How a Simple “Thank You” Can Transform a Marriage

What a Husband Needs: GratitudeLast Friday I had the tremendous privilege of meeting up with fellow marriage author Shaunti Feldhahn while she was speaking in Ottawa. Shaunti is part of my new Christian Marriage Authors Pinterest Board, and you have one more day to enter our contest to win a marriage library of 12 books!

I took her on a bit of a walk in downtown Ottawa, where we saw the Parliament buildings with the flag at half mast and the War Memorial with the flowers from the recent shooting, but then we went to her event at night where she was sharing about the Secrets of a Happy Marriage.

(Really Bad Selfie Alert: Never let two 40-something women take a selfie together. “How do you hold the phone? Where’s the button? Is this right?”)

SheilaShaunti

I found her talk fascinating, and I’ll be sharing a bunch of her insights over the next few weeks. But I want to start with just one which I think is revolutionary.

Let me tell you the story the way Shaunti told it.

Shaunti is a born researcher. She doesn’t really write marriage advice books as much as she takes surveys, does interviews, looks at the current literature, and then detects trends. Much of her research is first-hand, meaning she conducts it and oversees it herself.

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceA few years ago she started a multi-year project trying to identify what it is that the happiest couples did that set them apart from other couples. So she took over 1000 couples and asked the couples, separately, to rate their marriage from 1-5, with 1 being absolutely amazing and 5 being absolutely lousy.

Then she took all the marriages where the couples BOTH rated it a 1, and looked at what stood out. Interestingly, there were many differences between them and even couples where one rated it a 1 and one rated it a 2. Those successful couples were very unique, and she published her findings in her amazing book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages.

What she found, though, was that it was not big things that made a successful marriage. Certainly there were some things that helped, like coming from an intact family yourself, but much of it was just the little things we do, day by day, without even noticing. Interestingly, when she asked these couples what it is that THEY thought made their marriages good, they were often wrong. They either couldn’t answer, or they said the advice you’re supposed to say (like we always communicate, or we never go to bed angry). But that wasn’t it.

It was often just little tiny things that turned a marriage around.

So let me tell you about one of those little tiny things today.

And to start, let me tell you another story.

Back many years ago when Shaunti was starting her research, she was trying to figure out what made men and women tick. After doing many surveys, she felt she was ready for some intense focus groups. So she had a group of teenage boys in a boardroom setting for a half a day–one of those rooms with a big board table in the middle and then two whiteboards on either side, with those doors that shut to cover the whiteboard. She spend half a day jotting down all the things these boys said about what their greatest need was. They brainstormed and talked and finally figured it out. Then she closed the doors on that whiteboard and brought the girls in.

She asked the girls, “Today we’re going to figure out what it is that girls really need.” One of the girls piped up and said, “I object to that language. We should be talking about what we as PEOPLE need.” Shaunti let that go and she took notes and brainstormed and wrote it all down on the whiteboard. Then she walked over to the other end of the room and opened the doors. Not one single word was the same on both boards. The girls were flabbergasted.

What a husband needs and what a wife needs are very different things.

Shaunti summed it up like this:

A man’s heart question is, “do you think what I do on the outside is good? Am I competent?” A woman’s heart question is, “Am I loveable? Is what I am on the inside attractive to you? Would you choose me again?” Very different.

Shaunti collected this research and published it, but she hit a bit of a wall. She knew her husband needed respect, but how exactly do you show that? You can’t go around all day saying, “Oh, honey, I respect you!” That doesn’t work. You can ask advice, and defer some of your decisions, but there must be something else, right?

And as she was doing this study of successful couples, they pinpointed what it was.

What wives needed was easy. The husbands who said “I love you” and who held hands while walking or touched her in public were answering the question, “would you choose me again” in the affirmative. You bet I would!

What a husband needs was surprising: The wives who said “thank you” communicated that “I think what you just did on the outside was great.”

That’s it. Just saying thank you.

That took me a long time to understand, and I still have to work on it. When I was first married, I used to say to Keith, “I love you so much honey!” I’d say it several times a day, “I love you!” “I love you!” “I love you!”

A few years in he got a little frustrated and said,

I know you love me, Sheila. But sometimes I’d just like to hear WHY you love me.

That threw me. What in the world did he mean? But I started to try to say that more. “You’re so smart!” “You handled that interaction so well!” “You make me feel so protected.”

And now I’ve added trying to thank him for the things that I see him do.

Tell him why you love him!

My friend Sharol calls this “catching him doing good”.

Deliberately look for things that he is doing that are praiseworthy–and then thank him, even if it’s a little thing. Just say thank you.

This seems so little, though. Does it really make that big a difference in marriage? According to Shaunti’s research, it does. But just imagine this: let’s say that there’s tension in the marriage because he’s working hard and he’s not home very much right now. And he’s worried that you’re upset at him, and he feels disconnected. Meanwhile you feel alone and frustrated and really tired. What normally happens? He comes home and you’re a little short with him. He gets defensive because he’s already feeling a little bit like a failure at home. And this is how bigger problems of isolation start.

Follow the Christian Marriage Author Pinterest Board to win a library of Christian marriage books!But what would happen if he came home and you kissed him at the door and said, “thank you for how you provide for our family”? It’s like there was this balloon of tension between you and you just let out all the air. He relaxes. You relax because he’s relaxed. There’s less sniping. And now if you talk tonight there’s not this feeling like anyone’s a failure. You’re on the same team and you’re trying to tackle something together.

Feeling distant today? Just try saying thank you more often.

Whenever he does something that you appreciate, even if it’s something he should be doing anyway, like putting the dishes in the dishwasher, just say thank you. It changes the dynamic, and sometimes that’s all it takes to break through the walls so that you can start feeling close again.

Let me know: Has there ever been a seemingly small thing that has transformed your marriage? Tell me about it in the comments!

And don’t forget to enter our contest to win the marriage library for our new Christian Marriage Authors Pinterest Board! You could win Shaunti’s book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages!

P.S. I will be continuing my “Lies We Believe About Men” series, hopefully later this week. I really enjoyed the first two posts last week! I’m just a little disorganized right now since my final edits are due on my book on Thursday, and I have a million things going around in my head. But I will get to it, I promise!

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Lies We Believe About Men: Men Only Want One Thing

Yesterday I started talking about the lies that women often believe about men. Today I want to tackle another one: Men only want one thing. And I’ve asked Julie Gorman to share an excerpt from her book What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men.

Men only want one thingWhat more could he possibly want from me?

Greg seemed dissatisfied with our love-making. Displeased, discontented, and disappointed. Put a “dis” in front of it, and Greg probably experienced it.

I felt him becoming more and more distant.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, exasperated.

Without skipping a beat, Greg responded. “I want you to want me!”

I seethed with anger and thought to myself. What? You want me to want you? Oh, please! Get over yourself. I am so sick and tired of not measuring up to your standards. Why am I never enough for you? I never deny you sex. Give me a break!

“I don’t want to just have sex with you, Julie. I want you to want me,” Greg continued. “I don’t just want to have sex. I want to make love. I want to connect. I want you to want to kiss me passionately.”

