, , , , , , , ,

Mars, Venus, and Pillow Talk

Several years ago I was asked to speak at a large men’s conference. Besides speaking from the main stage I was scheduled to give two breakout sessions. One of the breakout sessions was on the topic of my book, Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half. Upon arriving at the venue I discovered from the participant guide that the event producers had advertised this workshop as “How to get more sex in your marriage.” Needless to say, about 580 out of the 600 men in attendance showed up at the workshop. The twenty who didn’t come were the teenage boys who were forced (somewhat reluctantly) to attend the workshop on sexual purity.
Rather than discussing just the act of sex, though, I talked mostly about a woman’s needs and how best to fulfill them. I told them that understanding a woman’s need for romance would be a key factor in having an enjoyable sex life – that women are physically stimulated through romance because it meets their need to feel cherished and loved. To be romanced is to feel special and valuable. To be romanced is to be pursued. Nearly all women derive some self-esteem or sense of worth from knowing a man wants and desires her. It makes her feel loved and attractive. When her need for non-sexual affection is met she is more able to respond with physical affection.
I explained that many women are unable to separate sex from the context of their daily lives and relationships. It seemed strange to some of them that if they’d recently been arguing with their spouse or the kids were sick, they weren’t likely find their wives in the mood for sex. While men use sex to heal the problems of life, women are just the opposite. In fact many women report that if the house is messy or the dishes dirty, they are unable to relax and concentrate on having sexual relations.
I let the men know their wives need to hear them speak words such as “I love you” and “You’re beautiful” daily. When a woman hears confirmation that her man loves her and finds her beautiful, she is more likely to be sexually responsive. She needs to hear these things frequently. Most women are insecure about their appearance. They mentally magnify any imperfections or flaws they perceive in their physical appearance. I use the word perceive because what a woman perceives and what others see can be two different things. It’s a great mystery that even the world’s most beautiful women can think they are ugly or can have features they are insecure about. These negative whispers in her ear are strategies by the evil one to strike her where it hurts most and she is most vulnerable.
As I discussed the need to actually “talk” to their wives, I could see an almost pained expression come over the faces of the men. I reassured them by letting them know that sometimes it was equally important to just listen to a woman without trying to solve her problems.
Frankly, the men were pretty stoic during the presentation. I hadn’t presented this workshop before so I didn’t know what to expect. But surprisingly, many came to me afterwards, some with tears in their eyes, and expressed genuine thanks for the epiphanies they had received regarding their wives’ needs. I have since received a half-dozen emails from men at the conference commenting on how much, according to their wives, the information I shared has already improved their marriages.
I believe the average guy is sincerely confused about his wife’s needs and how to fulfill them. Women are pretty complex creatures to most men. Every man I know wants to make his wife happy, and most guys would be willing to do whatever it takes – provided they knew what to do. Rather than advice from a Lothario’s perspective (which is what most secular books in our culture promote), we need to teach men (young and old) practical, common sense advice on how to fulfill their wives’ deepest needs – to create harmony, joy, and contentment in the lives of their spouses.

And if they happen to get a more fulfilling sex life because of it – well, so be it!

To find out more about Rick’s books or speaking schedule go to:  www.betterdads.net 

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does Niceness Destroy Courage in Males?

Our culture currently promotes being “nice” as the highest virtue a boy or man can achieve. After all, like the bumper stickers say, “Mean people suck.” It is easier to drift along with the current of the culture than to try and swim against it. All the newer “guy” movies inspire males to be lovable, “nice,” slackers, with no aim in life but to smoke pot, bed women, and get by without working as much as possible. But they are very “nice” so it’s okay. And young women today seem drawn to soft, passive, quiet men who do not ruffle feathers and who do what they are told. It’s a nonthreatening, but uninspired vision of manhood.

