Why One Size Fits All Advice Doesn’t Work

Marriage Advice: God cares about us looking more and more like Him far more than He cares about rules. So be careful of black and white advice, even about submission and respect.

The problem with giving marriage advice is that I can always think of about a million different exceptions where the advice may not apply.

There’s rarely a one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to relationships.

In fact, I think that’s why Jesus told stories so much–so that we could glean the principle, not just the law.

Let me give you an example.

Good Girls Guide My SiteWithholding sex is wrong. Sex is an integral part of marriage, and we should not deprive our spouses. I’m quite adamant about that; I have a whole chapter in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex about why it’s so important to make regular and frequent in  marriage, even if we don’t always feel loved or don’t always want it.

But, as I pointed out last week, that piece of advice, while generally true, isn’t always true. If your husband has just been watching porn, or is all aroused because of watching some heavily sex saturated TV show, having sex with him right then enables sin. Saying, “I will not have sex with you after you have looked at other naked women” is a perfectly legitimate boundary that supports the sanctity of marriage and does not enable sin. After all, as Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (NIV)

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThis was my basic issue when writing my new book that’s coming out this summer, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. Too often the Christian advice that we’re given can actually hurt, rather than help, our relationships if we lose sight of the broader principle behind it.

And what is the broader principle that God wants for us?

I’d say  God wants  these two primary things: It’s not His will that any should perish, so He wants all to come to know Him, (1 Peter 3:9), and He wants us to be transformed into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

He wants us to come to salvation, and then He wants us to be sanctified and made to look like Christ.

Those are God’s goals for us–the ENDS, as it were. And the means, the way we get there, are all of the teachings that we’re given in Scripture. But those teachings are not ends, in and of themselves, and too often we confuse them.

For instance, one of the means that God gives us for achieving the ends (growing like Christ) is to submit to our husbands and respect our husbands. But are there times when these MEANS would actually achieve a different END than God wants? Absolutely.

In the story of Ananias and Sapphira that we find in Acts 5, that couple owned a piece of land that they sold, and then they brought part of the proceeds to the apostles to go towards helping in the work of the church. So far so good. But they decided to tell the apostles that the money they gave was ALL the money they got. They wanted to look better than they were.

Ananias came in first, lied, and God struck him down. Sapphira came in afterwards, and Peter gave her an opportunity to make things right (she did not know Ananias was dead). He gave her the opportunity, in other words, to be unsubmissive–to disagree with her husband. She didn’t take it, and she was struck dead (Larry Crabb would argue that doing what God wants instead of following your husband into sin IS being submissive, not unsubmissive, and I agree with him. But that’s a bigger point for another post).

When I bring up that story, I get people arguing that it doesn’t show that you can go against your husband, because it could be that Sapphira was actually the instigator. But it makes no difference whether she plotted the whole thing (was the instigator), planned it with him (was equal), or just went along (was lesser). Peter gave her a chance to do the right thing apart from her husband and she did not take it, showing us, and wives forevermore, that God does not want us to participate in sin with our husbands. When sin is involved, we are to stand separately.

And what about the story of Abigail and Nabal from 1 Samuel 25? Nabal had put his family in danger because he had not compensated David and his men for the help they had given him. And Abigail intervened, apart from her husband’s wishes, to save the family. When your husband is dangerous and unreliable, you do the right thing. You don’t follow him to disaster.

Too often we preach the rule and forget these ends–that God wants us to look more and more like Him.

For instance, I received this letter recently:

My husband and I lost our house five years ago when my husband lost his job. We’ve been moving from house to house, staying with relatives, until we get kicked out. And we always get kicked cause my husband refuses to look for a job. He’s qualified for a bunch of jobs (he’s even been offered some), but he always says something better is coming. We have two small children, and I’m working part-time, but it won’t pay the bills. My husband spends all of his time on the computer looking up new jobs and how to start his own business, but he doesn’t actually do anything. I know my sister is getting sick of us living in her basement, but I don’t know what to do. I’m trying so hard to respect my husband? I encourage him and tell him he’s awesome and that I’m so proud of him, but I’m so angry right now. I just want him to get a job. I know I need to respect him, but it’s just so hard.

The real issue here is that her husband is not acting responsibly, and he needs to step up to the plate. By framing the issue as respect, she’s missing the boat. And unfortunately, far too often in Christian circles if women are having issues in their marriage they are told that the only answers are to be more submissive and to respect more–which assumes that the problem is caused in the first place because they aren’t more submissive. “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

And I have often heard wives told to submit as if submission is the ENDS–that what God wants, more than all of us looking like Christ, is to have the right order in relationship.

Should we respect our husbands? Of course! But let’s not forget that the ENDS matter more than the MEANS.

That’s what Jesus said in the stories found in Mark 2 and Mark 3. In Mark 2 the disciples were hungry, so they were picking grain on the sabbath. The Pharisees criticized them since this was unlawful. But Jesus points out that David did something unlawful, too, when his companions were hungry. He concludes in Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” And then Mark 3 opens with a story about Jesus healing on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees were so focused on the rule–keeping the sabbath–that they forgot the principle–God wants our best.

And in your marriage, God wants your best–which includes both of you looking more and more like Him.

That’s why it’s not about rules. It’s about aiming for God’s best for you and your husband. Let me give you two quotes from our books from The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in January. Gary Thomas, in A Lifelong Love, says this:

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?For instance, in a real-life scenario, a wife told me that her husband said, “Quit throwing away my pornography. I need it. If you throw away my pornography, I’m throwing away your Bible.”

Her desire is that her husband not keep a stash of pornography. That’s what she wants. But it’s also what will most bless her husband. So she doesn’t give way and allow him to maintain a separate sexual life apart from their intimacy. Sh blesses him by saying, “No, I won’t stand for this.” Sometimes what we want can also be a blessing to our spouses, even if they don’t want it. To bless other people is to seek their ultimate good, and their ultimate good is what draws them to God.

And John and Staci Eldredge, in Love & War, say this:

Love and War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage[Staci speaking]: For years I think we both thought that to overlook your spouse’s issues was the most loving thing to do…By all means, we overlook their little quirks; we even overlook the ways they wound us, if by overlook we mean we forgive them. But this doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to issues that will eventually harm them, or the marriage, or the children. God doesn’t.

It is not love to ignore your spouse’s sin, or brokenness, or immaturity. It is not love to let something wrong carry on. It is not right. Truth be told, it is a lack of love that lets it all go on for years. When you let your own fears keep you from bringing something up with your spouse, that is self-protection. Or indifference. God loves until what he loves is pure.

We work for our spouse’s ultimate good. That is the ends.

But that’s murky, isn’t it? We’d rather have a black and white assurance of what w should do. But isn’t murky God’s modus operandi? Jesus dies and rises from the dead, and the only method He left of telling the world about it is a motley crew of fallible disciples, guided by the Holy Spirit.

That’s how God works–we have to walk by the Spirit! That makes us pray, and listen to God, and stay close to Him. And He’s also given us mentors in the church to ask. And if that doesn’t work, and there’s still a big issue in your marriage, there’s also taking it before the church leadership (Matthew 18).

There is no one size fits all advice, because we’re all different.

But we all have the Holy Spirit, and our church community, and hopefully mentors.

And so, whenever you read a piece of marriage advice, put it through this lens:

Will acting in the suggested way make me grow more like Jesus, or make me look less like Him? Will acting like this make my husband look more like Jesus, or less like Him? What should I do right now to encourage all of us to look and act more and more like Jesus?

That’s what it’s about, people. It’s about being Christlike. So go deeper with God and with His word. And then love and respect in integrity, truth, and grace.

 

Gary Thomas Answers Your Marriage Questions

Gary Thomas shares some marriage advice based on his book A Lifelong Love

One of the absolute FUNNEST things (I know that’s not a word but it should be) about doing the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in 2015 has been to get to reach out to amazing Christian authors and have them actually answer your questions–and interact with them!

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?In January we looked at Gary Thomas’ book A Lifelong Love, and I invited you all to submit questions for Gary. I sent him four, and he’s sent me his replies! (We had a great chat with John and Staci Eldredge last month, too.)

