A lot of stuff has been happening around me lately that has charged my environment with an intensity it didn’t have a year ago this time. The details of events don’t matter—well, they matter to me, but not for this post. Suffice it to say: I’m exhausted by outrage culture.
Now righteous outrage can be a good thing. Societies have made real progress when good people become angry enough about an injustice to work for important change.
However, in our technology dominated world, we don’t work together so much as rage together. That is, we tend to equate saying something online with doing something. We get angry, spout our views, and congratulate ourselves for being involved or activist.
Being Part of the Club
Let’s say you get on Twitter and say something passionate and/or controversial. You might get flak, but I guarantee you someone, somewhere will applaud you for your courage. Perhaps several someones.
You may even be 100% right, and the question I still have is: How did you make a difference? Did you convince the people who didn’t agree with you before? Or just rally an audience to similarly express their outrage?
We see this with marriage websites too.
- Wanna believe feminism is to blame for you not getting sex in your marriage?
- Wanna believe all men are pigs who’ll objectify and harass anything in a skirt?
- Wanna believe a man’s lusting is the fault of how women dress?
- Wanna believe that this teaching, or that teaching, or this one is the reason why Christian marriages are struggling?
We tend to seek out exactly those resources that tell us what we already believe or want to believe. You can find a website that will cater to your outrage and make you feel part of the club.
What we often need, however, is something that challenges us to reconsider our beliefs. We might well come right back to a tried-and-true perspective, but even then at least we better understand the other side. As a result, we can better speak with people who disagree with us and perhaps persuade them to our side.
There is a limit to this, of course! We should not open ourselves to toxic theology or sinful practices. I’m talking about challenging ourselves to get outside our comfort zone, not into the danger zone.
Making the Long-Term Effort
Plenty of spouses express outrage about how their marriage is going or their lack of sexual intimacy. But outrage is easy. Long-term effort to effect real change is hard.Outrage is easy. Long-term effort to effect real change is hard. #marriage @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
Outrage often demands burning down what exists to build something new in its stead — and sometimes that is only option. You don’t negotiate with Hitler; you topple his regime. But most of the time we’re not fighting that kind of evil, and let’s hope you don’t want to topple your whole marriage!
In many most situations, changes comes through incrementalism. Though we’d all like to have the magic bullet, it’s reasonable goals, compromise, and persistence that make the difference. Over time, baby steps turn into big strides.
Thus, you may need to put forth a lot of time and effort:
- to help your spouse feel safe enough to open up to you about their struggles
- to address the sexual baggage you each entered marriage with
- to resolve the obstacles you face
- to introduce better sexual perspectives and activities
- to demonstrate consistent and committed love
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9
Becoming the Solution
Of course, putting a lot of effort into the wrong things will not yield the results you want. Which is why we should dig deep into Scripture, pray for wisdom and guidance, and check in with our spouse about what they long for in your marriage.
But we’ve got to stop telling ourselves that we’ve done something just because we talked about it. Declaring what you think to the world, to your Facebook friends, to a blog’s comment thread, even to your spouse or to your therapist isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes you’d be better off to shut up and just do something.
It’s an unpopular opinion in the marriage ministry world, but I don’t believe communication solves everything. Or even most things. Love in action solves things.It's an unpopular opinion in the #marriage ministry world, but I don't believe communication solves everything. Or even most things. Love in action solves things. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
Communicating with your spouse helps you know what love in action looks like for them! But it’s not enough. Your actions have to speak louder than your words.
Perhaps this is why all of my books suggest actions to put into practice what you learn. Even my conversation guide for couples, Pillow Talk, addresses what you can do and specific sexual activities you can try.
Changing the World
These lessons go beyond our own marriage. Think also about your broader life:
- Are you opposed to a marriage course your church has taught? Research alternatives, suggest a better one, and even offer to teach it or recruit facilitators.
- Are you heartbroken by the breadth and depth of abuse and mistreatment? Volunteer your time or donate to organizations that help victims.
- Are you appalled by the level of divorce in our society? Encourage your church to add premarital and marriage counseling to its resources, perhaps in concert with area churches. Recommend marriage classes and/or mentor other couples.
- Are you unhappy about the messages your church teaches about sex, or their lack of teaching on it? Suggest a marriage event and invite a speaker who can address the issue well (e.g., Juli Slattery or yours truly). Offer to facilitate a class on the subject. Start a small group study that goes through a marriage book.
