Establishing a Marriage Relationship

How to Strengthen Your Marriage Commitment 

God has repeatedly addressed the significance of honoring the marriage relationship and especially the sexual relationship within it.

Hebrews 13:4 

4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

Here are some ways to strengthen the commitment to your relationship:

Wait till you have established a marriage relationship to be sexually intimate.  This concept comes from a couple of areas, one is the significance God’s  Word places on sexual faithfulness in marriage as well as sexual morality in general, and the other the science behind what happens in our brains as we unite sexually regardless of marital commitment.  Whether you’ve chosen to wait or not, it is helpful to consider what an established marriage relationship entails. Many couples may be married legally, but not addressed most or any of the following:

Established Marriage Relationship

You’ve developed a friendship of mutual respect, interest, and                                                 admiration.

You have committed to be faithful to one another, before God and                                     loved ones

You know each other well enough to discuss your feelings about                                     sexuality, pleasure in sex and sexual hurts or trauma either has                                     experienced that may affect your sex life.

*If you grew up in an abusive or emotionally and physically unaffectionate home—bonding and attachment was likely impaired. It may take more patience and affection in your  relationship to establish a secure bond and enjoy sexual intimacy.  Take heart, in a mutually respectful relationship, you can achieve this, with patience and further guidance in recovery, when needed.

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Becoming One

What does it mean to “become one?”

Genesis 2:20b-25

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh.  Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 

23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones

    and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called ‘woman,’

    for she was taken out of man.”

24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

God intended man and woman to become one flesh in marriage and to unashamedly experience sexual intimacy. The following thoughts and information on sexuality and bonding are intended to help couples better understand this union. 

Becoming One or Creating a Bond

The hormone Oxytocin, plays a significant role in forming of a bond or creating a sense of trust.

Oxytocin: AKA–The Bonding and Trust Hormone

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a powerful hormone. When we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up. It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In fact, the hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding. Prairie voles, one of nature’s most monogamous species, produce oxytocin in spades. This hormone is also greatly stimulated during sex, birth, breast feeding—the list goes on.

Above taken from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/oxytocin

Sexual intimacy and affection increase oxytocin, especially for couples already feeling love for one another to begin with. This is important because increased oxytocin helps strengthen the feeling of bonding and trust between two people, ultimately encouraging the Biblical idea of the two becoming one.  Men have lower levels of it than women. It is especially increased for men in sexual intimacy.  Women tend to experience an increase, in addition to sex, through a variety of emotional connections with loved ones. This may explain why men often feel more loved when they are sexually intimate with their wives and women feel more loved when they have emotionally connected first.

When chemical bonding has occurred in the brains of two lovers, a break in the relationship can lead to major emotional distress. The brain literally has to recover from the broken bond. To read more about this concept, clinical neuroscientist Daniel Amen, writes on this subject in a couple of his books: Change the Brain Change Your Life and the Brain in Love.

A healthy marriage can help protect your mind. Come back often for more information on how to keep your marriage bond strong.

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A Beautiful Brain

Do you take good care of your mind? Are your thoughts making your sick? There are a number of reasons we have negative thought patterns. Some have habitual thoughts so deeply ingrained they are unaware of the destructive self talk. Others have mental health disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, where intrusive thoughts ail them. Still others listen to countless stories of suffering and heated debate/attacks (A.K.A. the evening news and talk radio). A brain burdened by negativity needs intervention.

Here are some ways to nurture your brain:

Identify one or more positive thoughts you can have about today.

Paul urged the brothers at Philippi that “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4:8

Imagine “I Can” scenarios. Is there something you keep telling yourself you can’t do? (I can’t get all this work done. I can’t keep up with so and so.) Write down a scenario where your “I can’t” turns into “I can.”

Paul also declared, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13.

Share your “I can’t” struggle with another person. Consider reading to them your revised version or asking for help revising your scenario on paper. 

Paul acknowledged how the saints at Philippi “shared with me in my affliction.” Paul was content in Christ, but he was also grateful for their support.

Pray about your new thoughts. You might not feel like you will be able to think differently on an ongoing basis or that you can truly accomplish whatever you wrote about. So put it in God’s hands. His ways and His thoughts are greater than ours.

