Category: Marriage

Marriage in Light of Eternity

We are here, at Easter season, and our focus is the cross. The thankfulness we have for the cross, and really praising God for sending his Son Jesus to die on the cross. We will then celebrate that we get to forever live with him. My husband and I have been reading the book “Marriage in Light of Eternity” by Francis Chan, and it has been so convicting. It has helped us put into perspective how are marriage should be a picture of the Gospel.

The Gospel Coalition recently put out a blog post and interview they had with Francis Chan. I hope you take time to read it. It is well worth the read.

In their new book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, Francis and Lisa Chan set out to reframe the entire way we think about relationships, marriage, and parenting. The marriage union is great, they observe, but it’s not forever. Therefore, we must approach this sacred relationship from the zoomed-out vantage point of eternity. And when we do, it changes everything.

I recently corresponded with the Chans about the chief problem in Christian marriages, must-have conversations, their message to singles, the kid factor, and more. (By the way, 100 percent of the net proceeds from the book will go to support various ministries, including those that help provide shelter and rehabilitation for thousands of children and exploited women around the world. More information here.)

What’s the greatest problem you perceive in typical Christian marriages?

Forgetting the whole point of their existence. We’ve witnessed many singles fervently serve God until their marriage day, at which point one of two things happens: (1) they enjoy each other so much that they spend almost all their free time entertaining each other rather than serving God; or (2) they struggle in their relationship and spend their days arguing, going to counseling, and feeling disqualified from serving God. In either case, the couple no longer spend their time furthering the kingdom, but instead fixate on one another.

We must remember we weren’t created to merely enjoy ourselves. Colossians 1:16 declares that we were created by Christ and for Christ. Paul also warned that if we are not careful, marriage will keep us from securing “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:35). Too many couples make decisions based on the pursuit of pleasure rather than the pursuit of the kingdom. We too often don’t surrender and ask God what would be most effective. Instead, we live where we want, drive what we want, have as many kids as we want. And we somehow convince ourselves this isn’t selfishness because there are two of us involved now.

It’s not that God doesn’t want us to be happy. In fact, surrendering to a kingdom-first mindset actually brings us greater fulfillment. When we seek his mission together, greater union with each other becomes the byproduct. Jesus came that we could have life to the full (John 10:10). But we need to remember that the goal of marriage isn’t mere happiness. It’s very possible to have a happy and worthless marriage. It’s possible to waste your life merely enjoying your spouse and children, then stand before God realizing you didn’t give yourself to his Great Commission.

What conversations are essential to have prior to engagement and/or marriage?

Every couple needs to have a gospel conversation. We must ask: Are we both surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ? Have we both decided to follow him? Many people call themselves “Christian,” but that can mean virtually anything nowadays. Are we both willing to sacrifice anything? Will we make our life choices based on what will most benefit God’s kingdom? Will we center our lives around making disciples?

Before I asked Lisa to marry me, we had a long discussion about serving the Lord with our lives. I had to know she would encourage rather than restrain me from serving him. As much as I loved her, I was willing to break up with her if she was going to keep me from accomplishing what I was created to do. I’d seen too many of my friends in misery because they married someone who hindered their ministry.

One of your chapters is titled “Marriage Isn’t That Great.” What in the world do you mean?

Marriage is a brilliant creation, but it’s not God. Let’s be careful not to reduce Christianity to a belief system that helps us build good families. The biblical narrative centers on a marriage with Jesus; earthly marriage is just a shadow.

Sometimes, the sheer number of struggling marriages in the church causes us to overfocus on the family. This overemphasis causes some to believe that just because they get along, they’re accomplishing his will for their lives. So let’s address marriage, yes, but let’s not overdo it. Marriage problems are rarely marriage problems anyway. We fight because we’re needy—and needy people haven’t found fulfillment in Christ. They don’t grasp “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” They want too much, and so get frustrated by their spouse because he or she isn’t meeting all their needs.

It’s not that we should neglect our marriage or cease finding enjoyment in our relationship. God created marriage, and it can be amazing. Our house is filled with laughter. Not a day goes by without spontaneous outbursts of it. We can and should enjoy each other. We just have to remember that we’re here as his ambassadors, to represent him and bring him glory. People should see Christ in the way we selflessly and humbly love each other and in the way we work together to love the world.

How has parenting seven kids affected your marriage? What’s your biggest piece of advice for fellow parents with respect to their marriages?

