Friday, August 28, 2009

Not Again

Today, I had another one of those meetings that I detest.

It was coffee with a husband whose wife has recently left him for another man.

I can't tell you how many times I have heard this story in the last 6 months (be it a husband leaving his wife or vice versa). Again, and again, and again, it is reminding me how much we/I have to protect our marriages.

The devastation that a divorce leaves in its wake is almost indescribable--but I'll try. Here are some of things we know about when a divorce occurs because of infidelity:

  1. Financially each person is usually set back 20 years. Many never regain a financial footing because divorce is terribly expensive and it goes beyond the attorney fees. With this person I met with this morning, he will most likely never be able to retire.
  2. Your children's lives are never the same. Just go read Judith Wallerstein's book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce. This is a psychologist (not a Christian, by the way) who followed the lives of children from all types of backgrounds for 25 years whose parent's had divorced. Her findings: 2/3rd of all kids who experience divorce have serious issues on many different fronts (e.g., drug abuse, drop-out rates skyrocket, significant behavioral problems, etc. etc. etc.).
  3. The grass is not greener on the other side. Research has shown that second marriages when you have had an affair end in divorce 85 percent of the time! This would make sense--when you are running away from someone, you often run into the arms of someone who has even more problems and baggage than you and your situation.
To end, if I had to give two suggestions in how you can protect your marriage, it would be these:
  1. Always (and I mean always) be checking in with your spouse. Find out how she/he is really doing. Ask the tough questions, asking how your spouse really feels about the marriage and how satisfied they are. How am I doing in relation to practical matters (fulfilling my obligations around the house and with our children)? How am I doing in terms of being a lover to you and showing you in sexual and non-sexual ways that I care for and love you? How am I doing in terms of being your friend, someone you can share some of the most inane things as well as the important?
  2. If you are married (or committed in a relationship to someone for that matter), you can not have opposite sex friendships. At all. Never. Whether in my role as Director of Congregational Care or as a psychologist, I have never heard of an affair that just began out of the blue. They always begin in the confines of friendship, be that at work, church or in a social setting. What does this mean in the real world? Here are two: 1) I protect my conversations with women -- I don't talk about personal matters very often. I keep intimate things with those whom I am intimate (my spouse and close male friends). I try to make sure I am not being flirtatious in these situations. 2) I never meet one-on-one with someone in public or private--even if it is a colleague, even if it is a challenge to do so. I always bring someone else with me for coffee or lunch when I am meeting with someone of the opposite sex one-on-one.
One of the first prerequisites of having a great marriage is you have to protect it. In our day and age, some have gotten lazy in doing so, and therefore, some have made bad decisions in which the reprucussions can last a lifetime. are you doing in protecting your marriage?

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