Standard of Beauty:

Marriage books come and go.  While there are great marriage books out there (including the one we’re looking to study in depth this Fall), stepping back to look at much older literature often helps us to see things about the  marriage relationship that authors today may not naturally pick up on.  For example, the Bible shares immense wisdom in the realm of marriage.  It includes wisdom on how to be loving, the excitement of the sexual relationship and oh, so much more.  But there’s another piece of wisdom that’s sometimes overlooked, and it’s one that ought to be of great significance, even in today’s culture.

After God creates everything in existence and continually deems everything to be “good” or even “very good”, something in the script changes.  In Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  Afterwards, God creates Eve, and when Adam sees her for the very first time he says a phrase that is the first piece of poetry ever spoken:

This one, at last, is bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh;
this one will be called “woman,”
for she was taken from man.

It goes on say that both the man and his wife (terminology indicated they were indeed married) were naked, and felt no shame.

Now, there’s a lot going on here.  We could write about how they were naked and felt no shame and the significance of this in their sexual relationship.  But there’s something else going on here as well.  Adam was the first man.  Eve was the first woman.  There were no other human beings on the planet at this time.  Therefore, Eve was the standard of beauty for Adam.  And Adam was the standard of beauty for Eve.

Adam wasn’t tempted to look at other women.  Eve wasn’t tempted to look at other men.  All they knew was that they could look at each other and feel no shame.  He didn’t have to feel like she was comparing his body to anybody else, and she didn’t have to feel like he was comparing her body to anybody else.  Visually, emotionally, spiritually, they each defined one another’s standard of beauty.

Indeed the world has changed a lot since then.  Today, there are over 7 billion people in the world.  Men see scantily clad women in advertisements dozens of times a day.  And sadly, men today are often shown in one of two extremes, either as strong and sexually attractive, or as unintelligent, unattractive oaf’s who don’t know how to lead their family.  Given this onslaught of attention our culture gives to sexual appeal, we would do well to remember our own standard of beauty – our spouse.

As Adam looked at Eve and broke out in poetry, so today should men be able to look at their wives and see her for who she is.  Not comparing her to anybody else.  His standard of what’s attractive, what’s beautiful, what’s alluring ought to come from his wife, and only from his wife.  The same goes for women.  Women ought not see attractive men in advertisements and visually compare them to her husband.  Instead, her standard of beauty comes from her husband.  He ought to be encouraged about his looks just as she should, and he ought to be encouraged about how he can lead and not be ridiculed because another man may be a different type of leader.

Looking at our spouse as our standard of beauty will change the way we view other relationships as well.  Indeed, other friendships outside of marriage will come and go through the years, but our relationship with our spouse will surpass them all.  They are our standard of beauty in all areas of life.  They are the one with whom we can share everything.  They are one with whom we can be vulnerable in all areas of life, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Truly, it is with them and them alone that we may be naked and unashamed.

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In what ways does your spouse define your standard of beauty?  What precautions do you and your spouse keep in place to ensure you remain one another’s standard of beauty?

30 Day Challenge: Communication

One of the things we’re challenging the Marriage Works crowd to do is to complete a 30 Day Challenge in the area of communication.  The challenge: clearly communicate with your spouse 15 minutes a day for 30 straight days.

Some may think this sounds easy.  But we’re not talking about the, “Can you pick up some eggs at the grocery store?” conversations.  Nor are we talking about the, “The kids need to be here, here, here and here this week…let’s get on the same page and figure out who’s taking them there and when.”  Instead, this is REAL conversation.  This is, “How are you doing?  How are we doing?  How are the kids doing?  How can I support you this week?  What struggles are you currently having?”  These kinds of things and many more…for 15 FULL minutes every single day.

Some of you may be excited to dive right in…but some may not even know where to begin!  For those who fall into this 2nd category, here are some ideas to get some conversations started.  It’s not a list that must be followed for the challenge, just some ideas to help you out.  Who knows, 30 days with 15 full minutes a day may start a pattern that you hope to continue for many months and years to come!  So have some great communication with your spouse.  Be reminded that you’re “one flesh”…be reminded that you’re best friends.  Be reminded that no matter what happens in life, you’re going to go through it together.

