Category Archives: Marriage

Strengthening Marriages

For those of you who are married, do remember what it was like on your wedding day? Men, remember what your soon to be wife looked like as she walked toward you in all her glory. Women, remember when you looked into your soon to be husband’s eyes as he committed himself to you.

The wedding day is a magical time, yet it is not really what marriage is all about (engaged men, never tell your fiancé this). Marriage is about the intimate connection that happens between two people. It is about dealing with disappointment, wrong expectations and forgiveness in the midst of deep hurt. Marriage can bring you to the highest heights and plunge you into the depths.

In my role as Family Director at our church, I am realizing that we as a church need to do much more in terms of strengthening marriages. If children are to grow up with a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, then two parents who seek the Lord together are very important. But how do we help strengthen marriages? How do we encourage spouses who seek the Lord but their significant other does not? How do we encourage and support single parents yet work to strengthen marriages?

There are some tough questions that come up when a church thinks about marriage ministry. Thankfully there are some great resources out there for marriage enrichment. Just today I heard about Married People who are connected with the same organization that writes the Orange Curriculum that we use in our First Kids programming.

Here is a video preview from Married People that shows the importance of strengthening marriages. Get ready because it is definitely an emotional video.

MarriedPeople Vision Video from Orange on Vimeo.

Advertisements

Divorce and Personal Happiness

News is now out that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver are splitting up. We don’t need to know the details as to why they are ending their 25 year marriage. But it is part of a bigger trend in the Baby Boomer Generation. This morning I read this article on CNN which digs deeper into why Baby Boomers are getting divorced after many years of marriage. In the article, Amy Wilson lists different reasons as to why this happens but the theme throughout is that Baby Boomers are leaving long marriages to find their personal happiness. Wilson writes:

What gives? Are we a nation now of Howzabouta Second Chancers, even for those who seem to have gotten a pretty good ride the first time around?

Maybe.

Truth is, they can’t help their birth years. There is a national predilection of boomers to demand midlife happiness, even if it means they chuck a good portion of the first part of their sort-of eternally vowed adulthood.

Marriages built on personal happiness will fail in the end. True love is rooted in self-less love. The hard part is that we are each inherently selfish and need to work daily on seeking the good of others, not ourselves. From a Christian worldview, the only way we can truly combat our own selfishness is by allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us to love others.

It saddens me that marriages that have endured for 20 or more years end with one partner wanting their own personal happiness. I am saddened for the children in that marriage. I am saddened for the grandchildren.

Books like Eat Pray Love anger me. They feed this desire to look for personal happiness. Searching for personal happiness will end in despair. In the wake will be a path of broken and severed relationships.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times when divorce is necessary. But divorcing your spouse to go out and look for your own personal happiness is not a good option.

The Church needs to be a place where we are equipping couples with the tools and resources to develop this self-less love. We also need to be providing places of honest sharing where couples can discuss and be encouraged to seek this type of love instead of seeking personal happiness.

Built to Connect: The Value of Social Networks

If you believe the Christian narrative as recorded in the Bible, then before the world was made, the Trinity was in a beautiful, selfless, relational dance. Each member of the Trinity was looking to glorify the other members. It is the height of unselfish relationships. As human beings we were each created to join this dance and look to the interests of others instead of our own selfish desires. We were built to connect with God and with each other. We cannot function alone. Read the rest of this entry

Know Thy Spouse

Hillary and I laugh when we see all the Valentine’s Day commercials for jewelry. We laugh because we both know that if I spent money on jewelry for Hillary, she would kill me. This makes Valentine’s Day easy for me. I don’t have to stress over what kind of gift I am going to get my wife. Hillary’s love language is not gifts.

Today is a great day to bring up the idea of “love languages.” Gary Chapman, in his book “The Five Love Languages,” describes the different ways that we give and receive love. Too often married couples give love in the way that they receive it best and this “love language” is not well received by their spouse. In our marriage, Hillary’s love language is acts of service. If I drive Anna to school or empty the dishwasher Hillary’s love tank fills up. Early in our marriage Hillary and I had to be honest with each other on how we gave and received love.

What is your love language? What is your spouse’s love language? Here is a great online test to help spouses, singles and children find their love language.

Man Up: The Bedroom

From trendir.com

Sex is a taboo subject in church. Sure there are pastors that encourage church members to have sex with their spouses every day for the month of February. The pastors giving these sermons are male which shouldn’t come as a surprise. I wonder how the wives in those congregations feel about the challenge. These sermons are the exception though.

We don’t talk about sex in church. The only message is to wait until you get married to have sex with your spouse. I would argue that we need to talk more about sex at church because it is an important part of marital intimacy (but not the only part, men). I have chosen the bedroom for obvious reasons as we talk about how men can take leadership in their marriage.

How can we experience sex in the pure, euphoric way that God intended it? How can we as men lead our wives sexually?

Honesty

Sex is a taboo subject in too many Christian marriages. Honesty is the foundation of a healthy marriage and this means we need to be honest with our partner. It is hard to start conversations about sex with your spouse but the more you talk about it, the easier it gets. Men, we need to take the lead and start this conversation. Just start with the question, “How satisfied are you with our sex life?”  Encourage your spouse to be brutally honest. Don’t defend yourself. Just listen.

Submission

It is sad to me that some women think their role is to submit to their husband whenever he wants it. This is not the biblical idea of submission. Husbands need to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25). This radical, selfless love is different than the male chauvinism that is present in some Christian circles. Men, how often do we serve our wives in the bedroom? Have we ever asked our wives what they liked and followed through on their desires? I dare you to serve your wife in the bedroom and see what happens.

