Cohabitation: Preparation for failure

Exclusive: Jerry Newcombe spotlights latest research showing benefits of the Bible’s rules for sex

Feb 15, 2022

Marriage is a gift from God. But marriage is in a sad state in America today, and we all suffer because of it.

I read recently about the movie star Joan Crawford who was legendary in her promiscuity. As her rival Bette Davis once reportedly sneered about her, “She slept with every male star at MGM except Lassie.”

Apparently, in the miserable and difficult childhood of Lucille LeSouer (who later adopted the name Joan Crawford), there was a wound from the absence of her father, according to Shaun Considine’s book, “Bette and Joan,” which became the basis for the mini-series, “The Feud.”

Considine quotes someone else about Crawford’s childhood: “Being abandoned so often traumatized Joan. … She spent the rest of her life looking for a father – in husbands, lovers, studio executives and directors.” To this Considine adds, “When she found the ideal candidate, Joan felt safe, secure, validated. In time she expected them to leave, to reject her. When they didn’t, she grew suspicious, then resentful, and found ways to make them depart.” So sad.

That’s so far from God’s design, which is one man, one woman for life. His prohibitions against sex outside of marriage are for our good.

A fascinating article in a recent Wall Street Journal (Feb. 5), highlighted the findings of a study based on the marriages and many divorces among 50,000 women in the National Survey of Family Growth.

One can infer from the article’s headline that it’s best to avoid cohabitating before marriage: “Too Risky to Wed in Your 20s? Not If You Avoid Cohabiting First: Research shows that marrying young without ever having lived together with a partner makes for some of the lowest divorce rates.”

Brad Wilcox and Lyman Stone, the article’s authors, observe, “The idea that cohabitation is risky is surprising, given that a majority of young adults believe that living together is a good way to pretest the quality of your partners and your partnership.” But couples who live together before they wed “are less likely to be happily married and more likely to land in divorce court.”

Through the years, similar studies have found the same results: to prepare best for marriage, save sex for marriage. Even in the archives of UCLA is citation of a 1990s study from the Family Research Center in Washington, D.C., which says: “Other findings indicate that saving sex for marriage reduces the risk of divorce, and monogamous married couples are the most sexually satisfied Americans.” If you’re unfaithful before marriage, why should you be faithful after getting married?

In previous generations, cohabitation was viewed as more of a scandal. Of course, not all marriages were good by any means.

My dad used to tell a story where he and mom were playing bridge one day against another couple. The woman kept yelling and berating her partner at every turn.

Finally, dad asked her, “Are you two married?”

And she snapped, “Of course we are! Do you think I’d live in sin with an idiot like that?” – pointing to her henpecked husband. When I shared this anecdote with a friend, he thought that that story might discourage someone to consider marriage over cohabitation. Well, without proper preparation, bad marriages happen. (Sadly, sometimes even with preparation.)

I thank God that I have 42 years of empirical evidence that I married a saint. After all, my fantastic wife has put up with me for more than four decades. Thankfully, we spent more time preparing for the marriage than we did for the wedding.

I write this on Valentine’s Day 2022 – when we celebrate love and romance. Christian author Bill Federer notes that the best historical evidence is that Valentine’s Day customs go back to a third century Christian leader, who fell afoul of the Roman Empire and was martyred on Feb. 14, 269.

The reason for St. Valentine’s martyrdom was not only his rejection of Roman idolatry but also because he defied the emperor, who forbade men in the Roman army to marry. Writes Federer: “Roman Emperor Claudius II needed more soldiers to fight the invading Goths. He believed that men fought better if they were not married, so he banned traditional marriage in the military.”

But some of these soldiers wanted to be married, and Valentine secretly performed weddings for them. When the Roman leaders found out about this, he was arrested and sentenced to death. The jailer, who had a sick daughter, asked his prisoner, the holy man, to pray for his child. She got better, and the saint wrote her a short, encouraging note, signing it from “your Valentine.”

Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” That includes our relationships.

God’s design for marriage is for our good, and it helps spare people a lot of unnecessary unhappiness.

40 Powerful Marriage Blessings to Pray Over Your Marriage

By Gary Thomas -January 7, 2022

marriage blessings

Marriage blessings are a great way to pray for your marriage because marriage is a gift – one of God’s amazing blessings.  Yet often the greatest gifts in life are not always cherished the way they should be.  Maybe because life gets busy, or we get hurried and distracted. Maybe because we start to take one another for granted.  Or we disagree and let resentments hang on longer than they should.

Life gets hard.

The baggage we bring along from our past doesn’t help much either. What worked for us as two individuals, coping through the everyday stresses of life, may not work so well when joined as “one.” We spin our wheels comparing our own marriage to the next one over, complaining about the problems; falsely thinking it might propel the other to action.  We long for brighter tomorrows, but instead get stuck, in regret and hurt. We begin to drift away.  And sadly, many times, we start looking for the nearest door marked “Exit.”

There’s a battle over marriages today, and the enemy would love nothing more than to  His aim – to destroy.  God’s aim – to build up. To provide marriage blessings over every part of your union. 

But in all of the talk about marriage, defending our views, or pointing out differences, we have to ask ourselves – have we prayed?  I mean, really prayed, consistently, over time, God’s blessings for our marriage? And if we’re not, then who is?

God promises in Isaiah 55:11 that His word will not return empty, without accomplishing great things.

There’s no magic formula in praying verses and words, but there is power through the Spirit of God. And there’s power in His Truth to bring forgiveness, healing, renewal, and restoration – no matter how bad things may seem. His reach is big. His love is huge. His grace covers all.

Prayer + God’s Word = Power, the pathway for Him to do miraculous things.

