The Impact of Unemployment on Marriages

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

Can you guess what the men all have in common in the following movies: John Q, Cinderella Man, The Jacksons (An American Dream), Selena and The Pursuit of Happyness? The answer is that each of these men had to face the reaction of their
wives from their being unemployed.  Of all these movies, the ones that put lumps in my throat were the Cinderella Man and The Pursuit of Happiness.

The scene in The Pursuit of happiness where Will Smith pleads with his wife to stay with him was simply gut wrenching to me.  While I understood his wife’s concern, I wanted him to have the type of companion that would help him through this extremely difficult time.  Even though this movie show a wife leaving her husband, a not too distant study indicated that the divorce rate actually declined during a recession.  A Huffington Post article offers the following interesting insight into the expected connection between divorce and unemployment, “…divorce decreases when unemployment rates climb because couples are not ready to give up their standard of living by having to pay for one extra household with one less salary.”

At the same time, staying together in strife and discontentment is no good either. Perhaps, if spouses would take the time to examine the emotional impact of job loss, there might be more compassion towards the unemployed partner.  I have come to understand that unemployment can induce a highly paralyzing state of mind.  It can greatly reduce a once thriving and confident person into a confused mindset, who learns to doubt everything.

However in order to get hired, the unemployed person actually needs to have a heightened since of awareness and strategic thinking in order to compete for employment.  Unfortunately, additional pressure from home only diminishes the ability to think clearly enough to plan strategies that could result in gainful employment.

It appears that many spouses who look to their partners for financial stability are often unskilled with encouraging the types of provocation that could help them to succeed.  Perhaps they feel that pressuring the spouse to do something” will result in immediate income.  However, many times the pressure leads to their spouses considering options that were previously unthinkable.  Additionally, once the spouse has been made to feel unvalued, it is difficult gain a level of proficiency and confidence that could attract an employer.

This attitude of defeatism can be quite taxing on a marriage.  The feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness are also magnified through the debt collectors and financial obligations that refuse to go away.   Anyone who is constantly faced with such challenges may easily find it difficult to be good company.  However, during this time of financial stress, there is even greater need for encouragement and reassurance.  Financial hardship is a time when the strength of a loving relationship will be exactly what is needed to overcome the growing urge to simply give up.

Ultimately, as in the Cinderella Man movie, a family will be able to reflect upon the great blessing of love and perseverance that actually withstood a great test.  Such challenges can uncover and even develop the true character of a couple that will make their relationship even stronger.  Couples should do their best to reflect upon and recommit to the promise to remain in their marriage- through “richer or poorer”.

Spouses should also encourage each other one to share their feelings that may be causing stress, while striving to give attention to what blessings they still have.  I have learned that everything has a season and hardship does not deserve the worry that it receives. Couples must learn to find ways to comfort each other until the trying season of unemployment passes.  And I truly believe that the more an unemployed spouse is fed encouragement, the sooner the season of worrying about finances will be over.

FORGIVENESS IN MARRIAGE

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NOTE: We will resume the Top 10 Reasons for staying Married blogs, but because of so much that we have been hearing, witnessing and experiencing about forgiveness in marriage, we thought it timely to write about it.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

  • TIME TO FORGIVE

How much time and energy does it take to say, “I forgive you”?  I tried timing it for 5 seconds and was able to say it coherently at least 9 times.   The reason that I even thought about timing how long it takes to say “I forgive you” is because of my reflecting upon how long it took me to actually decide to say it.

This is what happened… I got upset with my husband over something that I cannot even remember now.  But after missing two TV shows that we regularly watch together, I realized that I missed our time with each other and decided to say, “I forgive you.”

Now when I acted on this revelation, my husband was in the living room while I was in the bedroom.  And although he did not hear me say those words, I was satisfied that all was well and I could get back to our good relationship together.  Shortly afterwards, my husband asked if I wanted to watch one of my favorite programs, and we were soon united in our Thursday evening get-together.

You may have noted that It was not necessary that  my husband apologized first before I forgave him.  This may sound spooky (or whatever), but I believe that forgiveness is a spiritual thing.  I believe that I must be ready to  forgive daily in order to have a healthy mind and spirit.

Most days, if not every day, someone does something or says something that I might find offensive or hurtful.  This is something that I recognize as an unfortunate reality for me.  Perhaps it is directly related to my having been  repeatedly molested from childhood through becoming an adult.  Admittedly, I am often quite sensitive to comments and gestures according to my own determination about what they mean.  And more than not, when I express my concern, the other party can clarify the real intent to my satisfaction.  But since I do not often verbalize my hurt, I am left to process it just enough to draw my own conclusions.   Because of this, I found that it is much healthier for my state of mind to process in their favor- and to quickly forgive, so that I can move forward with my life.

  • PAYING FOR THE PAIN

Yet I fully understand how forgiving a spouse for the hurt that you experience may appear to be too much to allow.  I think that somehow, we feel that forgiving people means that we send a message of excusing them when they should be punished.

