Wifey Wednesday: Don’t Be the Christmas Doormat!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today Sarah Ball, aka The Virtuous Woman Exposed, joins us talking about how you can be a non-stressed wife this Christmas–by not being a Christmas martyr!

be a non-stressed wife this christmas

Dad is sitting peacefully with his pipe by the fire, the kids are playing joyfully with their new toys, the in-laws have that 1,000 pieced puzzle mastered, and Aunt Sally and Uncle Joe dance arm in arm to “I’ll be home for Christmas.”

But wait, where’s mom?

Oh, right. She’s hyperventilating in the walk-in pantry.

“It’s just the onions,” she says with a forced smile. Come on, we all know it’s not just the onions. It’s a layer of exhaustion, trying to please everyone, a failed soufflé (do women still make these?) a critical comment from the Mother-in-law, an eye roll over paper plates from the Aunt, oh…and the one gift she received under the tree.

One hand-made candleholder made with love and painted macaroni.

She loves seeing her family happy, and nothing beats watching her children open gifts, and she knows the true meaning of Christmas. Yet she can’t help but feel a little empty; so she distracts herself with giving and serving, while telling herself she ‘is being stupid and needs to suck it up.’ She takes the freshly made bacon wrapped scallops out of the oven, waves her eyes clear of tears, inhales deeply, and joins the party. “Hungry?” She sings. They all run to the platter of savory and leave her none.

Does this sound like you? The Christmas Door Mat or The Maid of Merry Men?

How not to be a Christmas martyr in your family--and find peace once again!

If so, I am here to release you from the hard bondage in which you have been forced to serve. With a loving lecture!

STOP IT!

What if I were to tell you that the reason Jesus was born, (the reason we celebrate Christmas) was so that we could rest and receive abundant blessing? Not strain ourselves to the point of tears.

Jesus knew that women have a tendency to strive to earn favor with man and Christ. Which is why God strategically left this story of Mary and Martha, in the bible….

 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38-41

His peace and presence is available to all, but it is up to us Martha’s to put down our apron and just be present enough to enjoy the gift of the moment.

It is perfectly acceptable to expect blessing for yourself on Christmas. It’s not selfish and it’s not sacrilegious. No one ever called you to be a Christmas Martyr. In fact when you take it upon yourself to please everyone, you are actually taking away their opportunities to be a blessing. It feels good to give. Why not let your family experience that too.

We as moms need to help our children and husband bless us. I know that this sounds selfish, and I know that the giver in you is cringing. I realize Christmas isn’t just about gifts, but gifts are a legitimate godly way of showing care for one another.

 

I drive my children, including my teenaged son, to shop for their dad and me. I drop them off at my favorite store and tell them what I don’t want.

Last year, my teenaged boy was absolutely mortified when I dropped him off at a girly accessories store. I walked him into the store and introduced him to the cashier. “My son is shopping for me, these are the things I like, and can you help him?” I asked. She looked as awkward as he did. It was a match made in retail!

“I’ll be in the car,” I said, as I walked out the door. My son, his poor face turned Rudolph red. But that face turned into a very proud grin when I opened a great pair of gloves and scarf on Christmas morning.

I just scored points with his future wife. ‘Not afraid to shop at girly stores to buy his wife great gifts.’ CHECK!

Some husbands may need the same encouragement.

My husband loves to make me happy, and to be honest he deserves more gifts around the tree this year than I do, and he spoils me. So dropping him off at the local frilly shop will be in vain. What I can give him, that in turn blesses me, is an unstressed, joyful version of me. He’s not looking for a perfected Christmas Décor, or an overstuffed brined turkey. He is looking for moments with me, moments when he has my full, happy and content, attention.

This year I have given up the family photo, the Christmas letter and even the Christmas cards. I’m going to express my needs and ask for help. I am going to serve child decorated cookies, that look like reindeer vomit and I’m going to stick to mashed potatoes, turkey and pie. Martha Stewart, you’re fired!

What can you do for yourself this Christmas?

 

Sarah BallSarah Ball is a blogger, speaker, and mother of 5 children. She is currently working on a series called Fearless in 21 days, helping men and women break free from crippling anxiety and panic. You can follow her blog at Virtuous Woman Exposed.

Sarah says, “Head on over to my Virtuous Woman Exposed Facebook Page so we can be friends! You can also find me on Pinterest and Twitter.

WifeyWednesday175Have any Christmas marriage thoughts for us? Link up the URL of one of your marriage posts in our Wifey Wednesday Linkup below! And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts.



Wifey Wednesday: What Do I Do with a Workaholic Husband?

When your husband is a workaholic: how to communicate your needs for him in your #marriage!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then give you a chance to link up your own post in the linky below. And today we’re going to deal with this problem: what do you do with a workaholic husband?

A reader recently wrote me this letter:

My husband’s work hours are way out of control. He owns his own business and regularly works 75-90 hours a week. We have been married almost 30 years and our kids are almost out of the nest.

His obsession with work overrides his common sense. The kids and I staged an intervention (literally) where we said that they would not ride in his car with him if he continued to text and check emails while driving (that has improved a bit since then).

He thinks I don’t appreciate his hard work. I do, but it has left me to be virtually a single parent, and in fact, an angry, disconnected wife. I try to open discussions with “I/we want to have you at home more. I miss time with you”, but it immediately goes to accusations that I don’t understand his work, his stress, the economy etc.

I am tired of pat Christian answers about making my home a sanctuary for him and understanding that work is what God created him to do. I am angry when I hear other Godly men ask with a laugh, “Still working those crazy hours?” instead of calling him on his out of balance life. I have considered talking to an elder couple that we are close to in order to have someone else discuss this with him.

My husband is a good man and I know, in my head if not my heart, that he loves me and his kids, but even as I write this, a voice in my head whispers, “but not enough to cut back his work hours”.

My heart breaks for this woman. She IS married to a workaholic husband, and it’s making her feel so unloved. So what does one do in this situation? Here are some general thoughts about workaholism and marriage.

Is He a Workaholic or Does He Just Work Hard?

My husband is a physician, and when he was in training he was often at work for 100-120 hours a week, being 36 hours on and 12 hours off. It was horrible. When he had his own practice he was still on call frequently, and his work weeks were still long. I never considered him a workaholic, though, because he loved being home–and when he had to dictate charts or bring work home he was always really grumpy about it. He wanted to be away from work; the job just didn’t always allow it.

What good would it have been for me to be angry at him for that? He was already upset that he wasn’t home more; me adding to that would not have helped. Working hard and working long hours does not necessarily mean he’s a workaholic.

A workaholic husband, on the other hand, is someone who routinely chooses to engage in work rather than engage in family time even when the job does not necessarily demand it. If he’s a pastor and he’s forever visiting people and counselling people after hours and going to meetings and he’s never with his family, then he’s likely a workaholic. If he’s a business owner (like our letter writer’s husband) and he can never put the job down, then he’s likely a workaholic.

