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Marriage in the Middle - Dorothy Littell Greco

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
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March 13, 2021 4:00 am

Marriage in the Middle - Dorothy Littell Greco

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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March 13, 2021 4:00 am

For many, the term “midlife” is synonymous with “crisis.” But our guest on this edition of Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, says it doesn’t have to be that way. Yes, midlife is challenging. But the demands of this season can force us to adjust, adapt and grow deeper in the marriage relationship. How do you take advantage of midlife opportunities? Find out today on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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This is Doug Hastings, VP of Moody radio and were thankful for support from our listeners, and businesses like United faith mortgage mortgage commercials are rarely exciting. So to make it slightly more interesting. Here my nieces to do it for me so interest rates continue to drop like my sister's baby teeth, her uncle Larry had still not scared. It was rates are boring.

Talk historically low and now this year is even more boring. Talk historically lower than the previous boarding talk. Historically, the sounds of boring for so many listeners who just wanted to deal at refinancing right now could see the amount of light rates have gotten that some borrowers could potentially save hundreds monthly and tens and tens of thousands over the life of the loan, and that he didn't put 20% down before somebody ends up having to pay PMI gave uncle Brian I sent we are United faith mortgage United faith mortgage is a DBA of United mortgage Corp. 25 Millville Park Rd., Millville, NY license mortgage backer for licensing information, go to an MLS consumer corporate MLS number 1330. Equal housing lender not licensed in Alaska, Hawaii, Georgia, Massachusetts, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah. When you the word midlife.

Many immediately think crisis but it doesn't have to be that way there will be crises there will be losses but we don't have to spin out. We don't have to fall apart. In fact, I think the challenges the losses of crises, actually 23 caliber to refocus our lives. Welcome relationship, author of the New York Times bestseller, the five yesterday, stresses and challenges of life hard on marriage. Midlife can also become an opportunity to grow together and truly become one Dorothy L Greco featured resource is her marriage.

The middle embracing life surprises, challenges and joys.

I think you really going to resonate with our topic, Chris. I'm a little beyond the middle life certainly remember the middle years or so excited about this because in my office. A lot of folks in the middle of life who are really wrestling with real issues of this book with real issues so I'm excited about our conversation and there's a lot I hope your today. I hope you listen carefully, especially if you're in the middle.

Some struggle in midlife, and especially with your marriage Dorothy L Greco is a writer and photographer who lives outside of Boston is a Boston. The author of making marriage beautiful Dorothy and her husband lead marriage workshops and retreats speak at conferences nationwide and have been helping couples create and sustain healthy marriages for more than 25 years you find her featured resource linked@ again. It's the book marriage in the middle. Welcome to Building Relationships. Thank you so much for having me. I really look forward to this conversation before we get into the subject today marriage in the middle telling us your story how did you and your husband meet and then move into having a marriage ministry. Christopher and I met at Boston University.

We are in the same college we also attended the same varsity group which at that time was very tiny. I think we had about 15 people and that gave us the opportunity to deep friendship.

We were both trying to figure out what is it look like to be an artist and to follow Jesus. Christopher is a musician and a playwright. I worked 35 years now and that friendship continued for 45 years before we started dating.

Round one of our relationship was quite difficult. We are both very opinionated and very strong-willed individuals.

This ended in a broken engagement and then after two years of not speaking to each other.

One day when he was at work. He felt this little nudge from the Holy Spirit, essentially asking him to consider if it was possible that he had made a mistake.

So then he reinitiated with me a year later we were married, much to the consternation of some of my friends and we will celebrate 30 years together in a few months. The two of us have always been very intentional about how we pursue Jesus, and we believe that the gospel is meant to change the whole of who we are and help us become more Christlike. So three or four years into our marriage. We began doing long-term healing and discipleship programs in our local church and gradually this again to include premarital and marriage classes and workshops and then 10 years ago when I started writing full-time marriage and family issues became one of the topics that I focused on so walking with others and serving others. In this way has really always been part of our marriage is quite a journey hope some of the singles who were listening today and maybe have gone through a broken engagement descriptors open. Maybe there's hope. Okay give up goes our topic today is the mid years of marriage.

But I know that we have a lot of single adults who listen to the program as well. So thanks for sharing a little bit of your story. Xander said that when we begin the program. Many associate the word midlife with the word crisis midlife crisis that can be true, but it doesn't have to be true right that's correct.

Another term midlife crisis was coined back in the 60s and there were a lot of national crisis going on that states that often happens, we create words or terms that help us to define our world and I think my in my experience, there's two types of crises, there's the self-induced crises which come from poor choices that we make, or habitual sin patterns like addictions are holding onto resentment and then there's a crisis not of her own making, similar to what were seeking out across the globe with coded I think it's absolutely true that many of us are perhaps most of us will experience some kind of crises during midlife but I don't think that they have to be the stereotypical midlife crisis that's often depicted by a 45 to 50-year-old man having an affair with somebody in their 20s that tends to be about somebody who's unwilling to suffer and face their own mortality. Somebody who has not done their spiritual work.

