Rescuing Trust (part 1)

LIFE Marriage Retreats will soon be releasing an online course dedicated to helping couples suffering from eroding or broken trust to rebuild relationship trust to the very highest levels. In anticipation of that release, we will focus on some crucial elements of trust in this blog in the coming weeks.

Trust Is a Matter of Heart and Brain

The breaking of trust is real and it is serious. We all know how awful it feels. The inclination to trust is in our DNA so when that trust is betrayed we feel it deeply in our heart and our gut, but it starts in our brain where, literally, the neural networks and brain regions associated with trust disengage and shut down.  Areas of the brain that had formerly been associated with positive emotions and acceptance toward the other person are replaced with animosity, suspicion, and resentment. Can you relate to that, no matter what side of the trust equation you might be on? So don’t beat yourself up if you are struggling to trust again or to earn trust back, it’s a process but as you stay committed to it you can begin celebrating small victories almost immediately.

The good news is that as we take steps to restore trust, those brain patterns I mentioned will gradually return to the positive side and healing of the heart will occur.

Trust Can Be Restored!

Some say trust, once broken, can never be restored. While it is best never to break trust, trust can be restored— and often even enhanced, made stronger than it was before the violations of trust occurred. But here is a crucial key: rebuilding trust cannot be a passive experience for either partner in a committed relationship. Any thought that one partner can just sit back and wait for their spouse to “prove” their trustworthiness will leave the relationship short of the marvelous heights to which trust can be restored when both partners are actively engaged in Rescuing Trust.

The truth is, at our core we want to trust! Yes, sometimes fear of being hurt again, or lingering feelings of resentment or neglect can form a wall of ice around our hearts and we might feel stuck and unable to trust. In our LIFE course on trust we talk about dozens of ways to shine a  warm light on your heart and that of your partner that will thaw and heal you, even as your brain relearns to trust and let go of the pain and resentment. While many people do experience overnight miracles, for most it is more of a process to build, or rebuild, lasting trust. But don’t worry, every step of the journey will hold joy as you remain true.

You and your partner were born to be trustworthy, you have that within you! As you grow in your ability to trust and be trusted, every part of your life will be positively impacted. Even your professional life and opportunities to advance in your work will increase; friendships will become more true and supportive; your emotional and physical health will improve, you will discover a deep and satisfying intimacy with your partner, and you will find peace in every aspect of life.

In our next post we will look at how our Thought-Behavior-Emotion cycles play a big role in damaging or restoring trust in our most important relationships.

Three Gifts to Give this Holiday Season

1. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness

Simply put, to forgive is to let go of the negativity caused to you by another person. It does not “let them off the hook” or give them a free pass to continue the negative behavior. However, it does relieve your burden of pain, anger, and resentment. What greater gift to give yourself than forgiveness.

2. Give your spouse the gift of empathy

Believe it or not, the bottom line in communication is that people want to be heard and understood. There is no deeper expression of understanding than to empathize with another person. There is also no more powerful way to strengthen your emotional connection. Nevertheless, we often withhold empathy because it can be scary to open one self up to the emotions felt by another. Don’t hold back. Find out what might be bothering your spouse. Discover his/her feelings, and then give the gift of empathy.

3. Give your relationship the gift of time

Relationships need quality time in order to maintain a strong and healthy connection. With so many obligations pulling us from one place to another, it is no wonder that we tend to spend the least amount of time with the people that matter most. Without dedicating an appropriate amount of time to one another, your sense of connection will be lost and your relationship will suffer. Instead of letting life run away with your marriage, give each other the gift of time. Your connection will strengthen and your love will deepen.

10 Things to Say to Your Husband When Marriage Feels Hard

Can you help me understand?

Asking for more understanding in a gentle way is much better than assuming he’s feeling a certain way or acting out because of something you did. Be genuine when you ask—make sure you’re asking because you truly want to know and not just because you know you should ask. Hopefully he’ll be able to sense your genuine intention and appreciate that you’re not assuming.


 You are worth it.

Make sure he knows how much he means to you, and that he’s worth every struggle you’re going through. Don’t let him give up on himself. You know how wonderful it feels to know that your spouse believes in you and that you’re valuable to him. Give him the gift of knowing that you think he’s worth not giving up on and that you’ll stick by his side.


I’m sorry for my part in the marriage being hard.

