Bring the Spark Back to Your Sex Life

Q: I’m not happy with the way our sex life is going. How can I broach this subject with my spouse without hurting his or her feelings?

A: First of all, you need to communicate unconditional love to your spouse. You say, “I love you. I’m crazy about you. Can we discover each other all over again physically?”

 Photo by  Becca Tapert  on  Unsplash

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

If you feel embarrassed to talk about this, just admit it: “I’m embarrassed to bring this up but I care enough about you and our marriage to talk about it.” Or you might bring it up and say something like, “You know, you don’t seem to be in the mood for sexual intimacy lately. Is there anything you want to talk about?”

The worst and most painful thing you can do is to be abrupt and say, “Things aren’t good. I want to talk about them,” because that’s too harsh a way to talk about a very sensitive and fragile area in your marriage as well as in each other’s self-esteem. Instead, you want to affirm the good part of it and be gentle. Don’t critique or criticize. Affirm what is fulfilling for you during your times of intimacy. That gets the conversation off to a good start. Sometimes the problems couples have stem way back to before they were married. Listen to Annette:

“I’ve been married for six months, and we’re encountering some problems because my husband thinks that I’m boring in bed. My husband and I both had premarital sex, but his sexual past is much more extensive and sort of wilder than mine. So I kind of feel like he’s comparing me to his past sexual partners—and I don’t measure up.”

That can be so heartbreaking. How terrible to feel that you are constantly being compared to any number of other faceless bodies who have had sex with your spouse. How can you possibly keep up? How can you possibly be better or more exciting? When comparison is brought into the marriage bed, then you are literally inviting a third person into that sexual relationship. That is a very real consequence of sex outside of marriage—whether it’s adultery, fornication, premarital sex, pornography, you name it. People think it won’t have an effect, but it does. See how it affected the Annette and her husband—young newlyweds already dealing with pain they shouldn’t have to face.

We counseled this young woman and her husband to each seek out Christ and to cleanse their hearts by way of asking God and each other to forgive them for the premarital sex. You see “marital sex” is very different that premarital sex. Marital sex has bound up with it all of the commitment, unconditional love, and “forever-ness” that really makes the physical aspect so fulfilling. It’s only through that kind of understanding and sensitivity to each other that they will be able to overcome this problem. When you and your spouse deal with a sexual past through love and forgiveness, God can give you fresh eyes for each other. Then you can focus on improving and enhancing your marriage bed.

For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Finding Mr. (or Miss) Right

When you’re dating or looking for Mr. or Miss Right - how can you know if you’ve really found the right person? Listen to this question from Rachel’s mom:

“My daughter Rachel brought home a boy she met at college named Doug. He is a nice boy, but doesn’t have the qualities we always thought Rachel needed and looked for. In fact, the other day she called home and told me that Doug doesn’t share her faith, but he’s winning over her heart. He is intelligent, handsome, easy to talk to, devoted to his family, and very interested in her...but he doesn’t share the biggest part that makes her who she is: her faith in Jesus. He could be Mr. Right for someone else, but he’s Mr. Wrong for our girl. What should we do?”
 Photo by  Warren Wong  on  Unsplash

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Rachel and her mom are in a predicament most face at one point. Rachel likes being Doug’s special target of interest. She feels flattered that he “has time” for her, and she believes he will always make time for her. But now she’s starting to realize that they don’t have much in common—especially moral standards. Rachel has two choices. Either she breaks it off or she compromises her beliefs to make Doug happy. In Rachel’s case, she began to feel guilty and finally said, “I should have known better.”

You may have had a time when you thought: “This person is not someone I should be dating.” Perhaps you finally saw that you were trying to find your self-worth and security in a person instead of God, and you felt guilty for it. It is a difficult truth to swallow—knowing you should have known better than to fall for Mr. or Miss Wrong.

Here are 10 ways to help you know if you’ve found the right person for you:

  1. Consider what you want in a person. As a Christian, your very first qualification must be that the person you decide to marry must also be a Christian. Then go from there.
  2. Look carefully at your own personality (and get advice from loved ones here as well). Are you a target for the “Wrongs” of the world? Are you easily used? Do you have low expectations? Are you too undemanding? Are you a natural caretaker?
  3. Find healthy places to meet people. Although it could happen, chances are you won’t find the strong Christian without excessive behaviors hanging out at the bar or casino.
  4. Explore your attraction. Search for the real reasons why you like this person, and what he or she is fulfilling in you. Examine all that you have in common. Be with someone with whom you can enjoy as many activities as possible.
  5. Study the person carefully. Be brutally honest with yourself about his or her faults, fears, insecurities, strengths, goals, and dreams. Watch how he or she treats others.
  6. Find your motive for marriage. Do you want to marry this person because of love, or because you hate being alone?
  7. Agree on full financial disclosure before marriage. You need to know how this person handles finances. Financial secrets are a sign of deeper secrets. If he or she doesn’t trust you to come in, do not go farther.
  8. Listen to the people who know you. Loving friends will help you see what you do not see. Be willing to listen.
  9. Don’t have sex! Make God and your future more important than your urges. A healthy relationship will stop growing when you enter into the world of premarital sex.
  10. Pray. God really does want to meet your needs. Pray for direction in the action you take to find and marry the person God has for you.

