Reader Question: How Do You Leave and Cleave If He Won’t Leave?

Reader Question: My husband is lazy and won't get a job!When we get married we’re supposed to leave and cleave–but what if your husband won’t leave his mother and father?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Today we’re talking mother-in-law issues:

What do you do when your mother-in-law interferes? She will call the house and if I don’t answer she will call my husband at work and bug him about me not answering…She calls every evening around 7 when my husband is getting home. Most times I don’t even get a hello from him before she calls. Some nights she will keep him on the phone for up to an hour…Almost every Sunday she bugs us about going to church with them and she gets mad if we don’t go to their church. Every time we plan on going out something comes up (usually because of his mom) and we don’t. We have only been out once in the last year for our anniversary. I feel like I never see my husband and when I do his mom is involved. It is very stressful and it is causing a wedge between us. Please help!

Here’s another woman who is frustrated that her husband is still primarily concerned with his mother:

My husband and I have been married for 14 years and have several children. We married quite young and went straight from our parents’ homes to married with a baby on the way. We’ve been through a lot in our marriage, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his tendency to choose his mom over me. If she wants us to do something and I do not want to, we do it. We have talked and argued and battled over this our entire marriage. When he does go along with something, he acts as if it couldn’t be helped. In the past I have tried to get him to go to counseling, but he “doesn’t like the idea”. I realize that this is a power struggle that I am in, but my life and marriage are being controlled by his mother. I am 33 years old, a mother myself, and do not want her dictating our lives. What do I do that is both pleasing to God and putting my foot down?

Leave and Cleave: Handling it when your husband lets your mother-in-law interfere

The Basics: What Does “Leave and Cleave” Mean?

Genesis 2:24 says,

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

When we get married, we leave behind our parents and we join with our spouse, becoming one flesh with them. We are a new unit.

That doesn’t mean that we aren’t to honor our parents; they deserve our love and respect and our help, especially as they age. But our primary allegiance is no longer to them; we’re supposed to identify first and foremost with our spouse.

On a Daughter Getting Engaged: Getting ready for them to leave and cleaveThis summer, after my husband walks our oldest, Rebecca, down the aisle, the minister will ask Keith and me and Connor’s parents if we are prepared to let our children go. I never thought much about that, but as the date draws near the enormity of it is hitting. I have to let Rebecca make her own choices. I can’t interfere. I can’t demand that she update me on what’s going on with school. I can ask, but it really needs to be her choice, and I need to be okay with that.

I hope that she still wants to spend lots of time with us, but ultimately that is her decision, not mine. She and Connor will be the unit, and we won’t be a nuclear family in the same way again.

How Do You Talk About Leave and Cleave?

Usually when leave and cleave in-law issues come up, the conversation with our husbands focuses on the mother.

Let’s imagine the first scenario for a minute:

“Your mom called right as you came in the door again! I feel like I never get to talk to you. Instead of eating dinner with the family you speak all night with her. She is always interfering in our lives and taking you away from us!”

Now, what’s your husband going to think? He now is put in the position of either defending his mother or attacking his mother–neither of which is really comfortable for him.

What’s a better strategy for having this conversation? Offer him two things:

  1. A specific chance to help you
  2. A chance to plan with you

Let’s say the conversation instead looked like this:

“Honey, I feel like we’ve had so little time together lately because your mom has been calling so much. I love your mom and love the fact that you love your mom, but I’m feeling lonely. Can we talk about how to find time to feel more connected?”

Now the issue is no longer his mom–it’s the fact that you have a need that he can fill–and many guys like feeling like Captain America swooping in to save the damsel in distress.

You could also frame a conversation like this:

“I love your mom and so appreciate her role as grandma. I also really love our own nuclear family. Can we talk about what a great relationship with a grandma would look like, and what a great nuclear family would look like?”

Again, no blame is being placed. You’re not attacking his mom and asking him to choose sides. You’re just asking for some ideas. And as you have these conversations, you can say something like this:

“I’d like to write down what we’re saying so that we can refer to it later. What do you think is a reasonable amount of time to spend together with your family in the evenings? How often should an adult check in with their parents if they want to honor their parents? How many weekends a year should a family give their parents, and how many weekends should they take, just them? Can you think of a family that we know with a great relationship with their parents–but also as a nuclear family? How often do they spend with their parents? What makes that relationship great?”

Once you get these parameters written down, you can now refer to them when things get out of hand.

“Honey, I notice that you said you thought it was reasonable to check in with parents every other day for about twenty minutes, but in the last few days you’ve talked to your mom for an hour each day. How do you think we can move our family closer to what we want?”

These are the kinds of conversations that are often more productive. You’re not blaming, you define parameters, you set up goals which you you can easily see whether you’ve met or not, and you have something tangible to come back to if things don’t work.

Who is Responsible for Leaving?

It’s important that parents let their children go, but ultimately the child must decide to leave. And you can’t make that decision for your spouse. If your mother-in-law is taking a lot of your husband’s time, you can certainly talk to her. But your husband must be the one to set the parameters.

How Can You Build a Life with Your In-Laws?

It’s easier for him to set those parameters if you make an effort to love your mother-in-law and make your own relationship with her. If your husband feels as if he always must choose between two women who don’t like each other, you put him in a difficult position.

Romans 12:18 says,

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Do what you can to have a great relationship with your mother-in-law. Sometimes that won’t be possible, but try. Ask for recipes. Ask for her to teach you something. Ask if you can join a hobby with her, or take her shopping. Go get your nails done together on a regular basis.

If you can find a way to relate to your mother-in-law that does not involve your husband, you go so far in making it easier for your husband to leave.

I’m about to be a mother-in-law, and I’m starting to have some sympathy for the mother-in-law in these relationships. Here’s the thing: I believe that mothers-in-law often become interfering because they are desperately afraid of losing their child. And so you try to make sure that your son still loves you as his mom. You want to still feel special.

I know that I won’t worry about losing my daughter if Connor takes some time to get to know us individually. And that’s why we were so happy when he agreed to go on a father-son canoe trip coming up with my husband! If we feel as if our son-in-law loves us as individuals, and not just because he’s married to our daughter, then we won’t be nearly as concerned with our daughter proving her loyalty. And I’ve been so proud to watch how Rebecca is trying to reach out to her future mother-in-law, and put her at ease that she won’t take her son away from her. She gets it.

So reach to your mother-in-law. It may not take much–but if she knows you’re an ally, not a rival, then she may have an easier time letting go of her son.

Dayspring Serenity Prayer

What if Your Husband Never Chooses to Leave and Cleave?

What if you’ve done all of this and your husband is still at her beck and call?

Can you move away? I’ve known several marriages that have broken up that I’ve always felt would have survived if they had just moved away from her parents (in those cases it was SHE who wasn’t leaving, not HE).

If that’s not possible, you have two choices:

  1. Grow bitter about it and make his life miserable
  2. Decide to let it go and love your husband

I know that everyone would be better off if your husband learned to leave and cleave. But you can’t make him. You can seek out a mentor couple; you can ask for all of you to sit down with a counselor; you can even go to your pastor. But if things don’t change, what are you going to do?

I wrote a post a while ago about changing our attitudes when there’s one big area where your husband disappoints you–and you have to learn to accept it, and find ways to make your own life happy and peaceful anyway.

If you know that your husband is going to talk to his mom every night at 7 for an hour, then can you find something you do at 7 that you enjoy, so you’re not disappointed and stewing every evening? If you know that your mother-in-law is going to want your husband to help her with errands this Saturday, can you plan something fun for you and the kids so that you don’t end up making him feel guilty?

BoundariesAnd if your mother-in-law wants you all to come do something with her, it’s quite okay on occasion to say, “I really need a weekend just with the kids. I’d love for you to join us, but if you feel you must go with your mother, feel free. But I think I’ll keep the kids here with me this weekend.” You don’t need to go along with everything; you can set boundaries yourself.

Keep expressing your feelings, as we talked about above, but ultimately you’re letting go and you’re letting your husband make his own decisions. Sometimes in that letting go he feels freed to look at the situation more objectively, because it’s not so emotional. He may decide that you look like you’re having a lot more fun without him–and he wants to join you! But even if he doesn’t, at least you’re not as miserable anymore.

Now it’s your turn: Let me know in the comments, have you ever had to set boundaries around in-laws? Or are you an in-law yourself and you’ve had to watch how you treat your adult children? Tell us any tips you have!

Why One Size Fits All Advice Doesn’t Work

Marriage Advice: God cares about us looking more and more like Him far more than He cares about rules. So be careful of black and white advice, even about submission and respect.

The problem with giving marriage advice is that I can always think of about a million different exceptions where the advice may not apply.

There’s rarely a one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to relationships.

In fact, I think that’s why Jesus told stories so much–so that we could glean the principle, not just the law.

Let me give you an example.

