Archives For marriage

Marriage Is Good Work

Tim Jackson —  March 4, 2013 — 3 Comments

Ben Afleck Jen GarnerAt the recent Academy Awards, Ben Affleck, the director for the Best Picture category in 2012, made a revealing comment in his acceptance speech that created quite a stir for some who can be critical of just about any dialog.

In his excitement and rush to thank everyone involved in the movie, he proceeded to thank his wife, Jennifer Garner, with these words:

“I want to thank my wife . . . for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases. It’s good . . . it is work, but it’s the best kind of work . . . and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”

When I heard his comments, I thought, Wow! Here’s someone in the spotlight who isn’t ashamed to say that marriage is work—good work, hard work, and the best kind of work.

What a refreshing splash of reality in a world, and especially in an industry, that has made generous profits on creating unrealistic expectations for romantic relationships. The reality for many is that, whether they are aware of it or not, they’ve been influenced by the computer-generated media mythology that genuine love just happens. The new measure of the success or failure of a love relationship has become personal happiness and fulfillment. And if your partner or spouse doesn’t do it for you anymore, then it’s time to move on and find someone else who does.

The reality check is that if you listen to anyone who is honest about building a marriage, that person acknowledges that it takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to construct something substantial that can go the distance. It takes hard work, and that’s what real love requires.

Whether he knew it or not, Ben was echoing the ancient wisdom found in the Proverbs 24:3-4:

By wisdom a house it built,

and through understanding it is established;

through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Now honestly, I don’t know Ben and Jennifer. I have no insights into their personal lives (and this is not an endorsement). But my hunch is that those who took potshots at him with comments like “Ben Affleck could probably use a ladder to get out of that hole he dug himself into at the Oscars last night when he called out the imperfections in his marriage” probably reveals more about the chronic cynicism that is all too prevalent when it comes to marriage.

His final comment to his wife was a precious affirmation of loyalty: “and there’s no one I’d rather work with.” I know for a fact that most wives would love to hear that kind of unabashed affirmation of fidelity from their husbands.

And that’s a good reminder for all of us who are married. Is marriage work? Hard work? Yes! But it’s good work and the best kind of work. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work loving each other well.

Love is blind . . .

Tim Jackson —  February 7, 2012 — 11 Comments

My bride of 35 years recently brought home a sign that she wants to hang in our soon-to-be-remodeled bathroom. [The soon-to-be-remodeled part being . . . as soon as I can get to it. And we all know how that goes. :-)] Here’s the sign:

It makes me laugh. We do a lot of that around our house. But it’s more than funny. What hits me is the proverbial sounding wisdom that it whimsically communicates. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Solomon wrote it in the Proverbs. He didn’t. (I looked.) But he could have.

Why do we laugh? Because it’s only those of us who are married who have the insider information about how true those words are.

Think about it, those of you who are married. You know who you are. You laughed the loudest. Come on, be honest. Didn’t you? Why? It’s because when you were in that ooey-gooey, falling-in-love stage, there’s a lot you closed your eyes to with thoughts like: “Oh, we’ll work that out later.” We all did.

However, it’s after the post-honeymoon glow wears off and doing life together sets in that we begin to see each other more clearly—no tux, no wedding dress—just who we are in street clothes. Honestly, it feels vulnerable, over-our-heads naked with nowhere to hide. Excitement and terror all rolled into one.

That’s when, with eyes wide open, we catch our first glimpses of the exquisite design that God had in mind when He made one man for one woman (Gen. 2:18, 21-25). Though we live east of Eden, we are given the daily opportunity to make good on our wedding-day promises to “nourish and cherish” our spouse with all of our hearts until our last dying breath (Eph. 5:25-33).

Now for those of you who are in the falling in love stage of your relationship and you’re thinking, “I don’t get it.” Don’t worry. Give it time. You will.

Ooey-gooey love is great, for starters; but it won’t sustain you for the long haul kind of love that is required to go the distance. It’s the God-help-me-love-you-when-I-don’t-feel-like-it kind of love that is needed.

Love is blind–but, if we’re willing, God can and will use marriage to open our hearts to love our mates more deeply than we ever thought possible. Really. Get the picture?

The Marriage Killer

Jeff Olson —  February 3, 2012 — 6 Comments

Nagging is a marriage killer. So says a study reported in the recent Wall Street Journal article—“Meet the Marriage Killer.”

The article defines the nagging problem as the “interaction in which one person repeatedly makes a request, the other person repeatedly ignores it and both become increasingly annoyed.”

