A Testimony of Marriage, Anorexia, and Healing

healing in marriage battling anorexia

Today, please welcome guest reader, Alyssa, as she shares her story of healing in marriage battling anorexia, and how God and her husband are daily helping her.  No battle is too big for God!

I grew up in a small town in Australia. I loved life in the country, there is something so freeing and satisfying about the open space, the fresh air and creation all around. It brings a peace and happiness to my heart! I was one of four kids to two amazing God centred parents. For as long as I can remember, my mum and Dad taught us about God’s word, what it meant to forgive, serve and love others. Growing up in one of the only Christian families in our small country town presented its challenges though. I was a sensitive child and from the age of 9+ I don’t really remember a time where I didn’t feel pressured or even taken advantage of. Some days I would return from school in tears only to have my mother and father sit beside me, warm me with their hugs and gently tell me to keep on loving and keep on forgiving. So I did.

But not dealing with these emotions properly left me more emotionally scarred then I could ever imagine.

Our family was different, and I knew that… but there was always a part of me, just like everyone I guess, that wanted to be accepted and fit in. By the time I hit high school, I felt an immense amount of pressure to not just be like everyone but also please everyone. I felt very insecure, timid and ugly… Along with this I had a perfectionist personality, was very quick to forgive and show kindness to everyone and therefore was walked all over. Amongst the bullying and identity issues, I was also sexually abused by several different boys/men throughout my teen years. Not only did I neglect to tell people about it, I didn’t deal with it properly, I didn’t understand it and I chose to keep forgiving and loving. When I turned 16, I moved out of home, taking myself to live in Sydney to study music and dance. I wanted to sing more than anything. Those few years in Sydney, although holding some of the greatest memories of my life, also hold some of the darkest. In those three years in Sydney, I studied full time, worked in the office of the performing arts school I attended, and went to a church that left me feeling lonely and left out. I got in a serious relationship with someone who did not want to know God at all, I had very little to no money, and I lost all four of my grandparents, whom I loved very much.

At the end of the year I left that school. I felt lonely, very isolated, overwhelmed. This is where my eating disorder came in.

At the time I didn’t realize what was wrong with me, just that I was slowly losing sight of who I was. It is now eight years later….And those last few years are also a blur. I have been in and out of treatment, private hospitals, have seen countless psychologists and counselors. In 2011, I went into a Christian Rehabilitation centre for Women struggling with addictions. It was the only program that worked for me and for a whole year I was walking free of the illness. It was in that year that my now husband proposed to me. Matt and I dated long distance.

He knew I struggled with an eating disorder, but we spent little time with each other so he was unaware of its deception, struggle and the hold it can have on one’s life.

But he knew I loved God and that despite my illness and current troubles, I persevered to love God and serve Him the best I could. At the end of 2011 I ventured into the Christian Rehabilitation. The program required me being cut off from all things, I went and lived on a farm with a dozen other women. We had no phone, access to internet and we were only allowed to watch TV on weekends for a movie night, or the news in between 4-6pm on weekdays. I communicated to people through letters. I spent my time learning to enjoy life, all of God’s goodness and meditated on His word day and night. This is what I believe healed me. I spent the next year celebrating life, enjoying peoples’ company and being thankful for what our Great God had done and would continue to do in me. I don’t know what went wrong; I have maybe spent too much time thinking about it.

But 2 weeks after we got married in November 2012, I suddenly fell back into old habits.

It wasn’t a gradual fall, it was quick and left us both feeling lost and unable to comprehend it. We had moved to Sydney, left all the people we knew and who supported us, we had very little money and struggled getting jobs. Life had thrown all different things at us, when marriage in itself seemed enough. So what has the last two years been like? Well, as most of you who are reading this would know, an eating disorder is a life threatening, serious, destructive illness. It’s a tyrant, its based on denial and deception. It involves stealing, lying, wasting money, time and life. For those who do not overcome it, unfortunately it results in death.

I am 24 years old, I weigh 37 kgs and am 174cm tall. I have Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. In my spare time, I live under the control of this terrible illness… I steal money, I steal food, I throw it up. Sometimes a whole day will pass and I will not remember any of it, under the trance of this illness. I have spent hundreds of dollars in days, all on food that no one ever got to see.

When we have arranged to go out and be with people, I end up cancelling, either because I am too anxious about what they are going to think of me or because secretly I have been binge eating on food and cannot go anywhere because I need to throw it up. My husband has continuously forgiven me, time and time again. He has done nothing but love me with unconditional love. He has held me, both in tears and prayed. He has bought me flowers just to see me smile, he gave up an excellent job so that I could be closer to people for support, he has filled rooms full of balloons and filled them with tiny messages to remind me that he is here and isn’t giving up. He deliberately hops into bed before me to warm my side up, as I feel the cold. During a fight, I was still upset going to bed so I resided on the couch, half way through the night I felt someone’s arms pick me up and carry me to bed.

I heard a small whisper, ‘The only time we will ever sleep in separate beds is when we are apart and cannot be in the same bed together.’

He then wrapped his arms around me and held me until I had fallen back asleep. He has put up with the mood swings that come with the illness. Sometimes I say the most terrible, heart breaking and mean things, and he will sit there and simply respond with ‘Alyssa, I love you and I am not going anywhere.’ Matt has been so sacrificial. He has stayed with me through this, when most men in our day and age would probably walk away. He has been a wonderful witness and example of Christ’s love for us. He is a beautiful man. God has been so good to me.

My husband without a doubt is the greatest gift, other than God’s grace, that I have ever been given.

When we moved this year, I decided I didn’t want this illness any longer. I want to be free of it. It has been a hard journey so far, but by God’s grace I am very slowly getting there. We take each day as it comes, and we thank the Lord for the good days and the bad days. We are so grateful and see so many blessings around us and we want to focus on those things. Please keep us in your prayers as I learn to lean, whole-heartedly serve and depend upon God and find my satisfaction, worth and contentment in him. Please keep praying for my husband, Matt, that he will continue to find the strength he needs from God and that he would have wisdom to know how to love me best and look after me best.

Wifey Wednesday: Are Boundaries Biblical?

Setting Healthy Boundaries is BiblicalSetting healthy boundaries: Is that biblical? Or is it modern psychology given a Christian-sounding twist?

That’s a question that’s been asked a lot on this blog lately when I’ve talked about the importance of setting healthy boundaries in marriage and in our extended families. I’ve had several commenters say that boundaries are not biblical, a position that I find a little bit strange. If boundaries aren’t biblical, what is the alternative?

This is the launch week for my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum (the revised & expanded edition), and in it I talk at length about the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries. And so I thought today it might be worth going over why boundaries are so crucial in our relationships.

