It is absolutely vital that you be vigilant in protecting your marriage. No one else will care as much as you for your marriage. One of the dangerous attack points that the Enemy can use against you is through personal relationships with the opposite gender.
We all have friendships of the opposite gender. God created us to be in community with one another. But Satan likes to take anything that God created for good and turn it around for evil. We have seen unhealthy relationships develop in church settings, work environments, at the gym, or within friendships with other couples.
We are going to provide seven hedges to put around you and your spouse to help you maintain vigilance in protecting your marriage relationally.
1. Be overt about your marriage.
When we talk about our marriage to other people it puts up a wall that says, “I’m not interested in an inappropriate emotional or physical relationship with you. My spouse and I are connected and doing fine.” Whether you are talking with somebody you just met or when you are with friends, be quick to speak up about your spouse and your marriage.
2. Speak positively of your spouse to the opposite gender.
When one confides with somebody of the opposite gender about struggles they are having in their marriage, or about things that they don’t like about their spouse, it opens the door for the other person to enter in as a counselor or a comforter. The danger is that one can quickly desire the other person’s comfort and understanding more than they desire their own spouse. This is a slippery slope to marital disaster.
We all need to confide in someone. Do your best to choose a same gender confidant. Even better, be sure that it is someone who is godly and of whom your spouse approves.
3. Bridle your emotional responses.
If someone of the opposite gender begins sharing painful things from their own marriage with you, keep your own emotional response in check. Your desire to comfort, care, understand, and help can easily be misinterpreted by the other person. It may feel mean, but it is far better to stay emotionally distant and then change the subject or leave the conversation.
4. Guard your language.
Sexual innuendos, off-color language, and inappropriate jokes have no place in any of your relationships with the opposite gender. It may be common for other people to talk that way at work or among friends, but part of protecting your marriage is protecting your mouth. If this is a struggle for you, the prayer of Psalm 141:3 may be helpful, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
5. Keep your distance.
Touch is a powerful form of nonverbal communication. We recognize that some people are naturally “touchy.” If you are one of those people, you need to know that you cannot control how the other person is responding to your touches. You may be sending unintended signals to them.
A lingering touch, a long hug, a hand on the back, or a little shoulder massage can communicate a message of desiring deeper connection. Be aware that you could be setting the stage for cracks in either the commitment to your marriage, or the commitment of another person to their marriage.
6. Watch your eye contact.
Prolonged staring into another’s eyes rapidly increases a desire for intimacy with the other person. Kate Hawala writes that, “One study published in the Journal of Research in Personality found that strangers who were asked to stare into each other’s eyes for two uninterrupted minutes reported ‘increased feelings of passionate love for each other’ and increased likability.” You can read more and see a fascinating video on eye contact here.
7. Maintain your personal standards.
As a couple, set and agree on your standards for your relationships with the opposite gender. As you increase your vigilance in protecting your marriage relationally, you will be on the road to greater intimacy as you build your marriage!