I read this scripture early one morning this week, “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)
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.
Marriage minefields are fields where we have buried or hidden devices (memories) just below the surface. We actually move forward in life by frequently looking backward. Most day-to-day life is not filled with new revelation but memory. Memory helps us to find our way home after work. Memory is used daily in order to live life. Life without the ability to recall even the slightest, most mundane details or important ones would be disastrous.
When we have an issue in marriage, we quickly go to our memory bank and pull up a pleasant experience, a neutral experience or a negative experience. If we find ourselves connecting to a pain-filled memory, we can begin to sweat, experience an increased heart rate and be inundated with a flood of negative emotions. When this happens, we know we have connected to a memory minefield.
Some of our memories contain lies or misbeliefs and still others are inaccurate. It was not uncommon for John and Elizabeth (not their real names) to experience knock-down, drag-out arguments. In sheer frustration late one evening, John looked at Elizabeth and said, “That’s it; I’m out of here!” Immediately, Elizabeth went silent and fell to the floor in a fetal position, where she sobbed uncontrollably. Even though John ran immediately to his wife, knelt beside her, and desperately tried to console her, it was as if he had left. Elizabeth didn’t or couldn’t hear his voice or acknowledge his presence. John later discovered that when his wife was six years old, she overheard her parents fighting. Her father’s words rang out as he screamed, “That’s it; I’m out of here!” Elizabeth never saw her father again
John was not her father; he was her dedicated husband. However, when Elizabeth heard that same phrase, she immediately associated the words with her father’s words from her childhood. That former experience was automatically connected to the present experience. The characters were different, but in her mind the outcome would be the same. The deep, wrenching pain of loss she once associated with her father’s abandonment returned as if it was programmed for this exact moment. Everything in her being was telling her, “Now my husband is leaving me too.” The pain was unbearable, and those same feelings of abandonment returned with a vengeance.
Elizabeth was no longer fighting with John; she was wrestling with pain-filled memories planted in a minefield just below the surface. Was it the argument they needed to resolve, or was it Elizabeth’s past hurts that needed to be healed? From many stories like this one, I have come to believe that most relationship issues in the present have a connection to the past; therefore, what seem like marital issues are often individual issues. I am convinced that when Jesus heals our individual issues, sins, hurts, and disappointments, marriage relationship issues can also be healed. *
*Adapted from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve and Mary Prokopchak
I have a theory and I believe the testimony of hundreds of married couples backs up this theory. The theory is the more sex you have outside of marriage, the less sex you have within marriage.
My wife and I have the privilege to speak with many couples each year and we have never heard one of them remark anything remotely close to this statement, “We’re so happy that we engaged in premarital sex.” As well, we’ve never heard, “Premarital sex helped us prepare for marital sex.” What we have heard is that sex before marriage actually stole intimacy from their marriage. Sex was no longer special, awaited and neither did it gather the excitement anticipated.
Premarital sex is titillating, full of emotion and coated in brain chemicals that run amuck. It’s also full of the fear of being caught, and overcome by having, no, taking what does not belong to you. Once married, that anticipation diminishes to the point in which some couples are not engaging in sexual intimacy on their wedding night. Even further, we often hear the expression that sexual intimacy is rarely occurring now that they are married. Imagine, this divine gift given to us by God, now stolen from us because of lust-filled desires.
Now, hearing from those singles who have waited, saved themselves for the one they will spend the rest of their lives with…never have we heard one single word or expression of regret, bemoaning the fact that they were inexperienced. To discover this world with one another was a huge part of the gift itself. Encountering one another sexually, within godly boundaries, literally helps to carry intimacy throughout the marriage, all the while maintaining their vows spoken before God.
Anytime we violate God’s principles, we also violate human value, respect and honor. Sex outside of marriage is a sin against our body (I Corinthians 6:18) and a violation against our future marriage. Because marriage is sacred, as is the act of marriage, we break covenant with God through immorality (I Corinthians 6:9). We disrupt His desire and design for our future. When we worship the created more than the Creator, we have convinced ourselves that our will and our desires, not God’s, are best for us.
Have you succumbed to sex outside of marriage? You can be forgiven of your sin and be renewed in your commitment to purity before God. He longs to give to you a fresh start, but you must be serious about that commitment. His Spirit dwells within the Christian to not sin because, “…you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19 & 20)
Dating is not a centuries old concept. Dating is a far more recent notion than that, but unlike what Hollywood presents, dating is NOT about how good someone is in the bedroom. The following are ten distinctive thoughts to consider if you or someone you know is involved in a dating relationship.