So things will be hard and midlife. There will be crises there will be losses but we don't have to spin out. We don't have to fall apart.

In fact, I think that the challenges the losses in the crises actually can give us the opportunity to recalibrate and to refocus our lives.

Can you explain midlife common term, but what you mean by midlife will officially midlife encompasses the ages between 40 and 65. Which of course is not really midlife because not many of us to collect 238 but apart from the chronology. I think that includes massive shifts and changes both internally and externally, many of which we have very little control over and we can talk more about those as we go along. What are some of the different challenges and stressors that may adversely affect us or loose. Our challenge for us.

I guess maybe the most universal challenges the physical and physiological changes that for the most part are out of our control.

Menopause for women in andropause for men and honestly is like when I started writing this book I wasn't familiar with the word andropause.

So now I know that that in fact is a thing for men and while taking care of ourselves unequivocally should help us to navigate these physical changes we can avoid menopause because no matter what we do, we can become a vegetarian or triathlete. But we cannot avoid those kind of midlife changes that our bodies go through and it's also fairly common during midlife that depression spikes I think that it's during the 40 to 48 range that depression rates are the highest and higher for women than for men in the second stressed. It's worth mentioning is our changing caregiving roles if her parents I know not everybody is, but if her parents were transitioning to having less control. We were handing over more autonomy to our kids. I don't think they were less involved were involved in very different ways and that it's the opposite with her parents who probably either didn't need us are only needed us minimally until the season and then their need for us can increase significantly the number three thing that I would mention is that we do all experience multiple losses during this timeframe, you know, our parents will pass away most of the time that happens to learn that life our kids pool will move on and possibly move away, though obviously in the scope it season. I think the opposite. They were seeing a lot of kids come back, all friendships can crumble. We may have to put some of our dreams to rest. Those are also the losses that we can experience during this timeframe. And then there's that there can be a lot of professional chefs ageism in the workplace is a very real thing. So my husband and I have watched multiple friends be let go after stellar careers simply because they were over 50 on the company's perspectives.

They cost too much and that kind of a shift can be incredibly disorienting, not to mention raise all kinds of financial concerns and then finally the fifth thing that I would mention is that we may find ourselves wrestling with their spiritual beliefs, particularly if life is not gone the way we hope to imagine. And that might look like doubt or malaise or anger or apathy or just say no. I'm done with church, but we are finding more and more people who seem to be experiencing spiritual issues during this timeframe.

I consider a number of our listeners nodding there.

Because that's where they are and that's what they're facing. And remember going through a lot of that in the middle years of my life and my marriage is the pandemic impacted all of this.

I think it's wrapped everything you just think about. We know one component unemployment. I think we started last time.

He readily started the year 2020 unemployment rate was quite low in the United States for like 3.53.6 and April, it was like 14.7. You know, as of last month 27 million Americans are on, or underemployed, which is just no incredible to think about the amount of people who are now in a very precarious situation.

Health issues fears about her health skyhigh and we don't know for sure until a year or two after some long-term studies have been done but it seems like that the pandemic is having an adverse impact on some marriages.

Not all, but on some and to some extent how could it not rate given all the stressors like trying to school your kids from home while you're working normally. You know, one spouse will go out the door in the morning and come home 8 to 10 hours later and that little break could be reset and then we have a breather were thankful to see each other at dinner and now it's like why are you still here so I think overall in this pandemic season. Our powerlessness is increased and there's so many deeply troubling things that are happening that are not in our domain to fix so it's inevitable that that's going to affect us. Dorothy, I never heard that word and you ever heard menopause all my life but I looked it up as you were talking dear forgive me for being distracted and that it's of kind of the lower testosterone as you as you age, you have less testosterone have to deal with that because there's depression and weight gain in and of those other things and that affects a lot of men who were listening to us today. It sure doesn't it has every bit as much effect as menopause does on women, but it never gets talked about and I think that that's one of the reasons I wanted to bring it up as to say hey guys, you know, there are some very real reasons why you're having some quite difficult things to deal with alongside of your why it's such a section of the phone very very helpful because I think the crystal on-demand are not aware of changes that are going on with no changes or going home, but they don't convict them about and that are less likely to talk about that stuff than monarchial women are much more likely to sit down and chat with their friends about some of the theological and physical changes were man. I think just, you know, that just doesn't happen.

You control before the pandemic. At least there are a lot of folks who had the concept in their younger years when negative midlife things are going to be very different there to be much better when I going to have to give as much attention and effort to know the kids are growing in the going to be leaving the natives and that's going to be wonderful and and so will have more free time and how realistic is that not very sorry hypothetically I think that's true but that's that's not been our experience that was when our kids began the teen years.

