Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

David and Michal: What Not to Do in a Marriage

The beginning of this relationship is good. Both David and Michal prove their love for one another- Michal by requesting David as her husband and then saving his life, at risk to her own, by lying to her father to save David’s life. Michal puts an idol in their bed and claims David is ill. Since Saul almost kills Jonathan, his heir, over his loyalty to David, there is a very good chance he will not spare his daughter’s life if she angers him. David too risks his life to be with Michal. As he is a poor shepherd boy, with no means to pay a royal bride price, Saul asks him for 100 enemy foreskins. (Since Jewish men are circumsized, only those outside the Jewish faith would have these intact.) This is a suicide mission. Not only does David have to slay an inordinate amount of men, he must desecrate their corpses- not something the enemy who remains will take kindly to… But David manages to bring 200 foreskins to Saul and is allowed to marry Michal.

After fleeing for his life, David does not come back for Michal. He is able to slay and desecrate 200 warriors, but cannot sneak back for the love of his life?!?!? This likely makes no sense to Michal.

Rule 1: No matter how busy you are- make time for your wife. Women do not do well waiting for you to eventually get around to paying attention to them, and they will assume they are unloved no matter what you have done for them in the past.

Wives: In Song of Solomon the woman goes out and seeks her husband, despite the danger, when he is absent/ inattentive. Use common sense to stay safe, but you have a responsibility to address him and seek to resolve the issues when you feel lonely as well.

David then takes additional wives when he is on the run, proving he believes he can keep his women safe under these conditions.

Rule 2: Do not pay more attention to another woman than you do to your wife. No matter what your relationship with the other woman, she will likely not understand.

Wives: Don’t be stirred to jealousy easily. In today’s work situations men and women must spend time together and will enjoy each other’s company. Address situations that make you uncomfortable with your husband and resolve issues in a way that makes you feel loved without making it difficult for him in the workplace. Remember, Paul has female friends which he addressed as his adoptive sisters and/or mothers. Deborah sang a duet with Barak. Prophets stayed and formed relationships with married women and widows, and helped them achieve the desires of their hearts, etc. Plutonic relationships between men and women exist in the Bible, keep this in perspective.

Michal is then married to another by her father. Whether she has had it with David and was willing to remarry, or whether she was forced by her father, we do not know.

Rule 3: If you leave your wife feeling alone for too long you may lose her. Whether she gets sick of it, or others convince her you are never going to change, you are taking a chance by taking her for granted.

Michal and her new husband, Phaltiel, develop feelings for each other and Phaltiel follows Michal crying, asking for her back as she is taken to David. When David sends for Michal, it is after Saul is dead and Abner defects (Ishbosheth’s head of the military-the new kings, Saul’s heir as Jonathan is dead). It is also a sign of ‘proof’ the Abner is now loyal to David as he goes to bring Michal back. This does not look like the act of a loving husband, but an act of convenience. David, as king, cannot have his wife married to another- proving he cannot protect what is his. He also need proof that Abner is serious when he says he will now be loyal to David, and bringing Ishbosheth’s sister to David will definitely upset the new king.

Rule 4: If you leave your wife lonely, another man may pay more attention to her and gain her affections.

Rule 5: If you only pay attention to your wife when it is convenient, or suits your needs, she will not believe you truly love her, even if you do.

Michal is not back living with David. David dances before the ark, joyous. Michal is upset and berates him when he comes home. David banishes her. (Since she is the wife of a king he likely continues to support her and protect her, but has no contact with her. She cannot have children with another or it will make David look bad, but since David will not acknowledge her, she will be left childless, an embarrassing and potentially difficult situation for women at this time.)

Rule 6: Being happy when your wife is not happy with you will only enrage her. Don’t see her lashing out at you as her fault entirely. Try to discover what is pushing her to nag and/or lash out and work together to fix it.

Rule 7: If you nag and/or lash out at your husband, you will place distance between him and you. If you don’t resolve your issues, the distance may become permanent.

