Fighting Through Marriage’s “Big Five”

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Fighting Through “The Big Five”

By Les & Leslie Parrott

We not only share the same first name, but the same passion for helping other couples build better relationships. As a psychologist (Les) and a marriage and family therapist (Leslie), married since 1984, we don’t claim to have a perfect relationship. We fight — just like every other couple on the planet. But we’ve learned a secret: There’s a revolutionary difference between a bad fight and a good fight.

When a couple learns to fight a good fight the conflict actually brings them closer. That’s at the center of our latest book, The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer.

All couples fight over the same five things: money, sex, work, parenting, and housework. Most argue about these five issues over and over again, mainly because they are hot buttons — stressors that speak to our sense of love and fairness.

Here are some proven tools to help you cool down “The Big Five.”

Money

Allow us to say it straight: Money fights between couples are rarely about money. So if you want to minimize a currency conflict, trace it back to the fear that’s fueling it.

Instead of fighting over the amount of money that was spent on who-knows-what, shift the focus toward what really matters: (1) your fear of not having influence in important issues impacting your life, (2) your fear of not having security in your future, (3) your fear of having no respect shown for your values, or (4) your fear of not realizing your dreams.

Sex

To keep sexual grievances down and the marital bedsprings bouncing, we recommend focusing on solving “coordination failure.” It’s a common problem in marriages. The number-one reason people report not having sex in their marriage is “too tired,” followed closely by “not in the mood.” Most of the time, that’s code, knowingly or not, for having mismatched libidos.

Next, discuss your sex drives. As we write this, we can almost feel you cringing. For most couples, talking about sex is about as comfortable as sleeping in a car. Yet it’s a conversation that’s critically important to aligning your libidos and minimizing your conflicts. When the time is right, when both of you are relaxed and not distracted, ask each other to explain when you feel most frisky? Your answers may surprise you. A friend recently discovered that his wife found him sexiest when he wore a suit. He joked that he was thinking about wearing it to bed.

Work

We’ve got two words for you: date night. We know. You’ve heard this a thousand times: Do a weekly date night or your marriage will suffer. Sounds more like a threat than friendly advice, doesn’t it? But it’s a surefire way to keep career conflict to a minimum.

In spite of this frequent advice, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through. Here’s how often married people, aged twenty-five to fifty with two or more children, have a date night:

  • Once a week: 4 percent
  • Once a month: 21 percent
  • Once every two to three months: 21 percent
  • Once every four to six months: 18 percent
  • Once every seven months or less often: 36 percent

Yikes! We can do better than that, and there’s good reason to do it. The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia recently released a report titled “The Date Night Opportunity.” This study found that husbands and wives who set aside a deliberate time to connect and have fun at least once a week were approximately three and a half times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages.

Children

The solution for nearly any parenting conflict is found in getting on the same page and presenting a unified front. Otherwise, your kids play you against each other and add fuel to the parenting fire. Conflict decreases as teamwork increases. It may not be easy to agree with your spouse on the rules and standards you are willing to enforce with your kids. That’s why the first order of business is to iron out differences behind closed doors.

Don’t try to solve your parenting squabbles in the moment — while the kids enjoy the show. The time for presenting your ideas and negotiating trade-offs is when the two of you are alone. Once you reach agreement, stick together. When parents present a united front, there’s no room for recriminating I-told-you-so’s.

Chores

Let’s face it, most housework fights come about because one spouse is keeping score. That’s a bad idea. The scales of marriage are always in flux, and you’re only setting yourselves up for turmoil if you’ve installed a figurative scoreboard in your relationship. Using the division of labor approach does away with all that.

Trina, for example, is better and faster than Dan at both doing the dishes and tidying up around the house. In fact, she does it in half the time it takes him. Given this fact, does it make sense for Dan to do either of these tasks? Not really. What does make sense is for Dan to refresh the water bowl for their pet and prepare their child’s room for bedtime. He’s also quicker at organizing and tracking their finances. He does it in half the time it would take Trina. He’s also pretty good at ironing his own shirts.

