The Glue that Holds a Marriage Together

Couples who are active in their spiritual life together have a much higher rate of marital success. The opposite is also true. Couples who don’t practice their faith together tend to fall apart when life gets tough or when there are sexual temptations. Pursuing faith together, and maintaining a spiritual focus, are crucial to growing a strong, close marriage.

glue-306757_1280For this reason, Kay Arthur teaches that a relationship with Christ is the glue that can bond a husband and wife together for life, the secret that can hold a marriage together.

Genesis 2:24 says when a man and a woman marry, they become one flesh. The emphasis is on physical intimacy or oneness. However, the unity the Lord wants couples to experience extends far beyond the physical dimension of the relationship. It includes intellectual and spiritual unity as well.

Humans are three-fold beings. We are physical, intellectual, and spiritual, and the Lord designed us to remain active in all three ways throughout our lives. To omit any one of these dimensions is to neglect a third of what life is all about. Some couples leave out two aspects of humanness in their marriage, focusing only on sex, disregarding the importance of the mind and the spirit.

When we do this, we’re limiting their relationship to only one-third of our potential for intimacy, meaning, and happiness together. We’re simply too shallow as a couple, and our marriage is headed for troubled waters, certain to crash against the rocks or run aground.

Early in our marriage, at a time when my wife and I were really busy, with three kids at home, finances that were really tight, and life was stressful, we didn’t know the connection between spirituality and happiness in marriage. What we did know was that because of our circumstances, we got out of the habit of reading our Bibles, praying together, and taking time to worship together. We were totally unaware of the invisible toll it was taking.

We were snippy with each other, which wasn’t usually the case. We didn’t have much patience. And, I was facing some strong sexual temptations. In the middle of this chapter of our lives, Linda said to me one day, “You know, we haven’t prayed together or done family devotions in several weeks. I wonder if that’s part of why we’re struggling.”

She was right. Almost as soon as we reinstated our spiritual disciplines, a sense of unity was restored, we got along better, and the other circumstances were much easier to handle.

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Words Can Inspire or Deflate

It’s important that husband and wife talk together regularly. That’s how you grow a good relationship. But how you talk to each other will make or break your marriage, because words are powerful.

Too often, people are careless with their words, giving no thought to what they’re doing to their mate. Or worse, some are intentionally cruel with their words, actually trying to hurt, damage, or destroy the one they’re supposed to love.

Words can inspire or deflate the person you’re talking with. Imagine the impact of hearing your husband or wife telling you every day, “You are wonderful. You’re good-looking. You’re smart. You can do anything you put your mind to.” Now, imagine what happens if instead, what you hear every day is, “You’re dumb. You’ll never amount to much. You can’t do anything right.”

When our kids were young, we started telling them, “You are talented and creative.” I don’t know how many zillion times they heard it, but we told them pretty often. I’m pretty sure they believed it then, and I think they still do. There’s a certain sense of people becoming what they believe. Therefore, it’s important that we give the right messages.

Words Have the Power of Life and Death

Words can kill or heal. Every time you insult, name-call, or say something derogatory to your partner, you are bringing illness or death. It’s like your words are a thermostat or volume control. By speaking positives, encouragement, and inspiration, you’re turning up hope, confidence, health, and life. But by speaking negatives, discouragement, and insults, you’re turning up despair, stress, sickness, and death.

The ramifications are far-reaching, impacting your partner’s health, self-confidence, and other relationships. It can affect performance in any area of life: work or school, athletics, driving, or sex. If you’re on the same team, you want your teammate to be as healthy as possible. So, you don’t speak in ways that lead to sickness and death. Instead, you are careful to promote life, health, and joy. And you do that with your words.

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Life & Death: the Power of the Tongue

Proverbs 18:21 says life and death are in the power of the tongue.

When I came across Deborah Tannen’s book, You Just Don’t Understand, it looked good, so I bought it, took it home, and placed it on my nightstand. That night I picked it up and started reading, and reading, and reading. The more I read, the more I laughed out loud. The subtitle—what it’s really all about—is Men and Women in Conversation.

“What are you laughing about?” my wife wondered.

“I’m laughing cause she’s talking about you and me.”

“What?”

Every night I read a few more pages, still laughing. I’m sure Dr. Tannen didn’t mean for her book to be taken as a comedy. She wrote it as a straight-forward description of the way men and women communicate and fail to communicate, based on the way they think and their goals and purposes in the relationship. But when you see yourself and your spouse on every page, it makes you wonder, How did she know that’s what we do?

How Did She Know What We Do?

I think I learned more about communication with my wife from Tannen’s writing than from any other source. It was easy to see my wife’s foibles and laugh about them. Aha! See? That’s what you do! But then to read about what I do was a real eye-opener. I had to own up to my own patterns and behaviors.

What I learned was that Linda and I are pretty normal in how we communicate. In many ways, we fall into the stereotypes of male and female. But the way Dr. Tannen tells the stories is so funny. I called it my evening devotions. I had to read more.

