By Benjamin Deu, MA, LMHC, Seattle Christian Counseling
References “NOT ‘Just Friends’” by Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D with Jean Coppock Staeheli
Forget everything you have ever been told about “affair-proofing” your marriage.
There is nothing you can do to keep your spouse from cheating on you. All you can do is keep your eyes open for suspicious friendships, and beware that you do not succumb to one yourself.
What Causes Adultery?
In the 50s, it was powerful men looking for flings with their subordinates. Things have changed since then. In her book, NOT ‘Just Friends,’ Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D, discusses how infidelity is rising among women, and that both genders tend to be emotionally unfaithful before they are sexually. It is no longer the cliché of powerful men looking for something on the side; it is spouses making friends at work who gradually turn into adulterous partners. These relationships develop the same way yours with your spouse did. You meet, connect over common bonds, find yourselves attracted one another, and begin a romantic relationship.
Because these newer affairs develop so gradually, they’re difficult to prevent. It’s not merely a matter of maintaining a loving and happy marriage. However, Glass says this is often the solution for women. Research indicates women rarely cheat on their spouses unless they are unhappily married. They go looking for the companionship they do not have at home. However, many men who commit adultery do so because they make friends with women at work, and then do not break them off when they realize they’ve become inappropriate.
Why do People Cheat?
Most spouses acknowledge what they are doing is wrong. “In a population research by Michael Wiederman, 80 percent of men and women who has engaged in extramarital intercourse said that it was almost always or always wrong.” (21) Glass likens modern adultery to opening and closing windows. Spouses stray because they close the window between themselves and their spouse, and open the window between themselves and their extramarital partner.
But sometimes they get some help closing that window. For example, work schedules may change so that spouses see a lot less of each other. Stressors such as financial troubles may send one mate looking for a sympathetic ear. They may make an opposite-sex friend at work with whom they have a lot in common. Regardless of what causes it, spouses must be alert to anything that might serve as a wedge to drive them apart from their spouse– or anything that might deter them from bridging that gap.
Signs you are Closing the Window Between Yourself and Your Spouse
1. You do not tell your spouse about your relationship with this other person
People in healthy marriages talk to each other– about their day, their opinions, nothing, etc. You need to beware of clinging to pastimes or relationships you do not feel comfortable sharing with your spouse. Having to keep something from them is the first sign it is wrong. It also closes that window between you, as you shut them out to keep them from discovering your secret.
2. You appreciate how they make up for your spouse’s “shortcomings”
Spouses will not agree on everything. You and your spouse might have already discovered this. The danger is when spouses feed an inappropriate extramarital relationship by focusing on qualities this person has they wish their spouse did. A straying husband may bond with a woman at work over a TV show they both watch that his wife hates. A woman in an unhappy marriage may begin to compare her distant husband with a man at work who always asks about her day. It is natural to bond with other people over things your spouse is not interested in. But do not allow it to become a way of finding those “wish-list” characteristics your spouse lacks.
Christian Counseling for Infidelity
As explained above, infidelity is typically a gradual easing between the sheets rather than a leaping into bed. However, although it may happen slowly, this doesn’t mean it happens imperceptibly. A straying spouse knows when their relationship with someone is inappropriate. “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” (Romans 2:15 NIV)
Rather than continue the burdensome charade of hiding infidelity from your spouse, make an appointment with a professional Christian counselor. You might want to make an appointment, even if it is just to talk about whether a certain friendship is appropriate. They can help you through the process of confessing your sin to your spouse and repairing your relationship. You cannot go on like this forever. Eventually one, or both, of the relationships will fall apart. Meet with a professional Christian counselor for guidance about how to reconcile yourself with the Lord and with your spouse.
Is-my-spouse-cheating Flickr user Vinnie
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