What the Mark Driscoll Mess Tells Us About Marriage

On the Mark Driscoll Mess and what we learn about power in marriage and ministryI am angry today.

I am angry that lately so many high profile leaders in the Christian church have had to step down in disgrace. I’m angry that it is giving our world, which desperately needs Christ, a negative view of the church–and of God.

I know some of my readers attend Mars Hill churches around the nation, and I know you are likely hurting much more than me. I understand that many of you still stand completely behind Mark Driscoll, and that is fine. This post is not about bashing Mark, because I do not know him. But as I have looked at various scandals over the last few years, it seems as if they have several commonalities that we need to be aware of–and those commonalities affect how we see marriage.

To sum up for those of you who aren’t aware, Mark Driscoll is the young pastor of the megachurch Mars Hill in Seattle. His vision was to create the kind of church that the liberal, non-religious Seattle would flock to, and so he made a church with super-conservative doctrine have a super liberal culture, if that makes any sense. They talked about sex. They joked around a lot. Church was fun.

But in the process, Mark apparently isolated himself at the top and silenced all critics, and it’s that behaviour that has put him in hot water. Mark Driscoll himself admitted to this when he stepped down, so I do believe the criticism was warranted. I also believe that when Mark preached thousands were saved, and that’s why this all seems like such a waste. A work was being done; and somehow ego got in the way.

And it’s that ego that I want to address.

Servanthood, Not Power, is the Focus of Jesus’ Ministry

In all Christian scandals that I can recall, and in all cults, the common denominator is a charismatic leader at the top who has consolidated power and does not tolerate dissent.

That’s why, when I hear people focusing so much on who should have power in the marriage, I know that we have lost the point of what Jesus wanted for relationship.

The very last lesson He gave His disciples about how to exercise leadership was to wash their feet (John 13). Leadership must be exercised with humility and servanthood. Indeed, if you were to look through the New Testament, servanthood is likely the key relational model that Jesus left us with.

How anyone can look at the marriage passage in Ephesians 5:21-33 and think that the main message that Paul is giving is that “men should lead and women should obey” is beyond me. Ephesians 5:21-33 is about servanthood–how the wife should serve the husband, and how the husband should serve the wife. Indeed, the very first verse in that section sets the tone for the section:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Each spouse should be asking, “how can I best serve my spouse?” That should be our goal. When we focus so much on the fact that the husband has all the power to make decisions, and the wife must obey without question, we lose the beauty of what marriage was supposed to be.

A husband leads by setting the tone and by bearing ultimate responsibility for the family. But he does this while serving the family. It is never a question of power, and yet too often when we talk about marriage, we frame it as if God wants men to have power and women to be powerless. No, God wants each of us to serve. When you’re both serving and you’re both loving, all of these other debates seem not to matter (which is what I’ve found in my marriage). We just try to love each other, and isn’t that better?

(To show what I mean about serving one’s husband, we had a bit of a to-do on the blog last week over these posts about prioritizing sex. It’s such a simple thing–a way we can serve–and I think we need to do it more).

Power Without Accountability is Dangerous–Even in Marriage

The leaders who have fallen in the last few years have primarily been leaders of super-conservative movements–the very ones that preach that men should have full power in their families, and that pastors should have full power in their churches. And yet we have seen, time and again, that this simply doesn’t work.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The governments that don’t work in the world are ones in which absolute power is congregated at the top, and people have no recourse.

When I hear women teach other women that they must not question their husbands, no matter what their husbands do, because that is not God’s role for them, quite frankly I wonder if they understand human behaviour.  When people have free reign and no accountability, very little good comes of it.

Throughout Scripture we are given specific ways to deal with someone when we disagree–and those methods are relevant in marriage, too. But let’s just think about this logically. How does it glorify God if a man plays video games six hours a day, and he is able to say to his wife, “this is what I want to do and you have to obey me”? How does it glorify God if a man can hit his wife and then say, “you’re my wife and you must stay with me”? How does it glorify God if a man can work 12 hours a day, never talk to his family, text and flirt with women at work, and then tell his wife, “I am providing and you can’t question me”? It doesn’t glorify God. Not at all.

Now, I have heard some Christian writers say, “if he’s really sinning, you aren’t to follow him into sin, but otherwise you must obey him.” Yet Scripture is filled with people confronting others when they are starting to go off course. Paul stood up to Peter and told him he was wrong about refusing to eat with Gentiles. Peter didn’t say, “Well, I’m the one Jesus called The Rock, so get in line.” Peter took Paul’s admonition seriously and changed.

Moses’ father-in-law came to him and said, “what you are doing is not good” when Moses was overburdening himself. Moses didn’t say, “well, I’m the one whom God appointed to lead the people, so go away”. No, he listened to Jethro.

God has set us up in Christian community so that we should have accountability, and yet too often it’s treated as if marriage is the one place where none of this applies. You can confront a pastor, an elder, a friend, or a parent, but you can’t confront your spouse, and you can’t talk to others about a problem. He should have absolute power.

This is one reason why marriages fall apart or die on the inside! We can’t have real intimacy without authenticity, and you can’t have authenticity when there is major disrespect or problems between you. Let’s stop treating marriage like he has all the power, because I have never seen that work out well in any other sphere of human interaction.

Women Deserve Respect, Too

I was quite open-minded about the Mark Driscoll mess for a long time. I figured the man was bringing thousands into the church, and he was preaching on marriage (though I haven’t read his book), so he must be doing something right. Then I saw the comments he made about women on the discussion board several years ago, and I was absolutely appalled.

He called men who didn’t take power in their marriages a derogatory term for women I can’t even print here. In fact, he used so many derogatory terms for women I felt my skin crawl. Would Jesus ever have said anything like that?

Men need respect, and women need love. I completely agree with that, in general. But women deserve respect, too. And one of the precursors for people to behave badly is that they stop respecting those under their leadership. When pastors don’t respect women, it’s awfully easy to get involved in an affair or to sexually abuse others (Mark Driscoll has not been accused of any sexual sin, as far as I know). The Bill Gothard scandal that broke earlier this year showed this perfectly. Gothard built a ministry with a very specific and narrow vision of men’s ultimate authority and women’s ultimate subservience, and then proceeded to sexually harass dozens of young women who were interning with him.

Why were slaveowners able to treat their slaves so badly? Because they dehumanized them. They said they weren’t even real people; they were animals. Why was Hitler able to convince the Germans to kill the Jews (and the Gypsies, and the Poles)? Because he told Germans these races were inferior.

When we make a whole people group into something inferior, it becomes very easy to mistreat them.

Jesus gave respect and honor to all–to women, to children, to different races. We should, too. That protects others from being mistreated, and it protects our hearts from becoming so proud that we would mistreat others.

I do not believe that Mark Driscoll started out as a very angry, authoritarian man, or that Bill Gothard necessarily started out to abuse women. But when you are given absolute power, you start to believe that there is something special about you. And when that happens, it’s easy to start dismissing your own sins. Power changes you. And so, as a church, we must stop this urge to give people power, and we must come back to the biblical model of servanthood and respect.

