“Most people don’t think twice about insuring their home or car or things that are valuable. They don’t think twice about installing security measures like screens and alarms. But what about protecting your marriage? What can you and I do to protect our marriages?”
We have to confess that earlier in our marriage we didn’t think about protecting our marriage. We just assumed we wouldn’t need it! It wasn’t even on our radar to put up emotional hedges to protect our marriage relationship. How naive!
As we look around and see so many “good” people “falling” into temptation, breaking apart their marriages as one or the other chants the statement, “but I never meant to fall in love with this person” and “I never thought it would happen to us” we now realize how stupid we were in NOT guarding our hearts more than we did. Thankfully, we never gave into any of the temptations that came our way through the years. Even so, the following warnings are real:
“Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
In other words, WAKE UP …there is a force of darkness looking for ways to cause you to fall. And if you think, “That will never happen to me” look around. There is a whole world of people who never thought they would be susceptible to “falling” into an affair, and yet they have. It’s prideful to think otherwise.
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
So, in the context of all of this and to answer the questions (posed by Dale Harcombe in the beginning of this message), we’d like to share some tips we gathered from many “experts” to help you to guard your heart, protect your marriage and your Christian integrity and testimony:
Don’t be Naive.
Most people who end up in affairs don’t set out to have one. Infidelity usually begins with an innocent relationship that, in time, moves to an emotional depth that crosses a line of fidelity. (Jill Savage)
Become Aware of Your Choices.
A major battle is won when we stop asking what’s wrong with certain choices, and instead, ask what’s right with them. Everyday I read a small poem above my computer. This poem has become the key for affair-proofing my own marriage. ‘The choices we make everyday dictate the life we lead. To thine own self be true!’
Basically, this is the same message that Luke talks about in the Scriptures. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” (Luke 16:10) In other words, how we handle the small things dictates how we react to the bigger ones. As Christians, we must learn what God desires for our lives and remain true to His wishes. (Michael Smalley, adapted from article “Protecting Your Marriage from Infidelity”)
Know your boundaries.
Put fences around your heart and protect sacred ground, reserved only for your spouse. Barbara and I are careful to share our deepest feelings, needs, and difficulties only with each other. (Dennis Rainey, adapted from the Growthtrac.com article “Avoiding Emotional Adultery”) [You can learn more about this area of marriage by reading, Paper Fences: The Boundaries We Fail to Set in Marriage]
Many married people don’t understand that a chemical reaction can occur with someone other than their mates.
High school chemistry taught me a very valuable lesson: When certain substances come into close contact, they can form a chemical reaction. I proved that one day during my senior year of high school when I dropped a jar full of pure sodium off a bridge into a river and nearly blew up the bridge!
What I’ve learned since then is that many people don’t respect the laws of chemistry anymore than I did as a teenager. They mix volatile ingredients without giving much thought to the consequences. I’ve discovered that many married people don’t understand that a chemical reaction can occur with someone other than their mates.
Don’t misunderstand me — I’m not just talking about sexual attraction. I’m referring to a reaction of two hearts, the chemistry of two souls. This is emotional adultery — an intimacy with the opposite sex outside of marriage.
Emotional adultery is unfaithfulness of the heart. When two people begin talking of intimate struggles, doubts or feelings, they may be sharing their souls in a way that God intended exclusively for the marriage relationship. Emotional adultery is friendship with the opposite sex that has progressed too far. (Dennis Rainey, adapted from the Growthtrac.com article “Avoiding Emotional Adultery”)
Quit kidding yourself.
Understand the tremendous capacity of every human being to deceive him or herself when not connected to God. Know that, once you start making excuses for wrong behavior, each excuse will sound more plausible, and you will sink deeper and deeper into sin and ruin. Admit that you can’t trust your own self apart from God, and decide to stay close to Him. (Jerry Jenkins, from book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It)
Innocent chat room visits can endanger a marriage when someone discovers a ‘Cyberspace soul mate.’ When the honesty that’s missing in a marriage gets spilled out on the computer screen, emotional affairs can result. Preventative measures include:
- Avoid discussing emotional topics or personal problems over the Internet.
- Avoid chat rooms and Internet sites designed for meeting people and socializing. If necessary, limit your time on-line.
Remember that infidelity doesn’t always include sex. Emotional infidelity can breach marital trust and become as debilitating your marriage and physical adultery. If you are sharing emotional closeness with someone of the opposite sex other than your spouse in any arena, STOP! (From Foreverfamilies.com article “Immunized Against Infidelity”)
Protect your marriage through boundaries in the workplace.
If ever a situation needed solid protective walls firmly entrenched around it to prevent infidelity, the workplace is it. Such protection requires predetermined decisions, all maintained through accountability to your husband and to other women. The practices of establishing an invisible wall and refraining from personal contact and conversations with other men are utterly critical. Without predetermining to follow these safeguards, you will effectively set yourself up to fall. (Judy Star, from the Familylife.com article, “Eight Ways to Protect Your Marriage”)
Recognize that work can be a danger zone.
Don’t lunch alone or take coffee breaks with the same person (of the opposite sex). When you travel with a co-worker, meet in public rooms only. (Shirley Glass)
Protect your marriage through discretion in clothing.
