Imagine if you will, all of the major news networks announce that starting tomorrow there will be no police presence in a city, let’s say Chicago. The news report states that for the next 72 hours, no security, no officers, no squad cars, nothing will be patrolling the streets of downtown, nor will they respond to any 911 calls for help. No rules or laws will be enforced. What would happen?
We all know that absolute anarchy, chaos, and lawlessness would reign. People would be robbing, looting, even murdering if they could get away with it, and what would the public outcry be? All would be yelling, “This is crazy! Where are the police!?” Because it’s the police that are supposed to enforce and uphold the law, and if they are simply going to neglect their duty, then people will run amuck.
Sure, those that choose to break the law and do very bad things are ultimately responsible for their behaviors. What they are doing is absolutely wrong, yet you won’t hear the news anchors or analysts addressing the criminals. They won’t be saying, “Stealing is wrong, now don’t you bad guys know that you shouldn’t be doing this stuff? You’re creating problems for us and you must exercise self-control and stop being bad.” Not on your life! The fingers would all be pointed at the police, crying out for consequences to be meted out.
Now, take this concept and create an analogy by applying it to relationships. First, look at the relationship between parents and children. Parents really are in the role of the cops. It is our job as moms and dads to police our kids, as well as teach and instruct them in the “laws” of life and our homes. But if a child breaks a rule, generally there are consequences…or at least there should be! If you don’t set a curfew, if you don’t have punishment for your 16-year-old staying out all night and if you don’t enforce any limits, you will most likely have a hellion that destroys him or herself. In short, people would be looking at the situation asking, “Where are the parents? Why aren’t they enforcing the rules?“
Bring the same idea into marriage. Like it or not (and I know many don’t like it…especially women), husbands and wives are the “police” in the relationship. They set the boundaries, enforce the rules and keep anarchy from taking over. If there are never any consequences for bad behavior, no limits on what you can and can’t do, where you can and can’t go, lots of us (especially men) will run amuck, just like the bad guys in Chicago. If my wife didn’t lay down the law, I promise you I would most likely be a very bad man and destroy myself. But I’ve learned over the 38 years of our marriage that there are things I cannot do.
Yeah, yeah, it would be a lovely ideal if everyone always did what was right out of the goodness of his or her heart. But this isn’t some utopia, and we are human beings living with a sinful nature in a fallen world, so it is not the case. Sure, as Christians we act according to God’s Word, or at least we are supposed to, and that is to be our guiding force and reason to do or not do certain things. But really, more often it is the consequences of breaking the rules that keeps us in line.
In a marriage if a wife is able to stay out partying with the girls all night, come home drunk in the wee hours of the morning, or allowed by her husband to have “boyfriends”—and by that I mean guys she goes to coffee with, or has lunch and dinner with, hangs out with or spends inordinate amounts of time talking to on Facebook—and there are no limits, no lines, this woman will destroy her marriage. Indeed, she is the one committing the bad behaviors, but the husband is the one allowing it.
If a guy is looking at pornography and masturbating, totally ignoring the sexual needs of his wife, or spending 6-8 hours everyday playing video games and the woman does nothing about it, this, too, will destroy their marriage. He is behaving badly, but she is allowing it.
In marriages like these, the “cops” are absent. The “bad guys” know that there is no police presence; they know that there is no price to pay and nothing will be done about it. So they proceed to act in any variety of inappropriate and destructive ways, unless the “cop” of the house decides to show up and do something about it. They are the enforcers and need to set the boundaries, lay down the law and employ the use of penalty.
This is the point where so many people get confused as to what I mean by “drawing the lines and setting the limits”. Far too many people—especially women—think that what they should do is talk to the other person, tell them that it bothers them and they think that yammering at them will take care of it. But it doesn’t. Go back to our police story…would the cops simply tell the bad guys, “Please stop breaking into that Best Buy and stealing the big screen TVs, it makes me feel really bad and upsets me.” Good grief, NO! There are consequences. And there must be the same in marriage.
Husbands and wives are so busy pointing fingers at the other person, talking about the bad behavior, that they don’t stop to think “Hey! Where are the cops!?” Until husbands and wives are willing to step up and take their place as enforcers, mayhem and chaos will flow freely in their homes. Inappropriate interactions with the opposite sex, working excessive hours, playing video games all day and night, watching porn, cursing, even physical violence will all continue because the police simply aren’t there, and the perpetrators know it. They know that there is no price to pay and they know that they can get away with all kinds of bad behavior.
So when a woman comes to you with her sob story of how her husband is calling and sending sexy texts to another woman, or a guy complains about his wife refusing to have sex with him; when she tells you that her husband watches porn or he cries that his wife is spending untold hours with the guy from work—do not feel sorry for them. Do not simply point the finger at the bad guy…and, YES, it’s clearly bad behavior, we get that. Do something better, ask the question: What price does he/she pay? Challenge them to see that their spouse is acting badly for one reason and that is because they allow it. It’s not their fault, but they are allowing it by refusing to draw any lines or allotting any penalty.
There is a well-known quote from Edmund Burke that says: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. And that is true in marriage too. Do nothing to stand up about the evil, wrong, and destructive behavior, and that behavior will win.