TV scenarios of women dropping everything to respond passionately to their lover’s touch flashed through my mind.

Seriously, Greg? You’re going to complain about my level of passion now? Most men would feel ecstatic if their wife didn’t say no to their physical advances. It’s not enough that I push my fatigue to the side to engage with you in bed? It’s not enough that when I’m not in the mood I willingly avail my body. No, that’s not enough for you! Now, you want me to rip off your T-shirt at the drop of a hat and be some bubbling bombshell who …

Greg interrupted my thoughts. “Julie, I just want you to want me.” It was the third time he’d used that phrase, and I couldn’t take it any longer.

“You want me to want you?” I erupted. “Greg, I have never denied your needs. I’ve never declined your advances. I’ve never—ever—ever said no to you!” I snarled with prideful disdain. He couldn’t rebuff that!

“You’re right. You may have never said no, Julie … but you’ve also never said yes.”

As I looked into my husband’s eyes, I saw something I never noticed before. Greg displayed a passion for me, not just my body. I began to realize he wanted me to say yes to him in my heart, to love him with my soul, to connect with him in my mind. And so did God!

Unfortunately, my view of sex swung on a pendulum of great extremes, both of which were wrong! On one side, I manipulated sex to maintain and keep Greg’s affection. On the other side I despised and held sex in contempt, secretly angry and privately disgusted by its demands. I performed sex out of fear of what would happen if I didn’t. My limiting thoughts stifled my expression of love. I didn’t want to feel that way, but I couldn’t help how I felt. I desperately needed God’s intervention to overcome the lie that Men only want one thing.

Here’s the danger of believing that lie.

As a single person, if I believe that Men only want one thing, I am more likely to make concessions to my faith and compromise my standards, believing this is what I’m supposed to do next.

As a married woman, if I believe Men only want one thing, I’m tempted to treat sex as an item on my busy to-do list. Let’s see: I dropped off the dry cleaning, check. Chauffeured the kids to school, check. Made dinner by 6:00, check! Had sex with my husband, check! Check! Check! And, in the process, I miss out on the sexual intimacy and oneness God intended.

The deception that a man only wants one thing violates God’s design.

It mis-aligns God’s plan. God intended sex as a celebration of oneness—oneness of body, mind, and spirit reserved for the union of a husband and wife in holy marriage.

Married women, ask, “Do I express tenderness and connection in my love-making?” If not, ask God for a greater intimacy and renewed passion.

Single women, ask, “Have I given away my affection outside of God’s design?” If so, ask for His forgiveness, and commit to express sexual intimacy only within the confines of marriage.

God wants husbands and wives to enjoy His gift of sexual intimacy within the confines of marriage. He desires us to celebrate the marriage bed and keep it holy. And within the confines of marriage, God encourages us to drink in intimacy and embrace unity with our spouse, not treat sex as another duty needing to be checked off our ever-growing list of responsibilities.

For more help on this topic, pick up a copy of What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men. You’ll discover strategic Scriptures, questions, and practical applications to align your thoughts with God’s and life-transforming insights on how to experience a more intimate relationship with Him.

What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men: 12 Secrets Toward Greater IntimacyGorman-Standing-2Excerpted from What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men by Julie Gorman. Copyright ©Julie Gorman. Published by Authentic Publishers; used by permission. Article originally published in WHOA Magazine for Women, Volume 4, Issue 2, spring 2014. Visit Julie’s website and hear her radio program at juliegorman.com.

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

This One Tip Revolutionized Our Marriage

Tip_1Today, welcome Kyle Gabhart, author of The Phoenix Marriage, who wanted to share how to revolutionize your marriage.  His experiential story will change how you see your spouse!

One weekend in February of 2013, my wife and I attended a weekend marriage conference that rocked our world. The workshop was presented by Dr. David and Teresa Ferguson at our local church. We had so many amazing realizations that weekend, but one of those stands out more than any other. Dr Ferguson walked the couples through a simple visualization exercise:

Imagine you are sitting next to God and both of you are gazing a short distance away toward your mate. Rather than seeing him or her as your spouse, try to imagine what God sees – His child. Uniquely created for a divine purpose, He has cared for and nurtured this child for years. Now ask Father God what He loves about His child. What is it about him or her that delights the Father? What special qualities has He uniquely placed within him or her and why did He choose this person to be your soul’s mate?

This simple exercise transformed our marriage. Our physical eyes that saw only chores and bills and schedules were exchanged for spiritual eyes to see one another with grace, compassion, and love.

How do you see your mate?

If your marriage is anything like ours used to be, you likely see your spouse in terms of his or her function. Your mate is a partner that helps with chores, finances, logistics with the kiddos, and makes sure you never have to go alone to the movies. While all of those are true, they only scratch the surface. All of those functional elements are generic qualities which would be applicable to anyone operating in the role of husband or wife. Beneath that surface layer is someone specially crafted to share a life and a mission with you. Yet, losing sight of this truth is so easy to do.

This one tip revolutionized our marriage--see like God does!

What does God see?

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” -I Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

God sees His son or His daughter. He sees a precious child whom He uniquely endowed with talents and capabilities. Your spouse didn’t come from a mold. There was no factory assembly line. This was a custom job for a specific purpose. God lovingly crafted your husband or wife and chose to trust you with loving this person for the rest of your life. Before the two of you even met, He was delighting in this person every day. Long before the two of you said your vows, He was weeping over your mate’s failures and celebrating each success. He LOVES your mate unconditionally. Do you?

Honor your mate

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose.” -Proverbs 16:3-4 (ESV)

The Lord has made EVERYTHING for its purpose, your spouse included. Those qualities that annoy you most, may actually be a side effect of the unique gifts that your spouse has been blessed with by God! My wife sometimes gets frustrated by my absent-mindedness. But this is just a natural side effect of being a thoughtful and introspective person. These are the very same qualities that I use in ministering to her heart and shepherding marriages on a daily basis! Likewise, I tend to get aggravated by Tammy’s insistence that we leave on time to get to places we need to go, and yet it’s this very quality that makes her so invaluable to managing our crazy family of eight!

Commit to honoring your mate. If one or more qualities bother you, ask God to help you see why He created them that way. Chances are, you’re missing out on an incredible aspect of your spouse. Then once you discover it, commit to celebrating this quality of your mate and praise them for it. The dynamic of your relationship will radically change when you honor your mate’s uniqueness by seeing them the way Jesus does.

Kyle and DebbieThe Phoenix Marriage: God Creates Beauty Out of AshesKyle Gabhart is a devoted husband and father of 6. He is also a blogger, public speaker, entrepreneur, and author of the the newly released The Phoenix Marriage. He and his wife Tammy, founded Equip Your Marriage, a faith-based ministry dedicated to empowering, equipping, and restoring marriages. Kyle is an avid soccer player and board game enthusiast, but he prides himself on being a constant embarrassment to his children.

WEBSITEEquip Your Marriage

BOOK: Phoenix Marriage

 

Marriage Box

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! This week I’m taking a hiatus while I finish the edits to my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and so I’ve asked  guest poster Darlene Lopez to tell us about her marriage box–and how it changed the way she saw her relationship.

