7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 5 – Friendship

I really love my wife, and I like her too. I think Patty would say the same though I am unsure if this was always the case. The fact is we go through seasons where selfishness, baggage, pride, hardheadedness and apathy create a divide in a couple’s relationship which can often be the start of a serious problem. One of the first things to go when these problems arise is friendship. However, friendship is one of the core aspects of a healthy couple’s life.
Adam was in the garden, naming the animals, working the soil and walking with God. However, no “suitable helper could be found for him.” God created woman from man and Adam was no longer alone. He had a companion, a helpmate, a friend. Most of us can remember the feeling of being alone without that special person to share our life with and how amazing it was when they came into our lives. We visited, chatted, dated, and finally the day came when our family and friends witnessed as we entered into a covenant relationship with that person, till death do us part. We became lovers, family and friends with our whole lives ahead of us to share.
Then the world pressed in. Jobs, children, church events, separate interests, and differing hobbies. Soon, we were growing distant, and the first thing we compromised was our friendship. Business and its cost is one of the most effective tools of the enemy and many, if not most of us fall for it at one time or another. So how do we fight the enemy?

Find a Common Interest

Look for those things that interest both of you and find a way to spend time engaged in these activities. Maybe its painting minions on rocks, collecting bugs, shooting civil war revolvers or simply watching movies. Find the common ground and then invest your time, money and energy in those pursuits.

Carve Out the Time

Once you have found the “something” to do, carve out some time to make it happen. Calendar the item and let nothing short of an emergency room visit get in the way. If it is in your calendar and the Pastor calls to see if you will referee a Upwards Basketball game this weekend you can honestly say “I have another commitment on my calendar.” Protect this time!!!

Look for Something New

Always keep a lookout for something new to do together. As we get older we change so what we enjoyed in one season of life may need to be re-assessed in another. A decade ago Patty and I enjoyed disk golf on a Sunday afternoon after a marriage workshop. Now we enjoy a three hour nap. Seriously, look for new hobbies and try new things. New adventures and hobbies keep the fire alive in a relationship.
Protecting your friendship is one key to a long-term relationship that lasts throughout the many seasons of life you face as a couple.

His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, this is my friend. daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Songs 5:16

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4E- Fighting the Good Fight

Over the last week we have been exploring how to fight better.  We have discussed the soft start-up, repair attemptscompromise,  influence and soothing.  This week we will wrap up this series by considering the overall goal of your fight.  When a fight kicks off there is a gap between the time something happens to anger you and your response.  In this gap you have a choice to make.  Will I fight for getting what I want or will I fight for the unity of my marriage?  When the wrong choice us made, especially over the long haul, it is disastrous to a marriage.

In marriage, we are called to sacrificially serve one another in a way that builds unity in a marriage.  We are called to submit to one another looking out for the best interests of the other.  We are called to humility; admitting wrongs and asking for forgiveness when needed.  We are called to pursue each other in ways that show how much the other person means to us.  We are called to “die” to self and seek the other person’s needs before we seek our own.  When we do this we turn towards one another instead of away from each other.  We understand that when we fight, we are fighting for our marriage,  not to get our own way.  We recognize that our spouse is not our enemy but is our ally.

If you get married you will have trouble (1 Cor 7:28).  God will often use your marriage to change you more and more into the image of His son, Jesus.  That growth is not an easy process and we often fight against it by fighting with our spouse.  Additionally, you have an enemy that hates your marriage.  Satan stands against your marriage as it is a reminder of God’s relationship with His people.  Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world.”  Though selfishness, pride, hatred, disunity and Satan all stand against your marriage, they are no threat to the God of the universe that is holding your marriage together.  In unity, with each other and with God, we can stand against the powers of this world that seek to undermine our marriages.  In unity we can stand together, lifting the shield of faith against the arrows of the enemy, and overcome any attempt to undermine our marriage.  In unity, we can turn towards each other, rely on each other, and bear each others burdens instead of turning away from each other and accepting defeat.

This mindset requires the power of the Holy Spirit and a commitment to following his lead.  Considering this before you get into a fight helps frame the fight in a way that builds your marriage instead of undermining it.  Being thankful for the blessing you have been given in marriage on the good days helps you remember the blessings on the bad days.  Listening to the Holy Spirit at the beginning of a fight helps resolve the issue more effectively.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4D – Fighting the Good Fight

So far this week we have been exploring how to fight better.  We discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts, compromise,  and influence.  Today, let’s take a look at how we can self-soothe and soothe our spouse when anger and fighting get the best of us.

As we have discussed before, fighting often leads to flooding.  As emotions increase we enter the “fight, flight or freeze” response.  Blood flows from our brain to our extremities, blood pressure increases, heart rate increases and our ability to reason decreases.  If not dealt with, flooding can result in lashing out in anger or engaging in defensiveness and stonewalling.  None of these are good for a relationship.

To resolve flooding a couple can engage in two activities, self-soothing and soothing each other.

Use Your Time-Out Effectively – Soothing

Earlier this week we discussed how and when to take a time out.  A time out allows you the time to self-soothe with the goal of calming down and restoring blood flow to the brain where you can reason through an issue.  People do this in many ways.  Reading the bible, praying, meditation, deep breathing exercises or listening to calming music are all ways to calm yourself.  Remember, it takes longer for men to exit flooding than women so additional time may be required for self-soothing.  Once you have calmed down, helping to soothe your partner can have even more benefits.

Dr. Gottman, author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work explains: ” Soothing your partner is of enormous benefits to a marriage because it is really a form of reverse conditioning. In other words, if you frequently have the experience of being calmed by your spouse, you come to associate him or her with feelings of relaxation rather than stress. This automatically increases the positivity of your relationship.”  Soothing can take many forms but normally the first step is simply discussing why the flooding took place in the first place.  There are many ways to soothe your spouse but what is important is you choose the method and enjoy it.  A husband might give his wife a foot massage or they may take turns guiding each other through meditation activities. Whatever the activity, it is important that, in the end, both of you are calmer and better able to engage in the discussion that started the fight.

Prepare for Battle

One of the things that I heard in the military was that it was better to sweat in peace than bleed in war. In other words, preparing during peace allows you to be more effective in combat. This also applies to soothing. Taking some time before your next fight to think about how you will soothe one another can pay huge dividends.  Simply think about your last fight and what it was that resulted in flooding.  Discuss how you can prevent flooding in the first place, recognize flooding as it is happening, and what it is you need to do when things have spiraled out of control. Finally, discuss how you can serve one another by soothing each other during your next fight.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4C – Fighting the Good Fight

Over the last few days we have been exploring how to fight better.  We discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts and compromise. Today, let’s take a look at how we allow our spouse to influence us.

