How many choices do you think you make in a day? Choices like: what time we’ll get up from our warm and cozy beds, how much coffee we’ll drink, whether or not we’ll engage in a devotional time and so on. Those examples are pretty common or simple, but there are more difficult choices we make quite frequently as well.
I do not mean for the title of this blog to be controversial or provocative, so, if you are married, do you go to bed together at the end of your day? We are finding more and more couples who do not. Why is this?
The Gottman Institute research has shown that couples tend to stop going to bed together within the first three-and-one half years into marriage and something like 75% of couples do not go to bed at the same time.
Many couples maintain differing schedules and are not shy about it. Some couples are opposite when it comes to being a late-night person versus an early morning person. Still others are working on needed household chores late into the evening and others are enjoying their down time after the kids are in bed. Then there are those couples who have no evening ritual of communication and ending their day together spiritually.
I would like to propose something different: Go to bed at the same time and end your evening in one another’s arms. Why? Well, I tend to think there are some extraordinary benefits. Here are seven.
- You can converse even as you spend time in the bathroom or bedroom preparing for sleep.
- You can deeply communicate about those things the children and others simply should not hear. Call it pillow talk.
- You’ll be together, touching one another emotionally which can lead to a greater opportunity for cuddling and sexual intimacy.
- It creates a level of connection which inspires happiness in the marriage.
- When you go to bed together, you tend to maintain a similar schedule together.
- If there are poor late-night choices (like pornography, internet surfing or social media) being made, going to bed together lends accountability to one another and to unplug.
- And the very best reason to go to bed together? You can top off your day by praying and reading God’s word cooperatively as one.
Try it for 30 days and see if you can establish a brand-new habit that brings life and connection to your marriage. Remove the TV from your bedroom if there is one. Turn off devices, say “I love you” every night and practice giving thanks for what you both brought to the marriage and family that day. You’ll never regret it!
Perhaps lechery is a word you are not familiar with. If you look into its meaning the dictionary states, “…unrestrained or excessive indulgence of sexual desire.” I have come across this “desire” within some marriages. Usually, it is the man who relentlessly pursues an inordinate desire for sexual relations, but this is not always the case.
Let’s be clear by stating that sexuality is something God has said “yes” to within the boundaries of marriage. It is something we should “desire” and “indulge” in regularly, but who defines “regularly” for you and your life mate and who then defines “excessive?”
Well, you both do. You find what works for you. You find what you both can agree to and enjoy. You find what honors, respects and blesses your spouse sexually and you purposefully and unselfishly pursue that. You also find what might be the cause of “…unrestrained or excessive indulgence.” We need to discover what is at the core of our lives that promotes something which is bringing harm to our marriage bed. Why? Because God’s gift of sex is never forced or abusive to another.
Let me give you some harmful effects of sexuality that can make their way into marriage.*
- Sex can be harmful if it is demeaning to another.
- It is unhealthy if it makes another person feel less valuable or used.
- It is unhealthy when it is purely selfish, used only for physical gratification.
- It is unhealthy when it shames another.
- It is damaging when forced or coerced and the law of “love does” not rule.
- Sex is not healthy when used as a replacement for affection or tenderness.
- Sex is unhealthy when it violates someone’s conscience.
- Sex is unhealthy when pornography is involved in any form.
Sexuality within the confines of marital commitment actually increases the marital bond. It fosters the growth of intimacy. It serves to reduce stress and anxiety by providing a special tone of togetherness and a release of tension. It provides a private and intimate shared experience and a bond of emotional security. It promotes a sense of well-being and happiness within the marriage and, of course, it is a gift given to us by our Creator to enjoy through many years of married life together.
(*Some of the above points are adapted from the book, The Sexual Man by Archibald Hart.)
I would be devastated, overwhelmed and heart-broken if my daughter suffered any kind of abuse from anyone in any fashion. I would give my life to make sure that did not happen. Further, I would be equally broken and horrified if one of my sons was falsely accused of abusing another. Having raised my children with very clear values and boundaries, I would believe them if they told me abuse occurred or did not occur.
Whether there is alleged abuse or alleged accusation, I appreciate that these kinds of things, brought out and into the light, bring awareness to very destructive behaviors.
We are told that one in four girls endure or suffer from some form of abuse or molestation, which is simply horrific. But it is also true that one in five boys suffer the same. Having been a social worker and marriage and family counselor for many years, I witnessed way too much devastation in lives of youth and of adults in both females and males.
I heard stories from young women who had been molested in their family barns, a place that should have been safe for them and I heard similar stories from young men. One young man told me that his female high school English teacher while on school premises repeatedly forced him to engage in sexual intercourse. His pain over this was evident years later.
