Reader question: When Do I Invite My Husband Back into our Bed after His Porn Addiction?

Reader Question: When do you resume sex after a pornography addiction?If your husband has been battling a porn addiction, when do you invite him back into your bed?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I thought we’d do a 3-part series on battling porn in marriage (since that’s the most common problem in the huge backlog of questions I have), starting with this one: how do you re-establish a sexual relationship after pornography?

A reader writes:

My husband has had an addiction to porn for our entire 13 year marriage. He lied, deceived, blamed me, neglected me and I only found out it was porn by accidentally walking in on him one night. That was more than two years ago. Since then he promised many times to seek counseling and support groups but nothing changed. About a month ago I asked him to separate. He refused but he did move out of our bedroom and into my daughter’s room (she’s bunking with her brothers for now). He now sees a counselor weekly but I have not gone with him yet. He asked me last night when he can move back into our room. I don’t know what to tell him. I don’t know what criteria to use or how to know. We haven’t had sex since before my last baby was born and she’s almost 9-months old now. The time we were intimate it was obvious he didn’t want to do it and that he was trying to simulate something he’d seen in porn in order to reach orgasm. It didn’t work. I felt like filth afterwards. How can I answer him when I don’t know what it will take to get comfortable with him back in our bed?

First, I am so, so sorry that you’re going through this. But I’m also so glad that your husband is getting counseling! That’s wonderful.

I know I’m going to get pushback on what I’m going to say today, though, because so many people believe that men only turn to porn because their wives won’t have sex. That may be true in a few cases, but from what I’ve seen and from the people that write to me, that is not usually the case at all. Usually the porn use PRECEDES the marriage, as it does in this case. He was using it during their entire marriage.

And because porn rewires the brain so that what becomes attractive is an image rather than a person, porn often STEALS a guy’s libido within marriage–

As this woman writes, her husband couldn’t even reach climax without fantasizing about porn or doing something that porn had. Just being with his wife was no longer enough.

This is especially true for younger wives who got married after the internet generation started. So, please, no comments about how he wouldn’t need porn if she would just put out! That is simply not the case with the vast majority of marriages, especially young marriages. And even if that is the case in some marriages, it is not those marriages that we are addressing here. We are looking at marriages where guys have used porn the entire time, and who have NEVER actually made love, because sex has become so warped in their brains.

I’d really encourage people to download this free ebook from Covenant Eyes that explains how this process works:

Now back to the question.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good absolute answer. So much depends on your relationship, your ability to communicate, his openness with his struggles, his repentance, and more. So let me just give some general principles for people to think about.

Resuming Sex After a Porn Addiction--you need to rebuild trust first!

Rebuild Trust After a Porn Addiction First

You can’t just jump into having sex right away. (Now, some people may not have stopped having sex; I think that a sexual fast can be a good idea as he “resets” his arousal process, and most counselors and discussion forums for guys coming out of porn have said the same thing. But it isn’t absolute, and so much depends on your relationship).

But let’s say that you did stop sex and confronted him about porn.

In this reader’s case, the husband was reluctant to stop the porn and only did so when drastic actions were taken by the wife. This is quite a different scenario than one in which a husband confesses and takes the initiative to heal.

So there’s extra trust broken here.

Get an accountability partner

A counselor is wonderful, but a counselor is only there for a short time. He needs a guy who can hold him accountable and who can meet with him periodically and ask him honestly how he’s doing.

Be completely open with computers/tablets/devices

You must have complete access to his phone, his devices, and his computer. If he says that he’s stopped using porn, but he won’t let you see his phone, that’s a HUGE red flag. It doesn’t mean that you have to check on him all the time (that’s what an accountability partner is for). But it means that you should be able to pick up his stuff and use it without him freaking.

Use Covenant Eyes or something like it

Install the Covenant Eyes program on your phones and computers and devices. It’s accountability and filtering–meaning that everyone in your household gets their own account, and that allows them to access the internet based on their age/issues. So a 6-year-old sees less than a 13-year-old who sees less than an adult. But if you don’t want to use it for filtering like that, you don’t have to. You can only use the accountability side, where if anyone tries to access a site they shouldn’t, someone of your choice (the accountability partner, preferably) gets sent an email.

This helps you know that when he’s online, he won’t be searching for porn anymore. Or at least it will be a lot harder, and the temptation will be largely limited.

Get Covenant Eyes here.

Go to counseling with him

If he is seeing a counselor–wonderful! But it would be a good idea to do at least a few sessions with him so you reassure yourself about what he’s hearing, and a counselor helps you talk through some of the trust issues. You may also need some counseling yourself to work through your grief.

Rebuild Your Friendship

When I speak, I often say this: when you lose the ability to talk about the little things in marriage, it becomes even harder to talk about the big things.

When you’re friends, you talk and share about your day. You laugh together. You do stuff together.

When you’re battling porn that often goes away (and with many of these couples they never had that because he was so secretive, living a double life, and just wanted to get away from his wife so he could have some time on the computer).

But that friendship provides the goodwill so that you can talk about the big things. Without that goodwill, each big issue seems even bigger. Is this the one that will break our marriage?  Your marriage becomes all about tension.

You need that friendship again so that you can be honest about sex and how you’re going to rebuild it.

So go on walks together everyday. Talk about your day. Start a new hobby together that doesn’t involve a screen! Play some board games as a couple. Do something where you spend time together with low stress.

Talk About How to Rebuild Sex

Here’s the challenge with starting sex again: you can’t resume where you left off. You have to do something totally new, because your sex life in the past, if it was based on porn, was corrupted.

You want to begin to experience real intimacy in the bedroom–something you likely never have. In the past, sex has been only physical, because he hasn’t been mentally present (since he needs the fantasy about porn to get aroused). So we have to rewire his sexual response so that what becomes arousing is YOU, not a fantasy of replaying porn in his head.

That takes time.

I’ve written before about how to restart a sexual relationship after pornography, and how to rewire your brain after pornography. Both are difficult, but they are totally doable! And God absolutely wants to help you have such an abundant life in this area.

But you can’t until you’ve got some honesty.

So talk to him about how we need to rewire his brain so sex is about intimacy, not pornography.

That means that if you’re making love and images enter his head, he should stop, and you guys should start touching and talking again so he can refocus on you. That may mean that sex takes a long time–but if he keeps going if the fantasy is there, he’s feeding the fantasy, and he’s actually working AGAINST healing.

It also means taking a lot of time just touching and learning how arousing it can be to just be naked together as you talk and touch and become vulnerable. It’s not a quick, dirty thing; it’s an intimate thing.

But you have to talk to him about this BEFORE you start having sex again. Don’t expect him to just “get” this. Talk about your expectations and your plans.

31 Days to Great Sex31 Days to Great Sex is a wonderful tool for rebuilding your sex life after pornography. The first few days help you to just talk about your sex life. Then you spend a few days just touching each other and exciting each other that way–which can help him to experience how arousing just touch can be. Then you learn how to flirt and be affectionate again, which is such a key component of a good sex life.

As  you move through the month and try some of the spicier challenges, you also get the opportunity to talk about how porn may have rewired his brain, and what you are going to do about it. So if you have trouble articulating some of these things, 31 Days to Great Sex can help you start these conversations–and it’s a great way to start into sex again carefully! And the ebook format is only $4.99–so you can’t go wrong.

Find out more here.

I Know You’re Hurt–But Sex Can Also Help Healing

One last thought–I don’t know how long the above steps will take. For some people, this will be a quick thing. For other couples it will not.

But here’s what I will say:

once a guy has really repented and is taking steps to change, then don’t take too long to invite him back.

He’s fighting the battle of his life right now.

You can be one of his best weapons in fighting that porn!

And with him feeling like you’re on his side, fighting WITH him, not AGAINST him, it will be so much easier to heal.

I know you’re hurt. And you need to work through that. But don’t prolong that process too long, because you want an intimate marriage. And that’s largely up to you.

Of course this can’t be rushed. It would be foolish to jump back in bed if he’s not serious about healing, or if he’s still secretive about computers. It would be foolish if he doesn’t acknowledge that porn has changed his arousal process and that he needs fantasy to get aroused. But if he does acknowledge this, if he is trying, if he is in recovery–then be his ally!

What do you think? Any advice for this woman? If you’ve ever walked through a marriage with a porn addict, what helped you rebuild your sex life? Let us know in the comments!

