Part Three: The Highway to an Affair or Abuse: Courtship and Impatience: Handmaidens of Disaster

Part Three: The Highway to an Affair or Abuse: Courtship and Impatience: Handmaidens of Disaster

After my blog on how affairs and abusive relationships start on my thrivingcouples.com blog , a reader suggested I continue with the topic and discuss how these relationships develop.  I gave that a go here, but I thought I’d take another crack at it today from a different angle.

The literature on abusive relationships blames the perpetrator, but in my view, you’d better be careful making yourself out to be a victim when you dated so and so willingly and freely.  A better question would be how did you get into this mess in the first place and how do you figure out a way to not go down that road again.

This is one of the great dangers of courting in our society.  We’ve eliminated the arranged marriage.  We’re all too proud and sophisticated for that.  While the arranged marriage has it’s downsides, the advantage is that the bride or groom had two entire families in on the vetting process.  Instead of two people trying to figure out if they were meant for each other there were a minimum of 6, and probably in many cases, a lot more than that.  They were doing research and praying and discussing and hoping and dreaming all together.  Certainly there are abuses in this system but a lot of people checking out your future spouse and vouching for their veracity is a good thing.

When people so-called “fall in love” they are absolutely crazy people.  Their ability to think and make rational decisions is in the toilet.  If this method of picking a spouse based upon “feelings” was so great, why in the world do we have a divorce rate hovering around 50%?  I’d say a failure rate like that goes wanting.  You don’t only need your feelings involved.  You need your brain, too, and your family and close confidants opinions and if you have family members or close friends who think your new found love is creep you’d better open your eyes instead of thinking they are all a bunch of control freaks.  Careful.

Here’s a warning sign straight from the Gates of Hell: Do not pass go.  Go directly to Hell:  Your new found love is in a hurry to get married.  YIKES!  RED FLAG!  RED FLAG!  Run, run, run away.  There is no hurry.  Love is patient.  So if he tells you he loves you, but he wants to get married NOW and you don’t even know who this guy (or gal) is, someone is on the fast track to pull someone’s wool over someone’s eyes.  Not everyone who smiles at you is to be trusted!  Beware the smiley face.  At church or work or anywhere else.  A smile is cheap.  Character runs deep.  You HAVE to know the person long enough to see if the smile is connected to character, or it’s all a show.  Anyone can be nice…for a time.  It’s time, times and time again where you really figure out what’s going on.  There’s no hurry.

But what do we do?  We give someone our heart just because they are nice and reach out to us.  So we tell him or her all our problems and he’s so understanding and it feels so good (I’m going to puke).  We’re sooooo needy.  We’re so lonely that anyone with a heartbeat and a smile will do.

No.  Folks.  This isn’t how it works.  Give your heart to this nice person when you don’t even know them?

And here’s a sure way to ruin your life without even skipping a beat: Have sex with them!  A whole bunch!  Grovel in each other’s underwear.  Now try making a rational decision.

You won’t and you’ll keep me busy for years to come.

Our romantic relationships today are based upon just two people’s impressions and given our penchant for being deceived and deceiving ourselves, it is too easy to fall into a trap.  The old saying, “it can’t be wrong, because it feels so right” is a load of crap.  You better have something better leading your life than your feelings or you will leave a trail of tears wherever you go, in your life and in everyone else’s around you.

This is why online and cohabiting relationships are so insidious and harmful.  They have as their birthplace, their foundation and beginning, two people using each other for their own benefit.  You go online to find someone to bless you?  Folks, this is just creepy.  It turns marriage on it’s head and makes marriage out to be a relationship for two selfish people who are each wanting the other to perform certain things to make the other happy.  Marriage is NOT about you finding the right person to make you happy.  This makes your spouse out to be an idol, and I don’t know if you’ve read the Bible much, or not, but thou shalt not have any graven images before Me is like, ah, one of the Ten Commandments.  Graven means carving out, making something to be like something else, and when you insist that your spouse make you happy you are carving him into something he cannot be nor should be and then when he doesn’t perform these miraculous works to make you “feel love” you will dump his sorry butt and go looking for another idol to fill your empty soul.

