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

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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.

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!

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!

 

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!

Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the Empty Nest

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Empty NestToday Gay Christmus, from Calm, Healthy, Sexy, joins us to talk about preparing for the empty nest! Considering my youngest is leaving this summer, I’m eager to hear what she has to say.

Is your daily schedule packed with homework, soccer games, dance recitals, and Scout meetings, not to mention work, church, and community commitments?  Do you feel like a juggler most days, just trying to keep all of your balls in the air?  If so, planning for the “empty nest,” the time when your children will be out on their own, is probably the farthest thing from your mind.  And no wonder – it’s hard to think about the future when you’re just trying to get through each day.

I want to encourage you, though, that now is the time to think about and prepare for empty nest.  Because time flies, and that day “down the road” is going to arrive sooner than you think.  I know a bit about this, because my husband and I have been moving toward the empty nest for a couple of years.  Our older son has graduated from college and is living with a friend, and our younger son is living at home while attending college.  They’re both doing their own thing – even though one still sleeps (and sometimes eats!) at our house – and my husband and I are essentially doing our own thing too.

We’ve been anticipating this for a number of years.  I can’t say we’re fully prepared, but we’ve been aware of it and wanted to know that we could enjoy life together when soccer and basketball and school activities came to an end.  So I want to share with you 10 things we’ve attempted to do (some well, some not so well) to get ready for this new phase of our lives.  If your children are in elementary school or older, I encourage you begin incorporating these things into your marriage and family life too.  On the day when your youngest child heads off to college or moves into an apartment, you’ll be glad you did!

1.  Pray together.

Establish your faith as the foundation of your marriage and family by praying together regularly.  This doesn’t have to be complicated or burdensome; just spend a few minutes together each day thanking God for your blessings and asking for His help with your concerns and problems.

2.  Orient your family around your marriage.

Your children are important, and their needs and activities require time and attention.  But those needs and activities shouldn’t become the “sun” around which your family revolves.  Placing your marriage at the center of your family’s life helps keep things in perspective when your children are young and eases the transition into the time when it’s just the two of you.  It also reminds your children from an early age that the universe doesn’t revolve around them!

3.  Talk about the future.

The elementary school years are not too early to begin talking about life and marriage after the child-intensive years.  Because by the time your children get to high school, they’ll begin focusing more on their friends and outside interests and less on the family.  So enjoy the elementary and middle school years and all the activities they entail, but spend time talking with your husband about the future too.  It’s never too soon to dream about the life you’ll enjoy together when it’s just the two of you.

4.  Take care of your health.

When you reach the empty nest years, you want to be able to enjoy them.  Which means that you want to be strong, healthy and fit, and don’t want to be slowed down by health problems.  Most of the health problems that begin to affect people in their 40s and 50s – diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems – are preventable.  And it’s never too early to begin working to prevent them.  So start now by eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and generally taking care of yourself.  And encourage your husband to do the same.  Those simple activities can help ensure that your empty nest years are healthy and active.

5.  Begin developing interests you can enjoy together.

You don’t want to deliver your youngest child to college, only to discover that you and your husband no longer have any interests in common.  So even though it’s difficult to find time for adult activities during the child-raising years, make the time to develop at least one activity that isn’t focused on your children.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; Sheila has mentioned that she and her husband enjoy bird watching, and my husband and I have taken up bike riding.

6.  Develop friendships and a social life beyond your children’s sports and activities.

When our younger son finished his final season of high school basketball, I (somewhat) jokingly asked my husband, “What are we going to do for a social life in the winter?” Because for many years, our social life from November through February revolved around basketball.  It’s natural for that to happen, because basketball (or soccer or dance or Scouts) takes up a lot of time.  But if you aren’t intentional about developing friendships or a social life beyond those activities, you may experience quite a “social shock” when they end.  So spend some time and energy developing friendships in your church, neighborhood, or other social circles too.