I Hate it When My Husband Touches Me THERE

Reader Question: I hate my breasts being touched! What do you do if one part of your body turns you off--but your husband likes to touch it?“Help! I hate my breasts being touched!”

Every Monday I like to take a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Here’s one that I think we don’t talk about very much: what do you do if there’s one part of your body that you absolutely HATE being touched during sex? One woman writes:

My husband is obsessed with my breasts and I loathe having them touched 49 times out of 50. If, and it’s a big if, I am super super in the mood I can tolerate them being kissed if it’s brief and there are no hands involved. As soon as they get grabbed/brushed/rubbed/whatever, I at the minimum am set way back on the “in the mood” scale and at worst go absolutely cold and want him to get away from me immediately. For 6 years I’ve been telling him to leave my breasts alone and for 6 years almost daily he has been making grabs at them and more recently telling me I’m withholding.

He’s a wonderful husband, but why can’t I have one thing that I am allowed to say “I’m not comfortable with that”? No reasoning or excuse has made any difference to him in what he feels is his God-given right. Most women ARE turned on by it…but I’m not one of them. On the contrary, it’s a huge turn off. He’s not rough or mean or anything. He’s a wonderful man. I just hate being touched there. (Side note: nursing children felt like a huge amount of self sacrifice for the same reason so it’s not an issue with my husband). He wants me to just get over it. How?! Just tolerate something that I despise just to make him happy? Then what? How can I get in the mood when I want to bolt from the room? I have no issues with being touched elsewhere and he’s always considerate in virtually every other area of our marriage. This one “small” issue has become a big hang up for us and I just don’t know what to do anymore.


The wife who flunks at foreplay

You’re Not Alone! Many Women Don’t Like Being Touched in Certain Places

First I want to say, loudly and clearly: You’re not alone. Many women find parts of their bodies are just off-limits sexually. For some it may be breasts; for others it may be just the nipple; for some it may be him inserting his fingers inside the vagina. (True story: every Girl Talk I give I have a Q&A part where I answer anonymous questions. I once had a woman ask, “I know guys like sticking their fingers “up there”, but it creeps me out. Why does my husband have to make it seem like he’s digging for gold or something?” At the time the question was funny, but I certainly felt for her).

I can’t tell this particular woman what to do because I don’t know enough of the story, but I’d like to give 4 big picture questions to think about, and then some tips for where to go from here.

When You Hate Your Breasts Being Touched--or something else being touched--and it's hurting your marriage

Check Your Past

Sometimes certain body parts (or certain acts, like oral sex, for instance) are really creepy for us because of past abuse, or past things we’ve seen on TV or in movies when we are at certain ages that scarred us. We may also feel deep shame about certain parts of our bodies. When it comes to breasts, for instance, many women with larger breasts were mortified when they were 11 or 12 when the breasts started to grow, and no one else in their class at school had them. So they became a source of ridicule.

And then, as you got older, perhaps guys would fixate on them–even older men. It made you feel dirty. It made you think men were disgusting. It made you feel repulsed.

Today, when your husband that you love touches you there, it throws you back to that time when you were totally repulsed and creeped out.

This is NOT the case for everyone who hates their breasts being touched or who hates another body part being touched, but it can be quite common.

Basically you’ve developed what’s almost a phobia of it. And you CAN get over phobias. More on that in a minute.

Check the Control Issue

Is it that you hate having your breasts touched or that you hate someone else touching your breasts? I’ve had letters from women with both scenarios. One woman, for instance, couldn’t stand it if someone else touched her breasts, but could handle it if she did. Another woman freaked when her husband tried to insert his fingers into her vagina–but she couldn’t do it either.

Check the Timing

Often things that we REALLY don’t like suddenly become pleasurable right before orgasm. So you may think you don’t like your breasts touched (and you legitimately don’t), but when you’re really aroused suddenly you do. Similarly, many women find their nipples too sensitive to touch, but just before orgasm they actually want them sucked or pinched. But they may not know that about themselves until they check! So you may want to just check that out–is it a timing thing? Or is it truly all the time?

Check Your Sensitivity

There’s a difference between being completely grossed out and simply not being turned on. Is it that being touched makes you want to run for cover and scream (like this woman here), or is that when he touches your breasts, for instance, it does nothing for you and you start to make a shopping list in your head instead? Is it that it repulses you, or is it that it’s just not sexual for you?

What To Do When You Hate Your Breasts Being Touched (or something else being touched)

Now let’s move on to some solutions and ideas which may help. Not all of these may apply to you; choose the ones you think you can handle.

Have “His” Nights and “Her” Nights

Have one Saturday (or whenever) that’s his a month, and one that’s yours, and then every other time you make love it’s for both of you. And on “his” nights he can do what he wants to his heart’s content, but on the other nights he doesn’t. If you can get in the mood of saying, “this is for him and it’s a gift I’m giving him just tonight” that can help.

Even if you’re really repulsed, knowing that it’s only one or two nights a month and not all the time can help you mentally deal with it. Also, when you know it’s “his” nights there’s not the same effort to get in the mood yourself. You can totally throw yourself into it for him. And then the repulsion may not be as great (if that’s what you feel) because it’s not supposed to be turning you on. When it is supposed to be sexual, it actually makes the repulsion worse.

Take Control and Put on a Show

If you can’t stand other people touching you there (wherever it may be), then one possible route may be to do it yourself while he watches. Lather up some cream on your hands and rub it on your breasts slowly for foreplay.

If you need to be in control, then take that control. Even hold his hands while he touches you, so you guide his hands so you’re still in control. And the more you do this, the more the phobia may go away–or the more you may realize that that part of your body can be pleasurable, because when you’re in control you’re able to focus on it at your leisure.  There’s not the pressure of wondering, “what in the world is he going to do next?”

Talk to a Psychologist About a Phobia

If it really is to the level that you can’t stand being touched at all, then I’d suggest talking to a psychologist about it–a psychologist who has treated people for phobias (like phobias of spiders, phobias of dirt, etc.) Don’t just talk to one who wants to analyze you; talk to someone who will take you through exercises to get actually deal with this phobia.

Many people don’t find certain body parts pleasurable that most people find pleasurable–some women find nipples a turn off because they’re too sensitive, or can’t stand being manually stimulated on the clitoris for the same reason. But that’s very different from freaking any time someone touches a breast. So if it’s to the point where it’s really impeding your relationships and your sexuality, don’t settle for that! Deal with it. Christ came to set us free, and something is holding you back from what you were designed for. It doesn’t always have to be like that.

Talk to Your Husband

Finally, talk to your husband really openly about this. In this woman’s case it sounds like her husband is completely disregarding her feelings, and I think that some compromise (like the his nights and her nights) is definitely warranted. Say something like,

“I want our sex life to be great, but this is something which is a real stumbling block for me. When you touch me there, it makes me really panicky. So here’s what I’d like to do: I’d like to look at ways that we can slowly help me to feel more comfortable. I’m going to try to figure out the root and try to deal with the phobia. I’m going to give you certain days when you can certainly touch them, and other days when I’ll do a bit of a show. But I also need you to give me space and love. I’m not cutting you off entirely, but I need space to feel comfortable and figure this out. If you can’t give me that space, then I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with this and it will be a constant struggle in our marriage.

Sex is for both of us, and by touching me there all the time you are robbing me of my sexuality. Like I said, I want to give you some times to enjoy my breasts, but for now, as I seek healing, it has to be on my terms. I’d ask you to do this out of love for me and out of respect for our relationship, for the health of it and for the future of our sexual life together.”

Keep those lines of communication open, and talk to him honestly about what you feel now, what you hope to feel in the future, and your plans to get there. If he knows that you’re trying and that you want this too, then hopefully you can work towards feeling more comfortable together!

31 Days to Great SexIf you’re having trouble communicating about sex and what you want and what makes you feel comfortable, my book 31 Days to Great Sex can help! It’s a 31-day challenge that you do with your husband. And don’t worry: you do not have to have sex for 31 days straight! Many of the challenges just help you to talk about it, sometimes for the first time. It’s easy, it’s low key, and you’ll learn how to talk together, dream together, address libido differences, be more affectionate, figure out how to make it feel good for HER, spice things up, and keep the momentum going. The big benefit that many women have said to me is that “we finally were able to talk!” So this will help women in this situation, too!

