Date Your Mate

Schedule time for romantic attention. Scheduling time for romance and special activities together is essential to a highly effective marriage. The amount of time you spend will be reflected in the quality of your marriage. Counselor Willard F. Harley recommends that if your marriage is healthy and both husband and wife are highly satisfied with the marriage, a minimum of 15 hours a week of undivided attention is usually enough to sustain a romantic marriage. Note, this is the least amount of time necessary to do so. He recommends this time be evenly distributed during the week rather than overdoing time on weekends.
But when couples are experiencing marital trouble, recovering from the aftermath of an affair or other serious marital conflict, even more time is recommended. Twenty to 30 hours a week is necessary in order to restore the love couples once had for each other. In cases like this, Harley recommends that in order to salvage the marriage, the couple may need to go on vacation, where they can spend the entire time restoring the intimacy between them that has been lost. Usually two to three weeks of giving each other undivided attention brings a couple to the point where they can make intelligent decisions regarding their future.
Many couples say they simply don’t have this kind of time to put into their relationships. But if either of them were carrying on a clandestine affair, they would find the time. It is simply a matter of priorities. The real problem is they don’t want to spend time together, because they are getting so little from their relationship. But if this troubled couple can learn to re-create the type of romantic occasions they had while dating, there is ho9pe for restoring the love they once had for each other.

Give focused attention when on a marital date. Perhaps a reminder is needed regarding what focused attention means—time spent paying close attention to each other. This time spent together must not include children, friends, or relatives. Romance can only blossom in privacy. Some couples think they can be romantic with their children present. No. Romance and children just don’t go together. Intimacy is destroyed.
Remember, it is next to impossible to create intimacy between husband and wife with little ones crawling on you, a toddler wailing from another room, or a preteen checking on you. But as parents you do have a responsibility to keep your children inspired regarding the possibilities that lie within marriage. A romantic relationsh8p between the two of you will do the trick.
Agree you will not discuss strange diaper rashes, piano or basketball practices, schedule changes, or transmission problems. Time spent in going to concerts, watching television, attending sports events and plays doesn’t count either, because you are being entertained by an outside source and there is little or no time for intimate conversation or focused attention.
It is essential that couples create activities that meet their greatest emotional needs. Romance, for most women, means intimate conversational sharing and affection: for men it means sharing a recreational activity and sex.

Dress Up a little. On a date night both partners need to dress to look different. A woman dressed like she’s about to clean the stove will not delight her husband’s eye. Don a dress with a cut that will make your husband look twice. Fix your hair, spritz on perfume, and slip into a pair of heels that make your legs look great. If the children cry and the babysitter asps when they see you, you’ll know you’ve succeeded.
While dressing for the occasion, men also need to clean up their acts. Beer bellies, holey T-shirts, and a face covered with unshaven stubble fail to pass the dreamboat test. Ragged jeans, dirty fingernails, and halitosis won’t make it either. But a fellow with a fresh shave and aftershave lotion, a clean pressed shirt, a pair of slack pants, and polished shoes, is sure to make a hit impression. Most important of all, wear a smile!
It makes a woman feel special when you take time to dress nicely for her. When you make the extra effort to prepare yourself for her, she takes it as proof you love her. When you don’t, she assumes you don’t. Being appealing to her was an important part of your courtship. She needs the same kind of thoughtfulness now.
One man spoke from his heart: “You are right. I get dressed up to go to the office every day. But after work and on weekends, all I wear is a favorite old pair of jeans and a ragged T-shirt. I try to love her up a little and she pushes me away, saying I need a shave. The only time I turn her on is when I’m going out the door in the morning. Now I know why.”
Try meeting at your destination rather than leaving the house together once in a while. This creates the feeling that you are about to rendezvous with someone exciting. Week nights lend themselves better to this strategy. There is something special about walking into a room full of people and allowing your partner to get an eyeful before settling into your seat.

Flirt with each other. It isn’t difficult when you are out to distinguish dating couples from married ones. While a dating couple caresses each other with their hands and eyes, what’s a married couple doing? Eating. There’s no touching, no intimate lingering looks, no teasing smiles. If the couple does talk, the conversation goes like this: “Careful, you’re going to spill.” When food arrives, they hunker down and concentrate on moving fork to mouth. There’s nothing to say because they already know everything about each other and don’t attempt to discover anything new.
While couples who have been married a few years are well past the early discovery dates, there yet remain a few subtle, changing mysteries about the other person that need to be peeled back gently. That’s what marriage really is—an ongoing discovery process. And that’s what dating after you’re married is all about. Where you go and what you do don’t matter as much as that you make plans to be alone and do not lapse into habitual ruts.
Husbands and wives need to learn to flirt with each other all over again. A whisper in the ear, a playful hug, a note tucked into a briefcase, or a kiss for no reason at all can help couples stay connected during the day. Pleasing glances complimentary phrases, a sidelong glance, a charming smile, a hand laid lightly on your partner’s arms when laughing at a remark, all produce a momentary lift.
It’s impossible to develop a close, intimate relationship without spending meaningful time together. I recommend a couple of hours one time per week, or every other week if you can’t manage weekly dates.

Excerpted from Nancy Van Pelt’s book Highly Effective Marriage.

Creative Date Ideas

In the article, Date Your Mate, I talked about dating your mate as an essential for those wanting their marriage to remain strong and blissful. In this article I will share creative but practical date ideas. While some ideas involve money, most only need your time and presence.

1, Kidnap your partner for a mini vacation—an afternoon or evening of something he/she has been wanting to do.

2. Drive through a new housing development and tour a model home.

3. Check out new furniture in a furniture store. (It doesn’t cost anything to look!)

4. Buy two bottles of bubble-blowing liquid. Go to the top of the tallest place around—a building, a mountain, the rooftop of your house. Blow bubbles and watch them drift out of sight.

5. Take a tour of yesteryear—snuggle up in bed and spend an your going through family albums together, reminiscing about fun times shared in the past.

6. Take a late-evening walk. Talk about what’s in your hearts.

7. Go exploring—any place your mate would like to go (within reason)—to a mountain hideaway or a ghost town you’ve heard about. Check out a quaint shop on a side street.

8. Take a stroll through the park. Try out the swings and see who can swing the highest.

9. Visit the Golden Arches. Dress up in your best clothes, and eat at this famous fast food place! Your formal attire in an informal place will be fun! Lay footsie with each other under the table.

10. Try a hot-tub date. If you don’t have a hot tub, use a friend’s. Let the hot, bubbling water soak away your stress. Talk about something fun.

11. Go to the nearest pond or lake to feed the fishes. Toss leftover bread to the fishes while you watch them fight for lunch.

12. Create a treasure hunt for your mate. Begin with a note directing him to a specific drawer in the kitchen, where he’ll find another note telling him to go to the car, where there will be a bouquet of flowers with a note saying that he must drive you to a certain spot for further instructions. At the end of the trail (you can make it as long as you like), you be there with a picnic on the beach or a reservation at a favorite restaurant.

13. While one of you is at a board meeting and the other is driving the kids to music lessons, rendezvous someplace and share a bag of M & M’s.

14. Take turns asking each other out on a date. The one who asks has to make all the plans for the evening, choosing the restaurant, making reservations, arranging for baby-sitting etc.

15. Be adventurous. Climb a mountain together, go rafting, travel to a foreign country.

16. Take a night class together—cooking, photography, landscaping, a foreign language, or craft. This provides something new to talk about.

17, Meet for lunch one day a week. This gives you both something to look forward to and breaks the monotony of the week.