Recently I was sharing with some friends that when I was much younger I got a little depressed about my work situation and joined the Air Force without discussing it with Patty.  In essence, I made a life-changing decision that took a newly married young woman away from her family of origin without allowing her to influence my decision.  I didn’t even ask her opinion.   I returned home and advised that within 3-5 days I would be in a uniform being yelled at by a training instructor and within a few months we would be moving.  Destination – Unknown.  Looking back I am surprised I didn’t show up to basic training with hand prints on my throat.

In the end, it worked out.  Looking back I am surprised it did.

When couples fight one of the things that they are often trying to do is influence their spouse.  According to research, couples who resist influence are much more likely to divorce.  When a man is not willing to share power with their wife the couple is 81% more likely to end up in divorce court.  A marriage is a commitment to allow the other person input into those issues that effect them.  Couples who share power, who allow their partner to influence them during an argument, feel like they are part of a unified marriage.

Common sense should tell you that you need to allow your spouse to influence you.  Patty sees things from such a different perspective than I do.   Wisdom would dictate that I not only take her insight into consideration, but that I seek it out regularly.  She is more relational where I am task oriented.  In our ministry both are needed and her strength offsets my weakness.  She was made a helpmate for me, and I am blessed to have her and blessed when she “weighs in” on issues.

However, when emotions are running high and a fight ensues we often withdraw and refuse to listen.  We feel we have the right viewpoint and then work hard, sometimes too hard, to defend it.  When that happens people feel disrespected and unappreciated.  Then it is on like donkey-kong.

Before the crazy cycle starts, take a moment and ask yourself if you are resisting influence and if so, why.  Are you embarrassed over a decision you have made and now feel the need to defend yourself?  Do you really feel that your spouse has no valid viewpoint on the situation?  Are you really so filled with pride that you feel you don’t need input from your spouse?  Beware, you are crossing into dangerous territory.

Strong couples value the opinion of their spouse and seek influence often.  They may not always choose to take the advice when provided, but they seek the advice and consider it when making a decision.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.  (Proverbs 12:15)

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage 4B – Fighting the Good Fight Week

This week we started this series with an intro to Fighting the Good Fight and discussed a Soft Startup.  We followed up with Repair Attempts.  Now we want to focus on compromise.

Work to Compromise

Since 69% of arguments will never be completely resolved, compromise is often the best we can expect from some of our differences.  Compromise takes place when we attempt to understand our conflicting needs and then explore ways those needs can be better met. One of the best examples is frequency of sex.  Research indicates that over a lifetime a man will desire sex six times more often than women. Tommy Nelson, author of The Book of Romance, said that if God had given man and woman the same sex drive as the man, there would be children everywhere but we would all live in caves because we would never have time for planning or building houses.  If God had given both man and woman the same sex drive as a woman, we would have lived in a very highly advanced culture, for one generation. Then mankind would have disappeared from the face of the earth because we would seldom have sex.  This, of course, requires compromise. Ryan and Celina Fredericks,  authors of Fierce Marriage, often talk about how they resolved this issue themselves. He determined he needed intimacy/sex 3-4 times a week. She did not need it anywhere near that often and was often exhausted raising two children.  The compromise, their goal would be three times a week and he would settle for two times a week when she had a rough week with the children. They then entered the time for twice a week in their calendar as a reminder so she did not forget, which had been a problem historically. He agreed to be flexible based on her needs and challenges of the day.  This is a great example of how couples can talk through issues and then come to a compromise.

Have a Plan

When issues arise, take the following actions:

  1. Work to identify the real need – As we have discussed before, often our fights are not what our fights are about.  Try and work together to discover what the real issue is.
  2. Explore possibilities of how those needs can be better met.  Allow the other person to influence your thinking and agree to try different ways until something works.
  3. Choose an option and try it for a short period of time until you find something that works.

This course of action often requires patience, sacrifice, compromise, a dedication to peace, a gentle approach and not just a little self control.  Sound familiar?  Remember, a really joyous marriage is not possible without the indwelling spirit of Christ, and that always produces the fruits listed above.

A Final Note

If the topic is an emotional one, the three steps above may requires three separate conversation.  One to identify the problem, one to brainstorm solutions and a third to choose an option to try.  There is nothing wrong with breaking these into three different discussions as you work through your issue.  In fact, many therapist recommend that very thing.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4A – Fighting the Good Fight

The funny thing is I knew I was in trouble as the words left my mouth. Mentally I was reaching out trying to capture the offending question and return it to the depths from which it came. No luck.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4 – Fighting the Good Fight

The great philosopher Jack Sparrow said “It’s not the problem that’s the problem, it’s your response to the problem that’s the problem.”  That guy is a genius.

Did you know that 69% of all of the things you and your spouse fight about are perpetual problems.  By that I mean they are problems that will most likely resurface throughout your marriage.  If you are like most couples in their first three decades of marriage you will be fighting about:

– Division of Housework

– What a clean house looks like

– Finances and other issues of security

-In-Laws

– How to raise your children

– Frequency of Sex

These issues often have a lot to do with deep seated expectations, roles played in family of origin (how your mom and dad did it) and preferences around security and money.  Over time, as your marital relationship matures and God works within your marriage towards unity, these issues may come to some resolution.  However, these changes do not take place quickly.  As a result, you will have fights.

The question is not if you will have a fight, it is how you choose to fight that makes all the difference.  If you want to have a fight which results in anger, disharmony, disunity, demeaning behavior and possibly homicide (because divorce is not an option), try one or more of these methods:

  • Wait until your husband has been working three hours in 102 degree weather under the hood of a car and is hungry, then ask him about the $20 he spent at Academy with an accusatory tone;
  • Come home from work after your spouse has spent the day with two sick children then roll your eyes when she asks if you can run and pick up dinner for the family;
  • Try to motivate your spouse to look for a better job by comparing him to the neighbor that just pulled up in a new Vet.  In fact, it will be even more effective if you wait until the neighbor can see you and then turn around, point your finger at your hubby and yell “You need a job like his so I can get a new car;”
  • Start asking him hundreds of questions just as he walks into the house after a long day at work.

A second option is to use scripturally supported and time tested methods to have conversations with your spouse that have a better chance at resolving conflict.  This week let’s explore the first one.

Slow Your Roll

Proverbs 15:15 says “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. ”  In short, make sure you have your temper and emotions under control before engaging in a conversation that may result in a fight.  In addition, give your spouse the opportunity to prepare for the discussion.

