How Do You Feel Beautiful? with Sheila Wray Gregoire

I’m brimming with excitement. Overflowing really. Like splashing excitement out into the streets. Why? Because I have two favorite things happening today on the blog:

  1. I’m kicking off a new Thursday series focused on helping us wives Feel Beautiful. It’s been my personal and public goal in 2015 to get us wives believing and feeling the beauty God created in us. I’ve had a few posts on this subject (Feeling Beautiful: From His PerspectiveFeeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While ShoppingFeel Beautiful in 2015: “Fight the Frump”!Feel Beautiful: Dust Off Your Exercise Shoes!), but I’m now inviting other marriage bloggers to chime in on the subject in whatever way they choose.
  2. We’re starting this series with one of my favorite people! Sheila Wray Gregoire has been a friend for years, and she’s a go-to resource for marriage, parenting, and authentic Christianity. I encourage you to follow her blog and check out her books.
Sheila and Me at Girl Talk—holding each other's books!

Sheila and Me at Girl Talk—holding each other’s books!

And now, heeeeeeere’s Sheila!

How Do You Feel Beautiful? with Sheila Wray Gregoire

When I give my sex talk at churches, I often ask the women, “how many of you can name 5 things you LOVE about your body?”

The women glance around awkwardly, and a few raised hands pepper the audience.

Then I ask, “now, how many of you can name 5 things you HATE about your body?”

Almost every hand in the room goes up—often to various cheers around the room.

We all feel it—that body insecurity. We want to be beautiful, but how can we, with the stretch marks, and the wrinkles, and the muffin top? Our bodies change. And after you’ve pumped out a couple of babies, you can never sneeze in the same way again.

We’ve all heard plenty of pep talks: your beauty is on the inside, not the outside! Women of all sizes can love sex! Sex is about a deep and abiding love, not about two perfect bodies.

And to a great extent all of that is true.

But it’s not the whole truth, because sex, even if we may not like to admit it, is actually done with our bodies. It isn’t done only with our beautiful hearts or our gorgeous minds. It’s done with the muffin top, stretch mark, pock marked bodies. And that means that if we feel lousy about our bodies, sex is going to be affected—as are other areas of our marriage. When we feel lousy about our bodies, we’ll feel lousy about our self-worth. And that is a recipe for a pretty unhappy woman.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentA wise woman (hint: her name is J) once told me that “happiness is a gift she could give her husband.” I interviewed J for my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change a Marriage, and we talked about how finding peace and joy ourselves is such a gift to our men who feel like they have to make everything better for us. And when they can’t make stuff better, they feel lousy. Inadequate. So they retreat.

If your man can’t make you feel beautiful, because you yourself don’t feel beautiful, then he’s going to retreat. He’s going to feel inadequate. And that’s going to drive you even further apart.

So how in the world do you feel beautiful?

1. Think of yourself as a beautiful woman

This sounds odd, but the things that we tell ourselves become the things that we act out. What are you telling yourself? “You gained 5 pounds again!” “You look so much older than you are.”

Try telling yourself something else: “That top flatters you.” “You have lovely eyes.” “God gave you a great nose.”

Everyday, tell yourself something good about your body.

2. Have a Go-To Beauty Routine

That’s easier to do, of course, if the top actually DOES flatter you. Sometimes we feel frumpy because we get in a rotten groove. We’re so tired with little kids and with work and with just plain life that we give up. Why wear earrings if the kids are going to pull on them? Why do your hair if every time you head to the bathroom someone calls for you?

And so yoga pants and T-shirts become our wardrobe.

Listen, ladies: it takes no more time to put on a pair of jeans that fit and a shirt that flatters than it does to put on yoga pants and a T-shirt.

And you can brush and gel your hair, and put some foundation, blush, lipstick, and mascara on in less than 4 minutes. I swear.

The trick is knowing what makeup to use, and having a hairstyle that’s easy to wear.

Go to a drug store and ask the makeup artists to show you how to do a simple, 2-minute face. Go shopping with a fashionable friend and ask her to help you find 5 quality outfits. When we hate our bodies, we tend to buy stuff on clearance that looks awful because we figure that’s all we deserve. Buy 5 outfits that make you look great. That’s all you need—and it will make the world of difference to your confidence level.

