The Top 5 Method for Finding the Win-Win in a Fight

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThe "Name Your Top 5" Method of Resolving Conflict when you see the situation in opposite ways--this works!We’ve been talking about finding the win-win when you’re dealing with conflict with your husband.

Yesterday I talked about how, instead of just arguing about who is right, you instead identify your needs in a situation. Today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I want to give you a method I suggested in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage–Identify your big 5! Then we’re going to get specific and look at how to declutter with your husband on board.

Sometimes a conflict ends up being about how you want your life to FEEL. For instance, he may want the house super tidy, and you may like the creative energy that comes from a bustling house with kids and lots of company.

How can you win that one when you both have different ideas of what “home” means?

One thing I suggest is to name your Top 5–the Top 5 things that would help you feel like home.

So he may say:

  • I need the living room tidy so I can sit down at night.
  • I need the entryway clear when I come home.
  • I need the bed made.
  • I need the bathroom clean.
  • I need the laundry put away, not strewn all over the floor/bed.

She, on the other hand, may say:

  • I need to let the kids put a blanket fort in the play room.
  • I need to do the dishes on my own time.
  • I need to have my knitting out, not always putting it away out of reach.
  • I need books all over the house to encourage reading.
  • I need the backyard to be the kids’ domain.

The living room and bathroom stay spotless; the playroom and living room are the kids’ domains; and they each get what they need. By talking about it specifically like that, you break down “what is really important to me?” And you often find that you’re able to find a win-win that doesn’t blame the other person for being morally inferior (“you’re a slob!”; “you’re anal and don’t care about the kids!”)

I think this Top 5 approach (which ends up being 10 things, for Top 10 Tuesday!) can work in a variety of situations where you are opposites.

When one of you is an introvert who needs time alone, and one is an extrovert who needs time together–how can we figure out how to spend our time? Or when one is a spender and one is a saver, how can we negotiate how to take care of the finances? Often opposites attract, so name your top 5, and then you both feel listened to.

And then go out of your way to abide by your spouse’s Top 5. They deserve that honour.

Today I’m busy moving my daughter into university, so just a quick post. But I think it’s a great concept that can help a lot of marriages.

So let me ask you today: Can you think of an area of conflict where you each just want totally different things, or have totally opposite approaches? Can you try to find your “Top 5s” to help you navigate it? Let me know in the comments!

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.

Reader Question: I’m Scared of Sex Because I Don’t Want to Get Pregnant

How can we have a healthy sex life if I'm scared of getting pregnant? Some thoughts on finding the win-win!

What do you do when you’re scared of getting pregnant, hate hormonal birth control, but then you avoid sex?

Reader Question: We can't agree on birth control, so I'm scared of sex!Every Monday I like to try to answer a reader question. Today I have the same question from two readers who are both scared of pregnancy. One woman writes:

I read many Christian blogs encouraging frequent sex between man and wife. I believe it to be helpful to a marriage. But what do other couples do when they don’t want to use contraceptives but are feeling insecure about having more children? My husband and I were not on the same page for a long time about having more children. That definitely affected our sex life. It is Biblical to have frequent sex so then should we just expect to have 20 children?

Another woman writes:

I follow and love your blog, but this is a topic I have either missed you addressing, or perhaps you haven’t addressed it. I am happily married for 16.5 years. We have 8 beautiful children, whom I stay at home with and homeschool. I feel complete in our family size, for many reasons. My husband says he does, also. However, we cannot find a birth control we agree on. We have failed at NFP/FAM both times we tried to use it. We hate how condoms interfere with intimacy, and we don’t want to do anything hormonal. I am leaning towards something permanent, but my husband is not on board there, either. Because of us not being able to agree/decide on a reliable form of birth control, I am fearful of pregnancy, and my attitude toward sex with my husband is suffering.

I’d love any advice on how to overcome this speed bump in our marriage. The simple answer would obviously be “get on the same page”. But what do we do when that’s not happening? Maybe I’m just looking for reassurance that I’m not the only one who has felt this way.

You’re definitely not the only one who has felt this way!

So how does a couple come to an agreement in this tricky situation?

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentIn 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I shared the concept that quite often in marriage we think of conflict as a win-lose thing. I told of three different stories–including one of my own–where we get into these endless arguments trying to come out on top.

For instance, quite a few years ago, when my girls were little, I was homeschooling them and Keith had a busy pediatric practice. He wanted one night a week to himself, to get together with some local guys and play battle scenarios with miniature soldiers (think that sounds geeky? You have no idea!). But I was starting to get writing assignments, and I needed time to write.

Keith was genuinely burned out. He had life and death decisions constantly. He needed time to decompress.

I genuinely needed time to use my own giftings.

How were we going to solve that one? It didn’t seem like both of us could win; there were only so many hours in a week.

But eventually Keith (it’s usually Keith who is the smart one when we’re in conflict) realized we were being ridiculous. We were fighting over time, but there were other ways to get more time. And Keith ended up cutting back his practice half a day a week to give me an afternoon to myself, when he took the girls. It was great.

We found a win-win.

In most conflicts,  you can find a win-win–or at least find a solution that you’re both happy with.

But this birth control one is a tricky one, because it really seems as if there are only two options: either he gets sex and she gets pregnant; or he gets no sex and she doesn’t get pregnant. In both scenarios, one wins and one loses.

Find the win-win instead

So how do we get out of this win-lose dichotomy?

Instead of focusing on who can make the better argument, ask: what do I need here?

What is your underlying need? Both of you speak it out loud. It’s best if you even write it down! And you may have several.

She might write:

  • I want to feel confident that I won’t get pregnant
  • I feel uncomfortable with hormonal birth control methods
  • I want to feel close to my husband

And he might write:

  • I want a fulfilling sex life with my wife
  • I feel uncomfortable with condoms

As soon as you write your needs down, you’re now in problem solving mode.

And problem solving mode is much better than fighting mode.

Give each need the God “sniff test”

Here’s another thing I bring up in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: not all needs are legitimate.

I once had a reader write because her husband was a pastor who had been involved in porn ten years prior. He had gotten clean, but over the last year some typical behaviours had started again–he was secretive; he was becoming more selfish; he was becoming more verbally cutting.

She asked him if he was using porn, and he said, “I need trust in a marriage. You’re violating the marriage covenant by not giving me something I need.” And he refused to let her see his computer.

Some needs are illegitimate, and are actually covers for sin.

Let’s take a look at these needs. The one that stands out to me is “I want to feel confident I won’t get pregnant.”

I completely understand that feeling. I really do. But no matter what birth control method you use (short of sterilization), there is always a risk. And our futures are in God’s hands, not ours. Whatever we do for birth control, we have to realize that “I may have another baby in my future.” That’s God’s prerogative. And if you do get pregnant, God will be there to give you strength and help you love that baby and mother that baby.

To not have sex because you don’t want to get pregnant is really saying, “I don’t trust God.” It’s a spiritual issue far more than it is a marriage issue. And that’s dangerous.

I’m not saying she’s wrong for not wanting more children; I’m just saying that we should never presume upon God. And ultimately this question is much easier to work out if we’re able to trust God and say, “I’ll do my best, but I know that  you hold my future, and whatever happens, I’ll be okay because you will carry me.

Let’s Problem Solve Together!

Now let’s problem solve together. She doesn’t want to use hormonal birth control, and likely for good reason. The women in my direct line react badly to it. We gain 10 pounds in the first month–and keep ballooning up to about 40 pounds heavier, even if it’s a low progesterone dose (trust me; I’ve had several family members, including myself, go on low doses not for birth control but to regulate periods. It’s been a disaster). We get totally grumpy. We lose our libido. I even get blood clots!

And some people have similar reactions to the IUD. For most, though, the IUD has far fewer side effects that the Pill. However, there is controversy over whether it prevents conception or just prevents implantation.

So let’s take the hormonal out of the way. That leaves:

  • Condoms
  • Diaphragms
  • Natural Family Planning

J from Hot, Holy and Humorous swears by her diaphragm! You can put it in early in the day; nobody feels it at all during intercourse; and it’s super effective. Not to share TMI, but I can’t use one. I’m just really queasy about that sort of stuff (which is ironic considering what I do for a living). But if you’re NOT queasy, it sounds awesome.

