The Power Of Yes & No

Yeses and Nos - with Yes boldedWhat a pleasure to welcome Jennifer Smith of Unveiled Wife. I have periodically contributed articles to her website, but this is her first visit to Hot, Holy & Humorous. I know she speaks with compassion, transparency, and biblical integrity about marriage and intimacy within. Please take to heart what Jennifer offers today.

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The power of yes and no is expressed in more ways than just saying them verbally. Laced through our actions are postures and gestures that reveal a great deal about where our hearts are in the moment.

If you and your spouse initiate sexual intimacy it becomes quite clear whether the two of you are fully invested into having sex or not.

In the early years of my marriage, my husband and I struggled with sex. I mean we barely came together at all! I experienced intense pain every time we attempted intercourse. This hinderance was devastating and it drastically affected my view on sex. Knowing my husband had physical needs for sex, there were times that he initiated and I would join him because I knew he needed it. I was “saying” yes, but my heart was not in it at all.

The truth is that I didn’t want to be participating at all. My husband, aware of the pain that would overcome my body, would gently encourage me to just be with him, without sex being the goal. My husband desired physical intimacy and was willing to engage in different ways. However, because my expectations were not being met, I became bitter. I didn’t have a desire for sex or anything else that reminded me of the lack in our marriage. Sure I wanted to feel close to my husband, and maybe if we had a satisfying sex life things would have been different. But at this point in our marriage, my heart said no!

What I have realized over time, or rather what God has unveiled to me about the power in my decisions, is that I affect my husband. Being a wife comes with great influence. You see, when I joined in and participated in physical intimacy, my actions spoke louder than words and my husband would know immediately if I was enjoying him or not. All of my gestures were proving to my husband that I did not want sex, thus affecting his ability to feel genuinely satisfied. And surprisingly, later on when I got past the bitterness and reconciled that I too needed sex, in the times that I was wholly “yes” I too became satisfied!

I am sharing this with you so that you can evaluate your heart. Are there times that you struggle to fully say yes to your spouse? Or do you verbally say yes, but your actions reveal the truth? How is the power of your whole yes or no affect your marriage?

Romance Infused with the Gospel

Well, color me happy! One of my favorite marriage bloggers is here today, talking to us about a subject I’d probably get a C- in — at best. Thankfully, Debi Walter of The Romantic Vineyard, is here to talk about romance — romance infused with the Gospel.

Take it, Debi!

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My cousin’s daughter just moved in with us for the summer. I could say she’s my 1st cousin twice removed, but then I’d have to explain what that means. So. I. won’t. ;-)

tea & fruit steepingBut what I do want to share with you is this — she brought with her a tea infuser that holds loose tea and frozen fruit. She was putting the whole thing together last night to place in the refrigerator for a healthy drink in the morning. I was fascinated the next day when I saw how rich the color of the water was after steeping for hours. The fruit had dissolved its juices into the clear water making what I imagine was a very refreshing drink.

It made me think about how the Gospel infuses every aspect of our marriage with a richness that is fascinating and life-giving as well. It makes all the difference in how our marriage looks to others and most importantly how it tastes to us.

Romance is one of the best ways to enjoy the fruit of the Gospel in our marriage. You might not have considered this before, but it’s true. Without the Gospel — which is the finished work of Christ on the Cross that enables us to live our lives in sacrifice for the benefit of others as well as the glory of God — our romance would be for temporary pleasure alone. It would have no lasting value other than the enjoyment it brings in the moment. But when we romance our spouse because of the love Christ has shown us, preferring them in all we do, it produces a fresh aroma that others can’t help but notice.

I would define romance as the outward expression of an inward feeling. It could be shown through love letters written, date nights planned, passionate lovemaking, dinner out or a favorite meal cooked at home. Romance could be a look or a smile, a kiss or a warm embrace. But most importantly when infused with the Gospel, underneath it all is what motivates our acts of romance. It’s not just for the pleasure of our spouse — although that is a valid one. It’s for the glory of God. It’s our way of allowing His love to shine through us as we treat our spouse in a way we treat no one else on the earth.

