Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Training, Women

Couples, Financial Differences and Discovering Why We Differ and Argue

It is said that the number one and most frequent argument in marriage is about money. My wife and I struggled early on with our differences when it came to the use, the saving and the spending of our finances. But, after eight years of mission work we discovered that we could fight and argue about money or pray and agree for our needs. Both methods are powerful. 

However, it took us even longer to get to the root of our differences. It is in this vein that I would like to share how those differences are important, can be valued and embraced to make better financial decisions along the path of finding financial agreement. 

See if you see yourselves in any of the points made below.

  • Financial differences are about differing expectations (good and not so good) and our insecurities around money. Does money provide security to us and in what ways? Are our expectations and the use of money different than our spouses? Work toward making those differences a plus and not a negative. We need to ask ourselves how do our financial differences strengthen us as a team? For example, my wife was more of a giver than a spender. We needed to ask ourselves how giving helps our overall financial picture.
  • Differing values – one wants to save and one wants to purchase.When is just saving negative? When is just purchasing negative? Saving for savings sake loses its focused goal of saving for a car or a house down payment. When we agree to save toward a goal, we find unity in that decision even with differing financial values. Purchasing simply for spending can be habitual or even addictive with huge losses realized down the road.
  • False beliefs must be confronted. For example: “If you possess a lot of money, you do not argue about money.” Is it money itself or is it differing beliefs about money that we’re arguing about?
  • “Spenders” are also investing, not just “savers.” They are often investing in family fun, the marriage, their children, or toward vacation. Imagine a vacationless, not-so-fun family. And, as mentioned above, sometimes spenders are really givers. They love to bless others with gifts because it’s a part of their love language.
  • Learn to value choices with money that moves your heart in giving, in sowing, in investing. Allow your partner to invest in what moves them and, at the same time, takes finances.
  • Work toward honoring what the other person cares about. Give one another an allocation to spend, give, save and invest toward their thing, their passion. It’s why you agree on an amount and an allowance for each other. This is not without accountability, but allows for far more freedom for each partner.
  • When you have a financial difference, be sure to enact James 4:1-3, pray and ask God in sincerity together!

As you grow through the financial differences, honor one another, and come into agreement by embracing what your marriage partner brings to the table, the arguments will decrease and you will discover more and more agreement in how you save and what you purchase. Further, the older you become, the less you need and the more focused you will be on giving to others!

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

 Marrying Young and the Surprising Changes in the Beliefs and Boundaries of Marriage Today

In my many years of studying, researching, writing, interviewing and counseling in the pre- and postmarital realm, I had little hope I would see secular research come to agree with so many of my findings and beliefs. But the proof just keeps showing up in article after article.

My belief, without waver, is that premarital experiences directly relate to our marriages and that pre-marriage sexual experiences harm the marital experiences of life as a married couple. In the recent past the typical sequence to marriage went something like this: dating, sex, cohabitation, maybe children and then marriage.

Sex and cohabitation before marriage

Psychologist Galena Rhoades PhD and Scott Stanley in an online article titled Before “I Do,” What Do Premarital Experiences Have to Do with Marital Quality Among Today’s Young Adults, now questions this contemporary view of how family life begins in our society. She believes that every serious relationship has certain milestones, like the first kiss to actually coming to a definition of where the relationship is going. She unequivocally states that about 90% of couples are sexual before marriage according to one study (Diner, 2007). She also states that most couples live together before marriage (Copen, Daniels, and Mosher, 2013).

But then she writes this, “Many of them have sex with multiple partners before finding the person they will eventually marry. Do premarital sexual relationships relate to later marital quality? Yes and no. It depends on who you are having sex with. Men and women who only slept with their (future) spouse prior to marriage reported higher marital quality than those who had other sexual partners as well. This doesn’t mean that sex before marriage will doom a marriage, but sex with many different partners may be risky if you’re looking for a high-quality marriage.” 

Dr. Rhoades makes this eye-opening conclusion, “We generally think that having more experience is better [in life] but what we find for relationships is just the opposite.”

Multiple experiences with multiple partners sexually is now actually linked to marriages that are worse off and that having a long history with cohabitating may actually cause you to devalue your spouse. 

Marrying young

Brad Wilcox, a director of the National Marriage Project and Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia wrote an article on how marrying young (by young I mean early 20’s) and without cohabitating “seems merited.” He wrote, “Our analyses indicate that religious men and women who married in their twenties without cohabitating first–have the lowest odds of divorce in America today.” Read that last sentence again, please.

What is it that the author of this study suspected as to why the success rate? “We suspect one advantage the religious singles in their twenties have over the secular peers is that they are more likely to have access to a pool of men and women who are ready to tie the knot and share their vision of a family-focused life.”

