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Monday, February 27, 2012
I posted a couple times last week on the touchy topic of submission (See “A Picture of Submission” and “The S-word and the F-word”).
I’m moving from the sensitive topic of submission to the downright controversial topic of headship. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire!
That’s right, this week I’m talking to husbands about their role in marriage. Listen up, husbands, this week is going to be for you.
What’s The Real Problem?
My wife will tell you, I’m not one to hold back from saying what I think. That sometimes gets me into a little trouble, but that’s just the way I’m wired.
I’m going to make one of those bold statements right now:
The reason there aren’t more biblical marriages today is not because too few wives are willing to submit to their husbands. It’s because too many husbands are afraid to lead.
Now don’t flame me. I know there are husbands who err on the other side and abuse their authority. I believe that historically that has been a big problem and the main cause of the pendulum swinging so far the other way. But the pendulum has indeed swung.
Why So Afraid?
I think there are several contributing factors to the reticence of so many husbands to assume the mantle of authority that God has placed on them. Some or all of these may apply to you:
- Manliness is not so much admired or celebrated as it is broadly maligned and denigrated in society at large
- Fear of failure, of making wrong decisions or of leading poorly
- Lack of good male role models
- Not knowing how to deal with a strong wife in a way that preserves her strength yet acknowledges your leadership
- Unable or unwilling to defend the biblical notion of a husband’s authority against peer or family pressure. What will they think of me?
- Fear of taking responsibility
- Lack of correct biblical teaching by the church on what constitutes genuine, Christ-like headship
- Unwillingness to do the hard work of leadership. Yes, sometimes it’s hard work.
- Feeling disqualified due to past mistakes.
What Should You Do?
The first step in claiming or reclaiming your proper role is to realize that whether you accept it or not, God has placed you in a role in your marriage. Acknowledge the fact that you have authority, regardless of how or whether you use it.
The next step is to get educated. Thankfully I’m seeing more and more people willing to write truth on the topic of the role of husbands in marriage. Paul Byerly, aka The Generous Husband, wrote a few really good posts in just the last week.
- Husbands, Lead with Love
- What if My Wife Won’t Let Me Lead?
- Being Both Strong and Good
- Are you Smothering or Covering?
The third step involves a conversation with your wife about all this. Maybe you are afraid to broach the subject for fear of her reaction. Maybe you have been shot down before. I suggest that rather than using generic emotionally charged words like headship, submission and authority, you instead paint a picture for her of what that looks like. It looks like unconditional love. It looks like sacrifice and laying down your life for her. Tell her you want to learn to be both strong and good for the sake of your marriage. Explain that your highest desire is to love her and lead her well.
The final step is to make some concrete changes in the way you do your marriage. Make a specific plan that flows out of the learning you’ve done and the conversations you’ve had. Talk to your wife about your plan, or better yet, just start to lovingly lead her. Here are a few things to consider doing:
- Tell her you want to get a handle on your finances and that you want to sit down together to make a budget.
- Suggest that you pray together.
- Instead of asking her where she wants to go to dinner, you pick the restaurant – one that you know she enjoys
- Defend her against those who come against her. Make it clear that you are on her side.
- Take a more active role in parenting, demonstrating your love for your kids
- Write her a letter, a love letter; base it on what you have been learning about loving her like Christ loves the church
- Plan a weekend getaway – plant it all: the child care, the packing, what you’ll do. Bonus points if you can pull off a surprise.
- Honor her with your words – every day. Tell her how beautiful she is and how thankful you are that she is your wife.
- Hold her until she makes you let go.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
However, the S and F words I will be discussing might incite an even stronger reaction than their four-letter-word counterparts. I’m talking about submission and freedom. I’m following up from my last post, A Picture of Submission, where I talked about the many wrong pictures we have of what submission looks like.
Today, I want to dispel one other erroneous, yet pervasive notion about submission. That wrongful notion is that marital submission is somehow akin to enslavement. In fact, I argue that the opposite is true: submission actually brings freedom and power.
Don’t buy it? Read on!
