Preserving Childhood Innocence: The Right Not to Know

Childhood Innocence: Kids have the right not to know some things

Has our society eroded childhood innocence?

I think it has, and I wrote about it in this column from a few years ago. For twelve years I wrote a syndicated column, and I’ve decided to post my favourites that never appeared on this blog on Fridays. Hope you enjoy!

What is the dividing line between childhood and adulthood? It had better not be moving out of your parents’ house, or a lot of people who think they are adults are sorely mistaken. If it’s having a job, then those 15-year-olds who ask if you want fries with that have already reached maturity. Instead, I think the main dividing line is knowledge. Childhood is a protected state where they can learn new things slowly, once they’re mature enough to handle them.

That’s why I think a child has the right not to know some things.

I think they have a right not to know about the horror of war, except in general terms, until they enter the teenage years. I think they have a right not to know about sexuality inside and out. I think they have a right to be told only in vague terms about their parents’ neuroses, marriages or love lives.

Once you open that door into the adult world, you see, children have a difficult time just being children. Childhood innocence has been taken from them.

I’m not sure all adults understand this. I remember talking with a friend a few years ago who let his three-year-old son watch X-Files with him (largely because he couldn’t be bothered to put the child to bed). “Oh, he doesn’t care,” my friend said. “he thinks it’s funny.” And to prove his point, he nudged the child to laugh. That same child had frequent nightmares. Very young children don’t have the ability to distinguish real life from acting, and they can be shaken by many things, even those we don’t think are that bad.

But even if you try to keep the door closed on the adult media world, someone else can push it open.

When we took our children to see The Incredibles last year, we were sitting in the theatre listening to an audio soundtrack before the film began. All of a sudden someone said something extremely sexually graphic. I shot up, found the staff and asked them to turn the soundtrack off, which they gladly did. It wasn’t supposed to air before children’s movies anyway. I was glad they at least had a policy, since too many places don’t.

Take the mall, for instance. I was recently walking through it with my daughters when we passed the lingerie store. My 7-year-old said to me, “Mommy! Aren’t those women embarrassed to be seen in their underwear? I mean, what man is going to want to see that?” I paused for a minute, unsure how to answer, but very grateful my daughter was still completely oblivious to the attraction of said picture. Yet I still wish the picture weren’t there at all. Come to think of it, I could do without Cosmopolitan, and the National Enquirer, and Britney Spears all being at my kids’ eye level in the checkout line. We no longer have child-friendly zones.

We don’t have them on television, where Superbowls experience wardrobe malfunctions. We don’t have them in music, where today’s lyrics leave little to the imagination, and the singers’ wardrobes leave even less. We don’t even have it on public streets, where billboards and store windows use sex as a lure. We also don’t have it on the news, where same sex marriage is debated when many of our kids don’t even know what homosexuality is. While this is certainly too much information for little ones, it also damages those on the verge of adulthood. Before they even experience physical intimacy, they know all about it, because it’s been laid bare before them on television, the internet, and in schools.

This deprives them of the final triumph of growing up: that joyful discovery which finally unlocks adult secrets.

By the time today’s young adults finally experience physical intimacy in a committed relationship, they have already had sex so dissected and analyzed and explained that it’s lost much of its wonder.

There are no more secrets. It’s not something spiritually intimate that two people enjoy alone, with the rest of the world blocked out; the rest of the world has already burst in. And that’s too bad. We’ve taken their innocence from them, and now they know too much. Maybe that’s a sign that we adults know too little.

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Why We All Should Celebrate Goodness in Media

Goodness in Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could it have been more Christian? Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 50 Most Romantic Movies to Watch as a Couple

50 Most Romantic Movies to Watch as a Couple: Best Date Movies!

I recently asked the 9500 women who follow me on Facebook: Name your favorite romantic movie. Every movie that got more than one vote I entered into a spreadsheet. Then I ranked them by number of votes. So if you’re looking for the best romantic movies or the best romantic comedies, you came to the right place!

And so, without further adieu, here are the top 50 most romantic movies according to the readers of this blog (and my followers on Facebook), along with a bit of my commentary:


1. The Notebook

An unlikely couple fall madly in love as teens, but are separated by her parents and circumstances. They find each other years later, and the love is still blazing.

Honestly, I don’t think this movie would have worked without the parallel story of the couple when they’re older, played by James Garner and Gena Rowland. The young love story is a little annoying. The witness of the love through the years is lovely. And the final scene is the best I have ever seen in a movie. I totally understand why this was #1!

The downside? Lots of sex before marriage. And I’ve told my girls not to watch it because it’s really quite erotic. They don’t need that at their age.


2. Pride and Prejudice

I combined votes for both versions (the BBC version and the Keira Knightley version) into one. There really is nothing more romantic than Mr. Darcy, who loves Elizabeth, and pursues her relentlessly though he’s rather bad at it. The five hour version is still my favourite.

What I love about Jane Austen, who wrote the book that inspired the movie adaptations, is that she treats love like it should be a serious choice, not just an infatuation we give in to. Elizabeth doesn’t care for Mr. Darcy at all at first, but as she knows his character, he becomes attractive to her. That’s the way to decide whom to marry; to look at the person objectively and realize whether or not they would be a good choice. How many women have rejected perfectly wonderful marriage partners because that weak-kneed feeling wasn’t there right off the bat? Austen shows us that true, deep love is a combination of attraction and deliberation, and it really works.


3. Fireproof

A lout of a guy has taken his wife for granted, used porn, and acted selfishly. Now he’s in danger of her leaving, and reality hits and he does a 180. He decides to love her unconditionally. His pursuit of her is certainly romantic, and it gives us hope that even difficult relationships can be turned around when one party decides to fight for love. A beautiful gospel message intertwined, too.


4. PS I Love You

Definitely romantic. A husband dies young, and his bereft widow is completely at loose ends. Can she ever love again, or even get on with her life? I really enjoyed this movie, though I found the final relationship she settled in a little bit too typical. They go to bed first, then the love comes. A little much. But what I appreciated about the movie was that it portrayed her marriage realistically. She and her husband hadn’t always gotten along. They’d both annoyed each other. They’d both done things wrong. Yet the love was real and enduring.


5. Princess Bride

Sometimes, when I want to tell my husband I love him, I still say, “As you wish”. You cannot explain this movie. You have to experience it. It’s in a category by itself, and even kids can enjoy it along with adults. Robin Wright did a superb job as Buttercup. And there are certain lines you will never, ever forget. Is it romantic? Perhaps that word doesn’t mean what we think it means.

6. An Affair to Remember

An oldie but a goodie! But true confessions: I’ve never seen it. My whole knowledge of it is tied up in all the references to it in Sleepless in Seattle. So this is on my “must watch” list now! It is a classic, though, so I’m going to assume it’s great because it’s stood the test of time.

7. You’ve Got Mail

The first big blockbuster movie to delve into the question: can we fall in love with someone we met online? Director Nora Ephron brought Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together again for this movie after the success of Sleepless in Seattle. The two seem destined to do movies where they’re each other’s love interest, but appear together in hardly any scenes. I really did enjoy this one. Again, it shows that the main point of choosing whom to love is delving into their character. I’m all for movies like that!


8. A Walk to Remember

True confessions: I haven’t seen this one either. Never even really heard of it, but so many people rated it the most romantic ever! So now I’ll have to. I have nothing to say about this one, except it’s next on my list. It’s based on a Nicholas Sparks book, and while I love some Sparks books, I don’t love them all. So we’ll have to see whether this is a good one!


9. Ever After

Love this movie! Drew Barrymore stars in an adaptation of Cinderella that truly works. As long as you realize this is supposed to be a fairytale, the movie is lovely. The scene with the gypsies is hilarious, well done, and definitely romantic. Best of all, there’s nothing objectionable in this movie. Old and young can enjoy it together. I think we watched it when our youngest was 7 for the first time, and we all loved it.


