Monthly Archives: September 2016

Q&A with J: Doesn’t God Heal Relationships?

I have a full inbox of questions, and I want to get to them all. But today I’m answering a question from someone in my own life. Let me tell you a bit about her story.

My friend — I’ll call her Jane — has had one true love in her life. It was the only man she dated, the man she married, the man she raised a child with, the man she planned to spend the rest of her life with. They’d been together for more than a quarter century.

Jane was out-of-town over the weekend and returned to discover her husband had completely moved out. Everything of his was gone, and he’d left a letter explaining that he was leaving her. The next day, she found out he’d already filed for divorce. In her shock, pain, and longing for her husband, she asked me, “Doesn’t God heal relationships?” She wanted to know if God would put back the pieces of her broken marriage, restore it to something whole, taken away the hollow ache that seemed to grow with every minute.

Some of you are asking the same thing about your marriage or the sexual intimacy in your marriage. Isn’t God in the business of healing relationships?

Q&A: Does God Heal Relationships?If you’ve prayed, studied your Bible, read marriage books and blogs, and tried to resolve issues with your spouse … how could you reach a point of feeling that you’ve gotten nowhere? Or that things might actually be worse? What if you’ve really reached the end and your spouse is leaving you?

How could God let that happen? Doesn’t He heal relationships?

This fresh wound with my friend has brought to my mind old wounds from my marital past — days, weeks, months, years when I wasn’t sure my husband and I would make it. Or rather, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t — not without some miracle.

Yes, my story has a happy ending. And I know of many couples who have happy endings to their difficult stories. But honestly, what made the difference in my marriage is what I ended up telling my friend:

God does heal relationships. But He’s mostly in the business of healing souls. With two healed souls, a marriage can be restored.

I don’t know if her marriage is completely over or if there’s hope for a future. What I firmly believe is that God is less concerned with that relationship at this moment than the souls of His two children. That’s where the change has to start — in the heart and spirit of the individual.

Maybe I’ve given the wrong impression at times here on my blog that because marriage is such a priority in our lives, it supersedes your individual spiritual health or foundation of faith. But that’s not true! God works through individuals, and we must individually seek Him first.

What improved my marriage was not me becoming a better wife per se; rather, I became a better follower of Christ … and in doing so, became a better wife.

That’s why I try to get across these messages:

  1. You cannot control your spouse, only yourself.
  2. As a person of faith, you should do the right thing in your marriage without expectation of a specific reward.
  3. If you work on yourself and seek righteousness, you’re far more likely to get what you wanted after all. And even if you don’t, you’ll be a stronger, better person.

I don’t know if God will heal your marriage bed today, tomorrow, or next year. But I know He wants to heal you and all the hurt that surrounds the issue of sexual intimacy in your life. I know that He longs for you to seek Him. I know that He can give you joy whatever the outcome. I know that He can heal your relationship much easier when you cooperate with His plan to heal your heart and your soul.

God is absolutely in the marriage business. But it’s a subsidiary of the parent business — Souls, Inc.

God is in the marriage business. But it's a subsidiary of the parent business—Souls, Inc. Click To Tweet

Does God heal relationships? I’m 100% sure He healed mine.

But first, He had to heal me. He wiped away the lingering guilt of my promiscuous past, showing me what redemption and forgiveness really looked like. He convicted me of where I’d treated my husband unfairly. He reminded me that I needed to live out Fruit of the Spirit and Christ’s definition of love. He stripped away my defenses and revealed my vulnerabilities. He strengthened me in some areas and pruned me in others. He worked in me before He worked in us.

Maybe that’s where He wants to start with your marriage and your sexual intimacy.

“O Lord my God, I cried out to You, and You healed me.

Psalm 30:2 (NKJV)

It Takes As Long As It Takes

I have great intentions. After the recent death of my father (and chairing a writing chapter conference in my area), I was certain I’d be back up and running last Monday. Sure enough, as usual my post went up on that day and I proceeded to catch up on one email account (not the other), cleaning my desk, and reading blogs I’m subscribed to and sharing some of those posts on social media. I was feeling pretty good.

