Q. I am a recently married man who wants to make sure my marriage goes the distance. Too many of my friends and acquaintances had their marriages end in divorce because they cheated on their wives. How can I make sure I won’t do the same thing? I welcome and value your counsel.
A. Thank you for your honesty in posing such an important question. Many marriages indeed end in divorce because a spouse has been unfaithful. In addition, many more are devitalized and experience distress because an affair has made trusting each other very difficult to accomplish.
God’s intent from the beginning was for permanence and intimacy in marriage when he said in Gen 2:24, 25: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”*
To be naked and not ashamed means to be familiar, close, and have an affinity for one another. It really means to have nothing to hide because of your regard and respect for each other. This is relatively easy to do when you first get married, yet much more difficult to sustain as the months and years leave you further away from the memories of your honeymoon.
Marriage researchers often explain the onset of intimacy in marriage when there is less of “me” and “you” in the relationship and more of “we” and “us.” To be sure, this state of affairs is more likely to be present when the love shared by a married couple is rooted in the love of God. Then, much more than just a euphoric feeling, love is manifested in the way marriage partners behave toward each other with “patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Gal 5:22, 23; because they are filled with the Spirit of God.
Again, to “affair-proof” your marriage, you must be intentional every day about making choices that will honor and build faithfulness in your marriage, rather than destroying and tearing it down. This behavior is much like being a disciple of Jesus Christ. You must intentionally choose to obey Him daily—by His power, of course—or you will be inclined to deny Him and disobey Him, which comes naturally as a human being. Like Mother Teresa once said: “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”
To keep your marriage alive and growing means repeating practices that keep nurturing the intimacy of your marriage. The kind of stuff that communicates “you understand me and I understand you,” because intimate partners share information and have a deep understanding of each other. Intimate partners also act on that understanding of each other. They find out what the other partner likes and they keep doing it over and over again—if it isn’t immoral or illegal. They also find out what the other partner doesn’t like and they quit doing it.
Keep in mind that intimacy may expose you to getting hurt because of how much you know about each other. Still, the experts suggest vulnerability is the principal way to strengthen your marital bond and keep your love alive because it creates emotional safety. As you stay close to Jesus, He will give you the fuel to keep your marriage healthy and strong, because you “can do all things through him…” Phil 4:13. You remain in our prayers.
Willie Oliver, Ph.D., CFLE an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, family sociologist, and certified family life educator, is director of the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. OliverW@gc.adventits.org
Elaine Oliver, PhDc, LCPC, CFLE a licensed clinical professional counselor, educational psychologist, and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. OliverE@gc.adventist.org