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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

[Wives Only Wednesday]

Spark passion by relentlessly pursuing your husband HIS way.

I proposed last week in "From Discipline and Duty to Delight"  that passion is a key ingredient to delighting in your husband. When passion runs deep in your marriage, it is a delight to give generously and to love and serve him.

On Monday I offered husbands the first of four ways to pump up the passion: pursuit.

Today, I'm addressing wives separately, because pursuit typically looks very different to men and women.  As I told the guys, if you want to raise the passion level in your marriage, you are going to have to pay attention to it and purposefully cultivate a more passionate atmosphere.

Rethinking Passion

What do you envision when you hear the term “passionate marriage?”

If you are like many women, then you likely think of scenes from some of the chick flicks you’ve watched or the romance novels you’ve read.  Or maybe you are thinking more like your husband might and envisioning steamy lovemaking scenes.  Regardless, I want to push you to expand your thinking a bit beyond the romantic and sexual aspects of your marriage, though passion certainly does include those.

The kind of passion I'm talking about refers to having an underlying sense of excitement and fervor about your spouse and your marriage, having a relationship full of intensity, joyfulness and unbridled enthusiasm in both the sexual and non-sexual dimensions of your relationship.

Building a passionate marriage starts with desire. You have to want it, and you have to be willing to go after it with determination. Passionate marriages don't just happen. They are sought, cultivated and guarded. Passionate marriages only happen on purpose.

Passion = Pursuit

It's fairly common knowledge that every woman likes to feel pursued, but did you know that your husband also wants to be pursued? It's true. But the nature of what he considers pursuit is likely quite different than what you think of as pursuit.

If you want your husband to feel pursued by you, then you have to pursue him HIS way. And that may not be a way you are used to thinking.

The kind of pursuit your husband has in mind probably has a significant sexual component. There is some truth to the adage that "Men want a princess in the streets and a wildcat between the sheets." There are various versions of this, some much more vulgar, but the idea is the same. Your man feels desired and pursued when you act overtly sexual toward him. That idea might be uncomfortable for you, but I challenge you to try it for yourself. Step outside your comfort zone once in a while and watch his reaction.

The other way your husband will feel pursued is when you let him know how much you admire him as a man, as a leader, as a provider. Your husband wants to be your hero, even if he knows he sometimes falls short of that mark. I can tell you that if you pursue him with your admiration, he is much more likely to step into the hero role than if you criticize him.

Passion Pointers

What matters most is what constitutes genuine pursuit to your own husband. It could be that sexual advances and admiration won't do it for him. If you don't have a clue where to start, come right out and ask him. Be willing to really hear what he says without defending your past actions (or inactions).

Just in case you aren't sure where to start,  I'll give you a few suggestions:

  • Write him a suggestive love note. Recall a favorite encounter or tell him a few specific things about how he made you feel in bed recently.
  • Surprise him with tickets to his favorite sporting event or musical group. You get bonus points if it is something he knows isn't your favorite pastime.
  • Bring him a little token of your love the next time you are out shopping, something you know he'll really appreciate. Tell him, "I saw this and thought of you."
  • Give him a back, neck or foot rub. While you do thank him sincerely for things he's done for you recently or for working so hard at his job to provide for you.
  • Initiate sex in a creative way. Example: leave a note on the kitchen table for him to find telling him you are waiting for him in bed and to come up now.
  • Learn how to flirt with him over text message. If you want to get more explicit, there are a number of private, secure apps you can use.

You'll find a few other tips in my post "Endless Pursuit."

Two things are true about pursuit: 1) you should never stop doing it, and 2) it has to be done in whatever way means pursuit to your husband.

How are you doing in the area of pursuit? What have you found that means pursuit to your man? If there are any husbands  listening in, can you offer your thoughts on what makes you feel pursued? Leave a comment.

Monday, August 25, 2014

[Men Only Monday]

Spark passion by relentlessly pursuing your wife HER way.

