We most often associate the Law of Chastity with the youth or young single adults. But, as married couples, the Law of Chastity still very much applies to us. How? Find out in this week’s podcast!
Many years ago I was called to be a Relief Society Teacher in my ward. For those who are not of my same faith, this basically just means that I was asked to teach a class on Sundays to the adult women in my congregation.
I was really excited about this calling. I love teaching adults. And it’s turned out to be one of my favorite callings I’ve had over the years.
But when I got my assignment for my first lesson I was kind of stopped in my tracks. My first lesson was on the Law of Chastity. I was a little nervous about teaching this as my VERY first lesson. And I didn’t know what I was going to teach because it wasn’t like I was teaching the youth. I was teaching adult women. Most of these women were married. There were maybe a couple that had been divorced, but most were women who were currently married.
So I had to take a different approach and really dig in to what The Law of Chastity means after marriage.
So today I want to address this same topic. What the Law of Chastity means after marriage. I’ll draw on some of the things I shared back in my lesson, but I’ll also draw on what I think today and experiences I have with my clients.
What is the Law of Chastity
So what is the Law of Chastity? According to ChurchofJesusChrist.org
“Chastity is sexual purity. Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage.”
It goes on to say “Physical intimacy between husband and wife is beautiful and sacred. It is ordained of God for the creation of children and for the expression of love within marriage.”
I love that it says “Complete Fidelity” during marriage. I think that is a key point that we will discuss. I also love that it says “An Expression of Love within marriage.”
Notice how it does not say that sex is a duty. It doesn’t say that it is a need that needs to be fulfilled. It says that it is ORDAINED as an expression of love.
Basically it’s saying that if you are married, the law of chastity is to have sex! It is ordained of God. Heavenly Father wants us to do this. He created us as sexual beings for a reason. He is a sexual being and we know that because we were created in His image. The Law of Chastity is a commandment and that commandment when you are married is to have sex with the person you are married to.
Personally, I think this is fabulous. Because we know that sex is one of the best ways we can connect with our spouse and it is a beautiful expression of that love when it is done with both parties wanting to create that within the marriage.
In coaching mostly women on their marriages, infidelity comes up quite a bit. A lot have husbands who have been unfaithful. A few who have been unfaithful themselves.
I find that most who are unfaithful are looking for a feeling that they aren’t getting within their own relationship. Whether that is validation, affection, feeling like they are heard or that they matter, maybe they are missing excitement, but most are missing that feeling of connection that we all desire. They find someone outside of the marriage that makes it easier to have thoughts that create those emotions in them and
I shared a quote in a previous podcast that I want to bring up here again. It said
“Whatever you are missing in a situation is what you are not bringing.”
So if you are missing excitement, intimacy, and connection, those are the things YOU are not bringing to your relationship. You can’t expect your spouse to make you feel them. Remember, your feelings come from your own thoughts. Your spouse can’t make you feel anything. So if you are missing those feelings it is because you are not cultivating them in yourself and in your relationship.
I get a lot of clients who love to tell me how awful their spouse is and how there is no way they could possibly feel connected to them when they are doing the things they are doing. But it’s not really about them. It’s about you. You are choosing to think thoughts that how they are behaving makes it hard for you to have a connection with them.
Let’s talk about attraction a little bit. A lot of us think that attraction just happens. We are attracted to someone or we aren’t.
Attraction is a FEELING which comes from our thoughts. So when we see someone, we might think that they are really good looking and we feel attracted to them.
It is normal to be attracted to people – even if you are happy in your marriage. But…what are your thoughts beyond that? Are you thinking about them a lot? Are you fantasizing being with them? Those are the things that can take you down a path that might not be where you want to go.
What does Fidelity Mean?
So let’s talk about fidelity.
Terrance D. Olson said “Fidelity begins in the spirit, not in the body. It is an expression of the condition of our spirit. When our spirit is in tune with gospel truths, we want to live high standards, and our actions reflect that desire. Thus, fidelity is more than sexual fidelity after marriage. They express the quality of our spiritual life. Fidelity of the married is determined by the condition or quality of our spirits, which is evidence of whether we are, in any given moment, choosing light and life over darkness and death, whether we are honoring the truth within us or rejecting it.” [Terrance D. Olson, “Truths of Moral Purity,” Liahona, Oct 1999, 31]
Isn’t that beautiful? I talk to my clients a lot about living within their integrity. Figuring what how they TRULY feel about things and living according to that. When we are out of integrity within ourselves, we will never be able to live the life we were meant to. We are out of alignment with our spirits and who we truly are.
My dad had a saying that has always stuck with me. He said “When we live contrary to our values, the things we know to be true, we can never be happy.”
Many of us have different values. We don’t all have to think and feel the same about things. But we know within ourselves and our spirits what is true for us and we have to live within those bounds in order to be happy.
If we believe in the sanctity of marriage, in the Law of Chastity, in fidelity, we will never be happy if we are living outside of those bounds.
