"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
Eph 5:25

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Marriage and Respect ...

Something has been on my heart for several weeks, and I need to share my viewpoint on the subject.

In the last few months, several women have come to me in tears to discuss a delicate subject.  You see, each of these wives have been left by their husbands.  Left ... for another woman.

Here's a caveat:  I am not, I repeat, NOT a marriage counselor or a psychologist. I'm simply a person who listens, reads, and prays.


In the midst of the inherent ugliness of these breakups, each one has a common theme.  Their husbands told them that they don't feel respected, and that the other women give them "what they need."

Soooo ... what do husbands need?

I've read and blogged significantly about marriage, and I have some experience being an actual husband.   I can tell you from experience as well as research, that husbands need respect above all else.  When a husband feels disrespected,  he feels frustrated and unloved in his marriage.

"What do you mean?" you might ask.  "I always show my husband respect."


You may be disrespecting him without even knowing it.

Do you ever:
  • Argue about decisions that he has made?
  • Place the house or the children above him in importance?
  • Dismiss his needs and wants as silly or unnecessary?
  • Question the way he disciplines the children?
  • Criticize him in front of the children (do your children disrespect him, too?)?
  • Disregard his need for intimacy (not sex)?
  • Dismiss his sexual requests and desires?
  • Complain about him to your family?
  • Nag or complain about things that he does / doesn't do?
  • Wish he would change (fill in the blank) about himself?
These are just a few ways women show disrespect to their husbands.  Some of these issues are much more important than others in the minds of many husbands, but the fact is that if he feels disrespected and unloved, then he will likely look to others to meet those needs.

Caveat #2:  I do not condone men having affairs.  

Also, I do not know both sides of the story. Rather, I know what these particular women have told me, and that they have come to the realization that disrespect on their part most likely played a role in their marital problems.
However, I do know that marriage was designed by God for several reasons:

  1. It was designed to be a model of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church.  Husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives are commanded to submit to their husbands, because the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church.  
  2. It was designed to help men and women avoid temptation.  There is temptation all around.  A marriage in which both husband and wife are sexually satisfied is less likely to be vulnerable to temptation. When they deny each other sexually, they expose the relationship to temptation and possibly open an avenue for their spouse to look elsewhere to meet that need.
  3. It was designed as a means to multiply church of God.  Men and women get married, make babies, and teach those babies to follow Jesus.            
****************

Please understand that I have not talked to any of the husbands involved in these troubled marriages, nor do I condone the behavior of a cheating husband, but, being a husband myself, and knowing many husbands who have felt the sting of disrespect, I have inside knowledge and experience with the temptations that exist every day and everywhere.  It is difficult to resist temptation with the eyes, the mind, and in some cases the flesh.

What happens when husbands are disrespected?  Some husbands seem to be fine with it, but I can tell you they are not okay.  Some husbands withdraw into themselves or into an activity (television, cars, computer games, etc.), some get angry, some have affairs, and some just go on living a life of quiet desperation, seemingly alright. Just because he acts fine doesn't mean he is fine.

Not all men fit into this mold.  There are many husbands who strive to be the biblical head of the house, and many wives who respect and submit to their husbands in all things.  To those married couples, I say "Hallelujah!"

To the others, I can only offer a sympathetic ear, a comforting word, and a heartfelt prayer that their relationships may be healed.



(I may soon write a series of in-depth posts on the subject of husbands and what they need.  I'm sorry, but I feel (for obvious reasons) horribly inadequate to address the needs of wives.  Someone else will have to tackle that subject.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

To Choose Or To Choose Not

1 Corinthians 7:4
The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 

James 1:4
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Kit Kittredge
We're not OK if we're not together.

Kentucky Colonel (that's what he likes to be called) from A Grown Up Marriage wrote a followup to his article, That's Not My Preference that discusses the consequences of a person's choice not to meet his/her spouse's wants/needs/desires.

