Monthly Archives: January 2017

Do You Have to Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

In two weeks, it’s St. Valentine’s Day — a holiday celebrating romantic love. Given what I write about, this should be my wheelhouse. I should be excitedly touting the beauty of romantic gestures, sex-themed gifts, and marital bliss. And I have. You can find those posts here:

What to Get Your Husband for V-Day

13 Sexy Valentine’s Gifts from Your Grocery Store

7 Sexy Valentine’s Gifts You Can Make

“Go Big” Valentine’s Gifts for Your Spouse

8 Cool Valentine’s Gifts for Your Hot Hubby

8 Sweet Valentine’s Gifts for Your Spicy Wife

Marriage Not Going Great? Go Ahead and Celebrate Valentine’s

7 Things You Should Say to Your Spouse on Valentine’s Day

But I’ve also written about my own view of Valentine’s Day:

Valentine’s Day for the Rest of Us

What I really want:

What I Really Want for Valentine’s Day (Maybe You Do Too)

What men want:

Does He Just Want Sex for Valentine’s Day?

And my belief that we can make this holiday carry more weight than it should:

Is Valentine’s Day Too Much Pressure?

Some of you are like me: You have a billion things going on in your life, and the thought of stopping all that for something extra-special for a holiday designated by other people seems like another to-do you don’t need on your list. Besides, you frankly couldn’t tell anyone just who St. Valentine was anyway or what that cupid baby has to do with anything. (Seriously, little arrow-toting dude, put on some clothes.)

So here’s a question: Do you have to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Is it in the marriage contract somewhere? Does the fact that you are a couple mean you that must do something for this event? Would you be remiss if you breezed through February 14 not giving flowers or candy to your beloved and not even wearing the color red?

Do You Have to Celebrate Valentine's Day with finger puppet man and woman

It depends.

On your spouse.

If this day is important to him or her, reconfigure that to-do list and make Valentine’s Day a priority.

But don’t assume. Because in an interesting conversation with some wives lately, I discovered that most of us didn’t care for a big to-do for Valentine’s Day. We wanted subtler gestures of romance — a quiet evening at home, a single flower, a greeting card, an extended time of physical intimacy, a whispered, “I love you. Happy Valentine’s.”

My husband and I tend to trade greeting cards and a long kiss … and that’s it — what constitutes the entire Valentine’s celebration in my marriage. Which both of us are happy with. We personally prefer to go out for a date on a night on which the restaurants aren’t so crowded or to exchange gifts on a day personally significant to us, like our anniversary.

But if I were a flowers, candy, or jewelry person, my husband should oblige, considering and cherishing the wife he married. Likewise, if my husband considered a proper Valentine’s celebration involved extra-sexy sex, I should oblige, considering and honoring the man I married. It’s simply biblical love to seek the other’s good and to show kindness.

I could write another post about what you can do for Valentine’s Day, but I’ve already written a bunch and it’s all a waste anyway if you don’t know what your own spouse desires and enjoys. So have a conversation and see what they think about this holiday.

While you’re at it, maybe talk about other holidays too. My husband and I evaluated our Christmas experience and decided to make some changes next year, and we’ll be talking soon about how to spend our anniversary, making sure our expectations are reasonably met.

If your spouse does want a bigger to-do, I have all of those resources up there you can consult for gift and activity ideas. Plenty of other marriage websites have ideas as well. And I’m sure your local retailer would love to walk you through some possibilities.

But you might be surprised to find out that you don’t have to do quite as much. Many couples are content to take it easy on this holiday of love and find small ways to celebrate.

That said, never ignore an opportunity in your marriage, whatever the day, to express love to your mate. Make that an ongoing goal.

Reminder: Valentine’s Day is special in that we are launching our podcast that day. Click on the banner below to head to our website and learn more. And mark your calendar to listen that week!

A Prayer for Your Sexual Intimacy

When I started this series on Praying More for your marriage and your sexual intimacy, I admitted that I didn’t know exactly what it would look like. How would have a whole year of blog posts about praying? But God kept nudging me that this was the direction to take, so I stepped out in faith. Okay, okay, I shuffled out in faith, but I’m lengthening my strides week by week.

