Marriage, Premarital, Postmarital, Singles, In the news, Issues of the Day, Men, Challenge, Women

What’s Faith Have to Do With Sex and Marriage Stability?

Young men and women with an active faith in God and His word, the Bible, are long-term men and women who take saying “I do” seriously. They share similar moral beliefs and deeply held values. They possess a higher commitment to sexual fidelity. And those who regularly attend church have about a 40% less likely chance of divorcing. (See this Harvard study.)

Marrying when young often means less relationship baggage primarily because there are less exes. Maturity in a relationship is not measured in chronological age. Maturity is measured in one’s ability to think of their spouse or future spouse first and not themselves. 

Cohabitation is precarious, uncertain and shaky because it undermines the quality of your marriage commitment. While marrying Corrine, you may find yourself thinking about your years with Heather and then comparing your new wife’s sexual responses to Bekah’s. It will increase the instability of your marriage foundation. Cohabitation is pretending to be married with a widely open back door. There is no need for commitment in sickness and in health; there are no vows spoken to one another and to God. There are no community of believers helping you to remain committed to each other without the bond of a legalized marriage.

And then this

In a Wall Street Journal article dated Saturday, February 5, 2022 Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox wrote, “[In surveying] 50,000 women in the U.S. governments National Survey of Family Growth, we found that there is a group of women for whom marriage before 30 is not risky: women who married directly, without ever cohabitating prior to marriage. In fact, women who married between 22 and 30, without first living together, had some of the lowest rates of divorce in the National Survey of Family Growth.” Now that says something which majorly contradicts the former conventional wisdom of trying it to see if you like it.

One of the reasons couples are marrying later today is hope against hope that they will not encounter divorce. They are vying for a lower risk rate. But along the way as they give themselves freely to various sexual partners and/or cohabitate they are actually decreasing their chances of marriage without experiencing divorce. Research is now growing and concluding that to cohabitate prior to marriage and to experience multiple sexual partners, couples are less likely to be happily married. The pretest thought simply does not work. 

It has been God’s word of truth

The word of God has revealed this truth for centuries. Social science is now only catching up to the truth written in the Bible about relationships and marriage. God’s word is more current when it comes to marriage and pre-marriage than tomorrow’s scientific study found within academia. 

For example, did you know that sexual pleasure between husband and wife was God’s idea? Solomon wrote these inspired words, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer–may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.” (Proverbs 5:18, 19) 

Paul the Apostle wrote:

But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (I Corinthians 7:2-5)

God is not embarrassed by sexual intimacy, He is not a prude or naïve when it comes to His wonderful gift, but He did place very strict, very safe and very loving boundaries around it. Paul also clearly warned us when he wrote, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (I Corinthians 6:12)

Sexual pleasure is God’s intent for marriage and procreation is not the only purpose of sex, but sexual fulfillment within marriage is a process, a learned experience. 

Concluding with married sex is better sex

Married couples have better sex for numerous reasons. They are committed to one another. They desire to please one another and give versus taking to meet a need. Intimacy is not filled with lust, but rather love. The married partners are monogamous. Sex within marriage is the safest sex. It is sex without worry, without thought of being caught, without fear of disobeying God’s command and sex within marriage is the best sex because you know the desires of your life mate. 

For all of these reasons and more we can conclude that God was right all along. His written word and His commands were all for our good and our pleasure. Boundaries are an important part of life and so it is also true of sexual boundaries. May you find this truth for yourself and then experience the pure joy of obedience and God’s gift to you.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Seven Steps to Help You Resolve Communication Conflicts

Every couple on earth has suffered through communication conflicts. Here are seven areas to consider as we walk through life together so that our conflicts will actually decrease. 

