LifeWay Marriage Blog

Can a Marriage Survive the Holidays?
November 19, 2007, 5:18 pm
Filed under: Communication

Got to try something recently that I’ve wanted to do all of my life – and would have “weenied out” had it not been for Selma, my encouraging (insistent) wife. I took a 2-hour surfing lesson. On an overdue anniversary trip to Hawaii (our first, but aren’t all trips to Hawaii overdue?), I found myself in Hanalei Bay with a 12-foot surfboard. My instructor is the current long board surfing world champion. Just him and me. He was much more confident than I was that I could catch a wave.

  This is what I saw myself doing.

This is closer to what I was actually doing most of the time!

The instructor was great and the whole experience was amazing. It was actually a little easier than I had imagined. In fact, I actually rode a 10 foot wave for about 45-50 seconds! Thought I was ready for the pipeline!

Chris, my teacher, mentioned that the 10-12 foot waves we were dealing with in Hanalei Bay had actually begun with storms in the Aleutian Islands – around four to seven days earlier! “You know they’re coming,” he said. “You just gotta be ready for them.”

The holidays are on the way. “You know they’re coming. You just gotta be ready for them.” So how does a marriage get ready for the excitement, but the pressure, the stress and the energy demands of the holiday season?

In advance, perhaps just after Thanksgiving, get with your mate to anticipate together what “waves” are coming your way in the next few weeks.

Consider these items for your “Planning Meeting Agenda”:

* Get the calendar. Recording dates on your family (and professional) calendars will help you “define” what this season looks like for you and your family. Does it look impossible? Getting parties, out-of-town family visits, etc. on the calendar might show that you need to make some adjustments here and there.

* Don’t exchange gifts at this point, but do exchange expectations. Put everything on the table. Are you anticipating some alone time during this season? How much ball do you plan to watch? Are shopping responsibilities clear? How long do you think we need to stay at mom’s this year?

* Share the one thing you need from your mate this holiday season. It could be support at certain events. Or let’s do some of the shopping together. Or it could be a hug and an ‘I love you’ each day. A wife might share how she wants to grow spiritually. A husband might say he needs them not to forget about sex during the holidays. (A little help with the shopping might make that one more possible!)

* Plan a date each holiday week. Sound tough? I’ll make it harder for you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it doesn’t need to include Christmas shopping. A dinner or maybe just lunch. A slow walk around the block, all bundled up, could suffice one week. In the midst of the craziness, you need to feed your marriage. The connection and encouragement from your time together will give you confidence in your relationship and improve your holiday attitude.

Remember, the object is not merely to “survive” the Christmas season anymore than the object of marriage is to merely keep from divorcing. Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time. It is the celebration of the birth of our Lord! A few minutes of advance planning by couples can avoid some stress while making your family’s holiday activities more manageable – and more meaningful.

And yes, marriage can more than survive the holidays. A marriage can become richer in this season with just a little planning and dating. You know they’re coming. Let’s get ready!


Finding God and Marriage in Destin
September 6, 2007, 5:50 pm
Filed under: Marriage and God

August has come and gone. I hope the “Dog Days” treated you well.

This summer we went on a vacation with family. I had never been to Destin, FL, so it was a personal treat. It was also a time of talking to God in a special way. There is something about getting yourself in a location where you cannot grasp it all as you encounter God.

The ocean does that for me. You simply cannot completely understand or “solve” or get your hands around the ocean.

… or the mountains

… or the Grand Canyon

… or a problem you’ve got in your marriage.

It’s right where He wants us to be. In a place where we simply have to believe in – and trust in – Him.

Trust Him. He wants to work on your marriage issues. But He won’t force Himself. It’s your choice. Choose life. The abundant life He wants you to have – individually and in your marriage.

“Honey, Let’s Talk About Our Sex Life”
August 31, 2007, 2:57 am
Filed under: Communication, SEX!

Imagine a man and woman getting married, say, in the 1920’s. Let’s say they were both virgins when they married. On their wedding night they had sex. Afterwards the new husband thinks to himself, “That wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. But she didn’t say anything. I guess it’s good for her.”

At the same time, she is thinking, “That was nothing that I thought it would be. It would probably be better – and I think I’d like it better if we did this or that. But I guess that’s the way he likes it so I guess it’s okay.”

There’s a lot of “guess work” going on, isn’t there?

Now, fast forward with me to this century. It is all too often that the same scenario exists. Couples just don’t talk about how their sex life is going. There is still too much guess work involved. And the guess work needs to be removed. Guess work means assumptions. Assuming is always – ALWAYS – dangerous in a marriage, especially when it comes to sex.

