In my most recent article 3 Ways to Fight for Your Marriage and Win After an Affair, I shared how my husband and I had reached an impasse in our relationship. With each of us having forsaken our vows and engaged in extramarital affairs, things weren’t looking good for us and we had decided to separate. But God placed it on my heart to attempt to reconcile with him.
Understand that marriage is a matter of the heart. It always has and it always will be. It is no coincidence when you read most Christian marriage books, one of the key pieces of counsel provided is to “guard your heart.” In fact, Proverbs 4:23, states, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
“God had warned me that his heart had become so cold that it would take me being extremely patient and understanding while owning and admitting the fault I contributed in all of this (remember we all play a part, so ownership is necessary to reconciliation).”
I knew this was going to be an uphill battle and in order to succeed I had to guard my heart. Undoubtedly, guarding your heart is an essential component of marriage. However, these generalized calls to guard your heart in the midst of marriage fall short in three ways:
- They tell you to guard your heart, but they don’t tell you how.
- They tell you to guard your heart, but they don’t tell you why.
- They tell you to guard your heart, but they don’t tell you how long.
The reason this becomes so critical is because a hardened heart is a dead heart, and a dead heart has no room for a marriage to live in because if the heart dies the marriage dies with it.
So when do hearts become unguarded? First, hearts become unguarded when you move too fast in your marriage. You must lay a foundation of friendship before building a house of intimacy.
Second, hearts become unguarded when you are not seeking God’s desires for the marriage. Instead of depending on your own understanding and priorities for the marriage, you must seek God’s heart.
Third, hearts become unguarded when there is poor communication about the marriage. This can include poor communication with God in prayer or poor communication with your spouse. If you are too afraid to talk to either of them about an aspect of your marriage, then you need to seek wise counsel.
How do you guard your heart?
Since most Christian marriage books put such a premium on guarding your heart, the result is that it often leaves couples paralyzed as their marriage develops. Instead of following God’s leadership in how much vulnerability to allow, they seek to set up extremely rigid boundaries on emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy. Let’s be honest—people like rigid boundaries over seeking the Lord because it seems easier until you realize it doesn’t work as my husband and I discovered.
Don’t get me wrong, am I saying that building boundaries in a marriage in order to guard your heart is wrong? No. What I am saying is that these boundaries should flow from your relationship with God. Prayer, not boundaries, is the means of guarding your heart. How you approach your relationship with God is going to directly impact how you approach your marriage.
Why do you guard your heart?
Biblically, Solomon understood the heart to be the center of the whole person—not just the source of emotions and will but also of wisdom and perspective. In essence, the heart referred to who you were as a person. Solomon rightly realized that what you do flows from who you are. That’s why he instructs you to guard the heart (who you are) because the wellspring of life (what you do) flows from it. So, in your marriage, guarding your heart is a call to protect your character and protect the core of your marriage.
How long do you guard your heart?
It depends on how you define guarding your heart. If we are talking about the type of guarding your heart implied by Christian books, then the answer is: guard every aspect of your marriage until God confirms it’s wise to move into deeper relational intimacy. (Obviously, the only go-ahead for physical intimacy is in the context of marriage.) In other words, it’s a progressive process. But if guarding your heart means protecting who you are so that you can influence what you do, then “How long?” is the wrong question. You should always be protecting your character because that dictates how you show up in your marriage. In other words, it’s a perpetual process.
Guarding your heart is one of the most important yet least understood facets of marriage. It can paralyze you, or it can liberate you. Guarding your heart is the key to saving yourself in your marriage along with fighting for your marriage in a way that honors God. By so doing, you are a step ahead in one of the most important methods in affair-proofing your marriage.
BMWK, when it comes to protecting your marriage, are you guarding your heart?
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