Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for March

Join the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge! Each month choose 1 book on the subject to read to boost your relationship! Get a chance to ask authors questions, read author interviews, and discuss the books, too!

It’s our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in 2015–March edition!

Most of us want to grow, but life often gets in the way. And sometimes we just need new ideas and a fresh perspective to help us figure out how to do marriage better!

So this year I’m challenging you to read 12 books with me. Last month we looked at Spicing Things Up, and I suggested you read either The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, which I talked about here, or The Passion Principles.

I know some of you haven’t read a book in a long time, but remember: it’s just one book a month! And I’m already having people emailing me saying, “what are the books for March”? So it’s time to dive in!

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for March

 

Choose from these 4 books on Setting Good Boundaries

Why four books? If I just pick one you may have already read it. But this month we’re going to be dealing with more specific issues in marriage, and not every book will apply to everyone. So I want to give you all a chance to see which book fits best with you, and then pick that one up.

This is probably going to be the “heaviest” month, but that’s okay–it’s good to get it over with earlier in the year. Later on we’ll talk about personality differences, gender differences, money, developing good habits, and more of the “fun” and practical parts of marriage. This month, though, is about what to do if you’re walking through a difficult relationship (and if you’re not–I have a book for that, too!)

Most of the questions I get on this blog are from women who are struggling with a negative relationship dynamic. I find myself recommending the same books, over and over, and so I thought I’d put them all into one month.

Here’s how they’re organized: The first three books are for women struggling with feeling taken for granted or struggling to find their voice. They start with a book with mild marriage problems and end with a book with major marriage problems. But what if you actually have a really GOOD marriage, and don’t feel taken for granted? Then the FOURTH book is for you (in fact, it’s for everyone, even your husbands. It’s amazing. And I love it!) Here we go:


Emotionally Healthy WomanThe Emotionally Healthy Woman: Eight Things You Have to Quit to Enhance Your Life

If you think the key to being a good wife and mom is to “be nice”, then you’re probably miserable. Because spreading God’s kingdom isn’t just about being nice; it’s about being GOOD, and those two things are not always the same thing. A good woman learns not to enable laziness or selfishness. She learns to confront sin. She learns to take care of herself. And so much more!

Who should choose this book: Any woman who feels overwhelmed, tired, and ineffective in her marriage, family, and ministry. Her marriage isn’t bad, but she’s just constantly frustrated with how life is going.


Boundaries in MarriageBoundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices that Make or Break Loving Relationships

The foundational book on how to create a safe relationship where you each respect and honor each other. Cloud and Townsend show how it’s possible to be so “nice” in a marriage that you create a relationship that’s toxic, where people take advantage and end up even being cruel. Yet by following a biblical idea of boundaries we can create a beautiful marriage that helps us thrive.

Who should choose this book: Anyone who is struggling in marriage, feeling like she’s being walked all over but she doesn’t know how to change it–or if there are unresolved issues and she doesn’t seem to know how to break free.


The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeThe Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope

For women (and men) who have been beaten down in marriage, here’s a book which helps you identify when a relationship becomes verbally or emotionally abusive, how to understand the spouse who treats you this way, and how to act in return without lashing out or becoming abusive yourself. A must read for those in toxic marriages.

Who should choose this book: If your friends or family have said to you, “your husband is being abusive”, please read this. If you feel as if you walk on eggshells at home so that you don’t send your spouse into a rage, please read this.


Ask It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make DecisionsAsk It: The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions

This isn’t a marriage book. But it is one of THE best books that I have ever read on Christian living, and it will transform your marriage–and every other part of your life! And there is so much great stuff in here about how to prevent marriage problems, too.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I’m making my teens read it, too! Even if you choose one of the other books for your marriage, read this one as well. It’s a quick read, it’s a fun read, and you will find yourself asking Andy’s question several times a day for the rest of your life.

Who should choose this book: Everybody! But seriously, if you don’t have issues in your marriage with confrontation or people taking advantage of you, then THIS is the book to definitely read in March.

 What I’ll Be Reviewing in March

This month I’ll look specifically at Ask It and The Emotionally Destructive Marriage–the two extremes! One book for those who aren’t having major marriage problems, and one book for those having huge marriage issues. I’ve actually talked about Boundaries in Marriage and The Emotionally Healthy Woman before.

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge March

What’s Coming Up with the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

This month I have an interview with Gary Thomas, author of Lifelong Love that we read in January. If you have any questions specifically for Leslie Vernick, author of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, please write them in the comments and I’ll see if I can get her to answer them!

At the end of the month we’ll have a big giveaway party, hopefully with an interview with an author, like we did in January.

Remember: one book a month. That’s all it is. Leave it in your purse or your bathroom–you’ll get through it! And you’ll find that if you read one book, on a different topic, every month, you will transform your marriage!

 

How to Ask for What You Want–Just Say It!

How to ask for what you want--especially in marriage

Most of the questions I get on this blog are something like this: “My husband is doing X wrong, and I don’t know what to do about it. How can I get him to act differently?” Maybe it’s that she caught him using porn, and she has taken screenshots and saved them and done everything except talk to him about it.

Or he doesn’t understand that foreplay is important and she finds sex unsatisfying.

Or when he comes to bed he’s stinky and that makes her not want to make love.

Or he needs to lose weight but she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, so how does she show him?

There Is No Magic Bullet When You Need to Ask for Help

They want to know–what can I do to make my husband see this issue from my perspective?

And they want to know specific actions they can take that can win him over to their point of view. There must be something they’re just doing wrong if he doesn’t understand something so obvious, right? So how can she change what she’s doing, or hint, or let him understand what’s wrong?

How to Ask For What You Want

And when you probe, you often find that the real issue is that she’s never talked to him about it. She’s stewed about it and she’s beaten around the bush and she’s tried everything in her mind but it hasn’t worked. But what she’s never done is just asked for what she wants openly and honestly.

In my upcoming book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I share some wisdom that you my readers gave me on my Facebook Page. I asked a while back, “did you ever get annoyed at your husband for something, but then realized that you’d never actually asked him to help?”

Some of my readers shared their stories. Lynn said,

Early in our marriage, I hinted several times that it would be nice if the clean dishes got put away. Finally I got mad at my husband and we argued about it. He told me, “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I thought it was too rude to order him around, but that’s the way he wanted. Then we were visiting his mom, and she was hinting at something he should do. When she left the room, I told him, “Your mom wants you to do this.” He balked and said, “No way. I lived with my mom much longer than you, and I’d know.” When she came back, he asked her straight out and she said, “Yes, of course. What took you so long?”

I thought it was too rude to order him around. We often don’t ask because we fear it’s demeaning, and yet most men would far rather be asked than hinted at. In asking directly we treat our husbands like grown-ups. They can choose to refuse, but at least they know what we want. Hinting is like asking them to read minds, which is disrespectful.

That idea of having to ask for help, though, grated on my reader Lindsey. “I shouldn’t have to ask!” she told herself. “He can see the mess!” Then one day during an argument, her husband grew quiet and said, “Baby, I just don’t see the mess the way you do. I’m just not as good as you are at juggling the house, chores, and bills. I don’t multitask like you do. I’m sorry.” Ever since then, Lindsey has learned to ask—and not to ask for a thousand things at once either!

So try asking–up front. Even if it’s hard. Even if it has to do with sex. Even if it’s something we’re uncomfortable talking about.

We Need to Be Honest

A committee I’ve been on recently can be roughly divided into three factions: The Group A Faction, the Group B faction, and the faction that doesn’t really get what’s going on and doesn’t really care. The Group B faction has always done things a certain way, but the Group A faction now has more power and wants to change things. So here’s the question: Can we change things in a way that doesn’t actually require confrontation with Group B? Is there a way that we can just enact new rules without Group B realizing what we’re doing or realizing why we’re doing it? Because we just don’t want all the messiness.

