I’m Not Gonna Steal Your Husband
This post might get me into trouble. I’ve been sitting on it for a few months and when Los posted about something similar last night… I decided to pull the trigger. But honestly, this post was going to be a lot more feisty. This is all you get today.
If you’re in ministry, then you know about “The Rule.” The rule about men and women being alone together. Its a respectable rule. One that I’ve been under since I first entered ministry as an intern some 8 years ago. But while this rule is put in place to protect staff integrity, I have seen more men and women get into trouble while under this rule, than I’ve seen and heard of from ministries who don’t enforce it.
So, I can’t help but ask myself, does the rule even matter? Does sin really know mandated boundaries? If it did, would we have had all the eating of the forbidden fruit business? You know? And further more, is the risk of an affair or moral failing really so much greater in ministry, then in the real world? Where’s the rule at Sprint? or Cerner?
Can I be honest? I create my own rules. And I think that is what it actually takes to keep oneself safe. To keep one’s integrity in check. Creating the kind of boundaries and rules that fit your own lifestyle.
My case in point. I’m single. I’m a young woman. But I have always had better guy friends than girlfriends. But somewhere along the way most of them got married. And the men who enter my life now, are all generally married. Particularly those I work with on a day to day basis.
I will always be a woman. I might always be single. But I can’t live in a bumble.
And as a single woman in ministry, I know that I have to protect myself. I have to protect myself from rumors. I have to protect myself also, not just from my own temptations or from being a temptation to someone else, but from on-lookers who see my hand with no ring, funky, fun hair and bumbly personality and think, “tramp.”
I make friends with my guy friend’s and co-workers wives. Even if I have nothing in common with them (which happens). If I am in a situation where I have to be alone with a married guy (which is only in the most random of occasions), his wife knows because I make sure she knows. I call her. I email her. I make sure she is never in the dark. I respect their marriage. She knows that her trust in me, first begins with her trust in her husband. With each other. And in doing so, this respects me and keeps me safe.
I would never say that I am above sinning or doing something regrettable. None of us are. But every, single affair and/or moral failing I have seen (some in the cubical next to me) were situations that both parties involved were married and had “the rule.” These were devastating and I lost great friends, and the repercussions were astronomical.
But the problem wasn’t young, single women or whether or not a “rule” was printed in a manual. The problem was at home. And a “rule” wasn’t going to stop what was already in motion.
Thank you so much for this post! I have not been around people that have made the choice to have affairs, but I am very aware of my young single woman status. I lead outreach at my church and when I first started the person leading it was a married man and I was very intentional about communicating with his wife. It wasn’t to hard because we were friends already…
But I’m very aware of anytime that I spend alone or in groups and how I interact with married men. I don’t want to be ‘that’ girl and I don’t want to be perceived as ‘that’ girl.
But thanks for pointing out that it’s not always the single woman and that it’s not all our fault.
as i said on Los’ site
we don’t have the rule at my church
we have communication
and i spend time alone with my friends regardless of their gender.
Like you, I’ve always had great guy friends. I’ve also been in a situation where my best friend was a guy and it was perceived we were dating (which, if you knew us, was farthest from the truth!). Now that I’m “in ministry”, I’m learning how important perceptions are. I’m a single 40+ divorced woman. I also get to know wives as much as possible, avoid being alone at all and am very aware of even when/circumstances of meeting regularly in public (even if working!!)
The gray areas come in situations like working with men 20 yrs younger or similar, and what would, to me be obviously not “affair potential”. Then the question becomes where to draw the line? I’ve recently been criticized for not riding in a car to a common destination. I think if there is a choice (and usually there is, it may just be an inconvenience), any situation should be avoided. I agree too with you about getting to know their wives, making it obvious you respect their marriage, etc (both to them, and to the people around). Thanks for discussing this–it’s been a topic around here lately!!
ya know, I agree with you. If someone is going to have an affair, they’re goiong to have an affair. A rule in a rule book won’t stop it.
But…as a wife of a pastor, I can’t tell you how many times that “rule” has helped my husband.