1. What is the most important thing a wife can do to bless her husband?

Part of me truly wants to shout, “it depends on the husband!” Love needs to be particular to be truly felt, so to answer this question in a general way could mislead some wives about what truly is the best way to bless their individual, particular husbands.

But, having said that, my answer would be to build a devotional platform from which you are overflowing with God’s love, and to guard that platform like you’d guard a toddler walking through a crowded mall. 1 John 4:19 says we love because He first loved us. If you’re not experiencing God’s acceptance, affirmation, and encouragement at least daily, you’ll start demanding instead of serving. You’ll ask your husband to be more and more to you as God becomes less and less, which will increase your husband’s frustration and decrease your contentment.

There will be days when your husband doesn’t notice you as he should, or notices the wrong thing about you, and breaks your heart. How do I know? James 3:2 tells me your husband stumbles in many ways. On those days in particular, you need to receive from God. If you receive from him beforehand, it’s even better. In that case, you’re already prepped.

I know this sounds religious, but it’s so true. I am simply a much, much better spouse when the day starts by getting my mind right (through reading/study) and my heart right (through prayer and worship). Yes, you’re busy, but few things truly are more important. If we skip time with God, we’re saying we can love without God, and I, for one, have proven a thousand times that’s just not true.

2. How do you stay motivated to bless your spouse even in difficult times?

Some of you may be in a relationship that your spouse values about as much as I value our backyard (which is to say, not much—at least, not enough to do anything about it). If your marriage would just “happen,” they’d enjoy it. But they lack the will and the work ethic to make the relationship grow. There are other priorities that drive them.

Philippians 2:13 is an encouraging word for these marriages: “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (NRSV).

We often go to God for the “work” but forget to go to Him for the “will.” When things get difficult, before you can ask God what you should do, you may have to spend time asking God to help you care. “God, on my own, I’m so done with this! But please give me the will to make this marriage work, for Your good pleasure. Make me care again.”

Do you think God will hesitate before answering that prayer? Do you think He might pause and say, “Hmm, not sure I’m ready to offer that”?

If you feel one-sided in your marriage, it’s easy to lose the will. If you’ve been unsuccessful in bringing about change, it’s natural to lose the will. If you’ve tried every trick you can think of and your bookshelf is filled with every book on marriage published in the last ten years and yet your marriage is still subpar, it’s natural just to give up.

Have you prayed for God to give you the will? Christianity isn’t based solely on a bunch of beliefs; its heart and soul is based on a powerful and active God who can lift us above our apathy and limitations. God becomes the third partner, the uniting presence.

So let’s tap into this divine resource. We’re not alone in our marriages, even in our so-called solitary marriages. There may not be two engaged humans, but there can be—with your initiation alone—two engaged parties: you and God.

3. How can you figure out a common purpose, or common mission, with a spouse who is an agnostic?

Even if your spouse isn’t a believer, find something that pleases God that your spouse also believes in—raising “good” children (though he will define good differently than you, perhaps). There may be certain ministries—helping the poor—that he will share with you. Samaritan’s Purse is a great organization that is often a “first responder” to natural disasters. Maybe your spouse will help fill a children’s Christmas shoebox (given to underprivileged children) with you. In other words, find something that gets him excited, and let that become a joint ministry—even though you may not share a joint motivation (it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a non-believing husband to go on a mission trip to Haiti to help build a school for poor children, particularly if he’s into building things).

Secondly, the wives I’ve talked to who are married to non-believers and who did best figured out that they had to work to find common “non-spiritual” interests with their husbands. Relational intimacy is key to keeping your husband interested in future spiritual intimacy. For one wife, it was riding bikes with her husband (like, 100 mile rides!). For another wife, it was going hunting. You’ll never get anywhere by “punishing” your husband for not going to church with you by withdrawing from his favorite activities. Be the Christian—love on him, be a good, kind friend, and keep praying that God will use that friendship to open up his heart.

4. What are the first few steps in putting this into practice in a marriage where you’ve done the exact OPPOSITE for 20 years. How do you switch gears practically?

You serve no one by beating yourself up for what you haven’t done; take all that energy and instead pour it into loving your husband excellently now. All Christians live in grace, out of grace, and because of grace.

When it comes to treating your husband as God’s son, tape a copy of 1 John 3:1 to a mirror or inside your car—something to remind you of that precious biblical truth. And then start praying for your husband referring to him as God’s son. “Lord, help me love your son. Help me understand your son. You were there when he was little; help me figure out why he acts this way.” Just remind yourself as you’re praying that you’re talking to a very interested third partner. You then slowly pray your way into treating your husband like God’s son.

When it comes to living intentionally through the seasons of marriage, get together with a friend and describe what is most likely creating distance in your marriage right now, and then discuss how you can turn that around to build renewed intimacy. “Being so busy makes it so difficult for us to connect, so instead I’m going to think of ways I can help him be less busy.”

On the third part, that’s best met with a morning prayer. Simply wake up and ask yourself, “How can I bless my husband this morning?” Before he comes home from work, ask yourself, “How can I bless my husband this evening.” For me, I’ve had to mentally remind myself of this question over and over until it becomes second nature. It’s a choice to think this way.


I am so honored that Gary Thomas spent this long mulling over these answers and gave us something that is so practical but also uplifts Jesus. Love it! I was blessed, and I trust it blessed you, too.

And if you liked what Gary had to say, don’t forget to pick up A Lifelong Love! And visit him at GaryThomas.com.

 

Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

I get a lot of reader’s questions like this one:

I found out about my husband of 5 years had been addicted to porn and caught him by innocently searching through his photos on his phone while nursing my son in bed one morning.  I regularly asked to use his phone, so my looking through it was nothing unusual at all. The difference this time is he forgot to hide his stuff apparently this time. We have had MANY hard conversations since then. He’s been getting help, hasn’t looked at it since July (when I caught him) and has been genuinely turning his life around and back to the Lord.  Here’s my issue.  I still don’t trust him yet. I’ve forgiven him but trusting him again is something that takes a lot of work and time. We aren’t at that point yet. Is it possible to respect him without trust?  I do try but he doesn’t feel it anymore. I know it’s incredibly important to show respect and even biblical. I guess maybe I don’t know what respect truly is? I’m being the best I know how to be while feeling so broken but it doesn’t seem enough. Please help, I’m so confused.

And here is one woman’s answer to rebuilding trust after a porn addiction…welcome Jen Ferguson from Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood

I was in my bed sobbing uncontrollably.  The revelation hit me in the gut and never have I felt so alone as I did in that moment. The reality of my life hit me: I cannot trust anyone not to let me down.

Thankfully, with the new morning came new light into my darkness: No one is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes, including me. People will fail me, but this does not make all relationships destined for failure.

That wisdom right there seemed to right my sinking ship. Suddenly, I had gone from shipwrecked to being fortified with a grace I hadn’t known I was withholding from people in my life, primarily from my husband. For years we had battled together against his porn addiction.  Never did I consider divorce, but looking back at it, never did I consider living into the fullness of marriage again, either. For years I could not bear to think about trusting Craig again.

Could I ever stop my suspicions he would one day return to porn?  Would I ever be able to talk to him about his addiction without accusation and fear?  The truth was, I could give him my body in the bedroom, but could I ever truly again give him my heart?

Realizing my own fallibilities was the first step in helping me to rebuild trust in my husband. How many times had I hurt him over and over in the same manner?  I was not a white lamb in this relationship. My blemishes, though different than his, were still sins for which I needed forgiveness and grace. It was me that was placing his sin on a grander scale than my own. This was certainly not how God saw it.  Sin is sin.

Rebuilding trust was a dual effort for us. Yes, he had betrayed me by using pornography and needed to show me that he was actively pursing a life without it. But, truthfully, I had lost some of his trust, too. When I first discovered his porn addiction, I went into “control” mode. I watched over his every move. I accused him before listening to him. I became a parent instead of a spouse. I let my anger rule my words.  We both had to come to a place of acknowledging our own needs for forgiveness and recognize our marriage wouldn’t thrive without a foundation of trust.