It has been believed and practiced for decades that a college education with a lot of dating, partying, fun, one-night stands and living together and then finally career all came first before settling down with a commitment to marriage. The statistic of living together (70%) before marriage is scary high. But Professor Wilcox wrote this, “But the conventional wisdom here is wrong: Americans who cohabit before marriage are less likely to be happily married and more likely to break up.” In fact, he says that couples who do cohabitate have a 15% more likely chance of divorce than those who do not.

Milestones in dating and pre-marriage days in a couple’s life means something because decisions mean something. We can remember when our spouse first spoke the words, “I love you.” We can recall where we were when we became engaged. We either loved or endured premarital counseling, but it was another milestone, a decision we made for us and our success in marriage. 

Forty-Seven years of marriage 

Over 47 years ago my wife and I abstained sexually out of total love, commitment and respect for one another–keeping for marriage what belongs only to marriage. We did not cohabitate because we knew this one act reduces the chances of a healthy lifelong marriage. We had a large wedding because we wanted others to celebrate with us, hold us accountable and enter into our joy of oneness. We went on a two-week honeymoon dropping out of life as we knew it to simply work on becoming one. We did not know one another intimately (sexually) prior to marriage, but we discovered the joy of purity meeting purity night after night.

It was not a college education, financial security, sexual experiences or age that helped to create these milestones, it was love for God and a desire to obey His truth. We were married in our early twenties and we continue to celebrate milestones in our marriage. We look forward to celebrating the milestone of half a century of marriage in the not-too-distant future.

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

Dating During Separation or Divorce – Yes or No?

Assuming marriage for you has been a rough go or your partner left you or worse yet, committed adultery and you find yourself separated or in the middle of a divorce. Your emotions left the marriage perhaps months or even years ago for multiple reasons, but you tried repeatedly to make it work. You’re tired and you lack answers. You’re in a tough place. 

Do you date? Why not? Your friends are trying to set you up, telling you to move on and/or saying that you need to think about yourself. 

It’s problematic

Dating during separation or divorce can be problematic on several levels. The first to consider is that you are still legally married; therefore, you are not available. Separation, even a legal one–you’re still married. Divorce pending–still married. Legally and spiritually, your vows are still intact. To start a relationship on this foundation would not only be unrighteous, but unwise seeds planted into the next relationship.

You are most likely not ready for a new partner; therefore, you should not be dating. Dating is an act of looking for love and companionship again and a marriage partner. Are you emotionally free, financially free, mentally and spiritually free? In other words, have you been on a healing trek during this time of separation and/or divorce? Most experts say this process takes at least two years.

What responsibility do you take for the failed marriage? Everyone bears responsibility and there are many things to learn and grow through about partners (right and wrong ones), about ourselves, and about a lasting marriage. Do not rob God or yourself of sufficient healing time.

If there are children, then you and your ex are both still intricately relating. If you are pursuing divorce and dating, court judges may look negatively on the responsibility level of your parenting. Further, your kids are hurting and they need you fully there for them.

Are you escaping bad feelings and a relationship that ultimately didn’t work? Are you trading bad feelings for new, exciting ones? While this new relationship might be exciting and create new, feel-good emotions (mainly wanting to escape the old ones), then you might be forfeiting the deep work that could be taking place in your life. Worse yet, most relationships started during separation or divorce do not last. Now you have further complicated the issues for you and your family.

Another soul connection

Adding another soul connection via a new relationship further complicates the process. Maybe it starts as a friendly meal together. Then it progresses to deeper talks as the friendship grows. Then there is an attraction. As the attraction grows, the pair become more and more open, more and more vulnerable. Eventually feelings of love can be the result, causing a deepening soul connection and then one can begin thinking, “This is the person for me.”

If the relationship continues, it can become physical with hugs, hand holding and kisses. This touch leads to more touch and a soul-to-soul connection. Further, if the physical, emotional and, yes, even spiritual relationship continues to be justified, it can ultimately cross boundaries and become sexual. 

Each decision we make has consequences

So, let’s back up the truck. When did this relationship we’re writing about cross the line and become sinful? The lesson for men and women who are separated or pursuing divorce is to not start the process of dating until the vows are legally broken and sufficient healing has taken place. 

If you are separated, seek with all of your heart and soul to remain faithful to your vows, obeying the scripture and your spoken word. Relentlessly pursue personal healing with everything in you. Lay your feelings at the altar and ask Jesus to walk with you. Seek the Spirit of God’s advice and direction. Ask Him to be Lord of all your decision making. 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Men, Women

Blemishes, We All have Them

One day my wife, Mary, a registered nurse, returned home from work with multiple black spots under each eye. I asked her what on earth could have happened at work that evening. She told me, “Oh, you know all those white age spots I had under my eyes? Well, I had the doctor burn them off for me.” 