Then the week progressed.

By the time Thursday came, I wasn’t feeling so together anymore. I’d spent a lot of time sorting through my father’s stuff (including some really cute pictures of me as a kid — mixed in, of course, with some truly shudder-worthy pictures of me as a kid). I also found myself more tired than usual, just a kind of malaise sinking over me. I read more, slept more, felt guilty more. Because what I didn’t do was write. Not here, not really anywhere.

And then two of my best friends separately said something that converged around this thought: It takes as long as it takes. They were referring to my grieving process. Because I haven’t actually cried much, I hadn’t labeled my feelings as grief. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought they were onto something. I needed to give myself some grace and let myself the hook for needing a full week to recover.

It Takes As Long As It Takes

And really, this is something we should recognize in whatever struggle we’re dealing with in our lives: It takes as long as it takes.

This is so true in our marriages, y’all. I can see this lack of grace we give ourselves and our spouses in our impatience for issues to resolve. Here are some prime examples:

How long should it take for her to get aroused? As long as it takes. Some women seem physiologically ready at the drop of a hat, and others require a lot more wooing and tender, loving care. I can look up averages and report on those, but being an outlier doesn’t make you a lesser lover.

The point is that she gets aroused, and however long that takes, that’s what you two should devote yourself to. And that means you husbands reading this, please let her have the time she needs. For most wives, if we can have a little space and time to figure out how this all works, that arousal time will shorten a bit after a while. She may still never be ready at the snap of a finger (besides fake sex scenes, who is?!), and that’s perfectly fine.

How long does it take to climax?  As long as it takes. I hear from wives who report that it seems to take forever for them to reach that peak, and some husbands feel frustrated that their wives can’t get there quicker or the wife feels guilty for taking so much time.

Get over it! If you’re slow to orgasm, consider it just more time to touch and make love. And men tend to take longer to get to their climax as they age — which can be nice or frustrating too. Lighten up on yourself and your beloved, and just reset your mind that orgasm isn’t the only perk to making love … and it will (most likely) happen for him with a bit more time.

How long will it take to heal from adultery or porn damaging your marriage? As long as it takes. When your heart has been broken, your trust has been fractured, and your spirit has been wounded, it’s going to take time to heal. Some marriages might seem to bounce back after an affair in weeks while others need up to a year. You need to be experiencing some forward progress, but I understand that jumping right back in bed with the person who sinned against you isn’t realistic.

This is also something the adulterer or porn addict needs to understand: You may have taken that brave step of confessing and repenting, but restoration requires effort and time as well. Be willing to commit to healing, but know that it’s okay if it feels slow at times — as long as you’re moving ahead.

How long before my spouse responds to my change in behavior regarding sexual intimacy? As long as it takes. This one is big in my opinion, because I often encourage people to do the right thing for their marriage and their marriage bed, even when they see no positive up-tick in their sexual frequency, intimacy, or satisfaction. That’s a hard sell, right? Because if we do the right thing, shouldn’t we start to feel the rewards?

I’m often reminded of Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” The truth is that I started treating my husband with a more Christ-like behavior months before I saw any real results in improving what was then my destined-for-doom marriage. And some of that improvement was really God changing my own attitude.

Chris of The Forgiven Wife has been beautifully transparent about her own journey of having to do the right thing for a long time before she saw improvement. I encourage you to read her story. Because she took to heart Galatians 6:9, specifically “if we do not give up.” Let’s be honest, we tend to give up too soon. When the truth is, it takes as long as it takes. And I’ve heard from couples who stuck it out and 20 years in experienced a total rejuvenation of their sexual intimacy; believe me, the spouse who was waiting for change was not unhappy that he/she remained faithful.

So I’m giving myself some grace for not being here last Thursday or Saturday, as I normally would have been. My impatient, work-driven self lost out to taking the time I needed to recuperate.

Maybe we should give ourselves some grace and let certain issues in our marriage bed take the time they need. I’m not at all encouraging complacency or “settling.” Rather, we should be intentional in nurturing our intimacy, yet patient and persevering as we wait for the good that can come.

