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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Marriages are Boring, Affairs are Fun

SOURCE:  Ashley McIlwain

Marriages are Boring, Affairs are Fun

That’s what the spam email said that was sitting in my inbox staring at me candidly and shamelessly.

My heart ached as I saw the words beseeching me to believe their ridiculous claim. Unapologetically this lie dared to even show its ugly face. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed too many marriages where one spouse actually believed that lie though. They fell for the enticing words dripping with promises that they would never fulfill. Like a poisoned candy apple, they’re shiny appearance lures you in, but death and destruction await you underneath the pretty sheen.

Too many clients have come into my office devastated by affairs. Too many people have emailed me reeling from their spouse straying outside the marriage. Friends have reached out in despair clueless as to how to take their next breath. Tears are shed. Hearts are shattered. Lives are ravaged.

TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, ACCESS THE FOLLOWING LINK:  http://foundationrestoration.org/2014/07/marriages-are-boring-affairs-are-fun/

Marriage: I Do . . . I Do . . . I Do . . . I Do . . .I Do . . . . . . .

SOURCE:  Family Life/Scott Williams

I Still Do … Every Day

I am now in my thirtieth year of marriage to Ellie. Am I surprised we made it this far?

Not at all.

If I had it to do all over again, would I still say “I do”?

Without a doubt. I still do.

Did I comprehend all I was agreeing to when I said those words so many years ago?

Not even close.

After five years of dating, Ellie and I were still deeply in love on that perfect May morning when we made our vows before dozens of witnesses.  Even though we both meant what we said, neither of us really knew what we meant when we made those promises to love and stay committed to each other through health and sickness … wealth and poverty … good and bad … until death separated us.

Little did we know that God would add to our family within the week. No, we had no plans for Ellie to get pregnant on our honeymoon, but nine months and five days after our wedding, our first son was born. And less than four months after his birth, Ellie was a nursing, stay-at-home mom with a suddenly unemployed husband. That wasn’t in our plans, but it was in our vows.

As a bride-to-be, Ellie wanted to have four children, but when we said our vows we weren’t thinking that God would add that fourth child just one week after our sixth anniversary. By then we realized that having children was not going to be a problem for us.

Or so we thought.

Heart-wrenching times

Three of Ellie’s next four pregnancies ended in miscarriage. The one that did go full term came with lots of complications, including Ellie permanently losing all hearing in her left ear. Those were heart-wrenching times. But as God promises, weeping lasts for a nighttime, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Four years later Ellie was pregnant with our seventh and final child when our family was devastated by the line-of-duty death of my brother, a police officer in Maui. She and I never dreamed we’d ever go to Hawaii, much less to bury my brother there.

Romantic vacations haven’t really been part of our marriage history. In fact, most of my paychecks have only been enough to cover the basic necessities of a large family. Sometimes the fridge and pantry were almost bare. But God has always provided. Even though there have only been a few weeks where I haven’t been employed, most of those jobs have been in journalism or ministry, neither of which is known for high salaries. When it comes to “for richer or poorer,” we’ve seen a lot of one, but not much of the other.

It wasn’t in our plans, but it was in our vows.

Growing in oneness

Ellie and I weren’t practicing believers when we married back in 1985. But God in His grace drew us to Himself. Each of us—independent of the other—made a personal commitment to Christ within 15 months of our vows. In the early years of marriage and parenting, we were able to grow in oneness with each other and with God.

When I think back to the day we proclaimed our vows, in many ways I feel like I am so much less impressive of a man than the one who boldly promised to love and cherish Ellie every day of his life. I haven’t been the best provider. I’m not a strong leader. I’m moody and easily frustrated and way too self-absorbed. And I know Ellie has her own list of ways she falls short of the woman with all those lofty vows nearly three decades ago.

“I do” is not just something you say to your spouse on your wedding day. “I do” is every word you say and every deed you do for the rest of your marriage. That’s what “I do” really means.

Supernatural empowering

Ellie and I have had over 10,000 days of opportunities to experience how much harder it is to say your vows on any given marriage day than on your wedding day. No matter how much we love each other, we let our guards down; selfishness is always ready to make an exception to a vow.

It takes a supernatural empowering of God’s Spirit for me realize that marriage is more about what I can do for Ellie, rather than what she should be doing do for me. God promises—when I ask Him—to empower me with His Spirit, freeing me from slavery to myself in order to love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). Only through the limitless grace and unconditional love of His Spirit working in me can I fulfill my vows to Ellie like I promised to do back on May 18, 1985.

And it’s only by His Spirit that I can continue to be true to my promise for the next 30 years, or however many the Lord sees fit to give us together.

Ellie, I still do.

How to Change Your Spouse

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Joshua Straub

. . .I decided to pull together the five action steps I immediately give couples in distress after listening to their story. One of the most common themes, when a person first asks for help, is an explanation of what the other person is or isn’t doing in the relationship.

Now remember, these five steps are always given to the one spouse who desires change, but doesn’t know what to do because the other person isn’t willing.

If this you, I’m sorry you’re in such a predicament. But let me encourage you—you can change your spouse!

Here’s how:

1. It begins by understanding one principle—the only person you can change is you.

You cannot directly change or fix your spouse. But you can change how you interact with your spouse, which in turn, will indirectly require him to make a decision about how he responds to you. That said, when it’s the wife coming for help, I always start by sharing with her this verse:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:1-4.

In other words, don’t preach to him. It will only push him further away. Don’t make him feel any more like a failure than he probably already does. Shame won’t change him.

2. Begin praying each day for your spouse, specifically that the Lord would show you how He sees your spouse. Don’t allow your situation or your spouse’s action (or inaction) make you grow bitter and resentful.

The most effective way of regaining empathy and genuine concern for your spouse is praying that God shows you a glimpse of who your spouse is in His eyes—the hurt, the loneliness, and the pain she must feel.

Pray this prayer multiple times daily, especially when you’re frustrated.

3. Give up blame. The single biggest obstacle to couples connecting is blame. This is a hard one, especially if your spouse wrongly blames you. But resist the temptation to become defensive and cast blame in return.[i] Otherwise, the defensive walls will grow stronger, and your spouse won’t change.

4. Seek to understand the motivation behind your spouse’s heart and actions. Rarely, unless your spouse is abusive, will she say something to intentionally hurt you.

Instead, hurtful words and actions are usually emotionally charged, yet bad attempts at getting our spouse to connect with us (because we’re still protecting the walls around our own hearts).

But it just pushes her further away—and she doesn’t change.

I recently wrote a blog called How 15 Minutes is Changing My Marriage to describe how to connect at this level each day. Practice this—even if it’s just you for a while.

5. Finally, take the Golden Rule and replace the word “treat” with the word “understand.”

That is: “Understand others the way you want to be understood.”

In order for your spouse to begin opening up with you about his own hurts and fears, he needs to feel safe and not like he’s blowing it as a husband and dad (or for her, as a wife and mom). The more your spouse feels understood by you, the more he’ll begin to open up over time.

That said, all five of these actions foster one thing: emotional safety. And it’s emotional safety that predicts marital satisfaction.

The safer you are for your spouse, the more likely your spouse will change.

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Note:  [i] To go deeper than these five steps, I would highly recommend David Burns’ book Feeling Good Together: The Secret to Making Troubled Relationships Work.

Communication: Learn to Listen . . . Really Listen !

Source:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” James 1:19-20 NLT

Active listening is perhaps the most important key to communicating with your spouse (or anyone else!). It shows that you care, that you accept and respect your mate.

Three examples of active listening are restatement, clarifying and summarizing:

  • Restatement means repeating the content of what your spouse said. This conveys that you are paying attention and really hearing what he or she is saying.
  • Clarifying might sound like this: “Do you mean …”? and relay in your own words what your spouse just said.
  • Summarizing pulls together your mate’s message and draws it to a concluding point based on what you have seen and heard in the conversation.

Active listening can help you and your spouse understand each other better and build the trust level between you. It is a way to encourage and build up your mate and can have a calming effect when he or she is angry or frustrated. (A word of caution?active listening is not effective when your spouse is out of control ? for example, intoxicated or severely depressed. It is also not good to use if he or she needs immediate action.)

Ask God to help you learn to listen really listen.

Lord, help me be quick to listen and to learn to listen actively. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from:

Committed Couples: God’s Plan for Marriage & the Family by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

10 PERSONALITIES THAT HAVE NO PLACE IN CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Jason Helopoulos/The Gospel Coalition

As a pastor, who has counseled many couples, and as a veteran of sixteen years of marriage, I have found that these ten personalities have no place in Christian marriage:

  1. Secret Agent: We can’t have secret expectations. Our spouse needs to know and we need to give voice to our expectations within the marriage relationship. It isn’t fair or even wise to keep these thoughts from our spouses. They need to know. If we aren’t willing to give expression to an expectation, than it shouldn’t be one. In truth, we are often reluctant to share these silent expectations, because once we hear them uttered from our mouths we realize how petty and unnecessary they are.
  1. Debater: Debates are good in politics, the classroom, and at the water cooler. They aren’t helpful in marriage. Never argue for the sake of arguing in your marriage. Don’t debate to win a point, a round, or a plan. It is a lose-lose proposition. Be willing to discuss and disagree, but never debate.
  1. Warrior: Our conflict is not with our spouse. Our battle is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Our spouse is never to be viewed as our adversary and neither are we to be viewed their adversary. We are united together in Christ to wage this good fight alongside each other, not against one another. I am not her enemy and she is not mine. We are compatriots and fellow soldiers linked arm and arm waging battle with evil as our Lord Jesus leads us in this good and holy fight. Let us “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24) and not against one another.
  1. Mommy/Daddy Me: Most of us love being parents, but this cannot supersede our first calling as a husband or wife. It is a grievous mistake to place our children over our marriage relationship. If our marriage is suffering, our kids are suffering. If our marriage is thriving, the blessings cascade down upon our children like the oil poured out upon Aaron’s head and running down his beard (Psalm 133). It is like the dew of Hermon which falls on the mountains of Zion–it gives life.
  1. Finger-Pointer: Our wife’s sin is not just her issue “to get over.” Neither are our husband’s sins purely his struggles “to get past.” We are united together. We are one flesh (Gen.2:24). God has given us one another to walk the path of righteousness hand-in-hand. Let us “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
  1. Holy Spirit Impostor: One of the great traps of Christian marriage is being more concerned about my spouse’s spiritual state than my own. It is a kind of super-spirituality that comes in the guise of love and righteousness, when it is anything but. Rather, it smacks of hypocrisy. We are not the Holy Spirit and we are not our spouse’s conscience. It is far too easy to be distracted from our own responsibilities when we have our target fixed on another.
  1. Milquetoast: Loving and appreciating grace does not mean avoiding all hard things in marriage. Some Christian husbands and wives are confined by the false belief that being grace-centered means avoiding all conflict, disagreement, and confrontation. We are “grace people,” and sometimes the greatest manifestation of that grace is the willingness to breech hard subjects and wade through difficult issues. A gracious spouse will speak the truth, always in love, but will speak the truth (Eph. 4:12) for the betterment of their spouse and their marriage to the glory of God.
  1. Accuser: Things forgiven in the past are not weapons to be wielded in the present. It doesn’t matter whether they were sins or errors committed before the marriage or after the wedding vows were taken. It doesn’t matter whether they were particular sins committed against us or someone else. Forgiven matters are forgiven. Are there consequences? Sure. May we need to discuss these things in counseling or pray about them together? Yes. But they are not a sledge-hammer to be used in times of disagreement, an example to use for the sake of argumentation, nor a thought to hold our spouse captive to our wishes. They have been buried in a deep chasm and sealed with our forgiveness by the grace of God. There they are to remain, unless they need to be brought forth and never as something to hold over the head of the other.
  1. Me Monster: “Love does not insist on its own way” (1 Cor. 13:5). We must not seek our own interests first. If we are both pursuing the other’s interests than both of our needs are met, not begrudgingly, but willingly.
  1. Dictator: Christian marriage is not to be domineered by one spouse or the other. The husband is the head of the marriage union (Eph. 5), but he is not its king. Both the husband and the wife serve one single King. He dictates the rules, character, and purpose for this relationship. Whether our inclination is to seek control of the marriage by force or passive aggressive silence, it is wrong. We are not try and dominate where we have no right. Ultimately, this marriage is not “ours” to do with it what we will. It is His. It falls within His dominion and we both serve His Kingdom, not our own. Our marriage is to be a living breathing earthly sign pointing to the reality of Christ’s union with the Church (Eph. 5). This is what is to dominate, dictate, and rule our marriages: the glory of Christ our exalted Head, King, and Bride-Groom. Not us. What a glorious thing Christian marriage is!

15 Ways to Please Your Husband

SOURCE:  Barbara Rainey/Family Life

Romans 15:2-3 tells us, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself…”

Who is your closest neighbor?

Your husband.

How can you edify (build, improve) your mate and thereby enhance his self-worth?

By discovering—and doing—what pleases him.

If you are creative, pleasing your husband may be a natural part of your personality. But a less creative person may need some coaching in becoming a partner pleaser. And all of us need an occasional cue card to remind us to reach out.

Here are a few ideas–and with Father’s Day coming up, perhaps this week is a good time to implement one of these:

  1. Write him a letter and send it to his office, or put a love note in his lunchbox or briefcase.
  2. Prepare his favorite meal.
  3. Arrange an evening out for just the two of you.
  4. Wear his favorite dress with your hair done the way he likes it.
  5. Purchase something small and frivolous for him that he won’t buy himself.
  6. Give him a nicely framed picture of yourself, or of you and the children, for his office.
  7. Surprise him with an all-expense-paid trip to do something he likes, such as golf, fishing, or hunting trip.
  8. Put the children to bed early and prepare a candlelight dinner.
  9. Do something that especially pleased him when you were dating.
  10. Read Scriptures and pray with him regularly.
  11. Take walks together.
  12. Keep your junk out of the garage.
  13. Greet your husband warmly after work.
  14. Wear his favorite negligee or buy a new nightgown to add sizzle to your evening attire.
  15. Clean out the car for him.

Sometimes the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference in your marriage. Pick out something you haven’t tried before; don’t give complacency a foothold in your marriage relationship.

Does Your Spouse Annoy You?

SOURCE:  Tim Kimmel/Family Life

Accepting your differences will help you mature beyond the downsides of your personalities.

One week before I got married, I bought a “muscle car.” My brother Tom and I spent a day and a half up in Pennsylvania rebuilding the engine. A few days before the big day, I showed up in Annapolis, Maryland, ready to ride off into the future with Darcy. For the gearheads reading this, it was a ’66 Pontiac GTO. It was far from new, but Tom and I got it running like it was.

I thought Darcy would love driving it. I was wrong.

She complained about the way it tended to peel a bit of tire off every time she popped the clutch going from first to second, and sometimes even into third. That’s why I bought it! I tried to explain to her how cool that was and how hot she looked doing it. She was not impressed. She wanted something tame, manageable, and quiet.

Within a year, I sold the GTO and bought a Volkswagen! It was one of my first major disappointments in my marriage.

