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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Ask For What You Want

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

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

Some of my readers shared their stories. Lynn said,

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

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

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

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

We Need to Be Honest

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

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

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

Manipulation To Get What You Want Doesn’t Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Watches Nudity on TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Don’t tolerate your husband watching graphic nudity

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

One woman wrote this on Facebook:

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

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

3. But I Don’t Want to Nag!

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Set Clear Boundaries

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

I think she has a point.

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

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

Whatever you tolerate will continue. #marriagetip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few quick things:

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

2. Leave some time for God to convict.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reader Question: Shouldn’t Sex Involve Intercourse?

Reader Question of the WeekShould sex involve intercourse?

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

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

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

Wow! Tough issues.

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

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

Intercourse is Uniquely Intimate

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

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

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

Is there a Place for Other Sexual Acts?

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

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

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

Why Would Someone Not Want Intercourse?

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

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

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

Could There Be Other Things Going On?

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

He could have sexual dysfunction

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

I’ve written a series on sexual dysfunction here.

He could have a porn addiction

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

He could have abuse issues in his past

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

So What Do I Do if My Husband Avoids Intercourse?

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

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

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

Work on Intimacy

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

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

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

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

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

Where To Go If He Still Refuses Intercourse

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

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

Wifey Wednesday: Putting Your Husband First

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

Children or Marriage: Putting Your Husband First

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

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

Engagement

Before Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I Win Every Argument with My Spouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Often do Happy Couples Argue?

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

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

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

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

What’s the Right Way to Argue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, she made a peace offering.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Use lots of foreplay

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

2. Use lubrication

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

3. Bring him to orgasm earlier in the day

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

4. Breathe and think of it like surfing

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

5. Remember angle matters

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

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

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

1. Satisfying Sex Requires Communication

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

And so we need to communicate that to our husbands.

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

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

2. Communication Requires Vulnerability

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

And that’s why:

3. Vulnerability Requires Trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Do Married Women Have More Fun?

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

The Good News Moving Forward

So here’s the good news, ladies!

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

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

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

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

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.



Top 10 Ways to Be More Adventurous in Bed

Top 10 Ways to Be More Adventurous in Bed--learn to relax and have fun with your husband.

Do you long to feel more adventurous in bed?

Recently I received this email:

We’ve been married for 8 years. I am an introvert and do not like being in the center of attention. This also reflects in my sex life and has from the very beginning. I know that my husband wishes I were more adventurous and open and I wish that too!! How can I become more comfortable with spicing things up in the bedroom (wearing lingerie, being more vocal during sex, even doing a sexy dance, etc.). I want to be completely free, but freeze and feel self-conscious at the idea of actually doing one of those things. Do you have any suggestions?

Top TenYou’ve come to the right place! And so today, for top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share 10 tips to be more adventurous in bed–just in time for Valentine’s Day!

And these 10 things all address the problem: We’re too self-conscious. So the key is to first make us more comfortable, and second set up scenarios where we don’t have to feel like we’re the ones who have to come up with something to do. It’s on the agenda anyway, and we’re “going along”. We’re not instigating. And for a lot of women that’s a lot less scary! So here we go:

1. Turn The Heat Up

It’s such a little thing, but most women are a lot more comfortable when they’re not cold. If you want your husband to see you in lingerie, don’t be shivering! Just put a space heater near your bed. That way you don’t have to turn up the heat in the whole house.

2. Turn the Lights Low–or Use Candles

If you’re nervous about him watching you, or about what you look like, then turn the lights low. You can still do a little “lingerie fashion show” without the lights blaring.

A little light is fun–men are visual, after all. But if you’re nervous, setting softer light can go a long way to making you feel more at ease.

3. Start with a Bath–or a Massage

Instead of just jumping in to sex, start with something that relaxes you and helps you feel intimate. After all, why are we scared to be adventurous in bed? Because it feels like all we care about is sex. Doing something that connects you more intimately first shows you that it’s about the relationship. So cuddle in a warm bath. Take a hot shower. Have him give you a massage (while you’re both naked!) Get relaxed and let yourself FEEL that he accepts you.

