In the aftermath of the whole Ashley Madison “affair finder” online data dump, I was having a conversation with a group of men I lead in a sexual integrity recovery group. We were discussing why it sometimes might be easier to emotionally share with a potential affair partner than with a spouse. All of us (history of affair or not) need to be aware of this. Otherwise, we won’t see the dangerous slippery slope of an innocent conversation that could easily turn into something much worse over time.
With all the good things marriage brings, it also brings a significant level of responsibility. Financial obligations, taking care of the kids and dealing with sickness have to be addressed in real time to maintain a healthy relationship. Coordinating schedules and even planning a fun vacation require intentional time and effort.
In short, committed relationships require periodic repair and ongoing maintenance.
This isn’t true with an affair partner or potential affair partner. The attractive coworker at the office or the engaging parent you enjoy talking with at your son’s soccer game doesn’t carry any of these responsibilities with you. There’s nothing to maintain, let alone repair. There’s “freedom” to engage in lighthearted conversation, filled with emotional bantering and flirting, and you can walk away from it without any lingering obligation. It’s sort of like the difference between living in your house and staying in a hotel room. One requires ongoing maintenance and periodic repairs. In the other, you can walk away from the mess and let somebody else deal with it.
For most of us, we really do want to enjoy our marriages and have genuine, intimate connection with our spouses every bit as much as our spouses do. But let’s be honest. It’s easy to allow the sludge of marital obligations to clog up the lines of intimacy. Finding ways to regularly prioritize maintenance and needed repairs actually frees us to enjoy things we may be tempted to share with others.
But there’s more. Working to clear the sludge actually enables us to experience a deeper, more enduring satisfaction than we actually can get with an affair partner. That’s because not only will we be flirting and relating with someone in whom we’ve deeply invested over the years, we’ll also have the sense of fulfillment that comes from living in a way that’s consistent with our deepest values.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by the recent Ashley Madison data breech, call me. Recovery is just a phone call away.