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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Forgiveness: Doing what Christ does

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article in  Discipleship Journal/Jack & Carole Mayhall

She looked at me defiantly.  Hope, hurt, pain, and anger were mingled in her eyes and in her tone as she said, “I can’t do it, Carole. Could you?”

She had just told me her problem—and it was a giant one. Her in-laws had physically and verbally attacked her in front of her husband and children. And her husband had not only failed to come to her defense, but had sided with his parents. How could she forgive such a thing?

“No,” I replied, “I couldn’t forgive him. But God can—and will through and in you, if you’ll let him. There is no hope for your marriage if you don’t forgive.”

I could have added that there would be no hope for her, either. The lack of forgiveness produces a poison that will eat away one’s very existence, especially the existence of any joy or peace in our lives.

What heartache!

There is no easy answer. But this I know: God does have a solution. It is somehow tied in with the solemn warning in Hebrews 12:15—”See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” I would paraphrase that first part, “Make sure no one fails to receive enough of God’s grace.”

If we don’t have enough of his grace, it isn’t God’s fault. His grace is sufficient for our every need (2 Corinthians 12:9). The fault is ours, because we haven’t really asked for his grace with an accepting heart.

What is forgiveness? One dictionary defines the verb forgive as “to cease to feel resentment” against someone, “to pardon,” “to give up resentment,” or “to grant relief from payment.”

I was struck with two things about this definition. First was the feeling involved—”to cease to feel resentment.” This statement rules out attitudes such as “I forgive him, but I can’t forget it,” or, “I forgive him in my head, but not in my heart.” Our hearts are free only when we cease to feel resentment.

Many times we don’t really want to forgive, for if we do we become vulnerable to be hurt all over again. So we build our walls of resentment and unforgiveness in order not to feel pain again.

Logically this makes some sense. But emotionally it is deadly poison. And it poisons the person with the unforgiving heart first of all. When a person hardens his or her feelings against pain, all feeling can be deadened.

The second thing that struck me about the dictionary definition was the verbs that are used: “cease,” “give up,” and “grant.” An act of our will is involved in ceasing to feel resentful, in giving up a claim, in granting the offender relief from paying for his offense. But to do this is not easy.

David Augsburger, radio speaker for “The Mennonite Hour,” put it this way in Cherishable: Love and Marriage

Forgiveness is hard.  Especially in a marriage tense with past troubles, tormented by fears of rejection and humiliation, and torn by suspicion and distrust.

Forgiveness hurts.  Especially when it must be extended to a husband or wife who doesn’t deserve it, who hasn’t earned it, who may misuse it. It hurts to forgive.

Forgiveness costs.  Especially in marriage when it means accepting instead of demanding repayment for the wrong done; where it means releasing the other instead of exacting revenge; where it means reaching out in love instead of relinquishing resentments. It costs to forgive.

Forgiveness, Augsburger says, is when the injured person chooses “to accept his angry feelings, bear the burden of them personally, find release through confession and prayer, and set the other person free.”

This is what Jesus Christ did for us.

He forgave us unconditionally, bearing the burden, setting us free. “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7–8).

Many times it is the little, picky matters that stick in our throats and cause us to choke when the need arises to forgive. When we do not deal with the seemingly inconsequential things, we fail to “walk in the light.”

If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. (1 John 1:7)

Are you walking in the light with your mate?

In Christ, there is “no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), no hidden, secret resentment, no anger or self-pity, or criticism. If we are walking in the light as he is in the light, then we will have true fellowship with one another. We will be best friends in open, honest sharing.

We must forgive, and forgive immediately.

Listen again to David Augsburger:

Forgiveness is smiling silent love to your partner when the justifications for keeping an insult or injury alive are on the tip of your tongue, yet you swallow them. Not because you have to, to keep peace, but because you want to, to make peace.

Forgiveness is not acceptance given “on condition” that the other becomes acceptable. Forgiveness is given freely. . . .

Forgiveness is a relationship between equals who recognize their deep need of each other, share and share-alike. Each needs the other’s forgiveness. Each needs the other’s acceptance. Each needs the other.

Our God of Second Chances (In Marriage)

SOURCE:  Cheryl Scruggs (Author of: I Do Again)

Jesus must be the focal point in marriage, not your spouse. Much of the time, without being aware of it, we end up idolizing our spouse, and making them our God, instead of allowing God to be our God.

A godly marriage is one of deep abundance, peace and joy. This does not mean it is free from tough issues or without problems, as there is no such thing as a perfect marriage.

Jesus must be the focal point in marriage, not your spouse. Much of the time, without being aware of it, we end up idolizing our spouse and making them our God, instead of allowing God to be our God.

How do we make Jesus the focal point? We begin with recognizing that marriage was God’s idea. He had the plan for it. We often act like marriage is only about our happiness, but marriage is designed to glorify God.

In the New Testament, Ephesians 5: 21- 31 gives us direction and guidance on how to submit to Christ and one another. It explains how husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and love them like they love their own bodies. It also addresses how a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, thus the two be united into one unit. Lastly, this passage talks about how a wife must respect her husband.

This is a tall order for all of us! What stands out is that, ultimately, we are each to submit to Christ out of obedience, submit to each other, and pray to have a servant’s heart in our marriage.

Trouble is, our culture lacks an accurate concept of what serving means. Husbands, how is God calling you to serve your wife in Ephesians 5? It points out that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Was Christ not the greatest servant of all? He is our protector, our provider, our covering. Men, He is your example! Jesus shows us how to serve.

Jeff and I often share with couples this analogy: What kind of marriage do you think you would have if the two of you were competing to “out-serve” each other?

During our first marriage, Jeff and I had no idea how to serve one another. We fought infrequently and were polite to each other, but there was no real attempt to understand true servanthood. We both ended up selfish and self-focused, each waiting on the other to come to our service.

Yet God gave us a second chance! This time our marriage is different. We now wholeheartedly seek to learn how to better love God and each other. We made so many mistakes in our first marriage, but now have the opportunity to do it His way. Even after 10 years back together, we remain so very grateful for the opportunity.

Our goal is to live out Galatians 5:16-25 (ESV):

But I say, walk by the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is not law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

So how can we serve each other practically in the different aspects of a relationship: spiritually, physically, and emotionally?

Scripture calls us to serve each other spiritually by learning and following what it means to take on the character traits of Jesus and living these out. We also serve each other spiritually by being obedient to God and seeking His ways through His Word.

Scripture calls us to serve each other physically by being gentle, kind, patient, and displaying self-control. The Bible also calls us to serve each other sexually: “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Finally, God calls us to serve each other emotionally through a loving nature, by pursuing peace in the marriage, and by being joyful in our relationship. 2 Corinthians 2:3 (ESV) gives us a great example of how our joy can benefit others: “Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful”.

God is trying to teach you many things through your marriage. He desires to mold and shape you into what he wants you to be. Our focus in marriage, this time around, is on serving God and each other, rather than focusing on ourselves.

A Wife’s Role Defined

(Adapted from Different by Design by H. Dale Burke)

A wife has a lot to learn as she tackles the daunting assignment of understanding and loving the man in her life. The average woman may be more sensitive to a man’s needs than he is to hers, but she faces some significant challenges. The primary concepts found in God’s Word to direct wives in loving their husbands in the servant-wife role include: a) Respect; b) Trust; c) Support; d) Acceptance; e) Admiration.

One issue that needs to be addressed and properly understood deals with submission. Scripture states, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph 5:22), and “As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:24). It is clear that God calls on wives to submit, to be subject to their husbands. The very sound of the term submission is enough to offend many modern couples who so want to serve as equals on a team, pulling together to build a quality marriage. A thorough examination of the apostle Paul’s concept of submission is essential to understanding God’s unique blueprint to marriage, a design that transcends today’s culture.

Biblical submission is NOT: inferiority, intellectual suicide, without fulfillment, passivity, or silence.

Submission is not inferiority. Wives aren’t the only ones called upon to submit. The Scriptures are clear that even Jesus’ relationship to His Father was one of submission. At the height of His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed to God, asking to be relieved of the assignment He had been sent to Earth to fulfill. His prayer concluded, however, like this: “Yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) This act of submission typifies Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, but there is never a hint in His words that He was in a position of inferiority. Biblical submission does not place the one submitting in a lesser, or inferior, position.

Submission is not intellectual suicide. Anyone who would suggest that a woman must blindly submit to her husband’s leadership needs to know that to make such an assertion is just as irresponsible as suggesting that Christ calls us to come to Him by blind, unthinking faith. The opposite is the case. Jesus challenged those around Him to think, perhaps more seriously than they’d ever thought before. Submission is a choice that follows serious, informed consideration. It’s not acquiescence to a second-class role in the relationship. It’s a choice to follow another’s leadership with your brain in full gear. Again, Jesus as the Son of God may be our strongest proof that submission has nothing to do with intellectual suicide. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are truly equal in Their divine omniscience. However, each has a role to play and each performs that role in perfect harmony and mutual respect. Likewise, a wife who chooses to honor God and love her husband with a submissive spirit should still be highly valued for her God-given wisdom and abilities.

Submission is not without fulfillment. Nothing promises or delivers a deeper sense of satisfaction than the assurance that you’re doing the will of God. Wives who submit to their husbands according to the command in Ephesians 5:22 can expect no less. The fact is that real fulfillment is found not in the pursuit of our dream but God’s dream. Fulfillment for the Christian man or woman is not being all that you can be; it’s being all that God calls you to be. Pleasing God is priority one. Supporting or encouraging your husband to take responsibility for leadership in the home should never, ever be labeled as boring or unfulfilling. The wife still can, and should, play a vital role in the direction of the family.

Submission is not passivity. The verb rendered “be subject to” in Ephesians 5:22 and “be submissive to” in 1 Peter 3:1 is in the present tense, which suggests a habit pattern. It’s imperative, meaning it’s a command. And it’s in the middle voice, meaning this is not something done to a woman but by her. She’s actively involved in every aspect of marriage, including this one. It’s action oriented with the distinction being that it’s done under another’s authority. God designed women to contribute fully and significantly to every aspect of the marriage and family.

Submission is not silence. One common misconception about submission is that it condemns wives to suffer in silence when their husbands fail to lead and love as Christ leads and loves His church. No man is perfect, and disappointment, frustration, and exasperation are part of every marriage in pursuit of intimacy. Still, the clear challenge to love with a submissive spirit is given to every wife, even to those wed to men who are missing the mark. In 1 Peter 3:1 God calls wives simply to imitate Jesus. To love that difficult, disobedient, even unbelieving husband without preaching to him, without demanding that he change, without threatening to leave if he doesn’t shape up. But does that mean total silence? No! Ephesians 4:25-27 says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” Honesty should never be abandoned in the name of submission. Whether leading or following, never stop being open and honest with your spouse. Silence is as dangerous to your marital health as ignoring pain is to your physical health. When it comes to marriage, silence is never golden.

What does it mean for a woman to submit to her husband as to the Lord? Submission is willingly placing yourself under the leadership of another. This is an “as to the Lord” type of submission. The psalmist was involved in this activity in Psalm 17:8-9 and 61:4. He was hiding, dwelling, taking refuge in the Lord. He was willingly placing his trust in another. He chose to follow his Lord and to trust in Him. That loving, trusting relationship became a place of shelter and refuge. Similarly, the wife’s decision to obey God and submit to her husband’s leadership is the ultimate expression of respect and trust. It is important to notice the extent of submission expressly stated in Ephesians 5:24 covers everything. This is not a part-of-the-way proposition; not 30 percent, 50 percent, or 99 percent. It’s 100 percent. Paul’s commands to the husband demand a similarly wholehearted response. He is to love his wife, sacrifice for her, and nourish and cherish her whether she having a bad day or good – 100 percent of the time. However, for those who would distort Scripture to say that a woman must obey her husband, period, note one significant exception. First Peter 3:1 challenges women to submit to their husbands even if they may be “disobedient to the word.” But, this is a far cry from submitting to a husband who tells you to disobey God. Paul and the apostles put that notion to rest in Acts 5:29 when they responded to the Jewish authorities who told them to quit teaching in Jesus’ Name: “We must obey God rather than men.” Coming under the authority of another is never a call to violate the Word of God.

Scripture continues to say, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body (Eph 5:23). Indeed, “authority over and responsibility for” is the meaning of head, in God’s definition of marriage. Not the heavy-handed, harsh rule of the world, but the gentle, loving, sacrificial leadership of a savior. A leader who will give anything to care for his wife. One who takes his responsibility seriously, knowing he will give an account to God for the health and well-being not only of his wife, but of his entire family. Some have incorrectly thought that the statement in Ephesians 5:21, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ,” negates the following command. This command is actually a consequence of being filled with God’s Spirit and calls all of us, men and women alike, to exhibit a submissive spirit whether leading or following, whether husband or wife, whether parent or child, whether employee or employer. However, in each of these relationships someone is told to exercise loving leadership and someone is encouraged to follow. The concepts of submission and headship are anchored in truths that clearly transcend any culture or time in history. They are as relative today as they were in the culture of the time they were written about.

Christ is the Head of the church and the husband is the head of the wife. Jesus is the church’s Lord and Leader as well as its Source. He takes responsibility for the life and health of the church, just as the husband takes responsibility for the life and health of his wife. It is in light of this challenge for husbands to lead and love by sacrificially caring for every aspect of their wife’s welfare that God then calls the wife to follow. She will someday answer to her Lord in heaven for how she loved and followed her leader on earth.

A Servant-Wife Respects. As important a concept submission is, it is not the only issue or even the main issue contained in Ephesians 5:33 – And the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Respect is the real issue for men. Submission is not the end; it is only one means to the end. The real target in God’s sights is to see wives shower their husbands with a gentle rain of respect. It is the gift that best says to a man, “I love you.” Just as sacrificial love is only a tool, a means of communicating to wives that we care, so submission is only a tool, a means of communicating respect to a husband. Respect, or reverence, is a gift that can be given to men, even imperfect men or ungodly men. First Peter 3:2 clearly calls on wives to win over their husbands by their “chaste and respectful behavior.” Moreover, these men are described in verse 1 as men who are “disobedient to the word.” That is often taken to refer to husbands outside the faith, unbelievers, but that’s not necessarily the case. All too often, it is the Christian who finds himself or herself with a spouse who is less than an angel. Many wives know the challenge of living with a mate who has little to no interest in spiritual things. It is to that wife that God says, “Give the gift of respect to your husband.”

A very common statement that floats around this subject is “Trust can be given, but respect must be earned.” Is that really true? If by respect we mean a feeling of respect or admiration, then it is true. However, respect used in reference to marriage is not just a feeling; it’s an action. It is something to choose to give whether I feel it or not. We do this all the time. A student may not like a teacher, principal, or coach. A citizen may not feel a lot of respect for a particular president, judge, or policeman. However, he or she had better learn to show those figures respect. How much truer this is in a marriage. A wife’s feelings of respect for her husband (or a husband’s for his wife, for that matter) will grow or diminish as she gets to know him, observing his character and skills. When she feels respect for him, showing it – expressing it – will come easily. However, God isn’t calling us to the easy thing, but the harder thing: showing respect whether it’s deserved or not. It’s the same challenge God gives to husbands. The call to sacrificially love, nourish, cherish, and honor our wives isn’t limited to their good days. It extends to every day!

Respect is not optional. It’s essential in a healthy marriage. What can you do if you don’t have a lot of respect for your husband?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

1) Focus on the positive. Stop and take time to identify the good instead of the bad. Tell him and others where he excels; talk about things excellent rather than things deficient. Concentrate on the actions worthy of praise, not criticism. Thank God for what is right about this man, not what is wrong. Every man has some areas that are honorable; talk to others about those areas. Dwell on the lovely, not the ugly; the true, not the false. This may seem hard at first, but trust in God’s help to do this, and just do it! Focus on the positive, and see if the negatives don’t begin to diminish. However, this takes time, so commit to the positive and stay there.

2) Focus on the position. God calls us to respect the fact that leaders may not always be right, but they are always responsible. God will hold the husband accountable for the condition of the home, so respect that position of responsibility. It is not so much an issue of authority as it is an issue of accountability and responsibility. Respect that position of responsibility and his calling as the leader in your home. Permit me to paraphrase another passage – one written to call the church to respect its leaders – and apply it to marriage.

Obey your leaders (husbands) and (respectfully) submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls (and your homes) as those who will give an account (to God). Let them do this (lead out in your marriage) with joy (sensing your support and respect) and not with grief (as you nag them about their shortcomings and poor decisions), for this (type of disrespectful relationship) would be unprofitable for you (and all those in your family). (Hebrews 13:17)

3) Focus on the Lord. Ultimately, our calling is to the lordship of Christ, not to any human being. We must not focus on a husband’s worthiness, but on Christ’s worthiness. It is our Redeemer, the Lamb of God, whom we serve. It is out of respect and worship to our Sovereign God that we give respect to those He places over us in life. Remember that fulfillment is not about being all I want to be, but about being all God calls me to be. What a difference it makes when my desire for holiness is greater than my desire for happiness. In the end, the desire for holiness is the key to real joy through all the days of my life and my marriage. God wants us to understand that giving a husband respect is not just about trying to please a man. It’s about trying to please the One who has showered us all with more respect than we could ever deserve.

A Servant-Wife Trusts. Trust means so much to a man. As a wife encourages and follows the leadership of her husband, that expression of trust becomes a powerful act of love. It says to him, “I believe in you.” Again, do not misunderstand the point. Women certainly need to receive trust from their husbands. Everyone, man or woman, yearns to be trusted. But for men that desire is much more intense. Remember, we are different by design. Just as the woman’s greater need is to feel that her husband truly cares about her, so the man’s greater need is to know that he is trusted by his wife.

A question many women ask is, “How do I trust when trusting isn’t easy?” That’s a legitimate question. Just as trust is a component of respect, so the solutions for repairing a lack of trust are similar to the solutions that apply to building up a spirit of respect. Just as in that circumstance, you need to focus on the positive, the position, and the Lord.

1) Focus on the positive. Begin by focusing on your husband’s strengths. Every man has areas in which he excels. Trust comes easier when you let your mind dwell on those things.

2) Focus on the position. God has called the husband to lead. Remember that God’s desire is not to enslave but to bless. The leadership envisioned is one modeled after Christ’s sacrificial love at the Cross. It is important that the wife remember that God has called her husband to a position of responsibility and accountability for his family. Just as church leaders will someday give an account for the souls under their care, so husbands will someday stand before God and be accountable for the health and well-being of their family. A wife must trust her husband, let him lead, and encourage him to grow as a leader, for he will someday stand in the presence of God and be held accountable for the decisions and direction of his home. He may not always be right, but he is always responsible.

What if you don’t agree with the direction or decision of your husband? Communicate! Share your input and observations. Every man needs help as he leads. Every wise leader seeks to utilize the strengths of his team, especially his number one assistant. Even the best of leaders blows it sometimes, but God still calls us to follow those leaders.

3) Focus on the Lord. It is only possible to trust your husband if your ultimate trust is in the Lord. God never expects a wife to follow a husband into sin. The highest authority and accountability in all our relationships is to our Lord and our God. But when decisions are not a matter of obeying or disobeying our God, that very God calls wives to respect and follow the lead of the man He as brought into their lives. The only way for any woman to do this is to recognize that her hope, ultimately, is not in her husband but in her God. To trust and follow a mere man is only possible as a wife deepens her trust in God. She must believe that God will be her true Source of security and hope. It is only then that she will be able to risk trusting the man in her life.

A Servant-Wife Supports. Another effective tool for loving your husband is to back him up. Every man loves to know that his wife not only believes in him and wants to see him succeed but is also willing to help make it happen. She supports him. She is proud to serve with him and be at his side. The Lord knew men need helpers. A man feels loved when his wife says, “Wherever you go and whatever you do, I’m in. I’m with you. You can count on me.” However, there is a fine line between supporting and mothering. Men love to sense support, but often pull away from unsolicited assistance. If you act like a mother, often telling your husband how to do it or how to do it the right way, he will withdraw and feel resentment. If you just can’t hold back, then at least give the advice as a suggestion, respectfully. Don’t act irritated that he’s approaching life or some challenge big or small from a direction different than the one you would have picked. Men do need to honor and listen to the wisdom of their wives. However, every man needs just one mother in his life. When we get married, we need a friend, a lover, a fan who believes in us, one who sticks closer than a brother, a soul mate, a helper who believes in us and loves us just the way we are. Men feel loved when they are supported.

A Servant-Wife Accepts. Acceptance flows from the gift of unconditional love. One of the most common complaints from men is “She keeps trying to change me.” The problem is, trying to “fix” a man begins to trigger resistance, even anger. A word that fits perfectly here is: nagging.

