Gentlemen: Improve Your Marriage By Improving Yourself

Gentlemen: Improve Your Marriage By Improving Yourself

Has it every occurred to any of you that what is extremely beneficial for your marriage is your desire for self-improvement?

Gentlemen, can your wife come home and feel truly blessed because she knows deep within your heart that you are striving to be the best husband, father, employer/employee, and citizen you can be? Does she see you take on new tasks to better yourself? Has she ever seen you challenge the way you think about an issue because the opposite view might be more rational?  Has she ever seen you actual complete a goal you set?

Gentlemen, does she feel like a lady around you or a tramp? Does she feel served and revered by you? Can she truly say it is an honor to be your wife? Can she boast to all her friends about how awesome you are? Can she boast that she came home the other day to a clean and well-ordered house? Can she boast that she never feels like a sexual object but always as a person who is deeply loved? Can she boast that you are always the first to get up in the night when the kids are crying? Can she look you in the eye and say, ‘I am a better person because I married you’?

If not, why? What is holding you back?

Gentlemen, how have you challenged yourself lately? What negative character traits are you trying to rid yourself of? What new character quality/ies are you undertaking? What new talents are you trying to cultivate?

Don’t you realize that your wife longs to see you improve? Don’t you realize your wife longs to boast about you? Don’t you realize that as your personal qualities are perfected the relationships around you improve? Why has this not occurred to you?

Stop complaining and get to work. Stop making excuses. Stop blaming your dad for all your personality blunders. No one likes a whiner—especially your wife.

Improve, Improve, Improve!

This should be your mantra.

Do you think you are a loving man?  Find ways to love even more. Do you think you are generous?  Find ways to give more. Do you think you are a good lover?  Strive to become even more selfless.

Give, Give, Give!

This should be your mentality.

Don’t you realize that your wife grows tired of pandering to all your vices? Don’t you realize that your wife longs to be seen as a rare jewel?

Don’t let the feminist culture deceive you, most women still long to see their men practice chivalry. I don’t imagine the majority of the audience watching Prince William and Miss Catherine getting married at 4 A.M. were men. The dream is still out there: many women still want to be swept of their feet by a prince. Be that prince (I don’t care how cheesy that sounds—its true).

Man up and learn some manors. Open the door for your lady, take her on a date, and buy her that new dress or item she has been eyeing for months. Stop staring at her breast and butt and look her in the face. Stop taking your sexual fantasies out on her by imposing embarrassing requests on her.  Make her your fantasy.

Stop being lazy and learn how to clean a bathroom. Stop making your wife do all the house work. Go workout and look fit for your wife. Eat better and stop drinking so much. Life is not that bad. Learn to control yourself.

Put the computer down and go hangout with your kids. They want to be with you. Teach your son how to be a man. Take your daughter on a date and teach her what a true gentlemen is. Be such a good father that she has a difficult time finding a man to marry. Stop putting this off; soon they will be gone and you will have missed your opportunity. No excuses!

Gentlemen, it is time to be a man. It is time you think about whatever is noble, true, and beautiful. Stop letting your mind run in the gutter. Put off moral filth and the lust of the eye. Learn to control your sexual passion so you can truly give yourself to your spouse. There is nothing like sex when your desire is to completely give yourself to her and not to merely get rid of sexual tension. The latter reduces your wife to an object and a stripper; the former elevates her to the most cherished person on the earth. Let your bedroom than be the Prince’s chamber where your wife feels like a Princess and not a mistress.

Gentlemen, it is time to raise your wife’s expectations of what a husband should be. Make sure, that if you died, she would have to marry a saint to feel like she is truly loved.

Series Part 1: Is Perversion in the Marital Bed Ok? An Introduction to the Sexuality of Life

Series Part 1: Is Perversion in the Marital Bed Ok? An Introduction to the Sexuality of Life

In particular we will be looking at such things as pornography, S & M, bondage, open marriage, same-sex, fantasy and anal sex.  Should these and other similar behaviors be part of sexuality in our marriage?  This question is coming up more and more in my therapy office, which is both sad and not surprising given the deterioration of our public morality in society today.  It is only a matter of time before people embrace these things in the privacy of their own homes to their own peril.

