Want More, Meaningful Intimacy?

Resilient Middle aged couple
Resilient Middle aged couple
Depositphotos.com

Have you ever blown it the arena of intimacy in your marriage? I have. There have been times when I have been a knuckle dragging, selfish, and ignorant Neanderthal. I am thankful for my wife, who has extended grace as we have spent most of our 46 years together in a learning mode.

If you are feeling brave, I encourage you to take some time and read this post. It is a compilation of things that I have learned over forty-six years of marriage and over fifty thousand hours of counseling experience

One of the foundational principles of building and maintaining a healthy, resilient, relationship is to recognize the foundations of intimacy and communication. It is not about technique, positions, or power, but about getting to know someone genuinely.

Dwight Bain, a long-time friend, therapist, and life coach shared some great thoughts in a recent presentation which I would like to pass along. It sets a good starting point for this article. Dwight was addressing married couples, but the points he makes are crucial to developing any romantic relationship.

There are so many failed marriage stories in the headlines it can make you wonder, “Is an intimate relationship even possible anymore?” and if so, “How do you get one?” It seems that some couples quickly move from being fired up with a romanticpassion to wanting just to fire each other as a bully boss does to an exhausted employee. 

It’s no wonder people are more cautious about opening up their hearts to another person. It might be because they have likely witnessed the process of intense romantic chemistry quickly eroding into hateful rejection and ugly conflicts.

Everybody talks about genuinely wanting a meaningful relationship where they are loved and accepted, yet few are willing to take the chance of being vulnerable or hurt again.

Genuine Intimacy is about seeing into the heart and mind of your mate. It’s learning to connect with them in multiple ways like feeling close, accepted, and loved on the inside no matter what kind of pressure might be happening on the outside. 

To experience this kind of intense relationship, you need understanding regarding both sides of an intimate connection to grow to a new level of purpose and passion together. These different levels of connection reflect the differences between a cultural view of relationships where romance is the primary goal; and a long-term view of marriage where learning to connect together through the realities of daily life is joined alongside love to build intensity, regardless of the circumstances. You need both sides to make your relationship go the distance from short-term infatuation to create long-term success in your marriage.

Building a meaningful relationship and/or being married is a team sport; you either win together or lose together.

One of the keys to building intimacy is communication. Two-way communication that is based on respect, honor, and grace is essential for two people sharing a life together.

Two marriage researchers whom I have known over the years, Drs. David Olson and Peter Larson have discovered 10 things you and I can do to be better at communication and increase your intimacy. 

1. Give full attention to your partner when talking. My wife gets very annoyed when I think I am listening, but I am distracted. My suggestion, turn off the phone, IPad, computer, or television and turn towards your partner.

2. Focus on the good qualities and be intentional about catching them doing good. People tend to rise or fall on our expectations when you are intentional about finding the good in someone they rarely disappoint.

3. Be assertive, not aggressive or passive. Share your thoughts, feeling, and needs. One way to do this is to the old therapist stand by, using “I” statements versus “you” statements. (e.g., “I worry when you don’t let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late.”)

4. Avoid criticism. It is a relationship killer. I think William Arthur Ward hit the nail on the head when he said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.” You can never share too much encouragement. If you must criticize, sandwich it with a least two positive comments. (e.g., “I appreciate it when you help out by cooking, the food is excellent. It would mean a lot to me if you could straighten up a little after you are done. Thanks again for dinner.) This is known as the sandwich method. 

5. Listen to understand, not to judge. Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Listening is all about trying to understand.

6. Use active listening. Summarize your partner’s comments before sharing your own reactions of feelings.

7. Avoid blaming each other at all costs. Instead, work together for a solution. There is energy when we accept responsibility and decide to work towards a mutually beneficial solution.

8. Manage your conflict. (I will give you ten steps for resolving conflict in my next post. 

9. Seek counseling. If you are not able to have better results with your communication as a couple. Then take action. Enroll in marriage/relationship class, read a book together, see your pastor, priest, or get counseling if you need to.

10. Hit the pause button, slow down, catch your breath. Sometimes a dinner date, a night away from the house, a weekend escape can go a long way in lowering the stressors in a marriage.

One of the best ways to increase the frequency of physical intimacy is through solid communication. When men and women feel heard they usually are open to more intimacy.

