Panicked cries rang out from the kitchen. The kind that make a momma’s heart skip a beat! “I broke it! I broke it! I am so sorry! It was Maylee’s!” wailed my devastated 4 year old. She had spent the morning playing with a china tea set which had been given to her 18 year old sister on her 3rd birthday. (Experienced mother’s side note to well-intentioned gift givers—china tea sets are terrible gifts for anyone younger than 6.) Maylee is headed to college in the fall and has been purging her closet of treasures such as these, making her baby sister the delighted beneficiary.
Although I had allowed her to enjoy playing with the tea set, I had also emphasized to her how breakable it is, and the need to treat it with care because it was special to her sister. We are probably all familiar with the sense of extra-care and caution that comes when we drive a friend’s car, hold a neighbor’s baby or drink from Grandma’s crystal stemware at Thanksgiving dinner. You listen closely to any special handling instructions, not wanting any harm to come to the valuable object while it is in your care. Knowing that something is precious to someone else and has been entrusted to you affects the way you handle it.
You may not realize it, but if you are married, you have been entrusted with the heart of someone who is precious and valuable to God. Furthermore, as a husband or wife, God is using the way you love your spouse to illustrate to the world Christ’s sacrificial love for His bride, the Church. If that doesn’t feel heavy, you need to read it again because God Himself has given you a sacred trust, and that is absolutely as big a deal as it gets.
However, if we are honest we don’t view our marriages this way. On our best days we may view our marriage as a choice we made to share our life with someone we love. And on our less than best days we can view our marriage as an agreement we made with a selfish, sinful person when we did not have all of the facts.
We doubt ourselves: “Maybe I rushed into this.” “What if I would have been happier with someone else?”
We doubt our spouse: “He’s not even the same person I fell in love with.” “If I had only known then what I know now.”
From that place “till death do us part” can feel like an arbitrary mandate to try to make something work that was a bad idea to begin with.
I doubt most of us spend time thinking on God’s stake in our marriage. But what if marriage is God’s idea, designed to be a picture of the love Christ has for His bride, the Church. If His interest in your marriage is not only cherishing the heart of your spouse, which is precious to Him, but also the reputation of His Son, He may have a bigger stake in our relationship than we realize. Likewise, because our marriage is sacred to Him, He gave some instructions for it’s care.
21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. 30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”[c] 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:21-33
A good God, who does have all of the facts, created marriage to serve as a picture of self-sacrificing love to a selfish and sinful world, and planned to use regular ol’ sinners “whom God has joined together” to pull that off. If that perspective on our spouse, on our marriage, sinks in a bit, it changes things. The doubts, the character flaws, the “what ifs” and “why me’s” become opportunities to submit ourselves to God at work in us, and ask the Holy Spirit to love my spouse in a self-sacrificing, you-first, greater-than-human kind of way. Rather than critiquing our spouse or evaluating his worthiness, our focus can turn to “feeding and caring for [him], just as Christ cares for the church.”
Just as we might give someone instructions before caring for our child or borrowing our car, God has given us instructions for carefully and lovingly handling our spouse.
- Consider and value your spouse’s needs as you do your own.
Submit to one another. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it.
- Unite yourself to your spouse. There is no longer “me” and “you.” Just “us.”
For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. Acting in the best interest of the unified team is also in the best interest of each party.
- Treasure your marriage as a sacred trust from God
This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. God using imperfect people to love one another in a manner that exceeds their own capacities as an illustration of His perfect, self-sacrificing love. A mystery indeed. A treasure He has entrusted to us.
More than a bad idea you may have had once upon a time, marriage is a God idea. And your spouse is a gift you have been entrusted to handle with love and care. Feel the weight of that responsibility. At the same time I hope you will feel overwhelmed by His grace and power which are most glorious in areas where we are messy and broken. This is bigger than you. It is bigger than your spouse. It is as big as a great God who is writing a beautiful love story and in His beautiful, mysterious, we can’t fully comprehend it way, wants to include your chapter. His love story is one of self-sacrifice, undeserved kindness, and unending forgiveness. My prayer is that I will take His instructions to heart and allow His Spirit to write such a beautiful love story in my marriage.
Most men would have to confess that when he first finds out his wife is pregnant, his first thought is that he hopes it’s a boy. Men do not want to admit that and most feel quite guilty about it. Most of us have a hard time articulating why we feel that way, but we do. I believe that there are different reasons why men feel this way. The first and most stereotypical reason has to do with sports. A man imagines himself playing sports with his son, throwing a football around the yard, shooting hoops in the driveway, etc. He wants to watch his son grow up and be the sports hero that he always wishes he had been. The psychology of dads living vicariously through their sons is a topic for another day and another book though. However, I believe that there is a deeper reason that men are afraid of being the father to a baby girl.