But those who hope in the Lord
Will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

One Thing That Can Kill Your Sexual Confidence

Here in the United States, we have a tortuous ritual endured by most adolescents with varied degrees of horror. You’re shuffled into a concrete-walled room with long benches and hooks on the walls, forced to undress down to your skivvies, and then made to put on the exact same uniform everyone else is wearing. It’s called the Junior High Locker Room, and Physical Education classes have long required this soul-sucking nonsense.

At the very moment you are most self-conscious about your body, you discover where everyone else is at in this journey to womanhood. And, believe me, some girl in that room has something you don’t … but wish you did. Even once you have on the P.E. uniform, it’s obvious some girls fill out that fabric better than others.

And thus launches the moment of comparison.

Now, I told this from the female point of view. But I understand that men have similar issues with this experience — noting who has the muscles, chest hair, penis size, or whatever makes men feel more like men. (I won’t pretend to fully understand.) That Locker Room can be deadly to your teenage confidence.

But you’d think we’d grow out that trap — comparing ourselves to others and make conclusions about how we’re doing. After all, we get many other messages in life that we are special, valuable, one-of-a-kind. We certainly say all those things to others, believing them fully about those others. So why do we adults still struggle with believing it about ourselves?

one-thing-that-can-kill-your-sexual-confidence

I hear this all the time on my blog, and let me tell you: Comparison can kill your sexual confidence. Actually, it can kill your confidence, period. But in that place where we are most vulnerable, those feelings of not enough are heightened.

Here are some examples:

  • The wife who feels her physical appearance doesn’t measure up to the standards of beauty around her … so she doesn’t want to reveal her body to her husband for lovemaking.
  • The husband who questions whether his penis size is sufficient to pleasure his wife … and worries throughout the experience that he isn’t enough to satisfy.
  • The high-drive spouse who wonders if someone else would be a more willing sexual partner in marriage … thus comparing their mate to someone else.
  • The low-drive spouse who hears about less interested husbands/wives and wishes they had a lower-drive husband/wife like that.
  • The couple who compares the challenging sex life they have with young children in the house to what they had when first married … and feels cheated that sex isn’t more frequent.
  • The couple struggling in their marital bedroom and presuming others have it much better and easier, and then blaming themselves, God, their spouse for their circumstances.

That’s the tip of the iceberg really. Because we compare in all kinds of ways. I do it, you do it. Let’s not pretend we don’t.

I believe it’s one of those cases of us not always being able to control what pops into our heads — comparison — but we can control what we dwell on. Whenever a false or destructive thought wiggles its way into our brain, we can choose to invite it in and give it the cozy couch treatment or eject it with all the force of a 300-pound bouncer showing an out-of-line customer the door. Our choice.

This also includes any post you read on my site where you scroll down to the comments section. People tend to comment based on where they are in their sex lives, not where you are in your sex life. My problems are not your problems, but — rest assured — we all have problems.

And honestly, comparison can kill our sexual intimacy in both directions:

  1. Comparing our marital bedroom to someone else’s and feeling that we’re doing worse then we are.
  2. Comparing our marital bedroom to someone else’s and feeling that we’re doing better than we are.

The first can produce frustration and hopelessness; the second, smugness and complacency. Neither one is good for our marriage bed.

When I looked to the Bible to see what it had to say about comparison, most of the scriptures I found involved the message: No one compares to God. Amen! But I did find a few interesting passages.

In one place, comparison is actually invited by a follower of God. It’s Daniel, when he and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah (whom you likely know as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), were in captivity in Babylon. They were expected to eat from the king’s kitchen, foods sacrificed to idols and against Jewish law. Instead, they begged to be given a diet of vegetables. Daniel states: ” ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ “ He is granted this test, the four friends more than pass, and the diet is altered for all in training for the king’s service to one consistent with God’s laws.

So if you’re looking for a place where comparison is reasonable, I’d say this: Compare doing it God’s way to not doing it God’s way.