When I got married 13 years ago we were given a beautiful wooden  box with this poem, Marriage Box, written in it.

Marriage Box

This box truly has been an inspiration to me in my marriage. Marriage truly is like an empty box. Many people get married for all the wrong reasons and have an abundant of expectations when they get married, I was one of them. I thought marriage was going to be filled with all sorts of companionship, sex, love, romance, intimacy, prayer, Bible studies, understanding, deep friendship and love. Boy, was I  wrong.

I found out that marriage truly is empty unless you are infusing into it daily.

The truth is marriage at the start is in fact like an empty box. There really is nothing in it at the beginning. All the things you look for in marriage is really what is in the other person and it is up to both of you to infuse those things into your marriage lest it become an empty box. You can not day after day take out of your box if you don’t put something in it to withdrawal from. It reminds of a bank account. You can not keep spending and withdrawing money from your bank account if you have not deposited any money into it. If you attempt to do so, you will find your account over drawn and eventually the account will need to be closed because you were irresponsible and unable to maintain it.Early on in my marriage I would complain about my husband not being romantic enough, affectionate enough, serving enough, loving enough, not spiritual enough etc.

I remember being reminded daily as I saw the wooden box sit on our bedroom dresser, that marriage was like an empty box. As I complained about how “empty” my marriage felt and how lonely I felt, God showed me that it was because I was withdrawing more than I had deposited. I was in the “negative” so to speak.

I remember calling my husband during the day frustrated and overwhelmed with homeschooling and housework. I’d want him to drop all he was doing to pray with me, I had no consideration that he was working nor did I care that he didn’t need the added stress. To top it off when he would get home, dinner wouldn’t be ready, I’d have him make dinner because after all I had been with 5 children all day. I wanted him to rub my feet while I relaxed, I was very selfish always wanting to be served, even sex became all about me and my needs. I was taking so much out our marriage box and would rarely deposit anything in it. If I did manage to make a deposit I was sure to take out my portion before my husband took out a with-drawl.
I would daily look at that box and it would serve as a reminder to daily pour into my marriage.When I would take out, there was a sense of entitlement, after all I had infused whatever I took out into my marriage so I had every right to take out my fair share.

I remember keeping a running tab and account on how much my husband was infusing and putting it.

It was terrible. Can you imagine the kind of wife my husband had to endure?  Just thinking about how I behaved makes me sick.I remember if he wanted to be intimate sexually, I would check our marriage box to see if he had infused romance lately and it had to be in the form that I approved. If he didn’t read or pray with me, then he had no right to to tell me how to behave spiritually. If he didn’t listen to me then I wouldn’t listen to him.Marriage isnt 50-50 its 100-100

Our marriage became this you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back kind of love.  The only problem,  I was so quick to point out when he wasn’t scratching my back and therefore I would withhold scratching his.

How horrible to live this way. I was so judgmental, always pointing out his faults/failures as a man and leader of our home.  We both were miserable.

I knew the scriptures, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love thy neighbor as thy self.

You see,  It was not a love issue for me, I loved my husband. I loved him the same way and as much as he loved me.

Until one day, I was reading and the words of Jesus to His disciples really penetrated my heart so deep. They were the words in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

I was hit with the pondering truth of the love of Jesus.

Jesus was calling me to a different kind of love, a gospel kind of love. If I was going to love my husband the way Jesus said to, then I would need to think about how he loved me.

This led me to the cross. The cross is where love was demonstrated and ultimately on display for all to see. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Scarcely, would one die for a righteous man but Jesus laid his life down willingly for the joy that was set before him.

He showed us what love is. He loves without condition, without reservation, and without wanting anything in return. His love is unconditional.  This is gospel centered love.

Jesus love isn’t a if you do this or that then I will love you, but rather nothing can separate us from the love of God neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a glorious love indeed. I remember after reading and thinking about the way Jesus loved me the next question was this, “Is this enough for me?”  Was the way Jesus loved me enough to compel me to love my husband the same way, or would I continue to love my way, the way I had been, the if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back kind of way?  Was Jesus enough for me?

This is what it boils down to in marriage, it isn’t about putting in–in order to take out.  It isn’t about serving to be served, loving to be loved, nor giving to get.

It’s about sacrificially laying down your life, saying my life is yours.

Marriage represents Christ and the Church, we wives represent the bride of Christ to an unsaved world. Therefore, the way we love our husbands shows the world our love to Christ.

The gospel in marriage changes our attitudes from a serve me attitude to a glorify God and love my spouse attitude.

The gospel is enough and until Jesus satisfies you, you will continue to love selfishly.

 

WIN_20140829_115619 (2)Darlene Lopez  I am vintage_retro_women_kitsch_50s_kitchen_magic_postcard-r1bc589a962f149588e409401d9d4f2c9_vgbaq_8byvr_512a wife of 13 years, mother to 5 (including a set of twins), keeper of my home but most of all I am a  blood bought saint.  By the grace of God I am raising a generation of  future homemakers and men. I am passionate about herbalism/natural living and love to inspire and motivate other homemakers to love their husbands and chidlren. I am learning that I am more sinful than I ever knew yet more loved than I ever imagined. You can read more about my journey at http://homemakingforrealwomen.blogspot.com/.

Christian Marriage Advice

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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.



Embracing Your Friendship: Stop Drifting Apart

Stop Drifting Apart: Staying close in marriage even during seasons of distance

Everyone has what I call “seasons of distance” in their marriages where drifting apart seems imminent.

They’re inevitable, and they’re usually no one’s fault. My husband and I are just emerging from a “season of distance” when he had a combination of a heavy call schedule and a conference, so he was only home three nights in two weeks. At the same time I’m desperately trying to finish the edits for my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and I’m under deadline. So he’s gone and I’m stressed, and neither of us feels really supported. But it’s no one’s fault.

I remember another big season of distance where we seemed to drift apart: Keith was finishing up his residency in pediatrics and had to study for his pediatric exams. At the same time we had a baby and a toddler, and I was quite simply exhausted. Again, neither of us felt we had the support we needed because we both had so much on our plates, it was hard to be there for each other even though we wanted to.

A friend of mine is entering a season of distance as her dad starts chemotherapy this morning in a city two hours away from where she lives. She’ll be spending a lot of time supporting her parents over the next few weeks and months trying to help her dad get more comfortable and deal with the pain of the tumour, which is likely ultimately fatal.

These are all stressful times where you begin drifting apart if you’re not careful–and again, they’re no one’s fault. It’s just life.

Today I’m part of the Embrace Your Marriage virtual conference, running every Monday in September. Today is the last installment, and we’re looking at how to embrace your friendship. I thought I’d take a bit of a different tack this morning: how do you keep a friendship and still feel close during these seasons of distance which pull you apart?

I’ve written before about keeping a friendship with your husband–about finding hobbies to do together, and spending time together, and walking together, and I absolutely believe in these things. But my husband and I do have hobbies and we do have things we do together, and yet that didn’t come into play at all in the last few weeks. Sometimes you can know how to build a friendship, but you go through seasons where those things aren’t enough or aren’t always possible. Then what do you do?

