Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work?

Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work? - #staymarriedWhenever we write or talk about boundaries that keep your marriage healthy, we hear a little bit of backlash. The overall sentiment is something like, “Why should I have to change? Why should I have to do things differently than I did when I wasn’t married? Shouldn’t my spouse accept me, flaws and all? Shouldn’t they trust me?”

If you’ve ever wondered, “Why boundaries?”, I want to make something clear to you. If you want to have a great marriage, you should really do whatever you want.

Now, I realize this sounds like it’s the opposite of what we’ve told you in the past, but it’s not. How you read that statement depends entirely on what you really want. You see, marriage isn’t meant to hold you hostage or prevent you from being yourself or pursuing what you want out of life. A great marriage has many benefits, but nobody reaps the benefits without putting in the work. Continue reading “Does Marriage Really Have To Be Hard Work?”

How to Find a Great Therapist

How to Find a Great Therapist - a #staymarried blog for couples“Have you thought about counseling?”

I knew I was struggling with depression, but I also thought I could push past it on my own. I would go back and forth from rage to silence over things that would normally be manageable, every-day responsibilities, like dirty dishes. I had begun to shut myself away from most of the people I knew. Aside from my husband, I had one friend who constantly and gently inserted herself into my life. When she asked me if I’d thought about counseling, at first I was embarrassed. I must be really bad if she’s asking. At the same time, I knew she cared about me and about my family. I also knew that she herself had seen the benefits of counseling over the years in her own life. She wasn’t telling me that anything was inherently wrong with me. She was simply encouraging me to get the help I needed.

It was clear that I needed outside help and I dreaded it. I’d been in counseling before when I was in college, and while I still carried with me some of the tools I’d learned, my memory of the process of divulging my deepest heartaches was incredibly painful. After months of patient nudging, as Tony shared about in his post Living with My Partner’s Baggage, I finally began the process of searching for a counselor, deciding on one, and attending therapy sessions.

I am working through the pain of my past and learning to be healthier, not just for my own sake but for my marriage and my children. Now that I’ve found my counselor, I can’t believe I waited so long to begin my therapeutic relationship. With each session, though the process can still be painful, I leave encouraged and full of hope.

Whether you, like me, need individual therapy or you believe that your marriage might benefit from couples counseling like Carl and Katie, beginning the process can be daunting. I have been so fortunate in my search that I thought it would be great for you to hear from my own therapist about how to know whether therapy might be the right next step for you and how to go about finding a great counselor. I’m pleased to introduce you to Mary Beth Woll. Mary Beth is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and has been working with Meier Clinics in Bothell, Washington since 2005. Here she is to share her steps to finding a great therapist.

How to Find a Great Therapist

Mary Beth Woll, MA, L.M.H.C.“Wait a second! Find a therapist?!? Do I need therapy? Do we really need it as a couple? With a little willpower, we could handle this on our own, right?”

The truth is, everybody needs counsel, at one time or another, from loved ones, trusted family and friends, pastors, mentors, and professionals. Taking this important step could save a person’s life or marriage and potentially change the course of many generations to come!

Before beginning the search for a therapist, it is good to clearly define the need.

♦ What are my symptoms?

♦ Is there an immediate threat to someone’s safety?

♦ Is there a desire to include spirituality in therapy?

♦ Will it be individual, marriage, or family therapy?

♦ Is there a need for a specialist in treating such cases as Bipolar Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and others?

♦ How will I pay for it? Can I use my insurance? (Currently, children are covered under their parent’s insurance until age 26, even if married.) Do they offer a sliding scale?

♦ Would a support group or peer counseling provide what I need or do I need a professional who specializes in my situation?

With all these questions, is it any wonder that many people never make it to the therapist’s door? There are good answers to all these questions, but even before answering them, there are often other roadblocks that need to be addressed, like how does one even know when it’s time to see a professional?

How can I determine if I need therapy?

Consider when a person catches a cold. If they are sensible, they will drink more fluids and get more rest. If the cold persists, they may take vitamins or over-the-counter cold remedies. If the cold develops into bronchitis or pneumonia, it’s time to see a doctor! In such cases, it would be unwise and potentially life-threatening, to continue to self-treat or self-medicate.

In the same way, it is important to recognize when emotional, behavioral, or soul needs are too much for one’s personal support system. That’s when it’s time to stop “white-knuckling it” and get professional help!

As a Christian, shouldn’t I just rely on my church and my faith instead of a counselor?

Sometimes a person’s faith background or the religious tradition they were brought up with can be a roadblock towards counseling. Many have been taught that if their faith is strong enough, they need not rely on outside counseling. Some wonder, “Is it even O.K. for a Christian to go to therapy? If I were a “better Christian,” I wouldn’t need therapy, right? Shouldn’t I just read my Bible and pray more?”  This kind of thinking can prolong a person’s pain and unnecessarily add to the shame they may already be experiencing. Especially if someone is dealing with past trauma or abuse, some kind of addiction, or any number of other mental health challenges, a trained counselor can be an incredible tool and ally. In these cases, telling them, “You don’t need counseling. Just become a better, stronger Christian,” or “Just read the Bible and pray more,” can condemn them to more years of symptoms, hiding, and unhealthy coping strategies instead of being helpful. In a loving community of faith, we really should be encouraging each other to seek out the help we need, and receiving help from a trained counselor is a wonderful and healthy avenue.