There was somebody at church. He said oh you know this is the timeframe when your parenting is Don and you can really just let go of all the responsibilities and now through that I think wow I feel sorry for their kids because I don't think that that's true at all, is anybody who is parenting teens knows parenting teenagers takes a lot of time and a lot of energy right there trying to figure out who they are, what they believe is and where they're going to go to college there. Having all the stress of drivers tests in SATs and and then they have all their own relational trauma right so our experience was that there was a lot of conflict during those teen years in conflict with a 16-year-old is way more intense than conflict with the six-year-old bank.

We can't simply lay down not because I said so hard anymore behalf to seriously up our game and really listen to them and draw them out here with her trying to say invalidate the things that are concerns to them. I can give you a in a little snippet from our life. Eight years ago, which is after the story that opens the book happened.

Our oldest son was off to college and he decided that he wanted to get married at age 19.

So I was 30 when I got married, so this was way out of my comfort zone. Our second son had recently left for college and he was seriously unhappy with his choice was talking about. Within the first couple weeks that he wanted to leave and go someplace else or just drop out. Our youngest son was at home and he was dealing with really painful rejection issues at his school. And so what that meant for us was we were having ongoing conversations late into the night trying to help them support and navigate what was going on for them than in the midst of that as a reference the book. My mom and mother-in-law had passed away after a bout with cancer but then three other family members all got cancer the same time and my father in his final final radiation treatment fell off the radiation table and broke his leg and then it was in the hospital for several weeks and rehab for several months so every other weekend. I would drive five hours down to New Jersey either visit him in rehab or when he came home to make a weeks worth of food, clean house, take it to the doctors and then I would drive back home. I was utterly exhausted and I felt like I was failing in every single domain of my life like I couldn't keep up with my son's needs but my husband's needs.

I was the parent who never showed up for parent teacher conferences and I never even log into my son's academic portal. That year, so no Christopher not function well as a team with a very strong marriage. But during that timeframe. There was very little emotional or physical intimacy.

We just put 1 foot in front of the other and we got through our days when that kind of scenario goes on for more than a few months. I think the distance between a husband or wife can become its own source of tension and any couples you know who have a special needs child like there is no growing out of that rate that could be what their lives are like. If you have a parent with dementia, the decline might take years and require caregiving from you during that timeframe, so I think that that the middle years are much more intense than we ever anticipated date they stretch us sometimes to what feels like a breaking point which makes us really pay attention to the state of our marriage because if the marriage falls apart. It affects a lot of people in the midst of all the things that you just described your relationship with your spouse can be needed more than ever, but right so the pressure of the time crunch can cause you to not to give attention to the marriage. You know let's let's think back a little bit own MoMA US history in terms of sleep 50 years ago is midlife. Today in a marriage and family differ from midlife experiences 50 years. Well when I was doing research for this book. What I learned was that the age for first-time marriages gone up the number of children that we are now having in the United States is gone down and couples are tend to be having their children later in those ships probably mean that were still actively caring for our children.

During the same time that her parents are declining because they lived longer than they did 50 years ago, so I think one of the things that's notable is that there is no single narrative that can define midlife anymore. Some couples in this demographic. Married 30 years and others have been married 10 years. Some of my friends were grandparents when they were in their 40s. I had my last hope.

When I was almost 40, another changes that I think for various reasons, maybe including that the cost of living is outpaced salary increases. It's common for both spouses to be working outside the home now and then there are the relational chapter. The relational challenges posed by technology which could be a conversation itself using know we were vying with the device for a spouse attention so that office was just a huge change to. So here are some folks who were little older, so go for the good old days at the time there were necessarily all good old days, but I think you're exactly right there.

There have been, but rather dramatic changes over the last 50 years and making marriage a priority during the mid-years is going to serve you well as you move into the later years and we haven't even talked about the whole thing of so many people are in the middle years of life and they been divorced there in the second married and living as a single one.

