June 15, 2009
by Bryce Klabunde
“We never intended to fall in love. We were just friends at the office,” the woman confessed through bitter tears. Her affair had finally come to light, and she and her devastated husband sat in their pastor’s study, desperately trying to mend their shattered marriage.
Their story is another tragic statistic in an alarming workplace trend. More and more often, men and women are working closely on projects, traveling together on business trips, celebrating successes together, and consoling one another when the business deal fails. These intensely personal experiences give workplace friendships an emotional charge that can threaten any marriage.
How can you protect your marriage from a workplace affair—or any affair? One word: boundaries. A common assumption is that loving marriages are immune to affairs. But research suggests that it’s not necessarily the strength of your love that protects you, but the strength of your boundaries.
A boundary is an inviolable, personal conviction. Unfaithful spouses often claim to be victims of forces beyond their control: “I couldn’t help myself.” Yet everyone who has an affair willfully decides to compromise a conviction.
The boundary that usually falls first is the “shared secret.” You may feel an attraction toward a workmate. However, not until you “share your secret” do you break the boundary. A boundary-breaker may be a flirtatious touch. An e-mail with a double meaning. An overly personal compliment. If the other person responds in kind and neither of you tells your spouse, you give each other a silent signal that your feelings are mutual and the secret is safe. Like a spark igniting fuel in an engine, a shared secret revs up a relationship and begins the affair.
So, don’t cross the “shared secret” boundary. If you sense that a coworker is testing that boundary, immediately tell your spouse. Exposing the secret immediately defuses it . . . and builds trust.
What are other boundaries?
- Never pair up on business trips
- Never share marriage problems or dissatisfaction—this signals that you want emotional intimacy
- Never give overly personal compliments
- Never violate personal space by sitting too close or touching
“The marriage bed is to be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). The phrase, marriage bed, represents the physical and emotional intimacy that makes marriage sacred. “Protect your marriage,” the writer is saying. Don’t give the intimacy that you promised your spouse to anyone else. Keep your boundaries firm.