Keeping your promises is a whole lot more important than you might think because breaking a promise damages – really damages – your character. It not only changes how others regard you, it also ruins your own feelings of self-worth. After all, if you deliberately break your promise, what good are you? Why should anyone trust you anymore? People will doubt your reliability.
Keeping promises is particularly important inside marriage. When I researched the statistics and the causes of adultery, I found there is gender equality when it comes to infidelity. The percentages of men and women who commit adultery are roughly equal. The causes are both many and complex. This leaves us with efforts to keep our marriages strong and satisfying so that adultery is simply not sought.
Expectations are powerful and controlling. Marital couples need to talk about them and talk about them a lot. “Did I marry expecting that my partner would make me happy, or did I marry in order to make my partner happy?” The former is the seed bed of adultery; the latter can be the primary antidote against infidelity. Do we have the same goals? Do we share the same core values? Do my feelings and emotions control my decisions or do my convictions and values govern my choices? Do we have shared convictions and core values?
Communicate, communicate, communicate! It’s the foundation of a healthy marriage. Real communication is not simply listening with our ears, but hearing with our hearts. If we do this, happiness results. Happiness isn’t something that one acquires. Happiness is a result, not an acquisition. So what brings happiness to marital partners? It’s all a matter of mating souls. Mated souls are happy, and it is that happiness that makes adultery simply out of the question.
So, if your marriage has had to deal with the pain of adultery, there’s bad news and there’s good news. The bad news is that what has been done has been done. History cannot be erased. But worse yet is that many people live in their pasts and judge their futures by their pasts. They never stop beating up on themselves or others because they live in the past and judge everything by the past. They never get over it.
The good news is that our Catholic faith is a religion of hope, a religion that calls us to live in our futures and to live in hope. Ours is a religion of forgiveness, a religion that’s all about what we can be rather than what we have been The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are all about overcoming what we’ve done and rising to live new lives in our futures.
Father Charles Irvin is the founding editor of FAITH Magazine and is retired.