Rule 8: Passionate arguments often mean that the other person still cares. Sound contradictory? If someone I don’t know lashes out at me, I ignore or avoid them. They do not consume my time or energy. The people who get under my skin the most are the people who matter to me. Why? Because I want to matter to them too. You can’t get hurt easily by someone whose opinion or actions mean nothing to you. (Though some of us are such people pleasers that everyone’s opinion matters at an unhealthy level, but that is for another post…)

Real life example: (and I hesitate to put this in because of the emotional nature of our current situation- which I feel is also junior high idiocy- but again, that is another post…) Donald Trump was once interviewed as to what went wrong with his first marriage and rightly said that it was his fault- he spent more time on his business than he did on his marriage. This is true of too many people. Given how well he seems to know his three children from that marriage, it seems he learned from his mistake. Don’t make so many mistakes that you lose what is truly important in life- the people you love.

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Burying Your Sexuality

photo by Matija Barrett

photo by Matija Barrett

Two interesting pieces of scripture crossed paths this week- the parable of the talents and the Song of Songs. And it made me think….

Within marriage, sex is a blessing, a gift.

In Song of Songs, the two main characters are definitely physically attracted to each other and are enjoying the physical side of their relationship.

In the parable of the talents we learn that it is wrong to take a gift from God and not utilize it.

Our sexuality is a great and pleasurable gift. But how often is it ‘buried’ under so many other things. We are too busy, tired, frustrated, mad etc.

In Song of Songs our ‘Beloved’ guards our rest and tells others not to wake his/her Beloved. Do you guard your spouses rest and make sure he/she is not overworked?

Do you guard your rest and make sure you are refreshed and able to enjoy the good gifts God has given you?

In Song of Songs we also read that we are to take care of the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard. Are you taking care of the little things before they get big and ruin your relationship?

Just some thoughts…

God gives us so much, and wants us to be good stewards of it.

How good a steward are you being of this wonderful gift?

Proverbs 31: For Women Only?

Photo by Matija Barrett

The list of characteristics in Proverbs 31 has rightly been used as a criteria for finding a godly wife. And, much to the chagrin of many a godly woman, is the only real listing of its kind found in the Bible, making it impossible for women, when it is used incorrectly, to point to the ‘male’ list and say, ‘See, see, you’re not doing so well yourselves!’ Despite the nastiness that sometimes accompanies these endeavors, the question does remain: Is this a list for females only, or are they universal characteristics one should look for when anyone is considering uniting themselves to another for life?

So let’s look at the qualities listed in these verses, first noting that there are some criteria given in verses 3-9 that speak directly to the men. (Also notice that, if you are like me, you have probably never heard these verses of Proverbs 31 preached on before…)

The verses of instruction spoken directly to the son by his mother tell him:
1. Not to spend his energy chasing women who will only do him harm.
2. Not to drink wine or crave beer as a ruler, since doing so will result in poor decisions being made.
3. To give beer to those who are in anguish, so they may be relieved of their misery.
4. To speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
5. To judge people fairly.
6. To defend the poor and needy.

So what does this man look like? He is not a player or a partier. He makes good decisions, helps those who are in pain and he stands up to bullies. He does not make snap judgments, and is not overly critical but instead treats people fairly, which involves not making excuses for bad behavior as well.

And then there are verses 11-31. And the question is: Should men have these qualities as well? (And I think we can all agree that women should not be partiers, and be a person of good morals like the man described previously as well.) So let’s look at the qualities a wife should have:

1. She is a person her future spouse may have confidence in. One who brings him good, and not harm every day (not just when she feels like it). To choose a husband that does less would be disastrous, and an emotionally immature male, who does not constantly seek the best interests of his wife would best be described as abusive, so yes, these characteristics are universal.

2. She selects wool and flax. She knows how to pick quality products to meet her family’s needs. This too is a good trait in a man.

3. She works with eager hands. Again, a lazy man, who does not wish to work diligently, will not make a good spouse.

4. She does not mind traveling far to get the best quality food for her family. A man too should be willing to expend effort to see that his family has what is best.

5. She gets up early and makes sure everyone under her authority (her servants and her family) is well fed. A man too should not be prone to sleeping in nor negligent in making sure that the basic needs of the people in his care (and this may include employees) are being met.

6. She considers a field and buys it, and the start-up capital comes out of her earnings. She has resources and is able to start her own business and run it. (Remember, during this time in history, most people were self-employed.) A man too should aim to have extra earnings to invest and the knowledge to make wise decisions regarding those investments.

7. She works vigorously and her arms are strong enough to do the work that is necessary. Similarly a man should also be a vigorous worker and in good enough health to do the work he has chosen without tiring.

