Category Archives: Marriage – General

Q&A with J: How to Celebrate an Anniversary

It’s another Q&A with J day, but frankly I’m exhausted. I went a conference in Chicago last week, and then my husband joined me for a few days of rest, relaxation, and sightseeing. On Sunday and Monday, I walked over 14,000 steps, and on Tuesday, I walked 18,848 steps!

So let’s imagine this is the question y’all asked: How should a couple celebrate their anniversary?

It’s a good question, right? Surely, someone out there wants to know the answer!

Blog post title + illustration of couple embracing

1. Acknowledge your interests and values.

What do you both enjoy doing? What do you do together well? My hubby (“Spock”) and I love to explore new places and visit museums. So when I scheduled a trip to Chicago for a conference, we saw the opportunity to explore a city we hadn’t been to before and set The Art Institute and The Field Museum as our two must-sees.

J and Spock on the steps of The Field Museum with Chicago skyline behind them

On The Field Museum steps with Chicago Skyline behind us

Other couples would prefer dinner and dancing, a party with family and friends, a beach vacation, a tent-camping trip (what’s wrong with you people?), or even snuggling up on the couch for a weekend movie marathon. That’s great! Don’t fall for the pressure of This Is How You Celebrate; rather, do your own thing and let your celebration remind you of why you enjoy being in one another’s company.

2. Allow for each other’s quirks.

My husband is one of the most deliberate human beings on the face of the earth. Like how he spent five full minutes folding and putting his jacket into his suitcase. I also know that if we pause at a museum plaque, we’ll probably be there for a while.

I used to get really antsy about such things, but now I embrace that that’s just who my guy is. (Also, I prayed for patience a long time ago and God has a sense of humor, so it’s really my own fault.) I just build that time into my expectations and don’t sweat if we’re not moving through as quickly as I might on my own. In fact, that’s the point—doing our anniversary together.

View of park and Chicago skyline from Maggie Daley Park

Taking a leisurely stroll through Maggie Daley Park in Chicago

When you consider how to celebrate your anniversary, think about your quirks and your spouse’s quirks. If she’s always late, don’t plan something where timing is crucial. If he’s a picky eater, don’t go to the new Asian-Mexican-African fusion restaurant. Plan for the quirks you know you already have so that you can avoid anxiety and just enjoy one another.

3. Avoid stress-producing topics.

While on our trip, it was tempting a couple of times to use our extended time to discuss current politics or some financial issues we need to cover. But we navigated away from those very quickly, because we simply wanted to refresh and reconnect. And wouldn’t you know—discussing Congressional hearings or retirement planning is apparently not the way to relax!

Yes, you might have some topics you need or want to discuss — whether your relationship, your children, our finances, or something else — but hold off. This is a celebration! No one stops in the middle of an Easter egg hunt or Christmas present opening to discuss heavy issues. Your anniversary deserves the same kind of focus.

4. Appreciate the good years.

Spock and I have been married for 25 years. How many of those were good years? Definitely not 25. Maybe 20? But we held on in those five or so years and rebuilt our relationship with a solid foundation that set the stage for many happy years to come.

J and Spock sitting on the bench in the elevator of the Drake Hotel

Sitting on the lush bench in the elevator of The Drake Hotel in Chicago

On the day set aside to honor your marriage, you don’t need to dwell on the bad stuff or even the stuff you still need to work on. Embrace what makes you glad you’re still married and celebrate that. Commemorating the positive will give you inspiration and hope for the future.

5. Arouse and excite one another intimately.

When I posted the above picture in my Facebook group, a couple of people commented that they expected some hot things to be going on between Spock and me in that elevator. I added the comment: “Wow, what y’all think of us! Lol. Our hotel room was only steps away, you know. ;)” And yes, we made reasonably good use of the bed. Gaye of Calm.Healthy.Sexy. wrote about this with 5 Ways “Hotel Sex” Can Improve Your Marriage.