I proposed in my last post, From Discipline and Duty to Delight, that passion is a key ingredient to delighting in your wife. When passion runs deep in your marriage, it is a delight to give generously and to love and serve her.

But how do you raise the passion level in your marriage? It doesn't happen by default. It requires you to purposefully cultivate a more passionate atmosphere.

In this series I propose four ways to pump up the passion. Today I'm addressing husbands with Part 1: Pursuit.

(For the wives version, check back on Wednesday!)

Passion Re-framed

What do you envision when you hear the term “passionate marriage?”

If you are a typical male, then you likely think of steamy sex and lots of it. And there’s nothing wrong with that! However, I want to push you to expand your thinking beyond the bedroom.

While it may be possible to have a passionate sex life while the rest of your marriage is in the doldrums, it’s a pretty unlikely combination. So if you want things to heat up in the bedroom, work to set the rest of your marriage on fire. Learn to cultivate passion in the entirety of your marriage.

Passion = Pursuit

You should never stop pursuing your wife. I mean never, even if you've been marriage 50 years. When you stop pursuing her, it sends your wife the message, "You are no longer the one I would choose."

How do you pursue your wife?  Let me get this out of the way early: relentlessly pestering her for sex does not constitute pursuit, at least not for most wives.

Instead, pursue your wife her way.  For many wives this means romancing her and wooing her with your love. For some of you it means going back to the kind of things you did when you were trying to win her heart. Maybe you need to bring back the things you used to do to show her your love, but have since let go of, as you allowed every day life to push out the passion.

Pursuit means being attentive to her and really listening to her. Engage and gain understanding of what she has to say.

Most importantly, learn what says "I love you" to your wife, and then go about doing those things on a regular basis.

Your wife wants to be pursued, to know she is worth your time and attention, the center of your affection, and yes, that she is desirable to you. Learn to be passionate and relentless in your pursuit of your wife.

Passion Pointers

As I said above, what matters most is what constitutes genuine pursuit to your wife. If you don't have a clue where to start, you could always ask her (I know, novel thought).

But in case you need a few ideas to get you headed in the right direction, I'll offer these:
  • Write her a love letter (keep in mind the kind of letter SHE would like).
  • Plan a romantic date. Take care of all the details like reservations and sitter.
  • Surprise her with tickets to her favorite show or concert (even and especially if it isn't your favorite)
  • Bring her a small gift out of the blue. Tell her it's for no reason other than that you love her and were thinking of her.
  • Go for a walk. Hold her hand or put your arm around her. Really listen to her.
  • Text her in the middle of the day just to make a connection. Ask her how she is doing. Tell her you miss her. Tell her you love her. 
You'll find a few other tips in my post "Endless Pursuit."

Remember these two truths about pursuit: 1) you must never stop doing it, and 2) it has to be done in a way that means pursuit to your wife.

How are you doing in the area of pursuit? Have you found what means pursuit to your wife? If there are any wives listening in, can you offer us husbands your thoughts on what makes you feel pursued? Leave a comment.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

"I don't have disciplines in my life. I have delights."
- Graham Cooke

Recently I had the awesome opportunity to spend an evening in a living room with Graham Cooke, where he uttered the phrase above. It was one among many truth-packed one-liners he offered, each of which could take me days to fully apprehend.

He went on to explain that in his walk with God, he has moved beyond working to do things for God to earn favor and acceptance. Instead, he is able to simply delight himself in God, doing the same kinds of things he did before as disciplines, but doing them instead with a sense of delight. Such activities as prayer, reading the Word, and worship were no longer done with a sense of duty, but with the joy of giving love back to the One who lavishes His love on us.

As is so often the case, I thought immediately of the marital equivalent to this spiritual principle.

Have To, Want To, Get To

In my recent post From "Have To" to "Want To"  I encourage wives to look at sexual intimacy differently. I concluded with this thought:
Let your love for God and your love for your husband, empowered by the Holy Spirit, transform your "have to" into a "want to." Who knows, maybe you might even end up at "get to."
What Graham Cooke described as delight is the attitude of "get to."

