Tag Archives: christian marriage

Resolution Week: Not "You" or "Me" But "Us"

It’s resolution week on Hot, Holy & Humorous! Meaning I’ve been covering goals we should make in 2020—for ourselves, our marriages, and our sex lives. Today, let’s talk about a common pitfall we want to avoid going forward.

A Personal Story

My husband has been rearranging in the kitchen lately. For years, I’ve been the one mostly deciding where and how things belong in our drawers and cabinets. If someone in the family didn’t follow my plan, no worries—I was the one home far more than they were, so I’d just fix the error while they were gone and move on.

Cue a change in my husband’s employment, and now he’s home a lot and moving things around. Of course I’ve handled this all beautifully…

Okay, FINE. I’ve huffed, eye-rolled, and lodged several complaints about the equilibrium of my kitchen being upended!

Spock has his reasons for wanting the changes, and now he was finally around enough to make those changes happen. Meanwhile, I have my reasons for wanting things to stay the same, and I’d already established a system! At some point, it seemed to come down to a silent battle over how a particular set of glasses would be placed in the cabinet. He’d put a glass away and change their positioning to his way (“the wrong way”), and later I’d see them and change them all back to my way (“the right way”).

Yeah, because that’s not causing any tension in our marriage. #sarcasm

But a day or two ago, I was staring at that cabinet of glasses and thinking: I should just let him have his way. Wouldn’t that be the nice thing to do? Then I had an even better thought: What if there’s some way to address each of our reasonable concerns about these glasses with an entirely different approach?

Turns out, there is. I mentioned my idea to my husband, we talked about that alternative, and it will be implemented.

Choosing Win/Win

Before you go thinking I have no business ever writing about marriage because I nearly declared World War III over the storage of drinking glasses, the actual amount of time and emotion expended on our kitchen issue was probably mere minutes. And hey, we did resolve it!

I’m only telling this story to illustrate a pitfall we often have in marriage. A husband and wife engage in back-and-forth debate, argument, or even stalemate when the resolution doesn’t have to be you or me—it could be us.

Too often in #marriage, a husband and wife engage in back-and-forth debate, argument, or even stalemate when the resolution doesn't have to be YOU or ME—it could be US. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey labels this principle “Think Win/Win.” He talks about how Lose/Win or Win/Lose outcomes are appropriate at times:

If you value a relationship and the issue isn’t really that important, you may want to go for Lose/Win in some circumstances to genuinely affirm the other person. “What I want isn’t as important to me as my relationship with you. Let’s do it your way this time.” …

There are circumstances in which you would want to Win, and you wouldn’t be highly concerned with the relationship of that win to others. If your child’s life were in danger, for example, you might be peripherally concerned about other people and circumstances. But saving that life would be supremely important.

Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

But in most situations, Lose/Win or Win/Lose creates more conflict or feelings of resentment or trust issues in a relationship. It’s much better to look for a Win/Win.

While Covey’s book is aimed at business leaders, he notes how much more important this principle is in marriage: “‘Who’s winning in our marriage?’ is a ridiculous question. If both people aren’t winning, both are losing.”

"'Who's winning in our #marriage?' is a ridiculous question. If both people aren't winning, both are losing." ~ Stephen R. Covey (via @hotholyhumorous) Click To Tweet

Who’s Winning in Your Marriage?

My father used to tell the joke that married couples promise to become one—and then spent the rest of their marriage figuring out which one to become. That joke’s funny because of how ridiculous it sounds. And yet, how often do a spouse’s actions convey that’s what they secretly believe?

In the realm of sexual intimacy, spouses can end up playing tug-of-war over frequency, repertoire, etc. The mindset becomes “if you get what you want, I don’t get what I want. But if I get what I want, you don’t get what you want.” If those are the only two options, one spouse will become the Win/Lose mate and the other will be the Lose/Win mate. But then nobody’s really winning.

If you’re always or often winning your way, or if you’re always or often giving in, you’re likely losing the intimacy of marriage. Much better for both of you to get a win.

“Let No One Separate”

This is even more apparent when we look at it all biblically. As Jesus says:

‘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.”

Mark 10:7-9

Now, of course we are individuals. We don’t get married and fuse into one Frankensteinian creature. Moreover, God still judges us individually. Romans 2:5 says, ‘God “will repay each person according to what they have done'” (citing Psalm 62:12).

