Vacationing with Hubby: How to Make It Better

I try to learn from my experiences. And my mistakes. My many, many mistakes.

But I’ve been evaluating my recent week-long trip to New York City and the last few days of it that I spent with my hubby. What could have made things even more smooth? How could we improve the limited time we get together, alone, out of town, without daily interruptions? What do I want to remember for the next time we take a couple vacation?

Let me share a few.

Vacationing with Hubby - How to Make It Better

Schedule rest into the itinerary. Travel is exhausting, and so is out-of-town business. I didn’t plan well for this and allow myself time to recharge between events. Next time, I want to leave more time between arriving from the airport and starting in on my itinerary. I also shifted quickly from work events to vacation days with hubby, and consequently I felt physically bad that whole first day of sightseeing. I only realized how much I needed downtime when I slipped into bed that night at 7:30 p.m. for a “quick nap” . . . and woke up the next morning at 7:30 a.m.

To get the most from your couple vacation time, allow a little breather between travel and vacation activities. Be willing to hang out in the hotel a little longer or linger over a relaxed breakfast. Let yourself sleep in. Yes, you might lose an hour or two in your day, but you’ll feel better and enjoy each other more. You don’t want your vacation to involve two overtired, grumpy spouses, so schedule rest into the itinerary.

Discuss expectations. If your husband thinks this is a “sexcation” and you think it’s a see-everything-you-can sightseeing tour, one of you — or really, both of you — will be disappointed.

Hubby and I do a pretty good job of this, but we can always improve. My one tweak would be to write down the must-do’s, the hope-we-do’s, and the if-we-have-time-do’s. Then we can make sure we knock out the activities we most want to engage in and not waste time on stuff we sorta, kinda, maybe want to do but that isn’t really a big deal.

And yes, I think it’s perfectly fine to write “have sex” on your must-do list. I’m in favor of spontaneous sex, but I’m also in favor of scheduling sex just like you schedule date night.

Pack lube. Calm.Healthy.Sexy. recently penned a great post on why hotel sex is particularly nice. I agree, but I was sort of kicking myself for not packing personal lubricant. Even if you don’t need it, it’s better to have it available, just in case.

My own favorite are the Sliquid travel-size packs so you can get single-use pouches and easily slip them into your luggage. (And no, Sliquid’s not paying me to say that…but they should. *wink wink*) Regardless of what you prefer, remember to pack personal lubricant so that you’ll have it if you need it.

By the way, that photo up there is me and the hubster at Central Park in New York City.

And now — as promised — I’m hosting a giveaway! The prize is an ebook of any one of my releases: Sex Savvy, Intimacy Revealed, or Behind Closed Doors. The winner can choose which book they want. How do you enter? By signing up for my monthly (or mostly monthly) newsletter! Or proving you already have.

To sign up for the newsletter, click HERE and submit the form.

To show you’re already a subscriber, simply leave a comment below and fill out the email address line. Your email will not show up on my blog, but I’ll be able to cross-check it with my subscriber list.

You’ll automatically be entered in a drawing for an ebook, with the winner chosen on Thursday, August 6, at 10:00 p.m.

Now what are your tips for vacationing with your spouse?

Why I Was Gone in July…and Why You Should Be Here in August

The month of July has been, as they say, cray-cray. (Translation: crazy.)

Long story short, I had three weeks eaten up with preparing for events, traveling to/from events, attending events, and recovering from events — those events being a week-long Christian youth camp and a massive writers’ conference in New York City. It didn’t help that I expected to have access to WiFi at church camp and ended up with about an hour of Internet all week long. Being out of touch makes me a little antsy, and I hate not tending regularly to my email and blog.

However, I also learned that I need to let myself have some vacation time too. After my events were finished, hubby and I did a little sightseeing in the Big Apple and enjoyed some wonderful couple time together.

