Wifey Wednesday: What My Two Year Old Taught Me About Marriage

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today, while I’m touring Arizona with my Girl Talk, speaking to several MOPS groups and in several churches, I thought I’d run this awesome post by Elizabeth Laing Thompson about what her two-year-old taught her about marriage–and priorities.

What My Two Year Old Taught Me About MarriageMy kids blew past me toward the door, an early-morning tornado of jackets, back packs, and lunch boxes.

“Come on,” called Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, jiggling his keys. “We’re going to be late!”

“Wait! I want kisses!” I said. “That means you! And you! And you!” My three older kids clattered back into the kitchen, planted kisses on my cheeks, and then rushed to follow my husband out to the van.

When the door slammed shut behind them, my two-year-old looked at me in horror. “Mama kiss Dada!” she said.

I blinked at her for a moment, not understanding. I heard the sound of the van pulling out of the driveway.

“Mama kiss Dada!” she insisted, her voice becoming frantic. She tried to pull me toward the door.

Then I realized: She was right. I hadn’t kissed my husband.

I chuckled, trying to justify myself. “You’re right, but Daddy is coming right back, so that’s why I didn’t kiss him.” Even to my own ears, the words fell limp, a lame excuse.

Little Miss stared me down, authoritative even in her bare feet and plaid nightie. I was not off the hook. “Mama kiss Dada.

I felt a blush creeping across my cheeks. “You’re right,” I said. “I should have kissed Daddy. I’m sorry.”

Little Miss seemed to accept this. We went back to our oatmeal.

Ten minutes later, the door banged open again. My husband was home.

Before he’d even rounded the corner, Little Miss rounded on me. “Mama kiss Dada! Mama kiss Dada!”

Laughing, I stood up. “Okay, okay, you’re right! I’ll kiss him!” I walked over to my husband and planted one, two, three firm kisses on his lips. He kissed me back with a baffled half-smile.

I turned back to my daughter, who stood watching us. Weighing me. “There. Are you happy now? Mama loves Dada, see?” When she still seemed unconvinced, I wrapped my arms around him and snuggled into his chest.

She smiled her approval and toddled off to find her toys.

That day, she reminded me of several truths I had forgotten, lessons I’ll carry with me always.

The secret most kids won’t tell you

Our children have a secret, and it’s this: Kids love it when their parents are in love. Older kids and teens may pretend to be embarrassed by our kisses, but secretly, they love it. It makes them feel safe. Happy. Like they are a part of something special.

When my brother was young, he invited a neighborhood friend over. My parents walked in the room and gave each other a little kiss, and the neighbor boy said, “Ew! Your parents kissed! My parents never kiss!” My brother grinned and bragged, “Well, my parents kiss all the time!” My parents’ affection was a source of confidence and security for him—and for all the kids in our family. I want to give my own children that same gift, that same confidence, through my marriage.

Keeping the home fires burning

But let’s be honest: It’s all too easy, once kids come along, to neglect our spouse. To forget about even the simple things that keep us connected and close. We don’t do it on purpose, of course, but once a baby enters our world, our first and best cuddles and snuggles and kisses start going to the baby. When we walk into a room, our eyes slide right past our husband, hungry for another drooly “Mommy-Is-My-Whole-World” smile from our chubby-cheeked cherub.

And at first, our husband doesn’t mind. For a season, he’ll gladly serve as our Baby Gear Sherpa, the carrier of car seats and diaper bags and Pack-n-Plays. For a time, he’s happy to take a back seat while we figure out the whole new-baby thing . . . but before long—sooner than we think—he needs the front seat again. He needs and deserves our deliberate attention, our devoted affection—not just the leftovers. Not just the afterthoughts. Song of Songs 8:6 describes a passionate romance so beautifully: “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Every fire needs fuel to keep burning. If it runs out of fuel, even the strongest of blazes will die down to ember and ash. We have to keep stoking the fire of our marriage—nurturing it, coaxing it back to life when it ebbs, feeding it fresh fuel.

I get it: This is easy to write about, and not so easy to do. (Believe me, I know! As a survivor of four new-baby-adjustment periods, I totally get it!) So please don’t read this and feel guilty . . . just stay open to trying some new strategies.

Song of Songs 86 Quote-PinFour simple ways to stoke the marital flame, even with little ones in the house

Here are four simple tricks to help you connect with your spouse, even on busy days with babies and young children underfoot:

Remember simple acts of daily physical affection.

Don’t underestimate the power of hugs and kisses keep you connected and close.

Use timers to set aside “Mommy-and-Daddy” time.

Tell the kids you need a few minutes to talk uninterrupted, and set a timer. The kids can’t come back into the room with you until the timer goes off.

Build sacred Mommy-Daddy time into your schedule at a set time each day, so your children get used to it.

They know, “This fifteen minutes always belongs to Mommy and Daddy, not to me.” You could try early-morning coffee together, before work and school. If mornings are too hectic, try setting aside a time slot right after work, or after dinner. (When your kids get older, let them clean the dinner dishes while Mom and Dad catch up on the day!)

Buy yourself an extra half-hour in the evenings.

How? Put kids to bed early with a book and a flashlight. They’ll think it’s a treat to read in bed—it’s kind of like they’re getting away with something—and you can start some early couch-cuddling before you turn into a pumpkin.

Strategies like this are especially helpful for the time of life when you have small kids in the house. But this isn’t just a new-baby issue. The older my children get, the more I realize that this is an ongoing struggle. Older kids mean a busy life and crazy schedule packed with homework, sports, friends, and activities. We all have to re-learn how to put our marriage first in the preschool years, the elementary years, the preteen years, the teenage years, the empty-nester years. At every stage, it takes a conscious effort to give our marriage the attention it deserves—to give our husbands the attention they deserve.

Last week, my wise two-year-old saw what I didn’t see. My husband comes first, not last. No matter how late we are or how busy life is, everybody deserves a good-morning kiss . . . and every kiss counts.

Click here to sign up to receive Elizabeth Laing Thompson’s monthly LizzyLife newsletter! Each newsletter includes practical and humorous parenting tips on living life and building family God’s way. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a FREE download of seven two-minute “breakfast-table” devotions to do with children.

E ThompsonElizabeth Laing Thompson writes wholesome novels for teens, and books for women about building family God’s way. She is the author of several books, including a Bible-based parenting book for young mothers, The Tender Years: Parenting Preschoolers. Elizabeth blogs about the perils and joys of laundry slaying, tantrum taming, and giggle collecting on her author site, http://lizzylife.com. Wife to Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome, and mother to four crazy kids, Elizabeth is always tired, but it’s mostly the good kind.

