How to Bridge Emotional Distance

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Photo by from Pexels

It’s something that is tough for many husbands and wives: Getting your spouse to open up to you. Many have asked us how to get their spouse to share what they’re thinking or feeling. Others feel as though their spouse never really listens to them. This can be a big issue for any couple, but for the spouses of first-responders it may seem to happen more frequently.

Many first-responder spouses have experienced their mate being more emotionally distant. A 2008 study by Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen discussed how, physiologically, being exposed to danger puts the brain on autopilot, raises the blood pressure and suppresses the digestive system. This is an abnormal state, built for the quick bursts needed to make a successful fight or flight. But it can be potentially harmful over long periods of time. When the danger has passed and your first-responder spouse comes home, their body needs time to stabilize.

This state can, of course, affect their emotions. It can leave your mate coming home exhausted and detached – perhaps even seeming apathetic. But this is when you as their spouse can come alongside them, show love and compassion, and strengthen your relationship instead of letting these circumstances push you apart.

(source: “The Challenges of the Firefighter Wife” – American Addiction Centers

The marriage relationship is the place that God gives us to have security to begin to sort through issues when we begin to hit them. Your love, compassion, grace can give your spouse the freedom to get through to the other side of whatever is keeping him or her from opening up. Your unconditional love for your spouse is the place it starts. Try to create a safe place for your spouse to open up to and talk about things.

The next step is to begin to do some communicating. Help your spouse to go below the surface and talk about what’s going on inside. Give him or her the sense of security that you will walk alongside, wherever it takes you.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore! 

Happy Marriage? Better Life!

Did you know a happy marriage affects more than just your family? It’s true!

A review of research by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center found that happily married soldiers have a leg-up! Research shows soldiers in happy marriages had better rates from their supervisors than single soldiers and they were promoted faster. The review also showed married soldiers had fewer job-related problems and fewer issues with drugs and alcohol.

(source: “Military Service and Marriage: A Review of Research” Reviewed by Emily L. Hull National Healthy Marriage Resource Center,

So how can you cultivate some healthy habits to keep your marriage happy and loving through the years? Check out our “Love List”:

Once a day

  • Touch. Cultivate the valuable practice of tender touch on a daily basis.

  • Hug for at least five seconds.

  • Remember the two most important minutes of your marriage: right when you meet at the end of the day.

  • Laugh. The more you laugh together, the more you love your spouse. Humor helps you cope.

 Once a week

  • Do something active that lifts your spirits. This is an insurance policy against boredom.

  • Broaden your sphere of interest. Make a list of activities and circle those you might find pleasurable. Make time to do them.

  • Give your mate space to enjoy certain activities that are his/hers alone.

  • Boost your mate’s self-esteem. When your soul mate helps you reach your potential and boosts your self-confidence, your options seem limitless. Look for diamonds—dig through the rough to look for the good in each other.

  • Compliment your spouse.

Once a month

  • Rid yourselves of harmful residue. Explore unfinished business (unpaid bills, how long in-laws stay for Christmas, disciplining the kids). Talk about it and do your best to make decisions.

  • Talk about your money. Admit to any deception and set up safeguards that will keep you honest.

  • Talk about your emotional needs and anger. Forgive when you feel hurt.

  • Protect each other from over-commitment. Decide together what you and your family can handle.

  • Update how well you know your spouse. Check in with your spouse—what would he or she like you to know?

  • Fire up passion in the bedroom. Schedule a sex date at least once a month. Guard your time fiercely.

Once a year

  • Review your top ten highlights of the year. Decide together what constitutes a highlight. Make the review a memorable tradition.

  • Chart your course for the coming year. Be proactive about where you’d like to be as a couple twelve months from now. Ask God for guidance. Take time to consider what really matters most to both of you in your relationship.

  • Write a mission statement and revisit it yearly. Begin with “Our purpose is . . .” Use this statement to keep your marriage on track. Consider what you’d like to change.

  • Think of six things you wish were different and set ways to improve them in the next year. Set specific goals. Understand the power of making resolutions together. Awaken your can-do attitude and trust God in your coming year together as a couple.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore! 

Navigating 'Boundary Ambiguity'

Whether it’s full-time military personnel or reservists or national guard, many military families have experienced what’s called “boundary ambiguity.” Boundary ambiguity is a state in which family members are uncertain in their perception about who is in or out of the family and who is performing which roles and tasks within the family.

