Addressing Cohabitation in the Church

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We recently received a question from a pastor in Northeast Ohio on the topic of cohabitation and I (Gary) would like to share some thoughts in this post. For further insight on this issue, listen to our recent radio show where Barb and I dive deeper into this question. 

Q. As a pastor, the issue of cohabitation before marriage is one I have come up against in counseling and officiating weddings within the church. I watched the clip from Marriage 101 on cohabitation and found it very helpful—is there any coaching or direction you can offer me for situations in which couples live together but are desiring to get married and are beginning to think through God’s will for their relationship?

A. Thank you very much for taking the time to write following your review of the Marriage 101 clip on cohabitation. First of all, here is what we know: God intends for marriage between a man and a woman to bring glory to Him. Marriage is His idea. Marriage is the foundation of our society and the first institution established—and we seem to have dumbed it down. As an advocate for marriage, I believe this breaks the heart of God.

That being said, we honor your desire to handle this issue in a way that glorifies God as we know it can be a difficult one as a pastor and mentor in the church. Here are some additional thoughts…

God is a God of order. In Genesis 2:24 we are instructed to leave, cleave, become one and THEN experience intimacy. It appears to me that so much of the confusion centers on stepping outside this order in life. When a cohabitating couple already has a child, the reality of the complication is even more profound. I have advised couples that when there is “an appearance of evil” or when they are experiencing conviction and contrition--if they are then desiring to please God by marrying, they need to ask how do we live until the time of the marriage? I have suggested that couples start with the conviction and contrition and seek forgiveness from God and from one another to assert that there is a true conviction of the Holy Spirit as they have addressed the issue with the pastor and/or counselor. Then I ask them to consider not sleeping with one another and engaging in sex, seeking and being granted forgiveness so that their children and others see that they are pursuing God’s heart and desire for their relationship. At times couples have chosen to move into another bedroom in the house and even explain to their kids that they have brought this issue before Jesus and that God is helping them live obediently.

I hope this helps. I know as an advocate for marriage, what God intended for us has been distorted and it doesn’t look like it is getting any clearer in the flesh, culture or enemy’s hands. It breaks my heart. So when I address this with a couple that are just doing what makes sense to them, helping them search and discover God’s Word, it is a joy to see them agree with God and make hard decisions. 

 

Getting Cozy With Coffee

Go to a coffeehouse or a café. Choose a place where you’re not likely to run into anyone you know (interruptions aren’t allowed). You can go for dinner, a couple of big cups of specialty coffee, or a dessert. Splurge a little. Don’t think about calories or how much that big cup of cappuccino is costing—just do it! Sit so that you can look at each other while you talk. Hold hands. This kind of setting is made for conversation, so use the time to go through the questions together.

Prep Steps

  • Get the date on the calendar.
  • Schedule a babysitter, if needed.
  • Decide on a location that will be cozy yet conducive to conversation. Make reservations if you think it’s necessary.

Answer these questions together on your date:

  • Are we making time to connect with each other daily? How can we improve that?
  • What was your day like today? What are the stresses you have been feeling in the past few months?
  • What burdens (emotional, spiritual, financial) do we have now that we didn’t have ten years ago? Five years ago? Last year? How can we adjust them together?
  • Am I a safe haven for you? In what ways can I make you feel safer sharing your thoughts with me?
  • What three things do I do for you that really make you feel like the man of my dreams? What would you like me to do?

Breaking the Habit of Sexual Addiction

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In an age where the opportunity to view sexually explicit material is usually just a click away, guarding your heart from temptation that leads to sin is so very important. We would like to share just a few steps you can take toward breaking the habit of sexual addiction.

  1.  Be honest with yourself and acknowledge you have a problem.
  2. Tell a trustworthy person about your addiction. Then be accountable to that person.
  3. Dispose of all pornographic material you own. Don’t keep any of it.
  4. Internet pornography is an insidious threat. Don’t go there. Buy blocking software.
  5. Be patient, and resist feeling defeated each time you fail. Your addiction took time to develop; it will take time to overcome.
  6. Pray about your problem. Rely on God for deliverance and strength. God promises to make a difference in your life. Allow Him to give you the special strength you need to fight this battle and ultimately have the victory.

 

Excerpted from Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg, The Great Marriage Q&A Book, (Carol Stream, Ill., Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2006): 210.

