How a Simple “Thank You” Can Transform a Marriage

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

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

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

SheilaShaunti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And to start, let me tell you another story.

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

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

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

Shaunti summed it up like this:

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it. Just saying thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Tell him why you love him!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

Lies We Believe About Men: All Men Are Perverts

All Men Are Perverts: From the lies we believe about men seriesIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts below.

Today I want to start a short series on the lies we often believe about men, starting with this one: all men are perverts. Have you ever felt that way?

When I was nineteen years old I took a missions trip to Tunisia. There were 6 of us, from 4 different countries, and we visited several missionaries there and learned the culture and talked to lots of people. The problem was that everywhere I went in public, men touched me. Everywhere.

I’d be sitting on a crowded bus, and some guy behind me would reach his hands around and feel my chest. Or we’d be standing in a crowded bus and a whole bunch of guys would feel me up, and I couldn’t tell who they were. I tried to tell the people I was traveling about this, and the leaders of the team, but they didn’t do much about it. I think it was because the other women traveling with me weren’t getting the same attention. I was blonde and young and cute, and they, quite simply, weren’t. To talk about protecting me would be to make a statement on their desirability, so they did nothing.

I asked one of the guys to act like we were married or something, but he wouldn’t. And so I felt very alone. I’d wear a scarf over my head to try to hide my hair. I stopped making eye contact. Eventually I just didn’t want to go out to the cafes and talk to people like they were, and then the team would get mad at me for not wanting to minister. But I couldn’t take it anymore.

When I returned to Canada I had a difficult reintegration. I still couldn’t look at men in the eye. If I was walking on a sidewalk and a guy was walking towards me I’d have to cross the road. I stopped saying “hi” to strangers (and we’re Canadian. That’s normal). It took me a few months to relax and be myself again.

Fast forward twenty odd years and I started writing this blog–and with it I started to get emails from women in some serious pain. I’d get a dozen a day. And I’d read them and they’d be heartbreaking and often gross. Husbands who were into porn. Husbands who had done something to her niece. Husbands who had been caught photographing her best friend’s underwear. Husbands who wanted things that were gross.

When you read those emails day in and day out you start to feel like all men are pigs. And then my husband would come home from work, all happy to see me, and I’d bark at him. It got so that I had to stop reading the emails. My assistant reads them now and passes on the ones that she thinks I can use on Facebook or for Reader Questions. And she prays over them. (So pray for her! That’s a lot to have to read through). But it was tough.

What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men: 12 Secrets Toward Greater IntimacyAll men are perverts.

I think we all go through times when we feel that way. Julie Gorman has written a book called What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men: 12 Secrets toward Greater Intimacy, and one of those secrets is that all men are NOT perverts. Julie weaves her own story about why she believed that–abuse, promiscuity, and more, that scar the heart and leave you knowing you want to get close to men, but hating them in the process. How do you stop that feeling?

Julie writes like a novelist, weaving vivid stories into her chapters on the lies that we believe about men. And the book isn’t a self-help book as much as it is a Bible study, pointing us to passages to study, verses to consider, and prayers to pray to help us defeat these lies with the tools that God’s given us.

She knows what it is to feel like all men are perverts–just like you probably have at times, or do right know.

If you’re walking with a husband who is using porn, it’s easy to get sucked in. If you’re married to someone who has had an affair, it’s easy to start believing that lie. Or maybe you’re married to a wonderful man, but all the things that other guys did to you has just distorted your image of men so much that you can’t relax around him. You can’t let him be him.

And it hurts. It hurts because you don’t want to live like this, and you don’t want to feel this way about your husband, but what hope is there? You feel like you know the truth about men, and the truth is that they ARE gross. Men are perverts. Men do only want one thing. And somehow we’re supposed to give it to them? Makes sex seem awful, doesn’t it? I understand.

After years of blaming her husband and looking down on her husband, Julie realized that she couldn’t keep living like this anymore. She had an epiphany, and it went like this:

I could bash man’s design, or I could seek to educate myself about how God wired his body and desires differently than my own.