You need to be strong enough to avoid the allure of the wrong person. Why? Because unhealthy matches breed pain, guilt, embarrassment, and broken families. Men and women need to guard their hearts so they don’t have to eventually say (especially painful if they’re already married), “I should have known better.”

For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

How to Fight Fair

You and your spouse have had an argument. You want to talk it out, but your spouse retreats. What do you do? Is there a way to “fight fair”?

When you are in a conflict, it is imperative that you communicate openly and honestly. Failure to share your feelings and talk through your differences will stifle any efforts to clear the air and restore intimacy.

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Here are a few helpful things you can do in order to handle your inevitable conflicts and learn to fight fair.

Choose an appropriate time and setting.

Do you and your spouse really need to solve an issue moments before two dozen guests arrive for a dinner party? Select a time and place that minimize distractions, guarantee privacy from the children, and won’t make you tense right before an event.

Ask permission to address the conflict.

Make sure your spouse is ready to face the issue before you bring it up. For example: “Are you ready to talk about our disagreement over how to discipline the children?” or “I’m ready to confront our money problems. Are you okay with that?”

Avoid the silent treatment.

Sometimes—especially when you’re are angry—you both will clam up and give the silent treatment, thinking that the silence will communicate your perspective. Don’t mistake silence for communication. In fact, silence often is only manipulative. The goal is to open communication, not play games.

Agree on a plan for handling conflicts.

Answer this question with your spouse: How do we want to talk to each other when a conflict arises?

Pray.

Prayer makes a positive impact on the resolution of conflict. Prayer takes two people on opposite sides of an issue and welcomes into the debate a third person: Jesus. Bringing Jesus into your debate means deciding together to play by his rules.

Listen to this example:

“Some friends of ours have been married over thirty years. They have their times of disagreement, and they shared with us how one time they hit the wall and simply could not come to an agreement. The wife turned to the husband and said, “I’m going to submit because I believe that God has put you in that position. And I trust you. But I’m going to tell you something: I’m going to go to God over this issue.” The husband listened to her, gasped, and said, “Wait a minute. You’re going to go to God?” “Yeah, because I know that he loves you and that he, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can deal with you.”

This gives a glimpse into the heart of a strong marriage. The man who hears these words from his wife realizes that his wife isn’t trying to control him; instead, she desires that he be controlled by the Holy Spirit. She goes to her ultimate authority in prayer because she desires God’s outcome for the situation. And her attitude stimulated her husband to seek after what God’s will in the situation. 

When you get to the point where you just aren’t seeing eye to eye, transfer the situation to the hands of God and leave it there. Then the Lord has a chance to do a wonderful work in your marriage and in your lives. God gets all the glory. God gets all the credit.

Spiritual Intimacy: A Need Not a Want

Spiritual intimacy. In our survey of more than 700 couples, women ranked it as their #3 Love Need. If I (Barb) asked you right now if you’re meeting your wife’s need for spiritual intimacy, what would you say? Maybe you’d say you’re trying, but you’re not quite sure where to begin - or how to keep meeting it.

If you want to meet your wife’s love need for spiritual intimacy, then you must view your marriage as a cord with three strands: God, husband, and wife. God is the central strand around which the other two are woven. And since God must be inextricably woven throughout the marriage relationship, it is not surprising that the need for spiritual intimacy factored high on our needs survey for both men and women.

Spiritual intimacy may take several forms, but from a wife’s perspective it involves her husband’s own spiritual growth, their shared spiritual growth as husband and wife, her communication with her husband about spiritual matters, and her husband’s spiritual leadership in the home.

Your wife longs to experience the fulfillment that comes from knowing you love God and are willing to serve him by being an effective husband and father. So as you strengthen your relationship with God and take on your God-given role in the home, you will help her strengthen her relationship with God and with you.

She Needs to Be Growing Spiritually

Your wife needs to be growing spiritually, and while you are not ultimately responsible for her growth, you can contribute to that growth in significant ways. As you approach her, remember that you are not the source of spiritual strength for your wife. God should be her source of strength; he is the One who truly meets her heart’s cry. But as a husband, you are fully responsible for modeling Christ’s love for her and pointing her to that exclusive One who can meet her deepest needs. And you can encourage her to quench her spiritual thirst by her involvement in Bible studies, prayer groups, women’s conferences, or other settings where she can grow in her relationship to Christ.