You get the idea. It’s simple. Quit trying to divide the household chores down the middle. Marriage is lived best when you’re not trying to balance the scales.

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Beautiful Love

“I never met a guy who loved God so much that he didn’t have sex with me until we were married.”

The quote, by a young lady who had been abused sexually and used sexually by many men as she looked for love and meaning.  Later, she came to Christ, starting attending a church, and met a young man who did not just talk about loving God but lived it through his affection towards the girl while also holding firm to the Word of God.

To all the women out there, do you respect yourself that you would wait for a man who is so godly that he will wait until married to have sex with you?

To all the men out there, do you love God and the woman with whom you are in a relationship with enough that you will wait to have sex until you are married?

Mark & Grace Driscoll on The View

On March 7, 2012, Mark and Grace Driscoll were on The View discussing marriage, friendship, and sex.  The hosting women asked a range of questions from a range of perspectives – curious, hostile, humorous – about some of the content in their newly released book, Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together.  As a personal disclaimer, I do not watch The View and I skipped to the fourth segment of the show to watch the Driscoll interview.

After watching the interview, I believe that Grace and Mark did a great job of staying friendly and speaking the truth in love in a relatively hostile environment.  They also did a great job of referring back the Bible and Jesus throughout the course of the conversations.  As an added bonus, most of the show’s women had read the book or were in the process of reading the book (may the Lord speak to each of their hearts) and every member in the audience received a free copy of the book.  It is my prayer that the Lord would move, convict, and draw people to Himself through the interview and the reading of the Driscoll’s book.

If you click on the video below, jump to the fourth segment of the show to watch the interview for yourself.

Driscoll on the Bible and Sex

I understand that I’m writing to an audience that may not consist entirely of  Christian believers, including some who may even be hostile to Christianity. I also understand that many of these points will either rub some of you the wrong way or even enrage you. But, I make no apologies for the Bible and what it says.  I will say this, however… I don’t write them to condemn you, nor does the Bible. Rather, I ask you to consider your motivations for sex.

In a news article on January 3, 2012, Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll wrote What the Bible Really Says about Sex.  The article is written from a pastoral, theological, and personal viewpoint.  Through humor, sobriety, and clear writing, Driscoll goes straight to the heart of the beauty of sex as created by God and sin’s destructive effects upon God’s “very good” creation.

What the Bible Really Says About Sex

Sex is a selfish act, a conquest of personal fulfillment.

That’s the mindset of most people in our culture regarding sex—even if it’s only subconscious. For the most part, our society celebrates the process of hook up, shack up, and break up.

All you have to do is take a moment to observe the way sex is communicated in our culture.

Thousands of articles are churned out on how to cope with a past of multiple partners and how to find the next one. 

Porn is a massive industry, generating $10 to $14 billion annually in revenues. 

Nearly every sitcom on the air seems to make light of sleeping around, and films like “No Strings Attached” and “Friends with Benefits” lure young eyes to the theater, while a sex-crazed Tucker Max boasts about his conquests and skyrockets to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, becoming a cult hero for young slackers everywhere.

It also explains why sex trafficking is a $32 billion global industry, 45,000 to 50,000 young girls are trafficked in the United States every year, and why one in 12 youths experience sexual victimization, including sexual assault and attempted or completed rape.

The problem, however, is not sex.

It’s us.

In order to understand this, we must first understand the underlying cause of all the problems in this world: sin.

In the Bible, Paul says of the human condition:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” Amen (Romans 1:21-25).

And in case you think Paul is on some self-righteous kick to condemn sinners, he makes clear in the same letter that all of humanity is in the same boat, writing, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1).

And to drive the point home, he writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

Thankfully, he also adds, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25).

The point is this: as humans, we’re all sinners and all in need of God’s grace, given freely through Jesus. And apart from Jesus, we all pervert God’s good gifts, such as sex.

