The goal of marriage is NOT happiness. It's holiness. When you say, "I do" you can't then say, "I don't". These are two quotes I've picked up from wise counsel. They frame this post.
With God's grace, I've been married for almost 15 years. Sadly, during the last 15 years, I've seen many marriages end in divorce. In most cases, the divorces happened because of adultery.
Disclaimer: I didn't create these five T's. They come from one of my biblical counseling professors, Dr. Nicolas Ellen, Senior Pastor at Community of Faith Bible Church in Houston, Texas. Trust me, I've let him know I'm stealing them and adding my commentary.
Marriage is a blessing. But the curse of adultery is real. I first heard Dr. Ellen say, "There are no marriage problems—just character deficiencies in the marriage."
Here's the deal. Whether you sit down with guys who have strong marriages or guys who are struggling, you'll soon realize these five T's are vital. Are they simple? Yes, that's the intention. So you'll remember them. So you'll be a diligent husband. I can hear you emailing me now. Read first, then email. Let's do this.
The five T's for a great marriage or a cursed adultery:
Remember way back when you were dating your spouse? I do. My wife and I met in college. We look back at this time as foundational to marriage now. We were friends before we married. From our first conversation we talked about faith, family, finances and everything in between.
And, for the first few years of our marriage, we were blessed with lots of time together. For a few years into marriage, we worked together.
- First comes—a child: While our first born was young, we actually carpooled to work together, took coffee breaks at the same time and had lunch together. For our first few years we were inseparable.
- Second comes—more kids: Just a few short years after our firstborn, came our second blessing. Then, 8 short years after her, came our third. Whew. Crazy!
- Then comes—the kids' lives: Now we're starting a new season that I hate. Our kids are starting to have their own lives. Imagine that. Ugh. Birthday parties, school activities, stuff. Insert a bunch of crap each week and weekend where you thought you had a few minutes to breathe.
Can you see it? This is where the devil does his work—in the busyness and in your priorities. I mean this. Just go years living your life. Let life happen and you'll stop talking to each other. Heck, there are times with three kids, when Tonia and I will try and talk. Then, those little rascals called kids will sense we're connecting and try to break up the conversation!
If the devil can't make you sin overtly, he'll take the good things in your life and have you misuse them. Kids are awesome. I think more folks should have more of them. However, kids should not be worshipped. Kids should NOT create a wedge between you and your wife such that when the kids grow up—you can't live together without them.
Time and talking are closely linked. Spending time together only gets harder from my experience. Put weekly, ah—who am I kidding—make that monthly or quarterly—dates. Let me explain my trick. Dinner often doesn't make the "worth-childcare-investment" cut. You know what I mean. So, I make a bigger investment on the front end. Buy two concert tickets. It's just enough up-front investment you hate to cancel. And, it's usually enough investment that we're willing to cash in childcare chips for it!
Question: In the last month, how much TIME have you spent with your wife? 10 minutes? 30 minutes? More than one hour?
Your talks won't be great without spending time. These two are closely linked. Before all the busy stuff of life, you spent time and talked. Now you don't. If you talk—it's a business meeting. Sadly, I'm terrible at talking. Unless it's about work or money. This can be positive or negative talk. Doesn't matter. If you have a moment with your wife, don't do what I do.
If its' been a good day, I'll mention something about the stock market. Guess what? This isn't as fun to my wife as it is to me! Whether Amazon or Apple will be a trillion dollar company isn't engaging to my wife. Basically, the height of evening conversation shouldn't go down like this, "Hey babe, I paid the phone bill today—got that thing on autopay—bam." Yeah, that's not sexy. She doesn't care. Move on.
You can see, over time, between not spending time and not talking, you're bound to grow apart. It's not an excuse. It's the reality of time. The default, at least from what I've seen in my own life and the life of many other married couples, is the slow and steady decline of time and talking. Don't get to number three before the flags wave in your brain and signal a come to Jesus moment.
Question: When's the last time you simply TALKED about something fun—like your wife's favorite band, tv show or book?
