Tag Archives: christian marriage

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.

Book Review: Healing from Infidelity by Michele Weiner-Davis

Blog post title + book coverMichele Weiner-Davis is a licensed social worker, marriage and family therapist, and well-known relationship expert. Many of my readers might recognize her name from her book The Sex-Starved Marriage. Her most recent book is Healing from Infidelity: The Divorce Busting® Guide to Rebuilding Your Marriage After an Affair, and she was lovely enough to provide me a copy to read and review.

The focus of Healing from Infidelity is obviously to help couples put their marriage back together after one of you has had an affair. While I believe that adultery is a valid reason for ending a marriage (see Matthew 5:32), an affair doesn’t necessarily mean the end. Rather, Jesus also said:

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Once the marriage vow is made, you should make every effort to keep this covenant relationship. God compared His own people in the Old Testament to an adulteress, and yet He restored their covenant time and time again. (See Hosea 3:1, Jeremiah 3:11-15, Ezekiel 16:10-17, 59:63.) Sometimes a marriage cannot make it—and certainly abusive or sin-filled marriages are not in God’s will—but sometimes what looks hopeless can be saved.

Weiner-Davis does not come from Christian perspective, but she is an advocate for marriage and her book gives specifics on how to move from the brokenness of marital infidelity to the health of a happy marriage.

...move from the brokenness of marital infidelity to the health of a happy marriage. Click To Tweet

Her chapters alternate between addressing the betrayed spouse and the unfaithful spouse, recognizing what each needs and should do at various stages of reconciliation. Having worked directly with couples to put their marriages back together, she speaks from experience and includes lots of practical advice.

It all begins with believing that you can revive what appears to be lifeless—your flailing marriage. “In all the years I’ve been helping couples heal from infidelity,” Weiner-Davis says, “I can tell you that there’s only one time when I start to worry about the fate of their marriage. It’s when one or both of the partners start to become hopeless.”

From my viewpoint, Christian spouses should have a leg-up on putting a struggling marriage back together. We believe that “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27) and that we have “the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19-20, NLT).

But I also understand that couples walking through the fallout of infidelity need concrete help getting out of the pit and back into trust and intimacy. As Michele states, “…this is a great opportunity to fix what has been broken, either before, during or after the affair. In fact…it really is possible for you to have an even better relationship than ever before.”

And I’ve seen it: Couples who went from the heartbreak of adultery into the happiness of marital intimacy. It can be done.

I recommend Michele’s book for those who are in the midst of that pain and wondering how they can ever get themselves back. While there are a few places where I disagree (for instance, her tips on remaining with an unfaithful, unrepentant spouse contradict the Christian position), overall this is an excellent resource.

Weiner-Davis shows real compassion for the betrayed spouse, as well as giving lots of great tips on becoming an emotionally healthy person regardless of outcome. Since I firmly believe that healthy and happy marriages are made with two healthy and happy individuals, this is a win-win for the spouse and the marriage. She also lets the unfaithful spouse know what they need to do to re-establish broken trust and care for their betrayed spouse’s heart.

Moreover, each spouse gets a good sense of where the other is coming from and how to view their spouse without greater resentment and anger than is reasonable. (And yes, some is quite reasonable when you’ve been cheated on. But dwelling only in anger won’t heal your marriage.)

She includes a whole chapter on how to address sexual intimacy in marriage after the affair. When should you get back into the bedroom? How can you rebuild trust? What role should sex play in getting your marriage back on track?

Michele shoots straight about what’s required to make it all work, while still highlighting why you should have great hope that your effort will pay off. I love her balance of positive confidence and realistic candor.

You don’t have to throw in the towel. With resources like Healing from Infidelity AND leaning on God to help you through, you can go far beyond restoring your relationship into building an even better marriage.

Do Our Yoga Pants Make Men Sin?

Let’s talk about modesty. Wait, wait…don’t run away! I know you’ve already read about this subject, probably many times over, and I saw you flinch when I brought it up. But I want to get real about modesty. In fact, I might even rant a little. So read on.

Title with 5 pairs of yoga pants

Modesty is an ongoing issue in our culture. In case you hadn’t noticed, a lot of women out there show off a lot of their bodies. In today’s world, guys don’t have to step too far out of their house to see images or real women with curves, cleavage, “camel feet,” and cutaneous membrane (aka skin). Given how visual many men are, it can be a struggle for many of them to keep their thoughts entirely pure.