I’m a big believer in this “turn a bad day into good data” philosophy–or, in other words, instead of getting mad at yourselves for messing up, look at what happened to make you mess up and then figure out how to avoid it in the future.

As I shared earlier, I really did mess up during this season of distance. I let the fact that we were both feeling isolated take over my emotions and started a rather meaningless fight, and I’m really sorry for it. But looking back I can see where we went wrong, so I’d like to share a few pointers for these seasons of distance to see how we can keep them from pulling us apart emotionally, even if we’re apart physically.

4 Ways to Keep from Drifting Apart During Stressful Times in a Marriage

1. Talk Everyday

Check in everyday if you’re apart from each other and really talk. It doesn’t have to be for long, but actually share something meaningful.

Think about it this way: there are different levels of initimacy when you communicate. You can share facts–“today was so busy and I didn’t get done the chapter I had to finish.” You can share opinions–“I really think the chapter’s good the way it is and I don’t want to change it.” And then you can share feelings–“I’m just so overwhelmed, and I’m worried that nothing that I’m saying is even very profound.”

A lot of times when we’re busy we tend to stick to the facts and opinions level of intimacy. We don’t really go down to share feelings–or even fears.

And what makes you feel like you’re drifting apart? When you feel as if your spouse doesn’t understand the big things going on in your heart, or all the big things that you do.

So here’s a suggestion: Everyday, even if you only have a few minutes to talk, share your “high” and your “low”. Or share your biggest success and your biggest disappointment from the day. When were you happiest/most proud? When were you feeling worst about yourself? They don’t have to be big things, but they have to reflect real emotions. And as you share, you’ll likely figure things out for yourself, too. Sometimes we don’t even realize what the source of your angst was all day until you think about it (“I got a really nasty email from a co-worker and I didn’t know how to process it and it hung over my head all day, even though the co-worker has no power over me.”)

2. Talk About the Little Things

Talk about the Little Things!

The “high” “low” exercise lets you talk about feelings. But don’t neglect the little things, because most of our life is little things. If you want to feel as if your spouse knows what’s going on in your life, then share those little things, too. You can call it your “check-in” exercise. Each of you take turns, where you don’t interrupt each other, and share for about 5 minutes all the things that happened in your day. That way you’re up to date, and you feel as if the person does share your life.

3. Leave Well

When you’re parting, whether it’s saying good-bye on the phone or saying good-bye when your spouse leaves for work, leave well. If you’re in person, see them to the door. And then ask these two questions: “What can I do for you today?” And “How can I pray for you today?” Just two questions. In times of busy-ness these matter so much–they say, “even if I’m busy today, I’m going to take the time to pray for you, and I’m going to do something for you, because you matter.”

2 Questions to Ask To Keep Your Marriage Strong

4. Don’t Bring Up Big Issues

Here’s the final one: put those big issues on the back burner. If you feel distant, if you feel like he’s not a good parent, if you feel as if you’re not resolving a big conflict–don’t talk about it. Here’s why: when you go through seasons of distance, your mind will automatically make these issues bigger than they really are. In fact, your mind may even create issues that aren’t there (mine did).

Decide that in your marriage you will regularly talk about issues when you have time, not when you’re both stressed. In these busy times problems are magnified, so trying to talk about them is unlikely to solve them, and will likely increase the feeling of distance. Keep them until you have time again.

I didn’t do all of these things during the last few weeks, and I really regret it. In fact, my husband and I are talking about implementing these four things more regularly right now. I don’t want to feel distant again when it’s no one’s fault.

I could say more about what to do to keep a friendship close–stay off of screens at least for part of the evening, go for walks together, go to bed at the same time. These are all important. But sometimes I think these four things are all you can do. In those seasons of life where life is almost too much, these four things will keep your head above water in your marriage.

So now I’d like to know, what do you do in seasons of distance? What do you do to stay close when life is pulling you apart? Share it in the comments.

And here’s your Embrace your Friendship Challenge all of us are giving today: Carve out some time to spend together. Do something that takes your minds off of screen time. Then make it a habit.

So far in Embrace Your Marriage, I’ve talked about:

Embracing Grace
Embracing Change
Embracing Your Differences
Embracing Oneness

And all the other bloggers have, too! Today, you can follow their links and see what they say about embracing oneness in your marriage.

Embrace Your Marriage Virtual Marriage Retreat

Lisa: Club 31 Women
Jennifer: Unveiled Wife
Courtney: Women Living Well
Ashleigh: Ashleigh Slater
Darlene: The Time Warp Wife

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For the Guys: When Your Wife Hates Sex

My Wife Hates Sex: What To Do

Usually I write this blog for women, but I do have a fair number of men who read it, and I get emails all the time from men saying, “my wife hasn’t had sex with me in months. She hates sex, just doesn’t think it’s important, and I don’t know what to do.”

One man writes:

What once (far too long ago) was vibrant, ecstatic, passionate and FREQUENT has become flat, robotic duty-oriented and only frequent enough to miss the definition of sexless. (yes, she actually brought that up in an argument once. She “makes sure” we have sex at least 10-times-a-year so I can’t say it’s a sexless marriage). This has been a downward spiral since we became pregnant with our middle daughter nearly 10 years ago. She had complications with that pregnancy, and I was afraid to hurt her, so we went for 10 months without sex. Steadily, over time, the variety of positions diminished as well. Now about the only “acceptable” position is with her on top.

Over the last year, or so, we’ve fought less and talked more about this and frequency is improving (on average about two or two-and-a-half weeks between encounters.) But it is still a major wedge between us. I fully accept responsibility for allowing our sex life to dissipate. I allowed myself to become bitter and selfish because my needs weren’t being met; deeply un-Jesus of me. I am working to die to myself and my needs, sacrificing myself for my wife in an effort to more fully live out the command of Eph. 5:25, but I struggle SO DEEPLY with feelings of resentment, anger and hunger for my wife.

She is in a very stressful season of life right now, and inasmuch as I know that frequent MEANINGFUL sex could help de-stress her, right now it’s just one more stressor on her to-do list. A messy, unpleasant chore.

And so I thought I’d write a post for the guys on what to do when your wife hates sex.

Figure Out Why Your Wife Doesn’t Like Sex

All of us–yes, even women!–were born with a sex drive. We were created to want to make love and to experience intimacy that way. Unfortunately, that often gets short circuited, and many women “turn off”. It’s important to figure out why. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Sexual abuse in the past
  • Feeling ashamed of sex and sexuality because of how she was raised or because of sexual experiences before marriage
  • Simple exhaustion and busy-ness
  • Physical problems (ie. it hurts, or they have low testosterone)
  • Emotional problems (problems with vulnerability, letting go, trust, always has to be in control)
  • Relationship issues (feeling distant from you)

Scenario 1: Relationship Issues

It’s really important to first examine yourself and make sure that relationship issues are not the cause. But, if they are–let’s say that you used porn in the past and really hurt her that way, or you’ve both been fighting a lot–the good news is that this is likely the easiest one to get over, because it’s largely in your control. You can talk to her honestly, tell her you love her, show her in word and deed that you care about her, help around the house, tell her she’s beautiful, and make every effort to acknowledge that you recognize the problem and that you take it seriously and that you will address it.

