Tag Archives: Kevin A. Thompson

Happily Book Review: Contrarian Advice for a Great Marriage

On Tuesday, we released another podcast episode on Sex Chat for Christian Wives, but this one was unusual: we hosted a male guest. Kevin A. Thompson is the lead pastor at Community Bible Church in western Arkansas, speaks at marriage and parenting conferences, and has authored two marriage books, including Friends, Lovers, and Partners.

I don’t know how I originally connected with Kevin, but I’ve read his blog for some time and interacted with him online. I’ve been impressed with his willingness to address tough topics from a biblical viewpoint. And he came at it again in his most recent book, Happily: 8 Commitments of Couples Who Laugh, Love & Last.

(Note: I received a copy of this book free from the author, but I promised nothing but to read it. My decision to write this review is entirely my own.)

Kevin starts by discussing our tendency tend to believe that happy and unhappy marriages occur through luck or by getting certain rules right, like “you must find and marry The One.” However, the real way to both avoid divorce and have a happy marriage is to embrace eight contrarian commitments he outlines in the book.

These contrarian commitments are Jesus’ contrarian principles for our lives, laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, the section we call the Beatitudes.

The First Commitment

For example, the first commitment is to Happily Humble Yourselves. Easier said than done, right? And yet, think how many marriage struggles are caused or exacerbated by our lack of humility. As Kevin says, “At the heart of nearly every marriage problem is pride,” but he also points out that “most of the people we meet who lack humility are not arrogant; we are insecure.”

What if we instead had a right perspective of ourselves in comparison to God? What if we understood our value, so we didn’t fall prey to insecurity, as well as our insufficiency, so we didn’t fall prey to arrogance?

What if both of you approached your next conflict with humility? And what if you approached your marriage bed and all the issues surrounding it with true humility—neither arrogant nor insecure? Wouldn’t you listen better, make your requests in a more loving way, pursue help more quickly?

The Second Commitment

Now take the second commitment he covers: Embrace the Hurt. What?! you say. I didn’t get married to get hurt!

Well, are you breathing and in relationship with anyone on this earth? Then welcome to some hurt. In our broken world, that’s how this goes. We will disappoint one another. But that does not mean you cannot have genuine joy, because hurt can result in healing and growth.

Kevin reminds us, “Marriage reveals our flaws and exposes our greatest wounds.” It’s the iron sharpens iron principle, which I discuss at more length in my devotional book Intimacy Revealed. That friction reveals our flaws and gives us an opportunity to improve ourselves and serve others.

Of course, there’s a big difference between the regular, inherent hurt we feel when our differences rub against each another and the pain of abuse. If you’re experiencing the latter, you do not happily endure that. Kevin states that we need to distinguish which pain is a caused by a problem not to be tolerated and which is the result of our imperfection and need for growth.

For those in abusive situations, seek help. Today. Now. Stop reading this blog post and go research abuse resources in your area.

For those in the regular conflict of marriage, Happily‘s prescription is to mourn the emotional pain we feel when let down by others. Which will inevitably happen. But then seek how to grow together through the hurt.

The Commitments & the Beatitudes

As you can see, these two commitments reflect the first two Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-4:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

The remaining six commitments do the same:

  • Happily Avoid Both Apathy and Aggression (“Blessed are the meek…”)
  • Happily See Marriage as Bigger than You (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”)
  • Happily Refuse Power Struggles (“Blessed are the merciful…”)
  • Happily Live in Truth (“Blessed are the pure in heart…”)
  • Happily Make Peace (“Blessed are the peacemakers …”)
  • Happily Endure Whatever May Come (“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness…“)

Maybe some of those commitments surprise you, especially when paired with the word Happily.

Yet what made the difference in my own marriage when it was failing? Yes, I benefited a lot from specific resources that helped me work through issues in our relationship. My ministry is all about providing that kind of resource for couples who are struggling or simply want to improve their sexual intimacy.

But the key for me and my marriage was, through prayer and intention, living out biblical principles day to day: principles like those found in the love passage in 1 Corinthians 13, the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, and the Beatitudes as covered in this book. Once you shift your attitude to that of Christ, you can make real progress in your marriage.

Once you shift your attitude to that of Christ, you can make real progress in your marriage. via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

And as Kevin says, those who put in the effort to have a good marriage may feel lucky, but it’s because they put in the effort that yielded the blessings. I recommend this as a book for a couples to read together and discuss, but it’s also good for one spouse to read and put into practice. Check it out here:

And be sure listen to our podcast episode with Kevin here:

Will Your Pastor Preach on Sex?

Photo of with blog post titleIn my many years of church attendance, I have rarely heard a lesson or sermon on the subject of sex. Even though the Bible has quite a bit to say about it, churches tend to shy away from the topic. And I sort of understand why.

One year, our church camp included the story of David and Bathsheba. Being the children’s curriculum leader, I had to write the lessons for elementary age children about that adulterous affair. We ended up talking more about David wanting another girlfriend, rather than getting into the particulars of sex with a group of kids whose parents may or may not have yet informed them about what happens in bedrooms between men and women. Likewise, a lot of parents are very uncomfortable having the preacher mention sex from the pulpit, because their children are sitting beside them on the pew.

But more than that, I think we’re just uncomfortable with the topic of sex. Maybe because we were wrongly taught that it’s so private or so distasteful, it shouldn’t be brought up in polite company. Maybe because we’re experiencing sexual problems in our own marriage and don’t want to be reminded or convicted. Maybe because we struggle with what God says about sex itself.

But I wish more preachers would say what needs to be said. We should let our pastors know that we are willing to hear what the Bible has to say about everything, including our sexuality. And today, I salute one preacher who did stand up in the pulpit and talk about it. Kevin A. Thompson preached on 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 to his congregation, and here’s his sermon on sex.