Sometimes you need messiness. By trying to avoid saying something outright you often cause more problems. In politics, the issue is not the sin but the coverup. In real life it’s true too–the issue is not the sin, but how far we go trying to avoid talking about something and dealing with it. If we had just said something in the beginning, even though it’s awkward, we would have been better off.

Interestingly, I think secular circles are better at this than Christian circles. In the work world people often confront openly and immediately because you have to. In Christian circles we’re too interested in being nice–and in so doing we often sacrifice honesty and forthrightness. We end up looking manipulative or secretive, even if that wasn’t our intention.

Manipulation To Get What You Want Doesn’t Work

Doing something with the express purpose of getting someone to change is manipulative. It is better just to ask.

But wait–aren’t we supposed to be nice to people? And if we’re nice to people, aren’t they more likely to be nice to us?

Absolutely. But your motives matter here. If you are being nice simply because you want them to be nice back, then you’re being manipulative and you’re likely going to be very disappointed. But if you’re acting in a loving way because it’s the right thing to do, then your heart is now in the right place. You’re more emotionally ready to deal with problems. You’re building a friendship so that you have a foundation of goodwill in your relationship, and that does make it easier to tackle problems. But that’s not the reason you’re doing it.

Not Everything is a Nail–It Can’t Be Solved by Being Nice

But there’s a caveat to all of this. You’ve heard the expression, “when everything looks like a nail, the hammer is only the tool you use?” Well, I think often in Christian circles we think that the answer to everything is just to be nicer.

I received an email this morning, for instance, by a woman whose brother-in-law is verbally abusive to his wife in public. They are living under the same roof but they are separated, and he is threatening a divorce. He is mean, he is angry, he insults the whole family, and everybody in their church knows it. But the woman says,

I love on and encourage my SIL as best as I can. When I am around my BIL I try to be loving and kind to him too. But it’s getting to the point that I feel he is emotionally (maybe even verbally) abusing her and it needs to stop.

So he is being verbally abusive, and they are trying to deal with it by loving on him and being kind to him. If we’re loving and kind, he will change, right?

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeNope. Being nicer to someone who is mean and manipulative just enables them and encourages them to do it more. They feed off of that. Many marriage problems need you to be nicer and more giving, but many do not. In this case, what this woman needs to do is stand  up to her husband and say, “I see that you are angry, and I’d be happy to talk to you when you’re calmed down. But I will not stay in a room with you while you say horrible things to me–” and then get up and leave. And the sister-in-law and rest of the family need to say to him, “You are being completely inappropriate and it will not be tolerated.” Treat him like an adult bully and call him on it.

What I have seen lately is that the vast majority of interpersonal problems, whether they’re in marriage, in the family, or at work, really need an open, honest, and hard conversation. But that’s often the last thing we want to do, because dealing with conflict openly seems so scary. Instead, we search for ways to get around it and beat around the bush and manipulate, and that usually makes things worse.

So take a deep breath, pray, and then open up your mouth. That’s often the only real solution anyway.

Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Watches Nudity on TV

My husband watches nudity on TV--like Game of Thrones--what do I do? Some thoughts.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I thought I’d tackle a subject I get asked about a lot: what about nudity on TV? What do you do if your husband watches shows like Game of Thrones?

About a decade ago now my husband and I decided to start watching the HBO series Rome. Keith’s really into ancient history, and we heard that the series did a great job recreating what life would have been like. We watched the first episode and there was a LOT of sex and nudity. We fast forwarded through all those scenes.

By the second episode we realized we were fast forwarding a good half of the show. And the plotlines were really gross–a mom trying to “sell” her daughter to a man to be his wife; a 13-year-old being sold into sex slavery (and the actress looked 13, too). We just thought it was too gross and we never made it to episode 3.

What do you do, though, if your husband doesn’t share your views on this? One reader recently wrote me saying:

My husband is an avid TV watcher. He loves catching up on his shows and looks at his TV time as his “me” time. The TV itself, however, isn’t the problem. He doesn’t spend too much time watching TV and he doesn’t neglect his responsibilities or our family to do it. The problem that I am having with the TV shows right now is the content – specifically the graphic nudity that is in a good portion of the shows he is watching.

The thought of my husband seeing another woman naked makes me feel sick. He claims that when a naked woman comes on screen, he immediately looks away. While I am inclined to believe him, I’m still not comfortable with him seeing anyone other than me naked at all! This fight has become bitter and has permeated into our whole marriage, because he feels like I am trying to control him, and I feel like he is completely disregarding my feelings when he engages in these TV shows.

I guess my question is, what is the line when it comes to the things that we view on TV or in movies? Am I overreacting about the nudity, as long as he is not “lusting” after the naked woman? Should he respect my feelings and stop watching the shows, or should I stop being angry every time he watches them?

So let’s look at how to handle disagreements about what is okay to watch.

1. Pray that God will convict him that watching other naked women is wrong

I asked on my Facebook Page yesterday what people thought that she should do, and the number one answer was “pray”. Pray that God will convict him and show him it is wrong, and I do totally agree. When God convicts, it’s so much easier to quit. I read books and watched shows when I was younger that I never would now because my conscience wasn’t as sensitive. Pray that God will show him.

And give this some time–perhaps a few weeks–while you pray about how to react and how to prepare your own heart so you’re acting for his good and for the good of the marriage, not just out of anger.

I’ve been going through an odyssey with prayer lately in my own life, and let me tell you–when you decide to pray wholeheartedly for something, it is amazing how often things happen! What if your husband is in a spiritual battle, and he needs you to fight on his behalf for a time? Really take some time and pray hard! You may find that the problem goes away, and you’ll learn a lot more about prayer in the process.

2. Don’t tolerate your husband watching graphic nudity

At the same time, though, we aren’t to tolerate sin. And tolerating sin when it is damaging to the person isn’t helping them; it’s hurting them. If you see someone about to walk off a cliff, and you do nothing, you’re hurting them. Give prayer a chance to change his heart and yours, but at some point we need to stand up and DO something.

One woman wrote this on Facebook:

Game of Thrones, Spartacus, and shows similar aren’t just sinful for their blantant sex and nudity, but for rape, incest, prostitution, possible pedophilia, disregard and disrespect towards women, completely ungodly themes, extreme unnecessary violence, etc. If he was haunting a porn site we wouldn’t be telling her not to nag and asking her to examine how she feels. This stuff IS porn and more.  It is from the pits of hell and she has every right to extract it from her home or pray that God does. She can’t stop him from watching it, but she can insist it does NOT belong in their home. Tell him to find another way to decompress.

I completely agree. Some things are borderline, but there are some sins that are extremely blatant. Many of these shows are pornographic–and even the parts that don’t show nudity show things that are sinful and awful. There is no reason to watch it, and it is wrong, and it should not be in your home, period.

3. But I Don’t Want to Nag!

And here’s the crux of the issue. This woman has already made it an issue with her husband. She has told him she doesn’t want him watching it, he says that he does, and they go round and round and never resolve anything.

So let’s look first at other ways to talk about it.

Focus the conversation on your reaction to the show, not on whether he should be watching it

If you focus the conversation around “it’s pornography and you shouldn’t be watching it”, then you’ll get into an argument about whether or not it really qualifies, and you can’t win that.

Instead, talk about the real issue, which is this: “I feel disrespected and humiliated when you watch that, and I don’t know why you want to do something which makes me feel disrespected and humiliated. When you watch that, I feel sad. I feel ugly. I feel like you don’t care about me and don’t really love me. I understand that you enjoy it, but if I enjoyed something that hurt you this much I would never do it. The fact that you don’t care about how it makes me feel hurts me in the extreme. Do you think that it is appropriate for you to do something which hurts me like this?”

