Tag Archive: relationships

little did i know when i responded to someone’s comment about how much sex should take place in marriage [ironically in the comments section on a blog i posted on ‘Singleness’] that this would get as much attention as it did…

…and not just people viewing it, but people talking about it and i appreciated some of the comments so much that i felt like they deserved their own blog and so i am simply copying and pasting as is, some of the responses the ‘How much sex in marriage?’ blog received, and hope to do a follow-up post myself sometime soon as this feels like something we are interested in knowing more about…

Joel had this to say:

I like the way you tackle these difficult questions, thanks Brett. As a newly married guy I can stand behind your sentiments about having the right focus in terms of getting away from ‘me-centered’ attitudes towards sex or anything else. When I think of petty arguments my wife and I have had they are usually because one of us is being very selfish, and lets be honest selfishness is not attractive and is not going to get you anywhere sex-wise.

Leanne shared this:

I enjoyed this response. I think I might have something to add. When one partner feels they are not getting enough sex, let’s say its the man as that is more common, he tends to see himself as sexually unfulfilled, a victim, and his wife as the problem. Perhaps he even sees her as selfish or manipulative. What I think is important to remember is that both partners in a marriage should ideally be sexually fulfilled . This means the wife too. Is she not losing out just as much as her husband even if she has no interest in sex? Should her husband not have compassion on her and be aware that she too is suffering and missing out on the joy of sexual fulfilment? In this kind of situation it is important that the husband realise that he is not the only one short changed and that his wife is not the problem, at least not of her own volition and certainly not in isolation. Sensitivity is needed to understand the problem, be it biological (lack of libido, depression, discomfort etc), psychological (poor self image, upbringing etc) or relational (resentment, not feeling safe or loved etc).

I think very few women with a healthy libido in a loving marriage would withhold sex. And by that I don’t mean to say that there is no place for sex when you’re not in the mood sometimes. That’s for another conversation. I’m not saying that a woman can’t be sitting with a strong libido and deliberately withholding sex from a loving, sensitive husband, just that it’s far from the default explanation.

The problem needs to be addressed with sensitivity by both partners, seeking to understand more than to be understood, with the humility to expect that there may be another perspective to one’s own. And that the problem is likely to be far deeper and broader than it first appears. Having a fulfilling sex life, even if it’s not what you thought it would be, is something worth fighting for but do fight for your partner on this issue, not against them and be prepared to adjust your expectations and to be very patient… these things absolutely cannot be rushed and the long-term goal is key.

Richard added his thoughts:

I think the most important thing here is not to focus on the sex.. Someone once said to me that sex is a good indicator of whether or not there is a problem in the relationship. I think that if a relationship is done properly, and both people are happy, comfortable and secure in the relationship, sex will follow, however if there are issues elsewhere in the relationship, sex will illustrate that.

The question to ask yourself is, what is wrong (other than the sex) and what can I (yes you, not the other person) do better in order to meet the other person’s needs, because if they are happier in the relationship, sex will usually follow. Unless you have married someone who has never been attracted to you, at one stage you were attracted to each other, so what has changed? Find out what the real issue is, fix that, and the sex will fix itself.

Unfortunately, we are all taught from an early age to look after ourselves first. that does not work in a marriage. If you look after your spouse first, they will in turn find it easier to look after you first, and then you will truly know what it is to love someone.. Then there will be no sex-issues.. I know it is hard work, and not as simple as it comes across, but the idea is a simple one, the practice is very hard.. But well worth it!

Karen had this to add:

Hi. Thanks Brett for your thoughts, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have been married for 17 years, separated for 3, not willingly, my husband says God gives him free will and he is exercising that. But that’s a whole different topic. With regards sex in marriage, I always felt that it was not the be all and end all of a marriage and that marriage was made up of so many more facets than just sex, but what I can say, in my humble opinion based on walking the journey of discovery of a broken marriage, and that is that sex life in marriage is an indicator of how healthy the marriage is, if I had known that, we could have sought counselling long before the marriage broke, instead I was accepting of my circumstances and the husband God had given me in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, etc….and therefore I did not use this as an indicator that there were serious problems. Many counsellors and leaders in churches that I know, when helping couples will ask what the sexual relationship is like to get an indication of the health of the marriage. So although it is not the be all and end all and both parties should be happy with the amount of sex that happens in the marriage, we have to make sure our marriages are healthy, that our relationship with God is healthy so that we lack nothing, that He fulfills our needs and makes us happy, so that we don’t expect our spouses to make us happy. We should have a firm and solid relationship with God and from there the fruits of the spirit will flow not only to the world out there, but definitely to our spouses. We are to communicate as soon as possible to the problems we feel exist and not ignore them for years on end. A happy and healthy person, makes a happy and healthy spouse and with God as the centre, a happy and healthy marriage with the right amount of sex for both.

