Building Hedges Around Your Marriage

Author:
Dr. James Dobson


How can we keep cracks from developing in the sidewalks of our marriages? The surest way to avoid an affair is to flee temptation as soon as it confronts you. Author Jerry Jenkins has referred to this determination to preserve moral purity as "building hedges" around marriage so that temptation is never given a foothold. You take steps to protect yourself and enhance the level of trust in your marriage at the same time.

To build a hedge around your home, talk with your partner about your interactions with the opposite sex; then establish sensible, sensitive guidelines. Some couples rule out lunch with a coworker, traveling together, talking alone behind closed doors, sharing rides, or working as a "couple" on a project. Agree on what you both consider reasonable, then stick to that agreement. If you're faced with a situation that you haven't discussed, ask your spouse about it beforehand, and if he or she isn't comfortable with it, don't do it. Listen to each other's concerns. The Lord has made you "one flesh" for good reason.

It may be harmless to show a bit of friendliness to a member of the opposite sex, but avoid crossing the line into flirting. Ask yourself, "Would my spouse feel comfortable if he or she witnessed this exchange? Would my actions earn trust, or would they raise doubt about my motives?"

At first it may seem strange to ask for permission to take part in what's probably a completely innocent activity. But you'll quickly discover how wonderfully reassuring it feels when the situation is reversed and your partner is the one asking you!

Watch for warning signs that you may be vulnerable to an affair. Dr. Merville Vincent once wrote an article for the Christian Medical Society Journal describing how doctors, or anyone in a position of authority, can fall into temptation's trap. In Dr. Vincent's scenario, an unhappily married or divorced young woman visits her physician for treatment of a medical problem. The woman may feel frightened and helpless. The doctor, on the other hand, seems strong, confident, and caring and is able to solve her immediate problem. The woman believes the doctor is wonderful and tells him so. He immediately concurs.

The doctor, meanwhile, has his own problems at home. Perhaps because of the hours he spends at work, his desire to be cared for is not being met by his wife, who may herself be tired of trying to give to this man who makes little attempt to meet her needs for an involved husband and father of her children. She puts more demands on him at home; he feels underappreciated. Suddenly, his young patient begins to look increasingly attractive.

It is a recipe for disaster. The first warning sign is when the husband (or wife) begins to feel that his patient (or client or coworker) appreciates him and loves him more than his spouse and family do. The next sign is when the husband (or wife) finds ways to spend more time with his new interest and less time at home. At that point, an affair is only a step away.

According to Dr. Vincent, this predicament can be prevented if couples realize that infidelity develops out of unmet needs—the husband's, the wife's, and a third party's. They should realize that meeting dependent needs with an erotic response makes the situation worse, not better. They should also understand that a sure way to prevent an affair is for a husband and wife to both put the other's needs ahead of their own. I agree. An attitude of service and sacrifice is an indisputable marriage builder.

One final caution regarding temptation: I urge you to be wary of pride in your own infallibility. The minute you begin thinking that an affair "would never happen to me" is when you become most vulnerable. We are sexual creatures with powerful urges. We are also fallen beings with strong desires to do wrong. That is what temptation is all about. Do not give it a place in your life. My father once wrote, "Strong desire is like a powerful river. As long as it stays within the banks of God's will, all will be proper and clean. But when it overflows those boundaries, devastation awaits downstream."

Some time ago I discovered a little recognized, but universal, characteristic of human nature: We value that which we are fortunate to get; we discredit that with which we are stuck! We lust for the very thing which is beyond our grasp; we disdain that same item when it becomes a permanent possession. This helps explain the incredible power that the lure of infidelity can have on our behavior. Nevertheless, God promises to provide a "way out" of temptation if we will look for it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Keep looking for the way out and you'll keep building up trust in your marriage.

From Dr. Dobson's book 5 Essentials for Lifelong Intimacy.



Related Resources

How to Stay Faithful to Your Spouse

Guarding Your Marriage Against Infidelity

The Impact of Adultery

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