Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for April

Join the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge! Each month choose 1 book on the subject to read to boost your relationship! Get a chance to ask authors questions, read author interviews, and discuss the books, too!

It’s Wednesday, the day that we always talk marriage! And since it’s also the first day of April, I thought it was a great day to introduce our April Christian marriage books for the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge of 2015!

Every month I introduce a new marriage topic, and then suggest 2-4 books that can help you in that area. And I’ll review at least one of them in detail on the blog.

March was a heavy month–we were looking at how to deal with implementing boundaries around emotionally destructive relationships.

This is going to be a happier month! After all, spring is coming, robins are back here in the Great White North, crocuses and daffodils will be in bloom, and there’s the promise of new life. It’s new beginnings!

And so in April, I thought we would look at books that help you start new habits in your marriage–relatively easy, simple things to do that will help your marriage soar.

April Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

I just LOVE both books that I’ve chosen for this month, and without further ado, here they are:


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

This book is a breath of fresh air! It’s a fun research romp into awesome relationships–and what sets them apart from the rest. And quite frequently it’s very small things–little things that you can start implementing right away! It’s a quick read, with lots of great stories and first-hand research. And at the end of the book Shaunti gives some great tips on how to implement these things in your own relationship.

Who should read this book: Anyone who is married! I’m giving it to my engaged daughter and her fiance, too. And it’s not JUST a women’s book. Men can read this as well, so if you’re working through this challenge as a couple, this is the book to choose. Each chapter is relatively short, and you could easily read them aloud at night together.


Happy Wives Club: One Woman's Worldwide Search for the Secrets of a Great MarriageHappy Wives Club: One Woman’s Worldwide Search for the Secrets of a Great Marriage by Fawn Weaver

Fawn started the Happy Wives Club sensation a few years ago because she was sick of reading everywhere in the media about how marriage was awful and in the decline–especially since she was so happy! So Fawn started looking at couples who had been married for twenty-five years or more, and asked them about  their secrets. To write this book Fawn travelled all over six continents, interviewing couples and then reflecting on their answers. It’s a fun read–almost more like a novel. And it will touch you.

Who should read this book: If you’re more a novel type person, or a reflective type person, Happy Wives Club is more for you! It shows Fawn’s own journey as she reflects on what these couples taught her, and you’ll find yourself laughing and tearing up along with her as you hear these couples’ stories.


How We’ll Develop New Marriage Habits This Month

I hope you’ll read along with me! I’m going to be focusing primarily on The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, and not only will I review it later in the month–I’ll also post posts relating to each habit on Facebook every afternoon or evening. So all month on Facebook we’ll ALSO be talking about developing new, HAPPY habits in our marriages.

And did you notice how “happy” is the keyword in both titles? We all want happy marriages, and what both books show us is that often we can achieve that with just a few tweaks along the way.

We’ll have fun in April!

April Marriage Reading Challenge

How to join us for our April Reading Challenge:

  1.  Buy one of the books to read.
  2.  Join the Facebook Page so you can track new habits with us.
  3.  Leave a comment with any question you’d like to ask about new habits in marriage–and I’ll ask Shaunti Feldhahn if she could send us some quick answers.
  4. Pin this post, share it on Facebook, or tweet about it so more people can be encouraged to read–and change their marriages for the better!

Will you be part of our reading challenge this month to develop new HAPPY habits?

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn to be part of Wifey Wednesday! If you write your own blog, feel free to link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so other people can see these great marriage posts.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.



Top 10 Effects of a Sexual Drought

I recently read an amazing post on Julie Sibert’s blog Intimacy in Marriage about the effects of a sexual drought on your marriage, and I asked if I could reprint it here. So today, for Top 10 Tuesday, we have a sober warning from Julie:

Lack of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage and Its EffectsWell.

Some marriages go decades without sex, so the question of “can” doesn’t really get at the heart of the matter.

A better question is, “What happens when a marriage goes a long time without sex… for no justifiable reason?”

I always have to add that disclaimer in there, because there are some marriages plagued by chronic illnesses and injuries that make any kind of sexual intimacy impossible.

But most marriages?  Yeah, in most marriages, sex IS an option.

My guess is if you are reading this right now, sex IS an option in your marriage — yet it never or rarely occurs.

What does happen when a marriage goes a long time — maybe even years or decades — without sex?

Here are 10 things I think can happen (in no particular order).

Ongoing lack of sexual intimacy in a marriage…

1.  Stirs resentment.

Sex is never just about sex.  It’s about soul mingling, which is a vital aspect of marriage that is found in no other human relationship.  When I wrote the post “I like him better after we have sex,” I meant it.

Consistent and mutually-enjoyable sexual intimacy in a marriage equips us to extend grace, to be kinder toward one another, to do life together.

So it’s no wonder, that when you take sex out, resentment is eager to arrive on the scene.

2.  Fosters distance.

I think we intuitively recognize when there is distance between us and our spouse.  Distance is different than resentment, but still equally damaging.

Sex is a vivid reminder in a marriage that we are “in this together.”  It’s not surprising that when couples report going long stretches without making love, they feel “distant” from one another.

And that distance begins to chip away at all the things that give marriage richness and strength — vulnerability, friendship, shared joys, common ground.

3.  Reduces your marriage to roommate status.

Sure, the two of you pay the bills and run the house. You share the chores. You raise the kids.  You mow the lawn. You decorate the Christmas tree.  And you run the carpool.

BUT… without physical and emotional intimacy… all of that roommatish stuff barely qualifies as a high and holy definition of marriage.

I would be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar every time I heard someone express to me that their marriage exists, but it never thrives — in large part because of the lack of sex.

Roommate status in a marriage sucks.  It just does.

4.  Dishonors God.

God designed marriage and sex — and He designed them to go together.

He implores husbands and wives to make love often. He places a fundamental command on sex being exclusive to marriage.  He created women and men both to be able to experience orgasm.

Sex is God’s deal — His arena — in a very big way.

So, suffice to say, when we marry, we are saying “yes” to sex being part of that covenant.  We are saying “yes” to God.   Take sex out of the covenant? How can we think that doesn’t dishonor Him?

5.  Makes it easier to rationalize infidelity.

If we tried to count the number of Christian men and women who want to step out on their sexually unavailable spouse, we would be counting for awhile.

And that’s just counting the ones who want to, but don’t.

Let’s not even start counting the ones who actually do give into that temptation.

I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “affair proof” your marriage, because a spouse could go above and beyond their responsibility in the marriage, including being sexually available — and their spouse could still choose to cheat.

But I do think there are ways we can guard our marriages. Making love is one of those ways.  When sex is non-existent, the spouse who hungers for it may be more tempted to loosen the reins on their marriage vows.

To not see some cause and effect in that whole scenario is careless.

Yes, adultery is a sin and there is no way to rationalize it.

But listen to the raw feelings of refused spouses, and it’s not too hard to see how they convince themselves that sexual indiscretion doesn’t matter at this point.

6.  Sets a horrible example for kids.

Don’t kid yourself on this one (no pun intended).  Your kids are learning about marriage from watching you.   You may say, “Well, they don’t know anything about our sexual intimacy.”

You’re right that they aren’t privy to the details of what happens behind your closed bedroom door, but I guarantee you this.   If nothing is happening behind that bedroom door, the collateral damage from that spills out into the rest of your life — you know, the life where your kids are present and paying attention.

See points 1, 2 and 3 for further insight.