Let’s Throw Down

Sally walks into the house after a long Monday to find John standing there with his phone.  He has just seen a $200 charge she made over the weekend and is angry because they had agreed to watch their spending so they would have funds for a vacation next summer.  As she walks in he holds up the phone and in an accusatory voice says “You never keep our agreements.  Can’t you control your spending for even one month?  You’re just so irresponsible!”

What went wrong?

  1. You should never point a phone  at someone, it’s rude.
  2. He does not know what she spent the money on or why.
  3. Terms like “always” and “never” put people on the defensive, primarily because they are an untrue accusation.
  4. He jumped her at the door and did not give her the emotional room to prepare for the conversation.

As a result, she feels attacked and in self-defense says something like “If you had a real job I wouldn’t have to worry about a few hundred dollars.”  She goes on the attack and treats him with disrespect because he was unloving towards her.  It’s on like Donkey-Kong.

A Better Way

When John sees the charge and starts to get angry, he should ask himself two questions:  Why am I so angry and what do I not know about this situation.  In most cases we get angry because we are not getting our way.  He forgets that as a believer we are patient, other focused, and dedicated to his spouse’s best interest.  Additionally, he has very little information concerning the “what” and “why” of the situation.  Instead of waiting at the door to pounce he could simply wait for her to come home and let her know he wants to talk to her about their finances later that night.  Then, in a calm manner point out that he had seen the charge made on the credit card and felt like it might violate their agreement concerning finances.  This is known as a “soft approach” and allows a couple to start a conversation that has a better chance of a positive outcome.  Yes it requires some self control and patience.  However, as a follower of Jesus you have both (Gal 5:22-23).

So here is the first step towards better fights;  Choose a good time and place for a discussion and then give your spouse some warning so they can prepare for an emotional conversation.  In the event your spouse has had a long day, give them some grace and choose another time for the conversation.  Don’t wait too long and stand firm on the need to have the conversation, but be sensitive to your spouse.  A friend of mine used to use the phrase “I need to enter your garden” when he needed to talk about an emotional topic with his wife.  She then could proceed with the discussion or take a few minutes to get mentally prepared.  If she postponed the discussion, she was responsible for “reengaging” before the evening was over.  Patty and  I simply say “I need to talk you about something that might get emotional, is this a good time?”  By being patient and letting both parties mentally prepare, there is a much better chance of a positive outcome.

Tomorrow:  When things get out of control – attempting to repair hurt feeling in the middle of a fight.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4 – Communication

I can’t remember the movie, but it has one of my all-time favorite quotes concerning marriage. In the movie a young woman is talking to a friend who happens to be a marital therapist. She is struggling in her relationship with her husband but continues to deny any need for therapy. During one particular fight she happens to run into her therapist friend and says; “I don’t need therapy, but if I did, what advice would you give me?” His response is profound. He says, “Learn what you want and learn how to ask for it.”

Mic Drop…

Strong communication and the ability to empathize with each other is one of the keys elements of a strong marriage. However, before we start working on how to strengthen our communication skills, we should define it and describe the different levels of communication.

Definition – Self-revelation in which someone reveals something about themselves and another person reveals something about themselves in response.

  1. Hallway – This level of communication is what most of us experience as we walk down the hallways at work or church.
  2. Reporter Talk – This level of communications takes place when we simply share facts. You may tell each other what you saw or what you did but seldom expand beyond that.
  3. “Know what I think?” – At this level you share your ideas or judgments on a subject. This level of communication allows you to share a little more about your inner world as your opinions are based on your experiences, viewpoints and education.
  4. “Let me tell you how I feel.” – This is a high level of communication. At this level you share emotions and gut level feelings, hopefully in a healthy manner. The distance between this level of communication and the previous level is often a giant step. Many people find it hard to share their feelings on certain subjects or topics because they feel others may be disappointed or angry with them. This is risky communication that requires vulnerability and bravery.
  5. “Let’s be honest.” – This is the apex of communication. This level of communication is the platform from which we can build an intimate, healthy relationship.   It allows us to speak the truth in love. It is where we are honest but not condemning; open but not demanding. It allows each of us the freedom to think differently and feel differently, trying to understand why our spouse feels and thinks the way he or she does all the while looking for ways to grow together in spite of the fact that we think differently and feel differently.

So, how much time each week do you believe the average couple spends on communication levels 3 – 5? Would it surprise you that the average couple spends less than 7 minutes a WEEK on meaningful, deep communication? Of course, that means that most of our day to day communication takes place at the same level as when we pass someone in the hallway at church on Sunday. Acquaintances pass each other in the hallway and the following exchange takes place; “Hi Tom. How are you doing today?” “Great Sally. How about you?” “Fine Tom. Thanks for asking.” A wife comes home and is greeted by her husband. “Hi honey. How was your day?” “Oh, it was fine baby. How about yours?” “Fine.”

Next week we will be discussing fighting, which is simply advanced reactive communication, if done well. However, this week let’s spend some time communicating about some basic considerations for proactive effective communication.

Set Time Aside Weekly for Deeper Communication…

If possible, set aside a few minutes each day for checking in with each other. However, with our insane schedules, it may be more realistic to set aside an hour each week to catch-up. As children age, you may find yourself better able to make time daily. Remember, it is a choice to make time for each other. Create your own questions if you want, but at the very least share what is going on in your head and in your heart. If you need a place to start here are a few questions to think about asking each other.

Continue with the Cards…

The “Love Map” cards, provided in class a couple of weeks ago, are a great way to share both cursory and intimate information on an ongoing manner. The more you share your dreams, desires, expectations and even your favorite movie, the more you grow together as a couple. The more you show each other that you care about these things and are willing to work together towards them, the more intimate you become as a couple.

Treat Each Other with Dignity and Respect…

The people we love the most are often the ones we take for granted, and often hurt. We filter our negative emotions towards others as a way of showing respect towards those we have casual relationships with but often lash out without a filter towards our spouse. We can often be hurtful, impatient, critical, contemptuous and mean to those we love the most. Remember, you have the spirit of Christ living within you. Therefore, you have the ability to control your tongue, you just have to make the choice to do so.

Scriptures that Might Help…

1 Thess. 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Encouragement is critically important in a marriage. In our world, there is a critic on every corner, on every channel and on every screen.   Wouldn’t it be amazing to come home every day to a spouse who encourages you by recognizing your character and strengths? Giving thanks every day for your spouse helps keep you in the right mind-frame for a healthy marriage. Periodically telling your spouse why you are thankful for them helps them stay in the right mind-frame for a strong marriage.

Proverbs 15:28 – The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.

Think before you speak. Are the words you are speaking designed to build-up and encourage or will they most likely be destructive? Do you speak highly of your spouse in their absence? Do you speak words of encouragement to them? Even words of correction can be given in a way that is not destructive to a marriage.

