Embrace Your Marriage Virtual Retreat: Embrace Grace!

Embrace Your Marriage Virtual Marriage Retreat

It’s a new school year, and a time of new beginnings! For the last few Septembers I’ve joined in a “virtual marriage retreat” with a bunch of other great marriage bloggers to encourage us all to intentionally build our marriages. Every Monday in September six bloggers will all be posting on the same thing–with our own twist to it! You can read our posts, and then click through the links at the bottom to read everyone else’s.

Today’s theme is Embracing Grace, and I was thinking about my own unique take on that. I don’t want all of us to write the same thing, of course!

Now I write a ton about the importance of sex, but does that have to do with grace? And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it did. I know others will be writing on forgiveness, and so here are some different thoughts on how we can make grace tangible in our marriages–by realizing the importance of sex as a vehicle to show love.

What is grace?

The definition is “unmerited favour”–showing someone favour not because they deserve it but because you want to. Jesus, of course, was the perfect example of grace, forgiving us not because of what we did but because of the price He already paid. And He asks us to show grace to others, too.

Let me suggest that one of the best ways to demonstrate grace is through the act of making love.

The importance of sex: How giving freely can change everything! #marriage

Let’s dissect this: what about the word “unmerited”?

How many times do we diminish the importance of sex by saying “I’ll only have sex if he deserves it”?

We may not use those words, but picture this: you’re lying in bed and you’re tired. He’s tired, too, but you know that a lot of your exhaustion is because you were running around all day with HIS kids, and he did little to help. And you shouldn’t HAVE to have sex when you’re tired!

Or perhaps it’s not exhaustion as much as it is feeling distant. You haven’t had time to talk in a while because you’re both so busy with work, and he doesn’t seem to miss you as much as you miss him, and it hurts. Or perhaps he’s been working late a lot lately and your life has become entirely the kids, and he doesn’t seem to be bridging the gap. Why should you reach out to him when you feel hurt?

I understand. I really do.

But here’s the thing:

Men make love to feel loved, whereas women need to feel loved to make love.

When we feel distant, we tend to withdraw. To our husbands, that seems as if we don’t love them, because to them, the way to bridge the gap isn’t to talk, or spend time together, or be affectionate. Those are all nice, and men do enjoy them, but their primary way to experience love is through sex. When we start holding back, he feels unloved. And if he feels unloved, it’s hard for him to reach out to us.

Here’s where the “favour” part matches up with the importance of sex in your marriage.

When you make love to him, he experiences that as “favour”. It turns the whole relationship upside down for him. No longer does he feel distant; he now feels connected.

Sex is like your secret weapon–it’s just so powerful to turn your relationship around. When he makes love to you, he feels loved, and his body releases oxytocin, the “bonding hormone”, which makes him feel closer to you and more positive towards you. That’s why the day after sex he often laughs so much with you! So if what you dream of is a marriage where you feel one and where you have fun and feel like you can communicate, it can start with sex.

Over this month in our Embrace Your Marriage retreat we’re going to look at the different aspects of marriage where we can grow. But let me suggest to you that if you start making love more, right off the bat, you’ll likely have an easier time feeling loved, forgiving, reaching out, and growing your friendship. He feels positively towards you, you feel closer to him, you laugh more–and everything gets easier. So instead of thinking of sex as the LAST thing you fix, recognize the importance of sex and make it one of the FIRST.

The message of grace is showing unmerited favour. You don’t have to wait for him to deserve it, or to do everything right, or for YOU to get it all together. You can jump start that process.

Good Girls Guide My SiteNow, hold on a second! What if sex doesn’t feel pleasurable for you? What if it creeps you out because of past abuse? What if you’ve lost your libido? What if you’d LOVE to have more sex, but HE doesn’t want to? I know that many of us struggle with prioritizing sex because of all kinds of issues, and I don’t want you to live like that or settle for less than what God designed marriage to be.

In my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex I address all of these issues–and more–at length, so that you really can enjoy a great sexual relationship with your husband. Check it out!

 

Recently I ran a post by a woman who said that she had stopped having sex in her marriage because of kids, and work, and exhaustion–and then she realized how distant they were. When she started making love again, everything changed.

If you struggle with sex for various reasons, get the book! But if it’s just that you’ve fallen into a rut, think tonight about how you can give your husband UNMERITED FAVOUR. Give him something he will interpret as a gift, whether or not he’s reached out to you lately.

Here’s today’s Embrace Grace Challenge (that all of us bloggers are encouraging you to do!): Before you can extend grace to others, you should start with the preparation of a pure and tender heart. Pray asking God for wisdom and guidance in this area. Think of how God’s grace has impacted your life, and acknowledge the areas where you have been forgiven

All the participating bloggers have their own unique take on grace in marriage, so please visit them to get some other ideas of how to make grace relevant in your marriage!

Darlene: The Time Warp Wife
Lisa: Club 31 Women
Jennifer: Unveiled Wife
Courtney: Women Living Well
Ashleigh: Ashleigh Slater

A note to my regular readers: I know usually on Monday I post reader questions. I’m going to try to scatter them throughout the week in September, and then in October we’ll get back to Mondays again!

Wifey Wednesday: I Have No Libido!

It’s Wednesday, the day that we talk marriage! I post on the topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below. Ever say to yourself, “I have no libido”? You’re not alone! Let’s spend today’s post looking at how to boost your sex drive.

"I have no libido". Help if you never seem to want to say yes!One of the most frequent questions I get is:

I really WANT to want sex, but the truth is I just don’t. It’s not something I naturally think about, and it’s always something that I tack on at the end of the day. I have no libido. It’s as simple as that. And I don’t know what to do about it!

Of course this may be a testosterone issue, and if you really feel like something is just WRONG (as in different from the way you used to feel), then it’s good to get a doctor to check your levels.

But it is quite common to go through LONG periods where you feel like you have no libido, and your levels AREN’T out of whack. I’ve gone through periods of months, or even years, like that, and then I’ll have some periods of the exact opposite. So much about a woman’s libido depends on our kids, and our energy levels, and our stress, and our relationships. We’re very complex beings. And because, for women, sex is almost entirely in our heads (as in our heads have to be in the game or our bodies won’t follow), if we’re stressed, our bodies often sit dormant.

