The List – Don’t Accept Your Spouse

 

Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage, and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records and watching marriage fail.

Maybe you know the pain of not feeling accepted by someone. Nothing feels quite as lonely or demeaning as not feeling accepted by a person or a group of people.

Acceptance is not one of those things we typically talk about when it comes to marriage, but if your spouse doesn’t feel accepted by you, it can lead to the demise of the marriage.

WHEN YOU’RE NOT ACCEPTED

When I was a kid, I was not very good at sports. In fact, I was lousy at sports. I wasn’t very coordinated, I wasn’t very competitive, and I wasn’t very interested. I was more into art and music.

So, when they were choosing up sides for a game, I was always the last to be picked. And in all honesty, I wasn’t really picked. Some team just wound up being stuck with me.

To this day, I still remember the hurt and the embarrassment of not really being accepted.

Maybe you can think of a time when you didn’t feel accepted. Maybe…

  • You were the new kid in school.
  • You weren’t interested in the same things as everyone else.
  • You looked or dressed differently.
  • You didn’t speak the same language.
  • You didn’t get the place or position you wanted.

No matter your age, you probably know the sting of not feeling accepted, and so you know why it’s so important to help others feel accepted…especially if that someone is your spouse.

You may be thinking, “My spouse feels accepted. I married them didn’t I?!” But there’s more to feeling accepted than just having someone on your team. Remember, as a kid, I wound up on a team, but I sure didn’t feel accepted.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL ACCEPTED?

Let me give you a simple definition of what it means to feel accepted. Acceptance is helping someone feel welcomed and wanted.

If someone doesn’t feel welcomed and wanted, they’re not going to feel accepted. And I can guarantee you that there are spouses out there that don’t feel that welcomed or wanted by their spouse. You may be one of them. Your spouse may be one of them.

HOW TO MAKE OTHERS FEEL ACCEPTED

It really is more simple than you think to help someone feel welcomed and wanted…to feel accepted. You can start with these three simple steps:

Greet Them Well.

If I come home from a hard day at work, and my wife grunts out “Oh, hey” and barely looks up from what she’s doing, it doesn’t do much for my mood or self-esteem. But if I come through the door after a long hard day and she looks up, breaks out a smile, and says, “I’m so glad you’re home!” My attitude takes an upswing for the rest of the night.

That’s the power of a simple greeting!

Do you greet your spouse as if they’re just another face in a sea of faces, or do you greet them as if you’re really glad to see them?

Treat Them Well.

This is the second way you can help your spouse feel accepted.

One reason your spouse was attracted to you in the first place is that you went out of your way to treat them well. You put them first, you deferred to the things they liked to do, you carefully watched your words and your attitude, you surprised them with things…in short, you treated them well.

Are you still treating them like that, or have you let those things slip? Are you still showing them how much you want them, or are you just taking them for granted?

Never stop treating them well, and they will never stop feeling appreciated.

Trust Them When Things Don’t Go Well.

This third step is so important because things will not always go well in your relationship. There will be times when you disagree and butt heads. There will be times of misinterpretation and missed expectations. And when these things happen, it’s really easy to convince yourself that the other person is intentionally being hurtful and malicious, and take it personally.

But just because you disagree and your emotions rise, it doesn’t mean that they’re out to get you or that they don’t want you. It just means you’re both fallible humans.

So give them the benefit of the doubt. Trust that despite the disagreement and emotions, they still love you and want you. It will make it easier for you both to continue to feel welcomed and wanted…even in the midst of difficult times.

A FINAL WORD…

I know this is a simple concept, but sometimes when something is that simple we just fail to think about it or do it.

Just because two people are married doesn’t mean they feel accepted. So work hard in your marriage (and your other relationships) to make sure people feel welcomed and wanted.

Because, if you do, not only will they feel accepted, they will reflect that acceptance back toward you.

And, if you don’t, it could eventually cause you to lose your marriage. Remember…IT’S ON THE LIST!

The List – Don’t Accept Your Spouse

Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records and watching marriage fail.

Ok. Let’s jump right into this. One of the ways you can lose your spouse is to not accept them.

You may be thinking, “I married them, didn’t I? What do you mean not accept them?”

TO FEEL UNACCEPTED

Too many marriages fail because spouses have trouble accepting each other for who they are.

Now let me say at the outset, I’m not suggesting that you should accept abuse, adultery, addictions, or abandonment. These are things that are destructive to both you and to the marriage and should never be accepted as being ok.

What I’m talking about is accepting your spouse for the unique person they are…even if they’re different from you. (And they are!) Believe it or not, one of the things that attracted you to each other was your differences.

But after we’re married, we start trying to change those differences and make our spouses more like ourselves. This comes across as a lack of acceptance, and it feels not only disrespectful but also hurtful.

