Wifey Wednesday: Don’t Be the Christmas Doormat!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today Sarah Ball, aka The Virtuous Woman Exposed, joins us talking about how you can be a non-stressed wife this Christmas–by not being a Christmas martyr!

be a non-stressed wife this christmas

Dad is sitting peacefully with his pipe by the fire, the kids are playing joyfully with their new toys, the in-laws have that 1,000 pieced puzzle mastered, and Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe dance arm in arm to “I’ll be home for Christmas.”

But wait, where’s mom?

Oh, right. She’s hyperventilating in the walk-in pantry.

“It’s just the onions,” she says with a forced smile. Come on, we all know it’s not just the onions. It’s a layer of exhaustion, trying to please everyone, a failed soufflé (do women still make these?) a critical comment from the Mother-in-law, an eye roll over paper plates from the Aunt, oh…and the one gift she received under the tree.

One hand-made candleholder made with love and painted macaroni.

She loves seeing her family happy, and nothing beats watching her children open gifts, and she knows the true meaning of Christmas. Yet she can’t help but feel a little empty; so she distracts herself with giving and serving, while telling herself she ‘is being stupid and needs to suck it up.’ She takes the freshly made bacon wrapped scallops out of the oven, waves her eyes clear of tears, inhales deeply, and joins the party. “Hungry?” She sings. They all run to the platter of savory and leave her none.

Does this sound like you? The Christmas Door Mat or The Maid of Merry Men?

How not to be a Christmas martyr in your family--and find peace once again!

If so, I am here to release you from the hard bondage in which you have been forced to serve. With a loving lecture!

STOP IT!

What if I were to tell you that the reason Jesus was born, (the reason we celebrate Christmas) was so that we could rest and receive abundant blessing? Not strain ourselves to the point of tears.

Jesus knew that women have a tendency to strive to earn favor with man and Christ. Which is why God strategically left this story of Mary and Martha, in the bible….

 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-41

His peace and presence is available to all, but it is up to us Martha’s to put down our apron and just be present enough to enjoy the gift of the moment.

It is perfectly acceptable to expect blessing for yourself on Christmas. It’s not selfish and it’s not sacrilegious. No one ever called you to be a Christmas Martyr. In fact when you take it upon yourself to please everyone, you are actually taking away their opportunities to be a blessing. It feels good to give. Why not let your family experience that too.

We as moms need to help our children and husband bless us. I know that this sounds selfish, and I know that the giver in you is cringing. I realize Christmas isn’t just about gifts, but gifts are a legitimate godly way of showing care for one another.

 

I drive my children, including my teenaged son, to shop for their dad and me. I drop them off at my favorite store and tell them what I don’t want.

Last year, my teenaged boy was absolutely mortified when I dropped him off at a girly accessories store. I walked him into the store and introduced him to the cashier. “My son is shopping for me, these are the things I like, and can you help him?” I asked. She looked as awkward as he did. It was a match made in retail!

“I’ll be in the car,” I said, as I walked out the door. My son, his poor face turned Rudolph red. But that face turned into a very proud grin when I opened a great pair of gloves and scarf on Christmas morning.

I just scored points with his future wife. ‘Not afraid to shop at girly stores to buy his wife great gifts.’ CHECK!

Some husbands may need the same encouragement.

My husband loves to make me happy, and to be honest he deserves more gifts around the tree this year than I do, and he spoils me. So dropping him off at the local frilly shop will be in vain. What I can give him, that in turn blesses me, is an unstressed, joyful version of me. He’s not looking for a perfected Christmas Décor, or an overstuffed brined turkey. He is looking for moments with me, moments when he has my full, happy and content, attention.

This year I have given up the family photo, the Christmas letter and even the Christmas cards. I’m going to express my needs and ask for help. I am going to serve child decorated cookies, that look like reindeer vomit and I’m going to stick to mashed potatoes, turkey and pie. Martha Stewart, you’re fired!

What can you do for yourself this Christmas?

 

Sarah BallSarah Ball is a blogger, speaker, and mother of 5 children. She is currently working on a series called Fearless in 21 days, helping men and women break free from crippling anxiety and panic. You can follow her blog at Virtuous Woman Exposed.

Sarah says, “Head on over to my Virtuous Woman Exposed Facebook Page so we can be friends! You can also find me on Pinterest and Twitter.

WifeyWednesday175Have any Christmas marriage thoughts for us? Link up the URL of one of your marriage posts in our Wifey Wednesday Linkup below! And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts.



Wifey Wednesday: What Do I Do with a Workaholic Husband?

When your husband is a workaholic: how to communicate your needs for him in your #marriage!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then give you a chance to link up your own post in the linky below. And today we’re going to deal with this problem: what do you do with a workaholic husband?

A reader recently wrote me this letter:

My husband’s work hours are way out of control. He owns his own business and regularly works 75-90 hours a week. We have been married almost 30 years and our kids are almost out of the nest.

His obsession with work overrides his common sense. The kids and I staged an intervention (literally) where we said that they would not ride in his car with him if he continued to text and check emails while driving (that has improved a bit since then).

He thinks I don’t appreciate his hard work. I do, but it has left me to be virtually a single parent, and in fact, an angry, disconnected wife. I try to open discussions with “I/we want to have you at home more. I miss time with you”, but it immediately goes to accusations that I don’t understand his work, his stress, the economy etc.

I am tired of pat Christian answers about making my home a sanctuary for him and understanding that work is what God created him to do. I am angry when I hear other Godly men ask with a laugh, “Still working those crazy hours?” instead of calling him on his out of balance life. I have considered talking to an elder couple that we are close to in order to have someone else discuss this with him.

My husband is a good man and I know, in my head if not my heart, that he loves me and his kids, but even as I write this, a voice in my head whispers, “but not enough to cut back his work hours”.

My heart breaks for this woman. She IS married to a workaholic husband, and it’s making her feel so unloved. So what does one do in this situation? Here are some general thoughts about workaholism and marriage.

Is He a Workaholic or Does He Just Work Hard?

