--By Tim Timmons

         I did a home-study series for couples a few years ago. I opened up the first meeting full of strangers by saying, "Let's begin this series by telling the group what you think is the most endearing quality about your mate." There was absolute silence in the room. Finally a man in the back stood up & said, "I've never told my wife this, but I really appreciate her consistent loving spirit in the home. When I'm depressed she is able to lift my spirits up. She's fantastic." His wife's eyes welled up with tears. She searched for her handkerchief & ran off to the bathroom.
         A woman then shared, "I don't think I've ever said this to my husband, but I love his sense of stability & confidence. He gives me so much security." Her husband, moved with emotion, looked down as if to hold back from crying. It was a very emotional time. The line to the bathroom just kept getting longer & longer! In nearly every case, each person who shared began with, "I haven't told my mate, but..." Why do most people neglect telling strengths to their mates? Why is it so easy to pick out the weaknesses?
         To win in marriage you have to stop reacting to your mate's weaknesses & start receiving your mate, weaknesses & strengths included, as your completor, not as your competition.

Competition gnaws away at the very foundation of the marriage union. I found my own marriage drifting away from the oneness we had first experienced. It was as if someone were driving a wedge between my wife & me. There was a growing distance between us. I felt alone, & that really bugged me.
         When I returned from a speaking engagement in another part of the country, a friend of mine picked me up at the airport. He told me about a jerk he was counselling who was tearing up his marriage. As he explained what Mr. Jerk was doing to his wife, I realised I was related to the Jerk family in many ways.
         I couldn't wait to get home & explain to my wife what a jerk I had been. I'd been shoving her out of my life & making her into someone I didn't even like! When I got home I said, "Honey, I've got to talk to you. I love you. I really need you. I've been rejecting you & slicing away at you. I'm sorry for what I've done." She looked at me & said, "That's fine." Then she got up & walked out of the room.
         Something told me that she wasn't impressed, so I planted myself near the kitchen, knowing that she would have to move in that direction soon. She did. I took her by the arm & sat her down & went through my whole explanation again. She began to cry & I began to cry--it was a mess! But our marriage has never been the same since that day we decided to see each other as completors instead of competitors!

         You must commit yourself to three fundamental principles of marriage. The
first principle is that you must "leave". This is the idea of severance--not going back to Mommy & Daddy after you have established your own home & marriage. It's an attitude, not necessarily a geographical change.
         A woman expressing to me a series of heated arguments with her husband repeatedly referred to her mother. I asked, "Does your mother live with you?" She said, "Oh, no, she lives in Fort Wayne (35 miles away)."
         "Well, then, how does she get involved in these arguments?"
        "It's easy," she replied. "When we start fighting I call her up & she comes over." That was easy! Going back to Mommy cuts away at the oneness of the relationship.

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second fundamental principle of marriage is that of permanence--the need to "cleave". To cleave to your mate is to be committed to permanence, to stick together like glue.
         Divorce results when two people get tired of cleaving, or possibly never cleaved together in the first place! They are tired of sticking it out, of tolerating the living Hell in their home. A marriage must not be tolerated--it should be changed. Change can happen if two people are willing to work at their marriage. To stay in a marriage for the sake of financial security, children, or business is ridiculous. It's even more ridiculous to exit a marriage without attempting to change with the help of an effective third-party counsellor. But to work to make the equation 1 + 1 = 1 true of your marriage is worth it!        A commitment to cleaving is the hope for your marriage.
third principle is that of "intimacy"--the oneness that results from leaving & cleaving is to be expressed in a way that is free from inhibitions. Genesis says that the man & the woman were both naked & not ashamed.
         This portion from Genesis is talking about two people who are totally open, emotionally & physically. That's intimacy, & that's what we've got to have if we're going to make marriage work.

         When you see that the greatest goal in your marriage is to experience teamwork, you are released from the normal cutting response against your mate. You must view your mate's weaknesses for what they are--tools that can help fashion your marriage into one of completion instead of competition.
         When your mate feels totally accepted, the very atmosphere of acceptance & excitement encourages greater performance than ever.

         These are suggested steps. Apply the principle of oneness, & begin to see your mate's weaknesses as tools for developing your marriage into one in which there is fulfillment & full expression of your individuality.
1. Alone, without your mate present, list in one column your mate's strengths & in another column his or her weaknesses.
         Then list your wrong responses. It's so easy to point the finger at your mate & so difficult to admit any personal wrongs.
         When I was going through this chart on my own mate, I discovered some interesting things. After easily filling out the strengths column, I moved to the column for weaknesses. Only one weakness kept staring me in the face: My wife seemed to be late most of the time.
         If we were going to someone's home for dinner, the normal scene could be described as hectic. As the time for departing drew nigh, I stood near the front door & yelled, "Are you ready?"
         When Carol appeared in the hallway, it took a quick glance to realise that if she were ready we were both in a heap of trouble! She went back to the bedroom to continue making herself ready for the evening.
         As it got later & later, my "gift" for sarcasm & cutting remarks would surface. If we were going to dinner, I'd say, "Honey, let me call & tell them we'll make it for dessert, okay?" Through this little jab I managed to arouse a reaction from her.
         The verbal sparring built toward an incredibly silent yet intense atmosphere in the car. All that could be heard during the entire 20-minute ride to the dinner was a periodic exasperated sigh! This sigh is an offensive device that warns the other person you're still steaming.
         When we arrived at our destination 30 minutes late, we had to act as if nothing had happened. I opened the door for Carol & we both pasted on plastic smiles, while remaining silent. When we were greeted at the door by our host he asked, "How are you?"
         "Oh, fine. Couldn't be better!" We both agreed.