40 Powerful Marriage Blessings to Pray Over Your Marriage

Dear God,

We praise you for your love and faithfulness.  We thank you for huge grace. We thank you that you give us the power to love well.  Thank you for my spouse.  Thank you for the gift of marriage.  Thank you that you’re for us; that you fight for us.  Thank you that you are Redeemer, and you have good in store.  We confess, some days, marriage gets tough, and we blow it – again.  We ask that you would make us more like you. Please fill our marriage and lives with truth and cover it with marriage blessings.  Lord, we pray for…

Adoration – “My beloved is mine and I am his.” Song of Songs 2:16

Belief – “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.” Acts 16:31

Blessing – “He blesses the home of the righteous.”  Prov. 3:33

Commitment – “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecc. 4:12

Courage – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Josh. 1:9

Discernment – “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”  Phil. 1:9-10

Encouragement – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29

Endurance – “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”  1 Cor. 13:7-8

Faithfulness – “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”  Prov.3:3-4

Favor – “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us, establish the work of our hands…”  Ps. 90:17

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  Why Facing Your Past May Save Your Marriage’s Future

Forgiveness – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  Eph. 4:32

Friendship – “Two are better than one…if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.”  Ecc. 4:9-10

Fruitfulness – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  Gal.  5:22-23

Generosity – “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”  Prov. 11:25

Gentleness – “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Eph. 4:1-3

Grace – “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Col. 4:6

Health – “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  Prov. 16:24

Hope – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.”  Jer. 29:11

Humility – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Phil. 2:3-4

Integrity – “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.”  Prov. 10:9

Intimacy – “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”  1 Cor. 7:5

Joy – “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”  Prov. 5:18

Kindness – “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Prov. 31:26

Love – “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other…”  1Thess. 3:12

Oneness – “They are no longer two but one flesh. What God has joined together, let no man separate.”  Matt. 19:6

Peace – “May there be peace within your walls…” Ps. 122:7

Protection – “The Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”  2 Thess. 3:3

Provision – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  Phil. 4:19

Purity – “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  Ps. 19:14

Purpose – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Rom. 8:28

Respect – “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  Eph. 5:33

Self-Control – “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  2 Tim. 1:7

Servant-Hearted – “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

Strength – “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”  Ps. 29:11

Submission – “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph. 5:21

Thankfulness – “Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  1 Thess. 5:17-18

Trust – “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”  1 John 4:18

Understanding – “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way…” 1 Peter 3:7

Value – “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” Prov. 31:10

Wisdom – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Prov. 4:23

Let your favor shine on us as we seek after you.

In Jesus’ name,


7 Suggestions to Strengthen Your Marriage

By Ron Edmondson -April 29, 2021

strengthen your marriage

All marriages go through periods where things just aren’t as they should be. It’s a natural occurrence in any relationship involving people. (I suppose this would include most marriages). The stress and pace of life causes tension in the best marriages. Even good marriages suffer at times, but you can strengthen your marriage.

Cheryl and I have had several of those times, usually due to external pressures we did not cause or invite. It could be my work – or hers – or family situations. Outside stress causes tension in the relationship. Things aren’t falling apart. We aren’t questioning our commitment to each other, but we both know things aren’t working as well as they should be. We are having more miscommunication, we are more tense in our reaction to each other, or we may just feel we are passing each other through our days, not connecting as well as we usually do. Thankfully, we’ve always been intentional to during those times.

Those times are usually seasonal and they happen in most every marriage. This appears especially true in the earlier years of the marriage, but we shouldn’t be surprised if they happen later in a marriage either. When major changes in the marriage or in life occur, such as children moving out of the house, loss of job, or other serious trauma, marriages can struggle for a time. That’s normal.

Those periods can last a week, a few weeks, or a month or more. It isn’t that the couple doesn’t love each other, or even that they want out of the marriage, but that they just aren’t on the same page as much as they should be. The key in these times isn’t to panic, but to intentionally work to strengthen your marriage.

Has your marriage ever been there?

During these times the way a couple responds is critically important to the long-term strength of the marriage. Ignoring these times – or pretending they don’t exist – could have disastrous consequences.

7 Suggestions to Strengthen Your Marriage:


It is especially important during stressful seasons you keep talking, to each other and to God. Even when it’s awkward to do so keep the lines of communication open. Admit where you are in the marriage. Again, this may hurt for a time, but it’s better to be honest now than to allow the marriage to fall apart or slip further from health later. You may need to schedule times to talk – timing is important – but don’t neglect this one.

Stay close

Keep doing things together. Sleep in the same bed. Find times to do special activities. Have regular date nights. Talk. This will help protect your heart from wandering. You must not let the tension of the times become a wedge between you. This includes letting other people – friends, coworkers, in-laws, parents, even children – should not intefere in the closeness you share with your spouse. Protect the integrity of your relationship. At one time you would have probably considered yourselves best friends. Rekindle those days.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  The Best Marriage Story is . . . Boring?!?

Discipline yourself

There will be times when you are tempted to say the wrong things or treat your spouse unkindly. It will require discipline to do the right thing, and say the right thing, but it will help protect the marriage. Here’s where you may have to use the Spirit of God’s strength working in you. Before you start to say something you may regret – whisper a prayer asking for God’s help.

I always suggest this question. Would you let other people talk to your spouse the way you are talking to them?

Get help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – and, don’t wait until things are beyond repair to do so. Even the best marriages need some at times. This may be counseling, meeting with Christian friends you trust, or doing a Bible study together, but it is important you invite someone to speak into your life. This is an investment in your marriage which may help you get to a new level of trust and intimacy you’ve never experienced – or haven’t experienced in a while.

Of course, the greatest help you can get is from the Creator of marriage. Now is a time to grow your relationship with God individually and as a couple.


There are always principles to strengthen your marriage that can be learned during these times. Cheryl and I have learned, for example, that during especially stressful periods we have to be more intentional with our marriage. You may need to learn how to communicate better, how to handle conflict, or how to dream together again. This is a great season to do some of those things. It’s also a good idea to surround yourself with people in stronger marriages – maybe even find an older, mature couple to mentor you in marriage. (This is usually not parents. You need more objective voices.)

Be Patient

When you are in a “season” you’ll want change immediately, but relationships don’t work that way. Chances are it will take longer than you expect or want it to take to get through this period. Be patient. A good marriage is worth it.

Hang on

This may be the most important. Don’t give up! Renew your commitment to the marriage and each other. These seasons won’t last forever if you continue to work on your marriage. Be committed enough to your marriage to stick with it until this season passes. Every marriage can be restored and improved with two parties working together – especially if you are intentional and do something before things get desperate.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about times of abuse, neglect, affairs, or severe marriage issues. I’m speaking of times when the marriage just isn’t as much fun anymore. This is also when both spouses still want the marriage to work and are willing to work at making the marriage better. If any of those more serious issues are occurring, get serious help immediately.

This article about how to strengthen your marriage originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

How to Fall in Love All Over Again

By America’s Family Coaches -January 18, 2022

fall in love

Fall in love again? No one gets married thinking their love for their spouse will fade. We go in believing those butterflies we felt when we first fell in love will last forever. But the truth is every married couple experiences times where they don’t feel as “in love” as they used to. Or the marriage relationship may begin to seem more ho-hum than they thought it should.