Men become easily aroused sexually by the stimulation of sight. Therefore, what we wear is very important. To attract men to you sexually by the clothing you choose is to defraud them because you cannot (or should not!) fulfill the desire you arouse. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 tells us, “For this is the will of God …that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor …and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in this matter. (Judy Star, from the Familylife.com article, “Eight Ways to Protect Your Marriage”)
With that said, and in a different context:
Realize the power of your eyes.
As it has been said, your eyes are the windows to your soul. Pull the shades down if you sense someone is pausing a little too long in front of your windows. I realize that good eye contact is necessary for effective conversation, but there’s a deep type of look that must be reserved for your spouse. (Dennis Rainey, adapted from the Growthtrac.com article “Avoiding Emotional Adultery”)
Avoid emotional intimacy with attractive alternatives to your spouse.
Resist the desire to rescue an unhappy soul who pours his or her heart out to you. (Shirley Glass, from the article, “7 Tips to Prevent Infidelity”)
Beware of recreating alone with a member of the opposite sex.
For instance, if I like to horseback ride and my husband doesn’t, but this handsome guy will go with me, sharing something I love with another man might get to me to develop feelings I don’t want to have for him. But that is the difference between me and someone who cheats — I don’t put myself in the position to get those ‘uncomfortable’ feelings. (Lucyloo, commenter on the article “7 Tips to Prevent Infidelity”)
If a friendship with the opposite sex meets needs that only your mate should meet, end it quickly.
It may be a painful loss at first, but it isn’t nearly as painful as temptation that has given birth to sin. (Dennis Rainey, adapted from the Growthtrac.com article “Avoiding Emotional Adultery”)
Plant protective hedges early before problems take root.
Know that if you plant hedges in your marriage before you find yourself in a threatening situation, you can prevent many problems from taking root and nip affairs in the bud. Anticipate danger, plan, and plot your escape before you find yourself in a dangerous situation. (Jerry Jenkins, from book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It)
Don’t play the comparison game.
We all make mistakes, have bad habits and annoying behaviors. When we compare a ‘new friend’ to our spouse, it’s an unfair comparison because we aren’t seeing that person in a ‘living under the same roof, taking care of kids at 3 a.m., struggling to make ends meet’ reality. (Jill Savage, from Todayschristianwoman.com article “8 Safeguards Against Getting Too Close”)
Be honest with yourself.
If you’re dressing to please someone else or lingering in the parking lot hoping that person will ask you to lunch, stop now, before you’ve gone too far. If you’re in doubt as to what conduct is inappropriate, ask yourself, ‘Would I do this in front of my spouse?’ And if you’re still not sure, ask yourself, ‘Would I do it in front of the Lord?’ (You are, you know.) Here is a simple rule to keep you on the straight and narrow: If you’d have to hide it or lie about it — don’t do it! (Nancy Anderson, from the book Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage)
Beware when you’re faced with the temptation of attraction to someone other than your spouse.
Realize that there is only one response that will work —TO FLEE! Any other approach, such as trying to rationalize your way out of it, is doomed to failure. Decide to run from the situation as from a contagious disease. Recognize that the right time to act is as soon as you start to notice your attraction to another person. (Jerry Jenkins, from book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It)
Don’t blame God for what’s really your own responsibility.
It’s all too easy to blame God for making it possible for you to feel sexual attraction toward someone besides your spouse. But your responsibility is to choose to channel your desires properly. If you ask God to help you do so, He will strengthen you for the task. (From the article, “Plant Protective Hedges Around Your Marriage”)
Make sure your social network is supportive of your marriage.
Surround yourself with friends who are happily married and who don’t believe in fooling around. (Shirley Glass from the article “7 Tips to Prevent Infidelity”)
Flirt — but only with your spouse.
Flirting is fun, and a great way to build excitement and intimacy between two people. Avoid flirting with anyone besides your spouse for any reason, remembering that it’s not a harmless way to interact. Know that suggestive comments and behavior can spark much more with a person who is badly in need of attention.
But keep flirting with your spouse, no matter how long you’ve been married. Caress each other, share private jokes, etc. daily, and be creative. Know that as long as you both invest in your marriage, it can be fun, exciting, and intimate. (From the article, “Plant Protective Hedges Around Your Marriage”)
Increase your investment at home.
Solid marriages are built by spending time together, laughing together, and playing together. If you aren’t dating your mate, set up dates for the coming months and make spending time together a priority. (Jill Savage, from Todayschristianwoman.com article “8 Safeguards Against Getting Too Close“)
Rely on God’s strength rather than your own.
Realize that, as a human being in a fallen world, your best resolve and inner strength can still fail you when you need it most. Choose to rely on God’s unlimited power to help you keep your marriage strong. (From the article, “Plant Protective Hedges Around Your Marriage”)
“If your spouse is unwilling to build a marital hedge with you, know that any hedge you attempt to build yourself will be blessed by God.
Tell your spouse about your desire to protect your marriage and the steps you’re taking to do so. Most of all, keep praying. Because your marriage is a portrait of His relationship with His church, you can be sure God desires it to be a beautiful one. (Erin Prater, from Focus on the Family article “How to Build and Maintain a Hedge”)
We pray these tips are helpful. May God bless your marriage,
Cindy and Steve Wright
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