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Monday, June 16, 2014

Seven Deadly Marriage Sins

When we think of marital infidelity, we usually think of the physical 'affair' first. If pressed, we'll add emotional infidelity, which has come to fairly recent prominence.

But did you know that there are a number of additional ways to be unfaithful to the vows one took on that sacramental day?

Remember, we're supposed to forsake all others. And so often, we don't.

So, here we go. How to be unfaithful, and break your mate's heart.

Physical Infidelity - this needs no introduction, and it's almost always a marriage killer. Everyone involved in a physical affair thinks that they're somehow different, that the quality of their 'love' raises them above the tawdry sludge of base disloyalty. The reality is that people who divorce their spouse and marry their 'lover' are far more likely to go through another divorce...I mean, planning a life of faithful wedded bliss with someone who's willing to either betray their own spouse, or help abet another betrayal isn't exactly smart.

Emotional Infidelity - this has become 'popular' in recent years, with increased freedom of movement and freedom of communication. If anything, it's even more prone to the "but this is different" excuse, because "nothing is happening". Nothing, that is, except that the affection that is supposed to be directed at one's mate is being freely given to another. And contrary to pop psychology, we don't have an unlimited amount of love to give. Love takes effort, it takes intentionality, it takes energy. To dissipate it through meetings at Starbucks or online flirtations is theft from the person to whom you promised that effort.

Vocational Infidelity - in other words, 'married to the job'. The excuse for this one is "I've got to provide a living, or a standard of living, or 'good stuff'!" Sometimes, survival does trump all, but more often the job becomes a refuge for a n ego that can't face an intimate life with another human being. Men, in particular, feeling threatened by the humanity and physicality of their wives, will  retreat into a synthetic persona that's defined by the job, and becomes increasingly remote from the emotional - and, yes, the physical aspects of marriage.

Avocational Infidelity - ever hear of golf widows? This is closely related to being married to the job, without the convenient excuse of perceived necessity. Avocational infidelity usually includes same-sex friends - the golfing buddies, the bowling league, the hunting pals. Here, identification with a recreational group is more important, and less threatening, than the marriage.

Familial Infidelity - blood is thicker than water, maybe....it's also very corrosive, and can dissolve a marriage in short order. A man is supposed to leave his mother, and a woman her home, to cleave unto one another. No looking back. It doesn't matter that "They're my family!" They have been replaced by your spouse. Period. End of argument. And the same applies to the"high, holy" practice of putting the kiddos first. You're not supposed to do that. Children should learn about love and adulthood by watching the devotion of their parents to one another, and not by watching one or both parents become devoted slaves to their childish whims.

Intellectual Infidelity - this is the sneaky one, in which one spouse 'outgrows' the other, and adopts a distancing contempt for the 'lower' intellectual level of the person they once loved. It's summed up in the words of a very wise marriage counselor - "You can't divorce a man because he says 'have went'."

Spiritual Infidelity - and now we come to the worst, the kind of infidelity that uses God as an excuse. Paul said that a couple can refrain from sex for a short time, to engage in prayer and fasting...but that very specific separation is supposed to be limited. There is no latitude for saying that "God is more important than you are, so I;m going to ignore you". If you want to be an ascetic, do it on your own time and with your solitary life, before you're married. The Mother Superior in The Sound of Music got it right when she said that "the convent is not a refuge" for Maris to hide from her love for Captain von Trapp.

All of these are, in one way or another, a 'walk to the brink', and their basic evil is that they weaken the bonds of affection and loyalty to allow the eventual development of overt physical infidelity.

It's a lot easier to betray a person physically when you've been disloyal to them in other ways for years.


  1. Wow, Andrew. Serious topic. I hadn't put "infidelity" to some of the forms that you mentioned, but it fits. "Forsaking all others"—an important key in keeping a marriage strong. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. It is a hard one, because several of these areas are 'good' (vocations, avocations, spirituality) before they cross the line into bad.

      It's more than "too much of a good thing"; it's a poisoning of a good thing by letting in ego...and fear.

  2. this is brilliant and wise, Andrew. lots of truth in here, for unfaithfulness comes in many forms.

    thanks for the straight talk ...

    1. Linda, thank you! There are many traps set for the unwary couple, and the most dangerous can come disguised as virtue.