35 Years and The Best is Yet to Come

Whether your marriage is doing great or struggling greatly, your best years are still ahead of you.

The best is yet to comeRegardless of the current state of your marriage, there is always more. More passion. More intimacy. More pleasure. More freedom. More trust. More of everything you are longing for in your relationship.

How do I know this? Because I know that marriage is supposed to model our relationship with Jesus, and that’s how it is with him. There is always more. In fact, I’ve found in my spiritual walk, the more I know, the closer I get to Him, the more I realize how much more there is to know and experience in God. There is no limit. It’s the same for your marriage.

35 Years and counting

Jenni and I celebrated 35 years of marriage this week, and we both still marvel at how it just keeps getting better. Of course, it doesn’t happen by default. We are intentional about our marriage and about loving each other well. The biggest part of keeping your marriage on The Path of Intimacy is being watchful – keeping yourself and your marriage off of autopilot.

Five years ago I was writing for YourTango in the now defunct Traditional Love section. I wrote a piece called “Why After 30 Years of Marriage The Best Is Yet to Come.” In it I said:

Are less sex, more fights, poorer communication and drifting apart really the inevitable? With a nod to the movie Date Night, is it really just a matter of time before couples settle for becoming just “excellent roommates?”

I say no!

Whether you have been together six months or six decades, it is possible to see your future as one filled with excitement, passion and great potential.

In the article, I go on to share five keys to keeping the best times in front of you. You can read them here.

It’s been five years since I wrote that article. It’s still true today, at the 35-year mark. And it will be true on our 40th and 50th anniversary because we plan on keeping it that way.

What’s Better?

You may be asking, “What could possibly be better after 35 years of marriage?” Well, let me tell you:

  • Sex – yes I’ll put this one right out there. Although we are in our 50’s and there are a few physical challenges, our sexual relationship exceeds anything we had in those early years of our marriage. Don’t buy the lie of inevitable sexual decline. We have learned how to please each other, and we have learned what it means to be unselfish lovers. We see our sexual relationship for the privilege it is and relish in surrendering our bodies wholly to one another.
  • Intimacy – I define intimacy as being fully known and yet completely loved. After 35 years we know each other inside and out, and still, we are purposeful about pursuing intimacy on a continual basis. And we have learned that grace is an invitation to intimacy with each other, whereas judgment creates separation.
  • Selflessness – we know better now than ever that, because we are one, when either of us serves and blesses the other, we both win. We’ve pretty much banished score keeping from our marriage and have learned to delight in delighting each other as best we know how.
  • Taking a long view – we have been through many seasons over our 35 years. We have weathered some tough times, and we’ve had plenty of joy and bliss along the way. I feel like we understand better now than ever that life will throw some garbage at you, but it will pass. And we know that any trial is best endured together. The closer we remain, the better we can weather the storms of life.

Above all else, it is the revelation of The Bridal Paradigm that keeps us moving forward in our marriage. The understanding of our marriage is continually being shaped by our understanding that our love is a direct reflection of our love relationship with Jesus. As we continually grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord, we continue to grow in the knowledge of and love for each other. It is a truly endless journey.

PS  That’s me and Jenni in the photo above. Check out my about page if you ‘d like to read more about Our Love Story.

5 Secrets to Sexual Surrender

Mutual sexual surrender is the best path to sexual intimacy.

Mutual Sexual Surrender

What does mutual sexual surrender in marriage look like? It looks like this:

The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife.
1 Cor 7:3-4 NLT

Remember, when I talk about surrender, I’m not referring to any of the negative connotations of that word (loss, giving up, defeat). Rather, I’m talking about the complete giving over of your self to your spouse – about being all in 100%, holding nothing back. I’m not talking about losing your self, but rather bringing the fullness of your self to your spouse and marriage for purpose of building intimacy and strengthening your marriage.

This is what I mean by sexual surrender: laying aside self-centeredness, self-protection, and self-reliance and learning to give generously and unconditionally in a way that blesses and delights your spouse.

Secrets of Surrender

Surrendering your self and your body to your spouse isn’t necessarily natural or easy, but there are some steps you can take that will help you in the journey toward mutual sexual surrender.

1. Believe – that God created sexual intimacy for a couple’s mutual delight and as the ultimate form of human intimacy, designed to be only available between a husband and wife. Believe that God calls you to give your body over fully to your spouse for their sexual fulfillment (see 1 Cor 7:3-4 above).

2. Accept – that you likely express your sexuality very differently from your spouse. Cherish each other’s sexuality as God-given, and never denigrate each other for it. Accept your own sexual desire as healthy and your wishes as normal (as long as they are in the bounds of scripture, of course).