  1. When we have a conflict we need to maintain a right attitude toward one another. Conflict is not always detrimental in marriage, but it does test our faith, our patience and our personal level of grace. According to the scripture, it also develops character (Romans 5:3-5; James 1: 2-4) In marriage we often “use” one another to help smooth out our character. It is true that our conflict is deeper because our love is deeper.
  1. As conflicts are resolved, God uses those areas in our lives to help others. I know that sounds far off, but it’s true. We will have authority to speak into that which we have had to grow through and have won the battles. Believe God for win/wins with your conflicts.
  2. The natural response to conflict is more conflict, a desire to win or bailing out and quitting. But when we push through, pray through and persevere through the trial, the outcome will be perseverance doing its work. James said to let perseverance finish its work so we can mature. The problem is too many couples quit, give up and believe it cannot be resolved or they want others to resolve it for them. The truth is the more we persevere the more victory we will eventually have. Ask any couple who fought through finance differences, persevered, stuck to a budget until they saw the reward and you will find a couple who has grown strong in the financial realm.
  3. Whatever we sow, we reap. Sowing and reaping is at work in our marriages. If we sow the negative, we will reap it. Typically, we sow discontent and criticism because we’re not getting what we want. We forget that is what we’ll reap. The seed of criticism cannot produce the fruit we’re looking for. In the midst of this conflict, what good seeds can you sow?
  4. Don’t give the enemy a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-27) by not coming to a resolve. A marriage that holds bitterness, plants negative seeds and criticism, anger, etc. is not doing what Peter said when he told us to be considerate of our wives and treat them with respect so our prayers are not hindered. In other words, prayer will be powerless in the home of disrespect, discontent and the lack of peace.
  5. Be aware of what Paul called selfish ambition (Philippians 2:1-2). Most of our conflict is over selfish preferences rather than desiring the best for one another. 
  6. Lastly, we are to love deeply. I Peter 4:8 tells us “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Love often means overlooking, forgetting and not pointing out failures. It’s a “keeps no record of wrong” position. 

God wants you to be able to resolve conflict and I believe He gives us the tools to do so. Obviously, we both need to stick to the plan and press forward for a better outcome to our marriage communication. 

Assignment: A step that you can take is to write down the common triggers in your relationship that tend to cause arguments and discuss why and how. Ask God for healing in those areas of your lives.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Why Are You Married?

Have you ever been to an ox pull? We were in New England, seated on a set of old wooden bleachers at a county fair; we had never experienced a real, live ox pull. Let us try to describe it to you: two mammoth oxen are yoked together, side by side, and behind them is an apparatus like a hitch. The hitch is connected to a large chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds. The oxen are commanded by their owner (called a driver) to pull together and drag the concrete slab as far as they possibly can. It was quite entertaining, and we immediately began to realize something with the teams of oxen. Some were young and inexperienced. Some pairs were noticeably different sizes. Some simply refused to work with their partner. But those teams that were mature and experienced knew how to work together, with their driver shouting out commands at their sides. Those teams, we noticed, pulled the heavy concrete a lengthy distance. 

We found ourselves thinking about how the teams of oxen were a picture of marriage—specifically, the picture of a team of two either working together successfully or failing miserably to pull in unison. It was not the biggest or strongest team that won; it was the oxen that could work together, each performing to the best of its ability. Working alone, the block wouldn’t move an inch; but working in complete harmony, the teams would succeed in reaching the goal. 

It astounds us to discover how many couples do not know why they are married. For what reason(s) has God called you together into this union? Those who once were two have been called to move as one. When the two oxen didn’t compete with one another and acted as one, they were surprisingly successful. 

Businesses, civic organizations, churches, and the military all have mission statements. If they understand this statement and what goals are to be accomplished, all of the members or employees of these organizations know why they belong. Mission statements are composed of descriptive terms like “to serve the homeless of our city,” “to build a better and more efficient home,” or “to protect our nation’s borders.” When God created man, He also created a mission for man. God gave Adam and Eve an assignment from heaven—to tend the Garden of Eden and to rule over creation. 

This assignment was not just busy work; it was a charge from God to care for God’s creation and to replenish the earth. There was purpose, a co-mission in this first marriage, and Adam and Eve went about each day fulfilling that call of God upon their lives. Both you and your spouse can discover your co-mission, just like Adam and Eve. You each have both spiritual and natural gifts that balance and complement. As husband and wife, you are a team, yoked together to fulfill all that the Father has planned for you. Perhaps God has called you to the business realm, to be in worship ministry together, or to raise your children or to pay off your mortgage early. All of these can become pieces of your mission together as a married couple. 

Life can get busy and pass us by rather quickly. Before we know it, we’ve been married for five or even ten years. We can begin to myopically focus on the stuff of life that has no real or eternal value or lasting effect upon our lives and the lives of others. It’s important to remember why God called you together in matrimony, and writing your mission statement as a couple can help to refocus your marriage on the things that truly matter. 

Where it all began for us 

When Mary and I first discovered the idea of mission as a couple, we were already many years into our marriage. Looking back over several decades, we realized that our first co-mission assignment came from our local church. Our pastor asked us if we would consider starting a bus ministry. The idea was to fill a bus with unchurched kids and bring them to Sunday school. We loved visiting the kids and their families every Saturday and picking them up in our red-and- white converted school bus early Sunday morning. Sometimes they ran to the bus half-dressed due to a lack of parental involvement, but they were excited nonetheless. The bus ministry was so successful that we began a second route, and then a third. Soon we were reaching the parents as well as the children and were helping to grow a multicultural fellowship. 

