The Cambridge English Dictionary defines “back to back” as: “close together and facing in opposite directions.” Part of that sounds really good - “close together.” It’s a feel-good phrase. That’s what we all want in our marriages. We want closeness with our spouse. We didn’t get married to be distant from each other. We want everything closeness can bring in the most intimate relationship we have besides Jesus.
Then there is the “facing in opposite directions” part. Does that negate closeness? Does that keep us from having what we want in marriage? I actually think it builds security, safety and intimacy. Get this picture. If Nancy and I are standing back to back, our vision of the world around us goes from an individual 180-degree view to a 360-degree view as a couple. It means as a couple we do not miss anything. If we are rotating while back to back, we each have the opportunity to bring our perspective to what we both see. If there is something that could hurt or harm us, there can be no sneak attack. If there is something exciting or something to celebrate, we won’t let it pass us by. If one of us misses something, the other will see it. If one of us expresses our perspective on what we see, the other can add their input and broaden the perspective as we rotate. It’s the whole “two are better than one” idea from Ecclesiastes.
Do Nancy and I have to literally always be back to back? No. All we have to do to have the benefits of “back to back” is to value each other’s 180-degree view. We can let these different views pull us apart instead of drawing us closer together or we can see the value in each other’s views and embrace the safety, security, and intimacy that they bring.
Two really are better than one, and standing back to back is a great position to have in an Awesome Marriage.
I think that often - probably too often - I take my freedom for granted. I have lived in these United States of America all of my life. Growing up there were times I did not feel free, but that was because my parents and other adults in my life were wise enough to put some boundaries on my freedom! Today, if I stay within the limits of the law, I am pretty free. I get up each day, go where I want to go, do most of what I want to do, come home at night, and have a nice comfortable bed to sleep in. It’s not that I am entitled. It is just that the freedoms I have in America allows me to live my life that way.
Then there is the freedom that I have in Christ. I coined a saying a few years ago that sums it up: “Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and then do whatever you want.” I know at first that just sounds wrong, but here is my take. If I am really pursuing God; if I love Him with all I have, then all I do will be an outgrowth of that love. My freedom is to be who God created me to be. That is when life has the most meaning and the most joy. I can cast away all the things other people want me to be and focus on Him and His plan for my life. I am free to be me!
The ultimate for me in marriage are those days that Nancy and I both embrace the freedoms that we have from living in this great nation and the freedoms given to us by our amazing God. In this life, I don’t think it gets much better. Happy 4th of July to each of you!
I read an awesome Bible verse in an Elevation Worship YouVersion plan today with so many applications. (1 Kings 18:43-44) Here’s the scene: It’s about seventy-five years after King David lived in the 9th century BC. There has been a drought for three and a half years and the land is very dry. Elijah the prophet has received a promise from God that rain will be coming. Elijah’s role then was to wait in obedience. So Elijah waited and nothing happened. No rain. Elijah sends his servant to see if rain is coming. No rain. Elijah sends him six times with the same “no rain” report each time.
Finally, the seventh time, the servant returns saying he saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand. A man’s hand? Are you kidding? I live in Oklahoma. When it rains here the sky is filled with rain clouds. There is a “rain smell” in the air. If I saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand, I would dismiss it as nothing. No rain today! Yet, Elijah took this as a sign that God’s promise was about to be fulfilled. He tells his servant to go up to Ahab and tell him to prepare his chariot and go down, lest the rain stop him. Elijah knew that when God makes us a promise, it comes to pass. It happens! It may not be in the time frame that we want but it happens!
There are times when we feel like we are in a drought. There are times when we feel our marriage is in a drought. We think God has forgotten about us. We pray and pray and the drought continues. “God, You promised to never leave us.” “God, when we stood at the altar and made vows to you and to each other, we thought you would always be there for us.” “God, where are you?”
