The 7 (Sex) Habits: #3 Put First Things First 1

It’s time for habit number three in our series, The 7 (Sex) Habits of Highly Successful People.

Habit 3: Put first things first. Execute on most important priorities. To live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is okay. There’s no need to overextend yourself. All it takes is realizing that it’s all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities.

Habit 1 says, “You’re in charge. You’re the creator.” Being proactive is about choice. Habit 2 is the first, or mental, creation. Beginning with the End in Mind is about vision. Habit 3 is the second creation, the physical creation. This habit is where Habits 1 and 2 come together. It happens day in and day out, moment-by-moment. It deals with many of the questions addressed in the field of time management. But that’s not all it’s about. Habit 3 is about life management as well–your purpose, values, roles, and priorities. What are “first things?” First things are those things you, personally, find of most worth. If you put first things first, you are organizing and managing time and events according to the personal priorities you established in Habit 2.

In our post on Habit #2, “begin with the end in mind”, we walked through a process for creating Individual Sex Life Visions and then combining the individual visions from both spouses into a Marital Sex Life Vision. Habit #3 is about making that vision a reality. The purpose of a vision is to drive your behavior — your Marital Sex Life Vision is the guiding star that leads the decisions in your sex life. When you have a choice to make, you evaluate your options in the light of your vision and move in the direction that brings your vision closer to reality.

Assuming that your vision is in line with God’s will, you will also move closer to him as you pursue your vision. This passage from the Old Testament is an example of how badly things can go when your priorities aren’t right. The Israelites were focused on building their own wealth and neglected rebuilding God’s temple.

Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house [God’s temple] remains a ruin?”

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord.

Haggai 1:1-15

Even when your vision is lined up with God pursuing it can be easier said than done. For the purpose of this blog post we’re going to assume that you and your spouse were able to create a Marital Sex Life Vision that is in line with God’s Word and also satisfying and agreeable to you both. If that’s not the case, then you’ve got more work to do. This blog post doesn’t talk about how to negotiate your vision. Don’t skip creating your vision together — go back to the previous post if necessary. Creating your Marital Sex Life Vision is fun and rewarding.

But just because you and your spouse agree on your vision doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy to implement. Sometimes it may even seem like circumstances are conspiring against your sex life: kids, jobs, health, church, anxieties of life, friends, hobbies, electronics… the list is never-ending. When you have more things to do than you have time, that’s where prioritization comes in: putting first things first. We’ve written about How to Have Time and Energy for Great Sex, and some concepts from that post will be helpful here as we talk about Habit #3. As we wrote previously:

You can’t have everything, but you can have what you want most if you prioritize it.

Your time and energy are finite resources, and everyone around you will drain them dry if you let them. Your boss will let you work as many hours for free as you want. Your kids will spend two hours eating dinner and stay up until midnight if you let them. Your church will let you serve every day of the week. Your friends will let you help them with every project. People on the internet will argue with you 24/7. Netflix will create more shows than you can possibly consume.

No-one will stop you from exhausting yourself for their benefit — except your spouse, if you’re blessed. The only one who can protect your time and energy is you.

Here’s an exhortation: if you don’t have time and energy for a great sex life with your spouse, that’s because it isn’t as important to you as all the other things you spend your time and energy on.

Is that exhortation convicting to you? It convicted us when we wrote it!

Steven Covey created the Importance-Urgency Matrix to help people understand how they’re prioritizing, and we’ve found it to be an extremely valuable tool.

The 7 (Sex) Habits: #3 Put First Things First 2
Importance-Urgency Matrix

Everything we do falls into one of these four quadrants.

  • Quadrant 1, Necessity: Activities that are both important and urgent. These are emergencies that you need to handle right now. Most people have no problem prioritizing these things.
  • Quadrant 2, Effectiveness: Activities that are important, but not urgent — this generally includes your sex life, unless you’re super-horny right now. It also includes all kinds of long-term personal growth: learning, planning, relationship-building, serving. Quadrant 2 is what usually suffers when we mistakenly focus on…
  • Quadrant 3, Distraction: Activities that are urgent, but not important. It’s all-too-easy to get sucked into these. Distracting tasks are often important to someone else who has made them urgent for you, but they aren’t important to your life. Just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important! Say it out loud. This quadrant is tricky and deceptive. You can fill your entire day with distracting activities if you aren’t extremely diligent.
  • Quadrant 4, Waste: Activities that are neither urgent nor important. Some people can get trapped in these lazy, pointless activities, but most adults recognize this garbage. Checking your email every five minutes. Surfing Facebook. Worrying. Pouting. Substance abuse. It’s important to know that not all relaxation or hobbies are wasteful — the waste happens when these non-productive activities become excessive.