That’s why practicing celebrating love is so important to your marriage! Celebrating Love is one of our 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love.

Celebrating love is all about reveling in the emotional intimacy, physical love, and spiritual connections that bond you to your spouse. It’s a kind of love that protects you from drifting apart and enables you to fall in love and feel discovered all over again. It’s not always about occasional gifts and surprises. Celebrating love rejoices daily in the marriage you have and helps you feel cherished and captivated by the other. It is a reflection of God’s celebrating love as seen in Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord … will rejoice over you with great gladness… He will exult over you by singing a happy song.”

Without celebrating love, your relationship will stagnate, and you will drift apart emotionally. But when you cultivate celebrating love in your marriage, you will reconnect with the heartfelt love you discovered when you first fell head over heels for each other. Celebrating love means growing deeper in love year after year, rediscovering what you almost forgot about each other, appreciating again what may have lost its shine, and displaying affection and appreciation for all that you find in each other. Celebrating love prompts you to exult with Solomon: “This is my lover, this my friend” (Song of Songs 5:16, NIV).

Celebrating love usually isn’t something that “comes over” you. You don’t just sit around and wait to fall in love again. You cultivate celebrating love intentionally. One of the primary ways to inspire daily celebration in your relationship is to purposely put each other first. Move your spouse to the top of your to-do list, just a bubble behind your love for Jesus.

This means you must make spending time together a priority, just as you did when you were first dating. We’re not just talking about “quality time.” Sometimes you need hundreds of hours of “quantity time” before you can enjoy real quality time with your spouse. You need frequent periods of time away from the kids and other responsibilities. Find enjoyable activities—everything from hobbies to foreplay to conversation—that will rekindle intimacy of heart and spirit. Give your spouse priority access to your time instead of just the leftovers.

Priority time for your spouse means occasional date nights and getaway weekends. These events should be scheduled in your calendar ahead of time, because if you wait until the last minute, you may have trouble fitting them into your busy life. (You may find our book 40 Unforgettable Dates with Your Mate helpful in planning dates!) But priority time also means smaller time slots each day, such as having dinner together, taking a brief walk, spending time talking, playing a game, or watching a favorite program together.

Priority time for what? Among all the enjoyable things you may do when you set aside time to be together, make communication a priority. Sure, you may spend a couple of hours in silence watching the ballet or a movie. But make the effort to fit periods of meaningful conversation into your time together. By meaningful we mean something more than how you liked the movie, what the kids did today, or how the economy is faring. Talk about the two of you—your goals, your dreams, even your disappointments and your hurts. Try to learn something new about your spouse every time you enjoy uninterrupted conversation.

Effective communication in marriage also means what you say through your body language. When you talk together, put down your phone and turn off the TV. Make eye contact and give undivided attention. Make physical contact through an occasional affirming touch. Draw out your spouse with questions that demonstrate your interest in what he or she is talking about. Ask God to help you focus directly on your spouse.

Lavish on your spouse the honor and pleasure of putting him or her first among your earthly relationships. It will prompt a daily celebration that will help you soar above the knotty problems and humdrum of daily life. You can fall in love again!

This article about how to fall in love again originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

What Does It Mean To Leave And Cleave

Jan 18, 2022

One of the best things you can do for your marriage is to love God with your whole heart. One of the best things you can do for your kids is to love your spouse and put them first. One of the best things you can do for your mental health and for the health of every relationship in your life is to respect the relational hierarchy God has established.

The Bible gives us many dramatic examples of people who leave everything to follow God’s leading, but we’re also told heroic stories of people who left everything for a spouse. The story of Rebekah in Genesis chapter 24 is one of these dramatic examples of leaving and cleaving. Within the origin story of her marriage to Isaac, we find a compelling portrait of commitment.

The story of Rebekah begins with the story of Abraham and Sarah. They were an old couple who were faithful to God and were ultimately rewarded with the miraculous birth of their son, Isaac, who wasn’t born until the couple was old enough to be Great Grandparents. Isaac was their whole world, and when it came time for him to marry, Abraham looked around the foreign land where they lived and decided that God wanted his son to have a wife from Abraham’s original family community.

Abraham sent his most trusted servant back to the family homeland to find Isaac a wife. You really need to read this story for yourself in the Bible, because we can’t do it justice by paraphrasing it here. In a nutshell, the servant was drawn to Rebekah after praying that God would lead him to the right woman. The servant told Rebekah and her family who he was and why he was there.

I want you to put yourself in Rebekah’s shoes for a second. Imagine a stranger showing up at your house and saying, “Hey, you don’t know me, but some distant relatives you’ve never met sent me because they’re looking for a wife for their son. The women are crazy back where we live, and my boss wanted a nice girl like you to be his son’s wife. So, I’m pretty sure God is saying you’re the lucky lady who gets to ride home on this camel with me and meet your groom. All you have to do is leave your family behind and you probably won’t see them again for many years. You also have to commit your life to a man you’ve never met or even seen. Since social media doesn’t exist, you can’t even look him up to check him out. All you can do is just trust God is in all of this. So, are you in?”

Most of us would have called the police and said, “I think a human trafficker is here trying to lure young women with a really bizarre story about prearranged marriage and God’s will. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts about this kind of stuff, and I’m pretty sure this guy is a criminal or at the very least a crazy person. Send help now.”

Rebekah did something few of us would have expected, she sensed God’s leading in all of it and she decided to go. It was her decision. She wasn’t sold into slavery. She wasn’t kidnapped. She wasn’t coerced in any way. With joy in her heart, she trusted God and left all she’d known behind to leave and cleave with a man she’d never met. She put God first and God blessed her for it.

Maybe we wouldn’t give the “Rebekah Plan” dating advice to our kids, but there’s still valuable insights within her story about what it takes to make a marriage work. Rebekah and Isaac didn’t have a perfect marriage, but they were committed to God and to each other and God blessed them in countless ways. Through their descendants came the entire nation of Israel, and eventually, a king born in a manger who would be the Savior of the world.

Rebekah left her family behind, but she didn’t disown or dishonor them. She raised her sons to have a respect for her heritage and for her family. When her boys were grown, her son Jacob left home and went to work for Rebekah’s brother back in Rebekah’s hometown. Jacob started his own family there.