4. Add Something Extra That You Can Prepare Earlier

Sometimes we need to act when the thought strikes–instead of hoping that your courage will be there at night, when he’s watching you or you’re together. So if you’re feeling a little frisky or a little more adventurous, and you’re hoping for some fun tonight, head to your bedroom NOW, before you talk yourself out of it, and draw a little lipstick heart somewhere interesting for him to find later–like on your breast or inner thigh. Put on some risque lingerie for him to discover when you undress tonight. Dab bits of different perfume on different areas of your body that he’ll have to find later. Or come up with some other ideas.

But the key: do it when the thought strikes. Don’t assume you’ll follow through tonight!

5. Create His Nights and Her Nights

Maybe there’s something that he’d really like to try that you’re not totally keen on. And you’re worried that if you do it he’ll want it all the time! Or you feel embarrassed to suggest that maybe you should try that tonight.

One couple I know decided that every Saturday was either “his” night or “her” night–they switched weekly. And on his night they did things that he liked doing. On her night they did things she liked doing–even if that included a 45 minute massage first.

Here’s the benefit: If you’re feeling shy or embarrassed to try something new, psychologically you’re “off the hook” because it’s not YOU who is instigating this; it’s him. And you know that you’ll get your own preferences later. Then on the nights between the Saturdays you can just do what you would normally do.

Often we women actually want to do some of the things he’d want on “his” nights, but we don’t want to feel like we’d have to be doing them all the time. Or else we’re embarrassed to say, “that actually interests me too”. Here’s a way to just do it!

If you find it difficult to voice what you would want on your day, write your “his” and “her” ideas on pieces of paper and then put them in a jar–you can use different colours for each of you, or just use two jars. Then on his nights and her nights you can pick out a piece of paper and do what it says. Again, this psychologically feels easier because you don’t have to voice a preference, but you do get your needs met.

6. Have Him Stay Stock Still–and Don’t Let Him Talk

Have him lie on his back and tell him that he can’t move for ten minutes–and he’s absolutely not allowed to talk (he can moan if he wants to, but no words). The benefit? You can explore his body without any feedback from him (well, except that you’ll likely see the response you’re getting rather obviously). Don’t even look at his face if you find it too embarrassing. This lets you actually feel his body or do whatever you want to his body and just get to know it better. If you need to, blindfold him so that he can’t see what you’re doing, and you feel more free to explore.

Intercourse is actually not the most intimate thing. It’s far more intimate to be intentional about touching and teasing and taking time to explore. That shows real interest on your part about learning about him–and that’s why it can be embarrassing. If any of us grew up thinking that showing interest in sex was shameful, then to show interest in learning something sexually can be difficult.

7. Have Him Play “Teacher”

On Sunday night, in Houston, I was giving my Girl Talk presentation on sex and marriage. Part of that presentation always includes an anonymous Q&A (I answer questions that were written down), and one of the questions was “How exactly do you perform oral sex?” (although it was worded a little more graphically. :) ).

Sometimes fear that we’re doing something wrong can also make us embarrassed and hold us back from being adventurous. What if you do something wrong–or something that doesn’t feel good? This can especially be a problem if you know that your husband has had a lot of sexual experience beforehand. What if you don’t measure up?

I replied to that question like this: “I’m pretty sure you already have someone who could teach you that in detail, but that person is not in this room.” Because most husbands, I would guess, would be eager to show you exactly what to do.

So have a night when he plays teacher. He’s not asking you to do something; he’s actually giving very clear direction and “orders”, if you want to phrase it that way. And then he can give you a special reward if you master whatever skill he wants you to learn.

Honestly, every couple should do this periodically, because we all could learn from each other. And quite often we’re hesitant when we’re normally making love to say, “a little to the left” or “a little harder” or “not quite so fast”. It seems rude. But if you’re playing teacher, you can easily. And then you can be a willing pupil!

When you see that you’ve actually mastered a skill, it’s easier to initiate it later.

8. Play a Game

Here’s another way to try new things. Put the things you want to try on a dice, and then roll the dice and do what it says! I’ve got a Dice Game that you can print out right here.

9. Play Beat the Clock

Here’s another fun one. Using a kitchen timer (or a stopwatch on your phone), make a list of things you’d like to do and then do them each–but only for two minutes. This gives a kind of urgency to what you’re doing, but also helps you to relax a little bit because you’re changing things up so constantly. There isn’t a lot of time to start second guessing yourself or getting nervous!

Here’s another variation on the same idea: take him into the bedroom and tell him he can do anything he wants to do–but he only has 5 minutes. So he had better get a move on and have some fun! If he’s not finished in that time, then you’re going back downstairs (but have pity on him later in the day, or play again in an hour or two).