Boundaries tell us what is our responsibility and what is someone else’s responsibility

Here’s Galatians 6:2-7, which talks about boundaries:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

We’re supposed to carry each other’s burdens, but we’re also supposed to carry our own loads. Think of a load as something which is manageable–your daily to-do list. But when something out of the blue hits someone that they can’t handle themselves, then we’re supposed to help them. We aren’t supposed to carry each other’s loads–only their burdens. And you won’t be able to help someone with their burdens if you’re simultaneously trying to carry your family’s loads.

Here’s something else about boundaries: we’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others, and we’re not supposed to worry about other’s opinions. We need to test our own actions, and only rely on God. And finally, and perhaps most importantly,

A man reaps what he sows.

God set up the world so that our actions have consequences, and we are supposed to bear those consequences. If you take responsibility for things that aren’t yours–by not having boundaries, for instance–you put a roadblock into one of God’s best teaching instruments He has for His children. Let’s say your husband is prone to rages. He’s sowing discord and anger. But if you and the kids walk on tiptoes around him, trying to placate him, and then when he does yell, you apologize and try to repair the relationship, you’re the ones who are reaping that discord, not him.

TLHV New FB AdWe aren’t to carry each other’s loads, and we’re supposed to let people bear the consequences of their actions. We are each responsible for our own stuff.

Boundaries tell us our limits

In Exodus 18:14-23, we read this interaction between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro:

14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20 Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

I love what Jethro says: “what you are doing is not good…You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.” You cannot do everything.

Similarly, Jesus set limits on Himself. He didn’t heal everyone all the time; often He left areas where there were still people who needed His help because it was time to move to the next place. He carved out time to pray, away from His disciples, to spend time with God. He carved out time away from the masses, just with His disciples, to train and minister to them.

If Jesus had let His schedule be determined by what people needed Him to do rather than by what He was called to do and what He was able to do, His ministry would not have been as effective. He needed time alone to rejuvenate and time alone with God, and He took it. He knew that He couldn’t do everything–even if other people needed Him. He had His limits.

Boundaries show us where the moral line is

Boundaries are also necessary to show us where we have transgressed. Indeed, the word “trans-gression” literally means to “cross” a limit.

Moral boundaries allow us to make judgments about what is right and what is wrong. They let us say, “what you are doing is not right and we need to deal with it.”

If we have no moral boundaries–let’s say because we believe in a mistaken idea of submission where we must obey our husbands completely–then we will follow them into sin, or we will end up enabling sin. On the other hand, Matthew 18 clearly tells us that if someone sins against us (and that could be your husband, or your friend, or your mother), you’re supposed to go to them and tell them that they have crossed a boundary. If they refuse to repent, then you’re supposed to go and get one or two others involved. The Bible is clear that we don’t ignore moral transgressions of those close to us. We confront them and we urge them on to more godly behaviour. As James 5:19-20 and says,

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

It is neither emotionally healthy nor moral to live without boundaries.

When we do that, we push ourselves too hard and often exhaust ourselves. We allow wrong behaviour to continue. And we enable people to act selfishly by becoming a cover for their actions.

When people join Al Anon, or the support groups for other family members of those suffering from other addictions, one of the first things they are told is that you can only change yourself, and you must not take responsibility for changing another person. But at the same time, you must also allow that other person to reap the natural consequences of their actions, or they will not have impetus to change. You must stop enabling bad behaviour.

To Love, Honor and VacuumAl Anon gets it–and they aren’t even Christian (though the founder was). Why is it that Christians now think that being a pushover, or letting others get away with wrong behaviour, is Christlike? It isn’t. In Romans 8:29, Paul wrote,

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

God’s will is that we look more and more like Christ.

And so I want to challenge you today: In your family, are your actions encouraging others to look more and more like Christ, or are they covering up and enabling others to look more and more unChristlike? If you aren’t setting healthy boundaries of responsibility, then it’s quite likely that others will be looking less and less like Christ, rather than more and more like Him.

That’s the message of To Love, Honor and Vacuum (the book), though it is of this blog, too! And if you’ve really struggled with this, I encourage you to check out the book, where I help you see how we can live out God’s design that all of us look more and more like Christ–not that we serve so much so that we give others cover to act poorly. And remember–the ebook version is just $2.99 until Sunday! So pick it up today.

Christian Marriage Advice

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

commit to staying in the fight

Today Rajdeep Paulus talks about how in marriage, we need to commit to staying in the fight with our spouses. There are rich rewards to be discovered!

Standing at the ticket counter at Miami International Airport to check in for our return flight to New York City, the Jet Blues Attendant shakes his head several times before saying, “I’m sorry. There’s no record of your names booked on this flight. Or at all for that matter.”

Words hubby and I don’t exactly want to hear when the plane takes off in less than an hour. It has to be a mistake. I’m just not ready to admit that it was probably my mistake. “Can you double check?” I say, watching hubby’s eyebrows raise in disagreement.

But then he says, “Yes, could you please double check? I’m sure this is just some kind of error.”

“Nope. Oh wait…” A flicker of hope. “I see that you did book a different flight. Out of Orlando. But you cancelled that one.” Hope extinguished.

I’m starting to wonder if I only thought about booking the alternative leg of our return flight, and didn’t actually do it. Even though in my memory, I followed through and finished the job.

Hubby looks at me and I know what he’s thinking as he shakes his head, but in a moment that could have gotten Walking Dead bloody, he says nothing. Several grueling minutes later, the gentleman working on our situation hangs up the phone and smiles. “It’s your lucky day. My boss agreed to rebook your family at the original price, but this flight’s full, so you’ll be on the 9:00PM one out of Gate C-8. Will that work for you?”

Umm…yes to the yes! Anything besides paying astronomical prices for a last second reservation or staying in Miami when we need to get home will work. Hubby exhales a sigh of relief, and brushes a kiss across my lips, saying softly, “Thanks for keeping quiet while he worked it out.”

Which I wanted to take offense at, because I’m the girl who screams when I’m upset.

I freak out, and I’m good at it. But I refrain from saying anything, because I’m in a different sort of shock. We, hubby and I, in the middle of a Bermuda-Triangle sized crisis, did not freak out and enter a blame game tennis match that never ends well. And as much as Hubby wanted to say the obvious, that it was most probably my fault that the tickets were never booked, he didn’t. He could have. He would have been right. But in that moment, the fact of my careless oversight would not have changed a thing. We, as in he, I and the kids, were in this mess together, and never once, in the middle of a mud pile has throwing mud made the situation less messy. If anything, it makes matters worse. Much worse.

And then the other night, we’re driving away from a lovely anniversary dinner at Prime in Huntington, and Hubby says, “So I accidentally booked three movie tickets instead of two when I bought the X-men seats on line.”

I took a deep breath, wanting to ask the obvious. “So you didn’t try to reverse it? Call Fandango? Cancel the transaction and book it over?” I refrained, and in that moment, when the matter of a fifteen dollar oversight could cost us a fifteen hour angry end to a near perfect date night, I Google’d Fandango and asked myself. They directed me to call the movie theater.

And a guy at Regal Cinemas in Westbury said, “No worries. Just mention the problem when you come up to pick up your tickets and we’ll refund the difference.”

