Wifey Wednesday: Keeping Sex Alive When You Face ED (Erectile Dysfunction)

 

Sex Life and ED in Marriage: How to keep your sex life alive

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below. Today we’re concluding a 3-part series on sexual dysfunction in marriage, and today we’re going to wrap it up by talking about ED in marriage–and how to keep your sex life alive.

We talked on Monday about the different causes of ED (erectile dysfunction), and how to deal with them. And yesterday we tackled premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation. We looked at how porn was often, though not always, the underlying cause of ED and other problems.

But what about when porn isn’t the problem? What about when it is a physical issue, and it doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight?

Here’s an email I received from one woman, for instance:

ED has been an ongoing health issue for my husband for years. It happened gradually, but now we never have sex. Of course that has left a huge void in our marriage. But we’ve been together 29 years, so it’s not a deal breaker either. He’s seen a doctor who found an enlarged prostate, and he takes meds for that. The other stuff to enhance erections are not covered by our insurance, and we can’t afford the out of pocket expenses. He’s also very sensitive to some meds and does not like the long string of side effects that can happen from those.

So how has that affected our relationship? “There is other intimacy you can have,” you say? Well, when a man loses his ability to perform sex, he also gradually loses his other intimacy practices. i.e., playful touch, hugging, flirting — basically anything that might lead to sex. It’s disappointing to us both — we talk about it rarely — it’s hurtful. I get resentful sometimes that he won’t knock down the doors of every medical institution to “get it fixed,” like I imagine he should want to. But the truth is, that even with couples who still have a healthy sex life, it takes work, and sometimes planning to make that time happen. It’s easier to skip because you are too tired or whatever so you get content not having sex. Same thing for us, only it’s because it’s too hurtful to try and disappoint. I feel like we’ve settled.

Am I happy with the sexless part? Not at all. Do I Iove my husband? Dearly!

I still have hope that one day God will restore this part of our marriage. But I’ve accepted that He might not as well.

What do you do when ED, or other sexual dysfunction, is a physical problem, but you don’t want the sexual side of your relationship to end? You do want to feel intimate. You do want to feel pleasure. You want to be able to laugh again without this BIG THING between you–this feeling like you’re distant, and you’re settling, and things will never be totally good again.

I want to give just a few thoughts today, and hope that others who have gone through something similar will chime in, too. I’m not going to talk about how to cure ED today, since I talked about that on Monday. I want to just talk about how to revive your sex life even if things still aren’t working like clockwork.

Acknowledge that He is Grieving about His ED

If your husband can no longer have intercourse, chances are he’s really grieving. A huge part of his life–what many would say is the most important part–seems gone. Let him air these feelings without having to fix them. Now is not the time to say, “but we can still do X…” Just let him vent. And hold him. And tell him, “I will always love you, and we will get through this, and we will find our way.”

But let him grieve.

You Need to Be Able to Communicate About the Sexual Dysfunction and what it Means

That being said, you can’t stay in the grieving process. You have to move on, and you have to find your way through towards a new kind of intimacy.

Now, you aren’t going to be able to do anything if you can’t first talk about the issue. So the question isn’t really “how can we save our sex life if he has ED”, but rather, “how can we keep talking about our sex life if he has ED, and not ignore the elephant in the room?”

Here’s some general guidelines for keeping these lines of communication open. And these suggestions build on each other–as in do #1 before #3.

1. Laugh everyday. Do things together OUTSIDE the bedroom and work on your friendship.

2. Find other hobbies to do together so that you still feel like a unit.

3. When you talk about wanting a sex life, stress that you want intimacy, not intercourse. Stress that you do not think he is a failure or that you want him to be different; the issue is simply that you don’t want to lose what you still can have. Your life is simply different, but your relationship can still grow.

For more ideas you can see my post here about how to talk to your husband if he has no libido, since the issues are actually quite similar.

See Sex as More Than Intercourse

Sex is about being intimate together. It’s about becoming one flesh. It’s about sharing something with one person that you don’t share with anybody else. It’s about becoming open and vulnerable together.

And you can do all of those things without intercourse.

Obviously intercourse is the culmination of this, and when health problems aren’t a factor, I would never recommend giving up intercourse. But if intercourse just doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that you have to stop being sexual beings.

Sex can be about being naked together; sex can be about doing full body massages with massage oil, switching places. Sex can be about taking baths together and talking about your dreams for the future. Sex can be about deep kisses.

Talk to him about how you still want these things in your life. Our letter writer wrote that when ED hits, it’s not just sex that she loses. It’s kissing and touching and affection, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Let him know that you still want to touch him. Again, acknowledge his grief, and tell him you’re grieving, too. But you’ve lost intercourse. You’re not willing to lose everything else, too.

Do What You Can Despite the ED

Some men have intermittent ED, where it works sometimes and it doesn’t work others. Or perhaps he suffers from premature ejaculation where he doesn’t like to have to sex often because he’s afraid he won’t perform well. Agree that you will do what you can–meaning you’ll have intercourse when it works, and when it doesn’t, that’s okay. But it’s not a PASS/FAIL system. Don’t think of each sexual encounter being about orgasm; think about it being about pleasure. See how much pleasure you can give each other, whether or not you come to orgasm.

In fact, start talking about it that way. Instead of, “can we make love tonight?”, or “can we have sex tonight?”, let’s say, “can we feel good together tonight?”

If he honestly can never reach an orgasm, he may be reluctant to do anything sexual. But you can ask him to help you feel good anyway, and see if you can help him feel pleasure when he can. And remember–you can still massage and kiss and feel close. If an encounter doesn’t go the way you had hoped it would, don’t get upset, just go with the flow. It’s really okay. Yes, you’re missing something you once enjoyed, but you still have your husband. You can be sexual without intercourse. Be grateful for what you do have, and think positive things, instead of casting a negative pall over the marriage.

Schedule Your Sexual Times

The default when sexual dysfunction like ED hits your marriage is to cut way back on sex. He doesn’t even want to try. And then when you initiate, he may turn you down. You feel rejected, and he feels like a failure, and you don’t want to keep bringing up those feelings, so you stop initiating. Yet every night, there’s that unspoken question, “should we try anything?” Even if nothing is said, it’s there, between you. And you feel it every time you roll over and turn your back to him as you go to sleep.

One way around this that works well for some couples is to schedule sex. It isn’t necessarily the time that you have intercourse; it’s the time that you spend together naked, massaging, feeling whatever pleasure you can, kissing, and just dreaming and talking together in bed.

I firmly suggest, as forcefully as I can, that shortly after the diagnosis of some sort of sexual dysfunction (with a physical cause), that you agree that at least once a week you will have a “sexual night”. Make it regular, like every Tuesday or every Saturday, and don’t change it except in extreme circumstances. That way you both know what to expect, you don’t feel rejected and nervous and on edge all the other nights of the week (because you do know what’s coming), and he can start anticipating things so that he can also get in the right frame of mind.

