What Could You Do with 750 Hours a Year?

What could you do instead with the time that you waste?

I’m back from Colorado! Yay! Had a wonderful trip, but being away from my family for 8 days was long.

Today I want to share with you a few highlights from the blog, but before I do that, I want to follow-up on Monday’s post about time wasters by asking you this question:

What would you do if you had 750 hours?

Do We Waste Too Much Time?
We were talking on Monday about how most of us in the West spend an inordinate amount of time on what are essentially time wasters–activities that don’t add to our relationships, our faith, our skill levels, or even, in many cases, our enjoyment of life. We may want to relax and watch TV, but afterwards we still feel unsettled because we haven’t done anything meaningful.

The comments on that post were great, but I felt like there was still something unsaid. And so let’s look a little further.

Let’s assume that you are spending roughly two hours a day on things with no redeeming value. Let’s assume it’s browsing Pinterest, or watching TV, or playing video games. On its own, you can likely justify that time. After all, if you’re working during the other hours, what does it really matter if you want to relax and escape for a while?

Once you do the math, though, you see that that time adds up.

If you’re wasting two hours a day, you’re roughly wasting 15 hours a week (let’s use 15; it’s a rounder number than 14). And over the course of a year, subtracting two weeks for Christmas and vacation, that’s 750 hours.

That’s a lot of time.

What could you do with 750 hours?

You could likely:

  • Start that part-time business
  • Exercise, get toned up and get down to that target weight
  • Completely organize and streamline your home
  • Invest in your friendships by visiting/talking with some friends every week
  • Have people in for dinner
  • Volunteer for that cause that’s been on your heart

Now let’s take the long-term view and multiply that 750 hours over a few years. Then what could you do?

  • Get your degree online (my daughters took university courses online. At 15 hours a week, you could finish a Bachelor’s degree from home in 6 years)
  • Write your novel/book

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big DifferenceOr how about this: Malcolm Gladwell said in his book The Tipping Point that to get truly proficient at something you need 10,000 hours of practice. That’s maybe 10-12 years. Then you could:

  • Master an instrument
  • Become an artist
  • Start designing your own knitting/sewing patterns
  • Learn photography inside and out
  • Learn blogging and social media as a business (it’s taken me about 8 years of constant work to get proficient)

Wow! That time really adds up.

So next time you’re wondering about wasting time, ask yourself this: it may not seem like it matters if I waste this two hours, but if you take the long term view, is playing these video games more important than writing my novel? Than getting my degree? Than exercising and getting in shape? Than learning the piano like I’ve always wanted to?

All of us have dreams and goals for our lives. But we aren’t going to accomplish those things without time, and that time is not suddenly going to magically appear.

If you’re waiting for “one day” when you have time, one day will never come.

Many of us are in busy stages of our lives with babies and toddlers when starting something new may not be feasible. But look at those charts on Monday’s post again and ask yourself: am I spending time where it matters? Or am I putting a lot into time wasters? And if it’s the latter, then you do have time–right now–for goals that are important. The time is there. It’s just your choice how you use it.

That’s how I began to write–in little bites when the kids were toddlers. I turned off the TV and turned on my computer instead. And my life is so much better.

I once heard someone say that if Satan can’t make us bad he’ll make us busy.

That’s what he’s done in our culture where we entertain ourselves to death. We’re so busy with things that don’t matter that we’re not investing our time. Think about what our communities, churches, and families would be like if we took that 750 hours and spent it on important things. I get goosebumps.

What will you do?

What’s #1 at To Love, Honor and Vacuum This Week?

Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?HandleMoney#1 on the Blog: Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet
#1 on Facebook: Have We Forgotten How to Be a Mommy?
#1 on Pinterest: Teaching Kids to Handle Money
#1 on Twitter: 9 FUN tips to make SEX great for you, too!

 

Want to See Pics of My Trip to Colorado?

Here’s my Girl Talk in Greeley, Colorado, and here’s my talk in Green River, Wyoming.

What I wish I could convey in pictures is how gorgeous it was driving through the mountains and the ranches, but my iPhone didn’t do it justice.

Now I’m looking forward to getting back to my real life and start planning my daughter’s wedding! She’s coming home for the long weekend (it’s a long weekend up here in Canada), and we’ll be making all the gifts for her bridesmaids together, just her and I. My husband is taking her fiance on a father-son canoe trip with our church this weekend so they can get better acquainted, and my younger daughter is off to camp. So it’s just Becca and me getting reacquainted!

