Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Happy 47th Anniversary to Us!

I love celebrating our anniversary. It means we’ve reached the milestone of another year. We’re still very much in love. We’re still committed to one another and we’re still having fun. We celebrate our 47th year of marriage this month!

Many couples have many ways of “making it” this far or perhaps they just don’t know another way to live. I’ve always thought that being in a chronically ill marriage would be worse than never being married at all. But that’s not our story. 

So, what are the things we can implement into our marriage to not only have it survive 47 years, but thrive throughout those 47 years? Allow me to share a few of those things.

  • Maintain a heart of love and dedication to one another.
  • Hold hands when you take a walk, when you pray at the meal table and when you pray together just before bedtime.
  • Continue to date.
  • Buy small gifts for one another.
  • Remember important dates through the sharing of greeting cards.
  • Purchase flowers for special occasions and for no occasion.
  • Write love notes or text messages or both often.
  • Maintain a spiritual component of prayer together as often as possible.
  • Don’t stop kissing.
  • Say “I love you” multiple times in a day.
  • Notice each other and while you’re noticing smile at your life mate.
  • Go to bed at the same time routinely.
  • Be affectionate.
  • Maintain your intimacy.
  • Compliment one another frequently.
  • Say “thank you” for the daily mundane things accomplished by your spouse.
  • Read a marriage book together to challenge your marriage.
  • See a respected counselor or pastoral couple who can encourage you to grow in your love relationship.
  • Go to a marriage seminar/retreat. 
  • Take a mini vacation for just the two of you.
  • Praise in public; construct in private.
  • Disagree agreeably and resolve issues promptly.
  • Never take your mate for granted and work at noticing the “little things.”
  • Have good will toward your mate at all times; think the best.
  • Take time to listen to each other and hear one another’s heart, not just words.
  • Serve in a mission bigger than yourselves, e.g., your local church, a missions project.
  • Don’t be legalistic; give grace to one another.
  • Keep communication lines open in order to always build trust.
  • Stop attempting to change your mate. That’s God’s job.
  • Keep your marriage a higher priority than the life issues you are dealing with.
  • Pursue personal growth. The healthier you are, the healthier your marriage will be.

And last: Apologize quickly by learning to say, “I am sorry; I was wrong; please forgive me.”

Marriage is a gift–treat it as one.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Can Husbands Listen to Their Wives?

It’s an age-old question: can men tune into and really listen to their wives? We know there is a generally accepted answer to that question: no. But is that true? Do men listen differently than women? Do men practice looking like they’re not listening when they really are? Are men created with a filter that women simply do not have? Read on.

Men do listen to their wives, but there are some qualifications around the parameters of that answer. 

Some of those parameters might include, but are not limited to: are they interested in the conversation; have they been drawn into the conversation or forced; do they feel valued in the conversation; is there a solution that he can add; is there a purpose for this conversation that directly affects him; how long will this conversation take; and can the conversation actually arrive at a point? 

Quite honestly, I have found that men like to listen to other men more than to woman (again generally speaking). That may mean men will actually listen to the advice of a man than that of a woman. That does not mean he doesn’t value a woman’s input. But what that actually means is men’s brains seem wired to accommodate other men and their opinion before a female counterpart. Now, before you take that statement and run with it in a hundred different directions, let’s consider a man’s approach to another man.

Men generally will leave feelings out of the conversation. Men generally will speak in facts as they understand them and men generally will not converse just to converse. Men do not tend to have a need for all of the little details and men tend to use fewer words. As well, men tend to keep advice giving to a point of request only. In other words, men enjoy or embrace the communication style of other men rather than woman. It’s not an attack on a woman as much as it’s a preference of style.

With all of that said, men need women and their relational style of communicating. Men need to hear the feeling side of conversation and men need to allow woman the opportunity to share the details they feel effect the conversation. Men need to listen to women because women have this uncanny ability to pull truth from feelings and not just facts. Men need to learn to converse with just listening and not always listening to fix. Men need face-to-face conversations with the women in their life for a balance in receiving the feminine side of their Creator.

