Marriage Challenge: Weird but True

Our kids are fascinated with the National Geographic Kids book series Weird but True!  The books site interesting facts like:

“Slugs have 3,000 teeth and 4 noses.”

“Hot dogs can last more than 20 years in landfills.”

“A Canadian woman rode a motorized toilet up to 46 miles an hour!”

We know, fascinating facts here people!

So what does this have to do with marriage? Well, when you were dating and first got married, you enjoyed learning about your spouse. You found their likes, dislikes, habits and idiosyncrasies fascinating.  Over the years though, the facts you once found to be “weird but true” have become “weird and annoying”. Instead of accepting your spouse and their differences you want to change them. A simple laugh and occasional eye roll have become full blown gripes, disrespect and a source of misery in your marriage.

The marriage challenge today is this: acceptance.  Accept your spouse as a unique individual. Are they flawed? You bet! And so are you. This is not to say that open communication and confrontation have no place in dealing with marital strife but it is to say that many things in life are not really “big things”.  Instead of looking at the things your spouse does as “weird and annoying” choose to let those things become reason to laugh at your differences, accept their flaws and push towards a greater level of love.  On the plus side, if you send less time griping complaining and fighting about the little annoyances, maybe you”ll have time to build a motorized toilet that can go even faster!

Friction in Marriage:

Justin recently had the opportunity to teach a message on the subject of “Friction in Marriage” in our home church.  Below is a transcript of the message for all who may be interested.

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If you would happen to be a guest of this morning my name is Justin and I’m one of the pastors here at the church.  And we are currently three weeks into a message series on the subject of “Friction”…and when we talk about Friction, we talk about friction in different kinds of relationships.  You know that feeling when somebody just rubs you the wrong way, that’s what we’re talking about throughout this series.

In the first week of this series we started off with the point that your friend is not your enemy because your enemy is not of this world.  Let me say that again just to be certain everybody got that.  Your friend is not your enemy, because your enemy is not of this world.  For example, if somebody offends you it doesn’t automatically make them your enemy.  Your real enemy is the Devil.  This is what the Bible says and we would be amiss if we didn’t consider this every time we experience some relational friction.

And then last week we talked about Friction in relationships – specifically, our friendships – and how each of us has a responsibility to go to the person who has offended us.  If somebody has offended you in any way, it is your responsibility to seek reconciliation with that individual.   Oftentimes we kick into fight or flight mode, and for many of us, “flight” is the avenue we choose to take.  But the scriptures indicate that the best way to overcome conflict is to go to the person and hash things out.  It’s not always easy…but it is the best way to overcome conflict.

Now today, we’re going to talk about Friction in the Marriage relationship.  For those of you who are married, you KNOW that you’ve experienced friction in your marriage.  In fact, I think we should start off this morning in this way…if you’re married, hold your spouse’s hand or put your arm around them for the rest of the message here today.  If you’re the husband, you can probably turn to your wife and just say the words, “I’m sorry.”  If she asks what for, just reply by saying, “everything.”  🙂 Just cover everything.  But seriously, we are talking about friction today, and I want everybody here to think about the types of friction they have experienced (or may currently be experiencing) in your marriage, and use this time today as an opportunity to lay aside those things, and instead focus on the oneness of your marriage.

Now, I’d like to start off this morning by admitting something that I hope doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody here…Megan and I experience friction in our marriage.  There I said it.  Through the years there have been some big issues (or some big areas of friction) and there have been some are little areas of friction as well, and we know – Megan and I KNOW – that we’re not the only ones.  All you married couples out there have experienced friction as well.  Sometimes these things happen on a daily (or at least near-daily) basis.  Here are a few examples for you:

Example #1: She thinks, “I’d really love to go out to dinner and talk.”  He thinks, “I’ve worked really hard all week long, I’d love to veg-out and play some Call of Duty with my friends.”  (I know this won’t ring true for some of you, but it will ring true for many others.)

Example #2: He thinks, “We really need to save our money.”  She thinks, “These shoes (or this purse – or this hand bag) is ‘on-sale’ for a really amazing price.  I’m sure he won’t mind.”

Example #3: She thinks, “Can’t you put your phone/ipad/etc. down for one night.”  He thinks, “I provide well for my family, why can’t I get a little me-time?

Example #4: He thinks, “Maybe tonight we can go to bed early and roll around in the sheets.”  She thinks, “Oooh, look at all these new recipe’s are that posted on Pinterest.”

Example #5: She thinks, “I’m not quite sure about this outfit.  Maybe I should ask my husband what he thinks.”  He thinks, “She’s standing in front of the mirror for a long time.  Please, please, please don’t ask me my thoughts.  That didn’t work out so well for me last time.”

Example #6: He thinks, “We get to see your family all the time.  I think we should give all/most of our Holidays to my family.” She thinks, “We chose to live here and we can travel to see your family during some holidays, but we’re not traveling for all of them.”

Example #7: She thinks, “I really wish he would be the spiritual leader of this family.”  He thinks, “I don’t really know how to lead, so I’m going to spend my time and energy doing the things I’m good at.”

…and just like that, if anybody here thought, “we don’t really experience any friction in our marriage” are brought back to reality.

Now, what I’d really like to do today is to break down the message into two different parts.  To be honest, I’m probably trying to cover too much information in just one message.  But we’re going for it…we’re going for it.  So, the first thing I’d like to cover this morning is – what causes conflict in marriage?  What causes conflict in marriage?  And the second part is – how can we handle conflict in our marriage?  For those of you not married, it’s my belief that these same principles can work in other relationships you have as well.  With your parents, children, friends at school, and so on.

So, we’re going to begin today with probably the most well-known text in scripture on the subject of marriage, beginning with Ephesians 5:21.  If you’ve never read or studied out this passage, take the opportunity to do so soon.  If you have a good study Bible, read the notes it has on this passage.  If you want to learn how to be a godly husband or godly wife, study this passage thoroughly. It’s just really great stuff when it comes to the subject of marriage and why we experience conflict in marriage.  Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

What causes friction in marriage?

  1. Self-centeredness.

For those of you who maybe didn’t know, outside of my ministry here at SRC, my wife Megan and I write a blog on marriage and intimacy.  And a couple of years ago we read through the book, “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller and decided to write a study guide for the book that we made available on our blog.  And here at the church, we ended up having a “Meaning of Marriage” small group study that a number of our groups went through.  And I’ll be honest, it was a tough series.  Not only because there was a lot of material for people to go through, but because the first two chapters of the book aren’t necessarily everyone’s favorite.  In Chapter 2 Tim Keller goes on and on and on and on about how self-centered you (the reader) are.  You read it and you think, “Well, I guess maybe he’s at least a little bit right,” but then he continues giving reasons as to why you’re self-centered.  We had one guy in our group who came in for that week’s discussion who said, “Man, I’d rather hit my head with a sledgehammer than to have to read that chapter over again.”

