When There Aren’t Easy Answers

No Easy AnswersThis has been a strange week.

I’ve had some heavy posts on the blog, and have had some very difficult email questions sent to me. And then on Facebook I’ve had some happy posts that have gone really viral.

I’ve talked about when to leave your marriage, but I’ve also talked about how to save it. I’ve talked about a little thing you can do to turn a marriage around, and I’ve talked about what to do when nothing seems to work.

Sometimes I feel like I have whiplash, almost arguing diametrically opposing things. How can I believe that sometimes separation has to be used as a last resort, and yet also feel that the vow really matters?

And so today, rather than writing a “regular” blog post, I thought I’d take you through some of my reasoning over the last week, and point you to a few articles that are just so amazing–especially one not even written by me. (please read to the end to see it! It will be the best thing you read all year–I promise!)

Easy Answers Don’t Usually Exist in Hard Situations

Post I wrote this week: When Your Marriage is in Crisis

I once heard a line in a movie that said, “the hard thing to do and the right thing to do are almost always the same thing”, and I agree. Magic reglationship bullets have never been found.

Usually when a relationship is in crisis, what a woman (assuming it’s a woman who is hurting, since most of my readers are female) wants to know is “what can I do to get him to change”? If he’s watching porn all the time and ignoring the family, what can I do to make him stop? If he won’t get a job, what can I do to make him work? If he’s been texting an ex-girlfriend and is considering having an affair, what can I do to bring him back to me?

Nothing.

That’s the hard truth. You can’t make him change. The only thing you can do is to change what you are doing in response. When you change your behaviour, his will also adjust. And sometimes that can bring about reconciliation–but not always.

Nevertheless, even that isn’t an easy answer, because the way that you change may be different in different situations. I had one woman email me whose nonChristian husband was using porn–but he was still a great father, he was still a great provider, and they still had a good sex life. Should she give him an ultimatum?

And in that case, maybe not. It’s not always clear cut. And I get so many questions like that: here’s my situation. What should I do? But the truth is I don’t know, because I don’t know my readers in real life. I can give general principles, but I can’t tell you specifics.

But that’s why we need two things: we need to run to God and get used to distinguishing his voice now, so that when hard times come in our marriages, we’ll be able to hear what he is telling us to do. And we need to surround ourselves with a solid Christian community that can hold us up, pray with us, and help us make decisions in times of crisis. You need people who know you in real life. But to have those kinds of relationships, you have to invest in a church. You have to be a friend to someone else if you want someone to be a friend to you. You have to use your giftings and your time there, so that when you need help, others already know and love you.

Do you see? We need to be spending our time building up our relationship with God and our relationships in Christian community now, before a crisis hits, because that’s the only way to get through a crisis.

Easy Answers Sometimes Do Exist in Other Situations

Post I wrote on this: How a Simple ‘Thank You’ Can Transform a Marriage

There may not be hard and fast rules for what you should do in every crisis, but there are easy answers that seem to really help a marriage BEFORE it hits crisis. And this is what I so want my readers to understand: when we are intentional in the little things, showing love to one another, being kind to one another, understanding one another–we usually can avoid many of these crises.

I gave one example on my post on Monday of what Shaunti Feldhahn found when she researched thousands of couples over several years. Men say ‘I love you’, and women say ‘thank you’. It’s very simple, but it matters! Check it out.

Often these things are simple that can change the whole dynamic of our marriage. So please, before a crisis hits, be intentional! And then you may never hit that crisis in the first place.

Sometimes All It Takes is a Change in Perspective

Increasingly, though, I believe that most crises can be solved if we just get a change in perspective. Often things take on a life of their own because we get so wrapped up in our feelings that we aren’t able to see straight.

As I’ve been working on the final edits to my upcoming book, 9 Thoughts That Will Change Your Marriage, I found this article on Today’s Christian Woman that was brilliant. A woman was packed up and ready to leave her husband, when her mom made her make a list. It just wasn’t the list she thought of, and it changed everything.

I included the story in my book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something so profound. And on Facebook, as of this morning, it’s been seen by more than 350,000 people.

The List That Saved My Marriage

Please read that. It will bless you. And if you haven’t joined my Facebook page, please do so. I share stuff like that all the time, and much of it doesn’t make it to the blog. So don’t miss it!

I so appreciate all of my readers, and I do wrestle with how to answer difficult questions. But ultimately I may point you in the right direction, but you need God’s wisdom to know the specifics. So please: invest in a Christian community. Chase after Him. No matter what happens in your marriage, He is always there for you and He always loves you, and His power is there to help you make the right decisions in difficult situations.

Helping our Daughters Navigate Through a Sexually Aggressive Culture

Today please welcome Sarah Ball, aka The Virtuous Woman Exposed, as she shares about how to help protect and teach our daughters in a sexually aggressive culture.

Sexually Aggressive CultureMy husband was shocked to hear from me that from the age of 13 -19, I had never had a job where I wasn’t sexually harassed by a male boss or coworker.

It was to be expected as a young teenaged waitress, for my boss to ‘brush’ past me, pushing his crotch against me, as I stood collecting food from the back. It was the running joke for him to make a comment about how perky my breasts were, and if he could check out for himself if they were real. It was even more common for old male customers to invite me back to their place, or for a drunken man to try and put a tip down my shirt. I wasn’t a waitress at a strip club if that’s what you’re thinking; I was working at a small town golf course, midday, every Sunday afternoon, and I thought it was normal, so I giggled.

It was not uncommon in high school either, for me to receive sexually implied comments from male teachers, or for another male student to pinch, grab or whistle as I walked down the hall to class.

As a college student, my friends and I had to be extra cautious at parties, making vows to not let any of us go off alone with anyone we didn’t know. This caution was before the date rape drug was mainstream. It still didn’t prevent some young college girls from being raped, or if they drank too much, sexually assaulted while they were passed out, which in my opinion is rape. This was not shocking news to us. It didn’t set off alarms and cause us to storm the campus, because it was normal to us. It was an expected part of college culture in Canada.

I was sexually abused at the age of 12 by a friend of the family, and at the age of 19 I ran out of a room seconds away from being date raped.

I have never not known sexual exploitation, and it’s not my fault.

We think we are so progressive as a culture, and we think we are getting this female exploitation theme beaten, but we are not.  We live in a culture that is so twisted in their thinking. Posts go viral on social media of women of all colors; shapes and sizes posing in their underwear, in the attempts to say all women are sexy and of value. Then, the next viral video is a post blaring outrage that women aren’t being taken seriously by the universities they were raped in. We are a culture of mixed messages, trying desperate to find a solution to our sexually aggressive culture, and failing miserably.

Even Christian culture is making it worse.

We are told to shelter our kids from the world and shove purity messages at them.  So we avoid talking about sex with our daughters, instead we just shelter them from movies and stories that reveal any sexual theme, and we call it a great day in the parenting world.

These approaches will not protect your daughter from a culture that paints its walls with sexuality–walls your daughter is eventually going to live under without you.

What we need is a reality check and a never-ending conversation with our daughter about it.

Ask my teen-aged daughter, who works at a fast food restaurant. She has been raised to stay a virgin until she is married and to avoid watching shows that are above a PG rating. My husband annoys the heck out of her, as he frequently bursts out into song “be careful little eyes what you see.”

I send her back to her room to change several mornings a week, and Modesty is Hotesty is a song on our family playlist (yes, that is actually a song!) Yet, my daughter, at age 15, shows up to work in the most unattractive; button-upped, mustard yellow, starched, stained, short sleeved, burger attire, and she still receives countless offers for sex by creepy customers and comments on her looks. She’s not flirting and she is not dressed immodestly. She is merely being a young woman, with a beautiful smile in a sexually aggressive culture.

So what do I mean by a sexually aggressive culture?  These recent Canadian statistics should share some light. According to The Justice Institute of British Columbia, these statistics will have us hiding our daughters under a rock.

