Spiritual Infidelity: A Crisis in Catholic Marriage

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

New study says 83% of Catholic couples are committing ‘spiritual infidelity’.  Are YOU in a spiritual ‘open marriage’?

Over the last several weeks, infidelity has been a top story in the news after hackers released the records of 35 million users of a popular adultery website. According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, approximately 20 percent of husbands and wives will commit sexual infidelity and another 20 percent will fall prey to an emotional affair, in which they develop strong, sustained romantic feelings for someone other than a spouse.

Spiritual infidelity

These are disturbing findings, but they pale in comparison to a recent report suggesting that up to 83 percent of Catholic married couples commit what I call “spiritual infidelity.” Infidelity is the betrayal of one’s marital vows. Sexual infidelity is the betrayal of a couple’s vow to be “true” to one another. But there is another implicit vow that Catholic couples make to one another that is broken with disturbing frequency.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1661-2) tells us that, in the Sacrament of Matrimony, couples promise to become partners in Christ’s plan for each other’s sanctification. In other words, in a Catholic marriage, a couple promises, at the altar, to do everything they can to help each other get to heaven. Presumably that requires couples to actively share their faith, to worship together, to challenge each other to grow in Christian virtue in their daily lives, and to pray together so they may sit at the feet of the Author of Love himself and learn how to love.

Unfortunately, a recent study sponsored by Holy Cross Family Ministries and conducted by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that only 17 percent of Catholic couples pray together. So what? In practical terms, if a Catholic couple is not actively sharing their faith, worshipping together and praying together, they are, in effect, committing spiritual infidelity by placing something other than God and the Faith at the center of their lives together.

A spiritual open marriage

In my extensive work with Catholic couples, I find that, sadly, Catholics take spiritual infidelity for granted. It is a tremendous scandal that the majority of Catholic spouses do not assume that they should be expected to pray with their spouse, or even to expect their spouse share their faith, or at least actively support it (as opposed to passively tolerating it). I hear all the time from husbands and wives who say, “I can’t force my spouse to go to church,” or “I can’t make my spouse pray.”

It isn’t about forcing anyone to do anything. It is, however, about presenting a persistent invitation to your mate to be faithful to the promises he or she made at the altar to share more deeply in your faith journey with the clear expectation that — if for no other reason than out of respect for you — your spouse will come to Mass with you at least weekly, share a meaningful prayer time with you daily and support your moral values always. Failing to do this is to consent to a spiritual open marriage where anything — money, careers, sports, hobbies or just sheer laziness — occupies the central place that faith has a right to enjoy in Christian marriage.


It is true that you cannot “make” anyone share your faith. But, by saying “I do” in a Catholic church and promising to live marriage as the Church defines it, your mate gave you the right to expect certain things…CONTINUE READING..


8 Signs of An Emotional Affair

Photo via Shutterstock.com Used with permission

Photo via Shutterstock.com Used with permission

On More2Life Radio, we’ve been fielding a lot of questions about infidelity, emotional affairs, and so-called “work spouses.”  The topic has been especially hot with the news stories of hackers releasing the personal details of 32 million users of several popular adultery websites.

In light of this, PsychCentral has an excellent article describing 8 signs that you, or someone you love might be having an emotional affair. Emotional infidelity is best understood as the tendency for a married person to turn to a person outside the marriage for emotional support.  Although most people think of emotional infidelity as involving a person of the opposite sex, Lisa and I argue that it could just as easily be someone of the same sex.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with having even deep friendships outside the marriage, but because marriage is a sacrament–and moreover, a vocational sacrament–it has to be our most intimate relationship because it is the primary relationship God has ordained to be the engine of our personal and spiritual growth.  ANY other relationship that distracts from our marriage having pride-of-place is arguably emotionally adulterous.

Regardless, because people often have a hard time discerning when they have crossed the line with a relationship outside the marriage, the following 8 signs can be a good indicator of whether your extra-marital friendships with either sex are appropriate.

