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!

Don’t Feel Attracted to Your Spouse? Try These 4 Principles.

It seems like attraction should be a key ingredient in marriage. After all, we all want to be attracted to our spouse, and we want our spouse to be attracted to us.

But what if that attraction isn’t there? What then?

ATTRACTION.

Attraction can fluctuate throughout the course of a marriage. It’s strong in the early days of marriage, when you’re both young, pretty, and getting to know one another. Then attraction gets tenuous a few years in, when your habits and personality traits start to wear on one another. In the middle years of marriage, attraction can easily get lost amidst the demands of building careers, raising kids, and paying bills. Attraction can surge some in the early empty-nester years, when kids leave and finances stabilize. And attraction gets redefined in your latter years, as age and physical health introduces complications and restrictions on life.

Attraction can be hard to define, but one thing’s for certain…we know when it’s not there! And if it’s not there, we often feel like all we can do is helplessly wait and hope it will eventually return.

PRINCIPLES OF ATTRACTION.

If you’re not feeling attracted to your spouse, don’t panic. Psychological studies have uncovered many principles of attraction that you can take advantage of. Here are just four of those principles and how you can apply them to your marriage. (Note: these were prompted by an article entitled, “These are the 4 Elements of Attraction, According to Psychology.” by Brooklyn Reece.)

Proximity.

This refers to the fact that you’re more likely to feel attracted to someone with whom you are in close, consistent physical proximity. It may not seem like it if you’ve been in quarantine with your spouse, but it’s easier to build attraction between people who spend a lot of time together, than between people who spend a lot of time apart. That’s why romantic relationships often occur between people who spend a lot of time working together, playing on the same team, serving in the same organizations, etc.

Yet, it’s so easy for spouses to drift apart physically. We have our own cars, our own activities, our own hobbies, and our own devices. On top of that, if you have kids who are involved in a lot of activities, you can easily find yourselves running in separate directions.

If you want to build attraction, be intentional about spending time together. Even simple things like going to the store together, sitting on the couch together, or sharing a cup of coffee together can help to gradually foster attraction.

Similarity.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old saying, “Opposites attract.” While that may be partially true when you’re dating, the reality is that marital attraction is fueled more by your similarities than your differences. If you love the outdoors, you’re more attracted to those who love the outdoors. If you love to dance, you’re more attracted to someone who loves to dance. Introverts are more attracted to introverts and educated people are more attracted to other educated people.

If you’re thinking, “Great! We’re so different we don’t stand a chance!” you’re not alone. No couple is completely similar. Most every married couple has some glaring differences between them.

The problem is, we get used to focusing on our differences. But you and your spouse are more similar than you may think. Remember, it wasn’t just your differences that attracted you to one another. It was also your similarities.

So if similarity fosters attraction, then spend more time focusing on your similarities. It will gradually help to foster attraction in your marriage.

Physical Attractiveness.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Though everyone has their own likes and ideas when it comes to what they find physically attractive, finding someone physically attractive tends to increase your attraction to them.

Now, before you look in the mirror and get discouraged, remember this…

Physical attraction is often the front door into relational attraction, but it is not the glue that maintains attraction over the long haul. Age and gravity will eventually overcome our attempts to hold onto physical attractiveness. But hopefully, a couple will build a relational and emotion attractiveness that will take over as physical attractiveness fades.

This does not mean you should let yourself go, or ignore your appearance, or quit trying to be physically attractive to your spouse. But you should also be working on the inner beauty that will continue to attract your spouse…long after the outer beauty fades.

Reciprocity.

Reciprocity refers to the fact that we tend to be attracted to people who are attracted to us. To put it simply…we tend to like people who like us. Not surprising, right?

If you’re thinking, “Oh no! We’re in trouble, because neither of us really likes the other right now,” don’t let that spook you. It actually means you have the ability to change things! Let me explain.

The principle of reciprocity infers that if you begin liking your spouse, it’s more probable that they will begin liking you…and visa versa. So, start liking your spouse and it will help them to start liking you.

I know…easier said than done, right?

Well, start with this… stop focusing on all the things you don’t like about your spouse and start focusing on all the things you do like about your spouse. This will make a big difference in your attitude. And, as you practice the other three principles we’ve listed, you will find this fourth principle starting to kick in.

THE BOTTOM LINE.

It’s easy to think that attraction to your spouse is something you have little control over. It’s easy to view attraction as some involuntary response that you either have or you don’t.

But if you believe that, you will be at the mercy of something that we’ve already seen can ebb and flow in a marriage.

Attraction is actually something that can be fostered and fanned into flame in a marriage, through the right actions and attitudes. So don’t wait for attraction to come to you. Go make it happen!

Is Your Sex Drive Running Low?

It’s normal in marriage for one spouse to have a lower sex drive than the other. But when one spouse exhibits little to no sex drive, it can be an extremely difficult thing for the marriage.

I know marriage is about more than just sex, but sex can be critical to the health of a marriage. Studies have shown a correlation between sexual satisfaction and marital satisfaction.