My husband is a physician, and when he was in training he was often at work for 100-120 hours a week, being 36 hours on and 12 hours off. It was horrible. When he had his own practice he was still on call frequently, and his work weeks were still long. I never considered him a workaholic, though, because he loved being home–and when he had to dictate charts or bring work home he was always really grumpy about it. He wanted to be away from work; the job just didn’t always allow it.

What good would it have been for me to be angry at him for that? He was already upset that he wasn’t home more; me adding to that would not have helped. Working hard and working long hours does not necessarily mean he’s a workaholic.

A workaholic husband, on the other hand, is someone who routinely chooses to engage in work rather than engage in family time even when the job does not necessarily demand it. If he’s a pastor and he’s forever visiting people and counselling people after hours and going to meetings and he’s never with his family, then he’s likely a workaholic. If he’s a business owner (like our letter writer’s husband) and he can never put the job down, then he’s likely a workaholic.

Certain jobs are more prone to workaholism: the “caring” professions, especially ministry ones, where you can always justify working harder because “people need me”, and entrepreneurs, who feel as if everything rests on their shoulders. There are others as well, but those are the two categories that seem to be especially prone to it.

If He Simply Works Hard

Can He Switch Jobs?

Can you make a long-term plan for him to get more training so that he can qualify for something different that pays well? Can you create a 5-year plan together that gets him into something more manageable–so that your family life is better?

Can You Change Your Work?

One reason that my husband’s job was never too much of a burden to us was because I didn’t work outside the home. Because I was there to take care of the day-to-day things, then when he was home we could relax as a family. If I had been working 40 hours a week too I don’t know how we would have done it. When he got home instead of playing a game or talking we’d have to clean something or tend to errands.

Is there a way that you can reduce your hours or change your work so that the family becomes more manageable–even with his hours?

Can You Carve Out Family Time?

I have two dear friends who are both family physicians in a small town. The wife works part-time; the husband has always worked more than full-time because that’s the nature of the job. While he’s around most nights, he honestly is gone a lot of the time. But what they have done is carved out several weeks of vacation a year where they get out of town completely, so no one can page him. And they love their vacation time! They’ve taken their girls on missions trips, on backpacking adventures, and all kinds of places so that they create memories.

If your husband puts in a ton of hours at work, perhaps he can negotiate more vacation time where he’s out of the office and away from his phone.

I have another friend who is a project manager for huge corporate projects. He goes to work in one place for 2-3 years, managing some new huge launch, and then he’ll move to another corporation. So everywhere he goes it’s always at a stressful, busy time. He misses Thanksgiving sometimes. He misses weekends sometimes. But one thing he never misses is his kids’ quiz meets (his kids do Bible quizzing with my daughter). He coaches and he’s made that his priority. So even though he misses some traditional family things, he is always there for one particular thing that has become his priority–his barometer of whether he’s involved enough or not. And that works really well for them. Can your husband find one thing that he is always there for–coaching soccer, working with the youth group, attending a small group with you? And that is always your priority?

For years my husband and I spent Wednesday nights ballroom dancing. He never, ever took call on Wednesday nights, no matter what. That was our time. So, yes, I couldn’t always count on him for birthdays or for weekends, but I knew that he would always be there for me for Wednesday nights.

If Your Husband is a Workaholic

Can You Plan Your Goals Together?

Men Are Like Waffles--Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your DifferencesIf the issue is not one of time but honestly one of priority, then it’s a much bigger problem. Like Bill and Pam Farrel say, men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. Men live their lives in little boxes: when they’re in one box (like work) it’s hard for them to think about another box. And often that work box gets really big.

One way to force them out of it is to talk to them about goals. Workaholics are often quite good at setting goals because they do it in the work setting all the time. So what about asking him to set goals for your family and your marriage? I’ve got some printable, downloadable worksheets right here that you can use to dream together and vision together.

If you start asking, “what do we want our family to look like?”, and then “what are the action steps we need to take to get them there?” that can help him see that he has action steps that need to be taken at home, too.

Developing a Vision for Your Family

Can You Find the Root of Workaholism?

Is workaholism about money? Or is it about self-worth? Or is it about a lack of trust in God?

I have a friend named Mark who has a construction company. He has always prioritized his family. He works long hours, but he’s home on weekends, and they do vacations together. When the downturn came in 2008, he didn’t lose his business, though many in his town did. And he says he just trusted God. He worked a little harder to drum up business, but he didn’t panic, because he knew God would take care of them.

Sometimes people become workaholics because they’re essentially scared that God won’t take care of them, so they have to do it all themselves. In that case it’s a trust in God issue.

Sometimes he’s grown up to believe that his worth is from his work, and so he puts all of his emphasis there.

And sometimes he just wants more money, thinking that it will buy security.

Figuring out what the spiritual root is can help you tackle the problem. And sometimes you will have to talk about this with a counselor or a third party. In extreme cases, you will have to say, “I can’t live in the marriage like this anymore and we need to get help.”

Other times just using logic can help. How much money is enough for your retirement? If you go at this trajectory, will you manage? Does the business need to expand? Do you need to work that many hours? If they can see it in black and white that their financial goals are already met, that can help them scale back.

If the issue is that he’s in a caring profession, and the demands are never ending, then I’d read this post which addresses specifically that.

Be Honest with Your Own Role

I am not saying this is the case with my reader at all, but I have had many men comment on this blog about how desperately lonely they are in their marriages, and how they have turned to their work instead so that they can cope with the loneliness. The babies came, and their wives threw themselves into the kids, virtually stopped having sex, and were critical and demanding. And the men felt unloved.

So they threw themselves into work, and for a few years everyone was happy. He could cope because his needs were met at work; she could focus on her kids unimpeded. Then the kids started to grow, and she began to miss him, but he wasn’t here anymore.

Ask yourself if you have done anything to contribute to his workaholism (and this is not always the case). Then ask him. And if you have, repent, apologize, ask forgiveness, and try to start fresh. Here’s a good post on asking for forgiveness.

Confront Him About His Workaholism

Like my reader, I have heard the advice, “just make your home a sanctuary he wants to come home to!”, and there is some truth to that. But I think that truth is more relevant if your husband works hard, not if he’s a workaholic. If he simply works hard, he needs that sanctuary. If he’s a workaholic, the problem is usually a spiritual one, and no matter what you do it won’t get better. In fact, you could end up enabling him to grow further away from God and further away from his family if you do nothing.

