Fathering

Scott and Cindy

In my last blog, I spoke about a man’s desire for his house to be a “haven” and a wife’s desire for her husband to be a good father to her children.

This issue of fathering has a profound impact on the marital relationship for two powerful reasons.  First, the well-being of your children plays a key role in reducing the stress on your relationship. The healthier the kids, the less problems the couple will need to solve.

Fathers, let me ask you some questions.  How emotionally healthy are your kids?  Do your kids feel emotionally connected to you?  Especially your daughters, do they feel as though you not only love them, but that you “like them” too?  Would they say that they have enough “daddy time” to fill their emotional tanks?  Do you know what their top three prayer requests are in their life right at this moment?

Long before I read Harley’s book (His Needs, Her Needs) and his suggestion that fathers spend 15 hours per week with their children, I undertook to find out how much my children needed me in order to fill their emotional tanks.  For about 1 month, I watched their behavior when I spent a certain amount of time with them and when I didn’t spend that time.   And, I concluded that my three children needed 45 minutes per day per child in order for them to have their love tanks filled up.  Interesting, because that works out to 15.75 hours per week (I guess I am just a tad crazier than Harley with his recommendations!).

When I spend time with the kids these days (and mine are older, 15, 13, & 9), I seek to do three things every day:   Play with them, understand their emotional needs (by asking them daily), and seek God’s wisdom in how I can best help them face the giants they are facing every day in their lives.

I know, I hear you fathers — it means I don’t get to play myself as much — no men’s softball league, little Flyers and Phillies, no more golf, no bowling leagues, etc.   But, I get a much greater reward – emotionally healthy kids, less stress in my marriage, and an amazing sense of accomplishment.  As the Midas commercial says, “you can pay me now, or pay me later”.  You can either put the time in now, do it right, and reap the rewards….or, skimp on your time now, and pay the penalty later with emotionally unhealthy children making unhealthy life choices.

My time spent as a father to the kids also has a second profound impact on the marriage — it truly blesses my wife. You see, for a couple hours each day, my wife doesn’t need to focus on the kids.  She can focus on other things on her own “to do list”, which in the end gives her more energy for me and for her.

As I write this, a tear is flowing down my cheek.  Because, you see, unlike SO MANY kids growing up, I had the honor and privilege of being loved by a dad who spent quality time with me.  He was all over my life in those day, and now, his imprint is all over my life.  He showed what it meant to humble yourself so that others might be blessed (and so that you might blessed in return).  And, if you have reaped any benefit from any of my blogs or my ministry, then part of your thanks needs to go to my dad because God only knows where I’d be without his quality time in my life.

If you are looking for ideas on how to find more time for your kids or how to spend the time you have with them more productively, give me a shout.  I’ve been there, and doing that!

PS.  We love feedback.  You can easily offer your thoughts by clicking the “Comment” button below and just typing your first name (your e-mail address does not get revealed).  In addition, if you are at my BLOG SITE, you can share this blog on your Facebook or e-mail it to someone.  Visit our website at www.MarriageMechanic.ORG.

PPS:   If you’d like to receive my twice-a-week blogs through your e-mail, go to my BLOG SITEand sign up in the upper right hand corner.

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Posted in Fathering | Tagged | 3 Comments

Fathering in a “Haven”

Scott and Cindy

I thought a little levity would be good to start off the day.  A question to 9 year old Anita:   “Is it better to remain single or get married?”   Answer from Anita:  “It is better for girls to remain single, but not for boys.  They need someone to clean up after them” (HA!!!!!!).

Well, as most of you know, we embarked on a quest at the beginning of the year to help you discover the changes that would take you to The Marriage of Your Dreams.

We are still talking about Step # 1 — Knowing Your Needs.  Over the last two months, we’ve talked about helping you know what your needs are (and, to some degree, what the needs of your spouse likely are).  We’ve talked about your love language (a key indicator of at least one of your needs in the relationship), the need for communication and recreational companionship, the need for attentiveness and physical intimacy, and the request to find out how your spouse experiences your love the most.

