Tag Archives: christian marriage

Pursuing 4-Dimensional Intimacy

When someone asks me where to get date night ideas, The Romantic Vineyard is the first place I send them. The authors, Tom and Debi Walter, have been blogging for many years with practical tips, biblical truths, and romantic ideas to help couples nurture companionship and intimacy, including 430 date night posts. Wow.

But when I think about Debi Walter, I can’t help but think about how she inspired a chapter in my book. When I took up her challenge to the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association to talk specifically about the gospel, I wrote “The Gospel in the Bedroom.” Not only did I feel that chapter was a special message about sex in marriage — but that God had used Debi to invite me into His calling. An angel in the true sense of God’s messenger.

Thus, I feel particularly privileged to have this angel here on my blog today with a wonderful message about intimacy. Here’s Debi Walter.

Blog post title + close-up of couple embracing in a vineyard

“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret place of the steep pathway,
Let me see your form,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your form is lovely.”

“Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom.”

Song of Solomon 2:14-15

This passage speaks of the precious gift a husband and wife share behind closed doors. He longs to see her form and to hear her voice. He compliments her, encouraging her into deeper intimacy with him. Such a picture of innocence and trust. It is precious and worth pursuing.

A man who has eyes only for his bride and a bride who lovingly allows him to have all of her without holding back is intimacy as God designed it. It is beautiful.

Our pastor shared a definition of intimacy that has helped us judge how we are doing in this regard. He says when we share intimacy with our spouse, we are inviting them “into me see.” We aren’t holding back in any area. Total disclosure and total trust.

Intimacy includes four areas where we must regularly invite our spouse in. We refer to it as 4-dimensional intimacy. If you’re not familiar with the term, 4-D is a fairly new way of viewing movies at the theater.

Definition: 4-D (adjective) describes a 3-D film experience that is supplemented with synchronized physical effects.

If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they were one of the first to showcase this effect. We went to a 3-D presentation of A Bug’s Life. While we were watching the ants march on the screen, we felt something crawl under our seat. It made everyone jump and scream. Laughter followed when we realized that we were experiencing the movie on a new level.

Imagine what 4-D intimacy could do for our marriages? Let’s consider these four dimensions:

Dimension 1 – The Mind (Intellectual intimacy)

Every day our minds are bombarded with thoughts about work, family, budgets, and schedules. They can be like a tidal wave, and we must spend time sharing what is on our mind with our each other. To stay on the same page, so to speak, in regards to priorities and responsibilities. We must help each other take each thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

This is where we are tempted to worry about the future. Being honest about all the temptations you are both facing will go a long way in building intellectual intimacy together. This intimacy also includes growing and learning new things like current events, science, and history.

Dimension 2 – The Heart (Spiritual intimacy)

Feeding our Spirit with the Word of God and sharing what we are hearing the Holy Spirit say to us is important for our growth in godliness. When we got married, we invited the Holy Spirit to unite us forever, and a miracle took place. No longer were we two, but now we are one flesh.

Spend regular time talking about what God is saying to you. Encourage each other to pursue the Lord. This is spiritual intimacy helping your spouse cultivate their personal relationship with the Lord. This intimacy also includes commitment to the local church and serving others together.

Dimension 3 – The Soul (Emotional intimacy)

Emotions can change like the tide of the ocean — up one day and down the next. They can be predictable in their unpredictability, knowing for certain they will change. We must be committed to not only share our emotions with each other, but also giving each other time to be heard.

When I am feeling the most emotional is when the ground is ripe for a conflict. It takes patience and kindness on my husband’s part, not to mention discernment, in knowing what to say or not say. Often times a hug is all that is needed to let me know that he cares and is there for me. This intimacy also includes having fun together and finding ways to laugh.

Dimension 4 – The Body (Physical intimacy)

This is the intimacy that is supported by all the other intimacies mentioned above. You can have physical intimacy without the first three, but it will be one-dimensional only and not what God intended. Adding this element to the three above is as ecstatic and exhilarating as we felt experiencing the 4-D movie effect for the first time. It caused all the other dimensions to come alive.