Rick Warren, in a post on his Purpose Drive Blog, says this,
This is true worship: bringing pleasure to God as we give ourselves completely to him.Of course a wife who lives in submission to her husband is not “worshiping” him, but we do know that her submission in marriage is to mirror her submission to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). In fact, a wife gives her husband pleasure by giving herself completely to him.
But what does she get out of the bargain?
Freedom in Surrender?
In giving ourselves fully to God, we enjoy the freedom and power that He offers us in exchange.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
The martial parallel of this verse means that when a wife gives herself fully to her husband, as to the Lord, she no longer has to strive to earn his love or fight against his leadership. She knows that she already has his love! All that he has is hers also. So, instead of striving to get his love and acceptance she finds joy from doing things for her husband out of his love and for his pleasure. This is a huge paradigm shift for many.
Submission to the Lord also makes us free to enjoy unbounded intimacy with him. God’s love and grace free us from shame and guilt, so that we have the freedom to come to him boldly and confidently:
In him and through faith in him [Jesus] we may approach God with freedom and confidence.So too, a wife who yields herself to her husband has the freedom to be naked and unashamed with him. I’m talking about the freedom to be who she really is: spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and physically – naked yet without any fear or shame before him.
The truth is that a wife will often feel the need to control her husband as a result of fear or shame: fear that she won’t get what she wants or feels entitled to, fear that she won’t be loved and cared for as she desires, driven by shame over her own self-hatred or perceived flaws. The truth is that trying to control other people or manipulate your circumstances makes you a slave to your fears.
Freedom is Not License
Now let me pause here to remind you that there is a dramatic difference between freedom and license. The freedom that comes from submission does not imply the license to do what you please, how you please, when you please. For more on this, see my post, “Liberty and License in Marriage.”
Who Has the Power?
The other distortion that goes along with the “submission = enslavement” notion is that the wife loses all her power: the power to make her own decisions, the power to be who she is and find fulfillment, the power to reach her destiny.
First of all, let me point out that because biblical submission can only come by choice, as a freely given gift, the power ultimately lays with the wife. It is hers to decide.
Second, I see the marriage relationship as one where power is exchanged rather than shared. Rather than trying to split it all down the middle, 50-50, each should give 100% of themselves to the other. When you both have the understanding that "All I have and all that I am is yours," the question of who has the power becomes moot.
Don’t confuse power and authority. I believe a husband has a God-given place of authority in marriage, but the power that comes with that authority is to be used to serve and bless his wife. Ultimately, he does all in his power to see her fulfilled and to see her reach her destiny in God.
There is also great power in submission, but it is power of a different form. Rather than the direct power that comes from authority, it’s the power of ravishing your husband’s heart. It’s the power of deep and abiding intimacy. It’s the power of propelling your marriage to new heights and of helping to propel your husband into his own destiny in God.
In truth, in submission you are exchanging perceived power for real power. You give up the power to control your husband, which you don’t really have anyway, and you gain the power to capture his heart completely.
You give up the power to live independently from your husband, which you gave up when you decided to marry him anyway, and you gain the power to that comes from joining yourself intimately to him in every way.
There are other exchanges of power to be found in submission, but hopefully you get the idea. When you cede elements of your power to your husband, you get back an altogether different and better kind of power – real power.
What is your own experience with discovering the freedom and power of submission?
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
It’s been a while since I’ve done a Wives Only Wednesday (WoW) post and even longer since I’ve touched on the topic of submission. Yes that.
I’ve been inspired to come back to this much-debated, much-maligned and much-misunderstood topic by two things. First, we’ve been covering this foundational concept in the marriage small group my wife and I are leading at our church, where we’ve had some great discussion.
Second, I’ve been reading a most excellent series on submission by Lori Byerly, aka The Generous Wife. I’m doing a post-by-post summary of her thoughtful series over on my Facebook page along with some questions that I hope will spur some interesting dialogue. I encourage you to join the conversation there.
Challenging Some Wrong Metaphors
Today I want to challenge your thinking on submission by dispelling a few wrong-headed comparisons that people make concerning God’s design for marriage.
