Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the Empty Nest

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

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

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

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

1.  Pray together.

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

2.  Orient your family around your marriage.

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

3.  Talk about the future.

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

4.  Take care of your health.

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

5.  Begin developing interests you can enjoy together.

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

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

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

7.  Prioritize sex and intimacy in your marriage.

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

8.  Find ways to serve together.

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

9.  Manage your finances.

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

10.  Develop the fun side of your marriage.

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

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

 

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

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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 addictionNever 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.



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Reader Question: Shouldn’t Sex Involve Intercourse?

Reader Question of the WeekShould sex involve intercourse?

Every Monday I like to post a question from a reader and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is a thorny issue: what if your husband wants things OTHER than intercourse all the time?

My husband often prefers us to finish individually, without intercourse. He thoroughly enjoys giving and receiving. I told him about that denying the spiritual connection and he said that it is completely the same for him however it happens. He feels totally connected to me whether we have sex or not. It doesn’t feel as intimate to me and I would prefer it not be 50/50. Should I be feeling this connection without sex as well?

My second question I’m embarrassed to ask. Often my husband wants me to do things I don’t care for. It’s not painful, or degrading, I just don’t like it and it feels awkward. It is definitely something that only makes him feel good. This is how he wants to finish more than half the time. I feel like I am being selfish in not wanting to give my husband what makes him feel good and enjoy my body, however, I don’t enjoy it at all. He’s so happy and appreciative afterward that I don’t want to deprive him of something he wants or make him feel guilty for wanting something he can’t ask for. I’m afraid of continuing it and losing all the progress I have made because I’ll start to resent “sexy time” knowing there’s a good chance he will ask and it will become a chore I try to distract myself from. I don’t want to be selfish, my husband has been so supportive and loving through all the rejection and crying over the last 2 years, I’m just not sure if I can ever enjoy it. Should I keep trying to make my husband happy?

Wow! Tough issues.

Let’s try to deal with some of them individually.

Sex Needs Intercourse: If your husband avoids making love, there may be a problem.

Intercourse is Uniquely Intimate

When you have intercourse (forgive me for using the technical term in this post instead of ‘making love’, but I want to be really technical here so everyone knows what I’m talking about), you’re both receiving stimulation and pleasure from the same act. You are both experiencing something at the same time. That’s part of what makes it so intimate. When you are just stimulating each other in other ways (orally or manually, for instance), you may do so simultaneously, but you aren’t actually experiencing it together. You’re both experiencing two different actions.

There’s also something else about intercourse: the man actually ENTERS the woman. That makes it highly intimate, too. You’re actually joined. There’s a vulnerability there that isn’t present in the same way with other acts (other acts may be physically vulnerable, but it really isn’t the same thing). With intercourse we’re almost laid bare physically and emotionally.

If someone is running away from intercourse then they’re also running away from intimacy, and likely don’t even understand what I’m talking about.

Is there a Place for Other Sexual Acts?

Absolutely! They can be great for foreplay (and are often necessary to get a woman aroused enough to feel pleasure from intercourse). Also, as I’ve talked about before, there are ways to be really intimate there if health problems make intercourse impossible or difficult.

However, barring these health issues, if someone prefers other sexual acts to intercourse, then it’s almost like they’re saying (and forgive me for being graphic), “let me use your body to masturbate with.” They want a type of sexual release where they’re focusing ONLY on what they’re feeling, not on how the other person feels, and it’s a very self-centered act when it’s used on its own.

Oral sex or mutual masturbation can ENHANCE intercourse; they should never REPLACE it.

Why Would Someone Not Want Intercourse?

Essentially her husband is saying, “I prefer my sexual experiences to be focused on myself rather than on us together.” He may not consciously think that or say that, but that is what his actions are showing. So why would someone get to this point?

Someone who has been really involved with masturbation growing up rewires sexual arousal and response so that it’s a solo-based thing, not focused on relationship. And let’s face it–the feeling is often much more intense through oral or manual stimulation. Intercourse is great, but it often takes longer and you have to concentrate on another person. When you’re used to sex being about nothing more than thinking about yourself, then that can seem like a huge hassle. Who would want to do that?

This also represents a stunted sexual maturation, where someone is literally “stuck” or fixated on early teen sexual development. It’s like they never matured. There could be psychological reasons for this if it’s really an ingrained thing from some sort of brokenness or abuse in their past, but more likely it’s due to a masturbation habit that formed right when the sexual feelings did, and they never grew beyond that.

Could There Be Other Things Going On?

Absolutely, and here are just a few to look out for:

He could have sexual dysfunction

Perhaps in the past he’s tried intercourse and it hasn’t worked very well, or he’s become really nervous that it won’t work. So he’d rather try something that doesn’t require work or potential performance issues.

I’ve written a series on sexual dysfunction here.

He could have a porn addiction

One of the main effects of porn is that it makes intercourse far less intimate and far less desirable. Because most arousal is now dependent on these images in your head, people prefer sex that doesn’t require thought and allows them to have these images pass through their head. Intercourse can be a distraction.

He could have abuse issues in his past

Has he been abused in some way that has made him fear sex or fear his sexuality or sexual orientation? That’s another thing that needs to be considered.

So What Do I Do if My Husband Avoids Intercourse?

Unfortunately there isn’t a magic wand you can wave. The only thing you can do is talk openly. Talk about some of the points I’ve already raised–that intercourse is intimate because it’s both of you experiencing something together. It requires concentrating on each other, not just being self-focused. It feels wonderful. And it should not be avoided.

And then I’d say something like this: I’m not saying that we won’t do other things. What I am saying is that I no longer want to finish that way. I would like us to experience something together.

31 Days to Great SexIf you need a roadmap to follow, 31 Days to Great Sex is a wonderful one. It helps you work through building intimacy towards intercourse slowly, and helps you learn to enjoy each other’s bodies in the context of a really intimate relationship. And it’s a lot of fun! If you want a way to address this but you’re not sure how to have a “big” conversation about it, this book may help you have that conversation in dribs and drabs over the course of the month so that you start to understand better how each other thinks about sex and what sex was supposed to be. I really recommend giving it a try!

Work on Intimacy

It does sound your husband is stunted at an immature stage of sexual development. So what do you do to help him play “catch up” or to understand what sex should be? Work on intimacy in other ways. Take baths naked together. Pray with your husband. Work on your friendship and spend time together. Do a lot of massage where you touch each other and talk to each other.

And understand that it may take time for him to start appreciating intercourse when he’s used to other things. It won’t be instantaneous, and you need to leave him time for growth. But if you work on feeling intimate in other ways, often the libido for intimacy during sex does return.

What About the Sexual Acts He Wants Me to Do that I Don’t Like?

You can always compromise–say that one night a month is “his” night where you get to do whatever he wants, and then one night a month is your night where you do whatever you want.

But these are “special” nights, and they don’t replace your normal sex life together. If he says, “fine, I don’t want anything except my night” then you do have a problem.