Sedrico jumped in with this experienced wisdom:

Brett, being married for almost ten years now has been a roller coaster….it’s never a plain sail experience. The minute a man sits down with himself the better. He needs to admit that sex get less. Yes man, that’s the truth! Men don’t talk about it. They want to either let their buddies know that its cooking in the bedroom. Maturity in a marriage relationship is noticing the how, when and where especially when children are around. Also many couples have stressful jobs and sometimes just a cuddle, a long hug or a massage with no benefit to you is the best sensual experience your wife needs. It is frustrating for us, cause we want that physical thing. So sit down with yourself ‘young man’ study your wife and her moods and study the things she love: I know my Hazy loves Hazel nut chocolates, Monday bbm messages on her deadline day (she is a journalist) and me just being there and saying nothing on those off days. Like that song : More than words, you don’t have to say you love me cause I would already know….

Aidan had this to say:

 I think that it is possible to have a good marriage without too much sex if the love is there. If a marriage is based purely on sex, it will only last as long as the sex is there. Once that ends, the marriage will probably end if there is no love. However; a marriage based on love and respect will last no matter if sex is there or not. Ideally there is both.

They say that for all newlyweds, you can mark on your bedpost the number of times you have sex in the first 2 years of marriage and in the years after that, you will probably never reach that amount in the next 50 years of marriage. This is not to say that the marriage is breaking down. It is only natural that it would drop off.

In the natural and Biblical sense, people would marry, and then soon after kids would follow. The roles would change from a courtship type of phase to a more adult and parenting phase where sex is secondary and raising and supporting a family are of primary importance. In today’s environment, we see many young couples on contraception and this interferes with the natural order of things. We are of course living in modern times and people prefer to plan nowadays. The libido is not meant to be at an all time high continually. It is cyclic.

The question we should ask is whether sex in marriage is always an indicator of a bad marriage? I do not agree that it is. Libido is primarily physical for men and more emotional for women. If it is purely emotional then the marriage probably does have a problem. If sex is based on say 50% physical then it is not necessarily a marriage problem. It may be a health problem. It may be hormonal (men and women) and a lot of other purely physical factors.

I believe that when there is not enough sex in a marriage according to one partner, then they should both seek to 1. Improve their diet (zinc, avocado, vitamins) 2. Take up physical activity 3. Actively try to work on it. If that fails then there is probably a deeper emotional problem which would be more complicated to fix. For men, there is also Viagra which could be used if there is a physical problem.

It is important to communicate and try to find the source of the problem as a couple. Both are in it together and should find a solution together.

Fred brought up this point:

Problems with sex in marriage (and this take a number of forms, eg. wanting too much, only enjoying kinky sex, having sex but not ‘being there’, or no sex at all) can sometimes be connected with abuse earlier in life, in this case it is likely that help from professionals trained in sexual counselling (such as Relate in the UK) can help and patience will be required to pull through.

Then Julie came on and asked a number of questions that were largely around what type of things are permissible in marriage such as different positions and styles and in response to her, someone identifying herself as ‘A Friend’ shared some of her story:

Dear Julie,

I understand your frustration. Sometimes, you just want somebody to give you a yes or no answer to matters that aren’t specifically laid out in scripture. I think you’ll find, though, that God is pretty clear about several things: that marriage (and sex) is meant for His glory, and that He cares deeply about you and fulfilling your life purpose (living an abundant life in Him). He also gives us the Holy Spirit to guide these questions. So, I really encourage you to seek God’s will in this area, to find out if certain aspects of sex are sinful and self-serving, or if they are pleasures for us to enjoy with our spouses. You might find that you feel distant or close to God in these areas of life- and that might be an indication of the Holy Spirit’s leading.

My husband and I are newlyweds (5 years now), so I can’t claim a lot of wisdom on this. But, I have found that the more honest we are with each other, and the more we aim for each other’s pleasure and not our own, the better. I was assaulted many years ago, before I was married, and we have learned (through trial and error and many conversations) that it helps if my husband asks before even touching me. If I dream about my attacker, he wakes me up to hold me and to tell me that it is him, my husband, and that I am safe. We also learned that sex is better in the morning, during broad daylight. We learned that for me, a couple of times a week seems like a lot, and for him, a whole week between sex seems like a long time. It also helps him to know that when I don’t feel like sex, its often because I feel unlovable, not because I am not aroused by him. I had to tell him that (he doesn’t read minds- weird huh?). Because he is privy to this information about me, he validates me without expecting sex in return, which makes me love him more. He now feels very loved and appreciated when sex happens more often than i have expressed an expectation for. These observations are unique to us. Other couples have different strategies. But, we would not know these things if we had not explicitly talked about them.