Really? That was fun. But it might not have been. So often, hubby or I put on our boxing gloves and lash out verbally, throwing plenty of punches before we recall that we’re on the same team. In this life together. Trying to make it through this mess of a world. Together.

Three days later, we’re on route to a picnic with the kids on Memorial Day weekend, and we get into the classic driving fight.

Because I rarely drive, and Hubs wants to be my driver’s Ed teacher, my dad, and my GPS, all wrapped in one. So it gets ugly. Fast. And we’re only half way there when I pull over on a side street, throw on the brakes and exit the car. “I can’t. I can’t do this. I refuse to drive.” Slam.

Hubs pulls his baseball cap over his eyes and slouches down in the passenger seat. He’s getting over the flu. And from the looks of his non-verbal communication, he isn’t driving either.

So I blow off some steam outside the car, get back into the driver’s seat and spin the car around. Rather unsafely, I’ll admit, but I wasn’t planning to drive my family off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style. I was just having a road rage moment for about fifty feet of quiet side street. Hubs did not approve, sat up in his chair, and demanded I stop the car. With a few choice words. I did. We switched places.

He drove. I cried. And in the midst of the madness, my ten-year old passes me my phone with a text message she typed for me. “No one’s mad at you, Mommy. We love you. And we can still have a great time at the picnic. Okay?” I cry some more.

And we get through the day. Hubs walked to the beach with the girls. I grilled up some food. The festivities carried on with friends. Then I drove home, and the day was over. And when all the girls went to bed, hubby says, “That was not cool today.”

I want to say, “You. We’re not cool today.” But I just wait.

“I’m sorry for screaming at you like that in the car,” he says. “If you would just listen to me…”

And that’s when I tune out, because it doesn’t feel like an apology any more. I apologize for slamming the car door. But then I add, “You know, you could have said sorry a little sooner,” to which he pushes back his chair, rises from the table, and says, “I’m not you, okay. I never have been, nor will I ever be. You can do that. Roll with it. Jump back into life right away. That’s not me.” And he storms off.

That went well. And then I thought about it. I wasn’t asking him to be me. I was asking him to acknowledge that it wasn’t just me who screwed up. He can take all the time he needs to forgive me. But I don’t think it’s fair to take his sweet time to say sorry. That was my point.

We talked some more as I explained my side. And told him how I don’t want our girls to grow up thinking a man can just run them over with words and walk away, never admitting that he spoke disrespectfully. He shot me a glare. “You have no idea what I talked to the girls about when I walked with them to the beach.” That’s true. I assumed he didn’t talk about it. “I apologized to them for the way I spoke to their mother.”

But, and this is the part that hurts. “But, you took all day to say sorry to me. That kinda sucks.”

And he acknowledged that. And we went to bed in each other’s arms. Life was fine again. But, sheesh, is it hard some days.

Like it takes all of you just to commit to staying in the fight.

And that’s the part that makes us stronger the next morning. We stayed. We chose to stay, even when we didn’t feel like it. We pushed through another mud pile, and in the end, we helped pull each other out. And believe you me, I know there are plenty more in our future to wade through.

But it’s the moments at the airport and on route to the movies that remind me that we don’t always resort to our bad habits. We don’t always forget how hard it is to mess up and wait for grace’s rescue. Sometimes, we remember the sweet hand held out to us in the moment of disappointment, hurt, or failure, and we offer a similar hand to our loved ones. It’s a life long quest, but it’s worth every step.

And that’s probably why I love to slow dance with my Sunshine. Sure, sometimes we step on each other’s toes.

And many times, we are out of sync, he turning right and me spinning left, but those tender moments when my head rests on his shoulder, his heartbeat pounds against mine, and the lyrics to a love song stream into my ears, I’m reminded once again that he’s worth it. We’re worth it. And worth fighting for. Marriage.

 

Rajdeep PaulusswimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus, author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of June 2013, she’s also a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via FacebookTwitterPinterest,Tumblr, or Instagram.

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How to Reset a Bad Marriage Day

Today Crystal Brothers tells us how to hit reset on a bad marriage day. Being purposeful in hitting restart and forgiving is necessary some days, isn’t it?

Reset Bad Marriage

Even in the best of marriages, we all have those days. You know the one I’m talking about. You’re in a bad mood. Your hubby is in a bad mood. Everything he does is getting on your nerves, and vice versa. He didn’t do this right. You didn’t do that right.

Because we are imperfect humans, living in a fallen world, we’re going to have bad days.

The good thing is that we don’t have to accept it. With a little work, we can change the tone of a bad day.

1. Pray

And I don’t mean the kind of prayer that says, “Lord, my husband is driving me crazy.” Pray for your heart to change and soften toward him in that moment. Spend time praising God. It’s amazing how much things can change when we choose to focus on Him and not our bad day. Pray for God to bless your husband. It’s very difficult to be angry with someone while you are praying blessings over them.

2. Serve your husband.

I remember once my husband and I were having an argument around lunchtime. We’d raised our voices, and determined to be angry. I was huffing and puffing about it in the kitchen while making myself a sandwich for lunch and the Lord spoke to my heart–make him a sandwich instead.

I’ll get honest and tell you that I was not happy about this. My heart attitude did not change. I was slapping down bread, meat and cheese, and throwing around chips and pickles to go with it. I squirted on some mustard and slammed it back in the fridge. I was mad at my husband and mad that God was asking me to serve him in that moment.

But then my husband came into the kitchen. And I presented him with his sandwich. Even though my heart wasn’t where it should have been, the Lord blessed both my husband and myself through my obedience. And that small act of service toward him turned around our whole day. (Of course, I don’t recommend the terrible attitude! lol)

3. Be spontaneous.

Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to change the day around. Go for a walk. Go out for an unexpected family dessert date. While you’re at it, laugh a little! When someone’s having a grumpy day in our house, the rest of the family makes funny faces to see who can be the one that makes them laugh. Even something so simple and silly like this can turn around a bad day.

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to snap out of it and cheer up in the midst of a bad day. But the Bible tells us that “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” And sometimes, I think it’s the cure for a bad day as well. Take control of your emotions. For lots of ideas for free/cheap activities, check out my free date night printable. Lots of these can be done with no prior planning.

4. Meditate on scripture.

Find a scripture that speaks to you. One that encourages, inspires, and challenges you. One that reminds you the way you should treat your husband, and reminds you that the Lord is bigger than your problems and bad attitude. Read it, repeat it, memorize it–hide it in your heart! And when you need it on those tough days, the words will come back to you.

5. Make a list of reasons you love your spouse

You may not feel them all at that exact moment. But there are amazing things about your spouse that made you marry him. Don’t let one bad moment rob you of the joy in your marriage. Remember all the reasons you have to love him.

Above all, I think that having a great attitude about our marriage is one of those things we need to practice daily, so that we can fall back on that habit when tough times hit. In my book, Intentional Marriage, I share 31 Devotions and challenge to help you get into the daily habit of investing in your husband and your marriage.