This may take a while for her to feel close to you again, but if you persist, it will likely get better.

For most marriages where this happens, though, I think #3–simple exhaustion and busy-ness, is the main culprit. It’s not a relationship issue, it’s not a psychological issue, she just never seems interested. She’s totally shut down. So let’s turn to that for a moment.

Scenario 2: Your Wife Hates Sex but There’s No Obvious Reason

Other than exhaustion, it doesn’t seem like there’s a reason. Your wife has time for everything but you, and you’re feeling really neglected and really sad and rather desperate.

I think this is the most common reason, and I want to try to explain what your wife is likely feeling.

Have you ever gone grocery shopping after you’ve had a big meal? It’s actually not that easy to do. You pick up something off of the shelf, and then quite often you put it back because  you can’t imagine ever eating it.

When you’re full, it’s very hard to imagine feeling hungry. When you’re full, it’s hard to imagine even wanting to eat a particular thing. Foods that would normally tempt you–say, chocolate cheesecake–just don’t seem that alluring.

Many women walk through life with that kind of feeling about sex. But how can they, if they’re not “full”, so to speak? It’s as if their libidos don’t exist. When women don’t make love for a long time, their libidos often go into hibernation, because for women libido is a use it or lose it phenomenon. And when your libido is in hibernation, you can’t even picture wanting to make love. It doesn’t even compute. You can’t imagine your body feeling that way.

So there you are, desperate for sex, and your wife acts like it doesn’t even exist and it’s rather distasteful. In this particular letter writer’s case, this could very well be a factor. They were having frequent sex; then they went ten months without it and she never regained her sex drive.

So what do you do? You simply have to talk to her. Don’t give her a guilt trip, like “you’re my wife and you aren’t supposed to deprive me” because guilt sex is totally unsexy. You want her to feel sexy again; you don’t want to give her another reason to hate sex!

Instead, talk about intimacy. You want to feel close. You want to experience that with her. You feel as if you guys are missing out on such a great part of life, and you want to try. Tell her about the use it or lose it thing, and ask if you could even try to schedule sex, twice a week, for a month and see what that does. But again, talk to her about intimacy and having fun and joy and experiencing something together, do not talk to her about what she owes you, or about how frustrated you are. The more you talk about how frustrated you are, the more you sound like some lesser being who can’t control himself. I know that’s harsh, but when a woman has no libido, someone who does can look kind of pathetic, like they can’t control themselves. That’s why keeping the conversation focused on intimacy is better.

Share with her this post on why you want her to start the sexual journey with you

Scenario 3: Physical, Psychological, or Emotional Issues She Needs Help For

Many women who hate sex do so for good reason. Maybe they were abused. Maybe they grew up in an environment where they had no control over anything, and they refuse to lose control now. Maybe they were shamed as children. In this letter writer’s case, I wonder if control issues also play a part. She had a difficult pregnancy (very scary for a woman), and now the only position she wants is the one where she is in control. She may have a few control/trust issues that she needs to work out.

These are deep seated issues that affect sex so much for women, because sex is an intensely personal thing for us. We’re literally letting someone else into our bodies. And our sexual response is far more in our heads than yours is. Yes, there are certain parts of our bodies that feel really good when stimulated, but they only feel good if our heads are in the game. If we don’t want to do it, we won’t feel good. We’re brain-centred  rather than genitalia-centred.

If she has these issues, then, they need to be dealt with before she’ll ever be able to enjoy sex fully. She needs to get some outside help, and ideally that would involve talking to a counselor who is trained in this sort of thing.

The problem is that because she doesn’t want sex, she’s likely perfectly able to keep going through life just as she is. It’s you that’s suffering, even though she’s the one who is hurt. That means that she doesn’t feel any urgent need to get help. Talking to her again and showing her that she does need to address it is crucial.

But perhaps when you talk to her about it she gets defensive and breaks down in tears right away and starts talking about how awful she is, and then you have to reassure her and you never get anywhere. That’s a very common scenario, too.

In that case, I’d take this tack with her:

“Honey, I’m not going to divorce you. Stop saying that. That’s a copout. You’re trying to push me away so that you don’t have to deal with your issues. I am not leaving. I am not going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to stand back and see you punishing yourself like this. For whatever reason, you are determined to live a small life and lose out on some of the huge blessings that God wants to give you. What kind of husband would I be if I let you do that? I’m responsible before God for you. He will hold me accountable for how I treated you. And when you push me away, or say that you just can’t work on this, that it’s too hard on you, I understand, but it’s not good enough. What you’re really saying is, “God created me for an abundant life, but He didn’t really mean it. He meant it for everyone but me. He made me broken.” And He didn’t.

What this really comes down to, honey, is an issue of faith, not an issue of sex. Do you believe that God is good? Do you believe that God loves you? Do you believe that God wants the best for you? Because if He does, then He wants to bless our marriage. And He wants us to feel really intimate. And He wants us to feel like we’re truly connected. You’re walling yourself off because you’re afraid to be vulnerable. And when you do that, you can’t grow. So you’re copping out on God, too.”

I know that may sound harsh for you to say to her, but it’s the truth.

And then try this,

“Honey, for the next two months, I don’t want to talk about sex or concentrate on sex. What I want to do is really work on our spiritual intimacy. As your husband, I want to pray over you every night, and ask God to bless you. I want to read Scripture with you every night, even if it’s just a chapter. And I want to pray together with you for our kids.

And in those two months, I’d like to pay for you to see a counselor. I’ll go too if you want, but I’d really like you to find someone to talk to so that we can get to the root of this. I don’t want to see you living your life small. I want you to live a life full of passion in every way, and I think God wants that for you, too”

Now counselors cost quite a bit–often $100 an hour. But let’s say that your wife needs 12-15 sessions. That’s $1500. Is that a lot? Yep. But as an investment in your marriage? It’s priceless. If you can afford it, please do, and tell her that she shouldn’t feel badly about the money.

And if it’s not a counselor she needs, perhaps it’s just a doctor to check her testosterone levels, or an ob/gyn or Christian sex therapist to help her through vaginismus (pain during sex) issues. Whoever she should go to, do your research and have it all figured out.

As for how  you act during those two months, pray a lot. Eventually work up to just holding each other, naked, without having sex. Let her start to feel close to you and accepted by you and intimate. And don’t give up! Keep telling her that no matter how hard she pushes you away, you’re going to fight for her.

Scenario 4: She Won’t Get Outside Help

You’ve talked to her. You’ve prayed over her. And she absolutely refuses to get help.

At this point it’s likely time to involve a third party. She is hurting herself. God created us for passion, and she is unable to feel it. As her husband, you are responsible for her, and you do need to help her find that healing.

So insist that you talk to a counselor or pastor together. Insist that she get help. If she won’t, talk to a pastor or counselor yourself and ask the best way to handle this. Talk to a few select men that you can trust to pray with you and figure out a strategy. But leaving it alone is not a good idea, because God wants healing for her. He wants love and intimacy for you. And He wants your kids to witness a vibrant marriage.

