On Planned Parenthood, Ashley Madison, and Marriage

The news has been filled recently with stories that are quite unbelievable and distressing when it comes to marriage–the Planned Parenthood “let’s sell these baby body parts and get me a Lamborghini” videos, and the Ashley Madison cheating website “I can’t believe I got hacked.”

On Ashley Madison, Planned Parenthood, and our Response

I normally don’t talk a lot about current events–I want to focus on marriage and what we can actually change in the here and now. We can’t do much about news stories, so I don’t like obsessing on them (though I do weigh in on the Duggars or gay marriage or culture at times).

But I’ve been thinking about these two stories–Ashley Madison and Planned Parenthood–and what they have in common.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentNext week I’ll be done my summer vacation and I’ll be in full blogging mode again–Wifey Wednesdays will be normal, Top 10 Tuesdays will be back, Reader Question Mondays will be here, and best of all I’ll be gearing up for the launch of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, coming August 18!

But for now, while I’m still just relaxing and thinking, I thought I’d share some random thoughts I’ve had.

1. Our Consciences Are Seared

A few years ago I wrote a column called “Have We Forgotten How to Blush?” It was all about how guilt and shame can actually serve a purpose, and a culture which calls guilt the greatest evil accelerates its own decline.

We live in a society where self-actualization and happiness are the greatest goals, not doing what is right. It’s not about honour; it’s about enjoyment of life. And that is so dangerous.

Ironically, it’s also rather counterproductive, because studies have shown that the greatest sources of happiness are also those that you can’t achieve without being selfless. Marriage, children, friendships–all of these lead to the most happiness. Yet if you are only interested in what you want, those relationships will be frayed. And thus you’re unlikely to find happiness at all.

Today our consciences are seared because there is so much evil all around us. To bring this story even closer to home, apparently Ottawa–which is home to many members of my family and is the largest city near where I live–has the largest proportion of Ashley Madison users. And Ottawa looks like such a peaceful and upright city, compared with many others. Yet apparently we’re a den of adulterers. It’s just so sad.

2. There is No Privacy Anymore

And that can be a good thing! If our consciences are seared, then it’s great that we can get caught.

I found it so interesting reading the news reports about Ashley Madison–some newspapers were saying that the identities of more than 40 million innocent people may be compromised. Really? They’re innocent? How innocent can you be if you sign up for an adultery website?

And what about those images of the Planned Parenthood executives talking about baby parts so cavalierly, while eating and drinking or considering how to get rich. I’m glad that privacy is eroding in some ways, because perhaps then people will be reminded that what they may think is normal behaviour really isn’t normal at all.

3. Doing the Right Thing is Its Own Reward

But here’s the main point I want to make today: doing the right thing is honourable and rewarding in its own right. So don’t give up!

I remember a sermon I heard many years ago about the purposes of God’s commandments. When you read the Old Testament, you may think the relationship goes like this: You obey the commandment, and because of that God blesses you. So the blessing comes from the obedience.

Actually, it’s deeper than that.

The blessing is in the commandment. It isn’t the result of the commandment; it’s the commandment itself.

To see a baby and to love it wholeheartedly. To rejoice when someone you know is pregnant. To love life, even when that life is frail or disabled. To not be tortured by “is this life worth anything”, because you instinctively know it is. To be able to avoid many of those thorny questions because they’re so OBVIOUS and just to move on to the loving–all of that is a blessing.

To be able to rejoice at all baby showers, rather than feeling that if I get too excited about someone’s pregnancy that I’m betraying a cause. To smile at passing strollers and make faces at babies unabashedly because they’re just so cute–and not have to worry if they were wanted or not. To be able to not harden your heart towards children because you know they’re a blessing. To be able to love family because family is a gift–all of these things are blessings.

And we have them because we believe that life matters. It is not just that those who know God have healthier families. It is that IN the believe that life matters we are blessed already.

Or take the Ashley Madison debate.

To know that I don’t have to wonder whether life would be better if I had married another. To know that I don’t have to worry about my husband straying. To know that I am set for life. To know that I am safe. To know that I am loved, even when marriage is difficult (I know some of you don’t know all of these things, and for that I am profoundly sorry. I pray that you and your husband will be able to find true intimacy.)

To know that I don’t have to worry about impressing another man ever again. To know that I can transfer my energy to praying for my kids and for God’s kingdom rather than praying that I will find a partner. To know that I can invest in his life without it being thrown back in my face; all of that is a blessing.

The blessing is the commandment; it is not just a result of the commandment. The blessing is in the knowing right from wrong.

And so as you hear these news stories, do not worry if other people don’t get it. Yes, be righteously angry, especially about the Planned Parenthood story, but remember that you have a blessing that they do not. You understand something that they never will. You are blessed!

So do not worry if other people seemed seared. It’s okay. We still have that blessing, and let’s live in it, and revel in it, and eat it all up. Because it’s beautiful to love babies, and to love family, and to not have to cut off your heart for a cause. That’s a blessing. And I thoroughly intend to enjoy it.

What about you? What have you been thinking about these stories? Leave a comment and let me know!

UPDATE: Just checked the news and ANOTHER Planned Parenthood video has been released. Really gruesome.

Wifey Wednesday: Hope for Marriage–and Our Society

Sometimes life just seems hard.

I’m not even talking about our individual lives. I mean sometimes you look out at the world and it seems like such a mess. And you wonder if you can even make a difference. If there’s a point to anything.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage. And today I don’t have anything really profound to say, except that I’d like to make a few comments on current events–and then offer what may be a more hopeful perspective. And then I’ll still give you a chance to linkup your own marriage posts below!

In watching Facebook and Twitter explode over the last week I know that many are really devastated by a whole series of Supreme Court decisions. Some make one political stripe really sad and frustrated, and other decisions make the other political stripe sad and frustrated.

I understand.

Especially on the issue of same sex marriage, I know that to many this seems like the final straw–that America has crossed a line and can’t go back. That they have now really chosen not to be a Christian nation.

Hope for Marriage–and Our Society
I can understand the grief, and the sadness, and the despair.

I know that others feel that way about the environmental decisions and about the lethal injection decisions. There’s been a lot of hard stuff lately.

And when  you combine that with the markets tumbling because of Greece, and with ISIS advancing across the Middle East, and with so many Christians being persecuted, the world can look like a hopeless place.

But because this is primarily a marriage blog, I just want to talk to those of you who are really upset by the marriage decision–and then get to some hopeful suggestions for all of us.

I’m Canadian, and so this hasn’t hit me as hard. We went through these fights a decade ago. And  you know what? The sky hasn’t fallen. It’s just that the law of the land now reflects the culture. The problem is the culture, not really the laws. (I know laws can then influence moral opinion, but I think we crossed that line already). And so what we’re doing is mourning the final death of something.

Not to be morbid, but it’s as if someone went missing ten years ago, and they just found the body now. You know your loved one is now dead, but really–they’ve been dead for a decade. It’s just that you now have that finality.

Last week we had that finality hit. And it hit hard. But let’s not fool ourselves–this wasn’t something new. This has been in the works for a long time. And now it’s just out in the open.

We need to stop trying to focus on laws and start trying to focus on hearts. That’s what I was saying in my post a few weeks ago on why Christians are losing the culture war–we forget that our primary battlefield is not in the political arena. It’s in our homes, our workplaces, our communities.

Regardless of your political persuasion, maybe some of these rulings will help us let go of the need to fight so stringently and turn our attention back to the individuals that God has given us to influence.

When we spend so much time worrying about things over which we have no control, it’s easy to get despondent. But when we spend time in the areas that we actually can influence, we feel more purposeful. More powerful. Just plain better.

It reminds me of this graphic I made in my post about how to really make a difference:

How to make a difference: Spend time in your sphere of influence

I don’t think God wants us mourning political change as much as He wants us excited about what we can do within our spheres of influence. So let’s take some time to grieve, if necessary, but then let’s get back in the trenches and turn our eyes to the people around us who really do need help!

And to do that, I’d like to offer you some “escapes” to bolster your marriage this month.

This year I challenged everyone to read one book a month that can help your marriage as part of our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge. In July I want to do something different. Instead of a typical nonfiction marriage book, I want to give some suggestions for beach reads–novels–that will help you think differently about your marriage.

Ultimate Reading Challenge for July: Novels!

So here we go. I’m going to give you three suggestions, and you can pick from these and read them. Why three? Because not all of us like the same kinds of books. And besides–you may have already read one! So I’m giving you some choice to make it easier.

One thing: I lean more towards books that can challenge how we THINK about marriage–not just romances.

Romance novels aren’t always helpful. Sometimes they’re wonderful escapes, but they can also make us very dissatisfied. And I get a little bit worried that in the Christian world we’re romanticizing the Amish lifestyle. I’ve seen Amish societies up close and personal, and my husband has done medical rounds there. Depression is rampant, and the women are often “old” by their midtwenties. There’s lots of problems there, too.

I also don’t like the fact that the majority of Christian romances focus on a young girl who is about 21 or 22, and end with her getting married. What about books about REAL LIFE? It’s kind of depressing that publishers can’t seem to publish decent books about real marriage issues.

So  here are three suggestions, that are all VERY different, that can help you this summer.

A Time to Dance (Timeless Love Series)A Time to Dance by Karen Kingsbury

I don’t love all of Karen Kingsbury’s novels–but I did love this one. It focuses on a couple in mid-life who have been married a little over two decades, and who are just plain done. Everyone thinks they have the perfect marriage, but they’ve been drifting apart for years. The love has gone. The passion evaporated eons ago. And now it’s time to call it quits.

But just as they’re going to announce their divorce their daughter announces her engagement. Not wanting to wreck things for her they decide to stick it out until after the wedding. And as they do, they both start examining what marriage means and how to rebuild a love that has gone. It’s actually very powerful, and very real.

Who should read this: If you like simple fiction that’s based in reality (ie. not historical or “other culture”, etc.)

Get A Time to Dance here.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3)Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers

Likely my favourite Christian novel series of all time. Francine Rivers writes a trilogy of life for new Christians during Roman times, when persecution of Christians has picked up. You’ve got gladiators and barbarians and centurions and war. But you’ve also got this godly, lovely Jewish slave girl who is trying to live out her new found faith in Christ in the worst circumstances.