It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (Proverbs 25:24)

A nagging wife is as annoying as the constant dripping on a rainy day. (Proverbs 27:15 NLT)

The nagging spouse is never happy, constantly complaining. A man feels like no matter what is done, he can never make her happy. Does this mean a wife can never mention a concern or a frustration or offer a suggestion for change to her husband? Submission is NOT silence. Submission is NOT passivity. God wants to use our spouses to help us grow. A man needs to know when his wife’s needs or expectations are going unmet. The key is communicate, but don’t nag. Share your ideas, concerns, fears, or expectations, but then leave it alone. Give God a chance to work and your husband time to change. Don’t bring it up time and time again. And always communicate acceptance. When the marital atmosphere is full of acceptance, approval, and affirmation, feedback will fall on receptive ears. But when a man feels he can never be good enough to please you, he will soon quit trying. Ultimately, the secret to giving such unconditional acceptance is not found in a wife’s relationship with her husband but in her relationship with God. As long as God is left out of the formula, she will think the responsibility to change her husband falls to her. Without acceptance and the respect that comes with it, the husband will most likely withdraw into passivity or flee to another woman who gives him that respect.

Again, what if the man is far from perfect. Scripture in 1 Peter 3:1-2 shows how God has it figured out. Nagging a man never gets the best result. It never draws him to you or to your faith. But a respectful spirit, full of loving acceptance, can draw the unbeliever or disobedient husband like a magnet toward his wife and her faith.

A Servant-Wife Admires, Appreciates, and is Affectionate. Admiration, appreciation, and affection. Men yearn for all three and love to know someone thinks they are special. This in no way minimizes the need for women to be and feel “cherished” by their husbands. But somehow, these qualities seem to mean even more to men than to women. And when it comes from their wives, the impact of receiving these qualities goes up dramatically. Keep the following unique differences concerning men in mind:

1) Men are turned on by praise. Praise is a powerful tool that means much to a man.

2) Men appreciate attention to physical beauty. Men are drawn to the physical far more than women are. When a man’s wife takes the time to make herself look good, it is an expression of love.

3) Men highly value physical affection. For men, affection begins with respectful admiration and builds with sincere appreciation. But it is the sexual relationship with his wife that best says, “I love you.” It is crucial for the wife to understand that most husbands value this physical act of love more highly than their wives do. God speaks to the importance of the physical relationship in marriage:

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (I Cor 7:2-5)

Sex is a responsibility, not a right. It is about giving, not getting; about pleasing more than pleasure. Of course, the beauty of this mysterious act of love is that the more you give, the more you’re likely to receive. According to God’s blueprint, your body belongs to your spouse. Therefore, work at saying yes to one another. Focus on giving pleasure to your husband.

Does this mean you should do whatever he wants, not matter how you feel? Not necessarily. The application of this text must be keep in mind the rest of God’s directives for husbands and wives, such as:

1) “[Speak] the truth in love” (Eph 4:15);
2) “Be angry, and yet to not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26);
3) “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit” (Phil 2:3);
4) “Do not [just] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).

Keep in mind that just as the wife’s body is under the authority of her husband, so also the husband’s body is under the authority of the wife. God always provides for balance. God, knowing our differences, calls both, men and women, to be givers, not takers, in the sexual relationship. This may call the average husband to focus on greater patience and sensitivity and the average wife to take seriously the sexual needs of her husband. God’s advice to wives is “just say yes” as often as possible. Make your sexual relationship a priority. Don’t ignore the fact that in 1 Cor 7:5 Paul placed your sexual relationship right after your prayer life in importance. God says that if we really need to “just say no,” then we should follow these four guidelines from that verse:

1) “Stop depriving one another” – don’t say no often;
2) “Except by agreement” – talk about it;
3) “For a time” – make it the exception, not the rule;
4) “Come together again” – plan and keep it a priority.

HE FEELS LOVED SHE FEELS LOVED
He gives more care She gives more respect
He sacrifices She admires
He nourishes She accepts
He cherishes She supports
He honors She trusts
He understands She respects

The Husband’s Role Defined

SOURCE:  (Adapted from Different by Design by H. Dale Burke)

Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church. (Eph 5:28-29) and Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Eph 5:22, 33)

These Scriptures are saying simply that men feel loved when they’re respected and women feel loved when they’re cared for. These are the primary needs of men and women.

The question for men to answer is, “How are you to apply your servant-spirit on your wife’s behalf?”

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Eph 5:23-25)

To live out the high calling of a husband, you must assume the role of a servant-leader. The text clearly states that the husband “is the head of the wife.” Unfortunately, extreme interpretations of this text have obscured its intended meaning. Some have said that it has absolutely nothing to do with authority. This is not true. Paul was speaking here of a leadership role for the husband. His emphasis was on how that role is to be carried out. The appropriate model is Jesus Christ. The husband is to lead by following Jesus’ example, which means His leadership is not as a dictator, which is not the biblical model for leadership. We are to lead as He leads, as a servant.

Another misinterpretation is the suggestion that husbands and wives are co-leaders in the home. It’s true that teamwork is essential for success in marriage. Men and women were created as equals. However, the issue here is not one of equality. It’s a matter of responsibility. And the apostle Paul was making clear that responsibility is central to the man’s role as the servant-leader. Just as Jesus takes responsibility for the needs of the church, so He expects the husband to take responsibility for the needs of the home. In saying this, we’re also acknowledging the husband’s responsibility to exercise initiative. If things at home are not as they should be, it’s the man’s responsibility to get the ball rolling.

A Servant-Husband Sacrifices. A husband sacrifices for his wife. The American Heritage Dictionary defines sacrifice as “forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of someone or something considered to have greater value.” It is saying that we’re to incur a loss in the transaction as we give ourselves for our wives. Imagine how your love would grow and your marriage would strengthen if every day you looked for ways, large and small, to give up things you value for your wife. And I’m talking here about things that cost you something.

A Servant-Husband Nourishes. In verses 26-29 of Ephesians Paul explained why men are to love their wives sacrificially the way Jesus loved the church:

So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for not one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.

You love your wife by caring for her. Another translation indicates “to pamper” your wife. What Paul was talking about here is meeting the needs of the other person, helping that person grow to maturity. The idea is that you want your wife to blossom. A good husband is to be about the business of attending to the needs of his wife, of helping her become all that God wants her to be. If you tell your wife that your intent is to nourish her, to care for her as you own body, you’re making a statement of radical love to her. To nourish her is to do whatever is necessary to see her become all God wants her to be, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. As husbands, our mission in life is to help our wife be “all that she can be. Bottom line, if she’s not healthy and growing as a woman of God, it’s our job to nourish that growth.

A Servant-Husband Cherishes. We must also cherish our wives. What does this mean? Nothing more or less than to hold dear and to value highly. Cherishing is saying to your wife, “You’re number one.” It goes beyond just meeting her needs. It’s also tuning in to who she is and saying with your words and actions, “You’re precious. You’re special.” If you tell your wife that you choose to cherish her, you’re saying she’s your top priority. Nothing means more to a man’s wife than to let her know there’s no one ahead of her on the list of people who matter most. What we are talking about here is the nature of your priorities in the daily world of relationships and the demands of life. Make sure your wife knows where she stands on that list. Tell her with your mouth – often – that you count it a privilege to have her as your wife. There’s a big difference between the special treatment a man gives something he deems to be of value versus the routine care he gives something he merely owns. We need both. Every marriage requires routine maintenance to stay in good working order. Part of it comes from the care that’s involved in nourishing your wife. But cherishing is essential as well, doing those special things, small and not so small, that communicate that vital message, “You, above all others, are special.”

A Servant-Husband Honors. Consider 1 Peter 3:7-

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

God says that if you don’t honor your wife, the effectiveness of your prayers will diminish. Honor signifies something you give to acknowledge value and worth. Something priceless. The idea is to esteem another person in such a way that you affirm their dignity. God wants our wives to be honored and praised. Every time you honor your wife with your words, follow them up with action. Just ask a simple question: “What can I do to help?”

How can you show honor? Consider:

*Praise her publicly
*Say “Thank You” often
*Open doors for her
*Wait on her joyfully
*Wait on her patiently
*Seek her opinion
*Take her advice
*Respect her feelings
*Bring her a gift
*Listen, listen, listen!

A Servant-Husband Understands. The phrase (in 1 Peter 3:7) as with someone weaker is not a signal of inferiority. The word weaker as used in this context means fragile. Peter was saying that a wife is more like fine crystal than a plastic container. The point is to handle your wife like fine crystal, not like cheap plastic. Be sensitive to her moods, feelings, and needs. She is different by design. She’s more fragile, delicate, and tender, often more aware of feelings and emotions than you are, and often more intuitive and interpretive of subtle nuances of communication that the average guy. We’re to work at understanding how they think, what their needs are, and how they most desire for us to meet those needs. We need to focus more on listening for the purpose of knowing and understanding our wives. That’s more important than listening so that I can fix my wife’s problems, which is the typical male approach. Most of the time, what a woman wants if for her husband to love her by listening in such a way that he hears exactly what she’s saying and seeks to know her better as a result. Our wives want to know that we care more about them than about their problems.

To sum up, a husband says, “I love you” by caring for his wife, by sacrificing for his wife, by nourishing his wife, by cherishing his wife, by honoring his wife, and by understanding his wife. The beauty is that love expressed like this has a profound impact on a man’s wife. It actually sets in motion a cycle of love that creates not only harmony but strength in marriage.

 

HE FEELS LOVED SHE FEELS LOVED
He gives more care She gives more respect
He sacrifices She admires
He nourishes She accepts
He cherishes She supports
He honors She trusts
He understands She respects

 

Book Review — With These Words: Five Communication Tools For Marriage And Life

SOURCE:  Bill Bellican

As a Counseling Pastor and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, I continually am on the outlook for solid resources to help marriages grow and improve. After counseling couples for 24 years, I am convinced that learned communication skills promote effective communication practices.  When effective communication practices are employed, healthy marital outcomes are achieved evidenced by marriages that work well and honor God.

Marriage communication is like oxygen is to the body. Generally, if there is a healthy flow of oxygen, the body tends to be healthy.  If the oxygen flow is compromised or cut-off, the body is in trouble.  Even if there are other medical issues to address, the oxygen flow must be considered first or all else is a moot point.  This is the way it is in marriage.  Without healthy communication, a marriage is in trouble and won’t function as God intended.

Rob Flood’s book, With These Words, helps to ensure a marriage has a healthy flow of the right words, tone, attitudes, and techniques allowing spouses to work together to work out what needs to be accomplished in a way that honors each other and honors God.

While With These Words stresses how important healthy communication is to a strong and healthy relationship between husband and wife, it achieves something more foundational.  More than just achieving a better marriage, it is clearly outlined in this book that all communication is designed to glorify God and reflect his image through how our words are used. God is to be glorified in all things including the way communication is successfully handled within marriage.  That is the real motivation to reach a higher level of communication.  A better marriage is the outcome of being conformed to the image of Christ through the way spouses communicate and work through life and marriage challenges.  Flood emphasizes that this motivation becomes practical and fruitful as a couple walks with Jesus seeking and allowing him to influence each moment of their lives.  Therein lies the power for growth and change that makes a marriage a delight to the Lord and increasingly joyful for each other.

Once the rationale is established for better communication and the source of true Power for genuine change is known, Flood outlines the practical tools for crafting more effective and honoring communication skills that work within the marriage.

As Flood highlights, whether a marriage functions wonderfully or is beset by troubles, healthy communication is a fundamental part of a strong relationship between husband and wife.  And, a marriage like this brings glory to God!

Image result for rob flood with these words

New Growth Press

Be the Change You Wish to See in Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Terry Gaspard/Gottman Institute

Ben and Alicia are both waiting for the other person to change. I see it all the time in my private practice.

“I’ve been miserable for years,” complains Ben. “I’ve asked Alicia to give me space, but things don’t appear to be changing. It feels like I can’t breathe.”

“Ben has his friends over every weekend,” Alicia reflects. “He doesn’t consider my needs and I feel so alone.”

If you want your partner to change, start by accepting them for who they are. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman says, “People can change only if they feel that they are basically liked and accepted the way they are. When people feel criticized, disliked, and unappreciated they are unable to change. Instead, they feel under siege and dig in to protect themselves.”

Instead of criticizing your partner, remind yourself of all of the things you appreciate about them, and share those things with them. Be genuinely interested in learning about why they see or do something differently than you, and be open to respecting and even celebrating what makes each of you unique.

Of course, there are some things that should never be tolerated in a relationship, like abuse, addiction, or infidelity. These behaviors should be addressed in a loving and direct way with the help of a professional. Even in those cases, it is possible to accept the person even if you do not accept their behavior.

Vulnerability and intimacy go hand in hand

What Ben and Alicia don’t realize is that they aren’t really arguing about the amount of time they spend together. The underlying issue in their marriage is that neither partner is able to express their needs in a non-blameful way.

They had never discussed what alone time and time together meant to each of them. By talking about this in my office, Ben finally understood Alicia’s fear of being alone. His understanding led him to carve out time to spend together on the weekends.

Couples seeking a deeper emotional connection need to understand that vulnerability and intimacy go hand in hand. In other words, intimacy can only occur when partners are vulnerable enough to share their deepest hopes, fears, and dreams without judgement.

Change starts with you

Do you spend more time questioning your partner’s words or actions than examining your own? Blaming your partner can feel good in the moment, but it’s dangerous because it can lead to anger and resentment.

Conflict is not a bad thing in relationships. After watching thousands of couples in his lab for over 40 years, Dr. Gottman discovered a simple truth: all couples argue. The difference between the couples that stay together and the ones who divorce is the way they repair after conflict. The Masters of relationships take responsibility for their role in the issue and change their own behavior.

Dr. Gottman explains, “The couples that don’t repair those hurts end up with festering wounds that grow bigger day by day, the month, and the year until they finally break the couple apart. Repair is absolutely crucial in any kind of relationship, particularly intimate relationships.”

Here are four things you can do instead of trying to change your partner that can change your relationship for the better.

1. Be a better partner
Many people stay in bad relationships with the desire to change their partner. In Marriage Rules, Dr. Harriet Lerner writes, “If you don’t change your part in a stuck pattern, no change will occur. Change comes from the bottom up: that is from the person who is in the most pain, or who has the least power, or who has lost or compromised too much in the relationship.”

2. Focus on the issues at hand
When you focus on changing your partner, you miss the opportunity to work together to come up with a solution. You’re no longer on the same team. Instead, focus on the issues at hand to meet both of your needs.

Anger is usually a symptom of underlying hurt, fear, and frustration, so speak in I statements and focus on expressing your feelings in a vulnerable way that invites your partner to understand your pain, rather than pushes them away.

3. Take responsibility
We are responsible for how our words and actions make our partner feel. Apologize to your partner by taking responsibility for the problem, even just a small piece, and this will validate their feelings, promote forgiveness, and allow you both to move on.

4. Complain without blame
In Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Dr. Gottman explains that criticizing your partner is one of The Four Horsemen that predicts divorce. It is different from offering a critique or voicing a complaint. A criticism attacks the core of a person’s character while a complaint focuses on a specific behavior.

Successful couples remember to give each other the benefit of the doubt and consider that they are both doing the best they can. In The Science of Trust, Dr. Gottman advices couples to talk about their feelings in terms of a positive need, instead of what they do not need. By being good friends, you can build a healthy bond that will help you repair and navigate challenging moments together.

There is a saying to be the change you wish to see in the world. Gandhi advises us, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” I believe this to be true in relationships as well.

Instead of trying to change your partner, be the change you wish to see in your relationship.

7 Things to Remember About Sex

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Bob Lepine

Your spouse approaches intimacy much differently than you.

It’s no surprise that many husbands and wives think differently about sex. And these differences can easily become a source of conflict in marriage.

With that in mind, I want to suggest seven things men need to remember about sex and seven things wives need to keep in mind as well:

What husbands should remember about sex

1. Hollywood sex is made up. It’s a fantasy. The people in romantic scenes in movies are actors. Don’t try to measure your marital sex against what you see in a romantic film.

2. Sex is probably (but not necessarily) a lower priority for your wife than it is for you. Are you as committed to meeting her needs and desires as you’d like her to be with your desire for sex? Could you even name her top three relationship needs? Here is one of them …

3. Your wife needs a safe and secure relationship. In order for her to engage in sex with heart and mind and body, she needs to know that you will be there for her, that you are committed to her, and that she is your one and only.

4. Your wife wants to have sex with a companion, not with someone who simply shares her mailing address. If you’re not spending time having fun together in all kinds of settings, she’s going to be less motivated to be with you sexually.

5. You don’t need to have an affair to be an unfaithful husband. Whether you look at pornography or at other women, the Bible makes it clear that any lust for a woman who is not your wife is adultery.

6. There is no secret formula to arousal. If you think you have found a secret formula, and you attempt to repeat the recipe, your wife will change the secret. Women don’t want to be figured out. They also don’t want to be manipulated.

7. Your wife is insecure about her physical beauty. She sees all the flaws. Watch what you say to her.

What wives should remember about sex

1. Sex is God’s idea. He created it and gave it as a good gift to husbands and wives in marriage. It is a key part of His plan for how we become one in marriage.

2. For most men, sex is a big deal—and it’s not because men are perverted or ungodly. God delights when a husband and wife enjoy marital intimacy.

3. How you respond to your husband when he initiates sex is critical. To be uninterested can communicate a lack of respect and honor for him. I’m not saying you need to say yes every time he initiates. But when you say no, explain why in a way that still affirms your desire for him.

4. Sex is a marital discipline. It’s a part of how we serve each other in marriage. It is wrong for a wife to use sex as a reward or a lack of sex as punishment. The Bible clearly teaches that husbands and wives are not to deprive each other in this area.

5. Men are visually oriented. No matter how you see yourself, he is stimulated by sight. Again, God is the One who made men with a desire to see women naked. And the only legitimate way for your husband to satisfy this God-given desire is for you to let him see you naked.

6. Men in romance novels and soap operas are made up. The strong, sensitive, caring men portrayed in most romance novels are fictional characters. No husband can live up to the near perfection an author presents.

7. Creativity is good. The Bible says that the marriage bed is undefiled. This means that a husband and wife have freedom to explore what brings them pleasure and enjoyment in the sexual arena of marriage. Neither of you should be pressured to do something you’re uncomfortable with in the sexual relationship. But passion can be stirred by variety and creativity in the sexual relationship.

How to Ruin Your Sex Life in 10 Easy Steps

Sex can be uncomfortable for married couples to talk about. Quite frankly, it’s uncomfortable to write about as well!

But haven’t you found that the hard-to-talk-about stuff is what really needs discussion?

In our current culture, there’s a lot of conversation centered on having a “great” sex life. Pick up any copy of CosmopolitanGQ, or similar magazines, and you can read all the different ways you could be having sex, where you should be having sex, and even more ways to “spice up” your sex life. (I’m not even sure everything they mention is legal in all 50 states.)

But one thing these articles rarely touch on is how easy it is to ruin your sex life.

It’s true. While we have to put some effort into maintaining a great (or even good) sex life, it takes little energy, time, or even thought to take your bedroom romps from great to nonexistent.

In fact, you could be ruining your sexual intimacy right now and have no idea. Scary, huh?

Here are 10 easy ways to ruin your sex life. No crazy tricks, literally zero effort required. And please, feel free to embrace the sarcasm.

1. Let the kids sleep in the middle.

Not just during the occasional thunderstorm. I mean any time those sweet little faces want to snuggle up with mom and dad for the night.

Besides, you did purchase the king-size bed. You’ll find a time/place for sex later. You said “I do” forever, but the kids are only little for so long, right?

2. Forget foreplay.

You’ve already given her the look. The one that says with no uncertainty that it’s time to head to the bedroom.

Yes, she was in the middle of washing the dishes, but you’re ready to go. Your spouse should be, too. Isn’t that foreplay? Besides, it’s already 10:30 p.m. and the alarm’s set for 5 a.m. Who has time for this?

3. Prioritize your hobbies above your spouse.

After all the hours you put in at work (or home with the kids), you deserve time to yourself on the weekends. You’re not saying video games/golf/girls night is more important than time with your spouse, it’s just more relaxing. And you need regular time doing these things to be a better partner, anyway.

4. Don’t engage in conversation with your spouse.

It’s been a long day, and it takes too much energy to engage in a lengthy discussion. Please, can we just relax and turn the TV on already? Better yet, escape into social media. Knowing what’s going on in everyone else’s lives helps distract you from your own.

5. Use pornography.

At least you aren’t having an actual affair. Sometimes pornography even helps get you in the mood, right? At least that’s what you’ve heard.

If videos aren’t your thing, ladies, grab the latest copy of one of the Shades of Grey books. Word porn works well, too.

6. Fantasize about someone else.

He’ll never know you’re really thinking about Justin Timberlake. Unless you accidentally say his name. (Make a mental note about that.)

Fellas, as long as you don’t tell your wife you’re thinking about the waitress from the other night, no harm done.  Surely, all these fantasies are a harmless way to escape the issues at home. Again, at least you aren’t having an affair.