One of the principles she discusses is the 3-fold asymmetry between the way men and women think and communicate.

  • Men talk to Report; women talk to Rapport.
  • When there’s a problem, men move immediately into Fix-it mode; women move into Affirmation mode.
  • Men speak to establish Hierarchy; women speak to establish Community.

Of course, these are generalities. There are men and women at both ends of each spectrum. All too often, however, husband and wife reach a stalemate because of their differences. Not understanding their communication styles and their subconscious purposes, they become frustrated or angry with each other, and that’s when they say things that hurt the other.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. What it’s saying is we can choose the easy, angry words and slice each other to shreds, destroying each other and the marriage in the process. Or, we can carefully choose words that affirm, heal, and build each other up. When we do that, we have a fantastic opportunity to create a marriage that’ll last a lifetime.

You can read more about this in chapter 9 of my book, WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage

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Yada, Yada, Yada

The April 24, 1997 episode of the Seinfeld Show was titled the Yada, Yada. Neither Jerry Seinfeld nor the show’s writers coined the phrase “yada, yada.” It was already in use. But after being included on the show, the expression skyrocketed in popularity, and is still used by a lot of people.

There’s some debate about the origin of the phrase. Some say it’s from the English expression yatter, while others say it comes from the Norwegian jada, which is pronounced the same and means the same as yada. Other sources say it comes from Yiddish or Hebrew. In any case, it usually means the same as blah, blah, blah, or et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Instead of reciting the boring details of a story, you say yada, yada, yada instead.

When you watch the Yada, Yada episode, however, it’s quite obvious from the way the characters tell their stories that there’s a sexual connotation and an intentional double meaning going on. Apparently, there is some evidence that yada is, indeed, a euphemism for sex. If so, when the Seinfeld cast says yada, yada, yada in those stories, what they’re really saying is sex, sex, sex. Watch it on YouTube and see if it seems that way to you.

Because people are sometimes shy about discussing sex, we often use euphemisms when talking about it. Some of those expressions are making love, going all the way, doing it, hanky-panky, and hitting a home run. My sister and her husband use the phrase twice around the park when referring sex. My wife and I use a different term.

Our teen-aged son never wanted to talk when we wanted to; he always waited ‘til late at night. When we were way past ready to go to bed . . . that’s when he was just coming alive and wanted to talk. One night he asked, “Hey guys. Wha’d you do on your honeymoon?” I have no idea what brought that question to his mind, or what he expected us to say.

There’s a lot of things we did on our honeymoon, but the one that came to mind was, “Well, Son. We played backgammon. Someone gave us a backgammon game as a wedding gift, and we took it with us. We stopped at a store and bought some instructions, and learned to play the game while on our honeymoon.”

“Oh. Okay.” Apparently, that satisfied his curiosity for the time being.

Two weeks later, we were in our bedroom with the door closed, but still fully clothed, playing backgammon on the bed, when there was a knock on the bedroom door. Same son wanted to talk.

“Dad, can we talk about something?”

“Sure, Son. Come on in.”

When he opened the door and saw us on the bed, his jaw dropped, eyes opened wide.  “Oh my gosh! You really do play backgammon!”

“What did you think I meant?”

“Uh . . . I thought you made it up ’cause you didn’t want to talk about what you really did on your honeymoon!”

“Oh! Well, we really did play backgammon.”

“Oh. My. Gosh.”

Ever since that conversation, “backgammon” has been a euphemism for sex in our family. “So that’s what you did on your honeymoon, heh heh.”

Yada = Knowing

When Genesis 4:1 says Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, the word translated as intimate is the Hebrew word yada. The Hebrew Bible, called the Tanach, from the Jewish Publication Society translates this verse, “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The word knew has a footnote that says, Heb. yada, often in a sexual sense. Following the Jewish understanding of yada in this context, many English translations of Genesis 4:1 keep the idea to know. The word means to “know intimately, to know completely, to be familiar.” No wonder one of its additional meanings is to know sexually.

Other translations render the verse as follows. These are all appropriate ways to translate Genesis 4:1, where it says in Hebrew, Adam yada’d his wife.

  • Adam and Eve had a son.
  • The man knew his wife.
  • Adam had sexual intercourse with his wife.
  • Adam slept with his wife.
  • Adam had relations with his wife.
  • Adam made love to his wife.

One of John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is what he calls Love Maps. Couples with a strong, resilient marriage not only know each other, they know a lot about each other. “From knowledge springs not only love but the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s world are far better equipped to cope with stressful events and conflict.”

I met Dr. Gottman when he spoke at a college in Orlando a few years ago. During a private conversation about love maps, he said it’s not an accident that the word know is used for sexual intimacy in Genesis 4:1. Knowing each other is crucial to maintaining a satisfying love life.

