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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Male and Female He created them." But why?

During our recent vacation, I spent time madly catching up on the big backlog in my blog feed reader.

As usual, all this reading spawned dozens of post ideas (many of which I will probably never get to). I read a lot on one particular subject, and I was inspired to tackle a hotly debated topic that I've not touched on for a while: male and female roles in marriage.

Yeah. That.

It will take several posts to explore the topic, even in part. I will likely intersperse the series with some more lighthearted fare. I don't want things to get too serious around here.

As a prelude to this series, let me say that this is not a salvation issue. It's also not a sin issue. As such, differing opinions on marriage roles are just that - opinions. My own opinions are strongly held and thoroughly considered, but I also believe I can learn from the others with whom I disagree. I concede that each side of the debate probably has it partially right. We all see through a glass dimly. Let's try to appreciate that fact.

I am hoping to spark discussion. However, I am asking that we keep the discussion honoring, respectful and positive. Hostile, mean-spirited or snarky comments on either side of the debate will not be tolerated. Period.

Side note:  to be intellectually honest you should always seek to understand what those with whom you disagree have to say. Sadly, I find that many on either side of the complementarian/egalitarian debate only read and discuss the topic among those who share their opinion, thus adding to the deeper divide between the two. Similarly, it seems many Christians shy away from examining anything "secular" or not overtly "Christian." This series will likely stretch a few of these boundaries.
Yin and Yang

As I was catching up on my blog reader backlog I came across a post on the importance of yin and yang in relationships. In case the concept of yin-yang is unknown to you, it is the ancient Chinese concept that seemingly opposite (or more accurately, complimentary) forces are often deeply interconnected. Examples include light and dark, high and low, and, pertinent to our discussion today, male and female.

The article spoke of the balance and harmony created through difference and contrast in relationships. These get lost, the author posed, in our quest for fairness and equality.

Fundamental to the concept of yin and yang is the fact that you can't have yin without yang. It makes no sense. Light has no meaning without darkness. There is no high without low. And there is no male without female.

Now yin-yang is not a "Christian" concept, and the post I refer to was not on a "Christian" marriage blog. However, as I thought about it, it dawned on me that God is actually the original designer of yin and yang, even though the Bible doesn't use those terms.

Yin and Yang and God

Not sure about that?  Consider these yin-yang moments at the dawn of creation:
  • Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3-4)
  • Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:9-10)
And finally:
  • Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them... Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good... " (Genesis 1:26-27, 31)

Clearly male and female are both created in God's image. In human creation there is no sense of more and less, no sense of difference in importance or worth.

But there is difference. There is distinction. Male and female.

So the pertinent question is, "Why?"

Is there anything more to maleness and femaleness beyond the physical differences for the purpose of procreation?

Egalitarians mostly argue for the meaninglessness irrelevance of gender in defining roles in marriage. Certainly those with an ardently feminist bent do so with vigor. It seems to me that to do so argues for yang without yin or vice-versa, and this cannot be.

Others try to uncouple yang and yin from male and female. Again, to me this is a non-starter. If we believe that God made us male and female for a reason, can we so easily disregard the distinction and purpose of the two?

My observation is that society (including much of the church) is pushing men to be less yang (male) and more yin (female). At the same time, other societal forces seem to compel women toward more yang and less yin (to be more like men).

Is this blurring of the lines between yin and yang a result of societal enlightenment? Or are we undermining God's intent for His creation? Are we finally overcoming eons of patriarchal suppression of women by men or are we simply allowing political correctness to blur our eyes from the truth? Tough questions.

What Do You Think?

I have more thoughts to share on this important topic, but I want to pause here to get your thoughts.

Would you do me a favor and answer the following question in the comments:

With respect to marriage, why did God create us male and female?

Photo credit: Arcane-Rhapsody

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Think you're not getting enough sex? Your spouse probably thinks the same thing!

Recently, for a day of hard work in our yard, I was rewarded with a pretty nasty case of poison ivy.

The first thing to fall was the pride I took in never being allergic to such things. I've always been able to work in the yard (or hike in the woods) with impunity toward skin-irritating vegetation. Not any more. Apparently, once you have it, you'll always get it.Yuck!

The second thing to take a hit was our sex life, for what I thought were obvious reasons. I didn't want to risk infecting my dear wife with my malady, and I didn't find out until later that once the offending oils are removed from the skin, there is no further risk of spreading the infection.