Infidelity is a subtle process. It does not begin with adultery; it begins with thoughts and attitudes. Each step to adultery is short, and each is easily taken; but once the process starts, it is difficult to stop. [Veon G. Smith, “Warning Signs of Infidelity,” Ensign, Jan 1975, 58]
I like that this quote talks about how it begins with a thought. We don’t just go up to someone who we’ve never met and kiss them or have sex with them. No…first we begin by thinking about things. We think about how unhappy we are. We think about our partners flaws. All of the things they do wrong or the things they do that makes us feel unloved and insecure. All the ways that they are selfish. Then we start justifying the way that we are thinking. And it’s a slippery slope from there…
Fidelity, like infidelity, is a process. Fidelity, the positive quality, is measured by the degree of loyalty, allegiance, and commitment between husband and wife. Infidelity, the negative quality, results from insufficient feelings of loyalty and allegiance. Any action that fosters inappropriate relationships with another person erodes fidelity. Two souls, united in matrimony, can achieve spiritual and temporal unity only if they constantly increase their friendship, love, and loyalty by expressing their feelings verbally, by maintaining mutual respect, and by demonstrating concern for each other. [Veon G. Smith, “Warning Signs of Infidelity,” Ensign, Jan 1975, 58]
I know this quote talks about both partners working to achieve unity and friendship. But if you are missing those in your relationship, you need to see what you aren’t bringing to the relationship.
I know this isn’t going to work for every marriage. You may have a spouse that cheated on you and you thought you were doing everything you could. And I am NOT blaming their infidelity on you by any means. But they looked outside of the marriage for a reason. They weren’t feeling something in the marriage or they wanted to feel something else. And that is totally on them.
But I do think that we need to each look at ourselves and look at how we are showing up in our marriage. What roles are we playing? Are we showing up as our best self in this relationship? Are we showing love and gratitude and affection? Are we doing our best to help our partner feel secure and loved and appreciated? How they feel is up to them, but what are you doing to make it easy for them to think good thoughts and feel those things?
And maybe you are doing everything right and they still cheat. That is VERY much on them and not on you. So knowing that, how do you want to show up now? It’s totally up to you.
How can we foster fidelity in our marriages?
- Trust – Trust in one another is an essential ingredient in marriage. The commitment to “cleave” unto the partner and “forsake all others” provides stability in a marriage.
We can choose to trust our partners even when they have broken our trust. We can choose to trust them from the best parts of ourselves. In a marriage we have to be willing to be vulnerable and keep the walls down. We have to be willing to be hurt. Now I’m talking over and over and over and unreasonably. But for the most part, we need to trust our partners more and show them that we trust them.
- Honesty in communication—being personally willing to discuss any subject that concerns you or your partner.
Communication is a big issue that comes up in a lot of marriages. We feel like we don’t communicate well or when we try to communicate with our spouse we feel insecure or unheard or misunderstood.
But, sharing ideas and daily experiences produces emotional intimacy, and such feelings make it natural to behave in loyal ways. Feelings of dissatisfaction, boredom, or irritation are danger signals that need immediate attention.
If you feel like you and your spouse don’t communicate well, try to figure out why. I did a 4-week series on communication (Episodes 27-30) that can help as well as getting some therapy or coaching can be helpful to figure out where the communication barriers are.
How strong is your fidelity?
The following five questions can be used as a guide to check on the strength of your marital fidelity. If you answer “no” to any of these questions, it signals the need to evaluate your marriage and to discuss with your spouse ways to improve it.
1. Can you and your spouse talk together about all of the experiences that are important to either or both of you?
2. Do you express to your partner your inner feelings, or how you feel about him or her? Can you frankly say, “I feel lonely,” or easily express other negative emotions when needed?
3. Do you both feel comfortable about being different in some ways, and can you express individuality without causing conflict? Do you have ways to discuss conflicts of interest or values without attacking or threatening each other?
4. Do you share mutual trust and respect for each other? Do you seek each other’s opinion on decisions? Do you believe that your spouse will tell you the truth, even if it’s unpleasant?
5. Can you comfortably share feelings, thoughts, and experiences without the worry of being “manipulated”?
Effective functioning in your marriage
A good beginning measure to preserve fidelity would be a frank discussion with your spouse about the current quality of your marriage. Most people do not feel threatened by a frankly and sincerely expressed desire to improve the marriage; this opens the door for both partners to openly consider ways of more effective communication, the need to spend more time together, and so forth.
The next five questions can also be used as a guide to test the effective functioning of your marriage. If you answer “yes” to any question, explore the subject with your partner, and seek some coaching for help.
1. Are you getting bored in your marriage? Do you sometimes dislike the company of your spouse?
2. Do you frequently disagree about many important aspects of your marriage, your family, or each other? Do you complain to others about your spouse or criticize him or her in the company of others?
3. Do you often have negative feelings about your spouse, or feelings of being misunderstood, neglected, or not appreciated?
4. Are you frequently alone with a man or woman that is not your spouse?
5. Have you developed strong affectionate feelings for someone outside your marriage?
If Chastity or Fidelity is something that you have or are struggling with, I encourage you to take the necessary steps of to make it right. We can not be happy when we are living lives contrary to what we know is right.
If you are married, be faithful to your spouse in your thoughts, words, and actions. The Lord has said: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else. And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:22–23).
Veon G. Smith, “Warning Signs of Infidelity,” Ensign, Jan 1975 www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1975/01/warning-signs-of-infidelity?lang=eng