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Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Marriage

A husband reads "Lies Women Believe"

Have you ever read a book specifically written for the opposite gender? I’ve just finished Lies Women Believe: and the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and boy, what a read! As an elder in our local church, I have the opportunity to speak with sisters in Christ about various challenges, and I appreciate their willingness to share. I try to be careful with my words in all visits, and I pray for wisdom when pastoring to the specific needs of these beloved sisters. One of the books that I have encouraged some to read is DeMoss’s. While I’d previously perused it, I was making this recommendation based on my wife’s, and other’s, high praise. But as I started to recommend it, I became convinced that I really ought to read it myself. I’m glad I did. Before I continue, I’m going to express a word of caution. If you think you are such a “good husband” with an “unappreciative wife,” this book is not for you. If your marriage is going through a rough patch, this might be a very good book for a wife, but not for the husband. DeMoss is honest in her assessment, and strives to be thoroughly biblical, but in the context of a challenging marriage, a bitter husband could use this book to point out the flaws and lies that his wife is perpetuating, even subconsciously. And he could then use this as ammunition against her, and this would be grossly inappropriate. But if you are a husband who loves his wife, an elder who loves his sisters in Christ, or a dad who loves his growing and maturing daughter, then this is a good book for you to read to better understand how you can help, and not hinder, your sisters in seeing through these lies, and learn how you can stop feeding these lies yourself. Lots of lies Throughout the book, DeMoss addresses forty lies that women believe, and she addresses them under eight different areas. These include lies women believe about: God themselves sin priorities marriage children emotions circumstances This list isn’t exclusive to women, of course, but DeMoss’s target audience is clearly women. She starts each chapter with ideas that Eve might have struggled with, and includes engaging real anecdotes from some women’s experiences, and discusses the lies specifically as women might grapple with them. What made it so interesting to me, as a dad, husband, elder, and Christian man, is that it made me reflect on how I might perpetuate the lies to the women in my own life – how men might feed the lie, as it were. While I strongly recommend the book in its entirety, in this article, we’ll limit the focus to the lies women believe about marriage, and we’ll explore how men might believe similar lies, or even feed the lie. 1. He’ll complete me The first lie is, “I have to have a husband to be happy.” As men, we might believe that “I have to have a wife to be happy.” Of course, our happiness or blessedness has to be rooted in Christ. He taught that the blessed ones were the poor in spirit, peacemakers, those who mourn, etc. (cf. Matt. 5:1-12). James teaches us that, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (1:17). If we are married, that is a good gift for us, and if we are not married, what the Lord has given is also good for us – we are blessed because it comes from the Lord. This does not mean that it is easy to accept God’s plans over our own. Neither is it wrong to desire marriage in the Lord. But our happiness and contentment needs to be rooted in Christ and the blessings of belonging to him. In this respect, I think of my daughter and other single sisters in the Lord. I wonder how we might perpetuate the lie to these women and young girls that marriage is needed for happiness. Do we repeatedly ask single women why they are single? We ought not. Do we repeatedly tell them of some single men who are really nice? If we thought two people would be a good match, we could carefully and prayerfully introduce them to each other and then wait to see what the Lord has in store. But it is important that we do not try to play matchmaker flippantly. Do we ever ask them what they would like, or how they feel about their current state of singleness? Perhaps they enjoy the freedom to serve the Lord and their neighbour in various capacities and places. Do we invite them to be a living member of our family so that they can experience the blessedness of being an integral part of a family? Belonging to the church family is not something single people, or anyone, should only experience on Sundays. Do we really believe and accept what we read in Proverbs 16:9, that we may make our plans, but that the Lord determines our steps? Our married state is not by chance but is under God’s fatherly providence and love. Whether we are in a hard marriage, great marriage, single, or dating, today is from the Lord, and He has determined our steps. Instead of trying to “solve a problem” we should work hard at not perpetuating the lie that one has to be married to be happy. 2. I will change him A second lie about marriage that we might believe is that “it is my responsibility to change my mate.” In her commentary on this lie, DeMoss writes, “I sometimes wonder how many husbands God would change if their wives were willing to let God take over the process” (p. 140). Interesting point, and such a crucial discussion to have before marriage. I wonder if we spend enough time with young dating couples, having serious conversations with them. Are moms and dads, elders, or other couples challenging the couple’s compatibility, especially when there is evidence that the couple is not a good fit? Or do we simply “mind our own business”? Are ministers the only ones who are having somewhat serious conversations with a couple, and only after they are engaged? This is a lie that needs to be addressed before a couple gets married, to be sure. But what about when a couple is married? What happens when the initial euphoria of marriage has passed? Or what happens when our spouse doesn’t live up to our expectations? Can we just tell our spouse to change, tell them their faults, how to be better, and why we’re in the right? DeMoss suggests that “a godly life and prayer are a wife’s two greatest means of influencing her husband’s life” (cf. James 5:16; 1 Peter 3:1-4; p. 162). That can, of course, be said of husbands, too. Do we regularly pray for our spouse? Do we thank the Lord for our spouse? Do we see our spouse as an image-bearer and fellow believer? Do we wonder if our marriage expectations are biblical, and if they are, do we have patience with our spouse’s weaknesses and recognize our own? This second lie about marriage can be tied into the first one. If we keep repeating that we have to be married to be happy, then we might manipulate someone into getting married to an unsuitable spouse. That could lead to more grief and pain than we might ever anticipate. Have you ever told a young woman who doubted if she ought to get married to a particular man, that marriage would make things better? Have you told a man that if he didn’t marry a particular woman, that he could well end up single his entire life? We need to be careful that we do not perpetuate the lie. 3. He’s supposed to serve me A third lie is that “my husband is supposed to serve me,” and in this case it might be more likely that a husband believes the lie that “my wife is supposed to serve me.” A husband ought to be chivalrous towards his wife and daughters, and to teach his sons to be likewise. However, DeMoss points to Scripture in explaining how the woman is created to be a help-meet to her husband. But she makes the lynch-pin point for both spouses when she writes,