Crystal BrothersCrystal Brothers blogs at Serving Joyfully, and is the author of Intentional Marriage: The Art of Loving Your Husband (A 31 Day Devotional). She and her husband have been married nearly 9 years and she homeschools their two rambunctious boys.

How do you overcome a bad day with your husband?

Wifey Wednesday: Division of Labour with Your Spouse

Chores with Your SpouseHow do you approach chores with your spouse?

It’s a tough question in most marriages, and today I thought I’d run an article I wrote for Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family magazine last year.

Early in our marriage, our apartment often suffered from lack of attention. One morning, in frustration, I worked myself into a cleaning frenzy. Unbeknownst to me, that afternoon while I was out, my husband had the same impulse.

Over dinner we simultaneously announced, “I cleaned the whole place today!” Neither of us was amused at the other taking credit for our effort. Our misunderstanding soon became clear. To my husband, Keith, clutter mattered. To me, dirt mattered. I could walk past clutter as long as the faucets were gleaming. He, on the other hand, didn’t notice marks on the mirrors as long as the towels were neatly folded.

All of us start marriage with different ideas about what goes into running a household, and our natural tendency is to value the work we do and minimize the work our spouses do. Throughout the stages of life, our situations change and require us to renegotiate the division of chores. Each time we try to divide responsibilities, there’s potential for anger and resentment. But with the right attitude and some planning, chores don’t need to be something that drives us apart.

Don’t aim for a 50-50 split

One landmine to avoid is the 50-50 split. A 2012 study done in Norway found that couples who split housework evenly were also more likely to divorce. The problem isn’t housework per se, but rather the dynamics of splitting it down the middle. Kurt Bruner, pastor and author, says, “If you are keeping score on such things, you have already lost the relational battle.”

A better model involves both spouses putting 100 percent effort into creating a well-organized home. Fawn Weaver, founder of the Happy Wives Club, spent six months traveling the world interviewing couples who have been happily married for more than 25 years. She says, “Each couple, no matter their culture or socio-economic class, had this in common: They worked together as a team. There was no my work or your work. It’s our home, so it’s our work.”

Honor your spouse’s preferences

Happy couples also realize that housework can be a way to demonstrate love. Amy and Brad Saleik have been married 15 years. They inadvertently found a perfect way to organize household tasks. Amy explains, “We had only been married for a month or two when I offhandedly asked my husband what chore he hated. He quickly said, ‘Laundry. What about you?’ I replied, ‘Dishes.’ Ever since, I’ve done all the laundry, and he’s done all the dishes.”

Another strategy to honor your spouse is to ask each other, “What’s one thing I could do to make you feel more ‘at home’ when you’re at home?” I learned that strategy the hard way. When my children were 6 and 4, I was very active with them. We hosted playgroups in our home. We made crafts. We baked. Our home was fun, but it was also always a mess.

One day Keith told me he was tired of arriving home to a disaster. He could handle a little clutter, but he wanted to be able to walk through the kitchen without stepping on Polly Pockets. I didn’t take that well. I think the words maid and Neanderthal escaped my lips. But later, I realized that was a selfish response. While Keith wanted a place that reflected his beliefs about what a home should be, I was more interested in what I envisioned for the family. Eventually, I realized that spending 10 minutes tidying up the front room before he arrives home costs me little, yet offers a priceless opportunity to show my husband I care about him.

Attention to your spouse’s needs builds good will. Sarah Mae, co-author of Desperate, a book for overwhelmed moms, explains that stay-at-home moms also crave consideration. She says, “Without space to breathe or a little help here and there, you can feel like you’re drowning.” Even if both spouses are working all day fulfilling different tasks, at night one spouse may especially need a break — and quite often it’s the spouse who has been chasing the children all day. Holding down the fort while Mom has a bubble bath can bring peace to her and the home.

Finally, honoring your spouse involves honoring his or her opinion of what constitutes clean. If your spouse thinks it’s clean, it’s considered clean, even if it would never pass your aunt Mabel’s white-glove test. You both live in the house. You both should have a say.

Fostering a selfless attitude makes identifying practical ways to divide chores much easier. Before you split them, though, agree on what they are. It’s all too easy to focus on vacuuming or dishes and dismiss doing the finances or mowing the lawn. So sit down and list all the things that go into running a house, from supervising homework to cleaning bathrooms and even buying Grandma a birthday present. Then you can decide who does what. Allocating those jobs, though, can be a bit tricky. Here are two models for how couples can manage chores.

Model No. 1: Embrace Specialization

Personally, my husband and I have always lived by the adage “The man should have to kill the bugs.” Other than that, we’ve been flexible regarding household responsibilities. Pam Farrel, co-author of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, says, “Instead of dividing up chores along stereotypical lines, we have seen it works best to give the responsibility to the person who is most passionate about that task.” If you really care about the lawn, you get to do the lawn. There’s one more caveat from Farrel: “The person who has the task gets the authority to do that task his or her way, in his or her time, and the spouse just commits to saying, ‘Thanks!’ “

David and Kelli Campbell have been married for 10 years. Both work full time. David enjoys cooking, but last-minute meals aren’t his specialty. So Kelli prepares a two-week menu plan to help things run more smoothly. David cooks, vacuums and cares for the exterior of the house, and Kelli does the rest of the interior cleaning and the laundry. Knowing who’s responsible for what helps them navigate their busy schedules.

Model No. 2: Establish Work Hours

Nothing irks me more than doing dishes or vacuuming when the other three members of my family are on their computers. So our family adopted my grandmother’s golden rule: If Momma’s working, everyone’s working. If you’re a family who thrives on flexibility rather than defined tasks, this model may work better for you, too.

Assigning chores to individuals isn’t as important as everyone simply doing whatever needs to be done — all at the same time. You can even turn it into a game: Set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much mess each of you can pick up! Kurt and Olivia Bruner have the whole family draw straws with chores on them when a chore day is needed. If you’re all working at the same time, you can later relax at the same time.

Recruit help

Finally, if you need another pair of hands, follow the Bruners’ example and recruit the kids. Rather than running ragged making your children’s lives easy, you can involve the kids in daily chores. In fact, we should involve the children. Kelli Campbell reports being forever grateful to David’s mother for rearing a son who knows how to cook. What an investment his mother made in his future marriage! With children heading back to school, now’s a great opportunity to create new routines to involve kids in caring for the home.

After working out responsibilities, someone — or everyone — can still feel overwhelmed. You might want to re-evaluate and possibly trim your list of chores. Perhaps not everything on the list needs to be done — or done as often as you’ve been doing it. Do you really need to dust the picture frames every month? Perhaps you can clean the bathrooms every other week, instead of every week.

