Spark up your sex life,wake up with more energy,trade up to a better job....seven laws of relationship success.…how to look sexy by tonight....find love in seconds....from fat to flat - our new plan works every time! ??These were the headline stories on the magazines in the newsagent this morning. The articles promise so much,with the implication that we can do it in ‘three easy steps ’.But anyone who has ever wanted to go from ‘fat to flat ’knows that there is no way to do it apart from hard work,perseverance and serious determination. Wouldn ’t it be great to discover that a book entitled ’Five Quick Steps to a Happy and Fulfilled Marriage ’was true? That it would be both simple and guaranteed? Alas,over the years we have learned to suspect anything that promises ease and certainty — especially where relationships (or DIY)are concerned. ??Jesus himself did not promise us ease in our lives as Christians.
In fact,he told us the opposite would happen:“In this world you will have trouble.”The great news, however,is this:“But take heart!I have overcome the world ” ((John 16:33). The truth is,that a vital,fulfilling, happy marriage rarely drops into our laps;it almost never happens by accident.
Rather than ‘sure fire ’steps to quick success,there are many areas that need ongoing work. ??First we will look at communication and intimacy,two of the most common areas in which couples struggle.Then we ’ll remind ourselves of a few principles that will work themselves out uniquely in every couple ’s relationship.Hopefully these will help you along the road to even greater vitality in your marriage.But we ’re not offering a money-back guarantee!
??Communication ??Communication is a huge area that fills many seminars and books. Most of us have heard a lot of it before,we just forget to keep working at it.Here are a few reminders to jump start us again: Think about ‘word quotas ’ Generally speaking --- please note the use of the word ‘generally ’ --- men use fewer words in a day than women. Many men use up their daily supply of words while at work,which may explain why they prefer to sit with a newspaper and remote control when they come in, rather than engage in conversation with their wife or children straight away.
Husbands and wives with differing word quotas (and that ’s most of us!)need to think creatively about how we can com- municate effectively while respecting each other ’s needs. ??What’s the purpose of communication? ??Men tend to speak in order to impart information,request information or clarify information.Many women,however, seem happy to talk for any reason,or even no reason.Generally speaking (there it is again!)men and women ’s conversation is driven by different purposes. ??Women tend to view talking as an integral part of relationship building. Men tend to require a more definable purpose to conversation.Neither is better than the other,they are simply different. We do well as partners to understand this as we endeavour to build strong communication.Make sure you are actually hearing each other.We hear not only words,but also tone and attitude when people talk.Sometimes the way others hear us is not the way we meant to speak.Try to develop the freedom to communicate with each other not just about the words you say,but about how you perceive those words. ??Does your husband ’s concern about your stress levels come across to you as patronising?
Does your wife ’s request for you to do something sound irritable? Tone of voice,intention and motivation are just as significant as words. ??Choose the right moment
If your wife is physically tired and brain dead by mid-evening,don ’t choose the slot after News at Ten to talk to her about your possible career change! If your husband ’s word quota is seriously stretched at work,save a conversation about starting a family until breakfast on Saturday morning when you ’ve had a relaxing lie-in.An important issue deserves a good discussion,so it is worth waiting for the right time for both of you to give it your best.
It would be an interesting (and probably very sobering) experiment to audio record everything we say in a day.It could then be analysed for both word content and tone of voice.How much of what we say either is negative or sounds negative? You catch more flies with honey....
So often we want to ‘give someone a piece of my mind (including our spouse!) This may make us feel better for a short while,but it rarely achieves anything. Before you fly off the handle,think of what you would like to happen,then work out the best way to communicate that.It is far better to leave both partners physically and emotionally intact! As we seek to improve communication in our marriages,we will want to think not only of what works for us,but also about our partner ’s needs as well.“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
Intimacy covers quite a range of ways in which husbands and wives relate to each other.We could talk about spiritual intimacy,intimacy in communication, emotional intimacy or physical affection.Since this is an article rather than a book,let ’s talk about the obvious -sex. In our 20 years of marriage and pastoral experience,we have rarely met a couple that have always been completely happy with their sex life.Most couples,for much of their married life,find that one partner has to live with less frequent sex than they want,and the other partner makes love more often than they want to or feel the need to.Well now,that ’s really encouraging,isn ’t it?!
Actually,it can be.One thing it means is that if you struggle in this area,you now know that you are not alone! Here it is in a nutshell: Sex is a great idea that God had for a husband and wife to express their intimacy in a physical and pleasurable way.No doubt God created Adam and Eve to be sexually compatible —after all, his creation was perfect.But when sin came into the world,everything got twisted,including sex.That ’s why we see it perverted endlessly in our world. Even sex within marriage,the place where God intended it to be,has become a source of tension for many.The disparate sexual appetites of most men and women are not part of God’s plan.They are part of Satan ’s attempt to wreak havoc on God ’s fantastic world. Sadly,the abuse of sexuality is one of Satan ’s more successful ploys!