I understand the need and even passionate desire to see that someone pays for your pain.  Along with the desire for retribution is the need to believe that someone cares about how deeply you have been wounded.  Yet, with all of those needs in mind, I have come to realize that unforgiveness does nothing to solve those issues.

  • HAUNTED BY “THE HURTER

Even though the people who hurt you may feel as though they are being punished by your unforgiveness, you will probably agree that this punishment hardly fits the injury.   All the while there is too much energy required to remain unforgiving towards the person- that I will refer to as the “hurter”.

For example, you must continuously rehearse the wrong in order to keep it in mind.  This allows the hurter to hijack your thoughts while probably not even thinking about you.  You find yourself consistently adjusting your life based upon concerns and potential encounters with the hurter.   For example, you avoid places that the hurter may go even though you might have the desire to be there.  This is especially difficult in a marriage where you share the same friends, places and activities.

You may fight to avoid memories that remind you of the hurter (even if they are pleasant memories).  You dislike other people who somehow remind you of the hurter.  Your mood is altered according to how much the thought of the hurter influences you.  Because of your hurter-induced mood swings,  your responses to others become tainted and misdirected causing people to receive your moods as personal attacks.  Consequently, your bad mood – influenced by your unforgiveness towards the hurter – contaminated your  relationship with others.

There is simply too much control and influence  that we allow others to have as a result of unforgiveness.  – I grew weary of just typing about it.  On the other hand forgiveness is empowering as well as rewarding.  As a source of empowerment, forgiveness allows the forgiving person to regain the joy and liberty of living.  As a source of reward, it allows the forgiving person to recognize the ability to overcome a crippling mindset, which is a great accomplishment.

  • THE CHOICE TO FORGIVE

I choose to forgive even those who have hurt me by molesting and sexually assaulting me.  This is not because I want them to get away with what they did, but because I choose to be released from the bitterness that accumulates from unforgiveness.   Additionally, I do not want to be a hypocrite, seeking forgiveness when I am being unforgiving of others.

I know that my words or actions may also hurt others even though this is not my intention.  If I step on someone’s foot accidently or spit in someone’s face while passionately speaking, it does not stop that person from being hurt or offended.  In either case, I will ask for forgiveness, hoping that the response will be in agreement with my request.

  • IN CONCLUSION

For those who want to forgive, but wonder “how do I forgive such horrible hurt that has been done to me?”, I say that it starts with wanting to forgive.  Next, you must believe that it is necessary to forgive.  Then you must believe and convince yourself that you can forgive anything and anyone.  Like love, I believe that forgiveness is a spiritual gift that grows the more you use it.  However if you reserve a little un-forgiveness for something really bad and evil, then that unforgiveness will manifest even when you would rather move forward with your life.  I have found that my acquisition of the Holy Spirit has imparted an attitude that compels me to forgive – even those injuries that I once thought that I would never forgive.  This is my ultimate recommendation for those who truly want to break from the bondage of unforgiveness in their marriage.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

  • Forgiveness – God’s reset tool to heal your marriage

In an urban apartment in Denver, on any given morning, Sandy, a short, overweight and miserable young women would look at her tall husband and father of their 3 children and begin her daily listing of his faults framed by a litany of profanity laced complaints. The volume of this daily ritual was ear splitting and most of their neighbors and all of their children were already tired of the overflow of violent language that came from their apartment.

John was frustrated, unemployed and suffering from a number of mental illnesses. His addiction to a gaming social network was active and he was not seeking help to break his compulsive behavior. He had an alternative existence that he retreated to that excluded his wife. His coping mechanism was also a huge statement of rejection in her eyes.

This couple experienced trust issues even while dating before marriage. Somehow, they believed that marriage would make it easier to trust one another. They were wrong. In addition to the trust issues they faced, both had a reputation for bringing outsiders into their relationship to deal with things but only to build leverage against the other. Neither of the couple actually heeded the advice of those they brought in. They were only looking for witnesses that would back up their claims against their partner.

Both had support from their respective families. However, neither trusted their in-laws to intervene with objectivity. This power struggle continued to grow toxic and finally violent. The police were called repeatedly and rarely did more than to issue a domestic disturbance citation and warn them to get control of their disputes.

The couple sought help from a local pastor and attended his church occasionally. However, the war continued to escalate. In response to a number of midnight, urgent calls to the pastor, the couple was scheduled for counseling sessions.

Sandy made the first session and used this opportunity to build a case for all of the horrible faults that she was experiencing as a result of her husband’s behavior. She refrained from using profanity, however, there was vivid passion and frustration displayed in her recalling each incident. The pastor listened for more than 30 minutes without interruption. He was listening but did not seem to be moved by her illustrations and appeared to be taking notes. Additionally, the pastor showed very little emotion even when she bursted in to tears. He calmly offered a box of tissue to Sandy and asked; “Is that it?” She was alarmed by the degree of his calmness and shouted back “You don’t understand!” He waited a number of minutes before responding and then after 3-4 minutes had passed he said “Wow!” Sandy looked up to see what the pastor was responding to only to find him looking right at her. With a very calm voice he said, “It sounds like a lot for anyone to deal with.” She nodded but then heard a curious question from him: “Have you forgiven him for all of this?” he said, while leaning forward from behind his desk.

