Make Haste to Make Up

Have you ever hurt your spouse in some way? All right, so it’s a trick question. Of course you have hurt your spouse, just as he or she has hurt you. If not, you either haven’t been married very long (like maybe five minutes!) or one of you isn’t human! Even the best of relationships is vulnerable to slights and slams, criticism and avoidance, lies and betrayals of some kind. Since marriage is the closest of all relationships, it is anything but exempt from hurt. And it’s never a one-way street. You have been the offender at least as often as you have been the offended.

Photo by  freestocks.org  from  Pexels

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Of course, the vast majority of the hurts we inflict on our husbands or wives are unintentional. We never really set out to insult each other, violate each other, or ignore each other. A slip of the tongue, a careless word or deed, a thoughtless omission—they happen because we are weak, sinful, and selfish human beings. But these slights and slips still hurt.

You have been on the offending side of marital conflict, and you have also been on the receiving end, feeling the pain of hurt and disappointment. Whether you are the giver or the receiver, every offense in a marriage needs a relational solution. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus offers some helpful and very practical advice for dealing with these painful lapses in marriage. And his instructions seem to be directed at the person who caused the offense.

"If you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God." Matthew 5:23-24

It’s interesting the way Jesus sets the scene for relational reconciliation. He pictures us “standing before the altar...offering a sacrifice to God.” Let’s say this represents a good Christian husband or wife going about the business of seeking and serving God. You go to church regularly. You have devotions regularly. You do the Christian disciplines wholeheartedly.

It’s no coincidence that this person “suddenly remembers” something isn’t quite right with his or her spouse. That’s what happens when we approach God in worship. The closer we draw to him, the brighter the searchlight of his love shines in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is free to point out areas of weakness and sin.

So don’t be surprised if while standing in the church service singing to God or kneeling in prayer during your time of devotions, you suddenly feel convicted by the Spirit of an offense. Of course, God can plant that thought in your heart at any time, even by prompting your offended spouse to say something like, “I felt hurt when...” At that key moment, you are right where God wants you. He is lovingly taking the opportunity to clear up something between you and your dear one.

Next Jesus commands, “Leave your sacrifice...go and be reconciled.” Is he saying that the health of our horizontal relationships with others, including our spouse, is at least as important as our vertical relationship with God? Is he saying something like, “God isn’t interested in your worship until you make right the wrong you did”?

This may be a little difficult for some to grasp, but such an interpretation is compatible with the rest of Scripture. For example, Jesus didn’t want people to call him “Lord” if they weren’t going to obey him (see Luke 6:46). Love for God and love for people are inseparable in God’s scheme of things. You won’t get very far in your spiritual life if you fail to clear up offenses in your marital life.

The essence of Jesus’ command seems to be this: “As soon as you realize that you have offended your spouse, nothing is more important than making it right.”

Don’t delay. Don’t put it off. Don’t procrastinate. Confess your wrong, and ask your spouse’s forgiveness at your earliest convenience. When you are facing conflict always place the priority on the relationship over the issue at hand. The health of your marriage and your relationship with God depend on it.

Are Finances the Man's Job?

Q: My husband is terrible at handling the finances because he hates paperwork. I like to take care of the bills, but he thinks this is “the man’s” job. How can I convince him to let me handle the bills?

A: There’s something going on here behind the scenes. It’s not really about the checkbook; it’s about control. It’s about some deep-seated belief that the man has to do the finances or he isn’t the man of the house.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

That said, it is important for the husband to realize that he and his wife are a unit. She completes him; he completes her. It could very well be that a paperwork-oriented wife would do very well at making sure the checks get written, the bills get paid on time, and the checkbook gets balanced. Just because he’s the man of the house doesn’t mean that the husband is the best suited to handle this job. We’re all for sharing that responsibility and using your giftedness in different areas of your marriage. The stereotypes only get in the way.

It might be wise for you to bring in a third party to sit with the two of you and give you objective analysis and advice. That person can ask the hard questions and help you develop a battle plan. He or she will probably advise that whichever of you is predisposed to enjoying handling the finances should be the one to do it.

Reassure your husband that you’re not trying to take over his role as man of the house. Instead, you want to remove a burden from him by doing something he hates that you enjoy. If he just needs to have money to spend, then with that professional financial counselor, come up with an amount of money that he can have each month that he can spend any way he chooses. That way he doesn’t have to be accountable to you for every penny—yet the spending is curbed at a certain dollar amount depending on what you can afford.