7. Flirt openly.

With anyone other than your spouse, that is. But it’s not really flirting if you have no intentions to actually have an affair, right? It’s fun and harmless. Besides, it feels good to know someone thinks you’re witty and interesting.

8. Criticize or nag your spouse.

Seriously, what does she do all day? Not laundry, apparently. She always asks what you’re thinking, so tell her.

And you’ve repeatedly told him you need some help around the house. So it should be no surprise you just yelled “Help me!” at him for the fifth time today.

9. Don’t take on your spouse’s burdens.

Sure, they might be overwhelmed, depressed, or stressed out. So are you. You have plenty on your own plate, thank you very much.

10. Don’t talk about your sexual relationship.

Ever. It’s awkward. Some things are just best left unsaid. As long as you’re having sex sometimes you’re doing okay, right?

Right?

Healthy Relationships Will Have Conflict

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

You’ll never have a strong relationship without conflict. It’s impossible. Open and frank conversations are a bridge every relationship must cross to reach relational depth.

Proverbs 24:26 says, “An honest answer is a sign of true friendship” (GNT). Being candid and connected go together; you can’t have one without the other. That’s why a true friend doesn’t use flattery. Empty encouragement is a sign of a manipulator, not of someone who sincerely cares about you.

It sounds counterintuitive, but all healthy relationships must allow for the opportunity to express frustration and anger. Out-of-control anger isn’t good, but anger is part of a loving relationship. If you don’t get angry, you don’t care. If you don’t care, you don’t love.

Many people are too afraid of showing any anger in their relationships. They run from conflict. As a result, they’re always masking the issues and refusing to deal with them. That may lead to a 20-year-old friendship with hidden conflict that could have been resolved 10 years ago.

Going through the tunnel of conflict

You won’t have a genuine friendship without going through what I call “the tunnel of conflict.” This truth relates to your marriage, friendships, and all of your other significant relationships. I’ve told this truth to countless married couples throughout the years.

On one side of the tunnel you have superficial intimacy, where you’re acquainted with someone and you like them, but that’s as far as it goes without conflict. You might go to a movie or sit in a Bible study with the person (or even be married to the person for years), but you’re not ready to share your deepest, darkest secrets with them. You’re not dealing with the gut issues of the relationship: your faults, their faults, and what’s causing both of you pain. You’re ignoring the tough parts of the relationship, as well as the greater connection that comes from them.

On the other side of the tunnel is genuine, deep intimacy. It’s a place where you’re fully understood by another person in a way that you never thought was possible on this planet. Every person craves to reach this level in their relationships.

How do you get from a superficial relationship to genuine, soul-satisfying intimacy with another human being? There’s no smooth path to the other side. You must go through the tunnel of conflict—it’s the only way.

Moving toward intimacy

Conflict is painful, which means it isn’t easy; this often leads to poor decisions. Conflict is necessary for intimacy, but don’t make the conflict harder than it needs to be. Here are three guidelines that will help conflict bring your relationships closer rather than pulling them apart:

  1. Compliment in public, correct in private. This statement is true regardless of the relationship. You need to do this with your children, your spouse, your best friend, and so on. Save your criticism for a time when others aren’t around. It’ll increase the chances that the other person will hear and respond to your concerns.
  2. Correct when they’re up and not down. Nobody handles correction well when they’re fatigued or depressed. My wife has always given me great feedback on my sermons, but she never gives me constructive criticism immediately after the service. She knows that after preaching multiple services, I’m out of energy. I can handle almost any correction when I’m feeling strong but not when I’m worn out. Timing is everything in candidness.
  3. Never offer correction until you’ve proven that you’re open to it. This is an area of relationships where you need to lead by example. Demonstrate that you are able to receive correction before you start giving correction. You must open up your life before you expect others to open up theirs.

You’ve got to be candid and honest and genuine if you want healthy relationships—and you won’t grow if you’re missing those kinds of relationships. Go through that tunnel of conflict and move toward greater intimacy, and watch your life change.

40 Consequences of Adultery

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by David Boehi — Family Life Ministries

If I committed adultery…

  1. My relationship with God would suffer from a break in fellowship.
  2. I would need to seek forgiveness from my Lord.
  3. I would suffer from the emotional consequences of guilt.
  4. I would spend countless hours replaying the failure.
  5. My spouse would suffer the scars of this abuse more deeply than I could begin to describe.
  6. My spouse would spend countless hours in counseling.
  7. My spouse’s recovery would be long and painful.
  8. My spouse’s pain would grieve me deeply and compound my own suffering and shame.
  9. Our marriage relationship would suffer a break in trust, fellowship, and intimacy.
  10. In our marriage, we would be together, yet feel great loneliness.
  11. The reputation of my family would suffer loss.
  12. My children would be deeply disappointed and bewildered.
  13. My grandchildren would not understand.
  14. My friends would be disappointed and would question my integrity.
  15. My employment or job performance would be affected.
  16. My witness among neighbors would become worthless.
  17. My witness to my family would be worthless.
  18. My testimony among my spouse’s family would be damaged.
  19. My service in ministry would be damaged.
  20. My ability to work within the church would be damaged.
  21. I would suffer God’s discipline.
  22. Satan would be thrilled at my failure.
  23. Satan would work overtime to be sure my shame never departed.
  24. My spouse might divorce me.
  25. My children might never speak to me.
  26. Our mutual friends would shy away from us and break fellowship.
  27. I would bring emotional pain to the person with whom I committed adultery.
  28. I would bring reproach upon the person with whom I committed adultery.
  29. If my affair partner is married, that person’s spouse might attempt to bring harm.
  30. My affair partner’s spouse might divorce her.
  31. An unwanted child could be produced.
  32. My part in conception might trigger an abortion, the killing of an innocent child.
  33. Disease might result.
  34. Some might conclude that all Christians are hypocrites.
  35. My business could fail because I couldn’t be trusted.
  36. My leadership among those I have led in the past might also be diminished in impact.
  37. My zeal for ministry would suffer and possibly result in others not continuing in ministry.
  38. My health would suffer.
  39. I might have to start life over again.
  40. This same sin might be visited upon my family for four generations.

It’s a pretty sobering list, isn’t it? What’s even more sobering is that many people will consider these consequences and still proceed in their sin. The fantasy is more important to them than the reality.

The biggest benefit of this list may be in helping us realize the need to set up strict safeguards to ensure that we are faithful in our marriage commitment. If I am convinced of what adultery would do to me and to my family, I will watch my wandering eyes, guard my thought life, and avoid any situations that could put me in harm’s way.

The fantasy is just not worth it.

TRUE REPENTANCE OR NOT?

Source:  Mark W. Gaither, Redemptive Divorce, 2008, 141-142

How do we know that repentance is genuine?  John the Baptist told the multitudes to “bring forth fruits in keeping with your repentance” (Luke 3:8).  Paul told the Gentiles “they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20).  It appears, therefore, that genuine repentance will make itself evident by its deeds.  The truly repentant sinner will freely acknowledge his sin (1 John 1:9).  The truly repentant sinner will seek to make restitution for the wrong done, especially if material loss or property damage has resulted (Philem. 18-19).  The truly repentant person will exhibit genuine sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:8-10).  The truly repentant person will manifest the fruit of the Spirit:  “love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).  (Source:  J. Carl Laney, A Guide to Church Discipline, 1985, 93)

Sometimes people merely pretend to repent in order to avoid loss or retain control.  And they can appear authentically sorrowful, only to return to their destructive behavior later.  An obvious change in attitude and behavior always accompanies repentance.  The following signs of repentance should be observed:

  1. Repentant people are willing to confess all their sins, not just the sins that got them into trouble.  Has the person demonstrated a desire to be completely honest about his/her behavior?
  2. Repentant people face the pain their sin has caused others.  Has the person allowed you to express the intensity of emotions you feel—anger, hurt, sorrow, and disappointment—without trying to justify, minimize, or shift blame?
  3. Repentant people ask forgiveness from those they hurt.  Has the person asked your forgiveness?  Does his/her sorrow seem genuine?  Does the person pressure you to say, “I forgive you?”   Does the person expect you to “get over it” without sufficient time to heal?
  4. Repentant people remain accountable to a small group of mature Christians.  What has the person done to address any issues that may have contributed to his/her destructive choices?  What is the person doing to avoid a relapse and to grow stronger as a God-honoring person?
  5. Repentant people accept their limitations.  Does the person resent your need for reassurance?  Doe he/she seem to understand the need for the rebuilding of trust over time?
  6. Repentant people are faithful to the daily tasks God has given them.  Is the person putting forth good effort to fulfill his/her duties at work and at home?  Is the person moving forward in life with humility, or do you sense that he/she merely wants to get things back to normal as quickly as possible?

The Marriage Map

from The Divorce Remedy, Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W

The marriage map is meant to give you a broad overview of the experiences most couples have when they negotiate the marital terrain. As you read through these stages and developmental passages, don’t get too hung up on the timetable. Some couples move through these stages more quickly than others, and some bypass certain stages entirely. See if any of this sounds familiar to you as you think about your own marriage and that of friends and family.

Stage One- Passion prevails
Head over heels in love, you can’t believe how lucky you are to have met your one and only star-crossed lover. Everything other than the relationship quickly fades into the background. Much to your amazement, you have so much in common: you enjoy the same hobbies, music, restaurants and movies. You even like each other’s friends. You can finish each other’s sentences. When you pick up the phone to call your partner, he or she is already on the line calling you. You are completely in sync. Everything is perfect, just the way you imagined it would be. When little, annoying things pop up, they’re dismissed and overlooked.

At no other time in your relationship is your feeling of well-being and physical desire for each other as intense as it is during this romantic period. The newness and excitement of the relationship stimulates the production of chemicals in your bodies that increase energy, positive attitudes and heighten sexuality and sensuality. You feel good in your partner’s presence and start to believe that he or she is bringing out the best in you. Depression sets in when you’re apart. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be together. You never run out of things to say. Never, never, have you felt this way before. “It must be love,” you tell yourself. While in this naturally produced state of euphoria, you decide to commit to spending the rest of their lives together. “And why not,” you reason, “we’re perfect together.” And marry, you do.

Unless you elope or opt for a simple, judge’s chambers-style wedding, your euphoria takes a temporary nosedive as you plan and execute your wedding. Once you get past the superhuman challenges dealing with family politics and hosting a modern-day wedding, your starry-eyed obsession with each other re-emerges and takes you through the honeymoon period. At last, you are one. You have committed your lives to each other forever- soul mates in the eyes of God and the world. And for a period of time, nothing could be more glorious. But soon, your joy gives way to an inevitable earth-shattering awakening; marriage isn’t at all what you expected it to be.

Stage Two- What was I thinking?
In some ways, stage two is the most difficult because it is here that you experience the biggest fall. After all, how many miles is it from bliss to disillusionment? Millions. What accounts for this drastic change in perspective? For starters, reality sets in. The little things start to bother you. You realize that your spouse has stinky breath in the morning, spends way too long on the toilet, leaves magazines and letters strewn on the kitchen counter, never wraps food properly before it’s put in the refrigerator and, to top things off, snoring has become a way of life. There are big things too.

Although you once thought you and your spouse were kindred spirits, you now realize that there are many, many differences between you. Although you share interests in hobbies, you disagree about how often you want to participate in them. You like the same kinds of restaurants, but you enjoy eating out often while your partner prefers staying home and saving money. Your tastes in music are compatible, but you prefer quiet time in the evening while your mate enjoys blasting the stereo. You have many common friends, but you can’t agree on which nights to see them.

You’re confused about what’s going on. You wonder if an alien abducted your partner and left you with this strange and complicated being, a person with whom you can’t agree on a single thing. You argue about everything. “Who is this obstinate person I married?” you ask yourself. “What was I thinking?” You knew life wouldn’t always be a bed of roses, but you never thought all you’d get was a bed of thorns. You figured that love would carry you through the rough spots, but you didn’t imagine there’d be times you didn’t feel love. You feel so disillusioned and you wonder if you made a mistake. When you remind yourself you made a life-long commitment, you start to understand the real meaning of eternity.

Ironically, it is in the midst of feeling at odds with your once kindred spirit that you are faced with making all sorts of life-altering decisions. For example, it is now that you decide whether and when to have children, where to live, who will support the family, who will handle the bills, how your free time will be spent, how in-laws fit in to your lives, and who will do the cooking. Just at the time when a team spirit would have come in mighty handy, spouses often start to feel like opponents. So they spend the next decade or so trying to “win” and get their partners to change, which tr

Stage Three- Everything would be great if you changed
In this stage of marriage, most people believe that there are two ways of looking at things, your spouse’s way and your way, also known as the Right Way. Even if couples begin marriage with the enlightened view that there are many valid perspectives on any given situation, they tend to develop severe amnesia quickly. And rather than brainstorm creative solutions, couples often battle tenaciously to get their partners to admit they are wrong. That’s because every point of disagreement is an opportunity to define the marriage. Do it my way, and the marriage will work, do it yours and it won’t.

When people are in this state of mind, they have a hard time understanding why their spouses are so glued to their way of seeing things. They assume it must be out of stubbornness, spitefulness or a need to control. What they don’t realize is that their spouses are thinking the same thing about them! Over time, both partners dig in their heels deeper and deeper. Anger, hurt and frustration fill the air. Little or no attempt is made to see the other person’s point of view for fear of losing face or worse yet, losing a sense of self.

Now is the time when many people face a fork in the marital road. They’re hurt and frustrated because their lives seem like an endless confrontation. They don’t want to go on this way. Three choices become apparent. Convinced they’ve tried everything, some people give up. They tell themselves they’ve fallen out of love or married the wrong person. Divorce seems like the only logical solution. Other people resign themselves to the status quo and decide to lead separate lives. Ultimately, they live unhappily ever after. But there are still others who decide that it’s time to end the cold war and begin to investigate healthier and more satisfying ways of interacting. Although the latter option requires a major leap of faith, those who take this leap are the fortunate ones because the best of marriage is yet to come.

Stage Four- That’s just way s/he is
In stage four, we finally come to terms with the fact that we are never going to see eye-to-eye with our partners about everything and we have to figure out what we must do to live more peaceably. We slowly accept that no amount of reasoning, begging, nagging, yelling, or threatening changes our partners’ minds. We look to others for suggestions; we seek religious counsel, talk to close friends and family, attend marital therapy, read self-help books, or take a relationship seminar. Those of us who are more private look inward and seek solutions there.

We more readily forgive our spouses for their hardheadedness, and recognize that we aren’t exactly easy to live with either. We dare to ask ourselves whether there’s something about our own behavior that could use shaping up. When disagreements occur, we make more of an effort to put ourselves in our partner’s shoes and, much to our surprise, we have a bit more compassion and understanding. We recognize that, as with everything in life, we have to accept the good with the bad. Fights happen less frequently and when they occur, they’re not as intense or as emotional as in the earlier years of marriage. We know how to push our partner’s buttons and we consciously decide not to. When we slip, we get better at making up because we remind ourselves that life is short and very little is worth the pain of disharmony. We learn that when you’ve wronged your spouse, love means always having to say you’re sorry. We mellow. We let things roll off our back that might have caused us to go to battle before. We stop being opponents. We’re teammates again. And because we’re smart enough to have reached this stage, we reap the benefits of the fifth, and final stage.

Stage Five- Together, at last
It is really a tragedy that half of all couples who wed never get to stage five, when all the pain and hard work of the earlier stages really begins to pay off. Since you are no longer in a struggle to define who you are and what the marriage should be, there is more peace and harmony. Even if you always have loved your spouse, you start to notice how much you are really liking him or her again. And then the strangest thing starts to happen. You realize that the alien who abducted your spouse in stage two has been kind enough to return him or her to you. You are pleased to discover that the qualities you saw in your partner so very long ago never really vanished. They were just camouflaged. This renews your feelings of connection.

By the time you reach stage five, you have a shared history. And although you’d both agree that marriage hasn’t been easy, you can feel proud that you’ve weathered the storms. You appreciate your partner’s sense of commitment and dedication to making your marriage last. You also look back and feel good about your accomplishments as a couple, a family and as individuals. You feel more secure about yourself as a person and you begin to appreciate the differences between you and your spouse. And what you don’t appreciate, you find greater acceptance for. You feel closer and more connected. If you have children, they’re older and more independent, allowing you to focus on your marriage again, like in the old days. And you start having “old day feelings” again. You have come full circle. The feeling you were longing for during those stormy periods is back, at last. You’re home again.

About the marriage map
I’m certain that if more couples realized that there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they’d be more willing to tough it out through the downpour. The problem is, most people fool themselves into thinking that whatever stage they are in at the moment, is where they will be forever. That can be a depressing thought when you’re in the midst of hard times. And in marriage, there are lots hard times- unexpected problems with infertility, the births of children (marital satisfaction goes down with the birth of each child), the challenges of raising a family, children leaving home, infidelity, illnesses, deaths of close friends and family members. Even if there is lots of joy accompanying these transitional stages, it’s stressful nonetheless. But it’s important to remember that nothing lasts forever. There are seasons to everything in life, including marriage.

Also, it’s important to remember that people generally don’t go through these stages sequentially. It’s three steps forward and two steps back. Just when you begin to feel more at peace with each other in stage four, a crisis occurs and you find yourselves slipping back to stage three- change your partner or bust! But if you’ve been fortunate enough to have visited stage four, sanity sets in eventually, and you get back on track. The quality and quantity of love you feel for each other is never stagnant. Love is dynamic. So is marriage. The wiser and more mature you become, the more you realize this. The more you realize this, the more time you and your spouse spend hanging out in stage five. Together again, at last.

Michele Weiner-Davis, Author of Divorce Busting

Marriage: ‘I Stayed’

There’s power in knowing you and your spouse are in it for the long haul.

Source:  Christy Scannell

One of the advantages of living in San Diego, aside from the fantastic weather, is that we have two theaters that stage Broadway-bound shows, both to test how they fare with audiences and to get out the kinks before hitting the Great White Way.  In the last few years I’ve seen several of these big productions, some winners (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and others not (The Full Monty).

A few years ago, my husband, Rich, and I zipped over to the Old Globe Theatre to take in A Catered Affair.  We agreed the musical had its plusses and minuses, but one of the standouts was Tom Wopat (yes, that guy from the Dukes of Hazzard) singing a lump-in-the-throat-inducing number, “I Stayed.”

To understand the impact of this song, you have to know that Wopat plays a 1950s middle-aged husband whose wife, among other issues, is accusing Wopat’s character of having never really loved her.  They married because she was pregnant, so she always suspected he rather would have been anywhere but with her.  Now that their daughter is marrying and moving out of their home, she frets over what kind of life she will have with this man who only tolerates her.

In response to her anxiety, Wopat angrily belts out, “I stayed.”   The song goes on to explain how perhaps she wasn’t his first choice, but he is confident he did the right thing by marrying her.  And most importantly—he stayed.  In other words, his loyalty to her, he felt, was his way of showing he loved her.  It might not have been a storybook romance, but theirs was a solid, faithful marriage that produced two children and, one would assume, a lot of family memories.

Needless to say, Wopat’s powerful song produced many tears in the audience (even from Faith Prince, who plays his wife).  I think that is because most of us know the value of “staying.”  Regardless of how a marriage comes about—from love at first sight to a shotgun ceremony—it’s more than anything a decision to say, “No matter what happens, I’m sticking with you—I’ll stay.”  And to say it over and over again.

I’m reminded of this commitment’s influence every week when I read in our Sunday newspaper the feature on a local couple celebrating a notable anniversary.  Somewhere in the piece the couple is asked some form of, “How on earth did you stay married for 50 (or more) years?”  Without fail, the couple responds in the fashion of, “We stuck out the bad times and celebrated the good ones.”  In other words, they stayed.

When Rich and I married, we agreed it was for life.  Regardless of what the church teaches, we all know Christians get divorced at the same rate as the rest of the American population.  We knew we couldn’t go into a marriage with that as a looming option.  So we looked each other in the eye weeks before our wedding and made a pact that we would work out whatever problems came our way.  There would be no “growing apart,” no “irreconcilable differences,” no “dissolution.”  While we agreed to the same things in our marriage vows a few months later, I’ll never forget the muscle of our plain language that day when we said, in essence, “Whatever happens, we will stay.”

Lest you think this understanding moves us beyond the occasional squabble, may I point out that he is Irish and I am Scottish?  Yes, we fight.  We accuse.  We toss a few barbs.  I slam doors and he raises his voice.  Sometimes we go a whole day without talking.

But it’s all for naught.  Even when we’re at the height of an argument, eyes narrowed and faces flushed, deep down we know it all will end peacefully.  There won’t be any moving out or filing papers.  Within hours, or sometimes minutes, there are tears and hugs and “sorrys” and weak smiles.  Later, it’s almost as if the disagreement never happened. Life goes on.

Someday when our fiftieth anniversary approaches, I hope the newspaper (if such a thing still exists!) interviews us.  When the reporter asks the requisite “How did you do it?”  I’ll reach my wrinkled hand over to clasp Rich’s and say, “Because—we stayed.”

