Cherish Your Marriage Every Day

What have you done today to put your marriage ahead of other priorities?

Cherish Your Marriage

Little things matter. They matter a lot. And doing little things for your marriage every day will make a huge difference in your relationship in the long run. Grand gestures are fun and exciting and I love doing them for my wife. But my marriage can’t survive on occasional grand gestures. I need to show her every day that I love her, that she matters to me, and that our marriage matters to me.

Living Distracted

It’s easy to get distracted and not pay much attention to your marriage. Life takes over, and soon the craziness steals our focus away from our most important earthly relationship: the one with our spouse.

You see, you only have one covenant relationship on this earth, and that is the one with your spouse. To me, that makes everything else optional.

Yes, of course, I realize you need to keep your job and take care of the kids, but the truth is that you don’t have a covenant with those things. Except for your relationship with Jesus, nothing else in your life should matter as much as your marriage.

Cherishing Us

My friends and fellow CMBA board members Tom and Debi Walter, who blog at The Romantic Vineyard, have just released a great new resource to help couples stay focused on their marriage relationship. It’s call Cherishing Us, 365 Tips for a Healthy Marriage.

What does it mean to cherish your marriage? Webster’s defines it this way:

  • to hold dear: feel or show affection for
  • to keep or cultivate with care and affection: nurture
  • to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely

What I love about this book is that it’s bite-sized and practical. For each day there is a short phrase, no more than a sentence or two, that encourages you to consider something about your marriage. For digging a little deeper, there are monthly Contemplation Questions, Date Night suggestions, and additional thoughts on the importance of cherishing one another, many of which come from their insightful Romantic Vineyard posts.

Cherishing UsI hope you’ll get yourself a copy of Cherishing Us.  Available in Paperback or Kindle

 

Don’t Be Fooled – It’s All Connected

Lack in any area of intimacy will eventually affect the other areas. But then so does plenty!

It's all Connected

There is a human tendency to compartmentalize our lives. We all do it to more or less of a degree. But is that always the best way to live?

For example, we often divide parts of our lives between the secular and the spiritual. Church=spiritual. Job=secular. Prayer=spiritual. Sports=secular. But it isn’t so. It’s all spiritual. All of it belongs to God, and God can be found in it all.

Intimacy Interconnected

When it comes to your marriage, and especially when it comes to intimacy in marriage, every dimension is connected to every other dimension. The emotional is not separate from sexual or spiritual. Each impacts the other–in a variety of ways. That’s both good and bad, as we’ll see.

Sometimes we tell ourselves we can do without one or more of these areas of intimacy. But it’s not true. Whenever you leave any dimension out of the intimacy equation of your relationship, it will cause a deficit in the other dimensions.

Take the area of sexual intimacy as an example. A sex-starved marriage will often result in a relationship in which a husband and wife also have a limited emotional connection.

For another example, you don’t feel it’s important to have a spiritual connection to each other. This will steal the emotional intimacy that comes from shared spiritual experiences. It will damage financial intimacy in that it removes important spiritual principles from financial decisions and prevents prayerfully consideration of your money. A lack of spiritual connection even reduces sexual intimacy, because sex, at its core, is a deeply spiritual experience–or at least it should be.

It would be possible for me to draw similar examples from any deficient or missing component of the intimacy in your marriage. They are all interconnected.

The Good News

While it is true that a lack of intimacy in any one area will negatively impact other areas, it’s also true that when you improve any one area of intimacy in your marriage, it will spill over positively into other areas.

For example, for most men, it is true that a thriving and fulfilling sexual relationship opens the door to a deeper emotional connection with their wife. In a post on his X-Y Blog, Paul Byerly, aka The Generous Husband, says it this way:

For men sex communicates love and acceptance, while a lack of sex communicates the opposite. I realise this is not usually what women are communicating with sex and saying no, but it is what men feel. Even when you convince a man this is not what she means, he will still feel it. When a man feels a good sexual connection with his wife he starts to want other forms of intimacy. Not tolerate, want. The need was always there, but it is hard to hear over the much louder need for sexual intimacy.

In the same way, a woman who is emotionally satisfied by her husband’s affection and attention will be more open to responding positively to her husband’s sexual advances. Emotional intimacy opens a wide doorway to sexual intimacy.

Get on the Right Path

You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging about intimacy all this month. Partly that’s because I believe intimacy is the most important goal for every marriage. But the major reason is that next week my new Kindle book, The Path of Intimacy, will be released, and I’m super-excited about it!

In the book, I explain how every marriage is on one of two paths: the Path of Intimacy or the Path of Separation. There is no middle ground between the two where you can statically maintain your distance. Intimacy doesn’t work that way. It’s either growing or it’s dying. You get to choose.

Whenever you choose the Path of Intimacy by working on any area of your relationship (physical, emotional, sexual, financial, etc.) you have set your marriage squarely on the Path of Intimacy, and you will begin to see fruit in other areas, even without working specifically on those areas.

