5 Words Every Marriage Needs:

Marriages may fail, or at the very least atrophy from the over-use of negative words.  Phrases such as, “Well it’s not my fault…” or, “Do you know what your problem is?” certainly do not advocate a healthy marriage relationship.  Likewise, some negative words may be cast in a subtle way, leaving the listener to interpret them negatively.  Phrases such as, “Our house is far too cluttered for company,” may be translated as, “What have you been doing all day?”  These kinds of comments can build up over time, and piece by piece, comment by comment, they suck the life out of the marriage.  These statements are almost always individualistic in nature.  They are self-centered, not marriage centered.

In order to avoid this, there are some positive phrases every person in every relationship needs to say on a regular basis.  These words ensure that each partner sees the marriage relationship as far more important than their own pride and ego.  Five of these statements are as follows:

1. I am sorry.

Each an every one of us is going to mess up in our marriage.  None of us have life all figured out.  So, it stands to reason that the person we share our lives with most intimately will be the person who sees all the inconsistencies and fallibility in our lives. The ability to say, “I’m sorry,” shows humility. Humility is an important part of marriage because it recognizes that we have made and will make mistakes and that we care enough to recognize that our spouse can be hurt by us.  It is often easier to recognize our spouse’s need to say they are sorry, to recognize that they have inconsistencies and selfish ways.  That is the reason “I’m sorry” must be part of a good marriage.  When we recognize there is nothing we can do to control how the other person acts, thinks or views us we come to realize that we are only responsible for ourselves.  It is only our own inadequacies, failures and selfishness that we can change.  We must be willing to be humble and say we are sorry for the problems we bring to the equation.

2. I forgive you.

In marriage (as with all relationships) we must learn to forgive.  We must learn to forgive for a very fundamental reason: we so desperately need forgiveness ourselves.  There are times where we are wronged by our spouse and there are times when our spouse is wronged by us.  Withholding forgiveness locks our marriage in a prison and holds our spouse at arms length.  There is no satisfaction on either side in the absence of forgiveness, just an angry mess. Learning to forgive all offenses, whether small or large, is important to a healthy marriage.  It releases a divine power to love within the relationship and true oneness can only occur when no offense is being held.  Forgiveness is not so much a feeling as it is a choice.  Make the choice to forgive and allow the emotional side of things follow.

3. I need you.

Every human has a deep longing to understand their purpose. While marriage cannot answer that question for every individual (as that is a much deeper spiritual search) marriage is certainly part of how an individual’s purpose is to be lived out.  Admitting out loud that you need your spouse is humbling yourself before them.  It’s confessing that they bring something to the relationship that you cannot provide.  It’s owning up to the fact that you’re not as great as you think you are.  Not only that, but admitting to your spouse that you need them makes them feel appreciated in countless ways as well.  To be needed often means to be appreciated.

4. I appreciate you.

Most days are filled with the same mundane and routine tasks.  We get up, work, eat, relax, go to bed. Then the next day we do the same thing. In the moments of doing the ordinary things in life, if our spouse speaks appreciation for them, it serves to give our attitude a boost.  Laundry, dishes, mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage are tasks that can be seen as drudgery. However, when those tasks are noticed and appreciated, there is a sense of value and worth instilled. Taking time to appreciate not just the out of the ordinary but also the normal and extremely ordinary tasks our spouse does is highly beneficial to our marriages.

5. I love you.

This one may go without saying, but truly, “I love you” are words that need to inhabit the walls of our homes.  Not just the sound of them rolling off our tongues but also the actions, respect and follow through of what they mean.  Love is not given because it is deserved or earned.  Much like forgiveness, love is a choice.  Love is not attached to a certain or specific reason, it is given to the whole being. Love is a gift, and frankly at times it is one that we don’t feel much like giving.  But love is a virtue in which we must follow through.  Not only saying, “I love you,” but being loving, and always believing in it’s unending power.

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Have any of these words made a difference in your marriage?  What would you add to the list?

Linking with: Women Living Well and To Love Honor and Vacuum

The Pain of Past Sexual Experiences: Part 3

This is part 3 in a series dedicated to dealing with the pain of past sexual experiences.  Last week, we talked specifically about the act of forgiveness, and how you cannot forgive your spouse for their past experiences (or yourself for your own past) if you have not yet received forgiveness.  While many of you have accepted this forgiveness, you may still believe your current sex life isn’t what you’d like it to be.  You may have thoughts such as, “If my spouse hadn’t done this, then maybe we’d have better intimacy.” Or perhaps, “If I hadn’t done what I did in the past, I think I would make myself more available…but my lack of judgment back then still bothers me to the point where I don’t want sex because I don’t want the reminder of what I did.”

The problem with this type of mindset is that it slowly spreads like a cancer to other parts of your marriage and other aspects of your personal life as well. The same emotions you have experienced for years (anger, shame, guilt, embarrassment) you begin experiencing in all aspects of life.  It may have begun as emotions regarding your sexual past, but those emotions spread into thoughts on parenting, finances, and continue into every other relationship you have as well.

Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, this is living in unforgiveness.  And unforgiveness will keep you from freedom for the rest of your life.

How does the forgiveness process begin?

First and foremost, you must come to acknowledge that forgiveness is a choice. For months, maybe years, you’ve been focusing on the negative feelings and attitudes that come with these emotional scars.  When you choose to forgive, you’re choosing to acknowledge that while those scars may be real, they can heal.  There may not be a special cream that will make your scars radically disappear. But instead of bringing you emotional torment, they may be used as a positive reminder of what sex is supposed to be, instead of as a reminder of what is has been.