I could openly see all men as perverts, or I could view the men who sexually sinned against me as fallen beings in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

I could run away from the painful memories and build more walls of isolation and pain, or I could invite God to heal and restore His original intentions for my life.

I could masterfully concoct and strategize plans to protect my heart, or I could allow my heavenly Father to expose the wounds that ravaged my innocence since I was four and heal the fallout of men’s actions.

You face that choice today, too.

If you’re walking through life thinking all men are perverts, you are at a crossroads.

If you keep going down that path, telling yourself that lie (and it is a lie), then you will find yourself increasingly isolated, alone, and bitter. And that is not God’s design for you.

The truth is that SOME men are perverts.

Some men will use little girls. Some men will travel to Asian countries to rent out an 8-year-old virgin for the night. Some men will kidnap Nigerian teenagers to pass them around their camp.

Some men will stare at pictures of naked women being used. Some men will throw away a great family and a great marriage for a little roll in the hay with some woman at work.

And some–not all, but some–of these men are upstanding men. Some of these men are normally good guys, but they occasionally fall. They are tempted, and they don’t make it through.

Yes, some of them are evil all the time. But most are not.

And so we have a choice: will we define all men in terms of their temptations (and some of their failures), or will we see them as creatures like us, who sometimes fail, but who are, at heart, good?

For there is a problem with defining all men as perverts. When we do that, we define ourselves, too. We say, “I am going to be the strong one and put a wall around myself so that a man can’t touch me. I am going to keep myself from being hurt.” But when you keep yourself from being hurt, you keep yourself from being vulnerable–and vulnerability is a part of love.

Your marriage was meant to be wonderful--don't let someone who hurt you in the past keep hurting you today.

I know many of you have seen so much evil in your life it’s hard to let go of it. But I think, like Julie, you have a choice. Will you let your past experiences impact your life now, or will you let yourself be free? Will you let yourself truly experience love with a good man who sometimes falls, or will you condemn yourself to a life locked up in a box of your own making?

God doesn’t want you in a box.

God wants to start healing you. You are precious, and if things were done to you, He is angry about that and He will avenge and there will be justice. But He wants you to know love, too.

If you’re struggling, why don’t you pray this prayer today:

God, I know that you created us, male and female. I know that your design is perfect. But I feel like you messed it up–like you made men to be disgusting pigs sometimes. I’ve seen it. And I don’t want to live with that constant suspicion and that constant fear anymore. Please, God, help me to see men through your eyes. Take my bad memories and show me that they don’t define me–and they don’t define men. Let me experience your love. Lead me through a journey of forgiveness and letting go of bitterness. And in your mercy, surround me with good men. Let me notice when a stranger opens the door, or smiles politely, or lends a hand. Keep my eyes open for the good. And keep my eyes open for the good in the man I married, too. Teach me to trust, and forgive me where I have let anger seep in. I don’t want it anymore, and I give it to you. Most of all, let me see the perfect man, Jesus. Let me see how He loved women and sacrificed for women. And let me experience His love today. Amen.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now it’s your turn. What advice do you have for us? Link up the URL of your own post in the linky below!



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

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

This One Tip Revolutionized Our Marriage

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

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

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

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

How do you see your mate?

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

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

What does God see?

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

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

Honor your mate

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

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

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

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

WEBSITEEquip Your Marriage

BOOK: Phoenix Marriage

 

For the Guys: When Your Wife Hates Sex

My Wife Hates Sex: What To Do

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

One man writes:

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

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

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

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

Figure Out Why Your Wife Doesn’t Like Sex

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

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

Scenario 1: Relationship Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then try this,

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

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

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

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

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

Scenario 4: She Won’t Get Outside Help

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

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

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

Good Girls Guide My SiteWhere to Go Now

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

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

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

We Stopped Having Sex–and Here’s What I Learned

We Stopped Having Sex--what it did to our marriage, and why I'm glad we started again“We stopped having sex.”

A woman wrote her story on my Facebook Page yesterday, and I thought it was worth sharing with you, and could help clarify perhaps my thinking around the post yesterday–“Should you have sex even if you don’t feel like it?”

I’ll share her comment in just a moment, but first a few quick things!