We’re skipping over a lot in these stories; and there’s a lot of dysfunctional behavior from everyone involved, but there’s still good principles we can learn from this family. First off, every family has imperfect people. Next, being willing to leave and cleave is important, but it’s also a beautiful gift when you can preserve, cultivate, and share a multi-generational family legacy with both sides of the family.

In our own marriage, we now have a beautiful, multigenerational bond, but there have certainly been some bumps in the road along the way. We started as newlyweds just minutes away from where we’d both grown up. Both sets of parents were just a quick drive away. There were advantages of having family close by, but there were also some complications. As the first sibling in either family to get married, we were trailblazing a new path that both families had to adjust to. We had to figure out what it meant to be independent; and at first, we weren’t very good at it. Our families also struggled to see us as a unified family unit of our own as opposed to the same kids they’d always known who were just wearing wedding rings.

While we had some wonderful moments and memories in those early years of marriage, our intimacy and connection went to a new level around five years into our marriage when we moved away from home. We felt led to take a ministry position out of state, and with a toddler in tow and pregnant with number two, we loaded up a Uhaul and set out on a great adventure. Putting down roots in a new place caused us to leave and cleave on a new level, and as a result, we experienced more unity than we’d previously thought possible. In many ways, we didn’t become a family of our own until we made that move. We’ve known many other couples who share a similar testimony about their marriage growing stronger as a direct result of moving.

We’re certainly not saying everyone has to move away from home to have a good marriage, but for many of the couples we’ve counseled along the way, it would be an option worth considering. Had we never left home, our marriage probably wouldn’t be as strong as it is now. Ironically, we even believe our relationships with our families are stronger and healthier as a result of our marriage growing stronger through the move.

The physical distance forced us to lean on each other in a deeper sense partnership. The leaving made the cleaving more meaningful. The physical distance also helped establish some necessary boundaries with extended family that we hadn’t been able to fully establish while living in the same town. Even if it’s just for a season, most couples could benefit in their marriage and in their family relationships with some time living away.

Leaving and cleaving, however, is about your mindset much more than your physical location. It’s possible to move away from home and yet still be unnaturally tethered to a parent. It’s also possible to live right next door to parents (or in the same house for that matter) and still have healthy boundaries and independence as a couple. The goal here isn’t in physical distance; it’s in spiritual maturity.

God wants you and your spouse to lean on Him for your approval. He wants you to trust in Him for your direction. He wants you to follow His direction by putting your marriage above every other human relationship. He wants you to experience the beautiful intimacy that He intended for marriage without unnatural interference from family or anyone else within the sacred bonds of your marriage covenant. He also wants you to do your part to honor your parents and in-laws and as far as it depends on you to cultivate a healthy, multi-generational family.

If you’re not sure where to start with all of this, start by simply committing to following God’s plan for marriage. This includes leaving the authority of your parents and cleaving to your spouse as a new family. Once you put yourself under God’s authority, you’re in the safest place on earth. That simple act of faith invites His peace to fill your heart and your home. It might still be a long and messy journey to establish healthy boundaries and healthy relationships with your family and in-laws, but if you’ll choose to do it God’s way, then you can have the peace of knowing you’re on the right track and that the Lord with you every step of the way.

Your Kids Become What You Model in Your Marriage

By Marriage Laboratory -November 2, 2021


In the past six years of blogging, I’ve learned a little secret of how to get people to care about whatever marriage principle I’m writing about:

Include some benefit for their kids.

I’ve learned when I say things like, “Hey, studies have shown that the strength of your closest relationship does more to predict your life expectancy than your health, air quality or income.” People say, “Oh interesting.”

But when I say, “Hey, studies have shown that the stronger your marriage, the happier and more stable your kids turn out.” People say, “WHAT?!?! HOW CAN WE STRENGTHEN OUR MARRIAGE?!?!”

By FAR the most feedback and interest on my weekly Sex Question Wednesdays is not when I talk about how to make our sex lives better, it’s when when I talk about how to make our KIDS have a healthier sexuality.

Likewise, when I talk about negative emotion intolerance, my audience shrugs indifferently. But when I say “here’s how we increase our kids’ negative emotion intolerance”….. those are some of my most popular posts.

I find this phenomenon fascinating. It never fails. I don’t have a mommy blog, but I can see why mommy blogs VASTLY outnumber marriage blogs.

Its as if we’ve given up on our ourselves and all our hopes and dreams now lie with our kids.* We care FAR more about our kids’ happiness than we do about our marital happiness. The irony of course is that a happy marriage IS how you raise happy kids.

Speaking of ironies, here’s a few more:
– The way we teach our kids emotional regulation IS TO BE EMOTIONALLY REGULATED OURSELVES!
– The only way to teach our kids that sex is positive and beautiful is if SEX IS ACTUALLY A POSITIVE AND BEAUTIFUL THING IN OUR LIVES!
– The way we set our kids up to develop healthy stable relationships, is TO MODEL A HEALTHY STABLE RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR SPOUSE!

We cannot fake this.

Believe me, I have tried.

I’ve tried to get my kids to care about cleaning. But my attempts to make them care about keeping their rooms tidy when mine consistently looks like Hurricane Lazy just blew through, fall flat.

In the end, who we are and what we care about, not what we say, is what is going to influence our kids.

Personal story time.

This summer, I’ve seen a lot of questions and discussions on how to talk to our kids about race. These are good and appropriate questions and discussions, but here’s the thing, unless we, their parents, actually truly care about racial equality, our kids won’t either. They’re not going to remember those three conversations we initiated, they’ll remember and internalize the hundreds of conversations we had about the house or the neighbors or whatever it is that is on our mind all the time and pops out of our mouths without forethought.

Many, many years ago for a book club we read Nurture Shock. In the chapter about race it said it’s not enough to say to our kids, “everyone is equal, we love everyone.” They mentioned a study where a first grade class was arbitrarily divided in half. Half wore red shirts all week, the other half blue. At the end of the week, researchers asked each group a series of questions. Both groups reported thinking that their shirt color group was smarter, kinder, harder working and better in every way than the other color. If we don’t PROACTIVELY teach our kids otherwise, they will have this same tendency with skin color, especially factoring in white privilege. We have to teach them the history of oppression and privilege.

