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Monday, May 30, 2011

Part 2 of “What I Believe About Marriage”

As I described in my last post, which kicked off this series, I believe that marriage was God’s idea and that he designed it to operate in a specific way. In saying that I don’t mean at all to say that every marriage should be the same. Rather, I mean that I believe God designed specific principles to undergird and strengthen the marital covenant relationship between a man and a woman.

For the most part these marriage-strengthening principles are on display for us in the relationship between Jesus and the church. I strongly believe that passionate, intimate and lasting marriages are best built upon the foundation of these truths.

It is these truths that I am attempting to unpack in this series.

But before I continue with laying out the specific principles I believe are most important for enjoying a great marriage, I want to address something I’ll call “the theology of the gap.”

Theology formed in the Gap

What do you do with the gap between something you believe to be true and what you see with your eyes or experience in your own life?

Whether it is the belief that God wants to heal our diseases, that God wants to bless and prosper us, or that God never leaves us or forsakes us, there will be times when that doesn’t “seem” to be true based on our experiences and circumstances.

What do you do with that?

Typically, what we tend to do is form some kind of less than ideal theology to “fill the gap” between what we see and what we think is true. We will tend to dumb God down or make excuses that rob the Gospel of its power and life. There is all kinds of bad theology that gets formed in the gap. Often times this theology is formed out of fear or the desire to explain and control our circumstances in a way that makes us feel less vulnerable.

The same is no less true for biblical marriage principles.

I’m sure we can all point to Christian couples with dreadful or failed marriages. Maybe you are in one (or were in one). Maybe they (or you) even tried to apply some of the biblical principles I espouse here at Journey to Surrender to no avail.

So, some may conclude, biblical marriage principles must not work.

The Challenge of Faith

As long as marriages involve people - real, broken, imperfect people - there is going to be a gap between the ideal biblical marriage, which I say is modeled for us in the bridal relationship between Jesus and the church, and what we are able to experience here on earth.

The question is what do we do with the gap? Isn’t it really a question of faith?
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Just because you aren’t yet able to “see” perfection in your marriage as you walk toward a biblically–based relationship, it doesn’t mean these principles don’t work.

I call this blog Journey to Surrender on purpose. Marriage is definitely a journey, a process of growing and maturing toward the ideal. This side of heaven we won’t get to experience marriage perfection, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on what we believe.

A Typical Example

I’ve seen more bad gap-theology around the topic of biblical order in marriage than on any other topic. The principles that surround authority, headship and submission stir very strong emotions in most people.

I don’t like painting with broad strokes, but I will say that most of the blogs I read by women who most vehemently speak against a husband's authority in marriage have been admitted victims of abusive, controlling, manipulative and unfaithful husbands. Because if you believe that God has ordained an order in the home, it gives power to husbands to do lots of really bad things, therefore, some will form a theology that removes authority altogether from husbands in order to protect themselves against future harm.While I understand why that might be, I don't think it is best to form our marriage belief system around fear or around the abhorrent behavior of a few men.

There is plenty of bad theology I’ve heard that swings the other way too. It’s the kind of gap-theology that comes in response to overly controlling women, portraying submission as subjugation, leaving wives as powerless doormats for their husbands, in order to eliminate any threat to their manhood. Men who fear strong women will tend to form theology that marginalizes rather than leverages the strengths of women.

I’ll get into more on what I believe about the question of authority in marriage in my next post, but I wanted to use this contentious example as a way of cautioning you away from forming theology around your negative experiences.

Instead, I encourage you to form your beliefs about marriage around the Word of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Because God designed marriage (remember that understanding forms the core of my own marriage belief system), it makes sense that he would only design it to operate in accordance to his own nature. The more you know about who God is, the more you’ll know about marriage.

What about you? Can you identify places in your own belief system that were formed out of your negative experiences and circumstances rather than on what God says?

Continue to Part 3:  The Bridal Paradigm

Friday, May 27, 2011

Part 1 of “What I Believe About Marriage”

My series on what I believe about marriage starts with the simple truth that marriage belongs to God.