It’s difficult for us – each one of us, myself included – to think about how self-centered we are.  And do you know what the #1 cause of self-centeredness is?  It’s the lack of submission to one another.  It’s the mindset of saying, “I don’t care what you need in this moment.  I want what I want and I want to do what it is I want to do.”  And when a marriage relationship has two people with this mindset, two people who don’t desire to submit to their spouse, it causes a tremendous amount of friction in the relationship.  But there’s something else we can learn from this passage as well.  Something else that causes friction in a marriage relationship.  Ephesians 5:22-30 (NIV)

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body.

So, the first cause of friction in marriage is self-centeredness.  There’s no real way around that.  A second cause of friction comes from:

2. A lack of fulfilling your God-given role.

I readily acknowledge that this is a passage that is not at all popular in today’s society.  Men and women are (and rightly so) to be treated as equal, but this subject of “equality” has been translated in our society as men and women are the same.  Our culture treats equality as sameness.  But men and women aren’t the same.  Men and women are equal – fully equal.  But we’re not the same.  God made men and women different and he gave each husband and each wife a specific role within the context of marriage.  And when the husband and/or wife are not fulfilling their God-given role, friction is going to happen within the marriage.

First, we see here Ephesians 5 that the role of the wife is to submit to her husband.  While this may cause tension for many here in the room I’d like to point out that this comes directly after v.21 which states “submit to one another”.  Regarding the wife submitting to her husband, this doesn’t mean she is to do everything he wants her to do.  It doesn’t mean she is to be at his beck and call.  It doesn’t mean she’s supposed to put up with him if he’s abusive.  It doesn’t mean any of that.  It means that she is to recognize her husband as the leader of the family.  It means that if there is ever an impasse in a difficult decision, somebody needs to break the tie.  According to the scriptures, that person is the husband.  Again, this isn’t a very popular notion in today’s society.  However, I’m not sure that the role of the husband is a very popular notion in today’s society either.  Ephesians 5:25-30 (NIV)

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—30 for we are members of his body.

This passage indicates that the husband is to love his wife in the same way Christ loved the church (i.e. – He died for her!).  Jesus did everything he could for us, His church, and husbands are to do the same for their spouses.  And in the dozens and dozens of conversations I’ve had with husbands and wives about this passage, I’ve never once met a woman who said, “I won’t submit to him even if he fulfills his role as it’s presented here.  I won’t submit to someone who treats me, loves me, honors me, sacrifices for me in the same way Jesus did for His people.”  I’ve never heard those words.

Men – if I can talk to just the men for a second – your role in marriage is the single most challenging yet rewarding role you will ever have in your entire life.  It’s more challenging than any promotion you can think of.  It’s more challenging than any difficult decision that will be brought your way.  It’s more challenging than any parenting decision you will ever make.  It’s more challenging than anything you will ever experience in your entire life.  And it’s not easy.  But if you fulfill your role, if you love your wife the same way Christ loved the church, if you agree to – as the passage says — submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, the conflict in your marriage will be much more minimal than perhaps it is right now.

As a matter of fact, I’m aware of seven – yes SEVEN – marriages right now that are either just divorced, on their way to divorce, or who have at the very least began a conversation about separation or divorce.  And I’m aware of many, many more couples who have already taken that step and experienced divorce.  And many of them (I want to be careful here and not say it’s all of them) but many of them are a result of men not fulfilling their role, not loving their spouse in the same way Christ loved the church.  If men would do this, the divorce rate would plummet.  If men would study out this passage, and study out what the Bible has to say about marriage, and about being a godly husband, friction in marriage would be much easier to deal with.

So, these are the two primary causes of friction in marriage.  1) Self-Centeredness (i.e. not submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ) and 2) not accepting/fulfilling your God-given role.

With that aside, there is still going to be some friction in marriage.  Even couples who follow-through on this passage and who live out their God-given role really, really well experience friction.  There’s friction about putting the dishes away or picking up dirty socks off the floor.  There’s friction in fulfilling (or not fulfilling) household chores.   There’s friction in how the toilet paper gets hung, and where the tube of toothpaste gets squeezed.  And sometimes there’s friction in areas such as continuing education and whether or not it’s worth it or not.  Small things and large, every single aspect of marriage and living life together has the potential for friction.  So what I’d like to talk through, through the remainder of the message today is how to handle conflict in marriage.

If you happened to have missed it, in the first week of this series, we asked a question which was, “Do you believe that conflict is good in the marriage relationship?”  Maybe a handful of you have changed your minds on that question over the past couple of weeks, I’m not sure.  Some of you said, “Sure, conflict can be good for the marriage.”  Others thought, “No, conflict is always, always, always a bad thing.”  But I wholeheartedly believe that conflict can be very good for relationships.  I believe conflict can be good for the marriage relationship, when it’s done right.  I believe that in the case of couples who don’t experience conflict in their marriage, one or maybe both are holding some things in…and if they hold those in long enough, their marriage is going to end in disaster.  How can we handle conflict in marriage?

  1. Have conflict with the goal of making the relationship better, not bitter.

I’m stealing this point directly from Mark Driscoll who in his book/message series titled “Real Marriage” indicates this very point.  Conflict should make the relationship better, not bitter.   What happens far too often is that we use conflict to either A) Make a point, B) Get what we want or C) Both.  But conflict shouldn’t be used to make a point.  Conflict shouldn’t be used to get what we want.  Conflict should be used with the mindset of making the overall health of the relationship better.  It isn’t to point fingers.  It isn’t to blame or accuse or blackmail.  It is to be used with the goal of making the relationship better.

Your marriage is on a continual path of either getting better, or getting bitter.  Let me say that again just to make sure it sinks in.  Your marriage is on a continual path of either getting better, or getting bitter.  You can use conflict as a way to maintain and hold onto bitterness if you want.  But if you do, you’re going to continue on the path of marital bitterness.  But you can also use conflict to make the relationship better.

There was a time in our marriage that Megan and I experienced conflict over something that when you really take the opportunity to think about it, was quite miniscule.  It was a situation that, I confess, for days, maybe even weeks and into months made me a little bit bitter.  It was a time when I didn’t love my wife in the same way Christ loved the church.  (Can any men in the room relate with me on this one?)  I tried to use this conflict in order to get what I wanted, not with the goal of making our marriage better.  And for a season in our marriage, I was miserable for it.  – Whether you’re the husband or the wife, you can use conflict with the goal of making the overall health of your marriage relationship better.  Use it in this way.  Bring up difficult topics/conversations with the goal of helping your relationship grow.  And do this always remembering to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

2.  Have conflict with the goal of making the relationship one.

31 For this reason a man will leave

his father and mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two will become one flesh.

