Wifey Wednesday: Why is it So Hard to Connect?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to talk about the heart of marriage: connection. We get married because we want to feel this deep connection to someone, and yet too often, years go by and we feel like we’re just drifting. What happened?

hard to build connection in your marriage

The Connection Principle in Marriage--part of the Ultimate Homemaking BundlePastor and life coach Chuck Taylor has written a fun and easy-to-follow book called The Connection Principle, which outlines three communication tools for getting what you want in your marriage. It’s part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, which is on sale until April 27, and I really enjoyed reading it!

I talk a lot about how to be giving in marriage on this blog: How to love your husband, think about his needs, and do the right thing.

But let’s be honest: sometimes focusing on what he needs feels really lonely. It just does. And what if you’re feeling more and more distant?

That’s where reality hits, and Chuck really gets it. It’s not wrong to want to feel close to your husband. It’s not wrong to want to feel as if he loves and values you.

But what IS wrong is often how we go about trying to get those feelings. And too often we don’t understand that sometimes all it takes is a little tweak in our communication patterns to bring a whole new dynamic to a marriage.

As Shaunti Feldhahn reminded us earlier this year in her book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages (our April selection!), in over 90% of marriages your husband wants the best for you. He really does. So if you’re feeling unloved, chances are it’s not that he doesn’t love you. It’s simply that you’re not communicating well.

Here’s how Chuck explains the Communications Gap:

The communication gap in marriage happens when we fail to communicate our intentions or expectations and instead assume the other person just somehow automatically understands fully what we want them to know…

The gap feels like the moment that you want your husband to talk to you after a long day at work, but he instead retreats to the TV and you are left feeling neglected. Or maybe your wife stays up all night checking in on everyone on Facebook world while you are left wondering if she even finds you attractive anymore.

The communication gap is the poison that slowly kills marriages.

So how do you bridge it?

Three steps: Confirm the Information; Connect Value with the Individual; and Convey Your Thoughts.

The first step is listening well–your spouse wants something or says something, and you want to make sure both that you understood what they were saying, and that they KNOW you understood it. Simple things that can feel “fake” actually make a huge difference here–repeating what they said; rewording what they said; etc.

And conveying your thoughts–the last one–also feels “funny”, but it really works! It’s about asking in a way that the other person hears–and checking in throughout the conversation to ensure that they “got it”.

We tend not to like these because they make conversations seem mechanical. Where’s the flow? Where’s the spontanaeity? Where’s feeling as if he’s reading my mind and we’re in sync with each other?

But as Chuck says,

 I will ask the woman, “Do you want a marriage that is full of exciting mystery or do you want a good marriage that is free of conflict?” It is incredibly difficult to have both simultaneously.

So true!

But it’s the middle step I really want to talk about today, because it’s the one we have the most problems with.

Whenever you are talking, make sure you convey to your husband that you think he’s valuable.

Let him see what you appreciate! Again, one of the best habits to develop is to learn to say “thank you”. To a guy, that has the same emotional punch as “I love you” to a woman.

But let’s take it one step further. And to do that, I want to share the story Chuck told about Jerome and Alicia:

Jerome and Alicia came to me to improve their moderately successful marriage by defining their family values with cooperative expectations. As we discussed the areas they wanted to improve, Alicia expressed that she wanted Jerome to just do things around the house without being told what to do and how to do it. I asked her to give me an example of what that might look like.

“Well, the dishes are a great example. It’s not like he can’t see the dishes sitting in the sink. He has to look at them or even move them out of the way to fix his food or get a drink. Why can’t he just stop and put them in the dishwasher?” she shrieked.

“Does he know how to clean to your specifications?” I asked.
“Yes. When I tell him to.” Alicia replied.
“And what do you say when he does do the dishes?” I asked.
“Well, I say thank you.” Assuming I expected her to respond with more than that, she continued, “What? I’ve gotta say something more than that?” Alicia looked frustrated.

So to make my point I asked,

“Alicia, picture an evening when Jerome has just finished the dishes to your satisfaction. Now, tell me which of these statements sounds better to you? ‘Thank you Jerome’ or ‘Wow, now that looks like a great kitchen! I am so glad to have a husband that is willing to help around the house. I am so grateful to have a man like you with me. Thank you, babe.’”

At this point Jerome was grinning from ear to ear. Clearly I had discovered the message he had been looking to hear for a long time.

“I need to say that every time he does something around the house?” Alicia shrieked again.

“No. But you came in here with the goal of having a great marriage. Do you really want a great marriage or do you just want a good marriage?” I asked.

“No. No. You are right. I want a great marriage,” she replied.

I have to admit: I don’t do this enough. I guess part of me, like Alicia, assumes Keith should just “know”.

But what would happen if we did? What would happen if we started heaping real praise onto our husbands? Would that change the whole communication dynamic? I think it would.

And so I’m going to try to be far more intentional about what I say to Keith.

Yes, we want communication to be “natural”. But maybe we’re valuing the natural too much? What if quality communication is something that has to be learned–and practiced?

How can you intentionally go about communicating value to your husband today?

In The Connection Principle, Chuck has tons of discussion questions and challenges for couples, so this is a great book to read WITH your husband. Lots of tips for him, too, on how to communicate better with you!

And this book is part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. It’s one of the marriage resources you get when you buy the bundle–in fact, you get 79 ebooks and 20 ecourses and audio downloads (including one of mine on sex!) when you purchase it.

And it’s just $29.97 for the whole thing–but only until Monday at midnight EST.

I really enjoyed this bundle. To be honest, I didn’t like EVERY book, but with so many in it, I don’t have to! There were more than enough that I really enjoyed. And as I told you yesterday, the Paperless Home Organization book changed my life. Seriously.

I think this is a great resource. And if the only thing you get out of it is this short, easy to read book you can work through with your hubby (or read on your own), it’s well worth it! Your marriage will thank you (and so will your hubby!)

Click here for more info about the bundle.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have any marriage advice for us today? Enter the link to your marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so other people can see these awesome posts!



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Wifey Wednesday: What My Two Year Old Taught Me About Marriage

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today, while I’m touring Arizona with my Girl Talk, speaking to several MOPS groups and in several churches, I thought I’d run this awesome post by Elizabeth Laing Thompson about what her two-year-old taught her about marriage–and priorities.

What My Two Year Old Taught Me About MarriageMy kids blew past me toward the door, an early-morning tornado of jackets, back packs, and lunch boxes.

“Come on,” called Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, jiggling his keys. “We’re going to be late!”

“Wait! I want kisses!” I said. “That means you! And you! And you!” My three older kids clattered back into the kitchen, planted kisses on my cheeks, and then rushed to follow my husband out to the van.

When the door slammed shut behind them, my two-year-old looked at me in horror. “Mama kiss Dada!” she said.

I blinked at her for a moment, not understanding. I heard the sound of the van pulling out of the driveway.

“Mama kiss Dada!” she insisted, her voice becoming frantic. She tried to pull me toward the door.

Then I realized: She was right. I hadn’t kissed my husband.

I chuckled, trying to justify myself. “You’re right, but Daddy is coming right back, so that’s why I didn’t kiss him.” Even to my own ears, the words fell limp, a lame excuse.

Little Miss stared me down, authoritative even in her bare feet and plaid nightie. I was not off the hook. “Mama kiss Dada.

I felt a blush creeping across my cheeks. “You’re right,” I said. “I should have kissed Daddy. I’m sorry.”

Little Miss seemed to accept this. We went back to our oatmeal.

Ten minutes later, the door banged open again. My husband was home.

Before he’d even rounded the corner, Little Miss rounded on me. “Mama kiss Dada! Mama kiss Dada!”

Laughing, I stood up. “Okay, okay, you’re right! I’ll kiss him!” I walked over to my husband and planted one, two, three firm kisses on his lips. He kissed me back with a baffled half-smile.

I turned back to my daughter, who stood watching us. Weighing me. “There. Are you happy now? Mama loves Dada, see?” When she still seemed unconvinced, I wrapped my arms around him and snuggled into his chest.

She smiled her approval and toddled off to find her toys.

That day, she reminded me of several truths I had forgotten, lessons I’ll carry with me always.

The secret most kids won’t tell you

Our children have a secret, and it’s this: Kids love it when their parents are in love. Older kids and teens may pretend to be embarrassed by our kisses, but secretly, they love it. It makes them feel safe. Happy. Like they are a part of something special.

