Complaints in marriage are as plentiful as summer dandelions. Left alone, they multiply and their roots grow deeper. Guest writer and Heart2Heart Counselor Julie Ganschow gives effective, biblical cures to marital complaints. Her article appeared first here on her website and is used by permssion.
It’s no secret that most of the couples who come for biblical counseling have marriages that are in trouble. The reasons won’t surprise you much, the solutions might!
Here are some common complaints and some rapid-fire thoughts I have on how to fix your marriage. The complaints are nothing new and fall into the typical categories: time, money, and sex. The mother of all complaints: “I’m not happy.” Usually at least one person will tell us they are not happy with their marriage.
Spending Time Together
It really surprises me how little time couples spend together and how much of marriage is conducted via text message. If you are a wife whose primary means of “talking” to your husband is a text message or a social media post I have some advice for you–STOP IT. It is impossible to have a true relationship in 140 characters or through your cell phone text box.
Spending time together is the only way a couple will remain a couple. Every couple needs a date night. EVERY couple, EVERY week needs to go on a date.
For those of you who don’t remember what a “date” actually is I will refresh your memory. A date is when a man asks a woman to accompany him somewhere outside the house for several hours. A date can include dinner, coffee, dessert, water over ice, seeing a show or movie (not my personal favorite because there is no communication), a walk, a boat ride, a ride in the car or on horseback. In short, anything that the two of you do together for the purpose of enjoying each others company can be a date.
The couple can take turns determining what date night will consist of, or one person can always decide. It does not have to cost a fortune or any money at all. The purpose of a date is to enjoy being alone together.
TALK while you are together. LEARN what is going on in each others lives during the day. LISTEN to your spouse talk about their hopes, dreams, job, latest project, favorite cooking show, the thing that bothers them the most, their favorite color, or hand tool. Talking leads to relationship building, relationship building leads to understanding.
Figure Out Finances
Talk about money and finances. Create and live by a budget! Discuss what your financial goals are for your family in 1-5-10 years and beyond. All of these things lead to what is known as happiness. Relationship building will also lead to that emotional connectedness that will increase sexual desire with your spouse.
Sex and Marriage
While I am at it, let’s talk a bit about sex. I am really astonished that so many Christian marriages are sex-less! It is heartbreaking to listen to couples say there is no physical desire between them, or that one partner could live without sexual intimacy for the rest of their lives.
People…can I tell you how wrong that is?! Husbands and wives are to meet each other’s physical needs on a regular basis. If you have no desire for one another, get to the doctor and be sure you have no medical condition that needs addressing. Once that is taken care of, if there is still no desire for sexual intimacy with your husband it is clear you have relationship issues that must be addressed.
3 Common Desire Killers
ONE: being overweight. Yes, I dare to say it. As a person who struggles with her own weight, there have been times when I was self-conscious about my appearance because I packed on a few too many pounds.
I didn’t want to be physical because I thought I looked bad. Few women will admit it, but many know it’s true; some women hide from intimacy behind their size. The “simple” solution….you already know it. Lose the weight, every pound helps.
TWO: tiredness. Some women just do too many things in a day and are too tired to be interested in physical intimacy. If this is you, cut things out of your daily schedule that are non-essential like crafts, book reading, television watching, and so on, and go to bed early with your spouse! If you have time, take a short nap so you are refreshed and awake enough to be interested.
THREE: kids in your bed. Get the kids out of your bed and your bedroom. Your children do not need to sleep with you, even if you are nursing them! It is dangerous to have them in bed because they can be crushed as you sleep. It is also wrong to use the kids as a shield against intimacy. Even if they cry, like their little heart is breaking in the beginning I promise, your little one will be just fine in his or her own bed or crib.
You and your husband need the private time in your room that will grow your relationship. Once the kids are out of there, determine not to have difficult discussions in your bedroom either. There are most likely several other places to have unpleasant discussions in your home.
Your bedroom should be your sanctuary, the place that is uniquely yours as a couple. Fix it up in a way that stirs up romance and desire. If the television is a distraction, get it out of there and replace it with soft, sensual music. Repaint, recover, or redecorate if you can afford it. These things are simple and will help your mindset turn toward romance.