What about medication?

Sometimes, there is a very real and legitimate need for medication in treatment for depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, among others. This must not be minimized, any more than one would advise a diabetic not to take their insulin! Often people struggle with the idea of starting on medication, thinking that it makes them seem weak or even “crazy.” The reality is that the brain is an organ like any other part of the body, which can become sick. In some cases, the brain is formed a little different, from birth, and needs medical support.

Many Christians, and particularly those who have overcome drug addiction, struggle with medication issues, thinking that a “better Christian” would not need an antidepressant or mood stabilizer. This misconception can keep many people away from much-needed treatment. Of course, it is true that God still heals, but apparently, He also chooses to use medicine, and does not condemn us for it. Jesus confirmed this when He said in Matthew 9:12, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.” Praying for the sick is a vital ministry of the church, but it is just as dangerous for the church to advise against medicine as it would be for pastors and church members to line up and write out prescriptions for each other on Sunday mornings! This calls for a mental health professional.

Although therapists do not prescribe medicine, they can diagnose and refer for proper medical treatment, which is most effective in conjunction with therapy.

Is my past affecting my current life and relationships?

Some people experience childhood sexual abuse or other trauma that is terrifying or impossible for a child to understand. Memories of such horror don’t go away. They are so threatening that the mind protects the person by locking these memories away in the subconscious for years while they carry on with the business of growing up. Later, these memories can present as unexplained behavioral symptoms or big blank blocks of time in their childhood memories. When these symptoms begin to emerge in adult years, the person may need someone who can help them articulate and resolve what was previously unspeakable.

When they are ready to face the pain of the past, though friends and family can play a part in the healing process, it is not safe or appropriate to talk to just anyone. It is important that they seek out someone who is trained and skilled in such work, otherwise it is possible for the unequipped helper to inflict more damage in the process.

How can counseling help my marriage and other relationships?

How to Find a Great Therapist - a #staymarried blog for couplesIn addition to depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic symptoms, relationships or marriages may become so conflicted or distant that a third party’s perspective and input is needed. Such situations can be overwhelming to a couple’s support system of friends and family. Once again, professional help is in order. Seeking counseling, in such cases, is actually the responsible thing to do in order to continue to function well in the family and on the job.

What type of therapist is best for me?

Some of the confusion in finding a great therapist can be found in the titles alone.

Psychiatrists will usually be identified as “Dr.” with “MD” following their name. These medical doctors specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental or psychiatric illnesses. They are trained in counseling, but typically use the client’s report of symptoms to prescribe appropriate medications and refer clients to therapists for counseling. While it is true that family practice doctors prescribe the overwhelming proportion of antidepressants in the United States, I prefer to recommend a psychiatrist when medication is needed, because, as specialists, they can often catch a subtle need that can make a big difference in prescribing the right medication.

Psychologists (PhD or PsyD) have a doctoral degree in Psychology. They are specialists in various methods of therapy, as well as psychological testing. Psychologists do not prescribe medications but can refer to a psychiatrist, if necessary.

Licensed Mental Health Counselors (MA, LMHC) have a Master’s Degree in Psychology, plus 3,000 hours of post-master’s experience in order to be licensed. They are therapists who can diagnose and treat a wide range of problems including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, sexual abuse, ADD/ADHD, grief, suicidal impulses, addiction and substance abuse, stress management, self-esteem issues, emotional health and family, parenting and marital issues. In addition to individuals, they can treat couples and families. They do not prescribe but can refer to a psychiatrist.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, (MS, LMFT) are therapists with a Master’s Degree in Psychology and post-master’s experience (similar to the Licensed Mental Health Counselor) but with more specialized training in issues regarding marriage and family. They can, also, treat all the issues listed above.

Licensed Social Workers (MSW, LICSW) also have a Master’s Degree in Social Work and post-master’s experience. They specialize in providing services to help their clients’ psychological and social functioning. Social workers can also treat the above therapy issues. In addition, they are specially trained to provide counseling and resources to help a person better function in their environment and relationships.

Pastoral Counselors (Rev., M Div, Pastor) are usually licensed or ordained ministers who also have training in counseling. Their emphasis tends to focus on biblical principles, spiritual formation and direction, and improving relationships. It is important to note that, depending on how or where the Pastor was ordained, they may not have been required to have any training in counseling at all. It is dangerous to assume that just because someone is a Pastor, they are equipped to counsel you in areas of mental health.

How can I determine I’ve found the right therapist for me?

In an effort to answer some of these concerns, I will share how I found my own therapist. Yes, therapists need therapists, too! We all have injuries in life. The better healed I am, the better therapist I will be. Experiencing the process also gives me empathy for my clients who are undergoing this process.

Here are the things that were important to me as I looked for a therapist:

Covered – She was listed on my insurance information.

Competence – She went to a respected university and has a good work history.

Conviction – There are certain moral principles which are non-negotiable for me. I didn’t want to wrestle with these issues during therapy, but needed someone who shared this baseline with me so that they would be better able to advise me. Since my faith informs my decisions, choosing a therapist who was also a Christian was THE most important aspect for me.

Compassion – I found that she is a very caring individual.This is also critical for me. If I felt that the therapist didn’t really care, I would go elsewhere.

