A marriage relationship is a dynamic entity that can grow more beautiful than the most gorgeous rose in any garden. But weeds that threaten to harm or even destroy your marriage are lurking everywhere in our society of moral relativism. Far too many spouses fail to tend their marriages with the care that good gardeners should exercise. The only way to ensure that your marriage survives – and thrives – is to plant hedges of protection around it.
Here’s how you can plant hedges around your marriage:
Don’t think that your marriage can’t become a casualty. Look around you and consider how many people you know who have been through divorce. Understand that, unless you constantly nurture your marriage, it is destined to decline and die – just like plants that are neglected. Decide that you will take the risks seriously.
Plant early before problems take root. Know that if you plant hedges in your marriage before you find yourself in a threatening situation, you can prevent many problems from taking root and nip affairs in the bud. Decide to proactively make decisions to protect your marriage. Anticipate danger, plan, and plot your escape before you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
Realize that temptation has only one effective response. Whenever you’re faced with the temptation of attraction to someone other than your spouse, realize that there is only one response that will work – to flee! Any other approach, such as trying to rationalize your way out of it, is doomed to failure. Decide to run from the situation as from a contagious disease. Recognize that the right time to act is as soon as you start to notice your attraction to another person.
Don’t blame God for what’s really your own responsibility. It’s all too easy to blame God for making it possible for you to feel sexual attraction toward someone besides your spouse. But your responsibility is to choose to channel your desires properly. If you ask God to help you do so, He will strengthen you for the task.
Flirt – but only with your spouse. Flirting is fun, and a great way to build excitement and intimacy between two people. Avoid flirting with anyone besides your spouse for any reason, remembering that it’s not a harmless way to interact. Know that suggestive comments and behavior can spark much more with a person who is badly in need of attention. But keep flirting with your spouse, no matter how long you’ve been married. Caress each other, share private jokes, etc. daily, and be creative. Know that as long as you both invest in your marriage, it can be fun, exciting, and intimate.
Rely on God’s strength rather than your own. Realize that, as a human being in a fallen world, your best resolve and inner strength can still fail you when you need it most. Choose to rely on God’s unlimited power to help you keep your marriage strong.
Remind yourself of biblical bases for hedges. Read and meditate on the Scripture verses that address the importance of hedges to protect something valuable, purity, etc.
Quit kidding yourself. Understand the tremendous capacity of every human being to deceive himself or herself when not connected to God. Know that, once you start making excuses for wrong behavior, each excuse will sound more plausible, and you will sink deeper and deeper into sin and ruin. Admit that you can’t trust your own self apart from God, and decide to stay close to Him.
Make it a threesome. Whenever you need to meet or dine or travel with an unrelated person of the opposite sex, make it a threesome. Should an unavoidable last-minute complication make this impossible, let your spouse hear about it from you first.
Be careful about touching. While you might shake hands or squeeze an arm or a shoulder in greeting, embrace only dear friends or relatives, and only in front of others. Also, be sensitive to the attitudes and interpretations of those you choose to touch.
Watch the nature of your compliments. If you pay a compliment to someone besides your spouse, make it on clothes or hairstyle, not the person himself or herself. Allow yourself to be friendly, outgoing, and encouraging, but don’t run the risk of having the person assume anything beyond that.
Speak well of your spouse to other people. Never make your spouse the butt of jokes or discuss your marriage problems when talking with others who might use that as an invitation to come between you. Guard your tongue, and say only positive things about your husband or wife when you’re with others.
Tell your love story to others. Keep retelling the story of how you met, fell in love with, and married your spouse. As you do, you solidify in your mind the things that attracted you to your spouse in the first place.
Remind your spouse – and yourself – of your wedding vows. Take the time regularly to remember your wedding vows. Reaffirm them through love notes to your spouse, in romantic conversation, and in other creative ways.
Remind yourself of what you could lose if you’re unfaithful to your spouse. Imagine yourself having to confess to your spouse that you’ve had an affair. Then imagine the price you might pay for that – losing your family, the future of your dreams, even your relationship with God. Know that it’s definitely worthwhile to do whatever it takes to protect your marriage.
Forget the myth of quality time; give your family quantity time. Make it a top priority to spend as much time as you can with your spouse and children. Arrange your work schedule around your family, rather than vice versa. Be available to your family whenever they need you, and enjoy sharing experiences with them everyday that can’t be scheduled into small blocks of "quality" time. Know that doing so will naturally build a strong bond between you and your spouse, as well as give your kids the sense of love and security they need.
Plant any other hedges that either you or your spouse need to protect your marriage. Get to know what specific weak areas you and your spouse each have that could threaten your marriage. Work together to do something practical and concrete about them. Then celebrate your victories together!
Adapted from Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It, copyright 2005 by Jerry B. Jenkins. Published by Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Ill., www.crossway.com.
Jerry B. Jenkins is the author or coauthor of more than 150 books, including the best-selling Left Behind series. As a marriage and family author and speaker, Jenkins has been a frequent guest on Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program. He and his wife, Dianna, have three grown sons and two grandchildren.