Stuff I Talk About

by Christina Ledbetter

Keeping Pesky Affairs at Bay

Sometimes while Benson and I are galloping through fields of peonies and breaking only to French kiss, people have commented that we have a good marriage.

It’s true.

And it’s not by chance.

For one, Benson is extremely kind and doesn’t get upset near as often as I do (which cuts down fights by a solid 50%). Also, a lot of marriage books, secular or not, will tell you that having some shared dreams/goals will get you pretty far in a marriage. Thankfully, we’ve got that as we’re both horrible sinners, saved by and committed to serving Jesus.

And then there are some other things. Since we’ve been asked about them a fair amount, I thought I’d share the whole list. See, before Benson and I got married, we made some deals. After we got married, we made some more deals. Most marriage books would call these deals “boundaries”.

Once, I was on the phone with a girlfriend and I mentioned one of our deals – that Benson and I won’t share a meal alone with someone of the opposite sex. My girlfriend said something like, “I would have thought y’all’s relationship is so strong that you wouldn’t even need that rule.” To which I replied – “HA!”

I’m a sinner married to a sinner and neither of us are above sinning against this marriage. Once you get to thinking that your relationship is so strong that you could resist sinning against it, you better back that thang up.

Because here’s some truth:

We’re all capable of doing really crappy things to our marriage.

If your spouse had a breakdown and started smoking crack and stopped bathing and there was a really nice, easy-to-talk-to person at your office who just really “got you,” you just might do it; you might throw it all away. And I might, too. And that’s why we need deals in place.

The Ledbetters’ Deals Part 1: Keeping Pesky Affairs at Bay

No meals shared alone with someone of the opposite sex. I once had a job interview like this, to which Benson and I agreed it was obviously a time to bend this deal, but after I got the job, I straight-up told my new boss that in the future I wouldn’t be having meals alone with him. I just said it humbly and told him it was some advice we’d gotten from a pastor, and he was SO COOL about it and it avoided six years worth of possibly sticky situations. Plus, Benson has a very intimate relationship with food (see below)  and I don’t think it’d be healthy for him to share it with another woman. Marriage Deal 4 No riding alone in a car with someone of the opposite sex. Here’s the part where I sound like a psycho-lady. Cars can be intimate places, and not just for making whoopie in the back seats. It’s an easy spot to talk, to really talk and have some privacy. Because of that, we even hold to this deal when it comes to our closest friends, and honestly, we’ve had friends get offended by it. But here’s another truth: Most people don’t have affairs with sexy strangers in bars. Most people have affairs with someone they already know and like and trust. I have witnessed some nasty affairs in my life. None of them were with strangers that nobody had heard about. Marriage Deal 1 No private emailing or Facebook messaging with the opposite sex unless we’re showing the messages to each other. When we first got married, Benson received a sappy email from an old girlfriend. He read it to me, and we decided together how to respond. (Unfortunately, he didn’t go along with my “Let’s splash her with acid!” idea.) A few years later when we joined Facebook, we’d talk about whether or not we’d friend exes. So it was like this – “Hey Benson, I dated this guy like four times and I kind of want to see if he’s still on meth. Do you mind if I accept this friend request?” Marriage Deal 3 No exercising alone with someone of the opposite sex. Sweating and pushing yourself with someone can be a really intimate deal, too, especially if it’s a sport where you have lots of time to talk, like running. (Fortunately in my CrossFit gym they torture us so intensely that there is no room for words, only moans. Plus, we work out in groups, so it’s like group moans.) I once got a free personal trainer session at a gym and was totally excited about having some dude scream in my face to get lower on my squat. I shared my enthusiasm with my beloved husband and he was like, “Um, it’s a guy?” And then I realized, oh yeah, that might not be the best idea. I emailed the gym and the trainer was so nice, saying they had lots of women who prefer to only work out with female trainers. Marriage Deal 5 Drink limits when hanging out in mixed company without the other person. We stole this one from some friends; however, we’ve really never had to use it since neither of us work at places where happy hours are a big thing (well, and I work from our kitchen so that’d be a whole different issue if I was drinking alone during the day). Our friends’ deal goes like this – “2 drink max if out in mixed company apart from one another.” I think it’s super smart. Marriage Deal 2

Disclaimers

Sometimes it makes sense to break a deal, but only if we BOTH agree on it ahead of time. Because when some rich publisher from NYC calls me about a book deal, you better believe I am all over that lunch, car ride, work out session, whatever. And one time Benson had an elderly female co-worker ask for a ride to a work event. And while Benson is capable of sinning against this marriage just like I am, I’ve simply got to believe he’s not capable of sinning against it with Mildred, or else we’re in big doo doo.

Our specific deals aren’t for everyone. Because what if you’re a police officer and need to carry a woman to the pen? “Okay lady, can I trust you that you’re going to walk yourself to jail? Because my wife and I have this deal. Just take a left on Main, got it?” We once mentored an engaged couple and the guy was in sales. They couldn’t see a way around him taking female customers to lunch, so they agreed that he’d always tell his wife beforehand who he was going to lunch with. Genius.

Things could still fall apart. We’re going to fight like mad to prevent it, but we’re still not immune. On top of all these deals is a lot of prayer for God to protect our marriage.