So that's another whole dynamic right that's correct. Tell you talk about three character traits that are essential during this time does what those are and why they're so important. Yes, I speak about malleability, resilience and engagement at these three are are obviously not the only character traits that we need, but I think that they do play a key role in how we navigate midlife. When the physical world Medela metals malleability is connected to how much pressure can withstand without snapping. So gold is much more malleable, more flexible than zinc next pound gold very thin sheet of paper and as we've been discussing midlife is a time of sustained pressure so we exhibit malleability by not snapping or breaking in the face of conflict health gives disappointment, etc. and when we remain malleable sustained stress can actually help us to grow and where malleability is the willingness to be stretched and changed resilience determines how quickly will bounce back after something difficult or trying has happened to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive author. She defined resilience as the strength and speed of our response to adversity and I love that definition. So resilience is a measure of maturity. If you think about how a two-year-old response when they don't get their way. We might have that same level of annoyance or frustration when something doesn't go well but it 45 or 50 tantrums are very unbecoming. So we need to be adults. We need to exhibit resilience and then finally engagement which is one could guess that means being active paying attention rather than checking out or getting up. I think that when we exhibit these three traits even when the world seems like it's spinning out of control or were exhausted. It allows us to stay in the game, which is really important because the people in our lives really need us. When we talk about what you discussed earlier in the parenting of our children whatever age they are removed when we were in midlife and then our parents are nurturing poor parents many many many couples in the mid life are experiencing all of that you talked about the time pressures and the emotional pressures so sometimes you feel like these things are out of your control. You can't control what's going on your parents life physically or emotionally or otherwise, are you saying that really focusing on these three things is what allows us to be able to coop. We go through this lesion. I think that they will help us to cope and he knows I mentioned at the top there obviously there's other character traits that are important to like empathy right that's huge in this and this time. We need so much empathy and understanding from our spouse, but I think if we can focus on being malleable, resilient, and engage that that will definitely help us to press through some of these key issues will over were disappointed. I think in the middle of life because things haven't worked out the way we thought we would work out what gender you scan these things that happened in the pressures and all can they be helpful, but that is kicked and we learn from those experiences and if so what of the dynamics that help us do that.

I think that we can learn from them. We know some of the readers have told me the chapter 5, which focuses on disappointment was was the hardest one for them to read because Isabella story is really so very painful marriage was not at all what she wanted it to be, and despite work in prayer. A lot of effort on her part.

It never succeeded. It's you know that's a very sobering I think story for us to read but I think that disappointments can help us grow and mature. Provided that we stay humble to pay attention to what they're trying to teach us.

Disappointment is actually I think a tricky emotion because it tends to hide behind other easier to identify feelings like anger or hopelessness or fear or frustration in the disappointments we face and in life. At any point in life can be connected to mundane things you like.

We go away on vacation and it rained every day will that's disappointing. They could be connected to having to navigate our spouses long-term health issues which may be our recreational options or potentially reduce her household income and then on the other extreme marital disappointments may be due to something highly consequential, like discovering that your spouse has an addiction or that they no longer want to follow Jesus disappointments point areas where expectations have been dashed and we all commit to marriage with many expectations about everything from division of household chores to number of children to frequency of sex in some of these expectations are really important and godly like fidelity, honesty, etc. and we have to fight for them. You know those are not ones that we can just say oh well at work out, but often I think our expectations emerge out of our family of origin in our cultural experiences and their more connected to our preferences meeting the ways that we like things to be done are the ways that we want to be treated so give an example.

When I came into marriage. I was very much a product of the Disney movies of the 60s and 70s. And if you can think back to that time the hero ends were mostly passive. They did a lot of singing and cleaning and waiting right about snow white Cinderella Rapunzel dialect same same same same same by saying they clean they waited. That really doesn't work for me so but without being aware of that I have all these expectations about what romance was supposed to look like and I moralize the expectations, meaning that I assumed my version was right in his version was wrong when we carry that kind of moralizing energy connected to expectations.

There's bound to be conflict and boy did we have conflict. So in our 10th year we fought for months about my frustrations regarding a perceived lack of romance in it was really ugly and finally Christopher had put his foot down and essentially say your expectations are not realistic based on who I am not Prince charming, but I am faithful and I do love you and I want you to receive my love rather than judging it is and you know then of course I had to repent her to apologize and Christopher and I had to work together to help me form godly reality based stations. I think that these kind of come to Jesus not it's happened more frequently in midlife and they can lead us to what I now call holy resignation, which essentially means that we have these moments of reckoning and we understand no that might never change. How am I gonna respond to that and then we purposefully decide you know what I'm staying.

I'm not going anywhere. Even if you never change, I'm not leaving you to choose to love you despite all of all of the limitations in the disappointments that is really powerful and incredibly redemptive. So, but obviously we have to figure out what our disappointments want to teach us and it's it's often not a one time thing but it's more of an ongoing process. Thanks for joining us today for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman find us online@ we have some great resources for you a tool to assess your love language you can hear podcast of the program and find out about our featured resource. It's the book by Dorothy the tell Greco marriage in the middle embracing midlife surprises, challenges, enjoys just got a five love Dorothy when you talked about the Disney vacation of your love for the first thing I thought was you know you don't have your Prince charming but everybody wants a fairy godmother to bib the bubbly booth and make everything and it didn't it didn't happen. What I what I hear you saying that your husband said to you is I want to love you the way that you want to be loved. I have my limitations and, but I am for you.

I'm here for you. I want to use it was like he was resistant to what you were talking about.