Today I have this strong sense that I just need to write a prayer. One that you and I can both say for our marriages and our marriage beds. I hope you’ll join me.

A Prayer for Your Sexual Intimacy with PRAY in the background

Dear Heavenly Father,

I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I got married. Yes, of course, I prepared in some ways, and even tried to figure out some things ahead of time about what sex would look like in our marriage. But, as You know, Lord, it’s different going through the experience and dealing with my unique husband. Also, I couldn’t have foreseen the seasons we’d go through — times when sex was good, and times when sex was a struggle.

I want to bring my concerns, my hurt, my longings all before You and lay them at Your feet. I cast all my anxieties on You because I know You care for me (1 Peter 5:7). Guide me to the path I should take and teach me Your way (Psalm 25:9).

Now let’s start with this body You gave me. It’s an amazing creation, able to accomplish so much automatically and at my will. I thank you for all the workings of my body that allow me to go through my days and do what I need to do. But when it comes to sex, it’s not always been an easy road. At times, getting aroused with my husband can be difficult, and at other times, my body is ready to go when there isn’t a chance in the world that we can have sex. How fair is that?! Orgasms can be like my best friend, eager to hang out with me, or my nemesis, avoiding me at every turn. I don’t adore every inch of my appearance, my body does weird things in certain angles (like why is my stomach hanging down like that? — blech), and flexibility feels like a thing of the past.

I need to see myself how You see me, how You designed my body, and how You blessed me to be with my husband. I also need more understanding of my body and how to help it cooperate with the sexual intimacy I need and want to have in my marriage. Help me to identify real issues that need addressing through medical assistance or counseling or exercise, and to have the purposefulness and persistence to follow through. Place before me the right resources to deal with those concerns.

Help me to feel beautiful. Give both me and my husband an acceptance and appreciation of my body’s own sexuality and help us learn how I can experience both pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed.

My God, I also struggle with my background. I brought baggage into my marriage — teachings about sex that weren’t in line with Your Word, experiences that colored my perception of sexuality, and labels that I carried in my mind about myself and about men. Please wash away all the debris and replace it with truth.

Help me step by step to replace the negative self-talk in my mind with messages that align with Your design for sex in my marriage. Help me to demolish every argument and pretension against Your will for my marriage bed, to take captive of every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Transform my mind so that I will know Your will for me, even in the bedroom (Romans 12:2).

You are a God who heals, so I also pray that You will heal any rifts between me and my husband. It is indeed good and pleasant when Your people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1). Where my husband and I do not see eye-to-eye on sexual intimacy, I pray that we can move toward unity. Help us to listen to one another, to communicate about difficult issues, and to make the personal changes we need to make to find common ground.

And this weekend, today, even now, I pray that you’ll open up my heart and my body to taking even one step in the right direction. While I long for a Red Sea moment, when You perform some great miracle that makes my marriage and marriage bed a perfect reflection of Your design, I recognize that more of my Christian life is walking faithfully with You. With Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, showing me only the bit of road ahead that I need to see (Psalm 119:105). Help me take my next step in the right direction, and the one after that, and the one after that. Until I am striding along on the road You want me to be on, and my husband and I are moving toward greater intimacy and more honor to You, our Father.

Lord, what I haven’t said here, You already know. Where I don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for me (Romans 8:26). You are, and will always be, my Savior.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Q&A with J: Should I Skype Sex with My Husband?

When I first read the following question, I thought surely I’d answered it before. But while I could find a post about sexting your spouse, I couldn’t find one specifically about having “Skype sex.” So I’m tackling it today.

My husband works away from home (over seas) for up to six months at a time. Obviously, this means that we are unable to be intimate during the time that he is away (fireworks when he’s home). We have started to use skype for “skype sex”. I’m not terribly comfortable with it because I’ve been told so many times that masturbation is wrong. However, I also know that it is time spent with my husband, keeping our marriage strong. It doesnt involve anyone else and were doing it together.

I guess what I am asking is, should there be shame here? I’m so torn.

