Top 10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Future Husband

Top Ten TuesdayToday, on top 10 Tuesday, I’m welcoming the blogger from There Once Was This Girl to share about getting ready for your future husband. Her life was not at all pristine before she was married, but she found God and He made all the difference.

As my husband and I approach our 1 year anniversary, I can’t help but reflect on our past and the difference it has made in our lives to follow the path God had for us. In March we celebrated nine years together. At first we were very happy and in love, but something was just not right. We spent two of those years dating, then three+ years living together. Then the change pressing on our souls that had to happen in order to continue our journey and our relationship with Christ hit us. For the next two+ years we abstained from all sexual relations, as we waited for our wedding night. This was, by far, the greatest decision we made. Those two and half years provided me much-needed time for reflection and insight of my past, mindset and decisions made along the way. The intimacy and connection it brought to my husband and I was unlike no other.

For those of you who are like I was, in a relationship that everyone says you’re supposed to have, but you feel is just not right, I want to give you ten steps to make you ready for the relationship God really does have for you.

Getting ready for your future husband

1. Pray–for you and your future husband.

Ask others to pray with you and for you. Are you asking God to bring you a man or a better man but not truly believing (by your actions and self talk) that you are worthy of the best, most gentle, loving and caring man? Are you praying for your future husband but not asking God to open your heart, mind and eyes to the lies you are currently believing and accepting? Are you not asking God to change you, mold you and prepare you for your future husband? If not, it is time to start.

2. Stop having premarital sex.

It does not matter if you are currently in a relationship. Stop and wait until your married. If he leaves you because of this, then you will know without a doubt that this person is not “the one”. It doesn’t matter if you have a child with this man, you have been dating him for 10 years or your relationship is new. This type of sin slowly chips away at your soul, self-worth and separates you from the relationship you were meant to have with God. You should be insulted as a beautiful and worthy woman of God, if he feels it is important to sample you before marrying you. By not waiting, you are the one in control of your life and you are choosing your own path. When you choose your own path over the one God has for you, you are missing out on the opportunities God wants for you–including the opportunity to meet someone who is really right for you.

(Have trouble with this one? Here’s a post on how to stop sleeping with your boyfriend.)

3. Don’t Define Yourself by Your Boyfriend

If you feel your worth is defined by having a man in your life and having that man stay in your life depends on you giving him your precious body then you need to spend much more alone time with God and His word. Understand these are Satan’s lies you are believing to be true about yourself. These are lies.

4. Learn what real intimacy is.

Understand that sex is really NOT the intimacy and connection you desire and crave. Satan tells us it is readily available to us through sex. This is a huge lie designed to separate us from our Creator, think less of our selves and destroy our self-worth. See the lie for what it’s worth and turn yourself towards Gods truth.

5. Know that sex does not equal love.

Love is not full of lies, cheating eyes, nor cheating bodies. Love is not belittling and degrading comments or gestures. Love is not a strong abusive hand or voice. If you have believed this lie to be true know that you are worth so much more. Read what the bible says love is (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

(Have trouble with this one? Here’s a post on why God wants us to wait until we’re married for sex.)

6. Get involved in helping others.

Get involved at church, start a singles small group. Take up a hobby. Get yourself healthy – emotionally, spiritually and physically. And do this with your boyfriend, if you have one. His character will be revealed as you help others together. And if he doesn’t want to help? That’s a huge sign, too.

(Knowing what kind of person your boyfriend is is so important! Here’s my list of 4 things you absolutely need in a future husband).

7. Love yourself through God’s eyes.

Believe His truths, speak His truths over and over in your head. Speak them out loud. Wrap yourself in the full armor of God and take captive every negative and sinful thought. Believe that you are worth waiting for and your future husband is worth waiting for. Prepare now for future temptation.

8. Realize that you can not pick and choose which parts of God’s word you choose to believe.

There are many sins which are the result of following with your flesh and not with your faith. Sex before marriage is one of those. Control your thoughts and your flesh will follow.

9. Own the truth that you are not alone.

You may feel alone but if you really dig deep into God’s word you will see that you are not alone. You are beautiful, precious and very much-loved. You are worthy and valuable. So much so that saving yourself for marriage…for your future…would be the ultimate gift to give to him. By not waiting you are in control of your life and choosing your own path. When you choose your path over the one God has for you, you are missing out on opportunities to meet someone who you will be able to serve God with fully.