Yes, husbands can listen to their wives as wives keep these parameters in mind. So, ladies, stop trying to remake your husband into one of your girlfriends. He is not them; he’s different and he enjoys that difference. Perhaps let him know up front that you are looking for his advice or let him know you are not; you just want him to listen. He can do that, but he needs you to let him know what you’re looking for early in the conversation.

Men and women converse differently and we need what each one brings to the conversation. We need to learn to value each style and honor one another by practicing our listening skills. 

Here are some secrets to conversing with your husband:

  • Make an attempt to use fewer words.
  • Use a tone of voice that is inviting and engaging rather than commanding or directing.
  • Practice letting him know what you need or are looking for from the conversation before it starts.
  • Be sure there is sufficient time allotted for the conversation. If not, schedule it for another time.
  • Try to relate a few facts.
  • Study his language style and do your best to incorporate his style of communication. For example, quite often a builder uses building terms or a salesman uses sales terms. Learn those terms and incorporate them in your communication.
  • Share your feelings, but let him know that’s what you are doing. For example, you can say, “Just sharing a feeling here, but I think it’s significant to the point being made.”
  • Try to communicate the point of your conversation earlier in the discussion. For example, you could say, “There is a decision we need to make, but first it’s important to look at what is going to affect this decision.”
  • You can really draw him in with this conversation starter, “I need your input on ___________.” Then you could go on to discuss the issues. 
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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

How One Amazing Couple Found Their Mission

Auston and Ashton Samuelson lived in California in a city where there was a high concentration of homeless persons. God gripped their hearts in a distinctive way. They felt convicted to do something and began to work with their local Union Rescue Mission. 

The thought first came to Austin when he voiced to Ashton, “What if there was a restaurant that donated a meal for every meal purchased?” They concluded that someone should do just that.

Two years later, the Samuelsons began Tacos 4 Life, a restaurant that provides a meal to families in need for every taco purchased. Tacos 4 Life are now located in Arkansas, Texas and North Carolina with multiple locations. They have supplied more than 13.8 million meals for needy children and families. 

This is just one story of one couple finding their co-mission in marriage, something they were both passionate about, felt called to by God and then walked it out in a practical way. If you are married, what is your marriage mission? Every married couple needs to know why they are married. It’s a simple question, but sometimes a missing ingredient in marriage. 

Your marriage mission is the glue of why you are called together. Maybe it’s a business or a small group that you lead together. Maybe it’s serving at your local shelter or maybe it’s praying for your neighbors and inviting them to your home for hospitality. There can be multiple missions found within your marriage call. Those missions speak to purpose and answer the “why” of your commitment together.

You can start by writing down everything that you do, everything that you prioritize in your lives. Then include what would you like to do, what you dream about doing together. Write that down. Take those things and begin to create a marriage mission statement/paragraph for yourselves. You’ll be glad you did.

One couple we know placed their marriage mission statement on the mantle of their fireplace for all to see. It’s a daily reminder of why they are married–for them, for their children and for anyone who enters their home..

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Experiencing a Lack of Sexual Intimacy in our Marriage

Sex is a gift given to marriage by God. We dream about it before marriage and fight off every urge during engagement. We can barely keep our hands off of each other. Saying “I do” should not disrupt this godly desire.

However, so many marriages are sexually starved today. And because sexuality is about intimacy, that also means, in many cases, intimacy is missing. 

Intimacy is about friendship, communication, laughter, emotional closeness and fun together. It’s about holding hands, saying “I love you” and still kissing one another goodnight. But when sexual intimacy leaves a marriage, so do many of the intimacies mentioned above.

Why? There are any number of reasons. Just to mention a few: business; anger; withholding love; not sharing deeply; criticism; control and others. One area that I have often heard in the counseling office is that the partner with the lower sex drive actually controls what happens or does not happen in the bedroom. 

Every day couples make decisions about finances, the children, their jobs, ministry, the bills, the house but they’re not discussing their sexual lives. It’s either controlled by one or somehow has become off limits and you know not to bring it up. Your sex lives as a married couple are not to be controlled by one of you–that’s unhealthy to any marriage. In fact, unilateral decisions of any kind can affect your marriage negatively.

