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.

 

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.

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.

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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.

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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 60% 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.

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 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?

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.

Wifey Wednesday: Confessions of a Tired Wife

Today’s guest post is from Abigail Allemann. Abigail tells how she found Sheila’s book, 31 Days to Great Sex, and how it transformed her marriage in her confessions of a tired wife.


Confessions of a Tired Wife
Missionary Life Snapshot –Why I Was Tired

My husband and I are missionaries who have been serving overseas in Budapest, Hungary for the last two years.  I have only recently started to take offense at the classic boring sexual position named for people like us, because, well, if the shoe fits…

You see, I feel like I can re-phrase a portion of Paul’s letter to the Philippians like this:

If anyone else thinks they have reason to be tired, I have more: Two years of living with in-laws while raising missionary support; five years and three babies born in Pennsylvania, Florida and Hungary respectively; 24 hour drives through blizzards while using a nebulizer for a three month-old with RSV; two summers of overseas travel with babies and toddlers; three months with 5000 miles in cross-country travel, 3 hotels and 3 more homes for overnights, 5 different places to call home (i.e. contained our family and all unpacked wordly goods); full-time language-learning, cultural adjustment and a baby born a few months after moving overseas…

You get the point. (Actually my tired is one many missionary wives can claim!)

I have lived tired.  And, in the times when I was pretending I wasn’t between babies, moves and languages, a simple conversation chronicling our lives over the past 7 years could take me right back.

By the Grace of God, my husband and I survived all of this craziness. More than survived. We thrived in faith and service to one another, our kids and God and knew a love that was warm, honest and exciting as we lived the adventure of God’s calling on our lives in a way few are privileged to experience.

Something Was Missing –Searching for Hope

But something was desperately missing.

I think you know where this is going.

Like so many women, sex had become duty for me. My husband has always been patient, sacrificial and desires to give me pleasure. Yet, this too, had become predictable and just not very fun.  We had our moments, but, the sad truth was we were living the adventure in big ways and yet it was missing from the most intimate space between us.

I knew things would have been different as far as frequency in our sex life if I could get over my tiredness which, of course, made me feel more guilty and, in turn, more tired. Why couldn’t I give more? Why didn’t I want to? What was wrong with me?

It was an evening last fall when I somehow (can you say divine inspiration?) found Sheila’s book 31 Days to Great Sex. Much to my husband’s delight we began to read it together that night. The next morning I woke up with a profound sense of hope in my spirit.

It was a strange thought to me, yet I knew it was from God. You see, I had been meditating on hope and seeking answers through His Word. But I just couldn’t grasp it. I was body, mind, soul weary. That fall was full of intense spiritual warfare as the Enemy of souls, marriage and ministry was gunning hard for me to give up.

So many things were coming together in our new life, but I was dying inside. And at the depth of my struggle, I was crying out for hope.

God’s Surprising AnswerHoly Sex Embodies Hope

So, just how does spicing up my sex life give me hope?

The Bible calls hope an anchor of our soul. The hope in which we are saved is the redemption of our bodies as we bear the firstfruits of the Spirit, groaning with all of creation, yet set apart as image-bearers.

Through sex, as God’s very good gift in marriage, we experience tangible hope.

When my husband and I come together as one flesh, as a loving sacrifice of ourselves for the other, our minds, hearts and souls are bound and sealed in hope through our physical joining, and it is beautiful. We grasp the promise of Heaven; the restoration of all that was lost in the fall as together we restore God’s perfect design for sex.

Essentially, we see the redemption of our bodies in the most vulnerable way possible as we experience the truth of all that Jesus bought back; taking away our shame that puts all kinds of walls around us. We look into each other’s eyes, speak words of love, touch and taste our bodies given to one another. It all says, “Thank You Jesus.  It is all because of what you have done that we are naked, unashamed and full of love for one another.”

I may have believed words like these before I purposed to see my sex life renewed, but now I live them.

I also experienced the freedom of hope.

My faith says that, no matter what comes, God is bringing me Home.  It will happen One Day and all of my hopes are bound up in this promised consummation.

But that can all be hard to know while I struggle in the here and now.

In the thick of my overseas adjustment, I was grieving the loss of friends, family, basic competency, heart language and it was blinding me to everything else. I have learned to practice thanks yet the cathedral of my life was small, filled with the stale air of the forgetful. I just couldn’t get to the hope that is Christ in me–glory.

Enter sex. It wasn’t just that my hubby and I started having sex more, it was that it went from a duty to a beauty in my life. I started to let go and have fun. I lived like my eternity is secure and there’s an amazing way to bring Heaven here, right now. Because there is.

I have become a Proverbs 31 woman who laughs at the days to come. I live vibrantly, sure of who and whose I am and where I am ultimately going—so I can have fun and enjoy today. I can let go of to-do lists and send my husband a ‘come hither’ look. I’m not looking for the adventure on the screen or in the book, when there is hot, holy, hilarity with a best friend who is my one and only lover.

It is living free in hope when the kid in me plays with my husband and is re-charged to have fun with my kids. It is embracing true hope to know I am someone’s prize and to share the secret smile and wink of behind-the-bedroom-door love.  And it feels so good, right, true, lovely and honorable to know that God smiles on our unashamed, wild, free love.

