The Protected Marriage

Great is Thy Faithfulness…

I‘m a private person, despite the fact that I have a very public life. There are aspects of my first marriage that I’ll never discuss with anyone but my husband.

The main reason is because I have children who love their father, and I want to honor that. I will say that my first marriage wasn’t a healthy one. I didn’t learn how unhealthy it really was until I went to counseling during my divorce.

I was only fourteen-years-old when I met my first husband. That’s the same age my oldest daughter is now. And it’s terrifying. I grew up in a Christian home with a solid foundation.

My parents were married for more than fifty years before my dad passed. And I knew from his example what it meant to be a head of household, and to lead the family in decisions, and provide and protect. I knew right from wrong, and I knew Christ lived within me.

The older I get, the more I understand what a precious gift sex is. Sex is God’s desire for marriage. It’s not meant to be taken lightly. Yes, sex is pleasurable and fun, but that physical connection with the one person God chose for you is special beyond all belief.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says,

“THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.”

1 Corinthians 6:15-16

When we only seek pleasure from sex, we’re using our partner instead of loving our partner. Sex creates emotional and physical bonds, which is why casual sex is never a good thing to fall into.

You’re creating physical, and theoretically “emotional” bonds, but the more partners you have the more your heart hardens and you block that emotional sense of self, so sex just becomes the act and nothing more.

I didn’t treat sex with such reverence when I was dating my first husband. If I’d waited, I never would have married him because he wasn’t the right one. Now, what I will say is that I have no regrets about my marriage, despite my mistakes, because I have four beautiful children that I’d lay down my life for, and they came from that marriage.

How Firm A Foundation…

Because I’d grown up in a Christian household, and I knew the difference between right and wrong, I was conflicted about marriage to my first husband. We fell into a very unhealthy pattern. If you looked in the dictionary under Dysfunctional Relationship, you’d see our pictures. And because I was a private person, even as a fourteen-year-old kid, there became this precedent where we looked like the perfect couple.

My ex-husband was one of those people EVERYBODY liked. He was outgoing and personable and always had a joke or a smile. And I withered in the corner, afraid what people would think of me if I finally broke up with a guy who was so “perfect,” but so perfectly wrong for me.

I didn’t have a mentor or adult in my life to stop me and say, “This whole situation is wrong on a lot of levels.” This was a pattern that followed us into our marriage and through our divorce. Hallee Bridgeman wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago about how she felt “relief” when her marriage ended. That post brought me to tears because I felt the same way. If you haven’t read her post make sure you check it out.

From the age of fourteen until we decided to divorce when I was in my early thirties, we had that on again-off again type marriage. There was even a point later on in our marriage where I just told myself to suck it up for the kids and live with it. It was my mistake for marrying him in the first place, because I knew better.

When we divorced, it was a surprise to everyone because they thought we’d been so happy. But the truth is, no one knows what happens in a marriage except for the two people that are in it. But what I learned soon after the divorce was that everyone had an opinion on it.

Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound…

Without going into details about the dissolution of my first marriage, needless to say, there was emotional baggage I brought with me to my marriage to Scott.

On the outside, I had everything in the world going for me. I had four children I adored, I was not only a New York Times bestselling author, but a consistent New York Times bestselling author, meaning each time I released a book my sales were only getting better. I was financially solvent, and I was asked repeatedly to give keynote speeches all over the world about “How I Became A Success.”

I was in control and was the poster child for having a successful career and raising a family as a single mother. On the outside it looked like I had it all. But on the inside I felt sick and empty, and I wondered how anyone could possibly ever want me again. I was spiritually and emotionally drained and bitter. I was a woman in her thirties with four children. What kind of man could ever want that?

All I had going for me was my success, so naturally, that’s the only reason I thought a man would want me. See how Satan takes our fears and worries and makes them bigger?

I guess that’s the long way of saying Scott and I had things to work out when we got serious about each other. As a wife who experienced a failed first marriage, one of the things that was a priority for me was knowing Scott was loyal and committed to me alone.