It might seem unsexy, awkward, or an extreme mood killer, but talking about your expectations for sex (preferably when you’re clothed and not in the moment) has been really helpful to us. We have both been surprised at how deeply and overwhelmingly we have felt loved by the other because of this honesty.

there are a lot of interesting and, for the  most part, helpful thoughts and ideas here and so thank you to everyone who came on and commented [including a bunch of others i didn’t use] – i definitely think i will have some more to share about this, but there is plenty of food for thought here already and lots of space in the comments section below to engage with the ideas that were shared here. i think one important thing to note is that each marriage is made up of two very unique individuals and so sex for them will look different and although we can find helpful principles and guidelines to make it easier or better, it is not likely that we will find a blanket ‘this is how sex works’ to cover each and every sexual relationship out there.

how about you? was there a thought or idea that particularly resonated with you? was there something said that you strongly disagreed with? something we left out?

please come and have your say.

[for some more thoughts on your thoughts by Brett Fish and the beautiful Val, click here]

[Dani is a friend that tbV and i met while working with the Simple Way and she currently lives in San Francisco, which is just across the water from us, this is a piece she wrote a year ago which was published in Sojo.net and which she offered to share with us]

Dani Scoville

When my intoxicated friend leaned in to kiss me, I didn’t think I was just the most readily available girl. No, I convinced myself that his true affections for me were coming out. But the next morning, when I realized what it actually meant, I felt less worthy of being loved than I did before.

This wasn’t the first time I lied to myself in the moment and felt awful later, but I wanted it to be the last. I told my friend that wasn’t going to happen again, but I didn’t attempt to process why it happened. Then I was asked to organize an event around the intersection of spirituality and sexuality.

As I began reflecting on my past sexual interactions with men, I tried to bring God into the conversation for the first time.

It was easier to punish myself with guilt, follow youth group-style sexual boundaries or just say, “forget it” and do whatever I desired. I was reluctant to process my sexuality. Not only would it be a lot of work and uncover a lot of past hurt, but what if it unraveled foundational faith and lifestyle beliefs?

Up until six months ago, I had never questioned my decision to not have sex until I was married. I just did what I thought I was supposed to.

Once I began to reflect on it, though, I realized I was angry that God was asking me to wait. Or maybe it was OK to have sex, and God hadn’t told me sooner! I envisioned what would happen if I didn’t wait.

I decided that I would give my current relationship six months. If we were in love, I would give in.

But no matter how I attempted to deconstruct sex outside of marriage, I still felt that this change in my standards would result in me putting an unhealthy amount of expectation on that man to marry me. I knew that I would feel all those years of waiting were cheapened. Because, for me, sex holds an intense emotional and spiritual association.

I didn’t know all this until I questioned. And now, the only way I can envision having sex with someone is in a safe and committed context. This has also led to the more recent realization that I needed to revise my sexual boundaries in dating.

I listed all the events of the past year: what I enjoyed, what made me feel used, and what I needed to allow myself to enjoy. After I processed the last year, I thought about how my desire to be loved and accepted by a man was rooted in a desire to be love and accepted by God. If I first believe that I am God’s beloved, then I would be confident in my interactions with men, knowing I’m already loved and accepted.

So I drafted another list: this one of boundaries self-confident me would ideally want and be able to stick to. A week later, I met a guy who walked me home and kissed me good night at my gate. Rather than slam the gate in his face to make sure he didn’t come upstairs, I told him I was interested in him but that I wasn’t going to invite him in. When I woke up the next morning, I felt great.

I didn’t expect that deconstructing my sexual boundaries in the name of faith would cause me to develop boundaries. But these new ones aren’t oppressive, because they come from an understanding of myself. No one else came up with them but me. Now when the temptation to get a momentary intimacy fix is there, I’ll have my own voice and story reminding me to not give in and wait for something rooted in love.