If we all simply respected each other, held each other accountable, and concentrated on how to serve each other, fewer of these scandals would happen, and far more people would be discipled into healthy, whole relationships.

Wifey Wednesday: Some AWESOME Free Ebooks for You

Marriage is the bedrock of our society, but it sure isn’t easy. And so today I want to share with you two quick resources that can help you navigate your own marriage and grow your relationship so that it’s rock solid–and fun!
Free Marriage Ebook Marriage Hacks

Marriage Hacks–Free Marriage Ebook

First, Tyler Ward—author of Marriage Rebranded—recently asked 25 leaders for their single best marriage advice for young people. The level of insight and wisdom he received—compiled in the free eBook Marriage Hacks—is guaranteed to help many navigate this uniquely beautiful relationship called marriage.

I am honored to have been one of the leaders Tyler interviewed for Marriage Hacks and excited to share this incredible new resource with you!

Download It Here

Marriage Hacks is a compilation of the best marriage advice for young people from 25 leaders including me (!), but also:

  • Gary Chapman, The 5 Love Languages
  • William Paul Young of The Shack
  • Gary Thomas of Sacred Marriage
  • Danny Silk, Keep Your Love On
  • Jeremy Cowart, Celebrity Photographer
  • Jonathan Jackson, Emmy-Award-Winning Actor

And many more…

The book speaks to some of the most common questions in marriage including…

  • how to keep things from never going stale
  • how to handle personality differences
  • how to cultivate emotional intimacy
  • how to spice things up in the bedroom (that’s me again!)
  • what to do when your spouse isn’t as intentional in your relationship as you are
  • and more…

You can download this awesome book right here.

Free Marriage EbookBringing Sexy Back–Free Marriage Ebook

Then I’ve got my own free ebook, Bringing Sexy Back to your marriage, with 36 tips on how to ignite your intimacy.

It’s my gift to you when you sign up for my marriage newsletter. Just enter your email below and you’re set!

The marriage newsletter goes out once a month, and it has links and descriptions of all of my marriage articles from the month before, as well as a theme for the month (like spending more time with your hubby, spicing up your marriage, marriage and kids, etc.), with links to older articles you may not be aware of. And then I throw in some funny stuff, too!

You can sign up for my marriage newsletter below, and if you want to sign up for my daily updates for my blog posts, you can do that as well below.

If you already subscribe, the link for the book was in the email that went out two weeks ago. It will also be in the next marriage newsletter.


Subscribe to our mailing list

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Hope those give you some great resources to help your marriage today!

I’m on my way home (finally) from the last of my jaunts this summer, and I’m back to work full time tomorrow. I’m also planning an amazing retreat this long weekend to talk to God about my direction, purpose, and plan for the year ahead. Keith’s coming with me and we’re going to spend part of the weekend praying for our plan together as a couple. I’m so looking forward to it–I feel like I need some clear direction from God as we begin another year–and I’ll share all about it next week! I’ve never done a full weekend purpose/planning retreat before (I’m planning not to talk at all for two days and just to listen to God), so it’ll be really interesting!

Top 10 Reasons for Marrying Young

Top 10 Reasons Marrying Young Can Actually be Good--for You and for Society

Our society frowns on marrying young. We want people to be established, be educated, and play the field first.

Personally, I think marrying young can be a very good thing. Tonight my daughters and I will attend the wedding of a 19-year-old woman named Emma. She’s a sweetie, and she’s so happy, and I’m excited for her.

So I thought I’d write about the pros of marrying young. But first, a few caveats:

I do not believe that everyone should marry young.

In fact, in many cases young marriage doesn’t work. If the couple really is not very mature, they could be making a very bad decision. I get nervous when a 19-year-old chooses to marry who hasn’t really seen the world much or expanded their social circle at all. If all they know is a very small corner of the world, they may not know themselves very well yet.

Finally, many young people marry to escape. They want to feel grown up, and they want to get on with their lives, and marriage seems the easiest course.

In almost all these cases, these young marriages will not be good ones.

I’m also fully aware that many people will not meet anyone suitable to marry until they are a little older. I have a good friend who married for the first time at 42 a few years ago. She would have loved to marry earlier, but her love didn’t show up until she was older. I in no way mean to shame people who have not married young. I know often being single older is not by choice. I have frequently told my daughters that while I firmly believe they will marry, no one knows when that will be, and they need to work at being comfortable on their own and with God instead of thinking their lives are only complete once they are married.

Nevertheless, none of that means that young marriages can’t work, and so here are 10 reasons why I think marrying young should come back into vogue. We’ll start with the benefits to society, and then look at the benefits for the couple themselves:

Top TenWhy Marrying Young is Good for Society

1. Drifting Through One’s Twenties Can Waste a Key Decade

When people expect that they’ll marry at thirty (the average age for first marriages is now at around 27 for women), then they tend to see their twenties as their time to explore, not their time to settle down. Everything gets delayed. You can spend a few years experimenting with different careers (or lack thereof), or traveling with no purpose, or hopping from relationship to relationship. As I talked about last week, though, your twenties are an important decade financially. If you can start saving then, you really set yourself up well for life.

And the earlier people start saving and maturing, the better off and more productive society is.

2. Having Babies Younger is Better for Society

Physically, the best years to have babies is in your early twenties. Yet few people are married or ready today at that point, largely because we have extended adolescence so far. While most people had babies young fifty years ago, today having one’s first baby after age 30 is the norm in many circles.

Yet while socially we’ve changed, physically we haven’t. And as fertility rates drop, perhaps it would be better for society to prioritize maturing younger rather than prolonging the years when you “find yourself”, especially since those years really are so valuable.

Why Marrying Young Can Be Good For You

3. You “Grow Up” Together

When you marry at 20 or 21, you haven’t always figured out what you want in a house, or how you want to organize a kitchen, or how you want to pay your bills. You don’t know what you want in a church or where you want to live. But you can grow up and make those decisions together, and it’s kinda fun!

When Keith and I married at 21 we had no idea about how we wanted to spend vacations or what kind of house we wanted, let alone how we wanted to do housework. We just figured it out ourselves. And because we hadn’t had our own routines for so many of these things, it wasn’t hard to merge.

4. It’s Easier to Merge Two Homes when There’s Not Much To Them

Imagine you’ve been doing your finances on Quicken on the computer for ten years, and then you marry someone who keeps all receipts in shoe boxes. That’s tough to find a new way of doing it, when you’re both so set in your ways.

Imagine you’ve had ten years since you moved out of your parents place to set your own traditions for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Now you have to do it all over again, when you’re emotionally wedded to the things you’ve already done.

It’s just tricky to merge two households. It’s easier to start off together.

5. You Can Be a Younger Parent

I remember being 27 years old and having one toddler on my back and one baby on my front and getting on the Toronto subway for 45 minutes, with 2 transfers, to get to the zoo, where I spent 6 hours with the kids, only to reverse the whole process.

There is no way I would have had the same energy to do that if I were 37 instead.

