New Year - New Beginning in marriage

With the new year, we get calls from people who want a new marriage - or a new husband or wife. 

Each person could have a new marriage if the person commits to be the new one in their marriage.

The things, which we think should change, overwhelm us: it looks impossible or too hard. But instead of looking at everything - look at just one thing.

Pick one new thing that you personally can do differently and you can have a new marriage.

The most dramatic changes can come when we change our attitude or the way we speak to each other.
Instead of tackling all of them, pick one out of this list and commit to do it differently for just one month! Most of us can do something differently when we see an end in sight.

Try one of these:
  1. Don’t criticize, complain, or have a cross word before breakfast.
  2. Eliminate calling your spouse a bad name - “you idiot” or “jerk” or others.
  3. Use an affirming word or phrase when your spouse is talking, so that he knows you are listening - “that’s interesting” or “then what happened” or “I’m sorry that you had to go through that today.”
  4. Look at her and listen while she is talking.
  5. Put your phone in another room while you eat dinner and when you go to bed.
  6. Assume good will. If the other person says something that sounds hurtful, assume that she/he isn't trying to be hurtful and ask for clarification.
  7. Give a hug every morning before you leave the house.
  8. Text “I love you” one a day for no reason.
  9. Focus on the good in your spouse, keep a list, add to it.
  10. Change one habit that upsets/irritates your spouse.
*Hint: this works with other relationships too! After a month, you will want to continue it!

Thankfulness and appreciation in marriage ….

There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. Mother Teresa

Being willing to express appreciation to another person could be one of the greatest assets to a relationship. The relationship could be a momentary one - such as the clerk in a store - or a long-term one, your marriage or other family members.

Two complaints that we often hear in marriage counseling are:
1. From the husband: she doesn't appreciate how hard I work to provide for the family.
2. From the wife: he doesn't appreciate how much I do at home or with the kids.

A very simple solution to this distress is to thank each other! Yes, you thank your spouse for working hard to support the family (the husband or the wife). You thank your spouse for what they do at home or with the kids (the husband or the wife). A thank you goes a long way towards building congeniality, civility, and intimacy in a marriage. 

When speaking of what the life of a Christian should exhibit, Paul said, Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4) 

You may think, “well she is just doing her job, what she is supposed to be doing. I shouldn't have to thank her for that.,” or “he could be doing more, he should be helping more, why would I thank him for that?”

You thank a person for what he did to show that you know that he did it and that you are glad that he did it - no matter how small or how large the action. 

Suppose you are at a meeting and drop your pen on the floor, a stranger sitting nearby picks it up and hands it to you. What do you do? You thank him, even though the gesture was small and you don’t know the person. 

How much more important to thank a spouse for any positive behavior, regardless of the size or responsibility!

See more about A Grateful Heart ...

The Woman that Keeps Destroying Marriages

I am writing this to warn other marriages about this woman.

When we meet with couples who are having trouble in their marriages, we often hear about a woman that is destroying their marriage. This woman keeps showing up in marriage after marriage. Once the wife finds out about "the other woman," she is hurt and feels unlovable.

The woman's name is Porn.

Have you seen her? 
Have you hear of her? 
Has she visited your home?

I remember listening to Dr. James Dobson on the radio 30 years ago. He was serving on the president’s commission about porn at that time and began warning us about how it destroys families. Pornography was predominantly in the form of magazines and videos at that time.

We thought it was bad at that time; we had no idea what was ahead! The floodgates opened with no way to close them.

We got involved with marriage counseling and marriage ministry over 20 years ago. The porn problem was there but not pervasive. The internet has changed everything about porn and marriage counseling!

You will find it hard to believe some of the statistics that we are sharing.

The problem transcends every age group and socio-economic level, but it is more pronounced among younger adults.

“A recent survey of 29,000 people at North American universities shows 51% of men and 16% of women spend up to five hours per week online for sexual purposes.”

Some people believe that pornography doesn't affect others, that it is private, involving just the person who peruses it. Another common belief is that “I don’t look at pornography, so it doesn't affect me.” Both of those beliefs are absolutely wrong. Pornography profoundly affects our culture and destroys families.

