Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Infidelity and Making Good Choices in Friends

I know there is no good way to say this, but I think about cheating a fair bit. No, I don't consider engaging in the act. I think about why it happens and the frequency with which it does. I think about the, "It just happened" rationale. That's crap, by the way. That's one thing that doesn't just happen. As with all other things sexual, you place yourself in situations where things may or may not happen. You conduct yourself in certain ways. And if you're married, then you sure as heck have to jump through a few hoops for an affair (or a fling, or one night (who are we kidding - a one afternoon) stand) to happen.

I read a short piece yesterday by a Christian blogger about the need for married women to guard their marriages. This guarding was operationalized (sorry - I talk like a social scientist) as not riding alone in a car with a man, not having a man as a best friend, not going out to eat alone with a man, etc. I couldn't help thinking how utterly simplistic that piece was! By that standard, the women serving in the military don't have a prayer. Guarding your marriage is about so much more than those things. Do they matter? Yes. If you carpool with the same man every day, you risk developing an intimacy that might be inappropriate. Of course, you might not. Much depends on whether or not you're open to it! If you're open to it, you have bigger problems!

As for going out to eat with a member of the opposite sex? How often are you going? Are you deliberately exclusionary? Would your spouse be welcome if he wanted to go? Is the friendship based on a shared interest? Is it a friendship that predates your marriage? Is your marriage on solid ground? The answers to those questions matter. More than anything, your spouse's opinion matters. Some people are more comfortable with other-gender friendships than are others. When my husband and I first started dating, I was 18 and he was 24. A male friend of mine invited me to see a high school play and I thought nothing of accepting. We were friends, nothing else. My husband's response was, "So you're going out on a date with him?" It didn't matter that it wasn't. My husband (then boyfriend) wasn't comfortable with the idea, so I didn't go. Those respect boundaries were set early on.

My husband has a strict policy of an ex is an ex is an ex. There is no such things as being friends with an ex. As his wife, I really appreciate that. It makes my life so much easier. In my own life, it's really a non-issue. I dated the same guy pretty much all through high school and only broke up with him when I met my husband. He died when I was 22. There were plenty of guys who had crushes on me, etc., though, so I don't use my maiden name on Facebook. (Wow - that sounds like I think fabulously highly of myself, but it's so not like that. It's just that everyone knows about the stories of the people who find each other on FB - I'm not about that drama.)

Now the topic I have assiduously avoided - the best friend of the opposite sex. I had the most amazing best friend anyone ever could have had. I didn't like girls very much and they pretty much had no use for me. J got me. I got him. We were friends for around a quarter of a century. He didn't cut me loose when I was the worst kind of friend one could be. He introduced me to some of my favorite bands and some of my favorite books ever. After we both got married, our friendship consisted of pretty sporadic emails, apart from the occasional spate of email frenzy. We have not had each other's phone numbers since high school. My husband was very aware of how much he meant to me.

8.5 months ago (but who's counting?), J told me that he thought that it would be better if we were no longer friends. I have never written about this. I have rarely talked about it. I likely never will again. I read his email once. I will never read it again. It's funny. I had never been broken up with until that point. Thank God I had my husband. When I came out from reading that email, I was crying so hard that my husband thought someone had died. In a way, someone had. Something certainly had. Again, thank God for Henry. Without a jealous bone in his body, he understood my grief. He still understands.

I know why J did what he did. I hate that he did it, but I understand. I still write to him in my head. I have been writing to him since I was 11 years old. I can't stop now. When I hear a spectacular pun, it's all I can do not to email it to him ("Look, I know we're not friends anymore, but you *have* to hear this one!"). I told Therese for years that I wished she had a J because mine was such a comfort to me when I was her age. I have stopped wishing that for her. I spent more than half my life touting the benefits of a male best friend. I have stopped doing that, too. I have actually come to the conclusion that a married woman can't (and shouldn't) have a male best friend (I've never thought a man should have a female best friend - I know, right? My consistency is shocking.). No matter how innocent and no matter how old the friendship, you will inevitably be diverting something from your marriage. It's almost ineffable, but you'll know it when you feel it.

I always thought it was just a case of not succumbing to the mistake of dating your male best friend, but that's not it. Not dating your male best friend will just allow you to maintain the friendship longer; it probably won't allow you to maintain it forever.

I know there are plenty of people out there who can tell me their stories of how their friendships have worked for them. I'm happy for you. I would still encourage any girl to form friendships with girls. I know it's hard (it's *still* hard for me), but you will still have those friends decades from now, if you're lucky. I came out of high school with one really good friend (whom, as I have shown, I no longer have). I came out of college with one good friend (who is...a guy! What good does that do me? And no, we don't have lunch.).

This has to be the world's most meandering post. A couple of disclaimers: yesterday I wrote that I was mulling a couple of posts but was hesitant to write them because of the people I knew would be reading them. This post is not one of them. J does not read my blog. He's not on FB (in case anyone was going to go check my friends - if you know me well, you know exactly who he is, even if you didn't know we broke up). He is a social media hermit. It's one of his finest qualities. The person to whom I was mostly referring yesterday is Therese's boyfriend (hey, Andrew!).

Second, do you ever wonder what prompts people to write what they do? For me, this post was prompted by three things: the blog post I read yesterday about guarding your marriage, the open wound that is J that is going to take more time to heal (which came to the surface because of thinking about the blog post on guarding your marriage), and, most immediately, I was listening to The The's 1989 album "Mind Bomb." Why that album made me write this post, I'm not sure, but, hey Armageddon Days (Are Here Again).

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