“The Truth is that we are never more like Jesus than when we are serving Him or others. There is no higher calling than to be servant.”

Indeed, that is what being Christ-like or being imitators of Christ looks like. Both spouses need to model Christ-like service as the normative act of love within the family, both the immediate and church families. 4. Submission is miserable Connected with this is the fourth lie that “if I submit to my husband, I’ll be miserable.” This is a lie that is repeatedly echoed throughout the secular world in which we live. It reminds us of the desire for autonomy or self-rule. The world around us views marriage as a contract between two independent individuals who agree to cohabitate, share some responsibilities, but remain independent. And if things do not work out, then we can mutually agree to terminate the contract. Of course, this independence is a lie right from the start. No one is truly independent or autonomous. We all serve God, or Satan and many other idols of the heart. It is possible that Christians have bought into the lie that submission implies inferiority, silence, or cowardice. We all need to submit to the Lordship of Christ as we seek to serve him in the various roles given to us. This once again reminds me, as a husband and father, how I might perpetuate the lie. Do I make my wife miserable by being over-bearing, proud, and inflexible? Do I honor her, and do I love her as Christ loves his bride? Am I miserable when I don’t get my way? Do I say one thing with my words and something else with my actions? My daughter is quite young, but if she starts dating, I’ll be looking out for her and wondering if her boyfriend is treating her in a godly way. It reminds me, too, to train my sons to honor their wives, should they get married. I am setting an example in my home in how I love and honor my wife – the question is if it is a godly example. 5. I should take the reins The fifth lie is “if my husband is passive, I’ve got to take the initiative or nothing will get done.” Immediately, as a husband, I reflect on if I am being too passive or becoming too dependent on my wife’s initiative and becoming lazy. A wife is not meant to take on the role of her husband because he is unfaithful in fulfilling his tasks, but we can understand why that might happen. Now, it is possible that when a husband does make an effort to do something helpful, that his wife tells him it isn’t good enough, isn’t done rightly, or it would be better if he just left it to her to do. DeMoss writes:

“I can’t help but wonder to what extent we women have demotivated and emasculated the men around us by our quickness to take the reins rather than waiting on the Lord to move men to action. We can so easily strip men of the motivation to rise to the challenge and provide the necessary leadership. To make matters worse, when they do take the action, the women they look to for encouragement and affirmation correct them or tell them how they could have done it better.”