Yet throughout our lives, we are united, one flesh, joined together by God. If you try to win your way against your spouse while they lose, you’re taking both of you down. You’re too intertwined for one’s views, emotions, and actions not to affect the other.

Ad for Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples

Moving from You or Me to Us

Excluding my kitchen fail story, I mostly view issues in my marriage not in terms of what’s good for me or for him, but rather us. It’s a perspective I’ve had to cultivate. Actually, I’m still cultivating it and will be until I die, or he dies, or we die together (Win/Win).

Sometimes, I give in because Spock’s way matters more to him than my way matters to me or when I simply choose to bless him in a particular moment. Sometimes, he gives in because the roles are reversed. But most of the time, we’re looking for a third alternative that gives us both a Win/Win.

With sex in marriage, Win/Win could mean:

  • Compromising about frequency
  • Taking turns with which sexual activities you each like most
  • Finding a new activity that meets the underlying desire (rather than the activity under contention)
  • Seeking counseling to work out what seems irresolvable

The Win/Win for your marriage depends on your specific scenario. But we should resolve to stop viewing problems as you or me and instead see them as an us thing.

Look, even if the problem really is your spouse, get on board with making it an us issue. It’s hurting both of you, so marshal your forces to work together on resolving it! Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor.” So already, just by being married, you should have double the power to fix a situation.

Even if the problem really is your spouse, get on board with making it an US issue. It's hurting both of you, so marshal your forces to work together on resolving it! #marriage Click To Tweet

Add God into the mix, and you definitely have a winning team! “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

That us mindset might be just what you need to face the future and move forward with your spouse. It won’t resolve everything tomorrow, but you won’t be tugging in different directions. You’ll be on the same path taking the journey together.

How have you struggled with you or me instead of us? When have you been able to come up with a Win/Win for your marriage?

Resolution Week: Are Toxic People Damaging Your Marriage?

As part of Resolution Week here on Hot, Hot & Humorous, let’s talk today about the toxic people damaging your marriage.

Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage and Cherish, recently released a book titled When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People. He sent me an advanced review copy with no strings attached, but it’s always nice when that happens and you end up loving the book!

What is a toxic person?

Anyone who’s reached adulthood has interacted with someone who is not merely difficult or frustrating, but genuinely toxic. In When to Walk Away, Thomas defines three characteristics of a toxic person: a murderous spirit, control mongering, and loving hate. Without going through those specifics, see if you recognize this general description:

There are certain people who drain us, demean us, and distract us from other healthy relationships. Long after they’re gone, we’re still fighting with them in our minds and trying to get them out of our hearts. They keep us awake. They steal our joy. They demolish our peace. They make us (if we’re honest with ourselves) weaker spiritually. They even invade times of worship and pervert them into seasons of fretting.

Now before we start labeling people as toxic, recognize that our tendency to diagnose others as the problem before looking at ourselves. The Bible says that we have to look at our own flaws, our own contribution to the problem, and our own sin before we accuse someone else (see Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:1-3). Some will read the above paragraph and immediately begin blaming others, when the truth is that they are the toxic one in the relationship.

But others, too many Christians, have spend countless hours trying to figure out what they’re doing wrong or how they could do better or what magic formula might work to get along with someone in their life—when the truth is that they can’t. You can’t appease, reason with, or find peace with a genuinely toxic person. The fault lies with them.

You can't appease, reason with, or find peace with a genuinely toxic person. The fault lies with them. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

But should you walk away?

I’m personally not in love with the phrase What would Jesus do? because oftentimes Jesus would do something that only Jesus can do. I don’t have the divinity or authority of Jesus, so performing miracles and speaking directly for God are off my to-do list. That said, we are commanded to be Christlike! (See 1 Peter 2:21, 1 Corinthians 11:1, John 13:14-15, Philippians 2:5.) 1 John 2:6 puts it most succinctly: “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Our attitude, mindset, and heart should be like Jesus.

That’s the example Gary Thomas uses in determining how we deal with toxic people. He goes into great detail well worth reading, but essentially we set boundaries and see if the toxic behavior will stop or be put into check. If it continues, we do as Jesus did: we walk away.

In fact, Thomas has a whole chapter titled “Walkaway Jesus,” covering Christ’s tendency to walk away from people who couldn’t be convinced and were thus wasting His precious time. Time better spent on people He could, and did, save.

If the Lord and Savior of our world thought it was a waste of time to try to placate, argue, or persuade toxic people, what makes us think we are going to make it happen?

