In this episode you will learn the three key aspects of intimacy that support a marriage relationship. You will see how these work together, and how if any one of them suffers, the relationship will suffer as well. You will understand the breadth and depth of Godly intimacy in a marriage and learn how to focus on and improve this critical aspect of your relationship

Check out this episode!

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Check out the Latest Shocking Marriage Podcast!

Too much effort is expended in marriage in trying to change your spouse. It just doesn’t work. You can only change yourself. Having said that, you have a bigger influence on your spouse than anybody else could possibly have. Learn to use your influence to change the course of your marriage for the better.

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Complacency is the Enemy

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I hear it all the times. “Our marriage is fine…” This response is usually coupled with an expression like those seen in the photo above. While neither partner may be excited about their relationship, they’re not overtly dissatisfied either. They live in a state of complacency.

Why do so many couples find themselves in this situation? I think it happens for a couple of different reasons. The first is a lack of prioritization. Couples are fighting a lot of fires in their lives. Their marriage is not erupting, so it takes on a lower priority. Life throws a lot of challenges at you, many of which demand immediate attention. Often your kids demand (and receive) the bulk of your attention. You want the very best for them, so you invest an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to meet their every need. By the time you get done helping them with their homework, completing class projects and driving them to and from their various activities, you’re exhausted. When you finally settle in for the evening, you fall asleep in front of the television. For others, it’s work. There’s always deadlines, emails to respond to or phone calls that have to be made. You come home late in an exhausted state, and try to catch up on your laptop once there. For these couples, there’s always something more pressing than focusing on the relationship. The assumption is they’ll get to that at some point in the future.

The second cause of complacency is excessive comfort in the relationship. Comfort in marriage is important, even critical. But once that comfort extends to the point of taking your spouse for granted, or becoming completely predictable it becomes a problem. If it’s Tuesday and you know you’re going to have tacos for dinner, that’s predictable. If you only have sex on Saturday night (and it’s routine at that), that’s monotony. You are living your marriage in a state of constant assumptions. As a result, these marriages are on “auto-pilot”; hours turn into days, days into weeks, weeks into months and months into years with minimal focus or attention.Life is not a theatrical performance with the same lines and actions taken every night, but for many marriages it would appear otherwise.

Regardless of the reason, many marriages go untended. While people may say that their relationship is fine, in reality it is slowly degrading. The biggest effect that results from complacency is boredom. Whether aware of it or not, humans naturally seek a certain level of stimulation and excitement in their lives. When it is not found in marriage, they begin to find it elsewhere. They may not actively seek it, but they will instinctively respond to it when it is in front of them. This excitement could come either from some thing or someone, but either way, it takes further focus and attention away from the marriage, and the relationship erodes further. Without correction, marriages devolve into one of two situations; divorce or room-mate status. Neither of these aligns with God’s original design.

So, how do you prevent this from happening in your marriage? You need to consciously fight complacency by focusing on the root causes. First, make your marriage high priority (if not your top priority). Of course there will be situations and seasons where issues arise and must be tended to. But making a decision to keep your marriage a high priority will relegate these to temporary instead of permanent status. Yes your kids are important, but letting them know your spouse is of great importance too is a tremendous lesson. Leaving work on time to get home for dinner might not land you that promotion, but it will build a true partnership at home. Which is more important in the long run?

If you find yourself in a stated of excessive comfort, then mix things up! Don’t wait for your spouse, do something unpredictable. Break out of auto-pilot status and be more intentional about the things you do and say. Shock your spouse with meatloaf on Tuesday instead of tacos. Have sex on a Thursday morning before work in addition to Saturday night. One of my favorite suggestions is to periodically change sides of the bed with your spouse. It’s like sleeping with a new partner, with none of the associated sin!

These changes may be simple, but they’re not easy. It will take ongoing focus and effort to make a difference. But if you persist, you will find that your relationship goes from being “fine” to being “great”. As that happens you will find that you discover a renewed interest in your spouse, which will typically generate passion that seemed lost. As these things occur, you will come to discover that you want to drive for continuous improvement in your marriage as opposed to sliding back into complacency.

Don’t settle for “fine”. Fight complacency! Evolve your relationship into a truly Shocking Marriage!

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Communication or Intimacy?

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I’ve worked with numerous couples and led several marriage workshops over the years. One of the most common issues that I hear within relationships is a lack of, or poor communication. Typically this is expressed by the wives, often with an accusatory look at their husbands. When heard, the husbands typically shrug their shoulders and give me a look of “I don’t know what else to do”.

So why does communication suffer so much in a long-term, married relationship? I’ve heard many theories on this. Some reference studies of how many more words women speak in a given day than men. Others, talk of the different ways that male and female brains are wired. Since women mentally connect so many things together, it can be hard for a male (who typically thinks of one topic at a time) to keep up with their wives. As a result, they mentally check out, adding frustration to the relationship.

