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.
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Wifey Wednesday: Sexual Abuse Really Messes with Your Sex Life

Sexual Abuse Really Messes with Your Sex Life

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! Today Mary Demuth is joining us to share her story about how sexual abuse affected her sex life.

NOT MARKED - FOR AMAZON 3DWhen I speak one on one with people who have been sexually abused, a great majority of them have a difficult time with sex.

They either border on addiction or have sworn off sex entirely (even in marriage).

Some divorce because they simply cannot have sex with their spouse. It’s a real problem, but so few talk about it.

My own story and journey of healing is chronicled in my memoir Thin Places. I was molested at five years old during my kindergarten career by neighborhood bullies, who eventually brought their friends in on the violation. I told my babysitter. She said she’d tell my mom (but never did), and the boys continued to violate me, which led me to believe that not one adult on earth would protect me. I grew a fierce determination to protect myself, so I feigned sleep to get out of the attacks. Providentially, we moved at the end of that year, far enough away from those boys that I didn’t have to endure their violation any more.

But boy did they stay with me. They haunted my dreams. They obscured my view of sex.

They made me think that my sole purpose in this life was to be used and violated.

I don’t know how I was able to walk the aisle of marriage a virgin—it’s truly God’s grace. Technically, of course, I wasn’t. All those violations from the past ensured that. But when it became my choice, I found the strength to say no.

Truth be told, I walked a strange line between yearning and utter terror. As a fatherless girl, I wanted nothing more than to have a boyfriend fill up all the empty spaces of me, but when my love interest became interested, I ran one thousand miles away, completely terrified. I worried they’d try to make me do things I didn’t ever want to do.

When I got engaged, I worried a lot about sex. My wedding night was not something I anticipated with joy or expectation. The terror refrained inside me. I felt five again.

I shared those fears with my husband, and we made it through. And I’m frankly quite surprised (it is the gift of God) that I can enjoy sex.

But it’s taken many years over the past twenty-two to get to a healthy place. I still disconnect.

I can’t seem to engage my emotions or my whole self. If I enjoy sex, I still have the feeling that I’m legitimizing the abuse. I’ve come to a place of acceptance, too, that I may never be the sexy wife who is “all that” for her husband. My growth has been tremendous, but I still have scars.

We’ve learned to talk about it, not an easy thing to do. My husband knows I’m trying, that I’m not giving up. I’ve been able to communicate my triggers to him, which has helped a lot.

And through it all, I honestly have to cry out to Jesus to give me a healthy view of sex.

It absolutely does not come naturally to me. My fallback is revulsion.

All this stinks. It’s not fair what those boys stole the most precious part of me. It’s not fair to me, and it’s not fair to my husband. They violated, and I’m left to navigate the minefield of memories and feelings.

I walk with a giant limp in the sexy wife arena. I still feel outright rage when I read that for the sake of my husband, I’m supposed to be adventurous and wild, that to be this way represents true spousal godliness. Because honestly? Those words just make me feel less than. Those are a set of guidelines I’ll probably never meet.

I haven’t given up. I press on to be whole. But I also know my limitations. And I know that many of you are reading this and saying, yes, yes. Mind if I offer you grace?

It’s okay to struggle in this area. It’s normal. I give you permission to say it’s frightening and bewildering. I pray you’ll find the words to communicate with your spouse how you feel, how this is hard for you. I hope for an understanding spouse who loves you utterly for who you are, not how you perform. I want to tell you that it does get better, but that you won’t improve by simply trying to on sexy clothes or offering your body as a fruit plate. True sexual liberation comes from the inside out, where Jesus walks into those terrible memories and mourns alongside you. I don’t have the answers. I still can’t reconcile my own sexual exploitation with a loving God, other than to say He has used those awful events to make me more empathetic to those who have walked similar paths. And the thrill that comes when I’m able to offer words of encouragement and truth salves the wound a bit. Whether you’re a man or a woman, hear this: You are beautiful. You are worthy of being cherished. You are worth healing. Stay on the course. Holler your anger if you have to. But keep asking Jesus for healing. And keep offering grace to fellow strugglers.

marydemuth-headshot-squareNOT MARKED - FOR AMAZON 3DMary DeMuth is an author, speaker, and writing mentor who took a long path to publication. When her children were young, she spent ten years writing in obscurity. After creating miles of unpublished words, she began to find success in small venues—regional magazines, a local paper, then national magazines.

Her first published book, Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (2005),ushered in thirteen more, including parenting guides, a memoir, and six novels. In the midst of all that, she and her husband carted their three kids off to France, where they were church-planting missionaries nearly three years. Now stateside, Mary lives with her husband and their teens in Texas, where she writes full time and mentors others toward publication. Mary speaks around the country and the world about living uncaged, parenting well, and writing great prose. Find out more at www.marydemuth.com and http://www.notmarked.com. Purchase Not Marked on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or autographed from Mary.