While on the surface this may seem like a grand virtue, niceness may not serve your son’s best interests in the long run. Teach your son that being “nice” isn’t the highest aspiration a man can live up to (mom—I know this goes against your nature but bear with me). In fact, sometimes, I think niceness is the enemy of courage. Many times in life a man, husband, or father is forced to make decisions in the best interest of his family or society that do not appear to be “nice” on the outside. I’ve been forced as a father to make decisions that my children perceived at the time as heartless, mean-spirited, or just plain stupid. But they were always in their best interest in the long run. If my goal had only been to be nice (or to have been liked), I would have not been able to make the hard decisions that were important to their long-term healthy growth and development. Niceness and meanness are feminine concepts. You seldom see men complaining that another man is mean or not nice. On the outside that desire for niceness in males would appear to be a noble goal. However, it’s really a way of neutering masculinity. Being “nice” takes away the power of a man to lead. It removes passion, conviction, and courage from a man’s soul. Nice guys might not always finish last, but they seldom run the race at all. I recently sat next to two men–one older and one younger than me—who are both very “nice” guys. We were having a discussion about a recent upheaval at our church. The older man made the comment, “I really don’t want to know the details behind what is happening because then I will be forced to make a judgment.” The young man agreed and said he would rather not have to face the problems because then he would be forced to choose a side. I was shocked and not a little disgusted in their responses. They’d rather stick their heads in the sand than have to take a stand and be perceived as being judgmental. They lacked the courage to stand up for what they believe in. When did judging the value of anything become such a sin in our culture anyway? Anything except whether a person is nice or mean, I guess. You cannot be a leader and not have at least some people get mad at you. In fact you cannot accomplish anything in life without having someone get upset at you. That’s part of the problem with today’s politicians (besides the media) is that they try to make everyone happy. They water down their message and policies until they are so inoffensive that they end up accomplishing nothing. By its very nature, leadership will offend or upset a certain percentage of individuals. If your son grows up to care too much about what others think of him or whether he inadvertently upsets someone, he will never accomplish anything significant with his life, including raising exceptional children. It’s not that being nice is bad. Men should be nice, polite, compassionate, empathetic, and understanding as often as possible. But when men are only nice, they live shallow, frustrating, and unfulfilling lives—as do those around them. To accomplish anything of significance in life requires us to offend at least some people. Men who are only nice are not willing to offend anyone—they never take a stand. A man can have many attributes that can make him successful in life. But if “niceness” is the most dominant character trait he has, he is probably not someone who can be depended upon to be a strong leader. I know several very nice young men who are struggling with issues like lust, faith, relationships, careers, and a variety of other issues. We talk about them and I give them some strategies and new perspectives on how to deal with these issues, but the truth is that all men deal with these struggles. I think at some point it becomes a matter of courage (or lack thereof). Are you struggling with lust? Well welcome to the club—all men struggle with lust. Don’t mope around about it. Get some stones and deal with it. Good men struggle with sin and vice just as much as bad men—they just have the courage to deal with it in a productive manner. Don’t sit around analyzing it to death. Lack of courage causes us to become paralyzed and not take action in order to solve problems. I tell these young men to stiffen their spine. There are three billion men on the planet and almost all of them deal with the same issues, especially lust. Some deal with it productively because they love their wives and children; others deal with it by engaging in prostitution, viewing pornography, or having affairs. Which kind of man do you want your son to be? This is an excerpt from Rick’s book A Man in the Making. You can find out more at www.betterdads.net

, , , , , ,

Can Marriage Today Still Last a Lifetime?

Marriage today seems less binding than a cell phone contract. The average first marriage in this country lasts seven years. The average second marriage lasts five. As if the challenges of a first marriage weren’t tough enough, anyone who has been in a blended family will tell you about the myriad of additional trials this scenario presents; two sets of kids, two separate histories, two completely different life philosophies, parenting styles, and sets of baggage. And when two sets of careers and monies are mixed in along with the obligatory pre-nuptial agreements, it’s almost like admitting that the marriage is doomed to fail anyway.

Because of the legacy they’ve observed from their parent’s generation, most young people today are fairly pessimistic about the chances of a marriage lasting a life time. When you talk to them about marriage you can see that they yearn for the kind of intimacy possible only through a long lasting relationship, but they have little hope of having one themselves. Couples may spend hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars on the actual wedding day, but no energy, resources, or forethought whatsoever toward the marriage that follows.

Many people quickly discover that being married and staying in love are just plain hard work—too hard. Combine that intense struggle with our society’s instant gratification mantra, the court’s “no fault” divorce laws, and a cultural legacy of relative truth, and you have a recipe for divorce. Our Western culture does not like to suffer and so we shy away from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. When marriage is tough, many people just think its broken and go look for another mate who won’t be so much work. Unfortunately, the problem is generally with us and so follows us from relationship to relationship.

Ideally, a Christian marriage begins with both parties committed to loving God and each other. But later, after the “buzz” of love begins to fizzle, communication tails off, and spouses can start taking each other for granted; losing empathy, respect, and love for one another. Life is tough and instead of working as a team they begin fighting with each other in an attempt to get their individual needs met. We scream at and accuse our mates and then expect them to want to satisfy our needs. Each spouse soon loses the desire to meet the others’ needs and each loses sight of the fact that love is an action not an emotion. That is why the very action of meeting the other’s needs (acting loving) can lead to feeling the emotion of love. Without that action it is natural to slide into a state of need and self-indulgent gratification.

Marriage can still last a lifetime. My wife and I recently celebrated our 30th anniversary together. We could have gotten very good odds against our marriage succeeding—no one thought we would last. One of the things we’ve found has helped our marriage immensely is every evening we try to sit down and pray together before reading a portion of a book. Generally I read out loud to her while she knits or does some other repetitive task. Other times she reads aloud while I am fixing something that doesn’t require much concentration. This activity has allowed us to grow together and it helps us spend quality time together each day. It also creates great intimacy between us and prompts us to have quality discussions about important topics that we might never have talked about. However, this takes a significant amount of effort and commitment on the part of both spouses. It is very easy to take a day off and then never get back into it again. But I have noticed that when we as a couple are consistently praying and reading together, our relationship and marriage are at peak performance.

Your marriage relationship is a living, dynamic entity. It needs continuous nurturing, refining, changing, and fine tuning. Those that take it for granted and do not work at it are doomed to fail.

Gleaned from Rick’s book, Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half, by Revell Publishing, 2010. To find out more about our resources please go to www.betterdads.net.