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2. Admit your wrong responses to yourself & to your mate.
3. Be thankful for your mate, especially for those areas that you don't like. Many of our differences in approaching life are just that: differences, not weaknesses or competitive tactics!
4. Look for a lesson to be learned through your mate's weaknesses.
         Instead of viewing yourself in a prison of circumstances, learn to view yourself as being in a classroom of opportunity. Search for a lesson through your mate's weaknesses.
         I went to my wife & asked, "Honey, what can I do to help us get ready on time?" Now, I didn't really mean that. I really meant, What can I do to help
you get over your problem of being so late? But I said it properly: "What can I do to help us get ready on time?"
         "The first thing," she said, "is that you could hang up your clothes. You try on various combinations of clothes & let them lay all over the bedroom." I'd always wondered how my clothes made their way back on the hangers!
         "Second," she continued, "you could help get the children ready for bed."
         "You do that, too huh? Okay. I'll hang up my clothes & help with the children."
         "Finally," she said, "maybe you could get ready early & troubleshoot around the house when someone calls or comes to the door. Instead of yelling from the bathroom, 'Honey, would you get that?' maybe you could get it."
         The entire dialogue sent me into a state of shock! It was as if I had walked into the bedroom with a 20-gauge shotgun aimed directly at my wife's weaknesses & right when I pulled the trigger, my gun blew up on me! What I thought was
her problem was really my problem!
         I realised there was a lesson to be learned from my wife's weakness, & the lesson in that particular case was not patience--although I needed a little bit of that--but becoming sensitive to the needs of my mate.
5. Write out a commitment to your mate & read it verbally to him or her.
         Try including three items in this written commitment.
First, there must be a confession without condemnation. This might be a confession of rejecting your mate in various areas or of your wrong responses. Notice I said confession without condemnation. Confession with condemnation is, "Honey, I'm so sorry I acted that way last night--but it wouldn't have happened if you..." It is to be without condemnation! Tell the truth about yourself. Don't attempt to confess for your mate!
Second, there needs to be a resolve on your part to look beyond your mate's weaknesses & external appearances to the beauty & wholeness of the person who is there to complete you.
Third, be thankful for the one who can perfectly complete you. Receive your mate as your completor, rather than rejecting or struggling with your competitor.
         These three items may not say all you want to say, but the important idea of step 5 is verbalisation (saying it out loud).
         Bob came in to see me a few days after I had a session with his wife. He was so nervous! From the moment he walked in I sensed he wanted to tell me something. But each time I inquired, he stammered & stuttered & mumbled the conversation into oblivion. Finally, I was able to pin him down & help him blurt it out.
         "Do you know," he said, "what my wife did yesterday? She walked over to me, kissed me, & said, `Bob, I love you & I need you.' She really meant it!"
         "What did you say?" I asked.
         In an embarrassed sort of way he said, "I told her, `I need you, too!'"
         That's oneness! That's receiving your mate as your only hope for life, rather than rejecting him or her as an obstacle. Receiving your mate, focusing on his total person rather than on his weaknesses, is the only hope we all have to enjoy martial oneness & a fulfilled individuality.

         A silly story relates that in Heaven all the men were separated from their wives & were asked to fall into line behind one of two signs. The sign on the left read "THE HENPECKED." The sign on the right said "THE HEAD." It was an incredible sight. Every husband fell into line behind "THE HENPECKED" sign--everyone, that is, except one little man. This one man, out of all husbands ever, was standing conspicuously alone behind the sign that said "THE HEAD." A reporter covering the event rushed over to interview this unique man. He said, "Sir, this is unbelievable! Here you are, out of all these men, the only one standing in the line designated for husbands who have been the heads of their homes. How is it that you were able to walk into this line as the only head ever on Earth?" The man said, "Well, I don't know. My wife just told me to stand here!"
         So much of our marital humour reflects the gross misunderstanding of the idea of headship in the home. Because of the poverty of understanding & its disastrous effects, I guess people would rather laugh than cry about it. It is no joke! This misunderstanding of headship is hurling a crushing blow to the identity of men & women, & to the security of children, & to the very foundation of the home.
         I am convinced that mates would flourish if we could begin a mass movement of restoring confidence in men to take responsibility in their homes. Men have left the responsibility of the home to their wives. Why? Because the man does not know what to do in the home or how to do it--he's confused! Consequently, some bizarre ideas of headship are prominent today.

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         Headship is a two-part package, according to the Biblical game plan.
First, it means that the man's position in the home is one of being the representative authority; second, the man's function in the home is one of being a sacrificial lover.
         Authority is necessary to counteract chaos & to get things done. It does not mean "better than," as is usually thought. Pure authority is much different! A good illustration of pure authority in operation is a traffic cop. When he or she blows the whistle or motions for you to stop, you stop! Why? Not because the traffic cop is better than you but because of the authority given one who wears a police badge. Pure authority does not negate equality but keeps relationships functioning more smoothly. In every relationship--home, committee, business, government--someone must ultimately be responsible or accountable in order to promote ease in decision making.