I feel for them. And so, I’ve talked to wives about modesty in the past — how we need to choose stylish clothing that covers enough, the care we should take in choosing swimsuits, even my own practice of sometimes asking my husband when I put something on, “Is this okay?” (I learned years ago that he’s a better barometer for whether a miniskirt is short enough to attract male attention I’m not looking for.) We certainly don’t want to contribute to the temptation for men to lust.

I’ve also been frustrated with women who don’t get it. Like how I was once going through a church potluck line and caught a not-so-brief glimpse of the woman in front of me with her thong peeking out of a low-rise miniskirt. Thank goodness my husband or teenage sons weren’t in line behind her! I don’t want my sons or my husband to have such information waved in front of their faces.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 says: “Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God” (HCSB, emphasis added). Women should be modest, for the sake of the men in their midst and to honor God’s will.

Women should be modest, for the sake of the men in their midst and to honor God’s will. Click To Tweet

However … not too long ago, I was reading a post that mentioned modesty and some blessed wife had as part of her comments something like, “But please don’t take my yoga pants. You have no idea how nice it is to be in something comfortable …” (I wish I could find that comment!) I laughed and found myself agreeing. I often wear yoga pants and a T-shirt while working at home and doing laundry. And then, I need to run out to the store. So am I supposed to change from yoga pants, even when my shirt covers almost the whole backside? Seems a bit silly to me.

And yet you can find entire articles castigating women for wearing yoga pants. In another post written to women about modesty, two men in the comments said they’d basically been visually assaulted by women wearing yoga pants in their presence. Really? Is the prevalence of yoga pants the downfall of otherwise good Christian husbands?

Job 31:1 says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” And I fully appreciate men who take this covenant to heart. Many Christian husbands are dedicated to keeping their minds pure and avoiding visual temptation.

But my thinking about modesty and lust is changing. Partly because I see so much blame placed on women for men lusting. I’m not letting us women off the hook for needing to use decency and good sense when we go out in public. However, I don’t see men getting the same flack for how they present themselves in public. If you want to see what I mean, read this humorous post on “When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to My Brothers in Christ.” Men in suits are attractive. So are men in uniforms. I mean really, how could any man proclaim to be a holy Christian if he’s also a well-built firefighter in uniform? Don’t you know what you’re doing to us?!

We’ve also preached this modesty message so much to teens that some of them probably think Psalm 119:9 reads: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By ‘bouncing his eyes.'” No, no, no. It says: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word.”

What does the Word of God say about modesty?

In addition to the verses referenced above, not a whole lot. Here’s a quick run-down:

The Lord says,
‘The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
strutting along with swaying hips,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles
.’”

(Isaiah 3:16; and verses 17-24 explains you how God will punish those women)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes” (1 Peter 3:3).

And that’s it. At least specifically regarding modest apparel. Of course, there are principles of modest and God-honoring behaviors. We also have scriptures that talk about not being a stumbling block to others, about building up our brothers and sisters in Christ, about living with reverence before God. Obviously, if you’re walking around in low-rise shorts with your bum hanging out, that’s not exactly an advertisement for Christianity. (And, by the way, you’re essentially wearing your underwear in public; they might be expensive denim, but you’re in undies. Stop that.)

But you know what else the Bible says? It says to treat people with respect, to look beyond their appearance and see them how God sees them, to purify our minds and our hearts in Christ Jesus.

And I’ve become really bothered by the idea that men are just bouncing their eyes off every woman who shows a little more cleavage than they want to see or who ran up to the grocery store on the fly in her yoga pants to grab much-needed diapers for her infant. Doesn’t that pigeonhole women’s bodies as temptation? As if “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13) is referring to women’s curves or yoga pants. Doesn’t that approach have the potential of objectifying women as well?

Rather, how did Jesus treat women who were immodest in their lives? Jesus let a sinful woman anoint his feet with oil and spoke directly to her to forgive her sins (Luke 7:36-50). He had a direct conversation about faith with the Samaritan woman who’d been married five times and living with a man outside of marriage (John 4:1-26). He refused to condemn a woman caught in adultery and encouraged her to stop sinning (John 8:1-11). Jesus looked past their immodesty and saw the woman His Father saw.

Which makes me think that maybe we’re missing something.

Maybe the problem is only partly what someone’s wearing and more what our hearts are doing. Is the test whether we can look at each other as sex objects or whether we can see the person underneath?

