Are You Having an Affair Without Knowing It?

Affairs are devastating, we all know that. But for most of us, it doesn’t apply. Or are we having an affair without knowing it? Sometimes you can have an affair not with a someone, but with a something.

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Husbands, it may not be a woman you’re having an affair with. Maybe it’s your career. Maybe you find all the fulfillment, all the happiness, all the purpose that you’re supposed to find in your wife through your career. Maybe you’re cheating on your wife, but it’s with your job. When you give your best to your job and give the leftovers to your wife, that’s a form of adultery.

Here’s what wives tend to struggle with: it may be your kids. You married your husband to love him, to do life with him, to cherish him, but when the kids came along, you decided, “They take priority.” So you started making the kids first, not your husband. But you’re called to be a wife first, then a mom. If you give your best to your kids and give the leftovers to your husband, that’s a form of adultery.

Now listen, I’m not saying neglect your kids. Here’s what I’m saying: the best gift you can ever give your kids is a healthy marriage. Study after study has shown that a healthy marriage helps kids have a better shot at life. Don’t let the kids become more important than the marriage. So, affairs don’t have to be with someone. It can be with something. It can be a career, a hobby, an addiction, your friends, your kids. We’re all tempted with some form of adultery. Don’t let adultery ruin your marriage!

7 Ways to Have More Fun in Your Marriage

If your marriage is more about fighting then it is about having fun, then you’re off track from where God wants your marriage to be. Sunday at Mt Vernon I shared seven ways that couples can be serious about having more fun in their marriage:

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1. Identify the biggest culprits crowding into your marriage space. What is it that is crowding into the space that’s reserved for you and your spouse? Is it a career? Is it the kids? Is it a hobby or an addiction? Is it another friendship? Once you identify it, you and your spouse can begin to talk about how to protect that space. More space for you and your spouse equals more fun.

2. Keep dating. You have to keep dating your spouse after you’re married. By the way, a date with the kids doesn’t count as a date. Dating equals fun, so date! Utilize the grandparents, dump your kids off on a babysitter or family friends. Make regular dating a priority.

3. Find a shared interest that’s yours alone. This is where it takes work and discipline. Find something you both like to do. For some it’s easy, for some it’s hard because your personalities are so different (which is fine). But find a hobby, an interest, something that’s yours alone with your spouse. It can’t be something from work or involve the kids. Keep working, keep digging, until you discover something both you and your spouse enjoy together. That leads to enjoyment in your relationship.

4. Get in shape. When you’re out of shape and overweight, you don’t have any energy. You get tired easier so you don’t have any energy for fun. If you’re out of shape, you also think more negatively about yourself. You don’t like how you look or feel. You’re less likely to initiate intimacy, because you feel unattractive. When you’re in shape, you feel better about yourself, you have more energy, you’re more positive, which all leads to fun.

5. Put your phone in a kitchen drawer when you get home. As much as I love technology, it kills intimacy with your spouse. It’s tough for a wife when she wants to sit and talk and connect but the husband is checking his email. It’s tough for a husband when the day’s finally done, the kids are in bed, he’s trying to throw out his best moves, but the wife doesn’t notice because she’s checking Facebook. Your phone is a distraction. Get it out of your hand. Don’t bring it into the bedroom with you. Putting your phone away will force you to interact with and connect with your spouse, which leads to fun.

6. Get the kids out of your bed. Some of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. When the kids sleep with you, there’s no fun. It’s hard to make more babies when there’s one still in the bed. But more than just physical intimacy, your bed is the only physical space you and your spouse occupy that’s reserved for you alone. It’s where you can talk and connect, where you can start and end the day together. Don’t let the kids in there. And I know all the excuses. Don’t settle. Your bed is your space. Protect it. Get the kids out of the bed. As cruel as it sounds, let them cry themselves to sleep for a few nights in their room. They’ll get over it, and you’ll have more fun.

7. Have lots of sex. Here’s why this is so important: you are the only legitimate source of romance in your spouse’s life. Wives, you are the only legitimate source of romance in your husband’s life. If you’re not intentional about pursuing and initiating intimacy, then he’s more susceptible to illegitimate options. Husbands, you are the only legitimate source of romance in your wife’s life. You need to remember that romance doesn’t just mean sex. Romance starts with serving her, valuing her, talking with her. The goal is for both of you to have a healthy, enjoyable sex life. Remember that men and women are wired differently. Men are like a microwave. 30 seconds and they’re done. Women are like a crockpot. Intimacy can’t be rushed. Husbands, make sure that you’re meeting your wife’s sexual needs, and not just your own.