I am still very much in process with all of this. We are finishing up two months of travel in the States on furlough. This is something that still greatly tires me and makes finding time to connect hard for my husband and me. BUT I have pushed through the weary to hope and vision and I won’t go back. This makes working through the hard and tired so much easier and so much more fun! My prayer is that you are uplifted, not weighed down, through what I shared today. We are in this together!

AbigailI 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. This combined with the all-too-true ‘mommy brain’ explains much regarding my mental state most days. 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 2 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!

 

31 Days to Great SexIf you long to make sex a positive thing in your marriage, check out Sheila’s book 31 Days to Great Sex, that Abigail talks about. It’s not 31 Days OF Great Sex (don’t worry!); it’s 31 Days of short challenges that can help you rediscover intimacy and fun in the bedroom!


WifeyWednesday175Want some other great links to help you if you’re a tired wife? Here are other marriage bloggers chiming in for our Wifey Wednesday round up:

Intentional Today: Productivity Apps that Help My Marriage!

Calm Healthy Sexy: 4 Reasons to Take a Summer Vacation (Where you don’t even have to leave home!)

Women Living Well: When You’ve Lost Your Joy for Marriage and Motherhood

Women Living Well: How Important is Date Night to your Marriage?

Club 31 Women: 9 Classy Reasons to Go on a Cheap Date

Intimacy in Marriage: 5 Ways to Find More Time for Sex

How Porn in the House Affects Kids

When dad (or mom) uses porn, what happens to the kids in the house?

Today’s guest poster is going to tell her story today. She’s a frequent reader and a blogger, but she wishes to remain anonymous to protect the family members mentioned in her story. But I know her story could be so many others, too:

How Porn in the House Affects KidsPorn’s version of paying it forward

Their eyes stared back at me each morning.  I tried to avoid looking at them by covering my face with my teddy bear or by looking down at my feet, but there was something strangely hypnotizing about them.  Stacks and stacks of magazines full of half-naked women piled just outside of reach, but not out of sight.  Odd really, considering that racier posters were in plain sight on the wall.

The word on the street that porn is harmless and that pin-up girl pictures never hurt anyone grieves my heart in the deepest way.   Not just because of the damage that porn is doing to marriages, but because of its effects on children.  Porn in the home pays forward dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours, passing on a heritage of sin and brokenness to the next generation.

Porn’s legacy in my life began with me feeling grossly unattractive and inadequate as a girl and eventually as a young woman.  It was the sentiment I experience now looking at a Cosmopolitan magazine in the grocery store multiplied by a thousand.  I didn’t know then that the images were not real.  My father was so captivated by these women, but I didn’t look anything like them.  Would any man ever want me?

The pictures also accelerated my sexual awareness.  I could sense when adults around me were attracted to each other and knew exactly what a locked door meant well before I had the emotional maturity to sort out how I felt about it.  I was confused, but I didn’t feel safe talking to anyone about it.  Sex was blatantly displayed around the house and yet I still felt a sense of shame about it.

Worst of all, these images distorted my view of myself as a woman.  I never saw pictures of men treating women with respect.  The women were always posed in such a way as to be “available for the man’s taking”.  The result in my young and impressionable mind was that the purpose of a woman was to be used by a man.  You’d think that this would be horrifying to a young girl, but it wasn’t.  I was actually petrified that I would never be “used” in that way by anyone.  I didn’t look like the women in the pictures, so I must not be desirable.  In my desperation to prove my own worthiness and desirability, I basically threw my virginity at the first guy I dated (who I didn’t even like!) because at least then I was desirable enough for someone to sleep with.

Hiding porn doesn’t erase its damage

In today’s world, grown-ups can hide their porn behind computer passwords, which I think provides a false sense of security. There’s no porn in the house; there’s only porn on the computer. It’s all tucked away, so it won’t hurt the kids, right?  Not so much.

Kids have a way of finding their parents’ secrets. My dad had movies, too.  They were at the back of the closet on a special shelf with a blanket on top of them.  I found them while looking for my game console, and knew exactly what they were.  I never watched one, but I easily could have.

Porn impaired my father’s parenting judgment.  If we are exposed to something over and over again, it becomes normal for us, and it takes more and more to produce a sense of shock.  While I was thankfully never in the room when the back-of-the-closet movies made their way onto the TV, I did see more than my fair share of inappropriate media content.  I spent countless hours watching shows with violent and sexual themes.  I was also taken to an R-rated movie at the tender age of 8.  Images of naked prostitutes from that film remain crystal clear in my mind more than 25 years later.  Worst of all, they have a habit of popping into my head when I’m making love to my husband.  Perfect.

Porn in the home compromised my stepmother’s parenting judgment.  I think that my stepmother was affected by desensitization as well.  Nudity was no big deal to her.  She would force me to change out of my swimsuit in public places in spite of my protests because she thought my objections were ridiculous.  During a group campout, the girls had to sponge-bathe outside while the boys watched.   This was no big deal for her, but it made me want to puke.  Could she have been so misguided without porn’s influence?  Perhaps.  But I’m guessing it didn’t help matters any.

