What Are You Doing to Protect Your Marriage?

The lead story in the news a little more than a year ago was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infidelity. Apparently, he has fathered at least one child out-of-wedlock. There are likely more.

An Isolated Apple Hanging on a Tree - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/dsteller, Image #299929

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/dsteller

To be honest, this whole thing made me angry, especially when I consider the impact this had on his wife and children. He is also one more negative example for our own children and grandchildren.

After hearing about this story, my wife Gail asked, “How does someone like Schwarzenegger engage in this behavior?” Great question. Off the top of my head, I offered this:

  • He had numerous opportunities.
  • He evidently thinks he is special—and entitled.
  • He is using his blood supply to power an organ other than his brain at the moment-of-temptation. (Yes, I really did say that.)

However, I don’t intend for this post to be a rant against Gov. Schwarzenegger. I am not his judge. He will give an account of his choices—as I will mine.

But I want to go on the record and say this: Adultery is not normal. It certainly isn’t inevitable. It is not the way God created us. We were made for monogamy and fidelity.

When we are loyal, we reflect the faithfulness of our Creator. When we are disloyal, we reflect the betrayal of both Satan and Adam. It is no wonder that the Bible often speaks of sin as “spiritual adultery.” Betrayal is the original sin.

However, we live in a fallen world—one that is increasingly indifferent to sexual sin. If we want to live and lead with intention, we can’t be naive. We must recognize the temptation adultery poses and protect ourselves accordingly. Nothing will destroy our influence and legacy faster than an affair.

If we are going to avoid becoming casualties, we must have a strategy. Here are three actions I take in order to protect my marriage:

  1. I invest in my relationship with Gail. It is amazing to me that so many men are willing to invest such enormous spiritual, emotional, and financial resources in relationships other than the one they have. This doesn’t make economic sense. If you want your marriage to grow and flourish, you must invest in it. This means investing time—dreaming, laughing, listening, and crying together.
  2. I set specific boundaries. This may sound old-fashioned, perhaps even legalistic. So be it. I think our world could use a little old-fashioned common sense. Therefore:
    • I will not go out to eat alone with someone of the opposite sex.
    • I will not travel alone with someone of the opposite sex.
    • I will not flirt with someone of the opposite sex.
    • I will speak often and lovingly of my wife. (This is the best adultery repellant known to man.)
  3. I consider what is at stake. What story do I want my grandchildren to tell? This puts it all in perspective for me. Do I want them to be proud of my life’s story or embarrassed? Do I want to be remembered as a person who loves his wife and is faithful to her? Or do I want to be the one who squandered his legacy in a moment of indiscretion?

It is time for real leaders to lead—not only in their professional lives but in their personal ones as well. If we can’t lead ourselves, we are not qualified to lead others. Character matters. We must take responsibility for our own actions. Our grandchildren are counting on it.

Question: What are you doing to protect your marriage? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.johnrmeese.com/p/about-me.html John Meese

    Still a great post, though not the first time I’ve read this. As my fiancé and I prepare for marriage, I’m grateful that we can have these conversations about boundaries now, in advance, to set ourselves up for success later on.

  • Dan Ryan

    Wonderful post-I agree with all of what you have suggested and have used many of these in the past-also, when one of the edicts you mention is violated I know what the temptation feels like

  • Daffney

    My first husband left me after 2 yrs after I found evidence of an affair in my car and confronted him. I couldn’t believe my ears when at his parent’s later his dad asked me, “Was he with another woman?” and when I said, “Yes.” he replied, “Oh, every man does it. It’s normal. You have to be not so religious.” Had I known how screwed up this family was I could have saved myself years of grief.

    Temptation can come easily, so it’s important to have a firm grip on values. A pastor I know had a similar affair-proofing list and added–never hug a woman with a full frontal hug–only a side hug. Once I went for prayer in an anointing room where 2 pastors were praying over who came. The pastor that prayed with with one hand on my shoulder. The mis-guided married youth pastor next to me, though, had a young single woman in a full frontal embrace the entire time he prayed for her–not a good strategy!

  • Jean

    This is kinda crude, but effective; a quote from comedian Jay Leno: “You’re cute, but you’re not worth half my stuff!”

    • Daniel Sparks

      I LOVE that!

  • Daniel Sparks

    Your should consider revising bullet point “I will not flirt with someone of the opposite sex.” to “I will not flirt with anyone who is not my wife” or “I will not flirt with anyone.” I love and respect you as a long-distance mentor, but I’m snarky at heart, so I stumbled over this point a little. I would hate for someone to use this as fodder to make fun of you. :-)

  • DadOutOfOptions

    I just stay out of shape, this way I haven’t the confidence to cheat on her! Haha, but in all seriousness, I want a solid relationship, but I have been tempted numerous times to wander off to someone else. I am very unhappy in our relationship, and yes she knows this. We married on a whim (not even knowing each other more than a month), and turns out we do not get along very well. We’ve struggled for five years now, with frequent arguments that have led to police being called numerous times (I call them when she gets up in my face and gets physical with me), me having to stay at a local hotel for weeks, because I don’t want our daughter to hear us arguing so I choose to leave (about a total of 5 weeks this year), etc, etc… It’s terrible. I’m back in a hotel this week actually, and I’m ready to end the marriage, but my heart aches at the thought of splitting up my family; this is the last thing I want for us; However, at this point I must do what is best for our Daughter, and sadly I believe that means divorce in this case.