It is what King Solomon was describing in our opening verse. Make love not because you have to, but because you get to. It is a gift. If it feels otherwise, I encourage you to seek help to find out why?

Make love not because you have to, but because you get to. Click To Tweet

This brings us to the last part of the verse in Song of Solomon that speaks of catching the foxes that spoil the vine.

Foxes were capable of completely destroying a healthy vineyard. They are known to not only eat the fruit, but also to chew on the trunk, killing the entire vine.

There can be many foxes after your intimacy, and only you know what they are. The question is, have you talked it over with your spouse? Do they know you well enough to know the foxes stalking your mind, heart, soul, and body? If they don’t I encourage you to open up and start the conversation. This is how you go after those little foxes and catch them before the damage is permanent.

Our new book, Cherishing Us: 365 Tips for a Healthy Marriage, can help you begin talking on a regular basis to help deepen your intimacy.

♥     ♥     ♥

Thanks so much, Debi! And to my readers, here’s more about the book:

CLICK TO LEARN MORE OR BUY

Cherishing Us is a compilation of advice shared the past several years on The Romantic Vineyard Facebook page. We brought them together in this handbook to allow you to keep the tips close for easy reference. Read one daily and use it as a springboard to assess your marriage. Let it be a constant reminder of the priority your marriage holds in your life as you seek to grow closer together for a lifetime. Includes monthly Contemplation Questions, Date Night suggestions, and ruminations on the importance of cherishing one another. Ideal for engaged couples, newlyweds, and enduring marriages. Give this as a wedding gift, or anniversary gift, or just because. Every marriage can benefit from daily reminders to honor the one you’ve promised to love and to cherish!

5 Kisses You Need to Master

I don’t think couples kiss enough in marriage. I’ve written about this before: You’re Not Kissing Enough. But today I want to make sure your repertoire is sufficient to have a great kissing experience with your spouse.

Since it’s High Five Saturday, let’s talk about five different kisses you need to master for your marriage.

Blog post title + illustration of lips

1. The Peck

Chaste, quick, friendly — I’m not sure how you’d describe this one. But all couples need to be able to share a quick peck as a reminder of their connection. It’s the perfect choice for when you’re in a hurry to get to work, when you’re in a family friendly setting, or when you just ate fish and you know your husband hates the smell of fish so you’re trying to spare him. (Okay, that last scenario is autobiographical.)

Make sure your peck is just that: a nice pucker delivered without too much fanfare, but different from what you’d give your mother. Soften your lips a little at the meeting of your mouths and linger for a moment. Add a smile as you pull away to show that you like kissing your spouse — even with pecks.

2. The Soft Kiss

Closed, pliant lips touching and lingering … that’s the good stuff of a nice soft kiss. This is my personal favorite, because it’s a tender and teasing experience. A soft kiss can lead to more fun things, or simply remain a beautiful kiss in and of itself. It’s like the start of a series or a stand-alone — good either way.

Most important tip? Keep your lips flexible. Allow your mouths to mold together by making sure you’re not puckering or flattening your lips too much. Linger longer, a few seconds. You can also do a series of soft kisses to lead up to more passionate kissing.

3. The French Kiss

Ooh La La! Many consider the French kiss to be the pinnacle of puckering. You’re basically giving your mouths over to one another, open and interacting. Lips mashed up together, tongues tangling, hearts pounding. Yeah, this kiss is pretty passionate.

Let your tongue tease and explore, but remember it’s not on a digging mission. Don’t shove your tongue in so far that your spouse feels like a victim in Invasion of the Mouth Snatcher. You can take the lead, but share the experience, working your mouths together like a delicate dance.

4. That Favorite Spot

Some of the best kisses involve the mouth of one spouse and a place other than the mouth on their mate. What is your spouse’s favorite spot to be kissed? Where do your lips drive them wild?

For some, it’s the neck. For others, behind the ear. It could be along the shoulder, down the torso, or moving up the inner thigh. Somewhere on your beloved’s body is a place they would love to be kissed. Ask where that is, and go to it. Use the soft kiss and your tongue to tease and delight that special, sensitive spot.

