Emotional Infidelity

A reader has asked us to do a post reviewing the article “Fidelity in Marriage” from the September 2009 Ensign. The tag line reads: When a spouse has developed a relationship that compromises his or her spiritual fidelity, he or she should be humble and take the necessary steps to restore the marital relationship.

The article begins as follows:

“But I’m not doing anything wrong,” insisted Jane when family members voiced concern over the time she was spending with a male co-worker. “We’re just friends.”

In Jane’s mind, she had not crossed any lines because there had been nothing physical or romantic between her and her co-worker. She saw no harm in going to lunch and spending breaks with someone with whom she had so much in common. She saw no problem with sending him personal e-mails and text messages.

Jane’s husband, Aaron, was quiet and shy. He was not one to make conversation, and Jane often felt alone—even when they were together. Aaron was a good man and a faithful father to their young children. Still, when it came to being sensitive to her needs and “being there for her,” she felt Aaron had a lot to learn.

Jane’s co-worker, on the other hand, was a good listener and could easily read her moods. He was quick to laugh and fun to be around. As the two of them spent more time together, family members to whom Jane had casually mentioned the relationship began to express concern. Jane dismissed their comments.

What Jane didn’t realize was how hurt and upset Aaron felt at what she was doing. He felt betrayed and rejected and was even beginning to worry that Jane didn’t love him anymore. Jane talked as though their marriage was strong but, by her actions, she seemed to care more about her co-worker than her husband. Aaron began to wonder if she was thinking of leaving him. Any time Aaron brought up the subject of her relationship with the co-worker, she would refuse to discuss it and would change the subject. To Aaron, their communication seemed superficial. He felt as though his feelings were not important to her.

This couple’s story—representative of several true stories—illustrates a growing problem creeping into some marriages today. A marriage can be placed in a precarious situation when one spouse forms a relationship with someone outside the marriage and begins to choose the company of that person or frequently shares personal information with that person rather than with a spouse. Furthermore, the problem can occur with either husband or wife. “Jane” could just as easily be “John.”

Fidelity includes refraining from physical contact—but that is not all. Fidelity also means complete commitment, trust, and respect between husband and wife. Inappropriate interactions with another person can erode fidelity.

Some of the signs of emotional infidelity are listed in a sidebar:

• “Are you turning to your friend for comfort rather than turning to your spouse?”

• “Do you find yourself thinking about your friend even when you’re at home?”

• “Do you seek opportunities to be with your friend even when work doesn’t require you to be together?”

• “Do you e-mail and text your friend when you’re not together?”

• “Have you told your spouse about these messages?”

• “Does the relationship with your friend take more of your time and energy than your relationship with your spouse?”

• “Do you compare your spouse to your friend?”

• “Would you be uncomfortable introducing your spouse to your friend?”

The article suggests using the expression “spiritual fidelity” rather than emotional infidelity, which, frankly, struck me as a rather meaningless bit of semantic manipulation and not all that helpful.

Jane met with her bishop, which was very helpful in her case. I worry about people treating bishops as though they were trained counselors–the vast majority are not–but emotional fidelity is a subject that probably lends itself to the kind of common sense counsel that this particular bishop offered, so in this case it worked out well.

I blanched at the predictable misuse of the “abstain from all appearance of evil” scripture (1 Thess. 5:22).

The resolution basically involved Jane coming to recognize what she was doing and changing the dynamic with her male friend. You can read the details in the article.

OK, there’s my brief synopsis. The floor is now yours to discuss either this article specifically or the topic of emotional infidelity in general. (While y’all comment, I’ll return my attention to The Dollhouse.)

Comments

  1. “Jane’s co-worker, on the other hand, was a good listener and could easily read her moods. He was quick to laugh and fun to be around.”

    That is because Jane and the co-worker are not married. Let her divorce Aaron and marry the co-worker. I give it a month before one or the other starts texting some third party.

  2. This brings to mind a helpful comment in a book by Dr. Carlfred Broderick, LDS, a USC professor and marriage counselor in California. He wrote that the Three R’s of adultery are, usually in order:

    Resentment
    Rationalization
    Rendezvous

    The sister in the article was in the Rendezvous phase. The remedy starts upstream from there, dealing with Resentment.

  3. Kevin, sorry to threadjack, but can you point me to a link or anywhere that discusses the issue you refer to in relation to the interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 5:22? I’d like to know more what you mean.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Sure Hunter, I should have explained. See here for example:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/05/16/the-reality-of-the-appearance-of-evil/

  5. Hunter,

    See Kevin’s super-awesome footnotes here.

    According to the footnote for the passage in question, Kevin writes:

    “OR every form of evil. This passage is commonly misunderstood to be saying that we should avoid things that might appear to others to be evil, even if they are in reality not. While perhaps a good principle, that is not what this v. is saying. This mistaken reading is based on a misapprehension of the import of the word ‘appearance,’ which here means simply ‘occurence,’ not that which superficially seems to be real but is not.”

  6. Kevin,

    I think I see what you mean generally about “spiritual fidelity” being a useless semantic change in a sense, but I also think there might be some value to in that language. The article says that

    “[As] we begin to think in terms of spiritual fidelity, we also open the door for healing and hope.”

    While other word choices certainly don’t preclude this, for a Christian, a focus on the “spiritual” aspect of the healing may help focus on Christ and the Atonement–the greatest source of healing, hope and forgiveness. Again, there is nothing about the word change that forces a couple in distress to seek the healing power of the Atonement, but I don’t know that I would call it manipulative.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    If anyone finds spiritual fidelity a helpful change, that’s great with me. I guess I just see the more common expression “emotional infidelity” as more readily descriptive of the concept, that’s all.

  8. How about we split the difference and talk about the positive (emotional fidelity) as the objective to pursue, vs. the negative as the trap to avoid?

    “Spiritual” is an understandable change given the magazine the article was printed in. I don’t think it’s a particularly useful one, however. Even non-religionists will have stronger marriages by being emotionally faithful to their spouses. It’s a very practical approach that needn’t require much in the way of divine inspiration for success.

  9. I remember one of the very first comments I ever made at BCC was to defend the use of a term by another commenter (or post author?) that was not really defensible. Here again, I think I made the same error on further consideration–the word change is pointless.

  10. My husband and I discussed this article at some length, because as it turns out, my best girlfriend is actually a male. He lives in another state, we do similar work, we have similar tastes in books/movies, he listens to problems with my kids and offers great counsel, and I listen to his frustrations and triumphs.

    We’ve been friends for going on a dozen years now. I introduced him to my husband some years ago, and he’s met most of my children, and I’ve met his wife.

    To be honest, I suspect my husband would be more comfortable if he was a she, but at the same time my husband knows how hard I have tried to make friends with ladies in the ward, and it just hasn’t clicked. This friendship is such a blessing to my life, how ungrateful would I be to not enjoy it, simply because he is male? And how prejudicial.

    One huge thing: We never, ever complain about our spouses. In all those years, I have never heard him say one negative thing about his wife, and a good 70% of it is glowing praise. By contrast, I’ve overheard people, even girlfriend to girlfriend, who seem co-dependent in complaining about their spouses. How healthy is that? Even though there is no risk of adultery with a female friend.

    Also, I have to say that there are commonsense rules about appearances. If we’re at a conference, I don’t have every meal with him, and if we go out to a play/movie/museum/whatever, we never go alone. And we each pay for our own meal, etc.

    I do hug him when I see him, and did that the times we’ve been with spouses, too, to be clear that we behave the same when spouses are there as when just the two of us. But it’s more like hugging my brothers than anything sexual.

    The thing is, this friend fills a whole different niche in my life than my husband does. Unlike the example in the article, there is no way that my husband *could* fill the spot that would be left empty if anything happened to my friend. And our friendship does not usually encroach on our marriage.

    The article also states

    Relationships with others of the opposite sex are not in and of themselves a problem or a fracture of fidelity. In fact, many of our meaningful relationships with neighbors, Church friends, co-workers, and others have a balanced and important place in our lives.

    That’s pretty much how I feel about my opposite-gender friend.

