On Hollywood, Love and Marriage

What Hollywood Teaches Us About Marriage

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week, I’ve been talking a ton about marriage and movies on the blog, so I thought I’d summarize in my column. (And if you missed my post on the 50 best romantic chick flicks, you really need to see it!):

I love a good chick flick. Sure, I’ll watch Band of Brothers or Die Hard with my husband, but when he cuddles up and sits through Pride and Prejudice, I melt.

Unfortunately finding a decent movie is often an exercise in futility. Most new releases gross me out. There’s too much horror or blood, and throw in a zombie or two and it’s supposed to be a blockbuster.

Nevertheless, dig deep and you’ll find some gems. And increasingly lately I’ve been discovering that gems in the chick flick genre have less to do with falling in love and more to do with keeping a marriage strong. Hollywood does marriage better than it does dating.

Take the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love, which I thought I’d detest for the first 45 minutes, because it revolves around a younger, cooler guy (Ryan Gosling) teaching an older, just dumped guy (Steve Carell) how to attract multiple women. It seemed so shallow. But the ending is supremely satisfying (and comes with a twist we never saw coming). Both Gosling’s character and Carell’s ex-wife realize that commitment and stability are actually far sexier than living an empty life, a lesson that Carell knew all along.

Or take Hope Springs and Date Night, two movies portraying married couples who have fallen into a rut. The reality of the way the couples relate to each other is just too perfect, and the central message–that commitment matters, and that having someone to walk through life with matters–is beautiful. In fact, most movies that focus on marriage, from It’s Complicated to Couples Retreat to Shall We Dance say the same thing: those flighty feelings of infatuation eventually fade, and life settles into a routine. Will you then commit and keep working at your marriage, or will you drift and lose one of the greatest potential sources of happiness in your life?

Yet if Hollywood believes that the best marriages are those between two people who are committed to work at it–a very intentional approach–why do they portray love as something over which we have no control? A couple is thrown together and they “fall in love”. They complete each other. And these feelings alone should make them want to marry.

Most of my professional life revolves around marriage, as I blog and write books and speak. In the mountains of emails from desperate women I receive every week, one of the most common themes I see is this: My now-husband cheated on me while we were engaged, but we got married anyway. Recently I caught him having an affair. Or: My husband lived with his parents until we moved in together, and now we’re married. I hold down two jobs, and he barely works part-time. But he refuses to do any housework.

Reading these I find myself so frustrated, because the warning signs were there. Why would you marry a total couch potato? Why marry a lying cheater? Because you love him, of course! And love will magically transform him. We can’t ignore those feelings, right?

Except that scientists say those feelings last, at most, eighteen months. And then you hit that rut, and you’re in trouble. In dating romances, Hollywood gives us this idea that it’s feelings that sustain a marriage, not the character of the two people involved. Yet if all your friends and family think he’s a lout or are sure she’s flighty, you should likely listen to that–no matter what you’re feeling.

Maybe we need to start applying the same principles to dating as we do to marriage. It’s character that counts, not just feelings. That’s a lesson Jane Austen tried to teach us long ago, and perhaps we could all do with a little more Austen and a little less Zombie.

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Honeymoon Blues to “O”ver the Rainbow

One of my dreams for this blog is that it can be a safe place to talk about marriage–the emotional side, the spiritual side, and even the physical side.

The problem is that people are often very uncomfortable talking about sex, but at the same time, we all have a LOT of questions. And when writer Rajdeep Paulus shared her story with me recently, I knew it was one I wanted to share with you because I KNOW HER EXPERIENCE IS VERY COMMON. And yet we don’t talk about it. So I believe that this post will be very encouraging to a lot of women.

Some may find this a little personal, but I thought she handled the subject with great taste and delicacy, and I think it’s so important for us to know that what we’re not alone when we struggle in marriage! So here’s Rajdeep’s story of how she figured out how to achieve orgasm in marriage.

Making Things "Work" in the BedroomI love sex. I really do. But I didn’t always.

I happened to be a virgin when I got married. Yes. That was the goal. I wanted to give my husband one first that was saved for him. And he saved his first for me. This made for a good foundation. We’d learn this sex thing together.