7.  Invites the enemy into your home and bedroom.

Satan is all about division, and he doesn’t really care how he goes about doing it.  He is crafty and clever and will work with what we hand him.

When you willingly decide to take sex out of the marriage, the enemy is delighted.  Why?   Because he knows that anything designed by God — in this case, sex — is powerful. And holy. And worthy.

When a married couple stops having sex, Satan has gained a huge foothold.  Division is so much easier when unity is no longer mutually valued.

8.  Increases reliance upon masturbation as the only form of sexual fulfillment.

I don’t think masturbation in marriage is always a bad thing, and I’ve blogged about that here and here.

BUT…  if it is happening often and only because someone’s spouse has arbitrarily removed sex from the marriage, then the negative impact starts to add up quickly.

When a husband and wife could be having sex, but aren’t — and one or both of them resort to masturbation — are we really that surprised?

If anything, it just confirms the power of sexual desire.

Even more heartbreaking is when the refusing spouse gives “permission” or “encouragement” to their spouse to “just take care of things themselves.”

How can we possibly think that’s God vision (or even your vision) for sex in a marriage?

9.  Makes pornography look more enticing.

No, I am not justifying any sin, including the sin of pornography.

But we are a naive people if we believe for one moment that pornography doesn’t look more alluring to some people who are consistently sexually rejected within their marriage.

I know that pornography addiction is complex.  I also know that I hear from many people who struggle greatly with pornography and are trying to stop looking at it.  To feel as if there is no other option but pornography only compounds the problem.

Many couples, usually through the assistance of counselors and ministries, have overcome the betrayal of pornography. Without a doubt, a husband and wife eventually resuming healthy and active sexual intimacy is a part of that healing.

Again.  A lot of this goes back to, “What are we doing to guard our marriage and our hearts?”

10. Damages your ability to serve in the body of Christ.

If you are gung ho about serving in countless ways at your church — yet you know you are blatantly refusing your spouse sexually — then your Christian witness is hampered.  I have no doubt about that.

There’s nothing wrong with using your talents and heart to serve the Lord outside your home, but if you are doing it at the expense of priorities in your home and inyour marriage, then I encourage you to step back.

Take a good hard look. Be humble. And admit that this may be a blind spot for you.

The Lord is willing to meet you in that place of struggle — and in all the others I’ve listed to this point.

How long can a marriage go without sex?

Well. Like I already said…  I don’t think that question really gets at the heart of the matter.

Do you?

For more reading on this, check out one of my favorite posts: Extraordinary Sex in Your Ordinary Life.

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

Julie SibertJulie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage and is the co-author of Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two boys and one rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer dog who kind of wants to chew up the kitchen floor.

 

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

Reader Question: How Do You Leave and Cleave If He Won’t Leave?

Reader Question: My husband is lazy and won't get a job!When we get married we’re supposed to leave and cleave–but what if your husband won’t leave his mother and father?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Today we’re talking mother-in-law issues:

What do you do when your mother-in-law interferes? She will call the house and if I don’t answer she will call my husband at work and bug him about me not answering…She calls every evening around 7 when my husband is getting home. Most times I don’t even get a hello from him before she calls. Some nights she will keep him on the phone for up to an hour…Almost every Sunday she bugs us about going to church with them and she gets mad if we don’t go to their church. Every time we plan on going out something comes up (usually because of his mom) and we don’t. We have only been out once in the last year for our anniversary. I feel like I never see my husband and when I do his mom is involved. It is very stressful and it is causing a wedge between us. Please help!

Here’s another woman who is frustrated that her husband is still primarily concerned with his mother:

My husband and I have been married for 14 years and have several children. We married quite young and went straight from our parents’ homes to married with a baby on the way. We’ve been through a lot in our marriage, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his tendency to choose his mom over me. If she wants us to do something and I do not want to, we do it. We have talked and argued and battled over this our entire marriage. When he does go along with something, he acts as if it couldn’t be helped. In the past I have tried to get him to go to counseling, but he “doesn’t like the idea”. I realize that this is a power struggle that I am in, but my life and marriage are being controlled by his mother. I am 33 years old, a mother myself, and do not want her dictating our lives. What do I do that is both pleasing to God and putting my foot down?

Leave and Cleave: Handling it when your husband lets your mother-in-law interfere

The Basics: What Does “Leave and Cleave” Mean?

Genesis 2:24 says,

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

When we get married, we leave behind our parents and we join with our spouse, becoming one flesh with them. We are a new unit.

That doesn’t mean that we aren’t to honor our parents; they deserve our love and respect and our help, especially as they age. But our primary allegiance is no longer to them; we’re supposed to identify first and foremost with our spouse.

On a Daughter Getting Engaged: Getting ready for them to leave and cleaveThis summer, after my husband walks our oldest, Rebecca, down the aisle, the minister will ask Keith and me and Connor’s parents if we are prepared to let our children go. I never thought much about that, but as the date draws near the enormity of it is hitting. I have to let Rebecca make her own choices. I can’t interfere. I can’t demand that she update me on what’s going on with school. I can ask, but it really needs to be her choice, and I need to be okay with that.

I hope that she still wants to spend lots of time with us, but ultimately that is her decision, not mine. She and Connor will be the unit, and we won’t be a nuclear family in the same way again.

How Do You Talk About Leave and Cleave?

Usually when leave and cleave in-law issues come up, the conversation with our husbands focuses on the mother.

Let’s imagine the first scenario for a minute:

“Your mom called right as you came in the door again! I feel like I never get to talk to you. Instead of eating dinner with the family you speak all night with her. She is always interfering in our lives and taking you away from us!”

Now, what’s your husband going to think? He now is put in the position of either defending his mother or attacking his mother–neither of which is really comfortable for him.

What’s a better strategy for having this conversation? Offer him two things:

  1. A specific chance to help you
  2. A chance to plan with you

Let’s say the conversation instead looked like this:

“Honey, I feel like we’ve had so little time together lately because your mom has been calling so much. I love your mom and love the fact that you love your mom, but I’m feeling lonely. Can we talk about how to find time to feel more connected?”

Now the issue is no longer his mom–it’s the fact that you have a need that he can fill–and many guys like feeling like Captain America swooping in to save the damsel in distress.

You could also frame a conversation like this:

“I love your mom and so appreciate her role as grandma. I also really love our own nuclear family. Can we talk about what a great relationship with a grandma would look like, and what a great nuclear family would look like?”

Again, no blame is being placed. You’re not attacking his mom and asking him to choose sides. You’re just asking for some ideas. And as you have these conversations, you can say something like this:

“I’d like to write down what we’re saying so that we can refer to it later. What do you think is a reasonable amount of time to spend together with your family in the evenings? How often should an adult check in with their parents if they want to honor their parents? How many weekends a year should a family give their parents, and how many weekends should they take, just them? Can you think of a family that we know with a great relationship with their parents–but also as a nuclear family? How often do they spend with their parents? What makes that relationship great?”

Once you get these parameters written down, you can now refer to them when things get out of hand.

“Honey, I notice that you said you thought it was reasonable to check in with parents every other day for about twenty minutes, but in the last few days you’ve talked to your mom for an hour each day. How do you think we can move our family closer to what we want?”

These are the kinds of conversations that are often more productive. You’re not blaming, you define parameters, you set up goals which you you can easily see whether you’ve met or not, and you have something tangible to come back to if things don’t work.

Who is Responsible for Leaving?

