4 Kinds of Talk You Need in a Marriage

How to Talk to Your Husband: 4 Kinds of Talks every Marriage Needs

It’s Top 10 Tuesday! And while I normally post a “top 10″ list with a bunch of ideas that you can pick from, I thought today I’d just do 4, since I received this wonderful post from Emily Wierenga about how to talk to your husband. Here’s Emily:

We’re skipping church this once, because we’ve been gone all weekend and the Sabbath is about rest.

We’re watching it instead, online, Pastor Mark Hughes’ Church of the Rock, and we’re watching a sermon on marriage on separate couches, while our boys climb all over us. Trent and I look at each other across the room and sigh, roll our eyes and there’s a splash of sunlight on the floor, falling from the sky. Just a splash but it’s enough to make the room feel warmer.

Marriage is hard with kids, and it’s hard without kids too. It’s just plain hard. Not because of anything except that you are two sinful people with different ways of communicating, different ways of seeing and perceiving the world and suddenly you’re apparently one body and not only that, you’re expected to raise two very impressionable young children while being consistently “on the same page”.

And you try to have date night which basically means sitting on the couch with your feet up watching something funny because you can’t handle serious after the kind of day you had and suddenly the boys are yelling at you from bed because they want more water or another song or they’re suddenly hungry.

And you do that thing where you look at each other and even though you’re side by side you feel miles apart.

“Who are you?” you ask, not only to the person in front of you but to the person that you are, because you forget. You forget what makes you laugh. You forget what you used to do when you had free time, you forget what romance is because you’re so tired when you fall into bed it’s all you can do turn out the light before you’re snoring.

But I want more.

I know, my kids are two and four and we’re both neck deep in our careers and yet, I don’t want to lose “us” before the kids are out of the house and suddenly we don’t know what to talk about anymore.

But more than that, I want to have the kind of marriage that makes my kids want to get married.

I want the kind of marriage that makes my kids want to get married.

They say that your eyes should light up every time your kids walks into the room. Heck, I think we should aim just as high when our spouse walks into the room.

But it’s not just about the eyes lighting up. It’s about talking to your other half–really, truly talking. According to Pastor Mark Hughes of Church of the Rock–the program we were watching on separate couches while our boys tugged on our hair and flipped across our laps, there are 4 kinds of talk that will save a marriage.

Small Talk:

You know, the kind in which you discuss the weather, the day, How was work honey, Did you get the mail like I asked you to, Why didn’t you get the mail like I asked you to?! Yeah,  that kind of talk.

Sweet Talk:

Trent and I call each other Babes, but that’s about the extent of our sweet talk, so we realized we needed to work on that. So I told him one night that I liked his butt. He told me he liked mine too. It’s a start.

Serious Talk:

This is when you discuss a heightened version of Small talk, concerning more crucial topics, like health, finances, relationships, careers. People often think they’re having an intimate talk if it’s about something serious, but in fact, it’s not. Yet it’s still important to do.

Soul Talk:

This is the most intimate version of communication. This is where you ask each other a “soul” question, like “What are you afraid of?” or “If you could accomplish one thing with your life, what would it be?”

So Trent and I have started soul-talking. Because we’ve realized we’ve been living mostly off of small talk, serious talk and a crush on each other’s butts. But our marriage was feeling flat because there was no soul.

You gotta have soul.

So set aside one night a week where you ask each other a question. Put the kids to bed early, pop some corn, pour each other a glass of bubbly and sit out on the deck.

It’s worth it to one day have the kind of marriage that makes our kids say, “Hey–I want one of those!”

JJG_1313

Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of four books including A Promise in Pieces. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

A Promise in Pieces:

It’s been more than 50 years since Clara cared for injured WWII soldiers in the Women’s Army Corp. Fifty years since she promised to deliver a dying soldier’s last wish. And 50 years since that soldier’s young widow gave her the baby quilt—a grief-ridden gift that would provide hope to countless newborns in the years to come. On her way to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Clara decides it’s time to share her story. But when the trip doesn’t go as planned, Clara wonders if anyone will learn the great significance of the quilt—and the promise stitched inside it.

Purchase Emily Wierenga’s debut novel now, and get a second Quilts of Love book when you send in your receipt to fiction@abingdonpress.com.

Why We All Should Celebrate Goodness in Media

Goodness in Movies

Yesterday was Easter. I know on Mondays I usually put up a Reader Question, but forgive me because I had some other things I wanted to share with you, so I thought I’d write a more personal post.

My daughters were together in Ottawa, where my oldest goes to university, so Keith and I were alone. I texted Rebecca in the morning, “He is risen!”, and she correctly texted back “He is risen indeed!”. I raised her well. :)

I wasn’t really in the Easter mood. I’ve had a really rough week healthwise.

Last weekend my husband and I were in Banff speaking at a FamilyLife marriage conference, and ever since we flew back on Sunday there was something wrong with my right leg. It hurt horribly at night. In the day I was okay, but at night it was excrutiating. By Wednesday the daytime was difficult, too. On Thursday I was in agony. The doctor sent me for an emergency ultrasound to make sure it wasn’t a blood clot (it wasn’t). So she put me on pain killers.

They didn’t touch the pain, and by dinner time I was back in the Emergency almost crying. They gave me even more powerful painkillers which made me awfully happy, but night time was still excrutiating, and I really couldn’t walk.

On Saturday I woke up and it was gone. Just like that! I think it was an inflammation of a blood vessel or a superficial vein, aggravated by flying. I’ve had problems with my veins ever since my kids were born, so it seems logical. When I fly to Vancouver in May I’ll have to wear pressure stockings on the flight. But needless to say I wasn’t in much of a mood for anything this weekend. It really threw me. I’m getting old!

So as good as our service was yesterday morning, I thought I needed more. And so I asked my husband and my mom, and a few other people from church, if they’d come with me to watch the Heaven is For Real movie in the afternoon.

I read that book in one sitting a few years ago on the anniversary of my baby boy’s death. I really loved it.

Heaven Is For RealFor those of you who don’t know the plot, Heaven is for Real is about a little 4-year-old boy has emergency surgery after his appendix burst. It looks bad on the table, but he pulls through. Then, over the next two years or so, he starts revealing things little by little that make very little sense. He talks about angels singing to him. He talks about seeing his mom on the phone crying at the same time as his dad is in a different room. He says that Jesus has a horse. He sees a picture of his great-grandfather when he’s old and replies, “that’s not what Pop looks like. But he’s really nice.” When he sees a picture of him when he was young, he recognizes him. And so on and so on.

The most moving part of the book for me was when he tells his mother, “I miss my sister.” His mother replies, “Cassie’s right here.” And he says, “No, I miss my other sister.” Turns out his mother had a miscarriage, and that baby is now in heaven, and she is growing. She was just about the right age when he saw her. And she doesn’t have a name. “She’s waiting for you to get to heaven to name  her.”

For someone who has always wondered what heaven is like for my baby boy, that meant a lot to me. As I said in my original post about the book, I know that this book isn’t Scripture and we shouldn’t treat it as such. But it is nonetheless interesting, and I do find comfort in it.