It’s easy to say or think your husband is the one in the wrong, but have you evaluated ways that you may have made mistakes? Can you think of ways that maybe you’ve been a hypocrite by doing things you’ve asked your husband not to do? Keep in mind your own imperfections and you’ll find your heart softening towards your husband. Take accountability for things you could’ve done better, and tell him.


I want to be a better wife to help our relationship.

Vocalize the fact that you do want to work on yourself  so that you can be happy together again. Perhaps he’s thinking that you’re giving up or that he’s the problem, and all he needs is to know that you want things to work and are willing to look at yourself. Expressing humility will give you power to change for the better and will show him that he has reason to be hopeful.


I love you because________.

Instead of just saying I love you, tell him why you love him. Give him specific examples of things he does or says that makes your heart swell with love and gratitude for him. Don’t worry if it’s something simple or small, like how he folds his clothes without being asked or how he gets up at the crack of dawn every day to go to work. Besides, it’s the small things that come to mean so much in the end.


I’m proud of you because________.

Give him examples of ways he’s made you proud, whether it’s through his job, being a father, or being there for you. It’s important for him to know that you’re focusing on things he’s done right and not just things he’s done wrong. Flatter his ego a little—if he knows he’s doing things that impress you and make you proud, he’ll want to keep doing those things.


What do you need from me right now?

Sincerely and kindly ask what you can do for him at this time. Be willing to listen and understand why he needs what he may need. It can be hard to give him what he needs, especially if you feel your own needs aren’t being met or you’re feeling hurt and alone. However, finding the strength to offer a part of yourself to fulfill some of his needs will ultimately strengthen your marriage.


I need you.

Express how much you need him in your life and how devastating it would be to not have him by your side. Sometimes simply saying I need you can break down walls and soften hearts. Not only does it open the door for honest communication, but it also makes you vulnerable, and vulnerability is a key component of strong relationships.


Let’s get away, just the two of us.

Bring some spontaneity back into your relationship by planning a quick getaway just for you two. Doing something spontaneous will help you remember how to have fun together. During hard times, it can be difficult to understand why you even got married in the first place. Planning a getaway with just the two of you can help you focus on each other and remind you of the qualities that drew you together in the first place.


I have your back.

Your husband needs to know you won’t throw him under the bus when you’re around other people. Make sure you defend him in situations, and tell him that you’ll always stand by him. By knowing that you have his back, he’ll feel more secure with himself and your relationship. It will help him know that you’re proud to be with him and that you’re partners—a team that takes on the world together even when times are tough.

Five Habits of Couples in Strong Relationships

With a seemingly high divorce rate in our world today, and friends or family whose marriages may be falling apart, it might be hard to believe that there are relationships out there that are good, strong, and healthy. Happy relationships and marriages do exist, but not without the hard work that’s put into them. By making a conscious, thoughtful effort to do the work every day, people in relationships can thrive and be happy. If you want to be one of those people, take into consideration these five habits:

  1. Spend quality time together.

 Quality time together is one of the key ingredients to a happy marriage or relationship. Notice that it’s quality time, not just time. Quality means more than quantity when it comes to spending time with your significant other. For instance, watching television together on the couch while looking at your phones doesn’t count as quality time together. Neither does eating together and not talking or interacting. Quality time is time spent doing things that will help you engage, communicate, and maintain a deep connection. Here are some examples of ways you can spend quality time together:

  • Cooking a meal you both love
  • Playing a fun game that gets you to think and talk
  • Going on a hike to a pretty destination
  • Working on a house renovating project
  • Taking an art class or a workout class
  1. Express appreciation and give compliments to one another every day.

 One of the worst things you can do in a relationship is assume your partner knows how much you appreciate him and what he does for you and your family. You must verbally express how much your partner means to you. Say, “I appreciate you and how hard you work to provide for the family,” or something similar to that. In addition to saying the words, it can mean even more if you show your appreciation, too. Here are some ways you can show your appreciation (in addition to expressing it):

  • Make a favorite meal or dessert
  • Do the laundry or clean the kitchen
  • Get a meaningful, thoughtful gift
  • Plan a fun date night
  • Offer a massage or a nice shoulder rub


It’s also important to give each other sincere compliments (ones you really mean) about a cute outfit, a personality trait, or a cute quirk. Think about it—when you receive a genuine compliment from someone, doesn’t it boost your confidence and make you feel better about yourself? Why wouldn’t you want to make your spouse to feel that way? A little compliment can go a long way.