When one partner has to lie in bed night after night dealing with rejection, the silent treatment or a nightly headache, that partner is also wondering what is wrong with them. They are wondering why their life mate is not attracted to them. The human soul needs to connect relationally and within marriage that same soul needs the sexual intimacy factor so there is not a repeated disconnect.

Too often in this area of marriage one partner is only thinking of themselves, their desires and their feelings. They’re thinking, “I’m not in the mood” or “Do I really want to take the time it takes?” or “I’d rather just go to sleep.” Have you stopped to think about your partner, their thoughts and their desires?

If one of you is being vulnerable enough to discuss these issues in marriage, it is time to listen. Do not become defensive or push them away. Be there for one another. Listen without defensiveness. Have it on your heart to serve one another. 

And here’s a secret. Even when it is inconvenient or you’re not in the mood, initiating lovemaking can take you there. And when you experience a wonderful time together you’ll be closer, talk more and experience more intimacy in every area of your relationship. 

This act of love given to us by our heavenly Father is a recipe for a closer, healthier, deeper appreciation that builds a greater desire to meet the needs of the one you are one with.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Help! I’m Married to Someone Who is Opposite of Me!

Do you see yourself as different or opposite from your spouse? Welcome to everyone’s world!

Let me provide for you a window into our early marriage.

Steve, loved to go to bed late. Mary, loved to go to bed early.

Steve, loved to have a devotional time in the evening. Mary, loved to have a devotional time in the morning.

Steve’s into trying new things. Mary, sticking with what works.

Mary, no debt is good debt. Steve, good debt is investment.

Mary, loves to give. Steve, loves to save.

Steve, embracing change. Mary, change comes more slowly, purposefully.

Steve, face the conflict. Mary, conflict is to be avoided.

Mary, everyone is a friend. Steve, friends are selected through trust over time.

You get the picture; we’re different. But here’s the thing about that difference, neither way is necessarily wrong. What is wrong is when we attempt to change our spouse to be more like ourselves because we’re “right.”

Social scientists tell us it takes five to seven years for a marriage to “settle.” I would define settling as becoming mature enough to no longer try to change my spouse but rather to embrace them for who they are and for how God created them. 

You see, maturity helps us to understand we need that difference in our lives.  Yes, we fight and argue about it initially (immaturity), but when the revelation hits us, we soon discover that we are far more powerful, far more rounded, far more complete together than separate, embracing our differences. 

Too often the thought is, “We’re just too different to continue this marriage.” The fact is, God brings to you the person who is not like you so that you can grow and change and then discover how you are to love, respect and accept this person.

Unfortunately, too many persons, husbands and wives, think that power and control can force change for the better. Power and control will never provoke change for the right reasons because a spirit of power and control will also need the threat of negative consequences. The spouse who threatens causes more anger in the relationship.

Love and acceptance sees the difference as a good challenge. Then it sounds something like this: Mary is Steve and Steve is Mary because Steve and Mary need the differences the other brings to the relationship. 

This perspective will cause us to focus on the strengths in our spouse’s life rather than the weaknesses. This perspective will help us to walk in humility knowing we need what our spouse brings to the marriage. This perspective also helps us to not see our spouse as the one who holds us back but rather the one who provides the appropriate caution or pause. And this perspective is going to bring a healthy balance and sometimes compromise to who we are and to who we are becoming.

Today, almost 48 years later, things look a little different.

Steve likes to go to bed early and so does Mary.

Mary loves early morning devotions and so does Steve.

Steve and Mary embrace change together.

Mary’s love of giving has won over Steve.

Mary embraces investment even with some risk and Steve smiles.

Everyone loves Mary more than Steve because Mary is still everyone’s friend.

Steve is more selective about addressing conflict and Mary still dislikes it.

But the greatest of these is love.

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Challenge, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Postmarital, Women

God’s Creative Plan Vs. the Counterfeit

God’s plan has always been that sex remains within the boundaries of marriage. Many years ago, I heard someone say that God’s creative plan also has a counterfeit: sex before the commitment of marriage and no sex afterward. 

