“My Constant Fighting Marriage!”

People sometimes describe their relationship as, “My Constant Fighting Marriage” or they’ll refer to their spouse as the “constantly fighting husband/wife.” What I’ve noticed over the years though, is that sometimes, we all like to “stir the pot.”

One of my earliest memories is of a nest of bees in the corner of our garage in Castile, NY. I remember taking one of my friends to see the bees swarming around the nest and getting the bright idea to spray them with a garden hose. The theory was that we could knock the nest down with a high pressure spray and then race the bees to the back door of our house. Of course, we didn’t let my mother know what we were up to or she surely would have objected.

So we cranked-up the hose and blasted away. Immediately, as if they’d been tipped-off re. our sinister plan, the bees swarmed and attacked. We dropped the hose and raced to the door, screaming all the way. We slipped inside and slammed the screen door shut, just in time to see hundreds of bees plaster themselves against the door. Angered, and buzzing like a chain saw, the bees tried desperately to get to us. Still, we were safe and unscathed. Dumb…but lucky….

Why did we do it?

I’d say the real reason was boredom or perhaps curiosity. We loved the thrill of danger and knew we’d face it if we harassed these critters enough. My question is, are you doing that to your spouse?

Seriously–some couple fight on purpose. They may joke that they just like “making-up.” Still, the “thrill” of the battle drives them to do and say some pretty dumb things just to get their mate to react. While normal arguments or disagreements can be healthy if proper conflict resolution techniques are used, fighting just for the “fun” or “thrill,” is dangerous and often, destructive.

Rather than stirring the anger in your spouse and then blaming him or her OR, rather than just putting up with a spouse who seems to do the same to you; my suggestion is to find some challenging–maybe even extreme sports leisure activities that give you that same adrenaline rush without doing harm to your marriage. If you’d like to discuss this or hear some suggestions on activities that might help, just leave a comment below.

Blessings,
Pastor Joel

Need Help Appreciating Your Husband or Wife?

Sometimes in counseling, a spouse will ask for help to rekindle a flame–recapturing a sense of value and desire for a husband or wife. If you’re someone needing support in appreciating your husband or appreciating your wife, perhaps this story will add value…

I remember a mission trip I took to Port Au Prince, Haiti and the poverty we experienced while we were there. Often at night, we’d hear children crying outside our gate, “I’m hungry…I’m hungry!” The problem was so severe that if we took food to those who were crying, they might be trampled or beaten-up by others once we’d handed them something to eat.

Once, I had a small boy working beside me the whole day while we were helping build a school. He couldn’t have been more than 10-12, but worked hard—like an adult. At lunch, our hosts tried to sweep us away behind closed doors to feed us, but I couldn’t bear to leave my little Haitian buddy behind with nothing to eat. So, I said in my broken Creole, “follow me,” and I led him down several back alleys to a quiet spot where I could hand him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and stand guard over him while he ate.

I’ll never forget the look on his face when I gave him that sandwich. I try to remember it whenever I’m tempted to complain about my life!

Now I realize that most of us need more than a comparison to someone less fortunate in order to feel better about our circumstances. If your spouse isn’t what you dreamed he/she would be, just knowing someone with a worse mate isn’t enough. Still, the idea of appreciating what IS good about those we love is a biblical concept that works.

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

Christian Marital Happiness

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

So, my suggestion is this. Make a list. What is it about your spouse that is positive and worthy of praise. Pray over that list. Speak to your mate about those things–positively reinforcing those traits and behaviors. Sometimes, this not only helps your mindset, but inspires even greater positive change in the one you love.

 

To that end,

Pastor Joel

 

 

Is There No Sex in Marriage?

The modern paradigm in our culture is that sex ends when marriage begins. But is there no sex in marriage? And, can Christian marriages experience great sex? The answer is, “absolutely yes!” Still, it works best in a Christian marriage when we follow certain principles.

In my book, “The Crucified Couple,” I cover many of these principles in detail. I’ll reprint the most pertinent chapter here:

“Chapter Six: Sacrificial Sex?

Second only to money, sex is a leading cause of marital stress, separation, and divorce. Whether it’s a difference in sexual desire or an affair, sexual issues can tear apart a relationship. On the other hand, as God intended it, sex can be the glue that helps keep couples together. The key to having sex be a positive force in marriage is, you guessed it…sacrifice.