Had I been quicker on the uptake, I would have seen the car as a metaphor of a bigger reality. I had married a woman who was cautious by nature. She preferred to know where we were going before we took off, and she liked to have some say on the route we’d choose (read: the one with the least unknowns). Darcy was a woman of forethought and deliberatedness. And she didn’t feel comfortable when she was put in charge of something that left her at the mercy of things she couldn’t control.

So you’re thinking, If that’s true, why’d she marry you?

Good point. I was a bona fide risk taker. I preferred pushing the envelope in fourth gear. Road maps were for amateurs. When Darcy and I found ourselves sitting across the table from each other every night and waking up under the same blankets every morning, our preferences started to grate on each other.

But even though my “Let’s see what’s down that dark back road through the woods” attitude often made Darcy nervous, she knew that was one of the things that attracted her to me. She was careful in how she lived out her day-to-day life, but she wanted to harness her heart and her future to someone who wasn’t intimidated by unknowns or rattled by foiled plans.

In the same way, I was drawn to Darcy because she was careful and calculated. I knew that for me to succeed, I’d need someone who could keep my feet on the ground and help me put planning and organization around my dreams. I also needed someone who was invested enough in me to get in my face every once in a while and tell me when I was being an idiot. Thus, the fetching Mrs. Kimmel.

Too bad that wasn’t the position we defaulted to. For the first few years, instead of graciously honoring each other’s hardwiring and accepting how our differences could help us operate as a team. Darcy and I marginalized each other’s preferences and mocked each other’s strengths. She considered me reckless, and I considered her somewhat embalmed. With each barb, our security fuel gauges moved toward empty.

I’ve seen couples miss the chance to refuel each other’s sense of security by carping about physical issues that aren’t in that person’s control. Criticism about our spouse’s body type drains their sense of security almost every time. Here’s a note you might want to make to yourself: Your spouse’s DNA tends to confine their options when they stand in front of the full-length mirror. Most of what you see is genetics—part of the wonderful artwork God chose for your spouse’s body. But if you criticize physical features over which your spouse has little to no control, it will be hard for them to feel a secure love.

Comparison doesn’t help a spouse feel secure, either. In grad school, Darcy and I socialized with one of my classmates and his wife. At first we thought our friendship would be a good fit, but it was obvious his wife wasn’t impressed with her husband’s chosen profession of vocational ministry. Since I was heading down that same road, I assumed she wasn’t impressed with me either.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to live with her. Unfortunately, he did. She compared him to friends who had chosen career paths she felt were more prestigious. His confidence as a man shrank with each comparison.

But his confidence as a husband paid the biggest price. She didn’t respect his calling. Not surprisingly, he only lasted a couple of years as a pastor.

Even though he left the ministry, the comparisons continued. I could have told him that. His wife refused to extend to him the grace that a loving person does to bring out the best in their spouse. This guy had all the stuff to be something great for God. The only one who couldn’t see this reality was his wife. Her lack of grace for the man he was deep down inside shriveled his sense of security to nothing. No acceptance—no security.

Meanwhile, Darcy and I figured out we were working against each other’s hearts. We weren’t showing each other much grace when it came to how God had configured us.

We were also disrespecting Him in the process. He made us with our unique personalities. He drew us together to help fill each other’s gaps. God could make us much more as a couple than we could ever be as individuals.

Once we started seeing each other through a lens of grace and allowing God’s grace to frame our words and actions toward each other, a wonderful chain reaction started taking place. I started appreciating and applauding her carefulness. She, in turn, started applauding and appreciating my daring and dreaming.

God’s grace helped us develop an attitude that asked, “How do I make it easier for my spouse to do what they do best?” This maximized our potential and capacity as a couple. Our willingness to infuse our relationship with grace as we accepted each other brought more laughter, calm, peace, passion, and confidence into our marriage.

And there was another benefit of this decision to accept each other: It helped us mature beyond the downsides of our personalities. Over the years, Darcy has grown into much more of a risk taker. She now suggests the scenic route over the sure thing, the backstreets of emotions over the thoroughfare. And I’ve learned the wisdom in planning, risk factoring, and proceeding carefully. I still love driving in fourth gear and close to the edge of the road of life, but I prefer to keep my emotional, spiritual, and intellectual GPS lit up along the way.

Our love grows far more secure when we accept the things about our spouses that make them who they are. How are you doing in this area? Do you see your spouse’s uniqueness and strengths as something to me marginalized or applauded?

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Excerpted from Grace Filled Marriage by Dr. Tim Kimmel © 2013. Published by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., Brentwood, Tennessee, www.worthypublishing.com.

5 Reasons the Scriptures Say Sex Should Occur Only in Marriage

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Bob Lepine/Family Life Ministry

Here are five reasons why a sexual relationship should occur within the confines of marriage:

1.  Sex is meant to strengthen the marriage bond.  In marriage we enter into a covenant relationship with one another.  This covenant mirrors God’s covenant.  During the wedding ceremony we vow to remain committed “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer … till death do us part.”  These promises echo the promise God makes to us when He adopts us into His family and unites Himself to us in Christ.  He has said that He will never leave us or forsake us.

God wants the husband and wife to be one. The recurring, ongoing participation in sex is the instrument that God uses so that we can experience a closer, richer, deeper relationship with one another.  When sex happens outside of the safe haven of a committed, loving covenant relationship—what used to be called “the bonds of matrimony” —you may still experience physical pleasure, but there will be an emptiness in your soul. There is something missing. There is a shallowness to the sexuality that we experience apart from a lifelong covenant.

2. God wants to teach us more about the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in the Trinity.  There is oneness within the Trinity—there are three persons, but they are one. In marriage, there are two persons, but they become one. In marriage we learn something about the intimacy that God enjoys within the context of the Trinity—the intimacy that the Father has with the Son, and the Son with the Spirit, and the Spirit with the Father and the Son.

3. God also wants to give us a picture of Christ’s relationship with the Church.(Ephesians 5:22-33).  In some mysterious way, the husband and wife relationship—and our sexuality—is tied to that picture.

4. A sexual relationship in marriage teaches us something about the nature of real love—God’s love.  Over a lifetime in marriage, we learn that in order for our sexuality to be expressed in the way that God intends it, the sexuality needs to be unselfish. Both husband and wife must be committed to pleasing each other and meeting each other’s needs.

5. It is best for the offspring of our sexual union to grow up in a home governed by a covenant relationship between a husband and a wife who love one another and are committed to each other.  If a child is growing up in a setting where there is one parent or where two parents are not bound together in covenant love with one another, that child is missing something.

Consider this:  If our sexual relationship is this powerful and this important, is it any wonder that Satan would take delight in trying to undermine, pervert, and destroy our human sexuality?  Is it any wonder that sex is so huge, so pervasive in our culture—and that the temptation to operate independently of God’s plan is so powerful?

7 Ways to Encourage Your Wife

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I’m not a perfect husband…

I would write that 100 times, but I think you get the message and I’d probably lose most of you at number 27. That’s the average number of times you’ll read the same thing. (I just made that up… :) )

But, I’m not a perfect husband…

I have learned a few things and I continue to strive to be a better husband. I know, for example, that part of my happiness is found in Cheryl being happy. That’s not a “if momma ain’t happy…nobody’s happy...” joke…it’s a reality. I love my wife enough that I want her to be happy.

Obviously, I can’t control all the things which happen in a day for her. I can’t stop people from being rude to her as she drives to work. I can’t help the co-worker who is having a bad day to take her bad day out on Cheryl. I can’t stop the pressures and stress Cheryl will encounter by being a pastor’s wife or by being a friend, mother, daughter, sister, or husband.

All I can control is the way I respond to Cheryl and the things I do that encourage her happiness. I have found that just as I strategically think for my ministry, I should strategically think how to encourage my wife.

Here are a few ways I try to encourage Cheryl:

Send flowersWhen they aren’t expected - This seems so trivial, but I honestly have to remind myself to do this. Flowers on a special occasion are nice, but I have found the ones she enjoys the most are sent on the days she’s not looking for flowers. (This could be something besides flowers if your wife isn’t into flowers that much, but I’ve also discovered many of the practical-minded women who say they don’t want flowers actually love receiving them occasionally.)

Reserve a day…just for her – I do this every Saturday. I let few things interrupt this day and none without consulting with Cheryl first. You may not be able to do this once a week and it may not be for a full day, but it should be consistent enough that she can anticipate it. During the times when life is most stressful and you are pulled in different directions, these reserved times give her something to look forward to and reminds her you’ll “catch up” soon.

Give a gift…that keeps on giving – This idea is brilliant, I must admit…but I love to give a gift that takes a while to receive. When the boys were at home and getting away was more difficult, I would give Cheryl a trip for Christmas every year. We would take the trip in May. I would usually pick a location, request brochures, and give them to her as her “big” gift at Christmas. We had months to plan for it, which built positive emotions leading up to the trip and then anticipating the next Christmas trip. (Plus, many of these expenses were paid outside the Christmas spending frenzy, which helped our budget.)

Be a responsive listener – I realize whenever Cheryl says something there is usually a deeper meaning, so I listen for the deeper meaning. I try to understand her thought process.(Girls, guys really do talk in simpler facts, which makes it more difficult for us to understand you sometimes.) Instead of dismissing what Cheryl said, because it wasn’t clear or assuming I know what she’s saying, I ask questions for clarification when needed. (Don’t argue this one guys…Just do it.)

Give her details – Okay, I know, this will hurt…just being honest, but it shows your love for her. Again, I’m not the perfect husband here. (Do I need to write that again?) I’m getting better at allowing Cheryl to ask me questions and I’m trying to tell her when I’ve told her everything I know. I realize details are more important to her than to me. (This may be opposite for you and your spouse.)

Listen without fixing – This is my toughest, but just last week I did this. I hope she caught it. :) I am a fixer. I fix problems everyday. Give me a problem and I’ll be quick to race to a solution. I realize that many times Cheryl simply wants my ear…not my expert insight :)

Brag to others – Let your wife hear you bragging about her to other people. She’s wonderful, right? Let her know you recognize it. Of course, this should be genuine, but I know Cheryl appreciates hearing me affirm her to others. (And Cheryl is wonderful…you heard it here first :) )

7 Ways for a Wife to Encourage a Husband

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Ron Edmondson

Here are 7 ways to encourage your husband:

Give him a break from sharing details or emotions – Unless the situation demands it or he wants to share them, let him share the basic facts and information in a non-emotional way. It may be all he knows, has observed or remembers. Give him times when “That’s nice” is enough for an answer.

Brag on him – Especially to your friends… Let them know your guy is the greatest! Be sincere, but do it often and make sure he hears you.

Appreciate his interests - If he likes golf…learn a little about the game…enough to encourage him on a good day. If it’s fishing, cars, or football…well…you get the idea… (Bonus points: Give him hobby time – Most men love knowing they have your permission to enjoy a hobby, without wondering if they should be doing something else.)

Understand his work – A man is often more defined by what he does than anything else in his life. Know enough about his work to recognize his accomplishments.

Be available to him – And occasionally without a lot of effort on his part… Remember…you asked…or at least some of you did.

Assure him you’re okay…and he’s okay – On this one, I have to be honest…many times we are left wondering if everything is okay. We can’t read emotions as well as you do, but we know when you’re NOT okay. You can encourage him by assuring him nothing is wrong, even if you can’t process at the time how you feel or “what’s wrong”.

Let him fix something – This is not just with his hands…unless he can do that sort of thing…(I can’t) but with his mind. He’s wired as a fixer. Give him an actual problem to solve…and let him solve it without your help.

Are You Unexpectedly Pregnant?

SOURCE:  JoHannah Reardon

Are You Unexpectedly Pregnant?

Find courage in knowing this didn’t take God by surprise

Brandon and Aimee* were in crisis. The couple had met when Brandon was in the military and married during one of his furloughs. Now he was home and they were preparing for the future by pursuing their college degrees. These two people were motivated, and future success was written all over them. They felt that nothing could stand in their way until Aimee discovered she was pregnant.

Devastated, they met with me to discuss their options. Since they’d both grown up with limited funds, they were fiercely determined to change the trajectory of their lives. They did not want to be poor, and even more, they did not want a child of theirs to grow up poor. This pregnancy seemed to threaten all their dreams and even their future security. They couldn’t see any hope or reason for this radical blow to their plans.

As they told me their story, my mind drifted back to my own similar series of events.

When my husband was in his third year of seminary, we’d just about run out of funds. There was one week when we had absolutely no money left to buy groceries because of some unexpected expenses. I mean none—not even an extra dollar bill lying around the house. Just when I was starting to truly fret, I noticed a personal letter in our daily mail—a note of encouragement from an elderly woman I’d met only once before. She knew my husband was in seminary and things were tight, so along with the note, she enclosed a 20-dollar bill. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to tide us over until the next paycheck. With that small amount we were able to buy some staples—oats, rice, milk, canned goods, peanut butter, bread. It was a rather boring week of food, but it made meal preparation really easy!

That gives you some idea of what our circumstances were like in those days. We struggled to cover our expenditures, not wanting to go into debt, so we lived as frugally as possible. One of the ways we decided to save money was to get rid of maternity insurance, since that added a lot of expense and since we had no intentions of adding a baby to our already precarious situation.

Famous last words (or thoughts).

A few weeks after the no-money-for-groceries incident, I found out I was pregnant. In spite of taking precautions to prevent pregnancy, there was no denying the facts. Not only did the pregnancy test confirm it, but I was experiencing all the symptoms, including acute morning sickness. In fact, it was so bad, I had to quit my job because I simply couldn’t get out of bed. For an entire month, I was lucky to keep soda and crackers down (which helped our grocery bill stay low!).

But, of course, it was a financial crisis. Not only did we not have insurance to cover the pregnancy, but I was no longer bringing in any income. When I told my husband the news with tears, he bravely said, “I don’t understand why this is happening now. All I know is that God is good.” So we clung to that fact over the next nine months as we saw God provide for us. My husband graduated a few months after our beautiful daughter was born. And he graduated debt-free.

I shared these things with Brandon and Aimee, and I also want to share them with you. If you are facing a similar experience, know that God was not taken by surprise with this pregnancy. He planned this child in eternity past and has a plan for this child in eternity future. Your present troubles will be put in perspective as life unfolds. And as you journey forward, keep the following things in mind.

Embrace this child by faith

Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” When we were unsure why we were experiencing this unplanned pregnancy, we clung to this verse. We understood that this child was a gift, even if she didn’t seem like it at the moment. So we accepted that fact by faith and waited for the understanding to dawn—which occurred far sooner than either of us would have expected. Once we embraced this child rather than fearing her, we began to experience all the joy felt by expectant parents who have planned their child.

Trust God’s timing

The timing seemed all wrong. We couldn’t understand why I would be pregnant at the worst possible time financially. But the extreme financial stress lasted only a few years. By the time our daughter was school age, we could afford her.