He needs to understand what he is doing to you. Often refocusing the conversation around feelings rather than sin is more productive. He can’t debate how you feel; that is a fact. And you don’t need to be angry when you share it, either. You’re sad, you’re sharing your feelings because you want him to understand how serious it is.

4. Set Clear Boundaries

As another Facebook commenter said (who also happens to be a real life friend), “break the TV!”

I think she has a point.

Jesus says that if an eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out. If a hand causes us to sin we should cut it off. If a TV is causing you to sin, then, it makes sense to get rid of the TV.

But you don’t HAVE to do that. There are other things that one can do as well. But I think too often we, as wives, think that because we’re women and we’re married for life if we disagree on something there is really nothing we can do but live with it. Not true at all. Whatever you tolerate will continue.

Whatever you tolerate will continue. #marriagetip

We can choose not to tolerate many things without divorcing our husbands or even disrespecting our husbands.

You can say something like, “I understand that you want to watch these shows, and should you choose to watch them, I will be extremely hurt, but I will understand. I will ask, however, that you do not do so inside our home. If you are going to be disrespectful towards me, I would ask that you do it somewhere else.”

That is not being disrespectful towards him. You are honoring his right to make his choices, but you are also acknowledging that you have the right to make choices.

You can talk about getting rid of the TV, or you can talk about removing yourself (and perhaps the children) from the premises when he chooses to watch these shows.

Alternatively, you can say, “On the nights that you watch those shows, I would ask that you also sleep separately from me. It hurts me to be near to you when you have treated me this way, and when you are close to me afterwards, I have no way of knowing if you are thinking about me or thinking about the person on the screen. I love sleeping next to you and I want to sleep next to you always, but I can’t sleep when you are doing something like this.”

Then you stop talking about it and you just start doing. You’re not nagging. He’s made his choice, and you’ve made yours. On the nights that he doesn’t watch TV, be nice to him! Be giving to him! Have a great time together and don’t punish him for it.

You’re not controlling him–he can choose to do what he wants to do. But you also can choose to do what you want to do, and his actions will have consequences for your actions.

Which approach should you take? I have no idea. It really depends on you, your marriage, and your personalities. But this idea that all we can do is tell him, “I really don’t like it when you do that”, and then we should keep our mouths shut, is not scriptural.

In Matthew 18, we’re told what to do if someone sins against us. We go to them first. If that doesn’t work, we go to one or two others and ask them to help intervene for us. And if that doesn’t work, we go to the whole church. What we don’t do is just tolerate it.

I’ve written before that this applies to marriage as well–we’re to be wives, not enablers. When you do nothing, you enable sin.

What General Principles can we take from this about resolving conflict?

Here are a few quick things:

1. Focus on your feelings, rather than the infraction.

2. Leave some time for God to convict.

3. If the problem persists, change your own behaviour.

4. If the problem still persists, bring in a mentor couple or a pastor.

The problem I have with a lot of marriage advice is that it stops at #2. And then people are stuck just feeling like they’re nagging and not getting anywhere.

I wonder how many divorces could have been avoided if people used good conflict resolution early and stopped tolerating things that are wrong?

We start tolerating little things, these little things escalate, and soon we have a huge problem.

Boundaries in MarriageYou don’t have to make things into World War III, but some things just need to be done for the good of the marriage, and for the good of your husband’s soul. Not everything is that big a deal, of course, but some things are. And the principle here isn’t just the nudity; it’s the fact that he’s choosing to hurt her terribly. That can’t be tolerated, either.

I know what I’m saying is controversial, but I’m also trying to be helpful. If you want more information on how to deal with problems like this calmly and properly, I’d really recommend the book Boundaries in Marriage or The Emotionally Healthy Woman.

Now, let me know (and let me have it, since I know many will disagree with me), what do you do if your husband is doing something that is endangering his spiritual life and the marriage?

Top 10 Truths About Clutter

Top 10 Truths About Clutter

My house is filled with a lot of stuff.

I try to stay on top of it, but sometimes it really gets away from me. And then, before you know it, there are certain closets I’m afraid to open or certain rooms I’m afraid to go in. I just don’t want to think about what’s on the other side of that door.

It’s exhausting.

Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your SpaceSo when my good friend Kathi Lipp sent me her book Clutter Free, I was excited about reading it. It isn’t just a to-do manual on how to get rid of clutter; it’s more a way to change your mindset on how you think about your stuff, and I found it so useful. Kathi is sharing a post with us today, but before she does, I have to tell you about one funny thing in my life that came about because of reading her book.

At one point she was talking about “bathroom product clutter”. You know what she means–all the different hair products you’ve bought over the years that you’ve never used, or all the different creams, etc. And she challenges us to take 6 months and either use it or chuck it. Here’s the deal: you’re not allowed to buy a bathroom product until you have gone through your bathroom and found something like it, and either used it or admitted you never will and throw it out.

So for the last two months I’ve been on a rampage to use my bathroom stuff.

It now takes me 15 minutes after each shower, because I have to use the cellulite cream, the body spray, the varicose veins ointment, the eczema cream, the foot cream, and the foot spray. But I smell great! And I’ve finally taken all the essential oils I own and actually started to use them again.

I love it! It’s a great book.

And now, here’s Kathi:

Has clutter stopped being a cute problem in your life?

Clutter is something we laugh about over coffee (like watching too much TV or, come to think of it, ordering that venti double frap “coffee”,) but for many of us, clutter is much more serious than a couple of piles left on the kitchen counter.

If you feel like clutter is stressing you out, you’re right. There are real, psychological and emotional issues with clutter. It’s not all in your head.

But clutter lies to you. Clutter tells you “It’s not that big a deal,” and “You’ll get to it later.” Only to cause you more stress as the piles grow.

So here is the truth about clutter- or more accurately – the Top 10 Truths About Clutter:

1. Clutter Makes You Live Poor

When you are buried in clutter, you don’t know what you already have, so you tend to hang onto everything out of fear. (I don’t know how many pairs of shoes I have, so I can’t give any away.) I’ve had some times in my life when I haven’t balanced my checking account for longer than I’d like to admit. So when I saw a need, it was hard to respond because I didn’t know how close I was riding to the financial edge.

2. But Dealing with Clutter Can Make You Generous

Information is power. When you know that you have two pairs of flat black shoes you wear all the time, you’ll have no problem giving away that third pair to someone in need. When you know that you have enough groceries to get your through the week, you can open your pantry to your neighbor who is going through some tough times.

3. Clutter Steals Your Joy

UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) studied 32 California families and the stuff in their homes, cataloging thousands of items in each residence. The resulting book, Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century, shares about the link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. In other words, the more clutter, the more stress.

4. But Dealing with Clutter Can Bring Your Joy Back!

Simply by reducing the number of items in your home, you can reduce your stress levels and bring back peace. Stop right now and get clear off one surface around you – a desk, a counter, a table. Now enter the room and look at that blank space. There. Don’t you feel better already? Every time you clear out a drawer, clear off a surface, or gut a cabinet, you are reclaiming some happy in your life.

5. Clutter Costs You Money (Lots of it)

How many times have you re-purchased an item because you didn’t know where the first one was? How many late fees have you paid over your lifetime because your bills were all over the house? How many rebates have you found stacked in a pile that are past their mail-in date? How many fines have you had to pay because you couldn’t find all of the library books your kids checked out? Clutter is costing you money – and lots of it.

6. But Dealing with Clutter Can Actually Earn You Money

By selling those gently used clothes, donating those outgrown toys, mailing in those rebates on time, making an accurate grocery list (because you know what’s in your pantry,) not only will you save money, but you will add to the family coffers.

