Marriage

25Jan

4 Things Single People Need from Married People

When my wife and I were dating in college I had some good married friends who were a little further along down the road of life. They were there for me when I was single, dating, engaged, and then married.

Now, almost five years into marriage, a lot of how we try to love our single friends is a direct result of how they loved me, and then us.

I have written about this before but our home group is fairly diverse. We are far from the level of racial diversity I desire but we are also not a cookie cutter “married 40’s who have dogs and like football, etc.” We have single people, divorced people, married people, adoptive parents, single parents, doctors, carpenters, etc.

One of my favorite things about our group is seeing single people and married people foster genuine friendships with one another. They are not just interacting for a few hours but are connecting in a way that constantly spills over our normal weekly gathering.

I remember what it was like to be single and some of my closest friends are single. I asked several of them from a wide age range what they felt they needed from married people and the following were the 4 most common answers. I have included direct quotes from the single people polled.

4 Things Single People Need from Married People

1. If you’re married, stay married.

Disclaimer: This assumes you’re not in an abusive or adulterous relationship. Both are more than sufficient reasons to end a marriage.

Single people have no reason to desire marriage for themselves if their married friends are constantly getting divorced. Marriage is not a contract. It is a covenant. Honor your covenant.

Don’t get divorced. We need to see that marriage is a legit thing, something we could and should actually want.

See: 3 Reasons I Got Married

2. Remember what it was like to be single.

Marriage is a game changer and it should be. God designed it that way. It totally changes your life, viewpoints, motivations, etc. One of the unfortunate by-products of such a significant change is married people can simply forget what it was like to be single.

Single people need married people to remember what it was like to:

  • be unsure if someone you care for actually cares for you
  • have your heart broken
  • battle with the feeling like you’re not good enough because it seems like nobody wants you
  • wonder if you should buy a house or keep renting, buy a small car or an SUV, take a new job or stay put – all because you’re unsure of what those decisions mean for potential relationships.

My best married friends have simply forgotten what it’s like to be single. Half of my close friends are married and one of them invited me to dinner with some of our friends. It ended up being six married couples and me. My married friends just saw that as them hanging out with their friends while I felt like a 13th wheel all night long.

See: How to Date as a Christian

3.) Don’t stop being “you.”

While marriage does definitely change your life, it does not need to take it away. Your true identity is not found in being married. Friendships are often temporary but they don’t have to immediately eliminated when you get married. (See: Accept the Temporary Nature of Friendships)

We need to see that marriage does not mean you disappear. We know things will change, even change a lot. But we need to see that if we follow in your steps and get married that does not mean we have to stop camping, or cheering for our favorite sports team. We need to see that we can still cultivate our unique passions even if our potential spouses do not share them as long as they support them.”

 

4.) Friendship

Every single person I asked mentioned this, and several only gave one answer. Single people want to be friends with married people. It’s that simple. Real friendships.

We just want their presence in our lives, letting us into your circle of friends even though we aren’t married. Most of the time married people seem to only hang out with married people. When you let us in we can get a glimpse of what a good marriage [hopefully] looks like. We need married people to listen to us, to pray for us. Being alone can be tough when you see everyone else getting married and start having kids. We need prayer that in this moment we find fulfillment, contentment and a strength against the temptation that becomes easier to give into the older we get, when things don’t go as we had originally planned.

Single people don’t need married people to still live a single lifestyle. Quality conversations can happen in the morning or over coffee instead of late at night or over dinner. (See: The Single Struggle)

I don’t want to get rowdy or anything, but it just seems that a lot of good, fun guys get married and then quit hanging out with people. Every time a friend gets married, I lose a friend. We still see each other occasionally but they just aren’t interested in having serious discussions with non-married people anymore.

Questions: Single people, what else do you need from married people? Married people, can you remember what it was like to be single?

9Dec

When I Refuse to Pray for Church People

There is a time when I refuse to pray for church people.

This may seem odd, especially since I am a pastor. And I am a pastor who genuinely enjoys praying for people, both inside and outside the church. I am no expert by any means and I appreciate how even the Bible recognizes that prayer is hard. This is Paul’s plea to the church in Rome,

“Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to join in my struggle by praying to God for me. Do this because of your love for me, given to you by the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:30

Paul had seen better days. Life was hard and persecution was real. Yet notice how Paul asks for help. He asks the people God to join him in his struggle by sending money, selfies, good thoughts, casseroles, praying to God because they love him.