This kind of romantic love is attractive. It makes others stop and ask if you’re newlyweds, which Tom and I have had people ask us before. We love watching their reaction when they hear we’ve been doing this for decades!  And immediately our gratefulness goes to God, for apart from Him we wouldn’t love each other the way we do. His love infuses everything we do — from our feelings, to our thoughts, to our prayers and to all our relationships, but mostly in how we treat each other.

I realize some reading this post might be in the midst of a very difficult time in your marriage. It may seem that what’s infused in your relationship is bitterness and discontent. I know how hard it can be to endure difficult seasons in your marriage. Tom and I have certainly had our share. But what you need to hear right now while steeping in this cold, dark place, is that God is faithful. He is at work and promises to bring about good to those who truly love Him and are seeking to live according to His purposes.

If you are lacking faith that your marriage will ever change, I encourage you to take your concerns to God. Cry out to Him for help in your time of need. Ask Him to infuse your marriage with the sweet fruit of the Gospel, not the bitter pill of what’s gone before.

We recently shared a daily marriage tip on Facebook that I think is the perfect way to end this post. It says:

My spouse should be the safest place where I can be myself and know I will be loved, accepted and encouraged to be the best I can be. Our past may inform our present, but it shouldn’t define our future.” 

Did you catch that? We can’t ignore our past, even what has already happened in our marriage that we’d like to forget. But with the Gospel Truth at work in our lives, our past shouldn’t define our future. God loves to take impossible situations and make them into something beautiful. 

May The Lord help you discover how to allow His Gospel truth to infuse the way you love and romance your spouse. As you do, be certain others will notice, and your marriage will grow all the stronger day by day, year by year, decade by decade.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV).

About Debi Walter

Debi WalterTom and Debi Walter have been cultivating their romantic vineyard for most of their 35 years of marriage. It has been their conviction from the start. Now they are passionate about helping other couples discover the rich harvest of romance available to them no matter the current season. Through their marriage blog, The Romantic Vineyard established in 2008, they provide regular posts about growing your marriage for God’s glory.

Why I Still Wear Lingerie (though My Hubby Doesn’t Care)

illustrations of lingerieI was in a lingerie store recently purchasing needed undergarments, and the clearance rack caught my attention. Actually, that’s how I prefer to do most of my shopping — with the word CLEARANCE written on a sign nearby and a pile of price stickers on the tag with the top one impressing me enough to say, “Yeah, I’ll pay that much.”

Anyway . . .

I flipped through a bunch of items on the clearance rack that I would never, ever wear; saw a few items that looked pretty but didn’t come in my size; and then lingered on one goooorgeous night-thing — a comfortable, feminine, sexy item I’d love to sleep in or show off to my husband. I hemmed and hawed about it purchasing it, but the price was another 50% off that top sticker on the tag. So I finally took it to the counter, paid out, and left the store with a new nightie.

But here’s the thing: In my many years of marriage, I’ve learned that my husband doesn’t care about lingerie. Really. Doesn’t care.

Now this is atypical. A majority of husbands delight in seeing their wives don pretty, suggestive attire in the bedroom. For those wives, I encourage you to find something you’re willing wear to bed that will also arouse his senses.

But even if your husband is fine with bypassing the nightie and going straight to nude, maybe you should invest in a few pieces of beautiful lingerie for yourself. I do. Why?

Focusing your mind. Much of a woman’s sex drive is in her head. In a single moment, we gals entertain an average of 342 things in our brains (give or take a couple), and shoving out all that extraneous stuff to focus on making love can be a mental battle some days. So how can you shift from being super-mommy, super-worker, super-cook, super-house-manager, etc. and become super-sexy-wife?

Slipping on a item of lingerie can get you in the right frame of mind. You commit to that focus of being physical with your husband. After all, once you put on a lace teddy, you’re probably not thinking about cleaning the toilets anymore. The rest of your to-do’s can wait.

Feeling sexy. A good piece of lingerie will play to your body’s figure and show off your physical assets. It will help you display your best features in an enticing way. Lingerie usually has a different texture and lighter fabric, and that satin or lace or silk can brush the skin underneath in a pleasant way. All that comes together to remind you that you are one sexy lady.