Part II

We’ve got deals concerning the rest of life, too. I’ll share those next week. You’re dying, right?

Until then, let me know if you have deals or if you think mine are psycho. And please share this with anyone who might be toeing the line of an affair. I’m kidding. That would be so weird. Just tell them to stop. Or share this on Facebook and tag them. Oh yeah, and if that publisher is reading, I’ve already cleared this with Benson- Call me! Or Facebook me! Or take me to lunch! I’ll drive!

Categories: Matrimony

6 replies

  1. Not psycho at all, in fact incredibly wise! I can’t tell you how important these kinds of deals are in keeping a marriage stronger than ever!!!

  2. This was great! My husband and I have these rules too, and they definitely offended some of my male friends when we first started seriously dating and decided we wanted to do this. I previously worked in a very ‘incestuous’ workplace, and saw plenty of affairs. It is arrogance to think any marriage cannot fall prey to adultery. Boundaries like this aren’t a magic bullet, but I think they really help.

  3. I think it’s so great you guys have rules and I am honestly an advocate for whatever works for a healthy, loving marriage. Keeping in mind each one is unique and right for that couple to flourish or remain happy and committed. Kind of like exercise, Crossfit won’t work for everyone, nor will Prancercize(though I’d be argue we’d all benefit from a little skipping), but as long as your moving and cultivating your energy then I am pro-whatever form of get-your-sweat-on you choose!
    With that said, here is my opinion. Esa and I have one rule: Don’t cheat. That is it. We don’t place boundaries, road blocks, or precursors on any of our activities we do alone. A few reasons:

    1)We trust each other. Fully and 100%. We trust all our friends, after all you are a reflection of the company you keep. I have traveled alone, staying in men abundant hostels and E has been to numerous guy’s night outs/bachelor parties, and not once did the thought of adultery cross either of our mind. Did I find that cute guy with a French accent attractive? Heck yes. Did that bartender have a low cut shirt that Esa accidentally (IT WAS AN ACCIDENT RIGHT ESA?! 😉 ) check out? Sure! Looking at attractive people is enjoyable. Speaking to attractive people is enjoyable. Thinking about attractive people is enjoyable. That’s not going to change because of our relationship status.(After all, we are a species, its scientific biology for those feelings to arise.) But when you dampen these impulses towards other people, you dampen them towards your partner as well. You’re damaging a part of yourself and it ultimately only comes back to harm your relationship. When I meet a beautiful person of the opposite sex that is great because it only reminds me why, out of all the humans and people out there, I chose Esa. And while I appreciate the attention, the experience only strengthens my commitment. Attractiveness is common. But real intimacy is not. With that said, we are definitely not incapable of cheating which brings me to point 2…

    2)If Esa or I wanted to cheat, we would. Simple as that. No rule would stop us. To me, having those boundaries sound something like this, “Since wearing a cast on your arm will help the broken bone heal, the reason you broke your arm in the first place is because you weren’t wearing a cast.” It makes it sound like because we do not have explicit boundaries, we will cheat. People don’t usually commit affairs on a random Tuesday night with the pretty looking grocery clerk they just met. It’s a serious of feelings, desires, wants, that ultimately lead up to the action of cheating. Something has been unfulfilled and not communicated for you to get to that point.

    3)Esa and I are not each other’s half. We are whole as individuals and our loving relationship only supplements our individual identity, not replaces it. He magnifies my better half, but I am whole without him; because I would never give half of me to someone or something that I loved. One of the best expressions of this idea came from Plato in the form of a myth. Plato wrote that humans were originally androgynous and whole. There were no men or women. They felt no lack, no uncertainty, and they were powerful, so powerful that they rose up and challenged the gods themselves. This posed a problem for the gods. They didn’t want to completely wipe out the human race as they’d have no one to rule over. But at the same time they had to do something to humble and distract humanity. So Zeus split them in half. He split each human into a man and a woman and doomed them to spend their brief mortal existence wandering the world looking for their other half, the half that would make them feel whole and powerful again. And this wholeness came not from two perfections meeting, but two imperfections meeting, two imperfections that both complemented and compensated for one another’s shortcomings.
    With that said, very often people don’t go elsewhere because they are looking for another person. They go elsewhere because they are looking for another self. It isn’t so much that they want to leave the person they are with as we want to leave the person they have become. I feel like putting such boundaries can mold you into a person you are not, insecure and unconvinced of being able to control your emotions. That isn’t who we were before we met each other and that is not who we want to become.

    4)Finally, to wrap up, we love each other and we communicate well. We are capable of cheating, and we don’t put ourselves in situations where we would feel vulnerable to betray our commitment. That is an action we choose at the time. But we do trust ourselves and each other to make those choices and I think that leads to a healthy relationship where we control the power of our emotions and how we react to them versus putting the onerous on speed bumps to intervene.

    I went on a little tangent but just wanted to reiterate, different strokes for different folks!! All that matter is that you are happy and your plan works for you. There isn’t a one size fits all to a healthy relationship and I think that is the beauty of love. 🙂

    • Natalie, if you quit the gym and start prancersizing, please let me know as I’d like to follow. Thanks for the well thought out comment, friend. I like hearing other people’s take on all this, especially since we’re still learning as we go.

  4. I love the artwork. that is what kept me reading.

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