Photo by  Katie McNaught  from  Pexels

Photo by Katie McNaught from Pexels

A study that examined military reserve families over time found that, during deployment, all family members experienced boundary ambiguity. The study, which was published in the Journal of Family Psycology, found that gathering information and attending a family support group provided some relief for families. However, couples – as well as those who had experienced additional life events or losses – experienced the highest levels of boundary ambiguity. The study showed this discipated over time, as families tended to re-stabilize once the reservists had returned to work and a routine had been established.

(Source: American Psycological Association; Faber, A. J., Willerton, E., Clymer, S. R., MacDermid, S. M., & Weiss, H. M. (2008). Ambiguous absence, ambiguous presence: A qualitative study of military reserve families in wartime. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(2), 222-230.,

If you have had to navigate a situation like this, you know it can be tough to figure out roles and routines in your house again. We would give you this piece of advice: Don’t try to be 50/50 on this. Don’t set yourselves up for fights and failure by trying to delineate all the responsibilities. Sure, a list of chores might help (if you’ve got kids—then you’ve got that much more help!), but everyone should be encouraged to see what needs to be done and do it.

Talk about realistic expectations. Think of ways to get the job done together. Use it as a connecting time. Talk to each other. Seek to lighten each other’s loads and then willingly follow through because you love your spouse so much!

One of the biggest problems among the couples we talk to is husbands and wives who measure out their need-meeting service for each other in reciprocal portions. The best many marriages ever do is operate according to the popular “50/50 plan,” the “I’ll-meet-your-needs-if-you-meet-mine” philosophy. In this plan, marriage becomes an issue of trade-offs and compromises, with spouses keeping score so one person never gets or gives more than the other. The goal is to meet each other halfway.

To be fair, some couples who live by this rule are generous to each other and even moderately happy. But apportioning love usually doesn’t result in spouses feeling honored and understood. The problem usually arises when neither of you can agree on where “halfway” is.

There’s a better way. It’s the 100/100 marriage, which is God’s design for a husband and a wife. Listen to what Paul said: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). When a husband loves in this way, he chooses to serve his wife because of his desire to be obedient to God’s design for him. He is stirred not only by pleasing her but also by pleasing God. The same is true of the wife. When you serve each other, trying with 100 percent of yourself to love and serve your spouse, you will find joy and fulfillment beyond what you can imagine.

 *For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Communicate to Reduce Stress

A job in law enforcement is one of the most stressful occupations. Officers often deal with things in their day-to-day that most others couldn’t imagine. Things like fatalities, domestic abuse, crimes against children and the ever-present danger of personal injury or death on duty.

Photo by  Christin Hume  on  Unsplash

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Over time, these daily occurrences can result in physiological and psychological issues that might not be fully understood by an officer’s family. And the truth is, their spouse often suffers, too. According to an article by Dr. Jarrod Sadulski on, spousal stress can also result from media criticism of police officers, an apparent rise in violence against officers and the fear of the always present dangers their spouse faces while on duty.

Dr. Sadulski emphasizes something we readily agree with: Communication is one of the most effective ways spouses can reduce their own stress and the stress within their marriage and family. He points out that officers and their spouses should communicate regularly and talk about specific factors that cause the stress.

(Source: “How Police Spouses Can Manage Stress (And Why They Need To)”

by Dr. Jarrod Sadulski via, posted May 14, 2018)

When couples don’t share their lives and hearts with each other consistently, the atmosphere in the home can get colder than an arctic winter. Without communication we fall out of sync and disconnect, leaving plenty of room for chilly distance and selfishness to grow.

Communication is the process of sharing yourself verbally and nonverbally in a way that your spouse both understands and accepts—though not necessarily agrees with—what you are sharing. Studies show that couples who communicate frequently have a more satisfying relationship. And couples who achieve deep levels of communication enjoy the most satisfaction of all.

So what does effective, meaningful communication look like in an intimate relationship? To answer that question, we must look at God’s model of communication with us, his beloved. Throughout Scripture we see at least three basic levels on which God has communicated with us. You and your spouse can evaluate the effectiveness of your communication by asking yourselves if these three levels are fully operational in your day-to-day interaction.

Information and History

God went to great lengths in Scripture to share with us volumes of important and interesting information. He tells us how the heavens and the earth were created. He includes countless biographies not only of godly men and women but also individuals who refused relationship with him. He recites in painstaking detail how his Son was born, lived, died, and was raised again to redeem fallen mankind. He describes the early decades of church history. In Scripture, God has provided information for us in panoramic, overarching summaries and jot-and-tittle details.

