Marital Advice

For a Marriage That Lasts - Marriage Message #330

Have you ever wondered "what couples do right" that can help to make a marriage that lasts? We have and we do. We're continually looking to find those things which help couples to unite in their marriages and survive and thrive despite the strains of every day living in today's world. We believe that's part of our mission that God has called us to do.

In light of that mission, we'd like to share something with you that Drs Les and Leslie Parrot (founders of the Center for Relationship Development on the campus of Seattle Pacific University) sent to us in an E-Newsletter titled, "What Good Couples do Right." Within that newsletter they said the following:

"We want to equip you with the five best tools every good marriage uses to battle bad things. They are...

~ Ownership - taking the responsibility for the good as well as the bad.
~ Hope - believing that good wins over bad.
~ Empathy - walking in your partner's shoes.
~ Forgiveness - healing the hurts you don't deserve.
~ Commitment - living the love you promised.

We'd like to look a little closer at the five "tools" that Les and Leslie gave us and define them a little further in this Marriage Message as they pertain to making our marriage last:

1. "Ownership - taking responsibility for the good as well as the bad." When we think of ownership, we can also think of "being responsible for, possessing, admitting, and acknowledging." A good owner is someone who takes responsibility for the betterment and even the improvement of whatever they own. They strive to be good stewards of that which God has entrusted to their care and work on whatever they can to make sure that it does what it is designed to do. They don't give up on that which they own -- especially that which they know God truly values. And we can know that God cares very much about our marriages.

When you think of ownership in light of marriage, it would involve appreciating and celebrating the good --doing what you can to help the good to continue, not letting it die because of neglect. It also involves evaluating that which is negatively damaging the marriage and making it your mission to do your part in finding ways to overcome that which is causing problems. If your attitude and/or your actions are contributing to the problems, then you own up to them, take responsibility for correcting them, and work until the Lord will someday say, "Well done good and faithful servant. You were faithful to the end!"

You aren't responsible for what your spouse will or won't do to help the marriage to grow to be healthy -- reflecting the love of Christ. But you ARE responsible for doing your part. And it isn't a 50/50 proposition. It's putting in a 100 per cent effort on your part. "Whatever you do, do it with all your might."

2. "Hope - believing that good wins over bad." We're told in 1 Corinthians 13 that love "always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." In applying that to marriage, we can always know that God is worthy of our trust. We can be assured that He loves us unconditionally and will make a way to redeem whatever pain and problem we offer up to Him. Our spouse may fail us in different ways, but as we look to God, we can put our hope in HIM. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 4:23)

God cares about us and will help us through whatever dilemma we face and will equip us to do whatever it is that we must do. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." (2 Peter 1:3-7)

3. "Empathy - walking in your partner's shoes." In marriage, empathy is seeing our partner as God sees them -- as His son or daughter. In marriage, we are God's colleague in ministering to the needs of our spouse. It's good to keep in mind, "If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you may also be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:1-3)

"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor [or spouse] for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.'" (Romans 15:1-4)

4. "Forgiveness - healing the hurts you don't deserve." That's truly what forgiveness does. It ministers more to OUR hurts than it does to the person receiving the forgiveness. We THINK it is given to release the victimizer from the hurt they have caused us. But in reality, we eventually discover that WE are the ones who benefit the most when we let go of the poison of bitterness. WE become the prisoners set free as we make the choice to no longer allow ourselves to be punished every time we nurse and rehearse and revisit the pain that originally hurt us.

"When others hurt us in ways we don't deserve, at some point we will come to the crossroads of decision. We will have to look our pain square in the face and ask, 'Am I going to hang on to my anger and do violence to myself, or am I going to forgive those who have wounded me? Am I going to allow bitterness to poison and putrefy my soul, or am I going to invite God to empower me to let the anger go?'" (Pam Vredelvelt, from the book, "The Wounded Woman")

5. "Commitment - living the love you promised." There's something to be said for those who promise to love as Christ loves and follows through with our promises -- even when our promises strain under the toughest of pressures.

"In Thornton Wilder's 'The Skin of Our Teeth,' a character named Ms. Antobus says, "I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them; and it wasn't our love that protected them -- it was that promise.' That's a great example of what a commitment to marriage looks like. It's a promise made and kept by two imperfect people -- with flaws, faults, and character weaknesses." (H. Norman Wright, "One Marriage Under God")

We pray as you use these "tools" they will bless your marriage,
Cindy and Steve Wright
 

Marriage Message #244 – The Need for Attention

The need for attention makes us vulnerable. Have you thought about that? When we yearn for attention we're more vulnerable to give in to temptations that otherwise would have no influence on us. We shouldn't give in – we should stand up against temptation no matter what, because of the integrity of our hearts! But in our "weakened" state we can sometimes let our guard down and give in (and deeply regretting it later, but none-the-less, the damage is done).

