In recent years I think it would be safe to say that 100% of the affair cases involving sexuality I’ve seen in my office have involved texting in one form or another. Certainly they all included some kind of electronic communication: emailing, chatting, cell phone calls and texting being the primary vehicles of choice. Clients sometimes scoff at me when I say these kinds of things. I’m sure these folk are thinking I’m a prude. I probably come off like the kidney doctor I knew who would bring out a kidney donation card whenever he met a motorcyclist to have him sign it so, he’d say, when he was killed driving a motorcycle someone would benefit from his kidney! I’m still driving my motorcycle. I figure, despite my warning, many of my clients still text with abandon. They are all borrowing trouble.
A recent Iowa Supreme Court case from Fort Dodge that has reached national news has emphasized my point, however. You can read the report here. Basically, a female employee was fired from a dentist office because the dentist’s wife was threatened by the employee that her husband, the dentist, was having an affair with her. The employee sued for wrongful firing and lost because of her text records indicated the relationship she had with her boss went beyond employee-employer and far over into the personal arena. They had both texted each other outside of work and neither had objected to the texting.
She didn’t sue for sexual harassment, though I believe her boss was completely out of line and fully responsible for his actions and as her boss he had no business texting her about personal things. The court ruled the relationship was consensual and he had good reasons to fire her…because of the mutual texts.
I personally think the decision is unfair because in a top-down relationship (boss/employee), we always and rightly hold the boss, teacher, president responsible for crossing boundaries with their employee, student, intern….well, maybe not, but we certainly should.
My point here is the idea of integrity and texting and if you are going to keep your integrity you had better limit your texting to colleagues to professional matters. Anything you text can and could be used against you in the court of law for decades to come and you can get your butt in a ringer. But, more likely, you’ll call your own integrity into question if you start texting other people beyond the professional area. I’ve seen it lead to sexual affairs over and over again. If you are willing to cross the line in your texts from the professional to the personal, it won’t be long before other boundaries are crossed. And then you’ll come see me and ask, “What happened? I didn’t intend to have an affair.”
We all know it didn’t “just happen.” Boundaries were crossed, secrets were kept and before long a person is sliding down the slide of an affair not able (and often not willing) to stop. If the person hadn’t crossed the line of professional on the texting thing in the first place, the affair business would have never occurred. As I tell my clients, “You don’t play frisbee next to the Grand Canyon!”
If a colleague texts you beyond “the meeting is at 3 in room 112” you need to do two things: 1) tell your spouse and 2) tell the person you only use texting for professional reasons. If the person refuses to stop you may have to take it to his superior. If he owns the company you may have to take it to the professional state board he answers to (Don’t worry he’ll listen to them!) or find another job. Working in an environment where it is accepted to cross boundaries and tempt people to break their own integrity simply isn’t worth it.
You’ve been warned!
Integrity Is Looked Down Upon
Recently I completed a four session adult education class at my church (First Evangelical Free Church in Ames, Iowa) on the topic of Integrity. Since it’s been awhile since I’ve had a series on my blog I thought I’d share a few of the insights I gleaned from my study and from comments from the class members.
The class was well received, this being the first time I’ve shared this information in public. The topic is relevant to all of us, because we live in a hypocritical age that criticizes anyone that falters on the one hand and brags about our binges and sexual exploits on the other hand. A basic theme in our media is: live life on the edge and we’ll mock and disparage you when you do.
Which is it?
Why Integrity Is So Important
Integrity says neither! Integrity is the very thing our society lacks and longs for. It’s the missing ingredient hurting marriages need. It’s the aching in every child of divorce, every spouse who’s dumping the other or being dumped, every cohabiting single person, and every sexually active youth.
Our motto could be “Give me integrity or give me death” because without integrity promises become void, certainty becomes uncertainty, confidence becomes a lie, trust becomes a joke, reliance a figment of our imagination and confusion reigns.
Welcome to modern America.
I used four resources for my material: 1) The Bible; 2) Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality (Which I highly recommend); 3) Examples from the news; 4) My clinical experience. This blog series will also draw upon some of the comments from the class members. A thanks goes out to them for their insights and lighthearted spirit.
Integrity is the fundamental need in marriages today and timely for blogs on the topic. I’m convinced if everyone had integrity, I’d be out of a job. If you had integrity and your parents had integrity and their parents had integrity and we multiplied this throughout the world, our world would be a vastly different place.