Q&A with J- Should I Skype Sex with My Husband- woman on bed with tablet

I’ve written about masturbation before, and I won’t be able to do as thorough a treatment of that topic here. So let me first point out those posts that deal specifically with masturbation:

Two Wives & Candid Conversation about Masturbation

More Candid Conversation about Masturbation

Masturbation: Hands On or Hands Off?

Q&A with J: “Is It Okay for Him to Please Himself While Thinking of Me?”

Summarizing what I’ve said before, masturbation is not biblically wrong, it’s fine in the marriage when mutual engagement is part of the sex act, and masturbation should not take sexual energy away from your spouse.

Of course, excessive masturbation or touching yourself while looking at or picturing others are problems. If that’s happening in a marriage, it needs to stop.

It is indeed quicker and easier for most people to reach orgasm using their own hands, because we have a feedback loop for what feels good and can immediately adjust. If you get overly used to that form of sexual satisfaction, it can be difficult to be patient and adaptable in the presence of your beloved to make things happen. Because it takes more communication and connection to have your husband bring you to climax, or vice versa. However, it’s ultimately more fulfilling.

What you’re describing, though, isn’t solo masturbation. It’s mutual. You’re engaging together as much as possible, while at different ends of the Earth. If you were in the same room, you’d be jumping each other’s bones and setting off those fireworks. But time and distance are preventing that from happening.

To my mind, here are the choices:

  • You shut down sexually for six months. Now, I’ve actually heard of military husbands who prefer not to stoke their sexuality at all while away from their wives, because they feel it’s even harder to be reminded of what they are missing. But that’s not most spouses I hear from. And it requires a great deal of willpower.
  • You feel all those sexual urges and do zip about them. This is difficult, but it can be done. For those in this scenario, my post for singles about what to do with sexual desire that can’t be satisfied might be helpful.
  • You take of your own business. This is the solo masturbation option, where you let your sexual desires build and build until you finally release the tension. You might flirt, sext, imagine, and express your sexual love, but you don’t act on it together. You take care of that buildup separately.
  • You engage in mutual masturbation. Which is the course your husband clearly wants to take, and that you’ve agreed to at times. It’s a way to be as sexual with one another as you can, while still many miles away from one another.

I don’t believe any of these choices is expressly wrong. Rather, they each could cause you to grow closer or to grow further apart, depending on who you each are and your relationship. And that’s the measure.

You state yourself: “However, I also know that it is time spent with my husband, keeping our marriage strong. It doesnt involve anyone else and were doing it together.

It sounds like you know the answer then. Engaging in this activity, as awkward as it might seem at first or to some, seems to be strengthening your marriage.

So why do you feel shame?

  • Because there is a prevalent view that masturbation is always wrong. Which I address in the above posts. I think you can relax on that one and make your test for this activity the principles of Galatians 5:22-23 (the Fruit of the Spirit) and 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (the Love Chapter).
  • Because it’s awkward to touch yourself. If touching yourself hasn’t been a part of your sexual encounters while together, it can feel really odd to do it here. It’s a bit self-indulgent, and your hand certainly feels different from his. The truth is the only way to get over this is to get through it. That is, do almost anything more times and you’ll get more comfortable with it. It won’t ever feel like his hand, but if he feels a part of the experience, you’re not just selfishly getting yourself off.
  • Because you’re in front of a camera. I’m well-aware that some women get paid to do this on the internet, and that’s clearly wrong. So you might feel this weird sense that maybe you’re like those gals, feeding a voyeuristic turn-on for the guy on the other end of the phone call. But this is your husband, and you’re engaging in sexual activity entirely within the confines of marriage. Would it be wrong if that camera was a window? It’s the same principle, so maybe think of it that way.
  • Because it’s going over the phone lines. Or internet lines. Or however all that technology works. And this is where I get the most concerned. Probably because I still don’t entirely understand how my light bulb turns on, much less all the ins and outs of Skyping. Is there any possibility that someone else could tap in or that any of that imagery gets saved somewhere in the vast world of internet data? I felt like I should research this, but then I decided that instead of spending hours running down rabbit trails to figure all that out … I’d ask my tech-savvy readers. I know you’re out there. Will you please either warn us or explain why there is no cause for worry? I expect to see you in the comments. Thank you.