[Dani Scoville lives in San Francisco and is an active member of ReImagine, a community focused on integrating the teachings of Jesus into daily life. to read more of what Dani writes, check out her blog, ‘Through the Roof Beams’ here]

[For another story on Singleness, meet my friend Beverley by clicking here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]

mashed potato

So subscribers of Irresistibly Fish [this blog] may or may not know that i started another blog three weeks ago called ‘The Weekly Mash [and peace!]’ which has a regular focus – so each day each week will have the same focus with Monday being something fun, Tuesday being a news-related post, Wednesday having something to do with relationships, Thursday having a God-focused, Jesus-following aspect and then Friday being ‘My Day’ where i can blog about whatever is on my mind in the moment. The idea is for a regular range of topics but also that people can pick and choose the days they want to read based on what their interest is and know what’s happening when. General life bloggage is still going to happen here though, but for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet but wants to take a look, here is the weekly summary:

Monday was a rare picture that made me laugh out loud the first time I saw it and which continues to make me chuckle: Cloud man

Tuesday was a look at celebrity marriage and seeing if we could learn anything from Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner or Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith

Wednesday brought us the Love when you’re angry umbrella cartoon reminding us that real Love goes beyond feelings

Thursday had a unique flavour using Wednesday’s cartoon to focus on the consequences of Loving God aspect

Friday was all about slowing life down and taking time, and making time, to be still and appreciate and live in the moment

[To view last week’s Saturday round up which featured the pope, a bigger God and the importance of looking after the earth]

Alexa O S Russell

Lex: Being single in a world and a community where relationships are celebrated and held up in high regard can be incredibly difficult…particularly when your single status is not a conscious choice, but rather a default at this point in life! People chuckle (and relate!) when you refer to your self as having a Bridget Jones kind of moment – the moment where you want to eat yourself silly on chocolate, or drink too much wine, or sit and belt out songs re: your loneliness and cry your way through a box of tissues because you have had too much chocolate, only to realise its not about the chocolate, but actually about the fact that there was no one to share the chocolate with.

Admitting to this seems so easy and natural and yet, can be a moment of intense vulnerability. No one wants to be perceived as being desperate and yet, we do want our feelings acknowledged! Acknowledging our feelings makes our sense of being single – both the pros and the cons – more real; which also means that at times we wish there were answers to this issue – simple, straight forward answers and the reality is that everyone has a different understanding and revelation of what relationships and being single means as an individual and as a Christian.

This writing is not about saying marriage is better than singleness or vice versa; it’s simply an honest expose of the fact that being single is not easy, that there are no simple answers and that what is true for one person may not be true for all! Both Karen and I have wrestled, shouted, cried, laughed, giggled and celebrated both our single and attached status. In discussions though, despite being in different countries, common themes have emerged as a part of our discussions in dealing with our singleness….. Karen has emerged as one of my married friends who is sensitive to the single issues – mostly as she has had the same roller coaster as the rest of us!

Our worlds as women…

• Fears and frustrations: single, courting/ dating & married

Lex: Oi vey – how to voice this without sounding horribly sad!

I am writing this because I am a firm believer that regardless of whether we are single, in a relationship or married, women have all had moments of issues of where we have had to wrestle with our relationships, our spirituality, the men in our worlds as well as the women around us. We fear that our dreams may never be realised, we get frustrated that the fact that men we love never seem to love us back; competition emerges between women who see each other not as support and allies but as competition for the pool of men. Frustrations grow when for some reason the men you are most attracted to are not Christians, are seemingly oblivious to interest in them, or play the push-pull game – come closer and the moment a woman dares hope that this might be a potential relationship, they get pushed away – only to be pulled back once the woman then walks away again. Nothing is more annoying than the dating/courtship game being masked by the “brother/sister” in Christ thing throw into the mix. How on earth are you ever supposed to figure anything out? Oh – and then there are all the “myths” that get thrown at you when you dare to mention feeling lonely, sad, annoyed or confused in this!

• Single v. married – how do we support each other

Lex: Regardless of what box you tick on forms regarding your marital status, the truth is that we all actually do need each other! So as a singleton how do I support my married friends and what is it that I need from my married friends?

I know my girlfriends are still my girlfriends regardless of their marital state! However the demands on my married friends in terms of their time are different to the demands on my single friends! Do we all need a little space at times? YES! Do we all need some girly time at times? Yes…..
I believe that I need to encourage time with my girlfriends on their own, but also with their partners. I believe that I need to be praying for righteousness and protection in their marriages and relationships. I need to recognise that as much as they have something I desire in being married, that this is not always the dream state we believe it to be.

The Myths we live with….

• You need to be so in love with Jesus before you will meet THE ONE or you need to look to God to fulfil you until you meet THE ONE!

