The Top 5 Method for Finding the Win-Win in a Fight

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThe "Name Your Top 5" Method of Resolving Conflict when you see the situation in opposite ways--this works!We’ve been talking about finding the win-win when you’re dealing with conflict with your husband.

Yesterday I talked about how, instead of just arguing about who is right, you instead identify your needs in a situation. Today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I want to give you a method I suggested in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage–Identify your big 5! Then we’re going to get specific and look at how to declutter with your husband on board.

Sometimes a conflict ends up being about how you want your life to FEEL. For instance, he may want the house super tidy, and you may like the creative energy that comes from a bustling house with kids and lots of company.

How can you win that one when you both have different ideas of what “home” means?

One thing I suggest is to name your Top 5–the Top 5 things that would help you feel like home.

So he may say:

  • I need the living room tidy so I can sit down at night.
  • I need the entryway clear when I come home.
  • I need the bed made.
  • I need the bathroom clean.
  • I need the laundry put away, not strewn all over the floor/bed.

She, on the other hand, may say:

  • I need to let the kids put a blanket fort in the play room.
  • I need to do the dishes on my own time.
  • I need to have my knitting out, not always putting it away out of reach.
  • I need books all over the house to encourage reading.
  • I need the backyard to be the kids’ domain.

The living room and bathroom stay spotless; the playroom and living room are the kids’ domains; and they each get what they need. By talking about it specifically like that, you break down “what is really important to me?” And you often find that you’re able to find a win-win that doesn’t blame the other person for being morally inferior (“you’re a slob!”; “you’re anal and don’t care about the kids!”)

I think this Top 5 approach (which ends up being 10 things, for Top 10 Tuesday!) can work in a variety of situations where you are opposites.

When one of you is an introvert who needs time alone, and one is an extrovert who needs time together–how can we figure out how to spend our time? Or when one is a spender and one is a saver, how can we negotiate how to take care of the finances? Often opposites attract, so name your top 5, and then you both feel listened to.

And then go out of your way to abide by your spouse’s Top 5. They deserve that honour.

Today I’m busy moving my daughter into university, so just a quick post. But I think it’s a great concept that can help a lot of marriages.

So let me ask you today: Can you think of an area of conflict where you each just want totally different things, or have totally opposite approaches? Can you try to find your “Top 5s” to help you navigate it? Let me know in the comments!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Reader Question: I’m Scared of Sex Because I Don’t Want to Get Pregnant

How can we have a healthy sex life if I'm scared of getting pregnant? Some thoughts on finding the win-win!

What do you do when you’re scared of getting pregnant, hate hormonal birth control, but then you avoid sex?

Reader Question: We can't agree on birth control, so I'm scared of sex!Every Monday I like to try to answer a reader question. Today I have the same question from two readers who are both scared of pregnancy. One woman writes:

I read many Christian blogs encouraging frequent sex between man and wife. I believe it to be helpful to a marriage. But what do other couples do when they don’t want to use contraceptives but are feeling insecure about having more children? My husband and I were not on the same page for a long time about having more children. That definitely affected our sex life. It is Biblical to have frequent sex so then should we just expect to have 20 children?

Another woman writes:

I follow and love your blog, but this is a topic I have either missed you addressing, or perhaps you haven’t addressed it. I am happily married for 16.5 years. We have 8 beautiful children, whom I stay at home with and homeschool. I feel complete in our family size, for many reasons. My husband says he does, also. However, we cannot find a birth control we agree on. We have failed at NFP/FAM both times we tried to use it. We hate how condoms interfere with intimacy, and we don’t want to do anything hormonal. I am leaning towards something permanent, but my husband is not on board there, either. Because of us not being able to agree/decide on a reliable form of birth control, I am fearful of pregnancy, and my attitude toward sex with my husband is suffering.

I’d love any advice on how to overcome this speed bump in our marriage. The simple answer would obviously be “get on the same page”. But what do we do when that’s not happening? Maybe I’m just looking for reassurance that I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

You’re definitely not the only one who has felt this way!

So how does a couple come to an agreement in this tricky situation?

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentIn 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I shared the concept that quite often in marriage we think of conflict as a win-lose thing. I told of three different stories–including one of my own–where we get into these endless arguments trying to come out on top.

For instance, quite a few years ago, when my girls were little, I was homeschooling them and Keith had a busy pediatric practice. He wanted one night a week to himself, to get together with some local guys and play battle scenarios with miniature soldiers (think that sounds geeky? You have no idea!). But I was starting to get writing assignments, and I needed time to write.

Keith was genuinely burned out. He had life and death decisions constantly. He needed time to decompress.

I genuinely needed time to use my own giftings.

How were we going to solve that one? It didn’t seem like both of us could win; there were only so many hours in a week.

But eventually Keith (it’s usually Keith who is the smart one when we’re in conflict) realized we were being ridiculous. We were fighting over time, but there were other ways to get more time. And Keith ended up cutting back his practice half a day a week to give me an afternoon to myself, when he took the girls. It was great.

We found a win-win.

In most conflicts,  you can find a win-win–or at least find a solution that you’re both happy with.

But this birth control one is a tricky one, because it really seems as if there are only two options: either he gets sex and she gets pregnant; or he gets no sex and she doesn’t get pregnant. In both scenarios, one wins and one loses.

Find the win-win instead

So how do we get out of this win-lose dichotomy?

Instead of focusing on who can make the better argument, ask: what do I need here?

What is your underlying need? Both of you speak it out loud. It’s best if you even write it down! And you may have several.

She might write:

  • I want to feel confident that I won’t get pregnant
  • I feel uncomfortable with hormonal birth control methods
  • I want to feel close to my husband

And he might write:

  • I want a fulfilling sex life with my wife
  • I feel uncomfortable with condoms

As soon as you write your needs down, you’re now in problem solving mode.

And problem solving mode is much better than fighting mode.

Give each need the God “sniff test”

Here’s another thing I bring up in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: not all needs are legitimate.

I once had a reader write because her husband was a pastor who had been involved in porn ten years prior. He had gotten clean, but over the last year some typical behaviours had started again–he was secretive; he was becoming more selfish; he was becoming more verbally cutting.

She asked him if he was using porn, and he said, “I need trust in a marriage. You’re violating the marriage covenant by not giving me something I need.” And he refused to let her see his computer.

Some needs are illegitimate, and are actually covers for sin.

Let’s take a look at these needs. The one that stands out to me is “I want to feel confident I won’t get pregnant.”

I completely understand that feeling. I really do. But no matter what birth control method you use (short of sterilization), there is always a risk. And our futures are in God’s hands, not ours. Whatever we do for birth control, we have to realize that “I may have another baby in my future.” That’s God’s prerogative. And if you do get pregnant, God will be there to give you strength and help you love that baby and mother that baby.

To not have sex because you don’t want to get pregnant is really saying, “I don’t trust God.” It’s a spiritual issue far more than it is a marriage issue. And that’s dangerous.

I’m not saying she’s wrong for not wanting more children; I’m just saying that we should never presume upon God. And ultimately this question is much easier to work out if we’re able to trust God and say, “I’ll do my best, but I know that  you hold my future, and whatever happens, I’ll be okay because you will carry me.

Let’s Problem Solve Together!

Now let’s problem solve together. She doesn’t want to use hormonal birth control, and likely for good reason. The women in my direct line react badly to it. We gain 10 pounds in the first month–and keep ballooning up to about 40 pounds heavier, even if it’s a low progesterone dose (trust me; I’ve had several family members, including myself, go on low doses not for birth control but to regulate periods. It’s been a disaster). We get totally grumpy. We lose our libido. I even get blood clots!

And some people have similar reactions to the IUD. For most, though, the IUD has far fewer side effects that the Pill. However, there is controversy over whether it prevents conception or just prevents implantation.

