Sunday, 24 January 2016

Fight For Your Marriage Part 3: More Messages

Read Part 1  and Part 2  first if you haven't yet.  

There is little point talking with your spouse about improving the marriage sexually if they do not see any benefit in it. So before proceeding to send the messages below, make sure you have addressed any pushback from the first set of messages.  Your spouse doesn't need to be fully convinced on every point before proceeding, but they do need to have a level of hope that a better marriage is possible and desirable. As Alma taught, hope can lead to faith enough to try, and by trying one can come to know that something is good.

Message 5:  You are willing to make changes that will improve the marriage.

Pushback:  You change your need for sex.

Think you are the perfect spouse?  You are not.  There are things you do, or things you have done in the past, that contribute to the current situation.

If your spouse sees this effort to improve the marriage as you putting all the blame on them and only requiring them to make changes to suit you, then you can expect a lot of resistance and defensiveness.  Accept that you will need to make changes too, even if right now you have no idea what those changes need to be.

We look at our spouse's actions through the lens of our past experience, and they do the same with us.  This can cause words and actions to be misunderstood, we can wrongly attribute motives to their actions because we assume they have the kind of motives would cause us to do those things. 

Often we need our spouse to point out areas where we harm intimacy in our marriage.  Is there something in how we attempt to initiate intimacy that is offensive to them?  Is there something important to them we are failing to take into consideration?  Is there some past hurt we have not done enough to heal?  Talk with your spouse, find out what is going on in their head and heart as best you can to see where you need to improve.

Don't be surprised if their feelings about some things are very different from yours, and don't assume that since they don't feel the same as you that they are somehow wrong to feel that way.  They have their reasons and you don't get to decide how somebody feels.  You can try to come to understand why they feel that way if you keep talking, and you can share with them why you feel as you do.  When there is better understanding, it is easier to know what changes should be made.

Not all changes are for the better however.  A typical defensive reaction is having your spouse say that if you are willing to change, then change your desire for more sex and stop bothering them about this.  Not only is this unfeasible on the biological level (at least, not without physical or chemical mutilation), it is also a request to accommodate something contrary to God's intentions for a married couple. 

The yardstick for sorting out a good change from a bad change is fairly straightforward.  Any change  that brings you and your spouse closer to each other and closer to God is good.  Any change that seeks to accommodate separation or holding on to unChristlike characteristics rather than overcoming them is not a good change to make.

Related Post: Facing the need to change

Message 6:  There are beneficial changes they can make.

Pushback:   You are never satisfied / it is too much, so why try?

Chances are you have some specific changes that you feel would greatly improve your marriage if your spouse would make them.  Just as you may need your spouse to tell you where you can improve, you need to tell your spouse where you would like them to change.

Doing this in an accusatory or demanding way will be very counterproductive.  You don't want to make this into a case of you verses your spouse.  Rather than resort to blame and accusatory remarks, help your spouse see the situation through your eyes by using feel statements.  Feel statement are not about your spouse, they are about you, how you react to certain things.  For example:

  • When I want to make love with you but you refuse me to watch TV instead it makes me feel very unloved because you put a TV show ahead of me.
  • If you would read this book I feel it would really help improve our relationship.
  • If we made love more often I feel we would both be a lot happier together.
  • When you won't come to counseling with me I feel like you don't care if our marriage survives or not.
In the course of doing this you might learn that they have motives you never considered, and that may change the direction of the conversation, but the important point here is that if you want something to change, you can't expect them to just read your mind and know how you are feeling about their actions.

It is best to move forward a step at a time.  If a spouse feels overwhelmed by you wanting a large number of changes, or a change that take them way outside their comfort zone, then it may seem futile for them to even try.  Be sensitive to their needs, including their need to feel that you value what they already do, have faith in them, and love them for who they are now.

Related Posts: Moving towards sexual fulfillment - Part 1 - Part 2

Message 7:  Better sexual satisfaction for us will improve our relationship

Pushback:   We've been doing just fine. 

A marriage takes two people, so the quality and strength of that relationship depends on the combination of how each of them feel.  If one spouse is content with things as they are, and the other is not, there is a weakness in the relationship.  If your spouse thinks things are just fine, but you are hurting, you need to help them understand that things are not as fine as they think.

Sexual satisfaction is not the sole determining factor of a marriage's strength, but it is a major one, and as President Kimball said, most divorces boil down to a couple not getting along sexually.

When both spouses are happy with their sexual relationship there are far reaching positive effects in many other areas..  There will be less conflict, greater peace of mind, and a greater sense of closeness. Hurts become rarer and more easily healed.  Each spouse will feel more of being loved, accepted and respected and less of being tolerated, judged or marginalized.

Women tend to develop a greater ability to enjoy sex and reach orgasm, a stronger feeling of safety and security in the future of the relationship, a more active libido, and fewer body image worries.

Men tend to open up emotionally to their wife more easily, desire to spend more time together outside the bedroom, see their wife's beauty more clearly, go further out of their way to serve and please their partner, and help with housework more.

Both have a greater strength to resist sexual temptations (including pornography), more confidence, do better in their careers, endure trials with greater faith and patience, feel greater gratitude to God and each other, feel greater joy overall, are more likely to keep temple covenants, and truly want to be together for eternity.  Children are more likely to have successful marriages of their own as adults.

 'Fine' is a low standard compared to what a couple can enjoy together.

Related Post: Magical Thinking

Message 8:  Refusing to address this puts the marriage at risk.

Pushback:   You are exaggerating.

Hopefully, you won't need to make this point, but if if you do, do not make it sound even remotely like some kind of threat to leave if they don't co-operate.  You must come at this from the position of being concerned about the future of the marriage so you are seeking to work together with your spouse to make sure things never get that bad.

How bad can it get?  Just imagine the opposite of the blessings listed above.  A home filled with conflict, a lack of peace of mind, feeling disconnected emotionally from each other, hurts that just pile up, feeling your spouse only tolerates you, judges you harshly, and doesn't care about your feelings.  Women tend to shut down sexually, fear divorce is coming, feel ugly and depressed.  Men close up emotionally, avoid being around their wife and bury themselves in other pursuits.  Both are more vulnerable to temptation, struggle more spiritually, and question if they actually want to be together forever.

It is a dark, lonely, depressing, sad place for a marriage to be.  If yours is already there it is not too late, but it will likely require some professional counseling to climb out of that hole.

If your marriage is not at that point, and your spouse is content with things as they are, they may need you to gently show them how the marriage looks through your eyes.  Are some of those negative outcomes listed above already present, or do you feel some of them could come about in the short term?  It might really shake them up to come to realize the situation, they might go into denial for a time, but always take the stance of trying to enlist their help rather than blame them.  The sooner you change course the easier it will be, and the longer you'll have to enjoy the blessings.  Don't make the mistake of thinking things will somehow change on their own.  Fight for your marriage.

Related Post: Is sex really that important?

Now that you've prepared yourself, and know what message you need to send and what kind of pushback to expect, the last thing to cover is how best to send these messages to your spouse.  We will cover that in the next post.