All right my peeps. It’s time for some straight talk. I think we’ve been friends for long enough to be real with each other, right? Today I am going to get really real. Like, you may-want-to-cover-your-eyes real. I want to talk about fidelity, or marriage,or families, or maybe all three. It’s hard to separate them.
I was talking to a Realtor/friend this week. She was telling me that she’s getting her butt kicked. She’s been working with so many friends and acquaintances who are calling it quits. They’re splitting one home into two. Everyone is miserable about giving up on what once seemed like a really good idea.
That’s sad stuff. It’s sad for the family that it’s happening to, but it’s also sad for everybody who cares about them. Everybody who wanted that marriage to last a lifetime, is now mourning the fact that it won’t. Divorce is just sad. We all know this.
On the same day my friend and I were talking about sad divorces, I had an interesting grocery store experience. I was getting my cart, and when I turned around this guy appeared from nowhere. He was about my age, and he was wearing a suit. I didn’t know him. He said, “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but notice how nice you look.”
Well, if you want to know how to scare the crap out of me, that’ s a good way to do it. I jumped. I think I said, “Thank you. That’s nice.” My heart started racing. Not in a good way, in a scared way. I pushed my cart away as fast as I could. I think he may have been following me for a while, but I couldn’t be sure. My eyes were locked straight ahead. I am not used to uncomfortable conversations with men.
I know that guy probably tried that approach 10 times that day. You might be thinking that I’m flattering myself. You might be right. He may have thought I was a nice elderly lady who could use a compliment. But, if that were true, then I couldn’t make a point here. Just let me make a point. Can you at least give me that?
This guy got me thinking about some things. He got me thinking about marriage. He got me thinking about how precious marriage is, how fragile it is, and how good marriages don’t make themselves.
Many years ago I was a new sales rep. I was fresh off of my stint as a stay-at-home mom. I was participating in some training with other, more seasoned sales reps in a city far from home. We all went out for dinner one night. The company picked up the tab. There was plenty of alcohol consumed, and people were having a good time. I saw married people exchanging numbers and flirting with other married people. I was told some crazy stories about how things often played out. It wasn’t pretty.
I know I’m not being very open minded, but I am being honest when I tell you that I was disgusted with humanity that night.
I spoke to my manager about it. He was a good guy. He was happily married. I told him that scene wasn’t right. He told me, “Welcome to the real world, Laura Ingalls.” He also gave me some sage advice. He said, “When you are dealing with people in the business world, and of the opposite sex, you either have your ‘open for business sign’ out, or your ‘closed for business sign out.” He told me that people can read those signs. He said I had nothing to worry about, because I had a very clear “closed for business” sign. That’s a pretty crass analogy, but it was honest, and it hit the mark.
People do give off signals, don’t they? I probably am not used to having overly familiar conversations with men who aren’t my husband, because I project a signal. I project a signal that says there isn’t any amount of flattery you throw my way, money, charm or fame you could possess that would make me forget how awesome my husband is, and how fortunate I am to have him. So, beat it! At least, I hope that’s my signal. It should be, because that’s what I’m thinking.
Kudos to grocery store guy for being stone cold sober and approaching strangers in the hopes of getting a date. That’s a confident guy. But really…me? Read my sign, buddy! You’re up the wrong alley; quit barking.
I was thinking that married people should think about these things. Marriage is becoming a risky venture in this day and age; married people should invest in and exercise whatever measures it takes to lessen their risk. Here are a few ideas on where to start:
Get your fleepin’ “Closed for Business Sign Out” – Signals aren’t hard to read. Flirting is a universal language. Hair flipping, sexual innuendo, standing too close and laughing too much are all part of the language. Avoiding talking about spouses and kids is another sure sign that your hook is in the water.
Almost any non-business conversation I’ve ever had with someone of the opposite sex has been peppered with a story about my husband, kids and/or a cute anecdote about church/faith. The church stuff is a classic just-in-case-you-were-getting-any-ideas-here’s-a-bucket-of -cold-water-over-your-head maneuver.
“What’s that you say? You want to meet for a drink? That reminds me of the time Jesus met the disciples for a drink. Would you mind if I asked Jesus to join us? What am I thinking? He’ll already be with us. In our hearts. Wait. Where are you going ?”
