4 Common Myths about Sexless Marriage

People in a sexless marriage often think their marriages are doomed. Even if your sex life has gone cold, it doesn’t mean your marriage is heading downhill. Sex plays a major role in marriage, but fulfillment in marriage can occur even on days it doesn’t happen. Usually, these seasons in marriage are only temporary.

Myths about Sexless Marriage

Here are four myths worth debunking when it comes to sexless marriage.

Myth 1: One spouse is cheating

There are many factors that can contribute to a sexless marriage. Sexual trauma could cause a pause in sexual activity, family stress or sheer exhaustion are all contributing factors to a drop in desire. If one partner isn’t interested in sex, that doesn’t necessarily point to infidelity.

It’s important to look at all the causes that are contributing to a lack of sex in marriage. If the husband is burdened by work stress and the wife is fatigued from chasing after kids all day, the probability of passionate sex in the bedroom plummets. Life is busy and marriages often get placed on the backburner.

Myth 2: Once the romance is gone it can’t be rekindled

After years of sex, it’s normal to view sex as more monotonous than thrilling. If the novelty has worn out sexual boredom can be defeated by introducing a new level of excitement.

This might make one of the partners uncomfortable and want to retreat back toward their comfort zone. Exploring different options to spice things up can fan the flame until it’s blazing again.

Another way to rekindle the romance is to first examine yourself and look for the ways you contribute to the relationship problems. This is an uncomfortable part of getting romance back, but it’s necessary for maturation in a marriage. Sometimes it’s as easy as learning to listen to your spouse again.

If you stopped listening attentively to your spouse, take the time to engage in genuine, deep conversation. Plan a special date night or do something spontaneous to stoke the fire. Hope is not lost forever and romance can be rekindled by giving a little extra care and attention to each other.

Myth 3: Married couples are less likely to have sex

Many people say sex ends once marriage begins, but that isn’t the case. The intense chemical euphoria at the beginning of a relationship can cause younger couples to have more sex.

But it’s the married couples that have more varied sex than single people. Not only that, but married people express a deeper level of commitment toward each other.
 
Myth 4: You can’t make yourself feel desire

Desiring your partner does not mean just desiring sex, per se. Desire usually begins before sex happens. When desire is lacking in a relationship it’s not usually because chemistry has disappeared.

Usually, there are problems in the relationship that haven’t been resolved and prevent desire from growing. It’s similar to when a friend does something to irritate you and in your mind, you think, “I don’t like you right now.”

These momentary thoughts might push you away from your friend in the short term, but does that mean you’ve lost all capacity to ever like him? No, you only need to figure out what underlying irritations might be keeping those desires from making an appearance again.

It’s not only relationship problems that cause a lack of desire but everyday stressors that disrupt the feelings. You might absolutely adore your spouse, but every other thing that demands your attention chips away at the desire that once was.

Christian Counseling for Sexual Dysfunction

If you, or your spouse, are struggling with desire in your marriage, make an appointment with a professional Christian marriage counselor. God designed sex to be a source of intimacy between spouses.

Discussing any obstacles you are facing will help bring freedom back into your marriage. A Christian counselor is ready to help you rediscover the pleasure of sexual satisfaction within marriage.

Photos

“Bridge Walk,” courtesy of mana2014, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Under the Covers,” courtesy of Prinz Peter, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Indie Cuddles”, Courtesy of Toa Heftiba, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Still in Your Arms,” courtesy of Toa Heftiba, unsplash.com, Public Domain

7 Reasons for Professional Premarital Counseling

You probably remember how it felt when you first fell in love with your spouse. It was an unforgettable state of mind and heart. The whole world and everything in it seemed changed for the better. Every good thing was a reminder of them. You drifted off to sleep with a smile on your face, and your first thought upon awakening was looking forward to the next time the two of you could meet.

When you made eye contact and they smiled at you, your heart felt like clay in their hands. Everything they said and every time they laughed, you were captivated.

While speaking about them to someone else, you would trip over your words. You thought they were practically perfect, and you wanted them to think you were, too.

You would rather spend time together than sleep, even if it meant you’d be miserable at work the next day. Your companionship seemed to meet all of your needs. The sense of satisfaction in being together was overwhelming.

This quote from Dr. Seuss may summarize your state of mind at that time: “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

Now it is five years later, and you’re married to that same person. You’ve seen the ups and downs of your relationship over time, and you’ve learned that sustaining a beautiful marriage requires a deeper commitment than those thrilling feelings of falling in love. The stage of intense infatuation can’t be maintained indefinitely, and when those initial emotions started to dwindle, differences between us began to surface.

This doesn’t mean that falling in love is a bad or false experience. It’s the natural response to the beginning of a good relationship. This stage can provide the “spark” that motivates us to continue to grow in intimacy with our spouse.

Our goal should be to fan this spark into a flame that lasts for a lifetime. In Gary Chapman’s book Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, he writes, “Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage.”

The Benefits of Christian Premarital Counseling

If you’re engaged and still in this season of infatuation, consider the help that a Christian counselor can provide for looking at the big picture of your relationship. You can work to build your marriage on the foundation of Jesus Christ. As Solomon declares, “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Meeting with a Christian counselor before you get married can help you consider the sacred nature of the union you’re about to enter into. It’s vital for both partners to grow in their individual and joint commitment to Christ as they prepare to enter the marriage relationship.

Even if both of you are mature believers, you will find it difficult at times to show the patience, sacrificial love, and other Christian graces that enable a marriage to thrive. You can’t sustain your marriage without His help.

Making this investment in your future marriage can help you grow in emotional and spiritual intimacy as you prepare for your life together, and consider what to work on to build a strong foundation for your relationship.

7 Reasons Why Premarital Counseling Should be the Norm

Here are seven reasons why engaged couples should strongly consider premarital counseling:

1. Premarital counseling is an opportunity to learn to love each other more.

Whenever I ask an engaged couple their reason for getting married, their typical response is, “Because we love each other!” What they mean by “love” is generally an element of their relationship they want to protect and preserve in its current state.