One out of every 17 Canadian women is raped at some point in her life

A woman is sexually assaulted by forced intercourse every 17 minutes in Canada

Girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims

80% of assaults happen in the victim’s home

70% of rapes are committed by a perpetrator who knows the victims (relative, friend, neighbor, colleague, or other acquaintance)

Approximately one half of all rapes occur on dates

62% of victims are physically injured in the attack; 9% are beaten severely or disfigured

Statistics Canada has found that one in four girls and one in eight boys have been sexually abused by the time they are eighteen.

 Source : www.assultcare.ca

Pause for a sobering moment.

I am not writing this to be a dooms-day prophet, but I am writing this to say, it’s not enough to talk to our daughters about virginity and shelter them from the media. One day our daughters will be university students, professionals, and young mothers, and we need to prepare them for a sexually aggressive culture without shaming sex, scaring them, and making them prudes.

This is one tough topic parents, and we need God’s wisdom to navigate them through it and I am so thankful that we have voices like Sheila’s who are initiating this conversation.

So where do we begin? How do we teach our daughters to love sex, to embrace their sexiness for their husbands, feel no shame, guard their hearts, and protect themselves from assault or harassment?

Let your daughters have an attitude!

I want my daughter to walk around confident, knowing she is carrying a treasure inside of her, proud of who she is and sassy. I want her to spit in the face of a man who tries to exploit her, not giggle shyly in embarrassment like I did.  I want her to be street-wise, knowing she has to be smart, and cautious, because she has a treasure hidden. There are a lot of pirates out there who will sail any sea to get it.

I want her to think boys are cute, and smile and giggle at the one she REALLY thinks is cute, and I want her to experience love. I want her to be able to pick out a good man from a line up of rats. I want her to marry that good man, and be a sexual goddess for him.

I don’t want my daughter to be a man-hater, be mistrusting or paranoid. I want her to respect men in authority, but respect herself more. I recently asked my daughter what she thought of the biblical teaching that husband’s should have authority over their wives. She responded – “I think God meant that he wants husbands to protect their wives, and you can’t have someone protect you if they don’t have authority over you.”  I love her point of view!

This is a big, tall order I am asking God for–and this is not a “sit down” and have ‘the talk’ kind of teaching. This is a lifetime of discussion and relationship we have to continually have with our daughters and our sons!

This is you, Mom, having the courage to reach into the skeletons of your past and share them, at an appropriate age, with your daughter. This is about dads, stepping up to be the 1st example of a GOOD MAN, and setting her bar high. This is about us as parents, allowing our daughters to feel safe enough to talk to us about anything. You don’t overreact, and scramble to find the chastity belt, you talk to her, you love her and you walk with her.

If it’s too late, and your daughter has already fit into the statistics, I want to tell you that I am so sorry. I also want to tell you there is hope.

I stood, face to face with my sexual abuser, under oath, 15 years after I was victimized. My eyes were blurry with tears, my hands shaking in fear. I was in immense pain, but I had a loving husband, waiting in the gallery to console me, treasure me and pour purity back into my heart with his love and respect for me.

 I also have a God who puts his arm around me, drawing a line in the sand with his hand against a culture that wants to stone me.  Hagar, Sarah’s bondwoman, – which you can read more on here – was sexually exploited, the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears who was labeled a slut, and even King David’s daughter was raped by her own brother. This is not a new issue.

God always defended these precious women, pursued them and pursued justice. Jesus came to pour hope, value and purity back into a shamed culture, and we must look to him for healing.

So tonight, before your daughter goes to bed, give her a big hug, tell her how precious she is, show her how to drop kick a pirate and pray for her, a lot.

 

Sarah BallSarah Ball is the blogger behind Virtuous Woman Exposed, a columnist, freelance writer and mother of 5 children ages 4-15 and she’s exhausted just writing that. Her passion is to see women set free from shame, fear and bondage. She wants you to know that you can hold your head up high knowing they you are a precious daughter of God.  You can visit her blog at http://www.virtuouswomanexposed.com and you can follow her on FACEBOOK & TWITTER

 

 

Wifey Wednesday: When your Marriage Is in Crisis

When your marriage is in crisis: how to move forward by setting boundaries

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own posts below. Today I want to tackle a really hard question–one that is left often in the comments. What do I do if my marriage is in crisis, but he doesn’t think it’s a big deal and refuses to change?

Here’s a comment, for instance, that was left yesterday when we were talking about the trauma of a husband’s porn use:

If he is unrepentant how do I set boundaries? I have read your article on 4 things a wife needs to do if her husband is looking at Porn… but if he isn’t to the place of wanting to be done how are boundaries set? Technology free hours would never fly with him. His phone took a dive into the fish tank last week and I was praising God. But he mailed it in and got it fixed, and nearly every night he would take his laptop and dissappear. And now the smart phone is back and it travels with him every where he goes. Even to the bathroom! He also deletes history.

I want to say first and foremost that I weep for women in this situation. A man who is throwing away a marriage to indulge in pornography is acting so selfishly and immaturely. Even though it is likely an addiction, it still makes me almost physically ill to think about this.

And I know there are men doing other things which are toxic to a marriage–gambling, overspending, refusing to work. I received an email last week from a woman whose husband, as soon as they were married, announced, “I believe that God will provide work”, and so he refuses to look for work. They now live in his parents’ cramped basement while she tries to hobble together what money she can while caring for the children, while the husband plays video games all day. And then there are the men who write in whose wives have refused to have sex for years.

These are horrible, horrible situations. And if you confront your husband (or your wife), and he does nothing to change or says he won’t change, what do you do?

I recognize that the vast majority of those reading this blog do not have marriages in crisis, and don’t worry–some “regular” marriage thoughts will be coming again soon on this blog! But I do receive so many notes from women in crisis situations that I thought it warranted a post. And because I rank so high on Google for certain search terms for people in crisis in their marriages, I get a lot of people in that situation here. So this post is for those who are in crisis!

Whatever you tolerate will continue.

I wish people could understand this earlier–even when they’re dating. If you tolerate a little bit of porn, it will continue until it’s a lot. Obviously we should never go ballistic over each and every sin, but there are some things which need to be non-negotiables, and I think being sexually pure and being responsible with money are two things that are essential in any marriage. I would not marry someone who did not have a proven track record on these two things.

But what do you do if you marry someone and then these things pop up? Or if you married someone assuming the problems would get better, and then they didn’t (hint: that’s a really bad idea).

You still don’t enable sin–you be a spouse, not an enabler. If you follow that link, I have an in-depth post on when it’s necessary to get some help in your marriage and to stop tolerating certain things, and I’d encourage you to read that first. Then come back here and we’ll call this a part 2.

Read: Are You a Spouse or an Enabler?

Get yourself some support

Something has to change. A man can’t be retreating into the bathroom to look at porn on his computer, all the while his wife knowing what he is doing. A woman can’t keep living in her parent’s basement while her husband refuses to work. These things must stop.

But likely if you’re in this position you’ve talked and talked to your husband, and nothing has changed. So what do you do?

First, get some support around you. That doesn’t mean that you confide in everybody under the sun, but find a few people who can pray for you and who can give you some wise advice and counsel. I’ve shared the story before of one older friend of mine whose husband had used porn for several decades in their marriage. They had gone to counselors, and he had promised to quit, but he never did. So one day she confided in their small group and in her pastor, and the small group came and helped her move out while the pastor had a meeting with the husband saying, “you need to get your life back on track, and if you don’t, we will support your wife.”

You need a church community that takes confronting sin seriously. Unfortunately, not enough do. To many Christians, the highest ideal is a couple that stays married–no matter what. Yet this is a misreading of what God wants. God doesn’t want marriage to be a cover for people having to work on their issues. God’s purpose is that we each look more and more like Christ. Yes, God hates divorce, but you know what He hates more? His children falling farther and farther away from Him and getting more and more sucked into sin. And when we tolerate horrible behaviour, it gets worse. I am not advocating divorce. I know the vow is crucial. But it should never be a cover for people to sin.