Before we explore this further, we should consider what I call, “The façade of sex as a basic need.” In the U.S. and throughout most of Western Europe, we’ve been conditioned to believe that all people need to have sex and that without it we are psychologically and perhaps even spiritually deficient or ill. Movies like “The 40 Year Old Virgin” teach young people that anyone who doesn’t have sex is odd, or sick.

This idea affects marriage in that we come to believe thatif we’re not having sex as often as we like—or at least as often as one partner likes—we MUST be divorced or at least be allowed to cheat or use pornography since, sex is a primary need. If a partner gets sick or just loses interest due to age, menopause, or a mid-life crisis, we panic—or worse.

As an aside, this is also why the idea of sexual compatibility is also a farce. Couples who live together are more likely to become divorced than couples who don’t live together before marriage. The idea that you must “try before you buy” sexually is ridiculous based on the studies that have been done on premarital sexual experience and its impact on marital success. But even if it was true that sexual experience before marriage helped ensure sexual compatibility, the reality of change due to health, age, stress, and other factors negates that benefit.

In other words, if you’re 100% sexually compatible and enjoy the same
interests in frequency and positions for intercourse, etc., today; it’s entirely probable that this will change over time. My question to you is—then what? Will you quit? If your marriage and frankly your sex life is only built on your own pleasure, the answer to that question is, sadly, “Yes”.

So, when God tells us to save sex for a monogamous marriage between one man and one woman, He really does know what he’s talking about! It actually works—when we understand that sex is the icing on the marital cake, not the cake itself. It isn’t a basic need without which we die or become mentally warped. On the other hand it’s a beautiful uniting factor for couples who use it correctly and sacrificially.

Psychologically, and physiologically, sex is more satisfying when the focus is giving to the other person. This is ironic when we consider that the focus of sex in our culture is personal satisfaction or pleasure. This is not to say that we can be 100% happy simply by satisfying our partner. The key is focus—the priority is giving to our spouse with a desire to also achieve sexual satisfaction.

The key to making this work is communication. I’ve noticed over the years that, apart from medical issues such as Erectile Dysfunction, (which is more than treatable in most cases), the majority of sexual problems in marriage can be resolved by improving communication.

When couples learn how to share their sexual likes and dislikes then it’s possible to give and improve intimacy. This communication is both verbal and non-verbal. And, like all communication, it involves both sending and receiving information. Reflecting what you’ve “heard” or “understood” from your spouse by repeating what was said or by acting on it in bed is the key to completing this sexual communication loop.

It’s also important to consider creativity and the role it plays in romance. Sometimes romance and routine are contradictory. Not only do most couples find that changing things up a bit sexually helps, it’s also part of communication in that without trying new things, it’s hard to know what each partner likes or doesn’t like.

The point is, don’t get stuck in a rut, use variety to find out what your loved one enjoys and then provide that. You will likely be surprised at how much that pleases your spouse. You’ll be even MORE surprised at how much this pleases you!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (I Cor. 7:3-5).”

What we have here is a beautiful sacrificial balance. When our attention is on the needs of our partner, both in terms of frequency of sexual intimacy as well as the type/approach to giving them pleasure, a bond is created and a protection exists against the temptations of a fallen world. In this context, romantic times and positive sexual experiences also create positive memories. All of this contributes to martial health.”

 

Stop Fighting Over Money!

As a pastoral counselor, I’ve worked with dozens of couples who want to stop fighting over money. Unfortunately, money and sex are the two biggest conflict areas in marriage–often stated as the reason for divorce.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Based on my experience and the great teaching of people like Dave Ramsey as well as material in the Prepare-Enrich marriage program, here are some tips I’ve compiled to help couples draw closer regarding finances, not pull further apart:

