Preventing Unfaithfulness

Q: My spouse is on the road a lot, and I worry that he/she may be tempted to be unfaithful while away. What can we do to make sure this never happens? 

Photo by Gratisography from Pexels

Photo by Gratisography from Pexels

A: If a person is not going to be faithful on the road, he or she is likely not faithful at home. Yet unfaithfulness is manifested in different ways—and there’s no doubt that constant travel and nights in hotel rooms have their own brands of temptation. When you go to a hotel room, no one is there to catch you, no one there to sit in judgment. How can you watch over each other so that the one on the road is not drawn in?

First, you can work externally. Line up an accountability partner whom you can call while you’re on the road, someone who will ask the tough questions. Then, when the traveling spouse returns, he or she should make sure that the accountability partner asks how it went. Again, the tough questions. Accountability requires honesty. Knowing you’ll be asked the question goes a long way to helping you refuse to yield to temptation. A wife can encourage her husband to have the men that are close to him do that. When the spouse at home knows this is part of the plan, he or she will feel much more secure.

Gary recalls one trip when his friend actually put a towel over the television set in the hotel room. This was part of his plan when he traveled. A friend would call and leave a simple message, “Where’s your towel?” And that would remind him to refuse the temptation of pay-per-view movies that he had no business watching. Another thing you can do if you travel is carry along pictures of your wife and kids—in their frames in your suitcase so that you can stand them on the hotel room dresser.

Beyond these external measures, the internal are just as important. Couples should pray together before one of them leaves on a trip. Call and talk to each other. Stay in touch. Check on each other’s hearts. Love each other enough to be there. And then, trust each other.

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

Debt is Hurting our Marriage

Debt can cause all kinds of stress in a marriage. Have you found yourself feeling hopeless over debt? We’ve heard from many couples who say credit cards have led them down the path to debt. 

Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

Plastic creates an illusion about what you can afford. A study done years ago said that people who use credit cards will spend 34 percent more than if they used cash or wrote a check. Why? Because in their minds, they don’t have to pay in full anytime soon. That’s part of the mindset that is so dangerous. Because of the high interest rates on credit cards, people need to get into the mindset to use the cards only when what they are purchasing fits in the budget.

The worst situation is when you’re simply able to pay only minimum payments on your credit cards—that’s often where the stress arises because by paying minimums only, you quickly realize that you’re not getting anywhere in paying off the cards. Usually you end up barely covering the interest payment.

For example, let’s say you spend $2000 on a credit card. The minimum payment on that amount will be roughly 2 percent a month, or $20. That certainly seems affordable, right? So, you just make those $20-a-month payments. Now here’s a sobering truth—even if you use the card no more, and if you pay only that $20, it’s going to take you about nine years to repay that original $2000. And at the end of that time, you’ll have paid more than $1000 dollars of interest! So if you used your credit card to purchase something on sale, in the end, you’ve not gotten a sale price at all!

If you’ve found yourself in debt, here are ten steps toward finding your way out:

  1. Gather all your bills, along with a pencil, calculator, some paper, and some file folders. Prepare a file folder for each type of bill.

  2. Make a list of your regular monthly bills. On this list, do not include bills that you’re trying to pay off (such as credit card bills); list only the bills that you’ll always get or at least are long term (such as tithe, mortgage or rent, car payment, utilities, insurance, etc.).

  3. In the space beside each of these bills, list the amount (or average amount) you pay per month. Then create a subtotal, which represents the amount of money you must pay out as your bills arrive every month.

  4. The next step is more difficult. You need to figure out what needs to be added for essentials such as food, gas, and other miscellaneous expenses (maybe it’s piano lessons for the kids or some other expense). Subtotal these expenses.

  5. Now figure out the total for #3 and #4 above. This number represents your vital, bare-bones budget (although, even here, you may find ways to pare back. Perhaps you can find a less expensive place to grocery shop, or you can set the thermostat higher or lower). In any event, this is a basic number for you to work with.

  6. Write down how much you earn each month. Subtract the subtotal from #5 above from your income. Now you know what you have left to put toward retiring your debts.

