Forget the Hedge, Erect a Wall

I’ve often heard the admonition to “build a hedge” around your marriage as a protection from temptation. That hedge may consist of setting boundaries for if, when, where, and how you will be with someone of the opposite sex. It can include talking to your spouse about who you’ve spend time with throughout the day and even any struggles with lust you may have experienced.

But I think I’m done with the word “hedge.” In the last month, I have learned of two Christian couples whose marriages have been struck by adultery. I ache for them and what the adulterer’s actions will do to their families. Considering them and what the Bible says about adultery, we need to forget the hedge and build a wall.

Defensive wall

By 猫猫的日记本 via Wikimedia Commons

A hedge intimates that you can see over to the other side — how good it looks over there. You can wave at people or shake hands. Good gracious, I could even kiss someone over a hedge. I can crawl under a hedge, jump a hedge, squeeze through a hedge, etc. No, I want a wall for my marriage — a sturdy, rock-hewn boundary that keeps my marriage safe inside and invaders outside. If some guy wants to hang out with me, he can ring the doorbell and come in through the front door that my husband opens. Then our friendship is all on the up-and-up.

Yes, definitely a wall. Remember Nehemiah in the Bible? God sends him back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city’s wall as the time of Babylonian captivity is ending. Why did the City of David need a wall? Walls were constructed to secure and protect the people within the city limits. Marriages need the same thing: a WALL to secure and protect the relationship that you have committed to and that God will bless.

We need to be marriage Nehemiahs erecting thick walls to provide security for our relationships. We will also likely experience pushback from those who believe that building walls is a foolish task. You may have friends that suggest that if you loved each other, such walls would be unnecessary or proclaim that they can have opposite-sex friendships and wonder why you can’t. Nehemiah faced opposition, anger, and ridicule when he and his fellow Israelites built the wall. But he encouraged the Jews by saying, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14). We are fighting for the same thing when we make the effort to protect our marriages from the temptations and opposition that may come from outside.

Given my premarital history of promiscuity, I have a rule that I do not spend time alone with a male who is not my husband or a relative. I don’t care if you are my co-worker, a family friend, a church elder, or my literary agent, we are not chatting it up over lunch somewhere alone. Does this make logistics difficult at times? Yes. However, it makes my marriage a lot easier. And my marriage takes precedence over inconvenience.

Some married couples assert that they can maintain friendships with opposite sex people because their marriage is strong enough. Perhaps it is…now. But in many situations I’ve seen and heard about, the marriage hits a rocky spot (which happens in just about every marriage) and suddenly an innocuous friendship becomes a temptation because it seems better and easier than the relationship at home with the spouse. If you want to maintain friendships with opposite sex people, include your spouse. Do double dates; invite your hubby to get to know your male best friend from high school or college; host a group event. But be very cautious about having alone time with a man who isn’t your hubby.

If someone of the opposite sex is flirting with you and won’t take no for an answer, get firm. Be frank. Push them back. Get away.

Is that clear enough?

Why am I adamant about this? Because in the worst years of my marriage — when I was about 80% sure we wouldn’t make it — I was ripe for an affair. Had there been another man in my life who was attentive, kind, responsive, attractive, etc., at that moment he would have looked much better than the painful prospect of working on my failing marriage. Thank goodness — no, thank GOD — that I had set up that rule for myself and did not have such a guy on the horizon. Because I was committed to my marriage, and because I didn’t have another option, I stuck it out. My husband and I worked on our relationship, and we are happier now than ever before. I love and adore my husband, and he feels the same for me.

Also, consider the children. When a parent leaves the home to take up with another woman or another man, the child does not see that the marriage wasn’t working, the parent fell in love, sometimes things happen, they will still see their parent, and all of the other rationalizations the adulterer gives. They see that the adulterous parent chose someone else over them. It is not the same as divorcing and then remarrying someone else. Breaking up a marriage over adultery has a more profound effect.

If you are unhappy in your marriage right now, you are even more susceptible. Get help for your relationship! Things can get better. God desires you to have a quality marriage.

If you have already engaged in inappropriate activity, break off contact with the other person. Ask for a transfer to another work department or shift if needed. Build a wall around your marriage and get help. Tell your pastor or a counselor what has happened, and figure out together whether/how to inform your spouse.