Proverbs 15:1 – A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Even when your spouse opens a conversation in a destructive way, you can choose to respond in a Godly way. Showing sacrificial love, self-control and empathy is the hallmark of a mature Christian. Doing so early in an escalating conversation can prevent a destructive argument.

Proverbs 19:11 – A person with good sense is patient, and it is to his credit that he overlooks an offense.

Understand that your spouse will sometimes have a bad day and may speak without thought or wisdom. Being patient with them and expressing your forgiveness, love and respect towards them during a time that you have been wronged is also a hallmark of Christian maturity.

As with everything we have discussed so far, communication requires a commitment of time and intention. The good news is it does not take a tremendous amount of time. Spending 10-15 minutes catching up daily, or spending an hour over coffee each weekend, pays off huge dividends over the long haul of a marriage.  Dividends that increase intimacy and builds a friendship that lasts a lifetime.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 3b

Sensuality

Like romance, sensuality is another important part of intimate relationships that suffers from our busy lives.  Your sex life may become a little sparse after the twins, but often sensuality is dropped completely.  Sensuality is the physical enjoyment of each other.  While it includes intercourse, it is not limited to intercourse and includes things such as a gentle touch in passing, holding hands, running your hands through your spouse’s hair while watching TV, or a simple foot message.  Kicking it up a notch and you will find yourself giving each other full body messages with scented oils.  Sensuality can engage all five senses and often requires planning.  It will be hard to share chocolate dipped strawberries in bed if no-one does the dipping.  A candle can’t be lit unless it has first been bought.  Sharing your favorite romantic music  requires someone to create a playlist and purchase a speaker.   A fully body message is better with the right kind of oils and, at my age, a massage table.  Even though sensuality may take a little time, the payoff in vulnerability and connectedness is significant.

However, not all sensuality requires an investment or planning.  Simply making it a habit to hold hands, feed each other a spoon full of chocolate cake over dinner, or walk with your hand in the middle of her back all adds to sensuality and intimacy.  This evening, take a few minutes before going to sleep and share with each other what you think of when you think of sensuality.  What is one thing you can add to your “intimacy map” that would help improve your romantic life?

Another Resource

Our friends at Fierce Marriage took some time to provide some additional resources in this area.  You can find those resources here.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 3a – Romance

Romance is really a recent development in marriages. It was seldom thought of or even expected until Byron and Shelley broke onto the scene with their silly romantic poetry and sonnets. Well, except for scriptures written around 900 years before the birth of Christ. Song of Solomon is a full book of scripture dedicated to romance and sexual love.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 3 – The Act of Marriage

The Act of Marriage is the title of a book published in 1998 and was one of the original attempts at a Christian discussion concerning sex.  It leaned towards boring and is not one of my favorite books.  However, I love the title.

The expression of our sexuality is one of the key “acts” we engage in when we marry.  If people were honest, they may admit that the sexual drive was one of the things that made marriage desirable in the first place.  Even the scripture tells us that “if you burn with desire you should marry” (1 Cor 7:9).  Sex allows us to connect in an emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental way like no other act can.  Sex is a powerful drive designed by God to connect and continue to connect two individuals in a marriage in a deep and meaningful way.  It is so important that God gave us an entire book of the bible on this topic.

In marriage circles sex is one of the most discussed topics.  This week we will be posting a couple of posts on sexuality, sensuality and romance.  Each of these topics make up the triangle of the act of marriage.  While a great sex life does not in and of itself result in a great marriage, it can be thought of both a thermometer and a thermostat in regards to your marriage.  On one hand a great sex life reflects a strong and intimate marriage.  On the other hand developing a better sex life can result in a stronger more intimate marriage.

On most marriage podcasts a large percentage of questions circle around this topic.  How often should we “do it?”  Why is he always thinking about sex?  Why does she get so angry when I turn down their sexual advances?  Is that all they think about?  Deeper questions include why do I feel rejected as a person when he is not interested in sex.  What baggage do I carry in regards to sex?  What are the activities I am engaged in that prevents intimacy and sex.

There are a few reasons why sex is such a huge issue in marriage and why many fights surround this issue.  First, baggage we bring into a marriage concerning sex is often confusing and sometimes painful.  One in three women have been sexually abused in some way.  This abuse ranges from unwelcome pressure from boyfriends in a woman’s developmental years to rape at some point in a person’s life.  Additionally, the Christian mantra historically has been; “sex is dirty, shameful and disgusting and should be saved for the one you love.”  This baggage causes confusion and pain in the area of sexuality and can create significant barriers to intimacy.

Second, men and women respond in significantly different ways concerning sex.  Barring physical issues and stress, a man is usually ready for sex at any given time.  A sexy smile, a light touch on the arm or even a bumpy bus ride and a guys is ready.  Men have a biological drive towards desiring sex more frequently due to high levels of testosterone.  Women, on the other hand, have been created differently.  They are generally slower to warm up and sex is often a secondary issue that follows children, work, budgets, housework, and time on Facebook.

Finally, we live in a sex addicted world where pornography makes sex about a physical need at best and twists it into a pathological drive at worst.  In general, pornography sets unrealistic expectations, demeans women and men alike, and twists a person’s view of sex into something that is neither intimate or loving.  Many people think that pornography shows too much concerning sex, in reality it shows to little.  It reveals something about the physical but omits vulnerability and intimacy.  In short, sex is not just about genitalia.  In her book, A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, Sheila Wray Gregiore, says it this way:

Sex is not just about genitalia.  It’s about relationship. When God said “the two shall become one flesh,” He didn’t mean it only physically.  Only focusing on the physical neglects the real power sex has to bod two people together in other ways,  not only physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.1

Further, God, in his wisdom, designed sex to be contained and controlled within a covenant relationship.  What this means is that the only person that can minister to my desire for sexual intimacy is my spouse.  Since there will often be one person who desires sex more than the other, there may be one who has to make the choice to serve the other by providing for sex when they are not really in the mood.  Or, there may be one who has to show patience with the other when they are not in the mood and decline your sexual advances.  Sex is a place where we are often asked to exercise the fruit of the spirit, either through sacrificial love, sacrificial service, sacrificial patience or sacrificial gentleness.

In this post I would like to provide a little, straightforward insight into how guys view sex.  It may not apply to your guy, but I think it applies to most guys.  Afterwards, I will do the same for the guys concerning women.

For Women Only

When sexual needs are met, men are better at being human…

The sex drive in men, especially younger men, is a powerful force to be reckoned with.  When sexual desires are not being met we simply do not always think clearly, are more likely to succumb to the temptation to isolate and withdraw, and can sometimes just be mean.  This drive is a combination of the need to be emotionally connected and the physical need for release.   These two driving forces are connected in a way we simply do not fully understand.  It is difficult to control our tendency towards frustration and anger when we are sexually frustrated.