 

 

 

 

Marriage: Scheduling Intimacy

Putting sex on the calendar makes it a date to remember!

(by Jill Savage)

The young mom on the other end of the phone poured out her frustrations. She desired sex, but her husband could care less. As the parents of five, all under the age of six, they rarely found time for each other outside the bedroom, let alone inside. She confessed that she felt they were more like roommates than lovers. I listened with understanding. As a mother of five myself, I know the struggle of keeping our family marriage-centered, not child-centered. I know the difficulties in finding time for just the two of us. And I know the challenge of differing sexual drives.

When she finally paused to catch her breath, I explained some of the strategies Mark and I found to keep our marriage a priority. We talked about creative date ideas, inexpensive childcare options, and the importance of connecting on a daily basis. I asked her if she and her husband ever considered scheduling their sex life. She responded with an awkward silence.

Finally, she laughed and said, “You’re kidding, right? Sex is supposed to be spontaneous. Nobody schedules sex.” Pencil it in-in code!

For 22 years of marriage, Mark and I have been at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to our sex drives. Mark thinks about sex once every 17 seconds. I think about it once every 17 days. And this wasn’t our only marital challenge. Eventually, we found ourselves in a marriage counselor’s office.

Our differing sex drives were just one issue of many in our hurting relationship. During that healing season, we learned some new strategies for communication, conflict resolution, and compromise concerning our sexual differences. That’s when we first discovered the concept of scheduling sex.

At first, just like that young mom, we couldn’t get past the misconception that sex isn’t something to be scheduled. Who says sex should always be spontaneous? Movies, television shows, magazine articles, and romance novels, that’s who! If we’re not careful, we begin to use the media to determine what’s “right” or “normal.” But then, we’re using the wrong measuring stick. We can’t allow our culture or the media to set direction for our relationship. Instead, we need to apply our God-given creativity to find the time and set the strategies to make our sex life within marriage work. Once we were able to grasp that scheduling sex wasn’t such a crazy idea, we put it into place within our partnership. Today, we’re still amazed at the transformation it brings to our physical relationship.

How does planned lovemaking benefit a marriage?

Consider these advantages:

It eliminates “The Ask”

In most marriages, one partner possesses a higher desire than the other and requests sex more often, while his or her partner rarely asks for physical intimacy. For the spouse with a higher desire, the fear of rejection often sets in. One becomes weary of having to ask, or even beg, for sex on a regular basis.

When a couple can agree upon a basic schedule for sex in marriage, it takes the guesswork out. While this still leaves room for occasional spontaneity, it reassures the higher-sex-drive mate that it will happen, and not only that-they know when! Usually, the schedule is less often than the partner with a higher desire would want and more frequent than the partner with a lesser desire may want. Instead, it’s meeting on middle ground.

It increases desire

For the partner with a diminished desire, scheduling sex engages the brain, the largest sex organ in the human body. The brain needs to be clued to prepare the body for a sexual response. Most people who have a lower sexual drive simply don’t think about sex very often. Scheduling jumpstarts this process.

Once sex is on the calendar, it provides a reminder to think about sex, prepares us mentally for being together physically, and primes us to “get in the mood.”

When I complained to a friend about having trouble getting in the mood, she said, “Jill, you’re trying to go from making meatloaf to making love in 30 seconds flat? You can’t do that. You have to have a strategy for going from point A to point B.”

Rarely does the partner with an increased desire need to get “in the mood.” In contrast, the partner with a lesser desire may need to work at it. When sex is on the calendar, though, it serves as a prompt to set strategies in motion. Scheduling sex reminds spouses that they’re working together toward the goal of intimacy, valuing their appointed rendezvous, and doing whatever it takes to make it happen.

It increases anticipation

When lovemaking is kept on the front-burner, it builds anticipation. Both husband and wife begin to prepare for their marital recreation.

Have you ever thought of sex as recreation? It is! God gave us the gift of sex as a form of recreation in our marriage. It’s our own private playground where God intends for us to enjoy physical pleasure.

When sex is on the schedule, we enjoy planning our time together, because we both hold the same goal. We can even become a lifelong learner of giving pleasure to each other. Keeping a couple of Christian sexual technique books on the shelf may develop us into connoisseurs of giving physical pleasure to each other, and it builds anticipation as we think about the next time we’ll be together.

It allows for prime-time planning

He prefers nighttime when he can be romantic. She prefers daytime when she’s not so tired. They decide that twice a week lovemaking is on their calendar-Tuesday at noon (he comes home for lunch and she arranges a sitter for the kids) and Friday at night (after a warm bath and an evening of watching a movie together or going out on a date). This schedule worked well for one couple we mentored.

Most couples not only differ in their desires concerning frequency of sex, but also in the atmosphere that’s conducive to sex. Some struggle with making love anytime children are in the vicinity. Others prefer a certain time of the day. When you put your lovemaking on the calendar, you can work to accommodate those likes/dislikes to meet the needs of both.

It helps couples prepare physically

I used to tease my husband that once we got on a lovemaking schedule, it sure took the pressure off shaving my legs every day! On a serious side, there’s value in preparing yourself physically to make love to your mate. A hot bath or shower, a freshly-shaved body, and some great-smelling lotion often relax us for physical intimacy. It also builds anticipation as you prepare to be with your spouse.

If weariness keeps you from being excited about sex, an early evening nap may be just the key if lovemaking is on the agenda that night. Since some of the guesswork is out of the mix, we can prepare not only mentally, but physically.

It builds trust

If we’re going to commit to lovemaking on a regular basis, we need to honor our word and agreement. When we honor our word, it builds trust and deepens intimacy. On the rare occasion that something prevents your regularly scheduled lovemaking, spouses need to communicate their value of sexual intimacy so they can make alternate plans to meet those physical and emotional needs. This is the key to successfully calendaring your intimacy.

Several weeks after that initial conversation, I spoke with that young mom. Her voice held enthusiasm I hadn’t heard before. I asked her how things were going, and she indicated that she and her husband were working on some new ways to energize and invest in their marriage.

She concluded by saying, “Now don’t bother calling Friday around noon, because no one is going to answer the phone!” I knew that she learned the same secret we learned years ago. While spontaneous sex may have its place in life, scheduling sex always has its place on our calendar!

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Jill Savage (www.jillsavage.org/) serves as the executive director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org). She is the author of four books including Is There Really Sex After Kids? (Zondervan)

The Secret to a Lasting Marriage: Embrace Imperfection

SOURCE:  Deb Graham

When I was a little girl, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.

On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage, and extremely burned toast in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his toast, smile at my mom, and ask me how my day was at school.

I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that toast and eat every bite! When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said: “Baby, I love burned toast.”

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his toast burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, “Debbie, your momma put in a hard day at work today and she’s real tired. And besides-a little burnt toast never hurt anyone!”

In bed that night, I thought about that scene at dinner and the kindness my daddy showed my mom. To this day, it’s a cherished memory from my childhood that I’ll never forget. And it’s one that came to mind just recently when Jack and I sat down to eat dinner.

I had arrived home, late as usual, and decided we would have breakfast food for dinner. Some things never change, I suppose!

To my amazement, I found the ingredients I needed, and quickly began to cook eggs, turkey sausage, and buttered toast. Thinking I had things under control, I glanced through the mail for the day. It was only a few minutes later that I remembered that I had forgotten to take the toast out of the oven!

Now, had it been any other day — and had we had more than two pieces of bread in the entire house — I would have started all over. But it had been one of those days and I had just used up the last two pieces of bread. So burnt toast it was!

As I set the plate down in front of Jack, I waited for a comment about the toast. But all I got was a “Thank you!” I watched as he ate bite by bite, all the time waiting for some comment about the toast. But instead, all Jack said was, “Babe, this is great. Thanks for cooking tonight. I know you had a hard day.”

As I took a bite of my charred toast that night, I thought about my mom and dad, how burnt toast hadn’t been a deal-breaker for them. And I quietly thanked God for giving me a marriage where burnt toast wasn’t a deal-breaker either!

You know, life is full of imperfect things-and imperfect people. I’m not the best housekeeper or cook. And you might be surprised to find out that Jack isn’t the perfect husband! He likes to play his music too loud, he will always find a way to avoid yard work, and he watches far too many sports. Believe it or not, watching “Golf Academy” is not my idea of a great night at home!

But somehow in the past 37 years Jack and I have learned to accept the imperfections in each other. Over time, we have stopped trying to make each other in our own mold and have learned to celebrate our differences. You might say that we’ve learned to love each other for who we really are!

For example, I like to take my time, I’m a perfectionist, and I’m even-tempered. I tend to work too much and sleep too little. Jack, on the other hand, is disciplined, studious, an early riser, and is a marketer’s dream consumer. I count pennies and Jack could care less! Where he is strong, I am weak, and vice versa.

And while you might say that Jack and I are opposites, we’re also very much alike. I can look at him and tell you what he’s thinking. I can predict his actions before he finalizes his plans. On the other hand, he knows whether I’m troubled or not the moment I enter a room.

We share the same goals. We love the same things. And we are still best friends. We’ve traveled through many valleys and enjoyed many mountaintops. And yet, at the same time, Jack and I must work every minute of every day to make this thing called “marriage” work!

What I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults – and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences – is the one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting marriage relationship.

And that’s my prayer for you today. That you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your married life and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Because in the end, He’s the only One who will be able to give you a marriage where burnt toast isn’t a deal-breaker!

Impossible Marriage Situation

(Question/Answer re “Impossible Marriage” Situation by Michelle Wiener-Davis, Author of Divorce Busting.)

I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING, BUT NOTHING WORKS !!!

QUESTION —
Dear Michele:
“I’m working on my marriage, but it still isn’t working.” Michele, after reading your books (Divorce Remedy, Divorce Busting and Getting Through to the Man You Love), I have one question: The underlying assumption of all three books is that you DO love your spouse. I am in a situation in which I don’t really love my spouse, and actually often don’t like or respect him. Yet he is a good father, and our children are incredibly devoted to our little family. I definitely believe that a divorce would be the best thing for ME (and probably for him), but the worst thing for my children. It’s been hard for me to try to divorce bust because I can’t seem to get over the hump of feeling I’m knocking myself out to work on something I don’t really want, namely, staying married to my husband. Does this mean mine is just one of the marriages that can’t be saved? Most of the posts I read on the boards seem to be from people who WANT their spouses. Any comments would be appreciated, and I’m sure would be enlightening to many on the board, because I’ve heard from many about to be Walkaway Wife’s who feel the same way I do — little, if any, love or respect for our spouses, and little, if any, desire to be married to them. Thank you. Jenny

ANSWER —
Dear Jenny,
You ask an interesting question and I hope my response will be helpful.

First, I want you to know that your assumption that my books presuppose love for one’s spouse is completely incorrect. My books presuppose a commitment to working on one’s marriage. It is absolutely true that when you love your spouse, it makes going through the hard times more palatable and sharing the good times more enjoyable. No question about it. But I don’t assume people reading the books love their spouses.

I know you won’t like what I’m about to say, but I can tell from your post that you have never really committed to working on your marriage. Yes, I know you’ve had a telephone consultation and some counseling. But that doth not commitment make. Too many people say they’re working on their marriages when they drag their bodies to therapy or talk to some sort of expert. That’s not even scratching the surface. Working on your marriage means making the decision to be there in spirit, not necessarily to be head over heels in love when you start, but to invest yourself fully.

Working on your marriage means giving of yourself completely, putting your spouse’s needs before your own- and vise versa. It means quitting the game of keeping score. It means forgiving and letting go. Working on your marriage means focusing on people’s strengths and downplaying their shortcomings. It means not expecting to have all or even the majority of your needs satisfied by one person. It means vowing to have a full and satisfying life of your own so that you don’t blame your spouse unfairly about your unhappiness. It means appreciating the little things and overlooking life’s annoyances. It means recognizing that no one, not even you or me, is perfect.

I’m not sure why I think this, but I have a distinct feeling that you are holding on to resentments from the past. (I don’t even know you but the feeling is there nonetheless). It seems to me, that your current willingness to stay is built on guilt and self-sacrifice rather than any pleasure derived from the gift you would be giving your children and “your little family” and as a result, yourself. As long as you look at staying through the eyes of resentment, you will not be able to fully immerse yourself in what you need to do to make your family truly work.

Unfortunately, no one, not your parents, friends, family, therapist, clergy or me, can make the decision to have a good, healthy family for you. Only you can make that choice. You have been sitting on the fence- staying but holding back. (Maybe that’s why you chose Paradox as your username.) This won’t get you where you need to go. I can promise you that. Make a decision. Own your decision. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you’re working on things when you’re not. If you feel you can’t forgive and start fresh, take ownership of that. Go. However, you know my first choice. But in the end, that doesn’t really matter. Yours is the choice that matters. If you choose marriage, the rest is relatively easy. You decide. Love is a decision.
Michele

Three Pitfalls to Avoid in an Empty Nest Marriage

SOURCE:  Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates / FamilyLife Ministry

Bess and Gary couldn’t wait for the empty nest. Raising their kids had been tough. They’d had different approaches to discipline, they’d struggled on a tight budget, and they’d postponed many of their dreams in order to be with their kids. Now the last one was leaving, and they felt they had done the best they could. Finally, they were about to be free from the daily stresses of parenting. They were excited. They couldn’t wait for it to be “just us” again.

Shelly’s situation was just the opposite. She had poured her life into her kids; they had come first. Now, as the last child got ready to leave, she was scared, really scared. ”I don’t even feel like I know my husband. I haven’t been alone with him since I was 26. Our whole life has revolved around the kids. Now what will we talk about at the dinner table? What will we do on weekends? I don’t even know if I have energy left to put into this relationship. And, I don’t know if I want to.”

When your kids begin leaving the home, empty nest couples are forced to consider marriage in a new light. This can be wonderful or it can be scary. You may be thrilled as you look forward to a second honeymoon season with your spouse. Or you may be asking yourselves, Without the kids, do we have enough to hold us together?

Most likely, you will respond with a mixture of both fear and excitement. Yet at some point you will wonder, What will my marriage look like now? Anticipating the hurdles in the road ahead is essential to a good marriage in the empty nest season.

Three common pitfalls

As Christians we believe there is an enemy of our souls who wants our marriages to fall apart. Part of the problem is we don’t often recognize this enemy or his tactics. Instead, we think the problem is us or, more likely, our spouse.

In order to successfully transition your marriage into the empty nest years, you should watch for three common pitfalls that many marriages face in middle-age.

1. A critical spirit. How many middle-aged couples do you know who are still in love with each other and whose marriages you admire? How many do you know who regularly criticize, condemn, and alienate each other?

Newlyweds seem to have cornered the market on being in love. And why is that? They usually have the time and focus. Empty nest couples have the same two commodities; the challenge is to capitalize on them.

We’ve noticed that, for an empty nest wife, it is all too easy to fill the void left by the kids with criticism of her husband. With the kids gone she tends to focus more on her spouse. It’s easy to find fault with what he has done or left undone, to revisit old wounds, to fret about the way she thinks things should be.

Why do we wives do this?

Partly because we are hurting and sad for our loss, partly because we know our husbands too well, partly because we have been mothering for so long we switch our attention from our kids to our husband without thinking. Unconsciously we become critical and we don’t even realize what we are doing. It’s so subtle.

Once you do recognize what is happening, it’s time to change course. Making changes can sometimes be as simple as deciding: You make the choice to give your husband the benefit of the doubt, to not comment on everything he does or doesn’t do, to focus on the things you appreciate about him, and to verbally express gratitude.

2. Emotional divorce. It is so very common to arrive at the empty nest and feel some level of isolation. This has been true for both of us. During transition we are especially vulnerable to this drift as each spouse processes life’s changes differently.

It might happen like this: He’s hurt me again. It’s the same old thing. There’s no use trying to talk it through. I just can’t go there again. It’s too exhausting, too painful. We’ll live in the same house and carry on, but I can’t keep trying. I can’t share with him at a deep level anymore.

Picture a glass patio door. In a sense what you are doing is shutting the glass door on your marriage. You still see your spouse, but there’s a barrier between you.

This is emotional divorce—the road to isolation.

When you are pulled this way, recognize what is happening and make the decision to take a hammer and begin breaking the glass. How do you do this? Refuse to give in to the temptation to pull away from your spouse and, instead, talk through the issues. Ask a wise couple whom you trust to talk with you, or get counseling if needed.

Your marriage is too important to let it fade away. A thick glass panel doesn’t crumble instantaneously. It takes constant chipping away until the barrier finally crumbles. In the same way, you need to be patient and chip away at your issues, knowing that God is for your marriage and He wants to remove the thick glass in order that fresh air might blow in and rejuvenate your marriage.

3. An affair. If you fail to stop the drift toward emotional divorce, you will become increasingly vulnerable to an affair. Infidelity in women rarely takes place on the spur of the moment. Instead, these types of relationships usually begin with an emotional affair: He understands me better than my husband does. He appreciates me in ways my husband does not. He finds me attractive. I am drawn to him. When we talk, I feel like he really listens to me.

It’s helpful to ask yourself, Am I believing in a fantasy or seeking the truth? God’s Word says that you are to flee from, not flirt, with temptation. You must run away from those temptations and run toward your spouse instead.

No limits

When driving a car, we are dependent upon road signs that signal speed limits, merging traffic, dangerous curves, and other warnings. These signs are in place for our safety. In a similar way, we share these warnings about the road ahead for the safety of your marriage. We are both strongly for marriages thriving, not just surviving. Knowing what the dangers are is the better part of avoiding them.

Remember: Your spouse is not your enemy. He is your partner.

You’re on the same team, and there is no limit to the new ventures that are available to empty-nest couples. In planning for and pursuing these ventures together, your marriage can thrive. Ask God to give you wisdom and watch Him work in ways that will go beyond your plans and even your dreams. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

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Excerpted from Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest ©2008 by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates. Published by FamilyLife Publishing.

Q&A: Am I Empathetic Or Enabling?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: I would like to have you explain what “enabling” the emotionally abusive person means? The balance of walking the Christian walk, being empathic and caring and submitting to my husband but not enabling is a very difficult line for me to draw. I don’t think I enable, and my husband is not physically or verbally abusive, but he is emotionally abusive without knowing it, even though I have tried to raise his awareness of it. The Christians I confide in say that I am an enabler, but I do not like that term…and I don’t feel I am. Can you clarify?

Answer: It’s difficult to hear people tell us something about ourselves we don’t believe is true. And you’re right, sometimes it is a fine line. It might be helpful for you to ask them what they see in you that makes them think you enable your husband’s emotional abuse. But let me give you four red flags that might indicate enabling behavior.

1. Do you ever lie, cover up, or make excuses for your husband’s emotionally abusive behaviors? You might have a very good reason like you don’t want to embarrass him or disrespect him by calling it what it is, but right now, just be honest with yourself.

Sometimes we think that this is our duty or responsibility as a submissive wife or godly person to cover up sin, but I don’t believe God wants us to exchange the truth for a lie or call evil good.

The apostle Paul says that we are to have nothing to do with the unfruitful deeds of darkness but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11). When abuse remains hidden and secret, it flourishes.

2. Do you do regularly change your behaviors, stuff your feelings, or guard what you say just to keep the peace, prevent an argument, or make him happy?

Again in any marriage, there is a fair amount of give and take and at certain times for good reasons we might do any of the above. But when we are the one who is doing most of the accommodating or significantly changing who we are or stuffing how we feel then the relationship is unhealthy.

For example, perhaps your husband is insecure and jealous. For those reasons he does not want you to work, or go to bible study, or even go to the mall without him. To accommodate such controlling demands actually enables his insecurity and jealousy to flourish, not to change and heal. That’s where the fine line between submission and enabling starts to blur. Do you submit to your husband’s demands to stay home all the time or is it actually better and healthier for you, for him, and for your marriage to challenge them?

3. Are you doing things for your husband that he should be doing for himself? Again in marriage, there are times spouses do extra favors for one another. But when you are the one doing the most of the work and your spouse is not sharing those responsibilities, you are enabling him to be selfish, lazy, and indifferent.

4. Are you taking the responsibility or blame for things that you are not responsible for? For example, when your husband loses his temper and says “if only you were more organized, or more submissive, or cooked better, or didn’t upset him” do you enable him to blame shift and make you responsible for his bad behaviors?

Now in each of these things, you cannot change your husband. You may be doing all you can and he still may be emotionally abusive. You can’t make him help you, or take responsibility for his own emotional outbursts, or be more secure and less threatened.

I don’t know your particular story or what your spouse is doing that you feel is emotionally abusive, but you can and must look at the part you play to see if you are enabling his behaviors to flourish and grow without protest or consequence.

Conflict is a Normal and Natural Part of Your “Happily Ever After”

SOURCE:  Aaron & April Jacob/Gottman Institute

When Sara and Ryan were newly married, they experienced a handful of frustrating conversations that evolved into emotionally-charged disputes.

Sara was devastated.