It’s important that parents let their children go, but ultimately the child must decide to leave. And you can’t make that decision for your spouse. If your mother-in-law is taking a lot of your husband’s time, you can certainly talk to her. But your husband must be the one to set the parameters.

How Can You Build a Life with Your In-Laws?

It’s easier for him to set those parameters if you make an effort to love your mother-in-law and make your own relationship with her. If your husband feels as if he always must choose between two women who don’t like each other, you put him in a difficult position.

Romans 12:18 says,

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Do what you can to have a great relationship with your mother-in-law. Sometimes that won’t be possible, but try. Ask for recipes. Ask for her to teach you something. Ask if you can join a hobby with her, or take her shopping. Go get your nails done together on a regular basis.

If you can find a way to relate to your mother-in-law that does not involve your husband, you go so far in making it easier for your husband to leave.

I’m about to be a mother-in-law, and I’m starting to have some sympathy for the mother-in-law in these relationships. Here’s the thing: I believe that mothers-in-law often become interfering because they are desperately afraid of losing their child. And so you try to make sure that your son still loves you as his mom. You want to still feel special.

I know that I won’t worry about losing my daughter if Connor takes some time to get to know us individually. And that’s why we were so happy when he agreed to go on a father-son canoe trip coming up with my husband! If we feel as if our son-in-law loves us as individuals, and not just because he’s married to our daughter, then we won’t be nearly as concerned with our daughter proving her loyalty. And I’ve been so proud to watch how Rebecca is trying to reach out to her future mother-in-law, and put her at ease that she won’t take her son away from her. She gets it.

So reach to your mother-in-law. It may not take much–but if she knows you’re an ally, not a rival, then she may have an easier time letting go of her son.

Dayspring Serenity Prayer

What if Your Husband Never Chooses to Leave and Cleave?

What if you’ve done all of this and your husband is still at her beck and call?

Can you move away? I’ve known several marriages that have broken up that I’ve always felt would have survived if they had just moved away from her parents (in those cases it was SHE who wasn’t leaving, not HE).

If that’s not possible, you have two choices:

  1. Grow bitter about it and make his life miserable
  2. Decide to let it go and love your husband

I know that everyone would be better off if your husband learned to leave and cleave. But you can’t make him. You can seek out a mentor couple; you can ask for all of you to sit down with a counselor; you can even go to your pastor. But if things don’t change, what are you going to do?

I wrote a post a while ago about changing our attitudes when there’s one big area where your husband disappoints you–and you have to learn to accept it, and find ways to make your own life happy and peaceful anyway.

If you know that your husband is going to talk to his mom every night at 7 for an hour, then can you find something you do at 7 that you enjoy, so you’re not disappointed and stewing every evening? If you know that your mother-in-law is going to want your husband to help her with errands this Saturday, can you plan something fun for you and the kids so that you don’t end up making him feel guilty?

BoundariesAnd if your mother-in-law wants you all to come do something with her, it’s quite okay on occasion to say, “I really need a weekend just with the kids. I’d love for you to join us, but if you feel you must go with your mother, feel free. But I think I’ll keep the kids here with me this weekend.” You don’t need to go along with everything; you can set boundaries yourself.

Keep expressing your feelings, as we talked about above, but ultimately you’re letting go and you’re letting your husband make his own decisions. Sometimes in that letting go he feels freed to look at the situation more objectively, because it’s not so emotional. He may decide that you look like you’re having a lot more fun without him–and he wants to join you! But even if he doesn’t, at least you’re not as miserable anymore.

Now it’s your turn: Let me know in the comments, have you ever had to set boundaries around in-laws? Or are you an in-law yourself and you’ve had to watch how you treat your adult children? Tell us any tips you have!

Friday RoundUp–Abuse, the Friend Zone, Seashells, and More!

Friday Roundup on To Love, Honor and VacuumHello everybody!

For years on Fridays I would publish my syndicated family column. But about a year ago I stopped writing it because I just had no more time. Writing to a deadline became too difficult when I was trying to balance this growing blog, writing books, and speaking.

But I continued to write column type articles on Fridays anyway, and then send those columns out to the 8000 or so people who subscribe to my Friday newsletter.

I’ve realized lately, though, that I can’t really keep writing 5 big articles a week–not with my speaking getting so busy!

And besides that, I’ve got almost 2000 articles on this blog already–likely many that you’ve never read.

Everyday on Facebook and on Pinterest and on Twitter I share some of those older articles, and then in my Friday newsletter I also share those older articles that have been most popular this week (seriously, if you look at the sidebar on your right on this blog you’ll see ten square pictures of my most popular posts. Very few were written this week–at any given time, chances are nine of them are older!)

So what I’ve decided to do to save myself a bit of time AND to help you all see some of the other things I’ve already written is to change up Fridays. I’m going to share snippets of My #1s from various social media, some great articles I’ve read this week, letters I’ve received, and even some personal stuff!

Then in my Friday newsletter I’ll run my favourite new post from this week, rather than my column (and I’ll still point to all the #1s!)

You can always sign up for my Friday newsletters (and others) here.

And please do follow me on Facebook for more updates!

So without further ado…

The #1 Older Articles on Facebook, Pinterest, and the Blog this Week:

#1 on Facebook:

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

I love this post, which was compiled by suggestions from people off of Facebook! What are the hardest truths to learn once you’re married? They’re all here. And I think you’ll agree. Marriages would be much stronger if people started out understanding these things, instead of having so many unrealistic expectations. Share this with engaged couples and newlyweds you know.

The Effects of Porn--a Must Read!#1 on To Love, Honor and Vacuum:

The Top 10 Side Effects of Porn on Your Marriage and Your Sex Life

It’s one of my most popular posts, and I’m so glad that I’m ranked high on the search engines for this, because this is a message that needs to get out: Porn is NOT harmless! Someone shared this on Facebook this week and it went crazy again. Glad new people are finding it!

#1 on Pinterest:

Getting in the Mood When you Don't Feel Like ItGetting in the Mood When You Don’t Feel Like It

It’s part of my original 29 Days to Great Sex series, and it’s a great post confronting why we aren’t always “in the mood”, and what we can do about it. So important!

 

What’s Up at My House

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentI just received the line edits (which is a fancy way of saying the typeset version) of my upcoming book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. I get to go through it and make any final changes before it hits the printer. So excited! You can pre-order it now.

And my daughter Rebecca’s wedding plans are coming along. We had the Save the Date emails out and the venue picked–and then last week we got a call from the hotel saying construction is starting and they can’t host the reception. That started two hours of sheer panic on the part of my youngest daughter (the maid of honour) and me as we were each on the phone frantically calling alternatives at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon. But we found one! And it looks cheaper and even nicer anyway. God came through. Whew!

And my daughter and her fiance signed the lease on their apartment this week!

Katie has a New Video Out

If you haven’t seen it yet, she’s doing a YouTube series from Katie: The Relationship Guru Who has Never Had a Relationship. Part 1 on what you need in a Christian guy is here, and Part 2 on being friend zoned is here:

I know she would appreciate it if you shared these! Just post the first one on Facebook and tag  your youth pastor–so he or she will share them with other teens.

More thoughts on Emotionally Destructive Marriages

I was writing this week about emotionally destructive marriages, and I had more I wanted to say, but that post was already really long.