 

Christian Marriage Advice
Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up below by putting the URL of a MARRIAGE post into the linky. And be sure to link back here so other people can read all these great marriage articles! It’s a great way to build traffic for your blog, and I often highlight some posts on Facebook and Twitter, so link up below!

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Does God Make a Difference in Marriage Part 2

Does God Make a Difference in MarriageDoes God make a difference in your marriage?

Last week I made some observations that often Christians act like God doesn’t really make a difference in our lives, and everything is ultimately up to us. We just don’t really have faith that God will actually move.

I see that in marriage, too, and I want to see how two different trends–though they may seem like they have nothing to do with each other–actually show that we have a long way to go with marriage.

1. Christians Divorce at the Same Rate as Non-Christians–Right?

You’ve heard that stat, haven’t you? In fact, it’s even worse than that. I’ve heard the stat that 50% of marriages end in divorce–but that it’s even higher in the Bible belt.

Do you believe it?

Chances are you do because Christians quote it all the time. We announce it from pews. We use it to fundraise for family organizations–Christian marriages need all the help they can get! We’re in dire straits, people!

Yet think it through logically. Do we believe that having God in your life should make a difference? Do we believe that God works in people’s lives? If we do, then how could it possibly be that our marriages are as bad as everyone else’s?

I started to wonder that recently and so I did an experiment. I looked through my church directory to see how many were divorced. It was closer to 10%.  Then I wondered–maybe that’s skewed, because once people divorce they stop going to church? So I thought back on the couples I knew in university. I wrote out a long list of all my university friends who had gotten married. And of all of them (we knew each other from the campus Christian group), only 2 had been divorced–a rate of about 5%.

I read a study recently that said that in marriages where couples pray together daily the divorce rate is more like 2%. I believe that. It makes sense to me. And I’ve read critiques of that study that found that our divorce rate was just as high because they really didn’t define “Christian”. Practically everyone claims to be a Christian, and so that’s pretty meaningless. We want to flesh out what the divorce rate is among those who honestly believe and try to live out their faith. I want to write a post looking at all the accurate studies, but I haven’t done that yet. I’ve actually been talking to a major magazine about writing it, and that’s why I’m not linking to studies here. I want to make sure they’re accurate first and do my homework.

But the main question I have is:

why is it that Christians were so quick to believe that stat that God doesn’t make a difference?

2. Does God Make a Difference in YOUR Marriage?

Maybe the reason we’re so quick to believe it is because in our own lives we still really struggle with marriage. It’s an area that has brought us a lot of hurt and grief over the years, and we haven’t felt the “victory” or the “oneness” or the “intimacy” we long for.

I have to tell you that the last few weeks I’ve been really burdened by the emails that get sent to me. I had to turn off the Messages feature on Facebook because I couldn’t keep up with them all. And I’ve got Reader Questions of the Week now scheduled through to the end of June! But I started to keep track everyday of all the problems I heard about–really, really big problems–and then at the end of the day I’d show them to my husband. And we’d pray over them and I’d let them go. It helped me to realize how I was beginning to be changed by what I do, and I’m praying more for strength to really make a difference.

But the simple fact is that many, many of you are really hurting, and my heart breaks for you. Many, many of you are wondering, if we’re Christians why does my husband play video games for 6 hours a day? Why can he not get over this porn addiction? Why do I have no patience for him? Why am I always so frustrated with him? Why can I not motivate myself to show him love anymore?

From speaking at marriage conferences and talking to couples and to counselors, I completely believe that God can make a difference in a marriage. If you run to Him and you’re humble and you’re open to correction about the things that you have done wrong, and not just open to God correcting your spouse, God can do amazing things.

Even if your spouse isn’t turning to God, God can still work in your marriage. It doesn’t mean your marriage will always be saved; but He can work.

Yet often I see couples where both claim Christ, and where both go to church, and where both would say that they believe, and yet they are getting nowhere.

I don’t believe the problem is that you don’t have God. I believe the problem is that God doesn’t have you. (Click to Tweet this quote)

God is not like a mechanic where you can take your broken marriage and He’ll fix it for you. He doesn’t work that way. He’s not a mechanic; He’s a potter who wants to mold you into something better. But He can’t mold something that is hard and brittle; He can only mold us when we’re pliable, when we are humble, when we are open to be molded.

God isn’t really interested in fixing your spouse nearly as much as He’s interested in having your heart. And if we are humble before Him, He can transform us, which can start to transform a marriage. If your spouse is also humble before Him, He is then free to do a beautiful and amazing work!

But we have to stop making excuses. We have to stop pointing fingers. And we have to do the work!