If you try these strategies and find chores are still causing conflict, consider hiring outside help. Shana Bresnahan is a full-time consultant, and her husband, Casey, is a full-time teacher. Shana says, “After cleaning came up in counseling sessions one too many times, our counselor said, ‘Can you make room in the budget for a cleaning lady?’ For the last year we’ve invested in a semimonthly visit from a maid service. We call it marriage insurance.”

Chores need to be done, but they do not need to cause a wedge between you and your spouse. Instead, chores can be one of the vehicles that help you feel and function more like a team. Together, choose a system that works best for your family and commit to honoring each other through it. You’ll feel more valued and loved, and your floors may just stay cleaner, too.


Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! It used to be a linkup party day, but for various reasons I’ve decided that instead I’ll share my “best of” suggestions from other marriage bloggers on Wednesdays. Unfortunately, this week I didn’t have time to fetch any, so I’ll just put up some that are here on the blog.

Getting Kids to Pick Up their Stuff
My Husband is Lazy!

And if you didn’t read my post yesterday, please check it out:
10 Ways to Initiate Prayer with Your Spouse

Now let me know in the comments: How do you split chores with your husband?

10 Ways to Initiate Prayer with Your Spouse

Praying as a Couple: 10 Ways to Intiiate Prayer to make it more natural

Praying as a couple can be challenging. Many of us aren’t comfortable praying out loud, and so we’re not sure how to bring prayer into our marriage. In fact, I had a man email recently saying, “you have lots of articles on initiating sex, but how do I initiate prayer?”

Great question! Physical intimacy, after all, is wonderful, but spiritual intimacy is the glue that holds everything together. Couples who pray together feel closer in other ways, too.

Top TenSo today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share 10 ideas on praying as a couple. Prayer is intimidating, I think, because it’s vulnerable. You’re baring your soul before God, but you’re also baring it before your husband when you pray together. That’s what can make it awkward. There can’t really be pretentions. But that’s also what makes it intimate! So here goes.

Remember our Top 10 philosophy: Find 2-3 tips that will work for you, write them down, and start implementing them today! Don’t think you have to do all 10; think of this more as a brainstorming list so that you can find the ones that speak most to your situation.

Before I start talking about how to initiate praying, just one more thing: remember that praying doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out thing. In fact, sometimes “sentence prayers” are more effective, because when people feel awkward or nervous, understanding that it doesn’t have to be a big, flowery prayer can take the pressure off. So model this–just use a few sentences to start, and go back and forth. Even if it’s just a minute or two together, it helps remind you that there are THREE of you in this marriage (you, your husband, and God), and God wants to be a part of it with you.

I also firmly believe that prayer is more likely to happen if it’s routine (it tends to happen at the same time everyday), if it’s for a specific purpose, and if it’s relatively easy to do.

So most of these suggestions may sound “trite” to people who already pray a lot. But remember: if prayer is already a big part of your life, you may not need these suggestions as much! Most people just need ideas to get going, so here are some that can help start your prayer life well.

1. Pray Over Your Children’s Beds

Maybe you can bend over the baby’s crib at night and say a prayer for the baby, or stand over the older children’s beds once they’re asleep and before you go to bed. Just say to your husband (or wife), “I’d like if we prayed quickly for our kids at night. Will you come do that with me?”

2. Pray As You Part in the Morning

Here’s another idea: ask your husband before you part in the morning, “Can I pray for your day today?” And go to the door with him and hold his hands and just pray a really quick prayer for him at work today. Then kiss him and say good bye. It doesn’t need to be a big thing (and if often is better if it isn’t!)

3. Think of New Ways to Say Grace

Grace can get really old. And I firmly believe that there is nothing wrong with memorizing prayers, or saying pre-written ones, as long as you mean them. We have this idea that all prayer needs to be spontaneous, but some people have written beautiful prayers in the past that sum things up perfectly, and if your heart agrees, I think that’s fine. It can also be a lot less intimidating to people.

You can write out a number of graces onto cards, and put them in a “Grace” Bowl. Then have a different person pick a card and lead in grace each night.

Here’s a website with a few ideas, and the book 100 Meal Graces is also awesome!

4. Read Prayers at Other Times

What about reading a longer prayer after the dinner hour together? Again, if people are uncomfortable praying out loud, or aren’t used to it, reading a prayer can be freeing. I love Stormie Omartian’s Little Book of Powerful Prayers, but there are others. You can pick up the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which has lots of prayers and “collects” mixed in with orders of service, or my family has used the Celtic Benediction (celtic prayers for morning and night) while we’ve been camping.

5. Pray for a Need Right Then

My assistant Holly told me this story recently.

I called my husband, asking for prayer for something stressful that happened, and he said, well can I pray over you right now? And it happened to be a time that I had my hands full with taking out the neighbor’s dogs and don’t have a hands’ free for my cell, so I asked if I could call him back in a few minutes. I did and he prayed. It helped so much!

If it feels like a good time to pray, then just offer to right then and there. If your husband is sharing a concern, just ask, “can I pray for you?” And put your hand on his shoulder and pray a quick but heartfelt prayer for God to intervene. If you get in the habit of doing it right then and there, then it becomes a more regular part of your day and a more regular part of your routine. And then it can feel more comfortable for him, too!

6. Pray During a Conflict

This one’s important! When you’re really mad at each other, before you start really discussing the issues, ask, “can we just pray together?” And then pray something like this:

God, we’re really angry now and we need you. Help us to find the win-win solution here. Let us both be open to what you have to say. Bring your peace to your children. Amen.

My husband’s really good at suggesting we do this (I’m often too angry!), and it’s amazing how much it helps to bring God in early.

7. Take His Hand First Thing in the Morning, While Lying in Bed

I like to say a quick prayer every morning as I wake up, “Lord, today I pray that I will glorify you in all I do. May you use me and help me to be a blessing to others.” It’s quite simple. You could take his hand and pray that, or ask, “can we say a prayer together in the morning? I’ll say a sentence, and you say a sentence, and we’ll make it our ‘thing’ .”

8. Put your Hand on his Shoulder in Bed and Pray

You can do this out loud, or you can tell him that you’re doing it but do it silently.

9. Write an “I Need Prayer For…” Whiteboard on the Fridge

Put a little box for everybody in the family, and encourage people to write their needs on it. Then people can spontaneously pray throughout the day when they see it, and people know their own needs are getting prayed for!

10. Plan an Extended Prayer Time Once a Week

If you are comfortable praying together, then once a week, say on a Sunday night before bed, or on a Saturday morning when you get up, pray for a longer time about all your needs as a family and for other concerns you have. Remember to include times that you praise God for who He is, and thank Him for what He’s done! Again, if this is a regular, standing date that you have together, it’s more likely to become a part of your routine.

There you go! Ten ways to bring “little” prayers into your day. Tell me in the comments: which ones have you tried? Which ones have become regular for you? Or do you have something different that you do? Let me know!

Reader Question: How Do I Defeat Sexual Temptation?

Reader Question of the WeekSexual temptation. We often talk about it in relation to teenagers and young adults who are dating, but they’re not the only ones who face it.