3. Feel Your Body

When we hate our bodies we tend to ignore them. We don’t want to notice anything below our necks because then we’ll be reminded how ugly we are. So we stop listening to our bodies’ cues. We forget that maybe we do have a libido!

Take time to FEEL your body everyday. Do 5 minutes of stretches. It’s luxurious! Do 10 minutes of a basic yoga or pilates routine off YouTube. Of course I could say exercise, but how many of  you will actually do it? Even if you don’t work out, I think stretching is a great way to remind yourself, “I have a great body! It can feel wonderful.”

4. Look Great for Your Husband

When my husband would say, “let’s go out for dinner,” I used to rush upstairs, put on some makeup, change my clothes, and be I’m ready to go! And a few years ago I realized that I was getting “prettified” for strangers, but never for my husband. When we went out I looked great. If he were coming home, I’d still look my worst.

But my husband is the only one who is supposed to enjoy my body!

So now, 15 minutes before my husband comes home, I head upstairs to get into a flattering top and put on a bit of makeup. It tells him, “I’ve been waiting for you!” And it reminds me that I like feeling pretty for him.

If you do these things, you’ll start to think of yourself differently—you’ll be concentrating on what you like about your body, rather than what you hate. And you’ll be feeling more confident! That makes you a lot more likely to want to embrace sex.

But I can hear some of the protests now.

But what if my husband is doing things that make me feel ugly?

Maybe he looks at porn. Maybe he watches Game of Thrones—and then wants to get it on (with you). Maybe you caught him texting another woman.

And all you can think is: am I not pretty enough? What’s wrong with me?

Oh, my sweet friends. That’s so sad.

There’s nothing wrong with you. He is choosing to devalue marriage and to devalue sex. He is making sex into something which is only physical, rather than something which is also spiritually and emotionally intimate. And the more he does that—the more he trains his brain to be aroused by an image, rather than a person—the less he’ll be able to be aroused in  your marriage.

And hear me, ladies: it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with the lure that porn has—a lure that often started for many guys right around the age when they were getting their first sexual feelings.

But even though it has nothing to do with you, that doesn’t mean that God hasn’t placed you right here to do something about it.

Your husband isn’t just hurting himself by looking at porn, or by watching nudity on TV. He’s hurting himself. He’s wrecking his sexuality. He’s harming his marriage. And he’s putting a huge wedge between him and God.

You may be tempted to do nothing. You may run from conflict. Like I say in 9 Thoughts That Can Change a Marriage, many of us are peacekeepers, trying to keep the lid on issues, rather than peacemakers—people who confront and solve issues.

Be a peacemaker. Put your foot down and say, “no more porn. No more nudity. This stops here.” Get a third party involved if you have to. But whatever you tolerate will continue. It is okay—it is MORE than okay—to say, “this needs to stop.”

So think of yourself as a beautiful, capable woman. A woman who takes pride in herself and her marriage. A woman who believes in real beauty, not in the false beauty our culture sells us. A woman who stands up for pure beauty in marriage. And when you start doing those things, I pray that you will start to feel beautiful—just as God made you.

Sheila GregoireSheila Wray Gregoire blogs at To Love, Honor and Vacuum, where she talks mostly about sex. And sometimes gets people riled up! Besides 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, she’s also the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 31 Days to Great Sex. And she’d love to give you her free downloadable ebook, 36 Ways to Bring Sex Back to Your Marriage! Get it here.

Why Squish Our Breasts at Mammograms? Can We Find a Better Way?

Note: I encourage women to get regular mammogram screenings. They are uncomfortable, but believe me, early detection can prevent far more painful experiences. And you’re tough—you’ve got this. Meanwhile, let me share in my hyperbolic, humorous way about my own recent mammogram.

I diligently get annual mammogram screenings. With cancer in my family and having lost a close friend to breast cancer, I’m a believer in early detection. I had my screening last week, and for the first time ever got a follow-up call asking me to come back for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound because the radiologist had seen something suspicious on the film.

I made my appointment for early the next morning and told myself to ignore the anxiety humming in my chest for the rest of the day. There are many more false positives than real reasons to worry, but I still found myself thinking What if…?

I’ll spoil the ending right here and say that everything is absolutely fine. No bad news. Which is good news!