A better legacy

The issues that I’ve mentioned still affect me to varying degrees today.  They didn’t just disappear when I grew up and got married.  I have many of the symptoms of porn use even though I have never voluntarily looked at it!  By God’s grace I have a wonderful husband who is captivated by me and only me.   Together and by God’s strength, we are building healthy attitudes and behaviours, trying to pass on a heritage of faith and wholeness in God to our children.   Won’t you join us?

Sheila says, Thanks so much for writing this, Anonymous! I appreciate it.

If you are struggling with porn in your house, here are some posts that can help:

The Top 10 Effects of Porn on your Marriage and Your Sex Life

4 Things You Must Do if Your Husband Uses Porn

What to do if you Catch Your Child Using Porn

Soul Ties: How to Break Them and Live in Freedom

Soul Ties: How to Break Bonds with Past Lovers and Live in Freedom in Marriage

A New Season!  Ecclesiastes 3:1 says,There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”–so today I want to announce a new day here in our community.  With the desire to reach and teach as many as possible and with intention to promote Christ in all things–marriages, family and life, I am going to start using Wednesdays to promote and share some wonderful posts that you may not have read–and to give you some treasure troves of new bloggers to follow. So I will be discontinuing the linky from now on. I want to be sure that the posts that you read from here I can thoroughly agree with, and so I’m going to hand pick the ones I recommend. They will share on topics I have picked for each week.  This week’s topic talks about putting your past behind you and forgiving yourself.

Soul ties–or invisible bonds–wreak havoc on so many marriages. Today guest poster and author Danielle Tate explains what soul ties are, and how we can break them.

When I was 17, I naively thought the sexual behavior I partook in was harmless and momentary. I reconciled in my head that because we had intentions on getting married and because our hearts were “right” toward each other that sexual activity was somehow okay.

Two years later when we split, my heart literally ached. I remember standing in the grocery store parking lot where he worked just wanting him to hug me “one last time.” He was like a drug, a good drug that I needed. I was going through withdrawal over a silly boy but my body ached without him. Friends told me to move on but I could not get past the feeling that part of me had suddenly been ripped away. Recovery was slow and painful – filled with anger, rebellion and a new tattoo.

“The next time it will be different,” I told myself. Boy, was I right. It was all kinds of different. Seven years of hell ended with exposed lies, infidelity and abuse. Way different from my straight-A, Honor Society, college-bound beau. Yet the old familiar feeling of needing my fix still came even after I dumped his clothes in the driveway. I was addicted, but to what?

This time, unlike before, I initiated the break up. I knew he was a loser (though I see him differently now) and I knew it was a very unhealthy relationship. Yet for months, we had “conjugal visits.” It seemed I was the prisoner sentenced to a life of longing fulfilled only by someone I didn’t love and didn’t even want to be around.

Twisted isn’t it?

Yet this is what happens when we have sexual experiences outside the confines of marriage. Actually, it’s what happens when we have sexual experiences regardless of our marital status. Every time we have a sexual experience, we are creating deep-rooted bonds with the other individual. There are a few different terms used to describe these bonds but the most popular, and the one I use in my book is “soul ties.”

The Dynamics of Soul Ties

A soul tie is defined as “A spiritual connection between two people who have been physically intimate with each other or who have had an intense emotional or spiritual association or relationship.”* If you think of sex inside the confines of marriage this is a wonderful thing. God created us to have sexual relations with our spouse that in turn create deep-rooted bonds.

See, He knew that after the honeymoon, there’d be morning breath, bills to pay, kids to raise and dirty socks left on the floor. He knew life would happen and so He created us to be deeply bonded with our spouse so that during the crazy seasons of life when we sometimes don’t really like our spouse, we would still be deeply bonded to them.

Soul Ties, Drugs and Super Glue

When we have a sexual experience, our brains produce dopamine, the same chemical that feeds a gambling addiction, your chocolate cravings and the junkie’s need for another fix. Dopamine is often described as the “feel good” chemical of the brain and it plays a major role in our lives (good and bad). You see, our bodies don’t care if it’s cocaine, a cupcake or a sexual experience – dopamine will be produced and it will bind us. This is why my former boyfriends were like my drug of choice and why I could not see myself without them. I was addicted to the high. I had created soul ties when I had these feel- good, intimate experiences with guys I wasn’t married to. This is also why it literally hurt when I broke up.

Soul ties are like super glue. If you’ve had sexual encounters outside of marriage, consensual or forced, there is most like a lingering soul tie that needs to be dealt with otherwise you’ll forever be plagued with thoughts, feelings and even actions that are unwanted. I mention forced encounters because, although pleasure is not associated with abuse, our brains still produce chemical reactions and our soul can still be tied to someone who has abused us. Some symptoms of lingering soul ties include:

  • Someone whose voice you hear in your head
  • Obsessive day-time thought about someone
  • Dreaming or waking up at night thinking about someone on a regular basis
  • Someone you think of or “see” in your mind when you are intimate with your spouse

A Marriage in Crisis

Speaking of spouses, the hidden soul ties in my life deeply affected the first several years of my marriage. It gto so bad that my husband thought I was having an affair. I was distant, I disliked sex….I really disliked sex and I was not fulfilled. Unbeknownst to him, I would cry almost every.single.time we had sex. The guilt, shame and dirty feelings I had as a sexually active single woman carried right into my marriage. Those feelings didn’t go away just because we said “I do.” Ceremony alone was not enough to make my past sexual sins disappear. I needed healing. I needed forgiveness and I need a clean break.