The article's emphasis is on the person who is capable of meeting his/her spouse's needs, but chooses not do so, usually because it is too intimate. He does, however, makes a clear distinction between those who are not able (because of physical illness or injury), not yet ready (because of abuse issues), and those who are capable, but simply choose not to fulfill a spouse's need/desire.

The mature spouse works to overcome many issues for the good of his/her spouse and marriage. There are natural consequences that occur when a spouse makes a choice not to fulfill a request that falls within his/her capabilities. When someone refuses an intimate request from a spouse, it almost always results in damage to the marriage in the way of a separation from intimacy.  A piece of marital intimacy is destroyed when a need is not met by a spouse who is capable of meeting that need, but is choosing not to. Wives might begin to "nag."  Men might withdraw into themselves and not reach out anymore. In either case, the spouse will eventually find another way to meet that need, taking something that should be part of the marriage and placing it elsewhere. I do not believe that God wants married couples to grow apart, but rather to always grow closer together in oneness.


What to do?

Husbands, if your wife has asked you to do something for her, but you have chosen not to do it, then you need to start doing it.  Ask her forgiveness and tell her you intend to do better, starting right now.  If she wants you to hang a shelf, then get your hammer and do it.  If she wants you to lead a family Bible study, then open your Bible and set a time. If you are uncomfortable, then ask her to help you, and you will grow in intimacy with each other. Don't make it a one-time thing (practice makes perfect, you know).  Keep moving forward and improving, and you will see your marriage grow stronger every day.   If you choose not to, then expect her to express her disappointment, and be prepared to accept the consequences as your intimacy deteriorates.

Wives, if your husband has asked you for something but you have chosen not to do it, then you need to start doing it.  Ask for his forgiveness and tell him you intend to do better, starting right now.  If he wants a more relaxing home, then find a way to make it happen.  If he wants something different in bed, then start doing it.  If you aren't comfortable, then read a book on the subject or better yet, ask him for help.  It's going to be awkward at first, but if you learn together, then you will grow in intimacy with each other. Don't make it a one-time thing (practice makes perfect, you know).  Keep moving forward and improving, and you will see your marriage grow stronger every day.   If you choose not to, then expect him to express his disappointment, and be prepared to accept the consequences as your intimacy deteriorates.


What will I, personally, do with this information?

  • I will listen to what my wife wants and start honoring her requests.
  • I will express my own desires to my wife.
  • I will ask for her forgiveness when she expresses her disappointment, and I will work to improve whenever I can. 
  • I will express my disappointment when necessary, so she can improve and grow. 
  • I will continue to lead us toward a marriage of emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical oneness with each other.
Now, let's get out there and meet our spouses' needs!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I'll Go First.

I don't expect many people to understand this as it is very inside.

 I read a lot of blogs.  While reading this week, I came across a somewhat older post that struck me with fresh insight into my life and marriage.

A Grown Up Marriage featured a post in May, entitled That's Not My Preference, in which the author discusses the changes that occur in marriages (yes, people really do change) and the adjustments that must be made to accommodate these changes in a spouse.  

The feature has some blunt things to say about love and intimacy, and the fact that some people spend a lifetime looking for something in their spouses, whether it be a closer relationship, or deeper trust, etc., that simply will never come about.  As the blogger writes, "... many of you may be searching for something you spouse doesn’t currently have the capacity to provide and may never have the capacity to provide ...."

He goes on to state, "... you should not expect your spouse to desire you the way you desire them because that may be something that they currently don’t have the personal experience to do and they may never have it. On the other hand, those of you who fall on the other end shouldn’t expect your spouse’s sexual desire to change either. Accept it for the sign of love that it is to them and be sexually generous with them. Work to understand one another and to meet their needs not in a immature, manipulative way but in a way to please and honor your spouse and marriage. Your will be stronger and you will feel better and be acting like a grown up."