Good Girls Guide My SiteWithholding sex is wrong. Sex is an integral part of marriage, and we should not deprive our spouses. I’m quite adamant about that; I have a whole chapter in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex about why it’s so important to make regular and frequent in  marriage, even if we don’t always feel loved or don’t always want it.

But, as I pointed out last week, that piece of advice, while generally true, isn’t always true. If your husband has just been watching porn, or is all aroused because of watching some heavily sex saturated TV show, having sex with him right then enables sin. Saying, “I will not have sex with you after you have looked at other naked women” is a perfectly legitimate boundary that supports the sanctity of marriage and does not enable sin. After all, as Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (NIV)

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThis was my basic issue when writing my new book that’s coming out this summer, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. Too often the Christian advice that we’re given can actually hurt, rather than help, our relationships if we lose sight of the broader principle behind it.

And what is the broader principle that God wants for us?

I’d say  God wants  these two primary things: It’s not His will that any should perish, so He wants all to come to know Him, (2 Peter 3:9), and He wants us to be transformed into the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

He wants us to come to salvation, and then He wants us to be sanctified and made to look like Christ.

Those are God’s goals for us–the ENDS, as it were. And the means, the way we get there, are all of the teachings that we’re given in Scripture. But those teachings are not ends, in and of themselves, and too often we confuse them.

For instance, one of the means that God gives us for achieving the ends (growing like Christ) is to submit to our husbands and respect our husbands. But are there times when these MEANS would actually achieve a different END than God wants? Absolutely.

In the story of Ananias and Sapphira that we find in Acts 5, that couple owned a piece of land that they sold, and then they brought part of the proceeds to the apostles to go towards helping in the work of the church. So far so good. But they decided to tell the apostles that the money they gave was ALL the money they got. They wanted to look better than they were.

Ananias came in first, lied, and God struck him down. Sapphira came in afterwards, and Peter gave her an opportunity to make things right (she did not know Ananias was dead). He gave her the opportunity, in other words, to be unsubmissive–to disagree with her husband. She didn’t take it, and she was struck dead (Larry Crabb would argue that doing what God wants instead of following your husband into sin IS being submissive, not unsubmissive, and I agree with him. But that’s a bigger point for another post).

When I bring up that story, I get people arguing that it doesn’t show that you can go against your husband, because it could be that Sapphira was actually the instigator. But it makes no difference whether she plotted the whole thing (was the instigator), planned it with him (was equal), or just went along (was lesser). Peter gave her a chance to do the right thing apart from her husband and she did not take it, showing us, and wives forevermore, that God does not want us to participate in sin with our husbands. When sin is involved, we are to stand separately.

And what about the story of Abigail and Nabal from 1 Samuel 25? Nabal had put his family in danger because he had not compensated David and his men for the help they had given him. And Abigail intervened, apart from her husband’s wishes, to save the family. When your husband is dangerous and unreliable, you do the right thing. You don’t follow him to disaster.

Too often we preach the rule and forget these ends–that God wants us to look more and more like Him.

For instance, I received this letter recently:

My husband and I lost our house five years ago when my husband lost his job. We’ve been moving from house to house, staying with relatives, until we get kicked out. And we always get kicked cause my husband refuses to look for a job. He’s qualified for a bunch of jobs (he’s even been offered some), but he always says something better is coming. We have two small children, and I’m working part-time, but it won’t pay the bills. My husband spends all of his time on the computer looking up new jobs and how to start his own business, but he doesn’t actually do anything. I know my sister is getting sick of us living in her basement, but I don’t know what to do. I’m trying so hard to respect my husband? I encourage him and tell him he’s awesome and that I’m so proud of him, but I’m so angry right now.  He refuses to get a job, and I need him to. I know I need to respect him, but it’s just so hard.

The real issue here is that her husband is not acting responsibly, and he needs to step up to the plate. By framing the issue as respect, she’s missing the boat. And unfortunately, far too often in Christian circles if women are having issues in their marriage they are told that the only answers are to be more submissive and to respect more–which assumes that the problem is caused in the first place because they aren’t more submissive. “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

And I have often heard wives told to submit as if submission is the ENDS–that what God wants, more than all of us looking like Christ, is to have the right order in relationship.

Should we respect our husbands? Of course! But let’s not forget that the ENDS matter more than the MEANS.

That’s what Jesus said in the stories found in Mark 2 and Mark 3. In Mark 2 the disciples were hungry, so they were picking grain on the sabbath. The Pharisees criticized them since this was unlawful. But Jesus points out that David did something unlawful, too, when his companions were hungry. He concludes in Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” And then Mark 3 opens with a story about Jesus healing on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees were so focused on the rule–keeping the sabbath–that they forgot the principle–God wants our best.

And in your marriage, God wants your best–which includes both of you looking more and more like Him.

That’s why it’s not about rules. It’s about aiming for God’s best for you and your husband. Let me give you two quotes from our books from The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in January. Gary Thomas, in A Lifelong Love, says this:

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?For instance, in a real-life scenario, a wife told me that her husband said, “Quit throwing away my pornography. I need it. If you throw away my pornography, I’m throwing away your Bible.”

Her desire is that her husband not keep a stash of pornography. That’s what she wants. But it’s also what will most bless her husband. So she doesn’t give way and allow him to maintain a separate sexual life apart from their intimacy. Sh blesses him by saying, “No, I won’t stand for this.” Sometimes what we want can also be a blessing to our spouses, even if they don’t want it. To bless other people is to seek their ultimate good, and their ultimate good is what draws them to God.

And John and Staci Eldredge, in Love & War, say this:

Love and War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage[Staci speaking]: For years I think we both thought that to overlook your spouse’s issues was the most loving thing to do…By all means, we overlook their little quirks; we even overlook the ways they wound us, if by overlook we mean we forgive them. But this doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to issues that will eventually harm them, or the marriage, or the children. God doesn’t.

It is not love to ignore your spouse’s sin, or brokenness, or immaturity. It is not love to let something wrong carry on. It is not right. Truth be told, it is a lack of love that lets it all go on for years. When you let your own fears keep you from bringing something up with your spouse, that is self-protection. Or indifference. God loves until what he loves is pure.

We work for our spouse’s ultimate good. That is the ends.

But that’s murky, isn’t it? We’d rather have a black and white assurance of what w should do. But isn’t murky God’s modus operandi? Jesus dies and rises from the dead, and the only method He left of telling the world about it is a motley crew of fallible disciples, guided by the Holy Spirit.

That’s how God works–we have to walk by the Spirit! That makes us pray, and listen to God, and stay close to Him. And He’s also given us mentors in the church to ask. And if that doesn’t work, and there’s still a big issue in your marriage, there’s also taking it before the church leadership (Matthew 18).

There is no one size fits all advice, because we’re all different.

But we all have the Holy Spirit, and our church community, and hopefully mentors.

And so, whenever you read a piece of marriage advice, put it through this lens:

Will acting in the suggested way make me grow more like Jesus, or make me look less like Him? Will acting like this make my husband look more like Jesus, or less like Him? What should I do right now to encourage all of us to look and act more and more like Jesus?

That’s what it’s about, people. It’s about being Christlike. So go deeper with God and with His word. And then love and respect in integrity, truth, and grace.

 

Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

I get a lot of reader’s questions like this one:

I found out about my husband of 5 years had been addicted to porn and caught him by innocently searching through his photos on his phone while nursing my son in bed one morning.  I regularly asked to use his phone, so my looking through it was nothing unusual at all. The difference this time is he forgot to hide his stuff apparently this time. We have had MANY hard conversations since then. He’s been getting help, hasn’t looked at it since July (when I caught him) and has been genuinely turning his life around and back to the Lord.  Here’s my issue.  I still don’t trust him yet. I’ve forgiven him but trusting him again is something that takes a lot of work and time. We aren’t at that point yet. Is it possible to respect him without trust?  I do try but he doesn’t feel it anymore. I know it’s incredibly important to show respect and even biblical. I guess maybe I don’t know what respect truly is? I’m being the best I know how to be while feeling so broken but it doesn’t seem enough. Please help, I’m so confused.

And here is one woman’s answer to rebuilding trust after a porn addiction…welcome Jen Ferguson from Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood

I was in my bed sobbing uncontrollably.  The revelation hit me in the gut and never have I felt so alone as I did in that moment. The reality of my life hit me: I cannot trust anyone not to let me down.

Thankfully, with the new morning came new light into my darkness: No one is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes, including me. People will fail me, but this does not make all relationships destined for failure.

That wisdom right there seemed to right my sinking ship. Suddenly, I had gone from shipwrecked to being fortified with a grace I hadn’t known I was withholding from people in my life, primarily from my husband. For years we had battled together against his porn addictionNever did I consider divorce, but looking back at it, never did I consider living into the fullness of marriage again, either. For years I could not bear to think about trusting Craig again.

