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Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Simple ways to support and encourage your husband's spiritual leadership without being controlling or demanding.
3 Simple Ways to Lead Your Wife Spiritually.
Most Christian wives I know are longing to have their husbands take up their God-given role as the spiritual head of the household. So how do you encourage your husband to lead? Many wives either have tried and failed or aren't sure what to do.
(Note: these suggestion are for Christian couples and do not address the situation of an unbelieving husband. Also note that the "What Won't Work" section is especially true for a non-believing spouse.)
What Won't Work
There is a principle that says you can't push on a rope. When you try pushing, all you get is a tangled mess. This rope principle applies to roles in marriage. Below are some examples of pushing.
Criticism - Many husbands won't step up and lead spiritually because they fear they will fall short or embarrass themselves. Criticizing your husband's spiritual life will only exacerbate his fear of failure and judgment from you. The higher the expectations you heap upon him, the less likely he is to step up. Communicating dissatisfaction will likely have the very opposite effect you hope for and cause him to pull back from expressing his spirituality to you. Be aware that he can easily view even well-intentioned questions as accusation ("Did you pray about that?").
Nagging - Demanding your husband be a stronger spiritual leader won't work. That is actually you usurping his leadership and will cause him to shrink back further. Nagging him about his spiritual habits will have the same negative effect. Such question as "When was the last time you had a quiet time?" or "Have you read your Bible today?" are actually just veiled attempts to control his spiritual life. It doesn't work.
Comparison - This is probably an obvious one, but pointing out what other husbands are doing to lead their families spiritually will only make him feel like a failure and inadequate in your eyes. Just don't do it.
What You Can Do
All of the approaches listed above amount to trying to control your husband. You and I both know that the only person you can control is yourself. Controlling amounts to pushing on the rope of your husband's spiritual leadership, and it will probably backfire. So, what can you do to help create an internal "pull" in your husband's heart to want to grow in his headship role? Here are a few ideas that are based on love and serving rather than on control:
Show Honor - Let go of your spiritual checklists and expectations. Your husband's spiritual life is most likely going to express itself differently from yours, and that's okay. My wife's quiet times and mine are as different from each other as they can be. Mine are less frequent, less scheduled and tend to be shorter than hers. It took me a while to realize that we are just different in this regard. Honor and respect his way of seeking God.
Value His Insights - Even if (and maybe especially if) you feel you are spiritually stronger and more knowledgeable than your husband, ask for his opinion on spiritual matters. Invite him into your spiritual struggles and questions. Ask him to pray for you about specific situations and thank him when he does. Acknowledge his answered prayers. This has two outcomes. First, it builds spiritual intimacy as you learn to share your hearts in a vulnerable fashion, and second it helps him build spiritual muscle.
Express Appreciation - Acknowledge every step your husband takes in spiritual growth and in leading your family. Affirm him by saying, "I'm so thankful to have you as the spiritual head of our home." Thank him when he opens up to you about spiritual matters or offers his perspective. Appreciation will demonstrate your desire for his spiritual leadership without you actually having to say it.
Seek Intimacy - Spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy are all connected. If you desire deeper spiritual intimacy, pay attention to your sex life and to how you act with him emotionally. There is not a formula, but fruit in one dimension tends to spill over into the others.
As I said, these actions are about showing love to your husband in language he can appreciate, and when you do these you invite his leadership by offering him your submission. The Greek word for submission used in the famous Ephesians 5 passage on marriage (hupotasso) means to arrange yourself under. When you willingly show your husband honor and respect with your actions, you are arranging yourself under his loving spiritual leadership.
Of course you should pray for your husband, for spiritual intimacy between you, and for his headship in the spiritual domain of your marriage, but you don't have to just pray and wait. While prayer is vital and your number one strategy, there are also practical steps you can take that create an environment where his leadership can thrive.
These are my ideas for what will and won't work in your journey toward a rightly ordered spiritual dimension of your marriage. I'd love to hear any ideas you have! Leave a comment.
If you are reading this by email or on a mobile device, please take a minute to participate in my new survey. "What Do You Want More of In Your Marriage?"
Monday, December 28, 2015
Leading your wife spiritually is not as hard as you might think.
Are you among the many men who feel unqualified to lead their wives and family spiritually? Do you feel like your wife has more knowledge, more insight, and more sensitivity concerning spiritual matters? If you are like most men, you aren't going to attempt things you don't feel you can excel at, which means that you might hold back from even trying to be the spiritual head of your family.
You don't need a theology degree or years of biblical study to spiritually lead your wife. Don't disqualify yourself for this important role that God has assigned you to. The way the Bible describes spiritual headship, as with other dimensions of headship, has nothing to do with being the "spiritual boss" or being in any way spiritually superior to your wife. It doesn't mean you need years of spiritual wisdom under your belt before you start leading.
Leading your wife spiritually is not nearly as hard as you might think it is. For the most part, it just means consistently pointing your wife to Jesus and inviting his covering over your family.
If the idea of spiritual leadership is new to you, here are three simple, easy ways to begin stepping into your God-ordained role.
Maybe you aren't that comfortable praying out loud in front of others, maybe even with your wife. If that's the case, just ask your wife what you can pray for her about. A simple "How can I pray for you today?" text message will work great! Then do actually pray for her and let her know you did. Even this simple little step will bless her more than you know.
If you can muster your prayer courage, I would urge you to actually pray together. Prayer builds spiritual intimacy like few other things can. If that seems too difficult for you, start just by praying together silently. Maybe conclude with the Lord's prayer, if spontaneous prayer doesn't come easily for you. You can also pray the "Apostolic prayers" right out of the Bible . A few examples are Ephesians 1:17-23, Ephesians 3:16-21, Colossians 1:9-14, Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 15:13. These are great prayers for when you don't know what to pray.
2. Read, Learn & Share
Pick a book on a spiritual topic that interests you. It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it is something that speaks life to you or challenges you in some way. Devotional books can be good, because they tend to be short easily digestible. I'll admit that I've never been a regular devotional reader, because I prefer books that drill a little deeper into a topic, but that's just me.
I also encourage you to read the Bible regularly. If you don't know where to start, you might consider a topical Study Bible. If you are looking for a life-giving translation, I suggest the Passion Translation Series. If you are new to Bible study, start off with the Gospels. If you feel you have a hard time understanding what you read in the Bible, pray for revelation and understanding. The Bible says the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth (John 16:13), and He is eager to do it (Luke 11:11). Just ask.
A few times a week, as you come upon something that gives you a new insight or seems helpful to you, or when the Lord gives you a particular revelation, share it with your wife.
Your wife will feel safe and protected when she knows you are pressing into a deeper understanding of God. This is one dimension of God's instruction to husbands to wash your wife with the water of the word (Ephesians 5:26).