32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

Remember that conflict is caused from 1) self-centeredness and 2) a lack of fulfilling our God-given role.  When we are not fulfilling our role…when we are being self-centered, we are thinking only of ourselves and not our marriage.  But the scriptures state over and over and over again that in regards to marriage, two become one flesh.  It’s so hard to comprehend that Paul even declares it as a profound mystery.  But there’s something inside every husband, and something inside every wife that acknowledges the truthfulness of this.   I recently performed a wedding where the to-be bride had been married in the past and divorced, but the to-be husband had never been married.  And she acknowledged in one of our meetings together, “There’s something different about being married.  Something changes when two people are married…something that I can’t really even explain.”  She was right.  Something does change.  Two people become one.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Spiritually.  Something changes.

And when tension occurs, it occurs because something (or someone) isn’t recognizing the oneness of the relationship.  But that tension can be brought forward.  Instead of hiding from conflict, the conflict can be used to make the relationship whole.  It simply takes two people who are willing to lay aside their own wants and desires and be willing to sacrifice for the overall health of the marriage.

Finally, I just want to make one additional note:

3.  Have conflict while keeping your focus on Christ.

Like I said before, this passage is a challenging passage for both women and men.  Women read this passage and see the term “submit” and begin to ask questions like, “what exactly does this mean?”  Men see phrases such as “love your wife just as Christ loved the church” and begin to ask questions like, “what exactly does this mean?”  But if you read and study through this passage you’ll discover that the sole character of this passage isn’t a wife…nor is the sole character a husband.  The person most often mentioned is Jesus.  The words Lord, Christ, Savior, are the central aspect of this passage.

So, when friction comes into your marriage, take the opportunity to think about it.  Ask yourselves questions such as:

  1. Are we submitting to one another in light of this conflict?
  2. Are we fulfilling the role God gave us?
  3. Are we using this conflict with the goal of making our relationship better (or one)?
  4. Are we focusing on Christ?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the message, I again acknowledge that I’m trying to cover a whole lot of information in a very short period of time today.  But I want to conclude by sharing something that Tim Keller stated in one his messages on the subject of marriage.  He said, “If everything around you is a mess and in weakness but your marriage is strong, then nothing else matters, you move out into the world in strength.  But if everything around you is strong yet your marriage is a wreck, you move out into the world in weakness.”

The strength of your marriage has a way to influence every other aspect of your life.  This is because the marriage relationship is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the church.

I don’t know what kind of friction you may be experiencing in your marriages right now.  But it’s my sincere desire that you move out into the world in strength.  For those of you who may want to better understand passages such as the one we looked at today, again, I can’t recommend the book “The Meaning of Marriage” enough.  Let’s close out here this morning in prayer.

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Additional Questions for Discussion:

Questions:

  1.  What are some specific situations that cause conflict in marriages?
  2. Do you think conflict is good in marriage relationships? Why or why not?
  3. Ephesians 5:21 reads, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  What do you think this verse means?
  4. Pastor Justin mentioned that “God made men and women different and He gave each husband and each wife a specific role within the context of marriage.”
  • What do you understand those roles to be?
  • If husbands and wives are fulfilling their roles, what would be their individual responsibility in resolving conflict?
  • How should one respond when their spouse refuses to fulfill their specific role?

Digging Deeper: Study 1 Peter 3:1-7

  1. How could this passage be helpful in handling conflict with a difficult spouse?
  2. What are some of the concepts in these verses that are counter-cultural? List as many as you can. (also see Ephesians 5:21-33)
  3. What parts of this passage do you find difficult or uncomfortable?
  4. What is one selfless thing you could do this week that would make your marriage relationship better?

“It’s just not me” Moments – Part 2

Last week, Megan wrote the first of two posts about moments when it’s easy to say, “It’s just not me.”  This phrase is often said regarding hobbies or activities that one spouse enjoys doing, but the other often replies by saying “It’s just not me.”  If you haven’t read it just yet, feel free to do so.  Today, I (Justin) want to chime in with some additional thoughts on this subject.

Let’s say that you and your spouse have similar interests and hobbies, and therefore, “It’s just not me” moments don’t come very often…at least not in your own household.  You and your spouse have both worked hard through the years to balance your interests for the good of your marriage.  He enjoys at least some of her interests and hobbies, and she does the same for him.  But what about your relationships with other couples?  For example:

Wife: “The so-and-so’s would like us to come over for dinner Friday night.  You know she and I have been friends for years.  I think maybe it’s time for you to get to know her husband a little better, too.”

Husband: “Are you serious?  I don’t want to have dinner with them.  He and I have nothing in common.  He’s into ‘art’ for crying out loud.  What do I know about art?”

What do you do?

Husband: “Bill and I are going golfing Saturday morning, and we thought it would be fun to bring our wives along this time.  What do you think?”

Wife: “Well Bill’s wife has actually golfed before!  I don’t even know how to hold a club.  Count me out.”

What do you do?

Wife: “Susan and I are planning our annual weekend ski trip together.  skiAnd we thought maybe we could bring our families this time.”

Husband: “One: I don’t ski.  Two: Susan’s husband is just plain weird.  Sure, we’ll ski for a few hours and then what?…we’ll be inside the rest of time.  Sorry, but it’s just not me.”

What do you do?

You’ve taken the opportunity to balance your interests and hobbies for the good of your marriage, but you know “It’s just not me” to do it again for another friendship.

Regarding these additional “It’s just not me” moments, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1) It’s good for them

When it comes to these types of situations, it’s good to remember that the sacrifice you make will likely be very good for the other couple.  Your spouse’s friend will be delighted with the effort you’re making.  Not only that, but it may be good for their spouse as well.  Maybe he/she has good business contacts, but no real friends.  Maybe they know they’re ‘odd’ and have never been able to sustain a friendship outside of their marriage.  And now for the first time in their life, somebody is actually making an effort to get to know them.

2) It’s good for your marriage

Sure, you’ve made sacrifices for your spouse and children.  Sure, “it’s just not you” to do it again and again.  But your spouse has a friend, and they’re ready for that friendship to go to the next level.  And your spouse believes that in order for their friendship to go to the next level, they need you to be part of it.  Your sacrifice in this area will make your marriage even stronger.  Your spouse will see your continual willingness to put them ahead of yourself.  Surely they’ll reciprocate.  Surely they’ll continue to make sacrifices for you.  Surely your marriage with strengthen.

3) It’s good for you

These kinds of relational sacrifices are always good to make because they can ultimately remind you of your relationship with God.  If that sounds ridiculous, think about this: what does He really have in common with you?  Anything?  Be honest, the answer is probably very little.  Maybe nothing.  Yet He gave it all up and became a friend of sinners so that your relationship could be restored.  Should we not be willing to do the same for a good relationship with others?

I realize a great deal more could be written on this subject of “It’s just not me” moments.  Nevertheless, this two-part post emphasizes the importance of giving up this mindset not only in our marital relationship, but also in our relationships with others.  It certainly isn’t easy, and surely Megan and I fail ourselves from time to time.  But if relationships are truly important, perhaps one day we’ll all put aside the “It’s just not me” mentality, and will instead say, “Whatever it takes.”

