Protect Your Marriage at Work

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, tvol

Photo Credit: Creative Commons, tvol

I recently heard on my favorite radio show that the #1 place affairs start is in the workplace. It’s not online, it’s not over text message, and it isn’t at a bar. I think it’s worth paying attention to because of the reality that you spend more waking hours with your colleagues than you do with your spouse.

As with anything like affairs, the people staring at the wreckage tend to believe, “I would never do that.” I would never develop an alcohol problem, a pornography addiction, or cheat on my spouse. For me, I discovered early in my twenties that while I always thought I was ‘good’, in fact I was capable of some pretty awful things. In fact, we all are. I don’t think I’m a ‘good person’ and I don’t think you are either. Let me explain better with one of my favorite lines from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

“You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence. It’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” This verse has really stayed with me, because of how easy is it to believe that we won’t ever wreck our lives. Now, I don’t believe anyone wakes up one morning and dives headfirst into a life-ruining addiction or sexual decision. In reality, it’s thousands of tiny little steps towards the edge of a cliff that lands us in the middle of a crisis.

With affairs, it’s text messages. It’s long, emotional conversations. It’s sharing our hearts with someone who isn’t our spouse. It’s believing a lie that “no one understands me like he/she does.” Michael and I have a few friends that have gone down this dark road and therefore have witnessed we can never be too careful.

Before marriage, Michael and I listened to a series by Andy Stanley called “Guardrails” about setting boundaries to protect our relationship. A guardrail on a road is placed in a safe zone to keep us from an unsafe zone. Guardrails aren’t placed right on the edge of the cliff, but rather placed in the safe zone away from danger. In this vein, Michael and I believe that grey, nonspecific boundaries lead to specific regrets–whether we’re talking about finances, friendships, or relationships. In order to protect our marriage, we set our “guardrails” (or rules) far away from the edge of the cliff.

Recently, both Michael and I have started new jobs and I happen to work with mostly men. I was a little nervous about it at first, because coming from an all-female team at Thomas Nelson, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Michael works with a lot of women, I work with a lot of men. So what do we do to set boundaries to protect our marriage?

“Guardrails” for our marriage:

  • No 1:1 coffees, lunches, or dinners with someone of the opposite sex. If it’s strictly business that’s ok, but we don’t think its appropriate if it’s just for catching up. 
  • No emotional texting or Facebook messaging with the opposite sex. We don’t believe it’s ever ok to have an emotional conversation with someone of the opposite sex, because emotional affairs can be just as damaging.
  • No giving or taking serious advice from a member of the opposite sex. And no emotional discussions, especially about our spouse.
  • If someone of the opposite sex emails us or messages us about something personal–we let each other know and usually copy each other on our responses. (This happens frequently because everyone wants to tell us the juicy details of their relationships).
  • If someone of the opposite sex is overly paying attention to us (flirting), we let the other know.

Occasionally, we get in a situation where we get a text or have lunch or find someone is sharing too much with us. But we’re open with each other and it’s no big deal because our guardrails are set in the safe zone not on the edge of the cliff.

For singles, I believe you should also set boundaries with the marrieds in your workplace and in your life. Why? Because one day you will be in a position where you hope the men and women are respecting your spouse and not crossing the line.

Your boundaries or “guardrails” in your workplace may look different from ours and of course that’s ok. But I believe saying, “I would never have an affair” is similar to declaring, “I will never gain weight.” Without certain boundaries surrounding eating and exercise, most will gain weight.

What are your thoughts? Do you have boundaries in your marriage? What about as a single person?

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2 Responses to “Protect Your Marriage at Work”
  1. Greg says:

    Ultimately, it’s about respect and guarding the hearts of those around you–not just your own. In an article by Pastor David L. Hatton called “The Dance of the Sexes”, he notes that social mixing with members of the opposite sex is a lifelong reality (school, job, neighbors, church). It doesn’t start after you’re married–something I’m striving to take to heart.

    Even in a Christian workplace, it’s difficult to not envy those who are married, and a challenge to strike a balance between healthy eye contact, good listening skills, but stopping short when you sense that you’re nearing a boundary. We also can’t control the motives and actions of others, but, like Joseph, we are accountable to run if necessary.

    BTW, thanks for opening this up to singles–lately, too many blogs hold the underlying notion that if you’re still single, you have nothing to say. The people I have personally learned the most from, are in fact, married.

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