Four Steps to Go from Ruin to Reunion

1. He communicates with me and I listen.

One of Craig’s major triggers that would propel him into his porn addiction cycle was stress.  When things felt too hard or too much, when he felt as though he was at risk for failing or rejection, he would shut me out and get lost in the world of porn for release and escape.  Before he really became invested in freedom, I would ask him questions, knowing something was wrong, and he would simply give me a pat answer like “things are busy at work.”  Now, he knows I know when something is bothering him and he is willing to sit down with me and be real and honest with what is happening and how he is responding to those situations.

2.  I respond with wisdom and he listens. 

One day, Craig’s friend invited him over to watch the TV show, Game of Thrones. I happened to see part of one episode the previous season and I knew there was nudity in it.  When I saw the invitation on Craig’s computer, my first reaction (that thankfully, I kept in my head) was “No! You can’t do that! It’s not good for you!”  If I had said that, I would have regressed back into my fear-based, parenting-like behavior, where he felt disrespected.  Instead, I simply told him how I thought the show might trigger him back into porn and asked him to pray about whether or not he should view the show. He ended up not going, not because I demanded him to stay home, but because God led him to the conclusion that it would not be conducive to his walk toward freedom. He felt respected by the fact that I asked him to fully consider the ramifications and seek God instead of shouting at him about what he should or shouldn’t do.

3.  He accepts accountability.

I know the password to all of Craig’s electronic devices and have permission at any time to view anything on them. There is a password on our cable account that restricts adult entertainment access and MA-rated television shows and movies that only I have (which he asked me to put on). He has a regular group of friends he can count on to pray for him and from whom he seeks counsel. All of these things give me tangible ways to see that he is trying to keep himself safe from things that could easily ensnare him.

4. We forgive each other continually.

We must make it a practice to forgive and extend grace. We will both mess up in a variety of ways, but instead of using these mistakes as ammunition against each other to try to prove that we are not trustworthy, we choose to use them so to practice the character of Jesus, who always extends forgiveness.

Rebuilding trust does not happen overnight and it can feel like an impossible goal, but with God, anything is possible. Trust is a crucial piece to your marriage and it will not thrive without it. God knows this and He will actively help you rebuild it. You’re not in it alone.

 

Jen FergusonJen Ferguson is passionate about Jesus, her husband, and her two girls. She is the facilitator of The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood and loves to encourage women to bring their true selves out into the light.  She is the co-author of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.  

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Have some marriage advice? Leave a comment, or link up a URL of your own Wifey Wednesday marriage post in the linky below!

This Wifey Wednesday we talk about how to rebuild when he’s the one who has sinned sexually. Next Wednesday we’ll look at how to rebuild trust when it’s been you–especially if you’ve been withholding sex, and now you want to change but your husband doesn’t trust you yet.



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 Things I’d Say About Sex If I Had No Filter

Top 10 Things I Would Say About Sex--if I had no filter! Here's brutal honesty...

I write about sex a lot on this marriage blog, trying to say things that are helpful and uplifting to encourage you to have a great sex life with your husband!

But every now and then there are things that I just want to get off my chest. And when J from Hot, Holy and Humorous wrote the post “8 Things I’d Say About Sex If I Had No Filter“, and issued the challenge for others of us to write a similar one, I knew I had to accept!

Top TenSo here we go for Top 10 Tuesday:

1. Why in the world weren’t we created with a “sexual memory”?

I know what it’s like to eat double chocolate Oreo cheesecake. And it really doesn’t matter what time of day it is, or how full I am, if you offered me some double chocolate Oreo cheesecake, I would take it in an instant. That stuff’s awesome!

But you know what’s better? Great sex. And yet somehow I seem to forget that–and it doesn’t always seem worth the effort.Why can’t I have a cheesecake memory about sex? It would make life so much easier!

2. Sometimes we just want to give you a gift. Take the gift.

But I don’t have that cheesecake memory, and sometimes I just know that I’m not going to be able to concentrate enough to really enjoy myself tonight. After all, if a woman can’t concentrate solely on sex, then her body won’t kick in, because our sex drives are primarily in our heads. Some nights there is just too much rattling around in my brain for me to have a really good time.

And that’s okay with me, because sometimes I just want to give my husband a gift. And men, here’s what you’ve got to understand: on the nights when your wife is just making love “for you”, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with the marriage (in fact, there’s something right, because she’s trying to do something nice for you!) It likely just meas she has a lot on her mind.

If it happens all the time, by all means talk to her about it and work on how you can make sex great for her.

But on those nights when it just ain’t happening for her, take the gift she’s trying to give you. Just take it. Don’t try to analyze her or make her feel great–it will just frustrate her. Take the gift. It’s not that hard.

3. I really wish I weren’t such a multitasker

Multitasking works great during the day–when I’m talking on the phone while unloading the dishwasher, for instance. But I can’t seem to switch it OFF, and it drives me nuts. When I’m having sex, I want to HAVE SEX–not plan a grocery list. But I’ll be lying there having a good time when I’ll suddenly think–“is there milk in the fridge?” And then I panic and think, “Oh, man, what else do I need to pick up? And when am I going to get there?” I didn’t mean to think about milk. But it came in there and then my mind wandered and now my body has shut off.

I hate multitasking. Grrr. I really wish sex didn’t always require so much concentration!

4. You’re never going to like sex if you tell yourself all that negative stuff about it.

Sometimes the earth is not going to move for us. Some nights we really are going to want him to get it over with, and that’s okay if it’s just sometimes. But if it’s all the time, it’s likely at least partly because of the messages you’re giving yourself about sex.

Stop telling yourself all these negative things about sex! If you’re hopeless and talk about how awful it is and always think about how awful it is and always think about how you have no libido and you just want to be left alone and you’re just so, so tired, then it never WILL feel great.

The only way your libido will kick in is if you start telling yourself positive things about sex. And that’s not your husband’s fault if you aren’t. I know we all have roadblocks: maybe sex hurts or you’ve grown up with sexual abuse or you’re dealing with sexual baggage, and that’s okay. Work on those issues. But you’re never, ever going to get to the other side unless you start making yourself think differently.

God made sex. He made you to feel great! He wants you to feel great. He made it to be really intimate and to bind you two together. He wants you to relax. He wants you to sleep better. He wants you in ecstasy. Don’t you want that for yourself? So start talking UP sex instead of talking sex DOWN.

5. Women, what are you thinking if you never have sex with your husbands?

So many men comment on this blog who can count on two hands the number of times they’ve had sex with their wives in the last few years. That’s YEARS.

What makes you think that sex is something that is optional in a marriage? That if you’re tired or run down with kids, that you can just say “no sex tonight–or ever?” Sex is a key part of marriage, and if you’re constantly denying your husband, you’ve got issues.

Sex can be so great, and if it’s not for you, it could very well be because of the messages you’re giving yourself about sex, your husband, and your marriage. Try focusing on the positive aspects of sex and just jump back in! And stop being ridiculous.

6. I wouldn’t sleep with you, either.

At the same time, guys, seriously, do you ever listen to yourself? Yesterday on my Facebook Page Kevin Thompson shared his post “I wouldn’t sleep with you, either“, and I loved it! So spot on.

Many husbands in sexless marriages did very little to deserve their sexless state, as far as I can tell, and so I am not speaking to them. But I’ve had literally dozens of men comment in the last few days on various posts (I’ve had a launch from some manosphere site, I guess), and reading their comments, I can totally see why their wives don’t sleep with them.

Look, guys, if you spend your whole life yelling about how women need to submit, how they can never deny their husbands even if their husbands use porn, how women are supposed to keep silent and not confront their husbands on sin, and how women are to respect their husbands absolutely, do you have any idea how totally creepy you sound? Oh, and when you say that God gave the men the sex drives they have, and so every man is going to check out other women, it’s natural–just ICK. Seriously ICK. Be a man. Treat your wife with dignity.

Stop with the porn. Stop watching Game of Thrones. Cherish your wife. Listen to her opinion. Stop checking out other women. Stop being a boor.

7. Take care of your body

We’re not allowed to say that because it may shame people. And you can have great sex no matter what size you are (in fact, there’s really good research to show that people who are about 20 pounds overweight have the best sex–and people who are underweight have the worst).