  11. Thanks, Kevin & Scott B. Very interesting stuff.

  12. For once I agree with Naismith. How about that? ;)

    When my husband and I got married, he was a dance major and I planned on getting a PhD. We immediately agreed that this would mean most of his acquaintances were going to be female and most of my acquaintances were going to be male and neither of us was going to be jealous about this set-up. So far it’s worked out pretty well.

    Naismith is right-on about the “no complaining about your spouses” rule. In fact, it’s generally good not to complain about your spouse with friends of either gender. Asking for constructive feedback on how to resolve a problem is okay, but venting because you’re so angry about something that’s going on with your spouse is a bad idea.

    I also think that one of the essentials to cross-gender friendships is to make sure things are okay at home. The example used in Ensign involves a woman who was unhappy with her marriage, or a woman who continues her cross-gender friendship even though her marriage is deteriorating. Maintaining a cross-gender friendship in the face of a deteriorating marriage is much riskier business.

    And Kevin, I agree so much on the KJV mistranslation of 1 Thessalonians 5:22. My goodness am I tired of that verse being abused. I’m tired of people telling me that I shouldn’t ride in a car alone with a guy or have a lunch date with a male friend because, even if we aren’t up to anything, other people might think we are. For a man and a woman to be seen together ≠ they are an item anymore. People just have to get over it.

  13. I appreciated this article and the post and think this is an important topic. While perhaps relatively few will be involved in physical infidelity, possibly most of us will be involved in some degree of emotional infidelity. This is related, I think, to the other posts about success and careers in that it deals with where we place our priorities.

    For me, the quote from President Kimball “raises the bar” regarding how I normally think of marriage: “And, when the Lord says all thy heart, it allows for no sharing nor dividing nor depriving. And, to the woman it is paraphrased: “Thou shalt love thy husband with all thy heart and shalt cleave unto him and none else.”

    The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse.”

    While the article focuses on an opposite-sex relationship with some fairly big red flags, President Kimball’s quote makes me wonder if infidelity is often much more subtle (and frequent) and occurs whenever we put our own needs or interests above those of our spouse.

  14. Many of my friends are men. It’s always been that way, and like Naismith, I would never even consider anything sexual with them- married or not.

    One of the things that was hard for me to get used to when I joined the church was the utter taboo on men being friends with women. A sister in my ward told me her husband wouldn’t even accept an occasional carpool ride with a woman co-worker to “avoid the appearance of evil”. On one hand, I think I get it, but on the other it really bothers me.

  15. Stephanie says:

    When I read this article last month, the questions I asked myself were more along the lines of:

    • “Are you turning to the bloggernacle for entertainment rather than turning to your spouse?”

    • “Do you find yourself thinking about the latest post even when you’re on a date with your husband?”

    • “Do you seek opportunities to be on the internet when you should be in bed asleep because you’re only going to get 5 hours anyways?”

    • “Do you check the blogs even from your phone?”

    • “Do the relationships with your blogging friends (or even just trolls) take more of your time and energy than your relationship with your spouse?”

    • “Would you be uncomfortable if your spouse read all the comments you make online?”

    If only I were kidding.

  16. May I add a different dimension to this discussion? Suppose a good LDS couple is generally happy together after a few decades of marriage, but one of the partners, after maturing in many ways (spiritually, emotionally, intellectually), longs for a deeper relationship that he must admit the other cannot and likely will not ever be able to provide (barring some transfiguration miracle following the resurrection). Both are firmly committed to each other in terms of lifelong love and support. However, is it emotional infidelity for this person to place hope in a different eternal relationship with a partner with whom they will ultimately be more compatible? And even, in mostly a platonic way, and as a way to cope, dream about that future relationship?

  17. “Many of my friends are men. It’s always been that way, and like Naismith, I would never even consider anything sexual with them- married or not.”

    Tracey,

    In your (and Naismith’s) relationship with these men, are you sure that they too would never consider anything sexual with you? If so, how do you know? Are you helping (or hindering) them to have spiritual and emotional fidelity with their spouse?

  18. I had the same thoughts as Stephanie.

    Of course, right now I’m reading blogs while he’s playing video games, so that’s cool, right?

  19. Pat,
    I think that is the crux of emotional infidelity. If you are emotionally investing hopes and dreams in another individual or in another relationship with the rationalization of the reasons you mentioned–how is that being truly committed and devoted to your marital relationship? Shouldn’t that energy of hoping for something deeper and more meaningful be placed on one’s own spouse, even if that is not what one gets out of the relationship in the present? Should the effort for something deeper be placed there?

  20. No, Clayton, I don’t know that. In come cases the man is gay, so that’s a no brainer- but no, I cannot be certain.

    But that should keep me isolated from friendships with men? That they might, maybe, somehow, sometime, have an errant thought about me? 51% of the population is male- how much we shortchange ourselves if we disallow friendships and learning opportunities with half the people on earth.

    I’m not saying to walk the razor’s edge, or to look outside your marriage for satisfaction. But I do know it’s possible to be sane, adult, and not sexual with an opposite-sex friend.

  21. “In your (and Naismith’s) relationship with these men, are you sure that they too would never consider anything sexual with you? If so, how do you know? Are you helping (or hindering) them to have spiritual and emotional fidelity with their spouse”

    When you have a same-gender friend, are you sure that they would never consider anything sexual with you? Quite seriously, I have had a married friend decide that she was a lesbian. So should we not have any friends at all, just to be safe?

    As to “how do you know?” in my case, I have talked about this with my friend and he assured me that he totally respects my boundaries and has no ulterior motives. I also asked one of my adult children their impressions, and they concurred.

    As to whether I am helping or hindering them to have spiritual and emotional fidelity with their spouse, I guess I should check with her again, but my sense is that I am helping. I’m considerate in that when they are on vacation or have a day off together, I don’t email or call him. But overall my friendship fills a need for him, and that makes him a more whole person to bring to her table. And vice versa.

  22. Naismith, I thought of that too- I’ve have women come on to me before- should I love myself in an Iron Maiden and call it quits? I mean seriously.

  23. *sigh* I’m tired. “had” and “lock” Freudian? Mayhaps.

  24. Nice post, Kevin. Everyone seems to be tiptoeing around the term “infidelity.” Is having a close friendship outside marriage, regardless of gender, really an example of “infidelity” or (by implication) unfaithfulness? Since when? In the scriptures, “Ye are my friends” was a complimentary phrase, not a criticism. If rationalization is excusing sin when it did occur, what do we call implying sin when it didn’t occur? Perhaps the mild Mormon preference for homosociality plays into this tendency to equate friendship (especially cross-gender friendship) with unfaithfulness.

    More worrisome is that this article also plays right into the hands of jealous or controlling partners who resent any friendship, even contact, that their spouses have outside the marriage. I wonder how many women will get lectured at while controlling husband, waiving the September 2009 Ensign, yells, “You see! I told you it was wrong to talk to other people without my permission! If I catch you socializing with your friends behind my back again …”

  25. Stephanie says:

    Pat, are you my dad? Seriously. He’s (you’ve?) told me almost word-for-word the exact same thing.

  26. Stephanie – glad to know that this situation isn’t isolated. And no, I don’t have a child named Stephanie :)

    mmiles – I see your point. I’m not saying that the future/eternal, more fulfilling relationship couldn’t be with the current spouse, and that those dreams couldn’t be focused on that person. But try to put yourself in that situation — with absolutely no hope that your spouse will ever, ever be able to relate to you on the same spiritual/emotional/intellectual plane. Is it vain to hope for something better? And if, by the partner’s agency, he/she chooses not to develop him/herself to the point of being capable of a deeper relationship, should they still be compelled to be together forever? This, after the longing spouse tries and tries to put in the effort you rightly say should be directed toward his/her spouse. Perhaps the effort should be directed to God as well, with the hope that the situation will somehow be made whole in the hereafter.

    I hope that is making sense.

  27. Pat,
    I assure you I understand your point. I don’t believe God will compel us to be with anyone, so that’s not really an issue.
    How about hoping for a better marriage? or just being satisfied with the person for what he/she does bring to the relationship. I think if one is seeing themselves as so much deeper/better than their spouse, then they are fooling themselves.
    I’m not saying a different situation might be better, but if a married person is placing their future-eternal plans on another (especially specific) individual, that isn’t fidelity at all.