So let’s take the hormonal out of the way. That leaves:

  • Condoms
  • Diaphragms
  • Natural Family Planning

J from Hot, Holy and Humorous swears by her diaphragm! You can put it in early in the day; nobody feels it at all during intercourse; and it’s super effective. Not to share TMI, but I can’t use one. I’m just really queasy about that sort of stuff (which is ironic considering what I do for a living). But if you’re NOT queasy, it sounds awesome.

Let’s Talk Condoms and Natural Family Planning

If a diaphragm isn’t in the cards for you, what about a combination of other methods? With natural family planning you chart your cycles so that  you know when you ovulate. Then, about 4 days before ovulation and 3 days afterwards (that’s actually a REALLY long window, but I’m trying to be super careful here) you avoid intercourse or you use a barrier method.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive HealthRemember: You cannot get pregnant when you’re not around ovulation! Seriously, that little sperm needs an egg. No egg, no pregnancy. And eggs are only viable for a few days, as are sperm. So in the week right after your period (or at least in the first five days), you’re usually good to go! And then after ovulation until your period–green light, too!

I really understand being nervous about this. I have a 20-year-old daughter who just got married who is still in school. Believe me–we all get it! We really do. But one of your needs is feeling close to your husband, and one of his needs is feeling close to you through a fulfilling sex life. You owe it to yourself to educate yourself about fertility. The more we understand, the less scared we will be. Learn the science behind it! The best book for that that is recommended everytime I talk about this is Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

How Do I Get Over Being Scared to get Pregnant?

Knowledge + Trust in God = A fun sex life!

You need both elements. If you’re ultimately scared that a pregnancy would be a disaster, and think that “disaster factor” makes it more likely, since God always gives you what you’re most scared of, it won’t matter how much you educate yourself. Your problem is a spiritual one.

But if you really aren’t educated, then you’ll think that you can get pregnant ALL THE TIME–which honestly is not true.

When you have both elements, it’s easier to sit down with your husband and say something like,

Look, we each want a great sex life. But during these days we’re just going to have to use condoms. It won’t be so bad, though, because it means that on other days we don’t have to! So it’s only a sacrifice for part of the month. And this way we’ll be able to feel close and have fun again. And with me understanding my body, it will help me understand my libido and pay attention more, too!

So often we ignore our bodies, and miss out on our libido surges. When you’re tracking, you pay attention. I’ve got a series on understanding how our hormones affect libido, too.

You can find a win-win, even in this seemingly impossible situation.

But you’ve got to let God into the equation. And as you do more research, you just may find that you’re more excited about sex because you understand your own body better.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentDo you and your husband go around and around with the same issue, never resolving it? Maybe it’s whether to homeschool. Whether to move. Whether to buy a house. It seems like only one person can win. But what if you just need to look at the situation differently? In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, Thought #7 gives a detailed plan to find a win-win. I hope it helps you resolve that longstanding conflict, too!

Now let me know in the comments: How have you dealt with the fear of pregnancy?

 

 

Wifey Wednesday: The Happiness Reality Check

The Happiness Reality Check--because your husband can't make you happy!

Does the pursuit of happiness work in marriage?

Can you find a husband who can complete you, who can be your best friend, who can make you happy for the rest of your life?

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThat’s one of the questions I ask in my new book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. It launched last week, and I’ve been blown away by all the kind comments I’ve received and the great reviews!

And I want to give a shout out to Gaye Christmus from Calm.Healthy.Sexy, who has been part of my blog tour. She’s giving away two Kindle copies of the book, so head on over to enter! She’s written a wonderfully practically post on 5 Ways You Can Strengthen Your Marriage Today, too. Check it out!

Today, though, I want to talk a little bit more about happiness in marriage. The theme of my book is that we can’t just be passive participants in life, waiting for things to happen. We have to go out and make it happen! And too many of us are sitting back and waiting for happiness to come, because we believe that our husbands are supposed to make us happy.

I’ve been speaking on happiness at women’s retreats and marriage retreats for over a decade now, and I always say something similar:

If you can complete this sentence: “I‘ll be happy when my husband….” (learns to change a toilet paper roll; gives me some time to myself; finally says thank you), then you’ll never be happy. You’re putting your happiness in someone else’s hands. And the more you ask yourself, “am I happy? Is he making me happy?”, the more you’ll find all the reasons why he isn’t.

You can’t aim for happiness. It’s a by-product of something else–of finding joy and contentment in God, and then fulfillment as we live out our purpose.

In church this Sunday our pastor showed this video clip from the movie Hector and the Pursuit of Happiness. And I loved it, because so much of it was word-for-word what I’ve been saying (I love confirmation like that!)

Take a look–it’s really good (and short):

 

Love it.

And so let’s get back to our question: Can your husband make you happy? I’ve asked Beth Steffaniak, a marriage blogger who has been such a faithful reader and guest contributor, to answer a couple of questions about happiness because this is her rallying cry, too! She writes the blog Messy Marriage, about what to do when things aren’t all rosy.

Beth, where do we get this idea that our husbands should make us happy?

On one level this seems like a “no-brainer!” We should all want our spouses to make us happy. Only a masochist or crazy person would NOT want his/her spouse to “make” him/her happy, right?

But at one point I began to question if I had married the wrong person, mostly because of that toxic belief. My reasoning seemed sound. “If he truly was my soul-mate, wouldn’t he make me happy?!” After all, that’s what I’d been told all my life by the people I trusted to form my view of marriage and romantic relationships … the Disney Corporation!

I can laugh at that reality now, but years ago I used to gobble up that sappy logic and magical thinking every time I hit the box office or clicked my TV remote. My “hungry for heaven” human heart was lulled into thinking that personal pleasure and happiness—no matter what it might cost me—should be the aim of my life and marriage. After all, if you’re an American, it’s right there in the Declaration of Independence…

What’s better than happiness?

I discovered that happiness in its truest sense isn’t something that can be expected or manufactured by any human being—“soul-mate” or not—because it is based upon good or favorable circumstances. However, only God can determine or change our circumstances! So happiness is a lot like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, “You never know what you’re going to get.”

On the other hand, “joy” is something that’s not based upon my circumstances, but rather upon the greatness of my God working in me in the midst of the good, the bad and especially the terrible circumstances I face in life and marriage.

“Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:2-4 (NIV).

Some of my most completely joyful moments in marriage have been the ones where my husband and I have grown closer because we weathered some storm in life together—not because we were delivered from it. Add to that the times when we worked through a messy moment that we brought on ourselves, and you have God’s catalyst for spiritual maturity because we learned to rely on Him more.

Would I ever go back to those days when I chased the ever-elusive happiness butterfly? Not a chance! That’s why I’m comfortable with being in a flawed and messy more-times-than-not marriage, because it is there that God’s glory in my weaknesses shines the brightest.

I love that, Beth! And if you feel like you’re in a “messy marriage”, too, check out her blog!

Here’s the thing, though: I think that many of us don’t realize when we’re chasing after happiness.

Whenever I write about happiness, I know most of my readers are nodding along with me, not realizing that this may, perhaps, apply to them, too!

So here’s your “happiness reality check”:

  • If you allow the things that your husband does that annoy you to wreck your mood, you may be looking for your husband to make you happy.
  • If you start the day happy, but end the day disappointed (with the disappointment growing as the day goes on), you may be looking outside yourself and outside God for your contentment.
  • If you find yourself praying for God to change your husband, you may be looking for your husband to complete you.
  • If you can easily give a list of the ways that your husband disappoints you, or easily list off ten of his faults, you may be looking for him to make you happy.

Or, let me sum it up this way:

People who are looking for their happiness outside of themselves have a very easy time identifying all the disappointments in their lives and all the ways others don’t measure up.