The article goes on to point out that every couple experiences nagging to some degree, but it can grow to “be as potentially dangerous to a marriage as adultery or bad finances.” A couple will start bickering about the nagging and never address what is underneath the nagging. In time, this type of “toxic communication” can “sink the relationship.”

Is nagging ruining your marriage? Admit the conflict! The good news is that couples can grow and learn how to curb the nagging and replace it with mutual love and respect. But they first need to recognize and acknowledge they are stuck in a bad pattern.

Together, and often with the help of a trusted guide, spouses can start to work towards listening and understanding where each other is coming from. They can learn to talk through feelings and needs in ways that can help them consider how to love one another more. Accusations and demands for change can start to be replaced with non-demanding expressions and requests of what each spouse legitimately needs from the other.

Watch a short video below by Dr. Larry Crabb on handling conflict in your marriage.


I can’t attend a wedding without that classic scene from Princess Bride running through my head. And again, on cue, it invaded the introductory moments of my nephew and his beautiful bride’s wedding I just attended this past week. It was a glorious affair that included a fireworks display at the conclusion of the reception. That was a first for me. (and it didn’t hurt that it was July 3rd either)

Weddings are meaningful events that mark the beginning of a new relationship, the start of a new family with hopes and dreams.

But weddings are also times for reflection for all who attend. And, whenever I have the opportunity to attend a weeding, I’m always drawn to 3 reflections.

The first–and almost always it’s the first–may have more to do with my zany sense of humor. “Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today. Marriage, that blessed event that dream within a dream . . .” always makes me laugh and remember that there’s great joy and celebration to be shared at a wedding.

The second reflection comes in the form of a question about them: Does this couple have what it takes to go the distance and build a relationship that lasts a lifetime? Having invested thousands of hours in marital and premarital counseling with hundreds of couples over the last 25 years, I’m always kind of skeptical (OK, often really skeptical) as to whether or not a couple has not only the character to make a relationship last, but do they have an enduring relationship with God that will sustain them when their relationship doesn’t?

Will they still love each other even when they don’t feel like it? When they hit the inevitable turbulence that intimacy between two sinners breeds? Will they remember their promises to God and each other in front of us as their invited witnesses? What about after they’ve hurt each other with cruel words? Or after crushing disappointment? I pray so.

My third reflection comes in the form of a question about me: How am I–after now 34 years of marriage–reaffirming my love for my bride? Do I remember my promises to God and her? Am I loving her better than when we got married? Better than last year? Would she agree with my assessment?

Hmmm . . . maybe it’s time I ask her again how I’m doing at loving her. I think I will.

So, since June, July, and August seem to be the “wedding months,” take some time to reflect at the weddings that you’re invited to attend. Celebrate and reflect.

Oh, and feel free to share your celebrations and reflections with us. We’d love to hear what’s stirring.

Recently I caught the last part of the Christian flick Fireproof. The film is about Caleb Holt, a husband who sets out on one last ditch effort to save his troubled marriage to Catherine by implementing a 40 day test called “The Love Dare.” At first, Caleb’s heart isn’t in what he’s doing, but he eventually comes to realize how selfish he’s been and what it truly means to love his wife.

What struck me watching the film this time around was the level of inconvenience Caleb was willing to bear in order to love Catherine…Spoiler Alert in case you haven’t seen it...After learning that his wife’s mother needed some specialized home care equipment that her parents couldn’t afford, Caleb secretly covered the cost with $24,000 he had been saving up for a new fishing boat.

$24,000 can buy a very sweet fishing boat. Believe me, I’ve looked.

Caleb’s bighearted gesture reminded me of a universal truth:

If you want to be considerate of your spouse…get ready to be inconvenienced.

Up for loving your spouse…get ready to have your schedule interrupted and your plans changed. Are you up for taking an interest in what’s important to him/her…get ready to do something that you wouldn’t choose to do yourself, but you willingly choose to do it because it’s valuable to him/her.

As a husband and Christian counselor, one of the best pieces of marital advice I’ve run across continues to come back something Jesus said. When asked what was the most important commandment, He said to love God with everything in you and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-38). No. Jesus may have not had a marital relationship in mind when he spoke these words, but if there is one relationship where His words apply…it is marriage. Whether a couple is married twenty plus years and in the throes of marital discord or just coming off their honeymoon, this is some of the best advice for both husband and wife (not just one) to take to heart and put into practice.

Loving others as we love ourselves can be inconvenient, but it has the power to produce deep intimacy and rescue even the most troubled marriage.