And sex is more than physical–it’s also emotional and spiritual, and so we should never let our world’s idea of beauty make us into nervous wrecks who feel so badly about bodies we’re embarrassed to have sex.

I agree with all of that.

But I also think that we’re so scared of shaming women that we’ve stopped talking about how important it is to take care of ourselves and to look nice. The pride that we take in ourselves reflects how we feel about ourselves, and that plays a large role in our sexuality. So just put in some effort, ladies!

Men are visual creatures, and you’re the only woman he’s supposed to look at. So be nice to look at! Stop wearing baggy T-shirts. Stop eating food that isn’t good for you. Treat your body well. Yes, your true beauty is your inner beauty, absolutely. But it doesn’t take that much effort to make your outer self match your inner self. Just pick up a brush. Get a great haircut. Learn to apply some mascara and lipgloss. Fight the frump!

8. My wedding night was awful. Most people’s wedding nights are.

Good Girls Guide My SiteWe talk UP the wedding night way too much. You know what’s wrong with the wedding night? It follows The Wedding Day–the longest day of your life. I think we’d all do so much better if we stopped telling young people “just wait for the wedding night”, and started telling them, “just wait until you can take a year or two discovering each other after you’re married.” When I did my surveys for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, I found that about 80% of people had awful wedding nights, if you judge just by the physical aspect. And for most people it does take a few years for things to work like clockwork.

I think we’re so scared of people having premarital sex that we oversell the honeymoon. Let’s talk about sex as a decades long fun research project, not a “one night entry into bliss”. Seriously.

9. Sex is like Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will eventually go wrong.

And here’s why we need to see it as a decades-long thing: anything that can go wrong will. Once you finally get it working like clockwork you’ll get pregnant and start puking. Or you’ll hit perimenopause and your hormones will go out of whack. Or he’ll get stressed and lose his libido. Or he’ll start getting erectile dysfunction.

Sex may be the most intimate thing we can do, but we do it with our bodies. And when things affect our bodies, they’re going to affect sex too. That’s one reason God made marriage: so that when things do go wrong, we’ll stick together long enough for them to go right again!

So don’t worry when things take a turn for the worse. It’s natural. It’s part of growing older together. Just keep talking, and keep those lines of communication open, and be prepared to try to learn new things. We’ve had such health issues the last year that it’s been really discouraging. But it’s brought us closer, too.

10. Sex is like pizza: When it’s good it’s great. When it’s not so good, it’s still pretty good.

I’ve written a lot about spicing things up, and I totally agree with those posts. But do you know what I like best? Sometimes the Old Faithful works without much addition. Sometimes I’m tired, and I say, “come put me to sleep, baby”, and there are no gymnastics. There are no candles. There aren’t multiple positions or anything. And honestly, that’s often what I love most–just being comfortable with each other. I hope that doesn’t make me weird.

There you are–the top 10 things I’d say if I have no filter. Some of those aren’t what I normally say here, but there you go. What would you add? I’d love to know in the comments!

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.

 

 

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for March

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 our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in 2015–March edition!

Most of us want to grow, but life often gets in the way. And sometimes we just need new ideas and a fresh perspective to help us figure out how to do marriage better!

So this year I’m challenging you to read 12 books with me. Last month we looked at Spicing Things Up, and I suggested you read either The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, which I talked about here, or The Passion Principles.

I know some of you haven’t read a book in a long time, but remember: it’s just one book a month! And I’m already having people emailing me saying, “what are the books for March”? So it’s time to dive in!

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for March

 

Choose from these 4 books on Setting Good Boundaries

Why four books? If I just pick one you may have already read it. But this month we’re going to be dealing with more specific issues in marriage, and not every book will apply to everyone. So I want to give you all a chance to see which book fits best with you, and then pick that one up.

This is probably going to be the “heaviest” month, but that’s okay–it’s good to get it over with earlier in the year. Later on we’ll talk about personality differences, gender differences, money, developing good habits, and more of the “fun” and practical parts of marriage. This month, though, is about what to do if you’re walking through a difficult relationship (and if you’re not–I have a book for that, too!)

Most of the questions I get on this blog are from women who are struggling with a negative relationship dynamic. I find myself recommending the same books, over and over, and so I thought I’d put them all into one month.

Here’s how they’re organized: The first three books are for women struggling with feeling taken for granted or struggling to find their voice. They start with a book with mild marriage problems and end with a book with major marriage problems. But what if you actually have a really GOOD marriage, and don’t feel taken for granted? Then the FOURTH book is for you (in fact, it’s for everyone, even your husbands. It’s amazing. And I love it!) Here we go:


Emotionally Healthy WomanThe Emotionally Healthy Woman: Eight Things You Have to Quit to Enhance Your Life

If you think the key to being a good wife and mom is to “be nice”, then you’re probably miserable. Because spreading God’s kingdom isn’t just about being nice; it’s about being GOOD, and those two things are not always the same thing. A good woman learns not to enable laziness or selfishness. She learns to confront sin. She learns to take care of herself. And so much more!

Who should choose this book: Any woman who feels overwhelmed, tired, and ineffective in her marriage, family, and ministry. Her marriage isn’t bad, but she’s just constantly frustrated with how life is going.


Boundaries in MarriageBoundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices that Make or Break Loving Relationships

The foundational book on how to create a safe relationship where you each respect and honor each other. Cloud and Townsend show how it’s possible to be so “nice” in a marriage that you create a relationship that’s toxic, where people take advantage and end up even being cruel. Yet by following a biblical idea of boundaries we can create a beautiful marriage that helps us thrive.

Who should choose this book: Anyone who is struggling in marriage, feeling like she’s being walked all over but she doesn’t know how to change it–or if there are unresolved issues and she doesn’t seem to know how to break free.


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

For women (and men) who have been beaten down in marriage, here’s a book which helps you identify when a relationship becomes verbally or emotionally abusive, how to understand the spouse who treats you this way, and how to act in return without lashing out or becoming abusive yourself. A must read for those in toxic marriages.

Who should choose this book: If your friends or family have said to you, “your husband is being abusive”, please read this. If you feel as if you walk on eggshells at home so that you don’t send your spouse into a rage, please read this.


Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make DecisionsAsk It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions

This isn’t a marriage book. But it is one of THE best books that I have ever read on Christian living, and it will transform your marriage–and every other part of your life! And there is so much great stuff in here about how to prevent marriage problems, too.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I’m making my teens read it, too! Even if you choose one of the other books for your marriage, read this one as well. It’s a quick read, it’s a fun read, and you will find yourself asking Andy’s question several times a day for the rest of your life.

Who should choose this book: Everybody! But seriously, if you don’t have issues in your marriage with confrontation or people taking advantage of you, then THIS is the book to definitely read in March.

 What I’ll Be Reviewing in March

This month I’ll look specifically at Ask It and The Emotionally Destructive Marriage–the two extremes! One book for those who aren’t having major marriage problems, and one book for those having huge marriage issues. I’ve actually talked about Boundaries in Marriage and The Emotionally Healthy Woman before.

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge March

What’s Coming Up with the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

This month I have an interview with Gary Thomas, author of Lifelong Love that we read in January. If you have any questions specifically for Leslie Vernick, author of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, please write them in the comments and I’ll see if I can get her to answer them!

At the end of the month we’ll have a big giveaway party, hopefully with an interview with an author, like we did in January.

Remember: one book a month. That’s all it is. Leave it in your purse or your bathroom–you’ll get through it! And you’ll find that if you read one book, on a different topic, every month, you will transform your marriage!

 

How to Ask for What You Want–Just Say It!

How to ask for what you want--especially in marriage

Most of the questions I get on this blog are something like this: “My husband is doing X wrong, and I don’t know what to do about it. How can I get him to act differently?” Maybe it’s that she caught him using porn, and she has taken screenshots and saved them and done everything except talk to him about it.

Or he doesn’t understand that foreplay is important and she finds sex unsatisfying.

Or when he comes to bed he’s stinky and that makes her not want to make love.

Or he needs to lose weight but she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, so how does she show him?

There Is No Magic Bullet When You Need to Ask for Help

They want to know–what can I do to make my husband see this issue from my perspective?