18. Plan an afternoon of biking in a favorite neighborhood, in the country, or interesting area. Over a picnic lunch, share ideas for building your dream home. Take memory pictures.

19. If your child is sick and the sitter is out, plan a date night in your bedroom. Light the candles, play your favorite romantic music, and read love letter you wrote each other long ago. Add a cup of tea and homemade cookies, and you’ve got an interesting evening.

20. Make a list of six activities you would like to do with your mate. At least once a month, take turns picking one activity from your partner’s list and join in with gusto. Whether it’s horseback riding, boating, or in-line skating, participate graciously just as you would if you were dating and not married.

This article is by Nancy Van Pelt and excerpted from her book Highly Effective Marriage.

Spiritual Bonding in Marriage

Imperfect Situations – Men sometimes think of spiritual guidance as being as much woman’s work as having babies and cooking the evening meal. Many women have tearfully confided to me that they would give anything if their husbands would only assume spiritual leadership for the family. Yet women are going to their spiritual deaths because their husbands are not willing to be the priests of their homes.

Some men plead their case by saying they attend church every week (at their wife’s insistence), or serve on the church board, and say grace at the table. But such Christianity won’t hold the family together when a major crisis arises or when children hit their teen years.

When it comes to spiritual leadership, Joshua challenges my heart and mind. In chapter 23 of his book Joshua tells the leaders of Israel that he is an old man. Then he traces what God’s hand has done for his people during his life as their leader. He gives some practical instructions about marriage, warning people not to intermarry with unbelievers or they will not have God’s protection.

In chapter 24 he begins his favorite and most eloquent theme. He tells Israel that serving God should be the highest priority of all. He then asks each to choose that very day whom they will serve. “But as for me and my family,” he declares, “we will serve the Lord” (verse 15 TLB)

Joshua didn’t say “I will serve the Lord.” He assumed responsibility for his entire family. He announced to the entire nation, once and for all, his unyielding decision that he and his entire household would serve God. He didn’t leave the spiritual chores to Mrs. Joshua.

Women of the world cry with me in asking their beloved husbands to take on the spiritual challenges of the home. It is the husband’s responsibility to give spiritual security to his family unit. Husband and wife need each other emotionally and physically, but spiritually we need each other desperately!

Three Secrets That Will Build Spiritual Oneness

1. Attend church together. A recent study showed that couples who attend church together, even as little as one time a month, increase their chance of staying married for life. Churchgoing couples feel better about their marriages than those who do not worship together.

Mixed-faith marriages experience trouble sooner than marriages in which both partners are of the same faith. One reason is that while dating a couple finds it difficult to think realistically about marriages. It is easy to minimize the difficulties likely to be encountered. The four most common causes of conflict in mixed-faith marriages are summarized below:

a. Conflict over what religion the children will follow. In homes in which children are taken alternately to both religious services in two faiths, one study showed that six out of 10 children end up rejecting all religion.

b. Conflict over church attendance.

c. Conflict over interference by in-laws in religious matters.

d. Conflict over size of family and/or spacing of children.

For Harry and me, worshiping together has been an experience of rest, peace, and renewal. We dedicate our day of worship to liberating ourselves from the tyranny of productivity that fills the rest of the week. Dedicating one day per week of worshiping our God strengthens our relationship as well as providing renewed energy to tackle the week before us. Worshiping together nurtures the very soul of our relationship.

Worshiping together automatically draws a couple closer. In addition to a physical bonding, a spiritual bonding takes place that promotes humility, sharing, compassion, and intimacy. Spiritual truths help couples transcend selfish desires and become part of a larger plan.

2. Become engaged in a service ministry. Hundreds of ways exist to incorporate service to others in your marriage. The key is to find something that fits your personal lifestyle. Harry and I enjoy inviting friends and strangers to our home after worship service. We have tried to make our home a center of friendship and encouragement. Sometimes our hospitality is spontaneous and casual, sometimes planned and elegant, but we always try to make it a special time.

It’s through hospitality that I met Harry in the first place. My parents had a beautiful waterfront home with a terrific view of the bay in Tacoma, Washington. During my young adults years, my mother and I always thought it our patriotic duty to invite home for dinner after church all the tallest, most handsome unattached servicemen stationed at Fort Lewis. Harry came to dinner and never left!

Today hospitality to others has become a team service ministry that has provided us with endless opportunities for fun and the occasion to meet new people and add to our list of friends. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, you will find more about it in my book Creative Hospitality – How to Turn Home Entertaining Into A Real Ministry.

The following list has service ideas that have worked for other couples and their families.

*Adopt an elderly person with no family to visit and take them a treat.

*Volunteer to serve at a soup kitchen for the homeless.

*Visit a nursing home and sing or read stories to the elderly

*Visit the ill in the hospital.

*Deliver food baskets to the needy.

*Make up a friendship basket of goodies and deliver it to someone new in your community.

Working together in a service ministry helps blend spiritual oneness. As you become involved in a ministry outside yourselves, you’ll learn about selflessness. It will create opportunities to spend more time together, as well as provide new topics for conversation.

3. Pray together. How often do you and your mate pray out loud–together? The story is told of a young couple on their honeymoon who wished to start their marriage out right by praying together before retiring each evening. At their bedside that first night together, the bride couldn’t suppress the giggles as she heard her new husband pray, “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.”

Humor aside, research shows that couples who pray together are happier than couples who do not. And couples who pray together frequently are more likely to rate their marriages as being more highly romantic as those who pray together infrequently. And get this–married couples who pray together report higher satisfaction with their sex lives than couples who don’t pray together. Because prayer makes one vulnerable, it draws a couple closer.

At first, Harry and I had a hard time praying together. For one thing we were too uncomfortable and embarrassed to pray out loud together! On the few occasions when we did pray at night, Harry would fall asleep while I prayed. And while Harry prayed I mentally wrote chapters for a new book, redecorated the family room, or allowed my mind to wander to any number of tasks the morrow held. We soon lost interest in praying together.

Then we were introduced to “share prayer,” which has become one of the most enriching experiences of our lives. The idea is to take turns at being the prayer leader and introducing requests. The first night it was my turn, and in one sentence I introduced and prayed conversationally for the first request on my heart. Then Harry prayed a short sentence prayer for that same request. Next I introduced and prayed my second request, and Harry followed.

We repeated the process until I had covered all the topics that burdened my heart. Harry admitted that this was a vast improvement over our previous attempts to “pray together.” This method not only kept him awake but made it interesting. It was like having a three-way conversation with God. We both lost track of time. The next night it was Harry’s turn to introduce the requests of his heart and I prayed for them in turn.

Within a week several strange things began happening. Because I now knew what was near and dear to Harry’s heart, I began praying for his requests, almost making them mine. He did the same with my requests. Our bonds of love deepened when we saw the other remembering, caring, and praying for our requests.

Once while traveling from Fresno to Brazil I was detained in Miami because of visa problems. Officials at the Brazilian embassy had warned it was impossible to obtain a visa in one day. I found myself alone at the Sheraton Hotel in the center of Miami at 1:30 a.m. making phone calls to Brazil to alert my contact there that I would not be arriving in time to meet my speaking obligations.

Frazzled, I phones my husband next, and broke into a running disaster report. While we were still on the phone, Harry prayed for me. “Dear Lord, my wife is 3,000 miles from here on her way to Brazil. She’s frightened, and there isn’t much I can do to help her get out of the situations. But I ask You to take care of her and calm her.

“Give her the peace that only You can provide. You can perform the miracle necessary for her to obtain the necessary documentation so she can continue on her way tomorrow and then return safely home. Thank You, Lord, for beginning Your work right now. Amen.”

