It’s quite common and easy to have conditions when loving someone. If your partner can make you feel sexy, cared for and supported, it’s easier to play up those sides of your personality so that they can benefit from it in return. But these conditions mean that you need to get something before you can give – and a Christian marriage needs to be based on unconditional love.
The writers of focusonthefamily.com say unconditional love is essential to a strong marriage, but it’s easier said than done. Conditional love wants to put the blame on someone, it expects something in return and it always wants more than what is being readily given.
Your partner has flaws (everyone does!) and if your love is conditional, you start seeing these flaws through a magnifying glass. You try to cultivate the behavior you want by making them feel inadequate when they act in a way that you don’t appreciate, or you “punish” them if they don’t self-correct their flaws.
What does this type of conditional love bring to a marriage? It makes both parties stubborn and hellbent on getting their way. It causes two adult partners to behave more like children, and it can make you yearn for something more than what you are experiencing in your marriage – for unconditional love and acceptance. It also builds resentment that it difficult to let go of.
Loving your partner unconditionally will give him a huge sense of security. He will know that your love isn’t dependent on how he behaves every moment of every day, and that your love for him is filled with grace, patience, respect and encouragement. Every person needs this.
When the concept of unconditional love gets complex
Nick and Lisa have been married for seven years. Lisa comes from a family where people love each other unconditionally and she believes that true love conquers all. The day she and Nick got married, she decided to love him unconditionally. But Lisa is far from happy.
Nick is emotionally and verbally abusive. He insults and attacks Lisa regularly, acts out, and even throws childish tantrums in front of their friends and family.
Even when Lisa is hurt and wants to retaliate, she suppresses her feelings and keeps quiet. She believes it’s her duty to love Nick unconditionally, to ignore his poor behavior and to forgive him every time he crosses the line. Is this the type of marriage that you should be striving for?
What’s not unconditional love?
On Goodmenproject.com, Thomas Fiffer says unconditional love isn’t something that you believe in – it is a choice that you should carefully consider in the context of marriage. If your partner is abusing your children or is cruel to you, it’s important to understand that it’s not your duty to accept this behavior in the name of unconditional love.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional forgiveness either. It doesn’t mean that your partner can cheat on you repeatedly or say things that hurt your feelings, and that you just have to accept it.
“Unconditional love isn’t a type of love, it’s a way of loving. As you get older, you will realize that you are able to love your children unconditionally but simultaneously disapprove of what they are doing. Your child’s terrible behavior doesn’t mean that you are going to stop loving him, but that you have to behave in a different way to address a problem or situation when it arises.”
“Saying that you love your partner unconditionally, doesn’t mean that you love him with some type of mystical purity that spills over into all of your everyday interactions. It means that with every interaction you have with your partner, you are acting from a place of love,” explains Thomas. It’s a place of no judgement, where you don’t use your partner’s vulnerability against him.
There are obvious boundaries to unconditional love. A boundary is a healthy understanding of your own value. Unconditional love is a two-way street; it’s a mutual supportive dynamic that involves both parties.
So how do you show unconditional love?
- Love your partner without any strings attached. This means that you forgive your partner for any transgressions (within reason), and that you are willing to apologize and ask for forgiveness if you were out of line.
- Before you get married, you need to decide that divorce isn’t an option and that you will tackle all problems together.
- Balance in a marriage is very important. Divide tasks and responsibilities equally, but don’t keep score of who is doing what. It s important to be able to make concessions for your partner.
- Ask your partner what you can do for him every day. This will show your partner that you truly want to meet his needs.
- Make God a part of your marriage. Protect yourself and your partner from unwanted elements in your marriage, and pray together so that you can be emotionally, physically and spiritually close to each other.
- Enjoy every moment together – the good times and the bad times. The challenging times are the ones that bring a couple closer to each other, and it helps you to appreciate how special the good times are.
- Don’t give up hope or get discouraged when things get difficult. You are both human beings with your own personalities, flaws and intentions. You don’t have to be blind to your partner’s flaws, but accept that this is the person who you love completely and unconditionally.
Additional sources: www.focusonthefamily.ca, The Great Marriage Q&A Book by Dr Gary and Barbara Roserg, www.thegoodmenproject.com, www.lifehack.org.
