Discovering Your Husband’s Porn Use

A story about discovering your husband's porn use. God can do a new thing!

What do you do when you discover your husband is using porn?

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, and I’ve spent the weekend helping my oldest daughter make the bridesmaids’ gifts for her upcoming wedding, and now we’re heading off to move some furniture into the apartment they’ve rented. Connor’s living in it right now, but all he has is a mattress and two TV tables!

So instead I’m going to post this amazing story sent to me by Robi Smith, from the new blog Hopeful Wife Today. Her calling is to help women whose marriages have been ravaged by porn. Here’s Robi:

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.

-Isaiah 43:19

It made sense that this Bible verse came to my mind as I was looking at my husband. He was sitting on the couch in the living room with our four children cuddling near him.

It had been exactly three years since that awful day.

I could not believe the man I was looking at now was the same man from back then. That man would never have been relaxing with a smile on his face and his children right near him on his day off. Actually, that man probably would not have been sober on his day off! But today was not that day. And that day seems decades ago considering all that has happened to our marriage in just three years.

The horrid day that I am referring to is the day I found out my husband was addicted to pornography.

We had been arguing ever since my husband came home from a short work trip. His phone had whole strands of deleted text messages. They were text messages that I really wanted to read, specifically, from a co-worker. After a pathetic excuse that he wanted to “clean up his phone”, he admitted to me that he deleted the messages because he knew I would not like them. He promised that they were nothing inappropriate but that I would think they sounded like flirting. He knew how I felt about that kind of thing.

Flirting, looking, or getting to know any woman personally was out of the question in our marriage. We were totally in love and committed for ten beautiful years. He was my high school sweetheart. We had three beautiful children. What more could I ever ask for? That was how I felt, right? Then why did something seem wrong? Why did something seem weird? Why was there some foggy question just beyond my reach that I could never make out? And why did that verse haunt me day and night?

It was from the book of Isaiah. I was doing my nightly Bible reading one night, just as I always did. My husband was probably drinking a few beers and playing video games. That was his weekend routine. That’s okay though. He works really hard. He deserves it.

That’s what he always said whenever I’d remind him how much I hated alcohol in the house. I hated anytime he drank. It was just so hard to question him when he did everything for me. He worked two jobs so that I could live my dream of being a stay at home mother and raising my children exactly how I wanted to.

Anyway, that verse in Isaiah. I got to it and couldn’t move on. It said in Isaiah 43:19- “Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” I read that verse and it seemed as if God shouted, “Stop!” It was so loud in my heart that I jumped. I kept reading that verse over and over again, unable to move on. A new thing? God, you’re going to make a new thing? In what desert? Now? Now something is going to spring forth? That verse stayed on my heart day and night. It gave me the greatest feeling of hope but, also a very scary, lurking feeling. I kept thinking, “when is it going to happen and in what desert?”

That answer came the moment I quietly grabbed my husband’s phone while he was napping.

I hooked it up to his computer and looked in every file hoping I would find those deleted text messages and read for myself just what they said. What I found instead were deleted still screens of pornography websites and videos. Right then my whole life paused. Every single moment with my husband surrounded me in clarity. I said, “God, I never knew for one second, but it all makes complete sense.” I felt like I finally knew my husband. All the strangeness of his inability to ever be open with me, his guilty conscious, his exaggerated talk of our love story to everyone all made sense.

He had a terrible, secret addition to pornography and he was not perfect.

After that clarity, I literally fell to floor. I felt sick to my stomach and cried out to God. My prayer was, “God, you know I hate this! You know I have a strong disgust of anyone who even mentions the word porn. You knew that I secretly thought men who had lust problems were the weakest, most pitiful people on earth! You knew I would hate my husband forever if I thought he did this! And ten years! He actually carried this into our whole marriage and I did not know! God, you could pick anyone else for this, but certainly not me!”

Since that prayer to God that day, He has answered me. First, God showed me why my husband never told me. He struggled every single day with this secret problem, dying to tell just someone. He knew the last person he could tell would be me. If he told me before we got married, I am certain I would not have married him. If he told me any step of the way, I am certain I would have left him. But now, God started preparing my heart months ago with the verse from Isaiah.

God also spoke to my heart that He was going to use me to first, bring my husband to true repentance and second, to help other women who go through this.

I cried to God nightly. I begged God that I wouldn’t have to do this. I didn’t want to even mention it to my husband after that first week of confrontation. We decided it best that we never ever mentioned it again! My husband said he would never be lustful again. I said okay and that was that. God said that wasn’t that.

One week after my fourth child was born the verse in Isaiah came back to me. There was something so huge about to happen between me and my husband that I could feel it rising like a volcano. I started urging my husband daily. I had no idea what to say and I now know that God gave me all the words. I was literally talking blindly. I had no proof of anything. All I kept saying to my husband was, “I know you are not truly over this. I know you have not repented. I know you are lustful every single day.” And the worst one was, “God has told me that you did not tell me everything and that you have many, many secrets.”