3. Delight in delighting each other. Take joy and pride in the deeply satisfying smile your spouse wears the day after a night of bliss together. Shift your perspective of sex from “have to” to “want to” to “get to” and see it for the wonderful privilege it is. (See my post Sex: Right, Duty or Privilege)

4. Respect – each other’s boundaries. Exploration is a normal part of any healthy sexual relationship but must always be done in a way that honors each other. Never push your spouse into anything that violates their personal integrity. Making love means that love should be at the center of every action.

5. Mutuality – is a must. One sided surrender is not sustainable. Each of you should be focused on what you give more than what you get. See #3 above. Realize that because you are one flesh, when you give pleasure to your spouse, you benefit as well. Being one flesh means that score-keeping has no place, especially when it comes to sex.

As I said in this post, I see sex in marriage as being more about your surrender than your satisfaction. But the truth is that mutual sexual surrender is the best path to a deeply pleasurable and satisfying sex life.

What do you think of the “mutual sexual surrender” idea? Have you experienced it in your marriage? Are you willing to give it a try? Share your thoughts in a comment.


For more thoughts on sexual surrender, see my separate posts for husbands and wives:

What Does Love Look Like?

 

Discover the love found within the Bridal Paradigm

 

Love Like ThatThe Bridal Paradigm, where Jesus and the church are our model for marriage, offers us a beautiful picture of God’s heart for marriage, and it holds the promise of power to transform your relationship with your spouse.

That’s a pretty big promise. But it’s a promise I believe God is eager to deliver on, if we will endeavor to take hold of it.

Love Lives In You

Paul begins his instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5 with this preface.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

The amazing truth is, as I said in my recent post, Unstoppable Love , love “like that” is not some ideal – out there and yet to be attained. It’s a living love that actually indwells you, because Jesus indwells you.You just need to discover it for yourself and then let it out on your spouse.

A lot of people get all knotted up over what the Bible says about roles of husbands and wives in marriage. I believe that most of it would dissolve away if we would simply focus on the love that is the foundation of the Bridal Paradigm

His Role Looks Like Christ

What wife would not want to be loved by her husband like this?

  • He loves his wife unselfishly, not using his position to control her or to push her into conformance, but to bless her.
  • He may never be required to literally lay down my life for her, but he must be willing to sacrifice himself (physically, emotionally, financially, etc) for what is in her best.
  • He will pursue her relentlessly and fiercely with his love, understanding what pursuit means to her.
  • He cherishes her by surrounding her with care and concern for her well-being – clearly demonstrating that he is for her.
  • He is consistent in speaking the truth of the Word over her in a way that encourages and edifies her and reminds her who God says she is.
  • He provides for her faithfully – which means applying himself diligently, but not to the extent that he neglects her need for time and attention.
  • He will do all in his power to establish and maintain a deep connection with her and protect the intimacy of the relationship. Staying connected is more important than being right or asserting his rights.
  • He beautifies his bride, as Jesus does, seeing her the way God sees her, perfect and beautiful, through the eyes of grace.
  • Above all, he partners with Christ, encouraging her to walk in the fullness of her true identity, toward the goal of fulfilling the destiny God has for her life.

Her Role Looks Like the Church

Before giving you some practical implications for a wife looking like the church, let me preface it by saying that we are all being transformed into the image of Jesus. So in a very real sense, wives are to also emulate Christ.

In light of the Christ-like love bestowed upon her, a wife returns his love in this way:

  • She believes in and trusts him.
  • She offers her full surrender, to hold nothing back from him, bringing the fullness of her genuine self to the marriage.
  • She best honors and enables his leadership by willingly remaining under his covering and protection.
  • She honors and respects him by listening to him and knowing his heart, giving importance to things that are important to him.
  • She knows that his desire is for her and believes that his intentions toward her are always be good.
  • She can come to him with anything and trusts that he will respond with love and grace.
  • She puts him first, above all other relationships.
  • She comes to him, fully unashamed, taking him as her only intimate lover.

Clarifications and Limitations

Of course, in comparing Christ and the church to the marriage relationship, Paul was not implying that husbands are in any way superior nor wives in any way inferior. Husbands are certainly not diety and have imperfections we will never find in Christ.

However, the truth is that the closer a husband comes to emulating Christ, the easier it will be for his wife to emulate the church.

 

What’s Your Why?

If you don’t have the marriage you want, maybe you’ve been asking the wrong question.

 

You want to have a great marriage. Who doesn’t? But perhaps you feel like you’ve struggled for years to get there, yet with only limited success. If so, then this post is for you.

If you don’t have the marriage you want, you might need to start by asking a different question. Let me explain using a lesson from the business world.

Start with Why

Leadership and management guru Simon Sinek wrote a book a while back called, “Start With Why.” His “Golden Circle” theory is summarized in the following graphic.