         This means I've got to constantly be thinking of ways to meet her needs. You have to become a student of your wife so that you know what makes her tick & ticked off (mad). If you never learn the difference between those two, you'll be in a heap of trouble.

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         Sacrificial love means doing things for & with your wife even when it is not convenient to do them. It means focusing on the needs of your wife, treating her like an adult & not a child, & taking responsibility in the home. Without this dimension of sacrificial love, the man quickly becomes the dictator & woman becomes the doormat. That's what sacrificial love is all about--it redeems us from self-centeredness.

         There's one fact that all husbands must remember: You will never be appreciated as much as you think you ought to be appreciated. I find that husbands have long memories of what they did right, & wives have short memories of what husbands did right.
         Just keep loving & loving & loving, because you'll never feel that you are appreciated nearly enough. Love your wife without expectation.

         When my wife has a problem, I check out my contribution to it. Without fail, if my wife is in a heap of trouble, I have made a wonderful contribution to it!
         While writing my first book, I allowed myself to be placed under an impossible deadline. During the last two weeks, I literally worked night & day. I worked in a small 10 x 12 room in our apartment. Every hour or so I staggered out of the room to read my "best seller" to Carol. Carol's job was to respond with encouraging "oohs" & "ahs" & make me another glass of iced tea.
         On about the ninth or tenth day I noticed that her "oohs" & "ahs" were getting weaker, as was her tea. The way she handed me that last glass of tea communicated clearly. Her disposition said, "Hope you choke on an ice cube!" I knew I was in trouble, but I had to make my deadline! That evening, as I paused from typing to think, I heard Carol sobbing in the bedroom. I knew what the problem was. For nearly ten days I had not invested anything in our relationship. Now I was receiving a return on my investment: Weak tea & tears! I went in the bedroom, sat down next to her, & said, "I know what the problem is."
         Through her sobs she muttered, "You do?"
         "Yes, it's
me! I haven't been contributing positively to our marriage, & you're paying for it." This triggered another flood of tears that said, I agree!
         Another poor investment made by many men is to refuse to be problem solvers. The husband must take on every problem his wife brings to him & search for solutions. It's so easy to say, "That's your problem! You dug the hole. Let me help you into it!" Being a problem solver means that her problem is your problem.

         There is a whole lot of misunderstanding over the woman's role in the home, & especially over one loaded word: Submission.
         In defining helpmate, there are two things that it is not. First, it is not a status of inferiority. The purpose of submission is to allow two people to function as a team in order to complement each other instead of competing with each other.
         Second, being a helpmate is not primarily an action but an attitude. There are times when my wife is with me geographically, but her attitude leaves a little to be desired. A woman may claim that she is a wonderful helpmate because she has actually complied with her husband's wishes. However, if you were to ask the husband, he would say that his wife's
attitude made her actions meaningless. The difference in perspective lies in the fact that she was thinking in terms of action, but her attitude was showing. And that's what he saw! The way something is done makes all the difference in the world.
         A woman needs to always be aware of two dimensions of her husband's headship: that of representative
authority (shock absorber) & that of sacrificial lover (servant). She needs to pick up on these two dimensions whenever she sees her man exercising them, & encourage him like crazy.

         Oneness is destroyed by resistance. A constant, gnawing resistance against your husband will push him into a corner, forcing him to either snap back at you or retreat altogether. The book of Proverbs has the best statement of this principle that I have seen. Proverbs says that a woman who keeps offering resistance after a decision has been made is like rain on a tin roof--she just keeps dripping & dripping & dripping.--Pro.27:15.
         A man offers to take his family out to dinner on the spur of the moment. As he begins driving away, he'll usually say, "Honey, where would you like to eat?"
         "Oh, I don't care. You decide!" After a few seconds of thought he suggests, "Let's go for hamburgers." His wife responds, "Hamburgers? You really want to go for hamburgers?"
         "You don't want to go for hamburgers, I take it?"
         "Oh, it doesn't make any difference to me. You make the decision," she says.
         "Okay. Then let's go for burgers."
         "Hamburgers? We had them two weeks ago. You really want them again? Well, it's your decision!" she says, dripping & dripping & dripping.