Most everyone has felt the sting of not being accepted at one time or another. Maybe…

  • You were the new kid in class.
  • You moved and had trouble making friends.
  • You looked different than others.
  • You spoke a different language.
  • You didn’t get the job or position you wanted.
  • You weren’t interested in the same things as others.

Whatever it was/is, you probably know what it feels like to not be accepted.

To not feel accepted in your marriage is soul-crushing. No one is perfect, but we all need to feel accepted…especially by our spouse. So, you need to help your spouse feel accepted in marriage.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HELP YOUR SPOUSE FEEL ACCEPTED?

Acceptance is one of those things that you know when you feel it, but it’s hard to define and put into words. So let me give you a simple definition of acceptance. Acceptance is simply…

Helping someone feel welcomed and wanted.

When you feel welcomed and wanted, you feel accepted. When you were dating, you worked hard to make each other feel welcomed and wanted. But the longer you’re married, the easier it is to not feel as accepted, because…

  • We stop trying so hard to accept each other once we’re married.
  • We let common courtesies fall by the wayside.
  • We get frustrated when married life doesn’t live up to our expectations.
  • We start focusing more on what we don’t like about our spouse than on what we do.

Many a spouse is hurt and withering in marriage because they feel unaccepted as a person.

HOW CAN YOU HELP YOUR SPOUSE FEEL ACCEPTED?

I know this sounds like a big broad topic to get your hands around, but you can help your spouse (or anyone else for that matter) feel accepted…welcomed, and wanted…in 3 really simple ways:

Greet them well.

When I come home from work, if my wife grunts out a “hey” and barely looks up from what she’s doing, it sets the whole tone for my evening. But if she smiles at me, gives me a big “Hey, I’m so glad you’re home” it puts me in a completely different and better mood. If she comes and gives me a hug and a kiss, that’s even better.

It’s funny how a simple greeting can change a spouse’s attitude…all because they feel welcomed and wanted.

Treat them well.

Now granted, they may not deserve to be treated well. Maybe they’ve been grumpy, or ugly, or hard to get along with. But haven’t there been times when you were the same way, and you still wanted to be treated well?

So whether they deserve it or not, consistently try to:

  • Do nice things for them.
  • Think about what they might like.
  • Put them first.
  • Speak well of them.
  • Etc.

Again, you may not feel like it and they might not deserve it. But when you treat them well, they will feel welcomed and wanted. They will feel accepted. This boosts anyone’s spirits and tends to make them want to respond in kind.

Trust when things aren’t going well.

Just because you greet them well and treat them well, doesn’t mean things will always be well between the two of you. There will still be difficulties and conflicts between you that you will have to work out. But when that happens, don’t withdraw. Keep greeting them well and treating them well. Then:

  • Trust that they truly love you and will eventually be changed through your actions.
  • Trust God (if you’re a person of faith) that He will work to improve things between the two of you.

A FINAL WORD…

Here are two disclaimers to all of this…

  1. Acceptance is not a cure-all. It is not a magic tactic that fixes anything and everything.
  2. Nor should a spouse accept things like abuse, adultery, addictions, or abandonment. These must be corrected (usually with the help of a counselor or others) for the marriage to work.

But acceptance can be a powerful tool that can strengthen your marriage and draw you closer together. And the lack of accepting your spouse for who they are can eventually cause you to lose your marriage. And so…it’s on the list.

The List – Put Your Kids Ahead of Your Spouse

Note: We are currently in a series called “The List.” The list refers to a list of ways you can lose your marriage, and is based on information gleaned from over 20 years of counseling records.

When I have a couple in my office whose marriage is not doing well, I always ask them when things started to go south. More often than not, the answer relates to when they became parents.

WHEN YOU HAVE KIDS, THINGS CHANGE

Resources.

You have a lot more resources prior to having kids. You have more…

  • Sleep.
  • Free Time.
  • Personal Time.
  • Social Time.
  • Flexibility.
  • Sex.
  • Spontaneity.
  • Privacy.
  • Money.

But after you have kids, these things become more scarce, and it puts more stress on spouses.

Roles.

But there’s another dynamic that happens after we have kids, and that has to do with our changing roles.

Before children, we were just husband and wife. We were playmates; focused on one another. But when kids come along, we’re no longer just husband and wife. We’re also mom and dad. And this changes the dynamic of the relationship.

Wives shift into the mom role, and everything about them is centered on the child. If they carried the child in pregnancy, the child has already effected everything about them…including their body. Moms become very focused on the care and nurturing of children.

Husbands are different. Husbands tend to be a little slower to make the shift to dad role. Maybe it’s because dads don’t carrying the child for nine months. Or maybe it’s because husbands are just wired differently. Whatever the reason, husbands are not as centered on the child at first. All they know is they see their wife changing into a mom and they feel like they’re losing their playmate.

The Result.