And here’s the thing: so many people say, “I want to travel before I settle down! I want to see the world!” But my youngest will be leaving home next year when I’m just 45. (I’m still tearing up at that a little, by the way). Keith and I are going to do some major traveling! We’re going to buy an RV and start seeing the world, little bits at a time. We’re heading to Australia for a conference. It’ll be wonderful (and hopefully take my mind off of my kids being gone). We’re still young, we’re still energetic, but best of all, we have some money now. We didn’t have any in our twenties. We can travel way more now than we could have then.

6. You Can Be a Younger Grandparent

I think a lot of people forget this one: my mom became a grandma at 51. She was so energetic with my girls. She’s 71 now, and she’s still active, but the girls have such strong memories of her being much younger. They remember when she was still a career woman. They remember her doing really fun trips with them. They will always have very clear memories of her.

On the other hand, my grandparents were 62 when I was born. While I have great memories of one of my grandparents, my maternal grandfather had a massive stroke at 64. He was a really strong, active man, yet I only remember him in a wheelchair with impaired judgment. My maternal grandmother, apparently, was just like me. She was opinionated, extroverted, and great at public speaking. Yet most of my memories of her are post-dementia.

My mom has many friends her age who are just becoming grandparents now. I actually hope my girls have kids young, because I’m looking forward to piling grandchildren in our RV and taking them around North America.

7. You Resist Temptation

If you’re with a guy you totally love when you’re 21, and your parents say, “you have to wait until you’re 25 and that graduate degree is finished before you marry”, how in the world are you supposed to resist the temptation to have sex? Sure it’s possible, but it’s awfully hard.

When you love someone and feel close, you’re going to want to make love. It’s natural. Physiologically for men especially, the sex drive is highest from 18-25. It’s really, really hard to wait, and when I hear Christian parents saying, “I hope my son doesn’t marry until he’s done med school and residency when he’s 27″, I wonder what they’re thinking, frankly. Walking down the aisle to meet the only one you will ever make love to is such a beautiful thing and a gift. But if we start telling hormonally charged teens that they have to wait 15 years post-puberty to get married–fewer will wait for marriage for sex.

8. You Avoid a Lot of Heartache

If people married young, perhaps we’d have fewer “exes” and fewer regrets. So much of the problem in marriages is caused by past baggage. If we put the expectation on kids that “it’s fine to get married at 21″ rather than “you had better not get married until you finish your degree and you have a good job”, then people would treat relationships at 20 more seriously. They wouldn’t think, “this can’t go anywhere, so let’s just have fun!” Often that “fun” ends up causing a lot of tears.

9. You Can Focus Your Goals Earlier

Once you’re married, you can start making real plans. Where do we want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? When do we want to buy a house? What education do we need? Where do we want to live? Certainly you can do those things when you’re single, but it’s often tricky since you don’t know where life is going to take you. Once you’re married, you can nail these things down. And if you do marry at 22, then you will start thinking about buying a house. If you don’t marry until 28, you’re often not worried about buying a home at all, and so you rent for years.

Case for MarriageResearchers have found that marriage boosts one’s income and one’s net worth, all on its own, even controlling for class, race, and education. Being married makes people hunker down and treat life more seriously. And that’s good, because it means that ultimately you’ll be financially better off.

10. You Have Decades and Decades Together

I am so looking forward to growing old with my husband, but I am also looking forward to years and years of having fun together before we do get old. He is my best friend. He is my lover. He is my favourite person in the world. I am so blessed to be able to be with him, and I am so blessed that we do have all these years together. Why would you not want as many years as you could with the man that you choose?

Again, I know that not everyone will meet their marriage partner young, and that’s okay. There’s nothing inherently wrong with marrying later.

My problem is that we’ve started to see marrying young as inherently wrong, and I think young marriage actually has a lot of benefits–probably even more than later marriages.

My dream would be a society that focused on helping teens mature faster so that they would be ready to marry younger again. I personally think that would be a healthier society overall.

So I’d encourage all of us who are parents to stop hoping our children marry later, and start preparing them to launch into life younger. It’s okay to marry in college. It’s okay to marry in your early twenties–as long as you’re sure of your faith, you’re sure of yourself, and you’re sure of your relationship.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

UPDATE: Oh, my goodness, I forgot about sexual temptation!!! So I changed out #7 since I first published it. How could I have forgotten that?!?

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

 

Reader Question: When Your Husband’s Job Stress Wrecks Your Sex Life

Reader Question of the WeekWhat do you do when your husband’s job stress wrecks your sex life?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. As a doctor’s wife, I could really relate to this question from a woman whose husband’s job stress sucks the romance out of their marriage:

Hi Sheila,

I just had to write and say that hands-down, your book “a good girls guide to great sex “has been the most useful book I’ve read all year. My husband said there has been such a difference that he owes you a box of chocolates. (Sheila says: tell him truffles are my favourite!)

Speaking of my husband I have a question. He’s a youth pastor and my biggest challenge now is how do I change the mood at night for us? It’s common for him to get texts/calls from teens at night who are cutting or dealing with eating disorders or drunk parents. The mood goes from light-hearted and me being excited to having quality time with him in the bedroom to heavy burdened for these kids. Besides praying together any suggestions?

I have to admit that this is something I’ve struggled with and I don’t think I have an easy answer.

On the one hand, people would be quick to say, “you need boundaries! Just turn off the phone at night.” But when there are such horrible things happening that’s hard.

Sometimes Job Stress is Inevitable

My husband is a pediatrician who often has to respond to life and death emergencies at our small town local hospital. When we first moved here fifteen years ago, there weren’t enough pediatricians to cover the call schedule. There were often days that were completely uncovered.

And then, if an emergency happened at the hospital, what would the hospital do? They would phone Keith at our house because they were desperate, and he had a very hard time saying no, because a child could actually die.

I remember my daughter Katie’s second birthday party. We had family over, and it was a day that we had looked forward to for weeks. And just as I was lighting the candles the phone rang. A baby had been shaken and was unresponsive in the Emergency Room. Could Keith come?

He rushed to the hospital and stabilized the little boy for transport. He died a month later, and Keith testified at the trial that put the step-father in jail.

To this day I still remember that little boy’s name: Tyler Barriage. I write it here because I don’t want that poor little boy to be forgotten. He was only a little younger than my own daughter, and we were celebrating her birthday just as he was being killed.

I could have gotten angry at Keith for going into the hospital, and plenty of times I did–when it wasn’t as life and death. But that ultimately wouldn’t help.

So I don’t just want to say “get better boundaries”, because I really do understand the pull of these difficult jobs. But let me still give you some “big picture” strategies that perhaps you can use to reclaim your marriage in the midst of job stress.

Job Stress and Marriage: When job demands intrude on your relationship

Is the Job Stress Life or Death?

Some men (and some women–I can be guilty too) let their work intrude on everything. Often business owners are especially guilty of this. We have started a business and so we want to have control and make sure everything is okay. When people call at night, or when we have some spare time, we immediately respond to these job demands, and often family life falls by the wayside.

Is this life or death though? Certainly there are seasons when a business is in trouble and it needs more attention. But a relationship can’t sustain a workaholic spouse. This isn’t really the issue I’m addressing today, but I know that it is a very common one, and if your husband has a hard time putting his work away at night, perhaps you can leave some comments and I’ll try to write a follow-up post that addresses workaholism.