Tangible expressions of love are great. Who doesn’t love a timely delivered meal? But we have to drop this idea that prayer is some lower level of ministry, not really as effective as doing something.

Tragically, I think prayer has become a lost part of the pastorate in many ways.

One of my largest spiritual influences, Eugene Peterson, tweeted a similar thought a few weeks ago that has been careening off the walls of my heart ever since,

The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.

Yet for all the importance of prayer in the pastorate, there is still a time when I refuse to pray for church people.

It’s at my kitchen table, coffee in hand, every morning before my wife and I leave for work.

Just before the hustle of the day begins, we both take time and pause. We read Scripture together and pray for one another. ONLY one another. Some days it is 30 minutes and others (like yesterday) it is 5 minutes. I cherish this time for one main reason: we pray for nothing but each other.

This has nothing to do with me being a pastor and everything to do with being a husband.

In marriage, praying together is like sex. When it’s happening, life is good. Each person knows their spouse generally cares for them. Extra effort is usually made and usually noticed and appreciated. However, when it’s not happening, little things can turn into big things in a hurry, causing to fights out of literally nothing.

How to Pray WITH Your Spouse FOR Your Spouse

1.) The WITH is important. The goal isn’t to just pray for your spouse, but to join in the struggles of each other through prayer because of the love you have for one another

2.) Ask, “How can I pray for you today?”

3.) Listen.

4.) Actually listen.

5.) Pray about the stuff you heard.

Even if you’re not super comfortable at first, the effort is not just helpful; it’s imperative.

How well do you really love your spouse if you are unwilling to pray for/with them?

1Dec

The One Where I Almost Killed My Wife in the Desert at 3 A.M.

I’ll never forget the time I almost killed my wife in the middle of the desert at 3 A.M.

It was our first Christmas as husband and wife and we were driving in a tiny Hyundai Accent (henceforth referred to as “Betsy” – may she rest in peace) from Waco, TX to San Diego, CA to visit my wife’s family.

We were too poor to afford a hotel room so we decided to make the 1,361 mile journey without stopping.

My wife had made the trek a few times with friends and assured me we could do it no problem…

As the hours ticked off we found ourselves on a long, remote section of highway in New Mexico in the middle of the night. It was snowing and my wife was fast asleep. I remember thinking how incredibly blessed I was, seriously. As a newlywed who had just completed my first semester of seminary and was working at my first real church job, life was good.

But then life wasn’t good.

As we were driving, I noticed the gas gauge needle had started to make some rather flirtatious advances toward the “E.” Much like Dorothy, I realized I was not home anymore and there was not a gas station at every exit. Not out in the desert.

I tried to stay calm but it just wasn’t working. As I thought about how my wife and I would be remembered once they found our frozen bodies (if they ever did), I only prayed my mother-in-law would somehow know it was never my intention to kill her daughter before we celebrated our 1st anniversary. That’s just inconsiderate.

So I white-knuckled the steering wheel and started to pray, “Lord, I really need to find a gas station.” When I looked down, much to my dismay, the gas needle was already bumping uglies with the “E.” It was not long until their relationship would be fully consummated.

I started to formulate a Plan B. If we couldn’t find a gas station, surely there must be a place for us to at least take cover from the cold. But I started to realize I hadn’t seen a diner, a store, or even a house in a long time. Looooong time.

I was popping Betsy in neutral any chance I could get as we rolled on to our imminent deaths. We had actually just rescued a beautiful Labrador, Zoe, from the humane society and she was on the journey with us as well. Now I would be remembered as a wife and a puppy killer. Great.

As I continued to pray and rack my mind for Plans C-X I kept having this one thought, “There’s no way I can make it over one more hill. There’s no way I can make it through one more valley.”

Until finally, the most glorious sight appeared. This was no ordinary gas station. No, at the bottom of the next hill I saw a 24-hour truck stop, blazing with light and food and clean restrooms and ultimately…gas!

As we pulled in my heart began to slowly exit my throat and descend back to its normal resting place. My wife slowly awoke, pet our sweet new dog, Zoe, and sleepily asked, “Everything going alright, sweetheart?”

“Yes, dear” I replied. “Go back to sleep.”