We are scared to death to have a daughter. The very thought is terrifying. First and foremost, we do not understand women. I know that can seem like a stereotypical joke. “We men sure don’t understand women, do we boys? (canned laughter) No way. Women, am I right? (shrug shoulders)” But it is more than a joke. We have not understood any of the women in our lives up to this point—mom, sisters, friends, wives. We do not understand them and these are grown up women. If they are that complicated and mysterious, what must they be like growing up? What does it take to raise one? Who knows? I do not know what to do when my wife cries, what do I do when my daughter cries? The ups and downs of my mom’s emotions were too much for me. What am I supposed to do with my daughter? If we as men are going to be honest, we would admit that we believe that maybe we can handle one woman (our wife), but to add more is more than we can handle.
Furthermore, again if we can be honest with ourselves, we are scared because we fear that somehow we might “break” them. We are scared to be entrusted with a daughter for the same reason we do not want to be the one carrying anything fragile and valuable. This is not to say that we fear responsibility. Most men loved to be challenged. Give us a big challenge. Give us something heavy to carry. We may not be able to lift it, but we will embrace the opportunity to try. Heavy is fine; however, delicate is scary. We will work as hard as we can to move or carry something heavy. We will not give up. We will not admit fear. But if we are talking about something fragile, that is a different story. What if I break it? What if I drop it? Please do not make me responsible for protecting something breakable. I would rather you pile two more boxes on my load then make me carry something fragile with my index finger and thumb and my pinkie sticking out, tiptoeing around scared to death that someone will bump into me. Whether you believe what I am about to say is insulting or chauvinistic or not, it does not matter. This is how we feel. We believe little girls are fragile and delicate. We think that we can easily break them and that we will do irreparable damage.
Drop a boy on his head and it will make him tough. Eventually the boy will learn to love it. In fact, he may ask you to drop him on his head again. Yell at a boy and if he cries, that’s his problem. If you tell us that we might hurt our boy’s feelings, we will likely shrug our shoulders and say that it’s good for him. “My dad hurt my feelings, his dad hurt his feelings, his dad hurt his. I am just continuing a sacred circle and tradition.” Perhaps someone with boys can write a book and tell us that we should not view boys that way, but we do. We believe that boys are durable. They can “take it.” But what if I say something and my daughter cries? How will I make her stop? What if I hurt her feelings? Will she forgive me? Will she be mad at me and scarred for life? What if I break her? Is that possible? Will I do any damage that cannot be undone? I do not want to find this out. As a man, I would rather avoid the conflict. I would rather not risk it.
So, in our hearts we think that it would just be simpler and easier to just have boys. I know what boys are like. I used to be one. We are not easy to deal with, but at least I understand us. I do not believe that I can break a boy permanently. I know what boys like and I know what we would do together. We can go outside and play catch, go fishing, and wrestle— things that I know how to do. I have never had tea parties before. I have never played dress up and changing clothes on a Barbie doll makes me uncomfortable. Seeing a little girl cry, because of something I did? I do not even want to think about it. Let’s just move on. Let’s just have boys.
Then the moment comes. You find out that you are having a girl. Everything in a man’s life is turned upside down forever. We have no idea how much at the time, but we instinctively know that we will never be the same once we become a daddy to a little girl. We know deep in our hearts that we are finished. We once were strong, independent men, but not any more. Now, I am about to be the daddy to a little girl. She is going to own me.
But what I know and many of you do not, is that I would never, ever go back. I consider it a great honor and privilege to be the Daddy to 3 amazing girls. Many of the greatest joys of my life have come from this sometimes scary but always awesome role of raising girls. I am the most important man in the world to 4 women. I can’t imagine much greater than that. So if you find yourself a Daddy to girls, about to be or scared to death you might be, don’t run, don’t hide and don’t be scared. Run full speed ahead to one of the greatest adventures and joys that God can give a man–a lifetime of being a girl’s dad.
I don’t want to be too provocative or racy on the blog today, but I need to tell you something. I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher this morning. In addition to that, I was the one to get up when Laylah got up this morning. (She is definitely the first one up every morning since time change.) After I got her breakfast, I remembered that I had run the dishwasher last night. I unloaded it and put the remaining dishes in. I went around the house and gathered up other dishes. In the meantime, I also noticed some stuff of mine that needed to be put away. I also saw a basket of laundry in our room that needed to be folded. I’ll work on that tonight.