Anyway, they made it into a movie with some pretty big-name actors (Greg Kinnear and Thomas Haden Church, for instance). The little boy who plays Colton is great. And I thought they did the movie really well.

Was it perfect? No. There are two glaring bits for me: at one point they seem to insinuate that you get to heaven because God loves you, and that it doesn’t have to do with salvation. And they left out some of the more Christian parts of what Colton saw (the sending lightning down from heaven to strengthen people, for instance, symbolizing the Holy Spirit).

I think many people would latch on to that first part and declare it a “horrible movie” because it compromises. I just don’t see it that way.

Could it have been more Christian? Yes.

But what does the movie do? It shows very clearly that heaven IS for real, and it shows very clearly that Jesus is the central figure there. Those are two important things to know, and two important things to get people thinking about.

And it offers this challenge: “would we live life differently if we knew heaven was for real?” I think we would. And I think it’s a message the world needs to hear.

Have you been in a video store or looked through the pickings on Netflix recently? They’re awful. They make you want to take a bath after just seeing the covers. So even if a movie isn’t perfect, I’m glad they’re making some that are beautiful and that bring hope and that make people think. This one, especially, offers great potential for that.

I haven’t seen Noah, and I’ve stayed away from reading any of the articles either pro or con about whether you should see it. It’s not the kind of movie I’d see anyway, and I hate the back and forth that Christians often have about stuff like this.

But it seems to me that sometimes we demand too much purity, and declare that everything is horrible unless it’s absolutely pure.

That would be true if it was a church putting it on, or someone who claimed to be Christian. But the movie companies aren’t claiming to be Christian. And personally, I’m glad they’re making some movies with better messages that make people think.

Again, I don’t even know what all the controversy with Noah is about, but I do worry that the more we yell and say, “it wasn’t like that!”, the less likely they are to make more movies like this one, which I did believe really merited our favour.

I’m glad our society is focusing more on faith and spirituality today.

That’s going to mean that they’re going to say things that we won’t like because they aren’t doctrinally pure. But let’s be glad that our society is at least having the conversation, something that for years they wouldn’t do. And maybe we need to figure out a way to be part of that conversation without always sounding angry. We certainly don’t have to go see every movie that touches on faith that’s out there, but I don’t think we need to yell and picket, either. We can just simply become part of a dialogue with people we know, instead of sounding so angry.

And let’s remember that there are real believers working behind the scenes to try to do what they can to get the right message out there–or at least the least compromised message they can. Let’s support them in prayer, and say “thank you” a little more, and be grateful that producers are even willing to explore it. If they’re willing to explore it, it means more people are interested in it. And if they’re interested in it, then they’d be open to conversation. But they likely won’t be open if we’re yelling and angry.

Christian Discouragement: Before your give that "helpful suggestion", check yourself!I posted on Facebook that I was going to see Heaven is for Real, and several criticized me because it’s not Christian, supposedly. Doing that on Facebook, where it’s public, is really counterproductive to the gospel. It makes us all look really, really angry. Let’s go back to “what would Jesus do”? Or let’s ask “What did Paul do?” Paul stood in Athens in Acts 17, and said, “you have an idol to an ‘unknown god’. I want to tell you about that god.” He took something that was already part of their culture, and then expanded it. He didn’t yell at them for having that idol; he praised them for searching, and then helped them fill in the blanks. Maybe we should take a similar approach.

All of this reminds me of an article I wrote a year ago called, “Are you being an instrument of discouragement?” So often we discourage those in ministry by saying something like, “I just have to tell you, in Christian love, that you’re totally wrong”, or “you’re giving Christ a bad name.” It’s an important article, and it likely warrants rereading.

Tell me: have you seen Heaven is for Real? What did you think?

Sometimes We All Need Someone to Save Us

Sometimes we ALL Need Someone to Save UsTo me, today is the holiest day of the year. Easter is the day of celebration; today is the sombre reflection of how much Christ paid so that we could be united with Him.

As I was thinking about what I wanted to share, this story that I wrote in a column last year kept coming back to me, and so I thought I would reprint it. Here’s why: way too often we think we can do life alone. We can just try harder, work harder, put in a little more effort, and we’ll reach our goals. But what if trying harder won’t get you anywhere? What if what we all need to do is be humble and admit that we need help? Sometimes we ALL need Someone to save us.

Christ died so that we wouldn’t have to do life alone. And today I want to tell you this funny story as a word picture that no matter where we are in life, it’s better to stop trying, and start grabbing His hand.

Apparently I value my life at twenty U.S. dollars.

At least, that’s what I tipped the Mexican guy who saved me from drowning last week.

My daughter and I were vacationing in Cozumel, eager for some wonderful snorkeling. And while two of our excursions were highly successful, on one particular day we decided to snorkel right off the beach in front of a popular restaurant. The reef was teeming with life, but unfortunately the current was surprisingly strong. We had no problem swimming out, but when we tried to swim back to the dock, we kept veering to the right.

Within a few minutes a Mexican guy had swum out to us with a flutterboard, but I refused it. I’m a good swimmer. I can tread water for hours. I’ve finished swims that were several kilometres long.

When the flutterboard was proffered, I was so embarrassed. “I should be able to do this,” I kept thinking. “Oh, come on, Sheila. This is ridiculous. Just swim harder.”

My daughter, who is a lifeguard, found it challenging, though she managed to reach the ladder. But though I got within about twenty feet of it, I couldn’t get any closer. All I was doing was standing still. So finally I reached out, grabbed that board, and was pulled in.

Looking back I’m not sure why I was so stubborn. I guess I just didn’t want to accept the fact that I needed help. I considered myself a competent, if not good, swimmer. If I took help, it was as if I would be admitting that I am not as in control as I think I am.

I wonder how often in my personal life I’ve done the same thing—I like to think of myself as in control, and accepting help is admitting weakness. None of us wants to think we are weak.

Often we’d rather have the frustration of butting our heads against a wall rather than give in to the fear of being vulnerable.

No wonder so many of us are spending our lives treading water. Maybe debt is piling up and we honestly have no idea how to create a budget. But mature people know how to stick to a budget! Admitting you have a problem is like saying you’re not mature. So the red ink keeps getting redder.

Or perhaps that pain is getting worse, but we don’t want to go to a doctor because we hate hospitals, and we’re too young to start falling apart. Maybe the principal keeps calling reporting more problems with a wayward child, but you don’t want to admit that something’s really wrong because it could reflect badly on choices you’ve made. And so you lash out at the messenger.

My husband and I speak at marriage conferences, and while I love sharing our failures and victories, the conferences always make me a little sad. There are two types of couples who go: those who can’t keep their hands off of each other, because they’re blissfully happy and want to make sure it stays that way, and those who are about to file for divorce and are giving it one last chance. I always wonder about the middle: those who have a few issues that a little help could easily remedy, but who don’t want to admit they may have problems. And so they wait until everything blows up.

We aren’t meant to walk through this life alone.

Certainly many of us just need to get more disciplined and try harder and we’d be more successful. But sometimes discipline won’t cut it. Sometimes you need help. And in that case, it’s far better to grab that flutterboard and let the hunky Mexican guy save you.

