We met on Match.
As I sat across the table from this beautiful woman, this question stumbled out of my mouth. “What are you looking for in a man?” I was caught completely flat-footed by her answer.
“Blaine, I just can’t deal with a man that has struggled with addiction.”
Her answer was like telling Jonah she couldn’t deal with the faint smell of seaweed.
That women’s name is Lori and today she is my wife. She knows my entire story. (I didn’t tell it to her that night) How did she get past — my past? How have we been able to foster a deep and trusting relationship in light of the unfaithful behavior in my previous marriage?
Here’s our answer. We have built our relationship on a foundation that we believe has affair-proofed our marriage.
Twenty-five percent of all American men (and some studies put the number even higher) will have extramarital affairs during their lifetime. So how do we stop from being 1 of the 4? What precautions — and even more important — what virtues can we hold close in our desire to stay true?
Start with these seven. (you may find more along the way)
1. COMMIT TO HONEST, OPEN AND EVEN AWKWARD COMMUNICATION.
The seeds of an affair are planted when a husband and wife avoid deep conversation about the things that can make or break a marriage.
Things like money. How are we spending? Are we hiding expenditures or accounts from each other? Jesus said if we are unfaithful with unrighteous mammon, we will be unfaithful in the virtues of righteousness. (Luke 16:11)
How about sex? Have you both shared honestly what you love (or don’t love) in the marriage bed? Or do you avoid those uncomfortable conversations? Unspoken needs or frustrations in our sexuality will always lead to an underlying resentment towards our spouse — and sexual resentment has caused many a man (or woman) to stray.
Talk honestly. Talk deeply. Talk often.
2: DON’T DO MARRIAGE ALONE.
There is a very well known verse in Proverbs that reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” What does this actually mean?
Iron was sharpened with a whetstone in the days of this writing. The whetstone would stay dull while one-side (the iron) was sharpened. The author of this observation uses iron as a means to indicate that people of similar values, virtues, and character have the power of sharpening each other in a way that is helps both parties. It is never a one-way sharpening, but both sides are sharpened concurrently.
Connect with other strong and stable couples. Learn from them. Commit to a healthy church community. Share your lives with others of like faith. Seek out professional/pastoral counseling when you are navigating rough waters. This will keep you safe. (Proverbs 11:14) Lean into family together. Often, your loved ones will see things in your life that no one else does.
3. ESTEEM, ENJOY AND IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE.
Your sex life is one thing that is completely yours. It is meant to be the closest — deepest — most bonding moment of intimacy between a husband and wife. We are wise to value and protect these moments together.
Esteem. Make it a continual priority in your marriage. If you’re always waiting for “the right moment”, it will never happen.
Enjoy. Stop the boredom. Change the routine. Or the location. Tell your spouse what turns you on.
Improve. Ask your spouse what you can do to make it better for them. Communicate during intimacy, not just after.
There are times when past trauma, poor teaching or negative modeling of sexual behavior can dramatically effect a wife or husband (or both) in the marriage bed. It can lead to withdrawal, undue sexual shame and many other behaviors that will inhibit a healthy and vibrant sex life. If this comes to light in your marriage, seek out a good sexual therapist who has faith underpinnings for help and healing.
4. HAVE EYES FOR YOUR SPOUSE AND TELL HER WHAT YOU THINK.
Eugene Peterson interprets this Proverbs passage wonderfully in the Message translation…
Your spring water is for you and you only, not to be passed around among strangers. Bless your fresh-flowing fountain! Enjoy the wife you married as a young man! Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose— don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted!
Guys… let your wife be your ultimate standard of beauty. Reminisce the memories of your lives. Envision growing older together and loving every minute of it.
Constantly find the qualities that make your spouse so amazing. Tell them often why you love them so much. Write sweet cards. Plan special moments together. Surprise them with gifts and unusual kindnesses.
Never stop falling in love.
5. FIND AND SHARE A COMMON PURSUIT.
One of the reasons that a spouse strays is that they slowly find less and less in common with the person they married.
In the beginning, they worked hard to discover common interests… favorite restaurants — the gym — concerts — a business — sports — the arts — a hobby… but somehow they have just stopped doing the stuff they both once enjoyed together.
Start living life together again.
6. BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR BOUNDARIES TOGETHER.
Sit down with your spouse and discuss what you are both comfortable with in regards to your relationships with the other sex. Often this will be different with each couple.
As an example, neither Lori or I allow ourselves to meet with someone of the opposite sex alone. Whether it is a business meeting or coaching session, we always make sure there is a third party in the mix for both safety and appearance. This works well for us, especially given my past. But you will have to talk through what is best for you.
What about technology boundaries?
Lori and I share a lap top computer. We both have access to emails, passwords and browser history. This helps her feel safe. And that includes all my technology. I regularly leave both the computer and my smart phone with Lori and encourage her to review my history, calls, text messages, etc. I never delete history. She is equally transparent with me.
Because of our openness with each other, we have formed a deep trust and confidence in our marriage. We have no reasons not to trust.
7. REMIND YOURSELF OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF INFIDELITY.
My life and marriage today is easier than ever before.
My past life was filled with hiding, lies, fear and constant anxiety. I hated it. I hated myself. Though God has this unfailing love for us and offers complete forgiveness for our sins, there are still wages we end up paying for our selfish choices.
I can’t even begin to innumerate all the costs I have paid for the unfaithful living of my past. Relationships lost. Reputation battered. Money squandered. Emotional distress.
Perhaps the greatest battle I fight today is the sheer regret of the damage I caused in my family. While I have certainly embraced the immeasurable grace of Jesus in my life, there is no escaping the harsh reality of bygone decisions, even if I have escaped the shame of those decisions.
Once again, the writer of Proverbs speaks plainly to this…
So, friends, listen to me, take these words of mine most seriously. Don’t fool around with a woman like that; don’t even stroll through her neighborhood. Countless victims come under her spell; she’s the death of many a poor man. She runs a halfway house to hell, fits you out with a shroud and a coffin.
Proverbs 7:24-27 Message Translation
If you find your marriage lacking in some (or all) of the things listed above, take hope. We all are a work in progress. But don’t be the ostrich with it’s head in the sand — thinking everything will get better by itself. Or just praying a prayer or two. Prayer is a great beginning, but invite your spouse into a conversation about growing stronger together.
You don’t want to miss tomorrow’s blog. I am going to share the most significant challenge Lori and I had in the first three years of our marriage. What started out as a perceived deficiency in our relationship, today has turned into our greatest strength.
Plus, I will be sharing a couple huge announcements for Chopping Wood and our personal lives for 2018.
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