Boundaries in MarriageInstead, I’d advise my reader to bring in that older couple she was referencing. Perhaps talking to a counselor would help. Read the book Boundaries in Marriage. But do not just let it be. That makes you an enabler, not a spouse.

Our reader and her kids did a good thing confronting him about texting. That was a great first step. But take the next step, too.

Make Your Own Life

My friend Leanne had a workaholic husband. She tried for years to change it and finally realized she couldn’t. So she stopped waiting around for him. She began taking the kids on vacation by herself. She took them to the beach in the summer rather than trying to plan around his schedule–and then being disappointed again. She started taking painting classes herself and hired a baby-sitter for the kids. She stopped putting her life on hold and started living it.

An interesting thing happened. His workaholism stopped bothering her quite as much because she had other areas of joy in her life. And because of that, he started wanting to be home more. He realized he was missing a lot of fun, and he made more of an effort to be there for those beach trips.

Their marriage is still not perfect, but she’s finding it easier to cope with it.

WifeyWednesday175So those are my thoughts on workaholism–and now I’d love to know yours! How do you deal with a husband who works a ton? Let me know in the comments!

And now it’s your turn to leave your own link for Wifey Wednesday! Just put the URL of your marriage post below, and be sure to link back here so other people can read the great marriage advice!



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

The Unglamorous Life of a Porn Star–and Why We Don’t Have to Compete

PureEyesCleanHeartIt’s Wednesday, that day that we always talk marriage! Today’s guest post is from Jennifer Ferguson, whose husband, Craig, battled through and recovered from a pornography addiction. Together they’ve written the book Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography. Today she tells part of her story and how she had an attitude shift, regarding the unglamorous life of a porn star.

I used to think the voluptuous girls with the sleek bodies, cascading hair, and pouty lips were the enemies.

I would think horrid thoughts about them, judging them as they flaunted their goods in front of a camera to be broadcast for the entire world to see. I judged them the first time I saw them by accident on my husband’s computer screen and every time the incident replayed itself in my mind.

Unglamorous Life of a Porn Star

I couldn’t ask him, “What do they have that I don’t?” because the answer was obvious to me: Everything.

And it seemed that everything I had was detrimental to my ability to even try to get close to achieving what they had:

  • Baby fat…from 2 babies
  • An “A” cup
  • Stretch marks
  • Cellulite

The only time my lips were pouty was when I was complaining about lack of sleep. Not sure that jives with the sex appeal I was going for.

Even though I knew I could never look like them (at least, not on my budget), I tried to do what I could. I lost weight. I became a runner. I started trying to look better generally (a.k.a. taking five minutes to throw on some mascara).

But a shrinking me didn’t equate to less porn use by my husband. Trying to become more like them did not draw him more towards me. And the bitterness and rage building in my heart towards these porn stars started making me a jealous fool regarding any woman.

I gave anyone the power to make me feel less-than without the utterance of one single word. All they had to do was walk by. Wear a low-cut shirt. Breathe.

As Craig started his journey to freedom from porn addiction, God pointed out I had been ensnared by images of fantasy, too. Where he had been trapped by lust, I had been trapped by comparison.

Somehow, while working on our book, a miracle happened. I found myself filled with compassion for these women who had paraded across the screen and in my husband’s mind. Those whom I perceived as home-wreckers, I now viewed as women with wrecked hearts. Those whom I thought had it all, I realized had very little: safety, self-worth, family who cared. Those I thought were the definition of sexy were actually sex slaves.

Instead of spending so much time pitying myself, I found myself weeping for them.

And repenting. I had judged deeply and wrongly. I had let hate obscure my vision, not only of them, but also of myself. I thought I knew their world, but the truth is, I knew nothing. I started to turn my harsh language into compassionate prayers, that the women in the industry would find freedom, hope, and Jesus.

Because no one should think this is the way to live. No one should think they are worth nothing more than what the porn industry has to offer. The grass is definitely not greener. Consider these facts:
• One male pornographic performer, Rocco (600 films and 3,000 women), said: “Every professional in the porn-world has herpes, male or female.” (www.covenanteyes.com)
• The average life expectancy of a porn performer is only 37.43 years. The average American lives to be 78.1 years old. (www.shelleylubben.com/porn-industry)
• The US adult film industry earns between $9-13 billion annually. Performers make $400-$1000 per shoot and are not compensated based on distribution or sales. (www.shelleylubben.com/porn-industry)
• “Nobody really wants to date a porn star, stripper or escort. Also the whole family thing and having kids, I’m like ‘who’s gonna have kids with an ex-porn star,’” Belmond said, according to the Christian Post. “And even when I’m 60 I’m still gonna have this porn on the Internet. It’s like having a virus or something that never goes away.” Vanessa Belmond, former porn star (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/24/ex-porn-star-reveals-the-horrors-of-working-in-the-sex-industry/)

Ladies, these women, or any woman, you deem as prettier, sexier, whatever-ier, is not your enemy. As Paul writes in Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV)

When you feel the need to compare, pray.

Pray for yourself that God might show you how intricately you were made.

Pray for the woman you feel you’re up against, that she might know the same – that there is a God who loves her passionately.

Pray thanksgiving for beauty – that which is in you and every other sister – the beauty that is worn on the outside as well as the beauty that blooms on the inside.

Pray against the forces of darkness that belittle, that lie, that damage – those things within the porn industry and all the other dark places in this world.

And pray there would be no room for bitterness or rage to take root, for there is little beauty in those things at all.

JenniferFergusonPure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from PornographyJennifer Ferguson and her husband Craig are the authors of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn to be part of Wifey Wednesday! What advice do you have for us today? Leave the link to your marriage post in the linky below.



31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

Find out more here.


Why It Can Be Hard to Respect Your Husband

Speaking in Whistler

My husband and I just spent a weekend speaking at the FamilyLife Canada Weekend Getaway marriage conference in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia! So much fun. I love speaking with him. And today I just want to share something I told the women in the women’s only session about how to respect your husband.

