Love the one you're with

 
 
Updated 8/5/2021 11:00 AM

Adam and Eve are walking in the garden.

Eve to Adam: "Do you love me and only me?"

 

Adam to Eve: "Who else?"

Bad joke. Good point.

Eve had no competition. It's not that simple anymore. Each day we are thrown together with a variety of people -- in the neighborhood, at work, at our children's schools (or our own), standing around the playground or practice field, running into the store.

Over the life of a marriage, we will inevitably find ourselves in situations where we are spending time with other men or women to whom we are attracted.

Now, finding another person attractive shouldn't be a problem. There ought to be any number of men or women we are attracted to. It becomes a problem, however, when it leads us to question our current relationship, or when we decide to act on our new attraction.

When we begin to question a marriage, it changes the way we look at everything. We focus on all the little -- or not so little -- things about our spouse that we find mildly irritating or downright maddening. And we make comparisons.

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We compare how our spouse looks at 6 a.m. with how our co-worker looks at 9 a.m.

We compare the conversation over coffee about the interesting class we're in together with the conversation at home after four hours of wrestling the kids to bed, doing the dishes, folding the laundry, repairing the faucet, and picking up the family room.

We compare 20 minutes sitting in the sun with another parent watching soccer practice with 20 minutes sitting around the kitchen table with our spouse balancing the checkbook.

We compare the 30-year-old who spends an hour a day at the gym with the 45-year-old who is raising three children or who works two jobs to pay the bills.

Not particularly fair, but we do it anyway. And the longer we've been married, the more we have to compare.

I'm not saying that there are never good reasons to take a long hard look at our marriage. Nor am I saying that we should gloss over things about our relationship that we might want to change.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

I'm just suggesting that comparing the spouse we've spent 10 years with to someone else we might only see 10 hours a week doesn't really tell us all that much.

Believe me, most of the time that attractive neighbor, co-worker, classmate or whoever will bring just as many irritations or problems to a relationship as our current partner.

What we need to do is use our comparison-based critique to consider what we could make better about our marriage. Maybe we need to get all dressed up and go out on the town now and then. Maybe we need to talk about more than just day-to-day household management. Maybe we need to balance the checkbook some other time and spend that end-of-the-day time cuddling on the couch. Maybe we need to head down to the gym together.

When our attraction goes from comparison to action, we are in even more trouble. There is just no way we can make any kind of rational decision about one relationship if we are starting another at the same time. Love, especially new love, is really blind. Trying to see the old love of our marriage through eyes clouded by the new love of an extramarital affair, we will be unable to view either clearly.

My advice? Don't worry all that much when you find yourself attracted to a person you're not married to. If it becomes more than just attraction, however, try falling back in love with your spouse before you fall in love with someone else.

• Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of Samaracare Counseling Center in Naperville, Downers Grove, Geneva, and throughout the North Shore. His book "Mix Don't Blend, A Guide to Dating, Engagement and Remarriage With Children" is available online.

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