3. Invite Her In
As I said, headship does not imply superiority. I describe the relationship between husband and wife as described in the Bible as an ordered partnership, where husband and wife are of equal value but willingly take on different roles to support and honor each other.
Good leaders invite the full participation of those they lead and encourage them to employ all of their talents and capabilities. So invite your wife into partnership with you as together you discover God's heart and plans for your marriage and your family. Lean on her spiritual discernment and sensitivity to the things of the Spirit. Invite her to bring her spiritual gifting to your partnership.
Intimacy comes from being fully known and knowing you are completely loved. Spiritual intimacy is no exception. Be real, honest and willing to be vulnerable with your wife about your life in God. Invite her to do the same. It's not a competition to see who is more spiritual. It's about encouraging each other to walk in your God-given destinies and to grow in the knowledge of who God is.
If you are the stronger one, spiritually, never use your position to browbeat or speak harsh judgment to your wife. Rather, speak grace and truth and encourage her toward who God says she is.
Now it's your turn. What simple tips do you have for husbands who want to take a more active role in leading their wives spiritually? Leave a comment.
If you are reading this by email or on a mobile device, please take a minute to participate in my new survey. "What Do You Want More of In Your Marriage?"
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Thursday, December 17, 2015
9:57 PM | Posted by Scott | Edit Post
Tip #3 - Choose to focus more on relationships than on things
Christmas is about relationship. We are celebrating the gift of a Savior, Jesus, who came to save us from our sins. But ultimately, the purpose of Him leaving heaven and coming to earth was to win a bride for himself. Jesus came in order to have relationship with us, both now and forever. In order to have us, he had to take care of the sin, but an intimate relationship with you and me was the ultimate eternal plan of God in Christmas.
The Press of Things
It's very easy to get caught up in things during the holiday season. Gifts, both given and received. Food, both prepared and consumed. Decorations. Christmas cards. Lots and lots of things get our attention and time.
Not that there is anything inherently wrong with these things in and of themselves. They can be great sources of enjoyment and satisfaction. But these things can also be a source of stress and discontent if we allow them to take over. Things should always be subordinate to the people in our lives.
It's People That Matter Most
It's a week before Christmas Eve. Maybe you are feeling the press of things and all the doing that yet needs to be done. It's not too late to double-check your priorities and make sure that those closest to you are getting the focus they deserve. Chances are that what they want from you has more to do with you being present than giving presents.
What can you do in the days ahead to keep your relationships, and most especially your marriage, in proper focus? Here are some ideas:
- Set aside time to sit quietly with your spouse and talk. Talk about something other than what needs to be done before Christmas, like about your marriage and the things your are thankful for.
- Bundle up and go outside for some fresh air and togetherness. Go for a walk or build a snowman together.
- Engage in random acts of kindness. Send a note of encouragement to a friend via text, email or old fashioned letter. Buy a cup of hot cocoa for the guy who rings the Salvation Army bell at the local grocery store. Pay for the meal of the person behind you at a fast food restaurant drive through.
- Find a charitable cause that serves people and give of your time or finances (a food bank, a nursing home, a homeless shelter, etc.).
- As hard as it might be with all the busyness, have as many meals together as a family as you can in the week ahead of the big meal you'll likely be sharing on Christmas Day (or Eve).
- Snuggle up with your spouse and watch a Christmas movie - let him or her pick.
- Be intentional and generous with kind words and warm hugs for your family and those closest to you.
What will you do in the next week to focus on the relationships in your life? Leave a comment.
Friday, December 11, 2015
9:00 PM | Posted by Scott | Edit Post
Tip #2: Enjoy the doing and not just having it done.
Christmas is a time of lists. Christmas wish lists. Shopping lists. Lists of names for Christmas cards and party invitations. Menu and grocery lists.
Watchfulness - Finding Meaning in the Mundane
Include Prayers with the Postage - We don't always send Christmas cards - some years are just too crazy. If sending cards is part of your tradition, consider praying for each family or person you send a card to. Maybe get the kids involved by dividing the names among your immediate family members. Is there a Scripture promise or blessing you could include for them? Don't just check off the names, but take time to actually to engage your heart as you send your cards. Another idea is to pray for the senders as you receive cards in the mail.
Next time: Tip #3 - Focus on Relationships More Than on Things
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
9:29 PM | Posted by Scott | Edit Post
Tip #1 - pick priorities over plans
I've got plans. Big plans. Lots of big plans.
My plans for this marriage ministry include a brand new, completely redesigned website. (I know some of you are saying "It's about time!" Thanks for putting up with my rough and ugly site for so long!)
I've got a bunch of writing projects that I'm very excited about. Stuff that is going to make a huge impact on a lot of marriages. I can't wait to share these with you! I want to start doing some videos, maybe even a podcast. Some day.
If you are at all like me there is a slight down side to having lots of big, exciting plans - they can make you completely miserable if you let them.
Balancing Plans and Priorities
What I have to keep in mind as I plan, is that I can't let my plans mess up my priorities. That means keeping God at the center of all I do. It means keeping family priorities high. It means making sure I'm not so busy writing about marriage that I neglect my own.
In the same way, I also have to balance plans and priorities when it comes to fighting off the Christmas crazies.
As we make plans this Christmas, whether it be parties, church activities, shopping, family gatherings or whatever, let's not let our non-seasonal priorities slip by the wayside.
In the press of plans and many opportunities for festivities of all kinds, let's remember to keep our first things first:
Keep Christ First in Christmas - It's easy to lose track of the real reason for the season among all the trappings. Consider what you might do this year that intentionally keeps the holiday centered on the miraculous gift of God to mankind in his Son, Jesus. Observe Advent. Do a Christmas devotional study. Read over the Gospel accounts of the Christmas story as a family, spreading the readings out through the remaining days until Christmas. Have periodic candle-lit prayer times, either personally, as a couple, or as a family, where you intentionally focus on the light of Christ that came into the world and it's meaning for your daily life. Have a child-friendly nativity set that you can play with together with your children as you explain the story.
Keep Your Marriage First in Your Family - There is a tendency, especially at Christmas, to make it all about the kids. It's fun to focus on them and their wide-eyed wonder, but remember that your only covenant relationship, outside of the one with Christ, is with your spouse. Don't let December craziness cause you to neglect date nights. Christmas can be an extremely romantic time of year. Take the time to snuggle by a roaring fire, maybe with a glass of wine or eggnog, and connect about your relationship (this is not the time to compare to-do lists or talk about holiday plans - this is a great time to kiss and hold each other). Reflect together on the goodness of God and take turns expressing thanks for the good things in your life and relationship. Keep your marriage first in your extended family as well. Protect each other and be a refuge for each other from the drama that so often comes with extended families.