So where’s your sex life in this matrix? Your sex life should be in Quadrant 2 — it’s of critical importance, but hopefully not too urgent! Don’t sacrifice your sex life for junk that belongs in Quadrant 3 or 4.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.

Song of Songs 1:2-4

Identify the Quadrant 3 stuff in your life and stop doing it. This can be hard to do because many Quadrant 3 activities come from your commitments to other people. You may not be able to quit immediately because you gave your word, but you can immediately begin to unwind your commitments. Be warned: people will try to make you feel guilty — this is a trap! You don’t need to feel guilty for quitting unimportant activities.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

Proverbs 5:18-19

As for Quadrant 4 activities, you and your spouse will need to use discernment to determine if they’re excessive or not. Are Q4 activities preventing you from achieving your Marital Sex Life Vision? Facebook and television seem to be especially pernicious. You need to be ruthless in cutting back or eliminating Q4 activities until you have plenty of time and energy for Q2, including your sex life. Try finding some relaxing hobbies that you and your spouse can do together!

How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

Proverbs 6:9-11

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

Ephesians 5:15-17

Putting first things first in your sex life means that you say no to activities that aren’t important, and you say yes to activities that move you towards your Marital Sex Life Vision. Your vision should include elements like frequency of sex, how you will communicate, how often you’ll try something new, how you’ll feel before and after sex — all of these things take time and energy to pursue! Throw away the Q3 and Q4 activities that are weighing you down and preventing you from running the race with your spouse.

What are the things you plan to put first in your life so that you can make your Marital Sex Life Vision a reality? Share in the comments!

The 7 (Sex) Habits: #2 Begin With the End in Mind 3

Today we’re going to take a look at the second habit in our series, The 7 (Sex) Habits of Highly Successful People.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind is based on imagination — the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.

What do you want your sex life with your spouse to be like? Forget about fear, rejection, apathy, disappointment, busyness, and any other obstacles… if your sex life with your spouse were unbelievably amazing what would it look like? Be honest with yourself!

Maybe it’s difficult or painful to envision your “perfect sex life” because it seems so far from reality. We get emails from people all the time who are frustrated and disappointed with the sex in their marriage and are looking for help.

Or maybe your sex life is pretty good… but could it be even better? Do you have some unmet desire that you haven’t mustered the courage to share with your spouse yet? Or maybe you know that your spouse has given up on achieving her deepest desires because you’ve been holding back.

If either of these paragraphs describes your marital sex life, then this habit is for you! But before you can hit your target, you need to decide what you’re going to aim at.

So how do you pick a target? The rest of this post will describe a method for creating a Marital Sex Life Vision that will represent the target you and your spouse will aim for in your sex life. Here are a few Bible verses that talk about the value of setting goals, and remind us to rely on God’s purposes even while we plan.

But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.

Isaiah 32:8

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

2 Corinthians 5:9

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’”

Luke 14:28-30

(If your sex life — or marriage — are in a bad state right now, you might be tempted to think something like “I just wish he’d never touch me again” — if that’s you, then this exercise probably won’t be of much benefit right now. For the purpose of this post we’re going to assume that both spouses want to have an unbelievably amazing sex life together. Otherwise see: “When All Else Fails, Try Tears”.)

Each spouse should begin separately, by writing down the elements of his or her Individual Sex Life Vision. Below is a list of topics your vision might address. Think of these items from the perspective of, “if our sex life were unbelievably amazing….” Don’t worry about being realistic — aim high!

Feel free to use any format you want for your vision — as you know, we like making lists with bullet points! The post “How to Talk About Sex Before You Get Married” has more ideas you can include in your vision. Write as much as you can, and then spend a little time editing it down. You may decide that some elements aren’t important enough to include, or you may realize that you forgot something critical.

Now each spouse has an Individual Sex Life Vision! Great work. Each of you has something concrete to use when you’re talking about your sex life together. These Visions are fantastic personal tools that you can update over time as your desires and expectations change, and as you refine your thinking. They aren’t cast in stone, so feel free to revisit them periodically.

The next step is to share your Individual Sex Life Vision with your spouse. Take turns sharing your thoughts, and be careful not to interrupt or be dismissive. This is an intimate process, and your spouse is showing great vulnerability by sharing his or her vision. There’s no need to react while your spouse is sharing — just listen.

