NO ONE THINKS HE NEEDS MARRIAGE HEDGES UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE. Sexual immorality hits frighteningly close to home. Without being aware of the need to protect ourselves against it, we are vulnerable.
Not long ago I reminisced with several old friends. What a shocking disappointment to discover that every one of us knew personally of at least one painful marriage failure due to infidelity. Even more appalling, nearly all of us could point to incidents among our close relatives. Can anyone still doubt that the sexual revolution has brought about an epidemic of divorce?
Marriage Hedges Survey
Try an informal survey of your own. Ask friends and relatives if they know people who have fallen to sexual temptation. And if the people involved were vulnerable, who else might be? Who will be the next one about whom you say, “I never would have dreamed he would do such a thing?” You know these people, and you have to wonder what made them fall. What made them vulnerable?
Just as it’s the “little foxes who spoil the vine”, (see Song of Songs 2:15) so the seemingly small indiscretions add up to major traps. John and Sue [a couple discussed in the book] allowed themselves to admire, like, respect, and enjoy each other. They didn’t give a second thought to the progression of feelings, the danger of developing emotional feelings, and the lure of infatuation. Their feelings and emotions sneaked up on them when they least expected it. Then it was too late.
There’s a new openness to interaction between the sexes in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in counseling —even in the church. Christians touch more, speak more intimately, and are closer to one another. There are advantages to this but also grave dangers.
One potential danger
It’s not uncommon in the workplace to meet someone with whom there seems an immediate bonding. You like them, they like you, and you hit it off.
It’s possible to be married 10 years and still develop a crush on someone. You think about them, find yourself talking about them, quoting them (even to your spouse), and generally becoming enamored with them. This is the time to deal with the problem, because it can become a serious dilemma. This is the time to remind yourself that this is nothing more than an adult version of adolescent puppy love, and it will pass. It really will. The person is off limits, and you should run from the situation as from a contagious disease.
You may still see the person in the work setting, and you may still enjoy proper interaction with them. But ground rules need to be set. Never tell the person you are attracted to them. Talk about your spouse frequently in front of them. Tell your spouse about the person, but use your own judgment as to how fully to explain your dilemma.
When you first become aware of the impact the other person has on you, that is the time to move into action. Don’t treat your new friend the way you treat an old, respected friend. Refrain from touching them, being alone with them, flirting with them (even in jest), or saying anything to them you wouldn’t say if your spouse were there.
Importance of Shifting Gears
So, what could John and Sue have done [to stop the affair from starting in the first place]? Had either realized they were becoming enamored with each other, they could have shifted gears. They could have gone into a protective mode, and saved themselves from ruining many lives.
If marriage hedges are constructed early enough, preferably well in advance of even meeting someone else, they can be painless. They can nip marriage-threatening relationships before they get started. That’s the reason we desperately need practical suggestions on ways to build impenetrable hedges around our marriages.
Call it what you will, but a man with as perfect a wife as he could ever want is still capable of lust. He can still fall into senselessly seeking that, which would destroy him and his family. If he doesn’t fear his own potential and build marriage hedges around himself and his marriage, he could naively head for disaster.
Shall we all run scared? Yes! Fear is essential. “There are several good protections against temptation,” Mark Twain said, “but the surest is cowardice.”
Look around. Let your guard down, don’t remind yourself that you made a vow before God and men, don’t set up barriers for your eyes, your mind, your hands, your emotions, and see how quickly you become a statistic.
Denial of Vulnerability
A man may say, “It could never happen to me. I love my wife. We know each other inside out by now. We’ve left the emotional infatuation stage that ruled our courtship and honeymoon. We love God’s way: unconditionally and by the act of our wills. We each know the other is not perfect and we accept and love each other anyway. We’re invulnerable to attack, especially by lust that leads to immorality.”
But when—because he has not planted hedges to protect himself—he falls, his tune changes. Then his excuse is that he fell out of love, and the old magic was no longer there. He reasons that the wife was too busy with the house and kids, and his needs were not fulfilled at home.
Worse, the Christian deserter becomes so infatuated with his new love that he often gives God the credit. Do you know a counseling pastor or a Christian psychologist? Ask him how many times he’s heard a man say, “This new relationship is so beautiful, God has to be behind it.” Never mind that it goes against all sense and every tenet of Scripture, not to mention everything the man has ever believed in and stood for.
A complex litany of events takes place between the vows and the adultery. It behooves those of us who want to remain pure to examine those events, and expose them for what they are. We must either avoid letting them happen or avoid letting Satan use them to trick us into justifying our sin.
Once we’ve identified them, what will we do about them? Will we pray over them? Resolve to conquer them? Turn over new leaves? Ironically, the answer is easier than that. We are not to win, not to gain the victory, not to succeed by the sheer force of our wills, our consciences, or our determination. “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). We are to run. To flee, to get out, and to get away.
So what is the solution when temptation rages? If we’re weak and haven’t taken precautions, if we haven’t applied preventive medicine, we have already failed. The only answer is to plan, to anticipate danger, to plot the way of escape. The time to build marriage hedges is before the enemy attacks.
So, let’s start planting some practical marriage hedges. Here are pragmatic ways to guard ourselves against our weaknesses. We can plant hedges only after we have determined where they must grow.
[Below is a list of marriage hedges with a few points Jerry Jenkins uses to protect his own marriage. This is just an outline—you’ll need to read the book for the reasoning’s and details behind each one.]
Two’s Company; Three’s Security
HEDGE #1 —Whenever I need to meet or dine or travel with an unrelated woman, I make it a threesome. Should an unavoidable last-minute complication make this impossible, my wife hears it from me first.