The question this series is addressing arises out of the belief that “We can do anything we want in the marital bed as long as we both agree.”  I very strongly disagree with this statement and will try to give a coherent response to it.  Whether I succeed or not is another story!

One person in particular has asked me to give a Christian response to this question as he has asked several pastors about this issue and hasn’t felt they gave him an answer that addressed his concerns.  I was a pastor earlier in my career and now that I’ve worked with 1000’s of couples and have heard and addressed the rationalizations many times, I hope I can add some insight into this important question.

If you are not a Christian, you can still benefit from my discussion of the issue and I hope you will give these podcasts a go.

This podcast (#9) is the first in a series.  It’s a pretty involved topic and I wanted to give it the attention it deserves.  I’ve struggled for a couple of months on this and have been thinking about it for some time.  Initially I taped a couple of podcasts on it, but after Brandon Wall (Staff Researcher here at Heart to Heart) and I listened to them we decided they both started out too dark and we needed to begin from a more positive footing.  Today’s podcast is an effort to do that.

The overall structure of the podcast series will be to contrast the Sexuality of Life with the Sexuality of Death.  The first two podcasts in the series will look at the Sexuality of Life.  This podcast today will define the word Perversion and explain The Three Boundaries of Marriage and The Four Purposes of Sex.  The second in this series will look at the the Four Essential Ingredients of Marital Sex.   Then, in the third and following podcasts in the series I will contrast the Sexuality of Life with the Sexuality of Death and conclude that you can’t mix the Sexuality of Life with the Sexuality of Death without the Sexuality of Life becoming the Sexuality of Death.  It’s not the other way around.  The Sexuality of Life does not make the Sexuality of Death become the Sexuality of Life.  Any effort to bring perversion into the marriage will only breed insecurity, mistrust, heartache, doubt, fear, manipulation, control, abuse, distance, anger, despair, and, if we aren’t careful, the death of the relationship altogether.

I’m sorry this is such a dark topic.  But I must address it.  My hope is to give those who are struggling with these temptations the spiritual and intellectual resources they need to overcome them.  I am sure that those who think these behaviors are fine will not be persuaded and will continue down their personal road of destruction.  They probably wouldn’t listen to this material in the first place!  I’m not worried about detractors.  I’m hoping those who struggle with these things and are looking for resources will find some places to start here.

Here’s a brief outline of the podcast and a list of references you can explore for more information:

I. Definition of Perversion

II. The Boundaries of Marriage (based upon Genesis 2:24)

  • The Boundary of Protection “Leaving”
  • The Boundary of Exclusivity “Cleaving”
  • The Boundary of Life “Becoming”

III. The Four Purposes of Sex

  • Creating the Next Generation
  • Breathing Spiritual Oneness into the Marriage
  • Creating and Being a Blessing to Our Family and Society at Large
  • Turning Our Spirits Toward God

Biblical verses mentioned in the podcast are:

Genesis 2:24 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.  (See also: Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:7, Ephesians 5:31)

Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled (NIV: kept pure) for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

Psalm 46 (the entire Psalm, but especially verse 1: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.)

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:28a  So God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

God is our example.  This is a recurring theme throughout the Bible.  See, for example, Deuteronomy 10: 17-19 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.  He defends the cause of the fatherless and widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.  And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.

Song of Solomon (I refer to the entire book which is a love poem between a husband and a wife and has also been interpreted over the millenia as a love poem between us and God and between Christ and the Church.  I think both interpretations bear insight.)

You can look up these verses and their contexts at BibleGateway.com and type in the biblical reference in the search engine there.

I refer to the following works in this podcast:

Walter Trobisch, I Married You

Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners

For other materials by Christopher West click here.

More information about the Theology of the Body can be found here.

We Are This Desperate?

We Are This Desperate?

I don’t really have time to blog today.  Got clients coming soon.  Gotta say something.  Can’t just not say anything.  I promised in a previous blog I’d be writing in the near term about the question, Is Perversion in the Marital Bed Okay?  Crap.  It’s a very depressing subject.  I wish all my blogs could be about trips to Boone, Iowa (my last blog post).

