Friday, 31 August 2012


When reading a marriage book, I don’t mind it when the author tends to pontificate, i.e. to speak pompously: to speak about something in a knowing and self-important way, especially when not qualified to do so.  Nor do I mind an author who waxes eloquently, i.e. fluent, forceful, and persuasive; and vividly expressive.  I do mind it when I feel convicted, when an author gets nebby, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania expression meaning the kind of person who is always poking into peoples’ affairs.

In The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller gets nebby.  Under the heading “The Priority of Marriage” Keller says, “If you see your spouse as mainly a sexual partner or a financial partner, you will find that you will need pursuits outside of marriage to really engage your  whole soul.  In that case, children, parents, career, political, or social activism, hobbies, or of a network of close friends – one or more of these things will capture your  imagination, provide joy and meaning, and absorb emotional energy more than your marriage.”

Then Keller has the nerve to go on the attack by saying our spouse is only a “pseudo-spouse if our spouse does not feel that we are putting him/her first, then by definition we aren’t.  And when that happens our marriage is dying.”

I remember hearing a lawyer say many years ago “never ask the witness a question unless you already know the answer.”  Which for someone who can’t remember what he had for breakfast this morning is remarkable, but I digress.  This is a dilemma.  Remember your spouse’s answer is predicated on what they feel, not what we think.  This is no trivial matter.  If Keller is only partially right, i.e. our marriage may not be dying but the prognosis isn’t good, then we need to know if our husband/wife thinks anything in our life is more important to us than he/she is.

 This seems to be a place for one of Paul Tripp’s famous sayings, “The desire for even a good thing can become a bad thing if it becomes a ruling thing.”  Often kids take center stage; sometimes setting aside enough money for college and retirement is all consuming; for still others it may be their occupation, etc.   As you can see these are not bad things but if any of them become the driving force behind what we do and how we spend our energies we need to reassess our lives.

Tim Keller
Here is the clincher.  Keller writes, “The simple fact is that only if I love Jesus more than my husband/wife will I be able to serve his/her needs ahead of my own.”  Perhaps this is a question you need to answer first before you ask your spouse whether or not they feel as though they are number one in your life.


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Married but Feeling Alone?

One who has never been married might ask “how on earth could you be married and feel alone?”  It is a very real feeling accompanied with an emotional ache.  The causes can be numerous, i.e. communication has severely broken down; intimacy is all but gone; large chunks of alone time due to job, demands on time, etc.  Whatever the cause, you can be assured this is not God’s plan for marriage.  The following are excerpts taken from a blog written by Ed Welch, author, counselor and professor at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF)

Ask for prayer and wisdom from someone who will do more than simply commiserate. No one enjoys asking for help, and it is especially hard to acknowledge personal struggles in marriage. But followers of Jesus speak with our Lord about difficult things and we speak with each other.

Be careful about focusing on your regrets, and even be careful about focusing on your marriage. Your goal is to grow in the knowledge of Jesus and discover how children of God are to thrive. John 10:10 is still for you: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Bring more scrutiny to yourself than to your spouse. You might have to raise difficult issues with your spouse. The only way you can do this is to first develop expertise in putting your own sins and weaknesses under the microscope while you see your spouse’s with something less than twenty-twenty vision (Matt.7:3-5). Ugh. This one might take a miracle.

Search for the good in your spouse.  When you live with someone long enough you will certainly see the person’s sins, but you will also see things that are praiseworthy…  Consider forgiving your spouse for accumulated wrongs and start over.

Then, after these steps, talk about your marriage with your spouse.  Aim to be concrete (what are the top two specific problems). Aim to be hopeful.

There is a reasonable chance that if you are feeling alone, yet married, your spouse is also aware that all is not well in Camelot.  Perhaps talk in terms of a re-start, regardless if you have been married one month or twenty years.  Start with a shared vision for your marriage.  Ideally that vision includes God for whose good pleasure marriage was designed.  Our marriages are to glorify God – how about that as a vision?


Monday, 27 August 2012

Help is Just a Study Away

Don’t you just love science and in particular the information gleaned from various research studies?  For example:

·       a $315,000 NSF-funded study on whether playing Facebook's FarmVille can help adults develop relationships;  

·       an $80,000 study to examine why the same teams always end up leading March Madness (College Basketball tournament);

·       a $1.5 million grant for scientists to design a robot that can fold laundry -- at a rate of one towel every 25 minutes.

·       my favorite however is the grant given to study shrimp walking on tiny treadmills to measure the impact of sickness on crustaceans – the price tag unspecified.

As a marriage pastor I was glad to learn of the numerous research studies that have been conducted on behalf of marriage.  Thanks to Mort Fertel’s Marriage Counseling Blog I learned of some results backed data that, if applied, might improve your marriage or at least your health or prospects of a longer life.

Number 1.  Men who kiss their wives good-bye in the morning live on the average of five years longer and supposedly earn more money over their lifetime.

Number 2. Smiling predicts marriage success.  This study examined photos taken of people when they were much younger.  The study found that those who smiled least in these pictures were five times more likely to divorce.

Number 3. Older men enjoy sex more.  Supposedly men in their 50’s reported more sexual satisfaction then men in their 30’s and 40’s.

Number 4. Saying thank you can improve your marriage.  Researchers at Arizona State University determined that when people said “thank you” after their partner completed chores their relationship satisfaction went up and their resentment went down.

Number 5.  Choose your words wisely.  A Journal of Psychology and Aging study revealed that couples who used words such as “we”, “us”, and “our” when in conflict ultimately displayed more affection toward one another than couples who used “I”, “you” and “me”.

Number 6.  Stop nagging and improve your marriage.  Research done by the Journal of Family Psychology discovered that couples who were unhappy with their relationship within the first five years of marriage also had a 20% increase in negative communications, specifically nagging.

So bottom line seems to  be if you do a lot of kissing, expressing appreciation, remaining intimate, becoming one by using plural pronouns, and quit nagging you have an excellent chance of having a great marriage – unless of course you weren’t smiling when they took your prom picture.