No.  Marriage is about two selfless people (of the opposite sex!  Our society is so perverted, I have to explain this?) each seeking to be a blessing to each other and developing a life together.  It’s not two people wanting the other to bless them.  It’s two people seeking to be a blessing to the other.

Cohabiting, same-sex, online dating, affairs and abusive relationships are all people looking for someone else to make them happy.  Relationships become your drug of choice.  And they last about as long, too.  If you insist your spouse make you happy, you put your spouse in prison and he will be screaming to get out.   As Proverbs 7 warns “Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng.”

We have a whole culture that is trying to ruin marriage for everyone by spreading the myth that marriage is about making you happy.  No wonder same-sex relationships are all the rage.  Those relationships are the king of seeking pleasure at someone else’s expense.  So are affairs.  No one has any patience.  Everyone wants everything right now.  No sense waiting for God’s leading.  I’ll just take the bull by the horns and squeeze out of all these desperate people online (if you are looking for a spouse or a lover online you are by definition, desperate) someone who will make me happy.  We’ll just cohabit with each other right now today.  No sense waiting.  We can be happy now:  A couple of leeches sucking blood out of each other.  They are both taking advantage of each other for their own benefit.  Weddings cost too much.  Sacrifice and patience are not in our vocabulary.  We’ll live for the now.  Right now.  For now.  Look at all the money we’ll save!  Free love!  All we need is each other.  We’re committed…as long as you make me happy.

Of course, if my feelings change, watch out!  I don’t have any control over my feelings, right (another load of crap)?  I have to do what my feelings tell me.  And my feelings tell me you are not the one for me any more because you no longer make me feel good.  It’s all about my feelings, see.  I made you my god, but when you didn’t deliver, I switched my god to my feelings.  Actually, my god was my feelings all along.  My smiley face to you was all a ruse!  I’m not really a nice person after all!  HA!  My bad.  Too bad for you.  I’m just a victim of my g0d-feelings and I must worship my navel.  It doesn’t matter if kids are involved.  Just so I’m happy.  And if I’m not happy divorced, I’ll just look online and find another part-time god to make me feel good long enough to leave a trail of bodies in the another ditch on another trail.

If you see me comin’ you better step aside.  A lotta men didn’t and a lotta men died.+

Marriage is worth waiting for.  Marriage is worth saving for.  Marriage is worth fighting for.  If Jacob worked 7 years for Rachel, no 14 years*, certainly you can wait until your wedding day.  But, you say, I don’t have anyone yet?  Have?  Have?  Isn’t that the whole problem?  It’s not “have.”  Let’s worry about being the right person instead of finding the right person.

Then, maybe a little patience might mean something.  Do something about something you have control over.  If you are married, you don’t have control over whether or not your spouse makes you happy.  You DO have control over whether or not you are a loving spouse.  He who would be greatest among you shall be your servant.

If you are single you need to stop LOOKING and start BEING.  Be content in and of yourself, so you don’t NEED someone else other than God to make you whole.  Develop you gifts.  Develop your talents.  Pursue your dreams.  Find a way to be a blessing to others beyond your work.  Learn.  Stretch.  Grow.  And pray.

And in the journey of living your life in obedience to God’s call on your life, sooner or later, for most of us, someone will find us who will be a person of character who is looking for a person of character.

Sooner or later.  God knows best right?  You’ve put yourself at His feet, right?  So let Him take care of it while you major on being a blessing to others.

But if the looking becomes your mission?

Welcome to a life of misery.