         The wife who wants to be a helpmate is to reflect her husband positively. A positive reflection of your husband is being the glory of the man. Many times I'll hear women say, "Well, you know my husband. You know George, & I can tell you right now that he isn't going to buy this or do that." That is not reflecting positively--that's running him down. How do you reflect your husband? It's a winning combination when the wife is reflecting her husband positively & he is loving her sacrificially.
         You cannot reflect your husband positively & motivate him to meet your needs if he doesn't know what your needs are. So much of marriage is spent in a cat-&-mouse game. Many times it's the wife who's thinking, I've got a need, but you don't know what it is! If you can figure out what it is, it's going to be super around the ranch. But if you can't figure it out, it's going to be pretty rough around here for weeks! So the husband finally figures out what her need is & then begins to make an attempt to meet it. At this point the wife lets him know, verbally or nonverbally, that it's too late! Most men are not too swift at picking up a woman's subtle, nonverbal clues. We need to be told, point-blank sometimes, what you need & what we can do to meet that need. By not revealing your needs to us, you set the relationship up to suffer from all kinds of problems that could be easily dealt with if discussed. Don't take the lockjaw approach in letting your husband know of your needs. Submission is more than support, encouragement, & responding to your husband. There is also an active element of submitting your feelings & thoughts.
                  The Bible calls a woman who is beautiful on the inside precious, which means rare or expensive! This inner beauty is descriptive of a woman who is focused on her responsibility of pleasing her husband. She has a gentle & quiet spirit & delights in cultivating oneness with her man.
         Are you becoming a rare & expensive woman in your husband's sight? Are you dying to yourself by voluntarily submitting to your husband's authority in your home for the sake of oneness in your marriage? You submit to him not because he is better or smarter but because you'll lose if you demand your rights. You'll lose the very thing you are demanding every time, & you'll lose something else--your marriage!

         In addition to suggesting the use of creativity & surprise in loving & pleasing your husbands, I want to insert a caution: Be careful of being too practical.
         For instance, women can be too practical on vacations. After driving for 12 hours, I head for the first sign that says motel. All I want is a bed with no bugs in it. That's it! But Carol wants us to shop around at five or six other motels to see where we can get the best deal. I could fall asleep looking for a bed! Too practical!
         Several years ago I had been speaking at marriage seminars for several weekends (ten) in a row. After that last weekend was over, I began to plan a getaway for our family, effective immediately upon my arrival at home. When I got there I said, "Honey, how long will it take you to get the family packed & in the car?"
         She looked me directly in the eyes & confidently said, "One hour!"
         "Well," I said, "whoever & whatever is out in the car in one hour is going on a trip with me."
         And we did go away & had a fantastic time! That was one time I did not need to hear 17 reasons this trip was impractical & ridiculous. I was grateful to Carol that she wasn't dripping!
         I take my wife out to dinner or lunch once a week whether she needs it or not! That may not be practical, but I see it as an investment in our relationship. Be a student of your husband & allow him to do some impractical things that he feels will enhance your oneness.

         A woman will ask her man, "Do you love me?" (It's 8:00). "Are you sure?" (8:10). "You really do?" (8:15). "You do, huh?" (8:20). In the meantime, her man is thinking (& perhaps saying), "I told you I loved you when we were married. And it's still in effect until I revoke it!" Now that's a big difference!--Women
need continual reassurance, & men must not be hesitant to give it.

         Most women initially respond in the immediate--in the now! They are rarely "out there," but live right here in the now. Most men initially respond in long-range manner. They are rarely here, but live out there somewhere!
         Years ago I came home enthusiastically announcing that we were going to the Middle East for a short tour! Carol's response was like a cold, wet blanket on my excitement. I was looking forward to this trip 8 months in the future, & she asked me four questions in the now! They were: How can we afford it? Who will keep the kids? What will we do with the house? What about the car? All my enthusiasm was quickly dampened!
         But it wasn't her fault! She was simply acting characteristically as a woman. I should have realised that she was viewing this situation in the now. My mistake was to ignore the now! I could have approached it in this way: "Honey, I have a topic sentence & a few things to follow. Topic sentence: We're going to the Middle East! Hold it! It's paid for. I know who will keep the kids. I believe we'll leave the house right here, & we'll put the car in the garage!" I would have met her need of the immediate & freed her to get excited in the long-range future!

         Understanding maleness & femaleness is a great aid in knowing how to communicate to your mate or other family member. Most males
think first & then feel. Most females feel first & then think. In light of this, a woman must never ask her man how he feels until she pulls out of him what he thinks. So the first question asked of a man must be, "What do you think?"
         Conversely, a man must never, ever ask a woman what she thinks until after he inquires about how she feels. She will tell you what she thinks, but she will initially communicate her thoughts through her feelings. When this is not followed, women suspect that their husbands have no feelings & men believe their wives are unable to think.
         According to this & various other studies, a man primarily needs respect & a woman primarily needs love & cherishing. It becomes a vicious cycle! If a woman isn't cherished by her man, she will not respect him. And if a man doesn't get respect, it is very difficult for him to cherish his wife.


first priority is to develop a more intimate relationship with God, the Designer of the family, so that you can experience the design. (Editor: As Christians with a love for the lost, however, we put the Lord & His work first, then others, & finally ourselves & our relationship with our spouse. As we "seek first the Kingdom of God," all these other things are "added unto us.")
second priority is your relationship with your mate. Many men find it easy to slip their vocation into this slot, while women will frequently put their children or home in this place.
         I've talked with many men over the years who complain that their wives are extremely negative & naggingly resistant when they want to go out with the guys to hunt, golf, or play tennis. In such cases the wife is not down on hunting or golfing or tennis but is screaming for attention to the priorities of the marriage. In each situation, I've counselled the man to evaluate & rework his priorities, emphasising his need to cultivate an intimate, personal relationship with his wife. After laying this foundation of a relationship, the wife loses her need to be resistant & negative. In some cases she may even be excited about his activities.