Now, this isn’t going to work if you can’t talk about things, which is why it’s so important to work first on communicating. I realize that many people will say, “my husband just won’t do this”, because he feels so much like a failure he’d rather shut down completely than be reminded of what he’s missing. But that’s not a good solution, and couples would be better off if they saw this. So I’d keep at it–keep praying, keep talking to your husband, keep laughing, and keep communicating, stressing intimacy and pleasure, not intercourse. Don’t give up. See a counselor if you have to. But intimacy is still possible, and is so important in your marriage. Don’t write it off just because sex doesn’t work like it once did.

I’d love to know: how is this working in your marriage? How have you find talking to your husband about this? Have you found ways around it? Let me know in the comments!

Christian Marriage Advice

Now it’s your turn! Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below. I feature at least two on my Facebook Page each week, which can get you a lot of traffic! And remember to link back here so that other people can read these great marriage posts.

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Bragging on Your Beloved: How Gratitude Can Transform a Marriage

“I’m thankful for my husband.” Is that a phrase that comes out of your lips often? Today, guest poster Cheri Gregory shares with us about how being thankful for your husband can transform your marriage.

Bragging on Your Beloved How Gratitude Can Transform a MarriageI used to believe in “venting.”

Blowing off steam.

Letting it all out.

My best friends were those who listened to all my marital ain’t-it-awfuls while nodding in agreement and adding sympathetic comments like, “No way!” and “That’s just terrible!”

I was certain that “talking it out” with girlfriends was the only thing keeping me from going off the deep end.

Not until I took a gratitude challenge did I realize three startling truths:

  1. my marital problems weren’t the real reason I was always in crisis.
  2. my sharing of wedded woes wasn’t helping anything.
  3. my venting habit was what kept me forever teetering on the edge of despair.

 Focus Causes Baditude” to Expand

Let’s explore what I wish was merely a hypothetical scenario from the early years of my marriage:

Before leaving for work one day, my husband said something offhandedly that hit me the wrong way.* For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get his comment–let alone his tone of voice–out of my mind. It stayed on automatic replay; I analyzed it over and over. The more I pondered it, the more upset I became.

When I got together with girlfriends for lunch, I asked for their opinions. Together, we dissected the comment and the tone syllable-by-syllable. We explored all possible interpretations and discovered that not a one was positive. We all agreed: I had been wronged.

By the time my husband and I reunited that evening, I had invested 5+ hours mulling over a comment that took him 5 seconds to make.

Can you guess:

  1. What kind of mood I was in?
  2. What kind of greeting I gave him?
  3. How I treated him the rest of the evening?

The answers, I’m embarrassed now to admit, are:

  1. Lousy
  2. Cold shoulder
  3. Disrespectfully.

Worse yet,  I felt completely justified in my behavior and believed he deserved every bit of it.
Why?

Because what I’d focused on all day had expanded in my mind until it was all I could see. I’d focused so much on that one comment that all I saw when I looked at my husband was negative.

 Gratitude Causes Focus to Expand

When I started keeping a gratitude journal, I gave myself permission find just one thing per day to be grateful about in my marriage. Some days, even that one felt like a Herculean effort.

Fortunately, even as stubbornly as I clung to my “baditude,” the practice of gratitude began to do what thankfulness always does: it expanded my focus. I found myself writing down two and even three things I appreciated about Daniel without having to force myself; they just flowed out of my pen. Then, I started reaching for my gratitude journal throughout the day as new ideas popped to mind.

And if you’ve ever experienced this kind of transformation in your thinking, you know what happened next: the more gratitude I expressed, the more things I noticed to be grateful for.

And the more things I was grateful for, the less bugged I became by an offhanded comment. The less I “needed” to blow off steam. In fact, venting started to feel icky. I lost interest in competing for winner of “Woe is Me” Wife contests and started hanging around women who spoke highly of their husbands.

Bragging on my BelovedBragging On My Beloved

You can get Cheri’s Bragging on My Beloved Journal here in my store. It’s only $2.99. Look and appreciate the positive in the one you love!

(*NOTE:  In this example, I am referring to an ordinary, everyday misunderstanding that occurs between two loving but imperfect people. I am not discussing an instance of abuse, abandonment, addiction, or adultery.)

Cheri GregoryCheri Gregory is a Certified Personality Trainer; contributor/co-author of a dozen books, including Wired That Way and 21 Ways to Connect With Your Kids (with Kathi Lipp); and frequent speaker for MOPS groups, women’s retreats, parent workshops, and educational seminars. She holds an M.A. in Leadership and is working on her PhD. Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, a pastor, for over a quarter-of-a-century; they have two college-aged kids. She blogs about expectations, “baditude”, and hope at www.CheriGregory.com

Screwtape Letter to an Exhausted Mom

Today, please welcome Kelsey, who writes at Organizing Life with Littles. She shares a delightful post ala C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, regarding an exhausted mother.

Screwtape Letter to an Exhausted Mom--We need to fight back! My Dear Wormwood,

I was thrilled to hear you have been making progress with the mother.  You have a good lead, from what I hear.  She’s feels over-worked, unappreciated, and discouraged?  I’m so glad to hear it.  If you tread carefully, this can be a great opportunity.  With the kids waking her up every hour last night, we already have an advantage.  A tired Mom makes for a more emotional Mom, and an emotional Mom is a vulnerable one.

I do have a few tips.

First, aim your best efforts at her marriage.

As you know, we cannot do much with a unified marriage.  Luckily for us, a cranky and exhausted wife can do wonders to change that.  We must convince her that her husband is no longer the friend and ally she first married.  Instead, we must reveal every sin and selfish habit, especially drawing attention to his thoughtless actions (mal-intended or not) against her.

Sometimes it’s the less obvious things, things the husband doesn’t even realize, that we can use to offend her the most.  When he comes home from work and dumps his things on the counter nearest the door (instead of hanging his coat or putting away his keys), let her think of it as a direct assault on her work as a homekeeper.  When he treks mud in with his shoes, let her think it is because he does not love her.  Such extremes of thought may seem ridiculous to you or I, but to the exhausted mortal woman, it can seem possible.

Your goal is to make her think the husband does not notice, or even better, that he does not care about her efforts at home.

Secondly, do what you can to keep her focused on  her troubles and pains.

Remind her how much her back aches, how draining the children were all day, and how many undone tasks still beckon her.  Do not let her wonder what difficulties her husband faced that day or whether his back might also be aching.  Valuing others above oneself is one of those silly, though strangely effective, tactics of the Enemy.  If she stops to make him a cup of coffee, the next thing you know she’ll be rubbing his shoulders and flirting with him on the couch.  It can progress out of your control if you’re not careful.

Along those lines, be sure the Mother starts to value productivity above everything else.

Have her wake up early and work non-stop until bedtime.  If the husband relaxes in the evening with an hour of computer gaming, be sure the wife notices the pile of unfolded laundry or unswept floors.  Do not let her grab a book and relax alongside her husband.  Diligence, often one of the Enemy’s virtues, when overdone can be used to our advantage as well.  Convince her that as long as there is a shred of work to be done (and there always is), no one should be resting.  Then, as she folds and sweeps and he sits, you can introduce the sweet bitterness of resentment.