10. The first 9 minutes of the movie Up

If people realized they could vote for PARTS of movies, and not whole movies, I’m sure this would have been #1. The most romantic 9 minutes of movie time ever. Here it is:


11. Time Traveler’s Wife

A man is born with a horrible condition where he travels through time involuntarily. Things could be going well, and all of a sudden he’ll be gone. And you don’t know when he’s coming back.

But in his travels he meets and marries his wife, who has to live with never knowing when her husband will be there. And everytime he comes, he’s out of sequence. Sometimes he’ll be 50 when she’s 20, and sometimes vice versa.

I suppose it’s romantic, but I couldn’t really get into it. Still, it’s pretty high on the list. Not one of my favorites, though. I think I analyze time travel movies too much.


12. Sense and Sensibility

I love Austen! And the scene where Elinor finally loses it, after a whole movie of keeping her emotions in check, and starts bawling at Edward’s proposal is one of my favourite movie moments of all time. This movie is as close to perfect as any movie I have ever seen. Emma Thompson, who stars in it but who also wrote the screenplay, did an amazing job of capturing Austen’s story in just 2 1/2 hours. And I totally agree with the main message of this movie: Don’t let your feelings carry you away; love should be deep, and based on something beyond just feelings.

A warning, though: this really is a chick flick. Watch it with your girlfriends, don’t make your husband sit through it!


13. Titanic

Two Kate Winslet movies in a row! Yet this one is the opposite of Sense and Sensibility–it’s all feelings and drama and emotion. And no one has to wonder what the ending will be. Everything in this movie is big–the love, the emotion, the tragedy. And it’s all magnified because we know what’s coming. The love in this is just over the top–I mean they only had a few days to fall madly in love because the ship’s going to sink. If you’re in the mood for a sweeping escape, fine. But don’t think that this is actually true to real life love! And the sex scenes are graphic, too.


14. Sleepless in Seattle

The quintessential romantic movie. In fact, Nora Ephron made this movie to celebrate romance in movies. It works. You really root for them by the end. A fun chick flick. What I like about it, too, is that they include Hanks’ character’s son in the romance. It’s not just about two people; it’s about taking on an entire family that needs love. That’s real love. It’s not profound, but fun.


15. The Vow

I was a little disappointed in this movie, as I’ve written before. The true story is better than the fictional one presented here. The truth: a couple has been married briefly when she suffers a serious head injury. She awakes and does not remember him (and in fact thinks she’s still in a relationship with someone else). Her personality has changed. Yet he sticks by her because he made a vow, and in the end they’re happy together. The movie version isn’t really about the vow, it’s about “true love”. We have to push through because we had the real thing. I agree to an extent, but I just wanted it to be about commitment, not feelings. Still, a nice movie, if seeing Channing Tatum shirtless multiple times won’t make you think your husband’s a schlub.


16. Letters to Juliet

A young, idealistic girl discovers a letter left 50 years ago, and decides to answer it, putting in motion two lovers, long separated, finding each other again. In the meantime, she discovers things about herself, and explores what love really means. A cute movie, but again, it’s probably one best saved for girlfriends and not husbands.


17. Sabrina

It’s the girl from the wrong side of the tracks meets the uptight rich guy and helps him embrace life and not just business. I’ve combined votes for the two versions into one, though some really preferred the Harrison Ford one, and others preferred Hepburn I’m not certain that marriages based on opposites actually work in the long run that well (though they certainly can). Whichever, it’s a nice story. Not profound, but very, very nice.

18. While You Were Sleeping

Poor, lonely Lucy (Sandra Bullock) works at the subway, watching other people go by and lead their lives. And in her imagination, she’s going to marry Peter. When Peter is thrown in front of a train and Lucy rescues him, she’s mistaken for his fiancee and embraced by his family. When Peter awakes with amnesia, he starts to believe it, too. But in the meantime Lucy learns how to live in real life, and falls for Peter’s brother instead, whose character is immensely better. I liked this one a lot.

19. The Man from Snowy River

I’ve never seen this one either, but reading about it on Amazon has made me want to rush out and get it! Set in the 1880s in the sweeping Australian outback, the movie follows a young man with a way with horses trying to keep his family farm together. Apparently the romance in this is lovely, the acting perfect, and the cinematography gorgeous.


20. Somewhere in Time

I read this book and really loved it, and I know I saw the movie ages ago, but I don’t remember it. Now I’ll have to watch it again! Starring Christopher Reeve, it tells the story of a man in present day who falls in love with the picture of an actress from 1912. He figures out a way to transport himself back in time to meet her, where the attraction is mutual. But the slightest reminder of the modern world can send him back to the 1980s, so their relationship is always in jeopardy. A tear-jerker, apparently.


21. North and South (British version)

Okay, this one I can endorse wholeheartedly. It’s a British miniseries that tells the story of an earnest young woman, the daughter of a pastor who has been ostracized for stating his true beliefs. So they leave their idyllic home in the south to go to the industrial north, where she is thrown into the path of rich factory owners. Torn between her sympathy for the plight of the workers and the growth of her feelings for one particular rich dude, she has to make a choice. A very romantic ending, and an interesting look at social justice issues from the early days of the industrial revolution.


22. Love Story

This 1970s film follows law student Ryan O’Neal, who defies his family to marry musician Ali McGraw. But their marriage is destined to be short lived when illness strikes. You can’t get more tear jerker than this. For two decades this was THE romantic movie of all time, until people started to forget it. I’ve never actually seen it, either. Perhaps I’ll watch it, but it sounds just too sappy to me! UPDATE: A commenter said that it has the F word throughout, so you may want that warning!


23. Return to Me

Another one I haven’t seen, but after reading the reviews on Amazon I think I’ll have to. It’s billed as a comedy, and lots of people said it was hilarious, but the plot seems so SAD. A man in a great marriage loses his wife to an accident. At the same time, another woman (played by Minnie Driver) is about to die unless she gets a heart transplant. She received the heart, and then a year later the two meet (without knowing their connection). It’s on my list!


24. 50 First Dates

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler did so well together in The Wedding Singer that they were brought back for this movie, focusing on Barrymore’s character who has suffered a brain injury which means that each time she goes to sleep she loses all memory after her accident. She can only remember one day at a time, and every day she meets Sandler for the “first time”. It was cute, not profound. His pursuit of her is lovely, and the ending is satisfying.


25. Young Victoria

A wonderful movie about a real-life love story. Everyone is trying to control young Princess Victoria, for when she is queen, they all want power. Yet what Victoria really wants is to make her own decisions. Meanwhile, everyone is trying to control Prince Albert of Prussia, too, though he, too, yearns to be his own man. He’s sent to London to try to woo her, and ends up succeeding, though not for the reasons his family wants. A lovely story. If only the two have been together longer in real life, for she spent so long in mourning for him. A great movie to watch with your teens (especially girls), too.


26. Family Man

I cannot say enough good about this movie, either (I even featured it in this post!). Nicolas Cage plays a selfish jerk who has every material comfort and success. Then one day, an angel figure gives him a glimpse of what his life could have been like, had he chosen to marry his college sweetheart. He lives in a small house; he has a bad job; his clothes are ugly. Yet he has the love of a wonderful, faithful woman, and his kids are darling. In the end, that’s what he wants, and when he gets back to his “real” life he decides to pursue it. A great movie showing that what really matters in life is relationships, not success. Guys will like it, too (though there’s a rather scantily clad female at the beginning you may want to fast forward through).


27. Ghost

The ultimate in romance, supposedly. Patrick Swayze’s character dies, but is desperate to get a message back to his love Demi Moore, who is now in danger. He finds that he can channel himself through a reluctant Whoopi Goldberg. Honestly, I couldn’t get past the weird spiritual ramifications of this one. I think it’s dangerous to flirt with the paranormal. But this did resonate with many of my readers.