I’ve been camping for a week so I wasn’t active in the comments, but I’m thrilled you all liked my post about what to do with your wedding dress so much. Boy, did that get shared! That post meant a lot to me, so I’m glad it touched you all, too.

Now, a few things about yesterday’s post.

I totally get what some people were saying about the word “duty”. As soon as we make sex into a duty, we make it EXTREMELY unsexy. I don’t think that’s the way Lindsay meant it, though, but I’ve actually written about how unsexy obligation sex is before, too.

We’re not arguing you should let your husband use you!

Neither Lindsay nor I was arguing that you should just say to your husband, “you can if you want to”, especially if you really don’t want to. That’s not really making love. That’s letting him use you. And that’s rather unsettling.

What we were saying was this:

If this is something your husband really wants (and some could argue needs on a regular basis), then why not just jump in? It’s our attitude that is the key. If we say to ourselves, “I don’t want to do this, and I hate doing this, but I’ll just get through it,” you will hate it. If you say to yourself, “what a great chance to bond when I feel rather icky. Maybe this can change the whole dynamic,” you’ll likely enjoy it.

It all depends on how you think about it!

Let’s do a Thought Experiment: What if you stop having sex?

What would happen to your marriage? Here’s what one of my readers wrote on Facebook:

I have to be honest and I’ve never told anyone this.

I have been married almost 10 years and we did not have sex before marriage. I expected it to be great, especially since we waited like God had asked of us.

Life went on and it really wasn’t a priority for me. Wasn’t that it was bad, I just had too much on my plate in my mind. We worked different shifts at our jobs (worked for same company) but enjoyed each other when we had time to spend together–usually out to dinner or a movie.

Then after 3 years we got pregnant. My husband was just convinced we shouldn’t have sex during pregnancy…And I was okay with this. What a dummy I was! We were not intimate at all for almost a year.

Then after our son came, it didn’t pick up immediately. I was over tired and was NOT in the mood what soever. I was not too excited about the extra weight from my pregnancy and I became a stay at home mother stuck in the frump that can often come with it.

Shockingly (sarcasm), we started to really go through rough patches. Sex was still not a priority for me and I couldn’t figure out why he just wasn’t listening to me! I was his wife. I thought he was my best friend. What had happened to us?!

We had another child almost 2 1/2 years after our son. Obviously we did have sex a few times during that time but to be honest it was a chore now. Then after our daughter and son turned 3 and 5, I had had enough. He works 6 days a week and is tired to do too much on the one day off he has. I stay home all day with the kids and about to start homeschooling….I need some time alone! So when we did have any time together, I just preferred to not be touched, loved on and pretty soon I didn’t even like him to kiss me.

One day I finally got on my knees and poured my heart to God. I surrendered myself and everything to Him and asked what could I do to bring my husband and I back to what we once had….really, better than ever. One thing was to start praying for a heart for my husband again. I wanted to work on me for once and not pray that he would change like I had for years before. I prayed I would enjoy his touch again, etc. Then one day I read a blog (maybe this one) that talked about stop saying no! Take a challenge to stop saying no to your husband no matter what.

Sounds primitive to most but I was willing to give it a try. What could it hurt?

But I didn’t even get a chance to it in action…the more I was praying, the more I was wanting him more than I ever had! Even times that I was so exhausted and got in the shower (where I do a lot of my praying), I was anxious to get out and spend time with him. Sometimes that led into sex but sometimes it was just being together and NOT him on the sofa and me in the chair across the room…like it had been for years.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I didn’t feel like it but I just knew it would be better in the long run if I did because it brought us closer than I could ever explain. My husband is a very personal person and still has a hard time opening up to me, even after all these years, but started to almost immediately. I’m not saying it was all me during all these years but I can honestly say that when I stopped taking the focus off myself and what I deserved, I started seeing my husband and our sex life very differently. I am not saying sex is the answer to everything but it should does bring a closeness that you may otherwise never get–especially with spouses that have a hard time communicating. I hope this some how helps with the conversation and even a situation someone is dealing with today. I’ve never told a soul but I felt led to take to speak up after reading this.