Look at 31 Days to Great Sex

Have you ever been through this in your marriage? Is something a huge turn-off for you that most people like? Let me know in the comments how you dealt with it! (and you can be anonymous, of course).

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Reader Question: My 8-Year-Old Masturbates!

Reader Question: My 8-year-old son masturbates!What do you do if your son masturbates–especially if he’s really young?

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I thought I’d tackle this one: I have a lot of moms writing to me saying, “my son masturbates and I don’t know what to do!” I want to tackle the issue of PRE-PUBESCENT masturbation today (so kids under 11 or 12).

One mom wrote this:

A few months ago, my 8 year old son discovered that he could use the floor as friction on himself (so to speak) when he’s lying down on his stomach reading a book. Not knowing what to do and hoping he would stop on his own, I pretended I didn’t notice the first few times and then read some advice which I’ve partly taken already.

I’ve told him a few times not to do this outside of his room. I asked him why he did it. My tone was casual, not condescending. He looked at me blankly, and I asked him if he did it because it felt good and he said yes. I left it at that. I know that the behaviour has not stopped.

One article mentioned lack of connection as a possible issue, but I don’t think that’s the case. We’re pretty much together 24/7 (we homeschool). My husband is also around a lot and spends tonnes of time with the kids (and me) doing things we all enjoy.

What I want to get across to him is that it’s a bad habit to get into at such a young age. I don’t want him to start conditioning his sexual response so early. If he gets into this habit now, how on earth is he going to manage his hormones when he hits puberty? And when he gets married….can guys have trouble having orgasms with their wife if they have been having them alone for years before they get hitched? I know it can be an issue for women, but I’m not sure on the male side.

In any case, he’s only 8. He’s not going to understand all that. Or maybe I’m not giving him enough credit. Maybe I need to explain the sexual response cycle to him in more detail and how triggering that in himself can disrupt it? Hmmm…. perhaps I’ve just answered my own question. :-)

That’s a tricky one for a lot of parents! I’ve actually talked to my daughter, who takes Psychology in university, and my husband, who is a pediatrician, to chime in a bit on this one, so I’ve amalgamated their advice.

My Son Masturbates! How to handle it when a young child touches himself/herself

First, a bit of background:

It’s Very Common to “Masturbate” When You’re 6-8

Around age 6-8 kids often realize that touching their genitals and stimulating their genitals feels good. And so MOST children at this age will start to explore and will start to touch themselves.

My girls taught swimming at the YMCA, and one thing they often found was that little girls–say ages 7 and 8–would often position themselves near the jets of water and sit themselves there. The male teachers would often have to come and get Rebecca and tell her, “Can you tell Nicole to move away from the jets again?” It was a running joke.

But here’s the thing: the 10-year-old and 11-year-old girls didn’t do it.


Because at around age 8-9, kids often enter a “latency” phase for about 3-4 years where they stop this kind of behaviour, and everything like it, until puberty starts.

At This Age It Isn’t Sexual

Let me repeat that: in the vast majority of cases at these young ages, this touching is not sexual at all. Not. At. All.

There may be exceptions: children who have been sexually abused, for instance, can engage in sexual behaviour, but for most children it really isn’t sexual. It simply “feels good”.

Kids Often Fixate for Short Periods on Something

Has your child ever decided he wanted to eat hot dogs–and nothing but hot dogs–for three weeks? Or decided that she can’t go anywhere without one particular toy–and then promptly forgot about that toy a month later? When we toured England back in 2004 Rebecca had this Tower of London teddy bear that she would not put down. It went with her everywhere for a few weeks. And then it sat on a shelf in her room for the rest of her life, never to be picked up again.


EngBuckSo if your child seems to be something repeatedly for a few days, it does NOT mean that they have developed a lifelong habit that they’ll never shake.

Okay, so there’s some information. Now, what do you do? We were talking in a previous article about the Josh Duggar scandal about how parents can unwittingly cause kids to become ashamed of their sexuality, and cause almost a “sexual splitting”. And many parents were asking how to prevent that, which is where this question came from. So let’s look at what actually to do:

When Your Son Masturbates: What To Do

Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of It

Sin is a big deal. Exploring your body is not. And at this age masturbation has nothing to do with lust at all. It really doesn’t. So it is not a sin.

This mom ignored it at first (quite understandably, because as a mom, you likely freak inside when you see your child doing this), but if you can, stop that “inner freak out” and, right from the get go, say something like, “Honey, we don’t play with our penis when we’re around other people,” or “Honey, we don’t rub our vulva when we’re around other people.”

Name the body part, too. That’s important. Because you’d say, “honey, we don’t pick our nose in public”, and “honey, we don’t bite our nails in at the dinner table.” You name those body parts. So don’t be afraid to name these. When you DON’T name them, you actually attach more shame to them (oh, we don’t TALK about those).

So just let them know that they aren’t to do that in front of people, in the same way that they aren’t to get naked in front of people.

If your son is constantly putting his hands down his pants, you just say, “Tommy, hands out of pants in the living room/kitchen/dining room please!”

Treat it like any other unwanted behaviour. You wouldn’t go ballistic on your kid for farting in public, right? So there’s no need to go ballistic about this, either. At this age it really is just like thumb sucking or carrying a teddy bear. It’s self-soothing. That’s all it is, so don’t treat it like it’s more.

Don’t Make It Sexual

One thing that parents often wonder is, “do I need to start explaining about sex?” No. You do not. Absolutely not.

Saying something like, “God made that part of your body to feel good, but it’s supposed to feel good in marriage” really confuses them at this age when they didn’t mean it sexually at all. At this age the idea of a girl touching him THERE is likely absolutely repulsive and not associated with feeling good whatsoever.

That may be a talk that you need to have in the future, if this gets really out of hand (excuse the pun), but you definitely don’t want to launch into that. To a child who likely doesn’t know much about sex at all to be introduced to sex like this can be rather traumatic and awfully embarrassing.

My girls and I have this weird condition where our the nerve ending in our throats is highly attached to the nerve endings in our inner ears. So whenever our throats itch, what do we do? We get a Q-tip and we rub our inner ear like crazy, and our throats feel so much better. Seriously–that Q-tip is likely the one thing I couldn’t live without on a desert island. I like Q-tips for Christmas. It’s bad.

And when I’m rubbing, Keith always laughs at me because I make sounds that are awfully similar to–well, you know.

But I don’t mean it that way at all!

And I think that’s the way little boys and little girls are at this age: they may touch themselves, and it feels really nice, but if someone were to suddenly make it into something sexual, they’d be ashamed and not know what to do. They didn’t even realize they were doing something bad! And now Mommy/Daddy is all serious.

At this age it’s just exploring your body. So saying something like, “I know touching your penis/vulva can feel good, but that’s really something that we don’t do in public. And lots of things feel good!”–and then start a tickling match or something.

We’re often told: we should educate our kids sexually as they are ready for it and as opportunities arise. We should grab those opportunities! But I’d just really caution that this may not be the best one, because it’s really easy to confuse and mortify kids. Remember, we’re supposed to grab opportunities, yes–but this, though it may look sexual, really isn’t sexual. So it’s not our typical “opportunity”.

What If It Doesn’t Stop?

Rebecca stopped carrying Teddy everywhere pretty quickly. What if your child doesn’t stop after a few weeks? What if it becomes a serious habitual problem?

For most kids it will stop. And for most kids, when it becomes habitual it’s because there’s something else going on–a lot of stress in their life, a lack of physical affection from parents, a condition like Asperger’s or ADD where they have difficulty dealing with emotions, etc.

But what if those things aren’t in play (as it doesn’t sound like it is from this mother), and it’s still happening?

Here’s what my husband (the pediatrician) says:

It honestly does usually stop constantly happening after a few weeks. If it doesn’t, go see your pediatrician. After all, maybe your kid isn’t masturbating–maybe he/she has a rash there! Or maybe it’s a urinary tract infection. Or maybe in some way you’re feeding the behaviour and you just need someone to talk to about it.

So there you go. Don’t freak out. Don’t treat it sexually. Name the body part. And if it continues constantly, seek help. But usually it will die down. It really will.

Now I’d love to know in the comments: Has this ever happened to you? How did you handle it? Let us know!

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5 Quick Marriage Reader Questions

Reader Question: 7 quick questionsOn Mondays I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it–although this summer my schedule might be a little off what with my daughter’s wedding in less than two weeks and my book release of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage on August 18 (such an exciting summer!). But I have quite the backlog of questions right now, and often questions come in that I actually have answered before. So I thought I’d post some of them today, and then point you to other posts where I’ve dealt with them.

