A few weeks ago we wrote a Marriage Insight titled, A Good Marriage Demands Toughness … and it does. Sometimes you have to grit through the tough times to make it. But it demands more than that. Marriage demands fidelity and faithfulness, as well.
This may seem to be a strange statement to make. You might say, OF COURSE, marriage demands fidelity! But from what we see, there are more and more people who don’t realize this. They aren’t living it out in their marriages!
Too many spouses are dipping their toes into the waters of temptation. And when they “fall” into it, which many do, they say, “I never meant to…” or “I never thought I/we would…” But they do. We can’t play on the edges of temptation and think that we can get away with it.
And even if we do walk away mostly unscathed, God knows. He saw, and it grieves Him greatly! Marriage demands fidelity in EVERY way. God tells us that adultery is a sin. Even LOOKING at someone or entertaining them in our thoughts is adultery. Jesus told us that, and we had best not discount what God tells us.
Fidelity and Marriage
Here are two things we want you to consider on this issue of marriage demanding fidelity and faithfulness:
— “God wants marriage to be a mirror that reflects the love, security, and trust He offers us. Adultery shatters that mirror.” (Ellyn Sanna)
— “What a marriage needs is the superglue of Philippians 2:3: ‘Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit…” (Dennis Rainey)
And there is no doubt that infidelity is very selfish. Those who cheat are full of conceit in thinking that we can be an exception to the rule that we can play around and it’s okay. It is not. Some spouses marry knowing full well that they have no intention of being faithful or exclusive. Some date others even while they are engaged to marry or soon after marrying. WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT? Why do they marry if they don’t intend to be exclusive in their relationship?
Dancing Around Fidelity and Faithfulness
Sadly, there are many others that also dance around the issue of fidelity and faithfulness in marriage. They may not date others, but they still “play around” in other ways. It’s important to note that:
“Staying faithful doesn’t involve just not sleeping with someone other than your spouse. It means putting your best effort and energy into enhancing the romance you have with your mate. In other words, faithfulness is more than just saying no to others; it’s also saying yes to your spouse.” (Steve Chapman)
When you entertain others in the time and energy you invest in them, you’re saying no to your spouse. You’re giving them the time you should be giving to your spouse. You’re saying, “No, I don’t want to give that time to you. I have decided to steal that time away from investing it in you, and am giving it to someone else.” You’re also saying, “I don’t care about your feelings about all of this enough to not play around here.”
Plus, and most importantly, you’re saying no to God. You are saying, “No, I don’t care what you said about fidelity and faithfulness. I care, and I believe you care more about my happiness and what I crave than you do your own set standards.”
Faithfulness is Demanded
Do we sound passionate here? We are! We want to shout this from the housetops. And we hope you will want to do the same. God knows what it is like to love those who are unfaithful. And yet those He loves continue to cheat, regardless of what He thinks about all of this. Fidelity matters to Him, and it should matter to us.
We wish you could take a peek into the emails, and comments left on the web site, plus the people we talk to in this marriage ministry. Your heart would break as ours does over this matter of spouses who don’t take the matter of fidelity and faithfulness serious enough. There are so many broken marriages and broken homes that we witness all around us over this matter. It’s so very sad!
We have SO MUCH we want to say here. We realize that this isn’t a matter that most people feel they need to explore. They believe they’re fine. But even if the only reason you read this is for the sake of those around you, we hope you will. Marriage demands fidelity and faithfulness. But more importantly, so does God. Lets protect that, which He considers, and we should consider, as sacred.
As a side note on the issue of fidelity:
Before we go on with this issue, if you wonder if you should be able to date while you are separated, here is an article we recommend that you read:
Expert Advice on Fidelity
With that said, we want to point you to some important points on this issue spoken by many different marriage experts on fidelity within marriage. One of the things that we say repeatedly is that we aren’t “the” marriage experts. We’re just an ordinary couple that God is teaching some important things to about marriage. Yes, we have a lot to share. But there are many others that God is using that we need to pay attention to, as well. That’s why we point people to whatever “experts” we can find that can help them. We believe that it doesn’t matter WHO—other than God, says it. He deserves all the credit. It’s all good, if it embraces Truth.