Again, I hope that story wasn’t too racy for you but romance is in bloom at the Loften house today. It actually started last night with the original loading of the dishwasher and watching one of our shows on Hulu last night. We were next to each other and holding hands and just being tired next to each other. Can you feel the heat?
This, my friends, is what romance actually looks like in your typical marriage. Sometimes when we are watching a TV show or movie that supposedly is “romantic,” I’ll notice how suddenly, aggressively and awkwardly these people start having sex. I wonder out loud to my wife, “Does that happen in real life?’ If it does, there is a completely different magical world out there where people aren’t exhausted from kids and life and sex is on the front of everyone’s mind all the time.
In the world in which I live, a healthy sexual relationship is a slow build over time. It begins with the husband serving his wife all day or for a couple of days. He communicates to his wife how much he loves her and is thinking of her, not simply with physical flirtation, but also with domestic service flirtation. He is going out of his way to communicate love for his wife in the way that she receives it, not simply in the way that he is feeling it. A guy gets a lot more mileage out of folding socks than a random physical grab or a sexual comment (shocking, but true).
In the world in which most guys live, a sexual relationship starts at night, in bed when he thinks, “We’re both here. We are already laying down. What do you say?” Then that same guy gets frustrated that his wife isn’t into it and rejects him or begrudgingly goes along. He gets frustrated that she is distracted by her day or tired or overwhelmed. He is shocked that she didn’t have the same thought, you know, what with them both being in the bed and all.
Too many men do not do the hard work to recognize how differently the mind and sex drive of their wife is. They assume that women are just like them and get frustrated with them when they discover repeatedly that is simply not true.
I’ll never forget the day it fully hit me. I was watching TV in the living room by myself and there was a basket of unfolded clothes in front of me. I simply started folding the clothes while I was watching. Heidi comes by and says, “What are you doing? Trying to romance me.” I think, “Ummm, nope. But I am now.”
It was then that I had finally noticed after more than 10 years of marriage, that it wasn’t simply being nice to my wife and what I would call flirty, that romanced my wife. I realized just how much serving her and trying to eliminate the things that distract her makes a huge difference in how she views me and our intimacy.
This may sound weird or even manipulative. It’s not, it’s how romance works. I show her love in the way that she wants to be loved and my wife responds to me by showing me love in the way that I want to be loved. It might become manipulative if I bang a dish loudly, thinking she may not know that I’m doing dishes or I yell from the living room that I am folding clothes. But even in that, it’s just fun flirting. Honestly, I wouldn’t even be sure who would be manipulating whom. Am I folding laundry to get sex? Or is she giving sex to get the laundry folded? It doesn’t matter. We are both loving each other the way that we need and want to be loved.
A healthy marriage means each person is giving and receiving love. That means that I need to know the way that she wants to be loved. She wants to be pursued and served and she hates folding laundry.
The two parents in our home have different titles. (FYI: my wife came up with these.) We have the utility parent (Heidi) and the novelty parent (Me). The utility parent is the grinder. The one who makes sure that there is food and clothes and is getting kids places on time. She is the one who is always there doing the bulk of the work with the kids. In what can sometimes be a thankless job, I publicly give thanks to the utility parent in our home. You are the best!
The novelty parent isn’t typically around during the day. I’m typically around from dinner to bed time during the week. The girls have been with the utility parent all day. They’ve been told no a few times. They’ve been leaned on to do chores and get their stuff done. It’s not unusual for there to have been a dust-up or a kerfuffle or a brouhaha or some falderal (I love all these words). This happens in homes to moms all over the world. Parenting is relentless. Mom is tired and the kids are getting frustrated.
Enter the novelty parent. (While this post may be most applicable to families with a stay at home mom. Even when both parents work outside the home, it is still very common for the mom to be the utility parent–the one who gets it done with the kids.) The novelty parent comes home and what does he do?
A typical dad will choose one of two roles. Dads either become the mean one or the fun one. The mean one is the one who comes in and cleans house (metaphorically of course, though literally would never be a bad idea either, but that’s for a post called Chores: Your Wife’s Real Love Language or A Healthy Sex Life Begins with Dishes and Laundry) By cleaning house , I mean that he comes in and starts fussing and disciplining the kids for making their mom upset, for not doing homework, for whining, for whatever. Dad comes in with the big stick.