These are only a few of the more basic complaints and cures to think about if your marriage is a mess.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Blended families: Ups and downs, joys and messes. If you’re in a blended family, then you know what it takes to bring together two families. It’s hard work, isn’t it?
But if you’re considering remarriage after divorce or the death of a spouse: What should you do before you marry again?
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Two words: premarital counseling.
Already blended. . .and struggling? Counseling works for you too. Don’t despair. Be encouraged. At the end of this article you’ll find helps just for you.
Did you know your family is among the 40 percent of married couples with children in the US that are blended? This percentage counts full- and part-time residential step families with children under age 18 as well as adult children.
In this article, you’ll discover four main things regarding blended families:
- Take it slow!
- How premarital counseling works before remarriage.
- Helping the children.
- Encouragement for blended families.
Slow Down. . .When You Want to Speed Up
After years of parenting alone, it’s tempting to “follow your heart,” as today’s popular mantra advises, and marry quickly. As Ron Deal of Family Life Blended says, “You cook a stepfamily slowly in a Crockpot, not forcibly in a blender! Kids need more time than adults to get used to the idea of a wedding.”
For example, consider a couple I counseled who married within months of meeting each other. Fiona and Eli (names and details have been changed) were previously married and have five school-age children. (Two of the children also live their mom during the week.)
The couple disagreed over parenting, handling money, and dealing with the ex-spouses, among other things. Both of them are Christians and declared their love for each other. However, life’s struggles created significant stress. Fiona became controlling; Eli backed away. Sometimes he moved in with buddies for a few days for a break.
Meanwhile, the children were confused and acted out.
As one spouse said, “I just want to live and make life fun. It seems that everything is a task. I’m just drained.”
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Do these words resonate with you?
Did you go through pre-marital or pre-engagement counseling before you remarried? What difference has it made? If you didn’t have pre-marital counseling before remarriage, do you wish you had?
Pre-Marital Counseling Before Remarriage
First, during premarital counseling, you’ll think through the compexities of combining families and determine if the marriage is wise.
Second, you’ll discuss topics that may have factored in to a previous divorce — everything from communication and conflict resolution to parenting styles and personality differences. You won’t address every potential problem in premarital counseling but you will see the glaring ones.
Third, you’ll consider reasonable expectations between the children and the new spouse. Did you know that children cling to the hope that their parents will get back together? I did when my parents divorced when I was age eight. But when you remarry, your childrens’ dream dies. This is a loss for them.
Helping the Children
In premarital counseling, you’ll discover how to listen to the children–their hope, their fears.
You’ll also learn how to talk to the children about God’s role in blended families. Now they’ll have more people to love and support them! This includes the non-custodial parent when possible.
Sometimes chidlren become fearful that the new blended family will also end up in a divorce. In premarital counseling, you and your future spouse will develop a habit of praying with and for your children. reassuring them and each other that you choose to glorify God always.
5 Encouragements for Already Blended Families
Is your family already blended? You’ll appreciate these reminders from Ron Deal. I encourage you to peruse his ministry website, where you’ll find extra resources.
- SLOW your expectations of how quickly your blended family will harmonize. Deal says, “The average stepfamily needs between five to seven years to form a family identity. In movies, love between adults and bonding with children happens quickly; in real life, it happens gradually.”
- INVEST in your marriage relationship. It is the the new foundation for your home.
- BE a united parental team while building relationships with stepchildren. What about disciple? Deal urges, “Early on, biological parents should continue to be the primary disciplinarian to their children while stepparents build relationship, trust, and respect with stepchildren.”
- AVOID common pitfalls. For example, a child who says, “You’re not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you” is telling you about their sadness that mom isn’t here. Also, keep some holiday traditions while creating new ones. Money matters can be confusing too. Calmly discuss how you will balance your responsibilities to previous individual financial obligations (such as paying child support) while combining assets for the new family.