Boss-Employee – This is perhaps the most common misconception I’ve seen. This metaphor leads to thinking that submission is akin to being “managed” or having decisions made for you. The truth is that when the Bible says that a “husband is the head of his wife,” the Greek word there (kephale) does not have anything to do with him being the boss.
Captain-First Mate – The problem with this metaphor is that is makes the husband-wife relationship mostly about who gives and who takes the orders. It also implies the kind of blind obedience that is called for in a military operation, but that has nothing to do with marriage.
Master-Slave – Probably the most extreme interpretation, the master-slave metaphor gets invoked mostly by those attempting to make the Bible look extreme and ridiculous.
Parent-Child – This metaphor is just plain wrong in the way it subordinates and diminishes a wife’s role. It wrongly implies immaturity and inability on a wife’s part, and it lacks the proper acknowledgement of the kind of partnership marriage is meant to be. The parents’ authority over their children is not akin to a husbands authority in marriage.
Head and Body
Ephesians 5 invokes the head-body metaphor to describe the marriage relationship, so it is one we cannot easily dismiss.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.As with any metaphor, there are limits to the analogy.
Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV
As someone in our small group pointed out, I don’t think it’s accurate to say the husband does the “thinking” and the wife does the “doing.” Again, that’s too close to the giving/following orders paradigm that just doesn’t work for me. Likewise, I don’t think it is accurate to say that, as the head, the husband is the “command and control” center of the marriage and the wife just executes the will of the husband/head. Nope, that just doesn’t ring true.
I do like what the head-body metaphor says about oneness and inseparability. A head without a body is useless (and dead); likewise a body without the head. The two are intimately and permanently joined to their mutual benefit.
I also like what the metaphor says about the head looking out for the body. For example, when the body feels pain, the head reacts by directing the body away from the pain. The head is all about the protection, nurture, development and sustenance of the body.
The Ultimate Metaphor
The truth is that the husband-wife relationship is unlike any other. God created it to be unique, and that’s why so many of our metaphors fall short.
There is one metaphor, actually more of an analogy, that I think God had in mind from the very beginning of time. It’s the one Paul spoke of in Ephesians 5. It’s is the one that strikes me as providing the greatest insight on the martial relationship. I’m talking about how the relationship between husband and wife resembles the relationship between Christ and the church.
This is the great mystery of marriage and, for me, the very key to understanding God’s design for it.
This picture more than any other sheds light on God’s design for marriage:
- Clearly the oneness we share in marriage resembles the oneness we have with Christ. Implicit is the spiritual union that is part of the marriage covenant, as well as the knitting together of two souls.
- Husbands are directed to lavish unrelenting love upon their wives, just as Christ does on us. Further, husbands are called to lay down their lives for their wives, emulating Christs sacrificial love.
- Wives are encouraged to submit to their husbands in a manner that reflects their submission to Christ. (Don’t carry the metaphor too far and make husbands out to be gods of their home).
- I like how our oneness with Jesus does not diminish who we are, but rather brings us into the fullness of who were designed to be. So too in marriage.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Don’t be misled by the title of this post. I’m am definitely BIG on commitment in marriage. It's essential!
A while back I shared my thoughts on the importance of commitment in a post entitled “Ceremony vs. Covenant.” Here is what I said then and what I still believe
It seems we’ve mixed up what marriage really is. Marriage isn’t a certificate or a ceremony. The paper and the pomp are but impermanent symbols of what should be a much deeper and more lasting covenant. Marriage is to be a holy and genuine commitment to live as a husband and wife, growing evermore toward being inseparably one in body, soul and spirit.
It is the marriage covenant that forms the basis for our commitment. There is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote that I really love. It comes from a letter he wrote to a newlywed couple:
It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.
The point he is making is that we need to remind ourselves that marriage is a covenant and a commitment and allow that to fuel our love for one another. We have turned it around backwards in modern times such that in seasons when giddy feelings are hard to muster, we think it must be time to bail. That is not how it is supposed to work.
So yes, I firmly believe that commitment is hugely important. But as important as I think commitment is to a lasting marriage, commitment alone is not sufficient to sustain a marriage for the long haul.
I believe it also takes two other important ingredients: faith and a willingness to change.