Each book focuses on a different relationship, but what I found reading the series is that Hadassah’s (the slave’s) goodness haunted me and stayed with me.

Some have criticized Rivers because she puts too much sensuality in her books (not erotica; sensuality). I think that’s silly. If you’re an adult and you’re married, it’s okay to read about how a woman is tempted by what a man looks like, or how she has to fight against that, or how she’s excited for her wedding night. It really is okay. And I’d actually rather see books do that MORE rather than less, so that they can start reflecting reality again.

Who should read this: Anyone who loves historical fiction–and anyone who wants to be really challenged in their faith.

Get the Mark of the Lion series here.

Redeeming LoveRedeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Okay, I asked on Facebook yesterday for recommendations for novels that will boost your marriage, and this was the #1 book mentioned. I have read Redeeming Love–it’s the story of the book of Hosea lived out in the American West as it was being settled in the last century. A man is called to marry a prostitute–and he does. But she’s not ready for that kind of unconditional love, and she doesn’t know what to do with it.

This wasn’t my favourite book, and I do think that the book teaches you more about God than it does about marriage. But like I said, it was the most popular book mentioned by YOU, my readers. So I know that it will touch many of you, and I know that my down-to-earth taste in books is not everyone’s. :)

Who should read this: Those who love a sweeping tragic story with a happy ending.

Get Redeeming Love here.

I hope you have a wonderful time reading this summer! And I hope your marriages are strengthened so that you go and help other people with their marriages–regardless of what is going on in Washington or in the rest of the world.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have something to share with us about marriage today? Leave the URL to your marriage post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts.



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Philpott from All American Mom. She’s telling us what NOT to say when someone has a miscarriage–based on some of the insensitive things she was told. Unfortunately, I think far too many of you will identify.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

Support provided by loved ones is one of the ways that people are helped through any grief process.

When a family member dies, society rallies around the griever. Refrigerators are full of casseroles, mailboxes are full of cards, and shoulders are loaned to cry upon.

But the grieving process of a woman losing her unborn child is often lonely. This loneliness might be by choice- she might choose not to tell people. But sometimes the loneliness is because society as a whole tends to minimize miscarriage. “Maybe next time” or “It just wasn’t meant to be” are very common phrases uttered. Unfortunately these comments are often quite hurtful to the woman who has just lost her baby.

Stop and read the end of that sentence again, “lost her baby.”

You see, this is not an abstract concept or a dream- we are mourning the loss of a baby: a loved baby.

We found out we were pregnant with our baby (we might have been nervous, scared or excited), we used our bodies to nurture our baby (we read books, blogs, envisioned rocking our baby, stopped drinking coffee, stopped eating deli meat, started planning our nursery), and then we lost our baby. The physicality of this is quite intense; the emotional toil is real. It might not have been “real” to onlookers, but we know that our bodies were nurturing a human life and even though we shouldn’t- many of us feel misguided guilt that we couldn’t bring the baby to term.

It hurts. Our thoughts are invaded by untruths. And even though we find comfort that our babies are in heaven with God, it still hurts. At the crux- all we ask is that you don’t minimize our loss and that you don’t offer comments that make us feel any further guilt. Pregnancy loss shouldn’t be minimized or brushed aside as not being worthy of grief. The loss of a baby is a grievous situation.

No one intends to be insensitive. I know you wish to bring comfort. I’m truly touched that you are reading this; it means you want to be helpful. Your heart is in the right place. I just want to help you with your words.

Grief and death are tricky topics for anyone to address. My hands get sweaty when I walk into a funeral home. I don’t know quite what to say. We’ve all been there- in that uncomfortable space where “I’m sorry” just doesn’t seem quite enough. Although I had a legion of support after my two miscarriages, my feelings were hurt numerous times by well-intentioned people. All of this is compounded by the hormones a female experiences after a miscarriage. There is a marked increase in risk for depression and anxiety after a pregnancy loss (Lok, I.H & Neugebauer, R. 2007). It’s not something we can control- it’s a common psychological consequence of miscarriage.

After having my feelings bruised numerous times, I finally accepted that we can never understand someone’s unique life experience; therefore, we can’t expect someone to understand the physical pain and emotional toil of a miscarriage if they have not had that experience. I also kept repeating the verse from Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous; not even one.” To me, this means that there are no perfect people in the world. People make mistakes and I can’t hold a grudge for a person’s offhand remarks. God is the ONLY one I can count on for comfort.

I did decide that I could help educate people on miscarriage- this includes raising awareness of phrases that evoke more harm than healing.

Here are some commonly said comments you will want to avoid if you desire offering support to a grieving mama.

As you read these, please know that these are compiled by a large group of women. These are comments we all heard numerous times. I’ve also included the voices of some of the women.  Above all, please know- we appreciate that you want to offer us support. Thank you.

Please don’t tell me:

  • It happened for a reason.
  • Something was probably wrong with the baby.
  • Go and have a drink to take the edge off.
  • It was God’s will.

I feel too often in the Christian community that people want to brush over miscarriage like it’s no big deal saying things like “You’ll have another baby” or “This was the Lord’s plan for your life” without really considering what the mama is going through.

“Just Adopt”
We know we can adopt. We might one day, but I’m grieving the loss of a specific baby. One that I just lost.

“At Least You Have Another Child”
I’m so grateful for my other child, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sad over the loss of this baby.

“You Can Always Have Another Baby”
I had to have a hysterectomy. I can’t have another baby.

It hurt when people reacted like I’d lost a puppy. And followed it up by saying I could have another. I wanted the one I lost. I feel like people that haven’t experienced the loss unknowingly trivialize it to a degree because we never physically meet our babies. It made me mad, and still does, but I try to remind myself that I can’t blame people for their reactions if they have never experienced the loss.

People would say, “oh, you’ll have more kids one day.” Realistically I knew that I might not be medically able to have more children. I wanted to accept that fact and learn to be okay with it. I didn’t like false hope or people treating it like I had lost a puppy dog, ‘oh, you can get a new puppy again,’ is what it felt like. The doctor told me it would be extremely difficult for me to carry a baby to term.

“At Least It Happened Early”
Because losing a baby is somehow easier or less painful that way?

“Have you found out what’s wrong with you?”

“Did you exercise too much?”

“It was probably that insecticide you sprayed around your house.” (INSERT ANY AND ALL “BLAME COMMENTS”)

This person responded by basically indicating that I should probably ‘get checked out’ because something might be ‘wrong with me.’ It just really bothered me. I know there were good intentions somewhere behind what she said, but all it did was to bring back that flood of guilt that I had been trying so desperately to let go of.

“Well, you shouldn’t have announced your pregnancy so early.   You knew this could have happened.”

“So, when are you going to try again?”

All of those comments were just so incredibly insensitive.

Here is a picture of me cradling our second baby.

What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Had a Miscarriage

It was the day I found out I was pregnant. This was the first baby I lost. I’m not showing you this for you to feel sorry for me. I’m really not. I promise- I am okay now. I hesitated even posting this picture because I know it will make you uncomfortable. I am showing it to you for you to see the excitement in my eyes so that you realize that I was carrying a baby in my womb. I had hopes, dreams and fears.

Please be kind and thoughtful with your words- don’t minimize our losses and please be careful not to utter any phrases that could lead us to believe that you are blaming us for our loss.

Pray, offer a hug, tell us you are sorry. Give us time, permission, and space to grieve. Really- those simple tokens of love are the most helpful.

Sarah PhilpottSarah Lewis Philpott recently earned her Ph.D, but instead of climbing the ivory tower she happily spends her days being a farmer’s wife to her high school sweetheart and being a mom to young two mischievous children. She blogs at All American Mom.

Represented by the Blythe Daniel Agency, Sarah is working on a book that looks at the sensitive topic of pregnancy loss and also about cherishing the life that was conceived. She runs a Loved Baby Pregnancy Loss Support Group on Facebook that is open for anyone to join.

Reader Question: I Never Told On My Abuser

Reader Question: How do I stop the lies and tell about past sexual abuse?
Do family secrets need to be brought to light? Should you confront someone who abused you as a child?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Last week, after I posted on the Duggar abuse scandal, I started receiving quite a few emails and Facebook messages from women who were abused as children and weren’t sure what their next steps should be now. This note in particular really hit me:

I have been reading your posts about the Duggar ‘scandal’ with much appreciation. I have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behavior a number of times as a child and teen, even in the first year of our marriage (from someone other than my spouse) and I am struggling to move on.  It was all kept a secret. I find it so difficult to open up to my husband of 5 years. I have spoken to him, but don’t know if he wants to know more, or if he just assumes I am all healed. How much or little detail do I go into? My parents also were not very open about sexuality and anything really other than teach biblical doctrine and cooking and cleaning. I lack many insights on what a healthy marriage is and just feel like I am drowning in emotion and self pity and I just want it to END! My husband is also recovering from watching porn. He’s doing really well but I am the only one he has told about it. The people from my past are known to me and two are relatives that I see regularly at family functions and church. I have forgiven them in my heart but feel I need to do so face to face. Do I talk to to them?

What a lot of pain! Let’s try to give her some help:

Bringing Past Abuse to Light: How to stop the secrets

First, a couple of big things: she is dealing with so much, and she’s living in the center of shame: shame from her parents who never talked about sex; shame from those who abused her; and shame because her husband watched porn. And she’s never been able to properly talk about any of this because there’s this cone of silence around everything.

The secrets need to stop.

When we shed light, God is there and can do amazing things. When we keep secrets and keep things hidden, we prevent God from doing His work, too.

I’m reminded of Micah 6:8 here:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

God wants us to love justice (which requires truth and speaking up); to do all this in a spirit of mercy (without vindictiveness or bitterness); and to be humble before God.

So often we think we’re merciful if we just “let things go”. But you can’t have real mercy without truth; you need both.

And so I’m going to suggest a radical shaking up in your family that may make you uncomfortable. I’m going to suggest that you tell the truth.

Here’s why:

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing.

Forgiveness is something that you can do on your own: you decide “I will let God deal with this person, not me.”