What does this mean for our marriages, then?It means there is hope.God cares about every area of our life.We do not need to be embarrassed to talk to him about sex.He actually wants us to be fulfilled in this part of our marriage. Like every other aspect of our spiritual development, it will require commitment and work.We are fallen human beings,so we will not always get it right. Some weeks (or months!)will be better than others.We must pray,though,that as we grow more and more to reflect Christ in our lives and our marriages,this will include sexual intimacy.
It sounds simple:it isn ’t. There are no slick answers to our struggles in this area. For most couples,sex is one of the ‘ongoing dialogues ’ of married life.
Sometimes it’s great,sometimes it ’s not. Accepting that we ’ll probably never ‘solve it ’,being assured we are not the only ones who struggle, and learning to allow God to help us in this part of our lives are some steps in the right direction.
Three quick principles to remember and develop according to your own situation and personalities:
Life is an adventure
Remember when you started out together and everything was new and exciting?That doesn ’t have to end! Of course we become familiar with the routines and responsibilities of life.Much of our daily experience is mundane. But don ’t let that rob you of the spirit of adventure. Discover ways that you can be adventurous spiritually, emotionally and physically. Change the time and way you pray together for a season, explore new ways to communicate (even if they feel strange or cause you to dissolve into fits of giggles),be creative about how you spend time together,how you show affection and how and when you make love.All this must be done within the realm of your finances,time and personalities. (Face it,for some people, changing where they sit at the dinner table is adventure!) So don ’t try to be like other people.Stretch yourselves, though,in the adventure of finding out who you can be together.
There’s romance in the air
Please,don ’t groan.We ’re not going to trot out the tired list of suggestions for kindling romance.Every person defines romance differently anyway.How about looking at it like this:romance is anything husbands and wives do that cultivates an atmosphere of care and tenderness between them.That leaves you plenty of scope to discover what you can do and how you can speak to your partner to show them that you love them. Remember that what speaks love to you,may not speak love to your spouse.We are all different.Some of us long to hear affirming words from our partners,others define love in terms of good time spent together.A small gift for no reason thrills some people.Others would far rather their partner do something practical to help them.If you think carefully,you may be able to figure out what words and actions will convey your love.If you are not sure, it is better to ask!
What ’s so funny?The en- eral busyness and pressure of 21st century living affects all of us.Combined with that has been a tendency in some Christian circles to spiritual intensity.The result is that many of us take everything so seriously that we have forgotten how to laugh. Somewhat ‘tongue-in- cheek ’Jan has often said that God would want to say to many of us,“Lighten up ”. Somehow we have to hold in tension the eternal significance of our lives with the fact that if we disappeared tomorrow,the kingdom of God would go on! Of course we must take marriage seriously.Healthy Christian marriages are a bril- liant advert for the gospel. They matter desperately for our children and the future of society.
At the same time, however,we must never lose the ability to laugh with one another.Some of the mistakes we make in communication are very amusing.If you think in detail about the sex act, you ’ll probably end up chuckling.(Don ’t try this while actually making love —it could spoil the moment!)The crossed wires we find because of the differences between men and women are the stuff of many comic routines. Sometimes we need to step back a little from the intensity of the moment,and allow ourselves the luxury of a giggle.
\Most of us are brilliant at observing the ‘mistakes ’ other people are making in their marriage.It seems much harder to see where we could improve.Even as we write we are speaking to ourselves as much as anyone else.Having read this,some of you are looking forward to a deep discussion with your mate about it.Others of you are groaning because you know your partner has already read this and is waiting to nab you! (Hopefully,they will pick the right moment!) Can we give you a final word of advice?Relax.Don ’t ‘plan ’to talk through these things like a business agenda. Find something you enjoy doing together,and the things you want to say may flow more easily.The best conversations are often by-products of happy times together rather marriage janet & steve Gaukroger sex is one of the ‘ongoing dialogues’ of married life than planned ‘meetings ’. As we work at our marriage, the best news is that God is on our side!“As a father has compassion on his children,so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him:for he knows how we are formed,he remembers that we are dust ”(Psalm 103:13-14). God is not waiting to shout at us for our mistakes.He knows our weaknesses.Yet he comes to us with compassion. Slimmer thighs,flat tum,no bum...How to revel in your retirement...Total body blast in under an hour...one simple exercise.There go those slick headlines again.Let them go. Sure,it will take longer.But commit to work one step at a time and make a lifetime ’s adventure out of building a vital marriage.