I believe marriage was on God’s heart long before time began, that he instituted it in the Garden of Eden, and that he sent his Son, Jesus, as our heavenly Bridegroom, in order to win us for himself an eternal bride.

Almost everything else I believe about marriage springs in one way or another from this basic, foundational truth: God wants to marry you.

Now lest you get offended by such a notion, let me explain that by saying God wants to marry you, I mean he desires to dwell in deepest and purest intimacy with you for all time, starting right now. That’s his eternal purpose behind creating marriage in the first place.

Does that mess with your head? It does mine.

It took me a while for this to become clear to me, but as I started looking into what the Bible says about marriage, the truth emerged rather undeniably. The Bible begins and ends with a marriage, and all throughout the picture of marriage emerges as a clear metaphor for the relationship God desires with you and me.

Think about it. God could have used whatever model he wanted for the procreation of mankind and the population of our planet. Just look around in nature and you’ll see all kinds of different methods he invented. But he specifically chose to create man and woman and join them together in the covenant of marriage. Don’t you suppose there was a reason for that? I am convinced of it.

The marriage covenant between a man and a woman are a model of the new covenant God offers you through his Son. It represents the promise of an unyielding commitment, the offer of sacrificial and unconditional love, and the opportunity for true intimacy. In the end it comes down to this:
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.
Revelation 19:7

Now when I say that marriage belongs to God, I’m not talking about the pomp and ceremony, the rings, or the signed piece of paper. Don’t cheapen marriage down to the convenient, disposable and re-definable social construct we’ve made into. I’m talking about the covenant of marriage as God always meant it to be.

That’s what I’m seeking to discover and discuss with this blog – marriage as God intends it to be. After all, he designed it in the first place!

So as a launching point for this series on what I believe about marriage, let me leave you with what I wrote in response to a challenge to describe my blog in exactly ten words.
Marriage was God’s idea. Do it how he designed it.

Do you agree with my premise that marriage was ordained by God with an eternal purpose foremost in his mind? You and Him together for eternity?

Continue to Part 2:  What to Do With The Gap

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I read a LOT of marriage blogs – dozens of them actually.

Included among those I read on a regular basis are several that advocate pretty strongly against what I teach as the biblical model for marriage (you can get an overview of that model, what I call surrendered marriage, by clicking here). I also read and comment on a number of “secular” blogs, where the authors do not necessarily share my Christian world view.

I read and interact with these blogs for several reasons.
  • First of all, you can find some really good and helpful stuff there. Just because someone doesn’t agree with me or doesn’t share my world view, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to offer in terms of marital wisdom, insight or advice. 
  • Second, it is helpful for me to understand where those who don’t share my opinions are coming from and why they think the way they do. The challenges and counter-opinions I find there also help me strengthen the defense of why I believe what I believe. 
  • Third, by gaining insight into opposing thought I can more effectively interact with folks who find their way to my blog and participate in the dialog here.
As I was recently perusing what some other bloggers believe concerning marriage, I decided it’s time for me to circle back around, now more than a year into this marriage blogging endeavor, and re-state my case for the kind of biblical marriage I believe in. In the next few weeks I will attempt to paint a clear picture of what I believe about Christian marriage and why I believe it. In doing so, I’d like to explicitly address a few of the counter-arguments and opposing viewpoints that I’ve come across during my brief blogging tenure.

In this upcoming series I’ll attempt to tackle some difficult questions concerning what I believe and perhaps even challenge a few of your own beliefs. My hope is that it will get you to think! Think about what you believe concerning marriage (especially your own marriage) and why you believe it.

I really want to encourage you to join the dialog here, especially in the next few weeks. Whether you agree with everything I propose or not, I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and challenges. I believe we will all grow in our understanding through candid and respectful discussion of what can sometimes be rather contentious issues.

I’m excited about this important series. And I certainly hope you will participate!

To start things off, if you've read my Introduction to Surrendered Marriage and have any questions you'd like me to answer as part of this series, please either send me an email (contact page) or post a comment below.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
For about almost a year now I’ve been periodically featuring “Man-up Monday” posts in which I specifically address husbands. My goal with these posts is to call men to step forth into their biblical role as husbands in their marriages.

