Deciding to Think Differently About Sex

New Attitude Towards Sex

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

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

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

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

Emails like that just make my day! Woo hoo!

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

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

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

And that can lead to a very lonely marriage.

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

Let me get really graphic for a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Marriage Advice

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

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



Wifey Wednesday: Sex and the Gospel

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

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

It’s Easy to Be Blind

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

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

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

…And then comes the Gospel

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

Nothing looks the same.

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

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

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

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

What Is Hard to See

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

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

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

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

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

Why It’s So Important To See

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

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

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

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

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

 

Christian Marriage Advice

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

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

 

Embrace Your Marriage Virtual Retreat: Embrace Grace!

Embrace Your Marriage Virtual Marriage Retreat

It’s a new school year, and a time of new beginnings! For the last few Septembers I’ve joined in a “virtual marriage retreat” with a bunch of other great marriage bloggers to encourage us all to intentionally build our marriages. Every Monday in September six bloggers will all be posting on the same thing–with our own twist to it! You can read our posts, and then click through the links at the bottom to read everyone else’s.

Today’s theme is Embracing Grace, and I was thinking about my own unique take on that. I don’t want all of us to write the same thing, of course!

Now I write a ton about the importance of sex, but does that have to do with grace? And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it did. I know others will be writing on forgiveness, and so here are some different thoughts on how we can make grace tangible in our marriages–by realizing the importance of sex as a vehicle to show love.

What is grace?

The definition is “unmerited favour”–showing someone favour not because they deserve it but because you want to. Jesus, of course, was the perfect example of grace, forgiving us not because of what we did but because of the price He already paid. And He asks us to show grace to others, too.

Let me suggest that one of the best ways to demonstrate grace is through the act of making love.

The importance of sex: How giving freely can change everything! #marriage

Let’s dissect this: what about the word “unmerited”?

How many times do we diminish the importance of sex by saying “I’ll only have sex if he deserves it”?

We may not use those words, but picture this: you’re lying in bed and you’re tired. He’s tired, too, but you know that a lot of your exhaustion is because you were running around all day with HIS kids, and he did little to help. And you shouldn’t HAVE to have sex when you’re tired!

Or perhaps it’s not exhaustion as much as it is feeling distant. You haven’t had time to talk in a while because you’re both so busy with work, and he doesn’t seem to miss you as much as you miss him, and it hurts. Or perhaps he’s been working late a lot lately and your life has become entirely the kids, and he doesn’t seem to be bridging the gap. Why should you reach out to him when you feel hurt?

I understand. I really do.

But here’s the thing:

Men make love to feel loved, whereas women need to feel loved to make love.

When we feel distant, we tend to withdraw. To our husbands, that seems as if we don’t love them, because to them, the way to bridge the gap isn’t to talk, or spend time together, or be affectionate. Those are all nice, and men do enjoy them, but their primary way to experience love is through sex. When we start holding back, he feels unloved. And if he feels unloved, it’s hard for him to reach out to us.

Here’s where the “favour” part matches up with the importance of sex in your marriage.

When you make love to him, he experiences that as “favour”. It turns the whole relationship upside down for him. No longer does he feel distant; he now feels connected.

Sex is like your secret weapon–it’s just so powerful to turn your relationship around. When he makes love to you, he feels loved, and his body releases oxytocin, the “bonding hormone”, which makes him feel closer to you and more positive towards you. That’s why the day after sex he often laughs so much with you! So if what you dream of is a marriage where you feel one and where you have fun and feel like you can communicate, it can start with sex.

Over this month in our Embrace Your Marriage retreat we’re going to look at the different aspects of marriage where we can grow. But let me suggest to you that if you start making love more, right off the bat, you’ll likely have an easier time feeling loved, forgiving, reaching out, and growing your friendship. He feels positively towards you, you feel closer to him, you laugh more–and everything gets easier. So instead of thinking of sex as the LAST thing you fix, recognize the importance of sex and make it one of the FIRST.

The message of grace is showing unmerited favour. You don’t have to wait for him to deserve it, or to do everything right, or for YOU to get it all together. You can jump start that process.

Good Girls Guide My SiteNow, hold on a second! What if sex doesn’t feel pleasurable for you? What if it creeps you out because of past abuse? What if you’ve lost your libido? What if you’d LOVE to have more sex, but HE doesn’t want to? I know that many of us struggle with prioritizing sex because of all kinds of issues, and I don’t want you to live like that or settle for less than what God designed marriage to be.

In my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex I address all of these issues–and more–at length, so that you really can enjoy a great sexual relationship with your husband. Check it out!

 

Recently I ran a post by a woman who said that she had stopped having sex in her marriage because of kids, and work, and exhaustion–and then she realized how distant they were. When she started making love again, everything changed.

If you struggle with sex for various reasons, get the book! But if it’s just that you’ve fallen into a rut, think tonight about how you can give your husband UNMERITED FAVOUR. Give him something he will interpret as a gift, whether or not he’s reached out to you lately.

Here’s today’s Embrace Grace Challenge (that all of us bloggers are encouraging you to do!): Before you can extend grace to others, you should start with the preparation of a pure and tender heart. Pray asking God for wisdom and guidance in this area. Think of how God’s grace has impacted your life, and acknowledge the areas where you have been forgiven

All the participating bloggers have their own unique take on grace in marriage, so please visit them to get some other ideas of how to make grace relevant in your marriage!

Darlene: The Time Warp Wife
Lisa: Club 31 Women
Jennifer: Unveiled Wife
Courtney: Women Living Well
Ashleigh: Ashleigh Slater

A note to my regular readers: I know usually on Monday I post reader questions. I’m going to try to scatter them throughout the week in September, and then in October we’ll get back to Mondays again!

We Stopped Having Sex–and Here’s What I Learned

We Stopped Having Sex--what it did to our marriage, and why I'm glad we started again“We stopped having sex.”

A woman wrote her story on my Facebook Page yesterday, and I thought it was worth sharing with you, and could help clarify perhaps my thinking around the post yesterday–“Should you have sex even if you don’t feel like it?”

I’ll share her comment in just a moment, but first a few quick things!