I shared with her that I never noticed any white age spots, but I sure did see the black ones and they were far worse! Mary saw those spots every time she looked in the mirror. Not everyone noticed them, not even her husband, but she did. 

We tend to look at a picture of ourselves and see the blemishes: the crooked nose, the mole, the scar, or the receding hairline. The same is true of our emotional blemishes and past sins. We “see” and recall our selfish behavior, our sinful exploits, and our insecurities. 

Colossians chapter one states this: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” (Colossians 1:21, 22)

Here is the really good news: the verses in Colossians tell us that those blemishes are no longer a part of us, we have been made holy and we cannot be accused any longer. We have been forgiven and we are free. We are reconciled and presented holy in His sight, without blemish and totally free from accusation! Stop focusing on the blemishes and start focusing on how your heavenly Father sees you.

(To all veterans. Thank you for your service. Enjoy your special day today!)

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Healing, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Is There a Place for Pornography in Marriage?

Pornography played a major role in Jon’s downfall, the husband of a couple that we had counseled with. For many, it is a silent killer. It’s a killer of intimacy, of honesty, of time, of finances, and of our own bodies. Jesus said, “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34).

Our eyes provide a window to our mind, our heart, and our spirit. When our eyes wander toward or are attracted to pornographic images, we give darkness permission to enter the light. Jesus warned us about this very thing when He said, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). 

There is no redeeming factor when it comes to pornography. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry in our nation built on lust. Lust is insatiable, and Satan will hand it to us freely. Lust is about taking and is fully self-seeking. Lust will increase as we feed it until we find ourselves in bondage. But love is satisfying, focused on giving, and full of selflessness. As love increases, we will find ourselves walking in freedom and becoming closer to our life mate. 

In our pre- and postmarital book, Called Together, we ask the question, “Can you be involved in lust toward your spouse?” That question creates quite a stir and challenges couples not yet married. A single person may think that marriage means the end of lusting after another, but married couples know that simply is not true. According to the above definition of lust, we can be involved in lust within our marriages by demanding, taking, and sexual selfishness. Pornography will feed that self-centered attitude. 

Love feeds an attitude of giving, sharing, and bringing pleasure out of a heart and mind that is not tarnished by images of raw, base acts. Love is never demanding in the bedroom, as it speaks encouragement, affirmation, and genuine acceptance. 

                       Pornography: The Breakdown Within our marriages 

A nationally conducted survey among churches over the past five years revealed that 68 percent of men and 50 percent of pastors view pornography regularly. The most shocking was that 11- to 17-year-old boys reported being the greatest users at 85 percent, and nearly 50 percent of young girls are also viewing porn (see: fightthenewdrug. org). 

Pornography is a $4 billion industry in our country. More money is spent on pornography per year than on professional baseball, basketball, football, and the Super Bowl combined. Eleven thousand adult films are produced per year, which is 20 times the number of regular media films annually coming out of Hollywood. The issue is sweeping through the church, reaching the next generation. It is an epidemic. 

Studies show that when we are involved in sexual activity, the brain releases a number of chemicals, one of which is oxytocin, which is the “glue” that enables human bonding. (Oxytocin is also released as a mother holds and breastfeeds her newborn.) When we watch pornography, powerful neurotransmitters are activated. Our brain takes the images and associates this bonding chemical with them, actually interfering with natural human bonding and sexuality. 

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do (1 Peter 1:13-15)

Viewing pornography opens the door of our soul and spirit to spiritual oppression, confusion, hopelessness, hurt, control, and domination in evil ways. Men and women feel betrayed by spouses who use porn. Women feel as though they cannot compete with the images their husbands are viewing. It is an illusion that says women will do anything to please their man; no woman in real life lives within that kind of fantasy world. It brings insecurities to her and can destroy her esteem. She will question her attractiveness and her adequacy as a lover. She can eventually think and believe that porn is more important to her husband than she is to him, an ultimate sexual betrayal. 

Men often view pornography as innocent, a fix for loneliness or not having a sexual partner who agrees with his desires. Men rationalize and justify their behavior by attempting to call it “normal behavior” of a man who is simply visual. The act of viewing pornography is highly addictive and some psychologists state that it is similar to crack cocaine addiction. Over time it does not diminish, but tends to intensify. It can interfere with a man’s ability to function at home with his family, at work, and, of course, in the bedroom. 

Many women are now viewing porn. Six of ten girls see their first pornography before age eighteen. This practice has become far more acceptable among teen girls. For some, they are attempting to find out what boys desire, and for others they are involving themselves out of loneliness. Little do they know that viewing pornography creates an even higher rate of loneliness among its users. 

Ladies and men, by viewing pornography you are supporting the industry and helping it to grow. You are contributing to the sexual exploitation of the victims caught in that world. You are adding to the sin of human trafficking. You are saying “yes” to an industry that feeds and preys on innocent men, women, and children and can even lead to their abduction, abuse, and death. You are learning to see and treat people as a sex object. You are destroying your marriage, your family, and yourself, and you are keeping victims trapped (which today includes more teenage girls and boys than ever). 