I hope you have a lovely weekend, too.

 

Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

Are video games a waste of time? What about Netflix? Facebook? Pinterest?

On Mondays I usually post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood today (perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, while I’m away from my girls on a speaking trip, and I’m a little bit restless), and I have some things I’d like to share.

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

Now THIS is an awesome story: I’m staying at my assistant Holly’s house in Colorado while I speak this week, and her 17-year-old son just sold his Xbox. He went on a men’s retreat last weekend and heard about how many young husbands wreck their marriages because they always use video games. So he thought that before it became an addiction that wrecked his future marriage he’d get rid of it!

Quite a few people liked that status, but I had a lot of comments to the effect of, “there’s nothing wrong with video games.” Or perhaps, “maybe he should have tried moderation first.” And I do understand.

I think we all have certain bents towards different time wasters: video games, Netflix, Pinterest, whatever it may be. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t we all entitled to some downtime?

And in general I’d say yes.

But that’s not the whole picture, and so I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.

Let’s start back in 1996, when Rebecca (my oldest) was a year old. I used to leave the TV on during the day all the time just to have some noise in the apartment. I watched soap operas from 1-4 every afternoon, because I was tired. I wanted an escape. It was hard work being alone with my baby all the time. My husband worked about 100 hours a week in his residency program in pediatrics, and I was often lonely. I found myself falling into television more and more.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThen one day I picked up Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a garage sale, and I read it. And it changed my life.

Specifically, it was his discussion of Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First. In other words, know where you’re heading, and then make sure you do the things that are necessary to get you there–before you do anything else.

He used a graphic to illustrate what he was talking about, and I’m going to recreate it with my own embellishment and commentary.

Divide your life into four quadrants based on whether or not the things you are doing are important or urgent. When you do that, you get something that looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants

Everything that we do can be divided into those 4 quadrants. And when we do that, it looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: How to figure out what to spend time on

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

That’s when you go into labour. When a child is in a pageant. When your mother is diagnosed with cancer. These are life events that basically have nothing to do with how you behave–they just happen.

But then there are crises which sometimes ARE avoidable–but when they crop up, we have to address them. We discover an affair. A teenager runs away. We suffer a nervous breakdown (sometimes this is purely chemical; other times it’s because we’ve let ourselves get too stressed.) We totter on bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s even little things, like running out of clean dishes or clean underwear because we haven’t done any housework. These are the fires in our lives that have to be put out.

Things That Are Important But Not Urgent DON’T Demand Our Attention–and that’s a problem.

No one is going to make you do them. They’re the date nights with your spouse, your time alone with God, your time alone with yourself (if that’s what you need to rejuvenate). It’s your time with a special mentor friend who points you to God. It’s reading to your children. It’s keeping the home organized. It’s spending time together as a family.

We all need these things–but it’s far too easy to neglect them because nothing is forcing us to do them, and there are rarely immediate negative consequences for leaving them undone. The consequences come later.

Things that Are Urgent But Aren’t Important–But we do them anyway.

You’re having a deep conversation with your teenager and the phone rings. What do you do? Chances are you answer the phone. But what was more important?

You’re out to dinner with your spouse and your phone dings with a new text. Do you ignore it or do you check it?

Your friend, who has been in constant crisis for the last two years because she overspends, drinks too much, and keeps dating jerks, calls you when you’re on your way out the door to a volunteer activity, in tears. Do you listen or do you tell her you need to go?

Things That Are Not Urgent and Not Important–that have no redeeming value.

This is where many of us spend most of our time. I’m not saying all hobbies or all movies fall into this category. Some hobbies do rejuvenate, like productive hobbies like cooking, or knitting, or woodworking. Some movies bond you as a family. Sometimes getting on Facebook helps you keep in contact with your nieces and nephews. But how often do you spend an evening watching TV or getting on social media or playing video games, and you feel even more tired than before?

Here’s the truth that Stephen Covey wants us to understand: when you spend time in Quadrant 2, doing things that are important, you have fewer fires in your life that you have to put out. But when you spend most of your time in Quadrants 3 and 4, you’re going to end up with more crises. And you’re going to feel more dissatisfied.