Thank you for sharing that comment! I do believe that that story will resonate with a lot of women. Most of us have been there. We stop making love for a variety of reasons–we’re tired, there are babies, maybe a few health concerns–and then we find our marriage drifting and we don’t know why.

Let’s make sex back into a priority!

And so here are a few other posts that can help you do that, that may apply to your specific situation:

Good Girls Guide My SiteBut what if sex actually hurts? Do I still have to?

No–you have to figure out why it hurts! This post on vaginismus may help. I also have quite the section in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex for women struggling with this.

But why should I have to fake it? So what if he needs sex–aren’t my needs important, too?

Yes, absolutely. And that’s why I believe that sex should be mutual. But here’s the thing–you, as a woman, actually control your sex drive. He doesn’t. That’s because our sex drives are almost entirely in our heads. So we have to get our heads in the game and start anticipating sex ourselves.

What about other problems–like porn, or sex not feeling good, or past abuse issues?

Many of us have reasons that sex isn’t really happening, and I’ve written so much on this subject it’s hard to point to every possible relevant post. We’re all coming from different places. But I do have a round-up post of different marriage and sex advice that talks about all of these different issues. Chances are you can find a link to your own obstacle there.

31 Days to Great SexAnd almost all of the obstacles I can think of are dealt with in 31 Days to Great Sex. It’s a great one to work through with your hubby!

So please understand–I am not saying that we should let ourselves become some sort of receptacle for our husbands. Absolutely not! But sex was created to be something beautiful between you and your husband. It binds you together. It helps you sleep better! It helps you feel closer and helps you communicate. And it was meant to be fun. If it isn’t doing those things in your marriage, then take the initiative to do something about it. Don’t just stop having sex–figure out what the problem is and throw your energy into fixing it. Your marriage is worth more than just a hum-drum existence. When we prioritize sex again, we can find that marriage becomes so much more invigorating!

Don’t miss out on that. Please.

 

Should You Have Sex Even if You Don’t Feel Like It?

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Recently I noticed a great post linked up in the comments by one of my frequent readers–Lindsay Harold from Lindsay’s Logic, answering the question “what should you do if you don’t feel like having sex?”

She was responding to some major controversy she started on the Matt Walsh Blog in the comments section, leaving a comment about sex which generated over 1,300 likes and dozens of comments in the first 24 hours. So she turned it into a post, and then said I could feel free to post it, too.  Here’s Lindsay:

I wrote on Matt Walsh’s blog comments:

“Feminism told them that it’s degrading to be a stay-at-home mom or to submit to a husband or to want a lot of children. They should never have sex with their husbands unless they feel like it. They should never let a man make decisions for their family.”


Specifically, a lot of people had a problem with the second sentence in that quote. They objected to the idea that a woman should ever have sex with her husband when she doesn’t feel like it.

But I absolutely stand by that statement. I think it’s perfectly normal and right for a woman to have sex with her husband even when she doesn’t feel like having sex.

In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that a woman ought to have sex with her husband even when she doesn’t feel like it – at least sometimes.

Should You Have Sex with Your Hubby--even if you don't feel like it?

That sounds like a radical idea, I know. Our society has become so feminized that this idea is actually considered crazy or weird or somehow the same as saying women should be raped. It’s not.

You see, there are lots of things we do that we don’t feel like doing.

I don’t always feel like getting up in the morning, making breakfast, feeding my kids, cleaning the house, changing diapers, going to the store, or a million other things I do. But I do them because they need to be done and because I love my family. My feelings don’t rule me. I make decisions based on love for my family and what needs to be done to care for their needs.

It should be the same in for caring for my husband’s needs, including his need for sex.

Of course, the usual response at this point is to ask whether I consider sex some painful, unpleasant duty. I get people saying my sex life must be horrible. On the contrary.

It is a modern and erroneous notion that “duty” is a bad word and the opposite of “pleasant.”

But that is a false dichotomy. There is no inherent reason that duties cannot be pleasant. Nor does doing something out of duty mean that one cannot enjoy it. Of course, not all duties are fun, but they don’t have to be unpleasant simply because we have a duty to do them.