What is intimacy? One definition of intimacy is it is an act of familiar expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, and love

I believe as a culture we have lost some of the essential components of intimacy by limiting it to just a physical response.

There has been some breakthrough research that shows which there are at least five different areas of intimacy! Take a moment and grade yourself in each area, then ask your partner to do the same.

The first is Intellectual Intimacy. On this level, couples are able to talk about current events, share ideas, laughs, and thoughts, even debate political and religious topics. They are able to participate in the exchange of thoughts and ideas jointly.

The second area of intimacy is Recreational Intimacy. This means there are some recreational activities that a couple enjoy together. It does not mean they do everything together. 

The third area of intimacy is Social Intimacy. After decades of marriage, my wife and I realized that it is entirely okay for her to have her friends and me to have my friends as long as we share some “we” friends. Couple friendships can be an added bonus to a relationship by being a sounding board, providing feedback, and accountability.

The fourth intimacy area is Spiritual intimacy. While this area of intimacy is the most subjective, due to the various religious backgrounds & practices a couple may have, it is still an essential component. In my opinion, one of the most important because a growing relationship is at its core spiritual in nature. Spiritual intimacy is also a crucial factor when and if children become a part of the family.

The fifth and final level of intimacy is physical intimacy. Sexual expression is part of our hard wiring and can be both exhilarating and refreshing for a couple, in the right context. In recent years the primary focus has been primarily on physical intimacy. We have reduced physical intimacy into a series of positions and practices based more on applied physics than on building relationships.

Could it be that one of the reasons we see so many relationships falling apart is that we have failed to understand that intimacy works on several levels? If a relationship is based primarily on sexual expression, it is doomed to fail in the long run. However, if a couple can grow in their understanding of these different levels of intimacy, their relationship will experience growth in all areas. As you grow in these other areas, then sexual expression within your relationship will become more intense and meaningful. This is because it is based on getting to know your partner and being recognized by them.

So how can you have more intimacy in your life? Be mindful of the ten communication tips and the five levels of intimacy and how interconnected they are. 

I’d love hearing your thoughts.

5 Valentine Shopping Tips for Men

from Depositphotos

Keeping things lite, fun, and romantic can strengthen your relationship.

February is here, and we all know Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

John Thurman

Men, please get your shopping done before Feb. 14. If you wait too late, the roses will be wilted, and the selection of cards and chocolates will be pretty much picked over. It seems simple enough, but how many times have we men suffered from procrastination a condition related to waiting until the last minute to shop for your wife or girlfriend. Good news: There is a cure – buy early!

I got a chuckle out of this story.

Nuts About Love
 
“Driving through Southern California, I stopped at a roadside stand that sold fruit, vegetables, and crafts. As I went to pay, I noticed the young woman behind the counter was painting a sign. ‘Why the new sign?’ I asked. ‘My boyfriend didn’t approve of the old one,’ she said. When I glanced at what hung above the counter, I understood. It declared: Local Honey Dates Nuts.”

Contributed by Theodore Bologna

Here are five guy tips that will help you in your Valentine gift selection:


1. If you buy chocolate, make sure you don’t get it at the grocery store or the pharmacy. Buying high-quality chocolate shows her how special she really is. You need to know if she likes milk chocolate, dark chocolate, soft centers, assorted nuts or just plain chocolate.

2. I spent part of my young life helping my mom out at her florist shop. It was always interesting to see stressed-out men coming into the shop on the 13th or 14th of February hoping Mom could work a miracle. She usually did.

Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to pick up flowers at a florist shop or grocery store. If you want to earn extra points, spend a few extra dollars and have them delivered to her work site or home. Women have this fantastic quality: While the other women at her workplace will ooh and ah over the flowers you sent your spouse, they will walk away with envy, wishing their man had done the same.

3. When looking for a card, try to avoid the “ I know I don’t say it enough, but I really do love your card.” I promise she will not be impressed. Instead, you might ask one of the women at the store to help you pick the right card. Make your card purchase based on words she would like to hear. For an additional bonus, write a short hand-written note of love and appreciation.

4. Help your kids select a card or gift for their mom.

5. You do have permission to get your wife some cute, flattering pajamas. Just don’t buy anything too revealing, flashy or trashy. If you decide to get something on the naughtier side, just make sure she has pre-approved it. Remember the gift is for her.