Trust & Verify

Tim Jackson —  June 22, 2011 — 8 Comments

I work with a lot of couples in crisis. Promises made at a wedding 3, 7, 15, or 28 years ago that expressed good intentions and carried so much hope were somehow forgotten. Vows are broken. Hearts betrayed. Trust shattered.

Rebuilding trust? That’s one of the the greatest challenges any couple will ever face in their marriage.

(By the way, it’s not just couples where trust can be broken. Parents break their children’s trust. Children break their parents’ trust too. Employers and employees alike can cultivate an atmosphere of distrust. Friends can betray friends.)

So what do you do to begin rebuilding trust when you find yourself standing in the smoldering ruins of a relationship that’s been torched by betrayal? Here are a few suggestions for a couple who is beginning this process.

First, recognize that rebuilding trust is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Everything inside of you screams, “Don’t do it! Are you nuts! They’ll just do it again! They’ve already proven that they can’t be trusted! You’d be crazy to set yourself up again!”

But that seems to put Jesus’ followers in a real bind. Because Jesus has called us to forgive those who have harmed us. Right? But how can we forgive after we’ve been so deeply betrayed?

Second, understanding that forgiveness begins a process that opens the door to the potential for rebuilding shattered trust (Luke 17:3-4). This is not a quick fix. This takes time for both the forgiver and the offender. And forgiveness doesn’t mean simply letting the person off the hook after they say, “I’m sorry.” It’s not forgetting. There is accountability in healthy forgiveness.

(For more on forgiveness, check out some of our Round Table discussions and Insight Videos on the topic of forgiveness.)

Third, understanding that rebuilding trust requires two willing participants who are devoted to Christ first and then to each other. One person doesn’t make a relationship. It takes two individuals who long for restoration and are willing to submit to God’s purposes and then risk being vulnerable with each other to learn how to love. Oh, and the offender in the relationship needs to set the tone by taking the initiative to be vulnerable first. Unfortunately, if the offender refuses to take ownership, makes excuses, resorts to explanations, shifts the blame to the other person or bulks at requests for accountability, rebuilding trust is impossible.

Forth, recognize that the only formula for trust building is consistency over a long time. That’s  the hard work of reconstructing the core foundation of a relationship one thin layer at a time. It’s a daily thing. It requires an intense amount of energy and investment on the part of both spouses.

The best analogy that I have found to describe trust building is the process of applying a fine lacquer finish on a piece of furniture that I’ve made in my wood shop. Here’s the process:

Lacquer is a finish that I spray on one thin layer at at time. After giving it sufficient time to dry, I lightly sand out the finish with extremely fine sandpaper. Sanding smooths and levels out the surface, allowing the finish to fill in the grain of the wood. It also creates thousands of micro-fine scratches in the finish. Then, when another layer of finished is applied, the scratches are filled in by the fresh layer of finish and binds the layers together. Then, after it dries, the sanding process begins again.

This process is repeated time after time after time. The layers build on each other and meld together to form a singular bond of protection the displays the beauty of the wood. The last time the finish is “rubbed out” with a superfine rubbing compound that produces a smooth mirror finish. The surface of the furniture feels like glass.

What I like about a lacquer finish is that it highlights all the beautiful grain in the wood. It deepens and takes on a richer glow over time as it ages. It’s a durable finish that protects the wood.  But as with any piece of furniture that is used throughout a lifetime, it will wear and inevitably get scratched, chipped or even gouged.  The finish can be repaired by repeating the process of rubbing out the scratch, reapplying a layer or two of finish (depending on how deep the scratch/gouge is). With a little TLC, the finish can again be restored.

That’s trust building: two partners who are fully invested in the long term process of rebuilding trust by demonstrating love consistently one layer at a time over a lifetime. The result is a durable relationship that lasts and reflects the beauty of the love of Christ reflected in the love of the couple.



Royal Weddings

Tim Jackson —  April 29, 2011 — 1 Comment

OK, it’s time for true confessions. How many of you set your alarms this morning to get up and watch “the wedding of the century?” OK, if you didn’t, how many of you recorded it on your DVR?

Everyone’s talking about the royal wedding between Prince William and his Princess Bride, Kate. It’s all over the media. You can hardly read, watch, listen, or search any of the media outlets without getting the latest low down on “the marriage of the century.”

I love it! Why? Because of all the pomp and grandeur of a royal wedding?

No. That part I can do without. I’m not into all the preparations and pageantry of a wedding. Let’s face it, I’m a guy. Enough said. That part is all for the woman. And all the women reading go “Ah.” Come on, you know I’m right. And that’s okay.

So what part do I love?

