Guarding Your Marriage Against Infidelity February 1, 2011

Guarding Your Marriage Against Infidelity

I love reading Christian magazines like Charisma because it always teaches me something.

In the January, 2011 issue, I learned from Bob and Audrey Meisner how to Guard My Marriage Against Infidelity:

It’s like God said: “Thou Shalt Not Have Platonic Friends Because You Know You Secretly Want to Fuck Them.”

(Are Christians incapable of keeping their pants on when they’re alone with someone of the opposite sex?)

Got it, ladies? No makeup with the intention of looking attractive. All other men must think you’re fugly. Only then will your husband truly love you.

Only Jesus can do that.

Damn right. That husband who beats you nightly? You told him “I do” so that means he’s your soulmate forever. No one can ever love you more than him. Which is pretty goddamn sad.

And don’t you even *dare* think about getting a divorce, just because you think you might not be in love anymore. Because you are in love. Jesus said so. You’re just going to have to learn how to live together while mastering the fine art of passive-aggression.

See? Isn’t your marriage stronger already?!

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  • inmyhead

    Ha ha ha. That made my morning. I have been married almost ten years and I always wear make up, No affairs so far. I also wear dark nail polish. Dun dun dun….

  • Christophe Thill

    “You made a choice”. Just like people choose to “sin”, to be gay, or whatever. Free will is not just a value for those people, it’s an obsession. They think it rules the world. I suppose that, when they hear about someone falling from a cliff, they think “he didn’t have enough will not to fall”.

  • Chris

    This message brought to you be the “Phyllis Schlafly Finishing School for Young Sinners (and You’re All Sinners, Girls)”

  • Mr Ed

    This blog post needs a cheesy porn sound track.

    “Help you carry your bags to the car ma’am?” wocka woack

    “Sally is that eye liner?” wocka woacka

    Talk about frustrated if they aren’t in segregated prayer they are afraid they might loose control.

  • Dear M. Boss,

    I realize that it is vital that I work on the project with Laura/Mary/Jane because we are two specialists in the required field.

    And I also realize that without this project our company will have to fold.

    However, I must respectfully decline as I have not mastered the basic human skill of finding a member of the opposite sex attractive without going Bonobo on them (even though I am categorically not descended from a common ancestor).

    A. Hole.

  • Narvi

    Well, the “No emails you wouldn’t want your spouse to see” bit is actually good advice.

    The rest of it is just a big bag of crazy with extra repression.

  • Alphager

    I disagree that point 4 (Don’t expect your spouse to make you happy) is wrong. Just sitting there and expecting someone else to make you happy doesn’t work; in a good relationship, both (or all) partners make each other happy.

  • Claudia

    @David McNerney awesome!

    I always find it amusing to see fundamentalist Christians, who would probably be the first to denounce Islam as being of Satan, adopting many of the same attitudes. What, at the end of the day, is the difference between “You can’t be close to someone of the opposite sex” and “Women should cover up and be separate from men who are not their husbands/fathers/brothers/sons”? Both attitudes assume that humans are animals utterly incapable of controlling their instincts.

  • It just struck me that the word infidelity must have the same route as the word infidel. In other words without faith. Which somewhat suggests that churches are more concerned about the persons faith than their marriage. Or am I off track here?

  • Carlie

    Can you have a close friend of the opposite sex if they’re gay?

    Oh wait, I forgot, good Christians wouldn’t be close friends with gay people in the first place.

  • I’m bisexual. I guess that means I can’t be anyone’s friend. Apparently, all of my relationships will end in sex.

    Maybe I should become a priest?

    No, wait, that won’t work. I’m a woman.


  • bLaKouT

    And their afraid gay marriage will endanger heterosexual marriage.

  • L.Long

    Look at those again and you will notice that even if the Xtians believe that (they are from the buyBull), they totally ignore all of them, except for some odd cults.
    The IsLame males (they are not MEN) however know that they are all true and they can’t keep their Dick home, so they made these rules and put their women in tents.

  • The point about “no close friends” makes perfect sense in a belief system that holds the notion that people’s decision-making abilities have been biased to prefer “the bad” to “the good”. They actually can’t feel confident about what they will or won’t do-that would be pride-and they never know when their sin-weakened willpower is going to give out.

    The irony in this belief system is that it gives people an excuse to do what they perceive to be “wrong” (insert Reo Speedwagon’s “Can’t fight this feeling” or Flip Wilson’s “The devil made me do it”) since they’re going to give in anyway, with the ensuing guilt binding them ever more firmly to the religion and clergy who can “save” them.

    Yet we nontheists get accused by them of not respecting free will. Sheesh.

