My friend, Robert recently got me interested in getting a new home gym and I recently got it. It’s been a blast. This particular home gym is fancy; it’s computerized resistance. What it does is it senses your current strength level and sets the weights automatically to your current level. So as you do your workouts and get stronger, it senses that and will gradually add more weight to it as you do your workouts.
Not only that, it automatically takes into account what your goals are, what your target muscles are, where you’re weak and where it needs strengthening. And it automatically builds out a smart workout plan for you, with video live coaches walking you through the various workouts. It’s all there to help you achieve your goals. It’s also been really fun to see my teenage kids get really interested in fitness. It’s fun to see them wanting to increase their own individual strength scores.
I bring this up because I’ve been thinking a lot about resistance and how resistance is needed for us to grow stronger.
Marriage is Work
Today. I just want to get honest with you and talk about marriages and why they are really difficult sometimes. Frankly, marriages take a lot of work. A wedding may have just been a day; but building a marriage, especially an intimate marriage, is a lifetime pursuit. And let’s be honest, there’s a lot of pain and suffering that goes on inside of a lot of marriages. I can’t think of anything more challenging, stretching, testing, and at the same time, more fulfilling than trying to build an intimate marriage.
In reality, at least for me, it hasn’t all been just roses. It’s more like a rose garden. There’s going to be a lot of thorns there amongst the roses. There’s going to be weeds to pull. There’s going to be rainstorms, and like any rose garden it requires a lot of attending, fertilizing, and just waiting. It makes the flowers that bloom that much more precious. For normal people, married life isn’t about continual bliss. I love this quote from Gordon B Hinckley.
“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around, shouting that he’s been robbed. Most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grew up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old-time rail journey delays, sidetracks smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts intersperse only occasionally by beautiful vistas in thrilling versus speeds. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”Gordon B. Hinckley
We don’t talk a lot about marriage problems, frustrations, and the difficulties of building a marriage worth having. And I’ve pondered why there’s so much resistance, opposition, challenges, frustrations, and difficulty when it comes to building a marriage.
Why is there so much opposition and pressure and resistance? Why is it so hard to build an intimate marriage?
I believe God’s designed for us is to be happy. Happiness and joy is the design of our creation. And there’s a path that leads to it. I heard someone once say that life is 50 50, meaning 50% happy, 50% sad, or the emotions we experience are about 50 of the positive, 50 of the negative.
I’ve really pondered that, and I think he’s right. Because it makes sense that there must be opposition in all things. If not, there would not be happiness because you can’t have happiness without knowing sorrow. You can’t experience joy without knowing sadness. You can’t experience peace without experiencing conflict. In other words, if you want more peace, joy, and happiness, you need to be willing to endure more sorrow, sadness, and conflict to work through it and work for it.
I like the proverb that says smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. A lot of times the experiences we go through, especially the difficult ones, can actually make us stronger. There’s something we can learn from each experience; the trick is to be realistic about them.
Let me be honest with you, just because I have a marriage podcast and my wife and I create intimacy and sex apps, we host retreats, and we offer a coaching program doesn’t mean that we’re free from normal marriage and an intimacy challenges ourselves. In our marriage of almost 20 years, we’ve experienced differences in sexual desire, differences in sexual preferences, and tastes where one spouse wants something sexually and the other doesn’t. We’ve experienced weeks or even months of drier spells in our marriage too. And we’ve experienced ruts. We’ve had times of not knowing what we don’t know, which gets us in trouble. We’ve experienced struggles with attraction and finding sexual desire.
Entrepreneurship puts a lot of pressure on marriage. So does homeschooling… and we do both. So yeah, we get it. We’ve also experienced sickness, work stress, and when the child’s needs often interrupt our flow. We’ve dealt with rigid thinking. We’ve dealt with morally superior and entitled attitudes getting in the way of better marriage. And like any other couple, we have three or so gridlock issues that we keep returning to that we tried to grow and work through.
Amongst all of these, we’ve also dealt with not being fully honest about owning our feelings out of fear of how our spouse would think. So we spin in circles trying to manage each other’s feelings, trying to not say things so that the other person won’t get upset at us, and we end up settling for less than. We kind of create a race to the bottom rather than standing up for something better.
Learning from my Mistakes
As I reflect on these things, I’ve realized that I have learned far more from my failures in my marriage than my own successes. And I have qualities that when used in the right context are very helpful, but when they’re in the wrong context they become maladaptive. Let me give you an example.
Years ago, I sold my business, and it didn’t go as planned. I handled it the best I knew how, but looking back there is a lot of things I would’ve done differently that would’ve had a better outcome for me and for my clients.
You learn from your mistakes. In fact, this very website in a way is me documenting my journey as I learned what it takes to build an intimate marriage.
And I’m grateful that you’ve decided to come along for the ride and learn right along with me. You can probably tell from some of the topics I address from time to time where I’m actually really struggling in my own marriage and where I’m looking for insight to help me overcome my own struggles.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on some of the struggles in my own marriage and some of the things I’ve learned from and grown through it. At the risk of being vulnerable, here are just a few examples.
Owning my Problems
The first is I’ve quit making it my wife’s problem that I sometimes have lower sexual desire.
I’ve opened up and been honest with her about these things. In fact, when I’m willing to open up and own it as my own problem to deal with, I find sexual desire comes flooding back. I’m more open to sharing my fantasies with her. And because she is an amazing person, she plays in that space with me. It’s a real aphrodisiac. Do you have a life partner like that?
I’ve had to learn to just quit making my sexual desire problems my wife’s problem, and rather look for where I have a role to play in the matter and take ownership of it.
Credit Where Credit is Due
Another is, there are times I haven’t given her honest credit for her sexual growth. Sometimes I like to play the martyr.