This is often exciting because you’re concentrating on his pleasure, not yours. In that amount of time most women can’t reach orgasm, so the emphasis isn’t on making you feel good. It’s on letting him have as much fun as possible as quickly as possible. So he doesn’t have to worry about saving himself or holding something back for you. He can let go! For a lot of women this is a very freeing thing because you see how excited you get him when he only has to care about having fun himself (a lot of men won’t even need the whole 5 minutes).

10. Talk

Our reader asked how can she learn to be more vocal during sex. The key? Don’t overanalyze. Don’t worry about what you’re supposed to say or about saying the right thing. Just FEEL–and then tell him what you feel. Here’s how:

Ask yourself: what feels good right now?

When you ask that question, you pay attention to your body and you start realizing what is feeling good. Often we women get so caught up in our heads when we’re making love that we become almost disconnected from our bodies. Asking this question reminds you to pay attention to what your body is saying.

When  you realize what feels good, just say it. “Oh, my [insert whatever body part] is tingling”, or “It feels so good when you [insert whatever he’s doing]”. Just say what you’re feeling!

Ask yourself: What do you want him to do now?

When you start paying attention to your body, you’ll likely start to notice that some parts of your body are now crying out for attention. That’s what arousal does to you.

When you notice it, say it. “Oh, baby, touch my [insert body part]”.

You don’t have to use weird words for body parts–it’s okay to use the real ones (or whatever you’re comfortable saying). And believe me–this is sexy! It may feel like it sounds trite, but what really turns a guy on is hearing that you’re into it.

So there you go–10 tips to help you feel like the sexual being you were created to be–to help you be more adventurous in bed! Why not pick a few and put them into practice this week?

In fact, here’s my suggestion: for Valentine’s Day, write out your “his” and “her” night ideas, and then make a pledge that you’ll do them over the next few months. Let yourself go! You’re married. You’re supposed to enjoy each other. Don’t let fear hold you back from something so amazing.

Have fun!

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Top 10 Mistakes I Made as a New Bride

Top 10 New Bride MistakesToday frequent reader and contributor Ngina Otiende from Intentional Today joins us with her top 10 mistakes–in the hopes that we won’t follow in her footsteps! Her first book released  yesterday on Amazon, and I think Ngina’s stuff is awesome. So I asked her to guest post for me, so I could spread the word about Blues to Bliss.

As a new bride I didn’t know much about marriage, the man I married, or myself.

But I thought I knew a lot. 

After almost seven years of marriage, now I can smile at some of my naive expectations and thoughts. But back then it was no smiling matter. I was steeped in new bride blues, I had no grace to give myself or my husband. And I did not understand that good wives are made over time, not over night.

Here are Top 10 things I did as a new bride that set our marriage on edge (and how not to follow in my steps!)

1. Scrubbing our house down the day he went back to work

And proudly proclaiming “I scrubbed the house down..and my back is killing me!” when he walked through the doors in the evening.

What he heard?

“Your (former) bachelor pad is filthy and it’s your fault I am in so much pain”
No man wants to feel like they hurt their wife, especially not from the wife herself! Or that they are dirty.

Over the years I have learned that it’s not so much what I have to say but how I say it and when I say it.

2. Thinking our first fight was the end of our marriage

Before marriage I heard “In marriage, God will either see both of you or none of you” I interpreted that to mean that Tommy and I had to be in perfect agreement all the time – no conflict or issues, certainly not sulking and being mad at each other for days at a time. When we stumbled into blues-ville, God would leave, to return once we sorted out our issues.

I battled hopelessness and despair. I thought our little love would limp for the rest of its life (because divorce was never an option). And I was mad with Tommy for messing up our spiritual life!

Over time, God would show me that every couple has issues, even the brand new ones! In fact it’s our issues that make us need Him. He would never leave us or forsake us, but we had to make a conscious intentional decision to invite Him into our messes. We (let me say, I) also had to learn how to put our messes in His hands. And leave them there.

3. Fearing to seek help

You know how you get married and everyone thinks you are swinging from the chandelier in excitement, all day, every day? And if you happened to have received excellent premarital counseling from mentors, you feel awful about going back to them with issues because you reckon that’s like saying “Your advice and effort not work”.