Dont Waste Time: How wasting time leads to more crises in our lives

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

I think we do it because we want an escape. We lead lives that are exhausting, that aren’t always fulfilling, and we want a chance to forget.

But if your basic problem is that your life isn’t that fulfilling, because you’re chronically lonely, or you feel as if you’re not doing what you’re called to do, or your relationships aren’t on track, then wasting time won’t fix the problem. It will only make your problem worse. And a spiral will begin, where your reality deteriorates, and so you want to escape even more.

After reading Covey’s book I quit TV cold turkey.

I just stopped. I didn’t want to waste my life. And what I found is that for the first time in years I was bored. And energetic! And so I started something new: I started magazine writing. I researched how to get published, and by 1999 I was well on my way. In 2003 I had my first book published. My eighth will be coming out in August. And you know the rest of the story.

I firmly believe that I would never have begun writing if I had kept watching TV.

And that’s why, when people say, “there’s nothing wrong with video games”, I have to take a pause. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s that too much of it may be stopping you from doing what is best.

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To Love, Honor and VacuumI explained this concept in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but here’s what really hit me back in 1996: there are things that are holding us back from God that aren’t necessarily sin. Sure, we have to throw aside the sin, but there are also things that aren’t sin that hinder us. We’re to get rid of those, too.

My life is better because I gave up TV then, and I believe that 17-year-old boy’s life will be better because he got rid of video games, too.

Does this mean I can never waste time?

No, of course not. My husband and I do watch Netflix today–but we’re trying to put limits on it so that we also take time to play games together or listen to talks or books on tape while we’re doing our separate hobbies together. We don’t want to waste whole nights.

Every now and then we have to re-evaluate because we slip into patterns. In 2008 I had to quit reading political blogs because I was wasting time and getting my blood pressure up in the process. After I quit reading other blogs, I started writing this one. Again, I found that I actually had time I didn’t know I had!

And now we’re re-evaluating our Netflix time and trying to find a new balance. We have to be vigilant.

I want to live a life where I can feel like I’ve accomplished something. I want to feel well rested, healthy, and organized. I want to have close relationships with my children and my husband. I want to feel as if I’m contributing. I want to feel as if I’m leaving a legacy.

And I can’t do any of those things if I waste most of my time on entertainment.

Dayspring Purpose Mug

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re struggling with feeling productive, or with finding meaning in your life, or with being chronically dissatisfied. But if you are, can I suggest that you take a look at these quadrants, and ask yourself: where am I spending my time?

And then ask: where should I be spending my time? Where do I want to be spending my time? And then try to put first things first.

Let me know: have you ever had to quit a time waster? Or do you think I’m totally off base? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

To Love, Honor and Vacuum–The Book

Today I’m in Colorado Springs at the Focus on the Family headquarters taping a radio show about my book To, Love, Honor and Vacuum.

And since it’s our Book of the Month for our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in May, I want to let you all know a little more about it. It’s the first book I ever wrote (it was out originally in 2003), and last year I published a revised and expanded edition.

I know I write a lot about sex, but I’m also passionate about helping women with their daily lives. So I’d like to introduce you to To Love, Honor and Vacuum–the book.

To Love, Honor and Vacuum: For all women who feel more like maids than wives and mothers!

Do you feel harried? Taken for granted? Like you never have enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to get done, let alone anything that you actually want to do?

Then this REVISED and UPDATED book is for you! To Love, Honor and Vacuum helps women find peace in the midst of their hectic lives by helping them remember that the goal is to point people to Christ–not to wait on everyone hand and foot and to have a perfect house.

I give it to you straight: do you do everything around your house, but never have time for the important things? Are you inadvertently teaching your family members to treat you with disrespect? Or are you simply overwhelmed by keeping a house while you’ve also got toddlers underfoot?

I’ll teach you how to put first things first, and foster relationships where you’ll feel more appreciated, less harried, and more fulfilled. The book will help you:

  • Set realistic standards for housework
  • Learn to do housework more efficiently
  • Make your home family-friendly
  • Recruit help from family members
  • Command respect from your husband and kids
  • Prioritize family relationships
  • Make decisions about work and money
  • Keep romance alive!