Excerpt from the book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve and Mary Prokopchak.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Men, Premarital, Singles, Women

How Much of Yourself Do You Give to a Boyfriend or a Girlfriend?

When does a boyfriend or girlfriend get to have husband or wife privileges? 

The short answer is: NEVER. Now for the longer answer.

This person you’re falling for may be amazing, handsome, beautiful, spiritual and cuddly but that’s as far as it goes. They are not entitled to those things that go beyond certain godly and self-imposed boundaries. God gave us very clear limitations for relationships outside of marriage and relationships inside of marriage.

Because you are not in covenant (a binding relationship with one another before God) with your boyfriend or your girlfriend, those things that belong to a covenantal relationship are not theirs to partake in. That means anything sexual or beyond the boundary you are comfortable with prior to sexuality. Why?

This person has not been given to you to provide for you, to love and cherish you until death, to be committed to you through sickness and health or to cover you spiritually and protect you emotionally and physically. For the father and/or mother to release their daughter or son to another is to release their authority and their parental covering.

While you may be becoming a priority to one another, you are not THE priority. You are not sharing the same address, meaning you are not living together. The quickest way to destroy a marriage is by living together beforehand. It crosses all the boundaries mentioned above and gives to another what only belongs within a marital commitment. Living together gives all of you before all of you is required to be given and that undermines the success of the marriage vows.

Living together gives all of you before all of you is required to be given.

So what happens when you treat a boyfriend or a girlfriend like a spouse? You are trying without God’s help, support and blessing to have and to be what only married couples enjoy. This privilege is earned, not freely given away in relationship after relationship. For if you do choose to prematurely give this away, you are giving away something that was to be jealously guarded for your future spouse.

And that’s the special privilege shared by a married couple–saving themselves for the one they will make a lifelong commitment to. 

So, while dating or even while engaged, give one another something–the gift of saving yourself. That is worth waiting for. That is attractive. That is unselfish. That is special. That is godly and that is loving. Boyfriends and girlfriends do not qualify!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Can Husbands Listen to Their Wives?

It’s an age-old question: can men tune into and really listen to their wives? We know there is a generally accepted answer to that question: no. But is that true? Do men listen differently than women? Do men practice looking like they’re not listening when they really are? Are men created with a filter that women simply do not have? Read on.

Men do listen to their wives, but there are some qualifications around the parameters of that answer. 

Some of those parameters might include, but are not limited to: are they interested in the conversation; have they been drawn into the conversation or forced; do they feel valued in the conversation; is there a solution that he can add; is there a purpose for this conversation that directly affects him; how long will this conversation take; and can the conversation actually arrive at a point? 

Quite honestly, I have found that men like to listen to other men more than to woman (again generally speaking). That may mean men will actually listen to the advice of a man than that of a woman. That does not mean he doesn’t value a woman’s input. But what that actually means is men’s brains seem wired to accommodate other men and their opinion before a female counterpart. Now, before you take that statement and run with it in a hundred different directions, let’s consider a man’s approach to another man.

Men generally will leave feelings out of the conversation. Men generally will speak in facts as they understand them and men generally will not converse just to converse. Men do not tend to have a need for all of the little details and men tend to use fewer words. As well, men tend to keep advice giving to a point of request only. In other words, men enjoy or embrace the communication style of other men rather than woman. It’s not an attack on a woman as much as it’s a preference of style.

With all of that said, men need women and their relational style of communicating. Men need to hear the feeling side of conversation and men need to allow woman the opportunity to share the details they feel effect the conversation. Men need to listen to women because women have this uncanny ability to pull truth from feelings and not just facts. Men need to learn to converse with just listening and not always listening to fix. Men need face-to-face conversations with the women in their life for a balance in receiving the feminine side of their Creator.

Yes, husbands can listen to their wives as wives keep these parameters in mind. So, ladies, stop trying to remake your husband into one of your girlfriends. He is not them; he’s different and he enjoys that difference. Perhaps let him know up front that you are looking for his advice or let him know you are not; you just want him to listen. He can do that, but he needs you to let him know what you’re looking for early in the conversation.

Men and women converse differently and we need what each one brings to the conversation. We need to learn to value each style and honor one another by practicing our listening skills. 

