Staying faithful to my wife was a solemn promise I made to her before God.
I utterly intended to keep that promise to the end of our days. I lived without doubt that nothing could ever tempt me to do otherwise. I never went looking for ‘trouble’ and thought I was aware when ‘trouble’ was looking for me…and believed I was always avoiding it.
The vast majority of good people who betray their marriages never see it coming. Many establish clear, healthy boundaries and have no desire to stray, in fact, their marriage is one of the highest priorities of their lives.
That was my story. Totally.
I enlisted trusted friends to ask hard questions to help me stay accountable. And, over the years, my wife, Caron, and I often talked openly about our marriage being a prime target (actually every marriage is a target) because we believed there is an enemy seeking to kill, steal and destroy our relationship with God, our witness for Christ, and out to rob us of the true joy God designed for us to experience in our marriages.
So what happened?
Actually, a whole slew of things contributed, and at a future time we’ll talk about: how to know your own state of vulnerability to tempting conditions, how we often contribute to our own emotional burdens making ourselves more susceptible, lies we believe that contribute to our deception, unhealthy personality patterns that diminish our marital and relational capacities, and entitlement. Entitlement is a subtle driver with a powerful engine for certain personality types. It’s the “I deserve a break today” mentality that seems to play a major role for people who experience moral failure.
In this blog we want to talk about how to catch yourself before a random encounter, casual acquaintance, innocent friendship or working relationship even comes close to crossing the line.
Here are some warning signs you should NEVER EVER ignore:
1. When you start to notice you are not telling your spouse about certain conversations you are having with another person.
2. When you notice the other person avoids your spouse, makes no effort to include your spouse in a friendship with you or you avoid bringing your spouse into your interactions with the other person.
3. When you begin to feel this other person may be paying attention or listening to you with more empathy than your spouse has lately. They may say certain things to you that stroke your ego, things like:
“I’ve never met someone with such wisdom and insight as you. I so admire and respect the work you do. You really are one amazing person.”
“Wow! You look especially good today. Have you been losing weight? And what’s that great perfume you’re wearing?”
“Hey, you doing okay? I’ve really been worried about you. You’ve been working so hard lately. Anything I can do to help?”
“Do you think we could be better friends?”
4. When you begin discussing marital problems with this other person, either theirs or yours.
5. You avoid discussing your marriage with the other person (as if it doesn’t exist) or, if they are married, you notice they avoid talking about their spouse.
6. When you begin making excuses to yourself like: “Nothing to worry about here. There’s no harm in just talking.” Or, “I’m really strong. Nothing about this person is going to feel attractive to me. I have this totally under control.” Or, “We have a lot of work to discuss. No big deal if we grab a bit of lunch first.”
7. When you do begin to feel some type of attraction toward this person.
8. When you begin to confide in this person in areas normally reserved for your spouse.
9. When it feels easier to spend time with this other person than with your spouse.
10. When you start to notice this person positioning themself to be near you, making excuses to see you privately, appealing to your compassion by “keeping you in the loop” of some troubling personal issue or they “over-serve” or keep seeking to help or assist you in demonstrative or ingratiating ways.
If ANY of the above situations are currently playing with your head, then ADMIT that those mysterious brain chemicals are starting to get overwhelming and GET OUT of there immediately.
If you have friendships with members of the opposite sex OR same sex … and you want to avoid situations that could lead in an unhealthy direction make sure you include your spouse in the relationship (in some form or another) from the get-go. This is probably your safest deterrent.
NOTE: Any time a person is uninterested or unwilling to be a “friend of your marriage” they are no friend of yours!
And when we do not involve our spouse or even begin to keep the slightest “secret” from them we’re already in trouble.
If you want to put your spouse at ease, able to trust you with the other people in your life, make sure your spouse is a part of those relationships.
It may sound outdated but, when we are married, all our friendships should be open and shared. They should involve both you and your spouse on some healthy level.
If, for some reason, you don’t feel a need to make your spouse a part of a “friendship” you have with someone you need to deeply question what your true objective is for maintaining that relationship and make a beeline to talk with a counselor or trusted, accountable friend.