Bragging on Your Beloved: How Gratitude Can Transform a Marriage

“I’m thankful for my husband.” Is that a phrase that comes out of your lips often? Today, guest poster Cheri Gregory shares with us about how being thankful for your husband can transform your marriage.

Bragging on Your Beloved How Gratitude Can Transform a MarriageI used to believe in “venting.”

Blowing off steam.

Letting it all out.

My best friends were those who listened to all my marital ain’t-it-awfuls while nodding in agreement and adding sympathetic comments like, “No way!” and “That’s just terrible!”

I was certain that “talking it out” with girlfriends was the only thing keeping me from going off the deep end.

Not until I took a gratitude challenge did I realize three startling truths:

  1. my marital problems weren’t the real reason I was always in crisis.
  2. my sharing of wedded woes wasn’t helping anything.
  3. my venting habit was what kept me forever teetering on the edge of despair.

 Focus Causes Baditude” to Expand

Let’s explore what I wish was merely a hypothetical scenario from the early years of my marriage:

Before leaving for work one day, my husband said something offhandedly that hit me the wrong way.* For the rest of the day, I couldn’t get his comment–let alone his tone of voice–out of my mind. It stayed on automatic replay; I analyzed it over and over. The more I pondered it, the more upset I became.

When I got together with girlfriends for lunch, I asked for their opinions. Together, we dissected the comment and the tone syllable-by-syllable. We explored all possible interpretations and discovered that not a one was positive. We all agreed: I had been wronged.

By the time my husband and I reunited that evening, I had invested 5+ hours mulling over a comment that took him 5 seconds to make.

Can you guess:

  1. What kind of mood I was in?
  2. What kind of greeting I gave him?
  3. How I treated him the rest of the evening?

The answers, I’m embarrassed now to admit, are:

  1. Lousy
  2. Cold shoulder
  3. Disrespectfully.

Worse yet,  I felt completely justified in my behavior and believed he deserved every bit of it.
Why?

Because what I’d focused on all day had expanded in my mind until it was all I could see. I’d focused so much on that one comment that all I saw when I looked at my husband was negative.

 Gratitude Causes Focus to Expand

When I started keeping a gratitude journal, I gave myself permission find just one thing per day to be grateful about in my marriage. Some days, even that one felt like a Herculean effort.

Fortunately, even as stubbornly as I clung to my “baditude,” the practice of gratitude began to do what thankfulness always does: it expanded my focus. I found myself writing down two and even three things I appreciated about Daniel without having to force myself; they just flowed out of my pen. Then, I started reaching for my gratitude journal throughout the day as new ideas popped to mind.

And if you’ve ever experienced this kind of transformation in your thinking, you know what happened next: the more gratitude I expressed, the more things I noticed to be grateful for.

And the more things I was grateful for, the less bugged I became by an offhanded comment. The less I “needed” to blow off steam. In fact, venting started to feel icky. I lost interest in competing for winner of “Woe is Me” Wife contests and started hanging around women who spoke highly of their husbands.

Bragging on my BelovedBragging On My Beloved

You can get Cheri’s Bragging on My Beloved Journal here in my store. It’s only $2.99. Look and appreciate the positive in the one you love!

(*NOTE:  In this example, I am referring to an ordinary, everyday misunderstanding that occurs between two loving but imperfect people. I am not discussing an instance of abuse, abandonment, addiction, or adultery.)

Cheri GregoryCheri Gregory is a Certified Personality Trainer; contributor/co-author of a dozen books, including Wired That Way and 21 Ways to Connect With Your Kids (with Kathi Lipp); and frequent speaker for MOPS groups, women’s retreats, parent workshops, and educational seminars. She holds an M.A. in Leadership and is working on her PhD. Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, a pastor, for over a quarter-of-a-century; they have two college-aged kids. She blogs about expectations, “baditude”, and hope at www.CheriGregory.com

What Forgiveness Is–And What Forgiveness Isn’t

Today guest poster Angi Schneider tells her story about forgiveness–what it means and what it doesn’t mean. 

What Forgiveness Is: And what it isn't!One of the hardest things to do is to ask for forgiveness.  It’s easy to say “sorry”… but forgiveness, well, that’s something else entirely.

Neither my husband nor I grew up in homes where forgiveness was asked for or granted.  We really didn’t know what forgiveness is. In my home, we’d have a knock down, drag out fight (literally) and when it was over we’d either say “sorry” or just walk away. Then, we’d carry on with our lives like nothing ever happened.  Not the healthiest of situations.  (In my parent’s defense, they did not know Christ, and my Mom grew up in an orphanage which doesn’t lend itself to good parenting training.)

When I became a christian as a young adult, I became intrigued with this idea of forgiveness.  You see, when I asked for forgiveness from Christ, I not only received forgiveness but I also received peace. Peace was something that just saying “sorry” never gave me… and neither did acting like nothing ever happened.

When our oldest son was a preschooler and would need to apologize to someone, we were amazed at the number of times people would say, “It’s okay.”

Hmmmm, if it were “okay” he wouldn’t need to apologize.

And so we began a quest to instill Biblical forgiveness in our home. And let me tell you, it’s hard. It’s humbling. And it’s so worth it.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:12-13

Saying “sorry” is not the same as asking for forgiveness.

“Sorry” can mean a lot of different things.  It can mean, “Will you please forgive me?” but it can also mean, “I’m sorry I got caught” or “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt” or as one of my son’s said one time, “I’m sorry you made me so mad I had to hit you.”

Forgiveness starts with repentance. And repentance starts with a realization of wrong doing.  When I realize that I have mistreated someone, I have a choice to make. I can either pretend that nothing really happened or I can repent and apologize for what I have done.  In our family, it starts something like this:  “Husband (or children), I am really sorry I got frustrated (angry, short, etc.) with you.  I was not being kind (gentle, patient, compassionate, etc.) to you, the way God wants me to be.”  

We need to ask to be forgiven. Of course, forgiveness can be granted without the offender asking for it.  But, how will I know forgiveness has been granted?  How will I receive the peace that comes from knowing that I’ve been forgiven, if I don’t ask?  In our family, we say, “Will you please forgive me?”

We need to grant forgiveness when asked. I know, I know, sometimes you just don’t want to forgive… neither do I… some people just don’t deserve forgiveness.  BUT, I didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness and He granted it.  I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is important – and it brings peace.  For our family, the person who was wronged says something like, “I forgive you because Christ has forgiven me.”