Lex: At face value there is truth in this statement – however on reflection it struck me that God looked at Adam in his single state and stated:

“It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper comparable to him” Genesis 2:18.

People attempting to address dating, courtship, spirituality and singleness will often say that only God can truly fulfil all your needs. Yes, God is the Alpha and Omega, but I have to say that one of the most liberating comments I have ever heard as a singleton sitting in church was when the pastor mentioned as an aside, that if you are yearning for a relationship, that is a desire that is within you and that it is a desire that another person fills. At no point did the pastor turn this around and suggest that Jesus could do this – it’s a desire for relationship with another person in the flesh! Adam shared relationship with God, the creator, the biggest being in the known and unknown universe and yet Adam had a longing to be with another. It is something that is in our make up, and God, who made us this way, knows this.

• Only once you are truly content being single will you be in the space to meet THE ONE

Lex: My gut reaction to this is: What a load of decomposed brown stuff! If you are truly content in being single, then there really isn’t space for another. I honestly believe that this needs to be rephrased as:

Another person can not be the source of you feeling ok about you. Apart from which speak to any of the fabulous singletons you know who desire to be in a relationship, and they will tell you that life is sweet, but that they do and often wonder if they will meet the person that they will get to share life with! The only people I know who are truly content in being single are people who have consciously chosen this: A woman I work with who decided she is not interested in getting married ever, my Ouma who was married, and widowed for 24 yrs (She had “admirers”) – but once told me she did not want to meet another as she had had enough love from my Oupa to last her a lifetime…and um… hmmm…..actually I can’t think of anyone else! So, then if I follow that initial thought through, then there must be a) a lot of really content people out there or b) people wrestling to be truly content in God but not quiet there yet, so they can’t meet THE ONE! Neither of this makes sense, nor does it add up when I consider that God in His amazing generosity gave us the gift of intimacy on a variety of different levels – not just that of sex. Furthermore we are all works in progress and working things out as we go and live. I sometimes think we do ourselves a disservice by assuming that we need to be in “some” place – when the reality is this: I can be content in knowing God loves me, and passionate about Jesus, secure in the fact that I am created to have worth and a future which is more than I can dream of…and still be ok saying to God that I would like to share this journey with another.

• THE ONE needs to be quantified in a list in order for him to be realised

Lex: So on paper this makes sense – and I have friends who will tell you that their partner matched a list that they presented to God. Do I believe that it is wrong to do this?


Do I believe that it is always helpful to do this?


I have met guys who meet the criteria on my so called list and apparently the stuff that you can’t put on paper, like the sense of connection that happens in person was missing – and then I have met guys who mostly matched the list, who I connected with who never connected with me, or who matched the list, connected with me but I never connected with….or any of the above confused examples! Yes, God says we need to be specific in our prayers, but I think that part of the adventure of discovering others is going in with a clear idea of who God is in my life & who I am, and seeing if we fit from there. I have also realised that what I think I need is sometimes not really what I need….and who better to trust than the one who came up with the whole concept of relationship? So, a coffee needs to be a coffee….not an opportunity to cross-check a list! I do know that there need to be certain non-negotiable things before hand, like are you both serving God – the same one I mean? But there may be other things that are more optional than we think. The key here after lots of conversation with my married friends and friends in healthy long term relationships is that we need to learn to be open, without being desperate.

• THE ONE will only be available/ seen to you when you have it altogether

Lex: Get real! Show me one person who has it all together!!?! And if we have to have it altogether, why are relationships and marriage a described as a more than a little work then. I love that God is a God who surprises us and works through others to help heal our hearts

• Think about all the amazing things you get to do without having to consider another aka THE ONE

• THE ONE is one whom will share your identical passion and ministry

• THE ONE will know sexually what you want, need and desire…..

• There is a THE ONE out there and you will meet him

• Looks won’t matter to THE ONE

• Evaluating each man you meet – is he THE ONE?

• Your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life

So – in the MEANTIME…the challenges remain…

• Keeping your heart open to meeting someone , but living your life fully and in the confidence that you are loved, attractive and worthy

• Loving and supporting your single friends/ your married friends: Truth is that women need women…..so what does this mean?

Why put more thoughts on singleness or relationships down when the market is flooded?

Alexa: if I have to listen to any more of how singleness is a gift, or that there is a 3 point plan to deal with the yearnings of wanting someone in my space I will not be held liable for my reactions! Not true, I know people mean well, love me and what to see me happy….or perhaps are thinking – poor girl! She is way past it – at 34 in some communities I probably am. And yes at times I do lie in the bath with Vaya Con Dios, lots of bubbles and an accompanying beverage wondering about whether I will ever get to tick the box that says married. I wonder if I will ever get to put a MR “the one” down in the next of kin, or in case of emergency box….I have cried my eyes out in loneliness, and at other times celebrated the freedom I have in wearing bad clothes, not brushing my hair and eating cereal for supper for the 3rd night in a row!