    I think true unconditional love for another person within the bonds of marriage requires hope that the relationship can deepen, and maintaining true concern for their spouse’s eternal happiness, hope that they will grow deeper in every way. At least that would be the ideal.

  28. I have to agree with Dave in #24. Having lots of meaningful friendships I think is a very important part of life. This article seems to suggest that having close friends outside of your marriage is infidelity. While that can sometimes be the case, it is not the rule, and I think it would be very very sad to go through life denying yourself close relationships outside of your marriage.

    Reading the example they provided, it sounded like Jane had a good friend and her husband was insecure and jealous. This article could have been helpful in pointing out when friendships are taking a dangerous turn, instead it seemed to take to a whole ‘nother level that having a friend at all is tantamount to infidelity. In particular, most of those questions they provide are totally ridiculous, with only the last two really being helpful.

  29. I prefer emotional infidelity as the term…

    I don’t think the article was saying friendships are bad. I do think there are some clear issues-This women felt a lack in her marriage and instead of addressing that or coming to peace with that she sought to fill her emotional needs elsewhere. Had she first taken care of her marriage perhaps a similar friendship with a man may not have been an issue. I also find the comparing with spouse a problem…it looks from here like her friendship was making her spouse look worse in her eyes.

    Friends may meet some needs our spouses can’t. We also may need to evaluate why we “need” certain things. We could be missing a chance to rely on Jesus.

    I absolutely agree with the no venting about spouse rule…I get asking for support or an occaisional comment, but it I learn very quickly if I want to be friends with someone by how they talk about their spouse around me.

  30. I actually quite liked the general concept of the article, and I would point out that the article does not seem to be saying that we should have no friendships with the opposite sex, but that we should be careful if that relationship becomes an outlet for a damaged marriage relationship and doesn’t require us to work on the marriage. Or is that a charitable reading?

    I also hate the ‘appearance of evil’ misuse, and have my own (less scholarly) post on the subject.

    My biggest concern is that they cast the story the way they did. Surely a man having this kind of relationship with a woman at work is more typical. Having the working woman as the guilty party seems to be making a point about working women — maybe KLS can take a stab at this as well?

  31. The danger point, I think, is when you start opening more mental and emotional doors to the friend, and closing them to the spouse. If you ever feel the need to lie (or fudge) to your spouse about time spent with the friend, that’s a huge red flag. I agree that you should never discuss things or vent about your marriage or spouse to the friend.

    Most of my close friendships are with guys, too. I think it’s not an issue, except in Mormon culture. I’m completely convinced that friendships with either gender make us saner, happier, healthier, more well-rounded people and that means we bring that much more to our marriage than we could have otherwise. It’s a win-win.

  32. Surely a man having this kind of relationship with a woman at work is more typical.

    Mathematically, Norbert, this can’t be right, can it? For each man who has this kind of relationship with a woman, there is a woman involved.

    If the article had done more in terms of suggestions for how cross-gender friendships can be maintained without emotional infidelity, and less in terms of “warning signs,” I would like it more. As pitched, it’s a warning without a corresponding set of preventatives. It seems to me that the goal ought to be facilitating close and meaningful friendships regardless of gender while protecting fidelity.

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    Jack no. 12, I’m glad to hear you say that, since we’ve been alone in a car together and had lunch together in a restaurant! (I too agree with Naismith.)

    Stephanie no. 15, that is absolutely hilarious, the more so since it is true!

    J. no. 32, good point, some positive suggestions for maintaining appropriate different sex friendships would have been a helpful addition to the article.

  34. JNS, amongst the readers of The Ensign, I mean.

  35. Chris Rock says that guys don’t have female “friends” they are just people they haven’t slept with yet.

  36. The vast majority of folks get dirty in the trenches. We need this kind of reminder.

  37. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/When_Harry_Met_Sally

    In my experience Harry is both right and wrong.

  38. StillConfused says:

    But what if a womn (or man) needs some friendship? Should they just stick with same gender friends? Is that okay? According to this article, even same gender friends would likely run afoul.

  39. Or this.

  40. Part two.

  41. I find that mormons are deeply suspicious about male/female friendships in ways that most people are not. I am good friends with several married male co-workers. I know their wives and kids and like them, but am friends with the men because we have a lot in common. We enjoy our interaction at work and our occasional work socials, we have lunch together and talk about work and other stuff, and then we go home and have other aspects to our lives. It’s not a boiling pot of mysterious sexual tension–it’s just normal people enjoying the company of friends. I also have several female co-workers that I am close with.

    Why create a bogey-man of potential sexual sin when a perhaps greater sin would be to cut off normal human interaction and the support that can provide to people in the name of protecting your chastity? Do mormons really need one more reason to socially isolate themselves from co-workers, neighbors, etc?

    Here’s a good rule to follow: don’t cheat on your spouse. The creation of complicated sub-rules that may be helpful and may not be helpful depending on the million variables of human character and position and then implying that they should be adopted by everyone is just complicated and creates weird social consequences.

  42. Did anyone else read Shannon Hale’s new adult fiction novel, “The Actor and the Housewife”? Dealt a lot with this issue, but the book didn’t agree with me. Wonder what others here thought…

  43. To me, the key is that our closest relationship should be with our spouse. It isn’t healthy to expect our spouse to meet all of our needs or vice versa. We all need other relationships, but the problems arise, I think, when we give other relationships a higher priority than our spouse.

    On the surface, we are likely to dismiss such a suggestion, but if we are honest with ourselves, we may find that we are more interested and spend more thought, time, and effort in non-spousal relationships than we do with our spouse. The underlying message for me was that by strengthening our marriages our other relationships become less of an issue.

  44. The article asks us to be conscious of how what we do affects others. “Jane” didn’t seem to be aware of who the bow waves of her actions were splashing or whose boats she was rocking. To my thinking, that’s the takeaway lesson. But when her eyes did open, she appears to me to have overcompensated for her errors in judgment. She made her friend (or the article does)–perhaps reasonably, perhaps unreasonably, hard to tell from the details–partly responsible for her lack of sensitivity. Cutting him off in the way she did might have made him pay a penalty he did not earn. We are led to believe what she did may have been expedient for her at her level of “spiritual fidelity.” But it isn’t the only option available for others who might read the article. At the heart of the matter of any friendship is a question of conscious agency, which Jane did not seem to have. She didn’t appear to understand how her behavior affected others. And when she did begin to awaken to that understanding, she created what to my eyes was a very limited range of choices, for herself and others involved.

    I agree with others that, in that way, the article ran on the thin side for some of its audience. “One-sided,” I think the word is. The challenge for readers is to make choices that work at their levels of social awareness. As a woman whose buddies, closest companions, mentors, co-horts in crime, students who continued relationships after the class, etc. have nearly always been male, both inside and outside the church, I’m grateful for every male-spent minute. If it weren’t for the guys, some of us girls would have practically no friends at all.

  45. I know of no couple that broke up because of “the other woman”. Even when there is infidelity, she’s usually gone too in the aftermath. Intimacy erodes from within, like termites eating your house, so when a gust of wind comes it collapses catastrophically. Outsiders will blame the wind, but you know better.

    What are the termites in your marriage?

  46. Sure its all great and fine to have male friends, but fact of the matter is at any given moment, that male friend can and will turn into a predator. I have personal experience with this. Why was this 50 year old guy interested in my wife? They grew up in the same area and knew lots of the same families in the stake and he knew all the fun gossip of years of living in the same area, and the text messages and emails were all just innocent catching up. Then the stake play, ironically called “the Savior of the World” allowed times for quick runs to get meals together, always in a group, so no one could suggest impropriety. But then oh how sad that this guys wife doesn’t have sex with him anymore, and thus the die is cast and adultery is committed. It doesn’t matter that he was a bishop. It still happens. Were there trouble in the marriage to begin with- probably, most definitely, but the male “friend” facilitated circumstances with tragic results.