28. Beauty and the Beast

If a cartoon can be romantic, my readers think this one is it! I agree it’s good, but only if you see the relationship properly. We have too many “beauty and the beast” fantasies as women about how we can tame our beasts, and we forget that The Beast was tamed because he was accepted AS A BEAST. The acceptance allowed him to flower. It wasn’t that she loved the potential inside of him; it was that she loved him. A good lesson for us all.


29. Emma

Another Austen movie! Rich Emma doesn’t want to marry, but she loves making sure that those around her do, and so determines to find a proper husband for Harriett. Yet all goes wrong as she convinces Harriett to throw aside a perfectly good match and aim for something higher. In the meantime, Emma strains her relationship with her Mr. Knightley, whom she eventually does marry. What I love about the film is that it shows, Austen style, that character should always trump all other considerations when marriage is involved. Another great movie to watch with girlfriends, not to make your husband sit through.


30. Love Comes Softly

I loved these adaptations of the Janette Oke books. In the first movie, Marty (played by Kathleen Heigl) travels west with her husband in search of a new beginning. But when her husband dies in an accident, she finds herself alone and in trouble. Clark, a recent widower himself, suggests a platonic “marriage of convenience”. And predictably, their love deepens. It’s a very satisfying movie, and I enjoyed it immensely. Great to watch with kids, too.


31. Bridges of Madison County

Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep star in this movie asking what real love is. Meryl Streep’s marriage is loveless. She isn’t understood and isn’t cherished. Then one weekend, when her family is gone, she meets Clint, and they have a passionate, enthralling affair. At the end, she turns him away and chooses her family, but she never forgets him. Honestly, I have a hard time including this movie in the list, but I’m trying to be true to what my readers reported. This is a dangerous one to see. Is it romantic? Some may say so. But it’s about an affair, and any woman who has ever felt dissatisfied in her marriage could easily watch this and just yearn for that time away from her husband, where she could briefly live another life. I think it’s better to spend our emotions trying to make our marriages more romantic, rather than dreaming of something better.

UPDATE: I’m not sure I made my reservations about this movie firm enough, so I’m going to take another stab at it. The problem with this movie is that it makes an affair SEEM romantic. Affairs wreck marriages, tear families apart, and haunt children forever. It is NEVER worth it. And I’m a little disappointed that so many of my readers voted for this one. The love story in it IS enticing, but honestly, we should know better.


32. Anne of Green Gables

I’m Canadian, so how could I not agree? A great series, and a lovely story, based on the best children’s book of all time. :) If you haven’t watched it with your kids, do it! There are three Anne of Green Gables installments; the first one is her childhood (great for kids); the second is the romantic one. And the third? Well, the directors and writers lost their minds with the third and wrecked it. Just watch the first two and you’ll be fine.


33. The Proposal

The classic opposites attract movie. She’s uptight and emotionally repressed; he’s from a close-knit family and is remarkably stable. But she’s the boss. When she needs a marriage of convenience to avoid deportation, she blackmails him into marriage. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds are both great in this, and it’s a FUN movie. The end scene back in the office always makes me want to jump my husband. But it treats marriage far too lightly, and forgets that it is a commitment. Everyone does everything backwards here. So see it for fun if you want, but don’t try to glean any great truths out of it.


34. The Magic of Ordinary Days

Never heard of this movie until it made the list, but now I have to see it! It’s “clean”; no bad language or elicit scenes. But a young girl makes a mistake and winds up pregnant during World War II. Her parents insist that she won’t bear a child out of wedlock, so she marries a reserved, shy farmer. Love apparently develops. Sounds lovely. I like the whole premise–that too often we are looking for wild passion, when it is the loveliness of ordinary days, with ordinary love, that ends up being so extraordinary.

35. Last of the Mohicans

Is this actually romantic? I don’t remember. I just remember a lot of violence, but I saw it so long ago. Apparently my readers think it’s romantic, though! Maybe this is a good date night movie, then, since the action will satisfy the men, too.


36. Gone with the Wind

“Frankly, Scarlett…” this is just too cheesy for me! And I think I didn’t like it because Scarlett is so unlikable. She marries the wrong people. She hurts those she loves. She’s just so selfish. But I think the reason the story works is that in Rhett she finally meets her match. She finally finds a man who will stand up to her. In the end, though, she can’t keep him. It’s great to see from a historical standpoint, just to watch what they thought was entertainment and romance back in the 1930s.


37. When Harry Met Sally

The only thing people remember about the movie is that ONE SCENE that made Meg Ryan famous. I wracked my brain trying to remember the rest of the movie to figure out something to say. So here goes. What I like: it shows how the deepest love usually grows out of an enduring friendship. Sometimes we focus too much on wanting to be “swept away” that we miss the decent guy that’s right in front of us. A good lesson.


38. Music and Lyrics

Another Drew Barrymore one–this time pairing her with Hugh Grant (who really is too old for her), which I never thought worked. Hugh Grant’s character had one hit song back in the 1980s, and now he needs a comeback. So together poet Drew and songwriter Hugh try to come up with a hit song. A cute movie, though I didn’t think much of it at the time. The absolute BEST part of it, though, that I will never forget, is the “mock” 1980s song they created to have been the hit. They even made a video, and my girls and I STILL sing it all the time because it is just so bad (and I don’t know how they managed to encapsulate all the badness of 1980s videos so well). Honestly, even if you don’t see the movie, watch the video. I laugh so hard I almost pee every time:


39. Something’s Gotta Give

Here’s a romantic comedy for those who aren’t 20. Jack Nicholson’s character has always dated younger women. Diane Keaton’s character is sure that she is past the age of romance. And you can guess where this one goes. It’s cleverer than most movies, and it doesn’t pander to the young. Still, it doesn’t focus on traditional values at all, so if you’re offended by that, here’s your warning.


40. As Good As it Gets

Another Jack Nicholson offering. In this one, he’s a romantic novelist of all things, but in real life he’s mean and he’s suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder–truly suffering from it. His relationship with his gay neighbour and a down-on-her-luck waitress (Helen Hunt) start to personalize him and help him step outside of himself.

I remember liking this as a movie but not as a romance, because Hunt was too young for him, and I always thought he didn’t deserve her.


41. Bed of Roses

Few people have seen this, but I really loved it. It answers the question: can love and marriage heal a person? Christian Slater is very together. He’s relatively wealthy, he has a great family, he’s stable. But he’s lonely. Mary Stuart Masterson is successful but highly screwed up, stemming from a tragic, abusive childhood. She tries to keep everything under control, and doesn’t understand romance. Slater falls deeply in love and pursues her. In so doing, she gets scared and runs away. In the end, what the movie shows is that love CAN heal, but only if you enter the relationship strong. If you’re too needy, love can’t make up for the hole in your heart (and, as I believe, only God can). But it’s a beautiful story of how we really aren’t designed to be alone.


42. Sweet Home Alabama

Reese Witherspoon’s character has a problem. She’s rich, she’s successful, and her even more successful boyfriend wants to marry her. But many years ago, back home in Alabama, she was married. And they never technically divorced. So now, before she can marry the boyfriend, she has to confront her past (and her ex) and get him to sign divorce papers. At the same time, she has to juggle a false identity she’s been parading to her New York friends. Guess what happens? (yeah, it’s kind of predictable). A highly satisfying movie, if a little forgettable.


43. Persuasion

The last Austen movie to make the list! This is actually the most romantic Austen book, though the movie isn’t as high calibre as the others on the list. A decade ago Anne refused the hand of Frederick because he wasn’t wealthy, and she was persuaded by an older, female mentor to wait for a more eligible match. Ten years have gone by and she has never gotten over her love, and never had another offer. She has withered away, and lost her beauty. Frederick, meanwhile, has made his fortune and he returns home. And now she has to watch him court other women. Will they ever find each other again? (Yeah, you probably know the answer to that one). Incidentally, they think this was the most autobiographical of Austen’s books. She likely was persuaded against a marriage early in her life, and she never received another offer.