  1. There’s no such thing as “my money,” only “our money.” While it is good to have discretionary cash for each of you to spend (see point 6 below), thinking in terms of “my money” versus “your money,” doesn’t work and frankly, is a false paradigm. Whether it’s the IRS, the credit card company, or your bank–everyone else will see a debt incurred by either of you as a joint responsibility. Since the entire world sees it as your collective earnings or debt, why don’t you choose to see it that way also? Having a single budget with a total income and a total expense balance makes more sense and leads to more peace than having separate bank accounts, budgets, expenses, etc.
  2. Use a budget worksheet. In my book, “The Crucified Couple,” I’ve got a chapter on finances and a sample worksheet in the appendix. Here’s a link for more information: CRUCIFIED COUPLE BOOK. Having a unified and often reviewed worksheet will help you avoid a lot of trouble while pursuing common goals together.
  3. Communication is the key. This leads well to the most important factor of all–good communication. If you can’t share openly, reflectively listen, and resolve conflict in a healthy way, no marriage book or counselor will be able to help you find or maintain financial peace! This is another area covered at length in my book as well as in posts on this site as well.
  4. Let the most gifted partner manage. Some couples struggle financially simply because of pride. If you’re not gifted at math and/or accounting, but your partner is–let them handle the checkbook! This doesn’t mean you are “out of the loop.” Communicating regularly about your financial state is critical. Still, the day-to-day paying of bills and reconciling of statements should be done by the most capable partner.
  5. Make sure both of you have some discretionary cash. As mentioned above, it’s good for each of you to have “blow money.” Money you use for whatever you individually wish/see fit. The amount should be budgeted and maintained though so that you don’t incur debt or miss important payments.
  6. Use the debt snowball to get out of debt…and stay that way! Dave Ramsey’s method found in his book, “Total Money Makeover,” (which you can learn about HERE),  Dave talks about a method of paying off debt starting with the smallest amount owed and working toward the larger amounts one step at a time, while making the minimum payments on each monthly. So if I’m making a $30 minimum payment on a $500 debt and a $50 on a $1,000 debt. I’d pay off the $500 first and then apply that $30 to the “snowball” until the $1,000 is gone. Again, I highly recommend Dave’s book to understand and implement this. You can learn more HERE.
  7. Let financial priorities be based on goals you set together. Too many couples are in what I call “financial survival mode.” Even if it’s just a few dollars a month, money should be set-aside to meet future goals including travel, retirement, or other dreams. Dreams become goals when you set an amount and start saving for it. Build your budget around those goals and be encouraged by each small step of progress.

My prayer for you is that you’d be richly blessed and that you will draw closer to your spouse as you implement these steps and work together to make finances a blessing, not a source of stress!

To that end,

Pastor Joel

 

How Do I Make My Marriage Last?

I worked security in college and had an awesome boss. He was an ex-Texas Ranger and when they say, “One riot—one ranger.” I totally get it. Lee Stolley was his name and he was T-O-U-G-H, tough! Loved him though…He was fair and fought for his men, so we were all completely loyal to him.

I remember one incident that illustrates his toughness. We had a drunk guy on campus that was threatening to cause trouble. Lee calmed him down, but the guy was then ready to climb into his truck and drive home. He was in NO condition to drive. Lee stealthily slipped the keys out of the ignition while trying to talk him out of driving, but the guy suddenly grabbed the ignition to start the truck, and found that the keys were gone…

Then…IT WAS ON!

He slammed the door into Lee and jumped to his feet. He was easily a foot taller and probably 50 pounds heavier, but that didn’t matter. Lee was on him like Tar Baby on Briar Rabbit and soon had him in a choke hold from behind. He was yelling to my coworker, “Mace him Louis—hit him with the mace!!”

Louis Bergin, the other guard, was in his late 60’s and moved at the speed of frozen molasses. He looked like Yoda from Star Wars, but that’s where the comparison stopped. He slowly took out his mace canister, waved it around trying to aim carefully, and when he finally “let ‘er rip,” the suspect ducked and Lee Stolley took a direct hit to the face and eyes.

Now gagging and blind as a bat, Lee was completely off the ground and on the back of this 260 pound, angry drunk who, like a wild bull at the rodeo, was trying to fling him off his back. Didn’t matter. Lee hung on, tightened his choke hold, and eventually subdued and cuffed the guy.

Perseverance…that’s the word I would use. Lee Stolley was a pit bull when it came to wrestling a perp, protecting his men, or just completing an “everyday task.” I just wish most married couples I know had this same tenacity.

I know that conventional wisdom requires that we come-up with a magic cure or technique to ensure marriage longevity. The truth however, is that what it really takes is just a heavy dose of perseverance. One, or preferably both, partner(s) saying, “I’ll make this thing work or die trying!”

How do you develop that?

Well, that’s at least in part what we do at Christian Marriage Mentor. If you’d like coaching or other tools to help you develop that tenaciousness, please contact us using the link above.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Joel