So that no one can accuse me of being sexist or biased, today I’m introducing “Wives only Wednesday.” It’s WoW, if you want to use the acronym, which also happens to accurately describe the women who read my blog (oh no, I’m not trying flattery or anything, really!) A few Wednesdays a month I’ll be writing specifically to wives, with a similar goal of calling them forth into their biblical role in the marriages.

This inaugural WoW post is the corresponding post to the Man-up Monday (I guess that acronym would be MuM - sorry guys) from a few days ago.

So ladies, my challenge for you today is to print off the poll results from my recent marital needs poll and ask your husband to identify the things that he needs most from you. Then I want you to steel your nerve and ask him if there are any of these needs that he feels aren’t being sufficiently met. Ask him if there are things you could do that would show him how much you love him in ways that are meaningful to him, realizing that these may or may not be things that are at all meaningful to you.

Granted, it’s a risky question. Your natural inclination is going to be to defend yourself and the way you already love your husband. You are going to want to explain to him how you are already doing things to meet those needs. But for now I’m encouraging you mostly listen and ask questions. Try to realize that you are simply asking him to help you love him well, so listen intently to what he says.

If he blows it off and claims “everything is fine,” which he might do in order not to risk hurting your feelings or to not sound ungrateful, press him a bit. Tell him you know you aren’t batting 1000 (yeah, sport analogies sometimes work best with husbands) and that you really do want to be better able to express the love you feel in ways to he most appreciates.

Make a Plan

Now comes the hard part – putting together a specific action plan of what you are going to do about what you learned through your conversation with your husband.

Here are just a few suggestions of things to consider doing in response to various expressed needs. Realize that you have to figure out what things will work for your husband and your marriage. I’m using these as typical examples - a starting place for your thinking.

  • If his need is to feel more respected, challenge yourself to really watch your words in the next few weeks. Avoid belittling him or using a critical tone. Is there something specific he has asked you to do or not do but that you have just ignored? Do it or stop doing it consistently, for the next few weeks at least. I can't overemphasize how important this area is for most husbands.  It would be hard for you to overdo it.
  • If his need is to feel admired, get his input or opinion on something that you normally just decide for yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but it should be something you are willing to go with his opinion on. Thank him for something every day. Tell him how attracted you are to him. Tell him how much you appreciate the way he loves you when he does X. He wants to be your hero.
  • If his need relates to sex, don’t simply shrug it off and exclaim, “Men!” If he wants the two of you to step it up a notch in the bedroom, be willing to forgo a little sleep, to wear something sexy or even to initiate sex with him out of the blue. Just as you appreciate an emotional connection during the day before entertaining the notion of a sexual connection, your husband wants to know during the day that sex with him is on your radar. Yes, you may have to put it there on purpose. A playful gesture, a suggestive note or the simple suggestion of what you might do to him (or what you want him to do to you) that night will work wonders! Step outside your comfort zone!

Again, these ideas are just to get you thinking in specific, concrete terms about what you are going to do to express your love for your husband in ways he appreciates.

I'm encouraging you wives to jump in and be a part of Wives only Wednesday!  If you have some other suggestions on how you would go about meeting these kinds of needs in your husband please share it with the other ladies reading this post! And if you are bold enough to actually have this talk with your husband, please stop back by and share what you can of your experience.

Whatever area of need your husband tells you is most important to him, make a specific plan to do something about it. Do it today!

Suggested Link:

Brad of One Flesh Marriage has a great corresponding post entitled "Love in Husband Language." Definitely worth reading!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I’ve made occasional reference here to the need to love your spouse “as if.” It’s a concept that I feel should be part of every Christian’s approach to the shortcoming and failings of their spouse.

It means we do our best to love them “as if” they are closer to the person that we know they really are on the inside, despite what we might observe on the outside. It means having grace at the center of way we view and interact with our spouses.

I believe this is how we are to love one another, because this is how Jesus loves us.  Yes, it’s that bridal paradigm thing I keep coming back to.

But there is a flip side to the notion of loving “as if” toward your spouse. That is being “as if” for your spouse.