Keep Your Family First Above Others - There is research to support the fact that families who observe holiday traditions together have happier, healthier children. But the research also shows that this effect is only true when these traditions are filled with meaning and full family participation (including, and especially fathers). In other words, it's not about going through the motions of tradition. I encourage you to keep and/or establish some thoughtful traditions this year for your family to enjoy. Make family time a priority as you sort out your other plans.
Let Some Things Go
In my family we often joke about certain family members having ATMS (Afraid To Miss Something). It's what causes college students to stay up late at night, not wanting to risk sleeping through some potential fun, spur-of-the-moment outing. It's what compels others to attend a party that they aren't really all that interested in because something fun might happen without them.
So this Christmas season, say no to ATMS, and say no to too much activity. Saying no to some activities and plans is saying yes to your most important things. Let some things go. You don't have to do it all. Don't allow the expectations of others to press you into a frenzy of activities. Just. Say. No. Respectfully explain that you are keeping activities to a minimum this year in order to keep your priorities in line.
Plans are great. Plans can be fun. But too many plans, when they end up competing with your first priorities, can cause you needless stress and misery. I'm going to take steps to keep my first things first this Christmas, how about you?
What might you do differently this year to avoid the Christmas crazies? Leave a comment!
Next time: Tip #2 - Enjoy the Doing, Not Just the Being Done
Monday, November 23, 2015
Discover the key factor that distinguishes a great sex life from a poor one.
The fact that our society has largely separated sex and marriage does not change the fact that God created sex as the ultimate expression of marital intimacy. A healthy amount of sexual intimacy is essential to the strength and longevity of every marriage, yours included.
But how much sex constitutes a "healthy amount?" It's a question that every couple needs to answer for themselves, of course, because needs and desires vary greatly from person to person.
I can however, tell what most couples say is enough sex based on the 450 responses to my Sexual Satisfaction Survey. (Get the full report in my free download here).
Before I share with you the numbers from my survey, I want to stress that sexual frequency is not the sole determining factor in sexual satisfaction. If you aren't both actively engaged and fully aiming to meet each others needs during lovemaking, then regardless of the frequency, it's not likely to lead to a fulfilling sex life. Those needs will vary greatly between men and women, between the high-drive and low-drive spouse, the stage of your marriage, and also depend on what is happening in your marriage outside the bedroom.
Still, I would argue pretty strongly that in most cases, sufficient sexual frequency is a minimum requirement for a healthy, happy sex life.
Now let's look at what constitutes "sufficient."
The Once-a-week Wall
In my survey results, there was a direct correlation between sexual frequency and sexual satisfaction. That is, more frequent sex led to a higher level of reported sexual satisfaction for both husbands and wives.
Overall, the people who took my survey reported an average of about 7 sexual encounters per month or a little less than twice per week. (I didn't ask people what qualifies as a sexual encounter.)
Here is the interesting part: there is a stark divide in the numbers, as portrayed in the chart below. It's what I call the "once-a-week wall."
Overall, couples who had sex more often than once per week were 12 times more likely to report having a great sex life than those having sex less than once per week. Specifically, 59% of those having sex more than once a week gave themselves an 8, 9 or 10 in overall satisfaction on a 10 point scale ("a great sex life"). Only 5% of those having sex less than once a week reported having a great sex life.
There was a similar dramatic divide in those reporting a poor sex life (1, 2 or 3 on a 10 point scale). Couples having sex less than once per week were 11 times more likely to rate themselves as having a poor sex life. Specifically, 69% of those having sex less than once a week reported a poor sex life, but only 6% of those having sex more than once a week were in the group with the lowest satisfaction.
What Does This Mean for You?
If you are a husband or wife who has made sex a low priority, for whatever reason, it's time to change that. Begin with being aware of how much sex you are having, then set a goal to improve on that, ultimately working toward having sex at least twice most weeks.
Figure out what is impeding sexual intimacy in your marriage and make the necessary changes to eliminate those impediments. Being your spouse's only valid avenue of sexual satisfaction is both a great privilege and sobering responsibility.
If you are a husband or wife whose spouse does not seem interested in more frequent sex, who even maybe is completely withholding sex from you, it's time for some direct dialog on the subject. Or maybe it's time for an additional, and perhaps different, direct dialog.
And it's time to get God involved in some three way conversation. He has thoughts on this subject that I'm sure he would like to share with you and your spouse if you invite him to.
If whatever you have tried in the past isn't resulting in the progress you want, it's time to try a different approach.
Do What it Takes
I'm not suggesting that you beg more sincerely or shout more loudly. No, I'm talking about having a sincere dialogue about what's missing in your marriage on more than just a sexual level. Is there enough intimacy in other forms? Emotional? Spiritual? Do spend enough time together? Do you get real with each other?
I often find that sex is simply a barometer of what's happening elsewhere in the relationship. Step back and take an honest assessment of the whole of your marriage.
There are a bunch of my marriage blogging friends that focus on sexual intimacy in marriage. Check out what they have to say about how to improve your sexual relationship and how to deal with high-drive, low-drive issues, among other topics. Here are but a few suggested resources:
- The Generous Husband
- The Generous Wife
- One Flesh Marriage
- The X-Y Code - Decoding the Male Mind
- Intimacy in Marriage - Encouraging Christian Women toward Healthy Sexual Intimacy
- Hot Holy & Humorous - Sex & Marriage by God's Design
- Forgiven Wife - Learning to Dance with Desire
- Bonny's Oysterbed - Encouraging the Low-libido Wife through a Christian Lens.
Bonny has two posts from yesterday and today that are very timely to our discussion: Starting the Sex Conversation, and Gently Blunt Sex Conversations. I highly recommend these thoughtful posts.
Is my finding of the once-a-week wall surprising to you? Does it line up with the experience in your own marriage? Leave a comment.
If you'd like to see more fascinating results from my recent Sexual Satisfaction Survey, you can download my free e-book from Noisetrade.
The e-book digs into the intimate lives of 450 marriages with the purpose of helping you have a meaningful dialog with your spouse about sexual intimacy. Each section lists key takeaways from the findings and offers questions that can prompt open conversation.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Get my brand new free eBook "How to Have a Succ-sex-full Marriage" now!
New Reader Poll is any indication, it's a universal desire.
I actually think intimacy should be the main goal of every marriage, as I explained in What If Intimacy Matters Most.
It's important to grow together in all forms of intimacy, whether it be emotional, spiritual, sexual, financial, intellectual or whatever. But sexual intimacy is the only form of intimacy uniquely designated by God to be enjoyed inside the bounds of the marriage covenant. You are your spouse's only valid avenue to sexual fulfillment, and that makes physical intimacy both a wonderful privilege and a significant responsibility.