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it, and here’s an important one:

My friend at work told me about your website. I’m in desperate need of some help! My husband and I have been separated for over a year now. I don’t want a divorce, but that’s beside the point at the moment. We have been married for 7 years and since we’ve been separated I still crave sex. I want it. I need it. But he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. He is openly having relationships with other women. So I’m basically on my own. But I struggle with masturbation. It’s becoming very difficult for me. Obviously it would be wrong to engage in that sort of thing with another person, but I can’t help but think about wanting to do that because I’m so desperate. I feel weird talking to my friends about this sort of thing. Can you help me?

I often think that the people who struggle with sexual temptation the most are those who have already been married and know what it’s like to be able to have sex when you want it. When that suddenly comes to a halt–because of separation, divorce, or widowhood–how do you deal with the sexual feelings you have that won’t go away?

When I’m speaking in churches about sex, there’s always at least one woman who comes up and asks me that question. It will go something like: “I was in a bad marriage/bad relationship, and I want to do the next one right. But what do I do now–there’s nothing about how women older than 40 should handle sexual urges.”

I really feel for these women, and so I’ll give just a few thoughts.

Sexual Temptation: It can be worse as an adult after a failed relationship. How do you stay pure then?1. There is No Magic Answer That Ends Sexual Temptation

I really wish there were something easy to tell you, but I can’t. This is a struggle you’re going to deal with, and it likely isn’t going away. I hope I can give you some tips to make it easier to manage, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to end. Sexual temptation is serious; it’s a drive that all of us have, and when you know how great sex can be, and you go for several years or more having sex quite frequently, and all of a sudden you have to quit cold turkey? That’s not easy. And it’s likely even harder than for that 19-year-old who is waiting to get married in the first place.

2. That “Sublimation” Thing Works

Have you ever heard of “sublimation”? Basically it’s a psychological term that means this:

You take the sexual energy that you have, and you “sublimate” it, or push it under the surface but then let it pop up somewhere else. So you take that energy you have for sex, and you divert it into something else.

Some of the best geniuses in history, the most creative people ever, the most active for God–were single who “sublimated” their sexual energy into something else. Michaelangelo painted the Sistine chapel. Single missionaries preached their whole lives. Paul conducted three missionary journeys and founded the church we now share. Sublimation is real.

I know several middle-aged and senior single women who have done so much for God. Many have organized missions trips, or have headed volunteer drives, or have started new ministries altogether. Others have launched businesses. Some have taken up a hobby, like watercolor painting.

When you have something that can consume your creative and mental energy, then the sexual temptation often doesn’t hit as hard.

So pray for passion in your lives. Find something else that you can be passionate about–something that matches your giftings and your heart. When you’re lying in bed, and you’re drifting off to sleep, but your mind is playing over and over some more ideas on how you can expand your business or on how you can grow your ministry, it will be so much easier than if you have nothing else to think about and sexual thoughts enter.

I know I preach often about not being too busy, but there is a time for busy-ness, if it’s simply taking our energy and putting it into something we feel passionately about. It can be one of the best ways to defeat temptation. And the added bonus? The busier you become with a ministry/business, the more likely you’ll run into people who share your values and your dreams–even men.

3. Stay Away from Things That Get Your Mind Going in That Direction

Now take a good hard look at yourself and ask, “what activities tend to make me face more temptation than others?” Is it watching certain types of movies? Reading certain types of books? Being home alone on a Sunday afternoon with nothing to do?

Take a look at your last few weeks and figure out when the temptation has been the worst. What had you just done before that? Can you see a pattern?

If there’s something that sets you off, then as much as possible, stop doing it. If certain media make it hard for you, stop watching that. If being alone is difficult, plan activities or invite people over. Know your own weaknesses.

4. Have a “Go To” Activity When You Face Sexual Temptation

When you do find yourself restless and really fighting sexual temptation, have something that you’ll do. First, of course, pray. And a simple, “God, help me be strong,” is fine. You don’t have to pray something long and elaborate. Just invite God in. That gives Him permission to use His power, but it also reminds you that He is there.

Now have some activity that you’ll do. Maybe it’s doing the dishes, or picking up a rag and starting to dust something. Maybe it’s going and doing 15 minutes on the treadmill or bike. Maybe it’s a C.S. Lewis book beside your bed that you’ll try to read to help your mind go in a different direction when you need to sleep.

Just have a plan–or even several–for what you will do when it hits the hardest.

5. Turn a Bad Day into Good Data

You’re going to mess up. We all do. None of us is perfect. When we do mess up, we often feel so badly. We’re disgusted with ourselves. We cry. We fret. We feel, “I’ll never defeat this.”

But I heard some great advice on a TED Talk recently, and it went like this: “Turn a bad day into good data.”

When you do mess up, remember that this gives you great information on what your triggers are and what your weaknesses are. So you can study that day and ask, “what was different about today than days that I didn’t mess up? Was I more stressed? Was I bored? Was I alone for a longer period of time? Did I watch too many movies?”

If you can figure out what was different, then it gives you strategies so that you can avoid recreating those circumstances later. Look on the times you mess up as research that can help you grow.

6. God Does Want to Help You With This

Remember, you aren’t alone. God does understand, and He does want to help you. When you pray about this, and you’re honest with Him, He will start to give you power to fight back.

Often when we’re feeling sexual temptation, too, it’s tied up in all kinds of other emotions. For widows it’s grief. For this letter writer, it’s rejection and feelings of loneliness. This man that she loved has already moved on with other women. For many of us, it’s also a realization that we’ve made poor choices and we may feel like we’ve now “lost” important years of our lives.

That’s a lot to process.

If you can start working through some of those other emotional and spiritual issues, you may find the sexual temptation lessens a bit. Just as we can “sublimate” sexual energy into creative energy, other things can be “sublimated” into sexual energy. So if you’re lonely, that can manifest itself by sexual temptation, even if the main need is just for human companionship. Working through some of your feelings with a trusted friend, a counselor, or even a Christian self-help book can start you on the road to healing.

But it won’t stop the sexual temptation altogether because sex is a fundamental part of who you are. And balancing fighting sexual temptation with still being a sexual being is tough. You are made to be sexual, whether you’re married or not. It’s just that right now you don’t have an outlet.

God understands. And so I just want to leave you with a few verses that I have found helpful when dealing with temptation. (Two of them are part of my 50 Best Bible Verses to Memorize!). Commit these to memory, and recite when necessary.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

 No temptationhas overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15, 16).

A Marriage Centered Family

Today guest author Amy Roberts of Raising Arrows shares great advice regarding prioritizing our marriage relationship, as the center of the home. Marriage before kids is the best way!

Marriage Before kids

As soon as I got married, I wanted kids. As soon as I had our first child, a year and a half later, I realized just how hard it was to be a parent. Then I started homeschooling. Then I had 7 more children! Next thing I knew I was neck-deep in obligations that were all 4½ feet and under!

