In my previous post, I presented how Mr. Natural is the Christian Go-To Marital Tool in many marriages. “Things will work themselves out in the end,” couples are told. What they are not told is that the end might be a devastating divorce or miserable marriage. I believe that The Student is the antidote to Mr. Natural. *
Before I begin, however, I believe it imperative to state two premises that need to be taken as ‘givens’.
First, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage because there are no perfect people. Paul Byerly has said in one of his Generous Husband posts that all men come into marriage with a broken idea of intimacy due to porn in today’s society. I believe that there is no such things as a person who enters marriage whole. We are all broken, in some way, due to the fact that we live in a fallen world, and we have been nurtured in our selfish ways by this world. Whether it be because of bad teaching or bad experience, all come into the marriage with good intentions but broken conditions.
Second, marriage is a crucible. I have written that God’s purpose for marriage is happiness, not holiness, but the melding of two separate lives into one is going to cause change. After all, tin and copper make bronze through fire, and two lives become one through like fire.
Isobel Kuhn, a new missionary to China in 1928, wrote of being shocked when she was told by a veteran missionary that all the scum of her humanity would rise to the top on the mission field. “That can’t be!”, Isobel thought, “I’ve devoted my life to Christ, and unlike other Christians, I’m going out in obedience to the Great Commission!” But a year later, she had to admit that everything that the elder woman had said was true: she had to deal with inner attitudes and traits that clashed with selfless service to others. Oh, she professed to high ideals, but the lowly humiliations and sacrifices of the day-to-day galled her nature. And she had to take those to God.
In the same way, marriage becomes a crucible that shows us our selfishness. We have our ways, our wants and our expectations. And darned if s/he doesn’t, too! Yes, in that sweet, sweet honeymoon phase, when everything is so new and precious, his idiosyncrasies seem charming. But after a while, certain traits are smiled at through clenched teeth. And years later, there is definitely severe dental enamel loss.
And here is where The Student makes his/her appearance.
The author of Bonny’s Oysterbed (in the sidebar) made a comment after my last post, concerning Mr. Natural’s problems:
Aside from advocating the continual discussion, I find two key points here. Marriage counseling and boundaries. IMHO, most sexless marriages have a lot of other junk to sort through.
Of course she is spot-on. When two become one, there is going to be learning, compromise, adjustment, and growth. That is, if things go right. However, given the human capacity to make really stinkin’ decisions, outright conflict, with concomitant casualties, may be the outcome.
Whatever happens, when problems arise (and they will arise!), The Student makes use of resources; s/he studies. Is there a conflict in expectations of household arrangements? The Student will avail himself of books or teachers who are skilled in dealing with conflict. Is there a problem with mixed signals and misunderstanding? There may be good blog writers or podcasts that help with matters like this. Is there a disagreement about the roles of husband and wife? There are excellent bible teachers and preachers who can help apply scripture to their relationship.
Is there a problem with sexual intimacy in the marriage? Thankfully, today there are many good teachers and writers who have created resources for The Student to access. The internet is chock-a-block full of different writers and teachers who address different needs in marriage.
Just A Few Good Resources
My sidebar to the right has links to several excellent blogs that address different marital intimacy needs. Does the wife have a problem with a low-to-nonexistent libido? Then go to Bonny’s Oysterbed, and read the excellent blogs of a wife who addresses that problem. Are there wives who wish to understand why their husbands think, feel and act as they do? Then they need to subscribe to The XY Code and read the archives. (The old aphorism that men are only capable of hunger or horniness, while a funny joke, is ridiculous on its face. Men are every bit as complex as women, and Paul Byerly is an excellent tour guide into the male psyche.)
Paul and Lori Byerly also write two must-reads, one apiece, for husbands and wives. Men, subscribe to The Generous Husband; women, subscribe to The Generous Wife. These two daily blogs give great insight in how to better love your spouse, as God would have you to do. Chris Taylor writes from the perspective of a wife who has walked a precipice and stepped back. Many of her Forgiven Wife posts are down-right wrenching to read, and I can only guess at how wrenching they were to experience.
J. Parker, who recently dropped the last veil of anonymity, writes Hot, Holy and Humorous, which takes a look at the hows and wherefores of intimacy and technique, often with a skewed sense of humor. If you need to learn a technique, she’s got the guts to address it.
You get the picture. The Student sees a problem and doesn’t let it ride, hoping “it will work out.” S/he ponders the problem, talks to the hubs/wife, and starts looking for answers. Early in a marriage, before problems become ingrained, and habits become routines and ruts, many issues can be thrashed out and a healthy resolution found. However, if left to grow, habits, routines and ruts become entrenched as “the way we’ve always done things”, and become nearly insurmountable.
I am going to make a final recommendation and a final disclaimer. First, Chris Taylor has put together a small Resource Page on her Forgiven Wife blog, with many useful links. Second, what I have been declaiming about in my Go-To Tools series are situations that, for the most part, fall into the realm of self-improvement, and most of these resources also fall in that category. There are situations that occur in marriage that are far more pathological in nature, and require help that is far more heavy-duty. I refer you to Bonny’s quote above, in which she reminds us that marriage counseling is available for those who need it.
And there are many who need it. If this is you, then seek help.
* I realize that experts tell us that in up to 40% of marriage dealing with libido issues, the spouse with the higher drive is the wife. And, yes, I realize that, for the sake of these articles, I am using the societal archetype of males as the higher drive, frustrated spouse. I do not believe that this discounts what I am saying to refused and/or restricted wives. Yes, there may be a different set of challenges, but I don’t think a different skill set is the answer.