DSC_0574

I love speaking with my husband. I spend most of the year doing my “Girl Talk” event, where I come into churches and talk about marriage and sex, or doing women’s retreats, when I talk about how to trust God–no strings attached. And I do love speaking to women’s groups. But speaking with my husband is great because we get a bit of a break, away, and we get to do something together! Plus the more we talk about marriage together to prepare, the better our marriage gets.

DSC_0579

I have no idea what we were saying here, but these are awesome expressions:

Speaking at FamilyLife

Funny story: we had a bit of a conflict before the giving the conflict talk–and the conflict talk went great! I told Keith we should do that more often. Then he said, “Well, the sex talk is next…”

Anyway, during the women’s talk I was sharing what I think is one of the problems women have with respect and husbands.

Men Are Like Waffles--Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your DifferencesIt all starts with that waffles/spaghetti thing, explained by Bill and Pam Farrel in their book Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. Basically, men are like waffles: they live their lives in boxes. When they’re in their work box, they’re thinking about work. If work is good, they’re happy. When they’re in their home box, they’re thinking about home. They tend to focus on one thing at a time.

Women aren’t like that. We’re multitaskers, and little bits of spaghetti weave their way into everything. It’s really so that children don’t die. We can wash dishes and talk on the phone and make sure that a child is safe all at the same time. Our brains are in multiple places at once.

It’s a good thing usually.

But this spaghetti, multitasking thing can be bad when it comes to respecting your husband.

Here’s why: Let’s say that your husband has one major area of weakness. Maybe he’s bad with money. Maybe he struggles with porn. Maybe he yells too much at the kids. These are all bad things, and they do need to be worked on. Absolutely. But because we’re spaghetti, we see these bad things, and these bad things worm their way into everything else, so that we’re really incapable of seeing our husbands as good anymore. That one bad thing has clouded everything.

I’ve seen this with friends of mine. He struggles with one area, but let’s say he’s a great dad. She never, ever praises him for being a great dad, because really, how can he be a great dad if he’s also bad with money–or struggling with porn? Sure he may have fun with the kids, but that doesn’t make up for it, does it?

Or let’s say that he texts you something nice, or he buys you flowers. You assume that he’s trying to make up for something bad he did, rather than just trying to show you love. All the bad stuff worms its way in, and you can’t see anything he does in a positive light.

What does that do to a marriage? A man may have an area he really needs to work on (we all do, after all), but it will be much easier to work on that area together if you are also thanking him for the things that he does do well. If you acknowledge those things and look for them and thank him, he’ll feel appreciated. And when you feel appreciated, you will want to work on your bad spots. You will know that you aren’t a failure; this is just one area, and you can tackle it together.

On the other hand, if you never thank him for anything, because how could you respect a guy who does X, then he will feel “nothing I ever do is good enough”.

And if he feels that, he’ll be too demoralized to try to work on the big thing.

So that’s my challenge to you today: fight against the spaghetti principle, and start really thanking him for what he does do well. Don’t let one thing impact the whole way you see your marriage.

I hope that helps, and I can’t wait to speak with Keith again!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Why Your Marriage Needs Community

Today please welcome back Ngina Otiende from IntentionalToday.com, as she shares her wonderful wisdom about how your marriage needs community to thrive and grow!

Why Your Marriage Needs CommunityA few months ago, I wrote a guest post for Sheila, where I talked about the differences between marriage in Africa and marriage in North America. How in Kenya, and in Africa as a whole, we tend to do life and relationship from a community perspective. Now obviously this is a generalization. There are pockets where this is not the norm and people are not as interconnected. But it’s the case in many places, where we value and derive significance from our families and the community around us.



Many readers expressed admiration for such a lifestyle and how it seemed to affect marriages and people in a positive way.

So today I want to share a few thoughts on why community is important for your marriage and how you can go about building it.

We are generally nicer when we are around other people

We don’t always realize how rude or cold or irritating we are in our homes. Until we go out there and try to repeat the same behavior or words in public! I’ve been around wives, who sass their husbands in public. And I’ve observed how whenever there’s a sense of displeasure or discomfort following their remarks, they tend to muzzle up. Now other people’s reactions might not change someone’s behavior. But at least it helps them understand that it’s not just their spouse who finds their behavior unpleasant!

But when you close off the outside world and don’t seek to engage with others, some of these habits can go unnoticed, and therefore unchallenged or uncorrected.



Community can also be like the sun, helping you produce the much needed Vitamin D for your marriage. We’ve had instances in our marriage when we had storm brewing behind closed doors but had to honor prior commitments with others. Being out there and having to act kind and nice towards others (and my husband) ended up rubbing off on me. Spending the day, or some parts of the day, being good (or acting good) might open doors and create goodwill that did not exist before. You’ll be able to start working on your differences.

We learn differently .

Learning can happen in all sorts of ways. Sometimes we need to be taught things, other times we need to teach ourselves things. As a wife I’ve learned that my husbands likes to learn from watching other men do things as opposed to someone sitting him down and telling him what to do. So hanging out with others creates huge opportunities for our growth.

Some of those changes you want to see in your marriage might not come through the traditional ways e.g meeting your pastor, sitting down to hammer them out e.t.c. Most guys don’t like to be put on the spot. But when you hang out with other positive couples, he might see how other men treat their wives and how they carry on as husbands (it’s called learning with dignity!). You might observe how other wives treat their husbands and how they don’t personalize every little thing. These good habits might begin to rub off on both of you. Thing is and just like the sun, you have to leave your house and go out there in order to catch all the goodness!

Purpose to learn together, not apart.

I love church ministries, small groups and activities. What I don’t always like however, is activities and groups that always separate married couples. Gender based groups and activities are good, but you need couple centered interactions as well. We all have the same amount of days per week, and if you have to divide those between a women’s group, a men’s group and a couples group, it becomes a strain.

So it’s important to look out for church activities that provide opportunities for your growth and interaction as a couple. Don’t be so wrapped up in your women’s thing you forget your marriage needs. It might mean dropping out of something you love, or not picking up a ministry opportunity because you have to keep your priorities in check.

It’s easier for friends to call you out.