  7. On a separate sheet of paper, make a list of every other bill that you need to clear up. This is where you list your credit cards, medical bills, or other places that have extended you credit.

  8. Go through each bill and write out the total amount that you owe for each. This amount will change from month to month as you make payments and as interest is added, but for now, just write it down. (By the way, for this to work, put away all those credit cards—cut them up, put them on ice, whatever. If you want to get out of debt, you have to commit to not adding to your debt.) After you’ve written down all the totals, rewrite the list in order of the amount owed, starting with the lowest. Generally this is the order in which you’ll attempt to pay them off.

  9. Decide on a standard amount that you can afford to pay on each bill. Credit cards have minimums, so start there, understanding that you’re going to try, as quickly as possible, to get above that minimum payment in order to make headway. Once you’ve figured out all the minimum payments for each bill, see if there is leftover in your budget. If so, the extra should go to that first bill on the list, the lowest one. As soon as that one is paid off, you move up to the next bill, adding to the minimum payment that you already put beside it the minimum payment from the previous bill and any extra that was in your budget. Pay that one off. Then keep moving up the list and you’ll see that you’ll be adding more and more to the bottom line and paying off the higher ones faster and faster.

  10. On a third sheet of paper, figure out how you’ll be doing the payouts. If you get paid twice a month, then make two columns. If every week, then four columns. Look at the due dates for each bill and write that bill into the corresponding pay period (paying bills on time and avoiding late fees will already give you a raise!). Now you know what you have to pay with each paycheck. You should photocopy this list or have it on your computer so you can print a new one out each month. When you get a paycheck, pull out the bills that need to be paid and get them into the mail or set up for online payments.

Now you’re on your way!

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

Should I Marry a Christian?

Q: I’m a Christian. Why is it so important for me to marry a Christian?

A: We often get a question like this. Listen to what Jessie said:

Photo by Burst from Canva

Photo by Burst from Canva

“I’m not married yet, but I am in a very serious relationship that is eventually going to be a marriage. How can a person like myself prepare for marriage so that the difficulties I hear on your show don’t have to happen to me and my future husband? What can we do now? I mean, we do a few things; we’re doing okay. We’ve learned to sit down and talk. We don’t argue a lot, but when we do I think we do a good job at communicating. I’m a Christian and he’s a Christian, but what else is important?”

Jessie already hit on what’s most important. As a Christian, she needed to find a Christian guy. Believers should not be “unequally yoked” with nonbelievers. No matter how much love you may feel now for a nonbeliever, it won’t carry you through years of going to church alone, arguing over basic issues of morality in Scripture, or simply being alone because you can’t connect at the area of your life that is most important. When you marry an unbeliever, you will find a very painful emptiness in your marriage.

You’ll want to look for someone who’s the real deal. For example, watch out for the recent “convert” who became a Christian in order to date you. You want to marry a person who’s walking with Jesus, who has a tender and teachable heart, who prays, who is maturing in Christ Jesus. Check with the people who love you. Do they think this potential spouse is the real deal?

This is a very significant issue because when you’re making decisions together, you’ll want to be able to discuss those decisions from the standpoint of both of you desiring God’s will. When you’re resolving conflict and experiencing forgiveness, it needs to come as an overflow of a vertical relationship with Christ. When you’re dealing with finances and the stewardship of your God-given resources, your decision needs to come through a filter of the relationship with Jesus Christ. The physical aspect of your relationship is most fulfilling when it comes through your own deep intimacy with Jesus. Even if you find a wonderful person who has great character, a kind heart, and good communication skills, but does not have a relationship with Jesus, then your marriage relationship is never going to experience all that God designs for it.

While finding a believer must be your top priority, it is also important to understand that just being two Christians doesn’t mean marriage will be a breeze. Other factors are important. The two of you must learn how to resolve conflict and talk through your differences wherever they are and whatever they are. You need to be able to compromise. Take plenty of time to really invest in your relationship. Learn about each other. Become friends. See how you resolve conflict. Take off the “rose-colored” glasses and ask God to give you true wisdom and discernment. After all, after becoming a Christian, whom you choose to marry is the most important decision of your life.