5. The Text Kiss

Since I don’t want to leave you in an uptight frenzy (in case your spouse isn’t near enough to kiss), I figured I’d close with the text kiss.

When you’re away from each other, you can still send the sentiment of a kiss through a text message! In fact, you have several options:

  • Go with the old standby of XXX or XOXO (kisses or kisses & hugs).
  • Send an emoji with a kissing face. Like this: Kissing Face With Closed Eyes on Samsung Experience 8.5 (Galaxy Note 8)
  • Use a word that means kissing, such as mwah!
  • Take a picture of yourself puckered up and send it through text.
  • Download Bitmoji, make your avatar, and then use one of the kissing images. Here’s one of mine!

Avatar of me, with word "KISSES" and a lipsticked mouth underneath

That’s it! Five kisses you should become your spouse’s personal expert on.

Five kisses you should become your spouse's personal expert on. Click To Tweet

Also, I have a whole chapter on kissing with many more tips in my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, on sale only through Valentine’s Day. Make sure you get your copy!

Ad banner for book, click to buy

CLICK TO LEARN MORE OR BUY

Is Marriage Terrific or Awful?

On the Facebook page for our podcast, Sex Chat for Christian Wives, we often share Bible verses or quotes that apply to marriage. Consequently, I’ve done a lot of perusing quotes lately, and it struck me today how strong people’s opinions are about the worthwhileness of marriage.

Blog post title + illustration of wedding rings

Some believe marriage is terrific, some believe it’s awful. Take a look at these examples:

Marriage is terrific

“There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” – Martin Luther

“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” – Andre Maurois

“Love is not weakness. It is strong. Only the sacrament of marriage can contain it.” – Boris Pasternak

“Marriage is the most natural state of man, and…the state in which you will find solid happiness.” – Benjamin Franklin

Marriage is awful

“Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.” – William Shakespeare

“A marriage is no amusement but a solemn act, and generally a sad one.” – Queen Victoria

“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?” – H.L. Mencken

So which is it?

When my marriage was in the pit of doom and despair, I would have answered that my marriage was awful. And yet, somehow I believed deeply that it could become terrific. (See When My Marriage Seemed Hopeless, What Made Me Stay?)

It has become a happy marriage, such that I also wrote 6 Things I Love about Being Married. And believe me, that’s not an exhaustive list!

I know some marriages are awful. One or both spouses are buried in a pile of pain so deep they can’t imagine how they can possibly claw their way out — at least not together. Some of you have experienced the lion’s share of hurt on the issue of a sexless marriage, although most failing marriages are dealing with other issues as well.

Perhaps you’re at the point that you feel like one of these people:

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” – Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

“Marriage is miserable unless you find the right person that is your soulmate and that takes a lot of looking.” – Marvin Gaye

You think that you were dealt a bad hand or married the wrong person, and you don’t feel like your marriage can ever find health and happiness.

I don’t believe in soul mates. If God created a single person out there intended for you, that strikes me as a cruel shell game to try to find them. Moreover, the Bible shows example of various reasons for getting married, and God’s perspective seems to be that living out the Gospel in your marriage is what brings you holiness and happiness.

Living out the Gospel in your marriage is what brings you holiness and happiness. Click To Tweet

Hands-down, that’s what saved my marriage and brought us from awful to terrific. See Miracle or Quick Fix, in which I confess this what I learned during that process:

I had to commit to being the kind of Christ-follower God wanted me to be. Often we know what to do. We simply don’t do it. We find excuses for not being as loving, patient, selfless, and kind as we should. We don’t give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We focus on defending ourselves and thus offending our spouse. If God directly responded to many of our prayers for a better marriage, Jesus might simply pop into our living rooms long enough to say a “Woe unto you” for neglecting His commands.

What makes the difference?

Perhaps the difference between good marriages and bad marriages is our willingness to be humble about our shortcomings, forgiving of one another, and invite God into our relationship day after day after day.

That’s not a magic pill, but a daily regimen.

The good news is that I’ve been around long enough to see not just a few but many marriages go from awful to terrific. Yes, I’ve also seen some go from terrific to awful — and that stings for all involved. But there are a lot of happy marriages out there (see The Good News about Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn), most of which required intentionality, effort, and grace.

