It started with e-mail…

Yesterday the news broke that South Carolina’s governor, Mark Sanford, has been having an affair.

During the press conference in which he shared this news, this caught my attention:

so the bottom line is this, I — I’ve been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a — which started out as a dear, dear friend from Argentina. It began very innocently, as I suspect many of these things do, in just a casual e-mail back and forth, in advice on one’s life there and advice here. But here recently over this last year it developed into something much more than that. (You can read the whole transcript here or watch it here)

The other day Sherri and I were talking about how marriages fall apart. She asked, “How do two people reach a point where they take their clothes off in front of one another and go through the act of sex without thinking about the consequences?”

I think Sanford answered this question… “It began very innocently.” He simply wanted to help! Look at how Sanford says it got started:

…there’s a certain irony to this. This person at the time was separated, and we ended up in this incredibly serious conversation about why she ought to get back with her husband for the sake of her two boys; that not only was it part of God’s law, but ultimately those two boys would be better off for it.

And we had this incredibly earnest conversation and at the end of it, I said, “Could I get your e-mail?” We swapped e-mails, whatever. And it began just on a very casual basis — “Hey, I’ve got this issue that’s come up with my life,” or vice versa, “What do you think?” Because when you live in the zone of politics, you can’t ever let your guard down. You can’t ever say, “what do you think” or “what do you think,” because it could be a front page story or this story or that story.

And so there was this zone of protectiveness, and she — she lives thousands of miles away and I was up here and you could throw an idea out or vice versa. And we developed a remarkable friendship over those eight years. And then, as I said, about a year ago, it sparked into something more than that.

It started small… it ended huge. It started as blessing… it ended in destruction.

Pastors, leaders, etc. please learn from this!

A few ideas:

  • Your spouse should be aware of every relationship you have with the opposite sex.
  • Your spouse should possess the right to “trump” and/or to establish guidelines for your relationship with the opposite sex.
  • Correspondence with the opposite sex must have limits. If you are in a work relationship with a member of the opposite sex (see rule #1) and that relationship is a good one, so good that your families want to hang out together, make sure that two things happen: 1) the dudes like the dudes and the ladies like the ladies, and 2) make sure that both spouses are comfortable with this “outside the workplace” relationship (you can tell by body language, etc. if they are). If either of these is out of line… take corrective action immediately.
  • When the professional/private line becomes blurred… take corrective action immediately! Gov. Sanford’s downfall started when he started counseling a single mom about her marriage. At that point the professional/private line became blurred. The more counsel he offered, the deeper engaged he became in her life. The deeper engaged he became, the more she respected/cared for him, and the more he felt responsible towards/for her. He did not take corrective action and yesterday we saw the result.

Few things in this life are more important than the integrity of your relationships. The marriage relationship in particular is fundamentally important not only to the immediate family but also to our society as a whole. It must be protected, loved, and cared for with the greatest of care!

It’s time for men and women to recommit to marriage and integrity. The ideas I’ve listed above seem to be a good starting point for refreshing and maintaining marital integrity.

So how about you? How are you protecting your marriage and preserving your integrity?

6 thoughts on “It started with e-mail…

  1. Right on! It’s so easy to start excusing little things. Thanks for summarizing this so well. Praying that God will restore this marriage and use for good what Satan meant for bad.

  2. I imagine many people reading this have serious doubts about his explanation, and or thinking that could never happen to me. It can happen to ANYONE. I found myself in a very similar situation a few years back. While the relationship never crossed the line into a physical one, it was an improper relationship none the less, and nearly cost me my marriage. The guidelines you posted are good ones. I do not have relationships with the opposite sex any more outside of professional. I do everything possible to keep all work/school relationships with the opposite sex just that. I would also add that there is no such thing as innocent flirting. If you flirt and think it is innocent and funny and could never lead to anything, your wrong. NO FLIRTING allowed for me, EVER!

  3. As FRED Sanford would say, “you dummy!”

    Saying something started innocently sounds like the beginning of an excuse to me(“Dummy!”). Stated by someone who is not taking responsibility for his actions. Someone who’s a “dummy!”

    One’s penis does not fall out of one’s pants “innocently.” You either have to pee, shower, or you know – INTENTIONALLY use it for intimate purposes.

    ‘Nuff said. Now send this guy to work in a junkyard for a while until his mind, and his integrity gets cleaned up…



  4. The unedited Sanford quote: “I’m just a victim of my penis! My penis made me do it! I’m not in control, now my life is ruined! You should hear what my ass was saying the other day…”

    Seriously, this guy cheated on his kids, too. And for that there is no forgiveness. At least not just because he cried about it…



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