(Photo by John Cudal)
Sometimes when I’m driving to work in the mornings, I pass the time by listening to “Ryan’s Roses”. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s probably better if you don’t. But basically, it’s a “service” that a radio show provides to expose cheaters by disguising themselves as a flower delivery service. I know, I get it. I’m a terrible person for listening to other people’s misery for my entertainment. I’m embarrassed to say it’s one of my guilty pleasures, just like we all love watching a train wreck. I feel bad for the couples and especially for the victims of infidelity as they feel betrayed and humiliated on a public and popular radio show. As I listen to all the drama unfold, I remember that there was a long period of time when I believed and accepted, wholeheartedly, that the same thing would happen to me.
Vows and commitment seem to be a thing of the past in today’s society. I’ve heard many people justify cheating by saying humans are “not meant to be monogamous creatures”. That sexual drive is a natural instinct that cannot be contained or controlled. Some couples are even delusional enough to believe that cheating on each other is “good” for their relationship or marriage. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about infidelity and adultery:
But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Proverbs 6:32
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 10:4-6
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28
God makes it pretty clear that sexual immorality and cheating is toxic, not only to our relationships but also to our souls (This also includes sexual immorality prior to marriage – cheating on one’s future marriage). And so why has society accepted infidelity as such a “normal” experience? Why are so many marriages ending up in divorce? Why are more and more people finding it difficult and terrifying to commit to one person, in dating, and in marriage? I believe it is because the enemy (i.e. the Devil) has taken what is good, beautiful, and true – the love and covenant between a husband and wife – and twisted our minds to believe that a happy, holy, and faithful marriage is simply unattainable.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
While I was a teenager watching my parents divorce, I had a first-hand experience of how infidelity and broken promises can destroy a family. It also shaped my view of men, relationships, and marriage. I’ve been cheated on in my past relationships. I’ve been that insecure, insanely jealous girlfriend. I had seen enough men and women cheating on their partners to believe that it would happen to me in my future marriage.
There was a time I was working for a consulting firm in Los Angeles, and occasionally, we would go out for “company dinners” (basically a professional way of saying “drinking and partying with your coworkers and then going into work the next day, pretending we didn’t do all the stupid things that we did last night”). I saw how my boss would clearly cheat on his wife, in front of his colleagues and subordinates, and how he would brag about the fact that he had a wife at home in the suburbs and a pretty girlfriend in the city. He would encourage my coworkers, who were in relationships or marriages, to go and hook up with strangers at the bar. I would watch as he would call an escort service and have girls shuffle in and line up in our private lounge rooms, and select the ones he wanted as he moved down the line: “I’ll take you, you…not you…you…the rest of you can go.” It was disgusting.
This same boss would constantly tell me, “99.99% of men will cheat on you. It’s just a fact of life. Better to face it and accept it now, than to be surprised and hurt later.” I heard it so many times that I began to believe it. It was so hurtful and degrading to hear this message over and over again – that women are merely things to be used to satiate the uncontrollable desires of men. I was so tired of hearing his ugly mouth repeating those words. I didn’t want this to be my fate and I wanted to respect myself enough to choose a partner that would respect me the same. One day during a conversation about dating and marriage, he told me again, “99.99% of men will cheat.” I finally spoke up for myself and said, “Well, you know what? If 99.99% of men cheat, then I’m going to marry the 0.01%.”
He didn’t believe me. But I didn’t believe his statistic either. I refused to believe that almost all men are cheaters and I refused to put that standard on men. Because the reality is, I know LOTS of men (and women) who are faithful, honest, and who choose to die to themselves every day for love of their spouses and families. People are capable of resisting temptation and controlling their sexual desires. People are capable of choosing love over lust. People are capable of monogamy. We just haven’t given this message to society enough for people to actually believe it in themselves.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
If you’re feeling hopeless about finding a faithful partner, maybe this can give you some encouragement. Start by looking for a partner in the right places. Sure, I believe God can work anywhere – but I probably wouldn’t recommend a club, a frat party, or the Tinder app. Just saying. Don’t bother wasting your time sorting through the boys and girls who just want to use you and reduce you to a one-night stand.
Secondly, make your intentions and values clear when you begin to date someone. “I’m not looking to mess around.” “Trust and honesty are important to me.” “I want to seriously date you and discern marriage with you.” You get the idea. If you don’t make your expectations clear, you will end up confused, misled, and heartbroken.
If you are in a relationship, set clear boundaries with your partner or spouse. Define what is cheating and what is not (FYI: sexting, kissing, and using pornography IS cheating). It’s important to define what is emotional cheating as well. Are you emotionally attached to someone who is not your spouse? Are you withdrawing from your partner while getting emotional fulfillment and sharing intimacy with someone else? (For more information about emotional cheating, check out this article here). It’s also important to define what makes you uncomfortable, even if it is not technically cheating. For example, early on in our marriage, my husband and I decided that we would inform each other of who we are hanging out with, especially if it includes a member of the opposite sex, and absolutely when it is a one-on-one meeting. We also decided we would not call/text/message people of the opposite sex late at night. We decided we would not watch movies or TV shows if it caused one or both of us to have lustful thoughts.
I understand that people from all walks of life still face temptation. Nobody is free from sin. Just because you’re married, a Christian, a pastor, priest, or nun doesn’t mean you aren’t attracted to other people. But it’s what you do with that attraction that determines if you have broken your covenant or not. When I feel particularly attracted to someone who is not my husband, I pray, “Lord, thank you for creating men and women the way you did. Thank you for creating this brother in Christ who is charming, attractive, talented, etc. I pray for him and whatever vocation You have called him to. And if it is Your will for him to be married, I pray for his future wife and his future marriage. May they love each other and hold their promises to one another, the way my husband and I strive to do every day. Amen.”
I know that even some of the most well-intentioned people can cheat. I understand that the divorce and infidelity rates are extremely high, even among Christians. It’s scary to take that leap of commitment and to promise to be faithful to one person until death do you part. I can’t tell you exactly why and I don’t have all the answers. My husband travels a lot for work, stays in hotels, and meets all kinds of new people every week. Even I have moments of insecurity and doubt when I’m feeling particularly weak or susceptible to spiritual attack. The enemy will use anything to lie and distract me from the truth that happy and holy marriages exist. But I can tell you that my husband and I have entrusted our marriage to the Lord and we work really hard to cultivate trust, transparency, and open communication. I see the way my husband works really hard to persevere in chastity and purity, even in marriage, by filling his mind with what is good and rejecting what is filth. I see that he surrounds himself with good friends who can keep him accountable. I see how he centers his life on Jesus – in prayer, the Sacraments, and the Church. And I can’t tell you how good it feels to be married to a man who seeks the heart of Christ and whom I can completely trust. I can live in freedom knowing that he would never do anything to jeopardize the family he loves and helped to create. I know that I married the “0.01%”. You can, too. More importantly, you and I can be a part of that “0.01%” for our spouses.