So your spouse has been behaving a little unusual lately, and that “little red flag” gut feeling is telling you that something isn’t right. S/He is spending hours on the PC or cell phone, working late, dyed their hair, and is wearing clothes that are… well unbecoming to someone their age! Plus every time you move, breathe or talk, they are picking a fight and blaming you for everything. In your heart of hearts, you KNOW there’s something going on….but how did it come to this?
Our article “How Do Affairs Start?” goes into greater detail (read it if you have a moment), but this week we’re starting a series on Love Extinguishers © . Throughout the next two weeks we’ll be examining how a marriage gets to this point and going over each Love Extinguisher © one-by-one. But in order to understand WHY the Love Extinguishers are important, we have to start at the beginning–how affairs begin!
Let’s start at the very, VERY beginning. In each marriage there are three entities: you, your spouse, and “the marriage.” Each one of the three are taken care of by a delegation of time and energy. You have to take the time to care for yourself so that you develop and grow; you make the effort to care for your spouse so they also become the best person they can be; AND the two of you invest time and energy into your marriage so that it also grows and thrives.
For example, think back to the days when the two of you first met–let’s say it was “in school” whether that means high school or college. She spent time doing her hair so it looked pretty, wearing clothes that fit well, listening to and laughing at his jokes, hanging with him at the games or dances (or in his room), taking walks and holding hands, kissing, looking happy when she got to see him, acting attracted to him, writing him silly love notes or texting love messages…the list goes on and on! Look at all the time invested!! Likewise he spent time wearing some tight-fittin’ jeans and slicking back his hair, talking to her and really opening up, hanging with her even if it means going to a kitten show, taking walks and holding hands, kissing, seeing her and smiling, acting like she is a goddess, writing her love poems that were SOOOOO mushy…the list goes on and on for him too. So you can see that in the beginning especially, a lot of time and thought is invested not only in each person being the best they can be, but also in making the relationship grow and prosper.
“How does this relate to affairs?” you ask? Well, it helps to explain how a marriage can go from “I, John, take you, Sue, to be my lawfully wedded spouse” to “I love you but I’m not IN LOVE with you.” Envision that your marriage is a bonfire. There are actions that stoke the fire and build it–making it hotter and hotter–and those would be actions like the examples above. We call those actions Love Kindlers, and to be honest most marriage counselors and coaches understand Love Kindlers. “You need to date again” they’ll say, or “You need to communicate to rebuild the love.” But the part they often miss, or don’t discuss much are the actions we call Love Extinguishers © . Love Extinguishers © are the actions that little-by-little pour water on the flame and put it out. Some Love Extinguishers © are little drops of water. Some are cups of water and do a little damage. Some are a kids bucket and do enough damage that the marriage is in jeopardy. And some are swimming pools of water and put out the fire almost completely.
Now back to the topic of the post: how affairs begin. The happy couple meets. They spend TONS of time together and invest energy into the relationship, and sure enough, love blooms. They see only the best side of their beloved, and don’t see some of the character flaws and personal issues their partner has. Up to this point, all has been Love kindlers, kindlers, kindlers–and they get married. During that first year, he discovers that she doesn’t really live within a budget AT ALL and she realizes that he expects to do no housework. Some of their spouse’s flaws are revealed AND some of their own expectations are brought to light as well. Most new couples think love will “conquer all” and don’t even consider that one of them would cheat. “Oh sure that happens to other people, but our marriage is different and special and it would never happen to us!” they think.
Then enter just a few Love Extinguishers © .
The one works to put the other through college so they could get ahead in life, and they always thought that his/her sacrifice would be paid back worth it “someday” when they were “successful.” Meanwhile, one spouse works and works, thinking that he/she was “providing for the family” and doing it to get ahead. The other spouse is involved with their own college, work or activities and forgets to take time for their spouse. In fact, when they do see each other, they complain their spouse wasn’t helping out with the shared household chores enough. The working spouse didn’t invest time into the marriage and begins working longer and longer hours at work. Sometimes they didn’t even see each other awake for DAYS…and when they did, one or the other of them had negative things to say. Maybe she’s not a great money manager (or the opposite, a controlling penny-pincher); when he’s home he’d rather sit in front of the TV or PC to veg out. They don’t talk anymore…and the Love Extinguishers © are dribbling on the fire. Then more Love Extinguishers © are added–kids are born and there’s even LESS time together; she gains some weight and he wear sweats; he yells at her about bills and she disrespects his job; he wants sex and she doesn’t feel connected to him so she resents it. The Love Extinguishers © are getting to be less like a drip and more like a downpour.
Right about then…enter stage left the Other Person. Other Person is a colleague at the Disloyal Spouse’s office, a classmate in a college class, or an old romance from “way back when” found on Facebook. The Other Person has no Love Extinguishers © because they are putting forth their best image. The Other Person is happy to hear from them–they dress up/look nice and wear cologne–whereas the Loyal Spouse at home wears jeans and a t-shirt. The Other Person knows all about work or the class, cares about what the Disloyal Spouse does, knows how hard it is, listens to what the Disloyal Spouse struggles with, and probably spends 8 hours a day with them–whereas the Loyal Spouse is bored hearing about work or school, has no idea what goes on, and spends hardly any time with Disloyal Spouse. Pretty soon, the Disloyal Spouse starts talking to Other Person about a fight that he/she had with the Loyal Spouse the night before…and Other Person is understanding and takes their side. Then Disloyal Spouse starts going with the Other Person to work conferences or extra-curricular activities and kind of “seeks out” OP and sits by him/her at lunch. Soon, they are talking like teenagers at lunch–phoning each other on the cell phone “for work”–and emailing all night long. Part of the Disloyal Spouse is thrilled that someone else thinks they’re neat! They are happy…and a little love zing of amphetamine hits their brain. Then they flirt a little and the Other Person flirts back! And pretty soon after that, one of them mentions that they have feelings for the other … and that’s it. The decide they are “in love” and kiss.
So there you have it–the affair is in full swing. Thus is it really, REALLY rare for an affair to be about sex. What happens is that, for both men and women, their spouse has little-by-little stopped doing the Love Kindlers they used to do, and instead they have introduced Love Extinguishers © that are drowning out the fire of love. On the other hand, the Other Person is giving nothing but Love Kindlers, and since their Love Kindlers are being met they feel blazing hot feelings for the person that spill into wanting to do physical things to express that fire. You can see why, as the Loyal Spouse, not only do you need to start doing Love Kindlers again (that would be a start) but you also need to look at your own self…at your own actions…and stop doing those Love Extinguishers © !! Otherwise, as soon as you add a kindler to the fire, you put it out with a bit of water and the fire doesn’t really build.
SOOOOO….this week we begin a series of self-examination: Love Extinguishers.