Today’s guest author is Gary Thomas. He is a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others. He unites the study of Scripture, church history, and the Christian classics to foster spiritual growth and deeper relationships within the Christian community. Check out his Blog here.
Just two hours a week.
That’s all it takes to affair-proof and divorce-proof your marriage.
After years of reading, writing, and speaking on marriage, and a few less years doing some pastoral counseling, I’ve identified two things that, when they are in place, can almost guarantee that your spouse won’t have an affair and that you won’t get a divorce. But you need to do both.
I didn’t come up with these; I’m just recognizing them. You’ve heard of both of them, there’s nothing new here, but consider these two elements as the “canary in the mine.” You remember that old mines used to hold a canary in a cage in case poisonous gas began to leak into the mine. With such tiny lungs, the canary would die first, so the miners knew to get out of there. If your marriage has both elements that we’re about to mention, the “air” in your mine is relatively fresh and healthy and your marriage is probably fairly stable. If one or both of them die, the air is getting poisoned, and you need to take caution. Your marriage is now much more vulnerable to disintegration.
The first element is prayer. Couples who pray together more days than not—say, 4 or 5 days out of seven—almost never get divorced. Much has been said about how Christians get divorced as often as non-Christians, but that’s not true of praying Christians. Husbands, most of us men have no idea how the rest of marriage will flow from this if we will simply take the lead and pray with and over our wives. I have not been nearly as faithful as I should have been in my marriage in this area, and am regularly convicted that this should be a non-negotiable, because I’ve seen its power in the lives of so many couples. The prayer times don’t need to be long—even five minutes at the beginning or the end of the day will suffice. It is very difficult to stay bitter and resentful or dishonest when praying together regularly. This act all but forces you to maintain a certain level of intimacy, and men, it moves most women in ways we will never understand.
Second, couples who have sexual relations two to three times a week, and who pray together regularly, almost never experience affairs. Wives, many of you have heard me talk about oxytocin and sex—Helen Fisher, the guru of neurochemical sexual research, has recently pointed out how the bonding factor of sexuality is more pronounced in men than it is in women. That’s why some of you women may not understand the power of regular sexual relations, just as your husband may not understand the power of prayer. You already have elevated levels of oxytocin, but your husband needs that re-bonding release of oxytocin on a regular basis. For young husbands, 2 to 3 days a week might seem Spartan—I’m giving general, not particular, advice here.
The reason these two areas work as “canaries in the mine” is that sustaining regular prayer and regular sexual intimacy requires taking care of the marriage in its entirety. If we’re not talking to our wives, men, they don’t find it very easy to take off their clothes in our presence. But you know that. And it becomes increasingly difficult to pray with someone if we’re even thinking about cheating on them. There’s just something about being in God’s presence with someone that goes far beyond words—God gives you His heart for that person in a way that can’t be naturally explained.
If either element is lacking (I’m not talking about marriages where a physical ailment makes sexual intimacy impossible), the marriage is taking a regular hit and you’re far more vulnerable to an affair or a divorce. Too many couples over-estimate their willingness to put up with sub-par marriages. They “get by,” slowly becoming spiritually or sexually isolated from each other, not realizing that temptation is patient. It will wait until we’ve reached our breaking point and present itself with a spectacularly captivating enticement just when we feel weakest. Spiritual intimacy and sexual intimacy, enjoyed on a regular basis, makes both parties much less susceptible to an overwhelming temptation.
I have yet to meet or talk with a couple where both of these elements are present that is in serious trouble. If one area is lacking the mere act of making it right—having to talk things out, listen, repent, change—repairs other areas of the marriage as well. Why can’t you pray together? Why don’t you want to enjoy each other? Those very questions lead to so many other issues. In the same way, however, neglecting either area is tantamount to ignoring other relational cancers that are slowly attacking the relationship.
For various reasons, you may not like either medicine, but when you know a medicine is so effective that its cure rate is virtually 100%, or at least in the high nineties, who are we to argue? Maybe, just maybe, God designed married couples to regularly pray and regularly have sex. As the creator of our souls and our bodies, He just might know what he’s talking about.