Now get a new piece of paper to begin documenting your Marital Sex Life Vision. After you’ve shared your individual visions, each element will fall into one of three categories.

  • Agreement. Yay! Your visions are aligned. Write these items down in your Marital Sex Life Vision and underline them.
  • Disagreement. It shouldn’t be surprising if your visions aren’t completely aligned, so don’t be discouraged. You didn’t marry a clone of yourself! Write down areas of disagreement by indicating the desires of both spouses in the Marital Sex Life Vision and put a star next to them. These are items to negotiate over later.
  • Unsure. There might be elements in one spouse’s vision that the other spouse just isn’t sure about. Write these down in the Marital Sex Life Vision with a question mark next to them along with initial of the spouse who is unsure. The initialed spouse “owns” this question mark.

Depending on how many stars and question marks you have on your Marital Sex Life Vision, you might want to take a break. You’ve already done a lot of work just getting to this point, so don’t feel compelled to finish this exercise all in one sitting. Each spouse might need to think about the areas of disagreement, and particularly any question marks that belong to him or her.

When you’re ready to continue, the first thing to do is deal with the question marks. Each question mark should be resolved by the spouse who owns it. If the owner now agrees with the vision element created by the other spouse, remove the question mark and underline the element. You’re done — it’s a new area of agreement. If the owner decides that he or she disagrees, then they should write down their vision for that element along with a star — you’ve got another area to negotiate.

Now it’s time for the negotiation, but the good news is that you’ve already done some of the hard work. The steps to a successful negotiation are:

  1. Know what you want. Done!
  2. Say what you want. Done!
  3. Compromise to reach an acceptable agreement.
  4. Be content to receive what you agreed to accept.

You did the first two steps when you wrote your Individual Sex Life Visions, so it’s time for step three. For each element of disagreement, you’re going to have to talk about your vision:

  • Are there any parts that are not essential?
  • What are you willing to give to get what you want? This can mean compromising on one vision element to gain more on another.
  • How can you bless your spouse by giving him or her something they want?

Remember: the point of negotiation isn’t to convince the other person that your desire is better! You don’t need to change your spouse’s mind in order to reach an acceptable agreement. In fact, negotiations often break down because both parties get so focused on changing the other’s mind that they get angry and frustrated.

For example, let’s say that Spouse A wants to have sex every day, and Spouse B wants to have sex once a week. It would be easy to argue about who is “right” and which is “better” for the marriage, but it’s unlikely that either spouse will genuinely be convinced. So just skip all that. Recognize that each spouse wants what they want, the desires are legitimate, and you don’t have to want the same thing. You’re trying to reach an acceptable agreement! If “about three times a week” is acceptable to both spouses, then they can agree to that without either spouse changing their individual vision.

Negotiation is tough, and sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to give up everything you want in order to avoid conflict. Similarly, it can be tempting to push your spouse to give up her vision in favor of your own. Being loving doesn’t mean being a push-over, and it doesn’t mean “winning” at the expense of your spouse. Give a little, get a little, and show Christlike love.

It may surprise you to learn that there are several passages in the Bible that talk about negotiation, and particularly the importance of honesty and fairness in the process.

Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making.

Proverbs 16:11

Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.”

Genesis 29:15

Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God accept you.” But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

2 Samuel 24:18-25

Hopefully you’re able to reach agreements that are acceptable to both of you on all your starred items. (If not, come back to them in a day or two and negotiate some more.) Write your agreements down on the Marital Sex Life Vision and erase the starred individual elements that led to the negotiation. These agreements are now part of your Marital Sex Life Vision, and it’s time for perhaps the hardest part of negotiation:

Be content to receive what you agreed to accept. The Marital Sex Life Vision isn’t permanent, but we suggest that you try living with it for a while before reopening any negotiations (at least six months). Update your Individual Sex Life Vision as often as you like, but do your honest best to live up to and accept the agreements that you made in your Marital Sex Life Vision. If you’re having trouble being content, recognize that the shared vision is probably very close to the best possible arrangement you can make with your spouse (as long as you were both acting in good-faith throughout the process).

Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

Proverbs 25:14

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Matthew 5:37

Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

Amos 3:3

You didn’t get exactly what you wanted, and neither did your idiot, short-sighted, unimaginative, selfish, lazy spouse. I’m kidding of course! You’ll never convince your spouse to want exactly what you want, nor vice versa. Now that the two of you have negotiated acceptable agreements and created a Marital Sex Life Vision, it’s time to move forward and make this vision a reality — which will be the topic of the next post in this series: Put First Things First.