In closing: Being thoughtful on Feb. 14 does not let you off the hook for the rest of the year. Your wife and or girlfriend desires to feel valued, cherished and secure 365 days a year.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

10 Ways to Have a Happy Wife

(c) 2018 John Thurman

Want to have a happier wife? One of the keys to having a resilient, long-lasting marriage is to do what you can to make sure your wife feels good about your the relationship.

As a man, I had no idea how ignorant I was when I first got married!  Mom and dad were great examples, but about three weeks after Angie and I were married I felt like a complete idiot. While we have experienced all the seasons of life together, some with grace and others as a “hot mess” we have never quit. We have been in and out of counseling, read scores of books and attended more than a few seminars and retreats. And while both sets of our parents faced both great and tragic times, they hung in there.

I believe that as you read this article, you will be able to discover some nuggets of truth that will help you develop a more resilient marriage.

Here is a secret about most wedding days.

When the day arrives, there you are standing in front of a crowd of family, friends, and a minister. Then that magic moment occurs, your bride, the lover of your life appears at the back of the church or venue. At that moment you are filled with a sense of awe and wonder as your bride approaches the altar, and before you know it, the ceremony is in full swing. You exchange vows, you kiss, you greet your guests at the reception and off on a new journey we go.

Well, that is true for the most part. While he will have a blast at the reception, he is looking forward to the festivities ending and getting naked.

I know, right now some of you are going “Eew!” But alas, it is true.

Women, on the other hand, see things in a completely different way. When she faces you on your wedding day, she sees the man of her dreams, her hero, the man she has given her heart to. Now, here is the difference. When she sees him standing there looking so sharp and handsome, somewhere deep in the recesses of her mind she is thinking, he is my man, my mate, but I’ve got my work cut out for me as I shape him into my image of what I think he should be.

Well not that I probably have offended you, let’s jump into how to have a happy wife.

6 Basic Needs of a Wife

Once again, I’d like to start with a section from Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn’s book For Men Only.

Our Surface Understanding             What it really means.

Women need love.

   Even if your relationship is great, she likely has fundamental insecurity about your love, and when that insecurity is triggered, she may respond in ways that confuse or dismay you until she feels reassured.

Women are emotional.

   Women deal with multiple thoughts and emotions from their past and present all the time, at the same time – and these can’t be easily dismissed.

Women want security-in other words, financial security.

   Your woman needs emotional security and closeness with you so much that she will endure financial insecurity to receive it.

She doesn’t want you to fix it; she just wants you to listen.

 When she is sharing an emotional problem, her feelings and her desire to be heard are much more important than the issue itself. 

She doesn’t want much sex; she must not want me.

   Physically, women tend to crave sex less often than men do – and it is usually not related to your desirability.

She wants to look attractive.

   Inside your smart, secure wife lives a little girl who profoundly needs to know that you find her beautiful and that you only have eyes for her.

I am so thankful for the work that the Feldhahn’s and others have done in helping men and women better understand each other.

I am also thankful for the loving patience that my wife Angie has extended to me in our journey. By the way, it is a journey that you do not complete until the end of your life.

So, with that in mind, what are ten ways that you can have a happy wife.

10 Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Wife’s Happiness

1 . Be as Attentive, Fun loving, and Adoring as You Were During Courtship or Close to It. 

I know you can have rough days. I spend my days with people who are in various states of crisis. I know it can be tough to be upbeat some days but do what you can. Studies of optimistic people show that they are less affected by adverse events and bring about brighter responses in other people.

2. Be More Affectionate

Before we talk about how to express affection to your wife, I want to review the job description of being a good husband.

  • Love, honor, and respect her.
  • Be sexually and emotionally faithful to her.
  • Listen without being judegemental

To your wife, affection means more than cuddling or holding her hands or having sex. She desires a sense of closeness from you because knowing you are close to her is paramount for her being able to stay in a relationship with you. 

For those of you that might need this simplified; if your wife does not feel connected to you, she will leave you at some level.

3. Support and Nurture Her Ambitions in and Outside the Home.

Roles are changing, and that is not a bad thing. More men than women work outside the home, but due to the economy, more and more women are either entering or re-entering the workplace or are starting home-based businesses. As your children grow and opportunities open up for your wife to pursue her pen dreams, will you be there to support her?