If the advice given actually works, which God’s Truth always does, then that’s what matters. The quotes we point to DO work! Some works for others, and some will work for you. Glean through it and see how God talks to you. It matters A LOT when God quickens your spirit and says, “This is for you” to pay attention to and follow. And that’s the next important point we want to make here. God can place all of the good advice in the world in front of your face. But if you don’t follow through on it, how does this help you?
So, with that said, below you will find some great advice given by many different people that we encourage you to prayerfully read through and see what you can use. If it’s not for you, then keep reading. It may be posted here for you, or for others, or for you to share with others. See what God tells you.
Advice on Fidelity
First off, whatever you do, don’t allow your eyes or mind to wander in fantasy to anyone but your spouse. Please know that infidelity starts in a spouse’s thoughts and then spirals downward from there. Strive to be mentally and physically monogamous, no matter what your spouse does. Guard your heart and your mind! Set up hedges of protection BEFORE you enter into areas of temptation. You may not even realize you’re wandering there. But stay on the alert!
If the following applies to you or someone you know that you can share it with, please note:
“If your head spins around every time an attractive person walks by, even if you don’t say a word, you’ve communicated a lot. Your spouse doesn’t just want you to be physically monogamous. He or she wants you to be mentally monogamous. Your spouse wants to know you have eyes only for them. If you’re checking out other women, you’re damaging your wife’s confidence in herself AND her confidence in you. If you’re checking out other men, you’re communicating that your husband isn’t enough to meet your needs. Whether it’s someone on the street or on a screen, watch carefully where your eyes wander.” (Dave Willis from the article. “4 Things You Should Never Ever Do in Marriage”)
Here’s something else Dave Willis wrote that is SO wise as it pertains to fidelity and faithfulness:
“I’ve heard people joke that, ‘Just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu!’ They’re usually referring to the idea that checking out someone is ‘harmless’ as long as they look but don’t touch. What they fail to realize is that the very act of looking and lusting objectifies others, creates insecurity through unfair comparisons for our spouse and subtly pulls your thoughts away from your marriage. Keep your eyes and your heart focused on your spouse!”
Are you flirting with anyone other than your spouse? Or are you dancing around the edges of temptation by “just looking?” Stop! God demands it that we “flee” from temptation and we don’t give it our energy. Here’s one more thing that Dave Willis wrote on fidelity that is indeed wise:
“When you’re acting out sexual fantasies apart from your spouse, it’s an act of mental infidelity. All true intimacy and all infidelity begins in the mind, not in the bedroom. If your eyes and your thoughts are wandering away from your spouse, then your heart is going to follow. Two thousand years ago, Jesus taught that ‘to look at a woman lustfully is to commit adultery with her in your heart.‘ Don’t just be physically monogamous. Strive to be mentally monogamous.” (From the Homeword.com article, “12 Habits that Lead to Divorce”)
Be on the alert; affairs start within your fantasies. When you “look” you are opening a door to temptation. And then when you start fantasizing about someone other than your spouse—beware! One sinful step leads to another. You’re opening a door that you need to slam shut! Invest your thoughts into your marriage.
No matter what your spouse is or isn’t doing, unfaithfulness is never justified. Don’t allow yourself to believe the lie that just because you hurt badly, solutions to cheat and do that, which you should not, are acceptable. They never are! Just because your spouse hurts you in some way, it never justifies wrong behavior. Deal with the matter at hand. Don’t muddy it up by letting yourself stray into infidelity in your mind and/or your body.