Children change everything. I am convinced God uses our children to cleanse us from self-centeredness. Babies demand that you move your focus off yourself and onto them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s only bad when they’re 13 and still believe everyone should drop whatever they’re doing to tend to their needs. It’s hard enough to fight self-centeredness in ourselves, but parents are given the task of training their children to live God-centered lives as well (Deut. 6:4–9).

Our biggest piece of advice would be to view your kids as assets rather than burdens. It used to be that people envied couples with many kids. It meant they had more help on the farm, with the business, around the home, and so on. When people hear we have seven kids now, though, they feel sorry for us! Why is it that for thousands of years children were a blessing, yet in the past few decades we’ve come to view them as burdens? Poor parenting. We raise them to either be burdens or assets. Good parenting involves teaching them to love and serve others rather than expecting to be constantly served. While we will always serve our kids to some degree, we also expect them to serve each other and those around us. Our children have been our biggest assets in ministry. Rather than distracting from kingdom work, they multiply it. Nine servants are better than two.

One additional piece of advice is that there’s no substitute for authenticity. If you don’t have a deep and genuine love for Christ, it will become obvious. Your kids will eventually see what’s really going on. They can tell if you cherish them more than Christ. They can tell if you idolize them, just as they can tell if you neglect them. Love Jesus and his mission most. Teach them to do the same. Give them an eternal perspective by what you say and by how you spend your money and time.

What’s your primary message to single Christians?

Take advantage of this time! We miss out when we focus too much on our next phase of life. When we’re single, we can’t wait till marriage, then we can’t wait to have kids, then we can’t wait till they talk, then we can’t till they’re in school, then we can’t wait till they’re out of adolescence, and so on. We can get in a habit of longing for the next step rather than enjoying today to the full. As a single person you have an opportunity to dive deeply into your most significant relationship without as many distractions. If you do get married and have kids, life will get so much busier, and you’ll look back and regret any wasting of your single years.

There’s nothing wrong with telling the Lord that you desire to be married, but fight for contentment. Don’t beat yourself up if there are times of loneliness. He created you for fellowship. Try to find it in Christ and in the body of Christ. Find fulfillment in the mission. You can bring tremendous glory to God by resisting temptation and bitterness, and by showing the world there is something much bigger than earthly marriage.

I was once told, “Those who are most ready for marriage are those who need it the least.” The point is that those who find everything they need in Christ are least likely to suffocate their spouses through their neediness. The world needs more individuals who are content in Christ and who organize their lives around his kingdom. We pray that when those people get married, it will only lead to greater fruitfulness. That has been our experience, and we pray it will be yours.

A Special Valentines Challenge

Do you and your spouse have a special Valentines Day tradition? Do you get a sitter, and go somewhere special? I have been following a blog that a girl named Brittany Price Brooker writes. Brittany’s testimony is amazing, and her blog posts challenge me spiritually. I want you to read her recent blog post that Lori Apon featured through Perspective Ministries. It is incredible, and I hope it challenges you and your spouse to do something extra special this Valentine Season.

A New Valentine’s Day Tradition by Brittany Price Brooker

One of my favorite memories with my late husband Patrick was our first Valentine’s Day together. We decided that instead of spending the day all about us, we would create a tradition to spend Valentine’s Day on others. We prayed about what to do and decided we would love on the widows, orphans, and the hurting. We called our church and were given some names of some precious widows, a foster child, a lonely older lady who lived by herself, and an older couple where the husband was caring for his ailing wife. We mapped out the whole night, called to make appointments in advance, and on Valentine’s day, we shopped for beautiful flowers, cards, and some yummy treats and headed out. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with each person as they shared their heart, opened their goodies, and we prayed with them. It was so much fun! We met some amazing people that our paths never would have crossed unless we had purposed to reach out.

Another year, we were able to reach out to and love on some older widows, some divorcees, and some single ladies who were still waiting for “the one” the Lord had for them. Our desire was to create this family tradition to teach our children to be sensitive of those who are hurting around us or just need some encouragement.

Somehow, when my husband passed away, several people found out about our Valentine’s Day tradition. How encouraging to hear that other families have decided to start this tradition with their families as a way to teach their children how to refocus Valentine’s day. What an amazing gift!

We have personally been the recipients of the hands and feet of Jesus these past couple years, and we are ever so grateful for the healing it has provided to our hearts. Below are some ideas of intentional blessings that we have used on Valentine’s Day and others have comforted our family with over the years.