If your husband simply won’t let go, there are ways you could work with him. For example, let

him write up all the checks for all the bills, but you be in charge of making sure they get in the mail at the right time. Perhaps you could say, “Let me help with this by going through the bills and highlighting the due dates.” Then put the due dates on your calendar—backing them up about five days to provide for mail time. Even if you do all your bill paying on line, you still will need some lead time. This way, instead of trying to take over the job of bill paying, you’re simply helping to make it less stressful for your husband. Point out how much late fees have cost you over the last year, and tell him that with your help, you could save X number of dollars a year.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore! 

Sex: What Spouses Need from Each Other

If you’re married, we’re sure this will come as no surprise to you: Men and women view sex differently. Very differently.

In some areas of marriage, our differences don’t matter that much. Husbands and wives may have different styles of communication or may enjoy different hobbies. But because our sexual involvement touches us at such a deep level, the differences can sometimes be a source of conflict.

It’s important to remember, though, that God intentionally made males and females to be different from each other. And we need to celebrate those differences. Our lives would be quite different if males and females looked alike, were shaped alike, thought the same way, felt the same way, and responded the same way. Our differences add richness and diversity as well as excitement and joy to our marriages.

However, our brains and sexual organs are wired differently. Men are aroused by visual stimuli; a husband can just look at his wife and become aroused. Women are a little more complex. They need to be “warmed up.” Sex therapists and researchers tell us that women take as long as thirty minutes to become aroused during sex.

Studies suggest that men think about sex every seventeen seconds, but women think about sex every seventeen days—or seventeen years, in some cases! Although these statistics highlight the extremes, they do point out a distinct difference, and the truth is, that difference is not going to change. But we know that already, right?

If, in fact, our distinct wiring is such a commonly understood issue, if we know so much about why we are wired so differently, why is it still a problem in so many marriages? Why do husbands and wives forget and act as if this is breaking news—or bad news? And why do we continue to allow these differences to keep us from having strong sexual relationships?

We have found the problem is not that couples don’t know about gender differences. The problem is that even though we recognize the differences, many of us never take the time to study, appreciate, and pursue those differences as being good and worthy.

Instead, many couples continue to assume that the wife will respond like a husband, and the husband will respond like a wife. This is the Golden-Rule mentality: If I treat my spouse the way I want to be treated, then we’ll be happy and have a fulfilling sex life. This is one of the great misunderstandings of all time. If you’ve bought into that line of thinking, let us remind you: That is never going to happen. Period. It’s that simple.

This is the Golden-Rule mentality: If I treat my spouse the way I want to be treated, then we’ll be happy and have a fulfilling sex life. This is one of the great misunderstandings of all time.

So what should a couple do? Should they resign themselves to experiencing a boring—or nonexistent—sex life?

No!

In our own marriage, whenever we have taken the Golden-Rule approach, we’ve bumped up against our differences. But those times are great reminders to learn about and appreciate the differences in each other. God made us different, but he also made us to be complementary—to balance each other, to fit together, to make us one.

The exciting reality about sexual intimacy is that God made us different to spice things up! And ultimately, those differences teach us about serving the other person. When we give our spouses what they need—not what we think they want or need—then we fulfill God’s design for sexual intimacy. And the reward is that together we experience true intimacy.

What we have to realize is that our different ways of approaching sexual intimacy are okay—and normal—because God made us different . . . on purpose. And that’s a good thing. We waste so much time and energy trying to shape our spouses into sexual clones of ourselves. Then we wonder why we’re frustrated and disappointed with our sex lives! So rather than growing frustrated and upset, taking it out on each other, walking away, and pouting, take those opportunities to accept that our approaches to intimacy are going to be different.

The reality is that we often want the same things. Our deepest desire, whether we’re male or female, is ultimately to become one. He wants intercourse; she wants intercourse. He may want physical intercourse more than she does, and she may want emotional intercourse more than he does, but when a couple can meld physical and emotional intercourse, they will find the pathway to great sex.

Our deepest desire, whether we’re male or female, is ultimately to become one.

To meet our needs, we have to meet our spouses’ needs. They are ultimately connected. Of course, that’s not to say that men only want the physical and women only want the emotional. Both need both. It’s just that God wired us to get both by coming at it from two distinct ways.

So how did God do that? He wired a man to feel connected to his wife by experiencing orgasm. The physical act of sex opens his feelings and allows him to become more vulnerable. Sex gives him a sense of closeness and intimacy. He is better able to concentrate on such things as his emotions. God wired a woman to feel connected to her husband by experiencing emotional connection. Emotional connection gives her a sense of safety. She is better able to give herself to physical sex.

God made husbands and wives to complement each other: A husband invites his wife into intimacy through sex, and a wife invites her husband into intimacy through emotional connection. Together, they make a satisfying whole.