More riches from Philippians are found in Paul’s reminder to, “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Phil 4:6

Don’t let a burdened brain go unexamined. Be aware of your thoughts, ask for feedback from others about what they hear you saying regularly, and seek additional medical or mental help when needed.

 

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It is Not Good to be Alone.

What is your relationship status?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 (NIV) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

Consider removing aloneness in these ways:

  • Be a friend first and look for ways to bless others.
  • Do activities that you love and look around for those who share your passion.
  • Talk to your friends and loved ones about your triumphs as well as your disappointments.
  • Make it a point to not go to bed without touching base with someone. For married couples and family members you may be way more lonely than you think, don’t take for granted those who are near to you.
  • Go to church and life groups and do not judge others before you get to know them.
  • Ask for help completing a task.
  • Be willing to risk disappointment.

If you are isolating, consider talking with your doctor and/or a counselor to rule out depression or anxiety interfering with your desire to connect.

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It’s NOT all about me!

How do you make your partner feel?

We are typically eager to declare how our partners make us feel, but do you ever think about how you make him/her feel?

Consider today ways you can encourage, inspire, support, or show admiration to your partner.

Some ideas:

  • Send him a sweet text (not followed by a “honey can you pick up milk on your way home or remember to take the trash out, etc” )
  • Tell her how much she means to you.
  • Be there when he gets home and be more interested in his day than yours.
  • Turn towards her when she speaks and respond to what she says.
  • Think about all he’s accomplished in life and praise him for it.
  • Give her an affectionate/non-sexual touch and tell her how lovely she is.

Do you know the answer to how you make your partner feel? If not, ask, and if  you think you do know, ask again!

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Suffering and Tragedy

The image of parents and siblings standing outside an elementary school destroyed by a tornado, wondering if the children will be rescued alive–struck me deeply last night. It is so very hard to really look at tragedy.

Growing up reading the Bible, I was often struck with so many tragic stories mixed into a storyline that also gave me tremendous hope.  For me, I resonate so much with the book of Ecclesiastes, and the phrase “there is a time and a season.” Right now is a season of grief, anger, and sadness. I don’t want to consider all this darkness, but I also do see there is a season of happiness and rejoicing. For me, right now, it seems too readily available to find the darkness, but I do consider the joy and remarkable beauty in this life as well. To weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, it is all a part of our fragile existence—I desire to know the bitter as well as the sweet and today it really hurts to do that.

I also cannot fathom what this must be like for those closer to all of these tragedies, and for my fellow counselors coming along side the survivors, I pray both survivor and helper will walk courageously together and find relief as they both look for support.

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New Stone Oak Location!

I am excited to share I’ve recently relocated to 18838 Stone Oak Pkwy Suite 103, in the Crystal Building next door to the Children’s Center of Stone Oak and Monarch Dental.

The new Stone Oak counseling office is home for my business and two other counseling businesses. Counseling services in Stone Oak offer a central location for San Antonio residents seeking Counseling. The same Christian Counseling services by your professional counselor are offered for Adults and older Adolescents.

Looking forward to serving more of San Antonio and to be sharing a suite with outstanding therapists and sisters in Christ!

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Tip Sheet for Preparing for Marriage

Keeping Marriage Strong is a guide for couples preparing for marriage. Married couples will find helpful tips here as well.

Keeping Marriage Strong

Open Communication

Daily attention to relationship and sharing of personal stressors

Discuss dreams and learn how to support each other when dreams are different.

Create a culture of praise

Acceptance and Increased Understanding

Keep a daily reminder of fondness and admiration for your partner

Listen without judgment and clarify with intent to understand

Stay humble; remember the grace that has been given to you

Grow in understanding of and relationship with God

Read the Bible, commentaries, devotions together

Attend a church and/or small group (life group)

Pray together

Personal Responsibility and Dependency on God

Don’t Blame!

Look at what you can do to change first.

Identify what you desire more of from your partner and share this with God before you go to your partner.

Recognize the ways God meets your needs and how you can support your partner’s needs.

Keep the Relationship Unique

No other relationship shares the type of emotional, spiritual or physical intimacy that is found in your marriage.

