Is it Just Dinner?
Couples Therapist in Bethesda MD
Media and social media were busy this week responding to a Washington Post article that said Mike Pence chooses not to dine with any women other than his wife or attend an event that serves alcohol unless his wife is by his side. The response to this revelation ranged from supportive to critical, humorous to mean. Some commended him for such strong marital values. Others ridiculed him for not having the self control to be alone with a woman. Many expressed that they were offended by a viewpoint that perhaps men, as a whole, do not have the self control to be alone with a woman without wanting to have sex with them. As a marriage therapist, who sees an enormous amount of infidelity – ranging from playful texts, emotional affairs to physical affairs – I obviously have a strong opinion on the matter!
I believe strongly in having boundaries in your marriage. Boundaries in a marriage are an understanding developed between you and your spouse that represent what you feel needs to be done to safeguard your marriage from infidelity. Boundaries are not created because you feel that your spouse can not control their sexual desire when around anyone but you, but they are put in place because that slippery slope from a handshake, to a funny conversation, to an exchange in text, to flirtation, to an affair is a very real challenge to relationships. I have rarely worked with an unfaithful spouse who planned to have an affair – getting attention and complements are intoxicating and, once intoxicated, turning back proves difficult for most.
Are Mike Pence and his wife’s boundaries extreme? Perhaps, but I would never want to judge what a couple finds necessary to feel safe and secure in making their marriage stand the test of time. Boundaries that a couple chooses to set have to suit the careers and lifestyle you lead – so, yes, avoiding having a meal with a coworker might seem extreme and certainly impractical. However, a couple should discuss hypothetical situations that may arise and how they would like their significant other to handle them. For example, a text outside of business hours from a coworker of the opposite sex (or same sex if gay) – how should your spouse respond? Some couples have a rule about feelings – if one member of the couple begins to feel anything but friendship towards another, they agree that they should immediately tell their spouse. Moreover, other couples believe having complete transparency helps to keep trust and honesty strong – they will give each other their phone/email passwords and access without having to ask permission.
Arguing that character and virtue should be enough to keep a man (or woman) from straying is idealistic. I have worked with many lovely, hard-working, family focused, religious couples who have been shattered by infidelity. They never thought their spouse would ever be unfaithful. Again, putting boundaries in place is not about some crazed sexual desire that can not be contained when their spouse is not present. Boundaries are a thought out and practical approach to making sure your relationship is not threatened by the very real threat of infidelity.
Kara Smith, MS, LCMFT provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our Bethesda office and specializes in infidelity. Call or email her today to set up a complimentary telephone consultation or your first appointment – 240-752-7650 ext. 3 or firstname.lastname@example.org