So, who actually enjoys the best sex and the most sexual frequency? There was an interesting book some years ago called, The Case for Marriage. The authors (Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher) stated, “Married people have both more and better sex than [sexually active] singles do. They not only have sex more often, but they enjoy it more, both physically and emotionally.”

If that’s true, why is it true? They state four reasons: proximity – a long-term contact with greater investment – exclusivity, a mutually agreeable sex life and emotional bonding – caring for one another outside the bedroom. I would add to that list: knowing each other – likes dislikes and how to serve one another in the bedroom along with the fact that it is the safest sex. Sexual encounters are dangerous encounters. They may be full of excitement initially, but they can be full of worry and anxiety thereafter.

What are some reasons as to why sexual intimacy is inhibited? Well, here are a few:

  • Over scheduling and self-depletion
  • Lack of communication
  • Selfishness, not serving one another
  • The lack of non-sexual touch
  • Pornography
  • Not planning intimacy
  • Poor hygiene
  • Unresolved conflict
  • Not connecting spiritually
  • Not respecting each other
  • Not maintaining your attractiveness
  • The lack of affirming and complementing each other
  • A history with “intimacy anorexia”*

What will actually build intimacy?

  • Praying together
  • Sharing the workload at home
  • Date nights
  • Weekends away
  • Reading helpful books
  • Seeking counsel
  • Nonsexual touch
  • Communicating the desire
  • Scheduling sex

Scheduling sex? Yep! We schedule every other life event; why not develop a schedule for intimacy? A schedule helps us to prepare mentally. It helps us to not have our intimacy stolen from us. It helps us to connect and to keep at bay those small arguments that can turn into something larger. Sex is a gift from our Creator and it’s given by Him only to the husband and wife to enjoy. 

*A term Dr. Doug Weiss coined. It is defined as the active withholding of intimacy to one’s spouse.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Postmarital, Singles, Women

Boundries for Our Marriage

Leaders often ask my wife and I about boundaries in marriage and it truly is an important question. With the help of others, I took some time to list those boundaries in this blog for you. My desire would be that they are helpful guidelines for you and your spouse as you think about boundaries and integrity within your own relationship. 

Priority number one is daily time with God. We also have a devotional time as a couple nightly.

We practice doing our best to go to bed together and not getting in the habit of watching TV all evening.

We are careful about the number of evening meetings during the week.

We pray about and are careful about the number of requests to say “yes” to, e.g., boards, parachurch ministries, clubs, school board, township meetings, political office, etc. While all of these can be great, they can also rob us of valuable time together.

We work hard to not allow sexual intimacy to be stolen from us.

We do our best to eat dinner together. This was especially important when our children were at home with us.

We could not meet with or relate to everyone as they saw their need. We learned to say “no” so we could say “yes” to the relationships we felt were most important.

We committed to take a weekly sabbath and family day for down time, rest and play.

We take time in prayer together each morning for our family and others on our heart.

We judiciously engage in time to cover schedules, keeping one another abreast on daily whereabouts and always letting our spouse know if we’ll be later than planned.

I committed to not traveling in ministry/work away from the family for more than 7-10 consecutive days. While away, I would check in frequently with my wife.

When possible, take a traveling friend or mentor if your spouse is not traveling with you.

When in another nation or area, being careful to not travel alone, tour alone or place oneself in any possible vulnerable situation. 

We would take several weekends away each year as a couple. Our goal was once a quarter, but that didn’t always materialize, especially with a young family.

We dated our children. They had individual time with parents, and in that way they understood their parents going on a date. 

Since our children are raised, we take a week of vacation together every year.

Both of us remain accountable to our direct overseers. I meet monthly while my wife meets two times per year. 

Taking a two-month long sabbatical every seven years was life-giving to me, our marriage and family along with refreshment and refocus for my work.

I guard my heart and mind with internet use, TV and movies. I practice zero tolerance with pornography and the like.

As a pastoral counselor doing individual counseling with someone of the opposite sex, I required the counselee to have a friend, an overseer or accountability partner with them.

I try to be extremely wise and careful about riding in a car alone with someone of the opposite sex or being in a public place (restaurant) alone.