I was recently talking with a friend of mine on this subject of past sexual experiences and he was correct to remind me that before marriage, we’re all tempted to do exactly what we’re not supposed to do.  We’re tempted to give in. To have sex. To enjoy it.  To do what we should not do.  After marriage, sadly, we’re tempted again to do what we’re not supposed to do.  We’re tempted to focus on past poor decisions and not current good decisions.  We’re tempted to not enjoy sex with our spouse.  To think sex is dirty.  We’re always tempted to do what’s easy, but not what’s right.

The beginning of the forgiveness process, then, is your choice to do what’s right.  It’s taking the emotional initiative to not give in to temptations that you know are continuing to cause you heartache.  It’s choosing to remember to love your spouse and yourself in spite of your sexual past.  Is this a choice you’re prepared to make?

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1) Last week we asked you to identify what emotions you may be experiencing due to past sexual experiences (guilt, shame, anger, etc.) Have you noticed these same emotions in other areas of your life as well?  Do you believe there may be a correlation?

2) What makes it so difficult for you to choose to begin the forgiveness process?

Application: One common response to #2 deals with the aspect of confession.  At this point in the series, we believe if you truly desire to choose the path of forgiveness, it’s time to have a long conversation with your spouse.  Talk with them very specifically about the emotions you’ve been harboring toward them, or yourself. Tell them you believe this has caused some interference with how you view your sex life, and that you’re making a purposeful decision to change. Then – and only then – take the opportunity to enjoy one another intimately. Sometimes, the best reminder of what sex should be is to enjoy it the way it was meant to be.

The Pain of Past Sexual Experiences: Part 2

This is part 2 in a series dedicated to dealing with the pain of past sexual experiences.  In our first post of this series, we simply introduced the topic and wondered what type of feedback we would receive. That said, the feedback we received on this subject far outweighed our expectations.  The pain many experience in this regard is very real, and there are a wide variety of reasons one may emotionally struggle with this subject.

I (Justin) write this post and readily understand it may come across as “preachy”.  It’s not my intention, but it’s difficult not to sound that way when you speak on the subject of forgiveness.  While this series will continue, this week we’d like to focus specifically on the pain/frustration you feel regarding previous sexual experiences.  This may be the sexual past of your current spouse (he/she was promiscuous with others prior to meeting you) or perhaps you are dealing with the pain/frustration of your own sexual past. Maybe you had a one night stand, or enjoyed yourself a bit too much at a party, or…whatever.  The point is, you gave yourself to somebody else and years later you feel like you’re still picking up the pieces.  What do you do to deal with this pain?

Understand that you cannot forgive others (or yourself) until you accept forgiveness.

You may want to read that a few times to let it sink in.  And yes, it says what you think it says.  You cannot forgive someone else of their sexual past (or yourself for your own sexual past), until you accept forgiveness, first.  What does this mean?

Maybe you’re a Christian…and maybe you’re not.  But this subject is extremely important if you’re ever going to be truly rid of your pain. When you read the bible there is a great deal of confusing stuff in there.  I’m  a pastor, and even I’ll admit there are passages within the bible that are very difficult to comprehend.  Nevertheless, there is one lingering question about scripture that all people of all faiths and backgrounds ask…and it’s the one question that separates Christianity from every other belief system out there.  That question is, “Why did Jesus have to die?”

It seems like a simple question, doesn’t it?  But it’s not.  It’s extremely complex.  I mean, why couldn’t God just look down on humanity and say, “You’re forgiven!”…and let that be the last word.  No, no, no, that’s far too simple.  And here’s why:

Sin is very real.  If you’re dealing with pain from past sexual experiences, you know it’s real.  There’s something deep within you that has helped you to realize there is a “right” and there is a “wrong”…and you’ve done something wrong.  And guess what?  All people have done something wrong in the eyes of God.  I have. You have.  We all have.  We’re not God, and we do ungodly things.  But this is the beauty of Christianity in a nutshell: Jesus had to die and experience the pain he experienced…so that we don’t have to.  Jesus suffered.  He was physically beaten and whipped to a pulp.  Emotionally, he had the entire wrath of God poured down on him.  And he did it all, so that you wouldn’t have to deal with the pain.  He did it, so you could be forgiven.  In fact, even as he was being beaten and crucified, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  His entire life was about forgiving others for the wrongs they had done.

When it comes to deep wounds from your sexual past, you cannot move forward until you accept this.  If you haven’t truly accepted who he is…if you haven’t come to acknowledge you’re not God and you’ve done the “wrong” stuff…if you haven’t truly accepted his forgiveness…you can’t be free from the pain you experience.  It’s just not possible.

This is the first step in dealing with the pain of your sexual past.  Accepting the forgiveness that Jesus greatly desires you to experience.

If you’re thinking, “But what about the scars from my past” or “that dirtbag doesn’t deserve forgiveness”,  we’ll think through some of those in future weeks.  For now, think on these things this week:

1) Have you truly accepted the forgiveness Jesus so freely provides?  If not, why?  And if not, we encourage you to read the book of John. You may not understand it all immediately, but it’ll tell you a lot about the forgiveness Jesus provides.

If you have accepted his forgiveness, then we encourage you to think through:

2) Why does this experience still bother you?  What specific emotions are you feeling (guilt, shame, anger, etc.) Do your best to figure out exactly which emotions are bothering you.

3) Is this past experience causing these same emotions to arise in other areas of your life?  Identify these areas.

We realize this series is heavier than some of our other posts, but we wholeheartedly believe this area is essential for discovering true freedom in your intimacy with your spouse.  And we truly hope and pray you find it useful. We’ll pick up with part 3 next week.