 

WWbutton175Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up below by putting the URL of a MARRIAGE post into the linky. And be sure to link back here so other people can read all these great marriage articles! It’s a great way to build traffic for your blog, and I often highlight some posts on Facebook and Twitter, so link up below!

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Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the Empty Nest

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Empty NestToday Gay Christmus, from Calm, Healthy, Sexy, joins us to talk about preparing for the empty nest! Considering my youngest is leaving this summer, I’m eager to hear what she has to say.

Is your daily schedule packed with homework, soccer games, dance recitals, and Scout meetings, not to mention work, church, and community commitments?  Do you feel like a juggler most days, just trying to keep all of your balls in the air?  If so, planning for the “empty nest,” the time when your children will be out on their own, is probably the farthest thing from your mind.  And no wonder – it’s hard to think about the future when you’re just trying to get through each day.

I want to encourage you, though, that now is the time to think about and prepare for empty nest.  Because time flies, and that day “down the road” is going to arrive sooner than you think.  I know a bit about this, because my husband and I have been moving toward the empty nest for a couple of years.  Our older son has graduated from college and is living with a friend, and our younger son is living at home while attending college.  They’re both doing their own thing – even though one still sleeps (and sometimes eats!) at our house – and my husband and I are essentially doing our own thing too.

We’ve been anticipating this for a number of years.  I can’t say we’re fully prepared, but we’ve been aware of it and wanted to know that we could enjoy life together when soccer and basketball and school activities came to an end.  So I want to share with you 10 things we’ve attempted to do (some well, some not so well) to get ready for this new phase of our lives.  If your children are in elementary school or older, I encourage you begin incorporating these things into your marriage and family life too.  On the day when your youngest child heads off to college or moves into an apartment, you’ll be glad you did!

1.  Pray together.

Establish your faith as the foundation of your marriage and family by praying together regularly.  This doesn’t have to be complicated or burdensome; just spend a few minutes together each day thanking God for your blessings and asking for His help with your concerns and problems.

2.  Orient your family around your marriage.

Your children are important, and their needs and activities require time and attention.  But those needs and activities shouldn’t become the “sun” around which your family revolves.  Placing your marriage at the center of your family’s life helps keep things in perspective when your children are young and eases the transition into the time when it’s just the two of you.  It also reminds your children from an early age that the universe doesn’t revolve around them!

3.  Talk about the future.

The elementary school years are not too early to begin talking about life and marriage after the child-intensive years.  Because by the time your children get to high school, they’ll begin focusing more on their friends and outside interests and less on the family.  So enjoy the elementary and middle school years and all the activities they entail, but spend time talking with your husband about the future too.  It’s never too soon to dream about the life you’ll enjoy together when it’s just the two of you.

4.  Take care of your health.

When you reach the empty nest years, you want to be able to enjoy them.  Which means that you want to be strong, healthy and fit, and don’t want to be slowed down by health problems.  Most of the health problems that begin to affect people in their 40s and 50s – diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems – are preventable.  And it’s never too early to begin working to prevent them.  So start now by eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and generally taking care of yourself.  And encourage your husband to do the same.  Those simple activities can help ensure that your empty nest years are healthy and active.

5.  Begin developing interests you can enjoy together.

You don’t want to deliver your youngest child to college, only to discover that you and your husband no longer have any interests in common.  So even though it’s difficult to find time for adult activities during the child-raising years, make the time to develop at least one activity that isn’t focused on your children.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; Sheila has mentioned that she and her husband enjoy bird watching, and my husband and I have taken up bike riding.

6.  Develop friendships and a social life beyond your children’s sports and activities.

When our younger son finished his final season of high school basketball, I (somewhat) jokingly asked my husband, “What are we going to do for a social life in the winter?” Because for many years, our social life from November through February revolved around basketball.  It’s natural for that to happen, because basketball (or soccer or dance or Scouts) takes up a lot of time.  But if you aren’t intentional about developing friendships or a social life beyond those activities, you may experience quite a “social shock” when they end.  So spend some time and energy developing friendships in your church, neighborhood, or other social circles too.

7.  Prioritize sex and intimacy in your marriage.

During the child-intensive years, it’s tempting to let sex and intimacy fall by the wayside.  It’s so easy to think, “I’m tired, I’m busy, the kids are sucking up all of my energy, I just don’t feel in the mood.”  Some or all of those things are probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you or your marriage.  Sex holds the two of you together in the hard times and creates joy in the good times.  So don’t let it slide.  Instead, nurture it and pursue it.  Deep intimacy and an enjoyable sex life will pay you back in spades, both now and in the empty nest years.

8.  Find ways to serve together.

It’s easy to be so focused on our family’s schedule, activities, and commitments that we forget about real needs that exist right in our own communities and around the world.  But it’s important to recognize those needs, both to keep our own problems in perspective and to find ways to serve others.  After all, crazy soccer and ballet schedules don’t seem so overwhelming when we remember that people are hungry or lonely or homeless.  So look for ways to serve others, as a couple or a family.  It will help keep things in perspective now and create an interest you and your husband can continue to develop as your children get older.

9.  Manage your finances.

The earlier in your marriage you begin to control your finances, the better.  Debt, lack of savings, and living beyond your means take a toll at every stage of life, but the older you get the harder it is to recover from financial mismanagement.  Plus, when you finally have extended time to have fun with your husband, you want to have a little bit of money on hand to do it!  So start now to eliminate debt, control spending, and/or bring in some additional income.  My husband and I didn’t start working on this early enough in our marriage, so we’re having to work harder on it now.

10.  Develop the fun side of your marriage.

Sometimes marriage becomes just a little bit tedious, doesn’t it?  It’s all work and no play, and suddenly no one is having very much fun!  So don’t let your long list of “have to” items suck all the fun out of your marriage.  Set a goal of doing something fun together at least once a week.  More often is better, but once a week is a good place to start.  It doesn’t have to be a “date,” just something both of you consider fun and relaxing – a walk after dinner, a bike ride, an outing to get a cup of coffee, or time to watch a funny movie.  You don’t want to arrive at the empty nest years and find that you don’t know how to have fun together anymore.

Whatever the age of your children or stage of your marriage, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the empty nest years.  And it’s never too late either.  If your children are in high school and you haven’t given it much thought, start now!  Talk with your husband, begin making plans, develop a couple of shared interests, and work on enjoying life together!

 

Gaye Groover ChristmusGaye Groover Christmus is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons.  In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field.  Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages.  She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives.  Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy.  She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.

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Top 10 Truths About Clutter

Top 10 Truths About Clutter

My house is filled with a lot of stuff.

I try to stay on top of it, but sometimes it really gets away from me. And then, before you know it, there are certain closets I’m afraid to open or certain rooms I’m afraid to go in. I just don’t want to think about what’s on the other side of that door.

It’s exhausting.