Their experience of being in love motivates them to make it last indefinitely, so they are getting married to sustain their bond. Even the phrase “we fell in love” connotes something that happened by chance, implying that the romance in a love relationship is derived from its quality of being irresistible. However, this is a problematic perspective for two reasons.

First, this perspective makes love seem like a feeling or a possession instead of an action. Because it is simply a state of consciousness, there’s no compelling urge to work hard at loving one’s partner.

The second problem is that love viewed in this way is out of one’s control. So not only did you fall into love, but it’s possible that one day you might fall out of love. If you’re subject to emotional whims in this way, you might not see the necessity to intentionally nurture your commitment to your spouse.

In premarital counseling, you’ll have a chance to learn how to put your feelings of love into action, and to be intentional about expressing love to your partner.

The act of getting married doesn’t preserve romantic feelings in a vacuum. You’ll still need to be committed to working on your relationship, your commitment, and your intimacy. The wedding is the starting point, not the finish line.

John Mayer reminds us:

“Love ain’t a drug
despite what you’ve heard
Yeah love ain’t a thing
Love is a verb.”

2. Marriage lasts far longer than a wedding.

When a couple gets engaged, much of their focus shifts to preparing for the wedding day, but often there’s not as much attention paid to preparing for marriage itself. This is a shame, because the wedding lasts only for a day, and is merely a symbol of the reality of marriage.

Our cultural priorities appear out of whack when we compare the breakdown of marriage and the family to the extravagance of weddings.

On a global scale, the wedding industry is worth $300 billion, and over $55 billion of that is spent in the United States alone. Even if you’re trying to plan a frugal wedding, you’ve probably realized how overpriced everything is, from flowers to decorations to attire.

TheWeddingReport.com lists the average price for a 2016 U.S. wedding at $26,720. This huge expense is coupled with the time, stress, and energy involved in planning one’s “dream wedding,” adding up to a monumental amount of expense and trouble centered around this one day.

Getting married is truly a significant event worthy of celebration, and it’s not wrong to want to have a wedding to remember. But it’s important not to neglect the more vital aspect of your commitment: the lifetime you’re preparing to spend together.

This is where premarital counseling can be of great assistance, in helping you to prepare for the marriage itself. It does require an investment of time and money, but this will pay dividends when the honeymoon is over and you wake up to spend the rest of your life together.

A wedding lasts for a day, but a marriage for a lifetime.

3. Love is blind.

You’ve probably this cliche before, and it has an element of truth. Romantic love tends to blind us to our partner’s faults.

This isn’t altogether a bad thing. It’s good that we can be focused on the other person’s strengths, spotlight their good qualities, and gloss over their shortcomings.

Maybe you’ve had a conversation in which a friend waxes rhapsodic about the person they’re in love with, and you’ve privately thought that your friend was naive and that it was impossible for anyone to be so perfect.

However, this is a perspective many couples who’ve been married for awhile could benefit from. One tool I like to use with married couples is to ask them to describe one another’s positive characteristics in as detailed a way as they can.

It’s wise to be cautious about looking through rose-colored glasses before marriage. Making an error in judgment in choosing who to marry will affect your entire life. Rushing into marriage based on feelings of infatuation does not honor the sacredness of this union the way God designed it.

In the gospels, we see Jesus calling us to count the cost before we follow Him. In the same way, we should consider what marriage will demand of us before we take our vows. This doesn’t mean changing your mind out of fear and deciding never to get married; it means holding the institution of marriage in high regard and taking our future vows seriously.

In Christian counseling, you’ll have a place to discuss common challenges married couples face, preparing you to handle them in the best way possible. You’ll also have an opportunity to discuss each other’s faults in a safe environment, and commit to loving one another regardless, instead of believing that your partner is perfect.

The role of a Christian counselor could be compared to that of an optometrist; people can already see, but the Christian counselor wants to help them see better.

4. You need to prepare for conflict.

Some engaged couples can’t even consider the possibility that they might face conflict one day. Of course, they inevitably do, and then they wonder if they made a mistake in who they married. But no matter who we are, we will have disagreements now and then, and this is normal. The important part is how we handle conflicts when they arise.

As Gary Chapman writes, “Large or small, all conflicts have the potential of destroying an evening, a week, a month, or a lifetime. On the other hand, conflicts have the potential of teaching us how to love, support, and encourage each other. This is by far the better road to travel. The difference is how you process the conflicts.”

In premarital counseling, you can learn to accept the fact that conflict is inevitable, and prepare for it by planning how you’ll respond. Therapists work to help you listen to each other with empathy and seek to understand, instead of assuming the other person has bad motives.

If you don’t prepare for conflict, you risk being torn apart by it. Counseling is one helpful way to learn to grow through conflict and become more (rather than less) intimate as a result.

5. You need a financial plan.

You may have heard that money is one of the top subjects to cause arguments in marriage. Statistics prove that this is true. Talking about finances can seem prosaic and unromantic, but it’s a vital part of preparing for marriage.

It’s important for couples to set aside the idea of individualistic ownership of money, and to view all resources as joint property. Becoming one flesh applies to every area of life, including bank accounts.

In Christian counseling, you can discuss your plans for budgeting, spending, and saving. This will prepare you for a well-stewarded financial future and will help protect the peace in your relationship.

6. You had different parents and different upbringings.

What we saw in our parents as we grew up tends to set the norm for us as to how we think marriage should be. Maybe your parents had a loving commitment to one another, or maybe they argued a lot and were verbally abusive. Whatever the situation, it’s likely that you subconsciously internalized it as being normal.

This obviously carries into one’s future marriage relationship, even in ways you may not have expected. A wife might act the same way she saw her mother act while assuming that her husband will behave in a similar way that her father did. But meanwhile, her husband might have seen his father act in a completely different way, and this influences how he behaves in his own marriage.

Taking the time to work through these issues before the wedding can prevent disastrous misunderstandings afterward. Your counselor can work through your upbringings with you and discuss how they influenced your expectations for marriage.