Does the Job Stress Just SEEM Life or Death?

What I do want to talk about today, though, is what to do with the job that actually IS life and death. But sometimes what looks like life and death may not actually be life and death.

In the letter writer’s case, I wonder if this is what’s happening. Let’s face it: if teens know that if they threaten to cut themselves that the youth pastor will drop everything and talk to you for hours, what’s going to stop them from keeping threatening to cut themselves?

If you are always at everyone’s beck and call for everything they deem a crisis, then crises will multiply.

My husband faced this, and finally the pediatricians sat down with the hospital and emergency doctors and obstetricians and said, “if you call us for everything we will burn out, and then you won’t just have 5 days a month with no one on call; you’ll never have anyone on call. So from now on you can’t call us unless it is truly life and death.”

So perhaps you can set up some systems so that people are still able to get a hold of you in emergencies, but only in emergencies.

Here’s one idea: turn off your cell phone outside of business hours, and let people know that if they have a crisis, they will have to actually phone. People text without giving it much thought. To pick up a phone and have to call someone’s house is different. You realize that you’re calling a family. You realize that it may be dinner hour. There’s more of an inconvenience aspect. And to teens who text all the time, having to phone may slow them down.

With my husband, we also got into the habit of me answering the phone. That way I could screen his calls if necessary. If you set up the expectation that “I am available all the time by text during the day, but in the evenings I’m only available in emergencies”, perhaps some of these calls will lessen.

 Recruit Others to Help

If you are in a job, especially a ministry position, where people are constantly in crisis, then you should not be the only person handling this. It isn’t healthy for the church, for you, or for the people you’re ministering to. What happens if a dozen teens rely on you for everything and then suddenly you’re in an accident or you quit your job from burnout? They have to be connected to the church, not just to you.

So set up a system where several adults become “buddies” for several friends. Or in a churchwide situation set up a system where certain elders in the church (it could be an actual position, or it could be volunteers with great wisdom) divide up the church phone book between them, and everybody knows who their own person to call is. That way the expectation is that you only call the pastor if it’s an actual emergency.

I went to a church like that almost two decades ago now. If I had an issue to talk about, I called a woman, and she was wonderful. But when my son died in the middle of the night, we called the pastor and he came down and sat with us. Now, if we had called him for everything, he would have been so burnt out he couldn’t have come the night we really needed him.

So perhaps having a talk with the leadership team at the church, or the hospital, or the police station, or wherever, and talking about how to divide up the task so that others are also responding to crises can work.

Get Out of Town Regularly

Finally, you can try all of these things and sometimes they just don’t work. With my husband’s job we managed to certainly minimize the intrusions, but they were still there.

What saved us was that we left regularly. We camped a lot in the summer. We took trips. We visited friends for weekends. And when we were away, Keith wasn’t able to help, so they didn’t call him.

Sure, there were still life and death situations, but Keith didn’t feel responsible if he wasn’t actually able to help.

For people who are always being bombarded with requests, physically removing yourself regularly throughout the year may be the only way to get some breathing room. Yes, people will still be in crisis, but you can say, “I can’t help you this weekend, and my cell phone is off, so you’ll have to call Mr. Smith instead.”

How Do You Reclaim the Evening When Job Stress Strikes?

There are some ideas about how to set some limits, but the letter writer also wanted to know: how can we reclaim the romance after a horrible phone call? I don’t have an easy answer. Certainly you can pray and try to leave it at the foot of the cross, but I know it can still ruin the mood. And that’s why I think it’s better to deal with the root of the problem and limit the requests on your time.

But if anyone has a good, practical answer to this part of the question, please leave it in the comments. How do you turn your brain off of your job and back onto your spouse after a crisis? I’d love to know!

 

We Stopped Having Sex–and Here’s What I Learned

We Stopped Having Sex--what it did to our marriage, and why I'm glad we started again“We stopped having sex.”

A woman wrote her story on my Facebook Page yesterday, and I thought it was worth sharing with you, and could help clarify perhaps my thinking around the post yesterday–”Should you have sex even if you don’t feel like it?”

I’ll share her comment in just a moment, but first a few quick things!

I’ve been camping for a week so I wasn’t active in the comments, but I’m thrilled you all liked my post about what to do with your wedding dress so much. Boy, did that get shared! That post meant a lot to me, so I’m glad it touched you all, too.

Now, a few things about yesterday’s post.

I totally get what some people were saying about the word “duty”. As soon as we make sex into a duty, we make it EXTREMELY unsexy. I don’t think that’s the way Lindsay meant it, though, but I’ve actually written about how unsexy obligation sex is before, too.

We’re not arguing you should let your husband use you!

Neither Lindsay nor I was arguing that you should just say to your husband, “you can if you want to”, especially if you really don’t want to. That’s not really making love. That’s letting him use you. And that’s rather unsettling.

What we were saying was this:

If this is something your husband really wants (and some could argue needs on a regular basis), then why not just jump in? It’s our attitude that is the key. If we say to ourselves, “I don’t want to do this, and I hate doing this, but I’ll just get through it,” you will hate it. If you say to yourself, “what a great chance to bond when I feel rather icky. Maybe this can change the whole dynamic,” you’ll likely enjoy it.

It all depends on how you think about it!

Let’s do a Thought Experiment: What if you stop having sex?

What would happen to your marriage? Here’s what one of my readers wrote on Facebook:

I have to be honest and I’ve never told anyone this.

I have been married almost 10 years and we did not have sex before marriage. I expected it to be great, especially since we waited like God had asked of us.

Life went on and it really wasn’t a priority for me. Wasn’t that it was bad, I just had too much on my plate in my mind. We worked different shifts at our jobs (worked for same company) but enjoyed each other when we had time to spend together–usually out to dinner or a movie.

Then after 3 years we got pregnant. My husband was just convinced we shouldn’t have sex during pregnancy…And I was okay with this. What a dummy I was! We were not intimate at all for almost a year.

Then after our son came, it didn’t pick up immediately. I was over tired and was NOT in the mood what soever. I was not too excited about the extra weight from my pregnancy and I became a stay at home mother stuck in the frump that can often come with it.

Shockingly (sarcasm), we started to really go through rough patches. Sex was still not a priority for me and I couldn’t figure out why he just wasn’t listening to me! I was his wife. I thought he was my best friend. What had happened to us?!

We had another child almost 2 1/2 years after our son. Obviously we did have sex a few times during that time but to be honest it was a chore now. Then after our daughter and son turned 3 and 5, I had had enough. He works 6 days a week and is tired to do too much on the one day off he has. I stay home all day with the kids and about to start homeschooling….I need some time alone! So when we did have any time together, I just preferred to not be touched, loved on and pretty soon I didn’t even like him to kiss me.

One day I finally got on my knees and poured my heart to God. I surrendered myself and everything to Him and asked what could I do to bring my husband and I back to what we once had….really, better than ever. One thing was to start praying for a heart for my husband again. I wanted to work on me for once and not pray that he would change like I had for years before. I prayed I would enjoy his touch again, etc. Then one day I read a blog (maybe this one) that talked about stop saying no! Take a challenge to stop saying no to your husband no matter what.

