Posts in Marriage
Time Softened

Life brings us many challenges and each challenge begs the question, will we choose to become softened by our circumstances or hardened? Sexuality is one of those places where I see couples quickly moving from sexually soft and tender with each other, to hard and cold.

Last week I saw a client (I will call her Tiffany) who could attest to this truth. She experienced sexual abuse in childhood from a trusted relative. In high school, she dated a young man who she thought she loved and later married. Sadly, their sexual relationship included pain after her husband had an affair early in their marriage. Disappointment and loss scathed the landscape of her sexuality. We spent months grieving her losses, giving words to her pain, allowing her emotions and anger to be named and felt, addressing the shame, and recovering her soul.

Too many times, especially in the religious realm, many of us are told that if we give ourselves sexually to someone other than a spouse, we have lost something we can never get back … I don’t believe that. I believe that we can go back and reclaim the pieces of ourselves that were either stolen or given. We are powerful people by God’s design, and He never intended for us to live hopeless and dis-empowered.

Tiffany courageously jumped into the deep end of the healing process and found hope that indeed she could heal from her past. She invited Jesus, who proclaims in Isaiah 61, “I came to heal the brokenhearted,” to be her healer. I watched her heal, as she was real, honest, and raw with me and a few other trusted friends. At the beginning of our time together, she described herself as a broken cup—her life leaking out through the cracks. But last week, she described herself again, this time as a cup lined with love. She let the love of God fully into her soul—healing the fractures of her heart, and changing her sex life.

Tiffany felt so loved by God, and she allowed that love to flow through her to her husband. She began making love to her husband, as an expression of her love for him. She realized that she had never given herself to her husband but had always held back. We wondered if his affair was his way of searching for the missing piece in his own marriage. He said to the new Tiffany, “I feel so loved by you … who are you? You are loving me like I have never been loved—and sex—wow! It’s so erotic and fun! I didn’t know we could have this much passion together.” She smiled knowing she has more surprises for him. 

Thought bomb: Has life time-hardened you? Do you hold back sexually because you don’t want to be hurt again? How is that keeping you from having a sexually passionate marriage?  

Just Imagine

Imagine with me for a moment you want to practice something different in your marriage. Imagine you decided to work on your selfhood, becoming the best you that you can be by committing daily to the growth process and dedicating yourself to the freedom, the maturity, and the welfare of your spouse. Imagine if you stopped focusing on what doesn’t work in your marriage and focused on your marital strengths, embracing yourself and your spouse as two powerful people with competencies to build a beautiful union. Imagine how delightful your marriage would become if you celebrated one another’s differences instead of trying to conform your spouse to your image of how he or she should be. Imagine what it would look like to create the type of marriage that is rich with sexual passion because your understanding of sexuality has matured past fear of intimacy into being freely naked and unashamed. Lastly, imagine a marriage with two fully self-differentiated and healthy individuals nourishing and cherishing one another the way Christ does His bride.

Invite the word of God to be your compass for developing love in your life and marriage relationship. The Bible commands the weak to declare that they are strong (Joel 3:10) and says that the power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). 1 Corinthians 13 is a powerful declaration. Consider its truth as you read the verses in a personalized way, replacing the word “love” with “I.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV personalized), “I am patient, I am kind. I do not envy, I do not boast, I am not proud. I do not dishonor others, I am not self-seeking, I am not easily angered, I keep no record of wrongs. I do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. I always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere.”

Marriage will challenge you. It isn’t for the faint hearted, the weak of character, or those who give up easily. The reason it isn’t easy? Anything of value requires character. Character requires growth. And growth requires maturity.

Ron and I pray you will experience the kind of love and depth of connection that we have grown together over the years. 

Thought Bomb: What new thoughts can you imagine for your marriage today?

MarriageNancy Houston
Room To Grow

I have discovered the most profound truth you could ever realize and incorporate into your heart is—Jesus loves you. This trust is vital because many couples find they marry for love, and for the feelings of love, without realizing they are already loved. In Christ’s secure love, we lack nothing; we have a solid attachment even when our spouse doesn’t seem solid. When we fully open our hearts to the truth of God’s lavish gift giving, love being the greatest of these gifts, then we can truly base our marriage relationship on love and desire instead of need and desperation.

Once we know we are loved, we can develop a healthy sense of self. It is vital to grow a healthy self in order to have a healthy marriage. Two healthy “I’s” create the greatest possibility of becoming a healthy “we.” If any of us want a better marriage, we have to be committed to the personal growth process. Marriage is an invitation to open our minds to think new thoughts about marriage and open our hearts to allow God’s truth to shape our beliefs. Whatever the state of your marriage, it can grow. It only takes one willing person to change the dynamics in a marriage. You can be the spark that lights the fire of your own marriage.

Becoming a healthy “we” starts with becoming a healthy “me” and becoming your best, healthiest, God-authored self is a continual growth process. None of us is ever finished. Make sure you are giving yourself permission to be on this journey. Give your spouse room to grow too. Don’t beat yourself by thinking, “I am such a mess. Where do I even start?” Beating yourself up won’t help. You have done the best you could with what you have been given. We all have to start somewhere.

Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

Thought Bomb: How are you loving, encouraging, and de-shaming your own life?

MarriageNancy Houston
Making Marriage Great

Ron and I married when we were eighteen years old. We were six months away from having our first son, madly in love were told by my parents that we would never make it. On the first day together as husband and wife, we walked hand in hand on the shores of the Oregon Coast. Eventually we settled on a big piece of sandy driftwood. Listening to the wave’s crash on the shore and the blue-sky melt into the blue water, our hearts calm and warm with the newness of marriage, we openly shared our deep desire not to play games and to love each other well. The safety we felt led us to take personal responsibility for the choices we had made. We wanted to give each other permission to have a fresh start. Holding hands, we asked each other for forgiveness, committed our marriage to the Lord, and prayed together. We asked Him to help two teenagers, who didn’t know the first thing about marriage, how to make a great new one—we wanted to create a marriage that would last.

Ron and I were determined to make a marriage worth being a part of, so we decided on a simple yet challenging goal for our marriage. Our dream was to make our marriage a reflection of God’s love for us. If we miss the good news that God loves us with understanding, compassion and grace then we have missed the story. He hears the cries of His people and after forty years of marriage, we have both done our share of crying out to the Lord. We cried out to God to fulfill the goal of our marriage as being a reflection of God’s love, even when we didn’t particularly feel loving toward one another. Thankfully, God listens and teaches us what we do not know—how to truly love one another.

Thought Bomb: For you—what does a great marriage look, feel, and sound like?

 

MarriageNancy Houston