7. God honors marriages that bring glory to Him.

It’s crucial to remember that marriage is an institution created by God Himself, and we need His blessing in order to thrive in it. It is a high calling and a difficult one, but if we are called to be married, God will enable us to obey Him in it.

If you and your partner are walking with God, you can be confident that he will provide everything you need to sustain your marriage. You might recall the famous “love passage” in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul outlines what true love looks like when it’s lived out perfectly.

Sometimes we can feel that this standard is unattainable and not even worth trying for, but we can rely on God’s power to love beyond what we can do in our human strength.

A Christian counselor desires to see you thrive in your marriage and depend on God’s strength to do so. If your heart is to glorify Him, you can cultivate a heart of humility and servant love that desires to serve Him first and foremost. Marriage can be a channel through which you and your spouse experience the blessing of His love.

If you are engaged, please don’t neglect to prepare for marriage with focus and intention. Contact a Christian counselor to help you work through both the positive and negative components of your relationship, and prepare to enter marriage from a place of truth and strength.

Paul’s prayer for the first-century church is also applicable to marriage: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other ” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Photos

“Stand by Me,” courtesy of Alysa Bajenaru, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Twirl Me,” courtesy of Clarisse Meyer, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “In love,” courtesy of Valerie Everett, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Married Fight,” courtesy of Gratisography, pexels.com, CC0 License

Essential Premarital Counseling Questions to Ask Before Marriage

The Bible recognizes the importance of marriage. In the Bible, it is the first human relationship described. In the New Testament, Jesus, our Lord and Savior, affirmed marriage as one man and one woman becoming one flesh. Christ’s married followers were encouraged to love their spouses as they love themselves and to submit to one another out of reverence to him.

 

Knowing this, it is important that everyone who enters into this sacred union is aware of what they are getting into. It is an exciting step but one with many responsibilities.

Essential Premarital Counseling Questions

This article presents some vital premarital counseling questions to answer before making that lifelong commitment.

Such premarital counseling questions are often raised in session to ensure that the engaged couple is truly prepared for life together. Before tackling such questions, consider reading the accompanying Scriptures to prepare you spiritually for discernment.

Has God Called You to Marriage?

(1 Corinthians 7:17)

Marriage life is not meant for everybody. In marriage, personal privileges may be lost, responsibilities are multiplied, and there is an increase in personal and relational boundaries.

Given these, have you sensed the calling to this life-long vow? Are you willing and able to become one with your partner – physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Can you sacrifice personal habits and preferences for his or her sake? Is your view of your future together something positive?

Are the Two of You Truly Compatible?

(Genesis 2:24-25)

Life together under one roof is very different to just seeing one another a few days a week. It is during marriage that the “real” self is fully revealed as the good and bad sides are seen daily.

Do your personalities really complement one another? Are you able to laugh together and at one another? Do you feel secure in fully revealing your inner self – the good and bad, the hopes and fears – to your partner? Are you attracted to one another physically? Do you feel fully accepted by your partner? Do you fully accept him or her? What makes you say that life together will be better than life apart?

What Past Baggage are You Both Bringing In?

(Exodus 20:5-6)

Who we are now has been affected by what has happened to us in the past. Emotional setbacks and disappointments, personal tragedies, vices and other habits can take a toll on us. If such things have not been properly dealt with through authentic repentance and emotional and spiritual healing, it is possible for them to return to haunt us.

To what degree are you still affected by your past failures, losses, fears and unrealized dreams? Does your partner know of these past struggles and how they affect you now? Are you aware of your partner’s past setbacks, worries, and tragedies? Have these been overcome or is he or she still trapped in the past? How well do you know your partner’s family background?

How is Your Communication?

(James 1:19-20 and Ephesians 4:26)

In a healthy relationship, communication is very important as people cannot read minds. When communication is clear, conflicts can be resolved and goals can be attained. Without such, then much suffering and hurt may take place.

Do you communicate regularly and openly? Can you easily understand one another? Are you both able to open up or is only one of you doing the talking? Are conflicts and misunderstandings dealt with immediately and in a positive manner?

Do You Complement Each Other Spiritually?

(2 Corinthians 6:14)

Friends and even relatives can have very similar likes and dislikes. But such similarities do not always pertain to how they view the Eternal. Married couples must be spiritually compatible lest they become drawn apart by conflicting spiritual views.

How does your partner affect your personal relationship with God? Do you encourage one another to love Jesus more than you did before? Are your spiritual beliefs and ways of worship the same or are there distinct differences? Does your partner inspire you to become a better person? Do you regularly pray together?

Are Your Beliefs About Money the Same?

(1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17)

Though money should never be the be-all and end-all, it is still an important part of human life and it may be used to bless the family and those around us. This is why money matters ought to be clear before this life of shared togetherness begins.

Are your ideas of about the importance of money the same? Do you have similar financial principles and practices (e.g. tithing, saving, investments)? Who is expected to earn and who is expected to manage the funds? Is it ok to have personal accounts? Can you afford married life with or without kids?

Do Those Closest to You Agree With Your Decision?

(Ephesians 4:15)

It is true that love is a personal choice. No one can force you to love another. But it is also true that love can be blind. When we are experiencing happy moments together, it is possible that we turn a blind eye to habits and actions that would normally alarm us.

Do your friends and family affirm this commitment? Is there anyone who believes that you or your beloved are not yet ready for that next step? Is there someone (other than your ex-flame) who thinks that the two of you are not compatible? What are their reasons for saying so?

Are You Both Emotionally Ready for Marriage?

(Galatians 5:22-23)

Society today likes to designate milestones for people so sometimes people rush into things to avoid being labeled as “behind” or “unsuccessful”. Emotional maturity, however, is not the same for everybody. It cannot be rushed.

Are you both able to take responsibility for yourselves or is there a sense of dependency? Can you both handle your emotions in a healthy way? Do you trust one another? What addictions are present in your current relationship? Are you seeking help with such addictions? What makes you believe you are both ready for marriage?

Be Better Prepared for that Next Step Through Christian Counseling

Contrary to the world’s current beliefs, marriage is not something that should be taken lightly. There are many dire consequences that may occur when people jump into it without proper thought and guidance.