Let’s Talk Condoms and Natural Family Planning

If a diaphragm isn’t in the cards for you, what about a combination of other methods? With natural family planning you chart your cycles so that  you know when you ovulate. Then, about 4 days before ovulation and 3 days afterwards (that’s actually a REALLY long window, but I’m trying to be super careful here) you avoid intercourse or you use a barrier method.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive HealthRemember: You cannot get pregnant when you’re not around ovulation! Seriously, that little sperm needs an egg. No egg, no pregnancy. And eggs are only viable for a few days, as are sperm. So in the week right after your period (or at least in the first five days), you’re usually good to go! And then after ovulation until your period–green light, too!

I really understand being nervous about this. I have a 20-year-old daughter who just got married who is still in school. Believe me–we all get it! We really do. But one of your needs is feeling close to your husband, and one of his needs is feeling close to you through a fulfilling sex life. You owe it to yourself to educate yourself about fertility. The more we understand, the less scared we will be. Learn the science behind it! The best book for that that is recommended everytime I talk about this is Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

How Do I Get Over Being Scared to get Pregnant?

Knowledge + Trust in God = A fun sex life!

You need both elements. If you’re ultimately scared that a pregnancy would be a disaster, and think that “disaster factor” makes it more likely, since God always gives you what you’re most scared of, it won’t matter how much you educate yourself. Your problem is a spiritual one.

But if you really aren’t educated, then you’ll think that you can get pregnant ALL THE TIME–which honestly is not true.

When you have both elements, it’s easier to sit down with your husband and say something like,

Look, we each want a great sex life. But during these days we’re just going to have to use condoms. It won’t be so bad, though, because it means that on other days we don’t have to! So it’s only a sacrifice for part of the month. And this way we’ll be able to feel close and have fun again. And with me understanding my body, it will help me understand my libido and pay attention more, too!

So often we ignore our bodies, and miss out on our libido surges. When you’re tracking, you pay attention. I’ve got a series on understanding how our hormones affect libido, too.

You can find a win-win, even in this seemingly impossible situation.

But you’ve got to let God into the equation. And as you do more research, you just may find that you’re more excited about sex because you understand your own body better.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentDo you and your husband go around and around with the same issue, never resolving it? Maybe it’s whether to homeschool. Whether to move. Whether to buy a house. It seems like only one person can win. But what if you just need to look at the situation differently? In 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, Thought #7 gives a detailed plan to find a win-win. I hope it helps you resolve that longstanding conflict, too!

Now let me know in the comments: How have you dealt with the fear of pregnancy?



Top 10 Thoughts About the Ashley Madison Scandal

Top 10 Thoughts About the Ashley Madison Scandal

On Friday Johnny from Shine FM in Edmonton sent me a tweet: “You wanna call in to the morning show to talk about Ashley Madison?” I couldn’t call on Friday but I did yesterday, and hosts Johnny and Hollie and I chatted about this huge, honking mess.

Because it is a huge mess, isn’t it? Tens of millions of Ashley Madison users’ data is now online. You can even search email addresses yourself (though I won’t link to where). Thousands of U.S. government emails are listed. Josh Duggar got found out (I blogged about that last week). And he won’t be the last high profile user, either.

So I’ve been thinking about this whole mess for a few days, and I thought I’d throw out ten random thoughts, in no particular order.

2 Thoughts About the Online World

1. Stuff online isn’t secret

If you buy erotica on your Kindle, it can be discovered. If you use porn, your history is never really gone. If you sign up for something like this, don’t expect you won’t get found out. If you text or email nude pictures of yourself–don’t be surprised if they surface somewhere.

Maybe if we realized this we’d all be smarter–and we’d feel less temptation.

2. Giving into temptation is so much easier in the internet age.

Because isn’t that the main problem? In the internet age, it’s much harder to withstand temptation because options are available instantaneously and seemingly anonymously. A guy (or a woman) who may never, ever stray may just be having a bad weekend alone, and may be surfing the internet when they shouldn’t be. Twenty years ago this kind of sin didn’t exist. I’m sure the vast majority of the guys who signed up for Ashley Madison would never try to pick up a woman in a bar in person. They’d never buy porn in person, if they had to look someone in the eye and ask for the magazine. But today it’s so easy!

Covenant EyesAnd that’s why we need to take some of that temptation away. I know sin is ultimately a heart issue, but I also do believe in putting up roadblocks to temptation. It’s just plain smart. And so I completely support having Covenant Eyes on you computer, even just as an accountability tool (and not as a filtering tool). That way you know that if you wander onto a bad site, someone’s going to know about it. Boom! Temptation’s gone, because it’s no longer anonymous.

3 Thoughts About Guys & Ashley Madison

3. A mistake made in a moment should not define a relationship.

All of us mess up. And some of us are going to mess up sexually. But one mistake should not define a relationship.

There were 30,000,000 or so users signed up to Ashley Madison. That’s a lot. But most of them did not actually cheat. They flirted with the idea, but they didn’t follow through.

I do believe that there is a big difference between someone who is tempted and who occasionally falls and someone who is actively seeking out ways to fall. A guy who binges on porn for a weekend after being clean for four years is in a totally different category than a guy who uses it most nights and says, “It’s harmless and it’s my right.”

Similarly, a guy who signs up for Ashley Madison is quite different from a guy who has several one night stands and who is texting several women. One is likely a sex addict; one is simply struggling.

If your husband has fallen, figure out which category he belongs in. If he’s made a mistake and has fallen, then work through that hurt. Allow yourself to feel the weight of it before you try to forgive, or else the forgiveness may not be real. But then fight on the same side as your husband against the porn and the sexualized culture. Don’t fight your husband. Be his ally.

If your husband instead refuses to confess, refuses to admit it, or refuses to deal with it, then you have an issue and you need some help. But, please, don’t wreck a marriage over one mess up. Don’t let darkness win.

4. Avoid the temptation to think, “all men are pigs”

With this in the media, it’s so easy for women to think, “all men are pigs.”

But most guys didn’t go anywhere near it. Most guys won’t have affairs. Don’t let the news cloud your view of all men, and especially your own husband who may have struggles in the past. Don’t blame him for the sins of others.

I know many will say, “women cheat too!” And preliminary reports were that 15-20% of accounts were female. But news is out today that many of those female accounts were actually fake accounts set up by Ashley Madison to make it seem like there were more women on the site than there were in reality.

This doesn’t mean that women are saints; it only means we have different weaknesses. I think men are more likely to struggle with weaknesses in an online, visual world. Shaunti Feldhahn explained that well here.

5. Most of these guys did not have sex with anyone else.

Remember: many of these accounts were set up by guys on the spur of the moment as they explored the possibility of an affair. Most of these men, though, did not follow through (especially since there were so few women actually on the site!) So just because a guy was listed there does not mean that he cheated. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t do anything wrong; just that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

5 Thoughts About What The Ashley Madison Scandal Tells Us About Sex

6. Do we give the impression that “marriage is where sex goes to die?”

Look at the motto for Ashley Madison to begin with: “Life is short. Have an affair.” In other words, the affair makes life more fun. Does that mean that our culture tends to think that married sex is really boring?

Yeah, I think it does. Which is awfully odd because the people with the best sex life are routinely found to be people who are married! The hooking up culture really doesn’t result in great sex–especially for women.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of couples for whom sex has pretty much died. And if we don’t stress this part of our relationship, our marriage is going to get really boring. So if sex is boring–do something about it! Don’t settle! And if we give our kids the impression that we have no sex life because we’re married, how in the world are we going to convince them to wait until they’re married?

7. Do we have the idea that there’s “sacred sex” and then there’s “fun sex”?

I don’t mean to insinuate, though, that if your husband used Ashley Madison it’s your fault, just like I didn’t mean to blame Anna Duggar in Friday’s post. I actually wonder something about Josh (and about other men that use Ashley Madison): have we given the impression that there is such a thing as “sacred sex”, which is missionary position and entirely clinical and passion-less, and then there’s fun sex, which can’t possibly be done in marriage?

I think there’s a stream of Christianity that inadvertently does this. If we stress purity in the wrong way, we can give the impression that sex itself is the enemy–that sexual feelings or sexual exploration are to be fought against at all costs. And this can easily make us into prudes. I don’t mean just women are prudes–I mean men, too, may think in terms of “I could NEVER do this with my wife! She’s too pure!” So they turn elsewhere for an outlet.

8. Exploring is good!

We’ve got to reclaim the idea that adventure and passion ARE pure. That losing oneself in passion is actually far closer to godliness than staying perfectly in control.