Clutter Free: Quick and Easy Steps to Simplifying Your SpaceSo when my good friend Kathi Lipp sent me her book Clutter Free, I was excited about reading it. It isn’t just a to-do manual on how to get rid of clutter; it’s more a way to change your mindset on how you think about your stuff, and I found it so useful. Kathi is sharing a post with us today, but before she does, I have to tell you about one funny thing in my life that came about because of reading her book.

At one point she was talking about “bathroom product clutter”. You know what she means–all the different hair products you’ve bought over the years that you’ve never used, or all the different creams, etc. And she challenges us to take 6 months and either use it or chuck it. Here’s the deal: you’re not allowed to buy a bathroom product until you have gone through your bathroom and found something like it, and either used it or admitted you never will and throw it out.

So for the last two months I’ve been on a rampage to use my bathroom stuff.

It now takes me 15 minutes after each shower, because I have to use the cellulite cream, the body spray, the varicose veins ointment, the eczema cream, the foot cream, and the foot spray. But I smell great! And I’ve finally taken all the essential oils I own and actually started to use them again.

I love it! It’s a great book.

And now, here’s Kathi:

Has clutter stopped being a cute problem in your life?

Clutter is something we laugh about over coffee (like watching too much TV or, come to think of it, ordering that venti double frap “coffee”,) but for many of us, clutter is much more serious than a couple of piles left on the kitchen counter.

If you feel like clutter is stressing you out, you’re right. There are real, psychological and emotional issues with clutter. It’s not all in your head.

But clutter lies to you. Clutter tells you “It’s not that big a deal,” and “You’ll get to it later.” Only to cause you more stress as the piles grow.

So here is the truth about clutter- or more accurately – the Top 10 Truths About Clutter:

1. Clutter Makes You Live Poor

When you are buried in clutter, you don’t know what you already have, so you tend to hang onto everything out of fear. (I don’t know how many pairs of shoes I have, so I can’t give any away.) I’ve had some times in my life when I haven’t balanced my checking account for longer than I’d like to admit. So when I saw a need, it was hard to respond because I didn’t know how close I was riding to the financial edge.

2. But Dealing with Clutter Can Make You Generous

Information is power. When you know that you have two pairs of flat black shoes you wear all the time, you’ll have no problem giving away that third pair to someone in need. When you know that you have enough groceries to get your through the week, you can open your pantry to your neighbor who is going through some tough times.

3. Clutter Steals Your Joy

UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) studied 32 California families and the stuff in their homes, cataloging thousands of items in each residence. The resulting book, Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century, shares about the link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female home owners and a high density of household objects. In other words, the more clutter, the more stress.

4. But Dealing with Clutter Can Bring Your Joy Back!

Simply by reducing the number of items in your home, you can reduce your stress levels and bring back peace. Stop right now and get clear off one surface around you – a desk, a counter, a table. Now enter the room and look at that blank space. There. Don’t you feel better already? Every time you clear out a drawer, clear off a surface, or gut a cabinet, you are reclaiming some happy in your life.

5. Clutter Costs You Money (Lots of it)

How many times have you re-purchased an item because you didn’t know where the first one was? How many late fees have you paid over your lifetime because your bills were all over the house? How many rebates have you found stacked in a pile that are past their mail-in date? How many fines have you had to pay because you couldn’t find all of the library books your kids checked out? Clutter is costing you money – and lots of it.

6. But Dealing with Clutter Can Actually Earn You Money

By selling those gently used clothes, donating those outgrown toys, mailing in those rebates on time, making an accurate grocery list (because you know what’s in your pantry,) not only will you save money, but you will add to the family coffers.

7. Clutter Can’t Be Organized

Stop buying more boxes, systems, totes and tools to organize your clutter. Clutter can’t be organized. But by digging through your clutter trash and recovering the treasures that lay in there (in every stack of twenty papers, there is one you actually need,) you can see what actually does need to be dealt with and organized.

8. But Dealing with Clutter Can Make You More Organized

Clutter constantly signals to our brains that our work is never done.” Says Sherrie Bourg Carter the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout. By dealing with our clutter, we can let our brain know that we are done with that project, and we can move on to another item, giving it the full attention that is deserves.

9. Clutter Hurts Your Marriage

As I’ve helped women deal with their clutter, I’ve heard time and time again how it hasn’t just affected the space in their homes, it’s also hurt their relationships. Fights over stuff. Laundry piled on beds and couches, making them unusable. Cluttered kitchens that are impossible to cook in – the list goes on and on. Clutter adds an extra layer of stress to a marriage that may already be stressed to begin with.

10. But Dealing with Clutter Can Improve Your Marriage – Quickly

Many of the ways to make your marriage better require both of you putting in an effort – not so with clutter. By eliminating clutter in areas where you and your husband connect (the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom,) you are immediately lowering your stress level, which can do nothing but make your marriage a better place to be.

Clutter is a liar. It makes you feel distracted, stupid and out of control. But once you know the truth about clutter you can fight back and regain your life.

Want to win the battle against clutter in every area of your life? Join Kathi’s 21 Day Clutter Challenge and regain your home – and your sanity. (just click through and sign up on her sidebar!)

Kathi LippKathi Lipp inspires thousands of women each year to take beneficial steps in their personal, marital and spiritual lives through purposeful living. With humor and wisdom, Kathi offers hope paired with practical steps to live each facet of our lives with meaning.  She is the author of 13 books including The Husband Project, The Get Yourself Organized Project, and I Need Some Help Here – Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. She is the host of You’ve Got This! with Kathi Lipp and speaks at conferences across the US.  She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not doing laundry, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.

Reader Question: I’m Not Attracted to My Boyfriend

Reader Question of the WeekCan you marry your boyfriend if you’re not attracted to him?

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. This week’s question is a doozy, and I’m going to need a lot of input from you, my readers.

A reader writes:

I’ve been dating a guy who’s my best friend for two years – he loves me, and wants to marry me as soon as possible, and is definitely physically attracted to me. I love him deeply in a care for him sense, in a trust him sense, in a he’d be the greatest dad sense. But he’s short and fat and sweaty and I can’t, I can’t imagine being into him sexually. Even kissing sometimes is good, but frequently repels me. I’m a virgin with no other experience at all (and frankly with little natural interest in sex most times, anyway). Is there…what on earth can I do? I can’t bear to break his heart, but I don’t want to forever resent that he isn’t even in shape and he’s 25….

Oh, wow. That’s one I’m not sure I even have an answer for! And this likely falls into the category, there isn’t a definite answer, and you have to ask God and just feel right about it. The answer could be different for different people.

So I just want to give a few thoughts, that may be a little contradictory, but which hopefully raise a bunch of things to consider as you pray/think through this.