3. Focus more on what is done right than what is done wrong.

 Everyone makes mistakes. Does the one wrong thing discount everything right your partner has done? Granted, sometimes those “mistakes” are bad choices a person knowingly makes, like infidelity or constant relapsing of an addiction. When something extremely hurtful has been done to you, can be difficult to work out the betrayal, forgive and move on, but it is possible, if you really want it. Remembering all the good things your significant other has done in the span of your relationship can help dissolve some of the anger and hurt. It can help you see if you truly want to salvage the relationship.

 In the case of everyday things your partner does that you may consider to be “wrong,” like not loading the dishes or leaving clothes scattered everywhere, take a deep breath and stop seeing the negative. It’s so easy to get irritated when you feel like you’re free of faults and your partner isn’t. Remember that you’re not perfect either and that your spouse does so many good things. Do your best to always accentuate the positive.

     4. Make an effort to be physically affectionate throughout the day.

 It’s interesting how for some couples, the longer they’ve been married, the less they touch—hold hands, rub a back, kiss. The things that came so easily when you were dating may seem kind of awkward and uncomfortable now. If that’s the case for you, take it one small step at a time. Try to do one small physical gesture of love a day, whether it’s a quick peck on the lips, a shoulder squeeze, or an arm rub. The more often you do it, the easier it will get and the more it will become second nature.

If you already do these things, keep up the good work! See if you can do even more, like kissing and hugging each other before work in the morning. Hold hands when you’re sitting on the couch, or even just squeeze his shoulder when you’re passing each other in the hall. Also, make sex a priority. Talk to your partner about how often you both want it and what you’re both willing to do to make it a better experience for both of you.


  1. Try new things together and cultivate common interests.

 Remember that exciting feeling you got when you were first dating and about to go on a fun date? You can get that feeling back by trying new things together. Not only will it bring back those feelings of excitement, but it will also help you discover some new interests that you both like doing together. That way, when you’re bored and both wanting to do something fun, you’ll have common interests to lean back on. Here are some activity ideas:

  • Go on a scary rollercoaster together
  • Go mountain biking
  • Go to a classical music concert
  • Go river rafting
  • Go figure skating

 The key is to figure out what you both love to do together and to find ways to start new hobbies together. This doesn’t mean you need to do everything together all the time. In fact, it’s important to spend time apart doing things that you enjoy on your own time. It’s just critical to remember that if you want to keep growing together in the right direction, you need to find new, fun things to do together to liven up your relationship.


How to Keep Resentment From Ruining Your Relationship (Part 2)

  1. Be Empathetic

Even though resentment is a human emotion, that doesn’t make it a healthy one. Never berate yourself for feeling a flash of resentment, but recognize it as a signal that there is some work to be done. That might include finding forgiveness for your partner, even when you think they might not deserve it.

When all you see is your side of things, it’s much easier to get riled up and angry every time you think of an issue that’s bothering you. To keep this from happening, try putting yourself in his shoes. See things from his perspective and be understanding. Using our example from the previous post, getting up early to go to work isn’t always easy and maybe that’s why he has a hard time getting the baby in the middle of the night.

 The more compassion and empathy you have for your spouse, the easier it will be to let the resentment subside and to talk things out in a loving and understanding manner. You’ll be surprised at how much your heart and attitude can soften if you truly put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. The next time you’re having a moment of irritation and anger, pause for a second and try to see things from his perspective. It might alleviate all the tension you’re feeling, but it will definitely help to bring your frustration down a few notches. 

  1. Realize that You’re Not Perfect Either

 Take a good, long look at yourself and acknowledge that you have weaknesses too. Is it possible that you may be doing something that your spouse doesn’t like or is resentful about?

 You need to take responsibility for your imperfections and for the role you might play in certain marital issues. Knowing that you wouldn’t want your spouse to rub your mistakes in your face will make you think twice about lashing out at your spouse for something he did or didn’t do. As you are accountable for your part, your partner will feel safer to take their own responsibility as well. 

  1. Practice Being Vulnerable

 One of the reasons it’s so hard to communicate your feelings of anger and bitterness in a moment when your spouse is doing something that’s really bugging you is that expressing means being vulnerable. Communicating your feelings means admitting you’re not perfect and that you need something from your spouse.