So husbands will try to get their playmate back. This can be a bit annoying for wives, who often see their husband’s attempts as either a sign of selfishness or immaturity. So a wife will communicate to her husband that he’s an adult who can take care of himself, but this child needs her.

Eventually, a husband will quit trying to get his playmate back and succumb to the fact that he now has a mom in her place. Then, he will shift into a dad roll by working hard at his job to provide well for his family.

And thus begins the marital drift. Though there can be some flips in gender and wage-earner roles, by and large wives focus on kids and husbands focus on work. When kids become older and more self-sufficient, a wife feels a little more freedom to turn back toward her husband and reconnect. The problem is, the husband is now accustomed to his role as a hard-working provider and doesn’t easily make the shift back. And so distance and dissatisfaction begin to set in like concrete.

GETTING THINGS BACK IN ORDER.

So, if putting your kids ahead of your spouse is one way to lose your marriage, then the remedy for this is to put your partnering back in front of your parenting. To be husband and wife first and dad and mom second.

So here are some things that will help you put your partnering in front of your parenting. You won’t be perfect at these things, but you don’t have to be. You just have to be better at them.

Make Time Together a Priority.

Caring for children carries big demands that often leave spouses with little time or energy at the end of a long day.

I’m not saying you should neglect you children. I’m just saying you should make sure you and your spouse get a cut of the time you have.

Spend daily time together. 

  • Maybe you can spend a few minutes together after you get home from work.
  • Maybe you can start putting your kids to bed 30 minutes earlier in order to get 30 minutes together before you go to bed.
  • Maybe you can find a few minutes together at the dinner table, after the kids have left the table.

Whatever works for you, find some time each day to connect. Then, you need to move on to…

Spend weekly time together.

Have a weekly date night. If you can’t go weekly, then go out every other week. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It just needs to be intentional. You were in love when you used to date, so continuing to date will help to rekindle some of that.

Some things won’t get done if you do these things. But, maybe spending a few minutes together is more important. Think of it not as a loss, but as a trade.

Make Financing Your Relationship Together a Priority.

Even if you have to eat Ramen Noodles one night a week or skip a trip or two to Sartbucks, make sure you budget money for date nights, baby sitters, movies, or whatever you want to do together. Spending time together is worth the sacrifice somewhere else. And you will eventually get to the place where you can afford it without the sacrifice.

Make Sex Together a Priority.

Studies show that there is a correlation between marriage satisfaction and sexual satisfaction. When sexual satisfaction increase, so does marriage satisfaction. Even 1 Corinthians 7:5 says we are to not forsake the sexual relationship in marriage, but rather to regularly come together for sex.

I know spouses often disagree on how often they should be having sex, but sit down, reach an agreement, and then stick to it. On those nights you’re going to have sex, help one another out with kids and chores around the house, in order to make time and energy for sex. You may also need to let some things go on those evenings, for the sake of having time for sex.

But you’ll be surprised how regularly enjoying sex together will strengthen the bond between the two of you and keep your marriage a priority.

Make Laughing Together a Priority.

If you’re not having fun with someone, why would you want to spend time them?

So find things that will make each other laugh.  Watch funny movies together. Tell each other jokes. Flirt. Recall funny moments. Do whatever you need to do to laugh together. Because when you don’t laugh together, it makes it harder to live together.

Make Goals and Dreams Together a Priority.

It’s easy to talk about your goals and dreams for your kids. But…don’t take this the wrong way…your kids are sort of temporary. They’re going to grow up, move away, and start marriages and families of their own.

So make goals and dreams for just the two of you. It’s a good way of reminding you that ultimately, the two of you are the priority. Even if you don’t reach every goal or dream you set, you’ve still had the fun and bonding of doing it together.

These are just a few of the things you can do to keep from putting your kids ahead of your spouse and losing your marriage. And now…

A FINAL WORD…

To some, putting your spouse ahead of your kids may seem wrong…or at least more idealistic than realistic. They may think, “I could never do this. You just don’t know how it is at my house! You don’t know how hard it is! If we do all of this, there won’t be enough time to get everything done!” And those that think that would be right!

I know it’s demanding at your house, and I know it’s hard. I’ve had to raise kids and maintain a marriage and family while going to grad school and working two jobs. And you’re right…there won’t be enough time for everything. But if you’re so busy that you have to put your marriage on the back burner to get it all done, then you have too many “priorities.” Not everything can be a priority, and how can you expect to have a rich marriage “later” if you’re not making the proper investments now?

So, keep your partnering ahead of your parenting, because putting your kids ahead of your spouse is one of the ways to lose your marriage. It’s on the List!

The List – Stop Spending Time Together

Some time ago, I spent a few days thinning out over 20 years of counseling files. As I went through each individual file, it was like a trip down memory lane. With each file, I could see their faces and remember their issues.

While doing this, I was struck by how many married couples I had worked with. I celebrated those couples who had turned things around and went on to have great marriages. But I also grieved over those marriages that ended in divorce.

