(Here’s a link to the series introduction — a good place to start!)

Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance, and they blame the weather.

And you can’t keep blaming your spouse, either!

Stephen Covey describes three Circles that can be used to understand and evaluate our circumstances:

  • Circle of Concern: Everything you care about, everything that impacts your life.
  • Circle of Influence: The subset of your Circle of Concern that you can affect with your decisions.
  • Circle of Control: The subset of your Circle of Influence that you can directly control.

Here’s a diagram, for you visual thinkers.

When we’re reactive, we spend all our time and energy worrying about things we can’t control or even influence. When we’re proactive, we spend our time and influence on the inner circles, the things we can control (in our own life and body) and the things we can influence in our immediate community and family.

As an exercise with your spouse, it can be helpful to categorize your concerns using these circles. First, list everything you care about. Second, underline the concerns that you can influence. Third, put a star next to the things you can control. (Once you have your list, you can draw the three circles if you want!) Discussion questions: Do your lists match? What items are you spending the most time and energy on?

Here’s what Jesus says about our Circle of Concern:

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God is all-powerful, so nothing is out of his control! As believers, we can trust God with our Circle of Concern and have his peace, relying on his power and goodness to handle everything that concerns us.

God’s power isn’t just for our Circle of Concern, but for everything in our lives. Proverbs 3 is full of advice, guidance, and commands for making good decisions — it’s hard to pull out a few verses to quote, but these are some of my favorites:

Proverbs 3:3-6

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Action words for the proactive Christian: bind, write, trust, lean, acknowledge — along with promises of what God is proactively doing for you. God is active — he is always at work around us — and since we’re made in his image he expects us to be active also.

Here’s another passage from Proverbs about being proactive.

Proverbs 6:6-11

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
    officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
    and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
    When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.

The ant doesn’t need anyone to tell her what to do, and she doesn’t sit around waiting, pouting, or complaining about the seasons. The ant works within her Circle of Influence to gather what she needs when the circumstances are favorable.

It would be easy to go on and on — God’s commands in the Bible are always proactive. Even when you’re in a season of waiting, you are commanded to be in prayer, service, and study.

So then, what does it mean to be proactive in our sex life with our spouse? Here are some examples that might resonate with you.

Reactive thinking says:

  • I don’t know if I want to have sex, let’s see how I feel at the end of our date
  • It’s not my fault, I can’t help how I feel
  • Our sex life is disappointing because of our jobs/kids/health
  • Why doesn’t he know what I want?
  • Why doesn’t she initiate sex?
  • After my day at work / with the kids, I just can’t do it
  • If he would ABC, then maybe I would XYZ

Proactive thinking says:

You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose how you act in response. You can take responsibility for yourself. You can’t control your spouse, but by being proactive you can influence your spouse through service and communication. As you focus on what you can control and influence, your Circle of Influence will grow!

Being Proactive is a big idea, so maybe you’d like an actionable tip for where to start. Take a look at this post about The Five Love Languages and Sex and find your spouse’s primary love language, then do something for them that speaks to it. Afterwards, remind your spouse of your primary love language and point them at that post and this one. Rinse (if necessary) and repeat!

If this habit has made an impact in your life and marriage, leave a comment to tell us about it.

This post is an introduction to a new series based on “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen R. Covey. The ideas in “7 Habits” have been applied in many different contexts, and I think there are lessons that can be applied in our sex lives with our spouses. As always, our thoughts will be guided by Biblical truth, and I think you’ll see that the 7 Habits work very well in the context of a Christian marriage.

As I write the posts, I’ll add links to this list of the 7 Habits.

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

If you’ve never been exposed to the 7 Habits before you may be thinking that they’re a bunch of modern pseudo-psychological gobbledygook, but that’s not true. The posts in this series will include specific, concrete behaviors that you and your spouse can use to improve your sex life. We’ve written before about the power of habits to create real and persistent change in your life, and even though the Bible doesn’t use the word “habit” there are many passages that command us to build positive patterns of behavior. Here are a few examples:

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Proverbs 3:1-2 “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

1 Corinthians 11:1-2 “Be imitators of me [Paul], as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”

Proverbs 4:20-27:

My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.

This series will look at each of the 7 Habits and discuss how to apply them in a Biblical manner to improve your sex life with your spouse.

I will conclude this introduction by mentioning a key tenet that is woven throughout the 7 Habits: the abundance mentality. The basic idea is that in most circumstances there is enough of everything for both spouses to get what they need from the marriage. Unless you each want exactly different things, there’s a way for both of you to be satisfied. Habit 4 (“think win-win”) builds directly on this concept, but the mindset is of broad applicability. The abundance mentality stands in contrast to the scarcity mentality — the belief that there isn’t enough for both of us. The abundance mentality isn’t magical thinking, and isn’t about actually having more. The abundance mentality is about acting on the expectation that the resources you have (e.g., time, money, attention, energy) can be used in a way that pleases you both.

The scarcity mindset says:

  • There isn’t enough for everyone, so I’d better get my share now
  • If I don’t get my way now, I never will
  • Only one of us can win this argument (and it’s going to be me)
  • I give her what she wants, but she never gives me what I want
  • How can I get more?

The abundance mindset says:

  • There’s plenty for both of us
  • When she wins, it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost
  • I can give away my time/energy/prestige/power/recognition now because there will be plenty more later
  • We can reach a decision that lets us both win
  • How can I give more?

As Christians, we have more assurance of abundance than anyone else in the world! The abundance of God is obviously not mere worldly possessions, but the fullness of a life built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

John 10:10 “[Jesus said] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Luke 6:37-38 “[Jesus said] Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Matthew 6:33-34 “[Jesus said] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [worldly needs] will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

I challenge you to begin thinking about your marriage and your sex life with an abundance mindset! Your sex life is not a competition over who gets what they want. You both have needs in your marriage, and there is plenty of sex, time, energy, and love to satisfy you both. Pray that God would show you his abundance in your marriage.