My weekly Q&A with J posts bring up all kinds of topics. I take a single reader’s question and answer that specific situation as best I can, hoping my advice will enlighten or apply to others as well.
But there’s always that post where you answer one reader, and it brings up the “But why didn’t you say X?” comment from another reader. Well, no one post on my blog covers everything I believe about marriage and sex. Just like you couldn’t possibly have one conversation with someone and cover all of your beliefs about life, the universe, and everything. Plus, I really am trying to answer a specific question as best I can and expect readers to tailor the advice to their specific situation.
Yet I know that I unintentionally strike nerves sometimes, and it got me to thinking about some guiding principles I have when answering reader questions. Perhaps more importantly, my marriage improved when I started using these principles toward my husband.My #marriage improved when I started using these principles toward my husband. Click To Tweet
Don’t assume the worst. If a wife reports that his husband looked at another woman, I don’t assume he’s a cheating jerk. If a husband reports his wife rejected his sexual advances, I don’t assume she’s a frigid, uncaring wife. Or flip-flop those genders, if that’s your situation. Regardless, I try to look at the actual evidence, consider all the possibilities of what’s going on, and give grace where possible.
Most people who read my blog are Christians who love their spouses, but they are imperfect — wounded, clueless, stubborn. They need a wake-up call more than a guilty verdict. The sort of wake-up call God constantly gives His people in the Bible. I assume that we’re all flawed and a bit selfish, but reachable and wanting to hold on to our marriage.
Take responsibility for yourself. I don’t think it will go well for me if I get to Heaven and say to God, “Yes, I was a terrible spouse. But my husband was even worse.” Thankfully, that’s not at all where my marriage is, but you get my point. As I’ve often said, you cannot change your spouse. But you can change yourself and influence your spouse.You cannot change your spouse. But you can change yourself and influence your spouse. Click To Tweet
That’s why my advice often focuses on the person who asked the question and what they can do to improve the situation — even if 89% of the problem is their jerk of a spouse. My answer might be very different if I was talking to the other party involved, but we have to take responsibility for our own actions. Just sitting around and blaming someone else won’t make things better. So I try to address what the individual can do to foster something better in their marriage.
Respect your differences. If I had a dime for every time a wife or husband complained about their spouse’s gender or personality difference, I’d be living in a beach-side house by now. For instance, I get it, ladies: It stinks that your husband has eyeballs that seem to pop when an scandily-clad, extra-curvy woman walks by, but it stinks for him too. Just like it stinks for my husband that I get grumpy at a certain time of the month, but, by golly, PMS isn’t a picnic for me either. Our gender, backgrounds, personalities, and more create challenges for us, because this is an imperfect world.
If lust were no challenge, there wouldn’t be scriptures advising us about it. Just like anger, nagging, complaining, and plenty of other not-fun stuff we can bring into our marriage. Of course we have to fight hard against the enemy and pursue righteousness. But let’s not bury our heads in the sand or make our spouse out to be the enemy.
Once I accepted that some things are just harder for my guy — for instance, seeing the mess — and didn’t take it personally, we could figure out an action plan to deal with the challenges. Respect that your spouse is different, then figure out where the benefits and obstacles of that difference is, and work from there.
Don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 may be the verse we most need to memorize for our marriage: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
I don’t know what that harvest looks like, because it may be different from what we expect. God’s blessings come in many different ways. It’s not an absolute guarantee that if you do the right things, your rejecting wife will suddenly greet you at the door naked begging for you to take her right there on the entryway rug. Or that your romantic-clod of a husband will finally “get it” and woo you into a magical, multi-orgasmic sexual experience you’ll never forget. I wish it were that simple.
What I do know is that if you give up on making things better, they’ll never get better. It could be that your “making things better” actually involves backing off a bit, but that’s not the same as surrendering. We all know the difference between stepping back and taking stock of what we’re doing versus that hopeless, it-ain’t-ever-gonna-change-so-why-try feeling.
I’m for doing everything you can think of doing before calling anything quits. Maybe that’s my own stubbornness coming out a bit, but it’s one reason my marriage went from terrible to terrific: I simply refused to give up. Of course, you should be doing the right things — as in righteous things. But I believe in continuing to work on yourself and your marriage and keeping going until the seeds have had time to plant, grow, and harvest. Just as the Bible says.
Do you have any guiding principles that have worked in your marriage, or that you’ve advised for others with their marriage?