Once again, as a husband and father, do I model a sense of laziness in my family? Do I show proper initiative? Am I balanced, patient, kind, loving, and self-controlled? Do I come home, expect the beer or coffee to be served, expect supper to be ready, house to be cleaned, bills to be paid, children to be quiet, etc., all because I spent eight hours out of the home? Am I obedient to the Lord in how I lead my family, or have I given up because of a few hurtful comments in the past? Do I argue for peace instead of for what is right? My children need an honorable dad, a father figure and role model, not a deadbeat dad. My wife needs a leader who loves her rightly and serves as a head in our marriage and family – there’s no room for being passive or lazy. 6. Divorce is good The last lie about marriage that I think both men and women might struggle with is that “sometimes divorce is a better option than staying in a bad marriage.” To be clear, DeMoss doesn’t delve into the permissible reasons given in Scripture for divorce. Her focus is more on other things that make marriage more challenging – bad situations, but not the sort which have been understood to be grounds for divorce for Christians. I can’t help but wonder if this is becoming a harder situation today. The church has always echoed Scriptures teaching that “God hates divorce.” When Christ was asked by the Pharisees if it were lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause, he replied:

Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them make and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate… Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so…” (Matt. 19:1-9)

This article doesn’t have room to go through the challenges of divorce and remarriage. Nevertheless, as an elder in the church, I find myself struggling with giving sound counsel and wisdom in various circumstances. Strength comes from speaking the Word of God to married couples as they struggle through some challenges. But finding the wisdom to rightly apply God’s Word in every nuanced circumstance is hard and requires humility and love. I probably get it wrong a lot of the time because I would be relying too much on man’s wisdom. Divorce is never a commandment, and in rare cases it is permitted. This is an important starting point in Christian marriage. We can’t just “give it a shot” and see what sticks. We can’t treat marriage as a contract between two people, but we must treat it as a vow that both spouses make, and to the Lord in the first place. It is not that I promised my wife that I would love, cherish, and care for her, as much as that I made those promises to the Lord. He is the Lord of my marriage, and if I strive to be faithful to him, I must be faithful to my wife. Conclusion My hope in writing this article was two-fold. First, I hope I demonstrated how DeMoss grapples with some real and challenging issues that women (and men) struggle with. Secondly, I hope that I was able to show how this book has much to commend it to both women and men. While most men would probably skip over a book with this title, we do so to our detriment. As we love our wives, daughters, sisters-in-Christ, and even as we love our sons, we can make good use of this book as it draws us to Scripture’s teaching on how we ought to live as citizens of God’s kingdom.

Now that I’ve finished “Lies Women Believe,” I am looking forward to reading “Lies Men Believe: and the Truth that Sets Them Free” by Robert Wolgemuth (2018) who married Nancy Leigh DeMoss in 2015. Perhaps I’ll be able to recommend that book as strongly as I recommend DeMoss’ book.