8. She sees that her trading is profitable. She does not make poor business decisions. A man too should be good with money, and his business dealings should be profitable. This means that he is not investing time or money in projects that will inevitably fail. This may include: degrees that have no real word application, get-rich quick schemes, having a dead-end job or being frequently out of work.

9. Her lamp does not go out at night. She remembers to do the little things that are necessary to a smoothly run life. Today this would be remembering to put the garbage out, changing the oil, not forgetting the things you need, like your wallet or cell-phone etc. These qualities are important for a man as well.

10. She sews. While she is a wealthy woman, she has the skills to do the basic tasks that would be needed if her family fell on hard times. Today this would include: basic maintenance of the home and car, coupon cutting and budgeting, home haircuts etc. These skills are good for a man to know as well, because even the best laid plans sometimes go awry. Further, men do sew in scripture. The Levites make the priestly robes. Men sewed items for the Tabernacle. Jacob made Joseph a coat of many colors etc. So while today fabric is often more expensive than premade clothing making more than basic sewing a luxury, sewing itself is not restricted to the women in the Bible.

11. She is generous to the poor and needy. A man who cannot give to those who are truly helpless, will not likely be generous to his wife and children either.

12. She does not fear the snow, since her household has what it needs. (More than what it needs, since they are clothed in scarlet, an expensive cloth.) Men too should seek to provide those under their care with more than what they need so that they do not have to fear being cold, or any other misery. The scarlet cloth also indicates that they are not hoarding their wealth by being stingy, but using it wisely to bless those in their care.

13. She decorates her house and dresses well. A man too should not be a slob, but should be able to dress and keep his surroundings in a way that garners respect. (But balanced with the verses to not be showy, meaning that what he does is respectful, not ostentatious and designed to make others feel small.)

14. Her husband is respected, meaning that her actions benefit him and do not demean him in the eyes of others. A man too should never do anything that would bring shame to his wife, whether through his own behavior, or by putting her down.

15. She makes garments and sells them. She has profitable skills. A man should also have skills that may bring extra income into the home.

16. She is confident, and does not worry about the future. This is not a false confidence, but because she knows she can handle life. A man too should have enough success in life, before being married, to be confident that he can handle whatever the future brings.

17. She speaks with wisdom and instructs others correctly. A man should also be known for giving advice that actually works.

18. She watches over the affairs of the people in her household and is not lazy. She knows what is going on in the lives of those she cares for. A husband too should know what is going on in his house.

19. Her children call her blessed and her husband praises her. She should be the type of woman who you would not think of making fun of. A man too should be someone whom put-downs would just seem silly if applied to him. People, especially those who are close to them, should respect both the man and the woman, or they are not ready to be wed. (They still have some growing up to do!)

20. She surpasses all women. This can only be true in the eyes of her husband, since it is advice to every man about the woman he is to marry. Her future husband should believe she is the best there is and he is lucky to have her. A future wife should believe the same about her future spouse.

21. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting. A wife should not be chosen based on her looks, or how much she flatters you and makes you feel like ‘the man.’ These things will not last. A woman should also not choose a spouse based on his looks and smooth talk. These too will fade, and often the guys with the smoothest lines can’t wait to try them out on someone else…

22. She should fear the Lord. Yes men, so should you.

23. She is to be praised and receive the rewards that result from what she has done. Her husband should not treat her earnings or accomplishments as if they were somehow his doing. Neither should a wife usurp the praise or rewards due to the husband for what he has done. This means that the man does not take a Bible teaching he heard his wife use and repeat it as his own, that a wife does not utilize all the household money on clothes while he has none to enjoy for his own needs etc.

In teaching Proverbs 31 as a list of criteria for a spouse in general might we motivate the young boys to strive harder, and encourage the young ladies to pick better, more mature men? Shouldn’t the man be at least as mature as his wife? Just a thought.

Photo by Matija Barrett

The Declaration of Independence on Relationships

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The Declaration of Independence describes to all nations, not just England, what tyranny looks like, and when it is right and proper to end a relationship. While this is a relationship between Mother England and her colony, it reasonably follows that tyranny is tyranny no matter what the relationship and that the same principles that defined a tyrannical leader in the 1700s should be applicable today.

