Sunday, 9 August 2015

Fight For Your Marriage Part 2: Messages

Read Part 1 first if you haven't yet.

Once you have prepared yourself to fight for your marriage, you need to take action.  In this case you need to deliver a number of messages to your spouse.

These message may be hard for them to wrap their head around.  They may run contrary to how they have always thought and how they have been taught and raised.  You will likely get some pushback on a number of them.  If you do, you will need to stand your ground lovingly and without apology.  Even if your spouse doesn't voice any objections, they may just be holding their tongue so you may want to address those points even if they are not raised.

The messages below are the ones that need to be delivered first and I've included the kind of pushback you are likely to get. You spouse may raise the same objections a number of time and when they do you will need to repeat your messages.  Eventually, even if they don't agree they will reach a point where they see the difference between what they think you are saying and what you are really saying. You do not necessarily need to deliver these messages in the order presented here, but together they lay the foundation for the messages I'll cover in the next post.  Pray for guidance in doing this and also listen for the messages your spouse is trying to send you.

Message 1:  I want a marriage that includes mutual sexual satisfaction.

Pushback:   You just want to satisfy yourself and don't care about my feelings.

This is where you try to get them to see your vision of what the marriage could be, and point out how it is different from what they may think your vision is.  You need to convince your spouse that your motives are not selfish.  If they feel you are only seeking your own pleasure, you won't get very far.  They have to know that you want their happiness as well and you are willing to make changes too.   Make sure you talk about 'we' and 'us' and 'our marriage', not about yourself.

Related post: Intimacy lessons from a jar of peanut butter 

Message 2:  It is a righteous desire.

Pushback:   You are being carnal and lustful.

God married Adam and Eve before the Fall, before sin.  He commanded them to cleave to each other and become one flesh, not push each other way and maintain barriers.  Paul taught that "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled" (Heb 13:4) and that a married couples should not defraud their spouse out of what marriage should include (1Cor 7:1-5).  The Bible says "let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love." (Prov 5:19Many latter-day prophets and apostles have made the point that the sexual desires man and woman feel toward each other are from God, to guide us into marriage and family and unite husband and wife.

Sometimes overzealous local church leaders, inhibited parents, or other factors can create in others  a distorted view of human sexuality that says any sexual feelings should be repressed and any sexual expression should be minimized, even within marriage.  This is wrong, we are told to bridle our passions.  That means we harness them and put them to productive and appropriate use, just as a bridle enables man to harness the power of a horse.  We don't let them run free, and we don't hunt them down and kill them.

It is not carnal or lustful to feel sexual desire.  How somebody reacts to those feelings may be carnal or lustful though.  If they put their own gratification ahead of keeping the commandments of God, that would be carnal and lustful, but feeling sexual desire or having sexual thoughts for your own spouse is not at odds with God's commands.  The desire to unite with one's spouse is a desire to do something God wants married couples to do.  Linda S. Reeves, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency said in the April 2014 General Conference:
 The intimate marriage relationship between a man and a woman that brings children into mortality is also meant to be a beautiful, loving experience that binds together two devoted hearts, unites both spirit and body, and brings a fullness of joy and happiness as we learn to put each other first.
Satan seems to have two ways to use sex as a weapon.  One tactic is to get people to be promiscuous and break the law of chastity.  The other tactic is to turn what should be a source of joy in marriage into a source of heartbreak and conflict.  The Lord's way is for a man and woman to save themselves for marriage, and then enjoy together the passion and pleasure and joy of a mutually fulfilling intimate relationship.

Related Post: Spreadsheets and Bedsheets

Message 3:  Our marriage needs it.

Pushback:   You can live just fine without it, it is only a want.

We tend to think of needs in terms of what we need to remain alive, but survival is not the objective in marriage, oneness is.  While it is true that people do not die from a lack of sex, it is also true that many marriages do.  President Spencer W. Kimball said:

If you study the divorces, as we have had to do in these past years, you will find there are one, two, three, four reasons. Generally sex is the first. They did not get along sexually. They may not say that in court. They may not even tell that to their attorneys, but that is the reason.
If the intimate relationship in a marriage is not a happy one, then the longevity of the marriage is at risk.  Even if divorce seems silly at the present, the accumulation of hurt and frustration can turn love cold and ferment into anger given enough time.  A spouse who feel unwanted is more vulnerable to temptations.  They can't shift the blame for any wrong they do onto their spouse, but what sense is there for somebody to make it harder for their spouse to do the right thing when they have the option to make it easier instead?

You can think of intimacy as being the food that sustains a marriage.  A variety of well balanced meals served frequently is ideal.  Throw in some snacks and deserts and special treats.  Have feasts, celebrations, quick and simple meals to go when time is short.  Now and then try a new dish. How much healthier is a marriage like that compared to one where a crust of bread periodically interrupts  a famine?

Related Post: Is having sex a need or a want?

Message 4:  It is possible.

Pushback:   I'm not not a sexual person. /  I'm 'broken' that way.

We like to think that making love comes naturally, but the truth is that for a couple to achieve mutual satisfaction they must both become students of their spouse's body and heart and mind and likewise become their spouse's teacher on the topic of their own body and heart and mind.  If a spouse doesn't understand this and leaves their spouse ignorant of the best ways to please them (or teaches them wrongly by faking it) they can get to a point where they think there must be something fundamentally wrong with themselves sexually.  They can come to see themselves as 'broken' or 'not one of the lucky ones' or 'being sexual just isn't who I am'.

If your spouse says things like that when discussing the messages above or at other times, you need to help them find the faith to try.  Don't push them from behind, encourage them and lead them.

God wants all his children to be happy and He will be there to help.  It may seem odd at first, but there is nothing wrong with praying to God to help your sexual relationship with your spouse.  It also helps to de-personalize past problems.  Nothing is inherently wrong with either of you, you both just didn't have all the right information and skills you needed and that can be changed if you work together.

It is not wrong to seek out information from trustworthy sources to help overcome obstacles.  My wife and I were greatly blessed by Laura Brotherson's book 'And They Were Not Ashamed'.  Other good books on marriage exist as well, many of them focusing on some specific aspect.  Don't be too embarrassed to buy and read such books (alone or as a couple), there is nothing wrong with learning how to be a better lover of your spouse, there is no shame in seeking professional counseling or medical help if that is needed to move forward.  Whatever challenge a couple has, others have already had it and there are resources and information to help.

Related Post: Fear, the intimacy killer

When you are at the point where your spouse understands that your goal includes their happiness, and it is a good and important thing that you can achieve, then you are ready to move on to the next set of messages.  After that I'll go over some strategies for how to deliver those messages.