What are we really protecting our marriages from?
Marriage is sacred, and there are many things than can work against those of us who are trying to stay faithful and committed to our vows. We learned in primacy that we have to focus on our unity as a couple. The idea that we have to guard our marriages, protect it, may seem abstract at first, but now we’ll look at it more closely.
St. Paul in Ephesians 6: 10 – 17 calls us to be on guard.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Our Catholic faith helps us to recognize that we must protect our marriage from sin. Sin can manifest itself in many ways. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect and sinless to have a strong marriage. What it does mean is that we have to recognize what can damage our relationship and how we can avoid the major pitfalls. We focus on three major areas: abuse, addiction and infidelity.
Addiction can happen to anyone. It’s a myth that addiction only involves alcohol. One can get addicted to any media, pornography; video gaming, on-line gaming, social networking, or substance like food, and gambling. Once an addiction has developed it rarely gets solved on its own and professional help should be sought out.
Not all addicts are easy to identify. In most cases there are warning signs. Behaviour changes, such as depression, the need of alcohol or drugs, unusual amount of time spent on computer, or excess time with video games. Being anxious about being away from the computer, alcohol, or video games are all warning signs.
We also need to protect ourselves from abuse. Abuse is not always physical. Physical abuse entails physical harm being done to another person, property or animal. Verbal and emotional abuse is more difficult to identify. Examples are, name calling, withholding, blaming, criticizing, minimizing, ordering, and threatening, extreme jealousy or obsessiveness. In any case, abuse is about power and control.
We are also to protect our marriages from infidelity. There are two types of infidelity, sexual and emotional infidelity. Sexual infidelity involves the crossing of a physical boundary, obviously occurs when one of the spouses engages in physical act with someone other than their spouse. However, it also includes all the physical touch that occurs leading up to that actual act, and even includes sexting and pornography. Even if the two don’t actually meet or touch, the nature of the infidelity is still sexual.
Emotional infidelity can be more damaging than sexual infidelity. Acting on a momentary temptation takes less thought and points to a momentary weakness. However, emotional infidelity is more devious, and involves a connection, motive and conscious effort. This also takes on different forms, which include engaging in intimate conversations with someone of the opposite sex, or someone you are attracted to, could occur on-line via social media, chat rooms, cell phones, texting, or a ‘friendship’ with someone where an emotional connection is being built, or any relationship you are keeping secret from your spouse.
It is a common myth to believe that you can have a ‘friendship’ with someone of the opposite sex and keep it appropriate. Once ‘familiarity’ is apparent, you feel comfortable enough to share personal and intimate details of your life with this ‘friend. ’ The lines are blurred and boundaries are easily crossed. This leads to flirting and sexual advances, and eventually a full affair. Emotional infidelity is harmful to trust, intimacy, future dreams, security for children, and the marital relationship. This type of infidelity is more difficult to detect. It can be a long standing friendship, or occur with a co-worker, and it may have developed naturally and under the radar of the spouse. Many times you are relying on an instinct, communication and trust. Trust your spouse when they share their discomfort with a relationship you have with someone else. That relationship needs to be cut off, the sooner the better.
Infidelity, whether it be sexual or emotional, often begins with a person who has unmet needs. This is not meant to justify or condone infidelity, but rather to understand some dynamics which predispose people to giving in to the temptation.
Couples need to talk about the boundaries they are comfortable with before problems arise. Be honest with your partner at all times. If you have a friendship you keep from your spouse, instead of justifying your reasons, remember, Christ brings all things to light. He does not allow things to remain in the dark. The good news is couples have been able to heal, forgive and reconcile even after infidelity occurs.
Some individuals don’t understand the effects of pornography on the marriage relationship. Pornography treats a person as an object for pleasure. It’s degrading and causes feelings of betrayal and loneliness. Pornography robs the relationship of intimacy and sets unrealistic expectations on the spouse.
Our faith provides an opportunity for us to start anew when we battle sin. Frequent reconciliation is certainly recommended. Anything kept in secret will only fester and become worse. Talking to someone about it and having an accountability partner will be helpful in getting a handle on it, since it can be become an addiction. Other suggestions are to move the computer to a location that everyone can see, identify your triggers and set limits, and exercise if tempted.
If you or your spouse is struggling with any type of addiction or issues of infidelity below are some resources that can be helpful.
Next we will see how Prayer can help us protect our marriages.