Sounds primitive to most but I was willing to give it a try. What could it hurt?

But I didn’t even get a chance to it in action…the more I was praying, the more I was wanting him more than I ever had! Even times that I was so exhausted and got in the shower (where I do a lot of my praying), I was anxious to get out and spend time with him. Sometimes that led into sex but sometimes it was just being together and NOT him on the sofa and me in the chair across the room…like it had been for years.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I didn’t feel like it but I just knew it would be better in the long run if I did because it brought us closer than I could ever explain. My husband is a very personal person and still has a hard time opening up to me, even after all these years, but started to almost immediately. I’m not saying it was all me during all these years but I can honestly say that when I stopped taking the focus off myself and what I deserved, I started seeing my husband and our sex life very differently. I am not saying sex is the answer to everything but it should does bring a closeness that you may otherwise never get–especially with spouses that have a hard time communicating. I hope this some how helps with the conversation and even a situation someone is dealing with today. I’ve never told a soul but I felt led to take to speak up after reading this.

Thank you for sharing that comment! I do believe that that story will resonate with a lot of women. Most of us have been there. We stop making love for a variety of reasons–we’re tired, there are babies, maybe a few health concerns–and then we find our marriage drifting and we don’t know why.

Let’s make sex back into a priority!

And so here are a few other posts that can help you do that, that may apply to your specific situation:

Good Girls Guide My SiteBut what if sex actually hurts? Do I still have to?

No–you have to figure out why it hurts! This post on vaginismus may help. I also have quite the section in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex for women struggling with this.

But why should I have to fake it? So what if he needs sex–aren’t my needs important, too?

Yes, absolutely. And that’s why I believe that sex should be mutual. But here’s the thing–you, as a woman, actually control your sex drive. He doesn’t. That’s because our sex drives are almost entirely in our heads. So we have to get our heads in the game and start anticipating sex ourselves.

What about other problems–like porn, or sex not feeling good, or past abuse issues?

Many of us have reasons that sex isn’t really happening, and I’ve written so much on this subject it’s hard to point to every possible relevant post. We’re all coming from different places. But I do have a round-up post of different marriage and sex advice that talks about all of these different issues. Chances are you can find a link to your own obstacle there.

31 Days to Great SexAnd almost all of the obstacles I can think of are dealt with in 31 Days to Great Sex. It’s a great one to work through with your hubby!

So please understand–I am not saying that we should let ourselves become some sort of receptacle for our husbands. Absolutely not! But sex was created to be something beautiful between you and your husband. It binds you together. It helps you sleep better! It helps you feel closer and helps you communicate. And it was meant to be fun. If it isn’t doing those things in your marriage, then take the initiative to do something about it. Don’t just stop having sex–figure out what the problem is and throw your energy into fixing it. Your marriage is worth more than just a hum-drum existence. When we prioritize sex again, we can find that marriage becomes so much more invigorating!

Don’t miss out on that. Please.

 

Should You Have Sex Even if You Don’t Feel Like It?

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Recently I noticed a great post linked up in the comments by one of my frequent readers–Lindsay Harold from Lindsay’s Logic, answering the question “what should you do if you don’t feel like having sex?”

She was responding to some major controversy she started on the Matt Walsh Blog in the comments section, leaving a comment about sex which generated over 1,300 likes and dozens of comments in the first 24 hours. So she turned it into a post, and then said I could feel free to post it, too.  Here’s Lindsay:

I wrote on Matt Walsh’s blog comments:

“Feminism told them that it’s degrading to be a stay-at-home mom or to submit to a husband or to want a lot of children. They should never have sex with their husbands unless they feel like it. They should never let a man make decisions for their family.”


Specifically, a lot of people had a problem with the second sentence in that quote. They objected to the idea that a woman should ever have sex with her husband when she doesn’t feel like it.

But I absolutely stand by that statement. I think it’s perfectly normal and right for a woman to have sex with her husband even when she doesn’t feel like having sex.

In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that a woman ought to have sex with her husband even when she doesn’t feel like it - at least sometimes.

Should You Have Sex with Your Hubby--even if you don't feel like it?

That sounds like a radical idea, I know. Our society has become so feminized that this idea is actually considered crazy or weird or somehow the same as saying women should be raped. It’s not.

You see, there are lots of things we do that we don’t feel like doing.

I don’t always feel like getting up in the morning, making breakfast, feeding my kids, cleaning the house, changing diapers, going to the store, or a million other things I do. But I do them because they need to be done and because I love my family. My feelings don’t rule me. I make decisions based on love for my family and what needs to be done to care for their needs.

It should be the same in for caring for my husband’s needs, including his need for sex.

Of course, the usual response at this point is to ask whether I consider sex some painful, unpleasant duty. I get people saying my sex life must be horrible. On the contrary.

It is a modern and erroneous notion that “duty” is a bad word and the opposite of “pleasant.”

But that is a false dichotomy. There is no inherent reason that duties cannot be pleasant. Nor does doing something out of duty mean that one cannot enjoy it. Of course, not all duties are fun, but they don’t have to be unpleasant simply because we have a duty to do them.

For example, I may not feel, at the moment, like taking my girls outside to play. It’s hot. I’m tired. I have dishes to do. But they want to play outside and the fresh air and sunshine will do them good. So I go because I love them and have a duty to care for their needs. One of their needs is play time and time with mommy. But once we’re outside, we have a great time and I’m glad I did it. Duty, in this case, was not preventing me from having fun. In fact, duty helped me overcome laziness, lower priority tasks, and distractions that would have prevented me from having fun with my girls.

There are many other things which work similarly. I have a duty to read and study the Bible, and I enjoy it. I have a duty to feed my family, and I also enjoy it. I have a duty to vote and participate in my government, and I don’t find that duty horrid or burdensome. I have a duty to be a witness to those around me, and I find that duty agreeable.  I have a duty to clean my house…ok, maybe I don’t necessarily enjoy that one, but it isn’t some horrible thing I do just because I have to either. I do it because I love my family. And having a clean home is certainly enjoyable.

In the same way, I have a duty to have sex with my husband, and I also enjoy it greatly. There is no contradiction there.

Another thing to consider is the design of female sexuality. Women are less likely than men to be aroused out of the blue. We women often need touch, closeness, and the right mindset to get us in the mood for sex. If a wife is waiting for the mood to strike her before she says yes, it may be a long time and it will take a toll on their marital intimacy. Thus, women who go ahead and engage (not just laying there, but actively participating), even if they weren’t initially in the mood, will often find that they warm up as they go along and end up enjoying it. And the emotional intimacy that comes from physical intimacy will strengthen the marriage and bring husband and wife closer together.

So, if duties aren’t necessarily unpleasant or a hardship and women can often enjoy sex if they will choose to engage, then pointing out the duty to have sex within marriage doesn’t mean that sex becomes unpleasant or forced. Sure, it could be that way if you let it. But it doesn’t have to be. If you have the right mindset, recognizing the duty to have sex can help you overcome laziness, lower priorities, and distractions that would prevent you from having the vibrant, intimate, and fun sex life that God intended you to have in your marriage.

