You’ve probably got insurance on your car—which you lock pretty much everywhere, maybe with the addition of a swanky alarm.
And let’s think about it. You’ve got safeguards, insurance, and forward-thinking measures for your health. Your house. Your mortgage. Your cash. Your kids (carseats, seatbelts, bike helmets, savings accounts…).
We protect what’s valuable.
But ADT’s got nothing for affairs, broken hearts, or lonely marriages…
Still: You are not powerless. You can love your marriage enough to stand up for it—not just against danger, but for it. You can be the one cheering your relationship on, and pouring on the TLC it needs to not just survive, but thrive.
- Share all passwords – Every single one. Give your spouse full access to your life, electronic and otherwise. No “off-limits” areas means you can move closer to that vulnerable, intensely beautiful and trusting place of “naked and unashamed”. You have the power to reduce hideouts for destructive influences, cut back on suspicion, and pursue a marriage that ain’t holdin’ nothin’ back.
- Be reasonable – Pulsating romance novels, airbrushed magazines, well-scripted movies, and even friends gushing about marriage where the grass seems greener can set our marriages up for failure before they start. Examine closely your expectations, and whether they’re truly based on Scripture—or even reality. If not, fissures of dissatisfaction can wheedle their way into the bedrock of our relationships, creating an environment where our spouse is destined to deliver nothing but disappointment.
- Be a team – Don’t keep your spouse from what you’re passionate about in ministry, work, or otherwise. Bring them with you in what’s important to you. Grow together, not apart, in all areas.
- Be honest – Explore whether you’re really being “naked” with your spouse in what you reveal about yourself. We’ve still got to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and only what truly builds others and gives grace (Ephesians 4:29. Read: Just because you think it doesn’t mean you need to say it). But we hold much of the power to make a best-friend kind of marriage. Don’t just tell your mate what they want to hear. Don’t just coexist. Develop that glue of soul-level intimacy and trust that holds couples fast.
- Forgive – Exquisite pain from the past creates invisible walls, and opens us up to all the temptations that come with disappointment. Explore Scriptures like Matthew 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:31-32, and 1 Peter 3:9. Spend time entreating God for the grace to let go of deep-seated anger and loss.
- Make some white space—on your calendar – Couples with little time to nurture each other and their relationship, or for rest, can find themselves glancing around for the respite they need. Dr. Patrick Carnes writes, “Living in the extremes—being frenetic, overextended, and depleted—leads to addictive feelings of entitlement (I deserve it) and denial (just a little will not matter).” What seems like mere chronic busyness may be a warning sign that danger’s ahead. Protect your marriage by allowing margin for relationships, conversation, and even a little libido, already.
- Get accountable – If temptation is eating at your marriage—pornography or otherwise—get real with a same-gender friend experienced and knowledgeable enough to help you, and courageous enough to call you on it. Regularly meet with them, and make sure he or she asks you tough questions, like some of these or these. And while we’re at it—treat porn as cancer: ruthlessly eradicating it no matter the cost, and performing regular checkups with your accountability partner on affected areas.
- Don’t go there – Set tight boundaries on your thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5 and Philippians 4:8 are superb guardrails)—both of your spouse, and those who aren’t.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Fight to make a home where you’re an advocate for each other, and consistently creating a secure environment for someone to grow rather than be perfect. It means the two of you aren’t seeking security, and someone to believe in you, elsewhere. Everyone needs a wingman.
- Guard your heart – When you’re hurting in marriage, you may be tempted to confide in a member of the opposite sex. Don’t do it. Emotional affairs tear apart marriages, too. Keep your oneness to your spouse alone.
- Take care of yourself – I’ll just speak from my personal experience on this one. Getting sleep, well-considered nutrition, and my body in shape after my kiddos’ birth had a considerable impact on me—my emotional health, for one, as I did something good for myself (and my family). It also got some of those brain chemicals I’d from which I’d been starved finally cruising through my system. Working out also bolstered my confidence! And it was pretty fun watching my already-completely-accepting husband drink in my gradually changing physique. I could initiate and respond with a bit more gusto. In short, I felt sexy again. And both of us noticed.
- Watch your mouth – How do you portray your spouse to friends? There’s no need to be false—but venting and seeking allies can drive a wedge between ourselves and our spouse even in our minds. It doesn’t push us toward grace and forgiveness. And definitely don’t talk about marital problems with the opposite gender, cautions Rick Warren.
- Pray – together, when you can! And about everything. Ask for God’s protection and favor on your marriage. When it seems all hope is lost—and long before that—He is 100% able.
- Get it on – Sex is a sort of marital super-glue, even beyond fulfillment of sexual needs. As author Gary Thomas notes, “A man’s levels of oxytocin—the brain chemical that leads to bonding and feelings of closeness—are highest immediately following a sexual encounter. In fact, this is the only time that a male’s oxytocin levels approach those of his wife.” God knew what He was doing in creating us with desires that restate and renew our unity over and over again.
- Sign up – Download free Christian accountability software for all your devices—and if you want, tell your spouse you did: Because I love us this much.
- Get help – No marriage is an island. It can be downright mortifying to let friends know you’re hurting, or to get help with longstanding issues or addictions. But your kids, your otherwise lonely or embittered future, your health, your job—and a whole lot more—will thank you for it. Let someone in.
- Get regular – Looking at your calendar, is your relationship a consistent priority? Whether it’s a date night, a new hobby, or some new lessons you’ve been wanting to try together (Tennis? Dance? Cooking? Pottery?), carve out time for the two of you for both quality time and some in-depth conversation. As corny as it sounds, connection equals protection.
- Together, form wise “rules.” – Will you allow a person of the opposite gender in the house when you’re the only one there? What about lunches, late-night work hours, or riding in the car alone with the opposite sex? Some rules may sound ridiculous to you—but others may simply protect your reputation and your future. Talk about it, and lay some guidelines together to stop iffy situations before they start.
- Keep on – Commit to working through the tough stuff—that you won’t give up, won’t run away from the hairy issues between you.
- Brag on ‘em – Let people know unequivocally that your spouse is the one you’re crazy about. Leave no doubt about who you’re with in mind, body, and soul.
Author’s note: Even doing everything “right” isn’t a guarantee that bad decisions won’t be made. These actions are merely safeguards. The Psalmist writes, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Ultimately, our trust is in God to protect our marriages, and that He will remain trustworthy even when people do not.
I’m totally #thatmom–the one diving into all the weirdness with my kids, sidestepping a few eyerolls. After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have returned to the U.S., where I write and speak professionally, and we continue to work on behalf of the poor.