Imagine my dismay if, after coasting into the truck stop on the last bit of Betsy’s fumes, there was no gas. I knew this place was a gas station and not a Chuck E. Cheese because I had seen millions of other gas stations just like it. Imagine what it would be like to pull up and find it closed. No longer fit for service.

A lot of people in my part of the country look like Christians, at least on the outside. You can tell they’re not anarchists or brothel operators. We talked about this in depth in my home group tonight. There’s a cultural form of Christianity that is alive and well. I say this a lot in my church but I think it’s worth repeating:

Whatever it means to love Jesus has to be something categorically different than what it means to love college football and sweet tea.

Remember, I was never confused about what the gas station was; I just needed to make sure it could provide for me what it appeared to offer from the outside. Christians have the only real version of what the whole world needs, hope. If you’re celebrating the season of Advent you probably talked about hope yesterday. One of my big takeaways from yesterday was the responsibility each one of us have to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

Sometimes, Christians can get caught up in some form of cultural Christianity where they go to church because they think it helps them be good people or it makes them feel encouraged, which is all good but none of that’s Gospel. None of that’s hope. That would be like me coasting up to the station needing gasoline and only being offered a cup of coffee. It would make me feel good for a minute but it does not solve my fundamental problem.

Christians have a tremendous opportunity, especially during the Christmas season, to be stations of hope to people simply running on fumes.

Life is tough, no matter what belief system you adhere to. That feeling of being overwhelmed and beaten down is a universal one. People all around you are struggling through life, looking around for help, thinking there’s just no way they can make it through one more valley or over one more hill.

So how do we help? How exactly are we supposed to give hope to a hurting world?

This largely depends on the situation. Honestly, I don’t always know how to specifically help, but I know when I can never help. Imagine if we had coasted up to the pump, lights are on, workers are present, but the pump does not work. So one by one we check and none of the pumps work.

Why? They lost connection to the true source, to the reservoirs below the ground.I can never really help people find hope when I forsake my only connection to real hope.

This is incredibly encouraging, because it means we don’t have to be the hope people need. If someone were depending on me for that they would be mightily disappointed. No, we are simply called to point them to the hope we have found and to which we are connected. You can’t point people to a hope you don’t really have.

Stay connected to Jesus, the true source of hope. How? Lots of ways! I have friends that remind me how important things like prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, silence, and service are to staying connected to Jesus. There are lots of ways to stay connected but almost all of them require you slow down in a season where we feel we’re supposed to frantically hurry up.

How do you stay connected?

24Nov

The Single Struggle

Guest Post: Today’s post comes from one of my good friends, Rachel Dishner. She blogs over at Sweetly Southern Hospitality and you can follow her posts by clicking here. Rachel has a ferocious heart for the Lord and writes today about the struggle of being a single Christian in the South. Her words are vulnerable, powerful, and can be encouraging and challenging to us all.

You can read her original post, “The Single Struggle” on her website here.

At this moment there are 7 wedding invitations on my bulletin board.  I look at them everyday and 6 days out of 7 the only thing I think is how excited I am for my friends to get to share their lives with the ones they love, but on that 7th day I start the comparison game.

They say comparison is the thief of joy and they are right.  It is when we start focusing on the things in our life that seem to be missing rather than the incredible amount that we have, that we tell ourselves we don’t have enough.  That we aren’t enough.  That Christ isn’t enough.

That’s my struggle.  6 days out of 7, I live this life that is so full of joy I can hardly stand it.  I am so fulfilled in my job, in my family, with my friends, with my God at this stage in my life that the don’t haves start to fade, 6 days out of 7.  But it’s on that 7th day when I get really lonely and start wondering why I’m not enough.  What do I need to change to find love?  Why hasn’t God sent (insert name) into my life?

But you know what, those 6 days out of 7 are what I am going to put my effort, my attention, my focus on.  Because I have so much more to offer than my insecurities point out that I don’t.  I want to strive to live the life that God created me to live and you know what, if He has different plans for me than I do myself, why would I want anything different for myself?

That is easier said than done, I know.  Trust me, I know.  At almost 24 years old, the southern culture I am surrounded with screams that since I haven’t found anyone I will be alone forever.  They are wrong.  I am choosing to believe they are wrong.  But I struggle daily with saying that Christ is enough for me and meaning it.  But maybe, just maybe that is where Christ wants me.  Maybe He knows that I struggle with that and that I also am striving to mean it and He is going to push me until I get there.  I am choosing to find happiness and choosing to see beyond the single struggle into a struggle towards the heart of Christ.