I appreciate the flak that Lindsay took for this, because I had to write a post defending something I said in similar vein a few years ago–when I had some feminist groups saying I advocated rape when I said that wives should try to have sex if their husbands wanted it, even if they didn’t always feel like it. My response to their criticism is here–being selfless in marriage. I wish people could see that marriage isn’t a trap; it’s a chance where both spouses can give!

 

LindsayHaroldLindsay Harold is a preacher’s daughter and a former homeschooler with a Master’s degree in Biology. Until recently, she taught college biology courses (including General Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology). She is now a blogger and stay at home mom of two little girls, ages 2-1/2 and 1. She and her husband, Doug, live on a small farm in the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia.

Lindsay writes about Biblical worldview, marriage and family, inalienable rights, politics, creation/evolution, and a variety of other topics on her blog, Lindsay’s Logic. She and her husband also write a blog together called The Rational Abolitionist where they make a logical and scientific case for ending legal abortion.

Get Out with Your Husband–and DO SOMETHING!

Do you know what kills love in marriage faster than anything else? Boredom. When we get bored with each other, it’s all too easy to start ignoring each other’s needs, and to stop being kind. Contempt all too easily follows.

The key, then, is not to get bored, and the way to not get bored is to actually do things together! Even weird things.

How often does the whole evening go by after the kids go to bed with you on Netflix, watching movies, or playing video games? It seems fun at the time, but if you try to remember some great, fun event 10 years ago, I can practically guarantee that it didn’t have to do with television or computers or games. It had to do with something you were actually doing together.

Making memories means you have to be doing something memorable.

I know on Tuesdays I usually do a top 10 post, but I’ve been on vacation a lot in August and taking it easy, and I thought instead I’d share with you something kinda funny that happened to my husband and me while we were camping.

One week last month my husband and I decided to set up our tent trailer at a campground just north of the city where Keith works. He commutes everyday, so it took 40 minutes off of his commute, and let us enjoy the great outdoors. They had internet in the main building, so I could walk there every morning and tend to the blog, but then we could “switch off” and just have fun at night (and I could read and knit a storm during the day!)

I made these socks:

Homemade Socks

But then I had a bunch of pairs of handknit socks that were wearing through (like the one on the right), so I cut off half of the food and reknitted it (like the one on the left):

Socks Fixed

Anyway, that’s not the fun part. I just wanted to show you my knitting!

We booked in from Saturday to Saturday. And on Thursday I became very alarmed because a bunch of new RVs were setting up. And almost every single one of these RVs had dogs. Lots and lots of dogs.

We went for a walk that night and I saw a big dog (maybe a sheepdog?)–the prettiest sheepdog I had ever seen. But it was a little startling, and I said to my husband, “I think that dog has been blow dried.”

DogShow4

And sure enough, right across from us was an RV with a mobile dog blow-drying and grooming facility. Dog after dog was lining up to get so groomed. And all because, as we found out, there was a dog show on Friday and Saturday at this particular campground.

DogShow1

All I could picture was dogs barking all night and keeping me awake. But thankfully, these dogs were actually well behaved and the night was silent.

And so, my anxiety over, on Friday I decided to go see what all the fuss was about.

I wandered over to the “big top” tent and saw different breeds being led around the ring by their intrepid owners.

DogShow3

DogShow7

But, as I was informed by a rather nervous man from Montreal, whose corgie was about to compete against 29 other corgies, some of those people leading the dogs weren’t owners. They were “ringers”, hired for the purpose to help the dogs win.

Seriously? They have ringers for dog shows?

I thought this was a riot, and I went back to my camper, grabbed a canvas chair and my knitting, and plopped down next to an older couple who had also just been camping and decided to watch the show.

DogShow2

By the time Keith came back from work that afternoon I had a feel for what was going on, and he joined me and took pictures and we laughed and had an amazing time talking to some of the “junior trainers”, the kids who would be competing later, and many of the owners. And we saw this poodle (and a black one just like it that won “best of fair”. Seriously. I thought people made this up, but they really do look like this):

Dog Show 2

I kept trying to ask the competitors, “what do you get if you win?” Is it prestige? Is it money? Can you charge more for breeding your dogs if you win? But I never did get a satisfactory answer. It’s like people just enter to win because they love it. This was their life.

DogShow5

DogShow6

It’s probably going to be one of the highlights of my summer. I’ve never seen people actually blow dry a dog before, and I’ve never seen that many dogs behave so well. And I’ve never seen people so nervous about whether or not their beagles will properly run in a circle.

And we never would have seen it if we hadn’t have been camping at the right campground.

It got me thinking: there’s a lot of fun to be had just meeting people and doing crazy things.

People have all kinds of neat hobbies–arts and crafts, model trains, model planes, gardening, wine making, tons of stuff! You may not be interested in any of those things yourself (I don’t even own a dog and never will; I travel too much), but going to community events can teach you something new and give you a ton of laughs. How many things do we miss because we’re afraid to do something impulsive, and do a little bit of exploring?

Why don’t we try making memories more often?

Why is it that we turn to Netflix out of boredom, rather than check out the community section in the paper and see what’s actually going on?

I would bet that if you opened it up you’d see some neat contest or show or event that would end up being fun! Old movies in the park. Jazz by the beach. A train show. A dance recital.

Pick one this weekend and just go. Put the kids in a stroller if you have to. It’s those memories that make your marriage fun–and push boredom away.

Making memories with your husband: shut off the computer and do something!

Tell me: What weird and quirky things have been going on in your community this summer? What strange things have you done that ended up making the best memories?

Is Marriage Worth It? Ending Marriage’s Bad Rap

Is marriage worth it? Why we shouldn't talk down marriage so much

Is marriage worth it?

That’s a question so many people ask today. All around them it seems like everyone is divorcing and married people are miserable. But is that actually true? I wrote a column a few years ago where I tried to end marriage’s bad rap, and I thought it was time to post it again.

If an alien were to peruse the magazines at the checkout counter, he or she would likely conclude that humans are all masochists: we’re inexplicably drawn to the institution of marriage even though we know our partners will cheat on us, denigrate us, and complain about our lack of bedroom prowess. Our kids, reading those same headlines, are likely to become disenchanted with the institution, too. Marriage is a pipe dream. The most we can hope for is a few years of happiness before it all falls apart.

After all, even beauty, that most prized possession, can’t keep a spouse in line. Tiger’s wife is beautiful. Sandra Bullock is beautiful. Jennifer Aniston is beautiful. But their husbands all ran around on them. And women aren’t that much better. Leanne Rimes, Jennifer Lopez, Heidi Klum–even Whoopi Goldberg!–have all been caught cheating.

The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and DivorceDisastrous relationships and celebrity seem to go hand in hand, of course, from as far back as Cleopatra. But today it’s not just celebrities whose marriages are failing. Many kids who have witnessed family breakdown firsthand. Those they know and love couldn’t make it work, so why should they expect to find lifelong companionship themselves?

Let me attempt to answer that question. Yes, marriage is hard. Yes, people can have affairs. But despite the epidemic of non-commitment in Hollywood, more than 50% of marriages do survive in the here and now—and the rate is higher for first-time marriages. Sure many marriages fail, but it’s not as if the institution is dead. In fact, Shaunti Feldhahn crunched the numbers in her book The Good News About Marriage and found that the divorce rate is closer to 30%. Things are not as bad as magazine covers make them out to be.