Certain jobs are more prone to workaholism: the “caring” professions, especially ministry ones, where you can always justify working harder because “people need me”, and entrepreneurs, who feel as if everything rests on their shoulders. There are others as well, but those are the two categories that seem to be especially prone to it.

If He Simply Works Hard

Can He Switch Jobs?

Can you make a long-term plan for him to get more training so that he can qualify for something different that pays well? Can you create a 5-year plan together that gets him into something more manageable–so that your family life is better?

Can You Change Your Work?

One reason that my husband’s job was never too much of a burden to us was because I didn’t work outside the home. Because I was there to take care of the day-to-day things, then when he was home we could relax as a family. If I had been working 40 hours a week too I don’t know how we would have done it. When he got home instead of playing a game or talking we’d have to clean something or tend to errands.

Is there a way that you can reduce your hours or change your work so that the family becomes more manageable–even with his hours?

Can You Carve Out Family Time?

I have two dear friends who are both family physicians in a small town. The wife works part-time; the husband has always worked more than full-time because that’s the nature of the job. While he’s around most nights, he honestly is gone a lot of the time. But what they have done is carved out several weeks of vacation a year where they get out of town completely, so no one can page him. And they love their vacation time! They’ve taken their girls on missions trips, on backpacking adventures, and all kinds of places so that they create memories.

If your husband puts in a ton of hours at work, perhaps he can negotiate more vacation time where he’s out of the office and away from his phone.

I have another friend who is a project manager for huge corporate projects. He goes to work in one place for 2-3 years, managing some new huge launch, and then he’ll move to another corporation. So everywhere he goes it’s always at a stressful, busy time. He misses Thanksgiving sometimes. He misses weekends sometimes. But one thing he never misses is his kids’ quiz meets (his kids do Bible quizzing with my daughter). He coaches and he’s made that his priority. So even though he misses some traditional family things, he is always there for one particular thing that has become his priority–his barometer of whether he’s involved enough or not. And that works really well for them. Can your husband find one thing that he is always there for–coaching soccer, working with the youth group, attending a small group with you? And that is always your priority?

For years my husband and I spent Wednesday nights ballroom dancing. He never, ever took call on Wednesday nights, no matter what. That was our time. So, yes, I couldn’t always count on him for birthdays or for weekends, but I knew that he would always be there for me for Wednesday nights.

If Your Husband is a Workaholic

Can You Plan Your Goals Together?

Men Are Like Waffles--Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your DifferencesIf the issue is not one of time but honestly one of priority, then it’s a much bigger problem. Like Bill and Pam Farrel say, men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. Men live their lives in little boxes: when they’re in one box (like work) it’s hard for them to think about another box. And often that work box gets really big.

One way to force them out of it is to talk to them about goals. Workaholics are often quite good at setting goals because they do it in the work setting all the time. So what about asking him to set goals for your family and your marriage? I’ve got some printable, downloadable worksheets right here that you can use to dream together and vision together.

If you start asking, “what do we want our family to look like?”, and then “what are the action steps we need to take to get them there?” that can help him see that he has action steps that need to be taken at home, too.

Developing a Vision for Your Family

Can You Find the Root of Workaholism?

Is workaholism about money? Or is it about self-worth? Or is it about a lack of trust in God?

I have a friend named Mark who has a construction company. He has always prioritized his family. He works long hours, but he’s home on weekends, and they do vacations together. When the downturn came in 2008, he didn’t lose his business, though many in his town did. And he says he just trusted God. He worked a little harder to drum up business, but he didn’t panic, because he knew God would take care of them.

Sometimes people become workaholics because they’re essentially scared that God won’t take care of them, so they have to do it all themselves. In that case it’s a trust in God issue.

Sometimes he’s grown up to believe that his worth is from his work, and so he puts all of his emphasis there.

And sometimes he just wants more money, thinking that it will buy security.

Figuring out what the spiritual root is can help you tackle the problem. And sometimes you will have to talk about this with a counselor or a third party. In extreme cases, you will have to say, “I can’t live in the marriage like this anymore and we need to get help.”

Other times just using logic can help. How much money is enough for your retirement? If you go at this trajectory, will you manage? Does the business need to expand? Do you need to work that many hours? If they can see it in black and white that their financial goals are already met, that can help them scale back.

If the issue is that he’s in a caring profession, and the demands are never ending, then I’d read this post which addresses specifically that.

Be Honest with Your Own Role

I am not saying this is the case with my reader at all, but I have had many men comment on this blog about how desperately lonely they are in their marriages, and how they have turned to their work instead so that they can cope with the loneliness. The babies came, and their wives threw themselves into the kids, virtually stopped having sex, and were critical and demanding. And the men felt unloved.

So they threw themselves into work, and for a few years everyone was happy. He could cope because his needs were met at work; she could focus on her kids unimpeded. Then the kids started to grow, and she began to miss him, but he wasn’t here anymore.

Ask yourself if you have done anything to contribute to his workaholism (and this is not always the case). Then ask him. And if you have, repent, apologize, ask forgiveness, and try to start fresh. Here’s a good post on asking for forgiveness.

Confront Him About His Workaholism

Like my reader, I have heard the advice, “just make your home a sanctuary he wants to come home to!”, and there is some truth to that. But I think that truth is more relevant if your husband works hard, not if he’s a workaholic. If he simply works hard, he needs that sanctuary. If he’s a workaholic, the problem is usually a spiritual one, and no matter what you do it won’t get better. In fact, you could end up enabling him to grow further away from God and further away from his family if you do nothing.

Boundaries in MarriageInstead, I’d advise my reader to bring in that older couple she was referencing. Perhaps talking to a counselor would help. Read the book Boundaries in Marriage. But do not just let it be. That makes you an enabler, not a spouse.

Our reader and her kids did a good thing confronting him about texting. That was a great first step. But take the next step, too.

Make Your Own Life

My friend Leanne had a workaholic husband. She tried for years to change it and finally realized she couldn’t. So she stopped waiting around for him. She began taking the kids on vacation by herself. She took them to the beach in the summer rather than trying to plan around his schedule–and then being disappointed again. She started taking painting classes herself and hired a baby-sitter for the kids. She stopped putting her life on hold and started living it.

An interesting thing happened. His workaholism stopped bothering her quite as much because she had other areas of joy in her life. And because of that, he started wanting to be home more. He realized he was missing a lot of fun, and he made more of an effort to be there for those beach trips.

Their marriage is still not perfect, but she’s finding it easier to cope with it.

WifeyWednesday175So those are my thoughts on workaholism–and now I’d love to know yours! How do you deal with a husband who works a ton? Let me know in the comments!

And now it’s your turn to leave your own link for Wifey Wednesday! Just put the URL of your marriage post below, and be sure to link back here so other people can read the great marriage advice!



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Wifey Wednesday: Is Make Up Sex Real?

Make Up Sex: It's real and it can make your marriage great!It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own posts below. Today I want to tackle make up sex: is it real? Is it helpful? Does it actually make us feel closer?

