Before my first marriage, I had four years of dating and fighting and breaking up and getting back together and
Before my first marriage, I had four years of dating and fighting and breaking up and getting back together and
Steve and Rhonda sat down to talk about their new book, Marriage Mentor.
Allow me to answer this with a quote from Steve in The Marriage Mentor:
“Rhonda and I have discovered that the key to a happy marriage is found in spiritual growth. And I know the same will be true for you and your marriage.
“When I use the phrase spiritual growth, please understand I am not encouraging you to be more religious. Jesus urged His followers to love the Lord with all of their being (Mark 12:30). When your love for God becomes the single most important goal of your life, then prayer, Bible reading, walking in obedience to His Word, and loving your spouse will all become natural outpourings of your love for Christ.
“As you devote yourself to spiritual growth, you’ll find lasting joy because you will learn to think biblically about your marriage relationship and life’s circumstances… The result will be for your blessing and God’s glory, and your marriage will shine as a bright light of hope to a generation who desperately needs to know that following Christ is the only answer to all of life’s problems—and the source of a happy marriage.”
From Steve’s experience as a pastor and biblical counselor, he contributed amazing wisdom and insights to guide couples toward building the type of marriage they long for. In the over three decades that Steve has met with husbands and wives, he has heard their deepest longings and disappointments in their marriages. So, he does a great job addressing these issues in the book.
Steve has watched what God can accomplish in any couple willing to let Him transform their marriage, so he believes in the principles laid out in The Marriage Mentor. From Steve’s contribution readers will find hope that they too can have the marriage they’ve always dreamed of.
Although Steve prefers to mentor face to face, he rolled up his sleeves and did an amazing job co-authoring The Marriage Mentor. Because Steve is a “guy’s-guy,” men relate well to his easy-to-read and honest writing style. At one point in the book he tells the men, “I get it, you’re not a reader. Well, I’m not a writer, but I’m doing this for you. I care about your marriage and I think you care about it too. So, let’s go through this together.”
Steve also wrote, “After a game, a good coach will have his players watch replays of the game—instructing them to evaluate their performance. This process is effective in coaching and is also an important practice for any man who wants to better himself as a husband, father and man of God.”
The book is divided up into sections for the wives to read and another for the husbands to read. Steve cleverly put in gray boxes the short sections for husbands, so the men will clearly see the portions of the book written specifically for them. And I got to jump in and write my own short insight to the husbands. Steve also wrote a section for wives, to help them see from their husband’s perspective.
The idea of the book is to make the readers feel like they’re just hanging out with an older couple who is devoted to helping them become the couple they long to be. We hear from lots of couples who are reading the whole book together and are really enjoying it.
Talk about a mentoring moment. Parenting is made up of so many opportunities to mentor our own children. Ask God daily to give you His wisdom to guide their little hearts toward Christ and His purpose for their lives. Our culture tends to influence our kids to believe that our happiness and worth lies in how well we are loved by Prince (or Princess) Charming. Every happily-ever-after fairytale drives home this point. Watch cartoons with your kids to teach them to think about how the story measures against a biblical worldview.
True happiness does not lie in how special your spouse makes you feel, rather it lies in finding your worth in the love of Almighty God who created you for His pleasure. Help your kids see that God demonstrated His deep love for them by sending His precious Son to rescue them from their sin, to capture their hearts for Himself and His Kingdom purpose for their lives.
Jesus said the student will become “like his teacher” (see Luke 6:40). So, if you learn to find your own worth in God’s great love for you, and you let your spouse off the hook when they’re not making you feel valued, by your example, your kids can learn the secret to happiness in marriage.
For couples, young and old, unmet expectations are one of the main issues that undermine the fiber of a relationship. When mentoring a young couple, you have the privilege of helping them learn, before it becomes a bad habit, not to go down the road of dwelling on ways their spouse disappointments them.
Falling in love is all in your mind and staying in love is too. When your relationship was new, you likely dwelt on all the wonderful attributes of your love. The trouble comes when a couple stops intentionally thinking good thoughts about their spouse.