The whole experience also gave me compassion for others who were going through something similar. I began volunteering at a local pregnancy center, which was when Brandon and Aimee came to see me, wanting to abort, terrified that their child would grow up poor. I was able to tell them that their child wouldn’t know they were poor. They could continue their education and by the time their child was old enough to understand their economic situation, it would be greatly improved. No preschooler ever feels poor if he or she has enough to eat and is loved.

And even if they were poor, God would be faithful to meet their needs. The very act of trusting God for our daily needs is a powerful testimony to a child and can help them see how active God is in our lives. And that’s worth more than all the riches this world can hold.

Be assured that God knows more than you do

My husband and I are both planners. We both enjoy security and knowing that “all of our ducks are in a row.” It’s much more comfortable for us to see exactly where the money is coming from and to work out a budget. Neither of us is overly concerned if it’s a tight budget, but we both are a lot happier when the numbers line up. But God blew our budget out of the water so that it was unrecognizable, and there was nothing left but for us to trust him. That’s a great place to be.

With an unexpected pregnancy, we clung to the fact that God knew more than we did. Although it seemed like a disaster to us, we found courage in the fact that God chose to give us a baby, and that he chose to do that in the midst of our financial struggles. The message was long-lasting. God sees how things will turn out and superintends our circumstances. In our case, he overrode our attempts at preventing pregnancy, which made it all the more clear that this was a child he wanted in the world. Of course, we have no doubts about the wisdom of that now. Our daughter has been a delight and brought us more joy than we could possibly imagine. The days of struggle seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the years of happiness she has brought us.

*names changed

How Do I Know if We Need Marriage Counseling?

SOURCE:  Kim Blackham

If you have ever asked yourself, “Do we need marriage counseling?” then that is a pretty good indication that you should pursue that thought.

The truth is, I think every couple needs workshops, retreats, guidance, and at times couples counseling to develop the best relationship possible.

Romantic relationships are one of those things that few of us receive any training in.  The only knowledge we have comes from watching our parents and other couples, and our own past romantic relationships.  Most of the time, those are not the best teachers.

Yet there is often a lot of hesitation and shame associated with couples counseling.  We are afraid of what others will think if they find out we are seeing a marriage therapist.  Or maybe there is the fear that marriage therapy won’t work.  It is a big investment – in time, money, and emotional energy.  “Do I really want to invest so much when I’m not sure really we need marriage counseling or that it will help?”

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you ponder whether or not your relationship could benefit from couples counseling.

How do I know if we need marriage counseling?

  • Do you and your partner ever get stuck in your interactions and not know how to get past the disconnection?
  • Has there been any deep emotional hurts such as pornography, infidelity, addiction, or absence during a time of great need such as after a miscarriage or loss of a parent?
  • Have you been disillusioned with the idea of marriage and what you thought romantic love would look and feel like?
  • Do you feel sad, alone, or inadequate?
  • Do you have an otherwise great marriage, but feel there is potential for stronger connection and deeper bonding?
  • Have you or your spouse experienced any trauma or abuse?
  • Is there sexual disconnection that you don’t know how to move past?
  • Have you ever considered that life would be better if you were not together?
  • Have you read any books on how to improve your relationship and felt that the information in there wasn’t sufficient to help you achieve what you are looking for?

The good news is that we know and understand romantic love.  It is not a mystery anymore.  It is not a fairy tale idea that we have to grow out of now that we are adults.  It is real and it is possible!

I would encourage you to consider attending a workshop or retreat designed to strengthen your relationship.  Invest in what matters most!  Learn about how to create a relationships that really does feel like a fairy tale, but is lasting and authentic.

If, in your heart, you feel moved towards marriage counseling – even if that inclination is small, talk to a marriage therapist and see what they have to offer you.  Find out if your relationship could benefit from education and guidance from someone who understands what love looks and feels like and knows how to help you achieve that.

Most importantly, believe that it is possible!

Three Essentials to Thriving Marriages

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Three Essential Ingredients for A Healthy Marriage

Many of us have grown up in homes where sinful attitudes and destructive behavior are accepted as normal. We’re so used to being mistreated or disrespected, controlled and manipulated we don’t recognize it as such.

On the other hand, some of us grew up on a steady diet watching Hollywood and Harlequin’s version of love and marriage. They portray unrealistic and distorted ideas around love and marriage as well. They want us to believe that if you have enough sexual passion, the rest of the relationship is easy. It’s a lie.

Let’s look at what are some of the foundational ingredients for a marriage to be healthy and why these basics are crucial if a marriage is going to flourish.

Essentials to Thriving Relationships

Every grown-up relationship requires three essential ingredients to thrive: mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom.

Mutuality means that both individuals contribute specific qualities essential for the care, maintenance, and repair of the relationship. They are honesty, caring, respect, responsibility, and repentance. In marriage, both individuals make efforts to grow and change for the welfare of the other and the preservation of their relationship.

Destructive relationships lack mutuality. Tim Keller, in his book on marriage writes “The Christian teaching [on marriage] does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.”  When you are the only one in your marriage caring, repenting, being respectful and honest, sacrificing and working toward being a better spouse, or having a good marriage, you are a godly wife but you don’t have a healthy or biblical marriage.

Paul writes about the importance of mutuality in healthy relationships throughout his teachings. For example, he wrote, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV).

Paul also emphasized mutuality throughout his teaching on marriage. Husbands and wives may have different roles and responsibilities but he calls both to mutually fulfill them. Paul explains the mutuality of the sexual relationship. He writes, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4 ESV).

Peter too speaks of mutuality when he writes, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” And, “Likewise husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:1-2,7 ESV).

These instructions to husbands and wives work great only when they are practiced by both the husband and the wife. Both are to give, both are to sacrifice to meet the needs of the other. When these directives are not practiced mutually, it is a very different picture. That does not give wives permission to give up or to disobey God’s instructions although that path is tempting when we feel mistreated and angry. Instead, talk to God about how to handle this lack of mutuality and your hurt feelings. You do not have the power to turn a bad marriage into a good marriage all by yourself. But Peter reminds us that by our godly attitude and actions we can behave in ways that can influence our husband to surrender to God’s transforming work of change in his life (1 Peter 3).

This brings us to the second essential ingredient of a thriving relationship: reciprocity.

Reciprocity means that both people in the relationship give and both people in the relationship receive. Power and responsibility are shared and there is not a double standard where one person gets all the goodies in the relationship while the other person sacrificially does most of the work. The apostle Paul validates reciprocity when he gives guidelines how to give our resources sacrificially but not foolishly. He writes, “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14 ESV).

Destructive marriages are not reciprocal and therefore don’t thrive. One person demands power over the other and relegates their partner to the status of a slave or a child. For example, John required Mary to be accountable for every penny she spent yet John did not hold himself to that same standard. He always had an excuse as to why his spending was more justified than Mary’s and often spent large amounts of money without telling her. Mary worked a full time job as did John. Mary was required to direct deposit her entire paycheck into their joint account. John only deposited an equal dollar amount of his paycheck into their joint account. The rest of his income was put in a separate account with only his name on it. Mary had no access to it, nor did she even know what John’s income was. There was no “we” to their financial decisions, John held all the financial power, Mary felt like a child being given an allowance.

To rebalance their marriage and create a healthier relationship Mary will need to speak up and require more reciprocity from John. And John will have to change how he sees and treats Mary. She needs to become his partner, not his possession if their marriage is to become healthy.

Something to keep in mind is that there may be seasons in every marriage where one person gives more than the other due to illness, incapacity or other problems, but when that happens, as soon as the individual is capable, the relationship is rebalanced and power and responsibility are again mutually shared.

Lastly, our third essential ingredient of a thriving relationship is freedom.

Freedom means that in your marriage you are allowed to make choices, to give input, and to express your feelings without fearing you’ll be badgered, manipulated and punished. When freedom is present, we’re not afraid to be ourselves nor are we pressured to become something we’re not.

Freedom is an essential component in all healthy adult relationships. We’ve all witnessed the results in world history, in fundamentalist religious groups, and in families where freedom is squashed. Members are not free to question, to challenge, to think differently than the group. They are not free to grow or to be themselves without fear of retaliation. Instead they have to do and say and be what the group or person in charge tells them. That is not healthy or God’s plan.

Although God wants unity in a family and in the family of God, he created great diversity. We are to be ourselves and be of one mind all at the same time. This one mind idea doesn’t mean melding ourselves into the desires or demands of another individual but together living for a common purpose and goal, the kingdom and glory of God.

Married couples need freedom to thrive. I do not mean the freedom to do whatever you want regardless how the other person feels. When you commit to someone in marriage, you freely choose to limit some (not all) of your choices. But all healthy relationships need freedom to disagree, to respectfully challenge someone’s decisions and to be the person God made them to be. Having your freedom of movement, choices, friends, and emotional expression restricted by your husband sends the message that you are not allowed to be a whole person in your own marriage. Instead you are to become what your husband tells you to be. This is not healthy for you, for him, or for your marriage.

Below are 16 traits of a healthy marriage. Answer the questions to see whether your marriage is relatively healthy.

1. My spouse shows care and concern for me and my needs.  Yes    No

2. My spouse has my best interests in mind.  Yes    No

3. My spouse asks my opinion on things.  Yes    No

4. My spouse trusts me.  Yes    No

5. My spouse works with me as a partner to parent our children.  Yes    No

6. My spouse is willing to get help for our marriage problems.  Yes    No

7. My spouse takes responsibility and apologizes when he’s wrong.  Yes    No

8. My spouse asks for my opinion on things in our marriage.  Yes    No

9. My spouse is considerate of my feelings.   Yes    No

10. When we have a problem, my spouse is willing to talk about it.   Yes    No

11. My spouse uses the Bible to correct his own life.  Yes    No

12. My spouse listens to advice from wise people.  Yes    No

13. My spouse allows me to be myself.  Yes    No

14. My spouse allows me to make my own decisions.  Yes    No

15. My spouse allows me to disagree.  Yes    No

16. My spouse is a good steward with our finances.  Yes    No

If you answered these questions with mostly “yes,” your marriage is relatively healthy. One or two “no” answers indicate some weak areas in your marriage. More than three “no’s” indicate an unhealthy marriage. More than five “no’s” indicate a destructive marriage.

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Adapted from The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick.

God is a Fun God: He Created Sex for Enjoyment in Marriage

SOURCE:  Jimmy Evans/MarriageToday

Sex brings more pleasure and satisfaction to marriage than anything else. And sex causes more disagreements and frustration in marriage than anything else.

Sex is one of the main reasons we get married…and sexual problems are one of the main reasons people get divorced.

When I talk about sex to married couples, I like to refer to it as both a thermostat and a thermometer. In your home, you control the temperature by turning the thermostat up or down. Sex heats up a marriage. It makes it better.

Sex can also be a marriage thermometer: it tells the temperature. If the sex is bad or infrequent, then a married couple probably isn’t communicating well. You may have stress, or unresolved anger, or a host of other issues. Poor sex is a symptom of these problems.

I believe there are three truths that we need to understand about sex.

The first is that God created sex for pleasure and lifelong enjoyment. Our God is a fun God! He wants us to enjoy sex in marriage. So a married couple’s sex life not only can make their marriage better, but can also reveal whether or not they have problems. What kind of sex life do you and your spouse have? What does it reveal about your marriage?

The second is that God gave us sexual boundaries to protect us. Just like vehicles come with an owner’s manual that tells us what not to do, God gave us sex but set parameters for it. Things like adultery, fornication, incest, and lust—the Bible says these things are wrong.

No one gets mad because their owner’s manual says to put oil in their Fords every few thousand miles. No one says, “Ford Motor Company doesn’t want me to have any fun!” Ford wants us to treat the car right so we can enjoy it.

God is the same with sex. His rules aren’t to keep us from having fun, but from getting hurt. He wants our bodies to be places of pleasure and delight for our spouses…but for no one else.

The third truth I believe about sex is that God created our sexual differences to make marriage more fulfilling and dynamic. Men and women are very different sexually. For men, sex stimulates our emotions. For women, emotions stimulate sex. We’re two halves of a whole.

A woman becomes more sexual as her husband becomes more romantic and emotional. At the same time, men tend to open up more emotionally when their wives become more sexual. It all works together.

Because sex is so important, I tell couples that there are five basic ingredients of a healthy sex life. Husbands and wives should:

  1. Commit to meeting their spouse’s sexual needs.
  2. Communicate their sexual needs to their spouse.
  3. Commit to sexual purity (thoughts and actions) to protect the integrity of their marriage.
  4. Be honest and accountable about temptations that can hurt a marriage.
  5. Refuse to be close friends with those who violate the marriage covenant.

Those ingredients will keep a couple’s sex life active, fulfilling, and healthy.

God created sex in marriage to be an Eden of pleasure and delight. Embrace it. Talk about it. Pursue it within the safe boundaries of your marriage. And most of all, enjoy it together.

Same-sex Attraction: Truth–But No Stone Throwing

SOURCE:  Eric Metaxas/RPM Ministries

Eric Metaxas at BreakPoint shares great wisdom about a humble, grace-oriented approach to speaking about human sexuality. You can read and listen to his thoughts at No Stone Throwing.

Here’s a portion of what Eric shared (headers added by RPM Ministries).

—————————————————————————————————————————

Think Twice

It’s easy to get angry at someone in open sexual sin. But you might think twice before picking up that stone…. Sometimes we Christians demonize our opponents instead of loving them. We often forget that, apart from the grace of God, we might well be on the other side of the issue.

Truth Is a Person

This is especially true when it comes to the issue of human sexuality. To understand why, we must first remember that, for the Christian, truth is a person: Jesus Christ. We see the world and our place in it in light of the person and work of Jesus.

So we should never forget that just as Jesus was the incarnation of God’s love, mercy, and compassion for us, we are called to model these for our neighbor.

Now this doesn’t mean that we should shy from calling sin by its name — on the contrary, sometimes this is exactly what loving our neighbor requires. But we should do this in sorrow rather than in anger and never out of a sense of condemnation — because we know that since none of us is without sin, none of us gets to cast the first stone.

Humility

So, when we address a hot-button issue like same-sex attraction or same-sex marriage, we should always keep in mind our own struggles and brokenness when it comes to sexuality.

If you are blessed not to have struggled in this area, then recall your struggles in other areas. If you can’t think of any, well, you might want to think about the sin of pride. I’m just saying.

….As Christians know, sex is intended to serve a unitive purpose — it’s supposed to be the physical expression of the spiritual union between husband and wife. As the Bible puts it, “the two become one flesh.”

Seeking in a “Disordered” Manner

It may come as a surprise to many of us, but many people in same-sex relationships are seeking the same thing. The problem is that they can’t achieve what they are seeking, because they are seeking it in what Catholic moral theology calls a “disordered” manner. Likewise, many advocates of same-sex marriage aren’t out to subvert marriage, at least not consciously. They’re pursuing the goods of marriage, all be it, in a disordered fashion.

Thus when we rightly say that the Christian response to same-sex attraction is chastity, we must remember that chastity is difficult enough for heterosexual Christians — who at least have the hope of expressing their sexuality in marriage.