But my experience was not so good.

While I think screening mammograms are uncomfortable, I’ve never found them particularly painful. Not so with the follow-up! I walked into the room, wearing the usual pink shawl, and listened to the mammo tech explain what they’d seen and what pictures she’d take for the radiologist. It was all very kind and professional . . . right up until “just drop the shawl off your shoulder.” Then IT began.

Why Squish Our Breasts at Mammograms? Can We Find a Better Way?

Once they’ve seen something on the film, they are determined to get a super-great shot of your breast. Which means that tech is willing to grab, yank, and squish my body into that machine with all the force of a pro-wrestler. Once I’m properly sandwiched between the two plates that hold you in place, she turns the dial to tighten the grip. And turns . . . and turns . . . and turns.

Holy flapjacks, that hurts. Then she gives this helpful advice: “Now don’t move.” As If I Could! What, like I’m going try to back away, leaving my ta-ta clenched in the machine? My breasts aren’t taffy — believe me, I ain’t movin’.

She leaves me to push the button and take the picture, with the admonition “Don’t breathe, don’t breathe, don’t breathe.” Not sure if I could anyway, what with my lungs scurrying away for fear of being next on the hit list.

When the machine opens, it’s like a breath of fresh air . . . in Hawaii. Aaaaaahhh.

But I relax too soon. Because we ain’t done. She’s taking six views, and every one will be slap-your-mama painful.

Here’s a tip for those who must have this lovely experience: Don’t. Look. Down. That’s the same advice you’d get standing on a high building with a fear of heights, but in this case you don’t get that oh-dear-I’m-going-to-fall feeling; rather, you realize just how malleable your breast really is and how far it can be flattened. You’ll immediately want to send your boobage a sympathy card. It’s a wonder that breast bounces back at all.

All this left me wondering: Is there really not a better way? In a world where I can text Japan and print a 3-D house model and get directions from my car’s GPS to a pedicure spa in an unfamiliar city (yes, I did that last one) . . . surely we can come up with some other way to scan a breast for cancerous tissue!

How about a GoFundMe campaign for a Magic Wand Mammogram, which works by waving a stick in the vicinity of your girls? Maybe it could be a dual-purpose machine, like a Body Tanner/Mammogram — where you’d get a full body tan while they also check up on your lady parts? How about treating mammograms like a car wash, where I simply sit in a chair and get pushed through a tunnel that scans my breasts as I pass by?

I came from the generation that witnessed and adored the first Terminator movie. I understand the Rise of the Machines. But I don’t think it will come in the form of a human-shaped robot or shape-shifting liquid metal.

Oh no, I now fear the Rise of the Mammogram Machine. Just imagine the havoc that could be wreaked by a mammogram machine rum amok in our cities, randomly snapping at women’s breasts with all the gentleness of an elephant charging in the jungle. Whole towns could be shut down by women refusing to go outside and face the “Pancake Monsters.” Or at least a few Bunco groups would get canceled. Imagine the tragedy!

I hear our local diagnostic center is getting 3-D imaging very soon. I don’t know how much that will improve the experience. But I think I’ll take their comment card and write a few helpful suggestions like:

  • How about giving me a free massage after the diagnostic mammogram to loosen my muscles and make me forget the soreness in my chest?
  • Could you print and pass out stickers or T-shirts that say, I Survived the Mammogram Machine Invasion of 2015?
  • When I disrobe in the exam room, could someone at least throw me a string of colorful beads?

What adds insult to injury is that my deductible was not met, so I actually paid $164 for this joyful encounter. That could have been a nice dinner and an overnight hotel stay with the hubster — in which my private places would have gotten very different and far more enjoyable attention.

Oh well, I’m willing to do what it takes to keep everything in working order. The end result is I did survive, I’m only a little sore, and it was all benign. Besides, I have full year to recover before I get up-close-and-personal with the mammogram machine again. Let’s hope next year is just the usual, uncomfortable screening.

Marriage: It Can Be Funny

I recently asked readers to answer 4 QUESTIONS for me. (They’re quick and your answers are very helpful, so if you haven’t done that, please head over to that post and give me your two cents.) From the feedback I’ve received so far, I decided we needed a humor day!