So here we go:

1. What is your opinion on bikinis?

A reader writes:

So many women in my church say it’s fine because everyone’s doing it. I’ve always felt torn on the issue. My husband thinks it’s alright to wear one. I do my best to be modest and to not draw attention to the sexual areas of my body so I don’t cause men to lust. Today modesty seems to be a very big issue. You have people suggesting it’s the guy’s fault for lusting if you ran around naked. Others would say if you ran around in a burlap sack and a guy was lusting it would still be your fault. I struggle to find the happy medium. When am I being modest enough? When is it no longer my fault for making someone lust? Is it ever my fault?

So many women have been harmed by being told, “it is your fault if a man lusts after you”–as if our bodies are somehow bad.

I’ve written about the modesty movement and the harm it can do. And I’ve written on how modest should not mean dowdy.

The specific question on bikinis is a hard one and one that I think is largely cultural. If you are at a beach where 95% of the females are in bikinis, then I’m not sure that wearing a tankini or a bikini that covers more than usual is really a bad thing. I don’t know that we can make a blanket judgment about certain items of clothing.

Personally, I don’t wear bikinis, but I’ve always worn tankinis (let’s face it: going to the bathroom in a two-piece when you’re on the beach all day is way easier than a one-piece). And tankinis can also be more modest since they can cover more of your bottom.

My rule of thumb tends to be this: when you’re in a group of people,  make sure that you are definitely on the modest end, without being frumpy.

Also, with the 50s styles coming back, many bikinis are actually more modest. Modcloth has a number of 50s inspired swimsuits for both plus sizes and regular sizes, and they aren’t your typical bikini, like this one:
Poolside Pretty Swimsuit Top in Chevron

So I have a hard time saying today that bikinis are always wrong. And I also believe that you CAN’T blame a woman who is trying to dress appropriately if a man lusts after her. That’s so wrong–and it’s the foundation of the relationship between the sexes in ISLAM, not in Christianity.

2. What Do You Do When Sex is Painful?

I get quite a few of these questions, and I understand. I went through it, too, as I talk about in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. But the questions still make me so sad for these women. Here’s one:

I was a virgin when I was married at 20, and we’ve been married for almost 6 years. I have a toddler and a little baby. I love my husband so much, but I am deeply struggling with our sex life. Before having our son we suffered with a miscarriage, and then struggled to get pregnant for almost a year and a half. Sex during our struggle with infertility really tainted the act for me. It wasn’t about a union or strengthening our marriage, it was like a business meeting. Then we continued to struggle with sex during the pregnancy due to nausea and fatigue. And then I had an extremely traumatic delivery. We nearly lost my son and I needed forceps to get him out. This caused my my vagina to tear all the way through. Now my baby is 6 months old, and sex is still painful. It makes me shake and cry and feel sick to my stomach.

It is so hard to get myself in the mood to want to do something I know will physically hurt me. My marriage is struggling. My husband and I are currently more like roommates than a couple. I feel incredibly guilty because I know I’m the one withholding sex. My husband loves me and respects me and is so wonderful, but I know I am hurting him. After struggling for half of my married life with sex, I feel like I’m stuck in terrible cycles and I can’t seem to break myself out of them.

And here’s another woman who finds sex so painful:

Sheila, I would love for you to write a post about when the act of sex itself is painful. Those of us who suffer from vaginismus experience EXCRUCIATING pain during intercourse, or are even unable to penetrate at all. For the first 4 months of our marriage my husband and I weren’t even able to have sex, not because of the pain but because he literally could NOT get in.

I used dilators and now we can finally “get in”, but it’s still extremely painful and difficult, not romantic or spontaneous at all.

Then last night my husband told me that he doesn’t really like sex as much as he thought he would before we were married. After spending 3 months painfully forcing silicon dilators into my body so that I could fulfill my husband’s sexual needs, having him say he doesn’t like it that much broke my heart. He said it’s not that he doesn’t find me sexy, he just feels like sex isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It makes me feel inadequate and unappealing. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but everyone always says that all men are sex maniacs, so if my husband doesn’t care for sex it must be because I’m not good at it. You’re always telling us wives to have sex with our husbands to make them happy, but what about when they don’t even want it? Is it just a stereotype that men love sex? What is wrong with my husband (or me) that makes him not care for it?

To both of these women: I am so, so sorry that you’re going through this. This is heartbreaking to both you women and your husbands, and there’s definitely a lot of grieving going on.

I have written about pain during intercourse, and if you’re suffering from vaginismus, as the last letter writer is, I encourage you to read this post about vaginismus–or when sex hurts.

For the first letter writer, I’d encourage you to keep seeing your doctor and talk to him or her about what you’re feeling. I have a friend whose tear never healed properly and it developed into a much larger problem. So I think you need someone to keep an eye on you and make sure it is healing. Having pain for a prolonged period of time is not normal, and it may be that you have to take a break from intercourse for a few months to entirely heal–which is better than aggravating something and have it develop into something worse.

Now, what about your relationships with your husbands?

I think the reason that the second letter writer’s husband isn’t enjoying sex is because it’s really only about the body. She can’t throw herself into something which hurts (for obvious reasons), and so it feels empty. I truly believe that once you deal with the pain issue the whole way you both see sex will change.

Good Girls Guide My SiteFor now, can you all focus on sexual play instead of just intercourse? Often when people feel pain they try to turn off their sexuality entirely, and don’t do even what they can. Play a lot, and then do some of the things in the post on vaginismus to start dealing with the pain. But don’t stop playing, or the whole thing becomes far too serious–and that’s no fun at all. I also talk about this a lot more in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, so check that out for more thoughts.

3. My Husband Acts Like He’s Single

Here’s a sad one:

We have four little children, and we both feel strongly about protecting them. We don’t allow just anybody to babysit our kids. However, it seems this leads to my always being stuck at home with them while my husband hangs out with a group of young single friends. I feel as though he’s spending his money and his time like a single person, while I’m at home being the mommy. When he is at home, he texts the single girls. Everything is extremely aboveboard and beyond reproach… but it still hurts. I know guys need some time to themselves. So, am I being selfish? Should I talk to him about how much this hurts me… or will I drive him away by making him feel that I’m trying to monopolize his life? I’ve jokingly complained about his close friendship with one of the other women, but guys don’t get hints…

I see several issues here, the first one being that the two don’t seem to communicate. He is doing something that hurts her, she’s hinting, but they’re not talking. And they have four kids already!

People, if, in your marriage, you’re keeping back how you’re feeling, you will never develop an intimate marriage!

I think many of us hold back too much. This is a theme in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, but you simply have to talk.

Here’s a post I wrote on just asking for help. Just ask. There is no way around it. He can’t read your mind.

And what about the fact that he’s texting other women? Not acceptable. I’ve written about that, too.

But there’s a bigger thing going on here. They’ve decided they can’t get baby-sitters, so the husband goes out at night. What about just sitting down and planning time for you to do things as a couple? And then planning time when you can go out on your own? It’s not healthy for a guy to be going out alone all the time while the wife stays home. Don’t let this dynamic start! Just talk about it early. Sit down and say, “what would you like to do as a family? What would you like to do as a couple?” And then if he needs an occasional night with the guys, and you’d like a night with the girls, that’s fine, too. But talk about it!

It sounds like the bigger issue is that they never spend any time together. Talk about what hobbies you can develop as a couple.

And get a baby-sitter. Swap with friends if you have to. But find a baby-sitter!

4. My Husband Doesn’t Turn Me On Anymore

Before having children and nursing each for a year, I could look at my husband, be turned on, and count down the minutes till we were in bed. Now, my husband is still the same sexy-hottie (I am not making that up…he is seriously model material, but his character alone is quality enough to make any lady’s hear skip a beat), I am not so much the sexy lady he married, but he is still for some reason drawn to me as though I was. Talk about a lucky lady!! Why am I not turned on by him?? I dread the sex. I don’t know if its my brain/hormones, if I’m depressed, or what?! Is there anything I can cognitively try to get myself excited about his hotness again?

First–totally normal. Those butterflies and severe attraction that we feel tend to wear off within 18-24 months, researchers find. It doesn’t matter what your husband looks like–the feelings tend to fade.