7.  Prioritize sex and intimacy in your marriage.

During the child-intensive years, it’s tempting to let sex and intimacy fall by the wayside.  It’s so easy to think, “I’m tired, I’m busy, the kids are sucking up all of my energy, I just don’t feel in the mood.”  Some or all of those things are probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you or your marriage.  Sex holds the two of you together in the hard times and creates joy in the good times.  So don’t let it slide.  Instead, nurture it and pursue it.  Deep intimacy and an enjoyable sex life will pay you back in spades, both now and in the empty nest years.

8.  Find ways to serve together.

It’s easy to be so focused on our family’s schedule, activities, and commitments that we forget about real needs that exist right in our own communities and around the world.  But it’s important to recognize those needs, both to keep our own problems in perspective and to find ways to serve others.  After all, crazy soccer and ballet schedules don’t seem so overwhelming when we remember that people are hungry or lonely or homeless.  So look for ways to serve others, as a couple or a family.  It will help keep things in perspective now and create an interest you and your husband can continue to develop as your children get older.

9.  Manage your finances.

The earlier in your marriage you begin to control your finances, the better.  Debt, lack of savings, and living beyond your means take a toll at every stage of life, but the older you get the harder it is to recover from financial mismanagement.  Plus, when you finally have extended time to have fun with your husband, you want to have a little bit of money on hand to do it!  So start now to eliminate debt, control spending, and/or bring in some additional income.  My husband and I didn’t start working on this early enough in our marriage, so we’re having to work harder on it now.

10.  Develop the fun side of your marriage.

Sometimes marriage becomes just a little bit tedious, doesn’t it?  It’s all work and no play, and suddenly no one is having very much fun!  So don’t let your long list of “have to” items suck all the fun out of your marriage.  Set a goal of doing something fun together at least once a week.  More often is better, but once a week is a good place to start.  It doesn’t have to be a “date,” just something both of you consider fun and relaxing – a walk after dinner, a bike ride, an outing to get a cup of coffee, or time to watch a funny movie.  You don’t want to arrive at the empty nest years and find that you don’t know how to have fun together anymore.

Whatever the age of your children or stage of your marriage, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the empty nest years.  And it’s never too late either.  If your children are in high school and you haven’t given it much thought, start now!  Talk with your husband, begin making plans, develop a couple of shared interests, and work on enjoying life together!

 

Gaye Groover ChristmusGaye Groover Christmus is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons.  In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field.  Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages.  She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives.  Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy.  She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.

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When Ministry Steals Your Husband

When ministry steals your husband--thoughts on getting balance back between ministry and marriage

A reader recently wrote me:

I just had a baby 8 weeks ago, and we’ve been married for two years. My husband was a new Christian at the time and a former drug addict. He is now in ministry, playing drums on the worship team, leading a Bible study at a local nursing home, street preaching, traveling around the Midwest rapping in concerts at churches, giving people rides (“Saint shuffling,” I had a friend call it), and helping with anything else our pastor needs help like building projects. On top of that, he has a job. We only have one night a week that he doesn’t have to rush off an hour after he gets home.

I feel like he’s married more to “his ministry,” than he is to me. The majority of the responsibility of taking care of the baby falls on me, so time is very precious to me. I’m often exhausted and don’t want to go to all of these activities. That makes my husband very mad, especially when the baby and I have had a bad night, and I won’t go to church in the morning… or evening. We have two services on Sunday, and one on Wednesday.

Yesterday our church did a concert on the lawn of a youth center in a bad neighborhood. I decided to go ahead and go. We were doing okay during the outreach part where we go door to door in the neighborhoods and invite people to the concert. I had an issue where I couldn’t set up the stroller by myself while holding the baby, and she was starting to fuss with all the noise of the concert. I had to hold her, while standing (all the seats were gone) for the whole concert and my back was hurting. I called and texted my husband–it went straight to voicemail. A friend let him know I needed help, but he said he had to stay at the front to pray with those who became Christians.