A word of caution here.  Remember, the love of a husband can be dangerous to our cause.

If he senses her unhappiness, he may begin to help or (even worse) show her affection.  This is where previously planted seeds of resentment can be guided into full bloom.  Make her think that his displays of affection are because he “only wants one thing”.  Do not let her view his help with the dishes (or kisses or cuddling) as having pure motives.  If he shows his desire for her, convince her that she is being used, not loved.  As we both know, the ultimate Act of Marriage can bond them together in a way that can undo much hard work on our part.  Because of this, do not allow her to prioritize that Act on her mental to-do-list.  It is in our best interest to keep the wife busy, busy, busy and be sure she’s far too exhausted to consider it by the end of the evening.

Now, onto the children.

Lovely little opportunities for us, the children, especially the little ones.

We all know that children are a favorite tool of the Enemy.  He calls them Blessings and Gifts and calls parents to lay down their lives for them, just as his Son did.  Insane, I know.  We must convince her that the obnoxious little people she has charge of are not really worth her sacrifice.  When the Mother first dreamed of having children, she probably imagined large, innocent eyes and chubby, happy grins taking up the majority of her days.  Do your best to shatter those expectations.

Instead, draw attention to how much they take from her.  Let them take and take and take…  And need and need and need, until the Mother feels totally spent.  Let them start crying at the same time for the most irrational of reasons.  Let the noise bother her.  Let their bad behavior surprise her.  Do your best to make the day-to-day monotony of diaper changes, meals, and baths seem simultaneously overwhelming and beneath her.  Let her think of all the better, more important things she could be doing with her life, if only she didn’t have the children.

Don’t let her think about the future responsible, faithful adults she is raising.

Society changers, friends, workers, husbands or wives…  Don’t let her think of them as life-long companions who will love her, converse with her, and care for her in her old age.  Oh, and definitely don’t let her think about the grandchildren she might be able to see in their little grubby faces if she looked hard enough now.  No, no, no…  Thinking ahead to when her work bears fruit, as the Enemy calls it, is always a bad idea.  Keep words like ‘heritage’ or ‘legacy’ far away from the runny noses and jelly stains of the day to day.

If there is any last piece of advice I have for you, Wormwood, it is to keep the Mother looking to her husband or family for her fulfillment and comfort.

We know that the Enemy is always watching and willing to take the burdens of his children, but if we divert the Mother’s attention well enough, this fact can be forgotten.  Make her look to her husband for worth and affirmation.  Then, when he lets her down (as he is sure to do), she will be ours to torment.  Yes, the worst thing that could happen would be for her to turn to Him with her needs and inadequacies.  Once she realizes that the Enemy offers a peace that transcends her situation, our work could be utterly compromised.

Your Malevolent Uncle,

Screwtape

Kelsey ShadeKelsey is a Christian, young wife, and mother of two boys under 3.  She blogs about home management, organization (with kids!), frugal living, and living faithfully at OrganizingLifeWithLittles.com.  You can also find her on Facebook! If you liked this Screwtape Letter, I’m sure Kelsey would appreciate you visiting her sites and connecting with her, too!

Is Screen Time Robbing Your Marriage?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Today please welcome Arlene Pellicane, author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife, as she shares great insight into how we choose to spend our time as a couple (and as a family).

is screen time robbing your marriageA few months ago, I was speaking at a youth event about keeping your family relationships alive in a screen-driven world.

A father came up to me afterwards, not to talk about his teens and their love of technology, but his wife’s.

His wife is a ministry leader at church and social media has really allowed her to expand her reach to encourage wives, no matter where they live, at whatever time of day.  It all started very innocently.  A text, a tweet, a Facebook message.  But as she began to engage more with women through social media, she discovered she was really meeting a need in the lives of many friends.

The only problem was her love for social media was leaving her husband out in the cold.

This man talked about how his wife was constantly on her phone.  If they were in the car together, she was texting.  When they were sitting face to face at a dinner date, what was she doing?  Yes, you guessed it…she was using her phone.  It was driving him crazy!  Her husband tried to tell her that she needs to put down the phone and engage with him, but so far, nothing has changed.  And he doesn’t want to nag because otherwise, he says, she’s a perfect wife.

Technology, while bringing this wife closer to many of her friends, is driving a wedge between her and her once-happy husband.

It really could happen to any one of us, couldn’t it?  The phone makes us carry around the “urgent” inside our pocket while the “important” sits across from us at the dinner table waiting for when you have a spare moment.

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing smart about a phone that alienates you from the ones you love most.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not the phone that’s the problem.  It’s the way we use our phones which can get us into trouble.  And we don’t only have phones that compete with quality time with our spouses; there’s television, Pinterest, DVRs, and much more.

So here’s the question for you to consider today:  Would your marriage relationship improve if you and your spouse unplugged from your devices more often?

According to a Nielsen report, the average American spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television, plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.  Think of all that time that could be spent in more meaningful ways.  You could pick up a new hobby with your mate, go out to dinner, walk in the park, or snuggle up on the couch together with some great books.

My family doesn’t get cable but that doesn’t mean we’re not tempted to succumb to screen time during all our waking hours.  My husband James and I realized that after we put our three kids to bed in the evening, we would retreat to our computers and answer emails, browse headlines, check Facebook, and watch YouTube videos.  One night James said, “I’m on the computer all day, why am I wasting time at night on this thing?”  So we decide to try something new.  When the kids went to bed, we would power off our devices.

Turning off the computer earlier in the evening has been rejuvenating.

Not only is it a much better way to get a good night sleep, it gives space for my relationship with James.  We can talk, snuggle, read together, pray, or kiss…and all of these options are better than updating my Facebook status!

So the next time you are aimlessly flipping through channels, clicking through websites, or texting like a wild woman, stop yourself and ask:

What could be a better use of my time right now?

Does this activity help or harm my relationship with my husband?

Would anybody really care if I missed this program or didn’t engage in social media right now? 

When you turn off your electronic devices more often, you’ll turn on better things like red hot monogamy (as my friend author Pam Farrel calls it), quality time, and a stronger connection with the one who matters most – your husband.

Let’s make sure our husbands know they are more important than texts, tweets, pins and posts.  Not just with our words, but with our daily actions.

So it’s okay ladies…I give you permission to be unreachable and turn your phone…off.

More Screen Time Equals Less Marital Satisfaction

Arlene Pellicane 600x600jpg31 Days to Becoming a Happy WifeArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.  She and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children.  You can learn more about her ministry at www.ArlenePellicane.com

 

 

Now, do you have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!



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Reader Question: I’m Jealous of a Woman My Husband Works With

Reader Question of the Week

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at it. I get a lot of variations of this one: “I’m jealous of women at work!” When you’re worried that someone at your huband’s work has her eyes on your husband, what do you do?