First, as soon as I hit publish, I went over to Facebook and saw this great post from Gary Thomas: God Doesn’t Care About Shells. Gary writes,

One of my close friends, Dr. Mike Dittman, recently challenged me with a profound statement: “Gary,” he said, “God doesn’t care about shells; He cares about the people in the shells.”

Mike was referring to churches, but let’s apply this to marriage…

God isn’t into shells—He’s into people…

That’s why I’ve recently been willing to speak up about the “shell” of marriage as it pertains to divorce. I’ve based a large part of my career and ministry on supporting hurting marriages, trying to build marriages back up…

God can and does heal and redeem broken marriages. But some individuals can and do marry evil people who resist God’s Holy Spirit but try to use God’s word as cover to keep perpetrating their evil. Marriage, like a church, to a certain extent is still a shell. If a marriage “shell” is used to allow real people to be abused and hurt, God may well take it down.

It’s so interesting to see how often we all write on the same thing at the same time! Read the rest of it here.

Second, if you are in an Emotionally Destructive Marriage, and you don’t follow Leslie Vernick’s blog, you need to!

Third, I want to share with you a letter I’ve received from women walking through tough marriages. The first woman understood that she had to stand up to her husband and make some changes. We’ve corresponded back and forth for the last few  years, and she filled me in recently on what was happening with her:

We have been in counseling for about six or seven sessions–first weekly and now every two weeks, and my pastor and his wife are telling me that there is something really ‘different’ about my husband. He appears to have no capacity for empathy. He has yet to truly display that he has any true recognition of the pain he has caused me in our marriage. He is focused on my not respecting him enough, my behavior being the cause of his lack. But here’s the thing…he is walking through this counseling to the letter. He does everything the pastor suggests. He memorizes verses, he does all the extensive homework. But yet, he doesn’t “get” it. The pastor is baffled and is putting a call in to a colleague who is a trained therapist, for help. In the meantime, the counseling sessions, for me, feel like being run through a meat grinder, every time. I am going to the doctor with more stress-related physical issues, some very serious. I am in prayer about calling off the counseling sessions, and my pastor and his wife are very understanding. They are bewildered. In counseling my husband gives lip-service to being ‘sorry’ but is clearly struggling with the concept, clearly displays no real guilt or ownership of problems, and outside of counseling ‘slips’ and reveals his true nature like clockwork.

There is something very broken about my husband. He just doesn’t understand. Truly, it is, and has been for thirty years, like living with a person who has the emotional intelligence of a two-year-old. He fits every description of a narcissist, but in the nicest way possible, at least to most people. I seem to have been the sole benefactor of his anger and cruelty, while others (including his children) get off with neglect.

March prizes at To Love, Honor and Vacuum

For about 28 years this woman tried to twist herself into a pretzel to make him not so mean, to no avail. And what she is describing is very typical in terms of these emotionally abusive marriages.

Enter My Giveaway:

Don’t forget that I have a marriage book and audio download giveaway going on right now! It’s not too late to enter.

From Instagram:

I’m finishing the line edits (that’s the final, final edits) on my new book! Come on over and follow me on Instagram for more updates!

9 Thoughts Line Edits

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!

Funny Apologies from Kids: A Note, Flowers, and a Laugh

Most of us as parents have had funny apologies from kids.

I have a friend named Bruce who is hilarious himself. He’s always posting on Facebook. I featured him in a column a while ago on dating your spouse. My daughter used to baby-sit for him.

And everyone in our small town knows him because his Facebook posts are often hilarious. So when I saw this last week, I couldn’t stop laughing.

His 6-year-old daughter apparently figured out how to purchase things from iTunes on his account, and she purchased something called “the doll house”. This was AFTER she’d already been reprimanded for purchasing credits for Pet Store. So she presented her mother with this:

Funny Kid Apologies

“I cant controle my Body.”

There’s wisdom in that 6-year-old!

I love it. Kids have so little impulse control, and as parents one of the things we need to teach them is to own up when they do something wrong. My friends made her make restitution and write this apology note, and she obviously “got” it.

While kids have little impulse control, though, they can have very sensitive consciences.

I remember when Katie, my youngest, was 6, and we walked into a craft store looking for something. In a basket on the floor of the store were tons of tiny paper flowers that are used to glue onto wreaths. Katie took one look at them and thought, “wedding bouquets for Barbies!”

So she reached down and grabbed them all and stuffed them in her boots.

I had no idea.

That night, about 45 minutes after we put the girls to bed, she came clutching her blankie and crying into my room and climbed up onto my lap. “I stole something,” she told me. And she presented me with 6 little flower bouquets.

The next day, first thing, we drove to the store and returned them and Katie handed over the little cash she had in her piggy bank.

That night, she came into my room again, crying harder this time. “I didn’t give you all of them!” she said. “I still have more!”

And she showed me about 30 other bouquets. I seriously don’t know how she got them all in her boots.

We took those ones back, too, and as far as I know, she’s never stolen anything again.

We had good talks, we prayed together, and she apologized.

And she’s totally walking with God now! (Seriously: watch her videos!)

We should let children experience guilt

Seriously. If a small child is feeling guilty for sin, don’t try to diminish it by saying, “oh, that’s okay.” The total value of all of those paper flowers was maybe $5. It would have been easy to say, “thank you for telling me, it’s okay.” But don’t. The Holy Spirit is teaching your child to listen to His voice. Don’t short circuit the lesson!

Teach them to apologize. Teach them to make restitution. And then teach them that there is total forgiveness when they confess and they’re honest.

Those are actually precious memories to me, and I still laugh. And I’m sure Bruce and his wife will keep that photo so that they can use it at their daughter’s wedding.

Kids are funny when they apologize. But learning to listen to your conscience is a lesson that is no laughing matter at all.

Now let me know: how do you handle it when your child needs to apologize? Has your child ever stolen anything? Tell us in the comments!

Wifey Wednesday: March Marriage Giveaway

Join the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge! Each month choose 1 book on the subject to read to boost your relationship! Get a chance to ask authors questions, read author interviews, and discuss the books, too!It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage–and I give you a chance to link up your own posts so others can read them, too.

And today I’m excited to offer you a chance to enter a marriage resource giveaway for the books that we’ve been talking about on the blog this month as part of the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge.

Each month I suggest several books that will help you on a certain theme, and then I ask you to pick just one and read it.

That’s it–just twelve books a year! You can keep the book in your bathroom, by your bed, in your purse so you can read in the checkout line, or wherever. But you can get through one book a month.

And it will change your marriage!

This month we were talking about Setting Boundaries, and I looked specifically at Ask It (the one question that will revolutionize how you make decisions) and The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick.

Leslie is part of my Christian Marriage Authors Board on Pinterest, too, along with some other wonderful authors you’ll recognize. If you’re not following it yet, come on over and join us!

And if you are walking through an Emotionally Destructive Marriage, or you know someone who is, Leslie’s website is a great resource with tons of information and practical help.

Today I want to give you a chance to win both of these books, AND some of my audio downloads.

Audio Downloads You see, while I love to blog, and I try to write here everyday, I actually spend a lot of my time on the road speaking. Sometimes it’s about marriage and sex, but often it’s just about our Christian walk. This weekend I’m giving a women’s one-day retreat near where I live, in Bloomfield, ON. But I’ll be in Arizona, Colorado, and Wyoming in the next few months talking about sex (there’s still time to get in on my Colorado and Wyoming Girl Talk tour if you’re interested! Just email my assistant Tammy).