Effective communication in a marriage must include information of many kinds. Obviously, you need to be talking constantly about the details of personal schedules, finances, and childcare, for example. But your spouse also needs to know on a daily basis about your activities away from home, your work projects, your interactions with other people, the surprises that happen to you, and any number of events and happenings you encounter while apart. By sharing information with your spouse, you are welcoming him or her into your world, which encourages intimacy.

Opinions and Beliefs

In addition to the information in Scripture, God generously shares with us his opinions and beliefs about our life here on earth. He left with us the law and commandments of the Old Testament, the sermons and parables of Christ, and the instruction of the Epistles. And because God is God, his opinions and beliefs on any topic constitute truth. He is always right. His opinions and beliefs are moral absolutes for us, defining what is right and what is wrong.

Our opinions and beliefs are not perfect like God’s, but they are no less valuable to intimacy in a marriage relationship. Your spouse needs to hear what you believe about what is happening in your family, your community, your church, and the world. When you share your opinions and beliefs, you are welcoming your spouse into your thoughts, which encourages intimacy.

Feelings and Desires

Throughout the Bible, God reveals a wide scope of emotions—joy, anger, jealousy, love, grief, disappointment, and others. Jesus wept. Jesus became angry. Jesus loved. Jesus also held little children on his knee and participated in joyful weddings. God has emotions, and he chose not to hide his feelings from us in Scripture. We also sense the yearnings of God’s heart in his Word, his deep desire for a relationship with us, his sorrow when we do not respond to his love.

Your spouse needs to hear not only your information and your convictions, but also your feelings and desires about what is happening in your life. This doesn’t just mean that you express your emotions by laughing, crying, or venting in front of him or her. It also means describing what is going on in your heart with words such as, “I feel like...,” “It hurts me when...,” “I’m so happy about...,” or, “I really wish that...” When you share your deep emotions and yearnings with your spouse, you are welcoming him or her into your heart, which encourages intimacy.

A key to meaningful, intimacy-building communication is to develop proficiency at all three levels. Become an expert in the serving love of sharing with your spouse what you know, what you think, and what you feel. Your marriage will be richer for it.

*For more helpful insights on how to connect with your spouse, check out Renewing Your Love: Devotions for Couples in our online bookstore.

Guard the Heart of Your Marriage Against Divorce

There are many things that can come between you and your spouse, which is why it is so important to guard your heart – and the heart of your marriage. Stress can cause fractures in any marriage relationship, but a first-responder is likely to bring a higher about of stress home. According to a report on Emergency Responder Exhaustion Syndrome, divorce rates among emergency responders range from 35% to 75%. The report states that is likely due to job stress that is taken home. (source: Emergency Responder Exhaustion Syndrome (ERES): A perspective on stress, coping and treatment in the emergency responder milieu. Fay, J. PsyD, Kamena, M. D PhD, Benner, A. PhD, Buscho, A. PhD & Nagle, D)

Photo by  Aidan Bartos  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aidan Bartos on Unsplash

So what are some ways you can protect your marriage against the threat of separation or divorce?

The very survival of your marriage depends on your recognizing the scope of the covenant you made on your wedding day. You must say with absolute conviction, “Divorce is not an option. We are married for life.” Without this firm pledge to God and to each other, your marriage is vulnerable to defeat from every angle. But when you take a stand on your lifetime promise, your marriage can survive anything. Banish the idea of divorce from your thinking. Your marriage is only safely divorce-proofed when you commit to never using the “D word.” Before you can ever know the deep security and confidence God intends for you to enjoy as a couple, you need to be certain that your relationship is rooted in a love that will never give up.

Why is that so important? Listen to Malachi 2:16 where God says, “I hate divorce!” If God hates something, wouldn’t it be wise to put it on your hate list, too? God is very serious about the covenant you made with him and with your spouse on your wedding day. He is unequivocal on this topic: Marriage is to be a lifelong commitment—period. Divorce should not even be considered an option.

Notice that God does not say, “I hate divorced people.” On the contrary, he loves all people, including divorced people. That’s precisely why he is so vehement on the divorce issue—he knows the pain it brings to the people he loves. It’s as if he pleads with us, “Divorce deeply wounds everyone involved. I don’t want to see you hurt. Do yourself a favor: Avoid the hurt by honoring your lifetime commitment.”

In the same breath as his denouncement of divorce in Malachi 2:16, God provides a two-pronged antidote to divorce. As you apply these commands to your relationship, you take major steps toward divorce-proofing your marriage.