So find yourself a Christian community that understands the necessity of wholeness. That may take some time. It may mean switching churches. It may mean that you have to get involved in that church so that you have a natural group of people around you. It takes investment on your part to be part of community. But you need that community! This is a spiritual battle. You need prayer. You need people pointing you in the right direction so you don’t get bitter and vindictive. Search those people out!

Get yourself a counselor

Likely you will need a trained person to walk through this with you, too. Most churches have a list of counselors they can give you. Some churches even have them on staff so that people in crisis don’t have to pay.

Own your boundary

Now that you have support and you know that something must be done, the question remains: what should you do to make him stop?

Right?

Wrong. That’s not the question. You can’t make him stop. You can’t pressure him to do anything. The only thing you can do is enforce your own boundaries, not his. And that means that you have to come to terms with the fact that he may not choose to change. Things may stay exactly the same, no matter what you do. Grieve that. Feel that. That is really hard to live with. This is why you need people around you, so that you know that you are never alone, and so that they can point you to Jesus.

So what is the real question? It’s this:

What is the limit to what I will tolerate? And what should be my response if that limit is crossed?

For instance, you may say, “If he is not actively looking for work, providing an income, or caring for our children so I can work, then I will not work to support him. I will work to support our children and myself, but not him.” Or you may say, “I will not be intimate with someone who is turning to porn for release. I will be the sole object of sexual attention, or I will not be the object of sexual attention at all.”

Let the law of sowing and reaping play itself out

The best vehicle that God gave us to learn to listen to him was the law of sowing and reaping–we reap what we sow. You see this throughout the Old Testament, when Moses, for instance, warns the Israelites: if you follow what God says, you will be blessed. If you don’t, you will be cursed. And this cycle continues throughout the prophets.

Boundaries in MarriageWe see it in Galatians 6:7:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

We should reap what we sow. Too often in marriage, though, we disrupt the law of sowing and reaping, as Cloud and Townsend explain in their book Boundaries in Marriage. A man sows destruction by using porn, and the wife reaps the rejection and sorrow.

If he is doing something to jeopardize the marriage, then he must feel the full weight of that. That is God’s tool to move him towards repentance.

Please note, I am not talking about everyday sins, like being short with you, or not always helping clean up the house, or buying too many gadgets. I’m talking about fundamental things that are toxic to a marriage. (If you’re not sure that your issue is that fundamental, then talk to someone else and get their perspective!)

My friend Anna caught her husband Paul with porn, and her response was to gather her brothers and her father to confront her husband. They disconnected the internet, carted off all the equipment, and told him in no uncertain terms that he was getting help or else. They even made sure he went and saw the pastor and got in an accountability group.

Having an intervention from people close to you is a great first step, and for many people, this works.

But what if it doesn’t work? This may mean that you have to separate for a time. That’s a scary, scary thing. But not all separations lead to divorce, and I have seen many people reconcile after a separation. This does not necessarily mean that the marriage is over. But you have to be prepared for the marriage to be over. You’re not doing this to manipulate him; you’re doing this to preserve truth. There was no truth in a marriage where you tolerate the intolerable; you’re running back to God and relying on Him, and you’re putting your relationships right.

Please: do not separate unless you have first talked to some Christian mentors or a Christian counselor and pursued other options. Don’t take this option on your own, as the first step. This is HUGE. You owe it to yourself, your husband, and your kids to consult with others and get their support. If you do something without getting help, you’re likely to let emotions take over and do something really drastic from the start. And then you won’t have help! Let people offer you advice, prayer support, and emotional support. And then they can be there for your husband, too.

If I separate, can I move on with my life?

Quite frankly, no. You are still married. If those around you agreed that separation was the best option after other things had been tried, and you have separated, I hope you have done so not with the intention of leaving him permanently. I hope that this is to provide breathing space. Space for him to be confronted by God, and space for you to find healing. Rushing into another relationship cuts off the chance of healing of your marriage, and especially if you have children, you owe your marriage some time.

Again, this is where wise counselors around you can help you navigate.

(Note: There are exceptions–I talked to a woman recently who finally left her abusive husband after finding out he had sexually abused their teenage daughter. He went to jail. She remarried. He ended their marriage by abusing their daughter. Some things should signal the end, I believe.)

Be gracious–It’s the direction that matters

If someone has been addicted to gambling, they won’t lose that pull overnight. If someone has used porn habitually for years, successfully giving it up cold turkey is really hard. Focus on the direction: is he getting better and trying to get better with occasional lapses? Then take those lapses for what they are. They are temporary failings, but they do not mean that he is not committed to the relationship and that he’ll never get better. For most people it takes years for the lapses to stop entirely and for the pull to go away, but they can start going in the right direction almost immediately.

If the issue has been sexual refusal, and she (or he) is starting to try to have sex again, if they don’t seem into it, that’s not a reason to give up or get mad. Look at the direction. If they are trying and if they are humble, then give grace.

Final thoughts

I wish I had some magic answer: If you do this, he will change (or she will change). But life isn’t like that. I don’t know why some spouses get to the point that they don’t care what the other thinks.

But, please, no matter what you are going through, know that God sees and God knows. Know that God wants to help you through this. Know that you are not alone. And know that God’s desire is for two people who love and follow Him, not people who cover up sin and hide it.

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up the URL of a post in today’s Wifey Wednesday link up party!



The Trauma of Your Husband’s Porn Use: 8 Steps to Dealing with It

Getting Over the Trauma of Your Husband's Porn UseThe most common email I receive and comment I get on this blog is about pornography. So many of my readers are struggling with their husbands’ porn use. I’ve asked several experts to write some guest posts for me over the next few days to help us deal with the trauma of porn use and point our way to recovery. Today Dorothy Maryon, a clinical therapist, shares with us about the effects of discovering your husband uses porn–and how to get through it.

Most women are blindsided when they discover their husband has a pornography or sex addiction.

Many wives struggle to deal with that realization while their world comes crashing down and the bottom falls out of the marital basket they were trusting in. It can be a devastating and disorienting experience and it takes a big toll on their self-esteem.

It’s not uncommon for a wife to wonder why she wasn’t enough to keep her husband from straying outside of the marriage. That “enough” takes in almost everything from feeling not interesting enough, not loving enough, not thin enough, not sexy enough, and so on. In addition to those feelings is the compounded emotions of feeling disconnected from him and for some time now. Unfortunately, and mistakenly, many women fear they are the problem and spend a lot of time and effort trying to be the ideal spouse.

In reality the situation is very different than what many women think. His looking at porn is not about you. His interest, desire and connection should be all about his wife, not about a counterfeit. Pornography robs a wife of playing a central role in his life and she feels demeaned and replaced by an air-brushed picture on a screen.

His turning away from you to pornography exposes a lack on his part, not yours.

Most people underestimate the addictive quality of porn and by the time they recognize its compulsive and addictive underbelly it’s too late and they are trapped in a repetitive cycle of shame, compulsivity, and often betrayal.

So what can a wife do?

How does she recover a foundation for her own self-esteem and a roadmap to go forward?

Honestly, there are no easy answers but there are a few things we know about the trauma this causes wives–and how to help.

First, recognize that it is trauma.

The closer you are to someone who betrays you the more profound the trauma. Therapists call this “relational trauma” and it ranks right up there with all the other traumas. Because as human beings we are wired to connect and it is a brutal experience to have that connection betrayed. Women often report that they feel “crazy” or “not themselves” after such a discovery.

Some of the more common symptoms of relational trauma include:

• Fear and/or anxiety
• Outbursts of anger or rage
• Intrusive thoughts of the trauma
• Feelings of self-blame or responsibility
• Feelings of panic or feeling out of control
• Sadness or depression
• Feelings of detachment
• Feelings of worthlessness or being broken
• Preoccupation with body image
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Hyper-vigilance
• Feelings of helplessness

It’s normal after a betrayal to feel and act this way.

Second, don’t isolate.