People who are looking to God for their joy and contentment have an easy time identifying things they are grateful for, and a harder time listing the things that bug them about specific people.

Look, we all have bad days. We all have days when we’re exhausted and we want to cry. We all have certain people that drive us completely around the bend. We all have certain circumstances that drive us nuts. And quite often there’s a very good reason these drive us nuts!

But people who focus on joy and contentment usually focus on how to make a plan to deal with those things that drive them nuts. People who are focused on happiness do not, because their modus operandi is more passive: things should go well for me, and if they don’t, someone is doing something wrong.

People who are focused on happiness see all the impediments to happiness; people who are focused on joy and on our Lord see exciting solutions.

What do you do if you’re focused on happiness?

It’s okay. This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip. I share in the book how I was focused on happiness in my marriage. So was Beth! But let’s stop focusing on the way that others disappoint us, and start searching for the way God blesses us. Let’s stop looking at other people’s failures and start looking inside ourselves to see what God has done. Let’s stop feeling helpless, and start seeing how God is equipping us to bring greater joy to everyone around us.

It really is just a simple mindset shift. It’s a new way of thinking. And it honestly can make all the difference in the world.

It’s not about the pursuit of happiness. It’s about the happiness of pursuit–the pursuit of God, the pursuit of purpose, the pursuit of joy, the pursuit of gratitude.

And especially the pursuit of Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)! When we start pursuing joy, you’ll find that your need for others to make you happy diminishes considerably. And, ironically, you’ll find that your happiness actually increases.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have a marriage post to share with us today? Link up the URL in the linky below! And PLEASE link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts, too.



Top 10 Thoughts About the Ashley Madison Scandal

Top 10 Thoughts About the Ashley Madison Scandal

On Friday Johnny from Shine FM in Edmonton sent me a tweet: “You wanna call in to the morning show to talk about Ashley Madison?” I couldn’t call on Friday but I did yesterday, and hosts Johnny and Hollie and I chatted about this huge, honking mess.

Because it is a huge mess, isn’t it? Tens of millions of Ashley Madison users’ data is now online. You can even search email addresses yourself (though I won’t link to where). Thousands of U.S. government emails are listed. Josh Duggar got found out (I blogged about that last week). And he won’t be the last high profile user, either.

So I’ve been thinking about this whole mess for a few days, and I thought I’d throw out ten random thoughts, in no particular order.

2 Thoughts About the Online World

1. Stuff online isn’t secret

If you buy erotica on your Kindle, it can be discovered. If you use porn, your history is never really gone. If you sign up for something like this, don’t expect you won’t get found out. If you text or email nude pictures of yourself–don’t be surprised if they surface somewhere.

Maybe if we realized this we’d all be smarter–and we’d feel less temptation.

2. Giving into temptation is so much easier in the internet age.

Because isn’t that the main problem? In the internet age, it’s much harder to withstand temptation because options are available instantaneously and seemingly anonymously. A guy (or a woman) who may never, ever stray may just be having a bad weekend alone, and may be surfing the internet when they shouldn’t be. Twenty years ago this kind of sin didn’t exist. I’m sure the vast majority of the guys who signed up for Ashley Madison would never try to pick up a woman in a bar in person. They’d never buy porn in person, if they had to look someone in the eye and ask for the magazine. But today it’s so easy!

Covenant EyesAnd that’s why we need to take some of that temptation away. I know sin is ultimately a heart issue, but I also do believe in putting up roadblocks to temptation. It’s just plain smart. And so I completely support having Covenant Eyes on you computer, even just as an accountability tool (and not as a filtering tool). That way you know that if you wander onto a bad site, someone’s going to know about it. Boom! Temptation’s gone, because it’s no longer anonymous.

3 Thoughts About Guys & Ashley Madison

3. A mistake made in a moment should not define a relationship.

All of us mess up. And some of us are going to mess up sexually. But one mistake should not define a relationship.

There were 30,000,000 or so users signed up to Ashley Madison. That’s a lot. But most of them did not actually cheat. They flirted with the idea, but they didn’t follow through.

I do believe that there is a big difference between someone who is tempted and who occasionally falls and someone who is actively seeking out ways to fall. A guy who binges on porn for a weekend after being clean for four years is in a totally different category than a guy who uses it most nights and says, “It’s harmless and it’s my right.”

Similarly, a guy who signs up for Ashley Madison is quite different from a guy who has several one night stands and who is texting several women. One is likely a sex addict; one is simply struggling.

If your husband has fallen, figure out which category he belongs in. If he’s made a mistake and has fallen, then work through that hurt. Allow yourself to feel the weight of it before you try to forgive, or else the forgiveness may not be real. But then fight on the same side as your husband against the porn and the sexualized culture. Don’t fight your husband. Be his ally.

If your husband instead refuses to confess, refuses to admit it, or refuses to deal with it, then you have an issue and you need some help. But, please, don’t wreck a marriage over one mess up. Don’t let darkness win.

4. Avoid the temptation to think, “all men are pigs”

With this in the media, it’s so easy for women to think, “all men are pigs.”

But most guys didn’t go anywhere near it. Most guys won’t have affairs. Don’t let the news cloud your view of all men, and especially your own husband who may have struggles in the past. Don’t blame him for the sins of others.

I know many will say, “women cheat too!” And preliminary reports were that 15-20% of accounts were female. But news is out today that many of those female accounts were actually fake accounts set up by Ashley Madison to make it seem like there were more women on the site than there were in reality.

This doesn’t mean that women are saints; it only means we have different weaknesses. I think men are more likely to struggle with weaknesses in an online, visual world. Shaunti Feldhahn explained that well here.

5. Most of these guys did not have sex with anyone else.

Remember: many of these accounts were set up by guys on the spur of the moment as they explored the possibility of an affair. Most of these men, though, did not follow through (especially since there were so few women actually on the site!) So just because a guy was listed there does not mean that he cheated. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t do anything wrong; just that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

5 Thoughts About What The Ashley Madison Scandal Tells Us About Sex

6. Do we give the impression that “marriage is where sex goes to die?”

Look at the motto for Ashley Madison to begin with: “Life is short. Have an affair.” In other words, the affair makes life more fun. Does that mean that our culture tends to think that married sex is really boring?

Yeah, I think it does. Which is awfully odd because the people with the best sex life are routinely found to be people who are married! The hooking up culture really doesn’t result in great sex–especially for women.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of couples for whom sex has pretty much died. And if we don’t stress this part of our relationship, our marriage is going to get really boring. So if sex is boring–do something about it! Don’t settle! And if we give our kids the impression that we have no sex life because we’re married, how in the world are we going to convince them to wait until they’re married?

7. Do we have the idea that there’s “sacred sex” and then there’s “fun sex”?

I don’t mean to insinuate, though, that if your husband used Ashley Madison it’s your fault, just like I didn’t mean to blame Anna Duggar in Friday’s post. I actually wonder something about Josh (and about other men that use Ashley Madison): have we given the impression that there is such a thing as “sacred sex”, which is missionary position and entirely clinical and passion-less, and then there’s fun sex, which can’t possibly be done in marriage?

I think there’s a stream of Christianity that inadvertently does this. If we stress purity in the wrong way, we can give the impression that sex itself is the enemy–that sexual feelings or sexual exploration are to be fought against at all costs. And this can easily make us into prudes. I don’t mean just women are prudes–I mean men, too, may think in terms of “I could NEVER do this with my wife! She’s too pure!” So they turn elsewhere for an outlet.

8. Exploring is good!

We’ve got to reclaim the idea that adventure and passion ARE pure. That losing oneself in passion is actually far closer to godliness than staying perfectly in control.

Spicing up your marriage and having more fun is a good thing.