Breaking Soul Ties

There are 4 Key steps to breaking soul ties:

  1. Acknowledge
  2. Confess and Repent
  3. Forgive
  4. Break and Remove

First, we need to acknowledge that there is a problem. Ask the Lord to show you who you have ungodly soul ties with. Make a list if you need to. Secondly, we need to confess and repent of our sins. This may involve finding a godly accountability partner that you can confess to and who can help you walk through the process. It maybe be a church counselor, pastor or elder or a family member.

Next, we need to find forgiveness. We need to accept God’s forgiveness, we need to forgive ourselves and lastly, we need to forgive our former partners or abusers. Remember, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.

Finally, you need to verbalize a prayer to break off the soul ties. You need to speak it out! Life and death are in the power of the tongue so when you speak out you are declaring with your mouth the power of Christ to break the ties to your past. You must also do an inventory and remove any mementoes, gifts or souvenirs from those past relationships.

*Tim Stewart “Soul Ties (and Breaking Soul Ties)” http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/soul-ties/

Restoring the Lost PetalFor more detailed help breaking soul ties and walking through the process of restoration, pick up a copy of Restoring the Lost Petal: A Journey Through the Loss and Restoration of Sexual Purity. It’s available now in my store as a .pdf download (you can read it on your computer or on any phone or ereader), or as a paperback here.

meet danielleDanielle Tate, founder of Thrive Ministries, is passionate about sharing her message or restoration with women of all ages. After 13 years in the corporate world, she became a stay at home wife and mother and began making natural beauty products and blogging. She is the author of Restoring the Lost Petal: A Journey Through the Loss and Restoration of Sexual Purity. You can find her blogging at More Than Four Walls where she writes about faith, food, and biblical stewardship. Danielle is married to Brad and they have a son, Wyatt.


Hi everybody! Welcome to the new format of Wifey Wednesday! Instead of doing a link up party, I’m going to link up a few posts from awesome marriage bloggers who have talked about the same subject, so that we can stick to a “theme for the week”! So here’s today’s theme: getting over your past.

The Generous Wife: The Tipping Point
Dayna Bickham: Breaking the Cycle of Unforgiveness
Women Living Well: Pursuing Purity (in an Opposite World)
Messy Marriage: Shame on You?
To Love, Honor and Vacuum: Getting over the Guilt of your Sexual Past

Top 10 Annoying Things About Women Aging

Today’s guest post from J at Hot, Holy & Humorous  is a light-hearted and yet true reflection of annoying things about women aging.  I think her top ten will make you laugh and maybe even say an “Amen” or two!

annoying things about women agingSheila recently wrote a transparent post about women aging–and what she was going through in midlife.. While reading her struggles, there was a lot to which I could relate. I’m (well) into my 40s and starting to read more and more about menopause. Because like a brewing hurricane out on the ocean, like it or not, it’s a-comin’.

Just so all of you older ladies can nod in remembrance, you peer-aged women can utter “uh-huh” in solidarity, and you younger women can brace yourselves for the inevitable…let me confess my Top Ten (Annoying) Things about Aging.

1. Sometimes I cry for any ol’ reason or no good reason at all.

Most of the time, I’m fine—in normal emotional control. Then I’ll have a day or two or three when my tear ducts seem to have malfunctioned and my eyes turn into a fountain. Even chest-heaving sobs may make an appearance. When I ask myself what’s so awful that I’m melting into a puddle like the Wicked Witch of the West, I haven’t a clue. Maybe I heard bad news or had a stressful day, but such events wouldn’t normally send me into frenzy of weeping. So far, my best way of coping is to let it all out. As my grandmother (and King Solomon) would say, “This too shall pass.”

2. I can’t remember your name or where I put my glasses.

My memory has never been extremely sharp. I’m terrible at remembering birthdays and deadlines. (Thank you, calendar app!) But my memory has worsened to a dull edge that couldn’t cut softened butter. Not long ago, I had my husband and a few restaurant staff searching for a pair of glasses for several minutes before I found them…On. My. Face. And I simply have to apologize if I haven’t seen you in a long while and we run into each other in the store, because even though our children played together for three years straight, I have no idea what your name is. It’s buried somewhere under the hormonal hoopla happening in my brain.

3. Calories have turned evil and go straight to my waist.

I considered other options—such as a party magician blew up balloon animals and implanted them in my belly while I was sleeping; the extraterrestrial from the Alien movie left Sigourney Weaver’s tummy and slithered into mine; or my body is smartly storing blubber for an upcoming arctic winter (mind you, I live in Texas). Yet, I keep returning to aging and shifting body chemistry to explain why eating a cookie now translates to an inner tube appearing around my midsection. Thankfully, my husband has responded by saying there’s “more of you to love”…and suggesting we walk more often.