Much like women, men have cycles too…

Testosterone build-up in the blood system will create an increasing need for sex.  I know, not very romantic, but it is a drive that men have very little control over and the emotional results can often lean towards frustration that presents as anger.  Understanding his cycle, how often he desires sex, can have a significantly positive influence on every aspect of your marriage.  When women do not understand this and fail to plan accordingly, men lean towards withdrawing when our needs are not being met.

Like women, men have a need and a desire for intimate connection…

While you experience this through conversations, time spent on activities, holding hands etc., men feel most intimately connected during and immediately after sex.  While his desire is physical and often presents that way, when he walks by and runs his hand over your posterior, it is also a call for intimacy, not just sex.  Pay attention and learn to read between the lines and learn your man’s moves.

When you reject his advances, he feels like you are rejecting him…

I know nothing could be further from the truth, and it may seem childish, but there it is.  It can be deeply painful, especially if it happens often.  Again, from the book Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex quotes from husbands in her research:

“I don’t feel loved because my wife doesn’t want sex. I feel like she doesn’t want me personally.”

“You know there is a lack of interest, but you don’t really know why. You start to think, What is wrong with me?”

“I feel rejected, like my wants, needs, and desires don’t matter.” “It really hurts. I feel like a failure and a horrible husband because she almost never lets us have sex. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s how I feel.” 

Men do know, at some level, that you are not really rejecting them.  We understand you my be exhausted, distracted or simply not feeling “sexy.”  As Christians, we know that even if we were being rejected that we are still loved, accepted and valued by God. However, it is sometimes extremely difficult to assimilate that truth when we are feeling sexually frustrated.

When you initiate sex he feels like you want him, are satisfied by him, and love him…

“I don’t have to remind you that you like chocolate cake.  You enjoy chocolate cake so you eat it when it is around.  The cake does not have to remind you that you like it.  If you really enjoyed sex…”  So started a coaching conversation about sex.  Ladies, he really does not understand that sex is not a thought that crosses your mind 227 times per day, because it probably crosses his.  He thinks if you really enjoyed sex you would initiate more.

Initiating sex lets him know you think he is sexy, that you desire him and that he is your “Thor.”  I know you can’t make the thought of initiating sex cross your minds 2-3 times a week, but you can set a reminder on your phone.

He wants sex to be exciting…

Try something different every once-in-a-while.  Have you ever made out in a state park;  spent some time fooling around in the guest bedroom; wore a cowboy hat or a superwoman cape to bed?  Have you ever had the police respond because the neighbors called in a loud noise complaint when the kids were at grandma’s?   I am not encouraging activities that would land you in jail, but you can have some fun and do something different every once in a while.

For Men Only

Have a Reality Check…

Women do not see sex the same way you do.  They need time to open up emotionally and this means you get to spend some time talking with her, going on walks holding her hand, etc.  Remember, love is patient and kind.  Show her some of that patience and sacrificial love and learn what she needs to prepare for sexual intimacy.  While sexual attraction is more physical for men, sexual desire is more of a mental thing for women.   In addition, learn what she enjoys and what she does not enjoy.  Learn to serve your wife through sex just as you serve her in other ways in your marriage.

Dude, Show Some Self Control…

I know that the gentle pat on the bottom is a way that you show affection.  However, she is probably not going to take it that way, especially if you take the opportunity to do so 12 times a day  with one of those times being at the grocery store on the baby food isle.  It makes her feel like a piece of meat.  Cut it out.

Bring the Romance…

While you may be ready for sexual intimacy at the drop of a hat, it may take a little longer for her.  Let her know you are thinking about her during the day.  Text or call for no reason but to say you love her.  I know you think about sex 15 times a day but you need to actually express it to her.  Just thinking it does not communicate intimacy.

Plan a date each week.  Yes, it’s your job.  Try for at least 1 time per week, even if it is just a brief lunch.  Put away the phone and actually pay attention.  If your not a natural romantic, get a book.  It is a skill you can learn.

Learn How to Express Your Needs…

Quit pouting when you don’t get your way.  Withdrawing to your room and playing video games will most likely not result in her getting hot and bothered and jumping you in the middle of Call of Duty 12.  When you are feeling disconnected, let her know.  When you are feeling lonely, let her know.  It is in sharing feelings that a woman feels connected.

Brush up On Your Approach…

“Hey, you wanna do it” is probably not the best approach when you want intimacy.  Learn how she wants to be approached, what she needs to feel secure and loved, and then watch the sparks fly.

Homework

  1.  Open the homework questionnaire and answer the questions from your perspective.  Set a time one evening later in the week to share and discuss your answers.  Try and set aside some time where you are not interrupted.
  2.  Listen to the Podcast from In This Together regarding “Talking to Your Spouse about Sex.
  3. If you want another podcast to listen to, check our the Fierce Marriage Podcast as Ryan and Selina Frederick discuss the “Five Anchors of Sex.”

Gregoire, Sheila Wray; Gregoire, Sheila Wray. The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex: (And You Thought Bad Girls Have All the Fun) (p. 205). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 2 – Fighting the Four

There is no shortage of advice that can be found concerning marriage.  Advice that ranges from learning how to effectively listen to your spouse to how to spice up your sex life with nutritional additives.  People mean well and many times the advice worked out well for them.  In fact, many counselors base their advice on what has worked in their relationships more than on scripture and longitudinal research.  However, there is long term, longitudinal studies that provide insight into how we interact as men and women in an intimate relationship.  I often refer to scriptural truths as Capitol “T” truth (what God says) and scientific evidence as little “t” truth (what science says).  I love it when both of these “truths” align and can shed light on what works in marriage.

The Four Horseman of the Apocalyptic Marriage

If you have been to one of our Love and Respect Workshops, you have heard the facilitator, Dr. Eggerich, refer to research from the University of Washington.  This research, that spans 4 decades, time and time again supports what God says in his word.  Especially the scripture in Ephesians that deals with the need of a woman to be sacrificially loved by her husband and the need of a husband to be sacrificially respected by his wife. Time and again his research points out how kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and being tenderhearted provide a significant defense against what he calls The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in regards to marriage.  The four horseman are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.  Every marriage has at least a small dosage of these poisons in them.  However, when any or all of them run rampant, a marriage veers towards destruction.

Ephesians 4:32 is not what we would consider a “marriage” scripture.  It is a call for all brothers and sisters in Christ to treat each other as God has treated them.  If you have an accurate understanding of how much God loves you, is kind to you, is tenderhearted towards you, and how much God has forgiven you; if you understand his grace towards you; you will find that it is easier to treat others in the same way.  If we are called to treat our brothers and sisters with forgiveness and kindness, how much more are we called to treat our spouse in the same way.