Thinking marriage is going to fail, though, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If we figure marriage is doomed, we’re far less likely to look for someone that we can see ourselves growing old with, and far more likely to seek someone to be with right now. That can cause immense heartbreak, but also more seriously it can lead to pregnancies that hand us the hardest job in the world—parenthood—without a partner to shoulder the burdens and the joys with. When we don’t believe in long-term relationships, we often get too involved in short-term ones, even if these short-term ones have long-term consequences.

The problems with forsaking life-time commitment don’t just fall on those who have yet to say “I do”, though; they chase those who have already promised it. When people think that they can run if things aren’t going their way, they’re far less likely to work on problems. And if you feel like your commitment isn’t solid, you’re less likely to bring up problems, too. Your marriage can’t grow.

Case for MarriageYet problems don’t have to signal the end of a relationship.

In their book, A Case for Marriage, Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher reported on a five-year study of couples who rated their marriages as terrible. Those who divorced in that five-year span were less likely to be personally happy than those who stuck it out. But even more striking, 78% of couples who stayed in their marriages, even during the tough times, five years later rated those marriages as very good. In other words, if your marriage is in the toilet, it’s not necessarily time to flush it.

And so is marriage worth it? Well, you have to believe in marriage to see it work: it’s just too hard to keep a relationship together when one person has left the escape hatch open. Yes, people can cheat on you. Yes, they can betray you. Maybe you’ve already been married and you’ve experienced this firsthand. But it doesn’t mean that all potential spouses will forsake you. Most marriages still work. Marriage is worth it. And marriage is worth fighting for, because life is just too lonely without someone to walk through it with us.

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Does Marriage Counseling Help?

Does Marriage Counseling Help

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wifey Wednesday, the day that we always talk marriage! Today I thought I’d address a question I often get when I advice people to find a third party to talk to about their marriage. Does marriage counseling help?

A few years after our son Christopher died, Keith and I relocated to the small town we live in now. We were established in our own home (finally!), Keith started his pediatric practice, and I was home with our two young daughters. We were finally out of student mode and into adult mode.

And perhaps because of that, a lot of “stuff” started surfacing. All the feelings that we hadn’t dealt with when we were always in crisis mode with babies and school and training bubbled up, and I, especially, had a hard time coping.

So for about 6 weeks we went to see a marriage counselor.

It was really very helpful. We managed to talk through a lot of issues, work through a lot of pain, and get some new tools to help us process things, especially the grief we were feeling after our son Christopher died.

For us, marriage counseling helped. We weren’t at any risk of divorce, but we simply had some bumps in the road that needed to be smoothed over.

All couples go through rough patches.

Some of the patches are rougher than others. Sometimes you need to work through a major sin that needs to be forgiven, like a physical or emotional affair, or addiction, or porn use. Sometimes you need to talk about boundaries. Sometimes you just need to figure out how to resolve conflict and make sure you’re truly listening–and hearing–one another.

I think more couples should likely go to counseling, and when I talk to counselors, most of them say, “I just wish this couple had come in three years ago when the problems could be more easily addressed, rather than now when it’s such a big mess!”

And so I want to encourage you today that if you need help, go get it. It doesn’t mean your marriage is failing or at risk of failing; it simply means you want it to be the best it can be.

At the same time, not all marriage counseling is equal. So if you want to get the most out of it, here are 4 things I think you should look for:

1. Marriage Counseling Works Best When It’s Time Limited

Does your counselor want to see you on a weekly basis forever and ever until you announce you’re done? Or does your counselor tend to see people for 6-12 sessions to sort out a specific issue?

Unless you have deep seated psychological issues, I think time-limited counseling is more helpful. It says, “we’re addressing one problem, not everything that could possibly make you sad under the sun.”

When you focus on ways to make things better, you tend to make them better. When you focus on everything that’s wrong, all you’ll see is all the problems.

I’ve written at length on my issue with counseling that doesn’t work well, and this is the heart of it. If the counselor wants to talk through all of your problems and psychological issues, then you’re really just focusing on the bad. It’s better to focus on solutions.

2. Marriage Counseling Helps Most When It’s Solutions-Oriented

And that’s what good marriage counselors do: they find solutions. The key is to modify behavior and thought patterns rather than trying to figure out every single root cause for why you’re insecure and why he’s controlling, or vice versa. Certainly a good counselor will probe this a little bit, but understanding why you’re insecure can only go so far. Ultimately you have to figure out what to do differently in your marriage to make both of you feel accepted and loved.

Ask your counselor, then, if they are solutions-focused rather than therapy focused, and ask for some examples of what kinds of solutions they suggest to their clients. Counselors who give homework and who teach you how to communicate are focused on solutions; counselors who only want to talk about emotions usually aren’t.

Happily, counseling has really changed in the last twenty years, and more counselors are now focused on solutions. And that’s great!

3. Marriage Counselors Should Be Committed to Marriage

Nevertheless, not all marriage counselors are created equally, and not all marriage counselors believe in marriage. Many marriage counselors, especially secular ones, are more focused on words like “happiness, inner peace, identity, strength, fulfillment.” They really don’t like words like guilt, fault, and shame.

A counselor who is focused on helping clients find their fulfillment and happiness may not be committed to helping a struggling marriage survive. They may too quickly decide that fulfillment is best found separately. If you are committed to the marriage, make sure you find a counselor who is as well.

4. Marriage Counselors Should Be Committed to Health and Wholeness

At the same time, don’t get a counselor who veers too much to the other extreme. Yes, I believe in marriage, and yes, I believe that God hates divorce. But do you know what God also hates? God also hates abuse, and He hates people hiding behind their marriage vows to avoid growth or repentance or doing what’s right.

A marriage counselor should have a healthy respect for boundaries, and should not want her clients to violate their boundaries by not holding someone accountable for violence or for controlling behavior, even if the one who is violent or controlling is a spouse. A counselor should not believe that marriage vows mean that if a man refuses to stop using porn, or if a woman refuses to stop her emotional affair, that the spouse should just do the Love Dare and leave it at that. The Love Dare is great–don’t get me wrong. But sometimes people need to be told: you need to stop what you are doing; it’s not acceptable; and just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can treat your spouse like this.

So, yes, a marriage counselor should believe in marriage. But they should not believe in marriage at all costs. They should believe in working towards wholeness and health within the marriage–and sometimes that wholeness and health can’t be found without setting some clear boundaries and even separating for a time (though this is only in extreme circumstances. James Dobson in Love Must Be Tough talks a lot about this, too).

Why don’t more people do marriage counseling? It’s often a combination of fear, embarrassment, lack of funds, and a fear that it won’t actually work. But I’d encourage more couples to try it. Sure, it may cost $1500 or so for your sessions in total , but that’s a lot less money than a divorce lawyer will charge. And if you and your husband will get on good ground, it will likely help you succeed more at your careers, too. It’s really worth it if you need it and have the funds at hand. I know many of you don’t, but if your marriage matters and you need it, plan on putting it in the budget for the coming months, if at all possible.