Connection – She and I “hit it off.” This makes therapy so much more pleasant.

Consistency – She is dependable and reliable. I know what to expect when I go to therapy.

Convenience – Her office is within about a half hour commute. I was willing to travel this distance for a great therapist.

Finding a great therapist has been a huge benefit in my own life. Hopefully, these thoughts will also help you navigate the maze of finding a therapist who is a good fit for you. As a counselor, I know that I have the opportunity to change lives, daily! Sometimes, like braces, it is slow and incremental. Other times, like heart surgery, it is critical and immediate. Still for others it is like physical therapy – just plain hard work, long-term, and endurance-building.

It takes courage to begin the counseling process. Often, we will experience resistance from within ourselves and from others. This is normal and to be expected. But the rewards are well worth the risk as these life changes can be deep, permanent, and enriching not only for you, but for your loved ones and your marriage. And even one changed life can change the course of events for generations yet to come!

~ Mary Beth Woll, MA, L.M.H.C.
Clinical Therapist for Meier Clinics

We want to thank Mary Beth for her insight. Once you determine your symptoms and need for a therapist, I’d encourage you to come up with a list of your own, like Mary Beth did, of the important characteristics a therapist should have to be a good match for you. I’ve had friends share with me that they needed their therapist to be more direct and less compassionate, or that they planned to pay with cash so insurance wasn’t a consideration. Whatever you decide is important to you, use this as a checklist to sort through your options. Maybe even consider your first visit as more of an interview and less of a problem solving session. Once you meet them in person, ask yourself, “Is this counselor right for me? Can I see myself coming consistently and being honest with this person?” It is as much in the interest of the counselor to make sure you are well suited for each other as it is in yours, so don’t feel badly if you decide they aren’t a fit.

We’ve gathered some resources for you to look through as you begin your search. Click here to check out a few different lists and databases of licensed and recommended counselors in your area. When your life or your marriage hits a rough spot, which usually is a matter of “when” and not “if,” having a great therapist by your side can be just the thing you need to navigate through it and encourage you not to throw in the towel, but instead, to #staymarried.

Recovering from Infidelity

Though Tony and I have known Carl and Katie for years, and they even participated in our #staymarried group last fall, we didn’t really know everything. Sitting in church one Sunday morning, we were stunned to learn that their beautiful marriage had been shaken by pornography and infidelity. Please take the next seven minutes to watch their story. Though painfully honest, it is full of hope.

Carl & Katie from EastLake Community Church Media on Vimeo.

As we’ve been tackling the subjects of pornography and infidelity, and one of the goals of the #staymarried blog is to offer hope, we wanted you to hear from this beautiful couple about just how they are rebuilding trust in their marriage even after, as Katie put it, her line in the sand had been crossed.


Carl & Katie’s Story

Part 1: The Fallout

<Katie> The days and weeks after my husband’s full disclosure of the affairs were a blur to me. I went through the motions of life, barely. We had both started seeing separate counselors a few months prior when the first of my husband’s porn addiction became a reality. As all the books and therapists say, “disclosures” sometimes trickle in. I didn’t believe that would happen with us, but I was wrong. My counselor recommended that I request that he take a lie detector test as a part of the recovery. Though I stalled on asking Carl to take one, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t trust him anymore and that I needed to know that there weren’t any more secrets.  It took three months of counseling, and finally my request for the lie detector test, before everything was all out and on the table. My husband had been with someone else.

You can get a lot of advice in times like these. I had only a few close friends that I trusted with this information in the aftermath. I knew my emotions were fragile and I didn’t want other people’s words or emotions to overly influence what I did or how I felt about my husband.

Recovering from Infidelity - a real couple's story on the #staymarried blogMy therapist suggested that I not make any decisions about what I was going to do in my marriage for at least a year. I needed to allow time for my emotions to settle and she said, “What could it hurt? You need to heal yourself first anyway, even if you do decide to leave in the end.”  Despite my hurt, I couldn’t imagine a life without Carl and without our party of five together. I was scared. I hoped that I could get beyond it and I hoped that Carl could too. I knew if he didn’t change, I had to be done.

 <Carl> The first part of our marriage recovery on my end was for me to figure out the entirety of this sexual addiction problem. The repercussions it had on my marriage were clear, but I needed to determine what caused me to act out in this way. I basically needed to understand what was messed up with me before my marriage could be fully repaired. For me, this meant seeking out professional counselors that specifically dealt with this problem and group counseling with other guys going through their own battles of sexual addiction. I think Katie saw me do the work necessary to unravel this mess, and as I learned more about the core of my issues, these insights were permeating into the marriage recovery.

<Katie> In the months that followed, I spent a lot of time in my therapist’s office. I talked through things on my morning runs with a close friend. I read lots of books on marriage, some specific to sexual addictions and affairs. I even went to a few recovery groups, which I wasn’t crazy about, but I know I learned through them and I was around people, some my own age, going through the same thing I was.

I definitely worked through all the stages of grief. When I got to the anger stage, I scared myself because I began to think I might stay there and never get through it. I learned that in order to work through the pain, you actually have to go right through the middle of it where it hurts the most. Otherwise, you go around the outside and you think you’re better, but years later, it’s a problem. My anger stage lasted a few months. I was not a very nice person to be around during those months.

