A few weeks ago I came across the following article, about a famous author who left his wife for another woman.
Daily Mail Ernest Hemingway article
Reading it, I have to admit that I was extremely unimpressed with the actions of the said author, Ernest Hemingway. Even though he was supposedly “madly in love with his wife”, this other woman threw herself at him for a sustained period of time, and he just let it happen! In fact, he even went along with some of this other woman’s most blatant schemes, like going off to dinner with her alone and other very unwise ideas, until they did eventually start an affair, and he did eventually leave his wife, who was supposedly “the love of his life.”
I am not being mean or vindictive here, but the woman on whom he (literally, eventually) threw away his life was not even deeply attractive (at least not in the pictures in the article). Surprise surprise his relationship with “the seductress” did not last either. And the thing left him in deep regret. He later tried to win his wife back, but by that time she too had moved on and married someone else.
In all, what an absolute waste of all that his marriage could have been, and the joy that he and his first wife could have shared over their lifetime. In this he was indisputably the one who invited that heartbreak into his own life, with his own hands.
A few key lessons from this:
Firstly: being desperately in love with your spouse is not necessarily going to stop you from committing adultery!
Secondly: if you are married and someone other than your spouse is blatantly throwing him or herself at you romantically, then you need to aggressively cut them out of your life. Please do not tolerate this evil in the name of being “nice”. You can be kind about cutting them out of your life, but you do need to cut them out of your life, if you do not want to end up committing adultery.
And obviously, don’t put yourself in a position where you are going to be alone with this person! Even if nothing whatsoever happens between the two of you, someone who is unscrupulous enough to pursue a married person might also well be unscrupulous enough to fabricate completely false stories about whatever you might or might not have done, possibly even a la Potiphar’s wife.
And then just today I read this post, also on the subject of infidelity:
What lures Christians to cheat:
I did share it on Facebook because I believe that on the whole it has useful knowledge to impart. However, there were a few things that left me feeling a little unimpressed:
Firstly, this phrase, right at the beginning: “At least 60 percent of married couples will experience infidelity at some point in their marriage…”
Thinking on it, it was probably expressed in this way for the sake of being gracious to people who might fall within that 60 percent of married couples. However, the thought that occurred to me on reading it was this: it is phrased as if infidelity is something that just happens to marriages, that falls mysteriously from the sky or elsewhere, like a random illness. Obviously this is not true. Infidelity is not something that falls randomly on a marriage. Rather it comes about through conscious deliberate action of at least one of the people in that marriage.
Secondly: [As the wake from the Ashley Madison scandal has shown us,] “the culture at large is confused when it comes to how we approach infidelity.”
This statement in and of itself is true. But why should we be looking to “the culture at large” to understand what is happening in Christian marriages?! We’re Christians! We are not supposed to be directed by “the culture at large”; whatever might be happening “out there” should have no bearing whatsoever on how we live our lives; it is utterly irrelevant. Am I being naive?
However, those are two minor quibbles. I believe that the article on the whole has great advice for us.
Here’s what I believe about adultery.
Adultery is one of the most dreadful things that can happen in life. As quoted within the article linked above:
“If you were to have an affair, it would be the most devastating experience in your spouse’s life,” he says. “It rises to the level of losing a child, of having your house burn down, or of losing a limb. It’s that bad. So for something that devastating, extraordinary precautions are reasonable.”
Well that is the thing! On one hand adultery is absolutely that dreadful to the extent of being comparable to any of the awful things listed above; so we as Christians have to be absolutely determined to not let it happen so that we do not cause that level of pain to our spouses or even to ourselves to our families to our church communities.
On the other hand, it is so easy to be attracted to someone whether or not that attraction can lead to a legitimate relationship! If 60 percent of marriages “experience infidelity” then it seems to me that it is also very very easy to be unfaithful or to commit adultery.