I have been there. I have felt my prayers and our prayers just seem to disappear into the air. We don’t see the evidence of what God has promised and we want to give up. This is what God has taught me. Keep coming back. Just like Elijah told his servant, “go back - and keep going back until you see it come to pass.” God always fulfills His promises. He will show up in your life. He will lead the two of you into an Awesome Marriage. In fact, He is working when we don’t see Him working. That cloud that Elijah’s servant saw was formed somewhere in the heavens out of sight by the hand of God. The rain is coming. Our role is to wait and be obedient. The drought will end! The promises of God will come to pass!
“If you wait for your spouse to change first, you will run out of life. But if you change, maybe he or she will, too. It is worth taking the risk.” Dr. Kim, 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage
I hear it all the time. “If she would just stop ___________.” “If he would not do that.” “Why should I change? It won’t make any difference anyway.”
I know that if I make a change my life will be better, so why don’t I do it? That is the question that I do not have the answer for. Sometimes I know I need to make a change and do it without a problem but there are other times that I dig in and would not even think about making a change. Some of those decisions affect me and no one else. Others not only affect me, but the ripple effect of them can affect a lot of people - including those that I love the most.
So why? Why don’t I change when I know the change is best for me? I think it’s that I lose perspective of the big picture and I get stuck in the moment. I fall back into the win/lose mode in my marriage that I thought I left behind years ago. I fall into the trap of thinking that Nancy needs to change something and until she does, why do I need to change? Finally, there are times that I just don’t want to put in the effort to change.
If you cannot relate to any of the above, great. You can stop reading this and call it a day. If, however, this is you too, read on because I want to share what God taught me about this whole change thing. If I never changed from the day I was born until the day that I die, what would that be all about? Life is about change - especially the changes God wants to make in me as He molds me into the man he designed me to be. Just because God is behind the change does not make it any easier, but there is something I can count on with God. The change will be good for me, good for Nancy and good for our marriage. So when I am digging in and waiting for Nancy to change, I need to bring God into the picture and see what He wants me to do. For me that changes everything. It gets my focus off of the battle and onto the war. It’s the war that the enemy uses to keep me stuck instead of becoming who God wants me to be. With God’s help, I’m not losing that war.
Try this: The next time you are waiting for your spouse to change, invite God in to do some work on you. It will make a huge difference and you will be the better for it!
Most of you know about our One Thing emails that go to over 100,000 people every day Monday through Friday. There are also our One Thing podcast on iTunes and One Thing videos on the Awesome Marriage YouTube channel. Now you can also have One Thing sent to you every day through text message. If you are not currently subscribed to our One Thing, I would love for you to join the rest of us in focusing on one thing that we can do each day to improve our marriage. The feedback we get truly amazes me as marriages are literally changed by adding one thing to your daily routine. Being intentional every day will give you the awesome marriage you always wanted.
The emails, podcasts, videos, and text messages all focus on doing one thing that’s good for your marriage daily. What if today you took time to look honestly at your marriage and identify something in your marriage that is not good? It may be a new problem or one that has been there for a long time. Something that keeps your marriage from being everything that God designed it to be. Let me ask you this: Why is that one thing still there? Why has it not been addressed to the point that it no longer hinders your marriage? What would it take to completely eradicate it from your marriage?
So many couples I see in counseling have something in their marriage that is causing harm. It could be an attitude or an issue that has been unresolved for a very long time. Maybe it is a habit - or habits - that one or both of you have fallen into. Whatever it is, this is what I would like to see you do:
Together, identify the one thing that is a problem in your marriage
Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance
Brainstorm ways to get that one thing out of your marriage
Write out your next steps
Decide who needs to do what
Once you have conquered the problem, celebrate your success!
What if foreplay was twenty-four/seven? What if we labeled successful foreplay as something that lasted twenty-four hours every day? The foreplay and intimacy I want us to talk about here are not overtly sexual in nature but can absolutely can lead to an improved sex life in your marriage.