I did not know this, but my husband later told me that last line terrified him. He couldn’t sleep at night. Until, finally, one day, almost one and a half years after I found out about the pornography, my husband confessed. He was keeping many secrets from me. He not only used pornography our whole marriage, he also did internet chatting, called various women, had a relationship with a woman at work that consisted of internet chatting daily, privately meeting, and talking on the phone. He also told me random violations to our wedding vow that had occurred many times with various women.

Finally, he admitted that even though he did not look at pornography anymore, he had huge problems with lust and searching for things on the internet that would not be considered pornography.

After that I was emotionally crushed. Yet, at the same time as that utter hopelessness, God whispered to my soul, “Now it can begin.”

Now it can begin. Now my marriage, the dream that I always thought it was, was completely broken. There was not one thing we had. We had no faithfulness, no trust, no honesty, no wedding vow, no openness, no kindness, nothing. But we had God. We had the hope in God that He would do a new thing and NOW it shall spring forth. Tears come to my eyes as I think about that broken day that my marriage began. As if in slow motion, my husband started to change. He told me one day out of the blue that he was going to stop drinking. He said, “ah, it’s not really good for me.” I held my breath. Then, he said he was going to quit smoking. Next, he started praying every single morning by himself. He prayed over his prayer list and prayed that God would guard his eyes and heart the whole day, that he would not lust, but be true and pure to God and me. We started, for the first time in our whole marriage, praying and reading every night together.

My husband became open and told me all about his days!

He even shared with me if someone was being inappropriate with him or if he had a specific temptation. We started going to church as a family. Little by little, this man was changing right before my eyes! Every day God was convicting him of things. He told me he was going to spend more time with the children, being a true father. Each day when he came home he greeted me and asked me how he could help out tonight.

As he was doing all these things, my heart slowly began to heal.

Each day I chose to let go of a little bit more of the past. The pain of it was clinging to me everywhere and I had to drop it. In my painful, quiet moments with God, I realized that God needed me for my husband. God showed me that my stubborn husband would not change for anyone in the world, except for me. God had big plans for my husband, but he needed me to bring them about.

God knew this would happen! Every day, even when I did not know what was happening behind the scenes of my marriage, God knew. He was preparing my heart for the day. The very holy, beautiful day that my marriage became a new thing.

Hopeful Wife Today is a site to bring hope and healing to hurting wives from their husband’s pornography use and unfaithfulness.

Why We Shouldn’t Bad Mouth our Husbands

Today’s guest post is from Wanjiru Kihusa, a marriage blogger from Kenya, who is sharing about resisting the urge to badmouth your husband–while there will be opportunities to do so, have a plan beforehand.

Resist the Urge to Bad Mouth Your Husband
Why you should never speak ill of your husband

Two months ago I was in the salon getting my hair braided. I always carry a novel with me because it keeps me busy for the several hours I have to be seated. The fact that it also distracts me from the pain and discomfort is an added advantage. This day I was reading Tis by Frank Mc Court a really awesome memoir. There were about three ladies braiding and chatting away and I was doing a great job ignoring them until one of them said “these men, what do they usually want? You feed them, look after the kids, and they still cheat. I honestly don’t know what do with mine,”

I was puzzled. Who says that about their man in public? I was waiting for the other ladies to quickly change the subject because of the discomfort they felt at their colleague’s outburst. But instead they went on to share very intimate details of how their men were bad husbands and horrible fathers. I was horrified. So I politely told them “I am uncomfortable hearing all these things you guys are saying. Could you please change the subject?” You should have seen them stare at me in shock. The only thing that saved me from being told off was that I was the customer, and they needed to get paid.

This is not the first time this has happened to me in a hair salon. Whenever I express my displeasure at listening to their stories, I always get odd glances. These women expect me to agree with them in solidarity and probably even share my disappointments about my husband. It is an appalling habit that I detest, and as a wife, I want to tell you why you should never bad mouth your husband to anyone.

Don’t speak ill of your husband to your family

My sister once shared with me advice a married friend gave her; if your husband ever does anything wrong (and he will) never tell anyone in your family. They reason for this is that if you ever tell your family bad stuff about him, they will never look at him the same way. It could even be something as major as cheating but please don’t. Here’s the thing, even if you forgive him and go back to loving him, your family will always see him as a bad guy. Why? Because they love you and want the best for you. Reason number two is your family is not going to be objective and show you where you may have gone wrong. To them you will always be their “nice little girl” and he will now be the “bastard who broke our little girl’s heart.”

Don’t speak ill about you husband to male friends – and don’t entertain men talking ill about their spouses either.

This is not only wrong but also dangerous. Having a male friend who you tell about your husband’s shortcomings is a disaster waiting to happen. One of these days in a weak moment when your husband has angered you and your friend offers you a shoulder to lean, the friend zone line will get blurry and one of you will cross it. And that, my dear, is how affairs start.