  • Deliver a coffee to a single friend with a sweet note of encouragement and love.
  • Take flowers to someone to brighten their day along with a sweet verse & note.
  • Bring a meal to a family that is hurting.
  • Drop off some special treats to a family who recently had a divorce (snacks, breakfast food, muffins, toys, etc…).
  • Buy a gift or a meaningful book for someone that could use encouragement and deliver it with a sweet note.
  • Make homemade cards with affirmation from scripture that expresses the love that God lavishes on us and make a list of God’s promises.
  • Drop off a gift card to a family who is hurting financially and encourage them to take a night off of the stress and take time to invest in their marriage.
  • Pray and ask the Lord to lead and guide you to what you are supposed to do. The Holy Spirit is our helper in all things and will show you what the most meaningful thing will be.

Remember, this is truly how the Lord uses the body of Christ–to be the hands and feet of Jesus to demonstrate His amazing love in tangible ways!

Perspective Ministries will be delivering blankets to new widows for Valentine’s Day as a reminder of God’s covering.  If you are in the Atlanta area and would like to help, please contact  If you would like to bless a new widow on Valentine’s Day for only $10, donate now.

 I challenge you and your spouse to do something on this list, and to give a blanket to a widow. What a sweet blessing it will be to someone.

Marriage In Spite of the Busy Christmas Season

This time of year is packed. We are overwhelmed with parties, shopping, school functions, family functions, and the list goes on. This is the part of Christmas I hate, and I think we would all agree. Are we taking time to be present with our families? Are we taking time to be present with our Spouse? This article by Erin Smalley highlights different seasons of marriage and I think its worth the read:

“Sometimes, I really miss my husband — even when we are sleeping in the same bed or working in the same office. I feel the emotional distance despite the physical proximity because during this season of our marriage, Greg and I have been extremely kid-focused, and running hard with work. We’ve been carting kids to soccer games, basketball games, speech therapy, doctors’ appointments and school activities. At home we’ve been supervising the kids’ homework or watching Disney movies with them. These are all good and productive activities; however, Greg and I have not made the time to go on walks together or sit on the deck and chat.

Our alone time has been limited; we feel disconnected, and I miss him. I miss the times of traveling together, just the two of us; I miss the kids going to bed early and leaving time for us to watch Hallmark movies together; I miss having a regular date night.

Most likely you and your spouse have experienced similar seasons in your marriage, the seasons of frantic family chaos and blowing kisses as you pass each other in the hallway or of work frenzy with back-to-back trips and eating alone in an airport. With the weather turning colder, sports commitments dwindling and holidays approaching, I’m looking forward to slow-cooker dinners with the family, making time for date nights again and evenings with Greg and me in pajamas snuggling on the couch.

Emotional seasons of marriage

Have you experienced these seasons?

Winter: The emotional relationship in your marriage is cold and distant. The icicles of indifference are beginning to form because your marriage lacks the warmth of a cozy fire that once burned bright.

Spring: Your marriage is full of new beginnings and hopeful anticipation of what’s to come.

Summer: You and your spouse are connecting on fun adventures and laid-back nights by the bonfire. The romance in your marriage is rekindled and reignited.

Fall: The connection with your spouse may seem much like the leaves that are turning brown, drying out and falling to the ground. Although there are still some vibrant colors mingled with the brown, your heart longs for the months of new growth.

Hope for a climate change

While you can’t change the weather seasons, you can change the emotional climate of your marriage with some intentional effort.

No matter if you’re in a season you don’t enjoy, I have hope to offer. You don’t have to remain stuck. If we wives intentionally pursue our husband, the emotional climate of our marriage can change quickly, especially if we keep the following principles in mind.

Wives have influence. Use it to change the warmth of a marriage relationship. Changing your own behavior may trigger your spouse to want to be more intentional about spending time with you. These words by Dr. Marina Benjamen, in “Marriage Myth: Spouses Can’t Change,” have inspired me:

We have the power to create dramatic and long-lasting changes in those around us. The secret lies in how we target our energy and efforts, because our capacity to change others is entirely based on our willingness to change ourselves. This is not double-talk or trickery, it’s simply the reality of relationship dynamics.

If I create a change in my own attitude and behavior, my spouse and the marriage itself will automatically be forced to change.

Often we forget about the incredible influence of a wife. Typically, we want to focus our attention on our husband’s behavior and what he is or isn’t doing. Instead, I want to encourage you to focus on what you have control of — you! You can change many things, including your behavior, your views, your attitudes and your perspectives. These will all have an impact on your marital system, and who knows the effect it may have on your spouse!