Hanging out by the Empire State Bldg and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hanging out by the Empire State Bldg and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’m done traveling for a while, and I feel terribly behind. But while my to-do list is full, my calendar is open for the next month — meaning it’s a great time to catch up.

So I’ll be catching up here on Hot, Holy & Humorous with a super-special feature — something I’ve never done before: A full month of blogging in August.

That’s right! Throughout August, I’ll be focused on my Summer of Q&A with J. Each weekday in August, I’ll post a reader question and my response. Then on Saturdays, I’ll feature a round-up and a check-in for what else is going on at HHH, as well as a giveaway of one of my books! I’ll start this Saturday, August 1, with a giveaway to one lucky reader of any of my three books in ebook format: your choice. Just watch for that post and instructions on how to enter.

That’s six days of blogging each week, people! Hope you’ll stick with me as we approach the last days of summer and address sex and marriage according to God’s design. See y’all starting tomorrow!

In the meantime…

What couple vacations have you taken this summer? What do you get from spending extended time away from home with your spouse?

Q&A with J: Can Sex Be Used as Comfort? Yes, But…

I’m back again for another installment of the Summer of Q&A with J. Here’s today’s question sent to me from a husband. He describes a conflict he had with his wife:

I have been giving a lot of thought to a recent disagreement on sexual intimacy. We had been through some tough things over the prior week, and one night I said how much I wanted to make love and feel her in my arms and forget the world for a while. And she got upset with me. Really upset.

At issue was the idea of using sexual intimacy as “comfort.” She was adamant that sex should not be used as “comfort” at all, ever, and felt that my request was inappropriate.

My question is this: Is it ok to consider sexual intimacy as a “comfort” in a marriage? When would it be appropriate? When would it be inappropriate, when would it be “using” rather than “sharing”?

Can Sex Be Used As Comfort? Yes, But...

Let me point this reader and others to a post I wrote on 4 Ways Sex Can Comfort in Crisis or Grief. Specifically, consider these verses from the Bible:

“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her” (2 Samuel 12:24a).

“Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:67).

Thus, my answer is an unequivocal yes — sexual intimacy can absolutely be comforting in marriage. I’ve certainly experienced it myself.

HOWEVER, before you all bring out your thick Bibles to thump your spouses, the issue is more than who is right or wrong. I’m rather curious what the wife thinks sex is for — what are her “appropriate” reasons to engage in sex in marriage.

Some wives who don’t engage in sex frequently in marriage don’t feel listened to and valued, so here’s an opportunity to demonstrate you care about her thoughts and feelings. Ask what she thinks about sex: What purpose does it serve in marriage? Why did God include create it the way He did? Why is there an entire book about marriage and sex in the Bible (Song of Songs)?

Now don’t corner the poor girl and drill her like you’re the hard-nosed detective in the last cop show you saw. In The DNA of Relationships, marriage researcher and author Gary Smalley talks about how we draw close and open up to others when we feel “safe.” He defines as a safe environment as “no one has to worry about being shamed or rejected or punished or attacked for stating personal beliefs and feelings.” Then he notes, “In a place like that, heartfelt communication can bloom and grow.” Ask open-ended questions, invite conversation, and affirm your wife. Listen and rephrase what she says to make sure you understand where she’s coming from.

It’s perfectly fine for you to feel sex is comforting; it’s obviously in the Bible. What’s at question here seems to be her view of sex altogether. Who knows what beliefs about sex she’s learned or ingrained over the years? Some of us have loads of sexual baggage or received negative messages about sex.

When a big disagreement breaks out over something seemingly innocuous, that’s a red flag that you have hit a sore spot. Instead of digging in your heels further, as we are all tempted to do when we’re right, it could be a time to tread lightly and make extra effort to create that safe environment.

By the way, you won’t be able to do this on your own. That’s my heartfelt, been-there-tried-that opinion. I cannot achieve this kind of extravagant love in my own strength. Because yeah, when your spouse fires back at you, you’re wounded and the last thing you want to do is to put aside your pain and minister to your spouse.