Forget the hedge, build a wall. Remember your vows to keep yourself only unto your spouse.

“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.'” Nehemiah 6:9

31 thoughts on “Forget the Hedge, Erect a Wall

  1. Anonymous

    This has been one of the best articles I have ever read it makes so much scenes if only I had read it before but it’s better now than never

  2. Jason@SongSix3

    Amen! We have learned this lesson the hard way, and the fallout was horrible to walk through. But we have (by your definitions above) some serious STONE walls in place now, and we are very thankful for them.

    That whole mindset of “I’m a big girl/boy and can handle an opposite-sex friendship without hurting my marriage” is a total fallacy. And it demonstrates an incredible amount of pride in one’s self. 1 Corinthians 10:12 says this: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

    Be humble, and see the words of a man who once believed he was a big boy and could handle it… your chances of successfully avoiding ANY hurt to your marriage in the scenarios described above are next to zero.

    And if that’s not good enough for you, remember what 1 Peter 5:8 has to say… “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

    For anyone who’s ever seen the kids’ movie “Madagascar”… in the words of Maurice (King Julien’s faithful sidekick), “We are ALL steak!”

    May your marriage survive every satanic attack against it, as you stand with Christ firmly at the center of your union.

    ~Jason@SongSix3

    1. J

      My heart breaks for you and your situation. Indeed, some spouses are abusive in exerting CONTROL rather than PROTECTION of their marriage.

      The Jerusalem wall had gates. Gates don’t permit people to sneak out, but they can come and go.

      Walls should leave ample room inside. Prison cells have walls too, but they aren’t protective so much as restrictive. Marriage walls should provide a sense of security, not confinement.

      It’s hard to say exactly where lines should be drawn because circumstances differ. Just as cities have different designs for their walls based on the geographic and population needs, marriages will vary in what constitutes a good wall.

      Also, you make the fabulous point that you can’t build a wall for someone else. My encouragement is for each spouse to build the appropriate wall, not to confine their spouse into a small space to keep a watchful eye on them. That’s a whole other problem that no marriage needs.

  3. Anonymous

    I’ve just separated from my husband of 25 years for his jealous, controlling behavior. I’m pretty confused about hedges and walls after being accused of inappropriate relationships (from friendships to all-out affairs) for years, and I’m also confused about the line between submission and emotional abuse, and the line between submitting to a husband and being an enabler for a sinful man to be able to continue in sin while enjoying respect in the community and church, and even at home as a father. I believe that divorce is scripturally wrong so I’m guilt-filled, alone, broke, and trying to be a good mom to hurting children. Another man is absolutely the last thing on my mind and I can’t envision an affair at all. So much irony, considering the fact that my husband considers me an adulteress.

    1. J

      By no means do I wish to leave the impression that hurling unreasonable accusations at your spouse has anything to do with wall-building. In fact, I was reading Plato today (don’t ask why) and came across a fabulous quote: “The highest reach of injustice is to be deemed just what you are not.” Husband and wife should work together to build an appropriate wall that serves as protection for their marriage, not confinement. And to be paranoid without cause and destroy trust with invalid accusations is injustice.

      That said, more couples struggle with not having enough boundaries rather than too many. Obviously, your circumstance was different. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  4. Pearl

    YES! I think of my wall as an invisible deflector shield like on Star Trek. As we bridged the rocky years, it had to become more powerful. Never underestimate the power of Satan and temptation. Superb, J!!

  5. Greg

    “In the last month, I have learned of two Christian couples whose marriages have been struck by adultery. I ache for them and what the adulterer’s actions will do to their families.”

    I know God never intended to be that way, but so often marriage is an incredibly frightening place to be. 🙁 As someone once told me, “There are worse things than being single.” May God bring healing and restoration to these and so many broken marriages and families!

  6. Beth Cranford

    Very well said and so true.