For example, I may not feel, at the moment, like taking my girls outside to play. It’s hot. I’m tired. I have dishes to do. But they want to play outside and the fresh air and sunshine will do them good. So I go because I love them and have a duty to care for their needs. One of their needs is play time and time with mommy. But once we’re outside, we have a great time and I’m glad I did it. Duty, in this case, was not preventing me from having fun. In fact, duty helped me overcome laziness, lower priority tasks, and distractions that would have prevented me from having fun with my girls.

There are many other things which work similarly. I have a duty to read and study the Bible, and I enjoy it. I have a duty to feed my family, and I also enjoy it. I have a duty to vote and participate in my government, and I don’t find that duty horrid or burdensome. I have a duty to be a witness to those around me, and I find that duty agreeable.  I have a duty to clean my house…ok, maybe I don’t necessarily enjoy that one, but it isn’t some horrible thing I do just because I have to either. I do it because I love my family. And having a clean home is certainly enjoyable.

In the same way, I have a duty to have sex with my husband, and I also enjoy it greatly. There is no contradiction there.

Another thing to consider is the design of female sexuality. Women are less likely than men to be aroused out of the blue. We women often need touch, closeness, and the right mindset to get us in the mood for sex. If a wife is waiting for the mood to strike her before she says yes, it may be a long time and it will take a toll on their marital intimacy. Thus, women who go ahead and engage (not just laying there, but actively participating), even if they weren’t initially in the mood, will often find that they warm up as they go along and end up enjoying it. And the emotional intimacy that comes from physical intimacy will strengthen the marriage and bring husband and wife closer together.

So, if duties aren’t necessarily unpleasant or a hardship and women can often enjoy sex if they will choose to engage, then pointing out the duty to have sex within marriage doesn’t mean that sex becomes unpleasant or forced. Sure, it could be that way if you let it. But it doesn’t have to be. If you have the right mindset, recognizing the duty to have sex can help you overcome laziness, lower priorities, and distractions that would prevent you from having the vibrant, intimate, and fun sex life that God intended you to have in your marriage.

I appreciate the flak that Lindsay took for this, because I had to write a post defending something I said in similar vein a few years ago–when I had some feminist groups saying I advocated rape when I said that wives should try to have sex if their husbands wanted it, even if they didn’t always feel like it. My response to their criticism is here–being selfless in marriage. I wish people could see that marriage isn’t a trap; it’s a chance where both spouses can give!

 

LindsayHaroldLindsay Harold is a preacher’s daughter and a former homeschooler with a Master’s degree in Biology. Until recently, she taught college biology courses (including General Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology). She is now a blogger and stay at home mom of two little girls, ages 2-1/2 and 1. She and her husband, Doug, live on a small farm in the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia.

Lindsay writes about Biblical worldview, marriage and family, inalienable rights, politics, creation/evolution, and a variety of other topics on her blog, Lindsay’s Logic. She and her husband also write a blog together called The Rational Abolitionist where they make a logical and scientific case for ending legal abortion.

Top 10 Tips for Transitioning After a Long Absence with Your Spouse

Transitioning Back with Your Husband--when he's gone a lot for workIs your husband a pilot? A trucker? In the military? A business manager? Maybe, like many, your husband travels for work.

Lots of us are married to men who need to be away for long periods of time, and making that transition home can be quite difficult. Today guest poster Liz Millay shares what she’s learned about renewing that bond when your husband arrives home. Here’s Liz:

I have come to learn that spending time away from a spouse is much more common than I would have realized prior to entering marriage. I have a friend whose husband  travels for work for weeks at a time regularly. One of my husband’s best friends spent the first two years of marriage living in a different state than his spouse.

Sometimes life just doesn’t pan out the way you had hoped, and you find yourself having to spend a significant portion of time away from your better half. Times like this are so very difficult–but while it may seem that the time apart is the hardest aspect, the tougher transition may be right around the corner, as the transition back to living together can bring a whole new set of challenges.

So what can you do to ease into this transition? Now that my husband has been back with us for the last couple months, I’ve looked back on the experience and have come up with my top ten tips for transitioning back together after a long absence from your spouse.