Reconciliation on the other hand requires acknowledgment on the part of the other person to the pain that that person has caused. Reconciliation helps not just your own relationship but that person’s relationship with God. They’re forced to confront their misdeeds and they have a chance to repent and make things right.

When there is no reconciliation, there can be no real relationship. There is only a false facade. A real relationship can’t be based on a lie, and when there is something that big, it is all a lie.

So you have to tell the truth in order to get your relationships on a path where God can work towards peace or can let people choose judgment (and He would rather that people be given that stark choice than that things remain in secrets and lies). Remember, he’d rather us be hot or cold, not lukewarm.

But there’s another reason this has to come to light.

If someone abused you, chances are you were not the only one.

Therefore, if these individuals have minor children in the home still, then you must call children’s services. You simply must, in order to prevent any harm to those kids. I know this will be tough, but morally it is absolutely the right thing to do.

If these individuals serve in leadership at their church, or if they serve with children in any way at their work or at church, you must also tell their church. You are not responsible for what the church does with that information, but you must tell. A simple letter or email is fine. So many churches have been rocked by abuse, and this will continue to happen unless we start speaking up. And churches desperately want to avoid children being hurt in their care.

Speaking of contacting authorities, if the statute of limitations is not expired in your state, you may also consider filing criminal charges. But that is up to you.

Also, there may be other adult victims in your family. You may have cousins or siblings who were also abused by these men. When you speak up, you give them the chance to as well.

So you must speak up to achieve reconciliation, to validate others’ abuse stories, and to protect others.

But what are your practical steps? Here you go:

How to End Secrets and Bring Past Abuse to Light

I’m going assume that you have already contacted authorities and the church, if necessary. But here’s what you do for the rest of your family:

Get some support around you.

Talk to a counselor preferably, or one or two mentors who can pray with you and stand with you. Once you have talked it over with them, be fully open with your husband. Tell him what happened to you, in as much detail as you are comfortable with, and tell him how you think this affected you. Tell him that you want healing, and you’re striving towards that, and you totally believe healing can happen. Sometimes this is easier to do with the counselor present. Then the counselor can also explain to your husband why you need to bring this to light.

Tell your immediate family

Now it’s time to tell your parents and your siblings (unless they are the abusers; in that case skip to the next step). Tell them what happened, and tell them this: “I am going to contact them and ask for acknowledgement of what happened and an apology. If it is not given, I can no longer be in fellowship with them. I ask you not to invite them to family events anymore. If you do, then I will no longer come.

This is not being mean; it is just acknowledging that while forgiveness can be given by you alone, reconciliation cannot. Reconciliation is only possible when the other party admits the sin.

Contact your abusers in a safe way

I suggest using email; it keeps you at a safe distance and it avoids you having to listen to them yell or be defensive or call you names. You can even do so using your husband’s email so that if they send back a horrible response your husband can screen it and shield you from the details, if necessary.

Say something like, “I have disclosed the things that you did to me when I was X years old to my parents, my family, and my husband (and the authorities or the church if you also did this). I would ask that you admit what you did and apologize. If you do not, I will no longer be able to see you at social functions or at church. I ask that you be open and honest so that healing and reconciliation can take place.”

Contact the church (if you haven’t already) and ask for church discipline

You go to the same church as these individuals. That must end unless you achieve reconciliation (and even if you do, it may still be a good idea to go to a different church).

However, if you like your church, then they should have to leave it, not you.

Contact the elders’ board and explain in as much detail as is necessary what happened at the time, and ask that the elders help your abusers get established in another church so that you can feel spiritually safe.

Warning: many churches will not handle this well, especially if your abusers are in leadership positions. This may cause you a lot of hurt. If you know it won’t be handled well, then you likely need a new church anyway. That’s not a safe church.

Recognize that this will be difficult

This may very well blow a hole in your family, and people may blame you. But you did not cause the rift; your abusers did. You are simply trying to mend the rift by achieving honesty and reconciliation.

A family that socializes without acknowledging harm done is not healthy. It may outwardly look fine, but there is no real love there. Real love can only be present when real truth is also present. If self-preservation and “not rocking the boat” are the main things people want, then that is not loving; it is holding God at a distance. If God is going to do something in your family, it will only be because someone is finally shining a light on Truth.

So, yes, you may lose some relationships with your family. But those relationships weren’t real anyway. It is better–even if it is heartbreaking–to move forward in truth.

What about your marriage?

When secrets are part of your past, it’s very likely that openness is missing in your marriage. You grew up without honesty and good communication, so it’s hard to achieve that now, even in a healthy relationship.

31 Days to Great SexIn our letter writer’s case, it sounds like she and her husband need to start learning to talk about and communicate about sex and marriage. I’d really suggest talking to a counselor for at least six sessions. And if you haven’t done it yet, I’d really suggest picking up a copy of 31 Days to Great Sex, which walks you through so many exercises that will help the conversations start. For so many people that’s what they need most: a way to actually talk about it.

My dear readers: my heart has broken this week with all of these stories I’ve been hearing. There are just so many secrets. So many. But Jesus came to be the Light, and He can handle those secrets. I don’t know if He will bring reconciliation; He leaves that up to us to choose it, and your abusers may not. But it is better to live under Truth, even if it means your family gets a lot smaller, than to live with a lie.

I’m so sorry. I really am. May God be with you and may He put the right people around you to support you as you tell the truth.

Let me know: has your family ever been rocked by something like this? What did you do? Let me know in the comments!

Why Christians are Losing the Culture War

Christians may be losing the Culture War--but maybe that's not the worst thing in the world if it gets us back to reaching out to our neighbors.
Christians are in a Culture War. And I don’t think we’re doing a particularly good job.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I posted about the Duggar abuse scandal. Which got read a lot. And which kind of consumed the day (I didn’t even get cake).

So perhaps I’m just feeling a little contemplative today, but I have a bunch of thoughts in my brain that I thought I should try to get down. I hope they make sense, but after a weekend of watching many Christians defend the Duggars’ decision not to immediately remove Josh from the home; saying “the girls are absolutely fine! You can tell because we see that on TV!”; and “it was only touching; it wouldn’t have done that much harm”, I guess I’m just a little restless and rather sad.

So I want to give my hypothesis of what’s happening in our culture.

Western culture, and especially American culture, used to be quite Christian.

We had Christian values, even if not everybody believed. And, to a large extent, people felt that our country was blessed because the country reflected Christ’s values.

Then everything went off the rails starting in the 1960s. The family was attacked. Marriage was attacked. The church was attacked.

So we went into defense mode. Every time we were attacked we’d fight. We decided that we wanted to stand out from the world, so we created more and more rigid standards of what it means to be a Christian–even more rigid than in the 1950s (take purity, for example. No one was arguing for no hand holding until you’re engaged in the 1950s. This is a new cultural phenomenon).

And we treat this like a war. We’ve decided there are two sides: Us and Them.

We retreat into our own sides on the internet and in news media. Whenever one of ours is attacked, we fight back, regardless of the merits of the situation. We can’t give ground, after all, or we very well may lose everything.

Right now Christians are waiting, scared, for the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage to come down. What will happen if they allow gay marriage everywhere? What will we do?

And I guess I’m just afraid that we’ve gone a bit off track and we’re losing the bigger picture.

Our main job on this earth is not to fight a culture war. Our main job is to reach people for Jesus and to show Christ’s love to a hurting world.

I live in a country (Canada) where the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage years ago, despite the votes of elected officials. I was despondent when that decision came down, and I wrote articles in papers before the decision talking about why traditional marriage matters. Because it does. And once you allow gay marriage, a whole lot of other consequences follow. Marriage becomes about a lifestyle choice, making it less likely people will marry. Adoption issues become messed up. Custody issues become messed up. It’s just plain sad.

But you know what? Our laws simply reflect our culture, and our culture is already there. And sometimes a country gets what it deserves.

That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care; it’s only to say that even if the Supreme Court doesn’t allow gay marriage, I’m not sure what difference that will make because people’s hearts are no longer for traditional commitment. They just aren’t. And your laws reflect your culture, so within 10-15 years you will have gay marriage anyway, regardless of what the Supreme Court says.

Abortion is a separate issue; we’re winning there. But that’s because both issues have as an undercurrent justice and human rights. The world sees gay marriage as a human right and as a justice issue (gays should not be discriminated against). They see abortion in a similar way, because ultrasounds have let us see that this is a child. And so people are against abortion but for gay marriage, and in their minds that’s perfectly consistent.

So what do we do?

We can keep fighting, pointing out every bit of liberal hypocrisy to show that we’re right. We can keep fighting this war and funding this war and try to keep our ground.

And there likely is need for this. I think of it as a day job–we need professional Christians to fight the culture war on a 9-5 basis. But then let’s get back to our real life with real neighbours and real friends and real individuals.

Fighting the Culture War can’t be our main strategy or our main effort for evangelism, because it can backfire.

First, because we think in terms of strategy rather than in terms of Truth, Compassion, and Love. Sometimes strategically it seems better to slam your opponent rather than to admit that your Culture War soldier may have been off base. But that’s not standing for Truth.

But it’s not just because it can turn people away from God; it’s also because it blinds us to our own mission.

I had a woman say this on Facebook yesterday about my post about the Duggars: “I totally agree with your post, but I don’t see how saying all of this will show non-Christians we’re reasonable or that we love the victims. The media would never report this anyway. They just like to play “gotcha”.

That’s the problem. We think the Christian life is lived out in the Culture War, and it’s not. The Culture War is important, but it is not our Christian life, nor should it be our main focus. She was saying, “talking about this won’t matter; it’s only what the media reports that matters.” But that’s not true at all!

Let me give you one example: both of my girls have large numbers of non-Christian friends on Facebook–from work, from university, etc. And they saw non-Christians saying things like, “The Duggar scandal proves God doesn’t exist”, or much worse things. So the girls posted Rebecca’s article that was critical of the Duggars, and talked about how appalled they were, too. And their friends understood, and many messaged them and said, “I’m so glad you said that. I thought all Christians were excusing the Duggar parents. I’m so glad to know that’s not true. Thank you for standing up for what’s right.”