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third priority is your children. I'm convinced that parents could fail miserably in the area of discipline, being either too permissive or too authoritarian, & still succeed if there is a healthy relationship. Although priorities are referring to quality of time more than quantity of time, be careful not to use that as a cop-out. Relationships take time. You'll never regret taking time each week to relate individually to your children.
         Many times the husband or wife or both will verbalise a need to get away for a couple of days. Then, of course, the question comes up: "What will we do with the kids?" The kids will enjoy the time away from you, believe me, & will probably say, "Hey, could you go away again next week?" You will be better parents because of the renewed closeness resulting from your time together.
         Your vocation is your
fourth priority. Perhaps you are both working or maybe the wife is a homemaker, which means she is working more than her husband!
fifth priority is your social relationship--those that are outside the home or vocation.
         A man came into my office for counselling & said, "My business is number one & my wife is number two."
         "Well," I said, "that's really exciting. Do you realise that is probably why you are here?"
         When I speak at corporation seminars I always point out that the best production comes from those executives & employees who are winning at home. Only when a person's priorities are straight can he or she feel free enough to move out & be the person he should be in his vocation. It's when you don't take time for your priority relationships that you are asking for trouble.

         A man came to my office one day & started chatting. After a short while he asked, "What really makes a good marriage?"
         "Well," I said, "it takes a
miracle to pull off any marriage these days."
         "I'll buy that," he replied.
Redbook magazine recently came out with some statistics showing that those who indicated they had a relationship with God also indicated that they enjoyed life more & enjoyed sex more!
         The cause of most marital problems is lack of communication. Every commitment made to God & to one another is put to the test at the level of communication. This is the point of contact between two people, where the man & woman either enjoy their relationship by responding properly or endure it by reacting improperly.

         There is so much confusion in our World today concerning love. Most marital relationships have a wrong picture of love. Have you ever said, "I love oranges"? Exactly what do you mean by that? You are actually saying, "Oranges do something for me." However, after you have squeezed everything you like out of the orange, you throw away the peelings. This is the same concept of love that many take as a basis for marriage. So when a person says "I love you," he or she may mean, "You do something for me. After I squeeze all I want out of you, I will discard you, even as I threw away the orange peelings." Now there is nothing wrong with being attracted to the one you love & excited that he or she "does something for you," but that is
not a proper foundation for marriage.
         True love is not
getting all you can from another person but giving all you can. It is not conditional on what your lover does for you but is totally unconditional. One Greek word for love is "agape", which translated means to commit yourself to seek the best for the person loved. It's committing yourself to give to another. It's a stubborn kind of love. It says, "I love you no matter what you do, say, or how you look. I love you! You can't stop me!"
         Take a single girl named Sally & ask her what she thinks of John. "Oh, John, he's all right. He's just another guy." Then you let it be known that John thinks Sally is a beautiful girl & he really likes her. Now ask Sally the same question about John. Her reply? "Oh, that John, he's got insight!" What pepped up her response? She felt vibrations of love from John & she couldn't help but respond. The same is true of love vibrations in the marital relationship, except in this case it's more of a necessity for oneness.

         In an Asian monastery there were very strict rules. The most unusual restriction was that each monk could only speak two words every ten years.
         After Brother Barney had been in residence for ten years, he was brought in to his superior to speak his two words. "All right, Brother Barney, what are your two words?" asked the superior. Brother Barney sheepishly said, "Food, bad!"
         At the end of his next ten years Brother Barney was called in for his two-word interview. "What do you have to say for yourself?" Brother Barney meekly murmured, "Bed, hard!"
         Now after 30 years he was called in for his third interview. This time Brother Barney angrily blurted out, "I quit!" His superior quickly responded, "Well, I'm not surprised. All you have been doing for 30 years is complaining!"
         People are lonely primarily because they are unwilling to communicate with others. Like Brother Barney, people don't say much!   What type of communicator are you?

Clichs--Level Five
         This level is the lowest level of communication & openness. Communication at this level is trivial, at best. It consists of surface conversation such as, "How are you? It's good to see you! How is your work?" Naturally, nobody really wants an answer to these questions other than a similar surface response.

Reporting Facts--Level Four
         Communication on this level does not penetrate the surface relationship. It's just that more information is passed back & forth than in the use of clichs. Instead of any self-disclosure there is a reporting on others. Just as we hide behind clichs, so we also hide behind gossip, conversation, & little narrations about others.

My Thoughts & Judgments--Level Three
         At this level there is some deep communication. Even though we may share ideas, judgments, & decisions, there is strict censorship. As John Powell expresses it:
         As I communicate my ideas, etc; I will be watching you carefully. I want to test the temperature of the water before I leap in. I want to be sure that you will accept me with my ideas, judgments, & decisions. If you raise your eyebrow or narrow your eyes, if you yawn or look at your watch, I will probably retreat to safer ground. I will run for the cover of silence, or change the subject of conversation, or worse, I will start to say things I suspect that you want me to say. I will try to be what pleases you.

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My Feelings--Level Two
         Level three is a mind boggler! At level two we relate much deeper & much closer to the "real" me! It's a shift from the head to the heart--feelings & emotions. These feelings are uniquely, personally mine. They compose the heart behind my ideas, judgments, & decisions.
         Honesty is most difficult at this level! The temptation is to be dishonest on the grounds that it might hurt others. But real growth can take place at this level if communication is honest, open, & gut level.