It’s easy to procrastinate when it comes to getting the big and important things done, especially when you are caught up in the mind-boggling number of day-to-day tasks of running a household and balancing your personal and professional obligations. It’s time to tackle these 20 things in your marriage and at home:
- Tackle that one room, drawer or cupboard (you know which one!)
The garage isn’t going to reorganize itself and that glitzy, poufy jacket is never going to make its way to an awards ceremony or date night. Throw away items that you no longer need and organize that kitchen drawer, which is filled to the brim with everything from cable ties and straws to napkins and plugs!
- Compile your will
Death isn’t an easy or comfortable topic, but your death will have a major impact on your loved ones. Ease their burden by making sure your final wishes are in place and that all the major financial obligations have been planned for.
You don’t have to morph into the fitness couple that only eats kale and quinoa, but exercise is a great way to spend time together and it will lift your mood. Consider enrolling for a dance class or go for a walk after work. This also creates the perfect opportunity to take a long, hot shower together afterwards . . .
- Tell him exactly what you like
Your husband may think he has all the right moves (especially if you’re making all the right noises), but if your thoughts are continuously wandering off during foreplay, then it’s time to sit down and show him exactly what you want. Order sushi for two and pour each of you a glass of wine before telling him how you want your foreplay sessions to pan out. Even better, show him right then and there in the kitchen!
- Plan your budget
Who wants to contemplate all the money you don’t have to spend? While this sounds like a dull and depressing exercise, it will help both of you to get a hold on your household’s spending.
- Talk about alcohol use
While you may be quite content with a glass of wine during dinner, perhaps your husband is more eager to have several beers. Besides the negative health consequences of alcohol abuse, it can also lead to conflict in relationships (especially if one person often drinks too much at social gatherings). Have an open and honest conversation about how you feel about each other’s alcohol habits.
- Discuss child rearing with an expert
Many couples have different opinions regarding disciplining their children, what constitutes age-appropriate activities and media use, curfews and other important issues. Speak to a child therapist or a knowledgeable expert to get external input about the issues that you two don’t agree on as a couple.
- Turn off the television and your phone
Diarise certain times when you turn off your phones and the television to spend time together as a couple or as a family. No media is allowed (and no exceptions!). Sit back and enjoy each other’s presence and the conversation.
- Book an appointment with your gynecologist
The most common reason for booking an annual appointment with a gynecologist is cervical cancer screenings and prevention, which is seen as a silent killer that affects far too many women. There are also a number of other bacterial and fungal issues that can cause vaginal discomfort and impact your sex life. Don’t procrastinate, book your appointment today!
- Communicate about your work obligations
You understand each other’s careers and you may know a few of each other’s colleagues, but how much do you really know about your partner’s day-to-day work activities, looming projects and career stressors? Take time to communicate about your work obligations so that you can be more sympathetic when your partner comes home late (again!), or if he or she seems particularly withdrawn or stressed at times.
- Pay a visit to your child’s teacher
You know your daughter is battling with maths, but everyone keeps avoiding the problem. Phone her maths teacher and make an appointment to go and see her, so that you can discuss a plan of action to improve your child’s performance in this subject.
- Don’t ignore bad debt
Unfortunately, bad debt doesn’t simply pay for itself or go away. Take a look at the various lines of debt that you have and pinpoint the credit cards that have higher interest rates. Try to pay back more than the minimum amount every month. Talk to a debt counselor if you are struggling with this task.
- Create a chore calendar
Everyone is tired when they get home, but the household doesn’t run itself. Create a chore calendar and schedule that assigns different tasks, such as taking out the garbage or folding the washing, to specific people on certain days. This will lighten the burden for overworked parents and get the entire family involved in running and maintaining the household.
- Address problems with the in-laws
Many people have lingering problems or bad feelings towards in-laws. They are a part of your family now and you have to make it work. Remember tip number 5 in Stephen R Covey’s book, The seven habits of highly effective people: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
- Plan your day to avoid tardiness
Obviously, nobody plans to be late, but you hit the snooze button a few times, forget to feed the dog, get caught in a traffic jam . . . and before you know it, your whole day is disrupted. Take control of the chaos by installing a map or route planner on your phone (preferably one that can give you real-time traffic updates so that you can avoid congested routes). As a golden rule, allow 50% more time than you normally would.