- STEP UP your faith. Spiritual resources help everyone in blended families find grace for each other and strength for the journey.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Isn’t it easy in the Internet age to virtually meet a man other than your husband and make an emotional attachment? Texting an old boyfriend from high school or chatting via Facebook with a cute guy from Australia, or the next town over, seems safe and fun — and deliciously tempting.
I don’t know about you, but I can quick-count three married friends who’ve flirted by text or chatted privately online with a guy. They dipped a toe in the murky pool of emotional attachment. They looked forward to texting and online chatting.
[tweetthis]What should you do when you have an emotional attachment to a man who’s not your husband?[/tweetthis]
a) Continue the friendship. It’s no big deal.
b) Tell yourself you’re the worst person on the planet and drink your sorrows away.
c) Fight for your marriage because the man you always wanted is the one you already have. It won’t be easy, but it’s worth it.
It Happens So. . .Easily
The bible uses the word adultery to describe this attachment. Doesn’t adultery sound harsh when two people haven’t had sex with each other? What’s your opinion? Jesus called it as he saw it.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28
While men are visually wired to gaze at a forbidden beauty and lust, we women are far more likely to commit emotional adultery when a guy makes us feel special, valued, or desired. . .and lust. Happily married women aren’t exempt, are they?
The whole thing usually begins innocently. . .
a funny text
silly cat or dog photos
a little online flirting
then day dreaming about him
and, yes, a realization that you ran a red light and it’s time to pull over and get busted but you don’t want to stop because it really is innocent — right?
In their book Surprised by the Healer, Juli Slattery and Linda Dillow write,
“Sexuality is a powerful force. It draws us into relationships, compels us to risk being vulnerable, and is a key component of our identities as men and women. Within marriage sexual intimacy is the most sacred experience to people can share. However, sexuality can also be a devastating force for harm. There in so betrayal like an intimate betrayal. No shame as deep as sexual shame.”
Paula Friedrichsen, an author who I interviewed for one of my podcasts a while back, said it happened to her and nearly killed her marriage. She became emotionally attached to a man. . .who also was her pastor. Her experience was in person, not online. Her story shows how easy a woman — when vulnerable in some way — can fall into emotional adultery. Out of this experience she wrote The Man You Always Wanted Is the One You Already Have (Multnomah Publishers).
[tweetthis]Her inappropriate relationship began the usual way. Innocently.[/tweetthis]
She and her husband moved to a city where he began a new job. She found a church and went alone. Her husband was not yet a Christian. She jumped into helping out at church and soon became friends with the pastor and his wife.
Among her vulnerabilities: a move to a new city, a new church, lack of spending time with old friends, loneliness.
Then one thing led to another.
“I became romantically, though thankfully not sexually, involved with my then-pastor,” Paula admits. She adored his attention and having deep conversations with a mature Christian. Sure, guilt niggled her conscience. She rationalized that since they were not physically intimate, the relationship was above board. The late night phone calls began and the lunches — she kept these secret from her husband.
But people at church began to notice. Eventually leadership called them out. “(Our relationship) resulted in the church’s devastation and a great deal of harm to both of our marriages.”
Help After Emotional Adultery
Jesus redeems marriages and heals sexual brokenness. One of the names God uses for himself is Jehovah Rapha–the Lord, our Healer. Rapha means “to heal, make healthy.” It refers to physical. emotional, or spiritual healing.
Do you desire sexual healing? In the Bible, God declares that there is healing for your deepest hurts. He brings truth into are lives and invites us to exchange Satan’s lies — emotional adultery isn’t so bad. . .his attention makes me a better person. . .why can’t my husband be more him like — for God’s truth.
I have a popular handout to give you. All you need to do is ask for it here. This handout shows you how to practically believe God’s wonderful truth about you and about him, and stop believing lies.
It’s an important step toward freedom. You’ll begin to believe the truth and act on the truth. . .no matter how you feel.
- Do you want God to use the difficult lessons you’ve learned about relationships and sexuality?
- Do you hope for him to redeem your broken story?
You can share Paula’s insight: “It’s only as I am found in Christ that I can be content in my relationship with my husband.”
Question: Have you experienced a similar struggle? How did you fare?
When you use the “S” word among friends, you’ll get a lot of opinions. Which one is correct?