Yup. I did not yet understand pre-wedding mentoring is advance preparation; it does not wipe out possibilities of marital challenges, it equips you to handle them.

Our mentors understood that challenges would come and they wanted us to consult them and not feel ashamed. Me, I needed to get over my pride and say “Er, I am having a hard time following this guy because I think he doesn’t like me anymore”

4. Forcing him to stay up late in the night to resolve conflict.

I was the in-your-face-we-can’t-sleep-till-we-talk-about-this new bride. My husband was the melancholic, conflict averse we-don’t-have-to-talk-about-this-now-or-ever new groom.To say that we had hot debates would be incorrect because many times I would be having hot debates all by myself, while he sat and brooded.

Especially when I elbowed him at 2 am in the morning with “I can’t sleep, we must talk!”

You can’t always iron out conflicts the first time you try. And since God is always interested in real peace, not fake peace that comes from sweeping things under the carpet or rushing through resolution to get back to your “nice Christian lives”, He doesn’t mind us working through challenges slowly, so we can get  to the bottom of things. He’s not worried or intimidated when it takes a couple of sittings – or days – to iron out the creases and crooks.

5. Ironing his clothes

On the week my husband returned to work, I ironed all his work shirts, polished his shoes and proudly pointed it out when he came home in the evening. I was so proud of myself.

My husband plucked everything from my hands, walked away and told me not do that again.

Husbands are different. I thought all good wives take care of their men in that way. But mine likes to pick his clothes, iron them, polish his shoes and generally take care of himself.

Now that I am slightly older in marriage, I am beyond grateful that my man likes to take care of himself like that! ‘Cause there are many who prefer to be helped in that area (and nothing wrong with that by the way). My lesson? Don’t import everything you hear, just because it works in someone else’s marriage doesn’t mean it will work in yours.

6. Thinking I had nothing to give

Because of our not-so-few-squabbles, I felt disqualified from helping others. I also felt the pressure to be perfect in order to mentor and walk with other courting couples, brides-to-be and newly-weds.

I would learn that  it’s my messy marriage that gave me a message, my hurts and lessons enabled me to empathize. Without experiential lessons, I would be an empty gong; trying to take others where I had never been.

Now I know that early marriage adjustments and challenges are good because they keep you on your knees and make of you an effective messenger of God’s love.

7. Worrying about disappointing others

Not too long in marriage someone came to me and told me she’d heard my husband and I were very unhappy. And this person was so disappointed because “If she (Ngina) had waited so well and yet ended up in an unhappy marriage, then marriage is no good at all”.

I was shocked that someone imagined I was miserable. Why? Was it that time I cried during worship? Is it the way I am wearing my hair, do I look unhappy? If others think we are unhappy, are we unhappy? We don’t agree on everything, does that mean we should always agree? She’s a single person, what other singles have I disappointed, how will this affect them for the rest of their life? 

I was an irrational mess.

Marriage is not perfect. Ours was not, still isn’t, perfect. Though we get better, you never really eliminate challenges.Fortunately the only person we need to be doing marriage for is God. He’s the Author–our happiness and joy and impacting others is a result of living for Him and doing marriage His way.

My lesson? Don’t take responsibility for other peoples’ opinions and disappointments, even their joy!

8. Making my husband the source of my happiness

I don’t know how we stumble into this idea as new brides. But somewhere between the glories of a courtship filled with chivalry and sweetness and the crescendo of the engagement and a wedding, we start imagining that our husbands are responsible for our happiness and joy. We are crushed when they disappoint (because they do at about Week 1 of marriage).

We start wondering if we made a mistake and how to correct it. I learned quickly  that I married a fellow human being. If I wanted happiness and joy, I had to go get it myself!–from God, not from a human being. Tommy was, still is, the most amazing man, but He cannot supply what I need to get from God. I have to remove that impossible expectation on him and look to God to meet all my needs.

9. Having no life outside “us”

I had just resigned my job of 7 years, I had nothing going on in terms of a career. I  “lost” 99.9% of my friends when I got married. I was broke. And I was a newlywed! (isn’t that why we get married anyway, to have a forever best friend?!). But while Tommy was the greatest guy and the best gift that ever happened to me since Jesus, he made for a terrible girlfriend. And the sad thing was, he was not even trying to improve. I had high expectations, but over time I would learn that I need other women in my life–I need activities. I need to cultivate  passions and goals outside my marriage–not to compete with my marriage, but so I could be balanced and purpose-filled.