Intimacy Requires Vulnerability
My observation is that many couples struggle in their sexual relationship, settling for a less-than-satisfying sex life. Why? Because your sexual relationship is a place of extreme vulnerability, and vulnerability brings with it the opportunity for hurt feelings, misunderstandings, accusation and shame. This makes it hard for many couples to communicate constructively about sex, choosing instead to keep their true feelings hidden from their spouse.
If that describes your marriage, or if you just want to take things to a new level, I've got a great resource for you that can prompt a deeper dialog with your spouse about the physical intimacy in your marriage. It's a free e-book, How to Have a Succ-sex-full Marriage, available for download through Noisetrade books. Based on the results of a sexual satisfaction poll I ran on my blog and social media outlets, the findings represent an inside look at the intimate lives of 450 marriages.
Intimacy, in whatever form, requires vulnerability. Perhaps physical intimacy requires greater risk than any other, but the rewards are greater too. Lovemaking is where intimacy in your marriage reaches its zenith. God designed it that way.
So I encourage you to get my new e-book and use it to help you engage with your spouse in meaningful and helpful conversations about the sexual intimacy in your marriage. Each section includes key takeaways from the survey findings and questions to prompt discussion.
One of the findings from the poll was that only 7% of respondents ranked their sex life 10 on a 10 point scale. That means for 93% of us, there is room to grow in sexual intimacy. Truthfully I believe even the 10's have room to grow. There is always more intimacy available.
In a recent post, Sexual Settling, blogging friend Paul Byerly of The Generous Husband talks about why it's important not to just settle for the sex life you have. I agree with what he says, "Failing to have the sex life God intended seems to me as wrong as failing to follow His will in any other area of our lives."
Sexual intimacy is important to every marriage - to YOUR marriage. God designed it that way. He designed our bodies for pleasure and then asked us give them away to each other for our mutual satisfaction and fulfillment.
I hope you'll get my new e-book, and I hope and pray it will help in your journey toward deeper sexual intimacy in your marriage. And I hope you'll come back here after you've read it and let me know what stood out you or surprised you in the findings. Or feel free to send me an email. My contact info is here.
Monday, November 2, 2015
A lesson in the physics of marriage.
I have this strange habit of gleaning marriage principles from some rather unlikely places. In today's case,we find ourselves at the curious intersection of George Gershwin and particle physics.
Don't worry, I'm not going to do a deep dive into quantum mechanics or particle wave theory. I am, however, going to introduce you to something called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, named for early 20th century German physicist, Werner Heisenberg. Grossly speaking, Heisenberg postulated that at the quantum physics level (you know atoms and electrons and all that), the mere act of observing particles affects their behavior.
His theory was a particular application of something known in science as "the observer effect."
The act of observation introduces changes to the observed.
It just so happens that this principle also applies to marriage.
I've written here before about the importance of watchfulness in marriage. In simplest terms, watchfulness is about keeping your marriage off auto-pilot. It means being attentive to and intentional about the most important human relationship in your life - the one with your spouse.
Watchfulness starts with watching yourself by being aware of how what you think, say and do affects your spouse. There's so much incidental damage done in marriage simply because we aren't aware of how much of an impact we have on our spouse.
Watching over your marriage means guarding and growing in every dimension of intimacy: physical, spiritual, emotional, financial (yes, that's a thing) - the whole of your marriage.
Watchfulness also includes watching over and watching out for your spouse. Is he/she being crushed by busyness? Are there relationships that are draining the life from your spouse? Does he/she take sufficient care of themselves physically? It's not that you attempt to control these things, like a parent might, but you are simply helping your spouse be watchful too.
Watchfulness in a nutshell: pay attention!
Enter George Gershwin
You might be surprised how much your spouse actually longs for you to watch over them, husbands and wives alike. Watchfulness tells your spouse that you care, that you value your relationship and that you are willing to put forth some mental, physical and emotional effort to maintain and grow intimacy.
George Gershwin, the famous early 20th century composer was ironically a contemporary to Heisenberg. Gershwin penned the famous song, Someone to Watch Over Me, in 1926, a year before Dr. Heisenberg introduced his uncertainty principle. A bit of historical serendipity for today's post. Here's an excerpt from the song.
Someone to Watch Over Me
There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone who'll watch over me
I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood
I know I could always be good
To someone who'll watch over me
Although he may not be the man some
Girls think of as handsome
To my heart he carries the key
Won't you tell him please to put on some speed
Follow my lead, oh, how I need
Someone to watch over me
The song may be a bit dated, but the principle remains. Everyone wants to be "watched over" in some way or other. It's part of the oneness of marriage.
The Double Blessing of Watchfulness
Not only does watchfulness help you take care of your marriage by keeping you off auto-pilot, but it also brings into play the "observer effect."
The mere fact that you are being careful to observe what's going on in and around you, your spouse and your marriage, will begin to affect positive change in all three.
Let's look at a few examples of how this could play out.
1) When A Kiss is NOT Just A Kiss
(I'm using an example here of a husband arriving home from work as an illustration, realizing that in many cases wives also work outside the home. The example could certainly work the other way around as well.)
Let's say a wife decides to be intentional about the way she greets her husband when he comes home from work by meeting him at the door with a long embrace and a passionate kiss. Let's assume for the example that his homecoming had been little noticed by her in the past. The first day this new little ritual catches him completely off guard, but in the best way. Nice surprise! When it happens again the second day, he makes a comment about how much he enjoys this kind of welcome home. By the third day, he is anticipating that kiss on his drive home, eager to take her in his arms and reconnect physically in that small way after their day apart. For her, she now watches the clock in anticipation of his arrival and makes sure to be available during the time frame when he usually comes through the door.
It costs her 30 seconds, a little vulnerability, and a dose of intentionality, but this small investment pays great dividends for both of them. It's a small example, but it shows how a small act of watchfulness can build anticipation, grow passion and create an atmosphere of intimacy.
2) A Compliment a Day
For another example, consider a wife who is struggling with self-image issues (no real stretch to imagine this common situation). Her husband, who sees her as beautiful and radiant, decides to get intentional about helping her see herself as he does. He sets it in his mind to pay her at least one sincere compliment on her appearance every single day. While she may never come completely around to his way of thinking, his frequent encouragement makes her feel cherished and attractive in his eyes.
Here are a few examples from my own marriage.
3) The Safety of Proactive Protection
I tend to be pretty proactive in my role as Jenni's protector. I don't do it in a heavy handed or interfering manner, but I do watch out to see that she doesn't get over-committed or over-stressed. She has come to value and invite my input in this regard, because she knows I have her best interest in mind. It makes her feel actively taken care of and safe.
