Being faithful to a spouse requires living in community, seeking God daily, and learning from our celibate brothers and sisters.
This summer, my husband and I celebrated two decades of marriage. We’ve been together now almost as long as we’ve been apart—a feat made possible by the fact that we married right out of college.
In the not too distant past, couples who married young laid a foundation for a life together. Cultural, religious, and personal values meant that these “cornerstone” marriages would eventually pass through silver, ruby, and golden anniversaries as a matter of course. Whether the marriage was happy, faithful, or even safe was often beside the point.
By now, however, our cultural views on divorce have changed, as well as our understanding of marriage. Whereas in the past, social and cultural bonds held a marriage in place (sometimes trapping the vulnerable in abusive and dangerous unions), today the weight falls on the individuals. Couples must now want to be together in order to stay together. We’re not asking whether we are happy in our marriages but whether we could be happier outside of them.
To make matters even more difficult, the changing nature of marriage means we expect more from our spouses. Famed relationship therapist Esther Perel notes that we ask the same person to give us belonging and identity, continuity and transcendence, comfort and edge, and predictability and surprise.
“We are asking from one person,” says Perel, ”what once an entire village used to provide.”
And when our expectations are this high, we’ll inevitably be disappointed. Perel calls this conundrum a “crisis of desire,” because in modern marriage, desire plays an outsized role in not only our couplings but in their permanence.
So what are we to do? How do we pursue faithfulness …