So what would I do? In no particular order, here are some thoughts on how to boost a low libido:

Have no Libido? Make sex great FOR YOU.

You may not have much of a libido that makes you want sex, but that doesn’t mean that sex can’t feel good. And if you decide, “tonight, I want to feel GREAT”, you’re more likely to. When your brain is engaged, your body tends to follow.

So that means making sure that you actually DO feel great. Of course it’s easier to reach orgasm if you actually are “in the mood” frequently, but it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. And if you take steps to make it your goal and make sure it does, you’re more likely to find that libido again. If sex has just never felt good, my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex goes over all kinds of ways to make it feel stupendous–and to understand how things work.

Remember that making sure it feels good for you DOESN’T mean that you have to be craving sex before you start. In fact, most women don’t. According to research, for men, desire PRECEDES making love. For women, desire comes after you start making love. So it’s not like you need to be panting first.

But, if, when you start kissing him, you’re thinking in your head, “tonight I’m going to feel GOOD”, then you can jumpstart your body.

The problem is that making sex great for you requires that you’re more ACTIVE–that you’re telling him what you want, and that you’re actually trying to get it. That’s hard if you’re not really “in the mood”. But think of it like exercise: you don’t really want to do it, but you’re looking forward to the reward afterwards, so you put your all into it.

If you can put your all into it, you’ll get the reward. If you let your feelings stop you from putting your all into it, you won’t.

I’m not trying to minimize how hard it is; just saying that if you decide “I actually want to feel GOOD tonight”, it really does make it more appealing.

Concentrate on the good stuff about making love.

So how do you tell yourself “I’m going to feel good tonight”? Think about the benefits of making love. You’ll sleep better. It does feel good. Keep imagining that throughout the day–how well you’ll sleep, how good you’ll feel. Actually pick deliberate times of the day to picture the rewards. Not to try to feel sexy–you may honestly not be able to do that. But to picture the rewards.

Go to bed REALLY EARLY.

The combination of low libido and exhaustion is a recipe for disaster. The only thing that helps is not being tired. So turn in right when the kids do, if you have to, and make love FIRST. Then curl up and watch a movie together, or get on your iPads and check Twitter, or whatever else you may normally do. But try to get sex in earlier in the night.

Make sex really RELAXING.

Ask him to massage you a lot (massage candles work great for that). Turn it into a sensual experience so that you can enjoy the whole package. That way it’s not so much a SEXUAL thing as it is a SENSUAL thing. And that often makes the sexual easier. (but again, that only works if you’re not exhausted). Talk to him about how you want sex to be drawn out experience, and you’re more likely to feel good if he gives you a massage first. Be open about it, and then, as he’s touching you, pay attention to your body. Tune in, and ask yourself, “what would my body like now”?

I can’t emphasize enough how important a step this is. When we start to see sex as totally a sexual thing, and we’re not sexually aroused, it can be a chore. But when the whole evening is about spending time together, and relaxing, and feeling close, we can start to desire it even if we’re not particularly in the mood. So explain to your husband how important it is that you have that “transition time” or massage and touching each other. It helps prep your body, but it also preps your mind.

Get jelly.

Really. Astroglide works best. (And some women swear by coconut oil!). But if you’re well lubricated, arousal is much easier. In fact, you’ll get more aroused if you start out lubricated than if you don’t. So if this is a real struggle for you, get some help.

I hope that helps! I honestly do know how hard it is. But if we turn off the voice that says, “I have no libido”, and turn on the voice that says, “I am going to have fun tonight, absolutely,” your body will often follow. But you have to set your mind to it and anticipate the rewards, even if you don’t feel sexy and even if you still wonder if your sex drive works. And that positive attitude can often jumpstart a low libido.

Now, what advice do you have for us? Leave the URL of one of your marriage posts in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so other people can see these great marriage resources. Just grab the code at the right.

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Wifey Wednesday: Magic Mike, Marriage, and Women’s Libido

Why Magic Mike Can Hurt Your Marriage
It’s Wednesday, when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then you all can link up one of your marriage posts to the linky below! Today we’re going to talk about what turns women on–or at least, how a woman’s libido works as opposed to how a man’s libido works.

And to do that, I’d like to talk about the movie Magic Mike. A ton of readers have been emailing me and writing on my Facebook Page asking my opinion on watching it, so I thought I had better chime in!

Magic Mike is about a bunch of male strippers who are being trained to give women exactly what they want. It’s based roughly on Channing Tatum’s  real life, I guess, and it’s just a raunchy “fun” movie (that’s how it’s being described). Women apparently are all ready to flock to see it.

So what do I think?

Let’s go backwards just for a moment and look at how our culture ended up here.

For the last hundred years or so there’s been a concerted effort to get rid of morality–and God.

People wanted to be free to do what they wanted without being burdened by having to do what’s right, or having God tell them what to do. They didn’t want guilt. They wanted humanism.

But what stood in their way? The family. Marriage. Marriage and the family are profoundly moral institutions. They rely on things like commitment, and love, and selflessness. And having children within marriage also relies on chastity outside of marriage. None of that was seen as a good thing. That was all holding us back–holding women back, because marriage and family hurt our career aspirations, and holding all of us back because we couldn’t focus on happiness, but we had to focus on duty.

So it was necessary to get rid of marriage. And our society has almost done that. Divorce is rampant. Cohabitation is commonplace, almost the default today. And single parenthood is normal.

But there’s one stubborn thing that is preventing the wholesale rejection of marriage, and that’s women’s need to see sex as something more than physical.

As we’ve talked about before, and as I go into length about in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, for women, sex is largely relational. When a woman takes her shirt off at the end of the day, her husband immediately starts thinking sexy thoughts. When a man takes his shirt off, a woman tends to think, “Is he going to put that in the laundry hamper?” We don’t tend to think, to the same extent, “Oh, come get me, hubba hubba.” It’s not that we NEVER want to be taken; it’s just that what turns women on has far more to do with feeling safe, and feeling cherished, and feeling loved, than it does purely visual stimuli.

