Recently a young, attractive woman was interacting with Tom at a public event. Aggressive ‘flirty’ signs exuded from her ostentatious and dabbling behavior… standing close to his face, extended eye contact, and the telltale (warning) touch of his arm as she threw her head back and laughed at something he said.
During this uncomfortable exchange, I was standing right next to Tom… but, she made no eye contact with me or even acknowledged that I was there—If this is what she does when his wife is right there, what is she like when I’m not there?, I thought.
Believe me; I know my husband loves me. We have worked through the decades to have a solid, secure marriage and healthy ministry relationships. And, we do! But I did not like the flustered response that began to brew in my emotions as that flirtatious woman interacted with Tom! Somehow, I felt she had invaded an exclusive space reserved only for me by my husband. We all have boundaries that we can intuitively discern have been crossed. Tom was sincerely clueless regarding this interaction. As we left, we (mostly meJ) had more than a few words. Little did we know this brief interaction would launch us into some needed discussions!
There are times when we will encounter circumstances that make us feel that our marriage relationship is being threatened. Something is stirred up in within us and we are thrown off-kilter. Here are several guidelines to help us regain our sacred footing.
Commit to Communicating:
First and foremost, we need to commit to communicating with our husband about what we are feeling. Whenever I feel a strong response as I observe behavior by either Tom or another woman, I need to internally evaluate what just happened. Then, I must pray over my response to that behavior by asking myself, Am I perceiving what is going on here correctly? Why do I feel uncomfortable? After I identify the core issue that I sense puts ‘us’ at risk, I need to share with Tom, wisely and in a timely manner, what went down for me as I witnessed that behavior. Finally, we must talk this through until we both are self-aware and comfortable going forward. Often Tom and I will review boundaries in the context of our needs and expectations. It’s about going forward together in our trust relationship as a husband and wife.
Realize that God has our Back:
I don’t say this lightly. When we were very young, I could easily become entangled in my emotional fluster and let it distract me from seeing that God is unreservedly for our marriage. Our marriage is sacred. God has joined us together. It is our marriage, but it is also His! Do you think He wants either of us to spoil the oneness He has created and is committed to in us?
Christ speaks to us about marriage in Matthew 19:6 saying, “What God has joined together let no man put asunder.” I can put my marriage asunder by not talking through such feelings with Tom. He can put our marriage asunder by ignoring my feelings or not honoring boundaries that make me feel protected.
Review and Renew Boundaries:
Taking time to review and renew our mutually agreed upon boundaries ensures an environment of safety. All of us have different expectations and desires in our marriage relationship. And we all will have different opinions regarding what we consider to be appropriate personal behavior. In the last year, in order to refresh our marriage covenant and step into the next season of our lives, Tom and I wrote down what commitments we relish and hold in esteem towards one another. For example, we wrote out things like, “believing the best about each other” and “to continue to work at and develop emotional intimacy with each other.” We also listed what we mutually wanted to ensure in our relationship in the days ahead. Indeed, one of our highest priorities is to partner in ministry as we move forward together in life.
We also created two lists of boundaries that we called ‘walls.’ The purpose of these walls was to surround the two of us, creating an atmosphere of on-going safety in our day-to-day relationship! We established boundaries for safety in our social relationships that reflected both of our desires. We also agreed on boundaries for both of us as we are involved in fulfilling our ministry responsibilities. This took time and effort on both our parts to openly share our deepest needs and desires.
For example, one thing we’ve decided to do that physically reminds us of our oneness is to hold hands when in public or on the move. This means so much to me. It makes me feel included and special to Tom. Certainly there are other examples but each couple needs to think and pray through how to ensure ongoing security and specialness to each other.
Seek Growth as a Couple:
As a couple we grow stronger in mutual trust and intimacy when we work through trying situations. There are times when I have become emotionally flustered and buried my feelings instead of talking them out with Tom. But, these emotions always pop out later—somehow, some way—and the resulting clash has never been healthy. I initially dislike the process involved in working through these kinds of feelings because it forces me to be so very vulnerable. But it has been so worth walking in the light as we have shared and worked through such challenging situations.
I now see the interaction I mentioned earlier as an unwanted, but very fruitful facilitator of some valued outcomes for our marriage! We cannot control the behavior of others as we live and minister. But, what we can control is our response to upsets, allowing God to strengthen us as we communicate and clarify our hearts and needs. We are not alone as we seek to refresh and deepen our marriage covenant one to another. Keep in mind the truth of Romans 8:31, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Grandma “D” and Tom have been on staff with the Navs for over 30 years and married 44 years. They are blessed with three married children and seven grandchildren. Dana has lived in many places throughout her life time: Florida, Maryland, Indonesia, Chicago and Colorado Springs to name a few. Beside her love for the Word of God and people, she enjoys walking and hiking.