Five Ways to Reignite Romance in Your Marriage

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  • Feel more like roommates than lovers?
  • No longer connecting emotionally?
  • Attraction waning for each other?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or if you just want to increase the passion in an otherwise good relationship, read on.

I get it…you work a stressful eight-hour shift, hustle out the door just to taxi the kids to their evening activities during rush hour traffic! You finally arrive home, but there’s more work waiting for you in the kitchen; after all, dinner’s not going to cook itself. Then there are the dirty dishes to contend with and perhaps even a load or two of laundry before you finally collapse into bed only to repeat the same madness the next day. Given the rat race, it’s no wonder couples fall into boring routines and drift apart emotionally and sexually. Not many people feel sexy when they’re operating from a sleep deficit. Bad as it sounds, when you’re exhausted, romance and sex just seem like more work.

The truth is, it’s common for busy couples who have been married a while to lose their passion. Early love is euphoric as the brain releases certain hormones that bind us to our lover. Dopamine, or the “pleasure chemical” gives us a natural high. It causes our heart to race and pupils to dilate. Oxytocin is released when we touch or have a sexual experience. These chemicals have a drug like influence on our brain, but like any drug, the effect does not last forever; the euphoria eventually fades. As the relationship makes new demands, our love must strengthen and mature or things grow stale signaling relationship danger.

So if you want “that lovin’ feeling” back, here are five ways to rekindle the fire:

  1. Create time for each other during the day: The average person spends 8-10 hours away from home daily depending on workday length and commute. Couples are left with four or five hours together at the end of the day and depending on your evening routine and exhaustion level, you may not spend any quality time with your mate. So one way to get the spark back is to create time for each other during the day. Commit to checking in by calling your other half to ask how they’re doing or send each other flirty text messages. The family has to eat and somebody has to prepare the meal, so why not join your spouse in the kitchen and work together? Take an evening stroll to discuss the days events, future plans or simply enjoy the night sky. Finally, before your head hits the pillow, spend ten minutes reading a couples devotion and pray together. God is for your marriage!
  1. Speak your partner’s love language: Gary Chapman author of The Five Love Languages, discovered five ways people use to communicate and understand emotional love: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. Take the assessment and discover your love language at 5lovelanguages.com. My primary love language is words of affirmation, so I really feel appreciated and loved when my husband gives me a card, love note, or pays me a sincere compliment. My husband feels loved when I hold his hand, hug him or sit close to him. The way my man speaks to me throughout the day has a lot to do with my response to his romantic gestures and the way I take time and care to address his need of physical touch communicates how “into him” I really am and that friends…can lead to fireworks!
  1. Physical affection: I’m not necessarily talking about sex here, rather I’m referring to holding hands, kissing, embracing one another, eye contact, tone of voice and just a general posture that conveys “You matter to me.” Gary Thomas (author of Sacred Marriage) recommends a daily 30 second kiss + 30 minute talk + 3 minute prayer to increase your emotional connection. I’ve noticed the more I stare into my husband’s eyes, speak to him sweetly and respectfully not only causes him to strive harder to meet my needs, but my love for him grows stronger as well. So if you’re thinking “You know, I’m just not feeling that way towards my spouse anymore,” express physical affection anyway. Feelings aren’t facts, do the actions and your feelings will follow.
  1. Increase your sexual intimacy: After couples have been married for a while the physical can become boring and lovemaking becomes a rote act or is relegated to the back burner altogether; this is very damaging to your marriage. So to keep things fresh and exciting, flirt with each other and let the tension build throughout the day or week. Be an expert in learning how to please your spouse. God created sex within the context of marriage, not only for pro-creation, but for your enjoyment- explore it together.
  1. Turn towards each other: After facing a few life challenges the marital bliss fades and couples have a tendency to turn away from each other, no longer supporting or meeting each other’s needs. The relationship then grows cold and lonely. But remember, you married your partner because you were unable to meet your own needs of companionship, emotional love and support. You are team- you are not enemies. Be intentional about turning toward each other for support. Learn to depend on each other (again). Enjoy frequent date nights, laugh together and reflect on why you fell in love in the first place. With time and intentionality, your love will mature, your relationship will strengthen and your spark will return!

Adultery is a Pandemic

3c8e503a9d8358d897cce3ac62bf30f2It’s been a while since I wrote my last article. I cycle through these periods where I struggle to articulate what is in my soul. I withdraw until another story brews in my spirit and then I put fingers to keyboard. I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for now and work on my book- title to be announced after I obtain my ISBN.

