We all know him. Tool Bag Joe. You know, the guy who is a serial cheater. Or maybe it's Sleezy Sue. She seems to always be getting close to other men when she should be home with her husband. Or, to all of you ladies out there, have you ever met a man for the first time, and he just gave off THAT vibe? The "I'm-a-little-too-friendly-to-women-vibe"? I sure have. I've met some real creeps that right off the bat I knew that if given the chance, they would jump at it.
Have you ever wondered why some people are that way? Are they just bad people? Is there something wrong with them? Do they have daddy or mommy issues? Maybe they are sex addicts....you think? I've wondered this. And these types of people are sort of unique because I think many times they really do have a serious problem. I'm guessing in some cases you could label them as narcissists since they are only concerned with themselves. They don't even think about how their actions and behaviors are negatively impacting those around them.
These days, we are seeing more and more infidelity. Time Magazine reports that 47% of men and 35% of women are involved with someone other than their spouse. In my circle alone, I have three friends who are dealing with adultery in their marriage. And in these cases, we aren't dealing with people who have cheated over and over again. We are just talking about real people who have made a mistake in their marriage. And not because they are sick and twisted people who have no concern for those they hurt. But we are talking about good, Christian people who found themselves in a vulnerable place and making a very destructive decision for one reason or another. People who love and serve God, love their children and even their spouse, and are productive and positive people in society.
Why in the heck does this happen? It's something I've asked myself many times. Because, I also have experienced this. I've been on both sides of this pain. And I will say, it is equally painful and damaging to all involved. I've asked the question, "Why in the heck did I do that?" so many times. Like, what in the world is wrong with me? Why would someone ever choose to do such hurtful things? And then, when you're on the other side of it, you ask, "Why did they do that to me?" and "What did I do to cause that?".
In every situation there are different answers to these questions. Many times, the reasons are similar. But that's not what this article is about. The point of this article today is that when this does happen, it doesn't mean you're a bad person, a bad Christian, a bad wife, or a bad husband. Don't get me wrong, what you did or what was done was BAD, but you aren't or they aren't. Adultery is no different than any other sin in God's eyes. But because there are so many earthly consequences, we can easily look at those who are guilty of it and judge them. How many times did people look at me, after I did what I did, and label me as a bad wife? A bad mother? A bad person? Ohhh.....LOTS. And I believed it for a long time. YEARS.
So here's the myth I want to debunk: Once a cheater, always a cheater. I've heard this many times in my life. Heck, I think I've said it. But it's not true. Sure, there are certain cases in which a person has a real issue deep inside, and if left unresolved, they will continue down their destructive path. But in the case of someone who falls into infidelity, repents, admits their fault, and seeks restoration from God and those they have hurt--they can ABSOLUTELY be reformed and NEVER cheat again. I choose to believe that that is me. Oh I realize that I could fall into sin again because we are ALL capable of falling. But I refuse to believe that I am destined to struggle with being faithful to my husband just because I have had struggles in the past.
One surefire way to cheat-proof your marriage is to set up certain safeguards. Mike and I have done this in our marriage and this has been very helpful. For example, we don't spend alone time with people of the opposite gender. I don't go on lunch or dinner dates with men, and he doesn't go alone on these types of things with women. It's easy to allow this to happen with co-workers or friends, and in many cases is totally innocent BUT can eventually lead to trouble. I am also careful not to playfully text men or carry on a messaging relationship with men through social media platforms. (Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc) This is asking for trouble! I have heard of many "old flames" rekindled through Facebook. Not a problem per say except many times, these people are married to someone else!
I could list many more safety fences we have set up in our marriage but I want to share the NUMBER ONE most powerful tool we have in our marriage that protects us from infidelity. And that is a strong, genuine RESPECT and admiration for one another. And crazy enough, having this is easier said than done in marriages these days. How often do you hear of a wife talking about her husband with disrespect and sarcasm? I'm a hairstylist....I hear it ALL DAY LONG. How often do you hear a man talking negatively of his wife? A marriage relationship isn't easy. I mean, you LIVE with this person for heaven's sake. You see the worst of the worst. It can be easy to become irritated, aggravated, annoyed, and just plain tired of each other. Or maybe you see your spouses faults so clearly that you no longer respect them. When this begins to happen, watch out. You're in a danger zone.
When you take a relationship that is lacking respect and admiration at home, and you couple that with a third party that waltzes in the lives of one of them, and begins to shower them with respect and admiration, you have the making for an extramarital affair. But here's the bottom line, and the secret sauce I'm talking about: I love, admire, and respect my husband so much, that if I cheated on him, I would have to consider myself a MONSTER. How could I ever do such a thing to someone that is so good to me? Someone who loves, admires, and treats me so well? That's what protects my marriage more than anything right now. I would have to be a complete narcissist and monster to hurt Mike like that. Do you get what I'm saying? You have to keep your marriage in such a place that having an affair on that person would be complete insanity. In most cases, this alone can keep your marriage safe.
Are you consistently loving and respecting your partner to the point that they would have to be crazy to be unfaithful to you? Are you fully present with them? Do you show your admiration for them and express it to them with words? Are you physically and emotionally affectionate with them? Do they know how much you care for them and what they mean to you? If they do, and if you are, you are keeping your marriage in a safer zone than if not. There are many more things that you can do to protect your marriage, but for me right now, this is the most impactful.
So "Once a cheater always a cheater"? I sure as heck hope not. That's not who I am. I don't identify with that anymore. The mistakes I made, I didn't make because that's WHO I am. It was what I did, but has no reflection on the kind of person I truly am. I made a mistake, I admitted and took responsibility, I made right with God and those that I hurt, and then I learned from it and became better for it. And most of all, I forgave MYSELF for it and have learned to love and admire myself again. You can do the same, and if someone has hurt you with infidelity, it is possible to be repaired from that damage. Our God is pretty dang big and He is able to heal and restore ANYONE from ANYTHING if they are willing. Open your heart to self-forgiveness and the forgiveness of others and you can heal.
Oh and P.S. -- If you read this and said, "This wasn't for me. I could never fall into adultery"......the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:12, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" I remember saying this at one time, years and years ago. We are all capable of falling. So keep your guard up!