Just try to get that same feeling wearing an over-sized tee and granny panties. Not gonna happen. There’s something about lingerie — lingerie you like — that makes you feel desirable.

Sending clear signals. When you walk into your bedroom wearing provocative lingerie, there’s really no need to say to your husband, “Hey, you wanna?” You’re sending a pretty clear signal — no words necessary.

This approach can make some guys practically giddy — particularly those husbands whose wives rarely initiate. If she shows up looking interested and inviting, it’s like his birthday wish came true. And now he gets to unwrap the present. (Best. Birthday. Ever.)

If you get mixed messages in your marriage with “I was interested, but you looked busy” and “Well, I would have, but I thought you had to get up early” or “I didn’t know if you were kissing me good night or kissing me to initiate something,” then sending a clear signal can be a welcome event. Wearing pretty lingerie and presenting yourself as one hot wife can let hubby know he’s one lucky, lucky man. And he’d better use this opportunity well.

What if he truly doesn’t care? As I’ve said, my husband doesn’t really care about the lingerie. He likes the clear signal of show up naked.

But maybe your husband doesn’t care for another reason. Some wives are dealing with a low-drive husband, and showing up in sexy lingerie doesn’t have an arousing effect on him. In fact, slipping on something sexy and posing in your bedroom’s doorway results in little more than a passing nod from him and in a glob of grief settling in you. So should you stick to the tattered tee and pajama pants?

Clearly, a major mismatch in sexual drives is a bigger issue than whether you wear a slinky chemise to bed. But while you’re working on that, I suggest you still buy some pretty stuff for you. Maybe you’re not going to present yourself the same way to your husband, until you’ve figured out what his obstacles are and dealt with them. However, you may want personal reminders from time to time that you are beautiful and sexy and worthwhile. You may want to feel pretty for yourself, even if that nightie stays on you all night.

So do you wear pretty lingerie? Why or why not?

More on lingerie: How to Shop for Lingerie and Does Sexy Lingerie Promote a Perverted View of Beauty?

Enjoy the blog? Check out the book.

Sex Savvy book coverHow’s your sex savvy? Do you want to be a hottie in the bedroom without sacrificing holiness? Would you like real-life tips on making the most of God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage?

Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives has candid advice for wives on everything from kissing to oral sex to orgasm to sexual positions—all from a Christian perspective. Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Do Your Spouse’s Sexual Problems Feel Personal?

In the 3 1/2 years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve become even more convinced: For the majority of people who don’t respond to sex in healthy ways, it’s not about their spouse – it’s about them. That is, it isn’t personal.

For instance, the woman who was molested as a child and now doesn’t want anything to do with sex would likely feel that way no matter whom she married. The same for the husband with a porn addiction, the low-libido / no-libido spouse, the wife who had sex-is-dirty teaching, etc.

But here’s another reality: It feels personal.

Drawn heart w/crackAfter all, this is your body, your marriage, and your marriage bed, for heaven’s sake! How can it not feel personal? It’s hard not to get ruffled and riled up — which adds to the challenge of resolving the sexual intimacy issue.

For example, even if a husband knows his wife’s resistance to unveiling her body has more to do with her own insecurities, he’s lost that viewing pleasure and sense of intimacy. So he starts to talk to his wife about the issue, but it quickly turns from reassurance to frustration to pleading to anger to resentment. Because yeah, it feels personal.

And there’s often an ongoing cycle of other’s core problem –> feels personal –> emotional pain response — > conflict or avoidance of problem . . . Which can go on for minutes, days, weeks, months, and even years in a marriage.

So how can we break out of the cycle? How can we adopt a better approach to the core sexual intimacy issue?

Engraving of Jesus healing paralyzed man

Jesus heals paralyzed man brought by four friends; Bernhard Rode via Wikimedia Commons

Pray for your spouse. Bringing someone else’s issues to the throne of God reminds you of your role. You are a mat-carrier, not the Healer. (See Luke 5:17-26.) Continue to bring your beloved’s name and issues before God and then pray for a change in his heart, a desire to seek help and healing, your own patience and wisdom, and the Spirit’s guidance in knowing what to do — what that “mat” should look like in your marriage.