Even before Harry finished his prayer, my hysteria left. My confidence in my Lord, my ministry plans, and my husband had been restored as he prayed out loud for me. I slept peacefully until morning. I got the visa the next day and continued on to Sao Paulo.

The longer I continue in my ministry to families, the more convinced I become that the depth of relationship that comes from worshiping together, engaging in a service ministry, and praying together can prevent many marital problems that trouble relationships today.

This article was excerpted from Highly Effective Marriage by Nancy L. Van Pelt

 

The couple relationship over the life cycle

Couples must develop coping skills and family strengths in order to overcome the stresses and strains on the marriage. Certain factors determine how high and low the peaks and valleys will be for a couple. Identified here are the stresses and strains at each stage of the life cycle so that yet uninitiated may recognize the maturity needed to sustain a marriage. Couples at any given stage can also recognize that what they are experiencing is normal, and surmountable.

STAGE 1: The honeymoon is over

Why the sudden drop in marital satisfaction immediately after marriage? Most couples are ill-prepared for the adjustments married life requires. Often romantic dreams have blinded them to the many realities that newlyweds must face. During the first 12 months, a couple faces the most problems with the least experience. In truth, the future of the marriage depends on the adjustment that takes place during the critical first year. And the most teachable time of marriage is during the first six weeks following the wedding. Each year a couple spends together, however, increases their chances for remaining married.

STAGE 2: And baby makes three

The childless couple’s life continues much the same as it did when they were courting. However, children drastically change the scene. Suddenly bride and groom assume the role of parents. Life is no longer what the young couple has been used to. They realize, perhaps for the first time, that, as parents, they are totally responsible for this helpless person and cannot rid themselves of their responsibility.

One study showed that 83 percent of the couples reported “extensive” or “severe” crisis in adjusting to the changes that occur with the arrival of the first child. A crisis situation now dominates the marriage scene. The husband-wife relationship now competes with the parent-child relationship for time, affection, and caring.

STAGE 3: The routine years

“Routine” marks the middle years. The couple now has one, two or more children. The romance of having begun a new family has faded. Note on the graph that the happiness level drops, as this stage enters, but not as sharply. The major shock to the family system has already impacted their lives. These are busy demanding years as the couple now adjusts their lives to the less fascinating tasks of attending parent-teacher conferences, chauffeuring children to and from games, meetings, and friend’s home, supervising music lessons, and settling fights over who gets to sit where. In many cases, these demands are on top of full-time work for both parents.

The daily hassles of parenting the young child become significantly greater and more upsetting as the child gets older. There is less time for the two to nurture their relationship, loss of privacy, less time for communication and an accumulation of responsibility – role strain.

STAGE 4: the mid-life crunch

Marriage faces the greatest danger during these years. Tension between husband and wife increases as tension with older children increases. Major decisions must be faced regarding teen conduct. Any dissimilarity in the couple’s background, methods of discipline, or future expectations for the children now come into sharp contrast.

Parenting teenagers becomes more stressful if there is a refusal to abide by reasonable household rules. In order to live harmoniously during this stage, the ideals of family living must be blended into one goal. In some families this transition occurs smoothly and easily, but in others the airs of Mom, Dad, and Teenager clash hotly.

STAGE 5 & 6: the empty nest

Children not only affect marriage when they enter but also when they leave. Studies show that as children grow up and move away from the homebase, there is an increase in marital happiness. And as the children marry off, there is a sharp rise in satisfaction.

As the child leaves, husband and wife once again must adjust their marital roles. The departure of grown children demands a major adjustment in the marriage relationship. Husband and wife are thrown together within time and space in ways they have not dealt with since early marriage. There is no one else to talk to except each other. There is no one else to do anything with but each other. The empty nest demands that husband and wife face each other, their marriage, and their future in a new way.

However, the empty next once again promotes togetherness for husband and wife without interruption. For the couple who has nurtured their relationship all through the years, this time of life can be one of the best and most satisfying.

STAGE 7: the aging couple

The happiness level falls off slightly during the final stage. The aging couple, if their resources and health permit, can enjoy many more good years together. The average couple will spend more than half of their married years with an empty nest. When couples prepare for this time, it can be a highly satisfying period of life.

Although this graph portrays the results of numerous studies, not every couple follows this pattern. However, most couples will tend to reflect these trends unless they spend as much time and effort in preparing for marriage and child rearing as they do for their lifework. It is important that couples be able to identify and understand the stress and disruption of the marriage relationship at each stage, consider it normal, hold tight during stressful times, and move forward rather than racing for the divorce court when problem occur.

During each stage of the family life cycle couples must be willing to make necessary adjustments in order to insure the stability of the marriage. As exciting and fulfilling as it is to bring children into the world, it is marriage, not parenting, that is primary. The average couple will parent only 18 to 20 years at best, but marriage lasts a life time when it is nurtured appropriately at each stage. So then all through the demanding years of rearing children, parents must remember to romance their relationship.

When was the last time you romanced your mate?

 

Dependent on Porn

My husband and I enjoyed sex until he reached his fortieth birthday. Then he said he felt old and unable to perform quickly. He wanted to spice things up by watching some sexy videos with me. I want to please my husband, but I don’t want him dependent on porn for arousal. How far should a wife go in pleasing her husband’s sexual fantasies?

This husband is searching for the ultimate sexual experience. He may have reached some midlife crisis and feels that his masculinity virility and sex life have gone over the hill. Many men just like this one use pornography as a sexual stimulant even within marriage. Having a regular sex partner doesn’t remove their need for pornography because they’ve established a habit. People may turn to porn to satisfy curiosity or to revitalize a sagging sex life, but they tend to become habituated to its stimulation.

Unfortunately, the Internet has opened a new era of pornography and sex addiction. No longer must seekers cruise the seedy side of town. Now they can cruise the Net and indulge in pornography or cybersex or even have an affair online. The accessibility to inappropriate sexual activities creates problems for many wives. Weak, struggling men, including Christians, become deeply entrenched without ever leaving their home or office. This leaves wives calling addiction counselors in anguish, not knowing what to do about their husbands’ involvement with Internet porn. Some men defend their actions by saying they don’t see that they’re doing anything wrong as long as they don’t have physical sex with anyone. But infidelity begins at the point when a person makes a strong emotional connection. This means it doesn’t take a physical act to betray one’s marriage vows.

Pornography destroys intimacy because it introduces a third person, or more, into the relationship. A man’s dependency on it not only hurts the man himself and the couple’s sex life but it devastates the wife’s self-esteem. It undermines her sense of safety within the marriage and damages her trust in her husband.

People can break sex addictions such as this, but only when they admit their problem and get into a program designed to break it. (See appendix) Any woman dealing with this problem needs to spend much time on her knees, and then hold the line wherever her good judgment tells her not to follow him. No counselor can settle where that line isBonly she can do this. God gave each of us a brain and a conscience. After praying about the matter, each person has to make up their own might about what is right and what is wrong. God is always a faithful guide.

The Problem Escalates

The use of porn often escalates into even worse sexual practices:

AMy husband is into pornography big time. At first, it was only magazines, which he tried to hide from me. He started out with relatively mild stuff but over time graduated to hard-core stuff. I suspect he is going to X-rated films. He wants to watch porn movies before we have sex and sometimes during sex. Now it seems like we can’t make love without stimulation from an outside source. I can’t stand watching that stuff. My self-worth is about one inch high, and I don=t know how much more I can take. Please help!

