I'm not just talking about the clandestine meeting in a distant motel room, or the 'fling' at an out-of-town conference.
One of the most serious forms of infidelity takes place without any physical intimacy whatsoever...it's infidelity of the heart, emotional infidelity.
Why 'most serious'? because you promised your heart to your husband or wife...exclusively.
Give your heart to someone else, and you've taken it away from the person who has a rightful claim. That's one definition of theft.
But really...what happens? How does this mess play out in a marriage, in the real world?
The effects are powerful, and they can't be erased. You can't go back and say, "It didn't mean anything!"
It meant enough to break a vow.
Saying "I couldn't help myself!" is no excuse. Everything in betrayal is an intentional act, from answering a text to removing one's clothes.
So, before answering that text from the gal at work who makes your pulse race, just a little, or the email from the guy who seems so witty and cultured and fun...read on, and know the price you'll demand of the person you promised to honour before God.
If the affair...no, betrayal is kept secret, the wronged spouse often has the idea that something is wrong. There's a slight shift in the ground underfoot; what was once solid has the occasional tremor.
It's unpleasant and unsettling, but many - perhaps most - spouses can choose to ignore it, at least for a time. But it's a shadow across the sun, all the same.
The can feel an emotional distance, and find that sometimes a phone may be quickly snapped shut as they approach, or email logged out, while the screen is blocked by a quickly-turning mate with a too-ready smile.
There might be a text message that's a bit puzzling...was this meant for someone else?
Or a receipt for lunch at a restaurant never visited.
Some husbands or wives will ask, directly..."What the heck is going on?"
And usually there's a glib and smooth reply...because the cheating spouse is living on tenterhooks, afraid to be found out. Excuses and explanations are constantly being flipped through a mental Rolodex, against just those questions.
And then, sometimes, horribly, the cat comes prancing out of the bag.
This is where the price comes in...the price the wronged spouse is forced to pay. Sure, the cheater pays a price, too...but generally later, and, to be honest, deservedly so.
The first item on the bill is loss of the shared past.
Infidelity is what they call a game-changer. It cuts the present off from the past; the betrayal obviates the happy memories built over the years, turns them to ash.
All those years together...meant nothing. And it's hard to lose the meaning of a huge chunk of the past.
The second item is isolation. Where there was once a team, now there are two individuals, and the loyalty of one has fallen away. You can't know what tomorrow will bring, and you can't plan, or even really ask.
And third...and in a way worst...is what I call Groundhog Day.
It's that state between sleeping and waking in the morning, when for a quiet minute everything bad seems like it was a nightmare, that everything's really all right.that nothing really happened. It was all a dream, a bad dream.
But it wasn't, and the heart is broken again, anew, every morning.
Does the person you married deserve this?
This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!