First, he says, “Guard your heart.” This command suggests that there is something threatening marriage and you need to keep up your guard. Our culture openly condones and facilitates divorce. A person can get a divorce for practically no reason at all. It’s an easy out for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with even the normal conflicts and adjustments of married life. Our culture seems to say, “If your marriage isn’t working out the way you like, just divorce your spouse and look for one you like better.” The “wisdom” of the world, disseminated through such dubious channels as tabloids and talk shows, says, “Divorce is the solution to your marriage problems.” But God says, “I hate divorce,” and he warns us to avoid this casual attitude toward the solemn vows we recited before him.

God’s second antidote for divorce in Malachi 2:16 is, “Do not be unfaithful.” You promised to love, honor, and cherish your spouse. He or she is counting on you to keep your word. Don’t break faith by going back on your vow. Pour your energies into unqualified love and faithfulness in marriage instead of making excuses and looking for loopholes. Continually ask yourself, “How can I help make our relationship richer, deeper, and more fulfilling despite our conflicts and struggles?”

*For more about how to unlock the biblical secrets to a marriage that stays vibrant and strong for a lifetime check out our book 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love in our online bookstore!

When Depression Hits Your First-Responder Spouse

According to the National Institute of Justice, police officers reporting high levels of stress have three times greater health problems and are ten times more likely to suffer from depression than other officers. (source: National Institute of Justice, 1999)

Photo by from Pexels

Photo by from Pexels

If your first-responder spouse is struggling with depression - how can you help? In our book 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love, we identified six different biblical loves that can help a married couple through their years together. One of them is persevering love. That kind of love is what helps a husband and wife navigate loss, tough times, and setbacks and get through the other side.

We have been through difficult times. Gary went through a few months of depression. These times are not fun. They’re hard. But those are the times that can forge your marriage together. What can you do to hang on—to persevere—when times are tough?

If one of you is dealing with depression, do several things. (If one of you is dealing with medical depression, then be sure to see a doctor. However, if it’s just feeling low because of certain situations in life, the following suggestions will help.)

  • Spend time together and exercise. Take walks together. Try to stay active even though you don’t feel like it. Depression can suck you into a tunnel. You need to resist at every turn.

  • Pray together. Read the Word of God together.

  • Go out on brief dates.

  • Remember that there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end to every problem. Have a “this too shall pass” attitude. Remind yourself that God will get you through this one as well, a step at a time.

*For more about how to unlock the biblical secrets to a marriage that stays vibrant and strong for a lifetime check out our book 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love in our online bookstore!

Is Your Marriage Good? Or Just Good Enough?

If you’re like most couples, you launched into marriage as if it were a magic carpet ride to paradise. You were in love, deeply in love. Your wedding was tearful, joyful, tender, and touching.

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Then came the honeymoon. Wow! How could two people be more in love than you were? Dreamy days and steamy nights, a week of romantic violins and sparkling fireworks. You didn’t ever want to go home.

Once you settled into your first home, you brought the honeymoon with you. Parting in the morning to go to work was a real bummer, and coming home to each other every evening was the highlight of your day. Everything else took a backseat to the beautiful life you were forging together. Remember those days?

Where did it all go? At what point did the days of moonlight and flowers turn into weeks and months of tuna-noodle casseroles and falling asleep on the sofa watching Netflix?

Now, we’re not saying that the cow-eyed, heart-throbbing honeymoon couple you used to be has mutated into a pair of fuddy-duddies who never have any fun. But you must admit that, as the miles have rolled up on the odometer of your marriage, some of the chrome has lost its shine and the engine coughs now and then. Whereas your married life came off the starting line with the excitement of a sports car accelerating through hairpin turns, you have more or less settled into a freeway existence on cruise control.

In reality, the intensity and ecstasy of the honeymoon never lasts for any of us. It wasn’t meant to. Let’s face it: We would probably blow a gasket keeping up that pace for a lifetime! But this doesn’t mean you must remain the victim of the status quo, that you must settle for a relationship that is good enough—but not as good as it could be. Cruise control may be alright for your Buick, but it’s not alright for your marriage.

Cruise control means that you are simply maintaining, that you have settled into a groove and are just rolling along at a functional pace. Your marriage may be good, but is it getting any better? You may still be going together, but are you growing together? You need to guard your marriage against just being good enough.

