Today I don’t want to talk about your marriage. I want to talk about those marriages around us.
Marriage is a public good. Society does better when more people are married. People are more emotionally stable. Families are healthier. Children fare better. And there’s less heartache when people are in stable relationships.
God designed marriage as the first and most important earthly relationship. And so we shouldn’t take it lightly.
Yet while we all know we have an obligation to keep our own marriages strong, do we realize that we also play a role in other people’s marriages?
I’ve been at weddings where the pastor has asked the congregation members to vow to uphold this couple: to pray for them, encourage them, and support them. I like that, because it recognizes that marriage is also a community responsibility.
Yesterday, after my post about what to do when your husband announces he’s having an affair, a woman wrote and asked, “what do you do when your best friend is the one having the affair on her husband?” And it got me thinking that too often we live solitary lives, not really “interfering” in other people’s marriages because we don’t want to seem to meddle. So here are some thoughts on how we can live out the responsibility to help everyone’s marriages:
1. Be a Mentor
It is so important to have someone that you are mentoring. If you know a young couple who has just gotten married, reach out and ask them for dinner. Have coffee with the wife. Offer to pray with her. Often people don’t ask for mentors, so take the step and help someone! Or lead a Bible study for young married couples. That’s an invaluable help, too!
2. Watch How You Talk about Marriage
If you start complaining about your husband, you give other women permission to complain about theirs. It’s not good to complain about your husband in the first place, but I wonder how many of us realize that when we do that, we’re also hurting other people’s marriages? If, when you’re talking to other women, you denigrate your husband, then you give those women the impression, “it’s okay to think badly of my husband. It’s okay to put him down.” And what you talk about, you think about. The more you talk negatively, the more you think negatively.
Make a habit of praising your husband to other women, though, and you give the opposite impression: “it’s important to uphold marriage in how we talk.” That’s good!
3. Establish Boundaries
Make boundaries with the opposite sex, and stick to them. Try, as much as possible, not to be alone with a man who isn’t your husband, unless you can’t avoid it at work. Here’s why this is important: let’s say that you’re not worried at all about you straying, because your relationship is 100% great with your husband. But you worship lead on a praise team, and your co-leader is a guy. And you start getting together with him to plan the upcoming service every Tuesday night.
Now, nothing is happening between the two of you. You don’t think about him that way at all–and he doesn’t think of you that way at all, either. Occasionally you text him when an idea pops into your head, and it’s totally harmless
But you’ve now given him the impression that it’s normal to text other women and to be alone with other women. And so you’ve lowered his boundaries. It’s now easier for him to start texting someone at work, or to start talking to someone at work, or to have lunch with a woman at work. Not good.
The vast majority of affairs that start begin perfectly innocently over a friendship. Don’t put yourself in that position, but also support others who are trying to maintain boundaries so that they won’t fall with someone else.
4. Trade Baby-Sitting
Help other couples with a date night by baby-sitting sometimes!
And now for the hard ones:
5. Confront Lovingly
If you see a friend starting to go down a dangerous road (like texting a guy from work), tell her to stop. Don’t shy away from confrontation because you want to be polite. Tell her it’s dangerous and she shouldn’t do it.
I remember hearing the story of a trucker who often drove with this other guy in tandem. At a certain stop the guy had a “woman” that he would visit. My friend (the first trucker) knew his friend’s wife well. And he was not impressed. So one day he told the guy, “stop it, or I’ll tell your wife.” And when the guy refused to stop, my friend decked him. And the guy stopped the affair.
Now, I’m not recommending cat fights. But there are times when confrontation is likely necessary. Think of the heartache you’ll all go through if the relationship progresses.
And confront, too, even if it’s not an issue of infidelity. When I was speaking recently, a woman came up to me afterwards and asked about her best friend, who hadn’t had sex for over a year. She’d been withholding because she had a baby and was sick of the whole thing. This woman who was asking my advice was very worried for her friend, and she ended up buying The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and writing down several resources that I also recommended (including some blog posts). That’s a good friend.
If you have a friend who is acting very counter-productively in her marriage, either by putting the kids first, or ignoring her husband, or being too busy, or whatever, find a way to gently tell her. Don’t judge her. Tell her what you do wrong, too. Ask her to hold you accountable as well. Pray a ton about it. But do confront her. We all need that sometimes.
We tend to shy away from this sort of thing in our culture because it’s not polite, and we don’t want to be seen as holier than thou. But then why are we surprised when relationships break down? If we’re afraid to step in early, when relationships can be rescued, then what good is real friendship?
6. Don’t Accept a Split
Finally, if your friend announces she’s leaving the marriage, here’s the strategy I would use to help her stay. It’s a longer post, and I won’t repeat it here, but do go read it. It’s all about how to start a conversation so she’s more likely to stay (because frequently our strategies are wrong).
Marriage is too important to let friends give up on. Let’s root for them, as they root for us, and create a community that really cherishes marriage.
Now, do you have any advice for us today? Or what do you think about how we can encourage each others’ marriages? Just link up a marriage post in the linky tools below! And be sure to link back here so others can read some great marriage advice, too!