Some men turn to pornography to restore lost interest or to revitalize a tired sex life. They may also use it because of early conditioning, as a way of satisfying curiosity, or in an attempt to improve their sexual performance. Whatever the reason, they tend to become habituated to its stimulation, which continually diminishes their gratification. Consequently, as in all addictions, they need increasingly stronger stimulation. Eventually, several sex experiences per day still leaves them unsatisfied.

Sex addicts typically begin to live a double life. They must hide from their spouses and others their masturbation, porn-shop visits, prostitutes, etc., due to their shame and fear of being discovered. And they lack intimacy. They become very self-absorbed and can’t develop relationships outside of sexual ones. To addicts, sex becomes a mechanical process that involves another personBbut that person isn’t really a partner, only an accessory to fantasy, a means of indulging their obsession.

Like all other addictions, sexual addiction becomes progressively worse. In his book When Sex Becomes an Addiction, Stephen Arterburn identifies four levels of sexual addiction:

Level 1: Fantasy, pornography, and masturbation. Arterburn calls pornography the Agateway drug@ to most sexual addiction. Society views pornography as harmless, yet it is the fuel that burns in the fires of lust gone out of control. Through the use of porn, the addict can masturbate while fantasizing about sex with another woman, a child, multiple partners, or while inflicting pain or violence. To state it bluntly, pornography is about masturbation. Compulsive masturbation is a quick escape from intimacy and becomes a one-sided process of self-gratification.

Level 2: Live pornography, fetishes, and affairs. In level 1, the addict’s only contact with another person is through film, video, or paper. In level 2, the addict makes contact with another person. Activities at this level include frequenting bars that feature nude dancing, having an affair, phone sex, and fetishesBsuch as clothingBthat become erotic stimulants. Addicts functioning at this level may also practice perverse forms of sex, such as bondage, masochism or sadism, multiple partners, and sex with prostitutes. All these sexual encounters are devoid of intimacy.

Level 3: Minor criminal offenses, prostitution, voyeurism, and exhibitionism. When sex addicts reach this level, they cross the line to minor criminal behavior. Some will engage with multiple prostitutes in one night. The voyeur who spies on others and the exhibitionist who enjoy s exposing his genitals in public are functioning on level 3. These are illegal acts, though they bear relatively minor consequences.

Level 4: Molestation, incest, and rape. Child molestation, incest and rape are included in the fourth level of addiction. Addicts who are arrested and convicted for these offenses will serve time in jail. Victims pay an even heavier price, and may begin to victimize others.

The husband cited exhibits all the characteristics of a sex addict. The description of his addiction points to level 1Bhowever, the wife may be aware of only the tip of the iceberg. Even if he hasn’t indulged in level 2 activities yet, it’s just around the corner.

It’s time for this wife to have a major confrontation with her husband. She should carefully think through and write down what changes she must have if the relationship is to continue. Things like calling Sex Addicts Anonymous* to find out what programs are available where they live. She can also check out what programs are available for the wives of addicts. Insist that he follow through or else. If he refuses, she must follow the ‘or else’ she’s set up. There’s no other way to handle this, unless the wife wants to settle for allowing him to continue his destructive addiction.

Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)

phone (800) 477-8191

www.saa-recovery.org

Exodus International

phone (888-264-0877 or (407) 599-6872

www.exodus-international.org

For Internet accountability:

Covenant Eyes

Phone: (877-479-1119

www.covenanteyes.com

This article is excerpted from Dear NancyBA trusted advisor gives straight answers to questions about marriage, sex and parenting, Nancy L. Van Pelt with Madlyn Lewis Hamblin, Pacific Press, Nampa, Idaho, 2005. (Available from www.heartandhome.org.uk)

 

 

Listening Secrets

by Nancy Van Pelt

LISTENING

Many assume listening is something we do with our ears. Ears are vitally important to the process of hearing, but true listening goes beyond only hearing what is said. Many people hear but do not listen.

Listening describes a skill which one learns–the process of tuning in or tuning out voices, noise, music. A conscious choice is made about what will receive our attention.

A “Dennis the Menace” comic strip describes the process perfectly. Dennis greets his neighbor, Mr. Wilson, while Mr. Wilson is reading his paper. No response. Dennis tries again, speaking louder. No response again. In desperation Dennis tries one last time, then turns to leave when his last attempt has failed. In a normal voice he calls good-bye over his shoulder.

“Good-bye, Dennis,” Mr. Wilson replies. Dennis remarks on his way out the door, “There’s nothing wrong with his hearing, but his liestening’s not so good.”

LISTENING BLOOPERS

Many “Mr. Wilson’s” exist in the world today who have developed poor listening habits. These habits can be very irritating to others and impede the development of an intimate relationship.

INTERRUPTING is the number-one detest listening habit. Interrupters spend their time not listening to what is being said but in forming a reply. Interested only in their own ideas, they pay little attention to the words of the other person and wait for a split second when they can break in with, “Oh, that’s nothing. What till you hear this!”

LACK OF EYE CONTACT came in second on the “most irritating” list. Listeners who fail to look at the person speaking to them convey disinterest, distrust, and a lack of caring.

THE SELECTIVE LISTENER picks out bits and pieces of conversation that interest him and rejects the rest. Others do not want to hear anything disagreeable, upsetting, or different.

A DEFENSIVE LISTENER twists everything said into a personal attack on self. A single mother gave her boyfriend the silent tretment all evening because she felt his remarks about her children’s table manners were a personal attack on her ability to train them properly.

These and many other bad habits abound because we have not been trained in how to listen. Listening is the most neglected and least understood of the communication arts. Becoming a good listener doesn’t require a college degree, but it does require training.

TOTAL BODY LISTENING

If you do not look as if you are listening, you might as well not be. In total body listening you will utilize every part of your body to show your partner you are listening. It makes the other person feel special, valued, and worthwhile.

LISTEN WITH YOUR EYES. Look at the person who is speaking without staring, boring holes, zeroing in, or making your partner uncomfortable. Make certain your eyes are not daring here and there, watching other people, or moving indiscriminately about the room when something important is being shared.

People feel distrust and suspicion for those who do not look at them when communicating. Distrust is one of the biggest blocks to effective communication. When someone looks you directly in the eye, it conveys confidence and builds a trust in the relationship.

In controlled experiments, psychologists have found that people who are deeply in love with each other engage in much more eye contact than do other couples. Eyes are capable of conveying many messages: love or hate, surprise or disinterest, happiness or sadness.

LISTEN WITH YOUR HEAD. Unless you nod your head in agreement, there is little motivation for the speaker to continue. A nod at the appropriate time says, “I understand.” Lean toward the speaker as though hanging on every word, but be sincere.

LISTEN WITH YOUR HANDS. Hands are capable of conveying approval or disapproval. Pointing your finger at someone is accusatory, but thumbs up conveys agreement. Use your hands to say, “I care.”

LISTEN WITH YOUR BODY. One with folded arms across the chest sugggests defensivenss while leaning forward toward the speaker is a sign of interest and involvement.

LISTEN WITH YOUR MOUTH. A good listening technique is found in responding with an invitation to say more, a simple invitation for the other person to share his thoughts.

Some of the simplest door openers might include: “No kidding,” “How interesting,” “I’m glad to hear that.” Some more explicit door openers are: “Tell me more,” “I’d be interested to hear what you have to say on this.”

Such responses reveal your interest but they also keep the conversation with the other person. He will not get the idea that you want to take over. They encourage a person to talk, move in, come closer and share feelings.

BODY LANGUAGE; DO ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS/

Few people grasp the importance of body language. In normal communication, the words used or content accounts for only 7 percent of what is conveyed; tone of voice and gestures amount to 38 percent; facial expressions alone account for an astonishing 55 percent.