One final thought: If you don’t want to have Skype sex with your husband, you don’t have to. While everything I’ve said (with the exception of the technology question, which someone else will answer) show that I don’t consider this a problem, it still isn’t something a spouse should demand in a long-distance season of marriage.

It’s legitimately okay to say you feel so extremely uncomfortable that you need to find another way to deal with your sexual desires. Because it isn’t straight-out sex, so I don’t think you’re depriving your husband if you don’t engage (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-5). It’s the physical separation itself that’s causing the absence of sex.

But given your situation — six months apart! — you might want to give long-distance sexting or Skype sex a shot. It might help you both hang on until you can be back in one another’s arms and in your literal marriage bed.

Are You Listening to What Your Spouse Says about Sex?

I’ll be honest: I’m sitting here on the Sunday after the United States inauguration and feeling sick and tired of the news, my Facebook feed, and people I know and love from both sides of the aisle being at constant odds with each other. In our politically charged atmosphere, some have become so hypersensitive that you can barely say anything without being misinterpreted, challenged, and even maligned. And yes, from both sides of political opinion. Seeing such large-scale conflict is rankling and stressful.

But you can turn off the TV, stay off Facebook, pop in a movie or a TV show, read a book, take a bubble bath, etc. to get away from all that rancor for a while. You can’t do that with the conflict in your marriage over sexual intimacy.

When it comes to the subject of sex, some marriages reside in an emotionally charged atmosphere where one or both of you are so hypersensitive that the other can barely say anything without being misinterpreted, challenged, and even maligned. On this smaller scale, the conflict reaches beyond stressful. It’s painful.

And you can’t escape. Because the sexuality in your marriage is an important piece that deserves attention, resolution, and nurturing. So you keep bringing up the subject and facing the same issues again and again and again.

Maybe the current stalemates in our political arena could illuminate some thoughts about resolving conflict regarding your marriage bed. Because you know what’s often missing from those political conversations I’ve seen? Listening.

Open-eared, open-minded, open-hearted listening.

Are You Listening to What Your Spouse Says about Sex? with ear icon

Dr. Gary Smalley, a marriage counselor and author, wrote about the importance of creating a safe environment for communication: “When your spouse feels safe, he is naturally inclined to relax and open his heart.” (See this Focus on the Family article.) When we’re dealing with a contentious issue, we anticipate getting criticized or stonewalled so we’re far less likely to speak honestly and find ways to move forward. It’s only when we feel safe to express our thoughts, feelings, and concerns that we can open up fully.

Whatever the issues surrounding your marriage bed, finding out what they actually are would surely be an important step. You can badger your reluctant spouse from now until the era of Buck Rogers to have more sex, demand less sex, pay attention to your orgasm, fulfill your fantasy, etc., and you’ll likely make little progress unless you find out why they don’t want to do what you think is such a great idea.

Very often, there is history, baggage, a deeper story behind your spouse’s resistance. Until you dig deeper and fix the underlying problems, you’ll still be in conflict.

Why not try listening?

Like really listening.

No, like shut up and listen.

No, shut up your brain, not just your mouth, and listen.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. You might not agree with what your spouse says, but wouldn’t it be a great idea to better understand where he’s coming from? To at least get a sense of how he started at A and arrived at B?

You might even find out that you agree more than you thought.

How do you start these conversations? The ones where you actually let your spouse have a bit of monologue?

Don’t preach. Don’t explain. Don’t demand. Don’t push.

Ask a question. Listen to the answer. Ask a follow-up question. Listen to the answer. Ask another question. Listen to the answer. Ask for clarification. Listen to the answer.

Go away and mull it over.

Is this near impossible? For people like me, and many of you, yeah. It’s tough. Dare I say painful? You might have to burrow your teeth into your tongue so deep you leave gouges. But you were already in pain about your sex life anyway, so better to have a few tongue wounds and some progress in the bedroom.

