Building affair-proof hedges around your marriage

 Part 2 of an interview with Nancy C. Anderson, 
author of Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome

It’s human nature for people to want something bigger and better than what they currently have. When problems arise in a marriage, the grass can look greener in every other yard in the neighborhood, luring them to believe they will find true joy and fulfillment on the other side of the marital fence. In Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair-Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage (Kregel Publications), Nancy C. Anderson assures readers the greener grass is only a mirage and shares how to grow the greenest grass of all in their own backyard.

Based on the principle that the grass is always greener when it's watered, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome focuses on how to grow an affair-proof marriage by establishing and maintaining six protective hedges around it.

Q: In the context of your book, what is “greener grass syndrome”?

It means thinking that something, or someone, on the other side of the fence will fulfill your needs—looking longingly at something outside of your own boundaries. In my case, I thought my own marriage was withered and brown, and I wanted to visit my co-worker’s “lawn.” Of course, in life and in marriage, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence; it’s a mirage.

Q: How is Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome different from other books written on marriage?

Thirty-eight years after my affair and reconciliation, Ron and I are still helping couples prevent, predict, or pardon infidelity.

Q: What are the hedges every couple should plant around their marriage to protect it from intrusion?

A hedge makes the statement, “Private property—no trespassing.” The symbolic hedges around our marriages serve the same purposes. As a married couple, your goal is to keep the good things in and the bad things out.

The HEDGES consist of simple principles that will protect your marriage from external invaders and internal discontent.

They consist of action words:

·         Hearing: listening and speaking with patience and understanding.
·         Encouraging: helping each other.
·         Dating: keeping it fresh and fun.
·         Guarding: agreeing on your boundaries and enforcing them.
·         Educating: becoming an expert on your mate.
·         Satisfying: meeting each other’s needs.

Q: What kind of work goes into maintaining the hedges?

Remember, these hedges must be watered, trimmed, and kept pest-free for the rest of your life. Hedges are living things, and your marriage is alive and growing, too. All the things that affect our lives also affect our marriages.

We’re all responsible for watering our hedges. To have enough water to offer our marriages, we
must have our own reservoir to draw from. The foremost kind of water is spiritual water, which we get from our relationship with the Lord, who is the Living Water (John 4:10–15). The second way to water your relationship is with intellectual water: new information about each other. Share what happened during your day and build your connection based on communication. A marriage that is well-watered will have deep roots and will withstand the storms of life. If your relationship is in a drought, however, and its roots are weak and shallow, then the wind and erosion—life’s problems—will damage and eventually destroy your marriage.

Don’t be hesitant to trim your hedges as your lives change. Just because you plant strong, healthy hedges today doesn’t mean you won’t have to replant or transplant them next year. If your husband loses his job, you have a baby, your elderly parents need care, or one of you has a medical or emotional crisis, you will have to redesign or move the hedges accordingly.

Q: Communication in marriage is of the utmost importance. Can you share a few keys to good communication?

Agreed! Many couples haven’t communicated in years. Oh, they talk about the weather, the bills, and the children, but they don’t share their inner thoughts, fears, or disappointments. That’s how some affairs begin—by having deep, meaningful conversations with the “other.” Once an emotional connection is formed, a physical one usually follows. That’s why healthy, meaningful communication connects and bonds a couple and builds a bridge that will help them when difficulties come.

We like to talk about three Cs to cut out or reduce (complaining, criticizing and controlling) and three As to add into communication (apologizing, accepting, and appreciating).

Q: Why is it important to continue to date your mate?

Most couples, especially if they’ve been married for a while, get into a rut, and the longer they’re married, the deeper the rut might get. Rut-dwellers usually just stay home and play on their phones while watching TV, sometimes in separate rooms. On special occasions, they might have dinner at the usual neighborhood burger barn or go see a movie at the local theater, but that’s about as exciting as it gets. Can you say, “Boring!”?

If you want to climb out of your rut and try new things, here are some easy-to-implement ideas to give you a boost. Think of the word DATES to stimulate the “creative dating” quadrant of your brain: delicious, adventurous, thematic, educational, and surprising.

Remember all this rekindling takes time and patience. Take it slow, and if you’re sincere about wanting to please each other, you’ll both feel much better about your relationship. All that’s necessary for a date to be great is the two of you being together, creating a happy memory.

Q: What are some of the warning signs that your spouse may be having an affair?

At work and church, in our neighborhoods and during our daily activities, we all encounter people of the opposite sex who are attractive. That’s not the problem. Our selfish choices after the attraction create the problems.

Changes in your spouse’s behavior may indicate that your spouse is having an affair. The cheating spouse often has changes in eating and sleeping patterns, wears a different style of clothes, frequently starts arguments, works longer or different hours, pulls away from church and extended family, takes more showers than usual, and compares his or her spouse to other people.

Q: Do you think more temptations for extramarital affairs exist now than when the first edition of the book was written thirteen years ago? If so, why?

The first edition was written in 2004, and the biggest change since then is the increase in secrecy that smartphones and tablets have provided. Many affairs are started through apps that connect people, such as Facebook and Instagram. Also, it used to be that pornography had to be attained through a magazine or movie, but now secret web access to pornographic material has ruined many marriages. The temptation to stray has always been there, but now technology gives us easy access to feed the monster. That’s why Ron and I have the same passwords and have full access to each other’s email, texts and computers. Transparency in all areas of our lives keep us accountable.

Q: What new additions are in this second edition of Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome?

There are updates and additions throughout the new 2017 edition, but there is a whole new chapter titled “Affair Repair,” written specifically for those who have committed adultery and want to repair the damage they’ve created. I received so many heart-wrenching emails asking for my advice on this topic that I was eager to add this new material. The other new feature is the question and answer appendix with Ron’s point of view on my affair, his healing, and our life now. He is the hero of this book, and I am glad readers have this opportunity to hear from him. His willingness to tell our story still amazes me, but he sees it as a valuable opportunity to offer hope and healing.

Learn more about Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome at The author is also on Facebook (Greenergrasssyndrome), Twitter (greenergrass55), and Instagram (greenergrasssyndrome).