He wanted to love you. He just couldn't measure up. Is that what you're saying yes I think it is. Again, my expectations of who he was and how he would love to meet were completely unrealistic based on who he is. He's a pragmatist so romance for him like just doesn't cut it. You know it's too sentimental maybe that no particular thing about Disney movies is that they are very sentimental, so his love is genuine.

It's true, it's solid steady. He has never wavered and I think that what he was calling me to and it was a review night.

I still very clearly remember the conversation I was weekday because there was the power of the Holy Spirit came and convicted me that he was right that I was focusing on his weaknesses rather than being grateful for the many gifts that he gave me. So that was it was a sobering moment, but was absolutely a turning point in our marriage, and in a very important one, but you could define what you just described. As well, so I gave up. I didn't view. I gave up on our on the romance that I've always wanted their marriage and my guess is that resignation that holy resignation that you're talking about lead you to a deeper intimacy than you had before.

Absolutely. At that and that's why the word holy is so important before resignation. It wasn't giving up.

It was a oh well I guess I'll just never get this and then sort of descending into whatever bitterness or resentment.

It was saying okay, this is the person I chose to marry this is the person I committed my life to so what is it look like to love him based on who he is today, not who we might be in 10 years or 20 years. We is in this moment because I feel like that's what Christ is calling us to what you're describing.

There is what many, many couples really need to be hearing because there's a sense in which none of us are ever going to live up to all of the visions that the other person has in mind for us know doesn't mean that we can change because we can and we can have significant growth as we share our desires, but there is there is a place for reality in a relationship.

All the pickup on one of the other illustrations are to just mention briefly and that is when your spouse tends to draw back from God or from church Particularly painful for a Christian who sees their spouse and drawing back from God. How do you respond to that one that begins to happen. The relationship to one of my best friends is in the midst of this I would say in my opinion, this is probably one of the most difficult things that a couple hast base and we know that we can't control our spouse that the choices that they make are there choices and so then we have the opportunity to decide, are we going to keep loving you going to keep praying.

Are we going to keep hoping for the Lord to break-in or we can adjudge them to try to control them with.

I think this tends to at least that tends to be my tendency to put that on anybody else I know that that's my proclivity is to try to change the other person sows a lot of finding a balance of holding on to the Lord for the hope that you need on a daily basis while continuing to love and at the same time you know having an open hand and saying. Obviously, this is your relationship not mine. You have to decide if this is something that you want or if it's something that you want to let go of so hear you saying you don't condemn the person correct for Karen was younger moving but certainly be praying for them and loving them even though they're not. Even though that deeply hurt you deeply. You yes and it may be that you know going to counseling either together or individually having somebody that you know the spouse who decided to stay in the faith has a place to process because I would imagine that there are many many many things that are just so excruciatingly painful that you might not be able to talk about on an ongoing basis with your spouse, the one who is withdrawn. You also discussed the concept of idolatry which would necessarily be looking for the word marriage but oh what you mean by that water examples of it.

I think that one of the key reasons I wanted to include a beat on idolatry is that idolatry pulls us off course and at this point in our lives. We don't have time for that like we really have to stay on topic, we have to stay focused this point in our life. You know it's easy for us as believers to recall examples in the Old Testament, like when the Israelites crafted a golden calendar literally bound out to it, and then to say about will you know that something that happened in ancient times is a concern to us, but that would be a mistake because we are all vulnerable to the pull of idols. We all worship something or someone to an idol is anything that we look to you to depend on to give us what we think we need idols give us the illusion of control.

If Chris don't really give us control, but they give us the illusion of control.

So Americans, for example, I think are particularly vulnerable to idols connected to capitalism financial success and ownership because that's the air that we agrees, so we put our trust in our 401 or our jobs are having a successful church for a large social media following the assumed that if we do everything that the idle demands of us will be happy and will be secure course, we won't because idols always overpromise and under deliver their kind of like infomercials in that regard. Idols are unrelenting in their demand of us no matter what we give them there always in reality, our ultimate satisfaction in life comes not even from marriage right but from direct so even if the marriage this is Susan real real real trouble forward, God would restore will do the right thing in the midst of a troubled marriage yes and then cut.

I just had one little be about that idolatry thing because I think that oftentimes we don't recognize when it's got a grip on us and we can week we can learn to recognize where idols are present in our lives by paying attention to what we think about what were devoted to how we spend our time and how we spend our money. How do we try to control things and jealousy, anger and NVR three feelings that can help us to identify the idols and when we see them know we know what to do when when sin shows up in our life right. We confess that we repent and then we do the hard work of uprooting the idolatrous behaviors and choosing to be content with the life that we have. We discussed earlier, the whole issue of sexual intimacy in the middle years we come back to the owner suppose that affect the relationship or what is, what are some of the patterns in the mid-like in this area.