And I’ve taken a number of my talks and put them on audio downloads so you can listen to them at home, inexpensively (my main Girl Talk one isn’t up, but there are lots more!)

So this month I’ll be giving away a $10 gift certificate to use towards audio downloads at my store, too.

Here’s what you could win:

  • First Prize: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, Ask It, and $10 worth of audio downloads
  • Other Prizes: 2 prizes of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, 2 prizes of Ask It, and 1 prize of audio downloads.

March prizes at To Love, Honor and Vacuum

To enter, just join the Rafflecopter below! I’ll be drawing the prizes next Tuesday night at midnight. Contest is open to anyone in North America. If someone elsewhere wins, I’ll substitute the physical prizes with some of my electronic downloads from my store.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

WifeyWednesday175Now, what advice do you have for us today? Just link up the URL of your own marriage post in the linky below!



Ten Truths About Emotionally Destructive Marriages

Emotionally Destructive Marriages: 10 Truths about marriages characterized by emotional abuse

If you’re in an emotionally destructive marriage, filled with emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual abuse, I pray that this post will help you today.

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeIn January I challenged everybody to the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge–read one book a month all year, on a set subject. This month’s was on setting boundaries in your marriage. For those in marriages characterized by mutual respect, where this wasn’t an issue, I suggested the awesome book Ask It by Andy Stanley. Then I had several other suggestions for those in different situations, culminating with The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. And today I’d like to share 10 truths about those marriages, using many of Leslie’s words from the book.

1. Most Marriages Are Not Emotionally Destructive

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceIf you are reading this blog, chances are your marriage is NOT emotionally destructive. I took Leslie’s 50 question quiz to find out how my marriage ranked, and I answered “never” to every single question. I’m married to a great guy–as many of you are.

And as Shaunti Feldhahn showed in her research for Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, in 90% of marriages each spouse genuinely wants the best for the other spouse.

However, even though most marriages are not emotionally destructive, emotionally abusive marriages are over-represented on this blog, because so many of you land here in crisis after a Google search.

2. Emotionally Abusive Marriages follow a pattern

In every marriage people may say cruel things during a fight. They may act inappropriately and harshly. I’ve yelled at my husband (though I haven’t called him names). He’s yelled at me.

But this isn’t typical of our marriage. Leslie Vernick says that a good marriage is one characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom. We each try to make it better. If a rule applies to one person, it applies to both (for instance, if one person has to make account for the money they spent, then both do. In abusive marriages, often one person forces this on the other without any reciprocity at all). And both spouses feel free to express opinions, make decisions, and choose how to act–even if in bursts of anger we may occasionally do the opposite.

On the other hand, Leslie Vernick says,

An emotionally destructive marriage is one where one’s personhood, dignity, and freedom of choice is regularly denied, criticized, or crushed. This can be done through words, behaviors, economics, attitudes, and misusing the Scriptures…

It’s characterized by repetitive attitudes and behaviors that result in tearing someone down or inhibiting her growth. This behavior is usually accompanied by a lack of awareness, a lack of responsibility, and a lack of change…

Emotional abuse systematically degrades, diminishes, and can eventually destroy the personhood of the abused.

Eventually the emotionally abused spouse (and either spouse could be abused) no longer feels like “me”.

3. Emotionally Abusive marriages make you sick

The stress from living in an emotionally destructive marriage takes its toll.

Your body feels it. Your stomach churns, your teeth grind, your hands clench, your jaw tightens, your head pounds, your legs shake, and your blood pressure rises. You cry, you can’t catch your breath, and you throw up.

When your husband is near your body starts to shake. Almost all women in these types of marriages experience physical symptoms: ulcers, digestive issues, migraines. And it only gets worse.

4. Emotionally Destructive marriages make you crazy

Abusive spouses seek to control their mates through manipulation, anger, rage, and deceit. They play mind games. And then, every now and then they perform acts of kindness to keep their spouses ambivalent about leaving.

But when our personhood is systematically denied and we aren’t allowed to express, or even have, feelings, we feel as if we’re going crazy.

Leslie writes,

Our emotions always serve a purpose, like the warning lights on a car dashboard. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, and often ignoring our feelings only makes the problem worse.

5. Most typical Christian marriage advice is exactly the wrong thing to do in an emotionally abusive marriage

To me, this is the most important point. I believe in biblical submission–with a firm emphasis on the word biblical. I do not believe in just plain submission. And yet over and over again in Christian blogs and in Christian books we’re told how submission turned their marriage around. How submission was the key to marital happiness.

That may be true–as long as you’re not in an emotionally abusive marriage. As soon as you are, acting in a typically submissive way only makes it worse, as I shared in this post about how not all advice is one size fits all.

Yet too often we in the church are told that the only proper response for a wife towards her husband is to defer to him–a  position that ignores the entire book of Proverbs, most of the Pauline epistles, and how Jesus Himself acted towards injustice.

In many emotionally destructive marriages, wives have spent years reading marriage books on how to make their marriages better. They’ve tried everything they can get their hands on–but nothing works, and in fact things often get worse, because the typical advice doesn’t fit.

I’ll let Leslie Vernick speak to this,

We’ve misdiagnosed a marriage that has terminal cancer and treated it as if it were only suffering from a common cold. We’ve also misplaced the responsibility for keeping the marriage alive by putting an extraordinarily heavy burden on a wife’s shoulders to somehow maintain a loving and warm relationship with a husband who treats her with cruelty, disrespect, deceit, and gross indifference. It’s not feasible, nor is it biblical…

When you are the only one in your marriage caring, repenting, being respectful and honest, sacrificing, and working toward being a better spouse, you are a godly wife, but you don’t have a healthy or biblical marriage…

In some marriages, trying harder does not engender a reciprocal response. It has the opposite effect. It feeds the fantasy that the sole purpose of your life is to serve your husband, make him happy, and meet his every need. It feeds his belief of entitlement and his selfishness, and it solidifies his self-deception that it is indeed all about him.

6. If you’re in an emotionally destructive marriage, be good, don’t be nice

In every marriage, our goal should be to encourage people to be more godly–and that should be all the more so in marriage because we are the helpmeet.

If we act in such a way that we solidify his self-centeredness (or her self-centeredness), then we aren’t being good or loving.

One woman said to Leslie,

I made our marriage worse by never speaking up, by being too nice, by not expressing my needs, and by accommodating Charlie even at my own expense. I went along thinking that this was my role as a godly woman, a submissive wife, a biblical helpmate.

7. To love your husband in an emotionally abusive marriage is to be concerned about his welfare and his soul

Leslie writes,

Biblically loving your husband doesn’t require you to prop him up in order to enable him to continue to hurt you. It involves something far more redemptive…

He needs a wife who will love him enough to tell him the truth and to respectfully challenge his selfishness, his self-absorption, and his self-deception.

What can you do to help your husband grow? You refuse to accept behaviour that is destructive and abusive.

When you put your foot down and say, “I will not allow myself or the kids to be treated this way anymore. It’s destructive to me, to them, and to our marriage,” you are not going against God by speaking the truth in love. You are standing for goodness, for truth, and for the healing and restoration of your marriage.

In an emotionally destructive marriage, you must learn to say no.

If you don’t know how to do that, Leslie lists some very practical examples of how you can set repercussions and boundaries for destructive behaviour while still making sure you and the children are safe. She talks practically about how to get a team around you for support, how to express to him what you will and will not accept, and how to start a process which can lead to him understanding what being a godly man is.