As a marriage writer, I receive many emails from wives, even husbands, seeking help for their marriages. While I do my best to help and counsel, I always want to find out if they are part of a community. If they have a mentor, a pastor, godly friends etc., who can walk with them through the challenge.

As one who has walked through fiery seasons myself, I know how hard it is to open up about problems.

One of the things that really helped our marriage in the early days, was having friends who were not afraid to tell us when we were messing up. I remember many afternoons, sitting with our couple friends in our living room, talking and ‘fessing up our issues, crying (we girls did all the crying), learning together. Times when our husbands would drive across town to seek counsel from one another, when they would stand outside in the dark, talking man things. And how they’d be transformed as a result.

Counseling is good. In fact we need counseling for deep-seated issues or “preventative maintenance”. But some things won’t need counseling if we address them at their infancy. Issues won’t become monsters when we have friends and a supportive community that keeps us accountable and in check. We fare better when we have men and women who have permission and a say over our lives.

So we need to start knowing people. Cultivate quality relationships so that they (and you) have access and permission in each others lives  when you need it.

You can develop your community, but it’s not easy.

My husband and I moved to the United States three years ago. And by that single act, we lost all our community! We’ve been trying to build new friendships and connections. Last week I told my husband I was done trying; no more reaching out, no more hopes, no more silent aspirations when we meet new people. I am soul-tired. My man sensed I needed to vent, so he allowed me to talk and listened and nodded. I have not given up on friendships or community, but I am learning it’s not easy to build from scratch.

Creating community is a delicate balance. Still we can create our own – a small tight-knit community or a huge rolling mix of people. Thing is you have to be ready to give yourself too. To go out of your way, not just once or twice, but all the time. To take an interest in others, invite people to your home, be there for coffee dates, release  – in fact encourage highly! – your husband to hang out with friends (and don’t be sour when he comes back!), keep an open door to your heart and home.

Being part of a community of people will be an inconvenience sometimes. You can’t do life with others from a place of comfort. You will have to make sacrifices e.g maybe miss out on extra pay because you did not pick up the extra shift because you had a life group meeting to attend. You don’t connect only when you feel like e.g you honor prior coffee dates with your girlfriend even when your own marriage is stormy.

Bottom line; God did not create us to do life alone. He made us for community, to know people and to be known.

And so we need to go out of our way to create these friendships and closeness because we need people and people need us.

 

Ngina OtiendeNgina Otiende is a wife and writer, who blogs at IntentionalToday.com where she encourages and equips the earlywed wives with tips, tools and resources to establish strong foundation for their marriage. She and her husband are passionate about making a difference in their world and are currently organizing a marriage retreat for Pastors and Leaders in their native Kenya. You can connect with her on Pinterest and Facebook.

Wifey Wednesday: Is Make Up Sex Real?

Make Up Sex: It's real and it can make your marriage great!It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own posts below. Today I want to tackle make up sex: is it real? Is it helpful? Does it actually make us feel closer?

A reader sent me this letter:

Lately things have been a bit tense in our marriage. (My husband feels like things are fine, but from my perspective, there is a lingering tension).  I feel like we are just snapping at each other a lot and, to be honest, I’m finding it hard to find things I “like” about my husband at the moment.

Sex has always been pretty amazing for us, which is a blessing. We don’t have it quite as often as we used to, but it is still very good when we do – physically speaking. I find when we have sex, though, it makes the tension melt away completely for a day or two. We’re all lovey-dovey again – making jokes all the time and getting on like a house on fire.

But I kind of feel like it is just blinding us with passion, so that we forget about the issues that we still need to work on. But the issues are still there!

I talked to my husband about this and he said perhaps it is just God’s good design for sex – that it makes the issues go away, and that we should therefore just keep having sex more often as a way to deal with the tension.

However, I feel that we still need to get to the bottom of why there is tension in our relationship. And I am beginning to find it harder and harder to “get into it”, emotionally speaking, when we have sex. What do you think? Do we just need to keep our “love tanks” filled up? Or should we try to sort through the deeper issues before we keep jumping into bed?

Great question! And what the reader notes is so common: sex makes us feel closer! That’s the upside. But can there be a downside to it, too? Well, let’s take a look at this in more detail:

Why Make Up Sex Works

Sex is fun! Sex makes you feel close because you literally are close–you’re naked together, you’re spending time together, you’re experiencing something intense and personal together. And when you do experience that arousal and orgasm, you produce the “bonding hormone”, oxytocin, which also makes you feel more intimate.

That’s why sex can often “cover a multitude of sins”. In my marriage, when we’re making love frequently and feel close, the fact that Keith occasionally bites his nails doesn’t bother me in the least. When we’re going through a dry spell, though, it bugs me to no end. It’s one little thing, but if we have sex, my bug-o-meter goes down.

Frequent sex, then, often helps us to feel significantly less ticked off about little things our spouses do, and even helps us to work through bigger issues because we’ve got this foundation of feeling lovely about each other.

Why Make Up Sex is Exciting!

Here’s the thing–what makes sex so intense is when we feel even more vulnerable and even more personal. That’s when our souls are really bared.

While this is certainly possible in our day-to-day lives, when we just talk to each other and share deep and intense things, one of the most frequent times it happens is after an argument. We’ve felt angry which means that we’ve felt hurt. We’ve expressed that hurt. We’ve been honest (sometimes brutally so). And once you’ve come to an agreement again after that intense time of honesty and vulnerability and intense feelings, then the sex is likely to be even more intense, too.

As I talk about frequently, sex is so much more than physical. When we’re feeling emotionally connected (and especially emotionally raw and vulnerable), then that sense of intimacy will be heightened, which will also heighten your libido and make sex even hotter! So, yes, that make up sex thing is absolutely real.

The Downside to Make Up Sex

However, our reader brings out an interesting point. It is possible to let the intimate aspects of sex cover over too MUCH. Instead of just covering up for the little things that bug us, or instead of just helping us heal from arguments more quickly, sometimes sex can be used to help us avoid dealing with difficult things altogether.

One of my close friends, who divorced her husband after he cheated on her, and is now remarried, told me that one area that she and her ex-husband always united on was sex. The sex was always great–it was everything else that was lousy. But because those other things were hard to talk about, they’d often end up in bed as a default, and avoid those heavy conversations.