Could I ever stop my suspicions he would one day return to porn?  Would I ever be able to talk to him about his addiction without accusation and fear?  The truth was, I could give him my body in the bedroom, but could I ever truly again give him my heart?

Realizing my own fallibilities was the first step in helping me to rebuild trust in my husband. How many times had I hurt him over and over in the same manner?  I was not a white lamb in this relationship. My blemishes, though different than his, were still sins for which I needed forgiveness and grace. It was me that was placing his sin on a grander scale than my own. This was certainly not how God saw it.  Sin is sin.

Rebuilding trust was a dual effort for us. Yes, he had betrayed me by using pornography and needed to show me that he was actively pursing a life without it. But, truthfully, I had lost some of his trust, too. When I first discovered his porn addiction, I went into “control” mode. I watched over his every move. I accused him before listening to him. I became a parent instead of a spouse. I let my anger rule my words.  We both had to come to a place of acknowledging our own needs for forgiveness and recognize our marriage wouldn’t thrive without a foundation of trust.

Four Steps to Go from Ruin to Reunion

1. He communicates with me and I listen.

One of Craig’s major triggers that would propel him into his porn addiction cycle was stress.  When things felt too hard or too much, when he felt as though he was at risk for failing or rejection, he would shut me out and get lost in the world of porn for release and escape.  Before he really became invested in freedom, I would ask him questions, knowing something was wrong, and he would simply give me a pat answer like “things are busy at work.”  Now, he knows I know when something is bothering him and he is willing to sit down with me and be real and honest with what is happening and how he is responding to those situations.

2.  I respond with wisdom and he listens. 

One day, Craig’s friend invited him over to watch the TV show, Game of Thrones. I happened to see part of one episode the previous season and I knew there was nudity in it.  When I saw the invitation on Craig’s computer, my first reaction (that thankfully, I kept in my head) was “No! You can’t do that! It’s not good for you!”  If I had said that, I would have regressed back into my fear-based, parenting-like behavior, where he felt disrespected.  Instead, I simply told him how I thought the show might trigger him back into porn and asked him to pray about whether or not he should view the show. He ended up not going, not because I demanded him to stay home, but because God led him to the conclusion that watching nudity on TV would not be conducive to his walk toward freedom. He felt respected by the fact that I asked him to fully consider the ramifications and seek God instead of shouting at him about what he should or shouldn’t do.

3.  He accepts accountability.

I know the password to all of Craig’s electronic devices and have permission at any time to view anything on them. There is a password on our cable account that restricts adult entertainment access and MA-rated television shows and movies that only I have (which he asked me to put on). He has a regular group of friends he can count on to pray for him and from whom he seeks counsel. All of these things give me tangible ways to see that he is trying to keep himself safe from things that could easily ensnare him.

4. We forgive each other continually.

We must make it a practice to forgive and extend grace. We will both mess up in a variety of ways, but instead of using these mistakes as ammunition against each other to try to prove that we are not trustworthy, we choose to use them so to practice the character of Jesus, who always extends forgiveness.

Rebuilding trust does not happen overnight and it can feel like an impossible goal, but with God, anything is possible. Trust is a crucial piece to your marriage and it will not thrive without it. God knows this and He will actively help you rebuild it. You’re not in it alone.

 

Jen FergusonJen Ferguson is passionate about Jesus, her husband, and her two girls. She is the facilitator of The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood and loves to encourage women to bring their true selves out into the light.  She is the co-author of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.  

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Have some marriage advice? Leave a comment, or link up a URL of your own Wifey Wednesday marriage post in the linky below!

This Wifey Wednesday we talk about how to rebuild when he’s the one who has sinned sexually. Next Wednesday we’ll look at how to rebuild trust when it’s been you–especially if you’ve been withholding sex, and now you want to change but your husband doesn’t trust you yet.



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How to Ask for What You Want–Just Say It!

How to ask for what you want--especially in marriage

Most of the questions I get on this blog are something like this: “My husband is doing X wrong, and I don’t know what to do about it. How can I get him to act differently?” Maybe it’s that she caught him using porn, and she has taken screenshots and saved them and done everything except talk to him about it.

Or he doesn’t understand that foreplay is important and she finds sex unsatisfying.

Or when he comes to bed he’s stinky and that makes her not want to make love.

Or he needs to lose weight but she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, so how does she show him?

There Is No Magic Bullet When You Need to Ask for Help

They want to know–what can I do to make my husband see this issue from my perspective?

And they want to know specific actions they can take that can win him over to their point of view. There must be something they’re just doing wrong if he doesn’t understand something so obvious, right? So how can she change what she’s doing, or hint, or let him understand what’s wrong?

How to Ask For What You Want

And when you probe, you often find that the real issue is that she’s never talked to him about it. She’s stewed about it and she’s beaten around the bush and she’s tried everything in her mind but it hasn’t worked. But what she’s never done is just asked for what she wants openly and honestly.

In my upcoming book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I share some wisdom that you my readers gave me on my Facebook Page. I asked a while back, “did you ever get annoyed at your husband for something, but then realized that you’d never actually asked him to help?”

Some of my readers shared their stories. Lynn said,

Early in our marriage, I hinted several times that it would be nice if the clean dishes got put away. Finally I got mad at my husband and we argued about it. He told me, “Just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it.” I thought it was too rude to order him around, but that’s the way he wanted. Then we were visiting his mom, and she was hinting at something he should do. When she left the room, I told him, “Your mom wants you to do this.” He balked and said, “No way. I lived with my mom much longer than you, and I’d know.” When she came back, he asked her straight out and she said, “Yes, of course. What took you so long?”

I thought it was too rude to order him around. We often don’t ask because we fear it’s demeaning, and yet most men would far rather be asked than hinted at. In asking directly we treat our husbands like grown-ups. They can choose to refuse, but at least they know what we want. Hinting is like asking them to read minds, which is disrespectful.

That idea of having to ask for help, though, grated on my reader Lindsey. “I shouldn’t have to ask!” she told herself. “He can see the mess!” Then one day during an argument, her husband grew quiet and said, “Baby, I just don’t see the mess the way you do. I’m just not as good as you are at juggling the house, chores, and bills. I don’t multitask like you do. I’m sorry.” Ever since then, Lindsey has learned to ask—and not to ask for a thousand things at once either!

So try asking–up front. Even if it’s hard. Even if it has to do with sex. Even if it’s something we’re uncomfortable talking about.

We Need to Be Honest

A committee I’ve been on recently can be roughly divided into three factions: The Group A Faction, the Group B faction, and the faction that doesn’t really get what’s going on and doesn’t really care. The Group B faction has always done things a certain way, but the Group A faction now has more power and wants to change things. So here’s the question: Can we change things in a way that doesn’t actually require confrontation with Group B? Is there a way that we can just enact new rules without Group B realizing what we’re doing or realizing why we’re doing it? Because we just don’t want all the messiness.

Sometimes you need messiness. By trying to avoid saying something outright you often cause more problems. In politics, the issue is not the sin but the coverup. In real life it’s true too–the issue is not the sin, but how far we go trying to avoid talking about something and dealing with it. If we had just said something in the beginning, even though it’s awkward, we would have been better off.

Interestingly, I think secular circles are better at this than Christian circles. In the work world people often confront openly and immediately because you have to. In Christian circles we’re too interested in being nice–and in so doing we often sacrifice honesty and forthrightness. We end up looking manipulative or secretive, even if that wasn’t our intention.

Manipulation To Get What You Want Doesn’t Work

Doing something with the express purpose of getting someone to change is manipulative. It is better just to ask.

But wait–aren’t we supposed to be nice to people? And if we’re nice to people, aren’t they more likely to be nice to us?

Absolutely. But your motives matter here. If you are being nice simply because you want them to be nice back, then you’re being manipulative and you’re likely going to be very disappointed. But if you’re acting in a loving way because it’s the right thing to do, then your heart is now in the right place. You’re more emotionally ready to deal with problems. You’re building a friendship so that you have a foundation of goodwill in your relationship, and that does make it easier to tackle problems. But that’s not the reason you’re doing it.

Not Everything is a Nail–It Can’t Be Solved by Being Nice

But there’s a caveat to all of this. You’ve heard the expression, “when everything looks like a nail, the hammer is only the tool you use?” Well, I think often in Christian circles we think that the answer to everything is just to be nicer.

I received an email this morning, for instance, by a woman whose brother-in-law is verbally abusive to his wife in public. They are living under the same roof but they are separated, and he is threatening a divorce. He is mean, he is angry, he insults the whole family, and everybody in their church knows it. But the woman says,

I love on and encourage my SIL as best as I can. When I am around my BIL I try to be loving and kind to him too. But it’s getting to the point that I feel he is emotionally (maybe even verbally) abusing her and it needs to stop.

So he is being verbally abusive, and they are trying to deal with it by loving on him and being kind to him. If we’re loving and kind, he will change, right?