But it wasn’t easy. I’m just glad someone had the wisdom to tell me shortly before we said our vows to take our time. No need to get it all figured out on the wedding night.

Looking back, that was great advice. Because even if you’re not a virgin when you get married, there’s a lot of expectations placed on that wedding night experience. It was nice to come back to our hotel, and not have the pressure to have a fairy tale and fireworks’ first.

So when we walked into our room well past one in the morning, hubby led me first to the bathroom. Where he took off my heels, turned on the bath water to warm, and while I sat on the edge of the bathtub, he washed my feet.

Thinking back to that moment, his actions spoke as loud as the vows that were spoken earlier that day. He wanted to start a life of partnership, where we both serve each other, take care of each other and strive to meet each other’s needs above our own.

In the words of the man who spoke into our life during pre-marital counseling, “Aim to outdo each other in pleasing each other.” He was referring specifically to the sex in marriage.

So that night, we took our time taking each others’ clothes off, slipped under the covers, and shared our bodies. But we didn’t have sex. We were too busy exploring and delighting in the freedom of soft skin that we could touch and caress without a grain of shame or guilt. Just pure joy and wow to the wow feelings all over.

We did have sex the next night. On our honeymoon cruise to Alaska. And the exact words out of his mouth were, “I think that’s how it works.” And mine something like, “Is that it? Is it over?” Needless to say, neither of us were impressed. Him a tad more than me. What was all the hype? Let’s hit the midnight chocolate buffet, I suggested. I’m looking for that drink everyone talks about at the bar, I’m thinking to myself...the one called, “Better than…”

Yeah, I have to admit, sex was a let down at first. It didn’t get much better for some time. For almost a year, we went on like this. Frustration growing. Especially on my part. Wondered at one point if I was missing parts, or one key part. Started thinking I was broken. Worried I had made one too many mistakes before marriage and somehow this was my due punishment. Slumped into bed many a night and pretended to be fast asleep so I wouldn’t have to face the disappointment.

Then one day, I’m standing in the living room of my landlady in Dominica, where hubby is studying medical school, and she gets a phone call. So I stand around waiting for her to finish talking to her friend and read the titles on her bookshelf just to pass the time. A title pops out at me and all I can think is, how can I sneak that book off the shelf and under my shirt and back out of here without Mrs. C. noticing. The title was simply, “The Female Orgasm.”

Chickened out that day. Couldn’t bring myself to ask. And admit that I’d never had one. Sounds so pathetic. Newly married, and not experienced the “O” yet. Wahh.

But a few days later, I gave in. I was desperate. And the book was calling my name! So I sheepishly knocked and when Mrs. C. answered, I said, “There’s a book on your shelf I’d like to borrow.”

“Sure. No problem. Which one?”

“Ummm. Yeah. That one.” And I pointed to it. So I wouldn’t have to read the title out loud.

She laughed a good hearty Caribbean laugh and pulled it off the shelf and handed it to me. “Take your time.”

“Okay. I will. Thanks.”

“No. I really mean that. Take your time.”

“Ummm. Okay. So you don’t need the book back any time soon?”

“When you have relations with your husband.” She’s spelling it out for me. “Take your time.”

“Oh that? Yes. Okay.”

As I turn to leave, I wonder if I should ask more. Why not? I’ve already done the hardest part by admitting that I need help.

I take a deep breath and turn to face Mrs. C. “Can I ask you one more thing?”

“Sure darling. You want to sit down a minute?”

“No. just a quick question.” She did just say ‘take your time.’ I can already tell that I’m probably doing several things wrong.

“Is it just hard for women to have one when they first get married?”

“Yes….And no.”

“Hmmm.” I don’t know what else to say.

You have to concentrate. Leave the world behind. Don’t think about the dishes in the sink. What you’re making for dinner. About the phone call you need to make to your mother. You need to be totally present. Men can get away with thinking about other things, but women—they need to be all there. In the moment. And one more thing.”

“Yes.” This is the moment I get the million dollar words of wisdom that will lead to my first ever “O!” I gotta feeling…

“Don’t answer the door if someone knocks.”

“Huh? Okay.”

I leave then, closing the door behind me, thinking of the times I’ve knocked on her door and no one answered. Oh. I get it.