There is a subtle danger in just cruising through marriage. Unlike a car on cruise control, marriages cannot just maintain constant speed. If your relationship isn’t growing deeper, it is growing more vulnerable to relational disconnect, discord, and even emotional divorce. And that’s just what God’s archenemy wants. Satan is out to rob you of the vitality and success God has in store for your marriage. And one of the ways he can take you out is by convincing you to settle for a good-enough marriage, to give up hoping and praying and working for everything God can make your marriage to be.

If you are not guarding your marriage by purposefully nurturing growth and dealing with thorny problems as they spring up, you will soon find your relationship withering. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course. Rather, good-enough marriages atrophy over the years due to laziness and lack of effort. A marriage that seems healthy today can slowly and almost imperceptibly drift toward divorce over a period of years if it is not constantly and purposefully reenergized.

“Hey, no marriage is perfect,” you may say. You’re absolutely correct. But that doesn’t mean your marriage can’t get better and stronger and more fulfilling as the years go by, no matter how many miles you have logged together. We encourage you to practice guarding love in your relationship.

So, what can you do to get your relationship off cruise control and rekindle your marriage dream? Here are a few suggestions to try or adapt:

  • Do something different just to snap yourselves out of the status quo. For some ideas, see our book 40 Unforgettable Dates With Your Mate.

  • Take your spouse to a restaurant you have never visited before, or prepare a meal that has never been on your menu before.

  • Sit down with your spouse after the kids are in bed and share a pleasant childhood memory; a dream vacation you would like to take with him or her some day; or a genuine, original, never-before-shared compliment for your spouse. Ask your spouse to share a memory or dream you have never heard before—then listen with interest.

It takes effort and energy, purpose and planning, time and tenacity. But the first step to a great marriage is deciding not to settle for good enough.

Don't "Deprive": What's That Mean for Your Sex Life?

Q: Is there a “normal” frequency when married couples should have sex? How can we figure out what works for us?

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A: The second question begins to answer the first one—in other words, discover what works for the two of you. The key is to communicate your needs and express your desires, then do what you can to make lovemaking the pleasurable and bonding time that God created it to be.

Women should understand that most men have a rhythm to their sexual pacing, so wives need to be good students of their husbands. Some guys want to be intimate with their wives every seventy-two hours. Other men every forty-eight hours. Other men once a week. Other factors such as stress, illness, fatigue can affect men’s desire for sex. Those same factors affect women as well. Men need to understand that if their wives are working around the clock, be it in the home or outside of the home, chances are sex is going to be really low on their “to do” list. Yet women really need that intimacy because it creates safety and security for them. 

The Bible even speaks about the need for married couples to have sex. First Corinthians 7:5 says, “Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Lots of couples may not have had sex for awhile—but it’s not because they’re taking time off for prayer. More likely, they are just exhausted, or dealing with a new baby, or having too much stress at work or at home. The Bible says, don’t deprive each other. One of you may not feel like it, but so what? Give yourself to the other anyway. Take care of each other in this area. Why? Well, because of the second part of that verse: Satan will be glad to provide someone else to meet your spouse’s needs. The longer you go without sexual connection, the more chance you’ll go underground or be led into sin.

The bottom line is not to let too much time go by without that connection. You both need it.

*For more revealing insights about what your spouse’s most intimate sex needs are - and how to meet them - check out The 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women in our online bookstore!

Don’t Let Deployment Tear Your Family Apart

It’s a fact: military deployment is tough on a family. Research shows deployment is an emotional and stressful experience for military personnel, their spouses and their children.

Photo by Wyatt on Pexels

Photo by Wyatt on Pexels

The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center reports that the separation can cause stress due to the loss of emotional support, disconnected relationships, and increased caretaking and household responsibilities for the civilian spouse. It can also cause spouses to experience loneliness, anger, depression and anxiety.

Reunion can also be a challenge for military personnel and their families. Just look at this information from The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center:

  • Research shows that the non-deployed spouse often carries certain expectations about the reunion and may feel let down if his or her partner is withdrawn and depressed upon return.

  • The returning spouse may also face health/mental health conditions that make reintegration challenging.

  • Further, following deployment, the non-deployed spouse may feel irritated at relinquishing the independent roles they have established during their partner's absence, while the returning spouse may wonder why he/she cannot simply resume pre-deployment roles.

  • It may take several months before couples adjust to living together again. This process often involves a reexamination and renegotiation of the marriage, family roles, and family structure.

(source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center,

These are difficult challenges to face—and to overcome—but there is a way not only to survive trials but also to grow even stronger in the process. Here are five vital keys to building a fortress of love that will protect your marriage.