Intimacy--Level One
         Gut-level communication is for completely emotional & personal communion. It's a celebration of intimacy! The celebration of "us"! At this level we share together, care together, laugh & cry together, like two musical instruments playing exactly the same note in unison or in harmony. It's the miracle of interdependence at its peak!

         The nature of loneliness centers the focus of attention on ourselves. We deceive ourselves into believing that our search to be loved is loving. Most of our time & energy is spent on the prowl looking for this experience called love. Being on the prowl is not love at all. Love can never be captured, bought, or taken. It must always be given away. To release God's Love, I suggest six action steps.

         Expose yourself! Tell the truth about yourself. We have the ambivalent feelings of longing to be known & understood on the one hand, & desiring to remain hidden & covered up on the other.

         Express your gut-level emotions. Feeling frustrated, or being annoyed, or experiencing fears & anger do not make a person good or bad. Experts say that the most common cause of fatigue & actual sickness is the repression of emotions. Instead of repressing, report your emotions!
         (Editor's Note: Of course, some emotions, such as jealousy, anger, resentment etc., are often better
not expressed completely, openly & blatantly without any consideration for your mate's feelings. It is far better to initially "report" such negative feelings to the Lord & "cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you."--1Pet.5:7.
         (True, you should not harbour & allow such negative emotions to build up inside of you, but you should also use a measure of wisdom in expressing them to others, as untold emotional damage can be caused when mates bluntly & even brutally "tell it like it is"--or at least, how
they think it is--to each other, with no regard for the other's feelings. Whereas if they take time to pray & tell it to the Lord first, they can usually present their feelings to their mate under much calmer & conducive circumstances afterward.--As the Bible says, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger."--Pro.15:1.)

         There are two basic definitions of judgement. One is "to condemn", the other is "to conclude." Giving another person feedback on how he or she is coming on can be surprisingly simple when it is offered in a context of caring, supportive acceptance. Hearing confrontation from another is no problem when one is certain that the other respects, values, & cares in spite of all differences; but when respect is unclear & caring is unexpressed, one can feel fed up with another's feedback before it even begins.

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         Judging in the right spirit is a critical ingredient in loving. Loving another person always involves face-to-face confrontation. To avoid the pain & uneasiness of confronting in a love relationship is not to love at all! The wise man Solomon put it this way: "An open rebuke is better than love in secret" (see Pro.27:5).
         "Do not judge lest you be judged yourselves. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; & by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' & behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, & then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)
         Judging with the spirit of conclusion demands a proper starting point--starting with you! It makes sense to start by looking into the mirror. Judging properly includes two simple steps: Be a log remover, then be a speck remover! A little girl, visiting her grandmother, was helping out by dusting the dining room table. When her grandmother inspected the table she said, "That's good, Honey, but there is a large area in the middle of the table that you missed!" The little girl redusted the table & announced her accomplishment. Again her grandmother inspected the table: "You still haven't dusted that area right in the middle of the table!" Once more the little girl dusted diligently, & again her grandmother chastised her for her poor dusting job. Exasperated, the little girl realised what was happening. She blurted out, "Grandma, the dust is not on the table. It's on your glasses!" Be a log remover before you become a speck remover.

         What is forgiveness? How does it work? Forgiveness begins with (1) respect for differences. You must give the freedom to your loved one to be different from you. This includes strengths as well as weaknesses. It's the freedom to succeed & the freedom to fail--the freedom to be. Then, forgiveness means to (2) differentiate between your offender & the offense. It is possible to hate the offense & yet love the offender. You must separate the two in order to forgive.
         Forgiveness also involves (3) being willing to hurt in order to heal. Since repayment is really impractical & most ineffective, someone must bear the hurt. When you choose to forgive, you are also choosing to be the sufferer in order for healing to take place within the relationship. To forgive is to make a heavy love commitment!
         To help the healing process, (4) giving a blessing is necessary! Giving a blessing can be a gift, but verbalisation is most effective. It's genuinely expressing thankfulness & praise for qualities you appreciate in the other person. Love itself is revolutionary, but love's expression through giving a blessing in reaction to a hurt is the most rare of all!
         Finally, forgiveness requires (5) forgetting the offense. Forgetting is the result of complete forgiveness; it is never the means. There is no forgiveness in the cheap little game of looking the other way when a wrong is done. Forgiveness never just overlooks or winks at a wrong.

         The fifth action in releasing God's Love is to touch! Love released by touching is an act of tenderness & warmth. Loving tenderness is a need all people have. We are starved for the laying on of hands.
         When counselling children, the concept of love released through physical touch is most clear. the counsellor's question might be, "You know your dad loves you, don't you?" Invariably the child's response is, "Yeah, my dad wrestles with me!" or "I know, because he tickles me!" or "He dunks me in the pool!" Love is magically released & effectively communicated through touching!
         During the 19th century more than half of the infants in the United States died in their first year of life from a disease called marasmus, a Greek word meaning "wasting away." As late as the 1920s, according to Montagu, the death rate for infants under one year of age in various United States foundling institutions was close to 100%! A distinguished New York pediatrician, Dr. Chapin, noted that the infants were kept in sterile, neat, tidy wards, but were rarely picked up. Chapin brought in women to hold the babies, coo to them, & stroke them, & the mortality rate dropped drastically. Just like the babies, millions of lonely people are sick & dying because of a lack of warmth & tenderness--much of it through touch!
         One caution: Physical gushing is as offensive as verbal gushing. But when it is a genuine expression of your love, touch may bring you closer to another person than thousands of words can. In our contacts with the opposite sex, touching need not always have a sexual connotation. We can give encouragement, offer comfort, or express tenderness with physical demonstrations.