I’m really burdened by a relationship issue in my extended family, and it’s causing me to pray like I never have before. That’s the beauty of relationship issues; they drive us to God. My instinct is to get on the phone and try to force the issue and make it all better, but like Calm Healthy Sexy wrote in a post she linked up to Wifey Wednesday this week, we have to wait on God’s timing. She says:

The devotional book I’m reading, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, reminded me this week to “stop trying to work things out before their times have come.”  That idea really spoke to me; it made me realize that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.  Even though I believe in God’s timing in my life, I haven’t been operating as if I believe in it at all.  I’ve acted as if everything depends on me, as if I just need to keep charging ahead and things will fall into place exactly as I’ve planned.  The only problem is, it’s not working.

We have to pray and then honestly walk in faith. We have to wrestle. We have to cry. And we have to believe.

Yesterday I took a day to fast and pray with a “blogging buddy” of mine from the other side of the continent. We prayed for each other all day and for ourselves and then at the end of the day we called each other and prayed on the phone together. We were both burdened by something similar and we needed God to lift that burden. But that meant also emptying ourselves and fighting for it. It meant giving God more of us, not just asking for more of Him.

If you believe in God, He should be making a difference in your marriage. If He’s not, the problem is likely not with God. It’s likely that He wants to bring you deeper, or bring your husband deeper. Of course you can do everything right and lean on God and your marriage may still not be saved, but even in that God wants you to lean and trust, because He does want to make a difference even in the brokenness. But maybe, instead of getting angry at our spouses and feeling defeated and feeling lost we need to throw ourselves more on God and get back to the only source that can bring real healing.

Do we believe God works, or not? I fear too often we really don’t, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Teaching Kids to Cook: Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life Skills

Teaching Kids to Cook Spending Quality Time while Teaching Life SkillsI’m a big believer in teaching life skills to kids. I think too many moms do too much for their kids, which ultimately does them a disservice. When they move out they don’t know how to fend for themselves, but they also grow up feeling a little entitled, since little is expected of them.

When Jillian St. Clair asked if she could sponsor this post to share about her new resource, My Very Own Cookbook, I agreed, because cooking alongside my girls has been one of my most fun memories of their childhood!

I grew up with three sisters and a brother. The kitchen in our home was not very big, so not surprisingly we were not allowed to do much in it. When I got married I was not confident with my cooking skills even though I majored in Home Economics in high school.


My mother, aunt and grandmother cooked many delicious meals that I don’t know how to prepare. I don’t want the next generation to follow in my footsteps, so I’ve created My Very Own Cookbook for parents to share time with their children teaching them how to cook. It’s also a wonderful record of time shared with loving relatives who will help them become capable, self-confident adults.

There are many “grown-ups” who have no experience in preparing nutritious, healthy meals for themselves or their families.

Together, parents and young children can create memories of learning useful, cooking and management skills. Perhaps you were given many gifts/presents as a child but lack the training and confidence to care for a home, keep up with the laundry, and prepare delicious, healthy dishes or even how to set a table.

If You Didn’t Learn These Skills, It’s Not Your Fault!

None of these skills come naturally to any of us. We must count on others to help us learn them and this learning can begin as early as 4-years old.  My grandchildren are 10, 8 and 4. When we’ve enjoyed family vacations, we’ve prepared recipes together. Sadly, many children don’t get to spend much time with their parents. This is something they especially crave when they are young. Time passes quickly; if we’re not careful, we may miss the chance to make an important impact in our children’s lives.

When we don’t cook from scratch, too, we tend to eat out more. Not only is that far less nutritious and far more expensive, but it also means that you lose the potential to really bond as a family the way families used to do around the dining room table.

Beware of Technology Undermining the Dinner Hour

Often when we’ve eaten in a fast food restaurant I see parents texting instead of sharing conversations with their children. My concern is that this pattern will go too far and when these children are pre-teens or teenagers, they will no longer want to spend much time talking with or listening to their parents. Cooking and eating together creates opportunities to share important daily events in our lives. Studies show children who share meals with their parents make better decisions and earn higher grades.

As parents, it’s our responsibility to expose our kids to everything we can that will help them succeed in all aspects of their lives. Good manners, respect for others, kindness, acceptance and patience are learned behaviors. Who else is best to teach these than the parents who love them?  Setting up this kind of relationship early will benefit both the children and their parents. Knowing your children can care for themselves is a huge blessing!

The Best Gift of All from Teaching Kids to Cook: Quality Time With Your Kids

Research shows that working parents spend only 19 minutes a day of quality time caring for their kids. Perhaps you have heard this scripture verse before:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

The Food Network has featured many young children taking an interest in preparing recipes and even full meals. This early training will be very valuable to them as they mature into adulthood.

My daughters were 7 and 10 when I became a single mom. I was a stay at home mom until that time and when going back to work, the girls pitched in and helped take care of the laundry, their rooms and the home we lived in. Today, they have careers and homes of their own. Thankfully, they spend a great deal more than 19 minutes a day with their children.

