Dear Rachel,

I’ve been happily married for a few years, and my husband and I are very committed to each other. But recently, my husband has asked me to distance myself from men I’m friendly with. There’s a male co-worker I chat with during lunch at work; there’s an ex-boyfriend from high school I keep in touch with through social media; and there’s a male neighbor I run into when I’m walking the dog, and we tend to shmooze. I don’t see the problem with these relationships and even share the conversations with my husband. But he tells me that my friendliness with these men makes him uncomfortable. I feel that he should trust me. What do you think?

Dear Awesome Woman and Wife,

I hear your disturbance. You’d love for your husband to accept you as you are and feel safe that you wouldn’t do anything improper outside the bounds of your marriage. On a philosophical level, this makes sense; however, your husband actually has a good point.

Besides the fact that he is feeling uncomfortable and, as spouses, we try to accommodate each other’s feelings, your husband isn’t lacking trust in you; he is actually understanding a Torah concept and wanting to keep a fence around the sanctity of his marriage.

The Torah’s perspective regarding men and women is that there is a natural, G‑d-given attraction between them. Adding to this, there is something called ruach shtut, which means “a spirit of foolishness.” This is not just plain foolishness we are all capable of but one that can override our better judgment. It’s as if an irrational force grabs us, and we get lost in it. This combination creates a dangerous situation when it comes to men and women hanging out together.

Maybe you’ve heard stories about normally wise men and women from good marriages breaking trust with their spouse to indulge in a dream/fantasy that falls apart immediately when exposed. Often, they do not understand what they were thinking to have engaged in this sort of behavior; they broke all integrity and are not that sort of person. They will admit that they may not even understand what change came over them. Torah, the blueprint of life, warns us about this and has laws regarding friendliness between men and women to protect us. An example is the laws of Yichud in which an unmarried man and woman cannot be secluded together in a private setting.

So even though you are a trustworthy woman and your love for your husband is strong, it’s worth lessening your friendliness with these other men. You don’t need to be unkind, but a formal distance would be wise. Drop the unnecessary chatting. This may feel odd and even uncomfortable at first, but recognize that you are putting a fence around the sanctity of your marriage. And if the men that you have been friendly with comment about your new distant behavior, you can let them know that your marriage is very important to you and that you prefer to lessen your casual interactions with other men. If they don’t understand, then just let it be. You’re being a great role model by upholding a new standard for yourself and your loved one.

Just two more things that I’d like to add:

1) Desire and romance are not the glue that keep marriage together; these feelings come and go. Commitment is the glue. Gratitude for what you have and never taking anything for granted is an incredible bond.

Philosopher Alain de Botton says, “ … the classic romantic model has sold us on a number of self-defeating beliefs about the most essential and nuanced experiences of human life: love, infatuation, marriage … .” As opposed to this, the Torah’s philosophy is long-lasting and never goes out of style.

2) Beware of “compare and despair.” Social media is a loaded gun. Thankfully, you are happy in your marriage. But some people are not. And seeing pictures of happy couples on social media in addition to the constant broadcast of glossy marriages can be deceiving to the reality of life.

Never compare your insides (challenges, dissatisfactions, self-judgments) with others’ outsides. As happy as a couple looks—and G‑d willing, they actually are that happy—never underestimate the effort that it takes in real life to keep a marriage going. Acts of kindness, appreciation, compromise, humility, holding your tongue, overcoming your emotions—all of this creates a healthy partnership and a joyful home.

May you continue to enjoy your marriage and recognize the blessing in having a husband who cares for protecting the sanctity of your home.