Spicing up your marriage and having more fun is a good thing.

9. If you feel distance, talk about it.

Nobody wakes up one day and decides to have an affair. Distance builds over time. And even if there’s no open hostility, you tend to feel it. You know there are certain subjects that you can’t talk about with your husband.

That’s a bad sign. If you sense distance–even if you don’t think your husband is doing anything wrong–work to fix it. Work to reclaim that feeling of oneness, of being on the same team.

If you sense a problem, just do not ignore it.

10. Life is short. Have an affair–with your husband!

Life is short. Have an affair--with your husband! On Ashley Madison and having fun in marriage.

Let’s have all that excitement and exploration and adventure–with our husbands! Let’s pursue him. Let’s be a little bit “naughty”. Not because we’re scared he’ll stray, but because why on earth would you want to miss out on something so great that marriage has to offer?

Get frisky tonight! If there’s nothing else that the Ashley Madison scandal taught me, it’s that too many people are wasting their lives in pointless pursuits when the best is right in front of them. I don’t want to miss out on that, and I hope you won’t either.

Reader Question: How Can I Love if My Spouse is Hurting Me?

Reader Question: how can I love my husband when he ticks me off?How can I love my husband if he’s hurting me? How can I love my spouse if my spouse completely ticks me off?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is quite a common one that most of you could have written:

I know that sex is important in a marriage, but after spending the whole day picking up my husband’s messes, dealing with all the chaos with my kids, and watching my husband totally oblivious to what’s going on around him, I just want to scream! How can I not notice that two kids are fighting in front of him? Why is that always my problem? And how hard is it to put a coffee mug in the dishwasher? Why do I always have to do it? I feel like he walks through our house and notices nothing–not the mess, not the kids, not the bills. I take care of everything, and he likes it that way. And I’m just fed up.

Whether we’re ticked off about our husband never putting his coffee mug in the dishwasher or whether we’re ticked off about our husband watching porn; whether it’s a small thing or a little thing, we all battle with this essential question: how am I supposed to be nice to him when he makes me so mad?

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to feel ticked off. Sure, your spouse can do something wrong. Sure, your spouse can say something hurtful. But ultimately you decide how you will respond. Your husband can’t make you mad; that is a choice that you make.

When your spouse hurts you: You don't have to feel ticked off! You can choose how to respond.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentI’m not saying that you should let everything go, or that you shouldn’t deal with problems; not at all! In fact, in my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage I’ve got 3 of the 9 thoughts that all have to do with handling these issues in marriage, whether they’re big or small. You definitely have to resolve problems.

But those problems are easier to resolve if we’re going at them with our hearts right. And when we focus on anger and we focus on hurt, we won’t be able to solve anything.

Know Your Goal in Marriage: Oneness

I can think of so many times that I’ve been angry at Keith–and I actually shared a few instances in the book where I let those hurts and that anger drive a wedge between us. He’d be at work and I’d be at home, crying into my tea, so sad that I didn’t have a husband who understood me.

And usually at some point in the afternoon, a thought will enter my head: “do you actually want to make the marriage better, or do you just want to be proven to be the ‘good guy’ here?” In other words, am I trying to mend something, or am I just trying to justify myself and make him feel like slime?

But I usually dismiss those thoughts, because I HURT AND HE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND IT. So I work myself up and see how much worse I can feel. By the time he comes home, I’m ready for battle.

And often, within five minutes or hashing out all the ways he’s hurting me, all the things that I’ve rehearsed saying all day, I realize that I sound ridiculous. Sure, Keith may have done something hurtful. But me dwelling on it all day and lambasting him for it is worse.

How can we avoid all those crying messes in the meantime?

Here are three steps that I talk about in my book.

Know Your Triggers

Here’s how I explain it in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage:

One night your husband arrives home later than he was supposed to, and it doesn’t bother you one bit. Yet a week later he walks in the door equally late, and you’ve already been seething for half an hour, rehearsing the speech you’ll launch into once he steps inside. You think, He doesn’t care about our family! You decide that he has the problem—or even, that he is the problem.

Or maybe some mornings you’re ready to tear your husband’s hair out for leaving his socks on the floor instead of pitching them in the hamper, while other mornings you happily fetch the offending garments while humming to yourself.

We dwell on the particular infraction—being late or leaving socks lying around—but we often fail to realize that it isn’t necessarily what our husbands do that makes us mad; it’s other things that are going on in the background that cause us to see our husbands in a bad light. We let these other things—these triggers—influence how we think about our husbands. By scanning for these triggers, though, we can minimize their ability to send our thoughts reeling.

We all have times when we’re more likely to get ticked off, and if we can recognize them, we can minimize the chance that they’ll tackle us. Being hormonal; being too busy; being tired; feeling defensive; feeling like you haven’t connected in a while–all of these things make us more likely to react badly when our husbands do something insensitive.

I elaborate on that here–but remember: when you’re angry, ask yourself if the problem really is entirely with him, because quite often it’s not!

Don’t Dwell on the Bad Stuff

Did you know that you can control your thoughts? 2 Corinthians 10:5 says this:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

We take every thought captive! That means that we can take a thought, examine it, and throw it out if it’s not valid.

If we’re always looking for our husbands to mess up, we’ll notice each and every time they do. Taking every thought captive means breaking this cycle.

When writing the book I asked on my Facebook Page for people to share stories of how they managed to “let things go”–those little things that can bug us and make us think we have a bad marriage. I want to share the story of a woman I named Ruby:

A couple years ago I realized that I couldn’t look at my husband without seeing everything wrong with him. I was constantly annoyed, irritated, and disappointed.

I must have prayed about becoming more loving because God dropped an idea into my brain. I would stop criticizing Dave for one whole month. In order to keep from falling off the wagon, I decided to write about it. Every day. On Facebook, for all my friends to see. They would be my accountability group, whether they wanted to or not.

When I told Dave my plan, I was so nervous. I thought he’d roll his eyes or be suspicious. Instead, he beamed. And another little piece of my heart broke. I hadn’t realized how hurt he’d been by my bad attitude, sarcastic remarks, and snide comments—my passive-aggressive attempts to fix him.

I found that, because I wasn’t allowed to say anything snide to him, I stopped thinking critical things too. It happened gradually. I’d start a rant in my head about his leaving his side of the bed unmade or his floor all messy, and then I’d stop. All the nasty comments I was saving in my head for him were useless, since I wasn’t allowed to say them. So I stopped searching for them.

Since I was required to say nice things, I had to look for them: reasons I was thankful, things he was doing right. And slowly, I saw him differently. I realized that all those negative things were really coming from my own baggage, my own selfishness, and my own needs and desperation. They weren’t the whole truth.

Once my mouth, and more especially my thoughts, got out of the way, I realized I had a great husband. By the end of the month, I had formed a new habit. And as an added bonus, I’d had great conversations with my friends on Facebook, and I think we all grew a little.

After shutting up about my own needs and stopping thinking me, me, ME! all the time, I realized I had some issues of my own I needed to work through. I had no concept of boundaries and saying no. I had no idea that a “good Christian wife” could ask her husband in a nice, non-ragey way to please put his lunch bag away instead of stewing over feeling like his maid for months and then exploding in a vague storm of emotions and frustration.

I had a lot to learn, but the month of no criticizing was a great first step for me.

Catch Him Doing Good

Ruby tried to not criticize, and it meant that she wasn’t watching for him to mess up. Now let’s take it one step further and catch him doing good.

If you make it your goal to notice one thing that he does today well, and then praise him for it–that can change the whole dynamic of your relationship!

If you’re in a tough marriage, I know this sounds difficult.

But when you get your heart right, you can start tackling the big problems in marriage with a better attitude. And you’ve built some goodwill so that your spouse is more receptive, too.

I know when you’re sad you just want your spouse to acknowledge it and feel badly about it, too. And a little grovelling wouldn’t hurt.

But wanting your spouse to feel like a worm rarely does much for the marriage. Instead, realize: I can control my feelings. I can decide what to think about. I can decide what to dwell on.

That’s really empowering. And then we can stop feeling so much like a victim in the marriage, and more like a strong person who can start to address problems and turn this  marriage around! When everything just happens TO you, you can’t do anything. But when you decide how to feel and how to act, suddenly you have the ability to make changes. And that’s what God intended for you.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentMy husband can’t make me mad, and I don’t have to feel ticked off.