What if you're not attracted to your boyfriend? Can you still marry him? Some thoughts!

Sex is an intrinsic part of marriage. When you marry, you have to commit to having regular, enthusiastic sex.

Seriously. Anything else just isn’t fair to the person you’re marrying. If you’re thinking to yourself, “well, I’ll agree to have sex once or twice a week, but I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it, and I’ll have to grin and bear it”, I just don’t think that’s fair to the guy. So much of a guy’s self-esteem comes from knowing that he can bring pleasure to his wife–not just that she “lets” him have sex with her. It’s when it’s a mutual thing that he feels like a man. If him touching you repulses you, that’s not a good thing.

Sex is more than physical

At the same time, sex is more than physical. For most couples, those butterfly, intense attraction feelings fade after a year or two. What you’re left with is a deeper love that’s based on companionship and togetherness, and that can actually make sex more intense. It’s not just hormonal; it’s actually based on a deep and abiding love.

And when you do totally love someone, that vulnerability that you share with them becomes sexy. Having someone that knows you that well becomes sexy. And being able to explore and figure out how he can make you feel great (which is possible even if he’s bigger), can leave a woman very sexually satisfied. Many women, for instance, marry guys who are trim and slim, and ten years later end up with someone who is very overweight. But you can find a way to make the marriage work, even if you aren’t as attracted to your husband anymore.

This is an extreme example, and perhaps one I shouldn’t bring up because of the controversy, but I do think it fits. I have known one couple who married where he was homosexual and she was heterosexual. Yet he found that he was attracted to her–just not to any other women. God helped him to channel his desire to her, even though she wasn’t what he normally found attractive. And their sex life worked because it was based on this deep emotional connection.

My concern, though, is that this secondary attraction–the one that is based on love and companionship more than just raw hormones–should likely have kicked in by now. If you were going to be able to be attracted to him based on his good character qualities, I would have thought that you would have felt it already.

Settling in marriage hurts everybody

It sounds from the letter that you’re around 25 years old. That’s still pretty young. Marrying someone because you feel like you “owe” him since you’ve been so close for so long, and you can’t bear to break his heart, could easily do more harm in the long run. Yes, it would be devastating to break up now, but if you married him, would you always yearn for something else? Would you always feel like you had settled? Would you always secretly wish there was something else for you?

If you think that, and then you face a tragedy together or some stressful times, those thoughts will be magnified tenfold. And he will sense them. You’ll be chronically unhappy, and he will feel like a failure.

When you marry, you have to be prepared to love and embrace wholeheartedly. I do believe that this is possible to do without a lot of sexual attraction; I’m not sure it’s possible if he actually repels you. There’s a difference between being neutral and being a net negative.

If you really can’t picture marrying him, I think it’s better to break it off sooner rather than later. If you keep waiting for those feelings to find you, you’re keeping him from finding another woman, and you’re keeping yourself from finding another man.

Let’s be realistic about finding a marriage partner

One last thought: let’s be realistic when we are looking for who to marry. People tend to marry someone of similar attractiveness. So I don’t mean to be offensive here, but if you’re waiting for a Brad Pitt (and I’m not saying our letter writer is), but you yourself are no Angelina Jolie, then perhaps you need to be more realistic. There are things other than looks that are important, and if we’re too picky about who makes a good mate, and if we judge solely on looks, then we may paint ourselves into a corner.

Attraction is a hard thing to define. It is certainly partially hormonal and almost animal, so that the thinking part of our brains play little part. But it is not entirely that. When we choose what we want to find attractive, quite often we can overcome physical shortcomings if the other things are important enough to us.

So that’s my answer. I guess I’m going back and forth on this one a lot, because I’m not sure there is a definitive answer!

But I’m hoping my readers can chime in (you all gave such great feedback on the wedding ring controversy last week!).  Were you always attracted to your husband? How important is attraction? Let us know in the comments!

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UPDATE: Our Reader wrote back with an update on her life! She says:

First, I want to say thank you so, so much for taking the time to answer. Secondly, I want you to know that your answer, and the answers of the many commenters, have really blessed me. Not, perhaps, in the way that might be expected – by the time this article launched, I had already broken up with the poor, sweet man. But, I have to say, I felt like God sent me your voices after the fact to help confirm in me that I need not feel guilty about having been honest.
I did break up with him, and it wasn’t easy at all. With the help of prayer (some of it y’all’s, no doubt!) and my counsellor, I was able to break up with this boyfriend for deep and honest reasons, without skewering his sense of self-worth. It was really important to me to love him as a friend and as a brother in Christ, and that ability came from outside of me. He took it much harder than I did, but he is recovering well now.
It really was just a case of a great friendship, where he really, really wanted marriage – and for a long time I thought maybe I could do it?? I didn’t know; but eventually it became clear to me that I couldn’t do it. There were sexual and simply practical and even emotional logistics that were just…off.
So, thank you for listening. Thank you for writing this up for other girls like me.
And, in case you wondered, I am single and much relieved to be so (that was a shock! Didn’t realize how miserable I had made myself trying to make it work until I was…free. Felt AMAZING, and in a right way, too.) Anyway, I met this gorgeous young man not long after the breakup…and it’s so different, I am floored. I don’t know if this new guy likes me yet, or if he’s just friendly, but wow – this is literally the only time I have EVER been attracted to looks and personality at the same time. It’s wonderful to even be able to HOPE this romance materializes!
So, thank you for helping to free me from my best intentions to do the wrong thing. And…if you ever want to pray that God maybe guide the new man and I into at least a trial relationship…I wouldn’t mind!

A LifeLong Love with Giveaway

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

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

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

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

A Lifelong Love--January's book choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God desperately cares about how you treat his son

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

And he was so relieved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be careful of power imbalances in marriage

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

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

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

lack of purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you bless your husband?

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

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

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

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

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

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

January Prizes in the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge of 2015!

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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

Wifey Wednesday: 3 Keys to a Great Date Night

Perfect Date Night

What makes a perfect date night?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment or link up in the linky below.

True AgapeAnd today, Cassie Celestain from True Agape is joining us to talk about the 3 keys to a perfect date night. She’s the author of Creating True Agape: 20 At Home Dates.

It is time for a date night! Probably long overdue, but you have finally put your foot down to make a date happen. Seeing how it has been a while since you and your husband have had alone time your mind is spinning about with all the possibilities. This does happen to you too, right? Please tell me I am not alone!

My husband, Ryan, and I keep tight schedules. Between his day job, motivational speaking on the side, working towards becoming a professional triathlete and our marriage blog, True Agape we stay busy. Oh and I almost forgot…our 6 month old! Since my primary Love Language is Quality Time I could take a date night once a week, but that just doesn’t happen. Instead, we opt in to have dinner together every night to ensure we connect daily, but then have a date every few weeks.