This other kind of “as if” has to do with areas of entrenchment or attitudes that keep you from doing things you know would bless your husband or wife and probably improve you marriage as a result.

We all have things we do or don’t do, claiming in our defense that “it’s just not the way I am.” I know I do this, and I suspect we all do this to varying degrees.

Moving Toward Being One

It’s true that we all have unique personalities, preferences and pre-dispositions. Indeed these are the things that make us who we are. Many of these things are what drew your spouse to you in the first place, and by saying you should act “as if” for your spouse I am not telling you to change the essence of your own nature.

But if you want to grow in intimacy, toward becoming one in every sense, then it will require an awareness of and sensitivity to your spouse’s true nature. For the sake of growing closer together, sometimes you will need to set aside your own preferences in order to engage with your spouse in a way that satisfies him or her most deeply. Sometimes you will need to step outside your own comfort zone and do some things that don’t necessarily come naturally or easily to you,

Now of course I’m not saying you should do things to which you have a moral objection. I’m talking about things that you could do, maybe even things you know you should do, but that are not necessarily your nature or that you find a bit personally challenging. Maybe some of these things require a bit of extra giving on your part. Maybe some of these things take a little extra effort, but you just aren’t willing to give it.

For example, maybe your spouse is really social and greatly enjoys getting together with groups of friends (like my wife), but you typically find such occasions personally draining instead of energizing (like I do). I could handle this difference between us several different ways. I could simply refuse to go with her on such occasions and send her off alone (I’ve done that). I could go along grudgingly, with a scowl and an attitude, hence ruining the outing for her (I’ve done that too). Or I could even insist that she stay home and not go because “I don’t want to go, and I’m the husband, and I am in charge and I say no” (no, I haven’t done that). But the better option is for me to sometimes simply say yes and go along enthusiastically, because I know it would really bless her and I know it is a need in her. I can do that and do my best to be open to it.

He Says, She Says

There are many areas where men and women tend to differ in their preferences, wiring and mindsets. I’m not being sexist with this statement; brain science is flush with studies that confirm the truth of this. You just have to look at the result of the marital needs poll from my previous post to see how different men and women tend to be.

Unfortunately, these basic needs are some of the areas where we get the most entrenched because it’s “just the way men are” or “just the way women are.” We sometimes use our gender as an excuse for not meeting our spouse’s needs. But refusing to understand and respond to your spouse’s needs and nature just because you aren’t wired the same way or need the same things is a formula for reduced intimacy, increased frustration, and marital isolation. Bad news!

For example, most women (not all) find meaningful conversation an important component of relational intimacy – many men do not. So is it that an excuse to criticize and complain about your wife’s “neediness” and her “endless jabbering” because you are “just not into all that mindless talking.” No! Little better is it for you to simply talk to her while rolling your eyes, with impatient body language, minimally holding up your end of the conversation. Rather, recognize this as a genuine need in her and give her the time and full attention she craves from you. You can choose to satisfy her need for meaningful, even if it isn’t a need for you.

Here’s another example. Most husbands would greatly appreciate it if their wives would act in a more sexually overt manner, showing her desire for and sexual attraction to him. However, most women simply aren’t wired to think that way, and some are even uncomfortable with the idea of any kind of sexual expression outside of the bedroom. But is that a good reason to simply accuse your husband of having a one-track mind, to rebuff his playful advances or to dismiss his desire for more far-ranging sexual interaction with you? Though you aren’t likely to actually be turned on by his suggestiveness, why not go with the flow sometimes and respond positively or playfully to such advances? Why not be suggestive yourself once in a while? You can choose to satisfy his need for sexual engagement on his terms, even if it isn’t a need for you.

Husbands and wives make all kinds of excuses for not being attentive to one another’s needs and desires:
  • He says, “I’m just not the romantic type.”
  • She says, “I wish he wouldn’t just keep grabbing me like that.”
  • He says, “My wife does the church thing, but it’s not for me.”
  • She says, “I’m not that into outdoors stuff.”
  • He says, “I find a lot of her friends tedious and boring.”
  • She says, “I find a lot of his friends crude and immature.”
  • He says, “I really don’t like going to the same place twice – life’s too short.”
  • She says, “I rather like revisiting places we’ve enjoyed before – so many happy memories.”