Marriage, Parenting

Three questions for you

Here are three questions you should ask yourself about your communication with those you love. The way you answer these questions provides insight into the areas where your conversations must grow in depth and in maturity.  1) Do your spouse and your children have confidence that they will be able to say all that is on their heart without fear of your response? Is your family accustomed to being cut off or being corrected before they can finish speaking? Do you interrupt because you think you know what is coming? If this is your pattern you are building relational barriers that are difficult to overcome. Those closest to you need to be able to express what is on their hearts so that you can know how to lovingly and wisely engage them to bring truth and healing to your lives. See Proverbs 18:13 and James 1:19-20. 2) Are you an advocate or an accuser in your daily communication? Do your words create safety or anxiety for your spouse and children? If you love the way Christ has loved you, you will want to be a refuge and a place of safety for your family. Your goal is to point those you love to Christ, not to condemn them by reminding them how wrong they are. See Ephesians 4:31 and Proverbs 16:20-24. 3) Are you able to pray with your spouse about areas in your walk with God where you need to grow? It is relatively easy to pray to ask God to help your marriage partner. Don’t be tripped up by your own pride — invite your husband or wife to pray for you in the areas where you need help. See Ephesians 4:31-32. Jay Younts is the author of “Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children” and “Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage.” He blogs at, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared....


To the newly married...

Husbands, turn off the TV and exult in you wife! ****  There is a fascinating verse in Deuteronomy. It isn’t marriage advice; it is a marriage command. When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.1 (Deut. 24:5 KJV) The command is for a newly married husband to refrain from anything that takes him away from his home for a year. And the purpose of this command is so that he can “cheer up” his wife. That’s an unfortunate translation. It means something in English that it doesn’t mean in Hebrew. In Hebrew the basic meaning of the word is to rejoice, to exult. In the form that the word is in, it means to cause that state in someone. In other words, the husband is to “make his wife rejoice.” What makes her tick? This is where it gets endlessly wonderful. Women are fascinating creatures; each one created just a little different. They are almost like a puzzle to be solved. God created men and women in such a way that you can’t really learn about your spouse through a how-to book or even a class. Of course, everyone wants a shortcut, especially since we now live in a cursed world. But God didn’t change his creation because we became short-sighted, self-absorbed narcissists. The rule still applies. If you want a blessed and beneficial marriage, learn how to make your wife exult. What makes her tick? What does she fear? What does she dream of? Do you know? Peter wrote that we are to live with our wives with understanding (1 Peter 3:7), which is also what Moses is saying. Learn about your wife. Understand her. Think of it: God made marriage in such a way that you can only truly be blessed and happy if you learn to get to know someone other that yourself, and there are no shortcuts. You actually have to take the time to do it. It isn’t hard work But, contrary to millions of self-appointed marriage gurus, it isn’t “hard work”, any more than sanctification is hard work. Rather, it is growth, joy, love, pressing toward the mark with uplifted head. We aren’t slaves drudging through mines, but children on our way to glory! What better way to picture this great truth than the marriage of two lovers, learning to exult in one another. Oscar Wilde wrote, “Women aren’t meant to be understood; they are meant to be loved.” But this is the raving of a narcissist who thinks very highly of himself. Guys, do away with the jokes about not understanding women. You are commanded to do just that. But to do that you have to put off your own self-absorption, and figure out how to listen. Listen with your ears, with your eyes, even with your finger-tips. She’ll let you know what causes her to exult, but you have to tune in. The Bible says that you have a year. I always counsel newly-weds to turn the TV off and hole up together as much as possible for the first year. Don’t try to learn about your wife from stereotypes, books (especially of the “women’s place is in the home” variety) or locker room gossip. This is your wife you are learning about and she is the only one who can show you what causes her to exult. You are on a wonderful journey of discovery together. Repentance In this day, one of the most prevalent ways to destroy the mystery and delight of loving a woman is pornography. If you cannot tell the difference between the sexual assault that is pornography and a loving relationship that is marriage, then please do not get married. Instead, repent and deal with your own abuse issues before you inflict yourself upon an unsuspecting wife. Marriage won’t cure your pornography issues. Only repentance will. You cannot learn how to cause a woman to rejoice by watching pornography. God did not create either you or her that way. There is no shortcut. You must put off yourself and your own lusts and actually learn to care about another person, namely, your wife. The fascinating thing about marriage is that the learning never ends. Love and friendship and even romance blooms and grows more intense each year – once you learn how to listen. If you have been married for a while and find your love growing stagnant, it is probably because you didn’t heed God’s command. Repent and ask your wife’s forgiveness for failing to understand her. Then start your year now. Turn the TV off. Give up boys’ nights out, and learn how to cause your wife to rejoice. It may not be too late. Isn’t Hebrew fascinating? Rev. Sam Powell is a pastor in the Reformed Churches of the United States. This article was first featured on his blog and his reprinted here with permission....