What Does Integrity Mean
Dr. Cloud wrote in the book referred to above that the word “integrity” comes from the word integer, meaning whole number. You remember this from your 8th grade math classes, right? One is a whole number. Two is a whole number. Three is a whole number. One, two and three are all integers. 2.2 is not a whole number or integer. 2.2 is partly an integer, but not really.
When we say someone has integrity we mean they are whole. They are not a fake. Their word is good. What they are in the dark, they are in the light. They keep their promises. Their heart does not wander.
Integrity means there’s no holes in the boat. A boat needs to be 100% hole-less. 100% solid. How big of a hole will it take to cause the boat to sink? You say, “Well, it’s a perfectly fine boat. See? The hull is 99% whole. We’re fine!”
No. We want a boat with no holes.
I’d thought of standing in the front of the class and having a clear glass of water in one hand and a jar of urine in the other and then ask the class to tell me how much urine I could pour into the glass of water before they wouldn’t drink it. Someone commented, “You know, if you are dying of thirst you could survive on your urine.” Someone else piped in, “You know, if you drive your boat fast enough, the water will get sucked out of the hole.” And someone else said, “Stay away from the urine examples.” And everyone laughed. They were killing me!
But you get the point.
He’s leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and his fingers intertwined, like he’s praying, and he’s looking at me with a pleading look on the one hand and a please don’t answer the question on the other. If I’m able to answer this question in any cogent way at all he knows he’s going to have to say goodbye to a friend that he’s depended on for comfort almost daily or even daily for fifteen years and it’s like pulling a dead puppy away from a little boy whose been crying over the dead puppy just a little too long and instead of growing up the little boy clings to the dead puppy for comfort, knowing that if he doesn’t let go he can’t become a man.
Every boy knows this. You don’t need me to tell you. In fact that would be the first reason to give up porn: you can’t become a man if you don’t. I don’t mean the TV version of a man. A man on TV sitcoms is shallow and selfish and short-tempered and petty. No. I’m talking about a man who has dignity and deserves respect and can hold his head high and can be proud, not arrogantly so that he pushes people away, most of all his loved ones, but proud in the sense that he has nothing to hide.
Nothing to hide. That would be the second reason to give up porn. The power of porn is the secret. Porn tells you you have to hide. You can’t be known. If anybody knew your little secret the facade would come crashing down like the Wizard of Oz: “Ignore the little man behind the curtain.
That’s what you are when you do porn: a little man behind a curtain. The fantasy of porn is you are a big man. Look at these robust images of pleading females just ogling for your flesh. How come that doesn’t happen in real life, man? I mean, little boy? I had one guy tell me point blank (I didn’t even have to bring the subject up.) that porn was easier than having to have a relationship. Yeah, ain’t that the truth: having a relationship.
That’d be a third reason to quit the stuff: It’s NOT a relationship. It’s training you to NOT have a relationship. It’s self-worship. It turns you inward. You become your own idol. The problem is you make too small of a god. You aren’t big enough to worship. You tell me, well, I’m not a Christian. Okay. Fine. Here’s a non-denominational thought for your non-Christian brain: Jesus said, the pure in heart shall see God. So turn that on it’s head and what do you get? The impure in heart will see ________? Tell me what you see if you are impure in heart? You’re not religious, right? But you are impure? You’d dispute that porn isn’t impure? Are you kidding me? Who are you fooling? You actually believe this poison you’ve been worshiping is (can I say this?) pure? Pure?
You know it’s not. And if you tell yourself it’s fine while you drag your mind through the gutter you are a fool. You don’t have to be a Christian to know you are a fool. And impure. And if you are impure of heart you are going to see something, just not God. So go ahead, you non-Christian (or Christian or priest or pastor for that matter. Porn is no respecter of persons) and tell me what you see.
That’s another reason to quit porn. It tells you lies you believe. You don’t really believe them, but then again you do. And you know it’s sucking your very life away. Away. Away. Here’s a true story. I could multiply it a million times if I had the time to hear all the stories.
There once was a man who hated his job. The odd thing was he trained for this job and went to college and spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to become good at this job and there was a time when he felt really accomplished at this job because he was good at it, but, alas, it had lost it’s allure.