As parents, we can help our children become adults by teaching them many things they’ll need to know so they can care for themselves when they leave home. Most parents with grown children remember and cherish the special times they’ve spent with their children. Teaching children how to be independent and self-sufficient is a precious gift.

My Very Own Cookbook is a blank recipe journal encouraging children to share time with their parents and other loved ones. Filling in the details of a recipe being prepared with help from loved ones will be a cherished gift and record of special times spent together with loved ones and a timeless record for their future children to enjoy.

Want to start teaching your children to cook? Download Jillian’s FREE ebook: 15 Recipes You Can Make with Your Kids–and get started today!

Is Screen Time Robbing Your Marriage?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Today please welcome Arlene Pellicane, author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife, as she shares great insight into how we choose to spend our time as a couple (and as a family).

is screen time robbing your marriageA few months ago, I was speaking at a youth event about keeping your family relationships alive in a screen-driven world.

A father came up to me afterwards, not to talk about his teens and their love of technology, but his wife’s.

His wife is a ministry leader at church and social media has really allowed her to expand her reach to encourage wives, no matter where they live, at whatever time of day.  It all started very innocently.  A text, a tweet, a Facebook message.  But as she began to engage more with women through social media, she discovered she was really meeting a need in the lives of many friends.

The only problem was her love for social media was leaving her husband out in the cold.

This man talked about how his wife was constantly on her phone.  If they were in the car together, she was texting.  When they were sitting face to face at a dinner date, what was she doing?  Yes, you guessed it…she was using her phone.  It was driving him crazy!  Her husband tried to tell her that she needs to put down the phone and engage with him, but so far, nothing has changed.  And he doesn’t want to nag because otherwise, he says, she’s a perfect wife.

Technology, while bringing this wife closer to many of her friends, is driving a wedge between her and her once-happy husband.

It really could happen to any one of us, couldn’t it?  The phone makes us carry around the “urgent” inside our pocket while the “important” sits across from us at the dinner table waiting for when you have a spare moment.

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing smart about a phone that alienates you from the ones you love most.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not the phone that’s the problem.  It’s the way we use our phones which can get us into trouble.  And we don’t only have phones that compete with quality time with our spouses; there’s television, Pinterest, DVRs, and much more.

So here’s the question for you to consider today:  Would your marriage relationship improve if you and your spouse unplugged from your devices more often?

According to a Nielsen report, the average American spends more than 34 hours a week watching live television, plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.  Think of all that time that could be spent in more meaningful ways.  You could pick up a new hobby with your mate, go out to dinner, walk in the park, or snuggle up on the couch together with some great books.

My family doesn’t get cable but that doesn’t mean we’re not tempted to succumb to screen time during all our waking hours.  My husband James and I realized that after we put our three kids to bed in the evening, we would retreat to our computers and answer emails, browse headlines, check Facebook, and watch YouTube videos.  One night James said, “I’m on the computer all day, why am I wasting time at night on this thing?”  So we decide to try something new.  When the kids went to bed, we would power off our devices.

Turning off the computer earlier in the evening has been rejuvenating.

Not only is it a much better way to get a good night sleep, it gives space for my relationship with James.  We can talk, snuggle, read together, pray, or kiss…and all of these options are better than updating my Facebook status!

So the next time you are aimlessly flipping through channels, clicking through websites, or texting like a wild woman, stop yourself and ask:

What could be a better use of my time right now?

Does this activity help or harm my relationship with my husband?

Would anybody really care if I missed this program or didn’t engage in social media right now? 

When you turn off your electronic devices more often, you’ll turn on better things like red hot monogamy (as my friend author Pam Farrel calls it), quality time, and a stronger connection with the one who matters most – your husband.

Let’s make sure our husbands know they are more important than texts, tweets, pins and posts.  Not just with our words, but with our daily actions.

So it’s okay ladies…I give you permission to be unreachable and turn your phone…off.

More Screen Time Equals Less Marital Satisfaction

Arlene Pellicane 600x600jpg31 Days to Becoming a Happy WifeArlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife.  She and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children.  You can learn more about her ministry at www.ArlenePellicane.com

 

 

Now, do you have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Wifey Wednesday: North American Marriage vs. African Marriage

Christian Marriage Advice

I’m so excited about today’s Wifey Wednesday! I’ve been to Kenya three times before, and I just fell in love with the country. And one of my frequent Wifey Wednesday link up contributors, Ngina Otiende from Intentional Today, who is active in the comments and has an awesome marriage blog herself, is from Kenya. I wrote her a while ago and said, “I would love to write a post on the difference between African marriage and North American marriage, and what we can learn from each other, but I don’t feel like I’m qualified. So can you?” And she said yes!

Here’s Ngina:

African Marriage vs. North American Marriage: What we can learn from each otherMy husband and I moved to the United States two and a half years ago. We arrived early in the evening and I remember looking out of the plane and beholding a strange sight. Although it was past 8pm, the sun was still shining! Where we’d just come from – Kenya, Africa – the sun sets at 6.30 pm.