Then, if you’ve got little kids, your hormones could definitely be all wonky. Totally normal again.

31 Days to Great SexSo how do you get yourself turned on again? You have to be deliberate about getting your head in the game early in the day. And here’s a post on how to think of your husband as sexy again!

I’d also recommend working through 31 Days to Great Sex. It helps you talk about this stuff again, flirt, think about sex more, and learn to play again. Sometimes just getting out of that rut is all you need.

5. Just Plain Major Mess

Most of the letters I get, though, aren’t about a specific problem–they’re a whole series of problems in a relationship that add up to something quite serious. Here’s a typical letter:

I’ve read your posts about husbands not wanting sex. It’s a battle in my marriage. He had a problem with porn earlier in our relationship but as far as I know he has stopped and to be honest we have less sex now than when he was looking at porn. It could be stress, he was recently retrenched and is only getting back onto his feet now. However I’m the main breadwinner and as much as I try not let him feel like less of a man, when I’m stressed I think I sometimes do. If it’s medical we currently cannot afford to get it checked.

My main problem is that he will usually have sex if I initiate (although sometimes he will reject me). I’ve  just gotten to the point where I feel so unwanted I don’t want him. I feel if he would rather play Xbox or whatever it is, then I just don’t want him to touch me. The last time I initiated he literally picked up his phone to read a message so I stopped. It completely killed the mood.

If he does initiate its in the middle of the night, he’ll wake me… I work 2 jobs and I’m studying, so sometimes I just can’t wake up. Or I wonder what he’s been dreaming, if it’s even me he wants.

I’ve prayed so hard. I’m trying so hard. I feel so alone as its not an easy topic to discuss with people.

What can I do?

That’s such a tough situation! So let me give you a bunch of different links and thoughts.

First, here’s a post on what to do when you have major marriage problems. What do you tackle first?

Second, what about video games? I’ve written before about how to handle it when your husband plays video games too much. But what if the video game habit becomes more than just a habit? Here’s a follow-up, and here’s what to do when it really needs to be confronted.

But in this letter I see some major sexual red flags. First, it isn’t unusual for a guy to have a low sex drive if he plays video games constantly. Any addiction can steal sexual energy.

But there’s something more going on, and it’s this: sex has become divorced from relationship.

It’s become impersonal. And that’s a major red flag. He never initiates; when she does he’s often distracted; but then he does want sex frequently in the middle of the night, when she isn’t engaged. That’s quite typical of people who were addicted to porn, too, because sex has become entirely impersonal for them.

Your marriage may not have exactly these problems, but if sex really is impersonal, then I’d direct you to this post on sexual red flags in marriage. You need to start over and talk about what real intimacy is and how to achieve it. And that may have to be done with a counselor or a pastor, because he’s missing something important.

I’m sorry–I wish there were some magic piece of advice I could give you, but there isn’t.

Some problems are big, but they can only be tackled with real prayer and with TRUE communication. We have to start talking. Too many couples have stopped, and it scares me.

So I hope those posts help some of you! I know many of you have sent questions in, and I will try to get to them after my busy summer. In the meantime, I do have a post most of the Frequently Asked Questions and links to lots of my posts. And it may help you now:

Tons of Links to Articles Addressing Common Marriage Questions

Have a great week, everybody! I’ve got some great posts scheduled for the next little while as I’m checking out on vacation and prep for my daughter’s wedding. I know you’ll enjoy them.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!

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


Reader Question: What if My Marriage Was a Mistake?

What if my marriage was a mistake?

Reader Question: What if my marriage was a mistake?On Mondays I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it, and today’s is rather sad. A woman writes:

Can you offer resources toward unequally yoked marriages? Also info on how to deal with a severely emotionally disturbed spouse? I slept with my best friend ( but we were also in love), got pregnant, and got married. My husband isn’t against my faith, he accepts it and promotes it to the kids, but he doesn’t have it and won’t consider going to church, etc. He has some different morals, values, etc. also, it turns out he has major issues. Several people in his immediate family committed suicide and he’s dealing with depression, etc. I know that God can redeem this, but how do I know if our marriage was just a result of my mistakes or if it is something that God will use for good. I don’t want to be a martyr in my own life, but I do want to do what God wants.

I can feel her pain and her dilemma. She got married because she thought it was the right thing to do in the circumstances–but she’s not happy now and she’s wondering if her marriage was a mistake. She’s wondering if she’ll ever feel the loved she’s dreamed of, or if she’s just stuck in this relationship.

I know many other women asking themselves that question, especially if the marriage wasn’t originally planned. They got pregnant. They wanted to escape their home life. They were single moms and just wanted a roof over their heads. And now they wonder if they chose wrong, and if they missed out on what God really wanted for their lives.

So let’s try to tackle this one today: what do you do if you feel like your marriage was a mistake?

What if my marriage was a mistake? #marriage

Let’s Stop Thinking About “The One”

Part of the reason that we feel like we made a mistake is that we think God had a Plan A for us, and we chose Plan B. If we hadn’t have married this person, then we would have found the one that God really wanted us to marry–our perfect soulmate, so to speak–and we would be far happier. Instead, we messed up. We didn’t follow God’s plan for our lives. And so doesn’t it follow that if we’re going to get back on track for Plan A, we’re going to have to ditch this Plan B? If we married the wrong person, then we can never really be on track with God in this life.

I understand that thinking. But I also think it’s totally off base. Here’s why:

God doesn’t have just one person for you to marry. God lets you choose.

This idea that there is a perfect soul mate for us out there to complete us is actually not biblical. Gary Thomas did a great job explaining this in a recent blog post, “Why God Didn’t (and Won’t) Tell You To Marry Your Spouse.”

Gary writes,

There is, quite frankly, nothing in Scripture that ever tells us it is our sworn duty to marry one particular person. Whether we marry, and who we marry, are spoken of in Scripture as part of God’s “permissive will,” something He allows us to choose.

Gary goes on to show that Scripture gives several reasons for marrying and help on choosing someone of the right character, but it doesn’t say that there is only one person for each of us. We’re given the chance to choose for ourselves.

Let’s Own our Choices

Why does this matter? Because if you realize that there wasn’t a specific Plan A, then it’s not about getting back in line with what God wants for you. It’s more about realizing that God lets us choose, and now it’s time to figure out how to glorify God in the midst of those choices.

Gary writes,

Far healthier, spiritually, than to sit in resentment against God, is to say to yourself, “I chose this man/woman. It might or might not help to explore why. But since I made the choice of my own free will, I bear certain responsibilities for the commitment I have made.” Then God becomes your ally, not your enemy, in helping you face the future. Instead of, “God, why did you lead me into this mess,” you’ll pray, “God, help lead me out of the mess I’ve made.”

So many of us believe that God led us to our spouse, and then when that spouse becomes abusive or becomes mean or has an affair we blame God. “But you told me to marry him!” Or else we think, like this letter writer, that we missed the boat and so we have to jump off the one we’re on and row really hard to get back to where God wants us to be.

But what God wants is to have us submit to Him where we are right now. That’s God’s will for us–to serve Him in the everyday, even if our everyday has taken some bad turns. It’s not to get back to a perfect life He had planned for us. It’s to let Jesus shine through where we are.

It’s Freeing to Realize “I Chose Him”

When you realize that you yourself made the choice to marry him–God didn’t make you, your parents didn’t make you, your husband didn’t make you–you made that choice, then you can also see how you have a responsibility to make that marriage the best it can be. If you feel that somehow you were coerced into marriage than you can never really throw your all into it. But if you realize, “I made those vows myself”, then you can see that you have a responsibility to them.

Why the Vow Matters #marriage

Where Do You Go From Here?

What does God want you to do in a difficult marriage? What is the best way to serve God right now?

I’ve written a lot on this topic, and so I’m going to link to different posts that can give you some practical ideas about what to do now. But the main thing I wanted to leave you with today is that it’s not about finding that Plan A. It’s about recognizing those choices you freely made, and then figuring out, “how do I serve God today, right where I am?”

Could you have made different choices? Of course. But you didn’t. And you don’t know how those choices would have turned out anyway. But you did choose this, so let’s work with it and see how we can find contentment and peace right now.