8 Signs of an Emotional Affair

  • Contact outside of “friendly” hours.  If you find yourself communicating at questionable hours, this may be a sign.  Most friends don’t text at 2am.
  • You talk about the difficulties in your current relationship.  You may have a close friend or two that you share your frustrations about your partner with.  However, if you find yourself sharing all of your problems and concerns with this “special person”, you may be crossing the line.
  • He/she dominates your thoughts.  You think about him/her when you wake up, when you fall asleep, and mostly anytime in between.  It’s important to remember that most affairs don’t start off in the bedroom, they start in the mind.
  • He/she becomes the first person you call.  You get some exciting news or you’ve had an awful day.  Who do you call first, him/her or your partner?
  • He/she “gets” you.  You’re treading on thin ice when you start to feel like he/she understands better than your partner.  This usually leads to increased communication with him/her and less communication with your partner.  We are more likely to communicate with someone who we feel “gets” us than someone who does not.
  • Spending more time with him/her.  If you find yourself finding excuses or creating more reasons to spend time with him/her, this may be a sign.  However, spending more time does not just mean physical time.  If you are spending more time texting, emailing, or video chatting, this may be a sign as well.
  • You start comparing your partner to him/her.  Do you ever find yourself talking to your partner and you think to yourself, “he/she wouldn’t respond like this” or “he/she would be more attentive?”  Are you often out with your partner and think, “if I were with him/her, I’d be having more fun?”  This type of thinking is dangerous because it aut0matically makes him/her the good one and your partner the bad one.
  • You lie.  Yes, lying by omission counts.  So whether you leave out meeting him/her for lunch, deleting messages from your phone, or you just deny communicating with him/her at all – a lie is a lie.  If you have to lie, chances are you have something to hide; and if you have something to hide, chances are you know it’s not okay.   READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE AT PSYCHCENTRAL

If you find yourself answering “True” to ANY of these 8 signs, you may very well be having an emotional affair.  At the very least, you are short-changing your marriage.

What’s the Answer?

The solutions is two-fold.  First, the emotional cheater is going to have to start setting some appropriate boundaries on the extra-marital relationship.  If the relationship is truly going to be “just friends” then your spouse should be included in it.  You should be willing to share your conversations, invite your spouse along, talk openly about the time you spend with this other person and, most importantly, be willing to give much more time and energy to your marriage than to your outside relationships.  Which leads to the second point.

You need to work on your marriage. Ending the “affair” isn’t enough.  You need to find a way to get the lion’s share of support from your spouse that you have, up to now, been getting from your practical “significant other.”   Many people I speak to despair of ever being able to do this.  If you feel this way, it is time to seek some new resources and skills.  A program like Retrouvaille (a weekend retreat with 6 follow-up sessions for couples who are struggling in their relationships) can at least begin to open the doors to communication.  It isn’t a substitute for therapy, but it is a good start and an excellent complement.   Another resource could be my book When Divorce Is Not An Option:  How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love .  It is NOT just a book for couples who are struggling, but rather for any couple that wants to learn the 8 habits that separate truly happy couples from those who are either struggling or just getting by.  It offers research-based advice in the context of our Catholic faith and spirituality and offers ways for you to grow closer to each other and to God through your marriage.

Of course, there are times when more individual attention is required, in those times, I hope you will feel comfortable reaching out to me through the Pastoral Solutions Institute Catholic Tele-Counseling Practice.  I and my associates have over a 90% success rate with marriage counseling and we are here to help if you need some extra support and skill.  Feel free to visit my website or call 740-266-6461 to make an appointment.

Getting Unstuck

Emotional infidelity is a common marital trap, but your marriage doesn’t have to get stuck in that trap forever.  We can help you find ways to not only leave the emotional affair behind, but also learn how to fall in love all over again–with your spouse.

Hackers Post 32 Million Names of Affair Site Users.

Image Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Image Shutterstock. Used with permission.

Major news agencies are reporting that hackers have fulfilled their promise to release the names of 32 million subscribers of a popular website whose motto is “Life is short, Have an Affair.”

While it may be difficult for many to conjure a lot of sympathy for the people who have subscribed to these sites, I have worked with 100’s of couples who are fighting their way back from the pain of infidelity and I know that this latest development, while not entirely unwelcome, is nothing to laugh or crow about.  Infidelity hurts.  It is sad.  It is traumatic.  It is, unfortunately, common.  About 25% of marriage suffer infidelity.  There are going to be a lot of people hurting on a lot of levels once this information gets wider circulation.

The Good News.

The good news is that there are effective ways to heal the hurt cause by infidelity or even attempted infidelity.  That said, couples should NEVER try to recover from infidelity on their own.  Why?  Because people who cheat tend to have very poor insight into the causes of infidelity.  Most of the time, they simply want to say, “Look.  It’s over.  Let’s just move on.”  The problem is always deeper however.  For many, infidelity is a way to self-medicate for an untreated depression.  For others, infidelity is the result of a longstanding tendency to avoid conflict, fail to advocate for needs effectively, stuff their feelings, and, instead of taking responsibility for working on the relationship, blaming their partner for just “not getting” them.  These are all problems that, without proper treatment, will either continue to lead to long-term marital dissatisfaction, greater depression, or subsequent occasions of infidelity driven by a faulty attempt to resolve the ongoing underlying problems.