Burdened by those marriages that ended in divorce, I began keeping a list of issues that contributed to those divorces. I discovered that, despite the uniqueness of each couple, there were some common and reoccurring issues that led to these divorces.  And with the exception of three or four “big” things,  most of the issues were smaller, more normal things that were left unattended for too long.

So, I compiled my notes into a list I called, “Ways to Lose Your Marriage” or just “The List” for short. And in the weeks to come, I’m going to be sharing this list with you. Each week, in no particular order, we will cover one way to lose your marriage.

So, here’s the first one.

One way to lose your marriage is to …

STOP SPENDING TIME TOGETHER.

When we are dating, we try to spend as much time as possible together. Even if we have nothing to do or nothing to say, we still want to spend all the time we can together because we were in love.

But after we get married, and after the honeymoon time begins to wane, we gradually spend less and less time together. We get busy building a home, building a career, and building a family, and we forget to keep building our marriage. Then, one day, we wonder why we’re not as close as we use to be. The spark seems to have evaporated. The relationship is more routine…more business-like. It’s not like it used to be.

So as time goes on, you begin to drift apart. Oh, you’re still raising kids, paying the mortgage, cleaning the house, and mowing the yard. But you’re just not as connected anymore. And it all started because you gradually stopped spending time together. You didn’t intend to. It wasn’t personal. Life just kept taking more and more of your time, and your spouse started getting less and less of it.

When you stop spending time together, you set your marriage on a gradual course of dissatisfaction and (if not corrected) divorce.

When I talk about spending time together, I’m not necessarily talking about hours of uninterrupted time, staring into each other’s eyes, and talking about the secrets of your hearts. It’s more simple and less threatening than that. Think of it as intentional time together and unintentional time together.

Intentional Time Together.

Intentional time together is planned and/or scheduled time together. It could be a simple as a dinner or movie date, or as elaborate as a weekend getaway or a second honeymoon. And the act of scheduling and planning the time is almost as important as the time itself because it communicates to your spouse that you care enough about them to put some effort into it.

Unintentional Time Together.

Unintentional time is more casual, spur-of-the-moment time with your spouse. Things like: sitting together, running errands together, taking a walk together, etc. Believe it or not, these times are just as important as the intentional times together, because they can happen more frequently and can become a part of the daily routine of your life.

YEAH, BUT…

Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, but spending time together when we were dating was easier because we were in love and didn’t have as many things getting in the way. But I want to challenge that thinking. Maybe it wasn’t being in love that caused you to spend so much time together when you were dating. Maybe you were in love because you spent so much time together. And you still had demands and constraints on your time when you were dating. You had school, parents, work, friends, and the fact that the two of you weren’t living together. Yet you still found a way to work around those constraints. If you could do it then, you can do it now.

I know this may be difficult at first, especially if you’re at a place where you don’t want to spend time with your spouse. You may be hurt, angry, or wounded, and spending time with them is the last thing you want to do. But let me encourage you. Don’t put it off or avoid it for long. Because not spending time with your spouse is one of the ways to lose your marriage. It’s on the list.

Some Things About Growing Old Together…

THE ROMANTIC

When people (particularly young people) are getting married, they post things on social media like…

  • “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”
  • “You will always be my forever friend.”
  • “I look forward to growing old with you.”

And I’ll admit that in weddings I officiate, I often challenge a couple to love each other in a way that will take them from their first home to the nursing home.

THE REAL

But, if growing old together is such a romantic idea, why do we work so hard against growing old. We move from one diet to another, one workout to another, and one fad to another. All in a desperate attempt to…flatten our stomach, whiten our teeth, darken our hair, increase our stamina, and reclaim our fading youth.

When you’re starting out in marriage, growing old together may seem romantic. But, if you talk to people who have been married fifty, sixty, and even seventy years, you don’t hear them talk that much about romance. What they talk about is the difficulties they had to face:

  • Making ends meet.
  • Dealing with each other’s quirks and habits.
  • Making a home.
  • Raising kids.
  • Illnesses.
  • Uncertainties.

Oh, they will talk about the benefits of being married, but usually, it’s after they’ve talked about the difficulties of being married.

THE RESULT

So let me inject a little realism into the romanticism of growing old together. Here are some things about growing old together you need to know…

  • You will both lose your looks, but you’ll gain a deeper love.
  • Life will gradually get more boring, but it will be more full.
  • Some big dreams will fade, but they’ll be replaced with better ones.
  • There will always be aggravation, but much of it will give way to appreciation.
  • At times, you’ll envy what younger couples have, but you still wouldn’t trade what you have.
  • You’ll be called to sacrifice much, but you’ll get more than you give.
  • Some of the frustrating things about your spouse won’t go away, but by then they won’t have to.
  • Your marriage will not be everything you hoped for, but it will be everything you need.

