Today’s post is written by me (Josh), your friendly neighborhood Thriving Marriages editor. If you’d like to know more about me, well you’re about to in this post. But you can also check out a book I wrote here, or my website here.
“You’re a different person than you were three years ago,” my wife said recently, and since I’m only kind of a different person I semi-sarcastically responded “yeah, good thing you’re not married to that monster anymore.”
Here’s the deal, I don’t like admitting my wife is right (who does?!?), because that means admitting I wasn’t in a good place three years ago, but as usual, she’s totally right. We’re seven years in to marriage and we have never been better, in large part because I’ve never been healthier mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than I am right now. A wise friend of mine (and Friend of the Newsletter) once said “the person you’ll be in five years is based on the habits you form and the commitments you keep.” So in view of that here are three commitments I’ve made in my marriage that have transformed me into something resembling a good husband.
I committed to therapy
We’ve talked about this a lot here at Thriving Marriages, but a healthy, highly educated therapist is a gift from God. I’ve had the benefit of four of them over the past decade, and I am better for it. Like so many people sadly have been, I was sexually abused as a child. The shrapnel of that explosive moment ripped holes in the fabric of my emotional world, and while therapy has most certainly not been a quick-fix solution, it has given me a new way of understanding what happened, how I should feel about it, and how I can live in progressive amounts of freedom now. That freedom is so real that I literally just now realized a joke I was about to make of how I’m still intimacy-phobic isn’t really true. I’m not (which is too bad. I got a lot of miles out of that intimacy-phobic bit). That’s the first time I’ve realized that. It feels good, guys.
I committed to purity
I grew up in a Southern Baptist culture that sledgehammered sexual purity into my pubescent brain so frequently I developed a pretty strong shame complex about lustful feelings and behaviors. Because of that I am quick to tell people that God’s grace is with them in the fight against pornography and sexual addiction. My generation is the first to grow up with the internet, and we have been fighting a war we were decimated by as children through not fault of our own. If you are someone struggling with a porn addiction, man or woman, there’s grace in the journey. You are loved, right where you’re at.
That being said …
Over the past year I have experienced more freedom from pornography and masturbation than ever. While the old habits, wounds, and temptations still lurk in the shadows, they don’t come out near as often as they used to. This is due to 1) the therapy I already mentioned healing the wounds that drove me to self-medicate through porn, and 2) me finally getting serious about inviting my wife into my struggle. After years of resistance (due to the aforementioned shame), I set up an accountability software program that alerts my wife whenever I visit a sketchy site (which, in this program, also means anytime I’m working on a sex-related Thriving Marriages post).
I cannot believe how this has changed my marital sex life. Because I’m not injecting images of naked female bodies that are literally impossibly perfect into my imagination, I’m rewiring my sex drive to be turned on by one thing: my wife. Porn trains the human brain to receive gratification without intimacy, which makes intimacy in the bedroom difficult. Removing that from my life has created a sex life with my wife that is better than I could have imagined.
Let me say that again, my sexual satisfaction is SO. MUCH. HIGHER.
I committed to a diet
Okay, this one is only kind of true. Generally I am in … not the best shape of my life. I work part time at an Italian restaurant where I get free food guys. I’m trying! But there is one food-related commitment I’ve made and, no joke, it has made a night-and-day difference in our marriage: I cut out dairy.
It took me a long time (like, 20 or so years) to figure it out, but dairy fuels my anxiety in a very specific way: it makes me irrationally irritable, and I’m using the word “irritable” in the way you might say Bruce Banner gets “irritated” when he turns into the Hulk. I’m not telling you to stop drinking milk, but I am saying that I know dozens of people who have realized when they consume certain foods it has an enormous impact on their mood.
For literally the first time in my marriage, I don’t feel like there’s a rage monster inside me just waiting to go off. The amount of energy I spent trying to repress that inner Hulk was exhausting, and I DO NOT MISS HIM. Neither does my wife.
I committed to my wife’s spiritual health
A few months back I told Christina that 8-8:30 every morning was her dedicated time to spend with God. I would be ready before then to hang out with the kids, and she could duck into the bedroom and pray/read her Bible/perform miracles/whatever it is she does in there. I wouldn’t know, because no one goes in the bedroom during that time.
The first thing I noticed from this is my wife was happier, less stressed, and more optimistic. Like, not all the time, but way more than she was. The second thing I noticed is that I was way happier, less stressed, and more optimistic. Weird how that works. The third thing I noticed was that her commitment to a devotional time spurred me to do the same.
It turns out, when we’re both centered in God’s love, we have more love for each other. Who knew?
Now I commit to ending this article.
But before I do, I’ll say this: not all these commitments will apply to you, but what I am praying today is they’ve inspired you to make your own commitments. The marriage you’ll have in 5 years is based on the habits you form and commitments you keep. So get after it!