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Boundary walls are necessary but not sufficient (DW#361)

We spent all of last week talking about the importance of boundaries and walls around your relationship to keep it protected.

Walls around the relationship, however, are not enough. In a healthy relationship, spouses have what Shirley Glass calls "large open windows" of intimacy between themselves.

On the safe side of the wall, a couple looks at each other through this clear, large, open window. This is where there is an open and honest exchange of ideas and feelings. The couple communicates well through this large opening between them.

In this healthy situation, the couple may also have close meaningful relationships outside of their connection. However, the windows between partners and their other relationships are much smaller and not as transparent.

How do we keep these "windows of intimacy" clear and transparent?

By connecting with each other by asking questions, telling stories, being honest and vulnerable, and committing to regular and reliable periods of connection. 

If...

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The smart phone affair (DW#360)

As we have been discussing, it is important to set intentional boundaries in the technological age simply because it is so easy to wander outside the marital relationship to meet our emotional and physical needs. By enabling continuous and private connection, the smart phone, for example, has vastly expanded the opportunities for marital infidelity.

Lori Cluff Schade, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist and faculty member at Brigham Young University, writes that emotional affairs facilitated by the cell phone are among the most difficult to deal with because they are fragments of a relationship which never need to face the challenges of real face to face relationships. This keeps them fresh, alluring and difficult to break off. 

She outlines 7 ways that smartphones encourage and exacerbate marital infidelity that are really worth understanding: 

1.    Immediate and ongoing connection: Since your phone is always with you, you...
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Boundaries online (DW#359)

In the age of digital technology, giving in to temptation is only a click away. 

On social media, for example, it is easy to track down old friendships that may have meant something in the past. Or you may encounter someone who appears to have the same interests as yourself, who likes the same things, responds to your actions on social media. You find yourself looking for them and their interactions when you are online. Their engagement and reactions to your postings begin to mean something to you. 

Even if you realize that you are in close call territory at this point, the nature of social media interaction is such that you find yourself unable to stop. You are faced with the choice of stopping it or hiding it. In such situations, hiding it usually wins. You convince yourself that you are not doing anything wrong. That no one is being harmed. 

At times like this we need to remind ourselves that the above thought process itself is a sign that we are on the threshold of...

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The kinds of walls we need (DW#357)

Yesterday we started exploring the metaphor of building walls around our relationship to keep it secure. Now let’s take this concept a little deeper and discover the different kinds of walls that we need.

Mental walls

Keeping a mental boundary means that we become aware of where our attention is. While our thoughts can wander into danger zones, we need not let them dwell there. If we become masters of our attention, we can protect our relationship by not letting our fantasies run away with our better judgment. A stray thought can be quashed right at the beginning which will prevent repeated thoughts turning into actions. 

Mental boundaries can also involve intentionally thinking positive thoughts about our spouses when we are away from them and reminding ourselves of our commitment, especially when we encounter temptation.

Physical walls

These involve practical ways in which you can avoid slipping. Physical boundaries come in many different forms.

Being alone
Avoiding spending...

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Build walls (DW#356)

Not "Just Friends": Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity by Shirley Glass is a classic and very helpful resource for couples attempting recovery from the ravages of infidelity.

In this book, Shirley Glass uses the metaphor of "walls and windows" to explain how a marriage slides from security to vulnerability. Let us stay with this metaphor for a few days to try and understand what puts a relationship at risk.

When we get married and form a new family, it is creating a new entity, an entity which needs to be safeguarded from outside influences and threats to the relationship. 

 
Healthy couples therefore create boundaries by constructing a metaphorical "wall" between them and the many forces that could damage the relationship. It’s not a wall that shuts the world out, but a necessary safety buffer. On one side, protected, is "us" and what is sacred between "us", and on the other side of the wall is anything that could hurt "us."
 
...
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Understand the difference between privacy and secrecy (DW#355)

One of the things that makes marriages vulnerable to infidelity is the keeping of secrets. Sometimes people try to rationalize the keeping of secrets by claiming the right to privacy but there are major differences between privacy and secrecy that we need to understand to protect the integrity of our relationships.

Privacy is the state of being unobserved, being free from public attention such as when you are changing your clothes or grooming yourself, for example. It comes from a sense of modesty or of having a need for personal boundaries and space. It is healthy to have privacy for oneself, even in a relationship. It is important for spouses to give each other privacy based on a sense of trust and respect.

Secrecy, on the other hand, is the act of keeping things hidden or of withholding information in order to mislead. This sometimes comes from a sense of fear – fear of being found out or of the other person’s reaction if they were to find out. People keep secrets...

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Evaluate your vulnerabilities (DW#353)

One of the most important and proactive conversations you can have with your spouse is to evaluate your vulnerabilities to temptation.

While it is tempting to ignore these and even hide them, one of the best things you can do for your relationship is to discuss these openly. This way you and your spouse are a team fighting a challenge to your relationship rather than alone on opposite sides.

So do you have a job, a volunteer position or a passion that involves being away a lot? Being away from home in tempting environments can create challenges. What is your plan for dealing with these challenges and temptations? What rules and boundaries do you have in place to keep connected with your spouse and stay away from temptation?

Do you have a personality that is very empathetic or affectionate? Are you a really good listener? Do you naturally help those who are distressed? While these are positive qualities, they do attract many people towards you and they also leave you vulnerable to...

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Recognize the risk (DW#352)

It is sad when I meet couples who are in committed and stable relationships but have been blindsided by infidelity because they never ever considered the possibility that it could happen to them.

So the first step to protecting your relationship is to recognize that no marriage is immune from the risk. Infidelity happens in every social circle and even amongst strongly practicing religious families.

We live in a society where we spend much of the time outside the home and away from families, ether at work, volunteering or studying. We may come across temptation when we least expect it and are not prepared.

A casual conversation that starts out innocently enough can slide into an inappropriate relationship unless we take intentional steps to set personal and relationship boundaries.

And we can only prepare and set boundaries if we are aware that temptation exists. And that we need to take proactive steps to guard our relationships.

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Invest your attention and affection wisely (DW#351)

Over the last several days, we have been discovering how simple it is to grow love in small and seemingly insignificant ways. Hopefully you have added some of these rituals to your own relationships and have been enjoying the results.

There is, however, one important and possibly uncomfortable conversation that we still need to have about the easiness with which love can grow.

The micro-moments of positivity resonance, as we have discovered, happen when two or more people share a positive moment of emotional connection together. The "biology of love", however, does not discriminate between committed and casual relationships.

To put it another way, it is almost as easy (and sometimes easier) to share these moments with strangers than with our own loved ones. This is because strangers don’t come with the baggage that accompanies the challenges of sharing daily life with another human being.

This is why we need to be on guard and recognize that we need to be intentional about...

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Recap: Taking small opportunities to grow love (DW#350)

Over the last few days, we have been talking about building love by taking advantage of the micro-moments of connectivity and positivity resonance.

So many of these OTLs (opportunities to practice love) seem so tiny that it is difficult to imagine how they could transform our relationships.

But think of it this way: a huge ship can change direction simply by moving the trim tab. The trim tab is a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder. It looks like a miniature rudder. Just moving this little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. It takes almost no effort at all but can change the direction of the entire ship.

So think of these OTLs as having the power of the trim tab. Just as moving the trim tab can change the direction in which you are heading, adding these OTLs can transform the direction in which your relationship is heading.

Which of these are easy for you and which are the most challenging?

  1. Build the bank account by focusing on deposits rather than...
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