A reader sent me this letter:

Lately things have been a bit tense in our marriage. (My husband feels like things are fine, but from my perspective, there is a lingering tension).  I feel like we are just snapping at each other a lot and, to be honest, I’m finding it hard to find things I “like” about my husband at the moment.

Sex has always been pretty amazing for us, which is a blessing. We don’t have it quite as often as we used to, but it is still very good when we do – physically speaking. I find when we have sex, though, it makes the tension melt away completely for a day or two. We’re all lovey-dovey again – making jokes all the time and getting on like a house on fire.

But I kind of feel like it is just blinding us with passion, so that we forget about the issues that we still need to work on. But the issues are still there!

I talked to my husband about this and he said perhaps it is just God’s good design for sex – that it makes the issues go away, and that we should therefore just keep having sex more often as a way to deal with the tension.

However, I feel that we still need to get to the bottom of why there is tension in our relationship. And I am beginning to find it harder and harder to “get into it”, emotionally speaking, when we have sex. What do you think? Do we just need to keep our “love tanks” filled up? Or should we try to sort through the deeper issues before we keep jumping into bed?

Great question! And what the reader notes is so common: sex makes us feel closer! That’s the upside. But can there be a downside to it, too? Well, let’s take a look at this in more detail:

Why Make Up Sex Works

Sex is fun! Sex makes you feel close because you literally are close–you’re naked together, you’re spending time together, you’re experiencing something intense and personal together. And when you do experience that arousal and orgasm, you produce the “bonding hormone”, oxytocin, which also makes you feel more intimate.

That’s why sex can often “cover a multitude of sins”. In my marriage, when we’re making love frequently and feel close, the fact that Keith occasionally bites his nails doesn’t bother me in the least. When we’re going through a dry spell, though, it bugs me to no end. It’s one little thing, but if we have sex, my bug-o-meter goes down.

Frequent sex, then, often helps us to feel significantly less ticked off about little things our spouses do, and even helps us to work through bigger issues because we’ve got this foundation of feeling lovely about each other.

Why Make Up Sex is Exciting!

Here’s the thing–what makes sex so intense is when we feel even more vulnerable and even more personal. That’s when our souls are really bared.

While this is certainly possible in our day-to-day lives, when we just talk to each other and share deep and intense things, one of the most frequent times it happens is after an argument. We’ve felt angry which means that we’ve felt hurt. We’ve expressed that hurt. We’ve been honest (sometimes brutally so). And once you’ve come to an agreement again after that intense time of honesty and vulnerability and intense feelings, then the sex is likely to be even more intense, too.

As I talk about frequently, sex is so much more than physical. When we’re feeling emotionally connected (and especially emotionally raw and vulnerable), then that sense of intimacy will be heightened, which will also heighten your libido and make sex even hotter! So, yes, that make up sex thing is absolutely real.

The Downside to Make Up Sex

However, our reader brings out an interesting point. It is possible to let the intimate aspects of sex cover over too MUCH. Instead of just covering up for the little things that bug us, or instead of just helping us heal from arguments more quickly, sometimes sex can be used to help us avoid dealing with difficult things altogether.

One of my close friends, who divorced her husband after he cheated on her, and is now remarried, told me that one area that she and her ex-husband always united on was sex. The sex was always great–it was everything else that was lousy. But because those other things were hard to talk about, they’d often end up in bed as a default, and avoid those heavy conversations.

Now, I don’t know that all couples go through this, because most of my readers have found that when other aspects of their relationships are going poorly the last thing they want to do is to make love. But certainly some people, like this reader and like my friend, fall into this category. What do you do then? Do you have to stop having sex so that you can actually talk? No, I don’t think so. I just think you need to be more purposeful about having those conversations.

How to Use Make Up Sex to Your Advantage in Your Marriage

So let’s sum up.

Schedule time to check in with each other–without sex!

Whether it’s going for a walk every night after dinner to talk, or spending every Sunday night asking, “what’s going on in your life? How are we doing?”, or something, make sure that you have regular, scheduled time to talk. One of the characteristics of happy couples that Shaunti Feldhahn found in her research was that when they were going through difficulties, they spent more time together, not less. Sometimes when there’s tension in the marriage we’re tempted to spend more time with the kids, or get busier with other activities. Stop. Connect regularly and actually talk.

If you make love after those sessions, that’s fine. But the purpose is to talk, not just to have sex. If you have certain questions that you always ask each other during these sessions it will likely be easier. Try these:

  • Have you felt loved this week by me? Why or why not?
  • What’s one thing I can do in the coming week to make you feel more loved?
  • How can I support you in the things on your plate in the week ahead?

Ask those three questions to each other every week, and it’s less likely that you’ll have issues festering.

After an intense personal conversation, or a disagreement, make love

Then, after these intense conversations, or after arguments, make love. Make use of those bonding hormones! It will help you to get over the awkwardness or anger faster, and help you feel on the same page again.

Make sex regular

The more you make love, the more those little things won’t bug you. So make sex a frequent thing in your marriage–while you’re still checking in regularly–and you’ll find things are much more like smooth sailing!

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! What advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of your marriage post in the Linky below. And be sure to share this post on your blog so other people can come back here and find other great posts.

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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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Wifey Wednesday: When your Marriage Is in Crisis

When your marriage is in crisis: how to move forward by setting boundaries

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own posts below. Today I want to tackle a really hard question–one that is left often in the comments. What do I do if my marriage is in crisis, but he doesn’t think it’s a big deal and refuses to change?

Here’s a comment, for instance, that was left yesterday when we were talking about the trauma of a husband’s porn use:

If he is unrepentant how do I set boundaries? I have read your article on 4 things a wife needs to do if her husband is looking at Porn… but if he isn’t to the place of wanting to be done how are boundaries set? Technology free hours would never fly with him. His phone took a dive into the fish tank last week and I was praising God. But he mailed it in and got it fixed, and nearly every night he would take his laptop and dissappear. And now the smart phone is back and it travels with him every where he goes. Even to the bathroom! He also deletes history.

I want to say first and foremost that I weep for women in this situation. A man who is throwing away a marriage to indulge in pornography is acting so selfishly and immaturely. Even though it is likely an addiction, it still makes me almost physically ill to think about this.

And I know there are men doing other things which are toxic to a marriage–gambling, overspending, refusing to work. I received an email last week from a woman whose husband, as soon as they were married, announced, “I believe that God will provide work”, and so he refuses to look for work. They now live in his parents’ cramped basement while she tries to hobble together what money she can while caring for the children, while the husband plays video games all day. And then there are the men who write in whose wives have refused to have sex for years.

These are horrible, horrible situations. And if you confront your husband (or your wife), and he does nothing to change or says he won’t change, what do you do?

I recognize that the vast majority of those reading this blog do not have marriages in crisis, and don’t worry–some “regular” marriage thoughts will be coming again soon on this blog! But I do receive so many notes from women in crisis situations that I thought it warranted a post. And because I rank so high on Google for certain search terms for people in crisis in their marriages, I get a lot of people in that situation here. So this post is for those who are in crisis!

