Here is the fifth and final installment of our Married People series. Enjoy!
Your wedding day is a beautiful, emotional, magnificent promise of what you want your marriage to be. We love weddings. We celebrate weddings. In 2012, the median cost of a wedding was $18,000. That’s a nice wedding! Little girls dream about this day for years! To help you plan this incredible day, there’s an entire wedding industry designed to help you have an incredible experience (and make some serious cash on the side). Walk into a bookstore and there are entire sections of wedding magazines.
Our society loves weddings. Our culture celebrates weddings. Our society wants you to have a successful first day of marriage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a day that culminates with a beautiful promise. What society is horrible at is helping you at is the next 18,250 days of marriage (if you’re going to be married 50 years). Think about it: there are tons and tons of wedding magazines out there, helping you plan an amazing wedding. But how many marriage magazines are there, helping you be successful at marriage long-term? None!
Look at this: I searched Google for the “top wedding magazines.” Here were my results:
Next, out of curiosity, I googled “top marriage magazines.” Here were my results:
Isn’t that amazing? Google, which can find anything, couldn’t find any magazines on marriage, so it just pulled up all the results I’d just searched for with weddings. I would make the argument that from society’s standpoint, the wedding day is the most important day of the marriage. That’s where all the emphasis is.
Here’s my cynical take on why all the emphasis is on the wedding and not the marriage: society today doesn’t care about making your marriage work, they care about you have an amazing wedding day. In fact, the wedding industry wins when you get divorced, because then you can start planning your next wedding and fork over another $18,000.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts? Am I off base here or am I on to something?
Romantic movies continually portray society’s picture of the ideal spouse (namely cute and witty). But I’ve got a better picture of the ideal spouse that I think we would all rather be married to. Who wouldn’t want to be married to a spouse:
- Who overflowed with visible, tangible love for you all the time?
- Who was so full of joy that it was contagious to everyone around them?
- Who was at peace with who God created them to be; never needy or clingy?
- Who was patient with you, always quick to give you the benefit of the doubt and forgive you when you made a mistake?
- Who was always kind, never mean or spiteful to you?
- Who was a genuinely good person, whom you knew would always do the right thing?
- Who was faithful to you, in such a way that you never had to doubt it? What if your spouse’s faithfulness became a bedrock that undergirded your entire relationship?
- Who was gentle towards you, forgiving of your faults, full of mercy, never assigning blame, always there to help you and comfort you in your moments of weakness?
- Who was full of self-control, discipline, worked hard, didn’t give into temptation, made you and the family better people?
Here’s my question: who wouldn’t want to be married to that person!?! This ideal spouse was described 2000 years ago when the apostle Paul wrote to the early church about the characteristics of someone who is full of the Spirit of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
As much as you wish this for your spouse, realize that your spouse is sitting opposite of you, wishing the exactly the same thing about you! As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, the way to be the best spouse you can be is to get as close to Jesus as you can, to the point where His characteristics, His values, His power begin to bleed over into your life, making you the ideal spouse.
As Christians we believe that marriage is a covenant between three people: you, your spouse, and God. Based off that truth, in the video below I share the best way to get closer to your spouse:
Last night at our Parent/Child Dedication Service I had the opportunity to share three words of wisdom to young parents as they start out this incredible journey of parenthood. I thought I’d share those same three thoughts with you:
1. The best gift you can give your children is a healthy marriage. More than a good education, more than strong athletic opportunities, more than exposure to the arts, the best gift you can give your children is a healthy and vibrant marriage. Study after study has shown that kids raised in healthy homes have a much better chance to be successful at almost everything in life. Put God first, then your spouse, then your kids. Those priorities are the best gift you could ever give your children.
2. The best way to ensure your children have a vibrant relationship with Jesus when they move out of the house is to have one of your own. As a youth pastor for ten years, I was constantly asked how to ensure that kids still followed Jesus when they went off to college. More than having them in church, more than simply teaching them Bible knowledge, the key is to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus yourself. You can’t fake it. An authentic relationship with Jesus is more caught then taught.