Ultimately though I believe that I am created to be a wife and a mother – whether to biological children of my own or to children who enter my world so I can love them -but motherhood and a mother heart is not to be confused with the heart of a woman longing to love and be loved by the heart of a man, to be a princess and make someone a king, to have someone to yell at about his socks and the laundry basket never seeming to find each other. A friend who is not at all spiritual once said to me he does not know how or why it is, but he knows for a fact that people function best when we are in relationship; when we are with another. I have seen it before my eyes….have seen the truth in this statement.

I want to be the one who invests and believes and rejoices in bringing out the best in another and who can be softened and strengthened and grown by the presence of another.

Are there any guarantees that this is going to happen? No….

Do I believe that God knows, sees and hears the desires of my heart and has a plan for me? Yes…

Have I been angry and mad and disappointed in myself and in the men and women around me in the waiting for this to happen? Hell YES!

So what has and does help bring freedom in this?

Ironically a little common sense!

Knowing that I can trust God in this; knowing that once I am able to see the promises of God for what they are and trust that even though I can’t see the bigger picture and put limits on things, God can, does and will release things as and when He chooses; knowing that God also knows the people in my world, and I am guessing looks down and prompts people, but also know that people have free will…knowing that we choose potential partners for stuff that is unseen (and at times about us) more so than simply what is seen.

Freedom in a big way has come from allowing the wisdom of my women friends to be heard loud and clear. The single and the married ones – my mother, my heart sisters and sometimes those younger than me too…..

SO my freedom has come from figuring out who people are, opening and closing my walls so that good, safe people in my world stay and I learn to keep the others in a safer space….. ultimately, my freedom has come from saying to God and my friends, this is me, this is who I am – prepare my heart and life for the person I am meant to be, so that I can be the person who is able, open and wanting to love the people you put in my world.

Until then….i will have Bridget Jones’ moments….and that’s ok!

[you can read more of Alexa O S Russell’s writing on her ‘the outrageous introvert’ blog here]

[For the Intro page with the rest of the stories on Singleness, click here]

[For an inspirational post titled ‘I don’t wait anymore’ click here]

my friend Sheralyn has a very different [and absolutely amazing!] take on one way to love your spouse better – she has been married to Sam for four years now and they have a little boy called Malakai:



verb (used with object)

1. to take for granted or without proof: to assume that everyone wants peace

 Synonyms: suppose, presuppose; postulate, posit.

2. to take upon oneself; undertake: to assume an obligation.

sheralyn and sam cloete

Making your marriage work has a lot to do with how you think about your marriage and your spouse. So one way I know I can love my hubby better is to make assumptions! LOTS OF THEM! Normally we think assumptions are a bad thing, but that is really only if you are assuming the worst. In marriage you should always assume  the best. Always assume (take for granted) that your spouse loves you, wants what is best for you and does not want to say/do things that will intentionally hurt you.

Then when your spouse says or does something  that offends/hurts/irritates you (Because they will). Pause. Think, “Okay I know they love me and want the best for me, so maybe they meant that differently than I took it” / “Maybe they didn’t sms because they honestly are swamped with work” / “Perhaps they weren’t trying to undermine or criticize me.”/ “I will assume their brain is somewhere else for a second and they did not hear what I asked” etc. You can then ask for clarification/explanation, not from a place of hurt or frustration, but from a place of wanting to understand them better. That will dramatically affect your tone, wording and imaginings.

Starting for the place where you assume your spouse loves you, helps you to respond lovingly, it helps you focus truth, rather than fanciful lies you might get caught up in imagining. And who knows it may even help your spouse to really love you more.

 In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable.

You can read more of Sheralyn’s writing and thoughts at her lovemultiplied blog which lives here.

