Season 2 Ep. 3 of The #staymarried Podcast: How to Build Trust with The One You Love

Season 2 Episode 3 of The #staymarried Podcast: How to Build Trust with The One You LoveTrust is foundational for all relationships, but especially for our marriages. We’ve found that trust is not so easy to cultivate and, once broken, can be excruciatingly difficult to repair. Today we’re tackling a question submitted to us on Ask #staymarried: Jo wants to know how to build trust with her husband…

Here’s Episode 3 of Season 2 of The #staymarried Podcast

Continue reading “Season 2 Ep. 3 of The #staymarried Podcast: How to Build Trust with The One You Love”

Don’t You Trust Me? – The 5 Characteristics of Trust

The 5 Characteristics of Trust - #staymarried, photo copyright Jake GravbrotWe have seen a lot of comments and emails from you all lately, and I keep coming back to the same theme over and over again. It’s a word, really, but such a loaded word that I can’t escape it. The word is trust.

“Don’t you trust me?”

“How can I trust him?”

“I can’t get a hold of my temper. But, it keeps coming back to whether or not he will be faithful now that he has cheated on me.”

“I’m not sure what to do. I cheated in the past and he has forgiven me, but now he wants me to keep my distance from other men. Is it unreasonable?”

Over and over again: trust.

Trust is foundational for all relationships, but especially for our marriages. We’ve found that trust is not so easy to cultivate and, once broken, can be excruciatingly difficult to repair. Continue reading “Don’t You Trust Me? – The 5 Characteristics of Trust”

I wasn’t insecure until I got married.

I am not afraid to be alone. I never was.

Tony and Michelle 2005I was never looking to get married. Having been raised by a single mother, independence made pretty good sense to me and I thought I was darn good at it. I was smart and resourceful, driven in my career, and had good friends all before Tony and I got together. I was not looking for a man, or anyone for that matter, to complete me. When he came along, however, I never wanted to be without him again! It wasn’t as if he filled some hole that had been empty. It wasn’t as if I’d finally found someone I’d been looking for. I wasn’t looking for him. But, when he appeared in front of me, he was suddenly the only one I’d ever wanted. He was better than I could have hoped for, if I’d ever let myself hope for him at all.

Now that we have been living this life together, discovering new things, discovering each other, I look back on my independence and I have to laugh. Before I met Tony, I was convinced that the only trustworthy person out there, the only person that wouldn’t let me down, was me. Even then, I let myself down plenty of times, but at least I wasn’t putting my trust into anyone else. I still have that tendency. I find myself surprised when people do what they say they will do, and not really disappointed when they don’t. You probably don’t need a psychology degree to determine that I didn’t have a safe and secure childhood, or that there wasn’t a lot of “attachment” modeled for me. Appropriate affection was rare and isolation was the norm. But, this new life I have with a family of my own looks entirely differently. My husband is worthy of trust, and I am reminded of that over and over again.

Just this morning, I sat in my room and cried, overwhelmed with how very much I have and how very afraid I am that I won’t always have it. My sweet three year old came in, took one look at me, and asked if she could give me a hug. “Do you need a little towel for your tears, Momma? I’ll get you one. What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” I am embarrassed and so proud at the same time. Embarassed of my own emotions, and so proud of the empathetic little girl God has given me. She looks at me with her big soft brown eyes as if I can tell her why I am crying. I just shrug my shoulders and tell her I love her. I want to chalk the whole thing up to the fact that I am seven months pregnant. I can’t tell my sweet daughter that I am so scared. I can’t tell her that I am sitting in this chair facing a truth I often avoid.

The truth is that I know this #staymarried blog, no, this #staymarried life, is more than I am capable of. The truth is that, even coming up on the one year anniversary of starting this blog, I know I am an amateur and not qualified to be giving anyone advice on marriage, or anything else for that matter. The truth is that I research and write out of the fear that my own marriage will fail. I am afraid that this safe place that I have finally come to know will crumble right underneath me. I am afraid that, because I am not worthy of this beautiful family, that I will not get to keep it. Worse, that I will somehow sabotage it myself. I write because the life I have is too good to be true, so much so that I can hardly believe it.

When I let the fear in the way that I have been, there are no words that comfort. There is not a person on earth that can give me any kind of guarantee on the future, a promise that it won’t all go away. Yes, I write out of fear and I want so badly to temper that fear with hope. Because, while there are no certainties, hope does not rely on anything concrete. Hope is the belief in a better future, and nobody can ever really know the future. Hope is all I have.

I’m feeling vulnerable, and in that place, I’m remembering the words of Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection. She says:

We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them.