So what principles can we apply to church, home, employment etc to ensure that we, whenever we have authority, are exercising it properly, and so that we, whenever we are under authority, know when it is proper to say enough is enough?

1. Everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Any behaviors that physically affect a person, keeps them from being free to leave the situation or keeps them from pursuing their dreams is an oppressive relationship. Sure, there are always choices that must be made, and one choice often precludes another choice, but the person whose life is affected by the choice should be either part of the choice, and/or be allowed to leave and choose to pursue happiness elsewhere. (The exception to this is incarceration, where your behavior required you to be separated from others for the good of society.)

2. People should try to restore the relationship, and should not break relationships for ‘transient’ causes (things that are short-lived), but when there is a ‘long train of abuses and usurpations’ then it is a person’s right and duty to throw off this form of government.

There are two important points here:

-The colony (the person under authority) has rights that can be usurped. Being in a position of authority therefore does not give one unlimited power.

-The person who is oppressive is the one who forced the other to break the relationship. It is therefore the oppressive persons fault the relationship failed. The oppressed was correct to leave.

So let us look at the specific things that England did, and examine how an individual may oppress another individual in a similar way.

1. The King, a tyrant, refused to consent to laws for the public good.

Many leaders have this problem. They either do not like to make decisions, or do not like to take advice, so there is little guidance and direction given to the people who are under their authority. Or, if there are rules in place, the leadership undermines these rules by refusing to back up the person charged with enforcing them, by somehow negating the rule or by telling the person in violation ‘not to worry about it.’ Rules provide protection from oppression, as well as a framework that defines how the work is to be done. Too few rules, or no back up leads to the chaos of anarchy, where everyone does whatever they feel to be ‘right.’

(Today, this would be the federal government not enforcing immigration laws, and denying the states the right to handle the problems this lack of enforcement creates themselves.)

2. No one can make necessary rules without the king’s consent.

The people under the king, but over others are not able to make decisions on their own. Everything must pass through the leader (king), except that the king is not available, so when a problem occurs no one feels like they have the right to handle the situation.

3. The person in charge creates situations that make discussions, or meetings so difficult that they are not worth having.

In a marriage, or an employee/employer relationship this may be a person that refuses to listen, yells and goes on the defensive whenever they fear someone may say anything they do not wish to hear. Or they may walk away. There is no way to solve problems since there is no easy method for communication.

4. When someone does stand up for what is right, the leader removes the person, or committee, or shuts down the methods of communication.

This may be shutting down the committee that brought the problem to their attention, removing the suggestion box, refusing to go to counseling/mediation or just being generally unavailable so that no conversations may occur. The person does not like the methods used by the person bringing the matter to their attention and makes no effort to offer another solution to facilitate conversation in a timely manner.

5. The leader makes the people under them aware that life will not go well for them if they do not cater to his whims.

The people under him are scared to disagree. They know that there will be things withheld or they may even lose their position if they do not keep the leader happy.

6. A tyrant also harasses people.

Why? To let them know that, if they think life is bad now, he has the power to make it worse. This keeps people fearful. They know the situation is bad, but they also know it will get worse if they make the leader unhappy by trying to change it.

7. The leader also uses an unreasonable amount of resources.

The person in charge feels that, because they are in charge, they are entitled to use the resources freely, without thought about the people under them and what they might need. In a home, this may be watching what you want on T.V. without thought to what others may wish to see, or what might be appropriate for young children. It may also be spending recklessly, even if it is within the ‘rules,’ even money is tight. In the home this attitude would be, ‘I make the money, so I am entitled to enjoy it.’
A leader in the workplace, or in government is responsible for making right and proper decisions, not skirting the rules so that things work to their, or the people they prefer’s, advantage.
This is not the attitude of someone with a servant’s heart who wants to see their family, business or country prosper.

8. A tyrant also maintains methods of keeping people in line when there is no reason to do so.

The people under this leader have given no indication that they may behave badly, yet the tyrant sets up rules and processes by which to catch people in the act of committing crimes there is no reason to assume they will commit. This creates an atmosphere of fear and perfectionism, where everyone under this authority is afraid of being caught making a mistake. Leaders who do this, like the King of England, often have a group of informants whose word trumps even the most respected people outside their circle. Signs of this type of leadership include excessive security cameras trained on the staff and people who fear meetings since they assume they may be called on the carpet for something at any minute, even though they cannot think of anything they could have done to deserve such treatment.