Sandy was shocked and suddenly convinced that this was a complete waste of time.  “What?  Why would I do that? He’s not getting away with all that ….stuff!” She said; while the blood rushed to her face in anger. The pastor continued remaining calm and replied: “I never suggested he should. However, I thought it was about time you got off the hook for this.  The best way for that to happen is for you to forgive him.  Why don’t you try to do that and I want you to promise to come back and see me next week. Would you do that for me Sandy?”

Confused by this strange set of requests, Sandy said: “Don’t you want to talk to John first?” The pastor looked at her and said, “There is more for you to share with me before I talk with him. How about 1 week from today at the same time?” Sandy was caught off guard and agreed to the scheduled appointment. She was still not convinced that this was not a waste of time, and she seemed challenged by the request of the pastor to forgive. She struggled with that request all week and came back asking the question: “Why did you say that to me?  How am I getting off the hook by forgiving him?” The pastor smiled and said; “I’m so glad you asked that. It appears to me that you are still not getting much sleep and much of your day is filled with stress even when your husband is not talking to you. He is not being punished by your not forgiving him… you are. You are punishing your own peace and sanity by holding on to this plan of vengeance. That just doesn’t seem to be working out too well. Wouldn’t you agree?”

  • Hitting the Reset Button

Sandy nodded her head and spoke softly; “How do I do this?”  “Well, I want to pray in agreement with you but I need to introduce you to the One that forgave me first.” The pastor began to share from his heart about his relationship with Jesus and led the woman to an understanding that inspired her to surrender her broken life to Jesus.  Over the next week, Sandy began to behave differently toward John. The daily listing of his faults was replaced with positive conversation and suggestions about employment opportunities she had read about. She also revisited the sermons she heard on CD.

John was still not changed in his heart and began to take his frustrations out on her until even he acknowledged that something in her had changed.  He asked what happened to her and she shared about her new found relationship with Jesus and the church. The husband scoffed at her assertions but was curious enough to go to the pastor and ask for a meeting. The pastor began to meet with him and then together with his wife as they appeared to initiate a treaty of peace, ending the war they had fought in for years.

Sandy learned that the toxic substance of her constant criticism and belittling of John was counter productive to the dreams they had shared when they first met. John began to build trust by seeking help to break free from his compulsive behavior.  They began to discuss things and even committed to “fighting fair” strategies that prevented them from ridiculing or making demeaning comments. Most important was their decision and vow to consider the children more and to refrain from violent arguments in front of them.

  • Meeting the Needs

This couple needed a lot more than a few episodes of the help they received from the pastor, the church and their relationship with The Lord. However, their journey has much more potential to continue moving away from divorce and closer toward their dreams while their help flows through a variety of sources.

Every couple has different needs and this is not the only strategy to solve turbulence in a relationship. However, I am convinced that forgiveness is as essential to the healing process of a relationship as water is to the growth of plant life. Likewise, it must flow without respect to the number of times it has been applied for the sake of the relationship.

  • Vengeance is Mine

For the partner that has endured long term pain from an abusive partner you can trust in this Scripture: “Galatians 6:Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (NLT) and Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (NKJ)

During the airing of a previous teaching I entitled “Unforgiveness – Chains to the Past” I found that many, many people are struggling with this issue. I received calls
from people from different faiths, different cultures, young and old admitting that they were challenged by this issue. However, I have also found that married couples are plagued even to a greater extent with this challenge and often continue a pattern of failed relationships if they do not learn to apply this basic principle of forgiveness.  The most important principle of forgiveness to embrace is that it frees the offended from the act of the offender preventing the offended from being re-victimized by the same act over and over again.

So many victims of pain rehearse their pain in such a way that they interrupt their healing process and re-injure themselves. Others repress their stories but hold on to the pain as though some how it will prevent them from being surprised by that type of pain again. However, my experiences indicate the latter strategy orchestrates re-occurrences of similar pain and suspicion that most people want to victimize them again.

Parents consider it critical to provide protection for their children because they appear to be so forgiving and yet, it is through that same resilient attitude of forgiveness that they can fall and get up again even if it means risking another fall. Additionally, many children continue to have hope even after parents break their promises or disappoint the children over and over again.

There are a number of very positive examples displaying the advantages of forgiveness. Scripture tells us “14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

  • In Conclusion: 

I once read that Mahatma Gandhi contended that “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”   This strength Gandhi referred to can also help to facilitate a resetting of the perspectives and motives in continuing any relationship. I am not suggesting that this is the sole catalyst for marital happiness. On the other hand, I do contend that it facilitates better conflict resolution toward a higher level of harmony and overall content.