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

On the Devil's Hit List

Don’t look now, but there is someone who is dead set against you and your spouse enjoying a happy, fulfilling marriage. No, we’re not talking about your in-laws or an old, jealous boyfriend or girlfriend—and we certainly hope these people are not against you. We’re talking about someone very hateful, powerful, and devious. We’re talking about God’s archenemy and the enemy of your soul: Satan.

“Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Photo by   Helena Lopes   from   Pexels

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

You may be wondering, “What’s so special about my marriage that the devil himself is out to ruin it?” Your marriage is God’s creation, and your family is God’s joy. Throughout the Bible, God uses marriage as an object lesson for his desired relationship with humankind. The beauty of the love relationship God seeks with us and wants to illustrate in your relationship with your spouse is pictured in Solomon’s love poem: “I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3).

That’s what your marriage is supposed to look like: a husband and wife totally devoted to and absorbed in one another. When you love your spouse sacrificially and unconditionally according to the guidelines of Scripture and when he or she loves you the same way, you are modeling for all to see the essence of how God wants to be involved with us.

God wants your marriage to paint a true picture. He wants your kids to see a dad and mom so devoted to each other and to them that they say, “Wow! So that’s how much God loves me.” He wants your neighbors, work associates, and friends to see how you humbly serve one another and say, “Amazing! So that’s what it means to serve God.” No wonder Satan wants to deface this image by ruining your marriage or at least keeping it from becoming all it can be. It is vital that you guard your hearts and your marriage from the devil’s ongoing assault.

How does Satan seek to devour your marriage? One of his primary weapons is the godless culture we live in. You can talk all you want to about America as a “Christian nation,” but there is a lot going on in American culture that is working against the health and success of your marriage. And if you fail to guard against these subtle—and sometimes blatant—influences, this world will drain the vitality and passion from your marriage relationship.

What influences are we talking about? Try the media, for example. When was the last time you flipped on a television drama, viewed a movie at the theater, or read a secular novel that didn’t glorify adultery or an illicit affair in some manner? And even when infidelity and dishonesty in marriage isn’t glorified in these presentations, it is at least accepted and condoned as “normal.” At the same time, wholesome, monogamous marriages are often pictured as anemic or boring.

Then there is the insidious cancer of pornography poisoning the vital organs of our culture through the media. Countless numbers of magazines, books, videos, adult “superstores,” and Internet websites promote unbridled sexual expression.

You may object, “We’re Christians, so the culture doesn’t influence us that much.” If Satan’s influence through the culture didn’t affect believers, we wouldn’t need the clear instruction found in 1 John 2:15-16, which is written to Christians: “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world.”

The devil probably knows he can’t convince you to dump your spouse and run off with another man or woman. But he will try to keep that option looking attractive to you through the media and other means. He will do his best to stoke the fires of lust enough to distract you from full devotion to your spouse. And if he can keep you distracted by the world’s view of marriage and sex, your marriage will be much less than it could be—which suits him just fine.

We’re not advocating that you take a sledgehammer to your TV or iPad, torch all your paperback novels, or swear off attending. But as a couple you must exercise guarding love by holding each other accountable to verses like Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

We are stuck in this world for now. But as Jesus said, we are not of this world any more than he is of this world (see John 17:16). The distractions are strong and plentiful. But guarding love finds a way to make it through together without being devoured by Satan. Solomon’s instructions are key: “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (Proverbs 4:25-27).

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

How to Meet Your Husband's Sex Needs

Over the past few months, we’ve been digging into the sex needs of husbands and wives – and how you can meet the needs of your spouse. We’ve covered the top needs of both men and women, and how a husband can meet his wife’s sex needs. This month, we focus on how a wife can meet her husband’s needs.

Photo by  Jose Escobar  on  Unsplash

Wives: We encourage you to invest in your husband. Love him. Meet his needs—for his sake and for the sake of your marriage. How can you do that? Pick a few of the following suggestions, and begin the process of meeting your husband’s sex needs.

1.  Realize sex plays a major role in helping men process life. Sex has the miraculous ability to clear a man’s mind, helping him solve problems. Women often resolve problems by talking things out; men often solve problems when they have sex with their wives.