As we move forward, I encourage you to keep a list of ideas, with the end goal that you would then narrow that list to about 5 – 10 changes that would skyrocket your relationship to the mountaintop.

Today, I’d like to talk about a typical man’s need for his house to be a haven, and for a wife’s typical need for her husband to be involved in the care and nurture of their children.

Let’s start with the needs of the wife.   In his book, His Needs, Her Needs, Harley writes:  “Above all, wives want their husbands to take a leadership role in this family and to commit themselves to the moral and educational development of their children…They also expect their husbands to play a key role in “training up the children.””  

And, in order to do that, what the wife usually really wants can be boiled down to four words — the husband’s “time with the kids”.   The wife wants the father to show the boy how to play baseball, to show the girl how to kick a soccer ball, to teach them to ride bikes, and to show them what a first date should be all about.  The wife wants the father to be there emotionally for their children, especially for the girls who need a daddy who is engaged and understands their feelings (because, if the daddy doesn’t, the little girl will find another boy who will want to).

Wives, is that something you would like to see in your family life?   If so, then, this week, I’d suggest you ponder the time you would like your husband to spend each day with his children.  And, if you think your expectations are a little high, you may be interested in Harley’s thoughts — he suggests 15 hours per week for a father to spend with his children (more about that in my blog on Thursday).

Husbands, on the other hand, are looking for something a little calmer — their house as a “haven”.  Harley writes, “Men often fantasize about a house life free of stress and worry.  After work each day, his wife greets him lovingly at the door and his well-behaved children are also glad to see him.  He enters the comfort of a well-maintained home as his wife urges him to relax before taking part in dinner, the aroma of which he can already smell wafting through the air“.   (Does it remind you of 9-year-old Anita’s answer ?)

When I first read that, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Harley was saying exactly what I was feeling !!  The reason was that I felt like a warrior in the work place, facing fears and conquering larger and larger giants.  When I came home, I needed to relax from the rigors of “battle” (ok, maybe not battle, but you get the idea!).

And, the more counseling and life-coaching I’ve done, the more I realize that I am not alone!   I would surmise that most guys who are hard at work providing financially for their families feel the same way.

Furthermore, I would say that this issue of the “haven” ranks right up there among the top 3 to 5 issues of most husbands I’ve talked to.    There is just something about needing a “haven” (maybe that’s why this whole “man-cave” idea in the garage or basement is taking off).

Anyhow, guys, if that describes you, then I’d suggest you take this week to think about what your “haven” looks like and how your wife could help your home become just that.

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy (except Hollywood, and like they really know what they are talking about with their divorce rates).   But, with a little bit of teamwork, you could have a father playing with his kids in the “haven”.    Now that sounds like something worth working towards !  And, frankly, it might even make 9-year-old Anita WANT to GET and STAY married !!

PS.  We love feedback.  You can easily offer your thoughts by clicking the “Comment” button below and just typing your first name (your e-mail address does not get revealed).  In addition, if you are at my BLOG SITE, you can share this blog on your Facebook or e-mail it to someone.  Visit our website at www.MarriageMechanic.ORG.

PPS:   If you’d like to receive my twice-a-week blogs through your e-mail, go to my BLOG SITEand sign up in the upper right hand corner.

Posted in Fathering, House as a "Haven", Needs in a Marriage | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

THE THEOLOGY OF SEX, # 2

Scott and Cindy

In the past few blogs about physical intimacy, we have discovered that God created marital sex to be a good thing, that He created it for important reasons (procreation, pleasure, intimacy, and symbolic reminder of our love relationship with Him), and that surveys indicate 88% of couples derive pleasure from their marital sexual encounters.

Then, is it any wonder that God gives his command in First Corinthians 7:5 when he is talking about sex within the confines of a marriage:   “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”.