Whatever you tolerate will continue.

I wish people could understand this earlier–even when they’re dating. If you tolerate a little bit of porn, it will continue until it’s a lot. Obviously we should never go ballistic over each and every sin, but there are some things which need to be non-negotiables, and I think being sexually pure and being responsible with money are two things that are essential in any marriage. I would not marry someone who did not have a proven track record on these two things.

But what do you do if you marry someone and then these things pop up? Or if you married someone assuming the problems would get better, and then they didn’t (hint: that’s a really bad idea).

You still don’t enable sin–you be a spouse, not an enabler. If you follow that link, I have an in-depth post on when it’s necessary to get some help in your marriage and to stop tolerating certain things, and I’d encourage you to read that first. Then come back here and we’ll call this a part 2.

Read: Are You a Spouse or an Enabler?

Get yourself some support

Something has to change. A man can’t be retreating into the bathroom to look at porn on his computer, all the while his wife knowing what he is doing. A woman can’t keep living in her parent’s basement while her husband refuses to work. These things must stop.

But likely if you’re in this position you’ve talked and talked to your husband, and nothing has changed. So what do you do?

First, get some support around you. That doesn’t mean that you confide in everybody under the sun, but find a few people who can pray for you and who can give you some wise advice and counsel. I’ve shared the story before of one older friend of mine whose husband had used porn for several decades in their marriage. They had gone to counselors, and he had promised to quit, but he never did. So one day she confided in their small group and in her pastor, and the small group came and helped her move out while the pastor had a meeting with the husband saying, “you need to get your life back on track, and if you don’t, we will support your wife.”

You need a church community that takes confronting sin seriously. Unfortunately, not enough do. To many Christians, the highest ideal is a couple that stays married–no matter what. Yet this is a misreading of what God wants. God doesn’t want marriage to be a cover for people having to work on their issues. God’s purpose is that we each look more and more like Christ. Yes, God hates divorce, but you know what He hates more? His children falling farther and farther away from Him and getting more and more sucked into sin. And when we tolerate horrible behaviour, it gets worse. I am not advocating divorce. I know the vow is crucial. But it should never be a cover for people to sin.

So find yourself a Christian community that understands the necessity of wholeness. That may take some time. It may mean switching churches. It may mean that you have to get involved in that church so that you have a natural group of people around you. It takes investment on your part to be part of community. But you need that community! This is a spiritual battle. You need prayer. You need people pointing you in the right direction so you don’t get bitter and vindictive. Search those people out!

And sometimes your spouse could need extra help too, like a counselor or even a rehab center. (This is an example of a rehab center that offers a wide variety of programs.) Get him the help he needs.

Get yourself a counselor

Likely you will need a trained person to walk through this with you, too. Most churches have a list of counselors they can give you. Some churches even have them on staff so that people in crisis don’t have to pay.

Own your boundary

Now that you have support and you know that something must be done, the question remains: what should you do to make him stop?

Right?

Wrong. That’s not the question. You can’t make him stop. You can’t pressure him to do anything. The only thing you can do is enforce your own boundaries, not his. And that means that you have to come to terms with the fact that he may not choose to change. Things may stay exactly the same, no matter what you do. Grieve that. Feel that. That is really hard to live with. This is why you need people around you, so that you know that you are never alone, and so that they can point you to Jesus.

So what is the real question? It’s this:

What is the limit to what I will tolerate? And what should be my response if that limit is crossed?

For instance, you may say, “If he is not actively looking for work, providing an income, or caring for our children so I can work, then I will not work to support him. I will work to support our children and myself, but not him.” Or you may say, “I will not be intimate with someone who is turning to porn for release. I will be the sole object of sexual attention, or I will not be the object of sexual attention at all.”

Let the law of sowing and reaping play itself out

The best vehicle that God gave us to learn to listen to him was the law of sowing and reaping–we reap what we sow. You see this throughout the Old Testament, when Moses, for instance, warns the Israelites: if you follow what God says, you will be blessed. If you don’t, you will be cursed. And this cycle continues throughout the prophets.

Boundaries in MarriageWe see it in Galatians 6:7:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

We should reap what we sow. Too often in marriage, though, we disrupt the law of sowing and reaping, as Cloud and Townsend explain in their book Boundaries in Marriage. A man sows destruction by using porn, and the wife reaps the rejection and sorrow.

If he is doing something to jeopardize the marriage, then he must feel the full weight of that. That is God’s tool to move him towards repentance.

Please note, I am not talking about everyday sins, like being short with you, or not always helping clean up the house, or buying too many gadgets. I’m talking about fundamental things that are toxic to a marriage. (If you’re not sure that your issue is that fundamental, then talk to someone else and get their perspective!)

My friend Anna caught her husband Paul with porn, and her response was to gather her brothers and her father to confront her husband. They disconnected the internet, carted off all the equipment, and told him in no uncertain terms that he was getting help or else. They even made sure he went and saw the pastor and got in an accountability group.

Having an intervention from people close to you is a great first step, and for many people, this works.

But what if it doesn’t work? This may mean that you have to separate for a time. That’s a scary, scary thing. But not all separations lead to divorce, and I have seen many people reconcile after a separation. This does not necessarily mean that the marriage is over. But you have to be prepared for the marriage to be over. You’re not doing this to manipulate him; you’re doing this to preserve truth. There was no truth in a marriage where you tolerate the intolerable; you’re running back to God and relying on Him, and you’re putting your relationships right.

Please: do not separate unless you have first talked to some Christian mentors or a Christian counselor and pursued other options. Don’t take this option on your own, as the first step. This is HUGE. You owe it to yourself, your husband, and your kids to consult with others and get their support. If you do something without getting help, you’re likely to let emotions take over and do something really drastic from the start. And then you won’t have help! Let people offer you advice, prayer support, and emotional support. And then they can be there for your husband, too.

If I separate, can I move on with my life?

Quite frankly, no. You are still married. If those around you agreed that separation was the best option after other things had been tried, and you have separated, I hope you have done so not with the intention of leaving him permanently. I hope that this is to provide breathing space. Space for him to be confronted by God, and space for you to find healing. Rushing into another relationship cuts off the chance of healing of your marriage, and especially if you have children, you owe your marriage some time.

Again, this is where wise counselors around you can help you navigate.

(Note: There are exceptions–I talked to a woman recently who finally left her abusive husband after finding out he had sexually abused their teenage daughter. He went to jail. She remarried. He ended their marriage by abusing their daughter. Some things should signal the end, I believe.)

Be gracious–It’s the direction that matters

If someone has been addicted to gambling, they won’t lose that pull overnight. If someone has used porn habitually for years, successfully giving it up cold turkey is really hard. Focus on the direction: is he getting better and trying to get better with occasional lapses? Then take those lapses for what they are. They are temporary failings, but they do not mean that he is not committed to the relationship and that he’ll never get better. For most people it takes years for the lapses to stop entirely and for the pull to go away, but they can start going in the right direction almost immediately.