4) Knowing What's Up
We are both attentive to what's going on in each other's lives and intentional to inquire about it. I'll ask her about her morning in children's church. She'll ask me about an important work meeting or project. I'll ask her about her church staff meeting or her lunch meeting with a friend. She'll ask me about my blog or offer her thoughts on a post. Paying attention to the details of each other's lives in this way, builds a cycle of intimacy and that fuels a deep and abiding connection between us. It's now become somewhat second nature to us both.
Maybe these examples don't ring true for you. That's not really the point in sharing these simple examples. You have to decide what watchfulness looks like in your own marriage and with your own spouse.
There are dozens of ways in which being watchful over your spouse could cause a positive change in your marriage. The point is to pick something and start there. Think about what would say "I love you" to your spouse, and then do that on a consistent basis.
Monday, October 26, 2015
The closer your spouse moves to your love, the further they move from their fear.
The reason for this focus on fear is because of what it does to us and to our relationships. Fortunately, the Bible gives us clear antidote for fear: love.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.Fear Fills a Love Void
1 John 4:18 (NIV)
It's important to remember that the way love is expressed is typically different for men and women, and if you aren't expressing love in the way your spouse needs it expressed, then there is a love void. For many men, things like respect, being sexually desired and being trusted top their love list. Many wives, on the other hand, want emotional intimacy, time and attention, and to feel cared for in order to feel loved.
It takes determined effort to love intentionally in the way your spouse most feels loved, because our default is to love in the way we want love expressed to us. Thus you may think you are communicating love, but your love is not being received by your spouse.
Where there is an absence of love expressed in a marriage relationship, fear rushes in to fill the void.
What kinds of fear and insecurities fill a love void?
- He doesn't love me any more
- She isn't attracted to me
- I'm not good enough
- He doesn't think I'm worth his time
- She doesn't respect me
- He/she wouldn't still choose me
It's interesting to me that the Scripture above says that "perfect" love casts out fear.
What is perfect love? It's the unconditional, overwhelming and powerful God-kind-of-love that pursues us relentlessly, even in our brokenness and weakness, even when we reject Him. In the face of that kind of love, fear can't last. It just can't.
But my love is not so perfect. I can be selfish. I can put conditions on my love. I can be forgetful and thoughtless.
Still, in all my imperfection, I realize that the closer I come to giving my wife the kind of love God gives me, expressed in the ways that are meaningful to her, the more fear will be forced out of her thinking. The closer I get to loving her the way she needs, the further she will move away from fear.
Why does it take "perfect love" to cast out fear? Because fear is a stronghold. And once we start to agree with the lie that created the fear in the first place, it can be hard for us to discern the truth. Fear creates filters that keep us agreeing with the lies that created the fear in the first place.
If I became convinced that my wife did not respect me, I see her actions through the lens of disrespect. So if she made an effort to show me respect, I would likely either miss it altogether or disregard it under the assumption that she was simply faking it.
Where fear has gained a foothold, it takes strong and consistent expressions of love to overcome it. So if you've renewed your commitment to love your spouse well, have a little patience as the fear begins to dissolve. It might take time and persistence.
Here's another truth about love and fear. Where love is not persistent, even relentless, fear will sneak back in. It doesn't take a lot of feeling unloved before we begin to agree with the lies that held us in fear to begin with.
You're Not on Your Own
You may think I'm asking too much of you, to love your spouse well, consistently and fervently. The good news is that it's not all up to you. We have an amazing and limitless love source in Jesus. That's not just a trite saying. It's truth!
But how do you tap into this Love source in a way that can benefit your marriage? With out a doubt, the best way is to experience for yourself the incredible and unstoppable love Jesus has directed toward you and to fully embrace it.
Soak up the love of God for you until it overwhelms you and comes spilling out of you. Experience for yourself what it means to be fully known and yet completely loved. Experience the joy and peace of secure love.
The Place of Secure Love
I call love and grace the two bookends of marriage. They are what hold the whole thing together. Grace and love work in concert to keep your marriage from toppling over.
Grace says, "I will choose to believe in your love for me, even when it is not evident, even when your actions or words seem to run counter to that belief." Grace also says, "I will love you no matter what, assuming the best, loving you as if you are already loving me as well as I know you want to."
Grace is not always an easy choice. In fact it can be really hard. But grace, in the form of the absolute belief in the love of your spouse, brings you to the place of secure love, where fear cannot break in.
The primary way our heart feels secure is when we know we are loved. No doubts, no misgivings, no shadowlands where second-guessing and fear play games with our confidence. Among other things, Christ died for us so we can know once and for all that we are completely, ultimately, and profoundly loved.Just imagine for a minute what your marriage would be like if your husband or wife never, ever doubted that you deeply loved him or her! What if you never doubted that you were loved just as deeply? How delightful would it be to do everything out of the security of the love you share instead of out of trying to earn it or perform for it.
Grace Filled Marriage, p. 63
Let me suggest you start here, by listening to this video, This Love, by Housefires. Close your eyes and let the love they sing about wash over you. Let it strike your heart. And when it is finished, pray and ask God to stir the same kind of love in your for your spouse.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Are you living the story you want to be living?
So what is your story?
I recently read Don Miller's awesome book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It's all about story, and it opened my eyes to the fact that good, bad or indifferent, our lives tell a story.
To me, your story is about partnering with God to live toward your full identity and destiny. The logical extension of this is that the story of your marriage is about partnering with God to see that your spouse also comes into their true identity and destiny.
Two Stories Become One
Because you are married, your story doesn't stand alone. You are also an integral part of someone else's story. The idea of "two becoming one" extends to the story a husband and wife are writing together. Of course you each have unique roles in the story, but the characters are intimately intertwined.
Don Miller describes it this way. "It’s interesting that in the Bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, the only practical advice given about living a meaningful life is to find a job you like, enjoy your marriage, and obey God. It’s as though God is saying, Write a good story, take somebody with you, and let me help."
I actually think God's role is stronger than that of a "helper" in a story we write for ourselves. I believe that in a sense God is the author of our story, with us as the co-writers. Or maybe it's like God is the ghost writer (Holy Ghost writer?) but we get to put our name on the book. It's not that he dictates it line by line, but God creates us for a purpose and places inside of us a unique identity for accomplishing that purpose.
I believe God is also the instigator of our hopes and dreams and the One who provides constant encouragement and guidance. Too often we act as if our aspirations are a divine guessing game, as we try to figure out God's plan. But I've had times of earnest seeking when I've asked God to show me the way, and I got the sincere impression that he simply asked me in return, "What do you want?" I sometimes think we see our dreams as not being "holy" enough unless they involve selling all our possessions and moving to Africa to preach the Gospel. I believe all the dreams God puts in your heart are holy. Don't be afraid to dream big and believe that God can and will redirect you if it's not a good way to go.