Lastly, pornography will make you into a liar. You will have to constantly lie about your use to your loved ones and perhaps your employer. I love these verses that Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord…. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:13,18). 

Taken from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair by Steve and Mary Prokopchak

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

When We Mess Up in Our Marriage

No matter the length of time we’ve been married there are times we mess up. Maybe we become angry too soon over a small issue or we forget an important date or we fail to show appreciation for that extra special effort shown by our spouse. In any case, in our humanness we do the wrong thing every once in a while. 

And then there’s that reoccurring argument that raises its head up every so often. How do we get over that hump?

We may not try it, but we realize as soon as it happens we can’t take it back. Herein lies the problem. We said it, it’s out there and now we have to deal with it. 

However, all too often pride gets in the way of simply humbling ourselves and making a quick apology. We just don’t like to admit we were wrong…again. 

Here are a few steps to think about incorporating into your marriage so you don’t keep finding yourselves back at that same old issue or repeatedly feeling bad because you messed up once again.

  • First, realize that you cannot change history, but you can take responsibility for history and any issues you caused.
  • If it’s an ongoing issue we need to repent to God, ask His forgiveness and then ask Him for new patterns.
  • When talking about the issue, we need to both admit our failures.
  • While we may see things differently, where do we agree?
  • We need to both humble ourselves, move beyond the problem and then look for, pray for solutions.
  • What is the solution(s)? What can we both live with, agree upon and walk out together? You might start with the question, “If we could start over, what would we do differently in this area?”
  • Can we develop a new heart, a new outlook in this area? Can we identify new language to use that would help create a new attitude?

Early in our marriage, I thought Mary, my wife, was a “spender.”” She thought I was pretty “tight.” We didn’t agree on everything financial. Realizing we were stuck, we began to ask God for solutions and suddenly our eyes became open to a deeper truth. Mary was not a spender; she was actually a giver. I was not trying to be tight, but I was concerned about saving for an investment in the future. We were givers and investors. We changed our language as we healed from our financial differences.

Try it. Follow the steps above and ask your heavenly Father to redeem your reoccurring differences and mess-ups.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Three Vital Questions for Marriage

Discovering how we need to change in order to reflect love is an effective strategy for our marriages today. Here are three reality questions to consider.

Question number one: Do you realize that you were born into brokenness? We all have imperfect families, wounded backgrounds and personality difficulties. When we found the “perfect” person, we found someone like ourselves — in need of healing. While weddings reflect perfection, e.g., perfect clothes, flowers, beauty and pageantry, they are actually filled with imperfect people. Psalm 51:5 reveals, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” I must realize that in my natural, selfish state I do not always reflect Christ to my life mate.

Question number two: Do you realize there is no perfect marriage? Only one relationship on this earth started out perfectly: Adam’s and Eve’s. Their world was perfect, their jobs were perfect and their lives reflected that perfection. But, Adam and Eve chose to walk away from perfection and by the second generation one of their children committed murder. Marriage is not perfect because the two individuals that make up the marriage are not perfect. Within the first 90 days of marriage, we quickly discover we married someone unlike us.

It is God’s story and strategy to begin to hold us together through our differences. You see, my wife is what I am not and I am what she is not, but together we make an amazing and whole team. Ephesians 5: 25- 27 says that, as men, we are called to love our wife as Christ loves His church. We are not Jesus, but we are His representatives.

To love your spouse is to give your life and your love to the point that you bring healing to them.

Our final question; number three: Do you have the mentality of an owner or a renter in marriage? I had a nagging issue with a basement wall in my house that was repeatedly becoming damp. We had torn it apart and rebuilt it only to have moisture show up again. We have now torn it apart a second time. I am the owner; I will do whatever it takes and spend whatever money it takes to make that wall dry again. It’s an owner’s mentality. Owners do what’s best for the property at their own cost and sacrifice. Too many couples are renters today–they’re out the back door while owing three months’ rent. A renter’s mentality in marriage will bring damage to a spouse because they lack long-term commitment. They’ll walk by the weeds every day and not bend over to pull them. A renter in marriage does not think in terms of making an investment in their marriage. Marriage by nature is designed for owners, not renters.

Owners invest their own sweat equity, their life savings and their day-to­ day care to repair, clean and manage their property. Why? It’s a lifetime investment. It’s an asset, not a liability. Owners desire an increase in value over time.

Do you take ownership for being healed and bringing healing to your marriage? Are you in your marriage for a lifetime investment and have a passion for an increase in value? If you answer, “yes” to these questions, then you are taking ownership, growing through your own brokenness and imperfections.

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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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