         We all need love from others, but to be lovable we must be lovers. The initiation of love cannot be based on the feeling of obligation:
Obligation says: I must because I owe it. I should because it's expected of me. I ought to because I'm supposed to.
Love says: I will because I choose to. I want to because I care. I'd like to.
         If you want to feel loved, then love.


How Spiritual Intimacy Is Broken
         There can be a breakdown in contact with God, which short-circuits spiritual intimacy between the partners.
         A breakdown in perception occurs when one mate is insensitive to the other. Quite often I have counselled men who say, "I don't have the foggiest notion why my wife just packed up & left me." I usually reply, "The reason she left is that you haven't had the foggiest notion about much of anything concerning her for a long time." He's lacking in perception as it relates to her.

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How Spiritual Intimacy Is Built
         1. Establish contact with God. You must cultivate contact with God together (ie. joint Devotions). Let me tell you two things that will work. First, make sure your time together is short. A second sensible step towards establishing a meaningful time together is to make it regular.
         2. Walk in your mate's shoes. Men & women are very different varieties of people. In order to unite into one spirit, you must identify with your mate's differences & actually walk in his or her shoes. The most intimate door of communication with the
man is physical & with the woman it is emotional. If a man wants to open up his wife most intimately, he must relate to her through the emotions--empathising with her, treating her warmly & tenderly, & genuinely caring for her.
         If a woman desires to open up to her husband most intimately she must relate to him physically--sexually.
         3. Effect change in your mate through motivation. Counteract any of the bad attitudes which may have hindered communication.
         4. Attend to your mood. Pay attention to your mood & the mood of your mate.

         Listening involves shutting your mouth! Create a nonthreatening climate. A look or gesture that communicates rejection is a good way to mess up spiritual intimacy.

         Keep communication lines open. Avoid explosive words like "always" & "never". Avoid interrupting your mate or using sarcasm & ridicule. Avoid the "you have the same problem" reaction.

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         1. Your motivation should not be to win but to gain understanding. There is nothing wrong with true argument. The freedom to disagree is important. However, the purpose is to come to the true & proper understanding of a given issue. Most arguments in the home stem from competition & comparison. Stop each other & have each other state the other's argument.
         2. Keep emotions under control. Arguments become quarrels when there is more heat (emotions) than light (understanding). Keep your voice down. Shouting encourages extreme emotional reaction without reflection on what is being said. Another way to trigger emotions is by any short, quick movements--for example, standing quickly & shoving the chair under the table. These quick movements stir up the emotions of your mate. Normally the mate will be moved to shouting. The shouting seems to indicate the one who lost control first, but in truth, it's the one who triggered the shouting with short, quick movements of anger. Short, jerky motions stir up anger.
         3. Make things right before sundown. Settle all arguments--at least to the point of agreeing to disagree--before going to bed. Too many couples carry the tension & frustration with them to bed & build up resentment that is not dealt with until an explosion occurs much later.
         A husband attended a seminar luncheon at which the speaker lectured on marriage. He was so convinced by the speaker's message to get things right that he moved into instant application. He bought flowers, candy, & jewelry & went home early to present them to his wife.
         He presented each gift with a kiss & an appropriate word of love. His wife was overwhelmed! She began to cry hysterically & exclaimed, "It's so horrible! It's terrible! It's just terrible!"
         Through her tears she explained, "The sink stopped up, the toilet overflowed, our dog was run over, Johnny broke his leg, & now you've come home drunk!"
         Husbands, don't get discouraged if your attempts to make up are at first met with suspicion. Remember, you probably have a lot to be forgiven for!

         Physical communication is the most intimate expression of a maximum marriage. Statistical studies repeatedly indicate that 75 to 80% of marital difficulties can be attributed to sexual problems. Although people are experiencing sexual problems in their marriages, the real causes are much deeper than the physical.
         Sex is not the key to marital happiness, but it is its most full expression. Nevertheless, problems arise within that expression because of misunderstanding resulting from the lack of positive, directive teaching on the subject. We live in a sex-saturated society. You can hardly buy a can of prunes today without being bombarded by our preoccupation with sex. Much of what our kids learn about sex is picked up from questionable sources & is usually replete with bogus information. Mom & Dad should be the ones doing the instructing in sex education, but too often they have let the schools take the responsibility for educating Junior about sex, & then they resent the way the school goes about it! Parents can give the impression that sex is a dirty subject that is never to be discussed.
         Sex is good. The Bible does not condemn sex by saying, "Thou shalt not." Actually, the Bible says, "Thou
shalt, & furthermore, thou shalt enjoy it when thou shalt!" Sex is not just for having babies. Most importantly, it is designed to give pleasure, identity, & oneness to the relationship. When sex is viewed purely as the performance of a mechanical, physical act, it quickly begins to rob each partner of the fulfillment & pleasure that it is designed to bring.
         The best illustration of the role of sexual love in marriage is found in a book in the Old Testament called the Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon is a series of reflections by a woman named Shulamite, the wife of Solomon, king of Israel. (SoS 6:13) She reflects about her courtship with Solomon, her wedding day, their first night together, & their later sexual adjustments. Throughout the book, various symbols are used to show sexual desirability & sexual stimulation.