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeNope. Being nicer to someone who is mean and manipulative just enables them and encourages them to do it more. They feed off of that. Many marriage problems need you to be nicer and more giving, but many do not. In this case, what this woman needs to do is stand  up to her husband and say, “I see that you are angry, and I’d be happy to talk to you when you’re calmed down. But I will not stay in a room with you while you say horrible things to me–” and then get up and leave. And the sister-in-law and rest of the family need to say to him, “You are being completely inappropriate and it will not be tolerated.” Treat him like an adult bully and call him on it.

What I have seen lately is that the vast majority of interpersonal problems, whether they’re in marriage, in the family, or at work, really need an open, honest, and hard conversation. But that’s often the last thing we want to do, because dealing with conflict openly seems so scary. Instead, we search for ways to get around it and beat around the bush and manipulate, and that usually makes things worse.

So take a deep breath, pray, and then open up your mouth. That’s often the only real solution anyway.

Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Watches Nudity on TV

My husband watches nudity on TV--like Game of Thrones--what do I do? Some thoughts.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I thought I’d tackle a subject I get asked about a lot: what about nudity on TV? What do you do if your husband watches Game of Thrones–or something like that?

About a decade ago now my husband and I decided to start watching the HBO series Rome. Keith’s really into ancient history, and we heard that the series did a great job recreating what life would have been like. We watched the first episode and there was a LOT of sex and nudity. We fast forwarded through all those scenes.

By the second episode we realized we were fast forwarding a good half of the show. And the plotlines were really gross–a mom trying to “sell” her daughter to a man to be his wife; a 13-year-old being sold into sex slavery (and the actress looked 13, too). We just thought it was too gross and we never made it to episode 3.

What do you do, though, if your husband doesn’t share your views on this? One reader recently wrote me saying:

My husband is an avid TV watcher. He loves catching up on his shows and looks at his TV time as his “me” time. The TV itself, however, isn’t the problem. He doesn’t spend too much time watching TV and he doesn’t neglect his responsibilities or our family to do it. The problem that I am having with the TV shows right now is the content – specifically the graphic nudity that is in a good portion of the shows he is watching.

The thought of my husband seeing another woman naked makes me feel sick. He claims that when a naked woman comes on screen, he immediately looks away. While I am inclined to believe him, I’m still not comfortable with him seeing anyone other than me naked at all! This fight has become bitter and has permeated into our whole marriage, because he feels like I am trying to control him, and I feel like he is completely disregarding my feelings when he engages in these TV shows.

I guess my question is, what is the line when it comes to the things that we view on TV or in movies? Am I overreacting about the nudity, as long as he is not “lusting” after the naked woman? Should he respect my feelings and stop watching the shows, or should I stop being angry every time he watches them?

So let’s look at how to handle disagreements about what is okay to watch.

1. Pray that God will convict him that watching nudity is wrong

I asked on my Facebook Page yesterday what people thought that she should do, and the number one answer was “pray”. Pray that God will convict him and show him it is wrong, and I do totally agree. When God convicts, it’s so much easier to quit. I read books and watched shows when I was younger that I never would now because my conscience wasn’t as sensitive. Pray that God will show him.

And give this some time–perhaps a few weeks–while you pray about how to react and how to prepare your own heart so you’re acting for his good and for the good of the marriage, not just out of anger.

I’ve been going through an odyssey with prayer lately in my own life, and let me tell you–when you decide to pray wholeheartedly for something, it is amazing how often things happen! What if your husband is in a spiritual battle, and he needs you to fight on his behalf for a time? Really take some time and pray hard! You may find that the problem goes away, and you’ll learn a lot more about prayer in the process.

2. Don’t tolerate your husband watching graphic nudity

At the same time, though, we aren’t to tolerate sin. And tolerating sin when it is damaging to the person isn’t helping them; it’s hurting them. If you see someone about to walk off a cliff, and you do nothing, you’re hurting them. Give prayer a chance to change his heart and yours, but maybe YOU are the vehicle God wants to use to convict your husband. That’s part of what being his help meet is–you’re to help him!

One woman wrote this on Facebook:

Game of Thrones, Spartacus, and shows similar aren’t just sinful for their blantant sex and nudity, but for rape, incest, prostitution, possible pedophilia, disregard and disrespect towards women, completely ungodly themes, extreme unnecessary violence, etc. If he was haunting a porn site we wouldn’t be telling her not to nag and asking her to examine how she feels. This stuff IS porn and more.  It is from the pits of hell and she has every right to extract it from her home or pray that God does. She can’t stop him from watching it, but she can insist it does NOT belong in their home. Tell him to find another way to decompress.

I completely agree. Some things are borderline, but there are some sins that are extremely blatant. Many of these shows are pornographic–and even the parts that don’t show nudity show things that are sinful and awful. There is no reason to watch it, and it is wrong, and it should not be in your home, period.

3. But I Don’t Want to Nag!

And here’s the crux of the issue. This woman has already made it an issue with her husband. She has told him she doesn’t want him watching it, he says that he does, and they go round and round and never resolve anything.

So let’s look first at other ways to talk about it.

Focus the conversation on your reaction to the show, not on whether he should be watching it

If you focus the conversation around “it’s pornography and you shouldn’t be watching it”, then you’ll get into an argument about whether or not it really qualifies, and you can’t win that.

Instead, talk about the real issue, which is this: “I feel disrespected and humiliated when you watch that, and I don’t know why you want to do something which makes me feel disrespected and humiliated. When you watch that, I feel sad. I feel ugly. I feel like you don’t care about me and don’t really love me. I understand that you enjoy it, but if I enjoyed something that hurt you this much I would never do it. The fact that you don’t care about how it makes me feel hurts me in the extreme. Do you think that it is appropriate for you to do something which hurts me like this?”

He needs to understand what he is doing to you. Often refocusing the conversation around feelings rather than sin is more productive. He can’t debate how you feel; that is a fact. And you don’t need to be angry when you share it, either. You’re sad, you’re sharing your feelings because you want him to understand how serious it is.

4. Set Clear Boundaries Around Nudity on TV

As another Facebook commenter said (who also happens to be a real life friend), “break the TV!”

I think she has a point.

Jesus says that if an eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out. If a hand causes us to sin we should cut it off. If a TV is causing you to sin, then, it makes sense to get rid of the TV.

But you don’t HAVE to do that. There are other things that one can do as well. But I think too often we, as wives, think that because we’re women and we’re married for life if we disagree on something there is really nothing we can do but live with it. Not true at all. Whatever you tolerate will continue.

Whatever you tolerate will continue. #marriagetip

We can choose not to tolerate many things without divorcing our husbands or even disrespecting our husbands.

You can say something like, “I understand that you want to watch these shows, and should you choose to watch them, I will be extremely hurt, but I will understand. I will ask, however, that you do not do so inside our home. If you are going to be disrespectful towards me, I would ask that you do it somewhere else.”

That is not being disrespectful towards him. You are honoring his right to make his choices, but you are also acknowledging that you have the right to make choices.

You can talk about getting rid of the TV, or you can talk about removing yourself (and perhaps the children) from the premises when he chooses to watch these shows.

Alternatively, you can say, “On the nights that you watch those shows, I would ask that you also sleep separately from me. It hurts me to be near to you when you have treated me this way, and when you are close to me afterwards, I have no way of knowing if you are thinking about me or thinking about the person on the screen. I love sleeping next to you and I want to sleep next to you always, but I can’t sleep when you are doing something like this.”

Then you stop talking about it and you just start doing. You’re not nagging. He’s made his choice, and you’ve made yours. On the nights that he doesn’t watch TV, be nice to him! Be giving to him! Have a great time together and don’t punish him for it.

You’re not controlling him–he can choose to do what he wants to do. But you also can choose to do what you want to do, and his actions will have consequences for your actions.

Which approach should you take? I have no idea. It really depends on you, your marriage, and your personalities. But this idea that all we can do is tell him, “I really don’t like it when you do that”, and then we should keep our mouths shut, is not scriptural.

In Matthew 18, we’re told what to do if someone sins against us. We go to them first. If that doesn’t work, we go to one or two others and ask them to help intervene for us. And if that doesn’t work, we go to the whole church. What we don’t do is just tolerate it.

I’ve written before that this applies to marriage as well–we’re to be wives, not enablers. When you do nothing, you enable sin.

What General Principles can we take from this conundrum of a husband watching nudity about resolving conflict?

Here are a few quick things:

1. Focus on your feelings, rather than the infraction.

2. Leave some time for God to convict.

3. If the problem persists, change your own behaviour.

4. If the problem still persists, bring in a mentor couple or a pastor.

The problem I have with a lot of marriage advice is that it stops at #2. And then people are stuck just feeling like they’re nagging and not getting anywhere.

