Color me naive, but I don’t think anyone ties the knot knowing they will eventually cheat. Can you imagine?
BOB: “I love Jill with all my heart. I mean, eventually our relationship will deteriorate, and I will go out on her. But I think we can manage five good years, maybe six. What do you think Jill?”
JILL: “Six years might be a stretch. I can be hard to deal with and Bob, you like to flirt. So, Pastor, do you think we’re ready for marriage?”
PASTOR BILL: “I think this is a match made in heaven. I just need your vows. And a check.”
ANY REMOTELY AWARE HUMAN: Wait, what?
Is this an overly dramatized scenario? Sure. Don’t miss the point though. More than half of all marriages end in divorce. The most common reason? Infidelity.
So, what happens between “I do” and “I’m done”?
Subtle, seemingly harmless decisions. Over time, these decisions chip away at intimacy, trust and respect. Then, it happens.
On your wedding day, you exchanged vows with the woman you love. You had every intention of keeping them. You really did.
Yet, here you are.
But you don’t have to be here. You can protect the integrity of your marriage. The key is noticing the “small cheats,” the habits that , left unchecked , can lead to infidelity. Here are a few ways you might be cheating on your spouse without realizing it.
1. You compare your relationship to others.
For several years, the first four or five in particular, Tiffani (my wife) and I struggled with comparison. I’m sure we’re not alone. This marriage thing was supposed to be easy.
Angels were supposed to proclaim “Hallelujah” in perfect unison when we consummated the marriage. Afterwards, this heavenly chorus would escort us to our white picket fence and happily ever after life.
Turns out, marriage is hard work. And in those moments when the “fit hits the shan,” comparison comes knocking.
If you allow comparison in, he will show you all the relationships that look better than yours. You will become envious of those relationships. The grass appears greener, after all. You will wonder why your relationship isn’t more like Tom and Betsy’s or Jack and Jill’s. Eventually, comparison births resentment, followed by emotional and physical detachment.
After you party with these guys for a while, you become drunk on disillusionment. At this point, infidelity is mere steps away.
Healthy marriages don’t fixate on the grass in someone else’s field. It might appear greener, but only because you’re looking from a distance. Every thriving relationship necessarily involves difficulty. Joy and intimacy pass through conflict, and no grass is without holes or poo.
2. You allow good things to come before your marriage.
Marriage has a way of revealing unhealthy, toxic habits. For example, I struggled with porn for the first several years of my marriage. It was my little secret, though.
Until it wasn’t.
Eventually, my addiction creeped to the surface. My wife discovered my secret, making for some difficult weeks and months.
It goes without saying, bad habits will destroy your marriage.
But good things? That’s a horse of a different color. And, quite frankly, placing good things before your marriage is nearly as dangerous. You’re must less likely to notice the toxic effects until after the horse leaves the stable. I’m not even sure what that means. Anyway.
What do I mean by good things? Friends. Kids. Career. Church. None of these things are bad. But they can destroy your marriage if you don’t give your relationship priority.
Healthy marriages get this. More importantly, they understand the power of “No.”
3. You avoid conflict.
I’ll say this directly: if you don’t learn to deal with conflict in a healthy way, your marriage won’t survive. It just won’t.
By default, I deal with conflict by pretending it doesn’t exist. The elephant could be in the room, using its trunk as a fire hose and I’ll continue with business as usual. To be honest, this strategy worked well enough for most of my life…until the marriage thing.
If you avoid conflict, do yourself a favor and flush your little strategy down the potty. To be honest, I would say most people need to take whatever conflict resolution strategy they acquired before marriage and send it packin’.
Healthy marriages understand the value of win/win. Even if you’re right, winning an argument is never more important than respecting your spouse, and sweeping tension under the rug doesn’t make it disappear. Don’t allow unhealthy conflict to chip away at your relationship.
4. You hide decisions about money.
Many moons ago (what does that even mean?), when I was an engineer, a co-worker opened up to me about problems in his marriage. He mentioned several issues, but when he said him and his wife had separate bank accounts, a big red flag went up.
They divorced six months later.
The papers didn’t cite separate bank accounts as the reason for divorce. But I do believe it played a factor. Of course you have the freedom to keep spending separate. But I could never in good conscience advise such a thing.
The issue here is transparency and accountability, both vital components of healthy, lasting marriages. The Bible says you become one when you marry. This includes finances.
5. You’re emotionally dishonest.
Emotional dishonesty takes all shapes and sizes, but regardless where you start, the final destination is a bad marriage.
Suppressing painful or difficult feelings. Saying “I’m okay” when you really want to land a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the back of your spouse’s cranium. Agreeing to go with your spouse somewhere, only to become passive aggressive because you never wanted to go in the first place.
Whether you avoid vulnerability like a plague or hate disappointing your spouse, the most important thing you can do for your relationship is embrace your emotions and share what you’re feeling.
Intimacy dies when emotional dishonesty is present.
6. You never say “I’m sorry.”
If you want to cultivate soil that’s ripe for infidelity, never see yourself as the problem, convince yourself everything is your spouse’s fault, and never say, “I’m sorry.”
Admitting fault requires humility. Humility requires placing others – your spouse in this case – above yourself. No marriage survives without humility.
Take that to the bank and cash it. Cha-ching.
Grace and peace, friends.