    Another thought I have about spending time alone with a man who isn’t my husband or relative, (I don’t live near relatives so that’s not an issue for me, but I digress…) is that there are two people to consider. You might be in a position where your marriage is strong. The man you’re meeting with doesn’t tempt you in any way. You’re safe. But stop and think about the other person. Is his marriage secure? (you can’t possibly know this!) Is there something about you that meets a need that is going unmet at home? (you’d be surprised!). Don’t underestimate what might be attractive about you. Don’t put yourself in the position of being a stumbling block for someone else’s husband. And don’t fool yourself by thinking it’s the in-person meetings that matter. Private conversations online can be just as dangerous.

    Ask me how I know.

  7. Loaf Mom

    Sound advice! I remember in my first (read: former) marriage I heard a message similar to this on a radio show and I *didn’t* like hearing it. I thought to myself, “Well… this doesn’t apply in my situation… I am mature enough to let male friends remain friends.” But it turned out to be something I should have taken to heart. That marriage didn’t end over adultery, but when I was only too eager to move on to the first person to pay attention without taking time to heal.

  8. Jess+the Mess

    Great advice. We have a rule in our marriage, we don’t play with fire, that includes no former boyfriends or girlfriends as facebook friends as well. It is way too easy to have flattery turn into something inappropriate and deadly very quickly, especially in a marriage.

  9. missionhusband

    Wow! GREAT post J! I read this on my break at work, and had to resist the urge to stand up and start yelling “amen sister! Preach it girl!” I am so tired of hearing about marriages of friends I know breaking up due to what was once a “harmless friend” being involved. I will be sharing this post!

  10. Jen

    Wow, great post. So good. Marriages are SO important, and the bloodshed (figuratively speaking) left behind when they’re not protected is devastating. Thank you for posting this. Hedges are pretty, but not terribly useful when it comes to protection (ask a friend whose hedge did nothing to protect her flock of chickens), and marriages are one of the most endangered things in our culture!

  11. Melissa

    Good advice! I wrote about this last week…specific ways to prevent affairs and still have opposite sex friends. You are right, hedges leave room for things we don’t intend to happen to happen. We have to protect our marriage, even if others think it’s weird or don’t understand. As someone who has been through my husband’s infidelity, I can say any husband who takes protecting his marriage seriously will be even more respected and cherished in the eyes of his wife. I’m sure vice versa is also true. When we build walls of protection around our marriage it increases our security, trust, and respect. So important for a great marriage!

  12. Christy

    Oh I loved this post. It’s like you took the words from my heart and wrote them on your blog. My husband and I agreed to start building a wall by staying off Face Book. It’s just one way we keep those conversations with the opposite sex down to a minimum without the other spouse around. We are so excited about marriage and all that God has for us but after almost 16 years of marriage completely aware of the fact that Satan is gunning for us and his goal is to make us another statistic. Stay strong people! Forget the pretty hedge and build a wall! Run, flee from temptation and cling to what is good and true. Thank you for the post and reminding us what our priorities should be.

  13. Casey

    Excellent! Your post reminded me of this verse:

    Proverbs 14:1
    “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

  14. Anonymous

    I really needed this right now. I’ve been incredibly unhappy and lonely in my “roommate” marriage. We’re nothing much more than good friends. Believe me- I know others don’t have even that so I’m grateful for it. But on any level, constant rejection and completely absent intimacy feels horrible. I’ve toed the infidel line a few times over the last few months. I’ve read erotica. I’ve crossed lines totally not okay simply because I confess Christ as Lord. About a month ago I managed to gross myself out. Nothing is solved by looking for some obscure, entirely nonfulfilling connection else where. Additionally, I’ve allowed my husband’s short comings to reflect in how I’m trusting the Lord. The past few weeks I’ve had a lot of time to hold myself in check. I’ve had a lot of confessing to God to do. And a whole lot of repairing my relationship with God to do.
    I wish I could say I’ve been working equally as hard at my marriage, but I’m still struggling with just getting stuck in the drudgery of defeat. The thing is, the Lord keeps reminding me that if I choose to stay focused on being the victim in my marriage than I can’t get to place of victory. And than I get reminded of Jeremiah 29:11.
    Pray for me. And, I promise, I’ll be praying for you.
    And remember stay strong in the power of God’s might not your own.

    1. Anonymous

      My heart is just broken for you, sweetie. I can so feel every word you wrote…every.single.word. I live it myself and have been for so very many years. God has a plan for us and he can make any marriage better than our wildest dreams. Praying for you!