Find a way to reach out. This can be a tricky place for women. Who do you tell? Many women don’t want to “expose their husbands” and so carry the burden of “the secret” as well as their own trauma. Find someone. Tell a spiritual leader, a therapist, or a 12-step group. This experience is too difficult to navigate alone.

Third, get educated.

Learn about compulsive or addictive behavior. It will help to learn about it as a disease, as a lack, as a method of self-medicating. It will help to understand how it impacts the brain. This knowledge will also help because over time you will learn that it isn’t a lack on your part. In fact your husband can still be in love with you despite the ugly issue in his life that he has kept secret and has prevented him from being fully in the relationship.

Fourth, get help.

Find a good therapist who specializes in relational trauma and compulsivity/addiction. They can help you create a roadmap for healing. Find a friend to pray with and encourage you.

Fifth, learn how to take care of yourself.

Be self-compassionate. Do things that help you feel stronger or more grounded. Exercise. Pray. Find a pilates class. And above all be patient with your own process.

Sixth, learn about trauma and triggers that reactivate the trauma.

Understanding will help you be less reactive and more forgiving when you are. Many women describe the experience of being “triggered” as being on a roller coaster. One day you feel fine and somewhat normal and the next something small can trigger feelings of anger, grief, fear, and loss.

Seventh, don’t give up and don’t give in.

Healing is a journey and in this case requires the deep soul work that takes time and great compassion. Insist that he get help. In the case of sexual compulsivity or addiction being sorry is not enough. Work and help is required.

(Sheila says: I totally agree with this! I’ve always said that a man who says he is sorry but who refuses to admit his fault to anyone else is not really sorry. Real repentance is accompanied by confession and accountability. James 5:16–Confess your faults one to another, and pray one to another, that you may be healed!)

Lastly, take heart!

You may be familiar with the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but not as familiar with the term post traumatic growth. Post traumatic growth are positive changes that can occur as a result of coping with a traumatic event. Women get through this. Post traumatic growth can lead you to a stronger sense of yourself as well as a deeper and richer life that comes from moving through a difficult and deepening experience.

Porn reveals a lack on his part--not on yours.

Dorothy Maryon, CMHC, is a licensed clinical mental health counselor who specializes in partners’ issues associated with sexual addiction in marriage. She has worked as a counselor in the LifeStar program for 15 years, focusing on addiction and relationship issues. She is in private practice and has presented at several conferences on addiction, codependency, creating safety for partners, and grief and trauma issues.

How a Simple “Thank You” Can Transform a Marriage

What a Husband Needs: GratitudeLast Friday I had the tremendous privilege of meeting up with fellow marriage author Shaunti Feldhahn while she was speaking in Ottawa. Shaunti is part of my new Christian Marriage Authors Pinterest Board, and you have one more day to enter our contest to win a marriage library of 12 books!

I took her on a bit of a walk in downtown Ottawa, where we saw the Parliament buildings with the flag at half mast and the War Memorial with the flowers from the recent shooting, but then we went to her event at night where she was sharing about the Secrets of a Happy Marriage.

(Really Bad Selfie Alert: Never let two 40-something women take a selfie together. “How do you hold the phone? Where’s the button? Is this right?”)

SheilaShaunti

I found her talk fascinating, and I’ll be sharing a bunch of her insights over the next few weeks. But I want to start with just one which I think is revolutionary.

Let me tell you the story the way Shaunti told it.

Shaunti is a born researcher. She doesn’t really write marriage advice books as much as she takes surveys, does interviews, looks at the current literature, and then detects trends. Much of her research is first-hand, meaning she conducts it and oversees it herself.

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceA few years ago she started a multi-year project trying to identify what it is that the happiest couples did that set them apart from other couples. So she took over 1000 couples and asked the couples, separately, to rate their marriage from 1-5, with 1 being absolutely amazing and 5 being absolutely lousy.

Then she took all the marriages where the couples BOTH rated it a 1, and looked at what stood out. Interestingly, there were many differences between them and even couples where one rated it a 1 and one rated it a 2. Those successful couples were very unique, and she published her findings in her amazing book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages.

What she found, though, was that it was not big things that made a successful marriage. Certainly there were some things that helped, like coming from an intact family yourself, but much of it was just the little things we do, day by day, without even noticing. Interestingly, when she asked these couples what it is that THEY thought made their marriages good, they were often wrong. They either couldn’t answer, or they said the advice you’re supposed to say (like we always communicate, or we never go to bed angry). But that wasn’t it.

It was often just little tiny things that turned a marriage around.

So let me tell you about one of those little tiny things today.

And to start, let me tell you another story.

Back many years ago when Shaunti was starting her research, she was trying to figure out what made men and women tick. After doing many surveys, she felt she was ready for some intense focus groups. So she had a group of teenage boys in a boardroom setting for a half a day–one of those rooms with a big board table in the middle and then two whiteboards on either side, with those doors that shut to cover the whiteboard. She spend half a day jotting down all the things these boys said about what their greatest need was. They brainstormed and talked and finally figured it out. Then she closed the doors on that whiteboard and brought the girls in.

She asked the girls, “Today we’re going to figure out what it is that girls really need.” One of the girls piped up and said, “I object to that language. We should be talking about what we as PEOPLE need.” Shaunti let that go and she took notes and brainstormed and wrote it all down on the whiteboard. Then she walked over to the other end of the room and opened the doors. Not one single word was the same on both boards. The girls were flabbergasted.

What a husband needs and what a wife needs are very different things.

Shaunti summed it up like this:

A man’s heart question is, “do you think what I do on the outside is good? Am I competent?” A woman’s heart question is, “Am I loveable? Is what I am on the inside attractive to you? Would you choose me again?” Very different.

Shaunti collected this research and published it, but she hit a bit of a wall. She knew her husband needed respect, but how exactly do you show that? You can’t go around all day saying, “Oh, honey, I respect you!” That doesn’t work. You can ask advice, and defer some of your decisions, but there must be something else, right?

And as she was doing this study of successful couples, they pinpointed what it was.

What wives needed was easy. The husbands who said “I love you” and who held hands while walking or touched her in public were answering the question, “would you choose me again” in the affirmative. You bet I would!

What a husband needs was surprising: The wives who said “thank you” communicated that “I think what you just did on the outside was great.”

That’s it. Just saying thank you.

That took me a long time to understand, and I still have to work on it. When I was first married, I used to say to Keith, “I love you so much honey!” I’d say it several times a day, “I love you!” “I love you!” “I love you!”

A few years in he got a little frustrated and said,

I know you love me, Sheila. But sometimes I’d just like to hear WHY you love me.

That threw me. What in the world did he mean? But I started to try to say that more. “You’re so smart!” “You handled that interaction so well!” “You make me feel so protected.”

And now I’ve added trying to thank him for the things that I see him do.

Tell him why you love him!

My friend Sharol calls this “catching him doing good”.

Deliberately look for things that he is doing that are praiseworthy–and then thank him, even if it’s a little thing. Just say thank you.

This seems so little, though. Does it really make that big a difference in marriage? According to Shaunti’s research, it does. But just imagine this: let’s say that there’s tension in the marriage because he’s working hard and he’s not home very much right now. And he’s worried that you’re upset at him, and he feels disconnected. Meanwhile you feel alone and frustrated and really tired. What normally happens? He comes home and you’re a little short with him. He gets defensive because he’s already feeling a little bit like a failure at home. And this is how bigger problems of isolation start.

Follow the Christian Marriage Author Pinterest Board to win a library of Christian marriage books!But what would happen if he came home and you kissed him at the door and said, “thank you for how you provide for our family”? It’s like there was this balloon of tension between you and you just let out all the air. He relaxes. You relax because he’s relaxed. There’s less sniping. And now if you talk tonight there’s not this feeling like anyone’s a failure. You’re on the same team and you’re trying to tackle something together.

Feeling distant today? Just try saying thank you more often.

Whenever he does something that you appreciate, even if it’s something he should be doing anyway, like putting the dishes in the dishwasher, just say thank you. It changes the dynamic, and sometimes that’s all it takes to break through the walls so that you can start feeling close again.