This may not be the romantic picture you would like, but it’s much more satisfying than resisting your old age and chasing after your fleeting youth.

THE REMINDER

I’m reminded of a poem by Robert Browning…

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life,
For which the first was made.
Our times are in his hand
Who saith, ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half;
Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”
(Robert Browning)

Listen to the theme here:

  • The best is yet to come.
  • The first was made for the last.
  • Youth is but a half.

If we will embrace these truths, then growing old together will get sweeter and truly worth our spent youth.

4 Simple Things That Will Improve Sex in Marriage

Maybe you’re in one of those rare marriages where sex is not a problem. Maybe you both agree on the when, where, and how of sex. If so, count yourself as fortunate. But most married couples wrestle with sex. (Pun intended!)

WHY IS SEX SUCH A PROBLEM IN MARRIAGE?

You’d think that something as fundamental to our nature as sex would be simple and easy. But it’s not. In fact, sex in marriage is often fraught with disagreements, misunderstandings, wounded egos, and fighting. There are at least three reasons for this…

1. Sex is very personal.

I know that’s an understatement, but it’s true. Sex is personal because it involves…

  • How we see ourselves.
  • Our self-confidence.
  • How we feel about ourselves.
  • Our self-esteem.
  • Our fear of rejection.

2. Gender Differences.

When it comes to sex, we tend to act like our spouse should think as we think and want what we want. Yet, we are different…

  • Anatomically. – The anatomical differences that attract us, also make it difficult to understand each other’s experiences and desires.
  • Hormonally. – We are driven by predominantly different hormones. It’s as difficult for wives to understand testosterone drives as it is for husbands to understand estrogen drives.

3. Social Messages.

Despite our society’s push to create gender-neutral environments, males and females are different. They are raised differently and given different messages about their gender. For example, if males act out sexually, people say things like, “Boys will be boys.” But if females act out sexually, they are considered loose and immoral. We then carry these cultural messages into marriage, complicating a sexual relationship that should be free and open between spouses.

IMPROVING YOUR SEX LIFE…HOW TO START.

You and your spouse don’t have to resign yourselves to lives of frustration and misunderstanding when it comes to sex. There are 4 simple things that will improve any married couple’s sex life.

TALKING.

It always amazes me how spouses can get naked in front of one another, and go through the various acts and positions of sex…yet have trouble talking about it!

Yes, talking about sex is personal. It requires vulnerability to talk about your likes and desires regarding sex. And your spouse may not have the same sexual wants and desires as you.

But with all the gender differences, and personality differences, and up-bringing differences between you and your spouse…there’s no way to make things better apart from talking about sex. Sex is like finances, raising kids, or any other part of marriage…for it to get better you need to talk about it.

Too many spouses try to hint about sex…when they want it and how they want it. But this is a recipe for frustration and hurt feelings. Let me give you an example…

One night, I was feeling a little amorous and wanted some sexual time with my wife. But instead of telling her what I wanted, I did the following:

I said, “Tonight, don’t worry about the kids. I’m going to give them their baths and put them to be a little early.” My wife said, “That’s great!” And I thought to myself, “Yes! she got the hint!”

After the kids were in bed asleep, I yelled down the stairs to my wife, “The kids are asleep. I’m going to go take my shower.” She said, “Great. I’ll be up in a minute.” So I took a shower, fully expecting to come out of the bathroom and find my wife naked on the bed. But when I opened the bathroom door, she was nowhere to be found. The bed wasn’t even turned down!

A little miffed by this, I yelled downstairs, “I’m out of the shower now!” And she yelled back, “Ok. I’ll be up in a minute.” So I climbed in bed naked, and I waited…and I waited..and I waited…getting madder by the minute!

Finally, I did the cowardly thing. I snuck down the stairs and peeked around the corner, only to find my wife kicked back in the recliner, newspaper in one hand, snacks in the other, and watching TV.

I went back upstairs furious. “How could she stand me up like that?! How could she reject me?!”

After a few days of pouting, I finally told her how upset I was. And her reply was, “If that’s what you wanted, why didn’t you say so!”

She was so right. I wish I could tell you I learned my lesson then, but I still fall into that hinting trap from time to time.

Hinting is not a good idea when it comes to sex, so talk about what you want and when you want it. Talk about what really works for you, as well as what doesn’t. Talk about things you would like to try. And talk about how you might like to change things up.

It may be awkward at first, but this one habit will improve things greatly in your sex life.

TIMING.

Timing involves two different things…

The “when of sex.

This refers to the time and place sex can occur during the day.

Is it always at night or can it be during the day? Can you have sex in the morning, or is that not a good time? Is sex something that can be spontaneous, or does it need to be planned? Can it happen when the mood strikes, or does everyone need to be freshly showered? Is the bedroom the only place for sex, or can it occur in other rooms and places?

