A spirituality.com chat this spring featured, a practitioner and teacher of Christian Science from Corpus Christi, Texas. Keith has been in the public healing practice for the last 26 years. This text has been edited for readability. To listen to the whole chat, go to www.spirituality.com/chats/fidelity.
In helping couples with their marriages, what have you found to be some of the main causes of infidelity, and what are some of the spiritual solutions to these problems?
Paul wrote in a letter to the Romans, "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (12:2).And he also wrote in a letter to the Philippians, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (2:5). Paul knew that Jesus expressed God, the divine Mind, and we transform our mind as we recognize more and more that we have the mind that was in Christ Jesus.
We're divine Mind's pure and sinless idea. As we are alert to accept no thought that is foolish and unprincipled, we will transform our mind. However, if selfish thoughts go undetected, we may begin to feel that we're intellectually or physically superior to our spouse—and that's one of the causes. This may lead us to believe that the disparity is an automatic entitlement to extras. And whether it's money or looks, this off-balance belief can cause us to view our partner as plain, or to feel justified that a little fun on the side is somehow right.
Now on the flip side, if we are not striving for the mind that was in Christ Jesus, we may be fooled into believing we're not deserving of someone smart or successful, and we look for ways to punish ourselves. That's another way we have to be watchful. You know, we chase after someone not as good as our partner, and then when infidelity is discovered, the marriage crumbles and we feel justified because we've just proved what we've been fooled into believing. So, it's important to spend quality time with God. I've found the best way to do this is by prayer, reading the Bible, and studying the writings of Mary Baker Eddy.
If we don't spend quality time with God, we may be fooled into believing we're not satisfied and that we need thrills to make us feel young again. Thrill-seeking makes us jeopardize a perfectly happy relationship with an affair. And the more times our ruse succeeds, the more likely we'll keep doing it.
What if I am in a very good relationship of over two decades' standing? Is it possible to be too complacent?
Oh, absolutely. I think it's important, daily to establish in our thought what God is. We need to recognize that God is the husband, that God is the wife, the infinite Love who is ever faithful, and is always faithful to us. Therefore we express that faithfulness as God's image and likeness, God's self-expression. And so, our thought is dynamic—alive and alert to remove any evil that tries to parade by us.
Marriage is a spiritual idea. It's divine Love's completeness expressing itself in a way that we can understand. We want to protect that and defend that, and see it for what it is—untouched by evil.
How would someone pray about their own fears of cheating on their spouse? My husband is so afraid that I'm going to cheat, that I often start to fear it myself. I would never be unfaithful, but I don't know how to not be influenced by my husband's fears.
That also kind of ties in with hearing about the person who says that their husband or wife is constantly accusing them of infidelity when they're not even thinking about it. And I think possibly in both cases it's all about dominion. Again, we can go back to Paul's statement, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." How much authority and dominion did Jesus express in every situation? He is our Way-shower. So that's the dominion and authority that we must, to a certain degree, begin to recognize as our God-given right. It's our God-given right to have dominion over any malicious attack that tries to sneak into our thought saying that we're afraid we might cheat—or that tries to go into our spouse's consciousness and suggest that we might as well. And it's key to recognize that it's not your thought. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." That's where the ideas come from. If it leads to guilt and sorrow, pain of any kind, that's not our mind, it's not our thought, and we don't need to go there.
A few years ago I had a relationship with someone that never became physical, but was still inappropriate. I ended it, but I'm still overcome with guilt and feel like I should be punished. How can I forgive myself, and the person that knew that I was married and pursued me anyway?
Christ removes every aspect of sin, and once the sin stops, the suffering stops. It's time to know that the healing has taken place, and since you wouldn't be going back to the closeness or to the affair, why bring it back? So it's time to use our dominion and claim that we are God's pure idea. And that's the interesting thing about Christian Science—it shows us the more we lay aside the mortal self, the more dynamic we are. The less we try to gain attention for ourself, the more our true nature—which is divine, which is the majestic, dynamic being—expresses itself. So it's time to use the authority of the Christ, and claim your innocence.
I believe my husband is in the midst of an affair which he won't admit to. What can I do to help heal the situation?
Let's get back to what is God, what is man? God is divine Mind, the basis of all wisdom and goodness. The generic term man is God's spiritual idea, the way Mind is revealing its wisdom, the place where Soul is expressing its goodness and integrity. As we recognize there is just one man, the Christ-man, we won't be fooled into thinking that man is a mortal who could sin and stray and cause harm—or a mortal who's falsely accusing. I think we're just scratching the surface of learning about God and how we reflect God's goodness.
Mrs. Eddy wrote in Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, "Human nature has bestowed on a wife the right to become a mother; but if the wife esteems not this privilege, by mutual consent, exalted and increased affections, she may win a higher" (p. 289). If a couple weds, and then one partner decides after a while to live a more "spiritual life" and doesn't need sex, isn't that a selfish thing to do to the partner?
I think you want to communicate. Going into the marriage, if the couple had the sense that sexual activity was going to be OK for them, and then one changes their mind, there needs to be a gentleness and a patience with one to the other. There has to be understanding and love from that standpoint because marriage—what did Paul say, "It is better to marry than to burn" (I Cor. 7:9)? I think what he was talking about is that it's better to be married than to burn with sexual desire—so it's putting the sex into a marriage partnership where it can be contained, so to speak, and kept, where society as a whole is more stable.
Communication, patience, forgiveness, and love are important as a couple goes forward. In my practice over the years, sometimes a woman or a man has come to me and said, "I wish my [spouse] wasn't such a beast, crawling all over me, because I've grown so spiritually that I don't need sex anymore. I wish they'd grow spiritually. Can you talk to him about that?" And then a while later, all of a sudden, the marriage has broken up because they have an affair.
And so we have to watch. If the sneaky suggestion comes that someone has grown so spiritually, maybe they're just not appreciating and loving the husband or the wife, and are buying into that fact. Then all of a sudden they're tempted outside the marriage because they think the marriage is weak.
How might we pray about the institution of marriage? It seems like the news and almost all media portrayals of marriage are negative.
I think it's wonderful to really sharpen our concept of marriage. What is marriage but the oneness of our Father-Mother God, and that oneness of Father-Mother God expresses itself to us in ways that will complete us in a sense as a family. It's the fullness of God expressing itself. So marriage is a part of that compound idea of divine Love unfolding. As we sharpen our spiritual sense of it, we will help uplift humanity as a whole.
And to wrap up some of the ideas we've discussed today, I hope we are discovering that to protect a marriage or resist temptation and heal the wounds of infidelity, we must live more and more unselfishly. Mrs. Eddy wrote: "He who is afraid of being too generous has lost the power of being magnanimous. The best man or woman is the most unselfed" (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 165). The true measure of our life, it could be said, is not in how much we live for ourselves but how we live to glorify God and to love and help others. Writing about healers, Mrs. Eddy also wrote,"... it is only through the lens of their unselfishness that the sunshine of Truth beams with such efficacy as to dissolve error" (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 87). Only through the lens of our unselfishness will infidelity and sorrow dissolve.