Refresh: Marriage

Good morning.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here on staff.  And sitting beside me is my wife Jody.  And this morning we are going to take a candid look at marriage, and how we can refresh our marriages by getting back to the basics of a healthy marriage.

Some caveats before we begin.

  1. This sermon is rated PG-13 because we deal with physical intimacy a little bit.
  2. We do not have a perfect marriage. We do feel we have a healthy marriage though.  And so we are sharing what we’ve learned about some basics to making your marriage stronger.  You will have to look at the principles and see how the principles we share can be applied to your own marriage.
  3. What we are talking about here today will be helpful to many, but not all. We aren’t professional counselors or anything like that – and we’ll just remind you that if you’d ever like to talk to a counselor regarding your marriage or anything else, Journey will subsidize that professional counseling to make it as affordable as possible.  We are committee to doing all we can to make your marriage as healthy as possible.
  4. We recognize that some are not married, some are single and don’t want to be married. We’d ask that you bear with us, and just listen, because maybe your situation will change someday and this may be helpful then.
  5. Lastly, the conversation might get awkward at times, but please know that everything we are sharing has been thought about and prayed about.  And we will make no apologies to anyone for anything we are about to share, because we wish that someone had gone out on a limb for us 26 years ago when we first got married.  And we might recommend some things you disagree with.  We will recommend a podcast later that was helpful to Jody and I and you might hate it.  Please hear us when we say we are sharing what’s been helpful to us, and our intent is to strengthen your marriage.

So let’s begin.

Genesis 2:24  24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

The goal of marriage is for two to become one.  One-ness is the picture that is presented to us.  It’s what we have always strived for.  One-ness in our decisions, as much as possible, oneness in our communications to our kids.  Oneness in our goals and vision and church life.

But an odd thing happened to us.  One night about a year ago, we were sitting in the living room – and I was on one end of the couch and I had my laptop open and I was watching some brain numbing video on youtube.  And Jody was sitting in her chair on her phone scrolling through Facebook – and we went the entire night without barely saying a word to one another.  And then we began to realize that this wasn’t a one time deal.  That many days in a row were coming and going with us being in the same room, but not being in the same room at all.

That our marriage was becoming more and more marked by twoness rather than oneness.

Now, the deal is that it was a rough two-year stretch leading us to that point in our marriage.  For instance, in the course of two years, Jody had not one but two knee replacements.   Jody was working full time as a teacher, bringing mounds of work home with her each night, and at the same time she was going to grad school, working on her masters classes.

Meanwhile I was doing my Journey Church thing, trying to find land for Journey to build on, and so there’s a certain amount of stress that comes with being a pastor as well.

On top of all that, Jody’s mom passed away in September, and my mom passed away in March the year afterward.  And so, tons and tons of stress on our marriage.  Now some of you are thinking – that’s nothing – we have our own stories!  And we are not unaware that many have greater stress than we did during that time.

Here’s the point.  We were drifting apart from one another, and inch a day, it was microscopic on a day-over-day basis.  It took two years for us to notice that a significant chasm had developed between us.

Our marriage had begun to feel like two roommates that got along just fine, but certainly not what either one of us was happy with.  Certainly not one – and so some work needed to be done.

And if that can happen to us, it can happen to you too.  Because we’re always been intentional about making sure our marriage was strong and healthy.  We’ve never wanted to settle for a mediocre marriage, and yet…  and this is not too much to say…  that was where we found ourselves.

So this morning we want to share what we learned with you, in hopes that maybe it will be helpful to other marriages in here.

And what we discovered was what we are simply calling the five types of oneness.  Five intimacies that we needed to address on a weekly basis.  And so our goal today is to make you aware of these five intimacies and share how we began to move back toward one another – from twoness back to oneness.

And so – let’s share about these five intimacies.  And we will share our heart and see if God has something in this for you today.

#1.  Financial intimacy. 

In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.  Proverbs 23:5

Thankfully, a few years ago Jody and I attended a Dave Ramsey class and learned, after 20 years of marriage, how to establish a budget and stick to it.  And that was a big deal for us.  It got us on the same page in thinking about our finances.

One thing we learned in the class was that in every marriage, there is one person who is the financial nerd – likes to keep track of the books and the spending and pays the bills and checks the balances – and then there is the other person.  They are more of a free spirit!

Establishing a budget got us on the same page because it forced us to talk about how we are going to spend our money before we got it.  And it forced us to communicate about how much can we spend eating out, or golfing, or shopping, or whatever.  The numbers had to line up.

I just read a poll this week that declared money issues to be the number one reason couples split up.  If one person thinks the other isn’t pulling their weight financially, or spending irresponsibly, or unable to keep a budget?  All of those things drive a wedge between couples and leads to resentment, bitterness and two-ness.

If you need help with this, then we can help.  We have a number of people who lead Dave Ramsey classes and will even meet with you one on one if need be.  They will all tell you to take the class, but they will listen and help.