44. Hope Floats

In a story that mirrors Sandra Bullock’s real life a little too much, Bullock’s character discovers that her husband is cheating on her when he reveals it on a national talk show. She heads back to her mother’s home in Texas to lick her wounds, where she meets a guy (Harry Connick Jr. ) who has held a torch for her since high school. Another feel good movie that is a tad forgettable, but fun at the time.


45. Shall We Dance

Okay, I really liked this movie because of what DIDN’T happen. Richard Gere’s character needs something more in his life, and when he keeps passing a dance studio on his way to work, he decides to stop in and start taking lessons. Jennifer Lopez’ character is the teacher, and the two develop an obvious attraction. As he gets better at dancing he’s in demand as a partner, and his wife (Susan Sarandon) starts to worry he’s having an affair. But he never does. And in the end, he asks her to dance. From that movie is one of my favourite clips of all time, that I included in yesterday’s post. But I think what it teaches us is that all marriages get into ruts. Gere wanted to pull his out, but he did it alone. If he had talked to his wife first, and involved her, they would have been so much happier. Ruts aren’t the problem; how we deal with them are the problem.


46. Lake House

Another movie I haven’t seen, but it looks intriguing. Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves team up again after the success of Speed for this romance. Reeves moves into a glass house on a lake, and starts corresponding through the mailbox with a former tenant (Bullock). But soon they discover that they’re actually living two years apart. Sounds like a cool time travel movie.


47. Far and Away

Want to watch Tom Cruise before he went nuts? Here’s your chance, in this epic movie sweeping across Ireland, New York immigrant communities, and the race for land in Oklahoma. It’s another opposites attract movie: Cruise is a scrapping Irish tenant farmer; Nicole Kidman is an aristocratic Protestant. Thrown together in New York they pretend to be siblings, but eventually something deeper grows. It shows the underside of early New York so well, and shows the desperation, and the hard work, that went in to building North America.


48. My Big, Fat Greek Wedding

Don’t watch this one without a bottle of Windex handy. Oh, my goodness, what a fun movie. Guys will love it, too! And it’s a great portrayal of how we can both decide who we want to be, and keep those roots with our families, too. Toula has always been embarrassed by her big loud Greek family, and yearns for a different life. But when she starts dating Ian, who comes from a staid, WASP family, she finds that she loves her family after all, and there really is room for all.


49. Notting Hill

The only Julia Roberts film to make the list, which is interesting since she’s usually considered the queen of romance! In this film, she’s a famous movie star, and Hugh Grant plays a boring bookstore owner. A chance encounter leads to a brief affair. And when Roberts needs to escape the paparazzi, she turns to Grant. But is he willing to live in her kind of life? I thought the portrayal of Grant’s friends and family were lovely in this movie, though I wasn’t overly fond of their romance. It was focused too much on sex. And it seemed they were both looking for an escape from their lives, not really for each other, and I don’t think that reason for marriage bodes well in the long run.


50. Shakespeare in Love

If you can fast forward through the graphic sex scenes (that show Gwyneth Paltrow naked) and live with the fact that William Shakespeare was actually having an affair, this is a great movie and definitely deserved its Oscars. I’d see it not as a romance but as a historical movie, because I think it raises some interesting historical possibilities. What was the story behind Romeo and Juliet? Was there more to Shakespeare’s subsequent plays than we think? In this movie, Paltrow wants so badly to be an actor, but she’s a woman. So she dresses up as a man, and is hired to play Romeo. Shakespeare discovers Paltrow is really a girl, and the two start an affair. But Paltrow can’t escape her family obligations to marry a complete lout, and so she does, knowing she’ll be miserable. Great performances by all, including Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Affleck and Judy Dench. But seriously, fast forward through the sex scenes. :)

So that’s what you all picked! Thank you for your votes. I’d like to add one more movie, just another feel good one, that sums up my attitude towards romances, and it’s The Wedding Singer. It’s hilarious as a look back at the 80s, and Sandler and Barrymore are great. But one thing I really liked about it was the central message that when you’re choosing a mate, you’d better look at character. Don’t get married for the sake of getting married; really look at WHO you’re marrying. The most romantic movies will have that as their main theme! So I’ll let Sandler have the last word:

Sheila is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.

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Romance in the Movies: What Does it Teach Us?

Images sourced from VUE Cinemas

Images sourced from VUE Cinemas

I asked on my Facebook page recently, “what, in your opinion, is the most romantic movie?” I needed to do a survey for an upcoming speaking engagement, so I was taking votes. The response was overwhelming!

We women love our chick flicks!
My daughters and I have the whole five hour version of Pride and Prejudice memorized (comes in handy for long car trips.)

Whenever I comment on movies on this blog, though, inevitably some commenters say “you shouldn’t watch movies”. I understand. There certainly are some movies I won’t watch. But movies are a way of telling a story, and a story can resonate in a way that mere words can’t. That means that movies certainly can be dangerous, since they can get under the skin and wiggle where we don’t want certain ideas. But they can also uplift, and inspire, and touch us in a way little else can.

Take the best answer to the question “what, in your opinion, is the most romantic movie”? One woman said, “the first 8 minutes of the movie Up.” I completely agree! I have never seen such a beautiful portrayal of love and marriage as Pixar did in that 8 minutes. I think everybody should have to watch that when they’re considering getting married. Marriage is for the long haul; it’s not about marrying the person you love when you’re young; it’s about marrying the person you want to grow old with. How special! And a movie in 8 minutes could do that; words alone could not. Movies can be wonderful vehicles of portraying real relationship truths.

Now movies and romance novels have a definite downside: they can make us wish so much for a hero like THAT GUY that our husbands never measure up. But at the same time, movies can also inspire.

Vue Cinemas has a great roundup of what relationship lessons different “chick flick” movies teach us. It got me thinking: what relationship lessons have I seen in movies lately? I’d like to follow Vue Cinema’s example here and list some of the better ones that have to do with marriage:

Date Night.

Rip roariously funny, but the reason I loved it so much was how it focused on what marriage is like in real life. The scene where she had just put her mouth guard in and so he realizes they’re not going to have sex had my husband laughing so hard I thought he’d pass out. That’s what marriage is like! And then the conversations they have about her being a control freak, and her never letting him do anything around the house were so perfect. They showed how often we women feel put upon, but sometimes we’re doing it to ourselves.

The make up scene at the end, when they have pancakes together, was just lovely. There is a scene in a strip joint (though it’s far funnier than sexy), but I have rarely seen a movie which so accurately depicts marriage, and shows how a couple who has disconnected can learn to connect again.

Lesson: Don’t settle for boring in your marriage. Keep it fun not out of habit but because you truly do love each other. So make time, talk, and don’t give up.

Crazy, Stupid Love.

I guess I just like Steve Carrell, but I was so impressed with this movie. I thought I’d hate it for the first 45 minutes, because it’s all about a younger, cooler guy (Ryan Gosling) teaching an older, just dumped guy (Steve Carrell) how to attract women for anonymous encounters. It seemed so shallow. But the ending is really satisfying (and comes with a twist my husband and I never saw coming). Both Gosling’s character and Carrell’s ex-wife realize that commitment and stability are actually far sexier than living an empty life, a lesson that Carrell knew all along.

The movie is far from perfect. There’s too much sex outside of marriage, and the teenage thread was kinda gross. But honestly, it’s great to see a movie that depicts getting divorced as a destructive, selfish thing, and getting and staying married as a higher calling. I’m not saying everyone should see it, but I am grateful it was made. It’s an important voice in this culture.