- Tell your partner what you want to experience in the bedroom
Maybe a bit of erotic play is exactly what your marriage needs! Talk to your partner about what you want to experience in the bedroom. Don’t do this while you are having sex – wait until you are relaxed and comfortable in each other’s company before approaching the subject.
- Discuss your parents’ future
Everyone’s parents will eventually get old, and some may need medical care and financial support. Discuss your expectations surrounding caring for your parents and how you will deal with the situation as a couple when it arises.
- Learn how to change a tire
Whether you have roadside assistance or your husband is always prepared to leave work and help you if you have car problems is beside the point – it’s good to know how to change a tire yourself. Ask him to show you how to do it, judge your tire-changing skills and reward you if you complete the task correctly!
- Enroll for a first-aid course
First-aid courses are affordable and it can save lives. This is especially important if you have young children at home.
- Create a security plan for your family
What happens if burglars enter your home in the middle of the night? Does your family know what to do, who to call and how to react? Security companies can give you a consultation on things that you and your family should do in the event of an emergency.
How easily does criticism make its way into your daily dialogue with your spouse? Hurtful remarks can leave scars. Even when you are not trying to be mean, a slip of the tongue can happen so quickly when you are tired, irritated or furious. While your spouse often forgives you when you snap, what happens when you say something that really leaves a scar?
Keeping your system clean
Do you have a water purifier at home or at work? Have you seen the mess that gets stuck in the filters after months of use? If you don’t remove the filth, the filter won’t be able to keep your water clean. You can’t buy another purifier when your current one breaks down, so you need to make the effort of keeping your current system up to scratch.
Your marriage is worth more than a water purifier, so you need to make sure you are not letting your marriage’s filters accumulate filth. The grime that can build up between partners can damage your marriage as well as your relationship with God.
Maybe you are thinking: “But my husband and I have said so many hurtful things to each other. Can you ever really take it all back? It will be hard.” With God, all things are possible – but no one said anything about it being easy. Put on your garden gloves, get your scrub brush and a bucket of soapy water, and put God on speed dial. It is time to purify your marriage’s filters!
Two heads in one (prayer) hat
To become one in the body, brings you and your spouse closer together. With Bible study, you and your partner can be drawn closer to each other spiritually. If you and your spouse do Bible study and prayer separately, this needs to change.
Decide on a time that will suit both of you – maybe before work in the mornings or before bedtime in the evenings. Take turns to read parts of the Bible to each other. When you pray, thank God for the privilege to be married to each other and ask Him to bless your marriage. Couples that pray together, experience a decline in conflict and are able to create a deeper spiritual bond.
It is not a competition
Are you subconsciously keeping score of who wins fights? Stop this immediately, because your relationship isn’t a competition or a balance sheet. Arguments are only “won” if the issue is completely resolved and both parties are satisfied with the outcome.
Keep the (young) cows out of the ditch
How long does it take you to tell your spouse when he is doing something that frustrates you? Some people cannot wait to highlight their partner’s flaws and mistakes, while others will keep quiet for a long time and then just explode after a period has passed.
Both instances lead to unnecessary conflict. No one wants to be reminded constantly of their mistakes. You are not perfect, so how can you expect your spouse to be? Your spouse is just a human being with his own flaws.
Does it irritate you if hubby doesn’t put his hand in front of his mouth when he yawns? Don’t wait until he does it for the 50th time before you say something. Talk to him about it the first time – do not let the problem become a nagging issue in your marriage.
Always and never
Many times you tell your husband: “You never help me with the dishes!” Or he tells you: “You always complain about everything!” Words like “always” and “never” are worms in the apple you skin with hubby – it spoils everything. Avoid absolutes because it’s usually far from the truth.
The moment one of you exaggerates the problem, your partner will immediately be defensive. Your partner is so busy defending himself that the purpose of the argument gets lost.
The no-go words
Every time you insult your partner, a part of your relationship dies. Sometimes we don’t even mean it, we are just angry and want to say something hurtful. Unfortunately, you don’t just hurt your partner’s feelings, you also damage one of God’s creations.