I was traveling for work a lot during this year. Looking back, this was undeniably something God designed. It gave me the opportunity to get away from life, and even though I was working, I had a lot of time to think and pray and read. It was on one of these trips that I finished a marriage book, Intimate Allies, that had a huge impact on my marriage and where we are today. I came home and I felt like I was ready to commit. I had seen Carl working through his therapy and emotions and getting to the root of his problem. I saw him treating me differently. I saw him never lash out or get mad at me when I was working through my anger and said things and accused him. I knew deep down that this addiction, this affair, this horrible problem wasn’t the man he was. He loved me and he loved our family. This was a nasty sin that had taken hold of him and that takes hold of too many men and women in our society.


Part 2: Rebuilding Trust

 <Carl> Rebuilding trust has been an ongoing process that I constantly need to remind myself of. I spent most of my life hiding the sexual sin in my life, so obviously the number one key to regaining the trust that had been lost was for me to be open and honest about everything. That was sometimes easier said than done since hiding stuff and even lying just to avoid any confrontation had been pretty natural for me to do over the years. The lying and hiding parts are the easier ones to identify and not do, but openly communicating about everything is still hard. I don’t always remember to share the details with Katie when they seem unimportant to me.

Being fully honest seems like an obvious part of rebuilding trust, but I realized there was much more to it. I had to drop my defensiveness about any accusation, even if there seemed like no reason for it. That idea was much easier for me right after I’d fully confessed, but even a couple of years later I see how important it still is. I know that if she asks what I was doing on my cell phone to just immediately tell her and hand her my phone if she wants to verify, even if I was just checking my fantasy football team. I have to constantly remind myself that I have spent a lot of years being dishonest with Katie, so I need to allow her to have moments of mistrust. Over the last year, those moments are less frequent, especially when I am communicating with her. When I fail to communicate and connect, those are the moments when I give her reason to not trust.

 <Katie> Forgiving Carl was a choice. At first I thought it would just happen, I’d wake up one day and realize I didn’t hurt anymore and I’d forgiven Carl. It doesn’t work that way, at least it didn’t for me. I planned a weekend away for Carl and I to talk about what had happened one last time. I had an opportunity to ask any more questions that I needed answers to. He had the opportunity to do the same. Then, in a very dramatic fashion, I ripped up his initial disclosure letter, the one he had written in therapy. We prayed about it together and from that point, we moved forward. I chose to forgive him for the past and start from that point. This took a choice and a sacrifice on my part. The pain was still there, but sometimes one person has to absorb the pain in order to move forward with forgiveness. Even as I write this, I am crying thinking about that time in our life. I cherish where we are today, and I know it could have gone a different way. I am so thankful for my marriage and my children.

There have and continue to be hiccups in our marriage. Now it’s more of the everyday marriage stuff that we have to work through. I honestly don’t know if trust is ever fully rebuilt, because I don’t think I am there yet. I hope it is, but in the end, I trust Jesus and I know I am being faithful to Him in this and He will be faithful to us. We have checks and balances in place today that weren’t there a few years ago. We are much more conscious of our communication. It doesn’t take much for me to start to worry if I feel like Carl is not being clear in his communication with me. We set clear expectations for each other when we’re in certain environments. Some things are just going to be different for us, but we’re working on it. There was a verse from the Bible that I’d written down when we were in the worst of it, and it’s something that still comforts me today:

2 Corinthians 4:16 from Recovering from Infidelity - a real couple's story on the #staymarried blog

 <Carl> This has been the most difficult yet best couple of years of our marriage. There are still a lot of times where I could be a better husband to my wife. The difference now is that I want to be that better husband and I have the right tools in hand because of the counseling and recovery process I am going through. I have a much clearer idea now of what I need to do. Katie is an amazing wife and mom, and she is worth every ounce of me giving her the best of me.

We were really lost for a long time, not sure what to do or where to turn. If you are working on recovering from the effects of infidelity and porn in your own marriage, we’ve put together a list of things that have been helping us in our journey…

8 Tools to Recover from Infidelity

1. Get Counseling

It was important for us not only to find a Christian counselor, but one that specializes in sex addiction. Through our past experience, we really noticed a difference between counselors that specialize in sex addiction and those that don’t. We also recommend, from our experience, each spouse having their own counselors. We spent a lot of money on this, but it’s cheaper than a divorce and highly effective for recovery.

2. Communicate Openly

This one is harder to remember to do, but it’s important that I (Carl) talk to Katie about what is going on and offer information even if she doesn’t ask. I try to share what my day has been like, who I’m working with, and what I might be struggling with.

3. Drop the Defensiveness

Even a couple of years after everything happened, there are still times when I’ll be asked a question that I think has no basis. It doesn’t matter. How I respond to my wife, especially after the trust has been broken, is what really counts. If I respond defensively, I am building up a wall between us. If I respond calmly and openly, it helps my wife to trust me and together we are building a bridge back to each other.

4. Get Accountable

It has been essential for us to have accountability software on all media outlets, phones, computers, iPads, etc. If you travel for work, create a travel plan that details everything you are doing and when you will check in with your spouse. I also have a group of friends that hold me accountable by checking in weekly, whether by phone or in person. A certified sex counselor also has resources for accountability therapy groups; I (Carl) participated one of these for over a year.