Steve advises, “Think about what you think about.” In Philippians 4, you’ll find the secret to peace lies in the practice of thinking on whatever is good, right, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, praiseworthy and excellent. Notice the Apostle Paul said to “practice” these things? That’s because, for most of us, dwelling on someone’s good qualities isn’t our default. But with God’s help you can take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and ask Him to help you replace “stinkin’ thinkin’” with loving thoughts toward your spouse. And your thoughts will instruct your heart how to feel.
Decide daily to enjoy your spouse. Some of the best marriages are enjoyed by couples who make the time and effort to playfully delight one another.
Steve closes the book with this charge: Life goes through seasons, some happy, some sad, and some just really hard. But realize that this is life for all of us. Determine, with God’s help, to draw near to Christ and one another amidst life’s triumphs and trials. Even when you’re in a season of status quo, don’t forget to live with your sights on Christ and eternity. This focus will not only get you through, but it will help you live above life’s circumstances to find true joy and peace in your marriage and in all aspects of life.
Steve and I recently had the honor of meeting Dr. James Dobson. For 40 years his ministry has mentored countless marriages. When Dr. Dobson asked Steve, “After three decades in ministry what’s the one thing that weighs most on your heart?”
Steve’s eyes welled with tears as he replied, “I want to finish well.”
Dr. Dobson reached over and grasped Steve’s arm and tearfully responded, “Me too… me too.”
No matter what season of life you’re in or what you’ve accomplished in the past, realize the importance of living with the unwavering resolve to finish well. This generation needs the hope of the gospel and godly mentors to guide them toward lives well lived. If you’ve been married for a number of years, it’s time to strengthen your marriage so you are ready to mentor other couples toward marriages that honor Christ.
I’m so thankful for the older couples God brought to mentor me and Steve. Seeing them live out their love gave us hope that we too could grow more in love with each passing year. Through mentorship, they passed the baton to us, and now we are passing it on to the next generation. Soli deo gloria!
This book is an interactive resource for couples. It can also be used as a small group study. On my website, readers can find audio links of me teaching the wives. There are also videos of Steve and I sharing the high points of each chapter.
We’ve written a bonus chapter on finances that we are offering free for a limited time to anyone who signs up for our newsletter and lets us know they read the article.
It’s all around us, permeating our senses. This thing — let’s call it the “L” word — is ever so subtle, creeping into the crevasses of our minds though sites, sounds, smells, and conversations. No one seems to notice it until devastation hits.
Many believe lust is harmless. They think it has no ill effects, is fun, and adds spice to a marriage. But the alarming truth is lust destroys hundreds, if not thousands, of marriages every day.
Scriptures speaks clearly about what lust involves:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28).
For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — come not from the Father but from the world (1 John 2:16).
An “I did everything but” attitude still fails to honor a marriage. Frequently I hear, “We didn’t have sex” or “I kept my pants on.” First of all, kissing, massage, using sex toys, masturbation, and oral or anal sex — is sex. Sending sexually explicit messages or photos is lust. Lust begins with the eyes, the heart, and the mind.
Here are eight faulty beliefs that subtly lead men and women away from fulfilling their wedding vows:
Too many men and women have the attitude that they can “look at the menu” as much as they want, as long as they don’t order anything. There is ignorance in this attitude. Innocent looks and playful conversations can lead to bigger problems far too easily. Flirtations are “emotional adultery.” There’s no other way to slice or dice it.
Many men and women feel they can tame the beast of lust, underestimating the enemy they fight. You don’t have to go looking for lust-causing images — they will find you. Temptations are aggressive, accessible, available, and appealing. We can never choose to go toe-to-toe with them and expect to come through them; to choose this is prideful, foolish, and unbiblical.
Scripture says, Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? (Proverbs 6:27-28).
The foolish man in Proverbs 7 believes no one will catch him in his act of adultery. This foolish attitude is the same as someone who constantly gives into porn or emotional or physical affairs. Instead we need to live lives of confession, exposing sin to trusted friends, pastors, or mentors.
