Marriage Advice Archives

Is Marriage Outdated?

Is marriage becoming an outdated practice in a modern world?

The media is constantly announcing a new study or a recent report about the decline in the percentages of people who are living in a stable marriage or family. Since so many people are opting out of taking marriage vows, the government must adjust to what is becoming an accepted practice. The Census Bureau is changing their definition of “family unit”. They will now start calling a single parent with a live-in, unmarried person a family unit. The statistics all tell the same story. People with less education and lower incomes are seeing marriage as an unnecessary bother and expense. An ever higher percentage of our society view getting married as creating a bigger expense and entanglement when it is time to switch partners.

Does that mean that I am worried about my role as a Marriage Coach becoming obsolete? Not on your life! I cannot imagine a situation where the skills and insights I teach are even more urgent or more in demand!

Just because there are more people who resist getting married, it does NOT mean that people are living as single adults. People want to be together! They need intimacy. They need someone to share their lives with. Just NOT getting married simply makes the task of living together more complicated.

If two people live in the same home they will face difficult challenges. Notice that I did not say “two people who do not get married will face difficult challenges”. Every couple will face challenges just because being faithful companions is a TOUGH thing to do! That other person is weird. That other person wants things from us sometimes when we don’t want to give them. There are tug-of-wars between the partners in even the best relationships. Our two in-born selfish natures collide and ricochet around inside the relationship where one seems to get more of what they want one time; then things change and the other person seems to be the one who benefits. Marriage is a tough business for most of us.

I am fully aware that there are people who get married thinking that “having a ceremony” is something similar to the magic potion that keeps bad things from happening to their family. They don’t have the maturity to understand the personal responsibility that goes into making a marriage work. Those people have not learned how to love. They are not able to look at the other person as a whole and completely different person who now becomes the most important other person in their lives,

Having acknowledged that some married people don’t really understand how to love, remaining unmarried is an even more difficult proposition. The underlying assumption of not being married often is, “I don’t want to get too entangled”. There are those who say, “I don’t want to get hurt again”. Some want to keep their options open for the future. Others are in relationships where one partner says something like, “I’m not ready to get married, yet“. That phrase can mean many different things but it is very clear that they have limited expectations for the relationship.

As it turns out, the very same people who don’t want to get hurt by a failed relationship again are in for a disappointment. They have made up this little script in their minds that says, “If I don’t commit to this relationship, then it won’t hurt so bad when we break up.” But, it does hurt when they break up. And in addition, it hurts again and again. People who remain unmarried have more breakups and have more heartache because they are changing partners more frequently. They have created the very situation they wanted to avoid.

For the individual who is in a relationship and says, “I’m not ready for marriage”, I have a message for you. GROW UP! You want to have someone to love. You want someone to love you. You want to have the intimate relationship that gives you much of what you want, but you don’t want to provide the very thing that your partner needs the most. How lame is that? If you truly believe that you are not ready, then remove yourself from the relationship until you get ready. If you need help to learn how to drive a car or find a good job, you would find the people who could train you to get the skills and insights you need to get the thing you want. Why not do the same in your personal life? Get to the right people who can teach you how to love like a real grown up, mature adult and then find someone you can commit to.

Please understand why I use such harsh words. People who refuse to commit, who refuse to live a life of dedicated, loving service to someone in their lives, are a danger to society. They leave a trail of heartbreak and sorrow behind them. All around them are broken relationships, children without a stable parent, partners who are left to cope with the debris of broken dreams and wasted years. Why do I sound so harsh? Because selfish, sinful people hurt the very ones they were supposed to love and care for. This is a terrible tragedy and should be stopped.

Photo by Sherry Main licensed under Creative Commons.

Reasons for Rules on Sex

I had a young person write to me at MarriageHelp.com and complain about my “old fashioned” ideas. This person was letting me know that our society had outgrown old rules about what we should expect from our sexual relationships. They had read my lesson called “No Sex before Marriage” where I taught about the value of the Biblical rules about sexual relationships. This person wanted me to know that everything had changed. The current rules are simple: If you are in a relationship, sex is allowed. If that relationship comes apart and you end up in a relationship with someone else, then sex is allowed with that person as well…and so on and so on.