When my brother was young, he invited a neighborhood friend over. My parents walked in the room and gave each other a little kiss, and the neighbor boy said, “Ew! Your parents kissed! My parents never kiss!” My brother grinned and bragged, “Well, my parents kiss all the time!” My parents’ affection was a source of confidence and security for him—and for all the kids in our family. I want to give my own children that same gift, that same confidence, through my marriage.

Keeping the home fires burning

But let’s be honest: It’s all too easy, once kids come along, to neglect our spouse. To forget about even the simple things that keep us connected and close. We don’t do it on purpose, of course, but once a baby enters our world, our first and best cuddles and snuggles and kisses start going to the baby. When we walk into a room, our eyes slide right past our husband, hungry for another drooly “Mommy-Is-My-Whole-World” smile from our chubby-cheeked cherub.

And at first, our husband doesn’t mind. For a season, he’ll gladly serve as our Baby Gear Sherpa, the carrier of car seats and diaper bags and Pack-n-Plays. For a time, he’s happy to take a back seat while we figure out the whole new-baby thing . . . but before long—sooner than we think—he needs the front seat again. He needs and deserves our deliberate attention, our devoted affection—not just the leftovers. Not just the afterthoughts. Song of Songs 8:6 describes a passionate romance so beautifully: “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Every fire needs fuel to keep burning. If it runs out of fuel, even the strongest of blazes will die down to ember and ash. We have to keep stoking the fire of our marriage—nurturing it, coaxing it back to life when it ebbs, feeding it fresh fuel.

I get it: This is easy to write about, and not so easy to do. (Believe me, I know! As a survivor of four new-baby-adjustment periods, I totally get it!) So please don’t read this and feel guilty . . . just stay open to trying some new strategies.

Song of Songs 86 Quote-PinFour simple ways to stoke the marital flame, even with little ones in the house

Here are four simple tricks to help you connect with your spouse, even on busy days with babies and young children underfoot:

Remember simple acts of daily physical affection.

Don’t underestimate the power of hugs and kisses keep you connected and close.

Use timers to set aside “Mommy-and-Daddy” time.

Tell the kids you need a few minutes to talk uninterrupted, and set a timer. The kids can’t come back into the room with you until the timer goes off.

Build sacred Mommy-Daddy time into your schedule at a set time each day, so your children get used to it.

They know, “This fifteen minutes always belongs to Mommy and Daddy, not to me.” You could try early-morning coffee together, before work and school. If mornings are too hectic, try setting aside a time slot right after work, or after dinner. (When your kids get older, let them clean the dinner dishes while Mom and Dad catch up on the day!)

Buy yourself an extra half-hour in the evenings.

How? Put kids to bed early with a book and a flashlight. They’ll think it’s a treat to read in bed—it’s kind of like they’re getting away with something—and you can start some early couch-cuddling before you turn into a pumpkin.

Strategies like this are especially helpful for the time of life when you have small kids in the house. But this isn’t just a new-baby issue. The older my children get, the more I realize that this is an ongoing struggle. Older kids mean a busy life and crazy schedule packed with homework, sports, friends, and activities. We all have to re-learn how to put our marriage first in the preschool years, the elementary years, the preteen years, the teenage years, the empty-nester years. At every stage, it takes a conscious effort to give our marriage the attention it deserves—to give our husbands the attention they deserve.

Last week, my wise two-year-old saw what I didn’t see. My husband comes first, not last. No matter how late we are or how busy life is, everybody deserves a good-morning kiss . . . and every kiss counts.

Click here to sign up to receive Elizabeth Laing Thompson’s monthly LizzyLife newsletter! Each newsletter includes practical and humorous parenting tips on living life and building family God’s way. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a FREE download of seven two-minute “breakfast-table” devotions to do with children.

E ThompsonElizabeth Laing Thompson writes wholesome novels for teens, and books for women about building family God’s way. She is the author of several books, including a Bible-based parenting book for young mothers, The Tender Years: Parenting Preschoolers. Elizabeth blogs about the perils and joys of laundry slaying, tantrum taming, and giggle collecting on her author site, http://lizzylife.com. Wife to Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome, and mother to four crazy kids, Elizabeth is always tired, but it’s mostly the good kind.

 

WWbutton175Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up below by putting the URL of a MARRIAGE post into the linky. And be sure to link back here so other people can read all these great marriage articles! It’s a great way to build traffic for your blog, and I often highlight some posts on Facebook and Twitter, so link up below!

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Reader Question: How Do You Leave and Cleave If He Won’t Leave?

Reader Question: My husband is lazy and won't get a job!When we get married we’re supposed to leave and cleave–but what if your husband won’t leave his mother and father?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Today we’re talking mother-in-law issues:

What do you do when your mother-in-law interferes? She will call the house and if I don’t answer she will call my husband at work and bug him about me not answering…She calls every evening around 7 when my husband is getting home. Most times I don’t even get a hello from him before she calls. Some nights she will keep him on the phone for up to an hour…Almost every Sunday she bugs us about going to church with them and she gets mad if we don’t go to their church. Every time we plan on going out something comes up (usually because of his mom) and we don’t. We have only been out once in the last year for our anniversary. I feel like I never see my husband and when I do his mom is involved. It is very stressful and it is causing a wedge between us. Please help!

Here’s another woman who is frustrated that her husband is still primarily concerned with his mother:

My husband and I have been married for 14 years and have several children. We married quite young and went straight from our parents’ homes to married with a baby on the way. We’ve been through a lot in our marriage, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his tendency to choose his mom over me. If she wants us to do something and I do not want to, we do it. We have talked and argued and battled over this our entire marriage. When he does go along with something, he acts as if it couldn’t be helped. In the past I have tried to get him to go to counseling, but he “doesn’t like the idea”. I realize that this is a power struggle that I am in, but my life and marriage are being controlled by his mother. I am 33 years old, a mother myself, and do not want her dictating our lives. What do I do that is both pleasing to God and putting my foot down?

Leave and Cleave: Handling it when your husband lets your mother-in-law interfere

The Basics: What Does “Leave and Cleave” Mean?

Genesis 2:24 says,

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

When we get married, we leave behind our parents and we join with our spouse, becoming one flesh with them. We are a new unit.

That doesn’t mean that we aren’t to honor our parents; they deserve our love and respect and our help, especially as they age. But our primary allegiance is no longer to them; we’re supposed to identify first and foremost with our spouse.

On a Daughter Getting Engaged: Getting ready for them to leave and cleaveThis summer, after my husband walks our oldest, Rebecca, down the aisle, the minister will ask Keith and me and Connor’s parents if we are prepared to let our children go. I never thought much about that, but as the date draws near the enormity of it is hitting. I have to let Rebecca make her own choices. I can’t interfere. I can’t demand that she update me on what’s going on with school. I can ask, but it really needs to be her choice, and I need to be okay with that.

I hope that she still wants to spend lots of time with us, but ultimately that is her decision, not mine. She and Connor will be the unit, and we won’t be a nuclear family in the same way again.

How Do You Talk About Leave and Cleave?

Usually when leave and cleave in-law issues come up, the conversation with our husbands focuses on the mother.

Let’s imagine the first scenario for a minute:

“Your mom called right as you came in the door again! I feel like I never get to talk to you. Instead of eating dinner with the family you speak all night with her. She is always interfering in our lives and taking you away from us!”

Now, what’s your husband going to think? He now is put in the position of either defending his mother or attacking his mother–neither of which is really comfortable for him.

What’s a better strategy for having this conversation? Offer him two things:

  1. A specific chance to help you
  2. A chance to plan with you

Let’s say the conversation instead looked like this:

“Honey, I feel like we’ve had so little time together lately because your mom has been calling so much. I love your mom and love the fact that you love your mom, but I’m feeling lonely. Can we talk about how to find time to feel more connected?”

Now the issue is no longer his mom–it’s the fact that you have a need that he can fill–and many guys like feeling like Captain America swooping in to save the damsel in distress.

You could also frame a conversation like this:

“I love your mom and so appreciate her role as grandma. I also really love our own nuclear family. Can we talk about what a great relationship with a grandma would look like, and what a great nuclear family would look like?”