I am cautious about praying alone with someone of the opposite sex because of the intimacy of prayer.

What would you add to this list? Please find your personal boundaries and at the same time find accountability and integrity within your lifelong marriage relationship.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Does Money and Marriage Mix?

Recently I came across a survey initiated by Fidelity Financial of 1,700 couples.* The purpose of the survey was to discover money matters and how well married couples are agreeing with their financial picture. Surprisingly, 71% said they communicate about financial matters very well and 61% said they talk about their finances at least once per month. That’s good news. 

However, one in five couples revealed that money is their greatest relationship challenge. And, two in five shared how they argue about money with their spouse occasionally. One in four stated they are all too often frustrated with their spouse’s money habits but choose to not confront it in order to maintain peace.

So, what were some of those highlighted disagreements?

  • Over 50% disagree about how much savings is needed. 
  • Forty percent disagree about the level of risk to take with investments.
  • Thirty four percent disagree about who is the “spender” and who is the “saver.”
  • One third disagreed about their families next large expenditure.

The most challenging stat from this survey for me came when it was revealed that only 50% of couples make financial decisions jointly with their husband or wife. I simply cannot imagine making money decisions without consulting one another, without honoring the other and without a prayerful process of discloser and input. Disagreement about finances is so often at the center of spousal disagreement and disagreement is a powerful weapon that eventually hurts both parties, not to mention also affecting the children.

My wife and I suffered from the marriage money mix. I thought she was a “spender” and she thought I was a “tight wad.” We accepted those terms as who we were or how we saw one another, but in time and with better discernment discovered that we were both wrong. We desperately needed each other’s view of finance, but we also desperately needed to find agreement.

I was wrong as I discovered that my wife was not a spender but rather a “giver.” She discovered that I was not a tight wad as much as I was saving for our future dreams, an “investor.” We discovered that we were both right and when we found agreement, we found peace in the mix of our money matters. We discovered that we each needed the others input and view of finance.

Do not allow financial disagreement to spread in your marriage. Get on a livable, agreeable budget. Discover the needs that you are each trying to meet in the midst of your disagreement. Pray about your finances together. If necessary, seek counsel and do not keep putting it off.

When we kick the financial disagreement can down the road we will discover mistrust entering into the equation. Where there is a lack of trust, there will be a deeper marital issue to deal with.

There are 2,350 verses in the Bible that speak to the issue of finance. Apparently God knew we needed extra counsel in this area of our lives. Here are just two of those amazing verses:

The greedy bring ruin to their households, but the one who hates bribes will live. (Proverbs 15:27)

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11)

*From the Sound Mind Investing newsletter, 9.13.21

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Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Celebrating Your Differences

How are you and your spouse different in relational style, emotionally, in finance, in goal setting and/or in your love language? If you’re married any length of time, you most likely know the differences and have arrived at a place of comfort in those differences or you’re still fighting over them.

Early on in our marriage we discovered that Mary, my wife, liked going to bed early and I liked going to bed later. She’d rather avoid conflict and I’d rather deal with it as soon as possible. She is a giver and I am an investor with our finances. You get the idea. 

We married because we had so much in common, but soon thereafter we discovered that each of us see, think and speak differently. So, is that the problem? Yes, if you think your spouse should be more like you. No, if you realize your spouse is what you are not and you are what they are not. In other words, together you bring a more complete picture.

Within five to seven years each marriage should experience a “settling.” That is to say, I accept you for who you are and realize, embrace and enjoy the differences. It’s up to us to make use of those differences for our greater good, a greater level of wholeness and a more complete us. Marriages that settle into maturity stop trying to change each other and accept the quirks, the nuances, the different views and approaches. We are not the same, however; we are united and in agreement as one. We need what our spouse brings to us and they need what we bring.

Stop trying to change your spouse. Work on being the best you can be and give grace for change over time. Realize that as you embrace personal change so will your spouse.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Affairproofing Your Marriage (Part One)

Couples in the U.S. are waiting longer to marry and living together in an attempt to try it out.  These reactions are simply due to anxiety brought on by the number of marriages that are failing.  One in four marriages is ending in divorce, which is better than one in two, but not where we desire it to be.  Let me put it in a different framework:  what if one in four planes that took off crashed; how quick would you be to board one?