Is this a single conversation? Probably not. It took years to mess up your sex life. No, really. Maybe it didn’t even happen with you there, but rather something that happened to your husband or wife before you even met them. But the deep-seated perspectives and approaches took a while to establish, so they won’t loosen up in a day.

Is this really the remedy? It’s part of the cure. If you two can’t communicate about sex at all, how are supposed to have fabulous sexual intimacy? I know couples who improved their sex lives a lot by one person taking positive steps, but I don’t know of a single couple who ended up with a fulfilling sex life that doesn’t communicate about it. At some point, they started talking honestly about their sexual intimacy.

We’re often eager to share with our spouse what we think about our sexual intimacy. But you might well need to change your approach and become more eager to understand what your beloved thinks about your sexual intimacy. Which means you need to ask the question: Am I listening to what my spouse says about sex?

If you aren’t, take the emotional earplugs out and create a safe environment for your spouse to say what they need to say. It may not be pleasant at first, but it will hopefully help you figure out where to go from here.

And be sure to pray for your unity.

Praying for Unity in Your Marriage Bed

On Saturdays this year, I’m talking about praying for your marriage bed. One of the first questions is How can we pray for their marriage bed? What do we pray for?

Immediately, it popped into my mind that we should pray for what Jesus prayed for us: unity (see John 17:11-23.).

Praying for Unity in Your Marriage Bed with word "PRAY" behind the title

Not ironically, this is the biggest problem I hear about from couples who write me and comment on the blog. Husband and wife simply do not see eye-to-eye on some issue of sexual intimacy, or maybe even the whole kit-and-caboodle. For many couples, if they could just come to some kind of agreement, a plan to move forward in the right direction, they would experience both relief and hope.

Instead:

  • One spouse sees a problem, and the other ignores it.
  • One spouse pursues selfish pleasure in the bedroom, and the other feels neglected.
  • One spouse engages in sexual sin (e.g., porn), and the other feels powerless.
  • One spouse continually refuses sex, and the other feels devalued.
  • One spouse continually demands sex, and the other feels used.

You could probably list other scenarios, but all these are marriages at odds on what’s even going on. The opposite of unity is happening: frustration, resentment, anger, conflict, stonewalling, and shutting down altogether.

And yes, all this happens over sex.

Not because we’re selfish beings who want our fleshly pleasure, but because God specifically designed sex to be a physical, emotional, and spiritual bond between husband and wife. He said it was for unity: ” ‘And the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:8). Consummation, and continuation of that practice, are integral to covenant marriage.

How can we achieve unity? How can our marital bedrooms become places of peace? How can we live into the design of one flesh?

We’re told to seek and pursue peace (1 Peter 3:11, Romans 14:19), to strive for it (Hebrews 12:14), and to let it rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). Those all require intention and action on our part.

We should also follow the example of Jesus, by praying for peace, for unity, for one mind.

And not just “my mind.” Let’s be honest: This is how we often pray for unity regarding our sexual intimacy. Please, God, let him stop asking for sex so much. Or Please, God, increase his sex drive so he’ll want sex as much as I do.

Look, I’m not opposed to your spouse making changes. Odds are, they need to. But once we start praying for unity, it’s quite possible — rather likely — that God will want to change us. He might want us to do more to seek, pursue, and strive for peace. He might start working on our hearts so that peace can rule there, instead of the mountain of frustration we’ve hoarded over the years. He might expect us to speak up, reach out, seek help. He might need to smooth over our rough edges so that we can better fit into the one-flesh design He created.

So when we pray for unity, our prayer should be: God, guide me to know what I can do to pursue true peace in my marriage and unity in our marriage bed. Give me the right attitude in my heart, righteous wisdom in my mind, and the courage to take action when needed.

Mind you, “true peace” is not absence of conflict. You don’t have conflict with lots of people in the world, because you don’t have a relationship with them. So simply avoiding conflict doesn’t make for unity or peace. You might need to friction upfront to get to unity on the other side. But the Bible emphasizes the word one. Pray for that.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).