That’s a problem for our culture, because a woman who wants a stable, committed, long-term relationship to have great sex isn’t going to be happy with our hooking up society. So we have to ignore this side of women, and promote instead the idea that women’s sex drives are the same as men’s are–that what turns women on is the same thing that turns men on. So we create shows like Sex and the City which show women on the prowl. We write magazines like Cosmo which are dedicated to women having sex with as many men as possible, and portraying that as glamorous. And now we have this movie.

(By the way, none of this is to say that men DON’T need committed relationships. They absolutely do. Their need for love and relationship is just as great, but it manifests itself in different ways. For us, the way you see it most is in our sex drives. That’s what’s going on here.)

Now, if women were truly aroused primarily by anonymous sex or by visual stimuli, then Playgirl, back in the 1970s, would have been as popular as Playboy. But it never was, and eventually it was mostly bought by gay men. If women were as aroused by visual stimuli as men, then male strip clubs would be just as common as female strip clubs. But they’re not, because we fundamentally don’t work the same way. Seeing a guy strip is not what turns a woman on to the same extent as feeling pursued and cherished.

That does not mean, though, that women can’t be pushed towards more anonymous sex–that what turns women on can change. That’s what Magic Mike is about!

And that’s exactly what’s happening, which is why movies like Magic Mike are being made and are resonating with people. The more our culture portrays women as being turned on by the same thing men are, the more we start to internalize that message. I hear 13-year-old girls all the time commenting on how “hot” some guy is, or noticing his “6-pack abs”. I do not remember ANY of that from when I was 13. We talked about guys being “cute”, but never “hot”. We were thinking more that his hair was cute, not that he had great abs. Our culture is starting to affect us.

So now 30% of porn users are female. We’re being drawn to this stuff, because the arousal centres in our brains are starting to get activated by things that didn’t used to activate them before. And thus we’re literally rewiring our brains (porn has this same effect on men, by the way).

Why is this movie hitting a nerve with women? Because its message is “celebrate your sexuality! Have fun!” And most of us do want to be sexual beings. We do want to just have sex with abandon. We want passion. At our hearts, we yearn for it within a marriage relationship, but that yearning is still there. And this movie promises to tap into that.

Interestingly, the whole Magic Mike “male stripper” phenomenon tends to be something that women do WITH FRIENDS. It’s social for us, it’s not solitary like it often is for men. The movie wouldn’t work if women were going in there predominantly on their own; it works because they’re in a group. It’s seen as something fun we’re doing to validate our own sexuality.

That’s the whole background. Here’s my take away: this sort of thing, many moons ago, would have seemed bizarre to most women. Now it is seen as mainstream. That’s because our culture has subtly but relentlessly been feeding us this message that “women need to throw off the shackles! You’re sexual beings! So go out and claim it!”

But we were not created to be sexual beings in isolation, hopping from one man to the next, becoming aroused simply by the idea of having sexual power.

Our sexual power is most unleashed in marriage (which is why married women have a far easier time achieving orgasm when they make love).

So please, steer clear of this movie. It may look fun, but it honestly is doing damage to women’s sex drives. I am not a man. I do not want to think like a man, or become aroused like a man. I love the fact that what is sexy to me is love and relationship. Besides, how would you feel if your husband went to a movie about female strippers? You’d be incensed. Somehow we think this is different because at heart we know that women don’t work the same way. So if we see a movie like this, it’s to make us excited about sex! It’s to make us feel more in tune with our desires! And that has benefits for our husbands, right? No. Not any more than 50 Shades of Grey does. It’s going to change you from the way you were made to be. It’s going to make sex LESS about your husband and MORE about only the physical. That’s not good.

There is nothing wrong with being aroused by the male form–most women are to a lesser or greater extent. But fundamentally God created women so that what turns women on is being chased and cherished. That’s our half of the equation of how marriage mirrors God’s relationship with the church. And that’s what marriage is for. The more we dabble in things like this, the more we create problems for ourselves responding sexually within marriage, and the more we turn sex into something that is purely physical, and not emotionally or spiritually intimate.

That’s my take. What do you think?

Christian Marriage Advice

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Reader Question of the Week: What Should This Frustrated Husband Do?

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/On weekend I like to post a reader question and then let you all take a stab at it. Last week we talked about menopause and sex, and there’s some great resources in the comments!

This week we’ve got a different type of question, from men this time. I received several emails from men saying almost the same thing, so I’m going to combine two into one to disguise any identifying features, and throw this up for you. What would you say to the frustrated husbands men who ask things like this? I get more email like this than any other kind:

My wife is always (a) too tired, (b) not interested, (c) grumpy, or (d) wants to watch TV, do sudoku puzzles, lay in bed with the kids, etc. I swear, sex in our house is like a space shuttle launch! The windows for liftoff are extremely rare, and there is always a reason to postpone.

Honestly, I doubt my wife would even read your blog. When I’ve tried to get her to read stuff like that, or books in the past, she just snaps back that she “can find stuff on the internet that agrees says [she] is right.” She also says her friends make love with their husbands once a month or less, and those guys never complain–very helpful influence, those ladies. (I wish she could hang out with you instead.) I have no idea what to do to make my wife understand how lonely I am. I believe Ephesians 5 that I am to love her, and I try my best to be selfless, but if I am affectionate in any way she pulls away.

Most people would think from the outside that we have a good marriage. We’re really involved with the kids; we’re really involved at church; I have a good job. But sex is almost non-existent.

I just wish my wife cared, if not for me, at least for our kids and what we’re teaching them about marriage.

Just answer in the comments! And if you want to send me a question, the easiest way is through my Facebook Page! You can send direct messages through there. Or you can click the contact button above.

For the guys asking this question, I have some resources that can help you.