Ask any wife, who has discovered that her husband is involved in pornography, what is feels like. She will tell you that she feels betrayed, just as if he had been unfaithful. She feels rejected, unloved, and unattractive.

The presence of pornography tears apart marriages.

Pornography is also the gateway to human sex trafficking, affecting all. 

Pornography warps your mind.
To make pornography, there has to be a subject to photograph or video. Those people are often sexually abused and/or physically abused and given drugs.

Would you be okay with your daughter being the subject of pornography?

When you think of who the subjects are, remember “she’s somebody’s daughter.



Whatever happened to having fun in marriage?

"Fun is good." Dr. Seuss

Remember the times when you were dating, before you got married? 

You had fun together! In fact, most people get married because they have fun together. You entertain each other. You laugh; you talk.

Ed and I have been married 40 years now. That's a long time! But I still remember the fun times we had together, dating in Baton Rouge while we were going to LSU. We went to football games. He showed me the culture of Louisiana - the plantations, the marsh, bayous, and levees. We ate crawfish, shrimp, and po'boys. I learned about duck hunting and how to lure crabs into a net to get enough to boil.

We continued having fun after we got married and moved to the mountains of Colorado! Who couldn't have fun there? But eventually, we moved back to the south, get involved in our jobs, started having kids, and began to worry about money.

Hmmmm...... what happened to the fun? What happened to times for just the two of us to relax and enjoy being together?

We realized that we had quit making time for ourselves as a couple - career and kids had taken center stage. We decided to reclaim our time together!

Dr. Howard Markman, a psychologist who co-directs the university's Center for Marital and Family Studies, after researching hundreds of couples, finds "The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high, and significant." He believes that it is one of the most important factors for a great marriage.

We started having dates. The kids had more fun with the babysitter anyway. We became intentional about our time together. We spent time talking every day, without the kids interrupting.

We started taking off a few days every year to go somewhere by ourselves, even if it was close by.

The kids grew up and left home. We are growing older. We are nearing the end of our careers. But we still have fun together! 

We don't have to plan dates to be alone now; we are together alone a lot. But we plan for special outings that we want to experience together. We still take off by ourselves for a few days (or more!) every year. We celebrate our marriage milestones! 

40 Fun years!

If the marriage ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
Scott Gardner










WISDOM in Marriage

If I wanted to gain wisdom about marriage, where would I go? Whom would I seek out?

When I google “marriage wisdom,” a multitude of options wait for me until one catches my eye. 

Among the choices were two articles in national publications - one by someone married 8 years, and one by someone married 50 years. Which one has the most real wisdom? 

Most people tend to consider that a person with more experience would have more wisdom. 

Real wisdom takes knowledge and pours it through the sieve of experience. Experience takes time. 

For the wisdom to be true, godly wisdom (the only kind of real wisdom), the knowledge has to be true knowledge and understanding from the Lord, not worldly ideas.

Wisdom in marriage means that I know God’s heart and His perspective on what is happening between me and my spouse.

To know God’s heart, I have to know Him in a personal and intimate way. When I am at that place, I will want to love my spouse in the same way God loves him/her. I love without limit, without conditions, no matter what happens.

I will forgive my spouse in the same way God’s forgives me - unlimited.

Sound oversimplified? It’s simple but it is not easy. Often I don’t want to do it God’s way. I would rather do my way or follow a friend’s advice. I don’t want to change. If I change, doesn't he have to change? Why do I have to be the one to change?

Wisdom in marriage means that I seek God on what my part is, not what my spouse should be doing. After I seek Him, I follow through on what He shows me to do (even something I don’t like!).

Children without Parents

Single-parent (unwed mothers) births have gone up 700% in the last 50 years. Right now, if you went to an average hospital, four of every ten babies would have a single parent. Only six of ten babies have parents who are married to each other.

In the African-American community, the statistics are even more bleak, seven of ten babies have a single parent.

How did we get to this point? 

