When I was growing UP in the '70s, traditional marriage involving monogamy and fidelity seemed to be falling by the wayside.
In the early years of my marriage, I was faithful to my husband in body. But not really in spirit. My mind was often elsewhere. I frequently enjoyed fantasizing about other partners. This seemed totally harmless, especially since my husband apparently wasn't that interested in sex. I figured that if I kept myself preoccupied, I was actually doing him a favor.
You might guess where this led. Eventually, I met a man who shared my interest. After months of confusion and melodrama, we finally acted on our desires. It cost me my marriage. While my husband initially wanted to work things out, I felt that the only honest choice was to abandon the marriage, since I felt I couldn't remain faithful.
One proverb asks, "Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" (Prov. 6:27). My experience wasn't a large-scale public scandal, but it did touch everyone I knew. Each had an opinion about what I'd done, and many relationships (not just my marriage relationship) were harmed or destroyed.
My life was in shambles. And for what? Adultery did not fulfill any of its promises. The passion, sympathy, understanding, and loyalty that it had held out to me turned out to be so much emptiness. Even after my divorce, and the end of the affair, I still had mountains of self-hatred and confusion to deal with.
That's when I began to feel that marriage represents something important. Ideally, that "piece of paper" is documentation of what both partners have already decided. Most people probably learn that getting married doesn't mean they stop finding other people attractive. In order to maintain fidelity, both partners must agree to stop looking. This is a moral decision. It takes strong commitment.
I'd begun to study the teachings of my faith more deeply. And I considered this statement in the Christian Science textbook relating to the spiritual nature of all men and women: "Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness. The likeness of Spirit cannot be so unlike Spirit.... Man is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 475).
Each of us is the image and likeness of the divine Spirit, God. The body can't take over and control our motivation. No one is a prisoner, forced to obey destructive whims. God has created each of us spiritually, in keeping with the divine nature. As we begin to understand this, we're able to find in ourselves more satisfaction and honor.
Gradually, I got back a sense of self-worth through knowing God. Through seeing the truth taught in the Bible and through considering the ideas about spiritual identity in Science and Health - such as the paragraph above. I learned that my adulterous behavior had really never been a part of my true identity.
The pull of extramarital sex, which had seemed so strong, was overpowered by the new understanding I was getting of my status as God's very good creation. Once I learned that I reflect the truth and purity and love that are from God, my unfulfilled desires were gone for good. Our faults cannot be victorious over us when we are earnestly seeking God. I found forgiveness through a life rededicated to doing what's right. Now I know I will not give in to immorality again. I'm free from it, and from the desire for it.
I'm actually grateful that the consequences of breaking my vows were sharp enough to turn me in a new direction. Overcoming immorality never leaves us where it found us - it leaves us wiser and happier.
Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. I Corinthians 7:3