Where to Begin?

A great resource for infidelity recover is the book   Getting Past the Affair by Donald Baucom.  It is a research-based step-by-step outline to help couples know what they need to look at to heal.  Another helpful book is my title, When Divorce is NOT An Option which looks at the 8 habits that research shows separate what marriage therapists call Marriage Masters from Marriage Disasters.  These habits can be taught to any couple and can lead both to deep healing and a much more rewarding relationship.

Retrouvaille can also be a tremendous support.  It is a program that helps struggling couples begin to trust and communicate effectively once again.  Even so, couples will want to do more than some self-help reading and peer support.  They will need counseling.  Make sure that you find a Marriage-Friendly marital therapist.  Marriage Friendly marital therapists have actually received specific training and supervision in marital therapy (many therapists who claim to practice marital therapy DO NOT have appropriate training or supervision in the latest, most effective approaches to marital counseling) and they believe that marriage is worth saving.  Typically, marriage-friendly therapist have success rates well over 90% compared to other therapists which tend to hover around the low 30%.

If you are looking for faith-based marriage-friendly therapy, I would encourage you to contact me to learn more about how the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Catholic tele-counseling practice can help you and your spouse find marital healing.  We practice both couple and solo-spouse marital therapy (and although couple’s counseling is more desirable,  is still remarkably effective when conducted by a therapist trained to do it) in a faith-integrated context.  You can learn more at our website or contact us for a free evaluation by calling 740-266-6461.

The Bottom Line

Research shows that most couples suffer for 4-6 years from the onset of a problem to the time they seek help.  Don’t wait.  If you are suffering from the pain of infidelity there is hope, there is healing.


Major Cheating Websites Hacked–Members Threatened with Exposure


According to KrebsOnSecurity

“Large caches of data stolen from [a major] online cheating site [ed. note.  I have redacted the name of the site so as to not participate in the promotion of their “work”] have been posted online by an individual or group that claims to have completely compromised the company’s user databases, financial records and other proprietary information. The still-unfolding leak could be quite damaging to some 37 million users of the hookup service, whose slogan is ‘Life is short. Have an affair.'”

This is actually  the second such site to have been hacked in the last several months.  Millions of people and marriage could be affected by the release of member’s information.  The existence of such websites is incredibly sad.  Please pray for those who have been caught up in the temptation to take advantage of the “services” these sites offer.  May God  grant them the grace they need to heal their personal and marital wounds.  As I note in When Divorce is NOT An Option:  How to Heal Your Marriage and Nurture Lasting Love, the good news is that research consistently shows that those who seek appropriate, professional help in recovering from infidelity, often are able to heal their marriages and report better and stronger relationships moving forward.  Couples who try to go it alone tend to not do quite so well–often getting stuck in a place where the tension is constant but never openly discussed.  The point is that healing is possible, even for serious infidelity, if you seek appropriate, professional, marriage-friendly guidance.

We’re here to help. If you are struggling to heal from the pain of infidelity, please contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute to learn how our tele-counseling practice can help you heal.

Your Cheatin’ Heart: This Risk Factor Doubles Chance of Infidelity

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

From The Science of Relationships

In a recent study of about 300 college students, researchers wanted to find out if individuals are more or less likely to cheat as a function of whether their parents ever knocked boots with someone that wasn’t ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ (while married to mom or dad). Students were asked whether or not they had ever cheated on a romantic partner (30% said yes) as well as whether their mom or dad had ever cheated on their other parent (33% said yes, with dads slightly more likely to perpetrate the infidelity).

Students who had cheated on a partner were twice as likely to have had a parent who cheated compared to those students who had not cheated on a partner (44% vs. 22%). Interestingly, having a cheating parent didn’t affect the way students viewed cheating  — they were no more accepting of the idea of cheating in general (at least that’s what they told the researchers)– so it’s not entirely clear exactly how having a parent cheat increases the odds that somebody may one day do the same. It’s most likely that knowing your mom or dad was a cheater somehow influences one of the many proximal predictors of cheating (e.g., feelings of commitment to partners), but future work is needed to clarify the chain of events that links your parents’ cheating ways (or not) to your own.