In the effort to avoid the fearful acknowledgement of vulnerability, I suspect many ascribe to the Shared Responsibility Lie. They foolishly believe it is possible to drive someone to commit adultery. It is important to maintain this belief because without it entrenched, then one is faced with the frightening reality that every marriage is vulnerable to infidelity at any time.
It is the truth. But living in a world where one is truly finite and vulnerable is scary.
The false safety of believing one controls the outcome of fidelity in one’s mate by being a “good” husband or wife is alluring. But it only offers a false sense of security. We do not have control over another’s choices. They alone choose.
Adultery does not flow out of the marriage relationship. And a husband or wife cannot ensure fidelity in their spouse at all times. Each spouse must choose to honor their marriage vows before God and their partner.
We make choices everyday in how we spend our time and with whom. And it is a wise person who recognizes one’s own vulnerability to temptation and heads it off early. It is the fool who willing puts himself or herself in vulnerable situations. If you are angry with your spouse, you are vulnerable. And you have the choice to make: do I stay in place free of relationship temptation or do I go to a place where I can feed off of illicit attention?
For example, going to the bar/club scene after a fight with one’s spouse or while one’s marriage is on the rocks is highly unwise. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, and one might be more willing to make sexually foolish choices under the influence (just ask any college freshman). The bar/club scene is where people go to “hook-up.” The attention found there might soothe one’s bruised ego (e.g. “He/She understands me!”), but that is playing with an addictive drug. The thrill is short lived, and the destruction it brings to all around is devastating.
Adultery does not “just” happen. Too many choices take place.
And even for marriages where fighting is taking place over money/sex/etc, no excuse justifies committing adultery. If anything, the vulnerabilities suggest the unhappy spouse ought to take GREATER precautions against committing adultery instead of foolishly feeding the temptations. Difficult marriages do not cause adultery. The sinful and foolish choices of unfaithful wives and husbands cause adultery.
If the real goal is intact families free from the ravages of adultery, pastors would do well to focus on helping partners make wise choices. Is the couple struggling? Now is the time to warn them against the inevitable temptations. And it is important to remind them that they are not a victim of their marriage. They chose to marry, and they can choose to keep their vows. But it will take choosing wisely and faithfully in the little things.
Sadly, foolishness is an epidemic these days.
However, maybe we can start turning the tide?