  47. “Here’s a good rule to follow: don’t cheat on your spouse. The creation of complicated sub-rules that may be helpful and may not be helpful depending on the million variables of human character and position and then implying that they should be adopted by everyone is just complicated and creates weird social consequences.”

    AMEN, Karen!

  48. Thomas Parkin says:

    Dan,

    #43 is very very well said. I couldn’t agree more. ~

  49. One rule I’ve always made for myself that provides clarity for me on how to handle opposite sex relationships is to never have a conversation or do anything with the opposite sex that I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in front of my wife. If I do or say something that gives me pause, well there’s a reason for that.

    I believe it was Pres. Hinckley who said something to the effect ‘stay fiercely loyal to each other.

  50. My biggest concern is that they cast the story the way they did. Surely a man having this kind of relationship with a woman at work is more typical. Having the working woman as the guilty party seems to be making a point about working women

    Interesting. I had the opposite reaction. I thought, “How refreshing that the Ensign is becoming more progressive in including the fact that women work, too, rather that just typecasting a male for the role”. Now I wonder which of us is right.

  51. My husband has several women who work under him. He spends much more time with any of them than with me (especially when you factor in the time he is gone for church callings on top of 10-12 hour work days). I’m not at all concerned that he would be sexually attracted to any of them, but he is very good friends with one of the women. She is also a parent of children the same ages as ours and is funny and smart. He took her out to lunch one day to thank her for working so hard. I have to admit I’ve had concerns. I was relieved when he told me that he read this article in September and it caused him to reflect on his relationship with her. Not that I really think an affair would come out of their relationship, but I think the article was helpful to him.

  52. He took her out to lunch one day to thank her for working so hard.

    Apparently I’m the designated third wheel at my workplace. Whenever someone wants to take the boss’s young, single secretary out to lunch I get invited to go too.

  53. My husband is the sweetly naive type. 6 years ago he had another woman he worked with who flirted with him mercilessly. Every man he worked with told him so. He would come home and tell me the things she said, and I would tell him she was flirting with him. It wasn’t until she said, “You are the only married man I flirt with” that he said, “I think you guys are right”. Sometimes he needs things like this article spelled out to help him see the danger. I think the article is inspired, and I bet we are not the only couple who benefitted from it.

  54. Good point about the termites. I think it becomes more tricky when one spouse perceives termites and the other doesn’t, or similar to Pat’s scenario, one spouse wants the relationship to grow and progress but the other is not interested. When each spouse’s expectations for the relationship vary quite dramatically, it sets up a rather difficult scenario.

    I like how the scriptures describe cleaving to our spouse and none else. I think this implies a certain level of forsaking other interests, and again, I wonder how many of us devote the proper attention to our marriages. I can’t say that I do (but ironically, my wife would probably say that I devote too much attention to it).

  55. Natalie K. says:

    I agree with Karen H., #39

    One relevant anecdote I’ve heard is of a group of Elders being given this scenario:

    “If you were driving home alone from a church function, and saw the RS President walking home alone, and it was raining, would you offer her a ride?”

    And many of the men say no. Because it would be inappropriate. BLAH.

    There does not have to be sexual tension in every interaction with someone of the opposite sex (or of the same sex, for that matter), even IF you are attracted to that person. I think it would be appalling for a Priesthood holder to leave the RS Pres out in the rain in order to avoid temptation. The answer is not isolating yourself from potentially meaningful friendships.

    If you can’t be alone in with a woman without wanting to jump her bones, you’ve got bigger problems to deal with.

  56. My husband and I have been married 32 years and both have (platonic) relationships with opposite-sex friends. This started with intense friendships in our respective graduate programs, and now in my profession and in his academic career, we are each close to colleagues, clients, and students. My husband is outgoing, generous, loving, and caring. People—especially college women, as a majority of students in his field are female—are drawn to him (he even has a facebook fan site!). I am more reserved, but value my male friends. We note this and take steps to avoid potential hazards. For instance, I always go along on his study abroad trips with students. This removes any ambiguity, and paradoxically allows his relationships with students to be closer and safer. Although we have a lot of “couple” friends, we need our separate friendships too—we don’t have totally the same interests. It would be a huge loss if we couldn’t have such friendships. On a side note, I remember how incredulous I was when a younger male colleague refused to ride with me to a conference in Salt Lake because of the “appearance of evil” thing. The “evil” referred to somehow always seems to be “female.” That hurts.

  57. Personally, I think there is plenty of room for personal decision even with what this article discusses. But I do think it’s an important subtlety to consider.

    I also have seen how widely personal choice can be on this score. I don’t think we should condemn those who are on the cautious end (Pres. Kimball was one who would have left his secretary in the rain, so others may follow that suit — I as a woman would avoid such situations as well, in part because my husband tends to lean more on the cautious side and I want to respect his concerns — so Karla, I don’t see this only toward females).

    Maybe what for one person wouldn’t be an issue, for another might cause discomfort.

    I was glad to see the article, because I think there is nuance in what fidelity means. It’s like helping the youth understand that chastity isn’t just about avoiding the sex act. Neither is marital fidelity just about avoiding sexual intercourse with someone who is not the spouse.

  58. m&m, you point out a weakness that many of us have- it is relatively easy to avoid doing “bad” things and to become complacent that this is enough. But we need to be “anxiously engaged” in doing good, not merely refraining from doing “bad.”

  59. Jim, yup, of course. I don’t disagree with that at all. If it came across that I did, I don’t. :)

  60. I thought #24 was profoundly important. I knew that something with the article didn’t set well with me, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. That explanation put it into focus. Along the same lines, it was astonishing that the bishop called Jane to repentance, but there was no discussion as to whether Aaron should learn to be not so jealous.

    I did think the article was great in terms of getting discussions going among people, but it put those of us who have opposite-gender friendships on the defensive much more than would have been the case with a more even-handed approach.

    For the record, when I was younger, I totally thought I was a fly-far-above-the trees person who would never be in this situation. But real life always does get more complicated. And friendships are such a blessing.

  61. #30 “My biggest concern is that they cast the story the way they did. Surely a man having this kind of relationship with a woman at work is more typical. Having the working woman as the guilty party seems to be making a point about working women.”

    Seriously?? If the writer had cast the story differently, with a man having this relationship, I guarantee people would complain that the article perpetuates stereotypes. There is simply no way the Ensign staff can predict all the unintended messages that people will read into every article.

  62. There is simply no way the Ensign staff can predict all the unintended messages that people will read into every article.

    Nor is there any way every article can cover all the facets of an issue.

  63. “Seriously?? If the writer had cast the story differently, with a man having this relationship, I guarantee people would complain that the article perpetuates stereotypes.”

    Only if it actually did perpetuate stereotypes. If, on the other hand, they had written an article with some subtlety and nuance, suggesting that the moral universe is not one-dimensional, there could well be a different conversation.

  64. Haven’t read all the comments, but this is worth pointing out: Just because YOU think you have a purely platonic friendship with a member of the opposite sex doesn’t mean the other side feels that way. Until about June, I had different thoughts about men and women having friendships. That’s when a former co-worker, with whom I’d occasionally have lunch (my wife always knew and approved), made an innocent-sounding inquiry that clearly a well-thought out trial balloon to find out where my boundaries were and to see whether I’d keep secrets from my wife. Essentially, she tipped her hand because she and her husband were moving away soon and it was her “last chance.”

    Not that I was remotely tempted to take the bait, but there it was, and I couldn’t fathom that a married woman had just asked me to do. There was nothing in our prior friendship that indicated she had any of those kinds of feelings for me. I had never said or done anything that would have suggested I was open to such things.

    Not then or ever in 16 years of marriage have I ever been tempted. It hadn’t occurred to me until then that I was tempting someone else. Just saying — I thought I’d see it coming if a woman were ever getting the wrong idea about my intentions. I didn’t. I’m not saying platonic male/female friendships are impossible, but don’t be so sure the other party’s hopes and intentions are as innocent as your own.

