R.U.N. towards sex

Every once in a while there are misleading statements made about sex.  For example, we’ve heard it said, “A sex session can burn about 200 calories. This is like running 15 minutes on a treadmill!”

Even if this statements aren’t always accurate, it’s a lot of fun to think about the benefits a married couple can gain by enjoying sex.  In the spirit of this fact (proven or not!) here is an encouragement for why married couples should R.U.N. towards sex.

R – Relaxation

Days are busy. Nights are often filled with social and family obligations. This is just part of life. Sex provides a reprieve, a healthy escape from the problems of the day. When you are fully engaged in physical intimacy with your spouse there is often a complete disregard for everything else that is going on. The release of sexual exploration and orgasm for both men and women can provide a deep sense of relaxation.

U – Unity

Truly becoming one body during sex unites a couple. They can move forward in strength and agreement. Connecting physically is a great reminder that you are connected in other areas of life. Allow the physical connection during sex to remind you of the unity it takes to move forward in this life together.

N – Nurtures Intimacy

Intimacy before sex or after sex? The truth is it comes both ways. Emotional intimacy often leads one or both partners in marriage to desire sex. On the other hand, sex produces a desire to connect emotionally as a byproduct of the physical connection. Either as the culmination or the byproduct, sex nurtures intimacy in marriage.

So, there you go. Whether you are looking for some exercise or relaxation, unity and nurtured intimacy, sex was designed to benefit your marriage.

Linking with: To Love Honor and Vacuum, Messy Marriage

Here and Now:

Have you ever had somebody tell you to no longer focus on your past, but instead only focus on your future?  I have.

In fact, I’ve probably said those same words to a number of couples experiencing trials.

There was an affair.

Or severe financial problems.

Or a breach in trust due to a husband looking at porn.

Or a breach in trust due to a wife texting her ex-boyfriend from college.

There are a whole host of reasons as to why a marriage may begin to struggle.

“Fixing” the problem (if that’s even the right word to use) isn’t easy.  It’s a process.  A lengthy process.  But there are at least three things that are important to remember as a part of this process.

1. This problem didn’t happen overnight.

If you know somebody currently struggling in their marriage (or if you are yourself), it’s important to note that this problem didn’t just happen.  One or both people in the marriage took steps that led them to be where they are right now.  It may have began as an ‘innocent’ flirt.  It may have began by ‘innocently’ browsing the web.  And slowly but surely, more ‘innocent’ decisions were made.  After a little bit of time it then became clear that something felt missing, and that void needed to be filled elsewhere.

2. This problem can be overcome.

The next step is to identify ALL of the steps that were taken which led to the present circumstances.  Where and how did the unhappiness of one or both spouses begin?  What decisions were made to try to fill that void?  What conversations does the couple need to have to talk through these decisions?

Again, this is a lengthy process.  Many steps were taken to get here, and many will need to be taken for it to get healthy again.  Both spouses will have to be more transparent than they’ve ever been.  They’ll have to make decisions in a way they’ve never made them before – together.  They’ll have to earn one another’s trust in small ways and gradually work their way back to full-on trust.  But it can happen.  Any challenging situation can be overcome in marriage.

3. Live in the Here and Now

One of the best activities for any couple (whether they’re struggling or not) is to always think through the following questions:

  • Where do you want your marriage to be in 5 years?
  • Where do you want your marriage to be in 1 year?
  • Where do you want your marriage to be in 6 months?  …1 month?
  • What steps are you going to take to get there?

This last question in the key – what steps are you going to take (in the here and now) to get there?

In other words, don’t think about what you WILL be doing 5 years from now, think about what you WANT to be doing together 5 years from now.  Don’t think about what you WILL be doing 1 year from now, think about what you WANT to be doing 1 year from now.  Don’t think about what you WILL be doing 6 months from now, think about what you WANT to be doing in 6 months.  If you think about what you WILL be doing and it doesn’t happen, you’re only going to disappoint yourself.  But if you think about what you WANT to be doing and you’re both on the same page, you can think think through the steps you want to take – together – to get there.

