Fighting Over Friends

Q: We don’t like each other’s friends. What should we do?

Photo by  rawpixel.com  from  Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

A: You both need to handle this with a tremendous amount of honor and respect and grace. You don’t want to be overly critical or judgmental about another person. What is the reason that you don’t like certain of your spouse’s friends? Perhaps it’s just a personality clash. If so, then back off and let your spouse enjoy the person. You don’t need to be involved. Let your spouse know, and then he or she can leave you out of the picture when they get together.

However, perhaps you don’t like a certain friend because you feel that your spouse’s relationship with that person is not edifying, not honoring to God, and ultimately even hurtful to your marriage. Maybe it’s an old drinking buddy, or the twice divorced friend from college with less than honorable morals. You need to delicately express your concerns to your spouse, and your spouse needs to hear and validate those concerns. Then trust each other. Work it out. The drinking buddy maybe comes over, but there’s no drinking—just nachos and watching the game.

Bottom line is that you need to validate your spouse’s friendships—you both need your same sex friends and you need to spend time with them. Just communicate, set good boundaries, and be willing to be flexible.

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

Questions (And Answers) about Premarital Sex

Q: How can we know if we’re sexually compatible or not if we don’t sleep together before we get married?

Photo by  Tim Mossholder  from  Pexels

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

A: God designed marriage. True or false? The culture supports marriage. True or false? Media supports marriage. True or false? What do you believe is God’s design for marriage? Is it the same now and forever as it was in the beginning? Does it change? And is the desire for marriage nothing more than nostalgia for the past? What do you think? Listen to Lisa:

“I’m about twenty-five, single, never been married. I’ve never lived with a guy, but I have close friends who say they’re Christians but cohabitate. Then they break up and their hearts are broken and they don’t understand why there’s so much pain. They justify living together by saying that it’s a test run for marriage—that you wouldn’t go buy a car without test-driving it. They try to say that marriage is just a slip of paper. They just don’t understand the spiritual significance of being joined as one. My girlfriends are living with their boyfriends thinking that they’ll persuade the guys they’re living with to get married. Sometimes it’s very hard for me, but I found that my stronghold is to have a really good church with a good singles group of people my age who are also career people.”

Lisa makes the point that God’s design is the best design. Biblical advice against premarital

sex works out to be true in life after life—both in the pain felt by those who disobey God’s plan

and the blessedness of marriage for those who have followed it. God gives us rules and guidelines not because he’s mean or wants to keep us from anything, but because he loves us so much. His plan for purity before marriage is the best plan. It’s like a hedge of protection.

Q: What about just living together without having sex? We’re planning to get married soon, and this saves us money.

A: A young woman called us with just this scenario. She said that she and her fiancé were Christians and wanted to live together. She said they weren’t going to have sex until they were married. She wanted to see if we thought this was okay.

Well, she discovered that we don’t think it’s okay at all. Here’s why.

Paul wrote to the people at Ephesus, “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people” (Ephesians 5:3). We asked the young woman if she had neighbors or kids next door. She said yes. So then we asked if she believed as a Christian that God calls her to walk with him above reproach so that she could be a light to draw other people to a relationship with Christ. She assured us that she did.

Our encouragement to this young woman, and to any of you who might be considering this “living together/no sex” scenario, is that if you want God to bless this union, then the best thing you can do is to be above reproach. Listen to what another caller said:

“My husband and I dated for two weeks and then we moved in together. Within two weeks we had decided we wanted to be with each other and we were going to get married. Financially, we thought it would be good because we could pay off bills and save for a house. We decided we were just going to move in together, have separate bedrooms, and not have sex. But the temptation was so great and we were so in love, we did end up making love. Later we got married. I can tell you from experience that making love in marriage is completely different—and it’s amazing. Having sex without the bond of marriage truly becomes an obstacle to really knowing and learning and communicating and seeing the broad spectrum of gifts that you bring into the relationship.”

Even if you are truly able to withstand the temptation to have sex, you still are giving the suggestion of immorality to your family, friends, and neighbors. If you want to start your union on the right foot, let there be no hint of or putting yourself into a situation that tempts you toward sexual immorality.

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

Healthy Boundaries with In-Laws

Q: My mother-in-law really has my husband under her thumb. How can I get her to back off without hurting either of their feelings?

Photo by Claudio_Scott on Pixabay

Photo by Claudio_Scott on Pixabay

A: We have heard this often in the counseling room, and often it’s a situation where the husband is caring for a mother who has been widowed or divorced. These husbands are trying to be there for mom. So every time the wife brings this up, he feels threatened and angry because he’s just trying to do what he feels is right. The problem is, sometimes mom can be a bit overbearing. She may call at all hours and expect her son to come right over to do whatever. She may expect him to do all the yard work—not taking into account that he has his own yard work to do. There are plenty of ways that the controlling nature of a parent can play out. Sometimes it is a wife who is controlled by her mother.

We would offer a few suggestions to stop having your marriage controlled by one of your parents. There may be other siblings who can help—and there may not be. In either case, your spouse needs to do some maturing when it comes to setting boundaries, but it won’t happen overnight.

For example, it would not be wise for a husband to just go pull the plug on spending time or connecting to his mom. It’s a process. If there are siblings, encourage your husband to start with the one or two siblings to whom he’s closest and who also may be inclined to help and share the burden in an honoring way. Even if they live far away, there are ways that they can help. One sibling can make a call to the kid down the street to mow the lawn and send him a check once a month so that your husband is not burdened with weekly lawn care. Someone else can be sure to check in on mom by phone or e-mail every few days. That takes some of the emotional burden off of your husband.