• “Unless I am alone with a woman, I will not engage in immorality.”
• “Logic says that if I am following the biblical injunction to abstain from even the appearance of evil, I will also abstain from the evil itself. My philosophy is, if you take care of how things look, you take care of how they are.”
• “Where I work we have a tiny window in every office door. Were it not for those little windows, I would feel obligated to invite my secretary to every meeting I have with a woman. Another solution would be to keep my door open. I want the reputations of the woman, my employer, my wife, and my Lord —not to mention myself —even to be questioned”.
• “I included dining alone with my meeting and traveling prohibitions. There is something very personal and even intimate about eating with someone. If that weren’t true, why are so many dates centered on food?”
HEDGE #2 —I am careful about touching. While I might shake hands or squeeze an arm or a shoulder in greeting, I embrace only dear friends or relatives.
• “I embrace dear friends only in the presence of others, so I am not tempted to make the embrace longer or more impassioned than is appropriate. I like hugging women. It’s fun, and it can be friendly. But if I allow myself to embrace just anyone, even dear friends, in private, I would be less confident of my motives and my actions.”
Some Compliments Don’t Pay
HEDGE #3 —If I pay a compliment, it is on clothes or hairstyle, not on the person herself. Commenting on a pretty outfit is much different, in my opinion, than telling a woman that she looks pretty.
• “As a hedge, I stop short of the purely personal compliment. You can never be sure of the reaction. Some women would be offended at such familiarity, and men who talk to women that way tend to get reputations for it.”
• “There can be hidden unseen factors that men need to take into consideration when talking to women. We may innocently think it’ll make a woman’s day if we pay her a compliment that borders on the personal. But how do we know that perhaps the romance and even the sex haven’t long since evaporated from her marriage? How do we know that she hasn’t been longing for this sort of attention from her husband? How do we know that she has given up on ever getting any more strokes from him? This personal approach from us may reach deep needs of which she is hardly aware.” [And the same can be the reverse for the husband.]
Looking Down the Barrel of a Loaded Gun
HEDGE #4 —I avoid flirtation or suggestive conversation, even in jest.
• “My dad, a police chief, firearms expert, and marksman, once told me that prayer is like looking down the barrel of a loaded gun. ‘You’re likely to get what you’re asking for.’ I put flirtation and suggestive conversation in the same category as a loaded gun. Maybe that’s because I believe in the power of words, written and spoken.”
• “Idle flirting gets people in trouble because the other person may need and want attention so badly.”
• “I’ve made it a practice—and can probably list this among my marriage hedges —of not making my wife the butt of jokes. There are enough things to make fun of and enough funny topics without going for easy laughs at the expense of your spouse.”
HEDGE #5 —I remind my wife often that I remember my wedding vows. “Keeping you only unto me for as long as we both shall live.” Dianna is not the jealous type, nor has she ever demanded such assurances from me. She does, however, appreciate my rules and my observance of them.
• “The sad fact is that there’s simply not enough emphasis on wedding vows anymore. We need to face it: this is one of the most significant problems in modern marriage”.
• “As we’ve seen countless marriages break up during our many years together, Dianna and I have talked seriously about this issue. Divorce is not in our vocabulary.”
• “Plant marriage hedges wide and tall against any weakness you may have. Remind yourself what price you’d have to pay for a brief season of carnal fun. We who have remained true to our spouses need to do something to ensure that we remain that way. That means pouring our lives into each other, and planting hedges. We must avoid the mess of adultery and divorce and the reputation of Christ. The time is long past for us to worry about people snickering at us for being prudish. Treat this blight on marriage as the epidemic that it is. Flee. Plant a hedge. Do something. Anything. Don’t become a sad statistic.”
Quality Time vs. Quantity Time
HEDGE #6 —From the time I get home from work until the children go to bed, I do no writing or office work. This gives me lots of time with the family and for my wife and me to continue to court and date.
• “The only way to ensure a future with stable marriages is to begin strengthening our families now. Give kids a model of love and caring and interdependence. Show them what it means to make and keep a commitment. Show them how to set your course on a lifetime of love with no wavering, and no me-first philosophies.”
• “Make a decision. Set a course. Carve out the time it takes to devote to your wife and children. Plant a hedge that will protect you and her and them from the devastation of a broken home.”
WHEN MARRIAGE HEDGES BEGIN TO GROW
It’s crucial to understand that the marriage hedges I’ve discussed have been my own. They are tailor-made for an over-sexed, fun-loving, busy person who might otherwise follow his lusts. This is a person who could say things he shouldn’t, flirt, forget the most important person in his life, and not spend as much time with his family as he should.
Your weaknesses may be different. Some of them would make me laugh or think you’re a nut, as some of mine may have done to you. THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO KNOW YOURSELF, AND UNDERSTAND THE DANGERS IN YOUR WEAK AREAS. THEN DO SOMETHING PRACTICAL AND CONCRETE ABOUT THEM.
We hope you’ll obtain a copy of the book, Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It by Jerry Jenkins, published by Crossway Books. There’s so much that needs to be said on this subject that Jerry says very well. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking this subject seriously. This newer edition comes complete with a Study Guide for each chapter, which will make the lessons personal. They’re designed for your own reflection. You can also talk them over with your spouse to work through the areas of your life that will need protective hedges put into place.
— ALSO —
To further help protect your marriage, we encourage you to read the following linked articles:
Jill Savage has written an important article that gives:
From Crosswalk.com, Nancy C Anderson has written an article on marriage hedges to help you to:
And Whitney Hopler advises how to:
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Filed under: Emotional & Physical Affair