Who is toxic to your marriage?

Since I write about sexual intimacy in marriage, let’s tailor the book’s points to toxicity that affects your marriage and your sex life.

Not everything or everyone that gets in the way of healthy marital intimacy is toxic. Some are simply challenges that come with living in a broken world. Some are due to personality conflicts and character flaws we can work on. Some are busyness, fatigue, or physical obstacles present in certain seasons of life.

But some of you write me about your marriage or your sex life, and it becomes clear pretty quickly that you’ve got a toxic person negatively impacting your emotional, spiritual, and/or sexual wholeness.

Parents

In a chapter titled “Toxic Parents,” Thomas covers a situation I’ve seen as well:

I’ve seen several young women from dysfunctional homes fall into a common spiritual trap. In spite of the negative imprinting of their childhood homes, they end up making a very wise choice for marriage….It’s a delight to see God bring two godly people together out of less than ideal backgrounds and watch a healthy family begin to form.

Then the common temptation follows. It’s a clever spiritual distraction. The woman has escaped a dysfunctional family and is now settled in a functional one. It was be too long (mere months) until she thinks she is supposed to return to the dysfunctional family and try to fix it.

Some don’t even get those few months of healthy family-building, but rather the toxicity of their family of origin follows them into the marriage. Parents who should be helping their grown children settle into a new life do nearly all they can to frustrate it.

They demand your time and emotional energy, deride your spouse, speak ill of marriage and/or sex, force you to choose them or your husband and then become furious if you choose correctly (your spouse), and make it seem that you’ll never break free of the dysfunction they carry around like a badge of honor. You’re exhausted trying to balance your longing to keep them happy or help them get healthy and your need to be present in your marriage and/or godly sexual intimacy.

Thankfully, most of us don’t need to entirely walk away, but rather set boundaries. (Thomas also covers this well.) But sometimes, you do have to walk away. Honoring your mother and father does not involve allowing them to destroy your marriage.

Honoring your mother and father does not involve allowing them to destroy your #marriage. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

As Thomas says, “Trying to fix an unfixable relationship is doomed to failure and simply robs [you] of the time [you] need to grow [your] functional family.”

Grown Children

The chapter on “Toxic Children” discusses adult children who suck the life out of a family. As a mother, it hurts to think there could be a time when you have to walk away from your own son or daughter. But with parent-child, it’s really a matter of them walking away from you.

Again, Thomas looks at Jesus and what He taught:

You would take any repentant prodigal son or daughter back the moment they turn their face toward home. But that’s different from chasing after an unrepentant sinner who despises your weakness and preys on you by taking advantage of it. Remember, the prodigal son’s father threw his arms around his son when the son returned, not when he left. Like Jesus, the father of the prodigal son was willing to watch his prodigal son walk away.

Is your adult child destroying your marriage? Making it impossible to find time or energy for sexual intimacy with your spouse? Painful as it is, you have the recognize if their heart has already walked away.

Church

Church can be provide solace, support, and sound teaching that helps us lead the godly life our Lord desires. Yet, some individual churches have treated a marriage or its sexual intimacy in a way that can only be described as toxic. As Thomas points out, “Toxic people exist inside and outside the church and are those trying to take you down.”

If your church is feeding toxicity into your marriage, it’s time to walk away. The Church is larger than your one congregation. Find a different place to worship that believes in marriage, honors both men and women, values all forms of marital intimacy, and helps you pursue Christ together.


Others may be toxic to your marriage, but these three—parents, grown children, church—struck me in particular, because I’ve heard the stories.

What if the toxic person is your spouse?

I’m about as pro-marriage as one can get and experienced my own marriage coming back from the brink of divorce to a beautiful marriage today. But a few of you married someone who is toxic, and unless and until they allow God to work in their life, nothing will change.

Thankfully, When to Walk Away addresses both “Toxic Marriages” and “Leaving the Toxicity Instead of the Marriage.” If the latter can happen, hallelujah! As Thomas notes:

We don’t always have to lave a marriage at the first sign of toxicity. If both partners are repentant and surrendered to God, we can leave the toxicity instead of the marriage.

Spouses can exhibit toxic behaviors at times, but if they’re committed to climbing out of that pit, they can find redemption and restoration. Yet, some of you are in abusive or destructive marriages, and it’s past time to recognize where are and what needs to happen next. Again, from Gary Thomas:

To be explicit and clear, if a husband or wife keeps acting out in sexually inappropriate ways, he or she needs to know they will lose you. If the abuse they heap on you is shrinking your soul, it’s okay to admit you can’t live with them anymore. If they insist that you lie to cover up their toxic acts, you aren’t just allowed but commanded to resist them.