If you want to start the conversation with your wife about how important sex is to you, here’s a post I wrote for you to show her explaining how you feel. She may not be open to reading blogs in general, but if you tell her this is important, and you want to talk about it, that’s a good one to send her to.

31 Days to Great SexIf your wife is open to talking about it, consider getting my book 31 Days to Great Sex. It’s not 31 days of sex tricks–though there are challenges in there that help you become a little more adventurous in the bedroom. The first week focuses on how you think about sex, and getting rid of negative thoughts and baggage. It focuses on how to laugh and talk again, so that you’re less stressed and tense around each other. It focuses on how to build more intimacy in general. So it’s a complete look at every aspect of intimacy that goes into a great sex life, and she may appreciate that approach. Check it out here!

If your wife just has a negative view of sex in general, I’ve also written a book called The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, which helps women think differently about sex and see the benefits that it has–and get excited about it! You can read more about that here.

So those are my thoughts! Now, readers, please add your own in the comments!


When Your Spouse Isn’t Interested in Sex: Communicating Your Needs

When Your Husband Doesn't Want to Have Sex: how to talk to him about it.
Last month, in my 29 Days to Great Sex series, I was talking about how to make sex great: how to want it, how to be enthusiastic, how to make it fun. But then the emails started to arrive: what do I do if my husband doesn’t want to have sex? What do I do if my wife won’t read this series with me? What do I do when my spouse just doesn’t think sex is important? We’ve been looking for the last two days at some reasons that men may not want sex.

Today I want to offer my thoughts on what you can do–whether you’re a husband or a wife–and you’re married to someone who just isn’t interested in sex. On Monday a woman left this comment on my blog, and it pretty much sums up what many of the spouses who email me are feeling:

My husband has low testosterone and it is a huge struggle for us, even though he is being treated for it. The biggest thing is that he just doesn’t really see sex as an issue at all; it’s as if he wants a complete marriage, but if there was no sex, he’d be fine with that. :(

I am a Christian and love my God. However, at this time, I am struggling with being very angry with God because I am a “good girl,” raised in a Christian home and although I dated a lot before marriage (and fooled around), I saved myself for marriage and for my husband. Now I feel like I’ve been cheated or robbed. I know life’s not fair, and that there are worse things people are dealing with, but for me, I feel lonely, rejected, and bitter. He is a fabulous man, father, and husband, but it breaks my heart that he doesn’t see any need for sex in marriage. He’s not into porn, addicted to anything, etc….just apathetic towards sex. :( In a way, it’s worse, because there’s no “addiction” to stop, no “sin” to confess, nothing that can be “fixed.” Even with his testosterone levels raised to where they should be, he doesn’t really care about sex at all.

He still makes love to me because he knows it’s something I need, but I wish it was something HE actually needed, too.

She’s a little more fortunate, because at least her husband does acknowledge his wife’s need for sex and tries to meet it. Many people who wrote me don’t even have that. Their spouses have basically checked out. Tomorrow we’ll look at what to do when your spouse has decided to withhold sex, almost permanently.

But today let’s deal with this problem: how do you help a spouse who does not have a drive for sex or an understanding that sex is important understand what your needs are? How do you talk to a spouse who doesn’t seem to want to have sex at all? Here are some thoughts:

1. Get Your Heart Right

Don’t enter a conversation angry or bitter. If your spouse has wronged you, go to God with that anger and ask Him to help you forgive. You need to have a conversation where you pursue what is best for you as a couple. Having a conversation where you’re trying to get him or her to acknowledge how much they’ve hurt you won’t necessarily help your relationship. There is a time to bring this up, once things are looking better, but if the desire is to move your relationship towards greater intimacy, that is what you should be focusing on, not vengeance. God calls us to love our spouses wholeheartedly, even if they don’t meet our needs.

2. Focus on Intimacy, not Sexual Release

Your spouse has an issue with sex. Chances are they find it a somewhat distasteful–if not very distasteful–obligation. It could be because they have really negative attitudes about sex; or it could simply be because they’re tired, they’re sick of having things on their to-do list, and they don’t want to have to do something energetic that they have to “get in the mood” for.

If you talk about your sexual needs, chances are this is what your spouse will hear:

“I have sexual needs because I have never really developed self-control the way you have. I am a slave to my body, unlike you, who is able to focus on the important things in life. And now, because of my desire and lack of self-control, I want you, who are already busy, to get energetic and to pretend that you actually want sex so that I can get some release.”

Not exactly a very attractive proposition, is it? Obviously that’s not what you mean, but even if you simply said something like this:

I desire you. I find you so attractive. You excite me. I want us to experience this together. I want to feel loved.

Your spouse will hear the first bit, especially if this has become a big area of conflict in your relationship.

So what should you do instead? Focus on the real issue–the one that both of you share. You want more intimacy, and sex is a doorway into intimacy. I would say something like this:

I really believe that God created us to long for each other and to be able to experience major depths of love and intimacy. I believe that God wants us to feel passionate about each other, close to each other, and truly intimate, so that we know that we’re not walking through life alone. I want us to feel so madly in love, and I want you to feel how much I love you. I want us to feel like we’re totally one, and I believe that the way that God made us to express that is through sex.

I know sex can be difficult for you, and I know you’re tired a lot of the time. I know you feel like you don’t have a lot of desire. But I’m worried that our lack of intimacy is actually partly the cause of some of that exhaustion. If we could really feel passion and really feel as if we were truly connected, perhaps much of the angst that we have both been feeling lately would evaporate.

I think God wants you to live such a big life. God wants you to enjoy everything that He created you for, and I think that we’re robbing each other of the gift of passion that God put in us. Do you think that we could try to rediscover passion together? I know it’s not easy, because you feel like you don’t have a sex drive. But it’s not just about sex; it’s about feeling so close to each other. That’s what I really want. Can we talk about how we can feel that intimacy, that passion, that closeness? And how we can make it easier for you to feel it? Because that’s what I think our marriage needs.

In other words, you’re focusing on intimacy and love, and not on release. The conversation doesn’t become about sex, or what you do in bed, or how often is enough. It focuses on how we can feel love for each other and how we can really experience passion.