In a book my wife (Selma) and I wrote called Extraordinary Marriage we say that there are two levels of sexual intimacy: 1) the physical act; and 2)talking about how the physical act is going.

The latter is the deeper level. It’s the riskier. The more personal. Where you are even more vulnerable than having sex. It’s delicate territory alright, so tread softly, but do tread. You need to go there as a couple to make sure – AND NOT ASSUME – that each of you are enjoying this part of your life together. Here’s how you go there:

  • Talk about what you like about your sex together. What’s going right about it? Affirm your marriage team for the positive in this area. Both of you get comfortable with the topic before going farther. Then,  
  • Look at what you think you two need to work on. Is it the foreplay? Is something painful? Are you not ready for something yet? Need to go slower in an area? What needs your attention?

Here is another view of how to bring up the topic of sex to your mate. Complete these sentences:

We do this well …

We need to work on this …

I need this from you …

Ask God to give you the courage and the articulation to talk with your mate about this critical part of your relationship.

Back to our early 1920 honeymooners for a moment. Our ficticious couple died in 1995. It was sad because thay never talked about their sex life. Throughout their 75 year marriage, each was only partly satisfied sexually because they assumed through the decades that the love they made with each other was what their mate enjoyed.

Thank God that was only fiction …. wasn’t it?

Make sure it’s fiction in your own marriage. Talk about your sex life together. The Creator of sex – God Himself – wants you to enjoy it to the max. It’s a gift from Him. Take care of the gift.

What’s the Word on Marriage? Enjoy!
August 27, 2007, 1:14 am
Filed under: Celebrating Marriage

In preparation for a speaking engagement recently  I came across a cool verse about marriage. The writer of Ecclesiastes was an interesting dude. He went ‘all over the place’ in his philosophy and back again. At one point he was saying all of life was nothing but folly. In chapter 3 he provided some great lyrics that many of us first heard on the radio in the 60’s by the Byrds:

To everything turn, turn, turn

There is a season, turn, turn, turn

And a time to every purpose under heaven…

But in chapter 9 he gets personal with this marriage stuff. The philosophy becomes frighteningly simply yet undeniably wise:

“Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life…” (HSCB)

No wonder they said he had such wisdom! How can you beat that for marriage enrichment?

Enjoy. Simple as that.

If you are having fun with your mate, don’t feel guilty about it. Enjoy.

If you have lost that loving feeling and don’t have anything in common, work through it:

  • Brainstorm together.
  • Pray for creativity.
  • Like the shepherd looking for that 100th sheep, desperately seek to find that new common activity you and your mate can do together.

Working to get to a point of enjoying each other again is not only okay, it’s biblical. And being biblical means it pleases God. That means it pleases God when

  1. you make love with your mate
  2. find a hobby to do together (in addition to number one!)
  3. laugh together
  4. dream together
  5. surprise each other with a gift
  6. build confidence in each other
  7. pray for each other

Be biblical in your marriage by simply enjoying each other. If you are not there right now, work to get there again. I’m not real comfortable with the phrase “falling out of love”; however, I am fully convinced that if you can fall in love – then fall out of love – then you can fall in love again.

Don’t apologize for enjoying your marriage or for seeking to make it enjoyable. It is a gift and you are taking pleasure in the gift. Plus it pleases God. A nice deal all the way around.

Marriage: What Do YOU Think?
August 17, 2007, 8:13 pm
Filed under: Celebrating Marriage

Take a look at this marriage clip. If someone were to ask you what you thought of marriage, what would you say?

 Think for a moment. You are walking through Times Square in NYC and someone puts a mic in front of you and asks you if marriage is dead? Perhaps you’d say “No, of course not”. But, what if they asked you to elaborate?

My counsel to you: follow the advice of Peter in the New Testament when he said, “Always be ready to give  an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for hope that you have.” (That’s part of I Peter 3:15.) Peter is talking about sharing Christ as our hope, of course, but my point is to be ready to have something good to say about marriage. Specifically YOUR marriage!

 No, you are not saying your marriage is perfect when you are positive about your it. But don’t apologize for sharing something encouraging to someone else about your mate.

 The bottom line:

BE PREPARED when the subject of marriage comes up. And,  

DON’T BE SHY to brag on your mate and your relationship. It might just be what someone else needs.

How to Do “The Trust Thing”
August 10, 2007, 4:21 pm
Filed under: Trust

I’ve been doing marriage counseling for 95 years. Okay, quite a while. One of my most profound observations is the immense value of trust in the marital relationship. It’s absolutely vital! I am convinced that – other than the Lord – trust is the most important factor in a marriage.

