Anything of value deserves to be protected – and your marriage is definitely valuable! To protect your relationship it’s wise to keep your eyes open, communicate well, and have some ground rules to stay on track and safe. We live in a fallen world and temptation often creeps up quietly.

Every marriage has different circumstances and challenges, but there are common danger zones we are all exposed to. With those in mind, here are some ways to protect your marriage– a collection of safeguards that can protect both of you from stumbling and damaging your marriage relationship.

1. Burn the boats! The phrase “burn the boats” is a military term. Upon reaching the shores of a land that they wanted to conquer, the commander ordered the burning of all the boats. The soldiers were totally committed to the cause – there was no turning back. Once married we need to be 100% committed. Destroy any escape plan. Live out: “You are my future”. Fight the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’. Conquering marriage issues is our only option. We have promised to stick it out, not just today but forever.

2. Admit your vulnerability. Sexual temptation will enter your marriage as sure as night follows day. Be prepared.

3. Be trustworthy. Ensure your spouse can safely share anything with you.

4. No secrets, be completely honest. There’s never a good reason to keep a secret from your spouse. We’re not talking about what your real hair color is – we’re talking about where the money goes, where you’ve been, and what’s really going on in your relationship.

5. No opposite-sex friendships. You can be friends with other couples/singles together, but it’s a terrible idea for you to have a close relationship with anyone of the opposite sex outside of that. Take care around what situations you may find yourself in.

6. Transparent communication. The only reason to have a pin number or password that your spouse doesn’t know is if you have something to hide. We should be completely comfortable with our spouse looking at any social media accounts, texts, email or other forms of communication.

7. Don’t compare your marriage with others’. Celebrate the unique character of your marriage.

8. Share your faith. Do devotions together. Grow spiritually and connect spiritually. When we share the same faith and communicate regularly about our faith we have an anchor to help us make decisions, and a set of fundamental beliefs to keep our thinking in harmony on most issues.

9. Guard your time together. Ensure exclusive face to face time happens with your spouse. Remove distractions (like phones). Be wary of being ‘too busy’. Build and value your friendship.

10. Agree upon work colleague boundaries. Understanding that men and women work together, and that many affairs begin in this environment, it’s important for you and your spouse to agree on some ground rules to protect either of you from falling into temptation. Special caution should be taken with business travel. If you are having one-on-one meetings with the opposite sex at work, be visible to other colleagues. Don’t have meals together without a third party. Be careful about sharing personal issues with work colleagues.

11. Work. Agree how much time you will give to work. Don’t be so busy at work that you neglect your spouse.

12. Know your spouse’s co-workers. Don’t skip the office Christmas party, and if possible, have some familiarity with any colleagues who work daily with your spouse. Be familiar with each other’s world. Remember, ‘out there’ everyone is fair game. Communicate; “s/he’s mine, s/he’s taken – hands off”.

13. Negotiate the budget and then stick to it. Have a financial plan, decide together how your income will be used and what your financial goals are. Once those guidelines are set, failing to live within them is dishonest and unfair. If something unusual comes up – talk about it. Be transparent about who’s spending what. When will you need your spouse’s ok for a major purchase? What’s the agreed top spend without needing the other’s ok?

14. Parenting: Same game plan, on the same page. Decide together on boundaries for the kids. Disagreeing on parenting can be toxic to your marriage and disastrous for your kids. Talk about what the rules and expectations for the children will be and then support one another by sticking to your joint decision.

15. Kids. Don’t let them be all-consuming. Have exclusive couple time. Take a mini-break together.

16. Beware of time-eating hobbies. It’s fine to have individual interests, but if your hobby or passion causes you to spend more time with others than your spouse, you might soon feel like you have more in common with those people. Limit the hours spent on separate endeavors each week, or find something you enjoy doing together. Agree on how much money you will spend on hobbies.

17. Be loyal. Don’t bad-mouth your spouse to others. Your spouse needs to be able to count on you to speak positively about her/him and defend her/him if necessary. Avoid friends who engage in husband or wife-bashing.

18. No porn. Porn is ruining the sex lives of countless married couples. Real intimacy is better than the distorted, violent, hyper-sexualized world of pornography, and exposure to it can rob you of a natural, fulfilling relationship. This goes for both partners, and includes erotic fiction. Check his web browser history.

19. Be up front. If you want to make a significant change in your life, recognize the potential impact this will have on your spouse and your marriage. Talk about it before you hit ‘go’.

20. Don’t assume, ask. While there are some things you can probably guess your spouse’s reaction to, be careful not to assume too much. When in doubt, ask. Check before making commitments for the two of you.

21. Be accountable. It’s not a sign of a lack of trust for married couples to check in with one another. If you’re going to be late, or the unexpected occurs, call or text and let your spouse know. Finding out about these things later, or being left to wonder about a spouse’s whereabouts breeds suspicion and resentment.

22. Taboo Topics. It’s not OK to talk about sex around members of the opposite sex (especially as it pertains to you personally). It’s definitely not OK to flirt, no matter how much you insist that it’s nothing. Every affair in the history of the world started out as “nothing.”

23. Be careful with Girls/Guys Night Out. When you get together with friends, make sure they’re like-minded friends who won’t drag you into a situation your spouse wouldn’t be comfortable with, or that puts your marital integrity at risk.

24. Don’t let naked people into your marriage; not on a screen, in reality or in the pages of a book. Does it portray marriage in a positive way? Show discernment over what you watch and read. More often than not TV marriages are troubled by infidelity, incompatibility and incurability.

25. The in-laws. Do you both agree with expectations from extended family? Is your spouse comfortable with what you share with your family? Decide together how you will celebrate significant events. Have you leaved and cleaved?

26. Health. Look after your general wellbeing. Be prepared to make significant changes when one of you is chronically ill or very tired. Practice self-care; don’t ‘let yourself go’.

27. Don’t joke about divorce or allude / threaten leaving your spouse. Give each other certainty.

28. Don’t be lazy. Is your spouse doing all the housework? – All the childcare?

Our marriages are a love story set in the midst of a spiritual war. You don’t know when temptation will come, but be sure that it will.

Do we have good people speaking into our marriages? Whose wisdom do we seek? What voices are we listening to? We need to engage with good, biblical marriage guidance.

Compiled by Martin and Moana Leenders and friends

Martin and Moana Leenders are members of the Reformed Church in Pukekohe.

Photo by sandy-millar-YeJWDWeIZho on Unsplash