7. Clutter Can’t Be Organized

Stop buying more boxes, systems, totes and tools to organize your clutter. Clutter can’t be organized. But by digging through your clutter trash and recovering the treasures that lay in there (in every stack of twenty papers, there is one you actually need,) you can see what actually does need to be dealt with and organized.

8. But Dealing with Clutter Can Make You More Organized

Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.” Says Sherrie Bourg Carter the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout. By dealing with our clutter, we can let our brain know that we are done with that project, and we can move on to another item, giving it the full attention that is deserves.

9. Clutter Hurts Your Marriage

As I’ve helped women deal with their clutter, I’ve heard time and time again how it hasn’t just affected the space in their homes, it’s also hurt their relationships. Fights over stuff. Laundry piled on beds and couches, making them unusable. Cluttered kitchens that are impossible to cook in – the list goes on and on. Clutter adds an extra layer of stress to a marriage that may already be stressed to begin with.

10. But Dealing with Clutter Can Improve Your Marriage – Quickly

Many of the ways to make your marriage better require both of you putting in an effort – not so with clutter. By eliminating clutter in areas where you and your husband connect (the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom,) you are immediately lowering your stress level, which can do nothing but make your marriage a better place to be.

Clutter is a liar. It makes you feel distracted, stupid and out of control. But once you know the truth about clutter you can fight back and regain your life.

Want to win the battle against clutter in every area of your life? Join Kathi’s 21 Day Clutter Challenge and regain your home – and your sanity. (just click through and sign up on her sidebar!)

Kathi LippKathi Lipp inspires thousands of women each year to take beneficial steps in their personal, marital and spiritual lives through purposeful living. With humor and wisdom, Kathi offers hope paired with practical steps to live each facet of our lives with meaning.  She is the author of 13 books including The Husband Project, The Get Yourself Organized Project, and I Need Some Help Here – Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. She is the host of You’ve Got This! with Kathi Lipp and speaks at conferences across the US.  She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not doing laundry, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.

Reader Question: Shouldn’t Sex Involve Intercourse?

Reader Question of the WeekShould sex involve intercourse?

Every Monday I like to post a question from a reader and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is a thorny issue: what if your husband wants things OTHER than intercourse all the time?

My husband often prefers us to finish individually, without intercourse. He thoroughly enjoys giving and receiving. I told him about that denying the spiritual connection and he said that it is completely the same for him however it happens. He feels totally connected to me whether we have sex or not. It doesn’t feel as intimate to me and I would prefer it not be 50/50. Should I be feeling this connection without sex as well?

My second question I’m embarrassed to ask. Often my husband wants me to do things I don’t care for. It’s not painful, or degrading, I just don’t like it and it feels awkward. It is definitely something that only makes him feel good. This is how he wants to finish more than half the time. I feel like I am being selfish in not wanting to give my husband what makes him feel good and enjoy my body, however, I don’t enjoy it at all. He’s so happy and appreciative afterward that I don’t want to deprive him of something he wants or make him feel guilty for wanting something he can’t ask for. I’m afraid of continuing it and losing all the progress I have made because I’ll start to resent “sexy time” knowing there’s a good chance he will ask and it will become a chore I try to distract myself from. I don’t want to be selfish, my husband has been so supportive and loving through all the rejection and crying over the last 2 years, I’m just not sure if I can ever enjoy it. Should I keep trying to make my husband happy?

Wow! Tough issues.

Let’s try to deal with some of them individually.

Sex Needs Intercourse: If your husband avoids making love, there may be a problem.

Intercourse is Uniquely Intimate

When you have intercourse (forgive me for using the technical term in this post instead of ‘making love’, but I want to be really technical here so everyone knows what I’m talking about), you’re both receiving stimulation and pleasure from the same act. You are both experiencing something at the same time. That’s part of what makes it so intimate. When you are just stimulating each other in other ways (orally or manually, for instance), you may do so simultaneously, but you aren’t actually experiencing it together. You’re both experiencing two different actions.

There’s also something else about intercourse: the man actually ENTERS the woman. That makes it highly intimate, too. You’re actually joined. There’s a vulnerability there that isn’t present in the same way with other acts (other acts may be physically vulnerable, but it really isn’t the same thing). With intercourse we’re almost laid bare physically and emotionally.

If someone is running away from intercourse then they’re also running away from intimacy, and likely don’t even understand what I’m talking about.

Is there a Place for Other Sexual Acts?

Absolutely! They can be great for foreplay (and are often necessary to get a woman aroused enough to feel pleasure from intercourse). Also, as I’ve talked about before, there are ways to be really intimate there if health problems make intercourse impossible or difficult.

However, barring these health issues, if someone prefers other sexual acts to intercourse, then it’s almost like they’re saying (and forgive me for being graphic), “let me use your body to masturbate with.” They want a type of sexual release where they’re focusing ONLY on what they’re feeling, not on how the other person feels, and it’s a very self-centered act when it’s used on its own.

Oral sex or mutual masturbation can ENHANCE intercourse; they should never REPLACE it.

Why Would Someone Not Want Intercourse?

Essentially her husband is saying, “I prefer my sexual experiences to be focused on myself rather than on us together.” He may not consciously think that or say that, but that is what his actions are showing. So why would someone get to this point?

Someone who has been really involved with masturbation growing up rewires sexual arousal and response so that it’s a solo-based thing, not focused on relationship. And let’s face it–the feeling is often much more intense through oral or manual stimulation. Intercourse is great, but it often takes longer and you have to concentrate on another person. When you’re used to sex being about nothing more than thinking about yourself, then that can seem like a huge hassle. Who would want to do that?

This also represents a stunted sexual maturation, where someone is literally “stuck” or fixated on early teen sexual development. It’s like they never matured. There could be psychological reasons for this if it’s really an ingrained thing from some sort of brokenness or abuse in their past, but more likely it’s due to a masturbation habit that formed right when the sexual feelings did, and they never grew beyond that.

Could There Be Other Things Going On?

Absolutely, and here are just a few to look out for:

He could have sexual dysfunction

Perhaps in the past he’s tried intercourse and it hasn’t worked very well, or he’s become really nervous that it won’t work. So he’d rather try something that doesn’t require work or potential performance issues.

I’ve written a series on sexual dysfunction here.

He could have a porn addiction

One of the main effects of porn is that it makes intercourse far less intimate and far less desirable. Because most arousal is now dependent on these images in your head, people prefer sex that doesn’t require thought and allows them to have these images pass through their head. Intercourse can be a distraction.

He could have abuse issues in his past

Has he been abused in some way that has made him fear sex or fear his sexuality or sexual orientation? That’s another thing that needs to be considered.

So What Do I Do if My Husband Avoids Intercourse?

Unfortunately there isn’t a magic wand you can wave. The only thing you can do is talk openly. Talk about some of the points I’ve already raised–that intercourse is intimate because it’s both of you experiencing something together. It requires concentrating on each other, not just being self-focused. It feels wonderful. And it should not be avoided.

And then I’d say something like this: I’m not saying that we won’t do other things. What I am saying is that I no longer want to finish that way. I would like us to experience something together.

31 Days to Great SexIf you need a roadmap to follow, 31 Days to Great Sex is a wonderful one. It helps you work through building intimacy towards intercourse slowly, and helps you learn to enjoy each other’s bodies in the context of a really intimate relationship. And it’s a lot of fun! If you want a way to address this but you’re not sure how to have a “big” conversation about it, this book may help you have that conversation in dribs and drabs over the course of the month so that you start to understand better how each other thinks about sex and what sex was supposed to be. I really recommend giving it a try!