Let me add that if your spouse belittles or degrades you in the bedroom or rapes you (yes, marital rape can happen, to both genders), that is toxic behavior that must be opposed. You cannot allow yourself, God’s child, to be treated that way, nor are you helping to permit your spouse’s sin to continue.

Get an outside perspective—though not that toxic church, please—and support. Find a way to leave. A healthy, godly marriage will never come of a toxic, unrepentant spouse being given more opportunities to harm their mate. As Thomas so well states, “God loves marriage and he loves people, but do we think he loves people or the institutions more?”

Should you read the book?

Didn’t I just tell you all you need to know from When to Walk Away? Not by a long shot. I simply pointed out issues that struck me intensely. Gary Thomas’s book has a lot more information and insight about how toxic people, unchecked, can damage us.

You may read and decide someone in your life isn’t toxic so much as difficult or that you can manage the situation by setting proper boundaries. Or you might realize that, like Jesus sometimes did, you need to walk away.

But wouldn’t you rather face the new year with new resolve to focus on God’s calling for you? Wouldn’t you rather spend your time building the marriage and/or the life God wants you to have?

Resolution Week: Would Your Spouse Say You're a Christian?

While my marriage was struggling—okay, okay, when it was bad—I was really religious. I studied my Bible, listened to Christian music, visited Lifeway stores and picked up bestsellers, prayed often, and talked about how much God meant to me.

Anyone looking in from the outside would say I was a devoted Christian wife in every way.

My husband probably wouldn’t have agreed. Even if/when I was correct in sharing my feelings, diagnosing problems, and suggesting solutions, I messed up royally in how I treated him. I’d grown frustrated, resentful, even angry, and it showed. In my efforts to meet my calling as a wife, I failed to meet my calling in Christ.

I might have been right, but I wasn’t righteous.

Finding Our Way Back

When asked what made the difference between then and now, my short answer is God. He took our mess, cleaned it and us up, and replaced our contentiousness with ever-increasing intimacy. Of course, that didn’t happen overnight, but without Him on our journey, we wouldn’t have reached the place where we are.

The longer answer is that I finally realized how I was sabotaging my own goals for my marriage through un-Christlike behavior and needed to actually live out what I said I believed. It wasn’t enough to talk about love or read about love or even pray for more love; I had to actually love. In practice. Day in and day out.

I finally read 1 Corinthians 13 and realized that, no matter what issues my husband needed to address, I had a long way to go to become a truly loving wife.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

So Right, Yet So Wrong

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul points out that it doesn’t matter how right you are if you’re rude about it.

Let’s take this epiphany into the bedroom with a few examples. Because frankly, some of y’all are doing what I did and sadly sabotaging the very intimacy you long to have; I’m begging you to start the New Year resolved to something different and better.

“You owe me sex.”

Yep, you’re right. When we get married, we assume an obligation, duty, debt—call it what you will—to have sex with our spouse. That principle’s all over the Bible, not just in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (a passage many sexually frustrated spouses like to quote).

But as I recently pointed out in a post on our newly launched KHS Ministry site for husbands, you don’t get to use the Bible as a cudgel to pressure or demand anything, including sex, from your spouse. Jesus didn’t come so you could get your own way.

Jesus didn't come so you could get your own way. @hotholyhumorous #Christiansex #marriage Click To Tweet

“I need sex.”

Again, might be true. Sex can be labeled an emotional or relational need in marriage. Yet, talking up a storm about your needs, while ignoring your spouse’s reasons for not cooperating, can become a pursuit of your own selfish ends.

In the name of something good, you end up treating your spouse like your own sexual drive-thru: Take my order, fulfill my need, and leave me satisfied. I don’t see that approach in 1 Corinthians 13 love either—do you?

“You don’t expect me to do it when I’m not in the mood, do you?”

Well, of course you shouldn’t be forced into your own marriage bed against your will. Nor should you be expected to offer up your body any time your spouse feels a quiver in their nether regions!

But as right as that is, too many spouses end up blocking reasonable attempts to address sexual problems or prioritize intimacy with the effectiveness of an NFL tackle. They cite their low libido as their right to not even try.