I personally think that there is only one thing that will reliably stop someone from committing adultery. That is an absolute determination to be faithful to your God, via being faithful to your spouse. Even with this, fidelity is not guaranteed. You have got to make up your mind, that no matter what, you will not do this thing! And here is the thing, it does not matter who your spouse is! It does not matter who the potential lure might be! You have got to make up your mind that no matter what the circumstances might be, even if you are married to the worst spouse on earth, even if your spouse refuses to acknowledge your needs in the slightest way – still you are not going to do this thing! You have got to make the issue of sexual and marital fidelity a private covenant between you and God that is not even about your spouse. If we understand that this is the level of commitment that we are making to our spouses, would that not make us more careful about making sure we choose the right spouse in the first place? If we understood that “no matter how badly this goes, my eyes must never ever ever even look at someone else!” – on choosing our spouses, would we not then make absolutely sure that yes, this is that one person I want to be looking at for the rest of my life?!
I am a single woman. I do not know who my husband is going to be. I am hoping that someone will take up that role, and hopefully not too long from now! All the same, by the awesome grace of God, I have made it my absolute commitment that by the grace and empowerment of God, I must NEVER commit adultery. I must never even go near adultery. I am hoping and planning by God’s grace to marry an outstanding man. However, my determination not to commit adultery is not about who he is or will be. This is exclusively between me and God. At the moment, because I am single, my husband is not fulfilling any of my needs at all. And yet the covenant between me and God still stands. Even if Huggie-Wuggie never actually shows up – I must still be sexually faithful to my God.
This is part of the reason why it invariably annoys me so much when supposed Christians blame a man’s infidelity on his wife, for “not giving him what he needs”. Hello, he’s a Christian man. He is supposed to have a covenant operating between him and God, a covenant that started before he got married, (assuming he was already a Christian) How was he managing then as a single man, when he was not getting any (sexual) needs met whatsoever?! That said, I am admittedly not a man, and I am not in a position to talk about a man’s sexual needs. It might only be on getting married that I finally understand what everyone is talking about.
And yet I must also note that this blamegiving rarely happens the other way around! A wife’s adultery is never blamed on her husband’s inattention or lovelessness. I can only imagine that this is because, even in Christianity, it remains more acceptable for adultery to be committed by the husband than by the wife. (So I guess the thinking is that “It is not acceptable or understandable for a wife to commit adultery. However, it might be understandable for a husband to commit adultery if…”)
I also think that in everything, not just this, our actions have to line up with our stated determinations. If we are so determined to be sexually faithful, then that determination should be reflected in our daily lives, both in public and in private. How can it make sense for someone to say that they are deeply committed to sexual faithfulness, and then for that same person to be interacting carelessly or casually with the opposite sex? I think that for us to be serious about this, we should build safeguards and principles into our lives, regarding the way we interact with other people. We need to be so very careful and watchful. We should constantly monitor our interactions with other people. If we notice ourselves getting too inappropriately close to a member of the opposite sex, then we should move away!
According to various accounts of adultery I have read, it takes time for an initially innocent interaction to turn into adultery. First you talk or you stay up all night chatting…and then, and then, and then! So in most cases there will be a period of weeks or months where the relationship could be stopped at any point and prevented from becoming adultery. If I was a married woman, and I found myself getting all deep and personal with someone who was not my husband, even just once, that friendship would be utterly broken off. I would not wait for it to develop for weeks or months. Period! No friendship is worth my marriage. When I married my husband, I agreed to elevate him above absolutely everyone else.
I like to think that I am subtle in my approach. However the truth is that my ears prick up every single time a man crosses my path, whether he is single or married. Every man I meet is a possible source of adultery (within reason). I think to myself: “Watch out Tosin!” To be perfectly candid, in our modern world, we sometimes even have to be careful of our interactions with the same gender!
Before marriage: I believe that fidelity to my marriage begins before my marriage. So even in striving for sexual purity now, that is an expression of fidelity to my eventual spouse. And yes, I am going to be asking questions of my husband of how he has behaved sexually before marriage. No I will not be impressed if he has been giving away what marriage would restrict to me. I’ve said this before, in similar words to this: if having sex with someone else would be a deal-breaker within marriage, then every sexual encounter you have before marriage could also negatively impact on your marriage. It could arouse the same jealousies, fears, or insecurities that active adultery within the marriage could arouse, especially if you are having the slightest interaction with any of these previous sexual partners. There is the issue of comparison, your spouse could feel threatened, and previous feelings might exist which could lie dormant, perhaps forgotten, for years, waiting to be awoken. That previous sexual partner will always exist in your life as a sexual entity whether or not you are actively sleeping with them within your marriage.