I wonder how many divorces could have been avoided if people used good conflict resolution early and stopped tolerating things that are wrong?

We start tolerating little things, these little things escalate, and soon we have a huge problem.

Boundaries in MarriageYou don’t have to make things into World War III, but some things just need to be done for the good of the marriage, and for the good of your husband’s soul. Not everything is that big a deal, of course, but some things are. And the principle here isn’t just that the husband is watching nudity; it’s the fact that he’s choosing to hurt her terribly. That can’t be tolerated, either.

I know what I’m saying is controversial, but I’m also trying to be helpful. If you want more information on how to deal with problems like this calmly and properly, I’d really recommend the book Boundaries in Marriage or The Emotionally Healthy Woman.

Now, let me know (and let me have it, since I know many will disagree with me), what do you do if your husband is doing something that is endangering his spiritual life and the marriage?

Quick Marriage Advice from John and Stasi Eldredge

Have you joined my Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for 2015 yet? I hope you have! You just commit to reading one book a month that will enhance your marriage–and each month is a different topic, so it doesn’t get boring!

February Books for The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge

This month we’re looking at spicing things up, and tomorrow I’ll be sharing about The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex.

Love and War: Find Your Way to Something Beautiful in Your Marriage

But last month we looked at building the foundation, using a number of different books, including Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge. I gave you all the opportunity in January to write out some questions that you wanted our authors to give quick answers to, and John and Stasi obliged! Here they’re sharing some quick marriage advice:

1. What is the most important thing a wife can do to bless her husband?

“I believe in you.” Those are the magic words, expressed in a thousand ways. A man yearns to know that his life matters; he yearns to know that he has what it takes. He wants his opinions to matter. He wants his words to matter. So every way you can express to him, “I believe in you,” you are pouring blessing into his heart (and romance into the marriage). Certainly, say it to him: “Honey, I believe in you. You’re doing such a great job.” But also “say” it with your actions: ask his opinion on things (and respect it when he gives it). When he makes a decision, don’t undermine him by going and doing the opposite. “I believe in you” is the greatest gift a wife can give her man.

2. If we’re part of a bigger picture of what God is doing in the world, how do you live that out if your husband isn’t a believer?

Choose something to invest in that you know your husband will understand and respect. Perhaps it is tutoring underprivileged kids; perhaps it is volunteering at the hospital. If you invest all your “ministry” time into something that is utterly strange or bizarre to him (like worship gatherings, or prophetic meetings) he won’t “connect the dots” and see that God is relevant, God cares about the things he cares about. We aren’t not saying don’t pursue your spiritual life; please do. But he needs to see that christianity is not “pie in the sky” weirdness. You can show him by being excited about fighting for justice, or getting children out of the sex trade.

3. You spoke about how it’s not loving to ignore a spouse’s sin or brokenness. But how do you know when to stand your ground with your spouse and when to let it go?

You are friends with the most brilliant person in the universe–ask him! We’re serious. Ask Jesus for his counsel when to bring things up and when not to. This one decision has rescued our marriage a thousand times. You know how it goes–you want to bring something up (or stand your ground) but when you do it blows up. Jesus knows the better timing. Ask him–and be willing to wait when he tells you to wait, and to act when he says act!

4. On a practical note, how do you carve out time for you and your spouse if your kids are now teenagers and are up later than you are?

Actually we found the teenage years to be the season that began to open up time for us together, because the boys wanted to be with their friends far more than they wanted to stay home with mom and dad. When they were at home, and we weren’t doing something together as a family, we would sometimes go into our bedroom and close the door. You might have to be as direct as to say, “Mom and Dad need some time right now to talk through some things.” But the bedroom was always a safe bet because teenagers shudder at the thought of mom and dad “doing” anything intimate; they wouldn’t interrupt if the house was on fire!

Great marriage advice, John and Stasi! Thank you!

I wanted to share today another journey I’ve been on thanks to reading Love & War, and part of what stuck with me.

John and Stasi write that marriage is supposed to be a picture of both love and war–the love that God has for us, but also the great battle that He is waging to win the world.

And we’re to fight that battle alongside our spouse, for God and with God. That’s the grand adventure that marriage is! It’s not just staring into each other’s eyes; it’s actually feeling a purpose of being part of what God is doing to bring His kingdom on earth.

They write:

Our love is meant to be both a picture of his love and his fight…

Your marriage is part of a larger story, too, a story as romantic as any that has ever stirred your heart, and at least as dangerous…

Do you get how cool that is?

Together, you and your husband can be dangerous.

I want a marriage so great that we can be dangerous to the devil

I’ve been on an odyssey with prayer over the last month–something that I’ve never experienced before. I have heard other people talk about having a burden to pray, and starting to pray and then not being able to stop until the burden is lifted. But I’ve never experienced that,  until very recently about something in my family (don’t worry; we’re all fine. No one’s sick or in danger or anything).

I’ve had a weird relationship with prayer ever since my son was born and died. We prayed for him to be healed, and he wasn’t, though I was honestly okay with that. I knew that God had other purposes, and I can see how God is using Christopher’s story (I shared it even last week in Texas, and it touched many).

But since then I’ve been wracked with the question: does God really change what He is going to do if we pray? Is there really a point to prayer? If we hedge all our bets when we pray with “If it is your will…”, then is it really useful?

I’ve read a book by C.S. Lewis lately called Letters from Malcolm that has helped a lot, but ever since I’ve had this burden I’ve been praying hard–and amazing things are happening. It’s been so encouraging to see that God answers prayer in my personal life. I’ve seen it so much in my professional life, but not as much personally.

And all of this has committed me to three things:

1. We do have to battle in prayer.

There are times when God wants to act, but He asks for our prayers to do so. And I think we do need to pray for very specific things. I’ve found lately the more specific I am the easier it is to see prayers answered.

2. I am praying that God will make Keith and me dangerous in tandem.

So much of the last few years we have gone in different directions with work and ministry. It’s HARD. He’s been in one place and I’ve been in another. But over the next few years we’re re-evaluating and looking at how we can do things together. I’m excited!

3. As I pray for my girls’ relationships (now and in the future), I am praying that they will be part of the battle.

It is not enough to pray that they will find someone to love them and that they can love in return; I’m praying that they will marry someone with whom they can be DANGEROUS with together.

Yesterday and today I’m in Ottawa wedding dress shopping with my oldest daughter, and I am praying hard that God will make them both dangerous together.

And Katie, who is not currently in a relationship–I am praying that she will only be drawn to men who are seeking first after God’s heart. And I am praying that God will lead her to a man that she can fight this grand battle with together–not just that she will have a comfortable life. What’s the fun in that?

So that is what I have taken away from John and Stasi–I want to be dangerous! And I thank them both for answering our questions.

In the meantime, you may be interested in my daughter Katie’s first video in her series: “Katie, the Relationship Guru Who Has Never Been in a Relationship.” It’s pretty funny (and wise!) I know she’d appreciate it if you shared it:

Now–let me ask you for questions for this month’s featured author, Shannon Ethridge, whose book The Passion Principles I’ll review later in February. Have any specific marriage advice or questions you’d like her to answer? Leave it in the comments below!

How I Win Every Argument with My Spouse

Today we welcome Daniel Robertson from God’s Help for Marriage, as he shares about how to win every argument with your spouse–the answer is so good, you BOTH actually win!

How I Win Every Argument with my SpouseThis past summer I was working a temp job at the local county fair. One day, before my shift started, I took my wife and kids (and mother-in-law) to the fair for some family fun. But this trip ended in an epic argument between me and my wife. One of the worst we’ve ever had in 7 years of marriage.

I’ll also share how we overcame this argument, and the secret to winning every argument with your spouse. This secret is so powerful that not only will you win, but so will your spouse.

We were having a great time at the fair. The kids loved the Ferris Wheel. I think I took each of them on it twice, even though I don’t like heights. But what they loved even more was the dance floor, where they were playing country music and a bunch of kids were goofing off and dancing in a way that only little kids can do. They spent quite a bit of time there dancing around.

In fact, I was starting to get antsy because I wanted to show them more of the fair, and it was getting closer to the start of my work shift. I also wanted to help my wife get the kids in the car before my shift started. I hinted at my wife a few times that I wanted to go do something else, but she didn’t take these hints.

Sidenote: Hinting is not a great form of communication. I’m learning to be more direct with my requests.

After a few of these hints, I was really starting to get frustrated. I also knew that my 3 year old son was likely to throw a temper tantrum if and when I did try to get him to leave. I figured it would be better to get him away from the crowd to throw his tantrum, so I swooshed in and grabbed him. I pulled him away, with him kicking and screaming the whole time.

All of this happened without communicating with my wife about what I was planning. Huge mistake.

She was furious, and embarrassed to be seen with me after that. I looked like the mean daddy, who dragged his kid away from his fun. I thought I was the hero, who was taking charge and preventing a very public 3-year-old tantrum.