The same is true with same-sex marriage. As God said in Genesis 2, “it is not good for man to be alone.” We were designed for the deep kind of physical and spiritual connection that comes through marriage. So even while we insist that that kind of connection is only available between a man and a woman, we must empathize with and grieve for those who cannot achieve it.

Speak in Love or Don’t Speak

If we can’t, then we should consider keeping our mouths shut. Because if we forget to offer love and support along with the truth, we aren’t much better than the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus rebuked for placing heavy loads on people’s shoulders while not lifting a finger to move them.

The world doesn’t need more Pharisees, it needs people who speak the truth in love — love that never forgets Who is the Truth.

Is Your Spouse Abnormal?

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

Each of you brings a different background and a different set of expectations into your marriage.

Here’s how to establish the ‘new normal.’

You’re snuggled in your warm bed, about to drift off to sleep. And then comes that dreaded question from your wife:  “Honey, did you remember to turn out all the lights and lock all the doors?”

That was our story during our first year of marriage.

We lived in Boulder, Colorado, where the winter nights were cold and we loved our toasty electric blanket.  I remember the night when I collapsed into bed, totally exhausted, and Barbara brought me back from the edge of oblivion with a light poke.  “Aren’t you going to turn out the lights?”

It occurred to me that I’d been getting up for the past two months and experiencing mild frostbite and that perhaps it was her turn.  “Why don’t you turn out the lights tonight?” I retorted.

Barbara replied, “I thought you would because my dad always turned out the lights.”

A shot of adrenalin cleared my head like the sun piercing the fog.  And I shouldn’t have said it, but I did:  “But I’m not your dad!”

Well, that turned out to be a night when we practiced the scriptural admonition to not  “let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).  You see, two forces clashed on that cold Rocky Mountain night—Barbara’s sense of normal and my sense of normal.  She felt it was the husband’s duty to turn off the lights because that’s what her father had always done.  That was normal to her.  But in my family of origin, that task was not irrevocably assigned to the male species.

When normals collide

Each of you brings a different background and a different set of expectations into your marriage.  Your family did things a certain way, and your spouse’s family did things a certain way. Often you don’t even realize what’s normal to you until you get married and suddenly your normal collides with that of your spouse.

On these issues, you need to realize that your spouse is not abnormal–just different.

For example, let’s examine some of the normals surrounding dinner time:

  • Was it normal for you to eat dinner together as a family on most nights?
  • What types of meals did you normally eat?
  • What did you drink?
  • Who cooked the meal?
  • Who cleaned up?
  • How did you normally dress?
  • Did you open the meal with prayer?
  • Did you start eating when you were seated or did you wait until after you prayed?
  • Was it normal to get a debrief from everyone’s day or was the television turned on and the dominant force?
  • If someone called, was dinner interrupted to answer the phone?
  • Was it normal to have friends over for dinner?
  • How often did you eat at restaurants as a family?

You could probably add to that list.  And that’s just one set of normals.  How about breakfast and lunch?  What were your normals regarding family entertainment?  Vacations? Birthday celebrations?  Christmas gifts?  Pets?  Handling finances?

Reader feedback

After I first wrote on this topic for an issue of Marriage Memo, a number of readers wrote to tell about the struggles they faced with this issue.  One wrote:

I mostly have a problem with my wife when it comes to turning off lights and celebrating birthdays and having parties all the time. I prefer the light to be off when I sleep but she prefers the opposite.  Again, my wife believes that every birthday (including that of our children) must be celebrated with a lot of presents (if it’s the children, then they must have a party at school, which she does all the time).

Another described a conflict that arose when she and her husband were celebrating their seventh anniversary.  They had a new baby, and this would be the first time they left the baby with her mother while they went on a date.  The baby was fussy at night, so she felt they should go out for lunch, but her husband insisted on dinner.

We finally sat down and talked about how both of us were feeling.  I was upset because I did not feel he understood how nervous I was, and I did not understand why we had to go out for dinner instead of lunch.  It turned out that that was not his “normal.”  His family rarely went out to eat, and they never went out for lunch. You just had a sandwich for lunch at home. It did not seem romantic or special to go out for lunch to him. On the other hand, my family went out a lot more frequently and it was for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I always loved going out for breakfast growing up, but my husband and I never do.  Now I understand why.

Creating a new set of normals

No matter how long you’ve been married, one of your priorities is to create a new set of normals in your relationship. And it’s especially important early in marriage.  In their book, The Most Important Year in a Woman’s Life, Susan DeVries and Bobbie Wolgemuth write, “Over the years we’ve seen couples in conflict over money or sex or in-laws, but what they’re really fighting about aren’t those things at all.  They’re really fighting about normal.”

A good first step is to commit to understanding each other’s normals.  Make it part of your vocabulary.  If you find yourself disagreeing about an issue, ask yourselves, “Is this a question of differing normals?”  You can create a spirit of discovery, where you can talk about normals in a way that doesn’t feel threatening.  Remember that, in most cases, different is not bad—it’s just different.

It’s amazing how honest communication, plus a good dose of flexibility, can help resolve conflict. In the above story about the couple celebrating their anniversary, the wife wrote that once she understood how their normals were colliding, she agreed to put aside her fears and go out for dinner.  “The baby was just fine with my mom,” she wrote, “We were able to enjoy our evening together because we had talked about where we both were coming from beforehand and were on the same page.”

A second step is to make choices together that reflect your priorities and values.  Let’s say that you grew up in a family that gave each other inexpensive birthday gifts, while your spouse’s family splurged and spent a lot more money.  As you consider how to celebrate your birthdays, this is an opportunity to make your own choices that reflect the importance you place on birthdays, and the number of banks you have to rob so you have enough to spend.

As you make these decisions, follow the guidance of Romans 12:10, which tells us to “give preference to one another in honor” (NASB).  In most of your decisions, your sense of normal will not be superior to that of your spouse.  If you both determine not to hold too tightly to what’s comfortable and familiar, you will find ways to compromise and honor each other and create your own normal in your new home.

So … who’s going to turn out the lights in your family?

Q&A: Is It Controlling To Check My Spouse’s Emails and Texts?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

QUESTION:  One of the chapters in your new book on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage addresses control regarding looking at emails and texts. I never did this before until I had caught my husband in a lie about his whereabouts. He was acting differently for several months and was protective over his phone.

When I looked at his phone without his knowledge, I saw texts with co-workers and customers that were flirtatious. Then I looked at emails and also found emails that made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable as a wife. He said he could see why I thought that way and would take a look at his actions. I hadn’t looked in a long time, but several texts would appear when I was near him that I saw again were the same flirtatious exchanges.

We are in counseling, and he did admit to being deceptive regarding his whereabouts. I hadn’t looked in a while, but started looking again at his texts because I felt he was again not being truthful and maybe he never was, and that the only way I could find out the truth is if I looked.

Is this wrong and controlling as you mentioned in your book? Or is it different when you have reason to look because I hadn’t looked up until that point? Again, I love this book and can’t put it down. He is attentive to me when we are together.

If I didn’t look, I might not have realized what was going on. He is meeting with a counselor regarding his inability to express emotions (dad died when he was 6 yrs old). My counselor feels he is being emotionally promiscuous. He feels he is in control and not doing anything wrong. Recently, I saw 3 texts in over a year from a co-worker that he said were not meant for him. One said “listening to this song thinking of you” and another said, “Me too Babe, it’s been a long time.”

He said she texted back and mentioned it was not intended for him. I want to believe him, but it’s getting harder and harder. If I didn’t look, on the surface things appear normal.

ANSWER:  I’m sorry you’ve discovered that your husband has a secret life. That is painful to you and harmful to your marriage. Apparently, he is also confusing you. On the one hand, he’s agreeing that his behavior might make you feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Yet, he is also minimizing the damage when he states he’s in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If he’s not doing anything wrong, why is he hiding his behavior? With the way you worded your sentence though, I wasn’t sure if it was your husband or his counselor who felt your husband was in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If it’s the counselor, he would do well to find another counselor.

That said, the question you’re asking is are your behaviors controlling when you keep checking your husband’s cell phone and e-mails to see if he is lying or sneaking around?

Let me ask you a question. Why are you still checking? It’s not to find out if he’s lying to you. You already know the answer to that. So what’s your purpose? To find out if he’s still lying to you? You already know that answer, too. So what do you want to do with the information you already have? That is what you need to focus on right now.

You indicate that overall you have a good marriage and you would have no idea this was going on if you didn’t check. From that, I assume that you want your marriage to stay in-tact, minus the emotional promiscuity. What does your husband want? If he wants the same thing, then what will he need to change in order for him to stop his secret life?

First, he might commit himself to counseling to figure out what he’s trying to get out of his flirtatious behaviors. Next, he would initiate accountability for himself so that he will be less likely to fall into those same behaviors, you will feel safe, and you both can rebuild trust.

That means he will invite and allow you and/or other people, such as a good male accountability partner, to monitor his e-mails, phone messages or texts whenever you want to. You will not need to sneak to check. You will have full access to his passwords and be able to verify that he is doing what he says anytime you feel anxious. This is not to control him, as he must learn to control himself. This is for you to rebuild the trust that he is doing what he says he wants to do–stay married to you and stop flirting with other women.

However, that doesn’t mean that if your husband wants to, he still can’t find a way to flirt and lie about it. You cannot control him or his behaviors. The best you can do is to decide what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with and then let him know what the consequences will be to your marriage if he continues to lie and flirt.

So many women obsessively try to change their husband’s sinful behaviors by playing detective and drive themselves crazy in the process. If your husband wants to be a liar and a cheat, you are absolutely powerless to stop him. All you can do is work on yourself and decide if you are willing to put up with that behavior or not. If not, then what do you need to do instead of continuously monitoring him?

Q&A: Boundaries and Consequences

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question:  I am unsure how to set up boundaries and consequences with my alcoholic, pot-smoking husband.  He thinks neither should be a concern of mine.  He says it doesn’t affect me.  When he has too much to drink, his verbal cocky language, insinuations, and controlling attitude are horrible.

He thinks nothing of drinking 6-10 beers at one time.  He is bi-polar but doesn’t think it is an issue anymore.  He was on lithium years ago for this.  I am so tired of this relationship with him.  I want to do what God wants me to do.  I know that with God He can handle this marital issue.  I just need to release it totally to Him.

Please give me guidance on setting up specific boundaries and consequences.  I have read your book How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, but I need more specific advice in my particular situation.  Thank you.

Answer:  In my book, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong I introduced the idea of the Gift of Consequences as a loving gesture to help wake a spouse up to behaviors or attitudes that were affecting (or destroying) the marriage.  (This particular gift of love often does not feel loving to the one receiving it at the time)

In past blogs and in my other books on destructive relationships and marriage I give many more reasons and examples how not to enable destructive behavior to continue unchallenged by mitigating or removing negative consequences from the destructive person’s life.

Specifically in your situation you need to ask yourself the question how does his behaviors affect you?  For starters you indicate that when he’s drunk or high, he treats you differently.  He’s controlling, cocky and makes remarks that offend you and hurt your feelings.  What would be a natural consequence for someone who treats you that way?

Most healthy people wouldn’t put up with it.  They’d leave the room, leave the conversation, or exit the house for an hour or even for the night.   In other words, one consequence is that your husband looses the pleasure of your presence or company when he’s drinking or high because you don’t like the way he treats you when he’s that way.

Now, the problem for you when you implement this consequence is that perhaps it has no impact on him. In fact, he may prefer you to leave him alone.  This is where it gets tricky.  The consequence we implement we want to also have impact.

So what other consequences might you implement that may get his attention?

Stop cleaning up his messes – cans, ashes, dirty glasses, vomit.  (But you have to live there too so it impacts you too)

Separate your family money if he’s spending large quantities of money on his drinking and drugs and it’s affecting your ability to pay your bills.

Refuse to drive with him if he’s been drinking or smoking pot/ not allowing the children to drive with him

Refuse to lie to the children about his behaviors when they observe him drunk or high.

Refuse to bail him out of jail if he gets pulled over by the police.

Refuse to buy him alcohol or other supplies for his habit.

Refuse to lie or cover up for him to others (work, family, neighbors) for his foolish behavior while drunk or high.

Separate from him until he gets help and stops his abusive behavior.

Plan an intervention with family members to help him see how his problem impacts everyone (he says it doesn’t affect anyone).

Sometimes boundaries and consequences look rather similar.  The boundary you may set ahead of time – such as I am no longer willing to drive with you because I’m afraid when you’re driving and drinking.

A consequences might be, last night you scared me to death the way you were weaving in and out of cars. We almost had an accident. From now on I refuse to drive with you when you’ve been drinking (or smoking).

But bottom line – what keeps you stuck in this relationship is something you can work on. You can’t change him but you can, with God’s help, change you.  You say you want to do what God wants you to do but I do not believe God calls you to sacrifice yourself and your children so that your husband can stay steeped in his foolish behaviors.  So if you lovingly implement consequences – not to scold, shame or punish, but to wake him up, it can be part of God’s plan for his life.

Doing what God wants you to do means that you will also do what you need to do to stay healthy and get wise. It may mean attending Al Anon or Celebrate Recovery or some other support group for people who live with addicts.  It means that you will protect your children from his abusive behavior when he’s intoxicated and if it’s frequent, you may need to consider separating from him until he gets help for his problem.

I think we often think God wants us to always be nice and minimize the ugliness of sin.  We’re not to judge sin because all of us are sinners – you are not less a sinner than your husband is, but when we cover it up or minimize it or think it makes no negative impact on other people, we are deceiving ourselves and not living in the truth.

Your words to your husband – or consequences and boundaries may be hard but need not be harsh.  Do the work you need to so that when you take this step, you do it in love.

Family: Imperfect – BUT – Important

SOURCE:  Family Life/Dennis Rainey

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27

I believe there is nothing more powerful on Earth than family. It is the single most influential force for good (or for evil) in all human existence.

From birth, it marks you. Your family crafts your conscience and shapes your soul. At home you learn life’s lessons and begin the art of practicing them. At home you learn to love and to do what’s right. More than merely giving you a street address, your home and family imprint you with a spiritual and sexual identity shaped by the two people who gave you life.

Truly, nothing compares to the strength of being tightly wrapped in the protective fiber of family.

It’s who you are. It’s where you belong.

And if all goes well–as it should–it is your family that surrounds you when you start life’s journey, when you face life’s hardest trials, when you go through the valleys and when you die. More than anyone else, the members of your family are the ones who are there for you, caring for you and mourning the loss of you when you’re gone.

This should come as no surprise, because God created the family. At the very dawn of time, “God created man in His own image, . . . male and female He created them.” Of all the ways He could have chosen to inaugurate His creation, He chose to start with family. In fact, the Bible begins with a marriage in Genesis and ends with a marriage in Revelation.

Marriage and family have always been central to what God is doing on planet Earth.

I believe family is still of utmost importance to our heavenly Father. It holds the key to our health, our success as a society, and our future. And I believe it is worth whatever effort is required to nurture, encourage and support it.

