Mary DeMuth

Mary E. DeMuth is an expert in Pioneer Parenting. She enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow. Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005). Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, Watching the Tree Limbs (nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006). Mary has spoken at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the ACFW Conference, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, and at various churches and church planting ministries. Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, and planting a church.

The Elephant in the Publishing Business

I’m deviating a bit this month to share something important for those of you on the journey toward publication. It’s a central truth folks don’t warn you about: In the writing world you will meet people of the opposite sex.

You’d think I would’ve figured that out! But I seriously hadn’t even thought of it. The only men I’d consistently met in my early years of writing in obscurity were the UPS man and my diapered son. Because of this, I hadn’t thought through strategies in creating good boundaries when I happily jaunted off to writing conferences. And my husband and I hadn’t discussed it either.

I bumbled my way through a couple of uncomfortable situations before I realized how vitally important it was for me to create better boundaries in this business. Why? Because integrity is deeply important to me, and my marriage is the greatest blessing of my life. I’ve been walking the publishing path since 2003, but I’ve held my husband’s hand nearly two decades. Why would I jeopardize that for fleeting compliments? With that in mind, and the disclosure up-front that I haven’t perfectly navigated this, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Don’t get caught off guard by the power of e-mail to form an emotional connection. I really didn’t understand how powerful an e-mailed compliment could be. If you sense someone of the opposite sex is consistently complimenting you, pull back, waaaaay back. Stop interacting. Stop relishing. And don’t keep it quiet. Forward the e-mail to your spouse, or to an accountability partner. It may be uncomfortable to share the e-mail with your spouse, but you’ll be surprised how free you’ll become once you tell him or her. Recently, I shared an incident with my husband that went something like this: “I met this man and had an interesting talk. But he’s e-mailed me a few times, and I’m not sure of his intentions. If he persists, I’ll tell you, but I wanted you to know this.” Nipping e-mail emotional attachments in the bud will actually strengthen your marriage. It’s when you cherish someone else’s words and keep a part of your life secret that sin can abound. Secrecy is the fertile soil where emotional affairs flourish.

2. Be cautious about spending one-on-one time with someone in the business, even if it’s strictly for business. I don’t want to be legalistic. I have several colleagues I think nothing about meeting with. If I do, I let my husband know. I tell him when I have phone meetings. A good friend of mine CCs his wife on correspondence with me, and he talks with her about me. He lets me know she is praying for me as well. I do the same. Ask yourself: Do I long to have this private meeting? Am I scheduling my life around this phone call? Does my heart leap when I see his/her e-mail in my inbox? Am I thinking of ways to sneak time with this person? And beyond this, consider your calling. You have a high calling as an author. In that you don’t want to have even a hint of impropriety; therefore, if you’re meeting alone with someone of the opposite sex, be sure it’s in public or bring a friend.

3. Keep the home fires burning. Our radar goes up when we’re not happy at home. But why aren’t we happy? If you spend time building into your marriage, seeking your spouse’s good, choosing selflessness, your fire will grow. Want to know the best secret in maintaining integrity in this area? It’s when

you’re satisfied in your marriage, and then you talk about it frequently. Praise your spouse publicly. I breathe a sigh of relief when I meet a man in the business whose first few words are about how he’s madly in love with his beautiful wife. That kind of praise erects a high boundary wall.

4. Walk in the light. If you’re keeping secrets, you know something is wrong. I know it may hurt, but make a choice to tell your spouse and a very good friend. If you struggle in this area, have a friend you trust pray for you and ask you the hard questions that will help keep you accountable.

5. Go out in groups. If you’re having fun with writers after a conference or gathering, opt for large groups. Deliberately talk with all sorts of folks, not pulling away to have a private talk.

6. Don’t be naïve. You may think you don’t need boundaries because you’re involved in the Christian publishing industry. Unfortunately, you still have to be on high alert. Broken people are in our business (we are broken, too), seeking significance and solace. And I hate to say this, but a few predators are out there too, counting on your naïvety. It’s sad. I wish it weren’t true, but it is. Go into your relationships with eyes wide open.

7. Decide with your spouse on appropriate boundaries. This is a mutual exercise for your spouse and you. In other words, these are boundaries both of you will adhere to. Some might include: no car rides alone, quick disclosure if you feel someone’s getting too close, accountability partners, full access to both e-mail accounts at any time, the ability to question any attachment.

Don’t let meeting people of the opposite sex in this business deter you from interacting. Creating appropriate boundaries now will ensure you keep those relationships professional and courteous. Form a plan right now. And trust that God will honor your desire to have integrity in your workaday world.

Mary DeMuth