Simultaneous to learning his career he was also learning to cope with his problems by masturbating to unrealistic images of ungodly women doing contorted unnatural ungodly things. It was like his career had two tracks: One where he learned a respectful, fulfilling, creative career; one where he learned to frit away his time in the gutter. When his job became difficult, as every job does now and then, even if you like it, he’d go to porn for a little buzz, a little pick-me-up, and he’d feel better for a little while, but he couldn’t get back to his work, because he’d trained his mind to want to wander into the gutter along with all the ungodly women doing contorted ungodly things whenever his problems came to bear on his life.
One day his boss caught him looking at ungodly women doing contorted ungodly, unnatural things, right there in the boss’ business on the boss’ time. This particular young man was lucky, because the boss could have fired him on the spot as a lot of companies have a one and done policy. They don’t take kindly to employees coming to work, pretending to work and fritting away their time in la-la land. It’s called stealing. This would be another reason to quit porn. Nevertheless, this particular employee had a gracious boss, who took the young man aside, who was used to coping with his problems by thinking of ungodly women doing contorted ungodly, unnatural things, and said, as much as he liked the young man, he didn’t want to pay the young man to frit away his time living in a fantasy world and if the boss ever caught the young man fritting away his life on company time again he would be immediately fired.
The young man (boy?) was very repentant, because, even though he hated his job, he liked the money, and fritting away his time with ungodly women doing contorted ungodly, unnatural things wasn’t important enough to the young man to give up his job and eventually live under a bridge so the young man gave up porn cold turkey. He realized that if he was going to quit porn at work he had to quit porn everywhere because he couldn’t very well concentrate at work if he was continually thinking of breasts and butts and other private parts flailing around here and there. He’d found that if he did it at home or on his cell phone at other places that even if he put his phone or computer away the images were still rushing through his brain like an uncontrollable flood and while at times he’d entertain these thoughts just to get through the day, he’d decided, on his own, without his therapist or pastor or anyone else for that matter telling him, that it wouldn’t be fair to his boss to be thinking of these ungodly women doing ungodly contorted unnatural acts instead of concentrating on his work even if he wasn’t looking at those types of things at work anymore. In other words, his conscience kicked into gear. This would be another reason to quit porn.
And an amazing thing happened. Over time, even over a few weeks, he discovered his job again. It’s like he’d been in a desert and didn’t know he was thirsty. How he ever became so discontent he’d no idea. This would be another reason to quit porn. His mind cleaned up. It no longer, or rarely at least, dipped into this fantasy world, and he began to concentrate on his work. He saw he’d made errors on his job. He saw he’d been incomplete. He saw he’d been, basically, incompetent, because his job required him to be meticulous, but he couldn’t be meticulous, when he was thinking of UWDCUUT and various body parts going this way and that. He realized the lion’s share of his discontent with his job had to do with his own failure to perform and be creative in his field and the discontent he felt so strongly was not really about his job at all, but about his own failure of character. He came to this thought on his own without reading any fancy books on porn or talking to his therapist or pastor or anyone else for that matter.
He found that when he discovered these mistakes and oversights that he felt really accomplished for doing a good job and his enthusiasm for his job began to return. He was thinking clearly and seeing there were a lot of things he’d been overlooking. He thought of new ideas to improve things. His creativity came back. His passion for his work came back. In fact, he no longer dreaded coming to work and liked his job again.
This would be another reason to quit porn: it takes your creativity away and replaces it with sloth, unfulfilled desires, discontent, impatience and anger.
Discontent, impatience and anger are the blood brothers of porn. It teaches you to meet your needs now, instantly, whenever you want. Getting what you want when you want it is only a click away. I would submit to you that getting your own way when you want it will turn you into an unbearable prick which would be another reason to quit porn.
And I haven’t even mentioned your wife (or future wife. If you are not married, let’s not forget her. That’d be another reason to quit porn) and how it devastates her and tells her she’s not pretty enough or thin enough or stacked enough or flamboyant enough or contorted enough because she’s very aware somehow these UWDCUUT somehow make you happy or you convey that to her by your judgmental comments now that your brain is steeped on perversion and multiple body parts too numerous to mention. Having just two breasts, for example, wouldn’t really do it for it you, now would it? That’d be reason enough right there to quit the stuff. Really.
In fact, there are lots of reasons to quit porn. We’ve listed a few. Let me summarize:
- you can’t become a man if you don’t
- you can’t be a genuine person if you don’t
- you can’t be open and have honest relationships if you don’t
- you can’t be honest with yourself if you don’t
- you can’t concentrate on your work or anything else for that matter if you don’t. It literally robs you of your creativity and drive.