The fun one comes in and starts handing out candy and playing video games with the kids. He tells his wife that she needs to relax and says that chores and homework can wait. Let’s have fun!
What do I suggest, you may be asking?
The worst option is to choose neither. The worst thing that you can do is come home and not engage with your family. You cannot come home and be off the clock, especially if your expectation is that your wife is still on the clock.
The best option, and the one that I try to choose is both. I want to be both the fun one and the mean one. I can bring a fun calming influence when it is called for and I can bring the thunder when it is called for.
When you pick just the mean one, you have a warped relationship with your kids. They begin to dread you coming home. They believe fathers are angry and judgmental. Not only does that damage your relationship with them, but it gives them a picture of God as Father that is unhealthy as well.
When you pick just the fun one, you undermine your utility parent. You make it where she has to enforce all the rules and you get to break them. Now instead of you being the ogre, she is. Neither of those options is good.
Because of my role as novelty parent, I have more energy to play the extremes. Heidi may be too exhausted to have fun or too exhausted to bring strength. I can do both, depending on what is needed. I can buy Laylah a sucker because, why not? I can also tell her that she can’t have any treat of any kind because of the way that she has treated her mom. I may have spent work energy all day, but I still have parenting energy. I haven’t used any of that.
If you come home and you feel you don’t have any parenting energy, allow me to give you a piece of advice, man to man. Suck it up and find some. Your wife needs you, your kids need you and you need them and you need to be a great husband and dad. Said differently, you get to be a great dad and husband. Don’t waste the opportunity by telling yourself that you are too tired.
I find great joy in being a dad. I find great joy in being the novelty parent. Not only do I get to serve and love my kids by playing and giving and serving. I get to serve and love my wife by being the heavy hand when her hand is just too tired.
Now Dads! Go out there and give your kids treats and play games and have fun!
Now Dads! Go out there and put your kids in time out and take away their stuff!
You win both ways.
Whenever I mention Big Fat Greek Wedding, I typically get two responses. The first is a blank stare because they haven’t heard of it. The movie is 13 years old, which must mean that I am 100 years old. (Back to the Future is 30 years old. Original Star Wars is 38 years old. I saw all of these movies in the theater. My first movie in the theater was Apple Dumpling Gang which is 40 years old.) For people that remember the movie, everyone remembers Windex. The dad in the movie believed that Windex would cure anything and he was always spraying it on people. At my house it was Spectrocin plus. It could heal a broken bone.
Anyway, the scene that I remember is when the daughter is wanting to go to school and she is talking to her mom and aunt about it. The daughter’s concern is that Dad will not approve and that no only does he have to go along, but it needs to be his idea. She’s discouraged and said, “You know Dad. He’s the head of the family. It has to be his idea.” Then the mom says something that has stuck with me for 13 years, “Yes the man he is the head, but the wife, she is the neck, and the neck turns the head wherever she wants it to go.”
I give that quote a D- for manipulation, but an A+ for accuracy. The wife has incredible power in the marriage relationship over her husband. In fact, a woman in any serious relationship with a man will have incredible power. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mom and son or a dating relationship or just great friends, the woman has great power. Read my wife’s awesome words on that here. (We have been taking turns on writing on love and respect. You can see the tag at the bottom. Trying to get a husband and wife perspective on the same topics.)
Countless times I have heard women say that they wish that their husbands were better leaders, took more initiative, helped more, served more. These women are often desperate. They believe that they have tried everything and nothing seems to be working. However, far too often what “trying everything” means is nagging, yelling, and passive-aggressive behavior. On their best day, perhaps is means calmly complaining. None of that has worked. Unfortunately, those things rarely work. A husband should respond to the desperate cries of his wife, but he rarely does.
Well, what works then? You are the neck. Steer him to where you want to go, but you must use different fuel, a different way to motivate–your positive words. Your husband will become what you say that he is. If you say that he is great leader and husband, he will become one. You tell him that you are proud of him and he will be someone to be proud of.
“But what if he is an idiot and not great at those things? Am I supposed to lie?”
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: Affirm him in the areas in which he is doing well and try to keep quiet on the areas in which he is not. Behavior that you affirm will be repeated. If that sounds manipulative, so be it. I assure you that he will prefer this type of manipulation to any other kind that you have tried. He will be driven by your words of encouragement. Even if you both read this and he knows what you are doing, he won’t care. He will just love the affirmation.