God created us for monogamous relationships. That’s the simple truth of it. When we’re loyal to our spouse, it’s a reflection of our Creator.

Holy, Holy, Holy…

That’s why intimate physical relationships aren’t to be taken lightly. When you’re merely seeking out pleasure or lust and not the intimacy sex is meant to achieve, you’re chipping away those pieces of yourself meant for physical bonding with your spouse. I’m going to do another blog post on physical intimacy, so I won’t delve too far into it now.

Here’s the truth, it’s our job as husband and wife to put the needs of each other before any other person. If we’re following God’s desire for our marriage, my feelings, needs, hurts, and desires should be a priority above all else, just as his feelings, needs, hurts, and desires should be a priority for me.

In this culture and society, it’s not easy to have a “protected” marriage. Social norms and the world tell us one thing is right or okay. And other people can manipulate or influence our feelings into making decisions that aren’t the best for the marriage. Satan lies. So the excuses you might make to justify certain things as “okay” can be detrimental to a marriage in the long run.

For example, have you ever heard anyone say, “I’m just flirting. It’s no big deal,” or “There’s no harm in looking.” We’ve all heard that one from a friend or two before, right? Or what about, “I can still be close friends with him/her. The past is the past.”

I’m going to make a controversial statement that I stand by one hundred percent (and Pastors and Counselors stand by too): CLOSE FRIENDS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX CAN HARM YOUR MARRIAGE.

That’s a wildly unpopular opinion in the Twenty-First Century. But I don’t care. The largest percentage of affairs start out as friendships. Whether it’s your next-door neighbor, a co-worker, a friend from college, or someone you connected with on social media. It doesn’t matter. The person you chose to spend your life with should be the best friend you have in this world.

Don’t spend time or attention on someone of the opposite sex when that time and attention should be used to grow your relationship with your spouse. (For clarification, I’m not talking about cutting off communication with the opposite sex of acquaintances you see at work or in social settings with your spouse.

There’s a difference in casual conversation and personal conversation).

In my marriage, I want Scott to always be one-hundred percent sure that the only relationship I’m investing in with someone of the opposite sex is him.

We each need to be confident in that feeling. I don’t see it as being old-fashioned, and I know it’s controversial, but I truly believe  your marriage will be stronger if your spouse is the only friend you have of the opposite sex. Protect your marriage.

If you’re investing in a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, you’re taking something away from your spouse. That will almost always lead to problems with your spouse. What are you telling them when you invest in another relationship?

You’re telling them that they’re somehow not meeting your needs. That the other person is more interesting. That your time is better spent getting to know that person. You are providing a reason for your spouse to feel inadequate or jealous.

Why would you do that to someone you love?

If you have a friend of the opposite sex, do me a favor and do an experiment. Put some distance between you and your friend for awhile and see if your communication and the connection between you and your spouse grows. Protect your marriage.

Blessed Assurance…

The thing about Satan and sin is that he laughs in the face of your perceived willpower. What might start as innocent can often lead to the not so innocent. Out of respect for your spouse and the sanctity of marriage, those are the thoughts or actions that need to stop. Marriage is sacred. Just like sex is sacred. And we need to learn tips and tools for keeping our marriages protected.

I’ve been reading a lot of research materials from Christians in high positions who are using their voice to mentor other Christians. And they have A LOT to say about how to protect your marriage in a secular world.

Michael Hyatt was the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and he’s also a speaker, blogger, and mentor. Here are his top tips for protecting your marriage. (And here’s the link if you’d like to check it out for yourself: What Are You Doing To Protect Your Marriage)

1.) Invest in your relationship with your spouse. He says this is especially important for men because they typically want to invest spiritual, financial, and emotional resources into relationships other than the ones they have.

2.) Set Boundaries (And Mr. Hyatt doesn’t care one bit that it might be old-fashioned)

  • He does not travel for work with someone of the opposite sex who is not his spouse

  • He does not eat out alone with someone of the opposite sex

  • He does not flirt with someone of the opposite sex and maintains appropriate relationships when he does communicate with the opposite sex

  • He speaks of his wife often and lovingly

3.) He considers what is at stake. What kind of legacy does he want to leave to his children and grandchildren? Someone who loves his wife? Who puts her needs above all others? Or someone who squandered away his legacy?