A woman writes:

My husband and I have been married for over a decade. We’re blessed with wonderful kids and we love each other very much. We love God and we seek Him in all we do. My husband has been working with a married woman in our church for more than a year now. Their offices are next to each other and they occasionally share a coffee and conversation with each other at work. He has assured me that he tries to avoid being alone with her, he avoids talking to her for too long and leaves conversations with his male co-workers when she joins in. He doesn’t do anything social with her outside of the office. However, I have seen how she interacts with other men at church–she doesn’t have many female friends but flirts and jokes around with the guys all the time. She makes a point of it to bring up some of the conversations she’s had with my husband when we chat at church… I’ve taken out most of my frustration with the situation on my husband and we’ve fought about it a lot. He feels I don’t trust him, but I don’t trust her!

Changing jobs isn’t an option because in his line of work there can always be women working with him. I’ve asked if he could move offices… but he isn’t too keen to do that as he would be put in an awkward position to explain why. Should we speak to our elders at church? Or should I just get over my issues and trust him and leave it at that? We fight almost every Sunday after facing her again at church and I feel like its become an obsession with me. At church he barely greets her and they never speak but then she tells me about conversations they had at work. I’m afraid I’m doing exactly what I don’ t want to: driving him away.

Many of us are in similar situations. Women at work seem to talk to our husbands a lot! And coworkers certainly can pose a threat to our marriages, as I’ve written about before regarding texting and other technology. But in this instance, it looks like the husband is behaving well. So here are a few thoughts for this woman and others like her:

Jealous of Women at Work: Dealing with jealousy of your husband's coworkers

Don’t Take Something Out on Him He Hasn’t Done

The one sentence that really stands out in this email to me is this one:

He feels I don’t trust him, but I don’t trust her!

I’m not exactly sure what that sentence means. If you trust him, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. What is it that you don’t trust her to do? Do you think she’ll have an affair with your husband? She can’t do that if he’s trustworthy. Are you afraid she’ll come on to your husband? So what? If your husband is trustworthy he’ll turn her down. Why, then, berate your husband because you don’t trust her? She has no power over your husband if your husband is trustworthy.

Here’s the thing: if your husband is trustworthy, it really doesn’t matter what she does.

So what does it matter if you don’t trust her? What does it matter if she’s flirting with your husband? If he draws boundaries and turns her down, you’re all okay.

Suggestion: Ask yourself, “has my husband ever given me any reason not to trust him? Is my husband acting appropriately in this situation?” If you can answer those questions to your satisfaction, then honestly, let it be. Don’t punish your husband for something he’s not even doing–especially if he’s acting appropriately!

Now, if he’s not acting appropriately, that’s an entirely different story, and I’d point you to some of the articles I’ve written on emotional affairs and on discovering your husband is having an affair. But let’s assume for now that the husband is acting appropriately. What, then, should you do?

Decide What You Want Your Husband to Do

Let’s look at this letter for a moment. She doesn’t want to go to the elders, because no matter where he goes he’ll work with women. She doesn’t want him to switch offices because that’s not practical. She does want him to set boundaries, but he’s already done that. And he’s not texting his female co-worker, and she’s not texting him.

So if you’re getting annoyed at a woman, instead of focusing on that woman, whom you have no influence over, ask yourself, “what do I want my husband to do?”

The answer can’t be, “Get her to stop flirting!”, because he can’t control what she does. So it has to be something that he can do.

And if you can’t name anything you want him to do differently, then you have to let it go and stop bothering him about it. It just isn’t fair.

Make Sure Your Marriage is Rock Solid

Every marriage goes through seasons of distance. Every marriage at some point is at risk. And the easiest way to minimize the risk ISN’T to get rid of all the possible temptations outside of marriage. It’s simply to make your marriage the best it can be!

If you find yourself starting to get jealous, then work on your friendship more. Find a new hobby you can do together. Plan more date nights with your husband, even if they’re just at-home date nights. Make sex a priority!

Get to Know the Women Your Husband Works With

I firmly believe that as much as possible spouses should be involved in each other’s lives. And you’ll find that if you know the people your husband works with, jealousy will likely decline. First, they’ll know you, and it’s much harder to go after a man if you know his wife. And second, if she’s no longer an abstract but a real, breathing person, you may not feel such jealousy towards her.

I have an article on keeping marriage strong by getting to know your husband’s co-workers here.

Confront the Woman, if Appropriate

If you feel that she is being flirty with your husband, there’s nothing wrong with going to her and saying,

“I’ve noticed that you’re really a friendly person, and that’s great. But I’m not sure if you realize how it comes across when you’re that friendly to your male co-workers. It just worries me, and I’m sure it worries others, too, and I’m asking you, as a woman, to keep your conduct with my husband on a professional level.”

Would that be hard and awkward to say? Absolutely. But it’s far fairer to your husband to have that moment of awkwardness with her than to constantly grill him on what she’s doing.

Ask Yourself Why This Bothers You So Much

Something in this whole situation is triggering something in this woman. She’s reacting in fear and anger and lashing out at her husband. The question is, why?

Ask and pray through that question. When you start feeling scared, ask yourself, “what exactly is it that I’m scared of?” Pinpoint it. Then ask yourself, “Do I have a reason to be scared?” If the answer is yes, then I’d suggest asking you and your husband to go in for counseling together, or talking to a mentor couple. It certainly could be that you’re anxious because you’re picking up the signs of a real budding relationship.

However, in this particular case it really sounds more like she’s reacting to something that’s going on inside of her, not something that her husband is doing. Many of us start marriage with baggage. We’re insecure. We worry we’re not attractive. We worry no one will really want to stay with us for life. We worry our marriage will end up like our parents’ marriage did. And so when we see someone who seems like a threat, we go overboard.

The issue, though, is with you, not with your husband and not with this woman.

In this case, talking and praying with a friend through some of your insecurities and fears, and especially talking with a counselor about some of the insecurities you may have from brokenness in childhood, is likely a  good idea. Perhaps the whole reason that this episode is happening is to give you a jolt, or a kick in the pants, to deal with something. God doesn’t want you to be insecure, and He doesn’t want you paralyzed with fear. He wants you healed. If you’re over-reacting to something, it’s a sign that something’s wrong, and that there’s healing to be done. That’s perfectly okay. There’s nothing wrong with having issues; there’s only something wrong with refusing to work on your issues.

So find someone to talk to who can guide you through figuring out the root of your insecurities. A licensed counselor is probably best, and many churches can direct you to someone if they don’t have one on staff. But do deal with this!

Dayspring Peace Mug

I want to say, again, that I know that often in cases when you’re jealous of a co-worker it is for a reason. Your husband really is at risk of having an affair. In this case, though, it really doesn’t look like it, and I’ve received enough emails that are similar  that I thought it should be dealt with. Sometimes we blame our husbands for things that aren’t their fault, and it’s much better on the marriage to figure out what the underlying problem actually is.

Now let me know in the comments: Has jealousy ever reared its ugly head with you? What did you do?

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Reader Question of the Week: My Husband Doesn’t Want to Use Birth Control

Reader Question of the Week

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it. Today’s is a toughie: what do you do when you don’t want to get pregnant, but your husband doesn’t want birth control?

