There are few people who, in the wreckage that follows marital infidelity, can look back and point to the day when they sat up and said, "You know, I think I'll have an affair." Instead they say they had some unfulfilled need, that slowly—almost imperceptibly at first—someone besides their spouse began to supply. From there, it's a slippery slope to a full-blown extramarital affair and a broken marriage.
So how can you guard against this chain of events? By being aware of the key affair danger zones. Take a look at the scenarios below and be honest about whether there are marriage danger zones in your relationship.
1. Work. It's so cliché, but it's so true. The office is fertile ground for male-female relationships to grow, and sometimes they grow beyond the bounds of what's acceptable for married people. Some have even coined the phrase "office spouse" to describe their 9 to 5 sidekick in the next cubicle who plays the role of best friend and confidante in the workplace. It may sound archaic, but your interaction with co-workers of the opposite sex must remain strictly professional. If you need a work buddy, make it someone of the same gender. Anytime conversation with other co-workers drifts into personal areas, complimenting one another's appearance, or sharing about other relationships, you should see a red flag. Anytime you're working one-on-one or after hours, you should see a red flag. The only way to ensure that these relationships don't go too far is to set up safeguards that make sure they don't go at all.
2. Social Relationships. I didn't believe that my couples' supper club was a marital danger zone until two of our member couples divorced because of an affair taking place between one husband and another wife. But looking back, I could see how it started. There was flirting disguised as joking. There were inappropriate conversations. It was basically a ticking time bomb that was bound to go off. How do you and your husband relate to other couples in social situations? Do you keep a friendly, but respectful distance when talking to friends of the opposite sex? Do you guard your body language to keep from sending the wrong signals? Do you dress modestly? Take care in these environments to head off trouble before it has a chance to start.
3. Social Networking Sites. We’re all a little fascinated by the ability of a site like Facebook to reconnect us with long-lost friends and classmates, instantly bridging the miles and years. But these sites can give an open door to relationships that are better off left alone. We let down our guards, in a sense, when we’re interacting through the computer screen.
Think about it this way: you would never sit around chatting on the phone with your old college boyfriend or girlfriend. The same for a co-worker of the opposite sex. Your spouse wouldn’t be comfortable with that, nor should they be. But many married people are more likely to chat online or trade conversation through social networking. Either way, it’s just not appropriate. If you find yourself chatting or becoming online friends with someone you wouldn’t want your spouse to know about—you’re way over the line. If this is a gray area for you, do yourself a favor and err on the side of caution by limiting online friendships, or closing your accounts altogether.
4. Counseling Relationships. Hurting people are vulnerable, which is why it's far too common for a counselor/client relationship to stray beyond the bounds of the professional. The very nature of a counseling situation requires that you share highly personal information—information that you would never discuss with a member of the opposite sex in any other environment. The pain and low self-esteem of many counseling patients makes them so starved for any type of affection or affirmation that they'll rush into the arms of anyone who'll offer it. If you're confident that your counselor is a person of integrity, both personally and professionally, you may benefit from their help. But proceed with caution, and discontinue counseling the minute you sense any conversation which seems more personal than clinical. And don't assume that counselors who are clergy are immune from this phenomenon. There are, unfortunately, countless tales of men and women destroying their families and ministries through affairs that began in counseling others. The safest course is to choose a counselor of the same gender.
One final note—counseling can also take place between "friends." The rule here: don't confide in members of the opposite sex. Additionally, if a man tries to cry on your shoulder, politely decline to be his emotional confidante.
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