And they want to know specific actions they can take that can win him over to their point of view. There must be something they’re just doing wrong if he doesn’t understand something so obvious, right? So how can she change what she’s doing, or hint, or let him understand what’s wrong?

How to Ask For What You Want

And when you probe, you often find that the real issue is that she’s never talked to him about it. She’s stewed about it and she’s beaten around the bush and she’s tried everything in her mind but it hasn’t worked. But what she’s never done is just asked for what she wants openly and honestly.

In my upcoming book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I share some wisdom that you my readers gave me on my Facebook Page. I asked a while back, “did you ever get annoyed at your husband for something, but then realized that you’d never actually asked him to help?”

Some of my readers shared their stories. Lynn said,

Early in our marriage, I hinted several times that it would be nice if the clean dishes got put away. Finally I got mad at my husband and we argued about it. He told me, “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I thought it was too rude to order him around, but that’s the way he wanted. Then we were visiting his mom, and she was hinting at something he should do. When she left the room, I told him, “Your mom wants you to do this.” He balked and said, “No way. I lived with my mom much longer than you, and I’d know.” When she came back, he asked her straight out and she said, “Yes, of course. What took you so long?”

I thought it was too rude to order him around. We often don’t ask because we fear it’s demeaning, and yet most men would far rather be asked than hinted at. In asking directly we treat our husbands like grown-ups. They can choose to refuse, but at least they know what we want. Hinting is like asking them to read minds, which is disrespectful.

That idea of having to ask for help, though, grated on my reader Lindsey. “I shouldn’t have to ask!” she told herself. “He can see the mess!” Then one day during an argument, her husband grew quiet and said, “Baby, I just don’t see the mess the way you do. I’m just not as good as you are at juggling the house, chores, and bills. I don’t multitask like you do. I’m sorry.” Ever since then, Lindsey has learned to ask—and not to ask for a thousand things at once either!

So try asking–up front. Even if it’s hard. Even if it has to do with sex. Even if it’s something we’re uncomfortable talking about.

We Need to Be Honest

A committee I’ve been on recently can be roughly divided into three factions: The Group A Faction, the Group B faction, and the faction that doesn’t really get what’s going on and doesn’t really care. The Group B faction has always done things a certain way, but the Group A faction now has more power and wants to change things. So here’s the question: Can we change things in a way that doesn’t actually require confrontation with Group B? Is there a way that we can just enact new rules without Group B realizing what we’re doing or realizing why we’re doing it? Because we just don’t want all the messiness.

Sometimes you need messiness. By trying to avoid saying something outright you often cause more problems. In politics, the issue is not the sin but the coverup. In real life it’s true too–the issue is not the sin, but how far we go trying to avoid talking about something and dealing with it. If we had just said something in the beginning, even though it’s awkward, we would have been better off.

Interestingly, I think secular circles are better at this than Christian circles. In the work world people often confront openly and immediately because you have to. In Christian circles we’re too interested in being nice–and in so doing we often sacrifice honesty and forthrightness. We end up looking manipulative or secretive, even if that wasn’t our intention.

Manipulation To Get What You Want Doesn’t Work

Doing something with the express purpose of getting someone to change is manipulative. It is better just to ask.

But wait–aren’t we supposed to be nice to people? And if we’re nice to people, aren’t they more likely to be nice to us?

Absolutely. But your motives matter here. If you are being nice simply because you want them to be nice back, then you’re being manipulative and you’re likely going to be very disappointed. But if you’re acting in a loving way because it’s the right thing to do, then your heart is now in the right place. You’re more emotionally ready to deal with problems. You’re building a friendship so that you have a foundation of goodwill in your relationship, and that does make it easier to tackle problems. But that’s not the reason you’re doing it.

Not Everything is a Nail–It Can’t Be Solved by Being Nice

But there’s a caveat to all of this. You’ve heard the expression, “when everything looks like a nail, the hammer is only the tool you use?” Well, I think often in Christian circles we think that the answer to everything is just to be nicer.

I received an email this morning, for instance, by a woman whose brother-in-law is verbally abusive to his wife in public. They are living under the same roof but they are separated, and he is threatening a divorce. He is mean, he is angry, he insults the whole family, and everybody in their church knows it. But the woman says,

I love on and encourage my SIL as best as I can. When I am around my BIL I try to be loving and kind to him too. But it’s getting to the point that I feel he is emotionally (maybe even verbally) abusing her and it needs to stop.

So he is being verbally abusive, and they are trying to deal with it by loving on him and being kind to him. If we’re loving and kind, he will change, right?

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeNope. Being nicer to someone who is mean and manipulative just enables them and encourages them to do it more. They feed off of that. Many marriage problems need you to be nicer and more giving, but many do not. In this case, what this woman needs to do is stand  up to her husband and say, “I see that you are angry, and I’d be happy to talk to you when you’re calmed down. But I will not stay in a room with you while you say horrible things to me–” and then get up and leave. And the sister-in-law and rest of the family need to say to him, “You are being completely inappropriate and it will not be tolerated.” Treat him like an adult bully and call him on it.

What I have seen lately is that the vast majority of interpersonal problems, whether they’re in marriage, in the family, or at work, really need an open, honest, and hard conversation. But that’s often the last thing we want to do, because dealing with conflict openly seems so scary. Instead, we search for ways to get around it and beat around the bush and manipulate, and that usually makes things worse.

So take a deep breath, pray, and then open up your mouth. That’s often the only real solution anyway.

Standing up to Adult Bullies

I’m sorry my post is late today.

I’ve had a sleepless night, thinking and praying about something I’ve been involved in. And I’ve been wrestling with my motivations, and my commitment, but most of all my WHY?

Many years ago, when I was in high school, I knew a girl who was being abused. No one would believe it because her dad was an elder in the church. And I tried to help and I tried to counsel, but I was just a kid. And the abuse went on. And I felt like I had let her down.

In later years, I had kids in my extended sphere of influence that I knew were sad and dejected. And I tried to fix it. I had a neighbourhood girl who from age 6-12 practically lived at my house. I fed her most of her meals. I tried to teach her how to resolve conflict and act appropriately. I introduced her to Jesus. Most of all, I loved her.

But as she grew up she started to pull away, and I was desperate to keep her. What would happen to her without us? What if she went down the wrong road?

And then I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I was wearing myself out trying to be this girl’s mother, when her actual parents didn’t care. And no matter what I did I couldn’t make up for the lack of parenting in her life. I stopped and let her go. We still saw her every now and then, but I did all I could do.

For a while now I’ve had a similar motivation about another group of kids. I see how they’re being treated. I see how the parents don’t understand that what is being taught them theologically is wrong. I see how they’re getting a warped view of God, and I desperately want to fix it. I love these kids. I want them to know Jesus.

And so I have poured my heart and soul and much time that I really don’t have into loving these kids, even though doing so puts me in the same path of the bullies that hurt them.

Last night I was finally released. I let it go. I can’t fix things, as much as I want to. And I can’t keep opening myself up to adult bullies.

I feel sadness this morning, but a great weight off of my shoulders.

And I woke up thinking about this column I wrote two years ago. I liked it then; I thought I would rerun it now.


Adult Bullies: Do you know how to deal with them?Anti-bullying campaigns are all the rage in our schools today. What we often fail to remember, though, is that bullying behavior doesn’t stop the moment one dons a graduation cap.

Have you ever encountered an adult bully?

I’ve been in social situations when someone has said something so outrageous and mean-spirited that I was temporarily rendered mute, a state which drove me absolutely bonkers as I was lying in bed later that night thinking of all the things I should have said. They eluded me at the time because the situation seemed so bizarre.

I think that’s why adult bullies can be so effective: the behavior is just so out of the ordinary.

Sure, we may talk behind people’s backs (which is terrible, too), but in general we try to be polite to people’s faces. When someone violates that cardinal rule, we’re often so shocked that we say nothing. Perhaps it’s the residual British culture in us, but we’re not programmed to make scenes; we’re programmed to avoid scenes.

Bowling over people, then, becomes an awfully effective way at getting what they want. And adult bullies may genuinely not realize they’re pretentious jerks, although I think more likely they don’t care. They have such an inflated sense of their own self-worth that they keep at it.

