Do you remember those words, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until God by death shall separate us?” They are part of the Episcopal wedding ceremony—the one that you hear at traditional weddings. Are they just well-meaning sayings that are impossible to keep? Or is such commitment—until death—a possibility even today?
Dr. Alexander Lowen, a medical doctor, said, “Virtually all such marriages begin with faith—which is to say that when a man and a woman entrust themselves to each other, they do so believing that neither would ever try to hurt the other, that each will contribute to the other’s happiness, and that together they will seek fulfillment. The first breaking of that faith, the basic infidelity, precedes any act of extra-marital intercourse. It happens when one partner decides to turn away from his mate in search of intimacy or fulfillment—and keeps the decision a secret. This is the true betrayal of trust.”
What do you think? When does a person start cheating with his mate? Does a husband break faith with his wife when he confides in a female coworker over lunch and talks with her about intimate feelings, feelings that he hesitates to share with his wife? Does a wife break faith with her husband when she acknowledges compliments from men in such a way that she sends nonverbal messages that say, “I like the attention you are giving to me”?
Is a person being unfaithful with a mate when he or she begins to withhold part of the truth, leading the other to believe what he or she knows is untrue? Are secrets ok in a marriage?
…guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15
Cheating starts when we begin to flirt with the idea that we are unnoticed or taken for granted. The second step is nourishing the fantasy or the relationship that begins to develop with another person. It’s fed by deceit, covering your tracks, making phone calls, or sending texts which you would prefer your mate not know about. It’s arranging your schedule so that you have casual contact with another person whose company you enjoy.
At first, it is not that someone else has taken the place that your mate has in your life. It’s that your ego has dislodged the priority that the other had in your heart. Love demands that your mate come first, but selfishness insists that your happiness and fulfillment come before commitment or loyalty.
It’s what psychologists call “a double bind.” Trapped by deceit, you live one kind of a life but secretly nourish another, even if it’s just a fantasy life. When you begin to feel that you are taken for granted, it is easy to justify allowing your heart to stray. “He never notices what I do for him!” “If he would only tell me that he loves me!” “She’s the problem in our home.”
If you recognize tinges of yourself in today’s devotional, here are three guidelines to stopping yourself at the brink of disaster:
#1: Recognize how deadly your behavior is when you catch yourself beginning the process of rationalization, feeling sorry for yourself, feeling taken for granted or neglected.
#2: Address the issue by bringing it up with your mate and expressing the feelings that are troubling you. Confess your emotional temptation!
#3: Begin to build on the positive. This may require help or counseling. It may mean you learn how to communicate or become willing to be vulnerable.
Breaking faith with each other begins in the mind, but ultimately it is played out in real terms of broken relationships and broken hearts. Keeping faith in your relationship is more than a discipline. It’s the key to a love that is vibrant and alive.
Resource reading: Matthew 19:1-6
With Bonnie Sala