From the outside looking in, Jim and Shelley looked like they had it all together—a family of five with a golden retriever, living the dream in the suburbs of Dallas. But behind the white picket fence, their marriage was marked by years of financial tension, challenging kids, and stresses at work. When Jim believed his wife nagged him too much, he dove in deeper at work to escape the problems at home. He connected with an ex-girlfriend through Facebook and found a safe place to run from his marital frustrations. After a few months, their online friendship turned into an emotional affair, which then turned into a full-on physical affair.
Jim and Shelley’s story is a tale we’ve heard countless times in the marriage ministry at Watermark. Change the details and the outlet, but it’s the same song, different verse. How should a married couple walk through the challenges and boundaries of opposite-sex relationships?
When he first came to office, Vice President Mike Pence made headlines after sharing a few personal decisions about how he chooses to live his life. To be specific, Pence shared the following two practices he and his wife Karen follow in their marriage:
Their “unorthodox” views and practices stirred up a large amount of controversy on blogs and social media. Accusations of gender inequality and favoritism showed up, and Pence was accused of living in the past.
As a marriage ministry team at Watermark Community Church, we often talk about topics like the boundaries Mike and Karen Pence put in place in their marriage. Do we think they’re crazy or do we think they’ve established some wise boundaries and practices?
Christian apologist Greg Koukl is known for the idea of putting a stone in someone’s shoe. What he means by this phrase is that he wants to make you think. Koukl writes, “All I want to do is give him something worth thinking about. I want him to hobble away on a nugget of truth he can’t simply ignore because it continues to poke at him.”
Today, we want to put a little pebble in your shoe that will continue to poke at you and promote a series of fruitful conversations with your spouse. These conversations will help you get on the same page as you make decisions regarding relationships with the opposite sex. Any parent knows the “birds and bees” discussion is not a one-time conversation a parent has with their kids. In the same way, this conversation should be an ongoing discussion between a husband and wife.
Here are a few questions to get you started (there are no right or wrong answers):
- Are Mike and Karen Pence crazy, or do you think it’s wise to establish some opposite-sex boundaries in your marriage?
- How do I feel about having friends of the opposite sex?
- How do you handle social media? Should you and your spouse have shared accounts, individual accounts, or avoid social media altogether?
- How much do I trust my spouse these days?
- How am I worthy of trust? Is there anything I need to share with my spouse or ways I can increase trust in my marriage?
- Are my spouse and I on the same page with boundaries in opposite-sex friendships? Where are we the same or where do we differ in this area?
We know some of these conversations can be challenging. If you hit a rough patch, invite some friends or community into your discussions. We’d also encourage you to check out a great marriage ministry offered in many churches across the country called re|engage. Re|engage provides a safe place for you and your spouse to grow in your marriage, whether enriching what you already have or helping you in times of crisis. Check out the re|engage church finder to find a ministry near you.
Hopefully we’ve put a stone in your shoe and we’ve left behind a small, annoying gift that will lead to a fruitful conversation. But you and I know, when we get a pebble in our shoe, we take it off and shake that little rock out. In the same way, take that shoe off and get rid of the pebble by having a conversation with your spouse.
This blog is adapted from Watermark Community Church.