It can sometimes make you feel weak and helpless to admit unpleasant emotions, but the irony is that strength comes from being vulnerable. How? You’re admitting you need your spouse’s help, companionship, and teamwork. Once you ask for help, you’ll more than likely receive it, and when you have your spouse’s hands and heart alongside yours, you’re that much stronger.

It’s also important to note that regularly scheduling a meeting between you and your spouse is a key tool for preventing resentment from growing. Making time each day or week to sit down and talk will help you to consistently address the important issues currently happening in your relationship. Schedule this meeting on the same day and at the same time every week so that it becomes a permanent part of your life. It should become so second nature that if you didn’t do it, it would feel like not eating breakfast that day. Regularly communicating with your spouse about important issues is an integral part of thriving relationships.


How to Keep Resentment from Ruining Your Relationship (Part 1)

What does it mean to resent someone? Here are some synonyms of resent to give you a better understanding: feel bitter about, be annoyed at, take offense at, harbor a grudge about. It’s probably not hard to think of the last time you felt resentful about something. 

You’re not a bad person for feeling resentful but it’s definitely not a pleasant feeling, and it’s one you want to avoid, especially when it comes to your marriage. Resentment has a way of starting out as a small crack in your composure and ending up as a full-blown crevice that separates you and your spouse. If you want to keep this resentment rift from forming, follow these tips:

1. Express Yourself

Resentment is often a result of you feeling mad about something your spouse did or didn’t do and keeping the feeling bottled up inside. As your anger and bitterness start to fester and grow, you get to that breaking point that, once you snap, always comes out explosive. To keep yourself from becoming a loose cannon, you need to communicate your feelings, in a considerate and respectful way, when you feel them—not two days later.

Learning how to express yourself in a productive, kind manner is one of the simplest and most effective ways of mitigating resentment. If it’s so simple, then why is it so hard, you may ask? Communicating, in theory, should be easy because all you’re doing is talking to someone.

The physical act of talking is the easy part. What makes expressing yourself so hard is that so many emotions are involved, like fear of hurting your spouse’s feelings, anger at being hurt yourself, or irritation at your spouse’s obliviousness. When you have so many not-so-pleasant emotions coursing through your veins, it’s difficult to talk to your spouse in a caring and compassionate way.

That’s why you should take some time to cool off first. Don’t let your temper get the better of you. Take 10, 20, or 30 minutes to just calm your heart rate down and get your mind clear. Use that time to consider what your accountability might be in the hurtful incident, and recognize that you probably don’t really understand your partner’s perspective of the situation. Once you feel more open and under control, prepare some phrases that will help you get your feelings out in patient, safe ways. You might not get it right every time, but the more you practice expressing yourself in a productive way, the better you’ll get at it and the better results you’ll see.

2. Set Boundaries

Let’s take a look at a few examples that might leave you feeling resentful:

• You’re the one who gets the baby every time he wakes up during the night and in the morning
• Your spouse hardly ever helps clean up after dinner
• You see your spouse giving more affection to your kids than you
• You end up being the one filling up the gas tank every time
• You cook and clean every day without receiving appreciation in return

The problem with each of these examples is that you’re probably not telling your spouse that there is a problem and that you’re feeling frustrated. Recognizing that your partner might have a different perspective than you is the first step. Expressing to your spouse that you’re unhappy with a situation is much healthier when they know you are open to their side of the story, so be prepared to listen to their perspective. Once you do share your feelings and viewpoints with one another you will both be better prepared to share the responsibility and determine what is going to work best for both you.

This is where setting boundaries comes in. Learning how to set a boundary is a topic that requires its own article, but here’s the short of it: Set ground rules that that will protect you and your spouse from resentment. For example, if your spouse has to get up early for work, you get the baby when he cries in the middle of the night and your spouse gets him when he wakes up in the morning.

You could also trade off nights getting the baby or have your spouse put the baby to bed each night and you get the baby each morning. You could have your spouse take more responsibility on the weekends while you take more responsibility during the week. Whatever you decide on, make sure you’re both happy with the boundary, not just one of you, and make sure you both get time to rest.

In our next post we will take you even more deeply into dealing with resentment in healthy ways.