When we align everything up just perfectly (a few weeks ahead of time, of course) to have a date I have such a hard time deciding what kind of date we should do. Movie? Fancy restaurant? Double date? Shopping? Cuddle at home? Sex session? Bike ride? There are just so many options! I do believe, however, you can choose the wrong date. Dates should be chosen with a purpose in mind.

Why dates with a purpose?

With anything else in our lives when we want a certain outcome we plan accordingly to get there. We want to run a 5k so we start a training program. We want chicken lasagna for dinner so we find a recipe and shop for ingredients. For an end result, we have to prepare.

Dates are the same way! At the end of the date do you as a couple need to be relaxed, have reevaluated goals, connected intimately, or just have had a little fun and variety? Think about what end result you would like, then consider what kind of dates have the best odds to get you there.

3 tips for choosing the right date

Know Each Other’s Love Languages

I think knowing each other’s Love Language is not only important for date planning, but vital for marriages in general! There are three ways to find out your husband’s Love Language. When you know your mates Love Language you know how he feels loved the most. You can then take this into consideration when planning your time together. Choosing a date highlighting your Love Languages will make you two feel more connected and appreciated at the end of your date.

Ryan’s primary Love Language is Words of Affirmations closely followed by Physical Touch. When he needs his love tank filled we will often do dinner and something that helps us to connect physically. Dinner without baby allows us to check in with each other on our goals and projects which gives me opportunities to praise his efforts. Then, we cuddle at home while we watch a movie or do an at home spa night. When I feel like we need to connect I prefer one on one time. I enjoy dates where Ryan’s full attention is on us and what we are doing.

Know Each Other’s Current Needs

Sometimes when a date time comes around we know that as a couple we need time together. Really examine why you feel like that. Is it for the need to connect by communication? Really getting to talk other than day to day to-do’s? Or do you know your guys is having a stressful time at work and could use a fun outing? Maybe it’s the fact that your sex has been interrupted by little ones several times. Now you have the chance to seduce your man for as long as the two of you want! When starting to plan your date be aware of both of your needs.

With our little one just 6 month old we have been adjusting to the lifestyle of parenthood. That comes with responsibilities of caring for someone else’s life. Although it is an adventure every day we needed a different kind of adventure! We wanted to get out, have fun and not have to worry about much. We sent the baby off for her first overnight stay with grandma and decided to play laser tag. A carefree date night was just the kind of outing we needed!

Know Your Circumstances

When you know the circumstances and keep them in mind you have better odds of planning a date that will be enjoyable. If your goal is to stick to a budget going out to a fancy place unplanned could cause stress or tension. If your sitter needs to be gone the same time the movie would finish that probably is not be the best choice. If you both have been on the go a lot going out might not be as pleasant as a date night at home. Be sure to take circumstances like time, money and energy into account.

On the same date night mentioned above we decided to go a little date crazy. It was our first night without the baby and we planned to take full advantage of the evening! Our plan was laser tag, a movie, dinner and some intimate time. Talk about a busy evening. But it was all going to work perfectly until our planned movie time was sold out. We were trying to decide if we would watch the movie at a later play time or just skip it. In the end we decided to skip it. We were looking forward to sometime in the bedroom without fear of waking the baby. Along with a nice long night of sleep, of course! Going to the later showing would have put a hamper on those parts of the plan.

With our busy schedule often times our parents help us by watching our baby when we have business appointments or travels. When the times arise that they can watch our girl for us to go on a date Ryan and I have to make sure we are choosing the best date. We plan a date with a purpose by keeping in mind our Love Languages, needs and circumstances. At the end of our dates we feel more connected and rejuvenated. We’re encouraged to continue being each other’s help mate to the best of our abilities. And we are left looking forward to the next date night we have together!

What tips can you share that help you choose the right date night?

 

Cassie Celestain from True AgapeCassie Celestain is a wife, mom, runner and a marriage and family blogger at TrueAgape. She believes respect, trust, understanding and willingness creates happy marriages and families. She strives to keep those things the main focus in her daily life and wants to challenge others to do the same. You can get her free 6 page guide “The Secret to Making your Husband Feel Loved”now.

 

True AgapeWant to date with a purpose? Cassie’s book Creating True Agape gives you 20 at home date ideas for you and your hubby! They get you talking, get you dreaming, and get you in the mood! Great ideas and printables for all kinds of meaningful nights you can have right in your own home–without having to hire a baby-sitter. Keep connected in your marriage this year. Check it out!

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! What marriage advice do you have for us? Just link up the URL of your own marriage post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so that other people can read these great marriage posts!



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.

The Myth of Sexual Incompatibility

The Myth of Sexual Incompatibility: most problems can be solved!I’m a columnist for Canada’s Faith Today magazine, the magazine for the evangelical Christian community. And in this month’s issue I’m talking about the myth of sexual incompatibility! I’ve written before about how Christians can’t be sexually incompatible, but I thought I’d sum it up in this column.

The evangelical church has found sex.

After years of being rightfully accused of prudery, many Christians have done a 180, deciding that the best form of evangelism is showing the world just how much we get it on. In July 2013, Pastor Joe Nelms of Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee started a firestorm when, in his opening prayer at a NASCAR race, he thanked God for his “smokin’ hot wife”. Disgraced megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll was renowned for riddling his sermons with sexual innuendos. Closer to home, Christians are hosting “Passion Parties“, just like Tupperware parties, except without as much plastic, where women can shop for lingerie, sex toys, and lubricants in their own homes, with friends.

The message: sex in marriage is awesome!

But is it? This sexual evangelism caused Rachel Pietka to pen an opinion post for Relevant Magazine saying that “Christians Aren’t Called to Have Amazing Sex.” After all, if we aren’t supposed to have sex until we’re married, there’s no way to find out if you’re sexually incompatible. Obviously, then, God never meant for amazing sex to be a staple of a good Christian marriage.

And so here I find myself in this messy middle, wondering when the church will get our act together to properly evangelize about healthy sexuality.

Good Girls Guide My SiteLet’s go back to first principles. God made sex to unite us in three ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yes, we feel a physical rush, but sex is also designed to make us feel like one–the mystery of “knowing” each other, as the Hebrew word used for the sexual union suggests. This spiritual intimacy then feeds the physical side. That’s why many studies–including my own that I conducted for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex–show that married Christians enjoy sex more. Commitment is a powerful aphrodisiac!

But our culture doesn’t understand that because it has divorced sex from marriage, and then all that’s left is genitalia. It becomes crude and ugly.

And yet the “sexually incompatible” camp pigeonholes sex as well.

