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.

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

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

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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!

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

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

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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.

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

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

Find out more here.


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

Dictionary.com 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!

Reader Question: I’m Always Left Hanging in Bed

Reader Question: What do I do if my husband never tries to fulfill me sexually?What do you do if your husband always leaves you hanging in bed? He’s satisfied, but you’re left frustrated?

Every Monday I like to answer a Reader Question, and today’s is about what happens when the husband always reaches orgasm but makes no effort to see that his wife does, too. A reader writes:

My husband and I have been married for 25 years. The first four years or so were pretty great sexually. We were even having simultaneous orgasms with intercourse without even really trying.

After the kids were born, I went into a period of refusing my husband. That lasted for pretty much 20 years. And to make things even worse I was self gratifying myself, even as I was refusing him.

I came to my senses 1.5 years ago. I wanted to save our marriage. So I decided to do everything I could to do that. And now we’ve discovered that I’m the high drive spouse!

I did a lot of reading of blogs and books and websites to do my best to learn how to please my husband. He’s a happy camper. But even as much as I really enjoy the time together, I still haven’t been able to have an orgasm. When we do have sex, it seems to end up being all about him. He doesn’t seem interested in making much of an effort to please me. He pretty much falls asleep right away a very happy camper. Meanwhile I lie awake just buzzing and unfulfilled physically. When I read on blog posts and online about how husband’s really love to see there wives get totally involved in love making, and how husbands really love to see there wives turned on and husband really love to please their wives and bring them to orgasm, it just breaks my heart. Because my husband doesn’t seem interested. Almost all of our sexual encounters end up with me frustrated and him happy.

I’ve had other variations on this same question, too. Sex is over with after five minutes, and he goes right to sleep and doesn’t seem to care that she is left unsatisfied.

So what do you do?

My husband leaves me unsatisfied in bed! 4 Strategies if you're left hanging.

Understanding the Difference Between Men’s Orgasms and Women’s Orgasms

We often hear that men can climax so much faster than women, but that’s not entirely true. Studies show that when masturbating, for instance, both men and women can reach climax in about 2-3 minutes. Here’s my theory on that: it’s actually more difficult to figure out exactly WHERE and HOW to touch a woman to make her feel great than it is to touch a man. And for women, sex is primarily in our heads. During masturbation (which I am not recommending, by the way), women are already aroused and we know what feels good.

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnother reason: for women, most orgasms are clitoral in nature–even orgasms during intercourse. It’s his pelvic area rubbing against the clitoris during intercourse that helps push us over the edge (if you’re wondering about how to make this happen better, I’ve got lots of tips in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex). Researchers now believe that even G-spot orgasms are connected to the clitoris because the nerve endings connect between the two (and some people think the G-spot is just an extension of the clitoris).

So all that being said, it’s simply harder during intercourse for a woman to reach climax without exactly the right pressure in exactly the right place.

According to a Brown University fact page on female orgasm, on average, men take 2-3 minutes once intercourse starts, and women 10-20. That’s a big difference (now, men can last longer if they learn how and try; but those are averages).

Why Does Your Husband Not Care About Bringing You to Orgasm?

So what do you do to ensure you get the time (and stimulation) you need? Sometimes it depends on why he doesn’t seem interesting in pleasuring her. In this case, for instance, is he resentful because of the years of her refusing sex, so he won’t try? Or is he getting older so lasting longer is harder–and he doesn’t want to talk about that? Does he just not care? Or is he oblivious to her needs, assuming she’s fine because she refused for so long?

(If the reason is really due to premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, then I’ve got a series that would be more useful here.)

I think in most cases it’s the last–he’s oblivious. As Shaunti Feldhahn showed in her book Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, in about 90% of marriages the spouse honestly wants the best for the other spouse–even during times of conflict. Most spouses really do want the other spouse to be happy. So for most couples in this situation, the problem is likely that he just doesn’t know. If it’s something more sinister you really have that to deal with before you look at the orgasm issue. So let’s assume, just for now, that it is ignorance. Then what?