Of the five that Jody and I are talking about – this one was a larger issue for us earlier on in our marriage, but it wasn’t that much of a problem in our recent season – but only because we proactively decided to take a Ramsey class here at Journey, and to take it seriously.  And we are very thankful we did.

  1. Recreational Intimacy.

In the past we’ve called this as “side-by-side” time.  Just doing something you both enjoy together.

Examples of this:  Cooking together.  If you don’t like the idea of cooking together, you and watch other people cook, together.  We are big fans of the Great British Baking show.  It’s okay to watch a program you enjoy, sometimes it take a long time to find something you both enjoy.  But it’s worth it.

Other things you can do together?  Walk together.  Exercise together. Read together. The key is that you are doing these things together at the same time.  One time I went with Phil and rode along with him in the golf cart- he played golf and I read a book and caught some sun and every once in a while say, “Nice shot babe!”

Do something that makes you smile and do it together.

Last year we took a vacation – just the two of us.  First time we’d done that in 14 years.  We always go with the kids.  It was so great.  We went to Northern Minnesota and discovered a part of the country that neither of us had ever been to and we learned and discovered it together.

Recreational intimacy is side-by-side time having fun together.

  1. Spiritual intimacy.

It might surprise you to hear that this was one of the five intimacies that we had allowed to slide.  There’s plenty of reasons – but here’s the thing.  This area requires a great deal of effort, intentionality, planning – if it’s going to succeed.  If you don’t schedule time for this it’s likely to get squeezed out.

Of all the intimacies, this one was filled with the most start and stops than any of the others.  We’ve tried to read devotional books together at night, we’ve tried all kinds of ways to get on the same page.

Lately we’ve take to sitting at the table together eating breakfast while we each read our own devotional books – and afterward we talk about one thing we read that caught our attention.  And then we pray together before we leave in the morning for work.  It’s a total of 15-20 minutes, I’d say.

At night one or the other will pray for us, and our family before we drift off to sleep.  And that’s where we’ve landed.  Some of you have much more robust spiritually intimate life – and that’s great.

What could you do to introduce spiritual intimacy into your relationship?  Maybe a prayer before you all eat?  That’s kind of a zero entry-level type thing.  It doesn’t have to be very complex.  But your spouse and kids deserve to hear you thank God for them.  That is very important.

Maybe it’s going to church together regularly.  Making it a priority.  Maybe it’s serving someplace together.  Jody and I are both really enjoying manning the welcome table at the Student ministry on Sunday night.  It’s uniting us.

Don’t give up on your spiritual life together.  And so perhaps later on the question will be – what one thing do you think we can do that would unite us closer spiritually?  It’s worth talking about.

  1. Physical intimacy. (Jody- it’s all yours)

So here’s how we’re going to talk about this one.  We aren’t going to talk about ourselves.  “Thank goodness.”  Instead we are going to talk about how one day we came across a podcast called One Extraordinary marriage, and it was a podcast devoted to learning how to communicate about physical intimacy in a marriage in such a way as to bring health.

What we learned was interesting.  Remember how we mentioned that when it comes to financial intimacy – there are two types of people?  The nerd and the free-spirit?

Well, we learned from listening to this podcast was that in every marriage, there are likely two kinds of people.  There is what they call higher desire people, and lower desire people.

If you asked each of these two types of people – how often should we be planning to be physically intimate each week – there will usually be a very large gap between the numbers.  For instance the lower desire person might say, do you mean how many times a month?  The higher desire person might say, How many times a day.   And low and behold you are married to one another.

Now – it’s very important to understand that neither type of person is the wrong type.  Both are valid.  You are not broken if you are a high desire or a low desire or even a very low desire.

These people – Tony and Alisa – are followers of Jesus, although their podcast is not created for followers of Jesus alone – and they are also quite blunt about this topic.  And their story is that when they were married there was a huge gap between the two desires – her interest was so low as to be almost not registering at all on the scale of being interested in physical intimacy.  Meanwhile he was constantly ready to go.

And listen – this is a real issue.  And it needs to be addressed as seriously as the financial issue.  Because if you don’t come to some kind of mutual understanding and agreement about this – this issue will generate as much resentment and bitterness and two-ness as all the others combined.

In the end, they both ended up frustrated and confused and feeling rejected by each other.

Here’s why…From Tony’s point of view – each night became a guessing game – wondering if this would be the night when all the stars would align in such a way – have the kids behaved today?  Are they asleep?  Does Alisa have the energy or is she too tired?   Was that a signal that she wants me to initiate?  Clearly that was, right?  Oh, wait.  Nope.  It wasn’t. What is wrong with me?  Why doesn’t she like me? Is she not attracted to me anymore?   I do not know how to read her!

And in the end he felt rejected ,frustrated, and confused.