TLHV Review

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To Love, Honor and Vacuum Review

Review of TLHV

To Love, Honor and Vacuum Review

Purchase from Amazon
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Purchase for Kindle
Purchase for Nook
Purchase from Amazon.ca

Ever wonder why you’ve tried dozens of different chores organization techniques and they don’t work?

Maybe the issue isn’t organization–it’s perspective and attitude.

  • Are you trying to raise children–or raise adults?
  • Are you trying to be nice to your family–or be good to your family by pointing them to Christ?
  • Are you trying to create a perfect house–or a comfortable home?

If your starting point is wrong, you will be stressed, no matter what organization technique you use. And so maybe it’s time to start with our attitudes, then look at our relationships–and only THEN turn to how to organize ourselves better.

4346 vac cvr CC.indd
Here’s what’s included in To Love, Honor and Vacuum:

Chapter 1: Diagnosis Stress!
Why we women so often find home life so exhausting.

Chapter 2: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
A fictional jaunt through history to show you why life IS more stressful today–and why your grandmother could handle things better than you can!

Chapter 3: This Ain’t My Momma’s House!
An invitation to take a close look at who is setting your standards–with a plea for grace for ourselves.

Chapter 4: Balancing Tipped Scales
Feeling worn out? Maybe you’re spending too much time on the unimportant, and not enough on the stuff that revives you. A plan to include more reviving things in your life.

Chapter 5: Relationship U-Turns
We’ve given ourselves a break, we’re getting more organized, and we have more things that revive us in our lives. But what if the reason that we’re exhausted is that no one else seems to help–or even to care? A look at how to actually change relationships so that we point people to Christ, not away from Him.

Chapter 6: The Family That Cleans Together
You CAN get your kids involved in keeping the house under control. And you can involve your husband, too!

Chapter 7: Don’t Just Sit There–Do Something!
What do you do if people take you for granted and disrespect you? A look at how to earn respect in your family, and set your relationships back on the right course.

Chapter 8: Kids Spell Love T-I-M-E
You’ve got kids involved in the house, but you also need to just relax and have fun with them. Here’s how.

Chapter 9: Bringing Your Wallet Under God’s Control
Another big source of stress is money. Do you use money well? Do you save money well? What do you do about work and childcare? A helpful look at how to make decisions about kids, money, and savings.

Chapter 10: In the Mood
A peaceful family that reflects Christ’s love has the marriage at the centre. And that means that you need to prioritize your relationship with your husband–even in the bedroom! (You knew I couldn’t leave that out, right?)

Purchase from Amazon
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To Love, Honor and Vacuum Audio Download
Want to hear more about it–but don’t have time to read?

Purchase a 45 minute talk based on the book.

 

If you’re tired of spinning your wheels, get
To Love, Honor and Vacuum.
And start feeling like a mom and a wife again!

I Actually Drank This–And What It Taught Me

So true story: Last Saturday night (like eight days ago) I landed in the Toronto airport late at night after having spent an amazing week speaking throughout Arizona.

Sheila Gregoire gives her Girl Talk presentation about sex and marriage.

But all day I had been battling quite the headache. I don’t handle changes in pressure from airline travel well, and combine that with the fact that I’ve been clenching my jaw at night, making for some tension headaches to begin with, and I was not in a Happy Place.

I picked up my luggage, which included a huge suitcase, a computer, and this mega huge golf bag which held the banner for my Girl Talk, and waited for the airport shuttle (which took 25 minutes) to take me back to where my car was.

Lugged that stuff up four flights in the parking garage, found my car in the dark, somehow managed to push that golf bag in, and then thought about the 2 hour drive I had home. And I knew I could not do that without fortification (namely Advil).

But I also didn’t have anything to drink, nor did I have the energy to find a corner store. So I searched under the seats and in the crevices of my van, and Hallelujah! I found an old water bottle that was still full. So I downed two Advils and headed home.

Thursday night, five days later, my daughter and I are in the car heading to the 100 Huntley Street headquarters for a Women in Music and Media networking event. I wanted Katie (my YouTube daughter) to meet the amazing gals there–Anne Mainse and Moira Brown, and we did.

WIMM

But as we’re driving, Katie holds up the water bottle and comments, “boy this water looks gross.”

Then she flips the bottle and there’s algae on the bottom.

Sometimes we don't realize how toxic our surroundings are.

