Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

couple-1853996_1920Candace and Mike haven’t had sex in over a month. And neither is talking about it. Candace and Mike are like many couples who suffer in silence, never bringing up the issue of boredom or inattention to their sexual lives. When Candace and Mike began to talk, they knew what they had to do to correct things. But had they not pushed each other to talk about a sensitive issue like sexual satisfaction, they might be struggling still today.

Candace admitted that she lost interest in Mike when he stopped having great conversations and talks with her. She felt that as the years of marriage increased, their communication had dwindled to a few words and interactions such as, “How was your day?” and “Everything OK?” For her, changing a boring sex life meant re-engaging in conversation again, rekindling a forgotten friendship by doing things together like they did when they dated. They were in a rut and had to get out of their routine and shake things up a bit. So, as a first step, Mike planned an overnight at a nearby hotel that he found on Groupon. Simply changing the scenery and getting out of the house sparked feelings of romance.

During the night at the hotel, Candace decided to take an even bigger risk. She would talk to Mike about the way he touches and stimulates her physically. She knew he wanted to arouse her, but felt they had never communicated how this could be done best. At times, his touch felt awkward and was not stimulating her in the way he had hoped. When she talked to Mike, he was highly receptive and willing to make adjustments.

As authors, Robert Butler Myrna Lewis, say in their book, Love and Sex After 40, “Love and sex are twin arts, requiring effort and knowledge. Only in fairy tales do people live happily ever after without working at it.” Prior to this time, Candace and Mike were not working at their sex life. They had neither knowledge of likes and dislikes, nor were they making much of an effort to set the stage for sexual encounters.

“Working at it” often requires discussing behaviors that are pleasing and acceptable to each other. Ask your partner, what is considered normal, disgusting, acceptable, etc., when it comes to sexual behavior? This is usually determined by upbringing, experience and years of exposure to media and other sexual behavior and warrants discussion. It is often the case that couples have differing opinions. Without discussion, you can’t know these details.

Certain sexual acts are not mentioned in the Bible, but couples should read Song of Solomon, a beautiful biblical book that provides a picture of intimacy between a man and woman. In fact, when Candace and Mike read Song of Solomon out loud to each other, their inhibitions lowered and they began to dialogue regarding the sensitive issues of sexual behavior with each other. The passages opened the door to frank conversation regarding needs and desires.

With just these few changes—changing up the routine and bringing a bit of novelty to the relationship, talking through their preferences about sex and intimacy, and reading a sensual Bible passage together, Candace and Mike went from boring to interesting again. Perhaps it is time for your marital relationship to do the same.

hate-1216881_1280Convictions are those fixed and firm beliefs we hold true.

These days, they are hard to talk about without being accused of being intolerant. Holding firm to a belief now means you are judgmental, narrow minded, maybe even hateful or bigoted. For example, when someone stands by a conviction on social media, the claws come out, the name-calling and bullying ramp up. What results is friends who defriend, and family members who won’t get together anymore because they are too offended.

How did we get to the point where a woman won’t sit next to a man on an airplane because he doesn’t share her convictions on climate control? The roots can be found in political correctness- the government’s solution to controlling our hearts and minds.  Political correctness silences talk of convictions–unless they are the convictions that the politically correct deem right.

Many of the professors on our college campuses teach young minds to hold only liberal convictions and to vilify those who disagree with words of slander and offense. This is all done in the name of “new” tolerance –a conviction that all beliefs, lifestyles and truths are equal. Thus, I can no longer claim genuine conviction regarding my own beliefs without a fight!

 

C.S. Lewis saw this as dangerous. A tolerant man, under the old definition, meant someone who’d respect us and treat us kindly even when he disagreed. But if tolerance today means all beliefs are equal and no one has truth, then religious people are labelled intolerant. This “new” tolerance leads to a lack of conviction.

You can love someone and still disagree with that person. You can love the sinner and not love the sin. This is a conviction many people hold and is ridiculed. Yet, it is a conviction that leads to treating people who disagree with you with respect.

Just because you feel something to be true, doesn’t make it true. And believing in biblical truth does not make you intolerant of others. Don’t believe this nonsense. All of this is an attempt to silence the voices of those with Christian beliefs.

Call sin, sin. Hold on to biblical truth. Stop bowing to those elites who hold the microphone or have a platform. Speak the truth in love. Hold fast to what you know to be true. We need more people with convictions to stand for truth.