If you and your partner are seeking honest answers to the abovementioned questions, then Christian counseling can help. A professional Christian counselor can help you decide whether you are both ready or if there are some spiritual and emotional steps to take before committing for a lifetime.

Photos:
“I do,” courtesy of Jeremy Bishop, unsplash.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Twirl Me,” courtesy of Clarisse Meyer, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Studying together,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stand by Me,” courtesy of Alysa Bajenaru, unsplash.com, Public Domain License

Effective Methods to Treat Symptoms of Codependency

Author Charles L. Whitfield states in his book, Codependence: Healing the Human Condition, that codependence is a “disease of lost selfhood.” When people try to become what others want them to be, they lose their personal identity and goals. It is this handing over of personal responsibility for themselves to somebody else that causes them to be defined as codependent.

This inability to feel complete as themselves requires codependents to find completeness elsewhere. Whitfield describes it as an “addiction” since people are looking outside themselves to find fulfillment and happiness, similar to other addictions like alcohol, drug, or sexual addiction.

Other sources define codependence as a dysfunctional relationship where one person may be supporting another’s addiction (e.g. alcohol, drugs, gambling) or undesirable traits such as immaturity, irresponsibility, poor mental health, or even underachievement.

Alarmingly, studies have shown that codependence can be passed from generation to generation as the ability to relate to one another is learned in the family. For example, it is quite common in families struggling with an addiction, such as alcoholism, for one of the members to deny the problem and instead sacrifice him or herself for the addicted relative, especially if the addicted one is a parent.

This self-sacrificing member becomes more attuned to the needs of the addicted relative and eventually begins to define themselves according to the requirement of the situation.

So rather than becoming who they would like to be, they change their habits and plans according to the relative’s needs. It may seem like a noble sacrifice, but in many cases, it is not. The result may be an adult who has difficulty expressing emotions and one who is not in touch with who they truly are.

The Symptoms of Codependency

There are many symptoms of codependency. In the books Codependent No more and Facing Codependence, author Pia Mellody lists several signs to watch out for.

Anger

Codependents usually feel afraid and wounded which leads to frequent anger. They tend to live with people of the same sentiments creating a vicious cycle. Codependents frequently cry, become depressed, overreact, easily get sick, and are prone to unhealthy temper outbursts. They try to punish people for making them feel angry.

Caretaking

Codependents have a driving need to take care of others. They want to help solve the other person’s problem by making things right, easing their feelings, or guiding their thoughts or actions.

So they are much more comfortable around people with needs yet feel quite uneasy when people try to help them instead. Codependents are often overburdened with demands from others but willingly forego their personal plans to be of assistance. Boredom often sets in for them when there is no crisis to prevent or problem to fix.

Controlling

Codependents like to be in control since they have experienced difficulties with people who were out of control (e.g. a violent alcoholic parent or an incessant gambler who lost the family’s money). Control is maintained through manipulation, threats, seeming helplessness, or by guilt. In the end, however, the codependent may feel manipulated and controlled as well.

Denial

Codependents often pretend that everything is manageable, that the situation is not as terrible as others may believe. Such people often depend upon prescriptive tranquilizers or other such drugs to help them. They may also enmesh themselves in work to stay busy; spend compulsively for a temporary happy feeling; or overeat to make themselves feel satisfied. They may wonder why they feel crazy at times.

Dependency

Codependents cannot find internal peace and search for it outside themselves since they often feel incapable of self-care. Many believe that they cannot be truly appreciated or properly loved by others. Some stay in abusive relationships because they believe it is the best that they can ever receive.

Lack of trust

Codependents do not trust themselves nor do they trust others. Sadly, they believe that God has abandoned them, possibly in favor of someone else.

Low self-worth

Codependents do not respect themselves. They believe they are not worthy or that they are not good enough. They usually blame themselves and believe that the good things in life are meant for other people. Though they also long for praise, when they do receive it they reject it, believing that they do not deserve it.

Obsession

Codependents are worrywarts. They are anxious about the problems of others, focusing all their attention and abilities on somebody else’s concerns.

Poor communicators

Codependents rarely know how to communicate well. Instead, they may intimidate, beg, or blame other people. They usually hide the truth and their feelings and have difficulty saying “no.” Gossip is something they may do as well as it is about other people and not themselves.

Repression

Codependents are inflexible and controlled. They are usually embarrassed to be their real selves for fear of the judgment of others.

Sex problems

Codependents believe sex equates to love. So even if they do not wish it, they will engage in it just to feel loved by their partner or to make their partner feel loved. When they are upset with their partner and wish to withdraw, they often abstain from sex and may even be disgusted by the idea of it. Thus, sex becomes a tool for them – something they do, but do not necessarily always enjoy.

Weak boundaries

Codependents have a hard time establishing healthy relationship boundaries. Others regularly violate their boundaries since they cannot say “no”. Though they may make such rules more flexible to tolerate the needs of others, this may also cause them to become angry or intolerant.

Codependency is unhealthy, especially if the home or work environment is particularly harmful. Physical sickness, mental disorders, broken relationships, dangerous addictions, and even suicidal tendencies may eventually.

If you believe that you or someone you care about has been described in this article, then it is important to seek help. A licensed mental health counselor can help overcome the situation before it is too late.

Photos:
“Yet More Balance” Courtesy of Murray Barnes, Flickr.com; CC BY 2.0 License; “Angry Man,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Face-off”, Courtesy of Silvia and Frank, Pixabay.com; CC0 License; “Worry”, Courtesy of Maria Victoria Heredia Reyes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Christian Marriage Counseling to Save Your Marriage

So, God has led you to seek Christian values that can help pull your marriage back from the brink or even help someone you know to save theirs. Hopefully, God will use these tips to help restore your marriage and bring about much good.

Four Useful Tips that Could Save Your Marriage

These tips are based on professional experience and will hopefully encourage couples to work toward strong, healthy marriages that can go the distance. To that end, there are applicable principles from God’s word that can guide couples to a more fulfilling marriage.