Having a Healthy Sex Life After Sexual Abuse

Yesterday Mary DeMuth talked about how childhood sexual abuse had really impacted her sex life with her husband. She just wasn’t able to be “that sexy wife” that we’re “supposed” to be.

Today Paula shares her own story, and some great advice, on how to get to a healthy sex life after sexual abuse, which happened in her teen years. So appreciate these women sharing their stories!

Having a Healthy Sex Life after Sexual AbuseFor years I wondered if I’d ever be able to have a healthy sex life with my husband. Even though he had nothing to do with the sexual abuse I endured in my teen years, being with him in bed would trigger thoughts, feelings and even flashbacks of those dark nights. It wasn’t him, it was most definitely me. I would feel broken, crying myself to sleep wishing that sex didn’t exist. I couldn’t imagine ever enjoying it, ever being happy in my sex life with my husband.

I couldn’t even bare hope that I would ever use the words “fun” and “sex” in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence.

It’s often a silent struggle. Statistics say that one in every five women has been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in her lifetime, and yet so often we feel alone. As if we are the only ones struggling.

I remember reading article after article about sex online, so many that express how to please your man, how to get in the mood, and why you need to be “doing it” more frequently, but none of these topics were able to provide any encouragement to some one who found intercourse terrifying, even with the man she loved and found oh-so-very attractive.

I’ve been married for several years now, and I am finally at the point where I consider sex fun, and even initiate it from time to time!

For those of you reading this post who have also experienced sexual abuse, let me tell you, there is hope. 

I know your pain, and I know the struggle, but there is another side. It is possible to work through it.

Healing doesn’t come overnight, but there are several things that I learned along the way that truly helped me in this area. I searched long and hard for a post like this when I was in the midst of my struggle, and having not found it when I needed it, I decided to write the post myself, now that I am in a place of healing (and fun!).

This is not a “5 steps to be better tomorrow” list, it’s simply actions you can work through yourself and with your husband to help you progress.

Don’t expect things to be perfect immediately, but just keep moving forward, keep striving for healing and for fun! You will get there!

    1. Think about it early - I found that I needed lots of extra time to ‘get in the mood.’ I would start coaching myself in the morning and continue all throughout the day. Simple reminders like “This is my husband, he loves me and cares for me” and “my husband doesn’t want to harm me or overlook me, he cherishes me”. Positive reminders go a long way in training your mind that sex is safe, no longer something to be feared. Eventually, you will get to the place where being touched and caressed does not trigger the “fight or flight” response in your mind. Thinking about sex with your husband while reminding yourself how loving, caring and gentle he is is a huge help in this direction.

 

    1. Be strategic - If you had a difficult time the night before, spend some time the next morning figuring out what specific things triggered you. It could be a certain position, the way your husband said something, or even his tone of voice. Try to figure out if there are specific things that make sex more challenging for you and identify them clearly to yourself.  For me, I hated being out of control. Positions that left me vulnerable and underneath my husband always triggered the “fight or flight” in my mind and frequently brought flashbacks of my past. Realizing this enabled me to take control a bit more and avoid sexual positions where I felt out of control. This helped me to avoid having those flashbacks and began giving me some completely positive memories of sex with my husband. Personally, I no longer have to worry about specific positions or triggers during sex, and eventually you probably won’t either. But this can be a helpful way of working through it with your husband, if you can identify your triggers and share them with him so that he can be mindful of them in the future. If talking about sex makes you nervous, write him a letter or text him. Anything to communicate your needs so that you can work through it together as a team!

 

    1. Communication - This one is huge. Talk with your husband about why you are struggling so that he’s able to help you. My husband had never endured abuse of any nature, but he was still able to respect my needs and he tried to understand as best he could. It was very helpful for him when I would clearly communicate things like “I’m sorry I turned you down last night, it’s not because I find you unattractive or I don’t care about you, you are the most handsome man I know!!! I’m  dealing with some things from my past and couldn’t get where I needed to be right then”. While my husband knew I was still healing from abuse, it was helpful for him that I would verbalize that I was not rejecting him, I was working through my past.

 

    1. Be careful - Be cautious what you read on the internet, and even in magazines or books. It seems that every time I turn around there is another article being published that says you have to sleep with your husband more or he will stray. These types of stories are not helpful for you in any way. You cannot pressure yourself into enjoying sex. In fact, if you go into it stressed and fearful, you are more likely to trigger that fight or flight response and not be able to get through it (much less enjoy it!). Healing is a process that your husband will take with you. Keep the lines of communication open, like I stated above, and make sure your man knows you are doing everything you can to heal, not only for your sake but for his!

 

    1. Counseling - Find a Christian counselor in your area and talk to her. I spent several months in counseling myself and it was incredibly helpful. If you are not sure where to find a good Christian counselor, you might be able to ask at your church office for a recommendation. Many counselors take insurance, so that may be an option to help with payment as well. My husband and I are by no means rich, but we would have paid 10 times over for the help that our counselor was able to provide me with. Not just in our sex life, but in my every day life as well. A history of abuse can bleed into every area of life, and counseling can help to alleviate that strain and sew your heart back together in ways you never thought possible. This was personal counseling, my husband never came to a single session, but it helped our marriage in more ways than either of us could ever count!

 

  1. Books - I read several books during my healing process, but there are two that really stuck out to me as helping the most. The first, is Sheila’s Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. In reading that book, I was able to see sex as a positive for the first time ever in my life. Not some dirty, sinful deed. The second book was written specifically for survivors of sexual abuse and it is entitled Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. It would not be possible for me to fully express how this book helped and changed me. It was like talking to some one who understood for the very first time. The book shows specific places in scripture that talk about sexual abuse, and continually points the reader to Christ for hope and healing. This is not just a “think about Jesus and you’ll be better” type of book, it takes you on a journey of healing in every possible way, all while demonstrating that healing only fully comes in Christ. I can’t recommend this book enough to any survivor of sexual abuse. It was also helpful for me to be able to share with my husband. I asked him to read certain portions and it opened his eyes to what I was experiencing, as the book was able to articulate the feelings in my heart more clearly than my own broken words every could have.

Lastly, let me urge you to take heart. Have hope that you will one day have a happy sex life. It’s not an easy road, but it is so worth it. Your abuser has not stolen sex from you and your husband forever. You can work through it together, and come out stronger and happier than you ever imagined possible.

3 years ago, I never would have imagined sex could be this fun or marriage could be this good. But it is.

It is because God is wonderful, and faithful to complete healing in us.

Don’t give up my friend.

To read more about Paula’s road to healing, you can check out her blog Beauty Through Imperfection.
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Wifey Wednesday: Sexual Abuse Really Messes with Your Sex Life

Sexual Abuse Really Messes with Your Sex Life

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! Today Mary Demuth is joining us to share her story about how sexual abuse affected her sex life.

NOT MARKED - FOR AMAZON 3DWhen I speak one on one with people who have been sexually abused, a great majority of them have a difficult time with sex.

They either border on addiction or have sworn off sex entirely (even in marriage).

Some divorce because they simply cannot have sex with their spouse. It’s a real problem, but so few talk about it.