And I drank that.

No wonder I’ve felt so queasy for a week!

All week I was also telling you about the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle (watch the skilled way I transition here; you will be amazed and astounded. :) ). And one thing that really hit me was that often I don’t realize how toxic my environment is.

Certainly there’s my environment-environment–the air I breathe, the food I eat, the chemicals on my clothes, and, of course, the algae in my water.

And you’ll learn with this Bundle how to create a HEALTHY Home–without going overboard on all the hype. There’s a lot of hype out there scaring us about all kinds of things. This ecourse tells you which claims have scientific backing, which ones don’t, and where you get the most bang for your buck.


It normally sells for $97–so if you buy the Bundle, it’s like you’re getting that course for 66% off, but then you’re also getting 99 other resources!

But it’s not just about our physical environment. It’s also the “feel” of my home that I, as the mom, tend to set up. Is home cuddly or chaotic? Nurturing or nerves-inducing? And how do we make home something that is relaxing and life-giving without wearing ourselves out in the process?

I shared with you last Tuesday ten books that did that for me–ten homemaking hacks that I really appreciated! But there are so many others–books on meal planning, mothering, passing on your faith to your kids, enriching your own faith, saving money, cleaning, and more. I’m partial to the organizing books and printables, and these ones alone are worth more than the cost of the bundle, too:


This Bundle sale is now over, but the awesome people at the Ultimate Bundles website offer about 6 bundles a year on different topics--and it's always about $1000 worth of digital products for $29.97. Sign up to be notified of the next bundle! (They have homemaking, digital photography, healthy living, work at home business, and more!


If you’ve already bought a bundle in the past, I understand. I’ve been part of five bundle sales, so I have a LOT of ebooks. But what I find with each Bundle is that there’s something new–some tip that really will change EVERYTHING. This time around it was learning how to organize myself paperlessly, and that was so worth it. I never would have thought to buy that book on its own, but when I read it in the Bundle, I was like: “Why didn’t I think of this before?” But last Bundle it was something else.

And remember–the bonuses are all new! And you get a designer scarf valued at $20; a physical book of your choice from Tyndale; an art print; registration in a Craftsy class to improve your craft skills (go for the knitting ones!), and so much more.

And it makes a great Mother’s Day gift!

I’ll be talking more this week about how not to be toxic in your marriage–how to pray for your husband; how to avoid seasons of distance; how to stay close and healthy. And I’m looking forward to those posts!

But for today, I am excited about this last chance to offer you the bundle. I do get a percentage of your sales (which go towards bringing an assistant with me when I speak so I don’t have to lug all that stuff by myself), but I also participate in these sales just because I love them. I’m like a kid in a candy store when I get to go through all the resources! Here’s one more look at them all:

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle--97 ebooks and ecourses plus bonuses for just $29.97

Don’t miss it! It will be gone soon.

Click here to learn more

Have a great week!

 

Open Letter to My Toddler: Why You Need Time Alone

Toddlers Playing By Themselves
If you’re a mom of a toddler, do you ever just dream of 10 minutes all to yourself?

Today Katharine Grubb shares with us a letter to her toddler explaining why she needs to learn to play by herself–so mom can be by herself, too! And that means that we moms need to TRAIN our kids to play by themselves.

If you’re a mom feeling guilty for not being with your child every minute of the day, read this this morning. Breathe it in. And let the guilt go.

Here’s Katharine:

You are absolutely the cutest thing in the whole world. But it’s time you learned something big.

It’s time you learned how to entertain yourself for a few minutes each day.

I’ve got all your needs covered — you’re fed, you’re clean, you’re dry, you could probably stand a nap (who doesn’t?) But it’s time now to sit in a spot on the floor, pick up the things you love and entertain yourself, without my help, for ten full minutes.

I’ll coach you. I’ll bring you special toys that aren’t out often. I’ll let you pick out the alarm sound on my phone. I’ll reward you if you can sit, for ten minutes, and entertain yourself. (I suppose you could just have my phone, but I will not fish it out of the toilet again.)

Are ten minutes too much? That’s okay, let’s start with one. You sit and play and dont watch me and dont talk to me and when the timer goes off we’ll celebrate. You made it to one. Then we’ll try two. Then four. We’ll take the time to practice this over and over until you get to ten full minutes. This is far more than just a game. I’m giving you a gift and someday, you’ll understand why it’s so important.