Me pointing out this problem doesn’t resolve barriers—I have a whole blog and several books that address them—but I’m only trying to show that you can have a great point, be right about something, and yet act in a way that doesn’t comport with “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking.”

Intimacy Revealed Ad

Practice Makes Permanent

Although we often hear “practice makes perfect,” the truth is that practicing something doesn’t make your action perfect—it just forms a habit. What you practice becomes permanent. (Kudos to my former pastor, Danny Mercer, for teaching me this one.)

Too often, we’ve built up a practice of treating our spouse in a way inconsistent with how husbands and wives are commanded to treat one another. Until we not only pray for something new but pursue it diligently with a new practice, we’ll hang on to methods that don’t work and make our spouse feel unloved.

That’s where some of your marriages are right now, today. You’re in what seems like a permanent rut, having adopted practices that undermine love and intimacy in your marriage.

But what now? What do you need to resolve to practice instead?

Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”

Luke 11:28

Resolve to Be More Like Christ

Christian simply means follower of Christ. If you follow someone, they take the lead and you go where they go.

Even now, I want to shake my head at that wife I was who thought she could cite Christian principles when it suited her desires for marriage but ignore all the rest. As if I could follow behind Christ for a while, leave the path when I saw a better way to go, and catch up to Him later. Jesus was probably shaking his head back then too and even mumbling, “Oh my daughter, follow me the whole way.”

Of course not all sex issues in your marriage can be resolved by saying, “Take two More-Like-Christ pills in the morning, and call me in the morning to say how great it was!” There are legitimate challenges that require more understanding and effort.

But many of us could vastly improve our marriage and sexual intimacy if we treated our beloved with genuine, Christlike love. If we at least began to practice His commands, embrace His prescription for love, and leave space for Him to fulfill His promises. If our spouse really knew, with no wavering whatsoever, that we’re a Christian. Not just to the world out there, but especially to the one we vowed to love.

For me, the practice I adopted was referring back to 1 Corinthians 13 love in my head, often. I’d feel tempted to complain to my husband about our relationships, bite my tongue, and recite, “Love is patient, love is kind…” etc. To be honest, at first it was spoken through clenched teeth, with an unspoken dang it at the beginning of the recitation.

But after a while, practice was becoming permanent. Christlike love was easier. Not perfect, but easier. And that, my dear friends, is how my marriage began to make its way back.

Have you struggled with displaying Christlike love to your spouse? What scripture(s) could you recite to focus on becoming more like Christ?

Resolution Week: What's Your "One Word" for Your Marriage?

I’m declaring it Resolution Week here on Hot, Holy & Humorous, and after a bit of break over the holidays, I’ll be churning five posts this week! All on making resolutions, goals, or attitude shifts—however you want to look at it—to improve your marriage and the sexual intimacy within it.

A few years back, someone concocted the idea of choosing a single word as your “word of the year” that would guide your goals and attitude. For the past few years, I’ve selected a word of the year. This practice has yielded varied results, with me sometimes feeling very focused by the word and other times forgetting what word I chose altogether.

My One Word for 2020

After mulling for a while about my one word for 2020, I’ve chosen PROMISE.

Frankly, I had a couple of other words floated around in my head until yesterday morning when I was at church. I saw the word promise somewhere, and it jumped out at me. Maybe that’s a God-thing—I like to think it is—or maybe the word just appeals to me. Yet promise conveys my desire to be a person who keeps my word, who relies on God’s promises to me, and who feels hopeful about the future, believing it is indeed filled with promise.

Of course, the word PROMISE has extensive implications for my marriage. I made a promise to my husband 27 years ago, or rather a bundle of promises. We call that wedding script our marriage “vows” for a reason. How have I done fulfilling them? What can I do better?

Regarding our sexual intimacy, doesn’t marriage involve the promise of physical exclusivity, connection, intentionality, desire, and even passion? Whether we know it all at the time, when we say, “I do,” we’re also saying, “I do you.” How’s that going in my marriage?

Whether we know it all at the time, when we say, "I do," we're also saying, "I do you." How's that going in my #marriage? @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Promises to Keep

Maybe I’ve got you thinking about how well you’ve kept your promises in your marriage and whether you need to make some new promises for the sexual intimacy with your spouse. For example, do you need to make any of these vows to your beloved?