If the issue has been sexual refusal, and she (or he) is starting to try to have sex again, if they don’t seem into it, that’s not a reason to give up or get mad. Look at the direction. If they are trying and if they are humble, then give grace.

Final thoughts

I wish I had some magic answer: If you do this, he will change (or she will change). But life isn’t like that. I don’t know why some spouses get to the point that they don’t care what the other thinks.

But, please, no matter what you are going through, know that God sees and God knows. Know that God wants to help you through this. Know that you are not alone. And know that God’s desire is for two people who love and follow Him, not people who cover up sin and hide it.

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up the URL of a post in today’s Wifey Wednesday link up party!



Lies We Believe About Men: All Men Are Perverts

All Men Are Perverts: From the lies we believe about men seriesIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts below.

Today I want to start a short series on the lies we often believe about men, starting with this one: all men are perverts. Have you ever felt that way?

When I was nineteen years old I took a missions trip to Tunisia. There were 6 of us, from 4 different countries, and we visited several missionaries there and learned the culture and talked to lots of people. The problem was that everywhere I went in public, men touched me. Everywhere.

I’d be sitting on a crowded bus, and some guy behind me would reach his hands around and feel my chest. Or we’d be standing in a crowded bus and a whole bunch of guys would feel me up, and I couldn’t tell who they were. I tried to tell the people I was traveling about this, and the leaders of the team, but they didn’t do much about it. I think it was because the other women traveling with me weren’t getting the same attention. I was blonde and young and cute, and they, quite simply, weren’t. To talk about protecting me would be to make a statement on their desirability, so they did nothing.

I asked one of the guys to act like we were married or something, but he wouldn’t. And so I felt very alone. I’d wear a scarf over my head to try to hide my hair. I stopped making eye contact. Eventually I just didn’t want to go out to the cafes and talk to people like they were, and then the team would get mad at me for not wanting to minister. But I couldn’t take it anymore.

When I returned to Canada I had a difficult reintegration. I still couldn’t look at men in the eye. If I was walking on a sidewalk and a guy was walking towards me I’d have to cross the road. I stopped saying “hi” to strangers (and we’re Canadian. That’s normal). It took me a few months to relax and be myself again.

Fast forward twenty odd years and I started writing this blog–and with it I started to get emails from women in some serious pain. I’d get a dozen a day. And I’d read them and they’d be heartbreaking and often gross. Husbands who were into porn. Husbands who had done something to her niece. Husbands who had been caught photographing her best friend’s underwear. Husbands who wanted things that were gross.

When you read those emails day in and day out you start to feel like all men are pigs. And then my husband would come home from work, all happy to see me, and I’d bark at him. It got so that I had to stop reading the emails. My assistant reads them now and passes on the ones that she thinks I can use on Facebook or for Reader Questions. And she prays over them. (So pray for her! That’s a lot to have to read through). But it was tough.

What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men: 12 Secrets Toward Greater IntimacyAll men are perverts.

I think we all go through times when we feel that way. Julie Gorman has written a book called What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Men: 12 Secrets toward Greater Intimacy, and one of those secrets is that all men are NOT perverts. Julie weaves her own story about why she believed that–abuse, promiscuity, and more, that scar the heart and leave you knowing you want to get close to men, but hating them in the process. How do you stop that feeling?

Julie writes like a novelist, weaving vivid stories into her chapters on the lies that we believe about men. And the book isn’t a self-help book as much as it is a Bible study, pointing us to passages to study, verses to consider, and prayers to pray to help us defeat these lies with the tools that God’s given us.

She knows what it is to feel like all men are perverts–just like you probably have at times, or do right know.

If you’re walking with a husband who is using porn, it’s easy to get sucked in. If you’re married to someone who has had an affair, it’s easy to start believing that lie. Or maybe you’re married to a wonderful man, but all the things that other guys did to you has just distorted your image of men so much that you can’t relax around him. You can’t let him be him.

And it hurts. It hurts because you don’t want to live like this, and you don’t want to feel this way about your husband, but what hope is there? You feel like you know the truth about men, and the truth is that they ARE gross. Men are perverts. Men do only want one thing. And somehow we’re supposed to give it to them? Makes sex seem awful, doesn’t it? I understand.

After years of blaming her husband and looking down on her husband, Julie realized that she couldn’t keep living like this anymore. She had an epiphany, and it went like this:

I could bash man’s design, or I could seek to educate myself about how God wired his body and desires differently than my own.

I could openly see all men as perverts, or I could view the men who sexually sinned against me as fallen beings in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

I could run away from the painful memories and build more walls of isolation and pain, or I could invite God to heal and restore His original intentions for my life.

I could masterfully concoct and strategize plans to protect my heart, or I could allow my heavenly Father to expose the wounds that ravaged my innocence since I was four and heal the fallout of men’s actions.

You face that choice today, too.

If you’re walking through life thinking all men are perverts, you are at a crossroads.

If you keep going down that path, telling yourself that lie (and it is a lie), then you will find yourself increasingly isolated, alone, and bitter. And that is not God’s design for you.

The truth is that SOME men are perverts.

Some men will use little girls. Some men will travel to Asian countries to rent out an 8-year-old virgin for the night. Some men will kidnap Nigerian teenagers to pass them around their camp.

Some men will stare at pictures of naked women being used. Some men will throw away a great family and a great marriage for a little roll in the hay with some woman at work.

And some–not all, but some–of these men are upstanding men. Some of these men are normally good guys, but they occasionally fall. They are tempted, and they don’t make it through.

Yes, some of them are evil all the time. But most are not.

And so we have a choice: will we define all men in terms of their temptations (and some of their failures), or will we see them as creatures like us, who sometimes fail, but who are, at heart, good?

For there is a problem with defining all men as perverts. When we do that, we define ourselves, too. We say, “I am going to be the strong one and put a wall around myself so that a man can’t touch me. I am going to keep myself from being hurt.” But when you keep yourself from being hurt, you keep yourself from being vulnerable–and vulnerability is a part of love.

Your marriage was meant to be wonderful--don't let someone who hurt you in the past keep hurting you today.

I know many of you have seen so much evil in your life it’s hard to let go of it. But I think, like Julie, you have a choice. Will you let your past experiences impact your life now, or will you let yourself be free? Will you let yourself truly experience love with a good man who sometimes falls, or will you condemn yourself to a life locked up in a box of your own making?

God doesn’t want you in a box.

God wants to start healing you. You are precious, and if things were done to you, He is angry about that and He will avenge and there will be justice. But He wants you to know love, too.