Lesson: If you want to live a happy, fulfilling life, commit to one person forever, and don’t give up. Having multiple partners is far emptier than having one who loves you–that you love in return.

Hope Springs.

I’ve written about this one before, too, and I just loved it. Again, you can pick apart little bits of this movie–it shows Meryl Streep doing something rather inappropriate–but it’s so marriage affirming. (Oh, wow, I just realized this one had Steve Carrell, too! I guess he’s on a roll. Does he have a great marriage himself or something?). An older couple (Streep and husband Tommy Lee Jones) have grown apart. They sleep in separate bedrooms. They never really communicate. The marriage has grown cold.

And in desperation doormat Streep informs her husband that they are going for counseling or they are splitting up.

Much of the counseling revolves around sex, and not real issues of communcation, etc., but again, it’s a story of a marriage grown cold that is resurrected because the couple decides to push through their problems and not give up.

Lesson: Never stop communicating. Keep talking, and keep making love. Be spontaneous. If you’re in a rut, fight to get out!

It’s Complicated.

Another movie with Streep! In this one, she was dumped several years ago when husband Alec Baldwin divorced her for a younger woman. Now she feels unattractive, but she’s slowly coming into her own again. And when she does that, Baldwin, who finds that life with a younger wife is distinctly unsatisfying, wants the marriage back. But now Streep has realized that life can be bigger than Baldwin. What will she choose?

Again, many will find the movie has some parts you wish they had left out. But the overall message is great.

Lesson: Stick with the wife of your youth, and you’ll be happy. Mess it up, and you’ll regret it.

I’m glad they’re making movies like these. Sure, it would be nice if those movies didn’t have objectionable scenes, but in our culture which is so anti-marriage, I love it when popular movies come out that the general public will see (Fireproof is great, but most people won’t see it) that also praise marriage.

And then, of course, there’s my favourite marriage movie clip of all time, from Shall We Dance:

Do you notice a common thread in those movies that I like, though? The couples are already married (or recently divorced). They’re not movies about finding the one you love and marrying; they’re movies about dealing with the day-to-day of life and marriage.

Hollywood does a better job with marriage movies than with traditional chick flicks.

With traditional chick flicks, as fun as they may be, I fear that the wrong message is given. I’m in the middle of reading Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Search about how to choose a mate (and I’m LOVING it! I’ll be talking about it soon), and one of his big warnings is don’t get married just based on infatuation. Don’t let feelings be your deciding factor in choosing your mate for life. This whole idea that if you find that “one” person you’ll feel complete and you’ll never have any trouble is a big lie (and entirely unbiblical). Marriage is about commitment, not feelings. We need to think it through and choose wisely.

That’s why I love Pride & Prejudice. Elizabeth originally has an infatuation with Wickham, but when she examines his character the infatuation disintegrates. At the same time, she originally dislikes Darcy. But when she examines HIS character, love grows. She doesn’t “fall in love”; she makes a choice.

Author Jane Austen showed this even more vividly in Sense & Sensibility, whose whole theme is that romantic infatuation is immature; mature love requires choice and belief in character. Austen shows a contrast between Marianne and Willoughby and Edward and Lucy on the one hand, and Marianne and Brandon and Elinor and Edward on the other. Character wins; infatuation loses.

Movies where people are drawn to each other, and end up together because they’re “swept away” give us an unrealistic picture of love and marriage. That’s a good conversation starter when you’re watching movies with your teens:  Is that match really a good idea? Can you see them together in ten years? Do you think love is enough? Because in most movies it’s not.

If we started believing the lessons of the “marriage” movies, instead of of the “love” movies, and teaching these lessons to our kids, perhaps we’d end up with stronger marriages in the end.

Let It Go: Losing the Control Freak Inside You

There’s a great scene in the movie Date Night where the married couple, Phil and Claire Foster, played by Steve Carell and Tina Fey, are fighting in the car. Tina Fey’s character explains that she is just so tired, and the only fantasies she really entertains are of checking into a hotel and sipping a Diet Sprite all by herself, with no one to hang off of her. Because all day, everyday, she does laundry, she cleans the house, she gets the kids ready for school, she goes to work, she makes dinner, she gets the kids ready for bed (It’s always a surprise that we have to actually put on pyjamas!), and then she starts all over again. And she’s exhausted.
Steve Carell isn’t really that sympathetic.

“I know you have a lot on your plate, but part of the reason is because you never let me share the load. You have to do everything. You should let me do things sometimes. I might surprise you.”

I think there’s a little bit of Tina Fey in all of us moms. We’re control freaks, and we do run ourselves ragged because we so much want our kids’ lives, and our husband’s life, and the lives of those around us to go well. We have this dream of what things should look like, and we run after that dream, full speed ahead.

Karen Ehman knows what that’s like. I had the privilege of reading an early copy of Karen Ehman’s amazing new book, Let It Go. When she sent the email out asking if anyone of us were interested in taking a look, I jumped at the chance (though I often say no to other such requests) because I knew I needed this. I suffer from major control-freak tendencies.

Do you?

Karen starts the book by recounting a time when she was completely OUT of control. Pregnant with her third child, she suffered horrible nausea all day and was laid out flat. Teens from the church came to clean her house, and instead of feeling grateful, she felt physically ill–even more so than she did before! Can you relate? Do you have a hard time when you CAN’T control things?

She realized what the heart of the matter was: the realization that she was dispensable, and that when she wasn’t in control, she couldn’t get her own way.

We try to control in a myriad of ways: we’re passive aggressive, steering things the way we want them to go. We cover up for everyone’s faults or mistakes. Or we become the drill sergeant, trying to get everyone to fall into line.

But no matter which way you manifest your control freak tendencies, the root cause is the same: if you’re trying to run things, then you’re not trusting God. And seriously, trying to be in control is tiring.

Honestly, though, I’ve read lots of books that say “you just need to trust God more”. It’s a common message, and to tell you the truth, if I can say this without getting blasphemous, sometimes the books bug me. I’m not always certain the author really understands where I’m coming from. I KNOW the answer is that we’ve got to trust God more. Seriously, that’s the answer to just about EVERY problem in our lives. That’s the central issue of humanity. The problem is not that I don’t know I need to trust God more; the problem is that I can’t seem to do it.

And that’s where I found Karen’s book refreshing, because she was sympathetic about why we are the way we are, and she gave some great insights into some of the reasons that we as women have these control freak tendencies. I really enjoyed her section, for instance, on the problems of choice. One of the reasons that things are harder today is simply that we do have so many more choices. We’ve lost simplicity.

And because of that we have the illusion of happiness–a favourite theme of mine when I speak. Because we have so many choices, it naturally follows that if we just make the right ones we’ll be happy. And thus we get all wrapped up in choosing the right things. It was much easier when your choices about work, and childcare, and even what you were going to make for dinner were much more limited. We have the problem of excess.

The book is easy to read, peppered with one-liners. There are exercises at the end of each chapter to help you figure out where you’re at.

I want to leave you with one example of an error that she feels many moms make, and then tell you the three personal takeaways I had from the book.

Take Micromanaging Mama: Does that describe you? You give the child dishes to do, and you focus on the fact that they’re doing it WRONG because they aren’t doing it the way you do. I loved this example of a different way to handle it:

Say to him, “I love how you make chores fun. I wish I were more like you.” And then, at a different time, teach him when YOU’RE doing the dishes why you wash the glasses first and not the pots.

What Karen eventually realized was the Two Plus Two Equals Four lesson:

“I just tell mysef, two plus two equals four. three plus one equals four. Seven minus three equals four.”

They all get to four. They just get there differently! I needed to hear that today.

Here, then, are three quick lessons I learned, that perhaps you need to hear today, too.

1. Giving up control should feel foreign. I think many times I’ve believed that I’ve relinquished control when all I’ve really done is put a smile on my face and tried to be nicer. If it doesn’t feel foreign, it wasn’t real.