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Falling in Love All Over Again

Successful Marriage

I like the message about falling in love with the same person. That’s exactly what it takes to grow a marriage that lasts a lifetime . . . whether you’re 20, 40, 60, 80, or somewhere in between!

Click on the picture above if you want more information about the 4 Habits online summit. And of course, you’re always welcome to message me through the Contact page of this site. Blessings to you!

4 Habits to Transform Your Marriage

Next month the 4 Habits online marriage seminar begins! Forty different sessions over six weeks (but you have access to the videos a lot longer so you can revisit them or watch them at your convenience and at your own pace), more than twenty speakers: definitely worth much more than the price to gain access to the material. Click on the picture below to find more information about the online marriage summit.

Happy Couple

 

Charisma Media Interview

 

In June, I was invited to Charisma Media for a Facebook Live interview about my book, WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage. Chris Johnson was really good at conducting the interview, and I had a great time. It was fun, and gave me a chance to talk about marriage, the Bible, and a few things I really care about.

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Marital Mistakes

Mistake #1: It’s not going to rain, I’ll ride my motorcycle to the store.

Mistake #2: After the rain subsided, I made it to my bike not too wet. Then I rode home, and drove right back into the storm, arriving totally soaked.

Mistake #3: Agreeing to my wife staying an extra week with our son, whose wife just had a baby. Had she come home with me, we would have both gone to the store, and we would have been in the car, and I wouldn’t have gotten drenched.

Mistake #4: Therefore, it’s my wife’s fault I got soaked.

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The Power of Forgiveness

It’s crucial that you understand the power of forgiveness. When you forgive, you release yourself and the other person from the pain and wrongs of your joint past. But forgiveness doesn’t happen quickly. According to Christian ethicist Lewis Smedes, it happens slowly, with a little understanding, and sometimes with some confusion, because it has to sort out the anger and the injustice. When forgiveness has finished its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and set free from the pain of the past.

Sometimes, you have to forgive the person you’re still in relationship with because there’s been unfaithfulness, a betrayal, neglect, or abuse. This is hard, but with God’s help, and sometimes the help of a good pastor, counselor, or friend, you can be successful at putting the past behind you and moving forward in a fresh start.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. You carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and the forgiveness is complete. The Christian singing group Point of Grace has a song that talks about the impact of the ugliness, pain, and shame of the past, which are often followed by scars that remain for a lifetime. Heal the Wound, written by Clint Lagerberg and Nicole Nordeman, focuses on the metaphor that even after an injury has healed, there’s often a scar that lasts a lifetime. But instead of seeing the scar as a negative, they reframe it as a reminder of how gracious the Lord was in bringing you through the struggle.

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Who’s More Important?

Before getting married, it’s healthy and right to be loyal to one’s parents, siblings, and friends. But once you get married, the primary loyalty has to shift to the new spouse.

It’s not that you have to cut off relationship with your family and friends No, you still want them and need them in your life. But the spouse must become the new priority, and has to feel more important than the in-laws and others. To the extent you’re willing and able to let go of prior loyalties, you can form new ones. Likewise, to the extent that you can’t or won’t change priorities, your marriage will suffer.

While Genesis 2:24 states that it is the parents you must leave in order to form a new unity, there are others, as well. These might include a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a previous lover. In fact, there may be a number of people and situations included in what you let go of: friends, abuse, wealth, lifestyle, job, fame, high school sports, or any number of things in one’s past.

Your Past Can Ruin Today

One couple lost a son in a terrible accident. Unable to let go of that pain and loss, not knowing how to heal, and unwilling to forgive, the woman drove her husband to divorce. She allowed the past to ruin their marriage by allowing it to remain in the present. She kept the pain alive.

But it’s not just the negative that has to be left behind. Sometimes you have to let go of some positives: the good old days, a happy first marriage, that perfect job, a previous home and neighborhood, wealth or fame, or even a dream or ambition. An athlete whose playing days are over is often headed for emotional and relational disaster. A Soldier whose career comes to an end, sometimes can’t adjust to being a civilian and finding a new identity.

Someone who loses a leg or an arm in an accident at work might have a tough time accepting the new reality and letting go of the previous physical ability. Retirees sometimes struggle with letting go of their previous life, identity, and sense of importance. Empty-nesters also face a difficult struggle when the kids are gone. These transitions are tough.

Sue Augustine writes, “All of us can think of something we’d like to be set free from. For some, it’s hurtful memories, past regrets, or bitter resentment. For others it’s sorrowful remorse, frightful insecurities, or deep-rooted grudges. Imagine what it would be like to be free . . . . There is hope for you or someone you know who struggles with an imperfect or painful past.”

Her book When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present is arranged in three sections: Relinquish Your Past, Renew Your Present, and Rebuild Your Future. This is good guidance for couples who are still fighting or struggling with letting go of the past.

Bottom Line: make sure you live each day knowing that your spouse is the most important person in the world.

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