10. Be patient as you get ready for your future husband.

While it may feel that God is making you wait forever, He is still preparing you. Remember He could still be at work in your future husband too. Even though you may be ready in God’s eyes, your soul mate is not ready yet. Be still while He readies him for you. Maybe your future husband is just as stubborn as you once were! Be patient and have faith.

There OnceAs a former single mom, “Anonymous” was skilled at making a messy disaster of her life and home. Through accepting Christ and His word, she was able to find the hope and encouragement needed to improve our situation.  She has a huge heart and passion for single moms in hopes of encouraging and motivating those precious ladies to not follow in her footsteps of disaster but to follow God. You can find her at There Once Was This Girl.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acknowledge that He is Grieving about His ED

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

But let him grieve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Sex as More Than Intercourse

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

And you can do all of those things without intercourse.

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

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

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

Do What You Can Despite the ED

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

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

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

Schedule Your Sexual Times

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Marriage Advice

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



Wifey Wednesday: Supporting Your Adventure Loving Husband

Supporting Your Adventure Loving Husband

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! And today Renee Tougas is joining us to share her story about her adventure loving husband.

I met my husband twenty years ago. We met at a Christian campus organization camping trip. That should have been my first clue.

I always knew my husband liked the outdoors and physical activity. When I met him he biked, hiked, kayaked, rock climbed, and lifted weights. A lot of young men are into those things. They like the physical challenge, the “muscle building”, and the adventure.

It wasn’t Damien’s sense of adventure that attracted me to him or even his muscles though. It was his steady nature. I am a reactive personality type. I am expressive in both my highs, and my lows. My husband is the near opposite of me and I fell in love with his easy going nature.

I was nineteen years old. I had no idea what I was getting into.

SONY DSCI was looking for a steady sort because though I was young I knew what I wanted in life. My dream was to be a wife and a mom. I wanted to stay home with my babies. I wanted home to be my first career and after that, well, I’d figure it out when the time came.

I was looking for a man. Call me old fashioned but I wanted someone who could provide and protect. I was frugal, and still am. I didn’t want much in the way of worldly goods but I wanted a solid, steady family life.

God gave me my husband to make those dreams come true. And to stretch me beyond those dreams in ways I could not have imagined.

As much as my husband was the steady I was seeking, he is also a visionary adventurer; not content to stay put or accept status quo. He questions and he quests. I knew a bit of this when we married, I have those tendencies myself. But I like to do my questioning from a place of relative comfort and security.

God knew what I needed. Someone to stretch me beyond the comfort and security of my carefully constructed world.

I connect with a lot of women through my blog FIMBY. I’m not a marriage expert but after seventeen years together I am happily married and still head-over-heals in-love. I guess that counts for something.

A blog reader, who was about to get married, asked me if I had any words of wisdom to share.

My advice went something like this: “Your life, your marriage, your spouse will probably surprise you in some way. Hold onto each other for dear life and be ready to change and grow.”

My own major growth spurt came a few years into our marriage. The early years of our marriage were very much about establishing home and family. Making a home in the various apartments we rented, making babies and taking care of them, learning how to be a good manager of our finances and my time. We bought a home, started homeschooling and I tended our backyard garden. I was living my dream.

And then my husband wanted to live his dream.

He has many dreams actually. He’s a dreamer. A steady provider yes, but a dreamer too. And there were things he wanted to do besides build a home and family. He wanted some adventure.

kids-campfireThus began the most significant growth curve of our married life – saying yes to my husband’s dreams. Saying yes to adventure. Saying yes to a lot of personal and marital growth that was at times physically painful and uncomfortable (like the first time backpacking!).

Something funny happened.

This comfort-loving, routine-seeking homemaker became an adventurer herself. I fell in love with the things my husband wanted to do. Hiking, backpacking, cross-country running, and backcountry skiing. I started to welcome more spontaneity into my life, and let loose the grip I had on how things must be.

I learned a few things along the way that may help you support an adventure-loving husband also.

Be his best friend.

My husband wants to be with me. He choose me. He’s rather go hiking, skiing or any other activity with me than anyone else. What a gift.

We choose each other when we made our vows. We choose to throw our lots in together, come you-know-what or high water. And trust me, I’ve experienced some “high water” moments in our adventures. But the fact remains my husband would still rather do these things with emotionally expressive me over anyone else.

