How will TL know if I start heading in the wrong direction, away from her, love, and us, and toward selfishness, self-pity, and lies? How can any spouse know?
There are clues. This list is not exhaustive, and some items may be more likely for certain personalities than for others.
If I actively beg you to rewrite parts of your past in a way that is less threatening to me, I may be saying I will only really love or respect you if you could be perfect. No one is perfect, and love should not be conditioned on perfection. If I want so badly to change you, I may be tempted to search for someone else — someone who is more perfect. Of course, no such person exists. But, the mere process of obsessively wanting your mate to be better is a selfish process, destined to prevent real love.
If I pout, throw any sort of tantrum, or otherwise behave childishly when you don’t give me the sex, time, or attention I want or I otherwise don’t get my way, I’m saying I’ll only love, honor, respect, tolerate, or like you if you give me things and do things for me. This demanding personality can never be satisfied. Enough is never enough. Each gift or favor leads to more desires and demands. Since I can’t be satisfied, I may start looking outside the marriage to get even more of my desires and demands met.
If I use porn or masturbate, without your participation or without your full, immediate knowledge, understanding, and support, I may be starting to take my sex life underground. I should feel comfortable and compelled to tell you everything I think and do, particularly with regard to sex. If not, I should stop doing it. If I am so obsessed with porn or masturbation that sex with you is not enough, or if I insist on much more sex than you want, we should discuss it. If we can’t develop solutions together, we should work together with a counselor, class, or course of study.
Similarly, if I own any books, videos, magazines, subscriptions, or anything at all without your full and complete knowledge, I may be harboring some unhealthy interest in porn or in other people that I am using as a substitute for a healthy sexual and romantic relationship with you. You should be able to look at any part of our home, my workplace, my computer, and my phone, at any time. I should not be defensive about showing you those places, including websites I visit, numbers I call, and e-mails I exchange. You should be able to ask me about any unexplained spending. If I’m not doing or contemplating anything wrong, I should have no stress about showing you everything.
TL, you know me, my friends, and my favorite activities. I don’t go out without you unless it is for fitness or to participate in a sport. Every guy is a little different in this regard. Some guys regularly — not often, but regularly — go spend time with certain friends for poker, golf, watching a ball game, or the like. That’s OK, if that’s their way.
But, in any case, if I start changing my pattern in this regard, I may be hiding something or contemplating doing something I would want to hide. I think this applies to other guys too. A wife should wonder what’s happening if a man suddenly starts spending time away from her for new reasons that don’t fit with his previous patterns.
You should feel free to go out without me for a girls night. If I discourage that, through guilt trips or any other threat or manipulation, that’s a bad sign. If I am so insecure that I can’t handle you going out without me, I may be tempted to start seeking self-validation outside the marriage.
Sometimes you and I might mutually decide that you’ll have a girls night out while I have a guys night out. Or, maybe we’ll decide to alternate, taking turns while the other watches the kids. That’s fine. But, be careful. These activities with our individual friends should start to decline, not increase, as our relationship progresses. More and more, we should have mixed and mutual friends. And, these individual activities should be minimal compared to dates centered on you and me together.
Given my personality and my personal demons, I do not need to go out drinking with the guys without at least inviting you. Guys night out should not occur at a club or bar. If it does not center on a game or sport, it may be a disguise for courting infidelity. I don’t go to clubs and bars without you unless I am contemplating something I am afraid to share with you. If I go out, with no relation to sports, why do I need to go without you? If I am defensive about preserving these individual activities, beware. I certainly should not need to go to a bar or club without you, without a damned good explanation and your complete understanding and support.
Of course, it’s healthy for me to have male friends. But, men can do activities together in “safe” places, like golf courses, fishing boats, camping trips, or in front of big screen television with a game on.
If I ever have a meal or any one-on-one activity, sports included, with a woman who is not my blood relative, it means I am starting to drive toward the ditch. Even if unintentional, I must address it immediately and make course corrections immediately. I should be able to give you a non-defensive, consistent, and logical explanation. We should be able to talk, non-defensively, about why I would even consider doing something like that without you. At this point, if you have even the slightest hint of doubt about my integrity, we should see a counselor.
If you are willing to go to the gym or do any physical activity with me, I should choose that before I choose working out alone or with someone else. Doing both is fine, though unlikely. But, choosing the activity without you before the activity with you is a bad sign. Are my fitness goals or level too different from yours? As a smart athlete, I should be able to adjust, adding weights or otherwise increasing the challenge for myself while still being with you. If I insist I must workout without you, I may be hiding a desire to seek attention from others at the gym. Or, if nothing else, I may be showing you I value me more than I value us. What if I do my own workout at home, while you do something else? That’s fine. It’s insisting upon going somewhere without you that starts to raise a red flag.
If I turn down sex when you offer it, you should be suspicious. Any physical advance from you will turn me on. If it doesn’t, I either have a physical problem that I should discuss with you, or I am harboring some sort of anger or trying to manipulate you emotionally. We should discuss it with our counselor.
If we have a female housekeeper or nanny, she should not be in our home if I am there without you. It’s just unnecessary. Any woman who is old enough to drive or ride a taxi, should not be driven home by me. No female employee should ever stay the night at our house.
I should be able to call you from my office phone before I head home. You know how long it takes me to drive home.
These indicators are not foolproof. They are a starting place. I know they will help me gauge my own behavior now and in the future. I hope they might also be useful ideas for other couples.