Marriage: It Can Be Funny


After all, this is Hot, Holy & Humorous. Because I believe those are three things a healthy, godly marriage bed have — hot passion, holy purpose, and a great sense of humor.

So without further ado, here are three chances for you to laugh it up on your own . . . or grab your spouse and enjoy together!

  1. I recently discovered The Skitzy Chicks, through their hilarious Back to School video. But here’s a quick marriage tip from these funny ladies:

2. Comedian Jeff Allen has a story I can relate to — ten years in, his marriage was at the end, but they brought it back from the brink through the grace of God. Now he shares his testimony and sense of humor with others.

3. Here’s a couple I didn’t know about, but discovered while touring the Internet for funnies — Modern Marriage Moments with Brandon and Stephanie. Enjoy the Marriage Pick-Up Lines (but don’t use them)!

And the winner of last week’s giveaway is Tana, who shared my Avoiding Sex Because the Kids Can Hear post last week on Facebook. I’ll contact her about receiving a free ebook of Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives.

Based on your feedback, I am considering a switch from posting twice a week to three times a week, with one of those posts being an answer to a specific reader question. I don’t know how this would affect my work and personal schedule, so I’d appreciate your prayers as I thoughtfully consider adding another day to my blogging schedule.

Q&A with J: “Is My Penis Big Enough?”

I didn’t know how else to title this blog post! That’s right to the heart of what today’s question is about. Frankly, it’s not just one question. Rather, every once in a blue moon I get someone writing me through a comment or email and suggesting that penis size matters way more than I’ve suggested.

It might be a woman who swears she wants nothing to do with a man who isn’t extremely well-endowed or a husband complaining he can’t “fill her up.” Even to the point of a recent email in which a husband was considering a surrogate sexual partner for his wife because his penis wasn’t able to meet her desires.

In whatever form the question is worded, it comes down to this: Is my (or his) penis big enough to satisfy?

Q&A with J: "Is My Penis Big Enough?"

And my answer is: It depends.

Almost every man is big enough. From my research, it appears that the average erect penis is 5.16 inches in length and 4.59 inches in girth (from a study of over 15,000 men — that’s a big study sample).

When it comes to length, the range is perhaps from about 4.7 to 6.3 inches in length, with outliers representing a very small percentage of men. For instance, that 6.3-inch penis falls into the 95th percentile, and an erect penis less than 3.94 inches is in the 5th percentile (that is, 5 out of 100 men). But how much of your that can a wife feel? Because that’s the real issue when it comes to sexual satisfaction with his size.

There aren’t as many studies about the depth of the vagina, but it appears to be about 4.25 to 4.75 when aroused. Meaning the vast majority of penises will more than get the job done — especially when you consider that perhaps 90% of her nerve endings are in the outer third portion of the vagina. It’s not that she won’t feel you deeper inside, but she’ll feel it most at the opening and closer to her clitoris.

But while many guys are perfectly fine in size, they have this feeling that maybe they aren’t quite enough or maybe they’d be more satisfactory to their mate if they were bigger. One study showed that while 88% of men viewed themselves as average or large, 45% of men wanted to be bigger.

Why? I think it’s because of chatter and imagery that bigger is better. All those men exposed to porn have likely seen larger-than-average men and may get a wrong view of what’s normal (regarding sex, too, but that’s a subject for another day). It’s something men talk about, worry about, wonder about. Moreover, even if you’re average, don’t you want to be above average? In every way to your mate?

Relax. Unless you’re under 3 inches erect, the length of your penis should be able to satisfy your wife. If you are among the extremely small percentage of men who are less than that, talk to your mate and see what she thinks, and/or talk to your doctor.

And what about girth? Doesn’t that matter more? Women say it does (in one study, 33% of women). However, women are far more satisfied with their partner’s penis that the men themselves. Only 6% of women reported in one study reported that their partner had a small penis, and 85% of women total were quite happy with the length and girth of their men.

What about those 15% who weren’t? The study didn’t ask why are you dissatisfied. I have a feeling some of that is not the tool itself, but how the equipment is used. Or maybe the issue is on the woman’s side . . .