1. Begin to prepare yourself as soon as you part ways.

Stay involved in each other’s lives as much as possible. Do things for each other whenever you can. Keep each other updated on what’s happening in life and stay on the same page in regards to finances, plans, dreams, etc. For more ideas on surviving your time apart, check out this article I wrote here.

2. Know your triggers.

Before we even reunited I already knew exactly what would be the most difficult aspect for me: my independence. I like doing what I want, when I want. I like being in charge of my own schedule. Transitioning back to bending to someone else’s agenda and desires after a time apart is always difficult for me. I knew it could easily become a trigger for tension and arguments. I had to be prepared to let go of always getting what I wanted. When you’re married both parties have to put each other first day in and day out. Although we weren’t without bumps, recognizing this trigger ahead of time helped greatly.

3. Don’t be like the Israelites.

Do you remember what happened with the Israelites after they left Egypt? It didn’t take long for their excitement to fade into bitterness. They started complaining and in no time they were wishing they were back in Egypt. In slavery! What a 180! So how does this relate to reuniting with your spouse? It is very easy to go from “over the moon excited to be back together” to “oy, life sure was easier when you weren’t here doing xyz.” Excitement fades and real life starts to grind away. He leaves his clothes on the bedroom floor. She never remembers to put away her hair dryer. You can easily get lost in the excitement of reuniting and be blind-sided by those annoying day to day things you’ve forgotten. I’m not saying it’s bad to be excited about your reunion, but if you’re not careful you can go from an emotional high to bitterness and frustration in 6 seconds flat. Keep your expectations in check and stay focused on the positive.

4. Remember where your strength comes from.

Especially towards the end of our time apart, I remember just wanting to be with him again. I wanted someone who would hug me after a bad day and then go get me a bowl of ice cream. I was tired of being lonely. When you’re apart, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything is going to be better when you’re together again. However, even though it’s definitely nice to have someone at your side to go through tough times, your husband is not your Rock. God is. The same God who got you through your time apart is the same God you need to lean on in the day to day once you’re back together.

5. Get on the same page.

Don’t withhold any reservations you’re feeling as you transition back together. Take it from a self-proclaimed, bottling introvert—you need to put everything on the table. Knowing each other’s concerns and struggles helps you encourage and build each other up, and give a little extra grace. My husband was aware that I was going to struggle with losing my independence. Knowing this made it easier for him to extend an extra dose of grace in those bumpy moments.

6. Don’t be afraid to fight.

Yep, you heard me. Fight. I’m not saying be mean and nasty; however, knowing that there are going to be some bumps in the road as you readjust to life together helps you take those arguments in stride. Shortly after being reunited with my hubby, we spend around 30 hours in the car together in the span of less than a week. At times we found it hard to keep a conversation going. At one point during the drive, we had a fight. It wasn’t ugly, but we were both frustrated. We were misunderstanding each other. But, you know what? We worked through it and got on the same page, coming away with a deeper understanding of where the other was coming from. After it was over, I found myself glad that we had gotten into the argument, as it was much more productive than just sitting in silence!

7. Have fun.

Be silly. Do something interesting together. Go on a date if you can. At least sneak in some alone time. Snuggle a lot. Enjoy each other. Spend some time just getting to know each other again. Be proactive in making sure you are having more positive moments than negative ones.

8. Reclaim your intimacy.

After spending an extended period of time away from each other, the intimacy you’ve built as a married couple is bound to suffer to some degree. You might find yourself wondering “who even is this person I’m married to?” Honestly, there is no easy fix for this except to just start doing it again (pun intended). Open up and be vulnerable with your spouse. The best place to start this is in the bedroom. I don’t want to speak for all men, but there’s probably a good chance your husband is feeling deprived in the sex department. Don’t think it’s just for him though, the benefits extend to both of you! See some of Sheila’s posts on intimacy here, here, here, and here.