That's one reason why we want to warn you to be on the alert. The Bible tells us to be cautious because the enemy of our faith "is prowling about like a hungry lion looking for someone to devour." He looks for the weaker prey – the ones who are easier to take advantage of. So be cautious if you're feeling weak, and be careful not to put your spouse in that vulnerable position.

David and Teresa Ferguson talk about this in their book, "The Pursuit of Intimacy." Pay attention to what they write, asking the Lord to show you whatever you need to learn:

A marriage partner who goes for long periods without attention, affection, or appreciation can easily become vulnerable to moodiness, retaliation, or rejection. A wife may turn inward and become uncommunicative, a husband may retaliate by beginning an affair, or both partners may find a hundred minuscule ways of rejecting each other every day. She fixes his least favorite meal. He doesn't remind her that her favorite TV program is on. Their cuts and digs and little betrayals are limited only by the boundaries of their own imaginations. These various creative relationships are never justified; in fact they're wrong and sinful. In order to avoid them and even stop them we must often come to better understand them.

But relational needs aren't limited to adults. A child who misses out on attention, acceptance, or affirmation may begin to "act out" in order to gain attention or strike out against those who withhold his or her basic need.

Do you remember the Los Angeles riots in 1992? We all sat in stunned horror as unimaginable violence and devastation blazed across our TV screens. Later, as TV reporters talked with both victims and offenders, a common theme became evident: People— especially young people were striking back at a system that they felt abused and deprived them of their basic rights.

As husbands and wives we aren't likely to start any riots in our households, but a spouse's discontent can become just as deadly to the marriage. Surveys consistently indicate that marital affairs are not primarily sexually motivated. Instead, infidelity usually begins with emotional bonding. An acquaintance becomes more than a friend; add a little flirtation, and temptation can't be far behind. Surprisingly, the typical "attraction" is based not so much on physical as emotional needs. In other words unmet needs lead to frustration, frustration leads to vulnerability, and vulnerability can lead to an affair.

[The authors then give illustrations of individuals who allowed themselves to get caught up in adulterous affairs, and realised afterwards that the other people made them feel valued again— they listened to them, gave them undivided attention, and affirmed them— which they hadn't felt with their marital partner for a long time. This doesn't justify their behaviour but it gives better insight into what led to their downfall.] The authors go on to say:

We could all learn a lesson from [these people]. But how do you put that lesson into principles you can apply in your own life? How do you "affair-proof" your own marriage? It's important to begin by understanding your spouse's emotional-relational needs.

Dr. Les Carter, in his book "Broken Vows," shares reasons given for extramarital affairs. One of the most common arguments is, "My wife (husband) and I don't ever talk anymore. I was just looking for some companionship."

This comment highlights significant unmet needs. For example, "We don't talk anymore" might really mean, I need attention, understanding, and empathy. "Looking for companionship" might be expanded to include the unmet needs of support, appreciation, acceptance, or affection. When these emotional-relational needs are met, a mate is less vulnerable to other "companionships."

Keep in mind that marriage is a role model of the relationship between Christ and the church. Ephesians 5 speaks of Christ loving the church as He gave Himself for it (v. 25). During your private times of prayer and fellowship, God meets your needs for intimacy with Him. As you share your innermost self with Him, you receive His love and acceptance, and your deepest emotional yearnings are satisfied. Then you share with your mate the same love, comfort, and acceptance God has given you. When both you and your mate have spent time basking in God's love, you're likely to come together with an overflow of love for each other.

Lynne confirms this fact from her own marriage. "When I've spent time in the presence of Christ and feel His love surrounding me, I'm a different person when I return to my family. I'm not bothered by things that normally would have irritated me. I can feel God's love flowing through me to my husband and children. It may sound funny, but it's almost a transcendent feeling. It's not me showing them that special love; it's Christ through me. It's a wonderful, joyous feeling. And it's contagious. My family responds to me with patience and love. It's a snowballing effect, and I find myself thinking, Yes! This is the way it was meant to be!

But I have to admit it doesn't happen like that often enough. Usually I just stumble along, trying to love my family in my own strength. They can tell the difference. Boy, can they tell the difference! When it's only me, my love wears pretty thin sometimes and I'm not as patient as I want to be. I get downright grouchy and then I just wish they'd leave me alone.

John 13:34 sums up what Lynne is seeking to put into practice: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."

Matthew 10:8 underscores this admonition: "Freely you have received, freely give." Since we have freely received from Christ, with gratefulness we can freely give to others.

..............................................................