Vaginas stretch . . . and contract. The other part of the equation is how big is she? Some contend that the wife’s vagina has stretched, and she now desires a fuller penis size to satisfy her. Here’s the thing: It does stretch in childbirth and with sexual activity, but not all that much. Our vaginas are very adaptable, ladies. It’s like Elastigirl down there. it stretches a lot, but springs back. Pretty cool handiwork from God, if you ask me.

Still, you might be a little looser than you once were or bigger by design. So maybe you would like a little more girth? Actually, it will fabulously easier for you to tighten up your vagina muscles than for him to add an inch around his penis. Sheila Gregoire has written about what you can do When You’re Too Loose.

Essentially, it’s all about exercise. Of course, Kegels. But squats are also good. And just about any exercise can help, because you’re strengthening your muscles and becoming more toned throughout. Giving your sweet little vagina a work-out might be the best thing you can do to make sure you can feel all of your husband’s fullness.

Sexual satisfaction is more about performance and intimacy than size. Most of the people who write me arguing that penis size matters so very much have something in common: They come across as being all about the physical aspect of sex. Honestly, after one cutting email from a husband about this subject, I sorta wanted to respond, “It’s a poor musician who blames his instrument.” Most wives are not about the size of his penis, but what he does with it!

While sex is supposed to feel good, if it’s all about reaching some physical high, then you’re missing out on what God designed sex to be in marriage. Attend to the intimate part of the experience, making sure you spend time kissing, touching, arousing one another, and enjoying each other — whatever size your body or body parts are. Your husband’s penis is one part of his body, and there are plenty of other places to arouse and enjoy. It’s a total-body experience, so enjoy the whole enchilada, amigo!

And learn to use what you’ve got. Certain positions and angles can maximize the sensations for both of you — try different things. If he’s smaller-than-average, I’d bet oral sex is an easier activity for you two, so delight in that benefit. Use your hands, your mouth, your body, and your genitals to make this a fabulous experience.

And wives, make your husband feel good about his manhood. This is as sensitive a subject to many men as breast size (or waist size) to many women. Let him know he’s enough and help him learn how to pleasure you and make sex a physically, emotionally, and spiritually satisfying experience.

Is your/his penis big enough? It’s likely big enough to do everything it needs to do, because the focus is a loving sexual experience. Which doesn’t require a big penis — rather, a big heart.

Sources: Men’s Journal – Once and For All Defining the Average Penis Size; Women’s Health – Is Your Guy’s Penis Above or Below the Average Girth Size?; How Stuff Works: Vagina (Discovery Health); The Marriage Bed – The Male Genitals; Web MD – Does Vagina Size Matter?; Science Mag – How Big Is the Average Penis?; The Journal of Sexual Medicine – Penile size and penile enlargement surgery: a review; Psychology of Men & Masculinity: Does Size Matter? Men’s and Women’s Views on Penis Size Across the Lifespan; CNN – Is Your Penis Size ‘Normal’?; NHS/UK – Penis Size; Medical News Today – What Is the Average Penis Size? 

Q&A with J: Avoiding Sex Because the Kids Can Hear

Today’s question is about lovemaking sounds and the children who might hear them.

My husband and I are both believers but we are struggling in our intimate life. Night after night I sit in avoidance of having sex with my husband. We live in a very small and modest home, think old cottage style, the walls are paper thin and the wood floors do nothing to mask sound. I am avoiding sex with my husband for fear of the kids hearing us make love, i.e. bed squeaking, moaning, etc. My husband has no problem or worry if the kids overhear our love making but it bothers me greatly . . .

I enjoy sex with my husband very much but it has become a huge road block in our marriage since our children have gotten older. When they were small I did not worry as much because I knew if they heard us they would not understand what we were doing. Now that I have a teen and a preteen in the home along with a 6 year old it makes things awkward. I have tried fans in the room to create some white noise and the tv for me is a distraction from achieving orgasm, I just cant do it with the news or a sitcom in the background. I suppose maybe some music but even this has to be kept low as to not keep anyone awake since sound travels so easy in our home. Any advice is so much appreciated.

First, a word to the residential construction industry: Just how hard would it be for master bedrooms to be sound-proofed? If you could get on that right away, your married home buyers would thank you.

Q&A with J: Avoiding Sex Because the Kids Can Hear

For those of us without studio-level soundproofing for our bedrooms (99.999% of us), here are a few things to consider.