But most importantly, don’t just think about the future, think about the here and now.

What can I do right now – today – to take a step towards where we want our marriage to be?

What can I do right now – today – to take a step towards trusting him/her again?

What can I do right now – today – to take a step towards earning his/her trust again?

What can I do right now – today – to take a step towards being his/her friend again?

What can I do right now – today – to uphold the vows I made?

What can I do right now – today – to BE loving even if I don’t FEEL loved?

What will YOU do right now – today?

Offering What You Can: Encouragement

Sometimes it was missing in our childhood. Sometimes we don’t receive it from our workplace. Our friendships and family relationships are often lacking it’s presence. Our marriages are commonly starving for it.

Encouragement.

As defined, encouragement is the ability to: 1. inspire (someone) with the courage or confidence (to do something). 2. to stimulate (something or someone to do something) by approval or help; support.

Definitely something every spouse longs for. Learning how to be an encouraging spouse is a life long journey rather than a once and done sort of thing.  However, learning how to inspire courage and confidence is not for the faint of heart. It takes time, dedication and trial and error to figure out what will most likely encourage your spouse.  Here are a few things that you can do to offer what you can to your marriage in the area of encouragement.

1. Recognize your spouse’s vulnerabilities.

Observe and discern what brings your spouse down. Too much criticism at work? Regularly feeling like they don’t measure up? Can’t seem to be “enough” (pretty enough, successful enough, thin enough, smart enough)? By recognizing the areas your spouse is vulnerable in your are better able to…

2. Build up your spouse in areas that regularly tear them down.

For instance, if your spouse responds poorly to criticism from others, be a soft landing place. Even if you agree with the criticism, rather than rehash it, cover over that with the strength they possess in another area. Draw upon your intimate knowledge of their successes and regularly remind them how much you support them. Keep in mind the greatest achievements your spouse has in different areas and pull from that the ways you can encourage your spouse. In all areas, know that you have the ability to momentarily relieve the hurt, pain, confusion or stress your spouse is experiencing. While it is impossible to completely change the situations you can give them the courage to continue on and may even prompt them to believe what you are saying.

3. Make encouragement a habit rather than a default setting.

So often we don’t practice encouraging our spouse until we recognize they need it. By then their tank is already low and we are just playing catch-up. Building a culture of encouragement in your marriage is an incredibly beneficial habit. Don’t wait till your spouse needs your encouragement, start today! There is no better way to figure out what best encourages your spouse than to try a bit of everything you can think of. The encouragement your spouse may need can change from time to time so have a whole bunch of encouragement ideas to pull from and your marriage will be strengthened.

We would love to compile a list of practical ways to encourage your spouse. Take a moment to share with us in the comment section some of the most encouraging things your spouse has done for you.

 

Linking with: To Love Honor and Vacuum, Messy Marriage

Marriage Challenge: Explore, Discover

“You don’t do that very often, I like it.” He said with a wink.

“How could I not have known.” I thought to myself.

After nearly 14 years of marriage I (Megan) love it when I discover new things about my husband.  It gives me a giddy feeling that there are still heights and depths which I have not yet become familiar. Each time I learn something new it brings about the opportunity to love more and connect more deeply with the man I married.

Marriage is like that, full of things that surprise us and mysteries we don’t understand. The only way to uncover these mysteries though is to explore, to take the opportunity to engage and discover what we may not already know.  Today’s marriage challenge is to explore your spouse in order to discover something new. Use questions, observations, experiences, physical touch and the like to fuel your understanding of your spouse. Explore, notice and discover your way to a better marriage.

Trust

A man sits down at lunch with a friend.  “Last night I found some pretty risque texts on my wife’s phone…from some other guy! I just don’t know what to do!”

A woman finds a secret phone her husband had been hiding. She tells her pastor, “There are images of other women on this thing. Dozens of other women. Naked women.  And I’m pretty sure he didn’t download them online.” Her weeping is uncontrollable.

