The Soil of the Soul

When the foundational elements are in tact, marital success boils down to making the relationship a priority.   We must make a conscious effort every day to put the relationship first. 

First means above every viable excuse.  Run errands later.  The laundry can wait.  Leave work on time instead of two hours after everyone else has left.  If you’re too tired to even think about sex, drink a Red Bull or some cofee or tea to pep up.  Turn the television off.  Put your laptop away.  I know you want to Facebook or play Spider Solitaire, but those things can wait.  Putting your marriage first requires a commitment to remove the distractions and follow through by giving your partner your full attention.   

This is difficult in our culture.  We are a fast-paced, results-driven society.  We want everything done quickly and we want to reap the benefits before we even put in the work.  Our brains are comfortable in multi-tasking mode; thus, shutting down our minds to everything else and focusing only on intimacy with our spouse can be difficult … but it is necessary. 

I was at a restaurant and witnessed a couple out for a romantic dinner.  They were dressed to the nines, ordered a nice bottle of wine and had the waiter take their picture.  I don’t know the occasion, but they had obviously set this night apart as something special.  Before their salad arrived, the husband had taken two phone calls.  By the time the waiter brought the entree’ the husband had stepped outside twice and the phone call count was up to five.  The sparkle that danced in wife’s eyes upon arriving at the restaurant had dwindled to a sporadic flicker of hope amid a lonely stare.  Her shoulders drooped as each phone call he took sucked the romance from her. 

Now I ask myself, was she gung ho to jump in the sack when they got home?  Probably not.   

Careers are important.  Money is important.  Doing well at your job is imperative to survival in our economy.  But let me say this:  unless you are a top surgeon, wherein someone will die if you do not answer your phone during a romantic, special dinner with your spouse, then DO NOT ANSWER YOUR PHONE!   I am willing to bet that whatever business deal you have going down can wait until after dinner. 

Intimacy in marriage is an active CHOICE.  You choose to make your spouse feel important or you choose to make them feel insignificant.  So many of us try to blame our careers or blame or responsiblities, but the truth is those are mere excuses to hide our own inability to prioritize our relationship. 

When it comes to matters of the heart, we must make time to sow seeds and tenderly nourish the soil.  You cannot expect growth in a garden you do not nurture.  There are no fruits if there is no labor first.

“My husband knows I love him,” comes the voice of a forty year old woman, who makes-love with her husband once a week and openly confesses she would rather Facebook than talk to him.  Relational satisfaction doesn’t come from merely loving each other. Love must be present but it must also be constantly built upon. Hearts tire. Minds change.  Appearances wither. To keep the garden growing in spite of seasonal altercations, we must till the ground, pull the weeds, water, seed and nuture every day.

Gardens thrive when given the right nourishment, and they wither and die when ignored.  Human hearts are no different.  What have you planted in the soil of your spouse’s soul?

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A Tale Too Painfully True to Tell

Melanie and Bob have been married 20 years.  It’s been a good marriage and they have been blessed with healthy children, steady income and supportive family.  To an onlooker their life appears perfect.  But on the inside, there lies a desert where a beautiful garden once grew.

Their marriage is held together by the children, for the children and headed for a crash.  Both of them feel it, though Melanie lives in denial and Bob buries himself in work to hide from the pain.

The biggest symptom is the lack of sex in their marriage.  Admittedly Bob will tell you they have sex, but only because he pushes the issue and begs her to make it happen.  “If it were up to her, we’d never have sex again,” comes the hopeless voice of this 40 year old husband.  Her lack of desire to sexually fulfill him makes him feel unwanted, and not just in the bedroom.  It has spilled over into other areas and he feels undesired in many aspects of their marriage. 

Melanie loves her husband but feels bothered every time he comes onto her, which puts her in a bad mood.  She suffers from low self-esteem due to being overweight which causes her to withdraw from sexual activity altogether.  “Why would he want to touch me?”  She asks herself, “look how disgusting I am.”  Self-hatred eats away at her and she internalizes guilt over not wanting to have sex, which only makes the guilt grow stronger.  She knows she is letting him down, but doesn’t admit it to him because it’s easier to hide behind her own defenses and shift the blame onto any shortcoming she can find in him. 

Things weren’t always this way.  There was a time when Melanie and Bob couldn’t get enough of each other, when they craved one another, and when they were truly close.  For the past ten years though, their marriage has been slowly stagnating.  They stopped connecting physically, which closed off the conduit to greater and deeper communication.  When the sex stopped, the emotion faded, the mental connection grew tiresome and the spiritual clogged up. 

