Tuesday, January 29, 2013

20 Easy Steps to Destroying Your Marriage

If you really want to destroy your marriage, here are 20 easy steps:

  1. Leave God out (or at least relegate him to church stuff only).
  2. Don’t communicate.
  3. Don’t play together.
  4. Make your children the center of the family instead of your marriage.
  5. Expect perfection from your mate.
  6. Expect perfection from yourself.
  7. Withhold forgiveness.
  8. Don’t dream together.
  9. Find as much fault as you can with your spouse’s family.
  10. Make sure you spouse knows that your parents are still fully in charge of your life.
  11. Never be wrong about anything ever.
  12. Love your stuff more than you do your spouse.
  13. Withhold sex (especially to punish your spouse).
  14. Don’t be sympathetic when your spouse is hurting.
  15. Make your spouse feel stupid as often as you can.
  16. Laugh at your spouse often, but never laugh with your spouse.
  17. Live as independently of your mate as humanly possible.
  18. Consistently spend all your money irresponsibly.
  19. Remember, it’s always more important to win the argument than it is to nurture your relationship.
  20. Point out your spouse’s faults and imperfections as often as possible.

And if you’re really bound and determined to ruin your marriage, I bet you could add a few more things to this list...but please don’t.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Being faithful is more than...

     From most people’s perspective, it would seem like Marv and Wendy had an okay marriage.  They had been married for over 30 years, they loved their grandchildren, and they attended church regularly.  But over the years, especially after their children left home, they slowly grew apart.  As Wendy grew distant, Marv spent more time at work.  He began focusing on his co-worker Jayna, spending more and more time with her, confiding in her, taking up her battles for her, sharing lunches alone together, and consistently seeming enamored with her.  Although nothing physical ever happened, it soon became obvious to those close to Marv that he was giving Jayna the emotional investment that should have been reserved only for his wife Wendy. 
     It used to be that the only definition for infidelity was sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse. Everything else was “harmless flirting.” So long as “nothing happened,” there were no grounds for concern. But are their other types of infidelity other than physical infidelity? The concept of emotional infidelity is getting more and more attention. While emotional infidelity doesn’t involve physical sexual contact, it does constitute taking the emotional energy and relationship investment that rightfully belongs only to your spouse and giving it to another. Obviously, not all forms of infidelity carry the same level of consequences, but any infidelity creates a wedge in your marriage.  Emotional infidelity might never lead to physical infidelity, but it is still a breaking of trust with your spouse, even if your spouse never finds out.  It is shrouded in secrecy and deception, and it is a huge stepping stone toward hardening your heart against your marriage covenant. Maybe that’s why Jesus said looking at another lustfully is still committing adultery, even if you never touch the other person.  (Matthew 5:27-28)
     There are several red flags to warn you if you are headed toward emotional infidelity. 

  • First, emotional infidelity, just like physical infidelity, is normally wrapped in secrecy.  Do you have Facebook friends, maybe an old boyfriend or girlfriend that you don’t want your spouse to know about?  Are you evasive in talking about a co-worker of the opposite sex when your spouse asks you about your day?  Do you have secret email accounts, or arrange secret meetings to stay in contact with someone you don’t want your spouse to find out about?  Deception and emotional infidelity go hand-in-hand.
  • Second, do you have an ongoing sexual chemistry with someone other than your spouse?  Do you get a “tingling in the toes” sensation, or feel compelled to come across as impressive when that person is present?  Do you flirt covertly or overtly?
  • Third, do you find yourself comparing your spouse unfavorably to another person?  “If only my wife understood me as well as Jayna does.”  “I wish my husband would notice that I’ve been working out like Marv does.”

If you notice any of these signs happening on a consistent basis, it is time to seriously evaluate your extra-marital relationship.
     How do you end an emotional affair and get back on the right track? 

  • Begin by admitting to your spouse that you are attracted to someone else.  While that might seem like an extreme measure, you absolutely have to dispel the power of secrecy and deception.  Otherwise, there will always be a temptation to rationalize or minimize the relationship and to even return to it.
  • Next, you must sever the relationship.  Cut off communication.  Change your daily routines.  In extreme cases you might even have to find another job or another church or wherever you come in contact with the other person.  If contact cannot be totally eliminated, work with your spouse to put measures in place to insure that interactions are limited and public.
  • Then, put accountability measures in place.  Give your spouse access to all your social media sights and online communications.  Call and check in as needed to give reassurance to your spouse.  If you have a trusted friend or co-worker of the same gender, give him/her permission to be brutally honest with you if he/she sees you slipping back into flirtatious and inappropriate behavior.
  • And finally, make God a part of the solution.  God has promised that he is not going to let you be tempted beyond what you can withstand, but you bear responsibility in doing what you can to keep a relationship from getting to or remaining at inappropriate levels.  Pray with your spouse and ask God to lead you away from the temptation.