Do you and your spouse have a shared vision for your sex life? Do you know the target you’re aiming at? Leave a comment and let us know.

The Three Women of Proverbs, Part 3: The Wife of Noble Character 4

Finally, the Wife of Noble Character, the “Proverbs 31 Woman”, the final part of our series on the women of Proverbs!

This is the goal! Wouldn’t we all like our husbands to be “singing our praises at the city gates”? Here are some main points I pulled out of the passages about the Wife of Noble Character.

  1. Intoxicate him with your love. Being in a state of intoxication implies that you have been drinking. If you want to intoxicate your spouse, keep drinking love! Make sex a habit. Commit to being intentional. Sex should be maximally pleasurable for both people in the marriage. Find new things to try with each other. Make an effort!
  2. Be prudent. The definition of prudence is: having or showing careful good judgment. If you do a Bible search for prudence, no surprises, the book of Proverbs tops the charts. Here is a summary of a few verses: “doing what is right and just and fair” (1:3), holding your tongue (10:19), “fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (12:16), “keep their knowledge to themselves” (12:23), “act with knowledge” (13:16), “give thought to their steps” (14:15). I’m surprised what I learn about myself when I really pay attention to my actions. I want to be more prudent.
  3. Bring your husband good. This implies that you are not doing him harm. Make sure you are giving him your best. Sometimes I notice that I am willing to give my full effort to my kids, projects at work, ministries at church, etc. but at the end of the day I have nothing left to invest in El Fury. Know when you are spreading yourself too thin so that you can preserve enough of yourself at the end of the day to pour into your most important relationship.
  4. Be industrious. Reading Proverbs 31 is daunting. This woman is busy! I can’t tell you what exactly to do with your time, but I can recommend to be efficient in your time. Your time is a finite resource. It is valuable. Consider how you want to spend your time and formulate systems in your life that enable you to spend it well. Use a calendar. El Fury and I share a calendar through Google and it has been incredibly helpful, especially as our kids have gotten older and have things of their own going on. Plan your time. If you plan how you are going to spend your time you are more likely to do it. This has helped me to organize my time so that when El Fury and the kids are home I am able to be present in my time with them. Get up early. I need to tell myself this, especially during the winter months. However, the days that we are disciplined and get up early are often the best days!
  5. Refrain from idleness. This is different from being industrious, but the two go hand-in-hand. When I looked up idleness, it says: not having any real purpose or value, not having much activity. Ask yourself, what is your purpose? What are your goals? Idleness will prevent you from fulfilling your purpose and achieving your goals. When I think of idleness I think about Stephen Covey’s Importance-Urgency Matrix (see: How to Have Time and Energy for Great Sex).  In summary, your time is spent four ways. Urgent and Important (emergencies, etc.), Important but Not Urgent (this is where you want to spend your time – relationships, etc.), Urgent but Not Important (often this is what other people impose on your time), Not Urgent and Not Important (the time wasters, the phone scrolling). If you analyze your time and much of it is spent in the Not Urgent and Not Important category, consider that some of that time might be in idleness. I’m not saying that all of the time in that category is bad or idle, sometimes you need some mindless activities. However if other areas of your life are lacking you might need to reallocate your time.
  6. Fear the Lord. People often confuse the word “fear” with respect, but that sells it short. God is to be feared and respected. I touched on this already in the Adulterous Woman post. Don’t be flippant in your attitude towards God. He is a loving, good God, but He is also that same God in Hebrews that says “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31)

Proverbs 5:18‭-‬19: “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.”

Proverbs 12:4: “A wife of noble character is her husbandʼs crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.”

Proverbs 18:22: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:14: “Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

Proverbs 31:10‭-‬31: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

Other parts of this series:

The Three Women of Proverbs, Part 2: The Nagging and Quarrelsome Wife 5

Continuing this series on the women of Proverbs, we come to the nagging and quarrelsome wife. These verses are convicting. Nothing needs to be said on exactly what you are doing when you are nagging or quarreling. You know. When you are this type of wife, it is better for your husband to “live on the corner of the roof” or “in a desert”. If that doesn’t inspire self-loathing I don’t know what will! It is intolerable to be around someone that nags you and wants to pick a fight with you. According to Proverbs you would be better off living in extreme conditions than sharing a home with such a person. This makes me think twice before picking a fight with El Fury. James refers to the tongue as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8) We would be wise to bridle it and think twice before nagging.

