“He cheated on me. He finally admitted it. I never thought this would happen to us.”
I’ve heard some version of this sickening story enough to make me want to puke just thinking about it. And I’ve heard it from the men almost as often as I have the wife. Sadder still, several of the couples broken by sexual deviance were pastoral homes – men and women who at some point were serving as a ministry leader in a church. People who were suppose to be examples in their community of what a healthy marriage should look like.
Truth is, none of are any better – we’re capable, as we are, of doing the same thing. The only thing that will make any of our lives turn out differently is if we choose to set ourselves above temptation and opportunity. But those things require commitment, discipline, and hard work. But the payoff is worth it by far. Here are a few things that my wife and I try to live out, and what we teach other couples to do if they want an affair-proof marriage:
- No opposite sex besties. When it comes to women, I only have one best friend, and she married me over 11 years ago. That kind of emotional intimacy to a different person other than your spouse will always cause tension. It’s inevitable. Yes, I know of a small few exceptions, but I know overwhelmingly far more broken marriages.
- Never alone with another man/woman. We have rules about who’s at our house when the other is not here. If I’m home alone, no other woman comes into the house with me. And kids don’t count. The opposite is true with Tiffany. Yes, I know that being alone doesn’t lead to sex. But it does lead to stray thoughts, temptation, and suspicion. I’d prefer to keep a clear conscience. I don’t even ride alone in a car with another woman. Sound weird? Fine by me. My wife trusts me. And her opinion matters more to me. Maybe we should all be called weird for the sake of affair-proofing our marriages.
- Open tech. Tiffany and I have unlimited, open access to each others’ phones, tablets, Netflix, emails, social media, private messages, web browsers, etc. And since I know she can see any of my stuff at any point in time, I’m never tempted to look at something, or communicate with someone in any way that I would be ashamed to show her.
- Work on our problems. We don’t get to sleep until we work through our arguments. That has led to some very exhausting, tear-filled late nights. It’s been 3am before problems finally found resolution. It’s not over until there are sincere apologies (on both sides), forgiveness, and a plan to work forward from that point. What does that have to do with affairs? Many of them begin because the grass looks greener on the other side. Usually, that just means you need to pull some weeds and water your own lawn.
- Date each other. Not having time and money are excuses. You make time for what’s important, and you can be cheap – just spend time together, and focus on each other. You don’t even have to go out every time. Staying in the habit of investing time and effort into your marriage pays dividends in multiple areas. It reinforces your connection, builds trusts, and fulfills emotional intimacy that often leads to keeping good sexual intimacy between each other.
May your marriage and family never be scarred by the wound of an affair. And to those of you who have endured it and made it with your marriage intact, I find you phenomenally gracious, committed people. To those who didn’t make it, my heart breaks for you. Healing and hope are still yours to be had. I pray you find both in due time.
Our church is starting a new series this weekend (in a new place!) before Valentine’s Day called Mr. & Mrs. Betterhalf in which we are focusing on building lasting marriages. I was out with my wife this week walking downtown San Jose on a date – call it research. We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary this June and I got to thinking about why we’re beating the statistics; according to divorce rates, we should have ended it at least 5 years ago. Yet, we’re better and stronger than ever. Here’s why I believe our marriage works…
- My wife is my best friend. This sounds cliche, but I genuinely mean this. I would rather spend time with my wife than any other person. While we do have our separate interests, we enjoy most things together; ministry, sports, family time, mutual friendships, etc. She knows me. And I know her. Like best friends should.
- We solve problems. Every couple fights. Or at least they should. Too often, to avoid conflict, many couples just bottle up their frustrations until it eventually explodes, resulting in an even uglier conflict. While Tiffany and I don’t like to fight, we would rather the air be clear between us than fake our way through a single day.
- Nothing is more important to us. My marriage takes second place to nothing. Really. Nothing. “What about your kids?” The best gift I can give my children is a good example of a strong marriage. Where do you think kids get their strongest impressions of what a family should/shouldn’t be like? That’s right, the one they come out of. “What about your relationship with God?” This may come as a shock, but God is not the first priority of my life. He’s bigger than that to me. He’s the center of every priority in my life. So it isn’t “God and then my marriage,” it’s “God in my marriage.” According to the Bible, my marriage is a reflection of my relationship with God. That only makes my commitment to Tiffany that much stronger.
- Two words: Date. Night. Tiff and I have some form of a date every week. With four kids, we don’t have the time or money to get out as often as we like, so “date night” means a tub of ice cream and Netflix some weeks. But about every other week, we do get out, and go do something together. After 10 years, I’m still dating my wife and pursuing her heart. I plan on continuing to date her for the rest of my life.
- Our marriage has a vision. We talk about growing old together. About watching our grand kids grow up, and seeing their marriages last. We are trying to have the kind of marriage now that we want them to have one day. We hope to be the beginnings of a godly legacy of men and women who beat the cultural trends and make it work.
It’s important for me to point out that my marriage doesn’t work because I’m better than anyone else. What I do know, is that if others had the same self-sacrificing love that I have for Tiffany, and she has for me, than more marriages would last. We want everyone to have as good (or better!) of a marriage as us. And that is what this new series is about. Strengthening marriages God’s way. Whether you’re married, single, or single-again, we believe God wants to work powerfully through your relationships. So if you’re in the area, we hope to see you!