Look for my book release announcement next week, but in the meantime, do something this week to intentionally build the intimacy in your marriage.

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For the Joy of Intimacy

What if selflessness has the power to make your marriage stronger than ever before?

The joy of intimacy
Romans 12:2 says of Jesus:

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

What was the joy that enabled Jesus to leave heaven, to step into our human existence and to sacrifice his very life for us before returning to the right hand of the Father? It was the joy of dwelling in intimacy with you and me – now and forever. Jesus wanted us so much, that he laid down his life to have us.

Where’s The Joy?

It’s human nature to look at selflessness and sacrifice in marriage in light of what it will cost us or what we must give in time and effort. But we often forget about what we will reap on the other side. In most cases (because there are no guarantees or magic formulas) the end result of sacrificial love is the joy and ecstasy of deeper intimacy in your marriage.

Do you have a hard time finding delight in giving your spouse your all, emotionally, spiritually or sexually? We all have a tendency to withhold a measure of our love until we feel our spouse is doing their “fair share.” We want to self-protect. We want to put our desires first.

But that wasn’t how Jesus approached us. He gave himself fully, even unto death, with no assurance that we would return his affection. To Jesus, the chance at intimacy with us was worth the risk.

The joyful anticipation of intimacy can move us from seeing sacrifice as a chore or obligation and into the realm of joyfully and generously giving our love and our selves.

I Bet You Know What It Is

If I asked you to identify something you know your spouse wants but that you only dole out in small measures, if at all, I bet you could name at least one thing right away – maybe several of them.

I understand there are reasons for withholding. I’ve held those reasons myself at times. Maybe it’s because it costs you more than you are willing to give. Maybe it’s something that doesn’t come naturally for you. Maybe it’s because you don’t feel you are getting from your spouse in equal measure.

I get all that.

But What If…

Consider the possibilities.

What if your acts of selflessness, however small and incremental, were rewarded with a greater sense of connection and intimacy with your husband or wife? What if they responded, in time, by moving closer to you in some small measure, in an area of your own need for connection?

What if a pattern of selfless giving took hold in your marriage and propelled you toward greater passion, depth of intimacy and a stronger bond of trust and transparency? What if your willingness to lay down your preferences actually resulted in your spouse wanting to serve you in return?

What if selflessness has the power to make your marriage stronger than ever before?

Our Story

Jenni encouraged me to share how the truth of this has unfolded in our own marriage.

As I began to understand the Bridal Paradigm and understand what it means to love Jenni in the same sacrificial way Jesus loves me, I began to be less selfish and more loving in ways that were important to Jenni. In turn, over time, she responded by opening herself up more to me, becoming less self-protective and loving me more generously in ways that mattered to me.

Let me make an important point. It wasn’t that I gave to her in order to get something in return or to get her to do something for me. That would not have been love but manipulation. Of course I hoped that she would respond in kind, but my motivation was not to get something, rather to deepen our level of intimacy. And it did.

For The Joy Set Before You

What enables us to give and love sacrificially is to look beyond the sacrifice into the intimacy offered on the other side. That’s what compelled Jesus to do what he did for us, even without the assurance that we would respond to his grand overture of love.

Set your heart on the joy of a marriage full of deep and abiding intimacy in every dimension, and see if that moves you to live more a more selfless marriage. I bet it will.

 

A Great New Resource for Christian Wives

Four lady blogger friends are teaming up to create a powerful new sexual intimacy resource for wives.

Sex Chat for Christian Wives

When four marriage blogging powerhouses team up to talk about sex in marriage, it’s time to pay attention!

Bonny Burns (Bonny’s Oyster Bed7), Gaye Christmus (Calm, Healthy, Sexy), J. Parker (Hot, Holy & Humorous), and Chris Taylor (The Forgiven Wife) agreed to let me interview them about their brand new podcast project Sex Chat for Christian Wives.

So here is what they have to say about it:

You all have successful platforms of your own, so what is your motivation for doing this particular project?

Our initial responses to this question were “Because we’re crazy,’ “Because we don’t have enough to do,” and “Because 4 ¼ brains make up one complete brain!” Seriously, though, we’re doing this to reach more women with a positive message about sex and intimacy in marriage. Our current platforms (blogs and books) reach women who read. But many women don’t have much time for reading, or they prefer to take in information by listening. So in addition to our readers, who we hope will become listeners, we want to reach women who may not have time to sit down and read a blog post or book chapter, but do have time to listen to a podcast while driving or working out or just going about their day.

We also like the idea of working on a joint venture with friends, and of creating a model of women sitting around the table (in our case it’s a virtual table) talking about things that are important to their lives and marriages. We also want to show that it’s possible to have positive and productive discussions about topics that can be difficult or controversial, even if you have differences of opinion about them. Because, believe it or not, four Christian marriage bloggers can have quite different viewpoints on some topics related to sex and intimacy! So we want to model how people can discuss these kinds of somewhat difficult topics, and hope we will encourage women who may need to address difficult topics in their marriages. And, last but not least, we want to show that it’s okay to laugh and have fun when talking about sex and intimacy!