As the poison ivy dragged on, eventually we were missing each other pretty desperately, so we decided we need to improvise a low-risk way of enjoying a little hanky panky. I wore a long-sleeve shirt and we took some other measures to ensure minimum chance transferring the infection.

Interestingly, the changes all this brought to our encounter actually ended up being kind of fun. By definition, it required things to be different, and it's good to change things up every so often.

My bottom line takeaway: sometimes you have to make some creative changes in order to keep your physical connection in tact.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

All this got me thinking about all the excuses we give for not having sex.

I'll start off by pointing to a few survey results from The Marriage Bed website, run by fellow marriage-bloggers Paul and Lori Byerly. The first survey asked the question "Are you having enough sex?" Here are a few key results:
  • 39% of men and 23 % of women are having "way less" than they would like.
  • 20% of men and 25% of women are having somewhat less than they would like.
  • 8% of men and 11% of women are having a bit less than they want.
  • 10% of men and 9% of women never have sex at all.
So in all, 77% of men and 69% of women are not satisfied with the level of sexual activity in their marriages!!

Additionally, in separate surveys,TMB asked men  and women to list their reasons for saying no to sex.

Wives' top five answers:
  • More than two thirds of the women said they say no because they are too tired
  • Half said they say no because it’s late or they have to get up early
  • 32% of women say no due to stress.
  • 45% say no because they have not connected emotionally
  • A third of women have said no because of recent rudeness on the part of their husband
Husbands' top five answers:
  • 51% say no because they are just too tired
  • 35% because it will cut into their sleep
  • 31% say no due to stress
  • 22% say no due to lack of emotional connection (there goes a stereotype!)
  • 19% say no because their wife has been rude to them recently
Putting these surveys together begs some obvious questions. If the majority of couples are unhappy with their level of sexual frequency, why aren't more couples doing something about it? Are they giving up too easily because they don't grasp the importance of sexual intimacy in holding a marriage together? Have they given up hope that things can and will improve? Are they settling because they are afraid to ask for what they really want from their partner? Are they waiting for "later" when things aren't so busy?

Stop Serving Leftovers!

I'm not trying to trivialize the tangled maze that is sexual politics within marriage. There are certainly legitimate reasons for sexual dysfunction, but consider the top four reasons listed above for both men and women - remarkably similar lists of excuses. Tiredness, lack of sleep, stress and lack of emotional connection (often also a time issue) are all things you can do something about.

These "excuses" are mostly a matter of managing your priorities (time and emotional energy) so that you aren't just giving your spouse your "leftovers."

If you find yourself less than satisfied with the amount of sex you are having, you might be surprised to find that your partner feels the exact same as you (at least according to these survey results). Maybe it's time to have a frank discussion about what you both consider to be an ideal sexual frequency.

Then, it's time to figure out what changes you can make to get closer to your ideal. How can you get to bed earlier? What activities can you scale back to make more time and energy for emotional and sexual connection? Where can you lend a hand to your spouse to lighten their load? Put your heads together. Figure it out. Do something.

Stop Using Sex as a Reward or a Weapon!

Finally, I'd like to address one last excuse issued by both sexes according to the surveys: spouse was recently rude.

Without going into a long-winded explanation or offering a bunch of caveats, let me just say that this excuse often comes down to one spouse withholding sex as a weapon/payback or, conversely, using sex as a reward for "good behavior." Stop it! Just don't do that, ever. It's not good for you or for your marriage in the long run, and it often will only make things worse in the short run.

So go have some make-up sex! I promise you'll be able to resolve your conflict much better in the afterglow of a passionate encounter.

I apologize if this comes across as insensitive to what I know are real issues that can impede physical intimacy in marriage. I'm certainly not saying there is no valid reason not to have sex. But what I am saying is that too many of us settle too readily for a lot less than what we can have.

Give this some thought in the context of your own marriage. Do the reasons for not having sex listed above ring true for you? Are there other reasons that top your list? 

Consider whether you are properly prioritizing sexual intimacy with your spouse  in comparison to the many, many other things you fill your life with. If not, do something.

photo credit: designpics /

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What are you saying to your spouse with your eyes?

It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul.

Research supports the fact that we have been biologically and socially programmed to recognize non-verbal communication signals from someone by what they do with their eyes.