I miscarried in the fall and I don’t feel ready to get pregnant again. My husband agrees and we’ve decided to wait until 2015 to try again. The issue is that he refuses to wear a condom and doesn’t want me on hormonal birth control or to use an IUD. He wants to use the” pull and pray” method and doesn’t want to use spermicide or anything. As a result I avoid sex. I deny him. Or when we do have sex I’m an emotional wreck afterwards. I don’t want to anxiously wait to see if my cycle actually arrives every month. It is just too much. Our relationship is suffering for it. I don’t know what to do.

That’s a tough one, and my answer isn’t going to focus on whether or not birth control is right or wrong. I know there are couples, both Protestant and Catholic, who feel that birth control is morally wrong. I wrote a round-up on birth control previously, and I do think that certain methods are okay. But regardless of where you fall in this debate, I think these answers will apply to all of us.

Here are some general thoughts, in no particular order:

My Husband Doesn't Want us to Use Birth Control--and I'm scared of getting pregnant. Some thoughts on how to handle this.

1. Get to Know When Your Fertile Times Are

Honestly, you just can’t get pregnant at all times during the month. It doesn’t work like that. You can only get pregnant when the egg is viable, and that’s roughly 3-7 days a month. Now, that may sound like a lot, because if you don’t make love during your period (and most women don’t), then that’s two weeks a month that are off limits if you don’t want to get pregnant and don’t want to use any birth control. But the fact is that’s also two weeks a month that are NOT off limits!


So get used to tracking your cycle. You can do this by taking your temperature every morning at the same time, using a digital thermometer. Get some free printable charts to track your cycle here. Now many of these sites are trying to help you get pregnant, but the principle is the same. When you know when your fertile times are, you also know when your infertile times are.

Track yourself for two months, and you’ll get a sense of about how many days after your period starts that you ovulate. Most people are within 11-16 days. Then you just stop sex for two days before that and up to 5 after, although many sites will tell you that you really don’t have to stop for more than 3-4 days. Just read up as much on the subject as you can until you’re comfortable.

What if you don’t ovulate at the same time every month? There are other ways to check–like checking your cervical mucous.

Remember: it is physically impossible to get pregnant when there is no egg present. So relax! Honestly! Get to know your body and trust your body.

In that first week after your period, you’re absolutely good to go! And many of us can FEEL when we ovulate (I hurt for about 12 hours), so three days later I’d be good to go, too.

The key to feeling relaxed about it is to get as much information as you can and then start charting. Even ask your husband to help you with this! When you know that it’s safe, you’ll feel better about making love on those times.

2. What Do We Do During the Fertile Times?

That’s all well and good, but what if, in the middle of the fertile days, the urge strikes? After all, hormonally we’re most likely to be “in the mood” in those fertile days, and it seems kind of counterproductive to say that you can’t make love in the fertile times.

If you’re both just opposed to hormonal birth control and don’t like condoms, one solution is to use nothing for most of the month, and then use condoms only on your fertile days.

If condoms are out of the question, too, then you have a decision to make. You can say to your husband:

Honey, I do want to have an active sex life with you and I do want to enjoy our intimacy. But I just am not prepared to be pregnant right now, and so I’m going to have say no on these days.

And then maybe you can do other things. After all, not all sex needs to be intercourse. You can bring each other to climax another way, and still enjoy each other’s bodies.

By the way, the “pull and pray” method is very dangerous. You can get pregnant with sperm that is released before ejaculation. And I think the “pray” part has rather sketchy doctrine. What you’re really saying is,

“God, I want you to do something for me, but I’m not prepared to do anything myself to achieve that goal. I don’t want to be pregnant, but I also don’t want to have to exercise any self-control or bear any consequences of my actions.”

That’s testing God, and I don’t think that’s right. To ask God to do something that you’re not also willing to participate in is immature.

3. Talk About Family Size and Timing

You really need to sit down and talk about family size and timing. This is a matter of mutual respect. If you have agreed that you don’t want any more children, then both of you need to be responsible with that, however that may look in your marriage. You can’t say, “we won’t have any more kids”, but simultaneously say “but I’m not willing to do anything about it.” That’s a cop out. If this is the case in your marriage, then having some discussions with him is in order, and if that isn’t getting anywhere, talking to a third party to help you work this out is likely in order, too.

4. You Husband Doesn’t Want Birth Control, But Regardless–Ultimately It’s Up to God

No matter what you do, though, remember that you are in God’s hands. Whatever happens, He will see you through it. I do understand not thinking it’s responsible to have more kids, especially if you already have a bunch, if your health is at risk, if you have special needs kids already that need attention, or if there’s military deployments coming up. There certainly are legitimate reasons to want to limit your family.

But remember that if you do get pregnant, God will carry you. He will give you the strength and the resources. You are never alone.

All of us need to be content with that, because I don’t think we were ever meant to live with 100% certainty that pregnancy wouldn’t happen.

If you’ve recently had a miscarriage, I am so sorry. I do know how that feels, and I wrote this column a few years ago called “A Prayer Through Tears” that you may appreciate.

Now I’d love to know your take on this. Have you ever had this situation? Or perhaps for you it’s the opposite: your husband wants more kids and you don’t. How did you handle that? Let me know in the comments!

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Wifey Wednesday: 5 Ways to Let Him Know You Enjoy Sex

Christian Marriage Advice
It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage!  Today guest poster J of Hot, Holy and Humorous shares 5 great tips on communicating intimately about our enjoyment in the bedroom. J’s book, The Sex Savvy Wife, is part of my Valentine’s Day Bundle! (4 ebooks, $10)

5 Ways to Let Him Know You Enjoy SexOne of the aspects I adore about the Song of Solomon, the one biblical book devoted to marital intimacy, is how the wife communicates her own enjoyment of sex with her husband. Yes, she makes love to meet his needs and desires, but she also finds pleasure in the experience. And then, she goes a step further and shares with her husband her appreciation of their sexual intimacy.

“How handsome you are, my beloved!
Oh, how charming!
And our bed is verdant.”
Song of Solomon 1:16

How can we wives lovingly communicate our enjoyment of marital lovemaking?

Here are five ways to let him know you enjoy the sex.

1. Say yes.

One sure way to let your husband know you don’t desire and enjoy sex is to say “no” often. Of course, the opposite is true: Say “yes” often, and he’ll get the message that you see sex as a priority for your marriage. But don’t merely be available; get engaged. Say “yes!” to the whole experience.

Show up to the marriage bed as a fully participating lover. If you give your physical intimacy more attention and focus, you’ll likely find yourself enjoying sex more and more.

2. Move your body.

Lean into the lovemaking. When you have sex with your husband, touch and caress him. Kiss his lips and his body. Rub against him with your body. Tilt your hips toward him. Move in rhythm with his thrusting.

Your movement will likely increase your own arousal. Moreover, when you “get into it,” you convey to your husband that you’re fully involved in what’s happening with your bodies. It’s like the difference between a man dancing and dragging his partner across the floor, and the both of you fully enjoying the “mattress mambo.”

3. Make some noise.

No matter how focused your husband is on other things, he can probably hear you throughout the sexual encounter. So let your voice convey when you are feeling pleasure.