We pray this has been helpful for you, as it's been a great reminder for us also. We don't want to give the enemy of our faith anymore opportunity to hurt us than he's going to steal anyway! We need to try to lavish attention, acceptance, and affirmation on our spouses every opportunity we can so they aren't as vulnerable to temptation. By doing so— we build even stronger and more loving marriages – a true reflection of the love of God!

Our love & prayers are with you as together we aim to make our marriages the best they can be!

Cindy and Steve Wright

 

Marriage Message – Marital Ruts

“Marriage is a long journey, and any long journey requires occasionally getting off the road to eat, to fill up the car with gas, or simply to rest. Has your love fallen into a rut? Is your marriage slowly getting buried under the daily routine? What can you do differently to break out of the box and renew your love for each other?” (Gary Thomas)

Those are good questions, aren’t they? There’s hardly a relationship around that doesn’t hit a time when life becomes so “daily” that those involved don’t find themselves bored. If you’re finding this in your marriage, we have a few suggestions for you that might help.

The first comes from one of our favorite books by Gary Thomas titled, “Devotions for a Sacred Marriage” published by Zondervan www.zondervan.com. Below is part of a devotional titled, “Marital Ruts.” Here’s what he had to say:

Maybe your rut is more behavioral—you’ve learned to tune out your spouse’s voice, or you always make love in the same, predictable way or on the same, predictable night. Maybe you’ve completely stopped trying to find creative ways to demonstrate your affection and care. Perhaps you’ve become so ensconced in the workweek routine—the early-morning departure, the commute, the time away from home, coming back in the evening tired and grouchy – that you’re completely missing opportunities to affirm and reconnect with each other.

Never underestimate the element of occasional surprise in the delighting of your spouse and building up your marriage. It can be so simple – a wife going to the trouble of picking out a book on tape that her husband can listen to on his morning commute; a husband buying his wife a completely unexpected gift, unconnected to any holiday or anniversary, for no other reason than to tell her he loves her.

What would it mean to your spouse if you took an afternoon off – from work or watching the kids – to go to a matinee, take a walk around the lake, or go on a picnic? Sometimes all it takes is something out of the ordinary, something that says, “I don’t take you – or us – for granted. I’ve put some special thought into this. I want to fight the ‘murderous repetitions’ and ‘infernal element of boredom.’”

Through Ezekiel, God promised Israel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). In the same way we can become calloused toward God, so we can become calloused toward each other. Pray for a new spirit and attitude toward your spouse, that your “heart of stone” will become a “heart of flesh.”

Occasional ruts are inevitable in any long-term relationship, but they’re never insurmountable. We can break out of them if we really want to.

So the question is, after you’ve read what Gary Thomas had to say and you recognize that you’re in a Marital Rut, “Do you want to break out of a romantic rut that you’re in?” Are you out of ideas as far as what to do that will bring a little romance back into your marriage? We have a few ideas. At least we have a few on our web site at www.marriagemissions.com in the “Romantic Ideas” section. One of the articles is titled, “Romantic Tips” which will link you to some great ideas.

We’d like to share with you one of the tips for wives and one of the tips for husbands that Harold and Bette Gillogly came up with:

Wives: Make one Saturday morning this month very special. Serve your husband breakfast in bed, then crawl back into bed with him and help him eat it. Arrange for (or with) the children so you will not be disturbed all morning, and sleep, cuddle, watch TV or “whatever” ‘til noon. If the kids are in the house, make sure you lock your bedroom door and even hang a homemade “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob.

Husbands: Give your wife a “Time Coupon.” Simply take a 3x5 card and write “This coupon is worth two hours of time together and is redeemable any day this week.” Your time – undivided attention time – is very valuable to your wife. In fact, many wives spell love T-I-M-E! We would suggest two parameters for you to keep in mind for your time together: (1) Do something that leaves you free to talk to one another; and (2) allow yourselves some amount of privacy [no double date].

Keep in mind: “You can keep your love alive if you give it priority in your system of values.”

Our love and prayers are with you,

Steve and Cindy Wright

 

Marriage Message – Too Many Commitments

Do you or your spouse find yourselves overly committed outside of your home? Do you have a hard time saying "no" to those outside the family who ask you to do things for which you really don't have the time? If you do, you aren't the only ones! It's something most of us struggle with.  

We recently had a woman ask us what to do because her spouse was over-committed (especially at their church). He couldn't seem to say "no" to everyone else except her. She was lonely for her husband's companionship. The following is an edited version of what I (Cindy) wrote. I pray it will minister beyond this message to those of you who are also struggling with this same dilemma: 

We want you to know that we sure understand what you're going through because this is a problem we faced years ago ourselves. Actually, I was primarily the one who had the harder time saying “no” than did my husband Steve (although at times he had the same problem). The REAL problem was in having too many good choices, which is what your husband is facing.