I believe in the sanctity of marriage and it is not okay with me that most relationships do not endure the pressures of infidelity. Survivors of adultery are often left without a voice. We are told not to air our dirty laundry because no one needs to know our business. We are shamed and asked “What did you do to make him/her stray?” We are admonished when we do share our stories and feel we need to hide. It is more acceptable to talk about all our ailments and diseases or post pictures of our daughters on social media wearing scantily clad outfits and bikinis than it is to talk about infidelity. Adultery is a pandemic, it is a global problem of epic proportions and it is ripping families apart, but no one wants to talk openly about it! Just boggles my mind!

I recently finished my latest John Maxwell book, Intentional Living. He asks his readers three questions: (1) What makes you cry? (2) What do you sing about? (3) What do you dream about? The answer to all three questions for me is, my marriage and my children. So for their sake (yes I said “for their sake,” it could happen to them one day), I am breaking the code of silence and I am writing and I will continue to write until I die because marriage and family are my passion. I am sharing the story of our reconciliation, redemption, grace and forgiveness. I am talking about my emotions and the agony of betrayal. This is not something you “just get over.” It doesn’t go away after a month, or six months, or a year. This isn’t the same thing as overdrawing the bank account or spending frivolously at the mall.

It has been nine months since I discovered my husband’s affair and every time I think about it (which is pretty much every hour) I get angry. I still break down and sob in his arms at night because last summer after 20 years together, I stopped being enough for him. In spite of all my anger and pain, I have forgiven him and I am learning to trust again. If I can do this, others can too- but how will they know if we don’t talk about it?

 

 

5 Things He Never Gave to the Affair Partner

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Ephesians 5:31

Your view of adultery strongly depends on your understanding of the sanctity of marriage. If you believe  lovemarriage to be a relationship between two people that exists for as long as you think you’re in love, you have missed the entire point. Marriage is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman, who before God establish a vow to love, honor and cherish one another until parted by death. It is an exclusive, two-person arrangement that requires forsaking all others, cleaving only unto one another. Marriage is unique among all other human bonds because it symbolizes Christ’s relationship to His bride, the Church. Marriage partners are stewards of a sacred covenant and as stewards they are charged with guarding against intruders. Because third parties threaten the marital union, it must be guarded with fierce devotion.

We stopped guarding our marriage in 2015 when my husband crossed the monogamy line. Discovering my husband’s affair was the hardest day of my life. A close second was the day I learned that he and the affair partner were still in contact some seven weeks after I believed the affair ended. I gave this man everything, including my youth and the best years of my life and he gave away the most intimate and precious part of our relationship as a husband and wife. However, as I walk this long and winding road toward healing, I have come to realize that there are five things that he did not give to the affair partner.

  1. Commitment– The most important ingredient to a long-term successful relationship is commitment- not love, not communication, not attitude. Commitment is deeper than love and says, “I am determined to make this work regardless of how I feel, no matter what it takes!” As a couple, we are committed to each other and our family. There was a brief moment in our history when my man was not as committed, but when I look at the broader picture and consider that his indiscretion lasted a mere 19 weeks out of our 20 years together– well, that is really just a blip in time. Todd has sacrificed time, money and plans for our children and me. He has worked at jobs he hated to provide for our family so I could stay home when our children were babies. He is committed to restoring broken trust and honoring our sacred vows to one another.
  2. His support- My husband supported my decision to stay home when our kids were born, he supported my decision to go back to school and become a therapist. He even supported the bad decisions I made without his knowledge, like the time I bought a car while he was on a business trip (I’d like to forget that one!). But what makes him a real keeper was the support he gave to me when I had cancer. He held my hair while I tossed cookies in the toilet, carried me when I was too weak to walk, served meals to me in bed, helped empty my catheter bag, listened to my endless complaining about the whole cancer smancer thing and wiped away all my tears.
  3. Honor- Honor seeks to protect another person’s dignity. Outside of this affair, my man has held me in high regard. I have never felt threatened by wandering eyes or flirtatious remarks because he has always demonstrated high moral standards. He has a pulse so I’m sure he noticed other attractive women, but he refrained from admiring them in my presence. For the exception of the five months he was emotionally absent in our marriage, he has treated me with great respect; he has never withheld information or kept secrets. Today, he is open and transparent about the details and causes of the affair. I feel honored by this man once again.
  4. Love – Romantic love is the first step in the “falling in love” process and is often confused with lust because of the similarities. Certainly we have romantic love in our marriage- I still get a case of the butterflies when he walks into the room, but our love has matured and we have reached a higher level of intimacy. The biblical definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 13:4-8). Love endures when it is allowed to go through the transformational process from romantic love (the lowest level) to agape (biblical/highest level). Most couples that do not understand this process quit when they no longer feel the rapture and intense chemistry they felt at the beginning of the relationship.
  5. Sacred vow– On October 10, 1997 I stood at an altar with the man of dreams beside me. Hand-in-hand before God, our pastor, family and friends we promised to love, honor and cherish one another- forsaking all others for as long as we both shall live. That sacred vow still stands. My husband regrets his decision to cheat every single day. Today, he works diligently to protect my heart so our relationship can experience the safety we once enjoyed effortlessly.