  65. Sigh.

    Reading all this makes me think, yet again, that it will truly be heaven when I can interact with and be friends with men without the slightest concern about emotional, spiritual, or sexual infidelity, on either side. Personally, that’s my idea of the same sociality which exists among us here being coupled with eternal glory. I long for free, easy relationships with men where we can both take it as a premise that romantic and sexual interactions are completely off the table, so we can just relax and enjoy one another’s company. Sometimes such relationships have happened in my life. But close friendships with men have been rare.

    Although I’m generally quite reserved, I’m also the type of person who sometimes gets obviously and intensely enthusiastic by conversations or ideas that fascinate me. More than once men have clearly misinterpreted my enthusiasm as flirting, and they have also clearly not been excited by the idea of being flirted with by the likes of me. Although at this phase of my life I have no interest in getting men to think I’m attractive (something I was never any good at even in younger, more attractive days), it’s still deflating to see horror in someone else’s eyes at even the misguided prospect that I’m hitting on him.

    And it’s depressing to realize, yet again, that I can’t express my enthusiasm for what I love without risking being completely misinterpreted. (And some of the ideas that interest me occur in heavily male-dominated fields, so it’s an issue.) Particularly in the Mormon world, sometimes I can’t even address a man about the weather without being misinterpreted. (Male sexual overperception bias, anyone?)

    Like a lot of people here, I get why Mormons are often so cautious about opposite-sex friendships. I too have seen seemingly innocent interactions blow up into adultery, with all the wreckage of lives adultery always brings. But at the same time, there’s an inevitable contradiction in restricting opposite-sex socializing; the very restrictions actually end up sexualizing the restricted realm, in the same way that if we forbid women from showing their shoulders, ankles, or faces these parts of the body then become sexually charged (and so they then have to be even more vigorously policed and restricted; the extreme endpoint of this process is the burka). Our attempts to restrict sexuality actually end up expanding it. So when a Mormon man offers a Mormon woman a ride in a rainstorm, it’s often a hugely awkward and charged situation, when I don’t think it necessarily has to be.

    Maybe I just need to hang out with more gay men.

  66. “Why create a bogey-man of potential sexual sin when a perhaps greater sin would be to cut off normal human interaction and the support that can provide to people in the name of protecting your chastity? Do mormons really need one more reason to socially isolate themselves from co-workers, neighbors, etc?”

    Amen!

    I know too many people (members), including family members who really have no real friendships – just acquaintances and fellow ward members. There is a superficiality in their life that they never get beyond because they have been conditioned to be afraid of human interaction at a deeper level for a number of reasons, including this one. As these people go through life I see them becoming so lonely and depressed. Friendship and human connection (real, not superficial working relationships) are so important, and we need that from more than one source.

    This idea behind the article is good – but instead of guiding people in how to maintain close friendships without crossing a line, it seems to make the line having a meaningful friendship (with someone other than your spouse) at all.

  67. And it’s depressing to realize, yet again, that I can’t express my enthusiasm for what I love without risking being completely misinterpreted.

    Dontcha think that at some point, some of this really does boil down to just doing your best, though? If we make choices based on the very worst possible thing that someone could think, I think we’d all go crazy.

    I feel your pain, Eve, because I am not only by nature passionate about many topics, I’m also, by nature, extroverted. I can’t go around never speaking or sharing or being excited about whatever issues may get me excited for fear of being misinterpreted. There’s a fine line between being cautious and being paranoid. I also think it’s not a healthy way to live to always be so concerned about what others might think that you are paralyzed.

    I do try to avoid the whole ‘being alone’ thing unnecessarily for the sake of appearances, and also because it’s just an easier place to draw a line. But for all the caution that I try to have, I also know that there are some people who will just think I’m a flirt because of my personality and interests, and I have to let some of that go. Worrying too much, imo, can also be unhealthy in its own right and can rob us of healthy, pure, good friendships. I can’t believe that God doesn’t smile down upon that concept of friendship. But yes, of course, there are boundaries. And the trick is that everyone has their own opinion about it, based on their own experiences. I think ultimately, each person has to decide for him or herself. In a marriage, there has to be some give and take and sensitivity to sensitivities and insecurities, but even then, I think sometimes there also has to be some room left for different personalities, upbringings, etc.

    Hard tensions.

  68. Having not read the article, I can’t comment on its tone, although the idea that men and women can’t be friends without an inevitable sexuality happening is absolutely absurd.

    Tangentially (but barely) related—does the Ensign ever send renewal notices? Periodically we realize we haven’t received one in months, but as far as we know, we were never got any notification that our subscription was almost over.

  69. Sam B (66),
    I think the renewal notice is usually a separate cardstock insert in the plastic wrap with the magazine(s). You can also see the expiration date to the left of your address on the back cover of the Ensign itself–mine, for example, says “01 FEB 2011 ENSIGN.” I think if you subscribe to the Friend or New Era, they are also listed with their respective expiration dates.

  70. StillConfused says:

    When I was with a firm, the lead partner (male) would not sit next to me at the attorney meetings (big oblong table) because I was a girl. I thought, does he really have that little self control. Ewww.

  71. “When I was with a firm, the lead partner (male) would not sit next to me at the attorney meetings (big oblong table) because I was a girl.”

    Well hello glass ceiling! Nice to meetcha!

  72. although the idea that men and women can’t be friends without an inevitable sexuality happening is absolutely absurd.

    imo, this wasn’t the point of the article.

    I do think that Eve’s point is worth considering, though. *sometimes* people take chastity to an extreme where they are afraid of *any* relationship w/ someone of the opposite sex.

    But by the same token, I think everyone’s lines may be a little different….

  73. Dan Knudsen says:

    I’d like to mention something which seems to point out potential problems. Sometime back at the temple, a couple was chosen to be the witnesses. They were married, but not to each other. They considered this the answer to their prayers that they were meant for each other–they’d prayed and gone to the temple together to get an answer, and here it was, so plain and obvious to them. Who knows how innocent this relationship had been at the beginning?

    I understand why performers change spouses/partners the way they do. I was a music major at BYU, and performed professionally in musical theatre. I noticed that I was quite attracted to the beautiful girls I worked with–even after I was married! I had several friends from Opera Workshop go into the operatic profession, and without exception they all had serious problems: Losing their church membership; getting disfellowshipped; or, being divorced and losing their families. I had a good chat with one who’d been highly successful singing opera in Europe and asked him point blank why he’d stopped. He replied that he was losing his family and that the temptations were getting extremely hard to resist. The opera cast members stayed in the same hotel and would walk together and some of the girls would come by him and say that they were in room such-and-such and if there was ever anything they could do for him, for him not to hesitate to call on them. He said that the first six weeks of that was easy to ignore. Realizing my attractions, I decided to abandon my desires to perform and quit taking voice lessons so there would be no chance of that happening to me–yes, I was a coward and didn’t trust in the Lord to keep me from being burned when I knowingly stepping into the fire!

    Yes, I’m sure that would never happen to those of you who have discussed here, but it’s always a real possibility whether we want to face that fact or not. You can make fun of those advocating that no such other relationships should be formed; but, it just depends on what is most important in your lives–and, in my case, especially after I saw those disasters happen to my friends! How can we be so sure it will never happen to us–because I’m proud of my faithfulness, and the Lord knows I would never let anything bad happen in my innocent “other relationships”?

    I recently got an Insulin Pump and last Saturday, when I was having some problems with it, the nurse told me to meet her at the doctor’s office. She showed up with her husband, and I was glad to see that she was that thoughtful, even though I’m 30 years older than she is.

  74. Anonymous says:

    I see both sides of the coin: a need for human friendship, regardless of sex; and the potential for a sexually charged relationship. I think the latter is of most concern when you are too chummy with an ex. I see it all the time, in all walks of life/beliefs.

  75. So the nice man in my old ward who was over all afternoon fixing my computer was actually courting danger?

    The Elders told me that they cannot come to my home for dinner now, even with all three of my children and their constant companion present, since I am a single parent.

    And if a man in my ward drove by and left me standing in the rain because he was alone, I would definitely have something to say next time I saw him.

    All three situations imply I am nothing more than a mess of sexual misconduct and danger- that I cannot be trusted to behave in a morally responsible and adult manner.