You can let Rachel know what you thought by leaving a comment below.

17Nov

5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

It can’t go on like this.

Adolescence cannot last from 11 years old to 29 years old.

The headlines are everywhere:

Most sociologists view adolescence as beginning at puberty (for some at 11-12 years old) but that’s not the problem. The problem is there is no longer any conceivable end to the age of adolescence.

Adulthood used to be measured by 5 major milestones (completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child). Yet these depict a cookie cutter path to adulthood that not everyone takes. (See: You May Never Get Married)

And that’s okay. Some of the most mature people I know have never had children or been married and some of the most irresponsible crazies I know have the most children. But I would argue the first three of those traditional milestones are still really important.

So are 20-somethings just up the creek without a paddle? It’s getting harder and harder to obtain financial freedom. Student loans are a necessary evil for many and that debt can shackle you for decades. Not to mention the degrees you took the loans out to obtain mean less and less all the while more and more education and experience is being required for entry level jobs. Where do you go to work to get the 3-5 years experience that everyone seems to want for you to get a job?

I know the deck can seem stacked against 20-somethings in many ways. But that’s not my concern. I see it almost everyday. Some of my friends have looked at the landscape of their 20’s and simply concluded, “This period of my life doesn’t matter.” And that’s a narrative they have bought into: hook line and sinker.

All this talk about millennials yet so few conversations with them. With that in mind…

5 Reasons Your 20’s Matter

1.) You’re not a teenager anymore. You’re not an “emerging” adult. You’re an adult.

While there is no denying adolescence, it needs to have a definitive ending point. Your 20’s are not simply a continuation of your teenage years. They are not a time to grow up; they are a time to be grown up. I know it can feel like you’re stuck sometimes but real life is happening all around you today. (See: The In-Between Places)

The apostle Paul wrote the following about maturing into adulthood:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. – 1 Corinthians 13:11

2.) The relationships you make and cultivate in this defining decade will shape the rest of your life..

Many people meet their spouse in their 20’s. Who you date matters because who you marry matters.Your 20’s are not a time to waste time dating losers you know you could never marry. Keep the bar high because if you lower it a whole bunch of jokers will start jumping over and then you’ll have deal with the fall out.

The friends you have in your 20’s are also different than any friends you’ve had before, even if they’re the same people. In high school and college it can be hard to tell who your real friends are because they’re picked largely based on proximity. You go to class together. You live near each other, etc. But once you graduate college and/or start working, you really start to learn who your real friends are. Friendships can be harder to maintain but ultimately more worthwhile.

3.) You’ll gain financial freedom or financial captivity.

Student loans stink. Learn to HATE your debt. Think about all you could do without that amount weighing you down every month. Work hard. Get promotions. Move up the ladder as you’re able and feel comfortable in doing so. Learn how to manage a budget. (See: Chop Wood, Carry Water)

It’s not just a financial issue; it’s a discipleship issue. Everything is God’s. We’re managers at best. Manage well. Your success or failure in this area during this decade will largely determine your financial health for the next three decades. (See: The 1 Thing We Fight About)

4.) You’ll find your sweet spot at work, eventually.

A lot of your 20’s is spent discovering what it is you’re truly passionate about. You’re young enough to switch careers and depending on your personal life situation (married/unmarried, with/without kids, etc.) you can really pursue a wide path. But don’t be afraid to settle in when you find something you love. No situation/job/boss is perfect. (See: Why I Love and Hate Kids Ministry)

In the immortal words of Monica to Rachel, “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it.”

5.) Your 20’s are not your own.

You don’t own any part of your life. It’s all a gift of grace. Life with Christ isn’t just for your 30’s and beyond. You’re not even guaranteed to make it to 30.

Your 20’s are a wonderful gift, given to you and me from God. Honor him with these years. Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I have had more to be truly grateful for in my 20’s than ever before.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (and your 20’s). – 1 Corinthians 6:19b-20  (italicized mine)

Question: What would you add to the list? Why else do the 20’s matter?

16Nov

My Favorite Word in the Old Testament

The last 2 weeks or so have easily been some of the most stressful and uncertain in my life.