In my last post I wrote about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church, giving His life for it.  I suggested that, to me, the theme of the verse is sacrifice, and that I must sacrifice what I desire for what my wife desires.  The Grown Up Marriage blogger reinforced my opinion that I must sacrifice for my wife.  Maybe she will never desire me the way I desire her.  It's my responsibility to live with it, find an alternative to meet my own needs (plan B), and move on.

Who will change and who will go first?  According to Paul Byerly (The Generous Husband), the grown-up goes first and does more.  So, if I want to please and honor God, then I will go first.  I will give her everything and more, expect absolutely nothing, and find other ways to fulfill the rest.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Husbands, Love Your Wives"

Okay, so if wives are supposed to submit to their husbands in all things, and husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loves the church, then what is a husband (supporter, provider, leader) supposed to do when a conflict arises? I’m not talking about a small conflict, like what color to paint the kitchen, but a larger, long-term conflict – a relationship thing. 

Ephesians 5:22-25 
22Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is himself the Savior of the church, his body.  24And so wives must submit themselves completely to their husbands just as the church submits itself to Christ. 25Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it.

While it’s true that wives should submit themselves completely to their husbands (v. 24), it’s verse 25 that keeps me awake at night because it tells me to love my wife “as Christ loved the church, giving His life for it.”   
What???  I am commanded to give my life for my wife???  

As a matter of fact, I am, and I’m not supposed to complain about it.  The inference in this verse for me is sacrifice.  In times of conflict, when my wife and I are at a relationship impasse, I am supposed to sacrifice my own wants for hers, according to the Word of God, even if it means frustration and unfulfilled desires.  Even if it means forever.  (Even if it means that I won’t live to see that ’64 Mustang in its rightful place - my driveway.)  It means that I should demand nothing, but rather lay aside my wants / needs / desires in deference to hers.  I must sacrifice everything for her.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, for sure.  To be honest, I have intense, ongoing internal struggles with my desires; but I made a promise when I placed the ring on my wife’s finger and said, “I will.”  If I want to be a good Christian husband (and I do), then I will give my life for her.   

I will continue to pray, learn, and grow as a husband (please pray for me) as I continue my journey toward a one-flesh marriage with my beloved.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More Marriage Intimacy Stuff

I know I said that I wasn't going to post any more info about marriage blogs, but I received comments from a few people who convinced me to keep going.   So, from time to time I will comment on a few such blogs that I find helpful.   I hope my readers find the information useful as well.

I must warn you, some bloggers cover controversial and delicate subjects, often in embarrassing detail.  It won't be G-rated reading.   If you are uncomfortable with the contents, then maybe you should read these blogs after you examine your heart before God, ask him to free you from your chains, and deal with the source of your discomfort. 

I am aptly convinced and convicted by the Holy Spirit to keep reading, studying, and posting because
God wants us to continue to grow closer in our relationships to Him and closer in our marriage relationships.  Such growth should never stop, but rather should continue throughout our lives here on Earth.  We must always learn more and put that knowledge into practice often so that we may achieve the "one flesh" bond that God wants for every married couple.

To experience oneness in marriage (to know and be known ... completely)  is the ultimate goal.  It is God's design for marriage.  We were made for each other, to complete each other.  We are not actually "one" until we have abandoned ourselves to the other ... completely.  That means we must open ourselves up to our spouses and to the plan God has for marriage; to be one flesh spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and of course, physically. 


That said, I will not post anything here that is not founded on solid biblical principles.  In other words, I want to study marriage from God's perspective and His Word.  After I have sorted through all the gobbledygook, then I will pass it on to you.

OK, so here is a partial list of what I've been reading lately



Focus on the Family Spiritual Intimacy
An excellent 11-part series on spiritual intimacy in marriage.  Biblically based and easy to understand.

Crosswalk Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage
This article outlines some good tips on opening up to your spouse and beginning the spiritual intimacy journey as a couple.