Ultimately, through sexual intimacy (emotionally and physically connecting), God calls us to be vulnerable and to serve each other. He calls on men to connect emotionally with their wives in order to have their physical needs met; he calls on women to connect physically with their husbands in order to have their emotional needs met. It involves tension, to be sure. But it’s also exciting foreplay!

*For more revealing insights about what your spouse’s most intimate sex needs are - and how to meet them - check out The 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women in our online bookstore!

Can a Marriage Survive?

Q: So many people I know are divorced. Is it possible for any marriage to stay together?

Photo by  Josh Willink  from  Pexels

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

A: If somebody came up with a TV game show called America’s Perfect Couple, none of us would expect to qualify for the grand prize. We readily admit that our marriages aren’t perfect. But that’s no excuse to settle for the status quo. A marriage that is merely “good enough” won’t make it over the long haul. If you believe you can coast along indefinitely on a good-enough marriage, you are believing a big lie. The truth is that if your marriage isn’t growing deeper, it is growing more vulnerable to disconnect, discord, and emotional divorce.

Remember: You are in a battle with God’s archenemy over the vitality and success of your marriage. The forces arrayed against you are great. You must be on your guard because Satan is looking for an opportunity to bring your marriage down. You must not only be watchful, you must also take the offensive in this conflict. You must be proactive about nurturing your marriage relationship. Most doomed marriages don’t end up in divorce overnight. Rather they atrophy over a period of years due to laziness and lack of effort. A marriage that looks healthy today can drift to the precipice of divorce in five or ten years if it is not constantly and purposefully reenergized.

Marriages that go the distance and thrive are marriages where husband and wife serve each other by putting each other first after their allegiance to Christ. This is the attitude you are to adopt toward your spouse. The contrast is not as dramatic, of course, since you are not perfect and neither is your spouse. In some areas you may be stronger or wiser, while in other areas your spouse is stronger or wiser. But whether your spouse is top dog at the moment or not, if you follow Jesus’ model, you will think of your husband or wife as more important than yourself. When you do that, you won’t have any trouble putting him or her first in your life. You will lovingly serve your spouse by doing for him or her what you wish others would do for you if you were in the same circumstance.

Coaching Tips: Guidelines for Building a Thriving Marriage

  • Assist your spouse with his or her more menial tasks, such as making the beds, taking out the trash, cleaning, yard work, or whatever.

  • Communicate how important your spouse is when you talk about him or her instead of grabbing the spotlight for yourself. Always speak positively and constructively about your spouse around your children. When you are with other adults, make a point to bring up complimentary tidbits about your spouse. And you should share your positive comments as generously in private—alone with your spouse—as you do in public.

  • Never berate, demean, or humiliate your spouse in public or private.

  • Try to outdo your spouse with courtesy and kindness.

  • Make time alone a priority. Nothing says ‘You are number one in my life” like putting your spouse first with your time. And nothing communicates second-class status (or third or fourth) more than elevating your schedule and activities above time spent with your spouse. You would be wise to carve out significant portions of your week for one-on-one conversation

  • If you want your marriage to thrive for the long haul, you can start by putting your spouse first.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore! 

I Suspect Secrets...

Q: What do I do if I suspect my spouse is keeping secrets from me?

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

A: We get this question more often from women than from men—probably because women have a certain kind of radar that men will never understand. We have been told that a godly woman’s radar is better than the CIA or FBI. It’s God-given. Women know that when their kids are being way too quiet, they’re about to cause some trouble. They know what’s going on with their children when they come home after school—even if the kids seem happy, moms can tell if the kids are hurting somehow. It’s a gut feeling; it’s intuition. We believe that God has given women this extra sense in order to strengthen their marriages.

Guys, women can just tell. You may try to hide it, but they just know. It might be a blockage in

the marriage where you look away, don’t give eye contact, or seem more closed up on issues where you used to communicate. Bottom line is, women can sense when that vibrant connection is broken. And this will scare them. But guys with sensitive radar can sense the same things—and this will scare them as well.

If you suspect your spouse of keeping a secret, the last thing you should do is make accusations. Instead, go first to the Lover of your soul, the Lord Jesus, and pray. Scripture says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). One person said it this way: Think of the deepest, darkest secret you’ve ever had. Now after you’ve taken it to God, tell it to one other trusted person. The power of releasing it, the power of sharing it, the power of confiding it into a trusted relationship will free you of what the enemy has done.

Pray for your spouse to experience brokenness and the freedom that only God can give. Pray that God will work in your spouse’s heart. Pray that if there is a secret and that he or she is hiding some sin, that God would surface that, convict your spouse, and help him or her to do the right thing. Then let God work. Trust Him.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!