If you’re struggling, why don’t you pray this prayer today:

God, I know that you created us, male and female. I know that your design is perfect. But I feel like you messed it up–like you made men to be disgusting pigs sometimes. I’ve seen it. And I don’t want to live with that constant suspicion and that constant fear anymore. Please, God, help me to see men through your eyes. Take my bad memories and show me that they don’t define me–and they don’t define men. Let me experience your love. Lead me through a journey of forgiveness and letting go of bitterness. And in your mercy, surround me with good men. Let me notice when a stranger opens the door, or smiles politely, or lends a hand. Keep my eyes open for the good. And keep my eyes open for the good in the man I married, too. Teach me to trust, and forgive me where I have let anger seep in. I don’t want it anymore, and I give it to you. Most of all, let me see the perfect man, Jesus. Let me see how He loved women and sacrificed for women. And let me experience His love today. Amen.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now it’s your turn. What advice do you have for us? Link up the URL of your own post in the linky below!



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Wifey Wednesday: When You Blow It

Perspective in Marriage: Why Us Matters More Than Me

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage–and then I give you a chance to link up your own marriage posts at the bottom. Today I want to talk about perspective in marriage by being a little vulnerable and telling you about how I blew it this week–and how a birthday party reminded me what was important.

My husband and I have been tired, stressed, and apart quite a bit lately, which is never a good combination. We both have too much on our plates (I’m doing the final edits for 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and booking four speaking tours, and he’s working hard at the hospital), and Keith has been away at a conference and on call a lot, so we’ve seen each other maybe 3 nights in two weeks. It’s not normal, this too shall pass, but it’s tough. It’s a season of distance in a marriage. It’s inevitable, it’s no one’s fault, but it can impact you.

The root of a lot of my stress is that I’m naturally an extroverted person living an introverted life. An extrovert isn’t just a “people person” who is the life of the party (I’d often rather hang back in large groups); an extrovert is someone who processes things by talking about them, not just by thinking about them. Yet I spend my day making little decision upon little decision, by myself at my computer in my living room. When Keith does get home, I’d love to fill him in, but it would take so much time, and quite frankly I’d rather put it behind me and just be US.

But what that means is that I sometimes feel like there are few people in the world who understand all the things that are on my mind. So it’s a little isolating.

And when you’re feeling isolated, hurts are magnified.

The other night a hurt was magnified. It was an old hurt, and Keith did nothing to magnify it. It was something that happened a long time ago that Keith is sorry for, but that still affects me quite a bit.

It was not even something particularly awful; it was just something that happened that hurt me. And I fixated on it again and couldn’t sleep.

We talked about it (it’s often a bad idea to talk about things late at night; they totally get magnified), and I got overly emotional and it was rather embarrassing looking back now. But at one point Keith in utter frustration said something important. He said:

I just need to know that US matters more than YOU.

He wasn’t trying to get me to see his point of view; he was trying to get me to say OUR point of view. I had a right to be hurt, but I had to stop thinking about what was best for me and start thinking about what was best for us. And he was completely and utterly right. It isn’t about what’s fair; it’s about what brings oneness, and focusing on how Keith loves me now is far more important than looking at a series of hurts that I experienced earlier (of which he was only a part).

That was Incident #1.

Now I’d like to give you Incident #2.

It’s a Friday night, and the banquet room in the restaurant is full of laughter and clinking glasses and loud greetings whenever someone else enters the room. It’s my father-in-law’s seventieth birthday, and certainly family is there, but also friend after friend after friend.

I looked around that room and my mind went back to their twenty-fifth anniversary, just a year or two after Keith and I married. Keith and I had hosted that surprise party and had invited all of their friends, and pretty much everyone in that room had been at that party. In fact, I remembered pretty much everyone in that room from when Keith and I married. My in-laws are loyal friends, and their friends stick around, even twenty years later.

But what really struck me was not that they had all these individual, loyal friends. It was that these friends were all couples.

There were Bob and Sheila, who took my kids fishing one year when we were camping; Jack and Marilyn, who let us borrow their canoe (and Marilyn taught my kids to quilt!); John and Marie who were adopted grandparents for my husband (and I still remember Keith sitting up with Marie one night in the hospital when we almost lost John a few years back); Linda and Karl; Paul and Cheyenne; Willard and Shirley; and the list goes on and on and on. In fact, I can’t think of a single couple friend that I knew twenty years ago who is not still a couple today (except for Tony, who is now remarried, because Claudette, my mother-in-law’s best friend, passed away a few years back. But everyone is so happy for Tony!).

Last week I wrote about The Good News About Marriage; how the divorce rate is not, and never has been, anywhere close to 50%. It’s actually closer to 28%. And looking around that table, it looked close to 0% for these people–these couples who had had euchre parties and done midnight walks for cancer and had been at each other’s kids’ weddings and baby showers for years. And lately, increasingly, they’ve been at the hospital, holding one half of a couple’s hand as they made it through a stressful night after a heart attack or a mini-stroke.

I’m sure those couples had tiffs in the middle of the night, too, especially during inevitable occasional seasons of distance.

But they all learned something important: US is more important than ME.

May "Us" Always Matter More than "Me" in our #marriage - Sheila Wray Gregoire

It’s not even that YOU are more important than ME; it’s that US is more important than ME. We fight for the “us”, so that years later we will still have a best friend, a confidante, a gem.

It’s easy to lose perspective in marriage because it’s so hard to get our eyes off of “me”, especially when you’re tired and stressed. But what good does it do to hold on to ME if you lose US? Us is such a gift, and I will fight for it. Just not necessarily again at one in the morning.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now, what do you have to share with us today? Just put the URL of a marriage post in the linky below!

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.



Deciding to Think Differently About Sex

New Attitude Towards Sex

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! Now, often when I say “marriage” I mean “sex”, since I’m one of the few Christian blogs that talks a lot about sex. And today I want to talk about how to decide to think more positively about sex.

A little while ago I received this mail from a reader:

I first came upon your blog under a year ago. Around the time my second baby was born. We were struggling. Just the normal stuff, me breastfeeding, exhausted, we had a toddler and a baby, our sex life was suffering, it was really straining on us. Never really in danger but not very happy and very resentful of each other. Then I started reading you articles on sex and marriage and you even posted a special one after I emailed you about sex and mothering young babies.

You put into perspective for me the importance of sex and the beautiful biblical portrait of sex. I honestly never thought about it that way! You really changed my mind on the issue. While I still wasn’t having fun (hormones…) I decided to try and really make an effort for my husband and our marriage. I decided to try and invest time, think about sex, exercise and change my body, sleep during the day so I could be awake past 8pm, etc… He noticed, and knew I was reading your articles (he really wants us to be real life friends!) and his attitudes towards me also started to change. I am no longer breastfeeding, still exhausted but my body is starting to follow my mind and we are starting to enjoy each other again! I know that if I didn’t decide to change my mind about sex (thanks to you) by the time my body decided it was ready again I probably would have given up on the idea that sex can be good for me too. I don’t know what shape we would be in today…

Emails like that just make my day! Woo hoo!

And I want to point out something really important that she hit on:

She made a decision to think differently about sex, and her body followed.

Ladies, we can’t wait for our bodies to suddenly kick in. For most of us it just doesn’t work that way. If you are waiting to suddenly feel “in the mood”, you could be waiting a really long time. When we’re tired, when we have little kids, when we’re approaching menopause–our bodies don’t say, “hey, let’s get it on, baby.” They say, “Hey, let’s get some sleep.”