So I rush back and skim and skim and skim all day. Reading every page, diagram, footnote and end note. Not really, but I did dedicate a day to the book I hoped had the remaining pieces to the puzzle. The puzzle of my body.

In the end, the book helped little. What helped more was Mrs. C.’s advice. But I have to be honest, I *we, were able to get me closer, closer, closer, but not quite there. I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, rising up to the peek, but never quite arriving. I think one afternoon, we were at it for almost an hour and in the end, nothing. Sheer disappointment. And tears. I cried. Hubby sighed. We were feeling defeated.

Then the phone call that changed my life. I called my best friend up who had been married longer than me, although not by much, and we talked about life, stuff, cooking, stuff, books, and more stuff. Then we started talking about our husbands and marriage. I broke down. “I’m broken. God forgot to give me the part.”

“What are you talking about?” My bff is very logical. Cut through the tears and tell me the facts type of gal. Exactly what an emotional basket case like myself needs many a day.

“I don’t think I have the thing, you know, the ‘c’ word, that helps a woman get her ‘O’ on. I think it’s either too small, too hard to reach, or just plain missing.”

“You’re not broken.” She assures me. “And I’m pretty sure you have it.”

“So what do I do? I can’t seem to have an orgasm.” Woah! I said the word.

“Listen. Do everything your landlady said, but do one other thing.”

“Okay?”

Don’t stop until you get there.”

“What if it takes like three hours?”

“I don’t care if it takes 33 hours. Just tell him to keep stimulating your c [with his hands or tongue] until you have one. Then you’ll know what one feels like. And what to look for. And then, with each time, it’ll get easier. Take a shorter amount of time. And trust me, it’ll be worth it.”

“Okay.” Sounds like a plan.

“And call me to tell me you got there.”

I giggle.

“I don’t want to know the details silly. Just a verbal thumbs up is plenty!”

“I know.”

And that’s how I found the OHHHHHH!!!!! in my “O!”

And it took a very loooooooong time. Several hours. And I offered to quit a few times. But hubby said, “No. This time I’m gonna get you there. Relax. Sit back. And…”

My first O was OH so Amazing, I cried. Literally. I just couldn’t believed I worked. And Wowza! That God would create such a Wow experience for us to know and feel and share and live. The sensation took over my entire body and when it reached my head, I felt like joy rays were shooting out of my ears and music was playing somewhere in the heavens! It was Oh so wonderful to say the least.

And the best part, women can have more than one on any given occasion. These days, fourteen years of loving and loving later, my generous hubs almost always gives me three for the price of one. I kid you not. This is how we roll. In bed that is. And this is why I love sex. My husband is an unselfish lover. And I often sing this line as I rise from the sheets to clean up.

“How sweet it is to be loved by you.”

Because Sex is a sweet, special gift. So good. So good.

In marriage.

That’s my black and white on making love. Don’t shortchange your spouse with cheap and artificial substitutions of online porn or erotic novels that take you on a two second thrill ride and leave you wanting. Go for the real thing. Invest your sexual energy (we only have so much) into your live lover. The one who can love the mess out of you and you him. The one who takes you to the peek, over and back up again. With the gifts of real love, true freedom, and ultimate satisfaction. You can’t get that from paper or pictures. You just can’t.

Love your lover. With all you got. And discover the depths and heights where love can take you. Together. Sex is good. Now get to it. And if someone knocks, remember…

Don’t answer the door. :)

Sheila says: If you want more help on reaching orgasm in your marriage, I have lots of strategies and information in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex!

swimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and spent over a decade as an English Teacher and SAT Tutor. She’s been married for fourteen years to her best friend, a physician. They’ve got our daughters, and a little house on a hill in the quaint town of Locust Valley, New York. She now blogs weekly and writes masala-marinated, Y.A. fiction.When Raj is not tapping on her Mac, you can find her dancing with her princesses, kayaking with her hubs, coaching basketball or eating dark chocolate while sipping a frothy, sugar-free latte. She blogs at www.insearchofwaterfalls.com and secretly hopes someday she’ll own a laptop that functions under water. You can also find her on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/rajdeeppaulus/ and on Twitter is @rajdeeppaulus.
And check out her first YA novel–Swimming Through Clouds! Sheila reviewed it here.