Sometimes I’m not very honest in all the ways that I deal with her in our sexual relationship, or I might say she’s not trying when she actually is trying. It’s not kind nor honest to pretend that she isn’t giving the full effort that she actually is giving.
The reason why I don’t want to give her credit is because I’m afraid to admit that I like to be the superior one in my marriage. I like to think that I’m more evolved than her; that I’m a few steps ahead of her. And if I were to stop and give her full credit for the work she is doing, I would have to admit that I’m not that far ahead of her. And that’s why I had that tendency to regress in that area.
I’ve also learned lately how I can share my honest thoughts without being condescending. There’s truth to the adage that the Wolf you feed within will ultimately prevail. As I’ve made a conscious effort to flirt, relax, and have fun with my wife, things feel so much better. I can choose to be a great guy around her rather than being an Eeyore about everything.
These lessons have made me a better marriage and intimacy coach because I can relate to what my clients go through.
Most importantly, failure has taught me to focus on what I do have control over, which isn’t as much as I like to think. It’s taught me to turn the rest over to the Lord and rely on his grace. Which brings me to another thought that I want to share with you today. And that Jesus is a fourth watch kind of God.
Christ is on the Fourth Watch
You know the story of Jesus walking on the water. He could see from afar that his disciples were struggling on their boat in the stormy sea, toiling in the night. I think it’s significant that Christ came in the fourth watch. Now in New Testament times, they would divide the 12 hours of night into 4 three-hour segments. So, the fourth watch would have been the last watch somewhere between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM.
So Jesus comes to their rescue in the storm, walking on the water in the fourth watch of the night. And then Peter comes out, walking on the sea to meet Jesus. When Peter becomes frightened and starts to sink, that’s when Jesus runs to him and lifts him up. Now, I’m sure this would have been a very different story if Jesus showed up in the first watch of the night. Or if Jesus was at Peter’s side and didn’t let Peter sink in the first place, but that’s not his pattern.
He Allows Us to Grow
I see this pattern in other areas. For example, when the children of Israel were fleeing from Egypt, it wasn’t like the Red Sea was already open and parted, ready for them to go on dry ground. In fact, they were trapped between the Red Sea on one side and Pharaoh’s armies on the other side. Just at the right moment, the Lord parted the Red Sea so they could escape.
Also, I think the story with Elijah being sent to the widow of Zerephath. It was a last meal she was preparing when Elijah asked her to make him some meal first. And then the miracle happened where the cruise of oil and the meal didn’t run out.
My experience has taught me that God sometimes allows me to lift weights to build some muscle precisely because He loves me. And I need to trust the process enough to help me grow through my challenges. He wants me to learn from my mistakes and my challenges too.
Christ is the Strength of Marriages
At the same time, Jesus is also the strength of marriages.
One of the greatest lessons I can learn to rely on Jesus Christ in my life. He says, “come unto me all you that are heavy laden, and I’ll give you a rest. Take my yoke upon you. Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.”
The Lord has shown me my weakness. When I come to Him with a humble heart, He has made the weak things become strong for me.
For example, our GYMO podcast. I’m not a very fluid speaker, and at times I get quite self-conscious about the way I talk. What you may not know is that it took four attempts to record today’s episode. This is hard for me to do, but I keep trying. Sometimes I feel like Moses complained to God that he was slow of speech. “Why couldn’t you make me more fluent? Give me oratory gifts like Aaron, my brother.” But that’s my lot. And I have the courage to keep going, despite my shortcomings. I’ve also come to trust that God is a God of miracles. In reality miracles, like parting the Red Sea and walking on water or having oil and meal never run out are rare.
More common in my experience are miracles like being strengthened to do something hard. Being able to forgive. Seeing another person’s perspective. No longer feeling burdened. Feeling prompted to go serve someone that I normally wouldn’t serve. Or the other way around, a friend calling me at just the right moment to be an answer to my prayer.
Trusting the Process
I like this parable recorded in Mark. In fact, it’s the only parable that’s unique in the book of Mark. It’s about the farmer that goes out and sows seeds. Over time, those seeds turn into crops. The farmer doesn’t know the process of how the seeds grow, but he knows enough to plant the seeds and just trust the process.
Sometimes my own conflicts have resolved in a miraculous way that I can’t fully explain. Kind of like the farmer that really can’t explain how his crops grew. I eventually realize that issue’s no longer an issue or that I’ve been giving additional strength and confidence to face whatever challenge is ahead of me.
I love in Luke 11 when it says, “if a man asks bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks a fish, will he for a fish, give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then being evil, [meaning if you then being mortal] know how to get good gifts to your children, How much more shall your heavenly father give good gifts through the holy spirit to them that ask him?”
Whatever challenges you’re facing in your marriage right now, I would challenge you to ask, “are these as a stone, or bread?” They’re here to strengthen you and help you learn to grow. Whatever you’re going through today, I hope that you realize that most marriages have times where things are difficult.
It takes real work to build a strong and intimate marriage. So we shouldn’t be surprised that things are going to be tough sometimes.
There’s going to be unpleasant parts to being married to someone. Nothing has gone wrong just because you see thorns, that’s the reality. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the thorns and difficulties we encounter.
You can view these as a set of weights there to help you grow stronger rather than to weigh you down. We learn far more from our failures than our successes. Jesus Christ is the strength of marriages. I believe I can turn to Him. I can view what He gives me as bread rather than stones.
One day we will die. I don’t know if I will die before my wife, or my wife will die before me. I believe that relationships can last beyond this life, but it will still be very hard to lose a loved one. In fact, I kind of hope that I’m devastated If my wife dies before me. Because that would mean I have put so much effort into making my marriage so meaningful and so wonderful that of course, I’m going to be sad when she passes. And I want to know at that time that I gave this marriage all that I had and that all that effort was worth it.