8. The Bible clearly says that if you are married to a fool, being nice only makes the fool worse

If people are doubting whether women have the “right” to put these kinds of ultimatums to their husbands, then I’d suggest you read the book of Proverbs and look at how God tells us to treat fools. Leslie explains in detail these Bible passages and how they apply to marriage.

And she looks at one example we have of a woman who was married to a fool–Abigail who was married to Nabal in 1 Samuel 25–and how she went against his wishes and was not submissive because she put God first.

9. We are to obey God, not man–especially an emotionally abusive man (or woman)

Following your husband into sin may be submissive, but it is not biblically submissive. Allowing him to berate you and your children may be submissive, but it is not biblically submissive.

As Peter says in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than man.”

10. God cares about the individuals in your family more than he cares about your marriage

Finally, if you’re in an emotionally abusive marriage, know that God sees you and grieves for you. In her book, Leslie shows through Scripture how God feels when His children are physically and emotionally hurt. He cries with you.

And she shows how the verse “God hates divorce” is often used against women in abusive marriages, rather than against the husbands who have made the rift–which is who that verse was directed at in the first place!

Leslie writes,

Maybe you think that God is more interested in preserving your marriage than the well-being of you and your children, but that is not true…

Joanne realized that her marriage, although important to her, had become idolatrous. Keeping it together was what controlled her, not the love of Christ…

A wife is not a body to use but a person to love.

And finally, let me leave you with this:

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: We Need to Learn God's Heart

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeMost of you reading this are not in emotionally abusive marriages–but some are. And I want you to know that God cares. That you are not alone. And that He wants you to get help. Maybe that first step is picking up a copy of Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, which outlines how to identify your marriage, how to seek help, and how to do the hard work of seeing if the marriage can be saved. I encourage you to get it–it will give you hope!

 

Reader Question: I’m Always Left Hanging in Bed

Reader Question: What do I do if my husband never tries to fulfill me sexually?What do you do if your husband always leaves you hanging in bed? He’s satisfied, but you’re left frustrated?

Every Monday I like to answer a Reader Question, and today’s is about what happens when the husband always reaches orgasm but makes no effort to see that his wife does, too. A reader writes:

My husband and I have been married for 25 years. The first four years or so were pretty great sexually. We were even having simultaneous orgasms with intercourse without even really trying.

After the kids were born, I went into a period of refusing my husband. That lasted for pretty much 20 years. And to make things even worse I was self gratifying myself, even as I was refusing him.

I came to my senses 1.5 years ago. I wanted to save our marriage. So I decided to do everything I could to do that. And now we’ve discovered that I’m the high drive spouse!

I did a lot of reading of blogs and books and websites to do my best to learn how to please my husband. He’s a happy camper. But even as much as I really enjoy the time together, I still haven’t been able to have an orgasm. When we do have sex, it seems to end up being all about him. He doesn’t seem interested in making much of an effort to please me. He pretty much falls asleep right away a very happy camper. Meanwhile I lie awake just buzzing and unfulfilled physically. When I read on blog posts and online about how husband’s really love to see there wives get totally involved in love making, and how husbands really love to see there wives turned on and husband really love to please their wives and bring them to orgasm, it just breaks my heart. Because my husband doesn’t seem interested. Almost all of our sexual encounters end up with me frustrated and him happy.

I’ve had other variations on this same question, too. Sex is over with after five minutes, and he goes right to sleep and doesn’t seem to care that she is left unsatisfied.

So what do you do?

My husband leaves me unsatisfied in bed! 4 Strategies if you're left hanging.

Understanding the Difference Between Men’s Orgasms and Women’s Orgasms

We often hear that men can climax so much faster than women, but that’s not entirely true. Studies show that when masturbating, for instance, both men and women can reach climax in about 2-3 minutes. Here’s my theory on that: it’s actually more difficult to figure out exactly WHERE and HOW to touch a woman to make her feel great than it is to touch a man. And for women, sex is primarily in our heads. During masturbation (which I am not recommending, by the way), women are already aroused and we know what feels good.

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnother reason: for women, most orgasms are clitoral in nature–even orgasms during intercourse. It’s his pelvic area rubbing against the clitoris during intercourse that helps push us over the edge (if you’re wondering about how to make this happen better, I’ve got lots of tips in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex). Researchers now believe that even G-spot orgasms are connected to the clitoris because the nerve endings connect between the two (and some people think the G-spot is just an extension of the clitoris).

So all that being said, it’s simply harder during intercourse for a woman to reach climax without exactly the right pressure in exactly the right place.

According to a Brown University fact page on female orgasm, on average, men take 2-3 minutes once intercourse starts, and women 10-20. That’s a big difference (now, men can last longer if they learn how and try; but those are averages).

Why Does Your Husband Not Care About Bringing You to Orgasm?

So what do you do to ensure you get the time (and stimulation) you need? Sometimes it depends on why he doesn’t seem interesting in pleasuring her. In this case, for instance, is he resentful because of the years of her refusing sex, so he won’t try? Or is he getting older so lasting longer is harder–and he doesn’t want to talk about that? Does he just not care? Or is he oblivious to her needs, assuming she’s fine because she refused for so long?

(If the reason is really due to premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, then I’ve got a series that would be more useful here.)

I think in most cases it’s the last–he’s oblivious. As Shaunti Feldhahn showed in her book Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, in about 90% of marriages the spouse honestly wants the best for the other spouse–even during times of conflict. Most spouses really do want the other spouse to be happy. So for most couples in this situation, the problem is likely that he just doesn’t know. If it’s something more sinister you really have that to deal with before you look at the orgasm issue. So let’s assume, just for now, that it is ignorance. Then what?

I have four suggestions that may work, but not all will be applicable in every marriage. Pick the one that works best for you!

1. Talk To Him About It

Often we’re looking for a magic answer that solves the problem without us having to have an awkward conversation or open up a can of worms. But very rarely is there such an answer.

Usually you just have to talk. Pick a time that you’re not stressed, that you have a day stretching out before you, and most of all–when you’re not in the middle of having sex!

Phrase the problem as one you both have, not something that he is to blame for. For instance, “I’ve been feeling unsatisfied lately with sex. Can we talk about how to make sure that it’s good for both of us?” is better than, “You always get to feel great while I’m left really frustrated, and it’s not fair!”

And ask for feedback from him, too. Chances are there are things you can do differently, too, and if he feels free to share things and you take them seriously, he’s more likely to listen to your thoughts.

31 Days to Great SexMany couples have found the easiest way to talk about sex is to work through my book, 31 Days to Great Sex. You just read 2-4 pages together at night and then do the challenge–which is always fun! And each challenge builds on the one before. You’ll find challenges on how to make her feel great as well, and if you just can’t seem to make him understand during a conversation, try reading the book together!

2. Be More Dominant in Bed

No, I’m not talking about domination and submission here. I just mean that if you want to feel good, you may have to start taking a more active role in bed. If sex is something he primarily does while you lie there, that’s probably the hardest way to reach orgasm for a woman.

So you be the one to start the encounter with foreplay. Rub your body against his in a way that you like. Take his hand and put it where it needs to be. When intercourse starts, you be the one to choose the position. If you sense that he’s getting close before you are, stop for a minute and do something that feels good to you (like rubbing again) while he gets a chance to calm down. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but he’s more likely to see what it is you need, and you’re more likely to get it!