Wifey Wednesday: Does Your Husband Want More Variety?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up! On this blog I tend to talk marriage and parenting from a Christian point of view, but I do tackle Christian sex (if there is such a thing), too. So here’s today’s topic: Does your husband want more variety in bed?

Does Your Husband Want More Variety in Bed? Thinking through the issues...

I get a lot of emails about this exact thing, and they tend to go something like this:

My husband wants to do things in bed that I’d rather not. Do I really have to?

Excellent question! So let’s look at some background before I get really practical.

1. Our Bodies are Meant to be Enjoyed!

Honestly, sex is supposed to be fun. God designed us women with the clitoris, a little knobby bit of flesh that has absolutely no purpose except for making sex feel great. And the clitoris even has more nerve endings in it than the penis! So God wanted us to enjoy our husbands sexually. And to me that means there’s a lot of freedom in what we do. The body is not something that we have to be ashamed of. Many women just don’t like thinking about different body parts, and can’t say the names. Now, that’s okay. That really is. I know lots of women who can orgasm during sex but cannot actually say the words for different body parts without blushing.

But I’d encourage you to start thinking more about the wonderful body that God did give you. The whole body is holy, not just parts of it. In fact, the idea that the body was bad and the spirit was good actually came from a cult, not from Christianity. It was Christianity that brought back the idea that the body is actually something beautiful. We’re going to be resurrected with real bodies, based on these ones. God didn’t get rid of the body entirely, or make it just for this earth because He had to. He chose to give us bodies, and bodies are good.

So there is nothing wrong with having fun in bed, and there is nothing unholy about certain body parts or even certain positions. The “missionary position” is not the holy position, which God lets us do just to be nice, while He denies us everything else. In fact, many women who responded to my anonymous surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex reported that other positions actually felt physically much more satisfying to them.

That doesn’t mean that absolutely EVERYTHING you can do with your body is good or right; some of the degrading things women act out in porn are obviously not okay, and certain sexual practices (like anal sex, for instance) can lead to harmful medical problems. So I’m not saying you have to do everything. But many things that women say no to are perfectly okay!

2. We Aren’t Supposed to be Coerced in Bed

At the same time, sex isn’t supposed to be something which makes you feel uncomfortable or where you feel coerced. If you feel that your husband is asking something unreasonable, you don’t have to say yes! But if you do say no, then make sure that you make the things that you do feel comfortable with really great for him.

3. We Shouldn’t Enable Any Porn Habits

If part of what your husband wants you to do is sinful in and of itself (like watching porn together), obviously you say no. And if he wants you to act out things he’s seen, be careful, because this could be solidifying some porn addiction. Sex should be something that allows you to connect spiritually and emotionally as well as physically. If you’re concentrating on more and more bizarre sexual practices, then chances are you’ve missed the aphrodisiac qualities that come from making love while you really feel spiritually connected.

4. Men Have Different Sex Drives than We Do

Just because we shouldn’t emulate porn, though, does not mean that everything that your husband wants to do besides missionary position sex is like porn. Remember that men’s arousal works differently than ours. They are very sight oriented, and so they may enjoy things where they get to see more. Different positions can also feel tighter for them, and that can be very physically pleasurable. So they may want to do more things not because they’re perverts but just because it’s really fun for them!

5. Sometimes Women Find one Way that Works and We Want to Stick With It

Let’s face it, girls: having an orgasm during intercourse isn’t the easiest thing to do. It takes a lot of concentration, total relaxation, and the right physical stimulation. Often it takes women years to be able to accomplish this (and many of you reading this haven’t yet), and when you do get it, you want to keep doing it. But since you’ve figured out the way that works for you, you may not want to try other things to mess it up!

There’s nothing wrong with one way, if it feels really good. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use other things as foreplay!

So with that background, assuming that what he wants to do is something that you’re comfortable with, here are some practical ideas to see your sex life become ramped up:

1. Go to Bed Earlier

It sounds silly, but often the reason that we don’t want “variety”–which usually involves us moving around a little bit more than we’re accustomed to–is because we’re simply tired. Don’t give your husband your leftovers. Every now and then, retire early and have fun. Or make love in the morning when you’re not tired!

