Touch me–please!

Happy Married Couple Touching

One of the most powerful expressions of love to your spouse is to extend several non-sexual touches through the day. For those who are naturally wired to touch, this is easy. You are expressing something and you reach out to touch your mate’s hand, leg or rest you arm on their shoulder.

But many spouses aren’t “touchy,” unless they are making an play for sex. That’s why non-sexual touching requires mindfulness and intentionality.

A Psychology Today article on touch references research revealing that the frequency of touch rises at the start of a relationship (no surprise!), peaks early in marriage…and then tapers off. WHY?

Don’t Touch Me

Sometimes wives shy away from touching or being touched because it tends to lead into a sexual advance by their husband. They stop trusting that the touch is about giving care or love, and instead view it as a “move” to get in bed.

So men: can your wife trust that when you touch her it isn’t a non-verbal ploy for sex? Can she trust your touch to be about giving TO her (love) and not getting FROM her (selfishness)?

Sexual abuse, particularly as a child, can cause some women (and men) to avoid touch. For them, touch is subconsciously linked to the trauma they experienced. In these situations, it takes courage to get professional counseling to be able to engage in healthy marital touch.

Other times life just gets busy and we stop caring enough to reach out. We take each other for granted and don’t invest in the little things that will propel the marriage forward.

Here are some important reasons to initiate regular touch in your marriage:

Touch Increases Connection

Research has shown that the more couples touch each other, the greater their experience of marital satisfaction. Touching communicates value and worth. It provides a non-verbal connection which can communicate a variety of different emotions. In fact, in 2009 a DePauw University psychologist clinically demonstrated that we can communicate up to eight distinct emotions simply through touch.

By simply walking past your spouse and touching their back, you help them connect with you. Reaching over to hold their hand communicates love. Hugging good-bye increases your mate’s longing for you in your absence. Holding each other for a moment in the press of a busy day simply says, “I’m glad we’re doing life together.”

Touch reduces stress—for both of you!

You can help your spouse reduce stress with non-sexual touch. Hormones that create stress are greatly reduced in the person receiving the touch of a back rub, a gentle stroking of the hand or leg, or simply being held for a few moments. There is something calming which is translated through touch. BUT, what research has discovered is that the person who is doing the touching has just as great a reduction in the stress hormones!

Touch helps you function better as a team

Did you know that research has shown that the greater the physical contact among teammates in NBA games the more successful the team’s season? High fives, shoulder bumps—you name it, he more there is physical contact among team members, the greater their success.

As a couple, you are teammates in life. Your ability to sync up with each other is significantly increased when you touch each other. And the more non-sexual touching you can do, the greater your success (and satisfaction!) as a couple.

Touch Back!

When your spouse touches you, be sure that you touch them back. This “touch-back” is an important factor in a couple bonding with one another. Laura Guerrero writes that “the stronger the reciprocity, the more likely someone is to report emotional intimacy and satisfaction with the relationship.”

So touch each other often through the day! Hug! Kiss! Hold hands! Touch a shoulder! Kiss their cheek! Cuddle! Be intentional and enjoy each other’s touch as you Build Your Marriage!

Actions Trump Feelings

Husband Helping

If you want your marriage to not only succeed, but to thrive, then this simple phrase will save you from heartache and propel you closer to each other: actions trump feelings.

How many times have your heard other couples (and perhaps yourself…?) say something like:

  • “I don’t feel in love anymore.”
  • “My feelings have changed.”
  • “I don’t feel happy any more.”

Couples who quit acting loving and caring will eventually stop feeling the emotions that accompany those actions. Think about it…why do actors who play love scenes often fall for each other in real life? Because they are spending time together, they gaze into each other’s eyes, they “act” loving…and the feelings follow.

In the early ’70s researchers at Stanford University conducted an experiment where some students were randomly chosen to act as prison guards and others as prisoners. They were just students, but within six days the experiment had to be stopped because the “guards” had become excessively authoritarian and the “prisoners” extremely passive. Their feelings followed their actions.

We have watched too many couples drift apart because one or both persons stopped acting loving until they finally “felt” loving. And most often the feelings didn’t come back.

Frankly, that’s immature thinking and a worldly perspective of love. Consider the love Christ showed on the cross: he told his Father he didn’t want to do it (“Take this cup from me….”), But out of love his actions trumped his feelings—and it’s a good thing for us that they did!

In your marriage, your feelings will follow your actions. Start with doing the right thing(s) and over time your emotions will kick in as well. Here are three simple things to remember when it comes to your actions trumping your feelings:

Decide vs. Deny

You have the choice: you can deny doing what is right because you don’t feel like it, or you can decide ahead of time to let your actions trump your feelings. John Maxwell wrote, “The decisions you will regret in life are the ones you never made.” Make the decision now to do what is right regardless of how you feel. For men and women this can include:

  • Saying encouraging and affirming words
  • Choosing forgiveness
  • Making love
  • Listening/talking
  • Shopping
  • Taking vacations
  • Helping at home
  • Romantic gestures: a touch, hand-holding, kiss, sitting close

You get the idea. Decide in advance that you will act rightly regardless of your feelings.