That’s freeing! And it’s thought #2 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. If you want to read some marriage thoughts that empower you to make changes, then this book is for you! God doesn’t want us to be passive in our marriages. He wants us to learn to do the right thing. And I try to show you how you can turn a mediocre marriage into a great marriage!


Wifey Wednesday: How Thoughts Can Change a Marriage

How thoughts can change a marriage--or hurt a marriage!

Can the way you think about marriage actually hurt your marriage?

On August 18 my new book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, will officially launch (though you can pre-order it now!). And this month we’ll be looking at that essential question: is what you think holding you back from marital bliss?

Today’s Wednesday, the day that we always talk about marriage, so I thought it would be a good day to share an excerpt from the book about my own journey with faulty thinking–really the heart of the message. And then I’ll give you who are bloggers a chance to link up your own marriage posts below, too!

But before I do that, it’s time to announce some winners of some of the contests I’ve had going!

First, I asked on Facebook for some pat answers that you’re often told that don’t really work. I got almost 100 replies (so cool, and they were awesome, too!), and I drew a random commenter. It was Katie R.! I’ve messaged her, and thank you.

Then last week I ran a great post by Arlene Pellicane about how Dads Roll Differently, talking about her new book 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom. I picked Emily, a random commenter on that blog post, and we’re sending her a book.

And you can still win!

…even a $100 Visa gift card! Don’t forget to comment on Lean Cuisine’s post What You Want to be Weighed On. They’ve got a great video out that talks about how we should celebrate our effort and accomplishments, not our appearance. And I’ve chimed in with what I think is important. Come on over, chime in yourself, and you just may win! There aren’t too many entries yet so your chances are pretty good. :) Enter here.

And take just a minute or two to enter my book giveaway post! We’re giving away another copy of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom, plus a few copies of Lovemaking (a great book I recently endorsed), and a collection of 10 ebooks. So go now!

And now here’s the excerpt:

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentKeith and I had both waited for marriage to have sex, and we both assumed that it would be wonderful, mind-blowing, and perfectly natural. But it wasn’t. It was awkward, it was messy, and worst of all, it hurt. Whenever Keith wanted to make love, I felt rejected, because he wanted something that made me miserable.

My frustration finally grew to the point where I wondered, Why can’t he just love me for me and not for what I can do for him? I accused him of selfishness. Of not loving me. Of being a Neanderthal who couldn’t control his passions. The more we fought over sex, the more certain I became that he didn’t value me. I felt so lonely, and yet instead of being sympathetic and wrapping me in a bear hug, Keith lobbed accusations right back: “Why don’t you care about my feelings? Why don’t you want me?”

After I had prayed for two exhausting years that he would start caring about me, a thought entered my head: Do you believe the only one who can fix this relationship is Keith? Don’t you have something to do with it?

I didn’t particularly like that thought, and so I vehemently argued with myself about why changing was impossible. Even if we only considered sex, how was I supposed to enjoy something so gross and uncomfortable?

Then another thought hit me even harder: If God says that sex is good, and the whole world says that sex is good, maybe you should start figuring out how to make sex good.

I was stunned.

If that thought was right, then the responsibility fell on me to do something about my struggle.

I had to stop thinking sex was awful and start thinking, Sex is great—I just don’t have it all figured out yet. The problem may have started in the bedroom, but it wasn’t a problem with sex. It was a problem with how I was thinking.

The next few years in our marriage became my big research project into this thing called Us. I decided to conquer this sex issue once and for all, because if God created something this great, no way was I going to miss it! I read books and talked to friends about how to make sex work. I talked to wise mentors about how to deal with past issues that held people back. I studied Keith to glean what made him feel loved. Slowly but surely, I fell madly in love with Keith again. And thankfully, he with me too.

Faulty Thinking Leaves Us Stuck

My marriage was stuck when I believed that Keith’s libido was the cause of all our fights. After all, if his sex drive was the problem, then the only solution I could see was to make Keith want sex less. I threw my energy into that dead-end goal: I bought a wardrobe of long flannel nightgowns; I com-plained constantly about headaches; and I stopped kissing in all its forms.

I was fruitlessly expending all this energy, making myself and my husband frustrated, because I suffered from faulty thinking. It was only when I realized that I had a different option—instead of investing so much energy into getting Keith to want sex less, I could figure out how to make me want it more—did things begin to change.

When our options are limited, it’s easy to become hopeless. I believed that my marriage couldn’t get better until Keith changed, but I had no control over that. So I was stuck. And when you’re stuck, you stop trying—or you do counterproductive things, such as emptying out the local Salvation Army of all their granny nightgowns. You’re not fixing your marriage; you’re digging a deeper hole.

But what if that initial thought was wrong? What if peace and joy are not dependent on someone else changing,
but they instead flow from God giving us the ability to choose how to think, how to feel, and how to respond? We can choose to make our life fulfilling by aligning our thoughts more with God’s. Jesus, after all, isn’t just our way to salvation. He is Truth itself (John 14:6). When we grow close to Jesus, he reveals Truth. That lets us see all the options before us. Then we won’t feel stuck—we’ll know that there is always a way forward.

Christians Get Stuck in Marriage, Too

That sounds a bit like a clichéd bumper sticker, though, doesn’t it? “Are you stuck? You just need Jesus!” While this pat statement has a foundation of truth, if it were really that easy, wouldn’t all Christians have great marriages?

Yes, we would, and I think it’s to our shame that we don’t. But I’ve seen lots of faulty thinking in Christian circles that goes something like this:

If you have a problem in your marriage, then the answer is always to pray more, submit more, or love more. If you just pray more, your husband will stop the porn. If you just submit more, your husband will become a leader and stop playing all those video games. If you just love him more, he’ll stop being a workaholic and start remembering your birthday. Do these things, and your husband will change and you will be happy.

Now prayer, of course, is one of the best weapons we have in bringing peace to our lives, and I certainly don’t mean to discount its importance. But the reason behind the prayer matters. If you pray only to get God to do something, then you treat God like Santa Claus or a rabbit’s foot, not a Savior with a claim on your life.

Prayer should always be about submission to God’s will; it should not be about convincing God to do yours.

Prayer is about submitting to God

Similarly, submission and love are among the noblest pursuits, but if your purpose in doing them is to cajole your husband into doing something to make you happy, then that’s manipulation too. And your faulty thinking—that you need your husband to change in order for you to be happy limits your options for improving your marriage. You’re stuck.

These ideas that enter our consciousness—that by praying and loving enough we will have a happy marriage—are what I will call “pat answers.” They promise the moon and make marriage look so easy. But despite the initial seduction of the “promise,” ultimately these pat answers don’t work, because they put the responsibility for change in someone else’s hands. It’s not you, fully submitted to God, who acts to bring about change; it’s God all by himself, or your husband, or a friend. You become a bystander.


That’s from the intro!

So let me ask  you today: Do you feel like a bystander in your marriage–like you’re twisting yourself into a pretzel trying to get someone else to fix things, because you figure there’s nothing that you can do?

Most of us are stuck there at some point or other. And unfortunately the church can make this problem worse. The way that we talk about prayer, and the way that we talk about male leadership, has made so many women stuck, just like I was.

It wasn’t that I didn’t pray–I did. I prayed a ton. But I prayed for the wrong things because I was thinking the wrong things. And I thought the responsibility for actually fixing things rested on my husband and on God.

It was only when I saw that God wanted so much more for me–freedom, and passion, and love–and that these things were possible if I just thought differently–that my marriage started to change.

That’s the heart for my book. I want women to see that God doesn’t want you stuck–and you aren’t really stuck. You just may need to think about your marriage in a different way. Whether it’s a relatively small issue, a general malaise, or a big thing that’s keeping you from feeling like you’re one, God does have a way forward for you. He really does. Let me show you!

The book is available August 18, and I’ll be doing a big party on that day (more about that soon!) where people who pre-order the book or who order it then can get a ton of freebies. But for today, let me leave you with this thought: Instead of praying that God will make your marriage better, can you pray that God will help you think clearly about this issue? Maybe all it takes a bit of a mind shift to make all the difference in the world!

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Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! If you’re a blogger, link up a marriage post in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts, too!

Top 10 Christian Pat Answers About Marriage

Sometimes Christian marriage advice just doesn’t work.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentAs we get ready for the launch of my new book, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, I asked on my Facebook Page for people to share some “pat answers” about marriage that they often hear, but that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Thank you so much for all your responses! They were great to read through. And so many of them were in my book, too–which helps me to know that I’m on the right track!