  76. I am reminded of a story from The Wisdom of Zen Masters:

    Two monks on a pilgrimage came to the ford of a river. There they saw a girl dressed in all her finery, obviously now knowing what to do since the river was high and she did not want to spoil her clothes. Without more ado, one of the monks took her on his back, carried her across and put her down on dry ground on the other side. Then the monks continued on their way.

    However, the other monk, after an hour or so, started complaining, “Surely it is not right to touch a woman; it is against the commandments to have close contact with women. How could you go against the rules for monks?”

    The monk who had carried the girl walked along silently, but finally he remarked, “I set her down by the river an hour ago, why are you still carrying her?”

  77. Latter-day Guy says:

    “All three situations imply I am nothing more than a mess of sexual misconduct and danger…”

    The glass doesn’t need to be half-empty, Tracy. Just add the words “smokin’ hot” somewhere in the foregoing. :-)

  78. “fact of the matter is at any given moment, that male friend can and will turn into a predator.”

    I just need to call BS on this. Imo, this perspective is the heart of the issue.

  79. Ray- yeah, that struck me wrong too. Assuming all males will turn into predators as messed-up an idea as all women being madonna/whores.

  80. StillConfused says:

    Tracy M… I too am a member of that club. You would think that the church would give special attention to the needs of single mothers. But alas we are man stealing skanks whose children do not need an LDS male influence.

  81. “More worrisome is that this article also plays right into the hands of jealous or controlling partners who resent any friendship, even contact, that their spouses have outside the marriage.”

    Thank you for this comment. I needed it.

    The sort of attitude displayed in this article made me terrified to have any contact with men at all. My husband accused me of emotional infidelity with a premarital friend. Because of this type of accusation in my marriage, I got to the point where I even refrained from mentioning occasional men in my life, for example, that my nearest coworker is male, because I was afraid of the jealousy and rage that would result.

    Abusers have no compunction about using articles that are written for the normal situation to justify their abuse. I wish this article had included even one small paragraph of disclaimer for situations of abuse.

    Some of the questions asked in the article could easily set up a victim for further abuse, and can apply to same-gender friendships as well as cross-gender:
    “Are you turning to your friend for comfort rather than turning to your spouse?” You should be, if your spouse is abusive. It wasn’t until I got up the courage to turn to friends for comfort that I learned that I even was in an abusive relationship.

    “Have you told your spouse about these messages?” Dangerous, if your spouse is abusive, controlling, prone to jealous rages. My spouse would be jealous even of friendships with other women. Anything that took time away from home other than working was suspect.

    “Do you seek opportunities to be with your friend even when work doesn’t require you to be together?” I would have never dared, and I didn’t have the luxury of friendships away from work.

    “Would you be uncomfortable introducing your spouse to your friend?” I was uncomfortable introducing my spouse to anyone, afraid of what he would do, so I just didn’t have many friendships that would require introduction.

    As a victim, it is hard enough fighting the voices in your head that tear you apart and tell you that you are evil without hearing it from official sources. That being said, it is important for abuse victims to remind themselves that articles like this do not apply cleanly to abusive situations.

  82. StillConfused, the high priest group is specifically assigned to single mothers in the ward, and they (specifically your home teachers, with assistance from other ward resources as needed) should provide any special attention that is required. Obviously this is the ideal, and since we are mortals, we often fall short of reaching this ideal. If your home teachers are not in touch with you or you otherwise feel that you have needs that are not being met, you should express this to the high priest group leader in your ward.

    Also, I don’t mean to imply that this is the case here, but usually when I most feel that my needs have been ignored is when I have least articulated those needs.

  83. I also think that perception is an interesting factor to consider. A spouse that perceives emotional closeness within the marriage is unlikely to feel threatened or jealous regarding his/her spouse’s interests in developing other friendships or engaging in outside activities. A spouse that feels an emotional distance in the marriage will likely respond negatively when his/her spouse develops close friendships with others, even of the same gender.

    I liked this quote from a Jan. 1975 Ensign article on the same topic: “Fidelity, like infidelity, is a process. Fidelity, the positive quality, is measured by the degree of loyalty, allegiance, and commitment between husband and wife. Infidelity, the negative quality, results from insufficient feelings of loyalty and allegiance. Any action that fosters inappropriate relationships with another person erodes fidelity.”

    Perhaps when we focus on actively strengthening our marriages infidelity is much less of an issue/concern.

  84. I am coming in here pretty late, but thought I would just add a comment.

    While avoiding the “appearance of evil” may or may not be exactly what Paul meant in 1 Thess. 5:22, he definitely teaches the principle elsewhere (see Romans 14:13-21; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13). I know that the general authorities live hard and fast by this rule, and for good reason. In addition, it has been taught over the pulpit by many. Take Pres. Faust for example:

    “The best counsel I ever received about staying away from the edge came when, as a young married man, President Harold B. Lee called me to be a member of a bishopric. He said, ‘From now on, you must not only avoid evil, but also the appearance of evil.’ He did not interpret that counsel. That was left to my conscience.” (“Acting for Ourselves and Not Being Acted Upon,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 45.)

    Or Pres. Benson in a 1987 BYU devotional address, who speaks of the very issue discussed in the OP: “If you are married, avoid flirtations of any kind. Sometimes we hear of a married man going to lunch with his secretary or other women in the office. Men and women who are married sometimes flirt and tease with members of the opposite sex. So-called harmless meetings are arranged, or inordinate amounts of time are spent together. In all of these cases, people rationalize by saying that these are natural expressions of friendship. But what may appear to be harmless teasing or simply having a little fun with someone of the opposite sex can easily lead to more serious involvement and eventual infidelity.

    “A good question to ask ourselves is this: Would my spouse be pleased if he or she knew I was doing this? Would a wife be pleased to know that her husband lunches alone with his secretary? Would a husband be pleased if he saw his wife flirting and being coy with another man? My beloved brothers and sisters, this is what Paul meant when he said: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thes. 5:22).” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Law of Chastity,” New Era, Jan 1988, 4.)

    My point in bringing this up is that I don’t think it is just a perpetuated misinterpretation of a single verse of scripture. While I think most understand this, it seemed to have been lost on a few earlier comments.

  85. Single Friend says:

    (anon only in case a ward member reads this)

    75: Tracy, you need to brace yourself for all kinds of changes. You should still have home teachers, although you might need to insist on that if your current teachers show any hesitation to visit a single mother. And no, the missionaries will no longer visit. All of us single women have to work to not feel betrayed and even shamed by the way men in the church treat single women.

    One of my home teachers — age 86, a saintly man, and widowed — will not come into my house alone but will sit in his car regardless of the temperature until his companion shows up. Go figure. The younger one, much closer to my age and never married, doesn’t hesitate to offer me rides. Alone. In his car. Without a chaperone. With him being a man and me being a woman. It’s such a pleasure, and a rare treat, to be treated as an adult by another adult in the church. You can guess which one I will call if I ever need help.

  86. There’s a big generation gap. SWK’s contemporaries didn’t routinely go to college with, work beside, hang out with, or otherwise spent time with women outside of situations with a romantic agenda.

  87. One more:

    I think as we are guided by the Spirit, there is a good chance that we will be prompted to not do certain things that may be otherwise “lawful” for others to do. Take the sons of Mosiah for example. Although after their conversion they were righteous, born-of-the-spirit people, all of them refused to be king. Notice, however, that the reason was not because monarchy = evil. It had to do with _them_ and the spiritually-compromising situation it would put them in given their _own_ past weaknesses. Take also, for example, the people of Ammon, a formerly murderous people, who covenanted with the Lord that they would not take up arms again. For the average person, there was nothing wrong with taking up arms in defense. But, according to Helaman, they were at risk of losing their souls if they did, in part because of their past, in part because of the covenant they had made. In short, sometimes the Lord will prompt us to stay away from situations that may not be universally compromising, but may be compromising to _us_.