We’ve been busy teaching children how to deal with bullies, but perhaps we need a refresher course for adults.

You’re being bullied if someone constantly demeans you or says snide remarks about you. You’re being bullied if someone is constantly yelling at you or criticizing you. You’re being bullied if someone deliberately isolates you in social or work situations. And you’re being bullied if someone is constantly making helpful “suggestions” and laying guilt trips if you don’t take them.

I often find that adult bullies tend to be older, especially in families. They think they have the right to tell other people how to live their lives and demand things a certain way. And we tolerate it, because “that’s just Grandpa Joe.” Or we do our best to compensate, running interference if anyone opens their mouths and says something that may set him off. We spend our energy trying to placate or distract Grandpa Joe so nothing bad happens. What kind of family life is that?

Sometimes bullying, especially in families, is more covert.

If you call out an adult bully, they reply with incredulity, “I was just asking questions! I can’t believe you took it that way,” putting the blame back on you. And then you start to wonder if you’re the crazy one. Yet even if you turn yourself inside out to try to please the bully, you never will, because bullies thrive on the feeling of instilling fear. Meet one demand and they’ll come up with another.

Maybe it’s time our British, don’t rock the boat culture learned something from the Italians, who say everything. So let’s practice: “You are being inappropriate.” “I won’t sit here and listen if you talk to me like that.” “You are a guest in this home, Mom, so you should treat us with respect.” Or, better still, stand up for someone else. “Dad, you owe Jennifer an apology. You were completely out of line.” And if they start yelling or criticizing you, just repeat it. Then stand up and leave the room. There is no law requiring you to sit in a chair and be insulted.

If more of us just spoke up, bullies would lose their shock and awe power.

And it’s time the rest of us had some shock and awe on our side instead.


For all of you who are staying in jobs where the culture is killing you, but you don’t feel like you can leave because then who would protect the other employees or the clients–I understand. For all of you who are sticking it out with extended family, even though they are toxic, because if you leave, who will care for your nieces or nephews or siblings or grandkids–I understand. For all of you who are staying in toxic churches or toxic schools because what about the kids? I understand. I hear you.

And I know that what you need, more than anything else, is for other people to just speak up. For other people to support you and to say, “this is not right.” In most situations 90% of people will agree with you–but it’s the toxic 10% that are the ones who speak.

So let’s all speak. Let’s all call a spade a spade. Let’s end this, especially within the church, because it is wrong. Jesus would never yell at people, belittle people, or berate people. And it needs to stop.


I have been watching Natalie at Visionary Womanhood go through her year of standing up to adult bullies, and I’ve so appreciated her posts. Here are just a few on deprogramming from Christian lies–which include calling a spade a spade.


Now that I have more time on my hands, I’m going to celebrate these two! I have about 5 months left to plan the wedding. Here’s one of their engagement photos. So proud of you, Rebecca! And so love you, Connor!

Engagement Photo

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Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Watches Nudity on TV

My husband watches nudity on TV--like Game of Thrones--what do I do? Some thoughts.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I thought I’d tackle a subject I get asked about a lot: what about nudity on TV? What do you do if your husband watches shows like Game of Thrones?

About a decade ago now my husband and I decided to start watching the HBO series Rome. Keith’s really into ancient history, and we heard that the series did a great job recreating what life would have been like. We watched the first episode and there was a LOT of sex and nudity. We fast forwarded through all those scenes.

By the second episode we realized we were fast forwarding a good half of the show. And the plotlines were really gross–a mom trying to “sell” her daughter to a man to be his wife; a 13-year-old being sold into sex slavery (and the actress looked 13, too). We just thought it was too gross and we never made it to episode 3.

What do you do, though, if your husband doesn’t share your views on this? One reader recently wrote me saying:

My husband is an avid TV watcher. He loves catching up on his shows and looks at his TV time as his “me” time. The TV itself, however, isn’t the problem. He doesn’t spend too much time watching TV and he doesn’t neglect his responsibilities or our family to do it. The problem that I am having with the TV shows right now is the content – specifically the graphic nudity that is in a good portion of the shows he is watching.

The thought of my husband seeing another woman naked makes me feel sick. He claims that when a naked woman comes on screen, he immediately looks away. While I am inclined to believe him, I’m still not comfortable with him seeing anyone other than me naked at all! This fight has become bitter and has permeated into our whole marriage, because he feels like I am trying to control him, and I feel like he is completely disregarding my feelings when he engages in these TV shows.

I guess my question is, what is the line when it comes to the things that we view on TV or in movies? Am I overreacting about the nudity, as long as he is not “lusting” after the naked woman? Should he respect my feelings and stop watching the shows, or should I stop being angry every time he watches them?

So let’s look at how to handle disagreements about what is okay to watch.

1. Pray that God will convict him that watching other naked women is wrong

I asked on my Facebook Page yesterday what people thought that she should do, and the number one answer was “pray”. Pray that God will convict him and show him it is wrong, and I do totally agree. When God convicts, it’s so much easier to quit. I read books and watched shows when I was younger that I never would now because my conscience wasn’t as sensitive. Pray that God will show him.

And give this some time–perhaps a few weeks–while you pray about how to react and how to prepare your own heart so you’re acting for his good and for the good of the marriage, not just out of anger.

I’ve been going through an odyssey with prayer lately in my own life, and let me tell you–when you decide to pray wholeheartedly for something, it is amazing how often things happen! What if your husband is in a spiritual battle, and he needs you to fight on his behalf for a time? Really take some time and pray hard! You may find that the problem goes away, and you’ll learn a lot more about prayer in the process.

2. Don’t tolerate your husband watching graphic nudity

At the same time, though, we aren’t to tolerate sin. And tolerating sin when it is damaging to the person isn’t helping them; it’s hurting them. If you see someone about to walk off a cliff, and you do nothing, you’re hurting them. Give prayer a chance to change his heart and yours, but at some point we need to stand up and DO something.

One woman wrote this on Facebook:

Game of Thrones, Spartacus, and shows similar aren’t just sinful for their blantant sex and nudity, but for rape, incest, prostitution, possible pedophilia, disregard and disrespect towards women, completely ungodly themes, extreme unnecessary violence, etc. If he was haunting a porn site we wouldn’t be telling her not to nag and asking her to examine how she feels. This stuff IS porn and more.  It is from the pits of hell and she has every right to extract it from her home or pray that God does. She can’t stop him from watching it, but she can insist it does NOT belong in their home. Tell him to find another way to decompress.

I completely agree. Some things are borderline, but there are some sins that are extremely blatant. Many of these shows are pornographic–and even the parts that don’t show nudity show things that are sinful and awful. There is no reason to watch it, and it is wrong, and it should not be in your home, period.

3. But I Don’t Want to Nag!

And here’s the crux of the issue. This woman has already made it an issue with her husband. She has told him she doesn’t want him watching it, he says that he does, and they go round and round and never resolve anything.

So let’s look first at other ways to talk about it.

Focus the conversation on your reaction to the show, not on whether he should be watching it

If you focus the conversation around “it’s pornography and you shouldn’t be watching it”, then you’ll get into an argument about whether or not it really qualifies, and you can’t win that.

Instead, talk about the real issue, which is this: “I feel disrespected and humiliated when you watch that, and I don’t know why you want to do something which makes me feel disrespected and humiliated. When you watch that, I feel sad. I feel ugly. I feel like you don’t care about me and don’t really love me. I understand that you enjoy it, but if I enjoyed something that hurt you this much I would never do it. The fact that you don’t care about how it makes me feel hurts me in the extreme. Do you think that it is appropriate for you to do something which hurts me like this?”

He needs to understand what he is doing to you. Often refocusing the conversation around feelings rather than sin is more productive. He can’t debate how you feel; that is a fact. And you don’t need to be angry when you share it, either. You’re sad, you’re sharing your feelings because you want him to understand how serious it is.

4. Set Clear Boundaries

As another Facebook commenter said (who also happens to be a real life friend), “break the TV!”

I think she has a point.