He needs to help his siblings understand that he is trying to get his marriage and family off to a healthy start—and that helping mom all the time is making it difficult. Discuss how other siblings can pick up some of the responsibility.

You don’t want to dishonor your husband for seeking to honor his mother, so you need to make sure he understands that. Instead, you want him to set healthy boundaries.

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

Make Haste to Make Up

Have you ever hurt your spouse in some way? All right, so it’s a trick question. Of course you have hurt your spouse, just as he or she has hurt you. If not, you either haven’t been married very long (like maybe five minutes!) or one of you isn’t human! Even the best of relationships is vulnerable to slights and slams, criticism and avoidance, lies and betrayals of some kind. Since marriage is the closest of all relationships, it is anything but exempt from hurt. And it’s never a one-way street. You have been the offender at least as often as you have been the offended.

Photo by  freestocks.org  from  Pexels

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Of course, the vast majority of the hurts we inflict on our husbands or wives are unintentional. We never really set out to insult each other, violate each other, or ignore each other. A slip of the tongue, a careless word or deed, a thoughtless omission—they happen because we are weak, sinful, and selfish human beings. But these slights and slips still hurt.

You have been on the offending side of marital conflict, and you have also been on the receiving end, feeling the pain of hurt and disappointment. Whether you are the giver or the receiver, every offense in a marriage needs a relational solution. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus offers some helpful and very practical advice for dealing with these painful lapses in marriage. And his instructions seem to be directed at the person who caused the offense.

"If you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God." Matthew 5:23-24

It’s interesting the way Jesus sets the scene for relational reconciliation. He pictures us “standing before the altar...offering a sacrifice to God.” Let’s say this represents a good Christian husband or wife going about the business of seeking and serving God. You go to church regularly. You have devotions regularly. You do the Christian disciplines wholeheartedly.

It’s no coincidence that this person “suddenly remembers” something isn’t quite right with his or her spouse. That’s what happens when we approach God in worship. The closer we draw to him, the brighter the searchlight of his love shines in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is free to point out areas of weakness and sin.

So don’t be surprised if while standing in the church service singing to God or kneeling in prayer during your time of devotions, you suddenly feel convicted by the Spirit of an offense. Of course, God can plant that thought in your heart at any time, even by prompting your offended spouse to say something like, “I felt hurt when...” At that key moment, you are right where God wants you. He is lovingly taking the opportunity to clear up something between you and your dear one.

Next Jesus commands, “Leave your sacrifice...go and be reconciled.” Is he saying that the health of our horizontal relationships with others, including our spouse, is at least as important as our vertical relationship with God? Is he saying something like, “God isn’t interested in your worship until you make right the wrong you did”?

This may be a little difficult for some to grasp, but such an interpretation is compatible with the rest of Scripture. For example, Jesus didn’t want people to call him “Lord” if they weren’t going to obey him (see Luke 6:46). Love for God and love for people are inseparable in God’s scheme of things. You won’t get very far in your spiritual life if you fail to clear up offenses in your marital life.

The essence of Jesus’ command seems to be this: “As soon as you realize that you have offended your spouse, nothing is more important than making it right.”

Don’t delay. Don’t put it off. Don’t procrastinate. Confess your wrong, and ask your spouse’s forgiveness at your earliest convenience. When you are facing conflict always place the priority on the relationship over the issue at hand. The health of your marriage and your relationship with God depend on it.

Are Finances the Man's Job?

Q: My husband is terrible at handling the finances because he hates paperwork. I like to take care of the bills, but he thinks this is “the man’s” job. How can I convince him to let me handle the bills?

A: There’s something going on here behind the scenes. It’s not really about the checkbook; it’s about control. It’s about some deep-seated belief that the man has to do the finances or he isn’t the man of the house.

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

That said, it is important for the husband to realize that he and his wife are a unit. She completes him; he completes her. It could very well be that a paperwork-oriented wife would do very well at making sure the checks get written, the bills get paid on time, and the checkbook gets balanced. Just because he’s the man of the house doesn’t mean that the husband is the best suited to handle this job. We’re all for sharing that responsibility and using your giftedness in different areas of your marriage. The stereotypes only get in the way.

It might be wise for you to bring in a third party to sit with the two of you and give you objective analysis and advice. That person can ask the hard questions and help you develop a battle plan. He or she will probably advise that whichever of you is predisposed to enjoying handling the finances should be the one to do it.

Reassure your husband that you’re not trying to take over his role as man of the house. Instead, you want to remove a burden from him by doing something he hates that you enjoy. If he just needs to have money to spend, then with that professional financial counselor, come up with an amount of money that he can have each month that he can spend any way he chooses. That way he doesn’t have to be accountable to you for every penny—yet the spending is curbed at a certain dollar amount depending on what you can afford.

If your husband simply won’t let go, there are ways you could work with him. For example, let

him write up all the checks for all the bills, but you be in charge of making sure they get in the mail at the right time. Perhaps you could say, “Let me help with this by going through the bills and highlighting the due dates.” Then put the due dates on your calendar—backing them up about five days to provide for mail time. Even if you do all your bill paying on line, you still will need some lead time. This way, instead of trying to take over the job of bill paying, you’re simply helping to make it less stressful for your husband. Point out how much late fees have cost you over the last year, and tell him that with your help, you could save X number of dollars a year.

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