  • The religious obsession with sex would be hilarious if it weren’t for all of the incredible damage that has been done over the centuries.
    I’d agree with point #4 if they were referring to one being accountable for their own happiness, but as Hemant pointed out, that’s likely not the case.

  • It is ironic that the Christians who believe that mankind is higher and separate (even created in God’s image for a purpose) than the animals is prone to animal-like behavior and thought processes (like dogs sniffing other dogs’ buts). I think a more rational explanation is that if people tend to have animal-like behavior, it is because we ARE animals and not separate or “higher”. Through culture, though, which doesn’t require a belief in God, we can learn to reframe from certain inappropriate behaviors.

    It is also ironic that the same group of people who rail against “one size fits all” policies in politics (like for health care reform) are so quick to offer “one size fits all” solutions in curtaining human behavior.

  • RE: #7…. I did not realize that god was a fan of “When Harry Met Sally”.

  • Though I didn’t read the entire source article due to a case of tl;dr, those tips are incredibly depressing.

    It sounds like Audrey and/or Bob is profoundly unhappy in this marriage and has just learned to grin-and-bear-it so they won’t commit the Big D.

    Sad. And terrible advice.

  • Mr Z

    I am fond of saying that you cannot legislate morality, yet this is exactly what religions are supposed to do – make the laws on what you can think and what you must do to be a good person. These laws are handed down and proclaimed largely by people who have no personal experience with it or whose experience is largely perverted from ‘normal’ – whatever that actually means. The very vows they hold dear in an institution they claim as their own it clearly shows that they have no real understanding of how two people ‘should’ get along. It lays down rules for interaction which should be self evident if the two people actually do love one another. Religion’s obsessive interest in your sexual morality is beyond humorous, it’s Barnum and Baily hilarious.


    no more makeup. Next stop? Burqaville!

  • RJ

    My face hurts…from palming it while reading those bat shit crazy rules. Oh the stupidity hurts my brain. I need fresh air.

  • Ron in Houston

    Actually the first one was done in a secular context in “When Harry met Sally.”

    I know this stuff is easy to mock, but from a relationship counseling standpoint there are a number of valid points.

    The one that does get me is the last one. We do make mistakes and marry the wrong one.

    Just ask my ex…

  • Kevin S.

    Glad I’m not the only one who immediately thought of When Harry Met Sally.

  • kristi

    Bwahahahaha. Sorry.. this was hysterical. No friends, you have to look bad all the time, your stuck no matter what kind of jerk he is… sounds like the typical advocacy for abusive relationships to me. I’ll pass, thanks. 🙂

  • sven

    This reminds me of some ‘wisdom’ a muslim collegue shared with me. “A man should allways respect his wife, but he will sometimes test her”. WTF!

  • Bryan Elliott

    So, this thing about failing to communicate a “lack”… I get the idea; there’s always this weird anxiety on the edge of a conversation or snuggle or whatever whenever I interact with anyone. Even with my wife, I’m quietly aware that there’s a thread there – however fine – that is judging my actions.

    And, seriously, if she needed something she couldn’t get from me and needed to stray to figure out what that was? I’d be pretty fine with it, long as she came back afters and, you know, told me.

  • Gabriel

    It is just sounds so immature to me. It feels like they are talking to a very young child who hasn’t learned to control their behavior yet. It doens’t even read as real, it feels like a joke. It reads like something I would find on a satire site like the Onion. I’ve never heard of this magazine before. Is it a real magazine or a joke magazine?

  • Robert W.

    Godless Monster,

    Here is the explanation for Number 4:

    God wants to meet every single desire of my heart. Bob will never be able to read my mind, be the perfect “Prince Charming” and understand my feelings every moment. He’s pretty amazing, but he’s human! As soon as we put expectation on any person to be our source, we are in a form of dysfunction. We’ll eventually get disappointed every time. Our relationships can contribute to our worth and our fulfillment, but can never, ever be our source.

    Sounds like good advice to me even without the reference to God. Depending on someone else to bring you complete happiness always leads to problems in my opinion.

    If you look past your desire to bash this article because it comes from a Christian magazine, the advice is actually not bad and if you were truthful with yourselves I imagine you would see that alot of affairs start with these issues.

  • BrettH

    What scared me most in this was the marriage councilor bragging that he had kept marriages together when one spouse had tried to kill the other… Ok, maybe for any specific two it all worked out fine, but how many times did that just keep the two close enough for a second attempt?

  • Luther

    1) What a poor job they believe their god did in constructing humans. At least the ones that think everyone needs these rules.

    2) Rule 7: “No Exceptions”

    You mean I cannot be close friends with my daughter and my sister? Not to mention my mother, if she were still alive.

  • Jon

    Oh screw this repetitive bullshit.