9. If you feel distance, talk about it.

Nobody wakes up one day and decides to have an affair. Distance builds over time. And even if there’s no open hostility, you tend to feel it. You know there are certain subjects that you can’t talk about with your husband.

That’s a bad sign. If you sense distance–even if you don’t think your husband is doing anything wrong–work to fix it. Work to reclaim that feeling of oneness, of being on the same team.

If you sense a problem, just do not ignore it.

10. Life is short. Have an affair–with your husband!

Life is short. Have an affair--with your husband! On Ashley Madison and having fun in marriage.

Let’s have all that excitement and exploration and adventure–with our husbands! Let’s pursue him. Let’s be a little bit “naughty”. Not because we’re scared he’ll stray, but because why on earth would you want to miss out on something so great that marriage has to offer?

Get frisky tonight! If there’s nothing else that the Ashley Madison scandal taught me, it’s that too many people are wasting their lives in pointless pursuits when the best is right in front of them. I don’t want to miss out on that, and I hope you won’t either.

Reader Question: How Can I Love if My Spouse is Hurting Me?

Reader Question: how can I love my husband when he ticks me off?How can I love my husband if he’s hurting me? How can I love my spouse if my spouse completely ticks me off?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is quite a common one that most of you could have written:

I know that sex is important in a marriage, but after spending the whole day picking up my husband’s messes, dealing with all the chaos with my kids, and watching my husband totally oblivious to what’s going on around him, I just want to scream! How can I not notice that two kids are fighting in front of him? Why is that always my problem? And how hard is it to put a coffee mug in the dishwasher? Why do I always have to do it? I feel like he walks through our house and notices nothing–not the mess, not the kids, not the bills. I take care of everything, and he likes it that way. And I’m just fed up.

Whether we’re ticked off about our husband never putting his coffee mug in the dishwasher or whether we’re ticked off about our husband watching porn; whether it’s a small thing or a little thing, we all battle with this essential question: how am I supposed to be nice to him when he makes me so mad?

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to feel ticked off. Sure, your spouse can do something wrong. Sure, your spouse can say something hurtful. But ultimately you decide how you will respond. Your husband can’t make you mad; that is a choice that you make.

When your spouse hurts you: You don't have to feel ticked off! You can choose how to respond.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentI’m not saying that you should let everything go, or that you shouldn’t deal with problems; not at all! In fact, in my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage I’ve got 3 of the 9 thoughts that all have to do with handling these issues in marriage, whether they’re big or small. You definitely have to resolve problems.

But those problems are easier to resolve if we’re going at them with our hearts right. And when we focus on anger and we focus on hurt, we won’t be able to solve anything.

Know Your Goal in Marriage: Oneness

I can think of so many times that I’ve been angry at Keith–and I actually shared a few instances in the book where I let those hurts and that anger drive a wedge between us. He’d be at work and I’d be at home, crying into my tea, so sad that I didn’t have a husband who understood me.

And usually at some point in the afternoon, a thought will enter my head: “do you actually want to make the marriage better, or do you just want to be proven to be the ‘good guy’ here?” In other words, am I trying to mend something, or am I just trying to justify myself and make him feel like slime?

But I usually dismiss those thoughts, because I HURT AND HE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND IT. So I work myself up and see how much worse I can feel. By the time he comes home, I’m ready for battle.

And often, within five minutes or hashing out all the ways he’s hurting me, all the things that I’ve rehearsed saying all day, I realize that I sound ridiculous. Sure, Keith may have done something hurtful. But me dwelling on it all day and lambasting him for it is worse.

How can we avoid all those crying messes in the meantime?

Here are three steps that I talk about in my book.

Know Your Triggers

Here’s how I explain it in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage:

One night your husband arrives home later than he was supposed to, and it doesn’t bother you one bit. Yet a week later he walks in the door equally late, and you’ve already been seething for half an hour, rehearsing the speech you’ll launch into once he steps inside. You think, He doesn’t care about our family! You decide that he has the problem—or even, that he is the problem.

Or maybe some mornings you’re ready to tear your husband’s hair out for leaving his socks on the floor instead of pitching them in the hamper, while other mornings you happily fetch the offending garments while humming to yourself.

We dwell on the particular infraction—being late or leaving socks lying around—but we often fail to realize that it isn’t necessarily what our husbands do that makes us mad; it’s other things that are going on in the background that cause us to see our husbands in a bad light. We let these other things—these triggers—influence how we think about our husbands. By scanning for these triggers, though, we can minimize their ability to send our thoughts reeling.

We all have times when we’re more likely to get ticked off, and if we can recognize them, we can minimize the chance that they’ll tackle us. Being hormonal; being too busy; being tired; feeling defensive; feeling like you haven’t connected in a while–all of these things make us more likely to react badly when our husbands do something insensitive.

I elaborate on that here–but remember: when you’re angry, ask yourself if the problem really is entirely with him, because quite often it’s not!

Don’t Dwell on the Bad Stuff

Did you know that you can control your thoughts? 2 Corinthians 10:5 says this:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

We take every thought captive! That means that we can take a thought, examine it, and throw it out if it’s not valid.

If we’re always looking for our husbands to mess up, we’ll notice each and every time they do. Taking every thought captive means breaking this cycle.

When writing the book I asked on my Facebook Page for people to share stories of how they managed to “let things go”–those little things that can bug us and make us think we have a bad marriage. I want to share the story of a woman I named Ruby:

A couple years ago I realized that I couldn’t look at my husband without seeing everything wrong with him. I was constantly annoyed, irritated, and disappointed.

I must have prayed about becoming more loving because God dropped an idea into my brain. I would stop criticizing Dave for one whole month. In order to keep from falling off the wagon, I decided to write about it. Every day. On Facebook, for all my friends to see. They would be my accountability group, whether they wanted to or not.

When I told Dave my plan, I was so nervous. I thought he’d roll his eyes or be suspicious. Instead, he beamed. And another little piece of my heart broke. I hadn’t realized how hurt he’d been by my bad attitude, sarcastic remarks, and snide comments—my passive-aggressive attempts to fix him.

I found that, because I wasn’t allowed to say anything snide to him, I stopped thinking critical things too. It happened gradually. I’d start a rant in my head about his leaving his side of the bed unmade or his floor all messy, and then I’d stop. All the nasty comments I was saving in my head for him were useless, since I wasn’t allowed to say them. So I stopped searching for them.

Since I was required to say nice things, I had to look for them: reasons I was thankful, things he was doing right. And slowly, I saw him differently. I realized that all those negative things were really coming from my own baggage, my own selfishness, and my own needs and desperation. They weren’t the whole truth.

Once my mouth, and more especially my thoughts, got out of the way, I realized I had a great husband. By the end of the month, I had formed a new habit. And as an added bonus, I’d had great conversations with my friends on Facebook, and I think we all grew a little.

After shutting up about my own needs and stopping thinking me, me, ME! all the time, I realized I had some issues of my own I needed to work through. I had no concept of boundaries and saying no. I had no idea that a “good Christian wife” could ask her husband in a nice, non-ragey way to please put his lunch bag away instead of stewing over feeling like his maid for months and then exploding in a vague storm of emotions and frustration.

I had a lot to learn, but the month of no criticizing was a great first step for me.

Catch Him Doing Good

Ruby tried to not criticize, and it meant that she wasn’t watching for him to mess up. Now let’s take it one step further and catch him doing good.

If you make it your goal to notice one thing that he does today well, and then praise him for it–that can change the whole dynamic of your relationship!

If you’re in a tough marriage, I know this sounds difficult.

But when you get your heart right, you can start tackling the big problems in marriage with a better attitude. And you’ve built some goodwill so that your spouse is more receptive, too.

I know when you’re sad you just want your spouse to acknowledge it and feel badly about it, too. And a little grovelling wouldn’t hurt.

