“Behind the scenes of any healthy marriage relationship, you’ll find guardrails” – Andy Stanley
Guardrails on a road are designed to keep vehicles from straying into dangerous areas. You could drive where guardrails are located, but the distance between the guardrail and the danger keeps you safe. Andy Stanley’s definition of a personal guardrail is, “A standard of behavior that you are so committed to, that when you violate it, it bothers your conscience.” When you bump up against a personal guardrail, your internal warning lights flash and red flags go up. A big mistake is close. If you blast through the guardrail, you may live the rest of your life with regret.
When it comes to protecting our marriage from an affair, we need REINFORCED STEEL guardrails, because unlike other disasters in our lives, it is very difficult to recover from infidelity. We may look back and laugh at past financial or career disasters, but no one laughs at an extramarital affair. It leaves deep and permanent scars on you, your spouse, your children, and those around you; the ripple effects are astounding.
In the Bible, 1 Corinthians 6:18 says very directly and simply:
“Flee from sexual immorality.”
It doesn’t say to flirt and get close as you can to the edge. It also doesn’t say to stay strong and fight against our desires when placed in a situation where sexual immorality may occur. It says to get the heck out of there. Flee!
Some may laugh at those who have a moral margin in this area of their lives, but our society has an astoundingly high divorce rate, and affairs are a significant contributor. It is ironic that our culture baits us to the edge of sexual immorality and then mocks us when we step over the line. Society wants to see us flirt. We should flee.
It’s been said that if you think you are not at risk for an affair, you are actually at very high risk because you are less likely to be on guard to prevent it. Jerry Jenkins, author of the book Hedges, says, “No one is immune. The strongest marriage you know of is in danger today if hedges are not in place.”
Notably, physical affairs typically don’t happen with strangers. They usually occur with people we know well when the “we’re just friends” boundary is crossed emotionally. Emotional affairs have a very high probability of turning physical. Here are a few tips to recognize an emotional affair (adapted from a Focus on the Family article by Monika Lewis):
• You long for, and look forward to, your next contact or conversation.
• You start changing your normal routine or duties to spend more time with him/her.
• You dress or groom in a different way when you know you will be seeing him/her.
• You feel the need to keep conversations or activities involving him/her a secret from your spouse.
As I asked last month, do you plan to mess up your life in a big way, and in the process, mess up the lives of those around you? Of course, everyone’s answer is, “No”. In light of that, what are some guardrails we can incorporate into our lives to ensure we don’t head down this road? What are the situations where our consciences should start flashing the warning lights of potential disaster? Listed below are three common examples of guardrails for married people to consider:
- Don’t travel alone with a member of the opposite sex.
- Don’t eat alone with a member of the opposite sex. Many affairs begin this way.
- Don’t confide in or counsel members of the opposite sex regarding your or their personal lives. Intimacy begins with the emotional moments, not the physical.
You may say, “We trust each other. We’re fine being in situations like these.” My response is that we should not underestimate the power of human nature. The divorce rate is 50%. We are not as strong as we think we are. Our odds of making it “’til death do us part” go up substantially if we position and prepare ourselves to protect our marriage. We prepare for material disaster by purchasing insurance for our home. We prepare for financial disaster by saving an emergency fund. But we often fail to prevent the most damaging disaster by not establishing guardrails in our marriage.
Is your marriage important enough to protect? If so, then consider some guardrails in this critical area of your life.
This article was adapted from Andy Stanley’s series on guardrails: http://yourmove.is/episode/ep3-flee-baby-flee
Additional resources: Hedges by Jerry Jenkins, Close Calls by Dave Carder, Rich Mullins’ song “We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are.”