3. Play Teacher

I really recommend this game to couples more often! Decide that you will play teacher and student (either on the same night or different nights). One night he gets to teach you how to make him feel great, and one night you teach him. And be as strict as you can! If it’s not exactly right, tell him. Order him around. But then let him do it to you on your night.

How this game works best: If you’re entirely out of character. If you act like yourself, but you’re just making suggestions, you’ll likely be too timid and he won’t take it as seriously. If, on the other hand, you both start acting more stern, it will be far funnier and more intense and you’ll feel less awkward.

I really do believe that most reasons that men don’t satisfy their wives is simply ignorance. Many men believe their own sexual response is the norm–fast, easy to achieve. So a woman should figure out how to become a man in bed, essentially. Men may not have articulated that, but that’s the thought. It doesn’t work! Let him see what it is like to make you feel good, and what it does take, and he may become more generous.

4. Have His and Her Nights

Finally, if he just won’t get it, then suggest that you have “his” and “her” nights over the course of the month. Some nights can be just normal, but let’s say two Saturdays a month are her nights and two are his nights. And on her nights, you get to decide exactly what you want him to do. As long as it’s reciprocated on his nights, he may be more eager. And once he understands what you like and see the response it gets, he may be more likely to do some of these things on “normal” nights, too.

What if none of these things works? Then you really do have an issue with selfishness in your marriage, and that is what needs to be dealt with–not the sex. But I really think for most couples it’s usually ignorance–ignorance of how a woman’s body works, and ignorance that it’s actually bothering you. Men hear so much that women don’t enjoy sex, after all, that they may honestly think you don’t care and you’d rather have it over with quickly.

So talk to him, try some of these things, and give it some time. And hopefully pretty soon you’ll be satisfied in bed, too.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

Waiting on God: Letting Him Work, Not You

Waiting on God: Learning to let go and start trusting God even when it's hard

Waiting on God is not natural for me.

I’m a Type A personality. When I see a problem, I analyze it. I tackle it. And I jump in! In fact, problems exhilirate me. I love the thrill of figuring out how to fix something and get it to go the way I want it to go.

I found this article in the archives of the blog that I wrote four years ago, and I thought it was worth running again, because it speaks to an issue I think we all struggle with: How do we let go? Here’s what I said back then, and I think it’s still relevant:

Trying to fix things didn’t work tremendously well growing up, and God had to hit me over the head a few times to make me trust Him. I was constantly interfering in friendships, in relationships, trying to force them to go my way because I figured I knew best. And I couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie. I couldn’t do NOTHING.

If something was wrong with a friend, or a boyfriend, I had to fix it RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE.

That’s why I had such a hard time trusting God with the fact that I would marry. I wanted to marry so desperately, and in my late teens I was always on the lookout for possible candidates. When I did start dating my now husband, I sort of barrelled my way all over him. I saw that we would work together, and I made sure he realized that, too. I didn’t exactly wait for him to come to that conclusion; I made sure that he saw it my way.

Unfortunately, that scared him off, and he ended up breaking up our first engagement. I was just moving too fast. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken, and had to wrestle my life out with God again. I had to acknowledge to God that He was my source of strength, not Keith.

I had to acknowledge to God that no matter what happened, I would trust Him, not look for fulfillment in other people. Waiting on God became my goal.

It was a very rough summer, but in retrospect one that I really needed. And Keith came back to his senses and we married anyway.

A few years later I had to wrestle with God again, over a problem that I couldn’t solve. My baby boy had a serious heart defect, one that was likely to kill him. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. Here I was, someone who would stay awake at night mulling over problems and strategizing my next steps to get rid of those problems, and there was absolutely no strategizing that would help. It was all about trusting God. And so I did. Even though my son didn’t make it, I learned that God was always there, and that He is enough.

And yet lately I have been reminded that God perhaps isn’t finished with these lessons for me.

Trust in the Lord

I have found in my marriage that “trust” is often the last thing I’m able to do.

Oh, I can trust Keith fine. I just can’t always trust God to solve my problems.

So if Keith and I had disagreements, I would stew and plan and strategize all day, and often call him in the middle of the day, to work it out. I used my brilliant insights. I gave him my air tight arguments of what we should do now and where we should go. And usually I ended up winning. Yet is it really winning if Keith hadn’t had a chance to think it over, to go to God with it Himself? If Keith hadn’t been able to explain what he wants?

Waiting on God would have been a lot more productive–and a lot more in line with what God wants for us to do.

I’m getting slowly better at stepping back and letting Keith process. I’m getting slowly better at going on with life when something is wrong in my marriage, trusting that we’ll be able to work it out later on tonight, or in a few days when we have time to sit together.

I’m getting slowly better at waiting on God, and not just bowling ahead and trying to solve everything.

But it is not working in my kids’ lives. I feel as if with them God is asking me to step back, too, and let my kids make their own mistakes. I feel as if He is saying that I have to trust God with my kids’ futures. It was hard enough to trust Him first time around with mine; now I have to trust Him with theirs! I never realized that this, in many ways, is harder.

Some problems can’t be fixed, and sometimes the efforts that we make at fixing them actually prohibit God from working.

What if God is trying to let your children go through a period of waiting, or trusting, and you try to fix it for them?

What if God is trying to wrestle with your husband about something, and you try to get your husband to talk everything out before God has really had time to soften him or convict him? What if God is planning a better solution, and you rush in because you can’t handle that uncomfortable feeling where everything is not in equilibrium?

There are times I need to step back. I am not God. I need to listen to what God says about my kids, and I need to trust Him with them. I don’t like doing that. Maybe God is telling you the same thing about your husband. Maybe you and your husband have an issue between you, and you want it solved RIGHT NOW. Ask yourself: why do I want it solved now? Is it because it needs to be solved, or is it simply because I don’t like this uncomfortable feeling? And if it’s the second, then your problem is not your husband. Your problem is your lack of trust in God to work this out.

Wait for the Lord: Psalm 27:13-14

I’m learning that I have to wait on God, put my problems in His hands, and ask Him to show me when I should do something about them–and when I should do nothing.

And I’m learning that He wants me to act far less frequently than I would like.

What about you? Has God been teaching you to wait on Him? How do you handle it?

UPDATE: I wish I could have had a looking glass back when I wrote this and struggling with some of my girls’ heartache and disappointment. Right now my oldest daughter is engaged and we’re planning the wedding, and she has found someone who loves Jesus. She’s honestly going to be okay. I was right to trust God–He does look after our kids.

Ask It! Our March Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

“While nobody plans to mess up his life, the problem is that few of us plan not to.”

So says Andy Stanley early in his book Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions. And today we’re going to talk about it and help YOU not mess up your life!

Book Review of Ask It by Andy Stanley

It’s our March edition of the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge! You just have to read one book a month–and every month is a different topic! And then I’ll give you a couple of choices (in case you’ve already read one book or in case not all books apply to you).

This is one of those months where not all books will apply. We’re talking about setting boundaries–how to make sure that you’re taking responsibility for the things that you are responsible for, but also ensuring you don’t overfunction and prevent other people from doing what they should do, and to ensure that you don’t enable sin.

I had four book suggestions, three of which were for women who really felt like they were doing too much in their marriage: Boundaries in Marriage, The Emotionally Healthy Woman, and The Emotionally Destructive Marriage (listed in order of severity of marriage problems). I’ll be looking at The Emotionally Destructive Marriage next week.

