For the man or woman whose signifcant other has or is cheating on him on her: it’s not about you.
For the man or woman who is or has cheated on his or her loved one: You are the problem. But there is hope.
There’s hope because – in many ways – why you cheat is not about your character, your faith or your willpower. I would even go so far to say that cheating is not a reflection of how ‘spiritual’ you are. Some of the best people in the world I know have cheated or struggle with being faithful. Some people that I don’t think much of have been consistently monogamous.
So what am I saying? That engaging in unfaithful behavior is a reflection of what’s going on inside of you. Your struggles, your perceptions, and your past experiences. The events that have gone into shaping you. How you deal with stress. Where you find your self-esteem. What comforts, soothes or calms you down. You do not cheat because you are a ‘bad’ person. Cheating, simply put, is something you (your flesh) desire to make you feel better. It is a ‘work of the flesh’ as reflected in Galatians 5:19-21:
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. ”
For those who struggle with sexual purity, cheating is a particularly challenging foe. It says in the Bible that the enemy can only ‘tempt’ us with what is already inside of us (James 1:13-14). If you already have an inclination towards illicit sex (sex outside of the boundaries of a Godly marriage), this is something that you will probably struggle with before, during and after marriage. As a good friend of mine once remarked, ‘being married doesn’t change the fact that you find other people attractive.’ Amen to that.
In its least harmful form (to you at least), cheating is a reflection of a lack of self-control. At its very worst, cheating is a way of attaining satisfaction. It’s worst when you cheat to gain satisfaction – be it enhanced self-esteem, ego-stroking, comfort, solace or validation – because sex can never satisfy those desires. So if you are looking outside of your relationship to find those things, you will never find what you seek. Which usually leads to you continuing to engage in illicit sex to get the ‘temporary’ fix this type of sex provides.
If you are having sex because you lack self-control (and can’t figure out how to say no), this is the least harmful (to you, of course, not to your partner) because gaining self-control is a lot easier than learning how to find validation, self-esteem or comfort. Like food and drugs, we use sex to provide many things it was not designed to give. And like food and drugs, you will have to re-educate yourself to end this vicious cycle.
And how do you train yourself to not cheat? As I said in the beginning, it starts with acknowledging you are the problem. You don’t cheat because because your wife gained 20 pounds or because your husband doesn’t treat you very well. It’s never because of another person – it’s all about you. You cheat because of who you are, what you struggle with, your motivations and your experiences. All these things decide how you will respond to outside temptation. So first you have to figure out why you are doing it.
In order to ascertain this, think about the last time you had sex with someone other than your significant other. How did that encounter make you feel as you were carrying it out? What did you walk away feeling? Did you feel better about yourself? Did you feel like you were the ‘man’ or that you were the ‘woman’? Did you pat yourself on the back for how ‘smart’ you were by being able to fool your man, your woman or your friends? Or did you finally feel a sense of satisfaction – your stress was gone or your mind had cleared? Did you feel relaxed and ready to face the world? Did you leave this other man or woman feeling on top of the world? Was it exciting to plan it out, choose a meeting spot and do something you had no business doing? Or, did you finally feel loved? Did you think, ‘well my husband (or wife) didn’t want me but this person did? Or did you do it because you feel conflict about the person you are with? That your relationship isn’t the right one for you? Is your cheating a reflection of the doubt and ambiguity you feel towards your spouse?
Spend time thinking about this and then pray. Go to God openly and ask Him to reveal to you why you are doing what you’re doing. Ask Him to help you as you make the journey towards wholeness and wellness and stop cheating on your mate. He may reveal things to you from your childhood that you never quite got over. He may point out things that are flawed within your marriage that you need to address. He will probably show you how you misuse this gift for your own selfish desires. He may even show you that that person was not the one He had intended for you at all. But, most likely, He will point out you to yourself.
Ask Him then to help you resolve or change those behaviors that cause you to act the way you do. Ask Him to help you find new friends, a new city or new hobbies to take you away from that person or the situation that triggers you. Ask Him to give you strength and harden your willpower as you struggle to walk away.
Here’s the truth: you won’t be able to do it alone. As a child of God, you will find your strength and your ability are contingent upon your relationship with the Father. If you are weak in that relationship, your other relatonships will suffer as well.
Finally, do what He asks you to do. Accept that He knows what is best and promise yourself (and Him) that you will follow His directions. It will probably involve further praying and maybe even some fasting. It may involve cutting some people out of your life. It may involve sacrificing something you are simply not prepared to give up. It will most likely involve cultivating regular communion with God and enhanced Bible study and meditation. It may be something difficult. But it will be worth it as you put God’s values, and your family, above your own selfish, self-centered desires. There is nothing in this world more important than following God. And that’s what you want to do….
It will be hard. But, with God’s help (and your desire to change) you can do it. Here are some scriptures to reflect on as you go through your journey:
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to them that love him.
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed.
Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.
Phi 4:6-7, 13
In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus…
I CAN DO ALL THINGS IN HIM THAT STRENGTHENETH ME.