How does the rest of life that is the nonsexual form of life and how is it affected as the rest of life affect the sexual part of life, but I don't think any of us believe in the kitchen on the counter. What has happened from 7 AM to 7 PM before we go upstairs to bed.

Like all the interactions that we've had together, not just on that day, but historically follow us into the bedroom. I ate so how were treating each other. How were loving each other, how were patient or impatient with each other, how we respect each other.

That all comes into play when we get into bed together. It's not just plumbing right it's not it's not about technique. It's about how much we trust each other how much we respect each other how kind and gentle we are with each other so hopefully by this point in the marriage. You know if couples are doing their spiritual and relational work.

There's a tremendous bond that's been formed.

There's a lot of trust that should again no lead to deeper and richer sexual intimacy. Christopher, I have definitely found that to be true that despite some of the bumps that we've experienced in the past five or six years due to menopause, andropause that were enjoying each other more in the bedroom. There's more relaxed we can laugh more.

We trust each other more fully. So the notion that you know it's only that the 20-year-olds with the defined abs were having good sex. I think that's just nonsense that I think what the Lord the way that he's created us, the longer were married. The more trust we have, the more enjoyable our intimate life will be defined that for me what is good sex. Yes, I suppose it would be helpful to clarify. So thank you for asking that I think it's good sex to be defined by the following eight characteristics and at the top of the list. I would put exclusivity. One of the things that differentiates marriage from all other relationships is that we don't share our bodies with anybody else to would be oneness good sex should connect us. We want to feel closer to each other. After we made love and we did before.

And if you think about it this way, the proximity of our bodies, mirrors or illustrates the proximity of our souls. Number three would be that it good sex is mutual.

The hope is that both spouses are willing and eager to be intimate and that both partners initiate because initiation demonstrates interest and form would be that it sacrificial and II think at this in two ways. As Christians we are supposed to consider each other's needs above our own. That mindset I think should also apply in the bedroom. So when we're engaged in the act of lovemaking. We should be eager to please our spouse. Curiously, that in and of itself will bring us joy that second I'll give you an example of how sex can be sacrificial for my own marriage. There are times when Christopher wants to be intimate, and I'm either too tired or in too much pain from the fibromyalgia saying yes to him.

On those nights is an act of sacrifice. I think the first kind of sacrifice should be normative, but if the second happens on a regular basis.

You know, if one partner feels like. Go on, you know, I'll make the sacrifice and be intimate with you.

That could be an indication that there is some work that the couple needs to do and number five would be that good sex honors and respects so we want to honor each other's likes and dislikes, there shouldn't be any kind of coercion and nothing that demeans or dishonors our spouse when were together in bed six would be that good sex is vulnerable. Genesis 2 talks about Adam and Eve being naked and ashamed. And I think that that's one of the goals of marital sex that we would have no secrets and they would be no barriers between us. Number seven, few of us think about sex.

In this way, but I also believe that it's meant to be healing and restorative when all of these other characteristics are in place. Sex communicates both acceptance and delight in both of these things can bring healing to any of our places of insecurity or shame, perhaps even more so as we age and finally number eight would be pleasurable know God didn't have to design our bodies so that sex would bring us so much pleasure, but he did and I really felt that heat if it's not routinely pleasurable. Then I would make sure that there's no physical issues and then go back to the beginning of the list and see. Are there any characteristics that are missing. So that's my extensive list and I'm thinking good communication between the husband or wife about this part of their marriage is an absolute necessity if were going to have a mutual sense of satisfaction. It's true Gary, particularly during midlife because as we go through menopause and causing our bodies just don't react the way that they used to and that takes another level occasion. Another level of sensitivity and tenderness, and sometimes patients as well on your little middle-age man complaining about this part of the marriage one is not responsive etc. etc. whether not talk with your spouse about the not talk to counselor like talk to her ability over but they're not talking to your spouse about what would you say to husband in the situation. I think that you have to take the risk of having those conversations of being able to say I really long to be sexually intimate with you on a more regular basis. What are the barriers for the things that I could do that might help you to be more interested know is there. Are there any places in our marriage where you have felt hurt were used to like you can't trust me, and that's causing you to hold back. How can we, how can we discuss this as a couple and move forward because I I would agree with them. I think that it is important, it's easy to to neglect it as we age particular because we get on.

We were tired of the biggest limiting factors for us right now is you know it's got to happen before 9 PM because other than that it doesn't it doesn't happen for 90 p.m. It's just too late, so I would encourage that any husband to field a student to not give up, but also to go in with a great deal of humility and say no.

Is there anything that you need from me that you're not getting there anyway that I could help you in this area.

The roast is also the flipside of the two women, one more sexual intimacy with their husbands and their husbands aren't responding.

Would you say the same thing to the to the wife.