 

couple-168191_1920It’s an age-old problem, but not one we may not recognize. Gender matters when it comes to marriage. Needs differ in terms of their priorities and focus. Take a recent situation with Julie and Ray who have been married for 6 years. Julie is upset that her boss overlooked her for a promotion. She wants to talk to her husband, Ray, and be comforted. When she opens her heart to Ray, he begins to give her sexual attention. In his mind, physical intimacy will help Julie feel better and loved. But Julie does not want a sexual encounter. All she wants is a little hand holding with open and honest conversation.

Willard Harley, in his book, His Needs, Her Needs, conducted a survey with couples regarding their most important martial needs by gender. The survey results confirm the conflict in our story above. Women listed affection and conversation as top needs, followed by honesty and openness, financial support and family commitment. And the women did not define affection as attention leading to sex, rather intimate time together, talking about life and dreams. Women described a more Ephesians 5:29 type of affection that refers more to the need to be cherished by their husbands.

The men who took the survey had very different priorities. The womens’ number one need of affection and conversation didn’t even make their list. Instead, number one for men was sexual fulfillment. And this was an overwhelmingly popular first need, followed by the need for recreational companionship, having an attractive spouse, domestic support and being admired.

Yes, the lists do not match up! As you can see, they are very different.

The issue is to understand each other. One is not better or right. Our goal is not to get our spouse to think or act like we do. Rather, the goal is to understand that we come at things differently based on our gender. Much of this has to do with the differences in the wiring of brains along gender lines. Women have more nerve fibers connecting the verbal and emotional portions of the brain than do men. They often want to enjoy the journey of good conversation, whereas men want to get to the point. Men require much fewer words in a day, one reason women complain that they don’t get enough conversation.

So, rather than highlight our differences, let’s understand, communicate those differences to each other and negotiate ways to respond in order to meet each other’s needs. Hopefully, our heart is to meet the needs of the other. When this is our focus, we can ask, “What do you need right now from me?”

When Julie told Ray that she simply needed to talk for a few minutes about how upset she was at her boss. All she needed was Ray to be a good listener, hold her and tell her that he understands how upset she must have felt, all was good. Later, when they settled in for the night, Julie felt close to husband and initiated physically intimacy. Both felt the day produced a closeness they needed.

 

 

 

 

insecurity-1767736_1920It’s a common complaint, “I can’t be me in this relationship. Ive lost myself and don’t know who I am.”  But is it true that the other person defines you?

Balancing Our Individuality
Finding a balance between our individuality and our intimate connections takes some work. It requires getting a good handle on who we are in the relationship rather than focusing on how the other person makes us feel. The more we know who we are and have developed our identity, the healthier we’ll be when interacting with another person. Do you know what you think, feel and believe to be true regardless of what your partner says? Can you voice your thoughts and feelings openly? Or are you easily influenced by the other person and uncertain as to what you believe?

As we mature, we struggle with these kinds of questions until, hopefully, we have some ideas. But many of us never really develop a sense of identity apart from our original families or others. Consequently, we carry that undefined self into our relationships. When this happens, problems emerge. We have difficulty finding balance between who we are and the demands of others.

Developing a Sense of Self
When a person hasn’t developed a sense of self apart from others, he or she usually operates from one of two extremes. Either he/she uses distance, both physical and emotional, to cope with relationship problems, or becomes excessively close and dependent on the other. And the smallest conflict becomes a blowup because you haven’t learned to establish appropriate boundaries or assert youself in relationships.

People who lack a strong identity usually have parents with the same problem. After all, we learn by example. A family exerts a powerful influence over who we become. They have much to say, and it’s hard work to figure out what you think and feel when everyone has an opinion. But you can do it and develop a mind of your own.

So what does it mean to take an “I” position and still be you in a relationship? Simply put, it means being true to self while relating to others. You can have your own opinions, think your own thoughts and behave in ways you know to be right, yet still love and relate to other people. You also can decide what’s right and true for you without becoming defensive, angry and highly emotional. It’s important to work on intimacy because the desire of every intimate relationship is to be known and appreciated by the other. It’s also a sign of your maturity when you can think, feel and behave according to your beliefs without overreacting to emotional triggers from others.

Our task then as an individuals is to balance our need for intimacy with our need to be autonomous. To do this, we must continue to develop a better sense of our “I” to lend to the “we.” Then we can begin to sort out our needs versus the needs of others and be less reactive in the way we treat others.

As we develop a better sense of autonomy, we also can come to appreciate our differences and learn to communicate more honestly. When we don’t agree, we don’t have to fear that our sense of self will be lost in the relationship; we’ll recognize when we are allowing that to happen—and stop it. The issues is, we can be in a relationship with out losing a sense of who we are along the way.