When You’re in a Loveless Marriage

Living in a Loveless Marriage
When You’ve Checked Out of Your Marriage
Why the Vow Matters
When is it Okay to Give Up on My Marriage?
Encouragement for Those in Really Tough Marriages
10 Truths About Emotionally Destructive Marriages

How to Get Back on Track in Your Marriage

Changing the Dynamic in my Marriage
The Two Ingredients of All Successful Marriages
Be a Spouse, Not an Enabler
Tackling Huge Marriage Problems

I’ve also got a ton of posts on how to spend time together more, how to ask for help, and so much more. You can find those on my Marriage FAQ page.

I hope some of those are helpful.

But for today, I just wanted to dispel this idea that we may have married the wrong person, missed out on God’s specific, perfect will, and now we need to get back to it.

God’s will is for you to glorify Him today, where you are. It’s for you to love in a healthy way that points people to Jesus (it’s not for you to enable sin, though!).

So now let me know: what do you think of this idea that there is one perfect person for us to marry? Let’s talk in the comments!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!

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


Be Broken Together

Broken Together: Stories of marriages that work, even if they're broken (based on Casting Crowns' song)How do couples recover from deep wounds?

I recently received this heartbreaking letter:

My husband and I have been married for 4 years. He brought me to God shortly after we started dating and have done everything we can to have a God based marriage. I thought that we could overcome anything. We have gone through being homeless, moving 7 times, job loss, family deaths,marriage classes to make sure we have the tools to overcome obstacles and are currently seeing a counselor to work on our childhood demons together. We are constantly working on improving our marriage in almost everyway. Except for in the bedroom.

I struggle with past sexual abuse. I also grew up in a home where I learned to never love myself and my self worth…well there was none. I thought that my husband understood and was willing to work though it with me. But I have never been able to communicate why because I never fully understood why sex was so hard for me.

The longest we have gone was a month. As of right now it has been over 3 weeks. I have never been able to tell him why. It’s mostly because I never realized that I can’t have sex because I can’t seem to put emotion into it because I’ve put walls up.

I woke up last night to him trying to get me in the mood which sparked a fight at 1am. After sitting quietly and listening to his side about how hard it is for him, I finally felt like I could explain my side (what I had discovered last week).

Before I could tell him; he decided that moment was the time to tell me he had been unfaithful. He had taken 2 separate trips out of town with a friend and had gone by himself to a strip club where he received a lap dance. He explained that he was afraid to tell me and that he was looking for emotion and that he knew that wasn’t the place to find it but did it anyway. He was grasping for the affection and attention that he wasn’t getting from me.

I told him that I had forgiven him but this will be the hardest thing we have to go through. I then expressed how pissed I was.

I love my husband. I love my family. I want us to work. I want to overcome this. But how do you get over something like this? I feel like I contributed to this. Like its somehow my fault. That if I would have been able to get over my own demons that he never would have done this.

We are both seeing the same counselor right now and have been for a few months to try to work through our individual pasts but to do it together. I want to continue seeing him and have him help us through this but does that make me weak for staying?

What a sad story. I’ve written before on how to tackle huge problems in your marriage, and I think that post will help.

But today instead I want to share a story and a song.

A couple that I know has a similar story: she had abuse in her background; he had porn in his. She would withhold sex and affection because she needed to feel in control of everything; he responded by withdrawing, working harder, and, at times, viewing porn.

Over the course of a decade they grew further and further apart. She was sure all the problems were his: he was a gross male with a porn problem. He was sure the problem was hers: she was uptight and walled off and wouldn’t admit it. But they loved their kids. And so they stayed.

And then one day God really got a hold of him. He started to grow spiritually. The porn issue went away. But he realized he couldn’t stay in this marriage unless she got help. He didn’t want a divorce; he wanted them to go to counselling. But she wouldn’t because she was sure there was nothing wrong.

He moved out for a while, and a few months later she started counseling. And when she did, he did, too. And an amazing thing happened.

They both found a huge dose of humility.

They both started owning their problems instead of pointing to other people. They both started in recovery groups. And now he’s moved back in, they’re praying together for the first time in their whole marriage, and they’re serving together in church.

But they’re still in recovery. And that’s okay. They’ve realized they both have childhood issues. They’ve realized they both have addiction tendencies. And they’ve realized it’s better to work on these things together, in honesty.

Because one of the most beautiful things that God does is He helps rebuild broken people. And we are all broken. All of us.

I heard this song, Broken Together, by Casting Crowns a few months ago and I thought it summed up marriage and what God wants to do so beautifully. We have these dreams when we’re children of a knight in shining armour–but it doesn’t always work that way. Life isn’t perfect. But that’s okay. God’s most beautiful work is when things are broken. Broken doesn’t mean a relationship is over; broken means that if you’re both willing to humble yourselves, God can work.

If you’re both broken, remember: It’s okay to be broken together.

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!

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

Reader Question: I Never Told On My Abuser

Reader Question: How do I stop the lies and tell about past sexual abuse?Do family secrets need to be brought to light? Should you confront someone who abused you as a child?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Last week, after I posted on the Duggar abuse scandal, I started receiving quite a few emails and Facebook messages from women who were abused as children and weren’t sure what their next steps should be now. This note in particular really hit me:

I have been reading your posts about the Duggar ‘scandal’ with much appreciation. I have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behavior a number of times as a child and teen, even in the first year of our marriage (from someone other than my spouse) and I am struggling to move on.  It was all kept a secret. I find it so difficult to open up to my husband of 5 years. I have spoken to him, but don’t know if he wants to know more, or if he just assumes I am all healed. How much or little detail do I go into? My parents also were not very open about sexuality and anything really other than teach biblical doctrine and cooking and cleaning. I lack many insights on what a healthy marriage is and just feel like I am drowning in emotion and self pity and I just want it to END! My husband is also recovering from watching porn. He’s doing really well but I am the only one he has told about it. The people from my past are known to me and two are relatives that I see regularly at family functions and church. I have forgiven them in my heart but feel I need to do so face to face. Do I talk to to them?

What a lot of pain! Let’s try to give her some help:

Bringing Past Abuse to Light: How to stop the secrets

First, a couple of big things: she is dealing with so much, and she’s living in the center of shame: shame from her parents who never talked about sex; shame from those who abused her; and shame because her husband watched porn. And she’s never been able to properly talk about any of this because there’s this cone of silence around everything.

The secrets need to stop.

When we shed light, God is there and can do amazing things. When we keep secrets and keep things hidden, we prevent God from doing His work, too.

I’m reminded of Micah 6:8 here:

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.

God wants us to love justice (which requires truth and speaking up); to do all this in a spirit of mercy (without vindictiveness or bitterness); and to be humble before God.

So often we think we’re merciful if we just “let things go”. But you can’t have real mercy without truth; you need both.

And so I’m going to suggest a radical shaking up in your family that may make you uncomfortable. I’m going to suggest that you tell the truth.

Here’s why:

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing.

Forgiveness is something that you can do on your own: you decide “I will let God deal with this person, not me.”

Reconciliation on the other hand requires acknowledgment on the part of the other person to the pain that that person has caused. Reconciliation helps not just your own relationship but that person’s relationship with God. They’re forced to confront their misdeeds and they have a chance to repent and make things right.

When there is no reconciliation, there can be no real relationship. There is only a false facade. A real relationship can’t be based on a lie, and when there is something that big, it is all a lie.

So you have to tell the truth in order to get your relationships on a path where God can work towards peace or can let people choose judgment (and He would rather that people be given that stark choice than that things remain in secrets and lies). Remember, he’d rather us be hot or cold, not lukewarm.

But there’s another reason this has to come to light.

If someone abused you, chances are you were not the only one.

Therefore, if these individuals have minor children in the home still, then you must call children’s services. You simply must, in order to prevent any harm to those kids. I know this will be tough, but morally it is absolutely the right thing to do.

If these individuals serve in leadership at their church, or if they serve with children in any way at their work or at church, you must also tell their church. You are not responsible for what the church does with that information, but you must tell. A simple letter or email is fine. So many churches have been rocked by abuse, and this will continue to happen unless we start speaking up. And churches desperately want to avoid children being hurt in their care.

Speaking of contacting authorities, if the statute of limitations is not expired in your state, you may also consider filing criminal charges. But that is up to you.

Also, there may be other adult victims in your family. You may have cousins or siblings who were also abused by these men. When you speak up, you give them the chance to as well.

So you must speak up to achieve reconciliation, to validate others’ abuse stories, and to protect others.

