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!

2 Kings 18-20 – Are You Hoping to Catch a Break?

“Some people get all the breaks!” Ever felt that way?

King Hezekiah is one of those people for whom everything just seems to works out. But there’s a reason for that.

2 Kings chapter 18 tells us that King Hezekiah was living a life of faithful obedience before he faced his difficulties. He didn’t wait for things to get bad to be faithful. He was faithful before the bad times. And 2 Kings chapter 19 tells us Hezekiah didn’t scramble to fix things himself when things were bad, but instead prayerfully turned to God and trusted Him for the outcome.

Now, he was not perfect. In the middle of 2 Kings chapter 18, Hezekiah tries to pay off the Assyrian king rather than trust God. But, once the Assyrian king goes back on his agreement, Hezekiah realizes God is the only person whom he can truly trust.

And towards the end of 2 Kings chapter 19, Hezekiah believes God enough to wait for Him to act on His promises. When impending disaster is breathing down his neck, he doesn’t just say he believes God, he sits on his hands and waits for God to do something.

Hezekiah was not someone who “caught all the breaks.” He was someone who was…

  • Faithful to God long before he needed the break.
  • Fervently prayerful when he needed a break.
  • Fearlessly willing to wait on God until the break came…despite the fear and pressure it might not.

And Hezekiah lived out those principles of faith, prayer, and trusting even when he became ill and close to death. (2 Kings chapter 20)

Compared to Hezekiah, how are you doing? Are you faithful before the problem arises, prayerful in the midst of the problem, and trusting to the end of the problem? Or are you just hoping to catch a break?

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.

1 Kings 17 – If You Loved Me You Wouldn’t…

“If you loved me, you wouldn’t…”

We say this when someone who is supposed to care about us is not responding as we hoped or expected. The underlying message is, “If you loved me, you would keep me from hurt, struggle, and difficult times.”

1 Kings chapter 17 raises this issue. As the chapter begins, God is taking care of Elijah’s needs in the face of a drought and king Ahab’s anger. God gives Elijah a place to hide, a brook from which to drink, and birds that bring him food. But then the brook dries up.

“God, if you loved me, you wouldn’t dry up the brook.”

Then God directs Elijah to a widow in Zarephath who is supposed to feed him. But when he gets there, the widow only has enough for one small meal.

“God, if you loved me, she wouldn’t be running out of food.”

The widow obeys Elijah’s instructions and they wind up with plenty of food. But then, just as everything is going well, the widow’s son dies.

“God, if you loved me, you wouldn’t have allowed him to die.”

Then, God uses Elijah to bring the son back to life…(and the saga continues.)

Why is it, when things are going well, God seems to allow something to mess it up?

I believe these unwelcome events are important and necessary. How would the hero of a story ever gain the trust and loyalty of others if they never faced a villain or threatening situation?

In 1 Kings chapter 17, each time there’s a dead-end, God reveals Himself in a new and powerful way. And each time God meets the new challenge, the people become stronger in their faith and more confident in their God.

The thing that makes us say, “God if You loved me you wouldn’t…,” is the very thing God uses to show His love for us. Because it’s the difficulties that develop our faith and trust.

1 Samuel 29-30 – How Well Do You Get Along With Others?

You can’t please everyone. No matter how hard you try, someone is not going to like something you’ve said or done.

But David was a man who seemed to be able to get along with a wide variety of people. In 1 Samuel chapters 29 and 30, we see David masterfully developing trust and good relations with a wide variety of often opposing groups.

In chapter 29, David earns the trust and respect of the Philistine king. (1 Samuel 29:6,9)

In chapter 30

  • David rallies the very men who, earlier, were so upset with him they were ready to kill him.
  • David is able to enlist an Amalekite slave who had previously destroyed David’s village.
  • David becomes a mediator for his men when they are in the midst of a disagreement.
  • David endears himself to the leaders of his home country…even though that country had run him out of town and tried to kill him.

How does he do it? How does Dave foster trust and loyalty among others…many of whom are enemies to him and each other?

First, David built relationships by showing kindness and respect to others. But more important than his relationship with others was his relationship with God…

  • When David didn’t know what to do, he turned to God for insight and answers. (1 Samuel 23:2,4,6,9,11,12.)
  • When David encountered unfair treatment, he trusted God to right the wrongs and ensure justice. (1 Samuel 24:12,15)
  • When David was discouraged and demoralized, he found his strength and hope in God. (1 Samuel 30:6)

David was submissive and obedient to God, and God made him wise and discerning…which, in turn, strengthened his relationships and interactions with others.

Do you have trouble getting along with people? If so, check your submission and obedience to God. This is always the starting place for great relationships…and great endeavors.

1 Samuel 28 – Are You Driven by Fear?

We all have things we fear, but some people are especially driven by fear. Their life is a desperate attempt to avoid things like…

  • The loss of a loved one.
  • The loss of a marriage.
  • The loss of their health.
  • The loss of financial stability.
  • The loss of position.

This is the picture of king Saul in 1 Samuel chapter 28. You can see his fearfulness build in the previous chapters…

Now, in 1 Samuel 28, Saul is so fearful of the Philistine army he scrambles to find someone to give him advice. God is no longer communicating with Saul, because of Saul’s disobedience. (1 Samuel 28:18.) So Saul breaks his own law and seeks a consultation with a medium or witch. Saul is frantically scrambling for anything to take away his fear.