She thought that their relationship was in a bad place and that they were, perhaps even worse, doomed for divorce.

That’s because Sara loathes conflict. Like, really, really loathes it. And so, whenever things aren’t going perfectly well in her relationship, she’s a total mess.

Her husband, Ryan, has always been okay with conflict and doesn’t feel a need for things to be resolved immediately. While Sara is the type of person who never wants to go to bed angry, Ryan is a firm believer that going to bed angry is sometimes the best option.

You see for Sara, conflict breeds stress and the false assumption that her marriage is terrible, irreparable, and that it might end in divorce even though she and her husband are both deeply committed to making it work and staying together through thick and thin.

What Sara didn’t realize as a young love-struck newlywed is an important lesson for all married couples: conflict in marriage is inevitable.

One more time: conflict in marriage is inevitable.

In fact, not only is conflict in marriage inevitable, but it’s also perfectly normal. It’s a part of life. Why do you think wedding vows include phrases like “for better for worse,” “for richer for poorer,” “in sickness and health,” and “through thick and thin?”

They include those phrases because a) the people who wrote those vows are pretty smart and have experienced this thing we call “marriage” and b) conflict is an unavoidable part of life, and therefore, an unavoidable, and even important part of your “happily ever after” — even though it’s not something you see in the movies!

In reality, Sara was in error over the years by believing that if there was conflict in her marriage, she couldn’t be truly happy since conflict was a clear sign that her marriage was doomed to fail. Sara was in error by thinking that a happy marriage was synonymous with the absolute extinguishment of all conflict. So. Not. True.

Sara was wrong. Way wrong! And perhaps that’s because Sara and Ryan had limited conflict-management skills and sometimes even used The Four Horsemen. Gasp!

To Sara, and others like her, it’s time to realize this truth taught by Dr. Gottman:

“It’s a myth that if you solve your problems you’ll automatically be happy. We need to teach couples that they’ll never solve most of their problems.”

Really? Sara and Ryan will never solve most of their problems? Yup, that’s right.

Thankfully, the key to a happy marriage isn’t to eliminate all conflict. Mind-blowing!

Dr. Gottman says, “Although we tend to equate a low level of conflict with happiness, a lasting relationship results from a couple’s ability to manage the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship.”

Did you catch that? Being happy now and living happily ever after comes “from a couple’s ability to manage the conflicts that are INEVITABLE in any relationship.”

Conflict is inevitable — no matter who you marry. Please don’t fall for the fallacy that you wouldn’t be dealing with X conflict if you had married Bob, because Bob would have come with his own set of problems. You know it’s true.

Because of this, gaining the skills and developing the ability to successfully navigate conflict becomes critical in creating happiness and harmony in your marriage.

So, what are those specific skills that will lead to happiness now and to your “happily ever after” in the future?

Dr. Gottman has provided the following six skills to help couples learn how to manage conflict and live happily ever after:

  1. Practice physiological self-soothing

Take a timeout when conflict arises. Go for a walk, take a bath, read a book, do whatever it takes to breathe, calm down, and return to a better frame of mind. How long is the perfect amount of time for a break? According to Dr. Gottman, it’s 20 minutes.

  1. Use a softened startup

It’s true that conversations usually end on the same note they began, so start softly. Don’t blame. Use “I” statements. Describe what is happening. And be polite.

  1. Repair and de-escalate

Use scripted phrases like “Let me try again,” “I don’t feel like you are understanding me right now,” and “I’m sorry” to help de-escalate and begin making repair attempts.

  1. Listen to your partner’s underlying feelings and dreams

Perpetual gridlocked problems between you and your partner often conceal underlying feelings and dreams that aren’t getting communicated. So, start by contemplating what your dreams are and how you can communicate them more clearly to your partner. Second, become a better listener and seek to discover your partner’s deepest feelings and dreams. The purpose of this skill is to truly understand who your partner is deep down inside in order to accept influence and compromise together.

  1. Accept influence

Recognize that your partner has good ideas and important opinions (shocker — your way isn’t always the best way or the right way). Show respect for those opinions and find something you can learn from your partner. Take this quiz to see where you most need to improve when it comes to accepting influence.

  1. Compromise

Compromise is an art. What’s Dr. Gottman’s advice? “Compromise never feels perfect. Everyone gains something and everyone loses something… the important thing is feeling understood, respected, and honored in your dreams.” So work together with your partner to find common ground and compromise that will leave you both feeling valued, respected, and supported.

If you practice these six skills from Dr. Gottman and learn to manage conflict in positive and healthy ways, then happily ever after can be yours today and everyday as you recognize conflict for what it is — an opportunity to learn, grow, progress, and live a full and meaningful life now.

 

The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling

SOURCE:  Ellie Lisitsa /The Gottman Institute

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death respectively. We use this metaphor to describe communication styles that, according to our research, can predict the end of a relationship.

Criticism

The first horseman is criticism. Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an ad hominem attack. It is an attack on your partner at the core of their character. In effect, you are dismantling their whole being when you criticize.

The important thing is to learn the difference between expressing a complaint and criticizing:

  • Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
  • Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish. You never think of others! You never think of me!”

If you find that you are your partner are critical of each other, don’t assume your relationship is doomed to fail. The problem with criticism is that, when it becomes pervasive, it paves the way for the other, far deadlier horsemen to follow. It makes the victim feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt, and often causes the perpetrator and victim to fall into an escalating pattern where the first horseman reappears with greater and greater frequency and intensity, which eventually leads to contempt.

Contempt

The second horseman is contempt. When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean—we treat others with disrespect, mock them with sarcasm, ridicule, call them names, and mimic or use body language such as eye-rolling or scoffing. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.

Contempt goes far beyond criticism. While criticism attacks your partner’s character, contempt assumes a position of moral superiority over them:

“You’re ‘tired?’ Cry me a river. I’ve been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic video games. I don’t have time to deal with another kid. Could you be any more pathetic?”

Research even shows that couples that are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, etc.) than others due to weakened immune systems! Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner—which come to a head when the perpetrator attacks the accused from a position of relative superiority.

Most importantly, contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce. It must be eliminated.

Defensiveness

The third horseman is defensiveness, and it is typically a response to criticism. We’ve all been defensive, and this horseman is nearly omnipresent when relationships are on the rocks. When we feel unjustly accused, we fish for excuses and play the innocent victim so that our partner will back off.

Unfortunately, this strategy is almost never successful. Our excuses just tell our partner that we don’t take their concerns seriously and that we won’t take responsibility for our mistakes:

  • Question: “Did you call Betty and Ralph to let them know that we’re not coming tonight as you promised this morning?”
  • Defensive response: “I was just too darn busy today. As a matter of fact, you know just how busy my schedule was. Why didn’t you just do it?”

This partner not only responds defensively, but they reverse blame in an attempt to make it the other partner’s fault. Instead, a non-defensive response can express acceptance of responsibility, admission of fault, and understanding of your partner’s perspective:

“Oops, I forgot. I should have asked you this morning to do it because I knew my day would be packed. That’s my fault. Let me call them right now.”

Although it is perfectly understandable to defend yourself if you’re stressed out and feeling attacked, this approach will not have the desired effect. Defensiveness will only escalate the conflict if the critical spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner, and it won’t allow for healthy conflict management.

Stonewalling

The fourth horseman is stonewalling, which is usually a response to contempt. Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shuts down, and simply stops responding to their partner. Rather than confronting the issues with their partner, people who stonewall can make evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive or distracting behaviors.

It takes time for the negativity created by the first three horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes an understandable “out,” but when it does, it frequently becomes a bad habit. And unfortunately, stonewalling isn’t easy to stop. It is a result of feeling physiologically flooded, and when we stonewall, we may not even be in a physiological state where we can discuss things rationally.

If you feel like you’re stonewalling during a conflict, stop the discussion and ask your partner to take a break:

“Alright, I’m feeling too angry to keep talking about this. Can we please take a break and come back to it in a bit? It’ll be easier to work through this after I’ve calmed down.”

Then take 20 minutes to do something alone that soothes you—read a book or magazine, take a walk, go for a run, really, just do anything that helps to stop feeling flooded—and then return to the conversation once you feel ready.

The Antidotes to the Four Horsemen

Being able to identify the Four Horsemen in your conflict discussions is a necessary first step to eliminating them, but this knowledge is not enough. To drive away destructive communication and conflict patterns, you must replace them with healthy, productive ones.

Fortunately, each horseman has a proven positive behavior that will counteract negativity. Click here to learn about the antidotes.

Unrealistic Expectations Almost Destroyed My Marriage

SOURCE:  Taken fromThe Unveiled Wife by Jennifer Smith/Family Life

In the midst of my pain and self-centered complaining, I exhausted my husband and saddened God.

I had a plethora of marriage expectations that were formed as far back as early childhood. Many of those expectations were veiled, hidden in the deep places of my heart. For years I justified my notions of life and marriage, unaware of the devastating effects of those expectations if left unmet.

Entering marriage with such high expectations set my husband and me up for ruin. For example, trusting in my husband to be my everything was one of the most detrimental ways I hurt our marriage. I set my husband up for failure when I expected him to fulfill me completely.

When I wanted to feel worthy, I sought my worthiness in my husband. When I wanted to feel loved unconditionally, I sought love from my husband. When I wanted to feel comforted, cherished, validated, or encouraged, I sought those things in my husband and only in my husband. However, because my husband is human and prone to sin, inevitably he let me down and could not fulfill my needs completely. And in those times, I felt unworthy and unloved.

While some expectations are good—for example, I expect my husband to be faithful to me—when they move into unrealistic and unattainable places, they become destructive. My expectations were so lofty they hurt him. Aaron could never be my everything—he was never designed to be! And whenever I tried to make him fit that role, I unintentionally placed him as an idol above God, believing that he had the capacity to do more for me than God Himself.

With the strain Aaron and I were experiencing, we tended to be overly sensitive to conflict. It did not take much for us to offend each other, and I am embarrassed to admit I took advantage of retaliating when I felt I deserved something I was not receiving. When I became aware of any opportunity to point out fault, I didn’t hesitate to blame him. I complained about our living situation, about not having enough, about having only one car, about our finances, about our sexless life, about my husband’s flaws, about work, about anything I deemed worthy of complaint. Those unmet expectations flowed over into discontentment, which too often I nursed in my heart.

Not only did discontentment grow, but pride did as well, which grew into a sense of entitlement: I deserve better than this. And that mentality seeped not only into my marriage, but into my relationship with God. Unmet expectations of God’s role in my life lit a fire of anger within me. I believed being a daughter of the King meant that I would receive the best of everything. When it seemed as if God didn’t intervene, that anger spread like wildfire, consuming everything inside me, including my faith. I had high expectations for God to do the things I wanted, unable to grasp that God was more concerned about my character than my comfort. But in the midst of my pain and self-centered complaining, I exhausted my husband and I believe I saddened God.

After I spent several years repeating this same offense and suffering the consequences, God opened my eyes to the destruction of unmet expectations. God needed to transform me. He could do that only as I humbled myself and let go of my unrealistic and unmet expectations. Each time God humbled me, He used that experience to mold my attitude and character to reflect that of Christ and to shape my expectations to more closely align with His, which in all honesty are better than what I could ever dream of.

The transformation I underwent didn’t happen immediately. Rather, the process was spread out over time as I sought to know God and make myself known to Him—a process that continues to mature me every day.

Joy and contentment defend me from the barrage of unmet expectations. If I don’t have joy, those notions wreak havoc in my heart, turning it against the ones I love. I know because it happened countless times. It took me years of suffering and loathing in self-pity, guilt, and brokenness even to begin to understand the power of pure joy.

Joy springs up where contentment thrives, and contentment is produced through sincere thankfulness. The greatest constant I have found to help sustain me and give me strength and hope, no matter what the circumstance, is to cling to the joy of the Lord. God’s Word tells me, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10).

God taught me how to be thankful by sharing specific things I am grateful for with God and with my husband. As thankfulness fills my heart to the brim with contentment, I find myself living with extraordinary joy, regardless of unmet expectations or circumstances or past hurts.

God showed me the value of being a wife of faith, a wife who trusts Him wholeheartedly, who is confident of her worthiness and purpose. I choose to be a wife who believes she can change and believes her husband can be transformed into the man God designed him to be, and I choose to strive to affirm him in truthfulness.

I desire to be a wife of faith who can persevere no matter the circumstance because she is full of hope, which is the foundation of her motivation. I believe as I choose to walk in the Spirit, love will pour out and bless my marriage. With God’s help I can endure. I can have a thriving marriage. But it requires faith and hope.

7 Ways to Overcome a Push-Pull Dynamic in Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Dan Neuharth, Ph.D., MFT

Intimate relationships can go south when partners get stuck in a pursue-withdraw cycle. In this push-pull dance, one partner seeks greater connection but grows increasingly critical when connection is elusive. The other partner seeks greater autonomy and increasingly withdraws in the face of complaints and pressure.

Underneath this frustrating cycle lies the differing attachment styles of partners. It’s estimated that half of all adults have an insecure attachment style that can lead to either a pursuing or distancing stance in relationships.

Pursuing partners fear rejection or abandonment, and seek reassurance from their partners through closeness and connection.

Withdrawing partners fear being controlled or crowded, and seek relief through independence and autonomy.

Here is an online quiz to help you identify if you have a pursuer-withdrawer relationship.

On some level, pursuers know that chasing a withdrawer is counterproductive. But pursuers fear that if they don’t try to increase connection it will never happen. This leaves pursuers feeling trapped in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t dynamic which can lead them to criticize their partners.

Withdrawers know on some level that the pursuer wants closeness but it can feel overwhelming or frightening to provide it. Withdrawers fear that giving in to demands for more connection will lead to losing themselves in the relationship. The withdrawer, too, feels caught in a damned-either-way dynamic: Give in and feel trapped, or resist and receive mounting criticism.

The result can be frequent conflict, a cold-war atmosphere, chaos or drama. In time, this weakens the bonds of a relationship so much that the relationship may end.

Here are seven effective ways to deal with a pursuing-withdrawing dynamic in your relationship:

1) Recognize That the Problem is the Cycle, Not Your Partner

Withdrawers tend to deny, ignore or distance from relationship problems. Pursuers tend to magnify the focus on problems. Together, they create a push-pull dance that alienates both.

To improve your relationship it helps to recognize that this cycle, not your partner, is the enemy of your relationship.

Focus on changing the dance, not on changing your partner. It helps to view problems as happening to the relationship, not to your personally. This promotes a “we” mindset rather than a “you vs. me” mindset.

2) Reckon With the Costs of the Dance

A pursuer-withdrawer cycle is costly. It leads to stress, strain, alienation, conflict, frustration and a lack of intimacy.

Few withdrawers come closer when they feel pressured or chased. By the same token, few pursuers say positive things to a partner who they feel is depriving or rejecting them. Both stances create a self-reinforcing cycle.

While it takes time and work, you can break this costly cycle. Withdrawers need to soothe their fears of engulfment, communicate and participate more with their partner, and be more transparent. Pursuers need to soothe their fears of abandonment, reality test their worst-case scenarios, and be more self-reliant.

Both individuals need to stop seeing their partners as either the problem or potential solution.

3) Honor Each Other’s Differences and Needs

Pursuers and withdrawers in the same situation can have vastly different experiences of time. For a pursuer who is desperate to discuss relationship issues, an hour talking about a relationship may provide just a taste. But to a withdrawer, an hour may feel endless and overwhelming.

By the same token, for a withdrawer, a day without contact may feel like a breath of fresh air, while to the pursuer it may feel like torture.

It helps if withdrawers reassure pursuers that there will be time to talk and spend time together. That can allow a pursuer to self-soothe.

It helps if pursuers reassure withdrawers that they can have their space, that they won’t be criticized for it, and will be welcomed when they return. This can allow a withdrawer to feel free to move closer without fearing they will lose themselves.

4) Anxiety Is the Problem, So Managing Anxiety Is the Solution

Both pursuers and withdrawers are anxious. Pursuers fear being alone and tend to believe that if only their partner would stop distancing, their anxiety would go away. Withdrawers fear being overwhelmed and tend to believe that if only their partner would stop pressuring them, their anxiety would disappear.

Deep down, both want connection, love, and to be seen and accepted for who they are.

Anxiety can bring out the worst in us, triggering primal fears and primitive coping behaviors.  In believing that the solution to the problem lies with the other person’s actions, both partners give up their power.

In truth, pursuers need to calm their anxiety by coming to know they are sufficient and okay on their own. Withdrawers need to calm their anxiety by learning that they can get close without being destroyed. These realizations give both partners the power to manage their anxiety.

5) Share Power

One helpful exercise is to agree to take turns calling the shots. For example, a couple can designate an hour, an afternoon, or a day in which one person gets to decide what they do and whether they do it together. The next hour, afternoon or day, switch roles. This way each partner can experience knowing their time will come to have their needs met.

6) Question Your Assumptions

Over time we create a narrative about our partners and relationships and tend to gather evidence to support our viewpoint.

If we see our partner as uncaring, we may grow self-protective, critical or dismissive. But what we view as uncaring behavior may simply be our partner’s style.

For example, if a withdrawer wears a new shirt and the partner asks, “When did you buy that?” the withdrawer, who may be used to feeling criticized or interrogated, may assume judgment rather than curiosity.

Instead, a pursuer could say, “I like that shirt, is that new?” The withdrawer then knows there is positive intent in the question and can relax.

By the same token, when a pursuer hears their partner say, “I am going for a run,” they may feel rejected or unwanted. But if a withdrawing partner says, “I love you. I am going for a run now. I look forward to our evening plans,” the pursuer can feel reassured.

7) Don’t Forget the Magic of Relationships

An intimate relationship is an opportunity to share your needs, fears and longings. Sharing your vulnerabilities is one of the key reasons we seek a primary partner. Don’t let the pursuer-withdrawer dance get in the way of this.

If you were raised in a dysfunctional family with insecure attachment styles, you may have inherited a win-lose, top-bottom, zero-sum-game worldview of people and relationships.

This may feel so familiar that you know no other model. However, the template for living that you inherited is not one that you must endlessly carry out.

Magic can happen when pursuers can tell their partners: “I feel vulnerable, lonely, and afraid but I know you are not the source of those feelings.”

Magic can also happen when withdrawers can say: “I feel irritable, trapped, and smothered but I know you are not the source of those feelings.”

Your relationship can achieve a much deeper level if you own and express your feelings without making your partner responsible for causing or fixing them.

The Wife Code: How to Really Understand What She is Saying

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Yes, Susan and I both speak English. But after 27 years of marriage, I’ve determined that Susan (and most other women) have a double secret female code that they completely understand, but we men don’t.

I’ve determined that it’s time to decode it. In order to do so, I’ve confidentially spoken with several female informants who have helped me to decipher just some of their secret code. Those informants have asked to remain anonymous out of fear that other wives will shun them for disclosing what has remained a mystery for all these years.

So for all the men out there who thought it was impossible to understand women, here is a key for decoding your wife’s words:

1. “I’m fine” means “I’m not fine, but I’m not ready to talk about it.”

This is a classic line that most husbands have heard. The instant you hear it, you know that everything is certainly not fine. And even though you may want to work it out right away, sometimes it’s best to just give her some time and space. Be sure to let your wife know that you’re sorry if you hurt her feelings in some way and that you’re ready to talk when she is.

2. “Didn’t you go out with your friends last weekend?” means “I know for a fact that you went out with your buddies last Friday night, and I want to spend time with you this weekend.”

Your wife is very aware of how you spend your time. And where you invest your time is one important sign of what you value. She wants to be valued and cherished. So sure, spend time with your friends, but let her know she’s always number one.

3. “How was your day?” means “I want to reconnect with you.

Most couples don’t spend all day, every day together. There are jobs and kids and things to be taken care of. So when your wife asks about your day when you get home, this is her way of trying to reconnect after being in different worlds. Instead of a one-word answer, give her a story or two that will make her feel close to you again.

4. “What are you doing today?” means “I’ve got some things that I want you to do.”

It’s Saturday morning and your wife asks the question, “So what are you doing today?” What she’s saying to you is: If you don’t have any really important plans, don’t make any because I’ve got a lengthy honey-do list that you need to get done.

5. “Do you need some help with that?” means “I want to be a part of your team.

Let’s take the time you were trying to fix the TV. In the midst of the tangle of cords and your growing frustration, your wife asks if she can help. You immediately assume she must be questioning your abilities and doubting your skills, but she may simply be trying to love you well by offering her help. So rather than push her away, let your wife support you with what you’re doing.

6. “Let’s talk about this some more” means “I don’t agree, but I want to understand and support you.

Life is full of decisions — from small, daily ones to huge, life changing ones. A big part of marriage is being able to make choices together with your spouse. So when your wife wants to discuss a decision, it’s important to recognize that she isn’t automatically disagreeing. Her intention is to be wise and find a compromise that you can both agree to.

7. “We should go out this weekend” means “I want you to take initiative and make the plans.