For some of you, this may sound forced and insincere.  Let me assure you that it’s not.  Some of us who didn’t learn about giving and receiving forgiveness from our families need a little structure.

What forgiveness doesn’t mean.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what was done was okay – if it were, you wouldn’t need to ask for forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that there are no consequences to the sin.  There are always consequences to sin and sometimes receiving forgiveness does not take those consequences away.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the relationship will be just like it was.  Hopefully, the relationship will be better and healthier but that’s because both parties are working on it.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re a wimp.  On the contrary, it takes a strong person to do something as hard as granting, or seeking forgiveness.

We live in a culture that really doesn’t understand or practice forgiveness, even in the church.  Yet, forgiveness is vitally important in order to have healthy relationships.

 

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Angi Schneider is minister’s wife and homeschooling mom to 6 children.  She journals their homesteading and homeschooling adventures on her blog, SchneiderPeeps.  Angi is also the author of The Gardening Notebook which she wrote to help gardeners keep track of all their gardening information and dreams and The Busy Mom’s Guide ebook series to help other women discover their uniqueness, instead of continually comparing themselves to others –in real life and online.

Wifey Wednesday: Keeping Your Marriage Strong (After Kids)

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

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

I thought our marriage was solid.

That all changed when we brought a baby home.

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

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

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

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

1. Go on dates regularly.

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

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

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

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

2. Study your spouse.

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

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

3. Go away together.

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

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

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

4. Take care of yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

5. Choose your spouse every day.

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

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

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

6. Appreciate the things your spouse does for you.

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

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

Did he go to work? Thank him for it.

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

Did she make dinner? Thank her for it.

Did she bring home a pizza? Be appreciative.

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

7. Put your spouse above your kids.

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

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

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

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

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

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

17648166-18785009-thumbnailAbout Lindsey Bell:

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

 

About Searching for Sanity:

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

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



Is Your Husband Abusive? Be Careful of “Abuse Creep”

Is Your Husband Abusive? A litmus test and a warning about using the word too cavalierlyA few years ago a friend whispered to me that she was leaving her husband. He was emotionally abusive towards their kids, and she couldn’t run interference any longer.

My heart went out to her. I had never witnessed that type of behaviour from him, but who knows what goes on behind closed doors? And so I hugged her, and assured her I would stand by her side.

Fast forward to the present day, and that horrible, abusive father now has custody more than half the time. As soon as the separation was finalized, my friend willingly sent her kids to this “abusive” man. Meanwhile she’s setting up house with another guy.

I have known so many women in horribly abusive situations who needed to get out, and perhaps because of that it irks me even more when we throw the word “abuse” around so cavalierly to justify our own actions. If her husband was so abusive that she had to leave to protect the kids, why did she so willingly hand them over?

Many of you email me with problems that you’re having in your marriage, and I often see people using the word “abuse” when I wonder if that’s what they really mean. On Monday, my post about what to do when your husband’s a bad stepfather, a little discussion broke out in the comments about that exactly. One commenter said that I shouldn’t take women’s labeling of behaviour as abusive at face value, but should say something to the effect of, “if you wouldn’t leave over it, it’s not abusive, so don’t call it abuse.” I think she’s right in general, although in this particular case the letter writer did comment that she also felt badly about using that word. So I’m NOT writing this post about that letter writer. I just thought it was important to bring up, because I think we do treat the word too cavalierly.

Women Sometimes Label Husbands “Abusive” Because They Want the Moral High Ground

What happens when a friend tells you that her husband is abusive towards her, or towards her kids? Chances are you react the way I did with my friend: you sympathize. You feel horrified. You want to help.

Hopefully you’ll also ask some prodding questions and find out what behaviour, exactly, is abusive. But we know in this society that abuse is a horrible, horrible evil, and so when we use that word, we automatically get the moral high ground.

Please hear me: I am absolutely not saying that abuse doesn’t happen. As I wrote, there is way too much abuse in Christian homes, and we often use the word “submission” to justify it. Abuse is real and should never be tolerated.

But at the same time, we have to be careful of labeling things as abusive so that we can win an argument or get people on our side, because that happens, too. We’ve started labeling normal, albeit unhealthy, methods of dealing with conflict as abusive. If he yells, he’s abusive. If he manipulates, he’s abusive. If he’s jealous, he’s abusive. And as soon as we’ve done that, we’ve dropped the atomic bomb on his reputation and on our ability to work through this issue calmly. Now some people who yell and manipulate and are jealous are abusive, but not all. And I think we’re too quick to use the word.

How Do I Know if My Husband is Abusive?

(I’ve updated this section since I wrote it first)

Most women who are being abused are so downtrodden that they find it really hard to do anything about it. They think they deserve it; they don’t know what to do. So let me offer a litmus test for whether or not it’s abuse:

If you say he’s abusive, but you stay with him and leave your kids with him, then that should be a signal that something’s not right and you need to take action. Either he is abusive, in which case you need to leave; or he isn’t, in which case you need to stop slandering him.

Please note that I am not saying that if you stay with him that means that he’s NOT abusive. Many women stay with an abusive husband when they should get out. What I am saying is that if you say your husband is abusive, that, in and of itself, is a signal that YOU MUST NOW DO SOMETHING.

(Note: Please see update, below)

If he is abusive, I know that’s really hard. It’s hard to get help. You feel helpless, and you feel like you deserve it. But please, reach out and talk to someone! Call the abuse hotline. Even call the police! But do something, for you and your kids.

If he isn’t really abusive, then you need to stop calling him abusive and start looking at healthy ways to resolve conflict.

Again, as soon as you use the word “abuse” without doing something concrete to leave, that is a signal that you are in the wrong and need to take action.

Let’s reserve the word “abuse” for things that are so dangerous that leaving for your protection, or your children’s protection, is necessary.

You Are an Adult; Act Like It

There’s an additional danger to this “abuse creep”: when we start thinking of ourselves as “abused”, when we are not, then we feel helpless, as if we’re victims, and we often fail to draw healthy boundaries to stop dysfunctional behaviour.

Sometimes we create this dynamic where we don’t draw the line when a spouse is acting inappropriately. That’s usually what we start to term “emotional” or “mental” abuse. Someone yells, or they’re controlling, or they’re belittling. We don’t know how to handle it, so we label it abuse. Now, this very well could rise to the level where it is abuse (that’s why you need to ask other people to help), but quite often it’s just unhealthy patterns.