Again, no blame is being placed. You’re not attacking his mom and asking him to choose sides. You’re just asking for some ideas. And as you have these conversations, you can say something like this:

“I’d like to write down what we’re saying so that we can refer to it later. What do you think is a reasonable amount of time to spend together with your family in the evenings? How often should an adult check in with their parents if they want to honor their parents? How many weekends a year should a family give their parents, and how many weekends should they take, just them? Can you think of a family that we know with a great relationship with their parents–but also as a nuclear family? How often do they spend with their parents? What makes that relationship great?”

Once you get these parameters written down, you can now refer to them when things get out of hand.

“Honey, I notice that you said you thought it was reasonable to check in with parents every other day for about twenty minutes, but in the last few days you’ve talked to your mom for an hour each day. How do you think we can move our family closer to what we want?”

These are the kinds of conversations that are often more productive. You’re not blaming, you define parameters, you set up goals which you you can easily see whether you’ve met or not, and you have something tangible to come back to if things don’t work.

Who is Responsible for Leaving?

It’s important that parents let their children go, but ultimately the child must decide to leave. And you can’t make that decision for your spouse. If your mother-in-law is taking a lot of your husband’s time, you can certainly talk to her. But your husband must be the one to set the parameters.

How Can You Build a Life with Your In-Laws?

It’s easier for him to set those parameters if you make an effort to love your mother-in-law and make your own relationship with her. If your husband feels as if he always must choose between two women who don’t like each other, you put him in a difficult position.

Romans 12:18 says,

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Do what you can to have a great relationship with your mother-in-law. Sometimes that won’t be possible, but try. Ask for recipes. Ask for her to teach you something. Ask if you can join a hobby with her, or take her shopping. Go get your nails done together on a regular basis.

If you can find a way to relate to your mother-in-law that does not involve your husband, you go so far in making it easier for your husband to leave.

I’m about to be a mother-in-law, and I’m starting to have some sympathy for the mother-in-law in these relationships. Here’s the thing: I believe that mothers-in-law often become interfering because they are desperately afraid of losing their child. And so you try to make sure that your son still loves you as his mom. You want to still feel special.

I know that I won’t worry about losing my daughter if Connor takes some time to get to know us individually. And that’s why we were so happy when he agreed to go on a father-son canoe trip coming up with my husband! If we feel as if our son-in-law loves us as individuals, and not just because he’s married to our daughter, then we won’t be nearly as concerned with our daughter proving her loyalty. And I’ve been so proud to watch how Rebecca is trying to reach out to her future mother-in-law, and put her at ease that she won’t take her son away from her. She gets it.

So reach to your mother-in-law. It may not take much–but if she knows you’re an ally, not a rival, then she may have an easier time letting go of her son.

Dayspring Serenity Prayer

What if Your Husband Never Chooses to Leave and Cleave?

What if you’ve done all of this and your husband is still at her beck and call?

Can you move away? I’ve known several marriages that have broken up that I’ve always felt would have survived if they had just moved away from her parents (in those cases it was SHE who wasn’t leaving, not HE).

If that’s not possible, you have two choices:

  1. Grow bitter about it and make his life miserable
  2. Decide to let it go and love your husband

I know that everyone would be better off if your husband learned to leave and cleave. But you can’t make him. You can seek out a mentor couple; you can ask for all of you to sit down with a counselor; you can even go to your pastor. But if things don’t change, what are you going to do?

I wrote a post a while ago about changing our attitudes when there’s one big area where your husband disappoints you–and you have to learn to accept it, and find ways to make your own life happy and peaceful anyway.

If you know that your husband is going to talk to his mom every night at 7 for an hour, then can you find something you do at 7 that you enjoy, so you’re not disappointed and stewing every evening? If you know that your mother-in-law is going to want your husband to help her with errands this Saturday, can you plan something fun for you and the kids so that you don’t end up making him feel guilty?

BoundariesAnd if your mother-in-law wants you all to come do something with her, it’s quite okay on occasion to say, “I really need a weekend just with the kids. I’d love for you to join us, but if you feel you must go with your mother, feel free. But I think I’ll keep the kids here with me this weekend.” You don’t need to go along with everything; you can set boundaries yourself.

Keep expressing your feelings, as we talked about above, but ultimately you’re letting go and you’re letting your husband make his own decisions. Sometimes in that letting go he feels freed to look at the situation more objectively, because it’s not so emotional. He may decide that you look like you’re having a lot more fun without him–and he wants to join you! But even if he doesn’t, at least you’re not as miserable anymore.

Now it’s your turn: Let me know in the comments, have you ever had to set boundaries around in-laws? Or are you an in-law yourself and you’ve had to watch how you treat your adult children? Tell us any tips you have!

Reader Question: I’m Always Left Hanging in Bed

Reader Question: What do I do if my husband never tries to fulfill me sexually?What do you do if your husband always leaves you hanging in bed? He’s satisfied, but you’re left frustrated?

Every Monday I like to answer a Reader Question, and today’s is about what happens when the husband always reaches orgasm but makes no effort to see that his wife does, too. A reader writes:

My husband and I have been married for 25 years. The first four years or so were pretty great sexually. We were even having simultaneous orgasms with intercourse without even really trying.

After the kids were born, I went into a period of refusing my husband. That lasted for pretty much 20 years. And to make things even worse I was self gratifying myself, even as I was refusing him.

I came to my senses 1.5 years ago. I wanted to save our marriage. So I decided to do everything I could to do that. And now we’ve discovered that I’m the high drive spouse!

I did a lot of reading of blogs and books and websites to do my best to learn how to please my husband. He’s a happy camper. But even as much as I really enjoy the time together, I still haven’t been able to have an orgasm. When we do have sex, it seems to end up being all about him. He doesn’t seem interested in making much of an effort to please me. He pretty much falls asleep right away a very happy camper. Meanwhile I lie awake just buzzing and unfulfilled physically. When I read on blog posts and online about how husband’s really love to see there wives get totally involved in love making, and how husbands really love to see there wives turned on and husband really love to please their wives and bring them to orgasm, it just breaks my heart. Because my husband doesn’t seem interested. Almost all of our sexual encounters end up with me frustrated and him happy.

I’ve had other variations on this same question, too. Sex is over with after five minutes, and he goes right to sleep and doesn’t seem to care that she is left unsatisfied.

So what do you do?

My husband leaves me unsatisfied in bed! 4 Strategies if you're left hanging.

Understanding the Difference Between Men’s Orgasms and Women’s Orgasms

We often hear that men can climax so much faster than women, but that’s not entirely true. Studies show that when masturbating, for instance, both men and women can reach climax in about 2-3 minutes. Here’s my theory on that: it’s actually more difficult to figure out exactly WHERE and HOW to touch a woman to make her feel great than it is to touch a man. And for women, sex is primarily in our heads. During masturbation (which I am not recommending, by the way), women are already aroused and we know what feels good.

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnother reason: for women, most orgasms are clitoral in nature–even orgasms during intercourse. It’s his pelvic area rubbing against the clitoris during intercourse that helps push us over the edge (if you’re wondering about how to make this happen better, I’ve got lots of tips in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex). Researchers now believe that even G-spot orgasms are connected to the clitoris because the nerve endings connect between the two (and some people think the G-spot is just an extension of the clitoris).

So all that being said, it’s simply harder during intercourse for a woman to reach climax without exactly the right pressure in exactly the right place.

According to a Brown University fact page on female orgasm, on average, men take 2-3 minutes once intercourse starts, and women 10-20. That’s a big difference (now, men can last longer if they learn how and try; but those are averages).

Why Does Your Husband Not Care About Bringing You to Orgasm?

So what do you do to ensure you get the time (and stimulation) you need? Sometimes it depends on why he doesn’t seem interesting in pleasuring her. In this case, for instance, is he resentful because of the years of her refusing sex, so he won’t try? Or is he getting older so lasting longer is harder–and he doesn’t want to talk about that? Does he just not care? Or is he oblivious to her needs, assuming she’s fine because she refused for so long?

(If the reason is really due to premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, then I’ve got a series that would be more useful here.)

I think in most cases it’s the last–he’s oblivious. As Shaunti Feldhahn showed in her book Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, in about 90% of marriages the spouse honestly wants the best for the other spouse–even during times of conflict. Most spouses really do want the other spouse to be happy. So for most couples in this situation, the problem is likely that he just doesn’t know. If it’s something more sinister you really have that to deal with before you look at the orgasm issue. So let’s assume, just for now, that it is ignorance. Then what?

I have four suggestions that may work, but not all will be applicable in every marriage. Pick the one that works best for you!

