Today’s message is from Bob, who was a prodigal who returned home and was remarried to me for an additional 23 years before the Lord took him home to Heaven. Bob wrote 19 books from the prodigal’s perspective for more than two decades after our divorce and remarriage. – Charlyne
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:10-11
One of the enemy’s most destructive tools to thwart marriage restoration is one of his most subtle. It creeps up to ensnare not only men and women who are praying for marriage restoration but also couples who are back together again and working through the process of marriage restoration. It is not one of the three A’s of alcohol, adultery, or abuse because they are so obvious. Satan delights in using that which is not so obvious to destroy not only families and marriages but also individuals.
Like so many other areas that Satan uses, modern society has endorsed this as acceptable. I am writing about the relationship between one married spouse (or stander) and a member of the opposite sex.
We know standers who would never consider being inappropriate with a member of the opposite sex. Yet, they can see nothing wrong with close opposite-sex friendships, even to the extent of going out with the other sex, because after all, “We’re just friends.”
I cannot overstate how Satan desires to use your naïve actions regarding your relationship with others against you. Beyond that, you must remember that anyone going through separation and divorce is vulnerable. Regardless of how strong you are in your Christian beliefs, rejection by your spouse combined with flattery from a friend equals trouble.
My opposite sex warning to you extends even to email or online relationships. Several years ago, we received a frantic call from a female stander. She had developed an email friendship with a male stander several years difference in age from her and living over 2,000 miles away. The man had been reading something into the relationship that the woman never intended. He was ready to pack up and move to be near her. She was calling to see what she should do. “What she should do,” was not to have chosen to carry on an email correspondence with a man. The last we heard, neither marriage was restored, and neither person continued to stand.
The time that two people spend together builds familiarity. As a friendship with a member of the opposite sex strengthens over time, that third person starts to look better, while the view of their covenant spouse for whom they are standing starts to grow out of focus.
You might think that I’m being old-fashioned in this matter, but over the years, we have seen scores of marriages lose hope of ever being restored because a once-standing spouse thought they were different and could handle an opposite-sex friendship without it ever becoming a relationship.
If there were one thing that Charlyne and I could tell you that we have learned in the past 20-plus years of marriage ministry, it would be those opposite-sex friendships while standing for marriage restoration do not work. We have seen prodigals close to coming home go in the opposite direction because of how events involving their spouse were interpreted. We know standers who simply gave up because their spouse looked bad compared to another person. In many of these instances, by the time the stander comes to their senses, their spouse is long gone, never to be heard from again.
After a prodigal returns is not the time for their mate to be breaking off innocent same-sex relationships. They should never have been allowed to form in the first place. If I had come home on the afternoon, we suddenly remarried, and that evening Charlyne received a couple of phone calls from men she said were “just friends,” one more huge obstacle would have been added to our restoration process.
If you are serious about marriage restoration, there is no room for a person of the opposite sex in your life. That includes prayer partners, co-workers outside the job, coffee friends, email groups, people on Facebook, social media, neighbors, old friends, and any other justification one might attempt to use. I can promise you that Satan will eventually use that relationship to harm you or your hopes for marriage restoration.
Charlyne and I pray that, for your family’s sake, you will evaluate your opposite-sex friendships before it is too late for your marriage.
Because He lives,