Far too many of us spend our lives constantly playing defense. We react to problems as they arise, focusing our time and energy because we must. We do what we have to do to salvage a relationship, get along and just survive. We put out the fires when and where they ignite. And we assume that if an issue doesn’t surface than we’re good. But what would happen, if instead of always playing defense, we played offense in marriage?
Most of us are only one crisis away from real struggles in marriage. That’s why marriages that go through the loss of a job, or the birth of a special needs child have such high divorce rates. The challenge didn’t create the crack in the marriage, it just highlighted and widened it.
Even seemingly good sex lives can fall apart when we fail to continue growing. Without communication skills, an expanded repertoire and established trust, one bad night can create enough anxiety to cause our natural responses to short circuit.
Playing defense does not build a strong marriage nor a sex life resilient enough to handle challenges. Most of us take our marriage for granted and would rather ignore the cracks then fix them. What would happen if we repaired the cracks by working on ourselves and our marriage before we encountered challenges? Could we prepare for the inevitable curve balls that life throws us? What would it look like to play offense in marriage?
Work on Yourself
The longer I am married the more I realize that marriage is not about losing yourself, but about sharing yourself. The idea that we continually compromise and deny ourselves misses the point. How do we focus on becoming more Christlike regardless of what our spouse does? Can we love our spouse even when they don’t meet our needs? Can we help them become who God wants them to be instead of who we want them to be?
That doesn’t mean that we allow our spouse to trample over us. Just like Jesus, we must extend grace and speak truth in love. Sometimes the best thing we do for our spouse is to set boundaries and say, “This is not okay, and this is not who God created you to be.”
Don’t buy into the victim mentality of blaming your parents, your circumstance or your spouse. Play offense. What can you do regardless of anyone else?
Work on your relationship with God and stop expecting your husband or wife to make you happy. Meet with a group to gain freedom over addictions or bondage. Start seeing a Christian counselor even if your spouse won’t. Get healthy, emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you have experience betrayal than go after healing. Nurture your soul through friendships, using your gifts or by serving others. Understand that if Christ is in you, then anything is possible.
Work on Your Marriage
Couples that have strong, healthy, resilient marriages, intentionally work on their marriage. They seek out resources like books to read, retreats or conferences to learn about each other and to encourage sharing. They schedule their priorities instead of letting the rest of life rule them. They take date night seriously and spend time talking each day. Instead of ignoring issues, they embrace conflict as an opportunity to strengthen their marriage.
When something big happens that they can’t seem to navigate, they look for outside help from a friend, counselor or pastor. They live in community for encouragement, accountability and to pour into others. When challenges strike, they don’t hide or run for cover. They vulnerably share and seek wise counsel.
Work on Your Sex Life
My husband and I spent almost 25 years playing defense with our sex life. Besides the first few years, we didn’t read books or try to learn anything new. Communication rarely happened and honestly felt tortuous. Until we intentionally invested in our sex life things did not improve.
So many great sex resources are easily accessible today. To improve communication read a book together. Awaken Love will help you both understand the challenges that wives face, but also help you create a sex life that will thrill both husband and wife.
Listen to a podcast like Sex Chat for Christian Wives or Sexy Marriage Radio and talk about it afterward. Take an Awaken Love class to learn God’s Design and expand your repertoire. Subscribe to my blog, or to one of the other great blogs like Hot Holy Humorous or Uncovering Intimacy. Sign up for mentoring with Chris over at the Forgiven Wife. Don’t wait until your spouse is ready to give up before you invest in your sex life. Do it today.
Most churches play defense when it comes to marriage and sex. Pastor’s schedules fill up with counseling sessions for couples already struggling or in crisis. Yet few marriage ministries exist to educate or provide date opportunities for couples. Groups exist for those struggling with sexual sin but how many churches provide classes to help wives and husbands create an amazing sex life in their marriage.
Both personally and in church, we must stop playing defense and start playing offense in marriage.