You are a normal, wonderful person who loves God and loves, treasures, and values the people you work with as well as their families.
There are really bad people out there who actually want to destroy my husband and his reputation, as well as the other staff members at GCC. All it takes is one accusation from one person to land them up in court or destroying thier careers. It’s happened to some friends of ours, and it is tragic.
We just don’t do meetings alone with a member of the opposite sex unless their is an open door/window, whatever.
We’re not freaky about it. I love that my husband has healthy relationships with women on staff. He is a great guy, and I want to share him with them because so many of them haven’t seen a spiritually/emotionally healthy man who likes his job, loves his family, etc.
It is just unfortunate that there are mean people that want to do anything in their power to make my husband and our family look bad.
Also…You have to know that the freaky-ness doesn’t just go with single women. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with Christian men where they start to get wide-eyed and start rubbing their wedding rings or something weird like that to ward me off. As if!!!! Ugh. I get so disgusted by this mentality.
I grew up with all brothers, and am much more comfortable talking to men than women. It’s just what I grew up with, a part of who I am.
“Can I be honest? I create my own rules.”
Me too. As I said on Los’s blog:
I worked at a church in Alpharetta, GA that had this rule. Not only did I refuse to follow it; but I made sure everyone knew I was going to refuse to follow it.
It isn’t just the idea that “men and women are going to do it anyways.” It goes beyond that. The church does a horrendous job of demonstrating how life should be lived. Instead they put up ridiculous rules to keep people away from “temptation” but instead they just create a culture that is afraid to live life to fullest in fear of making a mistake.
“I will always be a woman. I might always be single. But I can’t live in a bumble.”
It is hard being in ministry and being single. I know for a fact it is 10x harder being a woman and being single and being in ministry.
P.S. You work at Westside Family Church? Do you know Jared Wells. I worked with Jared a lot in our California/Azusa days. Great guy. Tell him I said hello.
P.P.S. I wish we got the “feistier” version of this post and I love the title.
When we discussed this at the Synergy2009 conference, Carolyn Custis James asked this question, “are we telling the truth about God through our relationships?”
Do you think that this rule has prevented you from being a minister of Christ in your context? That is a significant question in my mind.
This is an example for me of choosing what is ok instead of what is best. Sure the rule can do some good, but what bad will it do at the same time.
Dr. Alice Mathews from Gordon-Conwell shared a story regarding the diff. of how women often use more words than men.
She learned to adapt this part of herself when talking to the men she worked with in ministry.
One day her co-worker said to her, “You know Alice, I like you, you think like a man.”
She said, “No, I think like a woman. I just know how to say it like a man.”
I agree with you to a point, it is ridiculous that we have to have a rule like that. I grew up wit h3 older brother and I am just more comfortable and seem to get along better with my guy friends, BUT
I also grew up being taught that “our actions should be above reproach.” We should live our lives being the best example of Jesus that we can, and I think that their are lines that need to be drawn.
Michelle said it so well. There are just plain mean people out there that would love to ruin the reputation of someone in ministry and it’s important to realize that. That doesn’t mean you have to tip-toe around your life, but respect others. Your right if an affair is going to happen it’s going to happen and no rule will stop that!
I trust my husband with every ounce of my body, but that doesn’t mean that I like the idea of him spending time alone with other women (I definitely do NOT trust every woman that he comes in contact with). I think it is disrespectful to me and my children that anyone could even think there may be a chance of inappropriate behavior.
You are a beautiful single woman and I totally understand your point of view, but as a married woman I TOTALLY understand “the rule” also…I just think it’s crazy it has to be said, it’s just about respect to me.
P.S. I love what Michelle said about leaving a door or window open also. You can easily have privacy without being “alone”. Meet at a cafe or coffee shop or a public park if there is a reason to have privacy.
P.S.S. Not so many women are as respectful as you to make sure you communicate with the wives and make sure they are involved and aware. You obviously don’t need “the rule”, but some women (sometimes the last one you would expect) definitely DO need the rule!
