A Testimony of Marriage, Anorexia, and Healing

healing in marriage battling anorexia

Today, please welcome guest reader, Alyssa, as she shares her story of healing in marriage battling anorexia, and how God and her husband are daily helping her.  No battle is too big for God!

I grew up in a small town in Australia. I loved life in the country, there is something so freeing and satisfying about the open space, the fresh air and creation all around. It brings a peace and happiness to my heart! I was one of four kids to two amazing God centred parents. For as long as I can remember, my mum and Dad taught us about God’s word, what it meant to forgive, serve and love others. Growing up in one of the only Christian families in our small country town presented its challenges though. I was a sensitive child and from the age of 9+ I don’t really remember a time where I didn’t feel pressured or even taken advantage of. Some days I would return from school in tears only to have my mother and father sit beside me, warm me with their hugs and gently tell me to keep on loving and keep on forgiving. So I did.

But not dealing with these emotions properly left me more emotionally scarred then I could ever imagine.

Our family was different, and I knew that… but there was always a part of me, just like everyone I guess, that wanted to be accepted and fit in. By the time I hit high school, I felt an immense amount of pressure to not just be like everyone but also please everyone. I felt very insecure, timid and ugly… Along with this I had a perfectionist personality, was very quick to forgive and show kindness to everyone and therefore was walked all over. Amongst the bullying and identity issues, I was also sexually abused by several different boys/men throughout my teen years. Not only did I neglect to tell people about it, I didn’t deal with it properly, I didn’t understand it and I chose to keep forgiving and loving. When I turned 16, I moved out of home, taking myself to live in Sydney to study music and dance. I wanted to sing more than anything. Those few years in Sydney, although holding some of the greatest memories of my life, also hold some of the darkest. In those three years in Sydney, I studied full time, worked in the office of the performing arts school I attended, and went to a church that left me feeling lonely and left out. I got in a serious relationship with someone who did not want to know God at all, I had very little to no money, and I lost all four of my grandparents, whom I loved very much.

At the end of the year I left that school. I felt lonely, very isolated, overwhelmed. This is where my eating disorder came in.

At the time I didn’t realize what was wrong with me, just that I was slowly losing sight of who I was. It is now eight years later….And those last few years are also a blur. I have been in and out of treatment, private hospitals, have seen countless psychologists and counselors. In 2011, I went into a Christian Rehabilitation centre for Women struggling with addictions. It was the only program that worked for me and for a whole year I was walking free of the illness. It was in that year that my now husband proposed to me. Matt and I dated long distance.

He knew I struggled with an eating disorder, but we spent little time with each other so he was unaware of its deception, struggle and the hold it can have on one’s life.

But he knew I loved God and that despite my illness and current troubles, I persevered to love God and serve Him the best I could. At the end of 2011 I ventured into the Christian Rehabilitation. The program required me being cut off from all things, I went and lived on a farm with a dozen other women. We had no phone, access to internet and we were only allowed to watch TV on weekends for a movie night, or the news in between 4-6pm on weekdays. I communicated to people through letters. I spent my time learning to enjoy life, all of God’s goodness and meditated on His word day and night. This is what I believe healed me. I spent the next year celebrating life, enjoying peoples’ company and being thankful for what our Great God had done and would continue to do in me. I don’t know what went wrong; I have maybe spent too much time thinking about it.

But 2 weeks after we got married in November 2012, I suddenly fell back into old habits.

It wasn’t a gradual fall, it was quick and left us both feeling lost and unable to comprehend it. We had moved to Sydney, left all the people we knew and who supported us, we had very little money and struggled getting jobs. Life had thrown all different things at us, when marriage in itself seemed enough. So what has the last two years been like? Well, as most of you who are reading this would know, an eating disorder is a life threatening, serious, destructive illness. It’s a tyrant, its based on denial and deception. It involves stealing, lying, wasting money, time and life. For those who do not overcome it, unfortunately it results in death.

I am 24 years old, I weigh 37 kgs and am 174cm tall. I have Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. In my spare time, I live under the control of this terrible illness… I steal money, I steal food, I throw it up. Sometimes a whole day will pass and I will not remember any of it, under the trance of this illness. I have spent hundreds of dollars in days, all on food that no one ever got to see.

When we have arranged to go out and be with people, I end up cancelling, either because I am too anxious about what they are going to think of me or because secretly I have been binge eating on food and cannot go anywhere because I need to throw it up. My husband has continuously forgiven me, time and time again. He has done nothing but love me with unconditional love. He has held me, both in tears and prayed. He has bought me flowers just to see me smile, he gave up an excellent job so that I could be closer to people for support, he has filled rooms full of balloons and filled them with tiny messages to remind me that he is here and isn’t giving up. He deliberately hops into bed before me to warm my side up, as I feel the cold. During a fight, I was still upset going to bed so I resided on the couch, half way through the night I felt someone’s arms pick me up and carry me to bed.

I heard a small whisper, ‘The only time we will ever sleep in separate beds is when we are apart and cannot be in the same bed together.’

He then wrapped his arms around me and held me until I had fallen back asleep. He has put up with the mood swings that come with the illness. Sometimes I say the most terrible, heart breaking and mean things, and he will sit there and simply respond with ‘Alyssa, I love you and I am not going anywhere.’ Matt has been so sacrificial. He has stayed with me through this, when most men in our day and age would probably walk away. He has been a wonderful witness and example of Christ’s love for us. He is a beautiful man. God has been so good to me.

My husband without a doubt is the greatest gift, other than God’s grace, that I have ever been given.

When we moved this year, I decided I didn’t want this illness any longer. I want to be free of it. It has been a hard journey so far, but by God’s grace I am very slowly getting there. We take each day as it comes, and we thank the Lord for the good days and the bad days. We are so grateful and see so many blessings around us and we want to focus on those things. Please keep us in your prayers as I learn to lean, whole-heartedly serve and depend upon God and find my satisfaction, worth and contentment in him. Please keep praying for my husband, Matt, that he will continue to find the strength he needs from God and that he would have wisdom to know how to love me best and look after me best.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

commit to staying in the fight

Today Rajdeep Paulus talks about how in marriage, we need to commit to staying in the fight with our spouses. There are rich rewards to be discovered!

Standing at the ticket counter at Miami International Airport to check in for our return flight to New York City, the Jet Blues Attendant shakes his head several times before saying, “I’m sorry. There’s no record of your names booked on this flight. Or at all for that matter.”

Words hubby and I don’t exactly want to hear when the plane takes off in less than an hour. It has to be a mistake. I’m just not ready to admit that it was probably my mistake. “Can you double check?” I say, watching hubby’s eyebrows raise in disagreement.

But then he says, “Yes, could you please double check? I’m sure this is just some kind of error.”

“Nope. Oh wait…” A flicker of hope. “I see that you did book a different flight. Out of Orlando. But you cancelled that one.” Hope extinguished.

I’m starting to wonder if I only thought about booking the alternative leg of our return flight, and didn’t actually do it. Even though in my memory, I followed through and finished the job.

Hubby looks at me and I know what he’s thinking as he shakes his head, but in a moment that could have gotten Walking Dead bloody, he says nothing. Several grueling minutes later, the gentleman working on our situation hangs up the phone and smiles. “It’s your lucky day. My boss agreed to rebook your family at the original price, but this flight’s full, so you’ll be on the 9:00PM one out of Gate C-8. Will that work for you?”

Umm…yes to the yes! Anything besides paying astronomical prices for a last second reservation or staying in Miami when we need to get home will work. Hubby exhales a sigh of relief, and brushes a kiss across my lips, saying softly, “Thanks for keeping quiet while he worked it out.”

Which I wanted to take offense at, because I’m the girl who screams when I’m upset.

I freak out, and I’m good at it. But I refrain from saying anything, because I’m in a different sort of shock. We, hubby and I, in the middle of a Bermuda-Triangle sized crisis, did not freak out and enter a blame game tennis match that never ends well. And as much as Hubby wanted to say the obvious, that it was most probably my fault that the tickets were never booked, he didn’t. He could have. He would have been right. But in that moment, the fact of my careless oversight would not have changed a thing. We, as in he, I and the kids, were in this mess together, and never once, in the middle of a mud pile has throwing mud made the situation less messy. If anything, it makes matters worse. Much worse.

And then the other night, we’re driving away from a lovely anniversary dinner at Prime in Huntington, and Hubby says, “So I accidentally booked three movie tickets instead of two when I bought the X-men seats on line.”

I took a deep breath, wanting to ask the obvious. “So you didn’t try to reverse it? Call Fandango? Cancel the transaction and book it over?” I refrained, and in that moment, when the matter of a fifteen dollar oversight could cost us a fifteen hour angry end to a near perfect date night, I Google’d Fandango and asked myself. They directed me to call the movie theater.

And a guy at Regal Cinemas in Westbury said, “No worries. Just mention the problem when you come up to pick up your tickets and we’ll refund the difference.”

Really? That was fun. But it might not have been. So often, hubby or I put on our boxing gloves and lash out verbally, throwing plenty of punches before we recall that we’re on the same team. In this life together. Trying to make it through this mess of a world. Together.

Three days later, we’re on route to a picnic with the kids on Memorial Day weekend, and we get into the classic driving fight.

Because I rarely drive, and Hubs wants to be my driver’s Ed teacher, my dad, and my GPS, all wrapped in one. So it gets ugly. Fast. And we’re only half way there when I pull over on a side street, throw on the brakes and exit the car. “I can’t. I can’t do this. I refuse to drive.” Slam.

Hubs pulls his baseball cap over his eyes and slouches down in the passenger seat. He’s getting over the flu. And from the looks of his non-verbal communication, he isn’t driving either.

So I blow off some steam outside the car, get back into the driver’s seat and spin the car around. Rather unsafely, I’ll admit, but I wasn’t planning to drive my family off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style. I was just having a road rage moment for about fifty feet of quiet side street. Hubs did not approve, sat up in his chair, and demanded I stop the car. With a few choice words. I did. We switched places.

He drove. I cried. And in the midst of the madness, my ten-year old passes me my phone with a text message she typed for me. “No one’s mad at you, Mommy. We love you. And we can still have a great time at the picnic. Okay?” I cry some more.

And we get through the day. Hubs walked to the beach with the girls. I grilled up some food. The festivities carried on with friends. Then I drove home, and the day was over. And when all the girls went to bed, hubby says, “That was not cool today.”

I want to say, “You. We’re not cool today.” But I just wait.

“I’m sorry for screaming at you like that in the car,” he says. “If you would just listen to me…”

And that’s when I tune out, because it doesn’t feel like an apology any more. I apologize for slamming the car door. But then I add, “You know, you could have said sorry a little sooner,” to which he pushes back his chair, rises from the table, and says, “I’m not you, okay. I never have been, nor will I ever be. You can do that. Roll with it. Jump back into life right away. That’s not me.” And he storms off.

That went well. And then I thought about it. I wasn’t asking him to be me. I was asking him to acknowledge that it wasn’t just me who screwed up. He can take all the time he needs to forgive me. But I don’t think it’s fair to take his sweet time to say sorry. That was my point.

We talked some more as I explained my side. And told him how I don’t want our girls to grow up thinking a man can just run them over with words and walk away, never admitting that he spoke disrespectfully. He shot me a glare. “You have no idea what I talked to the girls about when I walked with them to the beach.” That’s true. I assumed he didn’t talk about it. “I apologized to them for the way I spoke to their mother.”

But, and this is the part that hurts. “But, you took all day to say sorry to me. That kinda sucks.”

And he acknowledged that. And we went to bed in each other’s arms. Life was fine again. But, sheesh, is it hard some days.

Like it takes all of you just to commit to staying in the fight.

And that’s the part that makes us stronger the next morning. We stayed. We chose to stay, even when we didn’t feel like it. We pushed through another mud pile, and in the end, we helped pull each other out. And believe you me, I know there are plenty more in our future to wade through.

But it’s the moments at the airport and on route to the movies that remind me that we don’t always resort to our bad habits. We don’t always forget how hard it is to mess up and wait for grace’s rescue. Sometimes, we remember the sweet hand held out to us in the moment of disappointment, hurt, or failure, and we offer a similar hand to our loved ones. It’s a life long quest, but it’s worth every step.

And that’s probably why I love to slow dance with my Sunshine. Sure, sometimes we step on each other’s toes.

And many times, we are out of sync, he turning right and me spinning left, but those tender moments when my head rests on his shoulder, his heartbeat pounds against mine, and the lyrics to a love song stream into my ears, I’m reminded once again that he’s worth it. We’re worth it. And worth fighting for. Marriage.

 

Rajdeep PaulusswimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus, author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of June 2013, she’s also a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via FacebookTwitterPinterest,Tumblr, or Instagram.

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How to Reset a Bad Marriage Day

Today Crystal Brothers tells us how to hit reset on a bad marriage day. Being purposeful in hitting restart and forgiving is necessary some days, isn’t it?

Reset Bad Marriage

Even in the best of marriages, we all have those days. You know the one I’m talking about. You’re in a bad mood. Your hubby is in a bad mood. Everything he does is getting on your nerves, and vice versa. He didn’t do this right. You didn’t do that right.

Because we are imperfect humans, living in a fallen world, we’re going to have bad days.

The good thing is that we don’t have to accept it. With a little work, we can change the tone of a bad day.

1. Pray

And I don’t mean the kind of prayer that says, “Lord, my husband is driving me crazy.” Pray for your heart to change and soften toward him in that moment. Spend time praising God. It’s amazing how much things can change when we choose to focus on Him and not our bad day. Pray for God to bless your husband. It’s very difficult to be angry with someone while you are praying blessings over them.

2. Serve your husband.

I remember once my husband and I were having an argument around lunchtime. We’d raised our voices, and determined to be angry. I was huffing and puffing about it in the kitchen while making myself a sandwich for lunch and the Lord spoke to my heart–make him a sandwich instead.

I’ll get honest and tell you that I was not happy about this. My heart attitude did not change. I was slapping down bread, meat and cheese, and throwing around chips and pickles to go with it. I squirted on some mustard and slammed it back in the fridge. I was mad at my husband and mad that God was asking me to serve him in that moment.

But then my husband came into the kitchen. And I presented him with his sandwich. Even though my heart wasn’t where it should have been, the Lord blessed both my husband and myself through my obedience. And that small act of service toward him turned around our whole day. (Of course, I don’t recommend the terrible attitude! lol)

3. Be spontaneous.

Sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes to change the day around. Go for a walk. Go out for an unexpected family dessert date. While you’re at it, laugh a little! When someone’s having a grumpy day in our house, the rest of the family makes funny faces to see who can be the one that makes them laugh. Even something so simple and silly like this can turn around a bad day.

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to snap out of it and cheer up in the midst of a bad day. But the Bible tells us that “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” And sometimes, I think it’s the cure for a bad day as well. Take control of your emotions. For lots of ideas for free/cheap activities, check out my free date night printable. Lots of these can be done with no prior planning.

4. Meditate on scripture.

Find a scripture that speaks to you. One that encourages, inspires, and challenges you. One that reminds you the way you should treat your husband, and reminds you that the Lord is bigger than your problems and bad attitude. Read it, repeat it, memorize it–hide it in your heart! And when you need it on those tough days, the words will come back to you.

5. Make a list of reasons you love your spouse

You may not feel them all at that exact moment. But there are amazing things about your spouse that made you marry him. Don’t let one bad moment rob you of the joy in your marriage. Remember all the reasons you have to love him.

Above all, I think that having a great attitude about our marriage is one of those things we need to practice daily, so that we can fall back on that habit when tough times hit. In my book, Intentional Marriage, I share 31 Devotions and challenge to help you get into the daily habit of investing in your husband and your marriage.

Crystal BrothersCrystal Brothers blogs at Serving Joyfully, and is the author of Intentional Marriage: The Art of Loving Your Husband (A 31 Day Devotional). She and her husband have been married nearly 9 years and she homeschools their two rambunctious boys.

How do you overcome a bad day with your husband?

Wifey Wednesday: Division of Labour with Your Spouse

Chores with Your SpouseHow do you approach chores with your spouse?

It’s a tough question in most marriages, and today I thought I’d run an article I wrote for Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family magazine last year.

Early in our marriage, our apartment often suffered from lack of attention. One morning, in frustration, I worked myself into a cleaning frenzy. Unbeknownst to me, that afternoon while I was out, my husband had the same impulse.

Over dinner we simultaneously announced, “I cleaned the whole place today!” Neither of us was amused at the other taking credit for our effort. Our misunderstanding soon became clear. To my husband, Keith, clutter mattered. To me, dirt mattered. I could walk past clutter as long as the faucets were gleaming. He, on the other hand, didn’t notice marks on the mirrors as long as the towels were neatly folded.

All of us start marriage with different ideas about what goes into running a household, and our natural tendency is to value the work we do and minimize the work our spouses do. Throughout the stages of life, our situations change and require us to renegotiate the division of chores. Each time we try to divide responsibilities, there’s potential for anger and resentment. But with the right attitude and some planning, chores don’t need to be something that drives us apart.

Don’t aim for a 50-50 split

One landmine to avoid is the 50-50 split. A 2012 study done in Norway found that couples who split housework evenly were also more likely to divorce. The problem isn’t housework per se, but rather the dynamics of splitting it down the middle. Kurt Bruner, pastor and author, says, “If you are keeping score on such things, you have already lost the relational battle.”

A better model involves both spouses putting 100 percent effort into creating a well-organized home. Fawn Weaver, founder of the Happy Wives Club, spent six months traveling the world interviewing couples who have been happily married for more than 25 years. She says, “Each couple, no matter their culture or socio-economic class, had this in common: They worked together as a team. There was no my work or your work. It’s our home, so it’s our work.”

Honor your spouse’s preferences

Happy couples also realize that housework can be a way to demonstrate love. Amy and Brad Saleik have been married 15 years. They inadvertently found a perfect way to organize household tasks. Amy explains, “We had only been married for a month or two when I offhandedly asked my husband what chore he hated. He quickly said, ‘Laundry. What about you?’ I replied, ‘Dishes.’ Ever since, I’ve done all the laundry, and he’s done all the dishes.”

Another strategy to honor your spouse is to ask each other, “What’s one thing I could do to make you feel more ‘at home’ when you’re at home?” I learned that strategy the hard way. When my children were 6 and 4, I was very active with them. We hosted playgroups in our home. We made crafts. We baked. Our home was fun, but it was also always a mess.

One day Keith told me he was tired of arriving home to a disaster. He could handle a little clutter, but he wanted to be able to walk through the kitchen without stepping on Polly Pockets. I didn’t take that well. I think the words maid and Neanderthal escaped my lips. But later, I realized that was a selfish response. While Keith wanted a place that reflected his beliefs about what a home should be, I was more interested in what I envisioned for the family. Eventually, I realized that spending 10 minutes tidying up the front room before he arrives home costs me little, yet offers a priceless opportunity to show my husband I care about him.

Attention to your spouse’s needs builds good will. Sarah Mae, co-author of Desperate, a book for overwhelmed moms, explains that stay-at-home moms also crave consideration. She says, “Without space to breathe or a little help here and there, you can feel like you’re drowning.” Even if both spouses are working all day fulfilling different tasks, at night one spouse may especially need a break — and quite often it’s the spouse who has been chasing the children all day. Holding down the fort while Mom has a bubble bath can bring peace to her and the home.

Finally, honoring your spouse involves honoring his or her opinion of what constitutes clean. If your spouse thinks it’s clean, it’s considered clean, even if it would never pass your aunt Mabel’s white-glove test. You both live in the house. You both should have a say.

Fostering a selfless attitude makes identifying practical ways to divide chores much easier. Before you split them, though, agree on what they are. It’s all too easy to focus on vacuuming or dishes and dismiss doing the finances or mowing the lawn. So sit down and list all the things that go into running a house, from supervising homework to cleaning bathrooms and even buying Grandma a birthday present. Then you can decide who does what. Allocating those jobs, though, can be a bit tricky. Here are two models for how couples can manage chores.

Model No. 1: Embrace Specialization

Personally, my husband and I have always lived by the adage “The man should have to kill the bugs.” Other than that, we’ve been flexible regarding household responsibilities. Pam Farrel, co-author of Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, says, “Instead of dividing up chores along stereotypical lines, we have seen it works best to give the responsibility to the person who is most passionate about that task.” If you really care about the lawn, you get to do the lawn. There’s one more caveat from Farrel: “The person who has the task gets the authority to do that task his or her way, in his or her time, and the spouse just commits to saying, ‘Thanks!’ “

David and Kelli Campbell have been married for 10 years. Both work full time. David enjoys cooking, but last-minute meals aren’t his specialty. So Kelli prepares a two-week menu plan to help things run more smoothly. David cooks, vacuums and cares for the exterior of the house, and Kelli does the rest of the interior cleaning and the laundry. Knowing who’s responsible for what helps them navigate their busy schedules.

Model No. 2: Establish Work Hours

Nothing irks me more than doing dishes or vacuuming when the other three members of my family are on their computers. So our family adopted my grandmother’s golden rule: If Momma’s working, everyone’s working. If you’re a family who thrives on flexibility rather than defined tasks, this model may work better for you, too.

Assigning chores to individuals isn’t as important as everyone simply doing whatever needs to be done — all at the same time. You can even turn it into a game: Set a timer for 15 minutes and see how much mess each of you can pick up! Kurt and Olivia Bruner have the whole family draw straws with chores on them when a chore day is needed. If you’re all working at the same time, you can later relax at the same time.

Recruit help

Finally, if you need another pair of hands, follow the Bruners’ example and recruit the kids. Rather than running ragged making your children’s lives easy, you can involve the kids in daily chores. In fact, we should involve the children. Kelli Campbell reports being forever grateful to David’s mother for rearing a son who knows how to cook. What an investment his mother made in his future marriage! With children heading back to school, now’s a great opportunity to create new routines to involve kids in caring for the home.

After working out responsibilities, someone — or everyone — can still feel overwhelmed. You might want to re-evaluate and possibly trim your list of chores. Perhaps not everything on the list needs to be done — or done as often as you’ve been doing it. Do you really need to dust the picture frames every month? Perhaps you can clean the bathrooms every other week, instead of every week.

If you try these strategies and find chores are still causing conflict, consider hiring outside help. Shana Bresnahan is a full-time consultant, and her husband, Casey, is a full-time teacher. Shana says, “After cleaning came up in counseling sessions one too many times, our counselor said, ‘Can you make room in the budget for a cleaning lady?’ For the last year we’ve invested in a semimonthly visit from a maid service. We call it marriage insurance.”

Chores need to be done, but they do not need to cause a wedge between you and your spouse. Instead, chores can be one of the vehicles that help you feel and function more like a team. Together, choose a system that works best for your family and commit to honoring each other through it. You’ll feel more valued and loved, and your floors may just stay cleaner, too.


Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! It used to be a linkup party day, but for various reasons I’ve decided that instead I’ll share my “best of” suggestions from other marriage bloggers on Wednesdays. Unfortunately, this week I didn’t have time to fetch any, so I’ll just put up some that are here on the blog.

Getting Kids to Pick Up their Stuff
My Husband is Lazy!

And if you didn’t read my post yesterday, please check it out:
10 Ways to Initiate Prayer with Your Spouse

Now let me know in the comments: How do you split chores with your husband?

A Marriage Centered Family

Today guest author Amy Roberts of Raising Arrows shares great advice regarding prioritizing our marriage relationship, as the center of the home. Marriage before kids is the best way!

Marriage Before kids

As soon as I got married, I wanted kids. As soon as I had our first child, a year and a half later, I realized just how hard it was to be a parent. Then I started homeschooling. Then I had 7 more children! Next thing I knew I was neck-deep in obligations that were all 4½ feet and under!

It would have been easy…in fact, natural…to just disappear into motherhood.

Between morning sickness, diapers, schooling, and middle of the night feedings, my life seemed to revolve around these little people. Sure, my husband needed me, but he was an adult and not dependent on me the way they were. He could wait.

Or could he?

Let me ask you a question:

Do you have it in your head that once these intense mothering years are over, THEN you’ll have time for your spouse?

It’s not that you are speaking those word out loud, or even saying them in your head, but if you are always focused on the children and their needs, your actions are saying precisely that.

They are saying I’m too busy being a mom to be a wife. They are saying our marriage can wait. They are saying I don’t care about our relationship right now. They might even be saying, “You got me into this mess.”

We work hard at parenting. We agonize over decisions and behaviors. We research the “right way” to do everything from diapering to dating. But anytime there are issues in our marriage, we are quick to blame and slow to work at restoring our relationship. Our priorities are quite clear.

And quite off.

Our children need to see us working hard at being married.

They need to know what healthy adult relationships look like. They need a united authority and a stable homelife. The only way we can offer all of this is if we work to build a strong marriage where we remember what being a wife is like amongst the daily demands of being a mom.

Sometimes we need to put our husband’s needs above our children’s.

Sometimes we need to tell the children it is Mom and Dad time, and they need to wait.

Sometimes we need to implement schedules and routines that make the day less child-centered. (think bedtime routine here)

Sometimes we just need to take a moment to look into our husband’s eyes and remember how these children got here in the first place.

Don’t just let your marriage quietly crumble behind the scenes. You CAN be a good wife and a good mom. Working to build a strong marriage IS good parenting!

Amy RobertsAmy Roberts of RaisingArrows.net has been married 17 years to her high school sweetheart, Ty, and is blessed to be the homeschooling mother of 7 living children and one precious little girl named Emily being held in the Lord’s arms. As a conference speaker and author of several homeschooling and homemaking ebooks, including her newest release, Large Family Homeschooling, it is her deepest desire to encourage moms in the trenches to stay focused on what truly matters and live a life of abundant blessings in Christ. RaisingArrows.net A gentle voice. A firm resolve. An abundant homeschool life!

 

 

Wifey Wednesday: Happily Ever After?

Today, welcome guest author Candy Reid, who shares her best marriage advice for a real-life, down and dirty, happily ever after–building a strong marriage takes work.

Happily Ever After

Recently I was working on an ah-mazing blog post about marriage. I was listing some creative ideas for keeping the home fires burning. You know, stuff like, “Leave notes in his briefcase or lunchbox for him to find during the day.”  And “Grab his booty when he’s least expecting it…just to let him know you’re thinkin’ about him.” Good stuff.

While I was studiously preparing my post filled with great marriage advice, my sweet hubby had the nerve to walk right into the living room where I was working and say something that didn’t sit well with me. I’d love to tell you that I responded with a gentle answer and life-sowing words. But, alas, I did not. Instead I popped off a snarky, sarcastic comment (my barb of choice). Yeah, that went over really well (there’s that sarcasm again). My remark had an effect that was eerily similar to throwing gasoline on a fire. It took about 2.2 seconds for that whole situation to go from bad to worse. We were seriously stokin’ some “home fires,” just not the kind I wanna be telling you about.

Eventually we settled down. He went back to what he was doing. I went back to my computer. I began reading over the little nuggets of wisdom I had composed. As I read I was thinking things like, “Yeah, I’d like to leave a note in his lunchbox, alright.” Let me tell ya’, the note that I felt like composing would contain no flowery words of forever love. I’ll just let you use your imagination on that one.  And forget grabbing his booty. Slap the fire outta his booty, maybe, but certainly not a flirty little squeeze.

How about I just go ahead and divulge to you the single, most amazing piece of marriage advice anyone could ever give you? You ready? Here it is:

If you want “happily ever after” watch a Disney princess movie.

I know…that sounds harsh, but it’s true.

If you’re expecting to ride off into the sunset with the man of your dreams with nary a contrary emotion to ever darken the surface of your blissful state of marriage, you’re in for a painfully rude awakening. Marriage isn’t always sunshine and roses. Sometimes it’s wind and rain. Sometimes it’s thunder and lightning.

Sometimes marriage is just plain hard work.

You will have arguments, disagreements, and differences of opinion. He’ll snore. You’ll steal the covers. His sing-very-loudly-before-the-sun-is-up personality will be in direct conflict with your I-need-2-cups-of-coffee-before-I-can-even-see-straight personality.

So, what do we do? Rue the day we walked the aisle? Absolutely not!

Here’s what we do to live our real-life happily ever after:

1) We choose to recognize that we’ll have arguments, but we determine to work through them.

2) We allow personality differences to become a catalyst for the give and take that’s necessary to find healthy balance.

3) We choose to enjoy our spouse’s strengths while praying for their weaknesses.

4) We understand that we may, at times, be offended, but we set our hearts to forgive.

5) We refuse to compare our spouses to someone else. (If the grass appears to be greener on the other side it may be because “the other side” is fertilized with poop. Keep your eyes on your own pasture.)

Strong, lasting marriages aren’t built overnight and they aren’t built by perfect people.

They’re built by imperfect couples who choose to love each other through thick and thin, when love feels romantic and when it doesn’t; couples who choose to be humble enough to ask for forgiveness and gracious enough to grant it.

Though our marriage little resembles the goo-goo eyed, breathless “I do’s” of almost 25 years ago, it’s deeper and stronger than I ever thought possible. Our union is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and the example that He gives of sacrifice and forgiveness.

We’ve accepted the fact that “happily ever after” isn’t going to happen this side of heaven, but we’re embracing the journey – together.

 

Candy ReidCandy Reid is a southern girl who enjoys the simple things in life. Dirt road drivin’, Sunday afternoon nappin’, back yard swingin’, and sunset watchin’ are a few of the things that make her smile. She’s been married to her best friend and the love of her life for almost 25 years and is navigating motherhood with her 4 children, aged 23, 19, 14, & 11. She owns Mom’s Morning Coffee.com with her good friend, Pat. Candy is also a veteran homeschooler, word-nerd, a lover of books and chocolate, a survivor of canceran author, and a hula hoop maker.

 

Sign up for Mom’s Morning Coffee periodic newsletter and after you confirm your subscription, get a free PDF entitled “Strengthen Your Marriage”. The printable PDF contains helpful tips for keeping your marriage strong. And, it’s pretty enough to hang on your wall!


WifeyWednesday175Wifey Wednesday Links!

Every Wednesday I like to link to some other great marriage posts from wonderful marriage bloggers I’ve found around the web. Here’s a bunch of posts on getting your marriage off to a great start:

Women Living Well: Banishing Bitterness in Marriage

Hot, Holy and Humorous: 7 Steps to an Affair

Happy Wives Club: This Marriage Tip Changes Everything

Happy Wives Club: The Fastest Way to Overcome Any Misunderstanding

Club 31 Women: A Good Marriage is Worth Fighting For!

Reader Question: I Checked Out of My Marriage

Reader Question of the WeekHow do you love your spouse again, especially after you’ve already given up your dream of a happy marriage?

That’s today’s Reader Question! Every Monday I like to take a stab at a question a reader sends in, and this week it’s from a man whose wife finally understands how hurt he’s been over the years–but he’s afraid it’s too late.

My wife and I have been married for 19 yrs. For the majority of that time we’ve been a mess. We don’t fight and never have. I very easy going and I have never even raised my voice to her. Our problems began early on. She simply did not pay any attention to me. I spoiled her, gave her everything. Every few years I would break and crumble due to loneliness. She said she loved me but didn’t know how to show it. Last year was the final straw! I melted down completely. I sought therapy and even took pills for my depression. I began to brace myself for divorce. I had done all I could do to get my wife to understand my needs.

I decided to “let her go” and with that, the dream of the wonderful fairytale marriage I had so longed for. Then my wife read your book “The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex”. After that she said she had been illuminated. She all of a sudden became interested in “fixing things”. Here is the problem, I “let her go” already. All my love and desire is just gone. I don’t feel anything anymore. She so wants to have everything I ever wanted and now I just don’t care. My friends say I should just go with it and be happy. But I would be faking everything. I am miserably sad about this and I’m broken. Please tell me you have something! Anything!

That’s tough, and I want to answer it both for the husband and the wife. But first, please understand: there are no easy answers. There’s so much heartache involved here and so much water under the bridge that an easy fix isn’t possible. That being said, let me leave you with some big picture ideas:

How to Love Your Spouse Again--if they've hurt you and now want to work on the relationship, can you decide to work on it, too?

Thoughts for the Spouse Who has “Checked Out” Already

You’ve likely been hurting your whole marriage, and you had to steel yourself to the idea that you’d never get what you want. You couldn’t live in the misery of unmet expectations anymore, so you decided to give up on your dream of ever being happy with your spouse. To do that, you had to seal off a portion of your heart. You decided, “I don’t need you anymore”, which is almost the same emotionally as saying, “I don’t love you anymore.” If you’ve done that, then how do you love your spouse again–after all that emotional turmoil of letting go?

Act Love Rather than Feel Love

We tend to think that love is a feeling, but it’s really not. Love is deciding to act kindly towards a person and to look after that person’s well-being tangibly. Love is just being kind.

I remember how absolutely devastated I was after various breakups in my late teen years. My heart was broken in two, and I really didn’t think that I’d ever be able to move on. Even when I met my husband, and we started getting closer, I still thought about that last boyfriend. I didn’t want to go back to him, but I secretly hoped to run into him in 15 or 20 years, and be able to say, “Ha! Look what you missed out on!” I didn’t think I’d ever really get him out of my system.

But he’s totally gone now. It didn’t even take very long. Even before I married, I realized I didn’t even care anymore.

I’ve heard of similar things from women who have had emotional (and even physical) affairs. Even though they chose their husband, they thought they’d never be able to be perfectly happy again, because they were without their one true love. And now that they knew what true love felt like, the marriage could never measure up, even if they stayed.

Yet a funny thing happened. Time goes on, and the act of being married and being committed changes you. Those heady infatuation feelings fade, and they’re replaced by real love that you feel for your spouse.

I believe a similar thing can happen if you’ve LOST love. You’re hurt, and you’re closed off. But if you stay, you’ll find that little by little, everyday, you start building a new life together. You start growing that love again.

There’s a story I heard about a counselor talking to a woman who was determined to get a divorce. He advised her that before she do so, she take 30 days and treat her husband as wonderfully as she could. Say nice things to him. Be affectionate. Shower him with blessings. And then, at the end of the 30 days, she could tell him she was leaving him.

That sounded like a great idea, she thought. It would be so perfect–like a whammy he’d never expect. She’d lull him into believing everything was alright, and then she’d leave. It would be so devastating, like an extra punishment.

So she did it. She was sweet. She was affectionate. She brought him coffee.

And when 30 days was up, she went to see the counselor. He asked if she was ready to tell him, and she said, “No way! A funny thing happened this month. I think I fell in love with him again!”

As she was nice to him, he was nice to her. And they found a new balance in their marriage that was actually quite fun. But it happened because she started ACTING love out, not because she started FEELING.

Our feelings normally follow our actions, not the other way around. Try acting out love, and you may find that your heart softens.

Think About the Benefits of Marriage

Being married makes you wealthier. It makes you happier. It adds as many years to a man’s life as quitting smoking does. It makes you less susceptible to disease. It helps you to raise better kids. Marriage is a wonderful thing.

Before you throw it away, think about the cost.

If people put as much work into their marriage as they will have to into a divorce, more people would stay happily married. (Click to Tweet)

Work at Your Marriage

Thoughts If Your Spouse Has Checked Out

Your spouse has checked out of the marriage, and you’ve finally realized that you were doing wrong. You want your spouse to love you again. Maybe you had an affair. Maybe you withheld sex. Maybe you just never cared about your spouse’s feelings. What do you do now to show your spouse you’re different?

When You've Broken His TrustI’ve got a post with some great thoughts on what to do when you’re the one who needs forgiveness, and I’d encourage you to read it. Some quick thoughts from that: give your spouse time to be angry; work on a friendship before you work on a sex life; don’t just apologize, show tangible change; get counseling; and decide how much to tell the kids.

Read that post for lots of insight!

But I do have one more thought. I have a friend who is walking through this right now. He has checked out; and his wife is only starting to realize the damage that she has done. Much of that damage, though, has its roots in her own childhood, with trauma that she has never dealt with.

Often the reason that we are unable to give a spouse the love that he or she needs is because we ourselves didn’t receive it when we were young. We thus are in self-preservation mode. We have control issues and trust issues. And so it’s hard to build a good marriage, and we often hurt the one we want to love.

If someone hurt you in the past, do not give that person power over you today.

Do not continue to live with it. Get counseling!  Even if you have to pay a counselor $100 a week, it’s worth it. If you go for a whole year, that’s $5000. That’s a lot, but it’s less than it will cost to get divorced.

Take this seriously and deal with it. If your spouse sees that finally you are admitting you have issues, and finally you are admitting you have a problem, that may go a long way in helping your spouse to love you again.

Whichever spouse you are, this will be a long road. But I firmly believe that God is in the transformation business, and He’s in the reconciliation business. He loves nothing better than to take two broken people and make them whole again. And He can do that, when we finally let our guard down and be honest with Him and with ourselves. That means being vulnerable with each other. That means touching those deep hurts. But there is no hurt that is deeper than God’s love, and when we do become vulnerable, we finally give Him permission to touch that hurt and heal it.

I hope that both of you are able to do that.

Let me know in the comments: Have you ever closed yourself off from your spouse? How did you get over that (if you ever did?)

How to Prepare for Marriage–Not Just for the Wedding

How to Prepare for Marriage

Saying “I do” is the decision with perhaps the most chance of either incredible happiness or incredible danger in this life. How do you prepare for marriage so that “I do” is the beginning of bliss, rather than regret?

Yesterday I wrote about the ten things I wish I had known before I got married, and today I want to talk about how to prepare for that marriage.

I write on marriage and sex almost nonstop, and so I receive a lot of emails and questions from readers. And whenever I get an email from someone in trouble in their marriage, invariably there were signs before they were married. “He told me he’d look for full-time work after we got back from the honeymoon, but it’s six months and he’s still not doing anything!” “He told me he’d quit porn, but I caught him yesterday.” “Before we were married he was so romantic, but now he never wants to do anything with me at all.” (that last one may not look like it has red flags, but read on).

Marriage will always be, at least in part, a leap of faith. There will be surprises. You’ll never avoid them all. But I think, if you follow these steps, you can avoid the most difficult ones.

The most important thing when you’re marrying is character. If someone is of good character and loves God, you can work through pretty much anything. They’ll be able to hear from God, they’ll want to please God, and even if you have a big roadblock, they’ll likely try to solve it well. If someone has a weak character, though, no matter how much you love them, you’re going to run into some major problems.

Preparing for marriage, then, is largely about two things: making sure his character is good, and making sure you work together in the day-to-day.

Here are some suggestions on how to do that:

Do LIFE Together

Don’t do “dating” things. Do “life” things.

Here’s the difference. Dating says, “let’s get together every Tuesday and Saturday and go out to a movie and dinner, or catch a concert in a park, or go for ice cream.”

It’s all very lovely, but it tells you virtually nothing about how you will actually work on a day-to-day basis once you’re married. My husband and I go out for dinner maybe once every two weeks, if we’re lucky. Knowing how your fiance acts when you’re out to dinner, then, really doesn’t tell you how they’ll act normally.

Once you’re starting to get serious about someone, then, stop making “romantic” things the basis of your relationship, and start just living life. Go grocery shopping together. Cook dinner together. If you’re in school, hang out together for a few hours and just study together. Go to church together. Go to Bible study together. Do errands together.

Spend as much time as possible together that is unplanned. This lets you see what your boyfriend/fiance does when they have nothing particular planned. Since most of your life when you’re married will be like that, you want to see what it’s like now.

Red Flags:

  • Playing video games all the time
  • Not wanting to spend “hang out” time with you, because he only wants to “hang out” with the guys
  • Downtime being the equivalent of “let’s get drunk” time. If he needs alcohol every time he’s relaxing, that’s a bad sign.
  • Never having a hobby he wants to do with you. If you can’t take a dance class together, or exercise together, or collect something together, then chances are you’ll have nothing to do together once you’re married, either.
  • Never doing “normal” things. If, in all the time you spend together, he never has the initiative to fix a leaky faucet, to clean a bathroom, to repaint a pealing deck, then it’s unlikely he’s going to want to devote his Saturdays to that once he’s married, either. If he likes you hanging out so that you can clean his place while he relaxes, that’s likely what your weekends will look like, too.

Pursue God Together

God needs to be the centre of your marriage. All of us run into issues when we’re married, and if someone is a Christian, then you have a common basis so that you can solve it. You can talk about what God wants. You can talk about what’s wrong and what’s right. You can pray together and get other people to pray with you.

The saddest emails I get are from women whose husbands are involved in something really bad–like gambling or pornography–but their husbands aren’t really Christians. The women think it’s wrong, but the husbands say it’s no big deal. When you don’t have a common faith, you can’t deal with these things.

And when you don’t have a common strong faith, it’s very, very hard to pass on that faith to your children.

So while you’re getting to know each other, don’t just go to church together. Go to a small group Bible study together, whether it’s through church, through a campus ministry, or whatever. Pray together. Read a chapter of the Bible every time you’re together. You don’t have to do an in-depth study, but if you bring God into your life now, then it shows that your fiance actually wants God there.

I talk to so many women who say, “I thought he was a Christian because he went to my church, but he never prays and I never see him reading the Bible, and I feel so distant from him.” Don’t take church-going as a sign about whether or not he’s close to God. Look for more.

And pray with him! Many people don’t like praying out loud, but even if it’s just sentence prayers, show that you need it to be part of your relationship. If you can’t do it now, you won’t do it when you’re married.

Let's Pray Together

 

Red Flags:

  • He never talks about God outside of church
  • If you bring up God, he doesn’t really have an opinion
  • You never see him reading his Bible
  • He has no interest in prayer

Volunteer Together

Get out of the house and do something together! This helps you run from temptation (because it will get harder to wait until you’re married to make love the closer to the wedding you get) and it helps you to see if he is motivated to help others.

It may be teaching Sunday school or youth group, it may be belonging to a music team at church, it may be something in your community. But find something to do.

Red Flags:

  • If he has no interest in helping others, he likely is very self-focused and won’t want to help others in your married life, either. If it’s important to you that he’s involved in your children’s lives and activities, then make sure that he’s willing to sacrifice his own free time now, too.

Blend Your Families

When we’re dating, all that seems to matter is just the two of you. Once you’re married, his family becomes your family, and you’ll never be alone in the same way again.

Take the initiative to get to know his family. If they don’t live near you, suggest Skype dates. Have him get to know your family as well. See how he fits. If your family is important to you, then make sure that he actually enjoys being with them and makes an effort, rather than making you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with siblings.

Red Flags:

  • If he takes no interest in getting to know your family, or constantly criticizes them, he will not want to spend time with them once you’re married, and will likely resent the time you spend with them.
  • If he does errands for his parents, but refuses to do any for you, he could be too attached to his own family. Again, that’s unlikely to change once you’re married.
  • If he spends significant amounts of time with his family, but refuses to spend time with yours, makes excuses, or resents you for wanting to be with your family, then this will become a constant source of stress later, too. As much as possible, you should be able to spend equal times with each family without this being a source of conflict now. If it is, that’s a problem.

Blend Your Money

Obviously you can’t completely blend your money before you’re married, but you can create a budget, a debt repayment schedule, and a savings schedule. In fact,  you should.

Watch how he spends money. Is he careful with money, or does he not care about debt? Does he work hard for his money? Is he motivated to provide?

Red Flags:

  • If he won’t talk about whether or not he has debt, be careful. You both should fully disclose your financial situation before you marry.
  • If he spends money he doesn’t seem to have, and doesn’t like budgeting, this will likely continue into your marriage.

Identify a Mentor Couple

Notice that I didn’t say “take pre-marital counseling”. I actually do agree with counseling; it’s just that I’ve rarely known it to make a huge difference. Usually people go to counseling and hear all the warnings, but they go in one ear and out the other because people think, “that’s not about us. We’re actually IN LOVE. We won’t experience that.”

And then they get married and they do.

So I like the idea of pre-marital counseling, but I actually think it’s more important to have things in place so that when problems come after you get married, you have a way of dealing with them.

Identify a mentor couple that you can talk with periodically for your first two years together.

Red Flags:

  • If he refuses to do counseling or find a couple because “we don’t need that”, that’s likely a sign he’s unwilling to talk about deep issues.

Wait for Sex

Good Girls Guide My SiteHaving sex before you’re married does nothing to make sure you’re sexually compatible, because we change once we’re married. And couples who wait to have sex until they’re married have better sex afterwards. Please, wait until the wedding.

I’ve written about this numerous times before. And my book, The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, lays it all out in great detail, and helps you prepare for a low-stress wedding night, too. And don’t forget to read this warning about when waiting until you’re married is hardest!

Red Flags:

  • If he insists on sex now, or pushes your boundaries, he’s unlikely to be able to wait for important things afterwards, too.
  • If you spend all of your time now “making out”, and very little doing important things, then your relationship may be built more on physical intimacy than spiritual and emotional intimacy. And that doesn’t bode well for the long run.

Falling in love is a heady time. It’s easy for our emotions to get the better of us. But choosing whom to marry is such a crucial decision. Don’t base it on feelings. Really get to know the other person, and take time to assess his character in a number of situations. You don’t get another chance at this, so do it right now, so that when you walk down that aisle, you’re confident that this is truly the man that God has for you.


WifeyWednesday175Wifey Wednesday Links!

Every Wednesday I like to link to some other great marriage posts from wonderful marriage bloggers I’ve found around the web. Here’s a bunch of posts on getting your marriage off to a great start:

Women Living Well: My Advice to a New Bride

Hot, Holy and Humorous: What I Wish I Had Known Before the Wedding Night

Happy Wives Club: The Best Marriage Advice I Ever Got

Messy Marriage: 5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Got Married

Club 31 Women: 20 Little Things That Make a Big Difference in Marriage

Calm, Healthy, Sexy: 27 Things I Learned in 27 Years of Marriage

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

Thinking back, there are so many things I wish I knew before I got married. I loved my husband, but lots still came as a surprise. So today, for top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share some of the biggies. And thanks to everyone on my Facebook Page who chimed in with what they wish they knew before they were married, too!

And so, in no particular order, here we go:

1. Sharing Finances is Hard–so Talk About it Early

Don’t wait until you get married to develop a budget, talk about saving, or make financial plans. Start doing this right after you get engaged, so that you’re on the same page. Figure out how you’ll budget and how you’ll decide what to spend money on. Money is one of the hardest things to learn how to share, and it’s so much easier if you talk it through first.

What if one of you has debt and one of you doesn’t? Then you both have to start working hard at paying off debt! And you need to have those serious conversations BEFORE you marry about setting a plan in motion to become debt free.

These things are not easy, and most people don’t know how to do them. So ask whoever is doing your premarital counseling (likely a pastor) if there is someone smart with money that you can sit down with who can help you work through basic budgeting and make some of these plans. Get some help now–before you walk down the aisle!

Oh, and here’s another gem: once the debt is paid off, live on one income. ALWAYS live on one income. If you expect that one parent will eventually stay at home with kids, then you need to learn how to live on one income now. Take the second income and save it for the house, or a car, or whatever. But live within your means early, and it will put you on such better ground moving forward.

2. In-laws matter more than you think. Get along with them now!

When we’re dating and engaged we’re so focused on the person we’re marrying. But, as one Facebook reader said,

You marry a whole family, not just one man.

Once you’re married, that family will be a part of your life, whether you like it or not. So make an effort to be friendly and get along with them as much as possible. You don’t have to be best friends, but it is so much easier if you have goodwill between you. Often when you’re dating you live away from in-laws, so they don’t seem like a factor in your life. But that changes. So Skype with them now. Go with his sister out to get your nails done. Do a craft with your mother-in-law, or ask her to help you cook a turkey dinner. Reach out. Don’t wait for them to make the first move, and pout at home because they’re not. You make that first move and build that relationship.

3. Great sex isn’t automatic–but that’s okay. You have decades to get it right!

We start marriage with such “great sexpectations”. We figure it will be just like the movies, where it works perfectly and it’s always amazingly passionate. But it’s often not.

One reader wrote,

I wish I knew that things in the bedroom would not just happen as spontaneously as we thought and communicating about intimacy and our expectations of it would be much harder than I expected.

Good Girls Guide My SiteI wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex to help women transition to great sex once they’re married–but it does take time. And here’s one neat thing I found: if you take the women who had lousy wedding nights, and then you take the women who had great wedding nights, and look at how they rate their sex lives ten years later–it makes absolutely no difference. No matter how great or awful your wedding night was, ten years later it will be good. So don’t fret the early stuff! Just relax and have fun getting to know each other. And if you’re wondering how to do that, get the book!

But once you do get married, one big piece of advice: I know you’re shy, but tell him what feels good and what doesn’t. Tell him early. If you don’t speak up on the honeymoon, it gets harder and harder to say anything. So try to talk about it then.

Oh, and another thing about sex:

I wish I had known that the man is not always the one with the greater sex drive.

In about 24% of marriages, according to my surveys, SHE has the higher sex drive. If that’s you, you are not a freak. And with good communication and lots of grace, you can still have a great sex life.

4. Marriage Isn’t 50/50. It’s 100/100.

Don’t go into marriage thinking, “we’ll each do our share”. If you start marriage measuring who does more work, you’ll always find that he doesn’t measure up. That’s because all of us have unrealistic expectations, and all of us expect our husbands to do things our way. At the same time, he expects us to do things his way. So since we’re expecting what is virtually impossible, we’ll find that he never does enough.

We have to get over this idea that we each put in half the effort, and think of marriage more like 100/100. We each jump in and dedicate ourselves to making the marriage great. The more you do that, the more benefits you’ll receive. One woman wrote:

Marriage isn’t always a 50/50 deal. Most days it is 60/40 or even 80/20. It all depends. BUT being married means meeting that other person wherever they are at that time. The more you tend your marriage the more it will flourish. You absolutely need to be totally selfless at times for it to work. It took me awhile to realize this and now that I do my marriage is the best it has ever been.

5. Marriage doesn’t necessarily change everything–especially him

Here’s an important one to understand, that has both a warning and a reassurance. First the warning.

One woman writes:

Pay attention to “habits” and don’t overlook them so easily just because you’re a starry-eyed girl in love. Sometimes, that habit is really an addiction and no matter how hard you try or how much you think they love you, you can’t and won’t make them stop. Please heed addictions (to anything) and give them time to get help and get healed before you marry them. I can’t stress that enough.

That is so true! The number of women who write to me saying, “he used porn before we were married but he said he’d stop”, or “he’s on video games six hours a day still, just like he was before we were married” is so sad. Before you’re married, don’t just date. Do life so you can see how he actually lives. Do errands together. Do mundane things together. Hang out. If you find there’s a major habit he has that annoys you, remember: this will only be magnified tenfold when we marry. It won’t go away. Marriage will not change that habit. So keep your eyes open.

Now for the reassurance. Another woman writes:

I wish I knew that marriage doesn’t always start a new chapter in your lives. Sometimes you continue in the chapter you are in and have to learn to grow together and be content where you are. For some reason, I just expected that getting married would bring us new and exciting things.

We had been together for almost 4 years before we finally got married. I just thought that marriage would be something new. It would close the old chapter, and we’d walk hand-in-hand under a rainbow into this new and glorious chapter filled with prosperity and travel and babies and a super clean house. But it just didn’t happen. Life kept going as it had been going. We both had our individual struggles and had to learn to grow together…and we have!

I’m thankful that it wasn’t as I imagined it. I’ve grown so much these three years. Above all I’ve learned that marriage–and life– is hard work, but with Jesus, it is made light. I love my husband and I’m so thankful that God kept certain doors closed and let us grow and know each other first! Now we are ready for that next chapter!

If you’re super close before you’re married, it’s not always that you develop an extra level of closeness once you’re married. Sometimes life just continues. And that’s okay.

6. It’s not easy sharing toothpaste

Sharing a life isn’t natural. Sharing a bed and sharing a bathroom sink is even harder–especially the older you are. When you’re entrenched in your own home and you’re used to having your own space and your own way of doing things, marriage is a hard adjustment.

One woman wrote:

I wish I knew that the move in together part of a marriage doesn’t just happen smoothly and automatically– How to share space, split household duties and manage joint time and money is something you should think and talk about before the wedding.

So true!

7. Plans don’t always work

Friends of mine had a ten year plan when they were married. They married in university, and planned to both get their graduate degrees and start teaching for one or two years before starting to have kids around age 29. That way they could have a downpayment on a house, and school would be done before the kids came.

But she got pregnant six months after the wedding.

Another friend of mine, within a year of getting married, was all of a sudden caring for a mother-in-law who had had a stroke out of nowhere.

It’s wonderful to plan and dream, but never invest all of your joy into any one plan. Remember that life happens, and the neat thing about being married is now you have someone to have it happen with.

My own girls have always said that they want 3-4 years with their future husbands before they have kids, and I completely agree with that. But when you’re walking down the aisle, you need to know that there is never any guarantee, and you need to be able to go with the flow.

8. Conflict can make you stronger. Don’t run from it; work through it.

Your first fight when you’re married may scare you. But that’s okay. Conflict isn’t always bad as long as you handle it well. One woman wrote:

Marriage is like two rough rocks being thrown in a tumbler. You smooth each other out as you bang and hit against each other.

Talk through your conflict. Tell him about what you’re thinking. Keep communication open, even if it’s hard. Before you’re married, develop a plan on how you’ll have these difficult talks. Maybe every Thursday after dinner you’ll go for a walk to “check in”, and that will give both of you time to bring up anything you want to. Maybe you’ll have breakfast Saturday mornings and plan through the next week and talk about these things. Plan beforehand, and arrange natural times to talk, knowing that there will always be something to talk about, and life is smoother.

And don’t shy away from conflict! One woman writes:

I wish I had known too, that trying to please him in every way possible, even going against my beliefs, to placate and prevent arguments is not the solution.

Conflict is always either a win/win or a lose/lose. Don’t aim to win an argument, because if you defeat your husband and he loses, you lose, too. You lose intimacy. Instead, find the win/win in everything. When you do that, conflict doesn’t seem so scary.

9. Listen to the little things

Don’t focus on yourself; before you’re married, practice focusing on him and what he’s thinking and feeling. Let those things matter to you.

One woman writes:

I wish I had known to really listen to the little things your husband says; I’ve found if I pay attention to the little things, the “big” things are fewer and far between.

When you pay attention to the little things he wants, he feels important. And that makes big conflicts less likely to happen.