What's Your Why

Bear with me as I summarize, or you can see Sinek explain it in this TedxTalk.

Inside Out

The basic premise, according to Sinek, is that conventional companies work the gloden circle from the outside in. They focus first on the What – their product or service. Then they spend a lot of time talking about How – the process of delivering that product or service. They rarely talk about Why.

Great companies, Sinek explains, do it backward. They focus really hard on the Why. Who are we? What are our core values? Why is our Mission important? What do we believe?

From there they move on to the How, which is best examined in light of the Why – the core mission. How do we walk out our core values in light of who we are? The What (product or service) then flows most effectively out of a well-defined Why and How.

Marriage From Inside Out

Conventional marriage thinking goes a lot like conventional business thinking: outside in.

In that case, most couples would say their What is to have a good, strong marriage that lasts a lifetime (or something similar).

The How of marriage is made up of the things we do that we hope will help accomplish our What – that will help ensure a good marriage. Date nights. Good communication. Regular sex. Shared financial goals. Etc.

Now there’s nothing wrong with date nights and good communication. And having a great marriage is a good What. The problem is, as is the case in business, it’s the wrong question to start with.

It’s best to start with the question, “Why?”

The Why of Your Marriage

Sinek equates your Why with your purpose or mission. Consider this question: “Our marriage exists for the purpose of __________.

Here are a few possible Why examples:

  • To enjoy maximum intimacy (my personal belief is that intimacy, in every form, is the ultimate goal of marriage)
  • To fulfilled our destinies – to ensure that each of us reaches the destiny God has for us
  • To walk in oneness – to fully explore and apprehend the benefits of two living as one
  • To be an accurate portrayal of Christ and the church – for our marriage to reflect as closely as possible the bridal paradigm

What is the ultimate purpose or mission of your marriage? Have you thought about it? Have you talked about it? It’s a great topic for your next date night.

There are also some Why’s I would definitely NOT recommend:

  • To make me happy
  • To complete me
  • To have my emotional needs met
  • To have as much sex as possible
  • To benefit financially

Although these might be an outgrowth of your legitimate Why, they aren’t a good place to start.

Rethinking Your Hows

Consider your Hows in light of your Why (once you have established what it is). Do the things you are doing, thinking and saying line up with your mission? What do you need to eliminate or what should you add to your marriage in order to realize your Why?

For example, if intimacy is your ultimate goal, consider whether you are experiencing intimacy in every area of your life. If spiritual intimacy is lacking, make a plan to nurture it. If sexual intimacy hasn’t been a priority, make a plan to change that. If you’ve been living separate financial lives, consider how to join together in your handling of money.

Reimagine Your What

If your What is to have a great marriage, talk with your spouse specifically about what it would look like if you were to fully live according to your Why.

Using the intimacy Why, what would a marriage with maximum intimacy look like? What characteristics would your marriage have? How would it impact your children or your community? What would be the visible signs that intimacy is at the forefront of your marriage?

Marriage is not a business. It’s a unique God-crafted covenant-bearing institution. But I think Sinek’s Why-How-What actually applies directly. Get the Why of your marriage right, fill your marriage with the right Hows, and you have a much better chance of a successful What – a great and lasting marriage.

What do you think of applying the Golden Circle to marriage? Does it work for you? Would you like to share your Why with us? Let us hear from you in a comment.

Married 30 Years Today

Today, my one true love and I celebrate 30 years of marriage!

 

That’s a bit of a mind-boggling number because in some ways the marriage journey that Jenni and I have traveled together has flown by. In other ways, I feel like we’ve earned every one of those 30 years.

What’s Our Secret?

It’s hard to point to a single thing that I would say is THE key to keeping your marriage strong and healthy, because a great marriage takes time and attention to a lot of little things every day. But if I had to pick one thing, it would be Jesus. He is the foundation of our marriage and our example of relentless love and grace. It is the love he displays for his bride (that’s you and me, by the way) that has taught me most about how to love my bride. It’s what I refer to as the bridal paradigm.

If you want to know more of our “secrets” to a long, happy marriage, I have a new article up on Your Tango called “Why After 30 Years Of Marriage, The Best Is Yet To Come.” It talks about the importance of always believing that the best years of your marriage are still ahead of you.

If you want to know a bit more about our history, which started way back when Jenni and I met in sixth grade, you can read it in the post called “Our Love Story.”

Let me close by saying a public thank you to the love of my life.

Sweetheart,

I am so thankful for you and for our marriage. I can honestly say that I could not be the man I am today without your love, encouragement, support and patience. You bless me more than I can possibly describe. You still capture my heart with one glance of your eye.

Here’s to another 30! The best is yet to come!