This is a comparison I often make when I state with absolute certainty that sex according to God’s design is far superior to the alternative perspective the world offers. I can even make that comparison in my own life: when I was sexually sinning vs. the intimacy I now have with my husband. That comparison only fuels my commitment to continue on God’s path.

I can’t think of another kind of comparison, however, that has done me any good in my life. Especially comparing myself to others, which is really coveting:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Deuteronomy 5:21).

“You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3).

Stop coveting your neighbor’s sex life or her body or whatever else you think someone else has got going that you want. Ask God for what you need, with the right motives, and keep your eyes fixed on Him. Comparison can kill your confidence, but God can restore it.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7).

I’d Be Here on My Blog, But…

Some days I feel so professional here, with my branding, and my book, and my research, and all my blog posts, and blah, blah, blah. But some days, I’m just a struggling human being with lots of other stuff going on in her life.

This post is short. Just to let you all know that you’ll be in my prayers, but I don’t when I’ll get back to my blog. You see, my dad’s health has been declining for some time … and it appears that this is the weekend he will go home.

I spent yesterday and today at his bedside, and I’m taking a break of a few hours before heading back to be with him again. I’m praying he passes peacefully in the night.

My fabulous assistant, Heather, will be moderating comments. But if something’s quirky, she leaves it in the “limbo” box until I can read it myself. So if things are a bit slow here, you’ll know why. I just have no idea what to expect this week with my father dying, a funeral, and sorting through his belongings.

A few random thoughts as I contemplate his life:

  • My father was a preaching minister. He passed on his fervor for theology, biblical study, and asking lots of questions about faith to get to the truth. I appreciate that so much.
  • My father was a writer. He loved language and made a real effort to teach me an expansive vocabulary, good grammar, and persuasive writing.
  • My father wasn’t perfect. He and my mother are divorced, and I wish I’d had better role modeling for marriage. But that story is part of my journey, and God has used it for such good that I haven’t a single regret about the home and family I was raised in.
  • My father has a loving wife. My dad remarried, and as I watch his health fail, I see the tender care of a woman devoted to her husband. That is a true gift.
  • My father is at peace. If you want to pray for me and my family in any way, this is my prayer: Let him pass quickly. He is done on this earth, and I’ll see him on the other side.

And a few thoughts about marriage:

  • If someday my husband goes first, I will revel in the opportunity to demonstrate selfless love at every turn. I know now what death requires of those around as it happens, and it is the sacrificial love that Christ demonstrated … and which I long to reflect.
  • As I’m briefly home for a few hours and thinking about how I need to recharge, I considered my need for food, sleep, a shower … and then I thought about my desire for sex. Yes, sex. Not because I want some pleasure experience at this particular moment, but — as I told Spock — it’s about the stress release and the comfort of being one with him. Whether we’ll have time for it or not, I don’t know. But this thought reminds me yet again how much deeper sexual intimacy runs than the physical. So. Much. Deeper.
  • Work your marriage issues out. Don’t wait another minute. Just take that first step. That scary, scary first step. Life is short. You definitely want to stand at your beloved’s bedside when their health is failing knowing that you captured every blessing you two could share.

That’s it. And maybe my thoughts are too convoluted. I don’t know. I’m not even planning to proofread this post (so unlike me). But I guess I’m just spilling out my heart. Because I know you have struggles too, and you’ll understand that place of grief and hopefully that place of peace. Which, oddly enough, can co-exist at times like these.

Many blessings!

J

Update: My father died just after midnight on September 11. I was there at his bedside, holding his hand as he passed.

5 Truths for High-Drive Wives

When it comes to sexual intimacy, I’ve had an interesting journey. I’ve been the virgin, the “technical virgin,” the so-not-a-virgin, the redeemed bride, the lots-of-sex newlywed, the no-libido wife, and the higher-drive wife. Sometimes I wonder if God allowed me to be put in all of these scenarios so that I can have compassion for people in different circumstances.

As 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Although every situation is unique, there’s something about the general been there, done that which makes you understand someone else’s struggle just a bit more.

