One of the great questions before civilization is, Why is monogamy still of value to individuals and to society?
One reason is that sexual abandon is not exempt from the pain of deception and broken vows, as the recent experiences of celebrities and public officials can attest.
Why does sexuality need the protection of marriage? A marriage vow says, in essence: “I see you as more than a physical body or a way of satisfying my physical cravings. In you I see goodness, kindness, beauty, joy, and love that I want to have with me always.”
This is not an impossible ideal. I’ve seen it lived in spiritually minded couples for decades. Their example of tenderness, unselfishness, and delight in each other has inspired my own commitment to marriage.
During college I had a spiritual mentor who was totally at peace with his marriage. He told me, “Every day I meet new and exciting people, and every day my wife is the first person I tell about it.” His marriage was a grounding for his gifts to humanity. It taught me the value of moral resolve as a support to one’s freedom to give to society.
Today our culture says that consenting adults should be able to have sex with whomever as long as no one is hurt. The intensity of the influences that would undermine marriage is sobering. They put individual freedom in opposition to the essential capacity to love another as oneself.
But the reality is that true individuality includes fulfilling our commitments to others. When marriages are disappointing or even tragic, extramarital relations only postpone the honesty needed to deal with the issues.
How is it possible to bring sexual longing under control? By understanding that we are so much more than our physical instincts. We are designed to be the image and likeness of God, which was proclaimed from the beginning of creation (see Gen. 1:26–28). This proclamation implies a heritage of being able to think beyond ourselves.
The founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, saw many people rescued from the trap of sensuality. She wrote: “The human mind, imbued with this spiritual understanding, becomes more elastic, is capable of greater endurance.... A knowledge of the Science of being develops the latent abilities and possibilities of man. It extends the atmosphere of thought, giving mortals access to broader and higher realms. It raises the thinker into his native air of insight and perspicacity” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 128).
Carelessness about marriage vows will yield to the fact that the children of God are designed to have God’s wider view of creation. The maturity demanded of each of us is to think more unselfishly and broadly, to see the spiritual power of love when it is the expression of divine Love. Marital fidelity is an example of that wider view.
The best of marriage offers a center for the affections that enables one to grow in a way not possible within the mental chaos of multiple liaisons. Growth in affection includes patience, forgiveness, generosity, and forbearance. These build stronger relationships and support the development of our talents and usefulness to humanity.
For more on this topic, visit the chat, "Infidelity and marriage – finding healing answers."