Fatal Flirting: When a Crush can Crush

More and more marriages are being threatened by friendships that have
taken a romantic turn.

Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale, says the line between friendship and affair is
dangerously thin and you may not even know you’re about to cross it.

Good people in good marriages are having affairs. Well-intentioned people
who never intended to be unfaithful are unwittingly forming deep,
passionate connections before they realize that they’ve crossed the line
that separates platonic friendship from romantic love. Today’s workplace
and the Internet have become the new danger zones of attraction and
opportunity — the most fertile breeding grounds for affairs.

In the new crisis of infidelity, more and more marriages are being
threatened by friendships that have slowly and insidiously turned into love
affairs. Yet you can protect your relationship by recognizing the red flags
along the slippery slope. You’re right to be cautious when you hear these
words: “I’m telling you, we’re just friends.”

If one spouse is saying to another, “I’m telling you Honey, so-and-so and I
are “just friends,” we are already in a bit of hot water. For what reason am I
having to defend myself with this? Why has the alarm sounded? What did
my partner notice that I am oblivious to? Why can’t we be “just friends.”
Here are three safeguards to staying safe in marriage:

We Are NOT “Just Friends”

1) Expect Surges of Dopamine

Within our DNA is a Human Lymphocyte Antigen (HLA) that makes us
immune or susceptive to a set number of diseases. We are designed to
recognize the DNA of another person and to be attracted to a DNA match
that would enhance the strength of our offspring. If you meet enough
people, you will find “a match” (may this is why we call it ‘playing with fire’)
where nature sends off a signal and feel-good chemistry laced with
Dopamine. This neurotransmitter is the pleasure and reward chemical – it
creates the gotta-have-it drive. When two people meet and the match is lit,
regardless if these two people are happily married to other people, I hear
the same things, so often that I have the list now laminated in my office:

“I love my husband to death. But Scuba Steve, my diving instructor I’ve
known for only 2 months, is my soul mate; he knows me better than
“I like who I am with him/her.”
“I feel as if I’ve always known him.”
“Time stands still with him.”
“We finish each other’s sentences.”
“I feel complete.”
“It’s not about the sex.”
“He completes me.”
“He’s a really good person.”
“He loves me unconditionally.”
“I’ve never felt this way before.”
“I can‘t believehow alike we are…he’s from England and I once saw it on a

A couple caught off guard in a DNA match all say the same thing…and they
assume their feelings are unique. They are not! But they become
justification for leaving a perfectly-imperfect, good marriage.
We need to inoculate against the “match” that can start a fire that burns
faster than you can ever imagine or outrun. Education is the best start…
follow Smokey the Bear’s advice; don’t play with matches. Expect the spark
so you’re not thrown by it and can proceed accordingly to a safety plan of
avoidance and reality.

2) Douse the Flirting Flame

Flirting can seem so innocent…after all, nobody’s touching. We’re not
alarmed because the obvious sign of a flame is not there; it appears that
everything is under control. Seems completely harmless, doesn’t it? Let me
go back to my Smokey Bear analogy: We are taught that flames are
obviously hot and we will get burned by playing with them. The smoldering
fire, where the flame is not noticeable, however, is actually the most
dangerous. Smoldering fires are the easiest to ignite and they are the most
difficult to suppress. (Interesting note: The oldest continuously burning fire
on Earth is a smoldering coal seam in Australia, ignited 6,000 years ago.)
We have something to learn about our human vulnerabilities from science.

We feed the smolder through our innocent flirtations. But we need to know
how dangerous the territory is. The couples I worry about most are those
that are oblivious to the power of the smolder. They’re just ‘having fun’;
making another ‘feel good’; helping themself ‘feel young, again’; being
‘playful’ and ‘innocent.’ There is a romantic mystique around someone
outside our marital relationship. Add a little dose of secrecy, emotional
intimacy and sexual innuendos and you’ve got a full-fledged emotional
affair. Again, the smoldering fire ignites with the smallest source of heat
and requires the largest dose of water (reality) to extinguish.

Too often I hear, “I don’t know how I got here.” The answer to that is you
got here one step at a time, one minimizing flirtation at a time, one
rationalization at a time, one uneducated experience at a time. You didn’t
know that this laminated sheet existed. You erroneously thought that you
were the only one who ever felt this way.

3) Firm-Up Firewalls

As we know the term firewall describes a barrier that keeps destructive
forces away from your property. The most important aspect of a firewall is
location, location, location; it needs to be at the entry point. The firewall is
the first program or process that receives and handles incoming network
traffic, and it is the last to handle outgoing traffic. Imagine a firewall for
your marriage; monitor what comes in and what goes out in the way of
attractions, communications, and justifications. A “firewall” must be
positioned to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic. If some other
program (or person) has that control, there is no firewall.

All Internet traffic travels in the form of packets. A packet is a quantity of
limited size, kept small for easy handling. Keep your personal exchanges of
private information limited. Certain topics and conversations are reserved
for marriage.

In packet filtering, only the protocol and information is examined. The
firewall pays no attention to applications on the host or network and it
knows nothing about the “sources” of incoming data. That’s a great
metaphor for managing relationships outside of marriage.

All firewalls, regardless of the type, have one commonality: they receive,
inspect, and make decisions about all incoming data before it reaches other
parts of the system or network. They are strategically placed at the entry
point to the system or network the firewall is intended to protect,
regulating incoming and outgoing data. We need security systems in place
to protect our marriage and families….SPAM.

Sensitivities, Pressures, Attractions, and Manipulations.

A former radio host of Bonneville’s “Dr. Liz Hale Show,” Dr. Liz has become
a household name to many. As Studio 5’s resident shrink, she discusses a
wide variety of hot-topics ranging from sex to stress. (Sometimes all in the
same segment!)

Dr. Liz is a transplant from Seattle, Washington, although “a few” years ago
was a college co-ed cheering for the Utah State Aggies. While USU football
hasn’t changed through the years, she remains a loyal fan. Dr. Liz, a
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, has been in private practice for 12 years
specializing in marriage and family relations. She currently serves as a
board member on the Utah Commission on Marriage and is a popular
speaker at their annual conference.

Her greatest joy in life comes from being with her own family and working
with other families along the Wasatch Front at her downtown SLC practice.