“Why are you asking for a divorce?” the judge inquired.
“Because all my husband wants is to make love,” the woman said.
“Most women would be pleased!” said the judge.
“They are!!” the woman fired back. “That's why I want a divorce.”
The real tragedy of infidelity is that many marriages end in divorce. In the blink of an eye, the trust and security that was the foundation for a healthy marriage is destroyed. Sadly, it takes years of dedicated work to rebuild lost trust and security ripped away by an affair. The reason is simple. After an ice storm, have you ever attempted to walk down a frozen sidewalk? Although it's possible, there's always anxiety that a horrible fall might be right around the corner. What many couples fail to realize is that an absence of trust and security in a marriage is like condemning a person to live on that ice-covered sidewalk. Your mate is never truly free to relax because he or she is continually fighting to keep his or her footing.
To protect our marriages, we need to make a daily decision to have an affair-proof relationship. This protection builds trust and security–which in turn–melts the ice. Marital fidelity is secure when built on these four important practices.
Four Ways to Affair Proof Your Marriage
1. Make a Commitment Towards Growth
First, it's extremely important to make a commitment to keep growing in your relationship with your mate. According to my mentor, Dr. Gary Oliver, sexual temptation increases as the satisfaction in the relationship decreases. In other words, the lower the relational happiness, the greater the temptation to medicate through some kind of addictive behavior (e.g., sex, alcohol, work, etc.). In order to find out what your relationship needs, ask your mate, “What is something that I could do that would cause our relationship to grow?” I encourage you to begin making a list of the specific things and pick one of them to do on a weekly basis.
2. Becoming Aware of Your Choices
A damaging force working against marital fidelity is rationalization. Today's test for honesty seems to be, “It's okay as long as you don't get caught,” or “It's not that bad, every one's doing it.” A major battle is won when we stop asking what's wrong with certain choices, and instead, ask what's right with them.
Every day I read a small poem above my computer. This poem has become the key for affair proofing my own marriage.
The choices we make every day,
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. I now start each day out by thinking about the choices I'll make and how they can dictate my life. For example, if I spend too much time talking to a female co-worker, I need to be aware of how this can weaken my defenses or make me susceptible for an affair (emotional as well as physical).
The last part, “to thine own self be true,” simply means as Christians, we must learn what God desires for our lives and remain true to His wishes. Becoming aware of our choices leads us right into the third way to affair-proof our marriages.
3. Draw a Line and Then Stay a Safe Distance Behind It!
While doing a seminar in Hawaii, my family and I were caught in a major storm. At one point, thirty foot waves were crashing against the hotel. It felt like we were being shelled by artillery. Wanting to get close to the monstrous waves, my father and I snuck past a sign that read: Dangerous Beyond This Point! Standing near the water's edge, a gigantic wave suddenly broke and knocked us down. As we laughed and “high-fived” each other, we were confronted by hotel security. They quickly explained that it wasn't the waves that were the only danger. Instead, the real problem were the rocks that were jarred loose each time the waves struck the shoreline. We had difficulty believing this until we saw some of the “pebbles” that were imbedded into the side of the hotel.
The reason that the hotel placed the danger signs away from the water's edge was to create a buffer zone. In other words, they wanted to leave room for error. This way if someone made a mistake and crossed the line, hopefully they wouldn't be killed.
If you want to affair proof your marriage, it's important to draw a line and then stay a safe distance behind it. For each person the safety line will be different. Some people will not be able to take business trips or work late with a co-worker of the opposite sex. Others may not be able to meet a certain person for lunch or to work-out at the gym. Whatever the situation, determine where you need to draw the line. Since everyone makes mistakes, having room before you fall over the edge can be the difference between a compromising situation and losing your marriage.
4. Become Accountable to Someone
The final piece for maintaining marital fidelity is through accountability. Accountability is simply being responsible to another person or persons for the commitments you've made. If you desire to affair-proof your marriage, I encourage you to ask a good friend, pastor, bible study group, or co-worker for accountability. The important ingredient is having someone to ask the difficult questions. For example, “Did you compromise your standards last week?” or “Have you been getting your emotional needs met from someone other than your mate?” Ideally, these questions force us to carefully and prayerfully consider our choices because we know that someone will be checking.
If your desire is to build a protective hedge around your marriage, or if you and your mate are recovering from the damaging effects of an affair, by making the above four things a part of your life, you can melt the ice-covered sidewalks of your relationship, where trust and security are sure to follow.