Noise can be anything from low moaning to heavy breathing to unbridled screaming—whatever fits the moment, your comfort zone, and the distance from your bedroom to the children’s bedroom. But don’t worry so much about sounding weird or being overheard. Let loose a little and make some bedroom noise.

4. Initiate.

Show him you like sex by outright asking for it! Most husbands revel in that moment when a wife overtly suggests sex. Your initiation can take the form of sexy flirting, setting a romantic scene and donning special lingerie, requesting sex at a particular time and place, or simply straddling your husband in bed and saying, “Let’s do it!”

But make it a priority to initiate, at least now and then. Express to your husband that sex is so wonderful you’re eager to make love again.

5. Just tell him you like it—but not subtly.

We wives are often brought up to use courtesy and subtlety as ways to communicate in a ladylike fashion. That’s all well and good, ladies, but most men don’t read social cues and body language as well as we do. They don’t take hints. So simply say it—as candidly as you can. It can be as straightforward as “You’re an amazing lover,” as meaningful as “I adore feeling like one flesh when we make love,” or as playful as “Honey, you put the wow in bow-chicka-bow-wow!” But get the point across to your husband that sex is important and satisfying.

Those are small ways to let your husband know that you enjoy making love.

But if you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t currently enjoy sex all that much,” try these five tips anyway. Oftentimes, they will likely increase your enjoyment of sexual intimacy in your marriage. And considering picking up a copy of Sheila’s excellent book, 31 Days to Great Sex, or my own, Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives, for more tips.

HHH-LogoSexSavvyEbook-cover-lower-dpi

J. Parker is the author of Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives and writes the Hot, Holy & Humorous blog, where she uses a biblical perspective and a blunt sense of humor to foster Christian sexuality in marriage.

 

Remember, you can get The Sex Savvy Wife AND 31 Days to Great Sex in the Valentine’s Day bundle for just $10–along with The Deck of Dares and the Rekindling Romance Toolkit. But only until Friday!

Sexy Valentines Day Bundle Small

Don’t forget to Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!



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

Wifey Wednesday: Keeping Your Marriage Strong (After Kids)

Christian Marriage Advice
It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage!  Today guest poster Lindsey Bell shares with us about how to keep your marriage fresh once kids come.

How to Keep Your Marriage Strong After KidsMy husband and I had been married for five years when we had our first child. Those first five years, by and large, went well. Of course, we fought from time to time, but we also had a lot of fun together.

I thought our marriage was solid.

That all changed when we brought a baby home.

I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, the stress of trying (unsuccessfully) to breastfeed, the role changes, or something else, but our marriage took a huge hit that first year we were a family of three.

To be honest, we are still rebuilding. We are working—day by day—to make our marriage solid again.

This time, though, we are doing it with kids, so it’s been a bit more challenging. It requires more intentionality and creativity.

Keeping your marriage strong after kids is certainly not easy, but here are some tips that help.

1. Go on dates regularly.

I know many marriage experts claim you should date your spouse at least once a week. (And honestly, if you’re able to do that, it certainly couldn’t hurt.)

But some of us can’t afford to go out or pay for childcare that often.

If this is the case, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just do what you can. Can you go on a date every other week? Or once a month? What about having an at-home date after the kids go to bed once a week?

You might have to be creative more now than you used to, but the payoff is worth it.

2. Study your spouse.

Learn his or her love language (touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or quality time). Then do your best to speak this language. Take some personality tests to better understand each other.

Figure out those things that energize his or her soul, and then do your best to meet these needs.

3. Go away together.

There is nothing like a romantic trip for two to bring a little bit of spice back into a marriage.

Find someone you trust to watch your children and take an overnight trip (or even a week long vacation!)

My husband and I take trips together (kid-free) at least once a year. Sometimes we are only able to be away for one night, and that’s okay. One night away can strengthen your marriage in incredibly ways. 

4. Take care of yourself.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, failing to eat right, and never doing anything for yourself, you’re bound to snap at your spouse.

Take care of yourself just as you take care of your child.

If you wouldn’t let your child skip a meal, then you don’t skip one either.

If you make him get plenty of sleep, make yourself rest too.

A rested and healthy man or woman is a much more pleasant person to be around.

5. Choose your spouse every day.

It’s so easy to get selfish in a marriage. To think about the things you need from your spouse and the things he or she is not doing for you.

It’s a whole lot harder to put your spouse’s needs first. To think instead about what you can do for him and how you can meet his needs.

For me, it’s a choice I have to make every single day. I have to choose to be selfless.

6. Appreciate the things your spouse does for you.

Once you’ve been married for a few years, you tend to stop appreciating some of little things your spouse does for you. Whereas before you would shower him with praise for filling your car with gasoline, now you don’t even notice. Or worse, you expect it and then become angry when he forgets.

Take a few moments each day and thank your spouse for the things he or she has done for you.

Did he go to work? Thank him for it.

Did he pick up the kids from school? Thank him for it.

Did she make dinner? Thank her for it.

Did she bring home a pizza? Be appreciative.

Start making an effort to notice the kind actions of your spouse.

7. Put your spouse above your kids.

As a stay-at-home mom, my kids are my world. Outside of writing and church activities, there are very few things I do that don’t have something to do with my kids. (And honestly, even my writing is about them a lot!)

But my husband should know—and so should my kids—that he is my priority. After God, he is the number one man in my life. My two boys come after him.

It’s not because I love my kids any less. In fact, it’s because I love them so much that I put my marriage first.

There is no better gift a parent can give their child than the gift of a solid marriage.

So let’s talk: How do you keep your marriage strong? Leave a comment to be entered to win a giftcard from Lindsey for her blog tour contest!  And Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!

This post is part of a Lindsey’s blog tour for Searching for Sanity, her new parenting devotional. You can read other posts in this tour by going to her blog: www.lindsey-bell.com.

17648166-18785009-thumbnailAbout Lindsey Bell:

Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity, a new parenting devotional. She’s also a stay-at-home mother of two, minister’s wife, avid reader, and chocolate lover. Find her at her blog, or on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

 

About Searching for Sanity:

Have you ever looked at your beloved children and wondered, what in the world am I doing? Why did God trust me—of all people—to raise them?

Motherhood is the most difficult job many of us will ever take. Searching for Sanity offers moms an opportunity to take a breath, dig into the Word, and learn from parents of the past. In short devotions designed for busy moms, this book uses the parents of the Bible—both the good and the bad—to inspire today’s mothers.



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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.

Make Valentine’s Day Celebrate Your Marriage Day!

Reader Question of the Week

Usually on Mondays I post a Reader Question, and then take a stab at answering it.

The vast majority of the questions that come into this blog are a variation on this:

My husband just isn’t affectionate. He doesn’t really pay attention to me. Our marriage is boring. He spends all his time on the computer or on the iPad. We don’t have a relationship. What do I do?

I’ve tried to answer these in various ways, like how to create a friendship with your husband, or how to live in a loveless marriage, and more.

But I know that this time of year these feelings often pop up again. And so when my friend Cheri Gregory told me about a post she wanted to write on avoiding the Valentine’s Day Blues, I knew it would resonate with a lot of women who wonder why their husbands don’t seem to show any love.


