Welcome to another monthly Q&A with my husband, Robert. He’s worked with Dear Mushka for a number of years now. You’ll also find him on @yourennegramcoach. To watch the Instagram highlight for this month's Q&A, click here!
Q: How can singles prepare for marriage?
A: If you feel that the Lord has called you for marriage, first get your spiritual house in order. Marriage isn’t going to fix your sins. In fact, it acts like a magnifying glass! Use your singlehood to work with the Lord on any issues, childhood trauma or sin.
God needs to be your priority, even in marriage. If you’ve made marriage an idol, you’ll put an unfair burden on your spouse.
Also, read a book or two about marriage. This helps us rehearse God’s plan for marriage. It’s not to find your soul mate or happiness. To really understand the purpose and plan behind marriage, I suggest books like The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, and Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel by Ray Ortlund.
Q: Any advice for an engagement period?
A: The purpose of the engagement time should be to plan for a marriage, not a wedding day. Go to counselling and spend this time preparing yourself to hold to your vows.
Q: Any advice for the first year of marriage?
A: Set good boundaries regarding work, family, hobbies, and friends. The Word is clear: you need to leave and cleave to your spouse. Your relationship with them should have priority.
I’d also say it’s never too early to go to counselling. Even maintenance counselling is excellent just to talk through issues with a mediator present.
Start early keeping your husband or wife’s name “safe” on your tongue. Speak only positively about your spouse. Respect your partner and let others see that. Remember, we shouldn’t be an expert in our partner’s sins, but rather an expert in their strengths, their God-given glory and their most honourable traits.
Q: Do we spend time together in prayer and Bible study?
A: We pray together daily, but it isn’t scheduled or structured. We’re quick to grab one another's hands to pray spontaneously in different situations. But we study the Bible in different ways, and we’re interested by different readings.
I used to really want to study the Bible together. I probably nagged Robert to join me in a scheduled devotion/prayer time, but it was too forced. Ultimately I learned that we don’t necessarily have to do these things together. What’s important is that Christ is exalted in our marriage and our home. Our goal is to “Glorify the Lord with me, let’s exalt his name together.”
We don’t have to be opening our Bible together at the same time. We’d still like to work towards a family devotion time, but not necessarily a scheduled one between the two of us.
Q: Are we always on the same page about big life decisions like parenting, business and home?
A: Almost never! Robert is very black and white while I’m very grey! We do a lot of talking. I remind him that there are other perspectives to consider. He reminds me that we should be definite about certain things.
There are two main views on Christian marriage. Egalitarianism is the belief that men and women maintain interchangeable roles in the family and the church.
Complementarianism is more traditional. It says that men and women are equal in value but there are distinct roles. Men follow Christ as the head of the Church.
We’d call ourself soft complementarians. It’s okay for me to disagree, talk issues out and we work together. But ultimately, Robert is the “head” of our family. I trust him!
So as a summary, we often absolutely disagree on how to parent, spend money, or run our business. We’ve found it helpful to have areas that one of us is generally in charge of. For example, parenting is largely my area of expertise.
We can and do talk about issues. If we can’t agree, the final decision lands on Robert. And honestly, it’s a lot of weight to carry. I’m glad he carries it and not me!
Q: Theology book recommendations?
A: Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Horger Alsup. It’s a really short basic book that makes big elaborate concepts easy to understand.
Robert suggests Jen Wilkin’s books. His favorite is None Like Him. I’ve read and love all her books. She’s so sharp and clear! She also has great Bible studies.
Robert also recommends John Stott, J. I. Packer and A. W. Tozer. Mere Christianity by CS Lewis is an excellent but challenging read.
Q: What does discipling men look like for you, Robert?
A: For some reason, men aren’t as comfortable as women signing up for discipling groups. Our pride becomes involved and it’s hard for us to admit we don’t know how to do things.
Discipling tends to be relational for men. For me, that’s meant meeting with a group of guys for coffee or breakfast on a weekly basis to build trust and relationships. In that environment, men feel comfortable to ask questions.
I’m also a groups leader coach and I try to help men get to know each other on a deeper level. We need to be ready to ask deeper or better questions. Don’t focus on work all the time. I like to ask questions like, “How’s your wife?” or “Are you being a better father or worker or husband?”
Also setting aside a time and place and inviting men to come has worked well, too. Sometimes that’s one on one time, group discussions, or a quiet Bible reading.
Q: How do you stay intimate with little ones in the family?
A: I recommend the Coffee + Crumbs podcast series. They interviewed a Christian sex expert. It was really helpful.
Robert says that scheduling it can help! If you leave it up to feeling good or feeling in the mood, it’s probably not going to happen. What’s important is to create an environment of openness and safety where you can talk about intimacy without shame, guilt or fear.
This circles back to what you do during singleness and engagement will follow you into your marriage.
Q: How does a woman encourage her husband to go deeper in his relationship with God?
A: Deep and fervent prayer is the most important thing. The Holy Spirit is the One who draws us into relationship in the beginning and all the way through. Nagging and brow beating just won’t work.
You, your church, and your environment can set a good positive example. Continue to be an example of the fruit of righteousness to him.
It’s okay for you to be the one who initiates ideas like, “Are you interested in reading through this Bible plan with me this year?” The man doesn’t have to be the one who comes up with all the ideas. It just might not be his skill! So bring it up if you feel led, but be genuine!
The Lord showed me that prayer is the only way to change hearts. He wants us to relinquish control and trust Him.
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