Work on Intimacy

It does sound your husband is stunted at an immature stage of sexual development. So what do you do to help him play “catch up” or to understand what sex should be? Work on intimacy in other ways. Take baths naked together. Pray with your husband. Work on your friendship and spend time together. Do a lot of massage where you touch each other and talk to each other.

And understand that it may take time for him to start appreciating intercourse when he’s used to other things. It won’t be instantaneous, and you need to leave him time for growth. But if you work on feeling intimate in other ways, often the libido for intimacy during sex does return.

What About the Sexual Acts He Wants Me to Do that I Don’t Like?

You can always compromise–say that one night a month is “his” night where you get to do whatever he wants, and then one night a month is your night where you do whatever you want.

But these are “special” nights, and they don’t replace your normal sex life together. If he says, “fine, I don’t want anything except my night” then you do have a problem.

Where To Go If He Still Refuses Intercourse

If he won’t agree to have intercourse, won’t talk about it, and thinks that you’re wrong, then it may be time to bring in a counselor and ask him to go see one with you. He does have issues that are harming his ability to be intimate with you, and if he can’t be intimate with his wife, it’s also very likely that he can’t really be intimate with God. When we hide from intimacy sexually we’re also usually hiding spiritually, too. This isn’t good for him, and to enable him to go on like this does him no favours. Sometimes you have to draw a huge line in the sand and say, “I love you too much to let you keep going down this road.”

I hope that helps. I get this question quite often, so many women are dealing with it, and you’re not alone. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever dealt with this, or if you’ve found other things that help your husband understand real intimacy.

My Heart for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex

Sheila Wray Gregoire shares why she wrote Good Girls Guide to Great Sex and her heart for marriage

We’re in the middle of our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for February, where I gave people the choice of three books: Pulling Back the Shades (about 50 Shades of Grey), the Passion Principles, and The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex (by me!) I’ll be reviewing The Passion Principles next Thursday, but today I wanted to share my heart for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex.

February Books for The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

It’s hard to sum up my book in one blog post because basically this whole blog–all 1600 or so posts–are reflected in the book.

So what can I say? When it was released I tried to break it down into 29 bite sized chunks, doing the 29 days to Great Sex leading up to its launch date. I’ve since turned that series into its own book.

But if you like this blog, and if you’re looking for practical information on how to make sex great, along with a framework to understand sex better, The Good Girl’s Guide is for you!

And so today, rather than try to write about what’s in it I thought I’d share my heart for it.

Last week I spoke in Texas five times giving my Girl Talk, where I talked about what God meant for sex and marriage. And sometimes it’s easier to get passionate when I’m speaking than when I’m blogging.

 

Sheila Gregoire Girl Talk

Here’s how I begin my talk: sex for me has not always been good. Often when you listen to a speaker talk about sex (or read a blogger speaking about sex) you assume that she’s got it all figured it out. It’s always been easy for her. She’s the “expert”.

But trust me–usually people write and speak about the things that they have found challenging in their lives.

It’s the things that they’ve struggled with which are interesting. The things where God has made them grow, step outside of their comfort zone, and test their own faith.

And that’s what it was like for me. As I share in my book, I entered marriage with a ton of baggage. I had trust issues because of important men in my life leaving me, and my now-husband originally breaking off my engagement. That made sex uncomfortable. But I also was given this book before I was married that was written by a man, that was given to pretty much every engaged couple back in the 80s and 90s. I won’t mention its title here, but suffice it to say, it made me a nervous wreck.

It was basically all about how to make sex great the first time out. And it was so explicit! Do this for five minutes, then this for ten. Rub here, rub there, stretch there. I almost felt violated reading it. And since I was reading it while lying in the bathtub (that’s where I did most of my reading back then), I took it and drowned it. I held it under the water until I was sure the book was dead, and then I unceremoniously dumped it in the garbage.

Why was I so uncomfortable with that book? I’ve thought about that and wondered that a lot, and here’s what I came up with: That book made sex all about the physical. I’m sure that wasn’t the author’s intention, but that’s still what I took away from it. You had better do everything right or else it’s going to feel awful. And you’ll be a big failure.

It was a ton of pressure.

Then, when sex wasn’t great for me after I was married, I just felt like I had been sold a bill of goods. Here was this man writing a book about sex, and he made it seem so complicated. If men didn’t touch and rub here exactly like this for exactly this amount of time, she’ll never feel good. And the media was all saying that sex was great, but that sure wasn’t what I was experiencing. Why would God make sex so complicated? Why was it so difficult? And surely I wasn’t the only one finding it difficult, was I?

I also didn’t grow up with a great view of sex. Like most teens, I heard incessantly “don’t do it, don’t do it” from youth groups and youth conferences, so the sex-positive messages I got were from movies that treated sex like a recreational drug. Sex was almost pornographic to me. It wasn’t something beautiful; it was something HOT.

When I got married and I didn’t feel particularly “hot”, but only rather uncomfortable, I had no framework for what to do. Sex was either to be avoided (don’t do it!) or made into almost an orgy (the media). And now I was at a crossroads.

I chose the “don’t do it” route. It all just seemed like so much work. My husband wanted it all the time; it didn’t feel good; and we were always fighting over it. Here’s a tongue in cheek video we made about this attitude to make the point; perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in it!

I spent so long turning him off I didn’t ask if I wanted to be turned on.

And the turning point came when I realized that perhaps what I was believing about sex was wrong. Yes, my experience with sex wasn’t great; but that didn’t mean that sex couldn’t be great. I was judging sex based on my experience, rather than based on what I knew the truth to be. How did I find the truth? I slowly started to believe more about what God said about sex.

(I wrote an in-depth post about how to start thinking positively about sex here).

The missing piece for me was intimacy. I thought that intimacy was about friendship and talking, and not about making love. When I started to understand that being intimate together–being emotionally and spiritually vulnerable, opening up to one another–that THAT is the best aphrodisiac, sex started working much better, even if it still took a few years to make it work more like clockwork. And it’s that spiritual intimacy during sex that we don’t really get.

So I tried to write a book that would help women relax, help them calm down, help them laugh, and still point them in the direction of awesome sex. We don’t need the pornographic version. We don’t need to avoid it. We certainly shouldn’t lose hope. God created this to be great, and if it isn’t great right now, that’s okay. That’s why marriage is decades-long! You’ve got a while to get this right.

And you can make sex the most fun research project you’ll ever do!

I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex for everyone like me who ever wondered what they were missing. And I pray that it helps all new brides get started on a more solid footing, and more experienced wives enter into the awesomeness that God really intended for us!

31 Days to Great Sex
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Quick Marriage Advice from John and Stasi Eldredge

Have you joined my Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for 2015 yet? I hope you have! You just commit to reading one book a month that will enhance your marriage–and each month is a different topic, so it doesn’t get boring!

February Books for The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

This month we’re looking at spicing things up, and tomorrow I’ll be sharing about The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex.

Love and War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage

But last month we looked at building the foundation, using a number of different books, including Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge. I gave you all the opportunity in January to write out some questions that you wanted our authors to give quick answers to, and John and Stasi obliged! Here they’re sharing some quick marriage advice:

1. What is the most important thing a wife can do to bless her husband?

“I believe in you.” Those are the magic words, expressed in a thousand ways. A man yearns to know that his life matters; he yearns to know that he has what it takes. He wants his opinions to matter. He wants his words to matter. So every way you can express to him, “I believe in you,” you are pouring blessing into his heart (and romance into the marriage). Certainly, say it to him: “Honey, I believe in you. You’re doing such a great job.” But also “say” it with your actions: ask his opinion on things (and respect it when he gives it). When he makes a decision, don’t undermine him by going and doing the opposite. “I believe in you” is the greatest gift a wife can give her man.

2. If we’re part of a bigger picture of what God is doing in the world, how do you live that out if your husband isn’t a believer?