10. Expecting great sex without intentional involvement 

I expected my husband to know how to make the bedroom exciting without my involvement. “He’s the guy; he knows how to make things work.” I was a passive new bride. And it made for disappointments before I started making serious mental adjustments.

Guys like to know what is working and not working in the bedroom–not in harsh critical ways, mind you, but through loving practical feedback. When they operate in the blind, they tend to give their wives what they think they need. And that’s not always a good thing.

The wise bride learns (and the emphasis here is learns) to speak and communicate and respond to her husband, not lie back and expect fireworks without effort.

Ngina OtiendeNgina Otiende is the author of the newly released book, “Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily-ever-after in the Early Years“. In the book she talks about her early marriage challenges and how God transformed their relationship through intentional effort and grace.  Ngina blogs at IntentionalToday.com where she equips the early-wed wife with tools and resources to create intentional happily-ever afters. Connect with Ngina on Facebook, and Pinterest 

Are We Expecting the Impossible in Marriage?

Are We Expecting the Impossible -- Expectations in Marriage

Are your expectations in marriage impossible to achieve?

Recently I was going through some older posts that most of you will not have seen, and I came across this one about having sky-high marriage expectations. I thought it was worth re-running today.

You may have heard it said before that “the enemy of the best is the good”. The French philosopher Voltaire made it famous (though he said it in French!), and it caught on because it’s so true. Often we get so caught up doing good things that we miss the best. We miss our priorities.

But that being said, I think the reverse can also be true.

Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.

When the best is more a fairy-tale ideal than a reality, then it can become the enemy of making any kind of real progress. The best can actually be a hindrance to your marriage.

Allow me to use an analogy that doesn’t have to do with marriage first to show you what I mean. A while back I caused a ruckus in the comments section of this blog because I insinuated that there were things that women could do to reduce the chance of sexual assault, and we should teach these to our daughters. I never said that we could eliminate rape (because we can’t)–but I said that we could reduce it.

People kept taking issue with me, so I kept writing follow-up posts, and the comments grew worse and worse. One commenter really summed up the other side perfectly. She said (and I paraphrase):

Women should be able to wear whatever they want and go wherever they want. You should be talking to the men, not to the women!

She was a little ruder than that, but I’ll leave out the colorful language.

What a strange comment, though. OF COURSE women should be able to wear what they want and do what they want without getting raped. We should live in a world where there is no abuse, no rape, no children in poverty, no wars, and no violence. But we don’t live in that world. And since we don’t, what steps can we take to protect ourselves?

They were focusing so much on what SHOULD be that they refused to acknowledge that there were any steps you could take to make our present life, the one we are living in right now, even the least bit better.

It was all or nothing.

Have you ever felt that way about your marriage? I once knew a woman who eventually left her husband, who explained it to me this way:

God created marriage to be a joining of two human beings–an institution where we’re able to communicate, and love, and respect, and share ideas and share vision and purpose. He created marriage to build us up, not to tear us down. He created marriage to be part of our fulfillment, not part of our destruction. My husband didn’t know how to communicate. He never listened to me. He never talked to me; he only ever talked past me. He used sex just to satisfy himself. In other words, it wasn’t actually a marriage. And so I ended it.

I have no doubt that her marriage was extremely difficult, but do you see the problem with her position? She was saying that because her marriage was not one in which two individuals were completely joined, it was thus not a marriage. God intended marriage to be fulfilling; it was not, therefore the argument about whether one had biblical grounds to divorce was moot because this wasn’t even marriage!

Her argument is flawed, because while God said marriage should be like this, He never invalidated marriages that were not like that. Indeed, in Corinthians Paul even tells women married to men who aren’t Christians to stay if they can–and these marriages are obviously not a complete joining of minds and ideals.

This woman was looking for the best in her marriage; she didn’t find it, so therefore she invalidated everything else.

Many of us enter marriage with similar thoughts. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we can completely bear our souls. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we are unconditionally cherished. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we find our best friend. Then, when the should doesn’t happen, we give up. We have expectations in marriage about how things SHOULD be, and we can’t settle for second best. We don’t look at little changes that we could make to grow the marriage, or to grow our communication, because we figure that he is just hopeless. He’s so out of touch with what a husband should be, that growth is well nigh impossible.