I read this and can honestly say this was the first time I put any real thought into what I was doing to teach my kids about race. I felt called out. I thought I was doing good to say, “Everyone is equal, we love everyone.” I didn’t know what else TO say. It seemed so tricky and hard to talk to them about it. I didn’t want to accidentally say the wrong thing.

Fast forward seven years and I care now about racism in a way I never did then. I started noticing and caring and reading; and with time, I started to see my own privilege bubble. To say I’m embarrassed by my former small-mindedness is an understatement.

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All that to say, now I care about racial equality. And I care not just to make my kids anti-racist, but I strive FOR ME to be anti-racist, independent of any benefit to them. I’m not saying I’m perfect or I’m doing enough, it will be a life-long endeavor, but I do CARE.

So this summer talking to my kids about race felt like a night and day difference to talking with them seven years ago. It doesn’t feel tricky or hard. I don’t stop to wonder if I’m saying the wrong thing. I don’t scratch my head and think, “What do I say?” It feels more like, “How can I NOT talk to them about something that is consuming so many of my thoughts?” I don’t flounder for words, I say what is on my mind and heart. They saw me crying when footage of George Floyd broke. They cried with me. Our conversations never felt forced or awkward or formal, they flowed as a natural extension of something I care about.

Yet another personal story:

I experienced the exact same thing in teaching my kids about sex. With my oldest, I was so nervous and anxious, so desperate to say just the right words- to get her excited, but not too excited, ya know? It felt so tricky. My confidence in my ability to tread these waters was so low, that I actually copied an exact script from a how to talk to your kids about sex book and brought NOTE CARDS to have a conversation with my daughter. Yikes…..

As if I thought my words would speak louder than the anxiety oozing out of my tone, dripping off my body language, flowing from the formal awkwardness, and duh, my note cards.

I was hoping to bring my daughter up past my own level of development. I was hoping to instill in her a positive relationship with something I didn’t yet have.

(and I know there are a few of you out there with this same hope, since when I told of this epic failure in my stories, not 1, not 2, but FOUR of you DM’d me asking for my script…….  )

Over the next few years I did a lot of work in improving my own relationship with my own sexuality. Consequently, teaching my second daughter about sex didn’t feel forced or awkward. And it isn’t just a one-time conversation, it’s an on-going flow of something I think a lot about. My excitement for her sexual development is genuine instead of laced with palpable anxiety.

This I know: if we want to teach our kids to love themselves, we don’t do it by finding the right words to teach them about love – WE LOVE OURSELVES.
If we want to teach them forgiveness, WE FORGIVE.
If we want to teach them to apologize effectively, WE APOLOGIZE.
If we want our kids to be good spouses one day- WE BECOME A GOOD SPOUSE.
If we want our kids to care about racial equality, we have to care first.
If we want our kids to have healthy sexuality- WE must develop a healthy relationship with our own sexuality.

Good parenting doesn’t look like I once thought it would- it doesn’t look like endless self-sacrifice, rigid discipline and formal sit down teaching sessions. It’s so tempting to believe that if we set enough rules and have the right scripts, we can control our kids turning out just the way we want.

But rather, good parenting, I’m realizing, looks an awful lot like letting go of trying to control my kids and refocusing those efforts onto my own learning and growing and developing into the kind of human I hope they one day become.

*Friendly reminder, we are worthy of having dreams and developing ourselves even if there wasn’t one lick of benefit for our kids. We are worth self development for our own sake! I mean our own development and pursuing our dreams will ironically always benefit our kids, but even if that weren’t true, we’re allowed to develop for our own sake!

VIDEO An XO Marriage Story: Healing Is a Process

Jesus cleanses a leper. ‘And he stretched forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou made clean. And straightaway his leprosy was cleansed’. Matthew viii 1-4 (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

October 5, 2021 Michael & Monique Kingsley

Early one Monday morning in 2018, Michael Kingsley prepared to travel from San Diego to Texas for an often-typical work week, but this time felt different. His wife, Monique, grabbed his arm and earnestly begged him not to go. To both their dismay, Michael ripped his arm from her grasp and got on a plane anyway.

Ten years earlier, theirs was a whirlwind romance. Michael and Monique met briefly in college but didn’t really connect until a small reunion shortly after graduating. In prime Christian dating fashion, he asked her what church service she’d be attending the next day so they could attend together. Monique knew within a couple weeks of dating that he was the one, and they got married a year and a half later, in 2007, head over heels smitten with one another.

As soon as they got married, life came at them full speed. They were building their careers (Monique was a lawyer and Michael a structural engineer), buying their first home, having kids and raising kids. “These were all good things, but our priorities started going out of line. We had both been Christians our whole lives, and if you asked us if God were first in our lives, we would immediately say, ‘Yes.’ But were we in the Word every day? No. Was He truly first? No,” says Monique. “The cares of this world were taking over.” In a noble effort to provide for his family and allow Monique to stay home with their two boys, Michael began pursuing his career at all costs. He was working more and more, and then began traveling out of town for business for entire weeks at a time. “I’d go to bed with him on Sunday night and wake up alone. Then I’d wake up the next Saturday morning with him there. In between, he was just gone,” says Monique. As a type A person, Monique tried to keep things positive: He is doing this for us! We have a beautiful home, and money is good. I get to stay with my kids all day. I have my parents to help. I shouldn’t be complaining at all. But the weight of her husband’s absence was stacking up.

Monique’s heart filled with anxiety, and she even started feeling physically sick. “I was prepared to get all these tests with my doctor, when he said, ‘Monique, in the last thirty days, how many of those days have been happy and how many have been sad?’” she says. “And I just broke down crying.” Monique approached Michael and told him they couldn’t continue on their current path of living apart, even if it meant a pay cut or her going back to work. “I had this sense of doom, but Mike ignored me,” she says. Michael’s eyes were on the prize of building his career and providing for his family financially. He felt like he was doing right by his family, but his heart had hardened toward their real need: him.

Things got worse. Most of their good friends moved away from San Diego for one reason or another, and Michael started working with a new team, no longer with the family-centered guys Monique had come to trust over the years. It was a perfect storm. Then that one Monday morning came. She begged. He left. And when he came back, everything had changed.

Michael’s plane ride that day was hell on earth. Guilt completely wrecked him. He started drinking to calm the torrent of thoughts in his mind: What has my life become? I just pulled away from my wife and left her there! But I need to go to this meeting. This meeting is important. I did it for the right reasons. I have to go to this meeting. When he landed in Texas and turned on his phone, calls and messages started pouring in. The meeting was canceled.