I have a personal theory on this. I think poor communication in a marriage is a symptom, not a root cause. I believe that if a husband dedicated time and attention to actively listening to everything his wife said, but changed nothing else, there would still be dissatisfaction. If a woman just wants to be heard, she can satisfy this need with a girlfriend that is more naturally inclined to listen. But I think there’s more than that.

When I hear a couple complain of communication breakdown, I probe beneath the surface to investigate the level of intimacy that the couple shares. If you are a male and reading this, you probably assume I’m speaking strictly about sex. And that is a part of it, but not the only part.

I believe that intimacy in a marriage crosses multiple dimensions. These would include Spiritual, Emotional and Physical. I won’t go into depth on each of these here, but rather summarize briefly.

God designed us to be in relationship with Him. If you married as a believer, you entered into a covenant relationship with God as well as your spouse. If you find yourself in a season where you feel far from God, the covenant relationship becomes strained. That stress will carry into your marriage as well.

Emotional intimacy occurs when a spouse feels completely safe with their partner. They don’t fear judgement, they are transparent with their feelings and they have absolute trust in their marriage. They recognize the importance of non-sexual touch, cuddling and experiencing life together. Unlike any other relationship, their spouse is viewed as the one person in the world that they can be completely open and genuine with.

Physical intimacy does involve sex. Science has shown that there is a chemical bond that takes place with a sexually active couple. God designed sex and intends for it to be a vital and sustaining element within marriage. When sex is lacking, couples take on the personas of roommates, and the relationship deteriorates.

Effective and satisfying communication exists within a marriage when all three types of intimacy are solid. If you are struggling to communicate, ask yourself in which of these areas you might be falling short. Focus on what you can do yourself to improve here, don’t look to your spouse for change. As your intimacy grows, you’ll find your communication and overall satisfaction will follow.

If you want to learn more about these types of intimacy or discover how to focus on or improve them, watch for my upcoming book “The Essential Guide to Marriage Planning” due out in late 2019.

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Marriage Resolutions 2019

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The holidays have come and gone. Most if not all of the decorations have been stored and life is returning to normal. We’re back at work, routine is returning and we’re falling back into a state of normalcy.

I’ve heard it said that by mid-late January, most New Years resolutions have already been broken by a high percentage of people. Diets have gone aside, gym visits have been delayed and smart phone time has not really decreased. It seems that for many, drawing a line in the sand (in this case the start of a new year) and vowing changes in behavior is unrealistic. The momentum of our old habits and lifestyle is very hard to break. This can result in disappointment and depression.

In my opinion, the reason for falling short on resolutions is that many seek immediate transformation in their lives. Examples could include things like, “I will quit smoking”, or “I will begin exercising 5 days a week” or “I will read the Bible every day”. None of these goals are bad, but if you’ve been smoking for years, and have never really exercised or spent time reading the Bible, such big goals may not be realistic.

While it was written nearly 30 years ago, Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is still relevant today. One of his key habits was “Work with the end in mind”. Basically, it’s about visualizing a desired end state where you would like to be, then putting the pieces in place in order to get there. The difference may seem subtle, but in reality, it is quite different. When you are headed toward a distinctive, long-term goal you focus on completing a little bit at a time. You target your efforts in a given direction. Setbacks aren’t disastrous, they merely cause you to adjust your focus moving forward.

The new year is a great time to think about your marriage and consider areas of improvement (resolutions). But to improve your odds of success, take a longer-term view working with the end in mind. In other words, don’t think about what you’re going to change right now, but think about where you would like to be in your relationship one year from now.

If you can create a vision for where you want to be in a year, it is much easier to put efforts in place where you can be successful. If you want to improve communication in your marriage, figure out ways in which you can focus on this. What’s inhibiting communication now? Is it the kids? Commit to having some date nights. Is work getting in the way? Commit to making your spouse a higher priority in your life. Do you want to reduce conflict? Learn how to argue without doing damage to one another.

Taking this approach will encourage you to modify your attitudes and behaviors over time. Date nights are no longer a commitment to a resolution, but rather a means to an end. Texting your wife from work is not obligatory, but you come to realize that it increases intimacy.

None of us should be complacent with where we are in our marriages. No matter where you are in your relationship, there is always room for improvement. Don’t stress about transformation that needs to take place overnight, take the long view. Create a vision of where you’d like to be and work toward it over time. That’s a new year’s resolution that will set you up for success.

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Mixing God and Sex?

