2 Ways to Improve Your Marriage

xxxchurch - 2 Ways to Improve Your Marriage (1)I thought marriage would come easily.

I pictured a handsome man sweeping in to pick me up and make me whole. I guess I have Disney to blame for that – LOL! Obviously, that fairy tale was exactly that – a fairy tale. Marriage can be difficult, and there are times when I have struggled to even like my spouse.

I want to have a better marriage. Here are two things I have learned that have helped and can improve your marriage:

1. Only God can complete you.

The idea of someone coming in, sweeping you off your feet and completing your life is absurd. But, that is exactly what I thought was going to happen when I got married. I put my identity in my marriage and my spouse. Any time our marriage didn’t go the way I thought it should – or any time my spouse disappointed me – I personally felt like a failure.

In other words, I was totally co-dependent. That way of thinking is so wrong.

When I thought of my husband as the means to my happiness, anything he did “wrong” upset the crap out of me because he wasn’t fulfilling his “purpose.”

When I found out about his porn addiction, my world shattered.

I had to come to the realization that he was not my identity. Through treatment, accountability and community, I had to learn that he is not the means to my complete happiness. If I hadn’t, there would have been no way for me to heal from that pain.

So, if my husband isn’t who I am, where is my identity?

God.

I had to put my identity in God. I had to realize that I am a child of God. Loved and wanted. That was the answer I had been searching for all along – even before my husband and I got married. It took his addiction to open my eyes and come to terms with the truth: My identity and path to complete happiness is Christ. No one person could ever fill that void, nor should they ever have that much pressure on them to do so!

Only God can truly bring you to that place of wholeness. Only God can give you all you long for. Once I placed my identity in God, I was free. And guess what? So was my husband. We were able to enjoy one another knowing that it was going to be alright – even when we mess up – because we are not responsible for completing one another’s identity.

2. Marriage = Service

A happy and healthy marriage does NOT come easy. It is hard. My husband and I were recently discussing the fact that we are so very different… in almost every aspect of life.

Honestly, at first, we were angry that God made us almost-exact opposites. “Why in the heck would God make us this way knowing how hard it would be in marriage?” It baffled my brain! Doesn’t God love us and want us to be able to enjoy our marriage? It just seemed unnecessary.

But then, my oh-so-wise husband had a brilliant thought. What if God made us drastically different so that we would HAVE to learn to love like he does?

x3-fighting-for-my-marriage-facebook-10In other words: Agape.

Agape is a Greek word for love. One definition is: “Unconditional love that is always giving and impossible to take or be a taker. It devotes total commitment to seek your highest best no matter how anyone may respond. This form of love is totally selfless and does not change whether the love given is returned or not.”

WOW! It boils down to selflessness and service.

We have to learn to serve to have a great marriage.

We must lovingly serve one another to the point of dying to our own selfishness. Now that, my friend, is a hard concept. Serving each other out of love… even when we don’t really like each other.

That is God’s love. That is what makes us closer to God. That is what makes our marriages stronger and that’s what will improve your marriage.

It never ceases to amaze me how much we miss when we don’t do things God’s way. Did we have a “happy” marriage before surrendering totally to God? I guess, but let me tell you, it was NOTHING compared to what we have now. Miracle after miracle.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard. I have to remind myself daily to let go of my selfishness, as does my husband. But on days when we get right with God, we get life right and those are the best days!

As I look back, I now see that it was never my husband who was supposed to be my knight in shining armor – it was ALWAYS JESUS.

I thank God that He has my identity.

I thank God that He made men and women so differently.

I thank God that through the mess and craziness of marriage, we learn how to serve like He did and, ultimately, love like He loves.

 

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A Conversation About Fifty Shades Darker

Last week I wrote a blog post about my experience watching 50 Shades Darker with my wife Jeanette and what I learned from the movie. You can read that post here.

Well since then I’ve received a ton of emails and comments on social about my decision to watch the movie and write that post. Some good, some not so good. Many people have said they can’t believe why I would go see the movie at all. Why would I take Jeanette? And so on.

That being said, Jeanette and I had a really great conversation about the movie afterward … and of course I recorded it.

So I want to share that conversation with you. I think you will find it helpful and it also explains some of the reasoning why I went to see the movie with my wife in the first place.

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What I Learned from 50 Shades Darker

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I went to see 50 Shades Darker with Jeanette last night in Hollywood.

Two years ago I wrote this blog post.

I was even asked to do a sermon at Daybreak Church about the movie for their AT THE MOVIES SERIES. You can watch that HERE.

We went to the 10pm show and the first thing that stood out to me was the theater was filled with 90% women. I am not talking women with their husbands or boyfriends. I am talking women out with their girlfriends like they were about to watch Magic Mike or Bridesmaids.

Odd.

The person in front of me buying a ticket was a woman, maybe 30 years old by herself at 10pm on a Thursday night.