I’ve been camping for a week so I wasn’t active in the comments, but I’m thrilled you all liked my post about what to do with your wedding dress so much. Boy, did that get shared! That post meant a lot to me, so I’m glad it touched you all, too.

Now, a few things about yesterday’s post.

I totally get what some people were saying about the word “duty”. As soon as we make sex into a duty, we make it EXTREMELY unsexy. I don’t think that’s the way Lindsay meant it, though, but I’ve actually written about how unsexy obligation sex is before, too.

We’re not arguing you should let your husband use you!

Neither Lindsay nor I was arguing that you should just say to your husband, “you can if you want to”, especially if you really don’t want to. That’s not really making love. That’s letting him use you. And that’s rather unsettling.

What we were saying was this:

If this is something your husband really wants (and some could argue needs on a regular basis), then why not just jump in? It’s our attitude that is the key. If we say to ourselves, “I don’t want to do this, and I hate doing this, but I’ll just get through it,” you will hate it. If you say to yourself, “what a great chance to bond when I feel rather icky. Maybe this can change the whole dynamic,” you’ll likely enjoy it.

It all depends on how you think about it!

Let’s do a Thought Experiment: What if you stop having sex?

What would happen to your marriage? Here’s what one of my readers wrote on Facebook:

I have to be honest and I’ve never told anyone this.

I have been married almost 10 years and we did not have sex before marriage. I expected it to be great, especially since we waited like God had asked of us.

Life went on and it really wasn’t a priority for me. Wasn’t that it was bad, I just had too much on my plate in my mind. We worked different shifts at our jobs (worked for same company) but enjoyed each other when we had time to spend together–usually out to dinner or a movie.

Then after 3 years we got pregnant. My husband was just convinced we shouldn’t have sex during pregnancy…And I was okay with this. What a dummy I was! We were not intimate at all for almost a year.

Then after our son came, it didn’t pick up immediately. I was over tired and was NOT in the mood what soever. I was not too excited about the extra weight from my pregnancy and I became a stay at home mother stuck in the frump that can often come with it.

Shockingly (sarcasm), we started to really go through rough patches. Sex was still not a priority for me and I couldn’t figure out why he just wasn’t listening to me! I was his wife. I thought he was my best friend. What had happened to us?!

We had another child almost 2 1/2 years after our son. Obviously we did have sex a few times during that time but to be honest it was a chore now. Then after our daughter and son turned 3 and 5, I had had enough. He works 6 days a week and is tired to do too much on the one day off he has. I stay home all day with the kids and about to start homeschooling….I need some time alone! So when we did have any time together, I just preferred to not be touched, loved on and pretty soon I didn’t even like him to kiss me.

One day I finally got on my knees and poured my heart to God. I surrendered myself and everything to Him and asked what could I do to bring my husband and I back to what we once had….really, better than ever. One thing was to start praying for a heart for my husband again. I wanted to work on me for once and not pray that he would change like I had for years before. I prayed I would enjoy his touch again, etc. Then one day I read a blog (maybe this one) that talked about stop saying no! Take a challenge to stop saying no to your husband no matter what.

Sounds primitive to most but I was willing to give it a try. What could it hurt?

But I didn’t even get a chance to it in action…the more I was praying, the more I was wanting him more than I ever had! Even times that I was so exhausted and got in the shower (where I do a lot of my praying), I was anxious to get out and spend time with him. Sometimes that led into sex but sometimes it was just being together and NOT him on the sofa and me in the chair across the room…like it had been for years.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I didn’t feel like it but I just knew it would be better in the long run if I did because it brought us closer than I could ever explain. My husband is a very personal person and still has a hard time opening up to me, even after all these years, but started to almost immediately. I’m not saying it was all me during all these years but I can honestly say that when I stopped taking the focus off myself and what I deserved, I started seeing my husband and our sex life very differently. I am not saying sex is the answer to everything but it should does bring a closeness that you may otherwise never get–especially with spouses that have a hard time communicating. I hope this some how helps with the conversation and even a situation someone is dealing with today. I’ve never told a soul but I felt led to take to speak up after reading this.

Thank you for sharing that comment! I do believe that that story will resonate with a lot of women. Most of us have been there. We stop making love for a variety of reasons–we’re tired, there are babies, maybe a few health concerns–and then we find our marriage drifting and we don’t know why.

Let’s make sex back into a priority!

And so here are a few other posts that can help you do that, that may apply to your specific situation:

Good Girls Guide My SiteBut what if sex actually hurts? Do I still have to?

No–you have to figure out why it hurts! This post on vaginismus may help. I also have quite the section in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex for women struggling with this.

But why should I have to fake it? So what if he needs sex–aren’t my needs important, too?

Yes, absolutely. And that’s why I believe that sex should be mutual. But here’s the thing–you, as a woman, actually control your sex drive. He doesn’t. That’s because our sex drives are almost entirely in our heads. So we have to get our heads in the game and start anticipating sex ourselves.

What about other problems–like porn, or sex not feeling good, or past abuse issues?

Many of us have reasons that sex isn’t really happening, and I’ve written so much on this subject it’s hard to point to every possible relevant post. We’re all coming from different places. But I do have a round-up post of different marriage and sex advice that talks about all of these different issues. Chances are you can find a link to your own obstacle there.

31 Days to Great SexAnd almost all of the obstacles I can think of are dealt with in 31 Days to Great Sex. It’s a great one to work through with your hubby!

So please understand–I am not saying that we should let ourselves become some sort of receptacle for our husbands. Absolutely not! But sex was created to be something beautiful between you and your husband. It binds you together. It helps you sleep better! It helps you feel closer and helps you communicate. And it was meant to be fun. If it isn’t doing those things in your marriage, then take the initiative to do something about it. Don’t just stop having sex–figure out what the problem is and throw your energy into fixing it. Your marriage is worth more than just a hum-drum existence. When we prioritize sex again, we can find that marriage becomes so much more invigorating!

Don’t miss out on that. Please.

 

Should You Have Sex Even if You Don’t Feel Like It?

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Recently I noticed a great post linked up in the comments by one of my frequent readers–Lindsay Harold from Lindsay’s Logic, answering the question “what should you do if you don’t feel like having sex?”