I want you to see that there is joy in being creative.

Trust me, it feels great to see in your hand a completed work (don’t remind me of that cross stitch I started for Grammy and Grampy for their 40th wedding anniversary.) It feels good when you stretch yourself to be more than you are, (maybe it will be ready for their 50th next year?) I want to see what you’ve done in our time apart. I want to share this joy with you. I’ll say nothing about the mess you made, (but dear, we cut paper, not hair with the scissors.)

When you pick up a crayon for the first time and you rub it across the paper, you’ll see magic. When you pick up blocks for the first time and pile them up, you’ll see potential. When you push a button on that V-Tech toy (that Daddy “accidentally” caulked all the speaker holes up to make the music less annoying) and you saw lights, you were mesmerized by the laws of cause and effect. As your mind grows your discoveries and creations will grow too. For every scribble, for every drawing, for every time you had to get Rainbow Dash’s mane just right, you’ll rehearsing for sitting at a future desk with a future task that will be less forgiving and less fun. But those tasks will need a creative mind and an eye for detail and persevering spirit. You only get those by practicing and playing and sitting alone, for a little bit each day and working on something you love.

We’re doing this because I want you to try new things.

I want you to gain confidence in your decision-making and risk-taking. I want you to trust your own judgement, learning logic and cause and effect, learn how shapes and colors and art and physics all work together. Someday, you’ll see that self-discipline is the only way to get tasks done. Someday you’ll be glad that I didn’t allow you to indulge yourself in your whims 24/7. Someday, you’ll spend hours alone studying for a big exam, or writing a paper or creating some project that a grade or a job will depend on. Someday you’re going to earn a paycheck, darling baby, and you’ll take me to lunch. (I’ve already picked the restaurant. And I’m not wearing yoga pants and a stained t-shirt so you may not recognize me.)

Helping children learn to play by themselves--and be creative

I fully expect you to fail.

The crayon will break, the KNEX won’t go together the right way, the tower will come falling down. But that’s why we play: to practice life because life is messy. (What is that smell? What did you eat?) I want to give you the gift of being able to deal with mistakes, failures and messes gracefully. But if you’ve sat at my feet, working on your projects, and failed near me, I can remind you that you are not your failures. I can remind you that you are loved anyway. I can remind you that you may have a solution to your problem nearby if you take the initiative. Playing alone will do that.

I suppose I could argue about brain development, independence, creativity and self-discipline all day long, but the truth I need a minute! And I need you to be within sight and within earshot, but fully entertained, just long enough for me to do something for me. I can check my email, catch up on Facebook, read a chapter in that book I started last year, crochet ten stitches, sketch a drawing or try to write that short story. I like making things too and surprise! The things I make are just as important to me as that glitter disaster on the dining room table. (Who gives a toddler glitter? The nice neighbor? That’s it! I’m giving her kid a drum set and a kitten!)

Making art is fun. Creating beautiful things is an act of worship. You are an amazing creation and whenever you make something, you are reminding me of who made you. In the same way that I put your drawings on the refrigerator door and we all look at them proudly is the same way that God looks at you — his creation. He is proud of you. When you create, you are doing what he did first. This is more than just play, this is worship. Let’s learn to work independently for ten minutes, so we can both glorify God in our creations.

You are absolutely the cutest thing in the whole world. Let’s spend a little time apart today and be all the better for it.

I love you!

Mommy

headshotWrite a novel in 10 minutes a dayKatharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five children and lives in Massachusetts. Her book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day, has been recently published by Teach Yourself Books. She blogs at 10 Minute Novelists–a blog I’m reading as I’m starting to work on my first novel! Find Katharine on Facebook, too.

Katharine uses her time away from her children to write–in extremely short bursts. If you’ve longed to make better use of your short bursts, check out Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day! That’s what I’m doing right now.

Now let me know: did you ever have to train your children to play by themselves? Was it hard? Have any tips for us? Share them in the comments!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 2:24 says,

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

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

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

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

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

How Do You Talk About Leave and Cleave?

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

Let’s imagine the first scenario for a minute:

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

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

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

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

Let’s say the conversation instead looked like this:

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

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

You could also frame a conversation like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Responsible for Leaving?