Proverbs 14:1 is very interesting. It doesn’t speak directly about nagging and quarreling, but I included it with those verses because I thought it related well. “The wise woman builds her house.” Remember how it was during those first years of marriage? I was so attentive to our home and to El Fury’s needs. I built my house with care. I looked after others more than myself. The second part of this verse should serve as a warning. “But with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” What happens? This sounds like self-sabotage. Does this wife stop being intentional, stop tending to her marriage with care? Does her speech become characterized by nagging and quarreling?

Of course nobody wants to be the one that is tearing their home down. The problem is that your home might already be falling apart before you are willing to identify the problem. You might not even see that it is falling down until you are standing in the midst of rubble. Now, I’m not saying that it is solely the responsibility of the wife to keep her home intact. It takes two people working together to make a home thrive.

How do we identify if we are becoming nagging and quarrelsome? Watch yourself. Pay attention to what you are saying. It’s so hard to accept that you might be contributing to the problem. I can look back over the years of my marriage and see how in my pride I wanted to point the finger only at my husband. Somehow I forget that my marriage is not about keeping score and proving I’m right. The goal is peace. The goal is sharing your life in a way that builds your home in a beautifully integrated way that makes it hard to tear down.

Sex is a good reset button. Don’t withhold sex from your spouse as a means to get them to do whatever you are nagging them about. That’s manipulative and wrong. Similarly, if you are quarreling, try to follow up by being intimate. I’m not saying to forget about your problems and just have sex. Fix your problems together. Then re-engage physically. I know if El Fury and I have had an argument, I often feel like things are back to normal after we’ve had sex again.

When I find myself being nagging or quarrelsome, I try to picture El Fury standing on the corner of the roof. I don’t like it when he has to go up on our roof for anything, so this is an especially good exercise for me. The point is, I love him. Whatever it is that I’m nagging about or picking a fight with him for, if I can re-approach it from a solution minded viewpoint then the communication can become about the problem instead of the person. It takes effort! Your marriage is worth the effort.

Proverbs 14:1: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

Proverbs 19:13: “A foolish child is a fatherʼs ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.”

Proverbs 21:9: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

Proverbs 21:19: “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”

Proverbs 25:24: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

Proverbs 27:15‭-‬16: “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.”

Other parts of this series:

The Three Women of Proverbs, Part 1: The Adulterous Woman 6

Proverbs is an amazing book, and I’ve made a habit of reading the chapter of the book that corresponds to the day of the month. There are three types of women that are highlighted in Proverbs: the adulterous woman, the quarrelsome wife, and the wife of noble character. This three-post series will examine each of these types, starting today with the Adulterous Woman.

Proverbs has a lot to say about the Adulterous Woman. She is dangerous — and no wonder. This type of woman has the capability to burn up everything you hold dear in your life. Your marriage, your family, even your career. Her house “leads down to death” and “none who go to her return or attain the paths of life”. This is a serious warning. How often have we seen this happen? How do we protect ourselves from this danger?

  1. “Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman.” Wisdom is a lifelong acquirement, so this is no easy suggestion. Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” This statement could fill up a book. God is powerful, sovereign, and holy. You should have a proper fear of God, and that fear should humble you. If you live your life through that lens a lot of things will orient in a good way, including your marriage. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Fear God, pray for wisdom, and read God’s Word which is full of wisdom.
  2. Guard your marriage. This could also be another book. Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life, and it is worth guarding. Guard your time together, guard your speech to one another and about one another. Be truthful to each other and identify problems as they arise. Do not slander one another to your friends and do not make friends with people that will entice you to engage in that sort of conversation. Trust your spouse and assume they want the best for you. People don’t typically set out to intentionally commit adultery. But if you aren’t diligently tending to your marriage you might unknowingly be taking small steps towards that path.
  3. Make sex a priority. You need this. Intimate contact creates physical and emotional bonding. The more satisfied you both are in your sex life the less likely you will be to look for satisfaction outside of your marriage.

Proverbs 2:16‭-‬19: “Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.  Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.  None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.”

Proverbs 5:3‭-‬6: “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil;  but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.  She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”

Proverbs 6:24‭-‬29: “Keeping you from your neighborʼs wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.  Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.  For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another manʼs wife preys on your very life.  Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?  Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?  So is he who sleeps with another manʼs wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.”

Proverbs 7:10‭-‬12: “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.  (She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home;  now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.)”

Proverbs 7:26‭-‬27: “Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng.  Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”

Proverbs 23:27‭-‬28: “For an adulterous woman is a deep pit, and a wayward wife is a narrow well.  Like a bandit she lies in wait and multiplies the unfaithful among men.”