Sounds of Encouragement Intellectual Intimacy in Marriage
Article by Barrington H. Brennan (actually written in 2004) explaining that the boundaries of an intimate marriage extend far beyond the four walls of the bedroom. 



GrowthTrac Emotional Intimacy
Jill Savage writes about trust and communication as important aspects of emotional intimacy in marriage.  

Focus on the Family What It Means To Be Intimate
Even though this is a singles series, it's an outstanding series of articles about developing emotional intimacy.

One Flesh Marriage To Be Known ... Completely
A great definition of "intimacy."

The Intimate Couple Christian Marriage Advice on Sex and Marriage
Advice about biblical intimacy for married couples.  Sex was God's idea.

The Generous Husband Permission Granted to Have a Great Sex Life
There are a lot of sexual messages that get pushed on people.

The Generous Husband It's Not Going To Fall Off!
For Husbands: How to deal with sexual rejection.  Also some tips for wives who want to help hubby out.

Christian Nymphos Giving Up on the Good Girl
For wives:  An article about breaking the cycle of wrong thinking about sex.

As these articles deal with marriage, it is always best when both spouses read them carefully and prayerfully, either together or separately.  It's always fun to follow up with a little couple-time discussion. I hope the material presented here blesses you in your marriages.

I will share more as I learn.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just Plain Lazy

I desire.  Doesn't everyone?  Of course.  But does everyone have a strong enough will to realize those desires?  I've recently begun to understand the difference between desire and willingness.  Though I may have strong desires, I often fall short of the willingness (drive, energy, whatever) to make
them happen.  Sometimes I lack the skills or the time. Sometimes I'm just lazy. Sometimes people work against me and I don't have the strength to continue fighting for what I want.  Desire alone is not enough.  Willingness has to be an equal partner in the journey.   

I desire to be closer to my Lord, but I don't always make the time to talk with Him, read His word, and live by His example.  It isn't as though my desire is weak.  I am too focused on worldly things and ideas to take time for Him each day.

I desire oneness, but I'm worn down and I won't put myself on the line.  If you read my posts then you know that I have been searching this path for a while.  You also know that I am traveling an isolated road, alongside others whom I long to know.  The desire for oneness and the willingness to do what is necessary to achieve it (i.e. communication) aren't easily reconciled.

I desire a loving family, but I fail to teach them gentleness.  I don't always give them enough of my time to learn how to be polite, kind, and patient.  I don't always feel like playing Old Maid or Checkers or Hide & Seek.

I desire close relationships but I'm not willing to step forward and make a new friend.  I am an introvert who, because of my job and life, is forced to portray himself as outgoing.  It's hard for me to trust people and make friends.  Sure, there are many people who "like" me, but not many whom I would call "friend.


Why do I defer my desires?  Why do I hesitate to say things, to ask for what I want, to extend a hand, to play a game?  Perhaps it's because I fear rejection or feel inadequate in some way, or maybe I am just plain lazy.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This week's top blog posts

Here are a few of my favorite blogs and posts from this week. Most of them deal with manhood (i.e. being a better man).  Happy reading!

Dumb Little Man:
The Simplest Ways To Improve Your Creativity, Health, And Relationships

Man Blog:
Men in the kitchen: Why competence is more important than Cordon Bleu

Men’s Blog: Christ Church:
Reid Brown Week 5 Proverbs Journal Post

Steve Pavlina:
How To Be A Man

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Few More Marriage Blogs

Over the past six months or so I have read a plethora of blogs and articles about christian marriage. As a result of reading these blogs, I have had several eye-opening moments about the differences between men and women, and the fact that God purposely planned those differences.  It has been an interesting
quest for knowledge.  I don't want to delete these bookmarks without sharing what I've learned, so I am providing a short list of the best blogs on the subject, in my humble opinion.  


There are many interesting tidbits to be found on these pages, each from a christian perspective, dealing with growing closer in marriage, and growing closer to the Lord as a couple.  May God richly bless you if you decide to delve into this material.