Still, that’s what we’re called to do. Extra prayer is warranted. James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” You’ll need wise words, so ask for them. I also like finding verses that remind me of the kind of person I want to be in that circumstance and try to memorize them. For instance, I wish every married person had 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 memorized, so they could recall to mind what agape love really looks like. But if you’re struggling specifically with compassion or patience or gentleness, find those scriptures and arm yourself accordingly.

In summary:

  1. You’re right: Sex can definitely be comfort in marriage.
  2. Being right isn’t the same as being good: Be careful how you approach your spouse when you’re right and they aren’t there yet.
  3. Foster a safe environment: Better conversation and problem-solving will happen when you both feel safe to express your thoughts and emotions, whether they make sense to your spouse or not.
  4. Ask for God’s help: No one has the power to love perfectly at all times — no one but God — so ask for His help as you work through sexual issues in your marriage.

What do you think about sex as comfort? Have you faced similar conflicts in your marriage? What advice would you give?

Feeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While Shopping

Something you probably don’t know about me: I love cowboy boots. Like seriously love them. Not as much as I love God, my husband, and my children, but they’re right up there with beach days and cream gravy. And yeah, I’m a Southern gal.

I haven’t even worn cowboy boots my whole life; just the last few years. But they are so comfortable on my feet that I wear them with everything I can, including dresses. A few of those dresses I’ve worn so much, they were getting tattered. What’s a Southern gal to do? Go shopping, of course!

Feeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While Shopping via Hot, Holy & Humorous

So I spent two days over the July Fourth weekend clothes shopping in my area. Rather than give you a play-by-play of my excursion, simply imagine a horror film with you shouting at the screen, “Don’t go in there, girlfriend! It’s dangerous!” Only instead of a dark basement with a serial killer inside, my threat was the dressing room with poor self-image lurking.

In the course of those two days, I looked through scads and scads of dresses and tried on over 50 items. Oh yeah, 50. How many did I buy? A whopping four, and one of those was a clearance T-shirt bought on a whim.

Why was it so difficult? Because my body sucks!

No, no, that’s not the reason. Yet I had several moments when self-doubt crept up and settled in my bones. “I hate my stomach.” “I look pudgy in this.” “My butt is flat.” “Have I always had all this arm fat?”

After Day One of 32 items tried on and zero purchased, I returned home and fell into a funk. I’m not proud, but there may have even been thoughts of buying a tube of Pillsbury chocolate chip cooking dough, grabbing a large spoon, and drowning my discouragement in sugar and chocolate.

However, I did not succumb!

In fact, I’m a few days out from that whole experience, and I want to share what I learned:

1. I continue to struggle with feeling beautiful at times. I still have my moments of frustrations with my body, struggling with getting older, and not appreciating the masterpiece God made me to be. I’m not perfected on this point.

2. Those times are fewer and shorter-lived than before. Since actively trying to feel beautiful, I’ve done better. I recently listened to a sermon by James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel, and he noted we often think of changing as a steady decrease of our brokenness; however, the truth is we usually struggle with the same things as before, but as intentional Christians they become less frequent and shorter-lived. We recognize our moments of struggle more quickly and respond better with godly answers. I see that in my own life.

3. The scriptures I’ve memorized come to mind when I need them. When I slipped into my body-image blues, Psalm 139:14 came to mind: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And principles I’ve learned about God’s love, His provision, His care for me were all present in my heart, keeping me from staying too long in that bad place.

4. My husband helps me feel beautiful. Hubby was with me on Day One (that trooper!), and we made love that night. He doesn’t care that my tummy isn’t getting fitness awards or that my body isn’t as young as it once was. He simply sees the woman he loves, God bless that man.

5. Fashion designers don’t always “get” real women. Or maybe rarely get real women. We ladies commonly complain that we don’t know who they’re designing clothes for, because it isn’t for our bodies. So why did I expect it to be easy? That said, it is possible to find clothes that fit and flatter you.