4. I’m allergic to new stuff—what’s up with that?

I stopped wearing earrings a few years ago, because suddenly, out of nowhere, my body developed a sensitivity to any kind of metal I tried to put through my earlobe hole. My body has decided to develop new allergies and sensitivities. I’ve become itchy during Spring when I never had issues before, and I have to carefully watch what I put on my skin or risk a rash that keeps me scratching during the day and awake at night. If this problem keeps expanding, I may need to live in a bubble.

5. My feet have gotten bigger, by which I mean “fatter.”

It must be the 40-plus years of walking on these feet that have finally managed to make them spread out like pancake batter on a skillet. Indeed, I read an article about how the tendons and ligaments lose elasticity in older age, resulting in bigger feet. And then it went on to predict that you could gain a half-size every 10 years past age 40. Good heavens! At that rate, I’ll be wearing my husband’s shoes by the time my dead feet are tucked into a casket.

6. The sleeping princess can snore like a fire-breathing dragon.

Remember that elasticity thing up there with the feet? It turns out that happens with your throat muscles too, so they collapse more in older age and can obstruct air flow just enough to make your pretty feminine self snore like a lumberjack. And since you’re sleeping, there’s not a thing you can do about it. You simply have to hope your husband snores louder so he doesn’t hear how you’ve become a midnight rumbler.

7. I want all the fan vents turned on me.

I don’t have hot flashes (not yet, at least), but I do get warmer than I used to. Not all the time, but often enough I’ve strategically placed fans around the house and turned all my car air-conditioning vents toward the driver’s seat. Now and then, I wake up in the middle of the night sweating and have to push off the covers, and the hubby a bit, to get cooler air moving around me. I haven’t yet had to clear out space in the freezer for a personal retreat, but I pray that’s not around the corner.

8. I should buy stock in a lubricant company.

As you grow older, your body may not moisturize quite so well…down there. A young wife may wish to buy stock in a personal lubricant company right now, so she can put that money back into her pocket when she forks it out for lube in later years. Vaginal dryness is a common complaint of perimenopause and menopause, and it’s quite possible for your brain to feel ready for sex with your husband and your body didn’t get the memo. So break out the bottle of whatever you use and improvise. It works. But I still wish Firefly Organics or Sliquid were listed in my retirement fund. I’d feel a little better.

9. I have a permanent smudge on my nose (which my doctor calls an “age spot”).

I was sitting with a friend at lunch recently, and she said, “You have something on your nose.” I wiped the bridge of my nose, and she leaned forward and said, “Right there.” I wiped again. “Huh, it’s not—” she started, but I’d realized the problem and offered, “Oh yeah, I didn’t use concealer this morning. That’s my age spot.” And just to make sure it doesn’t get lonely, I have four other small “smudges” that have cropped up on my face that I’d like to take a cheese slicer too. But it probably wouldn’t help. My doctor says it’s normal, and even more age spots might join the party. Guess I’ve earned each of those stripes—or rather, spots.

10. I should be Kegeling right now, and every minute of the day.

We moms had already been complaining for years about the toll of childbirth on the pelvic floor. But aging leans out of the toll booth, open its hands, and slaps on its own tax as you as you journey through life.  I understand that doing squats could be a better solution, but all I can hear in my head sometimes is my gynecologist’s mantra on Kegel exercises: squeeze, release, squeeze, release. Some of you older women were doing it right then while reading those words, weren’t you?

So why share all the negative nitty-gritty about growing older and experiencing perimenopause and menopause? For one thing, you can see I haven’t lost my sense of humor. If anything, my funny bone has sharpened over the years.

And strangely enough, I’m more comfortable and confident about myself than I ever was in my teens, 20s, or 30s. So I’ll take the hassles and keep the number that is my age. Every year I grow older is another year to spend time with my family, build a better marriage, share the gospel of Christ, and yeah, laugh a little at myself and this thing called life.

Sex Savvy WifeJ. Parker is the author of Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives and writes the Hot, Holy & Humorous blog, where she uses a biblical perspective and a blunt sense of humor to foster Christian sexuality in marriage.

 

 

Has the Christian Purity Culture Gone Overboard?

Sheila is a columnist for Faith Today magazine, Canada’s premier evangelical magazine, which publishes six times a year. Here’s her column for May on the Christian purity culture.

Christian Purity CultureWhat is the Christian purity culture?

Four Duggar girls–teens from the homeschooling reality show family 19 Kids and Counting–have just released their first book. Garnering the most press attention is the little tidbit that they will save not just sex, but also their first kiss, for their marriage.

I have several friends who have saved the smooching for the ceremony, and they’re very glad they did. I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, though the thought of hundreds of people watching me kiss for the first time is more intimidating than romantic. But I still find the whole Christian purity culture a little perplexing.

My mother grew up in a very conservative rural Manitoba community. They kept the Sabbath sacred; they didn’t wear makeup; they certainly didn’t dance. But kissing, at least when you were engaged, was fine. Today, though, large swaths of Christianity are more conservative than our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were.

What’s going on?

I think it all started with Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Good-Bye. That book spread like wildfire through the church, and all of a sudden dating, which had been one of the main attractions of youth groups for decades, became an anathema.