So believe me when I say that I’m very sensitive to those wives who read, hear, and see the constant message that men are incredibly eager to have sex … yet their experience doesn’t bear that out. As a high-drive wife, I remember falling into conversations with other Christian women and feeling like a penguin in a tropical forest — the only one of my kind and completely out-of-place. Was I the only wife who wanted more sex in her marriage?

5 Truths for High-Drive Wives

On Monday’s post, I responded to a comment thread about a higher-drive wife with the following:

When we’re going through a tough situation, it’s so easy to feel like everyone else is doing okay in that area and you’re alone in your misery. But…this isn’t some freakish thing for a wife to be the higher-drive spouse or for a husband to be less interested in sex. As I read and study this issue more and more, I’ve become convinced it’s maybe 1/4 of marriages. That’s hardly a small number!

Look at it this way: As of 2014, there were over 59 million married women in the United States. If 25% of those are higher-drive wives, that 14.75 million women whose husbands aren’t pawing at them all day long. Even if it’s 10%, that’s still 5.9 million wives. Hey, just imagine I’m completely wrong, and it’s 5% — still almost 3 million women. It just might help to put this into perspective and realize that, while a difference in sex drive can be a challenge that needs addressing, being the higher-drive wife doesn’t make you as rare as a dodo bird — far from it.

Today, I just want that to sink in for all of you higher-drive wives. There are millions of women like you. You are not alone.

I know that doesn’t solve your problem of libido differences with your husband. But sometimes we need start by recognizing some truths about what’s normal. So let me speak five truths to you higher-drive wives wondering a few things about yourself:

1. You are normal. You cannot find me a Bible verse, a biology textbook, or a quality marriage expert that says there’s anything wrong or weird about the female having the higher libido. Frankly, I’m thinking we should move away from talking about what’s typical or normal versus atypical and abnormal, and instead talk about what’s healthy and unhealthy. And desiring your spouse sexually is absolutely healthy.

2. You are not a “nympho.” Well, admittedly, someone out there might be. But overall, wanting sex more than your husband doesn’t make you a crazed sex fiend or a “slut” or any of the other labels that might float through your head from time to time. Would you ever let a friend call herself such awful names? Then why would you let your inner voice call you any of those wrong, hurtful names even one more time? Speak the truth about who you are.

3. You are not ugly. Given the ongoing messages about men being driven to have sex, and women being less interested, when you discover your situation is different, the first question often asked is “What’s wrong with me?” You wonder why he doesn’t want you the way you expected any red-blooded male would dive into the opportunity to have sex. But there are only a handful of times I’ve heard of sexual rejection being appearance-based. And if your husband is rejecting you because you gained a few pounds or whatever, then you’ve got bigger issues than a mismatch in sex drives.

4. You are not alone. It’s not true that no one else in the world understands your heartache. Other women in similar situations need your encouragement, and you need theirs. My hubby and I took the popular Marriage Helper course twice, and the first time I was the only woman in our small group who listed Sexual Fulfillment as one of my top marriage needs; the second time around, there was a like-minded wife in the class (bless her!), and it was affirming to have another wife who understood. Thank goodness we were both wiling to speak up!

5. Your sex drive matters. In marriage, both of you matter — his sex drive and yours. Ideally, you work together to find physical intimacy that pleasures and sates you both. If the lower-drive spouse isn’t there yet, it doesn’t mean the higher-drive spouse should squelch their natural desire to be sexually intimate with their beloved. You may have a bigger hill to climb to get to where you want to go, but start walking. Because your sex drive, and your sex life, matters — to you and to your marriage. God wants you to both enjoy satisfying sexual intimacy, and that’s a goal worth pursuing. You will likely need patience, wisdom, and perseverance, but aren’t those qualities we always need when we’re stretched to grow in our lives?

I hope you can hear these truths, and remind yourself of them often. I have a whole chapter in Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design just for higher-drive wives, with specific ideas on how to proceed. But start with knowing who you are — a healthy, desirable wife, who simply has a challenge to be addressed. And then pray to know that next step.

Reminder: Check out details about my fabulous September giveaway by clicking HERE.

Sept 2016 Giveaway 1