And too often we do nothing except fret about it. You don’t want to rock the boat. But sometimes you have to stand up and do the right thing!

If your spouse is yelling, mocking, or belittling you, say firmly, “I won’t sit here and listen to you talking to me like that. When you’re ready to have a healthy conversation I would love to participate, but until then I’m going to another room.”

If your husband won’t let you have access to money, then go to the bank and demand a debit and credit card off of the accounts. If the accounts aren’t joint, ask your husband to make them joint. You do have rights to communal property.

If your husband demands an accounting of where you’ve been and whom you’ve been with constantly, don’t give it to him. If he insists, tell him you’d be happy to do so in the presence of a third party, like a counselor, who can mediate and help you figure out if he’s being overly jealous or not.

I’m just saying that often when we say “my husband is abusive“, what you really mean is “my husband is acting in a way that makes me sad and upset and I feel like I can’t do anything about it.” I understand the feeling, but nobody else is going to fix your relationship for you. Sometimes you need to step in and set proper boundaries and start taking the initiative so that the dysfunctional patterns are fixed, rather than getting worse.

Of course, if you’re scared to do any of these things because you think he may get violent, then you have a bigger problem and you really do need help. Please get it! But in many cases, I think, women are just so scared of conflict that we don’t speak up, and then when we hear him yell we call it abuse when it’s really just that neither of you knows how to resolve conflict well.

Abuse should never be tolerated, and if your spouse is abusive, then please get out and protect yourself and your kids. But when we start labeling all unhealthy behaviour as abusive, we’re not helping our families; we’re hurting them. Abuse is awful, but so is refusing to take responsibility to do your part to fix unhealthy relationship patterns. So, please, resist the urge to point fingers, and start building a better marriage.

Have you ever seen the word “abuse” get tossed around inappropriately? How do you figure out if it’s an abusive situation or not? Let me know in the comments!

(This post has been updated from its original version).

UPDATE: Friday morning: Okay, I’ve been thinking about this over night, and I know why I was uncomfortable with part of it, and I’d like to clarify.

I have a dear friend who WAS abused in her marriage, but she never left. Why? The abuse wasn’t constant; it was sporadic. It was mostly yelling and belittling, though he was also very physically intimidating. Her pastor thought she should leave, after counseling them both for a while, and told her to call him, night or day, if she ever needed help getting out. But she didn’t leave, mostly because of her children, and not wanting to disrupt their lives. She agonized over that decision, though.

Her husband passed away, and she’s now safe and fine. But I do understand that there are cases where it is truly abuse where you don’t leave.

That doesn’t change the fact, however, that many women SAY their husbands are abusive when they’re not. So I guess what I would say is that if it is truly abuse, then you’re definitely THINKING about leaving, for your own safety, and your children’s safety, even if you can’t leave or won’t leave right now. But if you’re only thinking about leaving because you don’t like him and he makes you angry, or you think he’s treating you badly, then it’s not abuse. And I still maintain that we should reserve that word for what is truly awful, because it has such a stigma attached to it that once you level it at someone, it poisons everything.

Reader Question of the Week: My Husband is Inconsiderate

Reader Question of the Week

It’s Monday, which means it’s Reader Question of the Week Day! Today we’ve got a question from a woman who asks, what do you do if you have an inconsiderate husband, but you don’t want to nag? How do you put up appropriate boundaries?

Are there “consequences” that I can give to my husband when he’s been inconsiderate for lack of a better word? I know he’s not a child, and he’s truly a wonderful man. We’ve been happily married for over a decade and sex is great! The only major issue I have is the fact that he has no sense of time at all and this has lead to a few occasions where I’m at home worried sick wondering if he’s had an accident.

This happened again this evening: he left home at 7:15 to have our van checked by this mechanic who works out of his house. He should have been back within an hour. After 2 hours, I think, ok, they’re chatting. I text him. No answer. I call. His phone appears to be off (highly unusual). 3 hours later, I’m starting to worry a bit, but keep reminding myself of his track record. By 11:45 I’m in a full fledged panic, picturing him dead. Finally he comes home and says he’s sorry, his phone was out of range and he just totally hit it off with this guy and had no clue what time it was. Really?!? You didn’t notice 4 hours went by?!? My husband can be so inconsiderate!

That’s a tough one, and I would have been worried, too. So how do you make sure this doesn’t happen again, when he’s the kind of person who Living with an Inconsiderate Husband--How to Problem Solve Togetherdoesn’t think of you sitting at home, worrying? A few thoughts on how to deal with an inconsiderate husband.

Make Sure this is a Personality Issue, Not a Relationship Issue

This likely doesn’t need to be said in this particular instance, because this woman seems very confident in the relationship, and the sex is great. But when a husband is consistently gone for long periods and you can’t get a hold of him, and he doesn’t have a good reason, it’s likely good to make sure that it is simply because he’s forgetful or inconsiderate at times, and not that something else is going on behind your back.

I’m not trying to see adultery when it isn’t there, but many women have been blindsided, and it’s likely good to make sure.

If Your Husband is Inconsiderate, it May Be More that He’s Spontaneous and “In the Moment”

Taking this note at face value, and assuming nothing more nefarious is going on, some people just are more spontaneous and go with the flow than others. Many inconsiderate husbands, for instance, are actually just spontaneous husbands. For them, they throw themselves into the here and now and pay total attention to what’s in front of them. On a Myers Briggs personality chart, since we were talking about that last week, they’d be Ps rather than Js. Combine that with extroversion, because they like being with people, and you have someone you can easily label inconsiderate, because it’s easy for them to get carried away in the moment.

Likely this is a trait you enjoyed when dating. When he was with you he was completely with you. It was as if you captivated him. He’d drop everything and do something crazy with you. It was fun! But once you’re married, what seemed spontaneous and fun can also seem inconsiderate. So just remember that this trait in him also has a beneficial side. It does make him more fun, and it does make you feel more the center of attention when he is home.

Think Strategies to Solve the Problem so You Don’t Feel Like He’s Inconsiderate

So what do you do to stop the problem so you won’t worry? Nagging or yelling at him won’t work, but you can sit down and problem solve together.

Figure out a way to HELP him do what you need him to do, rather than to punish him for not doing it. That way it’s not “You’re being inconsiderate and selfish and you’re the problem”, it’s more “we have a problem because I feel nervous when I don’t know where you are”, and you can then work on that together. It’s just a different dynamic.

