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State of affairs

State of affairs

Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 8:00 pm

I know. This is Thanksgiving week. I usually write a funny column about my flawed turkey cooking or a poignant piece about counting our blessings. But I hope you’ll give me a pass this year. I want to write about marriage.  
Some of you are frustrated right now with Gen. David Petraeus. He got involved in a physical relationship with his biographer. He didn’t uphold his marriage vows. His actions were unbecoming for a 4-star general much less the director of the CIA. Sadly, his infidelity even cast a public shadow of shame on a stellar and accomplished military career.
But if you’re a wise person, you won’t throw stones. No. Put down the rocks, friend. A wise person will ask one pivotal question. How did it all go so terribly wrong? And believe it or not, that’s a very easy question to answer.  
It’s such an easy question that even a country newspaper columnist knows the answer. No, it wasn’t when he first kissed her. It wasn’t when he first held her hand. It wasn’t even the first time they shared a meal together. No. It was long before that.
It all went south when he agreed to have his biography written by someone of the opposite sex. I know. Some of you are saying, “Oh Lisa, how ridiculous!” “So now you’re saying men and women can’t even work together?” No, I’m not saying men and women can’t work together. But spending hours and hours in intimate conversation with someone you’re not married to is a formula for disaster.  
A good biographer does extensive research into the subject’s background. What are his likes? His dislikes? His personal history? His dreams for the future? In order for a biography to be interesting, a certain level of intimacy and respect has to be established between a biographer and his or her subject.
I’ve written this before but I’ll write it again. If you’re married, steer clear of emotional intimacy with any person of the opposite sex other than your spouse. Period. A friendly lunch alone with a co-worker of the opposite sex? Never a good idea. Personal email correspondence with an old flame from college? No. Even if that correspondence looks like it’s just catching up with what’s going on with your spouse and beautiful children? No.  
May I speak to pastors for a moment? Prepare yourself. This may go against the expectations of your parishioners and I’m fine with that. If a woman needs personal counseling, ask a kind and mature woman in your church to meet with her and provide that love and counsel. Yes, I’m dead serious. When a woman has an emotional trauma and a man listens with great sensitivity, it can easily become something more than either bargained for. She wants to be rescued. He desperately wants to rescue her. This is just the way we’re wired. In her eyes, he becomes Superman and that’s a dangerous thing. So leave the rescuing to someone who doesn’t have a sacred bond to protect.
All of this may sound a little radical. That’s OK. My husband says that no man or woman has ever regretted erring on the side of caution when it comes to protecting a good marriage. But many a man or woman has lived to regret a lack of caution. Wise words, Phil. Wise words.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website, She may be contacted at

Published in The Messenger 11.21.12


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