In fact, in the whole hubbub, the girls were attacked by Christians and comforted by non-Christians. Katie, especially, had non-believers messaging her and saying, “thank you for standing strong. I’m sorry for all the hate you’re getting, but we’re with you. You’re a great person.”

The media didn’t share Rebecca’s Duggar article. The media didn’t say, “some Christians aren’t supporting the Duggars.” But these people got the message because the girls said it themselves.

I’m afraid that we have put ourselves in such enclaves that most of us don’t have non-Christian friends, so the only way we communicate with non-Christians IS through the media.

And we forget that evangelism is supposed to be one on one. It’s relationship building. And that’s the only thing that will bring people back to Christ.

The disciples wanted Jesus to lead an army and win Israel by force. I sometimes think that’s what Christians want for America, too. Look, I’m not against having Christian leaders–Canada’s Prime Minister is a Christian and I pray everyday that he will win the next election. A country is blessed when it has Christian leaders.

But our main goal on this earth is not to make America into a Christian nation; it is to reach individuals for Christ.

And sometimes in the way that we frame the culture war as Us vs. Them, and circle the wagons, we turn off the individuals. And we feel like we are so busy winning people to Christ because we are so engaged in the Culture War–supporting politicians, giving political contributions, keeping up on the news, writing political letters–that we forget we have neighbors who just need to see Jesus. Not a letter writing campaign.

One more thing: In our attempt to be Us vs. Them, we have created even more legalistic rules of what it means to be a Christian, so that you can be sure you’re on the right side of the Culture War. To me, one of the main problems of the Duggar show was that it made it seem like the only way to be pure was to save hand holding until engagement and kissing until marriage. By showing something so counter-cultural, we thought we could show the world there is an alternative and win people to Christ that way.

But we’re just setting up rigid rules that the Bible doesn’t have. If you choose those things for yourself I completely support you. But saving hand-holding until engagement is not the biblical definition of purity.

The more that we elevate these kinds of extreme rules for Christian living, the more we solidify the Us vs. Them.

Let’s remember that Jesus was radical–but He was radical because He hung out with tax collectors and sinners, and they enjoyed Him! He was actually, for His time, radically Progressive. We’re trying to be radically Conservative. And by doing that, we’re almost becoming radical Pharisees. (I’m not saying we should become today’s version of Progressives, by the way; I’m just noting that we’ve turned the idea of radical on its head.)

I just want us to get back to a life where it’s not about rules; it’s about Jesus. And when Jesus (not rules) is real in our lives, we will have a true love for our neighbours, not a disdain for them because of the Us vs. Them Culture War.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense; I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. And, like I said, I do think it’s important to have good laws and Christian leaders. I do think holiness matters. But the Culture War can’t be our main focus of evangelism. It doesn’t work first of all, but it also makes us all feel like we’re part of the Great Commission when we’re really doing nothing of the sort. We will win the Culture War when we start winning individuals. And the louder and more stridently we fight the Culture War, the more we lose those individuals all around us.

Does anyone get what I’m saying? Or can you give me an example from your own life of how you reached out to an individual rather than seeing them as an Us vs. Them? I’m not sure I’m articulating myself well here, so I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments!

And then I’ll try to get back to regularly scheduled programming and regular type posts tomorrow. :)

 

Why The Duggar Abuse Scandal Matters

The Duggar Abuse Scandal: Why it's so sad, and why it matters
On Friday my daughter wrote a blog post about the Duggar sexual abuse scandal. I posted it on Facebook. And both of us had a whole pile of criticism thrown at us.

So today I’d like to explain, in my own words, why I think the Duggar abuse scandal matters and what we should learn from it.

Is Josh forgiven?

Absolutely.

Did the Duggar parents try to do the right thing at the time?

Inasmuch as they knew how, I suppose, though it took them a year to actually contact the police after they knew what Josh was doing; they did not remove him immediately from the home (and thus continued to put the girls in danger); and they did not get Josh counseling (Michelle has admitted that; they only sent him to a family friend where he performed manual labor).

But here’s the point:

Some of these girls had been sexually abused, some as young as 5. They were taken through a healing process to “forgive” their abuser. And then they were put on a TV show which had as its main premise that this family knows how to instill healthy sexuality into their kids.

It’s quite simple: the Duggar parents should either have been authentic about the abuse or, if they didn’t want to dredge it up publicly (a choice I completely understand and empathize with), then they should have turned down the show. That was their mistake; it was the minimization of the effects of abuse.

The Christian community as a whole has rallied around the Duggars and reacted vehemently against any who would criticize them. I think that is a serious mistake for our witness.

Here are two reasons why:

Christians Need to Be Authentic

When people see authentic Christians they are attracted to Christ. When they see Christians covering up sins they run in the opposite direction. It is hypocrisy that kills our witness.

So is Josh forgiven? Yes. He honestly repented, from everything I have seen.

But it’s not that simple. I have had people say, “David was forgiven! So what’s the big deal? He who is without sin cast the first stone.”

David wrote Psalm 51, where he laid his sin bare and held nothing back, when he was still king, knowing it would damage his reputation. But he did it because he was authentic before God and before his people. And God called David “a man after my own heart”. It was not that God approved of David despite the sin (as some are saying now about the Duggars); it was that God approved of David because of his authenticity.

If the Duggars had owned up to this at the very beginning of the show, not only would it not have been the issue that it is now, but they would have had such a powerful testimony of how God heals. Instead they have  tarnished their reputation and have lost their platform to speak for God. That is what inauthenticity does.

Many are saying, “but why should they have had to speak about something that was healed and forgotten?” Because they portrayed themselves as a family who had it all together–when they obviously did not. That is why they are in trouble now. It’s not the abuse; it’s the fact that they never acknowledged it earlier. So either don’t do the show, or own up to it. It’s that simple.

Right now, Christians believe we are in a huge culture war. And so when some of our perceived warriors–like the Duggars–are under fire, we close ranks, thinking that by preventing people from criticizing them we will somehow win that culture war.

The truth is the exact opposite. We win people by showing the world that God cares.

And despite people’s cries of “Judge not lest ye be judged”, they seem to overlook that Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 5:12: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” He was quite adamant that we were to judge those claiming to be Christians so that we do not ruin our witness. Paul knew that hypocrisy was so dangerous to the cause of Christ. So we should never cover up sin.

David and Paul were both very open about their sinful pasts, because they knew that their weakness and sin showed the power of God. The Duggars took a different approach. They chose to portray a family that did not struggle sexually, despite this huge elephant in the room, presumably thinking that showing an exemplary life would point people to Christ. Authenticity is far more effective in evangelism than perfection; it is authenticity that the world yearns for.

The Catholic church was in a world of hurt about the sexual abuse scandal in the 1990s. But the problem was not the abuse itself. It was the failure of the church to come clean along with its attempt to hide it. If we keep portraying ourselves as having it all together, and don’t admit huge failings, we ruin our witness because we are inauthentic.

I know it’s not in the same league, but when I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex I decided that I couldn’t share my thoughts on sex without going public about the fact that I suffered from vaginismus when I was first married. I had never told anyone this–not even close friends. It was really embarrassing. But how could I write an authentic book without also sharing the healing that God had done in my life–and how messed up I had been? Shouldn’t I use my story to point people to Christ? I didn’t want to talk about it, but I did. I never really intended to tell my girls about it, either, but now I have to because it’s in the book. But I’m glad I did, because I have had so many people share their stories with me since.

Authenticity opens doors; self-preservation closes them.

The lesson to be learned: We Christians need to stop having “idols” and stop thinking that keeping up perfect appearances will win people to Christ. We need to start being authentic instead.

We Need to Be Real About the Lasting Effects of Sexual Abuse

Can you be healed from sexual abuse? Absolutely. It’s a large part of my “Girl Talk” where I talk about sex and marriage.

But everything we know about the healing from sexual abuse shows that it is usually not quick, nor is it usually a one-step process.

A person can be healed and go on with their lives, but then something will “trigger” it again, sometimes even years later. Hitting puberty. Starting to have feelings for boys. Starting to date. Getting married. Having a child of your own. Having that child hit the age that you were when the abuse happened.

And at each stage you need to go through a deeper level of healing.

This is NORMAL. This does not mean that you weren’t healed at first; it’s only that much of healing from abuse happens in stages, because we don’t experience the full effects until later.

Almost all abuse survivors will report this.

By saying that the girls were “healed” because they “forgave” when they were so young–remember, some were only 6–the Duggar parents showed that they did not understand the normal healing process for sexual abuse.

And when supporters say, “the girls were healed back then, why dredge it up now?”, we show an extreme insensitivity to others who were also sexually abused.

Author Mary DeMuth, herself a sexual abuse survivor, puts it this way:

Instant forgiveness and “putting it behind you” only delays the healing process, a journey that only begins by stating the awfulness of the violation. By shoving the story under the rug for the sake of your family or church community, you may save the perpetrator’s reputation and the reputation of those near him or her, but you lose important ground in becoming free.

An untold story never heals. It just festers until it comes out in unwanted behavior.

Easy “forgivism” may gloss over the terrible situation in the short term, but it reinforces to everyone that the egregious, soul-siphoning sin committed against the victim was trivial, easy to get over.

I have no idea how the girls feel now. But I do know that those girls were in a position where they had to act as if their family had it all together. They even wrote a book about their sexuality and never mentioned it. Every sexual abuse survivor I know–without exception–has told me that their sexual abuse had a huge impact on their sexuality. To not be able to mention it is to invalidate a huge part of their story.

Besides that, apparently at least one victim was not part of the family. How did that victim feel watching the show where all the sisters were praising Josh? Does she matter?

The world is watching whether we will show compassion to sexual abuse survivors.

I am not asking us to string Josh up; I think he is a victim as well, and he will likely bear even more long term consequences. The incest taboo is one of the most hard-wired things in us. The fact that he was able to overcome this taboo and fondle his sisters means that he must have been going through something awful himself. It’s really very tragic for everyone.

So, no, we should not ask for Josh to be punished. But we do need to say that to require the girls to act like all is okay; to require them to extend quick grace; to portray to the world that “we are all fine” is to denigrate sexual abuse survivors.