These particular things may or may not apply to your own marriage. The point is to be aware of and seek to satisfy your spouse on their terms, even when their desires don’t line up with yours.

It’s not easy, and it requires that you know your spouse intimately; his or her nature, desires and preferences. This kind of knowing is a lifelong endeavor, and I’ve written about it recently. One post deals with knowing your spouse’s soul, what you see in the natural. The other post deals with knowing your spouse’s spirit, who they were created by God to be.

Are there areas where your husband or wife is being neglected or having unmet needs simply because you have decided “it’s just not me?”

Are you willing, for the sake of deeper intimacy, to step outside your comfort zone, to go the extra mile and do things you might not otherwise choose to do?

Note:  In my next post I’ll deal with a few important points of clarification that I feel needs to be made around this topic.

Monday, May 16, 2011
I’ve been expounding lately on the recent poll I took that showed some pretty dramatic differences in primary needs between husbands and wives.

Today, as a related Man-up Monday post, I want to issue a specific challenge to husbands.

My challenge is for you to be bold enough to show her or tell her about the results of this poll, and ask her which are among her most important needs. Then, I want you to be really bold, and ask her how you are doing at meeting those needs. Ask her if there are areas where she feels her needs are neglected or disregarded or even if there are just some things you could do to better show her your love for her in a way that is consistent with her love needs, whatever they are.

Your challenge in the course of this conversation is to not get defensive and start explaining to her all the ways in which you are already doing things to show her your love. True as those things may be, the point of this challenge is to find out where she feels unmet needs. There is no wrong answer. Listen to her heart and receive what she says with the intention in your own heart to make her feel more loved.

Do Something!

Even if you think her needs are silly, if you think you are already doing a good job of it, and even if you can’t comprehend why should would feel that way, determine within yourself to move toward becoming one by working at being more attentive to her expressed needs.The goal is a deeper level of intimacy between you.

The last step after this important conversation is to put together a specific action plan of what you are going to do in the next week to improve at showing your wife love in the way she needs it expressed. The idea here is to do something specific about what you’ve learned from her.

Here are just a few suggestions to start you thinking and to give you and idea of the kind of things I am talking about, but because every couple is different, you will need to find the things that will work for your own marriage.
  • If her need is to feel more emotionally connected with you, take specific steps to engage with her on an emotional level. Have genuine conversations about what’s going on with her life or your life, talk about spiritual matters, ask her to pray together, make some out-of-character little romantic gestures, go for a walk together.
  • If her need is for feel cared for and like her needs are being considered, offer to give her a back or shoulder massage (non-sexual!), buy her a small considerate gift out of the blue, ask for her opinion about some specific matters you are considering and go with her suggestion, talk about her five year ambitions and hopes, then pick one and take the first steps toward making it a reality.
  • If her need is to feel more protected and safe, find out where she if feeling vulnerable or unprotected (financially, spiritually, sexually, relationally, etc.) and do something that will help allay her fears.

Whatever the need area is that she tells you she needs more from you on, do something about it. Do something specific and do it immediately.

Suggested Link:

Kate from One Flesh Marriage just posted along a very similar vein "How a Woman Wants to Be Loved. Some sound advice for  husbands from a wife's perspective.

Saturday, May 14, 2011
As I wrote last time, sometimes, in order to foster intimacy in your marriage, you will need to step outside of your comfort zone.

If you consider my recent marital needs poll results, which showed dramatic differences between the primary needs of husbands and wives, it is certain that in order to go about meeting needs that are probably very different from your own, you'll need to modify your mindset and think a bit outside the box.

When such actions go against your own natural inclinations and preferences, it may require you to sometimes act “as if” for the sake of loving your spouse and improving your marriage.

Now, lest what I am suggesting be misconstrued, I want to follow up with a few clarifying points.