5. Avoid Triggers

Check movie/TV ratings, even if it’s PG-13, and avoid anything that is sexual. We also censor the magazines that we allow in our house, which pretty much means none. At the very beginning of our discovery, we did a media blackout for a period of time. Carl went off Facebook and we got rid of cable. It’s also been important for us to avoid or limit alcohol, especially in a setting that we will be without each other.

6. Date Again

Damage was done and your spouse needs to see you make an effort to date again. Make plans, find a sitter, work it into the calendar and the budget. Call your wife and pursue her, like you did when you were dating. It doesn’t always need to be a five-star date, but spending time together intentionally has really helped us rebuild our love for each other.

7. Participate in Maintenance Counseling

I (Katie) was released from counseling earlier than Carl.  He attended weekly group therapy sessions and individual counseling for over a year before he was released.  You can talk with your counselor about how often you should participate in maintenance counseling or you can decide with your spouse when you’d like to do this. A maintenance counseling session mainly serves as a check-in for both of us. This is a session that can be done individually or as a couple. We prefer to go as a couple. Writing this post for #staymarried reminded Carl and I that we needed to schedule a maintenance counseling session, so we got an appointment on the books. We love counseling and can’t say enough good things about it

8. Extend Grace

There will be bumps in the road; it’s okay. This recovery is a process, which means it can take a long time to be fully recovered. We know we aren’t there yet, we still make mistakes that bring up old hurts. Extend grace to each other and practice forgiving regularly.

Recovering from Infidelity - a real couple's story on the #staymarried blog

We want to thank Carl and Katie for their vulnerability in sharing their story. Exploring the dark topics of infidelity, pornography, forgiveness, and healing have been tough for Tony and I in these last few weeks. Still, we continue to have hope that couples can work through the dark stuff of life and marriage and be able to receive all that marriage has to offer when they see healing and wholeness on the other side like Carl and Katie have. We hope their story was as encouraging to you as it has been to us as we fight to #staymarried.


P.S. You are reading Recovering from Infidelity, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the other installments, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, or Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross, you might want to check them out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.

If you feel like this story could be helpful to someone else in their marriage, please consider sharing. Thanks for reading!

~Tony and Michelle

5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity

5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity - a #staymarried blog Mad Men is one of my favorite shows to watch. The style is gorgeous. The stories are intriguing. The glimpse into history and culture– how many things have changed and how very many things have not– is fascinating. I’m always about a season behind, but clearly I am not the only one that enjoys it. The show has won multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, and has been nominated for countless other awards. With its many plot twists and turns, I find myself surprised with the one element that seems constant – infidelity.

This shouldn’t surprise me. Unfaithfulness has been a theme of the show since the first episode I can remember seeing. Still, for whatever naivete I carry with me, I am shocked every single time someone cheats on their spouse on this show. Every time the plot inches toward infidelity, I hold out hope that they won’t actually go through with it, and I am always disappointed. You might wonder, as some of my good friends do, why I still watch since this doesn’t seem to be going away. I suppose I consider it fiction, and I can walk away and say to myself, “That’s not real life. It doesn’t happen like that. At least, it doesn’t happen like that anymore,” and I am consoled. Recently, however, I was slapped in the face with a reminder from some friends of the reality that it does indeed happen. Infidelity happens all the time. Now the shock that I justify away as fiction has turned into heartache.

I read an article about an online dating site that currently boasts over 18 million anonymous members. They are “anonymous” because this site is not designed for people looking for their perfect soul-mate like our friends Emily and Jason. Instead, it caters to those who are already married or in committed relationships and looking to cheat! Their tagline: “Life is short. Have an affair.” draws users in to discover others who are interested in “discreet encounters.” Not only is this site growing daily, but they are actively pursuing ways to make cheating easier for their users by developing an app for your phone. The app allows users to chat with their lover via disposable phone numbers and even features a “panic button” which shuts down the app and immediately switches it over to a family friendly website. I wanted to cry as I read about this site. I thought I might throw up as I discovered that the site sees a huge spike in female sign ups the day after Mother’s Day – 439% increase! What is going on here?

If you’re wondering why I haven’t listed the name or linked to the research or website as I normally would, it’s that I simply do not want to drive up their traffic. I am still just so taken aback that infidelity could be such a lucrative business.5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity - a #staymarried blog Are we really still living in the days of Don Draper and Roger Sterling? Are so many of us choosing to look outside of our marriage for relational and sexual fulfillment, instead of looking inward at ourselves and our spouses? Have we not learned the devastating effects that infidelity has, not only on the spouse who gets cheated on, but the cheater themselves and of course their children? Maybe we haven’t.

Maybe Chris Rock was onto something when he said, “A man is basically as faithful as his options.” Various research reveals that aside from emotional disconnect, the biggest reason for infidelity is the various opportunities that present themselves, plain and simple. Those opportunities, apparently, don’t even need to wait until after the honeymoon as I read on the Huffington Post. As devastating and appalling as all of this may be, I do realize that it’s not those people who are being unfaithful. Those people are no different from any one of us. The more I think about it and recount the stories of those I know, I realize that we really all fall into one of two camps: preventing infidelity or recovering from infidelity.