She was responding to some major controversy she started on the Matt Walsh Blog in the comments section, leaving a comment about sex which generated over 1,300 likes and dozens of comments in the first 24 hours. So she turned it into a post, and then said I could feel free to post it, too.  Here’s Lindsay:

I wrote on Matt Walsh’s blog comments:

“Feminism told them that it’s degrading to be a stay-at-home mom or to submit to a husband or to want a lot of children. They should never have sex with their husbands unless they feel like it. They should never let a man make decisions for their family.”


Specifically, a lot of people had a problem with the second sentence in that quote. They objected to the idea that a woman should ever have sex with her husband when she doesn’t feel like it.

But I absolutely stand by that statement. I think it’s perfectly normal and right for a woman to have sex with her husband even when she doesn’t feel like having sex.

In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that a woman ought to have sex with her husband even when she doesn’t feel like it – at least sometimes.

Should You Have Sex with Your Hubby--even if you don't feel like it?

That sounds like a radical idea, I know. Our society has become so feminized that this idea is actually considered crazy or weird or somehow the same as saying women should be raped. It’s not.

You see, there are lots of things we do that we don’t feel like doing.

I don’t always feel like getting up in the morning, making breakfast, feeding my kids, cleaning the house, changing diapers, going to the store, or a million other things I do. But I do them because they need to be done and because I love my family. My feelings don’t rule me. I make decisions based on love for my family and what needs to be done to care for their needs.

It should be the same in for caring for my husband’s needs, including his need for sex.

Of course, the usual response at this point is to ask whether I consider sex some painful, unpleasant duty. I get people saying my sex life must be horrible. On the contrary.

It is a modern and erroneous notion that “duty” is a bad word and the opposite of “pleasant.”

But that is a false dichotomy. There is no inherent reason that duties cannot be pleasant. Nor does doing something out of duty mean that one cannot enjoy it. Of course, not all duties are fun, but they don’t have to be unpleasant simply because we have a duty to do them.

For example, I may not feel, at the moment, like taking my girls outside to play. It’s hot. I’m tired. I have dishes to do. But they want to play outside and the fresh air and sunshine will do them good. So I go because I love them and have a duty to care for their needs. One of their needs is play time and time with mommy. But once we’re outside, we have a great time and I’m glad I did it. Duty, in this case, was not preventing me from having fun. In fact, duty helped me overcome laziness, lower priority tasks, and distractions that would have prevented me from having fun with my girls.

There are many other things which work similarly. I have a duty to read and study the Bible, and I enjoy it. I have a duty to feed my family, and I also enjoy it. I have a duty to vote and participate in my government, and I don’t find that duty horrid or burdensome. I have a duty to be a witness to those around me, and I find that duty agreeable.  I have a duty to clean my house…ok, maybe I don’t necessarily enjoy that one, but it isn’t some horrible thing I do just because I have to either. I do it because I love my family. And having a clean home is certainly enjoyable.

In the same way, I have a duty to have sex with my husband, and I also enjoy it greatly. There is no contradiction there.

Another thing to consider is the design of female sexuality. Women are less likely than men to be aroused out of the blue. We women often need touch, closeness, and the right mindset to get us in the mood for sex. If a wife is waiting for the mood to strike her before she says yes, it may be a long time and it will take a toll on their marital intimacy. Thus, women who go ahead and engage (not just laying there, but actively participating), even if they weren’t initially in the mood, will often find that they warm up as they go along and end up enjoying it. And the emotional intimacy that comes from physical intimacy will strengthen the marriage and bring husband and wife closer together.

So, if duties aren’t necessarily unpleasant or a hardship and women can often enjoy sex if they will choose to engage, then pointing out the duty to have sex within marriage doesn’t mean that sex becomes unpleasant or forced. Sure, it could be that way if you let it. But it doesn’t have to be. If you have the right mindset, recognizing the duty to have sex can help you overcome laziness, lower priorities, and distractions that would prevent you from having the vibrant, intimate, and fun sex life that God intended you to have in your marriage.

I appreciate the flak that Lindsay took for this, because I had to write a post defending something I said in similar vein a few years ago–when I had some feminist groups saying I advocated rape when I said that wives should try to have sex if their husbands wanted it, even if they didn’t always feel like it. My response to their criticism is here–being selfless in marriage. I wish people could see that marriage isn’t a trap; it’s a chance where both spouses can give!

 

LindsayHaroldLindsay Harold is a preacher’s daughter and a former homeschooler with a Master’s degree in Biology. Until recently, she taught college biology courses (including General Biology and Human Anatomy and Physiology). She is now a blogger and stay at home mom of two little girls, ages 2-1/2 and 1. She and her husband, Doug, live on a small farm in the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia.

Lindsay writes about Biblical worldview, marriage and family, inalienable rights, politics, creation/evolution, and a variety of other topics on her blog, Lindsay’s Logic. She and her husband also write a blog together called The Rational Abolitionist where they make a logical and scientific case for ending legal abortion.

Wifey Wednesday: Why Massage Can SuperCharge a Marriage

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wednesday, the day when I always talk marriage! And today I thought I’d share about one of my favourite parts about being married: massages.

I carry stress in my shoulders and back, and I’ve actually thrown out my lower back four times in the last two years–to the extent that I have to lie flat on my back for several days. My husband has dutifully stepped up to the plate and gives me an awesome massage several times a week, and it’s starting to prevent the back spasms.

But even more lovely, it sends my nerves a-firing! And that’s good, because I’m one of those type-A personalities who focuses intensely at whatever it is I’m doing, so I find it very hard to transition the the “next” thing. That’s probably why I write so much about how to prepare for sex earlier in the day, or how to get your head in the game. It’s challenging for me.

I’ve found that massage helps me immensely, though, because I start focusing on how my body feels. And when I’m focusing on my body, rather than my to-do list, my libido often kicks in!

My next goal is to start massaging my husband.

I’ve only done it a few times because, to be honest, he finds other physical things more relaxing. :) But I figure–why not prolong the contact? Why not massage for a while first before we move on to the main event–wouldn’t that be more intimate, more relaxing, and more fun? So I’m going to suggest it.