    Hemant, do you understand at all the darker nature of female sexuality. Or are you a mangina, a white-knight?

    If you ever get married and then divorced, you’ll understand why the female automatically gets the kids, half your assets, and half your paycheck.

    In all male-female interactions, there is a huge sexual undercurrent, whether we like it or not; we are driven to reproduce, it’s something that’s part of our hindbrains. That’s not to say we are complete animals, because we are not, but we still have animalistic impulses.

    This is why I believe in self-regulated boundaries between male-female interactions. I also agree with Robert W.

  • Troglodyke

    As soon as we put expectation on any person to be our source, we are in a form of dysfunction. We’ll eventually get disappointed every time. Our relationships can contribute to our worth and our fulfillment, but can never, ever be our source.

    I generally find your posts aggrandizing, Robert, but on the bit above, I agree 100%.

    You cannot expect another person to provide happiness for you. However, I get my happiness not from god, but from within. There are so many less strings attached to it that way, and it’s actually happiness because it contains no notion of obedience to anyone. Plus, it doesn’t require me to suspend my innate reasoning skills or bend the truth to support my fantasies.

    Now, before you take that as meaning that I’m a nihilist who feels I am allowed to do as I please all the time, go back and re-read it.

  • anon

    Oh, wow, good thing I’m pagan-turned-atheist and not Xtian, otherwise I’d have to give up the opposite-sex friends I’ve had for 25 years *without* f*cking!

  • Meisner could have saved us all a lot of time by just tweeting “My marriage sucks, but I can’t leave it, so you neither should you.”

    Seriously – it reads less like a piece on protecting your marriage from infidelity and more like a disjointed slurry of self-assurances that her marriage is still worth protecting, mingled with tips for never, ever parsing the thought that maybe it isn’t.

  • Rich Wilson

    Ah this is Rules-For-Marriage-Lite. We all know Islam is where it’s at for keeping marriages together. Women just need to save a little breast milk for men that they’ll need to be alone with, so he can become part of the family.

  • Steve

    I fully I agree with Claudia. There is absolutely no difference in the thought processes between fundamentalist Christianity and Islam. It’s the exact same “blame the victim/woman” mentality. The only reason Christianity doesn’t have the violent excesses of Islam is that we live in secular states and law prevents them from acting out.

  • JimG

    You know, I’ve got a lot of female friends. I’m not married, but many of them are. Many of them I also find quite attractive.

    This does not cause me any real problem, because unlike the Meisners:

    1. I can think for myself and realize all the reasons any sexual involvement would be a bad idea (damaging others’ relationships, deception, etc. – should be obvious).

    2. I like and respect many of their spouses, and respect both as individuals for reasons entirely separate from sexual attraction.

    3. I don’t spend all my time running around with my fly open, looking for someone to hump as an ulterior motive in any given relationship.

    4. I CAN CONTROL MYSELF. It seems to me that one reason people like the Meisners cling so desperately to authoritarian religious beliefs and figures is that they know they’re personally weak-willed and just want to be told what to do. A former friend of mine who was utterly lacking in self-control illustrated this when he tried to move from Episcopalianism to Orthodox Judaism; his explicit reason was that he just wanted someone to instill the discipline which he knew he lacked. Since he was, again, asking an imaginary being to do so, he failed.

  • Richard P.

    One thing for sure, they are good at making lists.

  • Matthew

    Nothing like some a good straw man in the morning, I guess. Sigh.

    #7. This one is interesting, because there are so many shades of relationships. Her point, though, is not that Christians are particularly bad at controlling themselves (or at least not particularly worse than non-Christians, anyway), but that in committing to another person in marriage, you are publicly admitting that you’re giving up a very specific kind of relationship with every other person of the opposite sex. I’ve worked in an office, and I’ve had female coworkers as friends, but I never spent time alone with any of them, because what on earth would have been the point? I’m sure a lot of husbands and wives would say they wouldn’t mind their spouse going to lunch with a coworker or old friend of whatever, but to what end? Men and women feed each other emotionally in very real ways, and that kind of one on one only opens the door to allow someone who isn’t your spouse the opportunity to (knowingly or not) connect with you emotionally in a way that should be reserved for your spouse. It’s not just about keeping it in your pants; real life isn’t porn, and we all know lunch with an old friend isn’t likely to lead directly to sex. It’s about reserving yourself emotionally for one person. As soon as you let someone else inside (again, in a very specific way–mothers, sisters, etc. are a different story for just about everyone), you’re opening the door for inappropriate emotional connection. She’s not lying; people don’t usually set out to have affairs, they fall into them because someone is giving them something emotionally they aren’t getting at home, and that’s a problem that should be addressed between spouses before it gets to the point that letting someone else in your heart is necessary. That’s part of what makes marriage hard, but it’s part of what makes marriage awesome, too.