Connect and Stay Connected

Your ability to endure together in the hard times is directly proportional to the depth of your partnership in good times. Two hearts must link up to grow strong together. If you want to stay glued together in difficulties, you have to apply the cement of partnership now. Before you go your separate ways each day, give each other a heartfelt, “I love you.” Stay connected by calling each other during the day. Do what it takes to feel connected and present for each other even when you’re apart

Make Your Relationship a Safe Place

Is your relationship a safe place where both of you can run from the troubles of life? Your spouse needs to know now that your loving arms will always be a shelter in the midst of a trial or tragedy. He or she will sense that assurance only if you practice empathy and comfort now.

Keep Communicating

It’s difficult to communicate during tough times. Even the smallest of trials can drive a wedge between a husband and wife. And if small conflicts can divide you, think how much more some of the devastating blows of life can push you apart. Trials are a threat to communication because they isolate you in your own thoughts. Trials have a way of forcing even the most communicative people inward.

Rest in the Truth That God Has a Purpose for Trials

If it were up to us, we would choose to navigate through life with as few problems as possible. God doesn’t see things our way, however. He has allowed trials in our lives to teach us to persevere. Great marriages are often forged through difficult trials. Whatever you may be facing in your marriage right now, let the words of James 1:2-4 be both instruction and comfort: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Decide to Tackle Trouble Together—Wherever It Takes You

We have found that our love for each other is glorious in the good times—the vacations on the beach, the memory-making experiences with the kids, the times of deep intimacy together with Jesus Christ. It’s easy to love in the good times. But when our marriage comes under intense testing, we still have in our possession what really matters: A love that won’t quit. No matter where our trials take us, we have each other.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Keeping Secrets - Can it Help? Or Does it Hurt?

Q: Is it okay to keep secrets from my spouse?

Photo by Demeter Attila on Pexels

Photo by Demeter Attila on Pexels

A: You need to be honest, but you also need to measure how much about the facts you need to disclose. Self disclosure can be good, but it can also go too far. For example, if you are going to get married, your future spouse has every right to know about your sexual past, but he or she doesn’t need to know every detail and the name of every person from your sexual past. Sharing all of that can only cause pain. Be honest with where you’ve been, but be careful as to the level of disclosure you use.

We have had callers to our radio program who, at a point in their marriage, had committed adultery—had an affair. They have experienced the guilt and pain; they’ve gone back to their spouse; they’ve come clean with God. They call to ask us if they should confess the infidelity to their spouse. 

That’s a very difficult question. It can be very tempting to take the easy way out and not say anything. You can figure it’s over and done with and you don’t want to put your spouse through that. There is some truth to that, and in certain situations that may be the best course of action. But we also want to challenge you to think about the intimacy factor. By keeping your secret, how is it that you could ever experience all the intimacy that God desires in your marriage relationship?

First, consider emotional intimacy. When you are emotionally intimate with your spouse, you are connecting. You experience grace, listening, validation, honesty, as well as the sharing of hurt or disappointment. At that point of openness, Satan loves to zoom in and whisper in your ear the voice of condemnation, of unconfessed sin. He can’t do anything about the fact that he knows you’ve straightened it out with God, but he wants to make you continue to feel the pain of experiencing openness with your spouse while you’re holding something back.

Second is spiritual intimacy. You’ve been forgiven by God, but you’re also covering a sin. Proverbs 28:13 says,  “People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” How will you deal with that?

Third is physical intimacy. When you move into physical intimacy with your spouse, does this affair come up in your mind? How is that affecting your ability to give yourself completely to your spouse?

There’s going to be a lot pain if you confess. There’s no doubt. It’s tough, but that’s one of the consequences you face for having committed the sin in the first place (if this is the only consequence you have from committing adultery, consider yourself fortunate). But if you come to confession to your spouse explaining your desire for that true, unhindered oneness, you’ll be a long way toward reconciliation. Have boundaries in how much you tell. You needn’t give all the details. Lay down the honest truth. Honesty and confession can carry a relationship into new places.

The best way to deal with secrets is not to have them. Be truthful. Live a life of truth. If there is something you’re hiding, then get it out. If there are secrets in your life that you know you need to tell your spouse, than tell him or her in love. Don’t view certain secrets as “small,” for there is always deception in secrets. Instead, ask yourself, “Would I say this, do this, or think this if my spouse were right here in the room?” If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t do it. To protect yourself, be willing to be openly honest with your spouse. For example, if you’re noticing the flirtation of a co-worker, express your concern to your spouse. That will hold you accountable.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!