Don’t speak ill about you husband to strangers

Don’t talk about him in the salon and in other women gatherings. The girls might even contribute their part but you will come off as petty and completely lacking discretion. These people will not offer you any help on how to fix your marriage, they will just get fodder for gossip.

So, who do you talk to?

With all these people who not to talk to, who should you share with what you are going through? Since we all need someone to talk to, here are a few guidelines on who would be best to talk to.:

  • A close girlfriend who is also married – a lady who has a solid marriage
  • She should be sober minded – sharing your marriage should not be gossip, the encounter should be helpful. Get someone who offers you a listening ear but also give good advice; not afraid to call you out when something is your fault.
  • A friend who will pray for and with you – you need someone who when she says she’ll pray for you, she does.
  • She should be able to keep a secret – majority of the things you share will be so personal it would kill you if you had them somewhere else.

I have an amazing lady who has been both a mentor and a friend. I met her when my husband and I started dating. We needed a mentor couple to walk with us and even after we got married they have been really helpful. We picked them because they have a solid marriage and values we deemed very important. This lady is kind and very helpful and is not afraid to tell me when I’m wrong. Whenever I need advice on a marriage or faith issue I can always trust her to help.

You, too, need a friend like that. Someone sober, caring and kind; and discreet too. This kind of friendship does not happen overnight but is something we constantly work on. However, even with such a great friend, use wisdom to know how much details to give.

There will many times your husband will offend you and make you angry. Because he is human, he will constantly fall short of your expectations and will not handle issues you raise as fast as you wish he would. There will also be equally many opportunities for you to talk to ill of him to someone. Resist the urge to bad mouth him to anyone.

meWanjiru Kihusa is a Christian family blogger. She speaks and writes on marriage and relationships matters. A mother to one (in heaven), Wanjiru also speaks about miscarriages and grief caused by loss. She looks to encourage young people by giving sober and correct information about marriage and relationships. Find her at her blog Wanjiru Kihusa, or at her beautiful sister site, Family Lounge. (I had fun poking around her sites to see the things that Kenyan women are talking about! Cool.)

Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

Are video games a waste of time? What about Netflix? Facebook? Pinterest?

On Mondays I usually post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood today (perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, while I’m away from my girls on a speaking trip, and I’m a little bit restless), and I have some things I’d like to share.

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

Now THIS is an awesome story: I’m staying at my assistant Holly’s house in Colorado while I speak this week, and her 17-year-old son just sold his Xbox. He went on a men’s retreat last weekend and heard about how many young husbands wreck their marriages because they always use video games. So he thought that before it became an addiction that wrecked his future marriage he’d get rid of it!

Quite a few people liked that status, but I had a lot of comments to the effect of, “there’s nothing wrong with video games.” Or perhaps, “maybe he should have tried moderation first.” And I do understand.

I think we all have certain bents towards different time wasters: video games, Netflix, Pinterest, whatever it may be. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t we all entitled to some downtime?

And in general I’d say yes.

But that’s not the whole picture, and so I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.

Let’s start back in 1996, when Rebecca (my oldest) was a year old. I used to leave the TV on during the day all the time just to have some noise in the apartment. I watched soap operas from 1-4 every afternoon, because I was tired. I wanted an escape. It was hard work being alone with my baby all the time. My husband worked about 100 hours a week in his residency program in pediatrics, and I was often lonely. I found myself falling into television more and more.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThen one day I picked up Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a garage sale, and I read it. And it changed my life.

Specifically, it was his discussion of Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First. In other words, know where you’re heading, and then make sure you do the things that are necessary to get you there–before you do anything else.

He used a graphic to illustrate what he was talking about, and I’m going to recreate it with my own embellishment and commentary.

Divide your life into four quadrants based on whether or not the things you are doing are important or urgent. When you do that, you get something that looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants

Everything that we do can be divided into those 4 quadrants. And when we do that, it looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: How to figure out what to spend time on

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

That’s when you go into labour. When a child is in a pageant. When your mother is diagnosed with cancer. These are life events that basically have nothing to do with how you behave–they just happen.

But then there are crises which sometimes ARE avoidable–but when they crop up, we have to address them. We discover an affair. A teenager runs away. We suffer a nervous breakdown (sometimes this is purely chemical; other times it’s because we’ve let ourselves get too stressed.) We totter on bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s even little things, like running out of clean dishes or clean underwear because we haven’t done any housework. These are the fires in our lives that have to be put out.

Things That Are Important But Not Urgent DON’T Demand Our Attention–and that’s a problem.

No one is going to make you do them. They’re the date nights with your spouse, your time alone with God, your time alone with yourself (if that’s what you need to rejuvenate). It’s your time with a special mentor friend who points you to God. It’s reading to your children. It’s keeping the home organized. It’s spending time together as a family.

We all need these things–but it’s far too easy to neglect them because nothing is forcing us to do them, and there are rarely immediate negative consequences for leaving them undone. The consequences come later.

Things that Are Urgent But Aren’t Important–But we do them anyway.

