I’ve heard it a hundred times. Whether here on LDSR, on Clean-LDS, with friends, and in other support systems where infidelity arises as an issue, priesthood leaders usually insist that all contact be stopped. Yet, those who have found themselves in these situations often do not understand and will resist committing to stopping contact with the other person. I think it is critical advice that must be heeded. Most people in these situations seem to think that they can somehow only back off slightly from people with whom they have already gone too far. They think that they can re-establish things as being merely friends once they’ve busted through the boundaries and have become intimate.
In all of the places where I’ve seen people hold onto this hope of normalizing relationships that have gone too far, I have seen failure to keep the boundaries where they should have been. This results in broken marriages, devastated children, and unhealthy relationships.
Many years ago, when I decided to share with my wife about my struggle with same-sex attraction, she commented later that it was as if all of my walls had come down. I had kept thick and sturdy emotional barriers between us based on the secret I was keeping.
This tells me that the heart (not meaning the blood-pumping organ) is surrounded by walls and barriers and that these obstructions serve a good purpose. I’ve long been a believer in good, well-established, and stated boundaries. I don’t believe it is healthy or appropriate to fling open the heart and invite everyone all the way into it from all directions.
I also believe that it is right and honest to maintain different boundaries for different people. My wife is allowed farther into my heart than others, and in different ways. Some of those ways are sexual. Those ways are exclusively for her.
I believe that an analogy of a tunnel for water is apt when it comes to these matters of fidelity in marriage. That’s because I think of sexuality as based somewhat on a flow rather than a solid object. That’s because, like water, it flows into the nearest available and lower space. Uncontrolled, it will conquer just about anything in its path.
That’s what makes barriers and boundaries so essential. Once you start down the path of infidelity, the flow could take over and destroy your life. Avoid it, control it, or fall victim to it. There are no other choices.
So, what happens when two people drill and dig into areas of the heart where they shouldn’t be, areas that belong to someone else? I assert that what happens is that you open up a passage that cannot be easily closed. You create a pathway that can be entered again and again.
If you merely cover up the entrance, all it takes to go there again is pull down the barrier. The tunnel inside will be open all the way to where it was last excavated. Maybe a bit of rubble has fallen from the ceiling, but that’s easily remedied.
You can’t really fill it in again. It’s probably harder to fill in a tunnel than dig one. That’s because whatever you fill it with will need to be packed in as tightly as it was originally. Imagine trying to fill in the Eurotunnel. Could you ever pack it in as hard as it was before it was drilled?
No. The best way to avoid a repeat of infidelity is to move completely away from the other person, cut off all contact. Remember that the choices are to avoid it, control it, or fall victim to it. The only viable option is to avoid it. Before the tunnel was built by someone else to that sacred space that belongs to a spouse, it was possible to guard it. Once you open it up, the weakness is permanent between those two people.
I also maintain that the notion that two people who have tasted of stolen waters together can return to a state where boundaries are honored is as much a fantasy as the adulterous relationship was in the first place. The problem with a relationship out of marriage that seems like a perfect match is that it is built on a fairytale in the first place.
Does a mistress have the same stake in a man as his wife? No matter how dysfunctional the marriage, there are plenty of reasons why a wife can’t show the same kind of total acceptance of everything about her husband as a paramour can? There are issues of security for herself and her children at stake. There are hurts than can cut clean to the bone. It works the same way for husbands of unfaithful women. He has far more at stake than any other man she may be interested in.
Yet, you would probably find that most adultery begins with resentment and comparison. “She accepts me. She appreciates me. She wants me.” “He accepts me. He appreciates me. He wants me.” “My husband/wife doesn’t.”
You know, I don’t entirely get along with my wife all the time. Sometimes there are huge disagreements. Not everything I do is acceptable to her. She can’t just ignore it and do that incredibly undefinable thing of loving me unconditionally. It is too much to expect.
It is a far more “real” relationship where a couple has things to work out and find agreement on than a couple who thinks that the other can do no wrong and no behavior should ever be challenged. Sure, love should be unconditional, but beware of the myth that unconditional love means unconditional allowance.
God, who we are taught loves us all unconditionally, has also declared, “”For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance… (D&C 1:31)”
As uncomfortable as it may be, I’m happy to be married to a woman who lets me have it when I have it coming. Both of us said that we didn’t want to marry a Yes-Dear. We got our wish and it is the healthiest way to run a marriage. Beware the fanciful euphoria of infidelity. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.