9. Be understanding of changes that happened while you were apart.

Especially if you spend a very long time apart, there are bound to be some changes that could possibly take you off guard. There were two big ones for us. The first was that while my husband was away our son transitioned from a baby-like toddler to a 2 going on 20 toddler. You parents know what I’m talking about, the change that happens between two and three – the whining, the stubbornness, the “where-did-my-sweet-baby-go”? It totally threw my husband off guard and it was tempting for him to wonder what in the world I did to our kid. He had to take a step back, give me the benefit of the doubt, and realize that the changes were normal. The second thing was that for our last five weeks apart my husband had officers training for the Air Force. Being in such a strict, rigid environment changed him. I had to make sure I was understanding as he adjusted back to family life.

10. Have a truckload of patience.

For me, this was probably the most important thing. Once we were back together it was tempting to feel like everything needed to be perfect RIGHT THEN. I had to realize that we didn’t need to fix every single problem in our marriage overnight. Honestly, that realization alone relieved the pressure and made things so much easier. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. On those days when it feels like your feet are dragging and the finish line is nowhere in sight, remember that it’s okay to slow down, just keep moving forward, loving and giving grace along the way.

We are a military family now, and while my husband’s position isn’t likely to experience frequent or extensive periods of deployment, the job will definitely lead to times where we are apart. So, I would love to know, if your husband travels for work, or if he’s in the military what life lessons have you learned?

LizMillayLiz is a twenty-something wife, mother, and jack-of-all-trades. When she’s not reading books, cooking, or crafting, this chocolate lover can be found outside. She admits she’s a nerd and maybe a teensy bit stubborn too. Liz blogs about faith, family, and life’s adventures at Simple Life. Messy Life.

 

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Reader Question: I Think My Sister’s Husband is Controlling/Abusive

Reader Question of the WeekWhat do you do if you fear your sister is being abused (or your friend is being abused)?

That’s the question I want to tackle today. Every Monday I take a stab at answering a reader question, and this one is a really sad one. A reader writes:

My family and I are very concerned about my baby sister. She’s 15 yrs younger than I, married for over a decade. I’ll call her Sister1. We saw signs of this going in, but recently she moved closer to us, to be nearer to her family. However, she rarely replies to our emails, always has an excuse as to why she can’t get together with us, and once sent Sister2 away at the door because Sister1 had forgotten to tell her husband Sister 2 was coming. We’ve tried to address this with her, but again, she becomes defensive and evasive. We love her and her family very much.

We think that Sister 1’s husband is monitoring her email and other social media, maybe deleting some especially if it contains stuff he doesn’t want her to see or respond to. We don’t see any signs of physical abuse, but when we do see her without Hubby along, she is a very different person (as was her daughter, notably).

How do we handle this? I think she has a warped sense of what it means to be submissive.

Abuse is a very serious issue, and I can just imagine how heartbreaking it is to feel as if someone you love is being controlled or abused, when there’s so little you can do to help.

I’m not an abuse specialist, but I want to give some general thoughts today. I know many of my readers know more about this than I do, so if you can leave specific places for help in the comments that would be great!

Controlling Behaviour Usually is Accompanied by Abuse (and can be abusive in and of itself)

I know many people will read this letter and say, “but you don’t know if she’s being abused!”, and to a certain extent that’s true. I wrote a post earlier about what is abuse and what isn’t, and one of the characteristics of abuse is that you are always trying to appease the person and walking on eggshells around them. It does sound like this is happening here. She is scared of him for some reason.

Controlling behaviour–limiting someone’s access to friends and family, monitoring their communications–is a sign of abuse and is abusive in and of itself. It isn’t treating someone as a human being with the right to make decisions. It’s treating someone as your chattel, and that is wrong.

Such controlling behaviour is usually accompanied by other negative behaviours, whether it’s physical abuse or consistent verbal or emotional abuse, and that is dangerous.

No, we don’t know if she’s being beaten to a pulp obviously (I’m just already anticipating what some of the comments will be to this), but I would still be very concerned. Controlling behaviour is a HUGE red flag.

That being said, here are some thoughts I have on where to go from here:

My Sister is Being Abused: What to do when you fear for someone you love

1. You Can’t Force Someone to Leave an Abuser

Here’s the hard part: you can’t make someone leave, and often you can’t convince someone to leave, either. It has to be their own decision. If you coerce someone or put a lot of pressure on them to leave before they’re ready, chances are they will end up going back with the abuser.

