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.
“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love.” Ecclesiastes 9:9
In my book Pure Pleasure I tell the story of an excruciatingly hot run on an August afternoon in Houston, Texas, well before I moved here. Nobody who lives in Houston actually plans to run at 3:00 p.m. in the middle of August but I was traveling from Seattle where heat and humidity never get in the way.
About two miles into the run I thought I was going to collapse into a thirst-induced coma. I ran by a half-empty bottle of Coke lying in a ditch and actually paused. It was beyond gross to contemplate, but at least it was wet.
“You can’t fall that far, Gary,” I told myself and kept going, leaving the Coke behind.
Then I came across a family with young children playing in the front yard. I saw they had a hose and asked the mom if I could turn it on for a quick drink. She was very gracious but I was embarrassed, so I drank it right away without letting the water run all the way through and it was, as you might guess, disgusting. Who knows how long that water had sat inside that hot plastic tube?
Even so, it was wet, and I drank it down because my thirst was monumental.
Writing now, in an air-conditioned room, with a bottle of Fiji water nearby, I’m appalled at the thought of a half-empty bottle of Coke lying in a ditch, or even drinking from a hose in front of a house. But rather than fault myself for not having the willpower to say no on a hot run, I think the wiser question would be, “Gary, why did you allow yourself to get into a situation where you were so thirsty that something that should have been repugnant to you actually became a temptation?”
That’s the attitude you should build in your marriage. Instead of focusing on the moment of temptation, focus on what makes you vulnerable to temptation. If I had been fully hydrated and was carrying a cold bottle of electrolyte-laced water, I wouldn’t have even noticed the Coke in the ditch and I would have run right by the house with the hot hose in front.
When you stop having fun in your marriage, you become relationally thirsty. Things that wouldn’t even be a temptation to you when you’re connecting with your spouse suddenly seem tantalizing. Desperation is by far one of the widest, smoothest off-ramps taking us off the highway of marital faithfulness.
I hate even the thought of legalism, but if you’re going to be legalistic about one thing, be legalistic about this: keep a weekly date night, especially after you have kids. Never stop enjoying each other.
Don’t let sexual intimacy grow cold. Once it becomes routine and once your life becomes so full of keeping up a house, earning a living, and spending time with children, it’s so easy to give sexual intimacy leftover time. It’s so easy to never plan for it, to fail to put the energy into it to occasionally make it special, but that’s a very unwise thing to do. Wives, never stop seducing your husband. Every now and then, plan an encounter that will make his heart stop. You can’t do this every week and maybe not even every month, but many times a year, let your thoughts roam, smile at how much you are going to make your husband squirm, and let many memories of pleasure seal his heart from any outside temptation.
Men, make sure the marital bed is a place where your wife’s pleasure comes first. Don’t act like it’s just her job to “take care” of you. Be thoughtful, creative, generous, and kind. Aim for the day when your wife will think, “I married such a kind husband, but he has been nowhere as kind as he is in the bedroom.” Tie her to your heart with many memories of pure pleasure. If your wife has never been “worn out” with satisfaction, she might be married to a selfish lover who foolishly ignores the power of pure pleasure.
If the moment ever comes when you can’t remember the last time the two of you laughed, take this as a “spiritual doctor’s” prescription: go do something fun in the next three days. If you notice you’re running out of date night ideas, invite another couple along—it’s okay to laugh with another couple. Forget about work and pressure and bills and resolve that you are going to enjoy this marriage.
Here’s a startling fact: over 80% of husbands who cheat on their wives want to return after the affair is over. You know what that tells me? The problem was never the person they were married to, or else they’d never want to come back. The problem was the state of the relationship. They let it become utilitarian. They stopped having fun. The affair was about getting away, re-discovering sexual intimacy, laughing with someone, and doing something other than work or child-rearing.
You can do that with each other! You don’t have to have an affair with someone else because you’re bored. Have an affair with your spouse.
In any given marriage, there is typically one partner who is more focused on having fun (in my marriage, I’m sure you’ve guessed that person’s name begins with an “L”). If you’re not that spouse, thank God that He has given you someone to help keep you from being overly serious. But don’t be lazy. Realize that you also need to plan fun things to do as a couple.
Within the safe confines of marriage, pleasure will be one of the truest friends and protectors of your relationship. Use this God-given tool to build a temptation-proof marriage. Your commitment to a lasting union is actually a commitment to enjoy each other for the rest of your lives. Here’s to a life of laughter, fun, and delight!
Heavenly Father, your goodness and kindness is seen in this: amidst work, service and sacrifice, you call us to enjoy each other and to laugh together as husband and wife. You created us as the only creatures truly capable of laughter, because we are the only creatures made in your image. You command us to take a day off, and your Word celebrates us enjoying each other. Help each couple reading this blog to embrace this good, abundant life, and remind them if they have become overly serious that it is dangerous to remain “relationally thirsty.” Unleash the creativity of your Holy Spirit to guide them to new times of laughter and fun and sexual delight. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.