People don’t plan to neglect each other.  They don’t intend to ignore marital needs.  Somehow  familial demands of raising children, financial strains of an erratic economy, pressing careers, physical changes in appearance and self-esteem all play a part in masking the good and accentuating the negative changes in marriage.  It happens slowly, over time. One night of “I’m too tired” quickly becomes two nights, then three, then a week and a month and then several months.  By the time we wake up and realize how alone we feel, irreputable damage has already been done. 

Can the damage be repaired?  Yes, but not overnight.

When we decrease or stop connecting physically it is both a symptom and a cause of deeper problems in the marriage.   When you find yourself where Bob and Melanie are how do you fix what seems utterly hopeless?  The answer is initially simple:  sex.  You must find a way to re-open the communication medium through physical contact. This means, you and your spouse must make a commitment to come together and restore sexual balance in the relationship.  It takes a willingness of both partners to agree to make sex a priority in the marriage.  You must commit to get naked and get it on whether you feel like it or not!   

Let me be real clear here: Sex is NOT the only answer for a troubled marriage.  It is merely step one to reigniting a dormant flame and unclogging the communication conduit.  It’s very hard to stay angry with your spouse and make-love to him or her at the same time.  If you don’t believe me, try it. 

Sex is a beautiful tool for regaining balance and harmony in your marriage, and when used consistently it will build you a bonfire of love that will warm your marriage for years to come.

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Marriage: Fused in Sexual Union

Marriage was created out of a need for companionship but there is also an intimate design to fuse the two into one, and to consummate that fusion through sexual union.  Sexual union is the natural consummation of romantic affection.  It facilitates a deeper connection between spouses on physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual levels.  It is the most intimate act in which two human beings can engage.

Think about that for a second.  As a woman, my husband can hug me, kiss me, hold my hand, talk to me, support me, encourage me…but when he enters me he becomes one with every part of who I am.  It is an undefineable intimacy that breaks down barriers, overcomes obstacles and opens the conduit of communication on every level. 

God knows how important sex is to human beings. God created a need for sex as an instinctive part of our human nature.  He understands the importance of our sexuality so much that He has laid out definitive parameters in the Bible for us to follow; and His instructions are simple. 

 “Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”    (I Corinthians 7:3-5)

Clearly these verses touch on more than just sexual union, but for now I want to focus on two areas in relation to sex.  The first is the spousal fulfillment of duty and the second is the importance of not depriving one another. 

In verse three of the above, God blatantly states that the fulfillment of pleasure, be it physical, mental, emotional and sexual, is the responsibility of each spouse to the other.  We are to pleasure one another with our minds, our hearts and our bodies.  We are to satisfy, gratify and fulfill each other.  Why?  Because the stimulation we give to each other is what promotes growth, intensity and overall health in our marriage.  

In verse 5,  God drives His point home by explaining why spouses should not deprive each other of sexual union.  I love looking up the original Greek to better understand the heart behind the verse, so I looked up the word “deprive.”  The Greek word for deprive is “apostero,” meaning to deprive, wrong or defraud another of what belongs to him.  When you withhold sexual union from your marriage, you are defrauding your spouse of what is rightfully theirs and defrauding yourself of what is rightfully yours.   

Yes, but why should I put out for him when he doesn’t meet my emotional needs?  I’ve heard many women ask this question, and the answer is simple.  Put the overall needs of the marriage first on a consistent basis and you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.  Fuse your marriage in consistent sexual union, and the communication channels to emotional and mental bonding will open up with static free reception. 

When you marry, you and your spouse become as one; you belong to your spouse and they belong to you.  This is not in the sense of ownership, but of complete surrender to one another by focusing first on the needs of your marriage, not your individual wants.  According to God’s Word, sexual union is an intricate part of marriage; thus it is crucial to the health of the relationship to maintain an active physical bond. 

It is SO important that God warns against sexual depravation, noting that it will lead to a lack of self-control.  So, am I saying if you don’t have sex with your spouse on a consistent basis that they will end up in bed with someone else?  No.  What I’m saying is if you refuse to nurture your marriage, it will grow stagnant.  If you deny your marriage the fundamental nutrients it needs to grow, it will wither and die.  If you don’t fan the flame, there will be no fire… and when there is no longer a fire, hearts grow cold and seek warmth elsewhere. 