Here are some secrets to conversing with your husband:

  • Make an attempt to use fewer words.
  • Use a tone of voice that is inviting and engaging rather than commanding or directing.
  • Practice letting him know what you need or are looking for from the conversation before it starts.
  • Be sure there is sufficient time allotted for the conversation. If not, schedule it for another time.
  • Try to relate a few facts.
  • Study his language style and do your best to incorporate his style of communication. For example, quite often a builder uses building terms or a salesman uses sales terms. Learn those terms and incorporate them in your communication.
  • Share your feelings, but let him know that’s what you are doing. For example, you can say, “Just sharing a feeling here, but I think it’s significant to the point being made.”
  • Try to communicate the point of your conversation earlier in the discussion. For example, you could say, “There is a decision we need to make, but first it’s important to look at what is going to affect this decision.”
  • You can really draw him in with this conversation starter, “I need your input on ___________.” Then you could go on to discuss the issues. 
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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

How One Amazing Couple Found Their Mission

Auston and Ashton Samuelson lived in California in a city where there was a high concentration of homeless persons. God gripped their hearts in a distinctive way. They felt convicted to do something and began to work with their local Union Rescue Mission. 

The thought first came to Austin when he voiced to Ashton, “What if there was a restaurant that donated a meal for every meal purchased?” They concluded that someone should do just that.

Two years later, the Samuelsons began Tacos 4 Life, a restaurant that provides a meal to families in need for every taco purchased. Tacos 4 Life are now located in Arkansas, Texas and North Carolina with multiple locations. They have supplied more than 13.8 million meals for needy children and families. 

This is just one story of one couple finding their co-mission in marriage, something they were both passionate about, felt called to by God and then walked it out in a practical way. If you are married, what is your marriage mission? Every married couple needs to know why they are married. It’s a simple question, but sometimes a missing ingredient in marriage. 

Your marriage mission is the glue of why you are called together. Maybe it’s a business or a small group that you lead together. Maybe it’s serving at your local shelter or maybe it’s praying for your neighbors and inviting them to your home for hospitality. There can be multiple missions found within your marriage call. Those missions speak to purpose and answer the “why” of your commitment together.

You can start by writing down everything that you do, everything that you prioritize in your lives. Then include what would you like to do, what you dream about doing together. Write that down. Take those things and begin to create a marriage mission statement/paragraph for yourselves. You’ll be glad you did.

One couple we know placed their marriage mission statement on the mantle of their fireplace for all to see. It’s a daily reminder of why they are married–for them, for their children and for anyone who enters their home..

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Help! I’m Married to Someone Who is Opposite of Me!

Do you see yourself as different or opposite from your spouse? Welcome to everyone’s world!

Let me provide for you a window into our early marriage.

Steve, loved to go to bed late. Mary, loved to go to bed early.

Steve, loved to have a devotional time in the evening. Mary, loved to have a devotional time in the morning.

Steve’s into trying new things. Mary, sticking with what works.

Mary, no debt is good debt. Steve, good debt is investment.

Mary, loves to give. Steve, loves to save.

Steve, embracing change. Mary, change comes more slowly, purposefully.

Steve, face the conflict. Mary, conflict is to be avoided.

Mary, everyone is a friend. Steve, friends are selected through trust over time.

You get the picture; we’re different. But here’s the thing about that difference, neither way is necessarily wrong. What is wrong is when we attempt to change our spouse to be more like ourselves because we’re “right.”

Social scientists tell us it takes five to seven years for a marriage to “settle.” I would define settling as becoming mature enough to no longer try to change my spouse but rather to embrace them for who they are and for how God created them. 

You see, maturity helps us to understand we need that difference in our lives.  Yes, we fight and argue about it initially (immaturity), but when the revelation hits us, we soon discover that we are far more powerful, far more rounded, far more complete together than separate, embracing our differences. 

Too often the thought is, “We’re just too different to continue this marriage.” The fact is, God brings to you the person who is not like you so that you can grow and change and then discover how you are to love, respect and accept this person.

Unfortunately, too many persons, husbands and wives, think that power and control can force change for the better. Power and control will never provoke change for the right reasons because a spirit of power and control will also need the threat of negative consequences. The spouse who threatens causes more anger in the relationship.

Love and acceptance sees the difference as a good challenge. Then it sounds something like this: Mary is Steve and Steve is Mary because Steve and Mary need the differences the other brings to the relationship. 

This perspective will cause us to focus on the strengths in our spouse’s life rather than the weaknesses. This perspective will help us to walk in humility knowing we need what our spouse brings to the marriage. This perspective also helps us to not see our spouse as the one who holds us back but rather the one who provides the appropriate caution or pause. And this perspective is going to bring a healthy balance and sometimes compromise to who we are and to who we are becoming.