Thankfully, God is also merciful and loving. This is why he sent us Jesus to save us from our sin, and it is also why he gave us the Bible to help us understand his plan for a life that honors him and as a result leads to true fulfillment.

The Bible has a lot to say about sex—including that it’s good and that it glorifies God when we enjoy sex in the context for which He created it.

So, I thought I’d share seven sex essentials from the Bible that my wife Grace and I included in our new book, “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together“:

1. God created us male and female in His image and likeness with dignity, equality, value, and worth. Men and women are different and complement one another (Genesis 1:27-28).

2. Love is more like a song than a math equation. It requires a sense of poetry and passion to be any good at it, which is why people who are stuck in their heads struggle and are frustrated by it, and lovers prefer songs to syllogisms (Song of Solomon, all of it).

3. Marriage is for one man and one woman by God’s design. This is the consistent teaching of the Bible from the table of contents to the appendix and the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself (Genesis 2:24-25, Matthew 19:4).

4. God created sex. God made our bodies “very good” with “male and female” parts and pleasures. When our first parents consummated their covenant, God was not shocked or horrified, because He created our bodies for sex. The reason that sex is fun, pleasurable, and wonderful is because it is a reflection of the loving goodness of God who created it as a gift for us to steward and enjoy (Genesis 2:24-25).

5. Sex outside of marriage is a sin.
Sinful sex includes homosexuality, erotica, bestiality, bisexuality, fornication, friends with benefits, adultery, swinging, prostitution, incest, rape, polygamy, polyandry, sinful lust, pornography, and pedophilia (I Corinthians 6:9-11,18-20, Hebrews 13:4).


6. Sex is to be done in such a way that there is no shame
(Genesis 2:25; Proverbs 5:18-23). Many people experience shame in regard to sex. Sometimes shame is a gift from God in response to our sexual sin, sometimes it is the devastating feeling we bear because we have been sexually sinned against, and other times we have not sinned or been sinned against sexually but feel shame because we have wrong thinking and feelings about sex in general, or a sex act in particular.

7. Your standard of beauty is your spouse. God made one man and one woman. He did not ask them if they wanted someone tall or short, light or heavy, pale or dark skinned, with long or short hair. In short, He did not permit them to develop a standard of beauty. Instead, He gave them each a spouse as a standard of beauty (Genesis 2:23, Proverbs 6:20-35).

I understand that I’m writing to an audience that may not consist entirely of  Christian believers, including some who may even be hostile to Christianity. I also understand that many of these points will either rub some of you the wrong way or even enrage you. But, I make no apologies for the Bible and what it says.

I will say this, however… I don’t write them to condemn you, nor does the Bible. Rather, I ask you to consider your motivations for sex. 

Have you ever truly given yourself to someone selflessly to love them, explore them, and cherish them until death do you part? Have you spent your life pursuing pleasure instead of seeking to give pleasure to a lifelong spouse? And, are you truly happy and fulfilled with your sex life?

The problem isn’t our partners. It’s us. We’ve perverted sex and misused it. God’s way is the best way, and I encourage you to humbly pray and think about what he has to say about us and sex in his word, the Bible.

As someone who was sexually active before becoming a Christian, I don’t consider myself more holy than anyone else. But, after experiencing Jesus’ forgiveness, becoming a Christian, understanding what the Bible teaches about sex, having massive change in my thoughts and actions about sex, marrying, and today, happily and faithfully married to the same woman for what is approaching 20 years, I sincerely want you to experience the fullness of what God has for you in Jesus Christ.

Paul Tripp on Counseling, Marriage, Parenting, Sex, and More

In the interview The Bible is Shockingly Honest and Gloriously Hopeful, Paul Tripp and Justin Holcomb explore the topics of counseling, dating, marriage, parenting, sex, pornography, and other topics.  The insights and instructions couched in grace and Scripture are powerful and helpful.  To take the time to watch or listen to the one hour video would provide more lasting help than watching an hour of television.