Affair Proofing

I remember a good friend of mine hosting a women’s book club around the time I first got married. I was interested, but I ended up not joining them because, while the title of the book His Needs, Her Needs seemed practical enough, the subtitle really offended me: “Building an affair-proof marriage.”

Sheesh! I thought. We are not all in danger of affairs! I don’t need to read such a paranoid and depressing book.

I’ve since changed my tune. I’ve read the book and found author Willard Harley’s material so insightful that we feature it as one of the resources here at #staymarried. That newly-wed notion that infidelity simply couldn’t happen to me has been shattered over and over again as I watch my friends go through the pain of separation, divorce, or intensive counseling to recover from one or both of them straying from their marriage. It is no longer fiction set in the 1960’s that I can just turn off at the end of the night. It is real life, these are real men and women, with real children, suffering the consequences of extramarital affairs.

Now I feel fortunate instead of paranoid to be in the “Preventing Infidelity” camp. Tony and I take it seriously, and he even outlined some of the proactive and practical ways we keep ourselves out of trouble in his post, “Five Trust Building Boundaries.” While I hope never to cross the line into the other camp, I know many of you are there right now. Infidelity has been listed as the leading cause of divorce, but we don’t believe it is the only cause. Tony and I are sure that there are signs of disconnect that can be found in a marriage long before the cheating has occurred.

How Cheating Happens

In Dr. John Gottman’s latest book, What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal, he calls it “The Cheater’s Cascade.”

Gottman's What Makes Love Last? on 5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity - a #staymarried blog First, he says, is secret keeping.

The next step is building up emotional walls with your spouse and choosing to confide in a person outside of your marriage instead.

After finding this person to confide in, the potential cheater begins to trash their partner and their relationship to them.

Then, whether warranted or not, the potential cheater considers their partner untrustworthy.

Finally, he or she is primed for a sexual relationship outside of their marriage.

Gottman notes that over a long period of time, people give themselves permission to cross small boundaries and this behavior cascades into that final betrayal. Trust is broken, confidence shattered, and even if a couple decides to take the road of recovery instead of divorce, there can be a lingering paranoia that is crippling. You may wonder if it is even possible to recover at all. We believe it is possible, and next week we’ll be sharing more about that. But for today, we thought we’d focus on prevention. Here are some of the things we are doing to prevent infidelity…

5 Ways To Prevent Infidelity

1. Keep Having Sex

Anyone who’s had sex knows that, no matter what other people say, it is not just physical. For men at least, it is the most crucial way for them to connect and maintain a sense of intimacy. It’s true that most women need to feel loved before they want sex. But, most men feel loved because they’ve had sex. A regular sex life is a vital part of a healthy marriage, and we’ve said before, it would be hard for us to believe that a couple ends up telling a divorce lawyer that the reason for the split was that they were having sex too often.

2. Guard Your Time

Tony and I have decided not to spend time with people if we know they are unfaithful to their spouse, no matter how long we may have been friends with them before. This decision is not about judging them – though we hope they’ll make better choices. It’s about not allowing that kind of thinking to influence our own behavior. We also do not spend time alone with anyone of the opposite sex. At all. Ever. I’ve gone so far as to wait to return my “brother’s” phone call until my husband is home and within earshot. Especially since he’s not actually my brother, but my oldest friend whose family cared for me and took me in during high school. It’s not that Tony doesn’t trust me, or my friend, it is simply about setting a precedent that none of us have anything to hide.

3. Make Meaningful Connections

Besides sex, and the time we spend with others, it’s important to make meaningful and non-sexual connections with each other. Quality time looks different for each of us, so Tony and I try to think of how each other feels when we know we need that time. I love date nights, time away from our kids, sitting across a table, or taking a walk and talking. Tony enjoys that too, but he also loves watching movies, sharing a late night snack, and just having me by his side on the couch without my smart phone in my hand. Regardless of how busy our lives are, it’s important that we make time for these connections as often as possible.

4. No Keeping Secrets

As Gottman mentioned in the “Cheaters Cascade,” one of the first steps toward infidelity can be confiding in someone outside of your marriage. For that very reason, Tony and I make sure not to have any secrets from each other. There is nothing that I tell even my very best girlfriends, let alone a guy friend, that I don’t tell Tony. Fortunately, my friends know me so well that if I’m sharing a frustration or hurt with them about my marriage, they always ask me if I’ve talked with Tony about it and challenge me gently to present it to him.

5. Have an Open Book Life

Along with #4, one of the ways we avoid keeping secrets is by having an open book policy with each other. We have access to each other’s email accounts, calendars, and social media passwords. We can, and do, log onto each other’s accounts regularly, mainly to help each other – “Honey, can you find this email for me?” – which keeps us in the habit of having nothing to hide.

5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity - a #staymarried blog

Building trust with each other, valuing each other, making time with each other, and avoiding secrets are just some of the many ways we take our marriage seriously. When I think about the characters of Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and the many other men and women on Mad Men, I can hardly recount an instance where any of them are sincerely making these meaningful connections and building trust. In fact, they seem to try their best to do the opposite of everything I’ve listed above, essentially pursuing lives of infidelity rather than guarding themselves from it. I can only imagine it may be just these types of characters as real people who jump started the “Hey, I’d like to cheat on my wife” website I mentioned earlier in the first place.