Embodied in many of the principles that have been handed down to us is that patience and perseverance produce character. This is not a quick fix solution to marital discord. The competencies of conflict resolution will never replace character. Some are more skilled but still dishonest. Others are honest but lacking the communication skills needed to address conflict. But both are needed for sustained trust and harmony and everyone is capable of forgiveness.  With great character, forgiveness can facilitate the resetting of  a derailed relationship. In my humble opinion, that is a recipe for a long and prosperous marriage.

I Do Me2 Couple’s Challenge #3- Write a Little Marriage Prayer

You may remember the song “I Say a Little Prayer for You”  written by Burt Bacharach.  I just listened to the version song by Aretha Franklin introduced by someone that might bring back some old memories.

Anyway the challenge is for couples to work together to write a short Marriage Prayer that can be framed and posted in your home.  Write something short like the serenity prayer  that is commonly shared in AA meetings“ God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Be ready to share your Marriage Prayer with us on the next I Do Me2 Blogtalkradio broadcast or send it for us to share on Facebook or our blog.  If you put it in a frame, take a picture and post it!
LISTEN TO OUR MOST RECENT BLOGTALK RADIO SHOW “Why Sex is the 4th in the Top 10 Reasons for Staying Married.”

 

Sex is Better When You’re Married – Reason #4

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DISCUSSION ABOUT THIS BLOG TOPIC.

 

 

This blog entry is the fourth follow up to our challenge to develop top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

My husband and I discussed this a bit before agreeing to make this topic the next entry in our follow-up blog series regarding the top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.  Sex was among my husband’s top 10 Reasons to Stay Married, and I thoroughly agree.

This may be one of those articles that our children would rather not read, but we both agree that it is a topic worth our time and effort.  Both of our backgrounds include (perhaps too many) opportunities to make a reasonable comparison about sexual relations with and without the marital bond.

  • FROM HAVING SEX TO MAKING LOVE

There is little that my husband and I have not experienced in relationships, which allows us to speak from experiential perspectives.  I realize that there is really no way to prove to others that sex is better in a good marriage than with being single.  And I also realize that it is still up to the couple to maximize their marital relationship.  However, I have found that as love grows deeper in marriage, everything needed for great sexual relations is also developed.

We understand and appreciate the gift of sexual gratification that results from our love for each other.  After so many years of experiencing his selfless contributions towards pleasing me, I have absolutely no desire to explore any sexual relationship with anyone other than my husband. I certainly hope that my husband feels the same way about me.  However it took time to arrive at this realization.  The  type of sexual bliss that we now have took time to develop.  My youthful lust was gradually replaced by deep love, passionate engagement and sincere enjoyment that continues to grow for my husband.

  • SINGLE SEX VS. MARRIED SEX

There are those who might argue that sex outside of marriage is just as good.  I have no inclination to argue with someone who wants to think that way.  I simply know from my own experience that there is no way that I would welcome a return to that lifestyle.  One of the greatest reasons is that without the security of a marital relationship, sex tends to remain open to possibilities outside of the couple.  I believe that this openness causes distractions that prevent the opportunity to experience the holistic bond that occurs through long term monogamy.   This holistic bond is what has significantly enhanced our sexual relationship.  And our enhanced sexual relationship has other benefits as well.  It helps relieve stress and really aids our weight management and health regimen.

Although many unmarried people are able to be dedicated to one partner at a time,  other people will tend to view them as available.  Until there is a declaration of commitment through marriage, unmarried people are considered fair game.  They may even be hounded by those looking to “get lucky.”

I also have found that for many single people, sex may even be a source of stress and fear.  Single people are often more concerned with performance and competition (stress)as well as what disease their partners might have (fear) than married people.

  • TIME WASTING SEX

Sex outside of my marriage would be a waste of valuable time and effort.  I already know that my husband excites and stimulates me.  There is no need nor desire for pretense or performance.    I never feel guilty, cheated or bored with regards to having sex with my husband.  I also know that even if something is not quite right, we can talk about it and try again.  I believe that the state of deeply enjoyable and gratifying sexuality is most achievable in a relationship that is free of outside interference and distractions that occur when outside relationships are involved.

I am not impressed nor appreciative when people express that they consider me to be “sexy.”  Being sexy simply means that someone thinks that you would make an enjoyable sex partner.  I believe that anyone at any given time could wear that label.  However, I am impressed that one man wants to have a thriving sexual relationship with me after so many years of marriage.  I am very impressed that he cares enough about me to discuss and explore what makes us both happy.

  • A HIGH YIELD INVESTMENT

While growing in our marriage, we are also learning how to navigate the timing.  I am still learning how to manage my time in a way that keeps me from being too tired when my husband is especially desiring intimacy with me.  Likewise, I know that I have an open invitation to engage my husband’s full participation in satisfying my sexual desires.  I am grateful that my husband spends the time to learn about my needs and desires as well.  We have both invested the time to learn about each other’s sexuality.  We trust and care about each other enough to inquire about what is good and what is not good.