Thanksgiving

Do you regularly express thankfulness to your spouse? The first horseman, criticism, often takes place when expectations are not being met and disappointment sets in. It often starts with complaining, which is how we express ourselves when needs are not being met.   However, when these complaints are not effectively communicated we sometimes shift from the problem being the problem to our spouse being the problem. When that happens criticism of our spouse often follows. A healthy complaint might be “I wish you would hold my hand when we walk because it makes me feel secure and loved.” Criticism would sound like “You are so insensitive, why don’t you hold my hand like Jim does when he walks with Kim?” In essence, you start criticizing the character of your spouse. This creates underlying disillusionment and resentment. The answer to criticism is thanksgiving. Last week we ended with a challenge of expressing thanksgiving. Thanksgiving helps us keep things in perspective and allows us to be thankful for what we have, work on what we desire, and prevents the horseman of criticism from galloping over our marriage.

Empathy

Are you open to the problems and complaints in a marriage or have you crossed over into contempt, the second horseman.  Contempt often surfaces when expectations go unmet and no attempt at working on an issue takes place.  People become frustrated, angry and can sometimes just be mean.  When complaints turn to criticism, and people start attacking each other’s character, it is like driving a stake into your partner’s heart.  People then become hard-hearted and withdraw to a defensive position.  The opposite of this is empathy. A person with empathy sees a problem but instead of attacking the other person, they commit to attacking the problem.  They understand that both partners in the marriage have baggage, that both partners are being “transformed” into the image of Christ, and that they are part of that transformational process.  They are there to sacrificially love the other, being patient as God works out the changes that need to take place.

Forgiving

As the third horseman, defensiveness, surfaces in a marriage, individuals may begin to build their defenses in an effort to reduce the pain involved in resolving issues. Defensiveness surfaced when couples start blaming each other for the problems in their marriage. They may each attempt to take the high moral ground claiming their individual perspective is accurate or “right.” They may defend themselves with scripture, something they read in a marriage book or something they heard in a TED Talk. Most of the time defensiveness is rooted in pride and is the result of forgetting that both partners are influenced by sin.  Your spouse is not perfect, and neither are you.  God is in the process of perfecting us but all of us have a ways to go.  Understanding this, and understanding what you have been forgiven for in Christ, allows you to approach marital problems with forgiveness.  The greatest growth in a marriage comes from repenting (turning away from sinful behaviors) and forgiveness.  Confessing, or realigning your perception with the reality of God’s word, is key to this cycle.  It is this that protects you from being defensive and then stonewalling your partner in a bid to protect yourself.

Stonewalling, the last of the four horsemen, often surfaces after there have been unmet expectations, resentment, criticism and defensiveness in a marriage.  Working to prevent the first three horsemen often prevents the fourth from surfacing.  However, if that stage has already become the norm for your marriage it may be time to look outside of your marriage for a coach, counselor or pastor to provide help and insight.

While it is often easy to focus on the horsemen, this week I am going to challenge you to focus on the treatment.  How are you (in Christ) fighting criticism with thanksgiving?  How are you (in Christ) fighting contempt with kindness?  Have you withdrawn to a defensive position, stonewalling your partner or are you (in Christ) committed to deal with your problems with confession, repentance and forgiveness?

Homework/Resource

This week we would like to introduce you to the Lasting App.  This app distills over three decades of research into 5 minute “bit size” activities that you and your spouse can engage in every day.  While provided in small chunks, the content is massive and the paid subscription gives you access to tons of topics including communication, sexuality, conflict, appreciation, etc.  Linking your phone with your spouse’s phone allows you to share responses from surveys that are often revealing and insightful.  You will find that though it is based on a number of longitudinal studies, the designer of the app is a christian so the content is generally consistent with scriptural truth.  Try the free portions of the app and if you feel it is helpful consider the subscription, which is generally lower in cost per year than one session of therapy.  While it may not be a replacement for therapy when needed, it can be part of a regime that can prevent the need in the first place.

God Bless and have a great week guys.

ABC Reviews Lasting

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 1 – Expectations

Are Your Expectations Realistic?

I personally love the science behind marriage – communication, sexuality, emotion, and commitment all work together to create a unique and exciting marriage.   As believers, we also need a strong understanding about what scripture has to say about the covenant marriage.

Many times problems surface in a marriage because we have unrealistic expectations of marriage due to television, movies, books, social media, etc.  It is therefore important to explore this topic.  Let’s take a look at what scripture has to say about the purpose of marriage.

Your Marriage is Not About Your Marriage.

A strong marriage is not an end to itself.  A strong marriage creates a foundation from which to minister and serve.  A strong marriage reflects the image of Christ and the Church.  A strong marriage creates a fellowship between two people that strengthens both partners and allows them to better express their giftedness and talents.  A strong marriage forms the foundation of a stable family and therefore creates a stronger foundation for the church, communities, cities, states and countries.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Fellowship.

In Genesis we see the first purpose of marriage, fellowship.  God created the heavens and earth, placed man in the garden, gave him a job and said “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)  It is the first time that God created and did not say “It is good.”  This is often referred to the “pregnant pause” in creation where God focuses on his preparation for woman.  He puts Adam to work naming animals. As Adam does so, he finds that there is a female for every male, “but no suitable helper could be found.”  (Genesis 2:20)  God made sure Adam knew what it was like to be alone so he would appreciate the fellowship of his wife.  When she was created, he was so happy he actually broke out into song.

“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”  (Genesis 2:23)

Additionally, marriage is about woman being created for man as a loving partner (Genesis 2, Proverbs 5:19), a wise adviser (Proverbs 31), and as a family manager (1 Timothy 5:14).  Husband and wife together, acting as best friends, serving one another in unique ways, makes up the fellowship of marriage.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Procreation and Sexual Purity.

One of the first commands God gave man was to “subdue the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)  For this purpose God created a sexual drive for the purpose of intimacy and procreation, usually stronger in men than women.  As with many things, the enemy uses this drive, originally meant for good and blessing, to tempt people into sexual sin.  Paul, writing to the Corinthians, recognizes this and says that the answer is for each man to have sexual relations with his own wife.  (1 Corinthians 7:2)  Paul goes so far as to tell each spouse that their body is not their own and that they cannot withhold themselves from one another unless there is mutual agreement and for a short time. (1 Corinthians 7:5) Marriage is the place where sexual expression, child-rearing, and the nuclear family dynamic is held together for the glory of the creator of the family, God.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Sanctification.