We’d soon discover that the sun setting at later time than we were used to was just one of the many fascinating changes we’d experience in our new life in North America. (after a 23 hour flight, disturbing turbulence, severe food poisoning, cramped seating,  we thought we’d experienced it all!)

Different life

It’s been two and half years and we have settled to life in North America–as far as possible anyway! Life in America is very different from life in Africa. From the weather, the food, the culture, the hectic pace of life, sometimes we feel like we moved to another planet, not across the oceans!

I am a marriage enthusiast and one of the things I wanted to find out was how different marriages are in America. I had come to America without high expectations, unfortunately. We’d heard stories about American lifestyle and culture and just before we left were inundated with counsel and warnings “take care of one another, stay committed and fight for your marriage because America will want to tear you apart”.

While  there’s been some truth in some of the warnings, we’ve also discovered a lot more we didn’t know existed. For example, and just to give you an idea, think about all the things you’ve heard about Africa. Then imagine going there someday and discovering most of the stuff you heard was either half truth or lies. And the rest of the “bad” is eclipsed by all the good you never heard about.  That’s been our discovery as far as marriages (and other areas) are concerned. We’ve enjoyed discovering all the great North American marriage habits and using the things we were told would drive us apart to knit us together.

So here are some of the differences between marriage in Africa and marriage in North America that I have observed. (Please note my views are based on two and a half years of stay!)

Marriage in Africa vs. Marriage in America

Differences: What I think America does better than Africa in marriage

America values Team work.

I come from a very traditional society where the roles of men and women are as different as night and day; very well defined. But here in America, these lines are a little blurred. Both husband and wife dive in to chores and responsibilities and do what needs to be done to keep the family moving forward. A dad can stay at home with the kids while his wife works. Men don’t recoil (at least not too much) at certain ‘wifey things” like cooking, cleaning, taking care of babies e.t.c. Overall, I think the lifestyle demands are very different as well. And hiring that extra pair of hand is not cheap! Unlike Africa where anyone can afford to hire domestic help. So I love how the hectic “First World Life” forces couples to work together as teams!

America has Expressive Marriages!

Africans are the warmest people you’ll ever meet but we are not very expressive in our  emotions!  Most North Americans are, and it’s been fun living in such an effusive and affectionate culture.

America has God-centered marriages

If Hollywood and the media is to be believed, most couples in North America are either divorcing or on the brink of divorce. Or living together out of wedlock. Or fighting to redefine marriage. That’s the picture Hollywood beams to the rest of the world. It’s been wonderful to discover many many happily married couples! And not just happily married but vocal advocates of the same! Marriage ministry is still at infancy in Africa and I enjoy connecting and learning from all the resources and people here. In fact, that’s how I discovered Sheila’s blog years ago. I had (and still have) great real-life mentors but at that point needed some deeper insights in a particular area of struggle as a young wife.

America Values Women

I love how the law treats everyone equally in North America. And not just the law, but society in general. Everyone is equal and that equality protects women and the vulnerable. For example a man can’t stop taking care of his children because he  separated from the wife. You can’t make a girl pregnant and leave her to take care of the baby alone. Maybe you can, but you don’t have the law  – and it’s enforcers  – on your side! And boy do they enforce the law here!

I like how everyone is held responsible for their actions. That kind of equality protects the vulnerable.

That’s my current four thoughts on marriages and family life in America.
African Marriage and American Marriage: a Contrast

Now here’s where I think Marriage in Africa is Better

Africa has Strong community ties

In Africa most people experience life as a community. Friends and family drop into each other’s homes any and all times. No planning or warning necessary – just dropping in and hanging out for no reason whatsoever. In America I see most people have to plan for things like that. You just don’t show up in someone’s house uninvited! Every second of life seems to be allocated for something important and there’s no margin to hang out, “doing nothing”!

It’s one of the things I miss the most about home – the the strength and depth that comes from doing life as a community, instead of solo/couple-only experience. You learn so much from one another. You grow. Obviously healthy independence is good because it forces couples to grow up and come to their own without crutches. But fierce independence  – something many Americans believe in – can have negative effects on a marriage because we are not meant do life alone.

Africa has Deeper Appreciation for Good Values

The wind of change is blowing across the world and in Africa has not been left behind. The culture is changing, societies are changing. But there’s still some really good old-fashioned traditions and values in Africa. For example men are still regarded as the head of the homes..and that respect and honor has got nothing to do with their perfect performance! Submission or staying at home to raise your kids is not a “controversial” subject. Generally good values are not seen as weaknesses  or hindrances, but appreciated for what they are.

Africans are More Teachable

Generally Africans are less-wound-up, a little more willing to use wisdom from yesteryears. (In other words they are more teachable compared to North Americans :) )This open heart makes for easier relationships and helps when it comes to sharing wisdom in marriage.

