Q: My husband told me a month ago that he has started to eat lunch with a single lady in his office. He says they’re only friends and feels sorry for her since she is new to the company. I told him I didn’t feel comfortable with him eating with her alone and asked if some other co-workers could eat with them as well. He said there isn’t anyone else to sit with them. Am I being too paranoid, or should I insist that he stop?
Jim: Your concerns are warranted. Your husband may genuinely feel sorry for his co-worker and have a desire to make her feel welcome at the office. But consistent one-on-one time with her is not a healthy idea. Most people who fall into extramarital affairs didn’t set out to do so. Rather, the illicit relationship began on innocent terms.
There are always compelling reasons to be cautious about opposite-sex friendships outside of one’s spouse. Before you were married, you may have had lots of friends of the opposite sex, but things are different now. Once you say, “I do,” your bond with your spouse takes priority over every other relationship.
An excellent book on maintaining appropriate boundaries in marriage is “Hedges,” by Jerry B. Jenkins. If your husband is willing, you might consider reading it together. But make sure he knows that your desire to read the book is motivated not by suspicion, but rather a desire to make your relationship as healthy and strong as possible. You might also consider taking Focus on the Family’s Couple Checkup (www.family.org/couplecheckup), which will help both of you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in your relationship.
Q: I found some very inappropriate texts and pictures on my teenage son’s cellphone the other day. I know when I confront him, he will be devastated that I know. How can I approach this so that he understands it’s wrong to do this without scarring him for life?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Confronting your son about inappropriate behavior won’t scar him for life, but allowing that behavior to continue unchecked just might.
The first thing he needs to know is that sexting is potentially illegal. He could face arrest and prosecution for sharing or receiving explicit pictures over the phone. If the subjects are minors, the pictures fall into the category of child pornography, the distribution and possession of which is strictly illegal in every state.
Will your son be embarrassed when you confront him about this? Probably. So when you do confront him, make sure he knows that you’re doing so out of a deep love for him and a concern for his emotional and spiritual well-being.
This will require you to walk a very fine line. If you make light of the situation and dismiss the seriousness of the mistake your son has made, you increase the likelihood that he’ll repeat the behavior. On the other hand, if you take an excessively hardline approach, you run the risk of driving your teen into even deeper despair.
Even as you endeavor to address the situation with love and compassion, then, there can be no question of minimizing the anguish your son is experiencing. The key to successfully managing this situation is to help him take ownership of that anguish, assume responsibility for the actions and choices that produced it, and turn it into a springboard to better, wiser behavior in the future. If you need help with this crucial process, don’t hesitate to contact Focus on the Family for a consultation with a member of our counseling team.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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