Don’t argue about sexual release. Don’t argue about sexual needs. Don’t bring up 1 Corinthians 7:5, about how your spouse’s body belongs to you. That will not likely help the situation (even if it is true). Instead, bring up your desire for intimacy–an intimacy that will empower you both, energize you both, and equip you both to deal with the world together. When a couple is really experiencing that, they can take on the world.

Then the discussion can turn more to overcoming roadblocks for sex, like I’m just too tired, or I don’t really enjoy it, and you can start looking at how you can address these things to make intimacy easier. If your spouse is nervous about it, you can talk about it in a loving way, saying something like,

“I understand you’re tired, but I want so much more for you. God created you to live a big life, and I think He put me here to help you do that. Can we talk about how we can break through some of these issues?”

The point is to make the topic of the discussion that you love your spouse and you don’t want them to miss out on intimacy–it isn’t only about your sexual needs. It’s about your needs as a couple.

Now, some people are bound to chime in and say that I’m being too easy on the spouse. If they’re not meeting needs, they’re sinning and they need to be told to shape up. In an ideal world we could just say to someone, “you’re doing wrong”, and they would cease. But I have very rarely seen that happen in real life. What I am proposing is to talk about it in a way that is more likely to get your spouse to understand your heart, and more likely to get your spouse involved in seeking a solution. And to me, that is more important than telling your spouse that he or she is wrong and you are right. If you’re not at the point where you can do that, and if you’re still too angry, then I’d suggest you work on your anger before you bring any of this up with your spouse.

3. Focus on Intimacy in Other Ways

Intimacy should be the main focus of your conversation with your spouse, because as your spouse recognizes a deeper need for intimacy, he or she will likely recognize more of a need for sex.

But intimacy is deeper than just sex, and if you work on building intimacy in other areas of your life, you may very well also fuel your spouse’s desire for sex.

So work on your friendship. Spend time together. Develop hobbies together. Take an interest in what your spouse is doing. If your wife is overburdened with the house or with kids, start helping her more so she can relax. If your husband is overburdened with work, do what you can to help him. Help each other calm down, de-stress, and spend time together.

And then work on your spiritual intimacy. Our spiritual health is very related to our sexual health. When we feel close to God, we’ll simultaneously feel more like reaching out to our spouses. When I had dinner a while ago with Bill and Pam Farrel, of Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti fame, they told me that the couples with the best sex lives tend to be those in ministry. As you serve God and worship God more, you tend to reach out for your spouse more.

I have found that in my own life, too. When my husband and I read Psalms before we go to bed, or pray together before we go to bed, I’m always more ready to jump him! So work on developing spiritual disciplines together. Go to church together. Read the Bible together. If you’re uncomfortable praying out loud, get a book of prayers and read those (that really is allowed). In many ways, sex is a picture of our longing for God; our longing to be deeply connected and deeply known. As we open ourselves up to spiritual passion, we’re more likely to feel other kinds of passion.

Pursue intimacy in all areas of your life: physical, relational, and spiritual. And then talk to your spouse about how God wants you to live lives of passion and intimacy. That is His desire. If we as a couple aren’t experiencing that, we’re missing out on something beautiful. So do we want to live small lives, or big lives? And what can we do to work towards that big life?

Good Girl's Guide to Great SexWill framing the conversation like this work? No, not necessarily. You can never change another person; you can only change yourself. However, I do believe that this is the best option you have.

Great Sex Challenge: Pursue Intimacy. Pray and get rid of anger or bitterness in your heart towards your spouse. Pursue friendship and spiritual intimacy, with no strings attached. Then talk to your spouse about your desire for deeper intimacy, and about God’s plan for passion and intimacy. Ask what you can do as a couple to pursue that.

My new book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, is now shipping from Amazon! And they still have it at 30% off! In the book, I deal with how to boost your libido (if you’re a woman), how to pursue intimacy as a couple, and how to deal with a man who doesn’t want sex.


29 Days to Great Sex Day 13: Getting Your Head in the Game

Getting Your Head in the Game: Preparing for Intimacy

It’s our 29 Days to Great Sex event, leading up to the release of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (update: now available!), and I want to recap what we’ve done so far and let you in on what’s ahead this week.

We’ve looked at how to reframe how think about sex, how to reframe how we think about our bodies and about pleasure, and even how to think of our husbands differently. We’re looked at how to get in the right frame of mind during the day by flirting, and playing, and preparing for the evening.

This week we’re going to look at what to do when the evening finally arrives. Today we’ve going to look at how to get your head in the game, and then we’ll turn to foreplay, orgasm, and more!

Let me start with some basics that many men and women don’t understand about female libido, and it goes like this: if our heads are not in the game, our bodies won’t follow. If we are distracted by anything, then it’s difficult to get aroused. This is the exact opposite of men, whose bodies often react to visual stimuli even if they ARE distracted and don’t want to be thinking about sex. Most men react almost automatically;  women need to decide to react.

I’ve often heard it said that men are like microwaves and women are like slow cookers, insinuating that men can heat up and be done quickly, while women take more time. But I think that analogy is false because it implies that women will, eventually, heat up. The truth is there is no guarantee. A guy can do exactly the same thing to his wife that yesterday had her in raptures, and today he can tell she’s lying there thinking, “will you just get it over with because I want to get to sleep.” While women certainly can heat up, men can’t do it completely for us. We control the switch. We’re the ones who need to decide to participate, and that’s not always easy.

Consider this scenario, that I shared with Paul Byerley, The Generous Husband, in a recent guest post:

You walk into your bedroom to find your husband giving you that “Y’wanna?” look. You smile, and undress while he looks on appreciatively. You climb into bed and start kissing. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, you push him away and say:

“Do you think Michelle should drop piano? She just isn’t enjoying it and it’s costing us $20 a week in lessons, and a whole Tuesday night. We could take that money and go to a movie as a family and spend quality time together instead!”

What just happened? Did you decide you really didn’t want to have sex? Chances are your husband was pretty ticked, because he thought the evening was going in a certain direction, and now you’ve erected a big “Detour” sign.