Where To Go If He Still Refuses Intercourse

If he won’t agree to have intercourse, won’t talk about it, and thinks that you’re wrong, then it may be time to bring in a counselor and ask him to go see one with you. He does have issues that are harming his ability to be intimate with you, and if he can’t be intimate with his wife, it’s also very likely that he can’t really be intimate with God. When we hide from intimacy sexually we’re also usually hiding spiritually, too. This isn’t good for him, and to enable him to go on like this does him no favours. Sometimes you have to draw a huge line in the sand and say, “I love you too much to let you keep going down this road.”

I hope that helps. I get this question quite often, so many women are dealing with it, and you’re not alone. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever dealt with this, or if you’ve found other things that help your husband understand real intimacy.

Wifey Wednesday: Does God Like Men Better? Why It’s Hard for Women to Reach Orgasm

Why is it so hard for women to orgasm, and so easy for men? Thoughts on why God made us this way!Does God just like men better? It can seem that way since it’s so hard for women to reach orgasm.

It’s Wednesday, the day that we always talk marriage! And today, in our lead up to Valentine’s Day, I want to address an often unspoken question when it comes to sex: Why did God make it so easy for a man to climax, and so difficult for a woman? How is that fair?

When I speak around North America giving my Girl Talk on marriage, sex, and intimacy (I’m in Texas this week!), I always include an anonymous Q&A portion of the night. Women can write questions on little pieces of paper, and I take a stab at answering them. And in every church I’ve been to–large or small, rural or urban, young or old–the questions are almost always pretty much the same. And at least one has to do with orgasm.

Why is it so easy for a guy to reach orgasm, and so hard for a woman to reach orgasm?

Good Girls Guide My SiteWhen I was writing The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, I surveyed 2000 women. And I found that about 64% of women usually or always reached orgasm during intercourse. But that leaves 36% of women who rarely or never, or only sometimes do. If I limit the pool to just those who have been married for 5 years or less, 41% of women have difficulty.

I’m pretty sure the number of men who have difficulty reaching orgasm is about 10 times less.

And if you’re a woman who has ever laid in bed thinking desperately, “will this be the night?”, you know how frustrating it is.

Then sex becomes this pass/fail thing: if you don’t climax, you didn’t do it right. And you feel like the failure, because he ALWAYS has fun. (If your husband does have performance issues, though, I do have a series on that). He’s disappointed, you’re disappointed, and sex seems like so much work! In the media everyone seems to love sex, but you figure they’re pretending. Or they’re deluded. Or you’re just broken.

You’re not. You’re really not! There totally is hope.

31 Days to Great SexI’ve talked before on the blog about how to reach orgasm, and I have tons of tips in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex and in 31 Days to Great Sex. I’ll summarize really, really quickly, but my top 5 points would be:

1. Use lots of foreplay

Before you even start intercourse, touch each other a lot. Get yourself really excited, even if that means that you take control by rubbing against him.

2. Use lubrication

It can be much easier to get aroused if you’re well-lubricated! Coconut oil or Astroglide work well.

3. Bring him to orgasm earlier in the day

Just so that he’s able to last longer, and it can be more about you!

4. Breathe and think of it like surfing

You want to ride the wave, not get in front of the wave. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense if you rarely orgasm, but the more worked up you get about it, the less likely it is to happen. If you can focus on feeling pleasure and letting your body almost sink into the pleasure, then it’s more likely you’ll ride it to the top!

5. Remember angle matters

Most arousal in women is caused by clitoral stimulation, not vaginal stimulation. So change the angle so that you are getting stimulated at the right spot. Lying flat on your back (or with a pillow under your head) in the missionary position is often the WORST position for this type of stimulation. Engaging your muscles to tilt your hips up, or using a different position, is often better.

Okay, there’s more in the books, but that’s just a few pointers. The bigger issue I want to deal with today, though, is why do we even need posts like this? Why is reaching orgasm so tricky for women? What on earth could possibly be the purpose of us being made in this way? Is our difficulty in climaxing a result of the fall or something?

Nope. I actually think God had a purpose when He created us like this. And here it is:

1. Satisfying Sex Requires Communication

For us to reach climax, we need to be touched in a very particular way. We need to be touched in a very specific spot. We need that touch gentle at first and then more pressing and urgent.

And so we need to communicate that to our husbands.

That’s hard. Telling him what we want requires first of all that we actually know what we want, and many women don’t. We get married with very little knowledge of what feels good or how our bodies work (that’s true whether we’re virgins or not; most sexual encounters when you’re young are not sexually satisfying, and that can solidify some ignorance about how to feel good).

So we have to learn about ourselves, and then we have to tell him. That’s right: we have to tell him something that nobody else knows about us. We have to open up and pull back the curtain and show him the most primitive part of ourselves; the part we try to hide. And that’s why:

2. Communication Requires Vulnerability

To tell him what we want means that we are willing to let down our defences and get real with our husbands. It means that we share the most private parts of ourselves, and we allow ourselves to even acknowledge those parts. We can’t pretend to be in control all the time. We can’t be prim and proper. We have to empty ourselves, bare ourselves, and let go.

And that’s why:

3. Vulnerability Requires Trust

In order to be that bare with someone we need to trust them–trust them that they love us, that they will keep this private, that they actually care and want to see inside of us.

This trust is often built over time, and that’s one reason, I think, that women tend to have more fun in the bedroom the longer they’ve been married. We’ve learned to trust, which means we can be vulnerable, which means that we can fully communicate now. We’re not ashamed and embarrassed.

The Big Picture on Women, Orgasm, and Why God Made Us This Way

So let’s take a step back now and look at the big picture.

What if God made us so that we responded sexually as easily as men did? There would not be the same need to work on the relationship. We wouldn’t have this need to be vulnerable, to grow trust, to learn how to confront our own inner fears and insecurities and bring them to light for healing. Our relationships would be very shallow.

The way that we are made ensures that if two people are going to have an awesome sex life, they are going to have to grow other parts of their relationship, too. Communication. Vulnerability. Trust. That sounds like a great marriage to me!

Why Do Married Women Reach Orgasm More Easily?

And this is why my study, as well as many others, have shown that married women enjoy sex more. Our world sells anonymous encounters as the highest on the sexy totem pole. But when you can’t open up and be vulnerable, you’re missing one of the keys to great sexual response. Our sexual response is tied into our ideas of intimacy. Without real intimacy, something will always be missing.

The Good News Moving Forward

So here’s the good news, ladies!

You all can reach orgasm. Really. It may be more difficult for some to climax. It may take years (it did for me). It may take a lot of practice and a lot of trying. But anatomically, there is no reason to think that orgasm is impossible. Just grow your relationship, calm down and don’t get too uptight about it, and read books on how to make it more likely. And then make it a really fun research project you do with your husband!

And when you do get to the point that you’re achieving orgasm usually or always, here’s some more good news: women have more intense orgasms. We can have multiple ones, which can last for quite a long period of time–far longer than his. Inasmuch as researchers can figure this out, we may have more difficulty getting there, but once we’re there–we have the capacity for more!