Valentine's Day DisappointmentHere’s Cheri:

Soon it will be Valentine’s Day.

A.K.A. My Husband Disappointed Me Yet Again Day.

Followed by Punish Him for His Failures Week.

Well, at least that’s how I viewed February 14 during the early years of my marriage. I had so many Hallmark-instilled expectations for what The Day should be like and would be like, if only my husband could…

• read my mind and do exactly what I hoped he would do without me telling him what I wanted…

• manufacture time and energy to execute elaborate plans on an arbitrary day…

• cave into societal pressure and become someone quite different from his everyday self once a year…

I was dismal with disappointment after our first few Valentine’s Days because “we” didn’t celebrate the way I thought we should. Thank heavens Pinterest and Facebook didn’t exist back then! Comparing what I lacked to what other women so clearly had would have compounded my self-inflicted misery.

What Do I Really Want out of Valentine’s Day?

Early on, I had clear expectations of what I thought my husband should do on Valentine’s Day. But I failed to do two vital things:

1) I didn’t tell him, well in advance, my hopes for Valentine’s day.

I bought in to the immature belief that “If he really loved me, he would just know what I want.” Assuming that he already knew, I became upset when he withheld from me what I needed.

The actual truth, of course, was that he had no idea what was going on inside my head. He expected me to be honest with him, to tell him what I wanted.

2) I didn’t realize what I really wanted.

I thought I wanted flowers, a card, and a romantic evening together.

But I didn’t.

What I really wanted was to feel the way I imagined these things would make me feel. This meant that I typically ignored my husband’s best efforts and judged his “success” based on my oh-so-fickle feelings.

Expectations Kill Love

Patty Newbold’s blog Assume Love has been a major perspective-shifter for me. I keep these two quotes taped on my mirror:

• “Expectations, other than the one you were promised–that you will be loved–are premeditated resentments.”
• “Resentment is a marriage killer, and it grows from unmet expectations.”

I finally realized that I had a choice:

I could get caught up in commercialized expectations for February 14, developing such a judgmental attitude toward my husband that I displayed disrespectful behaviors.

or

I could choose to recognize February 14 as just another day, no more or less important than February 13 or February 15. Certainly no reason to justify negative beliefs or behaviors.

Today, I’m grateful for a long-term perspective on my expectations. Twenty-five uneventful Valentine’s Days pale in comparison to almost 10,000 days of doing life together. Letting go of my expectations for this one arbitrary commercialized holiday has freed me to enjoy our camaraderie and romance whenever they occur.

Celebrating “Us”

Am I suggesting that we all completely ignore February 14? Not at all. In fact, letting go of my expectations has allowed me to enjoy finding ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day that worked for us, for that particular year.

Here are a few; perhaps you’ll find an idea you can adapt to your marriage.

1. Dialogue about this year’s Valentine’s Day

Pull out a calendar, sit down with your husband, and ask some key questions:

• What would I like to do?
• What would you like to do?
• What’s in the budget?
• What’s reasonable considering our season of life?
• What’s happening the week before and the weekend after?
• How much time and energy are we each likely to have on February 14?

Whenever we have a simple conversation well in advance, I stay grounded in reality rather than getting lost in my own fantastical expectations. It also means that we’re working together as a team, keeping the pressure off of either one of us to “produce” some amazing extravaganza.

2. Declare your own “Valentine’s Day.”

Call me dense, but it took me years to figure out that we could celebrate on a different day. Restaurants aren’t nearly as full on February 13 or 15. Or 25, for that matter. Sometimes, we plan ahead for our private Valentine’s Day celebration. Other times, we simply find ourselves in the midst of celebrating our marriage. Like last week, when we spontaneously went grocery shopping together and then stopped at our favorite Mediterranean restaurant for dinner. Between bites of dolma, I looked across the table at Daniel and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

So, for us, Valentine’s Day 2014 was January 30.

You don’t have to force February 14 to be The Day. During the upcoming weeks, you can be alert to a natural together time, and declare it your very own Valentine’s Day.

3. Devote Yourself to Celebration (not Competition)

I used to approach Valentine’s Day as a competition without telling my husband I was keeping score.

I got all this for him; I wonder how much he got for me.

My friend’s husband has this elaborate plan for her; why doesn’t my husband ever do anything like that for me?

Year in and year out I’m the only one who even tries.

We both ended up feeling like losers–on a day devoted to declaring love victorious!

Finally, I quit thinking about what he would get for me or what I would get for him. Instead, I started thinking about what we could do for our marriage.

Win-win.

Valentine's Day Gifts for Your HusbandSheila put out a great list of “Valentine’s Day Gifts for Your Husband” last week. I’d like to challenge you to approach the list as “Valentine’s Day Gifts for Our Marriage”.

Make this the year that you don’t focus on what your husband does (or doesn’t) do for you. Focus, instead, on making the week of Valentine’s Day “Celebrating Our Marriage by Loving My Man Week.” Don’t make the mistakes I did as an earlywed, wallowing in all the coulds, woulds, and shoulds. Life’s too short to waste on the nauseating roller coaster of expectations and disappointment. Celebrate what you do have and who you are as a couple.

P.S. If you’re concerned that I’m letting husbands “off the hook,” I highly recommend Sheila’s “My Husband Needs to Change
and Patty Newbold’s “When Love Goes Missing“.

Cheri GregoryCheri Gregory is a Certified Personality Trainer; contributor/co-author of a dozen books, including Wired That Way and 21 Ways to Connect With Your Kids (with Kathi Lipp); and frequent speaker for MOPS groups, women’s retreats, parent workshops, and educational seminars. She holds an M.A. in Leadership and is working on her PhD. Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, a pastor, for over a quarter-of-a-century; they have two college-aged kids. She blogs about expectations, “baditude”, and hope at www.CheriGregory.com

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Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Needs to Change!

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to talk about a really common feeling women have: Why is it always me who needs to fix the marriage, when my husband needs to change! If he’s the one who needs to change, why is it always me who needs to do the work?

I totally understand the sentiment. One woman wrote it this way after reading my post “Does Everything Really Come Down to Sex?”:

I am not sure why but this post makes me feel a little angry inside. I guess women should sex their husbands regularly so that their husbands will be productive members of the household…It just seems so ridiculous to me. I wake up at 5, feed the baby, make the kids lunches, take the kids to school and daycare, go to work, come home, make dinner, clean up dinner and prepare for the next day. I literally don’t stop until I get into bed (usually around midnight.) I do all of these things because it is what I have to do. If I don’t my husband won’t. How am I supposed to make sure he is pleased when he doesn’t do anything to help or please me. Do I like sex? Yes, but when am I ever energetic enough to do it? Hardly ever. “Sex is your way of saying to him, “I’m committed to you, I love you, I want you, I value you.” If he knows that and feels it, it’s so much easier to then bring up the really big issues that are bothering you.” Wait, so me taking care of our children, feeding our family, keeping our home, none of these things say that I love and value him? I bristle against the notion that in order for our husbands to want to please, help, show us love that we first have to somehow convenience them with sex. I can certainly say that I would feel a whole lot more receptive to sex (and would have more energy instead of falling into bed at night) if he ever washed bottles, or did the dishes after dinner, or washed the laundry every now and then. I get it, somebody has to give first, but WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ME?