    “Got it, ladies? No makeup with the intention of looking attractive. All other men must think you’re fugly. Only then will your husband truly love you.” Yikes. Please tell me you didn’t actually think this & that this line was a joke.

    Read #6 again. She “put on [her] makeup, hoping a man other than [her] husband would notice”. Not so that men, generally, would notice, but so a specific man would notice. Ask any married men if they’d appreciate their wives paying special attention to their looks so one specific man would notice. And then ask a wife who does or has done that how her marriage is going. Men & women don’t need to be ugly to everyone but their spouse, they need to be concerned about their looks for the sake of only their spouse, because they shouldn’t be specifically trying to impress any other person in that particular way. Looking good is a good thing, it’s the motivating individual that’s the key.

    I was actually surprised you mentioned #4. Sure, a spouse can make you happy sometimes (my wife does a lot of things that make me happy), but it seems to me Christians and non-Christians alike would mostly agree that your spouse shouldn’t be counted on to be your primary source of happiness.

    #5, then. The extreme example you gave was an interesting. She’s trying to point out that the person who knows you best is best able to love you, because they can choose to love you despite your shortcomings. Cases like the one you mentioned, though, do suck, because while your husband/wife may be best able to love you for who you are, they are also best able to hurt you, for the same reasons. Can’t say I have a great answer for that, because I’ve never been there, and I can’t imagine it’s always as easy as simply getting out (sorry to disappoint anyone who was hoping I’d start a rant about dogma & divorce).

    Ok, that was a LOT more than I thought I’d write, so I’m done. I make it a rule not to comment here, because frankly I don’t think I’m welcome; usually I don’t see the point. But man, as a married guy, it just struck a nerve with me as being odd (and at least mildly irresponsible) that you’d take such strong offense to advice that boils down to telling people they should keep their relationship with their spouse separate and special, apart from all other relationships. Because if you don’t think that’s true, you shouldn’t be/get married anyway.

  • flatlander100

    What Narvi said.

  • Frances

    Here is my problem with #4. If it had said “Don’t depend on your partner for your own happiness,” I would agree with it. If your spouse is the only thing in the world that makes you happy, that would be a problem.

    “Don’t expect your spouse to make you happy” is another thing entirely. You spouse should be contributing to your happiness. Not the only contributing factor, but probably a major one. Your career, children, sense of self, and hobbies will hopefully all also contribute to your happiness, but if your spouse doesn’t contribute at all, that is a problem and I am not sure what the point of the relationship is. Why would you marry someone who didn’t contribute at least in small part to your happiness? If you are not happy to be around your spouse, that is a major problem, not a fact of life.

  • sam

    I guess this means dude-on-dude friendships lead to gay relations.

  • Pickle

    My ex had many female friends…some of whom he did actually sleep with. So, I sort of agree with the first one. HOWEVER, my ex also had low self esteem and saw any attention from a woman, even platonic, as a come on. He needed to feel that he was attractive to women to feel better about himself. That being said, I think the first one is good advice FOR SOME PEOPLE. Obviously not for everyone. I have male friends who I would never sleep with. I’m married, they’re married. No matter how attractive I think they may be, I do have my own morals that I am able to adhere to.
    Oh and number 5 is total BS. If I’d stayed married to my first husband I’d still be cheated on and verbally abused. Instead, I divorced him and found someone else who suits me perfectly. =) We also both have friends of the opposite sex.

  • Frances

    Also, the first one is not exactly the same as in When Harry Met Sally. In the movie, they stipulate that men and women can be friends when someone is involved in a serious relationship. They said sex was an issue when both parties are single. Since the advice in this article is for married people, it isn’t really the same thing.

  • Allison

    I can’t help but feel that Jon is trolling, but at the same time…

    “Hemant, do you understand at all the darker nature of female sexuality.”

    …. really?? If there’s a dark nature to sexuality, it’s to sexuality as a whole. Any time “female sexuality” gets blamed for something, in actuality it’s a man trying to blame his lack of control on women. Blargh.

  • I’m not married but I am in a long term, stable relationship. I don’t “guard” my relationship against infidelity at all. I don’t want to cheat and I trust my partner not to cheat. If I wanted another partner I’d ask if that was alright and maybe we could all have some fun. I don’t get why there is any need to guard against anything.

    These Christians are a bit odd aren’t they to invent so many rules that just bring you stress. Haven’t they considered talking with their spouse to iron out some boundaries between them?

  • Grimalkin

    7 years of marriage *and* having close male friends. OH NOSES!