9. A leader does not respect the rights of the people under them.

For the King of England, this meant that he could quarter troops in private citizens’ homes. In a church, this style of leadership causes members of the congregation to feel that they cannot say no to requests on their time, hospitality or donation of money. In a family, this means you really should talk with your spouse before inviting people over, especially if it is for an extended stay. In the extreme this means, do not tell your mother she can move in with you without speaking to your spouse first!

10. Mock trials: A leader pretends to listen and play fair, but everyone knows the situation has already been decided and the process is a sham.

I attended a meeting once about a Bible study curriculum I did not feel was accurate. When I arrived the DVD series was not available to reference, and it was clear the decision was already made, regardless of what I may have to say, since the ‘decision maker’ was absent and someone was sent with typed notes in their place. Any time you decide to ‘humor’ a person, rather than getting to the root of the problem (which may be the person’s behavior, stubbornness or lack of knowledge) you have circumvented the process of true justice which, if done correctly, should lead to increased knowledge and maturity.

11. Cutting off trade and imposing unreasonable taxes.

A leader who limits what people can do outside of their authority, or makes a person jump through unnecessary hoops to serve is in spirit doing the same thing. They are restricting the opportunities a person has to use their skills in a productive way. This may occur in a marriage when one spouse places unreasonable demands on another that thwarts their ability to get a job or an education, instead of coming up along side of them to help them succeed. In a church, this may be excessive requirements for even the most qualified to go through before they may serve. Often these are tests of ‘loyalty’ designed to produce ‘yes-men’ who will give the leader little trouble even when what he wants to do is complete folly.

12. Creating pretend offenses that people under them must answer for.

A despot of a leader often has thin skin and believes that many completely innocent actions are really secret passive-aggressive moves aimed against them. Typically this is because the leader engages in passive-aggressive behavior and so believes that everyone around them is as guilty as they are. Sometimes is it the result of past bullies, who, because the leader was not sure of himself, were allowed to attack him and those he loves for far too long. Many discussions about supposed backstabbing are a sign that this may be the issue.

13. Arbitrary and constantly changing rules that the leader does not apply to everyone.

A tyrant by definition wants things his or her way. They are controlling and a symptom of this is that the rules do not apply to them, or the people they currently favor. Why? Because the rules are not about right or wrong, they are about controlling the people they do not see as worthy. The rules change frequently because they are based on the leader creating the environment they desire and not about what is truly right in each situation.

14. A tyrant feels free to change agreements whenever they wish, even agreements that were put into writing.

This type of leader believes that leadership means they can do whatever they want. Meeting times and other plans will often change at the last minute to fit their needs, because their schedule and what they do in life is very important. They do not see that this has any negative affect on those around them, since they view others as having less important things to do.

15. Declaring people ‘out of his protection’ and waging war against them is his way of maintaining control.

If you do not please this leader he will deny you the things that are under his control that are necessary for you to do your part in the relationship. He will go further and punish you for not doing what he has denied you the ability to do by withholding the resources (which may be information), or creating a time crunch so you will have to rush to get what he wants done, even though others have known about it for weeks.

16. He will enlist others to ‘punish’ you as well.

There are many types of mercenaries, and many reasons why people will be a mercenary even today. Sometimes it is just lack of information. The leader, who is trusted because of his position, has twisted the facts and painted such a bad picture of the person they are thwarting that other people react badly to the person as well. At other times, blind loyalty, or not wanting to be on the leader’s bad side themselves motivates others to avoid and alienate the person the leader is currently displeased with. The addition of these ‘mercenaries’ typically makes the person under such authority leave the situation. While this happens in a church or work environment, this can also happen in a family. Be cautious of the person who is always on the phone telling you how awful so-and-so is.

17. A tyrant incites trouble within the organization or group they are in charge of.

These are people who stir up strife. They are typically experts at making it look like they are not involved and are the only sane person in the situation. But, when there is a pattern of upset people around the person in charge, look closely. There are people who know exactly what to say to create contention. Why? So they can be the heroes; the only person everyone likes, and the person people go to with their problems. It is a way to gain power and control, although it may just be a sign of ineptitude. (i.e. I do not know how to lead, so I play the devil’s advocate to avoid a decision, and then blame the people I riled up for the delay in progress.)