'2010 Northwest Pinball and Game Room Show' photo (c) 2010, Chase N. - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/I used to think that when I launched into a big monologue right in the middle of foreplay that subconsciously I was trying to push my husband away. But over the years I’ve realized that the opposite is the case. I can’t really get into making love if I have a lot of unprocessed thoughts in my head, because they end up bouncing around in there, like a huge pinball game. And my body doesn’t suddenly spring into action the way my husband’s does. I have to get myself in the mood, anticipate what we’re doing, and concentrate if it’s going to feel good. Like most women, sex for me is mostly in my head.

And if there’s too much other stuff rolling around in my head, my body won’t be able to get in the game. Part of getting ready for the big event, then, is to empty my head of all the stuff that’s rattling around in there. When I can get it out, I can let other stuff in.

There’s another element to this urge to talk, too. As we’ve talked about before, men make love to feel loved, while women need to feel loved to make love. In other words, for men, making love is a way of checking in on the relationship, and making sure that everything is good. When we make love, they feel as if we accept them and want to be with them.

For women, though, we need to feel that acceptance first, and part of that is feeling as if our men understand our hearts. That’s why conversation is so key to a woman’s libido. She needs to feel as if she’s understood, but she also needs to feel as if all the details in her head that are bouncing around about her to-do list tomorrow, and her worries about the kids, are out in the open so that she isn’t distracted.

So if you want sex to be great, TALK. Talk earlier in the evening so that she feels loved, and also so that she has a chance to process all the things that are in her head. And women, if you have a lot of “logistic” type worries–like how am I going to manage my time and get everything done?–discuss these with your husband, too, because he may be able to figure out some things you can say no to, or some other strategy of dealing with everything. Get an agenda planner and actually write them all down so she can be done with them!

And guys, if you’re reading this, understand that your wife’s urge to talk is not a rejection of you or a rejection of sex; it’s her way of getting her mind in gear and emptied out of all her concerns so that she can actually concentrate and enjoy sex.

Great Sex Challenge 13: Talk to each other about developing new habits of talking earlier in the evening and checking in with each other about your day. Can you go for a walk after dinner? Can you curl up on the couch for 15 minutes? Even keep a day planner near the bed so that together you can go over her schedule and fit errands in it so that she’s not worried. It takes 21 days for a habit to become ingrained, but start this one today: find regular, scheduled time just to TALK.

This may not sound sexy, but before we can move on to how to really enjoy sex, she absolutely must be able to get her head in the game, and that means dealing with the day’s stresses. So make this a habit; it will benefit both of you!

31 Days to Great Sex
New! This 29 Days to Great Sex series has been turned into an ebook, the 31 Days to Great Sex (only $4.99!)

It's expanded, it's written for couples (not just women), and it's easy to use! 31 Days to boost your emotional intimacy, spiritual intimacy, and physical intimacy. You'll talk, flirt, and explore! Ignite your marriage here.



29 Days to Great Sex:

Day 1: The Act of Marriage
Day 2: Starting Fresh
Day 3: Loving the Skin You’re In
Day 4: Pucker Up!
Day 5: Reawaken Desire
Day 6: Why Your Hubby Wants You!
Day 7: Moving in the Right Direction
Day 8: 14 Ways to Play as a Couple
Day 9: Prepare for Sex throughout the Day
Day 10:16 Ways to Flirt with Your Husband
Day 11: How to Find Your Hubby Attractive
Day 12: If you’re Having a Hard Time with these Challenges

Next:
Day 14: When You Don’t Want to Make Love
Day 15: What is Foreplay?
Day 16: How to Orgasm
Day 17: The Pleasure Center
Day 18: Foreplay Can Be for Him, Too!
Day 19: How to Come Alive Again
Day 20: Deciding on Boundaries
Day 21: 5 Ways to Spice Things Up
Day 22: How Often is Enough?
Day 23: Quickies Are Great!
Day 24: Initiate, Baby!
Day 25: Sex When You Have Kids
Day 26: Rebuilding Your Sex Life
Day 27: Experiencing Spiritual Intimacy when You Make Love
Day 28: Overcoming Selfishness
Day 29: A Contest & a Party!

Remember to hit the Share buttons to share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest! (or any other buttons below :). Let’s spread the word about the series, and help other marriages thrive!

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.

Christian Birth Control Round-Up

Birth Control Round Up

Last Wednesday we had one of the most popular discussions on this blog about the Christian view of birth control and what form of birth control is best. I had to keep updating the post throughout the day because people left such great comments, and I wanted to add their information. In the original post, I talked about the two main viewpoints: some say it’s up to God to set the size of their family, so they don’t use birth control at all. Others choose to restrict the family size. I think both viewpoints are valid, but for those of you still looking for what birth control method is best, and which fits with your Christian values the most, read on.

I thought I’d write a round-up of the comments, and some of the discussion. In the original post, I didn’t really present my viewpoint, but instead just listed the pros and cons of all the methods. After reading the comments, and reading my manuscript for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex (I had to send in the final proofs last week), I thought I’d be brave and share what I do think.

First, let me list my regrets, which are quite similar to those listed in the comments. The Pill just killed my libido. I went on the Pill like just about everyone I knew when I got married. That’s just what everyone did in the late eighties and early nineties. I could make sure that I wasn’t going to have my period on my wedding night, and that seemed like a pretty good benefit!

However, it’s not a good thing to start your marriage with no sex drive. And it’s even worse to start it really moody, which is exactly what happened to me. Here’s what one commenter said:

Whenever my friends are getting married, I always tell them about my experience with the Pill. I started the Pill when I was 15 (I was a virgin, but I was having stomach issues and they thought the Pill would help it, hah) so when I married my hubby at 19 i just decided to keep using the Pill. Worst idea ever! Being a virgin, I had no idea what to expect with all the technical bodily stuff. Looking back, I realize the Pill made me extremely dry (virtually no natural lubricant), so it made sex much more painful for me than normal. The Pill also made me a crazy hormonal monster! But because I had been on it for so long, I didn’t realize how crazy it made me. Fast forward to June of 2010, I decided to stop taking the Pill because I had just had 3 surgeries all within a year of each other and I just wanted to get my body back to normal. Oh my gosh, what a difference it has made!! Sex is SOO much more wonderful and amazing without it! Let’s just say as soon as I stopped the Pill, I was “in the mood” all the time! I was not dry anymore, and I felt wonderful. I always felt frustrated, stressed out, and negative when on the Pill, but now I really feel like a whole new person!