We have made a conscious choice not to go separate ways in our hobbies and pursuits, instead investing time in together activities so our we get to spend as much time with each other as possible.

backpacking-autumn-leavesJust say yes. Not everyone is married to a dreaming, adventure loving husband. You might be the adventurer in your marriage, or adventurous in areas that your husband is not.

I think what our spouses want from us, regardless of which one leads the adventures, is that we say “yes”. Can we say yes every single time? Probably not. My husband has so many ideas. Too many ideas. We can’t do all the ideas, someone has to help sift through and think through them all. My “down-to-earth” managerial skills come in handy there.

But I need to say yes more than I say no.

Saying yes to our adventurous and visionary husbands communicates “I believe in you”.

It communicates respect. My husband thrives, he is fulfilled and driven to provide for our family, when he feels I respect and believe in him.

This summer I am thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with my best friend and the three children our love brought into existence. We are embarking on an adventure that was just a dream one time for my questing husband but because I said Yes, is now a reality.

Are you married to a visionary adventurer?

Maybe your husband is an outdoors adventurer. And he would love nothing more than to spend days in the wilderness with you, hiking and camping.

Or maybe your husband is an adventurer of a different sort. An entrepreneur or perhaps involved in ministry, blazing a trail into territory that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable for you.

Regardless of which kind of adventurer he is, I bet he wants, more than anything, to have you join him. To be his adventurer-in-arms. To have you say “yes”, just like you did those years ago when he proposed.

If your family loves adventures of the outdoor kind and would love inspiration, ideas, and encouragement for how to make more of that happen in your life, follow our adventure this summer by subscribing to our video series Beyond our Boundaries: A Family Adventure on the Appalachian Trail. Never heard of the Appalachian Trail? You can read all about it and details of our family adventure here.

How do you support your adventure-loving husband? Let me know in the comments!

Renee TougasRenee Tougas is a hiker and homemaker; a mother and wife; a writer and photographer. Fresh and honest, Renee’s blog FIMBY is the story of interest-led learning, creative and adventurous family living.



Christian Marriage Advice
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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.

Screwtape Letter to an Exhausted Mom

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

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

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

I do have a few tips.

First, aim your best efforts at her marriage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, onto the children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Malevolent Uncle,

Screwtape

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

10 Ways to Help Your Husband Stay Healthy

Help Your Husband Lose Weight

Today’s guest post is from personal trainer Jenni Kenyon.

Getting fit and staying healthy are often pushed to the wayside when life gets busy. It’s not unheard of for newlyweds to put on a few pounds or for couples to gain weight as they have kids and grow older. However, there’s no getting around the fact that maintaining a healthy weight is critical when it comes to preventing health issues later in life.

Top Ten TuesdayAlthough we don’t love our husbands for their bodies, there’s no shame in admitting that it’s nice when they take care of them. I’m sure that they would say the same about us wives! So here are ten tips to help motivate your significant other to start getting fit.

Remember our Top 10 Tuesday philosophy: We throw out a bunch of ideas, and from that smorgasbord you choose 1-3 to actually DO. Don’t try to do all at once; it won’t work. Pick the 1-3 ideas that resonate the most with you, and decide to embrace them wholeheartedly this week!

 1. Pray for him

 Obviously, Jesus can do much more to motivate your husband than you can. The power of prayer is much stronger than anything you can ever do or say.

 Pray that your husband will realize the importance of taking care of himself, that by staying fit he’ll be able to better care for his family and serve God’s kingdom. Intrinsic motivation like this lasts longer than the “I want to look good” type of motivation and is centered on pursuing a life he desires. God gave us one body to serve him through, so it’s important to care for it appropriately.

 2. Be an example

 If you are overweight as well, it does no good to order your husband to start working out while you sit back with the kids. If you’re trying to lose weight, be a good example to him. Show him that it isn’t that hard or depriving. Cook healthful meals, work out on a regular basis and form habits that last for the long term. Whatever you do, take care of your body. Weight loss from quick diets statistically doesn’t last because you don’t learn how to live a lifestyle at your new weight.

 Have a conversation with your husband about why you choose to be fit and healthy. Never tell him he’s fat, say that you are concerned about his health. Talk about what you can do or enjoy as a fit person. Be honest and open with him about your desire to lose weight and perhaps it’ll inspire him as well.