    Clearly, atheists have way more self-control (and respect, and love, and consideration for others) than Christians do…

  • Daniel

    Only been married a decade:

    7. Flat out insane. I honestly don’t know how this can be promoted outside of a Hollywood film, and even there it always seems absurd. The vast majority of my friends are female, and the one of them I’ve slept with was years before my wife and I began dating. (her and my wife are currently friends – we have kids the same age and plenty of common parenting ideals)

    6. I’m a teacher. I care what 130 people will think about how I’m dressed every day. Because I certainly don’t want to model poor grooming habits. Is my marriage doomed?

    4. If I wasn’t going to be happier with my spouse, I wouldn’t have married her. Heck, if I were less happy now, I wouldn’t _stay_ married. Sometimes there are bad times, but if I were in a relationship that overall made me less happy than being single, I’d leave the relationship. I tend to believe everyone should. (not that I’d legislate my belief on them)

    5. I can imagine no worse a childhood and adolescence than if my parents had remained married. Also, see #4.

  • Josephine

    Random questions:

    What happens when a woman goes to see her male doctor or a man sees his female doctor and they happen to be alone in the exam room together?

    What happens when someone takes her/his cat to the vet and the vet is of the opposite sex? Does that not count because the cat is present?

    What happens when a woman goes for a job interview and the interviewer is male (or vice versa)?

    “You cross a line when you spend time alone” is not only ridiculous, but it’s not really possible.

  • ButchKitties

    A lot of that advice comes from the same victim-blaming mentality that perpetuates rape culture. Thanks, Christianity. You’re doing your part to make the world less safe for women.

    Besides, if Christian marriage advice is so great, why do Evangelicals have a higher divorce rate than the national average?

  • JSug

    Some of the advice in the article is sound, like promoting open communication. The big mistake is that she’s treating symptoms as if they are the problem. If you’re spending a lot of intimate time with someone other than your spouse, or trying to catch the eye of another person, or don’t find happiness in spending time with your spouse, etc. Those are all signs that your marriage may be in trouble. But avoiding the symptoms doesn’t fix the underlying problem. And certainly, no problems are fixed by simply pretending they don’t exist (“Refuse to believe you married the wrong one”). That’s simply the opposite of good communication.

    But then again, we’re talking about people who think their beliefs have power over reality. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that they think they can wish themselves into a perfect marriage.

  • Oli

    I can see their point with a few of their comments. For example, it is sometimes difficult to be platonic friends with someone of the opposite sex. That doesn’t mean impossible, it is just about controlling yourself and realizing that initial attraction can be natural, but doesn’t have to be a precursor to a behavior or choice.

    With the whole ‘looking good for others’ thing, there is nothing wrong with that. But if you have a certain person in mind when you get ready, you might want to consider your reasons.

    I also agree to an extent about not expecting your spouse to make you happy. But the person you are with SHOULD contribute to your happiness, and you to their own.

    The rest of it seems like total bullshit.

  • Funny, most of my best friends are male, and I haven’t slept with any of ’em.

  • Craig

    Or you could, you know, just be faithful to your spouse. “I never meant to, I fell into a trap” is not an excuse that absolves you of responsibility.

  • Jon

    I suspect most female commenters for this post are ugly feminists that keep gay bff’s around to bolster their ego.

  • Jon

    Allison, if a man promised you the world and said “I would give up EVERYTHING for you!!! 🙂 <3 XOXO!!!" You would think "pussy", "does this guy have it together". Honestly, you wouldn't think of him at all.

  • Jon

    I suspect if this post were about “Christian rules for eating cupcakes”, all the comments in the post would be along the lines of “I’VE EATEN CUPCAKES FOR 10 years with no PROBLEM!!!”

  • Nicoline

    It’s a small step from not wearing make-up in order not to make yourself attractive to men other than your lawfully wedded husband to encasing yourself in a burka.

  • JimG

    Uh, no, Matthew – the only person building strawmen here is you.

    On #7 you say “I’ve worked in an office, and I’ve had female coworkers as friends, but I never spent time alone with any of them, because what on earth would have been the point?”

    The point, for anyone whose emotional and intellectual life hasn’t been stunted and twisted by religious fanaticism, is to spend time with a friend. If you are in fact a friend, and nothing more, regardless of how attractive the other person may be – then there are no disturbing overtones to meeting alone. Invite a couple friends over for lunch, and one suddenly can’t make it? It is not normal for one’s first reaction to this news to be “Gasp! That mean’s I’ll be alone with a member of the opposite sex! Pant, pant, pant! Nooo! Can’t allow! Unclean thoughts, unclean!” It wouldn’t cross a normal person’s mind. As you do later allow, such thoughts would indicate far deeper problems with your existing romantic relationship … which means that if you’ve got a healthy relationship, spending time with opposite-sex friends should pose no problem. You just refuted your own objection.