Also contained in the Declaration are the things good people do to rectify these situations. They:

1. They address their problems to the appropriate people humbly.

2. They warn others of the leader’s behavior because they do not want to see them hurt. (This is not malicious gossip, since its intent is to help and the information is pertinent to the situation.)

3. They remind people of the agreements that were made, and show how the leader violated these agreements. (These are not charges with no basis, but things that can be proven and reviewed by others. Good people want the matter out in the open, where people can decide for themselves what is right or wrong. Tyrants want everything hushed up and kept secret. They believe that no one, even people who are appropriate to help in these situations, needs to know their business.)

4. Good people understand that oppression is intolerable and that there is a time when separation is necessary, although that time is only after many, many attempts to reconcile have been tried.

In short, a tyrant’s goal is not justice, but control. Their wish is for everything that is not to their liking to just go away. They punish anyone who doubts their way of doing things, they do not like constructive criticism and tend to see others who do not share their views as being out to get them. Tyrants create fictions about why people should blindly obey or follow them. Even when their motivations are good, they do not feel the need to explain themselves, which makes it difficult for people to follow them, since they do not understand why they are doing the things they were instructed to do. Tyrants may appear anywhere, and are not always the people who have actual positional authority. (For example, many three-year-olds are effective tyrants in homes where parental authority is lacking.) The root of tyranny is selfishness, and a belief that my way is the best way. A tyrant may do many good things, but it is because it serves their own interests (which may be being perceived as good) and not because it is the right and proper thing to do. Life with a tyrant has many ups and downs because it is the rules of whims and not the rule of righteousness that takes precedence (though a tyrant may cite the law, and what is right, when it suits his purpose, but abandons it, or sites a contradictory rule, when it does not).

I hope this helps you sort out the situations you are facing. Many people feel guilty leaving oppressive situations, or standing up and doing anything about them, when the fault and reason something must be done has nothing to do with their behavior, and everything to do with the person over them behaving as if they were the only one whose wants and opinions truly matter. (And yes, we can apply this to the situations in our government as well…)

O.K. Men- It’s Time To ‘Man Up!’

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I just read an article that has me fuming. Why? Because it is all too common. So common in fact that the writer of the article, a woman, did not see a problem with it. (And this was a secular, typically feminist, magazine!) Here’s the quote: “Given the surprise nature of the date, she didn’t know to arrange a babysitter and, besides, they had Mass and Mother’s Day brunch the next morning.”

What?!?!?! Did this guy not know he had children? Did he miss the fact they were too young to stay home alone? So he arranges a nice date in a fancy hotel and they have to leave without spending the night. Classy. But the article paints him as the king of romance. I think not!

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. Too often I hear young mothers complain that they can’t go out because their husband cannot handle the responsibility of taking care of their own children. Or there is just too much mess to clean up when she comes home. Or there is too much prep to do before she leaves because her husband does not cook, or microwave, or even know how to order a pizza. Men, this is ridiculous. If you want to bless your wife, or even keep her sane, she needs to be able to take some time to relax and recharge without feeling like she is being punished for it.

Here are some thoughts for when the wife is away:

Take the children somewhere, anywhere. This keeps the mess in the house to a minimum and makes you look like a hero. Some suggestions are movies, museums, duck ponds and anything that has the word ‘play land’ in it.

Plan to go out to eat. This too cuts down on the mess. If you must eat at home frozen pizza is easy and the instructions are right on the package- just don’t forget to set the timer. Some varieties even have a vegetable or two on them (which your children will probable pick off, but at least you tried).

Remember, you cannot take your eyes off of young children! They seem to have a type of radar that knows when the adult is not looking. This is when the messes are made, and the things that necessitate an ER visit are done. Realize that this will not be a night where you kick back and watch TV or play a video game. Children are hard work that is why your wife is not as spunky as she used to be. But… If you give her enough opportunities to rest and relax she will have some more of that pre-kid spark back!

Practice makes perfect. The more time you spend alone with your children, the better it will be. And the advantage to all of this is that your children will see you as a competent human being, and not the person who cannot even figure out how to boil water for the mac and cheese. Trust me, this helps with your relationship with them. Just remember, the worst thing you can do to your wife is to trash the house while she is gone. Make sure the children are mobilized to clean (which may mean down for a nap, or happy in a swing) at least an hour before she gets home. (Take into consideration the time- too long before she gets home and you’ll just have to re-do it.) If you do fail, apologize and help her when she gets home. Don’t act as if you are now off-duty and any mess that was made is now hers to deal with!