So today I’m going to share the Top 10 Pat Christian Marriage Advice that doesn’t work.

Top 10 Pat Answer Christian Marriage Advice that Doesn't WorkPat Answer Christian Marriage Advice That Makes Small Things Bigger

In this first category we’re talking about when you’re upset about relatively little things, that are likely fairly easily solved. But instead of tackling them in a healthy manner, we think God is asking us to do something quite different. And we end up making what might be a small thing linger, rather than nipping it in the bud.

Ever heard any of these?

1. Don’t go to bed angry!

The #1 pat answer that was mentioned in that Facebook post was “Don’t go to bed angry!” It’s taken from Ephesians 4:26, which says this:

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.

People too often take that to mean that if you’re angry, you can’t go to sleep. You have to stay up until 4 in the morning hashing it out.

But if we do that, we often say stupid things because we’re overtired.  If we sleep on it, the problem often seems much smaller in the morning!

There’s a difference between going to bed without resolving an issue, knowing that you’re going to talk about it later, and going to bed absolutely incensed. Deciding to talk about something later is often very good advice!

Do Not Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger--doesn't mean what you think it means!

2. Just pray about it more.

Whenever we have a problem we are definitely to take it to God. But sometimes the way we talk about prayer makes it sound like this is ALL we do.

One Facebook commenter explained it like this:

You can pray for help with a situation but more than likely some work is going to be required after prayer. You might even have to wait for God to lead you on the right path but often He doesn’t just solve our problems with no work on our part.


Let’s say that you’re feeling neglected by your husband because you haven’t done anything, just the two of you, in months.

What should you do: pray about it–or pray about it and then talk to him? Or plan a date night just the two of you? Or figure out what you can cut out of your schedule?

So often we feel like “God is close to the broken hearted”, so when we’re sad, we’re supposed to lay it all at His feet. Well, yes. But maybe there’s more you should be doing, too! Prayer isn’t supposed to be a “get out of responsibility for making your life better card!” Maybe what you really need is to pray that God will show you how to fix this problem yourself.

3. Just grow closer to God and your marriage problems will disappear.

Here’s another goodie–a variant on the one above. Yes, as we grow closer to God we become holier, and that often makes our part in the marriage problem minimized. Absolutely.

But often what happens is that there are very real issues that need to be dealt with in marriage. And rather than deal with those, we run to God, hoping that God will then make it better for us.

So we’re not trying to get closer to God for the sake of getting closer to God; we’re trying to get closer to God so that He’ll go and beat someone up for us, sort of like he’s a protective older brother.

That’s manipulation!

How about this: Grow closer to God, and then ask for wisdom for what you should do to make your marriage better?

Thought #4 is all about taking responsibility for our own happiness, rather than expecting God, or your husband, to give it to you. And it’s much more effective.

4. Love him according to his love language, and he’ll love you according to yours!

Or another variation: respect him, and he’ll love you!

Yes, women need love and men need respect. Yes, we all have love languages and it’s good to learn them. But thinking that just because we act in a loving way means that he will automatically return the favour is to misunderstand human nature.

It assumes that the reason that he isn’t loving you according to your love language is because you aren’t doing something. But what if there’s another reason? What if he’s tired? What if he’s stressed? What if he just plain doesn’t know your love language? What if he has unresolved issues and he has difficulty reaching out emotionally?

If you need something in marriage, it’s your job to tell him. And make it really simple and obvious what he needs to do! I told my husband this weekend: I feel like we need to do more fun things together where we feel like we’ve accomplished something, not just where we’ve spent a day vegging together. So I suggested that we start hiking as a hobby. He agreed. And so this week he’s going to research a 15 km hike we can do together on Saturday.

I could have waited for him to figure that out on his own. Or we could have had a good talk about it!

Besides, a lot of this advice is really manipulative. “Just pray about it and he’ll love you.” “Just love him and he’ll love you.” It’s telling us to do all of these things to get him to love us EXCEPT actually be vulnerable before him and let him know what we’re thinking. It doesn’t work!

5. Don’t take offense. If you’re upset about something, just let it go!

Certainly we aren’t to needlessly take offense at people.

But being aggravated about something isn’t a sin. Withholding love over it, yes–being aggravated, no.

Let’s say it really bugs you that your husband never puts the coffee mugs in the dishwasher. I have known women to be frustrated at this trait for years. They wrestle with it. They pray about it. They tell themselves, “I know I’m not supposed to be take offense, and I have to get over this. It’s just a stupid coffee mug.”

But it keeps happening, and they keep struggling.

What would happen if she just said to him,

“Honey, I’d appreciate it if you put your coffee mugs in the dishwasher after you use them. And if you’re never sure if the dishwasher is clean or dirty, I’ll get a little sticker that tells you so it’s obvious when it’s dirty and  you can load it. Can you do that? It would make me so happy!”

Thought #4 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage includes this little tidbit: Just ask for help. I asked on Facebook last year, when I was writing it, for stories about when women finally realized that if they asked their husbands specifically for help, their husbands actually came through. A bunch of those stories made it into the book. But the two most common reasons for not asking were, “I didn’t want to be rude”, and “he should just know!”

But he obviously doesn’t. Try asking! It’s better than letting something stew.

Pat Answer Christian Marriage Advice That Minimizes Real Problems

Now let’s turn to another category of “pat answers”–those pat answers that are given to women in really difficult situations that make the problem worse in a whole other way.

6. Pray that God will change your husband’s heart.

A variation of #2 above, to “pray about it”, but this time let’s assume that the “something” is a big sin. Maybe he’s gambling. He’s lazy and won’t get a job. He’s watching porn. He plays video games all day. Whatever it may be.

Here’s why this advice is wrong in this situation: God won’t “make” your husband stop using porn. He lets us have free will. He may bother your husband about it. He may put roadblocks up to the porn use. He may convict your husband. But ultimately it’s up to your husband what he does. God doesn’t force us to do the right thing.

What God does do is put consequences to our actions, so that we reap what we sow. And he gives clear instructions on what to do within the church if someone is sinning and is refusing to repent–and “just pray about it” is definitely not the only step.

I explained this in my post Are you a spouses or an enabler? That was a key post on this blog, and I’ve taken those thoughts and flushed them out through about three thoughts, and three chapters, in this new book. How to deal with sin in marriage is so misunderstood, and I hope that in this book I can point us to a much better way.

7. If you disagree, the head of the house should make the final decision.

And bonus addition: you’ll be blessed because of your submissive attitude!

There are several problems with this, and I’ll be making a video next week that explains them. First, if we think that submission is all about decision making, then we’re missing the heart of the word. And second, God’s will is that we be seeking after His direction. If we say, “husbands always make decisions”, it’s awfully easy to get away from relying on God to make those decisions. And that’s downright scary.

I explain more in this post on what submission means, but I dedicate Thought #5 to it! Many of you have been asking for me to flesh out my position on the submission, and I did it in great length in this book.

8. If you submit to your husband more, he’ll step up and be a leader.

Is your husband not acting in a godly way? The problem must be that you aren’t submitting!

Now, there are times when this definitely is true. That’s the thing about pat answers: they have a kernel of truth to them, and that’s why they’re so prevalent.

I know marriages where the wife just bulldozes over the husband so much that eventually he stops trying.

But too many Christians think that the answer to every marriage problem is “submit” when it isn’t. It’s as if instead of having a whole tool box to fix things we have only a hammer. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

(Actually, I do believe that the answer to every marriage problem is to “submit”, but that’s because I think “submission” means something very different than what we normally think. When the word is normally used, we take it to mean that the wife doesn’t make decisions, doesn’t assert herself, doesn’t mention anything that’s bothering her, and lets her husband set the agenda.)

Let’s say he’s playing video games too much because he got addicted to them growing up. Submission (in the way it’s normally used) isn’t going to help that problem. Let’s say that he’s texting other women. Submission isn’t going to help that problem. Let’s instead look at the individual problem and figure out what steps will help us overcome it!

9. If you have sex with him more, he’ll stop watching porn.

Again, a kernel of truth: men are often far more tempted by porn when they don’t have sex as often. I’ve written before about whether or not you can cause him to sin.

But that doesn’t mean that you’re to blame if he  uses porn. And it certainly doesn’t mean that having sex will make him stop!