But what are your practical steps? Here you go:

How to End Secrets and Bring Past Abuse to Light

I’m going assume that you have already contacted authorities and the church, if necessary. But here’s what you do for the rest of your family:

Get some support around you.

Talk to a counselor preferably, or one or two mentors who can pray with you and stand with you. Once you have talked it over with them, be fully open with your husband. Tell him what happened to you, in as much detail as you are comfortable with, and tell him how you think this affected you. Tell him that you want healing, and you’re striving towards that, and you totally believe healing can happen. Sometimes this is easier to do with the counselor present. Then the counselor can also explain to your husband why you need to bring this to light.

Tell your immediate family

Now it’s time to tell your parents and your siblings (unless they are the abusers; in that case skip to the next step). Tell them what happened, and tell them this: “I am going to contact them and ask for acknowledgement of what happened and an apology. If it is not given, I can no longer be in fellowship with them. I ask you not to invite them to family events anymore. If you do, then I will no longer come.

This is not being mean; it is just acknowledging that while forgiveness can be given by you alone, reconciliation cannot. Reconciliation is only possible when the other party admits the sin.

Contact your abusers in a safe way

I suggest using email; it keeps you at a safe distance and it avoids you having to listen to them yell or be defensive or call you names. You can even do so using your husband’s email so that if they send back a horrible response your husband can screen it and shield you from the details, if necessary.

Say something like, “I have disclosed the things that you did to me when I was X years old to my parents, my family, and my husband (and the authorities or the church if you also did this). I would ask that you admit what you did and apologize. If you do not, I will no longer be able to see you at social functions or at church. I ask that you be open and honest so that healing and reconciliation can take place.”

Contact the church (if you haven’t already) and ask for church discipline

You go to the same church as these individuals. That must end unless you achieve reconciliation (and even if you do, it may still be a good idea to go to a different church).

However, if you like your church, then they should have to leave it, not you.

Contact the elders’ board and explain in as much detail as is necessary what happened at the time, and ask that the elders help your abusers get established in another church so that you can feel spiritually safe.

Warning: many churches will not handle this well, especially if your abusers are in leadership positions. This may cause you a lot of hurt. If you know it won’t be handled well, then you likely need a new church anyway. That’s not a safe church.

Recognize that this will be difficult

This may very well blow a hole in your family, and people may blame you. But you did not cause the rift; your abusers did. You are simply trying to mend the rift by achieving honesty and reconciliation.

A family that socializes without acknowledging harm done is not healthy. It may outwardly look fine, but there is no real love there. Real love can only be present when real truth is also present. If self-preservation and “not rocking the boat” are the main things people want, then that is not loving; it is holding God at a distance. If God is going to do something in your family, it will only be because someone is finally shining a light on Truth.

So, yes, you may lose some relationships with your family. But those relationships weren’t real anyway. It is better–even if it is heartbreaking–to move forward in truth.

What about your marriage?

When secrets are part of your past, it’s very likely that openness is missing in your marriage. You grew up without honesty and good communication, so it’s hard to achieve that now, even in a healthy relationship.

31 Days to Great SexIn our letter writer’s case, it sounds like she and her husband need to start learning to talk about and communicate about sex and marriage. I’d really suggest talking to a counselor for at least six sessions. And if you haven’t done it yet, I’d really suggest picking up a copy of 31 Days to Great Sex, which walks you through so many exercises that will help the conversations start. For so many people that’s what they need most: a way to actually talk about it.

My dear readers: my heart has broken this week with all of these stories I’ve been hearing. There are just so many secrets. So many. But Jesus came to be the Light, and He can handle those secrets. I don’t know if He will bring reconciliation; He leaves that up to us to choose it, and your abusers may not. But it is better to live under Truth, even if it means your family gets a lot smaller, than to live with a lie.

I’m so sorry. I really am. May God be with you and may He put the right people around you to support you as you tell the truth.

Let me know: has your family ever been rocked by something like this? What did you do? Let me know in the comments!

How Do You Respect Your Husband if You Can’t Trust Him?

Reader Question: How do I respect my husband if I can't trust him?What does it mean to really respect your husband?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today a reader asks how she can respect a husband she still doesn’t trust:

I found out about my husband of 5 years had been addicted to porn and caught him by innocently searching through his photos on his phone while nursing my son in bed one morning. I regularly asked to use his phone so my looking through it was nothing unusual at all. The difference this time is he forgot to hide his stuff apparently this time.

We have had MANY hard conversations since then. He’s been getting help, hasn’t looked at it since July (when I caught him) and has been genuinely turning his life around and back to the Lord.

Here’s my issue: I still don’t trust him yet. I’ve forgiven him but trusting him again is something that takes a lot of work and time. We aren’t at that point yet. Is it possible to respect him without trust?

I do try but he doesn’t feel it anymore. I know it’s incredibly important to show respect and even biblical. I guess maybe I don’t know what respect truly is?

I’m being the best I know how to be while feeling so broken but it doesn’t seem enough. Please help, I’m so confused. :-(

Great question–and one that there’s a lot of confusion about. I want to leave the question of how you rebuild trust someone after porn use, because that’s a separate question that other posts do address.

Today I want to tackle respect, because it’s something we hear a lot: women need unconditional love, and men need unconditional respect, and we wives ARE to respect our husbands.

I’ve heard this love and respect dichotomy frequently, and many books explain this perspective well–like Love and Respect. The problem is that while love can be freely given, respect as a whole is something that is earned. It isn’t something which is just automatically bestowed. Loving an unlovable person is something many of us do all the time. But loving an unlovable person doesn’t involve declaring that this unlovable person is somehow lovable; it involves loving them regardless and choosing to treat them well.

To respect someone who is not worthy of respect is much trickier, because we think of respect  not primarily as an action as much as it is a feeling. How can you respect someone who hasn’t done anything to earn it–but has instead squandered it?

And so today I’d like to take a broader look at what it means to respect someone, and what it is that we do owe our husbands.

How to Respect Your Husband when you can't trust him. #marriage defines respect in these two primary ways:

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability:
I have great respect for her judgment.

deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment:
respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.

The first definition is the one we usually think of, and it is dependent upon the actions of the person. You earn respect.

The second definition is the one that we are told in books like Love and Respect that men really need–to respect their position as husband, regardless of how he’s acting.

And that is certainly something that you can do. So God is not asking you to actually approve of anyone’s behaviour or “esteem” anyone. He is asking you to show deference.

But what does respecting your husband mean practically?

Boundaries in MarriageI actually think respect is part of healthy boundaries, as Henry Cloud and John Townsend talk about in their book Boundaries in Marriage, and I’m personally more comfortable with their way of framing the issue. They ask us to do this: imagine everybody as a farmer’s field, with fences around what is their responsibility and under their ownership.  In your field are your own actions; your own feelings; your own opinions. You have control over these things. You should not let others trespass. So no one, for instance, can “make you angry”. Anger is a choice that you make.

At the same time, other people have their own feelings and opinions and actions, and you need to not trespass on their field. So your husband is allowed to act his own way. Your children are allowed their feelings (even if you don’t like them). Your mother is allowed to rant at you if she wants. But you are then free to respond to that rant as you want. You can’t control the rant; you can control your response.

So to respect someone is to say: I recognize where the fences are. I recognize and honour your fence, and I will not trespass it.

Why Women are Control FreaksIn the case of marriage this is super important, because, as I’ve said before, most women do have control freak tendencies simply because we feel responsible for everyone, so we want to make sure they act the right way.

We need to not try to control our husbands, but let them be free to act. And to defer and respect also means that we acknowledge that their dreams and ideas for the family matter, and that we will get behind those dreams and pursue them with our husband, even if they aren’t always our dreams.

To respect your husband, then, does not mean that you approve of what he does. To respect him means that you acknowledge and support his right to choose what he does.

That’s a big difference. You aren’t trying to control him.

In the same way, to love your wife does not mean that you feel that she is lovable. It means you choose to treat her well and cherish her, no matter what she does.

To get back to our letter writer, she is largely equating respect with trust. Trust absolutely is something which is earned; we should never trust someone who is untrustworthy. And often we think that the respect that is asked of us is in the same category. But it is not.

So if you have a husband who isn’t trustworthy, what does respect look like?

I think it’s like this:

I will not try to control you or prevent you from using porn. I acknowledge that you have the right to freely choose whether to seek accountability or not; whether to watch porn or not; whether to rebuild the marriage or not. I am not free to try to manipulate you, guilt you, or cajole you in any way.