Neither Tony nor I want to look back on our lives and find that we’ve broken each other’s hearts and our family by breaking small boundaries. All of the boundaries matter. So, we’ll stick to building trust, we’ll avoid betrayal, and we’ll #staymarried.

P.S. You are reading 5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the first part, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver, you might want to check that out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.
Thanks for stopping by!


Our Favorites and a GIVEAWAY – Sensible Singles Week

<<This Giveaway is now closed>>

The very best time to improve your marriage is when you are single. Understanding who you really are and cultivating within yourself the ability to really listen to and serve other people are things that a lot of us married people wish we’d done before we made our vows. To finish out our Sensible Singles Week, we wanted to share with you some of our very favorite resources and, of course, host a giveaway to thank you all for sticking with us this week!

:: Discovering Yourself ::

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

7 Habits of Highly Effective People - #staymarried blog

As Dr. Rachel Terrill mentioned in her post How to Find Your Soulmate in 5 Easy Steps, Self Improvement is key to finding and making yourself ready to be in a great relationship. Seven Habits is a classic, full of insight and self-discovery about what it takes to be effective in your world. Adding even one of the seven habits that you’ll learn about in this book can really change your perspective on the world around you. It was from this book that Tony and I learned the concept, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” which we shared more about in our post Same Team.
Find out more about Seven Habits of Highly Effective People here.

Strengths Finder 2.0

Strengths Finder 2.0 on the #staymarried blog

The first time I’d heard of Strengths based research was from the book Now, Discover Your Strengths. While most people become aware of their weaknesses and make efforts to improve themselves, this research instead shows that if we can understand our strengths and lean into them, our efforts will produce much greater results in life- including career and family. This book not only provides insights into the research, but an access code so that you can take the self-assessment and discover your own strengths. Having this insight has truly changed and enlightened Tony and I and helped us navigate our own daily triumphs and struggles, as well as better understand each others.
Find out more about Strengths Finder 2.0 here.

 The Five Love Languages – Singles Edition

The 5 Love Languages Singles Edition on the #staymarried blog

Gary Chapman did so much for couples with his book The Five Love Languages, but Tony and I have since learned how valuable it’s been for us to know how we best express and receive love even outside of our marriage! The Five Love Languages: Singles Edition will help you better express your emotions and affection in friendships, working relationships, or in a dating environment. Rather than being hung up on the topic of being single, Dr. Chapman will help you understand how you and others communicate love in a way that can transform any relationship.
Check out the book here.
Find out YOUR Love Language by taking this FREE online assessment.


:: Discovering Your Partner ::

Boundaries in Dating

Boundaries in Dating on the #staymarried blog

When I read Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, I knew it was revolutionary. But they made it that much more practical and personal when they published Boundaries in Dating. This book is the full picture of rules for romance that can help you find the love of your life. Between singleness and marriage lies the journey of dating. Want to make your road as smooth as possible? Set and maintain healthy boundaries – boundaries that will help you grow in freedom, honesty, and self-control. If many of your dating experiences have been difficult, this book could revolutionize the way you handle relationships. Even if you’re doing well, the insights you’ll gain from this practical book can help you fine-tune or even completely readjust important areas of your dating life. Boundaries in Dating is your roadmap to the kind of enjoyable, rewarding dating that can take you from weekends alone to a lifetime with the soul mate you’ve longed for.
Check it out here.

Date or Soul Mate?
How to Know if Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less

Date Or Soul Mate? on the #staymarried blog

The author of this phenomenal book is none other than Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of This matchmaking site has now seen over 565,000 of their matches get married! In this practical, quick read, Dr. Warren helps men and women who want healthy and satisfying marriages identify the early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship. Dr. Warren shows readers how to hold out for God’s best for their lives instead of settling for the first one to come along and outlines the factors that increase the chances for marital success. For those who want to become wiser in their relationship choices, this practical guide will help them find the love they want and avoid the pain they don’t need.
You can find Date or Soul Mate here.

For Men Only and For Women Only
What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of the Opposite Sex

For Women Only and For Men Only on the #staymarried blog

Tony and I first discovered these books on our honeymoon! We were both shocked by what we read, and our eyes were opened to the truth about the way we each think and feel and what really causes each of us the most pain. We shared some of those insights with you in our post The Truth About Tony. These books have since been revised with new research and information learned in the 10 years since their original release, including the brain science behind why men and women often feel the way they do.
You can find out more about these books by clicking on either of these links: For Men Only and For Women Only.


:: The GIVEAWAY! ::

<<This Giveaway is now closed>>

Sensible Singles Giveaway on the #staymarried blog

Five Trust-Building Boundaries

I don’t ride in cars with girls.

That’s usually the phrase that gets me the WTF look. But it’s something that’s changed my relationship with my wife.

Let me explain…

I worked at a church a few years ago as the creative guy (this particular job didn’t hand out job titles), and as a foundation for health and safe boundaries, all the employees were asked to not meet with people of opposite gender isolated and alone. This meant that when a woman wanted to meet one-on-one with a pastor, his office door would always be wide open, and more often he would ask another staff member to be present. This also included riding in cars, meeting one-on-one in each other’s homes, or any other situation that would pair them up alone.