Africans Know how to Do More with Less

I used to think that an easier life ought to translate to stronger marriages – less to worry about and more to be grateful for. But after living in North America for two and half years and observing the state of some of marriages, I’ve come to believe that comfort and ease can make drifting in marriage easier. Not harder. So while I used to belly-ache about many of our “developing continent” pains and challenges, I am a little more grateful now. Because hardships tend to grow and deepen people. Challenges force you to hold tightly to gifts and miracles when they show up (e.g having a spouse).  Most African’s don’t have many of the resources and support and margin that most developed nations have. But they’ve learned to thrive and grow with what they have.

Now here’s  3 things that both America and Africa can do better in marriage!

1. Understand the importance of strong marriages for a strong society 

We might have different challenges but I think we have the same human condition – we like to major on the minor things and minor on the major things. We continually under estimate the importance of a strong marriage as  the foundation for everything else in life. We put our marriages last in our list of priorities. And then get suprised when our marriages reflect that last position!

2. Kick out popular culture from our marriages

Traditions or culture will never give us a a good marriage. Only God can! We need to start pursuing God and His blueprint for marriage and stop pursuing what society  – even ourselves!  – think we should pursue.

3. Mentor and support other marriages

Even though I come from a culture where people are more willing to receive and be taught, we still have ways to go as far as mentoring in marriage is concerned. And we have the same problem here in North America, more mature couples hesitating to open up to younger (or other) couples. Opening up our lives to others is not easy, obviously. But often our fears are not based on truth. We think other couples are looking for perfection, but they are not. They are looking for other imperfect couples who’ve learned to make marriage work, even in imperfection.

As I grow and continue to adjust to life in North America, I have to keep remembering that Christ is the foundation of my marriage. He is the standard! Diversity and cultures are to be enjoyed and celebrated but everything starts and ends at the foot of the Cross!
Ngina
Ngina Otiende inspires and equips early-wed wives to build intentional happily-ever-afters, over at IntentionalToday.com. Pick up a free copy of her Ebook when you subscribe to her blog. You can also connect on Pinterest or Facebook.

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When Are You An Adult?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week let’s talk about what it means to be an adult. This week we’ve been talking about how to raise great kids, and my own daughters have chimed in with my 16-year-old explaining why she’s not dating in high school and my 19-year-old explaining why she didn’t rebel as a teen. I thought this was a good way to finish up the series.

When are you an adult.Canadians rejoiced loudly last week when we were victorious in Olympic hockey. Facebook was taken over for 48 hours by a constant barrage of “Way to Go, Canada!” while #WeAreWinter surged on Twitter.

In the midst of the revelry, though, an American story about freestyle skiing halfpipe gold medalist David Wise caught my attention.

Wise is 23-years-old, and has been married for several years to his wife Alexandra. They have a two-year-old daughter together. NBC reported on his win like this: “David Wise’s alternative lifestyle leads to Olympic gold.”

Being married with a child in your early twenties is now an “alternative lifestyle”, and the statistics actually bear this out.

According to Stats Canada, the average age of first marriage in Canada is now 29 for women and 31 for men.

Even more telling to me, though, was that NBC also added this line: “At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult.”

The lifestyle of an adult when you’re 23 and–how shall I put this?–an adult! The fact that we can be so surprised that a 23-year-old is behaving like an adult makes me a little sad.

I was married at 21; when I was 23 I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, who is now studying in second year at university. I raised my kids while I was in my mid-twenties, and still in great shape to lug babies and strollers up flights of stairs in the subway system in Toronto. When Keith and I were first married we started saving like crazy. We budgeted well and managed to scrounge together enough for a small downpayment on a house when we were in our late twenties. It wasn’t a large house, and back then neither of us had very well paying jobs. But we figured out how to stretch our money, and we made it work.

When we announced our engagement back in 1991, many were a little incredulous. How can we be so sure when we’re that young? You need to live more, see more of the world, try more things before you settle down! In fact, “settling down” was portrayed as something bad, as if life ends once you make a commitment. Yet for me, that was more when life began. In fact, happiness studies show that satisfaction comes not from living a carefree lifestyle, but instead from finding meaning and belonging while also feeling productive. Maybe younger people have trouble “finding themselves” because they’re looking in the wrong place.

I’m not arguing that people should get married younger; most people, after all, really aren’t ready.

But maybe that’s the root of the problem: we are raising people to not be “adults” until they reach thirty.

That’s become the culturally accepted norm.

Instead of the teen years being the decade in which you grow up, it’s now the twenties. Is that healthy for a society?
I always believed you were an adult at eighteen, but for that to happen an 18-year-old has to be ready to launch into the adult world. That means they have to know how to maintain a household, including knowing how to cook and clean. They have to know how to manage money. They have to be employable (or at least in school to become employable). They have to be responsible. And few 18-year-olds can accomplish all that unless we as parents start raising them to be adults earlier.

