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August 27, 2015

The Only Woman in the World

Gary Thomas — 

The Only Woman in the World

Men, if you would like to have superlative satisfaction in your marriage, if you would enjoy a love for your wife that has no comparison, go back with me to the beginning of time—when Adam walked the earth by himself with God. Adam watched little animals and bigger animals, he discovered a wide variety of plants, and he talked to a God who was beyond imagining.

But there was no one like him.

No one.

He lived like that for a while. How long was that “day?” We don’t know.

But then Adam was put into a deep sleep. When he woke up, he could hardly believe his eyes. Before him stood Eve, like him in the most important ways but also so unlike him in even more important ways.

There she stood with eyes that seemed curiously soft, legs that were like his but somehow gloriously different, soft lips, and breasts!

And she was his, as he was hers.

What made this moment especially powerful, momentous, and even enthralling?

There was no Holly, Shanice, or Sofia.

There was just Eve.

Adam couldn’t compare Eve’s shoulders to Camille’s or Eve’s back to Emma’s. He couldn’t say “Eve is kinder than Janet,” or “Eve isn’t as sensitive as Claire,” because there was only Eve, in all her glory, the woman who defined “woman” to the first man. He couldn’t imagine any other woman, because there wasn’t one. He couldn’t wonder what it would be like if she were taller, heavier, slimmer, darker, or lighter.

She just was.

The only woman in the world.

And Adam couldn’t have been happier.

If you want to be fully satisfied in your marriage, treat your wife like Eve. Let her be, in your mind, the only woman in the world.

Pray a prayer that I talk about in Sacred Marriage, one that I prayed early on in my own marriage: “Let my wife define beautiful to me. Let her be the standard for what I find most attractive.”

Do you think that’s a prayer that God will have to think about answering? “Hmmm, not sure I want to do that.”

Not a chance.

It is stunning to me that yesterday, after 31 years of marriage, my wife was standing in front of me feeling all stressed out, talking about how tired she felt, and how frustrating certain aspects of her day had been. While trying to respond with empathy on the outside, inside I was thinking, “She is gorgeous. Still gorgeous.”

I don’t compare my wife’s occasional frustrations with another woman’s peace just as I won’t compare my wife’s face to another woman’s eyes. If I want supreme satisfaction in Lisa, she must become to me like Eve and be the only woman in the world. The only one I will ever look at in that way.

I defy any man to honestly say he has derived any lasting, godly satisfaction from looking at another woman the way he should look only at his wife; after the short moment of excitement, there will be a much longer season of frustration and discontent. Has looking at another woman or comparing your wife to another woman ever led you to more joy, a happier marriage, or more peace with God?  Of course not.

No man’s marital happiness has ever been served by comparing his wife’s weaknesses to another woman’s strengths. That’s how you create discontentment, assault any attitude of cherishing your wife, and how you ruin your own happiness.

It’s a choice, men—it’s a choice. I have a choice to look at my wife like Adam looked at Eve, the only woman who matters. I have a choice to fill up my eyes and be so taken with her that there is no Juliet, Jada, or Anna.

Just Lisa.

Have you ever lived that way husbands? Do you think you could pray this week, “God, let me start looking at my wife like Adam looked at Eve—as the only woman in the world?”

It’s a prayer first, then a choice, then a recommitment. You will stumble. You will have to go back and pray again. You will have to choose again.

But if you keep doing it, eventually, it happens.

Your wife is cherished.

Your wife isn’t just your first choice, but your only choice.

You become happy, satisfied, and fulfilled.

Because your wife defines beauty for you, your picture of the most beautiful woman in the world ages with your wife. You won’t be a sixty-year-old man pining after a 25-year-old centerfold. Who wants to be that guy, anyway?

You’ll eventually be a sixty-year-old husband who is enthralled with his sixty-year-old wife and still finds his heart skipping a beat when she smiles in her own particular way, or she stands in front of you in that dress and the sun hits her just right and you forget about everything else, including time.

You want this men. Trust me. You do. It is one of the supreme blessings of marriage that is often overlooked.

It takes vigilance.

It takes intention.Small Sacred Marriage Image - Cropped

It takes practice.

But when it arrives—when your wife is Eve and there is no other—you will feel like the most blessed husband alive.

Your wife will feel cherished, because your adoration will be as genuine as the beginning of time. Your heavenly Father will experience joy because He delights when his daughter is richly cherished. Your kids will feel secure because their home is protected.

Everybody wins. Everybody.

But Adam wins the most.

Would you like to be particularly happy in your marriage?

Do you want the security of knowing that no matter what happens the two of you will face the future together, and that nothing will tear you apart?

Do you want the feeling of being truly and finally married—no doubts, no re-evaluations, no “what-ifs,” just daily growing closer together?

It’s possible.

It will require both of you to adopt a new mindset, to in fact go back to the very beginning of time and recapture that special intimacy experienced by Adam and Eve.

Have you ever wondered why Adam and Eve were initially so happy in their marriage? What was unique about their experience so that they could know perfect paradise while being together?

Of course, there was no sin yet, but there was something even more specific than that which led to Adam and Eve’s sense of satisfaction.

It wasn’t just about being naked and unashamed.

It wasn’t about being free from children (most of us don’t want to be free from our children.)

It wasn’t even about the fact that they lived in a rich, lush garden.

It was the fact that when Adam was first introduced to Eve, there was literally no other woman in the world to whom he could compare her. When Eve first saw Adam, she didn’t know what a man was “supposed” to be like or how he was supposed to act.

Eve defined woman to Adam, as Adam defined man to Eve.

When you’re with the only woman in the world, you don’t expect her to be more intelligent, less sarcastic, lighter or darker, thinner or curvier, she just is—Eve, the only woman in the world. The person who defines woman to you.

That led to quite the happy union, and it’s a mindset we can cultivate today.

Comparison Kills

Have you ever visited a friend’s house who just had their kitchen remodeled? New appliances. A new floor. Marble counter-tops. A brand new island with pot fillers!

After a lovely dinner you return home and turn on the lights and see your same-old kitchen, with the slightly worn cupboards, the out-of-date refrigerator, the floor that makes you wonder why you ever chose that tile in the first place…

It’s the same kitchen that four hours prior you didn’t think twice about. Now it looks so bad that it even makes you sad.

What happened?

Comparison.

You saw what a kitchen could be and yours feels so awful in comparison.

Too many spouses do that with their mates.