You’re having a deep conversation with your teenager and the phone rings. What do you do? Chances are you answer the phone. But what was more important?

You’re out to dinner with your spouse and your phone dings with a new text. Do you ignore it or do you check it?

Your friend, who has been in constant crisis for the last two years because she overspends, drinks too much, and keeps dating jerks, calls you when you’re on your way out the door to a volunteer activity, in tears. Do you listen or do you tell her you need to go?

Things That Are Not Urgent and Not Important–that have no redeeming value.

This is where many of us spend most of our time. I’m not saying all hobbies or all movies fall into this category. Some hobbies do rejuvenate, like productive hobbies like cooking, or knitting, or woodworking. Some movies bond you as a family. Sometimes getting on Facebook helps you keep in contact with your nieces and nephews. But how often do you spend an evening watching TV or getting on social media or playing video games, and you feel even more tired than before?

Here’s the truth that Stephen Covey wants us to understand: when you spend time in Quadrant 2, doing things that are important, you have fewer fires in your life that you have to put out. But when you spend most of your time in Quadrants 3 and 4, you’re going to end up with more crises. And you’re going to feel more dissatisfied.

Dont Waste Time: How wasting time leads to more crises in our lives

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

I think we do it because we want an escape. We lead lives that are exhausting, that aren’t always fulfilling, and we want a chance to forget.

But if your basic problem is that your life isn’t that fulfilling, because you’re chronically lonely, or you feel as if you’re not doing what you’re called to do, or your relationships aren’t on track, then wasting time won’t fix the problem. It will only make your problem worse. And a spiral will begin, where your reality deteriorates, and so you want to escape even more.

After reading Covey’s book I quit TV cold turkey.

I just stopped. I didn’t want to waste my life. And what I found is that for the first time in years I was bored. And energetic! And so I started something new: I started magazine writing. I researched how to get published, and by 1999 I was well on my way. In 2003 I had my first book published. My eighth will be coming out in August. And you know the rest of the story.

I firmly believe that I would never have begun writing if I had kept watching TV.

And that’s why, when people say, “there’s nothing wrong with video games”, I have to take a pause. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s that too much of it may be stopping you from doing what is best.

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To Love, Honor and VacuumI explained this concept in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but here’s what really hit me back in 1996: there are things that are holding us back from God that aren’t necessarily sin. Sure, we have to throw aside the sin, but there are also things that aren’t sin that hinder us. We’re to get rid of those, too.

My life is better because I gave up TV then, and I believe that 17-year-old boy’s life will be better because he got rid of video games, too.

Does this mean I can never waste time?

No, of course not. My husband and I do watch Netflix today–but we’re trying to put limits on it so that we also take time to play games together or listen to talks or books on tape while we’re doing our separate hobbies together. We don’t want to waste whole nights.

Every now and then we have to re-evaluate because we slip into patterns. In 2008 I had to quit reading political blogs because I was wasting time and getting my blood pressure up in the process. After I quit reading other blogs, I started writing this one. Again, I found that I actually had time I didn’t know I had!

And now we’re re-evaluating our Netflix time and trying to find a new balance. We have to be vigilant.

I want to live a life where I can feel like I’ve accomplished something. I want to feel well rested, healthy, and organized. I want to have close relationships with my children and my husband. I want to feel as if I’m contributing. I want to feel as if I’m leaving a legacy.

And I can’t do any of those things if I waste most of my time on entertainment.

Dayspring Purpose Mug

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re struggling with feeling productive, or with finding meaning in your life, or with being chronically dissatisfied. But if you are, can I suggest that you take a look at these quadrants, and ask yourself: where am I spending my time?

And then ask: where should I be spending my time? Where do I want to be spending my time? And then try to put first things first.

Let me know: have you ever had to quit a time waster? Or do you think I’m totally off base? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

How Do You Respect Your Husband if You Can’t Trust Him?

Reader Question: How do I respect my husband if I can't trust him?
What does it mean to really respect your husband?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today a reader asks how she can respect a husband she still doesn’t trust:

I found out about my husband of 5 years had been addicted to porn and caught him by innocently searching through his photos on his phone while nursing my son in bed one morning. I regularly asked to use his phone so my looking through it was nothing unusual at all. The difference this time is he forgot to hide his stuff apparently this time.

We have had MANY hard conversations since then. He’s been getting help, hasn’t looked at it since July (when I caught him) and has been genuinely turning his life around and back to the Lord.

Here’s my issue: I still don’t trust him yet. I’ve forgiven him but trusting him again is something that takes a lot of work and time. We aren’t at that point yet. Is it possible to respect him without trust?

I do try but he doesn’t feel it anymore. I know it’s incredibly important to show respect and even biblical. I guess maybe I don’t know what respect truly is?

I’m being the best I know how to be while feeling so broken but it doesn’t seem enough. Please help, I’m so confused. :-(

Great question–and one that there’s a lot of confusion about. I want to leave the question of how you rebuild trust someone after porn use, because that’s a separate question that other posts do address.