I can say it no better than Tim Keller, Author of The Meaning of Marriage…

“What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have. I can think of no more powerful common horizon than that, and that is why putting a Christian friendship at the heart of a marriage relationship can lift it to a level that no other vision for marriage approaches.”

Later he writes:

Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’” Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel.“1

Marriage is about God utilizing the joy of marriage to teach you appreciation and thanksgiving, and using the struggles of marriage to teach you sacrificial love, respect and patience.  In short, he uses us as a couple, both in our obedience and in our rebellion, to grow the image of Christ in each of us.

Challenge:  This week think about the blessings of your marriage.  This may be difficult for about 25% of us because 25% of couples are stressed and challenged at any given time.  Do it anyway.  Give thanks to God for the blessings you have (1 Thess. 5:18) and give a word of encouragement to your spouse for what they bring into your life (1 Thess. 5:11).

1  Keller, Timothy. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (p. vi). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Remember, if you are attending 7 Weeks to a Better Marriage, your second assignment is to listen to the In this Together Podcast located here.

Congratulations To Melanie and Tucker Moore

Melanie and Tucker Moore had a great wedding. The venue was nice and I loved the option of an evening wedding so everyone was not sweating in the sweltering heat of Texas in June. One of my favorite pastors officiated and Russ was authentic, humorous and wise.   The ceremony was short and sweet and we soon returned to the air-conditioned reception hall for dinner, visiting and dancing. Before long the bride and groom arrived and took the floor for their dance. They were a great looking couple.

Afterwards, the DJ called all married couples to the floor for the anniversary dance. Two dozen couples started the dance. The DJ called out years and slowly couples who had been married the least number of years left the floor. At five years a few couples stepped off. Then he called out ten years, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty and then thirty-two. Only five couples remained. At thirty-five Patty and I stepped off with four couples remaining. In the end it was a close tie between three couples, all of which had been married just over thirty eight years. The DJ identified the couple who had been married the longest, applause was given, and then the DJ asked the couple what advice they had for the new couple. All of a sudden I was glad it was not us. I am not sure what I would have said in the moment. The pressure!!!

This morning I woke up with the answer. The next time, if we are left on the dance floor, this will be my advice.

Enjoy the Journey

One day you will look back over your marriage and there will be a story being told. Think about what you want that story to be and start writing it today. Look for opportunities to make memories. Be able to tell stories about mountain climbing and Kayak trips, visits to Thailand and making out in the back yard. Be able to tell stories about kids and camping, home purchases and water heater leaks. Your marital story will be made up of moments grand and small. Give thanks for these moments each day and enjoy the journey.

Choose Each Other Every Day

Marriage is about choosing to love every day. Each morning I get up and put on two rings. On my right hand is a James Avery rendition of the wedding band Martin Luther’s wife gave her husband. It shows the story of the cross and reminds me that God pursued me and paid a high price for our relationship. The second is my wedding band. It reminds me that I am given the chance to pursue and love Patty every day. It is not about feeling like I am in love; it is about getting to show love every day in ways big and small.

Love Face to Face and Fight Back to Back

Take the time to look into each other’s eyes and express your love for one another. Swim in the romance and passion but be prepared to fight. Nothing good comes easy and a great marriages take a rumble now and then. Just remember, when you fight, the enemy is not your spouse. Fights will happen as two people choose to merge their lives. Just make sure you are fighting for your marriage and friendship instead of against each other for your own way. Your spouse in not your enemy. However, your marriage does have an enemy and when he attacks, you need to be fighting back to back. Never Give Up; Never Give Up; Never Give Up!

Thanks for the invitation and we hope you have an amazing honeymoon and life together. Blessings to you and your family.

I Want, I Want

You have to give it to Dr. Tripp, he can really hit the nail on the head.  We missed the first couple of weeks of “What Did You Expect,” a marriage study based on the book by the same name.  I have read the book twice and been convicted and challenged with every turn of the page.  Last night we discussed how sin is basically self centered and anti-social. When we allow sin to influence us, our relationships become less about us and become a means of simply getting what we want.  And we want a lot.  You may have heard the analogy that this type of relationship become like two ticks and no dog.  We are so needy and when we go to our spouse to meet all those needs we start to suck them dry.  Two people doing that in a marriage will soon find themselves at a crossroad with their needs being left unmet.

However, when we focus on God as our source, he provides all we need and more.  As we turn to God to meet our needs we soon discover that he calls us to focus less on our needs (he is meeting them anyway) and focus on the needs of others, including our spouse.  As we pull from the infinite source that is God, he uses us as a resource to love, delight in, respect, value, appreciate and serve our spouse and others.  It is when we turn to God as our source that we start down the path to a joyful marriage.

“He has invaded your marriage with his powerful love and transforming grace.”

Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect?: Redeeming The Realities Of Marriage

Shout out to Reb and Tammy Bowers.  Great job leading the class last night.  You guys rock.

The Death of The Dream

The death of the dream happens to every couple. None of us gets our dream in the way that we dreamt it, because none of us is writing our own story. God, in his love, writes a better story than we could ever write for ourselves. He has a better dream than the one we conceive. He knows much better than we do what is best for us. He will take us places that we never intended to go because, in doing so, we become more of what he re-created us in Christ to be. Could it be that as we begin to face the harsh reality of the death of our individual and shared dreams, we are not struggling to love one another but are being given the opportunity to love one another more than ever before? It is when attraction wanes, flaws show, and the dream dies that real love has its best opportunity to germinate and grow. This sad and disillusioning moment is not the end of it all, but the beginning of something wonderful. We could argue that God now has us right where He wants us. We are no longer attracted to one another out of self-centered desire. We are no longer holding onto our dream, because it has melted away before our very eyes. We are hurt and frightened because what had fueled our relationship is gone, and we don’t know what to do. But this is not a defeat; this is an opportunity to exit the small space of the kingdom of self and to begin to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the kingdom of God. What appears to be love may not be love, and when God reveals that, it is a very good thing. What happened to us did not happen because God was absent from our marriage. No, it happened precisely because God was present and was rescuing us from ourselves and giving us what we could not produce on our own. 1

February 20th begins a six week study of What Did You Expect, an amazing study of what God intended marriage for.  The above paragraph is a paraphrase of a section in chapter three.  It was hugely impactful because it was reflective of our marriage and is reflective of every marriage I have ever known.

Interested in joining us, click here.

  1. Tripp, Paul David. What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (pp. 49-50). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Guard His Reputation-A Word for Wives

Proverbs 12:4

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,

but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

What is your husband’s reputation with your friends?  When they meet him do they expect to meet Superman or Homer Simpson?  When you speak of your husband in his absence do you focus on his strengths or do you complain about his shortcomings.  No one knows him as you do and his reputation is often at your mercy.  Ephesians 4:29 commands “ Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  There is no place where this is more important than in your marriage.