Thank God for the gift of your family, regardless of its inadequacies and failures.

Q & A: My Spouse Is A Chronic Liar. What Can I Do?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My husband is lying to me about so many things. He twists my words, and I have no self-worth. I am in counseling, and we are new empty nesters. I left my job to care for an aging parent and focus on my husband. This is the worst time of my life. My spouse is either having an emotional affair or physical affair. He denies either, yet the computer (email receipts) says otherwise. He has cleaned the house of any and all receipts.

How do I live with someone I do not trust? I am so depressed. Please help direct me.

Answer: I’m glad you have taken the first step and started counseling. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates some of the highest rates of depression are among women who are unhappily married. There is very little you can do to change your husband’s lying, cheating or mind games right now, but there are some very definite things you can do to help your depression and self-worth.

Jesus says “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Sometimes when the thing we’ve treasured most is gone or broken, we don’t just grieve our loss, we come unglued. That’s because we have put our treasure in something temporal–something that won’t last. Although your marriage is important and God wants you to have a loving and trusting relationship with your husband, he doesn’t want your marriage or your husband to be your treasure.

In my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, I wrote, “The biggest red flag (that your marriage has become an idol) is when you fall into deep despair or panic when your husband fails to love you well…Any wife would feel disappointed, hurt, and angry. But if you find yourself becoming increasingly despairing, fearful, controlling, or resentful, it’s time to pay attention. Those negative emotions are a good indicator that your desire for a good marriage has become too important…Whenever we are dependent on something or someone other than God, it will always hurt us.”

Therefore the most important work you have to do right now isn’t to salvage your marriage or get your husband to tell you the truth, but to put your marriage in its proper place in your heart and mind and choose God as your treasure, not your spouse or your marriage.

You say you have no self-worth. Why not? Because your husband doesn’t love you like you want him to? Because he doesn’t value you enough to tell you the truth? Why would you allow a mere mortal, a sinful human being, determine your value and worth?

If someone rejects us, lies to us, or doesn’t love us as we want, it surely hurts, but it does NOT define who we are or determine our value. If you gave me an expensive piece of jewelry, like pearls or a diamond tennis bracelet, and I threw it away or never wore it, does that mean it isn’t worth anything?

It’s not our parents or our peers or our partners that determine our worth, it’s God. He defines our value because he is the one who formed us. He is the only one we can count on to tell us the truth about who we are. He never lies. Read Psalm 139 and meditate on it today. Let God tell you how much you’re worth.

Therefore friend, I encourage you to take the opportunity you have while in counseling to work on you and not on how you can get your husband to tell you the truth. You might just find that as you get healthier and less dependent on him, he may do a little soul searching of his own and choose to be more honest with you about what’s going on with him.

If not, then you’ll be strong enough to know what next step you need to take to deal with your husband’s deceit.

We’re ALL Sexually Broken

SOURCE:  Bob Lepine/Family Life

[This is the second article in a three-part series on God’s design for sexuality. Click here to read part one, and click here to read part three.]

I was born in 1956, two days after Elvis recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” in Nashville.  By the time I became a teenager, America had experienced a huge cultural revolution.  That revolution affected fashion, hairstyles, and the music we listened to.  But maybe the most significant aspect of that cultural revolution was the impact it had on how we look at sex and morality.

Teenagers in the ’60s had a sure way to know if something was right or wrong: If their parents were for it, it was wrong. My generation saw life differently. We believed that we knew better than our parents about life.

Sexual sin was not new in the ’60s. People have been sinning with their bodies since the beginning of time.  What was new a generation ago was that we didn’t call it sin anymore. All of a sudden there were no taboos. Suddenly, the idea that sex before marriage or sex outside of marriage was wrong started to evaporate. Sex anytime was groovy; it was natural.  If you can’t be with the one you love, we were told, love the one you’re with.

Several decades have passed since the sexual revolution. We now live in a culture where sexual sin is celebrated. It’s normalized. It’s made to look attractive and glamorous. The temptation to sexual sin is more intense than it’s ever been. It is more constant. It’s more accessible than ever. All around you are people—even Christians—who are disregarding God’s design for sexual purity.

The culture tells us that we should be liberated and free about sexuality—that those who follow biblical standards are uptight and repressed.  You may think, “I don’t want to be repressed. Why should I obey God in this area?”

Here’s why:  Because God, who created you, has designed sex as a good gift and a blessing if you enjoy it as He intended.

When you pull sex out of its original design, you will do damage to your soul.  It will degrade you, it will cheapen you, it will wound you.  It will rob you of a sense of who you are.

Naked and unashamed

In the first article of this series, I looked at the creation account in Genesis and what it tells us about God’s purposes for marriage and sexuality.  Genesis 2 ends with a glorious declaration that the husband and wife come together and become one flesh.  Then it says, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  The man and woman were transparent with each other and with God; they felt safe and protected.  Nothing was broken. Yet.

But look what happens in Genesis 3, as the man and the woman succumb to the serpent’s temptation and declare their independence from God: “Then the eyes of both were opened and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (verse 7).

What God had brought together—the pinnacle of His creative work—joining the man and the woman together in marriage and uniting them in one flesh—now began to unravel. Suddenly there was shame, and the shame was directly related to their sexuality in their marital union.

It’s important for us to recognize that our enemy’s first point of attack was the marriage of Adam and Eve.  He divided them, and the first thing they realized after their rebellion was that what God had made perfect had now become damaged.

Usually we call this story the “the fall.”  I think the term is too passive.  Adam and Eve did more than fall.  They rebelled.  They committed divine treason. They declared their independence and rejected their Creator.

And here is what we need to understand: This rebellion continues to have an impact on all of creation. It has left every human being broken. And that brokenness has affected every aspect of creation, including our sexuality.

Here’s the bottom line: Because of our rebellion against God, all of us have some type of disordered and ungodly sexual desire.

All in the same boat

Before sin came into the world, there was no lust. Adam never lusted. There was no adultery. There was no fornication. There was no pornography. There was no homosexuality.  But when sin came into the world, sex was broken.

Your disordered sexual desire may be different than mine, but we’re all in the same boat.  Sexual brokenness may manifest itself as sexual selfishness, where sex is used as a way to control or manipulate someone else. It may be sexual indifference in marriage—a lack of desire to be intimate with the spouse God has given you.  It can be the desire to watch movies or television shows that stir up lustful, sexual passion inside of you. These are all ways that broken people demonstrate their ongoing rebellion against God’s design for human sexuality.

Men and women who continually seek sexual conquest are manifesting their sexual brokenness and rebellion.  We see it in solo sex, in the widespread use of pornography, and in any variety of sexual addictions, or anonymous sex, or homosexuality, or other activities that reveal just how deeply broken and rebellious we are in this area.

Any time you engage in any kind of passion-stirring sexual behavior outside of marriage, you are declaring to God that you are going your own way.  God tells us, “Look, I’ve got a gift for you. But it is a good gift only within these boundaries.”  But we say, “No, I want to use it over here!”  What we’re really saying to God is, “I know better than You.”

If it’s broken, can we fix it?

There are three important points to understand here:

First, just because sexual brokenness is part of our fallen nature, this does not give us an excuse for engaging in sinful behavior.  You can’t say, “I’m broken in this area, so I’m not responsible.”  As with any other sinful behavior, we have a choice about our actions.

Second, we can’t “fix” our brokenness on our own.  Healing can only occur through the saving grace of Christ.  Forgiveness and salvation are possible only through Him.  Only He can cure our rebellious nature.

Finally, as we live daily with sexual brokenness, we must keep short accounts with God and repeatedly repent of sin and reaffirm our belief in the gospel.  First John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  This is not a one-time cleansing; because we sin regularly, we must repent regularly.

The longing of your soul

Our souls crave the intimacy and the rightness of the sexual experience God created us for, but we settle for cheap substitutes. And in the end those substitutes always disappoint, because they fall short of what God intended.

What’s most important is being in a right relationship with God, where He satisfies the longing of our souls, and provides the sanctifying grace that we need.  Only as we yield to Him and trust Him will we recognize the goodness of His gift of sex.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

This article is adapted from a message Bob Lepine delivered at Redeemer Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Marriage: We Need It, Want It, Gotta Have It

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by Dennis/Barbara Rainey

American Dreamers

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 
1 Timothy 6:6

Whether you know it or not, your marriage is susceptible to the American Dream Syndrome–the notion that you can have it all, that you deserve it all. The more stuff you have, the better off you are. Desire to acquire. The slogans, like the wish lists, are practically endless.

Yet contrary to the seductive tune of the American Dream, enough is never enough. Getting more only fuels the urge to get more. So how do you learn to live within that truth without constantly feeling like your lives don’t measure up?

You embrace contentment.

Contentment arises from a spirit of gratefulness. It’s the courageous choice to thank God for what you have and for what you don’t have. Even when you don’t know where this week’s grocery money is coming from. Even when the washer goes on the blink. Even when the kids need braces. Even when your next-door neighbor drives home in a new car or is gone on a fabulous vacation to an exotic location.

The apostle Paul, who wrote the words that appear at the top of this page, knew how it felt to be beaten, shipwrecked and imprisoned. He knew the hardship of being pummeled with rocks and left for dead. But he also knew that God could be trusted. He knew his situation was being monitored by the all-wise awareness of his loving heavenly Father.

Occasionally, we all need to be reminded: Material things will never satisfy the hunger in our hearts. A couple who fails to see this could spend a lifetime chasing the American Dream, only to find it to be a desert mirage, forever just out of reach.

Bring your needs and shortages before the Lord right now. Leave them there, thank Him for where He has you, and walk on embracing contentment.

7 Ways a Husband Injures a Wife…Without Even Knowing It

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by  Ron Edmondson

Guys, we injure our wife. All of us do. We are different and the way we respond to our wife often causes injury. And, most of the time, it’s unintentional. We didn’t even know we were doing it.

I’m not making excuses for us. We should strive to learn our spouse…and do better…understanding our differences…communicating better…injuring less. That’s what this post is about. Awareness. Understanding.

I ran this post by my wife…so it’s Cheryl approved, although it wasn’t hard to write. As a counselor and pastor, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples and have seen this countless times. I wish I could say I never did any of these…but that would be a lie. This post is written with one finger pointed forward…and four more pointed my way.

Here are 7 ways a husband injures a wife…without even knowing it:

Cuts her out of the discussion – When you act as if she isn’t even there or wouldn’t understand what you’re talking about, she feels a part of her is detached. She sees the marriage as a partnership…in every part of life…even the parts she may never fully understand.

Fails to notice the difference she makes – A woman doesn’t want to be appreciated for only what she does. She wants you to appreciate who she is, but you can admit it – she does a lot. Whether it’s decorating the house or making sure the clothes are clean…or that you have your favorite soap…a woman wants to know what she does is valued by you.

Underestimates the small stuff – You only said “this” but it was “THIS” to her. And it hurts. You may even think it’s funny. She may even laugh. But it is often building a wall of protection around her heart each time you do. The key here is that you can’t talk to her like you might talk to another guy. She hears and feels deeper than you do. Words can and do hurt.

Speaks with curtness - When you talk down to her, as if she’s somehow less than you, you bruise her spirit. Deeply. And, you know she’s not less than you…you don’t even think she is…she just can’t tell that sometimes based on your tone and the way you talk to her.

Corrects her as she’s talking - This could be finishing her sentences or speaking for her in the company of others. She feels demeaned and devalued when you present her to others as if she can’t compete with you in original thought…which you know isn’t true. (My wife is much smarter than me.)

Acts suspicious - Don’t misunderstand or misapply this one. When you hide information, even when you think you’re protecting her, you cause her to question your motive. When you protect your calendar…or act like you are upset at the question “What did you do today?” or “What did you talk about?” or “Who was that?” when someone calls, it gives her an eerie feeling something is wrong. And, that hurts.

Admires other women over her – She sees you looking. She may even understand your highly visual make-up. It hurts her, however, when a glance becomes a stare…especially when it happens everywhere you go…all the time.

A wife’s heart, no matter how independent or strong she is, is tender in places. Lots of places. She can bruise easily in some areas of her life…especially the places that involve the people she loves the most…like you. A husband who understands this is more careful in how he speaks and responds to her.

Most husbands I know would never injure their wife knowingly. They want to be her protector. Men, when we don’t realize the damage we are doing to our wives emotions, we invalidate every desire we have to be her defender. I always like to use this thought as a reminder: Would I ever allow another man to speak to or treat my wife like I am doing? She’s a precious gift guys…let’s treat her well.

7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband…Without Even Knowing It

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Ron Edmondson

I was talking to a man the other day.  He’s injured.  Not severely.  He will survive.  Hopefully. The wounds aren’t deep.  Right now.  But, he is injured.

It’s an emotional injury. Sometimes those are the worst kind of hurts.

The person doing the injuring: His wife.

And she…most likely…doesn’t even know she’s doing it.

Surprised?

I’m not. It happens all the time. She’s probably injured too. And, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it to her. Marriages are made of two very different, imperfect people. Plus, we often injure most those we love the most.

My friend is newly married. Over the course of the last few months he’s begun to realize how many things his wife is saying and doing that are causing him to pull away from her. He even recognizes his reaction as a defense mechanism. Rather than start a fight, he withdraws. And, he’s withdrawn to the point that he was willing to admit his hurt…which is difficult for any man to do. I was proud of him for being humble enough to ask if this was normal in a marriage.

It didn’t take long before I realized, however, this marriage is heading for disaster if they don’t address their issues soon. There’s a great chance she has questions about the relationship also. Thankfully, they’re in a great season to ask hard questions…learn valuable lessons…and strengthen the marriage.

Which leads me to this post…addressing the ways wives injure their husbands…without even knowing it. It’s a little sarcastically written…partially because that was easier…partially because I can tend to be that way…mostly because it hopefully illustrates harsher realities in a gentler way. (Again, I realize this works both ways. As a man, I feel most prepared to address this side of the issue. I’ll consider a companion post…after I consult my wife.)

Here are 7 ways a wife injures her husband (without even knowing it):

Put him down in front of other people – Most men will not counter this type of humiliation in public…if ever. They will simply take it…and hurt. If they do eventually address it it will be out of stored up resentment…maybe anger…and it won’t be pretty.

Go behind him when he tries to do something at home – Always show him how much better you can do things than he can do them. He will appreciate that. When he fixes the bed…make sure you show him the “correct way” immediately after he finishes. He will be reminded he doesn’t measure up to your standards.

Constantly badger him – If he doesn’t do what you want him to do…remind him. Again. And, again. (Because that accomplishes what you want it to do.)

Use the “you always” phrase…excessively – Because…he “always” does…and…best news yet…it helps build him into a man that always will.

Hold him responsible for your emotional well-being – He’s the reason you feel bad today…and every other day you feel bad…so make sure he knows it’s his fault. And, you don’t have to tell him. Subtly, just be in a bad mood towards him…without releasing him from guilt. He’ll take the hint…and own the responsibility. He will think it’s his fault even if it’s not.