I hope this helps. Motherhood is a tough job. If your wife does not take some down time she will not be as good at it. Make sure it happens in a way she can actually appreciate. Thanks guys, I know you’ll do well. (Subtle positive reinforcement here- not my typical sarcastic style- so enjoy- I really, really wanted to call certain people schmucks, but refrained. See how good I’ve gotten!)

Now if you are already doing this- check with your wife and see if she thinks you are doing this. I once took a karate class with what I thought, from their reports, were some of the best dads around. Then I found out they were the same husbands the wives complained about during the kids’ class at night! The biggest complaint: The husband, trying to be a ‘good guy’ would attempt to tackle a large, usually unnecessary, job, like cleaning the laundry room while the wife was away. He would ignore everything else and the laundry room would be spotless. (Not that anyone checks out how clean someone’s laundry room is when they visit. At least not anyone sane.) The problem: While he was cleaning the laundry room, the kids were destroying the rest of the house, so the wife came home to a very clean laundry room, a husband who expected praise, and more housework than she could ever imagine! Are you seeing the problem?

Paying For Sex

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I just read a social media post that looked like a list of New Year’s resolutions (It is that time of year after all.) and on it was ‘stop paying for sex.’ Now I do not know this young man well, but from what I do know I have reason to doubt he is speaking about prostitution. (Or maybe I am being naive, I can be you know.) Which led me to think, ‘What would make a married man feel like he must ‘pay’ for sex with his wife?’

And I began to think of all of the passive-aggressive relationships I have witnessed. And thought, ‘This really could happen.’

While it is true that women tend not to be all that receptive when there are unresolved issues in a marriage, and it is equally true that women tend to be more receptive when their husbands do little things, like helping with a chore that is typically done by her, that show that he loves her, there are times when it becomes more than this. When a spouse becomes petulant when they do not get their way, and only does what the other one wants if the other one caters to their every whim and desire. There are times when human beings slip into very controlling behaviors without noticing it.

And this should not be. Marriage should be about agape love. A love that is there whether, or not, things go exactly as we wanted them to. A love that allows the little things to slide.

So how do we know if we have jumped over to the ugly other side?

There’s likely no way to know other than an honest talk with your spouse.

But don’t have that talk unless you are willing to hear some truth and change. Every marriage needs tweaking. It is good to discuss things that are not quite right. But only if the aim is to fix them.

If you are not ready to hear an honest assessment of how your spouse views life, then don’t go there until you have worked on your own issues surrounding why you can’t handle hearing that maybe you need to change too.

Marriages work when two people honestly communicate about everything. They are less fulfilling when one must tip-toe around telling the other something for fear they will blow up and life will become worse.

So have the conversation. Be willing to compromise and make changes, and for heavens sake, protect the marriage bed! No one should be made to feel like he needs to ‘pay’ before going to bed with his own wife.

Photo by Matija Barrett

Keeping Your Marriage Hot!


There have been more than a few people on Twitter asking how to keep marriage ‘hot’ after children, so I figured I’d share a few things we’ve learned along the way. If you don’t like TMI, I’d stop here. Otherwise, I hope you find something here you can enjoy!

1. Date Night.
Romance starts with the relationship. In order to keep the romance alive, you need to take time to be together and talk. Set aside one night a week to go out. Go someplace you can talk. No chores. No movies. Go someplace you can connect and be romantic. Without trust and a feeling of connectedness, sex, at least for most women, is not nearly as good. So men, talk to her, hold her and make her feel loved. And don’t do stupid things that put her on edge and make her feel like she cannot trust you. (Like what she considers reckless driving, reckless spending etc.) She needs to feel she can trust you before she can fully enjoy you!