My own story and journey of healing is chronicled in my memoir Thin Places. I was molested at five years old during my kindergarten career by neighborhood bullies, who eventually brought their friends in on the violation. I told my babysitter. She said she’d tell my mom (but never did), and the boys continued to violate me, which led me to believe that not one adult on earth would protect me. I grew a fierce determination to protect myself, so I feigned sleep to get out of the attacks. Providentially, we moved at the end of that year, far enough away from those boys that I didn’t have to endure their violation any more.

But boy did they stay with me. They haunted my dreams. They obscured my view of sex.

They made me think that my sole purpose in this life was to be used and violated.

I don’t know how I was able to walk the aisle of marriage a virgin—it’s truly God’s grace. Technically, of course, I wasn’t. All those violations from the past ensured that. But when it became my choice, I found the strength to say no.

Truth be told, I walked a strange line between yearning and utter terror. As a fatherless girl, I wanted nothing more than to have a boyfriend fill up all the empty spaces of me, but when my love interest became interested, I ran one thousand miles away, completely terrified. I worried they’d try to make me do things I didn’t ever want to do.

When I got engaged, I worried a lot about sex. My wedding night was not something I anticipated with joy or expectation. The terror refrained inside me. I felt five again.

I shared those fears with my husband, and we made it through. And I’m frankly quite surprised (it is the gift of God) that I can enjoy sex.

But it’s taken many years over the past twenty-two to get to a healthy place. I still disconnect.

I can’t seem to engage my emotions or my whole self. If I enjoy sex, I still have the feeling that I’m legitimizing the abuse. I’ve come to a place of acceptance, too, that I may never be the sexy wife who is “all that” for her husband. My growth has been tremendous, but I still have scars.

We’ve learned to talk about it, not an easy thing to do. My husband knows I’m trying, that I’m not giving up. I’ve been able to communicate my triggers to him, which has helped a lot.

And through it all, I honestly have to cry out to Jesus to give me a healthy view of sex.

It absolutely does not come naturally to me. My fallback is revulsion.

All this stinks. It’s not fair what those boys stole the most precious part of me. It’s not fair to me, and it’s not fair to my husband. They violated, and I’m left to navigate the minefield of memories and feelings.

I walk with a giant limp in the sexy wife arena. I still feel outright rage when I read that for the sake of my husband, I’m supposed to be adventurous and wild, that to be this way represents true spousal godliness. Because honestly? Those words just make me feel less than. Those are a set of guidelines I’ll probably never meet.

I haven’t given up. I press on to be whole. But I also know my limitations. And I know that many of you are reading this and saying, yes, yes. Mind if I offer you grace?

It’s okay to struggle in this area. It’s normal. I give you permission to say it’s frightening and bewildering. I pray you’ll find the words to communicate with your spouse how you feel, how this is hard for you. I hope for an understanding spouse who loves you utterly for who you are, not how you perform. I want to tell you that it does get better, but that you won’t improve by simply trying to on sexy clothes or offering your body as a fruit plate. True sexual liberation comes from the inside out, where Jesus walks into those terrible memories and mourns alongside you. I don’t have the answers. I still can’t reconcile my own sexual exploitation with a loving God, other than to say He has used those awful events to make me more empathetic to those who have walked similar paths. And the thrill that comes when I’m able to offer words of encouragement and truth salves the wound a bit. Whether you’re a man or a woman, hear this: You are beautiful. You are worthy of being cherished. You are worth healing. Stay on the course. Holler your anger if you have to. But keep asking Jesus for healing. And keep offering grace to fellow strugglers.

marydemuth-headshot-squareNOT MARKED - FOR AMAZON 3DMary DeMuth is an author, speaker, and writing mentor who took a long path to publication. When her children were young, she spent ten years writing in obscurity. After creating miles of unpublished words, she began to find success in small venues—regional magazines, a local paper, then national magazines.

Her first published book, Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (2005),ushered in thirteen more, including parenting guides, a memoir, and six novels. In the midst of all that, she and her husband carted their three kids off to France, where they were church-planting missionaries nearly three years. Now stateside, Mary lives with her husband and their teens in Texas, where she writes full time and mentors others toward publication. Mary speaks around the country and the world about living uncaged, parenting well, and writing great prose. Find out more at www.marydemuth.com and http://www.notmarked.com. Purchase Not Marked on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or autographed from Mary.

 

Christian Marriage Advice
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Top 10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Future Husband

Top Ten TuesdayToday, on top 10 Tuesday, I’m welcoming the blogger from There Once Was This Girl to share about getting ready for your future husband. Her life was not at all pristine before she was married, but she found God and He made all the difference.

As my husband and I approach our 1 year anniversary, I can’t help but reflect on our past and the difference it has made in our lives to follow the path God had for us. In March we celebrated nine years together. At first we were very happy and in love, but something was just not right. We spent two of those years dating, then three+ years living together. Then the change pressing on our souls that had to happen in order to continue our journey and our relationship with Christ hit us. For the next two+ years we abstained from all sexual relations, as we waited for our wedding night. This was, by far, the greatest decision we made. Those two and half years provided me much-needed time for reflection and insight of my past, mindset and decisions made along the way. The intimacy and connection it brought to my husband and I was unlike no other.

For those of you who are like I was, in a relationship that everyone says you’re supposed to have, but you feel is just not right, I want to give you ten steps to make you ready for the relationship God really does have for you.

Getting ready for your future husband

1. Pray–for you and your future husband.

Ask others to pray with you and for you. Are you asking God to bring you a man or a better man but not truly believing (by your actions and self talk) that you are worthy of the best, most gentle, loving and caring man? Are you praying for your future husband but not asking God to open your heart, mind and eyes to the lies you are currently believing and accepting? Are you not asking God to change you, mold you and prepare you for your future husband? If not, it is time to start.

2. Stop having premarital sex.

It does not matter if you are currently in a relationship. Stop and wait until your married. If he leaves you because of this, then you will know without a doubt that this person is not “the one”. It doesn’t matter if you have a child with this man, you have been dating him for 10 years or your relationship is new. This type of sin slowly chips away at your soul, self-worth and separates you from the relationship you were meant to have with God. You should be insulted as a beautiful and worthy woman of God, if he feels it is important to sample you before marrying you. By not waiting, you are the one in control of your life and you are choosing your own path. When you choose your own path over the one God has for you, you are missing out on the opportunities God wants for you–including the opportunity to meet someone who is really right for you.

(Have trouble with this one? Here’s a post on how to stop sleeping with your boyfriend.)

3. Don’t Define Yourself by Your Boyfriend

If you feel your worth is defined by having a man in your life and having that man stay in your life depends on you giving him your precious body then you need to spend much more alone time with God and His word. Understand these are Satan’s lies you are believing to be true about yourself. These are lies.

4. Learn what real intimacy is.

Understand that sex is really NOT the intimacy and connection you desire and crave. Satan tells us it is readily available to us through sex. This is a huge lie designed to separate us from our Creator, think less of our selves and destroy our self-worth. See the lie for what it’s worth and turn yourself towards Gods truth.

