Unfortunately there are many pathways that people have taken into the disaster of an affair. One of the special joys of my ministry is the restoration of a marriage that has suffered the incredible painful experience of unfaithfulness. There are three questions the offended mate will ask:
- How can I forgive him/her?
- How can I ever trust her/him again?
- How do I live with the shame?
Those are all great questions and we spend a number of counseling hours walking through them and working towards resolutions. But, that is for another blog. Today we want to look at what my mother called “an ounce of prevention.”
Over the past few years there have been three frequent entrance points for the affairs that I and my colleagues have confronted. I have called these the over-mothering syndrome, the under adjusted syndrome, and the revivalist syndrome. Let me walk you briefly through these and sound an alert.
Over-mothering syndrome occurs when a young mother allows her child to become the focus of all her energies. There may be many underlying reasons that this young mother makes this choice, but they are not the subject of our brief discussion today. For whatever reasons, all her satisfaction is derived from the child. She may cease to care for her own appearance. She may allow her home to become a wreck. She drops out of church so her child will not be exposed to diseases. She loses interest in her husband. She is no longer interested in exercise, theater or entertaining friends. Her world becomes her child.
This young mother stands in sharp contrast to the attractive women at work. Her husband only sees these women at their personal best. He sees them performing well. In many cases he works closely with them on projects. They communicate well. Eventually she will ask why he has become so downcast and he will share his frustrations with the situation at home.
The affair-alert here is a doubled edged sword. First, if you, your friend or a counselee have become an over-mothering mother sound the affair-alert. This condition is a recipe for disaster. Second, don’t wait to figure out the reasons. Change the behavior then explore the reasons.
The under adjustment syndrome is the fact of poor sexual adjustment. It is interesting that I’ve observed this in couples who have lived together and report a good sexual adjustment during that period but post marriage the adjustment deteriorates. While not always the case, in most instances the under adjustment occurs on the part of the wife. When asked what she thought was a normal adjustment one wife responded, “Well, I make sure it happens at least once every two weeks.” Her husband just rolled his eyes.
Husband or wife, under adjustment to the desires of the mate (for discussion on reasonable frequency see Indented for Pleasure by Ed Wheat) has an accumulative effect of frustration. Here again, sound the affair-alert. This under adjustment is an invitation to the flesh. There are those in the life of the couple who will unscrupulously be desirous to fulfill the void. I’m thinking now of a TV show where this is too typically displayed. And unfortunately, TV reflects the state of the society.
The revivalist syndrome occurs when high school sweethearts reconnect. I remember one good and pleasant illustration of this syndrome. A peer of mine who made the decision to break off his high school courtship to care for an ailing mother which lasted thirty years, met his former sweetheart at a high school reunion. She was a widow of several years. Within months they were married. This good and right experience illustrates how inflammatory old love can be.
Several years ago I worked with three different individuals who participated in high school or college reunions and in the process rekindled an old love. In the one case the man reported, “I’ve been perfectly happy with my marriage and my wife. But, I am so conflicted now!”
If you, your friend or a counselee is thinking of attending such a reunion, sound the affair-alert.
Evangelical Christians should not think themselves immune from these temptations. I have seen all of the above repeatedly show up in the lives of such Christians. They read their Bibles, they attended church and their friends would attest to their testimonies. But, the Apostle Paul sounds the alert to all believers.
Be alert; be on guard, the devil as a roaring lion goes about seeking whom he may devour (see I Peter 5:8). Again, as my mother use to say, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed”.