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Avoiding the High Cost of an Affair

Today, on Veterans Day, the New York Times is calling General Petraeus, a highly decorated veteran and four-star general, simply David H. Petraeus. He stepped down as head of the CIA this week after the FBI learned he was having an affair with one of the authors of his biography, a married mother of two.

No one entrusted with a nation's top secrets or a publicly held corporation's revenues and reputation is likely to remain employed or find similar employment once the dishonesty, distraction, and betrayal of an affair is revealed. But this post is not about those people. It is about you and me.

Affairs are extremely common. The more you have to lose, the more likely someone will offer you the opportunity for one, but people of all walks of life manage to find their way into them. Even if you have no money, no savings, no house to lose, no career to kill, you put your honor and your relationship with your spouse and family at risk when you take this route, even if it never gets beyond the emails, text messages, and phone calls stage.

The time to protect yourself from his fate is not when a coworker leans in too close or a Facebook reunion with a high school boyfriend or girlfriend steps over the line, it is today. Today, you have the choice to get closer to your spouse or drift further apart. Today, you have the choice to expect love and stop building the story in your head that you are more deserving than your mate because he or she fails to do what you expect from a spouse. Today, you have the choice to feel miffed about your difference of opinions or find a third alternative that pleases both of you.

Today, you have the choice to consider that whatever upsets you about your spouse is actually a reflection of his or her love for you. Today, you have the choice to pay attention to your spouse's character strengths and encourage them or to focus on his or her faults.

When you enjoy being married, you easily smile at temptation and say no thanks. When you enjoy being married, you don't feel you deserve better than the person you married. When you enjoy being married, you create new sexual excitement at home and don't look for someone else to bring it to you on the sly. And whether you enjoy being married or not largely depends on the stories you tell yourself about your relationship and the choices you make because of those stories, unless you fear for your life at the hands of your mate.

When affairs are discovered, most of those in them discover how much they would NOT enjoy losing their spouse, but the choice is no longer in their hands. Today is always the best day to make that choice.

Comments

"Today, you have the choice to expect love and stop building the story in your head that you are more deserving than your mate because he or she fails to do what you expect from a spouse."

How do you keep coming up with new, fresh, relevant ways to say the "same thing" without becoming repetitive?!?

I am SO grateful that I've not had to learn this the hard way, although I so easily could have. During the rocky years of our marriage, I worked with women only.

Cheri, thank you. I am so glad to hear I am not becoming repetitive. Nothing makes me sadder than a marriage in trouble, and nothing makes me happier than to find another angle that might help even one reader enjoy being married again.

Gen. Petraeus' wife just got hit with her husband's affair, the possibility that it was exposed by a competing lover, and the loss of her husband's government income, his speaking income, and the enormous respect and status he had earned. That is a lot of dashed expectations and a lot to forgive. But someone reading this blog is right now making the same choices that led to their pain, not consciously but in the belief they have no choice. My hand is reaching out to this person. I thank you for extending my reach through Facebook and your comment here.

This is one of my favorite posts, that I've read, of yours. It resonates very strongly with our experience. Tammy and I make a habit of making ourselves irreplaceable by constantly building the other up rather than tearing them down. Then, as you say, it is easy to smile and laugh temptation off.

Thanks, CJ. A very wise habit!

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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