5. Know that sex does not equal love.

Love is not full of lies, cheating eyes, nor cheating bodies. Love is not belittling and degrading comments or gestures. Love is not a strong abusive hand or voice. If you have believed this lie to be true know that you are worth so much more. Read what the bible says love is (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

(Have trouble with this one? Here’s a post on why God wants us to wait until we’re married for sex.)

6. Get involved in helping others.

Get involved at church, start a singles small group. Take up a hobby. Get yourself healthy – emotionally, spiritually and physically. And do this with your boyfriend, if you have one. His character will be revealed as you help others together. And if he doesn’t want to help? That’s a huge sign, too.

(Knowing what kind of person your boyfriend is is so important! Here’s my list of 4 things you absolutely need in a future husband).

7. Love yourself through God’s eyes.

Believe His truths, speak His truths over and over in your head. Speak them out loud. Wrap yourself in the full armor of God and take captive every negative and sinful thought. Believe that you are worth waiting for and your future husband is worth waiting for. Prepare now for future temptation.

8. Realize that you can not pick and choose which parts of God’s word you choose to believe.

There are many sins which are the result of following with your flesh and not with your faith. Sex before marriage is one of those. Control your thoughts and your flesh will follow.

9. Own the truth that you are not alone.

You may feel alone but if you really dig deep into God’s word you will see that you are not alone. You are beautiful, precious and very much-loved. You are worthy and valuable. So much so that saving yourself for marriage…for your future…would be the ultimate gift to give to him. By not waiting you are in control of your life and choosing your own path. When you choose your path over the one God has for you, you are missing out on opportunities to meet someone who you will be able to serve God with fully.

10. Be patient as you get ready for your future husband.

While it may feel that God is making you wait forever, He is still preparing you. Remember He could still be at work in your future husband too. Even though you may be ready in God’s eyes, your soul mate is not ready yet. Be still while He readies him for you. Maybe your future husband is just as stubborn as you once were! Be patient and have faith.

There OnceAs a former single mom, “Anonymous” was skilled at making a messy disaster of her life and home. Through accepting Christ and His word, she was able to find the hope and encouragement needed to improve our situation.  She has a huge heart and passion for single moms in hopes of encouraging and motivating those precious ladies to not follow in her footsteps of disaster but to follow God. You can find her at There Once Was This Girl.

Reader Question: How Do You Reset Your Sex Life?

Every MondayReader Question of the Week I like to post a Reader Question and try to take a stab at answering it. Today a reader is asking, “how do you reset your sex life?”

 I have read The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex and am intrigued by the mention you make of the first four years of your marriage. You mentioned having a lot of pain during sex and that it started your sex life off in a bad way. I had a similar start and now, a year after having a baby, sex is much easier. The trouble is that my husband is so demoralized by our early experiences that we still don’t have sex much, and I’m often rejected. No matter how I plan, prep and try to make it happen, he can be pretty cold. It’s like he’s used to and expects a bad sex life. I’m thankful that you try so hard to put a positive light on intimacy, but it would be nice to hear suggestions on dealing with a cold husband.

That’s a difficult question, isn’t it? It could take other forms, like:

I’m a victim of child sexual abuse, and for the first few years of our marriage I was scared of sex. I’ve received healing now and I want to have a great sex life, but it’s like my husband has shut down.

Or perhaps:

I spent years refusing sex with my husband, but I’ve now realized that was wrong and I want to change. But he doesn’t believe me!

When we start marriage seeing sex as a negative thing, it’s really hard to establish a new dynamic in your relationship where it’s fun, easy, and spontaneous.

I’m going to point you to some resources I have at the bottom of this post, but I’d like to tell you a bit of my story. I don’t do that too often anymore; most of my posts are suggesting advice. But I thought some of you may want to hear more of my story.

How to Reset Your Sex Life

Like the original questioner said, I did have pain during intercourse for the first few years of our marriage. I shared that in my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex; I wasn’t sure if I would or not because it’s something really personal to me, and it really was a very painful part of my life and my marriage. I’m still dealing with some emotional scars from it, as is my husband, although we honestly have emerged really strong together.

Keith and I have been speaking at marriage conferences since 2005, but I never really shared that much about this part of our life, even though we were very open about sex in general. But when it came time to write the book, I really thought it needed to be in there. And so I did write about it, and even shared some rather funny–in retrospect–stories of running screaming from doctor’s offices who thought that all I needed was a mirror and an anatomy lesson to get over my condition!

What I really needed was time, space, and healing–and delivering three children vaginally probably helped quite a bit, too. And so I honestly am totally and completely over that.

But the problem is that because that was such a defining part of our marriage in our early years, it was hard to readjust emotionally and relationally once things were “working”, even when the physical wasn’t a problem. We were in a rut where Keith would want sex and feel guilty; I would feel obligated and feel guilty; and both of us just in general felt a lot of shame.

This questioner is saying that her husband is cold towards her. He very well could be. But I wonder if something else is going on, where he was so ashamed of still wanting sex even when it was painful to her that he eventually just shut down. You see, sometimes it’s easier to shut down than to deal honestly with what’s going on inside your head and your heart. And when we don’t see how we can get legitimate needs met, we often try to build these walls to protect our hearts. And perhaps this man has built a wall, and he’s afraid to see things as having changed because he may get hurt again. And he’s trained himself to think of sex as a negative in their relationship.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, too–it isn’t just if she has a physical condition that makes sex difficult. If she has sexual abuse issues (which we’ll be talking about later this week) or other fears, he can also shut down. It’s his defense mechanism because something that really matters to him seems to be making the marriage worse.

The problem is that even though the husband may shut down his sexuality due to a combination of self-preservation and love for his wife, because he’s shut down sexually it’s now even harder for him to feel or express love, since for most men sex is so intertwined with love. So while he may have shut down sexually to protect them both, out of purely altruistic motives, it often ends up hurting both of you. You’re missing that deep connection–not just sex, but real intimacy. He’s shut off a part of himself, and because of that you’re missing something big.

And if he’s shut off intimacy, then even if you’ve changed, it’s hard for him to compute or adjust to the new reality. He likely has some resentment built up, and he may have transferred a lot of his needs somewhere else. Maybe he gets his self-worth from work, or sports, or something else. Obviously if he’s using porn that’s a big problem, but not all men who shut down use porn at all. I know my husband didn’t. But it’s still hard for them to come to a point where they can have sex without feeling guilty. No matter how much you try to convince them that it honestly is okay, deep inside they feel shame for wanting something that has caused you pain.

I tell you all this to try to help you see it from his point of view. You, albeit unwittingly, without meaning to, pulled the rug out from under him when sex didn’t work for you. And that was likely really devastating to him. Now you need him to forget all that and meet you where you’re at.

That’s hard.

But it’s not impossible. Here are just a few quick thoughts:

1. Acknowledge That Your Husband was Hurt

When sex was hard for me, the focus was mostly on the pain I was enduring–both physical and emotional. Keith’s pain was shoved aside. And that’s really how it needed to be in order for me to get better.

But at this point, if you have emerged on the other side, it’s worth letting him air how he did feel, and reassuring him that he does not need to feel guilty for his sexual feelings. Apologize where you can, and let him know that the fact that he was hurt hurts you, too–even if you don’t see how you could have done anything differently at the time.