Notice the reason why having regular sexual encounters within the marriage is a good thing — “so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control”.  Now, please remember that the apostle Paul wrote these words around 60 A.D.  in a time when men and women did not work together in an office like they do today all dressed up, in a time when you could not connect with old flames through Facebook, and when there was no internet where you could click and see beautiful pictures of sexy women right before your eyes.  Back then, men and women were not even permitted to sit together at church.  If Paul encouraged couples not to deny each other THEN,  how much moreso would he encourage that NOW, in this sexually charged culture?

Maybe you might be one of those people who think that “Satan” isn’t real or his minions don’t “tempt”.   Think again.  The numbers are staggering.   Many estimates I read are that about 50% of the men suffer from some kind of pornographic addiction;   about 1 in 6 couples will deal with infidelity in their marriage.   1/2 in couples will divorce, and a vast majority of the rest of the couples are not really happy.

And, do you think this is just for non-Christians?   Think again.   In most surveys, the numbers do not dramatically change for those calling themselves Christians.

The temptations are real.   That is why Paul gave his readers (and us) a command so direct and to the point.  Do not deprive each other the physical encounter.  So, what can one do about it to ensure that temptation does not trip you up?

First, husbands, realize that most wives are not wired like you are.  They are not usually hormonally driven for sex as much as you are.  Instead, what increases their desire to be with you and to respond to your physical needs are the actions you take to show your love, care, protection, and cherishing of them.  How can you ask your wife to desire to be physically intimate with you when you don’t treat her well?    It is that simple.   You see, the Bible is presuming here, husbands, that you are living the Christian life and laying down your life for your wife (Eph 5:25b), resulting in a wife who is drawn to be with you physically.   It is much harder for your wife to be excited about being with you sexually when you treat her like a roommate.   So husbands, please don’t use this verse in First Corinthians 7:5 as a weapon against your wife unless you are first fulfilling the command in Eph 5:25b to lay down your life for your wife.

However, if the husband is making strides to cherish his wife, then there is second step that you can take.   With regard to sex, most husbands are like a microwave and most wives are like a crockpot.  Most wives need time to “warm up” to the idea of a sexual encounter.  Therefore, husbands, one technique that usually works is to give your wife some time off from all of her responsibilities and duties of the family — no cooking, no kid duties, no cleaning, no responsibilities, no nothing — give her 4 hours to do what she wants to do (read a book, go shopping for herself, rest, relax, sit in the tub).  In those 4 hours, ask her to do only two things:   First, think positive thoughts about a sexual encounter with you.   Second, come back home ready to have sex.

If you’re having issues in this regard, try it.   I know many couples for whom it works wonders.  You may have to adjust your schedules and give something else up because sex is important.  I think that’s why God says we should not deprive each other inside the marital relationship.   I kind of like that command — and I think Satan doesn’t.

PS.  We love feedback.  You can easily offer your thoughts by clicking the “Comment” button below and just typing your first name (your e-mail address does not get revealed).  In addition, if you are at my BLOG SITE, you can share this blog on your Facebook or e-mail it to someone.  Visit our website at www.MarriageMechanic.ORG.

PPS:   If you’d like to receive my twice-a-week blogs through your e-mail, go to my BLOG SITEand sign up in the upper right hand corner.

Posted in Sex, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

“Roses Are Red…”

Scott and Cindy

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Well, I tried to do some research for you on the history of Valentine’s Day.   I didn’t come up with too much.

I had always thought that some person(St. Valentine) from the old days had done something really special for some young lady and wrote “Roses Are Red”.   It turns out that was a really nice idea, but historically not accurate.

In truth, there were several St. Valentines from ancient Rome who were martyred for their Christian faith.  And, in that, there is a lesson about love in the deepest sense of the word (love for another to the point of death).

However, there seems to be no historical connection between these St. Valentines and the “romantic” love of our Valentine’s Day.

From what I can gather, the start of the modern equivalent of Valentine’s Day began in the late 1700’s when poems began being written that expressed a suitor’s love for his woman.  A “roses are red, violets are blue” poem can be found as far back as 1784.   In 1797, an English publisher wrote a book of sentimental verses for suitors who couldn’t come up with their own.

