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Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't miss the giveaway details below!

I’m following up today on my last counter-culture marriage post, Sex is a Big Deal.

At the end of that post, I mentioned a terrific new resource for boosting your sex life called 31 Days to Great Sex, an e-book by writer and fellow marriage-blogger Sheila Gregoire. She blogs at To Love Honor and Vacuum.

A Quick Book Review

I am a big fan of the Sheila’s holistic approach to sex. As I mentioned yesterday, sex is much more than a physical act, and the book is written around that very principle. Her thinking is much along the lines of my 14-Day Intimacy Challenge, and I found myself nodding in wholehearted agreement throughout.  Of course, her book gives you a much more in-depth treatment to each daily topic and runs more than twice as many days!

The book is full of wonderful insights and advice for both husbands and wives.  It is 131 pages in length.
Here is little overview.
  • Section 1, Days 1-8, is “Turning Sex into Something Positive.” It is a fitting on-ramp to the rest of the book, addressing some of the major mental hang-ups we have about sex. The mind is your most important sex organ!
  • Sections 2, 3 and 4 (covering 17 days in total) deal respectively with the emotional, physical and spiritual dimensions of your sex life.  A few samples of the daily topics include “Ways to Flirt with Your Spouse,” “Turning Foreplay Up a Notch,” and “Experiencing Spiritual Intimacy when you Make Love.’
  • The book wraps up with six days dedicated to keeping the sexual momentum in your marriage going into the future, with such helpful topics as “Quickies Can be Fun” and “Sex After Parenthood.”

Why You Should Get It

I’m re-emphasizing Sheila’s book today for several reasons.

First and foremost, it is a fantastic resource for married couples in all stages of life. Whether you are newly married or, like my wife and I, married more than 30 years, you will find Sheila’s insights on sex and her daily challenges to be of great benefit to your marriage.

Second, I am offering a free copy of "31 Days to Great Sex" as a give-away to one lucky commenter. Just answer this question in the comments: “Which dimension of sex do you think is the most important (physical, emotional, or spiritual) and why? Not an easy question, I know, but I’m very curious to hear your thoughts.

Third, I believe in and want to help Sheila get the word out in support of strong marriages full of fantastic sex. As she says, “Married sex should be the best sex,” despite what our prevailing culture says to the contrary.

So, please help me help Sheila and order your copy of "31 Days to Great Sex" today. And since I’m part of her affiliate network, I benefit too when you order through the link below. Regardless of whether you get it through me or somewhere else, do get it!
31 Days to Great Sex


Don’t forget to leave a comment below to be entered into the contest. (Email readers click the link!) The drawing happens at noon on Tuesday, December 4th. 

PS  Don’t wait to order, because Sheila has graciously offered a copy of her successful book, “Good Girls Guide to Great Sex,” in the event that you win and have already ordered!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our culture would say that sex is no big deal. Not true! Sex is hugely significant to your marriage.

This is the third part of my look into the damage that some prevailing cultural norms can do to your marriage. (See my earlier posts on Entitlement  and Equality/Fairness).

Let’s examine a few of the sexual myths that get widely propagated:

Sex is only physical

Sure, sex is a physical act, but the truth is that sex is also inherently spiritual. It is more than a mingling of two bodies, it also involves the joining your soul and your spirit with your spouse. When you ignore or downplay this deeper level of sexual connection, you also limit the fruit you can enjoy from your sex life.

Sex is for me

Our self-centered society would tell you that is all about you: your pleasure, your convenience, your desire and your satisfaction.  In truth, sex is a gift that you give to your spouse for the benefit of your marriage. Yes you benefit from it too, but when you view sex from a selfless viewpoint, it makes it so much more intimate and powerful. If you believe what the Bible says about sex, then you believe that your body actually belongs to your spouse and that it is designed for his or her pleasure.

Sex is optional

Sex is the one thing that makes your marriage relationship unique from all the other relationships in your life. It is NOT optional. Statistics vary, but somewhere around 15% of all marriages are sexless today. That is tragic. For many more, sex is relegated to a low priority. Do you frequently postpone sex until you have more time and more energy? Maybe you should look at your priorities and remember that sex is the glue that holds your marriage together. Don’t forget the glue!

