But marriage didn’t end up being what I was anticipating.
I wanted my husband to love me for me, and it seemed that when we didn’t make love he got ticked off. And so I started challenging all my assumptions. I figured that Keith really didn’t love me–or at least he didn’t love me enough. And I thought that God was supremely unfair, because he made sex to be so fun for guys, but not for women. And then He made men want it all the time! Not just that, but He said that it was our responsibility to actually meet our husband’s needs. I figured people had been lying to me my whole life. Love wasn’t really possible, because it was conditional on sex. And I got really sad.
I was in that funk, off and on, for about three or four years. And then, gradually, the funk faded. It wasn’t just because sex got better. It wasn’t just because we got better at working out our problems. It was because I decided that I didn’t want to be miserable in my marriage. I wanted to be happy. And it seemed to me that the only way to be happy was to start believing that the good things that I had heard about marriage and sex were true.
Instead of questioning God, I turned the tables and started questioning my own experience.
This is true in many areas of marriage, not just sex. Ultimately, we need to believe that marriage is for our good, that God blesses marriage, that we can be happy, that following God’s precepts does make one more peaceful. But these are matters of belief–of faith.
If you feel that your husband doesn’t love you or talk to you enough, for instance, you can focus on that and become depressed and resentful. Or you can focus on God’s command to love and respect your husband, and to find your peace in God. And when we start to do that, often our marriage changes. When you start to act out love, the feelings often return.
The turning point in many marriages comes when a person decides to listen to God and believe.
In other words, and this is so important:
The success of your marriage depends far more on what you believe about God than on how you feel about each other. (click to tweet this!)
When you believe that God wants the best for you; when you believe that God created sex to be physically wonderful and spiritually intimate; when you believe that God will always be enough for you, even if you feel lonely in your marriage, then things get better.
The converse is also true:
Often the reason that we struggle in marriage is not because there is something wrong with our spouse, but because we don’t actually believe God’s promises.
Now obviously there are exceptions to this. If your spouse is abusive, or is having an affair, or is addicted to pornography, simply believing “God loves marriage, and if I cling to that these problems will disappear” is not going to help–although believing that God can give you strength and can be the source of your ultimate peace can help you take the right steps and seek the right counsel on what you should do.
But with many marriage problems, the issue is one of attitude far more than it is anything else.
You’re believing things about your spouse, about sex, about marriage that aren’t true. When you can get your attitude in check, often the marriage starts to improve.
Let’s take sex, for example. I have always felt uncomfortable reading some marriage books, and especially some popular ones, that say something like, “to keep him from straying, you just need to make love a lot”, and “you are responsible to meet his needs. Your body belongs to him.” Are these things true? Yes. But I think the authors are often misdiagnosing the problem. When a woman is truly hurting, and feels that sex is dirty, or it’s not pleasurable, or believes it’s all for him, then telling her “God says you have to make love all the time” isn’t a message that is going to help her have a rich sex life. It may be a message that makes her “do it” more often, but she’ll likely still trapped in the same hopeless attitude, and grow even more resentful. And her husband will feel like she’s just placating him, not that she actually wants him.
I think there’s another road–the one that worked for me. And it challenges you to this:
Do you really believe in God’s goodness? Do you really believe that what God created is good? Do you believe that God intends you for pleasure, intends you to experience deep love and intimacy? He said He did, and it’s now up to you to either believe Him, or to reject Him.
When we frame it into an issue of faith in God, it takes on a new meaning. We’re looking at the problem with the attitude, not a problem with the action.
Actions flow out of attitudes, and if our attitudes aren’t in line with what God said, our actions won’t conform, either.
Yesterday, in church, our pastor was talking about The Battlefield of the Mind, and reminding us of 2 Corinthians 10:5, which says:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
When it comes to marriage, your ultimate guide shouldn’t be your experience. It should be what God says.
I’m not saying that your husband is perfect. No one is. The question is, do you want to focus on the negative, or do you want to focus on the positive? Of course, confronting is certainly part of a healthy marriage. But confronting is about making the marriage stronger, not tearing down another person. It focuses first on God’s aim for your marriage, which is an intimate connection.
Success in marriage is far more common when you start aiming for that and believing that.
When you start despairing about your marriage, can you take that thought, hold it up to God, and ask, “what’s your perspective here? What are the promises you have given me?” When you start having really ugly thoughts about sex, can you take those, and hold them up to God, and say, “what do you say about sex? What do you say about whether it’s good or not?”
Sometimes God’s promises don’t seem real because we haven’t experienced them. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t real. It just means that often we CAN’T experience them until we first BELIEVE them. Marriage success is a matter of faith.
I understand that many of you are lonely. I understand that many of you are resentful, and desperate, and angry. I understand that for many of you, your marriage isn’t going well right now. When I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I tried to write it thinking about women just like you. Many of you are really hurting, and you don’t want to be just told “you’re sinning”. You want to be told that there is hope that things can get better, and that God wants beauty for you, because He does.
So that’s what I did. I wrote a book that says, “God has something so amazing for you. You may not see how you’re going to get there, but believe it, walk in it, and then it will come.” But it’s a matter of faith.
This week, when you start to feel down, or resentful, or bitter, take those thoughts captive. Look at them, and ask, “what is God’s truth here?” Then act on His truth, not on your feelings. I truly believe that that is the key to marriages turning around.