To be honest, this might be true even if the relationship between you and this other person was never actually sexual, for instance if it did not proceed beyond strong feelings. Any old flame is an easy potential cause of adultery, even if the initial relationship was not actually that deep or strong. I have read countless stories about this. This is true often even if the feelings were one-sided and the original interaction possibly years ago never actually materialised into a relationship. Speaking personally, when I do feelings I do them big! So I have had to aggressively and permanently cut off every man I’ve ever been strongly attracted to. I don’t want these men to re-surface as potential sources of adultery in my life. I don’t want my future husband to feel threatened in any way by the question of whether or not there might still be any lingering feelings. There are not. I want to dedicate every single feeling I am capable of to him. As far as I am concerned, he is the only man in the universe.
I believe that on getting married it is often wise to cut off any friendships where strong romantic feelings have existed between you and someone of the opposite gender. I am so happy about the fact that I have remained friends with many men who have been romantically interested in me. However, “when push comes to shove” as the saying goes, I might have to end some of these friendships.
So I believe that any old flame is a potential threat to a marriage. But the same is also true of friendships! I believe that even while single, while building our friendships with the opposite gender, we have to build them with a view that we will be getting married later, and not necessarily to one another! I believe that we should avoid building into our friendships things that could become threats to our future marriages. For instance we should be careful about having best friends of the other gender, or getting into the habit of pouring out our hearts to our friends of the opposite gender. Even while we are single we should respect the fact that these friends are of the other gender, and we should maintain appropriate boundaries. We should avoid behaviour that causes our friends to be confused. This is something else that I have often heard, countless times, that a man will have a female best friend. And then even on starting a relationship, or even getting married, he will continue to cultivate this other woman as his best friend. And then the woman too will be clinging to this friendship. Seriously?! How can this not be a source of confusion, threat or insecurity to his wife?! And then throughout life they will continue to confide in one another more than in their actual spouses. And then they will be forever defending these friendships “No, no, we’re just good friends!” If it needs to be said, then men, on getting married, you need to seriously wind back your friendships with the other gender. And women, if your male best friend gets married to someone else, then you need to end that friendship! (Julia Roberts, I hope you’re listening!) This obviously works the other way too with women and their male best friends, but the stories I have read are about married men and their female best friends.
Another danger that arises from this is that spouses can use their close friends of the opposite gender to deliberately threaten or manipulate their spouses. So whenever the married couple have an argument, for instance, the wife with the male best friend can talk about how much she loves and respects this male best friend. This is designed to instil fear into the heart of the husband, and is simply not loving behaviour. A person needs to choose the spouse that they want, and commit to that spouse wholeheartedly, without constantly looking back over their shoulder. However someone else may have performed as a spouse is irrelevant. I am not going to use my friends to try to control my husband and I would be immensely unimpressed if he tried to use his friendships to control me.
So yeah then, when looking at a man, all the close female friendships he is cultivating are going to be potential threats to our marriage, especially if he is the kind of man that is going to want to hold on to these friendships, to insist that “we’re just friends!” (Yes, that’s the point – don’t you realise that adultery most often arises from friendships?!) And then if he does not appear to have any strong principles or guidelines about how he interacts with these women, then it is almost as if he wants to commit adultery. Because adultery is very predictably what will happen. And then once the deed is done he will start crying and saying “I didn’t mean to!” No of course you did not “mean to”! No-one ever “means to”. And yet it consistently predictably happens because people do not have sufficiently robust guidelines in their life to make sure it does not happen.
As a wife I am not going to compete with my husband’s female friends, and I am not going to tell other women to stay away from my husband. If any potential husband does not have the strength of character to assess his friendships with women, and amend them accordingly, even to the point of cutting some women out of his life, then he can go and marry someone else. I am not interested. If a potential husband introduces any other woman to me as “his best friend” then frankly he’s an… let’s just say I don’t respect his level of judgement. If you are a man and a woman is your best friend, then she should be the one you are marrying – not me!