This means that 93 percent of what is communicated is done so without words. Understanding nonverbal communication then, is probably more important than any other listening skill.

We communicate nonverbally through three different modes:

l. BODY LANGUAGE. All body positions either support or deny a verbal message. Sagging shoulders might communicate discouragement; head in hands, despair; a rigid sitting position, tension. But facial expressions send the strongest message. Eyes are the most expressive part of facial expressions. Their shiftiness, narrowing, widening, a slow roll, and rate of blinking all tell the mood of their owner. Eyes alone can divulge “I have no interest in your” or “You are important to me.”

Gestures are also part of body language. A handshake, embrace, clenched fist, slammed door, upturned themb and pat on the back all send clear messages when coupled with other nonverbals and the spoken word.

Our dress also sends a silent but powerful message about what’s inside. Someone has said that by what we wear we hang a sign for all the world to see and judge. “Loud” clothes beg for attention; sloppy dress indicates carelessness and low self-worth; immodest or revealing dress, a desperate plea for attention.

Note: Body language rarely lies because it springs from the subconscious. A person can hide feelings but not body language.

(2) VOICE CUES. Words convey information, but how those words are spoken–volume, speed, inflection, and emphasis–carries more weight (38 percent of the impact). The teasing tone, touch of humor, judgmental chastisement convey friendliness, happiness, or anger. Cues tell the other person whether to come closer or back off.

Beware of a variety of speech mannerisms that can be annoying. One such mannerism is ‘Yes, but.” Another is, “I know,” which conveys, “You dummy. You can’t teach me anything.”

It is because of what is involved in body language that I advise against long distance romance One couple courted via letters and the phone for two years. They were madly in love and knew they were meant for each other. Within a few months after they were married they were in deep trouble. Sandra said she felt like she had married a stranger. And Frank said that Sandra was nothing like he thought she was.

How could this be when they had courted for two years? To a large extent it happened because they did not know each other. When writing each other 93 percent of the message was missing. Over the phone and in letters a couple cannot see the body postures, facial expressions, and gestures which either support or deny what is being said.

HIS AND HER LISTENING STYLES; ARE THEY DIFFERENT?

According to studies conducted on the listening habits of the sexes, women and men have different ways of showing they are listening. Women tend to denote keen listening through “uh-huh,” “mmhmm,” and “interesting.” Women will include more head nodding and other positive listening habits more frequently than men.

Men include fewer of these behaviors in their listening. This leaves women with the impression that men aren’t listening and men with the impression that women overlisten.

Furthermore, what men and women mean by their listening behaviors differs vastly. When women nod their heads and say “uh-huh,” they do so to indicate they are listening and understand what is being said. Men use listening noises more to show agreement. It could be that women are listening less but are more convincing actors. Or it could be that men are hearing as much as women but are agreeing less!

This complicates the listening process. If a woman listens attentively to her man, echoing many “ohs,” “yeahs,” and uh-huhs,” indicating good listening (from her point of view), and he later discovers that she did not agree with what he was saying, he might accuse her of being deceitful. The same is true for a woman. If she shares something with her man and he gives no response, she thinks he is not paying attention.

Many men could improve their listenability by getting into the act of listening with some head nodding and an occasional “uh-huh.” A woman needs this kind of listening response from a partner in order to be heard. She seeks understanding more than a solution. A time will come to search for a solution, but while she is upset she wants to be listened to.

Most of all a woman needs to have her feelings validated and accepted. A woman who feels she cannot be heard also begins to feel unloved. Usually she will talk louder and longer in an effort to be heard and feel loved.

SIX POWERFUL LISTENING RULES

How is your “listenability”? Have you been a poor listener? How you communicate with the opposite sex can be the difference in being a great date or a mediocre date. Here are six power-packed ways you can improve your listening skills. Try them on your next date.

l. MAINTAIN GOOD EYE CONTACT. Focus your full attention on your partner.

2. SIT ATTENTIVELY. Lean forward in your chair as if you are hanging on every word. Block all other distractions from your mind.

3. ACT INTERESTING IN WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO HEAR. Raise your eyebrows, nod your head in agreement, smile, or laugh when appropriate.

4. SPRINKLE YOUR ATTENTIVE LISTENING WITH APPROPRIATE PHRASES TO SHOW INTEREST AND UNDERSTANDING. “I agree.” Is that so!” “Great!” Your partner wants to know you understand the ideas being presented.

5. ASK WELL-PHRASED QUESTIONS. Give encouragement by asking questions that illustrate your interest.

6. LISTEN A LITTLE LONGER. Just when you think you are through listening, listen thirty seconds longer!

Listening Secrets

LISTENING

Many assume listening is something we do with our ears. Ears are vitally important to the process of hearing, but true listening goes beyond only hearing what is said. Many people hear but do not listen.

Listening describes a skill which one learns–the process of tuning in or tuning out voices, noise, music. A conscious choice is made about what will receive our attention.

A “Dennis the Menace” comic strip describes the process perfectly. Dennis greets his neighbor, Mr. Wilson, while Mr. Wilson is reading his paper. No response. Dennis tries again, speaking louder. No response again. In desperation Dennis tries one last time, then turns to leave when his last attempt has failed. In a normal voice he calls good-bye over his shoulder.

“Good-bye, Dennis,” Mr. Wilson replies. Dennis remarks on his way out the door, “There’s nothing wrong with his hearing, but his liestening’s not so good.”

LISTENING BLOOPERS

Many “Mr. Wilson’s” exist in the world today who have developed poor listening habits. These habits can be very irritating to others and impede the development of an intimate relationship.

INTERRUPTING is the number-one detest listening habit. Interrupters spend their time not listening to what is being said but in forming a reply. Interested only in their own ideas, they pay little attention to the words of the other person and wait for a split second when they can break in with, “Oh, that’s nothing. What till you hear this!”

LACK OF EYE CONTACT came in second on the “most irritating” list. Listeners who fail to look at the person speaking to them convey disinterest, distrust, and a lack of caring.

THE SELECTIVE LISTENER picks out bits and pieces of conversation that interest him and rejects the rest. Others do not want to hear anything disagreeable, upsetting, or different.

A DEFENSIVE LISTENER twists everything said into a personal attack on self. A single mother gave her boyfriend the silent tretment all evening because she felt his remarks about her children’s table manners were a personal attack on her ability to train them properly.

These and many other bad habits abound because we have not been trained in how to listen. Listening is the most neglected and least understood of the communication arts. Becoming a good listener doesn’t require a college degree, but it does require training.

TOTAL BODY LISTENING

If you do not look as if you are listening, you might as well not be. In total body listening you will utilize every part of your body to show your partner you are listening. It makes the other person feel special, valued, and worthwhile.

LISTEN WITH YOUR EYES. Look at the person who is speaking without staring, boring holes, zeroing in, or making your partner uncomfortable. Make certain your eyes are not daring here and there, watching other people, or moving indiscriminately about the room when something important is being shared.

People feel distrust and suspicion for those who do not look at them when communicating. Distrust is one of the biggest blocks to effective communication. When someone looks you directly in the eye, it conveys confidence and builds a trust in the relationship.

In controlled experiments, psychologists have found that people who are deeply in love with each other engage in much more eye contact than do other couples. Eyes are capable of conveying many messages: love or hate, surprise or disinterest, happiness or sadness.

LISTEN WITH YOUR HEAD. Unless you nod your head in agreement, there is little motivation for the speaker to continue. A nod at the appropriate time says, “I understand.” Lean toward the speaker as though hanging on every word, but be sincere.