A Sure Faith
What is faith? The Bible puts it like this:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.Why is faith important in marriage? Because sometimes things aren’t going to look like you think they should. Sometimes what you hope for might not bear much resemblance to what you are actually seeing. That’s when you need to look at your marriage with the eyes of faith, believing that God has the power and desire to make your marriage all it can be.
God is very pro-marriage. He is very very much FOR your marriage. He wants more than for you to just hang in there because you said you would at the altar, as great as that is. No he wants you to have hope in him.
God, the author of your marriage, is our source of hope and our reason to have faith.
A “Change Me” Attitude
As important as commitment and faith are, they aren’t enough either. The third ingredient that is essential for a lasting marriage is a willingness to change.
You can have a 100% commitment to your marriage and have all the faith in the world that it will turn out like you hope, but sometimes, in order to make your marriage all it can be, you will have to be the one to change. .
I know it’s tempting to think, “If my husband would just do X, I know our marriage would be so much better,” or “If my wife would just do Y, I know our marriage would be great.” You can believe for X or Y with all your heart.
Consider, however, that maybe your spouse’s lack of X or Y might not be the actual problem. The thing between where your marriage is and where it could be might be that something in you needs to change.
Are you willing to ask God to change you however he wants to in order to strengthen your marriage? Are you willing to let him adjust your expectations to align them with his idea of what your marriage should be?
What do you think of my three-fold formula for a lasting marriage? If every marriage was founded on a firm commitment to the covenant, an enduring faith and a willingness to be changed, would that be enough to make marriage last?
Do you have some other "keys" for an enduring marriage?
PS - Call it prophetic if you want, but just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post, I got the following Tweet from @JoyceMeyer :
Take some bold steps of faith and change anything the Lord leads you to change.Thanks, Lord, for that little bit of divine confirmation.
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Suggested Further Reading on Other Blogs:
- Best of Intentions from Marriage Life
- Which Kind of Commitment Do You Have by Lori Lowe at Marriage Gems
Monday, February 13, 2012
I’ve covered two of these tools already in previous posts:
- In Part 1, Watchfulness, I explained why it is hugely important to pay close attention to your marriage.
- In Part 2, Transparency, I posed that the level of intimacy in your marriage will be capped by the degree of transparency you share.
The third and final component of what I am referring to as the “GPS system for your marriage” is Accountability.
Accountable in Multiple Dimensions
The first dimension of accountability is in your personal relationship with Jesus. While I’m dead set against the notion that we can “earn” God’s favor by jumping through spiritual hoops, I do believe that the level of intimacy a husband and wife personally share with Jesus individually directly influences the intimacy level in their marriage.Your spiritual walk is the foundation of your marriage - keep it strong.
The second degree of accountability is for husband and wife to be accountable to one another. This basically involves being answerable to each other for your actions and attitudes. In the partnership that is a surrendered marriage, transparency and watchfulness work together to enable accountability. As you pursue together the kind of marriage you want to have, it is good and right to speak lovingly to each other of what your marriage can be. This is absolutely NOT an invitation to nit-pick each other to death or to keep score on each other. Rather, in an open and honoring atmosphere, it's about helping each to love the other well.
The third and final area of accountability is accountability with other couples. Link up with a few other couples whose marriages you admire and spend time together. Give them permission to speak into your marriage. As your marriage matures, be willing to mentor other couples in their marriage journey.
Not a Weapon
I think accountability has gotten a bit of a bad rap. And the reason so many view it negatively is because it’s often tended toward the “someone looking over your shoulder, waiting for you to screw up so they can smack you back in line” kind of thing. That’s not at all how I view accountability. The problem with this kind of sin-focused accountability is that it focuses almost entirely on the negative. By its nature it draws us toward looking in the wrong direction – at sin.
I like to think instead in terms of grace-focused accountability. By that I mean rather than being held accountable against the negative, let’s hold each other accountable toward the positive. In a surrendered marriage, we hold Jesus up as the standard and focus on becoming more like him. It naturally keeps our focus in the right direction – on Jesus.