Today think about how you talk about and to your husband.  Do you build him up or destroy him when you speak about him?  Today, commit to building his reputation in his absence and telling him at least one thing you admire about his character in his presence.  Is he committed to attending the kid’s school activities, tell him how much you appreciate his commitment to the children.  Does he work long hours to provide for his family, tell him how much you appreciate his sacrifice.  The ongoing habit of thanksgiving and encouragement is a significant long term investment in a marriage, especially when you are investing in your man.

Accessing The Power For Marriage

Ephesians is considered the cornerstone scripture for marriage. Ephesians 5:22 starts the instructions concerning wives and husbands specifically.  In this passage we hear the often quoted “love your wife as Christ loved the church” and the controversial quote of “wives submit to your husband in all thing.”  I have heard these scriptures often throughout my marriage but it was literally decades before I started looking not only how I should be loving, but instead, where I would get the ability to love that sacrificially.  If love and submission are the light that comes from the flashlight of marriage, what are batteries?

The answer is found a few scriptures back, in Ephesians 5:18 where we are instructed to be “filled with the spirit.” The subsequent scriptures provide guidance concerning how you will act towards your spouse, children, servants and masters but it is being “filled with the spirit” that provides the resources you need for these relationships. The spirit is the source of power for a Christian marriage.  So, what does it mean to be filled with the spirit?

John McArthur in his commentary on Ephesians says this: “To be filled with the Spirit is to live in the consciousness of the personal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, as if we were standing next to Him, and to let His mind dominate our life. It is to fill ourselves with God’s Word, so that His thoughts will be our thoughts, His standards our standards, His work our work, and His will our will. As we yield to the truth of Christ, the Holy Spirit will lead us to say, do, and be what God wants us to say, do, and be. “We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Christ consciousness leads to Christ likeness.” 1

It is when we think with the mind of Christ and submit to the will of Christ that we can express the life of Christ to our spouse.  Our thinking influences our emotions, our emotions influence our actions.  Marital problems give us the opportunity to explore the source we are living from like no other relationship.  When Patty and I are arguing I have the opportunity to ask myself “am I expressing the desires of the Spirit, or am I expressing the desires of the flesh (what I want)?”  Some times I am living from the Spirit and what I am advocating is needed.  More often I am living from the flesh and what I am advocating is what I want or feel I need.  The good news is, now that I know I need to check the battery, I can redirect my thinking to where God is calling me faster than I used to.  During all of the trials we face in life, especially the trials we face in marriage, we need to be checking the source of our thinking and actions.

1 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Set of 30 volumes (Macarthur New Testament Commentary Serie) (Kindle Locations 170024-170029). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Purpose of Marriage

“Strengthening your ministry by strengthening your marriage.”  This is the mission statement of Three Strands Ministry and is founded on Biblical principles regarding marriage.  These foundational scriptures can be discovered in Genesis, Colossians, Corinthians, Ephesians, and 1st Timothy.  I have been thinking a lot about these scriptures and recently heard a podcast from our friends at Fierce Marriage concerning scripture and marriage.   This has motivated me to think a little deeper about what scripture says about our marriage.   I personally love the science behind marriage; communication, sexuality, emotion, etc.   However, as believers, we need a strong understanding about what scripture has to say about a covenant marriage.  Over the next few weeks we will explore what scripture says about the purpose of marriage, the joy of marriage, the power for marriage, the enemy of marriage and the ultimate marriage.  Come back weekly for more.

Your Marriage is not About Your Marriage

A strong marriage is not an end to itself.  A strong marriage creates a foundation from which to minister and serve.  A strong marriage reflects the image of Christ and the Church.  A strong marriage creates a fellowship between two people which strengthens both partners and allows them to better express their giftedness and talents.  A strong marriage forms the foundation of a stable church and therefore creates a stronger foundation for cities, states and countries.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Fellowship

In Genesis we see the first purpose of marriage, fellowship.  God created the heavens and earth, placed man in the garden, gave him a job and said “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)  It is the first time that God created and did not say “It is good.”  This is often referred to the “pregnant pause” in creation where God focuses on his preparation for woman.  He puts Adam to work naming animals and as Adam does so, he finds that there is a female for every male, “but no suitable helper could be found.”  (Genesis 2:20)  God made sure Adam knew what it was like to be alone so he would appreciate the fellowship of his wife.  When she was created he was so happy he actually broke out into song.

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

Genesis 2:23

Additionally, marriage is about woman being created for man as a loving partner (Genesis 2, Proverbs 5:19), a wise adviser (Proverbs 31),  and as a family manager (1 Timothy 5:14).  Husband and wife together, acting as best friends, serving one another in unique ways, makes up the fellowship of marriage.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Procreation and Sexual Purity

One of the first commands God gave man was to “subdue the earth” (Genesis 1:28)  For this purpose God created a sexual drive, usually stronger in men than women, for the purpose of intimacy and procreation.  As with many things, the enemy uses this drive, originally meant for good and blessing, to tempt people into sin.  Paul, writing to the Corinthians, recognizes this and says that the answer if for each man to have sexual relations with his own wife  (1 Corinthians 7:2) He goes so far as to tell each spouse that their body is not their own and that they cannot withhold themselves from one another unless there is mutual agreement and for a short time. (1 Corinthians 7:5)  Marriage is the place where sexual expression, child-rearing, and the nuclear family dynamic is held together for the glory of the creator of the family, God.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Sanctification

I can say it no better than Tim Keller, Author of The Meaning of Marriage, so I will not try.

“What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have. I can think of no more powerful common horizon than that, and that is why putting a Christian friendship at the heart of a marriage relationship can lift it to a level that no other vision for marriage approaches.”

Later her writes:

Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’” Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel.“1

Marriage is about God utilizing the joy of marriage to teach you appreciations and thanksgiving, and using the struggles of marriage to teach you sacrificial love, respect and patience.  In short, he uses us as a couple, both in our obedience and in our rebellion, to grow the image of Christ in each of us.

Challenge:  This week think about the blessings of your marriage.  This may be difficult for about 25% of us as a quarter of couples are stressed and challenged at any given time.  Do it anyway.  Give thanks to God for the blessings you have (1 Thess. 5:18) and give a word of encouragement to your spouse for what they bring into your life (1 Thess. 5:11).

Stretch Challenge:  Do this daily for the next week.

1  Keller, Timothy. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (p. vi). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Social Media and Marriage

How does your relationship compare to other couples in your life. Consciously or unconsciously this is the question we often ask as we look at social media. Is social media really a problem for relationships?