Don't Be Afraid to Change Your Story
What's holding you back from living a larger story? For many, it's fear. Fear of failure? Fear getting it wrong? Miller say that, "great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear. The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is 'Do not fear.' It’s in there over two hundred times." He goes on to say that, "most of our greatest fears are relational. It’s all that stuff about forgiveness and risking rejection and learning to love. We think stories are about getting money and security, but the truth is, it all comes down to relationships."
"The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life."
So what do you want in your story? What do you want in your relationships? Specifically, what do you want in your marriage? Yes it can be scary to risk wanting a larger marriage story than the one you are currently living, but that is the stuff of life.
Change your Story, Change You
"If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation," says Miller. "We were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us. The point of a story is the character arc, the change."
Yes, living a larger story in your marriage will change you. It will transform your marriage, and will probably significantly impact your spouse as well. Change can be frightening. After all we are creatures of comfort. Most of us don't tend to like change. It's disruptive and can be difficult work. But inevitably, if you want a better story, you've got to throw yourself into it and embrace the inevitable change.
"We don’t want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn’t remarkable, then we don’t have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants." I don't know about you, but I'd rather be a participant than a victim.
Don't Get Stuck in a Sentence
The Lord has been speaking to me a lot about story lately. It seems to be everywhere I turn. As I was reading this book, I heard a sermon preached by Eric Johnson entitled, "Don't Get Stuck in a Sentence."
I'm not sure why, but we seem to get stuck in our stories. We are struggling in a single sentence and somehow think that's the whole book. As Eric said, we may linger at an unhappy paragraph or a page and forget that our life is an entire book, yet unfinished. Maybe it's even a volume or an entire library, as our story intersects the many stories of others in our lives.
Miller's reason for us getting stuck in our story is that, "Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better."
I've come across a lot of unhappy couples who seem stuck in their marriage story, trapped in a sentence, unwilling or unable to embrace the vulnerability required to write the book God has in mind for their future.
How would you like to change your story and the story of your marriage? Are you willing to risk dreaming a larger dream and to do what it takes to see it come true? Are you willing to risk dreaming with your spouse?
If you've read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years I'd love to hear what you thought of it. Leave a comment below.
Book Refrences: Miller, Donald (2009-08-26). A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
Image Credit: aaron007 / 123rf.com
Friday, October 16, 2015
See below for your chance to win a free copy of Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk
Today I'm bringing back Friday Freebies! One Friday of every month I'll be giving away marriage-strengthening resources of some kind. To make sure you don't miss the future giveaways, you should sign up to get my posts by email. You'll also get my free bonus report, "What Husbands and Wives Need Most." Be sure to use the RaffleCopter tool below to let me know you signed up in order to receive points toward today's giveaway.
Keep Your Love On is one of the best relationship books I've ever read. Not only will it have a significant impact on your marriage, but many of the insights apply to other important relationships in your life as well.
Rather than trying to give you a complete overview of the book, allow me to whet your appetite by discussing one of the central themes of the book: how to be powerful in a relationship.
Are You Powerful?
What does it mean to be "powerful?" It's probably not what you think.
Danny Silk explains it this way, "If you heard someone described as a powerful person, you might assume he or she would be the loudest person in the room, the one telling everyone else what to do. But powerful does not mean dominating. In fact, a controlling, dominating person is the very opposite of a powerful person."
Being powerful is really about being strong in your own identity and not allowing others to negatively influence that by their behavior toward you. The only control truly powerful people exert is over themselves. Powerful people refuse to on take a victim mentality. They influence their environment rather than allowing their environment to control them. They respond rather than react.
Having this kind of power is what allows them to love others selflessly and unconditionally.
"A powerful person’s choice to love will stand, no matter what the other person does or says. When powerful people say, 'I love you,' there’s nothing that can stop them. Their love is not dependent on being loved in return. It is dependent on their powerful ability to say, 'Yes' and carry out that decision. This protects their love from external forces, or from being managed by other people. Powerful people can be who they say they are on a consistent basis. And because they know how to be themselves , they invite those around them to be themselves. Only powerful people can create a safe place to know and be known intimately."
Don't you want to have that kind of power in your own relationships? If you want to get there, you'll have to read the book, but I'll give you a peak at one of the keys:
"Repentance means to change the way you think. In order to repent from a life of powerlessness, you will need to identify the lies you believe and the influence those lies have in your life. Once you identify these lies, renounce them and break your agreement with them. Then ask the Holy Spirit to come and tell you the truth."
I hope you'll get this amazing book and read it cover to cover. It's packed with solid, biblical insights and tools that can help transform the atmosphere of your marriage relationship. If you purchase the book from Amazon using one of my affiliate links, you'll help support this ministry.
- Paperback version
- Kindle version
If you are interested in winning a paperback copy of the book, complete as many of the Rafflecopter credits below as you can. Contest closes Tuesday at midnight.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
"Do or do not. There is no try."
I recently listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt that resonated with me, and I thought I'd share it with you, because it has great implications for marriage.
Michael's suggestion is that we commit to eliminating the word "try" from our vocabulary. You see, the problem with "try" is that it leaves you an easy out, a convenient back door, a ready excuse for not accomplishing something.
Compare these two statements that a husband might make:
- "I am going to try to love my wife more selflessly."
- "I am going to do whatever it takes to love my wife more selflessly."
While putting away the word "try" from your discourse, especially where your marriage is concerned, may seem like a semantic game, I think it represents the state of mind you should have when you set goals in your marriage.
Do or Do Not
There is a great scene in the original Star Wars movie that speaks directly to this idea of not trying any more. In the scene, Yoda, the wise Jedi master, is training Luke, the young and immature Jedi Knight. When Luke fails at a task assigned to him by Yoda, he initially wants to give up. At the master's encouragement, Luke reluctantly says he will try again. At his point Yoda makes his famous statement:
Do or do not, there is no try.There is power in deciding to go for it. A 100% commitment to a goal creates confidence and inspiration in yourself and others. The truth is that failure is much more likely when you don't have a strong commitment. Settling in your heart to accomplish something causes you to get creative and to seek alternatives to quitting when the going gets tough.
Tired of Trying?
Some of you may have been in long seasons of trying to improve your marriage. Some of you are tired of trying and tired of waiting for things to get better. Maybe you are in a largely sexless marriage. Maybe you are longing for your spouse to join you on your faith journey. Maybe you lack the emotional intimacy that you know is possible.
Stop believing in impossibility and start believing that in God all things are possible. God is the business of making the impossible possible.
Whatever the desire is, regardless of how long it's been, let me suggest you reset your heart and mind. Here are a few things to do:
1. State the goal in clear, try-free, I-centered terms
Create a statement that demonstrates your commitment to the goal. Include terms like "whatever it takes," "no matter what," or "until I see breakthrough."