2. Second, I do emotionally manipulate my family without realizing it. I’m great at guilt.

3. And third, I have a hard time accepting Keith’s love for me because at heart I’m too busy trying to be in control to settle down and just let him love on me, so to speak. I’m always thinking about what I SHOULD be doing.

I need that Steve Carell lesson.

What about you?

Let. It. Go is a great book which is also available as a DVD study. You can find Karen at www.karenehman.com. Karen is doing a blog tour with her book which is almost wrapping up, and one person who comments during this blog tour is going to win a Kindle Fire! So leave a comment explaining why you have a problem with being a control freak (or how you conquered it) to enter to win.

Wifey Wednesday: 7 Ways Hollywood Messes Up Our Sex Lives

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts, or leave a comment on this one!

7 Ways Hollywood Messes Up Your Sex Life (and how to get a new perspective!) #marriageToday I want to tackle a pet peeve of mine: Hollywood. I firmly believe that movies & TV have done more to wreck people’s sex lives than just about anything else. They set up unrealistic expectations, portray sex as something totally devoid of reality, and miss out on the whole reason behind intimacy. Even romantic movies, which seem so sweet, can wreak havoc.

So here goes: the 7 ways that Hollywood Messes up our Sex Lives.

1. The Couple Always Reaches the Big “O” Simultaneously

No one ever struggles with making sex feel good. From the very first time (in movies like The Notebook), women experience absolute bliss. And the bliss is perfectly timed, too! There’s no “making sure she feels good” first. There’s no struggling with how to reach the Big “O” at all! It’s just absolutely easy and natural.

What We Feel: No wonder so many new brides feel like there’s something wrong with their bodies! Look, ladies: most women do not experience simultaneous orgasm. They don’t. That’s not to say it isn’t possible; it’s just that it’s not terribly common. And in my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, only about 60% of women “usually” or “always” experienced orgasm during intercourse at all. Most of the rest reached it some other way, and that’s perfectly fine.

It’s great to aim for the stars, and here’s a post that can help you do that. But you are not a freak if things don’t come easily!

2. She Looks Like a Supermodel

Did you know that forensic scientists are always drop dead gorgeous? And they show up to work in heels and with a ton of mascara. I obviously chose the wrong profession.

Everybody in Hollywood looks perfect. You wouldn’t be in Hollywood if you didn’t look perfect! But look around at the people that you know in real life. We aren’t that beautiful a bunch. Most of us are just pretty normal.

What We Feel: It’s easy to think that you can’t be sexy if you have a tummy at all. Have you ever looked down at yourself post-baby and just thought, “I’m ugly now”? Most of us have, because most of us have tummies. That’s because we’re WOMEN. Hollywood tells us that flawless is sexy, and so it’s easy to believe that if we have flaws, we therefore aren’t sexy. And when we don’t feel sexy, we often shut down. Don’t let Hollywood shut you down! Hollywood’s not worth it.

3. The Women Always Have Libidos Through the Roof

Women want sex. All the time. They want it just as much as men do. We have whole shows dedicated to this: Sex and the City, Jersey Shore.

What We Feel: Watch this long enough, and many women start to worry that they’re frigid. If you’re not panting and on the prowl, are you therefore undersexed? Nope. Most women’s desire and arousal doesn’t actually kick in until you’ve started to make love. While some women have really high sex drives, many women just don’t. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy making love anyway! If you throw yourself into it, and believe your body will follow, it likely will.

If, on the other hand, you believe Hollywood and you’re waiting until you’re completely turned on to have sex, you may be waiting a long time.

4. The Men Always Have Libidos Through the Roof

Men are sex obsessed. Every man is thinking about sex all the time. Whether it’s the nerds in The Big Bang Theory or the detectives in Law & Order, they’re all out to “get some”.

What We Feel: About 30% of women have the higher sex drive in their marriages. And if you’re that woman, it’s easy to figure, “I must be really, really undesirable.” Because every other guy is sex obsessed except for mine!

But what if it’s not true? What if not every guy IS sex obsessed? Then perhaps we wouldn’t feel so rejected. If you are in this situation, this post can help. But rest assured that you are not alone!

5. Porn is Fun! (Not!)

When characters on sitcoms watch porn, it’s usually something to laugh about. Sometimes couples watch it together, in the hopes of getting aroused together. Or the guys watch porn on poker night. It’s just a natural part of life.

What We Feel: Then, when your husband watches porn and tells you “everybody does it”, you wonder, “am I a prude for thinking this is wrong?” And porn wrecks marriages. Porn isn’t harmless. It causes us to fantasize, to dissociate, to not be able to get aroused by a person but only an image. It causes people to turn to porn instead of each other, and soon takes away desire for your spouse almost entirely. It’s selfish. It’s evil. And it’s exploitative. A marriage will steadily go downhill if one or both partners watch porn.

If you want to get a handle on porn in your marriage, and protect your kids in the process, Covenant Eyes is a great resource. Use the code TLHV to get your first month free!

6. Marriage is Boring

Back in the 1990s my husband and I used to watch Friends. I thought Chandler was just hilarious. But one night, after a particularly raunchy episode, we realized we were essentially watching a show about people jumping into bed with one another. And we stopped.

In Hollywood, the hottest sex scenes usually occur the FIRST time a couple falls into bed. It’s that conquest that makes it so arousing. And so most shows revolve around winning a new person to go to bed with. Marriage, where you past that “first” time decades ago, is awfully boring.

What We Feel: Sex needs to be new, and fresh, and exciting! And marriage is the opposite of all of that. We start to feel like we’re missing out on something, and that all we have is the boring leftovers. The reason we’re not satisfied, we think, must be because we’re with the same partner who doesn’t know how to turn us on. In reality, though, the best sex is between married people–and not even newlyweds! I found that the best years for sex in marriage were between years 16-20. So practice is actually far sexier than conquests!

7. Foreplay is Unnecessary

Most women require a LOT of foreplay to become aroused enough to enjoy making love. Many women require a lot of touching to even reach climax. But on the screen, people grope and kiss and within less than two minutes the clothes are off and the bodies are joined. No one ever gropes around to find just the right body parts to caress. No one ever has to ask, “is this the place?” They automatically know, and everybody automatically feels amazing.

What We Feel: If simply ripping clothes off isn’t enough to arouse us, then we start to wonder if there’s something wrong. And we feel weird and uncomfortable asking our husbands for more foreplay, because it honestly looks like NO ONE ELSE NEEDS IT. We’re the freaks. And you start to think everyone else must be way more sexually responsive than you are, because two minutes of groping does nothing for you.

I can think of tons of other unrealistic portrayals–no one ever has morning breath, no one ever goes to the bathroom afterwards, no one ever is freezing so they have to wear flannel.

But these ones about marriage being boring, porn being arousing, men wanting it all the time, and women responding easily and rapidly really distort how sex works for most people. And it distorts how God made sex to work! You were made so that your body takes longer to heat up. You were made so that in order for sex to feel good for both of you, you have to have a lot of communication. You have to know each other well. You have to be able to be vulnerable. And it isn’t automatic, and that’s perfectly okay.

It is not you that’s messed up; it’s Hollywood! So don’t take it as the baseline for what your sex life should be. And don’t worry what other people are experiencing, either! What matters is what you and your husband manage to work at together. If you’re happy, that’s great. And if you’re not happy, the answer likely isn’t to try to emulate Hollywood. It’s just to get to know yourself better, know your husband better, and understand how and why God created sex.

Oh, and by the way: RELAX!

Sheila is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, which helps you experience awesome sex–without Hollywood’s Lies!

Now, what do you have for us today? Link up a marriage post to the Linky below, or leave a comment and tell me: What lie that Hollywood tells do you find the most dangerous?

