Fighting for Our Marriages: Guarding against emotional affairs & a great resource

Lael Arrington's picture

If every reporter who recently savaged (or even snorted at) Vice-President Mike Pence for not dining or working late alone with women other than his wife would simply google “where do affairs happen the most,” they might change their tune.

They would find that anywhere from 38–53 million men in the U.S. have cheated on their wives, touching one in every three couples. And that 65-85% of adulterous affairs begin at work.

They would also find that few consciously decide to start an affair.

 

According to Focus on the Family, “affair partners are usually happy in their marriages and have no plans to leave their spouses. Because of the gradual slide toward infidelity, partners do not pay attention to their behavior until they have already damaged their marriages, and sex is often the last sign that the marriage partner has been betrayed.”

When I was writing my book, Godsight, I began to research the danger and devastation of sliding down the slippery slope between male/female friendship into an emotional affair. The statistics back up the Pence’s precautions 100%. But I decided to take another approach.

Statistics do not do justice to the emotional bomb that explodes in the hearts of a husband and wife when betrayal is unmasked. So I decided to describe the creeping seduction in vignettes like this...

From: Lisa Rafferty
To: David Randolph

Hi Coach!
Bon voyage to Lexington. You & the boys have worked so hard this year and we are so proud we are obnoxious. I can’t imagine a more exciting road to the playoffs. If you need inspiration just turn around and the entire Eng/Journ dept will blow kisses your way.


From David Randolph
To: Lisa Rafferty

Thanks Lisa. I’ll look for the kisses but don’t let Barbara see. I’m in enough trouble for spending every nite for 3 weeks straight at the gym. Thanks for the support.


From: Lisa Rafferty
To: David Randolph

Hi Coach:
Well, how does it feel to be in the finals? We could not believe your last down-to-the-buzzer play! :>o They never expected Dexter, but the boy came through. We almost mobbed you, but saw Barbara and thought better of it. Maybe we need to give you a private mobbing in the faculty lounge.


From David Randolph
To: Lisa Rafferty

You can give me a private mobbing any time.


From Lisa Rafferty
To: David Randolph

Can we settle for sharing a table at lunch tomorrow? You can give me your input on the photo spread of the game for this week’s Banner. We snapped some great pics of you in serious diplomatic negotiations with the ref.


From Lisa Rafferty
To: David Randolph

Well just 2 more days. Trying to teach anything but sports journ right now is like flipping over to PBS in the middle of the Super Bowl. I don’t know how you can stand it. Even if you win it’s sad to think that next week our joyride will be over.


From David Randolph
To: Lisa Rafferty

Yes, but then I’ll actually have a life. I may not have a wife, but I’ll have a life.


From Lisa Rafferty
To: David Randolph

David, are you serious?


From David Randolph
To: Lisa Rafferty

Yes. She’s packing. But not for the finals. As always, impeccable timing.


From Lisa Rafferty
To: David Randolph

David, I’m so sorry. I’m trying not to think unchristian thoughts about Barbara, but…Keep your eyes on the stands. An entire school loves and supports you. An entire community. I talk with the kids and know how much they adore you. You are not only the greatest coach Stratton has ever had, but you are a man our boys want to be like. I want our boy to be like.


From Lisa Rafferty
To: David Randolph

David, congratulations. You played your hearts out. No one has ever taken us as far. Words fail me. I’m so proud of our boys. Proud of you and all your staff. You held your heads high at the end, which you should have. It was just Westchester’s year. We’re planning a celebration anyway.

PS. Did Barbara really leave?


From David Randolph
To: Lisa Rafferty

Lisa, I was hoping you’d be here in my inbox. Thank you and yes, she did. It’s the morning after. Spent all last night watching game films. Was afraid what might happen if I stopped. Want to share lunch again? Don’t feel too public today but I’d like to talk. How about bringing your salad to my office?


So casual, flip and funny. Until it’s not.

We never know when that emotionally vulnerable moment will arrive. Where we leave the door unlatched and partly open and hope that empathy, encouragement and appreciation will find their way in.

That is why good boundaries are healthy. They protect our imaginations. Those private interior screens where we project what we like to think about.

Dallas Willard has said, “The mind…is the place of our widest and most basic freedom. Of all the things we do, we have more freedom with respect to what we will think of, where we will place our mind than anything else…We simply turn our mind to whatever it is we choose to think of. The deepest revelation of our character is what we choose to dwell on in thought.”

A man or woman of strong, good character will limit his or her private encounters with women or men besides their spouse so that the images of that candlelit smile or privately celebrated win or charming words on a screen that float unbidden into our minds will not become the things they choose to dwell on.

The Wall Street Journal reporter who tweeted about Pence, “The calling card of all religious fundamentalism: terror of women,” must live in a world so political that it ignores the deeper realities of the life of the mind and heart.

It is not an unhealthy fear of women that drives a man like Mike Pence to guard his heart. It is a healthy fear of God. A healthy fear of hurting Karen and his children. After Los Angeles, more affairs happen in Washington DC than any other city.

The Christian response to temptation has always been proactive and aggressive. With a sober awareness of our own human propensity to choose self-indulgence over self-denial and with God’s help, we Christ-followers aspire to fight temptation by any means we can think of.

My husband Jack, a pastor, and I take the same precautions as the Pences. But in the early days of my RA, when the pain was immobilizing and the life I expected to live was slipping away, I wasn't as careful. I escaped into TV and daydreams of a the life I longed to live. I know something of the struggle it can be to protect our imaginations and guard our hearts. I also know that escape is not the path to “life that is really life.”

By God’s grace and strength Jack and I will celebrate our fortieth anniversary this summer. We appreciate each other more than ever. The growing social specter of death by despair, separated from spouses, family, churches and communities, does not haunt our days.

The reporters attacking Mike Pence, and many in today's culture, would have us believe that human flourishing is the result of sexual freedom and equality--even gender fluidity. The way of Jesus tells us it is the result of valuing and choosing inconvenient, sacrificial steadfast love above all else. Marriage is always worth fighting for.

If you are struggling with guarding your heart or slipping into an emotional or social media affair, I highly recommend this resource, especially the nine signs of an emotional affair. Maybe someone you care about needs to see it.

How do you respond to the precautions the Pences take to protect their marriage? Please respond in the comment section below...

Comments

Hal Warren's picture

Lael Arrington's picture

Thanks, Hal, for taking the time to share these resources. What we let play on the screen of our imaginations matters.

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