But what if you don’t have these kinds of issues in your marriage? Then I suggested the book Ask It, which is an amazing little book, and gives us help so that we don’t wind up with these sorts of problems in our marriage later (or in other relationships!). It’s just great wisdom for life, and I’d like to talk about it today.

Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make DecisionsThe “One” Question

Stanley starts his book by showing us rather convincingly that we don’t think ahead. We get into these messes that anyone could have seen were going to be messes, and then we feel trapped.

We spend too much money. Our marriage falls apart. Our kids struggle. And why is that?

It’s because we don’t focus on the right question.

Usually, when we’re trying to make decisions, we ask, “Is there anything wrong with this?” That’s how we get into messes. We can’t find a definite “no”, and so we justify doing really stupid things.

You don’t sit around looking for reasons to do the right thing; it’s the bad decisions that require creative reasoning.

The better question is this one:

What is the wise thing for me to do?

And he goes on to show that the question needs to be expanded, to this:

In light of my past experiences (including my specific temptations and shortcomings), in light of my current circumstances, and in light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do right now?

Seriously, people. Do we know how revolutionary that is? Take just the issue of dating, for example. Many women end  up with total losers. They date people who don’t treat them well, and then maybe they end up marrying them. We all know women like that (maybe you even are one!) We all have sisters or friends who are in the midst of destructive relationships, and we so want them to get out.

And then they do–and six months later they’re with a carbon copy guy, moaning to us how there aren’t any good guys in the world.

But, as Stanley says,

“Why does every relationship end the same way?” In most cases the answer is, “Because every relationship started the same way.”

You meet the guy in a bar, or at a party where everyone’s drunk,  or through a friend who has substance abuse issues, and suddenly you wonder why you end up with losers. We have to stop doing what feels natural and start asking ourself, “is this wise”?

Neglecting Something Important Has Lasting Consequences

After setting up the importance of “the question”, Stanley then takes a look at our everyday lives. Are we actually doing wise things on a day-to-day basis? And he shows how often we’re not. When we fail to plan and fail to be wise, we end up neglecting the important things. And neglect has lasting consequences.

The health of your marriage tomorrow will be determined by the decisions you make today…There are rarely immediate consequences for neglecting single instalments of time in any arena of life.

That is so true, and to bring this back to the subject of this blog, I see this so much in the area of sex. When sex falls to the wayside, when we women diminish its importance and refuse sex consistently, or else just go through the motions without really throwing ourselves into it, we drive our husbands away.

We know that sex is important to a relationship, but in the day to day, when we’re tired, we often neglect it. Let me give you several of Stanley’s thoughts on this:

But in the areas that matter most, a burst of energy and activity cannot reverse the consequences that accompany a season of neglect…Relationships are built on small, consistent deposits of time. You can’t cram for what’s most important. If you want to connect with your kids, you’ve got to be available consistently, not randomly…If you are not walking wisely, your time will be fragmented by a thousand urgent, disconnected opportunities and events. Such opportunities and events will seem important at the time, but when strung together they have no cumulative value.

“Falling” Into Sin with Emotional Affairs

One area I really appreciated about this book was the chapters he spent on sexual sin, and especially how we “fall into” affairs. He tells an all-too-convincing story about how two people who work together end up in an affair not because they planned to, but because they failed to plan NOT to.

Let me give you just a few of Stanley’s words of wisdom:

Do you know why people are prone to make such foolish moral decisions? Because something always whispers to us that our situations are unique: Nobody has ever felt this way before.

But there is nothing unique about your circumstances, your emotions, your desires, and your passions. And as long as you deceive yourself into thinking that you are the first to feel what you are feeling, you will chase those feelings to the neglect of wisdom.

In terms of marriage, this book is worth the price just for the diagnosis of emotional and physical affairs, and for the advice on how to be wise and protect yourself.

The problem with an affair is that at each step, people start justifying their behaviour. “There’s nothing really wrong with texting a co-worker outside of work hours.” “There’s nothing wrong with grabbing dinner with him while on a business trip. We have to eat, after all.” “There’s nothing wrong with stopping by her house to drop off these papers.” And that’s how we do it–we ask ourselves, “is this really wrong?” But if we asked ourselves, “Is this really wise?”, we’d likely have a different response.

Quote from Andy Stanley's book Ask It

None of us plan–or intend–to get into trouble. The problem is, we don’t plan not to. (click to tweet!)

What is Beneficial?

I love that Andy Stanley brought up  1 Corinthians 10:23, because I use it all the time in my Girl Talk when I talk to churches about sex:

“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.

That’s such a great verse. It’s not about whether or not something is WRONG (everything is permissible, after all). It’s about whether or not it’s beneficial. Now, in the context, Paul isn’t saying that there’s no such thing as sin. What he is talking about is all of those grey areas that aren’t necessarily sin, but that we still struggle with. It’s not a sin, but is it wise?

I’ve used this verse specifically with sex toys. I’m not saying using a feather on your spouse or even making them lie still while you tease them is wrong–far from it! But there are some toys which basically recreate body parts and give you parallel sexual experiences, rather than enjoying stuff together. And the more that we focus on these physical elements, the less we’re likely to feel that sex is intimate. And who tends to reach orgasm the most in marriage? Those who feel the most intimate! Intimacy and trust are the best aphrodisiacs, and you can’t buy them at a sex shop.

I have more on that in several other posts, but I think when we’re trying to decide our boundaries in the bedroom, that’s a great question to ask!

Finding Mentors for Your Life–and Your Marriage!

Finally, Andy Stanley ends with a plea that we start learning to ask for help.

Wise people know when they don’t know, and they’re not afraid to go to those who do know. When wise people bump up against their limitations, they stop and ask for help.

I have repeatedly said on this blog that every couple should have a mentor couple–someone you can go to in times of crisis to ask for perspective and prayer, or someone you can bounce things off of if you just hit a wall and you can’t seem to agree. People who know you in real life and who care about you and who are godly themselves are the greatest resources we have.

Yet often we don’t turn to mentors. Why?

One of the primary reasons we don’t seek counsel from the wise people around us is that we already know what we are going to hear–and we just don’t want to hear it.

I see that often on this blog. I’ll write a long blog post explaining what you should do in a certain tough situation, and then people will comment with their terribly sad stories, saying, “I desperately need advice! Tell me what to do!” But I just finished telling you. The problem is that my solution often entailed them changing, or them doing something difficult. People don’t want to hear that. They want a magic solution–and most likely there isn’t one. Most major change only happens when we work through it.

Who Should Read Ask It?

Everyone! Seriously. It’s a great book for the Christian walk. I think couples could read it together at night (it’s such an easy read with lots of stories in it). It would give you something to talk about as you try to make decisions. But if youth groups read it with their teenagers, or college & careers groups read it together, that would be wonderful, too. Imagine if we could equip our young people to ask the right questions from the outset:

In light of my past experiences (including my specific temptations and shortcomings), in light of my current circumstances, and in light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do right now?

I really encourage you all to read it! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and like Stanley says–I do think it will revolutionize how you make decisions.

If you read it, tell me: what was your favourite part? Did he help you see something in a new way? And tune in next week for our look at The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.

I’ll be sending out my “Round Up” Newsletter later today. I send it out maybe 3 times a year with more personal updates from my family, photos you won’t have seen on the blog or Facebook, and announcements of what I’m writing, where I’m speaking, and what I’m thinking about these days. If you aren’t signed up, you can do so here!