Today I want to tackle respect, because it’s something we hear a lot: women need unconditional love, and men need unconditional respect, and we wives ARE to respect our husbands.

I’ve heard this love and respect dichotomy frequently, and many books explain this perspective well–like Love and Respect. The problem is that while love can be freely given, respect as a whole is something that is earned. It isn’t something which is just automatically bestowed. Loving an unlovable person is something many of us do all the time. But loving an unlovable person doesn’t involve declaring that this unlovable person is somehow lovable; it involves loving them regardless and choosing to treat them well.

To respect someone who is not worthy of respect is much trickier, because we think of respect  not primarily an action as much as it is a feeling. How can you respect someone who hasn’t done anything to earn it–but has instead squandered it?

And so today I’d like to take a broader look at what it means to respect someone, and what it is that we do owe our husbands.

How to Respect Your Husband when you can't trust him. #marriage

Dictionary.com defines respect in these two primary ways:

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability:
I have great respect for her judgment.

deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment:
respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.

The first definition is the one we usually think of, and it is dependent upon the actions of the person. You earn respect.

The second definition is the one that we are told in books like Love and Respect that men really need–to respect their position as husband, regardless of how he’s acting.

And that is certainly something that you can do. So God is not asking you to actually approve of anyone’s behaviour or “esteem” anyone. He is asking you to show deference.

But what does respecting your husband mean practically?

Boundaries in MarriageI actually think respect is part of healthy boundaries, as Henry Cloud and John Townsend talk about in their book Boundaries in Marriage, and I’m personally more comfortable with their way of framing the issue. They ask us to do this: imagine everybody as a farmer’s field, with fences around what is their responsibility and under their ownership.  In your field is your own actions; your own feelings; your own opinions. You have control over these things. You should not let others trespass. So no one, for instance, can “make you angry”. Anger is a choice that you make.

At the same time, other people have their own feelings and opinions and actions, and you need to not trespass on their field. So your husband is allowed to act his own way. Your children are allowed their feelings (even if you don’t like them). Your mother is allowed to rant at you if she wants. But you are then free to respond to that rant as you want. You can’t control the rant; you can control your response.

So to respect someone is to say: I recognize where the fences are. I recognize and honour your fence, and I will not trespass it.

Why Women are Control FreaksIn the case of marriage this is super important, because, as I’ve said before, most women do have control freak tendencies simply because we feel responsible for everyone, so we want to make sure they act the right way.

We need to not try to control our husbands, but let them be free to act. And to defer and respect also means that we acknowledge that their dreams and ideas for the family matter, and that we will get behind those dreams and pursue them with our husband, even if they aren’t always our dreams.

To respect your husband, then, does not mean that you approve of what he does. To respect him means that you acknowledge and support his right to choose what he does.

That’s a big difference. You aren’t trying to control him.

In the same way, to love your wife does not mean that you feel that she is lovable. It means you choose to treat her well and cherish her, no matter what she does.

To get back to our letter writer, she is largely equating respect with trust. Trust absolutely is something which is earned; we should never trust someone who is untrustworthy. And often we think that the respect that is asked of us is in the same category. But it is not.

So if you have a husband who isn’t trustworthy, what does respect look like?

I think it’s like this:

I will not try to control you or prevent you from using porn. I acknowledge that you have the right to freely choose whether to seek accountability or not; whether to watch porn or not; whether to rebuild the marriage or not. I am not free to try to manipulate you, guilt you, or cajole you in any way.

However, just as you are free to choose, I am also free to choose. And if you do choose to continue to watch porn, know that I will be taking these actions (and you can figure out what those are). I am not trying to control you by doing this; I am simply doing what I believe is best for me and our children based on prayer and on the godly counsel that I have received.

I hope and pray that our marriage can be restored, and I will do everything I can to build that marriage. I want to find things to do to build our friendship. I want to spend time laughing together. I want to enjoy meals together. And I know that you are free to make that choice as well, or to not make that choice. Regardless of what you choose, I will treat you with love, and I will treat you with grace.

What I really want, however, is for both of us to look more and more like Christ, and going down a really bad path isn’t going to help that. So if you do go there, I will have to take action. But in the meantime, I will not nag you. I will not manipulate. I will not look over your shoulder. I will not blame you or yell at you for my own feelings. I will take my sadness and process it with friends and with a counselor. I will work towards building up our marriage. And I will pray that you will do the same.

When someone has broken our trust our impulse is to stick to them like glue and check their phone and computer constantly and nag and cry and rage. And that isn’t respect, because it is “violating their fence”. But setting up an accountability partner for your husband so that you know he is getting help, as well as setting up conditions for what you will do if things do not change, IS part of respect, because just as he is free to choose, so are you. It’s honouring your own spheres of influence and control that God has given you, so that we don’t unwittingly become a sin enabler.