The tongue is sharper than a double-edged sword. If you struggle to keep it in check, then give it up in prayer. Let go of your ego and ask your husband to also pray for you about the situation. He is not going to think less of you – on the contrary, he will gain more respect for you.
Bullying and manipulation
We all know how a bully gets his way – he threatens you with something that is important to you. What do you and hubby threaten each other with to get your way? Do you refuse sex if he doesn’t do what you ask? Does he refuse to lend you his car if you do not agree with him? This is a terrible bullying tactic.
Washing dirty laundry in public
Have you and your spouse attacked each other in public, in front of friends and family or the kids? You probably felt very embarrassed afterwards. It is awful to fight, but it’s even worse when you realize other people now know about your problems and they see how badly you are treating each other. There is a time and place for everything. Let whatever is bothering you go until you get home, when you can talk about it alone behind closed doors.
Your marital problems or difficulties are between you and your partner. It is private and personal. Similarly, it is very uncomfortable for those who witness the tirade. Your guests will quickly head for the door when you start fighting and you can be sure that invitations to social events will lessen if you keep it up.
“Sometimes my wife and I can argue about something for hours, but we do not get anywhere. There are only so many hours in a day – what do we do?”
Firstly, if you see the conversation is going nowhere, take a break and agree to continue when you both feel refreshed again. This isn’t a way out to escape from the problem, it just gives you some time to rethink what has already been said and to bring new solutions to the table.
Secondly, do not start an argument the moment you are on your way to work or on your way out. Postpone it for a while, but do not leave it all together.
It is going to take time and a lot of patience to get your marriage filters clean. Hold on, hang in there and the reward will be absolutely worth it.
Article by Thalia du Preez
Additional sources: christianadviceonmarriage.com, ivillage.com
Do It Yourself, here’s how!
We live in an era where anything you need can be bought, but every single item comes with a price tag.
This has led to homemade gifts and products becoming increasingly special; not only because it requires a bit of craft and skill, but because making something yourself will cost you precious time – something that we all need a bit more of.
In this article, we want to give you a few romantic DIY ideas to spoil your partner with. Our readers have requested this type of info so there are obviously a few people who are willing to get their hands dirty and produce something special on a tight budget!
Create a love bottle
Tie a ribbon around a glass bottle. Take a sticker and write ‘love bottle’ on the sticker and stick it to the bottle. Take coloured cardboard or pretty paper, cut it into 10cm x 10cm pieces, and write little love letters or a nice note on each paper.
Wrap each paper with tissue paper and put the notes and candy in the bottle. When your partner needs a bit of a pick-me-up or a thoughtful note, he can take a paper and a candy out of the bottle.
Cut strawberries down the middle and place the pieces on a baking tray. Pour melted chocolate over the strawberries to make delicious strawberry hearts.
How about creating your own scratch card that gives your husband the chance to win one of three bedroom spoils? Take an A5 cardboard and write “Your bedroom lottery” on it. On a separate card, write out the instructions: “It’s your lucky day! Here you have three chances to win a bit of pleasure. Each week, you can scratch open a square and a prize will be revealed!”
On the A5 cardboard, draw three hearts (about 5cm x 5cm) next to each other. Write three ‘favours’ – one in each heart. For example: “An hour long sensual massage”, “A striptease in the bedroom”, and “A blindfolded experience”. Paint over each heart with the following concoction: Two parts acrylic paint (mix equal amounts of black, white and silver paint) and one part dishwashing liquid. Now your hubby has his own personalised lotto scratch card!
Make your camping spot romantic
Are you happy campers? If you’re going camping for the weekend (especially if you’re going away to celebrate an anniversary or a special occasion), then try to make your camping spot as romantic as possible.
How about a homemade chandelier? Take a hula-hoop and cover it with old pieces of cloth (such as linen). Now take strips of ribbon of approximately 1m long and tie them at various sections of the hula-hoop so that they can all be bundled together at one point. Take a strip of fairy lights and twist it around the hula-hoop and voila! Now you’ve got your own chandelier to hang outside your tent or caravan to create a romantic atmosphere.