I don’t intend to stack it against your most stressful or uncertain week, though. Many of you have suffered and endured more than I could ever imagine.

  • My wife and I do not have any children yet so we do not know what the loss of a child is like.
  • We have consistently had provision for our basic needs so we know nothing of what it is like to wonder where our next meal would come from or how we would keep the lights on in our house or the heater on in winter.
  • Both of us have been consistently employed in jobs we enjoy so we have never felt like we were giving ourselves to something pointless not do we know the sinking feeling of unemployment and all that often comes with it (depression, identity crisis, self-esteem issues, etc.)

With that said, though…here’s what went down in a matter of days.

  • We discovered a hole in our roof…when it rained. When the roof fella came over to work on it, he put his boot through the ceiling of our dining room. When it rains, it pours. Literally. In our dining room. Upside? We had a skylight for a few weeks!
  • Our oldest dog, Cooper, almost died. We’re kinda dog people so this was maybe a bigger deal for us than it would have been for you, and that’s okay. We discovered he had a huge tumor blocking his digestive tract, and stealing all kinds of nutrients from his body. He stopped being himself and lost tons of weight, rapidly. We took him to the vet and they scheduled surgery the next morning. Sometime the night before the surgery his tumor ruptured, filling his stomach up with blood. Surgery went great! He’s back to his old self and will be great but he was 10 hours away from dying.
  • The engine in my car fried. The ENGINE. You know, the part that makes a car…a car. The engine cost more than my car is worth.
  • My wife’s teeth have apparently been in an open revolt against her for some time now. She went for a check-up and came out with more bling in her mouth than 50 Cent. Then part of that bling didn’t do its job so she had to get a full-on root canal. Lovely.
  • Somewhere in the middle of all of this I attended an out-of-state conference for 3 days.

I’m sure you know what this season is like. Everything seems like it’s about one second from spinning out of control. The other shoe has dropped about 10 times and you’re wondering how many other things could go wrong. You don’t know who Murphy is but his law sucks and if you ever find him you’re gonna punch him right in the jaw.

It’s in moments and seasons like these that I return again and again to my favorite word in all of the Old Testament. I highlight/circle/box/underline it every single time I come across it.

STEADFAST

It can actually be a catch-all word in English because 6 or 7 words in Hebrew are translated as “steadfast” in the Old Testament but we understand the meaning. Steadfast means stable, enduring, patient, constant, never-wavering, long-suffering, etc.

It’s probably the quality I most admire in others.

In the Old Testament, it’s almost always referring to the character and nature of God, his steadfast love. It’s the Hebrew equivalent of “grace” albeit rather roughly translated.

Think about it. God’s grace, his loving kindness, is most often expressed to us in his stability, in his enduring, never-wavering love for people who constantly waver from him.

Even though we far too often “swerve to the right or to the left” (Proverbs 4:27) God never does.

This should give us great encouragement when life kind of hits the fan. If I were to go back through the list I cited earlier of all the things that converged upon us in a stressful time, I could show you all of these situations sort of worked out. Some were more expensive than expected but some weren’t. Our dog could have just as easily died but he didn’t. My wife could have lost her entire tooth but she didn’t.

But none of that has anything to do with God’s steadfastness, not really. To say it does is to promote some type of prosperity gospel which would be a desertion of grace and a “turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one.” (Galatians 1:6-7)

Our circumstances could have gone worse but they also could have gone better. Either way, God is steadfast in his love toward us and that was, is, and always will be our greatest hope.

“20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.” – Psalm 33:20-22

13Oct

Co-Habitation, Dating, & Marriage

Are two people who decide to live together outside of marriage headed for divorce?

That’s the question I set out to answer, or at least learn more about, a few weeks ago. I stumbled across The Downside of Cohabitating Before Marriage, a 2012 New York Times article written by a clinical psychologist who works primarily with 20-somethings and has made a healthy living counseling couples and individuals with issues specifically related to cohabitation.

Jay tells the story of one of her clients, a woman named “Jennifer.” Jennifer lived with her husband for four years before they married yet started receiving counseling from Jay when she was considering divorce just one year into marriage.

“What happened?”