This probably seems strict and teeters on overkill. I can remember thinking “Are you kidding me? You’re going to tell ME who I can meet with and drive in a car with?” I also remember the question being asked “So if it’s in the middle of a stormy night, and you come across a woman you know walking alone on the side of the road, you’re not going to pick her up?”

I remember thinking, “YEAH… what then?”

Bitter, confused, and as self-righteous as I might have felt, I still chose to adopt this new “rule”. So, it started as something I felt I needed to do to keep my job and very quickly turned into a value that I can now apply to many areas of my life. The idea was simple… affairs, both physical and emotional, don’t typically happen out in the open. In groups we tend to behave ourselves, but it’s in private that our secrets are kept. It’s behind closed doors that we misbehave. It’s with our monitors hidden from the view of others that we indulge. It’s out of the earshot of others that we gossip and speak negatively about people.

Let’s just assume for a moment that you don’t have any human emotions or temptations, and that there is no threat you’d EVER cheat on your spouse with someone you’re simply “riding in a car with.” That’s all fine and well, but can you speak to the other passenger’s views and feelings? Imagine what your spouse might feel if they coincidentally pulled up next to you at a stoplight and glanced over. Even though nothing is probably going on, they may begin to feel insecure and that drives a wedge between the two of you. The natural response to this is going to be inquisitive on the part of your spouse and defensive on yours.

Let’s fast-forward 5 years.

I’m married, have two little girls, and a roommate living in the downstairs of our house, and yep, it’s a WOMAN! To make matters even more complicated, she works where I work, in the same building, with the same hours. So, it makes complete and total sense for us to carpool, wouldn’t you say? Couldn’t we share the financial burden and even make it possible for us to use the HOV lane? Aren’t we two people my wife completely and totally trusts? Well, yeah, it does make a lot of sense. But guess what… we don’t carpool. I ride the bus inconveniently to work and sometimes my housemate will even pass my stop on her way home. She enthusiastically honks and waves. She knows better than to pull over and offer me a ride, even though we are going home TO THE SAME HOUSE! I doubt that we’ve even been at the house alone together before. Not because I don’t trust her, or that she doesn’t trust me, or that Michelle doesn’t trust either of us, but simply out of a choice I made years ago that I’ve seen HUGE benefits from.

This choice has made for some awkward moments between myself and others, but I WAY prefer those moments over any amount of trust I’ll lose from Michelle. Any inconvenience this boundary may cause me or others around me is worth the relationship I have with my wife. Ask Michelle if she’s ever doubted my faithfulness.

So to answer my own question…
No, I would not pick up a woman I know walking alone in the rain in the middle of the night. I would awkwardly offer her my car, and I would walk. And to make things clear, this event has happened exactly zero times in the past five years.

Michelle and I fully trust each other. We’ve found that applying some simple boundaries to our lives has made a load of difference. If setting up a foundation for trust in your relationship sounds like something you’re interested in, here are a few boundaries you might consider.


1. No alone time with the opposite gender

I realize that this one can be hard to institute in some cases (say if you’re a manager at work and you need to have a professional conversation with someone who works for you). But if it’s not a completely vital part of your day-to-day, this boundary safeguards your relationship from inappropriate outside influence.

2. Share passwords

We need to protect our private information from people who intend to misuse it. Your spouse is not that person. Share your passwords to your email, Facebook, Twitter, and yes, your bank account with your spouse. Then operate as though they are looking at it every day. You’ll notice very quickly that the flirtatious comment you wanted to post privately to that woman now REALLY seems like a bad idea.

3. “Not now” some friend requests

You don’t have to accept everyone as your social media friend. In fact, it’s probably a bad idea if you do. That girl with the profile pic of her half naked? Click “Not now.” That boyfriend from High School? Click “Not now.” Truth is, we can all probably do with a little purging as it is. Maybe take a little time to go through your current friends and “unfriend” those you have iffy feelings about… they’ll never know you did it.

4. Limit Guys-Night-Out

Or Girls-Night-Out. It’s GREAT to get away and be with the dudes – if you don’t already do it, you should – but every weekend is too much. Instead, find couples you respect and start hanging out with them more. Then, treat yourself to a Guys-Night-Out once a month. Also, just as a general rule, if your night out includes going to smutty clubs, that should be the first thing to go.

5. Turn your desk around

Your desk might be set up in your office so that the monitor is facing away from the door. You might have even done this on purpose to allow yourself the few seconds you need to close web pages that you don’t want to be caught looking at if someone were to walk in. That’s a great internal measure that you probably shouldn’t be looking at them in the first place. I know what you’re going to say… “it’s not feng shui. I get anxiety facing away from the door.” No, you don’t… you’re lying to yourself… you face away from doors all day long… What you get anxiety from is the potential of being caught.

If these seem inconvenient or even a little crazy to you, I’m ok with that.  I’m passionate about my marriage, my wife, and about making my home a safe place for us all to live. Allow one or all of these boundaries to become part of your M.O. and you’ll find that it’s going to be a lot easier to #staymarried.


P.S. If you need that awesome shirt, or you think your husband probably wants it, you can find one like it here.

Also, if you enjoyed this post and think it could benefit someone else’s marriage, feel free to share using the social media buttons at the top or bottom of the post. If you’re new to the #staymarried bog, WELCOME! You might want to take a look at why we started this blog and my wife’s first post to get a little background.  Thanks for stopping by.