Let me know: Has there ever been a seemingly small thing that has transformed your marriage? Tell me about it in the comments!

And don’t forget to enter our contest to win the marriage library for our new Christian Marriage Authors Pinterest Board! You could win Shaunti’s book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages!

P.S. I will be continuing my “Lies We Believe About Men” series, hopefully later this week. I really enjoyed the first two posts last week! I’m just a little disorganized right now since my final edits are due on my book on Thursday, and I have a million things going around in my head. But I will get to it, I promise!

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On Ottawa, Terrorism, and the Family

On the Ottawa Shootings and Our Response

Just four days ago I was emailing with author Shaunti Feldhahn and her assistant (Shaunti’s part of my new Christian marriage author Pinterest board). Shaunti was going to be in Ottawa on Friday (today), to present her findings from her book The Good News About Marriage. She had some free time in the afternoon, though, and I suggested we get together.

She’s staying at a downtown hotel, so I said, “as long as it’s not raining, let’s go for a walk! It’s beautiful downtown. I’ll take you by the Parliament buildings and the War Memorial, and then we can go to the Byward Market and get some Menchie’s frozen yogurt.”

I’m still meeting her this afternoon. I hope to lay flowers at the War Memorial to honour Cpl Nathan Cirillo.

Wednesday was a horrible day for my country.

When the news of the shootings hit, my youngest daughter and I were glued online to the news. I started texting the news to my older daughter, who was on lockdown at the University of Ottawa, where she had been at work in the Writing Centre. (The University is right around the corner from the Rideau Centre, the shopping mall that was in the news. They were on lockdown for 5 1/2 hours.) The twelve people stuck in the Writing Centre only had their phones, and it was easier for me to watch the news on my computer. So we texted back and forth. Her biggest problem was that she got hungry. Luckily someone had some cheese and oatmeal that they shared.

However, we have many good friends in the military, and it is they and the police who bore the brunt of the attack and are still bearing it. This was the second lone wolf attack on soldiers in uniform this week. And that is so heartbreaking and so infuriating. I was supposed to get together with several military friends in Ottawa this weekend; now I can’t, for various reasons which I won’t put here. Our military serve and sacrifice so much, and now they are being targeted here at home. I can’t quite get my head around that.

My favorite article about that morning is this one–about the bystanders who stopped to give CPR to Nathan Cirillo. So heartbreaking, but I’m glad they were with him when he died.

This week’s events, though, leave us with a question: what can we do to prevent similar attacks? The chatter on the news is on greater surveillance, and different gun laws, and powers for interrogation, and more.

That discussion is definitely needed, and I hope they figure something out.

Nevertheless, I believe our focus right now is inadequate.

We are looking for a military/police solution: a military solution overseas; a police solution here. I don’t think either will work, because at heart this is not a military problem. This is an ideological one. We are fighting against an enemy that shoots teenage girls who want to go to school; that kidnaps Christian girls to use them as prostitutes; that thinks nothing of gang raping and mutilating girls if it serves their purpose. We are fighting against an evil.

Ephesians 6:12-13 says:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

We are fighting against spiritual forces, and we are fighting an ideological battle.

Until we start fighting in the realm of ideas, we won’t win.

Until we start saying, some ideas are not acceptable, and until we get rid of moral relativism, we will not win. Until we start defending freedom and defending human rights, we will not win.

But there is something even more fundamental going on, at least in the West with these lone wolf homegrown attacks. In fact, you can see it with all the terrorist attacks and mass murders that have occurred in recent memory–even those that are not Islamic in nature.

Every single one of those mass murderers came from a broken family.

Every single one of them–with the exception of the Littleton killers whose parents weren’t divorced, but were preoccupied and neglectful.

Timothy McVeigh. Paul Bernardo. Adam Lanza. Marc Lepine (another Canadian shooter). And now Michael Zehaf Bibeau.

What makes people susceptible to the ISIS ideology? What turns a kid into a mass murderer? Many, many factors, often including some mental illness. But there is always a common thread–it starts with the family.

People who grow up with two loving parents do not, in general, grow up to hate.

People who grow up where they are not given the love and safety they need may gravitate towards evil.

This is not a commentary on all kids who grow up in divorced families; after all, I did! But my mother overcame her own issues and heartbreak to focus on me. She made sure I went to church. She made sure I had a good peer group. She made sure I saw my extended family. She made me her priority, and she kept our family together.

Most single parents do this, but not all.

One of my friends who divorced and remarried often posts family photos on Facebook that do not include her oldest children (the ones from the first marriage). I know another woman who used to attend my church who recently remarried–and did not bother to invite several of her kids to the wedding. Her new life has become more important than her oldest children.

That angers me. A person can be a single parent and also be an excellent parent. And this is the hard part–I think for a single parent to be an excellent parent they have to actually do a BETTER job than most married parents would do. They have a huge road in front of them. But the single parents I know who have raised great kids have all stressed God in their family, and have made their kids a major priority in their lives, even if they’ve remarried. They have been wonderful.

Unfortunately, many parents just don’t take their job seriously, and then the kids grow up in chaos, trying to figure out their place in the world. When they can’t figure one out, a very small but dangerous minority decides to make a name for themselves doing something awful.

We simply need to stress healthy families and healthy parenting if we are going to win the culture war at home.

Maybe it’s too late for our culture, but it is never too late for the small spheres of influence in which you live.

Let’s support our friends’ marriages. If we see a problem starting–someone texting an old flame, people belittling each other, someone using porn–get involved. Do an intervention. Let’s take care of the marriages around us before they start to disintegrate..

Let’s support kids who feel lost in the shuffle. I know several around me, one in particular that we practically adopted for a three year period, who are lost. You can never make up for two parents who love a kid, but you can still make a tremendous difference, and show a kid that they are loved. The world is not an evil place.

Let’s raise our kids to make better decisions about who they marry–and who they have children with. Let’s protect them from dating too much when they’re really young. Let’s raise them to respect themselves so that they won’t be attracted to those who treat them badly. If you know a girl in your social circle with really low self-esteem who is getting involved with losers, befriend her.Show her the difference between a dangerous guy and one who will treat her well. Show her that she has gifts and talents and she’s worth something outside of a relationship.

Let’s put pressure on absent parents to get involved in their kids’ lives. This most recent shooter had a mom who loved him–and a dad who wasn’t there. So did Marc Lepine. So did Adam Lanza. If you know someone in your extended circle who rarely sees their kids, encourage them to pick up the phone. Don’t let it be socially acceptable to ignore your kids.

Maybe if we all got just a little more involved with our neighbours, and especially with struggling kids and teenagers, we could prevent some of these horrific things. Perhaps I’m being naive, but as one person I can’t affect military policy or Canada’s security rules. But I can care about my kids, my nieces and nephews, my kids’ friends, and those marriages in my church. I can do that. What about you?

**********

And now, a thank you to Kevin Vickers, a real man, who shot the shooter on Parliament Hill before he could hurt anyone else. We should all raise our kids to be like him–and to be like Barbara Winters, who valiantly tried to save the life of a soldier.

Kevin Vickers

RIP Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent (who was killed earlier this week in another terrorist attack) . Your country appreciates your service.

Lies We Believe About Men: Men Only Want One Thing

Yesterday I started talking about the lies that women often believe about men. Today I want to tackle another one: Men only want one thing. And I’ve asked Julie Gorman to share an excerpt from her book What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men.

Men only want one thingWhat more could he possibly want from me?

Greg seemed dissatisfied with our love-making. Displeased, discontented, and disappointed. Put a “dis” in front of it, and Greg probably experienced it.

I felt him becoming more and more distant.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, exasperated.

Without skipping a beat, Greg responded. “I want you to want me!”

I seethed with anger and thought to myself. What? You want me to want you? Oh, please! Get over yourself. I am so sick and tired of not measuring up to your standards. Why am I never enough for you? I never deny you sex. Give me a break!