Is Forgiveness Synonymous With Trust?

Is Forgiveness Synonymous with Trust?

When someone you love or care about has deeply hurt you, it can be a complicated process restoring everything you once had back to what it used to be. Contrary to what many people think, complete reconciliation doesn’t come with these three words: I forgive you. Forgiveness is but a step in the process of restoring a relationship that has been broken by betrayal. Forgiving someone does not mean you immediately need to completely trust him or forget what happened. Here’s a more in-depth look at the differences between trust and forgiveness:

Forgiveness and Trust Are NOT One and the Same

Simply put, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It sets you free from the bitterness and hurt you’re feeling inside. All the pain you keep in your heart that almost feels tangible will be lifted and will evaporate once you decide to forgive.  

Forgiveness is a solo endeavor. It’s something you have to work through independent of the other party. For instance, you can forgive someone who you may never see again or someone who has passed away. While a genuine apology can make forgiveness easier, your choice to forgive should not be predicated on what the other person does or does not do.

Trust is not the same as forgiveness. Trust requires consistent trustworthy action in order for trust  to be restored. While forgiveness is a part of that rebuilding process, granting forgiveness does not mean you’re granting trust, too.

If you’re the person who broke the trust, you may think that once you’ve been forgiven, things can go back to the way they were. This is not true and you should not expect this, as doing so will prolong the reconciliation process. The person who chooses to forgive you gets to set boundaries and then decide when to grant trust based on your consequent actions and if you prove you’re trustworthy.

Forgiveness is Given Freely While Trust Has to Be Earned

When you decide to forgive, you’re not letting the offender off the hook. You’re not all of a sudden alleviating the person of his accountability and responsibility toward the situation. Once again, forgiveness is for YOU, not the other person. It shouldn’t even be based on the other person’s actions. You can still choose to forgive even if the person who hurt you is not remorseful or does not want to change.

However, if you’re offering forgiveness and want to reconcile (and therefore offer trust) as the next step, you should expect the other person to show that he’s worthy of trust and reconciliation. Forgiving shouldn’t change anything when it comes to the behavior you now expect from the offender. It’s just as important for the forgiver to understand this as for the person you’re forgiving, so that more misunderstandings (like the offender thinking he doesn’t need to follow boundaries because he’s been forgiven) don’t take place.

Reconciling with someone, which is completely separate from forgiving someone, is a much more complicated and grueling process. Why? It requires participation and a willingness to change on the part of the offender. Earning trust moves beyond forgiveness. It’s an interpersonal process—a joint venture that requires the offender to apologize, to show he’s sorry, and to offer hope that there can be a future for both of you again. Sometimes, however, trust and reconciliation aren’t possible. If the two of you can’t find a way to work through the hurt and betrayal and simply can’t get along, you may have to accept that reconciliation won’t happen. But remember that forgiveness is always, always possible.

Forgiveness and Trust Are Both Processes that Take Time

Forgiveness is an internal and unilateral process that will be successful as you seek to do the following:

  • Gain a clear understanding of what happened
  • Seek to understand the perspective of the other person
  • Be open to the possibility of shared accountability for the painful incident
  • Work through the hurt and anger
  • Learn how to feel safe again
  • Let go of the grudge and let the memory heal
  • Be willing to remember the past with compassion and hope instead of with a sense of injustice

This is not always an easy process, and the timeline for forgiveness can vary. It helps to remember that forgiveness is not generally an event that happens at one time, in one place, or in one moment. Forgiveness is a process, which means you shouldn’t be hard on yourself if you can’t forgive someone right away, even if you want to.

One key to remember: A willingness to forgive is enough in the beginning. Cultivate that willingness and desire and forgiveness will come.

Once again, forgiveness should not be based on the offender’s actions but on your own attitude and your willingness to see that forgiveness will set you free. Holding onto the grudge isn’t punishing the offender, even though it may feel like being mad at him is a sort of revenge. “Getting back” at someone by refusing to forgive does nothing to set things right. It only makes life harder for you.

While forgiveness should be offered freely, trust might be offered at a more measured pace. Rebuilding trust, which is a part of the reconciliation process, takes the two of you. You need to talk about what happened, listen to one another’s perspectives, express your feelings, be willing to commit to find trust and trustworthiness again. It’s a process that can take some time, but that time can be filled with joy and learning. You can still love one-another and find mutual support and connection together. And even though trust has been violated in one area does not mean you can’t find other areas where trust remains strong. Celebrate those things even as you work on restoring the other.