The coin date
Take a coin out of your purse. Ask your husband to choose a number between 10 and 20 (this is the number of times that you’re going to flip the coin). Get in the car and drive to the main road of your suburb or town. “Heads” means that you’re turning left and “tails” means you’re turning right. Keep flipping the coin to determine the route that you will be travelling. If your husband chose the number ‘17’, then your journey ends after 17 turns.
This is where you will stop the car for your date. You might have to tap into your creative sides to come up with a workable plan for your date. If there’s only a petrol garage in the street, then you can buy Twinkies and coffee for a coffee date. If there’s a pawn shop, spend a bit of time hunting for bargains, if there’s a park, sit on the swings and play together. Keep a bottle of champagne and two glasses handy in case your journey comes to an end in a quiet suburb – then you can sip champagne together!
Additional sources: youtube.com, pinterest.com
By – Annelize Steyn
The internet is full of guidelines and tips on how to have a successful marriage, but some of this advice isn’t practical (and can even be considered questionable) from a Christian point of view. Here are a few principles that Christian couples can safely implement to lay the foundations of their marriage:
- Read the Bible together. Most parents will tell you that finding time for daily Bible study with the kids can be a big ask. If you have young children at home, then you probably already try to make time to read the Bible with them each evening. Set aside time for you and your husband to do Bible study together once a week. Take one Bible to church so that the two of you can read together. By reading together and discussing what you read afterwards, you will be able to stay connected with each other and God.
- Eat together at the table. Trying to get everyone at home at dinnertime can be a challenge in itself, but whenever possible, unplug the television and get everyone eating around the dinner table together. This will help you stay in touch with each other’s day-to-day lives and broach deeper, family-related topics.
- Keep your marriage problems to yourself. Don’t discuss any marriage related problems with anyone besides your therapist. Many women think it’s okay to gossip to their hairdressers about their husbands, or vent a bit to their girlfriends during a lunch, but remember that these people also have husbands and friends (and juicy stories travel). You will probably forgive your husband for whatever transgression you were discussing, but your girlfriends will remember and that type of negativity can linger.
- Pray with your partner. Some partners find this easier than others. If your partner isn’t comfortable praying out loud in front of you, offer to do the praying. Not only does this bring you and your marriage closer to God, but it also increases the intimacy that you and your partner will experience.
- Choose your friends wisely. Stay close to friends who have the same outlook on marriage and faith as the two of you. Friends who have different opinions about marriage and faith can have a negative impact on your relationship and your relationship with God.
- Take divorce off the table. Divorce isn’t an option. While there are certain instances where divorce is the only option (God never intended for you to be ruined by a partner), remember that you made a promise to your partner in front of God to stay together. If you are experiencing financial hardships, infidelity, or any type of crisis, the two of you – together with God – have the power to overcome the challenge.
- Have daily contact. In today’s fast paced life, it’s very easy to become disconnected from your partner. Make a point of booking weekends away, spending time together during the week, and creating enough communication touch-points throughout the day. Also make time for sex, even if it looks like something that never really fits into your weekly schedules. Don’t let any gap between you and your partner continue to grow.
- Never go to bed mad. Sometimes you’re still raging by the time bedtime rolls around and you reckon it would be wiser to have a glass of wine and go to bed early. Some relationship experts say that it’s often wiser to sleep on an issue that’s causing conflict, as you will feel fresher and perhaps be able to look at the situation from a different perspective the next morning. If at all possible though, try to avoid going to bed mad or announce a ‘timeout’ in love (Ephesians 4:26).
- Mentor a younger couple. You may think that you and your partner aren’t experts in marriage and that you continue to make mistakes as a couple, so how on earth could you mentor a younger couple? The truth is that you are exactly the type of couple that should be guiding other, younger Christian couples. No marriage is perfect and helping other couples in a discrete, safe and trusting environment can greatly enhance and benefit your own marriage, too.
- Discuss the division of tasks in your relationship. While some couples effortlessly fall into comfortable routines regarding household tasks, many others experience some sort of challenge about the division of tasks within their relationships. Discuss what each of your expectations are and how you can find a mutually satisfying middle ground.
These are only a few of the principles that Christian couples can use to lay the foundations of their marriage, but there are so many more. Focus on these 10 principles and you’ve got the hard work taken care of.