2. Sexy underwear.
Wives, invest in nice underwear. If you buy things that must be put on before bed you will rarely wear them. Instead pick things you can wear under your clothes comfortably so you are ready for the night. Sexy underwear also keeps your mind on the fact that there is something to look forward to later tonight. You’d be surprised how much you can wear all day- just don’t go to the gym in it…

3. Share your fantasies.
Talk about what you might like to do. While some of them may be out of the question, they can be modified. Make an effort to try new things. Make it part of your ‘to do’ list. Get creative. Nothing kills romance faster than routine. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

4. Make sure she has ‘fun’ too.
As a couple we read an article that stated that most sex ends when the husband is done. The woman reaches her end only about half of the time at best. And, it usually takes a woman at least 45 minutes to ‘get there,’ on average. My husband took this to heart, and saw it as unfair, especially since a woman’s body can ‘have fun’ more than once. Making the encounter incredibly ‘fun’ for the woman most of the time increases the woman’s interest in doing it more often.

5. You don’t have to get to the end.
You’re married. Sex does not have to end, you will see this person again, hopefully soon. If you only have a few minutes here and there during the day take advantage of them. It keeps you interested, it is pleasant, and an unexpected side effect is that, if the process is drawn out over, let’s say weeks, the male experience is very much increased. So increased that he may begin to want to wait, and just ‘play.’ This is not withholding sex. This is week-long foreplay. There is a difference. (And when children crawl into your bed, sometimes it’s the best you can do!)

6. Get a hotel room.
Get a babysitter and take time for each other. You don’t have to stay all night.

7. Be honest with each other.
Tell each other what you like and what doesn’t quite do it for you. You don’t have enough time to waste on things that aren’t ‘effective.’ Be honest, and don’t be offended. Your goal is to please the other. Talk honestly and get good at it! And whatever you do, do not play games! Say what you mean, all the time in everything. And don’t expect your spouse to take a hint. If you are in the mood, be direct. It’s okay if they say ‘not now please,’ but sometimes you miss your chance because both of you thought the other person wasn’t ready. It’s actually very freeing once you get used to it. Be honest about everything else as well. Emotional guessing games where someone ‘should have known’ damage a relationship, and make you less eager to be with one another.

8. Take turns.
Occasionally it’s nice to have a time when the focus is entirely on one person. Just make sure it’s done fairly.

9. Use everyday necessities to excite each other.
Shower together occasionally. Let him watch you change, especially if you are putting on the ‘nice’ underwear. Touch each other. Hold hands. Rub shoulders. Do chores together and play. And, if possible, take advantage of ‘nap time’ to take a ‘nap’ yourselves. (Yes, that is a euphemism!)

10. Have fun.
Make sure you are having fun. Play with the children together. Joke, laugh, watch movies. Give up your solo time and learn to enjoy life together.

11. Don’t forget to do the little things.
Buy her flowers. Make his favorite meal. Do what you did while you were dating that told the other person they are ‘special.’ Don’t get so caught up in the children that what they want trumps everything else, so you are no longer doing things for your spouse. The children learn to honor their parents by how you treat each other, so set the example well. (My 16 year old son just took out the glass wear and dishes we almost never use and washed them thoroughly for me, just to bless me. He saw a need, and acted on it. Guess where he learned to do things like that from… Who doesn’t want a guy like him as their daughter’s husband?!)

12. Keep life simple.
Don’t let ‘busyness’ take away your fun. And, don’t let emotional people (typically extended family members) hijack your emotional wellbeing. Set boundaries and make sure you are fully there for each other. Life is too short to be wrapped up in drama, and one missed sport season is not going to destroy your child’s life. Plus more time with the family may help ensure your children actually have a relationship with their parents.

13. Make sure the other person is well rested.
Take time to nap, or let your spouse nap. Tired people are rarely romantic.

14. Sneak away.
If there are children in your room, find another ‘appropriate’ place to play. Guest rooms are great, but not everyone has one. Get creative. Just because the child is asleep in your bed does not mean you are trapped there!

15. Remember you are sexy.
Keep your self-esteem up. You are the only person your spouse has. Women, if you have gained weight, enjoy your curves. Men, most women care about how you treat them (i.e. How much you listen to them, and how much you notice things about them.) more than what you look like. So be sexy by paying attention to her! (Have you noticed that a woman’s most common complaint is that you don’t listen?) Learn what she like, dislikes, how she does things etc. One of the most endearing things my husband said to me recently was, ‘I didn’t know you don’t use conditioner every day.’ It means he’s still paying attention, and that is good.

I hope this helps. Just know that at 43 year old, seven kids, and 19 years of marriage, married life can still be very good. Very, very good in fact… So Enjoy!

*Warning: Getting good at these activities can result in very large families.

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