Is there a behavior you desire to see in your spouse? Model it! It’s catching! It sounds so simple — but as wives we can influence our husband’s behavior through modeling what we desire to see. If you want him to speak kindly to you, speak kind words to him. If you want him to compliment you, speak affirming words to him. If you want him to praise you, speak words of gratitude to him. You will never know the impact, unless you try it!

Recognize that all couples go through different seasons in their marriage. Even the best marriages go through seasons that are a bit colder than others. People will often look at Greg and me and say, “You guys must have the perfect marriage.” I always respond with, “There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. And we experience the different seasons of marriage, too.”

Intimacy with your Spouse


Its that time of year…the time for chaos, being with family (including mother-in-laws), and lots of food. Its that time of the year where you either have butterflies and happy feelings toward your spouse, or maybe this time of the year is hard for you because you have experienced loss. How do we keep intimacy in our marriage, when things in our lives are crazy? Well, I know the way to do that….Pray. I know that sounds like the “church” answer,  but it truly does take your relationship, and your bond with each other, to the next level.


Lifeway put out 7 principles to follow when praying with your spouse, and they are worth reading and applying to our lives. Here they are:


1. Talk to God first.

Talk to God first about your desire to pray with your spouse. First John 5:14-15 assures us that “whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” So, ask God for the time in your schedule, for wisdom in how to suggest it to your spouse, and that God will prepare the heart of your spouse to desire this time with you, as well.

2. Set a time.

By setting an agreed-upon appointment for prayer with your spouse, both of you are more likely to keep it. But, as with any appointment, there will be times you or your spouse will need to postpone or reschedule. That’s life. So, be flexible, and extend grace.

3. Ease into it.

There’s a reason prayer is considered a spiritual discipline. And as with any habit or discipline, it will take work. So ease into it. You might even start with praying together once a week for a brief time, then gradually increase your prayer time to two or three times a week until it becomes a part of your daily schedule.

4. Keep it short.

There is nothing wrong with limiting the time that the two of you can spend in prayer, especially when you’re first starting out. Be respectful of each other’s time and put parameters around how long your prayer time will be.

5. Keep it simple.

You can keep it short and simple by limiting your prayer time together to the basic or most pressing needs on your heart. Respect his or her time and pray only about pressing needs that concern your family, such as job, health or financial issues, the salvation or spiritual life of loved ones, the behavioral issues of your children, and so on.

6. Keep it safe.

Remove any possibility of intimidation by letting your spouse know that your prayer time together isn’t an arena for judgment or assumption. In other words, anything that is prayed for is “safe” and won’t be analyzed, critiqued, shared with others, or brought up again in a non-supportive way.

7. Keep it supportive.

Praying with your spouse about sensitive issues in your marriage or situations in your past that may cause him or her to feel regret or remorse might not be best.

Save the heavier, deeply personal issues for God. He can handle them and many times your spouse won’t know what to do upon hearing prayers that might be directed at him or her and any trouble or anxiety they may be causing the marriage.

Aim for a goal of togetherness and encouragement as you pray. If your goal, after praying together, is that both you and your spouse emerge from that prayer time feeling more powerful and strengthened together, then you will know what to address with your spouse and what to keep for an extended prayer time with just you and God. As you begin praying together regularly, the Holy Spirit may impress upon your hearts to pray about deeper issues and, when that is the case, you both will simply be following His lead.

Finally, you can apply the principles of Philippians 2:1-2 as a guideline in praying together by “thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal.” That one goal should be that each of you emerges from your prayer time together feeling stronger, more supported, and more unified in order to take on the enemy of your souls.


So how often in your marriage are you praying together? Let’s take intimacy with our spouse to next level, and let’s start praying together. It will transform and strengthen our marriage more than you can ever know.

Are you searching for the good in your spouse, or the bad?


Marriages in the church have been on my heart lately. Satan is constantly seeking to destroy them.  I came across the following article by Shaunti Feldhan, and I thought it would be great to share with you. She hits the nail on the head when talking about marriage, but it can also be taken to relationships of all kinds. The key verse she is focusing on here is Proverbs 11:27 (NLT) “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”

Here’s what she says:

“My dear friend’s marriage was crumbling; her husband’s heart had turned to stone. For years he had dearly loved his wife, but had never known how to show it in the way she needed. Her insecurity grew. He eventually believed he could never please her, never make her happy. Sadly, he left.