Jesus says that if an eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out. If a hand causes us to sin we should cut it off. If a TV is causing you to sin, then, it makes sense to get rid of the TV.

But you don’t HAVE to do that. There are other things that one can do as well. But I think too often we, as wives, think that because we’re women and we’re married for life if we disagree on something there is really nothing we can do but live with it. Not true at all. Whatever you tolerate will continue.

Whatever you tolerate will continue. #marriagetip

We can choose not to tolerate many things without divorcing our husbands or even disrespecting our husbands.

You can say something like, “I understand that you want to watch these shows, and should you choose to watch them, I will be extremely hurt, but I will understand. I will ask, however, that you do not do so inside our home. If you are going to be disrespectful towards me, I would ask that you do it somewhere else.”

That is not being disrespectful towards him. You are honoring his right to make his choices, but you are also acknowledging that you have the right to make choices.

You can talk about getting rid of the TV, or you can talk about removing yourself (and perhaps the children) from the premises when he chooses to watch these shows.

Alternatively, you can say, “On the nights that you watch those shows, I would ask that you also sleep separately from me. It hurts me to be near to you when you have treated me this way, and when you are close to me afterwards, I have no way of knowing if you are thinking about me or thinking about the person on the screen. I love sleeping next to you and I want to sleep next to you always, but I can’t sleep when you are doing something like this.”

Then you stop talking about it and you just start doing. You’re not nagging. He’s made his choice, and you’ve made yours. On the nights that he doesn’t watch TV, be nice to him! Be giving to him! Have a great time together and don’t punish him for it.

You’re not controlling him–he can choose to do what he wants to do. But you also can choose to do what you want to do, and his actions will have consequences for your actions.

Which approach should you take? I have no idea. It really depends on you, your marriage, and your personalities. But this idea that all we can do is tell him, “I really don’t like it when you do that”, and then we should keep our mouths shut, is not scriptural.

In Matthew 18, we’re told what to do if someone sins against us. We go to them first. If that doesn’t work, we go to one or two others and ask them to help intervene for us. And if that doesn’t work, we go to the whole church. What we don’t do is just tolerate it.

I’ve written before that this applies to marriage as well–we’re to be wives, not enablers. When you do nothing, you enable sin.

What General Principles can we take from this about resolving conflict?

Here are a few quick things:

1. Focus on your feelings, rather than the infraction.

2. Leave some time for God to convict.

3. If the problem persists, change your own behaviour.

4. If the problem still persists, bring in a mentor couple or a pastor.

The problem I have with a lot of marriage advice is that it stops at #2. And then people are stuck just feeling like they’re nagging and not getting anywhere.

I wonder how many divorces could have been avoided if people used good conflict resolution early and stopped tolerating things that are wrong?

We start tolerating little things, these little things escalate, and soon we have a huge problem.

Boundaries in MarriageYou don’t have to make things into World War III, but some things just need to be done for the good of the marriage, and for the good of your husband’s soul. Not everything is that big a deal, of course, but some things are. And the principle here isn’t just the nudity; it’s the fact that he’s choosing to hurt her terribly. That can’t be tolerated, either.

I know what I’m saying is controversial, but I’m also trying to be helpful. If you want more information on how to deal with problems like this calmly and properly, I’d really recommend the book Boundaries in Marriage or The Emotionally Healthy Woman.

Now, let me know (and let me have it, since I know many will disagree with me), what do you do if your husband is doing something that is endangering his spiritual life and the marriage?

Top 10 Truths About Clutter

Top 10 Truths About Clutter

My house is filled with a lot of stuff.

I try to stay on top of it, but sometimes it really gets away from me. And then, before you know it, there are certain closets I’m afraid to open or certain rooms I’m afraid to go in. I just don’t want to think about what’s on the other side of that door.

It’s exhausting.

Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your SpaceSo when my good friend Kathi Lipp sent me her book Clutter Free, I was excited about reading it. It isn’t just a to-do manual on how to get rid of clutter; it’s more a way to change your mindset on how you think about your stuff, and I found it so useful. Kathi is sharing a post with us today, but before she does, I have to tell you about one funny thing in my life that came about because of reading her book.

At one point she was talking about “bathroom product clutter”. You know what she means–all the different hair products you’ve bought over the years that you’ve never used, or all the different creams, etc. And she challenges us to take 6 months and either use it or chuck it. Here’s the deal: you’re not allowed to buy a bathroom product until you have gone through your bathroom and found something like it, and either used it or admitted you never will and throw it out.

So for the last two months I’ve been on a rampage to use my bathroom stuff.

It now takes me 15 minutes after each shower, because I have to use the cellulite cream, the body spray, the varicose veins ointment, the eczema cream, the foot cream, and the foot spray. But I smell great! And I’ve finally taken all the essential oils I own and actually started to use them again.

I love it! It’s a great book.

And now, here’s Kathi:

Has clutter stopped being a cute problem in your life?

Clutter is something we laugh about over coffee (like watching too much TV or, come to think of it, ordering that venti double frap “coffee”,) but for many of us, clutter is much more serious than a couple of piles left on the kitchen counter.

If you feel like clutter is stressing you out, you’re right. There are real, psychological and emotional issues with clutter. It’s not all in your head.

But clutter lies to you. Clutter tells you “It’s not that big a deal,” and “You’ll get to it later.” Only to cause you more stress as the piles grow.

So here is the truth about clutter- or more accurately – the Top 10 Truths About Clutter:

1. Clutter Makes You Live Poor

When you are buried in clutter, you don’t know what you already have, so you tend to hang onto everything out of fear. (I don’t know how many pairs of shoes I have, so I can’t give any away.) I’ve had some times in my life when I haven’t balanced my checking account for longer than I’d like to admit. So when I saw a need, it was hard to respond because I didn’t know how close I was riding to the financial edge.

2. But Dealing with Clutter Can Make You Generous

Information is power. When you know that you have two pairs of flat black shoes you wear all the time, you’ll have no problem giving away that third pair to someone in need. When you know that you have enough groceries to get your through the week, you can open your pantry to your neighbor who is going through some tough times.

3. Clutter Steals Your Joy

UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) studied 32 California families and the stuff in their homes, cataloging thousands of items in each residence. The resulting book, Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century, shares about the link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. In other words, the more clutter, the more stress.

4. But Dealing with Clutter Can Bring Your Joy Back!

Simply by reducing the number of items in your home, you can reduce your stress levels and bring back peace. Stop right now and get clear off one surface around you – a desk, a counter, a table. Now enter the room and look at that blank space. There. Don’t you feel better already? Every time you clear out a drawer, clear off a surface, or gut a cabinet, you are reclaiming some happy in your life.

5. Clutter Costs You Money (Lots of it)

How many times have you re-purchased an item because you didn’t know where the first one was? How many late fees have you paid over your lifetime because your bills were all over the house? How many rebates have you found stacked in a pile that are past their mail-in date? How many fines have you had to pay because you couldn’t find all of the library books your kids checked out? Clutter is costing you money – and lots of it.

6. But Dealing with Clutter Can Actually Earn You Money

By selling those gently used clothes, donating those outgrown toys, mailing in those rebates on time, making an accurate grocery list (because you know what’s in your pantry,) not only will you save money, but you will add to the family coffers.

7. Clutter Can’t Be Organized

Stop buying more boxes, systems, totes and tools to organize your clutter. Clutter can’t be organized. But by digging through your clutter trash and recovering the treasures that lay in there (in every stack of twenty papers, there is one you actually need,) you can see what actually does need to be dealt with and organized.

8. But Dealing with Clutter Can Make You More Organized

Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.” Says Sherrie Bourg Carter the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout. By dealing with our clutter, we can let our brain know that we are done with that project, and we can move on to another item, giving it the full attention that is deserves.

9. Clutter Hurts Your Marriage

As I’ve helped women deal with their clutter, I’ve heard time and time again how it hasn’t just affected the space in their homes, it’s also hurt their relationships. Fights over stuff. Laundry piled on beds and couches, making them unusable. Cluttered kitchens that are impossible to cook in – the list goes on and on. Clutter adds an extra layer of stress to a marriage that may already be stressed to begin with.