Nancy oversees the running of our home, especially on the inside. If something goes out, she gets the repairman. She is good at this and being in real estate, she usually knows the best people to call. There are things in the house that she wants to do. Most of them involve cleaning something the way she wants it to be cleaned. No problem. The thing she does not like to do by herself is make the beds. So if I am proactive and offer to help her or, even better, if I make the beds for her, that is foreplay. It is not sexual at all but it shows love, care, and concern, which makes her feel loved. The more loved she feels, the more she is drawn to me. If I am consistently conscious of things I can do to make her day easier, that is foreplay and builds intimacy. Do you know what else happens? The more I do for her, the more she does for me.
Think about it this way. What if you consistently put your spouse’s needs in front of yours? What if you did everything you could to make their day easier? What if you took a little time out of your workday to text “I love you” to your spouse? What if you planned a date for the two of you? If you consistently live your life this way, your marriage will be better and most likely your sex life will be better too. It may even be a lot better!
My challenge to you is to not accept anything less than this in your marriage. Make foreplay last twenty-four/seven. Make it your lifestyle. Know that God has given you each other to love and to cherish and that the sexual relationship in your marriage is a gift from God to both of you!
Guess what? If you are married, at some point, the two of you will fight! It’s inevitable. It happens to all of us and most of our fights start because of our differences. As much as a newlywed couple may think they are a lot alike, all of us are different. It starts with male/female differences and the list goes on. Yet, being different is not the problem. Think about this: If the two of you were exactly alike, at some point don’t you think you might get bored?
Our differences make marriage interesting. I believe they were God’s design in the first place. Here is the key: We either embrace our differences and grow together or we spend our married life fighting over them. I spent a lot of time in the early years of our marriage trying to change Nancy. I loved her a lot but I thought if she would just change a few things our lives together would be so much better. I remember thinking, “Why won’t she change?” Today I can look back and be thankful that she did not let me script her life. I needed to learn how to accept the differences and see that her perspective on things was not wrong - just different!
Embracing the differences in our spouse is not always easy. Most couples even find that some of the things they liked in their spouse before marriage now bother them in marriage. For example, a person that was very organized before marriage may come off as controlling in marriage. It is usually not that they changed. It’s just that when you live with someone in a close intimate relationship, things can begin to look and feel different, and conflict happens. Conflict in itself is not bad, it’s how we handle it that is good or bad. So, what do we do?
Here are some of the things that I think will help:
Make a list of all the differences that are an issue for you with your spouse.
One at a time, ask God to help you see the value in the difference and to embrace it.
Ask God to let you see your spouse through His eyes.
Pray for your spouse every day.
If you do the above every day for three months, you will be amazed at what God does in you and in your marriage!
Everyone we spend time with influences us in some way. Think about the people you are around in a typical week. Some we choose to be around. We are around others because of life circumstances. When Nancy and I married, I chose to be around her for the rest of my life. As kids and grandkids were born, I made the same choice for them. I have spent time with some people because of work situations. I had little choice in those but most of the people I have worked with have been great to be around. The friends that I spend time with and that Nancy and I spend time with together are people we choose to be with. When choosing to invest in friendships, we want people who are positive for us and our marriage. We want their influence on us to be good.
Who are the people you spend time with? Do they speak health and encouragement into your life? Do they value marriage? Is God a significant part of their lives? If you were struggling with something, would you come to them for counsel? If your marriage was in trouble, would they commit to help you through the tough times, pray for you and encourage you to stick it out? Do they give you hope?
I have known many people who have chosen to be around others who are unhealthy for them or their marriage. Sometimes they think that they can help the person. I get that. As Christians, God will certainly use us in others’ lives to help them, but never at the expense of our marriage. I think we just have to be careful. Thinking about those you spend time with, if you cannot answer “yes” to all the questions in the paragraph above, take a hard look at those relationships. How are they influencing you? Is your marriage better or worse because they are in your life? The bottom line is that everyone we spend time with influences us in some way. Some in small ways and some in big ways. Some in good ways and some in bad ways. If your goal is truly to have an Awesome Marriage, maybe it is time to take a good look and those you spend time with and see how they are influencing you. It may be time to make some changes.