Yet while I agree there’s little benefit to high school relationships (an opinion I am so glad my teenage daughters shared), Boy Meets Girl, Harris’ follow-up book about courtship, still left me a little uneasy. He and his now-wife didn’t kiss until they were married. They really only did that famous “Christian side hug” that every evangelical teen has perfected. And Harris has a list of strict guidelines they followed so as to not feed lust.

Are Christian teenage girls growing up ashamed of their sexuality?

Lust is a real battle, yet this movement to grab lust by the throat and throttle it until it’s dead seems a little like overkill. We have purity ceremonies where we ask girls to stand with their dads and pledge not to have sex until marriage. We give endless talks on modesty, discussing hemlines and cleavage and how high T-shirts should be (two finger widths below the clavicle, apparently). I do believe in modesty; the world would be a much better place if everyone agreed that leggings are not pants. But in our eagerness combat the sexual revolution are we doing more harm than good?

That’s the question Amanda Barbee asked recently in her viral article “Naked and Ashamed.” She says that the evangelical church has made teenage girls ashamed of their sexuality, and this causes much sexual dysfunction later. As a sex and marriage author, I certainly see where she’s coming from. We spend so much time telling girls, “Don’t do it! Don’t even think about it!” And then they get married and suddenly some switch is supposed to go off that lets them see sex as a positive thing.

What makes it especially problematic, though, is the way we frame the whole issue. “Boys are walking hormones who will lust all over anyone in a tight sweater. It’s your job to keep him from lusting!” Girls’ sex drives are barely mentioned, while boys are presented as testosterone-induced drones, rendered helpless by cleavage. Girls become responsible not just for their own purity, but for boys’ purity, too, and sex becomes something boys want but girls have to fight against. No wonder so many girls grow up ambivalent about sex!

Unfortunately, Barbee didn’t offer an alternate approach. Yes, we’re shaming girls too much, but purity is important, and sex before marriage damages you both spiritually and emotionally. We do need to teach our kids to wait.

Or do we? Maybe that’s the fundamental problem with our current approach. My teenage girls’ biggest complaint about youth events is that they always centre around three messages: don’t have sex; don’t drink; and don’t cut yourself or starve yourself. But if we really want kids to make good choices, maybe we should stop teaching them to do the right thing and start introducing them to Jesus.

I was recently talking with a 19-year-old young woman who didn’t date in high school, but is now in quite a serious relationship at university. When she and her boyfriend were first discussing boundaries, they decided not to define “how far they should go” because as soon as you draw a line, you immediately rush to that line and start flirting with it. Instead, they decided that they would start every time that they’re together by focusing on Jesus. Make Jesus the centre, and the rest will follow.

We have become so scared that teens will have sex that we have created a purity culture that is centred around rules and shame rather than centred around Jesus. Yes, we should be modest, and yes, we should be pure. But we’ll achieve that much faster by having a relationship with Christ than by memorizing a bunch of rules.

I’m convinced that Christian kids often rebel because we put too much energy into teaching rules and not enough into showing them how to love Jesus. Rules don’t win people to God; Jesus does. And He’s the only one who can help us create a purity culture anyway.

For more on the Purity Culture debate:
Jessica at The Beggar’s Daughter linked up a great post this week on exactly this subject that I wanted to show you! She’s a young, single woman who writes a lot about purity. And in her post “Kissing is not Sex“, she says this:

If you listen to some teachings today it would seem as if letting a man wrap his arm around you is just as bad as letting him sleep with you.  It would seem that being alone with a man will automatically lead to fogged windows out on Lover’s Lane.

What happens when we take young women from this sex-obsessed approach to purity (because that is exactly what this is), and we brush them up against a guy and nothing happens? When holding his hand does not lead to petting or when having coffee does not lead to a slumber party? If a girl has grown up believing these are boundaries and that all roads lead to sex, the temptation is going to be to throw all of her ‘boundaries’ out the window.

Nothing happened when she held his hand, so why should anything happen when they snuggle? Nothing happened when they were alone for coffee, so what’s the big deal if she rides in his car?  She starts thinking, “What’s the big deal?” and that is the last thing you want her thinking! What we need to be doing, instead, is encouraging young women to establish their boundaries and to come up with guidelines that help them.

Great point! Read the whole thing.

Now tell me: how do we set boundaries and maintain purity WITHOUT shaming girls or becoming legalistic? I’ve been exploring this on the blog all week, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Christian purity culture.

Intimacy Before Marriage: It’s More than Just Sex!

Intimacy Before Marriage: Do we focus on the wrong temptation?Yesterday Darby Dugger shared a great post about her biggest regret: not staying pure until marriage. I’ve written at length on the blog about why we should wait until marriage for sex, and why God made sex just for marriage. But sometimes I fear that in all of our talk about saving sex for marriage we forget that the biggest sexual temptation isn’t always a physical one. Intimacy before marriage isn’t only about sex.

And so I thought today I’d share the BIG ISSUE that often causes couples to fall in the area of sexual temptation.

Here’s the scenario: a couple decides they want to wait until marriage to have sex. Yay! That’s all very good. And so they sit down and they talk a lot about boundaries. Will we kiss? If so, for how long? 10 seconds? 15 seconds? Can we kiss on the neck, too? What about hands? Where can they go? Just on the back? Nothing under clothes? Can we ever lie down together? Can we snuggle on a couch together? Etc. etc. etc.