It’s a strong contrast to the calm and confident David we see in the previous two chapters.

What’s the difference? Though it sounds cliché, David was trusting God and Saul was trusting Saul. David’s only focus was on what God wanted done, while Saul’s only focus was on what Saul wanted done.

Fearfulness comes from trusting yourself rather than trusting God. It comes from trying to orchestrate your own desired outcomes, rather than trusting God to orchestrate His desired outcomes.

We are not to be fearful, but rather powerful, loving, and self-controlled. (2 Timothy 1:7) So turn from fear and trust God. He alone holds the total control of our lives. (Matt. 10:28)

Control, Coronavirus, and Other Complications of Life

In these day when our news, our social media, and our lives are consumed with the Coronavirus, one thing is painfully clear…

WE ARE NOT AS IN CONTROL AS WE WANT TO BE.

We never have been. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we have done whatever we could to subjugate and eradicate the feeling of not being in control. And we’re still doing that.

Some try to convince themselves that the government will get control of this. Others repeatedly tell themselves that God is in control of this. And others militantly follow social distancing plans and hand washing procedures to stay in control of this. These are all good things, but they still fall short of putting us at ease and quenching our thirst for control.

 

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR US TO FEEL LIKE WE HAVE CONTROL?

  • We want to feel in control to keep our fear at bay. There’s a lot of fear out there. Health fear. Economic fear. Scholastic fear. Fear is swelling because we feel we can’t control these things.
  • We want to feel in control because we lack trust. We don’t trust our government to make the right calls at the right time. We don’t trust others to do what they should do to keep their distance, or to keep food on the shelves, or to keep helping when we’re in need. Then we don’t trust God to intervene as we hope…despite what we might profess.
  • We want to feel in control, because it helps us maintain a sense of self importance. We want to feel that we’re different and special. But we feel out of control when we realize we’re no different from everyone else.

 

In one way or another, there’s a bit of control freak in all of us. But here’s the thing…

WE ARE NEVER IN COMPLETE CONTROL!

There will always be things we can’t control. It’s a given in life. The quality of our life is not dependent on keeping control of everything, but rather in how we respond to the things we can’t control.

  • It’s not about making fear go away, but rather about going on in the face of fear.
  • It’s not about trusting someone to fix the problem, but rather trusting someone in the midst of the problem.
  • It’s not about being above everyone else, but rather being in it with everyone else.

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN WE’RE NOT IN CONTROL.

Even Christians have control issues at times, but we don’t need to strive for control, because…

  • In the face of fear, we’re told…“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV.
  • In the face of mistrust, we’re told…“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5 ESV.
  • In the face of self-importance, we’re told…“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11-12 ESV.

Like the rapids in a white water rafting trip, the Coronavirus is part of the trip down stream. It may raise our adrenaline, but we don’t have to be in control of the rapids. We just need to stay in the boat and listen to our guide.

In times of trials, you may not be able to control anything else, but you can control to whom you listen. Whether you’re struggling for control over work, marriage, children,  finances, or pandemics, the questions is still the same…to whom is your heart listening?

Joshua 10 – Are You Dependent or Overconfident?

I remember learning to ride a bike as a child. There were times when I had this great boost of confidence. I would think, “I really am doing it! I really am riding this bike all by my self!” Only to look back and find my dad still holding on to the bike and keeping me from falling.

As a teenager, I would often have this burst of over-confidence/cockiness thinking, “I’m in control of my life and can do what I want to!” Only to look back and find my dad supplying the car, the gas, the insurance, the place to live, the food….in short, everything.

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Deuteronomy 29 – Trusting “Because I Said So.”

When children become pre-teens and teens, they think more abstractly and become more self-focused. When this happens, they want to know “why” before they carry out instructions. If they’re not told “why,” or if it makes no sense to them, they often resist the request or directive.

At times, parents need to take more time to explain the reasoning behind their directives. But, because of their age and experience, parents know and foresee things their children are unable to. So there are times when a child needs to trust their parent’s wisdom, intentions, and love…even though the child doesn’t have the information they desire.

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Numbers 27 – Trust Your Provider

Ever since Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden, where they had everything they could want, people have been working hard to get what they want.

Working hard and acquiring things is not bad in and of itself. You can find many examples in Scripture of God blessing people who worked hard.

The problem is not hard work. The problem is assuming that what we have is a direct result of our efforts, rather than God’s provision. Jesus reminds us of this problem when He reminds us to look at how God provided for the birds. (Matthew 6:25-26)

It is God, and God alone, who provides all we need…as well as so many of our wants. (2 Peter 1:3) (1 Timothy 6:17b) (2 Corinthians 9:8-12) And it makes no difference if the need is large or small. God is the Provider of all…including the health, energy, and ingenuity to do what we do.

God’s provision is the theme of Numbers chapter 27. In the first half of the chapter, we see God providing an inheritance for five daughters of a man who died due to his own sinfulness. (Numbers 27:3) In the second half of the chapter, we see God providing leadership for an entire nation. Some might see the needs of the daughters as less important and pressing in light of the needs of a nation. But God treated both needs with equal care and concern.

This is God’s heart. He longs to provide for our every need. God calls us to work hard, but we should not confuse our work with His provision. May it be our heart to trust His provision. May it be our heart to trust Him.