Don't set goals for your partner. You have no doubt heard it said that you can't change your spouse. Since you are the only person in your marriage that you have control over, it only makes sense to set goals for yourself. Even goals for your relationship should be slanted toward your part in the outcome.
2. Define what it looks like
Relationship goals can be a bit ambiguous to define. Things like better communication, deeper intimacy and more selflessness are great goals, but they lack clarity and may not lead you to the specific steps you need to take.
So in addition to the goal, go into some detail about what having accomplished the goal would look like. Again, focus on your contribution to the goal and don't put a bunch of expectations on your spouse.
3. Commit it to prayer
Prayer changes things. Regular intercession on behalf of your marriage toward the accomplishment of your goal helps you realize that you are not alone in your pursuits. Realize that God is for you and for your marriage. Submit your heart's desire to him in prayer, and listen to what he says to you about it. I believe God has divine strategies to impart to you.
4. Take consistent action
Look for every small opportunity to move toward your goal. Small steps, taken consistently, will get you there more reliably than the occasional giant leap. Yes, giant leaps can and do happen, but these are more likely to occur when you are doing the daily business of being faithful to what you committed to.
What do you commit to quite trying on? Leave a comment.
PS If you want to listen to the original Michael Hyatt podcast for yourself, click this link.
Image Credit: Barron Fujimoto / Flickr
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Moving forward in financial oneness means getting real and valuing each other's perspectives.
As I said in my last post, 4 Reasons You Need Financial Intimacy, money and sex are actually pretty closely related to each other. Sexually speaking, differences such as drive levels, interest in exploration, best times of day and preference for different activities can all be places for misunderstanding and hurt. The truth is that most spouses are unevenly matched when it comes to sex. For example, in my recent sexual satisfaction survey, only 9% of individuals felt that their sex drive was about evenly matched with their spouse.
Although the factors that cause sexual strife are not the same as those involved in financial discord, such differences tend to be where the strife shows up. Regardless, just like with sex, differences over money are no reason to forgo financial intimacy.
Wherever your marriage is in the financial arena, it may be time to take a fresh look at this area together. And "together" is hugely important if you want to improve intimacy.
1) Come Clean
Intimacy, regardless of whether it is physical, emotional or financial, starts with being fully known. That means both of you getting real with where you are about money.
The starting point for this is to confess any secrets such as spending, hidden accounts or any deceptions. Whatever comes out, find room in your heart to forgive one another. Holding past mistakes over each other's heads will prevent you from moving closer together. As difficult as it might be to believe in the midst of what might feel like betrayal, grace is the best invitation to intimacy. On the other hand shame and guilt will drive you apart.
The next step is to be honest with each other about where you are financially. Share areas of concern and stress. Talk honestly about your different styles in handing money. Check your communication effectiveness where money is concerned. Are you okay with which of you does the bulk of the money management? Are both of you sufficiently involved?
As you talk, do your best to listen and not react defensively to each other's feelings. Acknowledge that many differences over money don't amount to right and wrong (the exception beings any secrets), but to a difference in perspectives.
2) Dream a Little
With all the cards on the table, talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. Then consider together what kind of financial framework will be required to reach those goals.
Is early retirement a goal? One spouse staying home with the kids? College plans for the kids? Travel? A first (or second) home? Vacations? All of these goals require that you have matching financial goals to attain them.
And to go along with the goals you need to...
3) Make a Plan
All financial planning revolves around making (and keeping) a budget. As Dave Ramsey says, "Give each dollar a name." For some people the budgeting process will feel like nails on a chalkboard. For some having a budget will alleviate a lot of stress and uncertainty over money.
The most important thing about the budgeting process is that you both have input and buy-in. Regardless of whether one partner is more involved with managing the money and bills, you need to be in complete agreement on the budget. If you need some help here, Dave Ramsey has some great tools for budgeting.
Here's a little personal story that might help the reluctant spouse with the idea of making and keeping a budget. We have been budgeting since very early in our marriage. But Jenni has not always had a strong conviction about keeping track of expenses. It was just another thing on her list to get done. During a communication workshop we had the opportunity to discuss our feelings over finances. As I shared my perspective, she came to understand that doing better in this area would actually significantly reduce my overall stress. She realized that it would actually be helping me personally and not just taking care of something on her list. It wasn't just about the budget per se, but about a way to help me out. It gave her the motivation to be more consistent.
4) Check in Regularly
Effective budgeting is something that requires monitoring. Sit down together at the end of each month, and maybe half way through, to gauge how it's going. Look for areas where spending is off plan (and there are always those areas). See where you need to modify your budget or spending or make other adjustments.
Track your progress toward saving goals as well. If you have investments, it's a good idea to review those regularly. This is an opportunity for the more involved spouse to bring the less-involved spouse up to speed with your financial situation.
These four steps are simple, but not necessarily easy. It will require diligence, honesty, and most of all, grace. Remember that your relationship and your desire for intimacy come before your bank balance or your ability to stay on-budget. Honor each other and value your differing perspectives.
Do you have some other ideas that would promote financial Intimacy in marriage? Leave a comment.
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
When it comes to intimacy, money isn't really all that different from sex.
I have heard it said that sex and money are the areas that cause the most marital troubles. I can certainly believe it. Maybe you can testify to this in your own marriage.
While you see a lot attention paid to physical intimacy, you don't see nearly the same kind of focus given to money issues. There are many marriage books, blogs and other resources dedicated to sexual issues in marriage. But if both sex and money are really the top areas where couples struggle, then maybe we need to give financial intimacy a little more attention? Agree?
What is Financial Intimacy?
Intimacy, in whatever form, is about being one. I like to say that intimacy reaches its zenith when we are fully known and still find that we are fully loved.
It's not different when it comes to money.
That means being free to be your true self, without shame or secrets concerning money. And it means being fully loved by your spouse regardless of your financial circumstances. That's not a pass for being financially irresponsible, but it means putting your relationship above money.
Staying intimately connected to your spouse has to matter more than your bank balance.
Next time I'll share some tips on how to improve your financial intimacy, but for today I'd like to give you four reasons why it matters to your marriage.
1) It's Not Really About the Money
As with sexual issues, money troubles in marriage are rarely really about the money. Rather, contention over money tends to be a barometer of other troubles in your relationship.
Discord over money might point to poor communication, lack of trust, control issues or other troubles in your marriage. Money might just be what causes these issues to bubble up to the surface.
Similarly, if you don't have good agreement on how to walk out the biblical notion of headship and submission, that is going to show up in the financial arena as well.
2) Where Control, Fear and Shame Thrive, Love Does Not
As with your sexual relationship, negative feelings about finances tend to be driven by fear or a need for control.