2. Have “His” and “Her” Nights

One woman in my survey had exactly this issue. She liked plain old missionary position sex. She tended to orgasm that way, and she liked looking into his eyes. He wanted to try a variety of positions and things and drag it out. So they would make love once her way, and then once his way. And once a month they’d also have “Fantasy Nights” where they stretched each other’s boundaries a bit–within proper limits. He was really happy, but she also got what she wanted. I think that’s a good compromise!

3. Take the Initiative

Sometimes, if you’re nervous about trying something, taking the initiative helps. If you’re the one who is doing it, or you’re the one calling the shots, it may not seem quite so intimidating, silly, or far out. So if you know that your husband would like “more”, then you be the one to arrange it. Spend all day thinking about it. How can you make it really fun for both of you? And then follow through! When you take the initiative and plan, you’ll likely find that you’re looking forward to it, too!

4. Frequency Matters

Finally, The Generous Husband, in a recent post that he wrote on variety, remarked that many men would rather have plain old sex–if they could simply have it more often. So if you really find stretching your boundaries intimidating, then do what you do enjoy much more frequently! You’ll likely find your husband is very satisfied with that.

Now I know this is a post that will make many uncomfortable. And often I write about regular things, like trusting God with your life, or parenting, or how to forgive. So I’m sorry if this is a little bit too edgy. But the truth is that so many women are asking these kinds of questions, and they don’t have anywhere good to go. The church doesn’t talk about it, and if women turn to other internet sources, they’re going to get lots of bad advice. So I think Christians have to be talking about it! So I hope this hasn’t offended anyone, but I felt like I needed to say it, given how many emails I get on the subject!

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The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


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

Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Never Wants to Spend Time with Me

wifey wednesday

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

I recently received an email that said this:

My husband likes to hang out with “the guys” after work, and he’s rarely home. I’m lonely. Is that normal?

That’s tough, isn’t it? So let me give a few quick thoughts.

My Husband Never Wants to Spend Time with Me: Thoughts on how to build your friendshipFirst, it is absolutely fine for men to hang out with friends.

They do need male bonding. That being said, everything should be in balance, and if he’s consistently with his friends, and he’s never with you, that’s not healthy for your relationship.

However, nagging rarely helps anything. If you complain about it, then he will feel like he’s being attacked, or that you’re pressuring him, and that could cause him to withdraw further.

Instead, ask yourself: Do WE have a good friendship?

So instead, let’s just think about the dynamics of your relationship. Often when people marry, they marry because they love each other and they want to be together. But they don’t necessarily have a really good friendship. They don’t necessarily have things that they enjoy doing together (other than sex). So, once you’re married, it’s easy to start to drift apart because you didn’t have regular things that you did together.

Guys, when they don’t have something specific planned, will then often say, “I’ll hang out with the guys, because nothing else is on at home tonight.”

So what I would recommend is that you sit down with your husband and ask what sorts of things he enjoys doing that you can do with him. Does he like to fish? Then start fishing with him (even if you don’t like to fish!). Does he like taking bike rides? Then start riding bikes together. Does he like watching sporting events? Then try going to some. Or take up a new hobby, like tennis together.

Find something that you can do, rather than just hang out at home.

If you have something specific planned, he’s more likely to come home. And if it’s something that he enjoys, all the better! Find ways to laugh together, instead of nagging him to just be home. Many men don’t want to “just be home”. They need a reason, like something that they are going to do together. Of course, that’s tricky if you have little kids, but see if you can find things to do as a family, or swap baby-sitting with another couple, so you can have some one-on-one time.

But instead of saying, “let’s do something tonight”, try saying, “let’s take a walk”, or “let’s paint the deck”, or “let’s play a game of tennis.” Be specific.

Also remember that men tend to communicate side by side, rather than face to face.

They like talking while they’re doing something. They don’t tend to like just sitting around and talking face to face, the way we women do. So the more you can find things to do, the more you’ll likely communicate. And if you start laughing and finding things to do together, he’ll probably want to be with you more.

So rather than tell him that you want him home more, or that you want him to do something that you want to do, try to find things that he enjoys doing that you can do with him, even if you have to stretch yourself or go outside of your comfort zone. The best thing that you can do for your relationship is just to learn to be friends again, so try that out!

What do you all think? Anyone have any better advice or other thoughts?

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.