We are responsible to teach our children truth and how destructive sex can be outside God’s boundary of marriage. My wife and I shared I Timothy 5:1 and 2 with our children, “Treat younger men as brothers…and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” Your children’s school teachers, politicians, Hollywood or any news media will not be teaching these verses; it is your/our job to establish these boundaries and life-giving values.
Today we hand our children a smart phone to stay in touch with us. At the same time, we must realize these hand-held devices are a computer and they accesses pornography which teaches just the opposite of the values we are attempting to instill. Are you aware that Hollywood produces around 600 to 700 films per year while the pornography industry produces 13,000 films per year? Children are accessing some of the worst, most horrific sexual smut available for free on their phones each and every day.
In these times we are hard pressed to find any moral guidance coming from Washington DC, even as governmental leaders call for morality. And Hollywood continually puts out sexually provocative films and then expects morality among its ranks. You cannot have it both ways…sorry.
So let’s take responsibility for our own lives and the lives of our family. We need to have a zero tolerance of pornography and sexually explicit movies and television.
No matter the ill in our society, God’s word has already spoken on the subject and given us the most safe, most protective and life-giving answers. It is that same book that mentions not lying, not stealing, not committing adultery, not coveting and not murdering. This is not a call to fight or resist our government, our schools or even Hollywood, but it is a call to remember who our enemy actually is.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6: 12)
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.(I Corinthians 10: 2)
Note: This thirteen-week blog series will share a snippet from each chapter of our new book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve & Mary Prokopchak. This book is now available through House to House Publications.
We sat down to interview Jon and Amy (names have been changed), a couple we have encountered who have a pain-filled story. With their permission, we are about to share with you their loss, brokenness, hope, and redemption.
Jon was sexually molested as a child. In his teen years, he succumbed to pornography and masturbation for comfort and intimacy. It was the beginning of a lifelong pattern of turning to pornography for the relief of pain, anxiety, and fear. He was addicted to the images on the screen. Eventually the addiction became more and more powerful in his life and he began to act out his fantasies. When he had extra cash available, Jon would visit a local prostitute, all the while hiding his dark and tortured secret life from his wife Amy.
One day, Amy received some pornographic pictures on her phone. She called the phone company and asked how that could happen if she never visited such websites. They told her someone most likely used her phone to access pornographic material. She questioned her sons, and then she questioned her husband. No one confessed. She prayed and asked God for wisdom.
She knew her husband had a “past issue” with pornography but had no idea of how current and active it presently was. She pressed in once again with Jon and he denied any involvement. “I felt so horrible,” Jon said, “but lying seemed like my only alternative.” He just couldn’t believe he was at this point; he had been telling himself it would never get out of his control. That thought was now a past hope, not a present truth.
For more of Jon and Amy’s story and the redemption that followed, see chapter nine in Staying Together.
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My wife and I were speaking to 30 plus senior high youth recently. They were passionate, hungry, open, teachable, vulnerable and beautifully smiling back at us as we taught. We spoke about life mission, boundaries, identity, pornography, priorities and praying for a life mate. We were straightforward and honest. They listened intently. As I observed these kids and the pressure they’re under, I thought about their personal introductions to porn, sex, drugs, broken families, raunchy TV and movies and peer pressure. “How do they cope in a world so different from the world I lived in when I was their age?” And then this question came to me, “Will they sell their identity?”
It was a church youth group. They will soon head to college, technical school or enter the work force. How often will they be tempted to throw in the towel and give up on their faith? What college professors will tell them Christianity is for the weak, the brainless and/or the non-thinker? What young girl might attempt to seduce one of these young boys or vice versa? Which ones will sell their identity and which ones will hold onto their Christ-centered identity?
Quickly the answer to the question of how will they cope came: you and I. The adults in their lives will touch them, love them, pray for and with them and visit them when they are off to college. We will text them, email them and even snail mail them to encourage their faith. We will send them books and articles that will help to protect their identity and we will speak life to them. We will tell them they are accepted, of value to us and to God and we will tell them how beautiful they are. We will challenge them to live righteously and hold them accountable to the truths taught to them.
Who are the young people in your life? They need you in their life today so they do not sell their identity tomorrow.
This blog is from a spiritual father who loves this generation enough to share truth from a man named Peter who walked with Jesus. Please consider Simon Peter’s admonitions below, who we all know was not perfect, but who went on to be one of Jesus’ greatest spokesmen in the New Testament church.