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Discuss with your spouse:

1. What kind of “It’s just not me” moments have you had in relationships with other couples?

2. Is there ever a time when saying “It’s just not me” can be justified?

13 Realities of Married Sex: #8 Sex is Different

Recently, I took the opportunity to scroll through the Amazon Prime Video service to see if there happened to be any movies that would entertain Megan and I for an evening.  As I scrolled through the listings, one movie in particular caught my attention.  The movie was “North Face”.  I knew nothing about the movie, nothing at all.  It was easy to see from the MEDION DIGITAL CAMERApicture that it would be about mountain climbing, but what caught my attention was the number of very high reviews.  It seemed like nearly everyone who saw it gave it a full 5 stars.  I quickly saw that it was in German and we would have to watch it with subtitles.  But I didn’t care.  “If a movie has these kinds of high reviews,” I thought to myself, “then it’s got to be a great one to watch!” Needless to say, my expectations were high, and I was really looking forward to relaxing while watching a great movie.

***Warning: For those of you who have never seen “North Face”, the below text will contain spoilers!!!  Skip down a bit if you don’t wish to know what happens.***

So Megan and I started watching the movie – English subtitles and all – and soon became pretty engrossed in the film.  We were mesmerized not only by the climbers desire to do it, but also by the gear they used way back in the 1930’s.  Why would anybody desire to do such a thing?  Anyway, (here come the spoilers) about 75-90 minutes into the film one of the non-lead characters died.  We kind of saw it coming, but were still saddened to see him go.  Not long after, 2 more died, including one of the 2 main characters.  It was then that Megan looked over and said, “If this last guy dies, then this is going to be a really bad ending for a movie.”

Well, a rescue team was dispatched to save the final climber.  It was here that Megan and I were on the edge of our seats, waiting for some moment of triumph in what had become a ‘downer’ of a movie.  He was cold and his arm was frostbit, but they were going to make it.  They had to.  A dear friend of his stayed out on a ledge all night long to keep him awake so he wouldn’t die.  And in the morning, the rescue team arrived.  He began repelling himself to safety…but the rope was too short!  Oh, no!  Surely they were going to get to him in time, right?  Nope.  Before a second effort could be made, he froze to death.  The End.

To say we were disappointed as we turned off the TV and headed to bed would be an understatement.  Movies just aren’t supposed to end this way!  Movies are entertaining.  Fun.  Joyful.  While “North Face” was gripping, it didn’t seem to rise to our expectations.

***End of Spoilers***

Movies aren’t the only thing in life that disappoints us if it’s different than we expect.  Late last year Megan and I wrote a series called “Unmet Expectations”, and we immediately realized that many couples go into marriage having very specific expectations as to what marriage will be like.  Expectations about time together.  Expectations about money.  Even expectations about sex.  And when these expectations aren’t met, it’s easy to be disappointed with the result.

Take sex, for example.  You have certain expectations as to what your sex life will be like.  You probably have expectations as to what your next sexual encounter with your spouse will be like.  But what happens if those expectations aren’t met?  What happens if the result is different than what you planned out in your mind?

What happens if he isn’t sexually fulfilled because he can’t stop thinking about the fling she had in college with another guy?

What happens if she doubts she pleases her husband sexually because she discovered some risque photos on his laptop?

What happens if it’s obvious he’s thinking about a deadline he has at work?

What happens if it’s obvious she’s thinking about the kids?

Even a best-case scenario: What if he’s hoping for a hard romp in the sack, while she’s hoping for a mild, long, slow, sensuous time together.

All of these “what if’s” can be answered with one of two options: disappointment, or appreciation.  Focusing too much time thinking about the “what if’s” will lead to disappointment.  Instead, taking the opportunity to think about “why” you’re taking the opportunity to connect will lead to appreciation.  Not only appreciation for sex itself, but appreciation for your spouse.  For example:

1) Remember that you chose each other

We write about old flings from high-school and college pretty often, and that’s because we’ve talked with many couples who wrestle deeply with their sexual past.  They have a difficult time forgiving themselves or their spouse for something that happened years ago.  While we can’t cover this subject too much in this post, always remember that you chose each other.  Despite your past or hers, you chose to be with one another until death do you part.  You chose to unite and connect with his/her body the rest of your life.  If you need to, write this down and read it to yourself every day this week.

“I chose to live my life with my spouse, not my past.”

Good.  Now, begin to put that thought in motion, both inside and outside the bedroom.  Get under the sheets to be with your spouse, not your past.  Enjoy sex just as an opportunity to be with your spouse, not your past.  Use sex as an opportunity to avail yourself and to appreciate your spouse for doing the same.  Use it as a way to see into your spouse and know them.  Use it as a way to remember that you chose one another and that you want to live with, be with, and connect with one another.  You may never completely forget your past (or theirs), but you can forgive it.  And by doing so, you can appreciate not only your spouse, but your time together behind closed doors.

2) Remember that ‘different’ sex is better than no sex

You may be living in a situation right now where you’re choosing to not have sex because it’s ‘different’ than you expected it to be.  Well, life is always going to be different than you expect it to be, too.  But let me tell you a secret, having sex that’s ‘different’ than you expected it to be is a whole lot better than having no sex at all.  Every single time you connect, you’re reminding your spouse that you choose him/her.  Every time you connect, they’re reminded that they chose you, too. Your time together may be a little different than you expected it to be, but different isn’t always a bad thing.

3) Remember that ‘different’ isn’t a bad thing

I’m pretty sure that every person who experiences sex for the first time thinks to themself, “Well that was different than what I expected it to be.”  Our culture gives us one indication of what a good romp looks like but reality paints a different picture.  Similarly, one set of parents may educate their child in one way, and another completely different.  So there will be times when you and your spouse have different expectations and desires.

But remember, sex being ‘different’ than what you expect isn’t always a bad thing.  For example, “North Face” was much different than I expected.  But the more I’ve thought about the movie, the more I’ve come to appreciate it.  I appreciate it because it’s not the typical American-made movie.  I appreciate it because it showed some qualities of human nature that we don’t always see in movies.  I appreciate it because it was nothing like what I expected.  In short, I appreciate it because it was different.

You can do this with your sex life as well.

You can appreciate that your spouse is willing to be completely availed for you.

You can appreciate that your spouse chose you, not your past.

You can appreciate that ‘slow and easy’ builds your orgasm even longer.

You can appreciate that sex is more enjoyable than any deadline.

You can appreciate that ‘different’ sex is better than no sex.

In the end, you can appreciate that sex simply brings you together.

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Discuss with your spouse:

1. What would you say to a friend who is discouraged because their sex life is ‘different’ than they expected it to be?

2. Do you have any sexual desires that I’m not aware of?  How can I work toward pleasing you in this way?

3. On average, how often have we had sex over the past few months?  What can we do (or give up) to make more time for sex over the next month?

Linking with: To Love Honor and Vacuum

A Wife’s Insecurities, A Husband’s Response

Today, I (Justin) had the opportunity to write a post for one of our favorite fellow-marriage-bloggers: Hot, Holy, Humorous.  She asked me to consider the question, “What do husbands want wives to know about sexuality in marriage?”  After thinking about it a while, I decided to write about insecurities in marriage.  Surely, many women wrestle through insecurities from time to time…am I right?

