Q: My fiance and I can't to wait begin our new lives together. I'll confess, though, that I'm afraid this excitement will wane into routine and familiarity -- particularly with our sex life. Do you have any advice for how we can keep the spark alive?
Jim: Congratulations! You may have seen examples suggesting otherwise, but let me encourage you that with work and commitment, marriage -- and sex -- can remain exciting and fulfilling until "death do you part." Along with my prayers, let me offer you these five areas to focus on:
1. Open Communication: Make a practice of "checking in" with each other. You will encounter challenging issues in your marriage, and respectfully talking and working through them is an essential contributor toward a healthy sexual relationship.
2. Frequency of Sex: This can vary among couples. It's more important to be intimate with regularity and work together to keep your sex life a priority.
3. Understanding Life Stages: Different seasons of life -- such as parenthood, illness, or aging -- can influence marital intimacy. Couples who take a long view of marriage will achieve the perspective they need to weather the tougher times.
4. Beyond the Bedroom: Sex is an important part of marriage, but other aspects of your relationship must also be nurtured to experience a satisfying sex life. "Date" and become a "student" of your spouse. Be respectful, affirming, affectionate, kind and forgiving toward each other.
5. Emotional safety: Sexuality and intimacy are all about vulnerability, and you can't be vulnerable unless you're convinced it's safe to do so. Emotional safety means your spouse can trust you with their feelings and failures, and that you are committed to them, even though you may not always agree with or understand them. Above all, guard each other's secrets – and have none between you.
Q: My husband and I are at different places about getting a new dog. We both love animals, but were heartbroken when we had to put our golden retriever down six months ago. It's hit him so hard that he says he never wants another pet again. I think he needs to just get over it and open up his heart again. I'm tempted to bring home a cute puppy, knowing he'll melt when he sees it. Is this a good idea?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: As much as you might be right about your husband's initial reaction to a new puppy, I wouldn't do it -- for two reasons.
First, as much as your heart may be in the right place and as much as you may care about your husband, the message this move would send is "you and your feelings don't matter." Respect is a huge deal for any relationship, but in marriage it's essential. If a husband or wife experiences and senses disrespect from their mate, then trust, emotional safety and, ultimately, intimacy are compromised. It's not worth it.
Second, though non-animal lovers may not understand this, losing a pet can be a deeply profound and painful loss. And where there's been a significant loss, grief must follow. But grief isn't a one-size-fits-all formula, and people move through it differently and at their own pace. If the process isn't allowed to play out to its conclusion -- that of accepting the reality of the situation -- it can have detrimental effects on a person's spiritual, emotional and physical health.
I'd encourage you to be patient, empathize with your husband, and approach this as an opportunity to love him through a difficult time -- which will, in turn, nurture and strengthen the bonds of your marriage.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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