Meet Anne. Anne has a busy life. She has a career that she loves AND it takes a lot of her attention and time. She has a husband and children that she loves. Anne is a busy, working wife. She is trying hard to make everyone in her life happy.....her husband, the children, her company's board members, the two organizations for which she volunteers, her parents, etc., etc., etc.
Now while Anne is juggling all of these things, unfortunately, there is one thing that somehow over time slips to the back burner without anyone realizing it. She has not been able to maintain consistent connection time with her husband. Without that time, Anne starts to feel lonely and like she is in this chaos all by her herself. Her husband also feels disconnected and stops trying to remedy the situation because life is so busy. He doesn’t compliment her, tell her she is doing a good job, tell her that she looks nice, or even ask how her day was anymore. He also pulls back from going above and beyond to help Anne in her juggling act. Things are not ideal.
This pattern happens too often to busy relationships. We get busy. We get disconnected from our loved ones because we are working, juggling children, a home, a project, a house, and oh yes, they have to eat, get to music lessons, go to sports practices, etc. Then, in the middle of all of that, we start to feel badly about ourselves, because we cannot be 100% at everything.....but we used to be.....when we had one-third as much to do. When we were busy single women, we were amazing! We worked longer hours and no one minded, we were great friends, charming dates, and fabulous friends. Now it just seems we are in an episode of Survivor EVERY day. Can we make it to 9pm and survive another day on the island? What happened to that dazzling woman that excelled at ALL she did?
And just at that moment while we are feeling badly about ourselves AND we are disconnected from our husbands, that friend request pops up. It could be from that first love. That hot guy from college. That sweet talking guy that has NO idea what our life is like now. It is a critical point of no return.
So, out of the blue, Anne gets a friend request from a guy she used to know and she innocently accepts it.....and then things go wrong. He has no idea what her crazy life is like. He sees a glamorous, successful, popular woman. He sees her through her social media image, which can be far from reality.
Social media guy tells her what a good mother she is to her children. Her husband hasn't said anything that nice in a while. Social media guy begins to tell Anne how pretty/great/successful she is, how good she looks, how lucky her husband is, etc. His compliments feel nice and it's harmless, right. He and Anne start chatting online. He thinks she's funny. He follows her Instagram and thinks she's creative. Oh wait, now he is connected to her on LinkedIn and tells her how accomplished she is.
This attention feels good to Anne who has been missing that validation. And it’s harmless, right? He lives halfway across the country and has a family of his own. They’re just friends. But Anne starts to like the attention he is giving her. She likes the compliments. She looks forward to seeing the messages from him. Then the time she DID have to TRY to connect with her husband doesn't seem as important anymore, because she is getting her validation from somewhere else. And so the cycle goes.
Can you see where Anne is beginning a dangerous downward spiral? How could she let this happen? Couldn’t she see what was happening? Unfortunately, when we are in the moment we often cannot see what is happening and we talk ourselves into believing that all is ok. We are in control. It is harmless. Welllllll, what if your business travel leads you to the same city as the social media guy? What if his marriage ends? What if he comes to town to see an old friend?
When we read Anne’s story, it is easy to think, “That would never happen to me. I would never let things go so wrong.” It’s easy to see the red flags in someone else’s story, but what about your own? DO NOT fall into this situation. Remember the most important relationships in your life. DO NOT let yourself slide down the slippery slope into an emotional affair... or worse. It’s easier to just say NO from the start. No matter how yucky you are feeling. Seeking validation elsewhere NEVER ends well.
If you do find yourself staring at that friend request, just click DELETE. If you are already chatting with someone innocently, STOP. We also recommend finding a trusted women in whom you can confide.....just by discussing it out loud, we are often shocked at our own behavior. At the end of the day, how we conduct ourselves during our brief "-" between our birth and death is what it's all about. Leave a good dash!