The surprising secrets of highly happy marriages

What research and the Bible say about the best marriages **** Marriage is meant to mirror Christ and the church. One can scarcely imagine a higher calling than this, yet all marriages fall far short of the ideal. Thus we not only misrepresent Christ and the church but also experience sadness and disappointment. As we all know, the Bible has quite a few things to say about marriage. Unfortunately, both the secular culture and much of the Christian culture read the relevant passages through ideological glasses. This leads to endless controversy but brings about very little improvement to marriages. Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things that Make a Big Difference, is a refreshing addition to the conversation. Feldhahn does not offer yet another opinion on what the Bible says but instead gives a research-based answer: this is what has been shown to work – try it. Not surprisingly, the results of her research mirror what the Bible says. WHAT HAPPY COUPLES DO DIFFERENTLY Feldhahn and her team, experienced researchers, studied almost 1,000 people, both Christians and non-Christians, to understand what the happiest couples did differently. The research showed that there are many “learnable” things that can make a big difference in a marriage, regardless of other challenges a couple may be facing. In other words, by learning what the happiest couples do, those in moderately happy or struggling marriages can improve their own relationships, although the most troubled couples will likely need other help besides this book. Before we act on anyone’s suggestions about anything, we need to verify that they agree with the Bible. Thus this discussion of Feldhahn’s research results also notes how, as expected, the truth about the happiest couples is in line with biblical principles and admonitions. First of all, “A handful of simple day-to-day actions increases the likelihood that our spouse feels that we care deeply about them, instead of feeling that we don’t.” These are little things, so seemingly insignificant that people are tempted to shrug them off, but people who adopt them will have a big impact on their spouse’s happiness. A man tends to be happier if his wife: Notices his effort and sincerely thanks him for it. Says you did a great job at_______. Mentions in front of others something he did well. Shows that she desires him sexually and that he pleases her sexually. Makes it clear to him that he makes her happy. A woman tends to be happier if her husband: Holds her hand. Leaves her a message during the day to say he loves and is thinking about her. Puts his arm around her or lays his hand on her knee when they are sitting next to each other in public. Tells her sincerely, “You are beautiful.” Pulls himself out of a funk when he’s morose, grumpy, or upset about something instead of withdrawing. From a biblical point of view, it is not at all surprising that these powerful, gender-specific actions involve respect, appreciation, kindness, and caring. The happiest couples have also discovered other individual little things that make their spouse feel loved. Usually what matters to men are things that make them feel appreciated, and what matters to women are actions that communicate, “I care about what matters to you.” From a practical point of view, these things are simple, learnable, and doable and have a huge impact on marriages because they communicate care in a way the other person values. Believing that your spouse cares about you changes everything. It turns out that over 95% of people, even in difficult marriages, sincerely care about their spouse and want the best for them. However, in struggling marriages almost half think that their spouse does not care about them. Feldhahn’s research shows that this is flat wrong. As mentioned above, there are things we can do to help our spouse believe they are cared for. On the other hand, spouses also need to choose to believe the best about each other — that our spouse does care and that when they cause hurt it is unintentional. We need to choose to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things, and to think about things that are true and honorable. A worthwhile sentence to ponder is, “He/she must not have known how that would make me feel, or he/she wouldn’t have done it.” The research shows this is almost always true. EPH. 4:26: “DO NOT LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOUR