Marriage Success: More About Skills Than Feelings

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When Love May Not Be Enough


A young couple sits on our coach, excitedly telling us of their wedding plans: the venue, the guest list, food, and where they are going on their honeymoon. Although their conversation focuses on the wedding ceremony, we’re happy that they decided to invest in their marriage by signing up for our premarital coaching. I ask, “Why are you getting married?” They look at each other as if it’s a trick question. Then they turn toward us and in union respond, “Because we love each other.” By the tone of their voice, it’s obvious they are punctuating their answer with a question mark.

Marriage Statistics

If nearly all premarital couples say they are getting married because they love each other, and if nearly 50% of first marriages and 70% of second marriages end in divorce, you might comfortably conclude that “love” is not enough to sustain a healthy, long-term marriage. Why is love not enough? Perhaps, whether they are aware of it or not, the way these couples are referring to “being in love” is actually a physical response of “feeling in love” that is wholly driven by the chemicals Oxytocin and Serotonin. Unfortunately, studies show these intense chemicals diminish over 6 to 24 months and cannot sustain themselves during a long-term relationship or marriage.

Love Chemicals

When the “love” chemicals dissipate, couples who rate their marriages as fulfilling and happy have tools in their toolkit which allow them to communicate and solve problems that are a normal part of two people becoming one. Countless couples argue and never resolve or manage their conflict, and their marital issues continually recycle and present themselves in different ways. Spouses who rate their marriages as strong and satisfying have effectively dealt with their differences and sores.

What is love? It’s more than a feeling and rooted in knowing a person on a deep human level in conjunction with accepting who they are. Accepting doesn’t necessarily mean liking everything about them. No one can genuinely love someone they don’t truly know. I feel my husband’s love, because I am completely vulnerable in showing him who I am. He knows me as well as myself and chooses to accept my good, bad, and ugly.

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Marriage Strengthening

Marriages need strengthening now more than ever. Societal forces are conspiring even more to undermine couples and marriage. The rate of marriages is declining in favor of increasing rates of cohabitation. Few would argue against equal rights, opportunities, and pay for women, but this shift is changing women’s attitudes toward men. As women grow in independence, they view men as less essential. Now more than ever, we need to fight for marriage and protect its legacy for the couples and their families.

Where does a couple start? Whether you are in a serious relationship, premarital, or married, find a highly recommended marriage coach who can meet you where you stand, help you define your marriage vision, and then take you on a journey that includes communication and conflict resolution skills, budgeting, marriage needs and relationship expectations. Find one who will help you self-explore to understand how you show up to your significant other based on your worldviews and values. Get the support you need to have a fabulous marriage!


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a marriage coach along with her husband, Darin. She helps couples across the world via seminars, workshops, and private sessions. Sandra customizes a relationship journey for her clients based on her expertise and curriculum content from Prepare & Enrich, SYMBIS, FOCCUS, and Marriage on the Rock. Couples design their marriage, learn tools, and then work toward achieving their vision. Learn more about the ministry or sign up for a session by contacting Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Sex-cess

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Did the title get your attention? As a marriage coach, sex and money are the two big topics that divide couples in my ministry. They are also the subjects that families rarely talk about. You can’t become knowledgeable, comfortable, and practiced on an issue when you don’t or won’t talk about it? Why do some couples avoid the topic of sex? A sampling of replies to my question: “Why don’t you talk about sex with your spouse?”

  • I’m just not comfortable. Our family never talked about sex.
  • I don’t really have much of a sex drive. If we talk about it, I’m afraid it will hurt my wife’s feelings.
  • I’m not sure. I guess we should talk more about it.
  • My husband is addicted to pornography. I’m angry at him, so why would I want to have sex with him.
  • I don’t want sex. If I avoid talking about it, I’ll feel less pressure to have sex.
  • I’m afraid to tell my husband what I really want because of what he’ll think of me.
  • I’ve faked too many orgasms that I’m afraid to tell my husband the truth. He’ll think I’m a liar, and I don’t want him to feel bad that he didn’t please me. I love my husband though.
  • I was sexually abuse as a child, and it’s too painful to talk about sex.
  • For years, it’s all about him, not me. Why bother?
  • I’m tired of asking, so I’ve just given up.
  • We don’t need to. We have unspoken understandings. For me to get sex, I need to do ….