But wanting your spouse to feel like a worm rarely does much for the marriage. Instead, realize: I can control my feelings. I can decide what to think about. I can decide what to dwell on.

That’s really empowering. And then we can stop feeling so much like a victim in the marriage, and more like a strong person who can start to address problems and turn this  marriage around! When everything just happens TO you, you can’t do anything. But when you decide how to feel and how to act, suddenly you have the ability to make changes. And that’s what God intended for you.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentMy husband can’t make me mad, and I don’t have to feel ticked off.

That’s freeing! And it’s thought #2 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. If you want to read some marriage thoughts that empower you to make changes, then this book is for you! God doesn’t want us to be passive in our marriages. He wants us to learn to do the right thing. And I try to show you how you can turn a mediocre marriage into a great marriage!

 

On Sexual Double Lives, Josh Duggar, and Peace

Josh Duggar and Finding Peace

News broke Wednesday that Josh Duggar had been using the Ashley Madison adultery site to cheat on his wife. Yesterday Josh confessed, taking full responsibility and apologizing.

I found myself so happy reading it. Sad at what that family is going through, yes. But happy because he is taking ownership, and that means that now, in the midst of this mess, even though it doesn’t look like it–that family is closer to peace and redemption and healing than they have been in years.

The mess is so much better than the picture of perfection, because the mess is honest.

On Fridays I usually do a weekly roundup, and I have a lot to talk about this week–my new book was released; I’ve got some hilarious videos of my daughters post-wisdom teeth surgery; and more. But this is important, and needs to be addressed.

How Does a Sexual Double Life Start?

Josh Duggar has been leading a sexual double life. He admitted to being addicted to porn; he admitted to infidelity; and we know that he admitted to molesting his sisters.

I wrote a while back that I believed that the Duggar parents had not handled that molestation well. I had a lot of pushback–“But they’re such a good family, and everyone was healed!”

In many families, though, especially those brought up with extremely conservative sexuality, true healing is swept under the rug in favour of looking like we have it all together. And that’s what I was afraid was going on.

Picture a 14-year-old in a hyper-conservative family. He’s experiencing sexual feelings. He doesn’t know what to do with them. He can’t talk to his parents. And he starts acting out.

He’s punished–but no one deals with the sexual feelings that started this. He’s told those feelings are “only for marriage”. And so he sees sexual feelings as sinful, because people haven’t helped him sort out the good from the bad.

But those sexual feelings are affected in another way: young people are told “sex when you’re married is beautiful,” but they’re also told that kissing is bad and hand holding is bad. And so touch, affection, exploration of any kind is seen as the enemy. This does not magically change once one is married. Passion–that feeling of being “out of control”–has been the enemy for so long that sex in marriage is seen as something which must be clinical to be sacred.

I am not saying that everyone who grows up like this experiences this–not at all!

But many do. Sexual passion is scary, and when we try to bury it, we can easily warp godly sexuality. Godly sexuality is not “controlled”.

But these young people get married, thinking that marriage will control the “lust”–those strong sexual feelings. But it doesn’t, because in their minds, sex in marriage must be entirely about love and never about want.

Where does the want go? It gets buried.

  • In some marriages, a spouse becomes a control freak about everything, not just sex, because these feelings are so powerful they must be kept under wraps. That means working hard to silence your inner adventure-seeker, and it ends up silencing your true self.
  • In other marriages, a spouse splits into two: one half is pure and chaste and unadventurous in the bedroom; the other half is looking at the most outrageous pornography or searching out something daring online.

Denying sexual feelings is very common. I get letters from young people who grew up in families like that, and now they’re married and they are LOST.

There is far too much emphasis in some schools of Christian thought on trying to control someone’s sexuality, as if it is a threat.

To give an example, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an adult deciding, “I am going to save my first kiss until marriage, and I am not going to have any physical contact until I am engaged.” God will ask different things of different people. To walk in obedience to what God is telling you is wonderful.

There is, however, a LOT wrong with a parent telling an adult child “this is what you are going to do.” That is a parent controlling an adult child’s sexuality, and it is wrong. It treats sexuality as an enemy, and it treats the adult child as a child.

We aren’t to control our sexuality; we’re to channel it. To channel it is to acknowledge it, to feel it, to name it, but then, at the same time, to say, “this isn’t for me to explore right now. So God, help me take all of this energy and put it somewhere else, to good use.

Being a PeaceKEEPER Rather Than a PeaceMAKER

And now I want to get to the heart of my message.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThought #6 in my new book that launched this week, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is asking us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.

What’s the difference? A peacekeeper’s job is to keep the warring factions on their own side of the line. It’s to keep hostilities under wraps–simmering, but not erupting. A peacekeeper doesn’t deal with the root issues; a peacekeeper only deals with the expression of those issues, the fighting. A peacekeeper doesn’t solve anything.

A peacemaker, on the other hand, tries to bring the two sides together so that instead of being on opposing sides of the line, they can join each other on the same side. Instead of shaking fists they embrace. They become as one.

And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Being a Peacemaker, not a Peacekeeper

I believe the Christian church spends far too much time keeping peace, and not enough time making it.

Peacemaking Parents & Children’s Sexuality

Josh Duggar, and so many of my readers’ husbands, led a double life. He had two halves of himself that were at war with each other. I believe that Josh was likely heartbroken, mortified, and horribly ashamed not just when the news broke but for years. He likely hated himself and what he was doing. But he couldn’t stop.

We don’t want that for our kids.

As parents, we can be peacemakers hopefully by preventing the sexual splitting. We can call out what is holy and help our children name, admit, and deal with what is not. When a child cannot talk about struggles, a parent is being a peacekeeper.  A peacekeeping parent says:

  • Good girls don’t touch themselves there.
  • God doesn’t want you thinking about sex. That’s only for marriage.
  • If you love God, He’ll take away your temptations and struggles. Just lean on Him more.
  • We don’t do that sort of thing in our family.

A peacemaker has open conversations.

Peacemaking and Sexuality in Marriage

But now let’s turn to what so many of you are facing: what do you do when  you’re married to a Josh (and even overnight, I had three more comments on older posts from people in just that situation. “I just found porn on my husband’s computer…”)

Dear, dear heartbroken woman: how I wish I could give you a hug.

But please listen to me. Please hear me today.

If your husband has admitted to cheating, to using porn, to texting with someone: you are closer to healing right now than you were two weeks ago when you thought everything was fine.

You are closer to God right now, in this mess, than you were when everything looked perfect.

God is in the mess, because Jesus is in the peacemaking business.

So many of the comments I get are like this: “I discovered this by accident. Do I confront my husband or do I let it go?”

Luke 8:17 says:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Does that sound like a God who prefers things to look perfect, while sin festers underneath? Or does that sound like a God who is fully prepared to deal with the mess, because mess is better than dishonesty?

When your life blows up, don’t fall back on these typical “peacekeeping” reactions:

We just need to get past this and forgive.

You cannot forgive until you shine a light on the hurts and understand the gravity of what you have suffered. A rush to tell someone to forgive, or to take them through a forgiveness process, doesn’t do the hard but necessary work of the Spirit. And indeed, this was my main criticism of the original Duggar scandal; they made the girls forgive and they forgave Josh too early. The focus was on the forgiveness, and not on naming the hurt.

Let’s keep this just between us. Other people don’t need to know.

True repentance is humble. It does not worry about reputation; it worries about whether or not one is right with Jesus. True repentance asks for accountability. One does not have to confess to EVERYONE, but one does have to confess to a few people–and also give the wounded spouse someone to talk to.

Let’s just get back to normal.