ANGER…” Another research result, surprising to Feldhahn who is a Christian, is that while many think the Bible instructs us not to go to bed mad, the happiest couples often do. Rather than staying up, exhausted, debating until they agree on a topic, they reconnect (i.e. assure each other that the relationship is okay even if they still disagree), put the issue aside until the morning, and go to bed. A careful reading shows that the biblical principle in Eph. 4:26 isn’t about delaying bedtime, but involves not allowing anger to drag on. This principle is part of the lifestyle of the happiest couples, whether they are Christian or not. Emotional reconnection, often a personal bit of sign language, needs to be both initiated and accepted, something that very happy spouses excel at but struggling spouses do not practice. 1 COR. 13:5 “LOVE…KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS” In unhappy marriages, spouses tend to keep score of the bad things the other person does and the good things they themselves do. The happiest couples keep score, too, but differently. They focus on the good things the other person does and intentionally show gratitude. They also notice and express more kindness, admiration, respect, and forgiveness. Closely related is that the happiest couples actively work to change their negative feelings and responses. This countercultural idea of replacing unhappy or angry thoughts and actions with positive ones, instead of venting, has an enormous impact on marital happiness. The research is simple: Stop focusing on, thinking about, or speaking about what irritates you; rather, honor the other person in your thinking and base your responses on that instead. In fact, if you do and think what is right instead of what you feel like, then your feelings will change. Or in the words of a happy couple, “We have found that when we act loving, then eventually, wow, we are loving!” The happiest couples not only adjust their attitudes, feelings, and opinions, but also adapt their expectations of each other. A clear factor in unhappy marriages is a longing for the other spouse to be or do something that they find difficult or impossible. The happiest spouses, on the other hand, are grateful for the ways their spouse is able to meet their needs and do not ask for the impossible. In other words, they do not tell themselves, “If he/she really loved me, he/she would_____.” Closely tied to this, happy couples tell each other what they need, but struggling couples assume the other person can, and should, figure this out on their own. TOGETHER TIME Research shows that “Not only do happy couples spend time together because they are happy; a big part of the reason they are so happy is that they are spending time together.” They prioritize hanging out together and doing things together even during seasons of travel, busyness, or marital difficulty. What does this look like? It can involve romantic dinners, but more often it’s something simpler, like going for a walk, watching the kids play sports, or carving time out of a busy schedule just to be together. The happiest couples all see the other person as their best and closest friend, a friend they want to stay close to no matter what, and their actions reflect that. Finally, the happiest couples are kind, gentle, and self-controlled in how they talk to each other. Yes, they bring up all sorts of topics and they are honest with each other, but they do so without disrespect and they carefully avoid hurting each other. What’s more, they are at least as considerate in private as in public. “If you wouldn’t say it that way to a close friend, don’t say it that way to your spouse,” seems to sum it up. MANY OF THE HAPPIEST COUPLES ARE CHRISTIAN Feldhahn found that the happiest couples focus on something greater than their marriages and that many of them are Christian. In fact, couples who agree that “God is at the center of our marriage” are twice as likely to report that they are very happy than others. Many of the happiest couples worship together, share key values, focus on serving their spouses instead of being served, look to God for power to be selfless, and trust God for the outcome. They emphasize they do not look to marriage for fulfillment and meaning, but to God. The happiest couples are fully invested in their marriage and do not hold back emotionally, financially, or in other unhealthy ways. They do not have a secret stash of money “just in