Where people go wrong is that they think they're unique. I'm convinced of it. No one ever fell into adultery who didn't think her illicit attraction for the paramour was a special case, the burden of unbearable destiny, a saga soaring high above-and not governed by-the laws that apply to other mortals. No one ever loved like this, she thinks. No one ever found herself yoked with a like agony, or suffered such outrageous fortune.
I am speaking to women. Men are a different species entirely, a fact that becomes clear after marriage. Those creatures from "Venus" who do not accept the fact can be found in counseling offices, trying till doomsday to change the leopard's spots.
I say nothing but what Genesis predicted. Men are not relationship-driven in quite the same way as their maried counterparts. Call me a stereotype perpetrator, but your quarrel is with Scripture. Here we are apprised of a cleavage in psychology as fundamental as it is universally underestimated. To the woman after the Fall the Lord talks relationship: "Your desire shall be for your husband" (Genesis 3:16). (The Hebrew word for "desire" is the same as that used later to describe sin's "desire" for Cain.) To the man the Lord talks about hassles at work (verses 17-19). Relationship is already not his primary orientation; he's into seeds and John Deere and tinkering in the garage.
(My 24-year-old daughter judges men by the look in their eyes. My 22-year-old son has a checklist of measurable attributes. Enough said?)
Every woman contemplating an affair should take a field trip to a men's locker room. In that inner anti-sanctum she would learn that affairs are not the same for him as for her. He is not the mystic she is. He is not wont, between furtive passionate episodes, to congregate with friends over latté, there to sigh and dream and mewl. You will find him in undistracted concentration on the company's quarterly financial report, studying the Eagles stats, and perfecting his golf swing. Knowledge by women of this fact alone could obviate more incidents of adultery than a hundred fire-and-brimstone sermons.
That little e-mail flirtation you've got going? The one where you feel like Edith Piaf? There are 10 million just like it crisscrossing the ether over America every day. How do you feel now?
Self-flattery is the culprit. "Why shouldn't you-even glorious you!-be as grand as God?" the unctuous one insinuated to Eve, and it has been our Achilles heel ever since. Would it help you to see, o woman in adultery, just how interchangeable you are for him? You were available; that's all.
There is One who is unique-his accolades tumble out of the Bible: "the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 1:4); "O Most High" (Psalm 9:2); "the Lord our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6); "I Am Who I Am" (Exodus 3:14). And so Eve's misunderstanding is also the chief misunderstanding of all men of all times, the heresy of the confusion of Creator and creature.
Antidote: The "Our Father" once a day: "Thy kingdom come." "Thy will be done." Christ's template prayer doesn't get around to your own personal needs till the second half, by which time the petitions seem shrunk to the size of a supply requisition list for the better arming of ground troops for service.
Know that men have affairs for reasons, not because you are their long sought mystical "other half." Hello! These Romeos are not looking for more relationship, they're looking to escape relationship-the gritty, time-consuming work of living with their own wives "in an understanding way" (1 Peter 3:7). You, fun-time lover, are a feast at Le Bec Fin that he doesn't have to clean up after.
Is there no encouragement? How can the sister find happiness in marriage and not roam to other cisterns? One way only: Keep your relationship with God as the primary one in the triangle. (For singles, a startling discovery: You can love a man without owning him; prayer partnership is real relationship.) Herein is your joy and ability to love your mate. And a promise is attached: "To the one who conquers I will give . . . a white stone, with a new name written on that stone that no one knows except the one who receives it" (Revelation 2:17). Unrepeatable. Outstanding. Unique.