For some of us, many years ago we spoke something called vows that went like this: For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health…till death (not murder) do us part.  Never did we ever imagine having to face such issues.  But, truth be told, we will face these things as some of us already have.  

We all marry into brokenness.  There is no perfect marriage because there is no perfect person in marriage.  If you found the right person in marriage, you found an imperfect person.  And not only are they imperfect; you’re imperfect as well.  

Do you know why we take pictures at weddings?  Because it’s the last time you’ll see anything close to perfection.  Even some of the clothes are rented at a wedding.  Erma Bombeck said, “Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.”

Here’s the good news for those of us who are married and those of us who are not: marriage has a 100% chance of being absolutely fantastic, whole and awesome if we will commit to following Jesus and following biblical principles for marriage relationships.

Exodus 34:14 – Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

I love that.  God is jealous over you; it’s a positive thing; it’s a righteous love.  We too can become jealous as we bond with a life mate.  To be jealous is to be intolerant of rivalry, like God we become jealous because we love.  In God’s jealousy He protects, He guards His children from the foreign god, from idolatry.  As husband and wife, we guard, we protect against a foreign intruder into our marriage.  One of those foreign intruders is an affair.

An affair happens when one takes the most sacred expressions in marriage and gives them to another.  So you can have an affair without sex by giving what belongs only to your spouse to someone else.  Before this happens, however, there are numerous other issues going on.  It is like the warning lights on the dash of your car.  You can ignore them for only so long.  And while ignoring them, the problem usually grows worse.

Today, affairs are starting anywhere there is close proximity and working relationships.  Facebook is a huge source of marital failures as people find “first loves” in a desire to feel a feeling they once felt.  You can be involved in an affair simply through your computer and never meet face-to-face.

We are all potential vow breakers.  If we think it can’t happen to us we can become sloppy and less guarded, not alert to the enemy’s schemes. To those of you who have been tempted and who gave in to that temptation, this message is not spoken to condemn you in any way.  We serve a redemptive God and He forgives.

Dr Gail Saltz psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital said this concerning affairs, “Many people convince themselves so long as there is not sex it is not an affair, but it is.  It has to do with secrecy, deception and betrayal and the emotional energy you are putting into the other person vs. your partner.  The most difficult thing to recover from is not sex, but the breaking of trust.  Those involved in an emotional affair are often in denial.  They do not think they’re having an affair at all.  The denial keeps them guilt-free and they tell themselves, ‘It’s just a friendship.’”

But one in two emotional affairs becomes a full-blown sexual affair states Dr. Saltz.

How do you know you’re in an emotional affair?  Dr Saltz shares ten warning signs:

  1. When your meetings are kept secret from your spouse.
  2. When you say and do things with someone you would never do in front of your spouse or you would feel guilty if your spouse happened to show up.
  3. When you make it a point to arrange private talk time with this person.
  4. When you share things with them that you do not share with your partner.
  5. When you avoid telling your partner how much time you may be spending with this person.
  6. When you are stating things about your marriage that you should not be telling another, opening a window to your heart and unmet emotional needs.
  7. When you begin discussing your marital dissatisfactions.
  8. When you tell this person more about your day than you do your partner.
  9. When you “ready your appearance” in anticipation of seeing this person.
  10. When there is sexual attraction spoken or unspoken between you.

Even if there is no actual touching, these are signs of an emotional affair.  The emotional high that the sexual attraction, the secrecy, the feelings provide actually becomes addictive and will perpetuate the relationship.  

To guard against ever having an emotional affair or to act in a preventative manner, live your life the opposite of the above ten warning signs. Secondly, set boundaries for your marriage relationship just like a dating couple sets sexual boundaries.  As a couple, what are you comfortable with and what are you not comfortable with (e.g., phone calls, meeting for lunch, driving in a car alone with someone of the opposite sex)?

Next week I will share part two of Affairproofing Your Marriage.

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