Step up vs. Sidestep

The next decision to act is to follow-through…immediately. Hesitating, second-guessing, pausing—will usually lead to side-stepping the opportunity to act rightly. When we side-step we are actually avoiding an emotional engagement with our spouse and creating emotional estrangement from our spouse.

So when you are prompted, either by your spouse or by personal conviction, step up to the opportunity to actively show love based on your prior decision to do so.

Persevere vs. Pause

There will come a point when you will wonder, “Is this worth it? I’m not getting the response I expected from him/her.” And you’ll want to pause and suspend acting rightly.

Remember, your doing what’s right isn’t motivated by getting a response from your mate. That would be manipulation. You are doing it because it is the loving thing to do.

Let your actions trump your feelings, and watch the change that happens in your heart as you build your marriage!

The Seduction of Self-Sufficiency

AmericanGothic

When self-sufficiency in marriage trumps God-dependency, the marriage loses both spiritually and relationally. This is the final post in our seven-part series on what Jesus would say to our marriage. If Jesus’ words to the seven churches in the book of Revelation were used as an evaluation of your marriage, what challenges would he have for you? What words of encouragement might you hear?

The Context

The ancient city of Laodicea had everything going for them. The great Roman Road ran through their city that brought them great wealth. As a result, they were renowned for trade and communication. They were also famous for their glossy black wool.

In addition, the city was known for their school of medicine. The Laodiceans produced a special ointment called “Phyrgian powder” that was famous for curing eye defects.

Laodicea was so wealthy that when it was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17 they turned down financial assistance from Rome. They had so much money they chose to finance it themselves. They were rich, complacent–and deceived.

The church in Laodicea had become self-sufficient and comfortable just like the city. They had adapted to their environment and lost their edge and impact. What if what Jesus said to them was applied to our marriages? What might he say?

“You are neither cold nor hot”

The only thing the Laodiceans lacked was good water. Ten miles away, the city of Colossae had fresh cold water. Seven miles to the north, the city of Hieropolis was famous for its hot springs. Aqueducts were built to carry water to Laodicea, but by the time the water arrived, it was lukewarm and not useful. The image of tepid water was a daily experience for the Laodiceans. But they had never applied it to their relationship with God.

Jesus might say, “Your marriage is lukewarm. You are skating by and doing nothing of value for anyone else. As a couple you should bring refreshment to those who are weary like cool waters. I expected you to help other couples relax through the warmth of your love for me. But instead I have little use for you. It’s time for you to look outside yourselves and serve others in my Name.”

Or He may say, “You have settled into the regularity of life together where you are neither refreshing to one another’s souls nor passionate in desire for the other. I have created you two to be one…but you have drifted to two.”

“You say, I am rich…I need nothing”

The thermostat for the Laodicean church’s “health” was the same as the city’s—their bank account. For couples, we sometimes measure our health by:

  • How often we don’t argue (which could be avoidance)
  • How happy our children are (which could be at the neglect of our marriage)
  • How little we go for counseling (which could be denial)
  • How “successful” we are by being in the right job/neighborhood/school/activities (but at what cost to the relationship?)
  • How many friends we have on Facebook, followers on Twitter, “likes” on Instagram (which could reveal how few deep friendships we have cultivated)

Perhaps Jesus would say, “You have been measuring yourself with the wrong standards. Your self-sufficiency has left you bankrupt in your marriage. Instead, you should cultivate your relationship with Me. Pray together. Read the Bible together. Learn to lean on me…and become God-dependent together.”

“I stand at the door and knock”

When Laodicea rebuilt their city after the A.D. 17 earthquake, they built a wall around the city with a gate that was shut each night allowing no one entry. Just as Jesus used the picture of desiring entry into their city—and into our lives—he wants the same in our marriage.

He might say, “I want to be in the center of your marriage. Self-sufficiency as a couple won’t work. You need me. Make a decision right now—together—that you want me at the center of your lives and marriage. Hold hands, say a prayer, and open the door of your marriage as you choose to let me into your midst. I will lead you and help you find true fulfillment and purpose as you build your marriage!”

Celebrate Your Marriage!

Young couple loving gesture

Usually articles are written on websites—including Build Your Marriage—to address issues in marriage that need solving, correction or advice. But every so often we all need a “Way to go! Yay God and yay you!”

This is part 6 of 7 in our series on what Jesus would say to our marriage. If Jesus’ words to the seven churches in the book of Revelation were used as an evaluation of your marriage, what challenges would he have for you? What words of encouragement might you hear?

There are always areas in which we can improve. But frankly, it can be a bit disheartening to keep seeing new things to address. So let’s take a breath and celebrate the good things that are happening in your marriage. Sound good?

Of the seven churches that Jesus addresses in chapters 2 & 3 of the book of Revelation, only two of the churches received total praise. Smyrna was the first church to receive all praise, and Philadelphia was the second.

The city was established by a Pergamenian king who named it Philadelphia (translated “brother love”) because of his love for his brother. It was located on a major highway, was a fortress city, and known for their textile and leather industry. Philadelphia was called the “Gateway to the East” as well as “Little Athens” because of all the temples in the city.