1. Talk To Him About It

Often we’re looking for a magic answer that solves the problem without us having to have an awkward conversation or open up a can of worms. But very rarely is there such an answer.

Usually you just have to talk. Pick a time that you’re not stressed, that you have a day stretching out before you, and most of all–when you’re not in the middle of having sex!

Phrase the problem as one you both have, not something that he is to blame for. For instance, “I’ve been feeling unsatisfied lately with sex. Can we talk about how to make sure that it’s good for both of us?” is better than, “You always get to feel great while I’m left really frustrated, and it’s not fair!”

And ask for feedback from him, too. Chances are there are things you can do differently, too, and if he feels free to share things and you take them seriously, he’s more likely to listen to your thoughts.

31 Days to Great SexMany couples have found the easiest way to talk about sex is to work through my book, 31 Days to Great Sex. You just read 2-4 pages together at night and then do the challenge–which is always fun! And each challenge builds on the one before. You’ll find challenges on how to make her feel great as well, and if you just can’t seem to make him understand during a conversation, try reading the book together!

2. Be More Dominant in Bed

No, I’m not talking about domination and submission here. I just mean that if you want to feel good, you may have to start taking a more active role in bed. If sex is something he primarily does while you lie there, that’s probably the hardest way to reach orgasm for a woman.

So you be the one to start the encounter with foreplay. Rub your body against his in a way that you like. Take his hand and put it where it needs to be. When intercourse starts, you be the one to choose the position. If you sense that he’s getting close before you are, stop for a minute and do something that feels good to you (like rubbing again) while he gets a chance to calm down. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but he’s more likely to see what it is you need, and you’re more likely to get it!

3. Play Teacher

I really recommend this game to couples more often! Decide that you will play teacher and student (either on the same night or different nights). One night he gets to teach you how to make him feel great, and one night you teach him. And be as strict as you can! If it’s not exactly right, tell him. Order him around. But then let him do it to you on your night.

How this game works best: If you’re entirely out of character. If you act like yourself, but you’re just making suggestions, you’ll likely be too timid and he won’t take it as seriously. If, on the other hand, you both start acting more stern, it will be far funnier and more intense and you’ll feel less awkward.

I really do believe that most reasons that men don’t satisfy their wives is simply ignorance. Many men believe their own sexual response is the norm–fast, easy to achieve. So a woman should figure out how to become a man in bed, essentially. Men may not have articulated that, but that’s the thought. It doesn’t work! Let him see what it is like to make you feel good, and what it does take, and he may become more generous.

4. Have His and Her Nights

Finally, if he just won’t get it, then suggest that you have “his” and “her” nights over the course of the month. Some nights can be just normal, but let’s say two Saturdays a month are her nights and two are his nights. And on her nights, you get to decide exactly what you want him to do. As long as it’s reciprocated on his nights, he may be more eager. And once he understands what you like and see the response it gets, he may be more likely to do some of these things on “normal” nights, too.

What if none of these things works? Then you really do have an issue with selfishness in your marriage, and that is what needs to be dealt with–not the sex. But I really think for most couples it’s usually ignorance–ignorance of how a woman’s body works, and ignorance that it’s actually bothering you. Men hear so much that women don’t enjoy sex, after all, that they may honestly think you don’t care and you’d rather have it over with quickly.

So talk to him, try some of these things, and give it some time. And hopefully pretty soon you’ll be satisfied in bed, too.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

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

Learning to Ask My Husband for Help

How asking for help from my husband made our marriage so much better!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment, or, better still, link up your own post in the Linky below. Today we’re going to talk about asking for help from our hubbies.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do in marriage is to ask for help. We think either that he should already know what we need, or that if we have to ask, that means there’s something wrong with our relationship.

Today Kate Tunstall from Refined Prose joins us to tell the story of how a baby changed everything in her marriage–including her perspective on asking her husband for help. We’ve been talking about this theme a lot on this blog recently–how sometimes we can avoid problems just by voicing our needs. I thought sharing a real life story could drive this home. So here’s Kate:

When my husband and I decided to start a family, we were one of those sickeningly ‘perfect’ couples who had been together a long time and done everything in the right order.

Not only were we very established, I was also in the enviable position of having a husband who was attentive, thoughtful and selfless. I was totally confident that difficult though a baby may be, my incredible husband would make the tough times endurable and the special times magical. We were relatively young, fit and healthy.

And thus came the life-changing decision that would alter the dynamic of our relationship forever.

Preparing for a Baby

My poor husband was slightly behind me in terms of readiness, though he could see the logic in the timing and was fully supportive. However, he underestimated what can happen when two health-conscious people actively begin to try for a family: within six weeks I was pregnant and his catching up became a sprint, not a marathon.

I still had no concerns: after all, I married the best man I know and was convinced that a baby would only strengthen our bond.

When I delivered our beautiful daughter following early induction due to complications, we were both in awe. One moment the wait for her arrival seemed interminable, the next everything was being medically forced with some urgency. After a difficult labour, she was born mewling and perfect and was placed immediately on my chest, at which point she looked up into my eyes as though to reassure me that she was okay. She was sixteen days early and at 5lb 4oz, she was tiny and delicate and fragile. We were besotted.

Finally, after nearly a week of scans, monitoring and procedures, we were back home with our baby daughter and our new reality set in.

Everybody has heard about The Tiredness, but until it has been experienced, the torment is incomprehensible. Lest we forget, sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture…

Being the good wife that I am, and given that I am breastfeeding our daughter, I said from the very beginning that I did not expect my husband to get up in the night. I have always maintained that since he is working while I am at home during the day, his need for sleep during the night is greater than mine. (That said, I question the practicality of ‘sleeping when the baby does’. It has never happened for me – my baby needs clean clothes even if I don’t.)

The First Weeks with Baby Were a Blur–and Exahaustion Took Over

I was totally consumed by love and tiredness and worry and exhaustion and delight and tiredness. It was overwhelming and I wondered constantly if my life would ever be normal again, whether I was caring for our daughter well enough, when I would ever get some proper sleep–and how I was going to cope the following day.

Despite the absolute fatigue, I consoled myself that at least I was the consummate wife: I still didn’t ask my husband to get up in the night. Not only that, I actively encouraged him to continue to work out regularly after work (and I still do). Even though I also used to frequent the gym myself, and am half-crazy with pent up energy which I am unable to expel. Even though I could use some adult company and a little help in the evenings. The way I saw it, why should we both miss out, right? He works hard; he needs to have an outlet.

I knew of other dads who were expected to help with night feeds and who would have their babies thrust upon them the moment they walked through the door in the evening. And I thought to myself how harsh their wives were, how inconsiderate! Not for us, that needy thoughtlessness – oh no. I allowed my husband to get in, have a leisurely shower, make himself a brew and spend half an hour relaxing, only then relinquishing his daughter to him for playtime and cuddles.

An hour later, I would take over again to deal with the bath and bedtime routine. But it was fine, because during this time my husband would potter downstairs and hang the washing, empty the dishwasher and make the dinner. As I may have mentioned once or twice, he was pretty close to perfect.

Resentment Started to Creep In

However, it slowly dawned on me infinitesimally that actually, my husband could be doing things differently to help me more, things that would enable me to have a small break. Things that would forge a bond between him and his baby girl. Speaking to friends brought to my attention that there were issues I had been ignoring which displayed my good wifely intentions in a different perspective.

When my husband told me early on that he was not able to bathe our daughter because it hurt his knees, I accepted it without hesitation. When he (regularly) said it was easier for him to make dinner while I saw to our daughter, I didn’t consider his motives. I trust my husband, I believe in our marriage – why should I question him?

One evening after work my husband expressed a desire to spend a Saturday with a colleague at a comic convention. I was disappointed (he had never before shown any interest in such an activity), but said that if he would prefer to do that than spend time with his family then I didn’t mind. A few days later, after a particularly taxing day, he told me of his intention to learn a new language which would, of course, take away more of his time from us. And this was the moment that the creeping resentment thwacked me over the head and I started to view our solid marriage in a different light.

Realisation That There was a Problem in our Marriage

Listening very carefully to some close friends discussing their relationships is what ultimately helped me to fix things with my husband. While I had been secretly putting our relationship on a pedestal, they had been at the other end of the spectrum, asking for the support they required and having their needs met. I felt a little bit ashamed of my superior attitude (luckily it was a private view that had not been shared). I was humbled as it began to register that I had been so fixated on my husband’s wishes and the desire to maintain the image of a perfect marriage that I had actually been neglecting my own needs. Surely there had to be a happy medium?