Marriages thrive in transparency and truth. Affairs thrive in secrets, fantasy, lies and deceit and this is what the affair partner gained in the brief encounter she had with my husband. Yet this behavior does not define the man I love. He is giving, loving, affectionate, open, and forgiving. He is a man who is committed to me and our children, he is supportive of my decisions, he honors and respects me (again), he deeply loves me, he is standing by our sacred vow and his arms are still my safe haven.

 

The Hurt and The Healer

images-1All of the articles prior to this one were written in October 2015, just weeks after discovering the affair. All articles published from this day forward, I am writing now. Writing about the affair has been instrumental in the healing process. I am not there yet, but each sunrise brings me a day closer to the truth that one day I will be able to look back on this experience without that familiar stab of pain in my soul. My marriage is prospering; we haven’t been this close in years! Personally, it’s a long way back and I feel like I’m clawing my way out of a dark pit.

I lost who I was- I know I am Todd’s wife, I am the mother of Nathan, Kelly, Teagan and Noah. I am a licensed professional counselor and an ordained minister of God. Beyond that, I simply don’t know who I am anymore. I closed my counseling practice in December 2015 and began full time as a therapist at a local psychiatric hospital. I needed a change. I needed to know that I still have some measure of control in what happens to me. I’m just getting through the days the best I can. Praying and hoping God will make sense of my husband’s adulterous affair. For now, I plan to continue writing my blog on A Broken Vow and New Beginning, but I need time to think and process before I publish anymore of my thoughts.

I was able to read some of the emails my husband exchanged with his affair partner. I can’t get one of the comments she made to him out of my head “Each hour I feel that a part of my soul is being torn apart.” This she said in response to his ending the affair. I can’t discard the thought because if she thinks her soul is being torn apart…imagine being the wife of the same man for almost 20 years…I knew we had some problems, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed and suddenly I discover my husband was considering throwing me away like trash for someone who couldn’t measure up to me when I roll out of bed in the morning. This unimpressive affair partner has caused unimaginable pain and sorrow in my soul and our family. Our children, parents, extended family members and a few friends are aware of what happened and they are all deeply hurt.

MercyMe sings a song called: The Hurt & The Healer. I’m including the lyrics in this post because nothing else seems to capture my emotions quiet like these:

Why?
The question that is never far away
The healing doesn’t come from being explained
Jesus please don’t let this go in vain
You’re all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Breathe
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What’s left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

It’s the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes it’s rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take this heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When The hurt and the healer collide

[x2:]
Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
And find Your glory even here

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part XIII: Surface & Root

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As stated in my previous article, I have noticed a common trend: the presenting issue (reason why someone came to counseling) is never the actual problem. I see problems in two broad categories: surface and root.

The surface reasons my husband provided for his unfaithfulness were:

  • Emotional: He felt a cataclysmic void by the disconnection in our relationship. He was torn in his soul at the “seeming” loss of what we shared; alone and emotionally abandoned, he finally shut down and sought comfort outside the marriage.
  • Physical: In the past year we were hyper focused on everything wrong with each other and failed to pursue romance both physically and emotionally.
  • Cognitive: He made the assumption that I did not love him and believed I wanted out of the marriage. In his private mental world, he thought I was “disgusted” by him. Not once did he bring these concerns to me for discussion.

I acknowledge these reasons as an honest evaluation of our relationship at the time; they are valid emotions and obviously he was extremely hurt. However, he made the choice to cross over the boundary line of monogamy and have sex with another woman. That’s not okay with me. Ideally, he should have approached me and together we could have discussed these feelings so we could work towards a mutually satisfying marriage. This would have been an opportunity to improve our emotional intimacy, instead he chose to cheat and no reason or excuse can justify that decision.