3. The most potent weapon you have in your arsenal is time. Time makes everything that matters matter more. Parents have years and years to give small doses of the most important things to their children over time. Love over time gives a child a sense of worth. Words over time gives a child a sense of direction. Stories over time gives a child a sense of perspective. Fun over time gives a child a sense of deep connection. Community over time gives a child a sense of belonging.
If you have young children in the house, you have time, years and years that parents of older children wish they could get back. Make the most of it!
Conquest – Appreciate his desire to work and achieve. Your husband will feel you appreciate his desire to work and achieve when . . .
- You tell him verbally or in writing that you value his work efforts.
- You express your faith in him related to his chosen field.
- You listen to his work stories as closely as you expect him to listen to your accounts of what happens in the family.
- You see yourself as his helpmate and counterpart and talk with him about this whenever possible.
- You allow him to dream as you did when you were courting.
- You don’t dishonor or subtly criticize his work “in the field” to get him to show more love “in the family.”
Hierarchy – Appreciate his desire to protect and provide. Your husband will feel you appreciate his desire to protect and provide when . . .
- You verbalize your admiration of him for protecting you and being willing to die for you.
- You praise his commitment to provide for and protect you and the family (he needs to know you don’t take this for granted).
- You empathize when he reveals his male mind-set about position, status, rank, or being one-up or one-down, particularly at work.
- You never mock the idea of “looking up to him” as your protector to prevent him from “looking down on you.”
- You never, in word or body language, put down his job or how much he makes.
- You are always ready to figuratively “light the candles,” as E.V. Hill’s wife did when they couldn’t afford to pay the light bill.
- You quietly and respectfully voice concerns about finances and try to offer solutions on where you might be able to cut spending.
Authority – Appreciate his desire to serve and to lead. He will feel you appreciate his authority and leadership when . . .
- You tell him you are thankful for his strength and enjoy being able to lean on him at times.
- You support his self-image as a leader.
- You never say, “You’re responsible but we’re still equal, so don’t make a decision I don’t agree with.”
- You praise his good decisions.
- You are gracious if he makes a bad decision.
- You disagree with him only in private and honor his authority in front of the kids.
- You give your reasons for disagreeing quietly and reasonably, but you never attack his right to lead.
- You do not play “head games” with him to make him back down and be a “loving peacemaker.”
Insight – Appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel. Your husband will feel you appreciate his insight and counsel when . . .
- You tell him upfront you just need his ear; don’t complain to him later that he always tries to “fix” you.
- You thank him for his advice without acting insulted or like he doesn’t care about your feelings.
- You recognize his problem-solving approach as his male brand of empathy.
- You realize your vulnerabilities, especially among males, and value his protection.
- You counsel him respectfully when you differ with his idea (you can be right but present your views in a wrong way).
- You sometimes let him “fix things” and applaud his solutions.
- You let him know that you believe God has made us male and female for a purpose and that we need each other.
- You admit that you make mistakes and thank him for his perception and godly counsel.
Relationship – Appreciate his desire for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship. Your husband will feel you value his shoulder-to-shoulder friendship when . . .
- You tell him you like him and you show it (he knows you love him, but he often wonders if you really like him).
- You respond to his invitation to engage in recreational activities together or you come along to watch him (you don’t have to go every time, but just now and then will energize him more than you realize).
- You enable him to open up and talk to you as you do things shoulder to shoulder.
- You encourage him to spend time alone, which energizes him to reconnect with you later.
- You don’t denounce his shoulder-to-shoulder activities with his male friends to get him to spend face-to-face time with you. Respect his friendships, and he will be more likely to want you to join him shoulder to shoulder at other times.
Sexuality – Appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy. He will feel you appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy when . . .
- You respond to him sexually more often and initiate sex periodically.
- You understand he needs sexual release just as you need emotional release.