Good Girls Guide My SiteWhere to Go Now

A few more thoughts. If your wife has never seen sex as a positive thing, she may benefit from reading The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. It explains how sex is far more than physical, and shows how it can actually be a beautiful, intimate thing. Many women have written me saying that they always felt sex was somehow dirty, but after reading it, they understand it so much better now. That may help her.

31 Days to Great SexAnd if you are ready to start again, the 31 Days to Great Sex challenge can help you ease into things. You don’t have to have sex for 31 days straight; many of the challenges aren’t sex, but are learning how to flirt again, how to be affectionate again, how to talk about sex. And you can stretch it out for more than 31 days. I do talk about libido differences and how to deal with them, and how to see sex in a positive framework. So it can be a fun one to work through.

I want to say to you guys dealing with this, I understand how hard it is. I’m sorry you’re walking through this. You are not alone. God does want more for your marriage. And I pray that something I said can help you find it.

6 Ways to Listen Well

6 ways to listen

Today, please welcome Time-Warp Wife,  Darlene Schacht. She has a way with telling truth–in a way that packs a punch. Here she is talking about learning how to listen.

Poetry… I’ve read Dr. Seuss. Does that count?

Ask me to write a poem, and I’m lost. Seriously. I wouldn’t know a good poem if it was staring me in the face. On the other hand, my niece Stephanie is an incredible poet. At least I think she is. I’ve never known enough about poems to tell for sure, but she puts pen to paper and off she goes creating beautiful words. The fact that she does it with ease tells me she knows what she’s doing.

A few years ago, she told me they were having an “open-mic night” at a bookstore downtown, and asked me to come along.

Why not? I figured it would be a fun way to spend an evening with her. The only problem was that it wasn’t exactly fun. It was kind of boring to be honest with you. Every writer had about 10 minutes to read while the rest of us spent the time picking at hang nails, surveying the crowd, and counting the number of chairs in the room–anything to keep us from falling asleep.

The only people who seemed to be enjoying themselves were the ones standing up at the podium. One by one they took their place up on stage excited to share their words with the world. Once their ten minutes of fame came to a close, they had a few of their own hangnails to pull.

Later that week, I asked Stephanie why she hadn’t stepped up with the rest of the writers. Why didn’t she read her poems?

Her answer is one that stuck with me…

She said that she used to be a big part of that crowd, but what she realized after a while was that everyone was there to be heard, but few came to listen. She made a choice that she wanted to give herself to the art instead of taking something away. Sounds like a true poet to me.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. – James 1:19

It’s true to life too, isn’t it?

While most of us want to be heard, few of us take the time to listen as much as we speak.

Sure I listen, but to tell you the truth most of the time that I’m listening to someone, I’m thinking about what I’m going to say next.

It’s hard to “hear” when you’re not listening, isn’t it?

We had a friend once who had the gift of listening. Did you know that listening was a gift? Neither did I, but I’m calling it one today, okay? We could be in a room full of people, but as soon as I opened my mouth to speak he leaned in, focused on what I was saying, and hung on every word that I said. Not just me, it was my husband, it was our friends–it was anyone and everyone that wanted to talk.

I’m not so gifted, which is why I have to exercise myself in this area.

 Stopping to listen to someone with both ears, is a way of showing compassion. It tells them that you care about their words. Whether they have good news to share or they’re looking for a listening ear, what they’re really wanting from you is someone who’s present in the moment. What they need is someone who values them enough to consider their words.

When Michael and I used to talk–in the early years of marriage–I didn’t understand what he needed from me. My idea of listening to him was searching for a solution, before having my turn on the soapbox.

Some days he’d tell me about a bad day at work and by the end of the conversation we were both more frustrated than we were at the start.

It wasn’t until he finally said to me,I just need you to listen to me. That’s all. I’m not looking for a magic solution–I just need my wife.” 

exchanging ideasAnd so when it comes to our marriage, listening has become a part of my vow.

My goal is to listen to him and to consider his words, before I speak an encouraging word.

And how do I do that?

Here are six ways to listen well, that I have been learning:

1.  Practice – Listening takes patience and it takes restraint. Neither of those things come easy without practice.

2.  Get Focused – Carve out time to listen to each other in a quiet place free of distractions. Maybe go for a walk or grab a coffee together.

3.  Remember, You’re Not a Therapist – Listening well doesn’t mean that you have to have all of the answers. In fact some times advice is the last thing they want. What the person needs more than anything is empathy first. Just being there for them is a gift in itself.

4.  Ask Questions – The best way to continue a conversation and keep the ball in their court is to ask questions about the situation. And don’t forget about these questions as well: Is there anything I can do? How would you like me to pray?

5.  Don’t Bathe in the Spotlight – One of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome as a listener is my tendency to ignore what they’re saying while I’m thinking of my own story to tell.

6.  Lean in to Give Eye Contact – Two of the best listeners I’ve ever met have great body language. You could be standing in the midst of a multitude and feel like you’re the only two people on earth.

Learning how to listen isn’t hard. It just takes practice.

Stop what you’re doing to listen. Don’t sit there looking around at other people or hailing down a waitress for more sugar. Engage with the person you’re talking to. Give them eye contact. Immerse yourself in their words.

Lord, teach how to listen, how to be present in the moment, so that I too might bring a gift.

 

Messy Beautiful LoveDarlene SchachtDarlene Schacht is the original founder of Christian Women Online Magazine and The Internet Café Devotions and writes the popular blog Time-Warp Wife. She is coauthor of Candace Cameron Bure’s New York Time’s best-selling book, Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness. Darlene has been married to Michael Schacht for more than 25 years. They have four children.

Check out Darlene’s new book, Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages, which releases today!

 

Embracing Change in Your Marriage

Facing Change as a Couple

Last week I went out for dinner with some dear friends Derek and Lisa and their two boys. My husband and I and my two daughters have been camping with them every summer for almost 16 years, and our kids are great friends. Derek has a job that keeps him away from home quite a bit, but last week he made a point of being home for dinner on multiple nights. Often his job doesn’t allow him that luxury, but he put his foot down and insisted.

He wanted to be there for Lisa, because last week their oldest son started college in another town, and he knew it would be difficult for her.

But that’s not all. As we headed out to the parking lot to our cars after our meal, he put his arm around her and he said, “Next year Paul will be gone, too, and I’ll be all Lisa has. I want to make sure there’s something left of us so she still wants to be with me.”

He was laughing when he said it, but that’s a serious concern, and Derek’s right. This year brought a big change to their marriage, but next year will bring an explosive one. And so they’re preparing.

I know how they feel, because I’m in the same boat. This is my last year with Katie (meet her here!) at home, and I’m relishing my time with her. But Keith and I are also planning things to do shortly after she leaves so the change won’t be as jarring.

It will be a big change, but marriage is full of change.

Today I’m part of an “Embrace Your Marriage” virtual marriage retreat, where 6 bloggers all talk about an aspect of marriage. And this week we’re tackling this idea of embracing the change that comes in marriage. Last week I did my “typical” thing and talked about sex (I am the Christian sex lady after all), but today we’re tackling change.