She Needs to Be in Fellowship with Other Christians, Especially You

Spiritual fellowship is a relationship of two or more people who are hungry and thirsty for the same thing and who are mutually satisfied as they jointly experience it together in Christ. Fellowship occurs when we encourage and support each other and pray for each other; it’s joining together as a happy, healthy spiritual family, where we can open up, feel connected, and enjoy each other.

She Needs to Express Her Spiritual Gifts

God has given each one of us varied spiritual gifts. As we exercise those different gifts, our faith grows, strengthening our character to sustain us in fighting the battle in other areas of our lives. Women grow in their faith as they are stretched to lean on the Holy Spirit to equip them to do his work. They stand back in awe of what God does as he gives them gifts and skills to accomplish his work.

What spiritual gifts do you see in your wife? What spiritual gifts does she see in herself? Is she exercising those gifts? How can you help her exercise them so that she and the people around her will grow spiritually?

She Needs You to Be a Spiritual Leader in the Home

How can you be a spiritual leader in your home? What does your wife need from you? For one thing, she needs you to be a spiritual sounding board, to tune in and listen to her. She may have a greater need to talk about spiritual things than you do. Don’t be put off by that. Listen. Ask questions. Share your insights with her.

Your wife needs you to focus on her spiritual strengths. When you see her make a hard decision based on her convictions, commend her. When you see in her a depth of character, tell her what you see. When you are drawn to God because of her, let her know.

Your wife needs you to have a vibrant spiritual life. She needs to see that God has first place in your life. When you fill that place with your work, your interests, or your activities, you rob God of his rightful place, and everyone suffers. But when you place God first and keep him there, you provide not only a strong model for members of your family but also a sense of security for them.

Your wife looks to you to lead by example. A spiritual leader goes to church with the family. A spiritual leader is consistent, acting the same in public and in private. He demonstrates a desire to grow. A spiritual leader leads the family in studying the Bible; he leads in prayer. These things may be hard for you. If you take even small steps toward this kind of leadership, your wife will love it and be encouraged by it. Your willingness means everything to her.

A husband and wife who build their marriage on the foundational commitment to pursue God above all are able to share fears, anxieties, joys, and dreams. They are able to open themselves up and share thoughts and feelings, even when they hurt. They are free to experience transparent honesty, knowing that they love each other unconditionally and that neither will ever walk away or point fingers.

Don’t leave your wife hurting and yearning to experience spiritual intimacy, longing for what could have been. Today’s a new day. Begin it by committing yourself to developing a spiritual closeness with your wife—your very best friend.

How Long Should You Date Before Marriage?

We’ve been asked many times what the right amount of time is to date someone before you tie the knot. But this isn’t something that has a one-size-fits-all answer.

Let’s first define “dating.” To this generation, dating might have a vast series of definitions. “Dating” might be cohabiting. It might mean having sex. It might mean talking on the phone or getting to know one another. It might mean courting. We would define dating as getting to know each other through many different kinds of situations. It should not include cohabiting or sex.

 Photo by  Shamim Nakhai  on  Unsplash

Photo by Shamim Nakhai on Unsplash

We wouldn’t attempt to give a specific time frame because every case is unique. However, our friend Neil Clark Warren (founder of eharmony.com) tells us that the longer a couple waits to get married—and thus the older they are at the onset of marriage—the greater the chance of that marriage lasting.

The obvious reason is that the longer you date, the more you get to know each other. You need to see each other in conflict situations, in stressful situations. I remember when one of our daughters told us she knew her boyfriend was “the one” when they had two flat tires. How he responded to that crisis—by taking care of her and by not panicking—showed his true character. You need to give enough time that will allow different situations to come into your lives in order to reveal whether or not this other person is a good match in your life. You need to see each other not only the good times when you have everything together—hair, makeup, clothes, and on your best behavior—but also at the unplanned for times, the stressful times, the difficult times. Those times reveal character like nothing else. It’s very, very important to see the weaknesses and the blind spots that you won’t otherwise see in a dating relationship when you’re both trying to impress each other. There will be plenty of conflict in marriage—from each other and from outside—and you simply have to be able to handle it, work through it, and get to the other side together.

While longer is better, realize that it may not be so much the length of time as the quality of time. We know couples who only dated a few months and got married and are doing fine. We don’t recommend that, but dating can also go on too long. We know other couples who dated for a long time because one or both was afraid of making the marriage commitment.

Date a person long enough so that (1) you know him or her quite well (warts and all), (2) you have dealt with several different kinds of situations together, (3) God is confirming marriage, and (4) trusted counselors in your life are able to take a look at that person and evaluate with you whether or not this person should be your lifelong partner.

For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!