I find that investing deep love and commitment into our marriage continues to produce highly gratifying physical rewards.  However, I  must add that  there is also the element of spiritual investment that further contributes to our enjoyment.  For example, I pray for my husband to find pleasure with me in every way.   I also pray that we grow in our love and that we only desire each other.  Then I am mindful to give thanks to God for blessing us with the ability to enjoy each other with such totality.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I believe that truly great sex begins with a great marriage.  This is why I agree with my husband that sex should be listed among the top 10 reasons to stay married.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

God’s Perfect Design for Intimacy

  •  Passion, Rhythm and Grace

The lights dim and a sultry acoustic guitar begins to strum a simple but compelling latin rhythm of Jose Feliciano’s rendition of Light My Fire. A single spot light fades in and directs the audience’s eyes toward the center of the room.  An attractive couple embraces each other with the man positioned behind the woman and arms wrapped around her. They begin moving in perfect rhythm, synchronized to this slow latin rhumba. Their eyes gaze in to each other, however, no words are spoken. They anticipate each others moves and engage into a sensual dance celebrating their passion of their relationship.

The man is graceful and yet masculine as his guiding hands lead his elegant and sensual partner through a series of twists, and turns that culminates in a very close embrace. Their breathing seems exaggerated and intentionally synched with the beat of the song. The woman flirtatiously pulls away from him only to be pulled back in with a firm and controlling grip. She surrenders because there is no competition here during this moment.

Both appear determined to please one another producing a synergy of passion, rhythm and hot breathing in an intimate and familiar zone that provides a refreshing and entertaining rhumba dance.  The audience applauds with each turn and gasp in awe like voyeurs peeping into a private encounter of passion. The song ends with the couple facing each other wrapped tightly in each other’s arms.  They thank each other and then bow toward the audience in appreciation of the applause of the audience.

It would be wonderful if this type of synchronization and synergy characterized the sexual encounters of every married couples. However, many married couples would state a different story regarding their own intimate encounters. On the other hand, the statistics state that there are more married couples that enjoy this intimacy with more frequency than their single counter parts.

Studies show that 40-50% of married people claim their sex lives are satisfying compared to 20-25% of the single and cohabiting counterparts.  (Maggie Gallagher and  researcher/co-author Linda J. Waite  of The Case for Marriage (2001))  Of course there are those that would challenge the accuracy of the study. However, the crowded bars, clubs and frequent prowling of people seeking companionship suggest that finding a partner is not an easy chore. Additionally, the familiarity, trust and selflessness that is rooted within the structure of marriage frames a far more favorable setting for enjoyable intimacy.

  • Risky Business

Dating encounters that are often filled with clumsy pick up lines, and awkward conversations that are intended to lure the targets into a sexual relationship are rarely presented accurately in today’s TV sitcoms and movies. There are no second takes for the guy that approaches the woman that he has been lusting for the past half an hour only to forget his name while introducing him self before he begins to tell a story about something that has no barring on who he is or what she likes. Despite the level of mystery and intrigue of dating, I think there is little chance of this encounter reaching the levels of intimacy and satisfaction I have grown accustomed to within my marriage.

I agree there are a number of distractions and pressures that tend to plague and even hijack the spontaneous lust filled encounters that steamy movies and TV shows tend to profile. Even in a solid marriage, it is not easy for a man that has just experienced a humiliating and hard day at work, or a woman that fought her way through traffic to get home from her job early enough to make a dinner and pick up the kids to turn on the flirtatious and sensual non-verbal communicators that inspire an atmosphere for intimacy.

On the other hand, the seasoned couple that finds a way to develop the rhythm and synchronization needed to anticipate the moves and moods of their partner are far more likely to experience more frequent and satisfying sexual encounters. This seasoned couple has progressed beyond the awkward stages of clumsy experimentations. They have discovered a set of tried and true satisfying practices they can rely upon. They still experiment and are open for spontaneity, however, they can also do those things that continue to deliver satisfaction without worry of growing bored. I find it hard to fathom ever growing tired of the frequency and heights of satisfaction I share with my wife. The prelude is not often the same but the resolve always leaves us spent and satisfied. That’s not an experience I could count on during dating episodes before I married my wife.

  • Passion Sanctioned by God 

Personally, I believe this type of intimacy is protected and designed by God Almighty for  the heart’s desire of married couples.  I can’t imagine anything I have ever done proving worthy enough to justify the level of intimacy and enjoyment I experience with my beautiful wife. We have what we have through His grace and mercy.  Hallelujah!