Your husband is probably a wonderful man (which is why you fell in love with him in the first place). But he doesn’t realize the problems his saying "yes" to everyone but you is causing. That was also my oversight and the oversight of so many others who over-load their scheduling “plates”. They see needs that cry out to them, and they enjoy meeting the needs, and usually are very capable of doing the job right. But what they forget is that when they say “yes” to meet someone else’s need they’re essentially saying “no” to meeting their families needs. They also don’t realize that just because you CAN do something, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.

From the Bible we can see (in Luke 10) that Jesus commended Mary over her sister Martha because she chose the “best”. They were both good choices to make: either feed and tend to those who needed it, or spend the time sitting at the feet of Jesus and for such a time as that, sitting at Jesus’ feet, was the best choice. We're faced with making good and "best" choices also. 

Think about how many choices Jesus Christ had to make Himself. He had throngs of people yanking at Him from every side and yet even Jesus took time to go out and pray and spend time with His disciples and with His family – especially His Father. If Jesus could do that then we need to practice that kind of restraint in how we use our time.

Marriage takes an on-going intentionality in spending time together. We did it before marriage and that isn't to stop after the wedding. There’s a scripture verse that says, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” You can also look at it in another way: “What would it profit a man if he helps the whole world but loses his family because of it?” A wife and family aren’t any less needy to be with the one they love. And they don’t usually have an unlimited amount of understanding as to why their husband (and dad) should neglect them over spending time with everyone else. They need more than a “doggie bag” amount of attention.  

Even though your husband is a great guy, he needs to see the bigger picture and get a backbone like Christ had and like Christ will give him if he asks for it, to actually say: “No – even though I wish I could – I need and also want to spend time with my family. I hope you understand, but if you don’t then I’m even sorrier, but my family needs me to be with them at this time.” 

Steve and I are no different. We have MORE than enough vying for our time. If I even started to tell you of all of the WONDERFUL invitations we have, you’d be amazed! But we have a marriage ministry and if we don’t make a priority to preserve our own marriage then what kind of hypocrites would we be where we make our own marriage sick by tending to everyone else’s marriages? That goes for EVERYONE – including you – not just those in marriage ministries.

God's love should so permeate our beings that we minister outside of our homes but especially in them and BECAUSE of them. The Bible says we are lights set on a hill for everyone to see and gravitate towards. Our married lives should be so loving that others will want to know our “secret”. And when we tell them that the love of God compels us to interact with each other as we do, they will have more of a tendency to say, “Then I really want to know your God better!” 

Ephesians 5 (along with other Bible verses) commissions men to be servant leaders in their homes. They're to show love to their wives so obviously that their wives feel cherished by them to the same degree that the church knows it's cherished by Christ Jesus—who sacrificed Himself for her. A wife should also be ministered to by their husband so that she feels “washed by the water of the Word” as it talks about in Ephesians. She won’t feel that way if her husband doesn’t spend the time to do the washing but instead uses the “Living Water” on everyone else but her.  

It’s taken Steve and me many years to “see” this. Many tears have been shed and many arguments have happened before we finally understood this. And still, we fall into the “busy trap" at times and go too far over-board. We then have to back up and walk in the right direction again. It’s not that we’re to be joined at the hip. We both give each other grace and space to “spend” our energies beyond our home and beyond ourselves at times. It actually enriches our marriage. But we try to be prayerful and careful, pacing ourselves so we don’t neglect each other's needs also. 

Something that might help is an article we have posted in the “Married Men” section of our web site. It’s titled, “What Will Be Your Legacy? ...A Challenge for Men.” I urge you to respectfully approach your husband with it. Don’t shove it in front of his face sneering, “You need to read this!” But rather approach him lovingly and respectfully, letting him know that you miss him and need more of him than he’s giving you, asking him to please read the article and pray about it and at some point, to talk together about your schedules. Hopefully, he’ll respond to your approach and will see that even though he’s a wonderful man of God, doing so much good for so many – you, as his wife, need more of his attention than you're presently receiving.  

There’s also a great little book that you might want to read. It's by Pastor Andy Stanley and is called, “Choosing to Cheat.” It’s about men who are overcommitted (and some of them are pastors and Christian workers who mean well but still “cheat” their families out of their time). We have a few short articles on our web site from this book that will give you a preview of some of the things he says in it. The articles are titled: When Family and Work Collide, (which is in the “Family Issues” section), and Why Some Spouses Give up on Marriage (in the “Troubled Marriages” section). The description of the book is under “Helpful Resources” in both sections. 

We pray this helps in some way. Our hearts and prayers are with you as together we strive to make our marriages the best they can be. 

God Bless, Cindy and Steve Wright 

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