So what are some possible solutions? Maybe it means every night YOU plug in his phone to make sure it doesn’t run out of battery. Maybe it means that he sets reminders on his phone to ding every two hours to call you or text you. Brainstorm together! This way you’re helping him remember to contact you and tell him where you’ll be, and you won’t worry because it’s easy to get a hold of him.

Setting Consequences if Inconsiderate Behavior Continues

If being late is hindering you in other ways than just causing worry–ie. he’s never home for dinner, or you’re consistently late for appointments and events, you can certainly implement consequences for that. The family can go ahead and eat at 6:30 whether he’s home or not, unless he’s texted you to tell you when he will be home. You can put his food in the fridge to heat up when he’s home.

Boundaries in MarriageIf he’s not there and you have to leave to go to an appointment, you can leave without him. In Boundaries in Marriage, Cloud and Townsend describe it like this: one of the main ways that God put in motion to teach us things is the adage “you reap what you sow”. The problem in many marriages, though, is that one person is sowing confusion, but the other person is reaping it. So in this case, one person is sowing inconsideration, but it is the wife and kids who are bearing the burden by being late, or by not eating on time, etc. etc. To right the situation you just have to make sure that the one who is sowing the bad seed reaps it by instituting these consequences. It’s not about getting angry or punishing him; it’s just about setting proper boundaries.

So those are some quick thoughts. Recognize that if your husband is inconsiderate, there’s likely another side of that personality trait that you actually enjoy. Make a point to notice that! Try to problem solve together so the particular issue doesn’t rear it’s ugly head again. And if it’s a consistent problem, implement consequences so the right person bears the brunt of the behavior.

I hope that helps! Now let me know: have you ever dealt with an inconsiderate husband–or a husband who seemed inconsiderate? What did you do? How did you solve the problem? Let’s talk in the comments!

5 Keys to Loving Each Other (When Liking Each Other is Hard)

Christian Marriage AdviceToday guest poster Stephanie Shott shares with us ingredients to keep your marriage strong and loving.

My husband is my best friend. But it hasn’t always been this way.

Our journey hasn’t always been easy, but somewhere between the good, the bad, and the ugly, we discovered how to love each other through it all…even when liking each other was hard.

Marriages seldom come neatly wrapped in conflict free packages and our marriage is no exception.

Polar opposites with different passions and pursuits, our only real common denominator has been Jesus. And to be honest with you, He’s been the glue that has kept this marriage together when our hearts were weary with each other.

Marriage is like a great pound cake. There are certain ingredients that are absolutely necessary for it to be successful.

Today, I’d like to share five key ingredients I’ve learned over the past 27 years that has helped me love my man even when I was having a hard time liking him.

5 keys to loving each other when liking each other is hard

5 Keys to Loving Each Other (When Liking Each Other is Hard)

1. Laugh Together

Laugh at each other; laugh at yourself; laugh at your circumstances…but whatever you do…laugh together – a lot. There’s a wonderful bonding process that takes place when you laugh together.

I know it’s hard to laugh when you’re marriage is strained, but go out of your way to look for the absurd, crack yourself up, prank each other, watch comedies together…do whatever you have to, but laugh together. Think about it, when is the last time you saw a couple laughing their way to divorce court?

2. Respect One Another

Aretha Franklin is famous for the familiar song, R-E-S-P-E-C-T…All we’re asking…is for a little respect. Just a little bit. Just a little bit. They may be cute lyrics in a song, but respect is a basic human need…especially in marriage…especially for a man. Our husbands not only want our respect, they really need it. I honestly believe the Proverbs 31 woman’s husband found himself sitting at the gate because his wife believed in him. She supported him, she encouraged him, she respected him.

A wife’s respect can bolster a man’s courage and confidence and give him strength to fulfill his potential. A husband’s respect for his wife fosters security and assures her that he values her thoughts, her efforts and her opinions.

But respect doesn’t always come easily ~ especially when your husband doesn’t deserve it. But like love, respect is sometimes a choice you make and not an emotion you feel-it’s an action of your will.

If your husband has deep issues, contrasting values, or poor judgement, respecting him may be the last thing you want to do. But respect is one of those things we sometimes offer because we want to be obedient to God regardless of whether our hubbies deserve it or not.

3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

In the first ten years of our marriage, we argued about some of the most trivial things. Being polar opposites, our differences often sparked the fire, but our immaturity seemed to keep it ablaze.

I was the queen of making mountains out of mole hills, and he was the king of making matters worse with his words.

Does it really matter if he folded the towels wrong, didn’t take the garbage out the minute I asked, or left the toilet seat up? It’s funny how we find ourselves deep in battle and all of a sudden realize we don’t have a clue what we’re arguing about.

Choose your battles wisely, don’t sweat the small stuff, and you’ll find yourself laughing together and fighting for each other instead of with each other.

4. Manage Your Mind

Choose your thoughts wisely. As a Christian, you have the power to take your thoughts captive. It’s easy to focus on your feelings and your circumstances when you’re going through a rough patch in your marriage. Unfortunately, the more you fix your mind on what you’re going through and how you feel, the more difficult it is to move forward in your marriage.

It’s tough to move forward in your relationship when you’re constantly looking in the rearview mirror of your marriage.

Managing your mind doesn’t mean you gloss over difficult situations or that you don’t deal with conflicts, it just means you choose the way you think about them. It means when you’re angry, you don’t mull that thing over and over again in your mind. It means when you don’t really like your man, you choose to love him anyway.

Think About the Good in Your Husband

5. Pray for Your Man and Your Marriage

You know your husband like no one else does and you can pray for him like no one else will. If you see an area of need in his life, pray for him. If he is struggling with specific issues, pray for him.

It took me years to realize that one of my greatest callings as a wife was to not only pray, but to desire that my husband would be all God created him to be and to long for him to fulfill his God-given destiny. That should be a continual cry of my heart. It’s part of loving him well.

Pray for Your Husband!

Marriage isn’t easy, but you can choose to love your man even when you find it hard to like him. It’s a choice that is intentional. Powerful. And it works.

These are just a few steps on our way to maintaining or regaining that loving feeling and one day, when you hurdle over the obstacles in your marriage, you’ll find that you love him more today than the day you said I do.

How do you keep your marriage strong? Share your story and encourage others.

