Maintaining Marital Fidelity: The Danger of Gaps

It was pretty early on in our marriage-before kids anyway-when we got into a bit of a kerfuffle at church. There’s something extra terrible about getting into a kerfuffle at church, especially when you’re the pastor and your job is to stand up and declare the eternal glories of Christ. I’m sure it was hard for my wife as she played the piano accompaniment to hymns celebrating our good and gracious God. So there I was, about to ascend the sacred desk and preach, but on my mind was the space between my wife and I. I told myself that we could discuss the conflict after church, but I wasn’t buying it. So I asked the church to have a minute or two of silent prayer before someone came up and led us in a congregational prayer, and I grabbed my wife’s hand and we went to the fellowship hall to take care of the gap. I’m neither the smartest nor the most sanctified husband I know, but I’m thankful for this episode early in our marriage because it taught me the blessing of not allowing a gap between us.

Gaps can come in a variety of ways, but the commonality between all of them is that there is a sense of distance between husband and wife. Misaligned goals can cause a gap. Hurt feelings can cause a gap. Sexual abstinence can cause a gap. Distance is distance, and distance is dangerous. When God created mankind and joined together man and woman in the covenant of marriage, a central aspect of that union is that the husband will cleave to his wife and they will be one flesh. No gap. No space. No distance.

My understanding is that to cleave has something to do with being bonded tightly together, and the result of this is that two become one. The lines of distinction between individuals blurs in the eye of the beholders. The “one flesh” aspect of marriage is the result of cleaving. Husbands and wives are not room-mates with benefits. They are joined in such a way that in their own minds and in the minds of others, it is difficult to think of one without thinking of both.

In my personal as well as pastoral experience, gaps are usually small conflicts, hurts, miscommunications, etc… that are simply not dealt with immediately or well. These types of things are bound to happen as sinners live in proximity to one another, even though not all gaps start as a result of a particular sin.

When we have gaps, things get in the gaps. Except the “things” that get in the gaps are usually other people. Infidelity often starts with gaps. Maybe some well meaning person of the opposite sex notices the gap and sympathizes and just wants to help you, and then the gap between husband and wife widens while the gap between sympathetic listener and married man/woman shrinks. Or maybe the seductive adulteress of Proverbs probes and quickly identifies the gap. Or it could be an overtly sexual man looking for a conquest and exploits the gap.

Or maybe the thing that gets into the gap really is a thing, like pornography. Or a different thing, like online gambling. These aren’t bizarre and unlikely scenarios; these are things that I have come across during my brief sojourn. Married folks without any gaps don’t have a lot of time for such things, because they are too busy keeping out the gaps.

So as a man who is both a pastor and a businessman, my encouragement to you is to address the gaps between you and your spouse immediately. Don’t leave the house with distance between you. Don’t go to work until it has been addressed. Don’t preach, teach, or counsel until you close the distance. You may have to delay the full-blown conversation (in my opening example, we were not able to work through all of the conflict in that brief time before I had to preach), but you can assure one another of your love, your commitment, and your plan to work through the whole thing at the soonest reasonable opportunity. Distance is not your friend. Gaps are the enemy.

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