Reflecting on alarming relationship advise…

Its kind of interesting, in the past week I’ve seen three different articles pop up on facebook regarding ways to keep your marriage healthy. I’m not really uncomfortable in any way with my own marriage, but I’m not one that is above hearing others thoughts or pearls of wisdom on multiple subjects, so I took a quick look.

All three of these were presented as being from Christian centered values. Reading through them, they had some good points, like making time for each other, and purposefully communicating, and thinking things out from the others point of view.. all points that I can really get behind, but then in each of their respective lists of tips, all three of these posts took an alarming turn for me.

Now I’m all for doing your best to not put yourself in compromising positions, but some of this was a little much.

These posts were seeming to actually be going as far as discouraging any meaningful social interaction outside of your marriage. They seemed to view it as unhealthy. To me it was honestly a little unnerving, and kind of (and hopefully unintentionally) setting people up for the other extreme… one of seclusion.. one of never reaching out, or interacting with other people (aside from your spouse).

What is alarming to me is promoting the attitude of ignoring all else, and focusing so intently on your marriage that it actually might serve to incline you to be willing to let some things go (things that maybe shouldn’t be accepted) in how your spouse maybe treats you, your children, or others (or even in how you treat them…).

I tend to live with the thought that while being respectful towards all others should always be in place, but I think that its important to understand that for an individual to be “deserving” of that kind of total devotional respect is something totally separate, and something we should think about and reflect on often. We should always be thoughtful of what we are enabling in others, what we are promoting, and what we are supporting. There plain are times when people simply change, and aren’t who we originally believed them to be, or when actions they take simply shouldn’t be ignored.

There are some pretty horrific stories where that has been the case.. where people have turned a blind eye and been in pure denial about things that were happening in their homes at the hands of their spouses. Often because they had no other real meaningful human contact other than their spouse, they simply allowed it to go on out of “devotional respect”… or denial, and the results of situations like that can be  extremely hurtful and devastating. Extreme cases I know, but it does happen and we have to take it into consideration.

While I believe it’s important to honor your marriage and be honorable towards your spouse, the fact remains that in this life there is no simple answer that will prevent things from going wrong, or even prevent people from changing. If abstaining from other social content is the pivotal action that makes your relationship “work”… it may mean your relationship is actually in need of more indepth work in itself.  The mere presence of others in your life shouldn’t distract you so entirely from being involved in your marriage. If it does… there is something else wrong and you should be actively trying to figure out what the root cause of that fact is.

Whole people are able to deal responsibly with all kind of interactions… not have to hide from them in order to make their most central relationship work. To me its kind of demeaning to think that the main reason my marriage would work, would be because my spouse didn’t have anyone else in their lives that they could talk to. That would not make me proud at all.

One post talked about how you should never actually vent your frustrations out to any of your friends if you are having a hard time with your spouse. You should only talk to the spouse about problems.

I tend to be a pretty direct person, so while I thoroughly appreciate the thought of starting at the root to find a solution…. “Never” is a pretty drastic word. To “Never” talk to anyone else while trying to figure out solutions… that to me it seems to only further encourage social seclusion and limit your understanding of different points of view that you hadn’t yourself thought of.

While I agree that airing dirty laundry in public is obviously NOT something you should endeavor to do, sometimes it is healthy for you to actually get an outside source’s take on a challenge you are going through with your spouse. Its just important to be respectful and tactful when doing so, and as always, to “consider the source” when thinking about motivations behind and the personal experiences of the certain friend “giving you advice”. With unique life stories, we all have unique perceptions and views on life. I myself have had times where a friend served to make me understand my spouse’s point of view, better than I had been able to on my own.

The post cited that if you talk to your friends about issues you are having with your spouse, that  it would be more likely that your friends would just side with you and would not be supportive of your marriage. That author seemed to believe that friends would not likely encourage healthy compromise, and that would be a poison to your marriage.

Really? Honestly.. If that is the case then I actually more question what friends you’ve chosen and not the fact that you have friends you can trust to vent to in the first place. That may be where you should start.. not with choosing seclusion.

Another post went as far as to say that you shouldn’t really have good friends who are of the opposite gender… (that article obviously ignoring offering any LGBT relationship advise I guess). They cited that your spouse should be your best friend, so there should be no one else of the opposite gender that you should have any kind of meaningful conversations with…. because those meaningful conversations actually introduces a level of intimacy… and that is being unfaithful.

First off… (tries to brush away frustration at having to explain this)… Having friends of the opposite gender (and since I’m not scared of being supportive of LGBT relationships.. then further clarifying that by saying that “having friends of the same gender as your spouse”) and being able to have meaningful conversations with them doesn’t equate to being unfaithful. If you think it does, then you are being a bit controlling towards your loved ones, because honestly having “close” friends is not the same as romantic relations.

Like I said before, I am fully for being responsible enough to not purposefully placing yourself in difficult positions, but in the end, it is your moral character and compass that determines your actions. It is not the mere fact that you are able to have a decent conversation with someone who happens to be the same gender of those you tend to be romantically attracted to.

Having close friends is not a bad thing. It needs to be understood that in reality there are different levels of intimacy. There are different levels of friendship, and their are different kinds of love you can have for people. “Loving people” in the purist sense of the word, is not sexual at all. It simply means being honorable and respectful towards others. Humans are social beings. Being social and understanding other’s challenges helps us stay grounded in reality. It helps us be empathetic and understanding, and in turn… more thoughtful in our choices.

I guess this is just another instance of what makes me different. To me when I think of my friends, gender doesn’t even matter.  Its the kind of person they prove themselves to be that determines what kind of information I can comfortably trust them with.. not what gender they are.

All in all, I think its far more important to live in the present. Appreciate and nurture the relationships we have. When there are falling outs.. actually strive to figure out what is going wrong and work with that person to resolve the issue. Blind devotion “just cause” is never really a healthy answer. Walling yourself off isn’t healthy either..  We need to work to cope with the issues we are presented with… not hide from them.


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