Your eyes speak volumes to your spouse, so what are you saying with your eyes?

The Look of Affection

There is a look my wife gives me that rocks my world.

It's a look that says I love you, I want you, I need you and I'm so glad we are one - all at the same time. It's a sparkly-eyed look that is more than a glance, but not quite a stare, accompanied by a slight, sweet, knowing smile.

That look tells me we are in a good place and intimacy is thriving. It's a look I love to reflect back to her, with my own eyes of affection and desire. This is the kind of look we long to live in.

But the truth is that we don't live there. I, for one, am often distracted. My eyes too often shift to the many other things that fill my life and thoughts.

My wife recognizes my looks of distraction. My eyes remain unfocused, as if looking past or through her, while contemplating some stressful situation, some difficult problem, my busy schedule or my to do list. This look makes her feel unimportant and lets her know I am essentially absent, even though we are occupying the same space.

Since contemplating this post in the past week or two, I've been much more aware of how I look at my wife and what I do with my eyes while we engage. I'm trying to be more deliberate about giving looks of true affection. I want to give eye contact in a way that lets her see through to the love for her that is in my heart.

If Looks Could Kill

There's another look we all know. It's a of disdain and disapproval. The eyes narrow, the brow furrows.It's the expression of the eyes that led to the saying "if looks could kill..." 

Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of this look. In differing circumstances the meaning of the look may vary, but it's never good. "You are an idiot." "I don't believe you." "How dare you?" "You are making me really angry." Typically this look will cause the receiver to look away or cover their eyes in shame.

Of course, at times a death stare may be well-deserved. A major screw-up. A deceit uncovered. A hurtful phrase tossed out carelessly. These all warrant a less than favorable look.

But grace in marriage tells us to go beyond the deserved and into the unmerited. That's how God treats us. It's how we should respond to one another.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
Psalm 34:5 (NIV)

Because of Jesus, God never looks upon us with disgust or disdain. Instead we receive only his love and blessing, no matter what. His eyes are always on us, and they are only full of affection.

So next time you are tempted to give the look of death, try giving a look of affection instead. The look of death never did anything to heal a relationship, so don't bother with it. I'm not saying you have to approve of every bad behavior. But I am saying that it's much easier to resolve issues if you can maintain a connection during conflict, which looks of affection can help you do. Looks of affection speak life instead of death into a situation.

Lights On, Eyes Open

What do you do with your eyes when you make love? Do you ever have lights-on, eyes-open sex?

Dr. David Schnarch describes the experience this way
Eyes-open sex is not simply a matter of two pairs of eyeballs staring at each other (indeed, people can hide behind a blank stare), but a way to intensify the mutual awareness and connection begun during foreplay; to really "see" and "be seen" is an extension of feeling and being felt when touching one another. But if allowing oneself to be known by touch is threatening, actually being seen can be positively terrifying. Bravely pursuing eyes-open sex in spite of these misgivings helps couples not only learn to tolerate more intimacy, it increases differentiation--it requires a degree of inner calm and independent selfhood to let somebody see what's inside your head without freaking out.
Some describe intimacy with the play on words "into me see." There's no more appropriate and powerful place for seeing deeply into one another than during sexual intimacy. If you haven't tried eyes-open foreplay, intercourse and orgasm, I suggest you challenge yourself to give it a try and watch the intimacy level of your lovemaking expand significantly.

There's lots more I could explore in how our eyes affect intimacy and communication in marriage, but I'll leave it there and invite you to share your own "eye experiences." What kind of look do you and your spouse share? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Today I am guest posting over at the Enter Under My Roof blog as part of their month-long Hot Summer Nights marriage series.

In my post I attempt to shed some light on this mysterious thing called marriage.

If you like a good mystery, check it out.  Here is a little teaser...

The Answer to This Mystery Makes for an Amazing Marriage

The Bible is full of fantastic metaphors that illuminate our relationship with God. We are His sons and daughters, heirs to all that He has. We are the body of Christ, with each part playing an essential role. We are the house of God and a royal priesthood. We are servants, sheep and soldiers.

But to me there is one metaphor that holds more power and beauty than all the rest. In fact, it isn't merely a metaphor; it is actually our title. We are the bride of Christ!

What's the mystery? What are the clues?  Can you discover the secret? For answers you'll just have to click the link below:

Photo credit: sergwsq /

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