I have four suggestions that may work, but not all will be applicable in every marriage. Pick the one that works best for you!

1. Talk To Him About It

Often we’re looking for a magic answer that solves the problem without us having to have an awkward conversation or open up a can of worms. But very rarely is there such an answer.

Usually you just have to talk. Pick a time that you’re not stressed, that you have a day stretching out before you, and most of all–when you’re not in the middle of having sex!

Phrase the problem as one you both have, not something that he is to blame for. For instance, “I’ve been feeling unsatisfied lately with sex. Can we talk about how to make sure that it’s good for both of us?” is better than, “You always get to feel great while I’m left really frustrated, and it’s not fair!”

And ask for feedback from him, too. Chances are there are things you can do differently, too, and if he feels free to share things and you take them seriously, he’s more likely to listen to your thoughts.

31 Days to Great SexMany couples have found the easiest way to talk about sex is to work through my book, 31 Days to Great Sex. You just read 2-4 pages together at night and then do the challenge–which is always fun! And each challenge builds on the one before. You’ll find challenges on how to make her feel great as well, and if you just can’t seem to make him understand during a conversation, try reading the book together!

2. Be More Dominant in Bed

No, I’m not talking about domination and submission here. I just mean that if you want to feel good, you may have to start taking a more active role in bed. If sex is something he primarily does while you lie there, that’s probably the hardest way to reach orgasm for a woman.

So you be the one to start the encounter with foreplay. Rub your body against his in a way that you like. Take his hand and put it where it needs to be. When intercourse starts, you be the one to choose the position. If you sense that he’s getting close before you are, stop for a minute and do something that feels good to you (like rubbing again) while he gets a chance to calm down. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but he’s more likely to see what it is you need, and you’re more likely to get it!

3. Play Teacher

I really recommend this game to couples more often! Decide that you will play teacher and student (either on the same night or different nights). One night he gets to teach you how to make him feel great, and one night you teach him. And be as strict as you can! If it’s not exactly right, tell him. Order him around. But then let him do it to you on your night.

How this game works best: If you’re entirely out of character. If you act like yourself, but you’re just making suggestions, you’ll likely be too timid and he won’t take it as seriously. If, on the other hand, you both start acting more stern, it will be far funnier and more intense and you’ll feel less awkward.

I really do believe that most reasons that men don’t satisfy their wives is simply ignorance. Many men believe their own sexual response is the norm–fast, easy to achieve. So a woman should figure out how to become a man in bed, essentially. Men may not have articulated that, but that’s the thought. It doesn’t work! Let him see what it is like to make you feel good, and what it does take, and he may become more generous.

4. Have His and Her Nights

Finally, if he just won’t get it, then suggest that you have “his” and “her” nights over the course of the month. Some nights can be just normal, but let’s say two Saturdays a month are her nights and two are his nights. And on her nights, you get to decide exactly what you want him to do. As long as it’s reciprocated on his nights, he may be more eager. And once he understands what you like and see the response it gets, he may be more likely to do some of these things on “normal” nights, too.

What if none of these things works? Then you really do have an issue with selfishness in your marriage, and that is what needs to be dealt with–not the sex. But I really think for most couples it’s usually ignorance–ignorance of how a woman’s body works, and ignorance that it’s actually bothering you. Men hear so much that women don’t enjoy sex, after all, that they may honestly think you don’t care and you’d rather have it over with quickly.

So talk to him, try some of these things, and give it some time. And hopefully pretty soon you’ll be satisfied in bed, too.

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

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

Find out more here.


Reader Question: How Do Spouses Run a Business Together?

Reader Question of the WeekEvery Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. This week’s has to do with a husband and wife working together: can you run a business with your husband without getting into conflict?