I wish it were that simple. I wish I could say, “Do what you want to do. What I taught was just one person’s opinion, anyway.” But, I can’t. Why? Because nothing has more potential for harm and damage to people than becoming involved sexually before a relationship has matured and a commitment is made. Something happens between two people who share a physical relationship. The Bible calls it “becoming one flesh” which most people don’t really understand.

The way I explain it is this: Who has the potential to do us more harm that someone who knows us very well? Our truest friends are the ones who know us the very best. They are the ones who know our hearts and minds. They are the ones we have opened up to and with whom we have shared our most personal thoughts and feelings. Our long-term, deep friendships make us vulnerable and yet satisfy our longing for intimacy. We take the risk of letting someone know what might harm us the most; the tender spots we protect the most carefully, because we need to be known and understood by someone we trust. We believe our friend will protect us from others who might want to embarrass or humiliate us and would NEVER think about doing hurtful things to us themselves. We need to trust that this person would never betray the friendship between us.

How do we get to be such trusted friends? It takes TIME. It takes sharing experience after experience, joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams, victories and defeats over long and varied life experiences. Somewhere along the line, shallow relationships fall away. People who are not trustworthy slip away into faded memories of hurt feelings and moments of sorrow. True friends remain true and with each experience of life they become closer.

Let me ask you a question? Why would you welcome someone into a more intimate and personal place in your life without expecting them to earn such a relationship? Even a long-term friend does not have the potential of embarrassment, humiliation, guilt, grief and pain that a sexual partner would have. You have exposed yourself to an even deeper level of exposure with an even less trustworthy relationship to support it. You have become a co-dependent partner (our Non-Biblical name for being “one flesh”) on a sexual level with someone who might not even be worthy of a “short term friend”. Your needs on a sexual level are now linked up with someone else’s needs. It takes no imagination at all to visualize how fragile this kind of relationship is by simply calculating how long your sexual partner would stay connected if there were suddenly no sexual gratification.

It sounds so wonderful to recite “Sex is natural and normal. No one should put limitations and rules on something as important as our biological sexual urges.” Yes, sex is natural. The common cold is “natural and normal”, but you don’t want to catch it! I just came from the doctor’s office having completed my annual physical exam. He gave me a whole list of “normal, natural” foods that are causing my cholesterol levels to rise too high. The warning at the top of the page reads, “Foods to be AVOIDED”. Foods; natural, normal, healthy, wonderfully tasty foods that everyone else gets to enjoy, are on my list of “Foods to be Avoided”. How dare that doctor make rules that spoil my supper!?!

You see my point. If you want to live and be healthy, there are ALWAYS rules and restrictions. We are supposed to exercise, but not too much. We are to eat, but everyone needs to watch for foods that are dangerous for their physical system to ingest. We must follow the rules and guidelines, laws and regulations in every area of our lives. Why would we pretend that somehow our sexual roles would be exempt?

We have been keeping human history for several thousand years. That combined experience, confirmed again in God’s Word, the Bible, tells us that if we follow the rules about our sexual lives, we live longer and we live better. Most of my generation came to sexual maturity in the 1960′s when “free love” was being promoted openly. When I was in my graduate program sexual promiscuity was called the “Open Marriage”. Every one of those experiments in sexual “liberation” has ended in sorrow and regret. Many have even died as a result. You can call it anything you wish but the reality still comes back to the same basic truth. If you ignore the best advice of thousands of years of history, you will suffer greatly.

I don’t want that for you. So I tell you the truth.

Photo by Greg licensed under Creative Commons

The Path to Infidelity – Part 4

This is the fourth lesson in this series and it asks the question, “What happens if you do face infidelity?” Does finding that your spouse was unfaithful mean that you must get a divorce? NO! It means you have a problem to deal with.