6. Learn what looks good and stick with that. It took me many tries, but by the end of the weekend I had some things figured out. Certain styles would not look good on my body (as it is now) no matter what, and other styles held possibility. Let yourself experiment and figure out what works on the (beautiful) body you have. Then you can avoid grabbing something off the rack to try on that will not flatter and choose styles that likely will.

7. Keep up the positive self-talk. It really does matter what you say to yourself. After a while, you start believing it. At first, I didn’t do this well during my shopping trip and beat myself up for not looking goh-geous in everything I tried on. By Day Two, I had a different perspective and stayed far more positive. I was a beautiful woman, and my goal was simply to hunt down clothes that helped me show and feel that truth.

8. Rely on godly friends. Just a shout-out here to my friend “L” who stuck with me on the phone as I hunted down the right look. She even let me text her photos and ask for her thoughts. She helped with opinions, but also keeping my spirits up.* You might do better shopping with an encouraging friend, a family member, or your spouse. It certainly helped me.

Do I feel beautiful? Not all the time.

But it isn’t always about how I’m feeling. I know I’m beautiful, because I was crafted by an amazing Creator. I want to take care of the body He gave me, and that includes appreciating it, even when a shopping trip isn’t going my way.

I am still on the journey of feeling beautiful, but I’m getting better and better.

And since I’m sure some of you are wondering, here’s one of the outfits I came home with:

Julie in dress and boots

*Just a quick note that Spock (hubby) was with me on Day One. He really tried to encourage me, but he’s not a wordy guy and didn’t know what to say. His reassurance when we got home helped me more than we were out and about. And that’s okay. Your husband doesn’t have to be and do everything for you. I let Spock be who he is, and seek out friendships to support me as well.

Q&A: Faking the Orgasm? It’s Time to Get Real.

Welcome back to another summer installment of Q&A with J. Today’s question is another one many wives can likely relate to. It’s about orgasm:

I need some insight. I’ve been married for almost 2 years and I’ve never had an orgasm. I have always had a very healthy view of sex. I have no history of negative sexual experiences (none at all). I feel like I get plenty relaxed and I truly enjoy it. However I have been faking it since we got married. I know I need to tell him. But how do I approach him about it and what are the chances that I ever will have an orgasm?

Faking the Orgasm? It's Time to Get Real. via Hot, Holy & Humorous

Wives, how many of you have ever faked an orgasm? Raise your hand.

Holy cannoli, that’s a lot of hands.

Sorry, men, but I suspect a lot of women have at one time or another faked an orgasm. Before you all storm the female race and decry us for being deceptive divas, most of the time the intention is a good one. If your wife has faked an orgasm, it could be because she wanted you to know how much she appreciates your efforts to bring her pleasure. It seemed only right for you to be rewarded with a show of how fabulous a lover you are.

Yes, some wives fake orgasm to “get it over with” or keep you happy, but I believe more are truly interested in sending positive signals about sexual intimacy.

I wanted to clear that up before answering this specific wife. Now here’s my advice.

Stop faking. Good intentions or no, you’re lying to your husband. Proverbs 12:19 says, Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment,” and Colossians 3:9-10 exhorts us, Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” As your question indicates, you want the kind of marriage relationship built on truth and openness.

Pretending to climax is deceptive, and it’s created this conundrum of what to do now. How do you repair the rift between what’s really happening and what your actions have made him believe? I think the first step is what our Lord often says when we’re in the midst of wrongdoing: Stop it. Just stop. Repentance has been described as stopping where you are and turning around in a different direction. And that’s what needs to happen when you’ve been lying to your husband about anything, including the orgasm. Don’t fake again.

Telling him. You say, “I know I need to tell him.” I am well aware of the admonitions that you must share everything with your spouse. But honesty doesn’t require a full airing of everything you’ve done, felt, and thought in the past. The Scripture strikes a balance between being truthful and being compassionate (see Ephesians 4:25, 29). For instance, sharing with my husband all of my premarital promiscuous past activities would be honest, but how does that build him up? What benefit does it provide?