Even if the Duggar girls are 100% okay, 95% of sexual abuse survivors were NOT okay immediately. And those survivors are hearing Christians say, “what’s the problem? It’s all behind them!”

What do they think if it is not behind THEM? What do they think when they hear, “we should let it go and forget about it!”–when THEY cannot let it go or forget about it?

What do they think when they hear that a 6 or 7 or 8 year old girl forgave and forgot, and is never ever bothered by it again? In the Duggars’ statement, they insinuated that this was all taken care of  years ago–even when the girls were so young at the time of counseling. I don’t know any reputable counselor who would say that you can make that type of pronouncement at that young an age.

And if they really were healed completely, and it honestly never bothered them–then what a testimony! Imagine if they had been able to share on their show how they got past this! But they didn’t. And now they have burned those bridges.

The lesson to be learned: The world is watching us. This is our chance to honor the stories of sexual abuse survivors and to show true compassion for those who have endured sexual abuse.

I have heard so many Christians defend the Duggar parents, and I understand. They’re in a horrible situation and we feel sorry for them.

But let’s remember that they are not the real victims here. However sad it is, they are simply bearing the consequences of poor decisions they made a decade ago. The real victims are the Duggar girls and the girl, or girls, outside the family who were abused; sexual abuse survivors hearing terrible messages about how “it was a long time ago” and “what does it matter” and “it was just touching”; and even, to a certain extent, Josh, whose life would be far better today had his parents, his church, and the authorities handled this appropriately back then.

If our voices of compassion are louder for the Duggar parents than they are for the victims, we, whether we intend to or not, minimize the severity of the effects of abuse. And I hope none of us would honestly want to do that.

 

 

Top 10 Ways to Get Turned On By Your Husband Again

How do you get turned on by your husband again? I get this question regularly. So I’m going to let one of my favourite guest posters, J from Hot, Holy and Humorous, give us 10 GREAT ways to keep the flame alive.

10 Ways to Get Turned On by your Husband Again--after not feeling attracted to him for a while. #marriage

J writes:

I recently fielded a question on my blog from a wife who wasn’t physically attracted to her husband. She wanted to have that heart-pounding desire for him, but just didn’t feel it. What could she do?

I answered her extensively, but I want to share a summary here, with 10 tips for how any wife can nurture her attraction and chemistry with her husband. How do we get or keep those heart-thumping sensations in our marriage?

1. Rethink Romance.

Many believe a successful marriage and satisfying intimacy requires falling in love, feeling like he’s your soul mate, being sexually compatible.

Look, I’m thrilled we live in a culture where I fell in love with the hubster and chose to marry him, but marriages in the Bible and throughout history have happened for various reasons—chemistry, love, family connection, alliances, physical provision. And more than a few were truly happy, regardless how they got started.

Why? Because a good marriage involves living out godly principles and acting in love. Start tossing love cookies your hubby’s way, and that target of your attention may start looking pretty darn good.

Quick tip: For real romance, read 1 Corinthians 13 and put “The Love Chapter” into practice.

2. Focus on the Positives.

Have you heard the saying, “folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”? There’s truth to that, including how you feel about others. If you look at the positives, you might find your husband’s attractiveness improves from your adjusted viewpoint.

So reflect often on what’s so great about him! How about starting a gratitude journal and listing 1-3 things each day that make you happy to be married to your man? Focus on his deeper character traits, sure, but also list physical characteristics that are attractive or masculine.

Keeping track of what’s truly handsome about your guy, you’ll begin to appreciate him in a spine-tingling way.

Quick tip: Keep a journal listing your husband’s attractive physical qualities.

3. Express Loving Thoughts.

When you repeatedly compliment someone and watch them light up in response, you reinforce that positive behavior for both of you. So focus on an attractive trait of your husband and express that loving thought to him.

We get the idea sometimes we ladies are the only ones concerned about body image, but husbands usually respond very favorably to their wives expressing what they find attractive about their man.

Train yourself to focus on his handsome qualities. In return, you’ll find the compliments easier to give, and your mind and heart will respond to what your mouth has expressed.

Quick tip: Read Song of Songs for inspiration on describing your man’s handsome appearance.

4. Eat Healthy.

What does eating have to do with romantic chemistry?

Being attracted to someone involves the release of body chemicals that fuel that lovin’ feeling. Chemicals such as testosterone, oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine, and more can affect how attracted we feel in the moment to our mate. And eating well keeps some of those chemicals pumping like they should in marriage.

For testosterone (yes, ladies, we need some of that in our systems), make sure to get enough protein, vitamin C, and good fats, and to limit alcohol intake. Endorphins also respond to foods, particularly spicy foods. Oh, and chocolate. Yes, chocolate can be healthy for your sex life! (In moderation, of course.)

Quick tip: Keep a food journal for a week, then adjust your diet if you need to eat healthier.

5. Exercise Together.

Endorphins are one of those body chemicals I mentioned, and they cause that “runner’s high” long-distance runners report. Endorphins take longer to cultivate, but they’ve been compared to opiates in their ability to produce feelings of calm, stress-reduction, and general happiness.

When you pair your mate and your endorphins, the result is a “love opiate,” so to speak. And how do you increase your endorphin quotient?

Exercise. So exercise more, exercise together. Endorphins release with steady exercise, and sharing those moments with hubby means you get that opiate effect when he’s around. You’ll brain will naturally attach the two.

Quick tip: Suggest an exercise you can do together, maybe even a walk around the block to begin.

6. Pair Your Hubby with Pleasurable Stimuli.

Much as we love our dogs, we are far more complicated beings. Except when we’re not.

Scientist Ivan Pavlov conducted a famous experiment in which he studied the salivation of dogs at mealtime, but he noticed a side effect which became a far more interesting discovery. He rang a bell at dinnertime, then fed the dogs. After a while, the dogs began to salivate simply with the ringing of the bell. We’re like that too. Pair a stimulus with a pleasurable stimuli often enough, and the stimulus gets us licking our lips.

Now if you want to lick your lips over your hubby, pair that guy with pleasurable stimuli! Another body chemical, dopamine, is involved in the reward system of the brain—a chemical that provides good sensations when a particular activity is experienced. Matching the activity and the feel-good results, we learn to repeat that behavior again and again to get the same “high.”

So watch a fun movie together, ask for a relaxing massage, or experience orgasm in his arms. Let dopamine fire away and get you “addicted” to love with your husband.

Quick tip: Give each other massages this week—back, foot, or wherever you each want.

7. Be Affectionate.

Affection is wonderful for its own sake, but it’s also important for the release of yet another body chemical, oxytocin. Oxytocin is often called the “bonding chemical” because it gets released during deep embraces, infant nursing, and sexual activity, and creates feelings of connection, attachment, and yep, love.

Studies have shown you can increase oxytocin through physical touch, like holding hands and sustained hugs of 20 seconds or longer. Now you have to hang on long enough for your body to register the affection and respond with an oxytocin release. But it’s a pretty powerful effect once you put it into practice.

And yes, sexual encounters with your husband definitely impact the “bonding chemical”—with sex capable of producing an oxytocin rush for wives at three to five times the norm!

Quick tip: Hug or cuddle with your husband for at least a half a minute twice a day…or much, much more!

8. Laugh with Your Husband.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” And some of you wives are walking around with brittle bones when it comes to romantic chemistry for your husband. Cheer that heart up, baby! Laughter is wonderful for your relationship and your feelings of attraction—good medicine indeed.

Remember endorphins? The “love opiates”? Laughter triggers endorphins. When you and your husband share a good belly laugh, it’s good for your feelings of attraction to him.

So watch comedies together, share jokes and word play, flirt and giggle, even go to a Christian comedy show for date night. And as I’ve often said, learn to laugh with one another even in your marriage bed.

Quick tip: Rent a funny movie and watch it with the hubby (snuggled together is even better).

9. Have More Sex.

We wives tend to play what comes first? with this one. Most gals struggle with the idea of having sex with someone we’re not extremely physically attracted to, even our husbands. But it’s really a chicken-and-egg argument. There’s quite a bit of evidence that sexual activity in a covenant relationship increases feelings of intimacy and attraction.

Having regular sex releases endorphins, testosterone, and the bonding chemical, oxytocin. It provides an opportunity to touch extensively, notice your mate’s fascinating body, share laughter, and experience physical highs in one another’s arms.

And you know what? Many of the positive effects of sex noted by researchers only occur in long-term, committed relationships.

Quick tip: Make love one extra time this week. And the week after. And the week…

10. Pray for That Spark.

Not “feelin’ it” yet? Ask for God to reveal all these things to you—what’s so great and attractive about your husband, how to take care of your bodies better, what will make your spine tingle, how to see your husband the way only a sexy, loving wife can.

It may feel weird at first to ask God to get you all hot-and-bothered over your husband, but God wants your engine revving about your man. The very first verses of Song of Songs, the book in the Bible devoted to intimate romance and love, starts with the wife expressing how much her guy turns her on:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers. – Song of Songs 1:2-4

If you want that can’t-wait-to-get-my-hands-on-you desire for your husband, ask God for His divine help. Pray for your romantic chemistry.

Quick tip: Pray for God to help you become more physically attracted to your husband.

J from Hot, Holy and Humorous

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

 

Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in MarriageSheila says:

J writes so well and so REAL about sex. If you’ve always struggled to make sex intimate, and not just physical, why not embark on a journey with J and work through her book Intimacy Revealed? It’s one devotional a week–one thought to chew on and pray about all week–so that by the end of the year you’ll feel more confident, more excited, and more in awe of how God created sex to be.

From marriage-specific scriptures to biblical principles, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage guides Christian wives through weekly devotions that shed light on God’s gift of marital sex.

Top 10 Sex and Marriage Red Flags You Shouldn’t Ignore

Marriage Red Flags: Signs that something is wrong with your marriage--or your sex life

Marriage red flags–all of us have marriage issues, but how do you know if an issue crosses the line into dangerously weird territory?

Top 10 Marriage Red Flags
I receive many emails from women in crisis, and today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share 10 marriage and sex red flags that really shouldn’t be ignored.

Often we don’t realize when something is off, because we’re new at this whole marriage thing, and most of us don’t share personal and intimate details with our friends. So how can you know if something that worries you is actually a red flag for something quite serious?