- you can’t trust your conscience or be conscientious if you don’t
- you can’t be productive if you don’t
- you can’t be content if you don’t
- you can’t not be a prick or control your anger or anything else for that matter if you don’t
- you can’t relate to your future wife like you should if you don’t
- you won’t be content with your wife and will devastate her or future wife if you don’t
But you didn’t need me or your therapist or your pastor or anyone else for that matter telling you, did you?
But when Mr. Cain admits that he gave Ginger White money for a long time, and even recently,
“because she was out of work, had trouble paying her bills and I had known her as a friend…. I’m a soft-hearted person when it comes to that stuff. I have helped members of my church. I have helped members of my family.
“And I know a lot of other people who had done the same thing. She was asking me to help her, and sometimes, quite frankly, it was desperation,” Cain said….
And, he acknowledged, “My wife did not know about it, and that was the revelation. My wife found out about it when she went public with it.”
Not only didn’t his wife not know about the financial assistance, he said, but she also “did not know we were friends until she (White) came out with this story.
“My wife now knows,” Cain said. “My wife and I have talked about it and I have explained it to her. My wife understands that I’m a soft-hearted giving person.”
He said his wife “is comfortable with the explanation that I told her.”
then I’ve got to write something. He’s laid out the nature of an affair for all the world to see.
Since I deal with affairs for a living and one of the big issues is helping the couple get on the same page regarding what is and is NOT an affair so we can deal with it, these statements by Mr. Cain can help us clear the air.
There’s a widespread belief that you only have an affair if you’ve had intercourse with someone. That’s a bunch of baloney. Any seventh grader can tell you you can do a lot more things sexually than just intercourse and you can do a lot more things in an affair then just not have sex.
Over the years I’ve dealt with hundreds of trust issues around people outside the marriage from clandestine meetings with coworkers and texting and emails and “chatting” and calls about issues other than work on the one hand and repeated sexual encounters with people of the opposite sex over a long period of time: emotional involvement on one end and sexual involvement on the other. The spouses of these folk on both ends of the spectrum sound the same when they describe how they are taking their spouses’ actions. They use the same words. They use the same inflection. They convey the same despair. How could this possibly be?
The reason? They were having the same experience. They were just as upset when their spouses were involved with others emotionally as they were if they were involved sexually. In fact, most people would tell me it hurts them more if their spouses were involved emotionally than sexually because the plumbing works. You can do it with anyone. But in order to be emotionally involved with someone you have to LIKE them! You have to give them your HEART.
That’s led to my definition of an affair:
Any time you meet someone else’s needs when you should meeting your spouse’s needs or any time someone else (or in the case of pornography, something else) is meeting your needs, when your spouse should be the only one meeting those needs, that would be an affair.
Obviously this includes sexuality. The only person meeting your spouse’s sexual needs is you and the only one meeting your sexual needs is your husband or wife.
But this also includes affection.
And emotional needs.
Needs for companionship.
Needs for fun.
Needs for friendship.
Needs for someone to open up to, to talk to, to share.
Needs for recreation, fitness.
Needs for tenderness, compassion, a listening ear, banter, acceptance.
And yes, financial needs.
NO. We’re not going to go exercise with someone of the opposite sex at work during our lunch hour. Recreation and exercise are major doorways to sexual affairs. It connects the couple (yes, they are acting like a couple) in their experience, when they should be having those experiences with their spouses.
NO. We’re not going to be texting co-workers about personal stuff or even texting and asking if they are having a good day. Texting is doorway to an affair. It is intensely intimate and private and intimate and private things lead to places that play with our heart stings and the hearts of those on the receiving end.
NO. We’re not going to call our “friend” and talk about our day and check up and tell each other our concerns and worries. You should be doing that with your spouse. A good rule of thumb is to NEVER talk about your personal concerns with others of the opposite sex except your spouse.
NO. We’re not going to eat lunch alone on a regular basis with an opposite sex coworker. That’s too intimate and sends the wrong message to your spouse (most important), your co-worker you are having lunch with (if you do this they are probably nurturing a secret crush on you and/or you on them) and your other co-workers (tongues will wag). Everyone is going to doubt your integrity on that deal and it’ll just bite you in the butt.
NO. We’re ESPECIALLY NOT going to give a needy person of the opposite sex money! Crap. Are you kidding me? It’s NOT our job to meet someone else’s financial needs. As a couple OUR money is OUR money and WE decide who to GIVE to. This is a subject for discussion and prayer. This isn’t anything either of us does alone. Too much is at stake.