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I was listening to a morning radio show the other day while driving in my car. It’s a comedic show with a lot of banter between the various hosts and guests. The topic of sex at Christmas came up and was being debated. The female on the show spoke of Christmastime as being one of the most romantic times of the year; the lights, the fire in the fireplace, the smells of the season all contributed to a sensual atmosphere. The discussion went on for awhile until one of the other hosts asked her something about the birth of Jesus and that association with the holiday. Her response was quick and clear; “I don’t mix my religion and my sex life”. And that was the end of the discussion.

While it’s not my place to judge this woman’s faith or sincerity, she is not alone in her thinking. Even among devout Christian couples it seems that sex resides in its own, separate compartment. It’s almost like a loophole sin that God is willing to overlook in their faith. He doesn’t condemn it, but He certainly wants no part of it… right?

I have worked with many couples where this topic has come up. They will speak of efforts that they have made to improve their spiritual lives. They have begun to pray together and read the Bible together. But they will go on to say that their sex life is far from ideal. In their eyes, one segment of their lives is improving, but another continues to flounder.

I don’t believe that sex is a loophole at all. God designed sex and created our physical bodies in such a way that we can take intense pleasure from the mere act. Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed when they first walked in the Garden of Eden. My guess is that sex was as natural for them as eating or drinking. But if you’re familiar with the story, you’ll recall that once sin entered the world, they immediately covered their nakedness to hide their bodies from God. It’s important to note that nothing changed from God’s original intent or design, but sin distorted nudity and sex into something perceived as perverse and forbidden.

It makes perfect sense to keep God out of a sex life that exists outside of the relationship of marriage. God cannot participate in sin, and the Bible tells us that sex outside of marriage is exactly that. The problem is that we take this stigma and apply it even within the wholesome bond of marriage. As Christians, we need to allow God into every aspect of our lives, including sex.

I met with a couple this week that told me that they had begun to pray together for the first time. I asked them to describe that experience for me. The husband got an odd twinkle in his eye and told me “It was surprisingly intimate”.  I began to chuckle and without another word, we all knew the situation he was implying.

But I think he nailed it. Praying is an intimate time we spend with God. Praying with our spouse brings God directly and tangibly into our relationship allowing the intimacy to expand and envelop us all. Spiritual intimacy and sexual intimacy need not reside in separate compartments, they beautifully meld together if we just allow them to.

Try praying before sex. Or use your devotional time together as foreplay. Don’t force it, just don’t deny it. Remember the architect of sex wants to be a part of every aspect of your marriage. Don’t try to shut him out of the bedroom.

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Thankful for my wife

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It’s the week of Thanksgiving, a time time when many of us pause to think of the many things that we are thankful for. I have to say, at the top of my list has to be my wife.

As a couple, we are coming out of a season of heavy praying. Looking across our family, we have been praying for new jobs, for successful relocations, for adoption approvals, for sold homes, for fledgling ministries and healing. It seems that every aspect of our lives has been in flux. It has been an incredible season of communing with God and receiving many answered prayers. I could expound upon any of the items listed above and speak of the supernatural responses from God. But for the purpose of this post, I really just want to focus on my wife of thirty-six years.

We’ve all heard the statistics that over 50% of marriages in our culture will end in divorce. I came across a new interesting statistic recently. Oddly, this is one that Dr. Phil shared on his show. He cited a study showing that only 1 out of 10,000 couples that pray together regularly will end in divorce. That’s a 99.97% success rate.

During this season which we’ve just endured, I’ve both prayed with my wife and for my wife. And I know that she has done the same for me. It’s hard to imagine feeling any closer to her than I do right now. But I have similar feelings for God at the same time.

We know that God created marriage and has a design for it that most of us have departed from to some degree.  But God also created the concept of intimacy, which He intends to have with each of us as His creation. What I’m not sure I’ve appreciated in the past is how this same intimacy flows out of my relationship with Him and right into my relationship with her. In other words, the closer I become with my Creator, the closer I feel to my wife which He brought into my life. Likewise, the more thankful I am for Him, the more thankful I am to her.

It’s more than just a fuzzy feeling as well. We have experienced a tangible alignment of late that is not always present. Through praying together and for each other, God has given us each similar thoughts and solutions to the issues we’ve been facing. In the past several weeks, each of us has been faced individually with someone asking us advice on a very specific topic. In each case when that same question was asked to the other of us, we found ourselves providing nearly an identical answer or direction. I am convinced that was God speaking through each of us.We were aligned with each other, because we were first aligned with Him.

The holiday season can bring on tremendous amounts of marital distress. The added pressures of entertaining, dealing with extended family, jam-packed calendars and shopping can wear anyone’s nerves raw. This year, I’m going to keep my focus on God and maintaining the intimacy that I’ve had with Him of late. I will continue to pray for and with my wife trusting that intimacy will continue to overflow into our marriage. The resulting alignment should go a long way to overcoming the stresses the season brings.

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