Choose something to invest in that you know your husband will understand and respect. Perhaps it is tutoring underprivileged kids; perhaps it is volunteering at the hospital. If you invest all your “ministry” time into something that is utterly strange or bizarre to him (like worship gatherings, or prophetic meetings) he won’t “connect the dots” and see that God is relevant, God cares about the things he cares about. We aren’t not saying don’t pursue your spiritual life; please do. But he needs to see that christianity is not “pie in the sky” weirdness. You can show him by being excited about fighting for justice, or getting children out of the sex trade.

3. You spoke about how it’s not loving to ignore a spouse’s sin or brokenness. But how do you know when to stand your ground with your spouse and when to let it go?

You are friends with the most brilliant person in the universe–ask him! We’re serious. Ask Jesus for his counsel when to bring things up and when not to. This one decision has rescued our marriage a thousand times. You know how it goes–you want to bring something up (or stand your ground) but when you do it blows up. Jesus knows the better timing. Ask him–and be willing to wait when he tells you to wait, and to act when he says act!

4. On a practical note, how do you carve out time for you and your spouse if your kids are now teenagers and are up later than you are?

Actually we found the teenage years to be the season that began to open up time for us together, because the boys wanted to be with their friends far more than they wanted to stay home with mom and dad. When they were at home, and we weren’t doing something together as a family, we would sometimes go into our bedroom and close the door. You might have to be as direct as to say, “Mom and Dad need some time right now to talk through some things.” But the bedroom was always a safe bet because teenagers shudder at the thought of mom and dad “doing” anything intimate; they wouldn’t interrupt if the house was on fire!

Great marriage advice, John and Stasi! Thank you!

I wanted to share today another journey I’ve been on thanks to reading Love & War, and part of what stuck with me.

John and Stasi write that marriage is supposed to be a picture of both love and war–the love that God has for us, but also the great battle that He is waging to win the world.

And we’re to fight that battle alongside our spouse, for God and with God. That’s the grand adventure that marriage is! It’s not just staring into each other’s eyes; it’s actually feeling a purpose of being part of what God is doing to bring His kingdom on earth.

They write:

Our love is meant to be both a picture of his love and his fight…

Your marriage is part of a larger story, too, a story as romantic as any that has ever stirred your heart, and at least as dangerous…

Do you get how cool that is?

Together, you and your husband can be dangerous.

I want a marriage so great that we can be dangerous to the devil

I’ve been on an odyssey with prayer over the last month–something that I’ve never experienced before. I have heard other people talk about having a burden to pray, and starting to pray and then not being able to stop until the burden is lifted. But I’ve never experienced that,  until very recently about something in my family (don’t worry; we’re all fine. No one’s sick or in danger or anything).

I’ve had a weird relationship with prayer ever since my son was born and died. We prayed for him to be healed, and he wasn’t, though I was honestly okay with that. I knew that God had other purposes, and I can see how God is using Christopher’s story (I shared it even last week in Texas, and it touched many).

But since then I’ve been wracked with the question: does God really change what He is going to do if we pray? Is there really a point to prayer? If we hedge all our bets when we pray with “If it is your will…”, then is it really useful?

I’ve read a book by C.S. Lewis lately called Letters from Malcolm that has helped a lot, but ever since I’ve had this burden I’ve been praying hard–and amazing things are happening. It’s been so encouraging to see that God answers prayer in my personal life. I’ve seen it so much in my professional life, but not as much personally.

And all of this has committed me to three things:

1. We do have to battle in prayer.

There are times when God wants to act, but He asks for our prayers to do so. And I think we do need to pray for very specific things. I’ve found lately the more specific I am the easier it is to see prayers answered.

2. I am praying that God will make Keith and me dangerous in tandem.

So much of the last few years we have gone in different directions with work and ministry. It’s HARD. He’s been in one place and I’ve been in another. But over the next few years we’re re-evaluating and looking at how we can do things together. I’m excited!

3. As I pray for my girls’ relationships (now and in the future), I am praying that they will be part of the battle.

It is not enough to pray that they will find someone to love them and that they can love in return; I’m praying that they will marry someone with whom they can be DANGEROUS with together.

Yesterday and today I’m in Ottawa wedding dress shopping with my oldest daughter, and I am praying hard that God will make them both dangerous together.

And Katie, who is not currently in a relationship–I am praying that she will only be drawn to men who are seeking first after God’s heart. And I am praying that God will lead her to a man that she can fight this grand battle with together–not just that she will have a comfortable life. What’s the fun in that?

So that is what I have taken away from John and Stasi–I want to be dangerous! And I thank them both for answering our questions.

In the meantime, you may be interested in my daughter Katie’s first video in her series: “Katie, the Relationship Guru Who Has Never Been in a Relationship.” It’s pretty funny (and wise!) I know she’d appreciate it if you shared it:

Now–let me ask you for questions for this month’s featured author, Shannon Ethridge, whose book The Passion Principles I’ll review later in February. Have any specific marriage advice or questions you’d like her to answer? Leave it in the comments below!

Wifey Wednesday: Putting Your Husband First

Today, welcome guest author Kate from Making Space, a mom, wife and reader from the UK, who like many of us asks an important question, what comes first, children or marriage? Here’s what she says about putting your husband first.

Children or Marriage: Putting Your Husband First

This is what a normal day in our household looks like.

Jonas wakes up, if I’m organised enough I will have woken up before him to shower and get myself ready. I put him on the potty (and continue to do so regularly for the rest of the day), get him dressed, we go downstairs, I make him breakfast. I wash up all the dummies and beakers he used last night. I empty the dishwasher, and then load it, whilst talking to Jonas as he has breakfast. I get him down from the table, he plays whilst I have breakfast. I quickly load the washing machine and prepare his changing bag. A neighbour might knock on the door and come in for a quick chat. We quickly rush out the door trying to get to a toddler group on time, but often running 30 minutes late. We stay there until lunch and then walk home super quickly to get back in time for Jonas to have a quick lunch and then nap. He wakes about 2 or 3pm, leaving me a couple of hours to spend some 1-1 time with him, do cleaning, hang the washing, prepare dinner and do any other chores around the house for which there always seem to be many.

Engagement

Before Children

Around 5 or 6pm I am so happy to see Alan’s car pull up in the driveway. Honestly, not because I am excited to chat to my husband or give him a kiss for all his hard work in the office enabling me to be a stay at home mum, but because seeing him walk through the door means he can assist me in looking after Jonas, or sorting bits in the kitchen, or putting Jonas on the potty for the 20th time that day, or just lending a helping hand. Just doing anything which enables me a couple of minutes to breathe and have some time off from being a ‘mummy on duty’. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mummy, but I think most mummies will understand, some days it is relentless and there is such freedom in being ‘off duty’ for even 5 minutes.

As I started writing this post, I was going to write about juggling things in motherhood, something I’m sure I will write about soon, but as I started typing I realised something. Sometimes, and probably often, my focus in my day is so much on my son, and my long list of chores or jobs to achieve, that I forget something equally as important. I forget something that was here before any of these ‘to do’s’ or ‘priorities’, I forget my marriage. I forget to give myself to my husband.

I spend so much of my day giving my best to my son, that when Alan walks in the door and we go through the strict paces of the dinner/bedtime routine for Jonas, there is very little of my best left to give.

By the time 7pm on a good day, or 8pm on a not so good day comes, and Jonas is asleep in his cot, this mummy is knackered. Desperate for some me time, just to do something other than give of myself, longing to chill or zone out. I don’t really want to hear about his day, because surely it can’t compare to the importance of him needing to hear about the events of our day, the laughs, the new developments, the tears or tantrums, the accidents or successes of potty training, surely my husband’s tale of the day can’t compare to this, right?