+Tennessee Earnie Ford, “Sixteen Tons”

*Genesis 29

Part Three: The Highway to an Affair or Abuse: Courtship and Impatience: Handmaidens of Disaster

Part Two: The Highway to an Affair or Abuse: The Slippery Slide

One of my readers suggested to me that I expand upon my last blog and discuss how an affair develops. You’ll remember in that blog I presented how affairs start, using Proverbs 7 as a template, where Solomon tells a story of how a young, naïve man (who becomes a fool that night) is tempted to succumb to a prostitute. He tempts himself by going near where she hangs out and then in a matter of moments she seduces him by her flattering looks, her flattering words, her touch, her reference to spiritual things (yes, spiritual!), her promise that she will be there for him (you’ve got to be kidding me!) and that everything has happened to prepare for this moment (The spiritual again: Happenstance? No. NO. NOOOO. Providence!!): My Husband just happens to be gone. He took lots of money for a business trip and we have all this time on our hands. The implication is even God wants us to PARTY! Careful about praying about having an affair. God won’t answer that prayer, but you can bet the other guy will happy to oblige!

You’ll note that I also suggested that abusive relationships and affairs use the same behavior patterns. An abusive male or female uses the same technique as a seductress or seducer. The only difference is that in affairs, they are BOTH using each other for their own ends, making each other abusers of the other. In a strictly abusive relationship, one can take advantage of the other, but more often than not, they are both abusing and using the other for their own ends.

You’ll note, also, that instead of discussing a young man I turned the story around and discussed how it would look if it was a young woman being tempted, not just in one day but over a period of time.

That story of Solomon’s gives us the nature of a one-night stand with a woman of the street, but the temptation can happen over time for either gender and it certainly doesn’t have to be prostitute, nor married, to qualify for selling your soul to the devil. That hot co-worker two cubicles across or two classrooms down or two doors down or two pews over will work just fine. No money need change hands. Both parties are trying to get something for nothing and both parties tempt each other. Yeah, yeah, yeah, in the story, she’s the one that seduces him, but she doesn’t have a literal affair that night without a willing partner. What’s he doing out looking? He had no business being there in the first place.

You’ll remember from my story that a seducer or seductress uses words to entice.In the King James Version the verse specifically says, “With her much fair speech she caused him to yield (vs. 21).”That is pretty instructive. It’s the words that entice (curiously, not attraction).Combine that with the look and the touch and the vague references to God and then boom:“all at once he followed her.”

All at once.

Affairs are subtle. The example in Solomon’s story occurs in a few minutes. For most of us, if we’re going to break the 7th Commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery), we prefer the subtle, slow cooking, frog in a pot method. You put a frog in a pot of cold water and it’s groovin’, swimming around and have a grand old time. Unbeknownst to the frog, we put the pot on the stove and turn on the heat and while the frog is groovin’ and a chillin’ it boils to death and it never knows the difference. Affairs are subtle. If you think you can play with fire and not be burned you are sadly mistaken.

A single person getting into an abusive relationship operates the same way. They may or may not be sexual before marriage (more often than not they ARE). Their emotions got involved before their brain. If they are sexual, this is double blindness (Triple? Sex combines them physically and spiritually, and then add the emotional?). This is why it is so important to go slow in courtship and to meet someone through your loving friends and relatives and coworkers whom you trust. This is why online relationships are fraught with danger. There’s NO ONE vouching for your potential spouse’s veracity. You go into it blind. Wait. Wait. Wait to open up emotionally until you know the other person shares your hopes and dreams and values and is a person of integrity. If you get involved emotionally before you know these things you may get too close to break it off when you discover deal breakers. Your emotions get ahead of your brain. Keep in mind that love is patient and the person you have to be most patient with is yourself! You don’t want to be married at ANY cost. It’s better to remain single than to marry the WRONG person. Don’t frog-in-the-pot yourself.

Cohabiting couples end up with the same risk. They move in together before they’ve learned enough about each other to see if they other really fits in with their respective life goals and aspirations and by getting sexually and emotionally involved BEFORE this information is on the table, they end up deluded and in the zone. Then they find all this crap out about each other that they hate and now they want to change each other and they fight, but now they are pregnant or have bought a house together or who knows what and their lives are filled with chaos. Love is patient. Cohabiting is selfishness on demand. What a mess.

Here’s a true story: A man and women meet each other in the bar while drinking and getting drunk. They have sex the night they meet. She gets pregnant. They get married right away. Their life is a disaster. Marriage isn’t going to fix this mess. Patience people.