I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of continuing to date your spouse all through your marriage. While some couples have a weekly date night, Susan and I found that a date every other week was more realistic when our kids were growing up. So when your wife mentions the coming weekend, this is a very planned comment. She is trying to give you a clue that she wants to feel special and loved by going out with you. So take the hint and plan something romantic for the two of you. For some creative date ideas, check out my blog 8 Outside-the-Box Date Ideas.

8. “Is there something you’re forgetting?” means “There’s definitely something you’re forgetting.

Your wife knows there are certain days when you have a busy schedule ahead of you and are more apt to overlook things. So when your wife specifically asks if you’re forgetting anything, the answer is most often a big “Yes!” Whether it’s your lunch on the counter or a goodbye kiss for her, be sure to stop and pay attention when your wife mentions this.

9. “You don’t have to get me anything for my birthday” means “I do want something, but I want you to put time and energy into picking it out.

The important thing to realize is that all thoughtfulness and specialness is taken away the moment your wife has to tell you what to get her for her birthday. Instead, a gift is a great way to show her how well you know her and love her. So put some thought and energy into giving your spouse a present she won’t forget. If you have no idea what to get, try asking one of her friends.

While there is so much more to decode, I hope this helps you to better understand your wife. And, by the way, please don’t let her know that you know some of the secret code.

Learn to Speak Your Partner’s Love Languages

SOURCE:  Katereina Fager/The Gottman Institute

After many years of being in a relationship, you might find yourself not fully understanding and communicating well with your partner. You might wonder what’s wrong with the two of you, and you might feel confused. You’re both speaking the same literal language, but when this kind of disconnection happens between partners, you aren’t speaking the same love language.

There may not be anything wrong with your relationship other than the differences in your ways of communicating and expressing love. You might just be speaking a love language that your partner doesn’t fully understand, or your partner speaks a love language that you have yet to learn.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, there are five ways to “speak” and understand emotional love. But many couples don’t know about love languages and are often surprised when they learn about them. Chapman describes those five love languages as:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

As a child, you probably learned to receive and give love in specific ways. Perhaps your parents regularly hugged you and told you how much they love you (Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation). Or, instead, they showed their love by always driving you to and from soccer games and cheering you on (Acts of Service, Quality Time), even if they weren’t the hugging types.

Simply put, that’s how your parents expressed their love for you, and you may have adopted those love languages as your own.

But, later in life, you began a relationship and perhaps got married, and eventually the message you are trying to express to your partner is not received or acknowledged as an expression of love, even if that is your intent.

The reason for that disconnect is that both of you probably show and express love in different ways, or have different love languages. You might question the depth and strength of your love, or you may feel uncared for, which can cause tension. Unfortunately, this can lead to emotional and physical disconnection between you both.

But the best way to find and examine your love languages is to look closely at how you express your love to each other. Maybe you like to be touched and need to hear words like I love you, you are beautiful, you look great, and so on. Therefore, your love languages would be Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch.

But maybe you don’t get that from your partner. Maybe, in the past, you asked for a nice massage but your partner declined to give you one. This could make you feel upset, sad, or angry and, over time, you simply give up and stop asking.

Maybe your partner is expressing their love by doing little things for you here and there, such as folding the laundry or bringing home your favorite snack, but you don’t recognize it or acknowledge it. But Acts of Service and Receiving Gifts might be your partner’s love languages, and your partner might expect the same expressions of love from you.

In this predicament, it’s important to have a calm, in-depth discussion about the ways in which you both like to express and receive love. Try asking open-ended questions about what kinds of words or actions indicate love for your partner, and how they like to express their love for you. See if you can learn why they have a particular love language, where that might come from, and what it means, physically and emotionally, for them.

When you start exploring your love languages with your partner, you might think, wow, why didn’t I know this before?

Being loved in the way that you understand and appreciate is important to any relationship, so it’s in both of your best interests to learn how to speak each other’s love languages. This can help you overcome frustration and disconnection and bring you closer to feeling loved and secure in your relationship.

Pretty soon, you may not feel like you’re speaking different languages at all. You’ll stop feeling confused or like something is wrong, and, in time, you’ll learn how to express love for each other in ways that are more impactful and meaningful for you both.

It may take a few conversations to fully understand each other’s love languages, and it will take practice and patience to put those expressions of love into action, but the end result—feeling loved and secure in your relationship—is worth the effort.


Marriage Isn’t About Your Happiness

SOURCE:  

What true love will you teach you about you.

Did you ever think someone could show you love through a bologna sandwich?

I didn’t think so either.

Until I found out that my then-boyfriend-now-husband (a poor, broke, medical school student at the time) spent close to two months eating bologna sandwiches every day in order to cut down his grocery budget to $10 a week, just so he could save up enough money to buy me an engagement ring.

The truth is, marriage will cost you.

When you think of the cost of marriage, what comes to mind?

According to recent statistics, the average couple today spends $26,444 on a wedding. That’s a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the real costs of marriage. Because like it or not, marriage will cost you more than money. It will cost you something great. It will cost you a price much larger than the money you spend on a ring or a wedding or a honeymoon—it will cost you yourself.

I heard a married man on TV say (regarding whether or not he was going to stay in his own marriage), “I shouldn’t be with someone if I’m not happy.” It’s an attitude many people have, and hearing it made my stomach turn.

What an accurate reflection of the self-centered society we live in, everyone believing their main goal in life is their own personal happiness. What a small and shallow way to live.

If you’re getting married with your own happiness as your main goal, you will be disappointed in a severe way.

Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love—which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving—and then doing it all over again.

No wonder we choose divorce overcommitment. Because often, we’re choosing “personal happiness” over real commitment, over real love.

They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. I have definitely found that phrase to be true in my relationship with my husband. Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small.

It’s about offering forgiveness when you’ve been hurt.

It’s about giving your time though it’s not always convenient.

It’s about sharing your heart when you’d rather hold back.

It’s about cleaning the kitchen after a long weekend, even if it’s your least favorite job.

It’s about choosing to respond with love when you’d rather respond in anger.

It’s about offering a listening ear, when you’d rather tune out or go to bed.

It’s about putting someone else’s needs and desires before your own.

It’s about giving up that last bite of cake, just so your spouse can enjoy it.

It’s about laying down your rights, to make way for the rights of another.

The list could go on and on, but it always ends with the same formula: You before me. And we before I.

We live in a world that despises the sacrificial side of marriage and tries to wish it away. They teach to strive for power, control and the upper hand in a relationship. They tell us to do what feels right, and not to tolerate anything less. They fool us to thinking that love is about doing what makes us happy. And the second we feel less than happy, they encourage us to bail, to abandon ship and to stop investing.

But they’ve got it all wrong.

Because the more we give, the better we become. Real love is not self-seeking, and it will always cost you. It will cost your heart, your time and your money. It will cost your comfort, your rights and your pride. It will cost you to “lay down your life” for the life of another. And only those who learn to die to themselves are the ones who get to experience the resurrection power that comes with it—resurrection into real love, into real life, and into meaningful relationships.


This article is taken from an excerpt of Debra’s newest book, Choosing Marriage: Why it Has To Start With We > Me

Does a Good God Want Me in a Bad Marriage?

SOURCE:  Sabrina Beasley McDonald/Family Life Ministry

Editor’s note: As the author states early in this article, her intent is to address unhappy marriages in which there is no unrepentant adultery, abandonment, or repeated physical abuse. As she writes, “They were simply struggling with what most marriages deal with: miscommunication, financial disagreements, selfish attitudes—the things often excused as ‘irreconcilable differences.’” These are the conditions in most problem marriages—and our desire is to encourage these couples to seek reconciliation. However, if you are married and are suffering from physical abuse, this article is not for you. You need help. We suggest reading Dennis Rainey’s article, “Responding to Physical Abuse,” which lists several practical steps to take.

A friend of mine finally walked out on her husband. She was tired of his excuses and irresponsibility. She was finished with his criticisms and cutting remarks. In her mind, enough was enough, and it was time to end the marriage.

Yet as she described their relationship, I couldn’t help but think that this marriage didn’t need to end in divorce. There was no unrepentant adultery, abandonment, or repeated physical abuse. They were simply struggling with what most marriages deal with: miscommunication, financial disagreements, selfish attitudes—the things often excused as “irreconcilable differences.”

When I later talked with her, I asked if she knew that God said, “I hate divorce …” (Malachi 2:16). Or that Jesus specifically addressed divorce in Matthew 19:8-9 saying, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

My friend said she heard this before and added, “But I cannot believe that a good God wants me to suffer in a bad marriage. He wants me to be happy.”

It was a response I’ve heard a dozen times from other women in similar circumstances, and it’s a question that plagues the hearts of many marriages today: If God is good, could He possibly want me to be unhappy? Doesn’t He see that staying in my current marriage would cause me a lot of pain? Can I call God “good” if He allows me to suffer in a bad marriage?

Does God want me to suffer?

No one enjoys pain. Quite the opposite—we long for contentment. The “pursuit of happiness” is so valued in America it’s an unalienable right in the Declaration of Independence.

It’s not wrong to desire pleasure. As a matter of fact, the Bible teaches that God delights in doing good things for His children. Jesus said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

The problem is that God also calls us to righteousness, and often that requires giving up our personal happiness for the greater good. This is referred to as sacrifice, and it’s never easy, fun, or “happy.”

The apostle Paul reminds us that part of the Christian life is suffering for the sake of the cross. “… We are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:16-17, emphasis mine).

As Christians we are even called to rejoice and be glad in our trials because troubles are valuable to our character and spiritual growth. Romans 5:3-5a says, “… We also exult [rejoice] in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint … .”

So does God want us to suffer? Suffering for the sake of pain is not His desire, but there is a reason why we go through it.

You may be wondering how anything positive could possibly come from your hurting marriage. The apostle Paul wrote, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis mine). Christian marriage is not exempt from this principle. Just as we are called to sacrifice in our spiritual walk, we are also called to endure suffering in marriage for the sake of righteousness.

Even though we seldom can see how God is using present trials for our future benefit, He has promised to use them for good, and He is faithful to keep His word. Here are just four of the ways He can bring about His purposes:

First, God is conforming you to His image. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Voluntary self-sacrifice is a necessary part of the Christian life. It is often praised on mission fields or behind pulpits, but in marriage, it’s far less glamorous. Nevertheless, self-sacrifice in marriage is just as Christ-like in God’s eyes.

Staying married isn’t always easy. It often requires that you give up the right to win, stifle your pride, and defer to the needs of your spouse. But the more you practice these principles, the more you become like Christ.

Ephesians 5 explains this phenomenon by referring to the relationship between Christ and the Church. “As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her …” (verses 24-25). Christ loved the church so much He died for her. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. In the same way, as these verses explain, when you give up your life for your spouse, you are conforming to the image of Christ who gave up His life for you.

Second, God is using these sufferings to bring you to deeper faith and repentance. Difficult times always bring us to our knees. They remind us that we are not in control, and only God is. During this experience you should be asking yourself, “How much of my suffering in this situation is caused by my own sin?”

In addition, prayer and reading Scripture will deepen your relationship with Him as you learn to trust in His sovereign control. These hard times can even give you a greater compassion for others going through tribulations.

Third, God is using these sufferings to teach your children how to resolve conflict. God has given you the responsibility to exemplify a godly marriage to your children. Psalm 78:5-8 declares:

For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments … .

God set up the family so that His principles could be passed down through generations. Your struggles give you the ability to demonstrate how to keep a promise through better or worse, how to give and receive forgiveness, and what sacrifice looks like.

Fourth and most important, God desires for you and your spouse to be reconciled. Our God is a God of reconciliation—He shows this over and over again throughout Scripture as He extends grace, mercy, and forgiveness to His people. When we reconcile a broken marriage, it is a picture of His relationship with us, His bride.

A bad marriage in the Bible

The Bible isn’t silent on the issue of tough marriages. The Old Testament tells the story of a righteous man named Hosea who was called by God to marry the prostitute Gomer. Even though Hosea was a kind and loving husband, Gomer left him over and over and ran back to her old lifestyle. Hosea’s marriage was not under the best circumstances. I certainly wouldn’t say it was “good,” but nevertheless, God told Hosea to go get his bride and bring her home.

I can imagine that there were times when Hosea wanted to give up. Why would he stay married to a woman who didn’t love him? Why should he rescue her from the world she loved? Why not move on to someone else who deserved his love?

Hosea was committed to Gomer because he loved God more than he loved comfortable circumstances. More than anything, he wanted to please God, instead of himself. As a result, God used Hosea’s marriage as an example of His unconditional, covenant-keeping love. God told Hosea, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes” (Hosea 3:1, emphasis mine).

Because we are in a covenant with Him, God has said He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). In the same way, choosing to stay married to your spouse despite the circumstances shows a love that is unconditional, long-suffering, and reflects the nature of God (see 1 Corinthians 13). If you have no other reason to endure the suffering in your marriage, do it because you love God. Do it because He asked you to.

Restoring your relationship

If you are in a bad marriage, the answer is not to dissolve the relationship, but it is to restore your relationship the way God has restored our relationship with Him through Christ. Stick through the hard times and work on the tough issues. Even though your present suffering is being used for your good, God has not left you without hope—He desires for your marriage to be restored. Here are five suggestions that will help during your journey to reconciliation.

First, look at yourself. No one is perfect (Romans 3:10). It’s easy to see the mistakes and annoyances that our spouses have. It’s much harder to look inward and identify the ways we contributed to the problems. Think through your marriage and seek the areas where you said or did something wrong. Then ask forgiveness from your spouse. You will be amazed how this small step could eventually turn your bad marriage into a good one.

Second, identify your real enemy. At FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, we are reminded that our spouses are not the enemy—Satan is. Ephesians 6:12 says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” One of his greatest weapons is to trick you into blaming someone else, usually your spouse, for problems. When you start to bicker and quarrel, remember that your true enemy is the one who seeks to destroy your marriage.

Third, meditate on God’s Word daily. The proper way to battle Satan is with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). You won’t know how to use a sword if you’ve never handled one. The same is true for God’s Word—you won’t know how to wield its power if you don’t read and study. When Satan attacks, the Word of God will give you wisdom and the power to withstand his fiery darts.

Not only is God’s Word a weapon, it is also a guide for life. There are dozens of Scriptures regarding wisdom in everyday living—conflict resolution, handling money, roles of husbands and wives, parenting. You can find the answers you need if you will only look for them. Supplement your reading with Christian authors who can help you understand biblical concepts.

Fourth, appreciate your spouse. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Perhaps you’ve forgotten that your spouse has good qualities. At one time you were attracted to him or her in some way. What were those things that made you fall in love? Once you’ve thought of something, verbalize it or put it in a letter. You’ll be amazed at what a kind word can do for your relationship.

Fifth, pray for your spouse. It’s difficult to harbor bitterness against someone when you’re praying for that person. The more you pray, the more God will change your heart, and you will see a dramatic difference in your attitude. If possible, begin praying together. In his book Two Hearts Praying as One, Dennis Rainey says, “When you pray together, you multiply your joys, divide your sorrows, add to your experiences with God together, and help subtract your haunting past from your life.”

Finally, take action to restore your marriage. What makes a marriage good is hard work and a resolve to stay married. No matter how easy it seems for other people, no marriage can work automatically. Don’t let Satan fool you into thinking that no one else experiences problems or that yours aren’t solvable. If you remove divorce as an option, you’ll find that there are ways to build into your relationship: Attend a Weekend to Remember®, read articles from Christian marriage websites, read books and materials from Christian marriage experts. And then apply these biblical principles to your life.

Pursue all avenues of reconciliation before divorce: professional Christian counseling, intervention with your pastor, and personal forgiveness. Read “Finding a Christian Counselor” to help you find the assistance you need.

There’s no secret formula to dealing with a difficult marriage. Just because you are suffering now, don’t give up on the blessing that God is using to mold you and your spouse into His image. It may not seem like a good marriage at this time, but wait and see what God has in store for you … I’m willing to bet you’ll be glad you did.

You’re Not Allowed to Complain About Not Getting What You Didn’t Ask For

SOURCE:  Angilyn Bagley/The Gottman Institute

You’ve probably done this before.

You come home from a long day at work, and nothing sounds better to you than a nice back scratch.

You snuggle up to your partner so that their hands are placed perfectly on your back. You roll your shoulders in a motion that universally signals, “scratch my back.” But they don’t get the hint.

Slightly frustrated, but not yet defeated, you position yourself behind them and start scratching their back. As soon as you’re finished, they turn to you and say, “Gee…thanks, honey. That was sure sweet of you.”

And then…nothing. They don’t return the favor.

Wait…what?

You roll over feeling hurt and resentful. They broke the #1 rule every logical person should know! If someone scratches your back, you must scratch theirs!

I mean, what rock have they been living under? Back scratching isn’t the only area where we see this kind of nonverbal agreement that shouldn’t even have to be spoken and everyone should just know.

For example:

  • If you buy your wife flowers and chocolate, she’ll want to have sex with you, right?
  • If you spend the evening making a delicious dinner for your partner, they’re bound to help you with the dishes, right?
  • If you bat your eyelashes, turn around three times, and put the green mug on the bathroom counter, your partner should automatically know that you want them to put the kids to bed, right?

Is this starting to sound a bit ridiculous? Well, that’s because it is. Unless you married Mel Gibson in the movie What Women Want, chances are very high that your spouse can’t read your mind.

You have to ask for what you need

Why is it so hard to ask for what you want? Like, with spoken and specific words—not just unspoken signals or secret codes?

One evening, I was babysitting my sister’s adorable two-year-old girl. It was time for her to go to bed, and I was helping her to put on her jammies.

“I want the purple ones.”

“No problem! Purple jammies it is!”

“Read stories.”

“Alright, let’s read a book!”

After we read of few of her favorites, which she had no hesitation pointing out to me, I placed her in her crib to go to sleep. She immediately grabbed my arm and said, “Ang-uh-winn sing song?” in her adorable voice.

My heart melted at the sound of her trying to say my name.

As I started singing her a lullaby she said, “Scratch my back?”

I started scratching her back while singing her a song, and it wasn’t too long before she fell asleep.

That little girl, at two years old, let me know exactly what she wanted from me in order to go to sleep peacefully. She set me up for success by expressing her needsin a clear and positive way so that I could fulfill them.

But what happens when we get older?

Sadly, the older my niece gets, people won’t be so kind or willing when she asks them what she wants. She might ask someone to scratch her back and they’ll tell her, “No.”

In fact, people might start telling her that asking for what she wants is selfish or rude.

There may come a time when she thinks to herself, “It’s best if I just keep quiet.”

There was a time in your life when this happened to you, too. You asked for something you wanted and got rejected. You learned how bad it can hurt when someone willfully dismisses your request, especially if it’s important to you.

You learned that it can be scary to ask for what you want, and that makes you vulnerable to let someone in on your hopes and desires.

No wonder it’s hard to ask for what you want! The second a request leaves your mouth, it’s up to the other person to decide whether or not to grant that request. It’s out of your control.

And who likes to feel out of control?

Instead, you keep your mouth shut. If your partner doesn’t pick up on your subtle clues, at least you don’t have to admit that it was something you wanted in the first place. Instead, you’re just secretly angry at them while they wonder what they did wrong.

Though it softens the blow of the rejection when you don’t speak up about what you need, it also doesn’t leave you any less resentful over not getting what you want.

Plus, it practically guarantees that you WON’T get what you want.

This habit is so ingrained in our society that you may be doing it without even realizing it. Let’s say you want help with the dishes, but you don’t say anything, and your partner is sitting on the couch watching TV.

How dare he sit while there are dishes to be done! You can feel your anger bubbling up inside you.

Without saying anything, you make sure to clank the dishes loudly, slam some cupboards while you put them away, sigh really loud and hope that he gets the hint that you’d really like some help.

And you think that you shouldn’t have to ask—he should just know!

Does this sound familiar to you?

What would be a better alternative to secret cues, signals, and non-verbal agreements that leave us disappointed and set our partners up for failure?

Simple. Learn to ask for what you want!

Use your words, and use them well

Nate and I have a motto in our marriage that came from Terry Real’s book, The New Rules of Marriage.

“You have no right to complain about not getting what you never asked for.”

Let that soak in for just a second.

You are not allowed to complain about not getting something that you never asked for. Period.

The next time you get angry about your partner not doing something, I want you to ask yourself, “Did I verbally ask them to do this?”

Now, there are many ways to ask for something that you want, and let’s just say that some ways work better than others. Let’s go back to the dishes example and look at a few of your options.

“I’m always cooking you dinner and you never help me with the dishes. You always just sit there in front of the TV while I do it? Why don’t you help me for a change?”

Woof. Using words like “always” or “never” is a surefire way of putting your spouse on the defense. This example of asking isn’t really asking at all. It’s criticizing your partner, and heavily so. This puts all the attention on how they’re the bad guy, instead of choosing to be vulnerable and respectfully expressing what you really want.