Sensing my wife’s fury, I knew it was time to end the fair date. I helped her get the kids into the car, and then tried to make amends with my wife. I explained why I did that, and she explained why I was wrong in what I did. I reached out to hug her and told her I loved her. She pushed me away and said something like “I hate you” or “I don’t love you”–with more vehemence than I could ever have imagined coming from her.

I was infuriated by her rejection. I don’t think I’ve ever been more hurt in my life. So I went to my car to get my badge and uniform shirt, and I still had maybe half an hour before my shift started, so I sat in my car, fuming. How could she say what she did? How could she let me start off a work day with this hanging between us?

So, how did we recover from this argument? How did we both end up winning?

I’ll tell you in a bit. But first, I’d like to talk about some common questions couples have about arguing.

How Often do Happy Couples Argue?

Despite this epically bad argument, my wife and I are a very happy couple. And happy couples argue just as much as any other couple.

In other words, it doesn’t really matter how much you argue. Argue a lot. Argue a little bit. It doesn’t make a huge difference on your overall happiness in the long term.

In some ways, arguing is actually a sign of a healthy relationship. Each person brings different beliefs, ideas, and values to marriage. You probably even have different ways of doing the same task.

Sometimes, these conflicting attitudes cause arguments. And that’s OK. It shows that each of you is willing to stand up for your values and positions. And that’s a good thing. If a couple told me they never argue, I would suspect one of them of being a wallflower or having given up.

What’s the Right Way to Argue?

Again, HOW you argue isn’t actually all that important in your long term happiness as a couple. It probably matters more than how often you argue, but not by much.

Some happy couples break all the “rules” of how to fight fair. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Use “Active Listening” techniques
  • Don’t get defensive
  • Don’t use blame-shifting
  • Don’t say “always” or “never”
  • Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements
  • Don’t attack your spouse’s character
  • Stay on topic

All of this is good advice. Follow it, if you can. But let’s be honest. In the heat of the moment, all of this good advice goes out the window. Even for the happiest couples.

The one rule you need to stick to every time is to not use violence when you argue. Spousal abuse is never OK. Other than that, all of the “arguing rules” are guidelines.

The Real Secret to Winning Every Argument is What you do After the Fight

OK, let me finish the rest of my story. A few minutes into my work shift at the fair, my wife called me and apologized for how she reacted. It was probably less than an hour after our fight. Definitely less than two. She also offered to bring me lunch at my break, which I had been planning to ask her to do until our argument broke out.

In other words, she made a peace offering.

In her book “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages” Shaunti Feldhahn reveals this as the secret:
“When highly happy couples inevitably experience hurt feelings and conflict, they will at some point mutually reconnect by sharing a private signal that says ‘We’re okay.'”

After an argument, happy couples reach out and reestablish their friendship and commitment to each other. I initially reached out to my wife by trying to hug her and tell her I loved her. Although she rejected my initial peace offering, it wasn’t long before she made her own attempt to reestablish connection with me.

Maybe you stay angry for days after an argument with your spouse. You might stonewall, push your husband or wife away, or just shut down. All while stewing in anger and bitterness and thinking negative thoughts about him or her. These thoughts are particularly damaging because they shift your perceptions of your spouse. The longer these thoughts continue, the more these negative perceptions become a part of your subconscious thinking patterns.

For instance, after our fight all I could think about was how badly my wife overreacted, and how could she let me start work like that, and all kinds of uncharitable thoughts about her.

These negative thoughts stopped instantly once she called and apologized. They were immediately replaced by feelings of gratitude and friendship.

It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with resolving the conflict. My wife and I never reached an agreement of who was “right” and who was “wrong”. We did come to an understanding of WHY we each did what we did, but we never agreed that those reasons were right.

There are some conflicts you will probably never resolve in your marriage. You’ll keep arguing about the same things over and over again. In some cases you might be able to reach a good compromise. In others, you might just have to agree to disagree.

But if you quickly reconnect with your spouse after an argument, you both win. Every time.

So how do you do this? The best way is to apologize and make some kind of “peace offering” after the argument. It might be as simple as a hug. Or maybe you make a goofy face or tell a joke to try to get your spouse to laugh. Or you touch pinkies as a secret sign that says “We’re okay”.

Or there’s my personal favorite: make up sex.

And if your spouse offers a peace offering, do your best to accept it. Maybe you aren’t ready right away. If not, it’s important that you make the next move. As soon as you are ready, make your own attempt to reconcile and reconnect.

Whoever makes the initial move, it’s best if this happens within a few hours of the argument. Or within a day at most. The sooner this happens, the better.

DanielDaniel Robertson is a Christian husband and father and writes about how to improve your marriage with Biblical principles. Download his free report to discover 3 simple keys to create more passion and intimacy in your marriage, or read his recent post on 15 tips to rock your marriage in 2015.

 

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A LifeLong Love with Giveaway

The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for January: Setting the Right Foundation. Click through to see the books and choose one!

This year on the blog I challenged everybody to read one book a month–that’s 12 books over the year–to boost your marriage. Every month we have a different topic (next month is sex! :) ), and hopefully it will help you all to get a new perspective on how to grow your relationship. (Check out all of the subjects for each month here!)

For January I gave you all a choice of three books–A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas, The Story of Marriage by John and Lisa Bevere, and Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge. I’m so thrilled so many of you took me up on the challenge, and today I want to share some of the gems I learned from A Lifelong Love–and then leave you with a giveaway!

And bonus–I just realized that Gary’s publisher put the ereader version of A Lifelong Love on sale this week! That wasn’t even planned. So you can pick it up on Kindle or Nook, etc., for only $3.82!

A Lifelong Love--January's book choice

Gary Thomas always takes you to the feet of Jesus. When I read his book The Sacred Search, about finding a mate, the thing that stuck with me the most is that in looking for a spouse, as in everything else in life, Matthew 6:33 must be our guiding verse:

But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and then all these things shall be added to you.

In A Lifelong Love Gary shows how to live this out once we’re married.

I write about marriage all the time, but sometimes I reread what I’ve said and I worry that it’s missing something. It’s not that I don’t agree with what I’ve written; it’s just that it’s all so practical. I’m usually talking to people about how to solve specific problems; and so I give them specific steps. But Gary reminds me, and us, that in everything, it’s all about what we’re doing for God. It’s all about our attitude about Jesus. And our marriages are about far more than our feelings.

Ironically, when we realize that, we can find true marital bliss.

Gary’s book takes you to the feet of Jesus. It’s divided into three parts: The Magnificent Obsession (remembering that the mission of our marriage, just like everything else, is pleasing God; Growing Together, or how to overcome significant hardships in your marriage; and The Journey Toward Love, or how to live out a real oneness with your husband.

I felt this book would be perfect for our January entry of Setting the Foundation, because if we get this “magnificent obsession” right from the beginning of the year–that God needs to be the centre of our focus, our aim, and our worship–then the rest of marriage will fall much more easily into place.

If I could sum up what Gary says, it would be this:

A good marriage is something you make, not something you just find!

“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.” (click to tweet)

I can’t sum up the entire book, but what I would like to do is give you three snapshots, one from every section, that meant a lot to me. And I’ll be adding other thoughts on my Facebook Page to give you fodder to think throughout the weekend, so do stay tuned there!

God desperately cares about how you treat his son

The night before Gary married his wife Lisa, Lisa’s dad broke down in tears and said to him, “I don’t have to worry about Lisa. She’s found a guy who will take care of her. She’s going to be okay.”

And he was so relieved.

Now that I have a daughter getting married I totally get it. You pray so hard for your kids to find someone who will cherish them, and treat them well, and serve God with them. And when they find that person, you relax so much!

And one day Gary realized that just as Lisa’s earthly dad was so concerned about her happiness and well-being in marriage, so her heavenly father was, too. God wasn’t just Gary’s father; God was also Gary’s Father-in-Law. And how he treated God’s daughter desperately mattered to God.

So Gary turns that question back on us: what if one of the singular best services that you can give to God in this life is to love your husband? Even if he isn’t always loving back. Even if he’s difficult. Even if he doesn’t understand your love language, doesn’t get your personality, doesn’t love sharing his heart.

Gary tells the story of one mom of five who is exhausted and complaining about her husband–and feeling so distant that they rarely make love. She has reason to feel ticked off. But he asks her, “how would you feel if one day your son grew up and married a woman who treated him just like you are treating your husband?” The question floored her.

So let me ask you who are moms that same question: how would you feel if your son grew up and married a woman who treated him the same way you treat your husband right now?

That question has made me refocus my evenings with my husband. I want to make sure that when he gets home from work and we have some time to spend together that he knows I’m glad he’s home. That he knows I waited for him all day. That he knows there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Gary talks about how loving like this IS hard–but it’s what draws us into God’s arms and what grows our own spiritual dependence. And God does notice your acts of love, even if your husband doesn’t. And there will be a reward for those acts, even if you don’t see them on this side of heaven.