Today, almost 48 years later, things look a little different.

Steve likes to go to bed early and so does Mary.

Mary loves early morning devotions and so does Steve.

Steve and Mary embrace change together.

Mary’s love of giving has won over Steve.

Mary embraces investment even with some risk and Steve smiles.

Everyone loves Mary more than Steve because Mary is still everyone’s friend.

Steve is more selective about addressing conflict and Mary still dislikes it.

But the greatest of these is love.

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Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Is There Hope for Marriage and What Is the Actual Divorce Rate?

We have been lied to. We have been told that marriage is archaic and a dying tradition. We are told that one half of all marriages end in divorce repeatedly and maybe even you have spoken those words yourself. It makes for a very pessimistic outlook to marriage doesn’t it?

Enter Shaunti Feldhahn and her book, The Good News about Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce. She says, “Divorce is not the biggest threat to marriage. Discouragement is.” 

In Feldhahn’s eight-year research she found that the divorce rate in America is nowhere near 50% and NEVER has been. And truthfully, she adds that the divorce rate has been on a steady decline since 1980. She writes, “In reality, 71% of women are still married to their first spouse…widowhood reduces the remaining 29%, bringing us to an approximate 25% divorce rate for first time marriages.”

*Further good news is that Feldhahn states that the rate of divorce is even less among Christians. From Barna’s comprehensive research in 2008 there was a “…27% decrease in the number of divorces among those who had been to church in the last seven days.” In a “…National Survey of Families and Households between the years 1987 and 1994 there was a 50% lesser occasion of divorce among those who share the same faith and attend church.” A Family Life Family Needs Survey taken among 50 churches found that only 22% of those ever married had been divorced. (*AFA Journal, January 2015)

What has increased? Cohabitation. There is a significant rise to the incidents of cohabitation in the last 20 years. This provokes and promotes a noncommittal attitude and an open back door to the relationship and when these persons do marry, their incidents of divorce are higher.

There is great hope for marriage. Most married couples are happy. If they are unhappy, but remain committed within five years most couples (eight in ten) find themselves to be very happy in their marriages. It turns out that when a couple is making the effort to remain married and work through their issues, it pays off. Discouragement comes when one spouse is unwilling to work or doesn’t realize the needs of the marriage.

Remarriage statistics, we have been told, have had even more dire divorce results. Once again, Feldhahn found that “…according to the Census Bureau, 65% of women in second marriages are still married to their second spouse. And because second and third marriages tend to occur later in life, the percentage of those marriages ended by death is expected to be higher than first marriages, resulting in a second marriage divorce rate of 30% or less.”

Put the once touted divorce statistics behind you and know there is great hope for marriage and its future. Marriage is a creation act of God and He stands by His word for men and women who either desire marriage or desire to remain faithful until “death do they part.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Premarital, Women

Becoming a Mentor Couple

We have come face-to-face with so many different life problems while involved in pre- and postmarital counseling with engaged couples.  For example, a young woman’s sexual abuse as a child; a young man’s addiction to pornography; pregnancy; extreme debt; the recent loss of a parent and more.  These couples found themselves facing huge life challenges before saying “I do.”

 

Every couple we have ever faced presented new issues, new challenges.  Walking them through these life challenges was our privilege as premarital counselors.  We were not serving them as professionals, but rather as a mentor couple, and spiritual parents.  What an honor to walk with them, to pray with them and then to see answers to our prayers together.  It was a learning experience for them and for my wife and me.

 

Life has its twists and turns, but when you are able to walk alongside someone else serving and supporting them through those times, you are actually helping them to make it, to be successful and to grow toward maturity.  Our book, Called Together, is a resource to enable other couples to do exactly this.

 

If you and your spouse have a heart to enter this type of ministry, we have a suggestion for you.  You can take our free four-part training found on YouTube or you can attend our live training scheduled for February 22 at Westgate Church in Ephrata, PA. I will leave the live links on the bottom of this blog.

 

We have been involved in this ministry for many years and find great satisfaction and challenge in it.  Walking couples through their histories, their likes and dislikes, their hurts and their joys, all the while, moving toward marriage is simply a satisfying venture.  Helping to build a firm foundation for their future in the areas of communication, finances, sex and so much more brings with it a certain satisfaction.  As well, we schedule several postmarital check-ups with them after they say “I do.”  Follow-up is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road.

Mentoring training 

Called Together resource(s)

 

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