 

stephanie shottStephanie Shott is the founder of The M.O.M. Initiative, a ministry devoted to making mentoring intentionally missional. She is an author and a popular speaker, who helps women live full, fearless and faithful lives. To invite Stephanie to speak at your next event, visit her website at www.stephanieshott.com. To find out more about The M.O.M. Initiative or to begin a M.O.M. Mentor Group in your area, visit www.themominitiative.com.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of a marriage blog post you’ve written in the linky below. Here’s something exciting for the new year! I’m going to start highlighting my regular Wifey Wednesday contributors. I’ll start a contributor page, and every month I’ll highlight a new blog. So please link up! It’s a great way to get traffic and more recognition for your blog.



Reader Question: How Do I Tackle Huge Marriage Problems?

Reader Question: How do I rebuild my sex life?Every Monday I like to take a stab at a Reader Question. Today’s is about solving marriage problems–problems that are quite complex. I think we can learn a lot of basic principles from this one on how to tackle the big issues in marriage. So here goes:

I have been following your blog and FB posts for a long time now. I’d be interested to know what advice you could give to a couple with a toddler, who have a “normal” sex routine of once a month sometimes longer in between? He works 6-4 and I’m a full time student & stay home mom. Even before our child, we were in this sexual funk. He always wants to go to bed early to get rested up for work, but stays up late watching movies or goes to bed even before I put our child to bed. Then I stay up to do homework for school or go to bed and he is “already sleeping” or says it is too late. He spent a lot of time early in our marriage accusing me of wrong doing, which drove a wedge between us intimately. During pregnancy and after birth I dealt with a lot of hormonal rage and and the idea of intimacy made me physically sick to my stomach, even kissing was gross. So he felt rejected and not good enough although I told him over and over it was not him, just the pregnancy. Now I feel more like I did prior to pregnancy, and would like to attempt a more intimate marriage and a real sex life rather than once every month or two. I’ve bought books, devotionals, toys, sexy clothes, etc Nearly failed my last course because I started going to bed when he did, but he would always say it was too late and he had to get some sleep for work. Where do I even start?

Do you feel exhausted yet? I feel exhausted reading all of that, and I think most of us, if we were going to describe our frustrations in marriage, would do something like this. Solving marriage problems is hard because most problems are so multifaceted, and the idea of having to unpack all of it seems overwhelming.

So what do you tackle first?

Solving Marriage Problems: When the issue is huge, what do you tackle first?

Let’s look at all of the issues we have here:

  • Their schedules are out of whack
  • They each have busy lives
  • They have a history of mistrust
  • They have a history of her turning down sex
  • Now he’s turning down sex

So where do you start?

Solving marriage problems involves identifying the issues in each of these categories: 

1. Lifestyle Issues
2. Communication Issues
3. Sexual Issues

And I firmly believe that solving most marriage problems should be done in that order: deal with the lifestyle issues first, and then the communication issues, before you really tackle the sexual issues.

Now, this doesn’t really apply if the sexual issue is one of “he wants it but I’ve always said no”, when the ball is in your court. If you can simply start saying yes, then the problem may be solved easily! But lots of times sexual issues look like what this couple looks like: sex is almost non-existent. Or perhaps the problem has gone in another direction, and sex has become somehow dirty or pornographic or something. In that case, it’s a really entrenched problem, and tackling it alone likely won’t do much.

Let’s look, then, at how to start tackling this big of a problem in marriage.

1. Get Your Schedules to Match

As much as possible, make your schedules match. Here’s the issue: he has to be at work at 6, which I assume means that he gets up around 5. If he needs at least 7 hours of sleep, that means getting to sleep at 10. If you want more than just sleep to happen, that means hitting the pillow at 9:30. She says that she’s tried to go to bed when he does, but her husband is still tired. That likely means he’s chronically tired and not getting enough sleep. So make it 9:00 if you have to. No matter what people say, pretty much everybody needs at least 7 hours to function well. If you’re turning in “early” with him, and “early” means 10:30, he’s not getting enough sleep. No wonder he’s tired!

Now, she also has school, and she needs to get work done. I don’t know what her schedule is like in this case (maybe she’s in school until 5, or maybe she’s home by 2, I don’t know). But here’s the way I’d look at it: You’re going to sleep from 9:30-5:00 with your husband. When is the best time to get your schoolwork done? Is it in the morning, or at night? If you don’t get home until 5 pm, it’s likely better in the morning. If you’re home when your hubby is, you could likely do some at night.

So if you want to do schoolwork in the morning, keep your 2 year old up until 9:00 so that the toddler will sleep until around 7. That gives you two hours to work in the morning. If you want to do it night, start waking your toddler up at 5 and put that child to bed at 6:30 or 7. That gives you some time at night.

Do what you have to do to get on the same schedule, and talk to your husband about this so that he sees the importance of it.

I know 5:00 is awfully early, but if you start doing this, your body will adjust. The key is to keep the same schedule even on the weekends so that you can actually feel awake at 5!

I have seen marriage problems sort themselves out with this one simple change. So as much as possible, get on the same schedule!

2. Talk and Work on your Friendship

Now it’s time to talk. From her letter, it seems like what this woman has done is to try to go to bed with him, and to try to be sexier. But neither is working. Maybe it’s time to try something else: just talk. Often the thing missing from marriage is friendship. Try taking at least 15 minutes a day and talking together, maybe by taking a walk after dinner together. Develop a hobby together. Play one round of a card game every night together. Do something–anything!–that will let you talk and laugh everyday, and remind yourselves that you are a unit. I can’t stress enough how important this is.

And as you talk, then those walls of distrust and miscommunication will start to come down.

I’d seriously recommend trying to pray together as a couple, too. I know some of us aren’t comfortable praying out loud, but here’s a post on how to make prayer easier. And as you pray together, even if it’s not about your problems, but just about your day and your child, you will start feeling closer. When this happens, often some of that mistrust evaporates.

3. Tackle Sex

Once you’re going to bed together and you have a schedule that’s in sync, and you’ve developed some habits of spending time together, it’s time to tackle sex! Talk to him about how you want things to be more intimate and fun in your marriage. Try to initiate more. Schedule sex if you have to! Suggest working on the 31 Days to Great Sex together (it makes a great stocking stuffer!).