This is Not Just Faking It

I’m NOT suggesting you simply try to fake your way through it. For one, most of us aren’t that good at hiding our feelings, and your spouse will pretty quickly figure out that you aren’t being sincere. That’s likely to make things worse than if you didn’t do it at all. Though there may be times to suck it up and pretend, that should not be the goal.

The goal is to be authentic – to act with genuine love. To do that you will likely need to change your mindset so you can do it “as if” it were something you would really like to do. The wanting to do it comes from a place of sacrificial love rather than a place of personal enjoyment or personal preference.

My wife loves old movies. She’s practically a walking iMDb of all things black and white. Personally, I don’t care that much for most of the old movies that seem to so hold her interest and give her such delight. But I will sometimes happily watch with her, simply because I want to be with her and know this is something she really enjoys. When she asks me if I enjoyed a movie that I did not particularly care for, I will say “I enjoyed you enjoying it.” That’s the truth. In some ways, knowing that I do this for her blesses her more than if I was to doing it because I actually like those old movies. It shows that I care about the things she cares about.

I love the mountains. My wife loves the beach. So every year we try to get a healthy dose of both. And over the years I have come to rather enjoy the beach, and she now truly likes spending time in the mountains. I’ve come to appreciate the things she likes so much about the beach, and I also see how it feeds her soul. Same goes for her and the mountains.

This is Not Compromise

I would caution you not to go about doing these kinds of sacrificial “as if” acts of love in order to get something in return or as a compromise that requires concessions from your spouse. I didn’t just go along with the idea of a beach vacation in order to get my wife to agree to a mountain trip. No, we both saw and genuinely wanted to satisfy the desires of the other’s heart. It wasn’t a 50-50 proposition, it was 100-100. That’s the way it should be.

I’m suggesting that if it is going yield any lasting fruit in your marriage, you should do such things without expecting something in return. Give it as a gift rather than as a favor. Again that’s not to say you should never say, “I’ll do X if you’ll do Y.” I just don’t think that is necessarily the bridal paradigm way. Jesus gave everything of himself for us for love's sake and for love's sake alone. Love and intimacy with us was his only goal.

Sameness is Not the Goal

As I said in my previous post, the idea of acting “as if” is not about changing your personality or nature- you probably couldn’t do that if you tried. The goal is not to become more like your spouse. I’m not suggesting that men be more like their wives or vice-versa. But you shouldn't use your nature as and excuse to neglect the needs of your spouse.  You can change your behavior without changing who you are. You can increase awareness of your spouse’s needs, even those that are a bit foreign to you, and act in a way that meets those needs, without becoming more like them.

Allow Your Emotions to Follow Your Actions

Setting aside your own preferences and stepping outside your own comfort zone can be uncomfortable and challenging. But when you act “as if” for the sake of love and intimacy with your spouse and in order to honor his or her nature and desires you will begin to see positive fruit in your marriage.

And as you learn to take delight in delighting your spouse, you will gradually see your heart begin to change. You might even find yourself beginning to not just tolerate but embrace and enjoy things that you never thought you could. When you see how happy you can make your spouse, how positively he or she responds to your loving attention, and how intimacy grows between you, you will want to do it more. That’s only natural. See the above mountain/beach example from my marriage.

You aren’t responsible for solely fulfilling all your spouse’s needs

This is my final caveat about acting “as if.” While I strongly believe we all need to learn to delight in delighting our spouses, you cannot be everything to your spouse (nor should you be). You cannot ever hope to meet 100% of your spouse’s emotional needs, and his or her world should not revolve around you. That’s a formula for emotional gridlock and a certain set-up for failure.

The center of your spouse’s world should be God, and He alone should sit upon the throne of their life. Second, your spouse will need a life outside of your marriage (as will you). It is healthy and necessary for him or her to have friends and interests outside of your marriage relationship, and you should view these not as competition for his or her affections and attentions as long as these things don’t hinder the level of intimacy between you.

What do you think of these caveats and cautions to acting “as if?” Do you have any cautions of your own that our readers should be aware of?

Saturday, May 7, 2011
In my last post I wrote that I try not to apply sweeping generalizations to groups of people or make universal statements. However, while the poll I put up as part of that post is far from scientific, the results are pretty convincing..