On the way home I was upset, but he said, “Well, I do love you, but souls were saved. That’s all that matters.” His words sliced right through my heart. I still haven’t gotten much sleep and when I wouldn’t go to church this morning he told me I’m making “poor choices that will affect our daughter some day.” I want to go home (four hours away in another state) to my parents, but our pastor told me I need to stop doing that and lean on my husband or it’ll destroy our marriage. I want to lean on my husband but how can I? He’s rarely home and the few hours he is, he either refuses to help, or will only take her for a half an hour as long as it doesn’t interfere with either his Bible studying, song writing or whatever else he “needs” to do. I feel trapped. What do you do when ministry comes above you and your family?

I feel so sad for this woman. She sounds just exhausted–with an 8-week old baby to boot! I remember that feeling. Katie, my youngest, didn’t sleep. Seriously. Only 9 1/2 hours over an entire 24 hour period (including naps). And yet when she was awake she was happy! She just didn’t need sleep. She sleeps more now than she did then. I felt like I was going crazy; for about 6 months I was just beside myself. And Keith was working hard and studying for his pediatric exams, so he just wasn’t there for me (he couldn’t have been). It’s a hard time.

But it does pass, please know that!

But my heart also aches for this woman, too, because I’ve seen this scenario play out in so many relationships–especially ones with new Christians. They were often addictive personalities to begin with, so they replaced a chemical addiction with a “God” addiction–they need to keep super busy and obsessed to feel healthy.

And here’s where things get fuzzy.

I do believe that some people are called to a specific ministry that means that their wives (or husbands or kids) will have to shoulder a burden alone.

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson StoryI think of Billy Graham, whose wife Ruth talked and wrote about how she felt like she parented alone. Yet look at the ministry that God gave Billy Graham. I think of Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon who writes poignantly in his autobiography about how he missed his kids’ events and how his marriage suffered because his work was so busy. But look at the lives saved.

Sometimes God does call individuals to a life where their family will be a sacrifice. After all, someone needs to be president. Someone needs to make research breakthroughs. Someone needs to be a traveling evangelist. And these things can’t be done on a normal 40-hour work week. If your husband may fall into one of these categories, then pray hard, knowing that if God has called your husband, He will also equip you, just like He did Ruth Graham. He’ll give you energy when you feel depleted. He’ll lift you up if you feed on Scripture and make your life a living prayer.

But I think these kinds of callings are very few and far between.

When God calls you to a ministry where your family will suffer, I think there are two main tests:

1. Does he also call your spouse?
2. Is it to a specific work?

I think if God is calling you to something that will require so much time away from the family, he also gives a peace to the spouse that they feel called, too.

And that calling is for something specific–international evangelism, pediatric neurosurgery breakthroughs–not to just “ministry” in general, like in this letter. It’s not about being busy; it’s about being called to a specific work.

A Note to Wives Who Feel Like Ministry Has Stolen Their Husbands…

Usually I’d recommend talking to a pastor, but in this case it may not work, first because your husband may very well be the pastor, and second, because in many cases, like this one, the pastor is benefiting from the husband being sold out to ministry.

So get on your face and seriously pray for your husband and for your family. Ask for help from friends when you’re overwhelmed with being a mom.

Emotionally Healthy WomanAnd read The Emotionally Healthy Woman, one of our selections for our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in March. Written by Geri Scazzero, whose husband was a super-busy pastor, she knows what it’s like to feel like a ministry widow. And she learned that she had to start quitting some things if she, and her family, were going to be healthy.

She thought that as a pastor’s wife she had to sacrifice herself and all her time and energy, too. But eventually she realized that wasn’t actually godly, and she made some changes in her own life that ended up changing her family for the better.

Together, she and her husband Peter also wrote The Emotionally Healthy Church, looking at how churches can stop over-burdening people and start building them up.

A Note to Wives Who are Too Into Ministry

But let’s not pretend that this is only a male problem. I have seen women get too busy with homeschooling, and running ministries at church, and volunteering. We can let “good works” stand in the way of our marriages. And when we do that, it’s easy to feel superior, like our husbands somehow aren’t as spiritual. One of my friends was so over involved at church and with homeschooling groups that she grew apart from her husband, and later divorced him because he wasn’t a strong enough Christian.