Jennifer eventually confessed that when she was living with her husband before they got married, before she knew his commitment to her, it felt like she was constantly trying out to be his wife, wondering if this was the month, or even the year, where she would be seen as worthy enough to be a wife.  “I felt like I was on this multiyear, never-ending audition to be his wife,” she said. “We had all this furniture. We had our dogs and all the same friends. It just made it really, really difficult to break up. Then it was like we got married because we were living together once we got into our 30s.”

Jennifer’s story is heartbreaking, and if we’re not careful we can miss the real issue with co-habitation.

I could see how it’s easy to start living together with someone, especially someone you’re already having sex with.

You’re already staying over at each other’s houses. When you’re both at his place, you use his Internet while your paid-for Internet goes to waste with all your other lonely, underutilized utilities. When you’re both at her place and she wants to invest in some new furniture it’s not the craziest thing for her to ask you what you think. She doesn’t really care but she’s really asking, “Is this furniture eventually going to be our furniture?”

The whole 30-is-the-new-20 culture communicates that your 20’s just don’t really matter that much. And study after study shows that 20-somethings are the most likely to live together outside of marriage. It does matter what you do, all the time, especially in your 20’s. They might be the most formative years of your life because you’re making decisions then that you’ll deal with the rest of your life.

But cohabitation can wreck your 20’s, (or your 30’s, 40’s etc.) because you end up compromising in ways you never intended:

Step 1: You start dating someone.

Step 2: The exciting newness of your new relationship has worn off. Things are honestly going well but you’re not super sure about where the relationship is going long-term so you decide to fast track things, stop the house-hopping and live together. More sex. Less rent. Win-win.

Step 3: The exciting newness of living together has worn off. You look around one day, still unsure about the future of your relationship long-term, but now it’s messy. You think about what it would take to end the relationship. You’d have to find a new place, get new cable/Internet/utilities, etc. You’d have to decide who keeps the dog you adopted together. You’d have to find some, if not all, new friends. If you’re church goers you have to find a new church, small group, etc. If you’re honest with yourself, all that just doesn’t seem worth it.

Step 4: Something gives. Marriage, all of a sudden, doesn’t seem so terrible. Maybe you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re just exhausted at the idea of starting all over with someone new. The thought of doing the whole first date, awkward get to know you, meet the parents routine sounds dreadful. So you get married.

Step 5: Divorce? Maybe. Happy marriage built on a fierce sense of loyalty and covenant commitment to one another? Probably not. You think to yourself, “How did I get here? I would never date my spouse if I was just meeting them now.”

What happened?  Cohabitation happened.

If you’ve made it this far in this post you might be familiar with a cohabitation, dating, and marriage survey I created over the weekend. It was taken by hundreds of people and brought about some interesting results. You can see the most recent version of those results here. (The survey is still open and the results are constantly being updated).

Survey Background Facts:

  • 75% of the survey responders are female.
  • 50% are under the age of 30.
  • 34% have lived or are living with someone outside of marriage.
  • I intentionally left out comment boxes or religious preferences.

5 Thoughts on Cohabitation

1.) Cohabitation is more simple than some people realize.

Cohabitation is most dangerous for people living with who the studies referred to as a “serial cohabitater.” This person, male or female, has no real desire to get married. They are operating out of a misguided, more sex/less rent attitude and/or they desire some companionship without a deep commitment. Ironically, cohabitation requires a commitment that cohabitation cannot actually provide. This group is full of the people trying to rationalize their decisions when really their situation is simple: get your own place.

2.) Cohabitation is more complex than some people realize.

For some, cohabitation is much more common and increasingly more complex. This group is made up primarily of lower-income populations, particularly uneducated, single mothers. Maybe they made some mistakes in their past, giving up on a dream or college to be with the man they loved. Maybe a teenage pregnancy altered their life forever. No matter how they got there, they have now arrived at a place of need it seems impossible to break out of. They might have multiple kids with multiple partners but for them, cohabitation has become a financial necessity.

My hope for them would be to move in with parents, friends, other family members…basically anyone but a potential sexual partner. It’s this group of people that gets overlooked by these studies and articles. Remember “Jennifer”? She was paying to see a very expensive and highly sought-after therapist to unpack her cohabitation-based problems. No one from this group is able to acquire such help yet their life’s problems can be largely chalked up to cohabitation as well.

3.) There is a very real correlation between couples living together outside of marriage and the success of their future marriages.