And here’s another making a different point about the Pill:

We don’t prevent anymore, but there was a time when I was on the pill, and we did try using condoms for a while. For me the pill did not do anything for my cramps, and after a few years, it stopped regulating my cycle. Those were not the reasons I went off it, but I think it’s worth noting. It also seemed like a waste of money. The breakdown was about $2 a pill–including the placebos–to prevent something that can only happen a limited number of times resulting from an activity that only happens a certain number of times in the year. In other words, I have to use it even when I’m not going to have sex, and even when conception would not occur anyway.

Personally, two years into our marriage I went off of the Pill when we wanted to get pregnant, and I never went back. I hadn’t realized at the time that the Pill was the thing that was affecting my libido, and that it was the Pill that was making moody. But as soon as I stopped taking it, I cheered up (even though I was pregnant and hormonal with the baby).

Every hormonal form of birth control, whether it’s the ring or the Pill or the injection, works basically the same way, by secreting a hormone that stops ovulation (or, as some literature suggests, allows ovulation at times and prevents implantation). So even if you’re not taking the Pill, if you’re taking something hormonal, you could have the same problems.

Not everyone experiences this. Not everyone is moody. And for some people, it works great. A few commenters swore by the Pill.

Others noted, though, that the Pill has definitely been linked to blood clots and stroke, and some studies say it may be linked to breast cancer (some studies show that it is, but others show that it isn’t, and I am wary about taking a stand since I’m not medical. But it could very well be an issue). There’s also the controversy about whether or not it truly does prevent ovulation each and every time. I don’t believe that this is clear-cut, but if it’s even a slight risk, do you really want to take it? So if you’re on the Pill, or you’re considering going on something hormonal, really think and pray and research it.

UPDATE: My commenters are awesome! I have seen medical literature saying that it prevents ovulation, not implantation, but one commenter went on a bunch of websites and copied out what the companies themselves said, and in their own claims they note that it prevents implantation. For instance, here’s the commenter’s discovery about one popular pill:

OrthoTriCyclen Pill:
http://www.thepill.com/thepill/assets/How_the_Pill_Works.pdf
Secondary Methods
The hormones in ORTHO TRI-CYCLEN® LO also cause changes in the body that help prevent pregnancy.
• Taking the Pill causes the lining of the uterus to change, which makes it hard for an egg to
be implanted.
• It also thickens mucus around the cervix—making it difficult for sperm to reach the egg.

The commenter has lots more, so go read what Emily found! (End Update)

As for the IUD, while some commenters loved it, others were concerned about the possible link to future miscarriages or infertility, and similar problems to preventing implantation rather than conception. Again, I’m not medical, and so I’m not capable of judging which medical studies are right. I’d just simply say do your research.

After thinking about it, the method that I feel the most comfortable with, and the one that I will be encouraging my daughters one day to use, is FAM, or Fertility Awareness Method. Here’s the gist: you figure out when you’re fertile, either by checking your temperature daily, checking your cervical fluid, or using one of the devices you can buy at a drug store. You chart your cycle, and figure out when you’re fertile each month. Generally, women are fertile for about 5 days: 2 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and 2 days afterwards. Sperm can live for several days, so if you make love 2 days before you ovulate, those sperm could still fertilize an egg. The egg is fertile for about 3 days, so those days after ovulation are also possible times for conception.

If you know which these days are, you can either abstain from sex on those days, or use a barrier method (like a condom or a diaphragm) or spermicide on those days. However, don’t just assume that you ovulate on day 14! Most women don’t. But if you very carefully chart your temperature, or keep track of your cervical fluid, and then use barriers on your fertile days, the pregnancy rate is about the same as the condom and the Pill–less than 3%. So it is a very accurate method of birth control–as long as you are accurate in your charting! It takes discipline on your part, but if you are disciplined, it can really work.

Here’s what’s good about this method: you get really used to your own body, and learn to pay better attention to it. Honestly, the more you understand your body, the more likely you are to enjoy sex anyway. Often we women spend so much time ignoring our bodies’ cues, because we don’t really like thinking about our bodies. This makes us think about them, and that can often make us more comfortable with ourselves, and thus more able to relax about our sexual selves.

The other good thing? For the majority of the time, you don’t have to worry about any form of birth control at all, because you know when you’re not fertile.

Now, the downside is that it takes discipline and diligence. But apparently you don’t need to be totally regular. It can still work.

If you want more information about this, I’d really encourage you to check out the Christian Family Planning Network. They provide lots of advice on how to make this work, forums where you can talk to other women, lots of charts, and even an online course to get you started, helping you to understand your fertility, your cycle, your body’s changes, and more. And the neat thing is that not only does it teach you how NOT to get pregnant; if you do want to get pregnant, and you’re irregular, it teaches you how to do that, too!

I wish I had started my marriage this way. Does it mean you won’t get pregnant by accident? Nope. But there never are guarantees. The good thing is that if you are aware of your body, you really are less likely to. And perhaps if we had started this way, and had realized that we don’t need to use condoms or a diaphragm throughout the entire month, and we don’t need to be on the Pill, I would have been less likely to agree to the vasectomy, and I may have more children right now! Again, some commenters were so grateful for the surgical methods (they had health issues that made further pregnancies dangerous, or they already had a pile of kids), but many, like me, regretted using that final solution.

Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Still 30% off at Amazon!

Now I’m not saying that all other forms of birth control are bad.I really have no problem with condoms, but I figure, why use them all the time if you really don’t need to? But fully research all methods before you use something that could really affect your body, like an IUD or hormonal methods. You need to be comfortable with them from a health and a moral point of view.

