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More than us: How marriage can draw you closer to God

Written by Amy Van Veen

From the thrill of wedding anticipation to settling into the roles of husband and wife, it can be easy to forget that marriage is about far more than just two people. What if the marriage wasn’t seen as an end in and of itself? What if it was seen as a means of drawing closer to God?

According to Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, “The reason God became flesh was so that we might know him; correspondingly, God did not create marriage just to give us a pleasant means of repopulating the world and providing a steady societal institution for the benefit of humanity. He planted marriage among humans as yet another signpost pointing to his own eternal spiritual existence.”

The following are just some of the ways Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage, outlines how your marriage can help you grow spiritually and draw closer to God.

1. Learning to love

According to Thomas, “Marriage can be the gym in which our capacity to experience and express God’s love is strengthened and further developed. To get there, we have to realize that human love and divine love aren’t separate oceans, but rather one body of water with many tributaries. We show our love for God in part by loving our spouses well.”You might be in a season of your life where loving your spouse is the furthest thing from difficult, or you might be in a season where loving them is a struggle; either way, marriage deepens our understanding of what it is to love. God doesn’t love conditionally, nor does He want us to. The love He pours onto us and the love we then pour out on others isn’t dependent on how much that person is getting on your nerves or how much you’ve grown apart. After all, Thomas explains, “Christian love is displayed in loving the most difficult ones to love.”

2. Learning to respect

“As our partners and their weaknesses become more familiar to us,” Thomas writes, “respect often becomes harder to give. But this failure to show respect is a sign of spiritual immaturity more than an inevitable pathway of marriage.” Ultimately, learning to respect is a choice: “Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over – expectations, or thanksgivings. That choice will result in birth – and the child will be named either contempt or respect,” he writes.

3. Learning to forgive

Conflict in marriage is inevitable, but it needn’t be spiritually destructive. Even conflict can be an opportunity to draw closer to God. “Conflict provides an avenue for spiritual growth,” Thomas writes. “To resolve conflict, by definition we must become more engaged, not less.”Marriage teaches us – indeed, it practically forces us – to learn to live by extending grace and forgiveness to people who have sinned against us,” he continues. “If I can learn to forgive and accept my imperfect spouse, I’ll be well-equipped to offer forgiveness outside my marriage. Forgiveness, I’m convinced, is so unnatural an act that it takes practice to make perfect.”

4. Learning to serve

“Marriage creates a situation in which our desire to be served and coddled can be replaced with a more noble desire to serve others – even to sacrifice for others,” Thomas explains. “This is a call for both husbands and wives. The beauty of marriage is that it confronts our selfishness and demands our service twenty-four hours a day. When we’re most tired, most worn down, and feeling more sorry for ourselves than we ever have before, we have the opportunity to confront feelings of self-pity by getting up and serving our mate.”

Financial Intimacy

 

Financial Intimacy  101

Money is not a four-letter word.  Then why do some couples fight about it or even refuse to discuss it all together?

You may have heard the statistic that money is the #1 cause of divorce, but that’s only partly true.  Whether you have it or not isn’t the root of the problem, it is typically what each person in the relationship thinks should be done with it that is the issue.

Some people grew up in a home where money was a taboo subject.  They experience anxiety or shame when they discuss finances.  Some grew up in a household where there simply wasn’t an abundance so they often heard the adults around them complaining about money.  Still, others experienced life with financially savvy adults who were not afraid to discuss money, no matter how much or how little there was, it was simply a fact of life.

No matter your background, you can change your outlook on money and finances at any time you choose.  Its never too late to begin discussions with your significant other about the finances you share.  Here are some quick tips to get the conversation started:

-Start the discussion at a mutually convenient, calm time of day.  Maybe skip that evening TV and sit down to look over the bank account together.

-Start small. Keep the conversations brief in the beginning.  Have a goal for the conversation, accomplish it and move on.  If talking about finances stresses one partner out, taking baby steps can keep them from getting turned off to the idea altogether.

-Keep the emotions at bay.  Money and finances can make people very emotional.  If you feel sadness, despair, anger or frustration start to emerge it’s time to take a break.  Admit that you need a break and will come back to the topic once you have had a chance to wrap your head around things.

-Decide on regular budget meetings (or whatever you choose to call them) that you and your partner can sit down together and see that you are on the same page with your money management.  This is especially important if you are working on specific financial goals like saving for a house, new car, vacation or paying off debt.

-If one person making all of the financial decisions works for your situation, then go for it.  If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to speak up.  Even if one person is making all of the decisions on where the money should/could be spent, it is crucial both parties stay informed of the current financial status of the household.

I hope these quick tips help get the conversation started.   We are committed to your success as a couple, if you or your partner need mediation or counseling to help you through please don’t hesitate to call for an appointment.

 

Are you wanting a vacation in paradise, one that will re-kindle the passion that has been lost? A vacation without kids. A vacation where you learn how to communicate. A vacation where your partner actually hears you and gains insight – Vacation Counseling is Your Next Vacation.

Creative Intimacy

 

Creative intimacy is a relaxing, passive way to bring couples together. Sharing activities that bring us joy, stimulate the mind and spirit and help keep stress under control have immeasurable benefits for couples.  

 

Some immediate health benefits of being creative are:

  • Boosts mood
  • Boosts brain function
  • Increases immune health and defense

 

Creative intimacy doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.  You can write a letter, play a board game or draw pictures with your eyes closed! Be silly and try new things often.  

 

Cultivating intimacy doesn’t happen overnight.  It is the daily effort we make to see more deeply into our significant other’s mind and soul. 

 

At Cape Coral and Fort Myers Therapists we see couples every day whose lives are forever changed by exploring conflict and intimacy and how to fight fair.  We want to help you too. We are currently accepting new clients at both locations for quality counseling services.

 

 

 

If you are not a resident of Florida, and find your relationship in turmoil we are excited to announce we are now accepting applications for Vacation Counseling for the 2020 season.  Are you in need of a vacation where the intimate connection can be found? Where your partner listens and gains valuable insight? A vacation with out kids? A vacation in paradise? Vacation Counseling is your next vacation.

Tuesday Tip: Aesthetic Intimacy

 

Join us as we start our fall series “Bringing Basics Back”.  This series will have a new Tuesday Tip every week with simple ways to open the door to intimacy  every day. 

Aesthetic Intimacy

 

For our first step in “Bringing Basics Back” we take a look at aesthetic intimacy.  Sharing experiences of beauty can relax and calm the body leading to opening up about deeper authentic feelings.   

Taking a stroll through the botanical gardens, enjoying the evening sunset together or perusing an art museum are all forms of sharing aesthetic intimacy.  

According to the University of Utah, there are seven health benefits to nurturing loving, intimate relationships: 

  1. We live longer.
  2. We heal quicker.
  3. We have lower blood pressure
  4. We are more physically fit. 
  5. We enjoy good heart health
  6. We feel less pain.  

 

When you take the dog for a walk tonight, invite your partner and enjoy the tall trees, gaze at the flowers in their last bloom of summer, or stop and watch the birds play and sing.  Your heart will thank you for years to come.

 

If you would like to discuss intimacy, or any other mental health topic with Dr. Brown or any member of her team, please visit Dr.April Brown