Jesus Loves Me…

There’s a great site called Manturity.com (Don’t worry, ladies. I’m about to get to you), and they also give tips on how Christian men need to handle interactions with single women, whether in the workplace or the community.

Just like Mr. Hyatt, they also stress the importance of mentioning your wife right off the bat and speaking about her lovingly and respectfully.

The next tip is the importance of keeping conversations with single women general and professional. Single women are not your confidants or “buddies.” You’ve got guy friends for that or Christian mentors who can listen if you need to get something off your chest.

Be intentional about your conversations. There’s no reason to share personal information with a single woman or let them share personal information with you. There’s no reason for emails or text message relationships. That’s one of those things that starts out innocently enough, but can lead to very shaky ground.

Remember, Satan hates marriage because God LOVES marriage. Establishing a personal conversational relationship is a type of bonding and it can lead to the danger zone. Save those conversations for your wife. Bond with her.

My good friend Chermaine Stein, who is also a contributor on this blog, shared some great wisdom with me for this blog post. If you come from a past marriage where there was infidelity, she likened it to flying a plane with zero visibility.

You have to rely on flying by instrumentation because you can’t rely on your feelings. You’re going to be hypersensitive to trust issues.

She continued to say that it’s the spouse who didn’t come from that kind of marriage who must be sensitive to where you’re coming from, and they must be willing to make concessions to ease your discomfort and build trust.

She also shared this verse: Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Chermaine mentioned she could do chapters on this subject, and honestly, I hope she does. She’s a wise woman and a fantastic mentor, and these are issues that most couples deal with at some point or another.

One of my favorite things that she said in our conversation was, “Wondering can cause tremendous damage to a relationship. I wonder what…I wonder who… I wonder where…” And then she gave me this verse she said she faithfully prays – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Don’t ever let your spouse “wonder.” Love your spouse the way Jesus loves you.

And because Chermaine is a fount of information and interesting biblical facts, she shared this nugget of wisdom as well. Genesis 3:16 I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.

I’d never really thought much about this verse before other than the fact that it’s kind of a bummer. But when she explained it, it was such an “Ah-ha” moment that I wanted to share it with you. She said that part of the curse placed on women was a desire to control their husbands.

It’s in a woman’s carnal nature to want to control because she needs to feel safe. It’s a husband’s job to provide that safety and security for her. “A good woman will strive to never emasculate her husband. A good husband will put on his big boy pants so she doesn’t feel the need to.” (Chermaine’s Exact Words)

That Chermaine is a smart cookie, right?

Here’s another great reference from Pastor Dave Willis (check out his full blog post here: 7 Rules Guaranteed to Prevent Infidelity)

1.) He never meets alone with a woman other than his wife (Sound familiar?)

2.) When he sends text messages to another woman (other than his mom), he CC’s his wife.

3.) He shares ALL his passwords. He goes onto say that, “In marriage, secrets are as dangerous as lies.”

4.) He doesn’t watch porn or sexually explicit content

5.) He gives “Side” hugs.

6.) He doesn’t engage in ongoing dialogues with women on social media

7.) He makes time together with his wife a priority

And in case you were wondering, I found literally HUNDREDS of sites online that gave advice on how to protect your marriage. And ALL of them were almost identical in their content. Protect your marriage.

Nothing But the Blood of Jesus…

Okay, ladies. I haven’t forgotten about you. Women need to protect their marriages right alongside their husbands. When I divorced, I never expected to remarry.

Honestly, I didn’t really want to remarry. There was a time during and after my divorce where my heart was very hard, and no matter how much I tried to talk to God and hear God speak, He was silent. Satan was at work, filling me with self-doubt. I wasn’t at a place where I could humbly get on my knees before God and repent.

Where I could ask for His forgiveness.