Reconsider your approach. That’s exactly what the four friends of a paralyzed man did when they brought him to see Jesus and couldn’t get through the door of a crowded house. Wouldn’t it have been ridiculous for them to keep shoving against people at the front door and running into the same wall of not-gonna-happen? If what you’ve done for the last three years regarding the issue hasn’t moved the needle a millimeter, or has made things worse, why are you still doing it?

I don’t know what shift your particular situation needs, but ask what you’ve been doing and how it’s going. A good starting place is whether you’re meeting the standard of loving your spouse according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Are you approaching your spouse with agape love? Maybe you can make headway coming from another angle or find a better way to cope.

Find support. Whatever the issue in your marriage, I’m willing to bet you’re not alone. Some other spouse faced the same thing — and figured it out. There’s encouragement and wisdom among God’s people, so look for those who will support you in making positive progress.

Many situations seem hopeless right now (mine did at one time), but if you could see ten years down the road, you’d know there’s a revival coming. I can’t make guarantees, but I hear the testimonies fairly often and I have my own story. Look for people and resources to assist your journey toward healing and reconnection in your marriage.

Enjoy what’s going well. We tend to notice the thing that’s not right and dwell exclusively on that. Sometimes our marriage looks like this:

Pencil tips (6 sharpened, 1 broken)

And all we see is that one broken part.

Of course, a sexual intimacy problem is not a broken pencil tip. It’s way bigger than that. However, putting all of your focus on the one thing that’s wrong can give you a poor perspective of the whole and make your beloved less willing to deal with the issue. After all, if there doesn’t seem to be anything good happening in your marriage, why work on the sex stuff?

Nurture and appreciate what’s right in your marriage – the sharpened tips — and then work on what’s wrong. Take inventory of what you treasure about your spouse and your relationship and delight in that, while still addressing the issues you face. You’ll likely find yourselves having more energy and incentive to work on the problem parts when you appreciate the whole.

Remind yourself often of the we. You probably won’t get any breakthroughs or progress as long as you’re both hunkered down in the it’s-personal perspective. Instead, you get caught up listening to your own feelings instead of listening to your spouse, you become over-sensitive to anything your spouse does that exacerbates the problem, you start wondering if this person was the right pick to begin with, and/or you withdraw your heart entirely from the equation. Not a good place to be.

Yes, the problem may primarily rest with one spouse, but you’re on the same team. Marriage is a we thing. Remember “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 HCSB), but only if they’re working together, not against each other. Even better is letting God weave himself through your marriage, for “A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:11). Let the we be you, your spouse, and the Lord.

Does your spouse’s sexual problem feel personal? It does affect you personally. No doubt about that. But try to move beyond your emotional wounds and begin the healing of your marital intimacy.

Are You Sure You’re Communicating?

I recently read a great blog post by Kevin A. Thompson, The Most Frustrating Moment of Marriage, which involved a miscommunication.

And it reminded me of my own recent story with my husband.

We were at a Tex-Mex restaurant (yum!), eating fajitas and conversing about this-and-that. Hubby was also, given the large-screen TV nearby, watching the World Cup. I mentioned I’d been nervous that day because my outfit involved wearing two shirts that covered everything and what-not, but I wasn’t wearing a bra. Without that familiar feeling of a bra, I felt a little uneasy in public — like I might lean over a bit wrong and show something I shouldn’t show.

To which my husband said something like, “So what if you do? You worry too much.”

Say what?!

Immediately, my feelings went from unease to emotional hurt. My heart sank to my stomach (along with my tortilla chips and salsa). Had we hit a point in our marriage when my body was no longer special? Was he was okay with me giving a peep show? Did he care about me so little? Was the magic over? (Yeah, yeah, a bit melodramatic. I know.)

