Then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.
When Anya suspected her husband Ron was having an affair, her antennae went up. She began watching for evidence—receipts, long-distance phone calls, email—to confirm her suspicion. Over time, the evidence was clear: Ron was cheating on her.
When Anya confronted her husband, however, he told her she was crazy for thinking that way. Ron’s words cut her to the core. Not only did his vehement denial magnify his guilt, but his demeaning words reinforced what she was already feeling—that she was losing her mind. Jealousy and suspicion were taking over her life.
Anya decided to meet with her pastor. She shared her suspicion and the evidence that pointed to her husband’s guilt. Anya hoped this respected leader would come alongside her to intervene. She knew that her husband was lying about his affair. She also knew the public revelation of his affair would be devastating to his career and to the woman he was involved with. Unfortunately, Anya’s pastor didn’t believe her claims and dismissed her fears. Anya left the pastor’s office feeling utterly rejected. She had to deal with her overwhelming feelings of suspicion, jealousy, rejection and anger on her own.
At some point, every couple will experience feelings of jealousy and suspicion. While we might not have a modern-day equivalent to the bitter-water litmus test of Numbers 5:11–31, there are some practical steps we can take to deal with fears of infidelity and to restore trust once it has been broken by an affair.
For starters, we can pray daily for a hedge of protection around our marriage. Jerry Jenkins explains how this works in his book Hedges (Good News/Crossway, 2005). No one is immune from the possibility of committing adultery. At no point in our marriage are any of us safe from this sin. Recognizing this fact is our first defense.
Second, we can build a climate of trust with our partner through open communication and checkpoints that give our partner windows into our world. Without allowing it to become controlling, there’s nothing wrong with setting up checkpoints that verify our whereabouts, our communications with others (especially online), and what we do when we’re alone. For example, ever since Lyla developed a romantic relationship with a man she met on the Internet, her husband, Phil, has needed reassurance that she is being faithful to him now that the relationship has ended. Lyla and Phil now keep a shared email address. Occasionally Phil checks Lyla’s mail. Lyla doesn’t argue about those checkups, knowing that accountability to her husband is a good way to rebuild the trust she compromised.
For some time in our marriage, I saw this kind of accountability as invasive and demeaning. What difference did it make if I took a different route to work than Dan thought? Over time, though, I’ve come to see that by giving Dan my daily itinerary, I’m letting him peek into my world. It’s a safeguard for our marriage. Building hedges around each other goes a long way toward protecting us from infidelity, and it also alleviates the fear of infidelity once trust has been broken.
Marian V. Liautaud