What kind of wife would most benefit from what you will be doing in the Sex Chat podcasts?

Christian wives will probably make up the core of our audience, and in some ways we’ll be speaking primarily to them. But we welcome other wives too. We hope that women of other religious backgrounds (or no religious background) who are interested in building great sexual intimacy in their marriages will listen to the podcast. And we hope that women who think that “sex positive Christian marriage” is an oxymoron will listen too! Because the church hasn’t done a very good job of presenting sex in marriage as a great thing, especially for wives, and we hope to play a small part in changing that.

How can wives expect to benefit from your podcasts? What impact would it have on their marriage?

We’re hoping to change the game by playing offense. Christians and the church have tended to play defense when it comes to sex – by focusing heavily on “don’t do this and don’t do that” – but we’re going to play offense. We’re going to encourage women to embrace their sexuality, learn to enjoy sex and build deep emotional intimacy in their marriages. And we’re going to make it clear that God’s design for marriage is that both the wife and husband enjoy a fabulous sex life!

We’re also going to share a lot of practical tips. All four of us have a practical focus in our blogs and books. We tend to say “Here are things that you, as a busy woman, can actually do to make a difference in your life and marriage.” And we’re bringing that focus to the podcast, by sharing a variety of practical tips and ideas. From those tips and ideas, we hope that every woman who listens will find some that work for her.

We also think that women will benefit from the collaborative nature of this venture. They’ll hear regularly from four women who have different ideas and perspectives, plus the guests who will join us from time to time.

How can women connect with you?

As you can see there are many different ways to get the podcast. Pick your favorite way and follow/friend/like them right now. They launch tomorrow!

I don’t have the scoop on what their first podcast will cover, but J. mentioned in a recent blog post that so far they have recorded episodes about: Getting in the Mood, Sexual Positions, 50 Shades of Here-We-Go-Again, Stress, Sex Scheduling, Female Arousal/Response, Exercise and Sex, and Mismatched Drives. Quite a starting list!

I’m not a wife, but I assure you I’ll be listening in to what these ladies have to say about sexual intimacy. It promises to be a frank and open discussion ranging over many different helpful and important topics. 

 

4 Words That Dramatically Shift Any Conflict

Use these four little words to put you and your spouse on the same team.
I am for you

I posted last week about five ways to communicate effectively during marital conflicts. This week I’m offering you a simple strategy you can use to totally change the dynamic when you and your spouse are at odds with each other.

A couple from one of our marriage small groups offered their strategy when things get heated. One of them will stop and say:

I am for you.

Using these four simple words in the midst of a disagreement will remind your spouse that you are on the same team.  This little statement shifts the conversation in a way that invites collaborate on a solution.

When you work with each other rather than against each other it avoids accusation and makes it easier to maintain your connection.

Re-frame the Situation

In a similar way, you can convey the notion that “I am for you” when approaching a problem with your spouse simply by the way you describe the issue. Rather than taking a “me against you” posture, try taking an “us against the problem” stance.

For example, let’s say the issue is that your husband is constantly late for dinner. You could use terms that accuse him, such as, “You don’t seem to care that I work hard to prepare a nice meal for us after I put in a full day at work. You just show up whenever you want.” If repeated offenses cause you to be really angry, you might even just eat without him and leave him to fend for himself when he shows up.  A more helpful  stance would be say something like, “I know you work hard and I want to support you in your efforts to take care of our family. Since I know it’s often hard for you to know when you’ll be able to leave work, can we come up with some way that makes it easier for me to plan dinner  to line up with your schedule? It’s important to me that we find a solution that works for both of us.”

Let’s say your wife constantly makes social commitments for the two of you without consulting you or checking your schedule. You could angrily snap at her in an accusatory manner, “I’m tired of you signing me up for all these events that I don’t care about. It’s like my time counts for nothing to you.” You could also flatly refuse to go with her as a way of retribution. Alternatively, you could say something like, “I know it’s really important for you to get together with friends and family. You are super relational, and I know that people feed your soul. I want to support you in that, but is there a way we could make sure we align our schedules before making commitments? Maybe you could text or call me before saying yes? I’m open to other suggestions too.”

In both of these examples, statements of support and understanding (conveying that “I am for you”) precede the request to find a collaborative solution.

Who is the Real Enemy?

It’s hugely important to remember that your spouse is not the enemy in any conflict. Rather, think of the situation as one where you and your spouse are on the same team, facing whatever the issue might be.

When you can keep in mind that your spouse is not the enemy, it allows you to approach him or her in a collaborative manner. It also reduces the likelihood that accusation and defensiveness enter the conversation. Finally, it allows you to maintain your connection, even in the midst of conflict.

Think back to your latest disagreement with your spouse.  Would him or her saying “I am for you” have positively impacted the course of the conversation?