A reader writes:

I am a stay at home mom and my husband works from home as well. We run a small business, I handle the admin and he is the artist. We had a big adjustment when our baby arrived and my husband did not do well on lack of sleep. It resulted in us being very late on all of our client orders. This stresses me out to no end, while my husband doesn’t seem all that bothered by it. I can’t stand it when he takes naps or sleeps in during the day when he should be working. I am up all night with the baby so he can sleep, and he still does this. We are far behind and our clients are starting to complain. As the manager in our business, it is extremely hard not to become a nag to him, or see him as one big long to-do list. How do I separate my husband as ‘husband’ from an ’employee’ who is, quite frankly, slacking off. He has also become quite addicted to a game on his phone (he admits this, but hasn’t stopped it). I try and keep busy out of the house during the day, but when things keep not getting done, it’s causing some serious problems in our relationship. Even if we try and do something as a family, I still can’t seem to quiet the feeling that he really should be spending the time getting caught up on our clients so that we can breathe. What do I do?

I can’t tell this particular woman what to do because I don’t know her financial situation, their education or skill levels, how easy it will be to get other jobs, etc. But I would like to just mention a few big things about a husband and wife working together, and give us a way to think about the BUSINESS side of how to work with your spouse–or whether we should be running a business together in the first place. (Tomorrow we’ll look at the marriage side!)

The hardest part of marriage is communication. And the hardest part of getting along well at work is communication. Put the two together–and it’s really tough! So it’s just essential to put things in place so that these conversations are automatic, natural, and expected. Then business problems are far less likely to derail your marriage. Here’s how:

Running a Business with Your Husband: When husband and wife working together doesn't work for the marriage--and putting steps in place so that it might again!

When Husbands and Wives Have a Business: Sorting out the Business Side

1. Create a Business Plan

Often we end up “falling” into a business together because one person has an idea or a skill, and we run with it. But unless your roles are clearly spelled out, and unless you know what you’re aiming for, you’ll have no way of judging whether the enterprise is working well or not.

For instance, let’s say that you figure out that if one of you worked full time and one of you worked part time you could make $60,000 a year. You may decide that if you both were able to work from home that would be worth about $10,000 to you. So if you could generate $50,000 from a home-based business, that would be a win-win.

But unless you’ve sat down and talked about it and come up with that number, how do you know whether continuing in the business is worth it?

So you need to write a business plan. That sounds really scary, because it involves numbers and goals and honestly taking a realistic look at what your business can accomplish. But you need something on paper. Here are two books that can help you do this:

The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan: A Pro Shares a Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Plan That Gets ResultsThe Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan

Here’s a simple book outlining how to create a business plan that’s measurable–and that works!

Everything you need for a step-by-step traditional plan with revenue goals, competition, and more.

Seriously, I wish they taught this stuff in school.

The Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for SuccessThe Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success

Our letter writer is married to an artist–and many businesses are more creative in nature. If you’re a creative type, and the thought of sitting down with checklists and a calculator paralyzes you, here’s another way to go about creating a business plan that’s more intuitive.

It’s colorful, it’s bright, and it’s all about brainstorming, and you and your husband may find this a more palatable way of getting your thoughts and goals down on paper.

2. Treat Yourselves as Employees with “Measurables”

Once you’ve figured out your business plan it’s time to figure out what each person needs to do. Write up job descriptions for both of you. What are you each responsible for? That’s the big picture.

Now for the day-to-day. Within your job responsibilities, create to-do lists with definite deadlines. Post these somewhere where both of you can see them–or use an online system so that you can look at the to-do lists. Know what needs to be done when, so that you can also know when you’re late.

What happens if you work for someone else and something doesn’t get done? You stay late or you have to come in on the weekend or you have to take work home. It’s expected.

If you’re running a business from home, you have to do the same thing. If deadlines aren’t met, it should be easy to verify that and see it, and then you can talk about how we’re going to meet those deadlines and what that may mean.

I work from home and I know the pull to sometimes have a Netflix marathon instead of getting my work done. I know how easy it is to let yourself get sucked in with all the other things you’d rather be doing–or all the other things around the house that need to be done. But that’s why you need these deadlines and to-do lists so that you can be sure you’re pulling your weight.