If we’re capable of being sexually incompatible, then our sexuality must be something static. She by herself is a static sexual being, and he by himself is a static sexual being, and the two may not match. Not true. God designed sex to be a relational thing. And because sex is far more than physical, as we open up to each other by becoming more vulnerable, more giving, and more trusting, sex will change.

That’s why I hate the phrase “sexually incompatible”. You’re not incompatible; you just have things you need to work out. If one spouse wants to make love much more than another, and this causes hurt, it’s sin, because one (or both) are not loving each other as Christ did. If one is being selfish in bed, demanding unreasonable things, or refusing to learn how to pleasure the other, it’s sin. When physical problems come, and one spouse doesn’t make allowance, it’s sin. If the spouse experiencing difficulties won’t get help, it’s sin, too. If one is using porn or erotica to get aroused, it’s sin. If one is feeling ashamed of sex, that, too, is sin, though it may not be theirs. Perhaps they grew up in a house where their parents made them feel ashamed of the fact that they were sexual, and now they need healing. Or perhaps they were abused (someone else’s sin) and that, too, has impacted their ability to enjoy sex.

Just like in every other area of our lives, our problems with sex stem from either from our own sin (selfishness) or from being
sinned against (brokenness). And so we need to go to God for healing and restoration.

God promised that we could have amazing sex; He never promised that we would.

In the same way that we can’t live a holy life without surrendering more and more to God, we can’t have great sex without surrendering more and more of ourselves to God and to each other. Sex isn’t something that’s static; sex is a journey that married people take as we grow closer to each other and closer to our Maker.

So it’s time to stop seeing sex like the world does–as something only physical–and start remembering that real passion and intimacy come from a true spiritual connection. As we grow more and more like Christ, we’ll feel that passion more and more, and we will have amazing sex. But I still don’t think we should announce that at NASCAR races.

The newest issue of Faith Today has tons of great articles, including an expose on missing aboriginal women; a Q&A with the director of International Justice Mission, which frees child sex slaves (a ministry near and dear to my heart, that our family has recently started supporting); an in-depth examination of the euthanasia debate; and a look at how churches can agree to disagree–graciously. Plus tons of news about Kingdom Matters in Canada!

Check it out here.

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

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Christian Sex Toy Parties: Are They a Good Idea?

Christian Sex Toy Parties: Are they a good idea?

What do you do if you’re invited to one of those “fun” sex toy parties–Passion Parties or PureRomance?

Reader Question of the Week: Are Sex Toy Parties Okay for Christians?It’s Monday, the day when I post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I want to tackle these sex toy parties–especially the “Christian” sex toy parties. Here’s a reader’s question:

I love to read your blog and when I was wrestling with this in my head I was curious what you would do. A good friend of mine has a direct sales business with “girls’ nights in” to explore sex toys, lubes, lingerie, other “fun” things for couples that her company sells. She’s asked me to do parties for her before and I’m skeptical only because we don’t like sex toys, and I just feel like this area of my life is more private (like I don’t share w/ anyone except for my BFF, not a room full of guests in my home). So what are your thoughts on this? Am I too uptight? Is there such a thing as Christian sex toys? Thanks!

Great question, and I’ve got a bit of a multifaceted answer. So here we go!

There’s a Difference Between Sex Aids and Sex Replacements

I’m all for using lube–It’s indispensable when you’re just married and you’re nervous about sex, and it becomes indispensable again when you’re in perimenopause/menopause and you aren’t quite as well lubricated as you used to be. It makes quickies easier, and it often makes arousal easier.

Similarly, I’m a big fan of lingerie. I think most women feel a lot more confident with a little bit of material on, and most men really appreciate us in lingerie! It also shows that we’re making an effort.

Massage CandleMassage candles, massage oil, even feathers–awesome! Some of the things that you use to make intercourse easier or more pleasurable–I’m fine with that. Really (though I’m not going to spell them all out). But there is a difference between something that makes enhances sex and something that basically replaces a partner during sex. For instance, I know there are times when vibrators are important–I’ve talked to some readers with health issues who have found that a husband using a vibrator on his wife is one of the only ways that he can give her pleasure, and I do understand that.

It’s just that, in general, the more you use a vibrator, the less likely you are to orgasm during intercourse because the feeling is so much more intense. No guy can vibrate like that. And I could say similar things about some other sex toys.

And the problem is that most of these parties don’t distinguish between the two, and that makes me uncomfortable. Many of them ask to advertise on this site, and I always say no. It’s not that I think sex toys are a sin–I don’t. It’s just that I think that many fall into the category of “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” that we read in 1 Corinthians 10:23.

You don’t want to stress the physical aspect of sex over the spiritual/emotional aspect

Good Girls Guide My SiteHere’s an argument I’ve made before, so I won’t dwell on it much here. But those who tend to enjoy sex the most are also those who are the most intimate–who have been married for about a decade and a half, and who rate their spiritual intimacy as quite high. In the surveys that I did for my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, where I explained this point in great detail, I said that the best way to make sex better was to feel more intimate already. In fact, prayer actually makes a woman more orgasmic (which I know seems weird, but it’s true!)

I firmly believe that you can be both hot and holy–and indeed, the two tend to go hand in hand (as the holy-meter increases, so does the hot-meter!) But because of that, if we ignore the holy part entirely and simply look at the mechanics of sex, we often lose out on the beauty.

Those who feel closer will also feel more vulnerable and will be more adventurous in bed. Sex will be awesome. But if you only look at the increasing the physical aspect without the other, then you often lose something. And especially in this culture where I’ve found the biggest sexual problem most couples have is that they’ve made sex completely physical–because of porn, or the way they were brought up, etc–then doing something else which reinforces that doesn’t end up helping sex.

You can read more about this in the Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, or in my post on Christians and sex toys.

Bondage is a slippery slope

Here’s another issue–many, if not most, of today’s sex toys are bondage oriented, especially after the success of books like 50 Shades of Grey. And bondage humiliates and degrades, and treats a woman as if she were an impersonal object.

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's HeartLook–tying someone up playfully can definitely enhance sensation. When you can’t move, you feel everything more. Tying them up with the intention of hurting them in some way (like spanking and whipping) or humiliating them is an entirely different thing. And as I wrote before, I just don’t see how that correlates with treating someone in a loving way.

For more about this argument, see the book Pulling Back the Shades.

Remember the “weaker brother” argument when it comes to sex toy parties

In Romans 14, Paul makes a long argument about how we have to be careful not to put a stumbling block in another person’s way. We may not have an issue with something, but if another Christian does, and we pursue it anyway, it could cause them to stumble.

The classic example here is alcohol: you and your husband may enjoy a glass of wine, but if you serve alcohol to someone who is a former alcoholic, you’re causing them to stumble. Better to leave the wine somewhere else and serve orange juice.