4. To Make an Effort to Understand How She is Different Emotionally.

Guys, our job is not to change her to be more like a man, but to acknowledge and respect your differences.

5. To Be Honest at All Times and Always Do What You Say You, Will, Do.

 To be clear. When I talk about honesty, I mean there is no room for lies about infidelity, addiction problems, or other vital matters that reflect on who you are (such as belief systems or underlying medical issues). You need to be accountable for what’s important the core issues, the crucial stuff, your promises.

6. To Share in Child Care and Domestic Work. 

 If you want to mess this up just come home from the office and tell her, you have already worked enough. Instead, catch your breath and help out a little, without any drama. Trust me, this will get you some points.

No matter where you have been in your marriage, you can show up for work today. You can begin, right now to protect your career as a husband by treating this day as if it were your first day on a new job called marriage.

7. Help her feel special.

Show your wife the same traits that make you valuable as an employee: focus, discipline, reliability, devotion, loyalty, stability, intelligence, and flexibility.

Be determined to get better at this job of being a husband.

8. Maintain your appearance! This may sound a bit juvenile, but guys, watch your hygiene, shower regularly, remember your favorite “hang around the house” clothes do need washing. Every now and then Angie reminds me that my closet space is beginning to smell like a locker. Just remember, this does not take much effort.

9. Plan some “us time” getaways. This does not mean inviting her to your elk hunt or boy’s weekend. It could be a weekend at a Bed and Breakfast, or maybe a day trip to a nice place. You could see where the cheapest “Southwest Airline Getaway” airfares are and go there. Being able to just get away from the day to day grind, and even the kids can go a long way in refusing both you and your wife.

   10.  Learn ways to maintain romance and specialness in your relationship. Spontaneous flowers and quality chocolates never hurt, post-it notes, and cards have never hurt. Do what you can to make her feel special.

You might want to check out my post – How to Have a Happy Husband

Action Plan

To use a baseball metaphor; No Major League hitter bats 1000, but if they are hitting 325, they are being well compensated. to be clear, we are not talking perfection, but intentional progess.

Forget Hollywood and Hallmark Channel stereotypes and don’t try to be a hero in some romance novel. Instead, apply some of your natural strengths to your job as a married man and see immediate improvement.

  • Focus on the benefits of marriage, not the day to day frustrations
  • Show your wife the same traits that make you valuable as an employee: focus, discipline, reliability, devotion, loyalty, stability, intelligence, and flexibility.
  • Be determined to get better at this job of being a husband.
  • Learn from your mistakes and don’t get your eyes stuck in the rearview mirror of regrets.
  • Commit yourself to the mission and responsibilities of your marital job description and reassess your progress as you go along.
  • For those of you who are Christ followers, “Love your wife as Christ loves the Church.”

Thanks to Scott Haltzman, M.D., and his excellent ideas from The Secrets of Happily Married Men. This article is adapted from that resource. Another couple of resources I like is For Men Only and For Women Only by Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn

10 Tips for Having a Happy Husband

from Depositphotos.com

This is the first part of a four-part series to help you have a meaningful Valentine’s Day. In a couple of days I will publish How to Have a Happy Wife.

With all the static about the Gillette commercial and the APA’s discussion about toxic masculinity, I thought this would be a great time to do a few posts about marriage. Since Valentine’s Day is around the corner, I thought it would be fun. After all, I have been married to the same woman for 46 years. In those forty-six years, we have had our ups and downs, great times and times that were pretty bad. We have had beautiful seasons of growth as well as seasons when things were pretty sucky and we could hardly wait until Springtime. Two key ingredients to building a resilient relationship are extending grace to one another and having an appreciation for the differences between men and women.

What Men Need

Ever wondered if there were any way to tell if your husband is a happily married man?

While every relationship goes through its seasons, here are some proven indicators that your man is happy in your relationship.
Shaunti Feldhahn, a bestselling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, author of For Women Only, shares some critical insight into men. Her book and its recent revision surveyed thousands of men across multiple socio-economic levels and cultural backgrounds. Here are seven revelations her research revealed. This is taken directly from her book.