And, from that somewhat insignificant start, somehow we get to these facts about Valentine’s Day:

1.   $ 14.7 Billion will be spent on Valentine’s Day (an average of $ 60 or so for every couple).

2.   Women spend half as much as men on Valentine’s Day.

3.   Condom sales are highest on Valentine’s Day.

4.   And, a recent survey shows 14 percent of women would appreciate a special dinner plan, but that’s not the most popular gift idea. Laurie Puhn Communications conducted an online poll and it shows what women would really love is a day off.  72 percent say they want a day without housework or childcare — not diamonds, chocolates, or a dinner date.  Only 9 percent wanted any kind of gift.

Interesting, huh?    Only 9 percent of the women wanted a gift !

So, if it is true that most women don’t want a monetary gift (and I can tell you that most guys don’t either), then can I suggest a growth assignment for today that will not cost a penny yet will have a lasting impact for the entire year.

Find a quiet place and a few minutes away from the kids.   Look your spouse straight in the eyes and say these words, “Honey, what is the way that you experience my love the most?”

Then, wait.     First, you need to wait for your spouse to pick themselves up off the floor (because, really, when was the last time you said that to them?).    And, second, you need to wait because you really want your spouse to dig deep into their spirit to come up with a true and impactful answer.

I did that exact thing this week with my wife.   In a quiet moment, with just the two of us, I asked her that question.   And, I waited for her answer.  And, you know what.  Her answer surprised me.  It wasn’t something I would have picked.  But, it was her.  And, it was straight from her heart.   She said, “I feel your love the most when you don’t criticize me when I make a mistake”.

Wow.   We’ve been married 21 years, and I didn’t really know that this was the way she felt my love the most.   Powerful.    Impactful.    Transformative.

So, in that moment, I resolved that I would spend an entire year not criticizing my wife.   Ever.   And, I resolved that I would put a dollar (and I don’t have many of those these days) in a jar each and every time I do.

Didn’t cost me a nickel (not yet anyway!).   But, I think I just hit upon the true essence of what the writers in the late 1700’s were trying to do ~ woo that special person to themselves.

Oh, and I’ve also written my own valentine this year.   Mine went like this:
Roses are red, violets are blue, I’ve killed criticism, because I’m in love with you!”

OK, I know. I’ll stick to my day job.  But, you get the point.   Valentine’s Day may be one day, but its essence is supposed to last a whole year long.

What do you think?    Don’t you think that a simple question and a year-long resolution beats all the hype of a one-day gig?    If so, I wonder what your special “Roses are red, Violets are blue” line will read this year?    What is it that you will kill, die to, or add so that your mate will truly feel your love all year long?

“Roses are red, violets are blue……………………………………..because I’m in love with you  !!!”

PS.  We love feedback.  You can easily offer your thoughts by clicking the “Comment” button below and just typing your first name (your e-mail address does not get revealed).  In addition, if you are at my BLOG SITE, you can share this blog on your Facebook or e-mail it to someone.  Visit our website at www.MarriageMechanic.ORG.

PPS:   If you’d like to receive my twice-a-week blogs through your e-mail, go to my BLOG SITE and sign up in the upper right hand corner.

Posted in Valentine's Day | Tagged , | 4 Comments

The Theology of Physical Intimacy

Scott and Cindy

Since physical intimacy is often so important to one or both spouses, I wanted to take some more time exploring the issue.  As we do, we need to start at the beginning with how God views sex.

First, let’s be clear that God sees physical intimacy inside of marriage as a good thing.

Genesis 2:24-25 declares: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” In this passage, we find validation that sex (man will be “united” to his wife, they will become one flesh, the man and his wife were both naked) is a positive gift from God in the right context.  Sex was God’s idea, not the devil’s.

Also, Genesis 1:31 declares: “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”  Here, we see that all of this creating was very good in God’s sight, including the man and woman with regard to sexual being, their uniting together, their nakedness and feeling no shame.  This was stated PRIOR to the Fall, so God’s creation of sex in the marital context is that it is “very good”, not dirty, bad or forbidden.