Let’s save some of the outrage and channel that energy into the effort required to make a real difference in our lives and for others. We may not see results tomorrow, but in the course of a lifetime, we will reap the harvest. And gain the greatest reward.
Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.Revelation 22:12
15 thoughts on “What Does It Take To Change Your Marriage…and the World?”
We wander, raging, through our days,
and anger is our blindness
to the one, the only way,
to change the world – our kindness.
The gentle words that we can bring
exist uniquely to our soul.
If we, in hauteur, choose to fling
our fury, how can we make it whole?
You can’t replace your might-have-been,
there no one else to take your place.
If your compassion’s never seen,
the world will lose the gift of grace
that you, just you, might have supplied,
and a part of God’s creation died.
WOW! You just wrote the most insightful article on a marriage blog that I have read in the past 5+ years. You have convicted me to stop complaining so much and do something to help others in similar circumstances. Thank you, thank you for your words of wisdom today!
WOW. Thank you.
Honestly, I was nervous to say all this, though it’s an outgrowth of a lot going on in my life the last few months and the sense that I needed to share what I feel like God has reminded me. Blessings!
I agree, this is really good! Kinda caught me by surprise, but I have long believed that before we can handle our sexual issues in our marriages, we have to deal with the non-sexual ones first. Also, because our individual marriages are a microcosm of society as a whole, what applies in the one applies in the other.
When I say handling non-sexual issues “first”, I’m not trying to make a doctrine out of it, still less that we can’t talk about sex until we have it all together. (Yeah, good luck with that, right?) But in terms of lowering the temperature, and keeping it in priority, yes. Too often – raising my hand, here – I’ve wanted to go straight for the sex and sexy stuff: the liplock, hand on bare thighs, well, you know. That works sometimes for younger couples, or very fortunate others. We’re not so young anymore.
I applaud your courage, J, and your overcoming reluctance to bring this up. It’s often so much clearer than we think; sometimes we make this Christian life and our marriages more complicated than it is or needs to be.
Thanks. I often think how many more books I’d sell if I said things like “Do These 5 Steps and Get All the Sex You Want!” I can’t do that, though — maybe because I kept looking for those magic formulas myself when my marriage was struggling, discovered sustained love was the surer course, and can’t lie to y’all now. It’s not “sexy,” so to speak, but agape love has a way better success rate.
I agree! #RANT
Wait, is that doing it wrong?
You’re right – outrage is cheap and useless. Working for real change is costly. Thank YOU for being willing to pay that cost!
Thank you. ♥
I think social media can be a good tool for those who don’t have a voice in some situations. If you don’t like a certain marriage guru/book, but women aren’t really allowed a voice in your church it is hard to get things to change. This is very much the sort of church I grew up in.
I feel like many online are only interested in promoting their own agendas, not in actually having discussions and trying to learn from each other. Sometimes the hard work is actually opening our minds to messages they don’t want to hear, like the actual lived experiences of women vs. what they think women should be like. So discouraging.
I have twitter, tend to look at certain accounts, but I tend to do better if I stay logged out of my account so I can’t get involved in commenting. You do find some interesting information out there though.
I think it’s great when people share information! If there’s something people should know, we can certainly use social media to educate and attempt to persuade. It’s the “cancel culture,” so to speak, that can become a problem. Also, we need to make sure we check facts, instead of just believing one side over the other. As you say, “Sometimes the hard work is actually opening our minds to messages they don’t want to hear.” If we can have conversations (more than just rants), we may well convince some people.
Case in point: What was most powerful about the #MeToo movement was not those angrily wanting to take down everything and everyone, but just so many women sharing their story. (So many women.) I think that alone convinced a lot of people who just didn’t realize how widespread it was.
Once again you have hit a nerve that compels us all to rethink our part. Thank you! I’m grateful to be married to a man who doesn’t like conflict for the sake of the argument. As a result we end up doing things to make a difference, e.g. teaching marriage classes, mentoring couples one-on-one, writing a marriage blog. It is worth the effort. The changes we have seen keeps us going.
Thanks for taking the chance with this post. It’s excellent, J.
Thanks so much, Debi! ♥
Absolutely love this, J!! Well put and bravely spoken. Thanks for what you are doing to encourage change in marriages (and the world).
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