Now, I don’t know that all couples go through this, because most of my readers have found that when other aspects of their relationships are going poorly the last thing they want to do is to make love. But certainly some people, like this reader and like my friend, fall into this category. What do you do then? Do you have to stop having sex so that you can actually talk? No, I don’t think so. I just think you need to be more purposeful about having those conversations.

How to Use Make Up Sex to Your Advantage in Your Marriage

So let’s sum up.

Schedule time to check in with each other–without sex!

Whether it’s going for a walk every night after dinner to talk, or spending every Sunday night asking, “what’s going on in your life? How are we doing?”, or something, make sure that you have regular, scheduled time to talk. One of the characteristics of happy couples that Shaunti Feldhahn found in her research was that when they were going through difficulties, they spent more time together, not less. Sometimes when there’s tension in the marriage we’re tempted to spend more time with the kids, or get busier with other activities. Stop. Connect regularly and actually talk.

If you make love after those sessions, that’s fine. But the purpose is to talk, not just to have sex. If you have certain questions that you always ask each other during these sessions it will likely be easier. Try these:

  • Have you felt loved this week by me? Why or why not?
  • What’s one thing I can do in the coming week to make you feel more loved?
  • How can I support you in the things on your plate in the week ahead?

Ask those three questions to each other every week, and it’s less likely that you’ll have issues festering.

After an intense personal conversation, or a disagreement, make love

Then, after these intense conversations, or after arguments, make love. Make use of those bonding hormones! It will help you to get over the awkwardness or anger faster, and help you feel on the same page again.

Make sex regular

The more you make love, the more those little things won’t bug you. So make sex a frequent thing in your marriage–while you’re still checking in regularly–and you’ll find things are much more like smooth sailing!

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! What advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of your marriage post in the Linky below. And be sure to share this post on your blog so other people can come back here and find other great posts.

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

Find out more here.




In Successful Marriages Spouses Scan for Things to Praise Not Criticize

The 2 Keys to a Successful Marriage: Praise and Connection. It's about Attitude!

It’s Wednesday, the day we always talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then you all can link up your own posts below. Today I want to talk about what makes a successful marriage, and according to John Gottman, it’s pretty simple. It’s all in your attitude.

Let me tell you the story of two women that I know.

One lady, we’ll call her Maude, is a senior. She hangs out with a lot of other senior ladies doing a particular hobby, which I can’t mention because my hometown will know who I’m talking about. :) She’s a riot, but every time she talks about her husband Gerry she complains about him. When the kids were little she could never leave him alone with them. He’s lazy. He doesn’t know how to cook. He forgets birthdays. He’s just a big kid himself.

I didn’t have a very high opinion of Gerry until one day he walked in and I actually met him. I was expecting a gruff, angry man. Instead I met a teddy bear whose eyes twinkled as he joked with everybody else there. But when he looked at Maude, his eyes grew almost dead. She picked at him, and he turned away. He was a great guy–but she didn’t see it.

Then there’s a university friend I’ll call Elaine. She and her husband Todd are complete opposites–they’ve done the Myers Briggs personality test and she’s an ISFP and he’s an ENTJ. He’s never held a job for more than 3 years, because he’s always trying new entrepreneurial ventures–most of which succeed. He’s got several businesses on the go now, but life is hectic. And his hobbies? They’re hectic, too. She’d like to sit and be quiet but he wants adventure. She thrives on stability; he thrives on every new thing.

And when she talks about him she may tease him, but she does it while touching his arm. She smiles when she looks at him. She’s impressed by his many different ideas. And she’s always saying nice things about him to other people.

John Gottman, who has been studying the “Science of Marriage” for several decades, would call Elaine a Marriage Master and Maude a Marriage Disaster. And the difference between the two is often not huge. It’s in two little things, according to a new study.

In a Successful Marriage People Scan for Successes

Contempt is the number one thing that drives people apart. Contempt says, “you aren’t doing this right and you never will.” Contempt judges and leaves people in the dust. Maude and Gerry were still technically married, but they hadn’t been happy in decades.

And contempt means that you notice failures, not successes. What’s the point in noticing a success? Sure, he may have said that one particular thing nicely, but that doesn’t count if he never remembers my birthday and works so hard that he’s rarely here. He may have put the kids in bed tonight so I can have some time to myself but that doesn’t count because he worked last Saturday and left me with all the kids and he’s always doing that. You see yourself as the martyr and him as the bad one, and no matter what he does, you don’t give him credit, because he can never dig himself out of the hole he’s in.

Suggestion: For one week, thank him every chance you get for every nice thing he does. Don’t ask whether he deserves it. Don’t think, “if I thank him for this he’ll think he’s off the hook about that.” Just do it.

Why? Because when you have to thank him, you have to look for things that he does that are good. When you look for them, you see them. You think about him. And you end up thinking of him in a new way.

The key to a successful marriage, by John Gottman: Look for things to praise, not criticize.

In a Successful Marriage People Turn Towards Each Other

Your husband walks in the door and yells, “Hi! I’m home!” What do you do? Do you get up and give him a kiss, or do you ignore him and keep cooking dinner? Your husband says, “I saw a woman today who looks just like this girl I used to live beside when I was little. You don’t think it could be her, do you?” Do you reply,

  • How would I know?
  • Don’t be silly. You grew up across the country from here.
  • Neat! Who was the girl you grew up with?
  • You never know. Remember when we met my old Math teacher at the Grand Canyon?

When the husband walked in the door and called out, that was a “bid” for connection, Gottman says. When he began that conversation about the woman he recognized, it was another bid. In successful marriages, people scan for these “bids”, and when they happen, they move towards each other. Either literally–as in going to the door and hugging him–or in conversation–as with the last two replies, rather than the first two replies. They don’t cut someone off, they continue.

Suggestion: For one week, really listen to everything your husband says. Continue conversations and pay attention.

Why: You show your husband you value him. And as you talk, you do grow closer.

That’s it–just two things that can change the whole dynamic of your marriage.