For many years, Song of Songs (a.k.a. Song of Solomon) was taken as an allegory (symbolic of our relationship with God).  However, because of the discovery in the last 100 years of similar types of human love poetry in Egypt around the time that the Song of Songs was written, most scholars now view the Song of Songs as human love poetry, applicable to the expression of sexual love between a married man and a married woman.  The passionate love language and love making in the Song of Songs should help create a vision within our own marriages of God’s desire for the kind of intimate expressions that should be taking place in our marriages.

And, in Second Corinthians 7:4-5, God declares that husbands and wives should not be  sex from one another.  As we read further, the reason for this admonition is to help protect each other from the temptations we find in the lives we live (and, if there was temptation then, how much more do we need the admonition today because of the temptations we face !).

So, God sees sex within the context of marriage as “good”.   And, furthermore, there are reasons why God sees sex as “good”.  Because, as we shall see, sex does something positive for the relationship.  The following is a partial list on what sex does for a relationship from God’s perspective.

1.   Procreation.    Physical intimacy is God’s means to the end of creating offspring

2.   Pleasure.  The Song of Songs reveals the extent to which physical intimacy can bring pleasure to a couple.   And, University of Chicago research indicates that it does for a vast majority of couples.

3.   Growth in Intimacy.   “Becoming one flesh”, on one level, means that sex was created to allow man and woman to engage soul to soul and flesh to flesh, through which they would express their love and deepen their intimacy with each other.   It is interesting that the English translation for sex is “to know”.   In some sense, physical intimacy allows an environment where our hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, and faults are revealed, understood, and processed in a loving and growing way.

4.   Symbolic of God’s love for us.  The depth of feeling and intimacy that is represented by physical intimacy symbolically represents the dynamic care that God has for His people as seen by the groom/bride relationship that the Bible often uses for  God’s relationship with His people.

More about this on Monday.   First, enjoy your Valentine’s weekend.

In the event you might be looking for resources along these lines, here are three books I recommend (maybe you want to purchase one as a Valentine’s present).     Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Leman (this is a good, non-technical book about the secrets of sexual intimacy);  A Celebration of Sex by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau (a great book, with insights about setting the environment and technique);  Intimacy Ignited by Dillow & Pintus (this is an easy-to-read commentary on the Song of Songs, and after each chapter it gives you application steps that you can take in your physical relationship that come right out of their interpretation of that chapter of Song of Songs).    All of these books have been written by Christian authors, and would be great to read & process together.

Heh, one last thing — I made a mistake in my last blog indicating that, if you comment, your e-mail address will show up.   It does not.   The only thing that shows up on the public display is your name (and, if you want to use your first name or an alias, you can do that).  The name helps keep track of who said what and how to respond.   I hope that helps you respond if you have a comment or thought.

If you have any questions on this topic, feel free to post a comment or email me privately.  I’m here to help you fine-tune this most important aspect of your marriage.

PS.  We love feedback.  You can easily offer your thoughts by clicking the “Comment” button below.  In addition, if you are at my BLOG SITE, you can share this blog on your Facebook or e-mail it to someone.  Visit our website at www.MarriageMechanic.ORG.

PPS:   If you’d like to receive my twice-a-week blogs through your e-mail, go to my BLOG SITE and sign up in the upper right hand corner.

Posted in Sex | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Knowing Your Needs ~ Sex and Attentiveness

Scott and Cindy

How are you doing with your “needs” list?   Have you started it yet?   If not, why not take a moment right now and create a document in your computer that will help you keep track of the needs you have for a dynamic relationship?

As we continue our discussion about needs that husbands and wives have in a relationship, the time has come for a discussion about sex and its companion, attentiveness.  Sex and attentiveness go together like peanut butter and jelly, like Mickey Mouse and Minnie, like the Giants and Super Bowl winners (my sympathies to all you Patriots fans).