Sex encompasses everything that we are, and starting with sex when you have multiple problems often doesn’t work. Sex is the outward expression of how we feel about ourselves and our relationship, and sometimes we need to start there. Like I said, I still firmly believe that if the main problem is that you’ve said no when he wants it, you can solve that one by jumping in more! Often, though, the problems are more complex. So work on those other things first, and then develop a game plan together of how you can move forward to make sex super fun.

When I’m presented with complex problems, then, that’s the order I usually tackle them. Lifestyle first, then friendship, then sex. I find that works better.

But now tell me: what would you tackle first? Have your schedules ever been out of whack, so that it’s hard to connect? How did you fix that? Let me know in the comments!

Wifey Wednesday: I Did Not Marry My One True Love

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then you all chime in by linking up your own marriage posts to the Linky below!

Today, please welcome guest poster, Lisa Hall Wilson, who shares a heartfelt and thoughtful post on how love is a choice.

Love is a Verb: Why I Did Not Marry My One True LoveThe hubs and I are celebrating 16 years of marriage (to each other) this week. I do not believe he’s my ‘one true love’ and not because he leaves his socks on the floor and seems incapable of closing a kitchen cupboard door. I didn’t find my one true love because the whole idea is hooey.

When Cole Porter wrote about true love, when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly immortalized true love in High Society, they sold us a bill of tainted goods.

When we seek out our Prince Charming or Prince Philip and expect the magical power of true love’s kiss to ‘fix’ things, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Here’s the thing, I don’t believe in love at first sight. I do not have a true love out there. If there’s one thing 16 years of marriage has taught me it’s that the happy, life-is-perfect, bliss-mirage lasts a remarkably short amount of time and you’re left with the harsh reality that you married a human who can’t read your mind, doesn’t do everything the way you would, doesn’t agree with everything you say/do, has bad habits and irritating quirks you never saw coming.

And that’s when love becomes a choice.

To assume you have one true love means there’s this ultimate ‘right guy/girl’ for you. And everytime you disagree, you tear into each other, you’re alone in bed crying – the questions creep in:

Did I marry the wrong person? Why isn’t our sex life better – what if we’re incompatible sexually — what if it’s better with someone else?

What if your spouse screws up – BIG? Does that mean you’re off the hook? Just start over and keep looking because somewhere out there is the ‘perfect’ person for you. Where love is easy and the path is covered in rose petals, where neither of you has baggage from the past or a shred of selfishness. If you look long enough – hard enough – you’ll find that one person God made just for you.

Hogwash – as my grandmother would say. Too many arranged marriages work out. Too many widows and widowers find love with another person for there to be such a thing as finding true love.

We get caught up in the emotional high of it all when we first meet someone, when the relationship blooms, when we decide whether this is the person we want to spend the rest of our life with. That high is addictive but deceiving because it’s not something you can maintain.

When the socks hit the floor, when they overspend again, when they get mad at you — love is a choice. The only one responsible for my happiness is me. I put that on the Hubs and I’m just setting him up to fail.

Love is a verb, not a state of being.

Love is a Verb

You can’t fall in or out of love – you choose to surrender or harden your heart to another person. That’s a choice.The hubs and I have been through a lot of not so good times. We’ve had a lot of laughs and adventures, but there’s been some hum-drum ruts and serious rough patches. Love is a choice, just like forgiveness, trust, respect, and friendship. Sometimes it’s not fair, sometimes it just plain sucks — but you keep at it because somewhere along the way all that hard work, sweat, and tears pays off. There’s a bond forged in the hard times – in staying for no other reason than you promised God you wouldn’t leave.

After 16 years, 3 kids, 7 moves, several jobs, an addiction, and a ridiculous amount of student debt – we have a history together. I know his expressions, can anticipate many of his moods and reactions. We can look at each other and smile, because we have a thousand inside jokes.

Marriage is hard. If you’re struggling in your relationship, assuming all things are equal and no one’s being abused or mistreated, etc. (there are some things time can’t fix) — stick it out. In my experience, the hard work, tears, fights — it all adds up to a history you can’t buy and only time can build. This is a marathon not a sprint.

But every day, love is a choice — loving someone is a choice.

Wake up every day with the resolve to surrender your heart to your spouse, and take nothing for granted. You’ll be glad you did.

Time to fess up! Did you marry your one true love?

Now it’s your turn! Want to share some good marriage advice with us? Or tell us what advice you particularly hate? Leave a comment and let us know, or link up your own marriage post in the linky below. Be sure to link back here, too, so other people can read some great marriage tips!

Lisa_hall_wilson FB profileLisa Hall-Wilson has published over 70 articles in the Canadian faith-based market, is a syndicated columnist, and has won national awards for her writing. She blogs at www.lisahallwilson.com but you can find her hanging out on Facebook.



Wifey Wednesday: Bad Marriage Advice

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then invite you all to comment or link up your own marriage post in the linky below! And while I normally offer great advice for marriage, today I want to do the opposite. Make sure you’re not following any of this super bad marriage advice!

So I thought I’d share with you some pieces of “wisdom” we often hear that I don’t actually think are that wise at all.

Really Bad Marriage Advice--Don't live by these rules!

Your Husband Should be Your Best Friend

Your husband should be your FRIEND, absolutely. You need to spend time together everyday just doing something, so you can talk.

But you know what, ladies?

Your husband is a GUY. And sometimes we women need things that he can’t give–conversation, someone to go shopping with, someone to sympathize with. That can’t always be him. And if you try to make it him, you may smother him.

A smothered husband is not a happy husband.

Get a female friend–and if you don’t have one, pray hard. We all need some girlfriends!

Don’t fight in front of the kids

Don’t yell in front of the kids. Absolutely. Don’t call each other names in front of the kids. You betcha. Don’t talk badly about your spouse to your kids. Uh huh.

But sometimes we’re going to be ticked in front of the kids. He comes home 25 minutes late without texting, and the food is on the table and getting cold. He walks in the door and you’re upset. Do you not say anything about it until the kids go to bed?

It doesn’t hurt kids to see you resolve conflict, as long as you handle it well. Modelling good conflict resolution is actually a gift to kids! Keith and I have fought a lot in front of the kids–though we don’t yell. But if we’re in the car, and I’m ticked, we do talk it out. The kids see us mad, and they see us talking it through, and then they see us resolving it and not holding it over each other’s heads. That’s a good thing!

Keeping anger inside so that you seethe all through dinner just makes everybody uncomfortable. Talking it through, as long as you can do it in a healthy way, is often better.