         When one mate is trying hard to please the other, comments such as "Don't do that!" are not encouraging. Be more positive! Communicate pleasure & enjoyment with positive instructions: "Do this," or "Touch me here."
         Masters & Johnson, in their book "The Pleasure Bond", describe a sexual cycle that many people go through which results in two people being repulsed by sex instead of excited by it. In the first stage, the couple makes a verbal commitment to each other. They sign a piece of paper & figure that the rest is downhill. But they very quickly realise that there is a big difference between making a commitment & being committed to each other. As the couple fail to focus on the needs of each other, their initial verbal commitment is unable to make up for their daily inability to
act out their commitment. They then move into stage three, which is where each partner begins to lose his or her security as sexual beings. In counselling I can usually spot a man who is not functioning sexually in marriage because he is not a confident person. He doesn't have a sense of security & he is disintegrating on the inside. Each partner no longer feels uniquely related to the other, nor are they committed to completing each other. They begin to shoot verbally at each other & resent the fact that they are not being cherished.
         The final step of disintegration occurs after both partners have met with rejection & defeat--they then become repulsed by the idea of having sex with each other. Sometimes people in this cycle still claim that they have a great sex life, when in reality they have only learned how to use their partner's bodies for ten minutes of satisfaction. That type of sexual relationship does not cultivate intimacy.

         Your fulfillment will come not as you satisfy your needs but as you seek to meet your mate's needs in all areas, including the sexual dimension.
         The issue is not how often you make love, but that you are always ready to please your mate. Now, when you really don't feel like making love with your mate, meet your mate's needs by anticipation. There are certainly genuine reasons for not making love. Let's say your wife wants to make love some evening & you really don't feel like it. Here's what you do. Tell her, "Honey, I'll tell you what. Let's make tomorrow night special. You may find this hard to believe, but I will do the dishes tomorrow night & bathe the kids; we'll get the kids to bed early, & then we'll be alone to enjoy each other."
         The next morning as you leave for work, give her a kiss--not a peck on the cheek, but a real kiss--one that says, I wish I didn't have to leave you. Then rush off to work. That afternoon give your wife a call & express your enthusiasm about your coming evening together. You might just call & say two words: "Tonight. Tonight." Pick some flowers on the way home. When you are finally alone, you will not believe the incredible response from your wife.
         One husband wrote to his wife in jest, surfacing the issue of rejection through lame excuses:
         To my loving wife, During the past year I have tried to make love to you 365 times. I have succeeded only 36 times; this is an average of once every 10 days. The following is a list of reasons I did not succeed more often: It was too late--23 times; it will awaken the children--27 times; it's too early--15 times; it's too hot--16 times; it's too cold--5 times; pretending to be asleep--46 times; windows open so that neighbors might hear--9 times; backache--25 times; headache--18 times; toothache--13 times; you had the giggles--6 times; not in the mood--36 times; too full--10 times; baby is crying--17 times; you watched the late TV show--17 times; I watched the late TV show--5 times; mud pack--11 times; company in the next room--11 times; had to go to the bathroom--19 times. That comes to a total of 329 times.
         During the times I did succeed, the activity was not entirely satisfactory due to the following: 6 times you chewed gum the whole time; 7 times you watched TV the whole time: 16 times you told me to hurry up & get it over with; 6 times I tried to wake you to tell you we were through; & 1 time I was afraid I had hurt you, for I felt you move.
         Honey, it's no wonder I drink too much.
         Your loving husband

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         Wives, are you guilty of such excuses? Husbands, are you giving your wife cause to reject you?
         You are responsible for meeting your mate's needs sexually. Be aware of lame excuses. But meeting your mate's sexual needs may not mean just making love. It may mean showing affection verbally & physically at times other than in bed.
         My wife has done something with me that I just cannot get over. For some reason, ever since we've been married, Carol has told me that she loves my "bod." She tells me that often. It makes me feel incredible. Not only that, but it encourages me to find total satisfaction with Carol's body. Are you satisfied with your mate's body? More important, have you told him or her so?

         Marriages are falling apart right now. The only way to reverse this tendency of degeneration is to work very hard on your relationships. That's why the commitments (although simple & basic common sense) are so critical to creating a maximum marriage.
         Fewer marriages would skid if more who said "I do" did!
         There is a spiritual glue that can be applied to the marriage to help prevent the relationship from falling apart. God designed the family & only
He can make it work best! There are two foundational factors to every civilisation: A love & acknowledgement of God & a strong & united family. When these two are destroyed, the civilisation dies. Every marriage needs a miracle to keep it alive. Jesus can provide that miracle & lead you to a maximum marriage.