Work hard and have fun! The best way to protect your marriage is to enjoy your marriage.

The Best Way to Protect Your Marriage

In Proverbs 5, the wisest man (Solomon) to ever live gathers his boys around him for a ‘come to Jesus’ talk. He tells them about life, love, and women. As we listen in to this incredible advice, Solomon warns his sons about the seduction and ultimate destruction that lies in wait for those who commit adultery. He paints a vivid picture of how they will despise themselves in old age if they fall for the seduction of another woman.

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Then after scaring the daylights out of them, he gives his sons the plan on how best to protect their marriage. It’s incredibly instructive for us all these thousands of years later, because human nature remains the same. Here’s what he tells them in Proverbs 5:18, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” He’s instructing his sons to rejoice in their wives, to enjoy their marriages, to delight in their spouses. Why? Because Solomon knows a timeless truth that can still help marriages today: the best way to protect your marriage is to enjoy your marriage. Fun isn’t optional in marriage. Fun isn’t extra. Fun is essential. When you stop having fun in your marriage, there’s a break that begins to separate you and your spouse, and other things can begin to crowd in and seduce you away from your first vows. 

When we’re newly married, having fun, spending time together, enjoying a full and vibrant sexual relationship, is effortless. There’s this beautiful space with you and your spouse and nothing else gets in. But as you go on in life, more and more things are going to try and crowd into your space. You’re going to have demands from a career that you want to be successful at. If you have a healthy sex life, you’re going to have lots of kids, and those kids need to be raised. Before you know it, everything begins to crowd into your space and begins to compete with your spouse for your affections. At that point, enjoying life with your spouse is no longer effortless. It takes effort. It takes discipline. You have to be serious about it.

Work hard, enjoy your marriage, and protect it for years to come.

What Advice Would You Give Yourself on Your Wedding Day?

Last Sunday as part of our Married People series I posed this question, “If the me from last week could go back to the me on my wedding day and give myself advice, what would I tell myself?” The video below is what I came up with:

“Why Did Someone Give Me Away?”

Try answering that question for your seven-year-old adopted son. By all other accounts it was a normal conversation and a normal trip to school. Zeke had just met one of his reading goals at school and I was building him up, really trying to encourage him in his reading. And then Zeke asked the question that is always bubbling below the surface for an adopted child, “Why did someone give me away?” To him it was a normal question. So I appeared normal and answered in the same tone of voice I’d answered his previous twenty questions about reading and frogs and ninja turtles. On the inside though, I was crumbling. My heart broke for the simple reason that my son will always have to wrestle with that question, “Why did someone give me away?”

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Robin and I made the decision early on that our adopted children would know the truth from the beginning that they used to live in another mom’s belly. There’s no way to keep adoption secret for life, and if a child is a teenager or older when they find out, we’ve seen it have traumatic effects. But this is the downside, having to answer questions like this, not taking it personally, hurting for Zeke as he wrestles with his identity in this.

Here’s how I answered him this time (I’ll have many more opportunities to talk with him about it in future conversations). I told him that his birth mom didn’t give him away, she wanted to make sure that he had the best home possible. She wanted him to have a home with a mommy and a daddy, so he became a part of our family. She did what she did because she loved him and wanted the best for him. And his mommy and I thank God every day that we get to be his parents.

And then it was time for school. Watching the sprouting seven-year-old get out of the car and walk into school like he owned the place, all I could think of was a chunky, square-headed baby named Zeke the first time I met him, trying not to get emotional in the process. In the end I’ll take these occasional uncomfortable conversations. They’re a small price to pay for the honor of raising him as my son.

 

6 Ordinary Things You Can Give Your Kids That Will Have Extraordinary Results.

Here is some incredible parenting advice I learned from Reggie Joiner’s book Playing for Keeps. He makes the argument that the most important commodity you have with your children is time. Time makes what matters matter more. If you give your children six ordinary things consistently over time, you’ll build a legacy in them that will last a lifetime.