Don’t leave the house when you’re fighting

I’ve heard this one a lot–when you’re fighting, resolve it then and there. Don’t flee. Don’t run away. Don’t leave the house. Stay in the same room and talk it out!

That sounds like good advice, and this tends to be what my husband and I do. But I also think it depends a lot on your personality.

My husband and I are both extroverts, which means that both of us process our thoughts by talking out loud (contrary to popular belief it does not mean that you’re the life of the party). So when I’m upset, I have to talk about it. Now. No waiting. That’s how he feels, too, and that’s why it’s so hard on me if I get mad at 10:00 a.m. and he won’t be home until 6! I spend the whole day practising what I’m going to say.

However, introverts don’t work the same way. They process things by thinking about them first, and then, and only then, talking about them. If you force an introvert to talk before they’ve really had time to think about the issue, that introvert will be uncomfortable, and will often have a hard time finding resolution because they aren’t totally sure they’ve gotten to the root of the issue yet.

Sometimes taking a drive by yourself, as long as you both understand why the person is taking a drive, and you both understand that the person will return at a certain time, helps resolve conflict because the person gets a chance to process it. Or, if you don’t want to do something that drastic, sometimes just going into different rooms and working on your own things for a few hours helps. That’s super hard if you’re an extrovert–like me!–and you’re married to an introvert. You want to talk things out NOW, and he or she wants to wait. But give that introvert time, and in the end you’ll find that the conflict gets resolved more easily.

Don’t go to bed angry

Have you ever been lying in bed at 2:30 in the morning beside your hubby, seething about something he said, and trying to talk it through? He says something that makes you even more mad, but you don’t reply for about 30 seconds because you keep falling asleep for a few seconds at a time. And when you do reply it makes really no sense. You’ve been going around and around for three hours now, and you’re nowhere near a solution.

But there’s that verse in Scripture:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26, ESV)

We’re not supposed to let the sun go down on our anger! Well, yes. But then there’s this:

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

You don’t have to resolve every conflict before you sleep. Just know that you will resolve it later, and go to sleep now!

 Don’t speak badly about your spouse–ever

I 99% agree with this.

But there is that pesky 1%, and here’s the issue: sometimes you need to talk to someone else to get advice on how to handle a problem. Sometimes you really can’t do it alone. And if we believe that we can never say anything bad–ever, then we may think it’s wrong to ask someone for advice.

Notice I didn’t say that it’s okay to talk to your entire small group, or your whole women’s Bible study, or all of your relatives and friends. Nope. But 1 mentor, whom you trust and who can pray with you and give you guidance? Absolutely.

Just Duck! Pray and Let God Take Care of It

I see variations of this one everywhere, too. If you have a huge marriage problem that isn’t going away, don’t be your husband’s conscience. Speak your mind once, and then duck! Get out of the way and let God be the one to smack him!

Besides being a little passive aggressive and manipulative (I’m going to sit back and wait for you to do exactly what I want, and wait for God to do what I want, and I’m going to watch and see and not be happy until it happens), I don’t think it’s biblical.

I think this one really depends on what it is we’re talking about. Some things in marriage you absolutely have to let go. No question about it! But some things in marriage you CAN’T let go, and indeed, I think it’s even wrong to let them go. If your husband is going down a bad path–say with porn, or with refusing to work, or with refusing to work on major psychological issues–sitting back and doing nothing enables him to go further and further away from God’s plan for wholeness in his life.

Matthew 18 clearly says what we’re supposed to do when someone sins. We confront them, one on one. If that doesn’t work, we go get 2-3 other Christians and confront him together. We don’t blab to the whole church; but we do find someone we respect and who loves God to help us. That’s the biblical model. You’re to be a spouse, not an enabler. Now, I don’t think this applies to most marriage issues (like he’s not doing enough housework, or I don’t like the TV shows he watches). But there is a point where you do need to intervene, and doing nothing often enables sin.

God First, Husband Second, Kids Third, You Last

Here’s another one I 99% agree with–but it can get really warped.

I know a lovely woman who loves God. She serves in the church doing all kinds of things. She’s involved in city-wide missions. Her kids are in tons of activities, and they’re doing well. She always has a home cooked meal on the table. The laundry is done. Her husband has his shirts ironed. The house is clean.

There’s only one problem. I don’t think she’s had a night to herself in over five years, and I’m not exaggerating.

We can’t pour into our family’s lives if we have nothing left to pour. You need some time to yourself, everyday. Even just half an hour. Find a way to grab it. It’s not selfish, and in the end you’ll find that your family does better when you’re not burned out.

Your Kids Do Better if You’re Happy

If it’s not selfish to take half an hour to yourself, then isn’t this one true?

Well, not really. What kids really need is to know that they are loved, cherished, and safe in a stable home. Studies show that kids do best in a stable home, not necessarily a home where mom is blissful. Your happiness matters far less to your kids than the stability they have.

That’s not nice to hear, and we instinctively think, “but I’m a better mom if I’m happy!” To a certain extent, sure. But I’ve heard women justify a lot in terms of “my kids will be better if I’m happy”. We work 55 hour weeks because we need to be fulfilled, and what kind of mom will I be if I’m not fulfilled? I knew a mom who left her kids in camp for five weeks straight in the summer when they were under 10 because she needed to travel to be fulfilled–and her husband worked full time.

And then there was a dear friend who left her husband because of this. “The kids will be fine,” she said, “once they see that I’m happy.”

Nope. Absolutely not. Kids do better in a stable but low conflict marriage than they do with divorced parents. (we’re not talking about abuse here; just unhappiness). If you care about your kids’ happiness, then do what you can to make yourself happy in the marriage that you’re in, don’t dream of greener grass somewhere else.

Have Problems? Just Have Sex a Lot!

You would think that I’d agree with this–after all, I’m the Christian Sex Lady! But while I absolutely believe that sex should be frequent in marriage, I don’t think sex cures everything.

You see, the real issue is not the frequency of sex as much as it is the meaning of sex. If sex has become really pornographic in your marriage, and you’re basically using each other, not really making love, then sex can actually reinforce a really bad habit. Making love is not the same thing as having sex, and if both of you–or one of you–is having sex but fantasizing about porn or using porn at the same time, then having more sex is not going to cure that problem.