LISTEN WITH YOUR HANDS. Hands are capable of conveying approval or disapproval. Pointing your finger at someone is accusatory, but thumbs up conveys agreement. Use your hands to say, “I care.”

LISTEN WITH YOUR BODY. One with folded arms across the chest sugggests defensivenss while leaning forward toward the speaker is a sign of interest and involvement.

LISTEN WITH YOUR MOUTH. A good listening technique is found in responding with an invitation to say more, a simple invitation for the other person to share his thoughts.

Some of the simplest door openers might include: “No kidding,” “How interesting,” “I’m glad to hear that.” Some more explicit door openers are: “Tell me more,” “I’d be interested to hear what you have to say on this.”

Such responses reveal your interest but they also keep the conversation with the other person. He will not get the idea that you want to take over. They encourage a person to talk, move in, come closer and share feelings.

BODY LANGUAGE; DO ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS/

Few people grasp the importance of body language. In normal communication, the words used or content accounts for only 7 percent of what is conveyed; tone of voice and gestures amount to 38 percent; facial expressions alone account for an astonishing 55 percent.

This means that 93 percent of what is communicated is done so without words. Understanding nonverbal communication then, is probably more important than any other listening skill.

We communicate nonverbally through three different modes:

l. BODY LANGUAGE. All body positions either support or deny a verbal message. Sagging shoulders might communicate discouragement; head in hands, despair; a rigid sitting position, tension. But facial expressions send the strongest message. Eyes are the most expressive part of facial expressions. Their shiftiness, narrowing, widening, a slow roll, and rate of blinking all tell the mood of their owner. Eyes alone can divulge “I have no interest in your” or “You are important to me.”

Gestures are also part of body language. A handshake, embrace, clenched fist, slammed door, upturned themb and pat on the back all send clear messages when coupled with other nonverbals and the spoken word.

Our dress also sends a silent but powerful message about what’s inside. Someone has said that by what we wear we hang a sign for all the world to see and judge. “Loud” clothes beg for attention; sloppy dress indicates carelessness and low self-worth; immodest or revealing dress, a desperate plea for attention.

Note: Body language rarely lies because it springs from the subconscious. A person can hide feelings but not body language.

(2) VOICE CUES. Words convey information, but how those words are spoken–volume, speed, inflection, and emphasis–carries more weight (38 percent of the impact). The teasing tone, touch of humor, judgmental chastisement convey friendliness, happiness, or anger. Cues tell the other person whether to come closer or back off.

Beware of a variety of speech mannerisms that can be annoying. One such mannerism is ‘Yes, but.” Another is, “I know,” which conveys, “You dummy. You can’t teach me anything.”

It is because of what is involved in body language that I advise against long distance romance One couple courted via letters and the phone for two years. They were madly in love and knew they were meant for each other. Within a few months after they were married they were in deep trouble. Sandra said she felt like she had married a stranger. And Frank said that Sandra was nothing like he thought she was.

How could this be when they had courted for two years? To a large extent it happened because they did not know each other. When writing each other 93 percent of the message was missing. Over the phone and in letters a couple cannot see the body postures, facial expressions, and gestures which either support or deny what is being said.

HIS AND HER LISTENING STYLES; ARE THEY DIFFERENT?

According to studies conducted on the listening habits of the sexes, women and men have different ways of showing they are listening. Women tend to denote keen listening through “uh-huh,” “mmhmm,” and “interesting.” Women will include more head nodding and other positive listening habits more frequently than men.

Men include fewer of these behaviors in their listening. This leaves women with the impression that men aren’t listening and men with the impression that women overlisten.

Furthermore, what men and women mean by their listening behaviors differs vastly. When women nod their heads and say “uh-huh,” they do so to indicate they are listening and understand what is being said. Men use listening noises more to show agreement. It could be that women are listening less but are more convincing actors. Or it could be that men are hearing as much as women but are agreeing less!

This complicates the listening process. If a woman listens attentively to her man, echoing many “ohs,” “yeahs,” and uh-huhs,” indicating good listening (from her point of view), and he later discovers that she did not agree with what he was saying, he might accuse her of being deceitful. The same is true for a woman. If she shares something with her man and he gives no response, she thinks he is not paying attention.

Many men could improve their listenability by getting into the act of listening with some head nodding and an occasional “uh-huh.” A woman needs this kind of listening response from a partner in order to be heard. She seeks understanding more than a solution. A time will come to search for a solution, but while she is upset she wants to be listened to.

Most of all a woman needs to have her feelings validated and accepted. A woman who feels she cannot be heard also begins to feel unloved. Usually she will talk louder and longer in an effort to be heard and feel loved.

SIX POWERFUL LISTENING RULES

How is your “listenability”? Have you been a poor listener? How you communicate with the opposite sex can be the difference in being a great date or a mediocre date. Here are six power-packed ways you can improve your listening skills. Try them on your next date.

l. MAINTAIN GOOD EYE CONTACT. Focus your full attention on your partner.

2. SIT ATTENTIVELY. Lean forward in your chair as if you are hanging on every word. Block all other distractions from your mind.

3. ACT INTERESTING IN WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO HEAR. Raise your eyebrows, nod your head in agreement, smile, or laugh when appropriate.

4. SPRINKLE YOUR ATTENTIVE LISTENING WITH APPROPRIATE PHRASES TO SHOW INTEREST AND UNDERSTANDING. “I agree.” Is that so!” “Great!” Your partner wants to know you understand the ideas being presented.

5. ASK WELL-PHRASED QUESTIONS. Give encouragement by asking questions that illustrate your interest.

6. LISTEN A LITTLE LONGER. Just when you think you are through listening, listen thirty seconds longer!

 

Waiting For Sex

Sex before marriage may seem fun,

but the real joy is in waiting until marriage.

Some timeless principles.

Dear Nancy:

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost a year. We are both 23 and very fond of each other. We plan to be married when we finish our college studies. To be very honest with you, we’ve had sex several times. I never thought I’d go this far before I married him. But we are so much in love. I don’t want to do this, but I feel trapped. Please help me!

Dear Nancy:

I’ve read your published books and articles and really appreciate them. You’ve explained the stopping points in the pair bonding process, but how can a couple who is really in love keep from going too far too soon? That’s what I need to know.

Is it possible in today’s sex-saturated society for young adults who possess real sex drive and who are very much in love to put the brakes on physical affection? Most young adults have never set limits on their conduct, especially not their sexual conduct. Phrases like “I never really thought about it” are commonly used. Such “go-with-the-flow” attitudes create opportunities for sexual situations to develop.

One of the smartest things you can do to achieve abstinence is to think through your standards and develop a criteria for physical intimacy based on your personal values and God’s Word. Take time for a thoughtful self-inventory and decide what limits you will put on your behavior to obtain the goals you have for your future. Decide at what point in the steps to pair bonding you will stop. (See the book Smart Love, Chapter 5 “Touchy Situations,” or “Straight Talk About Sexual Purity” article). Recall the number of the pairbonding step which is your stopping point before marriage. This should be a number/step you would be proud to discuss with your parents or a trusted friend or pastor.

Young women must recognize that when they allow intimate kissing and hugging, when they allow a man to touch and fondle their breasts, he assumes that she is willing to go further. When she has allowed him to go this far, he takes this as a signal that he can go even farther. This is why it is safest and wisest to stop at step 6 or 7. But even a couple in a formal engagement should never proceed past step 9. The stopping lines beyond step 7 get very slippery and blurred and move frightfully fast since all sexual motors are turned on. Staying on the safe side of step 7 can save countless couples many a heartache.