[to read Brett Fish share about being present, click here]

Robert is a friend that tbV and i met once in Americaland at a protest of sorts and have since become strong online friends and co-appreciators of Pearls Before Swine and other shared forms of humour as well as sharing in a hunger for following Jesus – he has been married to Heather for close to 18 years and while this is more of a story than a ‘one thing to learn’ piece, there is a lot in here to help us be better at loving our spouse…

Robert and Heather [a few years ago]

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor,without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:23-33 ESV

I’ll bet that most people who read the above passage and the other various passages probably know the verse that comes before this better than this passage. While they may come from various different positions, almost everyone can rattle off “Wives submit to your husbands” and know that it comes from this letter of Paul’s (it is also in Colossians 3:18 and 1 Peter 3:1 I’m not going to get into a discussion of those passages. Instead, however, I’d like to talk about the husband’s role. And, to be honest, while I could probably do a pretty decent job of discussing the biblical text and all that goes into it… I’m not. You see, probably more important than the way I interpret the words of Paul and explain them is how I live it out. So, let me tell you what I do as I try and figure out what it means to love my wife as Christ loved the church.

My wife’s body is not in the best of condition these days. Oh, don’t go there… I’m quite pleased with her appearance and such. She’s a gorgeous woman and I am constantly amazed that she married a geeky nerd like me. But folks who read my blog know that we are heading into the seventh month of a journey we never asked for, that of cancer and the treatments that go along with it. So, when I say my wife’s body is not in the best of condition, I mean that between surgeries, medicines, side-effects, etc., it’s a little bit broken right now and needs a bit of healing and fixing up. Because of that, she can’t do what she would normally be able to do as a wife, a homemaker, and a mother, three roles that she deeply loves to fulfill. As much as she wants to, she just can’t.

Now, I’m no paragon of masculinity with a well functioning body, buff and ripped with that fabulous Adonis-like form. I’ve got my issues and my problems. But, right now, I’ve got a lot more capability to do stuff than my wife so, in comparison, I’m doing pretty good. There are also things that are my roles in life that I deeply love. I love being a preacher, I love being a scholar, I love being that big strong Daddy to my little girls, I love doing the handyman thing around the house, and I love being a husband to my lady-love. These are the things I do. However, during this particular time in our “one-flesh” life, some of this I have to give up. As much as they are my strengths, as much as they are my heart passion, I can’t do the preacher thing as much any more. I can’t spend hours on end reading books and pontificating about the things I learn. There are all sorts of other little pleasures I have in life that I need to set aside. Why? Because I love my wife.

Let me give some examples.

My wife and I both love to cook. In fact, we “fight” over the kitchen sometimes because we love it so much. Usually it’s her anyways because I don’t get back from my commute until almost 6:30 at night. But these days, when she can’t cook a meal because she’s too tired or in too much pain, I put down my laptop case, throw off my coat, strap on an apron and head to the kitchen to cook.

We have two girls who cannot decide which of their two loving parents they want to have read bedtime story to them at night. So, my wife and I split the duty where we each get one kid every night and, the next night, we switch. That way, each girl gets some Mommy nights and each girl gets some Daddy nights. However, when she can’t tuck the kids in at night because it is too painful to trudge up the stairs, I scoop up both of my girls and give them their snuggles and love before bed.

We try to live a simpler life than most. Because of that, we decided a long time ago to be a one income family. My wife had no aspirations to be a career woman. Teaching piano lessons, being Mommy, and keeping house were her biggest goals. So, I do the work thing and she stays home. And since she has the time, she takes care of stuff around the house during the day so that, in the evenings and weekends, we can be a family together. But when she can’t do the laundry, sweep the floors, scrub the toilets, clean out the fuzzy-green monsters from the refrigerator, wash the dishes, etc., because she has used up all her energy from the day simply getting dressed in the morning, I stop being the husband and start being the homemaker for a time.

My wife has ceded to me the recliner in the living room because it fits my body better than hers. It is a very comfy chair and it is my default seat in the evenings. But these days, when she needs the comfy chair in the living room because she needs to prop up various body bits to alleviate the discomfort, I give up my man-chair so it can nurture her wounds.

All part of being a stay-at-home-mom (and because I don’t get home in the evenings until almost 6:30 at times), my wife gets to play taxi and drive the daughters around to their various thingies. But pain, fatigue, exhaustion, etc., makes it so she can’t do this. When she needs me to drive the kids to school, flute lessons, horseback riding lessons, friends’ houses, church, Sunday school, youth group… basically everything that the Mom Taxi Service does, I use my vacation time to stay home so that the family continues to run smoothly and “normal” is preserved.

Note something here: I don’t do all this stuff because I HAVE to. I do it because I WANT to.

My time is not my own. My energy is not my own. My desires are not my own. Everything that is me, I give up so that my wife has the space, time, energy, and rest she needs to heal. It is my way of nourishing her, cherishing her so that she can, someday, get back to doing what she does.