I’ve read Christian books that talk at length about which of these boundaries you should have. As a teen, I sat through talks that laid out extremely specific boundaries that couples should adopt (right down to how many seconds you can kiss, as if we’re holding a kitchen timer or something).

We add rules upon rules to what we’re going to do physically–as if that should be our primary focus about intimacy before marriage.

And that’s where we make what can potentially be a big mistake.

Good Girls Guide My SiteWhen I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex (an awesome book for every wife, but ESPECIALLY for those about to get married!), I divided the book into three main sections: how sex works physically, emotionally, AND spiritually.  All three go into having a great sex life. And, in fact, all three are highly related to our libidos. Like I shared in the book, the times when I feel most like jumping my husband are the times when I hear him pray out loud for our girls. Hearing his heart for our children, whom I love very much, and going before God together, is seriously sexy.

We tend to think about intimacy before marriage in these terms:

Physical Intimacy = Bad

Emotional Intimacy = Good

Spiritual Intimacy = Very Good!

What are we doing here? First, we’re portraying physical intimacy as a bad thing–it’s dangerous!–which often does a real number on women once they’re married, because it’s hard to flip that switch once you are married and start to see sex as a good thing.

But we’re also turning sex into entirely a physical thing, and forgetting that it is so much more than that.

We’re actually cheapening sex.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praying together before you’re married. In fact, I think it’s a very good thing! We need to know that we can pray together and have a spiritual life together.

But here’s the thing we also have to know:

It is precisely WHEN we are praying together that we are most likely to fall sexually. It is WHEN we are spiritually and emotionally close that we are most likely to experience real sexual temptation.

And all of this applies especially to girls.

Many girls can “turn off” the sexual cues they get when they’re kissing, and can resist. We know that we’re not going to have sex before we’re married, we decide that in our heads, and we don’t let it go too far.

But when you’re praying together and feeling close, all of a sudden those sexual feelings will come on, full blast, when you didn’t really expect them. And if you, as a “good Christian girl”, have drawn up all of these physical boundaries, and have been concentrating on spiritual and emotional intimacy, you may be very surprised when all of a sudden you find yourself in a compromising situation you never dreamed of.

So what am I saying? That we shouldn’t be emotionally or spiritually close?

No, I’m not saying that. Here’s what I’m saying:

Intimacy is a wonderful thing, and intimacy in its fullness is meant to be experienced only in marriage.

It is wonderful to start to feel intimate before you’re married. But be aware that sexual temptation is often far more tied up in emotional and spiritual intimacy than it is in sexually “fooling around”. If you draw all kinds of lines that you “will not cross” physically, but fail to talk about what’s going to happen when you’re praying together or sharing deep memories or crying together and all of a sudden you feel tremendously drawn to each other, you’re likely setting yourself up for a fall.

Certainly talk about what you want to do physically, but I think a better conversation to have is this one: we are going to feel really drawn to each other the closer we get–closer in every way, not just physically. So let’s just set some boundaries like we won’t be in each other’s rooms late at night, or we’ll try not to hang out in an empty house too much, or we’ll have a friend that we text constantly for accountability.

The root of temptation is often not sexual, and if we make everything into something physical, we set ourselves up for inadvertent failure (and a whole lot of shame), and we also don’t present the full picture of who we are sexually.

Does that make sense? Let me know in the comments if this is something that you experienced when you were dating/engaged. When did you feel closest? How did you handle boundaries?

P.S. I’m doing a whole bunch of FLASH GIVEAWAYS on my Facebook Page over the next few days to celebrate getting to 20,000 fans! Head on over and watch for the giveaways–and then just comment to win!

 

Having a Healthy Sex Life After Sexual Abuse

Yesterday Mary DeMuth talked about how childhood sexual abuse had really impacted her sex life with her husband. She just wasn’t able to be “that sexy wife” that we’re “supposed” to be.

Today Paula shares her own story, and some great advice, on how to get to a healthy sex life after sexual abuse, which happened in her teen years. So appreciate these women sharing their stories!

Having a Healthy Sex Life after Sexual AbuseFor years I wondered if I’d ever be able to have a healthy sex life with my husband. Even though he had nothing to do with the sexual abuse I endured in my teen years, being with him in bed would trigger thoughts, feelings and even flashbacks of those dark nights. It wasn’t him, it was most definitely me. I would feel broken, crying myself to sleep wishing that sex didn’t exist. I couldn’t imagine ever enjoying it, ever being happy in my sex life with my husband.

I couldn’t even bare hope that I would ever use the words “fun” and “sex” in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence.

It’s often a silent struggle. Statistics say that one in every five women has been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in her lifetime, and yet so often we feel alone. As if we are the only ones struggling.

I remember reading article after article about sex online, so many that express how to please your man, how to get in the mood, and why you need to be “doing it” more frequently, but none of these topics were able to provide any encouragement to some one who found intercourse terrifying, even with the man she loved and found oh-so-very attractive.

I’ve been married for several years now, and I am finally at the point where I consider sex fun, and even initiate it from time to time!