I’m going to tell you about a common counseling scenario. A couple comes in for their first session with me. They tell me their story and what they want to accomplish through counseling. Together, we work through the issues they are dealing with and devise a plan to improve their marriage. That is the simplified version, of course. It can take time to work through issues and help them understand why their marriage is struggling. It takes time to help them reconnect and to see themselves as a team. It’s a process in building a marriage.
A marriage does not improve through counseling alone. A couple will need to follow through on the things that we talk about in their counseling sessions. Let’s say a couple’s homework is to spend fifteen minutes a day connecting without distractions. That means they have to decide on that time and make whatever arrangements each of them needs to make so that connecting is a daily priority. Connecting every day as husband and wife is an essential part of an awesome marriage.
A week later the same couple comes in to see me for their second session. They did not connect every day, but four of the seven days. They agreed that the days they connected were better days for them and for their marriage. I encourage them with the steps they have made and also stress the importance of connecting every day. Fast forward a few weeks and they are getting it. They are connecting every day. Their communication is improving, they understand each other better, and they are accomplishing what they wanted when they came to counseling in the first place.
Moving forward, the key for this couple is consistency. If they miss a day, they get back on track the next day and never miss two days in a row. With God’s help they begin to value each other and their marriage again. If they stay consistent, their marriage will continue to grow and be everything God designed it to be. If they are not consistent, they will probably be back in my office or another counselor’s office with the same issue they started with - or worse.
I wish I knew why consistency is so hard for so many. There are probably a lot of reasons, from busyness to not prioritizing. A marriage needs nurturing every day. You cannot build up equity. We start over everyday, but when we continue to string those days together, amazing things can happen in your marriage. Are you consistent with daily connection time with your spouse? If so, keep it up. If not, talk together and come up with a plan that builds that into your marriage every day. You will be amazed what consistency in the positive things can do for your marriage!
“The church, unfortunately, is really good at shooting their wounded.” - Rick Bulman
This heartrending quote from a recent Awesome Marriage podcast this rings all too true. I have been plugged into church for almost my entire life. Church can feel like one big dysfunctional family, and the more adult life I’ve lived, the more I see it.
Families are together by default. Church is a chosen family, of sorts. In church, as in a family, if we cannot forgive, we cannot function. James 5:16 tells us: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
The healing power of an honest confession may not always be immediately evident. In the podcast episode “Mended: One Couple’s Journey From Betrayal To Imperfect Beauty,” Rick and Tiffany Bulman talked about the affair that rocked - but did not wreck - their marriage. In their story, honest confession brought rescue and hope to their marriage. There was no chance of moving forward without repentance and forgiveness. But confession before their church did not bring immediate healing - it was met with hostility and judgement.
Rick & Tiffany Bulman encourage couples who are healing from infidelity: Don’t try to go it alone; seek help. There are too many stories of someone trying to privately clean things up and move on before anyone finds out. Sin thrives in the dark, but confession is a weighty weapon against loneliness, isolation, and anxiety. James 5 is clear: Confession brings healing!
Tiffany tells a story of someone in their church who was gracious and kind; who extended healing grace in a hard season. Grace to illuminate a dark situation. The body of Christ is no place for pretending we have it all together. When we need help, we need to learn to admit it - for the sake of our own soul. When we are faced with a confession that things aren’t ok; that someone has failed or needs help, what will we do? Will we “shoot the wounded,” or will we reach out and share the grace God has poured out on us?
This is a guest post by Lindsay Few. Lindsay is content editor and admin assistant at Awesome Marriage. More of her writing can be found here. She lives on the sunny coast of NC with her husband, Brian, church-planting pastor of Live Oak Church, their four wild and wonderful kids, one dog and one cat. The Fews love to spend time on the beach, playing music, and gathering at the dinner table with family and friends.