Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Making of an "Affair" part 2

In my last post I talked about how affairs start and progress. The first stage occurs when we become vulnerable. We're not communicating, we're hurting from a major loss, some aspect of life is especially trying or we simply quit paying attention to one another. During those times we can find comfort with another person of the opposite sex which can lead to what I call engagement.

We don't intend to be unfaithful but through a simple conversation or two, coffee, a lunch, some back and forth bantering, an internet connection or regular interactions within a group, we start to become attracted, at least on an emotional level. We may see our connection with them as innocent but because it feels so much better than how things seem in our marriage we go back for more.

And if we continue to become more intimate in soul and spirit with the other person the next step can lead to a physical betrayal and adultery. In fact, as I said last time the betrayal already began and the affair had actually started emotionally. However, once the physical line is crossed the road back becomes more difficult and painful.

Marriages can be devastated, ministries lost and reputations ruined. Spouses usually have to face coworkers, family and friends telling them through their tears what happened and how they've let them down. Many spouses unfortunately make it worse by continuing to try to cover up the truth rather than facing the facts and dealing with them.

So let me talk first to those who have entered into an affair whether it's known or not. Stop now. No excuses. Stop. Your marriage can make it but the road you're on is a road to more damage and pain not health. Get some help from a friend, pastor and/or counselor. Come clean and do the right thing.

Don't hurt your spouse, children and marriage any more by waiting. You will have to face a long journey of counseling, discussions, changing of habits and the like. There is no shortcut. And there is no guarantee that your marriage will make it. But if you are Christ followers you have a much better chance to get through it. In fact, eighty percent of marriages impacted by an affair stay together although sometimes they don't remain in a healthy marriage.

Become accountable to someone for the rest of your life. Being in community with others who love you will pay incredible dividends. Determine that you will do whatever it takes to restore the marriage relationship you committed to years before.

But let me secondly suggest to all of us what we can do now to help avoid compromising our marriage vows or getting into that situation again. First, don't have exclusive close associations with members of the opposite sex. Jackie and I together have female friends, but I alone don't have my own female friends.

I don't even go to coffee or meet in a restaurant with any women alone. I want to do everything I can to guard against any inappropriate connection or the impression of one. I also don't want to risk a relationship with another female that is attractive even for a short while.

If you're in a setting where regular connections with the opposite sex are required or regular (I am), then set up appropriate and healthy boundaries. Make your decisions now what you will and won't do. It's better to be overly careful without being an annoyance or rude. But if your employer, for example, is unwilling to work with you on those boundaries, seriously consider your options at that job. I realize that may not seem very practical in our current economy but how practical is it to lose your marriage.

Second, keep growing in marital intimacy. Couples who are talking to one another regularly don't need to find someone else to talk to about their struggles. Couples who are praying for one another and growing in their faith aren't tempted to find spiritual connections somewhere else. If you serve others together you'll grow tremendously and help anchor your relationship. Because you see, unfortunately the church and other seemingly safe places are often where many affairs start.
Also, keep evaluating with each other how you can make more time together, get away from time to time and work on your relationship in general. Make time to enjoy your physical relationship too. I like to say that if you don't seduce your spouse now and then, someone else might!

Third, get help when you need it. There's nothing wrong with letting someone else look into your marriage and help you walk through the rough spots. Guarding your heart is your responsibility and it will protect one of the most important possessions and relationships you'll ever have. And it's worth it!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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