The Generous Husband  Written by Paul, this blog gives short marriage tips for husbands. There are also links to other blogs and sites about marriage. 

The Generous Wife Written by Lori (wife of "The Generous Husband"), this blog gives short tips on marriage for wives.  There are also links to other blogs and sites about marriage. 


One Flesh Marriage Written by husband and wife team Kate and Brad Aldrich.  One spouse posts a marriage article, then a few days later the other replies with the flip-side discussion.  Occasionally they bring in guest bloggers, which gives an extra perspective.  It's a good he says / she says blog.

Journey To Surrender Scott Means writes about the "biblical path of god's design for marriage."

Couple Things  Rowan and Mara write a blog based on the principle that love relationships are designed to improve in every area.

Marriage Gems  Lori Lowe writes research-based marriage tipe and insights

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Obedience ....

Along my particular journey, the Holy Spirit has become an important part of my life. He tugs on my shirt and my heartstrings, making me do and say unusual things, seemingly for no reason. I have learned to listen and (mostly) heed His gentle (and not-so gentle) nudges. I still have a long way to go.

But what happens when He leads you in a difficult direction?  You know, somewhere you've never been before?  What if you have to open yourself up and (*gasp*) show your true self?  What happens when you are told to do something that makes everyone around you uncomfortable?

What if you say “yes,” to Him, and open your heart to others and are faced with mistrust, criticism, shame, and failure? What if others seem to go along with you, then suddenly throw your spiritual walk back in your face, humiliating you and accusing you of evil thoughts, or foolishness, or worse? What if you are so convicted by the Spirit, so sure of your path, and yet so rejected by others that you have trouble sleeping?

What if you are so exhausted from trying that you turn your back, completely abandoning the idea, praying, crying out to God, that He might take away your desire in this area?

What if, after pleading with Him to take away your desires, He says “no.?” What if He wants you to press forward anyway?   

What if you disobey His “no?”  What if you abandon His instructions to press on? 

Why does God do stuff like that? I don’t know. I do know that He has His reasons.  He must.  Meanwhile, I must stop what I’m doing, take a giant step back to where I was in the first place, deal with reality, and continue to pray … and pray … and pray.

*********************************

As husbands, we must always search for guidance as the leaders in our homes.  When we feel led by the Spirit to lead our marriages in a certain direction, we mus strive to listen to (and heed) the Holy Spirit.

But first, we should ask ourselves some very important questions to determine whether our motives are pure:
  1. Do I have a selfish rationale ( is it solely for my pleasure or convenience), or am I truly seeking god's will for our marriage?
  2. Will my bride grow closer to God as a result of my decision?
  3. Will it improve my marriage?  
  4. Will my wife and I ultimately grow closer (more intimate) as a result?

After much prayer and study, if I still feel led in a certain direction, I must then take steps to lead my wife in that direction, and in so doing, remain obedient to God.  Will it be uncomfortable?  Maybe, but obedience is often uncomfortable.

So, listen to the Spirit, husbands, and be led in the direction God has laid out for your marriage.


Rom 8:14
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Need To Pray More

I don’t pray enough.  People and circumstances come across my thought life numerous times a day, and each time I brush those thoughts aside to be dealt with later.  In my experience, these thoughts have been promptings from the Holy Spirit, telling me to stop and pray. 

But I don’t.

I should pray for and with my children.  Big Sister needs a gentle heart, Little Sister needs self-control, Big Brother needs to be successful in some way, Little Brother needs to feel needed, and Baby Brother needs to be more independent.  I should pray for them and their needs every time they come to mind.

I should pray for and with my wife.  She needs time and patience for the children; it isn’t easy to homeschool 3 children and care for a preschooler and a toddler all day, every day.  She needs to feel loved by me (I haven’t been very good at that lately).  She needs time for herself to collect her thoughts.  I should pray for her every day, several times a day. 

