It’s one of Satan’s most common and successful traps. Most people have done it. Many of you are doing it. Fantasizing about people from the past who distract you from a spouse in the present is like opening the door to hell just to see what it smells like.
Because every marriage is difficult at times, the default temptation during such seasons is, “I wonder what it would have been like if I had married x, y, or z? We used to have such a good time together. I’m sure it would be easier…”
Thus we make love to a memory, and in the process neglect and sabotage our real and present marriage.
Of course, there’s something you’re forgetting: there’s almost certainly a good reason you didn’t marry x, y, or z, or you would be married to them now. There must have been some point of contention, something they lacked, something that resulted in your previous breakup. But distance removes us from the pain and smell of the offense, sentimentalizes our memory, until we’re left only with sweetness and light.
For marriage to work and grow, we need to be fully engaged in the here and now, especially when times get difficult. We need to refocus instead of escape, and be fully present with our spouse. Having a mental affair with our past can be just as damaging as pornography. You may not be picturing body parts, but ruminating on past dates, inside jokes, and times of intimacy with someone else is “pornifying” your past in the sense that it does the same thing to you that a man or woman fantasizing over images experiences in the present—it takes you away from what is real and bends your heart toward what is false, making you enjoy the present reality even less.
Has wondering what it would be like married to someone else ever made you happier, long-term? Has it ever helped your spouse grow? Or does it simply create a discouraging disappointment and unrest?
If you need a “mental rest” from the trials of your marriage, don’t choose something that makes you sick. Agree to watch a movie together, perhaps without talking, agreeing to lay problems aside. Go play with the kids together. Worship God. Get together with another couple. All these things build relationship while allowing you to catch your breath.
This takes mental discipline. If at anytime Lisa told me, “Gary, you can eat this salad or eat a Dairy Queen blizzard,” and I went by the desire of the moment, I’d be fifteen pounds heavier and much less healthy. I have to treat my mental deliberations the same way: “Gary, don’t think about that. Think about this.”
Don’t make love to a memory. Don’t fantasize about what it would be like if you had only married x, or y, or z. Stay engaged with your marriage and make love—in every sense of the word—with the one you can actually touch, with the only one with whom you can build a holy and sacred present and future.
Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com