The Anatomy of Adultery: Why Do People Commit Adultery?

The word adultery is synonymous with sin or bad behavior, however, what constitute adultery depends on the society you are in or what your moral values are. In several societies were polygamy is accepted, marrying several women does not constitute adultery, having concubines outside of the wives does. There is a Yoruba adage that says “Eni bimo fun ni kuro laale eni” (a baby mother is no more a concubine or mistress); invariably the society allows mistresses with kids all over town. In America since the Clinton-Lewinski scandal the society has tried to re-define adultery and fornication, today high school kids have various fornicating activities called, “friends with benefit” and “rainbow party” and they see nothing wrong with these activities.

As a Christian and a believer in the infallibility of the scripture, I believe the biblical definition of adultery, which is having relationship (sexual or emotional) with someone outside of the boundaries of marriage (one man and one woman). When a married man or woman is involved in such acts it is called “adultery” and when an unmarried person is involved in such acts, it is called “fornication”. In Matthew 5: 27-28, Jesus took the definition of adultery to a new level “You have heard that it was said, do not commit adultery, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.

Types of Adultery

1. Looking lustfully at another human being other than your spouse is adultery – looking lustfully is seeing an attractive person on the street and wondering in your mind what he/she would look like in bed or even saying it out. I’ve heard lots of men say “Wow – look at that woman’s backyard” or women say “he’s got a firm bun” (Go home and tell your spouse the good qualities on his/her body).

2. Emotional Adultery – this seem to be common with women, in my experience (counseling), most women don’t go out seeking sex, they just want a listening ear especially when things are not going well at home. So they become emotionally attached to this man at their job who listens, and say all the nice things that the husband is not saying and soon compassion turns into passion.

3. Physical Adultery – this is what most men committing adultery are looking for, because the wife at home has closed down her shop for whatever reason, so the man is looking for an avenue for sex. For most men they’ll do the emotional thing to get to the ultimate for them which is the physical act of sex.

Why do People Commit Adultery?

1. Human desire in a sinful world – 1 John 2: 16 “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world”

Case study 1: Johnnie is a passive-aggressive man and he is not a good communicator, to get him to talk more Marian resorted to nagging him and withholding sex to get him to talk, for many years it worked and she got used to it. Johnnie’s company soon hired a single woman (who is not religious) on the sales team with Johnnie. The woman finds Johnnie attractive and thought, “I know he is married – but I’ll just have him as a sex partner so I don’t go from one man to another”. She started her scheme to get Johnnie (unknown to him). Johnnie noticed the extra attention from this colleague and resisted it (he did not however discuss it with his wife but with friends), as the months went by, lack of sex at home and persistence by the woman soon broke his defenses and he embarked on a year long affair with the woman, until his conscience could not take it any longer and he confessed.

Case study 2:  Don, Rita, Katrina were friends and at some point at the university, Don had dated both of them and eventually married Rita. Upon getting married Don and Katrina lost contact with many friends from school including Katrina.

Many years later, Rita found Katrina when she was searching names on Google, Katrina was now married with children and now live many states away from Rita and her husband. The three of them reconnected, introducing Katrina’s family into the mix. Rita did not think anything could happen between her husband and Katrina again because now they are both married with children and more-so they live thousands of miles apart.

As the family relationship grew, Don and Katrina started to share the problems in their marriages with each other and the phone calls between both of them became a regular thing and they were keeping it from their spouses.

2. To seek divorce – In Matthew 19, Jesus said the only reason for divorce for Christians is “adultery” – I have seen many couples that have gone out and committed adultery and come back home to tell their spouse, so that he or she can file for divorce, because they want to follow Apostle Paul’s word’s that they should not file for divorce.

Case study: Baba and Iya had been married for fifteen years and the marriage had been lousy for fifteen years. They stayed for the kids and now the kids are in their teens and things are not getting any better (because they are both stubborn and won’t die to themselves). The pastoral counselor at their Church has worked with both of them for many years. Becoming weary of the relationship, Baba went out and started a relationship with one of Iya’s friends or acquaintance who knew what was going on in the marriage, after he’d have sex with the woman. He ask that they both go for counseling, at the counselor’s office, he confessed to adultery and said Iya now have a legal and moral reason to divorce him (he did not want to file for divorce, yet he thought committing adultery was a lesser sin – phew).

3. For companionship – many spouses have abandoned the other spouse due to work or other related reasons (they might live in the same house), he or she is gone for the most part, leaving the other spouse for long periods with no emotional or physical intimacy. The lonely spouse would usually look for companionship.

Case study: Helena and Smith had successfully raised two kids; the baby is a senior in college while the older is in graduate school, both out of home. Smith is a high flying medical sales director, who is always on the road, as the kids got older, his activity outside of the home increased and status at the office increased also. Helena was a stay home mom for many years but then went back to work when the kids got to high school and did not really need her as much anymore. She had not really complained about her husband’s work and time away, until she started being alone and lonely (which is a major reason for going back to work). To get him off the hook, Smith encouraged his wife to go to the gym more and have fun.

Helena did go to the gym and got herself a young personal trainer (not by design) who soon started to commend her (something she’s never heard at home – what she got at home was “is my shirt ready?). She found her self enjoying the compliments of this young man and was soon dressing sexy to the gym, and actually looking forward to going to the gym.  According to studies (Masters and Johnson 1966), the sexual peak for a woman is in her fifties. After a couple of months, Helena invited the younger man to her home to meet her husband (she has mentioned him so many times to her husband), at the meeting the husband noticed the affection his wife had for this young man and brought it up that night before they went to bed. After many days of denial, they both sought professional counseling.

4. Social Status – in many cultures of the world having many wives or mistresses is a sign of wealth and social status. As a Nigerian, I know many men who have more women than they can even remember, they buy homes for this women and sleep at whichever house they choose at any given night (the first wife get the bigger house to compensate her for being there when they were poor).

As a member of the Leo Club in Nigeria (many years ago), I saw enough adultery among the some Lions (and Leo girls) to last me a lifetime, to many of them it was fun and something of status.

Case Study:  Chief Kokonsari is a politician from western Nigeria, whose political clout is starting to rise at the national level, to enhance his status as a wealthy politician with national status, he had concubine or mistresses in northern Nigeria and another in eastern Nigeria (the mistresses were young University graduates – who only want money and comfort). The mistresses are aware of each other with the kids and of madam and her children in Lagos.

Madam Kokonsari in Lagos would not say anything about her husband’s adulterous relationships, her favorite words are “as long as he is taking care of me and my children and I get what I want”, accepting a wrong societal norm.

It is important to note that adultery can be addictive and could be tough to get out of. Check back for useful tips on avoiding adultery.

Be blessed!

* All names used here are fictitious


  1. Itohan says

    I love this article..It is true our society is very open about sexual immorality it is shamelessly advertised in the media through music entertainment,movies, commercials and so fort.Our society needs to wake-up and see the destructive role sexual immorality has played in our families.

  2. GADEL says

    Your article dealt quite well with the issue of adultery sometimes merely referred to as extra-marital affairs as though it was some kind of college extra curricula activity.

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