Sex is bad

This is not actually a cultural message. Rather, it is the church’s widespread overreaction to the many ways in which society at large has corrupted what God design to be sacred and holy. Sex is powerful; therefore sex is also dangerous. But that is no reason for us to ignore it, be ashamed of it, or shun it from discussion in our churches. In fact the power of sex is the very reason we should reclaim it for the Kingdom! Sex is good! Sex is God's!

Have any of these cultural myths about sex negatively influenced your marriage? What have you done to combat them?

For some more counter-cultural perspectives on sex and some great common sense sex advice, get Sheila Gregoire’s fabulous new e-book, 31 Days of Great Sex today!
(aff link)
31 Days to Great Sex
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This is part of short series looking at the ways in which the prevailing culture can negatively impact your marriage.  Part 1 explored Entitlement.

Today we consider the closely-related topics of equality and fairness.

Equality is a Myth

We’ve come to mistake equality with interchangeability. If two things are equal, it doesn’t mean they are the same. A husband and wife can be completely equal in human value, but very different in their marriage roles. Why does this make so many people uncomfortable? I think it’s because they fear unfairness (see below).

The bottom line for me is that equality is just the wrong measuring stick for marriage. It sets up a competitive, score-keeping environment that has us constantly measuring the degree of our equality.  We find ourselves constantly asking whether we are winning or losing.

The quest for equality is a silly notion when you stop and consider that a husband and wife are actually one. When my wife “wins,” so do I. Likewise, when I “win” the benefit accrues to her as well. Since we are one, it makes no sense to split our marriage into separate, competitive halves.

While the idea of a 50-50 marriage is often held up as the ideal, I would answer that a 100-100 marriage should actually be the goal. Each partner should go for giving 100%, doing all he or she can for their spouse and the relationship.

Don’t fall for the equality myth.

What many champion as equality is actually a desire for fairness.

Fairness is a Falsehood

The issue of fairness begs a similar set of questions. The difference is that fairness is an even more ambiguous measuring stick.  Who decides what's fair?

The dictionary defines fairness as being “free from bias or injustice.” Whereas a desire for equality seeks to eliminate all differences, a desire for fairness instead seeks justice. The question is, whose standard of justice do we use?

The Kingdom of God does not conflate fairness and justice. Ever heard, “The first shall be last?” How about, “the meek shall inherit the earth.”  “When I am weak, then I am strong.” And "God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.”

What is fair about the very Son of God giving His life for you and me, so that we could be in relationship with Him for eternity?

Fair? Not.

More often than not, when one group cites fairness as part of its doctrine, it’s a front for selfishness. “I/we didn’t get my/our fair share!”

Alternative Measures of Success

What if instead of using equality and fairness as the measure of a successful marriage, we used selflessness and surrender? These are a lot closer to the Kingdom values that I am familiar with.

What if instead of trying to out-get from each other, we strove to out-give to each other? What if selfless, extravagant, unconditional love became the norm in your marriage? I can tell you this: if it did, you wouldn’t have any reason to even talk about equality and fairness. They would be a non-issue.

Has our culture’s preoccupation with equality and fairness affected your marriage mindset? Do you spend too much time and energy measuring and competing in your marriage? Have your eyes been opened to the way the Kingdom of God looks at these questions? Let me hear your stories.

It's not too late to get your free e-books!

Click on the book image, left, to sign up for my new Pathways monthly intimacy newsletter, and get the two 14-Day Intimacy Challenge e-books (one for husbands and one for wives) for free.
Friday, November 23, 2012

Sorry this resource is no longer available. 

For my latest free offer, click here.

Don't miss out on two important chances to enhance the intimacy in your marriage!

Free E-Book

First, in case you missed it, my new e-book, The 14-Day Intimacy Challenge, is available for free in PDF form. The terrific resource for building intimacy gives you three daily challenges: something to think about, something to act upon, and a question to ask your spouse.

Hundreds participated in my online 14-day challenge.   The response was so positive that I decided to offer a convenient digest in e-book form for those who may have missed it. There is a separate edition for wives and husbands.

You get it free when you sign up for my Pathways monthly email newsletter.


The first edition of my Pathways newsletter will be coming out in less than a week. Don't miss it!

Now is the time to sign up to receive insightful thoughts, tips, teaching and testimonies, all relating the the intimacy in your marriage. Whether you are looking to enhance emotional, spiritual or physical intimacy, this publication is for you.