It was just as much of a surprise to me when Scott said he wanted to marry me than it was to anyone. But it became very clear very quickly that God was working deliberately in our lives. We were two people with different careers, different lives, and we were living in two different states.

But God worked on our hearts and made miracles happen. And we knew then He most definitely had plans for us and our walk with Christ.

That He wanted to use us for a specific purpose.

Victory in Jesus…

One of the most important things I’ve done since we’ve been married is to become a prayer warrior. I pray DAILY for my marriage. Because it’s my priority. My prayers go something like this:

Heavenly Father,

I pray for my marriage. Please protect it and nurture it. I pray that I can become a wife who always honors and respects her husband, who is his equal but who submits. I ask that in times of tribulation that I will always kneel in prayer first, before harsh words are said, and that if we do say harsh words that we learn to say I’m sorry and forgive.

Amen

Christ is the center of our marriage. Our marriage is our priority. And if we do these two things it will trickle down to our children and grandchildren, leaving a legacy that God will bless.

I’m a writer by trade, so I’ve found that writing my prayers like a daily journal really helps me articulate my thoughts and feelings well. And it’s nice to go back and read them to see the prayers God has answered, and so I can be thankful.

Just like I posted above about a married man’s relationship with other women, it works the same for us married women. There’s no reason for me to be alone with other men, eat alone with other men, or put myself in situations where Satan can put separation between me and my spouse.

I’ll either do activities with my spouse or in groups, but never with another man alone.

Also similar to what was said in the men’s section above is protecting your marriage through boundaries.

This is an important conversation topic, and each of you needs to listen to the other to understand where each of you are coming from and any underlying worries.

Anyone who lays down ultimatums isn’t being respectful or sensitive to the other. Love your spouse like Christ loves the Church. Boundaries are necessary. You’re not trying to put restrictions on the other or give orders.

You are fighting to protect your marriage, just as you are supposed to do, and if your spouse doesn’t feel like there should be boundaries then they’re not loving you the way God designed married couples to love each other. Keep praying for them that God will change their heart.

Remember what Chermaine said. Concessions must be made to protect the marriage. Women want control. Men need to provide safety and security for their wives so they don’t have the urge to control.

Be careful of the Internet. How many people do you know who have rekindled old romances through Facebook? It starts out innocently enough, catching up on the past or the good old days, and maybe noticing how successful that person has become or how great their life seems.

These “relationships” are based on fantasy. Before long you’re private messaging or text messaging, and those personal conversational bonds are forged. There is no reason on this planet for me or any other woman to have a text or email relationship with a married man.

And it’s easy to make excuses or justifications. “But we’re just friends,” or “We’ve always been friends and we’re so close.” I’m sorry, but no. Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Don’t ever be the reason to come between a husband and wife. God is very clear on his commands for marriage. And if you are that person, take a step back and ask yourself “Why” you’re doing it. And then ask yourself if you want to be the reason to cause anyone hurt or pain.

God will work on you and your heart, and bring you someone to fill that role of spouse. God will NOT bring you another person’s husband or wife to fill that role.

Peace, Perfect Peace…

Godly love is found in a committed relationship and unconditional love. And guess what, an Internet love relationship is virtual infidelity, and though you might see it as “not cheating” because sex wasn’t involved, it causes very real pain to your spouse.

Ladies, protect your marriage by spending time together, just like men need to carve out time to spend  with their wives. When you spend time together, you’re meeting each other’s emotional needs, and the temptation of the virtual fantasy relationship lessens.

Communicate with your spouse. If you’re struggling with any of these issues talk to them. Being open about struggles you face individually puts everything out there in the open. When you’re tempted, tell your spouse. And spouses, listen with an open heart and mind when they talk to you. Give them a safe place to communicate with you. And then guess what? Pray for each other. Nothing brings couples closer together than prayer.

I’ll close with this. Marriage isn’t just a contract or an agreement between two people. It’s a covenant. It’s a vow meant to last a lifetime. Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.

What are some other ways to have a protected marriage?

Leah

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