I think women sometimes get in this mindset that says something like, “my marriage isn’t great and it never will be because my husband just doesn’t get it”, and then they give up trying. They relate to their husbands like the husbands are simply always wrong. They put all of their efforts into their kids, or into their jobs, or into their ministries. And even if everyone else can see that they’re married to a great guy, they can’t see it themselves. They gave up a long time ago, and sigh about him all the time.

And most people who are like this won’t even realize that this blog post is about them.

If you believe that your husband just doesn’t get it, and that you are destined to have a lousy marriage, I’m talking to you. If you believe that your husband is hopeless when it comes to the kids or any kind of personal interaction, I’m talking to you. If you believe that your husband mostly makes you miserable, I’m talking to you. If you believe that your job is to put up with your husband for the rest of your life, but that you’ll never be happy, I’m talking to you.

You are scanning for mistakes. Stop it. Your husband isn’t the only reason your marriage is distant–you’ve decided to make that distance bigger! Start scanning for successes and thank him for them and mention them immediately.

And stop pulling away from him. When he says something that could bring you closer, pull in closer. Pay attention.

Do you realize how small these two things are? Like Shaunti Feldhahn found, the key to successful marriages tends to be in the small things, like saying thank you to your husband.

No, they don’t solve all marriage problems. But what they do do is lower the tension in your marriage so that you’re relaxed around each other because you have goodwill. And if you’re relaxed and feel positively, you can talk about those bigger issues and deal with them so much more effectively.

Many good, Christian women show their husbands contempt (and many husbands show their wives contempt; I understand that, it’s just that I’m writing to women on this blog). That’s not doing your kids any favours.

I’m perhaps more passionate about this today because I’ve seen it in several marriages close to me lately, and that’s why I’ve been going on and on about it. But it’s so important: scan for success. Pull closer. Say nice things. Don’t overanalyze it. Don’t wonder if he deserves it. Don’t worry that it will make him think he gets off scot free. Just do it. Please. And see what happens.

WifeyWednesday175Now, what advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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



Top 10 Ways to Show Your Husband He’s Important After the Baby Comes

How to show your husband he's important after the baby comes!

How do you show your husband he’s important when you have a new baby and you’re exhausted?

A reader asks this question:

I’m wondering what there is that I can do to make sure my husband feels looked after in the time after a baby arrives. We just welcomed our first 16 days ago and I feel bad for my husband because taking care of the baby takes so much time I feel like I have no time to take care of his needs too. Do you have any advice? I know it’s very soon after baby but I want to make sure my husband knows he’s still a priority despite how much the baby needs.

That is a challenge, isn’t it? I’d say carve out “us time” when the baby goes in the swing for half an hour, but my youngest was colicky and that wouldn’t even have been an option. So I asked Arlene Pellicane, author of Growing Up Social and 31 Days to a Happy Husband, to share her best tips for letting your husband know he still matters to you.

When our first baby came into the world ten years ago, he was like little Simba being presented in the Lion King.  That exalted, tiny 7-pound lump was about to cause some serious changes to the kingdom of our home.  When baby makes three, it’s extremely helpful to realize that baby is prince (or princess) but daddy is still king.

If you’re not intentional about it, your husband can become like wallpaper in your home, quietly existing while all your attention goes to your sweet baby.

Here are the TOP TEN ways to make your husband feel special after baby:

Keep gazing into his eyes. 

The picture of a mom gazing into her baby’s eyes is powerful and iconic.  Deep bonding happens through this eye contact.  Make sure you spend time gazing into your husband’s eyes too.  You don’t have to stare at him for hours, but whenever you have the chance, savor each opportunity to look into his eyes.  By the way, this includes putting your phone down more often and looking him in the eyes when talking.
Top Ten

Oxytocin is for him too. 

Oxytocin is the bonding hormone – if you’re breast feeding, oxytocin is produced so you feel close to your baby.  When you kiss or hug your baby, your oxytocin level goes up and you like your baby more.  Guess what?  Oxytocin is necessary for you and your husband too!  Don’t forget to kiss, hug, and make love (once you’re physically able to again) to your man.  It will make you like him more and vice versa.

Kiss everyday for 5 seconds. 

In my book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband, I interviewed sex therapists Dr. Cliff and Joyce Penner who suggested a daily 5 – 30 second kiss.  Since you have a baby, I’m making the assignment easier:  5 seconds will do!  Let your husband know that this daily kiss is not the “GO!” signal.  It’s just a way that you want to stay close and keep the pilot light lit between you.  These 5 seconds will speak volumes to your husband.  Just 5 seconds will let him know you still find him desirable and you care about him.

Bring on the babysitter.

Whether it’s a grandparent or a trusted teenager, hire a babysitter so you can go out.  Sometimes mothers are afraid to leave their precious baby, but trust me on this one.  As long as your baby is being watched responsibly, your baby will not remember that you went on a 3-hour date when he or she was 6 months old.  (But your husband will).

Skip the donut.

I had three babies and two miscarriages in my 30s.  My weight went up of course with each pregnancy, and it meant a lot to my husband when he saw me trying to lose that baby weight.  Men are wired to be visually stimulated so don’t be mad at your husband if he would love to see your “before pregnancy” body back.  Obviously your body changes through the years.  But when you skip the donut and grab the apple instead, it communicates you are doing your best to by physically healthy which means a lot to your husband.

Plan for sex. 

Exhausted and sleep deprived, you may not want to have spontaneous sex for a very long time!  But when your body is able, plan for romance and put it on the calendar.  Dr. David Clarke says parents who don’t schedule their sex, don’t have sex.  I agree!  You’ve got to make room in your calendar for what’s most important to your marriage and lovemaking falls into that category.

When baby naps, you nap.

It’s hard to be a caring wife, let alone an amorous one, when you are so sleepy and tired.  When your baby takes a nap, leave the laundry alone.  Fall off the planet with social media.  Don’t watch TV.  Take a nap instead.  The more you can snatch pockets of time to catch up on your zzz’s, the nicer you will be to your husband and everyone else.

Connect with other positive moms.

You need time with adults who are not burping, drooling, or needing to be changed.  This way you’re not expecting your husband to meet every conversational need in your life.   Join MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) or other mom group that will connect you to positive moms.  Or you can have a weekly playdate with a friend who has a child similar in age.  Just make sure that the moms you hang out with are positive.  Avoid moms who constantly complain about their spouses and their kids.  Complaining is contagious and that’s a virus you don’t want to catch.