But, to be honest, I’m not going to give up giving up for her. When she finally gets back to full health (and I trust in my God enough that I KNOW that will happen), there will still be days when I tell her to sit down and prop up her feet while I get a few things done around the house. There will still be days where she gets a well deserved day off and is allowed to rest and replenish herself. And I hope, honestly, that this journey we are on right now will train me up better so that those days will be more frequent than they were before this whole thing came down.

The situation my wife and I find ourselves is a bit extreme. Not every marriage faces these challenges. But every marriage, as I see it, should have this kind of sacrifice as the absolute core of what it means to love one another. Love is not about what you can get out of the marriage. Love is about what you put into it. I’m putting my entire self into it, sacrificing everything that is me in order that my wife will know how absolutely essential she is to me. Before I was married, I thought I was a complete person. Now that I’ve been married for almost 18 years, I cannot even begin to understand how I could have ever been so mistaken. Because of that, I give myself, my life, to my wife “as Christ loved the church”.>

[to read what Sheralyn Cloete has to say about making good assumptions, click here]

brett fish and tbV on bench

Note, this is remarkably different from “be incontinent” so try not to get confused. [in fact to be honest one of the definitions listed was “Not restrained; uncontrolled” and i am going to be speaking to exactly the opposite of that…]

At the point of writing this, my wife aka the beautiful Val, is currently in Americaland while i am still in South Africa [that is about to change in 5 days time though, can’t wait!] and if all i was going to say in this post was ‘be on the same continent’ then most of you could probably skip this one and move on to the next one – being on the same continent is something the majority of married couples seem to get right most of the time.

But what i am really wanting to be speaking into is the idea of being present, because there might be times when physically you are around your partner, but because of where you are in your mind [distracted] or your body [watching tv, sending a text] you may as well be on a different continent. You might feel like you have given your partner important time that you could have spent being somewhere else or doing something else [which you might be inclined to tell them – don’t!] but for them it might feel like you weren’t really all that interested or invested in what they were saying.


There may be times when this is not possible or easy – you might be in the middle of fixing a very delicate piece of equipment as your wife comes to have a chat with you or be watching the final two minutes of extra time in the World Cup Soccer final with your side 1-0 but making a monumental counter-attack down the field… and in those cases it might be good to ask for a few minutes first to quickly finish what you are doing before you give your attention. But for the most part when your person wants to speak to you, try as far as possible to stop what you are doing, to look them in the eyes and give them your full attention while they speak to you. This could be for really important conversations or it could be while your wife tells you how her shopping trip went, but the more times you actually stop what you are doing, put things you are busy with down and sit and look her in the eyes and pay attention to what she is saying, the more loved she will feel. [Especially if you are able to pull yourself away from an important game or activity – it communicates “You are important to me and i want to give you my full attention!”]


There is nothing that says “I am listening to you” more directly than eye contact. If at all possible [and it usually is] look at your person when they are speaking to you. If it is necessary to hold them with a “just a moment” so you can put aside your phone, turn the tv off, walk to where they are standing or sit next to them, then do it and look them in the eyes and say, “What is it you wanted to tell me?” This may feel a little awkward if you are not used to doing it, but for most people it can be such a powerful thing. And unlike incontinence this is about being restrained and in control. Be intentional about giving the person you love the knowledge that you care about them and what they have to say. And being present means really listening to what they are saying, not starting to come up with your response half way through their sentence. Listen to the end and then respond.

turn cellphone to silent


Different people feel differently on this one, but i feel so completely strongly about it that it is worth mentioning. If you meet me for coffee and while we are hanging out your phone rings and you answer it, what that communicates to me is that at that moment, for you, anyone in the whole world [even a wrong number] is more important to you than me. If you want to show me love and that you care about me, you will turn your cellphone off when you have chosen to spend time with me. My buddy Dunc in the past has told me he is expecting a business call and then i don’t mind at all because he has invited my permission and shown me he cares for me that way. If you can turn your phone off for the duration of a movie or church service or business meeting, then please show me i am more important than those things when we have chosen to hang out. Obviously different situations dictate different things [i’m not saying never have your phone on around me]

Being present can be such a hugely significant thing in a relationship. It communicates love and priority, care and attention, focus and intentionality… it says “You are important to me. I care about spending time with you. I am interested in what you have to say.”

if you’re feeling brave, go and ask your spouse on a scale of one [being completely distant] to ten [being absolutely present and involved] how would they rate you? this might bring about some frightening results, but it may provide a catalyst to help you start working on an aspect of your relationship that could really use it.

[to continue on to Rich E’s one way to love your spouse better with an excellent activity on listening, click here]

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