And that can lead to a very lonely marriage.

One of the things that I say so often on this blog is that for women, our sex drives are almost entirely in our heads. When we decide, “tonight, I’m going to have fun!”, our bodies start to follow. When we don’t, nothing happens.

Let me get really graphic for a moment.

You can lie there during sex and make a shopping list. You can lie there while you’re making love and feel basically nothing at all. Most women can–not all, and maybe not when you’re ovulating and you’re feeling a little more “sexy”, but intercourse itself does not necessarily arouse us.

If, on the other hand, you decide to stop thinking about the shopping list and start thinking about what’s going on, and start paying attention to your body, and ask yourself, “what’s feeling good? What wants to be touched?”, suddenly your body can switch “on”.

But it all depends on how you decide to think about it.

Your attitude towards sex matters. Seriously, I dare you to try this: the next time you’re having sex and your mind wanders and you think, “how much longer is this going to take?”, stop. Instead, start saying positive messages to yourself, like “I like this. This is fun. What’s feeling good right now? What do I want to do?” And see if you can kick yourself into second or third gear!

Too many of us are being too passive with sex, thinking that if we’re not in the mood and nothing is feeling that great that it must mean that we don’t want it or that sex is awful. But if we can simply think differently about it, for most of us, our bodies will kick in. But you need to take the initiative. You need to tell yourself positive things. You need to decide!

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf that’s difficult, my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex can help you think differently about sex, and it has all kinds of practical suggestions for how to change your attitude towards sex and how to get excited about it again. I encourage you to read it!

Now, let me know, have you ever found that a mind-shift can make a difference in your sex life? I’d love to hear about it (and you can comment anonymously if you’d like).

Christian Marriage Advice

I think I’d like to start the Wifey Wednesday link up party again. I was getting a little uncomfortable because some things that I didn’t always agree with were being linked up, and I didn’t want to have to start policing it. But looking back in the archives, I did love seeing the link up parties! So we’ll try it again, but please recognize that just because a post is here does not mean that I endorse it!

So if you have a marriage post that you’d like to share, just leave the URL in the Linky below!



Wifey Wednesday: Sex and the Gospel

Sex and the Gospel: How God designed real intimacy to reflect His love

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today guest poster Abigail Alleman explores whether making love can actually be a vehicle God uses to show the depth of His love. Here’s Abigail showing us where sex and the gospel intersect:

It’s Easy to Be Blind

During the first couple years of our marriage that my husband and I went to a Family Life ‘Weekend to Remember’ Conference. There were fun talks from married people including some about sex. Considering my ‘mum’s the word’ upbringing regarding ‘intimate things’ I was eating all of this good teaching right up.

It was then that I remember hearing that women need to feel loved in order to be ready for sex. I clung to that and, at times, used it as a club to beat my husband away if he wanted to have sex but I wasn’t feeling loved…for whatever reason. Even if I truly wasn’t feeling loved, those who know my husband and what an amazing servant he is, can feel free to call those ugly moments for me. I know I do.

But if any woman is willing to be honest and take the journey to find what holds her back from giving fully to her husband–and ultimately, God–she will find similar things. When we say we ‘don’t feel loved’, at the heart is the shame and mistrust and rebellion towards God we inherited from Eve. We are afraid of rejection or having our weakness used against us, so we hide and cling to some semblance of control. At the heart we are cutting ourselves off from God and therefore can’t feel His love or anyone else’s. Sadly, because we are one with our husbands, they pay the price.

…And then comes the Gospel

And yet, in the middle of all of this is the Gospel. It is where God in Christ redeems, or buys back, everything. He rescues us and binds up our wounds through His own. We are transformed by this Love that entered time and space and a fallen world and gave all of infinite God to buy back the darkness.

Nothing looks the same.

As I have been looking at my own faulty views on sex, that unconsciously included lies that it is somehow dirty (even as a married woman) or ultimately for men, I have seen how utterly wrong and devastating this thinking is.

I have become convinced that the more fiercely the darkness clings to something, the greater its potential to be transformed into something totally new this side of Calvary. This is absolutely true about sex.

God wants to blow the top off of our limited, boxed thinking about His gift of sex in marriage.

And through transformed thinking and practice, send us boldly into the world with a message it desperately needs. It’s the one where sex in God’s bounds and for His Glory brings both husband and wife healing and fullness instead of pain and emptiness.

What Is Hard to See

Let’s go back to the truth that women need to feel loved to have sex. Did you know that the reverse is also true? Men have sex to feel loved. They probably shared this at the Family Life Conference, but it conveniently did not make it into my head and definitely not my heart. It wasn’t until after 10 years of marriage, three kids, international moves, and reading Sheila’s book that I saw the whole picture.

And when I did, I was humbled at the gift God has given me as a wife. Through giving myself fully to my husband in sex, I partner with God in the revelation of His love for my husband. I had prayed for years that my husband could experience God’s infinite love for him in radical ways. So when I read that my husband’s desire for love was expressed through his desire for sex, I was blown away. I instantly saw that his seeking of physical intimacy and my full open response are a tremendous gift through the Gospel where he can know and receive the love of God.

You see, it’s not just the sex, it’s the experience of it when two people have put their faith in the Gospel .

Recently, at a concert in a conservative Baptist Church, I heard one of the pastors describe the beautiful worship we had experienced in a way that made me think of sex. He said that for him, as a guy, he often lacks the language to express what God’s love and beauty means to him. But when he worships God through great music and lyric, his heart, soul and mind find satisfying expression.

I tapped my hubby on the shoulder and whispered in his ear, ‘Honey, that’s what sex is like for guys, isn’t it?’ He smiled at me in a way that told me, ‘yes, that’s just how it is.’

Why It’s So Important To See

I’ve heard a lot about my duties as a wife. Obedience to God is a key element in the life of the believer. And, yes, the Bible says that my body is no longer my own and as a married woman I no longer have authority over it (neither does my husband over his).

But if I stop there, I do an All-Gracious God, myself and my husband a great injustice. The chief end of my life is not obedience, but to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. My body, and my life, are not my own BECAUSE I have been bought with a price. Infinite God emptied of infinite Glory to make a way back to the Presence of God where I know as I am fully known.

In this, my understanding of sex, through the lens of the Gospel, is completely transformed. So are the patterns of guilt and shame or whatever may keep me holding back a body, a life, that is no longer my own. I am called to give it all freely to my husband so that in great beauty and mystery we experience the fullness of Grace and Truth that is meant to shape every area of our lives. In the consecrated act of sex in the sacred space of our marriage we BOTH are wrapped more tightly, fully, deeply into the only Love that remains.

The felt needs of love for me and sex for my husband are becoming, for us, one consuming desire to know and embrace and enjoy God together. It is changing everything for us. And I want that for you too.