As single people I believe that we also have to take the initiative to assess and edit our friendships with married friends. I have had to end at least one friendship with an amazing married male friend. This man was so good, so holy, so Christ-centred. My admiration for him was unqualified. But he was also married. Ultimately, it had to end.
I might not be married, but I still have a covenant of fidelity with my God. I am so careful with all men, especially married men. Even while single, I am also pro-active in ending inappropriate relationships. These are other relationships that I am careful to end:
-Interactions where men could legitimately think me to have an interest in them. This includes these three men that I asked out. For these relationships to have survived there would have needed to be phenomenal wisdom and judgement and discernment on both sides. The truth is that most people simply do not think about these things as deeply as I do, and can sometimes act carelessly. I just did not want to have to find out how these men might be capable of acting. In fact they had often shown me just what they were capable of. I also do not want to play the role of convenient ready-made scapegoat for anything that might happen in someone’s life or marriage. It seemed most prudent to end these interactions altogether.
-If any married man shows any undue interest in me – just like that – it is ended. This includes when I notice a man looking at me too intently, or even when I deduce that someone is checking me out too intently on Facebook. Unceremoniously. No questions, no excuses, no explanations, no nothing – just over
-Any man who does not respect my guy rules, or suggests that they might be a little too strict, or strenuous. Once again these men are unceremoniously removed from my life. Yes this includes Christians and yes it has included pastors. I mean, do you not appreciate the magnitude of what I am trying to avoid? Do you not appreciate how important this is?! No man is worth the potential sacrifice of my future in this way. By abusing my personal rules that is exactly what someone is suggesting; that he expects me to sacrifice my hopes for the future and my beautiful hopes for my marriage – for him and the utter nothingness that he represents to my life.
-Any time someone thinks themselves qualified or entitled to make a groundless insinuation about the way I might or might not be behaving with men. I am not going to sit around battling against these insinuations. I just cut off these people from having any interaction with me, and walk away.
-This is an interesting one – when a married man insinuates or suggests by his behaviour that I would be romantically interested in him if he was not already married! This has happened more than once – that a married man has somehow managed to communicate to me without actually saying anything, that I would be interested in him, or he would be the kind of person I would want to marry if only he was single. Which begs the question: how do people manage to communicate this without saying anything?! And yet they do, and it is so easy to grasp their meaning. Result: Unceremoniously cut off from my life.
-When someone suggests, or a suggestion is made on someone’s behalf, that I want to win them into a relationship even though they are already married. In other words I want to be like the seductress in Ernest Hemingway’s story. This is subtly different from the example above. Above they are suggesting that I would want to be with them, if only they were single. In this example they are saying that I actually do want to be with them, even though they are not single; I want to win them from their wives. The result is the same. I cut myself off both from the man concerned, and also from the people making the insinuation. Yes this insinuation has happened to me before. Considering the commitment I have to spiritual integrity in every way shape and form; considering my determination to have a phenomenal marriage and to live a phenomenal life both of which will be respected and lauded even in the eyes of heaven, what a catastrophic insult. But I thank God that God remains good. I look beyond these things and I take courage from the hope of the marriage that I do hope to have.
-Women who are bad influences. Some women, even Christian women, seem to suggest that I need to “let my hair down” a little, or “loosen up a little”. Seriously? I know another Christian woman who suggested that non-Christian husbands are “not all that bad”. In fact she is married to one! (I thought to myself – yeah, I bet you expect me to copy you and enter into your mistake so that like you I can spend the rest of my life complaining about my non-Christian husband; in fact the two of us can sit around and complain to one another! I don’t think so!) I have to admit that I have not actually cut these women off. In fact I have allowed myself to be influenced by at least one of these women far more than I should have done. I am not going to actually cut these women off. However, I sincerely need to be pro-active about finding friends who are actively and passionately striving after what I am striving after, friends who are going to say what’s what, and tell me the hard truth even when I don’t want to listen, not friends who are going to encourage me to “let my hair down”.