Have you ever watched your husband whisper into another woman’s ear? What about seeing your wife touch a man’s arm while they were talking?
I don’t know about you, but my stomach hurt even just writing those scenarios. The thoughts and feelings those small actions can stir up, such as insecurity, fear, or doubt, can create division in your marriage. Especially if you don’t talk about them.
When we were engaged, my husband and I learned something very valuable - this concept of “protect the marriage.” It refers to setting boundaries around your relationship so that you can protect it, respect it, and cherish it. I want to share how we implement this concept with you here in the Schwartzkopf house!
This is our #1, for sure: We talk about what we’re comfortable sharing with people outside our marriage. Whether it’s a fight between us, or a bigger battle that we’re both facing together. Whether it’s a conversation we have had, or one that we need to have. We tell each other what our comfort level is in bringing another person into it. Even once we agree to talk about it with someone, we are choosy about which person we do bring in to it! You are most vulnerable with your spouse. Imagine you share something with your wife that was really tough for you to talk about, then you find out she told her girlfriends. You feel exposed right?!
#2: We try to avoid being alone with people of the opposite gender. This is difficult, especially in our work environments, but we do our best to keep it a priority and make sure other people are around as much as possible.
#3: We always tell the other when we have phone calls, emails, or text messages with the opposite gender. Nothing is a secret. Many couples we know have a joint Facebook account. We haven’t done this yet because Facebook has helped us stay in touch with family and friends all over the place; instead we are careful about which friend requests we accept and the private messages that we have. Social media is an easy place to strike up what always starts as an innocent conversation. A connection is formed when you share something with someone that you haven’t told anyone else. Do us all a favor and share it with your spouse. :-)
#4: Lastly, we talk about temptations. When yoga pants became acceptable for daily life, or during trips to a crowded beach - we keep our eyes on each other and talk about anything that was out of the ordinary. We have also limited these trips, or we go with family members to a beach during off-peak season (we’ll continue that now with coronavirus time!). It’s faulty thinking to believe that attraction to someone else means that something is wrong at home. It IS possible to think someone else is attractive, even if you have a good marriage.
This entire concept might seem strange or extreme to you, but they’re boundaries that protect your most sacred human relationship, your marriage. When you promised to stay faithful and true to your spouse, you may not have realized what a dark and dirty world it is out there. I know I didn’t. You have to be aware that your marriage is at risk, because it is.
In 2019, the percent of divorce in the United States was 46%; and 86% of those stated reasons that are considered “non-severe circumstances.” There are so many outside pressures, cultural norms, and selfish behaviors that influence our daily actions. We’re human! Divorces don’t typically happen because of one big event that the couple can’t recover from. It’s decisions, comments, or behaviors that seem small or happen daily and they add up over time.
How do you know if this is something you should think about for your marriage? Answer one question - are you married? If yes, then yes. It’s that simple :). If you’re nervous about it, contact me and I can help you talk through it until you’re ready to discuss with your spouse. (Be prepared to talk to my husband too if you’re a dude, just sayin’).
What can you do right now?
First, make sure God is at the center of your marriage. He fights for your marriage and protects your union. He also teaches us how to be the wives and husbands that He has called us to be.
Second, I’d highly recommend to have 2 or 3 close friends that you share life with - God designed us for community and to learn from each other. Make sure they’re positive influences that you respect or admire, so that you pick up good habits…not bad ones. My husband and I are involved with Marriage Groups through our local church, and these relationships have made us feel normal more times than not, and have given us a place to tackle problems with a bunch of people who are cheering for our marriage.
Third, talk to your spouse about this concept, and creating some boundaries that work for you two. Making time to connect on tough issues will create a bond. My husband and I have weekly marriage talks - our topics are things like ‘have you felt loved this week,’ ‘have you felt unloved, tell me about it,’ what can I do to make your week better or easier’ and we leave space to talk about anything the other needs to know about. Sometimes these conversations can be hard, but they’re worth it.
And to make sure we’re always ending on a positive note, I’ll close with one of my favorites:
“Did you hear the rumor about butter?”
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“Well, I’m not going to spread it!”