Adopting an “Adam/Eve” “Only man/only woman in the world” mindset recognizes this spiritual and psychological reality and chooses to let your spouse define what a man or woman is supposed to be. Comparison loses all of its negative force.

When cherishing becomes the new standard of marriage, exclusivity reigns. My wife becomes the only one I will let myself think about sexually. She’s the only personality I’ll care to make my best friend. I will figure out how to make this marriage work with her because she is my only option, the only woman in the world.

The foundation of a cherishing marriage is something I wish every husband could say and every wife could hear:

“My dove, my perfect one, is the only one” (Song of Songs 6:9).

Daily Walking Down the Aisle

It used to be that, when the wedding march began playing, every eye in the church looked back to see the bride walking up the aisle, but more recently I’ve noticed how this has changed. Because of some Internet memes, more and more people want to catch the face of the groom. Is he smiling? Crying? Looking nervous?

Men, try to remember that moment when your bride walked down the aisle and you lost your breath seeing her in all her glory. No one else existed for you at that moment. No other woman came to mind.

This doesn’t have to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It can be a daily reality.

To cherish our wives this way, we have to mentally choose to not look at any other woman that way. If you compare a two-carat diamond to a three-carat diamond, it will look small in comparison even though it’s bigger and more expensive than 99% of the wedding ring diamonds out there.

I prayed early on in my own marriage: “Lord, let my wife define beautiful to me. Let her be the standard for what I find most attractive.”

God has answered that prayer, and it’s so affirming to my wife. However she is, is what I am most attracted to. She is the “plumb line” of beauty for me, a plumb line that ages with her.

Cherishing goes far beyond physical appearance. I don’t compare my wife’s occasional frustrations with another woman’s peace, just as I won’t compare my wife’s skillset to another woman’s gifts. If I want supreme satisfaction in Lisa, if I want to truly cherish her, she must become to me like Eve, the only woman in the world. The only one I will ever look at in that way.

No man has ever derived any lasting, godly satisfaction from looking at another woman the way he should look only at his wife; after the short moment of excitement, there will be a much longer season of frustration and discontent, followed by anger and marital distance. Fantasizing about another woman is the highway to discontentment and marital separation. It never leads you to your wife; it carries you away from her at seventy miles an hour. That’s how you create discontentment, assault any attitude of cherishing your wife, and how you ruin your own happiness.

Adam was so blessed—and so happy, accordingly—because there was literally no one else to compare Eve to. And while the world is now populated with billions of other women, we men can still make the choice to look at our wives as Adam looked at Eve, the only woman who matters in that way.

To fill up our eyes with only her.

To be so taken with her that there is no Juliet, no Jada, and no Anna.

Just Eve.

It’s a prayer first, “Lord, let me look at my wife as the only woman in the world.”

Then it’s a choice.

Then we guard our hearts and keep our focus.

It requires a recommitment when we stumble. We will have to go back and pray again. We will have to choose again.

But if we keep holding her dear, mentally reserving our focus exclusively for her, eventually, it happens: our wife is cherished. Our wife isn’t just our first choice, but our only choice.

We become happy, satisfied, fulfilled.

You’ve taught yourself to cherish her and it’s worked. You’ve become enthralled with her, as you are with no other woman.

You want this, men. Trust me. You do. It is one of the supreme blessings of marriage that is often overlooked. When it arrives—when your wife is Eve and there is no other—you will feel like the most blessed husband alive.

Your wife will feel cherished, because your adoration will be as genuine as the beginning of time. Your heavenly Father will experience joy because he delights when his daughter is richly cherished. Your kids will feel secure because they spiritually feed off their parents’ affection.

Everybody wins. Everybody.

But Adam wins the most.

The Only Man in the World

Women can take the same journey. Divorce statistics reflect that women tend to be more dissatisfied in their marriages than men. Wives may have to fight more fiercely against the onslaught of disappointment lest they be tugged toward frustration, collapse into bitterness, and find themselves captive to contempt.

How can you fight contempt? How can you learn to cherish your husband as if he were the only man on earth?

Here’s the spiritual choice you have to make: when any woman gets married, she agrees (consciously or not) to a “commitment of contentment.” She forever resets the boundaries for what makes her content. She doesn’t get to compare her husband to other husbands because to her, he must become the only man in the world. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3).

You’ve already made your choice, in your ideal world you have no intention of ever starting over with someone else, so why not put your energy into and your focus on building on the strengths of that choice, and making yourself ever more grateful that you made that choice? Think of yourself as Eve in the Garden of Eden, standing before the first man Adam. Eve didn’t have anyone to compare Adam to. All she could possibly think was, “This is what a man is like. This is what my man is like.”

No man can be everything. A successful long-distance cyclist can’t be a body builder. A handyman may be able to fix a lot of things, but he may view exercise or long talks as chores rather than something he relishes. Though there are exceptions, dedicating one’s time to becoming exceptional at one thing usually means not being exceptional at a whole lot of other things.

Since no one man can be everything, one of the best gifts a woman can give a man is to tell him with her eyes, attention, words, and acceptance, “You don’t have to be anything other than what you are. You are my Adam, the only man in the world. I cherish you.

With such an attitude, anything your husband isn’t becomes irrelevant—your guy isn’t that, so you don’t expect that and there’s no point in fretting over that. If you marry a guy who isn’t a handyman, you don’t judge him for not being a handyman. If you marry a guy who is a bit silent, you don’t brood over the fact that your best friend’s husband will sit and talk to her for hours.

Instead, you think of your man as Adam—the only man in the world. You cherish him for what and who he is, you don’t expect him to be anything else, and you never compare him to anyone else.

At some point, if you want marital happiness, if you want to learn how to cherish a real man instead of longing for an imaginary composite, some “Frankenstein” husband who somehow has it all, then you have to own your choice and even learn to cherish your choice. “My vineyard, my very own, is for myself” (Song of Songs 8:12).

It’ll take biblical understanding to do this, then prayerful supplication to God (“God, help me do this”), then an intellectual consent (“I want to do this”), and finally a determined act of the will (“I’m going to do this”) to fully go through this process, resetting your brain to think of your husband as Adam.

It’s not a one-time deal. You’ll catch yourself slipping back into comparison at times, and then you’ll have to go back to square one and set the process in motion once again. Over time, it will just become the way you look at your husband. Thinking of him as Adam will be your default mode.

When that happens, you’ll find that you cherish your husband instead of having contempt for him. You’ll discover that you are grateful for his strengths instead of bitter about his weaknesses. You’ll experience the joy of your heavenly Father, who delights in seeing his sons cherished, encouraged, and respected. You’ll be a strong witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ll provide one of the best parenting role models a mother could ever provide for her children.

