Friday, February 7, 2014

The Triangle of Risk

   My heart breaks at the thought of any couple wrestling with the ghosts of infidelity.  No matter the theater, marriage is a battleground, but the war against unfaithfulness is particularly vicious.  In private conversations, Hannah and I have discussed the types of people who would be more susceptible to this  failure.  In my mind, I can identify certain traits that indicate a risk, so I have labored mentally to really organize my thoughts on this. Otherwise, discussions of risk and vulnerability seem totally arbitrary and subjective.

   I have identified three characteristics that often converge in an individual and make them more prone to infidelity. This is by no means exhaustive or definitive, but it certainly seems true in my observations. I pray that this does not come across as abrasive or offensive, but instead that it becomes useful as a tool to protect ourselves from the dangers of straying.  This is not meant to be judgmental in any way, because the foremost person that I am critiquing with this article is myself.

    The first attribute in the triangle of risk is being a social extrovert. This is not to say that introverts never cheat, but an extrovert is more likely to engage in interactions with others that may lead them down a dangerous path.  Extroverts may also be more likely to garner the attention of another.  Being a social butterfly is not wicked in itself, but it can lead to wickedness, just as any personality attribute can become perverted into something else.

   Studies have also found that extroverts are more likely to stray.  This troubles me, because I consider myself a very sociable person, and I can't help but feel sometimes that this characteristic is like a curse. Nonetheless, I use this concept as a reminder to guard myself against the common snares that social interaction may bring.  If you are going to be known publicly (as musicians and public figures are), you must recognize the obstacles that lay hidden in your path.

   The second risk factor is attractiveness. This sounds crazy, I know, because the parameters for attraction can vary greatly.  In this observation, I am referring to what I consider to be "conventional attractiveness".  Yes, I'm sure that some women find Jim Gaffigan irresistible, but Chris Hemsworth is more likely to captivate the attention of those around him for obvious reasons.  Some people are conventionally attractive, and some are not.  This does not mean they cannot be attractive to anyone, it simply means they are not appealing to the masses, to the average Joe(or.. Jane?).  Attractive people have more opportunities to cheat, and tragically, these opportunities can turn to temptations. Temptation, in full bloom, leads to disaster.

    Both of the elements outlined above -- extroversion and attractiveness -- do not, in themselves, indicate a vulnerability to cheating. That's where the third and most pivotal risk factor comes in:  moral compromise.  Infidelity is almost universally condemned by society, regardless of religious background or worldview. A morally compromised person disregards the perils and potential losses associated with having an affair, because they are not anchored by any concept of ethics.  A person can become morally compromised by many situations. For example, a person can find themselves morally weakened by the loss of a loved one, a recent breakup, or other circumstantial issues, but none of these excuse the behavior that can spring up from immoral thinking.  When a person finds that their own conscience has become silenced or overrun by other competing voices, tragedy is surely near.

   So that's my theory on the triangle of risk.  I encourage you to measure yourselves and others by this ruler.  If you ever wonder whether a friend or associate is a potentially hazardous influence, consider these three factors. Perhaps our marriages will be strengthened as we navigate through our lives with greater consideration.  In sober introspection, evaluate yourself as well so you can avoid the tragedy of unfaithfulness in your own life.

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