A Poem for All Single People

Passion.  Grief.  Self-deception.  Conviction.  Illumination.  Pointed humor.  Repentance.  Creativity. Conviction.  Dedication.  True love.  Godly love.  The poem I’ll Wait for You by Janette…ikz contains it all.  It is a poem that I strongly suggest all singles to listen to… all singles being everyone who is not married.  In fact, all who are married should give it a listen as it gives great insight into the struggles of a single person and helpful counsel for you to utilize when with singles.

I know the struggles of being single.  I know the struggles from being in a relationship but living sexually pure.  Having a view of purity that is not self-focused but rather focused on the glory of God and with deep love for my future spouse reduced the weight of living under a condemning law.  It freed me to have a servant’s heart in regards to my sexuality.  The focus of purity also kept my view of sex beautiful as the Bible intends for sex to be viewed in the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.  Having this mindset did not reduce my passion and lust, but it made it more manageable because I was living unto the expressed will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3.  For more on this listen to The Will of God from Oasis Christian Community).  In the end, by the grace of God, I maintained my sexual purity and entered my marriage as a virgin.  Now, I enjoy the purity of sex within the marriage covenant with my lovely wife.

Knowing the struggles against the pressures of society, peer pressure, and internal lust in regards to sexuality causes me to have great compassion on those who are single.  It can seem much easier to give in to the pressures, yet do so with the self-deceiving excuses of “this will keep the person around”, “this will show my love”, “it is no big deal”, “they will change”, “we are married in our hearts”, “it is ok as long as we are in love”, “it is only sex”, “if it hurts anyone, it will only be me”, “we’re going to get married anyways”, “it would be against my biological desires as God made me not to”, and on, and on, and on.  In the end, all of the self-deception comes down to, “I don’t trust God in this area of my life.  When it comes to sex, I am my own god”. Ironically, claiming to be your own god means you are actually a slave to sin.  A slave deluded into thinking that you are a in control.

It is one thing for a non-Christian to live under the slavery of their sex drive and act upon their sexual impulses without much reservation, and even a form of celebration when engaging in sex outside of marriage.  They are simply living out their passions under the illusion of freedom that sin sometimes provides.

For Christians it is another story.  It is a sad story.  My heart aches and I have compassion and understanding for those Christians who have given into their lust, but have a repentant heart and then strive through the power of Christ to live sexually celibate until marriage.  It is those who boldly profess faith in Christ yet unrepentantly and even cavalierly live sexually active lives that baffle, enrage, and sadden me all at the same time. Yes, we are all sinners who sin, even if redeemed sinners.  But part of being a Christian is permitting the inward speaking of the Holy Spirit and the outward speaking of the Scriptures to change us inwardly and outwardly (in our living) into the image of Christ.  For a person claiming to believe in Jesus to knowingly live contrary to God’s expressed will for our lives without repentance is stupefying.

All singles, especially Christian singles, heed the words of I’ll Wait for You.  Let the Word of God penetrate your heart and become your food, supply, and strength as you wrestle with the passions and desires of the flesh.  Remember that the God who created the universe, who created you, who died upon a cross for you out of love, has your best in mind.  A young lady named Rashell Kimball has lived her life this way and with great insight said, “I’d rather do it right than do it right away” (check out a blog post based on that quote).  Wise and godly words for all of us to heed.

The Will of God & Sex

“The will of God”.  “Sex”.  Two very popular topics.  Two topics that are not often put together into one sentence.  Yet, the Bible links the two together in one powerful verse in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality”.

In the Oasis Christian Community sermon “The Will of God“, Corey Fronk and Seth Evans explore God’s view of sex and sexuality in light of the will of God in 1 Thessalonians.  Sex is presented as neither a dirty bad thing nor as the god that our culture tends to celebrate.  Rather, lived out in accordance to God’s will in the Bible, sex is a beautiful, desirable, and good thing.  With this in view, the sermon speaks of ways that we can learn to “control our own body in holiness and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:4).

The audio can be listened to and downloaded directly from the above link, or by going to 1 Thessalonians series on the audio page of the Oasis website (where you can also get the power point).