Epiphany: My Husband was Insecure as a Dad!

That night I went home and had a frank discussion with my husband. What I discovered broke my heart a little bit: my very competent, capable husband lacked confidence with his tiny, fragile daughter. She was like a delicate little bird and he was terrified of breaking her. While I had had no choice but to learn how to safely handle her, my baby’s daddy was frightened of injuring her little body with his big, clumsy bear hands. This changed everything. A brutal shake-up was required in our house.

One of the most important factors in a successful marriage is communication with your spouse. It is all too easy to make assumptions based on historical truths about your partner and your relationship. However, when you are thrown into completely new territory, you can’t know how a person will react, and sometimes they may need support to adjust. My husband’s failing in this scenario was his inability to discuss his lack of confidence, and mine was to blindly believe in the perfection of our marriage–and then to do him the disservice of presuming he was disinterested or lazy or both.

How exhausting for my husband that I am such a perfectionist that I projected my impossibly high expectations onto him too, and was unable to see him as anything other than infallible! I was so determined to attain The Perfect Marriage that I inadvertently undermined and sabotaged the relationship we do have.

Ultimately my husband’s ego prevented him from owning up to his fears, and mine prevented me from seeing that our habits were getting unhealthy. But my marriage does not belong to me, it belongs to us. And it is not something I can singlehandedly protect or perfect. That responsibility is equally my husband’s.

Change Comes by Asking for Help

So now I have simply learned to ask for help–and once he admitted that he was insecure, and put his own feelings out there, my husband was glad to see where he could be of service. He now gets home earlier after work, helps out with bathtime with the aid of a cushion, and settles our daughter back to sleep if she stirs during the evening. Life has improved exponentially as our daughter has now surpassed a healthy newborn weight. My husband now relishes every moment he has with the baby he dotes on, and in return she adores her daddy. Having those hard conversations was totally worth it.

I learned a valuable lesson here. While I am still proud of our marriage and I still look up to my husband, I also believe that in the future I will be better equipped to handle any similar issues; because I now express my needs to him–without feeling that this is a failing in me or in our marriage.

Gottman quotation on the transition to parenthood: Don't leave your husband behind!

With thanks to Hot, Holy and Humorous for reminding me of this quotation! Now, can you all see what would have happened to Katie’s marriage if she had said nothing–and kept trying to do it all? What would that relationship have been like five years down the road? Don’t forget–sometimes we need to ask for help!

KatieTunstallKate Tunstall is the founder of Refined Prose, the home of her wedding and lifestyle blog. You can also find details about the blogging and writing services Kate offers, and how to hire her here.

 

WifeyWednesday175Now let me know: have you ever seethed with resentment, when simply asking for help would have fixed many of your issues? Leave a comment! And if you have your own blog, feel free to link up a marriage post by putting the URL in the linky below. Thanks for joining me for Wifey Wednesday!

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Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the Empty Nest

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Empty NestToday Gay Christmus, from Calm, Healthy, Sexy, joins us to talk about preparing for the empty nest! Considering my youngest is leaving this summer, I’m eager to hear what she has to say.

Is your daily schedule packed with homework, soccer games, dance recitals, and Scout meetings, not to mention work, church, and community commitments?  Do you feel like a juggler most days, just trying to keep all of your balls in the air?  If so, planning for the “empty nest,” the time when your children will be out on their own, is probably the farthest thing from your mind.  And no wonder – it’s hard to think about the future when you’re just trying to get through each day.

I want to encourage you, though, that now is the time to think about and prepare for empty nest.  Because time flies, and that day “down the road” is going to arrive sooner than you think.  I know a bit about this, because my husband and I have been moving toward the empty nest for a couple of years.  Our older son has graduated from college and is living with a friend, and our younger son is living at home while attending college.  They’re both doing their own thing – even though one still sleeps (and sometimes eats!) at our house – and my husband and I are essentially doing our own thing too.

We’ve been anticipating this for a number of years.  I can’t say we’re fully prepared, but we’ve been aware of it and wanted to know that we could enjoy life together when soccer and basketball and school activities came to an end.  So I want to share with you 10 things we’ve attempted to do (some well, some not so well) to get ready for this new phase of our lives.  If your children are in elementary school or older, I encourage you begin incorporating these things into your marriage and family life too.  On the day when your youngest child heads off to college or moves into an apartment, you’ll be glad you did!

1.  Pray together.

Establish your faith as the foundation of your marriage and family by praying together regularly.  This doesn’t have to be complicated or burdensome; just spend a few minutes together each day thanking God for your blessings and asking for His help with your concerns and problems.

2.  Orient your family around your marriage.

Your children are important, and their needs and activities require time and attention.  But those needs and activities shouldn’t become the “sun” around which your family revolves.  Placing your marriage at the center of your family’s life helps keep things in perspective when your children are young and eases the transition into the time when it’s just the two of you.  It also reminds your children from an early age that the universe doesn’t revolve around them!

3.  Talk about the future.

The elementary school years are not too early to begin talking about life and marriage after the child-intensive years.  Because by the time your children get to high school, they’ll begin focusing more on their friends and outside interests and less on the family.  So enjoy the elementary and middle school years and all the activities they entail, but spend time talking with your husband about the future too.  It’s never too soon to dream about the life you’ll enjoy together when it’s just the two of you.

4.  Take care of your health.

When you reach the empty nest years, you want to be able to enjoy them.  Which means that you want to be strong, healthy and fit, and don’t want to be slowed down by health problems.  Most of the health problems that begin to affect people in their 40s and 50s – diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems – are preventable.  And it’s never too early to begin working to prevent them.  So start now by eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and generally taking care of yourself.  And encourage your husband to do the same.  Those simple activities can help ensure that your empty nest years are healthy and active.

5.  Begin developing interests you can enjoy together.

You don’t want to deliver your youngest child to college, only to discover that you and your husband no longer have any interests in common.  So even though it’s difficult to find time for adult activities during the child-raising years, make the time to develop at least one activity that isn’t focused on your children.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; Sheila has mentioned that she and her husband enjoy bird watching, and my husband and I have taken up bike riding.

6.  Develop friendships and a social life beyond your children’s sports and activities.

When our younger son finished his final season of high school basketball, I (somewhat) jokingly asked my husband, “What are we going to do for a social life in the winter?” Because for many years, our social life from November through February revolved around basketball.  It’s natural for that to happen, because basketball (or soccer or dance or Scouts) takes up a lot of time.  But if you aren’t intentional about developing friendships or a social life beyond those activities, you may experience quite a “social shock” when they end.  So spend some time and energy developing friendships in your church, neighborhood, or other social circles too.

7.  Prioritize sex and intimacy in your marriage.

During the child-intensive years, it’s tempting to let sex and intimacy fall by the wayside.  It’s so easy to think, “I’m tired, I’m busy, the kids are sucking up all of my energy, I just don’t feel in the mood.”  Some or all of those things are probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you or your marriage.  Sex holds the two of you together in the hard times and creates joy in the good times.  So don’t let it slide.  Instead, nurture it and pursue it.  Deep intimacy and an enjoyable sex life will pay you back in spades, both now and in the empty nest years.

8.  Find ways to serve together.

It’s easy to be so focused on our family’s schedule, activities, and commitments that we forget about real needs that exist right in our own communities and around the world.  But it’s important to recognize those needs, both to keep our own problems in perspective and to find ways to serve others.  After all, crazy soccer and ballet schedules don’t seem so overwhelming when we remember that people are hungry or lonely or homeless.  So look for ways to serve others, as a couple or a family.  It will help keep things in perspective now and create an interest you and your husband can continue to develop as your children get older.

9.  Manage your finances.

The earlier in your marriage you begin to control your finances, the better.  Debt, lack of savings, and living beyond your means take a toll at every stage of life, but the older you get the harder it is to recover from financial mismanagement.  Plus, when you finally have extended time to have fun with your husband, you want to have a little bit of money on hand to do it!  So start now to eliminate debt, control spending, and/or bring in some additional income.  My husband and I didn’t start working on this early enough in our marriage, so we’re having to work harder on it now.