I slid away from him on the booth, he kept watching the-game-of-no-scoring soccer futbol, and we didn’t interact much after that. A few minutes later in the car, I revisited the subject. I recounted how earlier in our marriage, he’d asked me to get rid of a cute, little miniskirt (emphasis on little). I was young and didn’t understand men’s visual acuity that well at the time, but his request was so out of character, I figured it was important to him and obliged. After a while, I appreciated and even cherished that memory — how my husband wanted to keep my private and hinting-at-private areas within our marriage. That made me feel special, valued, treasured.

And now he was throwing me to the wolves and their steely, hungry eyes.

We went back and forth about our feelings for a bit, until he finally said, “I don’t want anyone to see anything, but you’re freaking out about this, like it would be horrible if someone saw your bra strap.”

I raised my voice. “I told you! I’m not wearing a bra.”

Silence.

“Wait, you’re not wearing a bra?”

“No, honey. I told you that.”

“Oh. Well, that’s different.”

And my husband was back.

Mind you, once again, I was dressed modestly, with nothing showing and nothing likely to show, but my story demonstrates how easily a couple can argue about a misunderstanding. He just hadn’t heard my original statement. (He was, after all, watching the World Cup.)

Couple arguing

My own cautionary tale involves modesty and keeping yourself only unto your spouse. But there’s opportunity for plenty of other misunderstandings regarding marital intimacy.

  • She rejects sex tonight. He takes it to mean she doesn’t desire or respect him, but she’s thinking about the extra five pounds she saw on the scale today and feeling overly self-conscious about her body.
  • He says he wishes she’d be more adventurous in bed. She assumes he’s comparing her to previous sexual experiences or the porn he saw before they married, but he’s remembering that one time when she tried something different and enjoyed the experience so much (“wish I could excite her like that again“).
  • She expresses her disappointment they don’t make love more often. He hears that she sees him as inadequate and feels pressure to perform, but she misses the closeness of their lovemaking and wants to walk with him in taking steps to reawaken his sex drive.
  • He suggests ignoring the kids for a while and having a little “afternoon delight.” She hears that he cares more about getting his sex hunger sated than what happens to their children (“what kind of father is he?”), but he craves his wife’s attention and figures some lovemaking while the kids watch another VeggieTales would benefit everyone.

You can see how this happens. We communicate poorly, or only part of our message is received. And then we’re in conflict.

It’s never fun to argue with your spouse about sexual issues, but it’s kind of silly to argue about sexual non-issues — things we never said or intended. You may eventually get to an Emily Litella moment like we did, or you may never get on the same page and keep approaching your problems with erroneous assumptions.

Emily Litella character, SNL

So what can you do to avoid misunderstandings?

Slow down the conversation. When we feel hurt and sense conflict coming on, we tend to heat up, open our mouths, and let ‘er rip. Instead, when you feel that unease rising inside you, take some deep breaths and slow your words.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19 NKJV).

Make sure you’re listening. Are you really hearing what your spouse is saying? Or are you looking for points of disagreement or an opportunity to butt in with your own perspective? Pay attention to your beloved’s words, facial expressions, and body language. Make your focus figuring out what’s happening with your spouse.

“To answer before listening — that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:3).

Ask for clarification. See if you’re getting it right. Obviously, if I’d asked early on, “So you don’t care if I bare my breasts?” there’d have been no misunderstanding or argument between my husband and me. (Of course he cares if I bare my breasts — he wants them bared to him only and often!) If you’re surprised or hurt by something your spouse said or did, probe a bit to see what’s going on. Clarify your understanding.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established” (Proverbs 24:3).

Repeat back your understanding. When you think you’ve got it, say it back. If your spouse says, “No, that’s not it!” then keep talking until you do get it. Unfortunately, we often make our first goal winning the argument or expressing our own feelings, but our primary goal should be getting on the same page about what the problem is. When you agree on a diagnosis of the problem, you’re far more likely to work together toward a mutually satisfying resolution. Or when you finally get your understanding right, you may discover there wasn’t such a problem after all.

“It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3 HCSB).

Before you go barreling in to fix a problem regarding your marital intimacy, make sure you know what the problem really is. Get your spouse’s perspective on it. You may discover something you simply didn’t understand before, that will help you grow closer and stronger.

Have you had any silly misunderstandings? Or serious ones? How have you handled erroneous assumptions?