Meanwhile Alisa was just as frustrated.  From Alisa’s point of view-  she was constantly left wondering – is he trying to put the moves on me right now?  Is he rubbing my back because he knows I’m bone tired, or is this a prelude to something else.   What expectations are attached to that kiss in the kitchen?

Does he not care about the fact that I am tired to the bone?  Does he not know how mentally and emotionally drained I am feeling right now?  He must know but he must not care that much.

And all he wanted was for his wife to want him.  He wanted his wife to be physically into him.  Meanwhile, she felt like He was only physically into her.

And it led to tons of late nights arguments – with them lying next to each other wondering why the other one doesn’t love them enough to see their point of view.

So what changed?  They attacked the issue and they decided that each of them would take ownership of initiating intimacy.   They began to talk about the issue outside of the bedroom and not at 1am – and they came up with a three point plan of attack.

First – they decided how many times is the right amount of times.  They talked and communicated about their feelings and their needs.  It’s wicked difficult to do this, you know. Of all the intimacies – this one is the most often avoided – not discussed about until one or the other is angry – and nothing good ever happens at 1:30 in the morning and you are both tired and neither one of you feels like the other is listening.

They talked about it.  Do you know there is a verse in 1 Corinthians 7 that says that couples should not keep themselves from being with each other except by mutual consent for purposes of focusing on spiritual growth, and then only for a time.

What does that mean?  That 2000 years ago the Apostle Paul had this talk with a church and he told them what we are telling you – you’ve got to talk about what each expects from the other.  How many times is the right time for you and your spouse.

Tony and Alisa decided that for them they would try to be physically intimate with each other twice a week.  It might be twice a month for you.  Twice a day for you.  I don’t know and please for heavens sake don’t tell us!  We don’t want to know!  We’re not telling you ours – we’re telling you their plan!  They settled on two times a week.

Secondly – and this is the genius of their plan.  They decided that they each had to initiate physical intimacy one time a week.  Furthermore – they decided that they would own a time period within they must initiate physical intimacy.

So He says – Once on either Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, he will initiate physical intimacy.  And once between Wednesday and Saturday, she had to initiate physical intimacy one time.

Lastly, they decided that their bedroom would be a no-rejection zone.

Now I don’t know how you feel about that – but I’d say – it’s worth considering.  If the high desire person is the one who is usually the initiator?  They would be thrilled –  it would be a dream come true to be chased once a week by the lower desire person.

You might hate the idea of scheduling intimacy.  I don’t know why.  We schedule everything else.  A little bit of planning into your week will go a long way.  If your days are Wednesday through Saturday – own Friday and Saturday, and you know that three of those days are going to be crazy busy for whatever reason, then you better plan on freeing up some energy on that one night that allows for the chance to be one physically.

Now you might have a bunch of questions about that – and I’d simply say – go to their podcast and listen to their story and you decide for yourself – they will say it saved their marriage and made it tons and tons better and stronger.

Now we enjoyed this podcast – even though some of the topics are embarrassingly blunt – because it gave voice to some of the things we’ve been feeling.  And it gave us a platform that we could use to discuss it.

So listen – when Jody would send me a podcast and say – I listened to this and I thought if you listened to it we could talk about it later.  You better believe I listened.  And we could sit on the front porch and talk.  Quietly in hushed voices away from our children.

Lastly – let’s talk about the fifth intimacy.  And that is Emotional Intimacy.

How will our souls connect?

And we learned from this podcast one great practice that we want to share with you – and we call it coffee time.  Once a week we will sit down and look at each other and have a cup of coffee and talk about our life.

We answer Eight questions.  Your questions might be different.  Ours our…

  1. What was your favorite memory of our time together last week?

We always have to look at our calendar because the days get blurry.  But for me last week was working with Jody on this talk.  And trying to figure out how much is too much to share.

  1.  How do you feel we did tending to these intimacies last week?

Spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, recreational

  1. Which would you like extra attention paid to this coming week?
  2.  How did I do showing you that you are the priority in my life last week?  What did I do well?  What could I have done differently, given the circumstances?  (Teach me)
  3. What’s on the schedule this week to note?
  4. Who is cooking this week?
  5. When is our next date night?
  6. What didn’t get talked about you were hoping might come up?

We have found that these questions clear the air, and any feelings that we have get expressed and shared quickly – instead of burying them.

Last verse.

1 Peter 3:7

 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together.   … she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

This is a powerful verse to realize that God cares about how we are treated his daughter.  And wives, it goes the other way, right?  Your husband is God’s son.  He cares about how you are treating one another.

And equal partners in the gospel means that both voices are heard and compromises are made.  And things get talked about.

Where will you go from here?  Maybe it’s something worth chatting about at some point.  Don’t use this talk as an axe to grind.  Use it as a launching pad into health.  How are we doing?

Ask your spouse – which of these areas do you think we need to address?  The answer might not be the one you think – it might surprise you.