But, alas.  Evil rears it’s ugly head.  I can’t NOT say anything.  Clients come to see me because of the evil in their lives.  We can’t deal with evil if we don’t name it.  You can’t fight an enemy you can’t name.  If you don’t name it, it doesn’t exit.

My wife doesn’t like that I need to write about these horrid topics.  I used to write a column for a denominational magazine.  It was positive, up beat.  Like the thought I just had of the drier going off and it was my wife who turned it on before heading into work a half an hour ago.  She’s not here, but she leaves trail of blessing to me and ours.

I’d rather write about that.  Our trail of blessing.  That’d be sweet.  Encouraging even.  But then I see this.  Somebody has to say something.  Somebody has to name it.  Somebody has to say there’s an enemy we’re fighting.

I’m flipping channels.  I used to do that more.  Aimless.  Flip.  Flip.  Flip. I try not to do that much.  But this night, last night, I’m home after hearing stories of hurt and shame.  I’m looking for something light.  A little levity.   A snatch of joy.  Relax a bit.

But no.  I happen on ABC and a story of a couple who’s broke and is resorting to filming their bedroom encounters online to make a living for their unseemly website.  I see this for about 10 seconds.  15?  before I switch the channel.  Enough to catch them disrobing and the announcer making it sound like this is a walk in the park.  A couple’s gotta do what a couple’s gotta do.  Nothing immoral here at all.  Maybe even admiration at their inventiveness.

There’s supposed to be a lock on the bedroom door.  The marital bed is undefiled.  The marriage bed is a holy temple.  We don’t allow any other gods in this temple.  No porn.  No objects of worship like ropes and chains.  No S & M.  No bondage.  No fantasies of somebody else.  No fantasies that your wife or husband is somebody else.  No fantasies that you want to dominate or hurt or be dominated or hurt.  Sexuality between a husband and wife is to be holy, a bringing together, a reminder of their oneness.

Sexuality in marriage is supposed to be very tender.  Very sacred.  Holy, even.  IF.  IF.  If it is protected by marriage.  That’s your job: to protect your spouse, protect you, protect your marriage and your marital bed from the evil in your own heart.  Your sexual times are holy times.  Just you two.  No one else.  You become one in the process.  God smiles.  You feel blessed.  Close.  Renewed.  Together.

But if instead you think perverted thoughts of others or of your wife or husband as your slave or you all tied up or your spouse standing over you in domination?  Or you fantasizing about someone else?  Or you make it simply an object of observation by others?  A performance at the circus?  A video camera and thousands (millions?) of other lost souls lusting after imaginary pixels on a screen.  You’d sell your soul to the devil for this?

This stuff comes from the gates of Hell.  Purge it from your heart and if you can’t, get on your knees, but don’t bring into your bedroom.

But Dr. Wall…you don’t understand.  What if they both WANT to do the video thing?  Neither is protesting?  It’s their marriage.  They can do whatever they want, right?  Dr. Wall, you are so judgmental.  Lighten up, already.  Two consenting adults who are married to each other can do whatever they want. 

Is it Okay to murder somebody if he wants you to murder him?  Marriage means you have a boundary around the two of you.  You are going to be married, but you are not going to respect the boundary of marriage?  Whom are you trying to kid?  Marriage is supposed to be about protection of each other physically, emotionally and spiritually and you are going to expose your spouse willingly to embarrassment and degradation, not to mention degrading yourself?  Or that you are defrauding the very boundary you promised to protect?  If your spouse tells you to humiliate him in the act of sex, you’d willingly do that?  How is that honoring and protecting?

Can we just be done with the idea that the purpose of sex is pleasure?  Could we even count the ways that marriage has been defaced by the god of pleasure?  Just because it makes you happy doesn’t mean you should do it.  The purpose of sex is the tangible experience of the spiritual oneness of marriage.  It’s not a license to do whatever your heart says.  If your heart is telling you to break the boundary of protection and exclusivity in your marriage then your heart is pretty dark.