So don’t despair. God doesn’t like men better. He just made us differently so that we would have a reason to grow our relationship. Communication. Vulnerability. Trust. Work on those things this Valentine’s Day, and you may find even more fireworks than you had planned!

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

31 Days to Great Sex
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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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The Appeal of 50 Shades of Grey–and Why We Should Fight

Why 50 Shades of Grey Appeals--and what our response should be

Fifty Shades of Grey is coming to theaters everywhere next Valentine’s Day. It’s become the highest advanced ticket sales for any R-rated movie ever. Groups of women are going to see it together.

What should our response be?

It’s sold as a series that can reignite women’s sex drives, boost their libidos, and even enhance their marriages. But is that true?

Today all over the online world bloggers are uniting to talk about this movie and why it’s a bad idea. I’ve written several posts on the book before, including:

I want to take a bit of a different approach in today’s post and talk about why the movie appeals–and then what we should do about that.

Why Are Women Drawn to 50 Shades of Grey?

Honestly, I’ve read a lot of Christian commentary on 50 Shades of Grey, and the response is often something like: “it’s wrong, period!” People see the whips and the chains and the awful language and we’re horrified.

I agree that reading erotica is wrong and that it will harm your marriage. And this particular series glamourizes what is essentially a violent, abusive relationship (with shades of pedophilia in there, too).

Nevertheless, many women are drawn into the sexual fantasy about it.

But here’s the complicating factor: a lot of sin in our lives isn’t caused by sinful hearts as much as it is caused by brokenness–by deep places of hurt within ourselves. Remember when Jesus warned people not to be a stumbling block to one of his little ones and cause them to sin? He wasn’t denying that the little ones were sinning; but he was saying that the cause of that sin was not some evil on the part of the little ones, but some way that they had been hurt or harmed by someone else.

Brokenness is as much a cause of sin as our own sinful nature. Brokenness is dangerous.

And just like many men (and women) are tempted towards porn because they feel lonely and it gives them a sense of control, so there is something inside of many women which draws them towards this kind of erotica.

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's HeartDannah Gresh and Juli Slattery do a great job in the book Pulling Back the Shades to explain why 50 Shades of Grey is so alluring to so many. But I want to take it even farther today. They talk about how women are looking for more excitement in their sex life; how they’re sick of being bored (among other things), and that’s all true. But that would apply to any kind of erotica or any kind of sex toys, etc. The simple fact is that there is something unique about this particular brand of erotica–this particular story of bondage and sado-masochism that has captivated millions. What is it? That’s what I want to figure out today, because I think when we understand the root we’ll understand the response.

Root #1: Feeling Alone

The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual ThoughtsIn her book The Fantasy Fallacy, Shannon Ethridge looks at how we all have sexual fantasies, and those fantasies are not all bad. Some, however, cross a line. But where do those fantasies come from? Our sexual self is very rooted in our identities, our fears, and our deepest longings. And those are shaped especially by our brokenness. So it’s hardly surprising that our sexual fantasies often say much about the state of our hearts.

When you look at the root of the fantasy appeal of 50 Shades of Grey, you can see a lot of brokenness.

Let’s start with this: The book centers on a naive 21-year-old who is alone in the world and just beginning her adult life.

Do you remember those years?

I do, and they weren’t pretty. They were the loneliest and scariest of my life. I didn’t know what I’d be doing. I didn’t know who I’d marry (or if I’d marry). I didn’t know if I’d be alone my whole life.

I have two daughters aged 17 and 20, and so I’m surrounded by them and by their friends. And this is a hard, horrible time for many of them. It’s just really unsettling. I wouldn’t want to go back at all.

And so, in the midst of feeling naive and unprepared for life, she meets this strong, confident billionaire (yes, billionaire. Good, realistic plotting isn’t exactly what this series is known for). She gets someone who will take care of her (even in a warped way). And that can be really intoxicating.

 Root #2: Feeling Like You Don’t Have To Be In Control

A lot of women are control freaks. It’s not necessarily because we want to be in control, though. It’s because there are so many things we’re desperately worried about, and because we’re multitaskers, we think about them all the time. We can’t get away from them. And because we worry so much, we feel like everything rests on our shoulders. If we don’t do all the right things, everything will fall apart.

That’s a heavy responsibility.

We feel responsible for making the right decisions about our kids. We feel responsible for our marriages, for our parents, for our friends. We feel responsible for keeping ministries going at church. We have so much on our shoulders.

Doesn’t being free of the burden of control sound intoxicating?

A while back I had some health scares and I had to go through a number of tests. I posted a Facebook update that I had had an MRI–and despite all the banging (MRIs are really loud) I almost fell asleep. It was one of the most relaxing times I’d had in ages! I got to lie there, and there was absolutely nothing I was allowed to do except be still. It was heaven. And all kinds of women echoed similar things.

So perhaps it’s no wonder that the whole idea of bondage and someone else being in control and making all the decisions appeals in a deep way to women. Many of us are wounded because we are carrying around burdens and cares that cannot and should not be our own.

Root #3: Dealing with Shame

Many of us are just plain ashamed of our sexuality. We equate being aggressive in bed or even enjoying ourselves with being slutty or being “bad”. It’s hard for us to initiate sex, or to tell our husbands what we want in bed.

Having a man that takes the choice out of it, then, is freeing. If he’s doing something TO you, and you can’t resist, then you’re free to enjoy yourself without having to admit that you’re somehow bad.

So those are many of the roots. They aren’t the only ones, but they’re the obvious ones. Do you see yourself in any of them? If you can understand why you may be drawn to these things, then it’s easier to fight against it. You don’t need to beat yourself up; you need to deal with the underlying brokenness.

Dealing with the Ugly Fruit

Remember, the root just shows us what our heart issues are. But when we let that root take hold and we let that grow, we can bear some awfully ugly fruit.

And that’s what happens with erotica like this. We may have reasons to be drawn to it, but when we read a lot of erotica, or watch it in movies, it clouds our fantasies. It starts to pair our sexual response with a fantasy rather than a person (our husbands), and just like porn does, it makes it harder to stay present with our husbands. We’re not making love with them; we’re using them while fantasies are going through our heads.

And those fantasies are hard to remove. Soon you need them even to get aroused. Not a good thing. And that’s when we cross the line from brokenness into sin.

Then there are those who will eventually start to act this stuff out. There’s a reason demand for bondage gear is growing. But when you start living this out in real life, you cement a relationship which is the farthest thing from truly intimate you can find. You create a violent, degrading relationship instead of a healthy meeting of two equals.

What Should Our Response to 50 Shades of Grey Be?

If you’re drawn to 50 Shades of Grey:

Recognize the reasons. Try to identify the roots of the appeal of the fantasy. Is it that you don’t want to be alone? Don’t want to feel in control all the time? Want to enjoy sex without feeling shame? If you can identify the root, then you can help heal any brokenness that’s there. You can run to God to work out your insecurities. You can work with your husband on how to feel more comfortable with your sexuality. You can start wrestling with God about how to trust Him in faith and not having to be so in control.