10 Signs of a Happy Husband

Our Surface Understanding      What That Means in Practice

Men need respect. Men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected
Men are insecure. Despite their “in control” exterior men often feel like imposters and are insecure that their inadequacies will be discovered.
Men want more sex. Your sexual desire for your husband profoundly affects his sense of well-being and confidence in all areas of his life.
Men avoid issues by “checking out.” Men address issues by first pulling away to process and think-so they can better talk about them later.
Men are visual. Even happily married men struggle with being pulled toward live and recollected images of other women.
Men are “unromantic clods.” Actually, most men enjoy romance (sometimes in different ways) and want to be romantic-but hesitate because they doubt they will succeed.
Men care about appearance. You don’t need to be a size 3, but your man does need to see you making efforts to take care of yourself, and he will take on significant costs or inconvenience to support you.

Remember, these insights are from a well-respected author and columnist. She and her husband have also written a companion book For Men Only.

Here are some proven ways to help your man experience a more meaningful life and relationship.

  1. He knows that he can be himself without being judged or criticized. You see, there is nothing that can kill a relationship faster than criticism. Just to be sure, this goes both ways. Guys, being critical towards your wife is a guaranteed way to shut her down.
  2. He smiles a lot. He feels that you notice him and appreciate all that he does for you and that you do not take him for granted.
  3. He realizes that you love and accept him for who he is, but he also knows that you will not put up with any bad behavior. He knows that your love is the “real deal” and respects it because he sees that it is not based on submissive compliance, but a loving choice.
  4. He likes that you care about looking attractive in your own personal way. He doesn’t expect you to look like someone you aren’t, but seeing that you care about your appearance makes him feel you value yourself and your relationship with him.
  5. He understands that you desire him and express it through physical intimacy. Every man wants a wife who loves physical intimacy. What do most wives want? A man who provides the intimacy that her soul longs for. You see men only need a place, but a woman needs a reason.
  6. He is around the house more, partially because he feels respected and admired by you. There is no love outside of respect. Feeling the admiration and respect of the one you love boosts self-esteem, increases intimacy, and promotes communication and passion.
  7. He speaks highly of you primarily because he rarely or never feels belittled, berated, or humiliated by you.
  8. He sees that you do not hold on to grudges, keep score or consistently feel victimized by life. The helps your relationship develop flexibility and adaptability, and keeps the possibility of a rewarding future intact.
  9. He is faithful to the vows he made with you.
  10. He seeks you for comfort and consolation. When your husband makes a choice to share his problems with you, it is an excellent indicator that he is happy with you even when he is feeling dejected and vulnerable.
    Take a moment to reflect on your feelings about these 10 indicators.

Are you happy with where you are? If so, outstanding! If you feel you need a little work, then pick one or two and try them out as a pilot project with your honey.

Need a great laugh? Check Mark Gungor’s In Two Minds Video


Seven Ways to Have a Happy Husband

Ever wondered if there are any ways to tell if your husband is a happily married man?

While every relationship goes through its seasons, here are some proven indicators that your man is happy in your relationship.

1. He knows that he can be himself without being judged or criticized. You see, there is nothing that can kill a relationship faster than criticism.

2. He feels that you notice him and appreciate all that he does for you and that you do not take him for granted.

3. He realizes that you love and accept him for who he is, but he also knows that you will not put up with any bad behavior. He knows that your love is the “real deal” and respects it because he sees that it is not based on submissive compliance, but a loving choice.

4. He likes that you care about looking attractive in your own personal way. He doesn’t expect you to look like someone you aren’t, but seeing that you care about your appearance makes him feel you value yourself and your relationship with him.

5. He sees that you desire him and express it through physical intimacy. Every man wants a wife who loves physical intimacy. What do most wives want? A man who provides the intimacy that her soul longs for. You see men only need a place, but a woman needs a reason.

6. He feels respected and admired by you. There is no love outside of respect. Feeling the admiration and respect of the one you love boosts self-esteem, increases intimacy, and promotes communication and passion.

7. He sees that you do not hold on to grudges, keep score or consistently feel victimized by life. The helps your relationship develop flexibility and adaptability, and keeps the possibility of a rewarding future intact.

Action Plan:

Take a moment to reflect on your feelings about these seven indicators. Are you happy with where you are? If so, outstanding! If you feel you need a little work, then pick one or two and try them out as a pilot project with your honey. After all, it is a budget-friendly, powerful tool that you can use to enhance your marriage!

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!