But I don’t just mean I’ll rub his back for five minutes. I mean I want to learn how to stretch those 5 minutes into a 10, 15… 20 minute massage. Because then we have this lovely experience to build trust, supercharge your intimacy and leave the two of us relaxed and bonded.

Melt — Massage for Couples — Click Here

Massage in Marriage

1. Massaging each other is an opportunity to slow down together

High-speed internet. 24 hour email access. Real-time status updates. We live in a fast-paced world. It can be hard to switch off and slow down when our brains are accustomed to multi-tasking at a hundred miles an hour, all day, every day.

Sitting down to a decadent massage together provides a rare opportunity to stop and be together, focused entirely on each other. For just 30 minutes, you can dim the lights, play some soft music and treat each other to a muscle-melting massage.

Everything else can just fade away and the two of you can just breathe, and be.

2. Massage in marriage will bring you deliciously closer together

There’s a slew of research to show that giving your spouse a massage enhances your intimate connection and builds trust in your marriage.

Intimacy is a requirement for healthy relationships, but it doesn’t always come automatically. We need to make space and time to foster our intimate connections, and massaging each other is one very simple way to do that.

On top of the time you spend together, you very literally have your hands on each other, helping to reinforce the intimate bond. As you start to work knots from aching muscles and your partner falls back into you, you can take that as a sign of complete trust. Keith really likes the sounds I make, too! :)

The entire experience is seriously incredible. And, if you are both so inclined, it can lead to a wonderfully intimate and steamy sex session, too.

3. Massage will make your spouse feel appreciated

We don’t mean to take our nearest and dearest for granted, but sometimes after years in a marriage, we might slip up on that front every now and then.

Treating your husband to a massage is a beautiful way to show him that he’s very much appreciated and loved. In fact it hits almost every Love Language, if you think about it.

Massage very clearly speaks to the Physical Touch love language, of course. But if you think about it, it’s also Quality Time spent together, it’s an Act of Service (especially if you don’t ask for one in return!) and if you play your cards right it can make for a gorgeous gift… just package up some massage oil and a scented candle in a big bow and then go on to actually massage your husband and watch him melt with joy.

One thing I’ve realized after several treatments by Registered Massage Therapists over this last year, though, is that you can do massage wrong. And when you do it right, it doesn’t hurt the person doing the massaging (how often have you tried to massage and ended up with a sore hand or a sore thumb?). Massaging properly is easier than you think!

When Denis Merkas, a Registered Massage Therapist, contacted me about the MELT: Massage for Couples video series  he did with his wife Emma, I was really excited (and not just because I got to watch the videos, too!). I really do think this can lead to closer marriages, and can help to reduce stress for both of you. If you’re worried that your husband will never understand how much you need massage, asking him to watch these with you and practice what you’ve learned together is a great way to bring something that most of us sorely need into our marriage.

webresnobrainer

Here are a few things I loved about the MELT series:

1. Denis keeps things PG-rated.

Sure, there’s romantic music and the couple is massaging each other, but clothes stay on, and the focus is on learning how to give a massage. (yes, she’s wearing a strapless top, but that’s so you can see the proper technique on her shoulders). As Denis says, if things lead somewhere else, that’s fine–but that’s not what his video series is trying to teach you. So you don’t have to worry that this is pornographic in nature! It isn’t–it really is just about learning technique.

2. I learned that I was seriously overemphasizing the Deep Tissue stuff–so I was massaging wrong

Because I usually beg Keith to give me a massage when I’m in agony, he usually plunges right to deep tissue stuff. But what I’ve learned is that the LO-O-O-NG strokes (Denis calls them “Long Sexy Strokes”!) are so important first. Now when I’m massaging my girls (my oldest daughter especially carries a ton of tension in her shoulders and upper back, too), I’m going to start with these long strokes. It’s so much more effective.

3. The videos are short to watch together

It’s not like you have to sit through an hour long video or anything. Each video is under 5 minutes, and focuses on learning one technique. About 6 videos form a series, and there are 3 series altogether: The Basic Strokes, the Highlights, and the Deep Tissue stuff.

webres-traintracks

The Basic Strokes Series teaches you how to actually move your hands to achieve maximum impact–and maximum ooohs and aaaahs. You watch 7 short videos and learn a new technique with each one, and then at the end there’s a 15 minute video that features a routine using all your new techniques.

The Highlights Series is my favourite one. It features special massage techniques for special places–the neck, the arms, the forehead, the rotator cuff. We were actually pretty good at the Deep Tissue massage, but I found some places I didn’t even know I hurt that probably have never been relaxed my whole life. Again, after you watch the nine short videos in this series, there’s a 15 minute massage routine you can do that incorporates all the things you’ve learned.

The Deep Tissue Series focuses on how to use your thumbs to really work out knots. It’s so helpful–and at the end is a 30 minute routine that you can use on each other.

4. Everything builds on each other

The routines at the end of each series incorporate everything you’ve already learned, and so it all builds. Each night you can feel like you’ve learned something new, but at the end of the series you’ll feel as if you’ve really mastered something.

5. They’re easy to watch together and do together.

You just watch one of the short ones a night and then practice on each other. Because you’re watching the technique, it’s easy to say, “I’ll go first, then you try it.” Or, to make it more enticing for him, let him massage you first. That way you can’t fall asleep because you have to massage him afterwards–so he won’t worry that if he massages you the night will be over because you’ll be in dreamland.

I’ve been saying a lot on this blog that it is so important to start going to bed together at the same time so that you have opportunity to connect. Instead of watching one more show on Netflix, or browsing Pinterest, or playing one more video game, this gives you a reason to head to bed. You watch a video, pull out some massage oil, and then do it! And as you touch, it does help nerves to fire. If that leads to something else, woo hoo!

As someone who does carry a lot of stress physically, massage is such a service to me and helps me feel closer to my husband. So many men carry stress on their backs and necks, too, and if we can learn to release that, we can actually change the dynamic in the marriage.

I really encourage you to check out MELT: Massage for Couples.

 

A special promotion has been organised for readers of To Love, Honor and Vacuum, with 50% off retail price for LIFETIME video access to some incredible massage techniques. Visit MELT: Massage for Couples.

Because, as Denis and Emma, the creators of MELT say, every couple deserves a little massage.