He spiraled. His team took him out to a bar in the middle of nowhere near Fort Stockton.

Michael woke up in a room he’d never seen, in a house he didn’t know. He remembers enough of the night before to know there was a girl and something happened. She was gone already, but he knew. He had cheated on his wife.

When Michael returned to San Diego that Friday, Monique was shocked at his appearance. “He looked terrible. Like he was sick and had lost weight,” she says. “He wouldn’t kiss me on the mouth, and that was strange. He kept saying, ‘I’m sick. I’m sick.’”

That Sunday was Mother’s Day, and Monique sat in bed while her two boys brought her toast and little presents. The big gift was a necklace with all their initials on it. Monique was thrilled—she had always wanted a necklace like that. “I said thank you to the boys and looked over at Mike, and he was crying,” she says. Monique settled the boys in front of the tv and went back to her room to find Mike on the floor weeping. He started saying that he had been trying to get through the weekend so she could have a nice Mother’s Day, but he couldn’t do it. He wanted to tell her the truth. Monique’s mind flew to what could possibly be wrong, but nothing could have prepared Monique for him to say, “It was another woman.”

“I can tell you what I was wearing, what he was wearing, every aspect of the room,” Monique says. “His face was in my lap, soaking my pajamas in his tears, and my world stopped.” Michael began begging Monique to forgive him. He told her that he loved her and would do anything to fix this. He explained how he didn’t want to kiss her or touch her when he got home because he had gotten STD testing but still hadn’t received the results back. He wept as he begged her to stay. He wanted their marriage and wanted what they had to be real.

Monique sat there thinking, This is not him. He was not a flirtatious guy. In the construction industry, where men are sometimes notorious for being kind of backwards and inappropriate toward women, Michael was the opposite. She and Michael had only ever been with each other intimately, and this did not compute. “But I immediately forgave him in that moment. I don’t know how to explain it other than it was from God, and it was the gospel working itself out through me,” she says. But that choice to forgive didn’t take away from the shock and the hurt and the work ahead.

Monique made it through the rest of Mother’s Day, which included an excruciating brunch with family, and then collapsed into a ball that night. She called her best friend, who had moved to Texas six months earlier and started attending Gateway Church. “I was scream-crying on the phone with her, and she was scream-crying back,” Monique says. “And then she said she had recently heard at church of a ministry called MarriageToday (now XO Marriage) and sent me the website.” Through tears, Monique visited the website late that night and saw a program named Coaches on Call. She read that if your marriage is in crisis, you can request for a trained marriage coach to contact you within 24 hours for $75. Done.

Within a few hours, a woman named Teresa was calling Monique. Teresa spent an hour on the phone with Monique and Michael. “That woman was sent by God. She took our crisis and this big storm, and she made it small. She helped us set up a plan for the next few weeks. She got nitty gritty,” Monique says. Teresa asked specific questions to help them navigate the difficult days ahead: Can Michael call you honey or babe? Can he touch you? Is he sleeping in your bed? Who is picking up the kids from school? Who is cooking dinner? Who is doing the laundry? Teresa also sent them a 21-Day Journey devotional for them to go through each day on their own. “Although our life looked picture perfect before this happened and we thought we were in line with God, our priorities and our hearts had gotten off track,” Monique says. “Healing needed to start with our individual relationships with the Lord.”

Monique and Michael pursued a three-hour in-person mediation meeting and a couple follow-up calls with Teresa and another coach, Susan, who lovingly led them through this season alongside a certified Christian marriage therapist in the area. “The help XO Marriage provided saved our marriage and our family,” Monique says. “They took something that could have been ruin and devastation and scorched earth, and helped us put it back together again.” Teresa and Susan’s help was practical and spiritual. They coached Monique and Michael to re-commit to each other, clearly identify their needs, and create and agree to ground rules for when hot button issues arise. “It’s not a matter of if conflict happens. It’s when it happens,” Monique says. “So we established small, actionable plans on how to handle seemingly huge emotional situations in a healthy way. It was a game-changer.”

Michael put a stop to his work travel and was present, fully repentant, and committed to the process with Monique, which made all the difference, but healing is not quick. “The initial decision to forgive was quick and easy for me, but what came next was reminding myself every day that I chose to make that decision. It was hard, and I sank into depression,” she says. “Most days, I didn’t want to get out of bed or leave the house, and I gained 25 pounds.” The weight gain made her feel uncomfortable in her own skin and even ugly, especially after feeling intimately violated by her husband’s action. She struggled with the idea that he made a choice, but she was walking through the consequences of that choice. “We each came out of this with our own struggles. Mine is working through a path of forgiveness daily—I learned I have to keep my mind right. I have to be in the Word and worshipping,” she says. “To this day, I have to be vigilant to keep my heart from bitterness.”

This year, they both started seeing the sun coming through the clouds of the situation. Michael and Monique were reintroduced to the friendship and attraction that had brought them together many years earlier. Their priorities are now in line, and the XO Marriage team taught them how to shore up their lines when they find themselves slipping back into old habits. For the first time in their marriage, they can truthfully say, “Yes, God is first in our lives.” They are moving forward hand in hand, more in tune with one another than ever before, and as difficult as it is, they are telling their story.

For Monique and Michael, forgiveness isn’t forgetting something happened. It’s a monument you build of what you learned and how God got you through it. “I want to never forget Mother’s Day 2018,” she says. “There are moments when I wish it never happened, but I never want to forget it because that’s where the gospel met us, and we truly decided what and Who we believe.”

Do you have a story of how XO has impacted your marriage? We would love to hear it! Click here to share your story.

“Bro, the Enemy Prowls”: Fighting for My Wife

  • Posted on November 5, 2021 Timothy Willard
fighting for your marriage

The enemy hates marriage.

Last year a friend texted and asked, “Did you hear about Lysa Terkeurst? So sad.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about so I quickly Googled it. Lysa lives here in Charlotte and runs Proverbs 31 Ministries.

When I found her site, I read the post to which my friend was referring. My heart sank. Lysa informed the public that she “had decided to separate from him [her husband] and pursue a divorce.”

Her husband, Art, was “repeatedly unfaithful” to her and was caught in substance abuse. As a man, my heart sank even lower. Though they have since reconciled, this scenario plays out way too often.

I texted my friend: “Bro, the enemy prowls … This is a call to fight for our wives. To love big.”

