As my friend dropped her voice I leaned in, knowing she was about to spill some good gossip. “Shelley reconnected with her old boyfriend on Facebook.” Due to the clandestine overtones of this statement I guessed that this wasn’t a simple update on who Shelley has been friending lately. “They’ve been texting too. Her husband found out but she swears they’re completely platonic.” I groan. I don’t need to hear anything else to know exactly what’s going on.
Shelley is a friend I’ve known forever and a day. We used to be in the same stake and although we never hung out on a regular basis, we always hit it off and enjoyed each other immensely. She is—I assumed—pretty happily married with three youngish children. But the old boyfriend thing? That is a wedge that I’ve been seeing drive its way into marriages all over the place lately. And it’s the reason I won’t friend anyone on Facebook that I’ve ever kissed.
I’m not going to blame Facebook and turn this into a post about the evils of social media. This temptation-of-the-old-boyfriend business has been going on much, much longer than that. I remember as a young newlywed seeing a fellow young newlywed in our ward suddenly leave her husband and new baby for an old fiancé; only to return, sheepishly, a few months later. This was years before the internet was the hook-up place that it is now.
What is it about an old boyfriend? Is it a hope to recapture youth? Is it the wonder of what might have been? Is it like the old lipstick you threw in the back of the drawer because you didn’t like it, only to fish it out a year later and when you try it on you think, “wow! This looks great on me! Why did I ever get rid of it?” Or is it just the appeal of romance before there were diapers and weight gain and crows feet?
I can’t really put my finger on what the allure is, only that people are throwing decent marriages and the well-being of children out the window and getting back with old boyfriends and girlfriends at an alarming rate. Although I don’t blame social media for this, the internet and cell phones sure have sure made it easier. Anyone can be reached within seconds–and in private–and sometimes that temptation of the road not taken is just too much to resist.
I know I need to say something to Shelley because that’s what friends do. Especially outspoken friends like me. I’ll never forgive myself if I watch her life become a train-wreck and I didn’t speak up. Because this is what I’ve learned about spouses who are thinking the grass is greener on the other side: it isn’t.
I don’t want to start bring Satan into all of this because people start rolling their eyes and think I’m some kind of kooky evangelical. But I am here to bear my testimony that he can convince you of anything. The devil has had a lot of years and billions of people to practice on. He can convince you that you married the wrong person when it isn’t true; he can convince you that somehow a different person will add excitement and untold wonders to your life (even when it’s someone that you already decided wasn’t good enough once before), he can somehow make you believe that you will manage to avert disaster and that it’s all harmless and that this is making you happy and isn’t being happy going to make you a better wife and mother? Seriously, I’ve heard every lame reason in the book.
I would like to tell Shelley that none of it is true. Her life seems like a boring struggle and so does her old boyfriend’s and it’s the perfect recipe for choosing to close her eyes to the reality that hooking up with somebody else will not make things better. There will still be trouble and dissatisfaction with anyone. Are you listening to me? There will be bad, boring, unpleasant things anytime you are in a long-term relationship.
I’ve seen friends split up families going after the one that got away. And it seems to never work out. Because how could it? These people, like Shelley, are forgetting an important detail: there was a reason they broke up in the first place! Everything seems so exciting and wonderful when someone is actually paying attention to you and interested in the things you have to say; not like the husband you have now who seems rather hum-drum and disinterested in your day-to-day life.
Shelley, you picked your man. Maybe you chose wisely, maybe you didn’t. But you chose. And now your job is to make the best of it. That is not exciting and it won’t get your blood flowing with anticipation. But that is what will make you happy in the long run, my dear. Just like you’ve taught your kids the difference between ‘what’s right’ and ‘what’s right now’, you’ve got the same choice but on an eternal level. Texting each other and messing around on Facebook might seem ever-so-wonderful but it’s all smoke and mirrors, Shelley. Cut it off clean. End it right now. In a few months you’ll see things clearly and be relieved that you stopped it while you could.