But just as importantly, you’ll find more contentment, enjoyment, happiness and intimacy in your marriage. Your heart will swell with pride and you will be the envy of all your friends—the one woman in their circle who is utterly and contentedly in love with her husband and can’t even imagine being married to any other.

That’s a very pleasant place to live.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

September 1, 2015

The Only Man in the World

Gary Thomas — 

The Only Man in the World

Women, the door to true happiness in marriage—the key to becoming the most pleased and happiest of wives—is to begin viewing your husband as Adam, the only man in the world.

When you get married, you agree (consciously or not) to a “commitment of contentment.” You forever reset the boundaries for what makes you content. You don’t get to compare your husband to other husbands (that’s what girlfriends should do with boyfriends, but not what wives should do with husbands) because to you, he is the only man in the world.

Think of yourself as Eve in the Garden of Eden, standing before the first man Adam. Eve didn’t have anyone to compare Adam to. She couldn’t think, “His arms look below average, but at least he doesn’t have a unibrow.” All she could possibly think was, “This is what men are like.”

The “new boundaries” of your new commitment to contentment once you get married means that anything your husband isn’t becomes irrelevant—your guy isn’t that, so don’t expect that. If you marry a guy who isn’t a handyman, you don’t judge him for not being a handyman. If you marry a guy who is a bit silent, you don’t brood over the fact that your best friend’s husband will sit and talk to her for hours. If you marry a guy who thinks exercise is picking up the game controller, you don’t think about what it would be like to marry a guy who does triathlons.

Instead, you think of your man as Adam—the only man in the world. You love him for who he is, you don’t expect him to be anything else, and you never compare him to anyone else.

This might sound extreme to some of you but tell me, what have you ever gained by comparing your husband’s weaknesses to another husband’s strengths? Has it ever made you happier, more content in your marriage, or a more loving wife? Has it ever made you feel closer to your husband or given you more joy?

Of course not.

If you want to be married to a man who reads books then marry a man who reads books. Marrying a man who doesn’t read books and then faulting him for not reading is your problem not his. You made a choice and now you are second-guessing it. The problem isn’t with your husband—the problem is that you made a poor choice establishing your boundaries of contentment.

When you can finally see and agree that the problem you have with contentment is thus yours, not his, everything about your marriage will change. Everything.

I promise you, you will be so much happier in your marriage. You will become a much better wife if you simply pray through the creation account in Genesis and begin thinking of your husband as Adam—the man who defines all other men for you—and then start treating him that way. It’ll take biblical understanding to do this then prayerful supplication to God, then an intellectual consent, and finally a determined act of the will to fully go through this process resetting your brain to think of your husband as Adam.

It’s not a one-time deal. You’ll catch yourself slipping back into comparison at times, and you will have to go back to square one and set the process in motion once again. Over time it will become the way you look at your husband. Thinking of him as Adam will be your default mode of thinking and relating.Small Sacred Marriage Image - Cropped

When that happens, you’ll find that you cherish your husband instead of having contempt for him. You’ll discover that you are grateful for his strengths instead of bitter about his weaknesses. You will experience the joy of your heavenly Father who delights in seeing His sons cherished, encouraged, and respected. You’ll be a strong witness to Christians and non-Christians alike. You’ll provide one of the best parenting role models a mother could ever provide for her children, boys, and girls.

But just as importantly, you’ll find more contentment, enjoyment, happiness, and intimacy in your marriage. Your heart will swell with pride and you will be the envy of all your friends—the one woman who is utterly and contentedly in love with her husband and can’t even imagine being married to any other.

That’s a very pleasant place to live.

March 18, 2014

The Ballet is Woman

Gary Thomas — 
8405185756_4a470484ea_b

photo: Kryziz Bonny, Creative Commons

There’s a saying that “the ballet is woman.” Male dancers recognize that their role is all about showcasing the female dancer’s beauty. In the words of Sarah Jessica Parker (who recently put together a documentary on the New York City Ballet), “When a male dancer is paired with a ballerina he can support, stabilize, lift and turn her, allowing the partner to perform feats she could never do alone.” (You can see a clip on the partnering aspect of ballet here: http://tinyurl.com/n7lusu9)

Isn’t this a marvelous description of marriage? Together, we can be more than we could on our own.

What if we husbands took the attitude of male dancers, seeking to showcase our wives’ beauty? It may be the beauty of wisdom, and in social settings we do our best to see that she is heard. It may be the beauty of leadership, and we support her life so that her gifts can be performed. It may be the beauty of hospitality, and we buy the things she needs and open up our homes (when we might prefer to be left alone with our sporting events) so that her beauty can be on full display. A biblical husband “praises [his wife]. ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’” (Prov. 31:28-29)

What if wives adopted the same attitude, helping their husbands perform feats they could never do on their own? What if a husband knew—in the deepest part of his soul—that his wife was his strongest support, his most encouraging partner? What would that do to him? What if he was willing to risk failure out in the world because he knew in his wife’s eyes he would always be the courageous champion? She supports him, she stabilizes him, she binds up his wounds—spiritual and emotional—and she turns him so his strongest side is always showing. Instead of ridiculing his social awkwardness, she finds a way to help him fit in. Everyone starts to think more of this guy when they look at him through his wife’s eyes.

Marriages turn on one axis: am I trying to showcase my spouse, or am I fixated on how my spouse is not showcasing me? You can’t control the latter; you can only control the former.

One thing I like about this is that it forces me to meditate on my wife’s beauty, identify her strengths, and then plot how I can help those strengths be showcased. How many times do we do the opposite? We obsess over our spouse’s weaknesses and then meet with others to gossip about them.

I want to sit with God and ask, “How do I showcase my wife’s beauty?”

We have to cherish

My last post “Enough is Enough” crashed our website several times. We’ve had to upgrade our website platform and pay for the frantic efforts to keep the blog up in the midst of the overload. We’re so sorry for the frustration you’ve had and the ensuing issues that followed (like earlier blog posts not being immediately available).

It’s at least a hopeful sign that many Christians are apparently resonating with the thought, “It’s time to stop the abuse.”

But stopping the abuse is just the first step. Now it’s time to address the second. Christians shouldn’t be known for merely avoiding evil. We’ve got to celebrate the excellent, the good, and pursue the high call of a truly biblical love.

In other words, it’s not enough that a wife not feel threatened. A Christian wife (and a Christian husband) should be cherished. (I trust it’s obvious that this is not a word for those wives who need to escape an abusing husband.)