Oh, you used to talk about everything—for hours. Tonia and I used to stay up all night on the phone—falling asleep on the phone. When's the last time you talked like when you were dating?
Transparency doesn't happen without time and talking. The more the better. Transparency, by nature, isn't forced—it just happens when numbers one and two on this list happen. How can you foster it. Answer: I don't know. My wife is a mystery.
But, I'll tell you, she's always up for a good conversation. Ask an engaging question, then pretend to listen. Kidding. Actually listen. Whatever your wife says, if you're listening, followup questions will spark. Then share what you think, genuinely. Transparency will ultimately happen from these little moments. Bam, you just won your marriage back. Hear that? That's angels in heaven are fist-bumping from the clouds above because you just connected on a real level beyond stock prices.
Now, some of you just checked out on me. Don't. This can sound so easy that you mentally go passed it. Don't. Odds are good that you aren't doing this well. Just trust me.
Ask yourself: When's the last time your wife talked to you about something deeper than a bill to be paid or a light on in the van dashboard?
Once you do numbers 1-3 on this list—trust starts to happen. Also, without trust, there is no number five. Well, if there is, that's really a red flag for you. So, can you be trusted? Do you trust your wife? Why or why not? You can use the "trust but verify" method all you want. But, freewill being what it is, I'd venture to guess that how you answer my question reveals how you're doing with the other T's on this list.
Here's where I have to say, be careful with how much you do numbers 1-3 with other women. Hear me out. Can you talk to another women? Yes. But, here's what I seen. Guys don't do these things with their wives and then do them with other women.
If you're spending time, talking and being transparent with other women who aren't your wife, have checkpoints in place. Understand your boundaries. You work with women? Then here's an idea, talk about work with those women. You don't complain about your wife to the woman at work. You don't ask leading questions that have either of you "sharing your heart" such that trust forms more deeply than it needs to.
Go ahead and email me. I'm happy to talk offline about this. Here's my point. If these five T's are good for anything, they are mental checks for our affections.
Ask yourself: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being, "I'm like Jason Bourne. I always know where the exit is and how far I can run." and 10 being, "I'm fully trusted and my wife has all of my passwords and logins." How trustworthy are you? Now, go ask your wife what she thinks.
Oh, you say, we haven't had sex in forever. Wanna know why? Guess what, look back at numbers 1 through 4! Just like when you were first married. Do numbers 1-4 on this list. Listen though, don't do this to manipulate. She'll see right through it. Trust me #experience. Sidenote, God knows.
But, if you're genuinely seeking numbers 1 through 4—you'll do number five and it'll be a real connection. And, hear me out, by TOUCHING I'm not saying SEX. Be a man here. Touching does NOT have to mean sex. Remember holding hands? Your arm around hers?
Ask yourself: When's the last time you just held her hand, without being weird and obvious that you wanted more?
These T's are simplistic for a reason. They're meant to be remembered! Review them and consider how handling these T's wrongly can lead you down a path this isn't holy. Pay attention to the time spent talking and the transparency you give people who aren't your wife.
One professor said, when he hears of someone falling from grace into sin of an affair and caught in adultery, he always thinks, "Well, he didn't fall far. There were steps all along the way that led to the affair." This truth can be painful. But you don't typically start at number 5 on this list. That should be a waving red flag for you if that happens. Just sayin. You start as simple as spending time. Watch how you handle these five T's in your life. Whether you notice or not—might mean the difference between the blessing of marriage or the curse of adultery.
Last question: What are you teaching your son when it comes to relationships? You can lead well in this area. We offer Standing Strong: Embracing Responsibility to help you intentionally discipling your son through this topic. Or grab our Field Guides.
- Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Ed Welch
- The deadly sin of lust and how to eliminate it from your life
- 10 essential books for how to be a godly husband and father
- Winning the Battle Within: Realistic Steps to Overcoming Sexual Strongholds by Neil T. Anderson
Ryan Sanders is the Director of Outreach at Manhood Journey. Ryan is married to Tonia and they have three children. He serves Lay Pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C and is a diehard Redskins fan. Learn more about Ryan here and find him on Twitter @RyanSanders.