Complain about what you don’t have or get to do – He has a desire to fix things. He wants to be a provider. Every man does. Some attempt to live it out and some don’t. But, when he’s trying, doing the best he can, yet he feels he isn’t measuring up…he’s crushed. When you are always commenting on what other women have…that you don’t…he carries the blame…even if you’re not intending it to be his.

Don’t appreciate his efforts – Want to injure a man? Refuse to appreciate the things he feels he does well. It could be work, a hobby or a trait, but he feels part of his identity in the things he does. When you don’t find them as “valuable” as he does, his ego is bruised.

The reality is a man’s ego…self-confidence…sense of worth…is greatly tied to his wife. Just as a woman’s is to her husband. We can be fragile people. Some more than others. And, some seasons more than others. Understanding these issues and addressing them…with a third party if necessary…will build healthier, stronger and happier people…and marriages.

I understand some women, especially the equally or more wounded women, are going to take offense to this post. I get that. I’m prepared for that…I think. All I can say is that you can’t measure my heart or my intention. As I said, I aim to help. You can’t address what you do not know. If you are guilty of any of these, the response is up to you. If not, well, thanks for reading to this point in the post anyway.

I’m praying this lands on ears that need to hear.

10 Questions Husbands Should Ask Their Wives Every Year

SOURCE: CharismaMagazine/AllProDad.com

The best remedy for marriage conflict is marriage communication. Disagreements, fights, impasses, separations and divorce can be traced back to poor communication more than any other factor. Likewise, listening amounts to some of the best relationship medicine around.

Listening works best when we ask good questions. Good questions indicate bona fide concern. The man who asks good questions is already well on the way to communication excellence.

The best questions also serve as conversation starters. Remember, you are interested in her. But, once you start talking, she’s going to ask stuff too. The more you know each other on a deep level, the easier it is to fall in love all over again.

Here are 10 good questions you should ask your wife, at least every year:

1. What do you think is going right in our relationship? It’s been a while since you took the marriage vows. But it’s still true that positive affirmation leads to more productive change than negative evaluation. It’s helpful to identify our strengths. Once we know them we can play to them. Building each other up is always a win-win.

2. Where would you like our relationship to be this time next year? It doesn’t matter where we are, there’s always room to be better. She might say, “I’d like to see more spontaneous affection.” Or, “I want us to be moving forward together in our faith.” She could say, “I want our relationship to involve more fun!”

3. Will you please marry me, all over again? Say it with flowers. Say it like you mean it. Make sure your wife knows how much you cherish her.

4. I’d love to hear about your dreams for the future. A wise Hebrew writer once wrote, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Listen to your wife, imagine great things together, and then step into the possibilities.

5. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit this coming year? Indulge a little whimsy. Listen, laugh together, fantasize about fabulous vacations, and then tuck the information away somewhere, so you can possibly plan a trip. A good husband listens to his wife’s dreams. A great husband weaves them into their plans for the future.

6. Do you think we’re doing OK financially? This needs to be an ongoing conversation. However, like any small business (and a family is like a business in many ways), the directors need to have a comprehensive annual meeting to evaluate the finances and the plan for the coming year.

7. How are you doing health-wise? Encouraging one another involves accountability. Partners should never remain ignorant when it comes to health concerns. And it shouldn’t be only physical health. It’s also important to take inventory of each other’s emotional wellbeing.

8. If you could change one thing about our priorities as a family, what would it be? Notice this isn’t an invitation to criticize, but more an opportunity to grow together.

Possible answers might include:

  • I’d like to see less TV time and more family time with one another at home.
  • We’re not eating together enough. I’d like to see dinnertime valued a little more.
  • We say can’t afford a family vacation, but then we eat out 2-3 times a week. Maybe we should shift that one around!

9. Is there anything I devote regular time to that you see as a possible threat to our family or our relationship? Patterns take time to emerge. When we look back—or from another person’s point of view—sometimes we can see more clearly. Ask your wife if there are any adjustments you can make (Consistently late for dinner? Too much golf? Too many evenings with “the boys”?) That would help her to feel more secure.

10. Are you happy? It’s a good question even if she says she’s happy already. “What can I do to make you more happy?” is a great discussion. Again, this is where good, active listening is very important. And your wife’s greatest happiness will always be found in God, so encourage her to grow in her faith.

Doesn’t Love Cover A Multitude of Sins?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick LCSW [www.leslievernick.com]

A woman struggling in an emotionally destructive marriage once asked me, “Doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins? (1 Peter 4:8). Who am I to hold my husband’s sin or blindness against him? The bible teaches us, “It is good for us to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). Shouldn’t I just keep quiet and minister to him, and pray that he will see God’s love in me?

Many of us in a destructive relationship struggle with this same question.

Jesus makes it clear. We are not to judge or condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1,2). God instructs all his followers to forbear with and forgive one another. We know we all fail one another (James 3:2), and we know that we should take the log out of our own eye before attempting to deal with the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). To bring up each and every offense in any relationship would become tiresome indeed.

Love does cover a multitude of sins but not all sins.

The scriptures also instruct us to warn those who are lazy (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We are not to participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). We’re told to bring a brother back who has wandered from the truth (James 5:19), as well as restore someone who is caught in a trespass (Galatians 6:1). When someone offends us, we’re to go talk with them so that our relationship can be repaired (Matthew 18:15-17).

Yes, we ought to forgive and forbear, overlooking minor offenses hoping others will do the same for us. And, we are to speak up when someone’s sin is hurting them, hurting others, or hurting us.

Serious and repetitive sin is lethal to any relationship. We would not be loving the destructive person if we kept quiet and colluded with his self-deception or enabled his sin to flourish without any attempt to speak truth into his life (Ephesians 4:15). Yes, we are called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love, however, let’s be careful that we do not put a heavy burden on ourselves (or allow someone else to put it on us) to do something that God himself does not do. God is gracious to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have close relationship with both. He says our sins separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2Jeremiah 5:25).

When someone repeatedly and seriously sins against us and is not willing to look at what he’s done and is not willing to change, it is not possible to have a warm or close relationship. We’ve misunderstood (or been taught) unconditional love requires unconditional relationship. Jesus’ conversations with the Pharisee’s are examples of him challenging their self-deception and pride so they would repent and experience true fellowship with him (Matthew 23). He loved them, but they did not enjoy a loving or safe relationship. Jesus never pretended otherwise.

A marriage or relationship that has no boundaries or conditions is not psychologically healthy nor is it spiritually sound. It enables someone to continue to believe that the rules of life don’t apply to him and if he does something hurtful or sinful, he or she shouldn’t have to suffer the relational fallout. That thinking is not biblical, healthy, or true. For the good of the destructive person, our marriage, our own emotional and spiritual health as well as our children’s well-being, there are times we must make some tough choices. We must speak up, set boundaries and implement consequences when a destructive person’s behavior is destroying what God holds so precious—people, marriage, and family. Scripture warns, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:18).

Yes, the destructive person desperately needs to see God’s love, but he or she also desperately needs to see himself more truthfully so that he can wake up and ask God to help him make necessary changes. We are not better and God doesn’t love us more than he loves the destructive individual. We are all broken and in desperate need of God’s healing grace. The problem for the destructive person is that he or she has been unwilling to acknowledge his part of the destruction. She’s been unwilling to confess or take responsibility or get the help she needs to change her destructive ways. Instead she’s minimized, denied, lied, excused, rationalized, or blamed others.

Confronting someone and/or implementing tough consequences should never be done to scold, shame, condemn, or punish. We have one purpose—to jolt someone awake. We hope that by doing so, they will come to their senses, turn to God and stop their destructive behaviors.

Marriage: Dealing with Anger

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee

“And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27 NLT

We should not allow anger to linger. [S]cripture cautions us to deal with it before the day is over. Unresolved anger allows Satan to enter our mind and gain control.

Notice the scripture doesn’t say anger is a sin, but it becomes a sin when we allow it to control us. And so we need to take control. We need to choose to ask for God’s help. We need to choose forgiveness over bitterness or self-pity.

When we go to bed angry, that anger begins to take control. We probably won’t sleep well. And when we awaken the next morning, our first thoughts will be of ourselves and how we’ve been mistreated. And then our angry thoughts will turn toward our spouse or whoever has offended us. Not a good way to start the day.

You are angry with your spouse and bedtime is approaching. What can you do?

First, pray. Ask God for wisdom. Then choose to let go of the anger with His help. If the offense is something you can overlook and put behind you, then do that. On the other hand, if it’s an issue that needs to be resolved, approach your spouse with a peacemaking attitude. Even if the matter cannot be settled before the day ends, work through the anger and choose to forgive. Agree to continue working out a solution in the days to come. But don’t carry over the anger.

Father, teach me to let go of all anger before each day ends. Help me to be willing to let go of the anger and trust you for the outcome. Give me wisdom in resolving the conflict. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Committed Couples: God’s Plan for Marriage & the Family by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

7 Suggestions When the Marriage Isn’t Working

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

All marriages go through periods where things just aren’t as they should be.

It’s a natural occurrence in any relationship involving people. (I suppose that would include most marriages). The stress and pace of life causes tension in the best marriages. Cheryl and I have had several of those times, usually due to external pressures we did not cause or invite. Those periods have lasted a week, a few weeks, or a month or more. It isn’t that we don’t love each other, or even that we want out of the marriage, but that we just aren’t on the same page as much as we should be.

Have you ever been there? Be honest.

During these times the way a couple responds is critically important. If you’re in one of those seasons, here are 7 suggestions:

Communicate – Keep talking, to each other and to God, even when it’s awkward to do so. Admit where you are in the marriage. Again, this may hurt for a time, but it’s better to be honest than to allow the marriage to fall apart.

Stay close – Keep doing things together, sleep in the same bed, and find times to do special activities.This will protect your heart from wandering.

Discipline yourself - There will be times when you are tempted to say the wrong things or treat your spouse unkindly. It will require discipline to do the right thing, but it will help protect the marriage.

Get help - Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the best marriages need some at times. This may be counseling, meeting with Christian friends you trust, or doing a Bible study together, but invite someone to speak into your life.

Learn - There are always principles to strengthen your marriage that can be learned during these times. Cheryl and I have learned, for example, that during especially stressful periods/days, that we have to be more intentional with our marriage. You may need to learn how to communicate better, how to handle conflict, or how to dream together again.

Be Patient - You’ll want change immediately, but relationships don’t work that way. Chances are it will take longer than you expect or want it to take to get through this period. Be patient.

Hang on - These seasons won’t last forever if you continue to work on your marriage. Be committed enough to your marriage to stick with it until this season passes.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about times of abuse, neglect, affairs, or severe marriage issues. I’m speaking of times when the marriage just isn’t fun anymore. This is also when both spouses still want the marriage to work and are willing to work at making the marriage better.

How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Begins

SOURCE:  Garrett Kell/Gospel Coalition

Tim and Jess had only been married for eight months, but the honeymoon was most certainly over. The sweet conversations that once marked their relationship had been replaced with constant bickering. Their laughter had dulled, and their distance had grown. Their sexual intimacy had almost ceased.

What went wrong? How had Satan slipped into this young marriage? As I unpacked some of the couple’s history, I discovered he hadn’t sabotaged them on their honeymoon, nor in the early months of figuring out married life. The Devil had begun his work before they’d even made it to the altar. Though Tim and Jess are Christians, their dating and engagement were marked with sexual impurity.

Though the early days of their relationship had been fine, over time they made consistent compromises that developed into a deeper pattern of sexual sin. Whenever they’d sin, they’d confess to each other and make oaths to never let it happen again. But it did. Because of the shame, they never let anyone else in on what was happening. In hindsight, Tim and Jess admit their courtship was a big cover-up of deceit.

Sadly, Tim and Jess’s story is all too familiar. Many unmarried Christian couples struggle with sexual sin. This should be no surprise, since we have an enemy set against us and our impending marriage (1 Pet. 5:8). He hates God, and he hates marriage because it depicts the gospel (Eph. 5:32).One of Satan’s most effective strategies to corrupt the gospel-portraying union of marriage is to attack couples through sexual sin before they say “I do.” Here are four of his most common ploys to attack marriages before they begin.

1. Satan wants us to make a pattern of obeying our desires instead of God’s direction.

God’s ways are good, but Satan wants us to believe they aren’t. This has been his plan from the first call to compromise in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). His end goal is for us to develop a consistent pattern of resisting the Spirit and following our sinful desires once we get into marriage. He wants us to learn to resist service and to pursue selfishness.If we learn to do what we want when we want before marriage, we’ll carry that pattern into the days and years that follow. This, however, is deadly since service and sacrifice are essential to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage. Love in marriage is shown by a thousand daily decisions to do what you don’t want—whether doing the dishes or changing a diaper or watching a movie instead of a basketball game. If your relationship before marriage is characterized by giving into urges of immediate desire, you’ll most certainly struggle when you encounter the nitty-gritty of married life.

2. Satan wants us to underestimate how susceptible we are to temptation.

Satan wants us to think we won’t take our sin to the next level. He wants us to think we’re stronger than we really are. He wants us to think we’ll never go that far. This is a powerful trick since it simultaneously plays on both our pride and also our well-intended desire to honor God. You’re weaker than you think. You can go where you think you won’t. Sin is like an undercurrent in the ocean—if you play in it, you’ll be overpowered and swept away into certain destruction.One of the ways Satan works this angle is by tempting you to think purity is a not-to-be-crossed line rather than a posture of the heart. He wants you to think purity before God is not kissing or not taking off clothes or not having oral sex or not “going all the way.” He wants you to think that if you don’t cross a certain line, you’re staying pure. The problem with this kind of thinking, however, is that Jesus says if we just lust in our heart we’ve sinned and stand condemned before God (Matt. 5:27-30).Purity is much more about the posture of our hearts than the position of our bodies. The age-old “How far is too far?” question may reveal a desire to get as close to sin as possible instead of a desire to flee as our Lord calls us to (1 Cor. 6:18).

3. Satan wants couples to weaken their trust in one another.

When we compromise sexually, we’re showing the other person we’re willing to use and abuse them to get what makes us happy. Every time we push the boundaries with our fiancée or lead her into sin we are communicating, though we don’t mean to, “You can’t trust me because I’m willing to use and disregard you to get what I want.”This is certainly one of Satan’s deadliest strategies, and the one I suspect hurt Tim and Jess the most. They didn’t trust each other. They never really did. So much of their dating relationship was engulfed in the cycle of sin, shame, and start-over that they never developed a mature, battle-tested trust for each other.It’s important to point out, however, that when we resist sexual sin, God blesses a relationship with the exact opposite effect. Every time we say “no” to sexual sin and turn to prayer, telling one another we value them and their walk with the Lord too much to go one step further, he uses that faithfulness to strengthen trust. My wife regularly tells dating couples that one of the reasons she trusts me is because I literally ran from compromising situations before we were married. We weren’t perfect in our courtship, but the Lord used that season to build trust in one another.