Just thinking of the word “vulnerable” makes me feel queasy. But that is what marriage is, isn’t it? Isn’t it two people fully giving themselves over to one another? I know I want all of Tony, I don’t want him to hold anything back from me. I know he wants all of me. What we want is not a 50/50 partnership where each person protects their own interests. What we really want is an all-in, holding hands and leaping together with our eyes closed adventure.

C.S. Lewis put it more succinctly when he said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” I want the love without the brokenness. I want the reward without the risk.

To Love Is To Be Vulnerable - #staymarried blog

I realize I will never fully grasp why people that once considered each other soulmates grow apart. I get that a life lived well is full of risk, and that continues to make me uncomfortable. This love, this security, this safety I’ve found in my marriage is absolutely a risk. It makes me vulnerable as I hand my heart over to another person day after day. Today I am letting the fear in if only to remind myself of how very precious my marriage is. I am allowing the fear to be big in my heart so that I don’t take my husband and my children for granted. I will lean in to the hope that I believe we all have, at all costs of insecurity, to #staymarried.

P.S. Brene Brown’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability is well worth the 20 minutes. You can watch it here:

New to #staymarried? Welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background.
Thanks for stopping by!
~ Michelle

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

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross on the #staymarried blogIf you are not already aware that there are external threats to your marriage, then my guess is that you haven’t been married for very long. One of the biggest threats to marriage has been infidelity, and researchers from the University of Central Florida have found that people in committed relationships who view pornographic materials are more likely to cheat on their partners than those who don’t. With more than 500 million pages of porn on the internet today, most of which is directed at men, Dr. John Gottman says in his book What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal :

Even non-compulsive use of [porn] can damage a committed relationship. Masturbating to an image results in the secretion of oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones linked to attachment. Porn users are in danger of becoming attached to a mere fetish of impersonal sex.

So, if pornography poses a problem, why don’t we talk about it? I mean, we can all admit that we’ve seen it, and that we want to see it again. Marketers are aware of this and use it against us every day in advertising products that have nothing to do with sex. I see this billboard all the time for a local plumbing company with the image of a beautiful woman in a low cut shirt. Am I supposed to believe that if I call that company, she’s the plumber that is going to show up at my front door?

There are several reasons we don’t often talk about porn. First of all, it’s embarrassing. Viewing porn is not normally a group activity for a reason. When people engage in it, there are the perceived positive effects of being aroused and perhaps even reaching orgasm from masturbating to it. But, with that comes secrecy and shame. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to talk about or admit. Sometimes, while we may even see that porn could be a problem for someone else, we can be fooled into thinking we, ourselves, won’t be affected, so it’s not really a problem for us the way it might be for others. William Struthers, Ph. D., a bio-psychologist and the author of Wired for Intimacy, says after much research:

Denial is the first line of defense. Because so many men have viewed so much porn, the fear about how it has affected them is too overwhelming. So they deny the issue. But it doesn’t go away. Because we are embodied beings, viewing pornography changes how the brain works, how we form memories and make attachments.

Michelle and I are hardly experts when it comes to the study of the effects porn has on a marriage. So, we asked Craig Gross, founder of xxxchurch.com, who is also known as “The Porn Pastor,” to weigh in. We believe, along with Craig, that we should absolutely be talking about it. If we are going to address the things that threaten our marriages, we need to do it head on. We need to know if and how it affects us so we can arm ourselves against it. When we talked with Craig, he had some very insightful things to share. He weighed in on why we need to push past the shame and embarrassment, and why porn should be talked about in every marriage, and here is what he shared with us…

Porn Breaks Trust and Destroys Intimacy

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross on the #staymarried blog

A healthy marriage is based on trust and intimacy. Secrets, especially your secret stash of porn or that website you keep deleting from the history bar, are only going to get in the way of that trust.

Another scenario of broken trust happens when a spouse suggests bringing porn into the marriage, wanting to “spice things up.” I have heard both husbands and wives confess they used this approach out of a selfish desire to indulge in porn. When one spouse trusts another and follows his or her suggestion, it is devastating to discover that the spouse who wanted to use porn did not have the best interests of the marriage or the other spouse at heart. Rather, he or she was seeking a way to indulge lust.

Broken trust alters the very core of a relationship, and the only way to restore it is by making good decisions over time. Without trust, a vital marriage component, intimacy is almost impossible.

If you choose to use pornography as a means to sexually arouse yourself, you are forfeiting the ability to become aroused by your spouse. Over time, porn users find that it becomes more and more difficult to be sexually aroused by your spouse because he or she will age while the porn star forever remains youthful in pictures and videos.