Click Here Button

 I’m actually buying a few of these video series myself to give as wedding presents! I like helping people get their marriages off to a good start, so I’ll put an envelope with instructions on how to access the video series in a basket, along with some massage oil, some candles, and a CD with really relaxing music. I think it’ll make a unique and awesome wedding gift! Buy it now as a gift you can give, too.

And now let me get a little more personal. Today is one of the hardest days in a long time for me. Today would have been my son’s eighteenth birthday. I’ll tell you more about him tomorrow, but I’ve been feeling out of sorts for a while now. But what I find is that when we’re going through grief, having someone actually touch you is so incredibly healing, even if you’re tearing up through it. I find massage to be an act of love, and maybe if we included more acts of love in our marriages, we’d find the day to day stresses so much easier to deal with.

Now let me know: do you incorporate massage into your marriage? How does it work for you?

Wifey Wednesday: 5 Reasons Women Need Help from a Tube!

It's okay to get help from a tube! Why lubricants can be helpful (it's a clean post!)

Living as a Northern Gal, never-ending winter isn’t just a source of annoyance. It’s a source of extreme itchiness. I get such dry skin! Every morning, after my shower, I take a few minutes to enjoy the luscious feeling of rubbing moisturizer onto my legs and my torso.

If my hubby wants to make me melt, all he has to do is pull the massage oil out of the drawer and start kneading my back. The oil, combined with the pressure, makes the tension float away–and makes me far more interested in other kinds of slippery pursuits!

Plenty of times I turn to “moisture” to give me a hand at relaxing and feeling wonderful.

And yet somehow we women feel like it would be cheating to turn to some helpful lubricants when it comes to the bedroom. Dry skin? Sure. Sore muscles? But of course! Yet we feel we should be able to defeat hormonal fluctuations or menopause or stress, all of which can cause “dryness” sexually, on our own.

Today, on Wifey Wednesday, I want to sound the freedom beacon to all you women:

It’s okay to grab the tube if you need some extra lube!

Women Naturally Fluctuate in the Amount of Lubrication Our Bodies Produce

Certain times of the month we’ll find that we get “wet” fairly easily–often right in the middle of our cycle (and for some women right after their periods). But other times of the month, especially right before the next period, our bodies don’t tend to cooperate as much.

What’s our reaction?

We often berate ourselves, thinking, “why am I not in the mood tonight?” Or we start getting mad at our husbands: “He’s just not doing it right!” Maybe it’s got nothing to do with either of you!

And don’t forget that nursing, pregnancy, menopause, or even perimenopause can often cause a woman to have trouble with lubrication. Just like once you hit 40 most of us start to need reading glasses, so once you hit menopause most of us have a harder time with natural lubrication. You could be perfectly “turned on”–mentally, emotionally, even physically–but you’re just not lubricated.

Lubrication Helps Us Get Aroused More Easily

My husband Keith can massage me without using massage oil, and it still feels fine. But when he uses oil it feels heavenly! It’s the difference between pressure and friction. Pressure is wonderful, but friction can be annoying.

Sexually, we women tend to work the same way. We like the pressure; but friction doesn’t feel as good. Lubrication helps us just feel the pressure, and not the friction. And when that happens, it’s often easier to get even more aroused. So lube jumpstarts you!

Lubrication Helps You Be More Adventurous

Let’s face it–quickies are fun! Sometimes you want to put those kids in front of a video and head upstairs and play beat the clock. But that’s easier if you don’t need a ton of foreplay to be ready.

And sometimes we just want to try something that’s a tad adventurous, but may not be as comfortable as what you usually do. Lubrication can help new positions feel much better.

Commercial Lubricants Have Gotten Much Better!


Remember the days of KY jelly, when everything felt like thick vaseline? Lubrication was more like a visit to the gynecologist than something fun.

But today’s lubes are much less vaseline-like. And they don’t need to be purchased at an “adult” shop at all! Most drug stores have a great selection. Astro-Glide works well; and many women swear by coconut oil.

So remember, ladies–you are not a failure if you need lube! If you want to have more fun tonight, don’t be afraid to reach for the tube!

Bringing Sexy Back smallEvery Wednesday we talk marriage here at To Love, Honor and Vacuum–and I don’t beat around the bush. But don’t forget that if you want more more marriage info, you can sign up for my marriage newsletter, and get my free ebook, 36 Ways to Bring Sexy Back to Your Marriage!

Christian Marriage Advice

Usually on Wifey Wednesday I provide links to other great blogs with posts on similar subjects. I was just running behind this week and didn’t have time to get some! I’ll be sure to next week. I used to run a linky party, but I found that, unfortunately, a small percentage of the posts being linked really weren’t things I wanted to send people to, and I don’t have time to screen everything. I’m sorry that I can’t run it anymore; I did like you all linking up. It just got too difficult to manage and weed through, and I didn’t want to send people to bad posts. I guess that’s the problem with running a Christian “sex” blog!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Lizard Instincts: How Sexually We’re Going Backwards

Lizard InstinctsMy lizard is either gay or extremely stupid.

We bought him a few years ago as a birthday present for my daughter, and as my luck would have it, my girls decided it would be fun to have baby Spotty’s. Once he reached sexual maturity (don’t even ask how we figured that out), we dutifully borrowed a female leopard gecko from a friend and put them in the same cage.

It was then that Spotty’s lack of normal lizard instincts became apparent. Lizards don’t have much of a brain, but there are two things they’re supposed to be able to do: catch live crickets and mate. He seemed more interested in hiding. In desperation we consulted a lizard specialist (yes, there is such a thing) who suggested that we borrow another male gecko and put him in the cage, too. If Spotty felt the competition, he would perform. That wasn’t exactly the lesson on reproduction I wanted to teach my daughters, so we just told them that the lizards weren’t in love and left it at that.

It occurred to me afterwards, though, that our society increasingly treats sex as if we’re lizards. The wonderful thing about human beings is that sexual intimacy takes place within relationship. For women, especially, that feeling of closeness is necessary before anything else is attempted.

It’s one of the things that separates us from the animal kingdom: the fact that sex is not purely instinctual, but imbued with relational and spiritual components.