10.  Develop the fun side of your marriage.

Sometimes marriage becomes just a little bit tedious, doesn’t it?  It’s all work and no play, and suddenly no one is having very much fun!  So don’t let your long list of “have to” items suck all the fun out of your marriage.  Set a goal of doing something fun together at least once a week.  More often is better, but once a week is a good place to start.  It doesn’t have to be a “date,” just something both of you consider fun and relaxing – a walk after dinner, a bike ride, an outing to get a cup of coffee, or time to watch a funny movie.  You don’t want to arrive at the empty nest years and find that you don’t know how to have fun together anymore.

Whatever the age of your children or stage of your marriage, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the empty nest years.  And it’s never too late either.  If your children are in high school and you haven’t given it much thought, start now!  Talk with your husband, begin making plans, develop a couple of shared interests, and work on enjoying life together!

 

Gaye Groover ChristmusGaye Groover Christmus is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons.  In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field.  Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages.  She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives.  Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy.  She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Wifey Wednesday: Rebuilding Your Sex Life After Years of Refusing Sex

Husband saying no to sex: when you finally want to say YES, and now he's saying NOMost of you who read this blog regularly are here because you want to make your marriage better.

Some of you may be in a great stage of marriage and just want to make sure it stays that way, but if you look at the search terms by which people end up on this blog, it’s often because you readers are lonely and frustrated.

You’ve been struggling to feel connected, or perhaps sex isn’t going well. You feel distant, and you don’t want to be like that anymore.

And so you try to change things–which means, of course, changing yourself and how you react to your spouse (since you can’t change anyone except yourself).

But what do you do if you were the one who was holding back in the marriage, and now you ARE changing, but your husband doesn’t trust you?

I had a letter from a low libido wife recently which said this:

My husband finds our lack of sex particularly hurtful. When this comes up, I often rush to read a book or post about sex, to try and fix the issue, but this would only ever work “for next time”. A sincere “sorry, (insert attempt at explanation), I’ll try harder from now on” just doesn’t cut it – my husband is hurt and I can’t fix it. What do I do to show him I’m serious?

This scenario applies to many different marriage scenarios–you’ve been distant and you’ve been hurting each other, and now you want to change the dynamic. But your husband isn’t buying it quite yet. What do you do?

Please note: I’m not talking in this blog post to women whose husbands have ALWAYS had low libidos. If that’s the case, this series on why your husband doesn’t want to make love is likely more applicable. But if your husband used to have a high libido, and now he’s turning you down–read on.

Live out the change–Initiate sex

Keep living out the change. If the problem is that you’ve had a low libido and you’ve been refusing sex, then initiate sex. Buy some lingerie. Talk to him about it.

Here’s a scenario I see quite frequently: she is a low libido spouse and so she refuses him. He spends several months, or years, asking, or even begging for sex until he gets so discouraged that he just turns his libido off. He decides that he really doesn’t want anything to do with her sexually.

So he stops asking.

Eventually she realizes that he’s no longer pursuing her, and she starts to panic. She does a 180 and realizes she doesn’t actually want a sexless marriage. So her libido comes back and she starts pursuing him–but by now he’s turned himself off. He doesn’t want to be hurt, and he almost likes the fact that he can hurt her back.

And he doesn’t want to go through all the hassle again of being vulnerable to someone when that just hurt him. So he’d rather stay that way.

So what do you do? You keep at it. You have an open conversation with him where you admit all of your faults–without blaming him. Even if his behaviour was part of what gave you a low libido, you own what you did. In the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, you take the log out of your own eye (you deal with your own issues first) (Matthew 7:3-5).

How to Initiate Sex with Your Husband--witout feeling awkwardYou tell him that you realize what you did to him, and you’re sincerely sorry. And now you’d like to rebuild your sex life. And keep initiating. If you’re not sure how to initiate sex, I’ve got a great post with 10 tips right here!

You can even ask if he’d be willing to schedule sex, so that you can show that you’re serious. You can pick 2 or 3 nights a week where you’d like to make love, and pencil it in. And you can tell him that you promise you’ll only cancel on him once a month at the most–unless you’re genuinely ill with a fever or something.

He still may not be appreciative. He still may withdraw. Or, when you do make love, you may find it supremely unsatisfying because he’s only interested in pleasing himself (he may seem almost angry), and so you don’t get much pleasure from it.

Give him time to be angry and to see that you’re serious. It takes a lot for a guy to break down a wall that he’s built, especially if he’s built it out of self-preservation.

Don’t withdraw or sulk if he now refuses sex

What if you’re hurt? What if you feel lonelier than you’ve ever felt in your life because he’s rejecting you (or being selfish in bed)? How can you deal with these feelings?

My suggestion: don’t withdraw from him and don’t sulk. Say to him, “I’m feeling really lonely and discouraged right now, but I want you to know that whatever you do, I’m not going to give up on this. I want our marriage strong and I want to have a great sex life, and I’m going to hang in there even if you don’t feel loving towards me right now.”

Acknowledge how you feel, but don’t withdraw. And remember: this process may take months–or even years. Changing the dynamic in marriage doesn’t always happen immediately.

Go to God for your emotional needs if you feel rejected sexually and emotionally

And in those lonely days, draw as close to God as you can. Pray blessing over your husband, very specifically, in every area of his life. The more you pray about these specific things, the more your mind gets turned to what God is doing in his life, instead of what your husband is doing to hurt you.

Go to battle for your marriage, and your husband, by praying blessing over him, and by praying for your marriage. And spend some time everyday just in prayer and in reading Scripture, listening to worship CDs, or anything that gets your eyes on God. Keep your eyes there and you’ll find that you’re better able to withstand rejection from your husband.

Push through the tension and LOVE him–with or without sex

It will feel tense when he’s testing you. You will be tempted to lash out. Don’t. Learn to love him despite his actions. And don’t just initiate sex–initiate other things that make him feel loved. Study his love language and live it out. Make your husband your special project where you can think and pray about how to make his life better. Maybe it’s helping him organize a work project, or organize the garage, or complete an application for a job or internship he’s been wanting. Maybe it’s encouraging him to pursue a dream. I don’t know–but become a student of your husband and find practical ways to support him even outside the bedroom.

If you haven’t been connecting sexually for a long time, chances are he has not felt connected to you hardly at all for that whole length of time. It will take some serious effort for him to allow himself to trust you and become vulnerable with you again–and that vulnerability is necessary for real intimacy.

Don’t rush the process of reconciling sexually

Let him go through the needed emotional steps. And you need to go through it too–to understand what he felt, to figure out how to love him, to figure out how to go to God with your issues.

So pray for strength and grace for yourself, and remember: When your heart’s desire is to act like Christ and love someone unconditionally, God gives you that strength when you seek it. That is a wonderful desire and a wonderful prayer. But it can’t be a manipulative one–see what I’m doing? Now I’m being amazing to him, so he really should change!

No, you’re amazing to him because it’s the right thing to do.

And usually, the more we do that, the more we change the dynamic and the relationship does change. But even if it doesn’t right away, and even if change takes time, you are still doing the right thing. And as you do that, you’ll feel closer to God and Jesus will become more real to you. Cling to that in this time. Marvel at it. And you may just find that you aren’t as lonely as  you thought you’d be.

WifeyWednesday175Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave a comment, or link up the URL of your own Wifey Wednesday blog post in the linky below!

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10 Things To Consider When Working with Your Spouse

Today, please welcome author Jill Lynn, who shares 10 key ingredients to working with your spouse, finding the balance to a thriving marriage and a successful business partnership. Yesterday we looked at the business aspect of working with your spouse; today here’s a look at the marriage aspect of working with your spouse.

Working with Your SpouseAbout eight years ago, my husband and I bought a small business. Our plan? That I would do the accounting and he would manage the rest. We were young and naïve. Many things have worked out over that time, but we’ve learned some lessons along the way. Whether you are already working together or just thinking about it, here’s ten things to consider when working with your spouse.

1.  The first thing to ask yourself if you and your spouse are considering working together in any capacity, is should we work together?

Is it right for you and your family? Some people barrel into working together, assuming that since it’s the easiest solution, or makes the most monetary sense, it’s an obvious choice. It’s not. Have open discussions about what each of your strengths are and if your marriage can weather this change in your relationship.

2.  Ask yourself if you really have the time the position would require.

Do you need to give up some other things to make it happen? For instance, if you have small children, where will you have an office? How will you carve out time for work? Are you going to hire a sitter a few days a week? Or perhaps someone to clean your home? Logistics matter. Being on the same page matters.