The tips in this post are a blend of Christian principles and counseling practices that can make a real difference to couples seeking long-term happiness and seeking to avoid the detrimental effects of divorce.

Tip #1: Recognize that love is a decision

New relationships are full of strong feelings when they first begin. The Greeks referred to this kind of love as “Eros.” Physical attraction in addition to personal qualities creates the fantasy of romantic love. Fantasy is a specific word used here to emphasize the fact that in the early days of a relationship it is doubtful whether you really know someone.

Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want, hypothesizes that people are attracted to those who have the sort of visible qualities that match the kind of person who will meet their unmet needs for love.

He also points out that individuals also select a spouse with qualities that contrast with objects of love from their personal lives, such as parents. In theory, spouses seek to obtain love from a person who feels familiar but who does not give all of the love that they need.

Hendrix suggests that this attraction is developed in the unconscious and acts as a sort of drive to seek the wholeness that one shared in their mother’s womb. As love develops the romantic qualities tend to dim. As an individual concludes that, realistically, their spouse is incapable of always meeting all of their needs, this romantic mode tends to shift to one that of frustration, jeopardizing the relationship.

The Greeks also had a name for love that is selfless: “agape” (agápē). This kind of love gives regardless of whether it is reciprocated or not. The Bible speaks extensively about this type of love. Matthew 16:18 tells the story of how Jesus changed Peter’s name to “Rock” long before it ever suited him. Jesus knew what sort of man he would become after Jesus’ death on the cross.

This model should be applied to your marriage, that of sacrificial love with a forward-looking view of your spouse’s true potential as a response to your love for them. Your spouse can experience the short-term effects that criticizing and demanding change in them can bring.

However, these short-lived efforts to force change do not coincide with the love that is needed to withstand the struggles in marriages today. A more realistic goal would be to take the time to seriously consider your spouse’s personal weaknesses and then make sacrificial investments of your time and energy to make them feel the confidence that comes from being loved despite those weaknesses.

Even though you sometimes may feel that your spouse may not deserve it, it is imperative that you continue to remember how God blesses everyone with such agape love daily. This marital investment proves more fruitful to marriage success. All it takes is a strong commitment to sacrificially loving your spouse.

Tip #2: Get your desires under control

John Gottman, a well-known couples counselor, explains how marriages fall apart via a description of what he refers to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

The common thread running between these poisons of marriage is that they objectivize marital problems for the person who is suffering from the issue.

In chapter 4, verses 1-4 James promotes a much more subjective view of solving conflict in relationships. James understands that at the root of all relational conflict lies a frustrated desire stemming from people not seeking God’s guidance to fulfill this desire.

This passage is full of practical wisdom! From a couple’s perspective, most conflicts are a result of each partner saying what they really need or want to see change. This verse encourages couples to seek God’s guidance through prayer and Bible study before it ever reaches their spouse’s ears.

This removes the shaming and blaming out of conflicts and spouses focus more on using God’s word, examining their own desires in faith that God will lead them to negotiations that are beneficial to both parties (Psalm 37:4). Ultimately, God becomes the agent of change in marriages, as opposed to the worldly thoughts and actions of His servants.

When a wife speaks to her husband in a harsh way, for example, he will feel that she does not disrespect him. His first thought, according to the James 4 passage, should be, “Am I trusting God to fulfill my desire for respect?” One should seek guidance through prayer or Bible study to learn from cases where God displayed love to mankind despite their disrespect to Him.

The unresolved desire for respect in marriages may surface when one is insecure. However, God has an answer for this. Matthew 20:26 relates Jesus’ teaching that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”

This passage speaks volumes about what actions are needed to solve this desire dilemma. Keeping in mind the qualities of a humble servant in the middle of marriage conflicts can lead to more fruitful resolutions.

To align one’s desires with God’s, you have to read your Bible and look for teaching that shows how God wants you to relate to your desires.

Tip #3: Marriage first, but only after God

Marriage is an ordinance that God has given to His servants to sanctify them in this life. North Point Community Church pastor, Andy Stanley, commented on relationships in his recent sermon, “Pack Your Bags: Now And Then” explaining sleeping around before marriage is a lousy idea.

Unselfishly honoring and committing to one person lays the foundation for a successful marriage. Many today believe that one must live together in a sexual relationship with someone before deciding if enough compatibility exists to get married. True intimacy begins with a committed marriage relationship, rather than self-interest.

Proverbs 5:15 says, “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.” Marriage is to be a sacred institution. As one commentator remarks: “Solomon urges his disciples to follow after purity in the married life; he pictures in vivid terms the delights which it affords as compared with the pleasures of sin.”

Life is full of things that occupy our time and attention such as work, entertainment, children, etc. It is easy to place other things before our marriage relationship.

There are a lot of couples with unresolved conflicts over unmet needs, for example, where one partner is too focused on the kids and the other one is a workaholic. It is only after the kids become adults, and leave the home, that the couple may come to realize that neglect of each other’s needs has degraded the intimacy of the relationship.

How does one go about putting their marriage first? Here a few practices that are tried and true:

  • Pray with and for each other regularly.
  • Let each other know what you are learning in your walk with God.
  • Deliver more encouragement than criticism.
  • Find ways to build your spouse’s confidence where they are insecure.
  • Talk daily. Get out on dates regularly.
  • Read books about marriage
  • Find something to do for which you have a mutual interest.
  • Never commit adultery (either physical or emotional)

Finally, if you believe that you are not making progress, consider seeking professional help.

Tip #4: Let the change start with you

Relational demands can lead to reciprocal behaviors in marriage that begin to display a pattern as time goes on. Although this establishment of patterns is intended to keep a healthy balance in the marriage, some patterns can end up causing dysfunction in the relationship. Where a husband is totally focused on himself, for example, his wife may be left without any avenue for expressing her thoughts and emotions to him.

While her husband considers her dutiful with regard to sex and doesn’t request much in the way of deep emotional bonding, balance will continue to exist in the relationship. Over time, however, dysfunctions in the relationship will begin to surface as the wife struggles with finding happiness with an emotionally distant husband.