NO. If he is having financial problems and you feel compelled to help him, you need to bring your spouse on board and the two of you discuss how you want to handle the situation. Maybe give to him anonymously through your church or other non-profit group? If you give her the money directly, especially if it is more than once, you create a very questionable and dependent relationship.
Finances are particularly dicey. If Mr. Cain gives money to this gal, it creates an unbalanced relationship. The key to long-term relationships is keeping them relatively balanced, with a fair give and take. You borrow your neighbor’s lawn mower. He borrows your ladder. If he never borrows your ladder, the relationship is unbalanced and won’t work and every time you want to borrow his mower, he’s going to resent you, unless you give him a nice Christmas present or something to balance it out again. If Mr. Cain gives Ginger White money, what is she going to give him back? Over and over he gives her money and she doesn’t give anything back?
That’s just weird.
And frankly unbelievable.
Really, really unbelievable.
And if it’s true it’s a decided lack of good judgment on both their parts.
And he didn’t tell his wife?
I can tell you that I’ve had people in therapy for a lot less than this and I would guess that anyone who found out that their spouse had a “secret” friendship for YEARS and on top of that gave this person money for YEARS and never told his spouse about it, that when the spouse found out about it, she would feel a tremendous amount of violation of trust on that deal and would be screaming mad and if she didn’t I’d be trying to goad her self-respect into gear.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: As married people we don’t have secrets from each other. Period. No secret activities. No secret friends. No secret spending of money. Married people don’t have secrets unless they want to be unhappily or formerly married.
The whole advantage of being married is checking in with each other about whatever and getting some feedback so that you don’t do really stupid stuff, like give money repeatedly and secretly to a needy woman. If he would have told his wife of this needy woman years ago his wife would have put a stop to it and Mr. Cain might still be a presidential candidate. Really. Accountability works, folks. Secrets and marriage don’t mix.
Here’s how I think of it: If you are single you can do whatever you want. You probably shouldn’t, but no one cares.
If you are married, somebody cares. So you touch base.
If you have a secret relationship with somebody and you also give this person money over a long period of time and you DON’T tell your spouse, then what you are telling your spouse whether your spouse finds out or not is that you don’t need your spouse in your life and you can do what you want and you are basically living a single life. If your spouse doesn’t figure this out and she is “comfortable with the explanation that I told her” then somebody isn’t telling somebody the truth or somebody isn’t dealing with reality and we’re living in fantasy land and we aren’t calling a spade a spade.
I don’t believe for a minute Mr. Cain’s wife is “comfortable with the explanation that I told her.” The normal reaction in a situation like that is extreme violation, abandonment, fear, worry, insecurity, and what the crap other things is he not telling me? Secrets in marriage = a lie, because the idea of marriage is we run things by each other and neither of us just does our own thing. So if you’ve been doing your own thing with this other woman for 13 years and giving her money and not telling me, how do I know that you what you are telling me now is the truth? You just got done lying to me for 13 years. And I believed you. Now, just like that, I’m to believe you now when just a few days ago I find out you’ve been lying to me this whole time? And be “comfortable?”
This is just crazy stuff.
If you have secrets from your spouse you need to come clean. If you can’t come clean come see me and we’ll chat about it and figure out a way. Or tell your spouse and then bring him or her in and we’ll talk about building trust back. It takes a long time. It can be done. But you don’t just say you are sorry and expect everything to be Okay. That is decidedly NOT the way back to healing.
That would be insulting.
Check out all of these materials (here) to get a better grasp of the Model.
The Development of the Model:
The Model arose after hearing from clients the stories of thousands of individuals and adults about their relationships. Most of these were married. Many were cohabiting or had cohabited before. Others were single or divorced, some several times. These people would tell me, often without prompting, the key elements that were missing in their marital or romantic relationships or the types of things they felt were important to making a marital relationship worthwhile. The six elements of the Model are the six things these people brought up in sessions, over and over again.
While some researchers might question the wisdom of creating a Model of Marriage from people who are hurting, I would counter, that people who are hurting know instinctively what is missing and can articulate very convincingly the things they need. A person in the desert knows he needs water to survive. A person who just finished a 32-ounce Coke may be upset because his iPhone doesn’t have reception. They both need water to survive, but the person in the desert is much more aware.