 3. Encourage him

 Even if your husband isn’t pursuing a healthful lifestyle right now, you should still encourage him every day in any matter. Make him feel like he’s the protector and man of the house. Tell him how much you appreciate what he does, who he is, and how happy you are God has matched you up together.

 It’s hard to motivate yourself to be fit or exercise if you are depressed or down. Boost his confidence when he comes home from work, make him feel good about himself and he’ll be much more likely to choose exercise instead of zoning out on the couch.

 4. Talk about the future

 It’s scary when your parents get old, especially if they didn’t take good care of themselves when they were younger. It’s probable that there’s someone with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension or some other type of ailment caused by excess weight in your family. There’s plenty of other diseases or conditions that could be relieved with exercise too, including osteoporosis, high cholesterol, or cancer.

 If you’re worried about following in the same footsteps as someone in your family, talk about it. Tell your husband that you exercise so you can play with your grandkids. Ask him if he wants to start getting healthier and listen to him, his reasons, and his experience. Your husband most likely had a lot of life before you came around, so perhaps you don’t know about his grueling wrestling practices as a kid or other bad experiences with working out.

 5. Schedule a checkup

 How long has it been since he’s been to the doctor? Getting a blood workup and a physical isn’t a bad idea if it’s been a while. In fact, some doctors recommend it every year. If your husband is as stubborn as mine, you’ll know that he may not listen to you, but a doctor can be hard to ignore.

 6. Find a hobby together

 Did you and your husband have an active hobby together before the kids came along? Perhaps you should try to resurrect it! Finding time can be hard, so volunteer to trade off babysitting with a friend once a week so you and your husband can get back to salsa dancing, hiking, or golfing together. Join an adult soccer league or start a church softball games. There’s nothing like a competitive sport to help your husband realize that he needs to start exercising more often in order to perform like he used to!

 7. Bake fewer cookies

 The kids might like cookies when they get home from school, but your husband doesn’t need the temptation. Start serving the children healthier snacks like apples and peanut butter, cheese and crackers or healthier baked goods so there isn’t an abundance of dessert lying around. It’s an easy way to help him lose weight. He might not even notice that he’s eating less!

 I will make a note here to say that food policing doesn’t work and can become a point of contention. Just keep less sugary treats around the house instead of telling him what he can and cannot have. Keep the fridge well stocked with ready to eat to produce like cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber, diced pineapple or honeydew as snacks to replace the sweet stuff.

 8. Sneak in more veggies

 This approach is a little more sly, but just as effective as decreasing the amount of treats in the house. Vegetables have a lot of fiber and necessary vitamins and nutrients. They’re also very satiating when added to meals, which is why weight loss is so successful with them. If you aren’t a vegetable lover, start experimenting with them! It’s usually a mind-set issue when it really comes down to it. They can taste good, but you need to figure out how to cook them

 There’s plenty of online recipes that use grated or blended vegetables in cooking or baking. Start making more stir-fry’s or fajitas, use blended cauliflower in mac-n-cheese to decrease the fat and calories, and add chopped bell peppers to enchiladas to boost fiber and satiety. I promise that you won’t sacrifice flavor by using this approach to cut calories of your meals as long as you do a little searching on the internet.

 9. Hide the snacks

 Studies have shown that when food is out of sight, you are less likely to feel hunger or a desire to have it. Start by taking all the unhealthy chips, cookies, and crackers off the countertops and storing them in the pantry. If they’re already in the pantry or cupboards, rearrange so they aren’t front and center, so that it takes a bit of looking to find the not so healthy options.

 If your husband specifically requests snack type food that you know are really bad for him – think chips, most crackers, twinkles etc, perhaps you should discuss the food budget. I’m serious- those packaged types of food cost a lot more than basic veggies, fruits, canned goods, milk, meats, and carbs like pasta, rice or bread. You might have to give up a few things too, but in the name of good financial stewardship and physical stewardship of your body, it’s probably worth it. You don’t have to throw out every single high calorie snack in your cupboard, but only storing a few (less than three) is better than not taking any action.

 10. Plan more active activities

 Start planning more active outings with the family. Go sledding with the kids or practice soccer with them at the local soccer field. If you and your husband go on date nights, ask if you can take tennis lessons, a bike ride or kayak together. If that much activity is too far of a jump right now, start with walks. If it’s beautiful outside, ask your husband to go on a walk with you. Fresh air is rejuvenating and can do a lot to decrease stress, so a short walk to enjoy the evening might be just the thing to kickstart the desire to move.

 Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility to get your husband to lose weight. You can’t badger and guilt trip him in to it because that won’t work in the long run. He needs to know that he is loved at any size (just like you need to know that) and that you support him. It may take a long time for him to realize that he needs to get healthy, and once that happens you need to support him through it.

headshot-FitzalaJenni is an NASM certified personal trainer and loves helping women find balance in health and exercise. She and her husband live in Central Washington and spend as much time as possible outdoors. Find her on her blog, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

 

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

Reader Question of the Week

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

A woman writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Decide What You Want Your Husband to Do

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

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

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

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

Make Sure Your Marriage is Rock Solid

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

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

Get to Know the Women Your Husband Works With

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

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

Confront the Woman, if Appropriate

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

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

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

Ask Yourself Why This Bothers You So Much

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dayspring Peace Mug

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Say yes.

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

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

2. Move your body.

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

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

3. Make some noise.

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

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

4. Initiate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

HHH-LogoSexSavvyEbook-cover-lower-dpi

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

 

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

Sexy Valentines Day Bundle Small

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



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.

Wifey Wednesday: Keeping Your Marriage Strong (After Kids)

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

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

I thought our marriage was solid.

That all changed when we brought a baby home.

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

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

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

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

1. Go on dates regularly.

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

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

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

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

2. Study your spouse.

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

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

3. Go away together.

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

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

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

4. Take care of yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

5. Choose your spouse every day.

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

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

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

6. Appreciate the things your spouse does for you.

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

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

Did he go to work? Thank him for it.

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

Did she make dinner? Thank her for it.

Did she bring home a pizza? Be appreciative.

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

7. Put your spouse above your kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

17648166-18785009-thumbnailAbout Lindsey Bell:

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

 

About Searching for Sanity:

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

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



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.

Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Needs to Change!

Christian Marriage Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serenity Prayer Plaque from Dayspring

2. I’m Writing this Blog to Women!

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

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

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

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

Etc. etc. etc.

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

3. Chances Are He’s Hurting, Too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reader Question of the Week: My Husband Isn’t a Good Stepfather

Reader Question of the Week

On Mondays I like to take a stab at answering a Reader Question. A woman wrote in whose husband is just not very nice to her son (her husband’s stepson). What do you do when your husband’s a bad stepfather? She writes:

My husband married me with three children. At the time two were preschoolers and one was a teenager. They are now 11,12,20. My first husband died a year prior to us getting married. We thought we should go ahead and get married to help our family heal. Since we were old friends and both Christian we thought it was a win win. But my problem is he seem to treat my youngest son, the 11-year-old, mean. He acts like he doesn’t want to be bothered with him. And my son really feels it so he turns to my 20-year-old for protection. I guess you can imagine that tension. I try to speak to him about it but he simply denies anything harsh inside. I feel like a terrible mother allowing this to go on. He doesn’t hit him but the mental abuse is just as worse. I really don’t know to do. Please help. Thanks.

My initial thoughts are: if your husband is truly being abusive, you need to get help for your son. Absolutely. Getting a third party involved who knows all of you and who can help you navigate this is likely in order, just for the protection of your son.

However, it looks like there’s something else going on here, since a parent is rarely abusive to just one child. I didn’t really feel equipped to handle this one, so I asked Ron Deal, founder of Smart Stepfamilies, to take a stab at it for me.

Here’s Ron:

When you Think your Husband is a Bad Stepfather

Step-Families Can Have Difficulty Bonding

While it’s true that stepparents and stepchildren typically don’t share the same depth to their emotional attachment as biological parent-child relationships—and this difference impacts parenting—that may be only part of your situation. Let me explain.

Both biological mothers and fathers form a deep emotional, psychological, and spiritual attachment to their child even while it is in the womb. It is a miraculous process to have a child and the bond between parent and child reflects the profound nature of this miracle. Any biological parent know exactly what I’m talking about.

Stepparents and stepchildren must grow their bond over time. I suppose you could say that they choose love and to be family, rather than having it rise up from within them. This, too, can lead to a profound attachment. (Adoptive and stepparents with long-term relationships know what I’m talking about.) But it can be rough in the early years as adult and child learn about one another, learn to trust, respect, and like each other, let alone love each other.