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

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

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

Romans 12:18 says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dayspring Serenity Prayer

What if Your Husband Never Chooses to Leave and Cleave?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Learning to Ask My Husband for Help

How asking for help from my husband made our marriage so much better!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment, or, better still, link up your own post in the Linky below. Today we’re going to talk about asking for help from our hubbies.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do in marriage is to ask for help. We think either that he should already know what we need, or that if we have to ask, that means there’s something wrong with our relationship.

Today Kate Tunstall from Refined Prose joins us to tell the story of how a baby changed everything in her marriage–including her perspective on asking her husband for help. We’ve been talking about this theme a lot on this blog recently–how sometimes we can avoid problems just by voicing our needs. I thought sharing a real life story could drive this home. So here’s Kate:

When my husband and I decided to start a family, we were one of those sickeningly ‘perfect’ couples who had been together a long time and done everything in the right order.

Not only were we very established, I was also in the enviable position of having a husband who was attentive, thoughtful and selfless. I was totally confident that difficult though a baby may be, my incredible husband would make the tough times endurable and the special times magical. We were relatively young, fit and healthy.

And thus came the life-changing decision that would alter the dynamic of our relationship forever.

Preparing for a Baby

My poor husband was slightly behind me in terms of readiness, though he could see the logic in the timing and was fully supportive. However, he underestimated what can happen when two health-conscious people actively begin to try for a family: within six weeks I was pregnant and his catching up became a sprint, not a marathon.

I still had no concerns: after all, I married the best man I know and was convinced that a baby would only strengthen our bond.

When I delivered our beautiful daughter following early induction due to complications, we were both in awe. One moment the wait for her arrival seemed interminable, the next everything was being medically forced with some urgency. After a difficult labour, she was born mewling and perfect and was placed immediately on my chest, at which point she looked up into my eyes as though to reassure me that she was okay. She was sixteen days early and at 5lb 4oz, she was tiny and delicate and fragile. We were besotted.

Finally, after nearly a week of scans, monitoring and procedures, we were back home with our baby daughter and our new reality set in.

Everybody has heard about The Tiredness, but until it has been experienced, the torment is incomprehensible. Lest we forget, sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture…

Being the good wife that I am, and given that I am breastfeeding our daughter, I said from the very beginning that I did not expect my husband to get up in the night. I have always maintained that since he is working while I am at home during the day, his need for sleep during the night is greater than mine. (That said, I question the practicality of ‘sleeping when the baby does’. It has never happened for me – my baby needs clean clothes even if I don’t.)

The First Weeks with Baby Were a Blur–and Exahaustion Took Over

I was totally consumed by love and tiredness and worry and exhaustion and delight and tiredness. It was overwhelming and I wondered constantly if my life would ever be normal again, whether I was caring for our daughter well enough, when I would ever get some proper sleep–and how I was going to cope the following day.

Despite the absolute fatigue, I consoled myself that at least I was the consummate wife: I still didn’t ask my husband to get up in the night. Not only that, I actively encouraged him to continue to work out regularly after work (and I still do). Even though I also used to frequent the gym myself, and am half-crazy with pent up energy which I am unable to expel. Even though I could use some adult company and a little help in the evenings. The way I saw it, why should we both miss out, right? He works hard; he needs to have an outlet.

I knew of other dads who were expected to help with night feeds and who would have their babies thrust upon them the moment they walked through the door in the evening. And I thought to myself how harsh their wives were, how inconsiderate! Not for us, that needy thoughtlessness – oh no. I allowed my husband to get in, have a leisurely shower, make himself a brew and spend half an hour relaxing, only then relinquishing his daughter to him for playtime and cuddles.

An hour later, I would take over again to deal with the bath and bedtime routine. But it was fine, because during this time my husband would potter downstairs and hang the washing, empty the dishwasher and make the dinner. As I may have mentioned once or twice, he was pretty close to perfect.

Resentment Started to Creep In

However, it slowly dawned on me infinitesimally that actually, my husband could be doing things differently to help me more, things that would enable me to have a small break. Things that would forge a bond between him and his baby girl. Speaking to friends brought to my attention that there were issues I had been ignoring which displayed my good wifely intentions in a different perspective.