In the words of Rick Springfield, “we all need the human touch,” so consistently Fuse it before you lose it.  ~

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Marriage: A Companionate Creation

Have you ever wondered why God created the union of marriage?  I have, especially in those moments when my spouse is on my last nerve and I’m thinking one of us is not going to live to see tomorrow.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration…but you know what I’m saying.  

Marriage is a companionate relationship, rooted in both love and friendship.  Love and friendship are key components in forming the solid foundation that allows sexuality to flourish in your marriage.  Thus, understanding why marriage was created helps us better comprehend our individual role in the relationship.

In the lyrical tune of Julie Andrews, “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…” 

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”  (Genesis 2:18)

 What we learn in this verse is that Adam was lonely.  He was incomplete. God knew he needed a companion so He “formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky and brought them to the man…”  (Genesis 2:19)  Reading further we are told that none of the animals were a suitable mate for Adam, so God created Eve.  It is in Eve that Adam finds completion.  Out of the need for a companionate relationship the marriage union was born into existence. 

Our primal need for companionship is so powerful and deep-rooted in us that God Most High took the time to create the perfect mate to bring us to completion.  Now, THAT is cool! 

In Malachi 2:14 God acknowledges that the wife is the companion of her husband stating, “…she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” 

What does it mean to be a companion?  If you look in the dictionary, the word companion means comrade, an associate and one that is closely connected to something or someone similar.   If you look in a thesaurus, you will read words like pal, buddy, friend, soul mate, cohort and play mate.  It goes without saying that a companionate relationship has two consistent components:  love and friendship.  It is no coincidence that the aspects of both love and friendship are clearly defined in the most ancient of all historical texts…the Bible.  It is also not a coincidence that these terms are used to describe the marital bond.

Marriages traverse many stages throughout their existence.  They grow weak and strong at various intervals in time.  Companionship takes on different shapes as people mature.   In a young relationship the focus is typically on stronger, more passionate emotions.  The active elements of marriage (love and sex) are at the forefront.  However, if you look at older couples who have been together for many years, you will see the strength of their love is often times rooted in the inactive elements of companionship. (friendship) I say it is inactive because true companionship finds fulfillment just in being.  A simple touch, a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a squeeze of the hand are milder elements of physical communication, but equally as powerful in sustaining the connection within a marriage.

Psychologists have conducted studies on the elderly and the many differences in those who have a companion and those who do not.   The results show that elderly people who are involved in a companionate relationship appear more optimistic, more confident and self-assured, prone to be more involved in activities providing mental stimulation, and more internally peaceful.   God knew what He was doing when He designed Eve for Adam.  He was fulfilling one of our basic human needs; thus making the need for active companionship one of the most fundamental components of marriage.

Companionship creates the bed of love and friendship in which your marital sexuality can then thrive.

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Overcoming a Misguided Mindset

 She sat next to him on their bed, knees curled up into her chest, arms wrapped tightly around them.  “Please,” he prodded, “can’t we just try it?”

She shook her head and whispered, “I can’t.”

“Why not,” he asked gently.

He sat patiently and studied her face as tears welled in her eyes.  “Because,” she cried, “I’d be too embarrassed to have my butt sticking up in the air like that!”  ~

 

Trying new things is often scary, and inhibitions in the bedroom can be difficult to overcome.  Many people have misguided ideas about sex which can stem from religious teachings, upbringing or past experience.  These often deep-rooted notions may cause sexual creativity to be viewed as uncomfortable, embarrassing, rebellious, dirty and even sinful.  Making the leap from missionary position to doggie style can be deemed downright disgusting.  For some people oral sex and masturbation are considered intolerable acts.  Fear of judgment deters a willingness to explore, and fear can squelch even a healthy sex drive.   We need to overcome our misguided mindset and start seeing our body as the love-making machine it was designed to be.  Start your engine!

You can be a Christian and still celebrate the sensuality of your nature.  In the past, religion negatively impacted the Christian philosophy of sex, resulting in a rigid, missionary approach.  Many people still believe intercourse should only be for the purpose of procreating.  If this were true, then our bodies would not have been designed to seek out physical attention well beyond our childbearing years.  Our endorphins would not secrete at the appropriate moment to attract a mate, nor would we find ourselves aroused by the anticipation of a sexual encounter.   Whether or not you are a Christian has nothing to do with what sexual position you prefer.