The results shown in the chart below certainly seem to reinforce the idea that men and women are indeed rather different creatures when it comes to their core needs.

The top two needs for husbands, being respected and admired, accounted for 68 of husbands' reported greatest needs from their wives. That compares to only 9% of wives report these two as their greatest needs from their husbands.

For wives, the top two needs from their husbands by far were feeling cared for and maintaining emotional intimacy. These two needs accounted for an astounding 75% of the wives’ top needs, whereas only 5% of husbands stated one of these two as their top need.

These differences are dramatic and important to understand for several reasons. There’s no doubt that God was rather purposeful when “He created them male and female.” Ours is to figure out this divine puzzle for the benefit of our marriages.

First, our natural inclination is to give love in accordance with our own needs. Simply put, we tend to love how we want to be loved. But clearly that doesn’t work in most cases, because your spouse’s greatest needs are likely to be very different from your own. It is critically important to keep in mind the fact that your needs are mostly or completely foreign to your spouse.

Second, in order for you to learn to love your spouse how THEY want to be loved, you are likely going to have to learn some new ways of thinking, to put some things on your radar that may not naturally be there. You need to become a student of your spouse’s desires and needs, and appreciate that this is a lifelong endeavor.

Third, have grace for your husband or wife as they work toward understanding and meeting your needs. They might be navigating a very foreign territory! Help him or her learn to love you in a non-demanding way.

What do you think of these findings? Were you surprised at the extent of the differences? Do these ring true for your own marriage?

Thanks to all who participated in the polls. If you’d like to add your own top needs to the results, I plan to keep the poll up for a little while and will be keeping the results updated.
There’s a link in the upper right side-bar.

[Email and RRS subscribers you can
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Sarah Baron over at Anonymous8 posted a quote from Rabbi Radinsky, who has many years of experience dealing with marriages, summarized the essential needs of men and women as follows:
In marriage, men and women each only need one thing. Women need to feel secure. Men need to feel important.

When I read the quote I immediately thought to myself, this sounds a lot like this verse from Ephesians:
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:33

Of course Emmerson Eggerichs, author of the book “Love and Respect” sees this dynamic as key to a successful marriage.

I stated a while back in my post “Thinking, Being and Doing”  that I try to shy away from “one size fits all” solutions to marriage issues.

While I do believe that love and respect (or security and feeling important, as Rabbi Radinsky stated) are critical ingredients to a lasting and intimate marriage, I’m not sure I would say that these constitute the “one thing” that guarantees you’ll have the kind of lasting marriage you want.

The Long Haul Project  website regularly interviews couples and asks them what one thing they would offer as the secrete to a successful marriage. You can listen to some or all of them using this link . There are an interesting and diverse set of answers from the various couples.

Truthfully, I’m not sure there even is a one thing, at least not exactly. I don’t think marriage is quite that simple, because anything that involves real people with real issues is going to be more complex than a simple panacea statement will adequately address. I do think there are some universal biblical truths that point us in the right direction (such as the love and respect truth of Ephesians 5), but I also think that each couple has to figure out how to apply those truths to their own marriage.

So with these thoughts in mind, I’d like to ask a slightly different and more pointed question in the form of separate short polls; one for women (just below) and one for men (scroll down)

For email and RSS readers: Lady's Poll Link

For email and RSS readers: Men's Poll Link

Monday, May 2, 2011
I came across a short video by Danny Silk answering the question, “What has happened to men in modern times?”  (sorry the video was not embeddable)

I half expected the usual “men are becoming feminized and shrinking back from leading their families.” But knowing how Danny Silk often takes a different tack, I was not too surprised that his answer took an entirely different direction.

I hope you watch the video, because he makes an interesting case.  But if you don't have five minutes to watch, here is the culminating point:
Two thirds of divorces are in initiated by women. Women in droves are trying to get away from men who don’t know how to love. If men don’t learn how to love this trend will just grow.
Husbands, I’d like to hear your opinion on what Danny has to say. Do you agree?