However, just as you are free to choose, I am also free to choose. And if you do choose to continue to watch porn, know that I will be taking these actions (and you can figure out what those are). I am not trying to control you by doing this; I am simply doing what I believe is best for me and our children based on prayer and on the godly counsel that I have received.

I hope and pray that our marriage can be restored, and I will do everything I can to build that marriage. I want to find things to do to build our friendship. I want to spend time laughing together. I want to enjoy meals together. And I know that you are free to make that choice as well, or to not make that choice. Regardless of what you choose, I will treat you with love, and I will treat you with grace.

What I really want, however, is for both of us to look more and more like Christ, and going down a really bad path isn’t going to help that. So if you do go there, I will have to take action. But in the meantime, I will not nag you. I will not manipulate. I will not look over your shoulder. I will not blame you or yell at you for my own feelings. I will take my sadness and process it with friends and with a counselor. I will work towards building up our marriage. And I will pray that you will do the same.

When someone has broken our trust our impulse is to stick to them like glue and check their phone and computer constantly and nag and cry and rage. And that isn’t respect, because it is “violating their fence”. But setting up an accountability partner for your husband so that you know he is getting help, as well as setting up conditions for what you will do if things do not change, IS part of respect, because just as he is free to choose, so are you. It’s honouring your own spheres of influence and control that God has given you, so that we don’t unwittingly become a sin enabler.

Some may say, “but that’s manipulation!” No, it’s not. To manipulate is to underhandedly use emotional, social, and sexual tools to try to pressure someone to do it our way–it is to take away their agency, their right to make a decision. Unfairness is a large part of manipulation. We’re not doing that–we’re acknowledging their right to make a decision, but we’re also acknowledging our own right to make a decision. And it isn’t underhanded. It’s right above board, and in line with God’s thinking on sin.

I know it’s hard to stop nagging and yelling and crying when trust has been broken, but I think that’s what respect means in this case. But I’d love to hear from you: how have you respected your husband when he’s acted inappropriately? How do you draw healthy boundaries? Let us know in the comments!

Note: if you and your husband are battling porn, Covenant Eyes is a great way to install accountability–painlessly! And between now and May 11, when you sign up, you get 60 days free. Check it out!

Reader Question: Sleeping in Separate Rooms When Married

Sleeping in Separate Rooms: why we need to be careful we don't drift!What happens when couples start sleeping in separate rooms? Is it that big a deal?

It’s Monday, the day that I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it.

One reader recently wrote:

Personally at the moment I am not sleeping with my husband as I feel estranged from him due to porn abuse, his alarm waking me up in the morning because he ‘snoozes’ it for an hour and he snores which drives me crazy so I don’t sleep, get tired and irritable and this exacerbates an already fragile situation, so I’ve removed myself to the spare room and far from missing sleeping next to my husband I now don’t want to go back to sharing a bed (if things improve between us) as I love having my own space and a good night’s sleep. Is this wrong?

I used to love sleeping together as I found it a special thing that you only do when you’re married and share that really special space and time together so I feel very conflicted now.

I was shocked a while ago to learn that my in-laws have separate rooms and I was really sad for them but maybe this is normal?

And finally, I was talking to a married friend with 2 young children, her husband sleeps in their spare room as her children often end up sharing the bed with her so she can feed them so they don’t cry and wake her husband up in the night. I also felt really sad about this but I don’t really know why.

Can you offer some wisdom on whether sharing a bed is important or not?!

Okay, let’s try to flesh this out a little bit.

Why is the couple sleeping in separate rooms?

Sometimes you really don’t have a choice. If one spouse snores a ton and keeps the other awake (or causes them not to sleep well), then for health reasons they may need to sleep in separate beds. (Here’s a website with some info on snoring solutions, to see if that may solve the problem). When my husband was on call and would repeatedly be paged at night and have to make phone calls, we sometimes would sleep in separate rooms on those nights so that he didn’t disturb me.

Is it Okay to Sleep in Separate Bedrooms? How to Stay Intimate if You Can't Sleep TogetherI’ve written before on couples sleeping in separate beds when the issue is something like that–along with some thoughts on how to maintain intimacy even if you have to part at night. I think it’s an important one to read!

When you have to sleep in a separate room from your husband

But when it’s not an issue about quality of sleep that can’t be helped, and there’s something else at play, then we really need to look at the underlying reason.

Sleeping in Separate Rooms to run away from intimacy is dangerous

It’s really quite simple: If you’re sleeping in separate rooms because you feel distant,  you will only increase the distance.

This woman is having some marriage problems–her husband has been using porn–and so she feels distant. Add to that the difficulties with alarms and snoring, and she likes being in a separate room better.

Now, the snoring and alarms may legitimately drive you away, but be very careful that if you do sleep in a separate room you do it well–turning in together, snuggling together, reading a bit together before you separate into separate rooms (as I said in my post on separate bedrooms).

But let’s say that the issue isn’t snoring or alarms. It’s really only the porn use. Then is it okay to separate?

I’d say yes if he is unrepentant and unwilling to get help or accountability (but I’d also say that you should take further steps to mend the situation, by talking to a counselor, having an intervention, or drawing very clear boundaries. Just running away won’t help it). You can see more about that in this post on not being an enabler of sin in your marriage.

What if he’s trying to stop the porn, he does have accountability–and you’re still hurt. Then what?

I can understand wanting to sleep in a separate room the night you found out. But be careful of continuing that separation.

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceThis month we’re talking about good marriage habits as part of our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge, and I’ve asked you all to read The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. And one of the habits that Shaunti found in her research was this:

When [happy couples] are in a season of being at odds with each other–when they are experiencing friction or hurt feelings–they solve it by spending more time together instead of less… When we have hurt feelings, anger, or discord, the last thing we may want is to be with our spouses. But ultimately, it appears that that is what we need most.

Think about that for a moment. When you’re hurt, your instinct is to retreat–to head to that separate bedroom where you can be alone with your thoughts and pour out your brokenheartedness to God and nurse your hurts. But that’s exactly what your marriage doesn’t need. What helps is if you still act like a team–act like two people who believe, “we will get through this–together.”

Be careful of letting children kick one of you to a different bedroom

Sex After Kids: Don't put your marriage on the backburner once kids come, because now other people are counting on you to make it work!I see this pattern so often in marriage. Both of you are sleep deprived, and you think, “at least he should be able to get some sleep. If he goes to a different room, at least he’ll sleep.”

You think you’re being nice.

And for the first few weeks of a baby’s life that may have its merits.

But to continue it long term is really dangerous. We’ve already talked last week about how hormones when you’re nursing often cause many of us to lose our libidos. Add sleep deprivation, and many of us enter survival mode, just trying to get through. And so we push our husbands away, devote ourselves entirely to the babies, because we figure, “he’ll still be here later. It’s the baby who really needs me.”

What the baby needs is for his or her parents to be rock solid.

Do not neglect your marriage. We think that it’s natural to stay together, so we shouldn’t have to work at it. But that’s wrong! It’s natural to drift apart; staying together takes work. If you don’t put in the work, you and your husband will drift.

You need time alone to be intimate–and that usually means the same bedroom

And I don’t mean just sex when I say intimate. I mean talking quietly while lying in bed. I mean cuddling while you fall asleep. I mean putting your hand on his arm and praying for him before you drift off. I mean having him kiss you goodbye if he leaves in the morning while you’re still asleep (or if you leave).

If you start sleeping in separate beds because of convenience, it’s easy to stay there. And we don’t always realize what we’re missing until months or years have gone by and we’re just not as close anymore.

So as I said, sometimes a separate bedroom is necessary because of physical difficulties sleeping together. But if you do go that route, do it deliberately well. Still cuddle together at night. Still spend time together before you separate. Don’t just drift. That’s dangerous; and our reader instinctively senses this. Stay together. Truly.

What do you think? Have you had to sleep in separate rooms? How did you stay close?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 2:24 says,

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

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

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

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

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

How Do You Talk About Leave and Cleave?

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

Let’s imagine the first scenario for a minute:

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

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

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

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

Let’s say the conversation instead looked like this:

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

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

You could also frame a conversation like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Responsible for Leaving?

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

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

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

Romans 12:18 says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dayspring Serenity Prayer

What if Your Husband Never Chooses to Leave and Cleave?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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