Babe Ruth, the American baseball legend, once played before a hostile stadium. Amid the boos and hissing, he pointed his bat to the exact spot in the grandstand where he intended to hit the next ball. Then he hit the ball to precisely where he had pointed for a home run. When you are setting up rules for your conduct, think of Babe Ruth. Carefully think through and set your standards, planning how to maintain them. Develop a specific plan to follow so that you can continue in a healthy, growing love relationship without compromising your principles.

Everyone else might tell you can’t do it, but your standards can never be too high. The more clearly your standards are defined, the more likely you are to achieve them. Just keep thinking about where the bat is pointed.

Some may question whether total abstinence till marriage is realistic or even possible in today’s sex-driven society. Is it possible for single adults, those who are very much in love, to practice abstinence? I not only think it’s possible, but in the days of rampant sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and AIDS, it is imperative. Here are some steps to follow:

1. Be clear about your values.

Tell dating partners about your standards. This doesn’t mean that you introduce yourself by saying, “Hello, I’m Kristin, and I don’t sleep with anyone.” You can be both forthright and tactful in letting the other person know your limits. Those who are candid with a partner usually receive a positive response.

An easy way of bringing up the subject might be to talk about the standards you have just set for yourself. “It’s only fair to tell you about the values I have chosen for me life. I want to develop dating relationships that do not include sex until marriage. I hope you will respect these values and join me in keeping them.”

To be so up front about your no-sex-policy with someone who may not even have approached you sexually, may be a bit stressful early in a relationship. But once out in the open, you will notice it eliminates stress and uncertainty. Once it’s out there, you can both relax and get to know each other as friends.

Open communication between dating partners regarding their sexual ideals and values is an excellent way of preventing arousing situations. It isn’t fair to invite someone to the airport without saying whether it’s for a plane ride or a parachute jump.

2. Have a clear plan in case of emergencies.

Develop an action plan, should you ever be faced with a “close encounter.” You’ve developed your standards and are trying to live by them, but at some point, you will likely be with someone who will try to force you beyond those limits. How will you react? What will you do? Or say? Some advance planning now could save y our heartache later on.

Let’s look at this in three stages:

If it is only a light threat to your standards, you can say “No” and mean it. Begin telling a long, involved dramatic story. Talk about Christ. Get up, change the activity and say: “I’m starved. Let’s go get something to eat.” Tell a joke: “Do you know why the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years? Because even then men wouldn’t stop and ask for directions.” When there is no serious threat to your standards, any one of these ideas may take care of the situation.

A medium threat to your standards is a little more serious. A simple “No” hasn’t worked. You may need to use a firmer “No” through an I-statement: “I feel very threatened when you pressure me in this manner because you show no respect for my wishes.” Or, “What part of No is it that you do not understand?” You may need to leave so you are around other people. Young women need to carry a cell phone, and money for a phone call or possibly even a taxi.

If you feel seriously threatened or scared, trust your instincts. Escape any way you can. Use whatever resources necessary to get away. Scream. Fight. Slap and run. But don’t wait for a real threat to occur; develop a plan of action before it happens. Think of it as a practice fire drill. The time to find the exit is before the flames are singeing your feet.

3. Be accountable to someone.

Choosing an accountability partner is a powerful deterrent to sex play. An accountability partner is someone to whom you will be responsible for your conduct. A trusted fiend, pastor, counselor, or teacher is a good choice.

One young woman went monthly to visit her boyfriend, who was a student at a college located some 500 miles away. Since he lived in an apartment off campus, and they planned to be married, they slept in the same bed but tried to refrain from having sex. Their tries were as successful as are ropes of sand until this couple chose an accountability partner, and she found another place to stay when she came for her visits.

A couple who really want to maintain the standards they have set will report weekly in person to their accountability partner. While looking this person in the eyes, the couple must give a full account of their time, activities, and conduct. Powerful! I recommend it!

4. Plan carefully.

Plan your dates carefully in advance. Before going out, know were you are going, who will be present, what activities are available, how you will get there, and what time you will return home. If a date can’t provide this information or hesitates when asked – beware!

Dating should include a variety of interesting activities. Time spent participating in activities should far outweigh time spent in spectator dates where you are being entertained. Plan a variety of fun activities where you will get to know your date’s like and dislikes, total personality, values, goals, and beliefs.

In the early stages of a relationship, group dates are best. Although two of you are together, these is less stress. This allows you to observe how your date interacts with others and his or her sense of humor. In a group you can size up your date faster than you ever could on 10 formal dates alone. Among friends, your date will relax and be himself or herself. It cuts out “masking.” Group dating leaves room for friendship to grow, and makes it easier to maintain moral standards and prevent many dangerous “close encounters.”

5. Choose your dates with care.

Your relationships should be with those who are about your age, who have similar interests, ideals, and values. Your best partners are likely to come from the circle of friends you have already established, those you know something about. Avoid a blind date with someone you do not know or have never met unless it is arranged by a trusted friend.

And never date married persons, those whose divorce is pending (they are still married), anyone who is drinking or drunk, drug users, and anyone not in a position to date you openly. Don’t be so desperate that you would date twice someone who doesn’t measure up to your standards.

5. Avoid stimulating situations.

Avoid situations designed to stimulate sexual pleasure. I am constantly amazed by the daring and calculated risks to their moral standards young adults take without counting the end results. Examples include couples spending hours at the beach cuddling on a blanket while necking and fondling; couples sleeping together without having sex; those who lie down together just wanting to “hold” each other; and those who fondle each other to orgasm without going further. These are all great risks! No one can continue to take such risks and beat the odds.

Single adults who live on their own must lay down strict guidelines regarding their deportment when entertaining opposite-sex partners. Periods of cuddling and cooing in front of a cozy fire can lead to sexual intimacy as can candlelight dinners for two with romantic music and nothing else to do. Entertaining the opposite sex should always include another person or a group of people – just to be on the safe side. Avoid settings that are sexually tempting. But also movies, TV, and videos that would encourage sinful desires and fantasies.

Some think they can travel together and share a motel room or go camping and share a tent. Such game playing is foolish. No one can play with sexual fire for long without getting burned. God would have us flee the “appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22, KJV). We are not to flirt with temptation.

Once your limits are defined, stick to your guns. Regardless of how magic the moment, the mood, and the music, remind yourself of your chosen standards. Permit renegotiation only in broad daylight, when passion has cooled, your accountability partner is present, and you have both the time and rationale to rethink your position.

Not only will this help you translate temptation into rational behavior, but it also allows you to keep intact a very precious commodity – your self-esteem. Having positive feelings about yourself is the most important factor in avoiding sexual involvement prior to marriage. If you live up to your values, other will think highly of you, and inner conflicts will not tear you up inside. You will respond to others’ opinions of you with personal integrity and self-confidence. Your appearance, abilities, or social acceptance will not unduly worry you, leaving you freer to love, study, work, and play.

A.C. Green, one of America’s great all-star basketball players, says that as a professional athlete, he is constantly confronted by women who want to meet him and spend time with him. From the time he arrives in a city until he leaves, young women pursue him. Professional athletes often have a larger-tha-life image, and women-in-pursuit are everywhere, he says – in the airports, hotel lobbies, restaurants, and sports arenas – all trying to catch his eye.

 

 

Loving Argument

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“We really love each other, but we argue so much,” sighed a battle-weary wife of 14 years. “Can you explain to me why we engage in such destructive behavior? We have tried and tried to stop but seem unable to.”

Do you see yourself in any of these reasons couples argue?

