In last week’s Marriage Memo, I wrote of seven things men need to know about marriage. In a culture of counterfeits and mistruths, it’s important to understand what marriage is about.
Here are seven more things men should know. As you read through the list, ask God to remake you and help you understand what it means to be a man and a husband.
1. A man needs to know that the key to great sex is exclusivity. Our modern world tricks a man into thinking that more sources of sexual stimulation will satisfy him. But like a drug, they thrill but do not satisfy. Sexual entertainment, images, and illicit sex erode rather than enhance sexual joy in a marriage.
They way to become a great lover is to practice with only one woman for life. It is to be generous, exclusive, and serving—not greedy, distracted, and taking. A great relationship and great sex are connected in marriage, and that only happens when a man’s sole target of sexual affections, imaginations, and enjoyment is his wife.
2. A man needs to know that marriages typically have a one- or two-year “honeymoon era.” This is a period of semi-blind euphoria that makes the relationship magnetic and easier. It’s as if our Creator gives that to us humans to get us jump-started in marriage. Couples should know that when the euphoria wears off and they eventually settle into normality, the different feelings they experience do not indicate that they married the wrong person or are not “in love” anymore.
3. A man needs to know that living together and having sex before marriage uses up a good portion of the “honeymoon era” euphoria. It often causes the onset of reality to begin almost immediately after the wedding, depending on how long the couple had been living and sleeping together. Research shows that divorce and issues of mistrust are more common for those who cohabit before marriage than for those who do not. Cohabiting is not “good practice” for marriage.
4. A man needs to know that commitment is a key to success in all of life, and especially in a relationship with a woman. One way of defining commitment in marriage is never considering divorce. If you know that you won’t be leaving or divorcing, it forces you to face differences and problems and work through them.
In marriage it is the security of commitment that allows a woman to feel peace in the relationship. The assurance of a husband’s commitment helps a woman entrust herself to him emotionally and sexually.
5. A man needs to know that marriage is not easy. Marriage is not automatic, and it’s often difficult. The euphoria of romantic infatuation in the first years of marriage fades, requiring the mature resolve to behave lovingly and invest relationally to build a deeper bond than infatuation. Marriage will take intentional and continual effort.
6. A man needs to know that the purpose of marriage is less to make you happy, than to make you holy. Now it’s true that a good marriage to a good woman can make you happier than most anything else on earth. But if your goal is to be happy, then you will be focused on yourself, and you will damage your character and your relationships.
If you aim to be holy—like Jesus, not like a monk—you will invite God to change you. You will allow your marriage relationship to change you and crush your selfish will and defensive pride. You will experience true oneness in your marriage—you’ll be deepest friends, intimate allies, generous lovers, caring providers, complementary partners, spiritual enhancers. (Thanks to Gary Thomas for the idea)
7. A man needs to know that God gives authority and responsibility to a husband to make the marriage thrive and last. He is to steward and shepherd himself and his wife’s union. He is to be proactive at assisting God in healing her past wounds, creating oneness in their bond, and assuring her (and their children) of his love for her.
Women are natural responders when men initiate in love, prayer, and humility. Men must not be passive, arrogant, distracted, or controlling. A man will not point the finger at his wife’s behavior or shortcomings, but will examine his history as a husband and ask God to change him. His heart, his care, and his initiative is the key to his wife’s response and the health of the marriage.