In the early 80’s a youth pastor at our church taught a group of  teenage girls and boys that any act which sexually stimulated their bodies was sinful.  His belief was whether it was hand holding or kissing, if it sexually aroused you it was wrong.  Telling a bunch of hormone raging teens not to be sexually active is like telling a male moose not to mount during mating season!  Some of the youth stifled their hormonal desire in an attempt to be a “good Christian” while others decided to bask in the glory of God’s unending forgiveness and go hog wild.   Both paths led to a temporarily distorted view of human sexuality and the brilliant usefulness of its design for marriage.

The Bible is clear about God’s pro-sex stance among spouses.  Furthermore, the Bible not only emphasizes that couples should fulfill their sexual needs, but in the very omission of detailed instruction, opens the door to sensual exploration.  In other words, your sexuality is not dirty, it is divine.  Whether you like to suck on your wife’s toes or dip his penis in chocolate, it might be considered weird, but it’s not bad or wrong or sinful.  As long as you and your spouse are in agreement, anything goes!

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Let The Excuses Begin… “I’m too Tired”

“I’m too tired.”

Me too.  Sometimes by the time I get the kids to bed I am ready to collapse from the sheer exhaustion of the day.  We can all relate to this feeling.  Whether you work in the home or out of the home, have kids or don’t have kids, the fast pace at which we run our lives is physically, emotionally and mentally draining. In our American culture, exhaustion is the number one excuse for not having sex.

Let me ask you a question:  Have you ever felt too tired to cook dinner?  Have you felt too tired to shower and get ready to go somewhere?  Have you ever felt like you were too tired to get up and go to work?  You can see where I’m headed with this.  There are many things we feel “too tired” to do and yet we force ourselves to do them.  Why?  Because they are necessary for our well-being.  It is no different with sex.

Sex is a necessary and key component to the security of our marriage.

How long does it take you to cook dinner?  Let’s say it’s an average of thirty minutes.  How long does it take to shower and get ready to go out?  Let’s say anywhere from thirty minutes to one hour.  How long does it take to have sex?  According to a study by Men’s Health the average man climaxes within 5 to 10 minutes of sexual stimulation.  A study from iFemale shows the average time for men to achieve orgasm is 2-5 minutes and for a woman it is 20 minutes.  Now, unless you’re married to a porn star, most of whom seem to have a gifted knack for longevity, it is safe to assume you can stay awake long enough to participate in a sexual activity with your spouse that will last anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes.

Undeniably after the first minute or so, the tired feeling is replaced by arousal and the anticipation of euphoric trembling.

“I’m too tired” is an over-exhausted, overly used, worn out, too lame excuse and it’s time to lay it to rest forever.   ~

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Creatures of Habit

         Human beings are uniquely designed to be creatures of habit.  We get into a routine and soon that routine becomes our normal pattern of existence.  We get up at a particular time and go to bed around a particular time.  We have night time rituals like washing our face and brushing our teeth.  We like to eat at certain times during the day and find ourselves adapting to feeling hungry when the noshing hour nears.   It is no different with sex.  Once you begin to make sexual activity a normal pattern in your life, the craving for sex will increase to meet the output.  Sexual bonding is designed to reinforce itself, thereby providing stability within the marriage.  You crave more as you get more which in turn drives you to pursue it more frequently.  It is a win-win-win for your marriage.

            This constant craving is innate, inborn, and instinctive.  Some will tell you sex is strictly for the purpose of procreation, that we were initially designed to crave sex so that we could populate and fill the Earth as commanded.  This is not the truth.  Sex was designed by the Creator as a form of marital intimacy.  Procreation is a beautiful side effect.  Way back in the Garden of Eden when God created Eve and gave her to Adam, it was not for the purpose of procreating.  It was because Adam was lonely.  God knew he needed intimacy and physical touch.  (Genesis 2:18  “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone…’”)

          Medical research has shown our bodies work better when frequent sex is a regular routine in our lifestyle.  There are numerous health benefits to frequent sex.  These include improvement in self-esteem, deeper emotional attachment, better posture, lower incidence of illness, lowered stress and less anxiety, youthfulness, more energy, muscular contraction and better bladder control, increased circulation, and greater levels of the hormones dopamine and oxytocin, which are proven to be natural anti-depressants.  Frequent sex promotes cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke, and helps people sleep better.  All this, plus the euphoric high of an orgasm, and it’s all free.  Wow!   Is there any reason we shouldn’t be getting laid every day?  We want it.  We need it.  It’s good for us.  God says to do it.  What are you waiting for? 

           Make sex a part of your physical exercise regiment.  Go run a mile then come home and ride in style!   In the wise words of a Big & Rich lyric, we should all “save a horse, ride a cowboy.”  Yee Haw!  ~

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