Be careful of power imbalances in marriage

In the second section of the book Gary gets practical about the really difficult seasons in marriage–what it’s like to be in a lonely marriage, and how to overcome that.

I appreciated his emphasis on the idea that marriage IS a battle–but it shouldn’t be a battle we fight against each other. It should be a battle we fight WITH each other. Together we form a team that God uses to transform the world. When we see that–that we are part of this epic struggle and epic story that God is waging and writing, then marriage has a deeper purpose. Indeed, that idea that there is a bigger story behind our marriage than just whether we feel loved is the key theme in all three of the books I chose for this month. Think of you and your husband on the same team, fighting for God to transform this world, rather than on opposing teams bashing each other.

In fact, this idea–that we should be on the same side engaged in the fight together, can truly transform marriages because it gives you a sense of purpose.

lack of purpose

Nevertheless, sometimes we do feel on opposing teams, and Gary outlines how this often manifests in power imbalances. These occur when one spouse appears to care more for and is fighting more for the marriage than the other.

Here’s an example: when dating, the guy woos you and dates you and is romantic, but once you’re married all he wants is sex. The romance seems to end. And she feels lonely.

Or when the baby comes, she becomes all tied up in being a mom, and the husband feels left out.

Here’s the danger of power struggles that women need to understand. Gary writes: “One thing I’ve learned about men: if we don’t think we can win, we usually won’t even compete; we just start focusing elsewhere.”

And so you drift. And the biggest sign that power imbalances are causing one or both of you to check out of the marriage? your social circles become distinct and separate. You start confiding in and hanging out with people your spouse doesn’t even really know.

Fight against the drift. Remember that marriage must be something intentional, so that when we feel ourselves drifting, or when we notice our spouse starting to check out, we don’t just get mad. We do something to rebuild intimacy.

Gary says, “When couples say “I do” on their wedding days, I wish they’d add, “and I will, every day of our lives.” “

Love isn’t a feeling. It’s something that you are intentional about. It’s not about being “in love”–it’s about practising love.

How can I bless you?–not How can I get my needs met?

Here’s where the rubber hits the road, where the real heart attitude shows itself. In your interactions with your husband, what is your motivation? Is it to get your needs met? Or is to bless him? Gary urges us to keep our eyes on how we can love. What if the greatest lesson you can have on this earth is not how to find love but how to love? When we learn to love, we become more Christlike. We’re transformed into the likeness of God’s son (Romans 8:29). We grow.

And so when you are at a standstill in your marriage, ask yourself, “what can I do to bless my husband?” And start doing! When we act love we feel love. I know you’ve heard this all the time, but it is real. Why is it that you feel so attached to your kids (those of you who are moms). Have you ever read a story about a horribly neglectful mother and said to yourself, “How could anyone do that to their child?” But it isn’t that hard if you haven’t acted love. When you get out of bed in the middle of the night repeatedly to soothe a child; when you give up your own time to spend with a child; when you spend hours on homework and wiping dirty noses, you are so invested that you feel those loving feelings.

When you don’t invest time and energy, the feelings aren’t there.

So how do you bless your husband?

I really appreciated one example Gary gave that is something I say repeatedly here, too. Blessing your husband means you care about his ultimate good–not just about his feelings. So he gives the example of a woman who throws away her husband’s stash of porn against his wishes. A woman who wants to bless her husband will not allow him to do something that will harm their intimacy and his relationship with God. He won’t enable sin.

But it’s our attitude her that matters. When you confront your husband, are you doing so because you want your own needs met? Or are you honestly looking after his own interests? The result may be the same, but the heart attitude dictates how the whole interaction feels. And the heart attitude is what brings God into the picture.

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?I appreciate Gary Thomas so much, and I know this book will help you see your husband and your marriage in a whole new way, pointing you to Jesus. A Lifelong Love is only $3.82 on Kindle right now–a huge sale! So pick it up today.

I’ll be announcing February’s books next week, but just a heads up: they’re about sex! And we’re going to have fun! :)

But today I want to leave you with a giveaway, featuring many of the books that I’ve talked about this month on the blog. You can win one of 9 prizes of:

One prize of: A Lifelong Love, The Story of Marriage, Love and War, and Choosing Him All Over Again
Two prizes of: A Lifelong Love
Two prizes of: The Story of Marriage
Two prizes of: Love and War
Two prizes of: Choosing Him All Over Again

January Prizes in the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge of 2015!

Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win! Remember: you get 5 entries if you leave a blog post comment with a question you’d like Gary to answer! I’ll send the top 5 questions his way and ask him to respond on Facebook!

I’ll draw the winners next Wednesday night at midnight EST, and then announce them on Thursday when we do our next marriage challenge post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Some other bloggers have taken up the challenge to read and review some of my picks as well!

Check out Mom’s Morning Coffee with her look at Setting the Right Foundation, too.

(If you’re a blogger who has also reviewed some of these books, leave a link in the comments. If I get enough of you, I’ll start a Linky next month!)

Are We Expecting the Impossible in Marriage?

Are We Expecting the Impossible -- Expectations in Marriage

Are your expectations in marriage impossible to achieve?

Recently I was going through some older posts that most of you will not have seen, and I came across this one about having sky-high marriage expectations. I thought it was worth re-running today.

You may have heard it said before that “the enemy of the best is the good”. The French philosopher Voltaire made it famous (though he said it in French!), and it caught on because it’s so true. Often we get so caught up doing good things that we miss the best. We miss our priorities.

But that being said, I think the reverse can also be true.

Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good.

When the best is more a fairy-tale ideal than a reality, then it can become the enemy of making any kind of real progress. The best can actually be a hindrance to your marriage.

Allow me to use an analogy that doesn’t have to do with marriage first to show you what I mean. A while back I caused a ruckus in the comments section of this blog because I insinuated that there were things that women could do to reduce the chance of sexual assault, and we should teach these to our daughters. I never said that we could eliminate rape (because we can’t)–but I said that we could reduce it.

People kept taking issue with me, so I kept writing follow-up posts, and the comments grew worse and worse. One commenter really summed up the other side perfectly. She said (and I paraphrase):

Women should be able to wear whatever they want and go wherever they want. You should be talking to the men, not to the women!

She was a little ruder than that, but I’ll leave out the colorful language.

What a strange comment, though. OF COURSE women should be able to wear what they want and do what they want without getting raped. We should live in a world where there is no abuse, no rape, no children in poverty, no wars, and no violence. But we don’t live in that world. And since we don’t, what steps can we take to protect ourselves?

They were focusing so much on what SHOULD be that they refused to acknowledge that there were any steps you could take to make our present life, the one we are living in right now, even the least bit better.

It was all or nothing.

Have you ever felt that way about your marriage? I once knew a woman who eventually left her husband, who explained it to me this way:

God created marriage to be a joining of two human beings–an institution where we’re able to communicate, and love, and respect, and share ideas and share vision and purpose. He created marriage to build us up, not to tear us down. He created marriage to be part of our fulfillment, not part of our destruction. My husband didn’t know how to communicate. He never listened to me. He never talked to me; he only ever talked past me. He used sex just to satisfy himself. In other words, it wasn’t actually a marriage. And so I ended it.

I have no doubt that her marriage was extremely difficult, but do you see the problem with her position? She was saying that because her marriage was not one in which two individuals were completely joined, it was thus not a marriage. God intended marriage to be fulfilling; it was not, therefore the argument about whether one had biblical grounds to divorce was moot because this wasn’t even marriage!

Her argument is flawed, because while God said marriage should be like this, He never invalidated marriages that were not like that. Indeed, in Corinthians Paul even tells women married to men who aren’t Christians to stay if they can–and these marriages are obviously not a complete joining of minds and ideals.

This woman was looking for the best in her marriage; she didn’t find it, so therefore she invalidated everything else.

Many of us enter marriage with similar thoughts. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we can completely bear our souls. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we are unconditionally cherished. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we find our best friend. Then, when the should doesn’t happen, we give up. We have expectations in marriage about how things SHOULD be, and we can’t settle for second best. We don’t look at little changes that we could make to grow the marriage, or to grow our communication, because we figure that he is just hopeless. He’s so out of touch with what a husband should be, that growth is well nigh impossible.

None of us is perfect, though, and I think we need a different strategy. If your husband isn’t a good communicator, or sulks constantly, or watches too much TV (or plays too many video games), or never spends any time with the kids, that doesn’t invalidate your marriage, and it doesn’t mean that things can’t get better. After all, by staying away from drunken parties, girls can drastically reduce their risk of date rape. Similarly, by learning new communication techniques, you can drastically reduce your risk of growing apart and ending the relationship. You can do things to move in the right direction, even if those things won’t give you 100% change. They can still make your life significantly better.