These are the root causes the man I love identified for breaking his code of honor by committing adultery:

  • Insecure: The conversations we were having prior to the affair centered on him celebrating his 50th birthday within a year. He was looking back on his 49 years feeling dissatisfied with his accomplishments at that particular juncture in life. People who are insecure need to prove they still have what it takes because deep down they don’t feel good enough, desirable enough or whatever enough. He used an extramarital affair to reassure himself that he still had it going on especially since he was missing this assurance in his primary relationship.
  • Damaged: Todd’s first marriage came to a screeching halt when his ex-wife and her lover concocted an elaborate scheme to ditch their spouses and share the same address. Todd was repeatedly lied to, deceived and made to feel a fool for being an “overly jealous” husband. He was verbally beat down for not wearing the right clothes or being a high (enough) income earner. When it was clear his dead marriage could not be resuscitated he left, but the damage was done. When I met him, his spirit was broken. He was angry, bitter and licking some pretty deep wounds. Their union produced a son, which necessitated continued contact between the two. Unfortunately even after their divorce communication remained volatile. He never processed the painful and intense emotions of his ex-wife’s affair. In the context of our marriage, he was acting out from this traumatic experience. He had felt the sting of rejection in his first marriage and he was not about to feel it again, so he figured he would call the shots this time. His motivation to leave me was fear driven.
  • Confused: Todd explained that after we drifted apart, he felt he lost his best friend and soul mate. He ached to the core of his soul, as he desperately wanted back what we had, but assumed I didn’t want him because if I did, I would have pursued reconciliation. For him, the root cause of the affair was about our missing connection. He didn’t want to feel the rejection he felt in his first marriage, because…well it hurt. If the relationship was going to end, he wanted to be the one to decide when and how. Enter affair partner.

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part IV: Epic Love

My beloved and I met at Crowley’s restaurant beneath a canvas of Marilyn Monroe. Although there was a strong chemical attraction, we just enjoyed each other’s company and hangIMG_0719ing out with friends every week. Our first date was two months after we met. We bonded quickly in those early days; our connection was deep spiritually, emotionally and physically. In his words, “I fell for you hard and fast.” We married 13 months later and “we loved with a love that was more than love” (Poe, 1849). Ours was a special union and I would have bet my life that our marriage above all others could stand the test of monogamy and time.

When I walked through the valley of cancer, my man was my caretaker. When I miscarried three pregnancies, when I faced dismal career disappointments and rejection from family, it was Todd who allowed his strong and sturdy shoulders to catch my tears. This man was the last dream of my soul; he was everything to me as I was to him. Matched on dimensions of: intellect, humor, education, looks and spirituality- we were compatible in every way.

From the moment we met we sensed a knowing about one another that can only be described as kindred; truly, it felt we had known each other since our time on earth began. We experienced an emotional intimacy that extended beyond the heart and mind. Our bond only continued to deepen as newlyweds and parents. We attended bible studies regularly, prayed and shared nightly devotions together; keeping Christ at the center of our marriage served to protect and strengthen our relationship. Dreams and laughter filled our hearts and home for many years. Our love was (and remains) an epic affair of the heart and soul.

In 20 years, the majority of our arguments have stemmed from our similar personalities. We are both feisty, dominant type A’s who believe we are always right. We are bossy, confident, and aggressive and we like to assume the leadership position. That tends to present challenges for us at the times when I just need to let go of the power struggle and give him the baton.

This matchless bond  we formed effortlessly is the lone reason our marriage could be saved. We stopped cleaving and drifted apart. We lost each other while wondering around on our own in the darkness. Life grew cold and lonely without the other and as we both questioned, “What happened to us?” We were terrified… because if OUR love wasn’t real- was love even possible?

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part III: Raw Emotions11851faf720722cf0f22cb148b2975b1

I have walked through some dark valleys in my life: my father’s suicide, cancer and raising a child with bipolar to name a few. Yet none of those valleys were as painful and unbearable as the betrayal of my husband. I turned to a support group of friends who allowed me the freedom to lament raw emotions and prayed for me when I ran out of words. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be feeling. I was trying to forgive him; I loved him deeply and wanted to move forward, but how? This fling that he just drifted into consumed my every thought; I wasn’t sure I could survive much less forgive. In my quest for survival, I discovered there were not a lot of resources for couples wanting to reconcile and work through the wreckage.