Then, I thought of my own heart. And how the enemy prowls. And how we are all of us (men and women) susceptible to waywardness and the passions.

So, I scratched down a few vows for myself, as a man who does his best to love his wife and lead his three little pixies in the way Everlasting. I share them with you as kind of a “family memo.” You are, after all, my brothers and sisters.

Are you fighting for your marriage?

My heart breaks for Christian marriage. But I realize the best thing I can do to help it is to do my best to keep God at the center of it, and my affections where they need to be.

So, I vow … 

To love big, and stay small. Doing what I need to do to keep the humility of Christ ever in my heart.

To get off my devices and be present for my wife and children.

To let her see me turn away from images I know my heart can’t handle.

To guard my heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

To get into the wilderness regularly. Not just with dudes, but with God.

To seek quiet, stillness, and solitude. To let it breathe through me and into my household.

To show my ladies the value in a good fire, a yummy s’more, and a terrifying ghost story.

To not give in to the rat-race of busy-ness, and be home—not just sitting around, but doing, building, playing, laughing, failing, singing, cooking, loving.

To work harder at being a husband and dad than I do at my job.

To let the blows of God mold me. For when I am in his hands, I am my best self.

To make play with my girls and wife more important than watching football.

To never let my mind get weak by the amusement and entertainment the world flings at me on an hourly basis.

To be active in my church.

To spiritually pastor and lead my household by initiating times of prayer, Bible reading, and worship.

To let praise, to God and to my ladies, be ever on my lips.

To try new things so that I will never stagnate.

To give my wife every opportunity to shine: in her home, in front of her daughters, in front of her friends, in front of her parents.

To buy her that expensive chair, and then sit with her in quiet, reading praying, and dreaming.

To defer whatever power I might think I have to God, and to my wife.

To not fuss over things that don’t matter. Like where we eat after church, or what should hang on the wall, or what movie to watch.

To live as a shield for my wife and pixies—to take on pain, so they won’t have to.

To let my wife know I live, laugh, and sleep with the real Wonder Woman.

To empower my wife’s gifts with my own.

To let her see me cry.

To kiss her just because.

To kiss her again, just because.

And again.

To be honest, to seek truth, but always with a spirit of love and encouragement.

To have the French Press hot when she walks down the stairs.

To let her know how much I learn from her.

To rub her arm in church.

To confess to her during communion.

To speak to her with a heavenly tone, and with words that make the angels cry with jealousy.

To be a warrior-poet for my girls—by setting standards, not just rules, by warding off culture’s constant voice with the sword of my imagination, and by winning the fight for their hearts with a holiness I seek like silver.

To YAWP for my wife; in triumph, in pain, in ecstasy, so we never forget the ferocity of life, and the God who makes it so.

To die. To myself. To my passions. To my lust. Over and over. As many times as it takes.

Photo credit

Never stop fighting for your marriage.

Marriage is crumbling, and churches are AWOL

Rachel Alexander spotlights book addressing why the institution isn’t what it used to be

By Rachel Alexander November 1, 2021

Over 60 years after the decline in the rate of marriage began in the 1960s due to the rise of the “free love” mentality, the results are more dismal than ever. In 1960, only 28% of adults were single. Now almost 50% of adults are single. Marriage rates are at their lowest ever in U.S. history.

This is a problem. While progressives love to tear down the traditional nuclear family, they can’t argue with the increasingly negative facts coming out. Cohabitation arrangements break up around five times more frequently than marriages, and unplanned pregnancies occur three times more often with cohabiting couples than married couples. Unmarried couples with children are three times more likely to split up and have lower incomes. Children without fathers are more likely to suffer an “Adverse Family Event,” which is abuse, neglect or other trauma. Disregarding the old saying “Marriage tames men” is why we are seeing a spike in bad behavior by men.

Two authors with extensive backgrounds in marriage and the Christian church have written a book, “Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America,” outlining the crisis and showing how the church has failed to address it – but also providing specific solutions to fix it. “Endgame” refers to the crumbling of marriage.

Co-author J.P. De Gance, a Catholic who came from the political sphere working for Americans for Prosperity, pioneered a marriage relationship project called Culture of Freedom – later rebranded as Communio – which had tremendous results. He launched it in several cities, working with churches and faith-based organizations. In Jacksonville, Florida, which had dismal marriage rates, divorces fell 24% after the three-year project, which focused on 58,912 couples.

Similarly, John Van Epp, an evangelical relationship expert, ran his own Christian marriage relationship service, Love Thinks. In one area in Indiana that he focused on, divorce rates dropped 20% over 10 years.

What the authors found is that churches are lacking in marriage ministry. Three out of four churches don’t provide any substantive relationship courses or resources for married couples. And even though singles make up almost 50% of heads of households, more than 90% of churches don’t have an adult singles ministry.

What should be most alarming for Christians is the decline of relationship health is now the most significant factor in disrupting a relationship with Jesus. This is why church attendance is at its lowest rate ever on record in the U.S., 47%. In 2000, it was 70%. Church attendance is largely determined by one variable – parental marriage. Both children with unmarried parents and divorced parents were equally less likely to attend church.

Marriage crumbled because of the decoupling of sex, romantic partnerships and parenting. Today, the majority of couples have sex before starting a relationship. The authors point to online dating as one of the culprits – it’s made it easy to leave a relationship the instant a problem arises, because you can find a new romantic interest right away.

They found a correlation between atheism and lack of married parents. Millennials who were the least emotionally interested in attending church were also the least likely to report having a positive relationship with their parents. The 30 most well-known atheists in the world had a defective relationship with their fathers.

Progressives may pretend that Christians are no better off than the rest of the population, but the authors found that churchgoing Christians have sex more frequently and are happier in their sex life than those who don’t attend. While one quarter of couples in church have a struggling marriage, 39% of couples in general do.

Unfortunately, pastors don’t realize they’re not doing a good job in this area. While 93% of pastors counsel couples in crisis, 57% of them do not believe they are qualified enough. A “marriage 911” is lacking in the church. Churches spend lots of money on youth programs, but that’s not helping people stay in church.

The authors say we need to go out into the community to find couples to help, not expect them to come searching and find these services. It needs to be portrayed as something everyone needs, in order not to scare people away thinking it’s only for couples who are on the verge of breaking up; otherwise people will be afraid of the stigma.