The purpose of Pathways is to keep your marriage headed down the Path of Intimacy  Whether you took the Intimacy Challenge or not, this is a resource you don't want to miss.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fellow marriage blogger and friend Paul Byerly (aka The Generous Husband  ) tweeted my last post by asking:
Is the culture hurting your marriage?
It's a great question!

His tweet prompted me to explore more deeply the ways in which a Christ-centered, biblically-oriented marriage runs against the grain of the prevailing culture. More to the point, we will be looking at ways in which the culture slips into our marriages and wreaks havoc.

As I stated in my last post,  it is clear that the cultural trend is toward devaluing and even denigrating marriage. Even if you personally place a high value on marriage, even your own marriage in specific,  there are many cultural influences that might be hurting your marriage. In many cases, we aren't even consciously aware of it!

First up:


If I had to pick one thing cultural influence that is hurting marriages the most, I think it would be entitlement.

If you want a clear picture of entitlement, watch this YouTube video:

YouTube direct link

If you’ve let at atmosphere of entitlement slip into your marriage, it might come out in the following ways:
  • You blame your husband or wife for your unhappiness.
  • You think your lack of fulfillment is your spouse’s fault.
  • You believe the marriage certificate means you have a right to expect that your wife or husband will meet all of your needs. You might even demand it.

What to do Instead

Maybe you wouldn’t agree with the statements above in their entirety, but it is still possible that such thoughts might creep into your heart and mind on occasion.

If you find yourself fighting with entitlement, here are some ways to combat it:
  • Thankfulness – a grateful heart is a great antidote for entitlement.
  • Generosity – when you give with the attitude of genuine service from the place of love, you are invoking the biblical paradox that “a blessing breaks a curse.”
  • Responsibility – you can only change yourself, so give up trying to change your spouse. Focus on what you can do about you.
  • Relationship – choose to focus on your relationship instead of your rights. In every situation, ask yourself, “what action or attitude would keep us closest?”

Has entitlement crept into your marriage? Can you think of other ways to fight this huge cultural influence on your marriage? Let us hear your ideas!

Friday, November 9, 2012

I have strong political opinions, but you don’t read this blog for my politics. So I’m going to try very hard to separate myself from the politics of our recent election – not an easy thing for me to do – and focus on what I see as the implications for marriage.

I had to wait a few days to write this post, otherwise my emotions might have had me saying things I would end up regretting. Today I’m a little less emotional, having had time to rationalize in my mind what just happened to our nation.

The truth, I’ve concluded, is that nothing “just happened.”

Culture vs. Politics

Senator Patrick Moynihan famously said,
The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.
In truth, culture and politics are not so cleanly separated ideologically. Still, I believe this year’s election made more of a cultural statement than a political one. 

Bottom line: our culture is in trouble. Those of us who watch and write about what our culture is doing to marriage don’t find that at all surprising. But things didn’t change on Nov 6th, and things would not have changed if the outcome of the election had been different.

The Marginalization of Marriage

It’s an established fact that marriage is on the decline in America. Three simple facts point to this most effectively:
  1. There are fewer married women in the US today than single women for the first time in our history, according the the US Census Bureau.
  2. 42% of all children born last year were born out of wedlock (by ethnicity: whites=29%, Hispanics= 53% and blacks=73%), according the the National Marriage Project 2011State of Our Unions report.
  3. Cohabitation in 2010 as compared to 1960 has increased by a factor of 17, and the rate is increasing. The number of cohabitating couples doubled just in that last decade.
Why is marriage in such trouble? Is it the institution that has failed? Has it just become outdated and irrelevant to today’s “modern thinker?” Is it the fault of the media and its staunchly anti-marriage messages? Is the male bashing penchant of militant feminism to blame? Is the key to singleness of women their increasing financial independence?

Marriage and the Church

No doubt all these factors play a part. The question in my mind, and the one I’ve been mulling over since my election-eve disappointment, is which are causes and which are effects.  For the most part, I have decided that they are effects rather than causes.

My belief is that marriage is failing largely because the church has failed marriages.

That’s a strong statement, I know, and perhaps slightly overstated. But we need to face this fact, and do something about it, if we ever hope to re-establish biblical marriage and families as the cultural foundation of our society. It’s time for the church to wake up and be the church and stop blaming our culture and society, and yes, even our government for the state of things.