 

A Man’s Guide To Valentine’s Day Shopping

 

Want to build a happy, resilient relationship? If you answer is yes, then continue to read.

We are into February, and we all know that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

So guys, for heaven’s sake, get your shopping done before Feb. 14. If you wait too late, the roses will be wilted, and the selection of cards and chocolates will be pretty much picked over. It seems simple enough, but how many times have we men suffered from procrastinitis (my word), a condition related to waiting until the last minute to shop for your wife or girlfriend. Good news: There is a cure – buy early!

Waiting to purchase her a last-minute gift is not a good thing for your health or maybe even your life! It sends a message that you don’t see her as a high priority. It lets her know that you don’t know who she is and what she likes.

Here are five guy tips that will help you in your Valentine gift selection:

  1. If you buy chocolate, make sure you don’t get it at the grocery store or the pharmacy. Buying high-quality chocolate shows her how special she is. You need to know if she likes milk chocolate, dark chocolate, soft centers, assorted nuts or just plain chocolate. Hint: One of my favorite Chocolatiers in Albuquerque is Theobroma Chocolatier.
  2. I spent part of my young life helping my mom out at her florist shop. It was always interesting to see stressed-out men coming into the shop on the 13th or 14th of February hoping Mom could work a miracle. She usually did.

Don’t wait until Valentine’s Day to pick up flowers at a florist shop or grocery store. A quick way to earn extra points, spend a few extra dollars and have them delivered to her work site or home.

Women have this incredible quality: While the other women at her workplace will ooh and ah over the flowers you sent your spouse, they will walk away with envy, wishing their man had done the same.

  1. When looking for a card, try to avoid the “I know I don’t say it enough…but I do love your card.” I promise she will not be impressed. Instead, you might ask one of the women at the store to help you pick the right card. Make your card purchase based on words she would like to hear. For an additional bonus, write a short hand-written note of love and appreciation.
  2. Help your kids select a card or gift for their mom.
  3. You do have permission to get your wife some cute, flattering pajamas. Just don’t buy anything too revealing, flamboyant or trashy. If you decide to get something on the naughtier side, just make sure she has pre-approved it. Or better yet, ask her to go with you. Remember the gift is for her.

I enjoy feedback, so leave me a coment and let me know your thoughts, or even better if you have a good story feel free to share it.

Get a Free Chapter of my new book, The No Fear Entrepreneur by signing up for my email list by going to www.johnthurman.net

 

Seven Secrets to Building Resilience in Your Marriage

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 Resilience is the ability to resist the manifestations of clinical distress, impairment or dysfunctions that are often associated with critical incidents and personal trauma.
Dr. George Everly, Psychological Body Armor.”Last week Sara got so mad she threw her shoe at me. It missed my head by about three inches!” Larry said.”At the time I thought he deserved it,” Sara admitted. “But the fact that I could do that really scares me! I feel as if our marriage is in serious trouble.”While not every couple throws shoes—or anything else—that sense of uncontrollable anger is not uncommon for many couples regardless of creed, ethnicity, or social status. Unfortunately, some feel that the heightened level of emotion is the beginning of the end of their relationship.

In my more than 35 years of counseling and  45 years of married life, I’ve observed that how couples respond to an event such as Sara’s shoe-throwing can help them develop resilience, the ability to bounce back or recover quickly from change, misfortune, and unmet expectations.

As we explored their past ten years together, I knew that even though they were now in a difficult season, Larry and Sara had built resilience into their marriage. To create a resilient marriage, your commitment to the relationship must be stronger than your history, mood, or situation. Couples who are resilient have these seven qualities in common.

1. Resilient couples don’t fall prey to misconceptions about marriage. 

One thing that can damage our resilience is the mistaken notion that a good marriage equals a calm and peaceful one. In the ten years, Larry and Sara had been married, five jobs, one miscarriage, five harsh financial seasons, four moves, and two adventure-filled boys had taken their toll. Not to mention the fact that they came from two different family styles: Sara’s parents were divorced. Her dad had cheated on her mom multiple times, and then abandoned the family when she was ten. Larry, on the other hand, grew up in an intact family—his parents are still together more than 40 years later.

As we talked, Larry nailed one of the great Christian misconceptions about marriage: “We had no idea how difficult marriage would be. If you listen to people at our church talk about their marriages, it would be easy to believe nobody has been through what we’ve experienced.”