Porn lies, telling you that your spouse will never measure up to what porn has to offer. Once you believe that—and you will believe that—your intimacy is over. Fantasy eventually takes people farther away from their spouse than they wanted to go and offers no turnaround.

Though porn destroys marriages, it takes more than just abstaining from porn to keep your marriage growing, healthy, and strong.

Here are some keys to assist you as you strive to keep your marriage thriving:

1. Set Healthy Parameters

Don’t allow unhealthy glances or wandering eyes. Television shows and even some television ads can produce impure thoughts that lead to unhealthy behavior. Turn them off before you get hooked. Sticking to this guideline will take guts and willpower. For Christians, Jesus had some especially candid words for how powerful the link between our mind and our emotions can be. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28) Essentially, Jesus stated that having an uncontrolled mind will inevitably lead to thoughts that become actions. It’s the same way with porn.

2. Guard Your Associations

You are the average of the five people with whom you hang around with most often. The behavior of those you spend time with becomes your behavior, and bad company corrupts good character. If your friends are consumed with talking about sexual escapades or exploitative behavior, get new friends. Take charge of the relational environments in which you place yourself.

3. Guard Your Ears

Inappropriate words masked as flirtatious compliments are stepping-stones toward irreversible effects. I have seen relationships destroyed because a wife was innocently seduced by a friend’s listening ear and kind words. I have also known men and women who have mastered making comments that lead to more aggressive flirtatious behavior. Don’t allow it. If someone makes a comment to you that is flirty or over the edge, make it immediately clear this is not acceptable behavior. If it happens twice, bring your spouse into the loop and talk about it.

4. Guard Your Time and Money

Friends of ours who have struggled with porn have taken steps to control their use of time and money. They have asked their spouses to control the money and made themselves accountable to a friend for the ways they spend their time. The formula is simple and it works as a healthy parameter. If there is strict accountability of money (no cash in hand) and time (where have you been and what have you been doing?), it is much more difficult to get in a place that leads to trouble.

5. Work at Romance

Did you know it’s important to keep dating even though you’re married? I know Michelle and Tony have touched on this here at #staymarried, and I only want to reinforce the idea.  It’s easy to let time pass and allow dating and romance in your marriage to disappear, but then you’re setting yourself up for boredom and the inevitable desire to seek out something new. Instead, set up date nights with each other. They don’t have to be expensive, just creative. Your calendar should have at least one date night a month. Remind each other and plan ahead so you have something to look forward to. Even a movie night at home with take-out food can keep the love spark glowing.

6. Communicate Love Clearly

Every person hears “I love you” in a different way. According to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, couples need to hear love in the way they understand it most clearly. Michelle wrote a post giving more insight into this idea here. When you identify your partner’s love language, you can then communicate “I love you” most clearly. A breakdown occurs when you think you’re communicating love but it sounds like a foreign language to your spouse, so work hard at discovering your spouse’s love language and communicating love clearly . . . and often.

7. Maintain Physical Intimacy

According to a 2003 Newsweek study, between 15 and 20 percent of couples are living in a sexless marriage—these are couples who make love no more than ten times a year. While sex is not the be-all and end-all in a marriage, it is obviously one of the best ways to maintain intimacy. Most men think sex has to be daily, while women may be satisfied with less sex than that. The longer men go without sex, the more desperate they become for it. The longer women go without sex, the more they don’t need it. Find a good compromise and make every effort to follow through, even though one or both of you may be busy and tired. Couples who said they were sexually fulfilled had sex an average of 2.5 times a week. Sex must happen on a regular basis. Plan for it. Prepare your mind for it. Do it.

8. Forgive

Every relationship is going to have an occasional bump in the road, but don’t let that bump turn into a mountain by refusing to forgive a mistake. Remember that forgiveness is not a synonym for justifying, accepting, or condoning sinful behavior; it is about allowing room for growth and trusting that a change in behavior follows every apology. Many times couples can let too much time pass without asking for or offering forgiveness. When this happens, bitterness, resentment, and disillusionment set in. Soon the person harboring unforgiveness can start to think these issues wouldn’t happen in a different relationship, a deception that leads to a “grass is greener” mentality. Invest in your relationship by asking for and offering forgiveness whenever it is needed.

Growing together and nurturing your marriage is a lifelong task that both husband and wife must undertake. Even in the midst of a culture charged with sexual imagery, your marriage can remain healthy and strong if you are vigilant about protecting it. Some of these parameters may seem extreme, some of them are. But, we believe we need to take an extreme stance against anything that would threaten our desire to #staymarried.

P.S. You are reading Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the first two parts, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver and 5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, 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.
Thanks for reading!
~Tony

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.

5 TRUST-BUILDING BOUNDARIES

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.
~Tony