As I type this I am reminded of something one of my close friends once said:

Our husbands were there before we had kids and they will still be there after.

I guess the state of our marriage will be dependant upon the attention we give it during these years when it’s hard to give again when we have done so all day.

I think this will probably be a challenge for a lot of mums, especially in those early years when our little ones are so dependant on us. We can feel like we have literally given so much that we have emptied ourself of all energy, that there is none left to find.

If this resonates with you, I challenge you, like I challenge myself, to remember the one that was there first. To remember our husbands who have given us these precious children. And on those days when we literally feel like we have given above and beyond for our babies, to somehow muster up something else, to give to our husbands. To remember that when they walk in the door, although you may feel desperate for them to help, to take time to give them a kiss. Or when you feel like you have to tell them the events of the day because you haven’t had any other adult conversation within the last 4 hours, to remember, maybe they want to share their days events with you first. And when you hand them a list of ‘to do’s’, perhaps stop to think what this type of welcome might feel like to them as they step in the front door. Perhaps think that they may have had their own challenges or stress that day, and they may need a breather too.

And then remember this: we give to our children firstly because we love them, but also because we are investing in their lives. Don’t allow yourself to lose your love for your husband, but on the days that maybe you don’t feel it because you are so exhausted, remember you are investing in them too. Investing in your marriage, and when your babies have grown up, and flown the nest, your husband will still be there. And the success of our relationship will depend on what we put in now and how much we give to them now.

If this seems impossible, because you can’t possibly think of anyone else other than your little bundle of joy that is also a bundle of a lot of hard work, ask God for help. Ask Him for strength. Ask Him to show you little ways you can bless your husband, or help you to organise things so you have more time. Because the same is true of our children and our husbands; what we put in in the early years, most definitely affects what we get out in the later years.

Decide that what you get out of your marriage in years to come will be good!

Me-and-My-Boy-150x150My name’s Kate. Two and a half years ago I became a mummy. My life massively changed! I left my career, fell madly in love and started the biggest learning curve of my life. I have learnt many things since then but the biggest by far is that by the grace of God all things are possible. God has given me wisdom when I’ve needed answers, given me strength when I’ve been overwhelmed and given me capacity beyond my natural ability. I write a blog because honestly some days we all need something to read where we can find hope, encouragement or just a space to hear, it’s normal! You can find it here: Making Space.

How I Win Every Argument with My Spouse

Today we welcome Daniel Robertson from God’s Help for Marriage, as he shares about how to win every argument with your spouse–the answer is so good, you BOTH actually win!

How I Win Every Argument with my SpouseThis past summer I was working a temp job at the local county fair. One day, before my shift started, I took my wife and kids (and mother-in-law) to the fair for some family fun. But this trip ended in an epic argument between me and my wife. One of the worst we’ve ever had in 7 years of marriage.

I’ll also share how we overcame this argument, and the secret to winning every argument with your spouse. This secret is so powerful that not only will you win, but so will your spouse.

We were having a great time at the fair. The kids loved the Ferris Wheel. I think I took each of them on it twice, even though I don’t like heights. But what they loved even more was the dance floor, where they were playing country music and a bunch of kids were goofing off and dancing in a way that only little kids can do. They spent quite a bit of time there dancing around.

In fact, I was starting to get antsy because I wanted to show them more of the fair, and it was getting closer to the start of my work shift. I also wanted to help my wife get the kids in the car before my shift started. I hinted at my wife a few times that I wanted to go do something else, but she didn’t take these hints.

Sidenote: Hinting is not a great form of communication. I’m learning to be more direct with my requests.

After a few of these hints, I was really starting to get frustrated. I also knew that my 3 year old son was likely to throw a temper tantrum if and when I did try to get him to leave. I figured it would be better to get him away from the crowd to throw his tantrum, so I swooshed in and grabbed him. I pulled him away, with him kicking and screaming the whole time.

All of this happened without communicating with my wife about what I was planning. Huge mistake.

She was furious, and embarrassed to be seen with me after that. I looked like the mean daddy, who dragged his kid away from his fun. I thought I was the hero, who was taking charge and preventing a very public 3-year-old tantrum.

Sensing my wife’s fury, I knew it was time to end the fair date. I helped her get the kids into the car, and then tried to make amends with my wife. I explained why I did that, and she explained why I was wrong in what I did. I reached out to hug her and told her I loved her. She pushed me away and said something like “I hate you” or “I don’t love you”–with more vehemence than I could ever have imagined coming from her.

I was infuriated by her rejection. I don’t think I’ve ever been more hurt in my life. So I went to my car to get my badge and uniform shirt, and I still had maybe half an hour before my shift started, so I sat in my car, fuming. How could she say what she did? How could she let me start off a work day with this hanging between us?

So, how did we recover from this argument? How did we both end up winning?

I’ll tell you in a bit. But first, I’d like to talk about some common questions couples have about arguing.

How Often do Happy Couples Argue?

Despite this epically bad argument, my wife and I are a very happy couple. And happy couples argue just as much as any other couple.

In other words, it doesn’t really matter how much you argue. Argue a lot. Argue a little bit. It doesn’t make a huge difference on your overall happiness in the long term.

In some ways, arguing is actually a sign of a healthy relationship. Each person brings different beliefs, ideas, and values to marriage. You probably even have different ways of doing the same task.

Sometimes, these conflicting attitudes cause arguments. And that’s OK. It shows that each of you is willing to stand up for your values and positions. And that’s a good thing. If a couple told me they never argue, I would suspect one of them of being a wallflower or having given up.

What’s the Right Way to Argue?

Again, HOW you argue isn’t actually all that important in your long term happiness as a couple. It probably matters more than how often you argue, but not by much.

Some happy couples break all the “rules” of how to fight fair. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Use “Active Listening” techniques
  • Don’t get defensive
  • Don’t use blame-shifting
  • Don’t say “always” or “never”
  • Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements
  • Don’t attack your spouse’s character
  • Stay on topic

All of this is good advice. Follow it, if you can. But let’s be honest. In the heat of the moment, all of this good advice goes out the window. Even for the happiest couples.

The one rule you need to stick to every time is to not use violence when you argue. Spousal abuse is never OK. Other than that, all of the “arguing rules” are guidelines.

The Real Secret to Winning Every Argument is What you do After the Fight

OK, let me finish the rest of my story. A few minutes into my work shift at the fair, my wife called me and apologized for how she reacted. It was probably less than an hour after our fight. Definitely less than two. She also offered to bring me lunch at my break, which I had been planning to ask her to do until our argument broke out.

In other words, she made a peace offering.

In her book “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages” Shaunti Feldhahn reveals this as the secret:
“When highly happy couples inevitably experience hurt feelings and conflict, they will at some point mutually reconnect by sharing a private signal that says ‘We’re okay.'”

After an argument, happy couples reach out and reestablish their friendship and commitment to each other. I initially reached out to my wife by trying to hug her and tell her I loved her. Although she rejected my initial peace offering, it wasn’t long before she made her own attempt to reestablish connection with me.

Maybe you stay angry for days after an argument with your spouse. You might stonewall, push your husband or wife away, or just shut down. All while stewing in anger and bitterness and thinking negative thoughts about him or her. These thoughts are particularly damaging because they shift your perceptions of your spouse. The longer these thoughts continue, the more these negative perceptions become a part of your subconscious thinking patterns.

For instance, after our fight all I could think about was how badly my wife overreacted, and how could she let me start work like that, and all kinds of uncharitable thoughts about her.

These negative thoughts stopped instantly once she called and apologized. They were immediately replaced by feelings of gratitude and friendship.

It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with resolving the conflict. My wife and I never reached an agreement of who was “right” and who was “wrong”. We did come to an understanding of WHY we each did what we did, but we never agreed that those reasons were right.

