If you’re immersed in the Christian subculture, the emphasis is such that it can seem like pornography use or other sexual sin is the worst thing that can happen to a marriage. But really, you know, a marriage can weather that kind of storm, if both partners are willing to come together in humility and forgiveness and rebuild the trust that was broken. I’ve actually been privileged enough to witness this a couple times, not in people I’m particularly close to, but in friends of friends, and it is a truly powerful image of grace.
What I think is more damaging to a relationship, in the long run, though it doesn’t have the shock and awe moments of an affair or betrayal, is smoldering, simmering resentment, bitterness and contempt in one spouse towards the other (or even worse, in both partners toward each other). When there is this kind of baseline negativity towards one’s partner, they can do nothing right, there are no kind words, forgiveness is grudging, casual misunderstandings turn into fights, and the duties of sharing a home are carried out passive-aggressively. This marriage may look fine on the outside, but the inside is being eaten away by a cancer of unrighteous anger.
As the apostle Peter wrote, “love covers over a multitude of sin” (1 Peter 4:8) – and so, if a marriage is grounded in and sustained by love, the failings and imperfections of each spouse can be overcome in forgiveness and grace. But if a marriage lacks this deep and unconditional love, a love that bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things, then it will be shaken to its core and in danger of destruction. It is hard, but essential, for us as married people to reset our baseline emotions toward our spouses, from a default of bitterness and resentment to the commanded love and mercy that analogizes Christ and the Church. Only by so doing can we hope to maintain the joy and beauty of our marriage, make our homes a holy and happy place for our children to grow, and reach out to our communities with genuine hospitality. Our attitudes toward our spouses ripple outward in their effects to touch everyone we know. May it be a ripple of love and abundance and joy rather than one of loneliness, hurt, and anger.