None of us is perfect, though, and I think we need a different strategy. If your husband isn’t a good communicator, or sulks constantly, or watches too much TV (or plays too many video games), or never spends any time with the kids, that doesn’t invalidate your marriage, and it doesn’t mean that things can’t get better. After all, by staying away from drunken parties, girls can drastically reduce their risk of date rape. Similarly, by learning new communication techniques, you can drastically reduce your risk of growing apart and ending the relationship. You can do things to move in the right direction, even if those things won’t give you 100% change. They can still make your life significantly better.

Now, in some cases no matter what you do you can’t rescue a marriage. You can’t stop an abusive man from hitting you just by learning to be nicer or not pushing his buttons. You can’t stop a porn addict from using porn, and these things do need to be confronted. But in most marriages it’s not these huge issues that bring us down. It’s disappointments in the day-to-day.

What I would suggest, then, is that we stop focusing on our ideal expectations for marriage, and we start looking at what we can do to make things better.

In other words, quit focusing so much on the destination, and focus instead on the direction. Move forward, even if it’s slowly, and you will eventually get there. Focus so much on the finish line, and how far it is away from your current position, and you can quickly lose heart.

This applies to aspects of marriage, too. I was at a place in our marriage once where everything was going really well–except sex. It’s not that it was horrible; it just wasn’t what it was supposed to be, according to the media and all the sermons I heard about how God created sex to be wonderful. For a few years, I gave up. It’s not that we didn’t make love; it’s just that my attitude was one of: “this just isn’t for me. It’s all for him, and I’ll just get through it.” I believed that if sex wasn’t the ideal, then I had been cheated, and there was no point in even trying.

It was only when I had an attitude shift where I started to ask whether I could believe that it could get better–even if it was slowly. When I made the mental shift, then the way I acted also changed.

Whether it’s in your marriage as a whole or in individual parts of your marriage, don’t give up because you haven’t reached the ideal.

The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for January: Setting the Right Foundation. Click through to see the books and choose one!Ask God to help you make baby steps, because those steps can add up! Ask Him to give you a new heart to grow, even if it’s slowly, because moving in the right direction gives you a new attitude or outlook on your marriage which is so much more energizing.

Whatever you do, don’t let the best become an enemy of that real, helpful change.

Tomorrow I’m going to be reviewing Gary Thomas’ book A Lifelong Love, our January entry in the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge. It has a wonderful perspective on how to handle a marriage that isn’t the best, and I’m so looking forward to sharing it with you!

Wedding Ring Issues

Reader Question of the WeekWhat does a weding ring really mean?

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it. I’ve had two questions lately about wearing wedding rings, so I thought I’d try those today!

Should you always wear a wedding ring?

One newlywed writes:

I’ve been married about 6 months now. The problem I’m having is my husband often forgets or chooses not to wear his wedding band. Sometimes his hands swell up and it doesn’t fit his ring finger (on these days, if he wears it, he puts it on his pinky finger, which isn’t a problem). Also, his parents work in a factory, so they don’t often wear their rings; he may have developed the habit by seeing his parents’ use of their rings. He also may not see the wedding ring as important as I do.

To me, though, the wedding ring is important. It’s our way of telling the world “I’m taken, I’m off the market.” When he doesn’t wear his ring, I feel as though he doesn’t find it necessary to tell the world he’s taken. It seems as though he spends less time with his ring on than off. I only take my ring off for sleeping, doing dishes, or showering, and it hurts to see that he wears his so rarely.

I’ve mentioned to him several times that I would like him to wear it, and he usually says something about “It wasn’t fitting today” or “I forgot it” but doesn’t actually change anything. Sometimes, if we’re on the way out the door and I see it sitting somewhere, I’ll mention it and he’ll put it on without saying anything or making an excuse, but I don’t want to turn into a nag–I want him to wear it because he wants to show the world he’s married, not because I bug him to.

How can I approach my husband about this without making him feel guilty? I don’t want to cause a fight, but I do want him to see that this is a topic I feel strongly about.

Interesting! Here are a couple of thoughts, in no particular order:

Why you should wear your wedding ring--and your husband should, too!