There are some conflicts you will probably never resolve in your marriage. You’ll keep arguing about the same things over and over again. In some cases you might be able to reach a good compromise. In others, you might just have to agree to disagree.

But if you quickly reconnect with your spouse after an argument, you both win. Every time.

So how do you do this? The best way is to apologize and make some kind of “peace offering” after the argument. It might be as simple as a hug. Or maybe you make a goofy face or tell a joke to try to get your spouse to laugh. Or you touch pinkies as a secret sign that says “We’re okay”.

Or there’s my personal favorite: make up sex.

And if your spouse offers a peace offering, do your best to accept it. Maybe you aren’t ready right away. If not, it’s important that you make the next move. As soon as you are ready, make your own attempt to reconcile and reconnect.

Whoever makes the initial move, it’s best if this happens within a few hours of the argument. Or within a day at most. The sooner this happens, the better.

DanielDaniel Robertson is a Christian husband and father and writes about how to improve your marriage with Biblical principles. Download his free report to discover 3 simple keys to create more passion and intimacy in your marriage, or read his recent post on 15 tips to rock your marriage in 2015.

 

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Wifey Wednesday: Does God Like Men Better? Why It’s Hard for Women to Reach Orgasm

Why is it so hard for women to orgasm, and so easy for men? Thoughts on why God made us this way!Does God just like men better?

It’s Wednesday, the day that we always talk marriage! And today, in our lead up to Valentine’s Day, I want to address an often unspoken question when it comes to sex: Why did God make it so easy for a man to climax, and so difficult for a woman? How is that fair?

When I speak around North America giving my Girl Talk on marriage, sex, and intimacy (I’m in Texas this week!), I always include an anonymous Q&A portion of the night. Women can write questions on little pieces of paper, and I take a stab at answering them. And in every church I’ve been to–large or small, rural or urban, young or old–the questions are almost always pretty much the same. And at least one has to do with orgasm.

Why is orgasm so easy for a guy, and so hard for a woman?

Good Girls Guide My SiteWhen I was writing The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, I surveyed 2000 women. And I found that about 64% of women usually or always reached orgasm during intercourse. But that leaves 36% of women who rarely or never, or only sometimes do. If I limit the pool to just those who have been married for 5 years or less, 41% of women have difficulty.

I’m pretty sure the number of men who have difficulty reaching orgasm is about 10 times less.

And if you’re a woman who has ever laid in bed thinking desperately, “will this be the night?”, you know how frustrating it is.

Then sex becomes this pass/fail thing: if you don’t climax, you didn’t do it right. And you feel like the failure, because he ALWAYS has fun. (If your husband does have performance issues, though, I do have a series on that). He’s disappointed, you’re disappointed, and sex seems like so much work! In the media everyone seems to love sex, but you figure they’re pretending. Or they’re deluded. Or you’re just broken.

You’re not. You’re really not! There totally is hope.

31 Days to Great SexI’ve talked before on the blog about how to reach orgasm, and I have tons of tips in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex and in 31 Days to Great Sex. I’ll summarize really, really quickly, but my top 5 points would be:

1. Use lots of foreplay

Before you even start intercourse, touch each other a lot. Get yourself really excited, even if that means that you take control by rubbing against him.

2. Use lubrication

It can be much easier to get aroused if you’re well-lubricated! Coconut oil or Astroglide work well.

3. Bring him to orgasm earlier in the day

Just so that he’s able to last longer, and it can be more about you!

4. Breathe and think of it like surfing

You want to ride the wave, not get in front of the wave. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense if you rarely orgasm, but the more worked up you get about it, the less likely it is to happen. If you can focus on feeling pleasure and letting your body almost sink into the pleasure, then it’s more likely you’ll ride it to the top!

5. Remember angle matters

Most arousal in women is caused by clitoral stimulation, not vaginal stimulation. So change the angle so that you are getting stimulated at the right spot. Lying flat on your back (or with a pillow under your head) in the missionary position is often the WORST position for this type of stimulation. Engaging your muscles to tilt your hips up, or using a different position, is often better.

Okay, there’s more in the books, but that’s just a few pointers. The bigger issue I want to deal with today, though, is why do we even need posts like this? Why is it so tricky for women? What on earth could possibly be the purpose of us being made in this way? Is our difficulty in climaxing a result of the fall or something?

Nope. I actually think God had a purpose when He created us like this. And here it is:

1. Satisfying Sex Requires Communication

For us to reach climax, we need to be touched in a very particular way. We need to be touched in a very specific spot. We need that touch gentle at first and then more pressing and urgent.

And so we need to communicate that to our husbands.

That’s hard. Telling him what we want requires first of all that we actually know what we want, and many women don’t. We get married with very little knowledge of what feels good or how our bodies work (that’s true whether we’re virgins or not; most sexual encounters when you’re young are not sexually satisfying, and that can solidify some ignorance about how to feel good).

So we have to learn about ourselves, and then we have to tell him. That’s right: we have to tell him something that nobody else knows about us. We have to open up and pull back the curtain and show him the most primitive part of ourselves; the part we try to hide. And that’s why:

2. Communication Requires Vulnerability

To tell him what we want means that we are willing to let down our defences and get real with our husbands. It means that we share the most private parts of ourselves, and we allow ourselves to even acknowledge those parts. We can’t pretend to be in control all the time. We can’t be prim and proper. We have to empty ourselves, bare ourselves, and let go.

And that’s why:

3. Vulnerability Requires Trust

In order to be that bare with someone we need to trust them–trust them that they love us, that they will keep this private, that they actually care and want to see inside of us.

This trust is often built over time, and that’s one reason, I think, that women tend to have more fun in the bedroom the longer they’ve been married. We’ve learned to trust, which means we can be vulnerable, which means that we can fully communicate now. We’re not ashamed and embarrassed.

The Big Picture on Women, Orgasm, and Why God Made Us This Way

So let’s take a step back now and look at the big picture.

What if God made us so that we responded sexually as easily as men did? There would not be the same need to work on the relationship. We wouldn’t have this need to be vulnerable, to grow trust, to learn how to confront our own inner fears and insecurities and bring them to light for healing. Our relationships would be very shallow.

The way that we are made ensures that if two people are going to have an awesome sex life, they are going to have to grow other parts of their relationship, too. Communication. Vulnerability. Trust. That sounds like a great marriage to me!

Why Do Married Women Have More Fun?

And this is why my study, as well as many others, have shown that married women enjoy sex more. Our world sells anonymous encounters as the highest on the sexy totem pole. But when you can’t open up and be vulnerable, you’re missing one of the keys to great sexual response. Our response is tied into our ideas of intimacy. Without real intimacy, something will always be missing.

The Good News Moving Forward

So here’s the good news, ladies!

You all can reach orgasm. Really. It may be more difficult for some. It may take years (it did for me). It may take a lot of practice and a lot of trying. But anatomically, there is no reason to think that you can’t. Just grow your relationship, calm down and don’t get too uptight about it, and read books on how to make it more likely. And then make it a really fun research project you do with your husband!

And when you do get to the point that you’re achieving orgasm usually or always, here’s some more good news: women have more intense orgasms. We can have multiple ones, which can last for quite a long period of time–far longer than his. Inasmuch as researchers can figure this out, we may have more difficulty getting there, but once we’re there–we have the capacity for more!

So don’t despair. God doesn’t like men better. He just made us differently so that we would have a reason to grow our relationship. Communication. Vulnerability. Trust. Work on those things this Valentine’s Day, and you may find even more fireworks than you had planned!

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Have some marriage advice? Leave a comment, or link up a URL of your own Wifey Wednesday marriage (or Valentine’s Day) post in the linky below!

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

Find out more here.