Here’s something that Ashley Willis wrote on the issue of fidelity that is something to be aware of:
“When we feel less connected to our spouse, it’s tempting to cultivate a closer connection with a friend or coworker to replace the closeness we should only share with our partner. Please be aware of this! Many spouses end up in emotional/physical affairs or unhealthy friendships because they’re lonely and feel disconnected to their spouse. We need to lean into our spouses during this time, more than any other.” (From her article, “5 Ways to Reconnect With Your Spouse”)
On that note:
“Have you seen or heard from an old flame recently? Been tempted to search the Internet for an old flicker? Do you still have a box of letters or memorabilia from relationships of long ago? There’s only enough room in marriage for two. The best thing to do with an old flame that suddenly reappears is to put it out. And if your spouse struggles with jealousy, the best way to cast out fear is to cut off every ounce of oxygen from your mate’s insecurities, until he or she feels totally safe in your love. Leave nothing behind to feed the fears or fan the flames of an extramarital affair.” (Dennis Rainey)
Temptations Put Before Us
I recently talked with a friend who was contacted by someone they used to date. It didn’t take long for this friend to realize this was a “fishing expedition” to see where their contact would take them. I’m so proud of my friend because she didn’t bite. She could have been tempted. But instead she cut the conversation short, talked about her husband, and didn’t encourage any further contact.
Here are some more great pieces of advice:
• “If you want to know if you’re risking infidelity, tell your spouse the whole truth about the other relationship. If you find yourself wanting to ‘edit’ the story, you know that you’re playing with fire, even if you say you’re protecting your spouse. Secrecy is a key feature of infidelity. Either spouse has the right to ask and receive a complete and true answer to any question about anything at any time.” (Mark Odell)
• “Many people convince themselves that as long as there’s no sex, it’s not an affair. But it is. An affair really has to do with secrecy, deception of the partner and betrayal. It also has to do with the amount of emotional energy that you put into the other person and are no longer giving your partner.” (Dr. Gail Saltz) “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.” (Proverbs 5:15)
Here’s another tip:
• “I’m convinced that one of the biggest factors that lead people into affairs is the friends they choose to hang around. This might sound surprising to you, but I’ve seen it play out over and over. In most (not all) cases of adultery, the spouse who had the affair had also been spending time with friends or co-workers who don’t encourage marital faithfulness. Surround yourself with friends who strengthen your character and remove yourself from those who attempt to compromise your character.” (Dave Willis)
Looking to Fall
You need to know that it’s not very often that men and women are out looking to ‘fall in love’ with someone other than their spouse—especially in Christian marriages. But ‘unexpectedly’ they find themselves involved with someone who grabs their heart. It appears to them that it ‘‘just happened.’ But remember: we’re warned in the Bible to ‘Be on the alert… If you think that you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:12). Don’t leave yourself open to temptation. Guard your heart. If you haven’t done this already, today is a good day to start putting this into place:
• “Set tangible boundaries that will keep you from giving yourself permission to cheat on your spouse. Some of those boundaries include; avoid talking or listening to someone of the opposite sex about grievances in your marriage. Many affairs start when you make co-workers or friends of the opposite sex your confidante. Do not try to rescue someone of the opposite sex. Sometimes a guy starts helping a woman repair things or work on their yard, or get them a job, and they end up in bed together. If you want to help someone, take your spouse along.
“If you’re happily married, you may feel an exciting ‘tingle’ toward a member of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. Take the ‘tingles’ to God. Thank him for giving you the capacity to experience this emotion, and ask him to give you wisdom for how to reignite excitement in your marriage so you can experience it in the proper place. The attraction for someone else is an indicator that your marriage needs attention.” (Gary Chapman, from “The One Love Language Minute Devotional”)
“It’s common to hear people speak of ‘falling out of love’ with their spouses and ‘falling in love’ with someone else in adultery. In using the language of ‘falling’, they’re avoiding any responsibility, as if they’re simply required to follow their hearts.” (Mark Driscoll)
We’re told in the Bible to “guard our hearts.” They can deceive us. “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.” Also it’s important to:
“Recognize that work can be a danger zone. Don’t lunch alone or take coffee breaks with the same person of the opposite sex. When you travel with a co-worker, meet in public rooms only.” (Shirley Glass)
Here’s something that Sharon Jaynes wrote:
“I sat in a theater with a friend who had succumbed to sexual temptation. She lost her husband, her family and many ‘friends.’ The film showed a woman contemplating an affair. ‘Don’t do it!’ she cried. Martha was living the devastation of yielding to sexual temptation and her audible cry was the overflow of her pain-filled heart. Can I shout with Martha? ‘Don’t do it!’ (From the Growthtrac.com article, “Sexual Temptation”)
I’m reminded of something one marriage expert (Diane Sollee) said. “What we really need is a time machine so that people entering into an affair could flash forward and see themselves, their kids, and their lives at the other end of their lust.” Sadly, you are seeing the pain these types of actions can bring about now and for the rest of your lives.