Shirley Glass, in her classic study of affairs, calls this “the slippery slope.” In my office I draw a slide from a playground and call it “the slippery slide.” I tell my clients you have to stay off the slide altogether. Every step up the ladder you become more deluded and emotionally fooled and it becomes harder and harder to say no until you get to the top and you are ready to take the plunge and once you let go, you are a goner. Some people dance around on top of this slide on a regular basis and wonder why their lives are in chaos. It’s not a wonder to me. At all.

In answer to my reader’s question: What happens after the affair starts, the point in my story last time, where she opens up her heart and tells this wonderful, interesting and caring serpent, who comes as an angel of light, her problems?What happens then?All at once she follows him.All at once.

There’s a decisive moment in every affair, where a person reaches a point where he crosses the Rubicon. People who work with those who struggle with habitual substance use call this “the zone.” Believe me: affairs and abusive relationships are addictive. When you are in “the zone” you are totally deluded and lose all track of time and reality. If you happen to come see me when you are in the zone and I mention it or try to rattle your cage enough to help you get out of it, most of the time you will chide me (or even yell at me!) for not seeing your wisdom and delight and all the joys of your little zone. I just don’t understand and I’m being so judgmental. You’ll describe it to me in such glowing terms that it sounds like nirvana. It’s enough to make me puke, but you’ll think the vomit is the wellspring of life and there’s no talking you out of it, for most, until the whole delusion comes crashing down and then you’ll be all repentant and everything, but meanwhile you’ll have already destroyed your integrity, reputation, loved ones and oftentimes your career all in one fell swoop. Some of this behavior is downright illegal and you can also get your sorry butt arrested. You won’t be seeing me then. You’ll be visiting with the prison chaplain or social worker. I’m sure he’s a nice guy.

This decisive moment for most is the moment they open up their hearts to this wonderfully kind and generous co-worker. Or that person from church (yes, church!). Or that understanding neighbor. He seemed so genuine! The word here is “seemed.” Every seducer knows if he gets you to open up and the rest is a highway. They can tell you are lonely or hurting or resentful of your husband. You wear it on your sleeve. You talk down about your husband. You make a caustic remark about your wife or fail to compliment her when you have the opportunity. You come across as needy. And here is the vulture, all pretty or handsome and engaging and interesting and kind and loving, asking you all these personal questions (My husband never asks me these questions any more!) and it’s so flattering to be listened to, to be heard. And he doesn’t insult you, or scoff or roll his eyes, and I haven’t felt like this in, who knows how long, and so you open up more and more and then you start to feel a bit sheepish that this relationship is so one sided, with you talking about all your problems all the time, so you start to ask about his relationships and all of a sudden the seduced becomes the seducer and unbeknownst to you, you are now the temptress and he knows he shouldn’t be telling you his problems either, but you are so nice and you laugh at his jokes and you tease him and you don’t roll your eyes at him either and pretty soon the two of you are dancing on the top of the slide and the both of you plunge down it together and you wake up at the bottom and asked, “wa happened?”

But now, it’s not just your emotions that are involved. You had your heart in the mix and your feeeeeelings (you know how important your feelings are!!! Let them lead you all the way to hell.), but now your bodies have intertwined and you’ve dined on each other’s private delights and dang, it’s new and it’s exciting, and it’s dirty and dang, and dang, I’ve never had sex like that………………….EVER, so this is another one of those God leading me to break one of the Ten Commandments kind of spiritual moments where your pleasure just makes some sort of believer out of you (not sure what church that is). Sex was a spiritual experience! (Well, duh!). And now you are really hooked. And you have to lie to cover it up. But it doesn’t seem like lying, because you are in the “zone” and to you your feeeeeeelings are what’s most important. And of course his feeeeelings and as long as your and his feeeeeelings are so wonderful you’ll be in the clouds. Whoopee!!!

