She thought everything was fine…except that they HAD been drifting apart for a while now….and their time together was awkward and sort of dull….and he had been struggling at work and starting to question himself….and so what if it had been a long time since they were intimate. They were “fine,” she thought. “He’s just in a bad place” she thought...
No matter how often I hear these stories, (and being in ministry, we hear of this quite often I am sad to report,) I still find myself stunned and wonder, “What? Them? No way!”
From the outside, most of us never see something like that coming, but I believe there is a common thread in every story of infidelity. There may be a common denominator we can find to possibly avoid those same devastating results.
In Proverbs 27:7 Solomon wrote, “He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet.” (NIV)
My first experience with this strange truth was in nursery as a child. On Sunday evenings during church, workers would sit us preschoolers down for a snack of saltine crackers. No fish shaped cheese crackers, peanut butter sandwich crackers, no granola— just plain saltines and a cup of water. Strangely enough we devoured them! They were sweet and satisfying.
But on other days at home when I recognized the same snacks available in my mother’s kitchen cabinets, they didn’t taste as great. Why?
Because I wasn’t as hungry.
I couldn’t understand why the exact same crackers tasted great in one context and were actually repelling to me in another. ***For a simple scientific explanation of this “phenomena” please see note at the end of this post! It was NOT our imagination!
Solomon knew this to be true about food, but used it to reveal a hidden truth about relationships.
“He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet. Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home” (v 7-8 NIV.)
These verses are about the most intimate of relationships; a marriage. More specifically, they are about infidelity.
But what does honey or bitter foods have to do with marriage?
It is all about the hunger.
When we are full, we need no more, we seek no more, and even the sweetest of temptations are loathsome.
But when we are hungry, we need more, we search for more of whatever “it” may be, even if it means searching outside of the marriage— like a bird going from nest to nest, from mate to mate. When there are deep longings unfulfilled or needs that go unexpressed or unmet, there develops an intense hunger to be filled somehow, even though that very idea or person would at other times, be loathsome and repulsive!
Solomon wrote extensively about adultery and warned his son about the adulteress:
“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double edged sword.” (Prov 5:3-4 NIV)
Again he describes the temptation being sweet as honey, but the end being a bitter road that leads to death… the death of trust, death of marital intimacy, even death of the marriage! Yet, what is bitter when you are full will seem sweet when you are starving!
There are many issues that drive others to pursue a man or woman outside of their marriage: not enough sex or unfulfilling sex, emotional disconnectedness, falling “out of love” with them or falling “in love” with someone else, or possibly more deep-seated issues.
However, most can all be boiled down to that one thing. Hunger.
And that hunger is not exclusive to males. Women commit adultery for many of the same reasons as men, so it is important to consider the following questions from the perspective of BOTH husband and wife in the marriage.
What is your spouse hungry for that they are not receiving from you? Chances are, they’ve mentioned it already. They may even talk about it frequently. What is keeping you from addressing that need they have expressed? If it is an issue that truly makes you uncomfortable or something that you absolutely cannot provide, then you should seek Christian marriage counseling so that these issues can be addressed with a confidential support professional.
How about you? Are you growing hungry for something else as well? Have you expressed this need and is your spouse sensitive and responding to that need to the best of their capability?
Now that we see a common catalyst which drives men and women to extra-marital affairs, that does not make it acceptable. We are not birds!
We must take responsibility to nurture and strengthen our relationships, especially the most intimate relationship He grants us here on earth- that of marriage!
It is for our benefit and His blessing!
Praise God that I can honestly say that I have seen MANY marriages come back from and experience health and healing after infidelity! It CAN be done! Repentance and grace lead us back to health and intimacy in our marriages as well as with God!
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***I actually studied this “phenomena” in a college chemistry lab and learned that the amylase (a protein) in our saliva, breaks down starches into sugar as the first part of food digestion. Proof that something starchy and tasteless becomes sweeter and tastier when it hits the mouth! Isn’t it great when science catches up to the Bible?
BLOG EDIT: In a brief blog post such as this, it may sound as if this perspective places responsibility back on the non-offending spouse for not being enough, doing enough, or having enough for the one who was unfaithful. That would be tragic and flat out wrong. We cannot expect to be everything for our spouse, nor can we expect them to fill us in every way…only Christ can fulfill our deepest longings.
I share these passages in Proverbs to give us perspective on what may drive someone to be unfaithful— not to express fault. We all must take responsibility for our decisions and choices. Without excuse. But if there is a hunger or a need that we are aware of and can fill for one another, why would we not seek to fill it?