10. But Dealing with Clutter Can Improve Your Marriage – Quickly

Many of the ways to make your marriage better require both of you putting in an effort – not so with clutter. By eliminating clutter in areas where you and your husband connect (the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom,) you are immediately lowering your stress level, which can do nothing but make your marriage a better place to be.

Clutter is a liar. It makes you feel distracted, stupid and out of control. But once you know the truth about clutter you can fight back and regain your life.

Want to win the battle against clutter in every area of your life? Join Kathi’s 21 Day Clutter Challenge and regain your home – and your sanity. (just click through and sign up on her sidebar!)

Kathi LippKathi Lipp inspires thousands of women each year to take beneficial steps in their personal, marital and spiritual lives through purposeful living. With humor and wisdom, Kathi offers hope paired with practical steps to live each facet of our lives with meaning.  She is the author of 13 books including The Husband Project, The Get Yourself Organized Project, and I Need Some Help Here – Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. She is the host of You’ve Got This! with Kathi Lipp and speaks at conferences across the US.  She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not doing laundry, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.

Reader Question: Shouldn’t Sex Involve Intercourse?

Reader Question of the WeekShould sex involve intercourse?

Every Monday I like to post a question from a reader and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is a thorny issue: what if your husband wants things OTHER than intercourse all the time?

My husband often prefers us to finish individually, without intercourse. He thoroughly enjoys giving and receiving. I told him about that denying the spiritual connection and he said that it is completely the same for him however it happens. He feels totally connected to me whether we have sex or not. It doesn’t feel as intimate to me and I would prefer it not be 50/50. Should I be feeling this connection without sex as well?

My second question I’m embarrassed to ask. Often my husband wants me to do things I don’t care for. It’s not painful, or degrading, I just don’t like it and it feels awkward. It is definitely something that only makes him feel good. This is how he wants to finish more than half the time. I feel like I am being selfish in not wanting to give my husband what makes him feel good and enjoy my body, however, I don’t enjoy it at all. He’s so happy and appreciative afterward that I don’t want to deprive him of something he wants or make him feel guilty for wanting something he can’t ask for. I’m afraid of continuing it and losing all the progress I have made because I’ll start to resent “sexy time” knowing there’s a good chance he will ask and it will become a chore I try to distract myself from. I don’t want to be selfish, my husband has been so supportive and loving through all the rejection and crying over the last 2 years, I’m just not sure if I can ever enjoy it. Should I keep trying to make my husband happy?

Wow! Tough issues.

Let’s try to deal with some of them individually.

Sex Needs Intercourse: If your husband avoids making love, there may be a problem.

Intercourse is Uniquely Intimate

When you have intercourse (forgive me for using the technical term in this post instead of ‘making love’, but I want to be really technical here so everyone knows what I’m talking about), you’re both receiving stimulation and pleasure from the same act. You are both experiencing something at the same time. That’s part of what makes it so intimate. When you are just stimulating each other in other ways (orally or manually, for instance), you may do so simultaneously, but you aren’t actually experiencing it together. You’re both experiencing two different actions.

There’s also something else about intercourse: the man actually ENTERS the woman. That makes it highly intimate, too. You’re actually joined. There’s a vulnerability there that isn’t present in the same way with other acts (other acts may be physically vulnerable, but it really isn’t the same thing). With intercourse we’re almost laid bare physically and emotionally.

If someone is running away from intercourse then they’re also running away from intimacy, and likely don’t even understand what I’m talking about.

Is there a Place for Other Sexual Acts?

Absolutely! They can be great for foreplay (and are often necessary to get a woman aroused enough to feel pleasure from intercourse). Also, as I’ve talked about before, there are ways to be really intimate there if health problems make intercourse impossible or difficult.

However, barring these health issues, if someone prefers other sexual acts to intercourse, then it’s almost like they’re saying (and forgive me for being graphic), “let me use your body to masturbate with.” They want a type of sexual release where they’re focusing ONLY on what they’re feeling, not on how the other person feels, and it’s a very self-centered act when it’s used on its own.

Oral sex or mutual masturbation can ENHANCE intercourse; they should never REPLACE it.

Why Would Someone Not Want Intercourse?

Essentially her husband is saying, “I prefer my sexual experiences to be focused on myself rather than on us together.” He may not consciously think that or say that, but that is what his actions are showing. So why would someone get to this point?

Someone who has been really involved with masturbation growing up rewires sexual arousal and response so that it’s a solo-based thing, not focused on relationship. And let’s face it–the feeling is often much more intense through oral or manual stimulation. Intercourse is great, but it often takes longer and you have to concentrate on another person. When you’re used to sex being about nothing more than thinking about yourself, then that can seem like a huge hassle. Who would want to do that?

This also represents a stunted sexual maturation, where someone is literally “stuck” or fixated on early teen sexual development. It’s like they never matured. There could be psychological reasons for this if it’s really an ingrained thing from some sort of brokenness or abuse in their past, but more likely it’s due to a masturbation habit that formed right when the sexual feelings did, and they never grew beyond that.

Could There Be Other Things Going On?

Absolutely, and here are just a few to look out for:

He could have sexual dysfunction

Perhaps in the past he’s tried intercourse and it hasn’t worked very well, or he’s become really nervous that it won’t work. So he’d rather try something that doesn’t require work or potential performance issues.

I’ve written a series on sexual dysfunction here.

He could have a porn addiction

One of the main effects of porn is that it makes intercourse far less intimate and far less desirable. Because most arousal is now dependent on these images in your head, people prefer sex that doesn’t require thought and allows them to have these images pass through their head. Intercourse can be a distraction.

He could have abuse issues in his past

Has he been abused in some way that has made him fear sex or fear his sexuality or sexual orientation? That’s another thing that needs to be considered.

So What Do I Do if My Husband Avoids Intercourse?

Unfortunately there isn’t a magic wand you can wave. The only thing you can do is talk openly. Talk about some of the points I’ve already raised–that intercourse is intimate because it’s both of you experiencing something together. It requires concentrating on each other, not just being self-focused. It feels wonderful. And it should not be avoided.

And then I’d say something like this: I’m not saying that we won’t do other things. What I am saying is that I no longer want to finish that way. I would like us to experience something together.

31 Days to Great SexIf you need a roadmap to follow, 31 Days to Great Sex is a wonderful one. It helps you work through building intimacy towards intercourse slowly, and helps you learn to enjoy each other’s bodies in the context of a really intimate relationship. And it’s a lot of fun! If you want a way to address this but you’re not sure how to have a “big” conversation about it, this book may help you have that conversation in dribs and drabs over the course of the month so that you start to understand better how each other thinks about sex and what sex was supposed to be. I really recommend giving it a try!

Work on Intimacy

It does sound your husband is stunted at an immature stage of sexual development. So what do you do to help him play “catch up” or to understand what sex should be? Work on intimacy in other ways. Take baths naked together. Pray with your husband. Work on your friendship and spend time together. Do a lot of massage where you touch each other and talk to each other.

And understand that it may take time for him to start appreciating intercourse when he’s used to other things. It won’t be instantaneous, and you need to leave him time for growth. But if you work on feeling intimate in other ways, often the libido for intimacy during sex does return.

What About the Sexual Acts He Wants Me to Do that I Don’t Like?

You can always compromise–say that one night a month is “his” night where you get to do whatever he wants, and then one night a month is your night where you do whatever you want.

But these are “special” nights, and they don’t replace your normal sex life together. If he says, “fine, I don’t want anything except my night” then you do have a problem.

Where To Go If He Still Refuses Intercourse

If he won’t agree to have intercourse, won’t talk about it, and thinks that you’re wrong, then it may be time to bring in a counselor and ask him to go see one with you. He does have issues that are harming his ability to be intimate with you, and if he can’t be intimate with his wife, it’s also very likely that he can’t really be intimate with God. When we hide from intimacy sexually we’re also usually hiding spiritually, too. This isn’t good for him, and to enable him to go on like this does him no favours. Sometimes you have to draw a huge line in the sand and say, “I love you too much to let you keep going down this road.”

I hope that helps. I get this question quite often, so many women are dealing with it, and you’re not alone. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever dealt with this, or if you’ve found other things that help your husband understand real intimacy.