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The Path to Infidelity – Part 3

This third lesson in our  four part series is entitled Keeping Inside the Fences. Normal human beings have a healthy fear of intimacy. Intimacy is dangerous and makes us very vulnerable to harm. We have a defensive “fence” around us to keep people away from us who are not our spouses or partners. Think of being in an elevator. If there are only two people in the elevator, where do they stand? They normally stand on the opposite sides of the elevator with plenty of space between them. When the elevator starts to get full of people, there is no longer any space between people. What happens when other people get into our space? We find that people will start to pull their arms up in front of them or stand very rigid and unmoving and unresponsive (like a statue). These automatic responses are the “fences” that keep us apart from people we don’t know. If you are in that same elevator and see two people standing together or even touching each other, you have a pretty good idea that they are partners. They have dropped the fences and allowed that person to live in their personal space.

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The Path to Infidelity – Part 2

This is the second lesson in the series “The Path to Infidelity” which I have entitled How to Lead a Healthy Life. After our discussion in the first lesson, we can now say,  Okay, you are God’s Person. But what does that look like? First of all, if you are married, it means that you are to have a robust, healthy, active sexual relationship with your spouse. That statement may sound trite and simplistic.  It is until you look at it more closely. If you love your spouse, you will want to make that other person the healthiest, strongest and most faithful person they can be. They need your help! Men and women were created to be very different. The temptation is to say, “You were born the way you are, so you must deal with it!” Certainly it is true that you cannot take total responsibility for someone else, but you did take a vow to do your part to help them stay healthy!  The basic concept is that you will spend the rest of your married life learning how your spouse is put together and what it takes to meet their needs.  Nothing will help them more than to have a healthy, robust sexual life.

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The Path to Infidelity – Part 1

You don’t have to be a sport’s superstar, a nationally known political leader or a television celebrity to know that sexual infidelity is disastrous! All you need to see are friends and coworkers, family and classmates, watch the evening news on TV or read the local newspaper, and you will see the “train wreck” that happens when we allow ourselves to have relationships outside of marriage.

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Who Owns Your Emotions?

I told my children as they were growing up, “Don’t give anyone the power to control your emotions!”

How many times have you heard someone say, “That person makes me SO MAD”?  Sometimes it is stated, “As soon as that guy walks into the room he gets me angry.” I have listened to many people use the expression, “He made me blow my top!”  What I challenged my kids to think about was this: Why would you ever give control over your emotions to someone else?

Allowing someone to make you mad simply makes them your superior. In the Navy a superior officer could order you to do certain things, but a person below your own rank did not have that option.  Why would you allow someone who you are having problems with order you around?

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Hope and Love

It is very easy to feel trapped and hopeless. One cannot give or receive love once hope is lost. We simply must not give up when we feel like we are at a dead end. Hope is still an option.

Hope – When you are going through a troubled time from PastorBobDouglas on Vimeo.

Love Your Enemies

When marriages run into problems, it is easy to feel like you are living in a war zone. Sometimes we treat our marriage partner like the enemy who is “out to get us”. We divide our world into “us” and “them” and trade shots back and forth. Pastor Bob teaches about how to love your enemy even when you are married to them.

Jesus told us to “Love your (spouse) enemies” from PastorBobDouglas on Vimeo.

Broken Trust Requires Forgiveness

I hear it all the time, “I will NEVER forgive that person for what they did to me. I trusted them and they made me look like a fool. I will never give them another chance to stab me in the back again.”

Betray my trust once, shame on you. Betray me twice, shame on me!

You have heard it too. Forgiveness is not even an option. Or is it?

There are only two kinds of people who do not need to forgive. The first are the people who have never failed anyone in any way.  Once you can verify that you have never needed forgiveness from anyone in your entire life, you are one of the two kinds of people who do not need to forgive someone else. The second are those who have reached a level of performance that they will never need forgiveness in the future! You see, if you refuse someone your forgiveness today, you are cutting yourself off from receiving forgiveness sometime in the far distant future when you will need it for yourself.

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