Now, in some cases no matter what you do you can’t rescue a marriage. You can’t stop an abusive man from hitting you just by learning to be nicer or not pushing his buttons. You can’t stop a porn addict from using porn, and these things do need to be confronted. But in most marriages it’s not these huge issues that bring us down. It’s disappointments in the day-to-day.

What I would suggest, then, is that we stop focusing on our ideal expectations for marriage, and we start looking at what we can do to make things better.

In other words, quit focusing so much on the destination, and focus instead on the direction. Move forward, even if it’s slowly, and you will eventually get there. Focus so much on the finish line, and how far it is away from your current position, and you can quickly lose heart.

This applies to aspects of marriage, too. I was at a place in our marriage once where everything was going really well–except sex. It’s not that it was horrible; it just wasn’t what it was supposed to be, according to the media and all the sermons I heard about how God created sex to be wonderful. For a few years, I gave up. It’s not that we didn’t make love; it’s just that my attitude was one of: “this just isn’t for me. It’s all for him, and I’ll just get through it.” I believed that if sex wasn’t the ideal, then I had been cheated, and there was no point in even trying.

It was only when I had an attitude shift where I started to ask whether I could believe that it could get better–even if it was slowly. When I made the mental shift, then the way I acted also changed.

Whether it’s in your marriage as a whole or in individual parts of your marriage, don’t give up because you haven’t reached the ideal.

The Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for January: Setting the Right Foundation. Click through to see the books and choose one!Ask God to help you make baby steps, because those steps can add up! Ask Him to give you a new heart to grow, even if it’s slowly, because moving in the right direction gives you a new attitude or outlook on your marriage which is so much more energizing.

Whatever you do, don’t let the best become an enemy of that real, helpful change.

Tomorrow I’m going to be reviewing Gary Thomas’ book A Lifelong Love, our January entry in the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge. It has a wonderful perspective on how to handle a marriage that isn’t the best, and I’m so looking forward to sharing it with you!

10 Projects You Can Do This Weekend with the Ultimate DIY Bundle!

Ten years ago I used to have a little soapmaking business. I ran out of time to pursue it, and all of those materials sat in my storage room. But a few months ago I decided I was going to start making some things again! And lately I’ve made some lip balms, started learning about aromatherapy (it can do major things in the bedroom!), and creating new lotions to attack problem areas.

And it takes just minutes.

And it’s fun! I love crafts. I’ve been a knitter my whole life, and there is just something about creating that makes us feel more productive, more purposeful, even more in line with God. God, after all, is creative, and when we can tap into our own creativity, I think we touch an important part of ourselves that is often dormant.

And so I’m excited to share with you today about the The Ultimate DIY Bundle– a collection of carefully curated DIY and crafting eBooks and eCourses from the world’s leading authors and bloggers in the industry.

For the crazy low price of just $34.95, you get access to a carefully curated library of over 76 eBooks and eCourses. And let me reassure you that this really is great value: the Ultimate Bundles team (who produced the resource) has spent MONTHS seeking out the most respected experts in the industry and asking them to contribute their premium-quality eBooks and eCourses. These really are the best of the best when it comes to DIY and crafting advice and information.

Topics in the bundle include:

  • Home decor
  • Furniture painting
  • Photography
  • Chalk pastels
  • Handmade gifts
  • Homemade skincare products
  • Cake decorating
  • Photography and photo-editing
  • Paint colors and interior design
  • …and a whole lot more (76 eBooks and eCourses in total) – to help you be inspired or get started with your next DIY or crafting project!

There’s no need to worry about information overload though: The Ultimate DIY Bundle comes with a complete guide to getting started, so that you can know exactly which resource to use for your specific crafting or DIY project and jump straight into it with confidence!

Hurry though! The Ultimate DIY Bundle will only be on sale for 6 days – from 8am EST on Wednesday, January 21 until 11.59pm EST on Monday, January 26.

But when you buy it, you get access to the books right away. And you can start crafting today! I’ve been having such fun looking through the books, and I wanted to share with you TEN ideas that you can do this weekend to get yourself feeling more creative and productive!

1. Lime Coconut Body Scrub

Lime Coconut Body ScrubIt’s just epsom salts, Vitamin E, some essential oils–and some actual lime and coconut! If you don’t have any essential oils on hand, you can often buy them in a health food store, or get them on Amazon. I use them all the time now (and I’ll be posting soon about 10 ways to use essential oils in the bedroom!)

It’s from Kimberly Layton’s Homemade Gifts for Every Occasion, part of the Crafts collection of the Ultimate Bundle:

2. Make Gift Bags Out of Old Clothes

I love using gift bags for hostess gifts, birthday gifts, thank you gifts–even gifts when I speak! And the book Reuse, Refresh, Repurpose (also in the Crafts section, above), has some great ideas on how to make purses, bags, and gift bags out of old clothes! Your kids will love doing this with you, too. It’s simple–you could make a dozen in a day.

Gift Bags

3. Spray Paint Old Knick Knacks White

I loved this idea from 21 Inspiring Thrift Store Transformations! Take ugly knick knacks, like old trophies, animal figurines, or pitchers, and spray paint them white. She explains how, and all of a sudden they’re useable again!

Paint White

She also lists the 10 most important things to watch for at a thrift store–the things you can use easily. It’s awesome, and it’s part of the Home Decor section.

4. Choose New Paint Colors

Need a pick-me-up for your house? How to Choose Paint Colors (in Home Decor, above) helps you choose your style, understand color theory, and see how all elements work together! Read it today, pick out the paint tonight, and go to it!

paint colors

5. Figure out How to Use Those Camera Settings

Have a great camera, but don’t know how to use it? Say No to Auto is a simple book that explains what terms like ISO, exposure, and shutter speed mean, and how you can manipulate them to take great photos–no matter the conditions! It doesn’t take long to learn, and then you can spend the weekend practising.

Say no to auto

It’s part of the photography section.

6. Get Ready for Mother’s Day!

I love this Mother’s Day Pillbox–it’s part of a book of printables for gifts for every season of the year. And you can put 7 Mom Quotes in the pillbox, too, to show her much you love her! I think making these with the kids for Grandma would be a riot, too.

Mom Pillbox

It’s part of the Crafts section, above.

7. Use Your Scrapbooking Stash

The bundle also comes with a bunch of e-courses, and one of them helps you take all your scrapbooking extras–and figure out how to use them up! Love it.

Use Your Stash

Here’s just one of the amazing ecourses offered!

 8. Scan Your Old Photos–and Use Them!

You can even scan your kids’ artwork (you can only put so much on the fridge), their first writing projects, and more! This ecourse also teaches you how to organize your digital files so you can find things easily when you need them (like, for instance, when you have to start preparing a slide show for your daughter’s wedding. :) Tee hee. My daughter just got engaged!)

Scan Photos

It’s part of the e-course section, above.

9. Make Your Own Household Cleaners

I made up a batch of laundry soap last night using the recipes from this bundle! And it’s so easy (and cheap). Most of the ingredients you likely have on hand right now.

cleaners

The book Clean & Simple is part of the Home and Garden Section.

 

10. Learn to Knit Socks

I couldn’t leave knitting off my list of 10, since I love it so much! With this bundle you also get a ton of free bonuses, including a Craftsy video course of your choice. And I’d recommend Lucy Neatby’s course on knitting socks. I’ve knit about 30 pairs of socks, at least, in my life, and I just love them! You can keep them in your purse because they’re a small enough project, so you’ve always got something on the go!

knit socks

So there you go! 10 Reasons to Get the Ultimate DIY Bundle.

There are crafts for everyone, and you’re sure to find something that you’ll love.

You can buy with complete confidence because you’re covered by the Ultimate Bundles 30-day money-back guarantee. That means you have a full 30 days to enjoy all the eBooks and eCourses in the bundle, and if you don’t think they provided enough value, you’ll get a full refund.

Not only that, but The Ultimate DIY Bundle comes with 5 awesome bonuses, worth over $150. That’s 4x the price of the bundle alone! These include…

A free $15 Store Credit PLUS 8×10 Art Print from Hope Ink ($43 Value), a free online class from Craftsy (up to $60 Value), free $15 store credit to Fawnsberg.com, a free sewing pattern PLUS a Premium Video Class from UpCraft Club ($19.99 Value), and free, full digital copies of Where Women Create Magazine and Greencraft Magazine ($20 value) from Stampington and Co.

So, don’t miss your chance to grab The Ultimate DIY Bundle, and get 76 incredible eBooks and eCourses for just $34.95. All you need to do is take action by midnight on Monday, January 26!

This amazing deal ends in just…

motionmailapp.com

Pick up your copy right now, before it’s too late. Or, learn more here.

Have a fun and crafty weekend!

 

 

Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post. Read the fine print about this bundle and read the answers to frequently asked questions about the bundle.