4. Satan wants to deceive you with the forbidden fruit of lust.

There’s a world of difference between premarital sex and sex within marriage. One reason is that the forbidden fruit of lust portrays sex before marriage as something it isn’t always in marriage. Normally, premarital sexual activity is like gas on fire. Passion is high, feelings are intense, and the drive to go further is fueled by the knowledge you shouldn’t (Rom. 7:8).Sex in marriage is different. There’s still passion, and there’s still intense feelings and emotions—but sex in marriage is based primarily on the hot coals of trust, devotion, and sacrifice (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Couples who built their sexual expectations on passion provided by the forbidden fruit are often disappointed and confused when sex is different in marriage.My wife and I laughed at this idea when our premarital counselor shared it with us. We were sure we’d be exception to the rule. But almost six years and three kids later, he was right. Couples like us can have a strong sex life, but it’s fueled by deeper characteristics than fleeting passion. Satan wants couples to get used to running on the caffeine and sugar of lust rather than mature love of service and sacrifice.

Few Concluding Thoughts

1. Wait in faith. The Christian posture is always one of waiting. We wait for Christ’s return. We wait for an eternity with him. And unmarried believers wait for the blessings of marriage. Say “no” to sin’s promises by faith in God’s. Renew your mind with God’s Word and keep waiting in faith.

2. Guys, you gotta lead. While both persons in the relationship are responsible before God, the man must set the pace for purity. Too often ladies are forced to draw the lines and to say “no.” That’s cowardly and wrong. It’s the man’s responsibility to care for his future wife by leading her toward Jesus and away from sin, darkness, and the pain of evil. If he sets the wrong pattern here, he’ll be digging out for years afterward—and may never regain the ground he loses apart from God’s grace.

3. Involve others every step of the way. Don’t let your relationship remain unexamined by other godly Christians. Both of you should have a godly couple or group of faithful friends who hold you accountable. Invite tough questions and give honest answers. God uses transparency to give strength.

4. If you sin, go to the gospel. The apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1-2). If you sin, flee to the cross. Run to the empty tomb. Look to your Advocate, confess your sin deeply, and repent. God loves to bless this kind of posture (Prov. 28:13).Sexual sin doesn’t need to be dagger in the heart of your courting relationship, engagement, or marriage. God is a merciful God who delights in restoring what sin seeks to destroy (Joel 2:25-27). He will not, however, bless ongoing disobedience and presumption on his grace. If you have fallen into sexual sin, today is the day to plead for mercy and turn to Christ in faith. May God give us mercy to pursue purity for his glory and our good.

Marriage: Will You Fill the Holes in My Life?

SOURCE:  Alexandra Kuykendall/Today’s Christian Woman

Expecting a “You Complete Me” Kind of Marriage

I wanted my husband to do what I needed God to do

“I’m expecting” is a grand open-ended statement of two little words loaded with hope.

As a mom of four, I have lots of experience saying them, sometimes with excitement and sometimes with exhaustion. Each time I’ve been waiting for the baby, other expectations weren’t so obvious. The dream of fulfillment, or unconditional love, or a stronger connection to my husband. They were unique expectations based on my distinct mess of personality and life experiences. What I was “expecting” with my fourth pregnancy was much different than my first, because I knew more about motherhood and I’d grown as a woman.

Though we associate the phrase “I’m expecting” with pregnancy, we could just as easily use it for engagement. Because we all bring both spoken and unspoken expectations to the altar on our wedding days. I even brought plenty I wasn’t aware of. In the moment I couldn’t have articulated the expectations if I’d tried, because I didn’t know they were there until I was living in the context of a real marriage.

Having grown up with a single mother my entire childhood, my expectation for marriage felt pretty open. I didn’t have a good or bad marriage to use as my model. It was simply void, like white, the absence of color; I suffered from the absence of marriage. I did have a few fantasies—at the time I would have described them as hopes. That I would be happier, more fulfilled, with my husband. In a sense, that he would “complete me.”

And then real life happened. We lived on a shoestring budget with my paycheck from supporting migrant high school students for Catholic Charities. My husband was a full-time graduate student. Despite the fact that we lived in rainy Portland, Oregon, our apartment was beyond hot for six months of the year. Dinners didn’t magically appear and the dishes didn’t magically disappear. The reality of the “work” involved to maintain life, not to mention our relationship, was a letdown. Why was I still wanting more when I had what I wanted: a loving, stable, supportive husband?

It wasn’t until a year into my marriage that I had the epiphany. I was putting expectations on my husband that no human could fulfill. When I had dreamed of what marriage would offer, I had dreamed of emotional fulfillment, filling the empty places that existed in my heart. For so long I’d thought, “When I’m married … then I’ll be happy.” Because I thought marriage was the answer to my heartache.

Growing up without a father, my understanding of boys, and later men, was complicated. I didn’t trust them to stay around, I tested whether I could get their attention, and once I knew I could I moved on. They were mysterious and desired all at once. I met Derek knowing that what I desperately wanted was a husband who would not leave me. A force of security who would protect and provide for me and tell me I was worth protecting and providing for. During my epiphany moment I realized I’d expected my husband to fill the holes left by my father. Holes of insecurity and disappointment and mistrust. Holes resulting from life in a broken world.

So really, those holes could have been caused by any array of hurts. In my case they were specific to my father. I was expecting Derek to save me from my unique wounds of life that I brought with me to marriage. Save me. As in, be my Savior. I had misplaced all kinds of expectations onto him, requiring abilities and responsibilities that were humanly impossible. Only my Redeemer could redeem. And his name was not Derek, it was Jesus.

But just acknowledging my misplaced hope was not enough. Because I wanted my husband to fill those hurt places. Unlike our mysterious God, Derek was tangible. He could hug me and take care of my physical needs in a way I could see, touch, and feel. I wasn’t willing to change until I realized how unfair it was to set up my husband for my constant disappointment and recognized that I would never be satisfied with this arrangement of expectation. I had to change for Derek’s sake. For my sake.

I had to, actually still have to, do a few things to break the pattern of misplaced expectation of healing.

I had to …

  • recognize that this side of heaven I would never be “complete.”
  • release my husband from those expectations and consciously acknowledge my thought process when I felt unrealistic ideas pop up.
  • pray like nobody’s business that the Holy Spirit would prompt my desires toward God and allow him to fill those hurt places.
  • do the process all over again.

It is a practice, a repetitive action that feels more natural the more I do it. I am rewiring my expectations, my first responses, and as I do I can feel myself relaxing, becoming more confident in where I stand in my marriage, allowing for a more vulnerable and honest union. Has it totally gone away, this tendency toward fear? No, and it may never. But the more I proactively fight these messages, the more secure I feel, which helps me the next time those instinctive responses pop up. In the end, I’m free to accept my husband’s generous love.

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Alexandra Kuykendall shares her journey through childhood, marriage, and motherhood in The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir (Revell). She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, Derek, and their four daughters. She is on staff at MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers). Connect with her on Twitter @alex_kuykendall or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AlexandraKuykendall.author.

Is Your Spouse Abnormal?

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey

You’re snuggled in your warm bed, about to drift off to sleep. And then comes that dreaded question from your wife:  “Honey, did you remember to turn out all the lights and lock all the doors?”

That was our story during our first year of marriage. We lived in Boulder, Colorado, where the winter nights were cold and we loved our toasty electric blanket.  I remember the night when I collapsed into bed, totally exhausted, and Barbara brought me back from the edge of oblivion with a light poke.  “Aren’t you going to turn out the lights?”

It occurred to me that I’d been getting up for the past two months and experiencing mild frostbite and that perhaps it was her turn.  “Why don’tyou turn out the lights tonight?” I retorted.

Barbara replied, “I thought you would because my dad always turned out the lights.”

Whoa!

A shot of adrenalin cleared my head like the sun piercing the fog.  And I shouldn’t have said it, but I did:  “But I’m not your dad!”

Well, that turned out to be a night when we practiced the scriptural admonition to not  “let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).  You see, two forces clashed on that cold Rocky Mountain night—Barbara’s sense of normal and my sense of normal.  She felt it was the husband’s duty to turn off the lights because that’s what her father had always done.  That was normal to her.  But in my family of origin, that task was not irrevocably assigned to the male species.

When normals collide

Each of you brings a different background and a different set of expectations into your marriage.  Your family did things a certain way, and your spouse’s family did things a certain way. Often you don’t even realize what’s normal to you until you get married and suddenly your normal collides with that of your spouse. On these issues, you need to realize that your spouse is not abnormal–just different.

For example, let’s examine some of the normals surrounding dinner time:

  • Was it normal for you to eat dinner together as a family on most nights?
  • What types of meals did you normally eat?
  • What did you drink?
  • Who cooked the meal?
  • Who cleaned up?
  • How did you normally dress?
  • Did you open the meal with prayer?
  • Did you start eating when you were seated or did you wait until after you prayed?
  • Was it normal to get a debrief from everyone’s day or was the television turned on and the dominant force?
  • If someone called, was dinner interrupted to answer the phone?
  • Was it normal to have friends over for dinner?
  • How often did you eat at restaurants as a family?

You could probably add to that list.  And that’s just one set of normals.  How about breakfast and lunch?  What were your normals regarding family entertainment?  Vacations? Birthday celebrations?  Christmas gifts?  Pets?  Handling finances?

Reader feedback

After I first wrote on this topic for an issue of Marriage Memo, a number of readers wrote to tell about the struggles they faced with this issue.  One wrote:

I mostly have a problem with my wife when it comes to turning off lights and celebrating birthdays and having parties all the time. I prefer the light to be off when I sleep but she prefers the opposite.  Again, my wife believes that every birthday (including that of our children) must be celebrated with a lot of presents (if it’s the children, then they must have a party at school, which she does all the time).

Another described a conflict that arose when she and her husband were celebrating their seventh anniversary.  They had a new baby, and this would be the first time they left the baby with her mother while they went on a date.  The baby was fussy at night, so she felt they should go out for lunch, but her husband insisted on dinner.

We finally sat down and talked about how both of us were feeling.  I was upset because I did not feel he understood how nervous I was, and I did not understand why we had to go out for dinner instead of lunch.  It turned out that that was not his “normal.”  His family rarely went out to eat, and they never went out for lunch. You just had a sandwich for lunch at home. It did not seem romantic or special to go out for lunch to him. On the other hand, my family went out a lot more frequently and it was for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I always loved going out for breakfast growing up, but my husband and I never do.  Now I understand why.

Creating a new set of normals

No matter how long you’ve been married, one of your priorities is to create a new set of normals in your relationship. And it’s especially important early in marriage.  In their book, The Most Important Year in a Woman’s Life, Susan DeVries and Bobbie Wolgemuth write, “Over the years we’ve seen couples in conflict over money or sex or in-laws, but what they’re really fighting about aren’t those things at all.  They’re really fighting about normal.”

A good first step is to commit to understanding each other’s normals.  Make it part of your vocabulary.  If you find yourself disagreeing about an issue, ask yourselves, “Is this a question of differing normals?”  You can create a spirit of discovery, where you can talk about normals in a way that doesn’t feel threatening.  Remember that, in most cases, different is not bad—it’s just different.

It’s amazing how honest communication, plus a good dose of flexibility, can help resolve conflict. In the above story about the couple celebrating their anniversary, the wife wrote that once she understood how their normals were colliding, she agreed to put aside her fears and go out for dinner.  “The baby was just fine with my mom,” she wrote, “We were able to enjoy our evening together because we had talked about where we both were coming from beforehand and were on the same page.”

A second step is to make choices together that reflect your priorities and values.  Let’s say that you grew up in a family that gave each other inexpensive birthday gifts, while your spouse’s family splurged and spent a lot more money.  As you consider how to celebrate your birthdays, this is an opportunity to make your own choices that reflect the importance you place on birthdays, and the number of banks you have to rob so you have enough to spend.

As you make these decisions, follow the guidance of Romans 12:10, which tells us to “give preference to one another in honor” (NASB).  In most of your decisions, your sense of normal will not be superior to that of your spouse.  If you both determine not to hold too tightly to what’s comfortable and familiar, you will find ways to compromise and honor each other and create your own normal in your new home.

So … who’s going to turn out the lights in your family?

DIVORCE: The Eruption

SOURCE:  Dennis/Barbara Rainey_Family Life

Splitting Headache 

“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel.
Malachi 2:16

This poem was written by Jen Abbas, then an 18-year-old child of divorce. I’ve arranged it a little differently on this page than it appears in her book, Generation EX, to make it fit. Its message is too important to allow form to quiet its voice.

Listen to “The Eruption.”

Divorce is like a trembling earthquake,
The world shakes, rumbling with rage,
And all the anger, guilt, and frustrations
That have been festering for so long below the surface
Suddenly spew upward in an inferno of hate or apathy.
At times the earth calms and you think the turmoil is over,
Settled, stable, but then the cycle begins again,
Repeating, repeating, repeating.
You are weary, you want to rest,
And that is when you realize the shaking has stopped,
But there is an eerie feeling lurking in the air.
You are hesitant to believe anything anymore,
You are so tired after struggling for so long,
And so you rest on the one solid patch of land,
Only to watch it split in two,
Two separate, distinct parts that will never come together again.
Each new patch supports part of you,
And as you watch, they pull away.

This is the type of poem that breaks my heart because it represents so many children who are torn apart by divorce. No matter what you are experiencing in your marriage, and no matter how tough it is, just remember the impact that staying together will have on your children.

My Loveless Marriage

SOURCE:  Judy Bodmer/Today’s Christian Woman

Why divorce wasn’t the answer to my emptiness.

I lay in bed staring at the darkness. My husband, Larry, was snoring softly beside me. We’d just had another fight. I could hardly remember what had started it, but I knew we’d both said ugly, hateful things. Nothing had been resolved. We’d just gotten tired. Now he slept and I lay here, feeling utterly alone.

I crawled out of bed to check on our two sons. David, such a handful while awake, looked like an angel even though his face was sticky from the ice cream he’d eaten earlier. I pulled Matthew’s covers back on his small body and smoothed his blond head. He needed a haircut. Working full-time, with two small sons to referee and a house to keep clean, I never had enough time to do it all.

Something drew me to the window. I could see the lights from downtown Seattle. So many people. What were they doing? Were they as lonely as I was? Was there anyone out there who cared? God, I cried, help me find the strength to leave.

Hitting the Wall

After ten years of marriage, I wanted out. Our love hadn’t died in the heat of this battle or any other battle. It had died at the bottom of a wall it couldn’t climb.

I remember clearly the day I laid the first brick. We’d been married nine months. We went to a movie and I waited for Larry to reach over and take my hand, thus proving the magic was still there. But he didn’t and, as the movie progressed, I grew hurt and angry. He shrugged it off, surprised I was upset over such a little thing. To him it was nothing; to me it was the first sign our love wasn’t perfect.

As the years passed, I added more bricks. When we were first married, he called me every day from work. But slowly those phone calls grew further apart and finally stopped. When I brought it up, he started calling again, but it wasn’t the same. When we watched TV in the evening, he’d fall asleep. When we went out for dinner, he couldn’t think of anything to say. His days off were measured by how much he got done—chores, work, and the children took priority. I got the crumbs, and I was starving.