There are a lot of happy marriages out there, most of which required intentionality, effort, and grace. Click To Tweet

Maybe your marriage is already there, but maybe it’s awful at the moment — which means it might just be pre-terrific. Don’t give up.

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Are You Guilty of Whataboutism in Your Marriage?

I’ve been hearing a lot lately on the topic of whataboutism. Don’t know what that is? It’s defined as “the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue” (Oxford Dictionaries).

Basically, it’s when one person says, “So-and-so did this bad thing.” And the other person replies, “Yeah, well, what about so-and-so and their bad thing?” You hear it in politics all the time. In American politics, it often comes across this way: “Democrat A did this terrible thing,” to which someone replies, “Yeah, well, what about Republican B and the terrible thing they did?” Or switch Democrat/Republican. Not surprisingly, such debates go nowhere.

If neither side will ever admit that someone actually did something wrong or unwise, and their entire defense is that someone else in the universe also does bad things, how can any progress be made to improve the situation? It just starts sounding like a bad playground fight with yo-mama insults tossed from one fool to the other and back again.

But before we all feel so superior that we would never be such fools, let me ask: Are you guilty of whataboutism in your marriage?

blog post title + older married couple arguing

I’ll be the first to raise my hand. I’ve totally done this in the middle of an argument. You know how this goes:

Him:  You said you’d pick up my dry cleaning, but it’s been three days and you haven’t done it.
Her: Yeah, well, what about that weird sound our dishwasher makes that I told you about last week?

OR

Her: We haven’t been on a date in forever, because you’re always working.
Him: Yeah, well, what about when I suggested we take dance lessons and you didn’t want to do that?

OR

Him: I want us to make love more often, because I really miss it.
Her: Yeah, well, I want you to talk to me more, but it’s not like that’s happening.

Honestly, these aren’t like the yo-mama insults, because both parties have a point. The dry cleaning should get picked up, and the dishwasher should be fixed. He might need to stop working so much, and she might need to be more open to new experiences. They should make love more often and talk more.

The problem is that the reply is a deflection tactic. It’s a way to avoid talking about the subject your spouse brought up, to defend yourself by attacking back, and to feel superior to your spouse by pointing out something you’re doing right and they’re doing wrong.

This often happens in the comments section of marriage blogs. When a suggestion is made for a spouse to address an issue, sometimes he or she responds with, “Yeah, well, my spouse…” and then they go on to identify all the awful stuff their spouse is doing. And sure, they oftentimes reveal serious problems their spouse should deal with. But it’s also a way to avoid looking at what you really ought to address with yourself.

Even if your spouse is 90% of the problem, you need to deal with your 10%.

Even if your spouse is 90% of the problem, you need to deal with your 10%. Click To Tweet

If your spouse or someone else points out that something’s a problem, resist the temptation to switch the topic. Deal with the issue brought up. If you can resolve that one, you can move on to other issues and deal with those.

But using whataboutism just ensures that no issue really gets addressed and resolved. It becomes a battle of who’s worse, and you know what?

  • For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, NLT).
  • Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

And if you think you’re not guilty of committing a sin against your spouse, maybe this one is you:

  • If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17).

Next time you’re tempted to start your reply to a complaint from your spouse, or a suggestion from someone else about your marriage, with “Yeah, well, my spouse…” stop yourself. Ask whether your spouse has a point. Even if they word it very poorly (and we often do), dig into what their grievance says about their feelings and what they long to have in your marriage. Figure out how to address that issue and resolve it.

Also read blog posts and books about sexual intimacy with this in mind. As well as the Bible — especially the Bible. It’s not written for everyone else; it’s written for you and me. It’s convicting us. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Now what about that?

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4 Responses to Hurricanes and Marriage Struggles

I’m sitting here on the Wednesday before yet another massive storm pummels the coast, writing my post a little early, and thinking about these storms. Having been through Hurricane Harvey and then discussing with a friend her preparations for Hurricane Irma, I considered how our options to a coming storm and to marriage struggles are the same.

Disregard.