An absolutely conclusive study does not exist. Cohabitation does work sometimes, as long as “work” is defined by a lack of divorce instead of faithfulness to the God-ordained covenant of marriage. When cohabitation does “work” it is almost always the same situation: Two people who genuinely care for one another in a particularly selfless way date and eventually move in together. They later get married after living outside of marriage but it turns out that both of them only ever lived with each other before they got married.

My encouragement to them is simple: If you’re ready to move in together, you’re ready for marriage. If you’re not, then you’re not. That’s even more selfless. Cohabitation relationships are harder to dissolve than just dating but much easier to dissolve than marriage. Marriage communicates the ultimate “I love you and I actually mean it.”

Yet the facts are hard to dispute. Cohabitation does make breaking up harder and eventually makes marriage easier…all to someone you may not actually have ever decided to marry if you had never started living together.

4.) Cohabitation requires absolutely zero commitment.

This might be the hardest reality to grasp because perceived commitment is all around you!

  • You picked out the furniture TOGETHER.
  • You made new friends TOGETHER.
  • You got a pet TOGETHER.
  • You have a bed TOGETHER.
  • Yet there is nothing, no level of mutual trust or lasting commitment keeping one person from waking up one day, deciding to quit, and walk out. People definitely walk out of marriages in similar fashion, but they break real commitments to do so, not perceived ones, not counting the financial and social consequences divorce has.

Men often perceive cohabitation as precious time bought to avoid marriage while women simultaneously think they’ve got their man moving toward marriage.

5.) Co-habitation is incredibly uncomfortable for kids.

If you’re a single and/or divorced parent, you should never have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleepover and you should never live with a partner and force your kids to live in that same environment. It is confusing, unfair, emotional, and incredibly selfish. You put your kids in a very difficult situation to like, trust, and/or ever love your significant other if they do indeed become your spouse one day. Just don’t. If your partner is not willing to marry you, they don’t get that level of access to you. Even if you don’t value yourself enough to deny them that access, value your kids enough to make the right decision.

What are your thoughts on cohabitation? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below.

25Sep

7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night: From a Pastor & a Therapist

It’s Friday morning and I’m already excited for date night! I hope you are planning for a date night with your spouse as well.

This is the companion article to our first post. If you missed that one you can read it here: 7 Questions to Ask on Date Night: From a Pastor & a Therapist. If dating your spouse is a new concept for you, our hope is that these two articles give you a great starting point to pursue the one person that matters most in your life.

Once again I’ve teamed up with my friend and licensed marriage and family therapist, Carrie Feero, to help me come up with some practical advice for date night newbies. If you’re in the River Valley area you can schedule a counseling appointment with Carrie by clicking here and/or follow her blog here.

Just like there are questions that are great to ask on date night, there are just as many you should never ask. Date night is about connecting with your spouse while pushing pause on your incredibly busy lives. Some questions/conversations allow aspects of that busyness to creep into date night and can ruin the evening.

7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night

  • How do you think ________ and _________’s marriage is doing?

Date night is about your marriage, not anybody else’s. Many of you know what it’s like to walk with friends through an unhealthy marriage, maybe even one that ends in divorce. As painful as it can be to watch your friends fail to honor their commitment to one another, their marriage is not fodder for your date night conversation. Those conversations are important to have, especially if you are genuinely trying to plan how to help, and not just gossiping.

P.S. Celebrity marriages (no matter how comically brief they may be) are also off the table for date night discussion.

  • How can we improve on our budget for next month?

Have a set time to discuss finances and other household responsibilities. While budgeting can definitely impact your marriage, date night is not the time to focus on finances. It’s about each other.

Read about how getting on a budget helped our (Steven & Hayley’s) marriage here: The 1 Thing We Fight About.

  • What did our daughter’s dance teacher say after her lesson?

Date night isn’t about the kids either. It can be hard to separate your marriage from the rest of the family, but research shows that healthy families require healthy marriages. Your kids learn from you; give them a good example. Often the best way for you to love your kids well is to model for them a healthy marriage, one where spouses see and treat each other as more than co-parents.

  • What are we supposed to bring to the tailgate on Saturday?

This is not the time to catch up on errands, to-do lists, and social responsibilities. You have plenty of time to do that stuff, like during the sermon at your church, on your way home from work, or after the kids go to bed.

  • What’s the score to the game?