Guard your heart and your marriage relationship. Beware:
“If you find yourself sharing things about yourself or your marriage that you haven’t or wouldn’t share with your spouse, that’s a red flag. Not all affairs are physical—an emotional affair is just as damaging.” (Jill Savage)
Additionally, beware of comparing our spouse to someone else. Jill Savage goes on to warn:
“We all make mistakes, have bad habits and annoying behaviors. When we compare a ‘new friend’ to our spouse, it’s an unfair comparison because we aren’t seeing that person in a ‘living under the same roof, taking care of kids at 3 a.m., struggling to make ends meet’ reality.” (From the Todayschristianwoman.com article, “8 Safeguards Against Getting Too Close”)
“Watch what you watch. Watch what you read. Leave the past in the past… If you find that what you’re doing (what you’re watching, drinking or participating in) brings out the ‘old man’ in you (your old way of life before Christ changed your way of living), guard there. Don’t go there. Lock the door and throw away the key. Watch how your body language speaks, too.” (Sheila Wray Gregoire, from the Tolovehonorandvacuum.com article, “Divorce Proof Your Marriage”)
Here are a few more tips for guarding your heart and marriage:
• “Pay attention to your thought-life. When all you think about is your spouse’s faults, any other man or woman will look better. Make a list of the strengths that initially attracted you to your spouse. Increase encouragement and decrease criticism.” (Jill Savage)
• “If you are intentionally hiding your status as a married person or you’re projecting ‘availability’ through flirting, slipping off a wedding ring, acting single around your single friends or at bars, etc., then you’re way out of bounds. Those subtle acts of deceit are in themselves forms of infidelity even if they never lead to a sexual affair.” (Dave Willis)
Also, when you meet with someone other than your spouse, stay out in public settings. And ask a third person to join you so that even the “appearance of evil” doesn’t have a chance to take foothold.
• “People rarely have pure intentions when they seek out exes, says Charles Orlando. ‘Defriend, disassociate, disengage.’ The protection of the Internet allows for more forward conversation, points out Karen Sherman, PhD. Seeing what an old friend is up to, is part of the fun of Facebook. But only do this if your partner is OK with it. If you know your spouse would be upset, reject the friend request.” (Dawn Papandrea from Womansday.com article, “Don’t Let Facebook Hurt Your Marriage!”)
Concerning Fidelity, keep in mind:
• “Your Facebook page may be your own, but have respect for your mate, says Dr. Karen Sherman. ‘Be aware of one another’s sensitivities.’ For instance, maybe you’re not thrilled that your husband is posting photos of you in your bikini. Or he doesn’t like when you tag him in posts that share a strong political view. Discuss posting no-nos to avoid future conflicts.” (Dawn Papandrea)
• “Befriending your spouse and sharing your relationship status on Facebook are no-brainers. But go one step further, suggests Julie Spira. ‘Both you and your spouse should be digitally proud of your marriage. So post your anniversary dinner photo together or a picture from a recent vacation.’ Charles Orlando adds that not mentioning your spouse is the online equivalent of not wearing your wedding band. (Dawn Papandrea)
We could go on and on with the tips we can give you. But we’ll stop here. We have a lot more on this issue posted on the Marriage Missions web site. Please look around. We care very much about your marriage. We care, and God cares. Marriage demands fidelity and faithfulness—don’t kid yourself otherwise. Be “steadfast and immovable” in your faithfulness to God and in your faithfulness to your spouse.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
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