case,” they are open with each other, they trust each other, and they work at their marriage. In biblical words, they act as though they are one, even though the world says that is a dangerous thing to do. In most highly happy marriages, each spouse credits the other for the happiness in their marriage, “and they live in regular, conscious gratitude as a result.” They are amazed that things are so good, as this one quote from a grateful wife sums up, “The fact that I get to live with him over the course of my lifetime is one of the biggest scams I’ve pulled off.” Many spouses feel this way, but the happiest ones make a conscious effort to let the other person know. So, in a general overview, what do the research results suggest? Although Feldhahn does not discuss this, the happiest couples tend to be the ones who live according to biblical principles. They accept the fact that marriage means oneness and that divorce is not an option. They aim to show gratitude, kindness, respect, and consideration. They accept the biblical view that feelings are not the standard by which they must operate but rather adjust their feelings by adjusting their thoughts and actions. They do not expect happiness and meaning from their spouse but look to God instead. Conversely, research suggests that struggling couples are much more likely to be self-centered, seek meaning in their spouse or marriage, have unrealistic expectations, hold back, criticize, avoid each other, be nicer in public than private, and be negative. THE CHANGES ARE SIMPLE The good news in Feldhahn’s research is that, once people know what behaviors and attitudes are good for a marriage, once they understand how biblical principles apply, they can make an effort to change. They are no longer left wishing they knew what to do in practical, everyday terms. Now they know. What’s more, it turns out that even if only one person commits to change, the marriage will benefit. Feldhahn gives ten suggestions for implementing her research results, but the basics are simple: Rely on God, build only one or two new habits at a time, and set up daily reminders so you won’t forget them. Above all, be grateful for success and patient with setbacks; in this broken world learning godly habits and attitudes is no easy matter. How does this all apply to those who are not merely hoping to improve a good marriage but are struggling in a very difficult one? Struggling couples and those who help them can find hope in the statistics shown in the sidebar, especially #4 which emphasizes that these principles of a happy marriage are simple and can be learned. It may also help to note #2, that many of the happiest couples in Feldhahn’s research were deeply unhappy before they learned how marriage works. THE CHANGES ARE HARD Do note that, although the principles suggested by the research are simple, they are not easy for anyone, whether happily married or struggling, to apply. Change is never easy, nor are repentance, apologies, and forgiveness. The research reminds us that a good marriage requires the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We not only need to pray for the fruit of the Spirit, but we also need to make every effort to add virtue, godliness, self-control, affection, and more to our faith. In other words, we need to live close to God and humbly immerse ourselves in his wisdom instead of the world’s. This, one of the blessings of marriage, brings us closer to God as we seek to understand how He wants us to live with the spouse He has graciously given us. Although all of this is a work of the Holy Spirit, it also involves our deliberate, thoughtful effort, and in the case of struggling couples, it may require outside help. Our marriages are important and we need to obey God in them. Feldhahn’s research, reflecting the Bible, helps us make wise daily choices about our attitudes and actions that will simultaneously enhance our representation of Christ and the church and increase the joy in our marriages. May God bless us all as we strive to have better marriages to his glory and for the benefit of our spouses, children, churches, and communities. For a thorough explanation of Feldhahn’s research and results, please read her book “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages.” For those who wish to work through these ideas systematically, some very helpful worksheets, great for thinking this through on your own, or with your spouse, are available here at


Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism: there aren’t just the two positions

As my wife and I have been facing big decisions over the last few months, it’s been neat to see the way God has transformed our marriage from its fledgling stages to something a little more beautiful. It’s also got me thinking about the whole complementarian/egalitarian debate, and how my views over the years – though still complementarian – have shifted from a kind of misogynistic immaturity to what my wife and I both perceive to be a more Christ-like model. It’s made me realize there aren’t just two positions on this: egalitarianism and complementarianism – and when people are arguing against one or the other, they’re normally arguing against a flawed diversion, rather than the real thing. That being said, let me lay out a few different options. MISOGYNY: The husband asserts his desires, the wife submits. Though this is what chiefly comes to mind to those in the egalitarian camp, this is the furthest thing from the biblical picture of complementarianism possible. Unfortunately many, wounded from a history of misogyny, reject all hierarchy within families whole-sale based on their experience. If I’m honest, both my wife and I came into marriage with a subconscious commitment to this kind of relationship, and the results were not only personally devastating, but anti-gospel. Jesus never asserts his personal desires over and above his bride. MATRIARCHY: The wife asserts her desires, the husband submits.  Though I doubt any would publicly subscribe to this, it is, unfortunately, a settled pattern in many Christian homes. In this model, the husband mistakes weakness for meekness and, rather than honoring his wife, becomes bitter and distant (in effect dishonoring her). Jesus was not weak, he was meek – he asserted his bride’s good, he didn’t passively give into it. PRAGMATISM: We both assert our desires, and we both win. The reason this sounds so ideal is that it is so idealistic. The truth is, we don’t have the time, energy and resources to try and make “win-wins” out of every minute situation in life. Nor, I might add, does this sound much like the Christ who called us to marriage. Jesus didn’t come to earth saying: “You get what you can out of this, and I’ll get what I can.” Pragmatism (a focus on what works), is a denial of the purpose of marriage – the point of marriage is not to do the greatest good to the greatest number (both of us, in this case), but to assert the image of Christ and the church to a watching world (Ephesians 5:23). So “work”, in this case, is contingent upon a definition of marriage’s purpose which goes little beyond realizing my own, personal desires. Besides, if “work” means, “does what it’s meant to do,” then pragmatism, in that sense, doesn’t “work.” NAIEVETY: We’ll never disagree.  Point 1: Okay, sure. Point 2: Jesus called us to be peacemakers, and that in the church. This assumes there will be conflict, and it assumes a non-passive approach. We’re not called to be peace keepers, but makers, meaning: we have work to do. A quick read through the New Testament ought to wash us clean of this one. Jesus had (has) conflict with his bride, and he’s perfect. So, to put it strangely – if there’s no conflict, something’s wrong. DEMOCRACY: We both assert our desires, and someone wins. The truth will out, is the thought here. Except, there’s no real “truth” to whether we ought to go out for ice-cream or pizza. No argument can solve it. There’s no “right” answer to whether we should move to California or Timbuktu – these are morally neutral issues. In fact, let me be controversial: there’s no real truth as to whether the house should be clean or messy. We attach virtues to these things because we inherently view our personalities like good Pharisees – we make rules from them, and work outward. Besides, this looks nothing like Christ and the church. Notice I’m not saying that we shouldn’t communicate our desires to one another: communicating our vulnerability is actually an investment, not a withdrawal. It’s a compliment to say, “I need you.” But saying, “Therefore, you must do this” is patently wrong on every account.  COLDNESS: Neither of us assert our desires, and no one submits. Clearly, when you’ve reached this point, there’s bitterness and the whole operation’s gone amuck. Jesus communicates his desires toward us, and he invites us to communicate our desires to him. So – this is radically anti-gospel as well. This is a roommate scenario, not a Song of Solomon one. ABSURDITY: Both of us assert the others’ desire, and no one submits. This is the closest to true complementarianism, but its only flaw is that it’s absurd. I believe it is in The Four Loves that C.S. Lewis points out that two people sitting at a dining table insisting that they pour the others’ tea has less to do with love and more to do with absurd false-humility. The beautiful thing about complementarianism is that it’s just like this, without the absurdity, which leads us to… COMPLEMENTARY: Both of us assert the others’ desire, and the wife submits.  In a recent decision my wife and I made, it became clear that our desires were in conflict. The position being offered to us would have been a wonderful fit for one of us, and a terrible fit for the other. Sparing you the details, it became evident to both of us the beautiful irony of the situation: my wife was insisting that we do things my way. And I was insisting we do things in a way that was best for her. And because we are complementation, I “won out” in the end: I asserted her desires over mine. That is a long and winding journey, but I think it’s good for many of us to hear, on every side of the debate. While we think we may be in one camp, we may actually be in some permutation of it that is actually unrecognizable from its original intent. The truth is, the real model is like two people leaning toward one another for balance – it’s a total act of trust on both parts, and it requires an “all in” approach, not something half-baked. But when we both lean in – curiously – it forms something like a steeple. Nicholas McDonald blogs at where this article was first posted. It is reprinted here with permission.  ...