(For a sampling, I suggest starting at 6:34 and watching until 10:17. And no, I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen on my blog.)

You can also watch the video here.

Has your pastor ever preached on sex? What messages do you wish your church would present on the topic of godly sexuality?

Are You Sure You’re Communicating?

I recently read a great blog post by Kevin A. Thompson, The Most Frustrating Moment of Marriage, which involved a miscommunication.

And it reminded me of my own recent story with my husband.

We were at a Tex-Mex restaurant (yum!), eating fajitas and conversing about this-and-that. Hubby was also, given the large-screen TV nearby, watching the World Cup. I mentioned I’d been nervous that day because my outfit involved wearing two shirts that covered everything and what-not, but I wasn’t wearing a bra. Without that familiar feeling of a bra, I felt a little uneasy in public — like I might lean over a bit wrong and show something I shouldn’t show.

To which my husband said something like, “So what if you do? You worry too much.”

Say what?!

Immediately, my feelings went from unease to emotional hurt. My heart sank to my stomach (along with my tortilla chips and salsa). Had we hit a point in our marriage when my body was no longer special? Was he was okay with me giving a peep show? Did he care about me so little? Was the magic over? (Yeah, yeah, a bit melodramatic. I know.)

I slid away from him on the booth, he kept watching the-game-of-no-scoring soccer futbol, and we didn’t interact much after that. A few minutes later in the car, I revisited the subject. I recounted how earlier in our marriage, he’d asked me to get rid of a cute, little miniskirt (emphasis on little). I was young and didn’t understand men’s visual acuity that well at the time, but his request was so out of character, I figured it was important to him and obliged. After a while, I appreciated and even cherished that memory — how my husband wanted to keep my private and hinting-at-private areas within our marriage. That made me feel special, valued, treasured.

And now he was throwing me to the wolves and their steely, hungry eyes.

We went back and forth about our feelings for a bit, until he finally said, “I don’t want anyone to see anything, but you’re freaking out about this, like it would be horrible if someone saw your bra strap.”

I raised my voice. “I told you! I’m not wearing a bra.”

Silence.

“Wait, you’re not wearing a bra?”

“No, honey. I told you that.”

“Oh. Well, that’s different.”

And my husband was back.

Mind you, once again, I was dressed modestly, with nothing showing and nothing likely to show, but my story demonstrates how easily a couple can argue about a misunderstanding. He just hadn’t heard my original statement. (He was, after all, watching the World Cup.)

Couple arguing

My own cautionary tale involves modesty and keeping yourself only unto your spouse. But there’s opportunity for plenty of other misunderstandings regarding marital intimacy.

  • She rejects sex tonight. He takes it to mean she doesn’t desire or respect him, but she’s thinking about the extra five pounds she saw on the scale today and feeling overly self-conscious about her body.
  • He says he wishes she’d be more adventurous in bed. She assumes he’s comparing her to previous sexual experiences or the porn he saw before they married, but he’s remembering that one time when she tried something different and enjoyed the experience so much (“wish I could excite her like that again“).
  • She expresses her disappointment they don’t make love more often. He hears that she sees him as inadequate and feels pressure to perform, but she misses the closeness of their lovemaking and wants to walk with him in taking steps to reawaken his sex drive.
  • He suggests ignoring the kids for a while and having a little “afternoon delight.” She hears that he cares more about getting his sex hunger sated than what happens to their children (“what kind of father is he?”), but he craves his wife’s attention and figures some lovemaking while the kids watch another VeggieTales would benefit everyone.

You can see how this happens. We communicate poorly, or only part of our message is received. And then we’re in conflict.

It’s never fun to argue with your spouse about sexual issues, but it’s kind of silly to argue about sexual non-issues — things we never said or intended. You may eventually get to an Emily Litella moment like we did, or you may never get on the same page and keep approaching your problems with erroneous assumptions.

Emily Litella character, SNL

So what can you do to avoid misunderstandings?

Slow down the conversation. When we feel hurt and sense conflict coming on, we tend to heat up, open our mouths, and let ‘er rip. Instead, when you feel that unease rising inside you, take some deep breaths and slow your words.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19 NKJV).

Make sure you’re listening. Are you really hearing what your spouse is saying? Or are you looking for points of disagreement or an opportunity to butt in with your own perspective? Pay attention to your beloved’s words, facial expressions, and body language. Make your focus figuring out what’s happening with your spouse.

“To answer before listening — that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:3).

Ask for clarification. See if you’re getting it right. Obviously, if I’d asked early on, “So you don’t care if I bare my breasts?” there’d have been no misunderstanding or argument between my husband and me. (Of course he cares if I bare my breasts — he wants them bared to him only and often!) If you’re surprised or hurt by something your spouse said or did, probe a bit to see what’s going on. Clarify your understanding.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established” (Proverbs 24:3).

Repeat back your understanding. When you think you’ve got it, say it back. If your spouse says, “No, that’s not it!” then keep talking until you do get it. Unfortunately, we often make our first goal winning the argument or expressing our own feelings, but our primary goal should be getting on the same page about what the problem is. When you agree on a diagnosis of the problem, you’re far more likely to work together toward a mutually satisfying resolution. Or when you finally get your understanding right, you may discover there wasn’t such a problem after all.

“It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3 HCSB).

Before you go barreling in to fix a problem regarding your marital intimacy, make sure you know what the problem really is. Get your spouse’s perspective on it. You may discover something you simply didn’t understand before, that will help you grow closer and stronger.

Have you had any silly misunderstandings? Or serious ones? How have you handled erroneous assumptions?