Thanks for sharing!!! 🙂
Excellent topic. This is a burning issue, not only in the church, but everywhere, it seems. Certainly, I’ve seen a great many faith communities attempt to preempt unfaithfulness by imposing levels of regulation. That is human nature, I think. But I believe that what you are alluding to is true: The rules don’t really matter; or, they don’t really help.
I’ve even seen churches that won’t allow people to pray for members of the opposite gender without someone else present. What I have noticed, by and large in these situations, is that a prevailing majority of the current congregation had, perviously, been involved in some sort of organizational moral failure at another church or even the present one. When the pendulum swings…
However, the problem is real. Culturally speaking, we don’t really care so much about marriage anymore. It has been reduced to a contract, vice a covenant, that can easily be disregarded when one or both parties fail to live up to the emotional, physical, psychological, financial or spiritual expectations of the other.
On top of it, place this already-disadvantaged couple in the midst of a maelstrom of a popular culture dripping with deceit, fantasy and porn, well, you have people who will steadily begin to long for anything but what they already have. The situation is dire…yet, I don’t think that pummeling people with legalism is the key.
The truth, however, is the key. The truth about how you feel about whatever. Being honest with those we are in covenant with is the way to go. That is our greatest weapon against a caustic thought life that can quickly spiral out of control. And guess what, God will listen too.
There is nothing wrong with men and women being friends. We make our own choices. Remember God judges the intention of our hearts. He sees what everyone else doesn’t. He is the one that we ought to be honest with first.
For me, I know I need the rule. I know my tendencies and my heart. I need to have a hard and fast rule at this point when not in public. Obviously, extremely public places are not such a temptation for me, but there is the idea of temptation for others to spread rumors.
Not sure how I feel about the rule as a standard, but for me, right now..I need it, and I follow it.
I think it’s arrogant for a person to think they don’t need the rule, but also stupid to think that rules keep them pure.
I’m glad you don’t prey on the men you work with. 🙂 But some women do. Some women come to my pastor-husband for “counseling” and want to cry and pray with him so regularly that really, “the rule” is for them, not for him. Open doors and big windows and “communication” are nice, but sometimes the rule is good to have as an “out”. My church has rules, not because they’re legalistic, but because they want to do everything they can to protect my marriage. And I’m so grateful.
I also think ministry is a little different than Sprint, like you mentioned, because of how much you truly care about the ministry you’re serving in together. Before we had kids, I worked in ministry with my husband more, and I know how that brought us together. It’s hard to watch him share that service-bond with other women now, you know? (It’s also different than Sprint because Sprint doesn’t expect their employees to live biblically. :))
It is hard living in SoCal where the women are beautiful and I’m the stay-at-home frumpy mom, you know? I worry because someone very close to me WAS a single girl like you, who worked in a church and had lots of problems flirting with other people’s husbands, and ended up with a 4-year long affair. So yeah, I pray for my husband’s protection daily. And for mine…I’m not immune.
It’s good to read the perspective of a godly woman who works with other women’s husbands. I’m sure those wives appreciate your emails and friendship and openness. Thanks for hearing the perspective of the wife back home. 🙂
Amy, that is a very enlightening post. I can see where you are coming from and it reveals the value of rules within an organization.
I usually begin to cringe though, when those rules become the thing that leadership begins to focus on, instead of the spiritual well-being and development of those they are admonished to lead. All too often, people in ministry will unwittingly begin to attach expectations of performance on themselves as a result; sometimes to the point of feeling like they are not saved anymore if they don’t obey the by laws and tenets of the organization. They might be spiritually stagnant, but as long as they dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s they will feel like they are worthy.
I guess the rule, itself, is a good thing. Just like anything, the problem, in this case, is people. In fact, its not just women who are doing this. There are plenty of men who flirt with women at churches.
I work with all men and one female assistant within our department of ministry. I am not on salary and i do not make myself even familiar with the rules. the life i live with integrity is to be above reproach, so my conscience is much better at keeping me in line than some fearful rule.
i understand that these rules are meant to “protect” all parties, but your daily choices, by the Holy Spirit’s guidance should be protection enough. What if a minister didn’t live protected by a rule, but rather stated plainly to another party their apprehension or reason for caution? whatever. i get it. we are afraid of people.
