Friday, 19 August 2011

The Message of the Massage

No more convincing evidence of the absence of parental affection exists than that compiled by Rene Spitz. In a South American orphanage, Spitz observed and recorded what happened to 97 children who were deprived of emotional and physical contact with others. Only twenty one of the 97 survived most suffering serious psychological damage. Numerous studies have produced similar results.

Psychologist Dr. Robert W. Hatfield says that "affectionate touch is vital for all human ages" for survival, development and peace.

Physical touch can be a great way to affirm your partner, your love, and your commitment. Sometimes in a relationship, one person appreciates physical contact more than the other person. This can cause some feelings of rejection if the other partner does not want to hold hands in public or sit close together on the couch. Physical touch does not always have to be sexual. Instead, it can include holding hands, giving a hug, or back massage. Think about how much you and your partner touch each other.

A number of years ago Gary Chapman wrote a book called Love Languages. Touch was one of five primary languages that he identified. Perhaps you or your spouse came from a family that was very “huggy” thus it is how you feel loved. Perhaps you or your spouse was a “touch-deprived” child and long for the reassurance that a loving touch can bring. Regardless of the reason these individuals require a “high-touch” environment to thrive.

God obviously thinks touch is vitally important to life and human relationships. God is the one who invented sex. He is the one who demonstrates through the plethora of studies of touch-deprived children that touch is crucial for not only the survival of children but their development as well. Children who fail to receive adequate touch often traverse adolescence depressed, anxious, angry and unhappy, according to a study by Bowlby and Ainsworth.

Talk to your partner about what he or she likes. Some like to cuddle, some like to hold hands. Be willing to offer a back massage or give a foot rub. Have your partner communicate what feels good and what doesn’t. Experiment with other things such as a hand massage or neck rub too.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Drift

For those of us in the northeastern part of the US when we hear the word drift it is often associated with snow. Drifting usually occurs when a wind blows accumulated snow into a pile. Such piles tend to make life somewhat more difficult. They are heavier to shovel and they often seem to block places you want to get to.

Drifting in marriage has some things in common with snow drifts. It is as though a cold wind blows across your marriage. It tends to push one or both partners in a direction they would just as soon not go. It makes life more difficult because neither partner is happy when this occurs. And marriage drift certainly prevents couples from getting to their place in a marriage where they experience the joy that God intended.

So what causes the cold winds to blow across a marriage? There is no simple answer but certainly neglect is one of the culprits. Other possible causes of drift include - the kids take too much time and energy; work is stressful and demanding and often requires long hours; expectations while unspoken have gone unmet; the emotional void that your spouse was supposed to fill has gone unfilled; your perceived needs have gone unmet; and there seems to be little time for any meaningful conversation.

If your relationship has evolved into a living arrangement rather than a marriage because of drifting apart there is good news and not so good news. The not so good news is that if the drift is not addressed it could easily lead to an affair, pornography or some other undesirable channel for one or both partners. At the very least you will have marital d├ętente; with neither partner feeling fulfilled much less bringing glory to God.

The good news is that if caught early enough where both partners still care deeply about the other the drift can be melted. A commitment to the covenantal relationship is a beginning, i.e. we are in this for life with no exit strategy. Some behavioral techniques could be helpful, particularly if the drift is not too high. Such things as setting regular date nights; begin praying together; arrange for structured, planned times to talk together; and reading Christian marriage books together, i.e. Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect?, are some of the activities that will begin the thaw.

For a more permanent solution there needs to be a heart change. The vertical connection of both partners needs to increase, i.e. they need to reach out to God, put Christ at the center of their marriage and the couple needs to accept the fact that the purpose for marriage is to glorify God. As each partner begins to spend more time with the Lord in prayer and more time with Him in His Word the heart will begin to change. Having Godly accountability partners can also help.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Sarcastic Humor

I grew up in a home where sarcasm was an expression of endearment. Needless to say I brought that into my first marriage. To say that I was a baby Christian at the time would be an exaggeration. To say that my wife didn’t appreciate my sarcastic humor which was sometimes at her expense would be doubly safe to say. One of the first signs that I had crossed the line of faith is when I realized how hurtful it was and never again attempted to get a laugh at her expense. The following blog posting by Mort Fertel addresses this subject.

Mort Fertel
Almost everyone has witnessed someone making fun of their spouse. Although the person may do so in a joking or teasing manner, it can still be awkward to witness. Sometimes a person tends to pick on a spouse in public. Other times it happens behind closed doors.

Ask yourself if you are ever guilty of belittling or picking on your spouse. Ridiculing is more fun than teasing. Instead, it means picking your spouse apart. It may involve doing so in front of others, perhaps your spouse’s parents or other friends… cutting remarks can be damaging.

Pointing out your spouse’s flaws can be embarrassing, especially when done in public. Although you may think it is funny and you may get a few laughs, it does nothing to help your relationship. How often do you tell others about how great your spouse is? Try offering a story about how well your spouse completed a project, took care of the kids, or did a good deed. This can help build your marriage by affirming them.

Picking on your spouse in private is not acceptable either if your spouse doesn’t find the joke to be funny. There’s definitely a difference between having fun and being hurtful. Perhaps your spouse made a mistake and you continue to harp on her about it. Or perhaps you think calling him names will motivate him to change. These sorts of behaviors can cause emotional pain that will damage the relationship.

If your spouse teases you and it hurts your feelings, have a conversation about it. Tell your spouse how much it bothers you and that you don’t find it funny. If it continues, make sure that you speak up each time. Be assertive and say something such as, “I don’t like it when you say that. I don’t find it funny and I don’t want you to do that anymore.” By speaking up, you can show that you are not willing to tolerate these behaviors.