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TIME over time gives someone a sense of history. Each week as a microcosm doesn’t seem like much. You’re making dinner, you’re changing a diaper, you’re reading a book. But small increments of time given over a long period of time gives a child a sense of history. That’s why it doesn’t work to ignore your kids all year and try and make it up with one big vacation. They want your time. A way to put this into practice is to visualize time. Get something like a jar of marbles to visualize how much time you have left with your children. Learn the rhythm of their week and be intentional. Make sure every weekend you’re doing something with your children.

LOVE over time gives someone a sense of worth. Research has shown that love is more important in the life of a child than in the life of an adult, because the deposits accumulate over time. Everyone is wired to love. The way to put this into practice is to prove it. Show up in their lives; be present. Give them rules; discipline shows that you care about their future. And truly know them; children change over the years and it’s on us as parents to keep up with their changing likes and dislikes.

WORDS over time give someone a sense of direction. That’s why the words we say around our kids and to our kids are so important. They can shape the direction of their lives. As parents it’s up to us to expand our vocabulary. Learn a new language. Weigh what you say around your kids. Recycle big ideas. Get involved in a good children’s/youth ministry and learn what they’re teaching so that you can reinforce it at home. A great idea for this is to create a custom poster with your child’s name on it and 7-10 words that cast a vision of what their life could be (words like ‘courageous,’ ‘honest,’ etc.) Put that poster up in their room and let them look at it everyday for a decade, and see what difference it makes.

STORIES over time gives someone a sense of perspective. We’re wired for stories. You can teach your child about courage, or you could tell them the story of David and Goliath. You could teach your child about trust, or you could tell them the story of Peter walking on the water. You could teach your child about God’s love, or you could tell them the story of Jesus dying on the cross for them. As parents we have the opportunity to amplify the story. Expose them to good stories. Create teachable moments throughout life. Discover the arts together. Stories are everywhere. Over time, stories will give your children incredible perspective on life.

TRIBES over time gives someone a sense of belonging. Every child wants to belong. No one wants to be the last one picked for kickball at recess. We all identify ourselves by tribes: mom, Baptist, feminist, saints fan, conservative, reader, pirate, etc. As parents it’s on us to be intentional about living in circles. Give your kids tribes to belong to. Keep traditions in your home and eat meals together; they give a child a sense of belonging. Find them a seat in meaningful tribes. The two critical tribes you can connect your child to are a healthy family tribe and a healthy church. Make sure your kids belong to those tribes, and they’ll do well in life.

FUN over time gives someone a deeper connection. Kids are created with an inner ‘play’ drive. So play with them! I know as parents we are programmed to protect, but make sure that your ‘don’t’ list doesn’t overtake your ‘do’ list. Your kids need to play. And more importantly, you need to play with them. So make it fun. Loosen up. Lose the agenda. Learn what they like to play and play with them. As you play with your kids over time, you’ll create a deeper connection that will last a lifetime.

Whatever matters will matter even more over time. Love is just love. It’s a second-hand emotion—until you put it over time. Then it does something amazing. It gives a kid worth. Words are just something to help you win at Scrabble. They’re something you tweet to get more followers—until you put them over time. Then, they become a collection of messages that moves someone in a better direction. Stories are just experiences that happen to have happened. But when you collect stories over time, they expand a child’s imagination in a way that can shape his or her perspective. Tribes are just people linked together by common interests. They’re clubs you can sign up to attend—until you put them over time. Then they become a family or community where a child can experience belonging. Fun is just a good time. It’s fun, period, just an Indie pop band – until you put it over time. Then it creates a powerful connection. It takes your friendship with your child deeper. What you are doing every week will matter more in someone’s life when you do it week after week, month after month, year after year. And when you combine love, words, stories, fun and tribes together over time, they gain collective momentum, they make history, they build a legacy.

*All worthwhile content on this blog post came from this amazing book, Playing for Keeps. Order it today!

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Step One in Strengthening Your Marriage

originally posted as Step One: Pray Together on August 27, 2012

I don’t know where you are in your marriage. You may be just starting out or rounding out twenty years together. Your fire may still be burning bright or may have died out a long time ago, leaving only lukewarm embers.

As I’ve counseled with couples about their marriages, I’ve found that every situation is unique. Every marriage has its own baggage and history. But there are a few things that will help any marriage. Here’s one I want to share with you today.