Be creative about when you make love. At night when everyone else is trying to go to sleep may not be the best time for you and your husband to have sex. With older kids in my house, we’ve become far more likely to make love during the day than at night — taking advantage of those times when both kids are gone to youth group events, when they’re plugged into their headphones or watching a movie, when they’re sleeping in on a Saturday morning.

If you’re sharing thin walls with your children, look for times when they’re not in the bedroom. Even plan for it! Good parenting could involve ordering up pizza for the kids, plopping them in front of a Disney movie, and then retiring to your bedroom for marital intimacy. Sometimes we worry so much about covering the noise in our bedroom when the best answer is to put some noise in our kids’ ears so they can’t hear what we’re doing!

You might even consider introducing sound makers into their bedrooms. Many children sleep better with white noise machines or a fan running. We bought one of my kids a bluetooth speaker, and while his phone recharges in another room overnight, it also plays sleep-timed music on the speaker for him to fall asleep.

One last thought here: Consider bartering with other couples for child care. My church hosted a babysitting co-op that was marvelous! We would have anywhere from 4 to 12 couples participate, and we’d trade turns taking care of the kids while the other couples had date night. Which sometimes might be going back home, eating dinner, and making love. If it was four couples, we’d babysit once and have three date nights. When it was up to 12, two couples could take the duty and you’d get even more date nights. Couples can also simply barter back and forth to get this alone time.

Teach your kids to respect your privacy. Your older kids will likely get this more than the youngest, because tweens and teens will want their own privacy, like in the bathroom or when they’re changing in the bedroom. (And no, I’m not saying they get the privacy of locking you out of their bedroom whenever they want — you paid for that bedroom and they’re a minor! But I digress.)

Let your children know that your bedroom is a private space, and when the door is closed, that could mean that someone is changing clothes or doing intimate things husbands and wives do. If you don’t want to reference sex, you can simply say “hugging and kissing.” I guarantee you those teens do not want to see their parents “making out.”

Also, let them know when you’re retiring to the bedroom for alone time, and you are not to be disturbed. You might ask them to stay in the living areas of your home for a while, so they aren’t privy to the sounds of your bedroom antics. I’ve actually said to my kids before, “Interrupt us only if someone is vomiting, bleeding, or unconscious. And the vomit and blood better be a lot.”

Some might cringe at that. Yet I’ve come to believe that many of us married folks need to take back our homes. Our children are not the center of the universe and can learn to wait their turn. Besides, you bought the house, you pay the mortgage, you own the space they’re in. So they don’t get to determine what happens in every room and when — especially your bedroom. When I personally made this mental shift, it freed me up to protect my own space in my home and to put my kids first when I needed to, but not every time. In the long run, I think it’s a good lesson for children to know that others have needs they need to respect.

What’s the worst that could happen? I relaxed quite a bit when I imagined what would happen if our children heard us making love — with all the noises that might go along with that. Could I handle that experience? Was I prepared to have that conversation with my kids?

Let me assure you: You got this. If your children did hear your intimate noises and worried what was happening / felt enormous embarrassment / questioned you about your bedroom activities . . . you can explain it in terms they’ll understand that respects your marital privacy. The 6 year old would likely need assurance that everyone’s okay, while the 14 year old may need to understand that lovemaking is a verbal activity.

Having just ridden another roller coaster this weekend (love them!), I might explain it like this: “You know how people make noises on amusement park rides that might sound frightening if you didn’t know what they were doing. But once you know they’re expressing excitement and emotion, it makes sense. Lovemaking as God intended, pleasurable and in a covenant marriage, involves expressing excitement and emotion, and sometimes that means noise. We’re just having a good time.”

At the point that your children are teenagers, they should know that good marriages include sexual intimacy. So if younger children are asleep, but the older chooses to stay awake long after you told them to go bed . . . then it’s too bad if they hear something they didn’t want to. I didn’t start out feeling this way, but over time I decided that’s the way it had to be. If we told a teen four times to go to bed by 11:30, and they were awake and heard us getting busy at midnight? Well, kid, I TOLD you to go to bed for a reason. Now do you believe me?

Here are a couple of other posts that might help: Yes, Kid, Your Mommy and Daddy Have Sex and Making Love When You Have Teens in the Home.