I (we) should pray for us as a couple – husband and wife.  We need daily time together to discuss our day.  We need time to discuss our plans for the future.  We need to find some way to grow together as a couple, and continue growing in the Lord.  I (we) should pray every day.

I should pray for our family finances.  How will we make ends meet when everything increases except my income?  How will we afford a reliable car so I can drive to work?  How will we heat the house this winter? I should ask God for guidance and wisdom.

I should pray for my friends.  Some of them are sick.  Some are having other problems.  One needs help around the house.  One just needs to chat.  Many of them don’t know Jesus.  I should ask for opportunities to help and talk.
 
I should pray for myself.  I need to deal better with the daily pressures of life.  I need to find productive ways to deal with disappointment and frustration.  I need more sleep.  I need to love my wife and family more.  I need to find time in the day to plan meals, mow the lawn, fix the fence, clean the garage, organize the basement, finish the unfinished rooms, rewire the bathroom, attend baseball games, play Old Maid, exercise, etc.  I need to stop thinking about things that can’t be and concentrate on things that are.  I should pray for a loving heart, pure thoughts and  gentle words.  

I have a long list of “shoulds.”   I need to shorten the list, with  a lot of prayer.




Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thoughts on Intimacy

Originally Posted on Tenorboy Journal, May 21, 2011)

"You can't be known by someone who won't know you, and you can't know someone who won't be known." ~Anonymous

Men,

True intimacy in marriage doesn't just happen. And NO, I'm not just talking about sex.  I'm talking about becoming one flesh in every sense of the word - to be known, completely, by your wife, and to know her completely as well.  Body and soul.  The good, the bad, and the ugly (believe me, my wife has seen my ugly, especially the last few months).  It's about knowing the deep thought lives of each other.  It's about taking up the slack for each other, because you just know your spouse can't take it anymore.   


A few months ago the Lord laid a burden on my heart in this area, so I've been researching the matter exhaustively, and, with much prayer, I am laying some of my thoughts on the line, right here, right now, with the hope that someone will find this information useful.

I must add a disclaimer:  I am not an expert in the field of marriage intimacy, nor have I achieved even one tenth of a  fleck of what is possible. However, I have done more than a fair amount of prayerful study, and have come up with a few ideas and opinions.
   
First, to accomplish this kind of "oneness,"  you need two willing partners.  If you don't have a willing wife, forget it - it ain't gonna happen. Then you have to open yourself completely to her; you must be willing to lay your whole self out, vulnerable and awkward, naked and unashamed, with all your faults exposed.  You must be willing to let another person into your depths, tell them all your secrets, all your desires, all your thoughts, good and evil. Your wife must be willing to explore you and know you and accept you for who you are, understanding that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and your bent is what it is.  She must be a safe haven - someone who will not be shocked by what you tell her.  She must be open to the fact that you are not Mr. Wonderful; instead, you are Mr. "I'm-An-Ugly-Pig-On-The-Inside," and she must be OK with it.

This intimacy thing is a two-way street, so wives must also lay themselves out for us husbands, no holds barred.  They must be willing to trust us completely with their most intimate thoughts and desires, their dreams, their less-than-prefect figures, their wants and needs.  We must be willing to get in there and let them be themselves.

Too many couples are afraid to express their needs to each other for fear of their spouse's reaction.  If we are willing to take the chance to make ourselves totally vulnerable (and BELIEVE ME it isn't easy), we can unlock a level of intimacy that until now we have only imagined possible.  You CAN be married to your best friend.  You CAN have the oneness that God intended for husbands and wives.

Malachi 3:3
“He (God) will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord” 


My research included, but was not limited to:
 

One Flesh Marriage
The Generous Husband
The Generous Wife
Journey To Surrender
15-Minute Marriage Makeover
The Sexual Man
Focus on the Family - Marriage and Relationships
GrowthTrac
Holy Sex