We know that the Bible says that fear and love are antithetical to one another (perfect love casts out fear - 1 John 4:18). If fear is driving your finances, it's likely true that love is not.
Because money is so important to our daily lives, it is easy to slip into control mode. Fear and doubt over money can easily drive us to try to control our spouse in the financial arena. We also might try to control our financial circumstances by working excessively for fear of lack.
Shame over money will drive us to hide things. Hide spending. Hide accounts. Hide desires. Hide fears. Secrets in marriage do damage to your relationship. Money is no exception.
Shame, fear and control all do damage to the intimacy in your marriage. If these things are happening over money, they will more than likely happen over other issues too.
3) Be One In Everything
I believe that when we marry we become one in every way. That includes being one in finances.
If you are living separate financial lives, then there is a cap on the amount of intimacy you can enjoy in the rest of your relationship. When you try to selectively limit your oneness to certain areas of your marriage, you inevitably damage unity and intimacy in other areas. It's all connected.
4) Money is a Biblical Priority
Certainly the Bible talks a lot more about money than about sex. A whole lot more. Jesus himself talked a lot about money.
Money matters to God. More accurately, how you handle money matters to God. And so financial intimacy in your marriage matters too.
So have I convinced you that financial intimacy needs to be a priority in your marriage?
Be sure to come back next time when I'll explore specific ways to build financial intimacy into your marriage. Click here for 4 Practical Steps to Financial Intimacy.
Until then, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on money and marriage. Do you think financial intimacy is a real thing?
Thursday, August 27, 2015
10:43 PM | Posted by Scott | Edit Post
Take small steps every day to positively change the culture of your marriage.
last time, the future course of your marriage will be greatly influenced by its culture. Your marriage culture is defined by the beliefs, values, attitudes, achievements and activities that surround your marriage. I tossed out some questions around these in my last post, hoping to prompt you to give some consideration to your current culture.
The Middle French origin of the word culture comes from "cultivate" and is associated with tending, guarding and tilling. Think of culture of your marriage is like a garden: the way you cultivate the soil of your marriage will determine the health of the fruit and the beauty of the flowers it produces.
Want a healthy, beautiful marriage? Check your culture!
Regardless of where your marriage culture is at this point, below I'll offer three simple ideas that will be a positive influence on it. You might be in a marriage where you feel like you are one making all the effort. I understand that it's a hard place to be, but the truth is that you can influence the culture of your marriage in a positive way without your spouse buying into the need for change. Of course it's better if both of you work on your culture together. Progress will be easier if you are both pulling in the same direction, but you have more power than you think you do.
I'm going to suggest that you do each of these three simple things every day for two weeks. Do them regardless of your spouse's reaction or lack of one.
1) Do Something Generous
Especially after you've been married a long time, it's easy to fall into a habit of doing things for your spouse and expecting something in return. It's pretty natural, but that's not the kind of generosity I'm suggesting here. Find some small, deliberate act that you know your spouse would appreciate and do it solely with the intention to bless him or her. Do it with a smile and warm heart (they will know if you are doing it reluctantly).
Your act of kindness doesn't have to be anything huge. In fact, it's better and more sustainable if it's not. You know your spouse better than anyone else, so you probably already know how to bless them. Just get intentional about doing the things you know they would appreciate. Brainstorm a little and make a list.
For example, many wives appreciate things like five or ten minutes of focused time together, a date night that you plan, a surprise communication from you (text, email, phone call) during the day "just because" If you know she is worn out (or even if she isn't), give her a or a neck or foot rub, lend a hand with the kids or housework, bring her a cup of tea or glass of wine and insist that she rest, or draw her a bath. Bring her a small gift or treat that lets her know your were thinking of her during the day. Offer to pray with her.
For many husbands, having you initiate sexual intimacy is high on their list. If that feels like too much for where you are, try just wearing an outfit you know he likes or his favorite scent. Non-sexual touch, like holding hands, sitting close, or a back rub are things like that say to him "I love you, and I care about you our physical closeness." Learn to flirt a little. Give him a warm greeting when he comes home. Even if you can't always follow through, showing your husband this kind of attention will go a long way.
Do something that shows respect, which is a key need for most husbands. If you tend to be strongly opinionated about things, try letting him take the lead on something without resistance, maybe even ask him to. If you ask him for help with something, thank him for his efforts and do not criticize him.
The words you use are important. Your tongue is a powerful weapon for good or bad; wield it carefully and intentionally to bless and encourage.
2) Say Something Kind
I did a survey a while back where I asked husbands and wives what their one most important need was and what having that need met would look like. Many of the answers I got really came down to wanting to have words of kindness sincerely expressed to them from their spouses. The desire for appreciation and affirmation came through loud and clear as unmet needs for both men and women, although they tended to express it somewhat differently.
For men, being appreciated for the work they do for the family was important (not that the same isn't important for women, it just tends to be more part of the male identity). Ask him about his job, and be interested and supportive. Feeling regularly criticized was painful for many of the men who took my survey. So during these two weeks, avoid criticism and instead find things to thank and praise your husband for. Thank him for things he does. Tell him something you love about him. Admire him for who he is.
Wives tended to want similar kindness from their husbands. Whereas for husband such needs were expressed as part of feeling respected and trusted, for wives it tended to be seen as part of feeling cared for and to a lesser extend appreciated. Kind words of tenderness mean more when accompanied by things like eye contact, a smile, a hug or other kind physical gesture. Thank your wife for all she does for you and the family, but also tell her you what you love about her. Admire her for who she is.
Regularly practicing kind words and gestures will do more to change the culture of your marriage than anything else.
3) Ask A Sincere Question
When relationships get stuck on autopilot, one of the things that goes is engaging and meaningful conversation. Topics tend toward the functional and not so much the relational, emotional and spiritual.
So come up with a list of engaging questions for your spouse. Be sure these are things you really do want to talk about, though. Your spouse will spot insincerity, and that could do more harm than good. Here are some good open ended conversation-starting questions of the type I"m talking about:
- What is the one country you want to visit more than any other and why?
- What was the best part of your day today? What was the worst part?
- What did you think of the sermon on Sunday?
- What is happening (or what are you learning) in the book you are reading now?
- What is something that is concerning you that I can pray for you about?
- What is one thing I could do that would say "I love you" to you?
The idea here is to engage the emotions and the spirit and not just the mind.
There are few guarantees when it comes to human relationships, but I sincerely believe you will see your marriage begin to shift slightly toward a more positive culture if you do these three things consistently. The point is not that you have to be 100% every day. The point is to do most of these on most days. Then watch what happens. You'll be surprised at the noticeable shift.
What do you think of my three daily culture changing ideas? What others might you add? Chime in with a comment.
Image credit: yanc / 123rf.com
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