Dysfunction can manifest in a number of ways, such as eating to excess, too much focus on the kids, adultery, anger issues, depression, or even pursuing divorce. At that point, the question then becomes one of how to change dysfunctional patterns that have accumulated in the marriage.

Identifying your role in causing the dysfunction is the first step toward bringing about change. Because patterns of family behavior tend to be cyclical, initial efforts by one spouse to bring about change will likely meet stiff resistance.

However, if one spouse can work diligently to change the things that are their fault and interrupt this cycle with personal change, their partner will naturally undergo personal change as well. This cycle is then redirected to a new balance point in the marriage.

So in the example listed above, the wife may begin trying to express her desires for romance in the relationship. She may suggest a boundary such as, “I feel more like being romantic with you when you have invested time and energy into talking and spending time with me.”

Stung, the husband might protest, “But all you want to do is talk about everything in minute detail. Nothing I do is sufficient.” The wife might then reply, “I get that this may be difficult, but if you want me to be as interested in romance as you are, then I expect you to work hard at improving our communication.”

Should the wife use this style of open communication and remain firm, her husband will ultimately have to make a choice either to increase emotional communication with his wife, or remain the same, and subject his marriage to possible pitfalls.

1 Corinthians 7:3 is a verse that is often misinterpreted by one or both of a marriage. In it, Paul warns husbands and wives not to withhold sex from each other. Frequently taken out of context in this verse is the additional expectation of commitment to mutual spiritual growth. What this verse does not teach is that making insensitive demands on each other is okay.

How Christian Marriage Counseling Can Help Save Your Marriage

Even though these tips may sound simple, one should not draw the conclusion that fixing problems in your marriage will be easy. The tips mentioned above should be viewed as general principles that will take time and a lot of practice to apply to your particular marriage. Some individuals come into marriages with the baggage of a complicated life history and variety of dynamics. Often struggle with patterns of dysfunction that they have built up over long periods of time.

Proverbs 15:22 reads, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.” Having an outsider to diffuse potentially tense situations and give insight into how the patterns of dysfunction work can be a big help on your road to marital health. Bringing Biblical principles to bear by means of Christian marriage counseling can help married couples experience stronger romantic love.

References

Gottman, John. 1994. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.
Hendrix, Harville. 2001. Getting the Love You Want.
Photos

“In Love,” courtesy of ambroochizafar, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Love on a Bench,” Courtesy of mrhayata, Flickr.com, CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “God-Centered”, Courtesy of Naassom Azevedo, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Trouble”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com; CC0 License

3 Excuses People Make for Having an Affair

When we think of a married person having an affair, we think of lack of integrity. Some may consider adultery to be caused by a spouse falling out of love or failing to provide the love that is deserving or satisfying in a marriage.

However, Jesus tells us that “…out of the heart come evil thoughts…adultery, sexual immorality…” (Matt. 15:19). So the real question is, “What is in your heart?” Are you the sort of person who tries to blame their sin on others? In short, are you a covenant keeper or a covenant breaker?

Excuses People Make for Having An Affair

1. My spouse doesn’t look good anymore.

There are some who believe that when wives “let themselves go” they are to blame, in part, for the adulterous behavior of their husbands. However, first, one should consider the reasons that these wives “let themselves go.”

Is there something happening in the marriage that causes these women not to feel the need to look nice anymore? Typically, wives do not simply stop trying to look good because they have “caught” a husband and think that he is now obligated to stay in the marriage despite how they may look.

They may be less motivated to present themselves to the best of their ability for other reasons. Perhaps they are too exhausted with the demands of a marriage or family to put forth the effort.

They also may feel that their husband does not appreciate their efforts anymore. Whatever the case may be, reacting to marital neglect with passive aggression should not be the solution to the problem. Out of respect for the marriage covenant, wives ought to do whatever it takes to strengthen their relationship with their husband.

This is no less true for husbands. Next time you feel the temptation to place the blame and responsibility for your own sinful actions on your wife’s failure to conform to your own (probably worldly) standards of beauty, ask yourself what you are doing wrong in the marriage that makes them not care about taking care of their looks for you anymore.

2. I feel better than I have in years.

There is a reason why many think this way. The passion and romance that you first experienced at the beginning of your relationship were never meant to last, though you ought to still feel a sense of attraction and feel affectionate toward your spouse even after many years of marriage. Even so, this feeling may not be as intense as it was in the beginning.

You may get a thrill from watching this new person walk into the room, as opposed to your spouse. Basic biology can be to blame for this. Researchers have amply demonstrated that the exhilaration of infatuation lasts less than two years. Those same exciting sensations that you may have with this interloper will eventually die down in the same way that they did in your marriage. The cycle repeats itself.

Even though you get the ego boost of falling in love with someone new, this feeling is nothing in comparison with the deep satisfaction of knowing and being known by your spouse for who you truly are and unconditionally loved.

A marriage can reveal a person’s true colors when they are at their worst. Each may know their spouse’s strengths and weaknesses and yet still commit to each other entirely.

This type of love will not be entirely without passion, but the passion won’t rank as high on the scale as it once did in the beginning. The early fiery romantic love cannot be compared to the love that is strengthened through struggle and everything that you have been through together.

3. I don’t love them anymore

It should be noted at the outset that love is only about 5% feeling and 95% commitment. Though it may be shocking to think about, some spouses remain in their marriage because they made a covenant with their spouse before God and firmly intend to hold true to their promise.

Emotions will wax and wane over the course of your marriage and some days you may not like your spouse as much as you do on other days.

Situations change, and the stresses of life can be overwhelming in a marriage that cannot seem to navigate through what this life throws at them. However, that doesn’t mean you stop loving each other.

What if the feeling has faded?

Keep covenant and love them! Continue with the same loving acts that you did at the beginning of your marriage, in spite of any whatever feelings you be lacking. You may not feel like being as loving, tender, ready to please, or sympathetic as you once where, however, your actions should reflect these feelings, even when you do not have them.

Showing that you understand and are forgiving and helpful will get you through the flat times in your marriage and will render these times infrequent and less intense. Correspondingly, your feelings will become more consistent. All of this will be a result of deciding to love through it all.