Well, to read today’s post, head on over to the Hot, Holy, Humorous blog.  And feel free to drop a note in the comments as well.  She’ll be thrilled to know you stopped by!

Unmet Expectations: Quality Time

Vicki: “Want to watch a movie tonight?”

Jeremy: “Not really.  I was actually hoping to read a bit.”

Vicki: “Seriously, you’d rather read than watch a movie?”

Jeremy: “Is that a problem?”

Vicki: “Well…no.  It’s not a problem.  I assume you’re going to read in here with me, though, right?”

Jeremy: “I wasn’t planning to.  I mean…at least not if you’re planning to watch a movie.”

Vicki: “But I really wanted to be with you tonight.”

Jeremy: “Well I’m more than willing to sit and read in the living room, but I can’t read if the TV is on.”

Vicki: “Fine! Do whatever you want.  I don’t really care, anyway!”

Jeremy: “It’s seems to me that you really do care.  Can we talk about this some more?”

Vicki: “Just forget it, OK?  I don’t really want to talk about it anymore.  Just go.  Read your stupid book!”

Vicki spends the evening watching the movie alone.  She quickly loses interest and just sits in silence randomly browsing the web instead.  Jeremy tries his best to read, but is very confused from their earlier dialog.  He stops reading as he tries to figure out what went wrong.  With questions unanswered, he goes to bed early.

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Quality time.

Think about that phrase for just a minute.

Quality time.

Now really think about it.

Quality time.

If there’s one unmet expectation every couple will experience from time to time, it’s this one.  Disagree?  Well, take the opportunity to honestly answer the following questions:

What does quality time mean?

What does quality time mean…to you?

What does quality time mean…to your spouse?

And there it is, your ah-ha moment of the day.  Quality time means something different for you than it does your spouse.  Not only that, but every single time he or she lives it out differently, you’re frustrated.

Sometimes that frustration turns to anger.

Sometimes it turns to resentment.

Sometimes it turns to sadness.

…..You mean he doesn’t want to spend time with me?

……….You mean she doesn’t love me?

……………You mean he is more attracted to a book…or video game…or TV show?

………………..You mean she is more interested in Pinterest…or blogging…or crafts?

It really is amazing to think through the wide array of emotions that hit you all due to a misunderstanding of “quality time”.  And as we’ve written previously in this series, these emotions have the capability of impacting other areas of your marriage as well.  So, while identifying your emotions and where they’re rooted is important, it’s even more important to figure out what to do with them.

Understand: First things first – recognize that you and your spouse have a different understanding of quality time.  Not only that, but you probably each have contrasting ideas as to how much quality time is needed in an average week/month.  He may think that sex is the only “quality time” you need.  She may think that *gulp* an hour of conversation is needed every day.  What we’re saying is, understand you have different needs and desires in the area of quality time.

Do: Take the opportunity to discuss two things together.  First, is a working definition of “quality time.”  Second, is an equal understanding of how this looks in a marriage relationship.

We won’t lie, this conversation will probably be a lot more difficult than you may initially realize.  The reason for that is that one or both of you may have some unrealistic expectations when it comes to the subject of quality time.  Not only that, but there are only so many hours in a day.  You will have to work together to come up with realistic expectations for your marriage.  Don’t pay attention to what kind of time other couples may have together, simply make the most of the time you have with one another.

Some questions you can ask yourself and/or one another as part of the process may include:

  1. How did your family spend quality time together when you were a child?
  2. In what ways has this affected your understanding of quality time?
  3. When do you feel closest to me?
  4. Are there any new family traditions we can begin ourselves?
  5. Is there anything I can give up this week so that we can spend more time with one another?

Understand: Quality time does not necessarily involve having a similar hobby.  In our home, we have only one similar interest – writing together!  Outside of that, despite our efforts to the contrary, we just haven’t found any similar interests.  If this is anything like your marriage, you must understand that hobbies are not the only avenue to quality time.  Quality time is quality time.  If spending time together is what’s most important, your spouse’s hobbies won’t matter.

Do: Find ways to spend quality time with one another.  In fact, if the day-to-day schedule leaves little room for quality time, then schedule in a day once every 2-3 months where you take the opportunity to be with one another.  Allow the first one to be a day where he chooses what you do and where you go.  Then let her choose and plan your next outing.

If you really want a challenge, spend one entire week joining your spouse in all of their interests and hobbies.  Play a video game with him.  Read a book with her.  Watch an entire football game with him.  Get a pedicure with her.  Whatever it takes, just do whatever YOU have to do in order to spend time with your loved one.

Understand: Your interests and hobbies may not be similar, but your goals ought to be.  Once you have a working definition of quality time and how it works itself out in your marriage, you need to understand you’re going to have to make some personal sacrifices.  You may need to give up some things you enjoy doing for the sake of the goals you’ve set with your spouse.

Do: Prioritize your marriage above your personal interests.  Remember, quality time is the goal.  In order to achieve it, you may need to give up a few things.  In fact, you may even need to give up some ‘good’ things for something even better.

If you happen to be someone who enjoys spending time alone, you may need to give up some of your personal time as well.

You may have less time with your crafts.

Less time with your cars.

Less time with your laptop.

Less time with yourself.

But you’ll have more time with one another.  Your spouse will thank you.  Your marriage will thank you, too.

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This is part 6 in a series we’re writing on Unmet Expectations.  Read the rest of the series here:

Unmet Expectations: Introduction

Unmet Expectations: Rewriting Your Story

Unmet Expectations: Orgasmic Conflict

Unmet Expectations: Better Than The Best

Unmet Expectations: Guilt vs. Shame

Unmet Expectations: Quality Time

Unmet Expectations: Holidays & Family Time

Unmet Expectations: Friends Outside of Marriage

 

Unmet Expectations: Orgasmic Conflict

Man” *thinking to himself* “We’ve been at this for a long time.  She seems to be enjoying it.  Maybe this is going to be the night!”

Woman *thinking to herself* “This is ridiculous.  I can’t keep stringing him along forever.”

Woman: “Oooooohhhhh!”

Man:  *thinking to himself* “I knew it!  This is it!”

Man: “That’s it, my love.  Let it out!”

Woman: “Sorry, dear.  Not happening.  Again.”

Man and Woman: *sigh*

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Orgasm.

This word can only be defined in one way – the epitome of a satisfying sexual encounter.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that many women struggle to achieve orgasm regularly.  Her failure to orgasm often leaves both the man and the woman feeling cheated, frustrated and dissatisfied.  A man feels less like a man if he isn’t able to please his wife.  A woman feels like she isn’t ‘normal’ because she can’t seem to climax through penetration alone.

Her inability to orgasm shouldn’t hinder their relationship or cause contention in their marriage.  But is happens.  Give it enough time, and this situation may lead to a type of performance anxiety for both the husband and wife.