The authors reveal what works as successful techniques. They teach couples to address problems early on in relationships. It’s a myth that good relationships don’t require work. The “balanced relationship” is an illusion. What is normal in a good relationship is this: About the time a couple feels that they have a routine that is working for them … life comes at them fast. One of the most valuable tasks the authors have couples do is to make a top-10 list of what they think their spouse wants and needs from them.

Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ), is key to a good marriage. This means both interpersonal, which includes communicating with your spouse, and intrapersonal, the ability to monitor your own emotions and actions. Studies of people doing tasks who have somewhat higher EQs but also somewhat lower IQs than others reveal that the former perform better, shattering our traditional views of IQ.

The authors also emphasize the importance of both skills and virtues. Secular counseling focuses on skills, whereas Christian counseling tends to focus too much on just virtues. Skills include discernment, appreciation and expectation, self-control and commitment.

The authors conclude by saying the church needs to make marriage ministry and relationship outreach normal. Marital problems shouldn’t be left up to social agencies to handle. The secular world is going to continue to disparage marriage and continue the downward cycle that the misnamed so-called “free love” brings, so the church has to step up and stop the leak in the dam.

What Jesus Mentions Most About Marriage Will Surprise You

By Gary Thomas -July 5, 2021

managing your money

This is the second in a series of posts excerpted from my new bookPreparing Your Heart for Marriage, a devotional for engaged couples. The second half of the book goes through every phrase of the traditional marriage vows so that when couples exchange their vows on their wedding day, they’ll have thought through, prayed through, and talked through all that they are saying. This week’s post is based on the importance of managing your money. 

Money, Money, Money

 “For richer, for poorer…”

Did you know that Jesus talked about managing your money more than he talked about heaven and hell combined? Close to 800 scriptures discuss money. About one-fourth of Jesus’ parables are about money, and one out of every seven verses in the Gospel of Luke discuss money.

Here’s the real shocker, one that people can hardly believe: Jesus actually talked about managing your money more than he talked about love.

Why do you think this might be true?

Money carries a spiritual weight that can lift you up or hold you down. It will bless you as a couple or it can become a deep divide.

Every one of us has a unique relationship with money that rarely gets discussed and that usually remains unconscious. Our feelings about money are visceral, deep-seated in the core of our being, and many of us don’t even recognize the way these feelings motivate us. Some of us deeply fear losing our money, and we react with panic and anger if it is threatened. Others of us are driven by greed to always have a little bit more, and we will sacrifice some of our most intimate relationships to make more time and energy available to procure more money.  I have seen some literally sacrifice their health and peace of mind to bring “just a little bit more” into what already looks like an abundant pile of resources. For still others of us, we’re driven by a simple selfishness that insists “what’s mine is mine” and are robbed of the tremendous joy found in giving. A few blessed souls have found that generosity with money brings great freedom.

The Bible does speak favorably of sensible saving (Genesis 41; Proverbs 21:20; Ecc. 11:12) but even more about generous giving (Deut. 15:10; Psalm 112:5; Prov. 22:9; Mal. 3:10; 2 Cor. 9:6-10). It seems to suggest that managing your money is a wise thing to do (Prov. 27:23-27) and exalts hard work over laziness (2 Thess. 3:10; Prov. 24:33-34). It also suggests that wanting to leave an inheritance behind is a good thing (1 Tim. 5:8; Prov. 13:22). All these together suggest that managing your money in a God-honoring way will bless you and nurture your marriage, while ignoring Scriptural truths about handling money may bring much misery, frustration, and pain into your life and marriage. Not thinking about the best ways to manage your money will likely lead you to the default position of mishandling your money.

You and your future spouse will be combining your financial assets, so to become one you’re going to have to talk about your relationship with money. Even if you keep your money separate (though I hope you don’t), how you are managing your money will impact each other. Take an honest look into your own soul to discover just how you feel about money, in a way you may never have thought about it before.

What gives you the most joy: a certain level of savings? Knowing that you’ve given away a certain amount? Seeing others smile when you meet a need? Getting to buy something you’ve wanted to buy for a very long time?

What gives you the most security? A certain credit score and a consistently growing retirement account? A secure job? Knowledge that your heavenly father has promised to provide all your needs?

When working with premarital couples, I usually find that their giving is rather haphazard. They often give primarily on the spur of the moment, without a plan, when someone presents a dramatic need. If they had a close relative die of cancer, it is likely that they give a yearly donation to a cancer foundation of some kind. Others will say they take advantage of a charity their employer will match. Still others like to simply claim that they “tithe” with their time, and therefore don’t really worry about how much money they give away.

As a Christian couple, you need to give, generously and often. Sometimes, it should hurt. At the end of the year, when you add up all that you gave for tax purposes, it’s okay to lose your breath for a second and think, “But we could have bought x, y, or z with that,” and then remind yourself, “Yet giving it to God’s work was the best thing we could have done.”

Where you give your money reflects your heart. It’s understandable that you would want to contribute to research to stop the spread of a disease that has afflicted a loved one; it’s a good thing to want to support a local symphony or library. Yet Christians are told to seek first (primarily, above all other good things) “the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). We should be all about living for and celebrating the spread of Christ’s kingdom. That’s why my wife and I like to focus on works that glorify Jesus and spread his word. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever give to “civic” charities or medical pursuits. We do and we have. But it does mean that we want to invest most of what we give to work where God is the hero, and where God is specifically exalted.

If you’ve never studied this issue, consider listening to Andy Stanley’s three-part sermon series entitled “Crazy Like Us.”

The reason I call evaluating your relationship with money “spiritual preparation” is that if you learn the lessons Andy talks about (there are three sermons; they would make for three great date night discussions), money will be a positive force for good in your marriage rather than something that rips you apart.

The spiritual secret is this: generosity blesses the generous even more than it blesses those the generous people give to.

Since money troubles are a major factor in marital break-ups, it’s a wise investment at this stage of your relationship for you and your future spouse to spend a few hours examining your hearts and the Scriptures, and making a plan to be wise stewards of the resources God brings your way. Let your upcoming wedding be the launching pad for a new relationship with money.

If money was important enough for Jesus to talk about so much, it should be important enough for you to search out his teachings on the subject and discover just why he emphasized our relationship with money.

Heavenly Father, let our upcoming union call us to a thoughtful awareness about our relationship with money. Help us to understand our fears and motivations and beliefs about money, and give us hearts that honor you and your truth when it comes to how we should handle, save, and give our money. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?

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