Make sure his wedding ring fits

Honestly, it’s odd for a man’s hands to change size that much. It could be that his ring is a little on the small side. If his hands swell up a lot and he can’t wear it often, perhaps having it enlarged by half a size would help. I’ve had to have my ring resized several times over our marriage, and my husband has had his resized once. It isn’t really a big deal, and if it’s that much of a problem, it may be worth looking into. People’s hands really don’t change in ring size that dramatically that frequently, so it honestly could be that it’s too small.

Taking your ring off means you’re more likely to lose it

I don’t take my ring off for doing the dishes, showering, or anything. I really NEVER take my ring off unless I’m making meatballs or bread or doing something with food prep that would get it all over my ring. If your ring is sized properly you shouldn’t have to take it off.

Remember, the more you take it off, the more likely you are to lose it. It sounds like he takes his off and leaves it around the house. Bad idea. That is a recipe for losing it! If he needs to take it off for some reason, have him take it off and leave it in a particular place.

Also, if you wear it all the time, it feels really, really odd to have it off. It could be that he’s never worn his for long enough periods of time to make it feel normal to have the ring on. Encouraging him to wear it straight for a week (when it’s been resized) may help to get him to wear it all the time.

Some people have to take their rings off for work

Your husband’s parents had to take them off working in the factory. My husband takes his rings off when he’s in surgery or when he’s working with premature babies. But he always puts them back on. He hides his ring in the car, and then as soon as he’s done work, he puts it back on again. So if your spouse has to take it off at work, perhaps encourage him (or her, if you’re a guy reading this) to leave it in the car so that it’s on at all other times. (I know it can get stolen in the car, but that’s a really remote possibility if you hide it well).

People SHOULD wear their rings

At all times, in public, it’s good to wear a wedding ring. It does show the world you’re taken. It absolutely is important.

So, with that being said, here’s really the most important issue:

Talk to him openly

The real issue here isn’t with rings. It’s with how they learn to communicate the things that are important to them. And I just wonder from this letter writer’s question if she has ever sat down with him and told him flat out how it makes her feel.

I think that many of us assume our husbands know how we feel, and are making a deliberate choice to disregard our feelings and do what they want. But in my experience, it’s far more likely that he has no clue what you’re thinking. And even if you hint at it, (“I see your ring on the table. Do you want to put it on before we go out?”), he may have no idea how important this is to you.

It’s early in your marriage now. You need to get in the habit of sharing how you feel. This doesn’t mean that you have a fight. This is simply sitting him down and explaining how you feel, and then making a request of him.

If he chooses not to follow your request, then you’ve got a bigger issue and you’ll have to decide how to deal with it. I do have other posts on resolving conflict, and you can look them up in my Marriage FAQ page; many are listed there. But with most issues like this, he likely doesn’t know. Unless you talk openly and don’t beat around the bush and make an honest request (“I’d like you to wear your ring unless you can’t because it could get wrecked/dirty”), you don’t know whether he would willingly wear the ring. It may be something he’s just never thought of and doesn’t realize is important to you. So try being open about it, and see what happens!

Can wedding rings lose their significance?

Here’s a very different slant on the wedding ring question:

My husband had an affair and with God at the center of our healing we are working through it. We believe that we have a new covenant within our marriage. The issue is that I still cannot bring myself to wear my rings. He wears his, and I am okay with that since I did not break my vow. I feel that my husband made a promise with the ring he placed on my hand, and he has broken that promise. The ring is not worth a lot monetarily, but it has sentimental value. We plan to renew our vows soon and my husband is going to propose and marry me all over again. I struggle with using the same ring this time or purchasing new rings for a new start. How do you feel about this. Is it just a gem and piece of metal that can be blessed again, or should it be stored away?

First, I am so glad that you are fighting for your marriage and rebuilding it! That is wonderful. An affair does not necessarily mean the marriage is over, and I have known so many couples to emerge even stronger. So great to hear!

As for the ring, if you would like a new one, I don’t think there’s a problem with that (if you can afford it). If you want to use the old one, I certainly think that can be blessed, too. It’s really the meaning that YOU give to the ring. If you would feel more comfortable and excited about a whole new start, and he understands that, then by all means get another ring. But if you want to say, “we’re together forever, and we’re never giving up,” and using the old ring can signify that, then that’s all right as well. It’s what you both think that matters.

So I’m going to throw this one out to the readers and ask them: would you get a new ring if you were in this reader’s position? Or would you use the old one? Leave me your thoughts in the comments and let’s help this woman!