I love it because it’s a reflection of the grandiose celebration of hope. It reflects what every marriage was and is meant to be. Not just a grand beginning, but also a wonderful middle, and a glorious finish.

We lose the wonder of marriage soon after the rice flies and the happy couple heads off on their honeymoon. The return to “real life” quickly diminishes the regal beginnings of “once upon a time.”

In his epilogue to his book, The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason describes the glorious privilege of being married better than most, and certainly better than I can.

At first he describes the grandeur of waking up everyday to a glorious sight out of his bedroom window in the Canadian Rockies . . . a beautiful mountain, sunrise, river, and breathtaking scenery. The scenery he describes is both majestic and mystical. And as a man, I get that. I’ve watch glorious sunrises and sunsets from knee deep in a trout stream, huddled in a duck  blind, or from my camp site north of Denali in Alaska.

But then, Mike describes a glorious scene that is far more majestic and beautiful than anything else in this natural world. He writes:

There is a woman in bed beside me. Right this moment I could reach out my hand and touch her, as easily as I touch myself, and as I think about this, it is more staggering than any mountain or moon. It is even more staggering, I think, than if this woman happened instead to be an angel (which, come to think if it, she might well be). There are only two factors which prevent this situation from being so overpoweringly awesome that my heart would explode just trying to take it in: one is that I have woken up just like this, with this same woman beside me, hundreds of times before, and the other is that millions of other men and women are waking up beside each other, just like this, each and every day all around the world, and have been for thousands of years.

Just so easily are miracles unraveled, disqualified, turned back into the common stuff of everyday life. Just so easily do statistics sprinkle their unmagical dust over all the wondrous beauty of life, transforming the celestial into the commonplace, the impossible into the inescapable. Yet if even the miracle of a man and a woman in love can be stripped of its splendor, covered with dust, buried under ordinariness, then what hope have we men and women of ever surviving the monotony of Heaven, where love will be as common as air? How shall we cope in an afterlife where there will be nothing miraculous to lift us out of our tedium, because there will be nothing unmiraculous? Here and now, it seems is the time to practice amazement, the time to learn how to be thunderstruck. Either we suffocate under all that is unbeautiful, unsurprising, unspectacular, ungraceful in our lives, or else we learn here and now to breathe the air of grace. In marriage, to put this thought into more homely language, we learn how to appreciate one another, to see one another a precious. We learn how to love.

So, when you check out the updates on William and Kate’s big day, just remember this:

There are hundreds and thousands of royal weddings that will take place throughout the world this year. And while they will not all be accompanied with the fanfare of British royalty, rest assured that their Heavenly Father is present and celebrating over them. Sons and daughters of the King of Kings–each one a prince and princess in their own right(1 Peter 2:9)–will unite in marriage. They all share a royal lineage and have great hopes of what can become of their blessed earthly union that will echo throughout eternity.

So, if you have the privilege of being invited to a “royal wedding” yet this year, remember that you are in the presence of royalty. Celebrate with joy. And for those of us who are married and who have forgotten the glory of our own royal wedding, remember and celebrate over that “prince” or “princess” who the King of Kings so graciously gave to you.


Allison Stevens —  March 28, 2011 — 10 Comments

I’m reading the book He’s Just Not That Into You.  Please don’t stop reading my blog yet- I know – this book is sooo not from a biblical mindset. It’s written mainly by a man, with a woman who wrote for the television program “Sex and the City.”  I know, I know!  This is getting worse, isn’t it?!  I greatly dislike that show and what it stands for.  On the show, women act as if sex is just sex and that there are no good men out there and that women can give themselves away to anyone without any consequences. Well, duh, the consequences are that none of those women characters are happy!

But I can’t deny that the author has gotten me thinking about something when it comes to sexuality in Christian dating relationships.

In the book, the author says that if you’re’ dating a man and he doesn’t want to have sex with you, he’s just not that into you. He adds that whatever reasons the man gives for not wanting to have sex, (religion and faith included), is simply an excuse because a man you’re dating should want to “rip your clothes off.” If he doesn’t, then he’s not into you and he’d rather avoid telling you that than face the yelling, crying, or whatever fallout would occur if he told you directly that he’s not caught up with your hotness.

OK, a problem I have with that is that I know there are good guys out there who honor women by waiting for marriage to have sex. They get it. They know that sex is a precious thing to a relationship and it shouldn’t be given to just anyone. They want to be pure and want to marry a pure woman.

Granted, this “waiting” is easier for some than for others. But the standard is still the same. Sex is for marriage and it’s worth the wait.