    You misread #6 too: The phrase “a man other than her husband” does not necessarily indicate a specific man at all, just “a man,” interchangeable with “some man” or “any man.” All that specifies is that she’s not into women or orgies.

    Poor reading comprehension on #4 too. You say “your spouse shouldn’t be counted on to be your primary source of happiness,” but that’s not what the quote says. It says “Don’t expect your spouse to make you happy.” Does that say “primary source?” No. “provide total happiness?” No. It says “make you happy” – which can mean “at all,” in other words “to please you” or even “generally get along.” Overall, it’s a very vague statement. Interesting that while you claim to be objecting, you don’t bother to mention Hemant’s comment “Only Jesus can do that.” Afraid to agree, knowing he meant it ironically?

    On to #5. The example given was extreme because the statement itself was made as an absolute: “Refuse to believe you married the ‘wrong one.'” An absolutist statement must, by definition, apply in all relevant situations. Your dithering, equivocal reply shows you recognize this doesn’t pass the test.

    I can see why you rarely comment here. Misrepresentation and shoddy reasoning are more likely to be welcomed by people like the Meisners.

    Your own final sentence illustrates all that’s wrong here: “Because if you don’t think that’s true, you shouldn’t be/get married anyway.”

    True. Very true. But the targets of the Meisners’ laundry list are people who are ALREADY in bad marriages – and their “advice” all boils down to “suck it up, stare at Jesus, refuse to think about your real problems, and blame yourself if things still don’t work.”

  • altar ego

    what ButchKitties says!

  • JimG

    One correction: I do apologize for the extraneous apostrophe in my third paragraph. I know well that “means” is not possessive, and I do not confuse possessive with plural. I have no idea how that mark got in there.

  • Larry

    There are so many good ones, but if I had to pick out one small part of the story to be completely amazed at, it would be:

    “the flirting progressed to physical touching in which he would massage her feet. Still, Audrey didn’t think anything of it…”

    Why, of course not, women let men other than their spouses play with their feet all the time. A perfectly normal activity that would never lead anywhere. While pretending to be unaware of what was in progress, she is really admitting that she wanted this to happen. Of course, she does have a husband who is as stupid as she is, so they should be happy together…until next time!

    I think the moral of the story is that you can do anything you want and, if you play your cards right, you can get your spouse to buy the bull, raise your illegitimate child and you can still be a leader in a so-called christian religion. She should write a “How Not To Lose” pamphlet. Don’t think I would want these people teaching children about morals, or anything else.

  • Daniel

    I would certainly mock Christian rules for eating cupcakes if they included the following:

    Christian rules for eating cupcakes
    4. Don’t expect cupcakes to be tasty.
    – As soon as we put expectation on any cupcake to be tasty, we are in a form of dysfunction. We’ll eventually get disappointed every time.

    5. Refuse to believe that you don’t like the type of cupcake you are eating.
    – There’s no such thing. You made a choice, and the minute you picked up the one with sprinkles in front of God and witnesses, that cupcake became “the one.”

    6. Don’t think about what other cupcakes may taste like.
    – The moment I thought about other flavors, hoping I might try blueberry or chocolate, I crossed a line of indiscretion. I thought it was a small compromise—I found out there’s no such thing.

    7. Realize that you can’t have cake in the fridge without eating it.
    – There are no exceptions. It can be for a child’s birthday party, a school fund-raiser, or even to celebrate a sports victory; but you cross a line when you spend time alone with a cake. I thought I could control my appetite. Even if there’s no sign of danger, keep boundaries intact. Very few people set out to eat a cake they are storing for later —they fall into the trap.
    * * *
    It’s not that the rules are risible because they are “Christian”; it’s that they are idiotic. Whether applied to marriage or culinary cravings. As several have stated the “don’t send emails you wouldn’t want your spouse to read” isn’t bad advice. It’s all the rest of it.

  • Anna Hayward

    When I was a Christian, I used to get into trouble a lot for having male friends despite being married. Apparently I was tempting the men to have an affair with me.

    Then I came out as a lesbian and they still weren’t happy! 😉

    I still have male friends, and female ones and I’ve never once been tempted to jump them. Despite having a wife.

  • One of my best friends is male and straight and yet in all the years we’ve known each other he’s never so much as hit on me as a joke. Why? Because he loves and respects his wife (who is one of my oldest and closest friends) and he’s an adult capable of controlling his behavior.

    Similarly, my boyfriend’s closest friend is female. I happen to know that right now they are both at his apartment hanging out and he’s cooking her dinner. They not only break that ridiculous rule #7 they do some things together I’m sure those Christians would consider cheating. However I’m not jealous or worried that he’s going to leave me for her and I have no reason to because we communicate about everything. After she leaves tonight he’ll call me on Skype and tell me anything I want to know about what they did.