Our marriage has seen some major changes.

We started out marriage as students, and then later with Keith as a doctor and me as a SAHM. I transitioned into writing, and we had to find time for me to do that while still homeschooling our girls. But we’ve lived through other changes, too.

Our sex life was just started to get better when I got pregnant. And nauseous. Remember those days?

We were starting to feel like life was going well when our second child was born with a heart defect, and later passed away.

We’ve lived in downtown Toronto and then in a small town. We’ve moved. Keith has switched jobs. We’ve switched churches.

And all of these things has brought stress. Take the most apparently mundane thing there: Moving. We live in a large house, and in a lot of ways it would make sense to move when Katie leaves. But there is no way I’m moving again, because I read a study once that said that moving takes 6 months of productivity out of your life, and I believe it. You have to pack up your house. You have to keep it clean so you can sell it. Then you have to physically move. You have to unpack. You have to get used to where things are in the house now. You have to figure out where you’ll go grocery shopping and where things are. It’s exhausting. And I don’t want to do it again.

Change isn’t nice, and yet change is inevitable.

And if there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it’s this:

Hold on to everything on earth lightly, but hold on to God tightly. (click to tweet!)

Hold on to everything on earth lightly, and to God tightly. -- Sheila Wray Gregoire

I know it sounds like I should be saying hold on to your husband tightly, and I do believe that, too. But I think the most important part of navigating change is actually navigating our own attitude. And often the reason we don’t like change is because we begin to get too comfortable in the life we have, and then we resent it when we have to give it up. Or perhaps we get this picture of what life “should” be, and when life changes, we get resentful at those around us who caused the change.

But this life is not meant to be your real life; your real life is with God, and this is only temporary. When we keep our focus on God, then we’re better able to navigate change.

Here are just a few other principles to help:

1. Keep a Friendship with Your Husband

No matter where you are in life right now–whether you’re pregnant, or working opposite shifts, or getting out of bankruptcy, or preparing for a move, keep spending time with your husband, like my friend Derek did. Often people justify not spending time, saying, “this is just a phase, and it will pass, and so right now I have to throw myself into my work/kids/church.” There may be a time for that (I remember an email I received from a woman who was spending six months across the country away from her husband, because her son was sick and needed treatment at a specific hospital, and she was going with him. In that case, there was little they could do except for Skyping a lot.

But in general, do not say, “this is just a phase, so we’ll spend time together later.” You don’t know what other changes will come. Always keep your marriage as your first earthly priority.

2. Recognize that Change is Stressful–Even if it’s Good Change

We humans crave routine. We want to know what’s coming, so that we don’t have to expend so much emotional energy figuring out what we’re going to do everyday. So change–even if it’s good change–is stressful.

In those periods of “good” stress, like having a new baby, a new job, or a new house, cling to each other even more.

3. Change Together

I am not the same woman who walked down the aisle, and Keith is not the same man who was waiting for me. After two decades of marriage we have changed. And that’s inevitable.

So make sure that when you change, you change together, and the easiest way to manage this is to do things together and keep talking. I have talked to so many women who married young, who then say, “I matured after we married, and he never did mature.” Well, I matured after we married, too, but my husband matured with me because we stayed side by side in everything. It is possible to change together–but you have to be together to change together. So keep communicating!

We’ll talk more in this Virtual Retreat on the next few Mondays about how to do that. But for now, why not read the posts by the other great bloggers at the Embrace Your Marriage retreat, talking about how they Embrace Change.

And here’s your challenge this week:

Consider some of the ways that your marriage has changed over time. Start counting the blessings that these changes have brought. Write them down.

Embrace Your Marriage Virtual Marriage Retreat

Courtney: Women Living Well
Ashleigh: Ashleigh Slater
Darlene: The Time Warp Wife
Lisa: Club 31 Women
Jennifer: Unveiled Wife

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When Baby Isn’t Perfect

something is wrong with your babyToday is the eighteenth anniversary of my son Christopher’s death, and I’ll be heading out to the graveyard later, likely by myself. I like it better there alone. But I thought this post may be appropriate for the day–about what to do when you get a diagnosis that something is wrong with your baby.

I shifted uncomfortably on the cot. The baby had been pushing on my ribs for over an hour as the technician kept trying to get a better view.

“It’s a boy,” she announced as my husband entered the cubicle holding our 15-month-old daughter. We were ecstatic, but I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t look me in the eye.

The next day I learned the answer. “I’m sorry, Sheila,” my doctor told me. “There’s something wrong with his heart.”

It’s hard to explain the panic you feel when you hear that something is wrong with your baby, even one who isn’t born yet. And that panic only worsened for us as, over the next few weeks, I endured a dizzying battery of tests. We learned our son had Down Syndrome and a very serious heart defect.

I experienced such intense fears during that time. Could I handle a sick child? What would this mean for my daughter? Would all my time be taken up in caring for my son? What would his future be like? And above all, would I have to watch him die?

As soon as we learn we are pregnant—and for many of us, even before—we start dreaming of what it will be like to hold the baby, to watch him grow, or to see her blossom. But for some of us, those dreams are shattered. The child we dreamt about isn’t coming. The one we have has something wrong.

The first few weeks can be the most difficult in your life as you struggle to cope with grief and fear, care for a new baby and perhaps even rearrange your life. Here are some steps to help you through this challenging time.

1. Nurture your marriage

An estimated 25% to 33% of marriages break up within a year of the birth of a handicapped child. That’s not a statistic you want to join. Resolve now, before you do anything else, that you will still be each other’s greatest priority. Speak and act kindly to one another. Give each other space to handle the grief differently, without passing judgment. You will need each other in the years ahead. Remember that if you walk through this valley together, your marriage can emerge stronger and more precious to you than you had ever thought possible.

2. Take your feelings to God

Cheryl Molenaar’s daughter Lindsay, now 12, was born with a chromosomal defect that has left her profoundly disabled and with the mental level of a one-year-old. Cheryl remembers feeling grief at the loss of all her hopes and dreams, mingled with intense frustration at not being able to ease her daughter’s suffering.

It’s only natural that these feelings lead to anger toward God. How could He let this happen? For Cheryl, the experience shook her faith. Yet through wrestling with God, Cheryl learned God will always carry you through. “Sometimes you can’t feel God,” she says, “But ask God to let you see Him, and He will show you Himself.”

My son Christopher died when he was 29 days old. Though I never received an answer why, I was given something better: a peace I cannot explain that could only have come from God. God is big enough to handle our questions, when we seek Him out and let Him in.

3. Seek early intervention

Paul and Judith Colley’s daughter Laura was born prematurely at 25 weeks. A year later she was diagnosed with hearing problems and possible developmental delay, so she was quickly fitted with a hearing aid. At two years of age her speech was slow and doctors were concerned with her development. Today, though, after years of speech therapy, she is above average on almost every scale. This child, whom they once thought might be permanently delayed, is flourishing. The reason is early intervention.

When you’re given a diagnosis for your child, the simple truth is that no one knows the potential he or she has. Certainly some children will have a harder time learning than others; but for many early stimulation can help. Ask your paediatrician to connect you with community resources or books that can guide you through the process.