But you say, Dr. Wall, this is who I am.  I’ve always been this way.  I cannot change.

Just because you have proclivity to gossip does it mean you should?  Just because you have a tendency to get mad, does it mean you shouldn’t work on that?  Just because you have a devious, deviant desire, does it mean you should just go ahead and do it?  There’s no self-control at all?  Whatever your heart says, do?  And then you say the only value you share is that you both agree?  What if you are both wrong?  You can ask Bonnie and Clyde about that.

This stuff defiles you.  It defiles your spouse.  It defiles your marriage.  It causes you to doubt your spouse’s integrity.  Lust breeds lust.  It’s an unquenchable fire that keeps burning unless you quit feeding it.  The more you feed it the less you become, because what it is feeding on is your very life, cannibalizing you one cell at a time until there’s nothing left.  Your marriage will self destruct way before that more than likely.

This is why cohabitation without marriage is so insidious.  It’s just like marriage, right?  It’s just us?  We might have a kid or two together?  We might even own a house together?  Isn’t that enough?  Yeah, we’re not married.  Why?  Oh.  Ah.  We’re not mature enough to get married(!).  We have to save more money.  Well, we’re not ready to get married.  I have to see.

Have to see.

Have to see.

And when will you have seen enough?

We’re so desperate we can’t wait for anything?  Marriage isn’t worth waiting for?  If it’s not worth waiting for is the relationship even worth anything?  Just feelings?  What happens when your impatience wears down your feelings?  What then?

Sexuality is so tender, so precious, so delicate, that it needs a holy temple to protect it.  The holy temple is marriage.  The holy temple is not a child or a mortgage or sharing rent.  All that is is roommates.  Roommates with no protection.  No promises.  Nothing certain.  Enter insecurity, loss of trust and chaos and unending relationship problems.

Sex without marriage is sheer pleasure for pleasure’s sake.  For awhile.  Then it becomes a burden and a bore.  The quickest way to kill your sex life going forward is to have it outside the temple in the courtyard.  No walls.  No roof.  No protection.  No trust.  No certainty.  No sanctity.  No beauty.  Just raw selfishness.  Married or not.  Go ahead.  Try it.  See how well you do.  And then you wonder why you have problems?

You want hot sex?  Try ONLY having it in the holy temple for 30 plus years.  It just starts to get interesting.  Becoming one?  Whoa, baby!

You can take your marriage out of the temple.  Just put a video camera in front of it.  Objectify it.  Take the holiness out it altogether.  Make your spouse a slave.  Nothing about humility here or being a servant or sacrificial love.  Nothing special here.  Just bodies commingling.  Like animals.  We’re not people.

In ancient Israel, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year to make a special sacrifice for the Children of Israel.  He had a cord tied around him to pull him out in case he died in there.  If he died in there no one else was allowed in the temple.  They’d drag him out.

No one else was allowed in the temple.

No one else was allowed in the temple.

Except we two.  Just us.  No cameras.  No videos.  No websites.  No sexual toys.  No strangers.  No idols.  No ropes.  No chains.  No blindfolds.  We’re not going to be paid to be sexual.  We’re not going to prostitute ourselves for someone else’s pleasure.  We’re not going to.

We’re not going to.

You can take the holiness of marriage and pervert it if you aren’t careful.

Unfortunately, a lot of us aren’t careful.

There’s no temple.  There’s no holiness.  We do it whenever, wherever, with whatever and whomever under every green tree.

You do this and then you wonder why you are anxious?  Depressed?  Unhappy?  Suspicious?  Insecure?  Lost?

I’d don’t wonder for a minute.

Series Part 1: Is Perversion in the Marital Bed Ok? An Introduction to the Sexuality of Life

Is Sexting Wrong?

In this podcast I’m not going to belittle Rep. Anthony Weiner’s recent public confession of his using the internet to contact other women and text them unseemly things. I’m using his situation to comment on breaking boundaries in marriage in general and the hurtful effect this can have on both the partner doing it and the partner who confesses. I also contrast two world-views: one that leads to a Sexuality of Life and one that leads to a Sexuality of Death. We all have left over sexual energy. What you do with it is what matters!