Don’t allow for possible temptation—being alone with the opposite sex, sharing with another (other than professional counselor) privately about problems within your marriage or feelings you are developing for another person, believing that you are stronger than you really are, keeping secrets about other relationships from your partner, flirting with or seeking attention from another person–discuss other scenarios with your partner where temptation could sneak up on you.

Develop a “We” identity—best accomplished when each partner has a good understanding of self and their relationship with God and is willing to bring this to the marriage to form a joint meaning and purpose in life.

Keep the Marriage Pure and Passionate

Talk about sexual intimacy in your relationship.

Seek help when problems arise—through prayer, reading and medical advice when necessary.

Be committed to sexual intimacy inside of marriage—abstaining from premarital sex strengthens your commitment to one another to keep sex inside your marriage and to keep faithful to one another as God has commanded in saying to not commit adultery.

Prepare for sexual intimacy as you approach marriage, Sex 101 by Clifford and Joyce Penner is a quick read and helpful source for couples to read alone and together. The guidelines in this book are not only for inexperienced but also provide information for all couples in preparing and helping you to understand your partner’s needs as well. Couples wanting to have a healthy start to their married sexual life together can benefit from an open and honest discussion of sex and expectations for their newlywed season.

Don’t dwell on past relationships, yours or your partner’s.

Remove and/or don’t allow pornography to be a part of your life.

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Tip Sheet for Relationships

Communication is often less about what is said and more about what is believed. Consider the following ideas to give more meaning and purpose to your thoughts and actions in your relationship.

Your Partner is Your Ministry

Psalm 19:14 (NIV) May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

  • Pray for your partner
  • Imagine your partner’s offense against you as against God more than you and pray for God’s grace for them
  • Encourage with words of acceptance and understanding
  • Believe your partner is loved by the same God who loves you
  • Consider and respond to the needs and desires of your partner

Be Gentle

James 1:19 (NIV) My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

  • Think before your speak
  • Remember when your partner has been there for you and how you can return the support now
  • Think about how you would like to be spoken to
  • Start with “When you helped with this, it did this . . .”
  • Remind yourself that yelling won’t make your complaint heard better

Accept your Partner

1 Peter 4:8 (NIV) Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

  • Think about what originally attracted you to him/her
  • Remember that God gave His Son’s life for both of you, while you were still sinners
  • Imagine what acceptance feels like to you
  • Reject control over your partner, let go of responding for him/her
  • Believe God speaks to your partner, just as He does to you

Enjoy your relationship

Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. 

  • Recall what it was like to want a romantic relationship and consider the blessing of not being alone.
  • Pay attention to what interests your partner
  • Do shared activities together and pay attention to what is enjoyable
  • Experience each physical touch fully
  • Linger—don’t be so quick to get on to the next task
  • Laugh together

Be vulnerable

Ephesians 5:31-33 (NIV) “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[a] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

  • Talk about dreams and find ways to share in them together
  • Describe your day highlighting your triumphs, as well as your disappointments
  • Discuss you concerns and satisfactions in your relationship and/or your family
  • Ask the hard questions about God and faith and search for answers together
  • Be willing to hear your partner’s complaints and compliments
  • Admit your wrongs and ask for forgiveness
  • Be honest about your struggles and do not keep secrets
  • Do not let anger or pride lead to emotional withdrawal
  • Confess your sins to God, ask for help with temptation
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Tip Sheet for Emotional Regulation

Distract NOT Destruct

1. Pleasurable activity that you are not going to regret
2. Focus on someone else’s needs
3. Spend time reconnecting with God
4. Get outside
5. Exercise

Other Feeling

1. What else could you be or are you feeling
2. What thoughts accompany the other feeling(s)
3. Is there a less exaggerated descriptor for the feeling
4. Are you allowing God to meet you at your feeling

Accept NOT Avoid

1. Don’t run, sit with it for a time
2. Remind yourself that you can tolerate the feeling
3. Remember a time when you felt this and when it left
4. Has God shown you a pattern of this feeling in your life?

Other Thoughts

1. What are you thinking?
2. What else could you be thinking?
3. Have your thoughts worsened the feeling?
4. What are God’s thoughts—read scripture, devotions, and journal entries

Journal

1. Write to God about your feeling
2. Prayer through writing
3. Say on paper what your voice can’t
4. Imagine in writing another scenario

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