Respect is the fuel that drives men. Men define respect in marriage as affirmation (believing in him) and sexual responsiveness. (Read Heidi’s words on that here.) When a man has both of those things, a wife that both tells him that she thinks that he is great and shows him that she thinks he’s great by responding to him physically, he becomes a great man. When a man lacks those, he becomes passive and resentful, all the things that frustrate their wives so much.
“But WAIT! He should be a good husband and leader without those things. He shouldn’t need me to tell him and have sex with him to be who he is supposed to be. That’s pitiful.”
Correct. He shouldn’t. But we burn way too much energy talking about what “should” be true instead of dealing in the reality of what is true. It is also true that a wife is called unconditionally by God to do those things for her husband regardless of her perception of his worthiness. God’s commands for a wife to respect her husband and to respond to him are unconditional, just as the commands for him to love and lead are unconditional. We need to stop thinking of our basic responsibilities to our spouses as quid pro quo, but unconditional commands from God.
Furthermore, we will finish where we started. You have great power. You are a strong neck. If it didn’t matter if you were respecting and responding, then that would be you having no power or influence at all, when in fact you have tremendous power. If you have great power, then you need to use it wisely. You have the power to make or break the man in your life. He will become what you say that he is. Better said, he will become what you believe that he is. If you believe he is worthless, he will prove you right. However, if you choose to believe that he is a great man who just needs a little encouragement, I promise you, you will be pleasantly surprised by the great man he becomes.
Men spend a lot of time whining. I feel like I could make that an application point for every post that I write that is directed toward men—Stop whining about it already and do something about it!
Nowhere is this more evident than in our inability to understand our wives. We do not understand how they think or why they do the things that they do. Our response to that is whining. We whine to each other.
Idiot 1: “Man can you believe my wife? She asked me if she looked good in that dress and I told her what I thought. She then started crying for no reason. Don’t ask the question, if you don’t want the answer, I always say. Am I right?
Idiot 2: “Yeah man, I know. My wife asked me about my day and I told her that I didn’t want to talk about it. She asked again later and I told her not to ask me again. Now she’s mad at me for no reason at all.”
Idiocy chased by whining is a disastrous combination.
Instead of whining, allow me to suggest what I will call becoming a student of your wife. We have told ourselves that women are impossible to understand. They make no sense. Even if that is true, instead of complaining about it what we need to do is make a conscious decision to do everything that we can to learn everything that we can about our wives.
Trying to understand “women” is not what men should be trying to do anyway. Instead what a husband needs to do is understand his woman. Those are two very different things. One is a theoretical idea about similarities among women and what, if any, stereotypes are true and how they can inform us about the way relationships can best work in general. The other is a husband figuring out what his particular woman needs and wants and how he can best love and serve her.
The illustration that I use to describe this is a complicated mental spreadsheet. (Disclaimer: my wife does not like this illustration. Your wife might not either. ) A complicated mental spreadsheet is my mental, not physical (WARNING: do not write this stuff down!), list that I have of what Heidi likes and doesn’t like. It’s how she responds in certain situations. She responds differently at different times, in different moods, at certain (gulp) times of the month. I can say something in one context and it is received well, and in another it is received poorly. Her attitude, my attitude, the circumstances can all dictate different responses. All of those responses and situations go into the mental spreadsheet.
I grew up with only a brother and my parents so the only woman I really knew was my mom. My mom loved (loves) having knickknacks and little decorative things in her house. She also loved being given those as a gift. So, I start dating Heidi and I give her a ceramic cat. She liked cats, and girls like things like that, so I knew it would be a win. Guess what? It wasn’t a win. She thinks stuff like that is a waste of money. After years of calculated study, I have determined that she values practical gifts more. One of her favorite gifts that I have ever given her was a vacuum cleaner…on Valentine’s Day. Every stereotype in the world says that is wrong, perhaps the worst thing that a husband can do. My complicated mental spreadsheet tells me something very different.
But that is over simplified. Sometimes she wants an impractical gift. Sometimes she wants emotional permission to buy something for herself. Sometimes she wants a getaway without the kids. Who knows? Answer is I do, or at least I’m trying to.
My awesome wife is constantly changing, in part because we are older and our season of life is changing. The spreadsheet is always being updated and corrected, and just when I think something is solid, I learn that it isn’t. This doesn’t frustrate me, it actually makes her more intriguing. I’m boring and simple. She asks me what I want for my birthday. I tell her there is only one thing I ever really want on my birthday(makes awkward face). Heidi rolls her eyes. (If you don’t understand that ask your husband or anyone’s husband.) I eat the same thing at restaurants. I’m boring. My wife is a beautiful mystery. Rather than wasting all my time being frustrated that “I don’t understand her,” I channel that energy into learning everything that I can.