The problem with porn isn’t just about sexual temptation. It’s about rewiring the brain so that what becomes arousing is an image, not a person. If he’s getting his sexual release through porn, he’s less likely to want to make love to you. The number of women on this blog whose husbands have zero sex drive for them but tons of sex drive for porn is astronomical. To tell these women “just have sex more” is to add insult to injury. They’d love to have sex more–but their husbands turn to porn instead!

You can’t cure porn by having sex with him. You need to deal with the root issue, and, if it’s a long-standing addiction, you have to go through healing to rewire his sex drive again. It’s not quick and painless, but it can happen. Don’t despair!

In Thought #8 I talk about how “just have sex” is exactly the wrong advice for all kinds of situations. If you’re struggling here, I hope some of this wisdom can help.

10. If your husband is doing something wrong, it’s not your job to be the Holy Spirit in his life. Win him without words!

Yes, if our husbands are not Christian, we are to win him to Christ without nagging him (1 Peter 3:1). But people take that verse which is written for a very specific situation and apply it to everything–to mean that we are never to bring up anything, and never to confront our husbands on anything.

On the contrary, when we see someone stumbling, we are to warn them. And if your husband has a major issue in his life, as his wife, that is what being his helpmate is all about! It’s to inspire him to grow closer to God by not letting him go further into sin without consequences.

What is more loving–to ignore a big sin and to cover it up, or to confront it in love and set limits so that the sin is more likely to stop?

Thoughts #6 & 7 are all about learning how to use our words to resolve these conflicts, even when big sin is involved. And I hope if more women understood God’s heart for marriage, then fewer women would watch their husbands go further into sin and think that they’re being godly by saying nothing.

So there you go–ten pat answers that we hear a lot in Christian circles that don’t actually help marriage, and can even make problems worse.

Quite simply, there’s a lot of sloppy thinking about marriage out there, and I hope that by looking at the whole of Scripture, and the heart of God to have His children choose rightly, that we’ll get a fuller picture of what the marriage relationship is supposed to be!

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentEver feel like a lot of the stuff you heard in church about marriage is wrong? Then you’ll love 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage! And remember: If you buy it before it’s released you’ll get about 50% off in the United States and Canada (I’m sorry it’s not on sale in the U.K.!). It’ll be released August 18, and anyone who buys it on that day or pre-orders it will get a ton of downloadable freebies! Stay tuned for more info.

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Now it’s  your turn! Have you heard any of those pat answers? Did any resonate with you? Or do you have different ones that bug you? Let me know in the comments!

The Right Kind of Fight

The Right Kind of Fight: Dealing with anger in #marriage

Why is it that anger in marriage is so dangerous? Maybe we need to learn to have the right kind of fight!

For twelve years I wrote a weekly syndicated slice-of-life column for several newspapers. I published many of them on this blog, but recently I’ve found some older ones that never made it. So I thought I’d run one today–because I really do like it!

I’ve always enjoyed a good fight. When my husband and I disagree, we haul out every intellectual argument in our arsenal to show why the other person is irretrievably, irreconcilably, and certifiably off his or her rocker. Early in our marriage this usually lasted for several days. Now I can argue vehemently for a few minutes, and then shrug my shoulders, and admit, “I guess you’re right.”

It took me years to learn to say those words. During that time I also learned that trying to resolve an issue at one in the morning is exceedingly stupid; it’s better to sleep on it, because chances are tomorrow you’ll forget what you were fighting about anyway. But most importantly I have learned that even if I am right, listening to my husband’s feelings is more important than winning the argument.

In other words, I have learned how to have good fights.

Before our wedding we didn’t fight. He agreed with everything I said, and I agreed with everything he said, because we thought exactly the same way. Unfortunately, on the honeymoon I realized that he had independent thoughts, which proved very threatening. I had to whip him into shape, and he had to whip me into shape, and we both ended up with whiplash.

Why does anger in marriage hurt us so much?

I think it’s because we misunderstand it. We think anger is like flatulence. This uncomfortable feeling bubbles up inside us, growing ever more urgent, until it just has to be released. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. Unlike farting, anger doesn’t waft away in the air after you’ve expressed it. It’s more like a grenade going off, maiming everybody in its path. You say things you don’t mean, but once those things are out of your mouth, you can’t take them back.

We feel anger so strongly because anger is a master con artist. When we’re angry, it’s usually a sign that there’s something else going on below the surface, something that we’d rather not talk about. And we don’t like that vulnerable feeling, so anger helps us deflect attention from our fears.

Do you and those you love often have the same fight, over and over again, without really resolving anything?

Maybe that’s because in your anger you’re ignoring the real issues.

Picture this couple: he arrives home late and she immediately berates him for being an insensitive clod who doesn’t care about the family. He responds by complaining that if she really wanted him home, maybe she’d make the house a little nicer to come home to.

Words are flying, but nothing useful is being communicated.

On the other hand, if he could be honest, maybe he’d reveal something like this: “I just worry that I could get laid off, and I don’t know how to support us. And maybe I’m failing at home, too. What if I really am a bad father?”

And maybe she would admit: “I feel lonely. I love the kids, but sometimes they’re not enough. What if I’m becoming boring? Show me that you still love me!”

So next time you’re boiling mad, whether it’s at a difficult spouse or a recalcitrant teen, ask yourself, “what’s really going on here? What am I actually scared of?”

And then tell each other instead of blowing up. Sure you’re risking rejection, but as long as two people just yell at each other, the relationship is never going to build anything except more walls. If you could both stop lashing out, and say what’s on your hearts instead, a miracle might happen. It takes guts to open up. But opening up your heart is a whole lot more productive than just shooting off your mouth. And much more honest, too.

Maybe it’s time we all tried it.

What Marriage Advice Do You Listen To?

So I’m back from my daughter’s wedding! We don’t have all the pictures yet, so I’ll do some longer posts on it next week, but right now we’re relaxing at home and recovering. And you can see some sneak peeks at a few pics up on my Facebook page here and here (complete with a stalker photo by her little sister).

And remember that tomorrow is the last day to enter the contest for a $100 Visa card, courtesy of Monistat and BlogHer! Check out the instructions on this post about insecurity in the bedroom.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentToday I thought I’d run an interesting guest post  from anonymous reader Your Feathered Friend. She struggles with a chronic illness, and is trying to come to terms with needing help in everyday life when her husband just doesn’t “see” what she needs.

This is a theme in both my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum and in my upcoming 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage (which releases in less than a month!): sometimes the pat Christian answers to just “love your husband and he will show love back” don’t work, especially when you genuinely need help. So what do you do? She shares her struggles here, and I’d love to hear your take on it in the comments!

What Marriage Advice Do You Listen To.

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis five years ago, I learned that everyone has a suggestion to “fix” me. Bee stings, acupuncture, yoga, pilates, weight lifting, gluten free, dairy free, no carbs, all carbs Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, the list goes on. I’ve tried many of these and guess what…I still have MS.

Some of the most frustrating times since my diagnosis were when I was trying to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and reduce my stress, and I was still having relapses and symptoms. Was the advice I received bad?

Not necessarily. (Although, I can’t fathom getting stung repeatedly by bees is good for anyone!) What works for some doesn’t work for others. Sometimes, the “cure” just causes more stress and therefore more harm. That doesn’t discredit the solution for others though, and we should avoid being condescending.

This doesn’t just apply in medicine. As a newlywed, our friends and family are clamoring to offer their advice for a happy, healthy marriage. Don’t get me wrong, we need all the help we can get!

But in this instance, I realized that what was good for many relationships, was actually unhealthy for mine.

The Unhealthy Advice. I had been told over and over to “kill him with kindness”. When my husband is disrespectful, I should show him respect anyway. When he lacks empathy, I should try to see it from his perspective. When he doesn’t want to help around the house, I should do as much as I can to give him a break. When he isn’t there for me emotionally, I should support him even more so he realizes how important it is. I will know I’ve done everything I can for our relationship, and eventually, my generosity will change him. Right?

Wrong. To my husband, what I had been doing was encouraging his poor habits. I was saying to my husband, “My fatigue is really weighing me down; I’m struggling to get out of bed”, but then when I realized we had no clean towels, I was dragging myself to the laundry room. He couldn’t see the agony I was in, just that we had clean towels. I was complaining that I didn’t have enough time to go to work, grocery shop, and have dinner on the table when he got home. But when pressured, I overextended myself to get all done. Again, he didn’t see that I had to conduct a conference call at the grocery store, he just knows he came home to a stocked refrigerator.