When the one more look drags you toward sexual sin, take ten long looks at the cross of Jesus. Think about Jesus’ stunning sacrifice, his great love, his awesome freedom, and his gripping grace gifted to you when he saved you by his death on the cross. We are free from addiction and struggle and sin because he beat it all on the cross. We are no longer a slave to our lusts. We are sons and daughters of his love and glory. So embrace that truth and live it by constant repentance and faith.
It is important to take a serious inventory of our lives, to really think about what we are doing and if we might be crossing the line. When an impulsive heart meets with pornography or with an all-too-vulnerable friendship, this is the first step on the road to immorality. We will not stumble into purity or trip into godliness. We must aim for it.
You think you are somehow different from others. You’re either guilty of incredible pride or incredible ignorance (or both). Sexual sin is a road to spiritual death; there are no exceptions. You don’t want to be the exception. Being the exception means that God never brings your sins to light, never brings you to conviction, and thus never leads you to repentance. You are not “just in a season” of weakness. Be honest with yourself and with God, admit selfishness, and seek God’s mercy.
Be aware that we all have the tendency to rationalize sin. Be aware of vulnerable moments when we’re likely to want to rationalize: when we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
Marriage was never intended for isolation, but for community with fellow believers in Jesus Christ. The more we isolate, the more vulnerable we are to sin. When we invite others into our lives who get to know us at a deeper level, we create an environment for a greater honesty and transparency.
To remain physically, emotionally, and spiritually faithful in marriage requires diligence, prayer, community, and accountability. Hopefully, awareness of how quickly lust creeps into our line of vision provides an avenue for doing more than keeping it at arms length. We must make a daily choice to keep lust away from our hearts and minds.
Portions of this were adapted from 13 Ways to Ruin Your Life by Jarrod Jones.
The myth of having more sex— that if a wife was more sexually active with her husband, it would offset his sexual acting out — is a painful, false belief woven into the fabric of our culture. It permeates the thinking of almost everyone I see at my office. A surprisingly high number of counselors and pastors believe this myth too! Yet is is incredibly damaging to the man who struggles sexually. It is equally as damaging to the wife who believes it.
This myth perpetuates both the deficient emotional intimacy issues that underlie acting out as well as the neural chemistry of acting out. Increasing frequency of sexual intercourse with one’s wife usually services only to create an expanded context for acting out. Now, in addition to a computer, a hotel room, an office, or a strip club being the place where sexual misconduct occurs, it also takes place in the marriage bed. The husband’s view of his wife changes from seeing her a a beautiful child of God and deal treasured companion to viewing her as another object available for vaginal masturbation. Does that sound harsh? it should because it is harsh.
Now, in addition to a computer, a hotel room, an office, or a strip club being the place where sexual misconduct occurs, it also takes place in the marriage bed…
This is what happens, though, when we use our wife for sexual gratification devoid of any aspect of deep, loving emotional intimacy. Moreover, when a wife agrees to do sex differently, meaning more “exciting” or “exotic” by trying different positions, clothing, conversation, or implements, she simply becomes an equivalent of the husband’s debilitating porn, a personal prostitute—and neither husband nor wife consciously perceives this. To an addict, this request to his wife is nothing more than vicariously clicking his computer mouse. His wife becomes an object to be manipulated for his desire, not to connect with her soul, not to honor God, not to show love, not to create a bond unlike any other on the planet. Instead, simply to get off.
Transforming one’s wife into a object for gratification is cruel, demeaning, and frankly, a slap in God’s face. Objectification takes the gift of a wife who has been generously joined to a husband for mutual benefit and development and crassly converts her into a ting to gratify his selfish desires.
Engaging in heightened sexual arousal and experimenting in the bedroom can be perfectly fine and, in fact, create a new level and type of intimacy for a couple whose sexual trust has not been broken. But if you’re trying to restore trust in you relationship in the aftermath of sexual betrayal, you cannot risk reinforcing your old additive thought patterns. The neural networks associated with those thought patterns are connected to the kind of compartmentalization that allows someone to live a duplicitous life.