The reason why Heidi doesn’t like this illustration is that it seems to her that I am trying to “figure her out.” She doesn’t want to be figured out. However, she does want to be known. She wants a husband who will go to great effort to learn about her and her intricacies. Someone who will love her the way that she wants and needs to be loved. She is complicated and to love her means that I will do all the work necessary to love her and lead her in what can seem to me complicated ways. I’m not trying to win or put her in a box. I am trying to admire and learn about the beautiful awesome woman that she is.
by Heidi Loften
My dear friend Kay(name changed) was a colorful character. She taught me how to lift weights and “sew” curtains with a glue gun. Her time on earth was too short but full of love and passion. Kay left an impression on me in so many ways, but one of the things that has stuck with me most is the fierce way in which she loved her husband. He travelled for his job, but before he left home she always made sure his “love tank was full.” (Her colorful terminology) She saw a vulnerability and knew that she had the power to help bring strength and health to her husband and her marriage.
Recognizing sexual temptation as an area of vulnerability in any marriage is not a matter of blame or accusation. Creating a marriage that can stand strong against the constant bombardment of opportunity for sexual impurity is the responsibility of both husband and wife.
Kay was gorgeous and vivacious and everything a husband could want in the way of physical attractiveness, but these were not her greatest strengths as a wife. Her greatest strength was her awareness. Her eyes were open to the temptation that her visually oriented husband faced every day. Rather than judging him for being more easily enticed than she was as a woman, she put herself in his shoes. She imagined what it would be like to be a man away from his family, lonely, in a hotel room with easy access to sexual comfort and excitement. She accurately assessed that a man whose “love tank was full” would likely be less vulnerable to temptation in that situation.
The decisions in the hotel room still belonged to her husband. He was still responsible for running towards or away from temptation. But his marriage teammate had done what she could to set him up for success. Rather than viewing this as his issue to battle alone, she saw an opportunity to stand with him and strengthen him in the fight for the purity of their marriage. If you don’t feel the constancy and intensity of the battle against your husband and your marriage, ask him, ladies. Walk a mile in his shoes by beginning to see the world through his eyes.
In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3,4
Many of us battle our own insecurities in this area. No longer looking like we did on our wedding day, we feel that “what we have to offer” is not worth having. Aging and child bearing take their tolls on our bods, ladies, but the truth of the matter is, your bod is the only one he has legal access to and that is probably good enough for him! Most husbands would choose to have you using your fluff and flab to love them and affirm your attraction to them rather than a Swedish swimsuit model. Intimacy is physical, but it is so much more than that. Shave your legs and jump in the game, girls. You aren’t perfect, but you are his! Love your man with all you’ve got.
Even when you are tired, not in the mood, or the timing doesn’t seem quite right, you have the power to offer. Even if he chooses to wait for “the mood” to strike you too, your willingness to offer yourself to him will affirm your love and respect for him in a way that few other things can. Our men are very physical creatures but our sexual responsiveness to and interest in them affirms and encourages them in ways that go far beyond physical satisfaction. Our physical availability strengthens their confidence and builds them up in a way that pours into all aspects of their lives.
It’s not “just sex.” It’s so much more than that. Your choice to “fill his love tank” has the power to do your marriage a world of good.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.
[Allow me to say that I would certainly never want to add blame to the pain of infidelity. Infidelity and sexual addictions are complex issues with tangled roots. If these are issues in your marriage, I encourage seeking professional help.]
There is a striving that so many of us have to be normal, to fit in. You see this mostly in teenagers, but many of us never grow out of it. We don’t want anyone to think that we are weird. We don’t want to stand out and have people judge us. We want to be thought of as “regular”, and sometimes following God’s plan for our lives or having his standards for dating and marriage are just too weird. We just want to be normal.
I have had versions of this conversation with one or both of my daughters many times.
“You must/can’t do blah blah blah”
“But Dad everyone/no one is doing blah blah blah. I’ll be weird. Well, even more weird than everyone already thinks I am.”
This is where a parent is supposed to consult the parenting cliche manual, page 34 and say, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?” However, I am weird, so I say something completely different. I ask them if there is someone that you know that you would rather trade with? Not just on this issue, but in every way. Is there someone who has a relationship with a boy that you envy? Is there someone’s whose lifestyle that you want? How is being “normal” working for everyone else?