 Reading the testimonies of so many women from the blog made me want to redouble my efforts to treat Lisa in a special manner. I don’t want her to just feel “safe.” That should be a given. I want her to feel really and truly cherished.

“Cherish” is, after all, what the vast majority of us promised on our wedding day. We promised to “love and to cherish until death do us part.” It’s what we said we would do in front of a lot of human witnesses and, even more importantly, in front of God.

To say, “I didn’t really mean it” or “Hey, that’s just what the pastor told me to say,” isn’t good enough. If we’ve let this promise slip, we need now more than ever to pick it back up and pursue a cherishing marriage. Besides, we’d be eager to practice cherishing each other if we truly understood the benefits of doing so.

If your heart was broken over the stories of pain so many spouses face, one of the things you can do in response is to raise the bar for what is considered acceptable behavior. Your marriage—how you treat your spouse, talk about your spouse, cherish your spouse—can actually change the climate of many other homes. You can bless other husbands and wives. You can make life so much more pleasant and feel so much more secure for so many children (other than your own).

How?

Personal witness and transformation is the Christian model for societal change. Paul says “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). He told Timothy to watch his life and doctrine closely and to persevere in them so that everyone could see his progress—and so that others could be saved (1 Tim. 4:15-16).

High ideals need fleshly models. Gregory the Great wrote “Almighty God [gives us] examples, so that we may more easily hope for everything we believe to be impossible, the more that we hear that others have already accomplished it.”

Is a cherishing marriage possible? You can show others that it is. And when you do, others will take notice and perhaps be convicted. When a husband cherishes his wife he raises the bar for other men who are entrenched in their selfishness and apathy. Christian husbands who treat their wives like Eve, the only woman in the world, challenge men to see that simply not lusting at other women isn’t enough; on the contrary, in a cherishing marriage we look at our wives in a cherishing way, truly seeing them (they are never invisible to us) and searching them out, celebrating their beauty. Such a wife feels pursued, adored, valued, and affirmed.

When wives cherish their husbands other wives will see that laughter gained at a husband’s expense costs too much. Such a wife can challenge other women with the rare satisfaction that she enjoys in her marriage (because cherishing leads to increased satisfaction). She can raise the bar for how a woman looks at, touches, treats and talks about her husband.

I’ve had so many goals in life: wanting to publish a book, finish a marathon, and many others. One that I am now determined to chase is that my wife will know, in the bottom of her heart, that I cherish her. Perhaps our marriage could kick-start other marriages that have grown a little cold or tired or selfish.

Will you and your spouse make a commitment to pursue a cherishing marriage? Some of you may have to start unilaterally—your spouse may not “awaken” toward you until you start cherishing them on your own. It may take some time. But you can part of those who seek to raise the bar of what is possible in marriage. Not only will you be blessed by doing so (because a cherishing marriage is much more pleasant to be part of), but you can inspire other couples around you. You can set a higher bar for your own children.

You see, I believe a cherishing marriage can be learned and chosen. A person might “fall in love” but they have to choose to cherish. There are attitudes we can adopt and habits we can practice that groom our minds and hearts to cherish our spouse. It’s something God wants for us and if we will just look to Him and His wisdom, He’ll empower us and guide us and help us to get there.

Let’s not stop at “I don’t abuse my spouse.” Let’s pursue, “I want to cherish my spouse.”

My book on cherishing your spouse will be released in just a few weeks now. You can pre-order it here, and get a lot of free stuff thrown in as well (including the first three chapters, immediately):Cherish

http://www.garythomas.com/cherish/

Imagine if men ordered this book for themselves and their wives and said, “I want to build a cherishing marriage in 2017. I want you to feel even more cherished by the time 2018 rolls around.” Husbands, how do you think that would make your wives feel?

What if women decided to study together how to cherish husbands who stumble in so many ways? What if they said, “Being negative and complaining hasn’t gotten us anywhere. Let’s see what happens when we choose to follow through on our promise to cherish our husbands”?

Early reviewers have told me that they believe this book delivers on its promise. I hope you will give it a chance.

And just to cut off potential criticism before it gets to the comments: I have a chapter in this book that says spectacular advice for some can be spectacularly bad advice for others. I am not calling wives who are married to husbands they should separate from to cherish their abusers. If, however, you are convinced God wants you to stay in a difficult marriage—as should be true for the vast majority of us—cherishing is a tool and an effective strategy to make whatever marriage we have even better.

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.

I thought I was one of the world’s biggest fans of marriage, until I asked a question on Facebook (“What do you love most about marriage?”) and found out there are legions of marriage fans out there!

In the revised and updated edition of Sacred Marriage (published in 2015) I wrote,

“I love marriage, and I love my marriage. I love the fun parts, the easy parts, and the pleasurable parts, but also the difficult parts—the parts that frustrate me but help me understand myself and my spouse on a deeper level; the parts that are painful but that crucify the aspects of me that I hate; the parts that force me to my knees and teach me that I need to learn to love with God’s love instead of just trying harder. Marriage has led me to deeper levels of understanding, more pronounced worship, and a sense of fellowship that I never knew existed.”

Sacred Marriage admits that parts of marriage can be very difficult, but when it’s good, it can be very good. That’s a view shared by Jillian on Facebook who wrote, “Marriage is hard…especially when you’re acting selfish….but it’s also a freaking blast!!!”

In our two previous posts we celebrated good husbands and awesome wives. The final post in this series celebrates the joys of marriage. So many singles who have witnessed some truly awful marriages ask me, “Is marriage worth the risk?” Accordingly, I asked married couples on my Facebook pages to brag about the benefits of marriage and here’s some of what they shared:

The most common answer to what people love about marriage was “friendship, companionship and sharing life together.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 captures this aspect of marriage so well:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.”

Second, couples pointed out the spiritual benefit of pursuing God together.  You don’t just gain a husband or wife when you get married; you live with a brother or sister in Christ. You will never experience such a level of accountability and the possibility of encouragement and inspiration with anyone else quite like you can with your spouse. This reminds me of Hebrews 3:13-14a:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ…”

Shelly wrote this about the spiritual benefits of her marriage: “It has caused me to grow closer to God than I ever imagined possible and strengthened that relationship first, so that I can see my husband, my best friend with more of His eyes and consequently love my husband in a deeper, more meaningful way that is connected to Christ. Without my marriage, my relationship with God and others would be just less, less complete.”