For those of you reading this post who have also experienced sexual abuse, let me tell you, there is hope. 

I know your pain, and I know the struggle, but there is another side. It is possible to work through it.

Healing doesn’t come overnight, but there are several things that I learned along the way that truly helped me in this area. I searched long and hard for a post like this when I was in the midst of my struggle, and having not found it when I needed it, I decided to write the post myself, now that I am in a place of healing (and fun!).

This is not a “5 steps to be better tomorrow” list, it’s simply actions you can work through yourself and with your husband to help you progress.

Don’t expect things to be perfect immediately, but just keep moving forward, keep striving for healing and for fun! You will get there!

    1. Think about it early - I found that I needed lots of extra time to ‘get in the mood.’ I would start coaching myself in the morning and continue all throughout the day. Simple reminders like “This is my husband, he loves me and cares for me” and “my husband doesn’t want to harm me or overlook me, he cherishes me”. Positive reminders go a long way in training your mind that sex is safe, no longer something to be feared. Eventually, you will get to the place where being touched and caressed does not trigger the “fight or flight” response in your mind. Thinking about sex with your husband while reminding yourself how loving, caring and gentle he is is a huge help in this direction.

 

    1. Be strategic - If you had a difficult time the night before, spend some time the next morning figuring out what specific things triggered you. It could be a certain position, the way your husband said something, or even his tone of voice. Try to figure out if there are specific things that make sex more challenging for you and identify them clearly to yourself.  For me, I hated being out of control. Positions that left me vulnerable and underneath my husband always triggered the “fight or flight” in my mind and frequently brought flashbacks of my past. Realizing this enabled me to take control a bit more and avoid sexual positions where I felt out of control. This helped me to avoid having those flashbacks and began giving me some completely positive memories of sex with my husband. Personally, I no longer have to worry about specific positions or triggers during sex, and eventually you probably won’t either. But this can be a helpful way of working through it with your husband, if you can identify your triggers and share them with him so that he can be mindful of them in the future. If talking about sex makes you nervous, write him a letter or text him. Anything to communicate your needs so that you can work through it together as a team!

 

    1. Communication - This one is huge. Talk with your husband about why you are struggling so that he’s able to help you. My husband had never endured abuse of any nature, but he was still able to respect my needs and he tried to understand as best he could. It was very helpful for him when I would clearly communicate things like “I’m sorry I turned you down last night, it’s not because I find you unattractive or I don’t care about you, you are the most handsome man I know!!! I’m  dealing with some things from my past and couldn’t get where I needed to be right then”. While my husband knew I was still healing from abuse, it was helpful for him that I would verbalize that I was not rejecting him, I was working through my past.

 

    1. Be careful - Be cautious what you read on the internet, and even in magazines or books. It seems that every time I turn around there is another article being published that says you have to sleep with your husband more or he will stray. These types of stories are not helpful for you in any way. You cannot pressure yourself into enjoying sex. In fact, if you go into it stressed and fearful, you are more likely to trigger that fight or flight response and not be able to get through it (much less enjoy it!). Healing is a process that your husband will take with you. Keep the lines of communication open, like I stated above, and make sure your man knows you are doing everything you can to heal, not only for your sake but for his!

 

    1. Counseling - Find a Christian counselor in your area and talk to her. I spent several months in counseling myself and it was incredibly helpful. If you are not sure where to find a good Christian counselor, you might be able to ask at your church office for a recommendation. Many counselors take insurance, so that may be an option to help with payment as well. My husband and I are by no means rich, but we would have paid 10 times over for the help that our counselor was able to provide me with. Not just in our sex life, but in my every day life as well. A history of abuse can bleed into every area of life, and counseling can help to alleviate that strain and sew your heart back together in ways you never thought possible. This was personal counseling, my husband never came to a single session, but it helped our marriage in more ways than either of us could ever count!

 

  1. Books - I read several books during my healing process, but there are two that really stuck out to me as helping the most. The first, is Sheila’s Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. In reading that book, I was able to see sex as a positive for the first time ever in my life. Not some dirty, sinful deed. The second book was written specifically for survivors of sexual abuse and it is entitled Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. It would not be possible for me to fully express how this book helped and changed me. It was like talking to some one who understood for the very first time. The book shows specific places in scripture that talk about sexual abuse, and continually points the reader to Christ for hope and healing. This is not just a “think about Jesus and you’ll be better” type of book, it takes you on a journey of healing in every possible way, all while demonstrating that healing only fully comes in Christ. I can’t recommend this book enough to any survivor of sexual abuse. It was also helpful for me to be able to share with my husband. I asked him to read certain portions and it opened his eyes to what I was experiencing, as the book was able to articulate the feelings in my heart more clearly than my own broken words every could have.

Lastly, let me urge you to take heart. Have hope that you will one day have a happy sex life. It’s not an easy road, but it is so worth it. Your abuser has not stolen sex from you and your husband forever. You can work through it together, and come out stronger and happier than you ever imagined possible.

3 years ago, I never would have imagined sex could be this fun or marriage could be this good. But it is.

It is because God is wonderful, and faithful to complete healing in us.

Don’t give up my friend.

To read more about Paula’s road to healing, you can check out her blog Beauty Through Imperfection.
The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

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