I’m not sure we’re doing favours by extending childhood until people are thirty. Perhaps we’d all be better off if we expected people to act like adults once they were, actually, adults.

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What a Difference a Light Makes! With IKEA Brighter Lives

What would it be like to live without lights?

IKEA asked me to be part of a campaign to raise awareness for their Brighter Lives initiative, where they supply refugee camps in Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, and Bangladesh with solar street lamps and solar lanterns to help refugees achieve a little bit of normalcy and to greatly improve safety.

Brighter Lights for Refugees

They sent us a solar lantern so we could try it out! It’s kinda nifty. You leave it out in the sun all day, and then at night it provides about 6-8 hours of light. Now, here in Canada we don’t get a whole lot of sun this time of year, so it doesn’t charge that well. But one thing those refugee camps have in abundance is sunlight during the day!

Ikea Lamp 2

We tried first to go without lights, and then we use the solar lantern. And here’s what a difference it makes!

1. It’s scary with no lights

Seriously. We’ve been painting our house for the last few weeks, so we have stuff everywhere. Books line the floor because we haven’t put the bookcases back up yet. And walking around when you’re not sure what’s there isn’t fun.

Try going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or even brushing your teeth, with absolutely no light. It’s not easy.

And add to the scary factor is the sense of physical danger in the camps. Rape is a huge problem, and as the mother of teenage girls, that is just hard to even imagine. What would you do if you were 16 and you had to go use the latrine, but it was pitch black? Do you hold it all night and not really sleep, or do you brave the danger? Not a nice choice to make.

Even one solar lantern that you can carry with you helps so much. You can see the books on the floor (or the snakes, or the obstacles, or whatever else there is!) You can see where your toothbrush and toothpaste are.

And in a camp, if you’ve got a light, you’re far less likely to be attacked because people can see what’s going on.

2. It’s boring with no lights

It’s easy to romanticize it–wouldn’t it be nice if we weren’t addicted to technology and could get back to basics? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have time to talk as a family, instead of just watching screens all night?

There certainly is something to that. But at the same time, there’s a reason light became so popular. It’s more fun to talk to people and socialize when you can see them!

When my mom visited a refugee camp in Kenya, she came home saying that one thing that struck her was how bored everybody was. There just wasn’t a whole lot to do. These people were used to having regular lives, with things to fill their days with. And now there was very little. Add to that no lights at night, and the day can seem endless. People just tend to start sleeping twelve or thirteen hours a day, and getting really depressed.

In countries near the equator the sun sets at 6:30 every night and rises at 6:30 every morning, all year long. It’s not like North America when summer nights are so short, and summer days are so long. The sun is gone by 6:30, year round. That’s a lot of hours to fill in the pitch dark.

When we were in the dark all we could do was talk. It was actually nice. But we were doing it for one night, not for endless nights, stretched before you. There’s so much human potential in these camps–people who want to teach, and help kids with homework, and try to maintain a semblance of normal life. Give them lights, and they can start to build a vibrant community while they’re waiting for their lives to move forward.

Imagine the lost productivity in these camps! They’ll always be difficult places to live, but at least with light you can maintain a semblance of normal life. Here’s my daughter at the table, finding that the solar lamp, in complete darkness, really is enough to read by and do your homework by:

Ikea Lamp 1

Light makes a difference. I appreciate what IKEA is doing for refugees, and I’d ask you to help, too! From now until
March 29, the global IKEA store initiative will donate one euro ($1.37)* to the UN refugee agency UNHCR for every IKEA LEDARE – LED light bulb sold. So if you’re planning on doing some shopping at Ikea, why not do it now? And buy some light bulbs while you’re at it!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

On Those Who Deserve Fame

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I wanted to address what it means to be a True Hero.

On Those Who Deserve FameI recently served on a committee looking for leadership for a nonprofit organization, and we joked that one of our criteria was that the people we would ask would not want to do it. People who don’t want the spotlight often end up being better leaders.

People who crave attention usually don’t deserve it.

I was reminded of this when I read the story of Nicholas Winton. Winton grew up in a British Jewish family that later converted to Christianity. In 1938 he decided to forego a ski holiday in Switzerland to go to Prague to help a friend who was involved with Jewish refugee work.

After Kristallnacht, when the Nazis started overt persecution of the Jews, Winton single-handedly set up an aid organization to transport Czechoslavakian Jewish children to Britain, arranging for families to look after them once they arrived.

Most of those children’s parents later perished in Auschwitz, but 669 children made it to Britain. Tragically, the last train that was scheduled to leave, full of 250 little ones, never made it. Those children were sent to Auschwitz instead.

Winton had to contend with physical danger in Czechoslavakia, red tape in Britain, and trouble in the Netherlands to get the kids to safety, but he persevered with no resources except his own determination.