In the Bible, we read; ” Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled”. I interpret that verse of Scripture to mean that my union with my wife is righteous in the site of  God and that whatever we decide to do in bed is permitted. We are allowed to be creative, spontaneous, to moan as a quiet storm or scream as a loud volcano and God is alright with that. I will refrain from any other illustrations in order to keep this fit for family reading. However, the point I am making is I believe that what we do in the privacy of our bedroom is without regret, guilt or blame. That is one of the many reasons that I can look forward to the morning after our making love rather than my single, or cohabiting counterparts.

I heard it said that chocolate tastes better if you had to steal it, however, when it comes to my wife, I believe our intimacy is better because she is mine. I would never trade my plentiful gift from heaven for a risky night of being a thief.  We hold nothing back during our intimacy and the reward is consistently  satisfying.

The Biblical model for marriage makes a provision for frequency as a safe guard:

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

This provision is not a license for either partner to abuse the other. It is the framework of trusting one’s own body into the hands and motives of your partner. It frames an offering toward the prolonged satisfaction of your partner. The authority over your partner’s body should be rooted in love and not lust. Love is sacrificial. Lust is self seeking.

For those that continue to insist that they enjoy a greater level of frequency and satisfaction because they are single or cohabiting, I am willing to consider that you may not know what you don’t know. Additionally, I believe there is no chance at all of my ever becoming a candidate to join your ranks.

  • Hazardous Hunting Grounds

On the other hand I have counseled a number of single and cohabiting adults that I have deep compassion for.  The volume of social networks, dating sites,  and singles clubs tell me that there are extremely large numbers of people that are hoping to “get lucky.”  Their hunting grounds are dangerous, full of predators, STDs, and unknown challenges that are often deceitful, disappointing and under-deliver on their promises to satisfy.

Unfortunately, failed marriages may make the loudest noise regarding their dissatisfaction. However, my experience (and those of the couples that I know are happy), tend to avoid boasts about how great and or how frequent the levels of our intimacy meet or exceed satisfaction. It’s not a secret, but the intimate details should remain between us. We should never become arrogant or prideful.

  • Sharing Your Burning Passions for Each Other

In closing, I want to revisit the example of the dance partners I used in the beginning of this blog. The very graceful and exciting couples that win in dance competitions require training, practice, and a healthy level of boldness. Likewise, married couples must develop those things that work best for them. That level of communication requires trust, honesty, patience, sensitivity, confidence, a sincere desire to satisfy your spouse and a very active prayer life to protect your thought life and motives. If those lines of communication are active and proficient it is probable that this couple has learned and even established a consistent ritual of satisfying intimacy.

My wife and I often pray to only have desire for each other. I ask that God will help me to hold captive every thought obedient to Christ. If my mind, my heart and my spirit are all in line with God’s perfect design for intimacy, the results are always extraordinary. We always thank God for our marriage and the gift of intimacy He has designed for us.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I completely agree with the Scripture : “it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Good Communication Takes Work – Don’t Get Fired

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

  • ACKNOWLEDGING DIFFERENT COMMUNICATION STYLES

It is not difficult to understand why communication is listed as a top cause for divorce.  According to Divorce.com, communication problems rank number two in the top ten reasons that marriages fail.   If not for divorce lawyers, many couples might not even be able to agree about finalizing the divorce.  How can people with entirely different communications styles actually communicate what’s needed to maintain a happy or even comfortable marriage?  Allow the Jamals to use this blog to offer documented insights of how this can work.

My husband says that I communicate with these broad strokes that irritate him.  I have a so called style of communication that includes asking questions.  I do this for clarification so that I can get a sense of whether or not we are on the same page with our understanding of terms.  He also finds this irritating.  On the other hand his matter of fact categorization of my communication style is irritating to me.  He gives titles to how I am communicating.  A case in point is him declaring that my examples are “broad strokes.”  When, in my mind, they are examples.  For example, I have stated “it seems like you’re more interested in the game than in me.”  This is an example that he considers to be a broad stroke.   I do not agree that it is a broad stroke statement.  However I am committed to try painting my conversational pictures with more specific references – for his sake.

I have come to terms with my understanding that we simply have different ways of understanding and communicating.  He also has this thing- that he admits -with his expressions.  For example, if someone is stating something that he really disagrees with, he will frown – a lot.  And if he really disagrees, he will turn his head and frown.  He has a face that demonstrates frowns even when he has his face turned away from you.  His face has much character.  (This is one of my husband’s communication traits that I actually find quite intriguing.)

  • NAVIGATING THE RULES OF COMMUNICATION

I sometimes find it difficult to communicate with my husband because (in my mind) he does not accept my understanding of what is being said.  For example in a recent conversation, I introduced an example of how we are able to be courteous to other people who might do the thing that irritates us.  Case in  point – I know a few people who finish my sentences before I can complete what I am saying.  Many times they are correct.  But sometimes they are off.  The times that they are off, I tend to say “No,  that’s not what I was going to say…” and then take my time to express what I was going to say in the first place.  However when my husband interrupts me before I can finish my sentence, I tend to show him just how irritating and inconsiderate he is being by not letting me finish my thought.

