QUESTION: Our son just got married, and while he and his wife obviously love each other, I'm worried about their long-term prospects. He travels a lot, and there are so many temptations out there. How can I help him avoid the same terrible mistakes I made as a younger man?
JIM: At Focus on the Family we hear from many hurting people whose homes have been destroyed by infidelity. However, no matter how great the temptations out there, your son needs to know that disasters like this (BEGIN ITALS)can(END ITALS) be avoided.
You can encourage him in that regard, but it's a battle he must fight himself. Marriage counselor David Sanford has noted that nobody wakes up one day and suddenly decides to have an affair. Infidelity takes root in the heart and mind long before the physical act.
The opposite is also true. Marital fidelity starts well before marriage. It begins as a promise we make to ourselves -- to be a person of character. Being faithful is a lifelong commitment. It means seeking the best for your spouse and your family on a daily basis, at home or on the road.
Dr. Sanford has outlined several steps to help strengthen marital fidelity. These include affirming and listening to your spouse, seeking to meet her needs, and setting healthy boundaries for relationships outside the home. Hopefully your son is doing these things.
On the other hand, marital fidelity weakens when you devalue or avoid your spouse, instead focusing on yourself. It might start when a husband looks at pornography online, or when a wife gets too close emotionally to a male co-worker. But it always ends in heartache.
Even for those who have broken the bonds of marital trust, there is hope for healing and restoration. But the path is long and painful. It's so much better not to start down it in the first place.
QUESTION: Because of the downturn of the economy, I've found myself the primary breadwinner in our family. I grew up in a very traditional home, so this is an unknown for me. I can already tell it's causing friction with my husband. What do I do?
JULI: The Pew Research Center reported that in 2007 approximately 22 percent of wives earned more than her husband, so you're not alone. While there's nothing morally wrong with a wife being the primary breadwinner, it does present some unique marriage challenges. These difficulties are not often discussed because they represent traditional ideas that are not considered "PC." Politically correct or not, the problems are real.
Regardless of who earns more money, the fundamental needs of men and women in marriage haven't changed. A man needs to feel like a competent contributor and protector of his family. For the past several generations, the fundamental way men have measured their role as husband and father is how they provide financially. When he's unemployed, or his wife outearns him, a husband's confidence can take a big hit.
One of a wife's primary needs in marriage is to feel protected by her husband. This is echoed in the storybook romances of knights in shining armor rescuing damsels in distress. Although you may not feel like you (BEGIN ITALS)need(END ITALS) rescuing, your heart probably longs to rest in your husband's strength.
When a woman outearns her husband, these primary needs can easily go unmet. He feels useless, and she starts to resent having to carry the whole load. If by choice or necessity you continue to be the breadwinner, I recommend that you address these issues with your husband, perhaps with the help of a counselor. Making sure that both of your emotional needs are met will determine the health of your marriage.
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.
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