  • I promise to visit the doctor to see why my sexual interest and/or sexual function isn’t what it should be.
  • I promise to seek help for my porn habit and knock this out of my life once and for all.
  • I promise to give you a rain check if I’m not feeling up to having sex when you initiate. (And I promise not renege on the rain check.)
  • I promise to try something new in the bedroom, to stretch my comfort zone just a little.
  • I promise to prioritize my health so we can be more active in our sex life.
  • I promise to turn on the lights, at least low lighting, so you can see my body.
  • I promise to stop pressuring you about sex.
  • I promise to initiate sex more often.
  • I promise to go through a book about sex in marriage with you.

Of course, promises aren’t worth much unless you keep them.

I once did an extensively study of the Bible, looking for scriptures about trusting others, and you can’t find much on that. God is very concerned that we trust Him, but as for one another, most verses don’t focus on trusting others but rather being trustworthy. Trustworthy people keep their promises.

Or at least do their best. We will let one another down, since we’re not perfect like our Heavenly Father, but we can try to be trustworthy. We can try to be a person of our word.

Ad for Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples

My Word Isn’t Your Word

But speaking of words, my word of the year likely isn’t your word. Don’t just copy mine. Rather, figure out where you need to focus right now in your life.

If you hate New Year’s resolutions, don’t think of it as coordinating with this moment in time, but rather this spot in your spiritual and/or relational journey. Where are you in your marriage and with your sexual intimacy? What areas need your attention?

Here are some of the words I’ve recently heard from others. Perhaps something here will strike you.

Healing
Restoration
Forgiveness
Hope
Persevere

Encourage
Joyful
Compassion
Trust
Change

Passion
Prioritize
Margin
Closer
Growth

You can also find numerous blog posts and sites with one-word ideas, such as this one, this one, this one, or even this quiz from DaySpring.

Personal One Word vs. Marriage One Word

But even if you choose a word for yourself, is that the same word you should have for your marriage? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

Whether aligned with the New Year or not, it’s a good practice to periodically sit with your spouse, preferably away from the stresses of work or home, and discuss where your relationship is and where you want it to go. What do each of you see as positives? And where do you see areas for improvement?

What one word sums up what you both want for your marriage bed? Here are a few ideas to get you brainstorming the answer to that question:

Priorities
Purity
Prayer
Unity

Health
Wholeness
Renewal
Peace

Passion
Spice
Selflessness
Trust

Promises Kept

And now I’m back to my word for the year! Because if you do talk this out and come up with a word, don’t just make it a nice exercise you did around January. Rather, make it more like a vow to one another. For instance:

  • “This year, we will mutually pursue PURITY, by making our home porn and erotica-free, by focusing our thoughts solely on one another, by embracing that sex in marriage is a pure act of love blessed by God.”
  • “This year, we will mutually prioritize PRAYER, by making a goal of praying together at least once each day, by praying for one another, and by praying before, during, or after sex to invite God into our one-flesh relationship.””This year, we will foster TRUST, by confessing where we have failed one another, extending forgiveness and working on repentance, being open and vulnerable, and by treating one another’s bodies with gentleness and respect.”

What area of your marriage and sexuality needs your attention right now? What’s your marriage’s one word?

3 More Principles Christian Bloggers Should Affirm About Sex

Last week, I began covering misconceptions and false teaching about sex that still show up periodically on Christian blogs and in other resources. While we can have honest and reasonable disagreements about particulars, some principles should be affirmed by all Christian bloggers.

The first four principles from last week’s post are:

  1. Sex is for both of you.
  2. God created sex for more than reproduction.
  3. Sex is not just a transaction.
  4. Force and pressure have no place in the marriage bed.

Let’s address the remaining three.

5. Even within marriage, there are some limits.

“Anything Goes” is a song written by Cole Porter, not a verse written by the Holy Spirit. And yet, that is the attitude of a few Christian bloggers—that once married, you can do anything and everything. As if the words “I do” mean “I do any kinky, crazy thing I want.”

One specific blogger used Hebrews 13:4 as his proof text that all activities were equally fine once married. In the New King James Version, it reads, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Thus, the blogger interpreted that the marriage bed is undefiled no matter what happens.

But that’s not what the verse is saying! A better translation would be any of the following:

  • Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV)
  • Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (ESV)
  • Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery. (NLT)
  • Let marriage be honorable in all, and the marriage bed undefiled; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. (BLB)

Hebrews 13:4 isn’t about green-lighting every kinky idea you’ve ever had, but rather keeping the marriage bed pure by avoiding adultery and sexual immorality. Plus, we have to consider how the rest of the Bible commands us to treat one another in marriage—and that doesn’t involve using our spouse as our personal sex toy.