What is a Sex or Marriage Red Flag?

It means that this is a situation which will not get better by you being nicer, by you being more understanding, by you trying to talk it through with him, or by you being more patient.

This is something which is a serious issue that will likely require a third party, like a trained counselor or a pastor, to help you.

If you ignore it, your marriage will only get worse, and your husband will only fall deeper and deeper into sin or more and more away from God and his family (depending on what the issue is).

In this post, I’m not talking about abuse–though this, too, will not get better on their own and will need a third party. Here’s a post specifically for information on emotionally destructive relationships. I want to talk more about sexual red flags in marriage.

These problems represent an issue that your husband has–not something that you have caused, and so you cannot make it better. You can, however, make it more likely that he will get the help he needs by taking it seriously. And that is the most loving thing you can do.

For information on how to involve a third party, read my post on being a spouse instead of an enabler, or check out the book Boundaries in Marriage.

My heart aches for women in these situations, because they often are so taken back with surprise that their husbands are acting this way, and they truly don’t know what to do. I’m sorry that some of these seem so extreme, but I’ve had multiple emails about each of these types of situations, and I know that there are women dealing with these things. So let’s get it all out in the open today!

Here are 10 Sex and Marriage Red Flags that shouldn’t be ignored:

1. If your husband says he enjoys sex, but he never wants to make love–Red Flag!

Men, in general, have a higher sex drive than women do. That doesn’t mean that if you have a higher sex drive than your husband that there is necessarily something wrong with him.

But if your husband never wants to make love, even though he says he enjoys it, then that is a red flag. Even if his sex drive is lower than yours, he should want to make love at least sometimes. Here’s a more in-depth series on what to do if your husband doesn’t want sex–and when this really is a red flag.

2. If your husband considers lack of sex to be a spiritual virtue–Red Flag!

One wife of a busy, hardworking pastor sent this in:

 About two months ago I was really feeling the abandonment and disconnect from my husband due to the demands of ministry. I was reading your blog and saw a comment where a woman stated that she never lets her and husband go more than two nights in a row without making love. I thought: how genius! Maybe this will help us stay connected even with his crazy schedule. This went on for a few weeks, then all of a sudden he started refusing. He would leave me laying in bed naked and alone. Again, confused and rejected, I voiced my concerns. He said, we’ve had sex more this month than we’ve had our whole marriage. He proceeded to tell me that our marriage is not based on sex but God. And he felt like I was trying to fill a void of rejection by having sex all the time instead of letting God heal me.

This marriage was already distant because this husband (and father!) was spending most of his time and energy away from the family. When the wife tried to bridge the gap with sex, he told her that she should rely on God instead (presumably like he does).

We do need to rely on God, but we also were created for intimacy with our spouses. When someone consistently rejects sex, while also rejecting an emotional relationship with their spouse, they are likely running from intimacy in general. In this man’s case, he may be lacking intimacy with God, too, thinking that activity for God is the equivalent of intimacy with God. It’s not.

He likely needs a counselor or mentor to sit down with him and talk through his priorities–and also a counselor who can walk him through why he’s running from intimacy and believes that self-sufficiency is the highest good. This attitude will make him an ineffective father and husband, but it will also ultimately make him an ineffective pastor.

3. If your husband has never been able to “complete the deed”, especially if he’s young–Red Flag!

I remember one woman who wrote me who married when she and her husband were quite naive and ignorant about how sex worked. She told me that she didn’t think she had ever had sex, and didn’t understand how it even happened.

After more questions, it turned out that her husband had never had an erection.

Young men should have no problem maintaining an erection. If he is unable to with you, then he has either major sexual issues or major psychological issues. Or, alternatively, he may have trained himself through masturbation to only respond to direct stimulation, as in this case:

My son-in-law has been unable to fully complete sexually. After a year and a half of marriage, during which they’ve never managed to “finish”, my daughter came to find out that he does masturbate quite a bit, and had looked at porn a lot. So my daughter has blocked the internet sites that she can and he is very limited to the time he is on the computer. He has been attending an accountability class at a Church that they are attending. He tried going without masturbating for 30 days and he thought things might have seemed better, but didn’t last long.  Oh, I know he was abused as a little boy by his older brother. Inappropriate touching and sodomy that she knows of. He doesn’t want to talk about that.

He asked and asked about seeing a urologist. Basically, my daughter came away thinking because there doesn’t seem to be a problem. He can ejaculate, therefore the urologists says everything is working fine. Could he have masturbated so long that he doesn’t get the same feeling inside her?

Masturbation could definitely be contributing to the problem–but so, likely, is the abuse that he won’t talk about it. Insisting that he go for counseling and get into a recovery group is so important. And you can retrain yourself to be aroused by a person, but it takes a while.

That brings us to this one:

4. If your husband chooses masturbation over intercourse–Red Flag!

I’ve had several women saying that they have been going for months without sex–but then one woman walked in on her husband masturbating in the shower. He says he does it every day, and suggests she does it, too, she they don’t have to be bothered with sex.

Solo masturbation is selfish and steals intimacy. If someone chooses masturbation over sex consistently, they likely have withdrawn in other ways and have stunted their emotional development, because they’re becoming self focused rather than relationship focused.

I speak more about masturbation in marriage here.

5. If your husband withdraws after making love–Red Flag!

Making love should bring you closer together. When you’re making love, you produce the “bonding” hormone oxytocin which helps you feel more affectionate. If, after making love, he becomes angry, distant, or disconnected, that’s likely a signal that he is fighting some sexual or psychological issues that need to be dealt with.

The next three sex red flags are quite common today, and often result from an addiction to pornography:

6. If your husband refuses to share passwords, let you see his phone, or let you on his computer–Red Flag!

A marriage should have complete trust and openness. If he is adamant that his phone and computer are private, that is practically a guarantee that he is doing something he should not do. If you ask him, he may end up attacking you: “don’t you trust me? Are you that insecure?”

I have never known a marriage where a husband or wife refuses access to their phones who isn’t also either texting inappropriately or watching porn. Never.

If he refuses to let you see things, that’s a definite sign there’s something wrong. One more tip: If you do find something on his phone or computer, take a screen shot or a picture with your phone, so that it can’t be denied later. Then insist on talking with a counselor about it.

7. If your husband is not interested in pleasing you, and seems almost disconnected during sex–Red Flag!

If your husband becomes almost a robot in bed, closing his eyes and refusing to talk to you, then he’s disconnecting, perhaps because he can’t become aroused without picturing something else–or someone else–in his head. If he were to talk to you, it would break the fantasy. If sex is impersonal, there’s something wrong.

Note: this may not be a huge sin issue. If a guy grew up masturbating to porn, but doesn’t watch porn anymore, he could simply be having a hard time getting aroused now because he’s trained his sexual response wrong (that’s one of the side effects of porn!). It doesn’t mean he’s watching porn now (though he could be). Talk to him about it and try to work through it together, though an accountability group or counselor may be necessary.

8. If your husband is not interested in intercourse, but only wants other sexual acts–Red Flag!

Porn depicts sexual acts that are more degrading, and thus often more “photograph worthy”, then simply making love. Add that to a porn habit which is self-focused with masturbation, and many men are not interested in actual sex because it requires mutuality. If your husband prefers other sexual acts (or consistently “degrading” things) to intercourse, he likely has a problem with porn.

Note: if your husband simply wants some variation in bed, there’s nothing wrong with that! But if a man only wants oral sex–red flag!

Finally, the last two red flags represent a man with a seriously disturbed sexuality, which really does need a counselor (and unfortunately I’ve had several of these types, too):

9. If your husband has to role play himself or get you to role play to become aroused–Red Flag!

The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts If sex has to be rough, or if he has to pretend to be very young, or that you are very young–or any variation on this sort of thing–that’s a danger sign. Many couples like to role play; but if the role play is necessary to his arousal, then there is something at work that really does need to be dealt with, as Shannon Ethridge talks about in The Fantasy Fallacy.

10. If your husband wears strange clothing in private–Red Flag!

One reader wrote in with this story:

I have a friend who basically walks on eggshells whenever her husband is around, so as not to disrupt his delicate moods. Yet then he expects her to want to have sex more! She does not keep sex from him, she tries her best even though her emotional needs aren’t being met, yet SHE is the one who has to initiate if they do have sex. Any time she tries to talk to him about their marriage, he ends up crying, and so she never really says exactly what she feels because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Lately he’s done some weird things, such as he got a thong and began wearing it to bed. No explanation, no asking her what she thought about it. She asked him why and he said “I thought you might like it.” She told him it was a big turn-off for her, yet a month later he ordered 3 more on-line.

I can imagine how bewildered this wife is. She’s trying to have a good marriage, to be good to him, to be sexually available–but he’s crying, moody, rejecting her, and now wearing lingerie!

If a man starts wearing odd clothing, especially in bed, this is a sign of a serious psychological issue that needs to be dealt with.

I’m sorry to be so graphic or to talk about such distasteful things today.

I know that this is not what the vast majority of you deal with. But what scares me when I see some of these emails is that the wives don’t seem to realize how serious many of these things are, because it’s their “normal”. So I want to say, loudly and clearly, these things are NOT normal. They ARE red flags. And you really, really do need to get help, for the sake of his own spiritual growth, and that of your relationship.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you want to see what normal sex is, and what God created sex to be, my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex explains it all, and it may help you put words to what you instinctively feel is wrong.

My sympathy for any of you who are walking through this.

Please know that God is big enough to get you through–and your husband is never so messed up that God cannot redeem him and redeem your marriage. He may not choose to do so–we all have free will to reject God’s help. But God can do amazing things when we let Him, and I pray that this will be evident in your marriages!

 

 

When the Way We Talk About Submission Turns People Off of Christ

Be careful how you comment! Sometimes we don't realize how too radical a view of submission can turn people away from Christ

On Mondays I always like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, and I have a quite a backlog of questions I’m getting ready to answer!