So, I’m getting to my point here. What should a single Christian woman expect from a single Christian man?  Should she expect him to never struggle with lust? Should she expect him to always keep his hands to himself? Should there never be chemistry between them that causes them to end a date early?! Oh, boy, I hope not, on the last question, anyway.

The lack of a sex drive is not an indicator of spirituality. How we respond to the sex drive is what matters. Love is doing what’s best for the other person. And it is best to wait. Men know this; it’s just that sometimes they don’t want to wait. But men love the pursuit; they like to work hard to earn something, not just given it so easily. The harder they work at it, the greater the reward – not just for men, but for all of us.

God made us with natural yearnings for intimacy. But intimacy isn’t only about sex.  Sexual fulfillment can’t be found outside of a trusting, lifetime commitment.

So, unmarried girls, let’s be real here.  There will be times, at least I hope so, that the desire for your man and his desire for you will be so great that you literally have to walk away from each other! He just might have to go home early.  That’s just the way it is.

Women and Men

Allison Stevens —  January 24, 2011 — 11 Comments

Is there any common sense to waiting for marriage to have sex?

I think there’s a lot of common sense about it. I just spoke with two separate women who went further, physically, with men than they had planned to or were emotionally ready for – and now one is filled with self-doubt and shame; the other is anxiety-ridden.

These women are beautiful, competent, caring, and successful. Any right-minded (or should I say ‘right-hearted’) single man would be thrilled to be with her. But the women’s self-esteem has taken a plunge now because of how far the physical relationship went without the commitment from the man. Now they wonder if the guy is in the relationship for the long haul. One of the men said he wasn’t sure. Hm. How convenient.

Sex is more than a physical act – at least to a woman who’s looking for a husband. And even to girls in high school who “make out” with guys and then hear that the guy isn’t interested in becoming boyfriend-girlfriend. She is hurt by that and wonders why she isn’t good enough for him.

I think it’s because she gave herself away too fast. Not that the guy who made out with her was a catch. Obviously, he has issues of his own. This isn’t just a female problem! Males are too willing to be passive and take the sexual activity that the woman is willing to give him, and then leave her behind. That is not a good, strong man.

But back to women:  When a woman gives her body to a guy before he’s committed himself to her, she puts herself in jeopardy of severe heartbreak and disappointment of not getting the most important desire in her life:  an intimate, committed, life-long relationship. A woman’s purity holds the key to her heart. If she gives that away too soon, a man can come in and take advantage of her vulnerability.

A woman pays a huge emotional price when she has sex before or outside of marriage. She can become fearful, anxious, lack confidence, and lose the meaning and purpose of her life.  Then, to relieve some of these painful symptoms, she may resort to continually giving a piece of herself away to an unworthy man, every time compromising what her true inner self tells her is right for her.

This is the verse that we discussed yesterday in church. It was in the context of marriage. When our spouses won’t, or can’t meet our needs, we can rely on the promise of God that He is our strength and all that we need.

It’s hard to completely grasp what that means when a spouse doesn’t meet your needs. I mean, what if it’s a pretty big need, and he or she just isn’t rising to the occasion at all. What if he or she is absolutely failing at giving you what you long for?

Depending on the circumstances, whether you stay in your marriage, or leave it, God gives us the security and significance we need and desire.

I need to know I am loved no matter what. I don’t have to be perfect; I’m loved as I am. Don’t have to work for it and can’t do anything to lose it (Romans 8:38-39.)

I also need to know that what I do today has eternal value, that my work here isn’t going to end when I die.  I want to know that I matter and that I can make a difference in my relationships that will last forever (Ephesians 4:11-16, James 1:12, 1 Corinthians 13)

So, it’s good to remember that whatever my spouse isn’t giving me doesn’t need to define me. I am not a prisoner to what others can do for me. Yes, it hurts and it hurts badly sometimes. I can look for comfort in healthy ways, like talking with a trusted friend, reading Scripture, discussing it again with my spouse, etc. But I don’t have to believe any lies that my enemy whispers in my ear.

God wants me to know that I’m secure and significant.  My enemy wants me to believe that I shouldn’t be so sure of myself and that I’m not all that important.  Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing he softly speaks, “Hm, you and your marriage mustn’t be all that great if your husband/wife won’t (fill in the blank.)”  or “You deserve to have all your needs met by your wife/husband so you go ahead and demand it” Or “There’s no one who can take care of you. It’s up to you to take care of yourself.”

Let’s reject the lies and grab a hold of the truth that God wants us to believe to set us free.  Through Jesus Christ, we can have our deepest needs met.