Making Peace with the In-Laws

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Let’s face it, conflict happens within a family—there is no perfect relationship, even if some families may seem like they have it all together from the outside. When you marry into a family, you don’t always click with your spouse’s loved ones, but you need to remember they are just that—the people your spouse loves—and their flesh and blood. We need to seek humility if conflict arises, and in so doing, honor our spouse and children and the bond they share with their parents or grandparents. Here are just a few quick thoughts and tips on making peace with your in-laws.

You might first go to an in-law one-on-one—after you’ve done a lot of praying, of course! Your mother or father-in-law needs to look into your eyes, hear the tone of your voice, and see your humility.

  • Explain why you feel hurt. Reach out.
  • Explain that you want to get along for the sake of your spouse and your kids.
  • Let the focus be on you. Take responsibility for the relationship.

Realize that you won’t be able to change your in-laws, no matter how much you may want to or how much they need to be changed. Of course, as you seek to live at peace with your in-laws, ask God for wisdom. In Romans 12:18 it says “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.”

  • You need boundaries so you don’t allow yourself to be walked on or torn apart in front of your kids.
  • You need to be clear, concise, and honest.
  • You may not be able to solve the situation, but you might at least be able to declare a truce that will allow your whole family to visit the grandparents. Life is short, and you don’t want regrets.

Excerpted from the Rosbergs’ book, The Great Marriage Q&A Book

A Marriage that Beats the Odds

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In this post we want to encourage you to beat the statistics in your marriage and give you some tools to help you have a great marriage that lasts a lifetime!

Every man knows statistics. When I even mention the term ‘stats’ a myriad of things come to your mind. What is your favorite sports team’s win-loss record? What was the score in their last game? What about stats and percentages of individual players? You know all of these and you cheer for your team by them. I don’t know your team’s stats like you do—but we are all too familiar with the statistics we fight against everyday; stats like the percentage of couples that get divorced or even the couples that never get married in the first place because of their fear of divorce.

The facts are stark: The chance of a first marriage ending in divorce over a 40-year period is 67% and half of all divorces will occur in the first seven years. And when it comes to second marriages, some studies find the divorce rate is as much as 10% higher than it is for first marriages. (Source: John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (New York: Three Rivers Publishing, 1999): 4)

Your marriage can beat these odds! You can experience a truly great marriage for a lifetime. We coach couples on the 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love and we believe that in order to truly stay on top of these stats, you need to put all six into practice. Here is an overview of each of them.

Secret 1: Forgiving Love.  A Forgiving Love heals hurts and helps spouses feel accepted and connected. It means dealing with any hurt and anger you may have and choosing to resolve the conflict or issue.

Secret 2: Serving Love.  A Serving Love discovers and meets needs and helps spouses feel honored and understood. You first have to find out what your spouse’s needs are, and then honor them by meeting those needs. When a husband and wife are meeting each other’s needs in this way, there’s no room for selfishness…and there’s no need for it because your needs are being met.

Secret 3: Persevering Love.  A Persevering Love stays strong in tough times and helps spouses feel bonded—best friends for life. Tough times will come in your life and in your marriage. But by committing to persevere through those times together you will experience a deeper love than you can imagine…a love where you know your spouse is with you no matter what.

Secret 4: Guarding Love. A Guarding Love protects from threats and helps spouses feel safe and secure. Every great marriage has a wall of protection built around it to ensure that the marriage will be strong against attacks from outside pressures and relationships.

Secret 5: Celebrating Love.  A Celebrating Love rejoices in the marriage relationship and helps spouses feel cherished and captivated. This is the fun part of marriage—keeping the friendship, romance, and chemistry alive.

Secret 6: Renewing Love.  A Renewing Love refreshes and supports the marriage bond and helps spouses feel confident and rooted. This is the commitment that keeps spouses together…no matter what. At the heart of Renewing Love is the continually reaffirmed commitment to the permanency of marriage—to love to the utmost of your ability and never to leave.

Here’s the drill. Begin working on these secrets by reviewing them and choosing the two that you will commit to working on in your marriage over the next week. You may choose Forgiving and Celebrating, for instance. For Forgiving you could choose to resolve a conflict you and your spouse have been having. Then to concentrate on Celebrating Love, go on a date with your spouse and do something special and meaningful together.

We pray you’ll choose to focus on these secrets in your marriage, grow stronger and beat the odds together!