4. Ask for help

No one likes to feel that they can’t cope. Yet for Cheryl, outside help saves her sanity and keeps her from the brink of exhaustion. Seek out help from friends, relatives, your church, and community resources. You’ve been given a big burden to carry, but God never meant for us to carry our burdens alone (Galatians 6:2).

We live in a society that values perfection. Having a baby who’s not perfect throws us through a loop and challenges everything we believe. Yet through that challenge, we will inevitably come to “taste” God more as He sustains us day by day. As Cheryl cares for Lindsay, she is constantly reminded that His “grace is made perfect in weakness”. Her child has taught her things about God no sermon ever could. And as she loves Lindsay, so protectively and fiercely, she gets a clearer picture of how God cherishes her.

If you’re dealing with disappointment and grief, Sheila’s book, How Big Is Your Umbrella?, can help. Read more here.

Wifey Wednesday: The Truth In Love Marriage Challenge!

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wednesday–the day when we always talk marriage! And today I’ve got a bit of a challenge for you. I know you’re up to it!

Yesterday I was talking about the balance between Truth and Love in our marriage. Truth is standing up for what’s right, and confronting sin. Love is showing mercy and grace. Both are necessary. As Micah 6:8 says,

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

We are to act justy (Truth) while loving mercy (Love). And Jesus was the perfect balance of both.

But as I explained yesterday, truth in love is rare. Most of us tend naturally towards one or the other. Some of us are quick to debate and bring up issues, and often seem critical. Others of us let things slide a little too much, and often seem like pushovers. How do we find the middle?

The Truth in Love Challenge from To Love, Honor and VacuumJulie, one of my frequent commenters, had this great insight yesterday:

[A book I once read] talked about our speech in terms of color – love being red, and truth being true-blue. I’m definitely on the blue side. The visual picture was to “speak purple”. I’ve been trying harder to bring in more “red” – more kind, loving, affirming words in the conflict.

So how do we speak PURPLE–and find that Truth/Love balance?

Well, today I want to look at a scenario, and see how Truthers would react, and then how Lovers would react, and then I’ll ask you all to write in the comments what you think a Truth/Love balance response would be. And I’ll randomly pick from the comments I like (because I think there will be plenty)! to win a collection of ebooks, including my own.

Here’s the marriage scenario:

Jane sighs as she wipes down the counter after doing a mountain of dishes. For the last few days it had been almost impossible to get the kitchen clean. She’d been called in to fill-in for a sick colleague at the library, and so her part-time job had suddenly become a full-time job this week. And while her mother-in-law was amazing with Jimmy, the toddler, it meant that the laundry didn’t get done and the lunches weren’t really packed. Monica, her 11-year-old, was supposed to pack lunches for herself and her 8-year-old brother, but Jane had been too tired to force the issue last night, and she’d had to do it herself.

But tonight, in a pique of frustration, she decided she couldn’t handle it anymore. After making a full spaghetti dinner even after working 8 hours, she had cleaned up the kitchen, threw on some laundry, and somehow managed to supervise Jimmy having his bath.

Yet her husband, Greg, had been playing his video game for the last 3 hours. The older two kids were ready for bed, and Greg hadn’t even looked up. Jane had been cleaning up, and Greg had been playing. If he had just helped her last night maybe things wouldn’t have gotten out of hand. But he was stressed from work (they were going through another round of lay-offs, and he was afraid he was going to be next), and he’d retreated from her and the kids. And Jane just didn’t feel like she could handle this all by herself anymore. This wasn’t like her husband. He occasionally went on video game binges, but he was usually really involved with the kids. But lately he’d gone into his own little world, and Jane had had enough. Why did he get to relax while she had to work all the time?

Okay, can anyone imagine that scenario? Now, what does Jane do?

The Truth Response:

Jane stares at Greg, hoping that her penetrating gaze can break through his fog and make him feel guilty. It doesn’t seem to work. So she tells Monica to take her brother upstairs and get ready for bed, because Daddy will be up to read a story in a minute.

Then she walks over to the TV and turns it off without a word. Greg becomes really agitated, and yells at her for interrupting his game.

Jane takes a deep breath and coolly says, “I know you are stressed. But you are still a father, and right now you’re a lousy one. You haven’t lifted a finger around here for days, and you are setting a lousy example for the kids. Is this what you wanted to become? A lazy couch potato who wastes his life on video games when you have three kids who need you?”

“I am done, Greg. I am done. I need some time now. You march upstairs and read to those kids and get your act together, or you’re going to come home tomorrow and find that all your precious video games have been thrown out.”

The Love Response:

Jane glances at Greg, biting her fingernails that are way too soft from all the dishwashing, and wonders what to do. Quietly she asks Monica to take her brother upstairs and get ready for bed, telling her she’ll be up in a minute to read to them.

Then Jane approaches Greg on the couch and sits down beside him. She puts her hand on his leg, and he doesn’t even seem to notice.

“Greg,” she says. “I know you’re really stressed, and I’m worried about you. But the kids miss you. They need their dad. Do you think you can put the game away and come upstairs and say good night to them with me?”

Greg replies, “Jane, I just need to unwind. I’ll finish this level in a minute and then I’ll go upstairs, okay?”

“Thanks, Honey,” Jane replies as she gets up and follows Monica. She reads her two older ones a story, and then another one, and then another, but still no Greg. Finally she kisses them both and says prayers with them, and goes back downstairs. Greg hasn’t moved.

Jane bites her lip again, and then turns around and goes back upstairs, heading to bed herself.

Has either scenario solved the problem? Nope. The Truth response has treated Greg like he’s a child and will just build walls between the two of them, as well as likely starting a tit-for-tat retaliation cycle. The Love response leaves them both feeling isolated and alone.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

So here’s my challenge to you: What SHOULD Jane do? What would be a Truth IN Love response? Leave your suggestions in the comments section. I’ll write down the ones I think are all good and valid (I don’t think there’s just one possible response, so anything that sounds plausible to me rocks!), and then I’ll randomly draw from there using random.org.

Good Girls Guide My SiteThe winner will receive these ebooks:

  • 31 Days to Great Sex (by me!)
  • How Big Is Your Umbrella (also by me, about walking through hard times)
  • Another Reality Check (by me–a collection of 90 of my favourite columns)
  • The Cherished Home: Protecting What’s Important by Mary Clendenin (with printables)
  • Taming the Laundry Monster by Angi Schneider
  • When Motherhood Feels Too Hard by Kelly Crawford
  • Herbal Remedies for Children by Rosalee de la Foret

AND an autographed paperback copy of The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex–which makes a wonderful wedding gift for any new bride (or a gift for any married woman, actually!)

I’ll choose the winner this Saturday at 9 a.m. EST, so get your comment in before then!

There’s such a wealth of wisdom in my readers, so I’d love to hear what you come up with about how to speak PURPLE in your marriage!

Note: if you feel like what you would have said has already been said by someone else, that’s okay! Just say “I agree with so and so” and explain why, and that will count! And the answers don’t have to be elaborate. Just give us an idea of what you think a truth in love approach would be.