You can apply the same idea of "get to" when it comes to a husband meeting his wife's need for emotional connection.

Think about it. When it comes to serving, loving and giving to your spouse in their area of need, how often do you have a "get to" attitude,counting it an honor and privilege? Alternatively, how often do you simply do what you know to be right out of a sense of responsibility or obligation?

Want To Want To

If you find yourself in the place of obligation and duty when it comes to meeting your spouses needs and loving them in the way the want and need to be loved, I want to congratulate you.

Seriously. It may sound like I intend to beat you up with this post, but that is not the case at all. In fact, every marriage will face seasons where there is little joy in giving, where loving your spouse comes down to a daily decision. Those who hang on to their covenant promise "for better, for worse" are to be congratulated. Too many stop trying when they stop feeling it and simply run for the exits.

But I want to encourage you to endeavor to move from "have to" to "want to" by asking God to give you the "want to." God is for your marriage, and He doesn't want you to dwell in the land of obligation in your marriage relationship any more than he wants that in your relationship with Him.

So ask God to help you develop the "want to." Ask Him to fill your heart with His love, which is vastly superior to the love we can come up on our own. Ask Him to remind you of the many attributes that first attracted you to your spouse, and ask Him to bring you back to your "first love." Ask Him to heal any hurts that are causing you to withhold love, to draw back in fear or shame.

It's a prayer God is eager to answer.

The "want to" is the first step. But you have to go further if you want to arrive at "get to." The key is passion.

Living in the Land of Delight

Couples who have moved from discipline to delight, from duty to joyful giving, from "have to," past "want to," and all the way to "get to" tend to have one thing in common: Passion.

Passion is more than just having things steamy in the bedroom, though that is certainly one dimension of it. It extends way beyond the area of physical intimacy into the whole of your marriage. Passion is a frame of mind, a burning on the inside of you, that is full of excitement and fervor for your spouse and your marriage. 

It's not likely that a passionate marriage  will "just happen." No, you have to pursue it, cultivate it, acquire it, and guard it. 

When passion runs deep in your marriage, it is a delight to give, love and serve each other. Where there is an abundance of passion for each other (both non-sexual and sexual), there is no need to perform, no need to give in order to get love, because in a passionate marriage, love is the baseline; it's a given, a reliable constant.

The Pursuit of Passion

What can you do to get more passion in your marriage?

It's a tricky question, in a way, because I believe passion isn't necessarily obtained directly. Rather, I believe passion is a fruit that grows as a result of a change in the atmosphere of your marriage. Don't despair, though, there are definitely concrete actions you can take to change your relationship in a way that will naturally build more passion into your marriage.

In coming posts I'll be sharing four key areas of focus for building passion. I'm calling this series the Four P's of Passion. I'll be addressing husbands and wives separately over the next four weeks in Men Only Monday and Wives Only Wednesday posts. So stay tuned!

What do you think of my connection between passion and delight? Do you have a testimony to share of when God moved you from "have to" all the way to "get to?" Leave a comment.

PS  If you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, you might want to sign up to get my blog posts by email.

PPS  I've got a new survey up on my blog that I hope you will help me with:  "Who Owns My Body?" - exploring the controversial verses in 1 Corinthians 7 about the rights to your body in marriage.

image credit: vikasuh / 123rf.com

Monday, July 28, 2014

I have two primary passions: marriage and worship. The truth is I've been a worship leader and musician for much longer than I've been involved in marriage ministry, but I don't tend to touch on that here very often.

So when I found something on Facebook that brings music and marriage together, I just had to share it.

This video beautifully portrays the truth that, in marriage, two become one. Watch and be amazed.