So let’s say that you have a friend whose marriage has been under strain because of porn issues, or because her husband wants her to do things she doesn’t want to do, or because she’s wanted to push some sexual boundaries a little too far. And then you invite her to one of these parties, thinking it’s just a “fun” way to spice up your life.

Her conscience may have been working on her lately: I need to confront my husband and tell him we’re not watching porn together anymore. I need to confront my husband and tell him that I want our marriage bed to be pure.

You then invite her to a party, and she thinks,

“Maybe I’ve been hearing God wrong! Maybe I’ve just been too uptight. I mean, here’s my friend who is an awesome Christian and she’s advertising dildos and vibrators and lots of things, so obviously I’ve been wrong thinking that our sex life has become too impersonal. Anything goes, because there’s freedom in marriage!”

And she’s now silenced the Holy Spirit who has been working on her in this area.

Look, for some people using all of these things may not affect their intimacy or marriage in the slightest. But for some it really might. And in the same way that you wouldn’t host a wine tasting or shots party for the College & Career group in your church–even if you drink wine or the occasional mixer–why would you host a sex toy party for people when you really don’t know their back story?

Spread the word about how great sex is–without a sex toy party

The church has been really sex-negative in the past, and we do need to become more sex-positive and start talking about sex more. We need to tell our friends, “I enjoy sex, and if you’re not having sex in your marriage, that’s bad and I want to help you”. We need to stop making this a secret.

I totally agree. I just don’t think that these sex toy parties are the way to do that.

So I’d love to know in the comments: How can we become more vocal and sex positive WITHOUT going to the extreme? And if you think I’m wrong about Passion Parties or PureRomance, leave a comment, too! Let’s start a discussion.

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.

 

 

 

In Successful Marriages Spouses Scan for Things to Praise Not Criticize

The 2 Keys to a Successful Marriage: Praise and Connection. It's about Attitude!

It’s Wednesday, the day we always talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then you all can link up your own posts below. Today I want to talk about what makes a successful marriage, and according to John Gottman, it’s pretty simple. It’s all in your attitude.

Let me tell you the story of two women that I know.

One lady, we’ll call her Maude, is a senior. She hangs out with a lot of other senior ladies doing a particular hobby, which I can’t mention because my hometown will know who I’m talking about. :) She’s a riot, but every time she talks about her husband Gerry she complains about him. When the kids were little she could never leave him alone with them. He’s lazy. He doesn’t know how to cook. He forgets birthdays. He’s just a big kid himself.

I didn’t have a very high opinion of Gerry until one day he walked in and I actually met him. I was expecting a gruff, angry man. Instead I met a teddy bear whose eyes twinkled as he joked with everybody else there. But when he looked at Maude, his eyes grew almost dead. She picked at him, and he turned away. He was a great guy–but she didn’t see it.

Then there’s a university friend I’ll call Elaine. She and her husband Todd are complete opposites–they’ve done the Myers Briggs personality test and she’s an ISFP and he’s an ENTJ. He’s never held a job for more than 3 years, because he’s always trying new entrepreneurial ventures–most of which succeed. He’s got several businesses on the go now, but life is hectic. And his hobbies? They’re hectic, too. She’d like to sit and be quiet but he wants adventure. She thrives on stability; he thrives on every new thing.

And when she talks about him she may tease him, but she does it while touching his arm. She smiles when she looks at him. She’s impressed by his many different ideas. And she’s always saying nice things about him to other people.

John Gottman, who has been studying the “Science of Marriage” for several decades, would call Elaine a Marriage Master and Maude a Marriage Disaster. And the difference between the two is often not huge. It’s in two little things, according to a new study.

In a Successful Marriage People Scan for Successes

Contempt is the number one thing that drives people apart. Contempt says, “you aren’t doing this right and you never will.” Contempt judges and leaves people in the dust. Maude and Gerry were still technically married, but they hadn’t been happy in decades.

And contempt means that you notice failures, not successes. What’s the point in noticing a success? Sure, he may have said that one particular thing nicely, but that doesn’t count if he never remembers my birthday and works so hard that he’s rarely here. He may have put the kids in bed tonight so I can have some time to myself but that doesn’t count because he worked last Saturday and left me with all the kids and he’s always doing that. You see yourself as the martyr and him as the bad one, and no matter what he does, you don’t give him credit, because he can never dig himself out of the hole he’s in.

Suggestion: For one week, thank him every chance you get for every nice thing he does. Don’t ask whether he deserves it. Don’t think, “if I thank him for this he’ll think he’s off the hook about that.” Just do it.

Why? Because when you have to thank him, you have to look for things that he does that are good. When you look for them, you see them. You think about him. And you end up thinking of him in a new way.

The key to a successful marriage, by John Gottman: Look for things to praise, not criticize.

In a Successful Marriage People Turn Towards Each Other

Your husband walks in the door and yells, “Hi! I’m home!” What do you do? Do you get up and give him a kiss, or do you ignore him and keep cooking dinner? Your husband says, “I saw a woman today who looks just like this girl I used to live beside when I was little. You don’t think it could be her, do you?” Do you reply,

  • How would I know?
  • Don’t be silly. You grew up across the country from here.
  • Neat! Who was the girl you grew up with?
  • You never know. Remember when we met my old Math teacher at the Grand Canyon?

When the husband walked in the door and called out, that was a “bid” for connection, Gottman says. When he began that conversation about the woman he recognized, it was another bid. In successful marriages, people scan for these “bids”, and when they happen, they move towards each other. Either literally–as in going to the door and hugging him–or in conversation–as with the last two replies, rather than the first two replies. They don’t cut someone off, they continue.

Suggestion: For one week, really listen to everything your husband says. Continue conversations and pay attention.

Why: You show your husband you value him. And as you talk, you do grow closer.

That’s it–just two things that can change the whole dynamic of your marriage.

I think women sometimes get in this mindset that says something like, “my marriage isn’t great and it never will be because my husband just doesn’t get it”, and then they give up trying. They relate to their husbands like the husbands are simply always wrong. They put all of their efforts into their kids, or into their jobs, or into their ministries. And even if everyone else can see that they’re married to a great guy, they can’t see it themselves. They gave up a long time ago, and sigh about him all the time.

And most people who are like this won’t even realize that this blog post is about them.

If you believe that your husband just doesn’t get it, and that you are destined to have a lousy marriage, I’m talking to you. If you believe that your husband is hopeless when it comes to the kids or any kind of personal interaction, I’m talking to you. If you believe that your husband mostly makes you miserable, I’m talking to you. If you believe that your job is to put up with your husband for the rest of your life, but that you’ll never be happy, I’m talking to you.

You are scanning for mistakes. Stop it. Your husband isn’t the only reason your marriage is distant–you’ve decided to make that distance bigger! Start scanning for successes and thank him for them and mention them immediately.