But in the midst of all the external pressures to conform, this band of Christians was standing strong—and Jesus had nothing but praise for them. And as you stand strong in your marriage, here’s what he might say to you…

“I know your deeds”

“I see you and your efforts to give grace to your spouse. You forgive often and ask forgiveness when you’re the transgressor. You are faithful in your deeds, your mind, and your heart. You flee temptation and cultivate your love. You invest in your marriage. You are respectful in your conversations and in your conflict. You strive for understanding and unity—and I’m so pleased with you!”

“You have little strength”

“I know there are times when you feel weak, but you depend on my strength to get you through the rough times. I know you don’t have all the financial resources you would like, but you rely on my provision for your needs. I know you face cultural pressure to be distracted from your marriage, to dilute your commitment to each other with other good pursuits. But you choose the best—your marriage covenant—and I’m so pleased with you!”

“I have loved you”

“When you show love for each other, you go beyond romantic love. You remember the sacrificial love that I modeled for you on the cross. You fight being self-centered and instead, you submit to each other. You serve each other like I served you—and I’m so pleased with you!”

“I will keep you”

“As you keep me in the center of your relationship, you can rest assured that you are under my protective care. You have my favor—my blessing. You will be strengthened by me and guided by my Spirit. You will experience the fullest depth of your marriage—and I will continue to be so pleased with you!”

Complacency: The Silent Killer of Marriage

Young Couple Sitting on Love Seat

We can’t count the number of couples we have met through the years who were sliding toward the death of their marriage because one or both spouses yielded to complacency. This is part 5 of 7 in our series on what Jesus would say to our marriage. If Jesus’ words to the seven churches in the book of Revelation were used as an evaluation of your marriage, what challenges would he have for you? What words of encouragement might you hear?

Complacency is the silent killer of a marriage. Complacency is insidious in its stealth as it slowly coils around a husband or wife and squeezes their desire for their mate to its final gasp. At the root of complacency is selfishness. It’s when one begins to care more for self-preservation, self-fulfillment, self-gratification, avoidance of conflict and taking their spouse for granted—rather than investing the effort to improve the marriage.

If you looked up complacency in the Roman Dictionary, most certainly you would have seen a picture of the city–and the

Temple of Artemis with Acropolis rising behind

The Temple of Artemis with the Acropolis rising behind the church–in Sardis. 

church–in Sardis. The city itself was commercially prosperous as it was on a major trade route and was strategic militarily. They were famous for their Acropolis—their fort—which rose 800 feet above the city (see image).

It was the place where the city would take refuge when under siege. Only twice was the Acropolis conquered in battle—and that by not being vigilant.

Sardis was known for their wool industry. The luxury in which the people lived was such that they had become lazy and undisciplined as a people. Their morals were non-existent. And those influences had crept into the church.

“You have a reputation of being alive.…”

Sardis was a city that rested on their past accomplishments. When people talked of Sardis—or came to visit—they would see the luxury, the trappings, the magnificent buildings. What they saw were things that had been worked for, developed, and built by previous inhabitants.

Perhaps your marriage began with a flourish as the two of you focused on each other with stars in your eyes and dreams in your hearts. Others could see it in you. But as time slipped by you could still put on the “happy marriage” face in public, but at home you took your marriage for granted. Life got busy a few months/years into the marriage. Kids. Job. Church. Civic work. Sports. Friends.

And as long as no one is complaining—much—it’s easier to keep up the charade. There are too many plates spinning now to let one drop in order to deal with the marriage. That can come later.

“…but you are dead.”

Sardis was known as well for their Necropolis, or cemetery. It was seven miles outside of town, but the hundreds of burial mounds could be seen against the skyline. They were preoccupied with death. Jesus used a word picture they knew well to get their attention.

Men and women, complacency in your marriage is like sentencing it to a slow death. Don’t fool yourself. Complacency puts you in great danger in your marriage. When it takes hold you are nearly buried maritally and don’t even realize it. Jesus says, “Can’t you see??? You are ignoring the gift I gave you!”

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains….”

The impenetrable fortress of the Acropolis of Sardis was conquered twice—and each time it was because someone wasn’t vigilant. Jesus said, “WAKE UP!” and it was said as a command. Literally, he says to be “constantly alert” and strengthen what remains. You may not FEEL like doing what it takes, but your feelings will follow your actions. Here are some ideas to build your marriage:

  • Find 3 things a day that you appreciate about your spouse. Tell them.
  • Read books on marriage by authors like: Eggerichs, Kimmel, Parrott, Smalley, and Gottman.
  • Go to a marriage conference together (click here to have your church bring US in for a Build Your Marriage event!)
  • Spend time together—sit, talk, play games, go on walks or dates
  • Flirt with each other
  • KISS—OFTEN (read more on kissing here)
  • SAY I love you & act loving even when you don’t feel like it.

These are just some simple steps to take to turn the tide of complacency and breathe LIFE into your relationship as you Build Your Marriage!