If you don’t have time just to hang out with your hubby and do nothing, you have serious issues. Jesus took time to Himself. We all need balance.

The Emotionally Healthy Church, Expanded Edition: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes LivesA Note to Pastors

Your church will not thrive if the marriages in it are hanging by a thread. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to tell some of your volunteers, “You’ve done enough. Go home.”

Now tell me: Have you seen marriages falter because one spouse has gotten too involved in ministry? How do you tell when someone’s done enough?

Wifey Wednesday: Rebuilding Your Sex Life After Years of Refusing Sex

Husband saying no to sex: when you finally want to say YES, and now he's saying NOMost of you who read this blog regularly are here because you want to make your marriage better.

Some of you may be in a great stage of marriage and just want to make sure it stays that way, but if you look at the search terms by which people end up on this blog, it’s often because you readers are lonely and frustrated.

You’ve been struggling to feel connected, or perhaps sex isn’t going well. You feel distant, and you don’t want to be like that anymore.

And so you try to change things–which means, of course, changing yourself and how you react to your spouse (since you can’t change anyone except yourself).

But what do you do if you were the one who was holding back in the marriage, and now you ARE changing, but your husband doesn’t trust you?

I had a letter from a low libido wife recently which said this:

My husband finds our lack of sex particularly hurtful. When this comes up, I often rush to read a book or post about sex, to try and fix the issue, but this would only ever work “for next time”. A sincere “sorry, (insert attempt at explanation), I’ll try harder from now on” just doesn’t cut it – my husband is hurt and I can’t fix it. What do I do to show him I’m serious?

This scenario applies to many different marriage scenarios–you’ve been distant and you’ve been hurting each other, and now you want to change the dynamic. But your husband isn’t buying it quite yet. What do you do?

Please note: I’m not talking in this blog post to women whose husbands have ALWAYS had low libidos. If that’s the case, this series on why your husband doesn’t want to make love is likely more applicable. But if your husband used to have a high libido, and now he’s turning you down–read on.

Live out the change–Initiate sex

Keep living out the change. If the problem is that you’ve had a low libido and you’ve been refusing sex, then initiate sex. Buy some lingerie. Talk to him about it.

Here’s a scenario I see quite frequently: she is a low libido spouse and so she refuses him. He spends several months, or years, asking, or even begging for sex until he gets so discouraged that he just turns his libido off. He decides that he really doesn’t want anything to do with her sexually.

So he stops asking.

Eventually she realizes that he’s no longer pursuing her, and she starts to panic. She does a 180 and realizes she doesn’t actually want a sexless marriage. So her libido comes back and she starts pursuing him–but by now he’s turned himself off. He doesn’t want to be hurt, and he almost likes the fact that he can hurt her back.

And he doesn’t want to go through all the hassle again of being vulnerable to someone when that just hurt him. So he’d rather stay that way.

So what do you do? You keep at it. You have an open conversation with him where you admit all of your faults–without blaming him. Even if his behaviour was part of what gave you a low libido, you own what you did. In the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, you take the log out of your own eye (you deal with your own issues first) (Matthew 7:3-5).

How to Initiate Sex with Your Husband--witout feeling awkwardYou tell him that you realize what you did to him, and you’re sincerely sorry. And now you’d like to rebuild your sex life. And keep initiating. If you’re not sure how to initiate sex, I’ve got a great post with 10 tips right here!

You can even ask if he’d be willing to schedule sex, so that you can show that you’re serious. You can pick 2 or 3 nights a week where you’d like to make love, and pencil it in. And you can tell him that you promise you’ll only cancel on him once a month at the most–unless you’re genuinely ill with a fever or something.

He still may not be appreciative. He still may withdraw. Or, when you do make love, you may find it supremely unsatisfying because he’s only interested in pleasing himself (he may seem almost angry), and so you don’t get much pleasure from it.