That’s a tall order, I know, because for many of us these roots run deep. Many porn addicts suffer from a similar thing. Their roots are often things like never being properly affirmed (in porn the women are always there and ready and eager), or never feeling like  you’re powerful enough. Sometimes a big part of defeating the temptation of these things is seeing the root.

If you’re talking with someone who is thinking of seeing the 50 Shades movie:

Explain the chemical process of how we start to pair sexual arousal with fantasy, and then we can’t get aroused in a relationship anymore. Tell her it’s a very similar physiological response as men with porn. And here’s what else happens: once we start using erotica, we tend to want more–and different. So we read weirder and weirder stuff that we would never have been drawn to before. It changes you in ways you don’t want.

Emphasize this rather than just “it’s sinful”. The “it’s sinful” doesn’t always help. Yes, it is, but sin has repercussions. If you explain the repercussions, it’s easier for people to see the danger.

The Pull for Porn & Erotica for Women Is Going to Escalate

Porn is a problem for men today in a way it never was before the internet. It was always a temptation, but it was never this widespread.

This is going to escalate for women now, too. We’re the next target. And it’s an easy progression from erotica to full blown porn.

So let’s start realizing that not all porn users are male, and that females struggle too. And let’s protect ourselves (and our daughters). Talk openly with your friends so that we make talking about this mainstream. Get filters on your computer. And fight against it!

Sex Can Be Fun–and Healthy!

So let’s spread the word that we don’t need bondage, whips and chains to have fun in bed! What we need is greater openness, less shame, and more intimacy.

31 Days to Great SexAnd that’s why on this Fight Back Against 50 Shades of Grey weekend I’m going to put 31 Days to Great Sex on for just $2.99 from my store (in .pdf) and on Kindle at Amazon.

I want to give you EVERY REASON to pick up this book. Seriously, it’s only 3 dollars! And it’s got 31 challenges you and your husband can do together to help you talk about sex again, explore more, flirt more, be more affectionate, and spice things up. And I have several days where we deal with all the junk that’s holding us back, too.

Already have it? Pick up a copy for a friend, or a sister, or a relative that is thinking of going to see the movie. Show them there’s another way!

31 Days 50 Shades Sale

Regaining Intimacy and Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

Rebuilding Intimacy after a Porn Addiction: It can be done in your #marriage!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Today Jennifer Ferguson, author of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart, joins us to talk about regaining intimacy and rebuilding trust after her husband’s porn addiction.

Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from PornographyI did it was because I was afraid of losing him. I needed to remind him I was still there, still valuable, still able to please and satisfy him. Perhaps I needed a way to remind myself: I am still his wife. Don’t give up. Keep trying.

Each time I caught my husband, Craig, looking at porn, I would go through the same emotional cycle. At first, I would explode, wrath drenching us both, the slime of sin and shame dripping from our mouths and our hearts. Then, I would see his contrite heart, the doubting of himself and my love for him. My anger would recede and I’d try to show him the best way I knew how that I was willing to move on and try to forgive. And I’d offer myself to him on the bed.

But my offering was tainted. Sex is supposed to be a reminder of those wedding vows, the ones you took to love, honor, and cherish. This gift I was giving him wasn’t wrapped in intimacy and devotion. It was wrapped in fear and doubt.

  • I don’t want you to forget about me.
  • I’m trying to be everything you need.
  • I need you to tell me you think I’m enough.
  • I need you to tell me I’m more than porn.

It took a long path of healing for Craig and I to regain intimacy, emotionally and physically, with each other. Intimacy requires a level of trust and even though I could trust Craig with my body, I couldn’t trust him with my heart, the very place from which intimacy arises.

Not every partner has the same reaction to his/her spouse’s porn addiction. Some people are like me – they withdraw emotionally, but not physically. Some spouses withdraw physically, but are still able to give emotionally. And some are able to give nothing at all as porn wreaks havoc.

How do we regain intimacy with our partners when we are unsure if we can trust them? How do we give the gift of ourselves, physically and emotionally, when the act of betrayal could be just a few short steps away to another room? How do we give of ourselves if we are unsure if what we are giving will be received without comparison to something we know to which we can never measure up?

The truth is, this wasn’t something I could do on my own. I was too broken. My own baggage of self-worth and competition was too heavy and the anger I repressed because of my fear was always threatening to erupt. None of this was conducive to rebuilding intimacy. Also, part of the reason Craig turned to porn was because he felt inadequately prepared to address his own needs in relationships. He needed to learn how to communicate and press in instead of hiding and running away. We needed Jesus to show us how to let go and let each other in.

Here are some of the practical ways we started the rebuilding process that might work for you, too.

1. Remember when you first met

When you’re in the middle of fighting addiction, it easy to quickly get tripped up by fresh hurt and repressed pain. There are triggers all around and emotions run high. It was easy for me to return to places of anger and label him as “the porn addict who is ruining our marriage.” It was easy for Craig to interpret anything I said as controlling or manipulative. But when we took time to remember our relationship way back from the beginning, it interrupted our current vantage points and took us back in time. Recalling the first time we met, the first time we kissed, the first time we knew we were meant to be married helped us to see each other without all the current junk. It reminded us of the things we saw in each other that we dearly loved. It rekindled dormant feelings that were crucial in bringing us back to the foundation of our marriage – our love for each other and our love for God.

2. Converse. A lot.

Marriage, let alone overcoming addiction, takes a lot of intentional work and practice. Craig had to practice emotional intimacy because it was not only something he didn’t intuitively know how to do, but he was also afraid of it. He feared that if I knew the real him – the one with needs and emotions – I would dismiss him and not meet them. He had to learn to trust me with his emotional self. As he let me in, he realized his sharing made me embrace him all the more. Letting me see the fullness of who cleared a path so I could ask him things about his addiction. (How can pornography really not be about me? What kinds of things trigger you to turn to porn? How can you not compare me to then?) He realized that his behavior had a significant impact on me. And as he realized how much I cared for him, the more he wanted to be able to take care of me. In addition, the deeper our emotional connection went, the more I could physically be intimate without fear, anxiety, and constant comparisons going through my mind.

3. Be spontaneous–and don’t overanalyze!

When a good thought about your husband or your wife pops into your head, say it. If you aren’t in the same physical proximity, you can send a text. Or write it on a sticky note and hang it on the mirror. The more truth you can speak to each other and the more you can affirm your relationship, the stronger it will be. If you’re out shopping or running errands, see if your spouse can meet you for a quick cup of coffee or lunch. See a little something in the store that you know would bring delight? Buy it. When those good thoughts and ideas pop into your head, do not let Satan steal that moment of joy. Don’t weigh in your head whether or not he deserves it. Don’t stop to think if she is really in love with you or if she’ll be grateful. Push through with love and trust that God will use your act to grow much fruit in your marriage.

I know from experience these things are not easy to do, but they are worth it. And remember this: You weren’t meant to journey this road alone. If you need help, ask. Satan wants you to hide behind the shame of porn addiction, but when you utter the truth, you invite Jesus in.