You can’t go backwards. But even more importantly: you don’t want to go backwards. As comfortable as it felt, it was built on sand. Your “normal” won’t be your normal again. But that doesn’t mean that your normal won’t be something better. Let Jesus in to the healing process. You may find life messier. It will be more honest, which may initially cause more conflict. But in the end you will find that you are finally at peace, because you don’t have to hide those scary thoughts or suspicions.

And so, dear readers, I am glad Josh is in his mess.

I am sorry that Anna is. But they are now finally on the road to real peace. And for all of you who are walking in similar stories–peace is there, in the person of Jesus who so wants to redeem the two halves of your husband, and the two halves of your marriage, and make them one again. He can do it, if you both allow true honesty and true humility. That’s how we make peace. And you are never, ever alone as you seek it.

Just Be Kind: Why is That So Hard?

Just Be Kind! Because your husband is your neighbor, too.

Just be kind.

Why is that so hard?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage. I introduce a topic, and then marriage bloggers can link up their own marriage posts in the linky below.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentAnd it’s launch week for my new book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage! I’m going to do some chat sessions on Facebook (if I can figure out how)!, some flash giveaways, and more. So stay tuned! And thanks for all who bought my book on launch day. It made such a difference ( more on that below).

But today I want to talk about something basic: just be kind.

Let’s start by looking at a real life example. Excuse me for verging on the political, but I want to use an example everyone’s talking about.

Everyone loves to beat up on Hillary Clinton these days. Whether it’s Democrats hoping that someone else will get into the race or Republicans hoping that someone won’t, she’s everybody’s punching bag.

Regardless of how you feel about Ms. Clinton, I think we can all agree on one thing: setting up a personal email server was a really stupid thing to do. I’m not talking about whether she was deliberately hiding classified material or not or whether she lied or not. That’s not the relevant issue today. The point is she knew you weren’t supposed to use a personal server; she sent out memos to her department warning them not to use personal emails. She knew about the requirement to preserve emails. But she did it anyway–likely because she didn’t want to give political foes ammunition in future campaigns. And she figured she could get away with it.

She figured the rules didn’t apply to her.

It’s easy to laugh at her, and to criticize her, and even to take glee in these proceedings (if you’re of a certain political persuasion). But how often do we do the same thing?

We figure the rules don’t apply to us when it comes to marriage.

Ms. Clinton knew what she was supposed to do, but she was focused on a goal: getting elected. And that took precedence. But others in her department didn’t have her justification–and so they had to abide by the rules.

Now, let’s think about marriage for a moment. We have a goal–having a happy marriage. We think we deserve it. We think we were promised it. We think we’re due.

And so when our husbands do things that prevent us from having that great marriage, we feel justified in being heartbroken, and angry, and sullen. We pray that God will change his heart. We pray that our husband will love us.

And those are all good things.

But do we remember a simple truth:

My husband is my neighbor. And that means I’m supposed to be kind to him.

That’s Thought #1 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage because it sets us up for everything else.

I believe that it is much easier to be kind to strangers than it is to be kind to those closest to us.

Do this thought experiment: which is it easier to give money to? A campaign to feed desperate people in Africa, or a campaign to feed the homeless in your city? Likely the one in Africa, because you see them as Hungry People in the abstract. With the homeless in your city, on the other hand, you think of all the reasons that they may have to be homeless, and you start to wonder if feeding them is the right thing to do (I’m not ignoring the fact that there may be some truth to that; I’m just making a point).

Similarly, how often do we step into church or step into the workplace and bring someone a coffee, or give someone some encouragement or a compliment, just to be nice? We do it because they are Nice People We Sometimes See.

But with our husbands, it can be hard to utter that compliment, because we start thinking, “I got my hair cut last week and he didn’t even notice,” or “I do so much for him and he rarely does anything for me.”

We start asking ourselves if he deserves it.

When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, I believe one of the points that he was making is that it is often easier for a stranger to show kindness (the Samaritan) than those who are closer to the person (the Levite and the priest). When we’re close to someone, we can think of all the reasons they don’t deserve it. “What did that guy do to get himself beaten up, anyway?” And then we can justify saying, “that commandment to be kind doesn’t apply to me.” It’s easy to be nice to people in the abstract. It’s much harder to be nice to people up close and personal, when we know all their faults, and we can see all the reasons why they deserve to suffer through this mess.

How could our marriages be transformed if we all remembered to just be kind?

Just be his neighbor! Don’t ask whether he deserves it. Don’t ask whether he’s doing the same thing to you. Just show kindness!

But what about the fact that he never wants to spend any time with me? What about the fact that he still uses porn? What about the fact that he doesn’t show me he loves me? Doesn’t that matter?

Yep. It really does.

But those things are so much easier to deal with if we get our own attitudes in check first–and if we start laying a groundwork of kindness.

That’s why Thought #1 that can change your marriage in my book is that simple one:

My husband is my neighbor.

Treat him like it. Just be kind. And then there are other thoughts that come later in the book to help you deal with the porn, and the fact that you’re feeling distant. We’ll talk about how to be a peacemaker and not a peacekeeper. We’ll talk about how to fight against the drift in marriage. We’ll talk about how to be good.

But for now, show him kindness. It really can make all the difference in the world!

9Thoughts_QuoteGraphics_Thought1_Sides_rev

And now I just have to say a few things to you, my readers.

Thank you so much for yesterday. I was blown away.

Check this out from Amazon.ca:

Amazon ranking for 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your MarriageI broke the top 100 in Canada! And I was #1 in all kinds of categories!

And in the U.S. I broke the top 1000! And I’m #1 in Christian Marriage New Releases. So Yay!

So many of you sent kind words my way, too. It was a busy day, but I’m so grateful.

And now, can I ask another favor?

(Let me spell that the Canadian way since Canadians really went above and beyond yesterday). Can I ask another favour?

If you’ve got the book already, and you’ve at least skimmed it, and you like it, can you write a review up on Amazon? The more great reviews I have the better, because it is a controversial book and it does go against a lot of the pat answers we see in church, and it’s going to get some lousy ratings. So if I could have a TON of good ones to preemptively counter those ones, that would be awesome!

You can rate it here.

So seriously, if you could go rate the book ASAP, I’d appreciate it a TON!

And if you sent me in your receipt, be sure to check your inbox for the link to enter the contest! I’m going to give everyone until the end of the day today to actually enter, and then I’ll be doing the draw tonight. So get those entries in.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow, what advice do you have for us today about marriage? Link up the URL of your own marriage post in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts!



I Want to Take YOU Out to Dinner!

9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

Today’s the big day! My new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage launches!

I feel as if I’ve just had another baby. But this pregnancy was WAY longer. I’ve been working on the book for about two and a half years–wrote the proposal, then waited. Wrote the book, then waited. Edited the book, then waited. And now it’s finally here!

Sending off the first round of edits--June of 2014

Sending off the first round of edits–June of 2014

 

Touring my publisher’s headquarters in Colorado Springs, October of 2014

But really the road’s been even longer.  I’ve been struggling with a lot of the concepts in this book for years, because I’m saying what I believe are some new things.

When I started this blog in 2008 I was scared to say some of the things I thought about conflict resolution and marriage because it went against what all the other blogs were saying, it seemed like.

Sometimes “letting him make the decision” isn’t what God wants us to do. Sometimes “letting him lead” doesn’t work. But it’s not just that–sometimes “just take it to the LORD” doesn’t work, either, because it insinuates that WE don’t have a role in fixing our marriage.

And that was my problem with so much marriage advice. It made women so passive! Either we wait for husbands to change, or we wait for God to change our husbands. Everyone has to do something except for us. So then, when we have real problems, what do we do?

Or, perhaps even more common, when we have just everyday problems, what do we do?

If there’s nothing practical to do except “pray” or “let it go”, then those everyday problems can become awfully big problems.