So rather than thinking of accountability as a weapon to be used against you (or for you to use against your spouse), think of it as a tool to help you transform your way of living to be more Christ-like: full of life and truth, full of selfless love, full of trust and joy and peace.
When you think of accountability, think relationship instead of rules.
It’s time for you to chime in. What are some positive, grace-based ways that you and your spouse have found to hold each other accountable in your marriage? Do you have a mentor couple? Are you acting as one?
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Erin at Mystery32 has a great post on the importance of community in supporting and strengthening marriages entitled Don’t Do it Alone! . Check it out!
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Click on the cover art above to download your free copy.
In honor of National Marriage Week, our friends at MarriageWorks have put together a FREE ebook of marriage encouragement and inspiration entitled, "Stay Connected." I'm proud to be among the 18 contributing authors for this great resource. I hope you'll read my page 4 article entitled "What If" and let me know what you think!
Also be sure to check out my Facebook Page, where I'm posting lots of cool stuff all week long in honor of National Marriage Week that speaks to the importance of marriage in our society today.
Lastly, click on over to the National Marriage Week website and see what the global celebration of marriage is all about and how you can help.
From February 7th to 14th every year— is a collaborative effort to encourage many diverse groups to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture, which in turn helps curtail poverty and benefits children. Together we can make more impact than working alone. Please join with others to host special events, launch a marriage class or home group, or place local advertising or news stories during National Marriage Week USA.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Valentine’s Day is a week away, and some of you are still thinking, “I’m still not sure what I’m going to do.” You’ve got plenty of time to plan something special. This post will help!
Some of you are thinking, “We don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day, anyway.” Let me suggest that this year be the year you start!
And some of you are thinking (talking mostly to husbands here), “I’m not really the romantic type.” That’s a lousy excuse for not giving your lovely wife the romance she so craves and deserves!
Read on for some great resources for the romantically impaired!
But First, Our Winner(s)
We had a great response to our Romantic Dinner Giveaway Contest! In total there were 483 entries! Thanks to all of you who “liked” my new Facebook page, followed me on Twitter, joined our mailing list, tweeted the contest, or wrote about their romantic experiences on the contest post or on my FB page.
The winner of the random number drawing is number 199.
Now, I am happy to also announce, as a special bonus, an unadvertised consolation prize. I have decided to present an award for most diligent contestant to Eunice B, who entered the contest every way possible, including tweeting about it every single day of the contest (my apologies to her Twitter followers!). Eunice and her husband will receive a $25 gift card as my way of saying thanks for trying so hard.
More Romantic Links
If you read the memorable romantic stories that readers shared, you’ll notice that many of them were not necessarily hugely involved or expensive. You really can see in these stories the old adage that it’s the thought that counts.
So as you peruse the romantic idea web links below, keep in mind that what you really want is to convey your heart of love for your spouse. Ask yourself this question: what is the most sincere way to say “I love you” to him or her. The answer is probably not the most expensive or most elaborate of all the possibilities. It’s the one that expresses your heart.
So without further ado, here are some resources I’ve searched out and compiled for your convenience:
14 Ways to Say I Love You - The CoupleThings Blog has a great list of 14 romantic ideas split up into three parts: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Write a Love Letter - Write her (or him) a letter or card that says how much you love her (or him). Here’s a link for husbands who need a little help with how to write a love letter: one from The Art of Manliness blog.) and one from The Generous Husband. Something you create using your own words has much more meaning than a five dollar store-bought card.
Take Note - If writing an entire love letter is too daunting for you, try communicating your love with little notes, either passing them to her (or him) directly during the day or leaving them stuck around for her (or him) find. The posts on this idea come from Romantic Act of the Day.
How Do I Love Thee - Tell her how much you want to learn to love her/him well and ask her/him to take the 5 Love Languages Assessment with you. Talk about the results and some ways to express love that would be most meaningful.
There's an App for That - If you have an iphone, go get the Romantic Vineyard iphone App for one or both of you. It’s free and the marriage tips and romantic questions are great.