JenniferFergusonPure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple's Journey to Freedom from PornographyJennifer Ferguson and her husband Craig are the authors of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.

 

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Do you have any marriage advice for us today? Leave a comment, or link up the URL of your marriage post in the linky below!



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Top 10 Mistakes I Made as a New Bride

Top 10 New Bride MistakesToday frequent reader and contributor Ngina Otiende from Intentional Today joins us with her top 10 mistakes–in the hopes that we won’t follow in her footsteps! Her first book released  yesterday on Amazon, and I think Ngina’s stuff is awesome. So I asked her to guest post for me, so I could spread the word about Blues to Bliss.

As a new bride I didn’t know much about marriage, the man I married, or myself.

But I thought I knew a lot. 

After almost seven years of marriage, now I can smile at some of my naive expectations and thoughts. But back then it was no smiling matter. I was steeped in new bride blues, I had no grace to give myself or my husband. And I did not understand that good wives are made over time, not over night.

Here are Top 10 things I did as a new bride that set our marriage on edge (and how not to follow in my steps!)

1. Scrubbing our house down the day he went back to work

And proudly proclaiming “I scrubbed the house down..and my back is killing me!” when he walked through the doors in the evening.

What he heard?

“Your (former) bachelor pad is filthy and it’s your fault I am in so much pain”
No man wants to feel like they hurt their wife, especially not from the wife herself! Or that they are dirty.

Over the years I have learned that it’s not so much what I have to say but how I say it and when I say it.

2. Thinking our first fight was the end of our marriage

Before marriage I heard “In marriage, God will either see both of you or none of you” I interpreted that to mean that Tommy and I had to be in perfect agreement all the time – no conflict or issues, certainly not sulking and being mad at each other for days at a time. When we stumbled into blues-ville, God would leave, to return once we sorted out our issues.

I battled hopelessness and despair. I thought our little love would limp for the rest of its life (because divorce was never an option). And I was mad with Tommy for messing up our spiritual life!

Over time, God would show me that every couple has issues, even the brand new ones! In fact it’s our issues that make us need Him. He would never leave us or forsake us, but we had to make a conscious intentional decision to invite Him into our messes. We (let me say, I) also had to learn how to put our messes in His hands. And leave them there.

3. Fearing to seek help

You know how you get married and everyone thinks you are swinging from the chandelier in excitement, all day, every day? And if you happened to have received excellent premarital counseling from mentors, you feel awful about going back to them with issues because you reckon that’s like saying “Your advice and effort not work”.

Yup. I did not yet understand pre-wedding mentoring is advance preparation; it does not wipe out possibilities of marital challenges, it equips you to handle them.

Our mentors understood that challenges would come and they wanted us to consult them and not feel ashamed. Me, I needed to get over my pride and say “Er, I am having a hard time following this guy because I think he doesn’t like me anymore”

4. Forcing him to stay up late in the night to resolve conflict.

I was the in-your-face-we-can’t-sleep-till-we-talk-about-this new bride. My husband was the melancholic, conflict averse we-don’t-have-to-talk-about-this-now-or-ever new groom.To say that we had hot debates would be incorrect because many times I would be having hot debates all by myself, while he sat and brooded.

Especially when I elbowed him at 2 am in the morning with “I can’t sleep, we must talk!”

You can’t always iron out conflicts the first time you try. And since God is always interested in real peace, not fake peace that comes from sweeping things under the carpet or rushing through resolution to get back to your “nice Christian lives”, He doesn’t mind us working through challenges slowly, so we can get  to the bottom of things. He’s not worried or intimidated when it takes a couple of sittings – or days – to iron out the creases and crooks.

5. Ironing his clothes

On the week my husband returned to work, I ironed all his work shirts, polished his shoes and proudly pointed it out when he came home in the evening. I was so proud of myself.

My husband plucked everything from my hands, walked away and told me not do that again.

Husbands are different. I thought all good wives take care of their men in that way. But mine likes to pick his clothes, iron them, polish his shoes and generally take care of himself.

Now that I am slightly older in marriage, I am beyond grateful that my man likes to take care of himself like that! ‘Cause there are many who prefer to be helped in that area (and nothing wrong with that by the way). My lesson? Don’t import everything you hear, just because it works in someone else’s marriage doesn’t mean it will work in yours.

6. Thinking I had nothing to give

Because of our not-so-few-squabbles, I felt disqualified from helping others. I also felt the pressure to be perfect in order to mentor and walk with other courting couples, brides-to-be and newly-weds.

I would learn that  it’s my messy marriage that gave me a message, my hurts and lessons enabled me to empathize. Without experiential lessons, I would be an empty gong; trying to take others where I had never been.

Now I know that early marriage adjustments and challenges are good because they keep you on your knees and make of you an effective messenger of God’s love.

7. Worrying about disappointing others

Not too long in marriage someone came to me and told me she’d heard my husband and I were very unhappy. And this person was so disappointed because “If she (Ngina) had waited so well and yet ended up in an unhappy marriage, then marriage is no good at all”.

I was shocked that someone imagined I was miserable. Why? Was it that time I cried during worship? Is it the way I am wearing my hair, do I look unhappy? If others think we are unhappy, are we unhappy? We don’t agree on everything, does that mean we should always agree? She’s a single person, what other singles have I disappointed, how will this affect them for the rest of their life? 

I was an irrational mess.

Marriage is not perfect. Ours was not, still isn’t, perfect. Though we get better, you never really eliminate challenges.Fortunately the only person we need to be doing marriage for is God. He’s the Author–our happiness and joy and impacting others is a result of living for Him and doing marriage His way.

My lesson? Don’t take responsibility for other peoples’ opinions and disappointments, even their joy!

8. Making my husband the source of my happiness

I don’t know how we stumble into this idea as new brides. But somewhere between the glories of a courtship filled with chivalry and sweetness and the crescendo of the engagement and a wedding, we start imagining that our husbands are responsible for our happiness and joy. We are crushed when they disappoint (because they do at about Week 1 of marriage).

We start wondering if we made a mistake and how to correct it. I learned quickly  that I married a fellow human being. If I wanted happiness and joy, I had to go get it myself!–from God, not from a human being. Tommy was, still is, the most amazing man, but He cannot supply what I need to get from God. I have to remove that impossible expectation on him and look to God to meet all my needs.

9. Having no life outside “us”

I had just resigned my job of 7 years, I had nothing going on in terms of a career. I  “lost” 99.9% of my friends when I got married. I was broke. And I was a newlywed! (isn’t that why we get married anyway, to have a forever best friend?!). But while Tommy was the greatest guy and the best gift that ever happened to me since Jesus, he made for a terrible girlfriend. And the sad thing was, he was not even trying to improve. I had high expectations, but over time I would learn that I need other women in my life–I need activities. I need to cultivate  passions and goals outside my marriage–not to compete with my marriage, but so I could be balanced and purpose-filled.