(Disclaimer, this sentiment is found in the outstanding book Weird by Craig Groeschel. Most content that I have that is worth anything I borrowed/stole from him or Andy Stanley. Thanks guys!)
I have made the challenge to my daughters that when you find a teenage dating relationship that is better than the one that you have, then I will modify all my weird dating rules. Until then, enjoy the fact that you have the best relationship of any of your friends.
What do you think? Are normal relationships working? How would you characterize a typical/normal marriage? Normal dating relationships? Normal parents? Unless you live someplace radically different than the rest of us, you will likely acknowledge that normal families and dating relationships are not healthy or enviable. Divorce rates have never been higher. More people are rejecting even the thought of marriage. They look around and see that marriage doesn’t work. Kids are rejecting their parents and God. The world is struggling to make relationships work and if we want to “fit in” then we should expect the same struggles.
If we want our relationships to be extraordinary, then we are going to have behave in extraordinary (read: weird) ways.
Date only people who are passionate about pursuing Christ.
Refuse to experiment with sexual intimacy until marriage.
You’ll have a weird dating life, but it will be an extraordinary one.
Choose to forgive your spouse and not keep a list or wrongs.
Serve your spouse unconditionally not based on how they are serving you.
Stop lusting after other people and looking at porn.
Make an unconditional commitment to your spouse and never, ever leave–don’t even talk like you might.
Proactively date your spouse and consistently share your heart.
Stop making jokes at your spouse’s expense.
You’ll have a weird marriage, but it will be an extraordinary one.
Be humble with your kids and apologize when you are at fault.
Be honest with your kids and completely and fully answer all their questions, especially the uncomfortable ones.
Be gracious with your kids AND hold them to high standards rather than just choosing one or the other.
Be patient with them as they are navigating new seasons of life and maturity.
Set boundaries for your kids and consistently enforce them.
You’ll have weird kids, but they will be extraordinary.
It is time for us to stop trying to fit in and be normal. Everywhere we look, marriages and families are falling apart. Dating relationships are unhealthy and produce even worse marriages. Kids are rejecting their parents values and the cycle of struggling families intensifies. If what you are doing isn’t working, do something different. Try weird instead of normal.
Talk to someone and get some help. Sit down with your family and ask them what they wish were different about your family. Choose God’s plan for marriage, for singleness, for parenting. God’s plan may, at times, be weird. However, if it is God’s plan, you can know for certain that it is better than whatever idea you have about how to be a husband, wife, friend, etc. Different is good and God’s weird works!
Embrace Groeschel’s book title, Be Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working
I have become convinced of something over the course of our years of counseling couples. Although most men would never say “words of affirmation” is their love language and may even take offense to the notion of needing words of praise and encouragement, their souls are starved for such words.
Usually when I throw out an idea such as this, I encourage ladies to discuss it with the men in their lives—ask them to weigh in. However, I am encouraging a different approach here. Asking a man if he needs or wants affirming words from you will be received much like you asking him if he would like for you to have fresh flowers delivered to him at work each week. Nope, few guys can or will admit to needing something as un-masculine as verbal affirmation. Don’t ask him. Just start saying what he needs to hear. You, more than anyone else in his life, have the power to offer your man something he is desperate for.
With great power comes great responsibility. –Spider Man
Your man is desperate to hear you say the words he longs to believe about himself. But the same reason he can’t admit that he needs it is the reason he is longing for it. Verbal affirmation is often not on the list of things parents feel boys need in their formative years:
- learn to bait a hook
- learn to tie a tie,
- learn the value of hard work
- · hear Mom or Dad say, “You are a great young man.”
Consequently, your man probably came into your relationship with his encouragement tank near “E.” Even if he had parental love and support, he likely didn’t hear the words he needed to hear enough. And if he had a hard relationship with either of his parents or an abusive or neglectful childhood, then there is a hole in his tank that may need to be mended in order to ever allow his gauge to leave “E.”
Your encouragement, your words of affirmation, mean verbally communicating to him:
I believe in you. I think you are a great man. I love watching you be a great dad. I am so proud to be with you.
Perhaps you are thinking, “I can’t say those things out loud. He knows I feel all of that. If I said that stuff, it would make him uncomfortable.” You may have to get over feelings of awkwardness in order to actually verbalize such sentiments, and he may even seem uncomfortable the first time you say something along these lines, but push through all of the awkwardness and speak the words he needs to hear. Need a running start? Write him a love note and put those words on paper.