Thus, in this case the main job should be keeping the lines of communication open and letting the sister know that you will always be there to help her leave.

However–and this is a BIG however–there is not just the sister involved. It’s clear from this email that there is also a daughter (and there could be other kids), and that daughter can’t be more than about 14 (given the length of the marriage). So she’s really young. If you ever suspect that a child is being abused, you simply must call children’s services. In this case, the sister has never seen any signs of physical abuse, but if there ever are any, you don’t have a choice. Call.

The same thing is true for the sister. If you ever see any bruises, call the police. Sometimes getting the authorities involved can also show the sister that this is something serious.

2. Tell Your Sister You are Always There for Her

Let your sister know that no matter what happens, you are there for her. You love her, and you will stand by her. And this is hard: that means standing by her now, even if she decides to stay. If you condemn her for that and get in a big fight, she may not feel that she’s able to trust you in the future. Let her know that you love her and you are worried for her.

3. Talk Up Your Sister’s Good Points

If you fear your sister is being abused,  your tendency will be to talk about how awful her husband is and all the things you see that are red flags. To a certain extent you do need to mention these. But I would spend more time saying to her, “you are a strong woman”, “you are a godly woman”, “you are so kind and so generous”, and telling her examples of each of these things.

When a woman is being controlled or emotionally abused, one of the key weapons an abuser uses is to totally demoralize the person so they feel they don’t have the ability to leave. They’re too stupid, too weak, too vulnerable. If you can continue to tell her the truth–that she is capable, that she is smart, that she is strong–that may be a better message to give her.

4. Get A Nest Egg Together for Her

When I asked on Facebook what the sister should do, one commenter wrote, “start saving up money so she can leave”, and that’s actually an excellent idea. Money (or lack thereof) is often what keeps someone in an abusive/controlling relationship. Tell your sister that you have money put aside for her, and you are adding to it all the time, so that if she ever does need to leave, you can help her get set up somewhere.

5. Have your Husband Talk to Her

In this case, it sounds like part of the reason for staying may be incorrect theology. Many men believe that the wife must obey, and they don’t try to build oneness in marriage. They try to build a very dominant/submissive relationship, thinking this is what Christ wants (though I can’t remember Christ ever being dominant like that). If this is what she believes about marriage, she may think that even if she’s miserable, God wants her miserable.

If a man she respects can come alongside her and say, “God doesn’t want a husband to treat his wife that way”, this may actually go further than a woman saying the same thing.

6. Talk to the Daughter

As much as possible, keep the lines of communication open with the kids in this family. In fact, these children would be my primary concern, simply because they are minors. Talk to them as much as you can, and have them visit as much as the parents will allow. Try to be a big influence in their lives. Let the kids know that if they ever need you, you will be there, and make sure that the children know how to contact you in a hurry, and have a means to contact you in a hurry.

7. Pray a Lot and Let it Go

And now here’s the hard part. Once you’ve done all of this, you need to pray and put it in God’s hands. You can’t force the situation. And the longer I walk with God the more I realize that His timing is much better than mine. Even though I want things done immediately, often they take much longer. And it’s that delay that helps people solidify their decision and often get closer with God.

Dayspring Pray Art

It’s agony to watch someone you love become a shell of who they were in a controlling or abusive relationship. But you can’t force anyone to do anything, and they have a right to choose that (as long as their children are still safe). Love on them, keep the door open, and talk, but then you must try to let it go and leave it with God. Don’t let it sap all of your emotional energy.

Now, if anyone has anything I should add, please do so in the comments. And if anyone has any tips on how to “let it go”, please leave that in the comments, too, because I can only imagine how agonizing this would be. Thank you!

A Testimony of Marriage, Anorexia, and Healing

healing in marriage battling anorexia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reader Question: My Husband is So Passive!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living with a Passive Husband: Accepting Personality Differences

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

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

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

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

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with either.

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

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

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

2. Be Careful of Overcompensating

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

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

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

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

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

3. Accept Him as He Is

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Be Grateful for Your Sex Life

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

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

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

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

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

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