And stop pulling away from him. When he says something that could bring you closer, pull in closer. Pay attention.

Do you realize how small these two things are? Like Shaunti Feldhahn found, the key to successful marriages tends to be in the small things, like saying thank you to your husband.

No, they don’t solve all marriage problems. But what they do do is lower the tension in your marriage so that you’re relaxed around each other because you have goodwill. And if you’re relaxed and feel positively, you can talk about those bigger issues and deal with them so much more effectively.

Many good, Christian women show their husbands contempt (and many husbands show their wives contempt; I understand that, it’s just that I’m writing to women on this blog). That’s not doing your kids any favours.

I’m perhaps more passionate about this today because I’ve seen it in several marriages close to me lately, and that’s why I’ve been going on and on about it. But it’s so important: scan for success. Pull closer. Say nice things. Don’t overanalyze it. Don’t wonder if he deserves it. Don’t worry that it will make him think he gets off scot free. Just do it. Please. And see what happens.

WifeyWednesday175Now, what advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below!

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Top 10 Ways to Show Your Husband He’s Important After the Baby Comes

How to show your husband he's important after the baby comes!

How do you show your husband he’s important when you have a new baby and you’re exhausted?

A reader asks this question:

I’m wondering what there is that I can do to make sure my husband feels looked after in the time after a baby arrives. We just welcomed our first 16 days ago and I feel bad for my husband because taking care of the baby takes so much time I feel like I have no time to take care of his needs too. Do you have any advice? I know it’s very soon after baby but I want to make sure my husband knows he’s still a priority despite how much the baby needs.

That is a challenge, isn’t it? I’d say carve out “us time” when the baby goes in the swing for half an hour, but my youngest was colicky and that wouldn’t even have been an option. So I asked Arlene Pellicane, author of Growing Up Social and 31 Days to a Happy Husband, to share her best tips for letting your husband know he still matters to you.

When our first baby came into the world ten years ago, he was like little Simba being presented in the Lion King.  That exalted, tiny 7-pound lump was about to cause some serious changes to the kingdom of our home.  When baby makes three, it’s extremely helpful to realize that baby is prince (or princess) but daddy is still king.

If you’re not intentional about it, your husband can become like wallpaper in your home, quietly existing while all your attention goes to your sweet baby.

Here are the TOP TEN ways to make your husband feel special after baby:

Keep gazing into his eyes. 

The picture of a mom gazing into her baby’s eyes is powerful and iconic.  Deep bonding happens through this eye contact.  Make sure you spend time gazing into your husband’s eyes too.  You don’t have to stare at him for hours, but whenever you have the chance, savor each opportunity to look into his eyes.  By the way, this includes putting your phone down more often and looking him in the eyes when talking.
Top Ten

Oxytocin is for him too. 

Oxytocin is the bonding hormone – if you’re breast feeding, oxytocin is produced so you feel close to your baby.  When you kiss or hug your baby, your oxytocin level goes up and you like your baby more.  Guess what?  Oxytocin is necessary for you and your husband too!  Don’t forget to kiss, hug, and make love (once you’re physically able to again) to your man.  It will make you like him more and vice versa.

Kiss everyday for 5 seconds. 

In my book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband, I interviewed sex therapists Dr. Cliff and Joyce Penner who suggested a daily 5 – 30 second kiss.  Since you have a baby, I’m making the assignment easier:  5 seconds will do!  Let your husband know that this daily kiss is not the “GO!” signal.  It’s just a way that you want to stay close and keep the pilot light lit between you.  These 5 seconds will speak volumes to your husband.  Just 5 seconds will let him know you still find him desirable and you care about him.

Bring on the babysitter.

Whether it’s a grandparent or a trusted teenager, hire a babysitter so you can go out.  Sometimes mothers are afraid to leave their precious baby, but trust me on this one.  As long as your baby is being watched responsibly, your baby will not remember that you went on a 3-hour date when he or she was 6 months old.  (But your husband will).

Skip the donut.

I had three babies and two miscarriages in my 30s.  My weight went up of course with each pregnancy, and it meant a lot to my husband when he saw me trying to lose that baby weight.  Men are wired to be visually stimulated so don’t be mad at your husband if he would love to see your “before pregnancy” body back.  Obviously your body changes through the years.  But when you skip the donut and grab the apple instead, it communicates you are doing your best to by physically healthy which means a lot to your husband.

Plan for sex. 

Exhausted and sleep deprived, you may not want to have spontaneous sex for a very long time!  But when your body is able, plan for romance and put it on the calendar.  Dr. David Clarke says parents who don’t schedule their sex, don’t have sex.  I agree!  You’ve got to make room in your calendar for what’s most important to your marriage and lovemaking falls into that category.

When baby naps, you nap.

It’s hard to be a caring wife, let alone an amorous one, when you are so sleepy and tired.  When your baby takes a nap, leave the laundry alone.  Fall off the planet with social media.  Don’t watch TV.  Take a nap instead.  The more you can snatch pockets of time to catch up on your zzz’s, the nicer you will be to your husband and everyone else.

Connect with other positive moms.

You need time with adults who are not burping, drooling, or needing to be changed.  This way you’re not expecting your husband to meet every conversational need in your life.   Join MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) or other mom group that will connect you to positive moms.  Or you can have a weekly playdate with a friend who has a child similar in age.  Just make sure that the moms you hang out with are positive.  Avoid moms who constantly complain about their spouses and their kids.  Complaining is contagious and that’s a virus you don’t want to catch.

Pray for your spouse.

My friend Sharon Jaynes has a wonderful book, Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe.  It’s easy to use, giving you Scriptures to pray over your man to protect and bless him.  As you bring your husband to God in prayer, he will feel your prayers and love.  And your heart will turn towards your husband.  When you’re praying for your husband, it’s hard to be irritated or callous toward him.

Respect his opinion.

Yes, you may know more about how the baby should be burped and when she was last changed, but when your husband has something to say about parenting, listen to him.  Continue to show him respect in your marriage, especially in this new role of child rearing.  So many men feel inept as fathers because their wives make them feel foolish.  Instead view parenting as a team sport, where both husband and wife have something valuable to offer.

Okay…which way are you going to practice today to make your hubby feel special?  After all, it’s awfully hard to compete with a 7-pound lump of cuteness and perfection! 

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Arlene Pellicane31 Days to a Happy Husband: What a Man Needs Most from His WifeArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World (co-authored with Gary Chapman), 31 Days to a Happy Husband, and 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.

Arlene has been featured on the Today Show, Fox & Friends, Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, The Better Show, The 700 Club, Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah, and TLC’s Home Made Simple.

She and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children.  You can learn more about her ministry at www.ArlenePellicane.com