Which brings me to another fallacy: that if God didn’t specifically ban an act, it’s automatically honky-dory.

Certainly the Church has at times banned or belittled a sexual practice that is perfectly fine. And we should not place undue burdens on believers, as the Pharisees did. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

But later in that chapter, Paul also points out: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (5:13). We should follow God’s direct commands but also apply godly principles to determine what can be on our bedroom menu and what should be left off.

We should follow God's direct commands but also apply godly principles to determine what can be on our bedroom menu and what should be left off. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 puts it this way: “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

Faithful Christians can argue about where the boundaries are, but the idea that there are boundaries should be no-brainer.

6. Porn and erotica are bad.

Here’s another should-be-obvious point, but it’s apparently not. Because I’ve read plenty of excuses for engaging with porn or erotica—everything from “it doesn’t hurt anyone” to “we learn from it” to “it helps us get aroused for each other.” And then there’s the standby claims that porn is a reasonable substitute when a spouse won’t provide sex or that erotica is okay because no actual persons are involved.

If you want to know what I think about porn and erotica, you can head to any of these:

But the summary is that they’re bad for your soul and your marriage. They move focus away from your spouse and onto others; they prioritize the physicality of sex above any other aspect; and they normalize fringe activities and searching for that next high.

There’s the storytelling subgenre oddly titled “Christian erotica.” All that means is that it has the same purpose and effect as other erotica, but the characters are married. C’mon! Are we really that gullible? Is it somehow okay to involve others in your exclusive, one-flesh bedroom if they’re married too? Think through that logic, and you’ll find it’s not logical at all.

In addition, porn involves real people who get hurt. Do not cite their willingness, the pay they receive, or “amateur porn” unless and until you have fully researched porn’s high prevalence of abuse, sexually transmitted infections, and sex trafficking. And just because that girl looks twenty-one doesn’t mean she is.

Whether you want to call porn and erotica sin or not—and I believe it is—it’s definitely unwise. Just ask all the couples who had their marriages wrecked by it. Ask couples who had to walk the journey of rebuilding their intimacy. Even ask non-Christian experts who researched the subject thoroughly (An Open Letter on Porn, The Gottman Institute). And if you’re in a sexless marriage, engaging in porn or erotica will worsen an already difficult situation.

Intimacy Revealed Ad

7. The Bible is not your bludgeon.

Last, but not least, could we please stay away from sites that recommend using a Bible passage as your personal bludgeon against your spouse?

The Word of God definitely has something to say about what sex should look like, as well as what we owe each other within marriage. But the Bible is God’s love letter to you—not His edict against your spouse. The primary goal of reading Bible passages should be applying them to our own sin-filled lives.

What then does one hope to gain by pulling out scriptures and hurling them at our spouse? Is it our defense mechanism? Are we lashing out to make our spouse feel pain like we’ve felt? Or do we simply expect our spouse to hurt so much they’ll change to avoid more of it? Even if that were to happen, how would that improve your overall intimacy?

Let’s take the most common infraction in the area of sex: using 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to demand your spouse give you sex. Wanna see how that makes this blogger feel?

I actually like that passage because it’s NOT about obligation but the priority and mutuality of sexual intimacy. But you have to understand its context.

At that time, some Christians in Corinth had proclaimed celibacy a holier state so spouses were trying to avoid sex to be more spiritual. Rather than agreeing, the apostle Paul reasserts that God wants married couples to make love regularly, that sex is a crucial part of marriage, that we should not deprive one another as if that is a higher form of obedience when God Himself created sex for marriage! Paul’s not offering spouses a bludgeon, but rather affirming God’s invitation for couples to enjoy sexual intimacy with gratitude not guilt.

In 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, Paul's not offering spouses a bludgeon, but rather affirming God's invitation for married couples to enjoy sexual intimacy with gratitude not guilt. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

But let’s presume your spouse is completely wrong—on this or something else—and needs conviction by the Holy Spirit. You still don’t get to be the one to hammer down judgment. As Christ said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, ESV).

What you can do instead includes:

But please don’t use God’s words like Thor’s hammer on your spouse. No matter how right you may be in what is said, how you say it matters quite a lot to our Heavenly Father.

Have you seen problematic teaching on these points? What other principles are important for Christians to affirm?