That's a tough one because every marriage is unique.

The -wise of an equitable desire probably vary from couple to couple so I'm not sure that I can answer that question well without first sitting down with the husband-and-wife and listening to their story. That said, I can certainly offer some thoughts. First, I would encourage him or her.

The dynamic was reversed because it's not always just men who want sex more frequently than the wise.

I would encourage him not to give up and not to give into despair. Because sexual intimacy is a really important aspect of marriage, even as we age, and the truth is his ongoing desire might be the main impetus for growth, so the person who is more interested in sex gives up or turns to pornography, then chances are that the couple won't resolve this issue and they may not grow when my husband and I are doing pastoral care and one spouse is unhappy about the frequency or the quality of their intimate life. The first thing we always encourage them to do is make sure that there's no underlying health issues and that includes mental health because depression can really flatten our libido fluctuating hormones during menopause and andropause can cause sexual desire to chop and is this the case for me. Chronic pain also tends to inhibit interest in sex. So it's important to first consider any of those possibilities.

We also need to be mindful of our spouses history. So if your spouse is a trauma survivor or estate experience any type of sexual abuse and have not done much therapeutic work.

I would consider if this might be helpful and I would also encourage the husband to spend some time in prayer, asking God to show him if he played any part in his wife's disinterest and and that could be as simple as having unrealistic expectations about frequency. You might also want to ask the kind of questions like have I ever rush things because good sex for a woman should be slow and that's particularly true as we age. Has there ever been to be a breach of trust, and if that's the case, he would probably need to apologize and asked for business and then finally I think I would encourage him to ask his wife if she would be open to having conversations and note conversations plural not just a one off.

Perhaps with a professional counselor, but not necessarily.

If this is been a long-standing pattern. It might take months of conversations and lots of patients before there's movement and in the context of these conversations one needs to have curiosity, care, humility, vulnerability and empathy. Right. So then, rather than asking something flatly like why are you interested in having sex more often or giving his spouse any kind of emotional consequences. He should try something along the lines of I so enjoyed being intimate with you, and I really miss our times together. Is there anything I've done or said it is been offputting. Continue or may be what you need from me in the bedroom that you're not receiving or is there anything I could do that might spark more interest in her intimate life and NF after approaching it from all of these angles. Their intimate life still lacks the frequency with a passion that he longs for. And it's up to him again or her to stored their sexual longings. Well, and to not hold that against their spouse, but to rather continue to love and and that's not an easy assignment, but honestly, most women I know would be so grateful if their husbands took this approach with them when they're having difficulties in the bedroom. I think there was a man who haven't talk to their wives communication is not really going very well. Really in it or any part of this is where reading through a book like the book in your book were discussing the day, the children read the same chapter during the week so they'll at the end of the week and discuss what can we learn from this chapter. It's an easy way to help me in women for that matter. Talk about things that they would not have talked about. If they work in OB being exposed to material in the books of us will throw that in for all the guys and gals are out there. The Philip will we just can have conversations where we can and you know book is a tool that can help you have conversations gathers questions at the end of each chapter to which should help facilitate conversations you talk and the book also about the importance of community and midlife post. More about that what you mean about community, regardless of how long we've been married. Community is always important right marriage provide the source of consistent friendship but no spouse can fulfill all of our relational emotional needs so as an example, Christopher is about as extroverted as they come in. I am on the opposite scale, introverted, and despite my deep love and respect for him. I just cannot keep up with his need to verbally process so he really needs to regularly connect with his peers and his coworkers are. I can feel absolutely inundated by the avalanche of words and thoughts that he and despite his extroversion he's very solitary and how he prays the way he praises he goes for long walks and he talks God the whole time I love to pray out loud with other people so early on. This was one of my biggest disappointments as a source of ongoing conflict in part because again I moralize my expectations.

So when I finally realized that I could just reach out to some of my women friends and pray with them is a huge win-win for both of us. So I really see friendships and community is the proving ground for love when were part of the truly diverse community. We have to figure out like what is it look like to love somebody to respect somebody who's completely different from me doesn't vote like me who likes different songs that I like and loving those who are different makes us confront our narcissism or selfishness, our opinions and then it should help us to love more freely and more fully the more reflects that love muscle, the stronger it becomes, which then hopefully will benefit our family so additionally I think because of the demands and losses of midlife.

We really need to be part of a healthy grounded community that can help us deal with the midlife challenges the church we attend is dysfunctional or if it's unable to engage in suffering. Like if it just wants to stay on the surface and always sing the happy songs. That's not gonna serve us.