I may use examples like the previous illustration, comparing how I respond to my husband as opposed to how I respond to someone else cutting me off while talking.   But my husband does not like me to use examples of others to express how we communicate, because he claims that it’s not the same.  According to him, this type of comparison is not good because we do not have the same time invested, etc.  However I said to him that I am the same person in both conversations.  I said that I am just expressing myself differently.  But I still have the option of choosing how I communicate.  The example that I gave is merely to demonstrate that I can be different, if I choose to be.  Therefore comparing how I communicate with others to how I communicate with him is a perfectly valid illustration to use as an example.  He does not like those types of examples.   Because he dislikes those types of examples, my examples would become the issue rather than the topic itself.  In other words instead of trying to show how his cutting me off is an issue, our conversation would turn into my examples becoming the issue.

I feel that this rule that he imposes – because of his dislike- makes it difficult for me to explain how something that he says affects me.  His dislike impacts how I communicate.

It has been said that rules are made to be broken.  But one crucial problem with communication rules is that they appear to keep changing.  This constant re-establishment of rules makes it probable that many of them are broken and discarded even before having a chance to repair the damage.  And to complicate the matter even more, a mutual understanding of the communication rules does not appear to be a consideration for many couples.  In fact there might be some who would argue that there are no rules.  However, I believe and have observed that when it comes to married couples, the rules are set and those who dare to break them must suffer the consequences.

I had to first realize that my husband is not going to change his communication style just so that I can understand and accept him.  Even if he could, I do not think that he would choose to go through such an overhaul.  Therefore since my husband does not appear to have aspirations towards becoming the communicator according to Margaret’s rules, I must consider how we might move forward so that our discussions have positive results.

  • MY SOLUTION TO ENCOURAGE ENJOYABLE COMMUNICATION

So my challenge became, “how do we communicate when we disagree with the rules of communication that are being set by the other party?”  My answer in short is with patience and a desire to keep the channels of communication open.  In other words, it is not about finding a mutually acceptable technique, but about operating in a loving, caring and respectful mindset.  I realize that I must consistently work on my communication skills in order to keep my position as a good wife, mother and everything else that I aspire to be.

I view working towards good communication in a marital relationship is somewhat like working towards a promotion.  While seeking a better position, it is important to demonstrate the good qualities that you have.  In an attempt to gain advancement people tend to prefer winning favor rather than arguments.  However in many marital communications, it appears that the emphasis is on being right.

While seeking a promotion we tend to search for ways to impress whoever has the ability to influence our advancement.  We become students of what the powers-that-be indicate are desirable.  This objective to attract favor motivates me to become a better listener and to put aside my filters of dislikes.  I am generally eager to make the sacrifices needed to acquire a new position.  Likewise, I am willing to go the extra distance to find common ground with my husband, because I want to be a better communicator for the sake of our marriage.

I cannot simply be satisfied with how my husband and I communicate because my dissatisfaction is what keeps me striving to learn more about him.  It is my opinion that if my discussion style does not invite the channel of communication to remain open, then he will find it a chore to discuss issues with me.  In short, rather than get the promotion as a good communicator, I could get fired.  Getting fired as a good communicator in our marriage means that my husband no longer trusts me to have an active and productive role in promoting good and fruitful discussions.

  • AVOIDING MINE FIELDS IN A COMMUNICATION BATTLE ZONE

When the conversation starts shifting gears and getting intense, it may be time to apply a strategy that prevents further communication.  Practically every physical fight, that I have been in or experienced, began with words that escalated the conversation to striking blows.  Writing has been a helpful tool to at least release my thoughts before erupting into a barrage of statements that I will ultimately regret making.  Many times, I end up deleting the embittered comments because I no longer maintain the same passion about what was wrong.  Most of the time, I even recognize that misunderstanding is at the root of our conflict.  This miscommunication has occurred enough that I have learned to give my husband the benefit of the doubt.

I have to remind myself. “I am speaking and listening to the man that I love.  I ask myself, “Do you want to enjoy communicating with him?”  My answer is “I do.”  Therefore I remind myself to watch for signs that I am irritating and offending him.  I try to be quick to apologize if I recognize my being offensive, trusting that he loves me enough to forgive me.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

  • IT’S HARD BEING MISUNDERSTOOD

Sitting across from me was a young man with a scowl on his face dressed in casual attire with a short sleeved shirt that revealed a tattoo on his arm that read “misunderstood.” Intrigued by the tattoo I asked the question; “What’s the story behind that?”  He looked up at me and stared in to my eyes with a sarcastic expression as to inquire… “Do you really want to know?” I assured him that I was interested saying… “I have often felt that way myself, but I was wondering what led you to have a tattoo put on your arm that said that?”

His scowl left his face and the sarcastic expression dissolved as he began to explain: “All my life I have been misunderstood. People just don’t get it.  I try to tell them what’s up but they just don’t hear me, or they think do but they don’t.  I just got tired of explaining that to everyone so I let the tat do it for me.”