    Looked at this way, talking about hypothetical or third-party situations is not as helpful in determining whether an action or situation is appropriate. The question isn’t whether something is ok, it is whether something is ok for _me_. And I honestly believe people can come to different answers that way. With this understanding, I should never judge someone who, say, is having lunch with someone not his spouse, but I should definitely be judging myself if (1) a similar situation _could_ be potentially compromising for _me_ or the person I am having lunch with, (2) my spouse would be uncomfortable with it, or (3) it may damage the faith of another if seen by them (would especially apply if I were in a position of trust or leadership).

  88. My advice for marital fidelity? Never shower during the work week. Also, lose your inhibitions as to gassy foods. These tips, and a few others, have made me virtually untouchable to women in the office. Of course, it’s made me virtually untouchable at home too, but some sacrifices need to be made.

  89. Jimbob:

    Great advice. This could be the male equivalent of a burka.

  90. Kathryn #86, given that times have changed and we are now more likely to associate with the opposite sex, is the counsel from President Kimball more or less applicable than when it was given over 35 years ago?

  91. Hmmm. I had a policy of telling my wife about all of the women in my work. I would report. I told her that was my policy and that I would have no private relationship with other women. J and I had a wonderful relationship and I was never worried about her because she said I was the only man she liked. I utterly believed that. The first bulwark of a good relationship is a good relationship, then mutual respect and mutual attraction.

    We moved to N.C. and I renewed a friendship with a former student, at the time getting her second Ph.D. degree at UNC. There were immediate sparks, but I could tell that my dearest beloved was uncomfortable, so I retreated to the background and my former student became a family friend. A really good family friend, so that she, time passing, hired my youngest as her head TA.

    When my wife died, our family friend became my wife. Had I not been considerate of J’s feelings this would never have happened and the outcome would have been much worse. The odd part is the C’s perception of me was of the background person, not too interested or too forward.

    We discussed this article. We decided that these were two very inexperienced individuals. What happens, anyway, when you marry someone you really do not like, that you can not talk to, whose interests are antiparallel? What do you do when you are 20 or 22 years old? Was the young woman at fault or her dunce of a husband, or the inexperience of youth? Could they ever really get along? Are they doomed to a miserable life together of mere coexistence? So many questions.

  92. TracyM (75)

    All three situations imply I am nothing more than a mess of sexual misconduct and danger- that I cannot be trusted to behave in a morally responsible and adult manner.

    & Still Confused (80)

    But alas we are man stealing skanks whose children do not need an LDS male influence.

    I will go ahead and invite wrath by saying that I think that these two statements are not only martyrific, but just so completely wrong-headed that it baffles me.

    The first problem is that you seem to have assumed it is all about your propensity to jump a missionary’s bones, and not about the 19-20 year old men with raging hormones who are not allowed to date or otherwise have any fun.

    The second (and bigger) problem is that you seem to be ignoring the issue of simplicity in rules for idiot missionaries who can barely tie their own neckties. Is an Elder likely to lust after every unmarried or otherwise available woman they run into? Of course not. Is an Elder likely to lust after some of them? Damn straight he is! So the question is, how do you help Elders determine which single women they will, uhh, lose focus over, and which they will not? And more importantly, how would you suggest explaining to the, uhh, distracting single woman in the ward that you can’t come visit, when she knows that you just visited the single woman you and your companion think is, uhh, less distracting? How well do you think it will go over when you box the Elders into a corner where they are forced to tell you personally that you’re hot and they have impure thoughts about you, and that’s why they can’t come over, but that Sister So-and-So isn’t, so she’s fine for dinner appointments?

    The point is, we have rules and laws throughout society that are aimed at the least common denominator either because citizens aren’t trusted to differentiate carefully on a case-by-case basis, or because it is simply impractical to do so. Turning this rule–which seems pretty reasonable given the scores of missionaries who couldn’t keep their hands to themselves and found themselves transferred to the Ogden North Mission or home–into the same fundamental question as picking up the RS President in the rain is just silly, methinks.

    And for the record, not picking up the RS Prez in the rain is stupid.

  93. Tracy, #75. All church rules are written for the lowest common denominator. It would surprise you how often the lowest common denominator is close to the norm. How many bishops fall for the Relief Society president! You would think God’s chosen people would have more restraint.

    I my father-in-law’s stake there were missionaries who started having a sexual tryst with an investigator woman. Mercy. An elder in the sauna in Vienna started coming on to an Austrian sauna goer. I broke mission rules about girls once, and my companion and I were OK with it. The new companion was a horrid flirt and it turned out badly, not the worst however.

  94. (hit submit too quickly)

    Lastly, it should be clear that missionaries’ tasks do not typically include non-missionary tasks. Like, you know, making sure all the kids in the ward have an “LDS male influence.”

  95. Scott–I’ll bet your kids will love having the missionaries over to dinner when they’re a little bigger. Mine do, too, and it’s far more difficult for me to make that happen than it needs to be. I think that’s all anyone is saying.

  96. Also, an Elder and a single mom who are so determined to have sex that they will figure out how to get it done with a companion and kids in the house are probably able to figure out a way to do it no matter what rules are in place. At some point, you just have to let people govern themselves.

  97. Steve Evans says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Kristine – I think there needs to be a happy medium between overly restrictive rules and a recognition that young missionaries are stupid.

    If anything these rules seem drafted by loss-prevention lawyers.

  98. Fact #1: people have illicit sex sometimes.

    Value assertion #1: they probably shouldn’t.

    Fact #2: all the rules in Mormondom haven’t yet changed Fact #1.

  99. JNS, Steve, Kristine–I totally agree. I didn’t say anything about whether or not the rule is totally good with perfect outcomes; I just said that, in a nutshell, it’s wrong-headed to assume the rule is targeted specifically at Tracy’s and StillConfused’s libidos, because it ignores a much more likely culprit: idiotic 19 year olds.

  100. Hmmm. I had a policy of telling my wife about all of the women in my work. I would report.

    And I tell my husband about all my friends, too.

    I told her that was my policy and that I would have no private relationship with other women.

    I would totally welcome my husband into any conversation with my male friends. He is not always willing to read the books we are discussing, and he isn’t in our field of work. Such conversations are “private” only because my husband chooses not to participate. Does that mean that I shouldn’t be having the conversation with a male at all? Would it be okay to have the conversation if it were with a female friend?

    J and I had a wonderful relationship and I was never worried about her because she said I was the only man she liked.

    I think that’s sad. Half of the population is male. My husband and I have a wonderful relationship and he never worries about me, because I am not hiding things from him. Does you wife only read books that you read and discuss things that you know about? That seems a very narrow, constrained world.

    We moved to N.C. and I renewed a friendship with a former student, at the time getting her second Ph.D. degree at UNC. There were immediate sparks,

    Okay, what are we really talking about here. I don’t understand the “sparks.” Are we talking about true friendship which would exist irregardless of gender? Or does the “sparks” refer to some kind of physical attraction?

    Because I agree it would be dangerous to have a physical attraction to someone of the opposite gender. That’s a far different thing than a friendship.

    but I could tell that my dearest beloved was uncomfortable, so I retreated to the background

    Or you could have talked it out. My husband is still a bit uncomfortable on some level with me having male friends, but he recognizes that the reaction is somewhat atavistic and irrational on his part. He has said it is fine, with the rules in place that we have, and I have to act on that, not read his mind.

  101. Also, the Fact #1, Fact #2 ploy is fun, but ultimately useless without a measure of whether or not the Mormon-created rules have altered the frequency of illicit sex.

  102. Having witnessed firsthand the impact that a sexual scandal involving missionaries and single LDS adult females has on a ward and on the work I am in favor of keeping the rules the way they are.

    Remember that we are dealing with 19-21 year old males who are largely unsupervised and represent the church which is a target rich environment for trial lawyers

  103. Glenn Smith says:

    When my wife served as Relief Society president, she had occasions to accompany the Bishop visit less active sisters. One visit was to a sister’s place of employment who worked as a bartender. The Bishop and I joked later that the next time he would take me along.

    I like Bridget’s (#12) comment:
    “I also think that one of the essentials to cross-gender friendships is to make sure things are okay at home.”

  104. Late to the party here but still thought I would throw in my 2 cents. I agreed with the assessment that the article was one sided. It seemed to put all the blame on the wife and made the husband just a victim rather than an equal partner in his marriage. Was he emotionally engaged?