Some may say, “but that’s manipulation!” No, it’s not. To manipulate is to underhandedly use emotional, social, and sexual tools to try to pressure someone to do it our way–it is to take away their agency, their right to make a decision. Unfairness is a large part of manipulation. We’re not doing that–we’re acknowledging their right to make a decision, but we’re also acknowledging our own right to make a decision. And it isn’t underhanded. It’s right above board, and in line with God’s thinking on sin.

I know it’s hard to stop nagging and yelling and crying when trust has been broken, but I think that’s what respect means in this case. But I’d love to hear from you: how have you respected your husband when he’s acted inappropriately? How do you draw healthy boundaries? Let us know in the comments!

Note: if you and your husband are battling porn, Covenant Eyes is a great way to install accountability–painlessly! And between now and May 11, when you sign up, you get 60 days free. Check it out!

How Believing the Best Can Turn Your Marriage Around

Highly Happy Couples believe the best--even during rough times! #marriage
What if changing a marriage doesn’t always involve something huge? What if believing the best–a simple shift in attitude–can change everything?

I get notes everyday from women who are just desperate in their marriages. One yesterday stands out to me: they have two very small children; she has no friends; her husband likes to go out with the guys; and they never do anything together. Whenever they are together she begs him to talk more, to go on a date, and that just pushes him away. And so he goes out more.

And she feels  unloved.

But here’s the thing: he probably does, too, because the only interaction they have these days is that she’s upset with him. So now what do you do?

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceThat’s where Shaunti Feldhahn’s book Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages comes in, and it’s our book of the month for our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge. I can’t recommend this book enough. I’ve read so many marriage books over the last year, but this is probably the one I’d say gives the biggest bang for its buck, because it’s so immensely doable. These aren’t huge changes you have to make; they’re actually quite small. Seriously, go buy it. It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

Shaunti is a researcher at heart, and what she set out to do was to answer the question:

What separates highly happy couples from other couples? What are the key things they’re doing differently?

So she surveyed tons of couples and asked them to rank how happy they were in their marriage on a scale of 1 to 5–with 5 being Totally Happy–I’d marry them again! Many couples were one 4 and another 5; many were both 4s; and many were a 5 and a 3. Those couples are still pretty happy. But the couples where both said 5 were special.

Then she did in-depth interviews and surveys to try to figure out what practical things the highly happy couples were doing that the other couples weren’t. And she found two interesting things:

1. The things that the happy couples thought were making the difference actually weren’t.

2. The things that did make a difference were often quite small.

In other words, if you were to ask a happy couple why they’re happy, their answer is likely wrong. It’s not that what they’re saying isn’t important (“we always seek to serve the other; we never go to bed mad”), it’s that other couples may do those things, too–or they don’t actually do these things as often as they think they do. It’s something else that matters.

And what is that something else?

Shaunti lists 12 habits that make a difference, and some of them I’ve talked about on this blog before.

  • Wives–say thank you! In highly happy couples, men say “I love you” and women say “thank you”, and they show affection and gratitude easily.
  • Re-connect after a fight. Have a simple way to signal, “we’re okay”.
  • Turn towards each other when you’re upset, not away from each other. When you’re going through a hard time, spend more time together, not less. (I mentioned that concept in the post on sleeping in separate bedrooms.)

Today I want to talk about one more: Highly happy couples believe the best about each other.

Assuming that your spouse wants the best for you can change everything.

Here’s how this plays out: let’s imagine that couple that I was talking about at the beginning of this post. He’s heading out with the boys, and she interprets it like this: “he doesn’t want to spend time with me anymore. He doesn’t love me. He thinks I’m boring.”

And so what does she do? She cries. She builds it up to be a huge thing in her mind. When he’s there, she berates him for it, which blows up into a fight. He feels attacked, and just wants to escape.

But what if her interpretation was wrong?

(Incidentally, I’m not saying that it’s okay for a guy to spend a ton of time out with the boys and ignore his little kids. But I do think this problem would be solved so much more easily if she could believe the best.)

Let’s look at some stats.

When asked, “do you care about your spouse and want the best for them, even during a fight?”, 99% of happy couples said yes; 97% of mostly happy couples said yes; and 80% of struggling couples said yes.

So that’s good–in general, married people deeply care about their spouse and want the best for them ALL THE TIME.

But here’s where things get tricky. When asked, “do you believe your spouse wants the best for you, even during a fight”, 96% of highly happy couples said yes; 87% of mostly happy couples said yes; but only 59% of struggling couples said yes.

So 41% of struggling couples believe that their spouse does NOT want the best for them, but only 20% would actually say that’s true. That’s a lot of people who think their spouse is out to get them when their spouse actually isn’t.

Can you see how believing the best could transform this relationship?

If she said to herself, “I know my husband loves me and wants me to be happy, but he’s still going out with the guys a lot and I miss him. I wonder how we can reconnect?”–that gives a totally different feel for how she could approach him.