It's not can help us to grieve or to mourn her to suffer well and and I think that it can even make us vulnerable to marital failure, as it were in crisis. You know, we don't need somebody telling us to pray more, we need a community that will rally around us, that will bring food, pray for us, encourage us, that will challenge us, that will say no. I've noticed that you too kind to have a little bit of a sarcastic thing happening here. What's going on with that and when we have those kind of relationships that are really honest and truthful and vulnerable. It's going to serve us in a way that we can even imagine. I am encouraged by many churches that are having a strong emphasis on small groups within the church and overcome through to get to know each other really do share their lives with each other on the other hand there are other churches and sometimes smaller churches really who do not have that in our churches more together for worship, but that they lack those Thursday relationships with each other brothers share with the couples are loosening some practical ways to identify the underlying issues that are going on.

I think growing in self-awareness is probably the most important thing which means just paying attention to the places or moments when you feel hopeless or stock or bitter or resentful and then rather than ruminating on the feeling like disappointment, discover what is it trying to tell you rights, we need to look under our feelings and our reactions and try to discern what's happening we can see that in Psalm 139 when King David wrote search me oh God know my heart test me know my anxious thoughts.

So if we ask ourselves why am I routinely frustrated with my spouse what is might wise my inner monologue so hopeless. Why did I why did I criticize him at dinner. When did I start feeling all of this. No anger or frustration. Then we can begin to recognize patterns and the patterns can lead us back to the source so doing some form of the daily examine I think is helpful and for me what that means is taking a pause several times during the day.

Choosing to be still and checking in with the Holy Spirit and I'm pretty consistent about doing this at night.

It's just a simple prayer God. How did I do today. Are there any places where I need to apologize and and it's not infrequent that I'll hear something along the lines of, you know you are a bit harsh with your husband this afternoon when I started this practice. I would often be tempted to just minimize whatever the Holy Spirit brought to me or think he probably did notice that 40 tell them in the morning which of course I never would, because I would forget, but when I in the moment faithfully confess and apologize to Christopher. It allows the love to flow between us more freely and it helps us to keep short accounts. I think developing more self-awareness and a deeper connection to the Holy Spirit is huge. Paying attention to.

Are you having the same argument again and again because if you are, chances are it's not really about the issue that's on the surface. It's about something that's much deeper and you might need the help of a counselor to figure out what that is and then asking each other from time to time. What's working and what's not working where to be golf course. How could I improve as your spouse, but don't ask that question unless you really want to hear that can be a hard one, and then again, I would say having friendships having people who you give permission to speak into your life. We have several friends who we have said to them, if you see us going off the rails. If there's something that troubles you, please speak up to those we come to the universe door available to talk about the concept of tell us what you mean by that was so important yet it's not a familiar word to too many of us to me. I had to look it up and really wrestle with it, but it's a Greek word and what it means is fulfillments or the end goal of an intentional process or to loss is our ultimate destination.

It's how we get there and how we treat those who are with us. So essentially it's like a guiding purpose and you know maybe this is an American thing. But we are so success oriented.

No, we don't think twice about strategizing how to receive money.

How do we plan for retirement. We have apps that track your fitness goals.

We hire people to help us figure out how to answer careers but we rarely apply those same principles to our marriage and I believe that what the Lord is asking us to do is to become marriage visionaries and part of the key in becoming a marriage visionaries is using our imagination know because were all made in the image of God were all creative and imaginative people and that said, it's often easier for us to be critical and critical in critical is like the first step in using our imagination, but too often we stop their criticism has to move towards being solution oriented where it just becomes unhelpful and hurtful. So I think as couples if we can imagine where is God taking us. How is he using us because I think every marriage is uniquely poised to serve the greater good.

That doesn't mean that you have to be involved in professional ministry, you could be triggering ESL kids one night a week could be volunteering at the local animal shelter. He could be inviting friends over for dinner and to discern your tell us we need to pay attention to where did the two of you come alive, and aware you gifted and where you limited. So for instance Christopher and I love to have in-depth conversation with folks we have a high tolerance for people's pain, but we hate power tools so it's unlikely that we are ever going to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity building project.

We love volunteering at the local prison and we love doing marriage coaching so you know part of that is just paying attention.

What we feel like the most excited where to be feel most connected and another part of it is looking back to see like where has God moved in our lives.

What has he done through us and I refer to that as stones of remembrance of the book, so I strongly believe that when we chart our Tellos and we cultivate a dynamic relationship with Jesus that we will have some of the best marriages on the planet is been a delightful conversation know that our listeners, especially those who were years of life and marriage are going to fund not only this program will help. Thanks for your interest for doing with your lives. At this juncture. May God continue to give you wisdom. Thank you so much and thanks for all the work that the two of you do to sustain and help the kingdom of God grow in the title of our resources marriage in the middle embracing midlife surprises, challenges and joys by Dorothy L Greco. We have a link to the website. Five love go to five love Find out how to activate your joy and money.

Thank you to our production team Steve Wick and Janice Todd. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman's action at Moody radio and a ministry. Thanks

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