“I don’t want to just have sex with you, Julie. I want you to want me,” Greg continued. “I don’t just want to have sex. I want to make love. I want to connect. I want you to want to kiss me passionately.”

TV scenarios of women dropping everything to respond passionately to their lover’s touch flashed through my mind.

Seriously, Greg? You’re going to complain about my level of passion now? Most men would feel ecstatic if their wife didn’t say no to their physical advances. It’s not enough that I push my fatigue to the side to engage with you in bed? It’s not enough that when I’m not in the mood I willingly avail my body. No, that’s not enough for you! Now, you want me to rip off your T-shirt at the drop of a hat and be some bubbling bombshell who …

Greg interrupted my thoughts. “Julie, I just want you to want me.” It was the third time he’d used that phrase, and I couldn’t take it any longer.

“You want me to want you?” I erupted. “Greg, I have never denied your needs. I’ve never declined your advances. I’ve never—ever—ever said no to you!” I snarled with prideful disdain. He couldn’t rebuff that!

“You’re right. You may have never said no, Julie … but you’ve also never said yes.”

As I looked into my husband’s eyes, I saw something I never noticed before. Greg displayed a passion for me, not just my body. I began to realize he wanted me to say yes to him in my heart, to love him with my soul, to connect with him in my mind. And so did God!

Unfortunately, my view of sex swung on a pendulum of great extremes, both of which were wrong! On one side, I manipulated sex to maintain and keep Greg’s affection. On the other side I despised and held sex in contempt, secretly angry and privately disgusted by its demands. I performed sex out of fear of what would happen if I didn’t. My limiting thoughts stifled my expression of love. I didn’t want to feel that way, but I couldn’t help how I felt. I desperately needed God’s intervention to overcome the lie that Men only want one thing.

Here’s the danger of believing that lie.

As a single person, if I believe that Men only want one thing, I am more likely to make concessions to my faith and compromise my standards, believing this is what I’m supposed to do next.

As a married woman, if I believe Men only want one thing, I’m tempted to treat sex as an item on my busy to-do list. Let’s see: I dropped off the dry cleaning, check. Chauffeured the kids to school, check. Made dinner by 6:00, check! Had sex with my husband, check! Check! Check! And, in the process, I miss out on the sexual intimacy and oneness God intended.

The deception that a man only wants one thing violates God’s design.

It mis-aligns God’s plan. God intended sex as a celebration of oneness—oneness of body, mind, and spirit reserved for the union of a husband and wife in holy marriage.

Married women, ask, “Do I express tenderness and connection in my love-making?” If not, ask God for a greater intimacy and renewed passion.

Single women, ask, “Have I given away my affection outside of God’s design?” If so, ask for His forgiveness, and commit to express sexual intimacy only within the confines of marriage.

God wants husbands and wives to enjoy His gift of sexual intimacy within the confines of marriage. He desires us to celebrate the marriage bed and keep it holy. And within the confines of marriage, God encourages us to drink in intimacy and embrace unity with our spouse, not treat sex as another duty needing to be checked off our ever-growing list of responsibilities.

For more help on this topic, pick up a copy of What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men. You’ll discover strategic Scriptures, questions, and practical applications to align your thoughts with God’s and life-transforming insights on how to experience a more intimate relationship with Him.

What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men: 12 Secrets Toward Greater IntimacyGorman-Standing-2Excerpted from What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men by Julie Gorman. Copyright ©Julie Gorman. Published by Authentic Publishers; used by permission. Article originally published in WHOA Magazine for Women, Volume 4, Issue 2, spring 2014. Visit Julie’s website and hear her radio program at juliegorman.com.

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Lies We Believe About Men: All Men Are Perverts

All Men Are Perverts: From the lies we believe about men seriesIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts below.

Today I want to start a short series on the lies we often believe about men, starting with this one: all men are perverts. Have you ever felt that way?

When I was nineteen years old I took a missions trip to Tunisia. There were 6 of us, from 4 different countries, and we visited several missionaries there and learned the culture and talked to lots of people. The problem was that everywhere I went in public, men touched me. Everywhere.

I’d be sitting on a crowded bus, and some guy behind me would reach his hands around and feel my chest. Or we’d be standing in a crowded bus and a whole bunch of guys would feel me up, and I couldn’t tell who they were. I tried to tell the people I was traveling about this, and the leaders of the team, but they didn’t do much about it. I think it was because the other women traveling with me weren’t getting the same attention. I was blonde and young and cute, and they, quite simply, weren’t. To talk about protecting me would be to make a statement on their desirability, so they did nothing.

I asked one of the guys to act like we were married or something, but he wouldn’t. And so I felt very alone. I’d wear a scarf over my head to try to hide my hair. I stopped making eye contact. Eventually I just didn’t want to go out to the cafes and talk to people like they were, and then the team would get mad at me for not wanting to minister. But I couldn’t take it anymore.

When I returned to Canada I had a difficult reintegration. I still couldn’t look at men in the eye. If I was walking on a sidewalk and a guy was walking towards me I’d have to cross the road. I stopped saying “hi” to strangers (and we’re Canadian. That’s normal). It took me a few months to relax and be myself again.

Fast forward twenty odd years and I started writing this blog–and with it I started to get emails from women in some serious pain. I’d get a dozen a day. And I’d read them and they’d be heartbreaking and often gross. Husbands who were into porn. Husbands who had done something to her niece. Husbands who had been caught photographing her best friend’s underwear. Husbands who wanted things that were gross.

When you read those emails day in and day out you start to feel like all men are pigs. And then my husband would come home from work, all happy to see me, and I’d bark at him. It got so that I had to stop reading the emails. My assistant reads them now and passes on the ones that she thinks I can use on Facebook or for Reader Questions. And she prays over them. (So pray for her! That’s a lot to have to read through). But it was tough.

What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men: 12 Secrets Toward Greater IntimacyAll men are perverts.

I think we all go through times when we feel that way. Julie Gorman has written a book called What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men: 12 Secrets toward Greater Intimacy, and one of those secrets is that all men are NOT perverts. Julie weaves her own story about why she believed that–abuse, promiscuity, and more, that scar the heart and leave you knowing you want to get close to men, but hating them in the process. How do you stop that feeling?

Julie writes like a novelist, weaving vivid stories into her chapters on the lies that we believe about men. And the book isn’t a self-help book as much as it is a Bible study, pointing us to passages to study, verses to consider, and prayers to pray to help us defeat these lies with the tools that God’s given us.

She knows what it is to feel like all men are perverts–just like you probably have at times, or do right know.

If you’re walking with a husband who is using porn, it’s easy to get sucked in. If you’re married to someone who has had an affair, it’s easy to start believing that lie. Or maybe you’re married to a wonderful man, but all the things that other guys did to you has just distorted your image of men so much that you can’t relax around him. You can’t let him be him.

And it hurts. It hurts because you don’t want to live like this, and you don’t want to feel this way about your husband, but what hope is there? You feel like you know the truth about men, and the truth is that they ARE gross. Men are perverts. Men do only want one thing. And somehow we’re supposed to give it to them? Makes sex seem awful, doesn’t it? I understand.

After years of blaming her husband and looking down on her husband, Julie realized that she couldn’t keep living like this anymore. She had an epiphany, and it went like this:

I could bash man’s design, or I could seek to educate myself about how God wired his body and desires differently than my own.

I could openly see all men as perverts, or I could view the men who sexually sinned against me as fallen beings in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

I could run away from the painful memories and build more walls of isolation and pain, or I could invite God to heal and restore His original intentions for my life.

I could masterfully concoct and strategize plans to protect my heart, or I could allow my heavenly Father to expose the wounds that ravaged my innocence since I was four and heal the fallout of men’s actions.

You face that choice today, too.

If you’re walking through life thinking all men are perverts, you are at a crossroads.

If you keep going down that path, telling yourself that lie (and it is a lie), then you will find yourself increasingly isolated, alone, and bitter. And that is not God’s design for you.

The truth is that SOME men are perverts.