A man unable to sleep at night gets up and decides to check his email. His wife’s computer is nearby so he grabs it. Soon, a facebook message from one of her old college boyfriend’s pops up: “So excited to see you tomorrow at noon. I’m only in town for one day, so let’s make it count…just like last time.”

A woman is helping her kids with their homework when some inappropriate images suddenly begin appearing on the monitor.  A virus has taken over the computer.  A friend comes over to help her solve the problem, and discovers dozens of porn sites in the computer’s cache.

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While the above stories are mostly fictional, these situations happen.  And they happen every single day. Every. Single. Day.

When a counselor takes the opportunity to discuss these types of situations with couples, it’s important for them to do two different things.  First, they discuss the steps the couple took to get to the situation they’re now in.  Second, in it’s equally important to discuss the steps they need to take to get their marriage back on track.

Today, we’d like to focus on the first set of steps.  The ones the couple took to get to the situation they’re now in.  And in every situation, one commonality reigns true; the marriage did not have trust.  At least one person in the marriage was living a secret life.  They knew what they were doing.  They even knew it was wrong.  But they did it anyway.

But every couple can take preventative steps to ensure that situations such as these won’t happen (or at least, will be much less likely to occur).  If you are not currently following through on the following steps, you should take opportunities prayerfully consider doing so:

Step #1: Give your spouse full access to every account you have. 

Email. Facebook. Twitter. Pinterest. Instagram. Cell Phone….everything.  Your spouse should have the username and password to every single account you use.  Every. Single. Account. Not only that, but they should also be able to pick up your phone at any time and see who you’ve been talking to or texting.  They shouldn’t even have to ask permission.  They should simply have open access.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Some of you think this is going to far.  Some of you think your spouse should just trust you, and you should just trust them.  But there’s a really, really good chance that everybody who is thinking these things has had a friend, family member or colleague get caught in a similar situation.  So trust us, and trust your spouse with your accounts.  All of them.

Want to go one step further?  Use one account for you both.  JohnandJaneDoe@gmail.com has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?  For those who can’t do that due to your career/work email, we suggest the following: Anytime you email somebody of the opposite sex, CC your spouse in the email.  Let them see exactly who you’re communicating with and why.  This kind of trust goes a long, long way in your marriage.

Step #2: Be Open and Honest

This one is a bit more challenging, as you simply have to choose to do it.  You can agree to have one account on Facebook/Pinterest but you have to choose to be open and honest about what you’re doing and who you’re with.

Here’s a personal example. A long time ago, I (Justin) used to work for a child care resource agency.  For the first five years on the job, I was the only male on staff.  The only male.  My career required regular out of town overnight trips with other staff.  Other female staff.  Dozens of them.

What did I do?  I told Megan I would only go to dinner in a large group of people.  I told her who I worked with, which women I trusted, and which women I didn’t.  I told her the steps I took to purposefully avoid the women I didn’t trust.  On occasion, Megan joined me on some overnight trips, and she trusted some of the staff as well, and always encouraged me to spend my time with them when out of town.

While we’re not perfect by any means, we encourage you to follow a similar example.  Your spouse should know who you work with, who your friends are, what their lifestyle is like, why you do/don’t trust them, and so on.  The more they know about who you’re with, the less likely they are to have reason not to trust you.

Challenge for the Week:

Take the opportunity to make some changes to how you’re implementing steps of trust in your marriage.  Begin to give your spouse access to your accounts.  You can even be creative.  For example:

  • Wrap your cell phone up in a box.  Include a note that says, “I want you to always trust me, and you have my permission to look at my phone anytime.”
  • Send a note in your spouse’s lunch, “I love you and I want you to not just know me, but know what I’m up to…anytime.  So here is list of all of my account usernames and passwords.  Check in and ask what I’m up to anytime.”
  • Have a date night and legitimately discuss all of the pros/cons of using the same account for you both.  We’re pretty sure you’ll come up with more pros than cons.

Far too often, trust is assumed in a marriage.  But trust is something that has to be regularly and continually earned.  Take the steps to earn your spouses trust a little bit more each and every day.  Your marriage may just depend on it.