Despite my friend’s deep hurt, she took ownership of what she could change as she mourned her marriage and moved forward. As she considered her part in what had happened, she realized that starting in the earliest days of her marriage she had subconsciously believed the worst of her husband, rather than the best.

For example, if he said something that hurt her, she subconsciously thought: He knew that would hurt me and he said it anyway. Not: He loves me, so he wouldn’t deliberately say something that would hurt me. Or she would think: If he really loved me he would do this particular thing. But since he isn’t … he doesn’t.

Deep down, without realizing it, my friend believed her husband didn’t care. Even though, for most of their marriage, he did.

Have you ever believed someone didn’t like you based on something they said or did? I know I have. But as followers of Christ, we need to ask ourselves: Are we searching for evil or searching for good?

There’s a benefit in looking for good. Proverbs 11:27 tells us we get what we look for: “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”

My research confirms this truth. I’ve spent the last three years researching the most happily married couples to find out what they are doing differently. What is making them so happy? What are their secrets?

Of all my discoveries, one thing stood out as a prerequisite for any good relationship: believing the best of the other person’s intentions. Or to be more precise, refusing to believe the worst. In the happiest relationships, even if someone couldn’t completely explain what had happened, they resolutely assumed that their spouse or good friend cared about them and had no intention of hurting them.

And that is usually the truth! For example, in the thousands of married people I’ve anonymously surveyed, only a tiny fraction no longer cared about their spouse. Even in some deeply difficult marriages, most of the time, the hurt was not intended. In happy marriages, the offended spouse chooses to believe that; in unhappy marriages, they don’t.

For most of us, “searching for good” when we are in pain is not our default response. It is so easy to gauge what the other person intended by how we feel in the moment. But that only creates avoidable pain!

Yes, sometimes the intentions of people we love aren’t good. But in most cases, they don’t want to hurt the people they care about any more than we do.

The choice to search for a more generous explanation may not come easily at first. But try it. Bring your feelings in line with what you know to be true about this person. And once you see, over and over again, that the “good” explanation is usually the real one, you become fully convinced that this person is “for” you.

Better yet, as our key verse explains, by expecting the best, you bring out the best. We all know this deep down; we just have to act on it. And when we do, everything changes.

Lord, thank You for putting people in my life who care about me. And thank You for showing grace to me even when I don’t deserve it. Help me to have grace and see others through Your eyes. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit help me to search for the good in each situation and not assume evil intent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

So what are your inner thoughts seeking? Are they seeking the good in your spouse, or the bad?

Pray and ask God to help you see the good in not only your spouse, but in all your relationships.

Forgiveness in Our Marriage

With Easter season here, we are reminded of Gods love for us, and the forgiveness of sins that He has given to us. Since Jesus forgave us, we too are called to forgive others….including our spouse!

I love what Dr. James Dobson says about forgiveness in our marriages. In the following blog post, he takes us back to Proverbs 8:13 where it says that He hates Pride and Arrogance. 

“In the middle of your highway to forgiveness there may be a giant roadblock called pride. You know in your heart that you offended your wife with that comment about her body, or her intelligence, or her family. You realize you hurt your husband with that remark about his selfishness or his waste of money. But something is keeping you from admitting wrong and seeking forgiveness. Even though you know you’re guilty, you can’t get the words out of your mouth. At best you can mumble, “I’m sorry,” but you don’t really want to know if your partner heard you.

Pride is terribly destructive to human relationships. It may be the sin that God hates most, because there are more than one hundred references to it in Scripture. Proverbs 6:17–19 describes seven things that God finds detestable, and the first one on the list is “a proud look.” If you or your mate have a haughty attitude that prevents you from seeking forgiveness and reconciling, it will damage your marriage. We encourage you to swallow your pride and talk to your spouse. Once you’ve done that, why not clear one more roadblock and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for your prideful heart?

Just between us . . .

• Has my pride kept us apart in the past? How?

• In what ways has swallowing our pride blessed us in the past?

• How can we break down the roadblock of pride on our way to a stronger relationship?

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for Your example of humility and mercy. Forgive us for our stubborn, prideful treatment of each other. We want to change. Help us to lay aside pride, admit wrongs, and humbly ask for forgiveness. Amen.”

This Easter season, lets swallow our pride, and forgive our spouse.

Is Your Smart Phone Coming Between You and Your Spouse?