I was sent this great infographic on how marriage counseling helps couples from a couples counselor in Austin, TX: Louis Laves-Webb. It’s great, and he said I could share it with you. I hope it dispels some myths about whether or not marriage counseling works, and I hope it may encourage some of you to give it a try before issues get too big–and before you give up.

How Marriage Counseling Can Help Your Marriage Infographic

 

Now let me know: have you ever tried marriage counseling? How did it work for you? Tell us in the comments!

Top 10 Tips for Transitioning After a Long Absence with Your Spouse

Transitioning Back with Your Husband--when he's gone a lot for workIs your husband a pilot? A trucker? In the military? A business manager? Maybe, like many, your husband travels for work.

Lots of us are married to men who need to be away for long periods of time, and making that transition home can be quite difficult. Today guest poster Liz Millay shares what she’s learned about renewing that bond when your husband arrives home. Here’s Liz:

I have come to learn that spending time away from a spouse is much more common than I would have realized prior to entering marriage. I have a friend whose husband  travels for work for weeks at a time regularly. One of my husband’s best friends spent the first two years of marriage living in a different state than his spouse.

Sometimes life just doesn’t pan out the way you had hoped, and you find yourself having to spend a significant portion of time away from your better half. Times like this are so very difficult–but while it may seem that the time apart is the hardest aspect, the tougher transition may be right around the corner, as the transition back to living together can bring a whole new set of challenges.

So what can you do to ease into this transition? Now that my husband has been back with us for the last couple months, I’ve looked back on the experience and have come up with my top ten tips for transitioning back together after a long absence from your spouse.

1. Begin to prepare yourself as soon as you part ways.

Stay involved in each other’s lives as much as possible. Do things for each other whenever you can. Keep each other updated on what’s happening in life and stay on the same page in regards to finances, plans, dreams, etc. For more ideas on surviving your time apart, check out this article I wrote here.

2. Know your triggers.

Before we even reunited I already knew exactly what would be the most difficult aspect for me: my independence. I like doing what I want, when I want. I like being in charge of my own schedule. Transitioning back to bending to someone else’s agenda and desires after a time apart is always difficult for me. I knew it could easily become a trigger for tension and arguments. I had to be prepared to let go of always getting what I wanted. When you’re married both parties have to put each other first day in and day out. Although we weren’t without bumps, recognizing this trigger ahead of time helped greatly.

3. Don’t be like the Israelites.

Do you remember what happened with the Israelites after they left Egypt? It didn’t take long for their excitement to fade into bitterness. They started complaining and in no time they were wishing they were back in Egypt. In slavery! What a 180! So how does this relate to reuniting with your spouse? It is very easy to go from “over the moon excited to be back together” to “oy, life sure was easier when you weren’t here doing xyz.” Excitement fades and real life starts to grind away. He leaves his clothes on the bedroom floor. She never remembers to put away her hair dryer. You can easily get lost in the excitement of reuniting and be blind-sided by those annoying day to day things you’ve forgotten. I’m not saying it’s bad to be excited about your reunion, but if you’re not careful you can go from an emotional high to bitterness and frustration in 6 seconds flat. Keep your expectations in check and stay focused on the positive.

4. Remember where your strength comes from.

Especially towards the end of our time apart, I remember just wanting to be with him again. I wanted someone who would hug me after a bad day and then go get me a bowl of ice cream. I was tired of being lonely. When you’re apart, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything is going to be better when you’re together again. However, even though it’s definitely nice to have someone at your side to go through tough times, your husband is not your Rock. God is. The same God who got you through your time apart is the same God you need to lean on in the day to day once you’re back together.

5. Get on the same page.

Don’t withhold any reservations you’re feeling as you transition back together. Take it from a self-proclaimed, bottling introvert—you need to put everything on the table. Knowing each other’s concerns and struggles helps you encourage and build each other up, and give a little extra grace. My husband was aware that I was going to struggle with losing my independence. Knowing this made it easier for him to extend an extra dose of grace in those bumpy moments.

6. Don’t be afraid to fight.

Yep, you heard me. Fight. I’m not saying be mean and nasty; however, knowing that there are going to be some bumps in the road as you readjust to life together helps you take those arguments in stride. Shortly after being reunited with my hubby, we spend around 30 hours in the car together in the span of less than a week. At times we found it hard to keep a conversation going. At one point during the drive, we had a fight. It wasn’t ugly, but we were both frustrated. We were misunderstanding each other. But, you know what? We worked through it and got on the same page, coming away with a deeper understanding of where the other was coming from. After it was over, I found myself glad that we had gotten into the argument, as it was much more productive than just sitting in silence!

7. Have fun.

Be silly. Do something interesting together. Go on a date if you can. At least sneak in some alone time. Snuggle a lot. Enjoy each other. Spend some time just getting to know each other again. Be proactive in making sure you are having more positive moments than negative ones.

8. Reclaim your intimacy.

After spending an extended period of time away from each other, the intimacy you’ve built as a married couple is bound to suffer to some degree. You might find yourself wondering “who even is this person I’m married to?” Honestly, there is no easy fix for this except to just start doing it again (pun intended). Open up and be vulnerable with your spouse. The best place to start this is in the bedroom. I don’t want to speak for all men, but there’s probably a good chance your husband is feeling deprived in the sex department. Don’t think it’s just for him though, the benefits extend to both of you! See some of Sheila’s posts on intimacy here, here, here, and here.

9. Be understanding of changes that happened while you were apart.

Especially if you spend a very long time apart, there are bound to be some changes that could possibly take you off guard. There were two big ones for us. The first was that while my husband was away our son transitioned from a baby-like toddler to a 2 going on 20 toddler. You parents know what I’m talking about, the change that happens between two and three – the whining, the stubbornness, the “where-did-my-sweet-baby-go”? It totally threw my husband off guard and it was tempting for him to wonder what in the world I did to our kid. He had to take a step back, give me the benefit of the doubt, and realize that the changes were normal. The second thing was that for our last five weeks apart my husband had officers training for the Air Force. Being in such a strict, rigid environment changed him. I had to make sure I was understanding as he adjusted back to family life.

10. Have a truckload of patience.

For me, this was probably the most important thing. Once we were back together it was tempting to feel like everything needed to be perfect RIGHT THEN. I had to realize that we didn’t need to fix every single problem in our marriage overnight. Honestly, that realization alone relieved the pressure and made things so much easier. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. On those days when it feels like your feet are dragging and the finish line is nowhere in sight, remember that it’s okay to slow down, just keep moving forward, loving and giving grace along the way.

We are a military family now, and while my husband’s position isn’t likely to experience frequent or extensive periods of deployment, the job will definitely lead to times where we are apart. So, I would love to know, if your husband travels for work, or if he’s in the military what life lessons have you learned?

LizMillayLiz is a twenty-something wife, mother, and jack-of-all-trades. When she’s not reading books, cooking, or crafting, this chocolate lover can be found outside. She admits she’s a nerd and maybe a teensy bit stubborn too. Liz blogs about faith, family, and life’s adventures at Simple Life. Messy Life.

 

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