Third, we can’t leave out the benefit of…being naked together. The wonder of sexual intimacy, when there is an amazing spiritual bond, relational bond, and incredible physical sensations, not to mention the wonderful feelings of closeness afterwards—few highs in life will ever come close to sexual intimacy in marriage. Song of Songs 5:1 exalts,

I came to my garden, my sister, my bride,

I gathered my myrrh with my spice,

I ate my honeycomb with my honey,

I drank my wine with my milk.

Eat, friends, drink,

and be drunk with love!

There were times when our kids were young and Lisa and I would do “date evenings” at a hotel. There’s just something different about hotel sex. I don’t know why, but there is. Not having to be quiet, having a door that is locked and barred and clean sheets that you can leave dirty… Driving to the hotel was half the fun. Knowing what would soon happen, that I was with the woman I cherish above all others, and what we were about to do wasn’t just acceptable to God but blessed by God and celebrated by God!

I should probably do more in this blog to celebrate this aspect of marriage, as does Chris, who writes that he loves “Having a best friend that is also smokin’ hot.” And Jen, who says of her husband, “He’s just so stinking sexy I can’t hardly believe he’s mine!”

Having each other’s back was another common response to the benefits of marriage. I love the way Lindsey captures her marriage with Steve: “Knowing that no matter what the world, the family, friends, or even the church tosses at me — my man always has my back and loves me even when I am wrong. It’s the peace of knowing my heart is in his hand.” (But Lindsey I know you, and you’re rarely wrong…)

Reed says something similar to Lindsey, praising “The warm embrace and kindness of my wife when I come home after the world has beat on me all day long and her heart of defense for me and our marriage as a team and unit.”

Other benefits of marriage Facebook people identified:

  • Knowing who your first call will be (for good news or bad)
  • Facing sickness and life disappointments (unemployment, the death of loved ones, etc.) together.
  • Someone to celebrate with
  • A treasure trove of inside jokes
  • Alison mentions, “Being each other’s sounding board! Offering each other an ear when one needs to vent or one wants to share ideas or ask questions! I love it!”
  • Quiet evenings or mornings where you’re doing nothing, but you’re doing nothing together
  • Growing old together
  • Sharing parenting duties together
  • Reno wrote about “The sharing of life experiences…. the look across a crowded room that says “let’s go home.”

I personally love having someone to bless, and several others said the same thing. The Bible calls us to be devoted to good works (Titus 3:8,14), and it’s a great joy to do things for your spouse that makes her or his life easier or more pleasant. If you live a life of worship and walk in grace, you’ll feel compelled to love and serve others. It’s God’s Spirit within you, orienting you toward a life of blessing, and marriage provides the most immediate context in which to live that out.

More good news for wary singles: many couples testify that marriage tends to get sweeter with time. If you’re both growing in the Lord, you haven’t lived your best day of marriage yet! More sweetness is up ahead. Jaime puts it this way: “There is a buried treasure that seems to only be discovered when you’ve stuck it out through the years and the hard stuff.”

Bill adds, “We’re seamless and the longer you are married you begin to realize what true relationships look like. It goes to higher levels unlike anything I could have ever imagined.”

Alison Tidmore’s words capture the wonder of marriage as well as anyone could. In fact, her words are so beautiful and true to life, let’s end the blog with this:

“I realized this summer what I love most.  I have gone on a few trips to visit family with just my kids. Greg has stayed behind to work. After a few days I was ready to go home. I missed being home. This summer our family of 5 took an almost 2 week road trip and there wasn’t one second I wanted to go home. I looked at Greg one evening and told him he was my HOME. Wherever he is, I am home. Thinking about what home represents summarizes marriage to me–so much security, love, family time, rest, quiet times with Jesus, safety in storms of life; that is my husband and my favorite part of marriage.”

Thank you, God, for the many and varied wonders of marriage!

The man who finds a wife finds a treasure,

and he receives favor from the Lord.

Prov. 18:22

What a joy to be married to a godly woman! A godly wife isn’t a possession, but she is a treasure.

On my Facebook personal page and author page, I asked men to brag about their wives, telling me the three things they most appreciate about their spouses. Four qualities clearly rose to the top.

This is in no way scientific. Most men following me on Facebook are Christians. But I love the way some stereotypes were obliterated. For example, not a single man chose as one of his favorite qualities his wife’s physical appearance. Only two out of about a hundred even mentioned “lover.” Guys are often characterized as focused primarily on sex, but the husbands who responded to my request clearly aren’t.

This post has a triple purpose: to thank you wives for being so wonderful; to encourage single men that, when looking for a future wife, you would do well to consider these qualities; and to encourage wives who want to grow in their husband’s affection with the knowledge that these are the things long-term husbands most admire. Your own husband may value different things, of course, but these are what men chose to publicly celebrate. At the very least, this post could spawn some enlightening conversation on a date night.

The four qualities men on Facebook (I’m not saying this is my list or what I think is most important; mine would be somewhat different) most celebrated about their wives, in this order, were:

Number 1: Faithfulness and Loyalty

Wives, your husbands are grateful for your commitment to your marriage. They believe you hold true to your vows, you won’t cheat on them, and that you will stick with the marriage through disappointments.

Many of us are astounded that a woman agreed to marry us. And we are ever more grateful that, even as you get to know our weaknesses, you stay by our side. We’ve been cut from the team by coaches, rejected by university admission committees, fired by or passed over for promotions by employers, sometimes rejected by our own children, but the story of our lives has been a woman who has walked through all of that with an unyielding, iron-willed faithfulness and loyalty.

And for that we are truly grateful.

I celebrated this gift of loyalty in my book Cherish when I imagine a wife saying to her insecure husband, “You’ve made it across the finish line, into my arms. I’m yours and you are mine. We’re one. I’m thrilled with you. I love you. You can rest in my acceptance. I will recharge you with my affection. I won’t pull away when I get to know you; I’ll draw closer. I won’t disrespect you when I find the dark within you; I’ll pray for God to flood you with his light. I won’t compare you to any other man because to me you are the only man of my affections; you are the standard; you are my man of all men. I won’t look at another man, I won’t touch another man, I won’t compare you to any other man. I will feast my eyes and fill my heart with my love for you.”

What this also means, wives, is that unfaithfulness is perhaps the biggest wound a woman can inflict on her husband because loyalty seems to be closest to many men’s hearts. Flirtation outside the marriage can crush a man, particularly if he values faithfulness and loyalty above all else, as a clear plurality of men in this survey seemed to.