SUBMISSION. Say this S word and may hear snorts and see eyebrows rise. You know what some are thinking: Submit? Me? You’ve lost your brain.
And yet. . .
God commands us to submit to Him and to one another, with additional emphasis on wives.
You may have heard this verse quoted, word by word, sometimes pridefully, sometimes timidly, and only occasionally with proper use:
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18)
Two similar verses pop up in Ephesians.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Ephesians 5:24)
A Timely Message
Whether you’re married, single or single again, this message is for you. The battle of the sexes, especially in our homes, endears us women to the devil, who loves marriage redefined — you know, guy with guy, gal with gal — but also destroyed.
While many can quote the “wives submit” verses, fewer remember its counterparts:
“Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:19)
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives, as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:28)
Women: submit. Men: love.
Both husband and wife are called to self-sacrifice. Look at the word the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, selected for love: agape in the Greek. This self-sacrificing kind of love isn’t about sex or affection or brotherly kindness. It is the kind that lays down one’s life for the other.
It looks a lot like. . .submission.
As a Bible study author astutely pointed out, an argument in such a home would sound like,
“I insist that you have your way.”
“No, no, really, I insist you have your way.”
Imagine the tone of your arguments, if each tried to out-sacrifice the other. Imagine the number of marriages that would flourish. Imagine kids learning from their moms and dads how to lovingly treat their future mates. Just imagine. . .and try it in your own marriage.
Sharing Hope for Your Heart,
Many marriages need a tune-up. Some require an overhaul. What about yours? With God’s help, your marriage can be the best!
When asked, “Who’s your best friend?” many wives give a quick reply: “My husband.”
But even friends have arguments, don’t they? The best of friends make up.
Some husbands and wives get in a rut and live like. . .roommates. Life becomes perfunctory, blah, boring. Has the spark in your marriage flickered?
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Is your marriage less exciting that the flat stretch of a Midwest interstate?
There’s great news! God cares deeply about the bond between a husband and wife. He wants you to have a marriage filled with meaning, compassion, and most importantly, holiness.
Holiness? As Gary Thomas writes in Sacred Marriage,
What if God designed marriage to make up holy more that to make us happy?
Yes, your marriage can be a road that brings you closer to God.
Here are two true stories of real marriages. How might the gospel speak truth and love into them? Names and some details have been changed.
Jessica’s husband stinks. He has bad breath that could slay Goliath. He also is a mess. He leaves out his cereal bowl, the newspaper, his boxers. He misses the toilet, too. All this is driving Jessica crazy. “If he cared about me, he’d show basic common courtesy,” she says. There’s more.
He flirts with pretty ladies right in front of her.
Jessica has talked with her husband about other women, personal hygiene, and sloppiness. He deflects her comments, saying that she can clean his dishes and urine since it bothers her, not him, and that she can leave the conversation when he flirts.
What is the husband’s ruling desire in the marriage? What is the wife’s? How would you counsel Jessica?
A #1 Son Story
Susanna’s husband has a best friend: their 30-something, college-educated son who lives at home. She thinks their son should move out. Her husband says he should stay.
Though he works, the son doesn’t pay rent, contribute to the bills, or help around the house or yard.
Susanna deeply loves her son and wants the best for him, and she knows his leeching is not only wrong, but also damaging to him and his parents’ relationship.
What is the husband’s ruling desire in the marriage? What is the wife’s? What would you say to Susanna if she asked you for advice?
Did You Know?
Did you know that marriage teaches you to love and to respect one another? That it helps you learn to forgive? to laugh? to pray more deeply?
As you and your husband honor God above all, you’ll experience a full life and you’ll probably have a happy marriage too.
Don’t we often get things out of order? Call it worship dysfunction!
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When all is in the right order as God lays out, you’ll not only enjoy your marriage but also see God’s overarching purpose. Wouldn’t this give you purpose and peace?
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
P.S. Do you need help with your marriage? As you probably know, I am a seminary-trained, certified biblical counselor who counsels women and families by Skype and in person in greater Chicago. If you’d like to take advantage of my 15-minute introductory consultation, please contact me.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,