Monday, November 29, 2004

Interview with Ben Wilson, part 1  

Ben Wilson is the blogger behind Marriages Restored. He and his wife Ann have a ministry for couples who want to rebuild their marriages after infidelity. This ministry grew out of their own experiences recovering from infidelity in their own marriage. You can read the stories of Ann's affair and of Ben's emotional affair on the Marriages Restored site. I recently interviewed Ben via e-mail.

You've said on your blog that sex outside of a marriage is not the only kind of infidelity. What other kinds are there?

In reality one can have an affair with anything or anybody. Think of things you are passionate about and give your heart to. If one begins to give aspects of his/her soul that is reserved for marriage over to this person, thing or activity an affair is taking place.

A classic example is a man whose passion goes into his work. His wife feels that she isn't getting the most alive parts of his heart but doesn't know how to address it or attempts to and is greeted with, "I'm working as hard as I can and making money so we can have a better life and all you can do is complain." Something in her says, "Fine. I'll just pour my energy into the kids." He is successful at work so that looks good. She is at all the school functions and involved as a volunteer there and at church too. That looks good, but both are giving a big piece of their soul elsewhere that was intended for their marriage.

On your blog, you mention your emotional affair at least as much as you mention your wife's physical affair, if not more. Do you think the two kinds of affairs are equal in their destructiveness?

I mention my emotional affair sometimes just to give my failures and being a mess equal airtime. :) Affairs generally don't happen in a vacuum.

Emotional and physical affairs are both destructive. I would use different instead of equal or less than etc.

When a couple gets married they usually vow to forsake all others as long as they both shall live. I believe that includes both emotionally and physically.

Emotional affairs can be more difficult to end because the couple rationalizes that since they resisted having sex they really haven't done anything wrong. This is wrong.

In my case, and many people use this language, the other person and the emotional entanglement works like a drug. There were times following the revelation of Ann's affair that I would talk to my emotional affair partner over the phone. With the first syllable out of her mouth I would physically feel a chemical release throughout my body better than any anti-depressant. I instantly felt pain evaporate. I felt her acceptance and not Ann's rejection. That's powerful stuff.

Soon, a counselor helped me to see the damage I was doing to all three of us in the relationship. He also helped me to admit that if my partner pursued me aggressively in a physical way I could easily have been right where Ann was. The damage of emotional affairs seems to be minimized and rationalized away easier than physical affairs but they are causing incredible damage.

Christians often make the mistake of praying with the other person and denying the physical attraction. Prayer is more intimate than sex in some ways and that really deepens the bond.

When ending it, just end it. People tend to try to want to end it 'nice.' When the line is crossed, the line is crossed and the lingering feelings will stay in the way of the marriage.

Come back tomorrow to read about Ben's views on divorce.