It doesn’t require a lot of faith to serve someone that you love. Christ served others on this earth, despite ridicule, persecution, and death. His love for us was still strong throughout it all, and most importantly, forgiving.

“You see, at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Matt. 5:6-8 NIV)

Christian Counseling for Adultery

It is no accident that the Bible ties adultery very closely to idolatry. Adultery is essentially the worship of a false god. The passion that God intended for marriage and commitment is shared with one without bowing the knee to the one whom we were called to love. It is also covenant-breaking of the first order. It is intimacy without commitment and a soul-damning alternative to the work implicit in the marriage relationship.

Let a professional Christian counselor help you and your spouse restore intimacy, trust, and healing to your marriage.

Photos
“Girl with Copper Hair,” courtesy of tintenfieber, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License; “Young Girl Crossing Hands,” courtesy of Splitshire.com, AMANDR 20160413 SplitShire-6661-2; “Thinking,” courtesy of Jaelynn Castillo, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “For Better or For Worse,” courtesy of Thomas Curryer, unsplash.com, Public Domain License

Why Do Some Women Have a Low Sex Drive?

References Dr. Ruth Morehouse in “Why You Don’t Want To Have Sex” from Oprah Magazine July-August 2010 and “Passionate Marriage” by Dr. David Schnarch

Women often bear the brunt of the details of managing the household and daily family life. When they feel like they can’t catch up, they often become stressed and overwhelmed, leading to a sense of depletion and exhaustion that can carry over into their sex lives and lead to a low sex drive.

Sex can start to seem like one more chore to add to the to-do list. How could her husband possibly expect more out of her than she’s already doing?

The lack of sexual desire sometimes leads to a feeling of guilt or shame. Why wouldn’t you want to have sex? You must be dysfunctional in some way, right? That’s probably not the case at all.

If there’s no underlying physical problem, take time to explore the reasons for your low sex drive, and realize that they are legitimate issues that deserve to be addressed, not glossed over.

In fact, sex therapist Dr. David Schnarch says that being honest about your lack of desire shows good judgment: “Healthy people don’t want sex when it’s not worth wanting.” (127)

Reasons for a Low Sex Drive in Women

Clinical psychologist Ruth Morehouse has identified several reasons why women often experience a decline in sexual desire as they get older. Her husband’s book Passionate Marriage builds upon this information with suggestions for how to address these issues.

1. The Effect of Stress on Sexual Desire

The process of pregnancy, childbirth, infant care, and possibly breastfeeding can make a woman feel that her body doesn’t belong to her anymore. Sex can start to seem like one more physical demand placed on an already depleted body. Saying no to sex can be one of the only ways a woman regains a sense of physical autonomy in the midst of the demands of motherhood.

This perspective unfortunately assumes that sex is something the wife does for the husband, instead of being a time of mutual enjoyment. This mindset often develops due to one partner having a higher sex drive than the other; in this case, the husband has a higher drive than the wife, although the reverse is frequently true as well.

When the higher drive partner initiates frequently, the lower drive spouse may begin to feel pressured. Consider how you can take some of the pressure off and rekindle a feeling of romance and mutual desire.

Here are some ideas:

  • Request that your spouse take a break from initiating for a brief period of time to give you some space.
  • Schedule some time away for just the two of you to spend alone together.
  • Put sex on the calendar. This doesn’t have to be unromantic; it can give the higher drive spouse reassurance, while removing the pressure on the lower drive spouse. This also has the benefit of giving a wife time to prepare mentally and emotionally. Taking time to de-stress and invest in self-care beforehand can increase a wife’s sexual desire when sex is on the agenda.

2. Marriage as a Low Priority

It’s one thing to say your marriage is a priority, but it’s important to take practical steps to keep it that way. This involves altering your view of sex, trying to see it not as an act of service or a task on the checklist, but as a way to connect and build intimacy in your marriage.

Take time to actually think about sex during the day, and consider the physical benefits—a release of tension being one of them. Sex can de-stress you once you get over the initial mental barrier.

Acute stressors in life can result in marriage being deprioritized, but this will only result in more problems. It’s important to work on marriage problems as they arise in order to reduce their negative impact on the relationship, including the sexual relationship.

“Clearly, emotional issues have a direct physiological impact on sexual functioning. Generally, the more unresolved issues that intrude during sex, the further away you are from your sexual potential, because these issues limit your sexual preferences and pleasure: you can relax, focus, and enhance the physical stimulation you’re receiving only when it fits your dynamics.” (86)

3. Dissatisfaction in the Sexual Relationship

If sex has become monotonous and routine, this may impact your level of desire. Over the years, it’s easy to slip into a familiar pattern, but this can start to seem rote and impersonal.

A wife may feel taken for granted instead of cherished. She might want to ask for a different approach, but doesn’t know how to without making it sound like her husband is inadequate.

The early stages of a relationship are usually full of intense connection and physical attraction, and when this naturally fades, sex can start to seem like a letdown.

It’s important to stoke the fires of intimacy and passion once the honeymoon phase has passed. The sexual relationship within marriage needs a solid foundation built on a holistic relational approach.

Physical attraction can’t be the basis for everything; the emotional connection needs to be cultivated and maintained as an integral aspect of sex.

“As you age, feelings and thoughts must replace biological drive and sensory awareness as the major determinants of your sexuality. Exploring your sexual potential isn’t just easier to do; it’s a necessity if you want to keep sex a vital part of your life as you get older.” (89)

Years into a marriage, many couples have figured out what works for them in order for each partner to feel satisfied, but it’s important not to allow the relationship to settle into a rut. You can’t expect to have an intimate bond if you treat your spouse like a checklist.

Schnarch emphasizes the need to seek beauty not in the act of sex itself, but in the person that you’re with. “There’s no beauty in sex–the beauty is in people. You can’t save the beauty in sex, you have to put it in.” (75)

The book of Song of Solomon illustrates this excellently. Sex isn’t the point; the lover and beloved are the focus. Physical satisfaction isn’t an end in itself, but the result of pursuing and enjoying the other person.