The “how often” of sex.

The second part of timing refers to how frequently the couple should have sex.

It’s rare that a husband and wife agree on how frequently they should have sex. Husbands usually want sex more frequently than wives, but there are times when that gender stereotype is flipped and it’s the wife who wants sex more than her husband.

As a side note…if a husband is experiencing a low sex drive, I always encourage seeing their doctor and having their testosterone levels checked. If there are no testosterone or medication issues, then there may be something going on between the couple that needs to be addressed in counseling.

What should you do if you and your spouse have different ideas about sexual frequency? I encourage each spouse to say how often they would like to have sex. Then I have them target the number in the middle. It’s not a perfect solution. It will be more often than one would like, and not as often as the other would like. But it’s a good place to start.

TRUST.

Trust is an absolute necessity for good sex in marriage. Your spouse must fully trust you in the bedroom in order to relax, let go, and totally enjoy the experience. And this is especially true for wives.

But this kind of trust must be earned long before the bedroom. This kind of trust is earned daily by:

  • Showing you care more about your spouse than yourself.
  • Keeping your word…even in little things, like taking out the trash or being on time.
  • Not making fun of your spouse or treating them sarcastically.
  • Speaking well of them, in front of others, as well as when it’s just the two of you.
  • Caring about the things they care about.

When your spouse can trust you with the small things, then they can trust you with the big things…like sharing their bodies.

But trust is also built in the bedroom by never pressuring your spouse to do something they’re uncomfortable doing…even if you see nothing wrong with it. This will definitely wreck your trust with your spouse…both in the bedroom and out of the bedroom.

TRYING.

When it comes to sex, trying means 2 things…

Continuing to working on your sex life. Contrary to popular opinion, sex does not come naturally. It requires work, effort, and practice. And just when you think you’ve got it, then things change. Stage of life changes. Demands change. Heath changes. Body shapes change. The relationship changes. And on and on it goes. So you must continually work on your sexual relationship.

Keeping things fresh. This is the other part of trying. Like any other part of life, sex can easily fall into a rut or routine. We wind up having sex the same way, at the same time, and in the same place. No one wants to have the exact same meal over and over again, and the same is true for sex.

So change things up occasionally. Surprise one another. Try a different location, a different time of the day, or a different position. Use candles or music to set a mood. If your spouse is typically the aggressor, you take that role for a change. Extend the foreplay. Throw in an unexpected quickie occasionally.

I know it’s harder to find the time and privacy you need when you have kids in the house. So you’ll have to set aside money for sitters, arrange for your kids to sleep-over with friends, plan some quick get-aways, and even invest in a good sound screen and a good lock on your door.

Do what you have to, but don’t let your sex life grow routine and predictable from a lack of effort and planning. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

A FINAL WORD…

These four things (talking, timing, trust, and trying) are great ways to breathe some new life into sex and make sex better for you and your spouse. And even if your spouse doesn’t seem interested in putting effort into these things, you put the effort into the things you can do. I guarantee it will still make a difference in your sex life and your marriage.

The Pandemic of Pornography

A Pandemic Problem.

We have seen a lot of loss in recent days due to a worldwide pandemic, but we have been suffering from a virus that is much more devastating than COVID-19. Since the birth of Playboy magazine in 1953 and the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the entertainment industry has constantly pushed the envelope when it comes to sex. For years, sexual content became bolder and more mainstream. Then in 1993, the World Wide Web became public. And this newfound digital access comes with a virus that has permeated our homes and churches and has put influenza to shame.

Defining the Problem.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, pornography is defined as:

“Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”

But chances are I don’t need to define it. We all know what it is and probably have all seen or watched some version of it.

  • Over 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites.
  • 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis.
  • And the average age a child is first exposed to porn is 11 years old.

Porn is truly a pandemic worse than COVID. It is destroying our homes and families right under our noses. Why? It kills the desire for true intimacy and leads to sexual addiction.

You may be reading this and thinking that porn is not a problem. You may believe that porn is a normal part of life and something everyone does. But the truth is that once you begin to use pornography for sexual gratification, you start training your brain to attach to the fantasy world through pornography and masturbation.

Sex addiction can cause some serious challenges in relational sex, because you have neurologically attached your brain to a fantasy image or act. So when you have sex in real life, you have to close your eyes and/or disconnect from reality. Fantasy simply becomes more enticing, because it requires no work or relational intimacy. It is a false intimacy that sinks it claws deep into you, and you cannot pull away.

Do I Have a Problem?

Now you may be asking yourself, “Do I have a pornography problem?” Or “Am I a sex addict?”

First, let’s help define what a sex addiction looks like. Sexual addiction is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates your life. It causes you to make sex a bigger priority than family, friends, and work. Everything revolves around sex, and you are willing to sacrifice what you cherish most to preserve and continue your unhealthy behavior.