You can drink, but you can’t get drunk. Maybe you shouldn’t drink – I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you. I know there are tons of good reasons for getting drunk: it’s good for your health, it’s a good investment, you feel great the next day, and we say the coolest things when we’re drunk. But, there are some bad things about being drunk too. Being drunk opens the gateway for your inner stupid.
If you ever, ever, ever thought about putting out an “open for business” sign, there’s a better chance you’ll do it when you’re drunk. If I was at a luncheon with those sales people, and everyone was sober, would they still have been flirting and exchanging numbers? If they were grocery store guy they would. The rest of them, probably not.
Some people don’t know how to drink without getting drunk. In that case, have some apple cider.
Spend more time in risk free places – I’m sorry to beat this alcohol thing to death, but I think we need to be honest with each other here. When you put that “open for business” sign out, spend a lot of time at the bar, and have a habit of drinking too much. You’d better be good at handling fire. You’re playing with it.
How many affairs have started when you’re on a bike ride with your family, or playing basket ball with the kids in the driveway? Maybe a few. I’m not sure how, but I guess it could happen. How many instances of infidelity start at night, in a bar when we’ve had too much to drink? A few more than a few.
I’m sorry if I sound like a fun killer. This is just common sense though, right?
Spend time with people who have gold star marriages You know how we want our kids to pick the right friends? If they pick friends with bad habits, those friends habits are likely to rub off on our kids. You know why we think that? Because it’s true.
Scott and I have friends who are 20 years older than us, and they make marriage look fun and exciting. That helps us.
Make sure your BFF is not of the opposite sex – I know. You have a best friend who is of the opposite sex. Well, you’re an exception. Let’s just talk about the rest of the world here.
Almost every woman knows that the most romantic thing her husband can do is to listen to her, and to care about what she is saying. In good marriages , spouses talk to each other. They laugh. They share inside jokes. That is intimate.
If something super cool happens, and your first instinct is to call someone of the opposite sex who isn’t your husband, wife, or family member, that’s something to ponder. That me be a sign that at some point your marriage will be in danger.
Call a spade a spade – Speak plainly and honestly. When I had our third baby I had a wicked case of postpartum depression. It snuck up on me slowly. I didn’t know the warning signs. By the time I figured out what was wrong, I was in deep. It was too late.
What I learned from that experiences is that one of the best ways for managing, or avoiding future postpartum episodes is to prepare for it in advance. Doing so, dramatically reduces the odds of going through it again. The other way to avoid postpartum depression, is to not have any more babies. I chose the latter option.
My point is that we all know that infidelity happens. It’s a real and possible threat for even the coolest/happiest marriages. Pretending that it isn’t possible is putting yourself at risk.
Speaking with your spouse honestly about how to protect yourselves, and what’s at stake is healthy. Not in an insecure/whiney way, in a practical way.
It’s also healthy to acknowledge that life happens. Sometimes our relationships with our spouses are off. That’s when we are more vulnerable , and apt to make poor decisions. Talk about that too. Talk about how it might look easy to start over somewhere else, but talk about how usually it isn’t. People will be wounded. A lot of those people are little people. People we created with each other.
Take care of yourself like you’re still on the market – This one doesn’t need an explanation, does it? Remember how you used to care how you looked when you were dating? Keep doing that. Do it for yourself, and do it for your spouse.
Ask for help – Are there any marriages out there that haven’t hit a slump? Mine has. Be secure and confident enough to know that it’s okay to ask for help. Not from your BFF of the opposite sex, either. From a counselor.
Pray for your marriage – Put your spouse at the top of your prayer list. Pray for your relationship.
Well, I’ve got plenty more, but you’ve given me enough of your time for today. I just wrote a book. I didn’t even know I was going to say all that, but I guess I did. Thank goodness I have a degree in psychology, and I’m licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in Wisconsin. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to give out all this free, professional advice.
Nope. You got me again. I have a degree in communications. I have nothing that qualifies me to tell you how to protect your marriage. I just have a husband that I like and a blog. You should probably keep that in mind.