3.  Communicate.

Eight years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom, who loved my time at our family business. As it’s grown over the years, there’s been many times my husband and I have felt stretched beyond our skin. We can’t accomplish it all. We’re thankful for the work, but it feels unmanageable at times. In these moments, we always come back to one truth: there’s a choice in everything. Is this growth just for a season? Or do we need to hire more help? My role has changed from what we thought it would be to something different. We only came to that conclusion through open lines of communication. My husband doesn’t push me into what he wants. We consider each step—how it affects our marriage and also our family. We have to being willing to change and grow in our roles as the business changes. It would be very stressful if both of us weren’t open to talking about these unexpected twists.

4.  Put your marriage first.

You can rebuild a business. You can come back from it failing. You can come back from financial ruin (many have). But a marriage? That’s something my husband and I don’t want to put at risk. Our marriage existed before the business and we pray it exists long after. Pray for wisdom over the small things. And make sure your home life, family, and marriage are functioning well before attempting to add working together into the mix. Whatever you do, do not enter a time of working together when you are not at peace in your home and marriage. It’s only going to exasperate those troubled areas. When I see couples who are struggling in their business relationship, they are also often struggling in their marriage. Deal with these issues first. Don’t throw one stressful situation on top of another one.

5.  Discuss when it’s okay to talk about work and when it’s not.

When my husband and I go on a date, we do talk about work. But we don’t only talk about work. We talk about kids, dreams, whatever comes to mind. For us, this has been an organic experience. We haven’t had to put the business in a box that doesn’t enter personal conversation. But for some of you, this is going to be an issue. Again, be open. If a husband or wife wants to have an evening without any talk of the business, determine that ahead of time instead of silently seething that your partner doesn’t know you don’t want to talk about the business. If you’re working together, that means it’s a major part of your lives. Talk about where and when you feel it’s okay to have conversations about the business and when you’d prefer not to.

6.  Respect each other.

I can’t stress this one enough. I mentioned my husband respecting me by often checking on where I’m at, how I’m feeling about the role I’m in. I can’t tell you how much this helps in my desire to support our business. It also makes me want to be the same for him. I do my best to protect the time my husband needs to accomplish his work and make the business run smoothly.

7.  Complement each other.

Often, in business, as in life, we only talk about the things that need to be fixed or change. Remember to compliment your spouse on what they do well. Talk about each other’s strengths.

8.  Carve out a schedule.

I have always carved out a schedule for working and I’ve respected it. Yes, I could skip work and take my young kiddos to the zoo, but I put that schedule in place for a reason. My husband knows when I’m working and when I’m not. We both depend on that schedule. I’m not saying it never fluctuates, just that we both treat it as if I were working for another employer. Otherwise, it’s too easy to say you’ll just get the work done when you can… and when would that be? Between the laundry, the school volunteering, my writing? Without a schedule, I would never get the work done, therefore creating more stress for my husband. He has enough stress running a business. I want to be a help, not a hindrance.

9.  Have fun.

Don’t forget to laugh with each other and enjoy the path God has for you.

10.  Forgive.

Have grace for one another. When mistakes are made, remember we’re all human. We make mistakes. Yes, money matters. But relationships matter more.

Jill Lynn HeadshotFalling for Texas (Love Inspired)Jill Lynn lives in Colorado with her husband and two children. When she’s not working at the family business or playing laundry fairy, she writes Christian romance with themes of humor and grace. Her first novel, Falling for Texas, is available from Harlequin Love Inspired.
Connect with her at Jill-Lynn.com, or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

 

Reader Question: How Do Spouses Run a Business Together?

Reader Question of the WeekEvery Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. This week’s has to do with a husband and wife working together: can you run a business with your husband without getting into conflict?

A reader writes:

I am a stay at home mom and my husband works from home as well. We run a small business, I handle the admin and he is the artist. We had a big adjustment when our baby arrived and my husband did not do well on lack of sleep. It resulted in us being very late on all of our client orders. This stresses me out to no end, while my husband doesn’t seem all that bothered by it. I can’t stand it when he takes naps or sleeps in during the day when he should be working. I am up all night with the baby so he can sleep, and he still does this. We are far behind and our clients are starting to complain. As the manager in our business, it is extremely hard not to become a nag to him, or see him as one big long to-do list. How do I separate my husband as ‘husband’ from an ’employee’ who is, quite frankly, slacking off. He has also become quite addicted to a game on his phone (he admits this, but hasn’t stopped it). I try and keep busy out of the house during the day, but when things keep not getting done, it’s causing some serious problems in our relationship. Even if we try and do something as a family, I still can’t seem to quiet the feeling that he really should be spending the time getting caught up on our clients so that we can breathe. What do I do?

I can’t tell this particular woman what to do because I don’t know her financial situation, their education or skill levels, how easy it will be to get other jobs, etc. But I would like to just mention a few big things about a husband and wife working together, and give us a way to think about the BUSINESS side of how to work with your spouse–or whether we should be running a business together in the first place. (Tomorrow we’ll look at the marriage side!)

The hardest part of marriage is communication. And the hardest part of getting along well at work is communication. Put the two together–and it’s really tough! So it’s just essential to put things in place so that these conversations are automatic, natural, and expected. Then business problems are far less likely to derail your marriage. Here’s how:

Running a Business with Your Husband: When husband and wife working together doesn't work for the marriage--and putting steps in place so that it might again!

When Husbands and Wives Have a Business: Sorting out the Business Side

1. Create a Business Plan

Often we end up “falling” into a business together because one person has an idea or a skill, and we run with it. But unless your roles are clearly spelled out, and unless you know what you’re aiming for, you’ll have no way of judging whether the enterprise is working well or not.

For instance, let’s say that you figure out that if one of you worked full time and one of you worked part time you could make $60,000 a year. You may decide that if you both were able to work from home that would be worth about $10,000 to you. So if you could generate $50,000 from a home-based business, that would be a win-win.

But unless you’ve sat down and talked about it and come up with that number, how do you know whether continuing in the business is worth it?

So you need to write a business plan. That sounds really scary, because it involves numbers and goals and honestly taking a realistic look at what your business can accomplish. But you need something on paper. Here are two books that can help you do this:

The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan: A Pro Shares a Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Plan That Gets ResultsThe Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan

Here’s a simple book outlining how to create a business plan that’s measurable–and that works!

Everything you need for a step-by-step traditional plan with revenue goals, competition, and more.

Seriously, I wish they taught this stuff in school.

The Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for SuccessThe Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success

Our letter writer is married to an artist–and many businesses are more creative in nature. If you’re a creative type, and the thought of sitting down with checklists and a calculator paralyzes you, here’s another way to go about creating a business plan that’s more intuitive.

It’s colorful, it’s bright, and it’s all about brainstorming, and you and your husband may find this a more palatable way of getting your thoughts and goals down on paper.

2. Treat Yourselves as Employees with “Measurables”

Once you’ve figured out your business plan it’s time to figure out what each person needs to do. Write up job descriptions for both of you. What are you each responsible for? That’s the big picture.

Now for the day-to-day. Within your job responsibilities, create to-do lists with definite deadlines. Post these somewhere where both of you can see them–or use an online system so that you can look at the to-do lists. Know what needs to be done when, so that you can also know when you’re late.

What happens if you work for someone else and something doesn’t get done? You stay late or you have to come in on the weekend or you have to take work home. It’s expected.

If you’re running a business from home, you have to do the same thing. If deadlines aren’t met, it should be easy to verify that and see it, and then you can talk about how we’re going to meet those deadlines and what that may mean.

I work from home and I know the pull to sometimes have a Netflix marathon instead of getting my work done. I know how easy it is to let yourself get sucked in with all the other things you’d rather be doing–or all the other things around the house that need to be done. But that’s why you need these deadlines and to-do lists so that you can be sure you’re pulling your weight.

Even if you’re not a list type of person, it avoids a lot of potential conflict if the deadlines are there for everyone to see. It keeps people accountable without one person having to nag.

Husband and wife running a business together: how to evaluate if it's working

3. Have Regular Evaluations for Your Business

In the workplace people have performance evaluations, usually on an annual or semi-annual basis. Do the same thing with your business–plan that once every six months, or at least once a year, you will take off for a day, without the kids, take out your business plan, and see if you’re sticking to it. Where are our finances? Are we doing well? Should we be putting more resources into advertising? Into new product creation? Are we each pulling our weight?