  • Anna, it doesn’t make sense to me either. Although I’m bi, I tend to be more attracted to women than men and I also tend to have more friendships with women than men. Attraction or not, I don’t feel compelled to be in a relationship or have sex with my friends. I’ve even had numerous crushes on my friends, but I rarely have a desire to actually pursue a romantic relationship or sexual intimacy with them.

    Why do people assume that attraction automatically leads to sex between friends? Being attracted to a group of people doesn’t entail seeing every member of that group as a potential sexual conquest. As assumptions go, this one is completely impractical among LGBT people. Such an assumption would imply that queer people can never be friends with each other and that’s just silly, as well as anti-social.

    I think that there’s more than religion undergirding such assumptions. Included are many assumptions about gender roles within a specifically heterosexual context. There also seems to be the assumption that men and women should exist within mostly separate social spheres. Perhaps such assumptions worked one or two generations ago, when the world was far more sex-segregated (and sexist), but now, such assumptions run aground upon the reality of a society where men and women intermingle in a nearly every setting. Rule #7 is unrealistic and quite frankly, it seems to imply a certain level of social, emotional, and sexual immaturity. As other folks have mentioned, there’s this little thing called “self control.”

  • I really can not put into words how I feel about this article. I have had many personal experiences as a phlebotomist where men with a religious back ground have behaved inappropriately. I really feel like those people who have such issues with their sexuality and the sexuality of others are just really immature. My talking to you or saying hi does not mean I want to tear your clothes off and get it on.

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    #7 seems pretty wise to me…

  • Dave

    Hilarious. I got the chuckles after reading:

    :Damn right. That husband who beats you nightly? You told him “I do” so that means he’s your soulmate forever. No one can ever love you more than him. Which is pretty goddamn sad.”

  • Ben

    r. Free will is not just a value for those people, it’s an obsession.

    Clearly “free will” doesn’t extend to changing your mind. Or, you know, being wrong in the first place.

  • Jane Smith

    What I find so revealing about this advice is the way it infantilizes its readers and, as someone who used to be quite heavily involved in religion, this is only to be expected. The truth is quite simple: the moment you walk in the church door, you’re expected to chirp the same tune as everybody else.

  • FIRST SIGN OF MENTAL ILLNESS: “The first thing God told me…”

  • Honestly, kids, this stuff is pretty much stock standard drawn from secular marriage counseling material, with a light gloss of Jesus. Let’s take a looky-loo, why don’t we:

    #7: If you get deeply emotionally intimate with someone outside of a committed relationship, it significantly increases the chances of cheatin’. This ain’t rocket science, folks.

    #6: Relationship ideation…meaning how you think about it…is foundational. You start thinkin’ about extramarital nookie, you’re going to be more open to it. You start finding your validation outside of the relationship, and it gonna fall apart, sistah.

    #4: Again, not a flawed concept. While the author suggests God should be the source of happiness, a secular type could say that you need to be the foundation of your own contentment. If you’re happy in your own skin, you’re a more contributing part of a relationship, and less likely to be unhealthily reliant on your partner..or someone who comes sniffing around..for your own self worth.

    #5: This is a correlate to #6. Commitment is commitment. How you conceptualize a relationship is hugely important to the health of that relationship. This recommendation does not apply, nor is it intended to apply, to abusive relationships.

    Baseline, though, is that none of these recommendations are conceptually invalid, and would pass muster with any halfway competent counselor.

  • ButchKitties

    #7 – Far too broad to be good advice. To say that it’s not rocket science is to miss the point of all the objections to it. Total avoidance of all situations which could maybe, possibly become tempting is an incredibly unhealthy response. There is, in fact, a difference between being close friends with someone of the opposite sex, and being emotionally intimate with that person in a way that shortchanges your marriage. This advice is like saying that the best way to avoid a car accident is to never ever be in a car at all. It might work, but it works at a cost that normal, emotionally healthy people find unreasonable.

    #6 – Again, the advice is far too broad to be good advice. There is a difference between wanting to look nice without it being specifically for your spouse, and being dependent on external validation. More infantilizing, total avoidance nonsense.

    #4 – A totally flawed concept. It doesn’t advocate active participation in your own happiness. It advocates total dependence on an external source for your own happiness. It just says that instead of that external source being your spouse, you should instead depend on your imaginary friend. Basically, it asks you to trade the frying pan for the fire.

    #5 – It clearly says there is “no such thing” as marrying the wrong person. It does not say “No such thing, unless he’s beating you senseless every night.” If it didn’t mean to include abusive spouses, it should have said so.