You know that person after a hurricane, whom news reporters always seem to find, that says something like, “I knew there was a storm coming, but I had no idea it was going to be this big. So when it shattered my house…” All the signs and warnings were there, but the person chose to ignore that something bad was happening, preferring instead to live in denial.

Too many deal with marriage struggles the same way. Sure, they’ve heard that their spouse is unhappy, but they didn’t realize it was that bad until she left with the kids or until he filed for divorce. Despite the signs and warnings being there, the spouse chose to ignore the conflict or silence in their marriage, the emotional pain their mate felt and expressed, the absence of companionship and intimacy.

And, sadly, in many cases, the home eventually shatters. If your spouse is telling you they’re unhappy in the marriage, listen and take steps to avoid irreparable damage.

Ride It Out.

This is what the vast majority of Texans decided to do with Hurricane Harvey, staying put in their homes while the storm raged over and around us. While the photos of devastation in Houston and now Beaumont are truly heart-wrenching, we experienced relatively few casualties and most of our homes and buildings survived. We have a lot of rebuilding to do, but riding it out allowed residents to be here immediately to begin reconstruction once the rains subsided.

Some challenges in marriage are worth riding out. You might be experiencing conflict tied to external events, like a health issue or financial pressures, that won’t last forever. We tend to think however things have been going for the last year or two are how they will continue to be, but it’s just not true.

One important research study showed that couples who reported being unhappy in the marriage reported being happy in their marriage just five years later …. with no intervention. What happened? They rode out the storms, and things got better. Riding it out doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing. You still need to take care of your home, prevent further damage, and create a safe and reassuring place as best you can.

Seek rescue.

Hurricane Harvey dumped about 50 inches of rainfall in my area just outside of Houston. A few of my friends, whose homes had never flooded before, had to be rescued. They had every intention of riding out the storm, having prepared well based on hurricanes in the past, but this time was different. It was worse. It was life-threatening. The only answer was to seek rescue, from organized rescue teams or that average Texan guy who brought his bass boat to help out. Once rescued, further relief efforts began, providing shelter, food, and healing to those who had to leave what they’d known behind.

Some marriage problems are life-threatening; not that they could kill you, but they could kill your marriage. And too often in those storms, we wait too long to seek outside help, the blessed rescue our marriage needs. The time to get outside help isn’t when you’re underwater or having to ax through your roof and wave a white towel to a passing rescue crew, but when you look around and realize you’re flooding and the water isn’t going away.

In today’s world, there are so many resources to address problems that plague marriage, from overcoming porn to recovering from an affair to ongoing conflict to loss of sex drive. Books, blogs, online courses, workshops, counseling, and much more are available as rescue you can seek when you need it.

Evacuate.

I wasn’t here for the last major hurricane that hit Houston, which was Ike in 2008. My family packed up and went to San Antonio to stay with family. I ventured back after the storm to find a hole in our roof where rain had fallen straight into our dining room, and I was glad we hadn’t been there for the actual 104-mile winds that had struck our home. Sometimes, when the hurricane is particularly bad, it’s best to just leave.

There is so much good about being in this ministry, but one tough thing is receiving a comment or email from someone who describes their marriage and their spouse in such a way that I really, truly believe they need to get out. Ah, the weight of that moment! Do I tell them to leave? No, but I do suggest they do some reality checks and soul-searching. Because while this is a last-resort answer, sometimes it’s best to just leave.

Some spouses are sadly in an abusive marriage (physically and/or emotionally) or living with a serial adulterer, and there’s no indication that their mate will change or even wants to change. When your spouse is a 104-mile winds storm every day, how long can you do that? God knows that you are more important than your marriage, and He has provided that there are times you simply need to evacuate.

I don’t know where you are in your marriage, but most struggling marriages are in the stages of Ride It Out or Seek Rescue. Mind you, with both of these, you should be preparing for the storm, investing time and effort, working together to minimize damage, and pursuing emotional safety and health. That’s why my ministry is here, as well as many others.

♥     ♥     ♥

Since I’m writing this post ahead of time, let me say that I’m praying for all those in the path of Hurricane Irma. I encourage my readers to do the same. Any time there’s a massive storm, there will be a time of recovery and rebuilding.