Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Faithfulness Is What I Long For

I've been thinking a lot about infidelity. Why people cheat, what causes it, how does it happen? For whatever reason, it's been rearing its ugly head in my life more often than not lately, so, as is my M.O., I am going to use the gentle clacking of my keyboard to work through some of this and use it as a form of therapy.

I spent a good portion of last night researching the causes of infidelity. I used to think that before "The Artist" no one had ever cheated on me. And why would they? I'm beautiful, funny, intelligent, caring, an amazing cook, and a damn good kisser. But, apparently that doesn't matter because Homo sapiens find monogamy difficult (I find this article ridiculous, by the way). Now I'm starting to rethink my original hypothesis of only some people cheat to maybe everyone cheats. Seriously. Does no one understand the sanctity of exclusivity anymore? And now I'm terrified at the thought that maybe someday I too will fall along the wayside of secret meetings and guilty conscious and "I had to work late" just because I cannot deny my animal nature.

I had a conversation with one of my cousins while I was in Dallas for Thanksgiving about faithfulness and what it means to cheat. I believe that one does not need to actually have sex with someone else to cheat, although that is the ultimate culmination. Like all things, cheating begins in the heart and the mind. It begins by making a concious decision. For instance, if I go into work thinking, "Oh that project isn't due until next week. Maybe I'll work on it today." I most likely will not. However, if I go in thinking, "I will finish this project today no matter what!" I will finish it no matter what. Why? Because the mind is a powerful thing. The reason why I became a vegetarian and lost over 30 pounds three years ago wasn't because I thought it would be nice, but because I set my fucking mind to it.

Everything worth something is worth the hard work. So I told my cousin....if this man that treats you like gold is the person you want to be with for the rest of your life, then you need to find a way to work through whatever needs to be worked through. If, for whatever reason, he's not, then you need to end the relationship for the right reasons with the dignity that your time together deserves, not for another man.

Growing up, my parent's did not allow my sister or me to date. They were huge advocates of courtship. While I definitely don't ascribe to these rules in the strictest sense (and I most certainly didn't when I was 16), I do believe that most dating relationships do the opposite in preparing people for a lasting marriage. The way our modern society practices dating, it, in essence, prepares people for divorce. What do you do when you don't like/love/find the other person attractive anymore? Break up with your partner. What do you do when you find someone else more appealing? Break up with your partner. What happens when things get hard? Break up with your partner. Getting married does not mean that all of a sudden all those things that happened when you were "dating" disappear. If anything, they're magnified. It's just as easy for a married person to be attracted to someone else as it is for a single person. The difference is that there are vows and promises made (which really don't mean much today anyway). The point behind all of this is commitment. When you are committed to another person, it means that you are choosing to sacrifice your own needs and wants for the other's ultimate happiness.

Marriage is a covenant, a solemn agreement between two people to do, or not do, something specified - namely, to be promise to love, cherish, and honor the other person through the good and the bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer. These vows are sacred. I love the wording of the original marriage vows: "...holy matrimony which is an honorable estate, instituted of God, in the time of man's innocence, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his church...and therefore is not by any to be enterprised nor taken in hand unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God, duly considering the causes for which matrimony was ordained."
These vows are not only promises to each other, but in a sense they are law. And just as we are required and obligated to honor and obey the laws of our earthly governments, so we must honor and obey the law of marriage.

Well that's all well and good for marriage, but what about  pre-vow relationships? I believe that the same rules apply, though not as binding. One thing that I carried away from my break up with The Artist was when he told me that he wanted to have our end at least give honor to what we had. Yeah, I know, this coming from the guy who cheated. But, he had a point. I believe that it's important to be able to leave a relationship for the right reasons and "give honor" to what was shared. And, let's be honest, there's really only one reason why you should get out of a relationship: it's not ending in marriage. Because otherwise what's the point? If I cannot see myself spending the rest of my life with this person, what's the point? Unless you're just in it for sex, but that's a completely different topic (it's never just sex). And I trip myself up with this in my dating life all the time. It's not just a matter of, "He's hot and we have fun." At this stage in my life it cannot be about that anymore. But, I think this is where a lot of the problem comes from. This is why many people start dating in the first place and then days/weeks/months/years down the line realize that their non-negotiable's don't match up.

My non-negotiable's?

  1. That he have the same sense of spirituality/faith as I
  2. That the vision/goals we have for our lives are complementary
  3. That he is well-educated, hard-working, and ambitious
  4. That he is constantly encouraging and making me want to be better
  5. That there is a mutual respect, attraction, and selfless approach to loving the other person as they need to be loved, not how we want to be loved. 
So why would I even think about being with anyone that doesn't meet these key criteria? Because of stinking feelings and their funny ways! And feelings are funny because they are fleeting and we cannot trust them. Which is why love is so much more than that. It is the commitment that I spoke about before; it is a constant choice to love the other person as they need to be loved, not how you think they should be loved, or how you need to be loved yourself; it is a decision that starts in the heart to be faithful. 

This is the way my conservative Christian parents raised me and this is why I'm not really afraid that I will give into some animal instinct one day and be unfaithful. I know because I have set it in my mind and in my heart as not even an option for my life. Just as it's not an option to do conscious, malicious harm to others, it's not an option to give up or to look back, it is not an option to break my promises. 

It's not an option to live with anything less than the utmost integrity. 

So no, I don't believe that we're hardwired to cheat. I think that we are, at heart, selfish beings and our society has become conditioned to accept the easy way, the fast way, the most convenient way as king. We are all tempted and herein is not where the sin lies. The brokenness comes from giving into the temptations, some with worse and harder consequences than others. I am far from perfect and have my share of battle scars, but I would hope that the consequences of my sins,  no matter how grievous, are always born by me and me alone and do all that I can to spare others from the same pain to which I have been subjected. 

But, I am coming to learn more and more that the foundations for all of this is laid early on in the home. And if it is not set then, when will it be established?

No comments: