Making it Home: When Sex Isn’t Easy and Playful

Welcome guest author Emily Wierenga, as she shares an excerpt about how sex sometimes hurts from her new memoir, Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose.

Making it Home

Some nights, we can’t.

We have one set of bed sheets, and they’re tattered for the washing. In the winter it’s a feather tick we sleep under, feathers plucked by the Hutterites who live down the road from us.

I cry because I can’t let Trent in again.

It hurts too much, and it’s our wedding night all over again—two sons later.

“Shhh—it’s okay, Em, we’ll try again,” he says. But I know it’s not just my body that won’t let him in.

We sleep beneath the feathers, and some nights, Trent kicks it off because he’s too hot. He’s always naked, me, wrapped in flannels and “You should really try sleeping without clothes,” Trent says, holding me. “You’d be so much warmer.”

“I doubt that,” I say with a laugh. “I know why you want me to sleep naked… ”

He kisses my neck. “You know, sometimes, Em, I just want to hold you.”

I nod. I know. Because he is the man who waited six months just to kiss me.

Who waited twenty three years to have sex with someone—and that someone was me, on our wedding night.

But I was sewn tight that night, and the champagne didn’t loose anything. Trent waiting in the bed in the cottage, his black suit and white shirt flung on the floor and him leaning on one arm, waiting for me. The July heat whispering through a window, and the beach just steps from the cottage. The stars like the diamonds on my dress, clustered together and I thought about running.

“Are you coming, Em?” Trent said, and I let that dress fall, clutching the sheets to my flat chest and he pulled me close but I was an aged envelope that had glued shut. And I cried. Him saying, “Shhh, it’s okay, we have our whole lives to figure this out.”

We were the couple who, when we were dating, hadn’t been able to stop kissing until three in the morning, his hands under my shirt but now, after the vows beneath the trellis and my dad’s tender prayer and the rose petals falling, now that we were married, I was like a caged bird. Him trying to open the lock but I wanted that cage. I knew every corner, every rung, and I’d put myself in there when I was sixteen.

Trent’s fallen asleep against my shoulder, his quiet snores in my ear, his long arms around my waist.

I’m reading And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, my bedside table littered with ear plugs and sleeping pills. And some nights, still, even after two babies and ten years of becoming one beneath the sheets, my body still runs to that cage.

I’m that bird, learning how to fly.

Sheila says: I so appreciate Emily being so honest in her book about her struggles. If you’ve struggling with vaginismus (when sex hurts because you’re too tight), I do have some information in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. You can also find some information on vaginismus here.

When Sex Hurts

This excerpt is taken from Emily Wierenga’s new memoir (the sequel to ATLAS GIRL), Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose. Order HERE.

What does it mean to be a woman and to make a home? Does it mean homeschooling children or going to the office every day? Cooking gourmet meals and making Pinterest-worthy home décor? In Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose, author and blogger Emily Wierenga takes readers on an unconventional journey through marriage, miscarriage, foster parenting and the daily struggle of longing to be known, inviting them into a quest for identity in the midst of life’s daily interruptions. Get your copy HERE. Proceeds benefit Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree.

Get FREE downloadable chapters from Making It Home HERE.

Emily T. WierengaMaking It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose_medium_image_attachmentEmily Wierenga is a blogger and the author of several books, including her touching memoirs Atlas Girl about her struggle with anorexia and figuring out where she fits in this world, and Making It Home. She’s an artist, a writer, a mother, and a lover with a passion for Africa. You can find her at http://emilywierenga.com.

Reader Question: How Can I Love if My Spouse is Hurting Me?

Reader Question: how can I love my husband when he ticks me off?How can I love my husband if he’s hurting me? How can I love my spouse if my spouse completely ticks me off?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is quite a common one that most of you could have written:

I know that sex is important in a marriage, but after spending the whole day picking up my husband’s messes, dealing with all the chaos with my kids, and watching my husband totally oblivious to what’s going on around him, I just want to scream! How can I not notice that two kids are fighting in front of him? Why is that always my problem? And how hard is it to put a coffee mug in the dishwasher? Why do I always have to do it? I feel like he walks through our house and notices nothing–not the mess, not the kids, not the bills. I take care of everything, and he likes it that way. And I’m just fed up.

Whether we’re ticked off about our husband never putting his coffee mug in the dishwasher or whether we’re ticked off about our husband watching porn; whether it’s a small thing or a little thing, we all battle with this essential question: how am I supposed to be nice to him when he makes me so mad?

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to feel ticked off. Sure, your spouse can do something wrong. Sure, your spouse can say something hurtful. But ultimately you decide how you will respond. Your husband can’t make you mad; that is a choice that you make.

When your spouse hurts you: You don't have to feel ticked off! You can choose how to respond.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentI’m not saying that you should let everything go, or that you shouldn’t deal with problems; not at all! In fact, in my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage I’ve got 3 of the 9 thoughts that all have to do with handling these issues in marriage, whether they’re big or small. You definitely have to resolve problems.

But those problems are easier to resolve if we’re going at them with our hearts right. And when we focus on anger and we focus on hurt, we won’t be able to solve anything.

Know Your Goal in Marriage: Oneness

I can think of so many times that I’ve been angry at Keith–and I actually shared a few instances in the book where I let those hurts and that anger drive a wedge between us. He’d be at work and I’d be at home, crying into my tea, so sad that I didn’t have a husband who understood me.

And usually at some point in the afternoon, a thought will enter my head: “do you actually want to make the marriage better, or do you just want to be proven to be the ‘good guy’ here?” In other words, am I trying to mend something, or am I just trying to justify myself and make him feel like slime?

But I usually dismiss those thoughts, because I HURT AND HE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND IT. So I work myself up and see how much worse I can feel. By the time he comes home, I’m ready for battle.

And often, within five minutes or hashing out all the ways he’s hurting me, all the things that I’ve rehearsed saying all day, I realize that I sound ridiculous. Sure, Keith may have done something hurtful. But me dwelling on it all day and lambasting him for it is worse.

How can we avoid all those crying messes in the meantime?

Here are three steps that I talk about in my book.

Know Your Triggers

Here’s how I explain it in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage:

One night your husband arrives home later than he was supposed to, and it doesn’t bother you one bit. Yet a week later he walks in the door equally late, and you’ve already been seething for half an hour, rehearsing the speech you’ll launch into once he steps inside. You think, He doesn’t care about our family! You decide that he has the problem—or even, that he is the problem.

Or maybe some mornings you’re ready to tear your husband’s hair out for leaving his socks on the floor instead of pitching them in the hamper, while other mornings you happily fetch the offending garments while humming to yourself.

We dwell on the particular infraction—being late or leaving socks lying around—but we often fail to realize that it isn’t necessarily what our husbands do that makes us mad; it’s other things that are going on in the background that cause us to see our husbands in a bad light. We let these other things—these triggers—influence how we think about our husbands. By scanning for these triggers, though, we can minimize their ability to send our thoughts reeling.

We all have times when we’re more likely to get ticked off, and if we can recognize them, we can minimize the chance that they’ll tackle us. Being hormonal; being too busy; being tired; feeling defensive; feeling like you haven’t connected in a while–all of these things make us more likely to react badly when our husbands do something insensitive.

I elaborate on that here–but remember: when you’re angry, ask yourself if the problem really is entirely with him, because quite often it’s not!

Don’t Dwell on the Bad Stuff

Did you know that you can control your thoughts? 2 Corinthians 10:5 says this:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

We take every thought captive! That means that we can take a thought, examine it, and throw it out if it’s not valid.

If we’re always looking for our husbands to mess up, we’ll notice each and every time they do. Taking every thought captive means breaking this cycle.

When writing the book I asked on my Facebook Page for people to share stories of how they managed to “let things go”–those little things that can bug us and make us think we have a bad marriage. I want to share the story of a woman I named Ruby:

A couple years ago I realized that I couldn’t look at my husband without seeing everything wrong with him. I was constantly annoyed, irritated, and disappointed.

I must have prayed about becoming more loving because God dropped an idea into my brain. I would stop criticizing Dave for one whole month. In order to keep from falling off the wagon, I decided to write about it. Every day. On Facebook, for all my friends to see. They would be my accountability group, whether they wanted to or not.

When I told Dave my plan, I was so nervous. I thought he’d roll his eyes or be suspicious. Instead, he beamed. And another little piece of my heart broke. I hadn’t realized how hurt he’d been by my bad attitude, sarcastic remarks, and snide comments—my passive-aggressive attempts to fix him.

I found that, because I wasn’t allowed to say anything snide to him, I stopped thinking critical things too. It happened gradually. I’d start a rant in my head about his leaving his side of the bed unmade or his floor all messy, and then I’d stop. All the nasty comments I was saving in my head for him were useless, since I wasn’t allowed to say them. So I stopped searching for them.

Since I was required to say nice things, I had to look for them: reasons I was thankful, things he was doing right. And slowly, I saw him differently. I realized that all those negative things were really coming from my own baggage, my own selfishness, and my own needs and desperation. They weren’t the whole truth.

Once my mouth, and more especially my thoughts, got out of the way, I realized I had a great husband. By the end of the month, I had formed a new habit. And as an added bonus, I’d had great conversations with my friends on Facebook, and I think we all grew a little.

After shutting up about my own needs and stopping thinking me, me, ME! all the time, I realized I had some issues of my own I needed to work through. I had no concept of boundaries and saying no. I had no idea that a “good Christian wife” could ask her husband in a nice, non-ragey way to please put his lunch bag away instead of stewing over feeling like his maid for months and then exploding in a vague storm of emotions and frustration.

I had a lot to learn, but the month of no criticizing was a great first step for me.

Catch Him Doing Good

Ruby tried to not criticize, and it meant that she wasn’t watching for him to mess up. Now let’s take it one step further and catch him doing good.

If you make it your goal to notice one thing that he does today well, and then praise him for it–that can change the whole dynamic of your relationship!

If you’re in a tough marriage, I know this sounds difficult.

But when you get your heart right, you can start tackling the big problems in marriage with a better attitude. And you’ve built some goodwill so that your spouse is more receptive, too.

I know when you’re sad you just want your spouse to acknowledge it and feel badly about it, too. And a little grovelling wouldn’t hurt.

But wanting your spouse to feel like a worm rarely does much for the marriage. Instead, realize: I can control my feelings. I can decide what to think about. I can decide what to dwell on.

That’s really empowering. And then we can stop feeling so much like a victim in the marriage, and more like a strong person who can start to address problems and turn this  marriage around! When everything just happens TO you, you can’t do anything. But when you decide how to feel and how to act, suddenly you have the ability to make changes. And that’s what God intended for you.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentMy husband can’t make me mad, and I don’t have to feel ticked off.

That’s freeing! And it’s thought #2 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. If you want to read some marriage thoughts that empower you to make changes, then this book is for you! God doesn’t want us to be passive in our marriages. He wants us to learn to do the right thing. And I try to show you how you can turn a mediocre marriage into a great marriage!

 

Just Be Kind: Why is That So Hard?

Just Be Kind! Because your husband is your neighbor, too.

Just be kind.

Why is that so hard?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage. I introduce a topic, and then marriage bloggers can link up their own marriage posts in the linky below.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentAnd it’s launch week for my new book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage! I’m going to do some chat sessions on Facebook (if I can figure out how)!, some flash giveaways, and more. So stay tuned! And thanks for all who bought my book on launch day. It made such a difference ( more on that below).

But today I want to talk about something basic: just be kind.

Let’s start by looking at a real life example. Excuse me for verging on the political, but I want to use an example everyone’s talking about.

Everyone loves to beat up on Hillary Clinton these days. Whether it’s Democrats hoping that someone else will get into the race or Republicans hoping that someone won’t, she’s everybody’s punching bag.

Regardless of how you feel about Ms. Clinton, I think we can all agree on one thing: setting up a personal email server was a really stupid thing to do. I’m not talking about whether she was deliberately hiding classified material or not or whether she lied or not. That’s not the relevant issue today. The point is she knew you weren’t supposed to use a personal server; she sent out memos to her department warning them not to use personal emails. She knew about the requirement to preserve emails. But she did it anyway–likely because she didn’t want to give political foes ammunition in future campaigns. And she figured she could get away with it.

She figured the rules didn’t apply to her.

It’s easy to laugh at her, and to criticize her, and even to take glee in these proceedings (if you’re of a certain political persuasion). But how often do we do the same thing?

We figure the rules don’t apply to us when it comes to marriage.

Ms. Clinton knew what she was supposed to do, but she was focused on a goal: getting elected. And that took precedence. But others in her department didn’t have her justification–and so they had to abide by the rules.

Now, let’s think about marriage for a moment. We have a goal–having a happy marriage. We think we deserve it. We think we were promised it. We think we’re due.

And so when our husbands do things that prevent us from having that great marriage, we feel justified in being heartbroken, and angry, and sullen. We pray that God will change his heart. We pray that our husband will love us.

And those are all good things.

But do we remember a simple truth:

My husband is my neighbor. And that means I’m supposed to be kind to him.

That’s Thought #1 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage because it sets us up for everything else.

I believe that it is much easier to be kind to strangers than it is to be kind to those closest to us.

Do this thought experiment: which is it easier to give money to? A campaign to feed desperate people in Africa, or a campaign to feed the homeless in your city? Likely the one in Africa, because you see them as Hungry People in the abstract. With the homeless in your city, on the other hand, you think of all the reasons that they may have to be homeless, and you start to wonder if feeding them is the right thing to do (I’m not ignoring the fact that there may be some truth to that; I’m just making a point).

Similarly, how often do we step into church or step into the workplace and bring someone a coffee, or give someone some encouragement or a compliment, just to be nice? We do it because they are Nice People We Sometimes See.

But with our husbands, it can be hard to utter that compliment, because we start thinking, “I got my hair cut last week and he didn’t even notice,” or “I do so much for him and he rarely does anything for me.”

We start asking ourselves if he deserves it.

When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, I believe one of the points that he was making is that it is often easier for a stranger to show kindness (the Samaritan) than those who are closer to the person (the Levite and the priest). When we’re close to someone, we can think of all the reasons they don’t deserve it. “What did that guy do to get himself beaten up, anyway?” And then we can justify saying, “that commandment to be kind doesn’t apply to me.” It’s easy to be nice to people in the abstract. It’s much harder to be nice to people up close and personal, when we know all their faults, and we can see all the reasons why they deserve to suffer through this mess.

How could our marriages be transformed if we all remembered to just be kind?

Just be his neighbor! Don’t ask whether he deserves it. Don’t ask whether he’s doing the same thing to you. Just show kindness!

But what about the fact that he never wants to spend any time with me? What about the fact that he still uses porn? What about the fact that he doesn’t show me he loves me? Doesn’t that matter?

Yep. It really does.

But those things are so much easier to deal with if we get our own attitudes in check first–and if we start laying a groundwork of kindness.

That’s why Thought #1 that can change your marriage in my book is that simple one:

My husband is my neighbor.

Treat him like it. Just be kind. And then there are other thoughts that come later in the book to help you deal with the porn, and the fact that you’re feeling distant. We’ll talk about how to be a peacemaker and not a peacekeeper. We’ll talk about how to fight against the drift in marriage. We’ll talk about how to be good.

But for now, show him kindness. It really can make all the difference in the world!

9Thoughts_QuoteGraphics_Thought1_Sides_rev

And now I just have to say a few things to you, my readers.

Thank you so much for yesterday. I was blown away.

Check this out from Amazon.ca:

Amazon ranking for 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your MarriageI broke the top 100 in Canada! And I was #1 in all kinds of categories!

And in the U.S. I broke the top 1000! And I’m #1 in Christian Marriage New Releases. So Yay!

So many of you sent kind words my way, too. It was a busy day, but I’m so grateful.

And now, can I ask another favor?

(Let me spell that the Canadian way since Canadians really went above and beyond yesterday). Can I ask another favour?

If you’ve got the book already, and you’ve at least skimmed it, and you like it, can you write a review up on Amazon? The more great reviews I have the better, because it is a controversial book and it does go against a lot of the pat answers we see in church, and it’s going to get some lousy ratings. So if I could have a TON of good ones to preemptively counter those ones, that would be awesome!

You can rate it here.

So seriously, if you could go rate the book ASAP, I’d appreciate it a TON!

And if you sent me in your receipt, be sure to check your inbox for the link to enter the contest! I’m going to give everyone until the end of the day today to actually enter, and then I’ll be doing the draw tonight. So get those entries in.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow, what advice do you have for us today about marriage? Link up the URL of your own marriage post in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts!



Women Need Authenticity! The Phenomenal Effect Campaign

Don’t we all thirst for something REAL–for authenticity?

We scroll through our social media feeds feeling inadequate because everyone else either seems so much more artsy with their photos or have gone on awesome vacations. We walk into church all prettied up, but we’re scared to tell any of the women in this community how lonely we are. We go to a family reunion and show off our kids, but we’re secretly praying that they won’t start fighting over the same things they were fighting over in the car.

We’re scared to let anyone see what we’re really like.

Women's Thirst for Authenticity: Part of Lean Cuisine's Phenomenal Effects campaign!

This summer I’ve been chosen as one of Lean Cuisine’s Phenomenal Ambassadors and sharing great stories of accomplishments. Earlier last month I helped share that the most important thing we should weigh is our effort–not just our success or our appearance.

Lean Cuisine wants to help you Feed Your PhenomenalTM by helping each other recognize the unseen things women do every day that go unnoticed, so I’m sharing the story of a woman who I think is phenomenal.

In my last post I told you about Natalie from Visionary Womanhood, who worked so hard to make her marriage work, and is now leaning more on God as she is learning that she can’t be responsible for someone else’s poor choices. And she’s come to such a greater understanding of grace in the process! She’s writing phenomenal stuff.

Today I want to share another blogger with you: Sarah Ball from Virtuous Woman Exposed. She’s a mom of 5. She struggles with her past. She struggles with keeping romance alive. She’s just plain honest. And that’s refreshing.

I first met Sarah at a writer’s conference two years ago. She was asking my advice on blogging and getting books published, and I invited her to guest post for me. Now, at that particular conference I invited dozens of women to send me guest posts. Sarah is one of the few who followed through.

What really stood out to me was her message. Sarah’s a busy mom of 5. But the whole point of her blog is that she isn’t just “The Virtuous Woman” from Proverbs 31 or anything. She’s “The Virtuous Woman EXPOSED“–the one who tells it like it is and opens up on her own foibles and where life is just plain messy.

As you all know, I’m on a crusade to end the “pat Christian answers” to marriage problems.

Sarah doesn’t give pat answers. She’s the mom of 5 kids, and she’s trying to juggle a blossoming freelance writing career while still being a great mom. And a great wife. And not losing it with everyone in sight.

I love her take on mommy porn–she’s upfront and honest about her own struggles in marriage, and she’s upfront and honest with her 16-year-old daughter. We need more of that!

I love her conclusion that bringing her muffin top on vacation to Mexico was absolutely okay. And I adore her advice to husbands on how to encourage their wives to lose weight. If every man followed her 7 day plan–wow, we’d have great marriages!

And one of the bravest things she did was to create her Fearless in 21 Days series–detailing her own battle with panic attacks and stress, and then showing how we can work through it.

VWE

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by Accident

In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, thought #3 is all about happiness and how our husbands were not put on earth to make us happy. In fact, we weren’t put on earth to be happy. But when we find joy in God and contentment in our circumstances, then happiness usually follows. It’s a by-product of the things that we choose to think about.

And as I told the stories of several women who had discovered happiness in marriage, one said this:

“I realized that my contentment was a gift that I could give my husband.”

Instead of waiting for him to make you happy, finding your own contentment is such a gift. He won’t feel like he has to fix things for you. He won’t feel like he’s inadequate. He’ll feel like he’s 10 feet tall and he can take on the world. And that really is fun to be around!

I’ve read so many “pat Christian answers” about how to find happiness in marriage. You know the kind–learn his love language and be absolutely amazing to him, and then he will do the same for you! Or just pray a lot and you’ll find that God will give you the desires of your heart.

That’s not what it’s about. It’s not about manipulating him. It’s not about trying to convince God to make you happy. It’s about realizing what is in your control, and then chasing after doing the right thing! It’s about honesty. It’s about authenticity before God and before your husband. And it’s about being real.

I love that Sarah has understood that. I love that she’s wrestling in the day to day with real problems, and she’s giving other people a window into that. I love that she’s not projecting this idea that if we have these perfect homes and we do these perfect devotions and we’re all perfectly organized that we’ll be happy. No, that’s not what we’re supposed to be chasing after. It’s not about having a perfect life. It’s about treating yourself well, treating others well, and chasing after God, even in the mess.

So check out Sarah!

Sarah’s all about getting healthy: getting healthy emotionally, getting healthy spiritually, figuring out how to get healthy physically even with 5 kids.

And now I want to know: which woman do you know who is phenomenal?

Visit the Phenomenal Effect website to enter Lean Cuisine’s promotion and help spread the Phenomenal Effect by recognizing the phenomenal women in your life and encouraging them to do the same. You could win prizes for yourself and everyone that you recognize. Also be sure to visit them on Facebook and Twitter

Who are some of the phenomenal women in your life? Tell us about it in the comments. Each comment will automatically be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card, thanks to SheKnows!

Entry Instructions: 

No duplicate comments. 

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry. 

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here

This sweepstakes runs from 8/13/15 – 9/30/15. 

Be sure to visit the Lean Cuisine brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

My Husband Can’t Make Me Happy

Are you waiting for your husband to make you happy?

My husband can't make me happy--that's not his job. Let's take responsibility for our stuff!

Our marriage was never fabulous,” my friend Julie told me. “And it went down substantially when we had kids.” Her first child was extremely colicky. Her second baby was born prematurely and was on a heart monitor for six months. She’d not anticipated how difficult motherhood would be, and it threw her for a loop.

“I was completely out of my element, and I kept expecting my husband to fix it,” Julie said. But her husband was out of his element too. Although he had the job world under control, he didn’t know how to step in and control the home front. Julie explained:

I felt like he wasn’t helping me, but he didn’t know what to do any more than I did. I was trying to make him into my savior, and he wasn’t my savior. He was supposed to be my partner. Mean-while, he was feeling overwhelmed in a different way. His wife had become a complete mess. “Where’s the beautiful wife I married?” he’d say. And I was blaming him for making her disappear.

When I was a personal mess, my husband tried to fix it. When it wasn’t fixable, he wanted to step away. It just made him feel badly. He didn’t know how to react to me.

The more Julie’s husband stepped away, the more Julie started to notice all the ways that he wasn’t meeting her needs. Add to that her own insecurity as a mom, and her personal mess grew worse and worse.

Can you relate to Julie?

I can.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentJulie’s story ended up in my upcoming book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. I was telling you all about the book last week, and we were looking at some of the more controversial elements–how sometimes you have to confront sin in your husband’s life, and we weren’t always called to keep silent.

But if you were to ask me which of the 9 “thoughts” was the hardest for me personally, it would be this one: realizing that my husband was not put on earth to make me happy.

I’ve been through a tough year and a half. It started with a lot of health problems, and ended with a personal struggle I’ve been praying through and agonizing about. And what’s bugged me the most is that I can’t share that personal struggle with Keith in the way that I want to, because it’s not his struggle. He doesn’t feel the same way about the issue as I do (it’s not a marriage issue, by the way. It’s something totally different.)

Here’s what I think we women often do–what both Julie and I have done: when we are having a personal problem, we expect our husbands to enter into that problem, to walk through it with us, to comfort us, and even to fix it. To do something about it. To be our big champion!

But isn’t being our champion God’s role?

If your husband doesn’t get as riled up or as upset about something as you do, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It just means that he has a different perspective.

The problem women make is that we expect our husbands to slog through all our problems alongside us; the problem many men make is that they try to handle their problems alone.

Neither approach is right.

Who do we expect to fix our problems?

I don’t know what’s bothering you today–if you’re worried about a relationship, or worried about your kids, or worried about money. It’s okay to have things that are burdening you. But let’s make sure that we put the onus for fixing those problems where it belongs: with ourselves and with God, not with our husbands. Sure, they can help. Sure, they can sympathize (my husband’s been very good at that). But they don’t have to enter into the problem the way that we do.

Here’s what Julie learned:

One day, when her children were still preschoolers, Julie looked in the mirror and felt as if she didn’t recognize herself anymore. She used to be a confident woman with drive and dreams who could take on the world; now she was a mess who was always angry. “I finally realized I couldn’t force having the relationship I wanted. I wanted me back. I honestly think my prayers even changed, from less of a ‘God, just fix everything, and everyone, around me’ to ‘Lord, just help me be better.’”

And how did she get better?

She figured out God’s formula for happiness.

I share it in detail in the book, but I want to give you a glimpse into it.

Let’s start with first principles: happiness is about being happy with your circumstances. Happiness is really based on this earth–with liking what’s going on around  you. That’s why happiness is so fickle, because we can’t control our circumstances.

I’ve found the best explanation of happiness to be this one:

Happiness is having what you want, which is only possible when God helps you to want what you have.

If we stop at that first half–having what you want–we’ll always be unhappy, because our wants are unlimited. We can always figure out something else that we need. We are, at heart, envious people.

What we really need, then, is for God to change our hearts so that we want what He has given us. I think that’s what Psalm 37:4 means:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

It’s not that God gives you what you desire; it’s that He actually gives you your desires.

As you grow closer to Him, you start to desire the things of God. And when you possess those, you become happy.

So, in other words, happiness is a by-product of something else. Happiness isn’t the first step at all; it’s something that only comes after we wrestle with God. Happiness, I believe, can only come after joy and contentment, because they’re not the same thing.

Here’s how I explain it:

Joy is an emotion that looks upward; contentment is an emotion that looks inward; and happiness is an emotion that looks outward. Joy says, “How great is our God!” Contentment says, “It is well with my soul.” And happiness says, “What a wonderful husband I have!”

Happiness is important. We all want to enjoy our marriages. But the ability to enjoy marriage depends first and foremost on our perspective. And what determines that? Our attitude toward God (looking upward) and our heart attitude (looking inward). When we have joy and contentment, happiness in marriage will become much more attainable.

Happiness flows from joy and contentment first--not from our husbands. From 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

I know we hear that all the time–that we can’t be happy until we first have Jesus. It sounds so cliche. But the thing is–it’s true. It’s not a pat answer because it always applies.

Ladies, we’re all going to go through periods, like Julie, when we are exhausted and stretched beyond our limits. I did when I had health problems; Julie did when she had little kids. Our husbands can be sympathetic. Our husbands can walk alongside and pray with us. But they can’t feel it in the same way that we do, and they can’t always fix it.

But men like to fix things. That’s one of their motivating forces. So when we have a problem and he can’t fix it, he will withdraw. He’ll feel useless. And that will make our situation worse.

The biggest lesson that I have learned in the last year is this one:

My happiness is a gift that I can give my husband.

When I am happy (which only flows from joy and contentment), my husband is free. He doesn’t have to fix anything. He can just love me, and have fun with me, and dote on me without feeling like he’s somehow doing something wrong. What a blessing!

It’s been tough. It was tough for Julie–she had to learn how to bring God into her daily life and how to set up systems so that she could cope with two difficult preschoolers. I have had to learn to spend much more time in prayer to wrestle through my own issues. I’ve had to learn to fill my life with little bits of joy. I’ve had to find more discipline.

But it’s been worth it, because now I can say to Keith, “let’s go on a hike this weekend!”, and we can, and there’s no lingering feeling like he’s disappointing me.

Here we are, on Saturday, during a 10 km trek (seriously, it felt a lot longer with all the hills):

Keith Sheila Hike

Tomorrow I want to share with you my Top 10 ways for creating happiness–and thus giving your husband the gift of a happy wife! It’s just a snippet of what’s in the book–seriously, there’s so much more–but I hope it will help you.

But today I wanted to let you know that I learned a lot while writing this book. I have struggled with many of these issues, too, and this one in particular has been a journey for me.  I hope you can take this journey with me.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentNine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage will start shipping August 18–but you can pre-order it now! And everyone who preorders, or who orders it on August 18, will be able to get a whole bunch of free downloadable goodies during all my parties I’m planning for August 18! Just keep watching this blog, or stay in touch through my newsletter so you don’t miss your chance to get your goodies, and come to a bunch of fun parties on the day!

And if you’re in North America, Amazon has the pre-order price at 52% off! It’s only $7.42. So get it today!

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Top 10 Christian Pat Answers About Marriage

Sometimes Christian marriage advice just doesn’t work.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentAs we get ready for the launch of my new book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I asked on my Facebook Page for people to share some “pat answers” about marriage that they often hear, but that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Thank you so much for all your responses! They were great to read through. And so many of them were in my book, too–which helps me to know that I’m on the right track!

So today I’m going to share the Top 10 Pat Christian Marriage Advice that doesn’t work.

Top 10 Pat Answer Christian Marriage Advice that Doesn't WorkPat Answer Christian Marriage Advice That Makes Small Things Bigger

In this first category we’re talking about when you’re upset about relatively little things, that are likely fairly easily solved. But instead of tackling them in a healthy manner, we think God is asking us to do something quite different. And we end up making what might be a small thing linger, rather than nipping it in the bud.

Ever heard any of these?

1. Don’t go to bed angry!

The #1 pat answer that was mentioned in that Facebook post was “Don’t go to bed angry!” It’s taken from Ephesians 4:26, which says this:

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

People too often take that to mean that if you’re angry, you can’t go to sleep. You have to stay up until 4 in the morning hashing it out.

But if we do that, we often say stupid things because we’re overtired.  If we sleep on it, the problem often seems much smaller in the morning!

There’s a difference between going to bed without resolving an issue, knowing that you’re going to talk about it later, and going to bed absolutely incensed. Deciding to talk about something later is often very good advice!

Do Not Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger--doesn't mean what you think it means!

2. Just pray about it more.

Whenever we have a problem we are definitely to take it to God. But sometimes the way we talk about prayer makes it sound like this is ALL we do.

One Facebook commenter explained it like this:

You can pray for help with a situation but more than likely some work is going to be required after prayer. You might even have to wait for God to lead you on the right path but often He doesn’t just solve our problems with no work on our part.

Exactly!

Let’s say that you’re feeling neglected by your husband because you haven’t done anything, just the two of you, in months.

What should you do: pray about it–or pray about it and then talk to him? Or plan a date night just the two of you? Or figure out what you can cut out of your schedule?

So often we feel like “God is close to the broken hearted”, so when we’re sad, we’re supposed to lay it all at His feet. Well, yes. But maybe there’s more you should be doing, too! Prayer isn’t supposed to be a “get out of responsibility for making your life better card!” Maybe what you really need is to pray that God will show you how to fix this problem yourself.

3. Just grow closer to God and your marriage problems will disappear.

Here’s another goodie–a variant on the one above. Yes, as we grow closer to God we become holier, and that often makes our part in the marriage problem minimized. Absolutely.

But often what happens is that there are very real issues that need to be dealt with in marriage. And rather than deal with those, we run to God, hoping that God will then make it better for us.

So we’re not trying to get closer to God for the sake of getting closer to God; we’re trying to get closer to God so that He’ll go and beat someone up for us, sort of like he’s a protective older brother.

That’s manipulation!

How about this: Grow closer to God, and then ask for wisdom for what you should do to make your marriage better?

Thought #4 is all about taking responsibility for our own happiness, rather than expecting God, or your husband, to give it to you. And it’s much more effective.

4. Love him according to his love language, and he’ll love you according to yours!

Or another variation: respect him, and he’ll love you!

Yes, women need love and men need respect. Yes, we all have love languages and it’s good to learn them. But thinking that just because we act in a loving way means that he will automatically return the favour is to misunderstand human nature.

It assumes that the reason that he isn’t loving you according to your love language is because you aren’t doing something. But what if there’s another reason? What if he’s tired? What if he’s stressed? What if he just plain doesn’t know your love language? What if he has unresolved issues and he has difficulty reaching out emotionally?

If you need something in marriage, it’s your job to tell him. And make it really simple and obvious what he needs to do! I told my husband this weekend: I feel like we need to do more fun things together where we feel like we’ve accomplished something, not just where we’ve spent a day vegging together. So I suggested that we start hiking as a hobby. He agreed. And so this week he’s going to research a 15 km hike we can do together on Saturday.

I could have waited for him to figure that out on his own. Or we could have had a good talk about it!

Besides, a lot of this advice is really manipulative. “Just pray about it and he’ll love you.” “Just love him and he’ll love you.” It’s telling us to do all of these things to get him to love us EXCEPT actually be vulnerable before him and let him know what we’re thinking. It doesn’t work!

5. Don’t take offense. If you’re upset about something, just let it go!

Certainly we aren’t to needlessly take offense at people.

But being aggravated about something isn’t a sin. Withholding love over it, yes–being aggravated, no.

Let’s say it really bugs you that your husband never puts the coffee mugs in the dishwasher. I have known women to be frustrated at this trait for years. They wrestle with it. They pray about it. They tell themselves, “I know I’m not supposed to be take offense, and I have to get over this. It’s just a stupid coffee mug.”

But it keeps happening, and they keep struggling.

What would happen if she just said to him,

“Honey, I’d appreciate it if you put your coffee mugs in the dishwasher after you use them. And if you’re never sure if the dishwasher is clean or dirty, I’ll get a little sticker that tells you so it’s obvious when it’s dirty and  you can load it. Can you do that? It would make me so happy!”

Thought #4 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage includes this little tidbit: Just ask for help. I asked on Facebook last year, when I was writing it, for stories about when women finally realized that if they asked their husbands specifically for help, their husbands actually came through. A bunch of those stories made it into the book. But the two most common reasons for not asking were, “I didn’t want to be rude”, and “he should just know!”

But he obviously doesn’t. Try asking! It’s better than letting something stew.

Pat Answer Christian Marriage Advice That Minimizes Real Problems

Now let’s turn to another category of “pat answers”–those pat answers that are given to women in really difficult situations that make the problem worse in a whole other way.

6. Pray that God will change your husband’s heart.

A variation of #2 above, to “pray about it”, but this time let’s assume that the “something” is a big sin. Maybe he’s gambling. He’s lazy and won’t get a job. He’s watching porn. He plays video games all day. Whatever it may be.

Here’s why this advice is wrong in this situation: God won’t “make” your husband stop using porn. He lets us have free will. He may bother your husband about it. He may put roadblocks up to the porn use. He may convict your husband. But ultimately it’s up to your husband what he does. God doesn’t force us to do the right thing.

What God does do is put consequences to our actions, so that we reap what we sow. And he gives clear instructions on what to do within the church if someone is sinning and is refusing to repent–and “just pray about it” is definitely not the only step.

I explained this in my post Are you a spouses or an enabler? That was a key post on this blog, and I’ve taken those thoughts and flushed them out through about three thoughts, and three chapters, in this new book. How to deal with sin in marriage is so misunderstood, and I hope that in this book I can point us to a much better way.

7. If you disagree, the head of the house should make the final decision.

And bonus addition: you’ll be blessed because of your submissive attitude!

There are several problems with this, and I’ll be making a video next week that explains them. First, if we think that submission is all about decision making, then we’re missing the heart of the word. And second, God’s will is that we be seeking after His direction. If we say, “husbands always make decisions”, it’s awfully easy to get away from relying on God to make those decisions. And that’s downright scary.

I explain more in this post on what submission means, but I dedicate Thought #5 to it! Many of you have been asking for me to flesh out my position on the submission, and I did it in great length in this book.

8. If you submit to your husband more, he’ll step up and be a leader.

Is your husband not acting in a godly way? The problem must be that you aren’t submitting!

Now, there are times when this definitely is true. That’s the thing about pat answers: they have a kernel of truth to them, and that’s why they’re so prevalent.

I know marriages where the wife just bulldozes over the husband so much that eventually he stops trying.

But too many Christians think that the answer to every marriage problem is “submit” when it isn’t. It’s as if instead of having a whole tool box to fix things we have only a hammer. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

(Actually, I do believe that the answer to every marriage problem is to “submit”, but that’s because I think “submission” means something very different than what we normally think. When the word is normally used, we take it to mean that the wife doesn’t make decisions, doesn’t assert herself, doesn’t mention anything that’s bothering her, and lets her husband set the agenda.)

Let’s say he’s playing video games too much because he got addicted to them growing up. Submission (in the way it’s normally used) isn’t going to help that problem. Let’s say that he’s texting other women. Submission isn’t going to help that problem. Let’s instead look at the individual problem and figure out what steps will help us overcome it!

9. If you have sex with him more, he’ll stop watching porn.

Again, a kernel of truth: men are often far more tempted by porn when they don’t have sex as often. I’ve written before about whether or not you can cause him to sin.

But that doesn’t mean that you’re to blame if he  uses porn. And it certainly doesn’t mean that having sex will make him stop!

The problem with porn isn’t just about sexual temptation. It’s about rewiring the brain so that what becomes arousing is an image, not a person. If he’s getting his sexual release through porn, he’s less likely to want to make love to you. The number of women on this blog whose husbands have zero sex drive for them but tons of sex drive for porn is astronomical. To tell these women “just have sex more” is to add insult to injury. They’d love to have sex more–but their husbands turn to porn instead!

You can’t cure porn by having sex with him. You need to deal with the root issue, and, if it’s a long-standing addiction, you have to go through healing to rewire his sex drive again. It’s not quick and painless, but it can happen. Don’t despair!

In Thought #8 I talk about how “just have sex” is exactly the wrong advice for all kinds of situations. If you’re struggling here, I hope some of this wisdom can help.

10. If your husband is doing something wrong, it’s not your job to be the Holy Spirit in his life. Win him without words!

Yes, if our husbands are not Christian, we are to win him to Christ without nagging him (1 Peter 3:1). But people take that verse which is written for a very specific situation and apply it to everything–to mean that we are never to bring up anything, and never to confront our husbands on anything.

On the contrary, when we see someone stumbling, we are to warn them. And if your husband has a major issue in his life, as his wife, that is what being his helpmate is all about! It’s to inspire him to grow closer to God by not letting him go further into sin without consequences.

What is more loving–to ignore a big sin and to cover it up, or to confront it in love and set limits so that the sin is more likely to stop?

Thoughts #6 & 7 are all about learning how to use our words to resolve these conflicts, even when big sin is involved. And I hope if more women understood God’s heart for marriage, then fewer women would watch their husbands go further into sin and think that they’re being godly by saying nothing.

So there you go–ten pat answers that we hear a lot in Christian circles that don’t actually help marriage, and can even make problems worse.

Quite simply, there’s a lot of sloppy thinking about marriage out there, and I hope that by looking at the whole of Scripture, and the heart of God to have His children choose rightly, that we’ll get a fuller picture of what the marriage relationship is supposed to be!

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentEver feel like a lot of the stuff you heard in church about marriage is wrong? Then you’ll love 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage! And remember: If you buy it before it’s released you’ll get about 50% off in the United States and Canada (I’m sorry it’s not on sale in the U.K.!). It’ll be released August 18, and anyone who buys it on that day or pre-orders it will get a ton of downloadable freebies! Stay tuned for more info.

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Now it’s  your turn! Have you heard any of those pat answers? Did any resonate with you? Or do you have different ones that bug you? Let me know in the comments!

The Right Kind of Fight

The Right Kind of Fight: Dealing with anger in #marriage

Why is it that anger in marriage is so dangerous? Maybe we need to learn to have the right kind of fight!

For twelve years I wrote a weekly syndicated slice-of-life column for several newspapers. I published many of them on this blog, but recently I’ve found some older ones that never made it. So I thought I’d run one today–because I really do like it!

I’ve always enjoyed a good fight. When my husband and I disagree, we haul out every intellectual argument in our arsenal to show why the other person is irretrievably, irreconcilably, and certifiably off his or her rocker. Early in our marriage this usually lasted for several days. Now I can argue vehemently for a few minutes, and then shrug my shoulders, and admit, “I guess you’re right.”

It took me years to learn to say those words. During that time I also learned that trying to resolve an issue at one in the morning is exceedingly stupid; it’s better to sleep on it, because chances are tomorrow you’ll forget what you were fighting about anyway. But most importantly I have learned that even if I am right, listening to my husband’s feelings is more important than winning the argument.

In other words, I have learned how to have good fights.

Before our wedding we didn’t fight. He agreed with everything I said, and I agreed with everything he said, because we thought exactly the same way. Unfortunately, on the honeymoon I realized that he had independent thoughts, which proved very threatening. I had to whip him into shape, and he had to whip me into shape, and we both ended up with whiplash.

Why does anger in marriage hurt us so much?

I think it’s because we misunderstand it. We think anger is like flatulence. This uncomfortable feeling bubbles up inside us, growing ever more urgent, until it just has to be released. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. Unlike farting, anger doesn’t waft away in the air after you’ve expressed it. It’s more like a grenade going off, maiming everybody in its path. You say things you don’t mean, but once those things are out of your mouth, you can’t take them back.

We feel anger so strongly because anger is a master con artist. When we’re angry, it’s usually a sign that there’s something else going on below the surface, something that we’d rather not talk about. And we don’t like that vulnerable feeling, so anger helps us deflect attention from our fears.

Do you and those you love often have the same fight, over and over again, without really resolving anything?

Maybe that’s because in your anger you’re ignoring the real issues.

Picture this couple: he arrives home late and she immediately berates him for being an insensitive clod who doesn’t care about the family. He responds by complaining that if she really wanted him home, maybe she’d make the house a little nicer to come home to.

Words are flying, but nothing useful is being communicated.

On the other hand, if he could be honest, maybe he’d reveal something like this: “I just worry that I could get laid off, and I don’t know how to support us. And maybe I’m failing at home, too. What if I really am a bad father?”

And maybe she would admit: “I feel lonely. I love the kids, but sometimes they’re not enough. What if I’m becoming boring? Show me that you still love me!”

So next time you’re boiling mad, whether it’s at a difficult spouse or a recalcitrant teen, ask yourself, “what’s really going on here? What am I actually scared of?”

And then tell each other instead of blowing up. Sure you’re risking rejection, but as long as two people just yell at each other, the relationship is never going to build anything except more walls. If you could both stop lashing out, and say what’s on your hearts instead, a miracle might happen. It takes guts to open up. But opening up your heart is a whole lot more productive than just shooting off your mouth. And much more honest, too.

Maybe it’s time we all tried it.

What Marriage Advice Do You Listen To?

So I’m back from my daughter’s wedding! We don’t have all the pictures yet, so I’ll do some longer posts on it next week, but right now we’re relaxing at home and recovering. And you can see some sneak peeks at a few pics up on my Facebook page here and here (complete with a stalker photo by her little sister).

And remember that tomorrow is the last day to enter the contest for a $100 Visa card, courtesy of Monistat and BlogHer! Check out the instructions on this post about insecurity in the bedroom.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentToday I thought I’d run an interesting guest post  from anonymous reader Your Feathered Friend. She struggles with a chronic illness, and is trying to come to terms with needing help in everyday life when her husband just doesn’t “see” what she needs.

This is a theme in both my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum and in my upcoming 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (which releases in less than a month!): sometimes the pat Christian answers to just “love your husband and he will show love back” don’t work, especially when you genuinely need help. So what do you do? She shares her struggles here, and I’d love to hear your take on it in the comments!

What Marriage Advice Do You Listen To.

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis five years ago, I learned that everyone has a suggestion to “fix” me. Bee stings, acupuncture, yoga, pilates, weight lifting, gluten free, dairy free, no carbs, all carbs Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, the list goes on. I’ve tried many of these and guess what…I still have MS.

Some of the most frustrating times since my diagnosis were when I was trying to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and reduce my stress, and I was still having relapses and symptoms. Was the advice I received bad?

Not necessarily. (Although, I can’t fathom getting stung repeatedly by bees is good for anyone!) What works for some doesn’t work for others. Sometimes, the “cure” just causes more stress and therefore more harm. That doesn’t discredit the solution for others though, and we should avoid being condescending.

This doesn’t just apply in medicine. As a newlywed, our friends and family are clamoring to offer their advice for a happy, healthy marriage. Don’t get me wrong, we need all the help we can get!

But in this instance, I realized that what was good for many relationships, was actually unhealthy for mine.

The Unhealthy Advice. I had been told over and over to “kill him with kindness”. When my husband is disrespectful, I should show him respect anyway. When he lacks empathy, I should try to see it from his perspective. When he doesn’t want to help around the house, I should do as much as I can to give him a break. When he isn’t there for me emotionally, I should support him even more so he realizes how important it is. I will know I’ve done everything I can for our relationship, and eventually, my generosity will change him. Right?

Wrong. To my husband, what I had been doing was encouraging his poor habits. I was saying to my husband, “My fatigue is really weighing me down; I’m struggling to get out of bed”, but then when I realized we had no clean towels, I was dragging myself to the laundry room. He couldn’t see the agony I was in, just that we had clean towels. I was complaining that I didn’t have enough time to go to work, grocery shop, and have dinner on the table when he got home. But when pressured, I overextended myself to get all done. Again, he didn’t see that I had to conduct a conference call at the grocery store, he just knows he came home to a stocked refrigerator.

The straw that broke this camel’s back was when I had outpatient surgery last month. The situation was off to a bad start when my husband refused to go to the hospital with me. In the days that followed, despite the fact that I was in a lot of pain, he didn’t help out around the house. As I saw the dishes piling up and dinner going unmade, I did the only thing I knew to do: hobble into the kitchen to take care of it. He never stepped up because he never saw the need.

I realize now that I was sending mixed signals.

For some men, it might be enough to simply tell them you need more help, but for my husband, it’s not. Since I can’t change him, I need to change my behavior. I spoke with my husband calmly and lovingly and informed him that I can’t continue this way; I need his help. In order to allow him to help, I need to be patient, let go, and let him do it in his time. If it doesn’t get done, that’s OK (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

To clarify, I am not advising that women who feel mistreated throw down their aprons and walk out. Keep in mind that I approached my husband with love and told him where I was coming from. I didn’t just start giving him the cold shoulder and pouting. I wasn’t doing anyone a favor by letting him continue in his ways, but instead I’m doing what is best for our relationship by helping to work through some unhealthy habits. I’m sure he is frustrated that I’m electing not to do some of the things I’ve been doing, but I hope he will gain perspective with time.

The next time you are given advice, good or bad, here are some things to consider before you act on it:

1. Be respectful to the people giving advice.

Whether someone is telling you how to cure your child’s autism or how to spend less money, resist the urge to tell them to put their advice where the sun don’t shine. More than likely, they care and want to help.

2. Be respectful to yourself.

You don’t have to act on every bit of advice someone gives you. Consider how this advice really applies in your situation. Be willing to step out in faith and try new things, but also be OK saying “no”.

3. Be respectful to others in the situation with you.

When your friend is tells you to cut off sex from your husband until he does the dishes, consider if that is really being kind to him.

4. Don’t make an emotional response.

Easier said than done. For women, our emotions are tangled into our decision making process, but that doesn’t mean they should drive our decisions. Fear and anger have helped me make some of my worst mistakes, while removing myself from the situation to get a level head has never hurt in the long run.

5. Consider your motivations.

Am I doing what my mom suggested just to make her happy? Am I taking my friend’s advice because I think it will be hurtful to my husband?

6. Pray about it.

I don’t always hear God when I pray about my decisions, not because he doesn’t care, but because he will work through whatever I do. When I do hear from him, it’s best to listen.

What’s the best well meaning – but bad – advice you’ve received?

Profile_edited-1World traveler, avid reader, cat lover, and Jesus follower.  These are just a few words to describe Your Feathered Friend.  She’s juggling a new marriage, working full time, and living with Multiple Sclerosis.   In many ways, she’s just your average woman.  She’s trying to figure out how to keep her family happy and healthy, and writing about it along the way.

 

Wifey Wednesday: How God Wrote Our Love Story

Sometimes the love story we dream of isn’t the one we end up living. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not also a love-ly story.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And I give you a chance to link up your marriage posts in the linky below, too.

How God Wrote Our Love StoryToday Samantha Lee-Wiraatmaja from Godly Womanhood joins us to tell us about her love story. Here’s Samantha:

My husband and I love how God wrote our love story.

We’ve shared that story to many, and have been asked to share our wedding vows to youths learning about God-centered relationships. But before I tell the story of how God brought us together, I always start with a different story. One that is darker and a little sad, but more beautiful. A slightly less magical story but filled nonetheless with the rays of His glory. Without this story, telling of how God wrote our love story is just an empty promise of fluffy fairytale spirituality.

Because real love stories don’t end on the wedding day. We don’t belong to such short-lived tales that end with vague hazy promises of happily ever after. We belong in the halls of great men & women who found something worth fighting for and gave their lives for it. Stories filled with a little less fairy dust and a little more blood and tears. Stories that echo through the ages. Because God doesn’t just write great falling-in-love stories; He writes kick-ass, staying-in-love, submission-with-an-attitude, powerhouse-marriage stories too.

I want to tell you the story of what happened after we said “I do.”

It broke my heart. Marriage broke me into so many pieces there was no way I could be put together again.

I can only remember one promise that I’ve held onto growing up – one day, I’d meet a man who would see me for who I was and love me wholeheartedly for it.

I hid that promise in my heart for years, waiting and saving myself for that one man who’d see and cherish who I was – spirit, soul, and body. I resolved to give my heart & deepest parts of my soul only to this man, if he be found, or none at all.

I cherished this promise in my heart as the single most priceless treasure.

When God brought Alex & I together, it involved so much of the divine – dreams, visions, prophecies, that led us to each other – that I knew without a doubt this was the man I’d been waiting for all my life.

I also believed that he was God’s fulfillment of the promise I’d held onto for so long.

Then he began breaking my heart… and wouldn’t stop. Each wound tore a little deeper into that precious promise I’d kept wrapped so carefully in the innermost chambers of my heart.

He’d flirt with other women, sometimes while I was right beside him. He yelled at me for being hurt by it. He watched pornography with the intention to hurt & punish me.

He occasionally told me that he wished I was someone else. He wished I had this woman’s body, or that woman’s personality. He told me that he wished I was another woman as she’d do a better job of impressing his family than I was doing.

Each time left my self-esteem and dignity in pieces. I lived in the wreckage, unable to come to terms with the fact that “the one” promised by God was also the one tearing that long-cherished promise to shreds.

This man had been given access to parts of my soul that no one else knew, and with every betrayal he told me that who I was was simply not good enough.

And I turned on him with a vengeance.

I threw things (like his laptop. right out the window). I punched him, (everywhere I could except his face. because, ouch). We threw hurtful words intended to devastate the other.

And I allowed bitterness to harden my heart, turning me into someone (cruel, violent) I could no longer recognize. I relished the darkness and the pain, perversely believing that it was what I deserved.

We lived apart for awhile, and then we lived for months like strangers sharing a bed. I cried myself to sleep night after night, the coldness & distance between us made even more unbearable within the confines of the bedroom.

I wanted him to say something, do something – I so desperately wanted him to fight for me.

But he wouldn’t, couldn’t. He was as hurt, scared, and helpless as I was. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. Most times he was sweet, tender, loving. He loved me and he loved God. It distressed him to see me so broken by his actions. But he couldn’t help it, and the way I behaved in return only made matters worse. You see, we bring the baggage of our family heritage into our marriages – addictions, patterns of communication, models of the marriage covenant, and plenty of childhood issues. And unless we intentionally decide to cultivate a new heritage in Christ, we’re just repeating the harmful patterns we’ve grown up with.

We were both drowning, clawing at each other in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, not realizing that we were only pulling each other further down into the cold darkness.

But paradoxically, it was when we reached the end of our rope that we found salvation.

I hit that lowest point when I realized that Alex might never change. He might keep doing things to hurt me and not care. He might never respond in the way I wanted him to, comforting me and taking responsibility for this actions.

All those things might never change, but what could change was me. I didn’t have to keep living in darkness and pain.

The Lord began to speak to me a message of deep comfort that began to heal my heart. He showed me that I didn’t have to wait for Alex to comfort me for the hurt he’d caused, or even to acknowledge the things he’d done.

Because ever since Eve, every woman longs for her husband to rise up. To fight – for her, their marriage, and most of all, her heart.

And unless we run to God every single day with our vulnerable hearts, we end up taking matters into our own hands. Just like Eve did.

We need to come every day to our Father’s throne. Fall down at His feet, throwing down every pain and shattered dream. There, healing waters flow to cleanse & heal our hearts. There, we feel His love wrap around the places in our souls that have gone without love for so long.

Because this is the truth that set me free: We can count all our grievances, name them one by one. And chances are, every single one of them are valid. But there is no freedom there. We will go round in circles, waiting for him to make amends. Or we can be free right here and now, regardless of where he is or what he does.

Not that we don’t try to make things right. We do what we need to (keeping our hearts pure, responding in a godly manner to our husbands) and then we need to let God be God, and let the man be the man. The man must have space to rise up, and for God to work with him, without the woman rushing in to do everything for him (we’re not doing him any favors when we do).

While the Lord was restoring me, He was doing the same with Alex. We stopped trying to get the other to fill the empty places in our hearts and found that it was God, not man, that completes us. And in doing so, we began to find all the things we’d thought would be lost to us forever – love, laughter, and a tenderness between two comrades who’ve witnessed the horrors of war together and survived.

Through the period of healing & strengthening, the Lord began to speak to me about promises.

He opened His Word to me in a new way and asked me this: Was I willing to let God’s promise in my life die?

That precious, precious promise I’d been holding onto since I was a little girl – would I let it fall to the ground and die? Because fruit only comes when a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies (John 12:24), and out of it will grow much fruit that will bless others.

Through the story of Abraham’s testing (Genesis 22), the Lord showed me this: When the promise that I’ve held on to for so long has to be sacrificed is when it is revealed that the greatest reward is the Lord.

The day I said “Yes” to Him and let that promise go is the day my heart was set free. A gust of fresh air blew into my soul and all the pain and darkness began to be washed away.

I found so much freedom in saying, “Yes Lord, I give up my right for a man who loves me perfectly. I lay it as a sacrifice, and I trust that you will provide.”

I didn’t realize till then how tiring it had been to hold on so tightly to that promise, always afraid that it might get lost or broken. And in leaving it all behind, I found incredible freedom that I could abandon my interests because someone else was looking after me.

And what of our marriage? Well, I am happy to say that all the smashing of computers (me), punching (me), and screaming (me again) has stopped…. as has the flirting and pornography.

He has turned our mourning to dancing, our sorrow into joy, our despair to hope. He took zealous idealism and tested it in the fire so that conviction-filled reality emerged that was worth much more than gold.

Are we still on the road to recovery? Oh yes, definitely. I think we’ll be on that journey for the rest of our lives.

But do we find joy in the journey? You bet. God doesn’t stop writing our love stories after we say “I do” – in fact He’s only just getting started.

Marriage broke my heart.

It broke my heart of stone. So God could build a new heart in me. A heart of flesh. (read: Ezekiel 36:26)

Because a God-written love story is not all perfect fluff and fairy dust. It looks more like the cross – messy, painful, blood everywhere. But God covers it. And we slowly work our way back to the perfect harmony of Eden, just as God intended marriage to be.

 

samanthaSamantha Lee-Wiraatmaja is the writer at Godly Womanhood and owns + designs the Godly Womanhood Shop. Romance is the greatest inspiration, motivation, and dream of her life. She dreams to see Romance of the gospel – the fullness of Eden – restored between God and man. She is passionate about seeing women reach the fullness of their potential.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage posts

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of your marriage post (please, only marriage, no cooking) in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts!

 

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When Sex Seems Like a Chore

Don't Let Sex Become a Chore. Why we need to prioritize it more!

A few weeks ago a young wife caused quite a stir when she wrote an article called “The Night I Gave My Husband a Free Pass.” I won’t link to it because I think quite a few of you would find the site itself and the language objectionable, but let me summarize.

Basically, they have a great marriage. They’re good friends, they parent well together, they do stuff together. But she has no libido, and making love when she doesn’t feel like it is degrading and gross, she says. And she doesn’t understand why sex has to be a part of marriage. It all seems so silly. Why give up a perfectly good relationship just because the sex isn’t there? So her solution is this: he can have an affair or use a prostitute, it’s honestly okay with her. In fact, she’d appreciate it because then he’d stop bothering her and they could go on with their real lives together!