This is a great question for all of us to ask ourselves. We, as a society, have become obsessed with our phones. This article by Greg Smalley tackles this issue:

How much do you love your smartphone? Probably not as much as the California man who married his phone in a Las Vegas wedding chapel during the summer of 2016!

OK, so the ceremony in Vegas may have been ridiculous, but this man made his point about how connected people are to their phones. As crazy as it sounds to wed your phone, there’s no denying the degree to which smartphones have infiltrated our daily lives. Some studies show that Americans check their phones every six and a half minutes during waking hours, or roughly 150 times each day.

Sadly, the smartphone is a jealous lover — demanding attention all day through calls, texts, Facebook, Pinterest, news feeds, sports scores, video streaming, music and endless apps (over 2 million available as of June 2016). We sleep with our phones on the nightstand, cradle them as we walk, pocket them as we travel, set them on the counter to help us make dinner and rest them comfortably on the table as we eat. They have become our constant digital companion.

Not all of this is bad for a marriage. Smartphones can help couples stay connected throughout the day via romantic texts, playful social media posts and random video chats. Frequent texting and quick phone calls help couples stay current on the day’s events. Regular communication with a spouse through calling and texting may even make couples happier and more secure in their relationship.

Still, for all the benefits smartphones provide, it would seem they have become an increasing source of frustration and conflict in marriage. The smartphone has become a “third wheel” in many marriages, causing husbands and wives to feel they are competing with their spouse’s phone for time and attention.

The threat of space invaders

Do you remember the Space Invaders, one of the earliest video games? The goal was to defeat waves of marching aliens by firing a laser cannon moving horizontally across the bottom of the screen. As the game progressed, the aliens marched faster and the music sped up, creating enormous anxiety for the gamer. Eventually the aliens would overtake your base and defeat you.

I can’t help but wonder if the smartphone has become just like those descending aliens in the video game. Except now they’re marching relentlessly toward your marriage relationship and they’re threatening four important moments — sacred spaces — in your day that usually help to keep your connection strong. Those spaces include:

Pillow-talk time — After a busy day at work or caring for children, couples desperately need meaningful conversation to help them reconnect. But for many, the habit of conversation falls by the wayside over time. They go from long, intimate talks focused on getting to know each other (discussing likes, dislikes, needs, emotions and dreams) to short exchanges focused on administrating their lives (talking about the budget and to-do lists or working through conflict and putting out the latest fire in their overcrowded schedules). Meaningful communication is often replaced by managing daily demands. Sadly, research has shown that most couples spend an average of only four minutes per day in meaningful conversation.

After 25 years of marriage, I believe the best time for meaningful communication that brings life to a relationship is at the end of the day — when you’re lying in bed together before going to sleep. This is when couples should be talking about the highs and lows of their day; discussing deep topics; snuggling, kissing or making love; and praying together. But smartphones wreck this key moment!

This has become an issue for my wife, Erin, and me. Instead of using this precious time to reconnect, we’re on our phones looking at news, playing solitaire, checking Facebook and responding to texts. We’ve created a nasty pattern of checking our phones just before we go to sleep and then as soon as we wake up. When this happens, we shift our attention from each other and unintentionally send messages about what we value most. This is exactly how sacred pillow-talk time is hijacked. A husband and wife can be lying next to each other in the same bed but feel worlds apart.

Mealtime — Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, mealtime is sacred because it promotes face-to-face conversation and eye-to-eye contact. (Most women love this type of communication.) It also provides opportunity for spiritual discussions or devotional time; fosters teamwork as you cook and clean up together; and promotes family traditions like pizza or game night. But smartphones at the table can create broken connections for couples. The constant distraction prevents good conversational rhythm, keeping spouses at a surface level of interaction and minimizing deep, intimate communication.

Leisure time — This is the “down time” you experience together when exercising, watching your favorite TV show, drinking coffee in your recliners, lounging around the house, going for a walk, having a date night, sitting on the beach, etc. Leisure time is sacred because it promotes fun, laughter, play, new activity and conversation. Using your smartphone during these special moments with your spouse can make him or her feel as if it’s a competition to get your attention. Ultimately, you send the message that you’re not fully invested in the moment.

Windshield time — The time spent driving together in your car is sacred for side-by-side conversation. (Most men love this type of communication.) It’s also time to sing together to music or listen to talk radio. If the passenger is constantly interacting with his or her smartphone, it robs the relationship of a prime communication opportunity and causes his or her spouse to feel deprioritized.