Yet on the covers of Cosmopolitan, on reality TV shows, and all over the media women are depicted trying to attract men, with most of their thoughts going towards biceps and other physical traits rather than character or personality. Pornography, of course, takes this to the extreme, but it’s all part of the same continuum. When this is how we frame sex, though, sex becomes something purely physical, rather than relational. We lose out on all the wonder that it can embody. And when our kids get this message, even if it’s inadvertently, it’s even more dangerous.

When we were young, if we wanted to have a glimpse of pornography we had to find our dad’s—or our friend’s dad’s—stash of Playboys. That’s not the case anymore. You just need to know how to use a computer or rent a video. However, to put it mildly, it is not good for a young teen to have his or her first experience with sexuality to be pornographic. It can be very, very harmful. When kids are exposed to pornography at the same time as they are just starting to experience sexual feelings, they’re going to associate those feelings with pornography, rather than with a relationship. They actually can wire their brains to think of the paper image or the computer screen as sexy, rather than relationship, making it more difficult to become attracted later on to your chosen life partner. Relationship isn’t sexy; anonymous stuff is.

As parents, then, we need to keep control of the computer, especially in children’s vulnerable years in their early teens. Put it in the kitchen, rather than a bedroom. Install parental control software. And, perhaps most importantly, be careful where your children hang out. Make your house the preferred hang out by providing lots of snacks and fun, or your kids may gravitate to someone else’s house where the computer is far more accessible.

Finally, let’s make sure we, too, don’t rewire our brains inappropriately. One of the best things in life is feeling that closeness to one’s spouse that derives from true intimacy.

If we need to distance ourselves mentally to feel sexy, then it’s as if we’re not interested in our spouse, but just in a body. The whole relationship is threatened, because it’s clear you’re more interested in a paper image than in the person we’re supposed to love. That kind of rejection can devastate a relationship.

The sexual revolution was supposed to free us by allowing us to explore. I think it actually made us go backwards. Don’t throw something precious away with pornography. Love your spouse, the one relationship where you can be yourself, make mistakes, and have years and years to work on intimacy.

Don’t be a lizard. The crickets are gross, and the sex isn’t much better.

Reader Question: How Do I Defeat Sexual Temptation?

Reader Question of the WeekSexual temptation. We often talk about it in relation to teenagers and young adults who are dating, but they’re not the only ones who face it.

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it, and here’s an important one:

My friend at work told me about your website. I’m in desperate need of some help! My husband and I have been separated for over a year now. I don’t want a divorce, but that’s beside the point at the moment. We have been married for 7 years and since we’ve been separated I still crave sex. I want it. I need it. But he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. He is openly having relationships with other women. So I’m basically on my own. But I struggle with masturbation. It’s becoming very difficult for me. Obviously it would be wrong to engage in that sort of thing with another person, but I can’t help but think about wanting to do that because I’m so desperate. I feel weird talking to my friends about this sort of thing. Can you help me?

I often think that the people who struggle with sexual temptation the most are those who have already been married and know what it’s like to be able to have sex when you want it. When that suddenly comes to a halt–because of separation, divorce, or widowhood–how do you deal with the sexual feelings you have that won’t go away?

When I’m speaking in churches about sex, there’s always at least one woman who comes up and asks me that question. It will go something like: “I was in a bad marriage/bad relationship, and I want to do the next one right. But what do I do now–there’s nothing about how women older than 40 should handle sexual urges.”

I really feel for these women, and so I’ll give just a few thoughts.

Sexual Temptation: It can be worse as an adult after a failed relationship. How do you stay pure then?1. There is No Magic Answer That Ends Sexual Temptation

I really wish there were something easy to tell you, but I can’t. This is a struggle you’re going to deal with, and it likely isn’t going away. I hope I can give you some tips to make it easier to manage, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to end. Sexual temptation is serious; it’s a drive that all of us have, and when you know how great sex can be, and you go for several years or more having sex quite frequently, and all of a sudden you have to quit cold turkey? That’s not easy. And it’s likely even harder than for that 19-year-old who is waiting to get married in the first place.

2. That “Sublimation” Thing Works

Have you ever heard of “sublimation”? Basically it’s a psychological term that means this:

You take the sexual energy that you have, and you “sublimate” it, or push it under the surface but then let it pop up somewhere else. So you take that energy you have for sex, and you divert it into something else.

Some of the best geniuses in history, the most creative people ever, the most active for God–were single who “sublimated” their sexual energy into something else. Michaelangelo painted the Sistine chapel. Single missionaries preached their whole lives. Paul conducted three missionary journeys and founded the church we now share. Sublimation is real.

I know several middle-aged and senior single women who have done so much for God. Many have organized missions trips, or have headed volunteer drives, or have started new ministries altogether. Others have launched businesses. Some have taken up a hobby, like watercolor painting.

When you have something that can consume your creative and mental energy, then the sexual temptation often doesn’t hit as hard.

So pray for passion in your lives. Find something else that you can be passionate about–something that matches your giftings and your heart. When you’re lying in bed, and you’re drifting off to sleep, but your mind is playing over and over some more ideas on how you can expand your business or on how you can grow your ministry, it will be so much easier than if you have nothing else to think about and sexual thoughts enter.

I know I preach often about not being too busy, but there is a time for busy-ness, if it’s simply taking our energy and putting it into something we feel passionately about. It can be one of the best ways to defeat temptation. And the added bonus? The busier you become with a ministry/business, the more likely you’ll run into people who share your values and your dreams–even men.

3. Stay Away from Things That Get Your Mind Going in That Direction

Now take a good hard look at yourself and ask, “what activities tend to make me face more temptation than others?” Is it watching certain types of movies? Reading certain types of books? Being home alone on a Sunday afternoon with nothing to do?

Take a look at your last few weeks and figure out when the temptation has been the worst. What had you just done before that? Can you see a pattern?

If there’s something that sets you off, then as much as possible, stop doing it. If certain media make it hard for you, stop watching that. If being alone is difficult, plan activities or invite people over. Know your own weaknesses.

4. Have a “Go To” Activity When You Face Sexual Temptation

When you do find yourself restless and really fighting sexual temptation, have something that you’ll do. First, of course, pray. And a simple, “God, help me be strong,” is fine. You don’t have to pray something long and elaborate. Just invite God in. That gives Him permission to use His power, but it also reminds you that He is there.