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Marriage Strong, Energy Poor

We started off the year being transparent about the struggles 2013 brought into our lives. Despite the turmoil the past year brought, we determined to make 2014 The Year of Friendship. We did this for a specific reason, we knew 2014 was likely to bring about a fair share of struggles of its own.  We were right.

February has brought grief and pain into our lives in the form of loss. I (Megan) lost my mother (age 63) on February 7th. An incredible legacy but a heavy loss for my heart. This past week we also lost Justin’s grandmother. A woman with whom we we were very close and visited regularly.  The pain and grief of these losses has left us raw and tired. The most common question asked of us right now is, “How are you doing?” and let me tell ya, that’s a doozie of a question. Truth is, we are comforted and well supported. We are also sad, grieving and exhausted. However, when it comes to our marriage I describe that we are marriage rich despite being energy poor.

Maybe you can relate, your marriage is strong even though you are physically and emotionally spent. Maybe for you that is wishful thinking, you can’t imagine having a strong marriage during your most difficult season. Today I want to share three things that are keeping our marriage strong during this trying and difficult time.

1. Words

Words of encouragement, comfort, support and reassurance are necessary during times of deep hurt. The words can come in form of cards, notes or be spoken but, whatever the form, using words to build up your spouse is essential to a strong marriage.

2. Actions

Sometimes even words can’t soothe the heartache of the ones we love most. During those times it’s important to show our support of them through actions that speak where words are inadequate. A listening ear, a long hug, a comforting meal, a trip to the store – all of these actions and so many more can strengthen your marriage.

In addition, lowering the “normal” expectations of what your spouse may be able to accomplish with their time is an action of love. Around our house, laundry is getting done but may not always make it to the state of being put away properly. Meals are being eaten together, but may be of the variety of store bought goods and sides as opposed to my normal more healthy and frugal meals. The burden to keep up with all of life while processing difficult circumstances is oppressive but as a spouse, we can speak with loving actions when we let go of expectations and allow our spouse to feel supported regardless of the disruption to “normal”. A new normal will settle in but patience and support until that time makes a marriage thrive during the interim.

3. Space

Not to be disregarded, even in a one flesh marriage, it is important to allow our spouse space to process. Just as a garden does not bloom within hours of the seeds being planted, a spouse cannot process and heal without some space and time. Healthy amounts of togetherness and separateness during difficult seasons is important. Be observant, patient and sensitive to what your spouse needs most. If your spouse needs you to be there, then be there. If they need some alone time to cry, sleep, write, grant them that space.  The garden will grow, not from force, but from the space to receive the nutrients essential to support it’s growth.

Of course our faith in God and our Savior Jesus Christ is giving us the greatest amount of strength and comfort during this time, but on a practical level, words, actions and space are the ways our marriage is being nurtured.  These elements can strengthen marriages in all situations and can be applied in many close relationships.

Difficult times will come in every marriage and these are just a few thoughts on how to sustain health and strength. Feel free to share how you strengthen your marriage when difficulties (especially those outside of the marriage relationship) arise.

 

Marriage Chellenge: Saving Yourself for Marriage

Modern society is constantly beckoning for us to do more and be more. We are a busy generation and are regularly worn out from our own best efforts. Not being sensitive of our time and our personal limitations impacts our marriages. We readily give of ourselves to our jobs, our community and a variety of other things but our marriage? Often times our spouse gets the leftovers. We don’t save ourselves for marriage.

How about a date night? I can fit you in 3 months from now.

Let’s connect sexually tonight? We can have fun as long as you do all the work. I don’t mind.

Can we at least sit down to dinner? Ok, so long as I can keep my cell phone on and tablet open.

Today’s marriage challenge is to save yourself for marriage. Don’t continue to spend the best of yourself everywhere but at home.  Save the best of yourself for the most important relationship you have, your marriage.

Marriage is for life. If we regularly neglect putting the required time and effort into something so important, what is designed to be beautiful will become a burden. What is meant to be lifelong friendship and companionship will become forced cohabitation. So yes, saving yourself for marriage is not just for unmarried people, it’s for those of us who are already married too.