A husband may begin to over-perform, continually looking for a way to evoke rapturous shouts of ecstasy.  Temptation to bring out the ‘big guns’ – touching, massaging, even kissing or licking every piece of her flesh in sight – reveals his desire to please his wife, but his overzealous desire often turns a time of close intimacy into a moment of disaster.  His heart is in the right place, but his moves turn to a missed opportunity.  Connection turns to contention.  After enough of these experiences, a man who feels he is unable to please his wife may begin to doubt himself, or even worse, spite his wife.  “Her inability to climax must be a sign that she isn’t as ‘into me’ as I believed,” he thinks to himself.  Over-performance turns to under-performance.  Why bother, right?

Meanwhile, a wife may believe her inability to ‘perform’ proves there is something wrong with her.  After not experiencing sexual release, she may begin to avoid sex altogether. While she considers taking opportunities to be a willing and even enthusiastic participant, her husband’s continual breathing down her neck about why she hasn’t “had one yet” turns her off.  No matter how many times she tells her husband that orgasm isn’t necessary for her to enjoy their lovemaking, he cannot be dissuaded from his quest. Feelings of inadequacy, hurt and resentment invade what should be a wonderfully bonding experience.

When a husband and a wife are dealing with unmet expectations regarding orgasm regularity, tension builds, sexual satisfaction wanes and intimacy erodes.  It affects not only their sex lives, but every other aspect of their marriage as well.  But orgasmic conflict does not need to hinder the sexual experience.  Positive changes can occur when a couple broadens their definitions of a satisfying sexual encounter.

It’s essential for a couple with these struggles to understand that great sex is not simply an orgasmic experience, it’s an emotional and spiritual experience as well.  Sex is designed to bond, connect and cement a couple together.  Don’t get us wrong, orgasm is great.  But, bodies, souls and minds becoming one flesh in a moment of affection, closeness and partnership is better.  Learning to truly understand sex, building marital friendship and working towards common goals will benefit the entire marriage and enhance the sexual relationship.

Once a couple with these struggles begins to understand sex, their expectations will change.  Contention will return to connection.  Their desire to better ‘know’ one another is what begins to drive them.  His desire is for her, not for her orgasm.  Her desire is for him, not his ability to please her.  So, lest you think that orgasm can never be a goal, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Men:

Don’t pressure her!  Understand that the more pressure she feels to ‘perform’ the less likely she is to enjoy the moment and feel freedom to try other pleasures.  Understand that there are many women do not orgasm through intercourse alone.  They need direct clitoral stimulation.  Try different positions, use your fingers and take your time to figure out what feels most pleasurable to her.  Help her to understand you are willing to do what it takes to help her climax, but also understand that there may be times when she just doesn’t want to.  She’s perfectly content availing herself to you, still giving you opportunities to know her in the most intimate ways.  Though it may be difficult for you to fully comprehend at first, her satisfaction can be complete without orgasm.

Women:

There is nothing wrong with you!  You are not alone if you don’t easily achieve orgasm every time.  Many women don’t.   Feeling isolated and abnormal will only increase your anxiety rather than help you understand what is really going on.  Take some time to familiarize yourself with female anatomy and the physical realities of your body. Intercourse often does not provide the clitoral stimulation necessary for orgasm.  That simple fact may open your eyes (and your husband’s) to a completely different understanding of  how your love life could be better.

Take opportunities to communicate with your husband that when you feel pressured to orgasm, you lose the sense of intimacy (or as others call it, “into me see”). Let him know if you want to keep trying but also help him to know that there are times when you are ‘all in’ for his pleasure alone.  Learn what arouses, excites and send you over the edge, but reassure your man that if you choose not to orgasm it has nothing to do with his ability or prowess.

Both:

Remember that sex isn’t about your spouse being ‘into you’.  It’s about both of you being ‘into us’.  It’s about connection.  As such, your time together will create a deep bond.  A bond of love.  Friendship.  Dependency.  Intimacy.  It’s a bond that should not be broken.  Could not be broken.  Will not be broken.

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This is part 3 in a series on Unmet Expectations.  Other posts may be found here:

Unmet Expectations: Introduction

Unmet Expectations: Rewriting Your Story

Unmet Expectations: Orgasmic Conflict

Unmet Expectations: Better Than The Best

Unmet Expectations: Guilt vs. Shame

Unmet Expectations: Quality Time

Unmet Expectations: Holidays & Family Time

Unmet Expectations: Friends Outside of Marriage

 

Unmet Expectations: Rewriting Your Story

Jennifer: “…excuse me, Pastor.  But when are we going to get to the good stuff?”

Pastor: “The good stuff?

Michael: “You know, the good stuff.  As a part of our premarital counseling, we’ve discussed finances, parenting, and all other things marriage.  When are we going to talk about sex?  You know, the good stuff?”

Pastor: “Oh, we’re going to get there.  I usually save the hardest topics for last.”

Jennifer and Michael: *laughing*

Jennifer: “What’s so hard about sex?  Honestly, we can’t wait!”

Pastor: “Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be everything you thought it would be, and more.  It’s also going to be everything you never expected it to be.  It’s going to be hard.  I’ve talked with dozens of couples through the years who…”

Michael: *interrupts* “We’re not like ‘other’ couples, you know.  We can’t imagine anything ever going wrong in our sex lives.”

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We’ve been married for twelve years.  Twelve.  In the grand scheme of things, we’re still in the adolescent phase of our marriage.  Because of this, we don’t claim to be “experts” in the field of marriage by any stretch of the imagination.  But when it comes to the subjects of marriage and sex, we’ve talked with enough couples to know that before they got married, many of them honestly believed they would always be on the same page when it came to their future sex life.  They didn’t discuss their desires or expectations at length, because, well…they saw sex as the “good stuff”.  They couldn’t imagine this part of their marriage being “off”.  Deep down, they knew the honeymoon wouldn’t last forever.  Still, they couldn’t imagine that one of them would have a desire for sex, and the other wouldn’t.

Nobody told them they may have differing views.

Nobody told them sex wouldn’t always be orgasmic.

Nobody told them this area of their marriage was so emotional.

Nobody told them it would be hard.

In full transparency, we don’t remember much about our premarital counseling 12 1/2 years ago.  But we do remember that when the conversation finally turned to sex, we, too thought we were finally getting to the “good stuff”.  We had talked about the subjects of divorce, finances, yadda yadda yadda.  And now we were finally going to talk about sex.

We were excited!

We were smiling!

We were ready!

And then our pastor said something that neither of us have forgotten.  Unlike the pastor above, ours didn’t mention anything about this part of marriage being hard.  He didn’t warn us that we would both have different desires.  He didn’t have us discuss any of our personal thoughts on the subject.  He didn’t have us share our expectations.  He simply looked at us, gave a thin smile, and then said, “You’ll figure it out.  Now, let’s talk about ____________.”