I had this mindset that the movie was going to attract a bunch of dudes, but I realized that women read the books and women are the ones pouring in to see the movies. That part scares me a bit.

Just a bit.

Back to my story…

The previews rolled. Three of them:

Beauty and The Beast
Baywatch
Girls Trip

Disney’s new Beauty and The Beast before Fifty Shades of Grey? Seems odd.

Not if you just read what I wrote about who is watching these Shades of Grey movies. Girls Trip looks to be one of the raunchiest previews I have seen in a long time.

Now to the movie.

The movie starts out with Christian Grey trying to get Anastasia Steele back. They come to terms with a deal:

No Rules
No Punishment
No Secrets

Throughout the movie, I wrote down one-liners that stood out to me either from Christian or Anastasia. It was dark in the theater, so don’t get mad at me if I didn’t get the quote exactly how it was said, but I am pretty dang close on most of these:

(A) It’s all wrong, all of it is wrong.

(A) It’s not a relationship. It’s ownership.

(A) Don’t crowd me; I need space.

(A) Take me to the red room.

(A) It means the world to me when you open up to me.

(A) Thank you for telling me.

(A) You forbidding it is not us talking about it.

(C) I don’t like strangers gawking at you.

(C) I get off on pushing women who look like my mom.

(C) My arrival into the world isn’t something I feel like celebrating.
In this second movie, you still have a very broken, confused Christian Grey who wants what he lost in the first movie.

Anastasia knows she should not go back to him but can’t refuse. The old saying, “Men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love,” sums up this movie. Anastasia’s refusal for crazy dark sex in the first movie is flipped around in this movie several times when she pushes Christian to even darker sex.

The movie is really slow.

There are some other story lines, but for the most part, you see two very dysfunctional people in a dysfunctional relationship that ends with a proposal, engagement ring, and a YES.

You may think that is great and you are cheering them on…right?

Well, maybe the ladies in front of me were. But for Jeanette and I who have been married now almost 19 years and watched so many of our friend’s divorce, we couldn’t cheer this couple.

What did I learn from 50 Shades Darker?

Here are five things:

1. Sex doesn’t solve problems.

In this movie, Anastasia asks a lot of questions and gets very few answers from Christian about his past, his secrets, and his emotions.

He avoids and dodges a lot of point blank questions from Anastasia. Instead of conversation and communication between the two, you see they avoid them and jump in bed together.

WRONG.

Never happens like this in real life.

Those men who are married for 19 years (or any amount of time for that matter) can relate to what I am saying.

If you and your wife are in a fight and it’s not even a big one, wouldn’t it be great just to have sex and then make up the next day?

Sex isn’t a band-aid and in this movie you only see them having sex instead of communicating. Anastasia engages in crazier sex than she is typically comfortable with in hopes that Christian will open up more, but he never does.

Don’t think that passion and sex can be enough to withstand a broken relationship. It is temporary and that band-aid is going to be ripped off because sex is not going to solve your problems; often it is going to create more of them.

2. One-sided relationships won’t work.

Do you have that friend that always needs something from you?
Do you have that friend that always talks to you, but never listens to what you say?
Do you have that person that you alway have to pay for?
Do you date that person who could care less about your kids, but you’ve invested in their kids?

There has to be give-and-take. If it is not 50/50, it has to be pretty close for a good relationship to work.

This relationship with Anastasia and Christian is tough to watch because it is one-sided.

The quote I mentioned above from Anastasia sums this up. “It means the world to me when you open up to me.”

Christian thinks he is comprising and trying to give into her requests by taking away some of his rules and allowing her to get closer to him. Ultimately he doesn’t know how to open up and communicate and show any emotions and that is why this doesn’t work.

If your spouse or the person you are dating is not willing to comprise, give in, let their guard down, meet you half way, do something you enjoy–you are in trouble, just like Christian and Anastasia.

3. Relationships require hard work.

Christian works hard at winning Anastasia back in this movie, but I wish he would work hard on diving into his past, his issues, and his pain.

I tell couples that are thinking about marriage that marriage is hard work. No one talked to me about that when I was growing up and dating. I don’t like even how this movie ends with the two of them getting engaged, one might leave the theater happy for them, but I didn’t.

Neither one of them are willing to do the hard work that marriage is going to take.

Instead, they settle for band-aids on all their wounds. As a result, their many scars will never heal and their relationship won’t make it.

Your relationship won’t work if you both are not willing to do the hard work that marriage requires.

4. People need other people.

My friend put it on a T-shirt. And I wrote a whole book about it.

The friends and family of the couple in this film just celebrate these two broken people becoming one broken mess.

No one speaks up.
No one says, “I OBJECT.”

I recently had a guy steal from me with Facebook ads. His agency was a total joke and I was in trouble and didn’t know what to do. So I contacted a top agency recommend by Facebook themselves. The CEO was willing to get on the phone with me and offer up advice at $3.00 a minute.