Some men will use little girls. Some men will travel to Asian countries to rent out an 8-year-old virgin for the night. Some men will kidnap Nigerian teenagers to pass them around their camp.

Some men will stare at pictures of naked women being used. Some men will throw away a great family and a great marriage for a little roll in the hay with some woman at work.

And some–not all, but some–of these men are upstanding men. Some of these men are normally good guys, but they occasionally fall. They are tempted, and they don’t make it through.

Yes, some of them are evil all the time. But most are not.

And so we have a choice: will we define all men in terms of their temptations (and some of their failures), or will we see them as creatures like us, who sometimes fail, but who are, at heart, good?

For there is a problem with defining all men as perverts. When we do that, we define ourselves, too. We say, “I am going to be the strong one and put a wall around myself so that a man can’t touch me. I am going to keep myself from being hurt.” But when you keep yourself from being hurt, you keep yourself from being vulnerable–and vulnerability is a part of love.

Your marriage was meant to be wonderful--don't let someone who hurt you in the past keep hurting you today.

I know many of you have seen so much evil in your life it’s hard to let go of it. But I think, like Julie, you have a choice. Will you let your past experiences impact your life now, or will you let yourself be free? Will you let yourself truly experience love with a good man who sometimes falls, or will you condemn yourself to a life locked up in a box of your own making?

God doesn’t want you in a box.

God wants to start healing you. You are precious, and if things were done to you, He is angry about that and He will avenge and there will be justice. But He wants you to know love, too.

If you’re struggling, why don’t you pray this prayer today:

God, I know that you created us, male and female. I know that your design is perfect. But I feel like you messed it up–like you made men to be disgusting pigs sometimes. I’ve seen it. And I don’t want to live with that constant suspicion and that constant fear anymore. Please, God, help me to see men through your eyes. Take my bad memories and show me that they don’t define me–and they don’t define men. Let me experience your love. Lead me through a journey of forgiveness and letting go of bitterness. And in your mercy, surround me with good men. Let me notice when a stranger opens the door, or smiles politely, or lends a hand. Keep my eyes open for the good. And keep my eyes open for the good in the man I married, too. Teach me to trust, and forgive me where I have let anger seep in. I don’t want it anymore, and I give it to you. Most of all, let me see the perfect man, Jesus. Let me see how He loved women and sacrificed for women. And let me experience His love today. Amen.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now it’s your turn. What advice do you have for us? Link up the URL of your own post in the linky below!



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Win a Marriage Library–with the Christian Marriage Author Pinterest Board

Christian Marriage Author Pinterest Board

I love Pinterest.

I love scrolling through and finding inspirational quotes and new recipes and great articles on the internet.

The problem is that a lot of what’s out there isn’t really, well, GOOD. And how do you weed through all the not-so-good advice and questionable theology find the stuff that’s actually quality?

I’ve got the answer today–and I’ve got THREE awesome GIVEAWAYS of a library of 12 marriage books, too!

I’ve asked five other marriage authors–people who have written books that are widely respected in the Christian marriage field–to join me on a group board on Pinterest.

Follow the board here!

There we’ll pin blog posts, links to new books, research we find interesting, other things we like around the web, information on where we’re speaking, and more! So if you want to know what your favorite Christian marriage authors write–and read–you’ll find it all here!

And each author is giving away some of their books, and all together we’ll have THREE great prizes of a marriage library that you can read yourself, donate to your church, lend to friends, or use as wedding shower gifts (after you’ve read them, of course. :) ).

Here’s who is on the board:
gary thomas

Gary Thomas: The Profound One

I first met Gary when he spoke at a retreat for all the Weekend to Remember speakers for FamilyLife Canada. He explained what he meant by his now famous question, “what if God intended marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”, and I sat there frantically scribbling as many notes as I could.

I’ve since read his books and gotten to know him a bit personally, and he is a very humble, wise man who never fails to make me think.

I love especially his book Sacred Search, about how to choose whom you will marry. And I’ve made my girls read it, too!

Gary is donating to our giveaways:

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?A Lifelong Love: What if Marriage is About More than Just Staying Together?

Gary worries that many couples settle for too little in marriage. Understanding how God sees you, your spouse, and your marriage can revitalize your relationship–and make it great.

Sacred MarriageSacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

Gary’s book is so profound, and will make you look at your marriage in a whole new way. It’s not that we’re not supposed to be happy–it’s that happiness is a by-product of holiness, and it’s character that God is really concerned with.

 

pam crop lean Pam Farrel: The Generous One

Pam makes me laugh.

She is just so FUN, and her books are fun (and quirky), and wise all at the same time. My husband and I had a chance to meet Pam and Bill for dessert one night a while back, and we still talk about their counsel when we’re trying to figure out what to do with work and speaking and schedules, etc.

Pam is likely the most generous author I know. When I was all upset and worried recently about a writing project, I Facebooked her, she phoned me, and she calmed me right down in five minutes flat. She’s introduced me to people, she’s introduced others to me, and she takes delight in mentoring others. Her heart is to get God’s message out, not her own.

And she writes amazing stuff about keeping love alive in your marriage. She’s my common sense, go-to marriage person.

Pam is donating to our giveaways:

Men Are Like Waffles--Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your DifferencesMen Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti

Men and women are made differently. Men live their lives in little boxes–like waffles–and women are more like pieces of pasta, with everything worming its way into everything else. In this practical–and hilarious–book, you’ll learn how to understand your mate and forge a great marriage.

Red-Hot Romance Tips for WomenRed Hot Romance Tips for Women

Has marriage gotten stale? Do you yearn for romance, but you just can’t find it anymore? Pam gives us some great advice on how to make your marriage red hot once again!

 

shannon ethridgeShannon Ethridge: The Courageous One

Shannon talks about fantasizing. And sex. And temptation. And passion. And all those things that Christians generally hide from. And she started talking about them before anyone else was! I want to be Shannon when I grow up (which may be mean to say, because it makes her sound old. And I think we’re about the same age. :) )

But Shannon wasn’t afraid to knock down walls and start saying, “every woman struggles with this stuff. If we don’t talk about it in the church, where are we going to talk about it?” She is on a lifelong quest to help women realize that God made us to be passionate beings, and she wants us to channel that passion in a healthy way.

Shannon is donating to our giveaways:

The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual ThoughtsThe Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Hidden Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts

Are all fantasies bad? Is it wrong to fantasize? What do my fantasies say about me? Shannon helps us navigate what are healthy fantasies and which ones are “rocky road maps to our past” that show where we need God’s healing.

The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in MarriageThe Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage

God wants us to enjoy our spouses without shame or fear, and with total passion! Learn how to embrace passion in your marriage without all the baggage that often inhibits real freedom.

leslie vernickLeslie Vernick: The Wise One

The Christian marriage world is filled with great advice on how to make a good marriage great.

What we don’t do as well is helping people who are in difficult marriages–and who need to know that God’s purpose for us is that we be GOOD, not always NICE. The two are not necessarily the same thing.

Leslie has written some hard books, but some very needed ones. Last week I phoned her when I wanted to clarify my own thoughts on submission for the book I’m finishing up right now, and she sent me some articles she wrote that were a tremendous help. Leslie is real, and she is wise, and she is so needed.

She preaches true freedom and true goodness, and it isn’t always what we typically hear in the church.

Leslie is donating to our giveaways:

How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts WrongHow to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong

No one has a perfect marriage. But what do you do when your spouse does something wrong that hurts you? Leslie shows you that acting right will help you look more like Christ and grow more like Him, even if your spouse doesn’t change. A real encouragement–and an important message.

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeThe Emotionally Destructive Marriage

You can’t put it into words, but something is wrong. You’re on eggshells, you’re always stressed, and your marriage seems wrong. Leslie helps chart a course to help free you from emotional abuse and find hope again.

Shaunti-with-blue-sweater-200x300Shaunti Feldhahn: The Ground-Breaking One

When I picture Shaunti, I picture a little Tasmanian devil, whirling around getting as much done as possible.

