Marital Affairs: Dangerous and Destructive

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Have you noticed that lying is rampant in our culture? Anonymity, lies, secrecy and selfishness to a degree not yet seen. Blame it on modern day technology. It’s easy to lead a secret life, shielding ourselves from everyone, texting and communicating one thing, when our outward lives reveal something else. It’s frightening if you stop and think about it.

After a while, you have to wonder about the times you are engaging in honest dialogue, with anyone. Who can you trust? (Short answer: Trust starts with you. YOU have to be a trustworthy person).

It is said that each one of us can encounter up to 120 lies per day (TED Talk presentation by Pamela Meyer). How in the world are we to relate to each other if almost everyone is lying to one degree or another?

What about lies in marriage? Affairs? It is reported that 25% of spouses have had an extramarital sexual affair and it is estimated that up to 70% of all marriages will be rocked by an affair of some sort. Stop and contemplate that number. That might be your marriage. Don’t tell me you are in a covenanted marriage and that your spouse would never cheat. Maybe he’s a pastor; you’re a Bible-toting expert. Maybe he is the pinnacle of community involvement and you are a woman of high values. You may think you have something no other couple has, but you don’t.

No one is immune to an affair. No one. You cannot know what the future holds. You might have a good handle on the present, but there are forces in our environment, not to mention the force of temptation, that can overcome the most dedicated spouse.

There are things you can do to affair-proof your marriage to a strong extent, but opportunity, a moment of weakness, boredom or anything can find its way into even the happiest of marriages. I am not being cynical or making assumptions; I am being realistic. Affairs can rock happy unions. Let me also add that emotional or sexual indiscretions are monsters that can rear their ugly heads into a relationship – a one night encounter or some level of physical expression that is inappropriate / outside of your vows / agreement. We are all vulnerable and must guard against the triggers that make us vulnerable.

I’d heard of the Ashley Madison website as a place for married people to find partners for affairs, but I didn’t know how commonplace it was until a media personality was exposed a few years ago. I was surprised to hear that 40 million married people were active members. That’s a lot of secrecy going on! I assume that it is not married women hooking up with married men, but a sort of escort service, with an overwhelming number of men as users / lookers.

While the Ashley Madison website is for discreet, anonymous sexual encounters, women are more likely to seek personal connections, whether it is emotional or sexual.

Spending an hour delving into Ashley Madison, I was saddened at the dishonesty on all fronts. The founder of the company had several affairs and was practically bragging about it. The journalists used deception and game-playing in gathering their stories. Hackers played games of their own in obtaining information. Social media is mired and steeped in facades, lies, and deception, from the photos and videos people see, to the information being shared.

The definition of marriage is changing as well as the expectation of marriage. Maybe people accept adultery and infidelity as a norm. Maybe modern-day millennials don’t mind it too much. But traditional, older folks like me, who are well versed in the harm of infidelity in a culture that still expects and values monogamy, do not accept extramarital affairs. Each partner needs to soul search and ask what their partner would experience if they knew you are / were having an affair. Imagine you will get caught, in the act, by your spouse. Imagine your spouse is right there with you as you are committing the deed. I don’t think they would be happy.

If you value mature loving marriage, you will not want to do things that make your spouse unhappy and you will do your best to maintain the vows you made on your wedding day.

We are taking a step backwards in love when we agree with statements such as: “Life is short. Have an affair.” We take a step backwards when we focus on carnal lust, in pursuit of a few moments of orgasmic ecstasy.

Some partners will seek something outside their marriage because they think something is missing in their life, but they are missing something inside themselves. They are seduced by an opportunity; they are yearning for a connection; they are seeking something more interesting; they are deceiving themselves; they are destroying themselves and their marriage.

You must guard against boredom and discontent. You must not entertain curiosity or think about the sadness and despair today as you recall a once enjoyable relationship in your early years. The romance should have transformed into something deeper and meaningful.

If you missed the boat to maturity, don’t abandon ship and swim to the party boat within your vision; stay on the boat and make your marriage great right here and now.

Guard against putting some spice into your life somewhere else. Stop blaming your spouse for not providing you with what you want and need. Step out of your selfishness, not the boat you are in.

Of course, it’s not that simple. It takes two to make a marriage work and to travel in the direction away from an affair. First, let’s describe what we mean by affair: it can be an ongoing emotional or physical relationship with someone other than your spouse. It always involves secrecy and a breach of marital vows.

Here are some things you can do to avoid affairs:

 

  1. Work through the Gottman Sound Relationship House model. Use commitment and trust as your pillars for a strong relationship. Every day, act in accordance with your commitment to your spouse. Constantly check your behavior and be on the lookout to avoid anything that breaks trust. Men who sign up for Ashley Madison website (and similar venues) knowingly behave in untrustworthy behaviors.
  2. Understand the “Love Map,” meaning – are you each familiar with what is going on in the mind of your spouse throughout the day? What was their day like? Can you describe their challenges, thoughts and feelings that they experience throughout the day? Do you care?
  3. Hugs. In my book “Reenergize Your Marriage in 21 Days,” I give examples of what you can do to create “insurance” against drifting apart. I talk about a daily one-minute hug. I’ve also found that several 6-second hugs per day work very well in creating emotional intimacy.
  4. Avoid boredom. At least one of you needs to have spunk, act spunky, be a pivotal force in introducing new and interesting outings and activities. Passion dies when both partners have low energy.
  5. Police yourself. Pay attention to your conscience and the little voice that whispers or shouts to you that you are taking baby steps in the wrong direction. Maybe you are flattered by a co-worker of the opposite sex or someone pays you compliments that enliven you a little. Be careful! Invest your energy in your spouse. You can recreate your relationship. It’s worth it. It’s never too late.
  6. If you are tempted, ask your spouse or a good friend for help. Do not have a private life or private friendship. Time invested in a friend of the opposite sex can lead to a closeness that erodes the boundary of an intimate emotional intimacy that should be reserved for your spouse. Be completely and 100% open with your partner about your thoughts and feelings. There are no secrets when you are trying to build trust and respect.

I find it ironic that some people have affairs, break up / divorce, and then marry the affair partner, thinking they found something long-lasting and genuine. Really? Isn’t it just a matter of time for that relationship, which was built upon lies, to have some self-destructive elements arise? There is a reason for the 60% divorce rate statistic for second marriages. Be careful if you are in your second marriage as the result of an affair. You must work hard to exemplify trust and commitment in your union.

 

Form a connection with your spouse, not some stranger. Affairs are short-lived and destructive. There is guilt or secrecy, inauthenticity, lies and a fantasy-connection. Not much is to be gained by having affairs.

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