Getting the Walls and Windows Right

“What God has joined together, let no one come between”

…with those words a good friend of mine completed the formal part of the vows for a couple dear to me.

Those words were spoken at Pineridge Hollow near Winnipeg. The weather was perfect,with the sun shining brightly and yet it was comfortable.The grass was green, the bride was beautiful, and the couple and their families were clearly delighted by the day’s events.The facility had sprayed for mosquitoes and so the pesky critters who are out of control generally, didn’t disturb the festivities. It was beautiful.

A wedding ceremony has promises of fidelity which often aren't kept, and cheating in marriage happens.

The line above, for me, hung in the air.As a marriage therapist who works with couples in distress, I know how the days ahead for this couple, as with any couple, will inevitably face some dark days where there will be a moment of choice involved.

This line is no mere pleasant tradition. 

At various points in their lives, over the years of marriage, each spouse will have various moments where they will have to make a decision.That decision will be a vote “for” the marriage or “against” the marriage.The line above, spoke in one form or another, will be in almost every wedding ceremony.It is spoken in the ceremony blithely, as part of the normal routine of a ceremony…but those words are powerful ones which spouses can choose to enforce…or not.

I was reminded of Shirley Glass’ work on “walls and windows”

when I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. (Glass, incidently, is a fabulously serendipitous surname for her work on walls and windows, in the category of the inventor of the toilet having the last name of “Crapper”!)

As I understand it, she warns that affairs often begin with extremely innocently, as a joke or a struggle at work that has two people feel warmly with each other. And, in a moment of connection, one tells the other something that is something that ordinarily would be held in confidence between husband and wife. For example, two co-workers together unfairly face the wrath of a boss. After the boss leaves, and they debrief and support each other, he discloses to her that he felt this way after his wife got angry with him for staying at work late for working on this very project.

A tiny window is opened in this relationship.

When he gets home from work, he knows that his wife wouldn’t feel comfortable with him disclosing about last’s night argument with a colleague, particularly a female one, so he conveniently avoids telling her.

A wall is erected in his marriage.

This is innocent. There is no ill intent. Heck, ill intent isn’t even on the radar. However, there is a window where there should be a wall, and
a wall where a window is meant to be. 

This is dangerous.

It is a set up for the wall to get thicker and higher, and the window to gradually get larger, in such a sinister way that no one may notice the danger until it feels too late, that it becomes very difficult, and it may feel impossible to stop.

So it sets up the husband in the example above to go on a business lunch with this co-worker the following week, without mentioning it to his wife, which turns into a quick social drink after work.His co-worker continues to be supportive of him as she hears of how he struggles in this marriage that he wants to work, but feels discouraged by. Gradually, he confides in her more and more, and she is always supportive (which is easy when not sharing bills, diaper duty, and a busy schedule) and so it develops into “more than friends” before anyone realizes.

When God joins something together, not only do others have to make sure that no others come between, but each spouse in the couple needs to monitor the walls and windows of the relationship carefully, to preserve the integrity of the relationship.

Affairs can happen to good people, to people who love their spouses, to people who have no intention of getting in an affair.Affairs can happen to people who have NO intention of ending their marriage or of hurting their spouse. Recovery from infidelity is possible, but it is a lengthy process…prevention is the way to go. For an excellent article that is an interview with Dr. Glass on the topic of infidelity, read here.

Why don’t you walk through the building of your relationship right now, and do a “walls and windows” check. Be honest. Really honest. Because those of you who need this inventory the most, will be at greatest risk to fool yourself into thinking that it’s “no big deal”. Don’t let denial now destroy your marriage later. Please don’t let self-deception lay the ground work for the death of your marriage, the destruction of a household, the devastation of your spouse, and life long ripple effects for your children.

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