In the new crisis of infidelity, more and more marriages are being threatened by friendships that have slowly and insidiously turned into love affairs. Yet you can protect your relationship by recognizing the red flags along the slippery slope. You’re right to be cautious when you hear these words: “I’m telling you, we’re just friends.”
If one spouse is saying to another, “I’m telling you Honey, so-and-so and I are “just friends,” we are already in a bit of hot water. For what reason am I having to defend myself with this? Why has the alarm sounded? What did my partner notice that I am oblivious to? Why can’t we be “just friends.” Here are three safeguards to staying safe in marriage:
We Are NOT “Just Friends”
1) Expect Surges of Dopamine
Within our DNA is a Human Lymphocyte Antigen (HLA) that makes us immune or susceptive to a set number of diseases. We are designed to recognize the DNA of another person and to be attracted to a DNA match that would enhance the strength of our offspring. If you meet enough people, you will find “a match” (may this is why we call it Ã¢â?¬Ë?playing with fire’) where nature sends off a signal and feel-good chemistry laced with Dopamine. This neurotransmitter is the pleasure and reward chemical – it creates the gotta-have-it drive. When two people meet and the match is lit, regardless if these two people are happily married to other people, I hear the same things, so often that I have the list now laminated in my office:
“I love my husband to death. But Scuba Steve, my diving instructor I’ve known for only 2 months, is my soul mate; he knows me better than anyone!
“I like who I am with him/her.”
“I feel as if I’ve always known him.”
“Time stands still with him.”
“We finish each other’s sentences.”
“I feel complete.”
“It’s not about the sex.”
“He completes me.”
“He’s a really good person.”
“He loves me unconditionally.”
“I’ve never felt this way before.”
“I canÃ¢â?¬Ë?t believehow alike we areÃ¢â?¬Â¦he’s from England and I once saw it on a map!”
A couple caught off guard in a DNA match all say the same thingÃ¢â?¬Â¦and they assume their feelings are unique. They are not! But they become justification for leaving a perfectly-imperfect, good marriage. We need to inoculate against the “match” that can start a fire that burns faster than you can ever imagine or outrun. Education is the best startÃ¢â?¬Â¦ follow Smokey the Bear’s advice; don’t play with matches. Expect the spark so you’re not thrown by it and can proceed accordingly to a safety plan of avoidance and reality.
2) Douse the Flirting Flame
Flirting can seem so innocentÃ¢â?¬Â¦after all, nobody’s touching. We’re not alarmed because the obvious sign of a flame is not there; it appears that everything is under control. Seems completely harmless, doesn’t it? Let me go back to my Smokey Bear analogy: We are taught that flames are obviously hot and we will get burned by playing with them. The smoldering fire, where the flame is not noticeable, however, is actually the most dangerous. Smoldering fires are the easiest to ignite and they are the most difficult to suppress. (Interesting note: The oldest continuously burning fire on Earth is a smoldering coal seam in Australia, ignited 6,000 years ago.) We have something to learn about our human vulnerabilities from science.
We feed the smolder through our innocent flirtations. But we need to know how dangerous the territory is. The couples I worry about most are those that are oblivious to the power of the smolder. They’re just Ã¢â?¬Ë?having fun’; making another Ã¢â?¬Ë?feel good’; helping themself Ã¢â?¬Ë?feel young, again’; being Ã¢â?¬Ë?playful’ and Ã¢â?¬Ë?innocent.’ There is a romantic mystique around someone outside our marital relationship. Add a little dose of secrecy, emotional intimacy and sexual innuendos and you’ve got a full-fledged emotional affair. Again, the smoldering fire ignites with the smallest source of heat and requires the largest dose of water (reality) to extinguish.
Too often I hear, “I don’t know how I got here.” The answer to that is you got here one step at a time, one minimizing flirtation at a time, one rationalization at a time, one uneducated experience at a time. You didn’t know that this laminated sheet existed. You erroneously thought that you were the only one who ever felt this way.
3) Firm-Up Firewalls
As we know the term firewall describes a barrier that keeps destructive forces away from your property. The most important aspect of a firewall is location, location, location; it needs to be at the entry point. The firewall is the first program or process that receives and handles incoming network traffic, and it is the last to handle outgoing traffic. Imagine a firewall for your marriage; monitor what comes in and what goes out in the way of attractions, communications, and justifications. A “firewall” must be positioned to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic. If some other program (or person) has that control, there is no firewall.
All Internet traffic travels in the form of packets. A packet is a quantity of limited size, kept small for easy handling. Keep your personal exchanges of private information limited. Certain topics and conversations are reserved for marriage.
In packet filtering, only the protocol and information is examined. The firewall pays no attention to applications on the host or network and it knows nothing about the “sources” of incoming data. That’s a great metaphor for managing relationships outside of marriage.
All firewalls, regardless of the type, have one commonality: they receive, inspect, and make decisions about all incoming data before it reaches other parts of the system or network. They are strategically placed at the entry point to the system or network the firewall is intended to protect, regulating incoming and outgoing data. We need security systems in place to protect our marriage and familiesÃ¢â?¬Â¦.SPAM.
Sensitivities, Pressures, Attractions, and Manipulations.