Number 2: A Devoted Follower of Christ

Wives, thank you for bringing more of Christ into our homes. Your knowledge of God’s word, your devotion to prayer and worship, your eagerness to be a part of the local church, and your commitment to godliness blesses us in so many ways.

The closer you get to God, the stronger you become for us. The wiser you become, the more we gain from your perspective. The more peaceful you become, the more spiritual rest we have at home. We don’t look at your faith as something you should do for us—it’s about you and God, first and foremost—but we are blessed immeasurably by the practice and fruit of your faith.

Single men, this is why the Bible urges young men to value a woman’s faith over beauty and charm (Prov. 31:30). Beauty as the world defines it fades. Godliness grows, because God by his Holy Spirit makes it grow. If you marry a woman who is surrendered to God you will be even more in love with her on your thirtieth wedding anniversary than you were on your third. That’s certainly been true for me.

Number 3: A Nurturing Spirit: Kindness, Compassion, Graciousness

I had to lump all of these together under “nurturing spirit” because different men use different words, but they all point to one thing: the disposition of Christ who came not to be served, but to serve. This points to wives who love and give with daily kindness; the kind of wife who is a soothing presence in her family rather than one who brings even more drama into her home. Men praise the peacemakers rather than the warriors (A woman in an abusive marriage may need to become a warrior in order to escape and protect her children, but these posts aren’t talking about abusive marriages; we’re talking about marriages worthy of celebration).

Women, husbands don’t want home to be a battleground. They so appreciate gracious, kind, and compassionate wives. There’s so much drama at the office and sometimes with extended family members. People are at odds with each other in the local church, businesses, sporting events, competing with each other and tearing each other down. What a blessing to be married to a woman who brings a nurturing presence into her home.

Number 4: Forgiving and Patient

We know we mess up. We know we keep messing up. So for all those times of forgiveness and patience, thank you. We wish we could be better for you, and we’re trying. But your acceptance means more to us than you could possibly know.

Single men, as mentioned already, I was shocked at one thing that not a single husband mentioned when searching for his “top three” things to celebrate: his wife’s physical appearance. When looking for a bride, attractiveness usually tops the list for single men. I get that. But the absence of its mention on this list tells me that you would do well to put character and faith first when considering who to marry. Sacrificing character for beauty is something you’ll almost certainly regret. There’s nothing wrong with looking for a woman who is beautiful to you inside and out, but I’m just telling you, in a decade or so, you will be most mindful of her inner beauty.

So, godly wives, thank you for being you. Thank you for putting up with us husbands. In this post, we celebrate you in all your excellence. We know you’re more than a wife: you’re God’s daughter with your own dreams and worth and purpose outside of your relationship to us. But what you bring to us can’t be measured.

A wife of noble character who can find?

She is worth far more than rubies.

11 Her husband has full confidence in her

and lacks nothing of value.

12 She brings him good, not harm,

all the days of her life.

Proverbs 31:10-12

 

Husbands, feel free to add more comments about what you appreciate about your wives in the section below. And in keeping with the previous post, we won’t post comments from disappointed husbands on this particular post. We want the comments for these two posts in particular to be positive and encouraging.

Lisa and I were at a women’s conference when Lisa asked the wife sitting next to her how she had slept the night before. “Terrible,” she replied. “I’m used to my husband’s backrub every night and it’s hard to get to sleep without it.”

“Every night?” Lisa asked.

“Every night.”

Plenty of these blog posts have challenged selfish husbands (and, admittedly less often, wives). But in the next two posts, I want to celebrate some very good husbands and then some very good wives. Instead of always talking about problem spouses, let’s stay in the spirit of Thanksgiving and celebrate the good ones. My hope is that singles will learn what married spouses end up valuing most, and for all of us married people to be inspired to become the kind of spouse that our wife or husband would call “the best of the best.”

I was moved to write this post the weekend that Harvey hit Houston. Lisa and I invited a married couple over to watch the Mayweather/MacGregor fight Saturday night. Technically, Harvey landed on Friday, and then there was a lull Saturday morning and afternoon. We thought maybe we had escaped it and called some friends to come over and watch the fight. The rains hit really hard just before the fight started however, so our neighborhood was transformed into water world between the time they arrived and the time they left.

Actually, one of them left a little earlier to check on their dog. The dog is old, deaf, and almost blind (it probably should have died five years ago but is just too stubborn), but the wife was worried that poor Bella would be scared so she asked her husband to go get her (they live about two miles away). Her husband patiently pointed out that a deaf and blind dog wouldn’t know it if a hurricane blew their house apart, but he loves his wife so he went to their house to get Bella. It took him over 20 minutes to make the drive one way, and just as long to make it back.

His wife knew she was making a bit of an unreasonable request, but he went anyway. And while he was gone, she praised him as “one of the best husbands in the world.”

There are husbands like this out there, and there are plenty of husbands who cherish and spoil their wives.

When wives praise their husbands like this, I often probe to find out what they think makes their husband so special.  I’ve come up with three things in particular that most wives seem to praise. There are others, of course, and I’m asking married women to add to this list in the comments section below.

Single women: this is what you should look for, if you’re like most women. And husbands, these are the kinds of things we should aspire to if we want our wives to be thankful they married us.

Temperament

Without fail, wives that are particularly grateful for their husbands are thankful that he’s not mean, harsh, or prone to temper-laden outbursts. Life’s too short for explosive drama. These wives praise patience and gentleness. They know they can mess up and even occasionally make absurd requests, but even then, they don’t want to have to “pay” for these requests and mistakes with volcanic temper tantrums.

Single women: you will be happiest if you marry a man who is kind, patient, and gentle with you. If he’s harsh, vindictive, if he yells and makes you “pay” for not being perfect, you’ll live with many regrets. Temperament is a huge thing.

I know a woman who has, in her mind, met perhaps the man of all men—he has a high profile law enforcement position where he can act like an alpha male (“Move this car now!”), but then he turns to her and gently says, “So, babe, what can I get you to eat this evening?”

Married men: this is one area where we can grow and mature if we choose to. Think of the kindness with which God has treated you and give that same kindness to your wife. You know you’re not perfect. Give your wife the same grace that you need. The “perfect” Christian husband could be summed up by Colossians 3:12:  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Faith

Wives generally love to be spiritually challenged by their husbands. The wife who spent part of Harvey with us was raised by an alcoholic father. She decided in college that maybe it would be best if she didn’t drink. Early on in her dating relationship with her now husband, she shared her resolve to abstain from drinking and why. Then, at a party, he caught her holding a mixed drink. “Hey,” he said, “If you and I are going to date, this kind of thing isn’t going to fly.”

