May 28, 2009
An “Affair,” Part Two
by Charles R. Swindoll
In Part One, we acknowledged that our society has embraced a subtle lie about affairs, believing that not only is the grass greener on the other side, it's acceptable to hop the fence. What's more, believers are just as likely as nonbelievers to do the hopping. But infidelity isn't an "affair," remember; it's adultery. And it's deadly to a marriage.
Robert J. Levin and Alexander Lowen noted three specific ways.
First, infidelity causes pain to the other. A marriage exists when a man and a woman are bound together, not by law but by love, and are openly pledged to accept responsibility for each other, fortified by the feeling of total commitment that extends from the present into the future. Virtually all such marriages begin with faith---which is to say that a man and a woman entrust themselves to each other . . . it is together that they will seek fulfillment.
The first breaking of that faith, the basic infidelity, precedes any act of extramarital 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 beginning of betrayal.
Also, the sexually unfaithful husband or wife must devote time and money, as well as physical and emotional energy, to the secret "lover." Whatever is given, in effect, must be taken from one's mate. The betrayed partner is actually paying for the cheater's pleasure.
Second, infidelity masks the real problem. To whatever extent infidelity temporarily eases the superficial symptoms of discontent in a husband or wife---such as feeling unattractive or unappreciated---it camouflages the real malady and permits it to grow worse. Distressed by the thought of a separation or divorce, the unfaithful mate pretends to be faithful while searching for satisfaction outside the marriage.
All the risks notwithstanding, honest confrontation has it all over secret deception.
Third, infidelity is destructive of the self. The unfaithful partner, who pretends that by keeping the "affair" a secret he or she protects his or her mate and safeguards the marriage, practices the deepest deception of all: self-deceit. Because the use of deceit transforms the person against whom it is used into an adversary, a self-deceived person is obviously his or her own worst enemy.
When we feel we must lie to someone who trusts us and whom we love, we are trapped in what psychologists call a "double bind." Whatever we do, we lose. This is what an unfaithful husband, for example, faces when he returns home to a wife he genuinely loves. He wants to restore his sense of closeness with her, but he knows he cannot tell her what he has done. So he lies. Lying becomes a habit.
The lies are often unconscious and unspoken and therefore not marked by pain. This is the ultimate act of self-deception. Instead of resolving conflict, it perpetuates it; the deluded person lives a lie. He or she is sick and does not feel the fever.
I seriously doubt that a long list of biblical verses would be necessary to convince anyone that infidelity displeases God. When God says, "Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4), He means it. Finding intimacy outside your marriage with someone other than your mate isn't okay. It's sinful. It doesn't simplify life, it complicates.
Deceiving yourself isn't healthy; it's sick. It doesn't prove you're independent and strong . . . it's a declaration that you've got deep needs.
Sleeping with someone other than your mate isn't acceptable and adventurous; it's destructive and dangerous. And it isn't an "affair"; it's adultery.
The grass may indeed look greener on the other side of the fence. But it's poison. A loving God put the fence there for a reason.
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day, Charles Swindoll, July 2005, Thomas Nelson, inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Purchase "Day by Day" here.