Anyway, i have never had a problem with working with male ministers one on one. If they are married, i am very friendly and open with their wives and if they are single, then they usually annoy the heck out of me and it would be a cold day you know where before i could conjure up romantic feelings.
About the guy friends thing… God blessed me with 2 amazing brothers and they are my closest guy friends. I have no best guy friends that aren’t relatives, because i just don’t see that as healthy for me. it has actually caused me to grow and be intentional about finding new ways to relate to chicas of all kinds. i have great girl friends and i know that it is by God’s grace for shizzy=)
Wow! Great topic…always close to my heart with a husband serving in full time ministry, working so closely with women of all ages, some single, others married, some flirty and others not. That’s so neat to hear how respectful you are of the situations you are in either by choice or out of your control….thinking of the wives and or mothers of their children back home. I sure wish I could say I thought you were in the norm on that, but I’m afraid I don’t know that’s the case. I look at the rule kind of like I look at the filter we have for our computer. Do I trust that my husband would only view what is appropriate at all times without it…the answer to that would be like I trust myself to never gossip. I think we all have areas that are tempting to us and while I can’t put a filter on my mouth, I bet if it were made available to me…well, who knows. Anyway, that filter is there to support what we both feel is inappropriate material,not to be viewed. It is a tool that protects and guards our eyes and ears, it can’t filter through the sin in our hearts I know…but it does take away many opportunities that otherwise would be right at our fingertips. Same with the rule…it just filters through so many more opportunities that could lead to inappropriate behavior or choices. It’s just one more layer of accountability. We’d like to think Christians have it together, but who would Satan rather see destroyed by sexual sin…I think a church/ministry leader would be his first pick!! I’ve been friends with several folks in ministry who have had affairs, and I don’t think, while the rule was in place, that any of them were following it! OUCH! Again, you can’t make anyone follow a rule/guideline, but that’s NOT why they are made or broken. They are set up for protection…we get to decide do we want to follow or not. If I’m gonna be real honest here I can’t finish these thoughts without saying that some people, while they choose to work in a church/ministry just aren’t ready to make these decisions on their own yet…some can’t even see that the clothes they wear, or the strut that shows up only at certain moments, or the topics they choose to speak about, the jokes they like to share, the pictures they post,etc…I kinda like that at least there is a rule saying, hey-you won’t be able to be alone with my husband, the father of my children, while at work…I mean if I’m gonna be honest. One more layer of accountability….I’m Ok with that, I know there are many inconveniences that come with this rule… a small price I’d pay to be a help/support to marriages and families. I’d be interested to know how many that feel like the rule shouldn’t be what guides you, albeit true, have a filter on your computer setting some boundaries for you?? Again, awesome topic…SO GLAD you went with your heart on that and shared your thoughts! I always value what others have to say…
What Anne said…much better than me reproducing with 18000 more ineffectual words to say what’s already been said.
I’ll stop now 🙂
But – thanks for your perspective on this too Crystal. Very valuable.
My husband is in ministry, and while I firmly believe that women and men (either of whom are married) shouldn’t be alone together, I let him make that choice for himself instead of imposing it upon him. And I followed the same rule. The few times that unexpectedly came up where I was alone with another married man, I felt super uncomfortable and avoided it like the plague. I think calling or emailing the wife is what I should have done, and I think it’s great that you take the step.
As a child, my family was ruined and broken apart by an improper relationship between a married male in ministry and my mother. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. And you’re right. Something was already wrong at home on both fronts.
Man–I feel you on the having mostly guy friends. That happened to me. I had all these guy friends for many years and just like you said, they all got married and now–no friends! Or at least, I feel bad talking to them now that they are married. Glad I’m not the only one!
I’ve always gotten along better with girls and that can get me in to trouble. And as such my rule tends to be a bit over the edge perhaps. I have had girl friends for years and have had girlfriends (relational) that I’ve stayed friends with…this can create huge problems.