What hit me most about his story, though, other than the amazing heroism, was the fact that he never told anybody.

In 1988, his wife Grete was rooting through the attic when she came across his famous ledger where he had taken painstaking notes about the identity and whereabouts of all of the children. She went public and he has since been honoured by the British government, the Czechoslavakian government, and the Israeli government. He was even touchingly reunited on a television documentary with dozens of the children that he rescued.

At 104 years of age Winton has outlived many of the children that he saved. And yet he never desired fame or recognition. He did it because he felt compelled to. He couldn’t NOT do it.

I wonder, though, if one of the reasons he couldn’t come forward was that even though he saved 669, the 250 who didn’t make it still haunted him. I remember the end of Schindler’s List, when Oskar Schindler was overwhelmed with the thought that if he had just sold a few more possessions he could have saved dozens more. Or there is Charles Mulli, a Kenyan who opened a children’s home initially for a dozen children, and now cares for more than 3000. When he goes into the slums, though, he’s still overwhelmed by the need.

Real heroes don’t look for fame, because real heroes pay the price. It’s not a game about fame or fortune; it’s a real life struggle to do what’s right, to stand up to evil, to make a real difference in the midst of heartbreaking circumstances. It means opening yourself up to true tragedy. That is never easy.

Winton was and is a real hero, and his story deserves to be told, far more than whether or not Jennifer Aniston is pregnant or whether or not another Kardashian is getting a divorce.

The things that our culture cares about are a measure of that culture. We are a petty culture, and yet amongst us there are still calm, quiet giants. It behooves us to wade through all of our silly noise and take time listen to their very important stories.

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UPDATE: I made an error in the original version of this column and said that he rescued the children from Austria. It was really Czechoslavakia. I’m sorry for the mistake; I’ve corrected it now.

IKEA’s Helping Refugees–with their Brighter Lives for Refugees Program

Lately I’ve been busy. And we’ve had some major ups (things to celebrate!) and some major downs (health problems) in my extended family. And when that happens we often get really self-absorbed. We think about how hard our own lives are.

So when Ikea contacted me and asked if I’d write about their new initiative to help provide solar lights in refugee camps, I jumped at the chance. Too often we forget how good we’ve got it.

Here’s what they’re trying to do: Ikea is going into four refugee camps in Jordan, Ethiopia, Chad, and Bangladesh, and providing solar street lamps and solar lanterns to people to help them achieve a little bit of normalcy and to greatly improve safety.
Brighter Lights for Refugees

On February 18, my daughters and I are going to go without lights of any kind (not even cell phones!) at night. On February 19, we’re going to use a solar-powered LED lantern. And then I’ll report back to you and tell you what a difference a light makes!

Imagine what a difference a light makes in a refugee camp. If you were a woman, in a camp, and you had to go to the washroom at night, you’re at really heightened danger of rape. It’s horrifying. I heard the stories when I was in Kenya; I know they’re being multiplied in these camps.

  • Solar street lights can improve safety in refugee camps by reducing the risk of crime, sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Solar lanterns help girls and boys in refugee camps study after dark, improving results in school.
  • Solar street lights help improve life in a refugee camp, enabling more community gatherings and social activities.
  • Solar lanterns allow refugees to continue important income-generating activities such as weaving or sewing during the dark hours.
  • Solar lanterns enable refugees to run their small shops and kiosks into the evening, increasing prospects of generating a sustainable income.

Ethiopia 2013, Dollo Ado, RefugeesToo often we dismiss problems on the other side of the world as having nothing to do with us. After all, when you picture a refugee camp, what do you think of?

Likely row upon row of poor people, stretching out as far as the eye can see. It seems so hopeless. But it also seems so far-removed.

Yet God said in Isaiah 58:10:

If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

When people are hurting, it matters to God, and it should matter to us, too. And here’s a really tangible way that we can help–these moms who are trying to raise kids in desperate situations. These teenage girls who are heading families and don’t know what they’re going to do. These people who are just desperate.
Brighter Lights for Refugees

And let’s not forget that many of these people are our Christian brothers and sisters, especially in the Jordan camp, where so many are fleeing from the violence in Syria. The Syrian conflict is close to my heart right now because it’s the most dangerous place to be as a Christian. (North Korea is more dangerous percentage wise, but Syria had the most Christians dying last year.) And so many have fled to refugee camps to get away from the violence. It’s so heartbreaking.

Ikea’s Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign runs February 3 – March 29, 2014. The global IKEA store initiative includes a donation of one euro ($1.37)* to the UN refugee agency UNHCR for every IKEA LEDARE – LED light bulb sold. So if you’re planning on doing some shopping at Ikea, why not do it now? And buy some light bulbs while you’re at it!

And in two weeks my daughters and I will go without lights–and I’ll tell you how grateful we should be for them afterwards!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.