What would you answer? Differences in individual values, needs, relationship conditioning, and preferences can naturally cause sexual conflict, but if you won’t talk through these differences, nothing will be resolved or managed? If you want to have a fulfilling, aka successful, sex life with your spouse, it starts with you. Becoming sex-cessful in the bedroom is a journey taken at a pace you’re comfortable committing to. You might consider the following steps:

  • Expanding your sexual self-awareness: needs, limitations, boundaries, recognizing underlying influences
  • Getting comfortable talking about sex without pressure to perform
  • Sharing and learning about partner’s needs and wants as well as uncovering the whys and feelings behind both
  • Negotiating, compromising, and developing a sex plan
  • Acting on the plan

You may think that may work for some, but what if my spouse and I have wildly different sexual appetites. That’s where you need to take a hard look at the cause. Is it because of conditioning, taboo stereotypes, performance anxiety, sexual abuse, or just plain skewed hormones? As with most problems, there’s usually more than one contributor. Identifying the main issues will give you a starting point on where to focus. In some cases, you may never fully emotionally or physically enjoy sex, but that doesn’t mean you should withhold sex from your spouse unless he or she is abusive. I know a few couples who have fluctuating and divergent sex drives over the course of their marriages. How do they handle the incompatibility? They give sex gifts?

People routinely give gifts to family and friends whom they love and care about. What better way to love your spouse than to give them the gift of sex? There may be times when you’re both “into it”, and sex is a big theatrical production. Other times, it’s a gift of pleasure. As with any other gift, you don’t expect anything in return. Your spouse will appreciate your gift of sex, even when he or she knows you weren’t in the mood and gave it freely.

Some believe they shouldn’t be pressured into sex when they don’t want to. I agree. I’m not suggesting they do something they don’t want to. I’m suggesting they intentionally give a gift to their life partner.

Note: If you are in sexually abusive marriage or relationship or have untreated sexual trauma in your history, I encourage you to seek help. The effects of sexual trauma are devastating for the individual and their relationships. Seek the healing you need, so you can experience the power of healthy relationships and focus on the purpose God has called you into.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in life, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. Sandra welcomes comments and conversations. You can reach out to her at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Enemies That Can Undermine Your Marriage: Break Free from Jezebel, Leviathan, Ahab, and Legion Spirits

As a Christian marriage coach, my purpose is to educate, equip, empower, and encourage couples who trust me with their personal vulnerabilities and relationships. God has called me to help strengthen marriages, because the health of the marriage directly affects the family and its future generations. The degree of individual brokenness in a spouse has a significant impact on how well I can help a couple.

jvc-breaking outMost couples experience break-through and success as evidenced by my growing collection of thank-you cards and personal testimonies. And then there are those couples who can’t find a way out of their relationship pain. Until I was trained in Restored to Freedom by Nelson Schuman’s School of Ministry, I couldn’t have explained or freed these troubled spouses from the spirits that were gripping one or both from the joy God intended for their marriage. Who are these spirits? Say hello to Jezebel, Leviathan, Ahab, and a host of Legions.

The Spirits

Schuman (2018) describes the grip and manifestation of each spirit on a person. Many spirits own bloodlines until a generation breaks the spirit hold. The spirits are given authority when a child grows up with (1) an absent father, (2) father/step-father who spoke with criticism, was verbally, physically, or sexually abusive, or (3) a mother who was abusive or controlling. These spirits can inhabit either gender and their degree of control depends on several factors.

Is a Spirit Operating in Your Life

It’s hard to admit when you’re not perfect or don’t measure up to a standard you’ve set for yourself. Your only chance of breaking free is to at least be honest with yourself. Ask yourself the following sets of questions.

Do you experience any of the following feelings or behaviors?

  • Need to control or manipulate people/outcomes and to get what you want, because no one will watch out for you and your best interests
  • Do not easily trust; people have to earn your trust
  • Have anxiety and fear
  • Lie to get your way at times
  • Not feel loved by parents

Do you experience any of the following feelings or behaviors?

  • Experience back, neck, and upper shoulder pain
  • Have Scoliosis
  • Suffer from Fibromyalgia
  • Struggle with insomnia
  • Fall asleep when listening or reading the Bible
  • Have difficulty remembering anything that helps from spiritual perspective

Do you experience any of the following feelings or behaviors?

  • Are passive
  • If male, difficulty leading your family and defer to wife
  • Avoid rocking the boat
  • Walk on egg shells
  • Struggle with sexual purity

Do you experience any of the following feelings or behaviors?

  • Dwell on past sins and traumas
  • Struggle with feelings of forgiveness
  • Suffer disease, sickness, fears, and suicidal thoughts

Each of these sets focus on a specific spirit. Afterwards ask your spouse and/or child how they would answer on your behalf. If they are not afraid to answer truthfully, the answers may be different.