Never withhold trust inapporpriately. Recognize the growth of your partner, don’t hold them in their smallness. Seek to trust sooner rather than later. Show that you’ve truly forgiven him by not throwing what happened back in his face every time you’re feeling hurt. You need to let yourself create a new way of remembering what happened—a way that allows you to change the memory of the past into a hope for the future that has both of you in it.

Here is the true payoff: Research by Doctor Robert Enright shows that as we find forgiveness for our partner (and they for us) true love and care grows stronger than it was before the offense occurred. This is how we refine ourselves and our marriages into gold.



What Is and Isn’t Appropriate When it Comes to Opposite Sex Relationships Outside of Your Marriage (Part 2)

Situations and Circumstances You Need to Be Careful With

While this article is meant to be a guideline for you and your spouse, you both will have to decide what you’re okay with and what you’re not okay with. Maybe you’re both okay with certain things that other couples wouldn’t be, and that’s for you two decide together. However, there are some situations you should talk about even if they never happen—it’s always better to be safe than sorry. A few examples might include:

• Hiring a personal trainer of the opposite sex
• Having a business partner of the opposite sex
• Carpooling alone with the opposite sex

Any situation that would involve your spouse spending a significant amount of time alone with a person of the opposite sex is a situation to be wary about. Yes, it’s important to trust your partner and for him to trust you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful and protect your marriage. Being too loose or comfortable with things like this in a marriage can often lead to betrayal and destroyed trust.

What To Do When Boundaries Are Crossed

If you find yourself developing feelings for a “friend” of the opposite sex, you better have some boundaries put in place for yourself, like cutting off the friendship, confiding in your spouse about the friendship, and preventing something like this from happening in the future. The sooner you stop things from progressing further, the better off all parties involved will be. As always, if you feel the need to hide what’s going on, it shouldn’t be happening, end of story.

If you have nagging feelings that your spouse might be involved in an inappropriate friendship, bring your feelings out into the open. Talk to your spouse in a way that makes him feel safe enough to be honest about it. Even if a boundary has been crossed, don’t give up on your marriage or lose hope that all is lost and your marriage is over. Start talking about what led you two apart and why this happened in the first place. If the both of you still want to make things work, there’s always hope to reconnect and rekindle your marriage. LIFE Marriage Retreats can help you have those important conversations in a place of safety and healing.


What Is and Isn’t Appropriate When it Comes to Opposite Sex Relationships Outside of Your Marriage (Part 1)

Imagine you just got married and you and your spouse are happily starting out your life together. However, you notice your spouse is still communicating with a close friend of the opposite gender that he had before you were married. While you know nothing is going on, you can’t help but feel ill at ease. It makes you a little anxious and you realize you’re not comfortable with it. Why is that? Read on to find out how harmful such outside relationships can be:

Close Friendships Are Not Appropriate

 In any close friendship, you share thoughts, hopes, feelings, and emotions with that person. There is an old saying that says “Don’t water the neighbor’s grass, use it on your own to make it green.” Most people who have engaged in an inappropriate emotional relationship with a member of the opposite sex confess that they confide more of themselves to that other person than to their spouse. In almost every case, had they shared more of themselves with their partner, the marriage would have been strengthened and improved. Instead, it is left to wither, leading to a cycle of feeling unfulfilled in the marriage which leads to engaging inappropriately with a member of the opposite sex, which leads to the marriage feeling even more negative, and on and on.

Engaging in intimate emotional interaction with someone of the opposite sex brings the risk developing romantic feelings for him or her. Sharing emotions with someone other than your spouse is not only dangerous, as it can lead to sexual infidelity it is extremely hurtful for your spouse who deserves to be the one you’re confiding in. A couple should realize that it is their well nurtured emotional connection that plays a powerful role in creating a warm and satisfying physical connection. It is easy for a partner to get confused, feeling that they have a connection with a person outside of the marriage in which they feel understood and accepted. They don’t consider that such a relationship does not have to deal with financial issues, parenting problems, tensions with in-laws and other distractions that are common in a committed marriage relationship, and that if they take the time to share and problem solve with their spouse, the relationship will grow into something that is unattainable outside of the marriage.