Priorities in the Model:
As you look at the graphic of the Model, note that it is built from the ground up. The item lower on the graphic trumps the items above it. This is a very helpful way to understand, as a couple and a therapist, what priorities are needed to improve the marriage.
For example, Commitment trumps Trust: it won’t matter if you are having an affair, if you are going to leave me. Trust trumps Communication: I won’t believe a word you are saying if I think you are lying to me! Communication trumps Sexuality: Why would I want to be sexual with you if you never talk to me, or all you do is criticize me?
The Elements of the Model:
The Model has six layers with two concepts in each layer. The two concepts at each layer are complementary to each other and necessary to the complete understanding of that area. For example, we can’t just communicate. We also need to be able to solve our problems. In addition, you’ll note that all of the concepts at each level are interactive and dependent on the teamwork of both spouses. You don’t communicate alone or you aren’t affectionate alone. This helps couples see the character of their Marriage depends upon both of them working for the common good of the family the two of them started.
Marriage and Commitment:
When I use the word Marriage I’m referring to a husband and wife who have made a public pledge to leave their father and mother and start a new family. In my view, Marriage is NOT about loving, romantic relationships. Defining marriage as simply a romantic relationship has reduced marriage to feelings, leading to our horrendous divorce and cohabiting rates and encouraging anyone to be “married.” This watered-down view has taken away from Marriage its intrinsic worth, and devalued it to the point where 50% of our married people throw theirs away. Marriage has historically meant the complementary of a man and a woman, who are one in their uniquely, sexually, monogamous relationship, who promise in a public way their mutual commitment to each other in their new family. Their family has the potential to be intergenerational, forming the safest and most tender place for the next generation to be raised. Anything less reduces marriage to a loaf of bread: buy a new one if you feel like it.
Commitment is the idea that the vows of Marriage are continually reinforced throughout their lives together, because they’ve formed a new family. Neither partner does or says things to call their Commitment or their new family into question.
Cohabitation does NOT offer the security of Married for Life and because the couple doesn’t know if either is in or out for sure, insecurity lurks beneath the scene. Married couples who threaten the Marriage by saying things like “I can’t take this any more” or “I deserve to be happy,” also create insecurity and if either party thinks the other might leave, they start protecting themselves from the other spouse. Either scenario (cohabitation or threats to leave) causes people to see their partner as their roommate instead of a husband or a wife, leading to marital problems and chaos and, for many, divorce or breaking up.
Trust and Accountability:
Trust is the idea that what spouses say matches what they do and they both keep appropriate boundaries with others. There is an invisible boundary around their marital relationship and neither does anything to call that into question. In Accountability both partners willingly tell each other what is going on because they each want the other in his or her life! They do this because they want to compare notes and pool their wisdom and look out for one another. They can’t protect each other, unless they both know where the other is.
Couples that don’t practice this end up keeping secrets from each other and not telling each other what they need to, which introduces insecurity into the relationship and makes one or the other feel controlled or totally unimportant. This also leads to couples living as roommates. Roommates DON’T tell each other what is going on! Married people do, or at least should!
Communication and Problem Solving:
Wise couples will BOTH Communicate their concerns with each other and they BOTH will work together to solve both their concerns. No relationship is perfect and will need to be tweaked now and then. The relationship will not improve, if one or the other or both cannot or will not share their concerns or every time differences are brought up, anger, fighting, or shutting down are a threat. Couples who are not able to resolve their differences or at least work them through to a satisfactory level will find their relationship deteriorating over time. Couples who can’t work through their differences become roommates and either fight or become indifferent. If the relationship can’t get better it will get worse. Over time this can lead to Trust and Commitment issues.
Fun and Friendship:
Couples that enjoy their marriages enjoy each other’s company and they enjoy each other’s company because they spend time alone together and have a relationship on their own accord, apart from their children and/or friend or other family members. This is difficult to do in modern society due to our busy lives, but Thriving Couples understand this and will make special efforts to spend time alone as a couple, enjoying each other’s company and developing their common interests throughout their lives together. Couples, who end up as roommates, develop their own individual private interests only and invest in their careers and children, putting each other on hold. Over time they will grow distant and, if they are not careful, will just pass each other in the hall. This lack of time and effort on both parties’ part will be interpreted as an affront or indifference by each other and will bleed into other areas of the marriage, creating other, more serious problems. For example, why be married to someone who won’t spend any time with me having fun?