A number of you have sent that article to me and asked me to comment, but I haven’t really had time what with wedding preparation (9 Days and Counting!). But I’ve had some men send me some material that I think is really useful for women who start getting into that frame of mind.

I’m sure the vast majority of us have never thought, “just go use a prostitute.” But we may start to see sex as a chore. Here’s Matt Jacobson talking about why thinking of sex as a chore is NEVER a good idea–and what we can do instead.

And here’s a thoughtful response to that article written by one of my male readers, Jack Lopez, who sent it along to me. I thought you all may appreciate it:

He writes to the author,


Wow! Thank you for opening up a discussion about this.

I realize that it probably started as just venting and that there are a lot more dynamics to your marriage than just what is shown in this article, and while it is a testament to how understanding your husband is, it is really sad to hear all of the pain and frustration (on both sides of the fence) going on. I appreciate your honesty, and your husband sounds like a pretty normal guy. For you and your readers, please let me share some insight from 25 years (and counting) of marriage. (And know that none of this is meant to attack you in any way – please read to the end and you will see my heart)

My wife has been through a lot of health issues, including cancer & complications which resulted in having a mastectomy with no reconstruction, a year of chemo causing the loss of all of her hair, and weight gain due to the drugs she was on. So we had plenty of body issues to go around! (She has been cancer free for over 7 years now, which we are very thankful for) We also have a whole herd of mouths to feed and chores to do, active businesses in addition to outreach and counseling. We have had our ups and downs in the sex department, with all of the obligatory fights and start-overs and it continues to be an ongoing challenge. I like most husbands am pretty lousy at communicating in this arena.

That being said we love each other very much and neither of us has ever cheated.

I still am just as attracted to her as the day we met. We both have a strong faith and relationship with God which makes a difference through the hard times.

So, here are seven insights that I hope will help you and your readers:

1) Your husband is a smart guy.

While I have often thought that if prostitution was moral and legal it would make marriage easier for all the reasons you described, that’s not the way we were designed. It’s abusive to women involved in the industry, soul crushing to all involved and would be toxic to your relationship and kids. (just imagine trying to explain to your kids why daddy got arrested for soliciting a prostitute, or when his sugar baby shows up on your doorstep telling you that you should divorce him because you can’t make him happy like she does). So like your husband says, it’s not sex he wants, it’s sex with you, the woman he loves and would lay down his life for. It is a spiritual connection between two people that have committed their lives to each other, and there is no other place he can get that.

Everything else is just a counterfeit.

Even if it is not “cheating” to you, it would be “cheating” to him, which would come with the shame, guilt, confusion, etc… that goes along with it.

2) You are too busy.

No woman is going to feel in the mood after being sleep deprived from taking care of the kids, cleaning the house and working. So make some changes! You said your husband would not mind if you hired a cleaning service, or ate take out a few nights a week. Do it! Get some help, hire a sitter, take some “me” time, go to the spa, have lunch with a friend. See, your husband understands what is important. He can hire someone to clean, cook and babysit, but you are the only person that can make him feel loved, appreciated and connected to. (For you ladies, try telling your husband that you need to hire someone to help around the house so you can focus on having more sex with him and see how fast he finds room in the budget for it.)

Ten years from now your kids aren’t going to care if you personally did not scrub the kitchen floor, they will care if they had a father that was angry and depressed most of the time.

3) Sex is not just physical.

Sex makes your husband feel loved, cared for, and connected to you. He draws self esteem and happiness from the fact that you desire him, and that he can still “ring your bell”. When he sees you spend countless hours on the house, the kids, your job, he knows that those things are very important to you by the fact you give your precious time and energy to them. When you can’t make 30-45 minutes a week to meet his physical needs, or make it seem like an undesirable chore, you tell him that his real place on your list is somewhere below vacuuming and changing dirty diapers.

No matter how many times you say you love him, your actions say differently. Now a note here: if you have lost respect for your husband because of something he is or has done, then you need to address and resolve it. If you do not love and respect your husband, your kids will not either, which will open them up to a whole slew of issues.

4) You are making it more difficult / stressful than it needs to be.

Stop being so hard on yourself. Husbands are actually pretty easy to keep happy. To make his wife happy, your husband has to be a breadwinner, a mentor, example and loving father to your kids, plan for the future, maintain the mechanics of the house and vehicles, have good ears to attentively listen to your hopes, dreams, be understanding of your moods and struggles, a shoulder to cry on and to be a wall of protection between your family and an ever increasingly crazy world.

The effort to make your husband happy involves ten minutes of physical activity that ends with you occasionally having screaming orgasms. (I’ve often said to my wife after she has a particularly strong climax, “Why would you not want to do that every day?”)

Not that every single time it has to be “mind blowing”. We know that sometimes you are not in the mood, and do it anyways and we appreciate it. There is “maintenance sex” and then there is “roll around in the bed hot and heavy sex” and lots in between, but it is all good to us. Don’t get hung up on your performance, just enjoy it.

5) It is about quantity as much as quality.

Men need sex on a regular basis. Women like it to happen organically, but when you are married with kids, that is darn near impossible. You don’t “spontaneously” take your kids to soccer practice, or wait until you are in the mood to take them to school or feed them. My wife made a chart once to show examples how my anger and resentment were not at all a turn on, but being thoughtful and kind first and helping out around the house, and then doing romantic things moved her closer to the place where she felt loved and connected and desired intimacy.

I found it to be helpful, but it also struck me that for men, it works 180 degrees opposite. When we have just been intimate, we feel loved, connected, we want to help out around the house, buy you flowers, and show kindness. After it’s been a couple of days, we feel less connected, especially if we have been rejected in between. By the time a week has gone by we feel unappreciated, confused and frustrated. Two weeks and we feel taken for granted, resentful and angry. Longer and we are distant, despondent and depressed. (even if we hide it)

So stop the cycle! Schedule a date night every week or two (which does not have to include sex), but also schedule time for intimacy. Don’t underestimate the power of a good “quickie”!

6) It is the best thing for your kids.

Your husband is more important than your kids. He is the one you made a covenant with. Your kids are going to grow up and leave you and start families of their own. He is going to be with you for the rest of your life. The greatest gift you can give your children is a father that is respected, loved, happy and connected to the family. And you are the one with the power to make it so.

7) Fix it now.

Let me paint two scenarios. In scenario #1, you take some part of my advice and choose to show him that love through physical affection. (which isn’t just sex: holding hands, hugging and “real” kisses are just as important) Your husband is stress free and happy, involved with the kids, prizes you above all else, and the two of you live a long and fulfilling life.

In scenario #2, you continue for the next 3 to 5 years saying “sex just isn’t important right now I will get to it later” which says to your husband, “you are just not important to me right now, I will get to you later”. He becomes resentful, angry and depressed. He tries to hide it, but becomes more distant.

You have sex every once in a while, but it is mechanical and unfulfilling. Eventually he just gives up. Your kids grow up with a father that is physically or emotionally absent. He finds reasons to work late and hobbies that isolate him from the family. Maybe one day he takes you up on your “free pass”, but by then he sees that “free pass” as a one way ticket out of a relationship that he does not get anything out of.

Or maybe he sticks around and becomes bitter and emasculated, you never say a kind word to each other, you start sleeping in separate rooms, he becomes addicted to porn (not because he thinks other women are prettier than you, but because he is captivated by the fact that some women appear to still desire and enjoy sex). If he doesn’t leave or die early from stress/depression, then by the time the kids are out of the house and you finally have “time for sex”, you hate each other and are so far apart that without divine intervention you either get divorced “now that the kids are gone” or spend the rest of your life making each other miserable because it is all you know how to do.

I am hoping that you opt for scenario #1. If you do, as the saying goes: Just do it. There will be ups and downs, life will happen in between and everything will be ok, because you will have a happy husband by your side, to help, protect, provide and take on the world with you.

Jack is starting to get his views known on the web at his website, Insightful Guy Musings. He’s an ordained minister who once bought Vladimir Putin a drink. And he says he played a small part in the financial collapse of 2007.


I appreciate his thoughts, but I’d love to know: what do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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