Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where does morality fit in?

Research studies interest me in general, especially anything to do with human behaviour. When I see a synopsis of a new study published, I read through it carefully to see if the researchers have discovered anything new that hasn't been around since the beginning of time.

I came across an article last night which looked at infidelity. The question of the study appeared to be "Why do people in stable relationships so often pass up the chance for a little sexual gratification on the side, even if they can get away with it?"

And apparently the study found that those who feel a romantic love and attraction to their partner seem to find other people less attractive. Well, I could have told them that! Hopefully the research will have found out other things as well, but the complete study has not been published yet.

My question is so simple: were these study volunteers asked about their moral objections to infidelity? The reasons for infidelity can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make them, and castigate me if you will, but I don't believe that Christian couples are any less vulnerable to infidelity if they don't have their relationship on the right path. Or if they don't have a clear understanding of right and wrong.

Over my career, I've seen many couples, both Christian and non-Christian, who have run into this problem. And I can honestly say that the one thing that every one of them had in common was having let other things (children, work responsiblities, health issues, etc....) overshadow the relationship. When you start to take your good relationship for granted, of course you are going to have problems. The very best relationships still have problems. But it's how you react to those problems that is the key.

A good moral compass is vital. Vital. And don't just think you have one, don't just say you have one, KNOW that you have one. And know where your lines in the sand are drawn.

I may think a male coworker is a super guy, we may have lots in common, and I may enjoy talking to him. And there's nothing wrong with having lunch with him. Or any other male friend. But..... If I am asked to spend time with a man in a one on one situation, like lunch, DH always gets a call. It's not a permission thing. He's not my boss. And to be frank, DH could not care less. He has told me umpteen times that he trusts me, and does not need to be informed of what I am doing and with whom.

But this is my line in the sand. My respect for that trust he has placed in me leads me to want him to know what I am doing and with whom. And that phone call, as small as it might be, also reminds me of my moral compass. Because I do know that. the first time I do not want to make that call, I am definitely headed for trouble. Or there are problems in my relationship that I am not acknowledging. And I'd better start praying real quick.

And you need to have a clear view of your own understanding of infidelity, and you need to share this view with your partner, and also understand their view of it. I've known some who think one phone call or one email constitutes cheating. I've known others who only consider it to be cheating if some sort of sex has happened. These are two extremes, yes, but otherwise extremely compatible couples may indeed not understand infidelity in the same way, and that can lead to a lot of misunderstanding, and a whole lot of problems and jealousies.

The key to fidelity is not just being in love with your partner. That's much too simple. You also need a basic belief in loyalty, in respect, in knowing that cheating in a relationship is never the right thing to do. You need a moral compass, and you need to know not only your lines in the sand, but your partner's lines in the sand.

Infidelity is not an accident. It isn't an oops. Faithfulness and loyalty is a glass of milk in your hand. Once you spill it, it makes a huge mess, and you can clean it up with the right tools, but you can never put it back into that glass. Maybe you can get another glass of milk, but it will never be the same one that you spilled.

If someone outside of your relationship starts becoming appealing to you, there is no question of a problem inside your relationship. Don't ignore it.


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