The impact of interferences

In addition to invading your sacred spaces, smartphones can have other negative impacts on your relationship. Consider the following:

  • The relational connection is severed. According to the American Psychological Association, technoference is the “everyday intrusions or interruptions in couple interactions or time spent together that occur due to technology.” For instance, in the middle of a conversation, one spouse accepts a phone call or responds to a text. Attention shifts from spouse to device. This is not only rude, it also severs the relational connection. As one author put it, “By allowing technology to interfere with or interrupt conversations, activities and time with romantic partners — even when unintentional or for brief moments — individuals may be sending implicit messages about what they value most, leading to conflict and negative outcomes in personal life and relationships.”
  • You feel ignored. The term “phubbing” was originally coined by an Australian advertising agency and reflects a blend of the words “phone” and “snubbing.” When it comes to your marriage relationship, phubbing means that a spouse feels invisible or snubbed because his or her partner is distracted by a smartphone. Your husband or wife is not fully present in the moment. Examples of phubbing occur when you pull out your phone to check the football scores while on a date with your spouse, you read a text while at the dinner table or you look at Facebook when you’re watching a movie together. Your spouse will feel like he or she is competing against a phone for your attention — and losing! Intended or not, the message conveyed is, “You are less important than my phone.”

The benefits of smartphone boundaries

Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” The term “firstfruits” refers to the first and best crops that you produce. One way to honor your spouse is to give him or her the firstfruits of your time. Instead of checking your phone as soon as you get in the car or lie down in bed together, give that attention to your spouse.

This may require the establishment of mutually agreed-upon limits for smartphones, TV, computers and tablets during your shared sacred moments. In hopes of giving 100 percent of your attention to each other, here are some tips to help you set boundaries to protect your communication spaces:

  • We will keep our pillow-talk time sacred — no phones in our bedroom before we go to sleep.
  • We will protect our mealtime — no technology at the dinner table or in the restaurant.
  • We will guard our leisure time — no checking smartphones or receiving calls (except from the baby sitter).
  • We will give each other priority during windshield time by placing our phones out of sight.
  • If during our time together we need to check our phones for a legitimate purpose, we will first provide an explanation.

Employing these simple safeguards can free your marriage from the tyranny of the smartphone. Give it a try — and you just might be surprised by how much more connected you and your spouse feel to each other.

True Romance on Valentines Day

This article is by Dr. Greg Smalley and can be found on Focus on the Family Website 

One of my most memorable, or should I say, most humiliating, Valentine’s Day experiences happened in 2014. The chain of events started with an innocent conversation I had with my wife, Erin.

I was embarking on my annual attempt to crack the code for the “right” combination of Valentine’s Day gifts. I wondered if I should get Erin flowers, chocolate, jewelry, lingerie (although that would probably be more for me), perfume or maybe a spa day.

So in addition to the gift that I already had in mind, I asked Erin if she would rather have flowers or a gift card in the amount that I would have spent on the flowers. A dozen long-stemmed roses can run about $50 on Valentine’s Day! Erin quickly replied that she would much rather receive a gift card to her favorite store than some flowers that would die anyway.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, and Erin found herself at the grocery store. She bumped into a large display bucket full of flowers. Innocently, she thought about how beautiful the flowers were and decided to buy herself a bouquet.

In light of her having picked the gift card option, this wouldn’t have bothered me — except that Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family and my boss, was standing right behind her buying his wife a dozen long-stemmed, red roses. His only question to Erin was, “Why is your husband, the vice president of our marriage department, making you buy your own flowers?”

Since that day at the grocery store, Jim likes to “graciously” remind me (especially if we’re in front of large crowds) that I made my wife buy her own Valentine’s Day flowers.

True romance

Trying to figure out what gift to buy or where to go on Valentine’s Day is not easy. Flowers, chocolate, cards, gifts, dinner reservations — is this really the meaning of Valentine’s Day? Our culture seems to think that these things are the essence of true romance.

I understand that taking advice from a guy who made his wife buy her own flowers on Valentine’s Day might seem suspect, but I want to tell you one of the greatest truths I’ve learned about romance. True romance isn’t about flowers, chocolate or the perfect candlelit dinner. These things can enhance romance, but they do not define it.

Instead, true romance is about curiosity, fascination and intrigue. It’s about being truly interested in your spouse and your spouse being captivated by you. True romance is a deep, life-long fascination with your mate.

The gift of curiosity

Sadly, many couples feel dissatisfied in marriage because their relationship slips into the mundane — they become so accustomed to one another that they stop being curious. And this creates boredom.