There are also patterns of out-of-control sexual behavior, such as: compulsive masturbation, indulgence in pornography, chronic affairs, dangerous sexual practices, prostitution, anonymous sex, and compulsive sexual episodes.

For sex addicts, sex is the same as food or drugs in other addictions. It provides the “high” that addicts depend on for feeling normal. Temporary pleasure and unhealthy relationships become more important than forming healthy, intimate relationships. A sexual addict may begin to isolate themselves either emotionally or literally. There is a repetitive struggle to control behavior, which is followed by a deep sense of despair for continuously failing to do so. Self-esteem gradually decreases, increasing the need to escape into the addictive behavior all the more. It’s a vicious cycle.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are wondering whether you might be an addict:

  • Do I have secret sexual behaviors with myself, pornography or others?
  • Am I unable to be honest about my sexual behavior?
  • Have I caused pain in my relationships due to my sexual behavior?
  • Have I had consequences financially, relationally or socially due to my sexual behavior?
  • Do I continue my sexual behavior regardless of consequences or attempts to stop the behavior?
  • Do I have difficulty not lusting or objectifying people?

If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, you really need to seek help. It’s hard to admit weakness and ask for help, but it is absolutely crucial. One of the biggest lies that lust tells us is, “You can handle this by yourself.” Once you believe that, all hope of getting better is gone.

Addressing the Problem.

For the Christians reading this post, you may be telling yourself, “I will just pray harder or increase my faith.” I am here to tell you that this is not enough. I know that may sound blasphemous, but I am not the one who said that—God did. The Bible tells us in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise is absolutely true, but it only offers forgiveness. There is a vast difference between forgiveness and healing. The key to healing is not found here. It is found in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed….”

Forgiveness is immediate and comes from God, but healing takes place over time and is gradual. Forgiveness comes when we confess our sins to God, but healing comes when we confess our sins to one another. You CANNOT heal from a sex addiction on your own or even just you and God. Others must be involved. Start by finding one person you can trust and confide in, and ask them to help you by being accountable to them.

If you find yourself bound to pornography and sex addiction, there is hope. Find someone you can be accountable to or find a recovery group that encourages behavior change. The road ahead is long and the work is hard, but the result is absolute freedom to live the addiction-free life God has called you to live.

Erik Almodovar, Pastoral Counselor.

Minding the Gaps:Dealing with the Differences Between Spouses

Dealing with the differences between you and your spouse is one of the most common frustrations in marriage. It’s funny how the differences we found so attractive when we were dating can become so irritating later.

In this week’s Normal Marriage post, I’m going to point you to one of my Quick Counsel podcast episodes that deal with the differences between spouses. You can click here to get the podcast. It’s only 7 minutes long, so check it out and learn about navigating the differences between you and your spouse.

I hope you’ll listen to some of the other Quick Counsel episodes and subscribe to get future episodes. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Here’s to minding the gaps in your marriage.

Firing Up Your Marriage the Right Kindling

Sometimes, my wife and I will meet our kids and grandkids out on a wooded piece of property they own. There, the kids fish in the pond and play in the woods, while the adults take it easy and visit.

As evening falls, the task turns to building a fire, and the kids are sent out to gather kindling. They come back with armloads of twigs and sticks, proudly presenting them to the adults for approval. Then, the adults help them arrange the kindling in the best way to start the fire. The kids learn it takes small kindling to start big fires.

This is not true only for campfires but it’s also true for marriage.

MARRIAGE KINDLING

So often, spouses look for that one big thing that will turn things around in their marriage and reignite the fire of their relationship. But just like it takes small kindling to get a campfire going, it takes small things to get a marriage fire going.

What kind of kindling can you use to build the fire of your marriage? Here are a few kindling starters:

Smile.

You would be surprised how a simple smile can warm up your spouse and your marriage. When I come home from work, my wife can change my whole outlook and attitude in a second when she greets me with a smile. It’s a small thing, but just smiling more will spark good things in your marriage.

Help without being asked.

Now if you don’t typically do this, don’t be surprised if your spouse questions your motives at first. But just keep doing it, because it shows your spouse that you see what they’re going through and that you care enough to want to help them. It’s a great way to build a marriage fire.

Love your children well.

This is especially something husbands need to do. Guys, the quickest way to your wife’s heart is through the children. When they see you spending time, listening, playing, and loving on the kids, it will fire up their heart towards you.

Compliment.

People thrive on honest compliments, and compliments are some of the simplest kindling you can use to get a marriage fire going. But, the longer we’re married, the less we tend to compliment one another. It’s been said that the best thing a parent can do is to catch their kids doing something right/good and compliment them on it. But it’s also one of the best things spouses can do for each other. Compliment something they’ve done, the way they look, or a character trait they have. Just compliment them.

Run errands together.