The straw that broke this camel’s back was when I had outpatient surgery last month. The situation was off to a bad start when my husband refused to go to the hospital with me. In the days that followed, despite the fact that I was in a lot of pain, he didn’t help out around the house. As I saw the dishes piling up and dinner going unmade, I did the only thing I knew to do: hobble into the kitchen to take care of it. He never stepped up because he never saw the need.

I realize now that I was sending mixed signals.

For some men, it might be enough to simply tell them you need more help, but for my husband, it’s not. Since I can’t change him, I need to change my behavior. I spoke with my husband calmly and lovingly and informed him that I can’t continue this way; I need his help. In order to allow him to help, I need to be patient, let go, and let him do it in his time. If it doesn’t get done, that’s OK (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself).

To clarify, I am not advising that women who feel mistreated throw down their aprons and walk out. Keep in mind that I approached my husband with love and told him where I was coming from. I didn’t just start giving him the cold shoulder and pouting. I wasn’t doing anyone a favor by letting him continue in his ways, but instead I’m doing what is best for our relationship by helping to work through some unhealthy habits. I’m sure he is frustrated that I’m electing not to do some of the things I’ve been doing, but I hope he will gain perspective with time.

The next time you are given advice, good or bad, here are some things to consider before you act on it:

1. Be respectful to the people giving advice.

Whether someone is telling you how to cure your child’s autism or how to spend less money, resist the urge to tell them to put their advice where the sun don’t shine. More than likely, they care and want to help.

2. Be respectful to yourself.

You don’t have to act on every bit of advice someone gives you. Consider how this advice really applies in your situation. Be willing to step out in faith and try new things, but also be OK saying “no”.

3. Be respectful to others in the situation with you.

When your friend is tells you to cut off sex from your husband until he does the dishes, consider if that is really being kind to him.

4. Don’t make an emotional response.

Easier said than done. For women, our emotions are tangled into our decision making process, but that doesn’t mean they should drive our decisions. Fear and anger have helped me make some of my worst mistakes, while removing myself from the situation to get a level head has never hurt in the long run.

5. Consider your motivations.

Am I doing what my mom suggested just to make her happy? Am I taking my friend’s advice because I think it will be hurtful to my husband?

6. Pray about it.

I don’t always hear God when I pray about my decisions, not because he doesn’t care, but because he will work through whatever I do. When I do hear from him, it’s best to listen.

What’s the best well meaning – but bad – advice you’ve received?

Profile_edited-1World traveler, avid reader, cat lover, and Jesus follower.  These are just a few words to describe Your Feathered Friend.  She’s juggling a new marriage, working full time, and living with Multiple Sclerosis.   In many ways, she’s just your average woman.  She’s trying to figure out how to keep her family happy and healthy, and writing about it along the way.


What I Want People to Weigh Me On

What Do I Want to Be Weighed On? Thoughts on True Accomplishments

This is a new thing for me in my blogging world–I’ve actually been selected as one of Lean Cuisine’s Phenomenal Ambassadors. I’ve never been an ambassador for a brand before, but I’ve always loved Lean Cuisine–it was my go-to when I needed to buy frozen, quick dinners and didn’t want my family eating pizza. So I thought I could get behind it–especially since later this summer I’ll get to take an immersion tour of their kitchens in Ohio. How cool is that?

But what I really liked was the way Lean Cuisine is overhauling their brand. The brand is reintroducing itself as a brand focused on modern eating; with bold, ethnic flavors, new attributes, contemporary packaging – which I’ll be writing about later – as well as a new brand campaign that I’m thrilled to share with you today.

Lean Cuisine’s new brand campaign Feed Your PhenomenalTM reflects its new brand purpose: to feed the greatness in every woman.

To kick things off, Lean Cuisine is releasing a video featuring real women “weighing” themselves to help start a social conversation that reinforces the message that the most important thing we should weigh is our accomplishments.

And so Lean Cuisine asked me to share one of my accomplishments that I’m most proud of.

So often we women judge ourselves by our appearance. It’s all about what we look like on the OUTSIDE. But it’s really our inside that matters.

Now this is primarily a marriage blog–we talk about how to bolster our marriages, and I’ve said often that it’s hard to have a great marriage if we don’t feel confident and secure in ourselves first.

But I want to take it one step further today. I think that often we judge people not just on the appearance of their bodies, but on the appearance of their families. We judge on the outside in everything: is her home perfect; is her hair perfect; is her waist perfect; are her kids perfect. And, of course, is her marriage perfect?

And that makes most of us scared to be honest. We’re scared to tell others when we’re struggling in case we’re judged.

So when I’m asked about my accomplishments, I want to be honest today.

I could point to books I’ve written or this blog or how well my girls turned out. But actually what I’m really proud of is that I have hung in there and did the right thing.

When Keith and I speak at marriage conferences we always say,

“We’re Keith and Sheila, we’ve been married for 23 years and happily married for 19.”

Once the kids came, it was about making sure they didn’t take over my life and that I still had time with my husband.

When our son Christopher died, it was about realizing that so many couples broke up after a huge loss like that, and that I wasn’t prepared for that to happen to us.

It was about choosing not to get upset when he was on call so much and I was alone with the kids. It was about choosing to make the time we did have together fun, instead of blaming him for not being home more.

And this year, as we are going through so many changes and our girls Katie and Rebecca are moving on with their lives, it’s about making a conscious decision that we are going to reinvent ourselves, not as parents, but as lovers. And even though Keith loves bird watching way more than I do, it’s about deciding to go out to the conservation area with him. It’s about not spending all my time on the computer, even when I want to, and do something he wants to do instead.

It’s about daily asking myself, “what is the wise thing to do right now?”, not always “what is the fun thing to do right now?” It’s keeping the bigger perspective.

Choose to Grow Your Marriage

And to tell you the truth, it’s hard. Keith’s job and my job have taken us away from each other so much in the last three years. And I find that I like being alone. I’m a little scared of what it will be like when he cuts down his work hours and we go on the road together more. But I’m also excited. And I’m determined that we will reconnect and redefine ourselves.

Now, please note: I’m not saying that I’m proud that my marriage is a success. I’m not even saying that I’m proud that I didn’t give up at my marriage. I’m saying that I’m proud that I didn’t give up doing the right thing.

And I believe you can say that WHETHER OR NOT your marriage is a success today.

I’ve been blown away by Natalie, the blogger at Visionary Womanhood. Natalie has been blogging for years on parenting and Christian living and homeschooling. But lately her blog has taken a turn.

She has been so authentic and so honest and so downright WISE in what she has written over the last year and a half as she has shared about the disintegration of her marriage. She worked for years to keep the marriage together until she finally realized that God didn’t want a sham of a marriage; He wanted two people who love Him and who respect each other. God doesn’t want us to allow ourselves, or our kids, to be berated, belittled, and abused, all in the name of marriage.

And so she had to let her dream of marriage go.

She separated from her husband and threw herself into supporting her kids, learning more about what God wants from us, and learning more about her husband. She is still hoping and praying for reconciliation and for her husband to understand God. But even if he doesn’t, she is doing the right thing. She is listening to what God is teaching her and she isn’t giving up.

A great marriage isn’t an accomplishment, it’s a gift–because no one can make a great marriage by themselves. If you have a great marriage, that isn’t yours to brag about. That’s God’s grace.

But acting right and doing your part to create a great marriage–that’s something we can all do. That is an accomplishment. Even if you don’t always succeed in getting your heart’s desire.

The greatest accomplishment isn’t having a marriage that looks great on the outside. It’s not living a comfortable life. It’s deciding to do what is right and good, regardless. Even if you’re tired. Even if you’re sad. Even if you’re alone. It’s putting one foot in front of the other every day.

And isn’t that what commitment means in marriage? It’s not committing to stay married–anyone can do that. It’s committing to doing your best to make this marriage the best it can be, on a daily basis, knowing that the success of the marriage is ultimately out of your hands. You do your part, so that you can always look back, regardless of what happened, and say, “I loved my husband and I loved God.”

If we were all so much more authentic, and believed that we were worth something inherently because of who we were made, I think we would see so much more health in every sense of the word–health in our bodies, health in our relationships, health in our spirits. But we spend so much time trying to get others to think we’re perfect that we focus our energy in the wrong direction.