I can see this turning into a never-ending argument of, “Oh yeah? Well, you always do this, and you never do that,” going back and forth until the dishes get moldy and you forget about them entirely.

“Maybe, you know, you could help me with the dishes, if you want.”

Or, “If you have time, if it’s convenient for you, maybe you could try and help me with the dishes?”

Or even more classic, “Do you want to help me with the dishes, or would you rather just watch TV?”

These are all different ways of saying the same thing. In this situation, you are not expressing what you want. Instead, you are implying with your request that it is actually your partner that wants it, that it’s actually their idea. It takes the pressure off of you, and it puts the blame on them for not fulfilling a promise they never made.

This reminds me of a time we were helping with a social gathering at a neighbor’s house. Nate was in charge of putting out the snacks. He had left them in their original plastic container and just set them on the table.

The host of the party came to the snack table, turned to Nate, and in that passive-aggressive sing-song voice we all know said, “Do you want to put these treats on a separate platter?”

Nate replied, “No, I think they are fine in the plastic.”

She looked at him like he had just slapped her in the face.

He quickly realized his error and said, “I mean, yeah, of course I want to put them on a separate platter. There’s nothing more in this world that I want than to have these treats on a platter!”

It was awkward.

The answer to the question she asked him was, indeed, “No.”

No, he didn’t want to put them on a separate platter. He didn’t see the need to do so.

But, that wasn’t the question she was really asking, was it?

Can you see how it would have been so much easier if she had just said, “Hey, I’d love it if you put these on a separate platter so that it looks nicer for the guests.” Nate would have known exactly what she wanted and would have happily fulfilled her request.

“Can you please help me with the dishes?”

This example is better than the first two, and it’s a good place to start. Saying “please” is wonderful, respectful, and it makes it much easier for your spouse to want to help.

However, the request falls a little, well, flat. It doesn’t get across how much it would mean to you to receive that help you are asking for.

I can see getting a response like, “Sure honey, just let me finish this game first.” or “How about we just do them in the morning?”

There’s still too much room for failure with this example. You’ll need to communicate why you need the help, or how it’s important to you to receive help from your partner.

“Honey, I’d love some help with the dishes. I worked hard on making dinner tonight and I’d appreciate it if you helped clean up. Can we do the dishes together? It would really make me feel loved.”

This hits the nail on the head. First, you make your desire known—you’d really love some help with the dishes.

Second, you tell them why you’d like help with the dishes—because you worked really hard on dinner!

You give your partner clear expectations on when you’d like it done—right now.

And lastly, you tell them what it would do for you if they granted your request—it would help you feel loved.

How to set your partner (and you) up for success

Can you see why this would make it much easier for your spouse to say yes to your request? You’re giving them everything they need to give you what you need. You’re setting them up for success!

I’m not saying this will always get you what you want, but it definitely won’t hurt your cause. Notice that I said, “Learn to ask for what you want,” not just, “Ask for what you want.”

It takes practice, and it takes trial and error. Give yourself permission to be bad at it at first.

It might feel super uncomfortable or awkward in the beginning. You might stumble over your words or they’ll come out wrong. Let yourself sit with that discomfort. Be patient with yourself and don’t give up. Keep trying.

Mastering the skill of asking for what you want effectively, efficiently, and respectfully is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your partner.

Are You in an Abusive Relationship?

SOURCE:  Justin and Lindsey Holcomb/familylife.com

Editor’s note: Although this excerpt is addressed to women, we know domestic abuse happens to both men and women. If you believe you are in an abusive relationship, please seek godly counsel from your pastor or a counselor. Depending on your particular situation, you may also need to seek legal protection and make a safety plan. For a more complete exploration of what Scripture has to say about abuse, please read the Holcombs’ entire book, Is It My Fault: Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence.

An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you.

When the abuse first begins, many women in abusive relationships aren’t sure if what they are experiencing is abusive. In fact, one of the biggest hurdles to addressing domestic violence is that very few victims self-identify as experiencing abuse. Many think abuse happens to “those women” and don’t want to have the stigma of being one of “those women.”

The most telling sign that you are in an abusive relationship is living in fear of your spouse. If you feel like you have to walk on egg shells around him—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blowup—your relationship is unhealthy and likely abusive. Other signs include your spouse’s belittling of you, his attempts to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

An abuser typically has a well-stocked arsenal of ways to exert power over you. He may employ domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial, blame, and more. What’s more, he is often creative and strategic in when—and how—to put these to their most effective use.

None of this is your fault. Your abuser is the only one to blame.

And because he is so good at deceptively wielding control, it can often be difficult to discern if you are being abused. From the perspective of outside observers, these signs of abuse may be cut-and-dry. But for those trapped in the cycles of abuse, making sense of these complicated relational dynamics—especially when the relationship is intimate—can be suffocating and confusing.

If this is where you find yourself right now, here are some ways to discern if your relationship is abusive.

What the abuser does: eight common profiles

Some abuse victims may be so confused by the relational dynamics in their relationship—understandably so—that they need to hear stories and common experiences from others in order to make sense of their own. Some find it helpful to identify domestic abuse by understanding the common profiles of abusers—and recognizing their partner among them.

Since abuse is defined by an abuser’s behavior—not yours—we’ll start with identifying just that. Here are eight categories or personas abusers commonly exhibit:

  1. Bully
    • Glares
    • Shouts
    • Smashes things
    • Sulks
  2. Jailer
    • Stops you from working and seeing friends
    • Tells you what to wear
    • Keeps you in the house
    • Charms your friends and family
  3. Head worker
    • Puts you down
    • Tells you you’re too fat, too thin, ugly, stupid, useless, etc.
  4. Persuader
    • Threatens to hurt or kill you or the children
    • Cries
    • Says he loves you
    • Threatens to kill himself
    • Threatens to report you to social services
  5. Liar
    • Denies any abuse
    • Says it was “only” a slap
    • Blames drinking, drugs, stress, overwork, you, unemployment, etc.
  6. Bad father
    • Says you are a bad mother
    • Turns the children against you
    • Uses access to harass you
    • Threatens to take the children away
    • Persuades you to have “his” baby then refuses to help you care for it
  7. King of the castle
    • Treats you as a servant/slave
    • Says women are for sex, cooking, and housework
    • Expects sex on demand
    • Controls all the money
  8. Sexual controller
    • Sexually assaults you
    • Won’t accept no for an answer
    • Keeps you pregnant
    • Rejects your advances and allows sex only when he wants it rather than when you initiate

Belittling behavior

Does your spouse:

  • Yell at you?
  • Embarrass, insult, criticize you, call you names, or put you down?
  • Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your family or friends to see?
  • Put you down, but then tells you that he loves you?
  • Ignore or belittle your opinions or accomplishments?
  • Blame you for his abusive behavior?
  • Use any mistakes you made in the past against you?
  • Not allow you to disagree?
  • Ignore your feelings and ideas?
  • Tell you that you are a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
  • Act like the abuse is no big deal, tell you it is your fault, or even deny doing it?
  • See you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Controlling behavior

Does your spouse:

  • Act excessively jealous or possessive?
  • Withhold affection as a way to punish you?
  • Control where you go, what you do, and demand your whereabouts?
  • Keep you from seeing your family or friends?
  • Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • Withhold basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter)?
  • Make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
  • Restrict you to an allowance?
  • Prevent you from working or sabotage your job?
  • Steal from you or take your money?
  • Constantly check up on you?
  • Control your plans and friends?
  • Stop you from seeing your family or friends?
  • Force you to drop charges?

Violent behavior or threats

Does your spouse:

  • Hit, kick, slap, choke, burn, shove, shake, drag, bite, push, punch, or physically harm you in any other way?
  • Throw things at you?
  • Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • Threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • Intimidate you with guns, knives, or other weapons?
  • Destroy your property or belongings?
  • Threaten to kill your pet?
  • Force, threaten, or coerce you to have sex?
  • Destroy your belongings?

Three kinds of abuse

There are different kinds of abuse but all of them are wrong. To help you take inventory of your unique situation, let’s consider three different kinds of abuse:

Physical
When we talk about domestic violence, we are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. This means using physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack. And you have the right to protect yourself and your children, if you have them.

Sexual
Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Sexual assault includes rape, but it also includes coercion, intimidation, or manipulation to force unwanted sex. We define sexual assault as any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority.

Sexual assault is a display of power by the perpetrator against the victim. It is not a product of an “uncontrollable” sexual urge. In fact, it is not actually about sex at all; it is about violence and control. Perpetrators use sexual actions and behaviors as weapons to dominate, control, and belittle another person.

If you feel as though you are being pressured into sex or that you are doing something that you do not want in order to placate your spouse, then let us tell you now that your feelings are valid and that it is abuse.

Emotional
Most people can identify physical abuse—pushing, hitting, kicking—if it is happening in their relationship. Emotional abuse, on the other hand, is not always so easily spotted.

It’s harder to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong, and easier to minimize what’s really going on. It doesn’t leave you bleeding or bruised. The neighbors can’t hear it (not always) through the walls. But emotional abuse is no less destructive than physical abuse, and it is no less wrong.

The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence—a violent process, in that it degrades you and your sense of God-given worth. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you will have nothing.

So how can you identify if what you’re experiencing is emotional abuse? There are several ways. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behaviors are also signs of emotional abuse. Sometimes, abusers throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.

Emotional abuse also includes economic abuse such as withholding money and basic necessities, restricting you to an allowance, sabotaging your job, and stealing from you or taking your money.

These are just some examples. But if you don’t see your particular experience listed here, use this as a general guide: Does your partner do something deliberately and repeatedly that puts you down or thwarts your plans? If the person who is supposed to be providing love, support, and guidance is keeping you in a situation where you are constantly made to feel inferior, you aren’t in a healthy relationship.

Your thoughts and feelings

The descriptions above are focused on your spouse’s behavior, which are all the telltale signs of abuse. These next questions are for you—to determine how you feel regarding this behavior. The more “yes” answers here, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

Do you:

  • Feel afraid of your spouse most of the time?
  • Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • Feel afraid of your spouse’s temper?
  • Feel afraid to disagree?
  • Feel that you can’t do anything right for your spouse?
  • Believe you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • Have to justify everything you do, every place you go, every person you talk to in order to avoid your spouse’s anger?
  • Feel afraid to leave or break up because your spouse has threatened to hurt you, himself, or someone else?
  • Avoid seeing family or friends because of your spouse’s jealousy?
  • Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Reflect on your spouse’s abusive behavior. Do you see him in these descriptions? Can you see evidence that the behaviors were deliberate, controlled, or planned? Does he act differently toward you when there are other people around? How has he attempted to stop your resistance to his abuse? Does he treat others with respect, while treating you with disrespect?

Take a look at your own experience to get clarity on your situation. Our hope is that as we spell out the nuances of what you may be experiencing, you will be able to call it what it is, plain and simple—abuse.

 

 

5 Ways to Make Small Gestures Count in Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW/The Gottman Institute

One of the things that Jake appreciates about Kristin is her way of showing love through her actions. Jake puts it like this: “When I come home after a long day and Kristin is there, she usually gives me a hug and wants to know how my day went.”

According to a new study by researchers at Penn State University, you don’t need grand gestures to show your partner love. In fact, this team found that small gestures, such as hugging, holding hands, and regular acts of kindness all top the list of how most Americans report feeling loved and appreciated.

Kristin explains: “It’s the everyday moments that matter. Jake and I have found that little things make a difference. When I forgot to pay my cell phone bill, Jake noticed it lying on the counter unopened and quickly called in the payment so it wouldn’t be late.”

Look for ways to show love with small gestures

In The All Or Nothing Marriage, psychologist Dr. Eli J. Finkel explains that many easy actions, or “lovehacks,” aimed at improving your relationship can be done in five minutes or less. For instance, you can write your partner an endearing and charming love note, hold their hand, or give them a hug. Think of fun and special places to leave love notes.

Create daily rituals of connection

Dr. John Gottman recommends spending at 15-20 minutes daily having a stress-reducing conversation with your partner. Examine the schedules of family members and determine when there is a dependable time you are both available. Consider enjoying a daily walk together or unplugging and talking about your day over a cup of your favorite beverage.

You can create other rituals of connection, too, such as a six-second kiss (which Dr. Gottman calls “a kiss with potential”) before leaving the house or when coming home, or making sure to text each other throughout the day with positive, loving messages to help you both feel connected.

Make a habit out of using kind and polite words such as please, sorry, and thank you

Would you rather go to bed resentful, or would you prefer cuddling with your partner after repairing an argument? Studies suggest that couples who apologize when they’ve hurt their partner’s feelings (even if done so accidentally) and grant forgiveness have a more successful marriage. Apologizing and taking responsibility is an antidote to defensiveness, which is one of four negative behaviors that Dr. Gottman proved to consistently lower the quality of a relationship. And when you can make repair attempts, like apologizing after an argument, it helps to decrease tension and make you feel more connected to your partner.

Take action and offer support to your partner

This can include helping them complete tasks, run an errand, or finish a project. These positive actions lead to interdependence. As you coordinate your plans with your partner, you create a sense of purpose and shared meaning in your marriage. Creating a larger context of meaning in life can help couples to avoid focusing only on the little stuff that happens and to keep their eyes on the big picture.

In The Relationship CureDr. John Gottman explains that the small, intentional moments of kindness and connection have more power than isolated, excessive gestures when it comes to creating and sustaining lasting love. Therapist Liz Higgins, LMFTA, informs us that Dr. Gottman’s motto is “small things often,” which includes turning towards your partner as much as possible to create a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative interactions.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not important to celebrate big events such as anniversaries and birthdays with more grand gestures of love and romance, but just don’t forget to offer little, daily kindnesses to your partner, which are the most important gestures of connection.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

The Penn State University research team discovered that actions speak louder than words. “We found that behavioral actions—rather than purely verbal expressions—triggered more consensus as indicators of love. For example, more people agreed that a child snuggling with them was more loving than someone simply saying, ‘I love you,’” Heshmati said. “You might think they would score on the same level, but people were more in agreement about loving actions, where there’s more authenticity perhaps, instead of a person just saying something.”

Kristin reflects: “I never realized the importance of doing simple things to make Jake feel loved until he pointed it out. Growing up, my family wasn’t very affectionate but Jake lets me know how much a kiss on the lips and an embrace means to him.”

It would be easy for Kristin and Jake to neglect each other’s needs since they have two school-age children. Their sons both have demanding after school activities and play soccer on the weekends. However, Kristin and Jake embrace the notion that in order for their marriage to thrive, they need to pay attention to each other on a regular basis and intentionally turn towards each other’s bids for connection.

Jake speaks: “Kristin loves and appreciates me. Since we have kids, we make sure to go out for dinner at least once or twice a month by ourselves. We also show our love by the small things we do for each other like sending each other a loving text message during the day.”

In order to feel alive in your marriage, you need to put effort into spending quality time together—with an emphasis on giving small gestures of love. Responding positively to your partner’s overtures for connection will help you bring out the best in one another and keep your marriage fulfilling. Give your partner the gift of love and appreciation in small ways every day!

Adultery: Where Dead Men Lie — Letter to a Would-Be Adulterer

Source:  Greg Morse/Desiring God

Dear Husband,

If you value your life, if you cherish your manliness and honor, if you love your family and your God, listen to his voice. As she whispers in your ear, as her lips yield the sweetest honey, as her speech soothes and excites, listen to his words instead. Drown her lies in wisdom.

She entices, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (Proverbs 7:18). She says that she can satisfy your longings. She says that no one will know. She makes you feel desired, dominant. She crowns you a king.

And she can provide some of the promised pleasure — for a time.

But mark these three words: in the end.

In the end she is bitter as wormwood.” In the end she is “sharp as a two-edged sword” (Proverbs 5:4). In the end it would have been better to sleep every night embracing a Japanese Katana or a motion sensor grenade.

In the end you will realize that what you mistook as harmless pleasure, as “true love,” as the path to lifelong satisfaction, was the coffin where your reputation, your honor, your family’s flourishing and trust and — if unrepentant — your very soul goes to die. Her chamber of secrets is a chamber of death (Proverbs 7:25–27). Her bed is a graveyard where dead men lie.

Suicide of the Senseless

She will never lead to life (Proverbs 5:5). She does not even know where to find it (Proverbs 5:6). She gives no thought to Christ, to everlasting joy, to the narrow way. If you follow her, you go as an ox to the slaughter. You will end life with an arrow protruding from your liver (Proverbs 7:22–23).

If we could exhume the tongues of her dead victims, they would warn you, as that anguished rich man in torment, to avoid their fate (Luke 16:19–31). She lied in wait for each (Proverbs 7:12), seized upon their lust with kisses, and ferried them into Sheol.

The dead would cry, Adultery is the suicide of those who lack sense (Proverbs 6:32). None who touches her will go unpunished! (Proverbs 6:29).

Place your head on her pillow, and you write your name on a headstone.

Stay Far Away

And now, O husband, listen to me! Keep your way far from her. Do not go near her bed or even near the door of her house (Proverbs 5:8). Don’t fool yourself: you’re not strong enough to harmlessly chat via email, text late at night, meet up for a friendly drink. Stay away! Can you embrace fire and not get scorched (Proverbs 6:27–28)?

In the end — oh, that dreadful end — you will realize that it was not ultimately her fault, but your own. You will groan for your lust, when your flesh and body are consumed. You will wail, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to wisdom’s voice! I did not heed my best friend’s warning! I slowly muted my conscience and cast God’s word aside in my madness. And now I am at the brink of utter ruin in the rubble of a broken existence” (see Proverbs 5:11–14).

In life, you will be a shell of a man, a skeleton. The jagged pieces of shattered hearts will be your bed. If you have any conscience left, it will become an enemy. Old relations will cringe at your name. You will be a man worthy of contempt and dishonor (Proverbs 6:33).

And in death, if you have not been washed and made new in the blood of Christ, you will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). You will forever be the adulterer. A man who, by living for himself, lit his family on fire. A man who, in the end, will himself be lit with an everlasting flame.

Your Wife, Your Choicest Wine

Rather, “drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well” (Proverbs 5:15). Rekindle the passion that carried her across the threshold.

Drink deeply from her springs to refresh your love. Has your love proven feeble? Have grand promises now hushed into a whimper? Gird up the loins of your affection and play the man! You who would wrestle every challenge to the ground, and die in battle before conceding, will you now fall to fluttering eyelids? No. Rejoice in the wife of your youth!

She is a lovely deer, a graceful doe (Proverbs 5:18–19). Look at her — she sits with a thousand more reasons to love her than when you vowed to forsake all others for her. Rejoice in her! She still is that doe, that deer. Do not trade the doe for the skunk.

“Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight” (Proverbs 5:19). This includes the first time you brought her into the bedroom, the second time she bore your child, and the anniversary where you celebrated your third decade of marriage together. At all times. Be intoxicated always in her love (Proverbs 5:19). Get drunk in her passion, be inebriated with her smile, let the room spin as she walks in. She is your choicest wine.

Choose Life

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because all your ways — no matter how dimly lit the hotel room — are before the eyes of the Lord (Proverbs 5:21). Your wife may be away, but your Lord is not. The Judge of all the earth watches. He is there with you. And there will be a reckoning for the heinous deed — either at Calvary or in the lake of fire.

He invites you even now to choose life, choose peace, choose obedience.

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because the iniquities of the wicked ensnare the man who is, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin (Proverbs 5:22). You will get caught in your own web. Your family will be torn. Your name will be tarnished. And you will be bound by your own mischief.

Even the mighty Samson could not break such chains.

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because you will die for lack of discipline (Proverbs 5:25). God will not be mocked. Because of your lack of discipline, your lack of earnest limb-cutting, lack of genuine repentance and faith, you will be led away into hell (Matthew 5:27–30).

Dear husband, forsake not your precious wife. Forsake not your honor and manliness. Forsake not your witness. Forsake not your God. Let Christ’s fidelity and love win your heart afresh to your wife. Be intoxicated with your bride. And with our Groom.

What Should Be the Husband’s ‘Role’ in Marriage?

SOURCE: Dennis Rainey/Family Life

The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and father.

There is a story of a man who died and went to heaven to find two signs above two different lines. One sign said: “ALL THOSE MEN WHO HAVE BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” That line of men seemed to stretch off through the clouds into infinity.

The second sign read: “ALL THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN DOMINATED BY THEIR WIVES, STAND HERE.” Underneath the sign stood one man.

He went over to the man, grabbed his arm and said, “What’s the secret, how did you do it? That other line has millions of men and you are the only one standing in this line.”

The man looked around with a puzzled expression and said, “Why, I am not sure I know. My wife just told me to stand here.”