     If you eye offends you, pluck it out.  If your hand offends you, cut it off.  Yes, it will be painful, inconvenient, and even humiliating, but the end result will be a far, far better thing than if you continue as you are.  (Paraphrase of Matthew 5:29-30)  Ending an emotional affair can be painful for a marriage, but to let it continue will be far, far worse.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Marriage Blessing

     I am a big advocate of formal blessings that are prayed and repeated on a regular basis.  If used right, they can help keep us centered and serve as a constant reminder of God's love and provision for us.
     I taught a Christian Marriage and Family class at my church a couple of years ago.  We started every class by reciting the blessing above together.  I even printed out cards for everyone in the class with the blessing.  After a couple of weeks, most people in the class knew the blessing by heart.
     However, the more important result was the comments I got from various members of the class after a couple of months.  After repeating the blessing each Sunday, and after seeing the card with the blessing on it stuck to the bathroom mirror, or on the refrigerator, or in the car, or in a purse or wallet each day, people began to act differently toward their mates.  For most it was not huge changes.  Instead it was smaller considerations; being more thoughtful, more respectful, more aware of how their marriages blessed their lives, and recognizing God's presence in their marriage relationship.
     I would challenge you to either print off and cut out the marriage blessing above, or, if you'd rather be more personal, pray about it with your spouse or with your faith community and come up with a marriage blessing of your own.  Let it be something that reflects the God-given blessings of covenant marriage.  Let it be something that reminds you to be a blessing to your spouse, to recognize your spouse for the blessing that he/she is to you, and something that prompts you to think and act in a way that honors God by honoring and protecting your marriage union. Whether you use the blessing above, find one from another source, or come up with your own, recite it regularly with your mate, and let God work in you and your spouse's lives for each other and to glorify him.

(Just in case you are viewing this on a device that didn't load the image above, here is the blessing again)
Lord, bless me to love my spouse as you love me.  Let my love for my spouse be a reflection of my love for you.  Help me to always serve and forgive, persevere and protect.  Let me be a blessing to my marriage and ever blessed by my marriage.  Keep me away from anything that would tempt me to dishonor my marriage covenant.  We ask this blessing by the power of the divine name of your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Don't be "normal"

     Normal people are reactive.  Successful people are proactive.  It’s true.  In business, those who succeed are the people who have a vision.  They think ahead and plan accordingly, are sensitive to the people around them and how they are likely to act and react to decisions, and have definitive goals.  They are proactive!  Normal people come and do their jobs, and try to keep their heads above water, with no real ambition.  They are reactive.  In handling money, those who succeed will budget, plan for the future, and look for opportunities for improvement.  They are proactive!  Normal people are reactive.  They respond to crises without a plan, but because they have no plan, any stressor becomes a nearly impossible task and money flows from them.  (It’s no wonder that most people who win the lottery are bankrupt and broke again within just a few short years.)  They are reactive.  The same principle applies to churches.  Growing churches are proactive.  They have a God-centered vision and they share the vision with the congregation.  Reactive churches continually try to stomp out the closest fire while pretending all is well.
     The principle of being proactive or reactive also applies to marriage.  More often than not, when a couple has a healthy marriage it is no accident.  It is simply a husband and a wife being intentional together in how they will view their marriage relationship, relate to each other, and manage life together.
     So, is your marriage proactive or reactive?  Here are a few questions to help you decide:

  • Do you communicate with your spouse openly and honestly about where you are now and where you want to go as a couple?
  • Are you sensitive to your spouse’s spiritually, emotionally, and physically health?
  • When crises come, do you blame others or do you and your spouse navigate hardships together?
  • When failures come, do you live in grace and forgiveness toward your spouse, yourself, and others?
  • Have you built your marriage on God’s design, or are you trying to retrofit God (and your spouse) into your own plan for what a good marriage should be?
  • Do you dream together?

     Please note that the key to all of these questions is “together.”  Marriage is not about two individuals making individual efforts with individual goals.  For a marriage to be healthy and proactively successful, you must embrace the idea that husband and wife are one flesh, with God firmly and fully at the center.  God is not static or reactive, but is always purposefully moving forward as the day of Christ’s return approaches.  A proactive Christian couple sees their marriage as having a purpose in God’s Kingdom.  A reactive Christian couple hopes that Christ doesn’t return before they can “get it all together.”
     I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a normal marriage.  I want a healthy, Kingdom-oriented, successful marriage—a union that lives in love, goodness, grace, and forgiveness—a covenant relationship that dreams big for me and my spouse, and sees God as the source of that vision.  Be proactive in every aspect of your marriage and then whether smooth waters or rough waters, you’ll navigate them a whole lot better.  Don’t settle for being normal.