We Are This Desperate?

Two Philosophies, Two Marriage Trajectories

If you take the Biblical notion of “everyone will die for his own sins” down to everyday life, you’ll see you can’t live your life based upon everyone else’s reaction.  You are responsible for everything you do irrespective of how others treat you.

Does this happen to you?  You come home from work in a perfectly good mood and when you greet your wife she isn’t so nice to you and your feelings are hurt and you take it personally and aren’t so nice to her.  Even though, two seconds ago, you were in a perfectly good mood, you let her reaction to you determine your reaction to her.  And when you aren’t so nice to her, she does more of the same to you and you respond in kind and now the whole evening is shot.

Great.  React.  React.  React.  React.

Maybe she wasn’t in a bad mood.  Maybe she was preoccupied with something else and you took her preoccupying demeanor to mean she’s indifferent to you.  Here you are reading her mind when, hey, you aren’t God, so you can’t read her mind.  But you impute ill will to her mood and assume her preoccupying mood means she’s indifferent to you.  So here you are, all of a sudden, pouting or stomping around or acting all indifferent about her.  Your spouse was preoccupied and you interpreted it as indifferent.  You escalated preoccupation to being INTENTIONALLY indifferent and that caused your wife to pop out of her preoccupation to notice you are being rude and she assumes your rudeness is intentional and you are not simply in a bad mood from work (you were in a good mood just moments before) and if you are being rude on purpose to her then she needs to be rude to you ON PURPOSE and treat you in kind.

Now you REALLY have a reason to be in a bad mood.  She really has treated you rudely, intentionally, and now your mood and demeanor accurately reflects her intentionally rude behavior and you are intentionally rude back, only more so, because

If Cain is revenged seven times, then Lamech is revenged seventy-seven times.*

This quote is from Cain’s descendant, the seventh from Adam. He’s the world’s first philosopher and basically his philosophy was he wasn’t going to take no crap and if you hurt him he was going to hurt you worse and feel totally justified in doing so.  He actually applied his philosophy of life and killed a man for wounding him.  He was the first Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  He could have had his own reality show.

I’m not sure what you’d call Lamech’s philosophy, but it is the most common philosophy known to man for these last few thousand years. It’s been pretty good at causing wars and bringing down kingdoms.  It’s one that will destroy your marriage, without even trying.

That’s just it: without even trying.

If you don’t try, it’ll be easy to treat your spouse with contempt if she doesn’t treat you the way you think you deserve.  You’ll scoff and huff and puff and, if she’s operating on the same principle, she’ll scoff and huff and puff, too.

There could be another way.

If your spouse appears indifferent to you, you could give her the benefit of the doubt and say to yourself, maybe she’s not really indifferent.  Maybe she’s preoccupied.  You could ask, “So, what’s up?” and she could say she’s sorry, she’s preoccupied about thus and so and didn’t even notice you there and you give each other a kiss and a hug and chat and talk and reconnect and the evening is fine and you don’t have any bodies in the ditch.

You could do that, but that would mean you were being nice even though you thought your spouse was being mean to you.  It’s not an easy thing to do, but if you don’t your marriage will self-destruct and pretty soon there won’t be anything left.

This is a little easier for Christians, though it’s not easy for anybody.  Christians believe what Jesus said, to turn the other cheek and to forgive seventy times seven.  Ha!  Lamech said he’d be avenged seventy-seven times.  He promised as a matter of principle to hurt others way more than they hurt him.  You-don’t-mess-with-me.  Jesus upped the ante in the total opposite direction and said to forgive way more than you are hurt.  Did you catch that?

These are the two philosophies that have warred for your soul ever since you were born and they are fighting for your soul today.  Lamech’s words ring loud in your ears: hurt back, hurt back and Jesus’ words whisper softly, forgive back, be nice back.

One very loud voice; one very soft voice, both vying for your very soul.