2. Be His Friend

I know I say this all the time, no matter what the problem is in marriage, but it is so much easier to communicate about the hard things in our marriage if we’re also communicating about the little things. So work on laughing together and doing things together, and it’s easier to truly reset.

3. Do a Sexual Reset

You need to reset your sex life–so do it! I’ve got a post here that takes you through the steps:

How to Reset Your Sex Life

4. Schedule Sex

When sex is difficult, and fraught with emotion, then it’s easy for each night to feel stressful: are we going to tonight? Is it going to turn into a fight? Will he turn me down? Do I dare mention it?

If you’ve got it scheduled on your calendar–say twice a week, to start with–then it takes a lot of the anxiety out of it. During these periods of adjustment, when you need to find a new normal, I highly recommend scheduling sex, even if it’s only a temporary thing.

5. Be Patient

I want to reassure you today that couples can come through to the other side. If sex has been a major source of stress in your marriage, you really can make it through and redefine sex and become spontaneous and fun! But it doesn’t happen overnight, and you need to be patient.

If you’re the one who has received healing, chances are you have been working at this for months, if not years. You’ve seen the progress. You know what’s occurred. You can feel the difference. But he hasn’t. He doesn’t know what’s going on inside your brain, and it’s quite likely he’s shut himself off so that he doesn’t get his hopes up. He’s afraid to see that it could be better.

Just remember that you are further along in this process than he is, and you need to give him time to catch up. You need to give him time to trust you again–to trust that you do actually enjoy sex. And so give him that time!

6. Be Honest

Okay, here’s the hardest one for me to do–and the one I still struggle with. To Keith, it was so traumatic if I ever made love “just for him”, because it was initially hurting me. He is so afraid of ever doing anything that would hurt me again that if he senses that I’m uncomfortable it’s hard for him to want to keep going.

I needed to learn that when I was having triggers, or things were uncomfortable, I needed to tell him, and we’d stop. If he knew that I would tell him if I didn’t want to, then he knew that if I WASN’T telling him, I really did want to. If he wasn’t sure I’d tell him if I was uncomfortable, he was always, always doubting himself. So if you are getting over sexual abuse, and 80% of the time things work fine, then the 20% that they don’t–tell him. Even if it would disrupt the night. If he knows you’re honest when things aren’t working, it makes it much easier for him to let go when they are. So NEVER fake. That would kill any trust you’ve built up. Be totally honest, and then he’s more inclined to believe that you’re enjoying it when things are working well.

I hope those tips help. I know how hard it is emotionally to walk through something like this, but believe me–healing is possible, and you can both come to a beautiful place in your marriage. I pray that you will!

Now, let me know: have you ever struggled with rebuilding your sex life? What did you do? How did you heal? Let me know in the comments!

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Stages of Parenting: Living with the Ebb and Flow of Relationships

Stages of Parenting: Going with the Natural Ebb and Flow of Relationships

The only constant in life is change. Have you heard that before? Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on life, and you’ve figured out a good routine, and your relationships are on an even keel, something happens to upset that balance. Marriage has different stages. Jobs had different stages. There are even different stages of parenting!

This week I wrote a hard series on my blog: dealing with sexual dysfunction in marriage. So many women write to me torn up with the difficulties they have–difficulties they never thought they would experience. Things were going well, and then–BAM!
I’m glad that series is behind me, because it was hard to write. Yet that attitude–that life throws you a curve ball, and suddenly everything changes–is perhaps the root of the problem.

We expect things to stay the same. We think that SAME is the point of life.

What if it’s not? What if life is supposed to be about change, and adapting to new circumstances? After all, it’s only through change that we grow. And I don’t think God wants us to be all relaxed, with everything all figured out, with our perfect routines and schedules. He wants us to have to rely on Him, and that means that life will be in a constant state of flux. Perhaps if we expected that, and understood it, we wouldn’t interpret regular, everyday things as huge curve balls.

Let’s look at the different stages of parenting to show you what I mean.

Our relationships with our children change over time, and that is a natural thing.

When the kids were first born, they were definitely more mine than my husband’s, in many ways. I fed them. I was with them. He played with them, but not as much as I wanted him to, although he was a great dad.

My youngest even played strange with him (and he was around a lot). She just wanted me, pure and simple. It probably had something to do with that whole nursing thing. Daddy couldn’t do that!

Then they hit one, and could run and laugh and play, and they became Daddy’s Little Girls. They’d go to me if they had a boo boo, but they’d play with Daddy. He was the fun one.

When Katie hit two she decided she preferred me again, and wouldn’t let Daddy tuck her in. That was hard on all of us, but she grew out of that, too, and Daddy became the fun one again. She would wrestle with him, and sneak up on him to see if she could pinch him without him noticing, and things like that. I was still there for the daily things, like getting her dressed, and making her meals, and bathing her, and she always came to me with those types of concerns, but Daddy was her toy.

That isn’t to say he didn’t discipline the girls; just that when they were little, let’s say up to about 10, they preferred him to me when it came to having fun. They preferred me to him when it came to talking things over, but in general they liked him.

When they hit puberty, everything changed. So much of what Keith had done with them was physical: wrestling, hugging, tickling. All of a sudden he had a weird time tickling Becca, and he stopped. It took a few years to renegotiate the “new normal”. And now, as our oldest has a relationship of her own with a guy, Keith has had to learn to deal with someone else holding her hand. It’s quite the adjustment! I’m having a much easier time with it than he is.

Sometimes I get frustrated because I expect him to parent like I do, but I have to remember that first year of their lives, when he didn’t play with them quite as much. He was still trying to figure out where they fit in, and they needed me. I think we’re going through that again. He feels like he’s on the sidelines, because they have all these “girl issues”, and their relationship needs a kickstart. But it will get one; I just have to be patient with all of them.

If you’re wondering why you’re husband doesn’t play with the kids more, ask yourself: could it just be a stage?

Or what if one of your children is preferring you to him right now, and it’s really wearing on you? Again, it could be just a fleeting stage. Katie only played strange for a few weeks. She only made me put her to bed for a little while. And it usually coincided with something big in her life, like she was learning to walk or learning to use the potty. Once these stresses were over she was okay again.

It’s not just men who have ebbs and flows, too.

I have had periods in my parenting when I felt as if I preferred one girl over the other, and it always sent me through heaps of guilt.

But when I look back, I can see that one was going through a difficult transition time, and was naturally more difficult, or moody, or stubborn. And it’s not as if it’s always the same girl, either. Quite often I’ll feel naturally close to one of them for a year or so, and then it will flip. I try not to show favouritism, and it’s not as if I love one more, it’s just that there may be one that I find it easier to be with. As time has gone on, though, I find that it’s more because of developmental stages than it is with them as people. I really do enjoy who they’re becoming.