I really do understand the frustration. She’s absolutely exhausted, she does too much, he does very little, and then she says, “why do I have to be the one to fix the marriage?”

I know many of you reading this blog feel like it’s your husband who needs to change, not you, so I want to give a few thoughts:

My Husband Needs to Change! So why do all the books and blogs talk about me changing? Some thoughts.

1. You Can Only Take Responsibility for What’s in Your Control

Why am I always telling women how to change their behavior and attitudes? Because those behaviors and attitudes are in your control. Your husband’s behaviors and attitudes aren’t.

You may want your husband to change, and you may think he should pick up some slack, and you may think that he should be nicer, but the truth is you have absolutely no control over that. You really don’t.

So we have to look at strategies that YOU can do to make your marriage better. Sitting back and fuming and growing resentful because he isn’t doing anything isn’t going to help. You may feel morally superior, because he obviously has so much he needs to change, but that’s not going to get you a good marriage.

Serenity Prayer Plaque from Dayspring

2. I’m Writing this Blog to Women!

Here’s something else people often don’t understand. This blog is primarily for women. I do have quite a few male readers and I do appreciate them, but I’m writing to women. My books are written to women. So for me to write a big post on how husbands should change doesn’t help. It may make all of us women feel better, but it isn’t going to do a thing to help your marriage, because YOU’RE reading this, not your husband.

Now, a while ago I did go on a rant and wrote a post directed at men: Here’s What I Wish I Could Say to Men about Sex. I felt so much better getting that out! But it was still primarily women who read it.

I know there are areas where men need to change. If you wanted me to go on a rant about it, believe me, I could fill major blog posts, like this:

For pity’s sake, stop playing video games all the time and pay attention to your kids! Don’t expect your wife to make love if you never help with the kids and she’s exhausted. Get off of your butt and clean the house a bit. If your wife leaves you with the kids, you’re not “helping her”. They’re your kids, too! That means they’re your responsibility, too!

Etc. etc. etc.

But again, what good would those posts do, other than make us all feel better and superior? If I’m writing to women, I don’t want to get you all riled up about how your husband needs to change. I want to actually offer practical help, and that means addressing what’s in our control.

3. Chances Are He’s Hurting, Too

Here’s the big one that most of us just don’t get. If you’re unhappy with your life, chances are he is, too. He’s not experiencing that intimacy he needs if you’re unhappy. He may look like it’s all peachy keen, but chances are he’s upset about something, too. And if you can go and think about what he’s missing, and reach out and meet his needs, often you start a domino effect that has great benefits for your marriage.

I know it’s hard to reach out when you’re lonely and frustrated, but if you do that, you really can change the dynamic in your marriage. Things won’t change if you sit there and do nothing. But if you decide to find things to be grateful for, start encouraging him even when you don’t feel like it, and step out when it comes to sex, you may just find that his attitude towards you changes, too.

Sure, it would be nice if it did that on its own. Sure, he should be loving you regardless. But if he’s not, are you going to sit there and just be angry about it? Or are you going to do something about it?

4. If Your Husband Needs to Change, You Likely Need to Set Boundaries

When I’m talking about changing the way that you relate to your husband so that you fix your marriage problems, that doesn’t only mean encouraging him, making love to him, or praising him. These are important things, yes. But sometimes we need to change by simply drawing boundaries and doing less.

Emotionally Healthy WomanIt’s like what Geri Scazzero said in her book The Emotionally Healthy Woman. Sometimes in order to find real peace we have to quit. And many of us are overfunctioning in our marriages, and the more we overfunction, the more he underfunctions.

She tells her own saga of getting to the point where she needed to quit. Her husband was a busy inner-city pastor, and Geri felt like the proper Christian woman poured herself out for her kids, and her husband, and never asked anything of anybody. So she always said yes whenever someone from church needed her. She ran programs. She said yes to having people for dinner. She had no time to herself, no time to be creative, and no time to recharge.

Eventually she couldn’t take it and she told her husband she was quitting going to their church. That put in motion a whole series of steps that finally helped their family come to healthy balance. And much of that was letting go of the things that she was doing so that others would rightly do them. In Boundaries in Marriage Henry Cloud and John Townsend talk about a similar dynamic. They say that God designed this world so that “you reap what you sow”. When you sow something bad, you get something bad. The problem in many marriages, though, is that the person sowing the bad stuff isn’t reaping it. So dad is grumpy and mean to his wife and kids, and the wife and kids walk on eggshells around him so as not to set him off. They’re reaping what he is sowing.

The key, then, is to allow the person who is reaping something to also sow it.

How does this relate? Sometimes, if your husband needs to change, he can’t until you start putting up some boundaries. Look at this woman’s letter for a minute. She’s probably exaggerating a little, but it seems as if she gets about 6 hours of sleep, which isn’t enough. She’s completely haggard. That’s simply too much. It’s unsustainable. Sure, you can keep doing it, but you’ll lose yourself and you’ll burn out, and what kind of mom, let alone wife, will you be?

Perhaps the best thing she could do to change, then, is to start saying “no”. Sit her husband down and say,

“I can’t keep working at a full-time job unless you also start to do some of the childcare responsibilities, like taking them to daycare or making half the meals or doing some of the housework. If that’s not possible for you, then what I’d suggest is that we find ways to reduce our costs so that I can work part-time, because I can’t keep doing this.”

Maybe it means moving back to an apartment, or whatever. I don’t know. But she can start saying, “no”.

When I say that a woman needs to change, then, I’m not always saying that she needs to bend over backwards to meet all of his needs. Here’s what I’m saying:

She should bend over backwards to meet his legitimate needs, and she should examine herself to make sure she’s not trying to meet needs that aren’t hers to meet.

I think quite often we’re meeting the wrong needs. We’re spending tons of energy and time on things that don’t build relationships (getting kids in tons of extracurricular activities, working full-time, volunteering at church, creating a perfect home), and in the process we’re making ourselves exhausted. We’re also spending tons of energy doing things for people that they could and should do for themselves (doing all the housework, making kids’ lunches, etc. etc.) The more we do this, the less energy and time we’ll have to meet our husbands’ legitimate needs for affirmation, encouragement, intimacy, and even sex.

If you’re absolutely exhausted and you’re upset that your husband isn’t equally exhausted, it can look like he’s getting a free ride.

The answer, though, isn’t always for your husband to change. Sometimes it’s for you to start saying no. Saying no to all the things you do. Saying no to overfunctioning at home. Saying no to outside activities. And then you’ll be able to say yes to the things that actually do build marriages!

I hope that makes sense! I know sometimes reading blogs it can seem like the only way to fix a marriage is for the woman to change. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m simply saying: take control of what is in your control. Examine yourself first. Do what you can. Change the dynamic. And then see what happens!

Now, do you have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!

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