And even the Scripture tells us that sex is a basic drive and desire, hardwired into us by God, for enjoyment as well as procreation. You see this throughout the Song of Solomon, as well as in passages like Proverbs 5:19.

So, if your sex drive is nil to none, let’s look at some possible reasons.

THE REASONS

Though we think it should be simple, a sex drive is a complicated issue. There are many things that can snuff your sex drive. Here are a few of them:

Hormonal.

Hormones and hormonal balance are major players when it comes to sex drive. Sex drive can be affected by the time of the month, low testosterone levels, thyroid problems, and many other hormonal issues. Don’t overlook this.

Relational.

When you’re not doing well relationally, it will affect your sex drive. This is especially true for wives. If a wife is feeling insecure, unappreciated, emotionally disconnected, or hurt it will greatly suppress her sex drive. The same can be true for husbands, but typically a husband’s sex drive is not as tethered to these things. That’s why most husbands will still be interested in sex, even after having a fight with their wives.

Physical.

Because sex is very physical, physical problems can interfere with your sex drive. If sex is painful, it can very quickly dampen your sex drive and even prompt you to avoid sex. Erectile dysfunction, breathing issues, heart issues, excessive weight, back pain,  joint pain…these can all interfere with sex and your sex drive.

Age can also be a factor. It is not true that we lose our sex drive when we age,  but that drive can certainly decrease as we age.

Medical.

It can be easy to overlook, but certain medications can dampen and interfere with your sex drive. Many anti-depressants, heart medications, prostate medications, and even some over-the-counter medications for heartburn can affect your sex drive.

Historical.

Whether we like it or not, we carry our history into our present…and into our bedrooms. Past abuses and hurts can greatly affect your sex drive. What you were taught about sex (good or bad) plays into your sex drive. Past sexual experiences can be a factor. And unresolved issues between you and your spouse can dampen a sex drive.

Habitual.

Certainly, if you’re involved with someone else, it will affect your sex drive with your spouse. But if you’re involved in the on-going use of porn or masturbation, chances are you will experience a lowering of your sex drive for your spouse. You’re expending the sex drive you have on someone or something other than your spouse; leaving little to none for them. These are serious issues that will need to be addressed.

Emotional.

On-going emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, and insecurity hit at the heart of a sex drive. Body image issues are another big factor. And trust issues (often stemming from past hurts and abuses) make it difficult to freely open up in sex…thus dampening your sex drive.

Intentional.

We don’t think of this one as much as we do the others, but a lack of intentionality will slowly siphon off your sex drive. Life is busy and demanding. If we’re not intentional about maintaining and improving our sex life, our sex drive can easily wane.

THE REMEDIES

If one or more of the above issues is decreasing your sex drive and hurting your marriage, take heart. There are steps you can take:

  • See your physician. Explain your issues with low sex drive and have them do a complete workup. Have them go through all your medications to determine if they may be interfering with your sex drive.
  • Nurture the relationship in non-sexual ways. Spend time together. Have fun together. Surprise them. Serve them. Compliment your spouse. Flirt with your spouse. Put in a lot of effort outside the bedroom. Chances are, this will make it easier for you to show interest in the bedroom.
  • Get in better shape. Take care of yourself physically. It will help with mobility and stamina and lead you to feel better all the way around.
  • Work through past issues. Work with a counselor to dismantle the effects of past abuse, wrong messages, depression, anxiety, or anything else that might be interfering with your sex drive.
  • Be intentional. Don’t put sex at the back of the line of things to do. Don’t give it the left-overs of your time and energy. Think about it. Set aside time. Schedule. Plan. Be as intentional about this part of your marriage as you are with other parts.

A WORD TO THE OTHER SPOUSE

All of this has been written for the spouse who has a low sex drive.

But if you’re the one who struggles because your spouse seems to have no sex drive, then you probably feel you have little to no control over whether your spouse actively does something about their low sex drive. It can leave you feeling like you have no options when it comes to your own needs.

In the next post, we’re going to try to address the needs of the spouse who is living with someone who doesn’t seem interested in sex. So stay tuned.

Do You Know Your Spouse?

Maybe you read the title of this post and thought, “I don’t need this post. I know my spouse.”

I’ve thought the same thing. I’ve been married for over forty years, and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on knowing my wife. But there are still times when she will say or do something that makes me think, “Who are you, and do I even know you?!”

Spouses are complex. Their situations, likes, dislikes, emotions, bodies, thoughts, and needs are continually changing. And that means if we want to know our spouse, we have to be on-going learners.

So here are a few tips and reminders (in no specific order) that will help you continue to know your spouse better.

Don’t assume you know them.

Assuming you’re an expert on your spouse is both arrogant and disrespectful. Think about it. You wouldn’t like it if you over-heard your spouse telling someone that they know you completely. Assuming you know your spouse completely will get you in trouble. And I’m telling you, the minute you assume you know them, they’re going to change something just to throw you off!

You don’t know them if you don’t listen to them.