I met her for the first time almost a decade ago, and I interviewed her for a radio show I was doing. I remember being so impressed with her dedication to helping marriages.

Shaunti is a born researcher, and early in her writing ministry she realized that maybe the reason that marriages were breaking up is that the sexes really didn’t understand each other. Her ground-breaking books For Women Only and For Men Only, explaining the opposite sex, became the go-to wedding shower gifts.

But what really excites me about Shaunti is all the first hand research she’s doing today to figure out the TRUTH about marriage–and what makes a successful one.

I cannot rave enough about her book The Good News About Marriage, which proves that the divorce rate is not–and never has been–anywhere close to 50%. Let’s get the word out and pass it on!

I’m meeting up with Shaunti in Ottawa this Friday–I’m going to show her the Parliament buildings and grab some frozen yogurt, as long as it isn’t raining. And I can’t wait!

Shaunti is donating to our giveaways:

For Women Only, Revised and Updated Edition: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of MenFor Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men

Do you “get” your husband? Or is he a mystery to you? Shaunti opens up what motivates men, haunts men, and preoccupies men, and helps you understand him better!

 

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceThe Surprising Secrets Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference

I LOVE this book! I’m using tons of Shaunti’s research in my new book, too. It is amazing how little things can make a big difference, and how your marriage can be changed if you just think about it differently.

 

…And then there’s me. I don’t know what to call myself.

Sheila2012 Blue 200Sheila Wray Gregoire: The Authentic One

Some people call me “the sex lady”, and that’s a big compliment (my husband especially thinks so!)

But what I hope that I’m known for is being authentic. I don’t shield very much on this blog, or in my books. I share with you about my struggles. I probably share TOO MUCH about some of my health issues. I’m open about when I mess up.

But I hope and pray that as we take this marriage journey together that we can encourage each other and learn from each other. I’ve thought so much about marriage (and sex!) over the last few years, and it’s an honor to share that with you in this blog and in my books.

And if I can be the “big sister” who tells it likes it is, then that would be a great honor, too.

I am donating to our giveaways:

Good Girls Guide My SiteThe Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex

God created sex to be something amazing–but many of us have never experienced that. Learn how sex is supposed to be intimate and awesome physically, spiritually, and emotionally–and what you can do if you haven’t found that yet.

To Love, Honor and VacuumTo Love, Honor and Vacuum: When You Feel More Like a Maid Than a Wife and a Mother

Do you feel exhausted and taken for granted–like your life has become one big to-do list? Here’s help to reprioritize your life and get your kids and husband more involved in the household, so all does not rest on your shoulders.

There you go–a marriage library of 12 awesome books, and a Pinterest board to follow your favorite Christian marriage authors!

So follow us on Pinterest

And if you’re interested in winning ONE of THREE prizes of a marriage library–each with twelve books–just enter the Rafflecopter below!

Follow the Christian Marriage Author Pinterest Board to win a library of Christian marriage books!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Filming at Focus on the Family, Colorado MeetUp, and More!

Last Tuesday I flew from my daughter’s place in Ottawa to Colorado Springs. And I had such an amazing time! I wanted to share with you some of the highlights.

First, I got to speak at a morning meeting for a MOPS group in Denver, since I was in the area.

DenverMOPS

MOPS groups are so much fun to speak at! My only regret: I didn’t get to hold one of the babies. I just love holding babies. It’s been too long since I’ve had one of my own. but I shared my Girl Talk with them, and we had a Q&A, and it was a riot.

Then I went to the offices of Waterbrook, my publisher for my upcoming 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage.

Waterbrook

Since I was going to be in Colorado Springs anyway, my editor arranged for a big meeting with all kinds of people in marketing, publicity, editing, etc. I met all the bigwigs, and we talked for two hours about how they’re going to do the book launch and how they can help. It will be officially out on August 18, and I’m so excited! Now I just have to finish editing it this week…

After that was the big coup de grace–the reason I went to Colorado Springs in the first place. I was filming part of a DVD series for Focus on the Family for newlywed couples, talking about sex. It was so much fun to finally see the building and be part of Focus!

FOTF sign

Then they did my makeup and hair and I got to sit under lights wearing a blue satin top.

FOTF1

Think about that for a moment. Hot lights. Blue satin top.

Let’s just say that after a while I stopped moving my arms.

It sounds like it’s going to be a great curriculum, and I don’t know how many of my stories will make the cut. But I love doing these types of things. Reminds me that I really should film more video for this site, because I like speaking and talking into the camera, and you guys really just read what I write. You don’t hear me. I think I’ll steal the camera back from my daughter, who confiscated it to film her own YouTube videos, and start vlogging myself soon. AFTER I finish the editing of course. Sigh…

Then on Thursday night I had another “meet up”. I emailed everyone on my list who lived in Colorado and told them I’d be at a particular frozen yogurt place on Thursday night. And we had a few turn out! We ended up talking for almost 2 1/2 hours. And no on knew each other beforehand!

MeetUpGroup2

We talked about what I should blog about more, about how to teach kids about sex, about submission in marriage, and more! Most of all we just heard each other’s stories.

MeetUp6

I went on a few rants, but I think I did less talking than a lot of the others. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to meet people who actually read the blog! There was one couple there who had dated long distance for 3 and a half years before marrying 3 months ago. There was a woman with a 5-month old baby, who had three more little kids at home, who had just celebrated her tenth anniversary. A woman with three teens trying to figure out her place in the world now that her children have grown. Another woman who writes and blogs–like me. And then there was my assistant. I stayed at her house all week and met her family–and met her! And she’s been working for me for 3 years! But it was the first time we were actually together in real life.

MeetUp3

So fun to meet Holly.

I heard some great stories that night, and I’d like to share some with you in time. But they’re not mine to tell. I asked one woman in particular to write a guest post, and I think she will. She has some important things to say.

Best of all, I got to tell these people stuff I CAN’T share on the blog about my family and other things. We were all laughing together, and the poor boy working at the yogurt counter (that Holly knew) I think was trying to shut the place down, and we were still talking.

Before we left, though, I asked Lara to teach me how to tie the scarf that she had around her neck–and she did!

MeetUpScarf

On the way to the airport, Holly took me for a drive through “Garden of the Gods”, these amazing rock formations. Here I am by Balancing Rock:

1017140846e

I’m back home now, getting ready to get back to blogging myself and finishing writing. But it was a fun trip, and I wanted to show you some of the things I’ve been doing. Whenever I’m somewhere for a few days I think I will do a meetup–they’re really encouraging for me, too, to meet people who read me regularly, even if they don’t always comment. It’s fun to put faces to my blog readers. And it’s neat to come up with new ideas and to know what they struggle with. The other thing it does is ground me. I have a lot of issues in the comments with people I can’t let through because they’re off on a tangent or rude, or people who have one persistent theological issue they’re trying to push. Because they comment most frequently, it can seem like EVERYONE feels that way. But they really don’t. So it’s nice to talk to “normal” people and know what they’re going through.

My next big trip will likely be Texas in February, and there’s still time to get your church in on that tour! I’m also doing Louisiana in March and Arizona in April. Just email me if you’d like me to come to your church! And be sure to sign up for one of my newsletters, and then you’ll get notified if I’m ever doing a meetup in YOUR area.

One of the biggest points of praise for the trip is that my health was fine. As many of you know, I had some issues last May and needed surgery. Thankfully, those issues have completely resolved. But my body decided there’s no point in being healthy, so let’s get something else to act up! And my gallbladder has, causing tremendous pain. At least, I’m sure it’s my gallbladder, but nothing is cooperating by showing up on tests. So I have a ton more tests ordered, and meanwhile I have to live with it, eating absolutely nothing with grease, etc. The good news: I’m losing weight. The bad news: I feel pretty terrible quite often. But I was really careful last week, and I made it through!

Thanks for reading, everybody! I do appreciate my readers. I’ve had my biggest month ever on the blog, and things keep growing, and that’s really exciting for me. If there are things you want me to share about more, leave them in the comments!