10. Expecting great sex without intentional involvement 

I expected my husband to know how to make the bedroom exciting without my involvement. “He’s the guy; he knows how to make things work.” I was a passive new bride. And it made for disappointments before I started making serious mental adjustments.

Guys like to know what is working and not working in the bedroom–not in harsh critical ways, mind you, but through loving practical feedback. When they operate in the blind, they tend to give their wives what they think they need. And that’s not always a good thing.

The wise bride learns (and the emphasis here is learns) to speak and communicate and respond to her husband, not lie back and expect fireworks without effort.

Ngina OtiendeNgina Otiende is the author of the newly released book, “Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily-ever-after in the Early Years“. In the book she talks about her early marriage challenges and how God transformed their relationship through intentional effort and grace.  Ngina blogs at IntentionalToday.com where she equips the early-wed wife with tools and resources to create intentional happily-ever afters. Connect with Ngina on Facebook, and Pinterest 

Wifey Wednesday: Why to Work Out as a Couple

Workout as a CoupleIt’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Today welcome Jenn Faulk, who is sharing the life-changing effects and benefits that working out as a couple has had on her marriage. At the end, Jenn has a special gift for all my readers!

Four years ago, my husband was told that he needed to get fit… or else.

It was a doomsday diagnosis for us, a young pastor and his homemaker wife struggling to make a difference at a very difficult church. Stress levels were high but not nearly as high as my sweet husband’s blood pressure. When his doctor discovered this problem during a routine checkup, he told Wes there were two options — get fit or go on medication.

Like most young pastors and their wives, we doubted we could afford the medication, so we decided to go with the other option and get in shape together. Neither one of us could run a quarter of a mile at that point, so it was with great faith, anticipation, and even a little bit of fear that we signed up for our first race (so that we had a looming deadline on the calendar to keep us accountable) and began training, one tiny step at a time.

What we learned in the process was that getting in shape together, as a team, would do a lot for our health and abundantly more for the health of our marriage.

Here are just a few of the benefits we’ve discovered in working out as a couple.

1.  It makes you better teammates, on and off the pavement.

Communication is crucial in marriage, but it’s so easy to fall into patterns where we don’t adequately express ourselves or completely listen either one. In putting together a plan to work out together and actually making it happen, you’ll find that you’re more deliberate and intentional about communicating. I know that I’m never more communicative than when we’re eighteen miles into a race and I feel like dying. The freedom I feel at that point to say all kinds of things to Wes (some good, some not) honestly carries over to real life, where mundane tasks sometimes lull us into a routine that strangles real communication. Because we’ve learned to express ourselves in cheering one another on and supporting each other through physical challenges, we’re better able to keep our communication open in our everyday lives.

2.  It gives you goals to work towards together.

Remember when you first married and you had crazy dreams of all you’d do together? Everyday life and the routines we find ourselves in can sometimes rob our marriages of this wonderful practice. By tackling a fitness goal together, you’ll find yourselves dreaming big again! That first race we put on our calendar years ago gave us a definite goal to work towards together. It was such a blessing to us to have this common ground to keep coming back to and looking towards, even when life was, at time, difficult and challenging. As you work together to meet your goal, you’ll go through tough situations, challenging times, and celebrations. This only makes you better prepared for the very same experiences you’ll have in life as well.

3.  It gives you more time with one another.

When we started running, we had two preschool-aged children who sounded more like thirty preschool-aged children when they got worked up. (More like thirty wild chimpanzees. True story.) Time together where we could have coherent thoughts much less conversation was a challenge, but we loaded our girls up in a double jogging stroller packed with sippy cups, snacks, and toys and fought for those precious few minutes where we could run together. Now that our girls are older and more self-sufficient, life is still crazy busy, and the time we get to work out is sometimes the only time we get to be alone together. We guard it jealously and can honestly attest to how those miles covered side by side have been foundational in our marriage. That time alone together, even now, away from the demands of a busy home and the responsibilities that come with it, is priceless. (And the weekend trips away to go and run a race out of town, while the grandparents watch the girls? Bliss!)

4.  It makes the bedroom more exciting.

Speaking of those trips away (ahem), getting fit together makes for an all around boost in intimacy. If Wes had known this, he’d have gotten us into running much earlier, honestly. The confidence that comes with being in shape combined with the endurance that results from pushing your limits physically… well, need I say more?

5. It gives you another opportunity to glorify God together.

When we take the time to take care of our bodies as God calls us to do, we’re better equipped to serve Him. Getting in shape and adopting a healthier lifestyle alongside your husband benefits your health and his individually, making it far more likely that you’ll have more quality, healthful years ahead with which to serve Christ. We pray for daily health and strength to give back to Him as an offering, and staying in shape together has made it possible for us to do more than we could have imagined we’d be able to do this far into our ministry together.

This past year, Wes and I celebrated ten years of marriage by running our tenth marathon together.

One of the sweetest times of our marriage thus far has most definitely been the time we’ve spent running together, working towards better health alongside one another, putting our minds and hearts to a shared goal, and celebrating every finish line hand in hand.

In this season of fresh starts and new resolutions, let me encourage you to consider beginning to dream about, work towards, and meet fitness goals with your husband. It doesn’t have to be something huge to count. Start where you are and do what you can do, trusting that the effort you put into it will be of great gain down the road for your health, your life, and your marriage.

ResolutionsAs a special gift for all To Love, Honor and Vacuum readers.  She is offering her book Resolutions FREE on Kindle for January 14, 2015 only!

Check out her Amazon book page for other books Jenn has written, too.

Jenn FaulkJenn Faulk is a full time mom and pastor’s wife in Pasadena, Texas.  She has a BA in English-Creative Writing from the University of Houston and an MA in Missiology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  She loves talking about Jesus, running marathons, listening to her daughters’ stories, and serving alongside her husband in ministry.  You can contact her through her blog www.jennfaulk.com

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Do you have some advice for us today? Link up the URL of your own marriage post in the linky below, and then remember to link back here so that other people can read these great marriage posts!

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.




Wifey Wednesday: Don’t Stay Pure Until You’re Married

When you read that title of the post, you probably thought I meant this:

Don’t stay PURE until you’re MARRIED.

But what if I actually meant this:

Don’t stay pure UNTIL you’re married.

The until makes all the difference.

In the church, that’s the message we’ve been giving young people: you stay pure UNTIL you’re married. But what does that mean? That once you tie the knot, your purity is somehow lost? That implies that sex once you’re married is somehow impure. That you are now tarnished. And that you have lost something you can never get back again.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Last year a woman wrote a blog post about how she regretted being a virgin until her wedding night, and the post went completely viral. Her point was that growing up in the church she felt that sex was dirty, and by staying a virgin until her wedding it made sex awful. If she had been able to embrace sex earlier her sex life would have been much better.

But the problem is not virginity; the problem is the spin we put on it.

And the best rebuttal that I read to her piece is this one by Sarah, a single woman in her twenties, who made the point I made above: Christians, stop staying pure UNTIL you’re married. Go read it. It is awesome!

