I’ve come to realize that good intentions are not all it takes when it comes to having a good marriage and being faithful to your spouse. Most of us would say that we believe that “it is wrong to cheat on your spouse,” and we might have even had or have the hypothesis that, “anyone that would cheat on their spouse is jerk.” This makes sense, however the tension comes when we start living life and seeing some really great people in our lives having an emotional affair or leaving their spouse for someone else and we are shocked and confused. We’ve all been there – either its our neighbor, family member, or possibly its happened to you.
I remember when the world was a bit more black and white for me as well. I remember getting my first taste of reality when I was newly married, pursuing further education as a altruistic trusting young woman. Now that I was married, I had the ring on my finger, and mentioned my husband from time to time, obviously everyone would know that interactions were strictly platonic. I would talk to peers about many things that interested me, and that we had in common, and one other married man would often gravitate to me to discuss interesting topics. I thought nothing of it since we were both married until a peer of mine mentioned that they had heard that he had a crush on me. I was shocked. I felt a mix of emotions such as disgust, guilt and confusion. I separated myself from him immediately. Thankfully we had never met outside of class, and we had never talked on the phone, but I made sure I was plenty busy, disinterested in his discussion, and made an effort to connect with other peers during idle time. In the end, this was the beginning of a good lesson to learn.
The reality is, we all need to be aware of the reality of this epidemic, as well as how we could be susceptible to “accidentally” falling in love with someone that is not our spouse. It happens every day, and it might have even happened to you. In the book “surviving an affair” by Dr. Willard F Harley, he explains the following concept of falling in and out of love which often results in someone having an affair. Dr. Harley uses the example of each person having a love bank. We each make deposits into each other’s love bank by doing things such as giving gifts, spending time with each other, giving a compliment or doing the dishes. Especially as relationships evolve and life stressors happen, we may start to take withdrawals out of the love bank by doing things such as leaving our laundry all over the floor every day, being critical, name calling or even being neglectful. This simple equation is the start to understanding how you or your spouse might start falling out of love if the love Bank has had too many withdrawals and not enough deposits. When someone’s love bank is not full and better yet, bankrupt this leaves someone extremely vulnerable to having feelings for someone else. On a daily basis we all receive gestures of love from many different people in our life such as co-workers, people at church, and even the barista that smiles and gives us compliments and coffee each morning. An individual that does not have their emotional needs met by their spouse, and has an empty love bank will naturally accept deposits from others, and will find it hard not to feel feelings for someone that continually meets their specific unmet emotional needs. I understand I oversimplified something very complicated, however i see this pattern happen over and over again. There are some instances where a partner will stray because they are a jerk, but it is more common that there are often deeper relational issues going on.
If you’ve ever been in a relationship you’ve probably discovered that feelings seem to be pretty complicated. You each try to love each other, yet still things are not perfect and someone may not feel completely fulfilled! Both the book “The five love languages” by Gary Chapman and “Surviving an affair” by Willard F Harley, and “love and respect” by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs site similar research that has been done as well as their own professional experience leading to understanding affairs in this “meeting emotional needs” manner. To be clear, just because someone doesn’t feel loved, it does not make it ok to have an affair. The first step is awareness. If you find that you feel unfulfilled and feel unloved or disrespected in your marriage you are in a vulnerable place. Now is the time to process this with a trusted friend, talk to your spouse and or seek help through reading some of the books listed and or seeking counseling depending on the seriousness of the issue. Its also great to ask your spouse if they feel really loved by you.
Other practical safeguards for your marriage:
Weather your healing from an affair or wanting to prevent one follow some of these steps.
- Share all passwords to electronic devises and sites with your spouse
- Call and check in with your spouse regularly and share your schedules
- Discuss with your spouse how you can meet each other’s needs better.
- Have ground rules you both agree to when it comes to the opposite gender
- Make more time to build your friendship on dates and by having fun