Even if you’re not a list type of person, it avoids a lot of potential conflict if the deadlines are there for everyone to see. It keeps people accountable without one person having to nag.

Husband and wife running a business together: how to evaluate if it's working

3. Have Regular Evaluations for Your Business

In the workplace people have performance evaluations, usually on an annual or semi-annual basis. Do the same thing with your business–plan that once every six months, or at least once a year, you will take off for a day, without the kids, take out your business plan, and see if you’re sticking to it. Where are our finances? Are we doing well? Should we be putting more resources into advertising? Into new product creation? Are we each pulling our weight?

Again, if this is a regularly scheduled thing than there won’t be tension around it. Often what happens when spouses work together is that we find it difficult to critique one another or to bring up the hard questions. It seems as if we’re criticizing or we’re mad, when really we just may have legitimate business concerns. And because the marriage is involved, it seems as if bringing up a business issue actually could undermine the relationship. So sometimes we say nothing and choose to stew instead.

If, on the other hand, you have regularly-scheduled times to check in and to plan and evaluate, then you have a natural time to have these conversations without them having to reflect on the marriage.

My husband and I set aside twice a year to look at our schedules, figure out when I’m going to speak, what conferences he’ll take, and pray and plan together about where we each should be putting our energy and effort in the upcoming year. We don’t work together (well, not yet anyway), but each of our businesses affects the other, so we have to plan together. And I find that having those planning meetings helps me stay on track, and forces me to take a long, hard look at what’s working, and what’s not.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Look for Alternatives if the Husband and Wife Business Isn’t Working

Part of the evaluation and the business plan always needs to be the two questions: “is this business worth continuing?” And “are we both the best choice of people to work in it?” Sometimes a business may be worth it, but one spouse may be getting so busy with a different job, or with caring for kids, that hiring outside help may be wiser. Sometimes the business may be expanding so much that having a spouse do the bookkeeping really isn’t working anymore–you need an honest-to-goodness accountant.

And sometimes, like in the case of this letter writer, one spouse may just be refusing to work, which makes the business itself not viable.

Trying to keep a business going at home when one spouse isn’t working on it is likely to kill both the business and the marriage–or at least do serious damage. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a marriage is to say, “I love you, but I don’t think working together in a business is good for us or our family. I’d like to look at alternatives to bringing in some income.”

Now, there may be periods where you spouse needs some grace. If your spouse has an idea for a business that is going to take several years to really see fruit, you may very well owe it to your spouse to stick in there–just like you might support a spouse while they went to law school or med school. You know those three or four (or more!) years are going to be awful, but you put the time in because of the reward at the end, and because you know it’s important to your husband.

And sometimes, like with this couple, huge changes come like the birth of a baby and you both need some time for adjustment.

But when it’s a chronic thing and the business just isn’t going well, there should be clearly defined measures when you know, “it’s time to part.” Nagging someone or being upset at someone isn’t viable in the long term. Personally, I think if you can financially handle it, it’s better for one of you to stop working in the business than for that business to always be a source of tension.

Tomorrow, on our Top 10 Tuesday post, we’ll look at how to make marriage and business work together from the MARRIAGE standpoint. But today, for those of you husbands and wives who have run businesses together, let me know: how did you figure out who did what? How did you keep each other accountable?

Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

I get a lot of reader’s questions like this one:

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.

And here is one woman’s answer to rebuilding trust after a porn addiction…welcome Jen Ferguson from Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood

I was in my bed sobbing uncontrollably.  The revelation hit me in the gut and never have I felt so alone as I did in that moment. The reality of my life hit me: I cannot trust anyone not to let me down.

Thankfully, with the new morning came new light into my darkness: No one is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes, including me. People will fail me, but this does not make all relationships destined for failure.

That wisdom right there seemed to right my sinking ship. Suddenly, I had gone from shipwrecked to being fortified with a grace I hadn’t known I was withholding from people in my life, primarily from my husband. For years we had battled together against his porn addiction.  Never did I consider divorce, but looking back at it, never did I consider living into the fullness of marriage again, either. For years I could not bear to think about trusting Craig again.