This is for every man out there who needs a reminder of who they were created to be. No two men are the same, but we do have a common birthright as brothers. Some of these things are lost or forgotten on some level. I say it’s time we got took them back. Here are six things I think are true of every real man I’ve ever known.
1. Men don’t face each day – we attack it. No more lazy entitlement for what we’ve done in the past. Each day is a new opportunity to make an impact. There’s work to do and real men don’t play the “victim” card for having to do it.
2. Respect women. I want to punch a dude every time I see/hear him putting a women down. Especially his own wife. Man up, bro! And God help you if you hit a woman in my presence. I’m just saying… you’ve been warned, hombre. “Oh my! That’s violent!” No… that’s a man.
3. Take responsibility. It’s easy to wait for someone else to take initiative. Real men don’t stand around waiting for “someone” to do “something.” We see what needs to be done and become part of the solution. Anyone can be a critic on the sideline – it requires no honor. It takes guts to to make a difference, however.
4. Apologize. Yeah, that’s right. A real man can admit when he’s wrong. And he can verbalized it. And then do better.
5. Makes other men better. I love seeing men call other men into their God-given potential. Especially when it’s an older man to a younger man. But even between peers, it’s a powerful experience to see and be part of “iron sharpening iron.”
6. Keep their word. As best as they know how, real men do what they say they’re going to do. If they say they’ll do it, you can take that promise to the bank. They know that you can’t make excuses and progress at they same time.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. But you have to start with these things, in my observations. And yes, eating meat, fixing things, and knowing how to throw a football help prove your manliness. But make you a man, they do not.
(That last line sounded kinda like Yoda, didn’t it? Hmm… Perhaps mentioning something about knowing Star Wars trivia, I should have…)
That’s what the magazine read on my way through the checkout line at WalMart (yes, WalMart, don’t judge me). Not that I’m racing home to catch Sean Lowe picking through two dozen plus women on national television for The Bachelor, but it’s hard to miss all of the buzz as the season is apparently winding down. The cliff notes of the buzz stirring lately seem to be that Sean, “a devote Christian” has been saving himself for marriage, sexually speaking – something difficult to maintain as a contestant of the show, from what I understand.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that The Bachelor is a suitable show, nor am I advocating getting emotionally (or physically) entangled with multiple people for the sake of millions of viewers’ entertainment. I also am not verifying that this season’s Bachelor is a role-model Christian. I don’t know the guy! However, if he has indeed committed to saving his sexuality for marriage, I certainly support such a commitment.
The rub for me, is that many of the news articles I’ve seen are treating Sean as if he has some disability for being an attractive man in his 20’s that is not sleeping with any number of the potentially willing women on his show. Apparently, now engaged to one of the “contestants,” he still insists on waiting until their wedding to have sex.
I’m tired of the way the media, internet, and movies try to brainwash our culture about our own sexuality. To the point that a man who appears physically healthy is criticized for valuing himself enough to save his sexuality for a commitment (a.k.a. marriage) where it can be freely expressed with a trusted person (a.k.a. his wife). If he isn’t “doing it” there must be a reason, right? Because “normal” people don’t wait until marriage for sex… right?!
Listen up men…
- Having sex does not make you a “real man”.
- Choosing to delay your own gratification makes you wise, not weird.
- Having sex with virtually every willing female does not make you a man – dogs do that.
- Real men commit to keeping their God-given sexuality for their wife alone.
- Sex before marriage ruins good relationships and prolongs bad ones. I haven’t seen an exception yet.
- If you’ve made some mistakes in the past, you can be different from this point forward – your past does not have to define you.
Assuming this season’s Bachelor and his fiance do maintain their sexual boundaries, I am very confident that it will all work out on their wedding night. For all the talk of the need for “sexual compatibility,” our culture forgets that their talking about people, not used cars. I know far more people who slept around that regret it, than those who saved themselves and wished they had not.
Be unique. Save your sex… And find something better than The Bachelor to watch, too! Gees, people…
If you’re a dude, you know that you can’t neglect to do “something” for your wife for Valentine’s day. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not be sure what to do. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking in the right direction. By all means, adapt as necessary to woo your woman’s heart…
- Come home early. There’s hardly a worse way to begin a night of romancing your wife like trying to hurry her out the door so that you don’t miss a reservation. Take your time.
- Flowers. Simple. Easy. And (almost) every woman loves them.
- Dinner. Either somewhere decent, or home cooked, but only if you have more in your cooking repertoire past grilling meat.
- Dress nicer. Please tell me you have at least one good button-down collar shirt? Tie not required. You’re dating your wife, not taking her back to the wedding altar.
- Personal touch. Do at least one thing that is special and unique to the two of you. This shows that you actually planned something. This could be in the form of a gift.
- Talk! Don’t go to a movie or anywhere that you are expected to sit quietly. Instead, go for a walk somewhere decent where you can connect.
- Memories. Bring up a favorite time the two of you had together, and tell her why you liked that time. Use details.
Be a real man: romance your wife.