But today I thought it was important to share instead a Reader Observation and a plea for help from the vast majority of you who read this blog. I’ll get to that observation and that plea in a minute, but first, a little bit of background:

How asking for help from my husband made our marriage so much better!
Last month I published a guest post from Kate Tunstall, where she explained how after her first baby came she and her husband started to grow apart. And she grew more and more resentful about him not wanting to care for the baby until she sat down and talked to him, and realized they both were partially at fault.

They both opened up to each other, learned some new things about each other (and themselves), and sorted things out.

And it was all was because she chose to talk about it rather than keep stewing. Had she kept stewing, she wouldn’t have realized that much of their problem was due to misunderstandings. It was only in talking and creating vulnerability and openness again that they came to a solution.

I thought it was a great story that illustrated a point I’ve been trying to make on this blog a lot lately. Sometimes you have to ask your husband for help. You can’t expect your husband to know what you’re thinking unless you tell him. And in most cases, we may look for a “magic bullet” that will fix the problem, but ultimately we have to do the hard and sometimes awkward work of talking about it.

It so happens that Kate doesn’t identify herself as an evangelical Christian (though I will not presume to say what faith she does or does not have beyond that). But her post was right on about marriage and I published it.

The comments on that post, though, quickly veered in a really dangerous and counterproductive direction.

The first few comments are great; then they get weird. One woman wrote that this woman was wrong for expecting her husband to care for the baby; she used a rather derogatory and critical tone toward the guest poster, which other commenters (and I) tried to correct. Then someone else joined the fray and said this:

This post defies Scripture, as well as 1850 years of church teaching. Jesus did not tell us that communication was the most important thing, rather repentance and obedience.

I then commented that just because the church and our culture have sanctioned something does not automatically make it right–look at slavery, after all! (I brought up slavery because I thought NO ONE could defend slavery).

The commenter then defended slavery. And then I deleted the theological arguments they left about why slavery was justified, and banned that commenter.

Seriously, can you imagine what defending slavery in public does to the name of Christ?

I think it’s perfectly valid to wrestle in a seminary with the question, “does the fact that God let the Israelites own slaves in the Old Testament mean that God permits all kinds of slavery? Was slavery just for a time?” But to debate this in public is beyond the pale (and by the way, I still don’t believe God ever really blessed the institution of slavery).

Kate actually wrote a follow-up post on her experience guest posting on a Christian blog, and here’s some of what she said:

It is the year 2015. I was of the impression that the developed world had come a long way, even if only in the last thirty or so years. Whereas it was once acceptable, expected even, that there were gender-specific roles, I thought this narrow-mindedness had all but ended. (Having said that, men and women have different strengths, and I completely advocate the right to state such a fact without the fear of being labelled sexist. It is simple good sense.)

Do you see how sad that is? She was under the impression that the world had come a long way–and we’ve now made her think that the evangelical community is narrow-minded (even though it was a minority of the commenters).

She then says:

I was dismayed to learn that having made huge efforts, at personal cost, to ensure my husband’s needs are met (frequenting the gym regularly and never having to get up to our daughter during the night, for example), there has still been a suggestion that I expect too much of him [by wanting him to interact with our daughter]. I cannot understand or agree with this view – to me it is either antiquated chauvinism in a non-religious context, or, as Sheila discusses, misinterpretation in religion.

Sometimes we leave comments on blogs because we like debate, but we forget that people who do not share our faith will be reading them.

Be careful what you say and how you word things. You are not just debating with the author of a post; you are debating with everyone who will read this post and the comments. People who are searching are on this blog. People who are struggling with God are on this blog. We have a responsibility to the weaker brother.

And I get about 10,000 visits a day from search engines–most of whom arrive here because they use a search term that relates to a crisis in their marriage. And most do not know God. Please assume that when you are commenting here, you are not just talking to Christians. You are talking to moms and wives and even some husbands who are hurting, and who are genuinely searching for help.

One other important thing:

Sometimes our interpretation of Scripture, quite frankly, means that many non-Christian marriages are healthier than many Christian marriages.

Kate’s marriage seems very healthy–or at least her conflict resolution model is. And studies consistently show that children who interact with both parents are emotionally healthier than children who only interact with the mother. A father’s hands-on role is best.

The fact that some commenters were arguing that a husband shouldn’t be expected to interact with the children shows that many non-Christian families are psychologically healthier, which is scary.

Unfortunately, it’s not all that surprising. If you subscribe to the interpretation of Scripture where a wife can never point out where her husband may be in error (even though being a suitable helpmeet obviously equipped us for this role), or that a wife should not express an opinion or call her husband out on sin (seriously, read the comments on this one), or that it is not a wife’s place to draw boundaries and say, “I will not tolerate you treating me in an abusive or demeaning way“, then I doubt that marriage is going to be very healthy.

And some teaching in the church I believe is downright dangerous, like that from Debi Pearl about how when a wife is abused it’s because we’ve provoked our husbands, or that the way to deal with any marriage problem (even severe sin) is to “win him without words”. This leaves far too many families in desperate straits, unable to deal with real abuse, or unable to confront sin and urge their spouses on towards godliness.

So here’s what I would ask:

1. Remember you are God’s ambassadors.

If you have an opinion which would make the majority of the public cringe and question whether or not God is really loving, then ask yourself, “Is it really important that I express it here?”, or, at least, “how can I phrase this so that I’m saying it lovingly?” Obviously we will all hold opinions that are counter-cultural; that’s what being a Christian is. But there is no need to be ungracious or to throw anything in someone else’s face. Instead, we are to relate to them in as many ways as we can so as to not make offense unnecessarily.

Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

2. EVERYONE: Please, please, please publicly correct those who give God a bad name.

If you see a comment on this (or any other site) that you think gives God a bad name, then leave a comment to say that that person is wrong, or that most Christians, in your opinion, do not share that point of view.

I’m saying this one to the vast majority of you who are silent, or who may comment but don’t want to touch the inflammatory ones with a ten foot pole. Even a simple, “I think that is the wrong interpretation of Scripture, and want to point out that you hold a minority view” would be awesome!

Right now the off-base comments seem more important than they really are, because 95% of people never comment. Can you imagine how powerful it would be if every time someone said something really inflammatory, a bunch of people said, “I don’t think that’s an accurate view of Scripture”?

3. Think about giving Kate some Encouragement

Her post where she talks about her experience on this blog is right here. If some of you want to go over and give her some encouragement, that would be great!

I, in turn, will:

1. Delete comments whose only purpose seems to be to be inflammatory.

2. Delete comments that may be well-reasoned, but that are so offensive and wrong that I think God will be maligned. (like the pro-slavery ones).

3. Allow comments through that are well-reasoned, even if I think they are wrong, if they don’t cross a threshold. And then I will try to correct them as often as possible.

4. Delete comments where the commenter is insulting another commenter, or making assumptions about other commenters that really aren’t warranted or that are too judgmental.

And I really will try to get to my backlog of Reader Questions too!

I was thinking yesterday in our wonderful Easter service, where I saw my “adopted” niece get baptized, that God is about grace and changing lives and Jesus so wants to bring the world to Himself.

I want this blog to be a part of that. But sometimes I worry that we do the opposite, when I let certain things through.

I do want to allow discussion, but I am really far more concerned about the impression we’re giving those who don’t know Christ than I am about fostering free flowing debate.

I still will always let things through that are respectful, even if I don’t always agree (as long as they’re not totally beyond the pale), but I’d just ask that all of us participate in policing this community and making it a safe place for those who aren’t yet Christians to visit and to learn from.

May we never inadvertently turn off, or turn away, a seeker.

Thanks, everybody! And let me know what you think of my comment policy.

[UPDATE: You guys are awesome! Thanks for all your helpful comments over on Kate’s blog! ]

[UPDATE 2: OH MY GOODNESS! One of the commenters I kept deleting just posted this comment over on Kate’s blog (she hasn’t approved it yet; she sent it to me first). Okay, people, this just proves that some of you don’t get it. How in the world does posting this comment on her blog further the cause of Christ?

Oh, and by the way, when I speak about what we need to do to make our marriages better by drawing boundaries, that doesn’t mean we’re ordering our husbands around. That means that we say, “you are free to choose to do that, but I will not stay here/listen to you/etc. etc. if you sin in that way in front of me.” That is perfectly legitimate and perfectly in line with the gospel, and I’m sorry people think that women should allow men to treat them disprespectfully or destructively–or even worse that God sanctions this.

Here’s the comment:

First, I want to state that we were 2/3rds of the commentors you are referencing. Second, we want to apolagize to you in the way it came across. Our differences are with Sheila and not with you. If you are not a christian and are not teaching God’s Word then we have no problem at all with what you shared. However, please understand that is not the way it was presented at a website (Sheila’s) which is about teaching how marriage should take place in a christian marriage.

As christians we have no problem with a wife asking a husband for help and we certianly think a father should be deeply involved in raising his children. We do not beleive though that God’s Word teaches a wife has the authority to tell her husband how their marriage and parenting is going to play out. Share her hopes and feelings, most certianly. Ask for help, definetly. But not tell him or order him. It goes against scripture.

So please understand our disagreement was not with you but with Sheila whose teaching deals almost exclusively anymore with teaching wives to take the authority position in their marriages and not teaching wives the scripture that pertains to them in the Bible while yet holding husbands to the teaching that pertains to them. In other words, everyday Sheila tries to What I find unacceptable is when a difference in values, and thus opinion, gives rise to anybody forcing their own beliefs upon somebody else. There is no justification for that. Or in other words she forces values and opinions on christian men/husbands through her teaching- using God’s Word as her weapon but only applying it to men.

In other words you stepped into a long running battle that unfortunately is filled with hard feelings on both sides. We are sorry you got stuck in the middle and it would have been handled much differently had we known that you were not a christian.

I know this is not a flattering comment in regards to Sheila but I ask you to do two things before you make judgement.

Review her last year (or three years of posts). Do a count on how many address women treating their husbands better or addressing what we as christians would call women’s own sins? Now count how many are addressing men’s sins. You’ll find that somewhere around 80-90% address men’s sins and yet she is speaking to women everyday. The basic theme of her blog is not how to be a better wife or even how to have a better marriage, it is simply about taking control of your husband. If that is not the case, why the vast difference in the number of posts? Are men worse then women? Are men causing more marriage problems than women?