Sunday, May 1, 2011
I’ve seen various comments against Kate’s decision not to include a commitment to obey William in her vows. (If you don’t know which Kate and William I am referring to, what hole have you been in?). Some of the discussion has been rather caustic. Equally caustic has been the counterargument from those who are horrified at the thought of a vow to obey.

As near as I can tell, despite what I’ve seen claimed by others, obedience of a wife to her husband is not commanded in the Bible. Submission, yes, but not obedience, and to me these are different but related things. In Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3, children are directed to obey their parents, but in these same chapters wives are directed to submit to their husbands. For me, the scripture’s choice of a different word is meaningful.

Now, I realize that there is almost as much contention over the question of submission as there is the issue of obedience, so maybe for some it’s a moot point. In the next few weeks I want to revisit this topic in full, but for now let’s stick with looking at the difference between submission and obedience.

As I often do, I look to the relationship between Jesus and the church (the bridal paradigm) to provide insight into this question.

Does Jesus command our obedience?

I don’t have space to completely unpack my argument for this, but I believe that Jesus is more interested in relationship than rules. I’m not saying that obedience does not matter; but that Jesus would rather have an intimate relationship with us than have us simply dutifully following a bunch of rules.

But doesn’t scripture say we are to obey? Let’s take a closer look.
Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
John 14:23

If you read the context of that verse, to me it clearly conveys that what Jesus is essentially saying is, “If you love me, then the things that matter to me will matter to you.” The goal is dwelling together in intimacy (make our home together); obedience is a byproduct.

And this is exactly the attitude I think we should have in marriage. Rather than obeying because obedience is demanded or pledged as part of a wedding vow, we should strive to understand the things that matter to our spouse (I believe this applies to husbands and to wives) and strive to honor those things in the things we do and say.

Here’s a tiny example. I happen to hate gum – pretty much everything about it. I don’t like where it often ends up, the smell, the way it looks when people chew it, or the way it sounds when people smack it. I know that I am slightly irrational in this, and I do my best not to hold my gum-prejudice against others. However, my wife knows this about me, and she offered some years ago to give up gum chewing around me. I never demanded it or even asked her to do this. She offered of her own volition because she knew it mattered to me. She happens to like gum, but out of respect for my wishes, she was willing to sacrifice her own preferences. She has also insisted that the children not chew gum around me as well (they are children and requiring obedience is appropriate and scriptural). She even told me the other week that she has decided to give it up altogether for my sake. She has chosen to honor me in this. It really has nothing to do with obedience.

Surrender vs. Obedience

A mutually surrendered marriage, which is the model I espouse here at Journey to Surrender, more or less takes obedience out of the question.

A husband’s surrender takes the form of loving, sacrificial leadership of his wife and home. It’s not about controlling or subjugating his wife, but serving her and cherishing her. Commanding obedience has little place in walking out a husband’s God-given authority. Building intimacy and displaying Godly character come first. I believe there are few, if any, circumstances that call for a husband to use his authority to demand obedience. That’s just not how Jesus loves us and therefore not how husbands should love their wives.

A wife’s surrender, at least in part, takes the form of submission to her husband. Her priority is to show love for her husband by honoring and respecting him in all things. She does not require him to command or control her in order for her to serve him bless him. It is the desire of her heart and comes in response to the knowledge that he would lay down his very life for her.

He loves, leads and serves her. She loves, honors and submits to him. It’s a beautiful exchange that I have described like this in my “What is a Surrendered Marriage” overview page.

A bridal paradigm marriage is not a power sharing arrangement. Rather, it is a power exchange relationship. The husband’s power is given in the form of the sacrificial and selfless way he loves and leads his wife. The wife’s power is given in the form of loving submission to her husband. The beauty of the bridal paradigm lies in what it calls you to give rather than what it permits you to demand. Asserting your “rights” [such as demanding obedience] has no place in the bridal paradigm because by design it is uncalled for. In fact, demanding that your partner adhere to their side of the bargain runs in opposition to the bridal paradigm itself.

I added the [ ] about obedience in order to put this in the context of today’s discussion.

So what do you think about the question of wifely obedience? Do you agree or disagree with my perspective? I would love to hear your thoughts either way.

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