  15. Anonymous

    This was an awesome read and something SO important…totally not stressed enough!! I must say that I can, sadly, relate to anonymous above me, being in a marriage, really, in name only and that constant rejection hurts like all get out. To pursue your mate only to have your advances rebuffed, by the person who is supposed to be loving you like the church, well, it does some serious damage and can leave us with gaping wounds.

    For me, during our first separation (four years ago), I was crazy diligent with boundaries b/c I knew satan would come after that sacred part of our marriage. What happened was that satan was oh so quiet, biding his time, quietly and patiently lying in wait. I know the enemy and his schemes and lies, I know what the enemy sounds like, how he lures us, how appealing he can make the other side look and just how sneaky he is. I was not naive enough to think that *I* could never be tempted by adultery, but b/c I knew the schemes of the devil, I went too far in trusting that I would see right through it. And, you know what, I DID see right through it. What initially caught me WAY off guard (a seemingly innocent conversation in PUBLIC) and scared the daylights out of me, ended up sucking me in b/c I was so, so vulnerable. As the other person would say EXACTLY what every woman longs to hear, I would say to myself, “LIES…straight from satan, nothing, but lies,” and yet we know that satan doesn’t need to change his game plan b/c the same ole stuff works and it sure did. I had been so starved for so long that I crumbled under every lie of the enemy.

    Somebody up above spoke about being a stumbling block for someone else and I must admit that that wasn’t a thought in my mind. I’d have NEVER guessed that not only was his marriage leaving him vulnerable, but that he’d had other affairs. To this day, I’m still so shocked that I missed the initial danger signals and then actually went ahead and went through with it after seeing what was happening. I become someone I was pretty sure I’d never be and certainly not doing something I was pretty sure wouldn’t happen once, much less for months!

    This has been over for months, but it wreaked havoc on my life in such a huge way, you can’t imagine, and I don’t mean with my spouse. My relationship with God suffered horribly (of course), I was drinking more often to deal with the guilt, it kept me away from my beloved church, I stepped down from leading small group and on and on and on the destruction goes.

    Marriage-wise, I have no idea what will happen. I didn’t end up that vulnerable on my own, but I bear the sole responsibility for my actions. I went from a (marriage) stander, to looking like the rest of the world over a few kind words spoken to me. It’s unreal. I still believe in a God of miracles and restoration, but it would sure take the mother of all miracles to fix this mess. Take my word for it, NO marriage is immune, NO person is immune from this sort of temptation. Tend to your marriage and build, build, build those walls!!

  16. Ponder Woman

    You did an EXCELLENT job, J. There are such a vast number of ways that we can allow compromises to infiltrate our marriages that if we are not proactive in defending ourselves, our spouses and our marriage together against the constant onslaught, we coast along by default until we hit a speed bump and are ejected from our comfy seat right into the middle of a disaster zone and we think we have no idea how we got there. But it seems to always start by not taking the risks seriously and not proactively preparing ourselves to stand against them.

  17. Yvonne Wilson (EMoments)

    I came across this article as I was doing one of my weekend ‘blogsurfing’ around the web. It is such a great article, quite helpful! Only wished that I had this meat for food when I was going through the difficulties in my own marriage. Sad to say it ended in divorce. I am now a Christian for the past 8 years and I am really enjoying the journey of faith. I do believe in second changes and I pray that God will indeed send me my Boaz one day. I look forward to other great articles.

  18. Tony

    I wonder if hedge means something different in the context of the day?

    I also wonder if walls are not used for the metaphor because if you do go over the wall, it’s harder to get back than the hedge.

    After all, that seems to be what my ex-wife did. She want over the wall, then used the wall she erected between us to justify her herself why she wasn’t leaving the affair and returning to the marriage.

    Walls work both ways, making it hard to return as well as hard to leave.

  19. Cristina Grau

    I think the term hedge was meant to be as solid as your wall, it’s all semantics; but the basic concept is the same. I don’t think the author of the original book meant his hedge to be any less solid than your wall, he just chose to use a different term.

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. It solidifies the principles already in place.

  20. Anonymous

    This is a great article. I “saw” several friends and family members in this article. Thanks for sharing your words.

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