    I think one point that may not have been brought out by those who made comments was the importance of how respectful the “friend” is of the marriage relationship and the boundaries established by the marriage partners. Does the friend recognize it as the primary relationship? Does the spouse feel that he/she is still the primary relationship? If so, then I think, like Naismith, you will likely have a friendship that doesn’t cross those boundaries.

    Thank you for commenting on this topic. I think it is timely and helpful.

  105. #s 78 & 79: Not to defend an obvious overgeneralization, but I did not take the Anon’s statement literally. On its literal level, it’s wrong. Louder than the literal level, though, is distress/outrage over a painful event. That is probably more the more meaningful statement.

  106. Oops, that should read, “That is probably the more meaningful statement.”

  107. Ola Senor says:

    Late to the party here – but I will add this anecdote. My Stake President used the RS president in the rain scenario on several occasions. I remember once while doing the exit interview from my mission, he commented that if he were driving home from church and saw the RS president in the rain -he would stop and let her take the car.

    Perhaps silly, but he was speaking from a position where a Bishop and RS president had run off together, leaving 2 broken homes with 10 plus kids.

  108. We need a Mormon snopes.com to track down all the rumors about Bishops and RS Presidents. I’d be willing to bet a good deal of money that this happens far less often than it is related.

  109. My wife said that, if she was walking along the side of the road in the rain, and, if any male by himself stopped to pick her up, she wouldn’t get in the car with him. She says she’s had too many bad experiences.

    So, I guess it cuts both ways.

  110. Kristine – I agree. But as far as my anecdote, I can speak from first hand experience, as it was my Bishop.

  111. I think articles in the Ensign provide good counsel for personal reflection. Does every article have immediate import and direct application to every member? No. Does every article constitute firm doctrine? No. But the articles generally do provide good counsel for personal reflection and learning.

    Even the subject article provides good counsel for personal reflection, for those who are willing to accept counsel. For others, it is an easy target for ridicule.

    Did this article establish rules or forbid actions? No, it only shared good counsel. It is always easy to mock good counsel.

  112. Re: Missionaries — when I was a missionary, we weren’t able to teach young men alone. FWIW. (In other words, it isn’t just about single women, so I don’t see it as insulting or not trusting single women, but more, as others have said, a low common denominator approach to avoid potential problems and also, perhaps, false accusation? Not saying it isn’t frustrating at times, but I don’t think it’s quite the personal insult that some feel it to be.

    I also think sometimes the specific circumstances and solutions depend on the people when it comes to these kinds of issues. Some men wouldn’t think twice about this, but I know some who won’t babysit others’ kids or pick up female babysitters from their homes– not because they are oversexualized beings, but to avoid any false accusation from the gossipy types, or to avoid any ‘she said/he said’ kinds of situations. (I think our Primary policies take that same kind of approach — they shouldn’t be misunderstood as just assuming all men are child predators, but giving men another witness in case such an accusation ever arose).

    I think some people would be fine w/ a lunch w/ a member of the opposite sex, and others avoid such things. This may not always be out of fear of emotional infidelity, but just a sort of legalish covering of the backside or even just personality.

    On pretty much every facet of these kinds of things, I can see both sides. And I think it’s hard to find a middle ground. And I’ll say it again — imo, it’s hard to cover all the nuance and the two sides in one article. To those who have other facets — I say, submit an article! :)

  113. I wouldn’t get in the car of any man who offered me a ride when I was walking in the rain . . . . But that is because I love the rain!

  114. Mike Parker says:

    “While y’all comment, I’ll return my attention to The Dollhouse.”

    Merely a passing comment, but I’m glad to know that SOMEONE besides me is watching that show. Unfortunately, its ratings are so low that I suspect it will be canceled mid-season. Pity.

  115. “Did anyone else read Shannon Hale’s new adult fiction novel, “The Actor and the Housewife”? Dealt a lot with this issue, but the book didn’t agree with me. Wonder what others here thought…”

    I tried to read it, but got angry when I flipped through the book and saw that they kissed. From reading her website, I thought that this really was going to be about friendship, and I guess I was hoping for a role model of how to have such a friendship. That was very disappointing. It just fed into all the stereotypes of how it is inevitably sexual. That was so sad. Can anyone think of a good book or movie that shows two married people who remain good friends and in strong marriages? It really is not that uncommon, but I guess boring. The sex sells.

    “Did this article establish rules or forbid actions? No, it only shared good counsel. It is always easy to mock good counsel.”

    I don’t think that most of us who have a problem with the article are mocking the counsel in the least. Only wishing the counsel were more comprehensive, less prone to abuse.

    “To those who have other facets — I say, submit an article!”

    And you really think they would print it?

  116. Sorry, I forgot to add–the author of this article is a Really Old Guy who finished his grad school in 1976 and has been at BYU since 1982.

    So I really wonder if he has a clue about what it is like for those of us who live our lives outside Utah Valley. It would seem that if they had done any formative research on this article, some of the same concerns voiced here would have arisen.

  117. Darn!

    Naismith, #100 It was supposed to be a love story.

    J LOVED me, and I trusted her because of love. She had many male contacts, she served in many high church callings in contact with bishops and presidents. She served on community councils. She worked. But she loved me above all the others. She had many friends, including me. We could talk. We read books together. We had children together. If heaven ever blessed a union it was ours. When I said that she did not like other men, I should have been more explicit. She did not love other men. I was fortunate that she could love me.

    I wanted her to be comfortable with my life and my friendships. Jealousy is a rotten feeling and I did not want her to have to experience this. I wanted her to know that she had my heart. Because of this I told her that my life would be transparent to her.

    When I met C, there was in immediate connection. I knew at once that I was attracted to her on multiple levels and I did end up marrying her. What if I had yielded to those attractions? I would have destroyed J’s trust and spiked a wonderful friendship besides.

    Because we were friends C and I discussed this and redefined our relationship as brother to sister to remove the romantic elements. It did work. J could live with this relationship. This was a conscious decision on our part. Did I talk to J about this? I am sure I did. As a brother to C I could enjoy her relationship to everyone else and I did not have to engage with her on an exclusive basis as lovers are want to do.

    At the time I was reading at the UNC medical library trying to understand autism and schizophrenia. Since C had a degree in neurophysiology and was studying psychology there were many opportunities to talk shop and exclude others from the conversation. This is generally not a good idea in any social situation, so it must be used judiciously.

    This mechanism allowed C to be a part of our family. She went on a canoe trip down the Cape Fear River. Spent a week with our family on the Outer Banks. Went camping with the our clan near the Escalante river. It allowed us to stay in her home in Utah later. And later it allowed us to become lovers in the truest and most honest sense of the word.

    Blogs are not a place to bare one’s soul.

  118. “Naismith, #100 It was supposed to be a love story.”

    I apologize if you feel I trampled on your story. I think the details you added here really are important to filling out what happened. The initial posting seemed ambiguous and filled with tritisms. Thanks for sharing.

  119. “To those who have other facets — I say, submit an article!”

    And you really think they would print it?

    Hm. I was thinking of Lily, who talked about how abusers can manipulate anything to control another — I think abuse is something that can be addressed in the Ensign (and has, actually — I think more would be good). Or about balancing the importance of fidelity with healthy friendships with those of the opposite sex.

    You don’t think such topics would be accepted? If so, I wonder why you think that. The tension in the latter might be hard to tackle well, but I don’t see why that wouldn’t be a reasonable topic for a submission.

    My feeling is if people are really that upset about an article like this, do something. Send feedback or submit an article of your own. Seems worth a try to me.

    If you have ever known someone who *has* fallen into the emotional infidelity trap, you can appreciate the value of an article like this. If you made too many qualifications, maybe the message wouldn’t be clear enough for such people. But yes, of course, there are many other facets to explore — insecurity, abuse, what healthy friendships could look like, etc. Just can’t all be done in two pages, or necessarily with one person’s experience.

  120. Emotional infidelity can include people who become more committed to a job or hobby than to their spouse as well. I speak from experience here.

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