He was right about one thing…we figured it out.  We didn’t need to have a 9th Grade Health Education textbook on our honeymoon to explain the process.  We were able to “figure out” how to have sex.  All by ourselves.  We even lit candles.  Geniuses, weren’t we?

But within months we discovered that there was a lot more to “figure out” than simply the physical.  Orgasm didn’t always happen.  And the real shocker:

Sexual desire wasn’t always mutual.

Over a period of weeks, and then months, it finally clicked.  We realized that sex really was everything we thought it would be.  But it was also everything we never expected it to be.  We realized we had a lot more to “figure out”.

We know that we’re not alone.  We know that many couples believe sex is always, and only, the “good stuff”.  And to be honest, it can be!  But far too often, it becomes something not so good.  Once the honeymoon high is over, conversations about sex become shorter, not sincere. Sex itself may feel forced, not focused.

While some couples dig-in and choose to “figure it out”, others remain silent.  Those who go the latter route, often experience some pretty harsh consequences.

If the male has a higher sex drive, he’ll become discouraged.  He may begin doubting himself, wondering why he doesn’t turn-on his wife like he thought he did.  Maybe he’ll masturbate, or find some other way to fulfill his sexual urges.  This will ultimately produce feelings of shame, all of which can be traced back to his wife.  To avoid those feelings, he’ll begin avoiding her.  Longer shifts at work.  Perhaps a new hobby.  Finally, when she notices some things seem a little off in their marriage, he’ll give the typical, “I think we’re doing fine,” response.  He doesn’t really know how to tell her she isn’t fulfilling him, so he remains silent.

If the female has a higher sex drive, she’ll begin to doubt her beauty.  To counter, she may go so far as to throw out little hints of flirtation to other men she sees on a regular basis.  She has no real intention of wooing them, she just wants to know that she’s still “got it”.  When one begins to flirt back, she’ll stop, reminding herself of her husband.  Maybe she’ll throw out some sexual hints to her hubby that evening.  Maybe he’ll respond that evening, but unknowingly reject her the next two.  Doubts linger.

The sad truth is that this situation can happen to any couple.

Whether they’ve been married 6 months.

10 years.

30 years.

It can happen.

How can a couple work together to be on the same page?  How can a couple “figure it out”?

Well, here’s one idea…

Take some time to think about the ideal marriage and sex life.  Refrain from thinking of ‘perfection’ (such a dangerous word), and just focus on what would be ideal.  You don’t have to get too specific, just specific enough so that your spouse understands your desires.

How much time would you get to spend together every week?  How often would you have sex?  How long would those encounters last?  Does he recite poetry?  Does she do a strip tease?  What is the lighting like?  The temperature?  Foreplay?  Think through as many of your marital and sexual expectations as possible.

Now, write down your ideas in the form of a story.  Simply title your story, “My Ideal Marriage and Sex Life Would Be…” and write it out.  Keep it short.  Under 1,000 words.

Take as long as you want to work on it.  Maybe a day.  Maybe a week.  The more you think through what you really desire in your marriage and sex life, the more ideal it will be.

Just remember, your spouse is going to be doing this activity as well.  Then, when you’re both ready, come together and discuss your thoughts.  Maybe you’ll both have very similar ideas.  Maybe you’ll be way off!  Either way, focus your conversation around one simple question: “What changes can we make so that these stories are a reality for our marriage?”

As you discuss it, you’re going to write a new story.  One you both agree on.  The story of YOU gets set aside.  The story of US begins to be written.  Not only do you write it down, you begin to live it out.  Sex becomes exotic, not exhausting.  Experiences together become magical, not mundane. Expectations become more than normal, they’re natural.  As you live this out you’ll begin to know and be intimate with your spouse in ways deeper than you imagined.  Continue this story long enough, and you may one day realize you were right, you aren’t anything like ‘other’ couples.

Your story may change from time to time.

It may need to be refined.

In some seasons, rewritten.

But it’s your story, and you’re writing it together.

You’re living it together.

You’re experiencing it together.

Most of all, you’re enjoying it.

Together.
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This is part 2 in a series on Unmet Expectations.  Read the rest of the series:

Unmet Expectations: Introduction

Unmet Expectations: Rewriting Your Story

Unmet Expectations: Orgasmic Conflict

Unmet Expectations: Better Than The Best

Unmet Expectations: Guilt vs. Shame

Unmet Expectations: Quality Time

Unmet Expectations: Holidays & Family Time

Unmet Expectations: Friends Outside of Marriage

Linking With: Women Living Well, To Love Honor and Vacuum

Unmet Expectations: Introduction

Derek and Samantha are just 2 weeks from their wedding day.  They’ve had some pretty good premarital counseling.  They’ve discussed finances.  Children.  Their childhood.  Their hopes and dreams for their future family.  They’ve even discussed their hopes for their sexual relationship.  But even though they’ve talked through all of these things, they both have very different ideas as to how all of these things will play out, especially their sex lives.

Derek is thinking, “Samantha is a terrific and beautiful woman.  She can’t wait to connect with me, and I’m sure she’s going to be an amazing sexual partner.  Not only that, but I’m sure we’ll always ‘just know’ when it’s time to have sex.  It’s going to be amazing.”

Meanwhile, Samantha is thinking, “Derek is such a gentle, sweet man.  I can’t wait to connect with him, but I’m sure he’s going to take things nice and slow.  I’m sure he’ll only want to have sex when I truly feel ready.  Not only that, but I’m certain it’s going to feel amazing every single time.”

Unfortunately, their preconceived ideas couldn’t have been further from reality.  Over the first few months of marriage, Samantha felt awkward about their sexual relationship.  It felt good, at least some of the times.  But it also hurt a little bit, and orgasm never came easily.  She wondered why TV and Movies made this look so amazing, because she never really felt amazed by this part of their  relationship.  After just a few months, she desired sex much less frequently than Derek.  She quietly began to take up some hobbies, and spent much time wrestling through what was wrong with her.

As Samantha began wrestling through these doubts, Derek was left feeling very frustrated as well.  He enjoyed sex every time, but he knew something felt off.  He knew she wasn’t nearly as pleased and excited as he was.  After these first few months, he was feeling much less like a man, because he wasn’t able to please his wife like he thought he would.  Before marriage, he thought they would both ‘just know’ when it was time to have sex.  Now, he’s beginning to question not only their sex lives, but their entire relationship.  He never shares these doubts, but facts are facts, and their sex life wasn’t going anywhere.  Not only that, but it’s slowly beginning to impact other parts of their relationship as well.

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Whether we’re willing to admit it to our spouse or not, we all have some preconceived ideas as to what our sex lives will be like. Sometimes we have these ideas before marriage, and like Derek and Samantha, we think it’s always going to be some earth-shattering experience.  But we soon discover that not only is it not earth-shattering, but it’s difficult, frustrating, and doesn’t really even feel very good all the time.