Warmth and Affection:
Couples need Warmth and tenderness and one of the easiest ways to convey that is through Affection. By Affection I mean non-sexual, non-demand touching. There is a public and private aspect to this. The public aspect conveys to the children and society at large and to each other that the two of them are an item. The children see mom and dad holding hands on the couch and giving each other a hug and a meaningful kiss at the end of the day. Privately the couple is close in the privacy of their own bed. Their bedroom is a sanctuary with a lock on the door. The couple cuddles, again, without sexual overtones, on a regular basis, keeping the relationship Warm.
Couples, who end up as roommates, avoid Affection and use excuses to keep from doing it. If one is more affectionate, that spouse may give up pursing it because it doesn’t seem reciprocal. Or one may say, I’m just not the affectionate type, leading to neither touching each other, publically or privately. Affection that is one-sided feels forced and lacks Warmth for both. The couple may rarely touch each other in bed (or anywhere else!), have a child or dog in the bed between them in bed or not sleep in the same bed at all! Without Warmth and Affection the relationship grows cold and it is not long before they are both living as roommates and the couple is dealing with many other problems as well.
Intimacy and Sexuality:
There are four purposes for Sexuality: 1) to bring the next generation; 2) to ensure the spiritual connection between a husband and wife; 3) as a creative force in our lives to be a blessing to our families and the wider community (e.g. work, art, service, giving, volunteering); 4) as spiritual energy directed toward God in worship. In any other contexts sexuality becomes a force of chaos, abuse, perversion and death.
The wise couple understands this and makes sure that the Sexuality between them has Intimacy, by which I mean it is mutual and meaningful. Without these two elements Sexuality feels forced or inappropriate or hurtful or selfish. On the flip side couples that ignore sexuality end up losing their love for each other as the spiritual energy between them leaks away. Still other roommate scenarios include one or the other or both getting their sexual needs meant elsewhere or the introduction of other people (e.g. swinging) or things (e.g. pornography) into the sacred marriage bed that is just meant for the husband and the wife. These extremes (coercion, indifference or perversion) cause couples to become roommates, raise marital problems in other areas and may lead to divorce.
Importance of the Model:
All the elements of the Model are necessary for a Marriage to be strong. Weakness in one area can quickly trickle into other areas. Just like a house wouldn’t be much of a house if it is missing a roof or a furnace or a kitchen or windows, so, too, marriage without all the elements will suffer. The Model suggests starting with the most basic foundational area before working on the areas above it (looking at the graphic of the Model: work on Trust before Communication, etc.). Knowing what the weaknesses are helps couples set their own goals as they seek to improve their marriages and can give them tangible places to start going forward. Marital therapists can use the Model to assess the couple and create therapy goals.
Other Issues and the Model:
Money and Children:
Most other issues (e.g. money and children) can be subsumed under the Communication and Problem Solving section. Nevertheless, any issue can become a Marriage and Commitment issue, if the couple can’t work it through, one or the other makes threats to leave or, in frustration, either makes unilateral decisions. For example, quite often in cohabiting couples and step-family situations, money and children become Commitment issues! For example, in a step-family situation, if you don’t warm up to my birth-child, I’ll divorce you! YIKES! Unilateral decisions and threats to break up or divorce in these kinds of settings are common. The major concern here is “how” a couple handles their problems.
When I was first thinking through the Model I considered having protection as one of the major components: safety first, right? After some reflection, I decided that protection is one of the assumptions and purposes of the family and it is germane to each level of the Model. We could speak of protection at each level. Protection is one of the key reasons the family exists in the first place. Protection will be a theme at each level as I write about and develop the Model.
The Thriving Couples Model can help you as a couple determine areas that need work for you to make the most of your Marriage or your relationship. If you are a potential marital therapy client or marital therapist the Model will help you focus on priorities. The Thriving Couples Model provides a philosophy and a structure for improving your Marriage, when both parties realize you exist in the Marriage, not to make each other or yourselves happy, but to sacrifice for the benefit of your new family. Your family is bigger than either of you, is worth sacrificing for, and both of you are key players in making it all it can be.
This blog Copyright by Dr. Bing Wall, Heart to Heart Communication, LC, 2011
To listen to the one hour podcast explaining the Thriving Couples Model in more detail, click here.
To check out the Graphic of the Model, the Chart Contrasting Living as Roommates vs. Husbands and Wives or to download a PDF of this blog today click here.