AbigailAbigail says: I am wife to a wonderful man, mama to three precious now-little-but-soon-will-not-be loves. Each born in a different place–two states {Pennsylvania & Florida} and two countries {U.S. & Hungary}. I can now claim fluency in 3 languages: English;) Spanish & Hungarian. I am a sojourner longing for Home. Yet, in my messy and broken, I embrace the moments given with all I have. For the past few months I have been writing about my journey in understanding sex and sexuality in a series called Pure Passion. You can check it out here!

 

Christian Marriage Advice

Good Girls Guide My SiteThanks for joining me for Wifey Wednesday!

If the idea of sex and spiritual intimacy seems foreign to you, I talk about how to get to the point where sex is something more than physical in both my books The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex and in 31 Days to Great Sex. I encourage you to check them out–don’t miss out on something this amazing in your marriage!

 

Wifey Wednesday: The Truth In Love Marriage Challenge!

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wednesday–the day when we always talk marriage! And today I’ve got a bit of a challenge for you. I know you’re up to it!

Yesterday I was talking about the balance between Truth and Love in our marriage. Truth is standing up for what’s right, and confronting sin. Love is showing mercy and grace. Both are necessary. As Micah 6:8 says,

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

We are to act justy (Truth) while loving mercy (Love). And Jesus was the perfect balance of both.

But as I explained yesterday, truth in love is rare. Most of us tend naturally towards one or the other. Some of us are quick to debate and bring up issues, and often seem critical. Others of us let things slide a little too much, and often seem like pushovers. How do we find the middle?

The Truth in Love Challenge from To Love, Honor and VacuumJulie, one of my frequent commenters, had this great insight yesterday:

[A book I once read] talked about our speech in terms of color – love being red, and truth being true-blue. I’m definitely on the blue side. The visual picture was to “speak purple”. I’ve been trying harder to bring in more “red” – more kind, loving, affirming words in the conflict.

So how do we speak PURPLE–and find that Truth/Love balance?

Well, today I want to look at a scenario, and see how Truthers would react, and then how Lovers would react, and then I’ll ask you all to write in the comments what you think a Truth/Love balance response would be. And I’ll randomly pick from the comments I like (because I think there will be plenty)! to win a collection of ebooks, including my own.

Here’s the marriage scenario:

Jane sighs as she wipes down the counter after doing a mountain of dishes. For the last few days it had been almost impossible to get the kitchen clean. She’d been called in to fill-in for a sick colleague at the library, and so her part-time job had suddenly become a full-time job this week. And while her mother-in-law was amazing with Jimmy, the toddler, it meant that the laundry didn’t get done and the lunches weren’t really packed. Monica, her 11-year-old, was supposed to pack lunches for herself and her 8-year-old brother, but Jane had been too tired to force the issue last night, and she’d had to do it herself.

But tonight, in a pique of frustration, she decided she couldn’t handle it anymore. After making a full spaghetti dinner even after working 8 hours, she had cleaned up the kitchen, threw on some laundry, and somehow managed to supervise Jimmy having his bath.

Yet her husband, Greg, had been playing his video game for the last 3 hours. The older two kids were ready for bed, and Greg hadn’t even looked up. Jane had been cleaning up, and Greg had been playing. If he had just helped her last night maybe things wouldn’t have gotten out of hand. But he was stressed from work (they were going through another round of lay-offs, and he was afraid he was going to be next), and he’d retreated from her and the kids. And Jane just didn’t feel like she could handle this all by herself anymore. This wasn’t like her husband. He occasionally went on video game binges, but he was usually really involved with the kids. But lately he’d gone into his own little world, and Jane had had enough. Why did he get to relax while she had to work all the time?

Okay, can anyone imagine that scenario? Now, what does Jane do?

The Truth Response:

Jane stares at Greg, hoping that her penetrating gaze can break through his fog and make him feel guilty. It doesn’t seem to work. So she tells Monica to take her brother upstairs and get ready for bed, because Daddy will be up to read a story in a minute.

Then she walks over to the TV and turns it off without a word. Greg becomes really agitated, and yells at her for interrupting his game.

Jane takes a deep breath and coolly says, “I know you are stressed. But you are still a father, and right now you’re a lousy one. You haven’t lifted a finger around here for days, and you are setting a lousy example for the kids. Is this what you wanted to become? A lazy couch potato who wastes his life on video games when you have three kids who need you?”

“I am done, Greg. I am done. I need some time now. You march upstairs and read to those kids and get your act together, or you’re going to come home tomorrow and find that all your precious video games have been thrown out.”

The Love Response:

Jane glances at Greg, biting her fingernails that are way too soft from all the dishwashing, and wonders what to do. Quietly she asks Monica to take her brother upstairs and get ready for bed, telling her she’ll be up in a minute to read to them.

Then Jane approaches Greg on the couch and sits down beside him. She puts her hand on his leg, and he doesn’t even seem to notice.

“Greg,” she says. “I know you’re really stressed, and I’m worried about you. But the kids miss you. They need their dad. Do you think you can put the game away and come upstairs and say good night to them with me?”

Greg replies, “Jane, I just need to unwind. I’ll finish this level in a minute and then I’ll go upstairs, okay?”

“Thanks, Honey,” Jane replies as she gets up and follows Monica. She reads her two older ones a story, and then another one, and then another, but still no Greg. Finally she kisses them both and says prayers with them, and goes back downstairs. Greg hasn’t moved.

Jane bites her lip again, and then turns around and goes back upstairs, heading to bed herself.

Has either scenario solved the problem? Nope. The Truth response has treated Greg like he’s a child and will just build walls between the two of them, as well as likely starting a tit-for-tat retaliation cycle. The Love response leaves them both feeling isolated and alone.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

So here’s my challenge to you: What SHOULD Jane do? What would be a Truth IN Love response? Leave your suggestions in the comments section. I’ll write down the ones I think are all good and valid (I don’t think there’s just one possible response, so anything that sounds plausible to me rocks!), and then I’ll randomly draw from there using random.org.

Good Girls Guide My SiteThe winner will receive these ebooks:

  • 31 Days to Great Sex (by me!)
  • How Big Is Your Umbrella (also by me, about walking through hard times)
  • Another Reality Check (by me–a collection of 90 of my favourite columns)
  • The Cherished Home: Protecting What’s Important by Mary Clendenin (with printables)
  • Taming the Laundry Monster by Angi Schneider
  • When Motherhood Feels Too Hard by Kelly Crawford
  • Herbal Remedies for Children by Rosalee de la Foret

AND an autographed paperback copy of The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex–which makes a wonderful wedding gift for any new bride (or a gift for any married woman, actually!)

I’ll choose the winner this Saturday at 9 a.m. EST, so get your comment in before then!

There’s such a wealth of wisdom in my readers, so I’d love to hear what you come up with about how to speak PURPLE in your marriage!

Note: if you feel like what you would have said has already been said by someone else, that’s okay! Just say “I agree with so and so” and explain why, and that will count! And the answers don’t have to be elaborate. Just give us an idea of what you think a truth in love approach would be.