So.. as a rule when I am in a relationship those friends tend to get put to the side. I am now married and it might pose a huge problem if I was still friends with these girls and as a general rule of thumb I don’t think men and women can be just friends.. there is something… that has attracted you to them in the first place. SO as a married man any girl friends I now how are ones who are married and who my wife and I both know and or hang out with. This rule is the same on her side as well, and seems to fit.
Hey Crystal. So, yesterday my sister randomly confessed her porn addiction to me. I was so shocked, and so pleased that she chose to do so.
I immediately told her about YOU, and she was so happy to find you! She was all “yea, and I even posted a confession on there…. it was so freeing!”
Come to our community blog to see her story here:
This is our personal rule .. for us as a couple. It isn’t a mandated rule at the church, but one that we follow anyway. I totally agree with Michelle. Unfortunately, there are people out there without the best intentions. It is just the truth. The other side of that truth is … we aren’t above it. We completely trust each other … but we aren’t above it. We totally believe that “our most unguarded strength is our greatest weakness.” So for us, it is just a guard. Sure … it could be gotten around. But it is a guard, non the less. We have lots of guards in different areas of our lives … this is just one that helps protect our marriage, our family, our ministry, our church. I don’t think it has hampered our ministry to other people.
Just what works for us.
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As a wife of 14 years, and follower of Christ for 11, I could cheat on my husband.(not really):) I couldnt cheat on my Savior, and I REALLY dont want to pay a consequence for that one either. Its a heart issue, that begins in the mind. HOWEVER Anne, (you know I have more guy friends than girl friends) Countenance and integrity are huge, especially with married men and women. God will show you when you least expect it, someone who has been like a brother or even someone who you found absolutly NOTHING attractive about, that suddenly out of nowhere you cant get them out of your mind. He will test you in this area I promise. Not a single one of us are immune from this one. Not a single one of us are that strong, and He will make sure you know it. How it “looks” to others DOES matter.
The rule is for the preacher’s kid who begins to wonder about the talk, the rumors. It makes the preacher’s kid sleep better at night. If for nothing else, it’s about the other parties, much more than just the two people on either side of the rule.
I was the PK. I also still struggle with forgiveness toward the women who sought out my Dad for counselling, and wound up having affairs with him. I don’t know if the women were predators or my Dad was sick, or both, but I bet if that rule had been practiced, spoken, more accountability would have at least countered some of the weakness.
(Some people need practical accountability in order to practice it. Others of us just know what we will and will not do, and we talk so loudly about it that others automatically hold us to it. Some churches don’t talk this openly and they should. A rule might get the discussion going.)
The rule isn’t want keeps you obedient as you already have God at the helm. The rule protects you and alerts you to those who 1)either want to abuse it or 2)those who are ignorant enough to believe they will never face temptation. Run like the plague if someone pushes that boundary, that rule. It’s just not worth it.
(Thanks for letting me share my opinion. I realize it’s only that. It is based on heart-wrenching experience.)
(ps) I love what you wrote on Kristi’s latest post
I prefer to not be one on one with guys, especially my friends’ husbands. It’s purely a matter of respect for me to be with them in groups. If I need to do something one on one with my friend’s husband at any time I try to include the wife in the plans and get her input. Also, I don’t like to be the only girl in a group of guys.
This is a great topic for discussion. One guy I know got kicked out of his girlfriend’s place because he offered a lift to a mutual friend of theirs who is a girl. I thought that was taking the rule too far, don’t you think? The poor guy didn’t know what hit him.
While I see the wisdom in applying the rule, I think one has to weigh up how susceptible they are in such a situation, whether trust of your partner is the issue, or whether there are single women or men who tempt you and therefore should be kept at a far distance.
At the end of the day, this isn’t a commandment from the Lord directly from the Bible – and therefore not following it isn’t tantamount to falling into sin. But on principle, if there is danger you run from it, and if it isn’t an issue you shouldn’t let the rule coccoon you from all inter-gender contact.