Another woman says,

Un-met expectations are likely unknown expectations, speak up!

Don’t expect him to be a mind reader; ask for help in the little things. You may just find he’s more than happy to oblige, but he just didn’t know you needed anything.

10. It’s wonderful to go through life with somebody else.

Finally, we hear so much negative stuff about marriage. Marriage is hard. So many people divorce. You’ll never work harder at anything in your life.

I suppose that’s partially true, but overall, what I’ve found after 23 years of marriage is that it is such an amazing privilege to have someone else to walk through life with–someone who knows me inside and out, someone who has been there for everything, and someone who is always sticking around. That joy makes up for so much.

Let me end with this woman’s words:

It doesn’t have to be hard! If you are willing to learn and show grace, marriage will be such a joy. 3.5 years in and my husband and I have only had one minor fight because we have this perspective

It doesn’t have to be hard. Love in the little things; do 100/100; know that there will be transitions–and you just may find marriage is one of the best rides of your life!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Reader Question: My Husband is So Passive!

Reader Question of the WeekWhat do you do when you’re married to a passive husband?

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today we’ve got a question from a woman who feels like her husband doesn’t initiate or take the lead.

A little background–we are not a “traditional” newlywed couple–my husband and I just celebrated our second anniversary, I’m older and have grown children from a previous long term marriage, he was briefly married as a very young man, I am his first “roomie” ever, he is still in the military.

Our situation–I need and want my husband to be more decisive, a leader, and take charge (in and out of the bedroom). He is a generous, kind, caring man and I’m grateful and love him dearly. We have a good sex life (2-4/ week) but I’d say I’m the higher drive spouse and initiate almost all of the time–however after much reinforcement and affirmation and really just getting tired of always initiating–I’ve notice a slight improvement in he starting to initiate. I long to feel desired and pursued! I long for him to be more in charge-need his strong, masculine self to make me feel more feminine. I long for him to have an opinion when I ask what he’d like to do, eat, watch etc. It is nice that he wants to please me and make sure I’m happy but I’m concerned how this passivity will affect the long term health of our marriage.

The last thing I want to do is hurt my husband or make him feel like he’s “doing something wrong”. I heard that term in the beginning of our marriage when I tried to bring up things that were bothering me and have worked on finding ways to communicate more effectively. I’m more hesitant and seeking help in this area bc this obviously ties to his being a man and his masculinity and in no way do I want to unintentionally disrespect or demean him!

Do you have suggestions, resources, a way to encourage him? A way to start talking?

Let’s look at this from a number of different angles:

Living with a Passive Husband: Accepting Personality Differences

1. Some People May Seem Passive, But Their Personality is Just Laid Back

She seems to want her husband to be decisive and have opinions, and she views this as a character defect because he doesn’t. But these are also different sides of personality. There are umpteen ways to measure personality, and I’ve talked on this blog before about my favourite–the MBTI. Basically it divides personality into four spectrums:

Extrovert/Introvert
Sensing/Intuitive (are you a detail person or a big picture person)
Thinking/Feeling (do you value logic or feelings when making decisions)
Judging/Perceiving (are you quick to have an opinion, or do you like to be spontaneous?)

I’m totally guessing here, but it sounds like he may be an FP, and she may be a TJ. Thinking/Judgers are big on opinions and action and just DOING something. FPs are big on living in the moment, enjoying things, and not getting too worked up over anything.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with either.

We need to be very careful in marriage that we do not attribute a character flaw to someone when it is simply a personality difference. I’m a TJ, so I understand the woman’s urge to want someone to make a decision and to express it quickly. But I also married a TJ. If she chose to marry someone who was not like that, she really can’t blame him for it. Even the fact that she’s saying he’s a passive husband instead of saying he’s a laid back husband already means a value judgment.

In marriage we all have to adjust to each other. Perhaps what God really wants her to learn is how to be more spontaneous, how to live life without definite plans, how to enjoy the moment, and how to just relax. These are all good things, too.

Don’t try to change him. He’s a good and generous man, but he’s simply different from you, and that honestly is okay. It may be a good idea to take a personality test so that you can see this in black and white. It isn’t a character problem, but instead differences in how you approach life. Sometimes it’s those differences that can make life fun!

2. Be Careful of Overcompensating

Different Parenting StylesThere’s a funny dynamic in marriage that goes something like this, and let me use parenting as an example because we all get it. Let’s say that you could measure leniency as a parent on a scale of 1-100, and discipline on a scale of 1-100. Let’s say that one parent falls at about 25 on the discipline scale, and one parent falls at about 25 on the leniency scale. One parent wants more order, and one parent wants more fun.

Here’s what often happens as the two parents interact with the kids: the lenient parent sees the discipline parent discipline, and so they became concerned. That makes them become even more lenient, because they want to give their kids a break. As the discipline parent sees the lenient parent grow even more lenient, they feel that the discipline is even more in their hands, and so they start coming down even harder. Both parents are trying to make up for what they see the other parent not doing.

Now, suddenly, they’re both 75 on their scales. They’re comfortable at 25, but they’ve become a caricature of themselves while they try to compensate for the other.

That’s a common dynamic, but it’s one we need to make sure we don’t follow. In this case, the wife could be so concerned the husband makes no decisions that she starts to make even more. That reinforces him as the passive one, and her as the decisive one. Soon she’s become more decisive than she even wants to be, but she’s also given him permission to be even more passive. It’s not healthy.

If you see something lacking, don’t fill the gap. Sometimes it’s best to back off. She backed off on initiating, and he did begin to initiate more. That’s good!

3. Accept Him as He Is

Here’s what I see from this letter: she’s tried all kinds of different ways to make her “passive husband” open up more, because she feels that something is holding him back and he’s missing out on life. She wants him to communicate better and to initiate more.

But few guys like talking. And he’s in the military! That means that he’s been taught to keep his feelings under wraps and just do what you need to in the moment. Sitting around and analyzing what’s going on in your head isn’t a big part of his experience.

She suddenly wants him to start opening up, and she’s frustrated that he’s not.

I guess I’d ask, why? What did you expect him to do?

Let me be perfectly blunt here. Stop trying to change him and stop trying to have these big communication sessions. Just accept him. He seems like a decent, responsible, kind person, who doesn’t like to talk about his feelings. In other words, he seems like the vast majority of men. It doesn’t mean he’s hiding anything, and it doesn’t mean that he has things bottled up. He just would prefer not to look too deeply, and that’s okay.

Instead of trying to get him to sit down and talk, why don’t you spend time with him? Find a hobby you can do together. Have him take you to the shooting range. Take up jogging. It doesn’t matter what it is; but do things together. That’s when you’re likely to start talking; it’s far more likely to happen outdoors when you’re doing something than at night when you say, “now’s when we’re going to communicate.”

4. Be Grateful for Your Sex Life

It sounds like you two have a great sex life. 2-4 times a week is wonderful! And it sounds like he’s a good lover, interested in pleasing you. No, it’s not absolutely everything you want, but it sounds pretty good. Why not start focusing on what you do like, instead of on what you’re missing?

Thank him for what he does do. Send him flirty texts referring to something that happened last night. Just be generous!

If there really is something that you’re missing, you can suggest having “His/Her Saturdays” or something, where one week you do what you want (and you lay out how he’s supposed to initiate), and the next week you do what he wants. That works for some couples. But I think learning to laugh together and appreciate what you do have is far better than mentioning inadequacies, especially when you’re doing well. When you both feel like good lovers, it’s far easier to continue to improve. When you both feel judged, people tend to retreat.

Those are my initial thoughts, but I’d love to hear yours! I’m also quite aware that this woman has a great husband–he may be passive, but overall he sounds like a solid guy. I know some of you don’t have that. Your passive husband won’t get a job, or plays video games all the time, or something like that. In those cases my advice would be quite different. But this man doesn’t seem to be doing anything wrong; they simply have different personalities. And in that case, I still think the best route is acceptance, not trying to change someone.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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.