Here’s just part of what she wrote:

If your goal is staying pure UNTIL marriage, you’re going to walk into a marriage highly dissatisfied. That’s because you were never meant to lose your purity. In fact, it’s not something that CAN be lost. It’s a lifestyle, not a state of being. Something either you walk in or you don’t. In accepting the exchange of Jesus, you can’t separate yourself from it. It goes with you to both the grocery store AND to the sanctuary, to the doctor’s office AND to the kitchen to make a sandwich.

It also goes with you to your bedroom.

It goes with you, because you go with Christ.

Purity isn’t lost in the moment, it’s an essential key to a happy (and lasting) marriage. It’s what keeps you connected to both God and each other, it’s what helps you stay strong and faithful to one another, it’s what helps you to build trust and affection.

And yes, blushing elders. It’s one of the most important ingredients in having GREAT sex.

Read the rest here.

WifeyWednesday175Now, today is Wednesday, the first Wifey Wednesday of 2015. And on Wednesdays I always talk marriage. And so today I’d do a bit of a rah-rah post to get us ready for great sex in 2015!

One thing I love about all you, my readers, is that so many of you send me articles you think I may find interesting. That’s how I first found out about that viral post, and that’s how I first saw Sarah’s great rebuttal.

Kathy R sent me this note:

One of my friends posted this article [about not being a virgin on your wedding night] on facebook calling it “One Hell of a powerful article” so I wanted to share it with you. While I understand the reasons behind this person’s issues with sex, it still bothers me that she is basically saying “I wish I’d had sex a long time ago because then I wouldn’t have all these problems!” And now that I’m pregnant with a little girl, it scares me to death what to do to train her up in the way God sees sex and marriage, not the fear-mongering that some churches do, but how it was designed!

Elizabeth C and others sent notes that echoed Kathy’s, and several mentioned the same issue: how do we raise our daughters so they don’t think like that?

I think the easiest way to raise kids who have healthy views of sexuality is to have a healthy view of it yourself–and to not shy away from conversations. If we are not ashamed of sex, and if we enjoy sex, our kids will pick up on the fact that sex isn’t something to be ashamed about at all.

So the key to raising kids well is YOU.

Making the new year awesome in the bedroom--by dealing with our attitudes towards sex

We all have issues regarding sex.

All of us. And that’s truly okay. Don’t berate yourself about it; just know that it is universal.

Why wouldn’t we have issues? Sex is so interconnected with our identity and with our spirituality. It’s all tied up in our ideas of true intimacy, both with our husbands and with others, and even with God. And we live in a fallen world. So that means that the parts of us that are the most personal, the most intense, the most vulnerable, will be marred in some way. Some of us will be marred more than others, but we will all be touched.

And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you if you have issues! Truly. I had issues with sex–I couldn’t relax during sex because I had such major trust issues and I didn’t feel that I could let my guard down. And if you can’t let your guard down, you can’t enjoy sex. I even developed full-blown vaginismus that took a few years to really get over. I didn’t even realize I had these issues until we got married! But being married helped me get over those trust issues, and they slowly went away. God used marriage as a vehicle to heal me.

So whatever your issues, know that you are not alone, but also know:

God can handle your sexual issues.

Just like there’s healing for other issues in our lives, like perfectionism or rejection or grief, there is also healing for whatever sexual issues you have. Really. If you’re struggling, it honestly doesn’t always have to be like this!

Sex reveals our insecurities, and here are a few posts that may help you:

Getting over your own sexual baggage

Getting over your husband’s sexual baggage
Getting over the effects of sexual abuse
Developing a healthy view of sexuality

If you never had a healthy view of sex because of the same issues as the original blog poster, here’s my take:

Has our purity culture gone overboard?
Why we should stop using the term virgin

I echo a lot of Sarah’s points there with my own spin on them.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you enjoyed those posts, and if you’ve really struggled to get a healthy view of sexuality, you really need to pick up The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. In it, I explain in detail (and with a lot of humor) why God created sex the way He did, and how we can see it as a fun, low stress, intimate thing. When you read this blog, you get bits and pieces. If you want it all in one place, get that book! It will help. (and give it to girls who are about to get married so they don’t have the same regrets as that blog poster!)

But sex also reveals our sin, and lays it bare. Here are some posts that can help with that:

4 things you must do if your husband uses porn
Discovering your husband is having an affair
What to do if he’s texting other women
When YOU’RE the one who needs forgiveness

Practice makes perfect–even when it comes to sex!

Sometimes it just takes time to figure out what you like, and to figure out how to make sex feel good.

And the more you do it, the better at it you’ll get! That doesn’t mean that sex will be an awesome trajectory, where you start out lousy and you continue getting better all the time, so that each encounter is better than the last. Hormones may interfere for a few months (or years), little kids may make you tired, you may go through a stressful period. But if you stand back at the end of several decades and take a look at your marriage, most women do see that it gets better over time. Indeed, in my surveys for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, I found that the best years for sex in marriage are around the two decade mark.

Here are some posts that can help you with that:

How to have an orgasm
9 Great Sex tips to make it feel even better!

31 Days to Great SexAnd, of course, my book 31 Days to Great Sex has challenges that build on each other. It starts with the first week addressing how we feel about sex. Then we do a week on feeling more comfortable and flirty with each other–emotional intimacy. Then we turn to a week of challenges on embracing physical intimacy and making sex feel great. And then we end with challenges on how to feel more intimate–that spiritual intimacy. It’s okay if the book takes more than a month to get through! You’ll find that you talk more about sex, and you learn more about each other and yourself.

Sex really is a journey in marriage.

Sometimes you’ll have months where everything is amazing and you work like clockwork and you both have libidos that are through the roof. And sometimes you’ll have months that are a bit of a struggle.

But those struggling months help you to pull together. They point out the problems that need to be dealt with. Maybe one (or both) of you is too stressed or overworked. Maybe you’re going through a depression or hormonal changes and you need to see a doctor. Maybe you’re grieving something and you need to be able to lean on each other. Problems in the bedroom can be a sign of other things, and when we deal with these other things together, it ultimately brings us closer.

I think sex shows us why we need the vow. Without that marriage vow, when things got tough in the bedroom many may throw in the towel. But because of the vow, if sex isn’t working well we can figure it out. We can weather the storm.

Think about that woman who wrote that article. If she had had sex before she was married, would things have been better? No. She still would have had the same sexual hangups. And sex wouldn’t have worked well. But because they weren’t married, they would have wondered: should we even be getting married if we don’t work in the bedroom? Are we sexually incompatible?

I know if my husband and I had had sex before our wedding that wedding may not have happened. It was so disastrous that we both likely would have had second thoughts. But instead we were able to work through it. It’s a journey.

And I think that’s a wonderful thing.

I don’t know where you’re at in your marriage. I don’t know if you’re in crisis, or if you’re in blahdom, or if  you’re in ecstasy. But wherever you are, know that 2015 will have its ups and its downs. It will be rocky. But regardless, it can also be very good. Sex can be one of the vehicles where God does great healing in our lives. It can be a vehicle where God helps us embrace more freedom and helps heal some of our perfectionism and control freak tendencies. It can be a vehicle that God uses to bring you and your husband closer together.