  • Mark

    And, be pro active. Find a Marriage Encounter weekend, agme.org, or other resources. Take the time, use the time, enjoy your time. You said it, “Invest”.

  • David Lucas

    I am disappointed that my comments have been removed as they were on topic and not offensive – just a reasoned arguement.

  • Katie Graham

    No tv in bedroom & limited viewing of tv in the living room. We play cards nightly & talk. Married for 13 years now, marriage counseling for the whole year of 11-12. It’s amazing how even the most seemingly faithful can falter when life gets too busy & time is not fully given where it should be. The only thing I would add to the above list a good filter/accountability program on all media devices that all use in & out of the home. We need to protect our eyes in so many more ways these days.
    Excellent post. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://chrishinkley.net/ Chris Hinkley

    Great post. At a teacher I work with mostly women. I have these same rules. Although the thought it strange at first, they have come to respect them.

    I have also always had difficulty understanding those who get themselves in these situations for the simple idea of trust. How can one trust someone who is willing to participate in breaking the trust of another.

    Thanks for being willing to say it like it is.

  • Charles Johnston

    Great post Michael, as a man it can be challenging as many are weak in this area. If we live by the philosophy that the grass is greenest where is it watered, and if they will cheat with you they will cheat on you. Once I married my wife I gave my life to her and everyday I am thankful for that opportunity. If we align ourselves with like minded people and spend our time with other couples who share the same faithful values the temptations are not as great and are a lot easier to ignore.

  • AidaAida

    Michael – Thank you. The investment portion is crucial. I learned it too late. While our children are important, the spouses and they investment is even more so….because there are children. There is more to lose. The next time around I will focus on the relationship and keeping God close.

  • Gregory Blake


    I agree wholeheartedly with your objective to safeguard your marriage, but I want to prompt readers to think about the unintended consequences of the “never alone” rules. Knowing yourself, if that is what you need, good on you. But it needs to be pointed out that promoting these rules may be limiting career opportunities for our daughters.

    The awkwardness of male-female friendships has been implicated in perpetuating the “glass ceiling” for women. While it is common for a young male employee to be mentored by the “old boys club,” many male senior executives are reluctant to offer the same opportunity to members of the opposite sex for the reason of appearances. It isn’t the same going to lunch or for beers with a member of the opposite sex. And that is sad, especially given the implications for advancement. e.g. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2009-08-04-female-executives-male-mentors_N.htm

    Just food for thought.



  • Daniel Root

    Great post, Michael. I’m honestly disillusioned with politics largely because of “leaders” like Arnold. Perhaps to a fault – it’s bred a cynicism in me that is difficult to separate from discernment.

  • Kandace

    I didn’t protect my marriage and neither did the pastor I committed adultery with. I appreciate your preventative passion to help others avoid this sin. It really does go deep into family destruction and the consequences are vast.

    With that, if you are someone who has committed adultery, it’s not the unforgivable sin. It does not have to be fatal and there is hope in Christ through repentance and a life of honest assessment. True repentance involves godly sorrow and grieving over your sin against God and others. True repentance will lead you to have a heart of submission to the discilpine God brings to you. True repentance will cause you to eventually see that His consequences are His aaffirmation that He loves you. In time, healing will win out, restoration can be celebrated and a hatred of this sin will go ever before you. Hopefully you have been able to keep your family, but if not, and you have truly repented, know God still sees you as useful and valuable in His Kingdom.

    Shake off the shame and condemnation from the enemy and others and go low in humility. Never defend or justify your sin, agree with what God says about it and watch what He will do through your repentance and restoration. And let Him do it His way on His time frame.

    My marriage and family are restored and we enjoy beautiful fruit from receiving God’s mercy and trusting that even this is not too big for His blood to cover.

    Hate the sin of sexually immorality church. If you are in it, ask God for repentance and then trust that He can heal you and those you have wounded.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      This is a good word. Thanks.

      • Kandace

        Thanks for reading. There’s more where that came from. My adultery was publicly exposed and God convinced me that since others were talking about it, I might as well be too-with the hopes of helping people get out and stay out. Prayers appreciated. Not sure the church knows what to do with me at this point

      • Kandace

        Thanks for reading. There’s more where that came from. My adultery was publicly exposed and God convinced me that since others were talking about it, I might as well be too-with the hopes of helping people get out and stay out. Prayers appreciated. Not sure the church knows what to do with me at this point

  • Ed Choy

    Michael, just now reading this post. Wow, thank you! As a pastor I’m incredibly troubled by the kind of news we are now hearing so often about moral failure in leaders. THANK YOU for writing so eloquently and truthfully on the subject.

  • Katie

    The biggest defense that wasn’t mentioned is ‘putting God first in your life’. Making time with Him priority every. single. day. I know from experience that you can have a million excuses for actions like infidelity and they’re all just symptoms of the actual sickness: not living to glorify God every single day.

    Bounderies are really something that our society scoffs at too. Its sad!!

  • Liam

    My wife and I have been married ten years. I try to stick to the items in the list. Setting specific boundaries presents somewhat of a predicament. Sure, I don’t hang out with women unless my wife is present but I’m almost exclusively sexually attracted to guys. That means I don’t hang out with guy-friends, either. That’s supposing I had guy-friends other than relatives.

    On a lighter note, when chicks try to go beyond flirting with me, I say in my gay-voice, “listen honey, I got a wife and you’re not my type”.