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Too Many Children Live in Chaos

'Dylan asleep on his feet' photo (c) 2007, Brian Fitzgerald - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/In all of the news coverage of the Colorado shooting, one particular story stopped most of us in our tracks. One of the victims was a 6-year-old girl. What was a 6-year-old girl doing at a midnight showing of a rather creepy, violent movie?

I felt horribly guilty as soon as the thought entered my brain, because no one deserves to be shot just because they’re at a movie at midnight. We should live in a society where we aren’t shot just because we’re out late. And the only one to blame that this child is dead is the shooter (whom I will not glorify by mentioning his name), not the mom. I do not believe that the mom is any more to blame for her daughter dying than the parents of the Columbine students are to blame for their kids dying. We should have an expectation that we are free from homicidal maniacs when we go about regular life.

Nevertheless, until that news story it didn’t really occur to me that people actually do take 6-year-olds to movie theatres to watch violent adult movies at midnight. (And while I’m writing this soon after the event, I’m going to schedule it for later because I don’t want to rub salt in wounds, and to me the issue really isn’t the shooting; it’s the movies. I so wish that the news story instead had been: “Theatre gives out a new car to a random twelve people at the midnight premiere, one of whom was a 6-year-old girl”, so we could be discussing this in a different context–and, of course, because then there wouldn’t have been a shooting).

All of this reminds me of a trip my teenaged daughters and I took to Toronto last month, where we stopped off at McDonald’s at 10:30 at night before heading home. I had been delivering one of my Girl Talk events at a Scarborough Church, and we headed into a McDonald’s in a rather sketchy part of town. As soon as we stepped into the restaurant I could tell something was strange, but it didn’t occur to me what it was until my oldest daughter whispered, “what’s with all the strollers?” And sure enough, every second person in that McDonald’s had a child under five with them. At 10:30 at night. What is going on?

I have a friend who is a foster parent, and one of the hardest parts of adjustment that many kids have to care is schedules. So many of them do not have bedtimes. They don’t have naptimes, or mealtimes, or just about any kind of a schedule. And once they’re on a schedule, their behaviour calms down, they become happier, and much more obedient. Kids like structure.

On the whole, it is as if our culture has forgotten what is child-appropriate. I don’t think it’s ever appropriate for a 6-year-old to be at a movie at midnight, even if it were Finding Nemo or something. A 6-year-old should be sleeping. Even on their birthday! You can make a big deal out of a child during regular waking hours. I remember as a child what a big deal it was to be allowed to stay up an hour past my bedtime. My mother kept a very good eye on the clock, and bedtime was bedtime. Perhaps it was because she was a single mother and really needed to guard her own time, or perhaps she was just a good mom. But when it was time for bed, I went.

And in general, I didn’t mind, because when I was tired I wanted to sleep. I think that’s true for most of us. It really isn’t that fun to be up when you’re tired. You get grumpy. You whine. You find every little thing bothers you. And I think this is just as true for little kids (and don’t we all know little children who have meltdowns when they’re tired).

Children need structure.

But children also need to be protected, and taking them to adult movies isn’t protecting them.

I think that as people’s lives have become more chaotic, it has become harder to create a protective environment for kids. When adults don’t have structure in their own relationships, it’s hard to give children structure in their day to day lives. And then it becomes easier and easier to bend the boundaries and say, “there really is nothing sacred about being a child. A child can see anything an adult can see.”

Personally, I believe proper sheltering is a good thing. We should teach kids life skills and independence and responsibility, but we shouldn’t expose them to evil or sex when they’re children. That’s why they’re kids!

But I don’t think we’re going to get back to stable parenting with structure until we also get back to a stable family. Half of all births to women under 30 are now to single mothers. That’s a problem. That’s not to say that single moms can’t do a good job–mine sure did–but it’s not good for society as a whole. And it will lead to more chaos.

So what do you think? Do you find children are up later than they were when you were a kid? And what can we do about it?

The Christian View of Marriage Does Matter

Christian View of Marriage

The Christian view of marriage is often frowned upon in the media today.

And so I’m often pleasantly surprised when I see at least some Christian values–like monogamy and fidelity–really promoted.

My husband and I don’t get any channels on our TV, but we do use it to watch movies. Unfortunately, lately the pickings have been rather slim. But a few weeks ago we watched a movie I really enjoyed: Crazy, Stupid Love, made by the same people who brought you Date Night.

Now, a warning: this movie is NOT clean. But the message is awfully good, and that’s what I appreciated. It showed how being selfish wrecks relationships (the wife leaves the husband for basically no reason, because she feels too tied down), and it shows how the hooking up culture is completely empty. It’s an indictment of our society, and once again, the monogamous, committed lifestyle is shown to be a far superior route to happiness than anything else.

I’ve noticed this in a number of movies lately. No Strings Attached (terrible movie, don’t see it) said the same thing: two people start by just hooking up, and then eventually realize that’s not enough. They need more. In fact, most romantic c.omedies today fall under that basic plotline: they “get together”, and only afterwards do they realize they actually want to be together.

In other words, as much as our culture might boast that it has found bliss in commitment-free sex, that’s not what people actually long for.

They may be doing it, but it’s just bringing emptiness. What people really want is intimacy, when someone actually knows you, inside and out, and still wants to be with you. They want someone who you can share your whole life with, and not just your body. They want someone who will stick by you, who will care, who will be a “witness to your life”. And isn’t that what marriage is supposed to be?

Over the last week, this blog has received a ton of incoming links from websites that are basically mocking the Christian viewpoint towards marriage that I’ve been writing about for years. I won’t share what posts they’re going to, because it doesn’t really matter. But they’re arriving here to laugh at the Christian view of marriage, and the Christian attitude towards sex and commitment. And they’re arriving here in huge numbers (seriously, I’ve had more visitors in the last 6 days than I did all summer).

In a way, it’s been a blessing, because with all the incoming links and traffic my search engine rankings have gone up quite substantially. And while many people are being sent here by those laughing at our viewpoint, I’ve received a ton of new likes and new fans, so not all are hating what they see.
To Love, Honor and Vacuum
But I thought it may be worth writing a post reiterating the Christian view of marriage and telling, once again, the story of this blog.

My first book was called To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. It was written to help those women who just felt like marriage and motherhood had become a job, and they wanted to find the joy and happiness in relationship again. For years that’s mostly what I wrote about here: marriage and motherhood.

That’s still my focus, but over the last year I’ve written a lot more about sex, largely because of my new book, The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, that’s coming out this winter. (Update: It’s out now! Find out more here.) And so I changed the tagline of the blog to reflect my new emphasis on marriage. It doesn’t mean I think women are signing up to vacuum, by the way!

Good Girls Guide My SiteBut because I write so much about sex, a lot of people are finding me by searching for weird terms in search engines. They want to laugh at strange Christians, who are so uptight that they don’t even know how to have fun in bed.

And that’s where I feel sorry for people, because as much as they may think Christians are boring, the truth is that we’re having more fun. In the largest scale studies of relationships ever done, Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite found that married people had better sex than any other category of relationship, including cohabiting couples. Cohabiting couples had more frequent sex, but they didn’t enjoy it as much. Marriage matters.

It matters because it’s only in a truly committed relationship that you can experience real intimacy, and that’s what sex is supposed to be. It’s not just an amazing physical experience–though it is that. It’s also a bond that forms a deep spiritual and emotional connection. And you can’t have that unless you also have commitment. What makes sex so great is that it’s intimacy on every level; but if you can’t have true emotional intimacy, then you’ll never experience all that sex has to offer. And that’s why married people have better sex!

So people can laugh at the Christian viewpoint that not everything goes when it comes to sex, but that’s because we’re looking for intimacy, not just orgasm.