(by the way, there’s nothing wrong with prayer. Prayer really is our lifeblood! But if we’re praying to change something instead of doing our role to change it, we misunderstand what God wants from us).

So much advice has to do with “love him through it”, or “let it go”, but it doesn’t just address the root issue.

Sometimes the root issue is with us.

That’s why my first few thoughts that can change your marriage focus on what YOU’RE thinking about your husband’s role. Just be kind. Your husband can’t make you happy. And by the way–you don’t actually HAVE to get ticked off all the time. You have some control over what you think! And if you’re not happy with your family, maybe the answer isn’t just to take it to God. Maybe the answer is to ask God what He wants you to actually DO.

We are not just powerless creatures flowing downstream. We can get an oar out and paddle!

But all of that was scary to say. I was afraid I’d lose readers. I was afraid that people would blacklist me.

And to a certain extent that has happened.

But I’ve gained even more of you, and I’m so grateful for the encouragement you all give me and for the fact that you come back here, day after day, and read these things that I’ve written!

So today I’d like to ask you something.

I’d like to ask you to buy my book.

That may seem rude, and a little pushy, but I’m serious. I really LOVE this book. It strikes at the heart of who we are as women: we were made to be strong for God. We weren’t made to sit back and wait for other people to make our marriage work.

And when you buy the book today, you push my Amazon ranking higher. And the higher it is, quite frankly, the more likely stores are to carry the book. So when you buy it, you actually help other people to see it on the shelves. I’d be grateful if you bought it next week, too, but the greatest bang would be if we all jumped in and bought it today!

Buy it from Amazon
Buy it from Christianbooks.com

Buy it on Kindle
Buy on Nook

Buy it in Canada
Buy it in the U.K.
Buy it in Australia for Kindle

And so I’ve decided to throw a bit of a party.

When you buy the book, just email me your receipt.

Then I’ll get you a link where you can download a bunch of freebies AND enter a contest.

Your Freebies

PLUS you can get a free audio download of mine worth $2.99.

Freebies for buying 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

Your Chance to Win–Me Taking You To Dinner, or Speaking at Your Church

I’m also running a contest for those of you who purchase before midnight PST TONIGHT.

Sheila Gregoire Girl TalkFirst Prize: I’ll come and speak at your church–for no fee–sometime before December 31, 2016! I’ll give my Girl Talk–straight talk about sex and intimacy. It’s a lot of fun, and it works great as an outreach! Plus you’ll also receive a gift pack of four of my other books: The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex; 31 Days to Great Sex; How Big Is Your Umbrella; and To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

Second Prize: I’ll come and take you and a friend out to dinner–sometime before December 31, 2016! Plus you’ll also receive a gift pack of four of my other books: The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex; 31 Days to Great Sex; How Big Is Your Umbrella; and To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

Third Prize: My publisher, Waterbrook, is offering a gift pack of 5 of their most popular books: Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs; For Women Only by Shaunti Felhahn; How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich; Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers; and Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

Prize 3 for 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage contest

Fourth Prize: 5 Waterbrook Multnomah New Releases: Hiding in the Light by Rifqa Bary (WHAT a story!); Through a Man’s Eyes by Shaunti Feldhahn; It’s Good to be Queen by Liz Curtis Higgs; I’m Happy for You by Kay Wills Wyma; and Let’s Pretend We’re Normal by Tricia Lot Williford.

Prize 4 in the 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage contest

Fifth Prize: A gift pack of four of my other books: The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex; 31 Days to Great Sex; How Big Is Your Umbrella; and To Love, Honor and Vacuum. Then you can say you’ve got the Complete Pack!

Prize 5 in the 9 Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage contest

And the neat thing is that the book is heavily discounted right now–it’s only $7.49 on Amazon. Buy 2 and give one to a friend! :)

So it doesn’t cost much to enter–and your chances of winning are actually pretty good.

Buy it from Amazon
Buy it from Christianbooks.com

Buy it on Kindle
Buy on Nook

Buy it in Canada
Buy it in the U.K.
Buy it in Australia for Kindle

And then email me your receipt!

What Are People Saying?

Here are just a taste of some of the testimonials:

9Thoughts Thomas

9 Thoughts Schwenk

9 Thoughts Feldhahn

Read the rest here.

I’m still looking at how to get a chat session going on Facebook, and how to get more interaction, so stay tuned! But for today: if you haven’t already, pick up the book! If you like this blog, you’ll love the book, because I let you in on a lot of my personal struggles, too.

And I do thank you tremendously!

Don’t forget to email me your receipt! The contest closes tomorrow!

Is Having a Good Marriage Good Enough?

Is a good marriage good enough?

Earlier this year, when talking with a young man about relationships, I told him my theory:

From the emails I get and from talking to women online and at my events, I’d say that 60-70% of marriages are just fine. People enjoy each other. They’re getting by. They’re satisfied. About 15% are just lousy. They’re almost broken and everybody is miserable. And then there are those 10-15% that are awesome. They’re not just getting by–they’re thriving! They can’t wait to see each other at the end of the day. They feel like they’re one.

Most people never have that. It doesn’t mean they’re miserable. They just never quite get there.

And so, I told this young man, do not dismiss the chance at that top 10-15% because the timing isn’t right. Let God decide your timing.

But that’s a story for another day.

Today I want to talk to you about that question: is a good marriage good enough?

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentOn the one hand I’d say absolutely! A good marriage, even if it’s not great, is so much better than the alternative. To have someone to share life with; to parent with; to bounce ideas off of. That is a blessing.

But on the other hand, I’d say this: what if you could have more? And what if that MORE wasn’t so unattainable? What if it just took a few new ways of thinking about marriage, and about our relationships?

That’s what I share in my new book. I’ve been in a good marriage, I’ve been in a hard marriage, and I’ve been in a great marriage. And I’ve only been married once! The hard years were the first few, but for the last twenty we go back and forth between good and great. Thankfully the great is most of the time. But when we fall into the “good” years it’s because I’ve forgotten one of these thoughts that I share in my book (and I’m really transparent in the book, too, about all the ways that I’ve messed up!)

9 Thoughts Odom

(see other testimonials from great people like Gary Thomas, Shaunti Feldhahn, Fawn Weaver, and more!)

How often do we believe these things:

  • If I’m unhappy I need to take it to the LORD (well, yes, but sometimes He wants you to DO something about it, too! And the more we pour out our complaints to God, the more we focus on the negative).
  • God made my husband just for me, so he should complete me (only God completes you, honey!)
  • We’re best friends; he should want to spend time with me. (yes, but marriages naturally drift. What are YOU doing to stop that drift?)
  • Sex is supposed to make us feel intimate. If it doesn’t, there must be something wrong with my husband–or with the way God made sex!
  • We’ll never get over this one fight because we have it over and over again. I need to learn to get past it and accept it about him.

And don’t get me started on all the “pat answers” that we often hear in church on how to fix our marriages–pat answers that often make things worse, like “just submit and he’ll lead”, “just have sex!”, or “just pray about it.”

What if we started to believe other things instead? Things like:

  • I’m to be a peaceMAKER, not a peaceKEEPER
  • In marriage fights, no one has to lose
  • I can learn how to make love, and not just have sex
  • Marriage naturally drifts apart. If we’re drifting, we’re not in crisis. I just need to be deliberate again!
  • My husband can’t make me happy–but I CAN be happy with my husband

Whenever my husband and I go through a rough patch, it’s usually because I have forgotten one of the 9 truths that I share with you in this book. I get lazy. And I start to feel like I deserve a happy marriage that either God, my husband–or both–should hand me on a silver platter.

But when I take responsibility for myself, it’s amazing how I can change the dynamic in my marriage.

9ThoughtsLongAnd now…this is launch week!

