate relationships might face and equip them to confront the lies and trust issues, and choose differently.
Please pray with me:
Lord, thank you that you can re-write our story. Show me how to raise my children in the aftermath of adultery in a way that leads to life for them and their future spouses. Give me wisdom in finding the right counsel and guidance to lead us to emotional wholeness. Lord, stop this cycle and the effects of the sin on our family. Restore the years the locusts have eaten. Align the hearts of my children according to your Word, the plumb line of truth. Glorify your name through the healing and restoration of our family. Amen.
Misty Honnold is the Founder and Director of the non-profit organization The Single MOM KC. Misty equips, trains and empowers women to discover the source of their strength in Christ. She publishes a weekly blog on the website The Single MOM KC as well as freelances for other publications.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: March 16, 2017
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