Don’t think this war isn’t affecting you.  It’s pretty easy to fall into Lamech’s trap.  Consider this pretty common scenario:  He’s really beat from work.  Really beat.  He’s not faking it.  He’s really beat.  He comes home and his wife is really beat, too.  She’s dead tired.  The kids have run her ragged.  She can’t wait till he comes home to relieve her of some of the burden.  She looks forward to his coming home.  He walks in the door and appears in a bad mood, not because of her, but because he’s really beat.  Really beat.  He’s not even in a bad mood.  He’s just tired.  He heads to the couch, barely saying a word and she feels neglected and makes a sarcastic comment about needing some help.  He makes a sarcastic comment about needing a minute to pull himself together and she makes a sarcastic comment about how she could use a minute too and how come he gets a minute and she doesn’t and off they go down Lamech’s Lane, only the scenery isn’t very pretty.

You could see how this could deteriorate pretty rapidly.  She says to herself, this is a bunch of crap, and quits picking up the house, since, she says, he never does and it’s not fair.  He says to himself, the house is a disaster when I come home and she’s never in a good mood, I’ll just not come home or when I do I’ll avoid her altogether so as to not get the stare or the lecture or the sarcastic comments.  And the more he doesn’t come home or the more he withdraws into the basement or the garage or the computer or whatever the more caustic she gets in her comments or the more she doesn’t say anything or the less she does in return for the less he does and pretty soon they quit laughing as a couple and hanging out with each other because there’s all this tension and they quit going to bed at the same time or even with each other because it’s just easier to fall asleep on the couch ‘cuz she doesn’t seem to want me anyway and pretty soon they are at opposite ends of the bed or in different beds altogether (If you are in different beds you are telling your spouse that you are indifferent and how do you escalate indifference?  I can be more indifferent than you?  What a contest that will be!).  And then it won’t be long before sexuality is as rare as a Chicago Cubs playoff berth and then they won’t be able to be sexual because they aren’t close enough which is funny because they can’t be close if they aren’t sexual.  Sexuality is one of God’s clever ideas to keep a husband and wife interested in each other (that would be like, you know, the opposite of indifference?).  It also helps them overcome Lamech’s temptation, but if they’re not going to be sexual either, frickin’ this and frickin’ that, and pretty soon they’ll be married in name only or maybe not at all.

But nobody learned anything and later they remarry somebody else who operates under Lamech’s mentoring eye and they do the same thing, only, if you haven’t noticed, people in second marriages REALLY REALLY REALLY AIN’T GONNA TAKE NO CRAP and they have way less tolerance for inequities and jump to conclusions even quicker because they’ve already been hurt before and they don’t want to be hurt again.  And around and around we go.

A better approach would be take Jesus’ cue and if your spouse isn’t nice to you, be nice anyway, remembering that it’s your job to be a good husband or a good wife, it’s not your job to make sure your spouse is a good spouse to you.  Irregardless of how your spouse treats you, you are going to be a good spouse.  This is easier if you serve a higher Master and you know you are responsible for your own actions, good or ill, that you answer to someone other than your spouse.  You know…like on Judgment Day?

Really?  If I did that wouldn’t I be setting up myself to be abused?  Won’t he just take advantage of me then?  Really?  I don’t think so.  If your spouse is mean to you and you are nice back and your spouse is mean to you and you are nice back and your spouse is mean to you and you are nice back, pretty soon your spouse is going to get the idea he is being mean and you are being nice and that that isn’t really fair for him to be mean when you are nice, so pretty soon he’s going to be nice back.

But maybe not.  Nevertheless, doing good is it’s own reward.  You are going to die for your own sins, right (Oh, I don’t believe all that religious crap.  Too bad.  I bet there will be a lot of surprised looks on Judgment Day!  You were wrong?  Damn.  No pun intended.)?  You’re not going to let anyone, let alone your husband or wife, convince you to do the wrong thing, right?  Doing the right thing, even in the face of odds, is the right thing to do.  You’re only going to be nice to your spouse when your spouse is nice to you?  Then your marriage will self-destruct.  Someone has to pick up the ball and rise above and be nice anyway.

Somebody.

Anyway.

And since you are the one reading this, that would be you.