Let’s talk about sex first.  In our experience, Cindy and I have found that couples often don’t talk much about their sexual relationship.  And, if you are like many couples, you may not be aware that, according to a 1994 University of Chicago study with over 3,000 married participants:

**  The average for frequency of sex for married couples is amazingly consistent across racial, religious, and educational groups.  While frequency is affected by the age level of the participants, the average frequency range for number of sexual encounters per month runs from four to eight (or 1 to 2 per week).

**  The data also indicates that 88 percent of married people receive great physical pleasure from their sexual relationship, and 85 percent reported the same positive experience in the emotional area.  Who said marital sex is bland?

In working with the many couples we have seen over the years, the husband usually has a higher sex drive than the wife.  While there is a debate as to why this is, Cindy and I believe there is a physiological component to it.  The male anatomy is structured such that it produces semen that collects in the male’s body.  For many males, at a certain point, they begin to have an urge to release the semen through sexual intercourse.  This, then, is one reason why there is such a “normal” sexual encounter rate among married people that runs from Alaska to Australia (about 1 – 2 times per week).  While debate rages as to how often a male “needs” to have sex, the reality is that something physiologically is driving that desire.

A second reason for the male’s desire for sex stems from a connection that is made in many husbands between sex and respect.   While I believe that respect is what most husbands really want, husbands tend to believe that sex equals respect.  As a result, many husbands tend to experience sex as the fulfillment of their need for respect.  Thus, the almost insane focus on sex for many husbands (because they feel, erroneously at times, that having sex with their wives means their wives respect them).

Now, many wives don’t get it.  They don’t understand that their husbands need sex like a person needs food, water or oxygen.  Whether because of their physiological need or their respect need (or whatever else is going on), most husbands need sex on a consistent basis to have a mountaintop marriage.   The good news is that, in my experience, that is about all they need (when we have asked husbands for their top 5 needs, rarely do they get beyond 2 or 3, and sex is most often at the top).

However, husbands would have a greater frequency of sex with their wives if they took action to meet the “attentiveness” needs of their wives.  For most couples in dating, it was the guy (at least in my generation) who showered his girl with time and energy and gifts.  It was the guy with flowers and candy and dinners and shows, etc.   And, the woman who was receiving all of this said, “Wow — this guy really cares for me and I think he will be attentive to my needs the rest of my life — so, I will marry him”.

So, they get married with the expectation that the husband will be attentive to his wife’s needs as they go through the stages of life.   The wife has a need, usually, for her husband to be attentive and help around the house, to be involved in the lives of the kids, to take her out on a date every now and then, to say nice things about her, to bring her fun treats, etc.  Fundamentally, like a husband has a need to feel respected, the wife has a need to feel loved, cared for, and cherished.

Unfortunately, after the wedding, the husband often reduces his time devoted to making his wife feel cherished.   He focuses on new conquests, new hobbies, new dreams (though, what could be better than focusing on a mountaintop marriage?)

And, this is why I say that sex and attentiveness go together.   What often happens in our busy lives is that the husband stops focusing on attentiveness and the wife stops feeling the desire to have sex.   A wife’s desire for sex is often connected to the positive emotional feelings she has toward a husband who is being attentive to her needs.  If a husband isn’t being attentive to her needs, the wife isn’t feeling desirous for sex.

If this is true (and I think it is), then your growth assignment this week is to do the following:   Husbands, if you have a desire for more sex, put it on your list.  And, think about the fact this week that how you treat your wife will go a long way to determining how she feels about wanting to have sex with you.

Wives, this week, I want you to think about your attentiveness needs and what that looks like for you.  How can your husband make you feel like you are cherished, loved, and cared for?  And, along the way, remind yourself that your husband needs sex like you need air.  You might want to stop breathing for a minute or so and see how that feels.

With all that has been said, it is the reason that I say that attentiveness and sex go together — kind of like “the birds and the bees”.