When my husband told me early on that he was not able to bathe our daughter because it hurt his knees, I accepted it without hesitation. When he (regularly) said it was easier for him to make dinner while I saw to our daughter, I didn’t consider his motives. I trust my husband, I believe in our marriage – why should I question him?

One evening after work my husband expressed a desire to spend a Saturday with a colleague at a comic convention. I was disappointed (he had never before shown any interest in such an activity), but said that if he would prefer to do that than spend time with his family then I didn’t mind. A few days later, after a particularly taxing day, he told me of his intention to learn a new language which would, of course, take away more of his time from us. And this was the moment that the creeping resentment thwacked me over the head and I started to view our solid marriage in a different light.

Realisation That There was a Problem in our Marriage

Listening very carefully to some close friends discussing their relationships is what ultimately helped me to fix things with my husband. While I had been secretly putting our relationship on a pedestal, they had been at the other end of the spectrum, asking for the support they required and having their needs met. I felt a little bit ashamed of my superior attitude (luckily it was a private view that had not been shared). I was humbled as it began to register that I had been so fixated on my husband’s wishes and the desire to maintain the image of a perfect marriage that I had actually been neglecting my own needs. Surely there had to be a happy medium?

Epiphany: My Husband was Insecure as a Dad!

That night I went home and had a frank discussion with my husband. What I discovered broke my heart a little bit: my very competent, capable husband lacked confidence with his tiny, fragile daughter. She was like a delicate little bird and he was terrified of breaking her. While I had had no choice but to learn how to safely handle her, my baby’s daddy was frightened of injuring her little body with his big, clumsy bear hands. This changed everything. A brutal shake-up was required in our house.

One of the most important factors in a successful marriage is communication with your spouse. It is all too easy to make assumptions based on historical truths about your partner and your relationship. However, when you are thrown into completely new territory, you can’t know how a person will react, and sometimes they may need support to adjust. My husband’s failing in this scenario was his inability to discuss his lack of confidence, and mine was to blindly believe in the perfection of our marriage–and then to do him the disservice of presuming he was disinterested or lazy or both.

How exhausting for my husband that I am such a perfectionist that I projected my impossibly high expectations onto him too, and was unable to see him as anything other than infallible! I was so determined to attain The Perfect Marriage that I inadvertently undermined and sabotaged the relationship we do have.

Ultimately my husband’s ego prevented him from owning up to his fears, and mine prevented me from seeing that our habits were getting unhealthy. But my marriage does not belong to me, it belongs to us. And it is not something I can singlehandedly protect or perfect. That responsibility is equally my husband’s.

Change Comes by Asking for Help

So now I have simply learned to ask for help–and once he admitted that he was insecure, and put his own feelings out there, my husband was glad to see where he could be of service. He now gets home earlier after work, helps out with bathtime with the aid of a cushion, and settles our daughter back to sleep if she stirs during the evening. Life has improved exponentially as our daughter has now surpassed a healthy newborn weight. My husband now relishes every moment he has with the baby he dotes on, and in return she adores her daddy. Having those hard conversations was totally worth it.

I learned a valuable lesson here. While I am still proud of our marriage and I still look up to my husband, I also believe that in the future I will be better equipped to handle any similar issues; because I now express my needs to him–without feeling that this is a failing in me or in our marriage.

Gottman quotation on the transition to parenthood: Don't leave your husband behind!

With thanks to Hot, Holy and Humorous for reminding me of this quotation! Now, can you all see what would have happened to Katie’s marriage if she had said nothing–and kept trying to do it all? What would that relationship have been like five years down the road? Don’t forget–sometimes we need to ask for help!

KatieTunstallKate Tunstall is the founder of Refined Prose, the home of her wedding and lifestyle blog. You can also find details about the blogging and writing services Kate offers, and how to hire her here.

 

WifeyWednesday175Now let me know: have you ever seethed with resentment, when simply asking for help would have fixed many of your issues? Leave a comment! And if you have your own blog, feel free to link up a marriage post by putting the URL in the linky below. Thanks for joining me for Wifey Wednesday!

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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.

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 Game of Thrones–or something like that?

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 nudity 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 maybe YOU are the vehicle God wants to use to convict your husband. That’s part of what being his help meet is–you’re to help him!

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 Around Nudity on TV

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 conundrum of a husband watching nudity 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 that the husband is watching 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?