We have all heard jokes about “who wears the pants in the family.” Yet leadership in the home is no laughing matter. During the last few decades our culture has redefined the meaning and responsibilities of men and women in society and in the home. Many men are confused and insecure. Many do not know how to act in the home. Growing up, they lacked a good model for leadership at home and have no mental picture of what it means to lead a family. Consequently, they do not lead effectively, or they do not even try.Increasingly, many men are becoming passive in the home. They’ve decided that the easiest thing to do is nothing. The simplest thing—with the smallest risk—is to stay on the fence with both feet firmly planted in mid-air and let the wife do it. When a man is married to a strong wife who will take over, he often lets her do just that.

Fortunately, there is an answer. The Scriptures clearly give us the model for being a man, a husband, and a father. I call that model the “servant/leader.”

I hope that the concepts I share will help you understand the biblical role of a husband more clearly than ever before. When correctly interpreted and applied, these concepts not only result in freedom for the husband and wife, but will also help you work better as a team to combat isolation and conflict in your marriage.

#1: Be a leader. The Scriptures provide a clear organizational structure for a marriage. For example:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. —1 Corinthians 11:3

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. —Ephesians 5:22-30

In his commentary on Ephesians, William Hendriksen points out that God “… placed ultimate responsibility with respect to the household on the shoulders of the husband . . . The Lord has assigned the wife the duty of obeying her husband yet … this obedience must be a voluntary submission on her part, and that only to her own husband, not to every man.”

“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.

Are you a leader? Men who are natural leaders have no trouble answering the question “yes.” They know how to take over, control, guide, and get things done. Some men are not strong or are not natural leaders. How can they lead in the home?

Paul says the same to everyone. God has placed the husband in the position of responsibility. It does not matter what kind of personality a man may have. Your wife may be resisting you, fighting you, and spurning your attempts to lead, but it makes no difference. I believe our wives want us and need us to lead. You are not demanding this position; on the contrary, God placed you there. You will not lead her perfectly, but you must care for you wife and family by serving them with perseverance.

Scripture does more than assign leadership in a marriage to the husband, however. Those same passages you just read also provide a model for that leadership. The Apostle Paul says that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church. “This comparison of the husband with Christ reveals the sense in which a man should be his wife’s ‘head.'” Hendriksen writes, “He is her head as being vitally interested in her welfare. He is her protector. His pattern is Christ, who, as head of the church, is its Savior!”

Let’s look more closely at two responsibilities that flow out of proper leadership.

#2: Love your wife unconditionally. Ephesians 5:25 reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Your unconditional acceptance of your wife is not based upon her performance, but on her worth as God’s gift to you. If you want to love your wife unconditionally, always be sure her emotional tank is full. One of the best ways to do that is to affirm her constantly. Let her know verbally that you value her, respect her, and love her. I have discovered that I simply cannot do that enough.

There is no question that words communicate love, but so do actions. You need to do both. As the Apostle John wrote in one of his letters: “let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). One of the missing ingredients in male leadership in homes is sacrificial action. When was the last time you gave up something for your wife—something you genuinely valued, like your golf game, a fishing trip, or your hobby? Sometimes you need to give up something you enjoy so your wife can have a break and see your love for her.

#3: Serve your wife. According to the New Testament, being head of your wife does not mean being her master, but her servant. Again, Christ is our model for this type of leadership. Jesus did not just talk about serving; He demonstrated it when he washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17). Christ, the Head of the Church, took on the very nature of a servant when He was made in human likeness (Philippians 2:7).

One of the best ways to serve your wife is to understand her needs and try to meet them. Do you know what your wife’s top three needs are right now? If she is a young mother, she has a certain set of basic needs. If your children are grown and gone and you are in the empty nest, your wife has a different set of needs that you should try to meet. What is she worried about? What troubles her? What type of pressure does she feel? Learn the answers to questions like that, and then do what you can to reduce her worries, her troubles, her pressures.

What do you know about your wife’s hopes and dreams? I bet she has plenty—do you know what they are? Are you cultivating her gifts? If she has a knack for decorating, do you help her develop that?

Another way to serve your wife is to provide for her. This provision first involves assuming responsibility for meeting the material needs of the family. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Providing for your wife also means taking the initiative in helping meet her spiritual needs. You do this by modeling godly character, by praying with her, by spending time together in God’s Word, and by looking for ways to encourage her spiritually.

To be a leader, a lover, and a servant is to accommodate your life to the gift God has given you—your wife. Give up your life for hers and, at the judgment seat of Christ, He will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Adultery: The Pathway from Porn to Adultery — LETTER TO A WOULD-BE ADULTERER

SOURCE:  Kent Butterfield/Desiring God

Dear Husband,

You know why I am writing to you. In our last conversation, you shared the pattern of your sinful thoughts, and how it often leads you to look at pornography. We agreed together on the importance of having dominion over our imaginations and putting on the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Viewing pornography is already a lamentable breach of your faithfulness to your wife, but I’m concerned it may only be the beginning.

I fear for you, and your wife, if you do not repent from these patterns of sin. Beyond the pornography, members of our church have noticed how you seem to be preoccupied with other women. They and I fear for how you shower them with flattery, which many perceive as flirting. You appear to be on a pathway that ends with adultery as you already betray a lack of fidelity to your bride.

Sin Always Begets Sin

Viewing pornography is not a stagnant sin. Sin begets more sin, because our hearts are desperately wicked. We will justify the temptations in our hearts unless we combat them. Rationalization is part of the self-deception of sin. How easily we think, This is not that bad, then soon, Not bad at all. Eventually, we are saying, It is a good thing that I desire.

My friend, learn to hate your sin. You must treat it with a kind of seriousness that your seared conscience may find difficult to feel at this point. You must guard your mouth, and heart, as you speak to other women in the congregation, going out of your way to treat them as sisters in Christ (1 Timothy 5:1–2).

You must also resolve to control, God helping you, what you set your eyes upon, remembering righteous Job, who took the temptation to look with lust seriously: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). Obedience to our Lord, and faithfulness to your wife, is not passive. You will not coast into faithfulness.

You Are Free

Instead of exploring the pleasures of sin in your mind, and in unrighteous conversations, combat that sin with another voice, a better one: the voice of God himself. Meditate on his words in Scripture. God’s own word, by the power of his Spirit, will be the most potent source for both feeling conviction over sin and growing in grace and love.

Remember Joseph. When he was tempted daily by his master’s wife, he considered how God had blessed him, and how his master trusted him, and concluded, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Your infidelity is not only a breach of trust against your wife, but against God almighty.

But because Jesus Christ is your Lord, Savior, and Treasure, you have been redeemed — a hostage freed through a ransom paid at infinite cost. In Jesus, you are holy! I believe your faith is genuine, even as you have struggled in these ways. You are free from the bondage of sin; now be free. You are no longer enslaved to your old master Satan to follow your lusts. You are free, really free, in Christ. You now have the mind and heart to seek after God, to follow him in the ways he teaches us, and to reject the fatal promises of pornography and adultery.

You Are Not Alone

Jesus Christ, our Great Shepherd of the faith, has promised to be with you and guide you to all truth and fruitful works along the way. His commandments will help you walk in the ways of holiness and righteousness.

The child of God is not burdened in striving to keep the commandments of God; we are burdened, as you have been, when we do not keep them. God’s work in us does not replace our own vigilance against sin. His grace empowers us to be on guard against sin. Although sin no longer reigns in us, it still remains inside of us. The warning to Cain is for all of us: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

Painted Poison

The temptation to be drawn toward other women, on the screen and in the fellowship hall, is defiling your marriage bed. God’s word says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). I am praying for you, and will continue to hold you accountable.

Your confession of love to your wife, and the preciousness and pricelessness of your affection for each other, will soon sound hollow if you linger here on the door of adultery. Adultery is a selfish act. It is profoundly unloving. You betray and wound your wife and your children, and you defy your God. You aid the enemy of the faith and give ample opportunity for the world to blaspheme his name through your open hypocrisy.

Sin is your enemy and deceives you with its false promises of joy. It paints itself beautifully, but it is poison. The consequences will be deep and long-lasting. Look beyond the empty offers of momentary pleasure and see the enduring pain. Remember how it has brought shame, guilt, and disruption to your communion with Christ. Remember your marriage vows and resolve afresh to be utterly faithful to your wife. God will bless and reward your faithfulness.

Learn to Love Her More

If you struggle with the degree of intimacy you have with her, be a man and have that hard conversation. Share your heart. She is your great companion for life. She was given to you as that special help both physically and spiritually. God has made her, and will continue to make her, suitable for you, and you for her.

Sin’s evil progression has been at work in you. But our Lord’s offer of repentance is immediate. Receive it now while you still can (Hebrews 12:15–17). True repentance is a radical renouncing of all that is contrary to the character and revelation of God. It requires discipline that grows in the soil of God’s grace.

So, go now to him in your time of need to receive his help continually and abundantly. Do not cry out only, but purposely labor to walk in his Spirit. Exercise your faithfulness in marriage as you love and cherish your wife. Love her and consider the many ways that Christ has beautified your wife and made her a vessel of honor in his glorious body. Your love for her is a gift you, and you only, can enjoy. The omnipotent God stands ready to help you as you seek to live out the calling he has given you in your marriage covenant.

As you love your wife, and exercise that love with patience and tenderness, you will find new depths of love for her and discover joys in her that no other woman can provide.

Adultery: Only Love Prevents Adultery: Letter to a Would-Be Adulteress

SOURCE:  Jani Ortlund/Desiring God

Dear Friend,

Although we haven’t met, I know at least one thing about you. I know you didn’t enter your marriage thinking, “How can I ruin this? How can I bring pain to this man, and our families, and our friends?” You began your marriage hoping it would become a life-long love story, filled with deep joy and satisfaction. And yet here you are today, thinking about things you never thought possible.

How Did I Get Here?

Adultery often begins in your imagination. You cultivate an emotional affair and then fantasize about the sexual possibilities. All of this goes uninterrupted by godly repentance.

Soon you begin lusting after the attention of another man. Then you find yourself flirting with him, developing an emotional support structure with him.

We always have a higher tolerance for our own hidden sins, but none of us can caress a secret world of lust and fantasy without defiling our soul (Mark 7:23). Ultimately, adultery, like all sin, is a heart issue. This is where it all begins.

Are you disappointed in your husband? His earning power, his time-consuming hobbies, his spiritual malaise, his less-than-thrilling times of intimacy with you? Maybe you feel his expectations of you are too high. Or maybe you’re tired of not feeling seen or heard and you hunger for a man to pay attention to you. Is there growing within you a longing to be free from the inevitable confinements of this lifetime promise?

Adultery Brings Misery

The Bible teaches that marriage is a sacred bond, to be honored by all (Hebrews 13:4). Adultery takes the one-flesh relationship and smashes it with the hammer of reckless selfishness.

One-fleshness is more than sex, and sex is more than a mere physical release that two people experience together. Sex is a profound human connection that belongs only in marriage. God says you and your husband are one, and that he created that union (Matthew 19:6). Sexual intimacy is a precious gift that is to be treated with tenderness and awe. Through it you expose not only your body, but your very soul. And over-exposure will damage you in ways that are not discernible in the moment of passion.

Adultery brings misery at so many levels. It brings the adulterer shame. It introduces betrayal into your legacy. It shows your children that your personal pleasure is more important than their security. It brings sorrow to your Christian community.

God takes sexual sins very seriously. Adultery without repentance damns the soul (1 Corinthians 6:9–10Galatians 5:19–21). When Jesus speaks of sexual sins in Matthew 5:27–30, he uses strong language — gouge out your eye and cut off your hand. In other words, be willing to endure pain and loss rather than engage in sexual sin. Marriage must be an unrelenting commitment to an imperfect person. That commitment means a willingness to sometimes be unhappy.

Adultery is a mature sin, a deliberate sin. You may “fall in love,” but you walk yourself into bed with that man. In all our years of ministry, I have never had one woman come to me and say, “I am so happy over this affair. It’s even better than I imagined!” And so as an older woman, I have one word for you: Don’t! Don’t go there. Don’t go there in your mind. Don’t go there in your heart. Don’t go there with your body.

Is There Hope to Renew My Marriage?

Instead, ask God to help you be zealous over your heart, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Guard your spirit. Cherish the everlasting honor that comes from saying no to momentary impulses (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). Run from difficult or tempting situations. Remember that your body is the very temple of the Holy Spirit whom God has given you at great cost to himself (I Corinthians 6:18–20).

Think of the blessings of marriage. You belong somewhere and with someone. Someone has chosen you and you have had the chance to choose someone for yourself. You will write your own shared history to leave as your legacy. What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

The question for each one of us should never be, “How far can I go with a relationship — either in fantasy or reality — before it becomes a sin?” Rather, let’s ask, “How can I go so deep with Jesus Christ that sexual purity is the glad outworking of my joyful satisfaction in him?” The best guard against adultery is a deep love and satisfaction in Jesus Christ alone. The soul that is drinking deeply from his river of delights (Psalm 36:8) is not going to thirst for false joys.

The way to drink deeply from Jesus is through repentance and faith. In repentance you turn away from all sin and turn toward him. What does this turning away look like? Well, where are you being tempted? Maybe you need to give up your favorite TV show, where you keep imagining that you are the one in that handsome actor’s arms. Perhaps it is your reading material that sends you into someone else’s bed. What about your interaction on social media? Do you need to get off certain sites? Or you may even need to change your job if a relationship there is tempting you with sexual sin.

Then as you turn away from your sin, turn toward Jesus. Seek him in the Scriptures and through prayer. In faith, take those temptations and cast them onto Christ. Let him carry your burden away. He will give you a bright new hope for the future. He is the one who said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

And by God’s grace you will be able to answer him with renewed intent, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). May God bless you and keep you!

Adultery: Rejoice in the Wife of Your Youth: LETTER TO A WOULD-BE ADULTERER

SOURCE:  Ray Ortlund/Desiring God

Dear Husband,

I thank God for this moment with you. I only wish I could be present with you and look into your eyes and speak as earnestly as I can. So much is at stake in your marital integrity.

But you haven’t yet taken the dreadful step of adultery. So I want to remind you of two things that can help you honor Christ by staying true to your wife.

1. She is the wife of your youth.

The Bible says, “Rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). One powerful safeguard against adultery is pretty obvious: happiness in your wife that lasts a lifetime.

Proverbs 5:18 does not say, “Rejoice in your young wife.” No wife can remain young for long. Proverbs 5 wisely points out that she is “the wife of your youth.” However long you both live as husband and wife, she will always be that girl.

Look at her. She is that girl you married back when you both were young. The passing years have no power to change that tender reality. She is still that girl who gave herself to you on your wedding day. She is still that girl who put herself in your arms. She is still that girl who went with you into that hotel room on your wedding night. You locked the door, and she trusted you. She undressed for you. She gave herself to you. She could not have been more vulnerable. She could not have been more honoring toward you. Remember that. Dwell on that. Marvel at that.

Think back even further to how the two of you started out. Remember what happened when you began dating, and fell in love, and got engaged. The wonderful, crazy romance you experienced together was one of life’s great privileges. It wasn’t just your hormones at work. It was “the very flame of the Lord” (Song of Solomon 8:6), a sacred fire he himself ignited for your joy and his glory.

What you two had going back then — you can have it back, and even better, because you’re more mature now, more focused, more settled. But the way you two used to walk and laugh and talk and dream together, because you just liked each other — go back there again. Your youthful romance was no foolish illusion. It was real. It hinted at the ultimate reality, the eternal love story of Christ and his bride (Ephesians 5:31–32). Your love story is worth fighting for.

Sure, all married couples get dull at times along the way. The humdrum of life and our own inertia take their toll. And yes, you and your wife now realize how ordinary you both really are. Add to that mix the trouble and sorrow you have experienced, maybe more than you ever dreamed you would. All of that is real too, and a good reason to pray daily for the constant refreshing of the Holy Spirit. But far more significant than all the burdens and blahs of this life, you still have her. She counts for far more than this whole disappointing world.

Look at her again, notice how much about her has not changed. Dwell on that. Think about her faithfulness to you, despite your weaknesses and failings. Consider the divine mercy she is to you. Let it hit you that one of God’s primary means of your sanctification is the wife of your youth. Sanctification with sex? Isn’t that a sanctification you can get behind? Your Father is good to you. Your marriage is not about your goodness, but his. Revere his goodness, and let your heart melt again. Then, rejoicing in God, rejoice again in the wife of your youth.

2. She is the wife of your legacy.

Very soon your life in this world will be over. What will you leave behind? Right now is your one, precious, unrepeatable opportunity to leave a legacy for the future generations of your family. How you and your wife live this brief life will matter for a long, long time.

One day in her Bible reading, my wife Jani noticed that God excluded certain people from his blessing, even to the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3–4). She thought, “How much more does God long to bless a family, to the tenth generation!” This thought has become an important theme in our life together. It gives us a new way to see ourselves now and prepare for the future.

When Jani and I married in 1971, we were just two people. But now we have grandchildren, with more on the way. At present trends, our family alone could grow to 52,488 people in ten generations. That’s a city about the size of Flagstaff, Arizona. And it’s all our fault! We bear some responsibility for these thousands along our lineage.

Jani and I often pray that, to the tenth generation, God will clearly and publicly set our family apart to himself. We pray that our children and grandchildren, and on and on, will be solidly converted, and love Jesus, and believe the Bible, and take a stand for Christ with integrity and courage in their generation. They’re going to need that courage, we are sure. Our part right now is to live with that very integrity and courage, so that we might become an inspiring example for them in the future.

You and your wife can leave your own legacy — not in money, but in vast spiritual resources. Your life together can tell a powerful story of the faithfulness of God in good times and bad. Who wouldn’t be strengthened by looking back and seeing in their own family history that God is real, God is able, God is good? Do not deny future generations the riches they will so urgently need far out in the unforeseeable future. Whatever else you and your wife might or might not accomplish, build this treasury that even the tenth generation can draw upon.

However cute that woman might be that you’re tempted toward, ask yourself if your legacy is worth destroying for a moment of stolen pleasure. Your sin will quickly turn into a bitter aftertaste you’ll be spitting out of your mouth for the rest of your life. But God is positioning you and your wife to bless the generations yet to come. Embrace the vision! Don’t throw your legacy away!

Relationships/Marriage: The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

SOURCE:  Kyle Benson / The Gottman Institute

After studying more than 3,000 couples in his Love Lab over the last four decades, Dr. John Gottman has discovered that the most important issue in marriage is trust.

Can I trust you to be there for me when I’m upset?

Can I trust you to choose me over your friends?

Can I trust you to respect me?

Couples that trust each other understand that a good marriage doesn’t just happen on its own. It needs to be cultivated.

These couples express appreciation for each other. They brag about each other’s talents and achievements. They say “I love you” every day.

Even in the heat of conflict, they consider the other’s perspective. They are able to empathize with each other, even when they don’t agree, and they are there for each other during times of illness or stress.

They understand that the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. As Neil Barringham says, “The grass is greener where you water it.”

Building trust

Trust is built in very small moments. In any interaction, there is a possibility of connecting with your partner or turning away from your partner.

One single moment is not that important, but if you’re consistently choosing to turn away, then trust erodes in a relationship—very gradually and very slowly.

When this happens, the story of your relationship begins to turn negative. You begin to focus on your partner’s flaws. You forget about their traits you admire and value.

Eventually you start making what researcher Caryl Rusbult calls “negative comparisons.” You start to compare your spouse to someone else, real or imagined, and you think, “I can do better.”

Once you start thinking that you can do better, then you begin a cascade of not committing to the relationship, of trashing your partner instead of cherishing them, and building resentment rather than gratitude.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains this phenomenon in dating.

Building trust and commitment requires intentional effort. Here are fives ways to invest in your relationship.

Turn Towards Bids for Connection
Bids are the building blocks of lasting love. In one study of newlywed couples in Dr. Gottman’s lab, couples that stayed together turned towards each other 86% of the time, whereas couples that eventually divorced only did it 33% of the time. That’s a big difference.

When bids fail, as they inevitably do in all relationships, seek to repair. Remember that repair attempts are the secret weapon of emotionally intelligent couples.

Flip Your Internal Script
Negative thoughts cause you to miss 50% of your partner’s bids, according to research by Robinson and Price. This makes it difficult to build trust.

Learn to separate specific relationship problems from the overall view of your partner. Make an intentional effort to replace negative thoughts with compassion and empathy.

Ritualize Cherishing
The best way to keep yourself from making “negative comparisons” is to actively cherish your partner. Get in the habit of thinking positive thoughts about each other rather than thoughts about someone else.

Think about the things you appreciate about your partner and tell them. Thanks for being so adventurous with me. You’re such an amazing cook. You’re such a great dad.

Learn to Fight Smarter
Happy couples complain without blame by talking about what they feel and what they need, not what they don’t need. They are gentle and they give their partner a recipe to be successful with them.

Schedule a weekly State of the Union meeting to discuss areas of concern in your relationship.

Create We Time
It’s easy to find excuses for not dedicating time for your relationship. We’re too busy. We work a lot. We’re always with the kids.

Find time go on dates, ask each other open-ended questions, and continue to create rituals of connection that allow you to connect emotionally. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. Choose each other, day after day.

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