So, I’d go with FAM. But I know it’s a very personal decision. What do you think?

Sheila is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex–with tons of information on how to make sex a beautiful, intimate, and FUN experience in your marriage!

Why Sex for Women is All in Her Head

I pulled in to the driveway at 3:30 this morning, after a late flight from Calgary and then a drive from Ottawa. Keith and I were speaking at a Weekend to Remember conference in Banff. Yes, poor me, I had to go to Banff! Oh, my goodness, it was gorgeous!

Anyway, I’m still exhausted, but I thought you may enjoy this five minute clip of me from the “sex” talk explaining why sex for women is all in her head:

Wifey Wednesday: Why You Should Reconsider If You’re Not in the Mood

As my frequent readers know, I write a lot about sex. It’s not because this is an easy subject for me; on the contrary, it was one of the biggest stumbling blocks in our marriage early on. Eventually I got tired of fighting about it, and decided I was going to figure out how to get in the mood more often. I even wrote a book about it (my husband likes to say that he liked the research), and it really did change my perspective.

So today, I thought I’d give you some insight into a man’s perspective on it. Perhaps you’re in a relationship where you want it more than he does; I’ll write about that again soon. But today I want to address the women who are beginning to find sex a chore. Dennis Prager, a columnist who mostly writes on political topics, last year penned a series on marriage. Here’s an excerpt from his essay, “When A Woman Isn’t In The Mood, Part I”:

It is an axiom of contemporary marital life that if a wife is not in the mood, she need not have sex with her husband. Here are some arguments why a woman who loves her husband might want to rethink this axiom.

First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. Few women know their husband loves them because he gives her his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men’s natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman’s nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.

This is a major reason many husbands clam up. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.

And here’s Prager’s Part II:

1. If most women wait until they are in the mood before making love with their husband, many women will be waiting a month or more until they next have sex. When most women are young, and for some older women, spontaneously getting in the mood to have sex with the man they love can easily occur. But for most women, for myriad reasons — female nature, childhood trauma, not feeling sexy, being preoccupied with some problem, fatigue after a day with the children and/or other work, just not being interested — there is little comparable to a man’s “out of nowhere,” and seemingly constant, desire for sex.

2. Why would a loving, wise woman allow mood to determine whether or not she will give her husband one of the most important expressions of love she can show him? What else in life, of such significance, do we allow to be governed by mood?

What if your husband woke up one day and announced that he was not in the mood to go to work? If this happened a few times a year, any wife would have sympathy for her hardworking husband. But what if this happened as often as many wives announce that they are not in the mood to have sex? Most women would gradually stop respecting and therefore eventually stop loving such a man.

It’s harsh, I know. But we need to understand how men feel.

Part of the problem that we women have is that we have over-sexualized sex.

Let me explain what I mean. We have bought into the world’s idea that sex is all about physical pleasure. In order for it to be “pure, honest” sex, it has to be mind-blowing. It has to be stupendous. You have to want it.

If we don’t want it, and we do it anyway, we’re cheapening it. We feel like we’re being used. We’re deceiving him. So it’s better to not have sex at all until we can throw ourselves into it.

Why?

We’ve taken sex down to its lowest common denominator: physical pleasure.

Why is it purer to have sex when you both want to and you both are going to get tremendous physical release from it? Isn’t that turning sex into mainly a physical activity?

Sex is so much more than that. It’s also emotional and spiritual, and when we make love because we want to show him how much we love him–regardless of how we currently feel about the exercise–then we’re actually being more loving. It’s more sacred, almost. Can you see that? Also, sex cements you in a way that nothing else does. It is a spiritual union. To dismiss that potential because we’re not “in the mood” isn’t operating on a higher or most honest sexual plane; it’s actually being baser. We’re the ones who are making sex only about physical pleasure, not our husbands. They want to make love not just to feel great, but also to feel loved. We, on the other hand, don’t want to make love unless we can feel great. We’re the ones who have debased it, not them.

When we turn around and make love for them, we imbue it with a bit more of the sacredness that I think God intended. But much of that depends upon how we define “giving our bodies to him”. If we just lie there, counting the minutes until he’s done (sorry to be so graphic, but you’ve all been there), we’re not really giving ourselves. We need to throw ourselves into it, and see if we can give him (and ourselves) pleasure. And often when we do commit our minds and bodies to the exercise, our own pleasure does follow.

It’s not wrong to simply give your body as a gift to him.

We interpret it as wrong because we think of ourselves on a higher plane in relationships–we value the relationship, he values the sex, so he’s the one who’s debased and needs to learn to become better, like us. But he isn’t worse, and we aren’t better, we’re just different. And God made us different to encourage both of us to step out of our comfort zones and give to one another.

I’m not suggesting that if he’s asking you to act out pornography that you should do it, or that you should make love if you have physical issues, or that you should do so if you’re having flashbacks of childhood trauma. If you need counselling, get it. If you’re having relationship problems, tackle those. Sex shouldn’t be something that hurts you.

But normally, the problem is not something huge; it’s just that we can’t be bothered, and we think there’s something a little bit pathetic about men that they want it so much. And why should we have to use our bodies to give him that?

We do lots of things with our bodies that aren’t always pleasant, though. I remember breastfeeding through blocked milk ducts and infections. I drag myself out of bed to tend to sick children. I get less sleep than I need because my kids need me. I don’t mind using my body to love my kids; the problem seems to come when we need to use it to love our husbands. They should be able to cope!

Nope.

God didn’t put you in a marriage so that you could both cope.

He put you in a marriage so that you could both lean on each other, give to each other, and love to each other. You may think it’s pathetic that he needs love to be expressed in this way when you’re tired, and cranky, and bloated. But he does, and he’s not wrong. So challenge yourself this week to see sex as something less base than something purely physical. See it as the emotional and spiritual building bond that it can be. Love your husband in the way that he needs it, and you just may find that your marriage gets ever so much better!

Sheila is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.

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.