- Our language use: Cursing or using crude expletives like the “F***” word and other unwholesome speech is not becoming of a son or daughter of the King. We are not slaves to our culture, but rather we are called to influence our culture with the truth and the way we live our lives, which includes our language. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. I Peter 2: 1-3; 4: 11; II Peter 2: 19-21
2. Unwholesome thoughts: What words and pictures are we thinking? How can we become more wholesome through our spirit speaking to our minds? We are told that we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2: 16), what is Christ’s mind thinking? I have written both [letters]…to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. II Peter 3: 1, 2
3. Drinking too much alcohol and getting too close to inebriation, along with any form of immorality is detestable to God: When you consume alcohol, if you drink, do you know the limit and practice it strictly in order to honor your relationship with Jesus? Too many today are calling it their liberty to get close to sin and/or blatantly sin – wounding themselves and others. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose…drunkenness… I Peter 2: 9; 4: 3
4. God desires all to be saved: Our silence with so-called ‘acts of justice’ only, does not always give voice to simply, boldly and unashamedly sharing the gospel. Always be prepared to give an answer to every one who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. II Peter 3: 9; I Peter 2: 11, 12; I Peter 3: 15
5. Commitment to a local church, to relationships, to accountability and to discipleship is vital for our generation: Maybe you feel like you do not need the church, but does that church (people) need you? It is not just commitment to a building or a place, it is commitment to God’s children, your family. Love the brotherhood of believers… I Peter 2: 13, 17; I Peter 4: 9, 10
6. Pornography is a direct connection to human trafficking and a picture of the depravity of mankind’s fallen nature: The present generation is passionate about fighting human trafficking, while at the same time being the largest consumers of pornography. This seems a blatant cognitive dissonance and youthful arrogance. …They themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. I Peter 2: 16; II Peter 2: 19
7. Pursuing holiness and sanctification rather than allowing ourselves to be as close to the world as possible: We are to taste not, touch not and handle not so that we might remain pure before our God (Colossians 2: 21). Holiness is His desire for us and only through Him can we be holy. But just as he who called you in holy, so be holy in all you do. I Peter 1: 13-15; 2: 9; II Peter 1: 4-9; 2: 20; 3: 14
8. Hell is a very real place: Hell is as present as heaven. It was not made for you and I, but those who reject Christ to the end will find themselves in this place. It is the Father’s will that none would perish, but rather that all would be saved (John 3: 17). For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell… II Peter 2: 4-9
9. Honoring our elders: We need to honor (rather than belittle, put down or ridicule even if we do not agree) those who went before us; those who have fought the good fight and who paid a price to bring the truth of the gospel to our generation. You do not need to always agree, but you do need to honor as they are our spiritual fathers and mothers. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. I Peter 5: 5; II Peter 3: 2
10.False prophets: There are those who do not tell the truth or the whole gospel, but rather a perversion of the truth and it is bringing confusion to the church. Doctrine is as old as the book of Acts and it was the apostles who, through following Jesus on the earth, brought these truths to us (Acts 2: 42). Be careful of the doctrines of men and search your Bible. But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. II Peter 2: 1-3
“My sexual lust was fueled by my viewing pornography,” a friend once confessed to me. That statement provoked more questioning on my part and it’s an interesting, sad and revealing story. He described his pornography habit as helping to create a fantasy world in which he lived in, within his mind anyway. His conscious and subconscious thoughts would affect his reality on a daily basis. He shared, “Porn provided a subconscious trigger that can lead to far worse situations.” One day he found himself in one of those “situations” and he followed through with a “far worse” fulfillment of his fantasy world.
That one single decision to act upon his fantasy almost landed him in jail as he ended up committing a sexual crime. Today my friend confesses to me that pornography actually changed his reality, “It changed how I viewed my wife, my co-workers and almost everyone I interacted with on a regular basis; it was such a dishonoring view.” Regular intake of pornography will keep you from relating to the opposite sex in a healthy way. It will distort your reality and it will eventually effect your actions. I love how the writer of Psalm 119 expressed it, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word…I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you…Turn my eyes away from worthless things…”
A number of years ago I conversed with a man who was $32,000.00 in credit card debt. When I asked him what he had purchased as a young single in order to find himself at that level of debt he replied, “Pornography.” I was stunned. Tens of thousands of dollars spent on an addiction and nothing to show for it besides remorse, regret and shame. Proverbs chapters 5-7 speaks so plainly of the adulterous woman and the man who goes astray with her, however consider the following verses in the light of viewing pornography:
With persuasive words she led him astray: she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping onto a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.
“Many are the victims she has brought down…” Could those verses be an apt description of a pornography addiction? Under the Law of the Old Covenant, the result of one caught in adultery was death. However under the New Covenant, Jesus was stricter than the Law of Moses. He said that if we look at someone with lust in our heart, we are committing the act of adultery. What if we are held captive by images on a screen…?