When Paul Newman died last weekend, every media outlet in the land ran a feature on him. More than one quoted his line about how his marriage had survived the temptations of Hollywood: “Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?”
We all smiled at that. But there’s a massive fallacy running through that kind of thinking.
What if I have hamburger at home and find steak outside? Some have done exactly that. Is adultery all right if it’s an improvement over what you have at home?
What if I have, not hamburger, but baloney at home?
What if I’m starving at home?
The strongest brand of marital fidelity is when the person has little or nothing at home and still is faithful to his/her spouse. On the surface, they have every excuse and the perfect reason to “find comfort” outside, yet they remain true to their marriage vows.
A pastor I know has admitted to cheating on his wife. When the news came, it hurt so bad, it felt like I had let him down some way. I have intensely lifted him and his wife to the Father in prayer ever since.
In a situation like that, what I’d like to say to the couple is that the news is not all bad. The “innocent” spouse has a reason to leave, if he/she chooses, but there are so many more reasons to stay. First and foremost is the children. But high on that list, too, is the assurance that God can heal a fractured marriage and make it stronger in the broken places.
That will not happen without counseling, however. By that I mean your marriage needs a strong friend, someone wiser than you, someone willing to walk with you and your spouse over the next year or so while you rebuild trust and the relationship.
That counselor needs to be a Christian if you are and if you value spiritual things. Adultery is almost always a spiritual problem, and the remedy is spiritual. But not just any Christian is qualified to help you put a marriage together again. Ask around. Pray for guidance.
Recently, sitting with a group of young pastors over coffee, I asked how they were protecting themselves against the possibility of committing adultery.