It amazes me that in this day when marriage ministries and materials are so prevalent, couples still believe a great relationship will be a peaceful one. They often feel invincible, especially in the early stages of marriage. This can lead them to deny the impact of stress and family history.

Many couples mistakenly think that loving each other means always getting along. But conflict is an inescapable part of marriage if the couple expects their relationship to grow and mature.

2. Resilient couples find help when they need it.

Many couples “go it” alone—trying to deal with their issues without getting outside help from a trusted source who can offer biblical encouragement, guidance, and support. Those are typically the couples who end up with broken relationships.

Larry and Sara had always been involved in small church groups, which had been invaluable sources of strength when difficult circumstances such as miscarriage and job loss came along. But when they felt more “out of control,” such as Sara’s shoe throwing, they knew it was a signal to seek professional help.

3. Resilient couples remember the good things about their marriage and each other.

“He’s a good father to our boys,” Sara mentioned when I asked them to list each other’s good qualities. “And he’s patient. He puts up with my quirks.”

“I love how loyal and passionate she is,” Larry added. “Sometimes she goes overboard, but I know her heart’s in the right place.”

The longer we talked, the more relaxed they became. “We’re not quitters,” Sara said. “When I see how many of our friends have crashed and burned in their marriages, I’m glad we’ve hung in there.”

Larry looked embarrassed but said, “We had no idea what we could endure as husband and wife. But we still love each other.”

Resilient couples choose to focus on the good as opposed to camping out on the bad.

4. Resilient couples accept the differences in their personalities, views, and ways of getting things done.

Sara entered marriage fearing the sharp conflict she’d watched her parents experience, while Larry came expecting the intimacy and commitment he’d seen his parents enjoy. For several years, they acted out based on the marriage models and communication styles they brought with them.

Sara tended to over-talk everything. Then if she felt Larry didn’t “get it,” she’d become angry. “When I try to talk to Larry,” she told me, “he always seems to run and hide. He’ll either collapse in the recliner and be sucked into the television, or he’ll retreat to the computer room. When he does that, I feel like going ballistic, and sometimes do.”

Larry responded, “She has an opinion about everything, and when I don’t engage in the conversation, she gets heated, so I retreat. Then she throws a shoe at me!”

Men and women really do have different needs.

For guys, we want to feel competent and needed. We want to feel respected. One friend of mine used to say, “Men are like dogs, they need three things: someone to feed them, play with them, and occasionally say, ‘Good boy.’”

I encouraged Sara to be more mindful before sharing an opinion. She also became intentional about giving Larry positive feedback on things he did around the house and with the boys. She even began to find herself being more sexually provocative with him.

For women, the key is to help her feel valued and cherished. If she feels her husband can love her the way she is, then she feels more secure. When a man listens to his wife, without trying to fix her, for instance, he’ll be amazed to see how she can engage him physically. Larry noticed that as he listened intently to Sara, she actually talked less. He even began to buy her flowers, knowing how much she appreciated the gesture.

Sara and Larry became more focused on their communication styles and began to senseless tension and more hope. Larry was choosing to stay connected and not withdraw, and Sara was trying to lower her intensity level.

“We’re not the same,” Sara mentioned. “And I’m starting to appreciate the fact that that can be a good thing.”

5. Resilient couples develop and maintain an internal locus (focus) of control rather than an external focus.

I asked Larry and Sara to recount some of the difficult times in their marriage and how they got through. They told me that six months into their marriage, Larry lost his job. It could have been devastating, especially since Sara’s part-time job didn’t bring in enough money to cover their bills. When many couples would take out their frustrations, fears, and worries on their spouse, Larry and Sara decided instead to focus on the possibilities.

“We knew we loved each other,” Sara said. “It wasn’t Larry’s fault he was downsized. We weren’t sure how it would work out, but we believed Larry would find a job and that God would lead us through this difficult time. And he did.”

“So what keeps you two together?” I finally asked them.

“I love him and want us to get better,” Sara told me.
Larry agreed. “We believe God can and will help us work things out, but it’s tough.” They both took their marriage vows seriously and didn’t want to become another statistic. They hoped to survive this rough time and were committed to the process.