Consider Psalm 32:5: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” To God, we must bare ourselves entirely and seek His better way. To others, ask what telling will accomplish. Are you simply wanting to confess because it will make you feel better to get it off your chest? Would he be crushed to find out later you were faking it before? Or more crushed now to find out you’ve been faking? Will sharing your struggle bring you closer together and create a bond of in-this-together?

You might not think so at this point, but I believe the wife should fess up. Still, timing matters. Maybe she should say something now, because then hubby will be on her side in figuring out how to make the real deal happen. Some husbands would respond great to, “I’m so sorry, honey, but I’ve been faking the orgasms. I wanted you to know how much I was enjoying sex, but I shouldn’t have lied that way. I really want to have one, though, so let’s figure it out together. I really think you can get me there.”

Then again, maybe now isn’t the time. Maybe after that first amazing orgasm would be a good time to say, “I’m so sorry, honey. I was lying to you before about orgasms, faking it because I wanted you to know how wonderful you are. I always enjoyed sex, but I will never lie to you again about the orgasm. That one was real, and I loved every second of it. I really want to make that a regular part of our lovemaking.”

So tell him, yeah. But think about when, where, and how. Make sure your words are honest and uplifting. I’m not saying to avoid conversation for fear of conflict (sometimes marriage must go through conflict to reach unity on the other side), merely consider how you approach the topic and be thoroughly loving in your words.

You can orgasm. I’ve seen the statistics on women who have never experienced orgasm. So call me crazy, but short of some real physical hindrance, I think — with intention, patience, and pursuit — every wife reading this post can reach the pinnacle of passion and bellow like a banshee.

“But I haven’t!” you scream at me.

Wait, save the screams for your bedroom. I admit some ladies are orgasm magnets, and others are orgasm-challenged. (That should totally be a thing, right? Orgasm-challenged?) If you’re orgasm-challenged, it’s going to take more effort, but you’re a tough lady so you can handle it. Plus, your husband is likely willing to step up to the challenge.

You’ll need time and practice. Give yourself permission to explore how your body works, what gets you going and keeps you charged, what takes you over the edge, and how long the process requires. Let me assure you if your first orgasm takes an hour to reach, it probably won’t always take that long. You two will get better at it.

And now, here’s a bunch of information about how to orgasm:

From my site
Orgasm: If Only I Could O
3 Tips on Having a Great Orgasm
But I Still Can’t Orgasm! What Next?

From Julie Sibert, Intimacy in Marriage
The Orgasm Page (with link to a bunch of posts on orgasm)

From Paul Byerly, The Generous Husband
Orgasmic Massage

What now? Regardless of how much you reveal, you need to talk to your husband. Approach him with a positive challenge to increase your pleasure in the bedroom. Explain you want to explore what turns you on, and you want to take more time to enjoy one another’s bodies.

You will likely need to become more participatory in bed — suggesting things to try, guiding his hand where it feels good, asking him to slow down or speed up or be more gentle or use more pressure.

However, your pleasure may not increase so much by specific techniques as setting the mood and fostering romance between you. Many wives get as much aroused by the lead-up to the sexual act as the sexual act itself. Spend more time touching, kissing, and fondling each other — even adding sensual massage. Use lubricant freely, since moisture affects how well our female bodies respond to touch, pressure, and friction.

Go for the clitoral orgasm first. It’s easier to achieve. Have him use direct contact with your clitoris, through manual or oral play. You don’t have to climax during intercourse for it to “count.” Anytime during the sexual encounter, a climax should be welcome — hey, given an embossed invitation and greeted heartily upon arrival.

Stop faking, start talking, get engaged, and you can — and will — orgasm. Maybe not tonight or next week or even next month. But sex isn’t ultimately about the peaks, but the whole journey. Enjoy the climb, and you’ll eventually reach the top!