That young man and his tattoo probably represents a large populous that has gone through life frustrated with the consequences of not being able to clearly communicate their heart, their thoughts, their character, or even their intentions. Being misunderstood is probably among the most divisive dynamics recorded in human history.

Genesis 11 outlines for us a time where things were much different: “1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.”  The setting is awesome to even imagine. However, I am most impressed with what God had to say about these people: “6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”  If God Almighty is so impressed with the potential of a people that are communicating effectively with a “common speech” then surely it must be a very incredible thing to accomplish. He further demonstrates the significance of this dynamic by changing the course of mankind with a devastating but simple barrier: “Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” Thus the problem of being misunderstood was born. That’s all it took. You can turn the whole world upside down just by causing people to misunderstand one another.

Those people were scattered across the world in lieu of their inability to understand each other. With that barrier, many more barriers were erupted as social, gender related and cultural barriers set in. On the other hand, even in the midst of the very smallest community; a couple, we find that a failure to be understood is still among the most difficult barriers to overcome. Couples’ using what is supposed to be a common language but failing to be understood is often the catalyst leading toward divorce.

  • NAVIGATING THE TWO-WAY STREET OF COMMUNICATION

Task oriented men, such as myself, must learn competencies that help us to communicate more effectively. Learning how to listen is among the most challenging for us. We are not great communicators because we have mastered skills of being an orator. Communication is a two way street that has more casualties than the busiest highways due to a lack of communication skills.

We often approach our spouse or significant other like a search dog looking for the bottom line or point. “Why are you telling me this?” is a far different listening posture than “Tell me more… I really want to get this.” Many men busy themselves with tasks they can tally to encourage themselves and to provide evidence that they are producing something and the fact that they are not worthless. But when you consider the communication, timing and rhythm between you and your partner there are no clear cut rules of the road. For example; an intimate conversation with your spouse is not always framed by a fire place and two glasses of red wine. Consequently, the task oriented male may often miss the cues to change his normal “search dog” attitude toward his spouse into a patient and attentive “I’m really interested in what you’ve just said. Can you share a little bit about what lead you to that belief?” posture.

I heard a man sharing his frustration: “I told her that I loved the way her mouth moved when she talked and she looked at me and said, yeah but were you listening to what I said? Women are so demanding!” Now to be fair, I understand that minimizing the verbal intimacy of a woman to a comment about the way her mouth looks might not be what she was hoping for then, but there will be times that she wants her man to be so enamored with her physical attributes that all the noise around him just turns to quiet as he looks upon her sultry lips in motion.

  • FINDING YOUR ROLE IN COMMUNICATION

How do we perform as the “fix it men” we were born to be if we are spending so much time with this talking and listening?  Well fellas, I’ve learned you don’t take a wrench on a date and there are times when a plumber helps and there are times when what is required is a dance partner with great ears and rhythm. Just as dancers are taught how to synchronize their movements with one another, so can couples learn how to compliment their unique communication styles. Of course there will be times when you appear clumsy and may even fall. However, the willingness to learn how to do it better helps you both to fall in each others arms rather than going for each others throats.

A trained Therapist and friend, Midge Lansat, taught me the value of “mirroring what your partner is saying to you” as a method of validating what s/he is saying and demonstrating your intent to hear and understand. I must admit, I am still in training. However, I do see the value of the method and recognize that it is a great tool to use in my professional and personal life. I have discovered that we often hear with filtered ears that interpret what is being said based on a number of variables that are not necessarily coming from the person talking to you.

I have learned from my wife and author of “When Girls Don’t Tell”  if a person has had a childhood of abuse, there may be a strong resistance to people that appear to be denying them the ability to have control over their lives and their actions. You may be trying to help out, saying “I’ll do that for you.” However she may hear, “I can do that better than you, so I’ll do it” or “You don’t know what you are doing and so I’ll do that for you.” Both are probably a long way away from your attempt at being courteous and neither of them was based on who you are and what you said.

Let me also say that survivors of abuse are far too varied to generalize or type cast as all behaving the same. My attempt in this story was to illustrate that often the provocation to a response lies outside of the relationship or conversation. I hope you understood me while reading this.

  • MY MOST HELPFUL TIP

The most helpful tip I can offer in this initial blog to those seeking an answer for effective communication is to “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” This principle is outlined in Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”  Dr. Covey offers an incredible amount of insights to communication if you want a good reference. I would also add that in seeking first to understand we must also resist seeking an understanding so that we express our point. It’s the difference between somebody listening in a “pause mode” waiting for a chance to answer rather than removing any come back comments or premature conclusions about what is being said.

I plan to develop better skills with my “dance partner/wife” and develop a rhythm that endures the clumsiness that will occur from time to time. I may not always be elegant, but I will be determined. I believe our love will afford me the grace to overcome my stepping on her toes from time to time while trying to embrace her more passionately. Our 30 plus years relationship is worth it.