Purity

All right men this is where it gets tough. Is your wife the sole object of your sexual desires or is she competing with others? In this oversexed culture, temptation is everywhere. Advertisers know what gets us going. Just watch ESPN and count how many of the commercials show off alluring women. It is said that 95% of Christian men struggle with pornography and the other 5% are lying. Pornography ruins the pure sexual experience that God created for us to enjoy.

We need to be honest with our wives if we struggle with pornography. If you thought it was hard to talk about sex with your wife, it is even harder to talk about our struggles with pornography. But we need to be honest with our wives. The love and grace that can come when your wife loves you in spite of your struggles can be transformational in your life. It will take time though. Find other men who can keep you accountable to your commitment to purity. Get an internet filter or accountability software like x3watch. Encourage your pastor to dedicate one Sunday as Porn Sunday (see video below). We have to work together to find freedom from the chains of pornography. The health of our marriages depends on it.

It is easier to talk about sex with our buddies than it is with our wives. We need to man up and lead our wives in the bedroom. The journey is tough and awkward at times, but a pure, honest sex life is worth the journey it took to get there. You will not have any regrets.

The Power of Vulnerability

J.R. Briggs, a friend from Taylor, shared the video below on Facebook.  I dare you to watch it.  It will challenge your assumptions and hit you at the core of your self. In the video, Brene Brown tells a very personal story about her research into the power of vulnerability.

Marriage Reflection

Last Saturday Hillary and I took an hour to reflect on the past year and talk through what we learned. Hillary found these great reflection questions from Simple Mom that were our guide for the discussion. Some of the questions were easy for us (What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year? – we moved halfway across the country). Other questions were hard (In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?).  It was definitely a meaningful exercise for Hillary and me.

This Saturday we are going to work through the next set of questions focused on how we will flourish in 2011. It is important for us to learn from the journey of last year but also to set good practices in place for 2011.

“I’m done!” – A Marriage Moment

 

During our time in New Mexico last week, Hillary and I had an experience that defines our marriage. Hillary’s dad loves toys and one of these toys is a four wheeler. With us in New Mexico were Hillary’s two sisters and their husbands. After shooting an AK-47 the day before, we decided to borrow another four wheeler and head out to some open space. Hillary was definitely not excited about four wheeling but she didn’t want to be the only wife not going, so she went.

Before I tell you the rest of the story, I want to explain one part of our marriage relationship.  Very early on in our courtship, we realized that I was the dreamer and driver while Hillary was the discerner and voice of reason. When I asked for Hillary’s hand in marriage, it took her a half an hour to say yes because she had to think it through.  Almost nine years later, we both know it was a wise choice. Since then I have been the one to dream and carefully help Hillary out of her comfort zone. She is the one who carefully helps me think through my wild ideas and throw out the crazy ones.  The key word here is “carefully.” It is a perfect balance most of the time.

So back to the story. We drove out to the open space and I could tell that Hillary was not too excited for the four wheeling experience. It was soon our turn to ride the dirt trails of Roswell.  I jumped on with intense zeal and Hillary reluctantly climbed behind me. As we started up the first small hill, she clung on for dear life. Here’s a picture of us starting off:

After the first hill, I drove slow because I really wanted Hillary to enjoy four wheeling.  Then we came to the “Ruts of Death!” There were two deep ruts in the dirt and I chose to go to the right and keep two wheels in the middle of the road and two wheels a little higher off the road.  I went a little too slow and the four wheeler leaned left at about a 25% angle.  Hillary instantly freaked out and slid off the side of the four wheeler.  As she slid off, she yelled, “I’m done! I’m walking back!”

I knew I couldn’t talk her into jumping back on so I drove off and she started the short walk back to the car.   I looped around and came back to her and carefully convinced her to get back on and I would slowly drive her back to the car. As we slowly and carefully drove back to the car, we both knew we had just had a “marriage moment.”

This was one of the marriage moments when my zeal got the best of me and Hillary strongly reacted against it. Buying our big screen TV a few years ago was another one of those moments. I don’t have any principles for marriage yet from this experience, just that I won’t try to get Hillary on a four wheeler again.

If you want to hear Hillary’s side of the story, check it out here.

Improving Your Marriage

Today is the day to get tons of stuff done in the office before we head out to New Mexico tomorrow.  I don’t have much time to blog so I thought I would link to a great post on some surprising ways to improve your marriage.  I especially like the digital sabbatical idea.

Check it out here.

The Tragedy of Don Draper

Hillary and I are late to the “Mad Men” bandwagon and are now part of the way through season one.  For those of you who have not seen “Mad Men” on AMC, it tells the story of Don Draper, an ad man from the 1960’s.  Don Draper is a very complex and tragic character who is constantly wrestling with his inner demons. For whatever reason, in the first season he is not honest with his wife and lives a dual life.

How many married men and women are living in tormented silence because they are scared to open up to their spouse? How many feel that they cannot be honest with their struggles for fear that it will end the relationship? It is hard to share the deepest parts of our souls with our spouses but the benefits are enormous. It is only when we truly know each other and our struggles that we can fully love unconditionally.

Hillary and I have been very honest with each other about our struggles since early on in our marriage. Honesty and dealing with the truth has definitely been hard but the unconditional love that we experience after we share our struggles is amazing.  The first step toward honesty is the toughest part.