Without question, the attachment bond—whether weak or strong—impacts parenting. In two of my books The Smart Stepmom and The Smart Stepdad I discuss in great detail why, for example, children snub a stepparent saying, “You’re not my mom. I don’t have to do what you say.” In effect, they are saying, “I don’t trust you or respect your authority enough to obey you. Without shared DNA, you don’t have the right to tell me what to do.” Oddly enough, no one, not society or the court system—not even children, make that same rebuff to biological parents. Apparently, shared chromosomes automatically grants one authority! Being a biological parent also grants you automatic respect, “insider” status with the child, love, grace in conflict, and loyalty. It really helps parents to be parents.

Stepparents, however, don’t get automatic anything. They have to earn like, love, respect, authority, forgiveness when wrong, etc., etc. This can be an arduous and challenging process depending on the openness of the child. If a child is closed and hostile toward the stepparent, they stand on thin ice. If the child is open and welcoming, the stepparent can bond with a child quickly and to a wonderful depth.

The Biological Parent Often Distrusts the StepParent

If managing the process of bonding isn’t difficult enough for stepparents, add to it the distrust that comes from the biological parent. Biological parents raising their children disagree with each other from time to time about how they should manage the child’s behavior, but rarely if ever does one parent accuse the other of not loving the child. “You grounded our teenager for a few days too long and I know why – because you hate our kid,” just aren’t words you hear between parents.

But in a stepfamily situation, it’s not uncommon for a biological parent to doubt the heart of the stepparent toward a child.

This is what I hear in your question. “My husband doesn’t like my son.” And notice how it impacts you and your marriage. You feel guilty for not protecting your son and it pits you against your husband. It automatically divides your home into insiders (biological family members) and outsiders (husband/stepdad). That division is extremely common in blended families (or might I say, not-so-blended families).

Personality Clashes Can Be Common

But there’s something a little odd about your situation that deserves consideration. You have two other children and your husband doesn’t appear to have issue with them. Typically, a stepparent who really doesn’t want to be a parent to stepchildren (this does happen, but I find it to be rare) doesn’t engage any of them. They resign from any role with the children—not just one.

I’m wondering if your situation is more perhaps a clash of their personalities than an issue in stepparenting. Without knowing the history of your husband and all three kids over the past six years it’s difficult to know for sure, but you might need to adjust your assumptions about the motivations of his heart. Doing so might soften your approach toward him:

“Honey, it occurred to me that you have a pretty solid relationship with my older two kids and I see how you tried with Johnny early on, but it didn’t work very well. What are the things about him that make it tough for you at this point to connect with him?”

Sometimes personalities even between biological parents and children just don’t mix. When there’s other children that a parent does easily connect with, the challenging child becomes the odd man out and sometimes, the scapegoat. Let me be clear: the animosity your husband is showing your son needs to change. The real dilemma is what you can do about it. Here’s what I know: if you approach your husband with misguided assumptions, venom and accusation, he won’t be influenced by you. Softly enter his experience and try to hear what the road blocks are for him first, then discuss with him how that might change. My guess is he feel stuck and wants a better relationship, but just doesn’t know how to get there. If you stand against him he will not explore that with you. If you gently come beside him, he might let you be a resource to help him through. That would be a win-win.

Thanks, Ron!

To sum up: if you fear it’s abusive, get a neutral party in to help you figure that out. But on the whole, it could very well just be a personality clash. We’re a biological family, and we’ve walked through this with my husband and my daughter–a two year period when I felt that he was being too hard on her. We got through it and everything’s fine. But because he was her biological father, I never doubted that he loved her, and it was likely easier to deal with.

It occurred right around when she was 11 as well, and I wonder if that’s just a hard time for parents in general? Then, throw a stepparent into the mix, and it’s easy to start doubting the whole thing. So I like Ron’s take: check if it’s just a personality clash, and then try to weather that and navigate it together. Don’t create an us vs. them mentality, because that can be so damaging!

Now let me know in the comments: have you ever dealt with something like this? How do you navigate it?


Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of FamilyLife Blended™, a popular conference speaker on marriage and family matters, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s, books, and curriculum for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad, The Remarriage Checkup, and Dating and the Single Parent. Learn more at FamilyLife.com/blended.