When a partner fails to meet our expectations. Each of us has a mental picture o how the perfect spouse should behave – a picture that has been forming since childhood. Without conscious effort, comparisons between what is expected and what actually happens take place. Whenever you find yourself annoyed or disappointed with your spouse it is because of the discrepancy between how your spouse has behaved and the picture in your head of how spouses should behave,

When reality clashes with our expectations, we experience a variety o sensations: upset, pain, irritation, knots in the stomach – and eventually anger. Anger is the technique relied upon to change the person to match more closely the perfect spouse in our mind’s eye. When anger doesn’t work, we may resort to depression in hopes of convincing our real spouses to change.

When there is a sharp difference in values. Values are the beliefs by which we run our lives. Values dictate our behavior even though we are hardly conscious of them. We all have values that are important to us, but we attach different weights of importance to them. So if one partner values saving and the other spending, if one values works of art, flowers, and museums while the other prefers sporting events, if one values submission and the other equality and independence, some major conflicts will probably surface. Each can agree that saving, museums. And submission are important values, but disagree about the extent to which they are important or when they are important.

When a couple differs on values, it can be considered a serious disagreement, regardless of how much they love each other. Such couples will clash every time an issue concerning values surfaces. They will make up and love and pray and still fight and not even know what they are fighting over – or ever tackle the all-important why.

Different interpretation of emotional wants. We all tend to need three things from others: love, appreciation, and respect. Although we attempt to have all three needs filled, one predominates: love.

The trouble is that love is not tangible and thus is difficult to visualize. If I ask a man how he knows his wife loves him, he takes a long time to answer. All their married life his wife has been loving him, but he can’t verbalize how since people tend to understand love unconsciously, not consciously.

To further complicate matters, some people (visually oriented people) need to see love in action to feel loved. Others (auditory people) need to hear love before they feel loved. Still others (kinesthetic people) need to feel love in action before they feel loved. It is highly probably that the vast majority of arguments could be eliminated if couples could understand each other’s need for actually seeing, hearing, or feeling demonstrations of love, appreciation, and respect.

An obviously angry couple seated themselves in a counselor’s office. After being asked about the problem, the wife burst into tears and through her sobs said, “He doesn’t love me anymore.”

“How do you know?” quizzed the counselor.

“I dress up pretty for him and he never notices or compliments me,” she replied.

The counselor turned to the husband and asked if he loved his wife and how he demonstrated that love to her. “Of course I love her. I’m always touching her, hugging her, patting her. That’s how it is with a man,” he said with a grin.

“That’s not love,” the wife fired back bitterly. “That’s nothing more than an invitation for sex and it embarrasses the life out of me in public!”

Both loved but not in ways that met the needs of the other. Their conflict boiled down to the fact that each perceived and demonstrated love differently. Many marriages could be saved simply by understanding the different ways people perceive demonstrations of love.

The message sent was not the message received. Another cause of everyday arguments is that the one who received the message (the listener) behaved as if he understood the meaning of the message and acted upon his assumption. Without checking, he assumed he understood what was intended by mind reading and reacted according to his inaccurate interpretation.

Suppose your partner says in what you interpret as a gruff voice, “Hey, come in here, will you?” You will probably think, What did I do wrong now? You may become defensive because you assume the tone of voice means your partner is angry with you. The tone of voice could mean he is angry, but it could also mean that he is angry with someone or something else that has not yet been identified.

Many hassles begin innocently this way. “I heard what you said and I know what you meant.” The other person counters, “No, that’s not what I meant.” “Oh yes it is. I know you,” the first one says. “Whenever you use that tone it means you are angry with me.” “It does not.” And on and on it goes.

You can save yourself arguments over nothing if you double-check before coming to a negative conclusion.

Adapted from Smart Listening for Couples by Nancy L. Van Pelt

 

CREATIVE WAYS TO KEEP ROMANCE ALIVE

by Nancy Van Pelt

Ellen and Levi met, fell in love, got married, and had three children. But on their way to building a family, their marriage started to fray at the seams. Their dreams got lost somewhere between starry-eyed illusions and the stark reality of rearing children. What this real-life couple discovered was that babies can be a real workout for the parents’ relationship. The humdrum details of demestic life become emotional land mines.

Frequently parents become so involved in their children’s lives that they forget to make their marriage a priority. If this pattern continues, their children become the only glue that holds them together. A couple usually do not realize that they have put their marriage on hold. It begins with a subtle shifting of priorities and often continues unrecognized until the children are older. Midlife markers such as a 40th birthday or a high school graduation become rude awakeners. Once children are launched, these partners look at each other and wonder about the stranger who sits across the breakfast table.

It’s not easy to keep a marriage on track romantically. Lori explains it this way: “I was shocked, after we went on a vacation to celebrate our 10th anniversary, to realize it had been seven years since we’d had more than a weekend away together. I wasn’t holding a grudge about never having a vacation, but it was heavenly to be able to do what we wanted, when we wanted, where we wanted, without children. It was like wearing a beeper for nine years and suddenly taking it off and leaving it somewhere for a whole week. I was so free! I never relaxed that much at home. It was like our honeymoon before we had kids.”

After we’ve been married awhile, the tendency is to give work and children our freshest energy. Marriage gets what’s left over. But if a couple is going to maintain a healthy marriage over the long haul, romance and fun activities must become part of the delicate balancing act. Without taking time for this, patience with each other wears thin.

As the second law of thermodynamics notes: “Everything left unattended will tend toward disorder.” Living in the same house, practicing the same faith, parenting the same children, sharing the same bed, isn’t enough anymore.

Note that the couples mentioned were not considering divorce. They probably had a better relationship than many. But they weren’t happy. Being married was not satisfying to them. This happens in many marriages. Newlyweds become disenchanted with married life when their marriage is no longer like television sitcoms with a happy ending in 30 minutes. Routine, sameness, boredom, and child-centeredness settle in. Such couples stand perched on the brink of what might be termed “marital burnout.”

Marital burnout is a state of complete physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion in marriage. It afflicts those who expect marriage to give meaning to life and finally relaize that, in spite of all their efforts, their marriage isn’t providing what they want.

Marital burnout doesn’t happen overnight. Instead it’s a gradual process, a growing awareness that things are no longer as good as they once were, that one’s spouse is not as exciting as he or she once was.

Keeping Romance Alive

So, how can a couple prevent marriage burnout? Here are some tips:

* Try a 20-second recharge. Kiss each other for at least 20 seconds two times a day, rather than the usual pecks on the lips or cheek.

*Tape a note to the mirror that reads, “Hello, Favorite Person. You are looking at the person I love will all my heart.

*Prepare a homemade booklet of coupons that your partner can redeem at will. The coupons might say “This entitles you to two hours of my undivided attention.”

*When you know your partner has had a really tough day, give him/her an all-over soothing massage.

*Write out a list of all the things you love about your partner. Seal the list in an envelope and leave it on his/her pillow.

*When your mate enters a room, do a full body turn and let out a long, low whistle.

* Invite your partner to a hug party. Call yourself a hug therapist who gives great hugs, and tell him/her it wouldn’t be a party without him/her.

*Move your kids’ bedtime up by 30 minutes and spend the extra time with your mate. The kids may complain, but stand your ground.

*Every day, grab five or 10 minutes when you can touch base with each other. For example, share a glass of milk before the kids get up in the morning.

*Turn the television off and lie in bed in each other’s arm talking until you fall asleep.

*Call your mate in the middle of the afternoon, just to touch base.

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This article is excerpted from Highly Effective Marriage by Nancy Van Pelt.