It's a complex issue with many contributing factors - changing beliefs about premarital sex and cohabitation (living together without marrying), cultural acceptance of single-parents versus adoption, government benefits for children of single parents, and others.


This statistic is not going to change directions unless there is a wide-spread change of beliefs in the culture. 

Right now, 60% of all ages in the U.S. believe that premarital sex is not wrong. Among 20-40 year-olds, 80% of non-Christians and 59% of born-again Christians believe that living together without marriage is morally acceptable. These views have changed dramatically in the last 50 years.


Marriage, Family, and the Church


Where are we in the battle for the family?

What is the role of the Church to address the marriage and family issues?

Where is the priority of the church in strengthening marriages and families?

These questions are ones that we all need to answer for ourselves individually but also for the Body of Christ at large and for our own churches.

In the next few blogs, we will share some stats on where we are now.


She took from its fruit and ate ….

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6 

The first couple had some time of living the dream - walking with God in a perfect environment (the garden), with perfect weather, perfect bodies (perfect health), and all the time in the world to enjoy each other (no kids yet!). 

Satan came to discredit God and separate man and woman, God’s highest creation, from God. He used lies and deceptions to lure Eve. It worked; she took the bait. 

Instead of having confidence in God’s Word and His character, she decided on her own whether she should eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

Satan deceived her with words such as “Did God really say ...” (challenging God’s word) and “You will not surely die.” (you can sin and nothing will happen to you) and “You will be like God.” In the last statement, the original language does not have “like”, he is saying “you will be a god.” 

From her perspective, she looked at the fruit and made her own judgment call, ignoring God’s warning. In her view, she saw a fruit that would taste good, satisfy her physical desires. She saw something that had beauty; she wanted to possess this beautiful object of her desires. And she concluded that it would make her wise, like God. 

As she came to these conclusions, she might have even thought Adam agreed since he never said anything to Satan or to her. 

After she ate, she shared her fruit with her husband who was with her. The world has never been the same. Those decisions profoundly affect marriage and every relationship, most of all, our relationship with God. 

Satan tempts us with the same lies and deceptions today. (see below) 

Even though most of us do not have the audacity to say that we can be like God or be our own God, we too decide that we can make up our own mind, that we can make our own decision about an action, regardless of what God says.

THE GREAT DECEPTION
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:13

And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 1 Timothy 2:14

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3

Eve was tempted to sin by the deceptions of Satan. The enemy specializes in lies and deceptions. Satan uses the same methods with us today. He deceives us through challenging God’s word and His character.

Deceptions are usually harder to identify than blatant lies. Often a deception has an element of truth but is not the whole truth leading the listener to a false conclusion. Or in the case of Eve, Satan questioned the truth, God’s Word.
The questions and the lies led Eve to believe that God would not punish her and that she could make her own decisions apart from Him.

Satan deceives us in the same way - I can sin and get away with it. I can make my own decisions. I can decide on my own what is good or bad.

As Paul warned, we can be lead astray from our devotion to the Lord. 

More on the issue of control in marriage in the next post.

Related to this topic:

Blame, Passivity, and Procrastination

BLAME
As God walked through the garden and their world in which Adam and Eve lived, He called out for them. They were not walking with Him.

Before the fall, they were naked and not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25)

After the fall into sin, Adam and Eve hid from God and covered themselves because of their shame. 

Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. Genesis 3:11-12

When God addressed the sin, He asked Adam to tell Him what happened. He went to Adam first. When God asked Adam about eating the fruit, Adam does not take responsibility for his disobedience to God’s command. Instead, he blames Eve and he blames God for giving Eve to him. As God talks to Eve, she blames the serpent.

Blaming another person in marriage or in life does not give room for us to take responsibility for wrong choices, consequently, a person is not teachable.

When I blame another person, it does not make life better or happier; it is a denial of my own sin. 

PASSIVITY and PROCRASTINATION

Once the blame game began, defensiveness went ballistic. The aftershock is dramatic. A man knows instinctively that his role is to lead but does not know how because of his separation from God. 