Here are a few marriage lessons I can see:
  • Two can create something that one cannot hope to create alone.
  • Both parts are critical to the song's beauty and effectiveness. 
  • It's okay if, sometimes, one carries the song alone for a short time.
  • Staying in sync requires you to give as much attention to listening as to playing the song
  • Confidence and trust in one another is essential.
  • Sometimes you need to make room for one another.
What other lessons do you find in this marvelous metaphor?  Leave a comment

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Five rules on public discourse for married couples 

Traveling for business this month, I saw a couple interacting in a way that was totally dismaying to me.  I felt it would be worth re-telling.

This actually happened. 

I took my customary aisle seat on my packed flight and pulled out my tablet to begin reading.

A couple who looked to be in their thirties boarded together. His seat was across the aisle from my right; hers against the window to my left.

He gallantly announced that he would take the middle seat next to me and offer his aisle seat to whomever was assigned to the middle - a noble gesture offered, I assumed, in an attempt to have them sit together. She smirked and said with a huff, "no way." She then proceeded to plunk herself into his aisle seat without so much as a glance in her husband's direction. I noticed a confused look on his face as I stood to allow him into the window seat that would otherwise have belonged to his wife.

As I settled back into my seat, I heard the wife justify her actions by muttering to no one in particular something about him just falling asleep anyway and snoring the whole way. (As a snorer myself I took particular offense at that statement.)

Just then a mother with a fussing (screaming actually) child pass down the aisle. The woman across from me muttered again, to no one in particular that she was going to need a strong drink to get through this. Her husband muttered in reply, also to no one in particular, "I hate kids. I have kids and I hate kids."

Turns out that their concern was in vain.  The screaming child ended up more than 20 rows behind us.

I suppose in response to her comment about needing a drink, the husband ask sheepishly across me, toward her, if he could also have a drink. "No way!" his wife barked in his direction without looking his way. "You're on water!"

As he settled into his magazine, she dug into her bag for her novel. Pulling it out, she announced, to no one in particular, "I'm gonna' have a drink and go off to France."  On the book she was waving I noticed something about Paris in the title.

As I shifted my attention back to my tablet I thought to myself, "There's definitely a post here."

I Know You Would Never, But...

I am sure that you and your spouse would never interact like this, especially not on a crowded airplane. But for the record, let me just draw a few lessons from this unhappy couple.
  1. Keep your private issues private - Maybe you've got stuff going on between you. Maybe you fought that morning or one of you said something harsh to the other, but don't drag your issues out in public. Either fix it in private or stuff it until you can. Ugly public displays are just that: ugly.

  2. Don't cut each other down in public - I honestly don't get this. How can you treat your spouse worse than you would treat a total stranger? Watch your words, and if you can't say something kind, keep it to yourself. You shouldn't cut each other down at all, but a public dissing cuts ten times deeper. At the same time public praise counts ten times more. It says to your spouse, "I'm proud to be married to you."

  3. If your spouse tries to make a kind gesture, respond in a like manner - None of us are going to bat 1000 when we try to do something kind or helpful, but acknowledge your spouse's effort when he or she tries to make a kind gesture but ends up annoying you instead. A kiss with bad breath, a shortcut that makes you late for the movie, or a bad choice of a new restaurant are all opportunities to smile and show some grace.

  4. Don't neglect each other in public - You probably see it all the time. A couple sitting in a restaurant both occupied with their cell phones. Do your best to focus on each other when you are out and about together. Chances are it doesn't happen that often, so take advantage of the time you have together.

  5. Lastly, if you have a passive-aggressive habit of speaking out loud to "no one in particular," please don't. Just don't. "No one in particular" does not want to hear what you have to say.
Maybe you aren't "that couple." But perhaps you can take this opportunity to consider how you treat your spouse in public. What would people say about your marriage from watching you interact with your spouse? Can you think of any areas where you might do better?

If "that couple" happens to read this post, thanks for giving us all a lesson in how not to interact in public.

What other rules of public engagement would you have to offer?  Leave a comment with your thoughts.

image credit: cluckva / 123rf.com

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