Now have some activity that you’ll do. Maybe it’s doing the dishes, or picking up a rag and starting to dust something. Maybe it’s going and doing 15 minutes on the treadmill or bike. Maybe it’s a C.S. Lewis book beside your bed that you’ll try to read to help your mind go in a different direction when you need to sleep.

Just have a plan–or even several–for what you will do when it hits the hardest.

5. Turn a Bad Day into Good Data

You’re going to mess up. We all do. None of us is perfect. When we do mess up, we often feel so badly. We’re disgusted with ourselves. We cry. We fret. We feel, “I’ll never defeat this.”

But I heard some great advice on a TED Talk recently, and it went like this: “Turn a bad day into good data.”

When you do mess up, remember that this gives you great information on what your triggers are and what your weaknesses are. So you can study that day and ask, “what was different about today than days that I didn’t mess up? Was I more stressed? Was I bored? Was I alone for a longer period of time? Did I watch too many movies?”

If you can figure out what was different, then it gives you strategies so that you can avoid recreating those circumstances later. Look on the times you mess up as research that can help you grow.

6. God Does Want to Help You With This

Remember, you aren’t alone. God does understand, and He does want to help you. When you pray about this, and you’re honest with Him, He will start to give you power to fight back.

Often when we’re feeling sexual temptation, too, it’s tied up in all kinds of other emotions. For widows it’s grief. For this letter writer, it’s rejection and feelings of loneliness. This man that she loved has already moved on with other women. For many of us, it’s also a realization that we’ve made poor choices and we may feel like we’ve now “lost” important years of our lives.

That’s a lot to process.

If you can start working through some of those other emotional and spiritual issues, you may find the sexual temptation lessens a bit. Just as we can “sublimate” sexual energy into creative energy, other things can be “sublimated” into sexual energy. So if you’re lonely, that can manifest itself by sexual temptation, even if the main need is just for human companionship. Working through some of your feelings with a trusted friend, a counselor, or even a Christian self-help book can start you on the road to healing.

But it won’t stop the sexual temptation altogether because sex is a fundamental part of who you are. And balancing fighting sexual temptation with still being a sexual being is tough. You are made to be sexual, whether you’re married or not. It’s just that right now you don’t have an outlet.

God understands. And so I just want to leave you with a few verses that I have found helpful when dealing with temptation. (Two of them are part of my 50 Best Bible Verses to Memorize!). Commit these to memory, and recite when necessary.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

 No temptationhas overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15, 16).

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married

Thinking back, there are so many things I wish I knew before I got married. I loved my husband, but lots still came as a surprise. So today, for top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share some of the biggies. And thanks to everyone on my Facebook Page who chimed in with what they wish they knew before they were married, too!

And so, in no particular order, here we go:

1. Sharing Finances is Hard–so Talk About it Early

Don’t wait until you get married to develop a budget, talk about saving, or make financial plans. Start doing this right after you get engaged, so that you’re on the same page. Figure out how you’ll budget and how you’ll decide what to spend money on. Money is one of the hardest things to learn how to share, and it’s so much easier if you talk it through first.

What if one of you has debt and one of you doesn’t? Then you both have to start working hard at paying off debt! And you need to have those serious conversations BEFORE you marry about setting a plan in motion to become debt free.

These things are not easy, and most people don’t know how to do them. So ask whoever is doing your premarital counseling (likely a pastor) if there is someone smart with money that you can sit down with who can help you work through basic budgeting and make some of these plans. Get some help now–before you walk down the aisle!

Oh, and here’s another gem: once the debt is paid off, live on one income. ALWAYS live on one income. If you expect that one parent will eventually stay at home with kids, then you need to learn how to live on one income now. Take the second income and save it for the house, or a car, or whatever. But live within your means early, and it will put you on such better ground moving forward.

2. In-laws matter more than you think. Get along with them now!

When we’re dating and engaged we’re so focused on the person we’re marrying. But, as one Facebook reader said,

You marry a whole family, not just one man.

Once you’re married, that family will be a part of your life, whether you like it or not. So make an effort to be friendly and get along with them as much as possible. You don’t have to be best friends, but it is so much easier if you have goodwill between you. Often when you’re dating you live away from in-laws, so they don’t seem like a factor in your life. But that changes. So Skype with them now. Go with his sister out to get your nails done. Do a craft with your mother-in-law, or ask her to help you cook a turkey dinner. Reach out. Don’t wait for them to make the first move, and pout at home because they’re not. You make that first move and build that relationship.

3. Great sex isn’t automatic–but that’s okay. You have decades to get it right!

We start marriage with such “great sexpectations”. We figure it will be just like the movies, where it works perfectly and it’s always amazingly passionate. But it’s often not.

One reader wrote,

I wish I knew that things in the bedroom would not just happen as spontaneously as we thought and communicating about intimacy and our expectations of it would be much harder than I expected.

Good Girls Guide My SiteI wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex to help women transition to great sex once they’re married–but it does take time. And here’s one neat thing I found: if you take the women who had lousy wedding nights, and then you take the women who had great wedding nights, and look at how they rate their sex lives ten years later–it makes absolutely no difference. No matter how great or awful your wedding night was, ten years later it will be good. So don’t fret the early stuff! Just relax and have fun getting to know each other. And if you’re wondering how to do that, get the book!

But once you do get married, one big piece of advice: I know you’re shy, but tell him what feels good and what doesn’t. Tell him early. If you don’t speak up on the honeymoon, it gets harder and harder to say anything. So try to talk about it then.

Oh, and another thing about sex:

I wish I had known that the man is not always the one with the greater sex drive.

In about 24% of marriages, according to my surveys, SHE has the higher sex drive. If that’s you, you are not a freak. And with good communication and lots of grace, you can still have a great sex life.

4. Marriage Isn’t 50/50. It’s 100/100.

Don’t go into marriage thinking, “we’ll each do our share”. If you start marriage measuring who does more work, you’ll always find that he doesn’t measure up. That’s because all of us have unrealistic expectations, and all of us expect our husbands to do things our way. At the same time, he expects us to do things his way. So since we’re expecting what is virtually impossible, we’ll find that he never does enough.