Pray for your spouse.

My friend Sharon Jaynes has a wonderful book, Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe.  It’s easy to use, giving you Scriptures to pray over your man to protect and bless him.  As you bring your husband to God in prayer, he will feel your prayers and love.  And your heart will turn towards your husband.  When you’re praying for your husband, it’s hard to be irritated or callous toward him.

Respect his opinion.

Yes, you may know more about how the baby should be burped and when she was last changed, but when your husband has something to say about parenting, listen to him.  Continue to show him respect in your marriage, especially in this new role of child rearing.  So many men feel inept as fathers because their wives make them feel foolish.  Instead view parenting as a team sport, where both husband and wife have something valuable to offer.

Okay…which way are you going to practice today to make your hubby feel special?  After all, it’s awfully hard to compete with a 7-pound lump of cuteness and perfection! 

family website

Arlene Pellicane31 Days to a Happy Husband: What a Man Needs Most from His WifeArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (co-authored with Gary Chapman), 31 Days to a Happy Husband, and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.

Arlene has been featured on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, The Better Show, The 700 Club, Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah, and TLC’s Home Made Simple.

She and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children.  You can learn more about her ministry at www.ArlenePellicane.com

When There Aren’t Easy Answers

No Easy AnswersThis has been a strange week.

I’ve had some heavy posts on the blog, and have had some very difficult email questions sent to me. And then on Facebook I’ve had some happy posts that have gone really viral.

I’ve talked about when to leave your marriage, but I’ve also talked about how to save it. I’ve talked about a little thing you can do to turn a marriage around, and I’ve talked about what to do when nothing seems to work.

Sometimes I feel like I have whiplash, almost arguing diametrically opposing things. How can I believe that sometimes separation has to be used as a last resort, and yet also feel that the vow really matters?

And so today, rather than writing a “regular” blog post, I thought I’d take you through some of my reasoning over the last week, and point you to a few articles that are just so amazing–especially one not even written by me. (please read to the end to see it! It will be the best thing you read all year–I promise!)

Easy Answers Don’t Usually Exist in Hard Situations

Post I wrote this week: When Your Marriage is in Crisis

I once heard a line in a movie that said, “the hard thing to do and the right thing to do are almost always the same thing”, and I agree. Magic reglationship bullets have never been found.

Usually when a relationship is in crisis, what a woman (assuming it’s a woman who is hurting, since most of my readers are female) wants to know is “what can I do to get him to change”? If he’s watching porn all the time and ignoring the family, what can I do to make him stop? If he won’t get a job, what can I do to make him work? If he’s been texting an ex-girlfriend and is considering having an affair, what can I do to bring him back to me?

Nothing.

That’s the hard truth. You can’t make him change. The only thing you can do is to change what you are doing in response. When you change your behaviour, his will also adjust. And sometimes that can bring about reconciliation–but not always.

Nevertheless, even that isn’t an easy answer, because the way that you change may be different in different situations. I had one woman email me whose nonChristian husband was using porn–but he was still a great father, he was still a great provider, and they still had a good sex life. Should she give him an ultimatum?

And in that case, maybe not. It’s not always clear cut. And I get so many questions like that: here’s my situation. What should I do? But the truth is I don’t know, because I don’t know my readers in real life. I can give general principles, but I can’t tell you specifics.

But that’s why we need two things: we need to run to God and get used to distinguishing his voice now, so that when hard times come in our marriages, we’ll be able to hear what he is telling us to do. And we need to surround ourselves with a solid Christian community that can hold us up, pray with us, and help us make decisions in times of crisis. You need people who know you in real life. But to have those kinds of relationships, you have to invest in a church. You have to be a friend to someone else if you want someone to be a friend to you. You have to use your giftings and your time there, so that when you need help, others already know and love you.

Do you see? We need to be spending our time building up our relationship with God and our relationships in Christian community now, before a crisis hits, because that’s the only way to get through a crisis.

Easy Answers Sometimes Do Exist in Other Situations

Post I wrote on this: How a Simple ‘Thank You’ Can Transform a Marriage

There may not be hard and fast rules for what you should do in every crisis, but there are easy answers that seem to really help a marriage BEFORE it hits crisis. And this is what I so want my readers to understand: when we are intentional in the little things, showing love to one another, being kind to one another, understanding one another–we usually can avoid many of these crises.

I gave one example on my post on Monday of what Shaunti Feldhahn found when she researched thousands of couples over several years. Men say ‘I love you’, and women say ‘thank you’. It’s very simple, but it matters! Check it out.

Often these things are simple that can change the whole dynamic of our marriage. So please, before a crisis hits, be intentional! And then you may never hit that crisis in the first place.

Sometimes All It Takes is a Change in Perspective

Increasingly, though, I believe that most crises can be solved if we just get a change in perspective. Often things take on a life of their own because we get so wrapped up in our feelings that we aren’t able to see straight.

As I’ve been working on the final edits to my upcoming book, 9 Thoughts That Will Change Your Marriage, I found this article on Today’s Christian Woman that was brilliant. A woman was packed up and ready to leave her husband, when her mom made her make a list. It just wasn’t the list she thought of, and it changed everything.

I included the story in my book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something so profound. And on Facebook, as of this morning, it’s been seen by more than 350,000 people.

The List That Saved My Marriage

Please read that. It will bless you. And if you haven’t joined my Facebook page, please do so. I share stuff like that all the time, and much of it doesn’t make it to the blog. So don’t miss it!

I so appreciate all of my readers, and I do wrestle with how to answer difficult questions. But ultimately I may point you in the right direction, but you need God’s wisdom to know the specifics. So please: invest in a Christian community. Chase after Him. No matter what happens in your marriage, He is always there for you and He always loves you, and His power is there to help you make the right decisions in difficult situations.

How a Simple “Thank You” Can Transform a Marriage

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

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

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

SheilaShaunti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And to start, let me tell you another story.

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

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

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

Shaunti summed it up like this:

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it. Just saying thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Tell him why you love him!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

Find out more here.