Maybe the problem is only partly what someone’s wearing & more what our hearts are doing. Click To Tweet

This is by no means meant to let women, and men, off the hook for dressing modestly. But you how about we hear a little about how men dress and behave in public? And how about taking responsibility for our own thoughts and hearts?

If you can’t have a conversation with a woman who shows too much cleavage or a guy in your gym who’s muscled and shirtless, you’re going to have a really, really, really hard time in this world. And it’s not entirely the world’s fault.

We have to own our responsibility to not lust. And if it’s hard? Well, being a Christian isn’t supposed to be eating-cupcakes-easy all the time. (What did you think that verse about taking up your cross meant? Matthew 16:24.)

We have to own our responsibility to not lust. Click To Tweet

As for me, you might see in my yoga pants at the grocery store. Not because I’m wanting any guy to get a full-view of my caboose, but because they’re comfortable and I was too lazy to change. However, I will make sure I’m wearing a long T-shirt to cover everything that should be covered. And if I have any doubts about how I might come across, I check with my husband, because he has a better sense of those things at times.

I suspect plenty of other women, good Christian wives even, will be dressed in exercise or lounge attire as well. And we hope you can still have a nice conversation with us. Because that is nothing like the immodesty of the women Jesus dealt with, and He managed to handle it all just fine.

We believe in you guys. We don’t want to tempt you, but we also believe that — with God’s help — you can keep your minds and hearts where they should be.

A Free Christmas Short Story for You!

Each year, I try to come up with something special to gift my readers. This year, I wrote y’all a short story!

Here’s Under the Mistletoe: A Christmas Short Story: Download as a PDF.

If you’d rather read with your e-reader’s format, I’ve uploaded the story to several retailers, but I’m still waiting for it to go live. I’ll update as I get the links.

Amazon Kindle

Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble Nook

Kobo eBooks

Scribd

Download as a PDF

I hope you enjoy this quick tale. Here’s the teaser:

It’s Christmas Eve, and Grace still hasn’t seen a present under the Christmas tree from her husband. When Todd announces there is no present coming, she feels snubbed, not realizing that he’s got a different surprise planned. But is his gift what she really wants? Or even what she needs?

I’ll be taking a break from the blog through New Year’s. See you on the other side of 2017.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

What the Bible Says about This Election (and Every Other One)

I’ve been voting for about 30 years, and I have never, ever seen an election cycle in the United States as crazy as this one.

That said, I also hold a history degree, so I know that all of our talk about things never having been so contentious doesn’t hold up to what I’ve studied. For instance, you really can’t get more contentious than one region of the country shooting at the other and vice versa (American Civil War, 1861-65).

What the Bible Says about This Election graphic

I’ve noted on this blog that an election can cause stress in marriages. Despite their love for one another, spouses don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to voting. If you want proof, take a look at the maps from FiveThirtyEight.com that show the difference between if only men voted and if only women voted. I have to believe that contrast means plenty of couples disagree this year.

But as Election Day approaches (next Tuesday here in the U.S.), let me offer a biblical perspective. Vote for whomever you want — honor your conscience — but remember God’s focus is not on who runs the country but who reigns in your life.

God's focus is not on who runs the country but who reigns in your life. Click To Tweet

Psalm 146 says:

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

I will praise the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The Lord reigns forever,
    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

Pulling out those two highlighted verses, we get to the crux of the matter: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

That’s something God wants us to know about this election and every other one. Humans will fail us, God will not.

You can see this throughout the Bible with its kings — Saul, David, Solomon. Yes, we want great leaders, but God is ultimately concerned with being on the throne in our hearts.

And in our marriages.

That same passage applies to our marriages: “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

  • Your husband, a human being, isn’t responsible for making your life good or happy. Trust God to bring you meaning and joy.
  • When your spouse fails you, and they will, recognize they’re flawed, give grace, and put your faith in God to restore what was broken.
  • When it comes to the marriage bed, don’t look for answers among those who focus only on the human flesh, the physical side of sex. Seek out wisdom that starts with God’s design for intimacy in marriage — those who know that help and hope come from Him.
  • And remember that no matter what great advice I give, I can’t save your marriage. That’s a job for you and God.

Sometimes we put too much trust in the people around us and not enough in our Heavenly Father. Let me assure you that whatever the result of this election, those of us who worship God can have confidence that we’re fine. We have a true Savior.

Lean on that Savior not only this election season, but in your daily life and in your marriage. Remember who is really in charge: God Almighty.

Now give your spouse a kiss and go vote.