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage starts shipping tomorrow. And I’ve been working at this book for a LONG time. It’s so amazing that the day is finally here! So much of what I share in this blog, including a lot of my most important blog posts, are all expanded on in this book. I feel as if I’ve been able to crystallize so much of what I believe about marriage and taking responsibility for your own stuff.

I see so many people just drifting along, thinking there’s no way to get anything more. But there is! There really is!

I wish I could shout it from the rooftops! God has given you the ability to think, to react, to love–and all of that can draw people closer to Him, AND closer to you. You aren’t helpless. Even in a difficult marriage, there are things that you can do to bring yourself more peace, and deal with the root cause.

If you like this blog, I know you’ll love this book.

So I do want to throw a party this week! And here’s how we’re going to do it.

If you pre-order the book, or buy it on launch day (tomorrow), and you send me your receipt, you’ll receive some downloadable goodies (I’m still working on getting more to add to the list, but they’ll be awesome!). And you’ll be sent a link to enter a contest where you can win:

1. Me coming to give my Girl Talk (straight talk on marriage, sex & intimacy) to your church for NO FEE
2. Me taking you and a friend out to dinner
sometime before December 31, 2016
3. A bundle of Waterbrook Multnomah bestselling women’s books
4.
A bundle of Waterbrook Multnomah new releases
5.
A package of my other books, so you have the complete Sheila Wray Gregoire library!

I’ll also be hosting some Facebook parties throughout the week with some flash prizes; holding a Twitter meetup; and planning for some real-life meet ups in the next month.

Seriously, I’ve worked so hard this summer at personal stuff–my daughter’s wedding; my other daughter’s graduation and 18th birthday party–I want to have some fun MYSELF celebrating a big accomplishment.

And what makes it even more fun is that I know this book will help your marriage!

So I hope that you’ll join me. If you already have your book, just email me the receipt and I’ll send you the link where you can enter the contest and get your downloads! But I’ll be advertising that tomorrow, too, and telling you how you can help me.

I feel like I know so many of you personally–from your emails, your comments, and even speaking with so many of you at my Girl Talk events. I hope in this book you can get another glimpse into me. I’m honestly just a regular wife who struggles, too. I’m just awfully stubborn and I’m not content with “good enough”. Wanna be stubborn with me?

Here’s where you can get the book! (and if you’re in Australia or Nigeria, Kenya, or South Africa, and you know where you can buy paperbacks online, can you send me the link and I’ll add it? Thank you!)

Buy it from Amazon
Buy it from Christianbooks.com

Buy it on Kindle
Buy on Nook

Canadian flag with correct proportions and color schemeBuy it in Canada
United Kingdom FlagBuy it in the U.K.
Flag Australia smallBuy it in Australia for Kindle

Thanks for being a part of this with me! Stay tuned here, and on Facebook, for more info about some of the parties that are coming up this week!

Women Need Authenticity! The Phenomenal Effect Campaign

Don’t we all thirst for something REAL–for authenticity?

We scroll through our social media feeds feeling inadequate because everyone else either seems so much more artsy with their photos or have gone on awesome vacations. We walk into church all prettied up, but we’re scared to tell any of the women in this community how lonely we are. We go to a family reunion and show off our kids, but we’re secretly praying that they won’t start fighting over the same things they were fighting over in the car.

We’re scared to let anyone see what we’re really like.

Women's Thirst for Authenticity: Part of Lean Cuisine's Phenomenal Effects campaign!

This summer I’ve been chosen as one of Lean Cuisine’s Phenomenal Ambassadors and sharing great stories of accomplishments. Earlier last month I helped share that the most important thing we should weigh is our effort–not just our success or our appearance.

Lean Cuisine wants to help you Feed Your PhenomenalTM by helping each other recognize the unseen things women do every day that go unnoticed, so I’m sharing the story of a woman who I think is phenomenal.

In my last post I told you about Natalie from Visionary Womanhood, who worked so hard to make her marriage work, and is now leaning more on God as she is learning that she can’t be responsible for someone else’s poor choices. And she’s come to such a greater understanding of grace in the process! She’s writing phenomenal stuff.

Today I want to share another blogger with you: Sarah Ball from Virtuous Woman Exposed. She’s a mom of 5. She struggles with her past. She struggles with keeping romance alive. She’s just plain honest. And that’s refreshing.

I first met Sarah at a writer’s conference two years ago. She was asking my advice on blogging and getting books published, and I invited her to guest post for me. Now, at that particular conference I invited dozens of women to send me guest posts. Sarah is one of the few who followed through.

What really stood out to me was her message. Sarah’s a busy mom of 5. But the whole point of her blog is that she isn’t just “The Virtuous Woman” from Proverbs 31 or anything. She’s “The Virtuous Woman EXPOSED“–the one who tells it like it is and opens up on her own foibles and where life is just plain messy.

As you all know, I’m on a crusade to end the “pat Christian answers” to marriage problems.

Sarah doesn’t give pat answers. She’s the mom of 5 kids, and she’s trying to juggle a blossoming freelance writing career while still being a great mom. And a great wife. And not losing it with everyone in sight.

I love her take on mommy porn–she’s upfront and honest about her own struggles in marriage, and she’s upfront and honest with her 16-year-old daughter. We need more of that!

I love her conclusion that bringing her muffin top on vacation to Mexico was absolutely okay. And I adore her advice to husbands on how to encourage their wives to lose weight. If every man followed her 7 day plan–wow, we’d have great marriages!

And one of the bravest things she did was to create her Fearless in 21 Days series–detailing her own battle with panic attacks and stress, and then showing how we can work through it.

VWE

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by Accident

In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, thought #3 is all about happiness and how our husbands were not put on earth to make us happy. In fact, we weren’t put on earth to be happy. But when we find joy in God and contentment in our circumstances, then happiness usually follows. It’s a by-product of the things that we choose to think about.

And as I told the stories of several women who had discovered happiness in marriage, one said this:

“I realized that my contentment was a gift that I could give my husband.”

Instead of waiting for him to make you happy, finding your own contentment is such a gift. He won’t feel like he has to fix things for you. He won’t feel like he’s inadequate. He’ll feel like he’s 10 feet tall and he can take on the world. And that really is fun to be around!

I’ve read so many “pat Christian answers” about how to find happiness in marriage. You know the kind–learn his love language and be absolutely amazing to him, and then he will do the same for you! Or just pray a lot and you’ll find that God will give you the desires of your heart.

That’s not what it’s about. It’s not about manipulating him. It’s not about trying to convince God to make you happy. It’s about realizing what is in your control, and then chasing after doing the right thing! It’s about honesty. It’s about authenticity before God and before your husband. And it’s about being real.

I love that Sarah has understood that. I love that she’s wrestling in the day to day with real problems, and she’s giving other people a window into that. I love that she’s not projecting this idea that if we have these perfect homes and we do these perfect devotions and we’re all perfectly organized that we’ll be happy. No, that’s not what we’re supposed to be chasing after. It’s not about having a perfect life. It’s about treating yourself well, treating others well, and chasing after God, even in the mess.

So check out Sarah!

Sarah’s all about getting healthy: getting healthy emotionally, getting healthy spiritually, figuring out how to get healthy physically even with 5 kids.

And now I want to know: which woman do you know who is phenomenal?

Visit the Phenomenal Effect website to enter Lean Cuisine’s promotion and help spread the Phenomenal Effect by recognizing the phenomenal women in your life and encouraging them to do the same. You could win prizes for yourself and everyone that you recognize. Also be sure to visit them on Facebook and Twitter

Who are some of the phenomenal women in your life? Tell us about it in the comments. Each comment will automatically be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card, thanks to SheKnows!

Entry Instructions: 

No duplicate comments. 

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. 

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here

This sweepstakes runs from 8/13/15 – 9/30/15. 

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