Other parts of this series:

What Is Lust? 7

We get emails pretty frequently asking, “what is lust?” I’d been working on a post on the topic for a while, but decided to quit when I read this excellent analysis of lust by Jason Staples. He begins with a passage that is likely familiar to most Christians, and goes from there to explain what kind of behavior is normal, and what’s sinful.

(I headlined this post with a picture of Gollum because his behavior epitomizes covetousness: he not only craves the One Ring, he kills and destroys to obtain it.)

Matthew 5:27–28: Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· οὐ μοιχεύσεις. ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ.

“You heard it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman/wife in order to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Many churches (especially within Evangelical circles), emphasize this verse to men and (especially) adolescent boys, warning that if they so much as think of a woman in a sexual manner, they’ve already sinned, that they’ve already effectively done the deed with her. Such an interpretation often works hand-in-glove with the common idea that Jesus “intensified” the Law in the Sermon on the Mount, setting a higher standard in order to show that no person could actually live up to God’s standards, showing that a person could only be saved by recognizing the impossibility of righteousness and then receiving forgiveness (a complete misinterpretation of the Sermon on the Mount I will address at another time). So the common teaching is: lust (that is, sexual lust) is absolutely evil—equivalent, even, to the physical act of sexual sin.

Another key aspect of nearly all the common misinterpretations of this verse is a specific (mistaken) definition of the word “lust.” Specifically, many readers understand “lust” as specifically denoting misplaced or overly robust libido. For example, as one recent conversation partner explained to me, “I take lust to mean wanting something more than you should in an unhealthy way.”

Despite its popularity, this interpretation is imprecise, even flat wrong, and leads to surprisingly harmful consequences, making this verse a great candidate to start this series.

The 7 (Sex) Habits: #1 Be Proactive 8

(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.

The 7 (Sex) Habits: #1 Be Proactive 9

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!

The 7 (Sex) Habits: #1 Be Proactive 10

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.

The 7 (Sex) Habits: Series Introduction 11

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.

Sleep and Sex Are Better Than Wealth 12

Proverbs 15:16 says: “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.”

Psalm 127:2 says: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Proverbs 5:18-19 says: “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.”

Maybe the Bible is on to something! Scientists have recently discovered that sleep and sex make you happier than wealth!

The new happiness index, developed by Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research, and commissioned by Sainsbury’s, has found that sex and sleep are the two things that have the strongest association with a person’s happiness and wellbeing – well above money. Researchers found that while upping your income (even if you quadruple it) causes very little increase to your happiness, being well-rested and well-sexed have a significant impact on how joyful you feel. The study involved polling 8,250 Britons, finding that the average person has a Living Well score of 62.2.

Those who get the most sleep were found the score 15 points higher on the index than those who struggle with sleep, while people who are deeply dissatisfied with their sex lives scored seven points lower than those who said they’re very satisfied. To be clear – very satisfied doesn’t mean these people are having loads of sex. It just means they’re very happy with the quality and frequency of the sex they’re having. Increasing your household income from £12,500 to £50,000, meanwhile, results in an increase of only two points.

So quit working late, leave the chores for later, and go to bed with your spouse!

Respect 13

Some of the best marriage advice I ever heard was this: “no one will respect your spouse more than you do”. You set the tone for how your friends, family, co-workers see your spouse. Let me ask, how are you doing? I am part of a woman’s group at our church and it’s amazing how fast a simple complaint about a husband can snowball. Everyone has a story to share or a frustration that can be topped. While most of the time it’s playful, I don’t always find it to be honoring to our husbands. I am sure the same thing can occur in men’s groups. We should lovingly guard our spouse’s reputation. Here are a few ideas how:

  • When you are talking about your spouse, try to speak about them in ways that it wouldn’t matter if they overheard what you were saying.
  • Say good things! If you talk about your spouse in a positive way, it’s likely to make you feel more loving towards them. A session of complaining about your spouse will often make you have a negative attitude towards them. Think about how you want your spouse to talk about and treat you, then try to emulate that.
  • Tame your tongue. The writer of James was right in James 3:8 “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison”. Before you speak, think.
  • Be careful about who you talk about your spouse to when you have a problem. If your mom doesn’t particularly like your husband, definitely don’t share any marital problems with her.
  • When you are in a group that the conversation heads towards talking about spouse’s in a bad way, redirect. Try to have topics on hand that you can switch to.
  • 1st Corinthians 16:14 Do everything in love.