Great marriages are the result of a rock-solid commitment.
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Great marriages don’t happen by accident.
Once the honeymoon is over, marriage can become more challenging. Past hurts, disappointments, and a difficult family history can exasperate marital conflicts.
In my first year of marriage, I faced a painful decision. It tested the strength of my commitment to faithfulness and transparency in my marriage.
It’s a rather personal story…
Questions I didn’t want to ask
Dangerous questions filled my thoughts: I don’t really have to tell him about this, do I? This really isn’t a problem. Is it?
The August sun briefly blinded me as it bounced from a misaligned mirror on the car in front of us.
What if he won’t let me take this class? I really want to take this class….
A teacher I’d grown to esteem invited me to register for his class: “How Values are Communicated Through Literature.” It sounded fascinating.
Maybe I was over-analyzing—making a big deal out of nothing….
Yet, I was acutely aware of a commitment I had made to my husband before we married.
Be open and honest, even when it’s hard.
When we first started dating, I asked Roger what he needed from me most of all. His answer? “I need you to be open and honest with me.”
“No problem,” I replied.
“It won’t be as easy as it sounds,” he gently warned.
He was right. It wasn’t. Today, it was hard.
Sweat from my bare legs dampened the cloth car seat. My heart battered my rib cage. Yet I resolved to be faithful to my commitment.
“I need your advice,” I said quietly. “I don’t think there’s a problem, but I registered for a class, and now I’m wondering whether I should take it.
“The very thing that makes the class attractive also causes me to question it: I’ll receive lots of one-on-one attention from the teacher.”
Roger braked softly as the traffic light turned red.
“I really like this teacher,” I confessed wistfully. “I respect him. He challenges and inspires me to do my best….
“But I’m a little concerned because…well, I seem to be thinking about him an awful lot lately….”
A siren sounded in the distance.
“My response to him is strictly platonic, intellectual,” I quickly added.
“But protecting our marriage is my first priority. Given the stakes, I don’t want to take any chances.
“So I thought it would be good to ask for your opinion. What do you think I should do?”
Listen to Three Voices
Roger paused thoughtfully before answering.
Then he explained that I should pay close attention to three “voices”:
- the voice of my physical/emotional response
- the voice of my thoughts
- and the voice of the Holy Spirit.”
Being honest with myself about my physical/emotional response, I had to admit that when I talked with this professor, my palms sweat and my pulse quickened.
Probably not a good sign.
Regarding the second voice, I proudly acknowledged that my thoughts were chaste.
But then I remembered: “Pride comes before the fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
Lastly, with great sadness, I realized that the third voice seemed to be warning me to: “GET OUT!”
Two of three voices told me I was headed for trouble.
What should I do?
I am thankful that I married a man who values liberty. He does not try to control me.
Throughout our marriage, he has steadily refused to make my decisions for me. Instead, he offers his best counsel and leaves it to me to decide.
So, even as I shared what I thought I’d heard each voice say, I knew I was free to take the class.
What I would miss if I dropped the class…
This professor had a passion for teaching, a passion for writing, and a passion for life.
He had a extraordinary way of painlessly exposing my weaknesses and magnifying my strengths.
I thrived under his instruction.
During the previous semester, I’d gotten into a habit of staying after class to discuss my writing with him. Occasionally, at his invitation, I’d called his home to ask specific questions about my assignments.
I’d even interviewed him for my final class project.
In the intimacy of the interview, I learned a great deal about his personal life. I appreciated his insight and integrity.
Giving up the class would mean losing a great learning opportunity.
But, then again, taking the class might teach me more than I wanted to know.
Making the Hard Choice
If I dropped the class, I wondered what I would say to this professor?
When he first described the class, I had told him how excited I was to take it. And we had talked about it in great detail the day I had registered.
It felt awkward.
Although I was reluctant to admit it, I knew what I needed to do.
I withdrew from the class the following day.
First a storm, then peace
Over the course of the next three days, I experienced an emotional chaos that took me by surprise.
I felt depressed, irritated, rageful, weepy!
Healthy Boundaries Protect
In hindsight, I realize that I could’ve spared myself some anguish, perhaps even been able to take the class, had I maintained certain boundaries:
- If I had avoided spending extended time alone with the teacher (whether in person or on the phone)
- If I had kept our discussions centered on coursework
- If I had not depended exclusively upon this teacher for encouragement and instruction.
To his credit, the teacher had referred me to female teachers on staff at the college for additional mentoring. I should have pursued them.
But I didn’t understand that at the time.
Sometimes, You simply need to flee
It’s true that some attractions may be inevitable. Some relationships develop a dangerous chemistry through no fault of either party.
If that occurs, what happens next is up to the integrity of the individuals involved.
Today, I am grateful for my decision to drop the class. I did find other mentors and learned those things the course would have taught me.
I still have high regard for the teacher, but, thankfully, my highest regard is reserved for something I can’t get anywhere else—the prevailing purity of my marriage.
Great marriages don’t happen by accident. Learn five practices that can strengthen your relationship and help you protect your marriage.
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