2.  Say yes as often as possible. The fastest connection charger is to say yes to sex. Basically, if a wife gets only one thing from this particular blog, it needs to be the importance of saying yes. If she wants to connect with her husband, the best way to do that is through sex.

3.  If you must say no, don’t say it right away. When your husband wants to be involved sexually with you, don’t immediately close the door. Recognize it as a real need and consider that your positive response is one way you can love and serve your husband. Again, remember the apostle Paul’s words: “Love is patient and kind. . . . It does not demand its own way.” Then, if you must say no, be prepared to do two things: Give an honest reason for the delay, and then suggest a time when you might be more ready to respond to his needs.

4.  Decide to enjoy sex. Sex actually starts in the mind. You can choose to enjoy sex, or you can choose not to enjoy sex. Your decision becomes a trajectory for your relationship—inside and outside the bedroom. In a majority of couples we talk to, we find that women really do enjoy sex when they start out by choosing to enjoy it.

5.  Help your spouse know how to please you. If your husband does not know how to please you, teach him. Men are not mind readers—especially in bed. Your husband needs to know what gives you pleasure. When you are making love, place your hand over his and lead him. Whisper in his ear what you would really like him to do. There is nothing embarrassing or shameful about that kind of communication.

6.  Get over shyness. God designed us to be sexual, to be vulnerable. Wives, start to voice your needs. When you become more specific about what you desire in the bedroom, both of you will benefit. Trust us, a husband will not respond in disgust or outrage. Husbands, make sure that you do not misuse that trust. What you and your wife do is not something to share with your buddies. What happens in the bedroom is private.

7.  Realize your husband’s emotions may not work like yours. A woman easily shifts from one emotion to another. For instance, if her husband doesn’t talk to her much, she may think, Is he sick of me? Does he think I’m fat and old? Maybe there’s someone at the office he finds more interesting and attractive. Women can go from point A to point Z in a matter of sixty seconds. Meanwhile, he’s thinking, I’m really tired. I can’t wait to watch that action movie tonight. Many men don’t think beyond the first emotion unless there’s a problem to be solved. They don’t usually over-analyze or go down the list of cause-and-effect. Wives will make progress in their marriages when they realize this truth.

8.  Take the 10 percent challenge. Wives, what would happen if you responded sexually to your husband 10 percent more than you do now? Many women ask us, “Am I meeting his need if I respond a lot but not every time?” Yes, but really, that’s the wrong question. The number is not important. What matters is the nature of the response and the connection that happens when you and your husband work toward anticipation and sexual satisfaction. Even a small shift in your responsiveness can bring your husband much joy and improve your marriage.

9.  Create a game plan. It may help to set up a game plan so that your husband will not take your hesitancy personally. The game plan can include the following aspects:

  • If you must say no, be clear about the reason. It may be fatigue, fear the kids will overhear, or unresolved conflict. Instead of withdrawing, communicate and graciously tell your husband what you’re feeling. When he understands what you see as obstacles, he will be better able to work toward resolving the issue.

  • Know what to expect. When a wife is not able to respond, one of the best things she can do is to let her husband know when he can expect to have sex, whether it is later that night or the next day. That usually resolves the situation much better than saying, “I don’t feel like it” and going to sleep. Talk together about how many times a week you would like to have sex so that both of you know what the expectations are. Some of you may feel awkward about planning ahead for sex, as if putting it on the calendar makes it feel forced. Yet planning ahead works for many couples, taking the guesswork and conflict out of the situation and giving the couple rhythm and anticipation.

  • Follow up on a promise for sex. If you must say no, make sure that your no is “not right now, but soon.” We know that sometimes “later” has to be changed too. But a healthy marriage is based on trust; your spouse should be able to trust that you will follow through on what you say. When “later” never comes, pretty soon your spouse will doubt your word—not only in the area of sex but in other areas as well.

  • Know each other’s needs and sexual rhythms, and show empathy. If you need to say no, don’t leave it up to your husband’s imagination to guess why. You don’t want him to think the worst! Be honest with him and talk with him about his needs and your own.

*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!