Your marriage may be on the ropes or going strong. You may need serious intervention or just a minor tune-up. But wherever you are, step one to making your marriage stronger is to pray together everyday. The good news about this step is that it’s free. It won’t fix all your problems, but it’s a good first step. Here’s what you’ll discover when you pray together:

1. It’s hard to hate someone you pray with. As you pray for and with your spouse, you’ll find your heart softening up for them. You’ll begin to see them not through your eyes (as a selfish or controlling spouse) but through God’s eyes (a messed up sinner in need of grace). Try this. It works. If you have hard feelings towards your spouse, pray for them and with them. See how God sees.

2. Praying invites God into your marriage. By praying, you’re acknowledging that you need a greater power in your marriage. If you’ve been married long enough, you realize that you can change your spouse only up to a certain point. If you really want to see life change in your partner, then God’s got to be the one to do it. Praying invites God to do what only He can do.

3. Praying humbles you. Prayer is a great reminder that we can’t do it all on our own. Prayer asks God to do what we can’t. It doesn’t seem like much, but humility goes a long way in God’s economy. Pride and arrogance, on the other hand, are the surest ways to derail anything God wants to do in you. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

4. Praying unites you with your spouse at a foundational level. This is why praying together is so much more beneficial than simply praying alone for your spouse. It’s hard to explain. It’s something you need to experience. When you pray with your spouse, you’re engaging in a deeply spiritual activity with another person. The spiritual is the deepest part of you, so you’re connecting with someone at their deepest level. Praying with my wife unites us in a way that almost nothing else can.

Try it for a week. It will only take five minutes. Whether it’s at the breakfast table or by the side of your bed, carve out time everyday to pray authentic prayers together to God, and see what happens to your marriage.

QUESTION: How has praying together with your spouse benefitted your marriage?

 

image: www.freedigitalphotos.net

“He’s So Lucky He Has a Stepdad!”

It’s eye opening to experience first hand the innocence of youth. Recently a new family moved into our neighborhood. They have boys. That’s a good thing. There are currently 10 boys (now 12) in our neighborhood that play together, roaming around like Hell’s Angels on their Huffys and Schwinns. My oldest, Zeke (7), befriended one of the new boys and came home one day and told me, “[My friend] is so lucky, he has a stepdad!” Record scratch, head jerked sideways, “What you talkin’ about Willis?”

8.27.14I asked him what he meant. Apparently when Zeke was asking his new friend about his parents, he was told he lived with his mom and stepdad. Zeke had never heard of a stepdad before. What was that? It was like another dad that he lived with. So Zeke told me, “He’s lucky he has a stepdad because when one dad goes to work, the other one gets to stay home and play with him.” Wouldn’t it be great if it worked out like that?

I had what we call in the business “a teachable moment” and got to introduce my 7-year-old my the finer intricacies of divorce. Afterwards, Zeke didn’t think his new friend was so lucky. The whole episode reminded me of the simplicity of what marriage is supposed to be. One man, one woman, together for life. That’s what our kids are born expecting. We’re the ones who mess things up.

12 years strong married to Zeke’s mom (and my wife). With every power of my being, I never want Zeke to ever have to walk through a divorce first-hand. I never want him to have a stepdad.

The Phone Call I Hope I Never Have to Make About Your Marriage

Recently I had to make a phone call that broke my heart. It’s a phone call that I hope I never have to make again. A few years ago a couple came to me for marriage counseling. They had been struggling with issues for years but hadn’t talked to anyone about them. We met several times and made a little bit of progress but no breakthroughs. They couldn’t meet in the middle. Counseling kind of petered out and they eventually moved to a different state.

telephoneAs life goes we lost track of each other until I received a letter from a lady I’ve never met. She told me she was the guardian ad litem for this couple. They’re getting a divorce. It’s getting messy. Accusations are flying back and forth. And worst of all, there are kids involved. The relationship had deteriorated to such a point that the government had to step in to help decide where the kids went.

That’s where my phone call came in. The guardian ad litem received permission from both parties to talk to me and get my take on the situation. It was a depressing phone call to say the least. I believed and still believe that it was a marriage that could have been saved. The greatest casualties are the children, pawns with no say in the matter.

I hope I never have to make a phone call like that again. If your marriage needs help, get help. Don’t stick your kids in the middle. Don’t make the government decide where they go. Talk to someone this week.