Because he is so starved for words such as these, they hold great power to affect him. He needs them so desperately that his ears are perked, and he is ready to receive them wherever he can get them. Let the most affirming words he hears all day come not from his boss or a coworker but from the lips of the one he loves most.
When we are counseling a couple, I will frequently suggest to the wife that she verbally affirm her husband. Ladies, I kid you not…when I begin speaking examples (such as those listed above) of verbal affirmations, the husband in the room inevitably responds like a dog to the smell of bacon! I am not his wife. I am not even saying things that are true about him. I am giving examples of the types of things she should try saying–yet his ears perk up and his tail begins to wag! Whether he can admit it or feels like he can even respond well when you offer it, your man is hungry for you to tell him you think he’s awesome!
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
I will take it a step further and say that your words have the power to affect who your man becomes. Speak words of life and tell him what you think is awesome about him, and he will aspire to live up to your view of him. Likewise, offer words of death and destruction and he will believe he is as worthless as you say he is. Of course there are many factors in play in a man’s life, but to large degree:
He will become what you say he is.
If that feels heavy…you are hearing me. Your words have power, ladies. Choose them wisely. Offer words of life and encouragement freely and frequently and watch your words begin to unlock the greatness within your man.
We are now one day post-sermon about sex. It was a sermon that I have wanted to give for a long time. You can watch/listen to that here. I wanted to talk about this for a lot of reasons. One is that I am very passionate about the fact that it has seemed historically that all the church has had to say on the topic is to discuss when you should not be having sex. This leads to a culture that is embarrassed and ashamed of sex, which leads to not talking about sex which leads to all sorts of problems. (You could read my thoughts on that here.)
One of the ways that sex becomes a problem in marriages is when we use sex as a weapon. God created sex as an incredible pleasurable act of unity for a marriage, and far too often in marriage it becomes a divisive tool in the hand of one or both spouses. Sex becomes a wedge between a husband and wife not an act of unity.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Genesis 2:24-25
“One flesh” is a concept that we talk about in marriage and we use it almost exclusively in spiritual and metaphorical terms. While those usages are true, there should be no doubt that the original usage is primarily sexual (see word: naked). Becoming “one flesh” is exactly what happens physically during sex and is the primary expression of oneness in marriage. It then says that they were both naked and felt no shame about it.
That is a far cry from how so many of us feel. We often bring shame and fear into our sexual relationship, in part because of how we use sex as a weapon against our spouse. How do we do this? Here are a few examples:
1) We use sex as a reward or lack of sex as a punishment for our spouse’s behavior. We use sex to try and manipulate our spouse’s behavior. If they are good, we reward; if bad, then punish. We somehow tell ourselves that this is helping our spouse become better. We are fixing a problem. You may perhaps be temporarily modifying behavior but you are not fixing anything. What changes you may see are at the expense of bitterness and staining the act that is meant to bring intimacy.
2) We use guilt and pressure to force our spouse into having sex with us. Sex requires someone to take initiative. What you say or communicate may be different, but it needs to have this feel: Would you like to connect with me in this awesome, physical, spiritual, emotional way? I think it would be great! Pressure and manipulation bring shame and guilt where there should only be celebration.
3) We shame our spouse for wanting sex too often. The fact that your spouse has a sex drive greater than yours does not make them a pervert or overbearing or aggressive or any of those things. They are simply wired differently than you. As we are connecting with each other, each spouse has to make an adjustment to understand the other. One’s drive is not right and the other wrong. Different is what brought you together and is part of what you are celebrating in sex.
4) We shame our spouse for not wanting sex often enough. Similarly the fact that your spouse has a sex drive lesser than your yours does not make them a prude or scared of sex. Different is not bad. Different is different.
(Disclaimer: it is possible that you or your spouse has an unhealthy sex drive in either direction. Just being different doesn’t tell us that. If you think you or your spouse is out of balance, you should talk to other couples that you respect and ask them what their respective drives are like. You and your spouse are likely normal and just don’t believe it. However, it’s better to know by asking than wonder in isolation and silence.)
We need to stop using God’s greatest gift to marriage to hurt and wound our spouse. We must allow sex to be the incredible celebration of love and unity that God made it to be. As with all issues that we have with sex in our marriages, healing begins with an open, honest conversation with our spouse–a lights on, clothes on, middle of the day, believe the best in each other, unity bringing conversation. Joy, health, unity, pleasure and more are just on the other side of conversations like that.