4. Insecurities and Stagnancy in the Sexual Relationship

Perhaps you haven’t considered the role insecurity might play even in a seasoned relationship. You can take responsibility for your own satisfaction by realizing it’s up to you to improve your sex life. Simply going through the motions prevents you from being fully present. This contributes to ongoing stagnancy.

Morehouse describes women who have dissatisfying sexual relationships due to feelings of insecurity in their overall relationship. They’re uncomfortable with disturbing the status quo. The sex is fine, it’s acceptable, so why rock the boat?

What if this makes things worse instead of better? What if you feel embarrassed by asking your spouse to change the familiar routine?

But if you’re so worried about creating problems that you never speak up, this actually leads to other issues. Sex may feel boring and unsatisfying, leading to a lack of desire, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Even though you’re not doing anything to improve your sex life, you might begin to resent your spouse for not making it better.

It’s important to own the fact that if you want your sex life to be more satisfying, you have to be willing to acknowledge your lack of desire and initiate change.

In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul describes the battle between his indwelling sin and his desire to live in obedience to God’s commands. He knew God’s will, but he still sinned.

In the same way, knowledge and action can remain polarized in marriage as a spouse knows they’re struggling with the current state of things, but doesn’t move forward to change them.

Begin a conversation with your spouse about trying something new in your sexual relationship. Think of it as exploring a new facet of your favorite hobby. Any favorite activity needs a change in routine once in awhile for it to remain enjoyable. Doing the same exact thing every time is more like an assembly line than a gratifying sexual experience.

When to Seek Counseling

Genesis 2:24 emphasizes the high value of the marriage covenant, which creates a new union that supersedes one’s family of origin. If your marriage is last on the list of priorities in a busy life, becoming “one flesh” in all areas will be very difficult.

Christian counseling San Diego can provide a safe, mature environment for you and your spouse to work on your intimate difficulties and develop a deeper understanding and bond.

Photos

“I’m with you,” courtesy of Brooke Cagle, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Beach Day,” courtesy of Carly Rae Hobbins, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Thinking,” courtesy of Jaelynn Castillo, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bedtime,” courtesy of Annie Spratt, unsplash.com, CC0 License

Couples Counseling Techniques to Try at Home

If a single person’s life is considered dynamic, it is all the more so for a married couple as two very different people establish a new life together under the same roof. Counseling is an important way to ensure that both positive personal and relational growth occurs as the challenges in a married couple’s life increase.

Couples undergoing counseling receive deeper insight into one another’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Practices and techniques are taught to allow the spouses to develop a stronger connection in order to overcome obstacles in their lives.

And most importantly, as the couple prayerfully seeks improvement together, God’s power and love may be experienced which will inspire, encourage, and heal.

However, counseling alone is not enough to sustain this positive growth. At home, the couple needs to implement what was learned. This is why counselors give assignments to help establish better habits and practices for a stronger and more fruitful married life.

Couples Counseling Practices to Take Home with You

Here are three exercises which are useful in reinforcing gains made in couples counseling:

1) Checking in Emotionally

Focused attention is something that most individuals appreciate and even crave, especially in today’s world where people are experiencing less face-to-face time compared to the past. When someone attentively listens to us, we feel that we are special to him or her.

This practice – which is known to others as an “emotional check-in”, a “connection time”, or a “heart check in” – is vital for spouses to know one another’s inner world. When their inner being is expressed and understood, the couple grows closer emotionally.

To achieve this, the couple is asked to commit to a specific time to share and listen to one another’s heart. A specific day, time, and place are set for them to share regularly. A time limit (20-30 minutes is an okay start) is decided upon for sharing their feelings and any resulting needs.

As one spouse shares, the other listens attentively, interrupting only to clarify things or to summarize what was understood at that time. When the first person is done sharing everything, the spouse who was listening reflects back the sentiments and emotions heard, and then asks, “Is there anything you need from me regarding those feelings?” This is then the time for the sharing spouse to express what should be addressed in the relationship.

After that, the first sharer becomes the listener and the process is repeated. Through this, not only is empathy for one’s spouse strengthened, each spouse also develops more awareness of their own emotions and needs. It really is a beneficial way for each spouse to feel loved and understood. 

2) Using the Time-out Method

An additional important tool needed by couples is the “time-out.” It is natural that conflict may arise as burdens and frustrations are shared. Although a natural occurrence, couples need to ensure that it does not escalate to the point of causing a further rift in the relationship.

In the time-out, physical distance is asked for and granted so that emotions may cool down, thoughts may be gathered, and a fruitful conversation may be returned to. Without it, things may boil over into something very hurtful indeed – emotionally and possibly even physically.

Aside from allowing the heated discussion to simmer down, the time-out is also a trust-building practice. This is accomplished as the spouse acknowledges the anger and then takes a non-destructive step (the time-out) to de-escalate the situation. Trust is further built up as the conversation is resumed once things settle down. It means that both seek a resolution rather than an escape from the discussion.

3) Taking Time to Pray Together

Praying together for the marriage is another powerful practice. While it is always important to pray individually, when it is done together, each partner is given reassurance about just how important their relationship is to one another, helping to deepen the shared spiritual connection.

Prayer is an act of humility as we acknowledge our finiteness, seeking God’s wisdom and assistance. But though it is something we must do, it can be difficult at times because of our pride, our past experiences of unanswered prayers, or even spiritual opposition.

So as the couple takes time to fervently pray together for God’s help, it means that they have realized they cannot do things on their own and that they are truly seeking for the means to keep their bond strong.

It is why it has been generally observed that couples who pray together tend to stay together.

The above-mentioned are just some of the practices that may be assigned during counseling sessions. If you believe that this article pertains to you or to a couple that you know, it is recommended that you contact a professional Christian counselor to help you build a strong and prayerful marriage.

 

Photos


“To the ends of the earth,” courtesy of Brian Holland, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Stand by Me,” courtesy of Alex Iby, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Relax,” courtesy of Maxime Lelievre, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Couple reading the Bible,” courtesy of Ben White, unsplash.com, CC0 License