Shirley Glass and Jean Coppock Staeheli, in their book Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity, reference how affairs occur to relationships that seem apparently solid by illustrating relationship “walls and windows”. If we can think of a marriage as a
house, and two committed partners in separate rooms of the house, we want a large window in between the partners. In safe, committed relationships, the wall serves as a barrier to protect the “us” of the couple; it stands between them and the outside world. On the safe side of the walls, inside the house, each partner keeps their own identity but shares much of themselves with their partner, hence, the big clear window between the partners. What happens in marriage when that window between the partners grows smaller and the walls to the outside world start to become windows? It makes us vulnerable to forming relationships that aren’t healthy to our marriage.
The Ideal Relationship Picture:
In an ideal relationship, a couple is sharing ideals and values and huge emotions with each other, creating a safe, transparent relationship with each other. Of course, healthy, vulnerable relationships outside of the marriage are necessary… and must remain smaller and not as transparent. The private information inside of the marriage is not shared with family and friends outside of the marriage.
Spouse Window Shuts, Outside World Window Opens:
When our window to our spouse starts getting smaller, for whatever reason, and we create bonds with people outside of our marriage, and that outside relationship ends up growing deeper, it can become a love interest. Once the affair partner and one marriage partner are interacting at this level, the affair partner is no longer on the outside. The primary relationship partner is now behind a wall, which is not the ideal situation for the primary relationship.
Effect of Outside Relationships on your Marriage:
This illustration can help your marriage before affairs occur: check in with yourself and possibly reflect on this with your spouse when you have some time away from stressors. Furthermore, observe any outside relationships that might be creating a window to the outside world and possibly becoming a big enough distraction from connecting transparently with your spouse. Finally, if you are in post-affair phase: is the betraying primary relationship partner closing off all communication with the affair partner? Do you feel closer to each other, like the window between the primary relationship partners is opening again? This may mean there is progress in your affair recovery.
As always, if you are feeling distressed, and the impairment relationship issues are causing at home or outside of the home are beginning to become to big to handle inside of your marriage, don’t hesitate to call Amy Wine Counseling Center at 832.421.8714 or a therapy center near you.