  1. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
  2. Name something you’ve never done but would like to try. Why does it appeal to you? What’s kept you from trying it?
  3. If you weren’t in the profession you are, what would be your other dream profession and why?
  4. If someone gave you enough money to start a business of your own, what kind of business would you start?
  5. Think back to your childhood or teenage years.  What do you miss doing the most?
  6. Can you think of something you craved when you were young and were denied?
  7. What was the best part of your childhood?
  8. The one argument your parents had, that you try to avoid, would be over…
  9. If our house was on fire and you had a chance to grab only five things before leaving, they would be…
  10. What friend has most influenced your life?  How?
  11. What is an accomplishment you feel most proud of?
  12. What do you think is your greatest personal strength?
  13. What do you think is your greatest personal weakness?
  14. What’s the one thing you would want to be remembered for?
  15. What do you feel the most regret about in life?
  16. What fears do you wrestle with the most? How do you manage them?
  17. What makes you most angry (in marriage or life)?
  18. What three things do you like doing with me the most?
  19. Can you name three qualities that attracted you when you met me/got to know me?
  20. Whose marriage do you most consider to be a model marriage? What is it about their marriage that you most admire?
  21. Are there some times when a disagreement needs to be postponed? if so, when? How can we discern those kinds of times?
  22. What have you learned to appreciate about me that you didn’t know when we first married?
  23. Are you satisfied with the amount of time we spend together? The amount of time we spend separately?
  24. At what times have we felt happiest together?
  25. How much is each of us contributing to our financial health? (In dollars, or otherwise.) Is each person’s contribution acceptable to the other?
  26. How have we learned to cope with the normal, day-to-day irritations of married life? How could we handle them even better?
  27. Do we feel more emotionally connected than we did early in our relationship?
  28. How are we doing at keeping our marriage a priority?
  29. Tell me about a time when you felt really close to me.  What made you feel that way?
  30. Is our sexual connection satisfying to you? To me?

Guide for Newlyweds: A Message for Women

We have some friends who are nearing their wedding day, and this has helped us to realize that there isn’t a great deal of information out there for what brand new couples should expect in the bedroom.  We are – and always will be! – strong advocates of waiting until marriage to experience sexual intimacy.  Our series on the Pain of Past Sexual Experiences is only the tip of the iceberg on why we believe all couples should wait before considering any type of physical sex.  But what should couples think through and discuss before they get married?  What specifics should each know before diving under the covers for the first time?  We’ll cover some thoughts for women below:

1) Understand your own beauty and offer yourself to him freely

Few things hinder sexual intimacy in marriage more than misunderstanding your own beauty.  Your husband chose you, that means he finds you attractive and worth forsaking all others to be with.  Marriage is the highest compliment about your inner and outer beauty in his eyes.  You should be looking forward to the sexual bond you will have with your husband.  Of the millions of women in the world, he chose you and only you to be with for the remainder of your lives! And while he married you for many more reasons than sexual intimacy, he may crave it more often than you. Our advice: don’t turn down his sexual advances. Your body now belongs to him just as much as his belongs to you. Confidence that your sex life can be great is a wonderful place to start.

2) Understand that he may be nervous, too

If you’re feeling a bit nervous about your first sexual encounter, don’t fret, he’s probably very nervous as well. There’s some kind of misnomer that most couples feel that you need to “perform” well for one another. Sex isn’t a performance. It’s a wonderful moment to connect physically, emotionally, and spiritually with your new husband. If all goes well, you’re going to experience sex with him thousands of times throughout your lives together. Therefore, be sure to offer him words of encouragement. Your first time will not be the greatest sex you’ll ever have, but it will get better in time, so enjoy yourselves!

3) Understand that he will be pleased

As stated above, he’s going to have a lot of different emotions for this sexual encounter. He may not know how to verbalize all of his thoughts well, but know that he well be extremely pleased with your body. He may have never seen you naked, but he won’t be able to wait to see you naked again…and again…and again.

4) Understand that sex is messy

Perhaps you’ve done a little bit of reading and research on sex ahead of time, but if not, you need to know that sex can be kind of messy. Much of what he ejaculates into your body will come out, some of it slowly. While some women are fine jumping in the sack and not caring about any potential “mess” others may like to have a small towel handy so neither of you are sleeping in the wet spot.

5) Understand that it’s OK to be free in the bedroom

If you’re a “good girl” and you think that dirty talk, moaning, and the occasional wild romp are inappropriate, you may want to reconsider. Yes, sex can be soft, quiet, and deeply intimate. If that’s yours (and his) preference, that’s great! But we want to let you know there’s nothing sinful about telling him how good things feel (in fact, it will help him to be an even better lover). Sex is emotional and it is spiritual,  but it’s also physical. And if the headboard bangs up against wall, or the mattress sounds its age, or you want to be a little vocal, don’t shy away.

The sooner you experience sexual freedom in your marriage – the better your long-term sex lives will be.