He wasn’t controlling; he was just firm, essentially saying, “You can drink or date me, but you can’t do both.” She had never had another guy call her to follow through on a commitment she had made to God before, and from that point on, she was smitten.

So often, I see single women trying to drag their boyfriends to church, but the girlfriend is the one who sets moral boundaries, who makes sure they stay active in church, who brings up God and prayer and Scripture. Women, if you have to drag him to faith, don’t ever expect him to challenge your faith. Find a guy who already challenges you just where you are.

Guys, it’s hard to hold our wives accountable when they see us making compromise after compromise. One of the best gifts we can give our wives is consecration to God—reading his word, yielding to his will, surrendering to his moral call.

Security

I’ve never met a wife who calls her husband the best of the best if she feels the least bit threatened by him physically. Every husband will get angry from time to time, but the best husbands know how to deal with their anger without letting their wives feel threatened.

Single women, don’t even think about marrying a man if it’s even remotely possible in your mind that he could possibly hit you. Marriage is too intense, and living together makes you too vulnerable, to put yourself in a place in which you could be in danger of bodily harm.

When a man is stronger than his wife and his wife knows his strength goes only one way—protection, not harm—she feels doubly blessed. If he’s stronger than her and she’s not certain which direction his strength will be used, what could be a blessing becomes a potential threat.

Husbands, Colossians 3:19 tells us to never be harsh with our wives. That not only precludes physical violence, it also rules out abusive language.

The other aspect of “security” is a willingness to pull our own financial weight. If we are lazy and refuse to use our strength to help provide for the family’s financial needs, she’ll never respect us. I’ve never met a wife who respects her husband when he refuses to work or accepts long-term un-employment or under-employment without working hard to change it. I’ve seen wives praise husbands beating the pavement to find work and being understanding about a difficult economy. But when a guy doesn’t care about his unemployment as much as his wife does? That kills her respect for him.

So if you’re a single woman and you want to be happy in your marriage, choose a man with the right temperament, a maturing, strong faith, and one who brings security to your life.

If you’re a single man and you want to make yourself a wise catch, work on growing in patience as much as you maintain your abs. Become the kind of contagious Christian that makes others want to grow closer to God. Learn to deal with frustration without becoming violent, and develop a nurturing, protective posture toward others—physically and financially.

If you’re a married man you can build your wife’s affection by growing in all of these areas. And if you’re a married woman, just know that what gets praised often gets reinforced. When I hear my wife brag on me that makes me want to become more of what she’s bragging about. If your husband hears more of your disappointments than your praises, he may even begin to shut down.

Married women, what would you add to this list? And disappointed wives, please know we want this to be a positive post, so we won’t be posting comments that berate husbands or state how much you wish your husband was more like this. I hope you understand.

 

September 14, 2017

The Whole Story

Guest Author — 

 

We all know that marriage begins long before a woman walks down the aisle. The way she views the intimate aspects of marriage are influenced years and sometimes even decades before any man places a ring on her finger. Therefore, one of the best ways to help our daughters grow into vibrant women who have vibrant marriages is to help them grow into a healthy and biblical understanding of sex. May our parenting be a stepping stone to their sexual fulfillment within marriage rather than a roadblock. I’m thrilled that my friend Sheila Gregoire has worked with both of her adult daughters to provide a wonderful resource for moms to talk with their young daughters about sex. I’m a fan of all three of these women! I’ve loved Sheila’s blog, I’ve already read (and greatly enjoyed) Rebecca’s book, and have laughed with and forwarded Katie’s You Tube videos many times. They are joining forces to provide a wonderful resource for moms and their daughters.

****************************************************************************************************************

I’ve been called “the Christian sex lady.” I speak every year to thousands of women about sex. I blog about it almost daily.

But even I was absolutely terrified when it came to teaching my own daughters about sex and puberty. In fact, my husband had to sit me down and tell me when it was time to get our youngest daughter a bra.

It’s not that I didn’t notice. It’s just that I was very good at avoiding what was ever-so-obvious right in front of me. Katie was only ten, and she was still a little girl with Barbies. I wasn’t ready for this!

Looking back, there isn’t a whole lot that I did right when it came to talking to them about growing up.

When Rebecca, my oldest, was ten, I took her away for a weekend to explain the facts of life. We used a program to help talk about sex, and the main aim was to teach her that she wasn’t supposed to have sex until she was married, and then encourage her to pledge to wait.

Honestly, she was so grossed out by the whole thing she would have pledged never to talk to a boy again! Reflecting on it now, Rebecca says that the hard-hitting “you must wait” message gave her the impression that Jesus loved her mostly because of her virginity.

Whoops.

I receive emails everyday from young wives struggling in their marriages because they grew up with shameful messages about sex–or else they were never told much of anything at all. One woman told me she learned about sex because her mom put a bookmark in the encyclopedia under “sex”. Another woman told me that as soon as she started to develop breasts her mom gave her such a long talk about modesty that it made her paranoid that older men at church were staring at her. She took refuge serving in the nursery. These women desperately want great marriages now, but these messages are hard to eradicate.

One of the most important parenting missions is to raise our daughters with a healthy view of sexuality, pointing them to their worth in Jesus and to the beauty that God made us for. It sets them up for a far healthier future marriage, and a far healthier self-image. God made sexuality to be beautiful; it’s the world that has corrupted it and added shame to it. We must reclaim it, and point our kids on the right road. We simply must get this right.

Yes, it starts with giving them the right information about puberty and the facts of life. But it doesn’t end there.

It also needs to involve keeping the lines of communication open, even, or especially, in the teen years. I did manage to muddle through the facts of life–barely. But we never talked about porn (even though teenage girls are the fastest growing group of porn users). We didn’t talk about masturbation (my girls were good girls, after all!). And I certainly never told them about male anatomy or what their guy friends were going through! It’s in the teen years when kids need us to continue those conversations by making them more personal. Our job isn’t done when they know about the mechanics of sex; they need our help navigating how to handle relationships, peer pressure, and body image issues.

Sound intimidating yet? Well, here’s some good news.

It’s okay if you’re scared.

Really! Kids don’t need perfect parents. They need authentic parents who aren’t afraid to be real with them.

It doesn’t matter if you’re scared. It only matters if you let being scared stop you.

I let being scared stop me from having some important conversations with my kids. And I was scared of a lot of things. I was scared that they may have sexual feelings that I didn’t know how to deal with. I was scared that they may realize that I had sexual feelings! (what would happen if they realized what my husband and I were actually doing?!?) I was so scared of the subject in general that it just seemed easier not to say much of anything at all.