Think about it. If a wife cannot believe her husband, even an “I love you” is in question. He comes home 45 minutes late from work due to an actual traffic jam and she immediately suspects an affair. This couple hasn’t gotten to first base in a healthy marriage.

Trust is essential or your marriage can only go so far. And however far that is, it is woefully short of where God wants your marriage to be.

Let’s look at three different facets of trust vital to a healthy marriage:  

  • Integrity. Keeping your word. Doing what you say. This pattern of behavior either develops or tears down credibility. And intimacy. And love. And the marriage. You’ve got to be “believable”. It the very essence of trust.
  • Consistency. Being reliable. Dependable. Some call this being “faithful”. The cool thing about building trust is that time is on your side. The longer you are consistent, the more reliable you become to your spouse. And you build up a solid track record. Then, when the traffic jam does happen, your mate will be able to give you the benefit of a doubt because of your normal pattern of consistency.
  • Fidelity. Keeping only unto him/her. Forsaking all others. You know the words from your own wedding service.

Here are two kinds of fidelity:

  1. Sexual fidelity – When one mate is not sexually “fidel” (new word?), an immediate shattering of trust results. However, two married people who are making love only to each other – but they are making love – the trust has potential to grow and grow.
  2. Social fidelity – Showing that your mate is priority over everyone else but the Lord Himself. When you said “forsaking all others” it meant all others. That includes former boy/girlfriends, parents family, etc. Not that you never again speak to family members. They are just no longer the social priority in your life. When your spouse sees that you are serious about your priorities, security and trust will spring up.

Note that none of these ideas are especially difficult to do. Rather, it is the cumulation of many little things that often builds trust. As the Swahili proverb goes, “Drop by drop, the bucket fills.” So build trust in your mate – drop by drop.

We will indeed talk more about various aspects of trust later. It is a ‘super soapbox’ of mine. May the Lord help you to see the significance of daily building a few more ‘drops of trust’ in your mate – for His glory.

The “Remaining Factor” in Marriage
August 2, 2007, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Communication

I was reading recently in John 15 where Jesus tells us to “remain” in Him. At first glance that sounds like He is asking us to get our relationship with Him right and then freeze – in perfect equilibrium. However, what I see Him saying is “keep Me in the picture of your life and where it is going. Stay connected to Me. I made you and this whole world . Whatever I – or life – throw at you, it’s gonna be better if you are close to me.”

Lots of applications here of course. Try this one. A walk with the Lord has to be dynamic and alive. Your relationship with Christ is like riding a bike. If you are not moving forward you will fall down (unless you’re one of those Olympic hot shots trying to spoil my analogy).

 And the marriage app? It’s a great parallel. Remain in each other. Not perfectly mind you. Perfect marriages don’t exist this side of heaven. But as you move through this life, move together. Stay connected. Keep each other in the picture of your life and where it is going.

It is incredibly easy to drift away from your mate. The easiest way is to do nothing.

Rather than doing nothing, here are 3 “somethings” to help you remain in each other as your life and marriage unfold:

  • Have a feelings check. “What are you feeling right now?”  In your struggles or in times of celebration, in sickness or in health, in pepperoni or sausage, etc. (sorry) – in whatever state of mind you are in – let your mate know where you are.  No judging the feelings at this point. Just the facts, mam. Sharing what’s going on inside of you can keep you close.
  • Hold a ‘State of the Union’ address. “How are we doing?” Talk about how the marriage is going. Does that scare you? It’s simply sharing how you think you two are getting along. Are we communicating well? Do we argue without verbally destroying each other? Are you good with how our sex life is going? Are we still dating – without the kids?
  • Create a dreamscape’ together.  “Where would you like us to go?” Take some time to venture into the future. Dream some together. This can be fantasy time [What would you do if you won $50 million? Where in the world would you like to go on vacation for six weeks?] – or it can be praying and deciding together what you two would like to accomplish in the next two years. How about setting a goal to save up and go on that special trip or purchase that certain piece of furniture? Dreaming keeps you future-focused marriage and can connect you as the marriage team moves forward.

 Note: There are no time limits on these connecting points. A feelings check can take a minute while you may set aside a full weekend getaway for a dreamscape. The point is to periocially spend time with each other, fighting the pull of life that can cause you to drift.

Finally, stay connected with the Lord. Let the Creator of your marriage guide you as you remain in Him, and each other.

More about John 15 later.