Give him time to be angry and to see that you’re serious. It takes a lot for a guy to break down a wall that he’s built, especially if he’s built it out of self-preservation.

Don’t withdraw or sulk if he now refuses sex

What if you’re hurt? What if you feel lonelier than you’ve ever felt in your life because he’s rejecting you (or being selfish in bed)? How can you deal with these feelings?

My suggestion: don’t withdraw from him and don’t sulk. Say to him, “I’m feeling really lonely and discouraged right now, but I want you to know that whatever you do, I’m not going to give up on this. I want our marriage strong and I want to have a great sex life, and I’m going to hang in there even if you don’t feel loving towards me right now.”

Acknowledge how you feel, but don’t withdraw. And remember: this process may take months–or even years. Changing the dynamic in marriage doesn’t always happen immediately.

Go to God for your emotional needs if you feel rejected sexually and emotionally

And in those lonely days, draw as close to God as you can. Pray blessing over your husband, very specifically, in every area of his life. The more you pray about these specific things, the more your mind gets turned to what God is doing in his life, instead of what your husband is doing to hurt you.

Go to battle for your marriage, and your husband, by praying blessing over him, and by praying for your marriage. And spend some time everyday just in prayer and in reading Scripture, listening to worship CDs, or anything that gets your eyes on God. Keep your eyes there and you’ll find that you’re better able to withstand rejection from your husband.

Push through the tension and LOVE him–with or without sex

It will feel tense when he’s testing you. You will be tempted to lash out. Don’t. Learn to love him despite his actions. And don’t just initiate sex–initiate other things that make him feel loved. Study his love language and live it out. Make your husband your special project where you can think and pray about how to make his life better. Maybe it’s helping him organize a work project, or organize the garage, or complete an application for a job or internship he’s been wanting. Maybe it’s encouraging him to pursue a dream. I don’t know–but become a student of your husband and find practical ways to support him even outside the bedroom.

If you haven’t been connecting sexually for a long time, chances are he has not felt connected to you hardly at all for that whole length of time. It will take some serious effort for him to allow himself to trust you and become vulnerable with you again–and that vulnerability is necessary for real intimacy.

Don’t rush the process of reconciling sexually

Let him go through the needed emotional steps. And you need to go through it too–to understand what he felt, to figure out how to love him, to figure out how to go to God with your issues.

So pray for strength and grace for yourself, and remember: When your heart’s desire is to act like Christ and love someone unconditionally, God gives you that strength when you seek it. That is a wonderful desire and a wonderful prayer. But it can’t be a manipulative one–see what I’m doing? Now I’m being amazing to him, so he really should change!

No, you’re amazing to him because it’s the right thing to do.

And usually, the more we do that, the more we change the dynamic and the relationship does change. But even if it doesn’t right away, and even if change takes time, you are still doing the right thing. And as you do that, you’ll feel closer to God and Jesus will become more real to you. Cling to that in this time. Marvel at it. And you may just find that you aren’t as lonely as  you thought you’d be.

WifeyWednesday175Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave a comment, or link up the URL of your own Wifey Wednesday blog post in the linky below!

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10 Things To Consider When Working with Your Spouse

Today, please welcome author Jill Lynn, who shares 10 key ingredients to working with your spouse, finding the balance to a thriving marriage and a successful business partnership. Yesterday we looked at the business aspect of working with your spouse; today here’s a look at the marriage aspect of working with your spouse.

Working with Your SpouseAbout eight years ago, my husband and I bought a small business. Our plan? That I would do the accounting and he would manage the rest. We were young and naïve. Many things have worked out over that time, but we’ve learned some lessons along the way. Whether you are already working together or just thinking about it, here’s ten things to consider when working with your spouse.

1.  The first thing to ask yourself if you and your spouse are considering working together in any capacity, is should we work together?

Is it right for you and your family? Some people barrel into working together, assuming that since it’s the easiest solution, or makes the most monetary sense, it’s an obvious choice. It’s not. Have open discussions about what each of your strengths are and if your marriage can weather this change in your relationship.