Similarly, you can’t cure a guy of porn use just by making love more frequently. He needs to first renounce the porn, and start reconditioning his brain to be aroused by real intimacy, not by images. If your marriage has been ravaged by porn, here’s 4 things you need to do now.

What About GOOD Marriage Advice?

Want some better marriage advice–stuff that actually works? Here are my 25 Marriage Tips (fun and short!), or the 50 Best Marriage Quotes from marriage bloggers.

Now it’s your turn! Want to share some good marriage advice with us? Or tell us what advice you particularly hate? Leave a comment and let us know, or link up your own marriage post in the linky below. Be sure to link back here, too, so other people can read some great marriage tips!



Wifey Wednesday: Disability and Sexuality

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then you all chime in by linking up your own marriage posts to the Linky below!

Today, please welcome guest poster, Alicia Reagan, who shares a touching post about disability and sexuality: her paralysis, how it has impacted her intimacy with her husband and what they are doing to be intentional about it. 

Disability and SexualityYou read about it. You hear about it. You have talked about it. Many are on this blog because of it. Your sex life is a dreaded and frustrated area. You are unhappy and ready to give up on it all together. I get it. I really do.

On March 12, 2009 my life drastically changed. I woke up completely paralyzed. The diagnosis: Transverse Myelitis – a neurological disorder where a virus attacks your spinal cord. My life would now be lived from a wheelchair.

I became disabled shortly after my husband and I had celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. My hubby and I always had different sex drives, but other than a few conversations about my needs/his needs as we adjusted to married life, we really had no majors in our bedroom. Then paralysis came.

There really aren’t the right words to describe the emotional side of something so physically devastating. Woman are sexual beings and we already deal with enough insecurities as it is, but now add a physical problem and it takes a toll on your psyche. Muscles atrophy, your body shape changes, and you have the idea that everyone (including your husband) is looking at you like you are a nursing home resident!

I remember the first time we were going to be together sexually again. My body cannot move and position like it once did, sensations are gone and not what they used to be, spasms take over at the worst times, and nerve pain can rage and completely halt everything. “How are we going to do this?”, he asked. I answered, “I don’t know Honey. We will just have to figure it out.” Little did I know what figuring it out meant.

When a couple is fulfilled in their sex life and they find that intimacy there, that is wonderful. But when a couple is faced with a situation where they still desire certain things, but just cannot physically do what they did before, then it can be a very volatile area in their marriage. When your body quits working, it does not mean that your sexual desires stop. You have to find a way to work through this. This looks different for men and women because we are wired different. In the case of paralysis, we are even different in our physical abilities as a male or female. However, we are the same in the fact that all humans are wired for sexual needs in our relationships so this area must be figured out.

The first year I worried for his emotions so I just endured everything. I dreaded sex because I got nothing but pain….both physically and emotionally. It was hard to watch him enjoy something that I was not enjoying. I fought anger at what I could not do and jealousy towards him that, although our Iives had changed, he seemed more than happy in this area. I stayed silent. I was the perfect little martyr because I did not want to hurt him by telling him how much I did not like this part of our life anymore.

My silence and sacrifice was the wrong move! It made me feel so resentful of him. I would conjure up reasons why he was not being sensitive to my needs and he should be able to read my mind and know how I was hurting sexually. I never told him these things though he could feel it. He stayed very sweet and loving, but I was hurting.

One day, we were having an argument about something unrelated and he mentioned how distant I had become in the bedroom. Not physically, because I was a “good wife” and never told him no. But emotionally, he could tell I was different. It opened a flood gate of venom that spewed out of my mouth about how different and miserable and awful it all was and I just couldn’t deal with this part of paralysis.  By the way, this is not really a talking feature when people ask how you are doing!

Although I regret spewing it all over him in that kind of scenario, it opened a door for us to communicate about this area of our lives. This kind of conversation is hard to have with your spouse, but I have learned it is much harder if you do not have these conversations.

I don’t have the answer for every couple as that is a personal area, but Jimmy and I finally came to the conclusion that what we both were desperate for was intimacy. As a female paraplegic, I was physically able for my husband to have sex with me (although many people thought that we could not and were mourning for Jimmy — that made me mad!), but the lack of connection with my paralyzed body also brought a disconnection with my emotions.

Years 2 & 3 were years of adjustment for us sexually. We realized that in many ways we were like newlyweds again having to discover what works and what doesn’t. Although many things are different (my body, abilities, sensations, self-image, energy, pain levels, spasms), other things have not changed. We could not focus on how things had been, we could only focus on how things were going to be from now on.

Since Jimmy had felt like we were in a good place sexually because his needs were being met, we had to focus on what was frustrating me. Paralysis changes nerve sensations and things that used to feel good can feel horrible, or non-existent. However, there were new things that were to be discovered that never worked before and now brought pleasure. Jimmy had to learn to be sensitive to my emotions as it doesn’t take much to flash you into the past and be upsetting, and he had to learn to listen to what my body was saying to me and he had to follow my directions. We learned to see this time of adjustment as a disability problem, not a relational one.

There are times that I have sex with Jimmy when my body is screaming no. I do it because I love him and I know that he physically needs me at that time. There are times we do not have sex when Jimmy’s body is screaming yes. He does that because he knows that it would pain me too much and he loves me more than himself. This is intimacy.

Jimmy and I are far from perfect in our marriage and in our sex life. However, this imperfection is the exact place where we know this is bigger than us and so we cling to God. We need His help every day to help us be the couple He desires us to be. We are a work in progress and we will still be when we are married 50 years. We love being married to each other and are committed that we are going to keep fighting for what we love.

Statistics show that marriages with disabilities have a very small percentage of making it. Being disabled has added a whole new layer of struggles in our marriage, but we don’t want to be a statistic. We would like to help change that trend and say that all marriages are worth fighting for. If our story helps to encourage other couples to stay committed in their marriages, then it is all worth it.

I get that you may be frustrated in your sex life. Don’t settle. True love can conquer all – even paralysis. If you are going to fight, then fight for that love.

Alicia ReaganI am Alicia Reagan — a Christian, a wife, a mommy and a paraplegic. No that ins’t a disease — it means that I am paralyzed. I use a wheelchair full-time and that keeps my life as a Christian, a wife and a mommy very interesting and exciting. I talk about all of these things at aliciareagan.wordpress.com. I love writing, and my blog is a combination of everything I am, who I am becoming, and what I think about enjoying the ride of life. I hope you will enjoy this journey with me.

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