Again, if this is a regularly scheduled thing than there won’t be tension around it. Often what happens when spouses work together is that we find it difficult to critique one another or to bring up the hard questions. It seems as if we’re criticizing or we’re mad, when really we just may have legitimate business concerns. And because the marriage is involved, it seems as if bringing up a business issue actually could undermine the relationship. So sometimes we say nothing and choose to stew instead.

If, on the other hand, you have regularly-scheduled times to check in and to plan and evaluate, then you have a natural time to have these conversations without them having to reflect on the marriage.

My husband and I set aside twice a year to look at our schedules, figure out when I’m going to speak, what conferences he’ll take, and pray and plan together about where we each should be putting our energy and effort in the upcoming year. We don’t work together (well, not yet anyway), but each of our businesses affects the other, so we have to plan together. And I find that having those planning meetings helps me stay on track, and forces me to take a long, hard look at what’s working, and what’s not.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Look for Alternatives if the Husband and Wife Business Isn’t Working

Part of the evaluation and the business plan always needs to be the two questions: “is this business worth continuing?” And “are we both the best choice of people to work in it?” Sometimes a business may be worth it, but one spouse may be getting so busy with a different job, or with caring for kids, that hiring outside help may be wiser. Sometimes the business may be expanding so much that having a spouse do the bookkeeping really isn’t working anymore–you need an honest-to-goodness accountant.

And sometimes, like in the case of this letter writer, one spouse may just be refusing to work, which makes the business itself not viable.

Trying to keep a business going at home when one spouse isn’t working on it is likely to kill both the business and the marriage–or at least do serious damage. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a marriage is to say, “I love you, but I don’t think working together in a business is good for us or our family. I’d like to look at alternatives to bringing in some income.”

Now, there may be periods where you spouse needs some grace. If your spouse has an idea for a business that is going to take several years to really see fruit, you may very well owe it to your spouse to stick in there–just like you might support a spouse while they went to law school or med school. You know those three or four (or more!) years are going to be awful, but you put the time in because of the reward at the end, and because you know it’s important to your husband.

And sometimes, like with this couple, huge changes come like the birth of a baby and you both need some time for adjustment.

But when it’s a chronic thing and the business just isn’t going well, there should be clearly defined measures when you know, “it’s time to part.” Nagging someone or being upset at someone isn’t viable in the long term. Personally, I think if you can financially handle it, it’s better for one of you to stop working in the business than for that business to always be a source of tension.

Tomorrow, on our Top 10 Tuesday post, we’ll look at how to make marriage and business work together from the MARRIAGE standpoint. But today, for those of you husbands and wives who have run businesses together, let me know: how did you figure out who did what? How did you keep each other accountable?

Gary Thomas Answers Your Marriage Questions

Gary Thomas shares some marriage advice based on his book A Lifelong Love

One of the absolute FUNNEST things (I know that’s not a word but it should be) about doing the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in 2015 has been to get to reach out to amazing Christian authors and have them actually answer your questions–and interact with them!

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?In January we looked at Gary Thomas’ book A Lifelong Love, and I invited you all to submit questions for Gary. I sent him four, and he’s sent me his replies! (We had a great chat with John and Staci Eldredge last month, too.)

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

Part of me truly wants to shout, “it depends on the husband!” Love needs to be particular to be truly felt, so to answer this question in a general way could mislead some wives about what truly is the best way to bless their individual, particular husbands.

But, having said that, my answer would be to build a devotional platform from which you are overflowing with God’s love, and to guard that platform like you’d guard a toddler walking through a crowded mall. 1 John 4:19 says we love because He first loved us. If you’re not experiencing God’s acceptance, affirmation, and encouragement at least daily, you’ll start demanding instead of serving. You’ll ask your husband to be more and more to you as God becomes less and less, which will increase your husband’s frustration and decrease your contentment.

There will be days when your husband doesn’t notice you as he should, or notices the wrong thing about you, and breaks your heart. How do I know? James 3:2 tells me your husband stumbles in many ways. On those days in particular, you need to receive from God. If you receive from him beforehand, it’s even better. In that case, you’re already prepped.

I know this sounds religious, but it’s so true. I am simply a much, much better spouse when the day starts by getting my mind right (through reading/study) and my heart right (through prayer and worship). Yes, you’re busy, but few things truly are more important. If we skip time with God, we’re saying we can love without God, and I, for one, have proven a thousand times that’s just not true.

2. How do you stay motivated to bless your spouse even in difficult times?

Some of you may be in a relationship that your spouse values about as much as I value our backyard (which is to say, not much—at least, not enough to do anything about it). If your marriage would just “happen,” they’d enjoy it. But they lack the will and the work ethic to make the relationship grow. There are other priorities that drive them.

Philippians 2:13 is an encouraging word for these marriages: “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (NRSV).

We often go to God for the “work” but forget to go to Him for the “will.” When things get difficult, before you can ask God what you should do, you may have to spend time asking God to help you care. “God, on my own, I’m so done with this! But please give me the will to make this marriage work, for Your good pleasure. Make me care again.”

Do you think God will hesitate before answering that prayer? Do you think He might pause and say, “Hmm, not sure I’m ready to offer that”?

If you feel one-sided in your marriage, it’s easy to lose the will. If you’ve been unsuccessful in bringing about change, it’s natural to lose the will. If you’ve tried every trick you can think of and your bookshelf is filled with every book on marriage published in the last ten years and yet your marriage is still subpar, it’s natural just to give up.

Have you prayed for God to give you the will? Christianity isn’t based solely on a bunch of beliefs; its heart and soul is based on a powerful and active God who can lift us above our apathy and limitations. God becomes the third partner, the uniting presence.

So let’s tap into this divine resource. We’re not alone in our marriages, even in our so-called solitary marriages. There may not be two engaged humans, but there can be—with your initiation alone—two engaged parties: you and God.

3. How can you figure out a common purpose, or common mission, with a spouse who is an agnostic?

Even if your spouse isn’t a believer, find something that pleases God that your spouse also believes in—raising “good” children (though he will define good differently than you, perhaps). There may be certain ministries—helping the poor—that he will share with you. Samaritan’s Purse is a great organization that is often a “first responder” to natural disasters. Maybe your spouse will help fill a children’s Christmas shoebox (given to underprivileged children) with you. In other words, find something that gets him excited, and let that become a joint ministry—even though you may not share a joint motivation (it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a non-believing husband to go on a mission trip to Haiti to help build a school for poor children, particularly if he’s into building things).

Secondly, the wives I’ve talked to who are married to non-believers and who did best figured out that they had to work to find common “non-spiritual” interests with their husbands. Relational intimacy is key to keeping your husband interested in future spiritual intimacy. For one wife, it was riding bikes with her husband (like, 100 mile rides!). For another wife, it was going hunting. You’ll never get anywhere by “punishing” your husband for not going to church with you by withdrawing from his favorite activities. Be the Christian—love on him, be a good, kind friend, and keep praying that God will use that friendship to open up his heart.

4. What are the first few steps in putting this into practice in a marriage where you’ve done the exact OPPOSITE for 20 years. How do you switch gears practically?

You serve no one by beating yourself up for what you haven’t done; take all that energy and instead pour it into loving your husband excellently now. All Christians live in grace, out of grace, and because of grace.

When it comes to treating your husband as God’s son, tape a copy of 1 John 3:1 to a mirror or inside your car—something to remind you of that precious biblical truth. And then start praying for your husband referring to him as God’s son. “Lord, help me love your son. Help me understand your son. You were there when he was little; help me figure out why he acts this way.” Just remind yourself as you’re praying that you’re talking to a very interested third partner. You then slowly pray your way into treating your husband like God’s son.

When it comes to living intentionally through the seasons of marriage, get together with a friend and describe what is most likely creating distance in your marriage right now, and then discuss how you can turn that around to build renewed intimacy. “Being so busy makes it so difficult for us to connect, so instead I’m going to think of ways I can help him be less busy.”

On the third part, that’s best met with a morning prayer. Simply wake up and ask yourself, “How can I bless my husband this morning?” Before he comes home from work, ask yourself, “How can I bless my husband this evening.” For me, I’ve had to mentally remind myself of this question over and over until it becomes second nature. It’s a choice to think this way.


I am so honored that Gary Thomas spent this long mulling over these answers and gave us something that is so practical but also uplifts Jesus. Love it! I was blessed, and I trust it blessed you, too.

And if you liked what Gary had to say, don’t forget to pick up A Lifelong Love! And visit him at GaryThomas.com.