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 a doubt that nothing could ever tempt me to do otherwise. I never went looking for ‘trouble’ and I thought I was aware when ‘trouble’ was looking for me… and I 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, Caron and I talked about our marriage being a target. 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 marriage. We wanted to be wise and “end well.”
So what happened?
Actually, a whole slew of things piled on that contributed to both an unhealthy vulnerability in me and our marriage. But in this blog we want to focus on “third-party” vulnerability, how it can creep up in subtle ways and what to watch for before a random encounter, casual acquaintance, innocent friendship or working relationship even comes close to crossing the line.
The warning signs below are gathered from talking with couples, research, conversations with counselors, and our own experience.
In a previous article, we talked about entitlement being a subtle driver with a powerful engine for certain personality types. If you haven’t read that blog click here for: “When You Think You Deserve Better Than This.” An “I deserve a break today” mentality seems to play a role for many who stray from their marriage.
Here are ten warning signs you should never dismiss or ignore.
You and your marriage might be vulnerable if:
- You intentionally neglect to tell your spouse about certain conversations you’re beginning to have with another person.
- You notice the other person avoids your spouse, makes no effort to include your spouse in a friendship with you or you avoid or block your spouse from interactions with the other person.
- You begin to feel this other person may be paying attention or listening to you with more empathy than your spouse has lately. You think about certain comments that stroke your ego — like:
“I’ve never met someone with such insight. I so admire/respect the work you do. How did you get so smart? You are so caring and considerate. The great way you handled that last meeting/problem/person was amazing.”
“Wow! You look good today. Love that shirt on you. What’s that great perfume you’re wearing?”
“Hey, are 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?”
- You begin discussing marital problems with the other person, either theirs or yours.
- You find yourself leaving the topic of your spouse and your marriage out of your conversations with the other person (as if it doesn’t exist) or, if they, too, are married, you notice they never talk about their spouse.
- 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 very 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.”
- You are beginning to feel some type of attraction toward this person and you make plans or excuses to be with them.
- You begin to confide in this person about issues or topics normally reserved for your spouse.
- It’s beginning to feel easier/more fun/less stressful to spend time with this other person than with your spouse. While it may feel “pleasant” at the moment, make no mistake this is a total fantasy situation.
Of course, the idea of having a relationship without responsibility might seem desirable. But unless you plan to divorce your spouse-it will never be reality- (being in a fantasy bubble is the attraction.)
But you’ll be kidding yourself if you think it will not affect how you feel about your spouse and your marriage. If you ever wanted your marriage to be good, continuing down this path will suck the life out of it.
- You notice this person positioning themselves to be near you, making excuses to see you privately, appealing to your compassion by “keeping you in the loop” of some troubling 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 stop interacting with them immediately.
If this is a work situation transfer to another department or do not agree to any more private one-on-one conversations or meetings. Always include someone else in the meeting if it’s an absolute necessity.
Tell a trusted friend that supports your marriage about this person or, even better, admit
to your spouse that there has been some temptation. Their reaction might be difficult to
handle but that will be nothing compared to navigating the aftermath of moral failure.
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 that relationship (in some form or another) from the get-go. This is probably your safest deterrent.
And when your spouse is not around, always let them hear you talk about your spouse and your marriage with warm, positive regard.
NOTE:***Any time a person is uninterested or unwilling to be a “friend of your marriage” they are no friend of yours!
When we begin to keep even the slightest “secret” about another person from our spouse we’re already in trouble.
If you want to put your spouse at ease, able to trust you with all the people in your life, make sure your spouse is known to or a part of those relationships. In healthy marriages, all friendships are open to both parties and feel mutually shared.
If, for some reason, you don’t feel a need or desire to make your spouse a part of a “friendship” you have with someone you are becoming attracted to you need to deeply question what your true objective is for maintaining that relationship. And, if your marriage truly is your highest priority, make a beeline now to talk with a counselor or trusted, accountable friend about it.
What will go down as the biggest regret of my entire life was the mistaken belief I was different from most people and “strong enough” to have some “innocent conversations with a friend” that I was convinced could not possibly go wrong. I could not have been more deluded.