Looking back on my life I can see years when I’ve had more energy as a parent, and years when I haven’t. I can see years when I’ve been closer to God, and years when I’ve been farther. I think this is natural. Perhaps if we kept that view of life in mind–that it’s rarely a straight line, but more of a series of hills–we’d be easier on ourselves, on our kids, and on our mates. Let’s keep the long term in mind. In the long term, if we’re consistent parents, if we love our kids, and if we nurture them, they’re going to turn out well, most likely. They will be our friends when they are older. They will follow God. But in the short term we may feel like failures with one particular child, or we may resent our spouse because he’s not as involved anymore, or we may feel as if we are doing a bad job.

I think families are more flexible and forgiving than we give them credit for. When your children look back, sure they may remember that one time you totally lost your temper and said something mean. But they’ll also remember all the great times you had, and that will be their primary memory. In the long run, two years that Keith spends renegotiating his relationship with them in these tumultuous years, or several years that I spend trying to get out of a self-imposed wilderness, won’t matter so much. It’s the collection of memories that are important, not each individual one.

So remember those hills and valleys. It’s okay if you’re in a valley; a hill is up ahead. And it will get better. The only constant in life is change, and change is a good thing. So weather those valleys, and keep praying. Another change is up ahead!

Blessing Your Children: How to Spiritually Bless Those You Love

Blessing your Children: How to pray a spiritual blessing over them

Today’s guest post is a wonderful one by Pat Fenner about the Judeo-Christian concept of blessing your children. I love this, because when both of my girls turned 13 I held “blessing” parties for them, where I asked 13 adult women who were important in their lives to come and say a blessing over them–name gifts they saw in the girls, or give them a word of wisdom. Their friends were invited, too, and we turned it into such a fun spa night! It was lovely. And so I’d like to spread the word about this wonderful tradition of blessing our kids–and what a difference it can make in their lives.

Many years ago, our oldest son turned 13.  It was an inspiring time for us as parents, and a significant moment in our family’s history.

About a year prior, when my husband Paul and I were still coming to grips with having our first son enter the teenage years, we began thinking and talking and praying about what we could do to make that transition year memorable and important.  We headed to Scripture, and searched it to see what ceremonies or activities we could possibly adapt from the Hebrew tradition and the early church.  For years we had already been celebrating a Christian Passover as a family, so that wasn’t really a far stretch for us.  We also sought current or popular materials on the blessing, but were somewhat dismayed at what was available at the time.  The few books we could find were dull and dry; not really engaging and a bit too, um, conceptual.  Of course, God uses all things for good (Rom 8:28), so despite the dearth of information, the net result was something that not only truly reflected our family’s beliefs, but the vision and prayers we had for our son, and subsequent children.  How it has evolved and been used over the years is something totally beyond what we could ever have imagined.

Modern Milestones vs Spiritual Steppingstones

What events can you think of that signify a child growing up?

Let’s see, first boyfriend/girlfriend (although these days I hear parents talking that way about their pre-schoolers!  Ugh!), maybe first date, getting a driver’s license, first drink, ears pierced (I guess this one could be for boys, too, these days), sweet-16 birthday, registering to vote or enter the Armed Forces…

These have become what I call modern milestones.  And while they may indeed have some significance, at best they are events on a timeline.  In and of themselves, they add no character to our children’s lives, provide no preparation for their future, and neither strengthen nor build their faith or journey with the Lord.  They are both temporal and temporary.

These modern milestones quite often occur during what we call “adolescence”, roughly between the ages of 13 and 20, when children undergo physiological changes and begin to transition their roles in the family.  (Interestingly enough, this period in life did not even exist as a concept prior to the late 19th century, was not given serious study until the early 20th century, and is generally considered to be an American “discovery”.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post…)

Spiritual steppingstones, however, are more eternal in nature.  They are more a matter of building on and building up than simply marking time.  Daily blessings or an even-bigger and more-celebrated occasion, can become a part of the fabric of your family’s life, establishing routines or customs that can help create a unique family history and identity, among other things.

Why Is It important to Bless our Children?

What are the specific benefits for them?  I believe there are 5 significant ones:

1) Blessing them builds their character and enlarges their life vision

2) Blessing your children encourages them to know you’re giving their future your intentional attention

3) Blessing your kids conveys your dreams and hopes and belief in their future

4) Blessing them daily encourages them to seek and find daily blessings in their own lives

5) Giving a blessing is a tool to grow a deeper and more “real” relationship with them

Responding to The Call

Praying for your Children

As parents, we have not only the right but the privilege to pray for and bless our kiddos, and we can find many ways to speak blessings over them frequently and informally.

1) On a daily basis, we can pray for our children by name during our quiet time.  If there are particular issues that you are working through with them, find a concordance, or use the online one here, and locate Scripture passages that speak to that struggle.  Lift them up to the Father by name.  He already knows, of course, but it’s good for us to ask on their behalf.

2) You can then share that info with your kids, and let them know what you’ve done/are doing!  Tell them how and what you’ve prayed for them (see #1) over a meal, or while you’re sitting together in the family room at the end of the day.  Follow-through by asking them about those situations and how you can further pray for them.  Reassuring them in this way that their issues/problems/requests are important enough for YOU to pray about most definitely blesses them…

3) Decide for yourself the daily events that you’ll choose to use as a blessing opportunity.  For example, when they leave for school in the morning, before practice or rehearsal in the afternoon, at supper, before bedtime.  Locate a Scripture that reflects your dreams and desires for them, or one that is relevant (see #1), replace their name in the appropriate sections and speak it aloud over them!  The first few times may be a little uncomfortable, but I promise that if you persevere, not only will these times become precious to you both, but they will start to remind you if you forget.

A Notable Spiritual Steppingstone

To get back to my opening story, all those years ago, Paul and I did fashion a beautiful ceremony that we have subsequently replicated with unique touches for each of our other children.  It has become a family tradition to celebrate their 13th birthday in this manner.   Referred to in our family simply as “the Blessing Service”, each child has spoken of it (and 1 still anticipates it!) as a memorable and pivotal time in their young lives.

Too much to describe here, I’ve included the information on that celebration in a special booklet I have available on our website, Mom’s Morning Coffee.   Just shoot us an email and we’ll be glad to send you out the free, downloadable document in PDF form, filled with resources and references, the format we use for our family’s service, and sample prayers of blessing.

Blessing your children is a wonderful way to encourage and build them up, and a great tool for releasing God’s best in their lives!

Pat FennerPat Fenner is a Yankee city-girl who has been adopted by the sleepy, sunny south. Married for 28 years and the mother of 5, she woke up one day to discover she reached the stage of life where she is the “older woman” described in Titus 2:3-5. She owns Mom’s Morning Coffee.com with her good friend Candy, and enjoys writing, homeschooling and doing whatever the Lord puts on her plate each day! You can reach her via email and look for her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Wifey Wednesday: Keeping Sex Alive When You Face ED (Erectile Dysfunction)

 

Sex Life and ED in Marriage: How to keep your sex life alive

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below. Today we’re concluding a 3-part series on sexual dysfunction in marriage, and today we’re going to wrap it up by talking about ED in marriage–and how to keep your sex life alive.

We talked on Monday about the different causes of ED (erectile dysfunction), and how to deal with them. And yesterday we tackled premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation. We looked at how porn was often, though not always, the underlying cause of ED and other problems.