Having a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex is not worth the risk. Even if you’re not attracted to the person or you think you’re strong enough to never let anything happen, don’t put yourself at risk. Most affairs, emotional and physical, start out with two people who were “just friends” that, when confiding in each other about personal things, grew to care more for each other than was appropriate. And what’s the natural next step when you develop feelings for someone? Physical affection.

 Co-Worker Relationships Are Appropriate Within Reason

Obviously you’re going to have to work with members of the opposite sex when you’re at work and that’s completely normal and fine. However, you still need to set boundaries. Do you need to have a business “meeting” at dinner that night with just the two of you? No. Should you work on a project outside of work or after hours just you two? No. It may seem extreme to not allow such interactions, but completely avoiding the situation keeps you from putting yourself in compromising situations.

Be self-aware. Do you find yourself subtly flirting with a co-worker? While it may feel harmless, it’s dangerous all the same. Subtle flirtations can lead to emotional connections, and that’s when your red flags should go up. Think about it: When you start liking someone and begin to date, it always starts out with fun flirtations that, if reciprocated, attract you to that person. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t still feel attraction—that’s exactly why having these other relationships can be dangerous.

Sometimes situations with the opposite sex arise that are out of your control. Just state your boundaries to whoever you might be in this uncomfortable situation with and make sure you’re transparent with your spouse. When everything is in the open, you won’t risk wanting to hide a relationship. (continued in Part 2)

How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Marriage (Part 2)

3. Use “If…Then” Statements to Create Them

 So what does a boundary look like and how do you create one? Here’s an example:

  • If my spouse starts to lose his temper and begins to lash out, then I will, verbalizing a time-out, leave his presence and choose not to engage until he cools down.
  • If my spouse does not divulge a relapse in a sexually addictive behavior, then he must sleep on the couch that night.
  • If I feel anxious or worried or intuitive that something is amiss and my spouse is hiding a bad habit (alcoholism, pornography, etc.), then I have the right to confront my spouse about these feelings.

The “if” part indicates what the boundary is or surrounds—not allowing yourself to be around an explosively angry spouse; the “then” part indicates what will happen when that boundary is crossed. The next section discusses these “then” statements (which are also often referred to as consequences) in a little more detail. If you’re still feeling confused and uncertain about how to set boundaries and what a healthy boundary looks like, you’re not alone. Learning how to set boundaries that are effective and good and true is not easy—it takes time, trial, and error, but you will eventually get it right if you keep trying.

 4. Design Appropriate “Consequences” and Follow Through

 It’s important that you create consequences (the “then” part of a boundary statement) along with the boundaries so that if a boundary is crossed, whoever the offender is will know that it’s not okay and that it won’t go unnoticed. Creating appropriate and effective consequences is essential, but not always easy, as it should NOT be a way to punish your spouse, but should be a way of keeping you safe, secure, and at peace. Here are some tips for creating effective consequences:

  • Don’t create them when you’re feeling angry and impulsive
  • Make it realistic and related to the action
  • It should be appropriately severe for the situation
  • It should be something you can enforce every time it happens, because if you don’t, the behavior will continue
  • It should be immediate as possible
  • It should be respectful

Following through with the consequence when a boundary is crossed is absolutely essential. When you enforce the consequence, it not only keeps you from getting hurt over and over, it helps the person who hurt you to come to a self-awareness of his actions over time. Whether he chooses to change based on this self-awareness is up to him, but at least these consequences will help bring clarity to the situation.

 5. Read Books to Learn More About How to Set Boundaries

 Learning how to create, set, and follow through with boundaries and consequences is not easy for those who’ve never done it. Sometimes it’s not even easy for those who have done it before! That’s why continually researching through books, articles, and respected friends and colleagues is critical if you want to establish boundaries that will work in helping you feel safe and protected. As always, practice makes perfect, even when it comes to boundaries.

One example of an excellent book about boundaries is What Can I Do About Me? by Rhyll Croshaw. In this book, the author narrates how she went from being a happily married newlywed to a devastated and crushed wife when she discovered her husband had a sex addiction and had been soliciting prostitutes. She then goes on to explain how setting boundaries and seeking outside help and counseling eventually led to her marriage being saved. It’s a very realistic, yet hopeful book about how, if both partners are willing, a marriage can be saved despite its darkest moments.