Your date night should be focused on your spouse. If you’re on a date night, keep focused on each other, not the TV’s on the wall or music playing from the speakers. If that becomes too much of a distraction for you, find a place where you can have these types of conversations without all of the distractions. It may take some creativity.

When our date night takes us to a place with sports on the TV’s, I (Steven) try and make a point to sit on the side of the booth where I can’t see the game(s). With that said, we can never have date night at Buffalo Wild Wings, where there are no less than 83 TV’s in the main dining area.

  • When are we going to have kids?

Or insert any question that sparks debate or conflict here. Old wounds, hot topics, and points of contention are off limits for date nights. While there are absolutely times and places to have these discussions, date night is focused on being a positive, bonding experience where you can connect with each other, not start a heated or hurtful conversation.

  • Wanna swing by Wal-Mart on our way home? We’re out of __________.

In Arkansas, our love for Wal-Mart runs deep. But date night is for date night, not grocery shopping. If you’re out of bug spray, order from Amazon. They’ll ship to your door in 2 days for free! Nothing kills the mood on the way home from a great dinner quite like restocking on orange juice and toilet paper.

Click here to catch up on the first post in this series, “7 Questions to Ask on Date Night”

Feedback: What question(s) would you consider adding to this list?

22Sep

7 Questions to Ask on Date Night (From a Pastor & a Therapist)

I have written about the need for married couples to have a regular date night on several occasions. (See: Nobody Owes You Happiness and Who Has Better Sex?) However, I realized that I never really discussed practical advice about what to do on date night.

So, I asked my friend and licensed marriage and family therapist, Carrie Feero to help me come up with some practical advice for date night newbies. Carrie has more letters after her last name than Jarrod Saltalamacchia has on the back of his baseball jersey so you know she’s good. If you’re in the River Valley area you can schedule a counseling appointment with Carrie by clicking here and/or follow her blog here.

Two quick thoughts before we get started.

  1. Date night as discussed in the questions below is specifically focused on married couples. If you’re not there yet, read here: How to Date as a Christian.
  2. Date night is not a substitute for counseling. If your marriage is unhealthy, date night is not the solution and can actually cause some harm if you view it as such. See: 13 Questions to Gauge if You Need Marriage Counseling.

If date night is unfamiliar for you or if it has simply been far too long, our hope is that these questions can be a great starting point to have a meaningful evening together!

7 Questions to Ask on Date Night

(Stay tuned for part two of this series, “7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night”)

  • If you could only have 3 things on a deserted island, what would you pick?

Asking questions like this (and even funny ‘Would You Rather’ questions) help you learn more about your spouse in a fun and playful way. Not all questions during date night have to be super serious; it’s a time to play, have fun, and grow together.

  • What can I do to make you feel loved?

Sometimes being upfront and asking can be the greatest way to get feedback on how to love and serve your partner. When answering, it’s important to remember kindness, compassion, and humility – this is not a list of demands or time to criticize potential past mistakes.

  • What are some of your favorite days in our marriage so far?

Revisiting memories can be a great way to spark up feelings and moments of connection that you had perhaps forgotten. These memories don’t have to be big landmark moments like anniversaries or trips. It is just as important to celebrate the spontaneous and seemingly mundane, which are much more the norm in any marriage.

  • Who has helped contribute to strengthening our marriage the most?

Thinking and pondering about who has helped pour into your marriage can be a great way to process how far your marriage has come, weaker areas that have become stronger, and how you can continue to grow from this support.

  • If you could describe our life together right now in one word, what would it be? Why?

These relationship inventories can be good ways for each spouse to see how the other is currently perceiving the state of the marriage. It can also be an exercise on gratitude and contentment as you learn, together, how to cultivate an appreciation for where you are in life today, not tomorrow and not the next stage. Today. Together.

  • Where is somewhere you’d love to travel with me?

Dreaming together about future plans can be a fun way to learn more about each other and think about your future together. It’s not just pulling from the past, but living in the present and planning for the future that makes a marriage successful.

  • When have you felt closest to me?

This is helpful for both partners. For one, it helps to revisit and rekindle a time when she/he felt loved and connected. For the other, it helps to remind and refresh what he/she was doing or not doing so it can be repeated again.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, “7 Questions to NEVER Ask on Date Night”

Feedback: What question would you consider adding to this list?

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