Breakfast in Bed - Here is a post from the Generous Husband on how to go about serving a romantic breakfast, and here is a “how to” video for those who need a little more explicit instruction. Here are some recipe ideas from Real Simple and Recipe4Living. As for what you do after you are finished dining, that's up to you.
Of course, if you have a desire to do something a little more extravagant, check out my growing list of Romantic Ideas.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this post from Marriage Gems, entitled How to Have a Special Valentine’s Day –
So now you have no excuse not to show your spouse a little love on Valentine's Day. Have fun planning it and, most of all, enjoy pouring your love out on one another!
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Did you know that Journey to Surrender now has a Facebook page! It’s got lots of extra marriage-related stuff like videos, links, news stories, and conversations not found on my blog. Come on over and let’s meet up!
Friday, February 3, 2012
I know what you are thinking about that title, but that is not what this post is about, at least not for the most part.
Today I’m talking about the second of three navigational tools for marriage: Transparency.
If you missed it, you may want to go back and read about the first tool: Watchfulness.
The Naked Truth
Did you know that “nakedness” is actually the ideal condition in marriage? It’s true.
If you go back to the Garden of Eden, back to Adam and Eve, before sin entered the picture, here is how the Bible describes the situation:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed
That’s right. They were totally naked with and totally without shame. That’s the ideal state.
Lest you think I’m promoting some form of nudism, let me say that I strongly believe this verse is about way more than physical nakedness. It’s not even just about sex with the lights on. It’s about a state of existence, a way of living with your spouse that includes your spiritual life and your soul – your thoughts, desires and emotions – in addition to the physical.
Transparency is about nakedness in everything.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I received a Tweet from the @ThePureBed this morning that said,
To resist transparency and vulnerability with our mate is a sign of weakness, not strength. Opening a heart takes strength.Very timely and so true! Transparency is not the easiest road to travel. It’s especially difficult to share the stuff we consider bad or ugly about ourselves. That’s the stuff we tend to want to hide behind the proverbial fig leaves of shame and pretense.
But the truth is that the level of intimacy in your marriage will be capped by the level of transparency, and therefore, vulnerability, that you have with your spouse. That’s because intimacy, in my definition, is being completely known and yet totally loved.
The Trust Factor
Trust is often the deal-breaker when it comes to transparency. If you don’t feel safe to divulge your real self, you are a lot less likely to do it, plain and simple.
Trust develops in your marriage when unconditional love and respect are freely given on both sides. If the atmosphere is full of judgment, criticality and disrespect, trust cannot grow, and transparency will be greatly inhibited.
The thing is, when it comes to fostering trust in your marriage, you can only control you. But even though you only directly control half the trust equation, when you respond with love and respect (not necessarily acceptance or agreement) to whatever your spouse reveals to you, and when you push your own comfort level of transparency, it automatically shifts the atmosphere in the right direction.
It’s very helpful if BOTH of you expect unconditional love to given by the other. Shame and fear fight against transparency, but believing and accepting the love of your spouse is a strong weapon in battle for intimacy.
Divulge Your Dreams
Transparency is a vast topic that I’ve really only been able to give a surface level treatment here, but before I conclude I want to point to one other important aspect.
Transparency is only partly about opening up with your weaknesses and failings, but it’s equally important to nakedly share your dreams and desires with each other too. Don’t be afraid to share your big, bold dreams with your spouse. You are a team, and any dreams can only be reached together.
The same dynamic actually applies even to smaller, daily wants and wishes. If you really believe your husband or wife wants to love you well, you can help them by expressing your desires in a non-demanding, yet forthright manner. A comfort level with sharing small needs and requests opens the door to sharing the deeper things.
If you are on the listening end, don’t pour cold water on your spouse’s dreams and desires. It doesn’t mean you have to be 100% on board with everything immediately, but strive to be a good receiver. Be an encourager rather than a discourager.
I’ll leave you with an assignment: think of one thing, large or small, either a desire or a difficulty, that you’ve not been willing to share with your spouse before, and share it with them this weekend. Encourage him or her to do the same.
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More posts on Transparency:
- Choosing Trust
- Intimacy is Not What You Think
- How Shame Kills Intimacy
- A whole series on the battle with shame starts here
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