It would have been easy…in fact, natural…to just disappear into motherhood.

Between morning sickness, diapers, schooling, and middle of the night feedings, my life seemed to revolve around these little people. Sure, my husband needed me, but he was an adult and not dependent on me the way they were. He could wait.

Or could he?

Let me ask you a question:

Do you have it in your head that once these intense mothering years are over, THEN you’ll have time for your spouse?

It’s not that you are speaking those word out loud, or even saying them in your head, but if you are always focused on the children and their needs, your actions are saying precisely that.

They are saying I’m too busy being a mom to be a wife. They are saying our marriage can wait. They are saying I don’t care about our relationship right now. They might even be saying, “You got me into this mess.”

We work hard at parenting. We agonize over decisions and behaviors. We research the “right way” to do everything from diapering to dating. But anytime there are issues in our marriage, we are quick to blame and slow to work at restoring our relationship. Our priorities are quite clear.

And quite off.

Our children need to see us working hard at being married.

They need to know what healthy adult relationships look like. They need a united authority and a stable homelife. The only way we can offer all of this is if we work to build a strong marriage where we remember what being a wife is like amongst the daily demands of being a mom.

Sometimes we need to put our husband’s needs above our children’s.

Sometimes we need to tell the children it is Mom and Dad time, and they need to wait.

Sometimes we need to implement schedules and routines that make the day less child-centered. (think bedtime routine here)

Sometimes we just need to take a moment to look into our husband’s eyes and remember how these children got here in the first place.

Don’t just let your marriage quietly crumble behind the scenes. You CAN be a good wife and a good mom. Working to build a strong marriage IS good parenting!

Amy RobertsAmy Roberts of RaisingArrows.net has been married 17 years to her high school sweetheart, Ty, and is blessed to be the homeschooling mother of 7 living children and one precious little girl named Emily being held in the Lord’s arms. As a conference speaker and author of several homeschooling and homemaking ebooks, including her newest release, Large Family Homeschooling, it is her deepest desire to encourage moms in the trenches to stay focused on what truly matters and live a life of abundant blessings in Christ. RaisingArrows.net A gentle voice. A firm resolve. An abundant homeschool life!

 

 

Wifey Wednesday: Happily Ever After?

Today, welcome guest author Candy Reid, who shares her best marriage advice for a real-life, down and dirty, happily ever after–building a strong marriage takes work.

Happily Ever After

Recently I was working on an ah-mazing blog post about marriage. I was listing some creative ideas for keeping the home fires burning. You know, stuff like, “Leave notes in his briefcase or lunchbox for him to find during the day.”  And “Grab his booty when he’s least expecting it…just to let him know you’re thinkin’ about him.” Good stuff.

While I was studiously preparing my post filled with great marriage advice, my sweet hubby had the nerve to walk right into the living room where I was working and say something that didn’t sit well with me. I’d love to tell you that I responded with a gentle answer and life-sowing words. But, alas, I did not. Instead I popped off a snarky, sarcastic comment (my barb of choice). Yeah, that went over really well (there’s that sarcasm again). My remark had an effect that was eerily similar to throwing gasoline on a fire. It took about 2.2 seconds for that whole situation to go from bad to worse. We were seriously stokin’ some “home fires,” just not the kind I wanna be telling you about.

Eventually we settled down. He went back to what he was doing. I went back to my computer. I began reading over the little nuggets of wisdom I had composed. As I read I was thinking things like, “Yeah, I’d like to leave a note in his lunchbox, alright.” Let me tell ya’, the note that I felt like composing would contain no flowery words of forever love. I’ll just let you use your imagination on that one.  And forget grabbing his booty. Slap the fire outta his booty, maybe, but certainly not a flirty little squeeze.

How about I just go ahead and divulge to you the single, most amazing piece of marriage advice anyone could ever give you? You ready? Here it is:

If you want “happily ever after” watch a Disney princess movie.

I know…that sounds harsh, but it’s true.

If you’re expecting to ride off into the sunset with the man of your dreams with nary a contrary emotion to ever darken the surface of your blissful state of marriage, you’re in for a painfully rude awakening. Marriage isn’t always sunshine and roses. Sometimes it’s wind and rain. Sometimes it’s thunder and lightning.

Sometimes marriage is just plain hard work.

You will have arguments, disagreements, and differences of opinion. He’ll snore. You’ll steal the covers. His sing-very-loudly-before-the-sun-is-up personality will be in direct conflict with your I-need-2-cups-of-coffee-before-I-can-even-see-straight personality.

So, what do we do? Rue the day we walked the aisle? Absolutely not!

Here’s what we do to live our real-life happily ever after:

1) We choose to recognize that we’ll have arguments, but we determine to work through them.

2) We allow personality differences to become a catalyst for the give and take that’s necessary to find healthy balance.

3) We choose to enjoy our spouse’s strengths while praying for their weaknesses.

4) We understand that we may, at times, be offended, but we set our hearts to forgive.

5) We refuse to compare our spouses to someone else. (If the grass appears to be greener on the other side it may be because “the other side” is fertilized with poop. Keep your eyes on your own pasture.)

Strong, lasting marriages aren’t built overnight and they aren’t built by perfect people.

They’re built by imperfect couples who choose to love each other through thick and thin, when love feels romantic and when it doesn’t; couples who choose to be humble enough to ask for forgiveness and gracious enough to grant it.

Though our marriage little resembles the goo-goo eyed, breathless “I do’s” of almost 25 years ago, it’s deeper and stronger than I ever thought possible. Our union is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and the example that He gives of sacrifice and forgiveness.

We’ve accepted the fact that “happily ever after” isn’t going to happen this side of heaven, but we’re embracing the journey – together.

 

Candy ReidCandy Reid is a southern girl who enjoys the simple things in life. Dirt road drivin’, Sunday afternoon nappin’, back yard swingin’, and sunset watchin’ are a few of the things that make her smile. She’s been married to her best friend and the love of her life for almost 25 years and is navigating motherhood with her 4 children, aged 23, 19, 14, & 11. She owns Mom’s Morning Coffee.com with her good friend, Pat. Candy is also a veteran homeschooler, word-nerd, a lover of books and chocolate, a survivor of canceran author, and a hula hoop maker.

 

Sign up for Mom’s Morning Coffee periodic newsletter and after you confirm your subscription, get a free PDF entitled “Strengthen Your Marriage”. The printable PDF contains helpful tips for keeping your marriage strong. And, it’s pretty enough to hang on your wall!


WifeyWednesday175Wifey Wednesday Links!

Every Wednesday I like to link to some other great marriage posts from wonderful marriage bloggers I’ve found around the web. Here’s a bunch of posts on getting your marriage off to a great start:

Women Living Well: Banishing Bitterness in Marriage

Hot, Holy and Humorous: 7 Steps to an Affair

Happy Wives Club: This Marriage Tip Changes Everything

Happy Wives Club: The Fastest Way to Overcome Any Misunderstanding

Club 31 Women: A Good Marriage is Worth Fighting For!

