Q. I sense we have been drifting apart in our marriage and then noticed signs my husband was connecting with an old female friend from his hometown. How do we step up guarding our marriage in the midst of his temptation and our already shaky marriage?
A number of years ago, Barb and I shared the platform with a number of speakers including Dr. James Dobson. I can’t recall our message but I will never forget his. He shared couples today are adrift, needing an anchor. I have never forgotten that statement and it came to mind when I read this question. The same holds true for our moral moorings and boundaries when it comes to connecting with an opposite sex friend, whether from high school or in the next cubicle. That person today may not appear to be a threat to our marriage but the natural course of step-by-step drifting could lead us further than we want to go. Do my alarm bells go off with your question? Not a four alarm fire but I would send the trucks looking for smoke to see if the fire was about to erupt.
Here is what we observe: adultery doesn't just happen. Our boundaries erode. That is why we coach couples to vigilantly guard their marriages.
Here are some coaching tips to guard your marriage:
- When you are interacting online, over the phone, or in person with someone of the opposite sex that you did not share wedding cake with, imagine your spouse, kids and your mother standing next to you. Would they give you a thumbs up? That’s my litmus test. If I am listening, nodding, encouraging, sharing...well you get it, and my mom, Barb and daughters would say “Gary you were a great encouragement to that woman. Thank you for showing compassion and grace” then I am good to go. But if any of their discernment red flags go up, I am pushing or breaking through the guardrails.
- Another litmus test? Have you ever walked up to a man and a woman where the chemistry was popping and your first thought was hmmm, something doesn't feel right? Trust your instinct. Often within a matter of months you may hear that marriage boundaries were crossed and you may have been a witness.
- If violations of marriage boundaries don’t just happen, how do they occur? Years ago Tom Eisenman wrote a bookTemptations Men Face. He reported 12 steps to an affair: readiness, alertness, innocent meetings, intentional meetings, public lingering, private lingering, purposeful isolating, pleasurable isolating, affectionate embracing, passionate embracing, capitulation (meaning sex occurs) and finally acceptance. In other words, steps 1-10 are just ramping up to a sexual encounter and likely both the man and woman are rationalizing to the "nth" degree that nothing is happening. They may look right at you with that “deer in the headlights look” but beware. The ramp up to the sexual affair may have started several stages back.
So to directly answer your question, if your husband is connecting with an "old high school friend," does it mean he has an ill intention or she has "marked" your man? No. But… it could be a step in the wrong direction. Paul writes, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality…" (Eph 5:3). In my book Guard your Heart-Men's Edition I unpack a strategy to guard your marriage vigilantly. I give four strong coaching strategies in the chapter on sexual temptations including: a strong relationship with our Father, an extreme caution with other women, a wide open relationship with our brothers, and a fulfilling relationship with our wife. Grab a copy and read it together for some preventative medicine. It may just prevent a heart failure down the road!