For wives who buy into this myth, the resulting problems can be as bad as those of their husband. Sometimes wives believe that if they were more sexually active with their husband, it would offset his sexual acting out. As with all myths, there is a sliver of truth here, but the reality is that a wife’s sexier behavior may curb his acting out outside the bedroom, but it won’t change what happens in his heart and mind inside the bedroom. His character and attitude as it pertains to his sexuality will remain unchanged.
A wife who acts on a belief that more or different sex will prevent further sexual indiscretions will only prolong her husband’s core problem. She will delay his healing and, unfortunately, hurt herself too. This occurs in these ways.
First, the wife can become a personal prostitute in exchange for personal security. The currency she is paid is the semblance of security that her heart won’t be violated again. Wives often report feeling backed into a corner on this one, because they feel forced to choose between two bad options. On the one hand, they might not feel the emotional or spiritual intimacy necessary for authentic sexual engagement, yet they still feel compelled to oblige sexually. They end of allowing their bodies to be used for their husband’s gratification. It’s worth noting that many wives report that they struggle with thoughts about when, how, and with whom their husband has done the same thing. They ask, “Did he touch her this way?” “Did he say these things to another women?” “Did he look for pictures of women doing these acts?” Their minds become a mental prison cell, and the torturer is their husband. On the other hand, should the wife choose not to engage sexually, the risk is that her husband will act out again, thus violating her heart and send of security.
The second problem with a wife who buys into the “more sex will help” myth is that if she’s asked to behave in ways she isn’t comfortable with in the bedroom, this can translate into a loss of her sense of self. In other others, she has to become or do something other than who she really is. This is not the picture of a marriage where each partner is seeking to honor the uniqueness of a God-created individual.
It pains me to hear men say they are disappointed with their wife’s willingness to be exciting in the bedroom. Too often they are communicating a secret, almost subconscious reality. Their idea of what should go on in the bedroom is tainted by what they’ve seen in porn! If you want your wife to behave, move, sound, and look like the scripted, artificial, manufactured, airbrushed images you’ve seen on-screen, you will be perpetually disappointed. Ad she will always feel like she is playing second fiddle to your unrealistic fantasies, resulting in a wound of inadequacy.
The third problem for a wife regarding the “more sex” myth is that she may have to manufacture pursuit, which feels very patronizing. Many women end up losing themselves, or at least a sense of themselves, when they begin to act out sexual desire for their husband.
Manufacturing pursuit means a wife must somehow contrive a situation or circumstance that results in sex, thus mitigating her husband’s acting out. She may do things or be someone other than who she authentically is in order to satisfy her husband sexually.
This is what that looked like at our house. My wife, Shelley, confronted me about an affair. I manipulated her and lied about the information she had. A few days later I told her that I had “almost” cheated and that it was her fault. The truth was that I was having an affair and was looking for any reason to justify and rationalize my behavior other than accept full responsibility. As such, I targeted Shelley with my excuses and manipulated her into owning them. I said she she wasn’t sexy enough, especially in the bedroom. She donned this burden and set out to rectify her alleged problem in an attempt to please me.
She began shopping at stores she otherwise would never have shopped at. She began wearing lingerie, which was out of the ordinary for her. She began dressing in ways that were more revealing and immodest. She tried to become someone she wasn’t, someone she never wanted to be. But she was willing to “spice it up” to save our marriage and mitigate the risk of my acting out and destroying her heart again.
Do you see what a disgusting, disrespectful way this is to treat another person? Would you or I like to be treated this way?
If you want to effectively restore your wife’s trust in you, it’s important that you not get derailed by this myth associated with trust-building and relational restoration. Understanding this myth will help manage your expectations about the process. It’s really not true that more or more exciting sex will keep a man from wandering and curb his sexual acing out, In fact, in most cases, it makes things worse.
Adapted from Worthy of Her Trust by Stephen Arterburn and Jason B. Martinkus Copyright © 2014 by Stephen Arterburn and Jason B. Martinkus. Published by WaterBrook Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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