8 thoughts on “4 Principles That Improved My Marriage”
It all sounds so simple and straight forward and if only the effort was applied, the future outcome should be better than present status. Well, what if in my case I am just passed all this, I just feel like I don’t care anymore. After years and years of total disassociation, my DH and I have become more like housemates than spouses. Sure, we function well on the everyday level, but the bond that we are “supposed” to have is not there anymore and honestly I am not sure that it ever was. Am I totally at fault for this crumbling marriage, no of course not. I will take 50% of the blame. And even if there was an intent to work on or trying to improve this marriage, the walls between us have grown so high that breaking them down is just beyond my emotional capacity and comfort level. We are (and I can only speak for myself) feeling so uncomfortable around each other or in each other presence that I am constantly thinking that it is time to separate and file for divorce. Sadly after my 28 years of marriage I see this type of growing apart/throwing in the towel thinking quite often in my social circles. And no, it is not just the women sharing their sadness but also lot of the husbands. Sometimes I thinks it is the disposable society that we live in and messages that we are constantly bombarded with by the media of how should we feel and be to be accepted. It hurts so bad to review your life and see everything that could have been different if only the bond, comfort level and open and honest communication was there from the start. Thanks for sharing, love your blog and will keep on reading.
I pray you’ll find answers and hope. Blessings!
What do you mean when you say “seeing the mess”?
Oh, that had nothing to do with sex. My husband doesn’t see the mess around our house the way I do, so — not surprisingly — he’s not as motivated to clean it up. I used think it was intentional or lazy, but it’s not; he really doesn’t see it. I’ve learned to get over that.
It’s always been refreshing to me in my marriage when I take the time and effort to think about what my husband and I have in common. Even with the things (big and small) that we butt heads on, there are other ways where we agree and work together .
Very well thought out post J. Two points I’d like to make. One; I personally get a little rattled when blog posters relate men and temptation/indulging in lust to PMT. I’d prefer it if PMT was related to men & anger or something. There is just something that strikes to the core of marriage where lust is concerned. Sexual sin & temptation seem to hurt more than other sins. Two; I read your post on women being visual. I am & am sometimes dismayed by it. The other day I was in a cafe with some friends & not my husband. The French waiter was unusually gorgeous in every sense of the word & I was shocked to find my heart skipped a beat when he put my food down & spoke to me in French. It was a distraction the whole time I was there. So I do think we need to continue to not buy into the stereotype that it is just men who are frustrated by tempting situations involving members of the opposite sex.
With point #1, I understand what you’re saying. I’m not equating sinful lust with PMS. Rather, how visual some men are and how that can tempt them to lust. I don’t believe it’s lust to have an automatic reaction to a pretty woman, but rather to dwell on that thought, even foster it. Which sadly, some men do — and that’s sin (Matthew 5:28). Likewise, for many women PMS causes body changes that can tempt them toward other sins — like anger, malice, slander (Colossians 3:8, Ephesians 4:31), fits of rage (Galatians 5:20). I like a little grace when I’m feeling bad and on edge, but ultimately it’s my issue to control. Just like yes, indeed, if he lets it go to lust, that’s his sin. I just think it’s good to be in each other’s corner when we’re struggling but wanting to do the right thing.
And yes on #2, I try to present both sides on my blog. But in all honesty, I hear far more often from wives upset that their husbands are visual than the other way around. So that’s what I addressed here. I still believe men are more visual, but that women can be visual too.
Thanks so much for your comment, Amanda!
Amanda wrote: “Sexual sin & temptation seem to hurt more than other sins.”
Eric sez: I want to mention the flip side to this, namely that all other sins hurt our sexual relationships as husbands and wives, and that hurt sexual relationships then lead to temptation and sexual sin. Importantly, this began with Adam & Eve’s response to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
However, those who blame eating the forbidden fruit for sex are dead wrong. They have unwittingly fallen into the Greek philosophy of Gnosticism, the heresy that the body is essentially evil and only spirit (or soul/psyche) is good. I once heard a radio preacher assert that when Adam and Eve made aprons of fig leaves they were trying to hide from God. But the Bible seems to say they were hiding from each other (Genesis 3:7). Hiding from God came later, when they hid in the bushes (Genesis 3:8). When we sin, we discover first that we’ve hurt each other. Only later do we realize that our sin is also against God.
Adam and Eve were created naked and told to have sex, and that this was “very good” (Genesis 1:28, 31). From the beginning, therefore, our first parents played naked in the Garden and made love, no doubt multiple times daily on a bed of moss in the moonlight. This may have gone on for months or even years, as God miraculously prevented Eve’s conception until after they’d sinned (see Genesis 3:16, “I will greatly multiply . . . thy conception . . .”).
I imagine that, feeling guilty toward Adam, Eve glanced at the part of her hub’s body with which they became “one flesh” and crossly said, “cover that thing up”; then she did the same. Thus the fig leaf aprons. Incidentally, the King James Version’s translation as “aprons” is the best rendering of the Hebrew text. Modern versions that say “tunics” miss the point.
So, to return to my earlier assertion: any time a Christian husband or wife sins, he/she hurts the sexual relationship with his/her spouse. Absolutely. In the months I’ve been reading J’s blog, again and again I’ve noticed that wives and husbands complain about difficulties with enjoying sex. Or the hubs seems more interested in porn than in giving his naked wife some hot loving in bed (or out under the stars, for that matter). So the best principle that I know of for improving one’s marriage is to keep short accounts with each other regarding sin, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Confession and forgiveness toward one another and repentance toward God is paramount. This works every time!
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