I sit with so many couples who interrupt their spouse, complete their spouse’s sentences, and interpret what they believe their spouse is saying…but never really listen to them. No matter how well you think you know your spouse, there are things on their heart and mind that you will never know if you don’t give them a chance to speak and really listen to what they have to say.

You must listen past their words before you know them.

I have a sign hanging outside my counseling office that says: “No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is NOT saying.”

If all you do is listen to the words your spouse is saying, you don’t really know what they’re saying. Research tells us that only 7% of what your spouse is telling you is found in their words. 38% of their message is in their tone of voice and 55% is in their nonverbal signals.  So listen to more than just the words they are saying.

If they don’t say it, you don’t know it.

I know you know this, but if you’re like me, you probably need to hear it again. You can’t read your spouse’s mind. You may think you can, and you may have been together long enough to make some good educated guesses. But they are still guesses. If they haven’t said it, then you don’t really know it. (By the way…they can’t read your mind either, so don’t make them guess. Tell them clearly and lovingly what you’re thinking and feeling.)

If you don’t know, ask.

Going along with the last tip, if your spouse tells you something, and you’re not quite sure what they mean, don’t guess. Ask for clarification. Your spouse would rather have you ask them for clarification than for you to go off on an assumption that’s wrong.

Just because you know them now doesn’t ensure that you will know them later.

As I said at the beginning of this post…spouses are complex and constantly changing. Just because you know some things about them now, don’t assume those things will be the same a year from now. For as long as I’ve known her, my wife has always wanted to live near the beach. But recently I found out that she now wants to live in the mountains. There was no warning. There was no turn signal. She just changed! This is why you have to keep striving to know your spouse.

Know what they like, but know it will change.

Knowing that your spouse will change later is not an excuse to not know them now.  Get to know your spouse as well as you can now. Just know that you’ll have to keep learning and adding to what you know about them.

Finally, if I could wrap all this up in one last reminder, it would be this:

Know that you don’t know all there is to know about your spouse, but know that you can know them better.

So stay at it and stay curious.

It’s Marriage Not Magic!

I love a good magic show. As a kid, I would practice for hours learning sleight of hand magic. And now that I’m an adult and know it’s just a series of tricks and illusions, there’s still something about the wonder and the mystery of a magic show that captivates me.

Marriage and Magic

Whether you like magic or not, there is a part of all of us that wants our marriage to be magical. And we tend to treat our marriage as if it were a magic show, in the following ways:

Making something disappear.

Magicians are known for making things disappear. From small coins to jet planes, magicians seem to be able to make things disappear right in front of our eyes.

Likewise, spouses tend to want problems in the marriage to disappear. We ignore issues, down-play conflicts, or distract from problems in hopes they will magically disappear. But marriage is not a magic show and problems don’t magically disappear. They must be faced, addressed, and worked through.

Making something appear.

This is the flip side of making something disappear. Here, the magician magically produces something…seemingly out of thin air.

Many couples hope a great marriage will just appear, without a lot of effort. It’s as if they hope for great communication, easy conflict resolution, good sex, and large bank accounts to be magically produced out of thin air. But those things don’t magically appear. They come from an abundance of long, hard work.

Sawing a person in half.

This is a classic piece of magic. An assistant climbs into a box, and the magician uses a saw or sharp blades to separate the assistant into pieces; only to reassemble the assistant moments later, without a scratch!

In marriage, spouses will cut one another, with words or actions, and expect them to bounce back as if no harm was done. But you cannot hurt your spouse without leaving some sort of scar that they will carry for a long time. And sometimes a spouse can be cut so badly they can’t be put back together. So be very careful with your words and actions.

Reading a person’s mind.

It’s amazing when a magician can tell a person what card they drew or what number they’re thinking of. A magician can call upon someone they claim to have never met, and yet tell them things about their life in amazing detail. It’s like the magician can read minds.

I want to remind you that you cannot read your spouse’s mind. So don’t make assumptions about what they’re thinking, what they’re going to say, or what they desire. To do so is disrespectful and a sure way to get yourself in trouble.  Yes, you should get to know your spouse so well, you have a pretty good guess of what they’re thinking. But you should never assume you can read their mind. Ask questions and clarify responses. You’ll be better off for it.

Escaping the impossible.

One of my favorite magicians was Harry Houdini. He became famous as an escape artist, who bragged that he could escape from any shackle, restraint, or container. And whether through trickery or physical prowess, it seemed he could escape from anything.

Too often, we tend to believe we should be able to escape problems and hardships in marriage. We will try to ignore them, avoid them, and run from them. And when those escape tactics don’t work, we will blame things on our spouse or assume we’ve married the wrong person. But unlike a magician, you cannot escape from problems and hardships in marriage. You must go through them and learn from them.

A Final Thought…

Magicians make what they do look amazing and magical. But what you don’t see is all the years of hard work and practice that went into making it look like magic.

Marriage is not a magic show. If you put in the years of hard work and practice, your marriage will look like magic to others, but you’ll know how the trick is done. You’ll know it’s not magic, but rather years of trial and error, loving and learning, serving and sacrifice.

But if you stick with it long enough, you will eventually come to the end of your life and think…TADA!