Well, what do you think?   For most of you, you have emails that don’t reveal your name (and, if you don’t, get one!).   Then you can feedback without letting others know who you are.

Look for my next blog on Thursday as we contine this discussion on sex and attentiveness.

PS.  We love feedback.  You can easily offer your thoughts by clicking the “Comment” button below.  In addition, if you are at my BLOG SITE, you can share this blog on your Facebook or e-mail it to someone.  Visit our website at www.MarriageMechanic.ORG.

PPS:   If you’d like to receive my twice-a-week blogs through your e-mail, go to my BLOG SITE and sign up in the upper right hand corner.

Posted in Needs in a Marriage, Sex | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Being Content vs. Wanting Needs to be Met

Scott and Cindy

In Monday’s blog, we talked about a wife’s need for communication and the husband’s need for recreational companionship.  If you haven’t taken the time to read that blog or do the growth assignment, take a moment to do that now.

As I have been doing on Thursdays, I want to take a more philosophical look at the whole issue of meeting needs.  Today I want to touch upon a raging debate in counseling circles.  One the one side of the debate, people argue that it is better for a couple to lower their expectations of what they want in a marriage (“being content”).  Others, however, take the position that a couple is better served by having them take steps and energy to meet the needs of their spouse.

One of my fellow students in my doctoral program is writing his thesis on the idea that couples would be happier if they lowered their expectations.   His thesis is that the average spouse has too high of an expectation for their marriage.  As a result, they set themselves up for failure.  The idea is that if you lowered your expectations (didn’t expect your spouse to pick up their clothes as often, give as much help with the kids, etc), you would end up being happier in your relationship.

And, on some level, there is some truth to that.  Often, our frustrations and anger come from a feeling that we are entitled to something (in this case, having our needs met in the relationship.)  If one removed that entitlement of having their needs met, one would likely feel less frustrated and angry about the relationship.

And, biblically speaking, Paul did say that “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11).

The other side of the debate argues that having a spouse’s legitimate needs met in a relationship is part of what the couple vows on their wedding day.  They look at each other in the eyes, before witnesses (and often God) and vow to “love and cherish until death do us part”.  If a spouse can’t ask their spouse to pick up their clothes or help a little with the kids, then what part of “love and cherish until death do us part” is actually being done in this marriage?  This side of the debate would argue that if you don’t have some level of needs being met, then the marriage is basically just two people living as roommates.

Biblically speaking, there are plenty of scriptures that would lend support to this side of the debate.  We’ve talked about Adam’s need that his wife met, and the Bible is constantly encouraging followers of Christ to put the interests of others before themselves (for example, see the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25 and a discussion on humility in Philippians 2:3f).

So, how do you reconcile them?  Well, I recently had a discussion with a friend who works with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  (A GREAT organization, by the way, and our friend oversees 1700 Bible translators all around the world.)  This is the conclusion we came to:   A married Christian has two callings.   First, in Christ, you should strive to be content in all circumstances because Christ has promised to bring you life, and life abundant at that (John 10:10).   This might mean, in your marriage, extending grace (kindness that is undeserved) to your spouse as often as you have received grace from Christ.  But, secondly, in finding your contentment in Christ, you would therefore be seeking to absolutely bless your spouse with the love you are receiving from Christ.  As such, while you are finding your contentment in Christ, you would be seeking to meet the legitimate needs of your spouse.

Could it be that happily married people have figured this out?  That it is not an “either/or” proposition (EITHER it’s best to lower expectations OR it’s best to attempt to meet needs) , but a “both/and” one?  Now, think about that concept for a minute.  In a Christian marriage, if BOTH spouses were finding their contentment in Christ AND seeking to meet the legitimate needs of the other person (as they vowed to do on their wedding day), wouldn’t there be a tremendous explosion of joy in the relationship?   My friend and I think so… and so does my wife!

How about you?  Don’t you think that things might change for the better in your relationship if you took this approach?    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Look for my next blog on Monday on a further discussion of what needs you would like to see met in your relationship to take it to the mountaintop.

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