It's not often that a TV show portrays marriage in a realistic light. But when it happens, it's sure fun to watch. That's why I miss Mad about You. Helen Hunt (Jamie) and Paul Reiser (Paul) weren't that different from couples you'd meet in your own neighborhood. They had quirky relatives and an indifferent dog. They had fun and they had arguments. They loved each other and sometimes they struggled with love. At times they failed, but most often they succeeded —in other words, a remarkably "normal" marriage.
In one episode, however, the show took a decidedly serious turn (for a sitcom). Paul and Jamie had become increasingly busy with their demanding careers. One night, Paul met an attractive woman and toyed with the idea of pursuing something more than a friendship with her. Meanwhile, Jamie shared a kiss with a coworker. There followed much marital havoc (none of it funny). In the end, though, they reaffirmed their love and commitment. Phew!
Paul and Jamie avoided adultery, but their version of faithfulness fell far short of the real thing. Fidelity isn't the last-minute, should-I-or-shouldn't-I decision made in the clutches of temptation. A lifestyle of fidelity begins at the altar and continues every moment of every day for the rest of your marriage.
I was reminded of this recently when a friend came by for coffee. Without totally ripping her husband, she drew a pretty grim picture of her marriage. She was married to a workaholic who spent most of his time on the phone or the computer even when he was home. He made all the important decisions without considering her point of view, and he didn't find much time for their kids.1