This week the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down. I am a generally an apolitical individual and this blog is about marriage. It’s the marriage part that bears some relevance here. DOMA was a federal law put in place to appease conservatives who wanted to protect a traditional view of marriage. President Bill Clinton signed DOMA – which is why it applies in federal settings – as a way to get some legislation he wanted passed. In a sense, this was a very cynical law. Even when he signed it, I believe he knew that it would eventually be done away with by either other legislation or the courts. This week the courts pronounced the inevitable.
A traditional view of marriage is now ultimately a thing of the past in this country. By traditional, I mean marriage between one man and one woman. There is now no going back. More States will provide marriage and full rights to gay partners and someday other arrangements will be accepted as legitimate as well (such as polygamy). I follow this issue as a Professor who teaches on the topic of Marriage and Family for my college. With my class we have had lively discussions about the arguments for and against gay marriage. For purposes of debate some of the arguments are not only interesting but instructive. In the introductory chapter of my book, Perfect Circle: A Husband’s Guide to the Six Tasks of a Contemporary Christian Marriage, I mention that the United States has the second highest divorce rate on the planet. The country with the highest rate is Russia our old Cold War rivals. Clearly, neither side of that conflict has a good handle on sustaining marriages. This leads to the gay argument that gay couples can do better than heterosexuals in avoiding divorce. Perhaps they can, but only for a while. Human nature and our sin nature are not undone by our political maneuverings. Marriage takes work. It takes a reliance on the Holy Spirit and guidance by the Bible. There are many tasks that need to be accomplished in our unique contemporary setting if marriage is to be sustained, hence my book to help husbands love their wives.
I plead with my brethren in traditional marriages like my own to take up the challenge offered by the gay lobby, “Can we have marriages that last longer and are more loving than theirs?” Regardless of how you feel about the politics of the gay agenda, here is a way to respond in most non-hypocritical manner possible. Show everyone that you can create a successful and sustaining marriage. Study the Bible and study what makes marriage work. That will be an indefensible defense of your marriage.
It’s a family joke. My oldest daughter had a swim coach for her competitive swim club who used to tell the swimmers that if they wanted to swim faster they should “go faster”. He was actually a very successful coach with this rather ridiculously profound formula. So it became a family joke that whenever one of my kids encountered a school or sports challenge we would say with tongue in cheek, “go faster” or “study harder” or some variation on that theme. We would laugh all the while knowing there was an element of truth to the joke.
Marriages are about hard work. This is one of the ideas that I explore in my book, Perfect Circle: A Husband’s Guide to the Six Tasks of a Contemporary Christian Marriage. The second task is on the topic of love. Husbands are commanded directly by God to love their wives. My book chapter provides insight into how to carry out the command to love. However, it is a very a profound reality that often what we really need to do is just “love more”.
In order for my daughter to swim faster at swim meets she has to swim faster in her daily practice sessions. In order for my son to be a better cross country runner he has to run faster in his daily running work outs. In order for me to a have a better quality marriage I need to love my wife more on a daily basis. I can’t show up to the race having gone slow for weeks on end and expect to do well. Unless a husband does a better job of loving his wife on a day to day basis the marriage does not improve. If you want a better marriage – love more.
Don’t neglect to buy a copy of Perfect Circle and review the chapter called, Show Love.
Here is a thought about avoidance in honor of Father’s day.
When my father was upset he used to go in our garage and sweep. I had a client who built a movie theater out of his garage and everyday after work he spent his time watching pornography. This did not please his wife or family. Many of my clients have issues with looking at or reading pornography on the internet. So, I thought I would occasionally address the topic.
I live in Florida and I love to grow stuff. Citrus and tomatoes grow well in Florida. I love apple trees, but it would be futile to grow an apple tree in Florida. It just would get nowhere – no matter much time and money I invested in the process. That is exactly what it is like with pornography. You know the outcome already. The end is futile lust – and the end is always the same. Jesus said that bad trees cannot produce a good crop. All the money, time, and mental investment in viewing pornography will only produce the same lonely outcome. It’s futile.
The definition of idiocy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Nothing good will ever come out of pornography. You may protest that it produces an interest in sex in your tired body – which you tell yourself is good for your sex life. The only problem is that you actually light-years away from your spouse. You are committing mental adultery and that is not any more exciting for her than the guy in the garage.
Here’s my suggestion. Flee immorality. Stay away from pornography wherever you find it. And whenever you are tempted say to yourself in a indignant voice, “It’s futile”. Repeat it several times until you feel convinced. Then go sweep your garage out.
In the month of May there is always a lot of talk about what to do for our spouses on Mother’s Day. If you really want to do something special and actually meaningful – do this: commit to giving her Sundays off for the rest of your marriage.
The biggest problem I see my in counseling with couples these days is simply that people are too busy. Everyone is stressed and burnt out. This places a very big toll on our relationships. We are too tired for a decent sex life, we fight and quarrel due to sheer exhaustion, we eat on the run in an unhealthy manner, and often just don’t have time to communicate and plan properly. This is especially true when a husband and wife both work. It is usually the wife who is also doing double duty with domestic responsibilities hence our wives are simply exhausted and so it follows as above; no sex, no good home cooked meals, and no good time of talking.
I read an article in USA Today which described a town in California that was encouraging the voluntary elimination of all activities on Monday nights so that families could just be at home together; no church, no sports, no meetings, etc. The article also gave the quote that “people have lost the art of doing nothing”. Perhaps this is what your marriage needs – nothing!
When counseling overly time committed couples, I often wish I could stop our sessions and order them to take a nap. Come back and see me after you have slept for say, three days. In Kindergarten our teachers used to make us take naps. In the Ten Commandments, God does the same. He says that everyone needs one day a week to rest and honor Him. We respond restlessly, just like we tried to do on those mats in Kindergarten. This is probably the most blatantly ignored commandment. We can’t possibly follow this command because we are too busy. So, we never rest and our marriages suffer. What does that Commandment actually say? Deuteronomy 5:12-15 says:
12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. (NIV, from Bible.com).
Notice that the above commandment is speaking to the man of the house. It is extolling him to get everyone and even the animals in line with the command. Today’s husband who wants to have a successful marriage would do well to do the same. Stop all work on Sunday (or one day a week), go to church together, worship God, read and pray together, relax and sleep. Tell the kids if you have them that mom will not be cooking, not chauffeuring, shopping or generally running around. If you are working couple – no business work for either of you until after sundown. This leaves time to do the things undone above. Amazing how God thought of that. He stated that He “rested” after His work of creation (see Genesis 2:1-3). Of course He didn’t need to rest; He was just setting a pattern for us to follow for our own good.
Taking your wife out on Mother’s Day or giving her the day off is actually a big rip-off. One day in 365 is not enough. One is seven is the plan. You both really need it. Make it happen and your marriage will improve – it’s a promise.