Breaking Free

Each of these groups of questions relate to a specific spirit. If you want to learn more you can reference Schuman’s series of books. People have the ability to renounce and free themselves of the spirits through the power of Jesus but only if the prayer is from the heart, not the head.

References

Schuman, N.L. (2018). Restored to Freedom: The Road to Deliverance from the Enemy’s Finest

Schuman, N.L. (2018). Waking the Lion Within: Reclaiming Your Position in Christ

Schuman, N.L. (2018). Restored to Freedom: Deliverance from the Spirits of Jezebel, Leviathan, Ahab, and Legion


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

Marriage: Uncomplicated

mr-and-mrs-1-e1562529075759.jpgToday’s marriages are more complicated than ever before.  A half century ago, the American marriage was simpler in its expectations and roles.  It was a male-female union to which the overwhelming majority of adults committed.  Divorce was not a chosen option, because it was penalized with societal ostracism.  Young adults would routinely marry their high school sweethearts, or those who were university bound would marry their college steady.  Marriage was the assumed relationship institution which led to the saying that girls went to college primarily to get their MRS degree—signified by a marriage proposal from a well-educated gentleman before graduation.

A successful marriage was defined by key behaviors and milestones such as a husband securing a well-paying job, buying a new family car, taking a home mortgage in the burbs, having children and grandchildren.  Both husband and wife had predetermined roles to play.  Husbands strived to work for the big company, measured success by promotions, brought home a paycheck to support his stay-at-home wife who cooked, tended to the children, and volunteered at the PTA.  Women could be teachers and nurses but were expected to give up their careers when their first child was born.

Fast forward to today, where the definition of marriage and its gender composition have challenged the mid-twentieth century design.  Marriage today is more complex and requires increased skills in communication, conflict management, and negotiation (Markman, Stanley, & Blumberg, 2010).  Why?  Because less is automatically assumed and accepted, and more needs to be decided.

Spouses are entering marriage with higher expectations of what marriage should be and what their partner will provide toward their happiness. Many couples expect their spouse to be both best friend and soul mate.  For those couples who can successfully fulfill those roles for each other, they should consider volunteering as marriage mentors to other couples who are struggling to achieve that status.

What can couples do to improve the strength and vitality of their marriage?  My initial answer would be to consider marriage coaching!  Ideally a couple should seek coaching before they say, “I do,” although it is never too late to invest in your marriage.  Marriage coaching can help with managing expectations as well as developing strategies for building and maintaining friendship, commitment, fun, and intimacy.  Although coaching can provide tools, success will be mostly influenced by the motivation to apply them.

In my marriage coaching practice, I had several couples who came with an expectation that if they could only learn some tools and skills, their marriage would improve.  What happened?  One couple voluntarily dropped coaching after 3-4 sessions, because as the husband said, “Although the tools are really useful, we just aren’t committed to put them to work in our marriage.”  I applauded his honest answer.  If either spouse is not willing to do the hard work to achieve the vision for the marriage, success will be limited or elude them all together.

Marriage is a partnership, requiring spouses to die to their selfishness in order to uplift their spouse and marriage. As I like to ask,” What are you doing that is contributing to a marriage issue?”  Many spouses are surprised by the question, and as they consider their answer, they usually come to the realization that they try to argue their position with the hope of convincing their spouse to their way of thinking. When my husband and I disagree, if I do not remind myself, we remind each other of a powerful Scripture: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3-5, NIV).  When you take the time to think about how you contributed or are contributing to an issue, you may surprise yourself how much more humble you engage in conflict resolution.

In marriage coaching, I work with couples to develop a vision, mission, and goals for their marriage that excited them.  Couples who bring optimism, a willingness to develop a plan, and commitment to take action usually see their marriages thrive.  Marriage coaching holds a couple accountable to develop the goals they want to work on together and move forward.  It is that simple!  Although the definition of marriage has been redefined in this modern age, it does not have to be complicated.  Skills, tools, and coaching can take what appears complicated and make it uncomplicated.

Reference

Markham, H., Stanley, S., & Blumberg, S. (2010). Fighting for your marriage. (3rd. ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach, consultant, and mentor with an extensive background in leadership and ministry, which provides her with the experience and relational skills to move individuals and couples to higher levels of personal awareness, effectiveness, and goal achievement.  She coaches in a variety of areas including life purpose and plans, marriage, and finances.