It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to be a mess. But if, in the midst of that mess, you treat yourself well, you treat your husband with integrity and faithfulness, and you treat your kids with love, you have accomplished a lot.

Please check out Lean Cuisine’s #WeighThis video! And then answer this question in the comments to enter the SheKnows sweepstakes for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card:

What do you wish people would weigh you on?

I’m excited to see your responses!  

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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Wifey Wednesday: How God Wrote Our Love Story

Sometimes the love story we dream of isn’t the one we end up living. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not also a love-ly story.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And I give you a chance to link up your marriage posts in the linky below, too.

How God Wrote Our Love StoryToday Samantha Lee-Wiraatmaja from Godly Womanhood joins us to tell us about her love story. Here’s Samantha:

My husband and I love how God wrote our love story.

We’ve shared that story to many, and have been asked to share our wedding vows to youths learning about God-centered relationships. But before I tell the story of how God brought us together, I always start with a different story. One that is darker and a little sad, but more beautiful. A slightly less magical story but filled nonetheless with the rays of His glory. Without this story, telling of how God wrote our love story is just an empty promise of fluffy fairytale spirituality.

Because real love stories don’t end on the wedding day. We don’t belong to such short-lived tales that end with vague hazy promises of happily ever after. We belong in the halls of great men & women who found something worth fighting for and gave their lives for it. Stories filled with a little less fairy dust and a little more blood and tears. Stories that echo through the ages. Because God doesn’t just write great falling-in-love stories; He writes kick-ass, staying-in-love, submission-with-an-attitude, powerhouse-marriage stories too.

I want to tell you the story of what happened after we said “I do.”

It broke my heart. Marriage broke me into so many pieces there was no way I could be put together again.

I can only remember one promise that I’ve held onto growing up – one day, I’d meet a man who would see me for who I was and love me wholeheartedly for it.

I hid that promise in my heart for years, waiting and saving myself for that one man who’d see and cherish who I was – spirit, soul, and body. I resolved to give my heart & deepest parts of my soul only to this man, if he be found, or none at all.

I cherished this promise in my heart as the single most priceless treasure.

When God brought Alex & I together, it involved so much of the divine – dreams, visions, prophecies, that led us to each other – that I knew without a doubt this was the man I’d been waiting for all my life.

I also believed that he was God’s fulfillment of the promise I’d held onto for so long.

Then he began breaking my heart… and wouldn’t stop. Each wound tore a little deeper into that precious promise I’d kept wrapped so carefully in the innermost chambers of my heart.

He’d flirt with other women, sometimes while I was right beside him. He yelled at me for being hurt by it. He watched pornography with the intention to hurt & punish me.

He occasionally told me that he wished I was someone else. He wished I had this woman’s body, or that woman’s personality. He told me that he wished I was another woman as she’d do a better job of impressing his family than I was doing.

Each time left my self-esteem and dignity in pieces. I lived in the wreckage, unable to come to terms with the fact that “the one” promised by God was also the one tearing that long-cherished promise to shreds.

This man had been given access to parts of my soul that no one else knew, and with every betrayal he told me that who I was was simply not good enough.

And I turned on him with a vengeance.

I threw things (like his laptop. right out the window). I punched him, (everywhere I could except his face. because, ouch). We threw hurtful words intended to devastate the other.

And I allowed bitterness to harden my heart, turning me into someone (cruel, violent) I could no longer recognize. I relished the darkness and the pain, perversely believing that it was what I deserved.

We lived apart for awhile, and then we lived for months like strangers sharing a bed. I cried myself to sleep night after night, the coldness & distance between us made even more unbearable within the confines of the bedroom.

I wanted him to say something, do something – I so desperately wanted him to fight for me.

But he wouldn’t, couldn’t. He was as hurt, scared, and helpless as I was. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. Most times he was sweet, tender, loving. He loved me and he loved God. It distressed him to see me so broken by his actions. But he couldn’t help it, and the way I behaved in return only made matters worse. You see, we bring the baggage of our family heritage into our marriages – addictions, patterns of communication, models of the marriage covenant, and plenty of childhood issues. And unless we intentionally decide to cultivate a new heritage in Christ, we’re just repeating the harmful patterns we’ve grown up with.

We were both drowning, clawing at each other in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, not realizing that we were only pulling each other further down into the cold darkness.

But paradoxically, it was when we reached the end of our rope that we found salvation.

I hit that lowest point when I realized that Alex might never change. He might keep doing things to hurt me and not care. He might never respond in the way I wanted him to, comforting me and taking responsibility for this actions.

All those things might never change, but what could change was me. I didn’t have to keep living in darkness and pain.

The Lord began to speak to me a message of deep comfort that began to heal my heart. He showed me that I didn’t have to wait for Alex to comfort me for the hurt he’d caused, or even to acknowledge the things he’d done.

Because ever since Eve, every woman longs for her husband to rise up. To fight – for her, their marriage, and most of all, her heart.

And unless we run to God every single day with our vulnerable hearts, we end up taking matters into our own hands. Just like Eve did.

We need to come every day to our Father’s throne. Fall down at His feet, throwing down every pain and shattered dream. There, healing waters flow to cleanse & heal our hearts. There, we feel His love wrap around the places in our souls that have gone without love for so long.

Because this is the truth that set me free: We can count all our grievances, name them one by one. And chances are, every single one of them are valid. But there is no freedom there. We will go round in circles, waiting for him to make amends. Or we can be free right here and now, regardless of where he is or what he does.

Not that we don’t try to make things right. We do what we need to (keeping our hearts pure, responding in a godly manner to our husbands) and then we need to let God be God, and let the man be the man. The man must have space to rise up, and for God to work with him, without the woman rushing in to do everything for him (we’re not doing him any favors when we do).

While the Lord was restoring me, He was doing the same with Alex. We stopped trying to get the other to fill the empty places in our hearts and found that it was God, not man, that completes us. And in doing so, we began to find all the things we’d thought would be lost to us forever – love, laughter, and a tenderness between two comrades who’ve witnessed the horrors of war together and survived.

Through the period of healing & strengthening, the Lord began to speak to me about promises.

He opened His Word to me in a new way and asked me this: Was I willing to let God’s promise in my life die?

That precious, precious promise I’d been holding onto since I was a little girl – would I let it fall to the ground and die? Because fruit only comes when a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies (John 12:24), and out of it will grow much fruit that will bless others.

Through the story of Abraham’s testing (Genesis 22), the Lord showed me this: When the promise that I’ve held on to for so long has to be sacrificed is when it is revealed that the greatest reward is the Lord.

The day I said “Yes” to Him and let that promise go is the day my heart was set free. A gust of fresh air blew into my soul and all the pain and darkness began to be washed away.

I found so much freedom in saying, “Yes Lord, I give up my right for a man who loves me perfectly. I lay it as a sacrifice, and I trust that you will provide.”

I didn’t realize till then how tiring it had been to hold on so tightly to that promise, always afraid that it might get lost or broken. And in leaving it all behind, I found incredible freedom that I could abandon my interests because someone else was looking after me.

And what of our marriage? Well, I am happy to say that all the smashing of computers (me), punching (me), and screaming (me again) has stopped…. as has the flirting and pornography.

He has turned our mourning to dancing, our sorrow into joy, our despair to hope. He took zealous idealism and tested it in the fire so that conviction-filled reality emerged that was worth much more than gold.

Are we still on the road to recovery? Oh yes, definitely. I think we’ll be on that journey for the rest of our lives.

But do we find joy in the journey? You bet. God doesn’t stop writing our love stories after we say “I do” – in fact He’s only just getting started.

Marriage broke my heart.

It broke my heart of stone. So God could build a new heart in me. A heart of flesh. (read: Ezekiel 36:26)

Because a God-written love story is not all perfect fluff and fairy dust. It looks more like the cross – messy, painful, blood everywhere. But God covers it. And we slowly work our way back to the perfect harmony of Eden, just as God intended marriage to be.


samanthaSamantha Lee-Wiraatmaja is the writer at Godly Womanhood and owns + designs the Godly Womanhood Shop. Romance is the greatest inspiration, motivation, and dream of her life. She dreams to see Romance of the gospel – the fullness of Eden – restored between God and man. She is passionate about seeing women reach the fullness of their potential.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage posts

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of your marriage post (please, only marriage, no cooking) in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts!


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