This may seem mundane, but it shows your spouse you want to hang out with them…even if it’s just doing something as commonplace as running errands. It gives you a simple way to spend time together, to talk, or just listen to the radio together. You don’t have to run every errand together, but doing it more often than not will add warmth to the relationship.

Do something they want to do.

When you were dating, you were interested in the things that interested them. That’s part of kindling that helped them fell in love with you. So why would you stop now? Doing things your spouse wants to do is a clear “I love you” to them. Especially if you’re doing something they know you don’t like to do. (It’s extra points!)

Leave a note.

It’s simple, cheap, and easy to leave a note for your spouse. Yet few things make as much impact on a spouse as leaving them a note. Yes, you can send them a text, but it’s not as good as taking out a pen and leaving a sticky note for them to find. It can be a loving thought, a sentimental memory, or something hot and steamy. Leaving notes for them to find will help to build a fire in your marriage. (Just don’t make it a reminder of something they need to do. That will rain on the fire.)

Flirt.

Playful flirting can spark a fire in your relationship. And it’s something you can do despite the age and stage of your marriage. You don’t have to be young and look like models to playfully flirt with one another. But a word to husbands…If the only time you flirt with your spouse is when you want sex, your flirting will backfire on you and have the opposite effect. So learn to flirt for the sake of flirting…and not always for a desired outcome.

Take initiative.

Whether it be something they want or someplace they want to go, if there’s something important to them, take initiative on it. Don’t wait for them to repeat it over and over, and don’t wait for them to ask you to. Taking the initiative, without having to be told, will spark something in your spouse and your relationship.

These are just some of the small kindling you can use to start a fire between you and your spouse. And you will be surprised at how such small things can build such a big love between the two of you. You can probably think of other kindling ideas, and I would love for you to leave those in the comments. We could all use the help.

A FINAL WORD OF CAUTION

As you apply this kindling to your marriage, do it without expectation of anything in return. Make sure it’s the kindling of appreciation and not manipulation.

Here’s to building some fire in your marriage.

What are the Glory Days of Your Marriage?

Glory days. If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, those words will automatically bring a great song to mind. But the concept of glory days has been around much longer than Springsteen.

GLORY DAYS.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines glory days as a period of time when someone was very successful. You might hear someone talk about their glory days on the high school football team. And a business might refer to their glory days as a time when sales and profits were very high. In other words, glory days refers to a time when things were very good.

But how does the concept of glory days apply to marriage?

THE GLORY DAYS OF MARRIAGE.

For some spouses, if you mention their glory days, they would immediately think of their honeymoon years and the fun and the adventure they had when it was just the two of them.

For others, mention glory days and they think of their current situation. The good jobs that they have. Their nice house. Their wonderful kids. Their community involvement. For some couples, these are the glory days.

Other spouses feel like their glory days are ahead of them. They look to the days when they are empty-nesters, when their kids are happily married, when they can enjoy their grandchildren, or when they finally are able to retire and travel.

But here’s the problem. For the first group, their glory days are already behind them. So they have nothing to look forward to. For the second group, they may be experiencing their glory days, but they can’t hang onto them, so those glory days won’t last. And for the third group, their glory days are beyond their reach…and may not even come. And all of these takes on glory days are dependent on the circumstances being good.

Consequently, these three views make the glory days temporary at best and unattainable at worst.

Maybe we need a better way to achieve our glory days in marriage.

A NEW APPROACH TO GLORY DAYS.

Before my children were born I made a commitment to myself to make the most of every age and stage they went through. I wanted to drink in everything at every age and stage, so I didn’t look back and think I missed something. And for the most part, I was able to do just that. (Although, I will admit, this was slightly harder to do during their teen years. But only a little.)

That was a good strategy for parenting. But now, at 60+ years of age and 40+ years of marriage, I’m beginning to think that drinking in and making the most of every age and stage is not only a good strategy for parenting. It’s also a good strategy for marriage.

What if our strategy for marriage was to make the most of every age and stage of marriage – whether easy or hard – so that we didn’t have to look back and say we missed something? What if we learned to drink in every stage of our marriage…whether as young couples romping in our honeymoon bed, or senior adults holding hands over the rail of the hospital bed?

If we took this approach to marriage, it would probably change our view on glory days. Glory days would be…

  • Less about circumstances and more about commitment.
  • Less about how good things are for us and more about how good we are for each other.
  • Less about having what we want and more about having who we want.
  • Less about the road we travel and more about our traveling companion.

A FINAL THOUGHT…

Intentionally drinking in and making the most of every age and stage of marriage could lead you to turn your current moments into glory days. (Wouldn’t that be something?!)

So stop wistfully looking to the glory days of the past. Stop grieving the glory days you can’t hold on to. And stop longing for the glory days that may or may not come. Take each moment you have with your spouse…whether easy or difficult…and make the most of it. Drink it in and see how many glory days you can actually make!