Reader Question: I Checked Out of My Marriage

Reader Question of the WeekHow do you love your spouse again, especially after you’ve already given up your dream of a happy marriage?

That’s today’s Reader Question! Every Monday I like to take a stab at a question a reader sends in, and this week it’s from a man whose wife finally understands how hurt he’s been over the years–but he’s afraid it’s too late.

My wife and I have been married for 19 yrs. For the majority of that time we’ve been a mess. We don’t fight and never have. I very easy going and I have never even raised my voice to her. Our problems began early on. She simply did not pay any attention to me. I spoiled her, gave her everything. Every few years I would break and crumble due to loneliness. She said she loved me but didn’t know how to show it. Last year was the final straw! I melted down completely. I sought therapy and even took pills for my depression. I began to brace myself for divorce. I had done all I could do to get my wife to understand my needs.

I decided to “let her go” and with that, the dream of the wonderful fairytale marriage I had so longed for. Then my wife read your book “The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex”. After that she said she had been illuminated. She all of a sudden became interested in “fixing things”. Here is the problem, I “let her go” already. All my love and desire is just gone. I don’t feel anything anymore. She so wants to have everything I ever wanted and now I just don’t care. My friends say I should just go with it and be happy. But I would be faking everything. I am miserably sad about this and I’m broken. Please tell me you have something! Anything!

That’s tough, and I want to answer it both for the husband and the wife. But first, please understand: there are no easy answers. There’s so much heartache involved here and so much water under the bridge that an easy fix isn’t possible. That being said, let me leave you with some big picture ideas:

How to Love Your Spouse Again--if they've hurt you and now want to work on the relationship, can you decide to work on it, too?

Thoughts for the Spouse Who has “Checked Out” Already

You’ve likely been hurting your whole marriage, and you had to steel yourself to the idea that you’d never get what you want. You couldn’t live in the misery of unmet expectations anymore, so you decided to give up on your dream of ever being happy with your spouse. To do that, you had to seal off a portion of your heart. You decided, “I don’t need you anymore”, which is almost the same emotionally as saying, “I don’t love you anymore.” If you’ve done that, then how do you love your spouse again–after all that emotional turmoil of letting go?

Act Love Rather than Feel Love

We tend to think that love is a feeling, but it’s really not. Love is deciding to act kindly towards a person and to look after that person’s well-being tangibly. Love is just being kind.

I remember how absolutely devastated I was after various breakups in my late teen years. My heart was broken in two, and I really didn’t think that I’d ever be able to move on. Even when I met my husband, and we started getting closer, I still thought about that last boyfriend. I didn’t want to go back to him, but I secretly hoped to run into him in 15 or 20 years, and be able to say, “Ha! Look what you missed out on!” I didn’t think I’d ever really get him out of my system.

But he’s totally gone now. It didn’t even take very long. Even before I married, I realized I didn’t even care anymore.

I’ve heard of similar things from women who have had emotional (and even physical) affairs. Even though they chose their husband, they thought they’d never be able to be perfectly happy again, because they were without their one true love. And now that they knew what true love felt like, the marriage could never measure up, even if they stayed.

Yet a funny thing happened. Time goes on, and the act of being married and being committed changes you. Those heady infatuation feelings fade, and they’re replaced by real love that you feel for your spouse.

I believe a similar thing can happen if you’ve LOST love. You’re hurt, and you’re closed off. But if you stay, you’ll find that little by little, everyday, you start building a new life together. You start growing that love again.

There’s a story I heard about a counselor talking to a woman who was determined to get a divorce. He advised her that before she do so, she take 30 days and treat her husband as wonderfully as she could. Say nice things to him. Be affectionate. Shower him with blessings. And then, at the end of the 30 days, she could tell him she was leaving him.

That sounded like a great idea, she thought. It would be so perfect–like a whammy he’d never expect. She’d lull him into believing everything was alright, and then she’d leave. It would be so devastating, like an extra punishment.

So she did it. She was sweet. She was affectionate. She brought him coffee.

And when 30 days was up, she went to see the counselor. He asked if she was ready to tell him, and she said, “No way! A funny thing happened this month. I think I fell in love with him again!”

As she was nice to him, he was nice to her. And they found a new balance in their marriage that was actually quite fun. But it happened because she started ACTING love out, not because she started FEELING.

Our feelings normally follow our actions, not the other way around. Try acting out love, and you may find that your heart softens.

Think About the Benefits of Marriage

Being married makes you wealthier. It makes you happier. It adds as many years to a man’s life as quitting smoking does. It makes you less susceptible to disease. It helps you to raise better kids. Marriage is a wonderful thing.

Before you throw it away, think about the cost.

If people put as much work into their marriage as they will have to into a divorce, more people would stay happily married. (Click to Tweet)

Work at Your Marriage

Thoughts If Your Spouse Has Checked Out

Your spouse has checked out of the marriage, and you’ve finally realized that you were doing wrong. You want your spouse to love you again. Maybe you had an affair. Maybe you withheld sex. Maybe you just never cared about your spouse’s feelings. What do you do now to show your spouse you’re different?

When You've Broken His TrustI’ve got a post with some great thoughts on what to do when you’re the one who needs forgiveness, and I’d encourage you to read it. Some quick thoughts from that: give your spouse time to be angry; work on a friendship before you work on a sex life; don’t just apologize, show tangible change; get counseling; and decide how much to tell the kids.

Read that post for lots of insight!

But I do have one more thought. I have a friend who is walking through this right now. He has checked out; and his wife is only starting to realize the damage that she has done. Much of that damage, though, has its roots in her own childhood, with trauma that she has never dealt with.

Often the reason that we are unable to give a spouse the love that he or she needs is because we ourselves didn’t receive it when we were young. We thus are in self-preservation mode. We have control issues and trust issues. And so it’s hard to build a good marriage, and we often hurt the one we want to love.

If someone hurt you in the past, do not give that person power over you today.

Do not continue to live with it. Get counseling!  Even if you have to pay a counselor $100 a week, it’s worth it. If you go for a whole year, that’s $5000. That’s a lot, but it’s less than it will cost to get divorced.

Take this seriously and deal with it. If your spouse sees that finally you are admitting you have issues, and finally you are admitting you have a problem, that may go a long way in helping your spouse to love you again.

Whichever spouse you are, this will be a long road. But I firmly believe that God is in the transformation business, and He’s in the reconciliation business. He loves nothing better than to take two broken people and make them whole again. And He can do that, when we finally let our guard down and be honest with Him and with ourselves. That means being vulnerable with each other. That means touching those deep hurts. But there is no hurt that is deeper than God’s love, and when we do become vulnerable, we finally give Him permission to touch that hurt and heal it.

I hope that both of you are able to do that.

Let me know in the comments: Have you ever closed yourself off from your spouse? How did you get over that (if you ever did?)