My experience and observation has been that most of the church’s efforts in regards to marriage have focused on distressed marriages and divorce. That’s way too late! It’s not like that in every church, but in the majority, I would venture. We need to get comfortable in the church talking about sex and intimacy and biblical marriage roles and not leave all the discussion to secular circles. We need to challenge men to man up and lead with love. We need to accurately define biblical submission.

Most of all, we need to stop looking for solutions “out there” and start taking a hard look at ourselves.

Our Messages to Young People

Exit poll data show that young people (under 30), backed Obama and his marriage-unfriendly agenda by a huge margin, 60% compared to 37% for Romney. Why so? I believe it’s because the messages young people embrace and identify most with are coming from the culture and society at large and not from the church. We are failing to reach them with the power of the Gospel of grace because we are teaching them about rules instead of about relationship.

That carries directly over into what they understand about marriage.

Rather than focusing on simply telling our teens and young singles not to have sex, we should be explaining to them about the joy, intimacy and passion that await them in God’s amazing design for marriage. Kids should be inspired by their parent’s deliriously happy marriages. For the most part, they are not. In their piece The Marginalization of Marriage in Middle America,   W. Bradford Wilcox and Andrew J. Cherlin of the Brookings Institute stated that “43 percent of moderately-educated young adults aged twenty-five to forty-four report that, ‘marriage has not worked out for most people they know.’” That is sad. Very sad.

We Have the Secret

As Christians, we have the inside track on marriage!

We know the One who invented marriage, and we have a heavenly Bridegroom who has shown us an ideal example of marital bliss in His relationship with us as his bride. What more could we ask for?

The marriages in the church should be so amazing and enduring that the world should be looking to us for answers. It’s not. Despite some differences in marriage statistics between the churched and un-churched, there isn’t nearly the contrast that there should be. After all, we have the secret: Jesus.

So what is your take on the implications for this election on the state of marriage in our nation? Please leave a comment - I really want to hear your thoughts!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Those of you familiar with Stephen Covey’s famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, will recognize the graphic shown at right (click for a full size view).

The diagram describes Covey’s seven habits and their influence in moving people from dependence to independence to interdependence. 

These three phases, or paradigms, also represent the process of becoming one-flesh in marriage.

The You Paradigm - Dependence

In my opinion, the You Paradigm represents the lowest level of marital maturity. It’s characterized by me expecting you (my spouse) to make me happy. I expect you to take care of me and meet my needs. If you don’t, I’m not going to meet yours. I give only to get.

The You Paradigm can also include me making my life all about you. Especially during dating and early marriage, it’s easy for me to fall into being completely absorbed by you, making my life totally revolve around you. This can quickly devolve into co-dependence, in which I look to you for validation and acceptance. I let you define me.

The Me Paradigm – Independence

If I spend very long in the You Paradigm, I will eventually become disillusioned with the fact that you (my spouse) aren’t meeting my needs like I think you should.  I’m giving, but I’m not getting in "fair" proportion. In frustration I move from dependence to independence.

I take responsibility upon myself for my own happiness, but without regard to yours. I become self-reliant to the point of isolation. I make my own choices and decisions for what benefit me the most. The relationship becomes irrelevant.

Independence can lead to a lonely existence.

The We Paradigm – Interdependence

What the Bible calls being one flesh is at least in part defined by interdependence.

In marriage, there is a “great mystery,” literally translated a “mega-mystery,” in which a man and wife are joined together as one in spirit, soul and body. It is indeed mysterious how two can be one yet still maintain their individuality. It is in interdependence, the highest form of marital maturity, that this gets worked out.

In the interdependent paradigm, you and I both bring ourselves fully to the relationship; no pretense, no posturing, and no power struggles. We are one in all things, yet we are free to be ourselves. Together we add strength to strength and allow strength to cover weakness. It’s beautiful.

Seeing our marriage through a one-flesh, interdependent perspective means you and I deeply value one another and place a priority on our marriage. We choose to purposefully invest in each other, not because of what we can gets from it, but because we see intimacy as the true measure of a great marriage. We regard relationship and more important than rights.

What’s Your Paradigm?

Set it in your heart and mind to live in the We Paradigm; to live interdependently as one flesh. That’s what the Bible says we have a right to as husband and wife. We just need to grab hold of it and live it.

Of course we may tend to occasionally move back to Me-land or You-land, but We-land is what God intends for you and me and for our marriages. Live there.

Where are you on the You-Me-We continuum?


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