  • Freemage

    On #5, any secular counselor would, in fact, be quite explicit about including the import of the “abusive relationship” exception, and would furthermore make it clear that physical abuse isn’t the only sort–a spouse who degrades you verbally is also an abusive sot who needs to be dumped, pronto.

    The utter failure to include that proviso indicates, at best, that the author of the list in question is utterly unqualified to give anyone marriage advice, ever.

  • I am a serious follower of Christ and can assure you that this “Christian” counsel is the product of a type of fundamentalism all too prevalent in the ranks of many in the church. I reject it on biblical grounds, psychological grounds and pure common sense. Such thinking actually encourages adultery more than these teachers realize. God clearly designed us for more than Platonic relationships as anyone reading the Psalms soon realizes.

    For a different, and much better, look at the historic Christian stance on friendships between men and women (not married to one another) see Dan Brennan, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, a truly liberating book for Christians who want to understand cross gender friendships. In fact atheists might be surprised at how enlightened Christians can actually be, just as Christians can learn a great deal from their atheist friends. I wrote four blogs on the book, December 21-14, at should a reader want to get the gist of the argument from a Christian, non-fundamentalist, perspective.

  • Danish Atheist

    OH NOES!! I had lunch with a good looking, male co-worker today – I must be on the path to ripping off his clothes and raping him!!

    (But what the heck was I supposed to do? “Oh, no, Tommy, we can’t have lunch together when the rest of the team is not here. It would not be right. We might be tempted to do baaad things!”

    In fact, we mostly talked of the baby his spouse is having in a few months, and what kind of apartment they are looking for. Very shady.

  • That article is creepy beyond belief and oddly I’ve heard most of the points made almost reasonably. I think I’ve mostly got the perspective Mr. Mehta has on this issue.

    Additionally though, while not all interactions alone with the people of a gender you might find sexually interesting are flirting and whatnot, if you are in a relationship and you actually do have an interest in other people, that’s not wrong. Firstly, actually cheating is cheating as determined by the nature of the relationship. Seeing someone attractive shouldn’t be cheating. Secondly, some relationships aren’t that irritated by sex outside of the relationship when there’s proper communication and understanding. I’m not advocating other people’s relationship values. But I am saying we are not all interested in the same relationships and so we are not all subject to the same relationship challenges when it comes to breaking vows.

    Also, I want to point out that when a man is telling the story about how his wife nearly cheated, I call into question the clarity of all the details. If the wife is putting on makeup to attract other people, maybe she’s not getting enough attention. Maybe that didn’t even happen from the wife’s perspective. Also, you can’t use your marriage as a way to deprive a partner of attention deliberately or accidentally. If you aren’t getting enough attention, you need to get it safely and respectfully somewhere.

  • FmrlyKnwnAs

    (Samuel L. Jackson) “Look, foot massages don’t mean shit.”

  • absent sway

    I agree with JSug.

    Adding my two cents: Long-term monogamous relationships don’t just happen (and I’m not saying these guidelines are the prescription for them) and being honest with yourself about how you feel about so-and-so-not-your-partner and how much time you’re spending with them and backing off if necessary is a useful skill to practice. Most people don’t go into relationships expecting to cheat, so I think it’s legitimate to admit that we are fallible and to prioritize a certain level of awareness and caution; turning that into strict rules isn’t necessary and can go too far, obviously, but I have no qualms with the underlying instinct.

  • DaveInSA

    I know this post is to an old, dead thread, but I wanted throw in my two cents.  My wife and I are both atheists.  We organized and atheist group in San Antonio and both of us are in our 40s. When we were in our late 20s and early 30s, we mocked all of the comments made in the original post – until it happened to us.  

    Basically, forgetting the religion / faith based angle, she failed at all except the last one when she got too close to my best friend.  He had just gone through a nasty divorce and saw my wife as the perfect woman.  He wanted her and pursued her secretly and doggedly.  She passed on his advances until we hit a rough spot in our marriage.  He took advantage of it and she became addicted to his attention and affection. 

    The affair only lasted a few months, but the fallout raged for years.  It hurt me, her, and our children.  While we were able to salvage our marriage, it took a long time for us to heal.   Even today, it isn’t the same as it was before.  There are triggers that still prompt the same pain – sometimes as strongly as when I caught them.

    As for my former “best friend”, even after all these years the moron still doesn’t realize that what they had was infatuation and not love – despite my wife insisting to him that it was nothing more.  When he tried to contact her again recently and strike up a “friendship”, it drug us all, and this time his new family, though the crap again.

    So, while it is easy to dismiss that blog simple because of the source, there is some of truth in what is said – at least in all but the last one.  I almost long to be that blissfully ignorant and dismissive  again.  

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