Play-Doh Men


No! No! I jumped onto the next log dammed across the murky water, then onto a piece of driftwood. The grey sky arced overhead like a bird of prey with its wings unfurled as I jumped towards shore.

Why I hadn’t fallen into the pond yet I didn’t know, because that’s where they were with their scuba equipment clamped onto their faces. They thought they’d pull me in, but I narrowly missed their grasp.

Why were they trying to hurt me? I didn’t do anything to them. As a matter a fact, they’d forced me into this meeting. Were they trying to do serious harm, or just scare me?

I hit the dry red-brown earth running and called for help at a small town just down the road. Then the dream morphed into something else, and I ran some more, praying for supernatural strength as I made it to safety…

Sunlight slapped me across the face. What time was it? Groaning, I squinted at the clock, then my dog started hrmmphing his approval that I’d snapped out of my stupor. I felt like I’d been through a real trauma, but it was just the echoes of the past bleeding into my subconscious.

Early in the morning, I’d awoken from the first of two dreams in which I’d met the “other woman.” In this dream, for some reason I’d been invited to an ex’s house. There I discovered that he was dating someone who’d portrayed herself as a mutual friend when he and I were together. That was a classic, transparent Trojan horse move.

In this dream, she looked like a composite of two women that were not always respectful of that relationship’s boundaries. I was polite, but told her something like, “I knew you two would be together by now” (in stronger language). I woke up feeling sick from finding out that my suspicions about her, or both of “her”, however that worked, were true.

Hoping the past and its conspiracy theories would leave me alone the rest of the morning, I got up for a bit, then went back to bed.

I arrived at her workplace, wondering how I’d ever been coerced into being there. It was as if I’d been forced to go on a ride that in real life I would never go on. She stepped out from behind the counter of the flower shop in Everett and introduced herself, sporting light purple hair and glasses. She seemed as if she were happy to meet me. What had she been told?

Both she and her current partner acted like I should be thrilled for them. I could be civil, but why would I be thrilled? Why should I be happy knowing that they were involved before his relationship with me had broken off? Did she even know that we were planning on getting married? Had he told her?

Uncomfortable, I left, but soon found myself at that pond. Evidently Ms. Purple Hair wasn’t so charming after all, and I represented some sort of threat to her. They wanted to get me into that water, and had a plan to do it. That seemed to represent joining them at their level, and I wasn’t going to do it. Ever. I lunged for the shore.

Returning to the present, I marveled over how active our minds are when we sleep. I had not one, but two dreams revealing the dreaded yet imaginary other woman in a relationship that no longer exists. In the first, my suspicions that a certain person was the other woman were confirmed. In the second, I had suspected that the other woman existed, but didn’t know who she was until that meeting.

Yuck. How much of this mental dryer lint was conjecture and how much was fact, I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. I hope my brain just made up most of it based on an ancient fear. It could be that these dreams were a composite of several bad experiences, not just one.

Our minds can sometimes overlap traumatic chapters like transparencies on an overhead projector. It’s also possible that these nightmares transposed purely emotional concerns into physical ones that never actually happened.

This wasn’t something I even wanted to think about, but these unanswered questions—not knowing if, and if, who—decided to come back for another round while I was asleep. Such unanswered questions are normal when a relationship ends in confusion. When we do not know the whole story, our subconscious may try to fill in the blanks.

As I plodded into the bathroom, the wheels started turning. Proverbs 20:6 burned like a flame in my mind: “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” This is a question that many of my single friends, and even some of my married ones, frequently struggle with. Why is it so hard to find a faithful man?

Some of my faithful male readers might be offended by this. But I assure you, this is a very real issue for single women. I am thoroughly disgusted by how many women I know that have been taken advantage of by players and hypocrites, narcissists and sociopaths.

It’s frightening. They feel like they’re never going to find an honest man. Our culture and this world is so geared towards “doing what makes YOU happy” and “living for today”, that a lot of quality women get cheated on and dumped. It’s basically become the norm.

But it isn’t just the obvious narcissists and sociopaths, I thought. I see guys who claim to be good family men, and faithful, and Christians, being sucked into a macabre mash of moral relativism and modern social standards that destroy families.

I wished that the steaming hot water pouring down my face would burn away the residue from those unwelcome nocturnal queries. Eyes closed, I wondered, “doesn’t anyone believe in Hell anymore?”

Having studied a lot of narcissistic and sociopathic people, I acknowledge that they account for a lot of the men (and women) who betray faithful partners. But the narcissists sometimes begin as something else. A lot of these people begin as something else.

If narcissism were cocaine, then moral relativism and modern social standards would be the gateway drugs. What I mean is that not every unfaithful man makes a conscious decision to be a jerk and shatter a loyal partner’s life. I would argue that many of them begin their journey to narcissism in subtle ways.

In today’s world, we are mercilessly bombarded by all manner of temptation. None of us is perfect; we all choose wrong sometimes. But some of our seemingly harmless choices can lead to catastrophic, life-changing tragedies later.

C.S. Lewis said, “The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

Unfaithfulness, emotional or physical, may begin by joking around with an opposite sex friend or a business relationship. Your closeness with that person may increase in nearly invisible increments. You may have no intention of ever cheating on your wife and know that you have the strength to handle it.

You may next become emotional support for that woman during a tough time. Maybe you see them at your kids’ events, or you joke around on Facebook. Without you even realizing it, at some point your relationship with that person begins to rob your partner and family of time.

You don’t discuss certain subjects with your wife anymore because you feel you’re getting better input from your “Platonic” friend. That friend may even give you insights on how to deal with problems between you and your wife. And they certainly don’t “bother” you with the issues that your wife does.