- Self-Image – You are telling the world who you are by who you date. You are revealing your standard and your self-concept. If you have a healthy self-concept, you will have a high standard in who you date.
- Character – Your moral and ethical character shows in who you say yes to when dating. Qualities of honesty and reputation are always evident in your choice of dates.
- Personal values – Values determine worth and priority. Do you value yourself enough to date a person who values what you value or do you find yourself lowering or compromising your standard? You do not need to compromise your personal values when it comes to a dating relationship.
- Physical Attraction – Let’s face it, physical attraction is pretty significant when dating, but it is not the standard. Physical attraction is a surface judgment, no deeper. Remind yourself of that fact.
- Soul Attraction – Mind, will and emotions makeup this area which goes beyond the physical. Does this person of interest challenge you intellectually and emotionally? Do they challenge you to live by a higher or lower standard? Do you feel accepted when you are with this person or do you feel inferior in some way?
- Spiritual Attraction – Here is one of the most important levels of attraction. Are you attracted to the life of Christ in this person? Does their walk with God challenge you spiritually? Do you find the commonality of faith with them or are the spiritual belief differences sticking out like a sore thumb?
- Honor – Honor shows respect and high worth. Is respect present and is there some attraction toward this person because they treat you, your family and their family honorably?
- Purity – There is no date worth compromising your purity boundaries. If anyone requests this of you, RUN. They are not seeing you; they are seeing their selfish sexual desires being fulfilled. This person does not care about you or your dignity.
- Friendship – Dating is about friendship first. The position of friendship cannot be minimized. Are you friends or do you click with this person like an old friend? Does it feel good to simply be around this person and the security they bring to the relationship? Friends do not pick on one another; they believe in one another. Friends do not embarrass each other; they stick up for one another.
- Acceptance – Can you feel and do you hear (verbally and non-verbally) the acceptance of this person for who you are, as you are, or do you sense comparison, incompleteness or judgment? To know and feel acceptance and approval is to enjoy a life-giving relationship.
This completes a thirteen-week blog series that has shared a snippet from each chapter of our new book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve & Mary Prokopchak. This book is available through House to House Publications.
We are settled. We do not have to always agree, but rarely do we disagree. Steve is Mary and Mary is Steve and we desire the very best and the highest goodwill for each other. We are not competing with one another and we are not jealous of each other. We will not settle for mediocre in our relationship and we will not allow a spirit of discontentment to show its ugly head. We both know that through the grace of God and His goodness to us, we gained something…or someone in marriage. When we said “yes” to one another, we said “no” to every other possible partner out there. We have no regrets.
What are the six most important words in marriage? Are you ready to hear them? Once you hear them, you will be accountable for knowing the right thing to say and to do.
You’ll find those six words, maybe nine, in chapter thirteen, the final chapter of Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair. I hope you have enjoyed this thirteen-week series introducing you to our new book. Please order a copy for yourself today and one to give away to a couple you know. Please consider running a “Staying Together” small group to encourage other marriages.
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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. Now available to purchase at a 30% discount through House to House Publications.
When we buy a new car, we enjoy the new-car smell. We appreciate the fact that it doesn’t break down from age and worn parts. We love that it’s clean and shiny, without a single stain on the carpet or scratch in the paint. However, unless we provide the proper maintenance in the months and years that follow, our car will eventually break down.
It’s not necessarily bad or wrong for a marriage to run on “new” for a season. Because it’s new, kindness abounds; disputes are short-lived; forgiveness comes easily. But when the new begins to fade, we tend to be less forgiving and extend less grace. Like the new car that begins to exhibit problems, has its dings and dents, and shows signs of wear, we become less concerned about its daily care and its future. In fact, we may even begin to dream about its replacement.
Thankfully, human relationships are different from cars. Old love is deeper and stronger than young love. As we age together, we can appreciate the differences rather than trying to make our spouse like us. The wise couple learns to use that “incompatibility”—those differences—to their advantage. They begin to learn that no team is made up of similar talent, and each member has a different strength to be used in a particular area. Just as in a healthy business, management acknowledges its own weaknesses and then hires those who can make up for those differences by bringing their strengths alongside a discerning leader. As our marriage matures, we learn to not be threatened by those strengths. We begin to realize that God called together this team of two to become one.
For much more on the process of two becoming one along with challenging assessments and questions, please see chapter three in our book, Staying Together.
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