- You let him acknowledge his sexual temptations without fearing he’ll be unfaithful and without shaming him.
- You don’t try and make him open up to you verbally by depriving him of sex.
Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, each one of you [husband] also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Closeness. She wants you to be close. Your wife feels close to you when . . .
- You hold her hand.
- You hug her.
- You are affectionate without sexual intentions.
- You are with her alone so you can focus on each other and laugh together.
- You go for a walk or jog . . . or anything that results in togetherness.
- You seek her out . . . set up a date night . . . eat by candlelight.
- You go out of your way to do something for her, like run an errand.
- You make it a priority to spend time with her.
- You are aware of her as a person with a mind and opinions . . . let her know you enjoy discussing things with her and getting her insights.
- You suggest the unexpected . . . get takeout and each on the beach . . . take a walk to see the full moon . . . park on the bluff and watch the sunset.
- You pillow talk after making love . . . lie close with your arm around her and share feelings and intimate ideas . . . and never turn on SportsCenter or Nightline.
Openness – She wants you to open up to her. Your wife feels you are open to her when . . .
- You share your feelings, telling about your day and difficulties.
- You say, “Let’s talk,” ask her what she’s feeling, and ask for her opinions.
- Your face shows you want to talk – relaxed body language, good eye contact.
- You take her for a walk to talk and reminisce about how you met or perhaps you talk about the kids and problems she may be having with them.
- You pray with her.
- You give her your full attention . . . no grunting responses while trying to watch tv, read the newspaper, or write e-mails.
- You discuss financial concerns, possible job changes, or ideas for your future.
Understanding – Don’t try to “fix” her; just listen. She’ll feel you’re trying to understand her when . . .
- You listen and can repeat back what she said.
- You don’t try to “fix her problems” unless she specifically asks for a solution.
- You try to identify her feelings.
- You never dismiss her feelings, no matter how illogical they may seem to you.
- You say, “I appreciate you sharing that with me.”
- You don’t interrupt her when she’s trying to tell you how she feels.
- You apologize and admit when you were wrong.
- You cut her some slack during her monthly cycle.
- You see something that needs to be done and you do it without a lot of hassle.
- You express appreciation for all she does: “Honey, I could never do your job.”
- You pray with her and for her.
Peacemaking – She wants you to say, “I’m sorry.” She’ll feel at peace with you when . . .
- You let her vent her frustrations and hurts and don’t get angry and close her off.
- You admit you are wrong and apologize by saying, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
- You understand her natural desires to negotiate, compromise, and defer, and you meet her halfway.
- You try to keep your relationship “up-to-date,” resolving the unresolved and never saying, “Forget it.”
- You forgive her for any wrongs she confesses.
- You never nurse bitterness and always reassure her of your love.
- You pray with her after a hurtful time.
Loyalty – She needs to know you’re committed. She is assured of your loyalty when . . .
- You speak highly of her in front of others.
- You are involved in things important to her.
- You help her make decisions, such as ones regarding the children.
- You don’t correct her in front of the children.
- You don’t look lustfully at other women.
- You make her and your marriage a priority.
- You are never critical of her or your children in front of others.
- You include her in social gatherings when others may leave their spouses home.
- You tell the kids, “Don’t speak to your mother that way!”
- You call and let her know your plans.
- You keep commitments.
- You speak positively of her and the children at all times.
Esteem – She wants you to honor and cherish her. Your wife will feel esteemed when . . .
- You say, “I’m so proud the way you handled that.”
- You speak highly of her in front of others.
- You open the door for her.
- You try something new with her.
- You give her encouragement or praise with kindness and enthusiasm.
- You notice something different about her hair or clothes.
- You are physically affectionate with her in public.
- You teach the children to show her and others respect.
- You value her opinion in the gray areas as not wrong but just different – and valid.
- You choose family outings over “guy things.”
- You make her feel first in importance.
- You are proud of her and all she does.
Tomorrow I’ll share practical ways that wives can show respect to their husbands.
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.