Could I ever stop my suspicions he would one day return to porn?  Would I ever be able to talk to him about his addiction without accusation and fear?  The truth was, I could give him my body in the bedroom, but could I ever truly again give him my heart?

Realizing my own fallibilities was the first step in helping me to rebuild trust in my husband. How many times had I hurt him over and over in the same manner?  I was not a white lamb in this relationship. My blemishes, though different than his, were still sins for which I needed forgiveness and grace. It was me that was placing his sin on a grander scale than my own. This was certainly not how God saw it.  Sin is sin.

Rebuilding trust was a dual effort for us. Yes, he had betrayed me by using pornography and needed to show me that he was actively pursing a life without it. But, truthfully, I had lost some of his trust, too. When I first discovered his porn addiction, I went into “control” mode. I watched over his every move. I accused him before listening to him. I became a parent instead of a spouse. I let my anger rule my words.  We both had to come to a place of acknowledging our own needs for forgiveness and recognize our marriage wouldn’t thrive without a foundation of trust.

Four Steps to Go from Ruin to Reunion

1. He communicates with me and I listen.

One of Craig’s major triggers that would propel him into his porn addiction cycle was stress.  When things felt too hard or too much, when he felt as though he was at risk for failing or rejection, he would shut me out and get lost in the world of porn for release and escape.  Before he really became invested in freedom, I would ask him questions, knowing something was wrong, and he would simply give me a pat answer like “things are busy at work.”  Now, he knows I know when something is bothering him and he is willing to sit down with me and be real and honest with what is happening and how he is responding to those situations.

2.  I respond with wisdom and he listens. 

One day, Craig’s friend invited him over to watch the TV show, Game of Thrones. I happened to see part of one episode the previous season and I knew there was nudity in it.  When I saw the invitation on Craig’s computer, my first reaction (that thankfully, I kept in my head) was “No! You can’t do that! It’s not good for you!”  If I had said that, I would have regressed back into my fear-based, parenting-like behavior, where he felt disrespected.  Instead, I simply told him how I thought the show might trigger him back into porn and asked him to pray about whether or not he should view the show. He ended up not going, not because I demanded him to stay home, but because God led him to the conclusion that watching nudity on TV would not be conducive to his walk toward freedom. He felt respected by the fact that I asked him to fully consider the ramifications and seek God instead of shouting at him about what he should or shouldn’t do.

3.  He accepts accountability.

I know the password to all of Craig’s electronic devices and have permission at any time to view anything on them. There is a password on our cable account that restricts adult entertainment access and MA-rated television shows and movies that only I have (which he asked me to put on). He has a regular group of friends he can count on to pray for him and from whom he seeks counsel. All of these things give me tangible ways to see that he is trying to keep himself safe from things that could easily ensnare him.

4. We forgive each other continually.

We must make it a practice to forgive and extend grace. We will both mess up in a variety of ways, but instead of using these mistakes as ammunition against each other to try to prove that we are not trustworthy, we choose to use them so to practice the character of Jesus, who always extends forgiveness.

Rebuilding trust does not happen overnight and it can feel like an impossible goal, but with God, anything is possible. Trust is a crucial piece to your marriage and it will not thrive without it. God knows this and He will actively help you rebuild it. You’re not in it alone.

 

Jen FergusonJen Ferguson is passionate about Jesus, her husband, and her two girls. She is the facilitator of The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood and loves to encourage women to bring their true selves out into the light.  She is the co-author of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.  

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Have some marriage advice? Leave a comment, or link up a URL of your own Wifey Wednesday marriage post in the linky below!

This Wifey Wednesday we talk about how to rebuild when he’s the one who has sinned sexually. Next Wednesday we’ll look at how to rebuild trust when it’s been you–especially if you’ve been withholding sex, and now you want to change but your husband doesn’t trust you yet.



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

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

Find out more here.