And let’s not forget–sex can be a great stress reliever! :)

So embrace it this year. Don’t despair if you have issues–just work on them and take them to God. Don’t despair if it’s never felt very good. Just consider it a great research project for the year ahead. Don’t despair if you’ve been going through a rough patch. It’s a new year–and new beginnings!

And I wish you a very great new year, even in the bedroom. We’re going to talk a lot more this year about what real intimacy is, and about how to deal with more of the common problems we have in the bedroom. So stick around! But whatever you do, don’t give up on sex. Don’t believe it’s hopeless. It can be awesome–and it will be for you, too. Just give it time.

Now, do you all have any advice for us today? Just enter the URL of your own blog post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so that other people can read these great posts!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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



Top 10 Ways to Relax More in the Bedroom

10 Ways to help you Relax During Sex!

It’s that time–you and your husband are ready to get it on! But there’s a problem. While you like sex, you’re awfully shy. You pull the sheets up to your chin, turn the light out, and your heart starts pounding–just not from arousal. What’s he thinking? What are YOU thinking? You just can’t relax during sex.

It’s a common problem. So I decided to ask Julie, the awesome blogger at Intimacy in Marriage and the author of Pursuit of Passion to come up with 10 great tips on how to relax during sex.

Here’s Julie:

For something that is made to look so easy in romantic comedy movies, sex in real life often is cumbersome and stressful.
Do you struggle relaxing during sex? If so, you are not alone.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten ways to relax more during sexAsk yourself these ten questions:

1. “Can I just not relax during sex or can I not relax during the rest of my life too?”

If relaxing during sex is difficult, possibly you have a hard time relaxing in general.

In our chaotic culture with endless details to corral, you wouldn’t be the first person to plead “stress” as an intimacy killer.

There are groceries to buy, bosses to please, permission slips to sign, appointments to set, lunches to pack, diapers to change, laundry to fold. The list really is endless. You run through a demanding day (or sometimes crawl, depending on how much caffeine you’ve had), and at the end of it, you find it tediously hard to shut the list off.

The list follows you everywhere.

Into the bathroom. In the car. It even crawls in bed with you, totally insensitive to the grip it has on your mind when you try to make love.

Take a good hard look at your life. Where do you need healthier boundaries? Where do you need more realistic expectations about what you can accomplish on any given day?

It’s okay to just let go a little and be at peace with a messy imperfect life (which, ironically, is what everyone else is living as well, despite what you’ve maybe told yourself).

2. “Is our bedroom too hot or too cold?”

We all think we can rationalize this away. The room is too cold or too hot and you figure that once sex gets going, you will forget how distracted you are by being too hot. Or too cold.

A better approach is to fix the temperature problem before foreplay even starts.

3. “Would a shower help me to relax?”

I’m a big fan of the hot shower or hot bath before sex. It gives you a few moments to wash the day away (figuratively and literally, especially if you’ve had newborns and toddlers pawing at you all day).

And it also allows you to come to bed clean.

Not surprising, a concern about cleanliness can cause some people to be anxious about sex, especially if oral sex will be part of the encounter.   A hot shower or bath can help ease these concerns and help you relax.

Maybe suggest that you and your spouse shower together. This can be a great precursor to fabulous sex. I’m speaking from experience on this one!

4. “Have I become too indifferent about my own sexual pleasure?”

Women have become masters at disregarding their own sexual pleasure, even going so far as faking orgasm just to end the entire encounter sooner. The irony is that if you are stressed, you likely need orgasm more, not less.

Your sexual pleasure matters. Do you struggle having an orgasm? Many women do. This is such a hot topic that I compiled an entire page of posts on it. Check out The Orgasm Page on my site.

5. “Do I just need to live in the moment?”

Sometimes we can “over-think” sex. It’s hard to relax while we’re making love if we are also worrying about body image or wondering if we are “doing everything right.”

Stop over-thinking and allow yourself to live in the moment. Sexual intimacy with your spouse should be a place of uninhibited fun and connection, where you can let go of your insecurities and just live.

6. “Do I need more foreplay to relax?”

I can’t answer how much foreplay you need, but generally speaking, women need more than men.

Teach your spouse what is arousing for you. Caressing? Kissing? Backrubs? Oral sex? The more you allow yourself to be aroused, the less likely you are to be stressed and nervous about sex.

Stop seeing foreplay as “an extra” if there is time. Instead, embrace it as a vital and enticing aspect of lovemaking

7. “Have I flirted with and affirmed my spouse throughout the day?”

This is an easy one for newlyweds (generally speaking). But for people who’ve been married awhile or who are in the throes of parenting little creatures?

Yeah. Takes a bit more effort to think sexy thoughts and say sexy things to one another. But there is a lot of truth behind that saying “sex begins in the kitchen.” I would add that a positive attitude about sex begins in the kitchen early in the day and must be sustained throughout the day.

A kind word. A tender text. A suggestive whisper. A discreet sexual touch. A lingering kiss. All are great aphrodisiacs if you start pursuing them as such.

8. “Have I considered what sex does for my marriage outside the bedroom?”

We often accuse men of compartmentalizing sex (and really everything in their lives). But women sometimes do it as well.

Some women see sex as nothing more than a task to check off their list and forget about until next time. But the positive benefits of nurtured sexual intimacy reach far beyond your marriage bed.

When you look at sex this way, it’s easier to relax about it, even intentionally go after it.

 9. “What’s the worst that could happen if the kids hear us?”

A big reason women have a hard time relaxing during sex is they are consumed with thoughts of the kids hearing them.

Consider this, though. If your children are young (under age 8), they are likely fast asleep. If they are older (over age 12), and they happen to hear you, they already know what you are doing and really don’t want to confront you about it.

And if they fall in-between 8-12? They are at an ideal age to be reassured that mom and dad are fine and it’s important they spend some private time together.

Instead of worrying so much about the kids hearing you, buy a lock for your bedroom door and turn on some light music. And remind yourself that the best thing for those kiddos is a mama and daddy in love. Sex is part of marriage.

Certainly your kids shouldn’t be privy to the details of your sexual intimacy, but you’re not doing them any favors by trying to give the impression that sex never happens.

10. “Do I really just need to connect first with my spouse?”

Marriage is hard. I know few people who think it isn’t. That being the case, there is a lot to be said for connecting with your spouse before you scamper beneath the sheets.

My husband and I have become more discerning about our genuine need to spend even 20 minutes at the end of the evening simply talking. That connection sets the tone for anything that might happen once our clothes come off.

Put the kids to bed. Turn off the TV. Sit close to each other. And just talk. You might be surprised at how relaxing it is. And how arousing it is.

When you consider these top 10 ways to relax during sex, which ones are you willing to try?

Julie SibertPursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your MarriageJulie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage and is the co-author of Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two boys and one rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer dog who kind of wants to chew up the kitchen floor.

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.