She could say, “I’m glad you had time to unwind with the guys! I was thinking about ways that we could unwind together this weekend, too. Can I run some by you and then we can brainstorm some together?” Now there’s no blame. There’s no hurt feelings. There’s just an issue that needs to be discussed, and it’s not a big deal.

Of course, it could be that this guy really is a lout, who really doesn’t care about his wife, and who really is an insensitive clod who doesn’t care about his kids either. Some men are certainly like that. But not very many. And if he’s truly that bad a character, don’t you think you would have seen that before you married him?

Shaunti believes that this one habit is a prerequisite to a happy marriage. It’s correlates more highly with happy marriages than any of the others. She says,

Either we try to believe the best of our spouse when we are hurt, or we allow ourselves to believe the worst sometimes–which keeps us from ever entering that lush valley where we so want to be.

It’s your choice. If your husband struggles with porn, can you believe that he wants to love you and wants to be sexually enthralled with you, but he’s fighting this battle he can’t seem to win? And can you join him in that fight instead of feeding the feelings that “he doesn’t find me attractive. He really hates me.?” (Note: if your husband doesn’t believe porn is a problem and won’t deal with it, that’s a totally different story. You need to confront him about porn and say, “no more”! But if he’s just struggling, or trying to stop, join the fight with him, not against him!)

If your husband spends a lot of time away, can you believe that he’s just trying to unwind and isn’t deliberately rejecting you–and then work at how you can spend more time together?

If your husband rarely shows affection, can you believe that he’s just wired differently than you, instead of believing that he doesn’t love you? And then reach out to him anyway?

Like I said, in some marriages he really doesn’t believe the best. Some marriages really are emotionally destructive. But this is a minority.

Shaunti says that in marriage we are often presented with times when there are two possible explanations for our spouse’s behaviour: a positive one and a negative one.

We tend to veer towards the negative. But if you veer towards the positive, and try to figure out why he acted that way, often you find that your more generous explanation was actually true! And the more you do this, the more you realize your spouse really does believe the best–and it’s easier to keep believing that. It snowballs.

So next time you’re facing a situation where you can believe your husband did something to hurt you or you can believe there was another explanation, seek out that other explanation. Find out the WHY before assuming anything bad. And you just may find a great deal of relief!

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceThis is just one habit. There are eleven more. And they’re not huge. But they make a big difference. And Shaunti also has an action plan to show you how to implement them, because you can’t implement twelve changes all at once.

This research is gold, and if we could catch hold of these things, our marriages really would be transformed. I had such a great time reading this book, and I hope you all did, too. If you haven’t already, pick it up. It’s easy to read. It’s short. There are tons of stories. And it will give you hope.

Wifey Wednesday: Getting to Deeper Levels of Communication

Getting to Deeper Levels of Commnication with Your Husband--#marriage

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to talk about how to really get to know each other and stay close–even once you’re married. And it all starts with intentionally getting to deeper levels of communication.

Recently a reader from New Zealand sent me this question:

We have only been married just over a year and really loving it. I’ve noticed in some of your recent posts you’ve been covering when she doesn’t wanna and when he doesn’t wanna. This isn’t really applicable to us thanks to a great start to marriage (through God’s grace). But it’s making me wonder if all couples go through a season/period of distance with one another? If it is inevitable I’d really like some pointers from how to approach it from our end, from the beginning. How to spot it, when to have those conversations, when to get help, any prevention strategies etc. Because I’d like to continue having an awesome marriage and although I know we will (and have) face ups and downs, I’d like to have the best go at it that we possibly can.

Great question!

First, Yes, every couple will go through seasons of distance–seasons when you don’t feel as close because of work schedules, the pressure of illness, busy-ness that can’t be avoided, etc.

It is NOT inevitable, though, that you will fall out of love or lose your libido. And much of it rests on being proactive, looking for key tips, like this reader is.

But it also comes from recognizing how to feel close. And that stems from understanding the different levels of communication.

Gary Smalley, in his book The Secrets of Lasting Love, says that there are five levels of communication:

  • Cliches
  • Facts
  • Opinions
  • Feelings
  • Needs

Intimacy increases with each level.

When you hold the door open for someone, you tend to talk in CLICHES: “nice day, isn’t it?”

Many couples spend most of their time communicating at the level of FACTS: “Johnny has band practice tomorrow at 3 and someone has to pick him up at 4:30. Can  you do that on the way home from work?”

OPINIONS isn’t that scary, either: “I just think that my new supervisor is out to get me. She never smiles and nothing I do is right!”

But it’s really in the FEELINGS and NEEDS that we become vulnerable.

“I’m scared that my boss is going to think that the supervisor is right. What if no one recognizes what I’m doing? I just feel so drained when I go to work now, and I’m not sure how much longer I can take this.”

Or NEEDS:

“I want to feel like what I’m doing makes a difference. Lately it’s been so hard to get out of bed because I don’t know if anyone even notices my contributions. What if God is disappointed in me, too? I need to know that someone smiles over me.”