But the strange part is: When anyone else finds out about your little cult that you and your affairee have started, they will fail to be converted. You’ll know that what you are doing is WRONG, when your loved ones find out about it, they are appalled, hurt, frustrated, and angry (By the way, this is a good test of whether porn is right or not. If you can’t do it front of your wife or kids, it’s not right. Right? Well, I guess for a child pornographer that wouldn’t be a test. He’d be in the zone and totally deluded that showing a kid porn is cool. But for most of us….). But that won’t matter to you, at least while you are in the zone. You’ll justify it. You’ll explain it away. If you are really crazy, you and your affairee and fellow worshipper will dump your respective spouses and go off together, leaving a trail of tears and never be the wiser. You’ll blame everyone else for not sharing in your delusion and cut off your loved ones. They’re all crazy anyway, you’ll think.

A sad, sad, state of affairs, no pun intended.

“Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chamber of death.” (Proverbs 7: 25-17 KJV)

Part Three: The Highway to an Affair or Abuse: Courtship and Impatience: Handmaidens of Disaster

Part One: The Highway to An Affair and/or Abuse

“You look a little down today. What’s up?”*

“Oh, nothing,” she sighs.

“See, I can tell,” he prods.He looks at her with those eyes.Those eyes.Right in her eyes.His eyes are inviting.His eyes convey tenderness.His eyes shout longing.Her heart aches so much.She and her husband haven’t looked at each other like that for months.Actually, they’ve been bickering of late.The money’s been tight.Both have made accusations.Neither has been very nice.No tender eyes for who knows how long.She’s been wondering if she really wants to live this way.She knows she shouldn’t ponder those thoughts.She knows where discontent will take her if she will let it.Discontent sounds soooo good.Just nurse those wounds.Feed them with your hurts.That’s it.Lay the wood on the fire.Let the fire roar.See… it’s a nice fire.It won’t burn you.

“Something’s bothering you. Usually you are in such a good mood.” He touches her ever so gently on the arm. Her inner strength shrivels as the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet shrivel up when the ruby slippers are transferred from her to Dorothy.** She swoons just a little bit. She notices she’s nursing some wounds from some biting words of her husband. She knows better. But the resentful thoughts are juicy morsels in her brain. They taste soooo good. And now these words from Gus, her co-worker, add an au jus to her wounds, making them easier to swallow. She knows she shouldn’t.

“No, no, really. I’m fine,” she insists, ever so unconvincingly. Her mood belies her words. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see something’s amiss. Still…it’s none of Gus’ business. She knows this. She doesn’t need her counselor to tell her it’s none of Gus’ business. What is she doing, acting this way? It’s been so long since her husband touched her gently on the arm or asked how she was doing or looked her in the eye. Look me eye? What’s the deal with that? My husband can’t even look me in the eye?

“Hey, look. The Bible says that burdens shared make a lighter load. What’s up? You and I both know something’s bothering you.” The Bible? He quoted the Bible? Is that really in the Bible? My husband never talks about spiritual things. Is Gus a Christian? Wow. I never knew that. Certainly, opening up to a Christian would be Okay. He keeps looking at me that way. It’s so nice to have a man REALLY look at me. I’ve never felt so alone. He makes me feel complete. What is going on inside me? This is too weird.

“Well, ah, my husband and I haven’t been getting along so well of late.”

All of a sudden she follows him, as a sheep to slaughter.

There it is folks.The quickest way to Hell.Take a short cut through your integrity, straight into bondage and self-delusion.You think you can play with fire and not get burned?

I believe there are lechers out there that actually prey on single and married women, using tenderness, caring, spirituality, concern, eye contact, and touch to seduce and woo them away from their dignity.

What are you doing talking about your problems with this guy from work? Do you know what happens when you open up like that? You open up your heart to be abused by the worst of the worst. It feels so good. It’s can’t be wrong.

He knows you are hurting. You wear it on your face. He can see you are vulnerable. No one else asks. No one else cares. Gus cares? Are you kidding me? He’s a vulture circling, circling, ever so patient, waiting, waiting to come a pluck your very soul away. And then stomp on it and kick it and trash it and throw it away and then he’ll go find somebody else to ruin. It’s a game. And you are the ball, being kicked around.