6. Resilient couples manage their emotions.

Larry admitted to me that he can be a “control freak” at times. Sara, on the other hand, is a “free spirit.”

As the weeks went by, Larry and Sara started to focus on their personal responsibility for their portion of the relationship’s troubles and move forward.

After Sara’s fourth overdrawn check, Larry had had enough. Instead of blowing up or withdrawing from her, which had previously proved unsuccessful, Larry took another approach. He waited for a couple of days so he could calm down. Having a measure of control over his emotions, he could talk to her in a calm, rational way and they were able to resolve their money issues.

7. Resilient couples reinterpret past failures and use them as growing points instead of perennial negatives.

In other words, they look at past mistakes to make positive, life-changing applications.

Sara admitted she felt she had to punish Larry with angry outbursts to get him to do anything. As she worked on her side of the responsibility equation, she realized some of her anger was rooted in bitterness toward her dad. So Sara began to pay close attention to the things that could trigger her emotions. In the course of our counseling, she was able to see the hurts for what they were and began to come to terms with the damage. In the process, her feelings about Larry grew softer.

Both Sara and Larry let go of the old hurts and took active measures to reconnect. Larry is “staying in the room” when Sara is struggling. Sara is feeling more secure in her relationship with Larry as she sees the changes he’s making. They use the words, I was wrong. I’m sorry I hurt you. Will you forgive me?

In the six weeks, they were in counseling with me, Larry and Sara were able to receive enough mercy and grace to forgive each other and make adjustments necessary to move forward
Today they report that shoes are no longer a weapon of choice, but something to wear.

Call to action:
Are you interested in getting help in your relationship?  Feel free to email me: john@johnthurman.net

Comments welcome.

Shades of Grey, Shades of Love: 4 Ways to Cultivate Romance

Sex Begins in the Kitchen is a fun and informative book that my friend Dr. Kevin Leman wrote several years ago. His second book on marital intimacy is called Sheet Music. Both of which are still in print. I encourage couples to add these books to their reading list. Kevin has an uncanny ability to communicate in a clear and fun way about crucial things. Years ago he and I shared the microphone on national radio show called Parent Talk. It seemed that whenever he and I were on the show the topic of sexuality came up.

I mention that because physical intimacy consistently stays in the “Top 5,” concerns of marital conflict.

As you and I continue to move through Shades of Love, I want to give you some tips that will improve physical intimacy. “Quantity” is the most frequent complaint that counselors hear. Unfortunately, couples often define their physical relationship in terms of “the count.” How often do we have it? How many times did one or the other reach orgasm? How much foreplay was there? How long did it last?”

It’s sad that we haven taken the beauty of lovemaking and reduced it to numbers. Some couples make it worse by attempting to negotiate the numbers, comparing their numbers with the “average couple,” whatever that is, or agreeing to trade physical intimacy for help with cleaning the dishes.

Here are some proven tips to improve your intimacy:

1.    Add some variety to your lovemaking. Some of us are too restrictive. Change the locations, times of day, or the lighting. Try some candles, new perfumes, or aftershaves. Put on some different music.

2.    Vary your routine. I did a Google™ search on, “how many ways you can cook a potato”, and the search came up with thirteen different ways. Amazing! If you can cook a potato that many different ways, you can be equally creative in finding ways  to share physical intimacy with your partner. A nice full body massage is nice. And don’t forget the shower.

3.    Communicate more openly. Don’t let intimacy become a guessing game. Two physically different individuals with unique personalities, life histories, backgrounds, preferences, and hangs ups must learn to talk openly about intimacy. Be careful about making assumptions. It is fine to have these conversations because communication will directly impact physical intimacy.

4.    Increase the desire for physical intimacy. One of the easiest ways to enhance your passion towards your partner is to let your mind wander over pleasurable thoughts about them throughout the day.

Three tips for guys:

•Sex must become something you give to your wife and not something you take.

•You will improve your physical intimacy dramatically if you learn to give first to   your wife emotionally.

•Increase your nonsexual touching. This means hugs, holding hands.

Have fun and be safe as you discover new ways to Cultivate Romance.

Want to read a great article about Marriage from a GenXer? follow this link to Relevant Magazine

You can also listen to a 29 min and 55 sec talk I did on Marriage here is the link 
I would love to hear some of your thoughts and ideas about cultivating the romance. Feel free to post your comments.