FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Protect your marriage from competing intimate relationships

Jim Daly

Jim Daly


Juli Slattery

Q: How do I deal with my wife's continuing relationships with her ex-boyfriends? We have been married two years and she still likes to communicate with them. I trust my wife, but I don't understand why she feels the need to keep reaching out to them.

Juli: I think you are right to be concerned about this, even if you trust your wife. A person's friendships with the opposite sex need to change after marriage. This is particularly true with ex-boyfriends or girlfriends.

Even if the relationships are strictly platonic, they present the potential for a romantic relationship in the future. When you go through difficulty in your marriage, it will be too easy for your wife to confide in another man.

While your wife needs the support and companionship of close female friends, her friendships with men need to be more superficial and distant. Unfortunately, that is not a popular thing to say today. But guarding a marriage means protecting it from the potential of competing intimate relationships.

I would ask your wife why she continues to communicate with her former boyfriends. Explain to her that it is important for you to be the one man she confides in. Tell her that this isn't about trust. It's about being her one and only.n nnQ: My wife and I have been married for less than a year, and I was just diagnosed with cancer. Even more than my own health, I'm worried about what this means for our marriage. My wife didn't sign up for this, and frankly, neither did I.

Jim: I'm very sorry to learn of your diagnosis. Cancer is not an easy thing for any family, let alone newlyweds who are just beginning their journey together. Like most couples, when you pledged to love "in sickness and in health," you were likely only thinking about the flu or the occasional broken bone. This diagnosis has cast a cloud over all of that.

Author Erin Prater has developed a list of tips for dealing with a serious diagnosis as a couple. I hope you and your wife will take it to heart as you look to what lies ahead:

• Accept offers of help. If you're involved with a church or a close group of friends, you'll likely receive more assistance than you know what to do with. This will allow you to focus on healing and coping as a couple.

• Find a support group. Contact your doctor's office or church for referrals.

• Find a good counselor. A certified family counselor can help you navigate the emotions associated with this time. Contact Focus on the Family for a local referral.

• Continue to make intimacy a priority. Sex is one of the greatest tangible bonds between a married couple. If it's still possible, make it happen.

• Reach outside yourself. You and your spouse may start to spiritually and emotionally "drown" in hopelessness if you constantly focus on your situation. Find ways to help others in need.

• Realize it's OK to question God. Present Him with your questions and uncertainties.

• Reflect. Journal your thoughts, feelings and reflections. Then share them with your spouse.

• Refuse to be owned by your condition. Life, no matter how painful or confusing, is precious and worth living. Do your best to make lemonade out of lemons.

The road before you may be rough, but the strongest marriages are founded on trials such as the one you're facing. May God grant you and your wife strength as you weather this storm together.

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, host of the "Focus on the Family" radio program, and a husband and father of two. Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of "Focus on the Family," author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.