Essentially you might have found a yes man—well, woman. Someone who makes you feel great about yourself and provides support for your decisions. This person doesn’t have to live with you, or problem solve with you, so it’s easy for them to say. It’s a nice, and “harmless” escape from your everyday life.

But is a relationship really Platonic if it’s taking something that belongs to your wife and giving it to another woman? Your marriage is between you and your wife. Your family’s issues should not be solved by an “impartial” third party. In allowing this emotional intimacy, you have just allowed another woman into your marriage.

It doesn’t take much to progress from emotional intimacy to physical unfaithfulness. You may think that your closeness hasn’t hurt anyone, and maybe your wife doesn’t even know about your friend. So if the spoken word and support hasn’t seemed to have hurt anyone, what’s the harm in having lunch together, or a hug, or some “innocent” kissing?

Affairs often build bit by “harmless” bit. They gain their own steam and can soon swing out of control. You may have told yourself that you are committed to a certain moral code or to God, and you’re not that kind of guy. You’d never go that far. Well, this is how you get that far.

If you start by shedding your morals ounce by ounce and adapting your beliefs to any given situation, you have strayed from the honor you claim to live by. As you go along with your female “friends”, you tell yourself that nothing you’re doing is that bad. Look closer, and you’ll see that the further in you get, the farther away from your vows to be faithful you’re getting. Your ethics corrode in increments.

Don’t go there with your female friends. Keep proper boundaries to begin with, and this won’t happen. Author Henry Cloud says that “people who are unable to set boundaries allow themselves to be repeatedly controlled and even injured by others.” Adding to that, not maintaining proper boundaries also allows these other women to hurt your wife and children along with you.

The great Stoic Epictetus said that to live a life of virtue, you have to become consistent, even when it isn’t convenient, comfortable, or easy. Sometimes it’s not easy to resist the “innocent” advances of the opposite sex. As a Christian, though, don’t forget that you have unlimited power at your back to get through the tough times.

True freedom and security is found in sincere attempts to play by the rules of faithfulness and respect anyway. Proverbs 14:26 says that the man who fears (respects) God has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. In other words, you are not alone in your fight.

You also have a partner in battle you should be able to go to for support—your wife. Hopefully you can be accountable to each other and openly discuss temptation. Remember, the couples who pray together, stay together. Life is a war, and you’re supposed to be winning it as a team.

Living your lies and trying to cover all of your indiscretions is exhausting. Despite your best efforts, such behavior will eventually be revealed for what it is. It takes a lot of energy to compartmentalize your women, and believe me, the women are usually onto your games long before you think they are. They just hope that you will see that you are loved in spite of it and make things right.

At the end of your life, which may be seventy years or two seconds from now, will you be able to say, “I did my best to remain loyal to the partner God gave me?” Or will you have a valid excuse for the other women in your life—loneliness, boredom, stress, lust, mental illness, addiction, confusion—as if there is one?

God most certainly forgives His children who fall off the faithfulness wagon and can make them and their relationships whole again. I will not set limits on God’s grace or stand in the way of His restoration of shattered lives.

A lot of people I know need exactly that, and I would much rather see healing in the families that seem fractured beyond repair than witness everyone going their separate ways.

Miracles are available to those who believe in them. We talk to the same God who defied physical law for our biblical forefathers, and He values us just as much.

The kind of people I worry about are the ones who blame their infidelity on anyone or anything but themselves, as if it they were a victim of circumstance or injustice. I understand the factors that play into a man’s moral choices, from domineering mothers to abuse to insecurity.

I just wonder if some men think that what they’ve done is not that serious, and surely God has parked them in some moral purgatory until they “get it figured out.” Their friends and family may reinforce the notion that they must do what’s “best for themselves”, and find infinite ways to fault the man’s partner to justify his actions.

I call guys like this Play-Doh Men. They give in to various pressures and allow other people’s desires and opinions to mold their morality. They are impressionable, frequently insecure, and unwilling to resolve deep personal issues that interfere with their ethics. Like modeling clay instead of a rock, they are continuously reshaped by life’s perils and pitfalls to the detriment of their partners.

Again I remind myself that we have ALL fallen short. I do every day. I’m not vying for the Puritan of the Month award here; there’s no way I’d win it. I just place a strong value on faithfulness and loyalty, as do many of my sisters, and we are trying to maintain those particular values in a world gone mad with selfishness.

It has been said that virtue, even attempted virtue, brings light, and indulgence brings fog. So we women, by sticking to these morals, are shining a light onto mankind. Like daughters of Diogenes, we’re just trying to find an honest man. That sounds so self-righteous, but it’s true.

Tonight before I go to sleep, I must cleanse my brain with Borax and a belt sander. I don’t want to have more “variations on a theme” dreams four hours apart. Those images may have contained little truth, but the feelings they conjured up were disturbingly powerful. Maybe they were magnified by being home sick with a cold on an unseasonably cool day.

As with all time traveling phantoms that startle us when our circuits are otherwise numb to conscious feeling, this problem, these emotions, these unanswered questions and the reminders of a titanic loss must be surrendered. They must be piled on the altar, burned, and walked away from so that life will be able to rise from a relationship’s death. The past is not supposed to distract us from future blessings.

I just hope, for all of my lantern-bearing girlfriends, those future blessings are men of principle and honor, who don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

Honest women don’t want Play-Doh men; they’re looking for men who will be their rocks and encourage the same fierce loyalty in them. There is a power and a passion found in determined faithfulness that the noncommittal will never feel.

We walk this way but once, and this life is meant to be traveled with nothing less than a companion of equal moral bearing. In that safety such nightmares may cease.


And I say also this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in the lakes. -C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet

©2010 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

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