We have to get over this idea that we each put in half the effort, and think of marriage more like 100/100. We each jump in and dedicate ourselves to making the marriage great. The more you do that, the more benefits you’ll receive. One woman wrote:

Marriage isn’t always a 50/50 deal. Most days it is 60/40 or even 80/20. It all depends. BUT being married means meeting that other person wherever they are at that time. The more you tend your marriage the more it will flourish. You absolutely need to be totally selfless at times for it to work. It took me awhile to realize this and now that I do my marriage is the best it has ever been.

5. Marriage doesn’t necessarily change everything–especially him

Here’s an important one to understand, that has both a warning and a reassurance. First the warning.

One woman writes:

Pay attention to “habits” and don’t overlook them so easily just because you’re a starry-eyed girl in love. Sometimes, that habit is really an addiction and no matter how hard you try or how much you think they love you, you can’t and won’t make them stop. Please heed addictions (to anything) and give them time to get help and get healed before you marry them. I can’t stress that enough.

That is so true! The number of women who write to me saying, “he used porn before we were married but he said he’d stop”, or “he’s on video games six hours a day still, just like he was before we were married” is so sad. Before you’re married, don’t just date. Do life so you can see how he actually lives. Do errands together. Do mundane things together. Hang out. If you find there’s a major habit he has that annoys you, remember: this will only be magnified tenfold when we marry. It won’t go away. Marriage will not change that habit. So keep your eyes open.

Now for the reassurance. Another woman writes:

I wish I knew that marriage doesn’t always start a new chapter in your lives. Sometimes you continue in the chapter you are in and have to learn to grow together and be content where you are. For some reason, I just expected that getting married would bring us new and exciting things.

We had been together for almost 4 years before we finally got married. I just thought that marriage would be something new. It would close the old chapter, and we’d walk hand-in-hand under a rainbow into this new and glorious chapter filled with prosperity and travel and babies and a super clean house. But it just didn’t happen. Life kept going as it had been going. We both had our individual struggles and had to learn to grow together…and we have!

I’m thankful that it wasn’t as I imagined it. I’ve grown so much these three years. Above all I’ve learned that marriage–and life– is hard work, but with Jesus, it is made light. I love my husband and I’m so thankful that God kept certain doors closed and let us grow and know each other first! Now we are ready for that next chapter!

If you’re super close before you’re married, it’s not always that you develop an extra level of closeness once you’re married. Sometimes life just continues. And that’s okay.

6. It’s not easy sharing toothpaste

Sharing a life isn’t natural. Sharing a bed and sharing a bathroom sink is even harder–especially the older you are. When you’re entrenched in your own home and you’re used to having your own space and your own way of doing things, marriage is a hard adjustment.

One woman wrote:

I wish I knew that the move in together part of a marriage doesn’t just happen smoothly and automatically– How to share space, split household duties and manage joint time and money is something you should think and talk about before the wedding.

So true!

7. Plans don’t always work

Friends of mine had a ten year plan when they were married. They married in university, and planned to both get their graduate degrees and start teaching for one or two years before starting to have kids around age 29. That way they could have a downpayment on a house, and school would be done before the kids came.

But she got pregnant six months after the wedding.

Another friend of mine, within a year of getting married, was all of a sudden caring for a mother-in-law who had had a stroke out of nowhere.

It’s wonderful to plan and dream, but never invest all of your joy into any one plan. Remember that life happens, and the neat thing about being married is now you have someone to have it happen with.

My own girls have always said that they want 3-4 years with their future husbands before they have kids, and I completely agree with that. But when you’re walking down the aisle, you need to know that there is never any guarantee, and you need to be able to go with the flow.

8. Conflict can make you stronger. Don’t run from it; work through it.

Your first fight when you’re married may scare you. But that’s okay. Conflict isn’t always bad as long as you handle it well. One woman wrote:

Marriage is like two rough rocks being thrown in a tumbler. You smooth each other out as you bang and hit against each other.

Talk through your conflict. Tell him about what you’re thinking. Keep communication open, even if it’s hard. Before you’re married, develop a plan on how you’ll have these difficult talks. Maybe every Thursday after dinner you’ll go for a walk to “check in”, and that will give both of you time to bring up anything you want to. Maybe you’ll have breakfast Saturday mornings and plan through the next week and talk about these things. Plan beforehand, and arrange natural times to talk, knowing that there will always be something to talk about, and life is smoother.

And don’t shy away from conflict! One woman writes:

I wish I had known too, that trying to please him in every way possible, even going against my beliefs, to placate and prevent arguments is not the solution.

Conflict is always either a win/win or a lose/lose. Don’t aim to win an argument, because if you defeat your husband and he loses, you lose, too. You lose intimacy. Instead, find the win/win in everything. When you do that, conflict doesn’t seem so scary.

9. Listen to the little things

Don’t focus on yourself; before you’re married, practice focusing on him and what he’s thinking and feeling. Let those things matter to you.

One woman writes:

I wish I had known to really listen to the little things your husband says; I’ve found if I pay attention to the little things, the “big” things are fewer and far between.

When you pay attention to the little things he wants, he feels important. And that makes big conflicts less likely to happen.

Another woman says,

Un-met expectations are likely unknown expectations, speak up!

Don’t expect him to be a mind reader; ask for help in the little things. You may just find he’s more than happy to oblige, but he just didn’t know you needed anything.

10. It’s wonderful to go through life with somebody else.

Finally, we hear so much negative stuff about marriage. Marriage is hard. So many people divorce. You’ll never work harder at anything in your life.

I suppose that’s partially true, but overall, what I’ve found after 23 years of marriage is that it is such an amazing privilege to have someone else to walk through life with–someone who knows me inside and out, someone who has been there for everything, and someone who is always sticking around. That joy makes up for so much.

Let me end with this woman’s words:

It doesn’t have to be hard! If you are willing to learn and show grace, marriage will be such a joy. 3.5 years in and my husband and I have only had one minor fight because we have this perspective

It doesn’t have to be hard. Love in the little things; do 100/100; know that there will be transitions–and you just may find marriage is one of the best rides of your life!

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.