Some men turn this feeling of inadequacy into passivity. Others take the passivity one step further into procrastination. 

Some personalities tend to be more passive and procrastinate. Some perfectionists procrastinate because they don’t want to make a mistake or are afraid of failure and/or success. 

I am convinced that our instant gratification culture creates more procrastinators. Many people do not want to do the work it takes to complete a necessary task or to achieve a goal. “I know that I have to write this report but I would rather watch TV.” .... “I want a great marriage but I don’t really want to do the work; I just need a better/different mate.” .... “I know I need to budget my money but I would rather use a credit card to get what I want.” .... “My wife wants me to spend time listening and talking to her; we can do that when the kids are older or I don’t work so much.” 

Whatever the reasons, this kind of passivity and/or procrastination can be deadly. Abraham passively agreed to Sarah’s plan to have children through her maid. Genesis 16:3 says that he listened to her voice, said nothing, and followed her plan. Then, Abraham did not deal with the tension between Sarah and Hagar. He put off the discipline of Ishmael - resulting in centuries of Arab-Israeli conflict. 

God gives his children his Spirit to be able to move beyond passivity and procrastination into a life that honors and glorifies Him, as we allow Him to work in us and live through us.

See related posts:

Relationship Status: It's Complicated.

Yes, from the moment sin entered the human experience, marriage became complicated. The husband and wife engage in a dance that has perpetuated through history. 

A wife has an expectation of her husband which includes perfect leadership. When he doesn't lead, she takes the first step and leads. If he takes the first step and she doesn't agree with him, she criticizes and attacks. In either situation, his next step is out of the dance; he withdraws and retreats - initiating less often. 

When men become passive at home - some think that it’s the wife’s domain, or he thinks it is her job to take care of the kids and home, or he doesn't have the confidence to lead or to even let his thoughts and feeling out to his wife. 

Over the last few years I have seen in my office an increasing number of couples who share a common denominator. The man is active, articulate, energetic and usually successful in his work. But he is inactive, inarticulate, lethargic and withdrawn at home. In his relationship to his wife he is passive. And his passivity drives her crazy. . . Pierre Mornell, M.D. 

The wife may overreact out of frustration. She interprets his dance as “he doesn't love me” or “he doesn't care” or “he can’t lead.” She believes that it won’t get done if she doesn't do it. 

Many husbands already feel inadequate; his wife’s response confirms it. 

To have a godly marriage, a wife may have to stop initiating the next step or leading the dance. 

Some men wrongly think leadership is being a ruler or dictator. God’s idea is a that of a servant. He also instructs men to follow Him, rather than people. If family members (his wife or children) seek to step outside God’s will, the husband is not to follow them into sin but obey God and lead them in truth. 

Her husband, who was with her ….

Where was Adam when Eve was tempted by the serpent? 

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6

The first couple had some time of living the dream - walking with God in a perfect environment (the garden), with perfect weather, perfect bodies (perfect health), and all the time in the world to enjoy each other (no kids yet!). 

But the serpent knew the way into their lives. He tempted them with lies about God and themselves. 

“Them” - yes, it was them. Many have the mistaken belief that the discourse was between Satan and Eve only. The Bible is clear that Adam was there with her. 

What did Adam say when Satan was tempting Eve with his lies? 

NOTHING! 

What was his God-given role? Does he have instructions from God on how to be a husband or how to lead his family? 

We don’t see either of those instructions at this point in the Bible. But what we do know that God created Adam first. He gave Adam the command to not eat from the tree of good and evil. He gave Adam His Presence and a personal knowledge of His goodness. 

Adam was silent. He could have interceded and told the serpent to go away. He might have countered the lies of the enemy with the truth of God. He had the choice to stop Eve when she picked the fruit. He could have refused to eat the fruit himself after she ate. Adam was silent and passively followed Eve’s lead into sin.

The legacy of Adam for many men is silence and passivity. The legacy of sin finds its way into the life of a wife as she often controls the temperature of the marriage and becomes overwhelming emotionally to her husband. 

The legacy in marriage is continued in the next post: Relationship Status: It's Complicated .