In this vein I decided to write a book for couples to assist in the reconciliation process. The book (title TBD) is due for publication by the end of 2016 and will provide counsel, guidance, encouragement and a spiritual component, for couples to succeed in rebuilding their marriages. The purpose of this blog series is (1) to help me heal, (2) provide support for couples that have endured infidelity by sharing my story and (3) promote awareness about my book.

My husband continues to wrestle with guilt and shame for his actions. He would like to tuck this whole ordeal away and hide it from everyone who knows us, but what is done cannot be undone. We cannot sweep this under the rug and pretend it did not happen. He has been amazing on this road to healing with me. He’s been willing to respond to all of my questions, even when he knows the answers will hurt. He is not offended when I hurl insults at him during my human moments. He provides strong arms to hold me when I stumble and tender hands wipe away puddles of tears from pain he caused. I know it is difficult for him as I share our story and I am trying to be sensitive to that fact.

The story I am telling is our love story and while it does divulge details of his sins, he is repentant, remorseful and transformed. Adultery does not define who he is. Today I respect this man by my side more than ever. The man I love could have walked away and chosen someone with whom he had no commitments and no history, but he chose me… again. He chose our children and the life that we have been building for two decades. He chose the path of commitment, hard work and honor. He chose the laborious journey of rebuilding and THAT impresses me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Ways to Love Successfully

loveSecular advice on love and success focuses on ways to maintain another person’s sexual interest or directives on getting your emotional needs met. In the end, this cheap brand of love is shallow and doesn’t lead to long term success. Genuine love is sacrificial and pure, it doesn’t demand its own way or take advantage of others. If you are interested in a love that endures all things, continue reading. I have identified three essential ways to love and be loved successfully:
1. Pursue love- How would you feel if you were deeply in love with someone who was investing more time and energy with their friends, career or hobby? Most likely you would feel insignificant and you certainly wouldn’t feel your love was reciprocated. We invest in the things that are important to us. People think nothing of investing in vehicles, real estate or the stock market, but they rarely apply that same logic to their relationships. Love is a verb. Couples must sacrificially work together to keep love safe, secure and alive. You cannot assume the passion you felt early in the relationship will remain if you invest little effort.

So just how do you pursue love? Put your partner’s needs ahead of your friends. If your other half is sick, cancel your golf game and play nurse instead. Enjoy each other’s company and pursue BFF status with your significant other. Regularly participate in activities you have in common. When eyes start wandering, people begin wondering what they’re missing; love has to be guarded with fierce devotion. Make your relationship an exclusive two-person arrangement. Continue dating after marriage, see a counselor before things go south and finally, never stop discovering new things about one another.

2. Nurture love- Love is among the most basic of human needs; everyone wants to be loved by someone. The ability to express love is what makes us human and sets us apart from the animal kingdom, so before we go any further, let’s define love. Is it a feeling? Is it a decision? Is it more spiritual than emotional or more cognitive in nature? Love is too broad a term to adequately describe in the English language. Would you take a bullet for your car or die for your favorite jeans? Of course not! You probably would, however, give your life for your child or your soul mate! The Greek language provides four major words (and at least eight minor ones) for love:

1. Agape- the idea of a person giving all his or her love or favor to another. Often associated as the love God demonstrates towards us, it is a pure and whole love.
2. Phileo- emotional love, emphasizing affection or a fondness one person has for another.
3. Eros- refers to the passionate love between a husband and wife.
4. Stergo- refers to the love between parents and children.

When the passion fades, you will have to make a decision whether or not to keep on loving in spite of how you feel or you will never leave Phileo Land and experience the depth and richness of “eros” or better yet, the perfection of “agape.” Love is sacred and for it to grow, it must be nurtured. Love should not be repetitive, it should be creative, original and inspired.

3. Hold on to love- Our culture has sold us an unrealistic brand of love. We have been deceived into believing that love is simply physical, which makes you and I no better than Fido the family pet. Romance novels and the silver screen hold men and women to unbelievable standards that devalue love and set us up for failure. Beauty is fleeting, in time romance dwindles, the physical gets boring and eventually, without a strong commitment, we abandon ship and jump into the next hot relationship. Initially love begins as a feeling, but if you want love to last, you must make it a choice and hold on with all your might. Commitment is the most important ingredient to a long term successful relationship. Commitment means honoring the promise to love someone even when the “feeling” is lacking.