I felt guilty for feeling the way I did; he wasn’t abusive, he didn’t run around with other women, he didn’t drink or do drugs. He came home every night and worked hard to support our family. Despite this, the wall grew, built with bricks of buried anger, unmet needs, silences, and cold shoulders. The marriage books we read made things worse; counseling confused the issues.

Divorce seemed like the only answer. It would give me a chance to start over and find the right person. Yes, it would be hard on the children, but when I was finally happy, I’d be a better parent. In the long run, it would be better for all of us.

Divorce’s Price Tag

Before taking that big step, I asked myself some key questions. First, would a divorce make me happier? Somewhere I read that people who divorce tend to remarry the same kind of person, that the root of unhappiness isn’t in the people we marry but in ourselves. When I looked at my husband, I knew this was true. The trait in Larry that drew me to him—his calm exterior—also drove me crazy. He never complained, criticized, or caused a fuss. The downside was that when situations arose when he should get angry, he didn’t. Once he was cheated in a business deal. I wanted him to confront the man who’d lied to him, but he wouldn’t. His love of peace kept him from standing up for himself, making me think he was a moral marshmallow. But if I divorced Larry, I knew I’d marry someone with his same peaceful demeanor. And if I did, my problems would be multiplied by his kids, my kids, child support, and custody battles.

I took a long, hard look at the single mothers I knew. They were exhausted and lonely. There was no one to help soothe crying babies, entertain toddlers, shuttle kids to practices, or help with the house, yard, and car.

Could I afford a divorce financially? The average divorce, according to my paralegal friend, costs about $12,000. My salary was good, but when I looked at our household expenses, there would be hardly enough money to live on, let alone extra money to pay lawyers.

Would my children really be better off in the long run? I looked at the children of my friends who’d divorced. Many of these kids started getting into trouble: staying out all night, drinking, doing drugs, and running away. Most of them were angry and blamed themselves for their parents’ split. They took it out on their mother. The father became the hero because he wasn’t doing the disciplining. Instead, he brought presents, bought a hot car, and took them fun places the mother couldn’t afford. Studies show that even 25 years after a split, children can still have significant emotional problems stemming from their parents’ divorce.

What about my friends? I assumed they’d be there for me, but was I being realistic? Four of my friends divorced in one year—I didn’t see any of them now. Two of them disappeared, one began leading a lifestyle I couldn’t support, and another dated men I didn’t care for. Even with the best of intentions, if I divorced, I’d probably lose many, if not all, of my friends.

God showed me I might escape my current pain, but in the long run, divorce extracted a high price. One I wasn’t willing to pay.

Fanning the Flames

But I refused to settle for the status quo. From experience, I knew I couldn’t change my husband. There was only one person I could change: me. Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank our of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). I got involved in a women’s Bible study and started applying what I learned. Before I read a passage, I asked God to examine me. After many sessions on my face before him, honestly asking for forgiveness, I started to change. I became less critical and more forgiving. I stopped taking everything Larry said and did so personally.

I tried new things—taking a writing class, asking a new friend to lunch, volunteering at school. With Larry’s blessing, I quit my job to stay home with our children, even though it meant cutting our income in half.

From 1 Corinthians 13, I discovered love isn’t a feeling but an action. I decided to treat Larry with love, even though I didn’t feel like it. Instead of pointing out his shortcomings, I told him the things he did right. Instead of reading books to see what Larry should be doing differently, I read to discover how I could be a better wife, mother, and friend.

My change in attitude had an amazing effect on Larry. He began spending more time with me. When I stopped overreacting to his comments, he felt freer to share more with me.

My decision to stay went against everything the world told me. Jesus promised, “I have come that [you] may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). I decided if God was my God, then I could trust this promise. I asked him to restore my love.

Rekindled

The love I thought had died didn’t return in a week, a month, or even in a year. There were times I wanted to give up. But I clung to God’s promise that he would give me the desire of my heart.

One weekend Larry and I went away. Before we left, we prayed and drew a line in the sand. Everything that had happened before was over; this was a new beginning. That weekend I experienced a new passion for my husband. The flame I thought was dead was rekindled.

Today when I sit in church worshiping God, I shudder at what I almost threw away. Larry and I laugh over things that used to drive me nuts, like his falling asleep in front of the TV. I can tell Larry anything, and he listens. Just yesterday he sent me a fax just to tell me he loves me.

At night when we lay curled up together, I reach over and touch him just to reassure myself he’s still there. The love I have is strong. It’s born out of suffering and obedience. The pain, tears, and struggles to get to this point were worth it for these rich rewards. There is hope for loveless marriages. Our relationship is living proof.

————————————————————————————————————————

Judy Bodmer, author of When Love Dies: How to Save a Hopeless Marriage (Thomas Nelson), lives in Washington.

Marriage: Lost That Lovin’ Feeling?

SOURCE:  Crystal McDowell/Today’s Christian Woman

When duty overtakes love in marriage

Have you begun to feel like your marriage is more about duty than love?

You push forward in your obligations to God, your spouse, your children, and your responsibilities, but move backward in your feelings. Duty is like living under the law—you’re busy doing something, but you feel no passion or desire for it.

Many married people feel trapped because they want to fulfill their covenant in marriage, but they feel exceptional discouragement and disappointment. Their spouses may be experiencing a season of weakness due to physical or mental illness, job loss, or emotional turmoil. Or perhaps they have sinned and walked away from God.

There is hope. The same God who took dirt and fashioned the intricate details of the human body with its complexity of neurons, cells, and nerves can revive love in your marriage.

For more than 20 years, I worked hard in my marriage to make it work. I wanted more love than duty, but the needs of raising a family took first place. Love moved to a distant second, then third, and before long it was hardly on the radar. I became more duty-driven than love-motivated in my marriage. My love began to drift away, lost like a boat without oars.

While watching the movie The Painted Veil, I was moved when Kitty told Sister Mother that it was her duty to be with her husband in the cholera-ridden region of China. Sister Mother replied, “Duty is what you do when you wash your hands. Love and duty together reveal the grace within you.” We need the grace of God to help us experience the divine intertwining of love and duty resulting in a wonderful, sacrificial aroma to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The acronym GRACE is your guide to living the fulfilled life that God has predestined for your marriage.

G—Go to God first.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).

There will be times to call your friends or reach out to your trusted Bible study buddies, but they can’t be there in the darkest, loneliest moments. You may appreciate their words and acts of compassion, but it won’t be enough. This is between God and you. Your private time with God will determine the level of your marital contentment. My confession to God became “My heart’s not right and I know that’s not pleasing to you. I submit to the Holy Spirit to help me grow in this.”

It will take complete surrender and trust in him. In your hour of frustration you must speak out to God, “I believe you.” Something happens on the inside when you make a verbal affirmation of your faith in the valleys. There’s peaceful reassurance of his grace and presence that will guide you through the murky waters of uncertainty in your marriage.

R—Repent of any unresolved anger.

“And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26).

If almost everything your spouse says or does provokes an irritated response from you, chances are good that you have unresolved anger. When this happened to me, I had to own up to my anger and repent, especially because my enemy, Satan, wanted a foothold in my family. I was trying to shut the door on an issue, but his foot blocked it and prevented the healing that I needed to move on.

If we are willing to confess our anger and put our unmet expectations at the foot of the cross, we can be free to love our marriage partners without restraint. When we refocus our attention on Jesus (and not our spouses) we find freedom, joy, and complete peace even if we’re still struggling. He’s with us.

A—Anticipate Temptation.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

We must decide early never to share information about our marriage conflicts or troubles with someone of the opposite sex. By anticipating temptation in all its forms, we build a fortress around our hearts so we don’t fail in the day of testing.

We can also be tempted to look down on our spouses or treat them with disdain, as Michal despised David for how he praised the Lord (2 Samuel 6:16). We are tempted by our own evil desires and not necessarily our spouses’ actions. Anything that makes the focus all about us is leading down a long road of regret—and even more pain that leaves an effect on generations.

C—Connect with a wise person.

“Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise” (Proverbs 13:10).

Do you have a mature believer in your life? You should be connected with someone who has been where you are and is willing to help you stay on the right path. You want a godly person (of the same sex) who can keep a confidence and demonstrate an unwavering devotion to God as well as his word.

When I decided to stay at home, I found myself very lonely and isolated. I asked God for a godly mentor, imagining she would be like my grandmother. However, when God sent her, she was nothing like I expected but everything I needed. Our friendship, respect, and love for each other have blossomed into a wonderful relationship. Her advice is always rooted in God’s Word and tempered by her experiences.

E—Expect things to change.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see … And it is impossible to please God without faith” (Hebrews 11:1, 6).

One of the lies that Satan has used against married people throughout the ages is that things will never change—that you will always be in this situation. It usually follows with regret and all the what ifs (what if I hadn’t married him or her, what if we would’ve lived somewhere else, etc). You can choose to wallow in self-pity, but it never leads to refreshment and encouragement from the Holy Spirit. Or you can rest in the fact that God knew your issues before you were married and he has everything you need to make it.

God uses your struggles to grow your faith. Your challenge is to expect God to change you even if everything else seems to stay the same. Your specific struggles are part of your life journey leading to an eternal reward. When you stand before God one day, you will give an account for the type of spouse you were on this earth. Don’t you want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)?

Love and Duty…

I chose to be better, not bitter toward my spouse. When I went through the valley of despair, God did open-heart surgery for my spirit. He reminded me that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13). I held on to the hope of a faithful father who won’t despise a broken and contrite spirit. Taking the steps of GRACE has given me a renewed love for my spouse even if he didn’t change as I wanted. I changed, and that was the turning point for our marriage.

Is it possible just to put your hand to the grind and work, work, work at marriage in the absence of love? Possible, but not probable for the long term—you may grow tired and lose your focus on God’s grace and unconditional love. Grace in our marriages mirrors the unifying love of Christ and his church. There is a distinct sweetness in believers who work out of their faith from those who work for their faith.

You can choose to expect God to change you! There is nothing impossible with God if you are willing to take that risk.

Erica Jong once wrote, “And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” She probably didn’t mean this for your marriage, but you can take the advice. If you will simply trust God and practice grace, he will do great things with your marriage. It’s worth the risk of love and duty.

Every husband who wants to improve his sex life should learn to spell!

SOURCE:  Sam Black/Covenant Eyes

The Path to True Intimacy and Better Sex

Typically, guys spell intimacy S-E-X, said Dr. Dan Erickson. It’s not entirely our fault. Our sexualized culture has encouraged the misspelling, and it has distorted the definition too. Intimacy in our culture often describes a “what,” Erickson said, whether it is sex, intimate encounters, intimate clothing, or an intimate evening. The list goes on.

But intimacy is not about a “what,” it is about a “who,” he said. Intimacy is better spelled “in-to-me-see.” The point is to look into another person and invite them to look into you. Intimacy can be found in deep platonic relationships, and in marriage intimacy allows a husband and wife to open their hearts and minds to each other. Intimacy is a free gift that you give and receive.

“It’s amazing what that will do for your life,” said Cathy Erickson, Dan’s wife. “Men, if you are intimate, and loving, and caring for your wife, you will get all the sex you need.”

Intimacy Requires Your Time

Intimacy didn’t come easily to the Ericksons’ marriage. They had been married 19 years when Dan was inspired by a sermon to ask Cathy to rate their marriage on a scale of 1 to 10. He approached the question with bubbly enthusiasm while she stood in the kitchen cleaning after Sunday lunch.

“I said, ‘What marriage? You really have to be here to have a marriage,’” Cathy recalled. “That was kind of a shock to him.”

Dan had looked at himself as a driven and accomplished man. He had earned his master’s and doctoral degrees, and was the executive pastor of a Phoenix, Arizona, church that drew 3,500 people on Sunday and which boasted the largest Christian school in the state. He coached his kids’ teams and served in the community. He sought to win the hearts and admiration of everyone…except his wife.

His time had been given elsewhere and he had defined intimacy with his wife as sex.

For years afterward, Dan said he did not preach on how to have a good marriage, because he knew he had to figure it out for himself and develop that deep level of intimacy in his own marriage. Today, Dan and Cathy provide seminars across the nation to share their story and paths to a rich marriage.

Intimacy Isn’t Sex

A common refrain is that men give love to get sex and women gives sex to get love. Any marriage based on that equation will suffer, and both parties will be disappointed.

True intimacy allows open communication, it invites a person to see you as you are, warts and all, and it means that you will be vulnerable to each other. True intimacy comes with trust, time, and confidence in the relationship. It is about giving and sacrificing for your spouse, putting their emotional needs ahead of your own, and seeking ways to show love without expecting something in return. The aim is to make your spouse feel treasured, respected, and loved without hidden motivations.

During a period of physical problems with his heart Dan was unable to have sex and discovered not less but even greater intimacy with his wife. He often asks guys if they could be more intimate with their wives if they were physically unable to have sex.

That concept sounds foreign to many men, because we need to change our view of intimacy, said Dr. Brad Miller of Restoration Counseling Service. “True intimacy can be emotional, spiritual, or physical, but rarely sexual,” he said. “True intimacy seeks to answer: ‘How can I know you better?,’ ‘How can I meet your needs?,’ and ‘What can I do for you?’”

“Intimacy in marriage is the duct tape that steadfastly binds a husband and wife together, even when it feels like things around them are falling apart,” Miller writes. “Additionally, it is this same intimacy that glues an elderly couple together in ways that defy our cultural mindset, even to the point of one spouse selflessly insisting on caring for the other who is handicapped by a debilitating mental or physical disability.”

Building Greater Intimacy

Though there are others, Erickson encourages people to include four ingredients in their recipes for intimacy.

1. Affection and caring. Non-sexual touching, hugs, and kisses are important. If your wife anticipates you want sex when you hug or kiss her, you have a problem that needs time and trust to correct. Also, pray for each other. Take time for each other, and show each other love and respect.

2. Vulnerable communication. Marriage should be a place where spouses can share anything, including their childhood, their pain, their crazy dreams, their disappointments, their hopes, and anything else in safety. Safe and vulnerable communication is non-judgmental and one spouse shouldn’t be trying to “fix” the other.

Listen more and listen well. God gave you one mouth and two ears, so use them accordingly.

3. Mutual living. Intimacy includes a desire for spouses to be together and share their experiences and daily life. Certainly, everyone needs time for solitude or personal hobbies, but there should be an intentional pursuit of enjoying time together. Often love and affection are measured in both the quality and the quantity of time you give.

4. Mutual giving. Do you look for ways to please your wife? For instance, Dan took over doing the laundry and washes the dishes and cleans up after meals. Do you seek ways to relieve her stress, to serve her, and make her feel special? Plan special dates with her, and let her know ahead of time so that she can be ready.

Finally, God will make you a better spouse if you are open to his Word and instruction.

“A couple’s marriage is a reflection of their intimate relationship with God,” Erickson said. “The more intimate their relationship with God, the more intimate they become with each other, and the more intimate they are with each other, the more intimate they can be with God.”

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