We do not expect someone who does not share our faith to agree with what the Bible says but even people who do not share the same beliefs can agree that the only person you can change is yourself. If you are speaking to the same group everyday, why are you constantly teaching about the sins of the other?

Respectfully and wishing you & your husband the best.

And now a word to that commenter who really doesn’t get it. If you continue to try to get a non-Christian involved in a disagreement between Christians, and continue to try to post things that defame Christ, even though I have told you not to, I WILL publish your email address. This is ridiculous. Please understand: YOU ARE GOD’S AMBASSADOR. How in the world did you think that this comment furthered the cause of Christ?

[UPDATE 3]: Just thought of something even more ironic–and kinda funny!

Okay, so that commenter who is obviously more concerned with winning an argument with me than with portraying Christ in a positive light has a beef with me: I have been teaching on this blog about how women can confront their husbands when their husbands are in sin, instead of teaching women to serve their husbands.

Emotionally Destructive Marriages: 10 Truths about marriages characterized by emotional abuse
I don’t actually believe that my posts are skewed if you count them up at all, but it is true that I’ve been hammering the point about Emotionally Destructive marriages recently–and about calling your husbands out on sin. There are two main reasons for this: one is because I can see the Google searches that lead people to this page, and so, so many of them have to do with wives whose husbands use porn.

But the second is because people like this commenter keep commenting–and they scare me! Are there really that many people out there who believe that women should not confront their husbands in sin? If that’s true, then I have a lot more teaching to do! Ironically, if these commenters would stop leaving such incendiary comments about a woman’s role, I could move on to other things. But the fact that they keep popping up here shows me that there is still much teaching to do in the church about appropriate relationships. And that’s why I chose Leslie Vernick’s book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage to look at in our reading challenge last month–because what these people are advocating are essentially the blueprints for an emotionally destructive marriage. And the more I hear from them, the more I have to talk about it!

Ten Truths About Emotionally Destructive Marriages

Emotionally Destructive Marriages: 10 Truths about marriages characterized by emotional abuse

If you’re in an emotionally destructive marriage, filled with emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual abuse, I pray that this post will help you today.

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeIn January I challenged everybody to the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge–read one book a month all year, on a set subject. This month’s was on setting boundaries in your marriage. For those in marriages characterized by mutual respect, where this wasn’t an issue, I suggested the awesome book Ask It by Andy Stanley. Then I had several other suggestions for those in different situations, culminating with The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. And today I’d like to share 10 truths about those marriages, using many of Leslie’s words from the book.

1. Most Marriages Are Not Emotionally Destructive

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceIf you are reading this blog, chances are your marriage is NOT emotionally destructive. I took Leslie’s 50 question quiz to find out how my marriage ranked, and I answered “never” to every single question. I’m married to a great guy–as many of you are.

And as Shaunti Feldhahn showed in her research for Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, in 90% of marriages each spouse genuinely wants the best for the other spouse.

However, even though most marriages are not emotionally destructive, emotionally abusive marriages are over-represented on this blog, because so many of you land here in crisis after a Google search.

2. Emotionally Abusive Marriages follow a pattern

In every marriage people may say cruel things during a fight. They may act inappropriately and harshly. I’ve yelled at my husband (though I haven’t called him names). He’s yelled at me.

But this isn’t typical of our marriage. Leslie Vernick says that a good marriage is one characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom. We each try to make it better. If a rule applies to one person, it applies to both (for instance, if one person has to make account for the money they spent, then both do. In abusive marriages, often one person forces this on the other without any reciprocity at all). And both spouses feel free to express opinions, make decisions, and choose how to act–even if in bursts of anger we may occasionally do the opposite.

On the other hand, Leslie Vernick says,

An emotionally destructive marriage is one where one’s personhood, dignity, and freedom of choice is regularly denied, criticized, or crushed. This can be done through words, behaviors, economics, attitudes, and misusing the Scriptures…

It’s characterized by repetitive attitudes and behaviors that result in tearing someone down or inhibiting her growth. This behavior is usually accompanied by a lack of awareness, a lack of responsibility, and a lack of change…

Emotional abuse systematically degrades, diminishes, and can eventually destroy the personhood of the abused.

Eventually the emotionally abused spouse (and either spouse could be abused) no longer feels like “me”.

3. Emotionally Abusive marriages make you sick

The stress from living in an emotionally destructive marriage takes its toll.

Your body feels it. Your stomach churns, your teeth grind, your hands clench, your jaw tightens, your head pounds, your legs shake, and your blood pressure rises. You cry, you can’t catch your breath, and you throw up.

When your husband is near your body starts to shake. Almost all women in these types of marriages experience physical symptoms: ulcers, digestive issues, migraines. And it only gets worse.

4. Emotionally Destructive marriages make you crazy

Abusive spouses seek to control their mates through manipulation, anger, rage, and deceit. They play mind games. And then, every now and then they perform acts of kindness to keep their spouses ambivalent about leaving.

But when our personhood is systematically denied and we aren’t allowed to express, or even have, feelings, we feel as if we’re going crazy.

Leslie writes,

Our emotions always serve a purpose, like the warning lights on a car dashboard. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, and often ignoring our feelings only makes the problem worse.

5. Most typical Christian marriage advice is exactly the wrong thing to do in an emotionally abusive marriage

To me, this is the most important point. I believe in biblical submission–with a firm emphasis on the word biblical. I do not believe in just plain submission. And yet over and over again in Christian blogs and in Christian books we’re told how submission turned their marriage around. How submission was the key to marital happiness.

That may be true–as long as you’re not in an emotionally abusive marriage. As soon as you are, acting in a typically submissive way only makes it worse, as I shared in this post about how not all advice is one size fits all.

Yet too often we in the church are told that the only proper response for a wife towards her husband is to defer to him–a  position that ignores the entire book of Proverbs, most of the Pauline epistles, and how Jesus Himself acted towards injustice.

In many emotionally destructive marriages, wives have spent years reading marriage books on how to make their marriages better. They’ve tried everything they can get their hands on–but nothing works, and in fact things often get worse, because the typical advice doesn’t fit.

I’ll let Leslie Vernick speak to this,

We’ve misdiagnosed a marriage that has terminal cancer and treated it as if it were only suffering from a common cold. We’ve also misplaced the responsibility for keeping the marriage alive by putting an extraordinarily heavy burden on a wife’s shoulders to somehow maintain a loving and warm relationship with a husband who treats her with cruelty, disrespect, deceit, and gross indifference. It’s not feasible, nor is it biblical…

When you are the only one in your marriage caring, repenting, being respectful and honest, sacrificing, and working toward being a better spouse, you are a godly wife, but you don’t have a healthy or biblical marriage…

In some marriages, trying harder does not engender a reciprocal response. It has the opposite effect. It feeds the fantasy that the sole purpose of your life is to serve your husband, make him happy, and meet his every need. It feeds his belief of entitlement and his selfishness, and it solidifies his self-deception that it is indeed all about him.

6. If you’re in an emotionally destructive marriage, be good, don’t be nice

In every marriage, our goal should be to encourage people to be more godly–and that should be all the more so in marriage because we are the helpmeet.

If we act in such a way that we solidify his self-centeredness (or her self-centeredness), then we aren’t being good or loving.

One woman said to Leslie,

I made our marriage worse by never speaking up, by being too nice, by not expressing my needs, and by accommodating Charlie even at my own expense. I went along thinking that this was my role as a godly woman, a submissive wife, a biblical helpmate.

7. To love your husband in an emotionally abusive marriage is to be concerned about his welfare and his soul

Leslie writes,

Biblically loving your husband doesn’t require you to prop him up in order to enable him to continue to hurt you. It involves something far more redemptive…

He needs a wife who will love him enough to tell him the truth and to respectfully challenge his selfishness, his self-absorption, and his self-deception.

What can you do to help your husband grow? You refuse to accept behaviour that is destructive and abusive.

When you put your foot down and say, “I will not allow myself or the kids to be treated this way anymore. It’s destructive to me, to them, and to our marriage,” you are not going against God by speaking the truth in love. You are standing for goodness, for truth, and for the healing and restoration of your marriage.

In an emotionally destructive marriage, you must learn to say no.

If you don’t know how to do that, Leslie lists some very practical examples of how you can set repercussions and boundaries for destructive behaviour while still making sure you and the children are safe. She talks practically about how to get a team around you for support, how to express to him what you will and will not accept, and how to start a process which can lead to him understanding what being a godly man is.

8. The Bible clearly says that if you are married to a fool, being nice only makes the fool worse

If people are doubting whether women have the “right” to put these kinds of ultimatums to their husbands, then I’d suggest you read the book of Proverbs and look at how God tells us to treat fools. Leslie explains in detail these Bible passages and how they apply to marriage.

And she looks at one example we have of a woman who was married to a fool–Abigail who was married to Nabal in 1 Samuel 25–and how she went against his wishes and was not submissive because she put God first.

9. We are to obey God, not man–especially an emotionally abusive man (or woman)

Following your husband into sin may be submissive, but it is not biblically submissive. Allowing him to berate you and your children may be submissive, but it is not biblically submissive.

As Peter says in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than man.”

10. God cares about the individuals in your family more than he cares about your marriage

Finally, if you’re in an emotionally abusive marriage, know that God sees you and grieves for you. In her book, Leslie shows through Scripture how God feels when His children are physically and emotionally hurt. He cries with you.

And she shows how the verse “God hates divorce” is often used against women in abusive marriages, rather than against the husbands who have made the rift–which is who that verse was directed at in the first place!

Leslie writes,

Maybe you think that God is more interested in preserving your marriage than the well-being of you and your children, but that is not true…

Joanne realized that her marriage, although important to her, had become idolatrous. Keeping it together was what controlled her, not the love of Christ…

A wife is not a body to use but a person to love.

And finally, let me leave you with this:

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: We Need to Learn God's Heart

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeMost of you reading this are not in emotionally abusive marriages–but some are. And I want you to know that God cares. That you are not alone. And that He wants you to get help. Maybe that first step is picking up a copy of Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, which outlines how to identify your marriage, how to seek help, and how to do the hard work of seeing if the marriage can be saved. I encourage you to get it–it will give you hope!