I was impressed actually with the way that phone call was set up and organized. Super legit. At the rate of $180 bucks an hour.

Cheaper than a lawyer, I thought to myself that I should do this.

You know how many hours I spend talking to people who ultimately won’t listen to anything I say? A lot. In fact, in 2017, I said I was done investing so many hours trying to help others that don’t want help.

It is just a fact-most people don’t have anyone to call when they are in a bind or when they are in a messed up relationship that they don’t know how to get out of.

Not one person in this film helps Christian or Anastasia realize they are not right for each other, that they should not be in a relationship right now, that they should work on their issues.

That’s sad, but that is real life for many of you.

You not only don’t have people in your life you feel comfortable asking those questions to; you don’t want to hear what they have to say anyway.

It’s amazing what happens when you pay $3 a minute for advice. You listen. At least I did.

I thought maybe more people would listen to me when they call me in the middle of the night because their marriage is on the rocks and I point them towards the direction I feel they should go.

But, they don’t do it.

Ultimately, whether you pay $3 bucks a minute or you get it for free. You need other people in your life.

If you are dating and thinking about marriage, you need to ask your friends and family (and kids if you have them) what they think of the other person, what they think of you two together, what their concerns are and then LISTEN and TAKE ACTION.

People need other people in good times and bad times.

5. You can’t fix people.

People need other people, but that doesn’t mean people can get you to change or someone can fix you.

Anastasia honestly believes she can get Christian to change. It was hard for me to watch because one of the things she does over and over in the movie is give into the things she was once against.

So, to get Christian to change, she pushes him for darker and darker sex knowing that in the end, it is not a good thing for him.

You and I can’t fix people.

Marriage won’t solve your problems.

If you are fighting and not seeing eye to eye dating, you are not going to get married and just have those problem solved. Instead, they will be compounded.

It’s an ego thing to think you can fix someone because you can’t. If you are healthy and believe that by dating an unhealthy person they will become healthy, you are WRONG.

They will most likely drag you down instead.

Chances are you both are dysfunctional like Christian and Anastasia and instead of tying the knot, these two should be separate and both work on themselves before getting into a relationship.

My friend told me he shouldn’t be in a relationship and needed to work on some things. I agreed. He’s still in a relationship because that is more fun than doing those other things that require deeper work.

My friend asked me to marry him and his girlfriend. I said I would do it, but a few weeks later I sat down with him and said while I would do the wedding, I didn’t think he should marry her.

That was super tough.

I wondered, do I lose a friend over this if I say don’t marry her and I won’t do the wedding?

Do I just suck it up and marry them because that is the Christian thing to do so this couple can have sex?

You think I am exaggerating?

You know how many dumb things I have heard from people who told me their pastor found out they were living together or having sex and then just said, “Let me just marry you right now so you can stop living in sin.”

DUMB.

Marriage, like I said about sex on my first point, doesn’t solve your problems.

My buddy was divorced not long after the wedding I performed.

It was sad to watch, but I feel like so many Christian kids (especially) have been brainwashed to believe that marriage is the answer. That marriage will “fix anything.”

Date for a long time.
Ask hard questions.
Look for red flags.

Ask anyone and everyone you know what they think of him or her and you together. Don’t get caught up in the “I need to get married just so I can have sex” stuff.

Take your time and realize that the red flags you see while you are dating will still be there when you are married and you can’t fix the other person.

I don’t know how the trilogy ends. I can only imagine there is a wedding in movie three, continued dysfunction, and then probably kids at some point thrown into this ugly mess.

Anastasia deserves better and so do the girls in the theater watching this movie last night with all their girlfriends. So do you.

Don’t settle.
Hold true to your standards and beliefs.
Don’t compromise for a man.
Don’t say yes to him when he doesn’t respond to your needs.

And lastly, stop having sex today outside marriage.

Yea, its easier said than done, but it’s the truth.

There is a time and place for it and outside of that complicates things and brings in many other things that you shouldn’t worry about until you have that commitment in marriage.

In the movie, Christian asks Anastasia why she waited to have sex. She said, “I was waiting for something exceptional.” Instead, she ended up with Christian Grey.

Set the bar high.
Exceptional is a good place to start.
Don’t end up with a Christian Grey.

Wrapping this up because it is now 2:00am. Fifty Shades Darker isn’t a movie or a book just about sex (sure there is a lot of sex in the movie).

I don’t recommend the movie.
I do NOT recommend the movie just because of the sex.
It wasn’t a good movie, period.

As you can see from what I just wrote for the past two hours, I didn’t talk about whips, spanking, beads, dungeons, or anything like that.

Nope.

The thing that stood out to me all revolved around two people in a relationship who can’t communicate with one another, so instead they just have sex. In the end that won’t work for them and it won’t work for you either.

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