Now, think about how a marriage will be if all of the communication is at the FACTS level. The couple may talk a lot–but they don’t really know each other any better.

And sometimes we think that by sharing opinions we’re really opening up. But we’re not. Opinions are safe–it’s feelings that are vulnerable. It’s feelings that reveal what’s really going on inside of you.

Kiss Me AgainThe problem is that many couples never really learned how to live comfortably at levels 4 and 5. In fact, in the book Kiss Me Again, Barbara Wilson talks about how the level of emotional intimacy we’ve reached when we start to become sexually involved tends to be the level we’re stuck at–unless we take specific steps to overcome that. So couples who have sex early in their relationship end up substituting physical intimacy for emotional intimacy, and have a hard time progressing now into emotional vulnerability because they’ve done things backwards.

That’s one of the reasons that God wants us to wait for marriage to make love!

So some couples may never reach levels 4 and 5 to begin with, and others may have been there, but then seasons of busy-ness come and they start staying at facts and opinions. They don’t have time to become vulnerable.

It’s that sharing of vulnerability, though, that will help you feel close, and here’s why: there are very few people that we actually get down to communication levels 4 and 5 with.

And we tend to bond with those individuals. So you want to make sure that one of those people is your husband! If you’re not sharing at these levels with your husband, then it’s all too easy to get caught up in an emotional affair with someone else. Being vulnerable makes us feel close and increases intimacy–whether within marriage or outside of it. So make sure it’s within marriage!

I know, though, that many of you struggle with this.

You’d like to get to deeper levels of communication, but how do you just begin the conversation?

Hermann Kuschke developed an app called Dare2Share which can help guide you through the different levels of communication. He sent me some codes so that my assistant Tammy could try it with her husband and I could try it with mine, and I was really impressed. In the app there are over 200 conversation prompts that help you learn more about your spouse. (It’s also available for Android, but I’m a Mac person and don’t know where to find that link. But if you search for Dare2Share you’ll find it!)

He suggests beginning each conversation by getting a cup of coffee and sitting together–but you can go for a walk, too. Here are pics from the iPad version:

Getting to Deeper Levels of Communication: Dare2Share app

Then the conversation starts. Each “conversation” has 5 screens, or 5 parts to the question,  that you talk to your spouse about. Everyday you share your day–so you do “card 1″ everyday–and then you add more cards each time.

Card 1 starts with telling you to share, and then explains how:

Share Day

IMG_1781

IMG_1782

What to share as you communicate

Offering to Help: The last part of sharing your day as you enhance communication
It’s such a SIMPLE thing, sharing your day. But how many of us do it well? I think having specific conversation prompts can help us do that!

Now at this point we’re only sharing our day, and chances are you’re still at the “facts” level. But as you get better, when you share your high point and your low point hopefully you’ll start to share feelings as well.

Then you move on to the next conversation prompts. These usually start with a personal experience from the app couple who wrote it, to set the stage, and then progress to the questions.

IMG_1786

At the beginning of the app the questions are pretty basic–they’re focused on sharing facts and opinions, and they’re not that vulnerable.

But as you progress through the pages, you’ll be sharing more and more personal things, and you’ll find that you progress through the levels of communication so that you know each other even better. They even explain the levels of communication, too:

Levels of communication

My assistant Tammy has been married to her husband Steeve for 23 years. He works in a counseling role, so he’s quite used to things like emotional intimacy. But they both found this challenging and enhancing anyway!

Write your Life for your spouse

 

I think this is an excellent model. If you aren’t in the habit of really opening up, going straight to deeply personal questions about fears and dreams can feel fake–because it is. You can’t just jump to level 5. You have to do the work on earlier levels first, so that you have that foundation.

Sometimes we just don’t ask the right questions, and we just don’t know our spouses as well as we could.

I really believe that if we were more intentional about communicating at some of these deeper levels that even when the inevitable seasons of distance come, our marriages could withstand them. We’d still feel intimate and vulnerable with each other. But if all we’re doing is communicating facts and opinions–well, you can do that with anyone. And then what is going to make you want to be with your husband especially? What makes him stand out? Nothing.

So talk to your husband about trying the Dare2Share app, or something like it. Learn more about him–like what he wanted to be when he was 8; what was his worst nightmare; what happened after his first crush. Find out what his dreams and passions are; what things God has put on his heart. And share with him what God has put on yours. Feel close again–and then that’s sure to ignite the sexual side of your marriage, too!

In fact, that’s what Hermann suggests. Some of the exercises AFTER the conversations, as you get more vulnerable, are more sexual! But isn’t that what marriage and intimacy are all about?

Find out more about Dare2Share, or

Dare2Share iPhone

 Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Have something to share with us about marriage? Leave the URL in the linky below, and then be sure to link back here so that others can read these great posts, too!

 



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: 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 Bundle
Pastor 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.

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!

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!)

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!



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: 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 Marriage
My 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-Pin
Four 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!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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



Reader Question: 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 cleave
This 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

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.