In reality, there is no fairy tale ending and there is nothing magical about “true love’s kiss.” Successful love is an unfailing love and in all its splendor, it is quite ordinary. Love that never fails is long-suffering, it is the first to forgive, always seeking to understand rather than seeking to be understood. It means loving a person when they are unlovely or unlovable and loving in spite of each other’s failures and short comings because people are imperfect. Enduring love understands that there are not those couples who have it together and those who do not. We are all broken, messed up and in need of redemption, grace, mercy and forgiveness. So, you want to be successful in love? Pursue it, nurture it and hold on to it with fierce devotion!

Three Fundamental Boundaries In Marriage

boundary_line-300x225As a counselor, I meet with a lot of couples who are in relationship trouble. Ten minutes into the first session and it’s not too difficult to figure out how they wound up in my office. As personal stories unfurl about adultery, communication breakdowns, reconnecting with old flames, flirting with strangers, and verbal and physical abuse, I am amazed the marriages have lasted to this point. Each of these couples share a common link: they lack boundaries in their marriages. Failure to establish boundaries at the beginning of the union prevents couples from experiencing true intimacy and creates a rift in the relationship.

A boundary is simply a property line that determines who is responsible for what. Boundaries help individuals hold one another accountable in the relationship. Once you are aware of who is responsible for a particular behavior or attitude, the opportunity for change becomes possible. Each party must assume responsibility for their own part in a problem. Assuming responsibility for your feelings, behaviors, attitudes, thoughts and choices empowers you to live an abundant life. Accepting responsibility becomes the change agent for a more loving and satisfying marriage. Boundaries are liberating! I have identified three boundaries that I believe are foundational for successful marriages.

1. Resolve your anger before it controls you- Anger is a powerful emotion, and in certain situations it can be useful, but human anger does not bring forth the righteousness that God desires (James 1:20, NIV). For love to grow, it must be nurtured and pursued; anger unchecked is like metastatic cancer, it spreads to the heart and kills love. Anger is a secondary emotion, it is the result of some other potent primary emotion. To demonstrate this point, I use the following formula in counseling to assist clients in identifying and discussing their true feelings:

fear + hurt + frustration = anger

Understanding this point is crucial in resolving anger for this reason: if I know my anger is the result of another emotion, I can identify and process the real emotion(s) instead of holding on to the toxicity that is eating away at me and killing my marriage. This is more productive than lashing out verbally or physically at your spouse, which only creates emotional distance and may even lead to divorce.

2. Protect your marriage from intruders- Marriage is an exclusive, two person arrangement that requires “forsaking all others.” Marriage is unique among all other human bonds because it symbolizes Christ’s relationship to His bride, the Church. Because third parties threaten the marital union, it must therefore, be guarded with fierce devotion. Couples must sacrificially work to keep love safe, secure and alive. You cannot assume that the passion felt early in the relationship will remain if you invest little effort.

You are a steward of a sacred covenant between yourself, your spouse and God and as a steward, you must guard against intruders that may include: in-laws, work, hobbies, Internet, affairs, friends, addictions, and even church. A marriage is only as strong as what it costs to protect it; You value what you invest in. People will invest in houses, vehicles, boats, the stock market, etc., but they hesitate to invest in their marriage. Americans think nothing of spending $10,000 or more on a wedding, but they scoff at spending a few hundred dollars on counseling that may save a derailed marriage.

3. Establish personal limitations- Boundaries are not something you place on other people, they are set on yourself, to control yourself, because you are the only person you can control. Establishing personal boundaries is a method of serving and protecting the relationship, it says to the world “I value my marriage.” Consider these points when setting your personal limitations:

  • Tell your spouse the truth [in love; in a normal voice…without yelling] if your needs are not getting met. Use “I statements” such as “I don’t want to do that,” or “I like it when…”
  • Don’t reconnect with old flames through social media and texting. Unless you are actually planning to have an affair, no good can come from this action.
  • Refuse to foster secret friendships with the opposite sex, it only promotes jealousy and betrayal and erodes trust.
  • Guard your eyes. Greet the opposite sex eyeball to eyeball; forbid your eyes from roaming all over someone else’s body, regardless of their attractiveness.
  • Refrain from full frontal hugs with the opposite sex. Offer a side hug or better yet, extend a handshake.
  • Compliment your spouse more than you compliment anyone else.
  • Get the log out of your own eye before pointing out the speck.
  • Be the first to offer forgiveness.

References

Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend (1999): Boundaries in Marriage.