I’m sorry that I missed the chance to guide my girls better when they were younger. But as they grew older, and I got more comfortable, God’s grace covered a lot of my mistakes.

My daughters are 20 and 22 now, and they have ministries of their own. Rebecca has a big book coming out in October called Why I Didn’t Rebel: A 22-Year-Old Explains How She Stayed on the Straight And Narrow–and How Your Kids Can Too. Katie has a large YouTube channel hoping to introduce millennials to Jesus in an unintimidating way.

Recently we were laughing about the mistakes I made talking to them about puberty (Rebecca remembers learning that the penis was like a finger. That really confused her. If guys have a finger there, then why do they need to scratch so much?).

After the hilarity died down, and we started thinking about how moms can do it better, we decided to try to help. We created what we wish we had had: an online, video-based course for moms and daughters called The Whole Story: Not-So-Scary Talks on Sex, Puberty and Growing Up. My girls star in the videos teaching about body changes, sex, peer pressure, boys, and self-care, while I provide coaching for moms. The videos start the conversations, but then discussion questions, checklists, and mother-daughter activity ideas help moms continue them.

Check out The Whole Story!

Your girls are going to get messages about sexuality, body image, and relationships from school, from friends, and from the media. But what they really need is to hear from you. And you can do it! God appointed you, as a mom, to do this. Even if you’re scared.

Sheila Gregoire’s course The Whole Story is available for moms with daughters aged 10-12 or 13-15. It’s not a replacement for moms; it’s a resource to start those important conversations, and make it much easier to continue them.

Sheila Wray Gregoire
Inspirational Speaker, Marriage Author and Blogger
Website: http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com

September 7, 2017

For Worse

Gary Thomas — 

A woman from a war-torn country told an American, “The difference between Americans and the rest of the world is that you expect everything to go fine and are surprised when something bad happens. The rest of the world expects life to be dreary and is surprised when something good happens.”

I don’t know about “the rest of the world,” but when you come from a country where the government has always been corrupt, most people regularly face destitution, and food supply has never been certain, I’m sure many Americans must seem rather spoiled. In this woman’s view many of the people rioting about “injustice” here in this country, so filled with outrage, wouldn’t last a week where she comes from. That’s not to say there aren’t any reasons here for outrage—it’s just to challenge our expectations that we could live in a country where everything is expected to always go right and to assume that we will always agree with the people who are in elected office.

Writing from Houston in the aftermath of Harvey, with some dear friends displaced from toxic water, perhaps makes me especially sensitive to this insight. When you see the pictures in Houston with homes flooded, just know that’s not “nice” river water flowing through homes. It’s worse than sewage—a toxic stew requiring houses to be stripped and bleached before they can be rebuilt. Second Baptist, leading the way with recovery efforts, has a nurse on staff giving tetanus boosters and antibiotics to volunteers. This is nasty stuff.

“Good” people don’t get to avoid bad things. We know a married couple who have heroically served many pastors and our church and still, their office was flooded. You might hope “special” servants could get a miraculous pass from the Hurricane, but that’s not how it works.

On one of my first longer runs following Harvey, I slipped on some mud, fell against a buckled sidewalk, and tore some cartilage in my chest. It only hurts when I move, take a deep breath, or, God forbid, sneeze. Lisa immediately got me on turmeric, arnica and some lotion with mustard in the name, but she also began recounting the litany of running injuries I’ve faced through the years, with the implication, “Are you sure you should keep doing this?”

Next year will mark some forty years of running for me, and that must mean at least 50,000 miles on roads and trails. I can’t deny several medical issues (or the funny look in the doctor’s eyes this time when he asked me what I was taking for the pain and I replied “arnica and turmeric”), but my reply to Lisa was, “Given that I’ve run 50,000 miles, I think I’ve come through surprisingly well. Running in the dark, in storms, in bad weather conditions, with dogs and careless drivers, I’m surprised it hasn’t been worse. Yes, I think I should keep doing this!”

When we look at any marriage with occasional bad episodes, no matter how many miles we’ve travelled together, we might also ask, “Should we keep doing this?” We pledge to stay married “for better or for worse” but most of us never really expect the “for worse.” So when something bad happens, if our expectations are that only good things should happen, we can question our commitment.

Let me ask: do we truly think we can be married for a long time and never have bad things happen? Do you think a couple can be married for twenty years with no medical emergencies, no financial hardship, no major weather events, no employer or investor issues where you’re treated unfairly, no relational frustrations?

If we get married only expecting the “for better” and are surprised and resentful of the “for worse,” we’re going to be like the masked rioters who live in outrage because everything isn’t going exactly as we think it should.

Do you expect to raise several children without one of them having medical issues, developmental challenges, or any spiritual rebellion at all? Do you think you can be a member of a church and never be disappointed by a pastor or fellow church member? Do you expect to agree with all parts and every one of a pastor’s sermons and every decision made by the church leadership? Or do you get outraged at one disagreement and loudly storm out the door, telling everyone on Facebook why?

Do you think one disagreement with a spouse, one behavioral issue, one lethargic season is one too many?

Just what does it mean, really, when we pledge to be together, “for better and for worse?” Is there a place in our lives for the “worse” or are we going to make the “for worse” even more miserable because we’re outraged that life isn’t always perfect and then storm out the door?

When I see in a documentary a husband and wife leading their kids out of a bombed-out city, carrying everything they own on their backs, walking through the rain, and then I talk to a couple who leave their million dollar mansion to tell me why they can’t be happy together anymore, you’ll have to forgive me, but sometimes I think that woman from the war-torn country was on to something. As long as we expect every day to  be perfect and every season to be “happy,” every storm to be minor, and every marriage to be always connected and euphoric, I don’t know why we ever pledge to be there for the “for worse.”

I don’t think it’s possible to run 50,000 miles without an occasional injury. And I’m not sure it’s realistic to be married for 50,000 hours without some major disappointments.  But that, alone, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep doing it. Let’s thank God for the “for better,” but let’s not curse him (or each other) for the “for worse.”

Every marriage, every life, will have plenty of both.

[Note: with the other blog posts I’ve written, I trust readers will understand I’m not considering abuse as a part of the “for worse” that needs to be accepted rather than fled.]

This blog is not written for women in abusive marriages. The advice offered in these posts will challenge both husbands and wives, but the advice could be counter-productive if it is applied in an abusive relationship.