The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

I did think it ironic at the recent news of the hacking of an ‘infidelity website’ which drew attention to the online dating world – I’m not sure that’s a correct term in this context – for extra marital encoun-ters that people those who wish to cheat secretly were potentially going to be exposed. That peo-ple cheat – and that they don’t wish to be exposed – and they will use whatever technology or op-portunity is available is not surprising – I was only mildly surprised by what, seemed to me, to be the size of the group involved. In the news reports I read that two such websites each had over 1 million users / members / customers (what is the best description?) in the UK alone. I then checked the UK’s Office for National Statistics for how many fami-lies are in the UK – figuring that it is the adults in these situations that seem to be the ‘clientele’ and the 2014 fig-ures say that there are a total of 15.6 million couple fami-lies and 3 million lone parents families so that means 34.2 million adults from which possibly a little over 2 million of them have logged on as preparing to be involved with someone already involved with someone else. In one sense that’s a lot of people and in another sense it isn’t. I know that’s convoluted but affairs are convoluted!

As someone who has counselled couples for marriage and who has solemnised quite a few I have yet to meet anyone who tells me that they want to get married ‘for now’, that he loves her ‘for now’, that she’ll stay with him ‘for now’. Maybe people do say such things more so today but I think people entering a lifelong commitment are expecting – are offering themselves to this relationship – are preparing to take the risk of such a commitment (after all, we can’t – we shouldn’t – control the other’s behaviour and we’re trusting him/her to ‘stay’ as he or she is trusting us) so that they will grow old together learning more and more about love.

I think marriage has too much pressure put on it these days. Often it is the relationship that must provide all our needs and wants and while it is exclusive and precious, if it is the only relationship one has or invests in (ignoring family, friends, interests, hobbies, civic involvement, etc) then that pressure can become intolerable. Sure, it is a foundational relationship for us and for family life but it is not the only relationship we have – though it is supposed to be an exclusive one (according to God’s original intention) and why we enter it. Thus for whatever reason one wants to ‘look else-where’, adultery destroys this relationship like nothing else can. Destruction always brings about sadness and pain – and in this case betrayal and anger. The advertising says: ‘Life is short – have an affair’. For whatever reason the ad might be enticing to a person, the alternative if married is to go back to the marriage knowing that yes life is short and working on this relationship is what God calls us to do.

There are no easy answers if we have problems in our relationships and the affair – secret until it isn’t – isn’t a solution for marriage or for us with whatever issues we have. At heart this whole thing is really about us – personally – and the words we’ve said and the integrity we have and the faith we have in someone else – not Christian faith but the trust we place in others to help us live each day. Yes, it all can be scary (can we really trust this person we marry?). And those who are Chris-tians can bring their Christian faith into their marriage for God in Jesus is the faithful one and he helps us, blesses us, and encourages us to love – which he models by serving us.

Whatever our issues with marriage, whatever our dissatisfactions or temptations, whatever excite-ment we might crave, the having of affairs is not the solution.  — GS