Other times we get married and have a great sex life!  Both of us want it all the time.  Orgasm comes pretty naturally.  Pleasing one another is fun.  But then children come along…or career changes, or something else.  And over a period of 3 months, or even 3 years, one spouse has a dramatic change in libido.  Maybe it’s for a medical reason.  Maybe it’s because there’s a lack of trust in the relationship.  Maybe it’s for some other reason.  Whatever it is, sex becomes something neither spouse ever expected it to be.

Before things get too far out of hand, one spouse comes up with a master plan.  Out of nowhere, they begin a dinner conversation:

“My love, I want the best for our sex life.  What can we do to make it more fulfilling and enjoyable for both of us?”

Nah.  Let’s be honest.  There was no master plan.  Conversations like this are too confrontational.  Who wants to hear something is wrong with their sex life?  What does happen, more often than naught, is that the couple goes on thinking this is normal.  They remain silent, or at best, they find friends who are in a similar situation.  In the end they’re both left thinking to themselves, “This is just the way marriage is.”  They begin to lie to themselves, admitting their preconceived notions of sex and marriage must have been wrong.  They never really discuss it, because if they do it turns into an argument.  So, instead of pointing fingers, they point the remote toward the television.  Or maybe they focus their energy on important things, like children.  Sex fades away.  Eye contact fades away.  In essence, hopes and dreams of a great marriage, everything, it all fades away.  They appear “fine” to their friends and family, but on the inside, they’re slowing dying a painful death.

If your experience in marriage is different, then good for you!  Unfortunately, our experience shows us that many couples choose to NOT talk about their sex lives.  And when their sex life sucks or is not what they expected, it often results in emotional shutdown, withdrawal, frustration, anger and pain.  Problems that occur within the sexual relationship often linger and cause a rift to occur in what would otherwise be a wonderful marriage.  Days turn into weeks.  Weeks to months.  Months to years.  Laughs occur when sharing stories of their children, but never stories of their marriage.  There may be sexual excitement once or twice a year, but that’s normal, right?

This may not describe your marriage to a T.  But, if there’s any reality in any of this within your marriage, we want to tell you that it’s not the way God created marriage.  Your relationship with your spouse was meant to be something special.  And sex was designed to be a crucial aspect of your marriage!

Sex connects.

Cements.

Reveals.

Avails.

Serves.

Pleases.

Unites.

Answers your doubts.

Rids your fears.

Sex makes a couple close.  When sex isn’t good….it affects every area of the relationship.  When it is good…it affects every area of the relationship.  It’s just the way God designed it to be.

Over the next few posts we want to address the most typical unmet expectations that occur within the sexual relationship.

Maybe you will see your own marriage in some of these areas.

Maybe as you read through this series, you will stop placing blame on your spouse.

Maybe you will stop feeling shame.

Maybe you will stop feeling guilt.

Maybe you will stop thinking your marriage is ‘normal’.

Maybe you will begin to change your perspective about sex.

Maybe you will be willing to discuss it, not dismiss it.

Maybe you will begin to put your spouse’s desires ahead of yours.

Maybe you will begin to put your marriage ahead of your children.

Maybe you will begin to serve your spouse instead of yourself.

Maybe your marriage will go to the next level.

Maybe higher.

Maybe this will be hard.

Maybe this will be worth it.

Maybe….

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This is our first post in a series on Unmet Expectations.  Read additional posts here:

Unmet Expectations: Introduction

Unmet Expectations: Rewriting Your Story

Unmet Expectations: Orgasmic Conflict

Unmet Expectations: Better Than The Best

Unmet Expectations: Guilt vs. Shame

Unmet Expectations: Quality Time

Unmet Expectations: Holidays & Family Time

Unmet Expectations: Friends Outside of Marriage

 

Linking With: Women Living Well, To Love Honor and Vacuum

Practical vs. Passionate Romantics: Invite More Romance Into Your Marrage

In our last post we talked about how there are two different types of romantics in the world.  Practical romantics and passionate romantics.  Within a committed and loving marriage, each one of these romantics shows the other how they define romance by living out their definition.

Sadly, what often happens is that the signals get crossed.  A passionate romantic speaks and acts in a way that communicates romance very passionately.  Therefore, they may wonder why their [practical] spouse doesn’t respond well to romance.  Even worse, they may take their practical spouses mannerisms as rejection.

On the other hand, the practical romantic may be left wondering, “What’s the big deal?  Of course I love you!  But I do really need to do ‘that’ to show you I love you?!”  How can you get on the same page?

First, understand what kind of romantic you are, and then do the same for your spouse.  As you can see, if you are one kind of romantic and your spouse is the other kind of romantic, you’re both going to have very different definitions of ‘romance’. If one of you happens to have too narrow of a definition of ‘romance’, it will cause occasional problems in your marriage as well as your sex life.

If you happen to be in a marriage with two passionate romantics, good for you.  Your marriage probably  just oozes romance all the time!  The only caution here is that romance not become about competition or out doing each other.  Neither do you want it to be about comparison.  Romance is supposed to build friendship and fun in your marriage. Comparison and competition will not do that. So, be passionate.  But be compassionate as well.

If your marriage is made up of two practical romantics (that would be us!) remind yourself that romance does matter.  If you let the romance fade, as it inevitably will, you may end up in a place you never expected to be.  Keep the fun, excitement, anticipation and thoughtfulness of romance a part of your life.  This can be accomplished by taking purposeful opportunities to romance one another.  Instead of simply jumping in the sheets, add a few minutes of extra foreplay.  Instead of being practical all the time, do something spontaneous once every few months.  Even though you’re practical people, make sure your spouse knows how passionately in love you are with them.

If one of you is a passionate romantic and the other is practical, take note:

If you are a passionate romantic, take the lead and ask for romance. Rather than silently resenting your spouse, plan a romantic evening and enjoy it rather than being upset that all the planning was done by you. If you want your spouse to compliment you on how you look, tell them what you love about their body and then ask them in return what they like best about your body.  This is not manipulation; rather it is setting the stage for them to make a move in the right direction.  They’re not going to take ten steps in one week, so remember that this process will take time.  The most important thing is to extend grace.  Your spouse does love you.  Though they may not always show it in the way you want them to, remind yourself that their natural ability to “woo” you is not related to their love for you.

If you are a practical romantic, establish routines and remind yourself to appreciate and care for your spouse.  It could be as simple as having a parting kiss everyday or putting it on your calendar to write an encouraging note or send a gift to your spouse.  Be attentive to what they want and if you still have no clue, ask.  Let them teach you how they define romance and then be a good student.  And if all else fails, show up naked.  That’ll get the attention of a passionate romantic real quick!

The bottom line of what I (Megan) am learning about romance: Romance is an invitation.  An invitation to grow with one another, have fun with one another, enjoy one another, compliment one another, think of one another.  That’s a lot of “one another’s”.  Invite romance into your marriage and you may be surprised by the outcome.   Take time to regularly communicate about romance.  Caring for each other, meeting your spouse’s needs and helping them meet your needs will lead to a passionate marriage and help romance guide you through many years to come.