And orgasm, by the way, is much more intense when intimacy is present (which is also why married women are more likely to reach orgasm). In the surveys I took for my book, too, the people who were most likely to orgasm during sex, and who rated their sex life as the best, were those who were married and had been virgins when they married.

The Christian view of sex actually gives you great sex.

And one other thing: the best sex seems to be had by those who are married from between 16-24 years (I’m in this category! Woo hoo!). Why? Because you’ve had years to perfect it, and you’ve had years together to know that this person is sticking around. Those one night stands are not nearly as fulfilling.

Now, these are statistics. Anyone can beat a statistic. So you could be reading this thinking, “well, I have amazing sex and I’m not married, so you don’t know what you’re talking about!”. Statistics tell us nothing about you individually. They tell us about us as groups. They tell the general, the average, the trend. And in general, those in committed marriages are happier, healthier, wealthier, and far more sexually satisfied. And their kids do better, too. You can assume that you’ll always beat the statistic, but do you really want to take the risk?

So people can laugh all they want at my efforts to try to help us have a truly intimate sex life, but I’m afraid that the more you laugh, the more  you’ll miss out on something so amazing.

There really is more out there than just hooking up. Orgasm is actually better when you’re with someone that you truly know, and truly love, who loves you back. Movies know that. Our culture may like to pretend it’s not true, but deep inside we know it is. And so I won’t apologize for what I write; I’ll just keep talking, and if I get a ton of traffic of people who want to laugh, that’s fine, because, from the stats I can see, it looks like some of those people are actually listening, and thinking, and considering what I have to say. And for that I’m grateful.

If you’re a regular reader, what do you think about the importance of intimacy? Let me know!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

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Your Movie Translator

'Can't get enough of those zany American Pie kids.' photo (c) 2004, redjar - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here’s this week’s!

I am extremely disenchanted whenever I go to the video store. There just isn’t anything decent to see. Think about this: in the early 1960s, The Sound of Music won Picture of the Year. The vast majority of Americans had seen it. Today, fewer than 15% go to a movie theatre at all.

And it’s not just because we have DVD players. It’s because most movies are awful.

Every now and then Keith and I say, “We’re just pessimistic. We’re being silly. There has be good stuff out there!” And so we rent a movie only to turn it off halfway.

It’s not that good movies don’t make kajillions. They do. Think The Incredibles or Finding Nemo. Movies for families, or with broad moral appeal, make money. Or think The Help or The King’s Speech. My whole family, multi-generations of us, went to see both movies weeks after they came out, and the theatres were still packed. Action movies with broad appeal that don’t have a really dark hero—think Indiana Jones, or Lord of the Rings or The Bourne Identity—rake in major money, too. Movies that are degrading don’t make as much. It’s a simple fact.

And yet Hollywood streams out trash because Hollywood is trash. I know this sounds judgmental, but I truly believe that’s all most of them know. So, in order to help you when you go to rent movies, I would like to present to you my Movie Translator:

If a movie cover proclaims the movie is “edgy”, it means it was written by someone high on drugs.

If it “probes the depths of human relationships”, it means it portrays really degrading sexual fantasies, likely including some hints at incest, that will revolt you (or at least I hope it will).

If it is “illuminating”, it means it shows the perversion of the dark side of human nature. If it is “insightful”, same thing. It’s only insightful if you have a strange urge to understand your whacked out sociology professor who has experimented with most hard-core drugs, and whose children are currently incarcerated.

If it is “biting”, it bites. Leave it alone.

If it is “realistic”, it means the person writing that copy grew up in a crack house with a single mother and her fourteen lovers who were in and out of jail, and was in juvenile detention himself.

If it “exposes” something, it means the producers believe all authority is corrupt, especially all government. And you’re evil if you don’t agree! Oh, and Harry Truman was a war criminal. So was Abraham Lincoln. So are soldiers. So get with the program, people!

If it shows “a mid-life crisis”, it means some old guy is going to take advantage of some really young girl and make us think it’s okay.

So what adjectives are actually good? Well, after perusing many movies, I now only rent those which include these words in the description: Heart-warming, Endearing, Classic, Family, Touching, Funny, or, for action movies, Exciting, Heart-Stopping, or Thrilling.

That’s it. Nothing else. If it claims to be “insightful, probing, or realistic”, I run very fast out of the rental shop.

Here’s the thing: some of these movies may very well be insightful. Some of them may depict the reality of the American family. But who wants to see them? I want to be inspired and entertained, not lectured at and grossed out. So make movies to make me feel uplifted or simply entertained, not movies that make me want to take a bath afterwards. Is that so much to ask?

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Chivalry on Life Support

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Today’s is for Valentine’s Day, and it’s really aimed at men. But I think you’ll appreciate it (and you can always show it to your husbands)!

Buy guys, if you’re reading this, just a little bit of advice: women do want a Valentine’s Day gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but what they want, more than anything, is to know that you care. So think “pamper her” rather than “useful in the kitchen”. Valentine’s Day jewelry or chocolates are always well received, because they say: I’m not buying something that’s for me at all. I just love you and want you to enjoy yourself. Women need that! 

And now for some more thoughts:

If you want a chick flick to make your wife swoon this Valentine’s Day, guys, Kate & Leopold is an oldie but a goodie. Leopold is an English duke from the 1800s who is inadvertently transported in time to modern day. He holds chairs for women. He stands up when they leave the table or enter a room. He rescues maidens in distress. He is chivalry personified.

My husband has always held the door for me, but after watching that movie, I suggested that perhaps he could start standing when I left the table, too. He said he certainly would, as soon as I stopped talking about politics in public and started speaking only when spoken to. So we let that one go.

Chivalry, though, is largely a forgotten virtue.

While we may not want to return to the days of males popping up and down at the dinner table, aiding and protecting women is actually quite sweet. I travel frequently for speaking, and figuring out how I will transfer my carry-on suitcase from the floor into the crowded overhead compartment always causes stress. The suitcase does not seem to want to levitate on its own, and my biceps certainly aren’t sufficient to stuff it up there. Despite a multitude of males among the plane’s passengers, rarely does one proffer a hand. I am stuck fighting with this decidedly overweight bag on my own.

A few decades ago no self-respecting male would stand by while a female struggled with suitcases. We believed that men should protect women—an injunction only slightly ahead of “men should have to kill the bugs”. So eighteenth century men protected women from the filth that flew out of second story windows every morning when the chamber pots emptied. Nineteenth century men protected them from the seedier side of life, smoking and swearing only in the presence of other males.

Then that came to a screeching halt. I don’t think it was the fault of the male gender, though; I think my own gender is mostly to blame. We wanted to be treated like equals, and thus we labelled all attempts at emulating Leopold’s kindness to be sexism. Men who held out a chair or who took a woman’s coat were glared at, shot down, and insulted. And so chivalry died.

Speaking as one with a graduate degree in Sociology, I, too, used to be insulted when men did small things for me. Did they think I couldn’t manage life on my own? Then, one day, it occurred to me: why would I want to?

Whatever feminists may say, chivalry was not meant to denigrate women; it was meant to elevate them.

It was an acknowledgement that men, though they are stronger, have a responsibility to protect the fairer sex. A man is stronger. He has the ability to push women around simply because of his size (and, in days gone by, his economic dominance). For him to care for a woman instead meant something. It was saying: you’re different from me. You’re worth pursuing. You’re worth taking care of.

What woman doesn’t want to feel that?

Today men and women are supposed to be exactly the same, but we’re not. Acknowledge those differences, and we feel feminine. Treat us the same, and we become mere buddies. And if you’re interested in doing stuff with your wife you wouldn’t do with your best friend, then maybe this Valentine’s Day you had better start treating her as if she is special. Get her those flowers. Open the car door for her. Kiss her hand. Treat her with gentleness and respect, even if you don’t have to. In fact, treat her that way because you don’t have to. And then watch her melt for you.

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