Boredom is the opposite of true romance. Boredom involves the belief that you know everything there is to know about your spouse. However, an entire lifetime is not enough  to truly get to know someone. Every season of marriage is different because both people keep changing. The great mystery of marriage is that you never know what’s going to happen next. Not only is change inevitable, but it’s also a part of what makes marriage so enjoyable.

A line from one of my favorite ’80s songs says, “I get the joy of rediscovering you.” And author Mignon McLaughlin explains it this way: “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” When you make curiosity one of your goals in marriage, you get the joy of falling in love with your spouse again and again.

The initial excitement of getting to know your spouse when you were dating doesn’t have to fade. Boredom and routine don’t have to be your reality. All it takes is a decision to remain fascinated and interested in your husband or wife. Because your spouse and your marriage are always changing, there’s something to be discovered every day. This is exactly why I believe the greatest gift you can give your spouse on Valentine’s Day is the gift of curiosity.

Developing the art of curiosity is simple. Curiosity is the strong desire to know more about something or someone. The key is to daily pursue knowledge about your spouse. Ask questions. Seek out information. Deepen your understanding. Make your goal to “stay current” with your spouse.

This Valentine’s Day, use flowers, chocolate and cards to heighten your romance, but spend your time being curious and asking questions. Take joy in rediscovering your beloved as you fall in love over and over again.

A love affair: It can Happen to you

A love affair: It can Happen to you.  This is the name of the first chapter of a book by Ed Wheat, M.D. and Gloria Okes Perkins called Love Life For Every Married Couple.  Does that idea seem foreign or impossible to you at this time?  Don’t worry.  You are not alone.  Many couples, even mutually devoted Christian couples, struggle with marital issues at one time or another.  If you are currently struggling or feeling unfulfilled in your marriage, I recommend that you read this book along with the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  These books give different but united and definitive instruction on how to have a satisfying and strong marriage.  Note that I did not say happy.  As you probably know, marriage was not designed to make us happy.  Our spouses can never make us happy, because this is not their design. God, our designer, is the only One who can bring true fulfillment.  God is the only One who can satisfy our souls.  Still, our Designer designed marriage.  Gary Thomas suggests, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  This is a concept worth exploring in his book, Sacred Marriage.  He goes on to say, “If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me happy, then I’d have to get a new marriage every two or three years.”  He believes that much of the dissatisfaction we experience in marriage comes from expecting too much from it.  So, what do we do?  Lower our expectations?  Well, let’s not think of it in that way, but what about if we do expect less of our husbands and more of God?  Expect God to meet our needs. Expect God to fulfill that emptiness.  Expect God to be sufficient.  Expect God to love us the way we need to be loved.  He is ready to do this for us.  He is able to do this for us.  We just need to spend time with Him daily and spend time in prayer and He will provide for us!  I have seen this play out with my own two eyes.  If you begin to rely more on God, you can begin to take the pressure off of your spouse to meet your needs.  As the Holy Spirit begins to work in and through you, you will begin to see a difference in your marriage.  Please take time to read these books if you struggle in any way or if your spouse seems to be struggling.

I know that some marriages are truly troubled and the challenges seem insurmountable.  That is where we let God teach us this concept of allowing our marriage to make us holy (more like God) rather than happy.  We must stop embracing the current thought of our culture, ‘do what makes you happy.”   Gary Thomas gives an example of this with the 23 year marriage of Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd.    Apparently, it was no picnic.  She was known for her extreme mood swings, fierce temper and public outbursts.  It is documented that Lincoln’s faith allowed him to see her through God’s eyes, as a child of God.  This enabled him to treat her with love and kindness. He chose to serve God and trust God in this area of his life.  It is believed that the difficult lessons he learned in dealing with his wife helped him then deal with a country that was divided and full of conflict and controversy.  His marriage taught him patience and endurance.  He certainly needed this as he led our country through one of the most difficult times in our country’s history.  Our 16th president is an example of Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

With God’s help, Lincoln remained a loving husband as he worked to unite a hurting and torn nation.  His marital struggles helped mold him into a humble man who relied on God for his strength and peace.  

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  What if you can indeed have a love affair with your spouse that will change the current direction of your life and/or your current mindset?  It can happen to you…with God’s help! Begin praying today for your spouse and for your marriage.  Pick up one or both of these books as a starting point.  Seek Godly counsel.  I will be in prayer for those who might be reading this and with whom this struggle resounds. 

“So let us not grow tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9  

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