Here's some helpful gear to help my married friends fight against the slide into adultery.
One of our lecturers at college presented a version of this material, From Temptations Men Face, By Tom L. Eisenman, Chapter 4: Affairs. I've done some very minor editing to take some of the American flavour out, tweaked the definition of adultery, and added the Sting reference. (Thanks to an old college oz-tag friend, Dan Webster, for finding this material for us today).
It was aimed at those of us working in pastoral ministry, but I wonder if this stuff is helpful to many of us in many different circumstances. I think it's especially helpful for blokes.
The lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.
- Adultery – Sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse.
- Adulterous Affair – an intense emotional, social and physical involvement with someone other than your spouse.
- Obsession – When there is an intense emotional preoccupation coupled with repeated sexual encounters, the affair becomes an obsession – those involved are often willing to throw away their career, their reputation, their family and deny their faith to keep the relationship. The classic example is 39-year-old King David, obsessed with Bathsheba (Read their story in 2 Samuel 11 of the Bible. Sting also wrote a song based on this story; 'Mad about you').
- Deceit, Rationalization and Denial – These are the three internal enemies that are present in virtually every affair, and eventually work to alter your sense of reality. You deceive when you must cover your tracks (“Perfect. I’m staying four days for a three-day conference.”). Rationalizing is giving acceptable reasons for unacceptable behaviour (“ Isn't it wonderful that God has given me two wonderful men to love.”). Denial, or self-denial, is our intense refusal to recognize the truth about our thoughts, feelings and actions to ourselves (“This is just a Platonic relationship; it’ll all be over soon.”).
THE TWELVE STEPS IN AN AFFAIR
Counsellors have found 12 steps that usually occur in sequence as a relationship moves toward an affair:
- Readiness: Some people are “an affair waiting to happen” due to societal pressures (promiscuity is good, affairs are healthy and natural), the condition of the marriage (roughest typically with unresolved tensions at 2 years, 7 years, mid-life and empty nest), and personal struggles (poor parental role models, self-indulgence, hatred of feeling trapped, poor self-image, depression, mid-life crisis).
- Awareness of Another: He has a growing awareness of a particular person in his web of relationships. Occasional thoughts turn to fantasy. He may get photos of her in a group, but focus on her in his thoughts.
- Innocent Meetings: At church or business functions, he may engage in some light flirting or prolonged eye contact, or use enticing body language.
- Intentional Meeting: They come up with ways to “run into each other” if he knows where she normally is at a given time.
- Public Lingering: While in group settings, they avoid eye contact with others and converse about personal history, interests and struggles. Others might start to pick up something unusual in their level of interest in each other. Denial and rationalization grow strong at this point.
- Private Lingering: After others have left, their conversations move to discussing private and personal areas, and they express their care for each other. The excitement level spikes.
- Purposeful Isolating: They come up with “legitimate” reasons to meet and talk. The spouse will notice an increase in errands or things to do at work, and a decrease in verbal communication; he becomes cool, distant and almost formal in his relating, and blames it on stress. Deceit grows strong at this point.
- Pleasurable Isolating: They plan times alone just for the enjoyment of being together, normally in a public place but some distance away. They have a youthful euphoria combined with deceit, rationalization and denial. There is more romance, more touching, and a deep sharing of souls. Family and coworkers will notice blocks of time not accounted for. The spouse begins to wonder.
- Affectionate Embracing: The longing for each other becomes intense. There is playful caressing, tickling, wrestling … and a corresponding drop in any physical interest in the spouse.
- Passionate Embracing: The passion builds. If alcohol or drugs are involved, the couple will move quickly through these stages.
- Capitulation: The couple gives in to sexual intercourse. Denial is eliminated at this stage. They can’t deny what they've done at this point.
- Acceptance: The couple will struggle for a bit. They’ll normally admit to each other that they’re having an affair and make a decision whether to continue or not, but guilt seldom breaks off the relationship; they've been overpowering their consciences all along.
IS THE GRASS REALLY GREENER?
James Dobson said, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but it still has to be mowed.” Some affairs can’t survive the fallout of being discovered, going through separations, counseling, divorce, loss of child custody, but most affairs usually do. They will typically cope by moving away and starting life from scratch. The kids struggle to understand this; they are the smallest of the shattered pieces. When the excitement wears off, the couple is forced to live real life again. There is terrible guilt and, of course, the fear that in a little while, their companion will have an affair with someone else. Over 80% of second marriages fail.
FIGHTING TO PRESERVE YOUR MARRIAGE
- Pray often about this issue. Ask God to help you with your thought life, help you keep your marriage relationship strong, and help you avoid the immoral woman (Proverbs 2:16-17, 5:3-4, 5:15-21).
- Communicate often with your spouse. Unresolved conflicts (you don’t “win” arguments; you resolve them) and busyness can destroy communication. Purposefully make time to talk. After dinner, take time to gush about the day, the feelings, pressures and tensions. Talk about the future to align your expectations. Talk about how to keep improving your relationship and your sex life.
- Get alone and do fun things together. The two of you should go out once per week (or per month if the budget demands), and go on a 2-3 day getaway once a year without the kids. Keep the mystery; plan a surprise getaway.
- Talk to your wife about what is proper when relating to the opposite sex. What touch or aloneness is appropriate? Does this vary from woman to woman? Women have radar with each other; a woman knows when someone is interested in her man.
- Remember to avoid the steps in the affair process. Be strict and honest with yourself. Are you at one of the stages now? What thoughts must you bring captive? What behaviors must you alter?
- Guard your gauges and know your level of weakness. Most men fall into adultery when they are spiritually drained, emotionally exhausted and physically worn out, often even when their marriages are fine.
- Work on your appearance for your spouse’s sake. All bodies change shape and density as the years go by. Love your spouse’s soul, because their body will take a dive. Notice that a person who starts to have an affair becomes very appearance conscious – like back in high school or uni. Why? They’re trying to attract someone. Why not do that as spouses? Continue to date your spouse and try to attract her!
- Watch out for the mid-life crisis. Men experience this phenomenon differently. It is basically a time, typically in a man’s forties, when he:
· Believes he is no longer attractive to younger women;
· Questions his identity, who he really is;
· Questions whether he has accomplished anything meaningful in life, or at least, accomplished the goals he set early in his career;
The crisis can kick in very quickly. A teenage girl points to him and says to her friend, “That’s your boyfriend” and they both look sick and laugh hysterically. Or the interesting jobs at work are being given to the young guys “who will really do something.” Or his kids grow up and move away, and he is no longer the centre of his family’s life. Should he have spent more time with them rather than at the stupid office?
Proper evaluation leads to being a more focused man in your 50s and 60s. Improper understanding leads a man to seek a younger woman (he is very susceptible to flattery), imitate youthful appearance, change jobs and seek adventure to escape the meaningless, mundane life he had before he became an “old person.”