Here’s the secret of an abuser and a philanderer (the methods are the same!): They go right for the heart. They know there are vulnerable women out there who are hurting and lonely and have no one to open up to, no one to talk to. They know if they ask these personal questions that it is flattering and feels good and it’s like water in a desert. They can tell who the hurting women are. They go right for the juggler vein. Suck the life right out of them and then leave them rot. The bodies of the deceived, were they to pill them up, would reach the moon.

This is called a boundary, people.And it can work the other way as well.There are women vultures too, preying on hen-pecked and/or lonely men.His wife is constantly on his case, reminding him of his faults, pointing out his shortcomings, on and on and on.He feels he can’t do anything right.He shuts down.The more he shuts down, the more animated she gets.The more animated she gets, the more he shuts down.And then this interesting gal at work praises him.He hasn’t been praised since…?And then she asks him his opinion.His opinion?And then she listens.Listens?A woman listened to me?She even portrays that she’s interested in him.Interested?She looks at him longingly.Longingly?He’s used to contempt at home.How is he supposed to handle eyes of longing?

And all of a sudden he follows her, as a sheep to slaughter.

Eyes.Touch.Spirituality.Tenderness.Listening.Acceptance.Concern.Knowing glances.These are what every heart longs for.Every marriage needs these things.Every heart needs these things.These are the tools of the seductress and seducer.These are also the tools of abusers and manipulators and the Devil himself.He comes as an angel of light.

Here’s a hint that the vultures are circling and your eyes are about to be plucked out, whether you are married or single: An interesting, vibrant person of the opposite sex asks you a personal question that is none of his business. This can happen online, on Facebook, through texting, or in person, at work or church. If this happens be very, very weary. Run away, run away.

Yes, even at church. So many affairs and so much abuse has happened in the name of the Lord, if we were to talk about it, it’d burn your ears. You can open up in your men’s or women’s Bible study or your accountability partner or your pastor in his office. You have no business opening up to your pastor anywhere else. I’m NOT kidding. No. He doesn’t come to your house when your husband is gone and give you advice. No. You don’t meet him for lunch and discuss with your pastor your husband’s affair. No, no and no. You tell your pastor this in his office and his secretary is 10 feet away. Boundaries people. Appropriate boundaries. He’s vulnerable, too. The rules apply to everyone.

If you are at work, you don’t go to lunch with any other person of the opposite sex alone. Whether you are single or married. EVER, unless it is strictly business related and your spouse knows what you are going to talk about and you talk about that at lunch and you tell your spouse what you talked about.

If you are single go as a group. No lunches alone until you’ve done your due diligence. By due diligence I mean that you don’t spend time alone with someone of the opposite sex who is NOT on your lists of possible marriage candidates.

EVER.

Due diligence is a huge subject by itself, but it simply means you don’t pursue any opposite sex relationship unless the other person has the characteristics that you seek in a future spouse. You’d never marry a smoker? Than don’t spend time alone with one, get emotionally attached and then think if you marry that person they need to stop smoking. That really isn’t fair. Don’t mess around with him in the first place. You want to marry someone who wants kids? Then don’t get involved with someone who doesn’t want kids, fall in love and then get all mad when he doesn’t want kids. If you haven’t made your due diligence list you’d better get out your laptop and start typing. Then don’t let anyone talk you out of it. It’s your list. And don’t go to lunch alone with them either. If you break this rule you are headed for a life of misery.

If someone at work or church of the opposite sex starts asking you personal questions, check your watch, tap it a couple of times and go crap, look at the time.Hey, nice talk to you, gotta go and and get the _____ out of there before the ____ gets into your heart.You don’t have to say why you are leaving.You don’t have to say what you are going to do.You don’t have to say anything.It’s NONE OF HIS BUSINESS.Don’t sell your soul for a pound of bread.

Don’t tempt yourself.

You have enough aches in your heart.

You don’t need any more.