But what about when porn isn’t the problem? What about when it is a physical issue, and it doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight?

Here’s an email I received from one woman, for instance:

ED has been an ongoing health issue for my husband for years. It happened gradually, but now we never have sex. Of course that has left a huge void in our marriage. But we’ve been together 29 years, so it’s not a deal breaker either. He’s seen a doctor who found an enlarged prostate, and he takes meds for that. The other stuff to enhance erections are not covered by our insurance, and we can’t afford the out of pocket expenses. He’s also very sensitive to some meds and does not like the long string of side effects that can happen from those.

So how has that affected our relationship? “There is other intimacy you can have,” you say? Well, when a man loses his ability to perform sex, he also gradually loses his other intimacy practices. i.e., playful touch, hugging, flirting — basically anything that might lead to sex. It’s disappointing to us both — we talk about it rarely — it’s hurtful. I get resentful sometimes that he won’t knock down the doors of every medical institution to “get it fixed,” like I imagine he should want to. But the truth is, that even with couples who still have a healthy sex life, it takes work, and sometimes planning to make that time happen. It’s easier to skip because you are too tired or whatever so you get content not having sex. Same thing for us, only it’s because it’s too hurtful to try and disappoint. I feel like we’ve settled.

Am I happy with the sexless part? Not at all. Do I Iove my husband? Dearly!

I still have hope that one day God will restore this part of our marriage. But I’ve accepted that He might not as well.

What do you do when ED, or other sexual dysfunction, is a physical problem, but you don’t want the sexual side of your relationship to end? You do want to feel intimate. You do want to feel pleasure. You want to be able to laugh again without this BIG THING between you–this feeling like you’re distant, and you’re settling, and things will never be totally good again.

I want to give just a few thoughts today, and hope that others who have gone through something similar will chime in, too. I’m not going to talk about how to cure ED today, since I talked about that on Monday. I want to just talk about how to revive your sex life even if things still aren’t working like clockwork.

Acknowledge that He is Grieving about His ED

If your husband can no longer have intercourse, chances are he’s really grieving. A huge part of his life–what many would say is the most important part–seems gone. Let him air these feelings without having to fix them. Now is not the time to say, “but we can still do X…” Just let him vent. And hold him. And tell him, “I will always love you, and we will get through this, and we will find our way.”

But let him grieve.

You Need to Be Able to Communicate About the Sexual Dysfunction and what it Means

That being said, you can’t stay in the grieving process. You have to move on, and you have to find your way through towards a new kind of intimacy.

Now, you aren’t going to be able to do anything if you can’t first talk about the issue. So the question isn’t really “how can we save our sex life if he has ED”, but rather, “how can we keep talking about our sex life if he has ED, and not ignore the elephant in the room?”

Here’s some general guidelines for keeping these lines of communication open. And these suggestions build on each other–as in do #1 before #3.

1. Laugh everyday. Do things together OUTSIDE the bedroom and work on your friendship.

2. Find other hobbies to do together so that you still feel like a unit.

3. When you talk about wanting a sex life, stress that you want intimacy, not intercourse. Stress that you do not think he is a failure or that you want him to be different; the issue is simply that you don’t want to lose what you still can have. Your life is simply different, but your relationship can still grow.

For more ideas you can see my post here about how to talk to your husband if he has no libido, since the issues are actually quite similar.

See Sex as More Than Intercourse

Sex is about being intimate together. It’s about becoming one flesh. It’s about sharing something with one person that you don’t share with anybody else. It’s about becoming open and vulnerable together.

And you can do all of those things without intercourse.

Obviously intercourse is the culmination of this, and when health problems aren’t a factor, I would never recommend giving up intercourse. But if intercourse just doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that you have to stop being sexual beings.

Sex can be about being naked together; sex can be about doing full body massages with massage oil, switching places. Sex can be about taking baths together and talking about your dreams for the future. Sex can be about deep kisses.

Talk to him about how you still want these things in your life. Our letter writer wrote that when ED hits, it’s not just sex that she loses. It’s kissing and touching and affection, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Let him know that you still want to touch him. Again, acknowledge his grief, and tell him you’re grieving, too. But you’ve lost intercourse. You’re not willing to lose everything else, too.

Do What You Can Despite the ED

Some men have intermittent ED, where it works sometimes and it doesn’t work others. Or perhaps he suffers from premature ejaculation where he doesn’t like to have to sex often because he’s afraid he won’t perform well. Agree that you will do what you can–meaning you’ll have intercourse when it works, and when it doesn’t, that’s okay. But it’s not a PASS/FAIL system. Don’t think of each sexual encounter being about orgasm; think about it being about pleasure. See how much pleasure you can give each other, whether or not you come to orgasm.

In fact, start talking about it that way. Instead of, “can we make love tonight?”, or “can we have sex tonight?”, let’s say, “can we feel good together tonight?”

If he honestly can never reach an orgasm, he may be reluctant to do anything sexual. But you can ask him to help you feel good anyway, and see if you can help him feel pleasure when he can. And remember–you can still massage and kiss and feel close. If an encounter doesn’t go the way you had hoped it would, don’t get upset, just go with the flow. It’s really okay. Yes, you’re missing something you once enjoyed, but you still have your husband. You can be sexual without intercourse. Be grateful for what you do have, and think positive things, instead of casting a negative pall over the marriage.

Schedule Your Sexual Times

The default when sexual dysfunction like ED hits your marriage is to cut way back on sex. He doesn’t even want to try. And then when you initiate, he may turn you down. You feel rejected, and he feels like a failure, and you don’t want to keep bringing up those feelings, so you stop initiating. Yet every night, there’s that unspoken question, “should we try anything?” Even if nothing is said, it’s there, between you. And you feel it every time you roll over and turn your back to him as you go to sleep.

One way around this that works well for some couples is to schedule sex. It isn’t necessarily the time that you have intercourse; it’s the time that you spend together naked, massaging, feeling whatever pleasure you can, kissing, and just dreaming and talking together in bed.

I firmly suggest, as forcefully as I can, that shortly after the diagnosis of some sort of sexual dysfunction (with a physical cause), that you agree that at least once a week you will have a “sexual night”. Make it regular, like every Tuesday or every Saturday, and don’t change it except in extreme circumstances. That way you both know what to expect, you don’t feel rejected and nervous and on edge all the other nights of the week (because you do know what’s coming), and he can start anticipating things so that he can also get in the right frame of mind.

Now, this isn’t going to work if you can’t talk about things, which is why it’s so important to work first on communicating. I realize that many people will say, “my husband just won’t do this”, because he feels so much like a failure he’d rather shut down completely than be reminded of what he’s missing. But that’s not a good solution, and couples would be better off if they saw this. So I’d keep at it–keep praying, keep talking to your husband, keep laughing, and keep communicating, stressing intimacy and pleasure, not intercourse. Don’t give up. See a counselor if you have to. But intimacy is still possible, and is so important in your marriage. Don’t write it off just because sex doesn’t work like it once did.

I’d love to know: how is this working in your marriage? How have you find talking to your husband about this? Have you found ways around it? Let me know in the comments!

Christian Marriage Advice

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