2.  Ask yourself if you really have the time the position would require.

Do you need to give up some other things to make it happen? For instance, if you have small children, where will you have an office? How will you carve out time for work? Are you going to hire a sitter a few days a week? Or perhaps someone to clean your home? Logistics matter. Being on the same page matters.

3.  Communicate.

Eight years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom, who loved my time at our family business. As it’s grown over the years, there’s been many times my husband and I have felt stretched beyond our skin. We can’t accomplish it all. We’re thankful for the work, but it feels unmanageable at times. In these moments, we always come back to one truth: there’s a choice in everything. Is this growth just for a season? Or do we need to hire more help? My role has changed from what we thought it would be to something different. We only came to that conclusion through open lines of communication. My husband doesn’t push me into what he wants. We consider each step—how it affects our marriage and also our family. We have to being willing to change and grow in our roles as the business changes. It would be very stressful if both of us weren’t open to talking about these unexpected twists.

4.  Put your marriage first.

You can rebuild a business. You can come back from it failing. You can come back from financial ruin (many have). But a marriage? That’s something my husband and I don’t want to put at risk. Our marriage existed before the business and we pray it exists long after. Pray for wisdom over the small things. And make sure your home life, family, and marriage are functioning well before attempting to add working together into the mix. Whatever you do, do not enter a time of working together when you are not at peace in your home and marriage. It’s only going to exasperate those troubled areas. When I see couples who are struggling in their business relationship, they are also often struggling in their marriage. Deal with these issues first. Don’t throw one stressful situation on top of another one.

5.  Discuss when it’s okay to talk about work and when it’s not.

When my husband and I go on a date, we do talk about work. But we don’t only talk about work. We talk about kids, dreams, whatever comes to mind. For us, this has been an organic experience. We haven’t had to put the business in a box that doesn’t enter personal conversation. But for some of you, this is going to be an issue. Again, be open. If a husband or wife wants to have an evening without any talk of the business, determine that ahead of time instead of silently seething that your partner doesn’t know you don’t want to talk about the business. If you’re working together, that means it’s a major part of your lives. Talk about where and when you feel it’s okay to have conversations about the business and when you’d prefer not to.

6.  Respect each other.

I can’t stress this one enough. I mentioned my husband respecting me by often checking on where I’m at, how I’m feeling about the role I’m in. I can’t tell you how much this helps in my desire to support our business. It also makes me want to be the same for him. I do my best to protect the time my husband needs to accomplish his work and make the business run smoothly.

7.  Complement each other.

Often, in business, as in life, we only talk about the things that need to be fixed or change. Remember to compliment your spouse on what they do well. Talk about each other’s strengths.

8.  Carve out a schedule.

I have always carved out a schedule for working and I’ve respected it. Yes, I could skip work and take my young kiddos to the zoo, but I put that schedule in place for a reason. My husband knows when I’m working and when I’m not. We both depend on that schedule. I’m not saying it never fluctuates, just that we both treat it as if I were working for another employer. Otherwise, it’s too easy to say you’ll just get the work done when you can… and when would that be? Between the laundry, the school volunteering, my writing? Without a schedule, I would never get the work done, therefore creating more stress for my husband. He has enough stress running a business. I want to be a help, not a hindrance.

9.  Have fun.

Don’t forget to laugh with each other and enjoy the path God has for you.

10.  Forgive.

Have grace for one another. When mistakes are made, remember we’re all human. We make mistakes. Yes, money matters. But relationships matter more.

Jill Lynn HeadshotFalling for Texas (Love Inspired)Jill Lynn lives in Colorado with her husband and two children. When she’s not working at the family business or playing laundry fairy, she writes Christian romance with themes of humor and grace. Her first novel, Falling for Texas, is available from Harlequin Love Inspired.
Connect with her at Jill-Lynn.com, or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

 

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, (2 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.  He refuses to get a job, and I need him to. 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.