Whether you’re in a posh hotel room, your own bedroom, or the floor of a camping tent (seriously, how is that a vacation?), pay extra attention to your physical connection. Take a little more time with one another’s bodies or try something different. Express extra affection as you touch, caress, and kiss. Remind one another of why this relationship in particular is different from all others—including the intimacy you experience as one flesh.

But all of this actually can start with holding hands as you walk into a restaurant, a party, or a museum; lingering with your eye contact; speaking lovingly to one another; and flirting with playful innuendo and suggestive touches. This is the time to awaken all those senses and enjoy the mutual experience of physical pleasure.

Your turn: What are your tips for having a great anniversary?

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Q&A with J: No Interest in Sex & Meeting Emotional Needs

It’s Q&A day again! Today, I’m tackling two questions: one about a lack of interest in sex and the second about meeting emotional needs in marriage. Let’s get to it!

Blog post title + illustration of bed with question marks above

1. No Interest in Sex

I’m in a strange predicament. I relate to the term “demisexual”, which basically means someone better be my best friend if they want a prayer of me thinking they’re attractive. I lovingly refer to this as “the most convenient orientation”, but it has had its inconveniences as well.

Growing up, I was unable to relate to my friends who seemed to fall in love so quickly. I rarely thought about sex until I got serious (staying pure till marriage- no worries!) with my fiancé. Sex seems like fun! I’m looking forward to it and I want to be as experimental (now that I know you can be! Lol)

The hardest part, though, is that both my fiancé and I have a mutual concern. I don’t think much about sex. I am not interested in it as much as the normal person. I don’t understand why sex sells and I am a businesswoman and a performer. I am mortified that my wiring is going to ruin my marriage. Heck, it took me two years to kiss the poor boy. He is the most respectful and patient and loving man I have ever met, but I feel so guilty and like this aspect of me is going to be a curse on our relationship.

What advice do you have to give to women who just don’t have much active interest in sex? Or couples with different libidos?

Let me first say that I don’t think all those terms (“demisexual,” “asexual,” etc.) are all that helpful. It’s a label that makes it seems like you’re different in a way that doesn’t seem all that weird to me. A lot of people aren’t that interested in sex with someone unless and until they feel deep companionship and connection.

A lot of people aren't that interested in sex with someone unless and until they feel deep companionship and connection. Click To Tweet

In addition, not being interested in sex isn’t the kiss of death to your intimacy either. Many — really, the majority of — women have libidos that are more responsive than proactive. Such wives can have wonderful sexual intimacy if they prioritize sex in their marriage, decide to engage, and then surrender to the pleasure of the experience. They may not ever have an independent urge to have sex, but from memories of how good it made them feel before and how sex keeps them connected to their husband, they continue to enjoy ongoing affection and sexual pleasure throughout their marriage.

All that said, a nonexistent libido or inability to respond sexually could be a problem. One question I’d have is whether you experience physiological arousal at any time. That is, do you experience lubrication and swelling in the genital area at any time when you’re with your fiancé? Women often aren’t as aware of their arousal, but if their bodies are physiologically responding, it’s a good sign for future sexual engagement. If that’s not happening, you should visit a doctor to check on hormone levels and any other factors that could influence your sexual physiology.

I also highly recommend a video course recently released by fellow marriage and sex author Sheila Gregoire titled Boost Your Libido, which you can find HERE.

If you get married and continue to have problems, I’d suggest seeing a counselor to determine what else might be going on. God really did create us to be a sexual beings, and while our libidos can run the spectrum, having zero sexual interest or response isn’t likely without some underlying reason.

Related post: What Is Sexual Interest? Why Should I Care? from OysterBed7

2. Meeting Your Spouse’s Emotional Needs

This has less to do with sex and more with maintaining a healthy marriage.

My husband and I are similar in many ways but words of affirmation is an area where we are not. He is a tender, humble, hilarious husband! I have nothing but good things to say about him—to others. But when it comes to expressing appreciation and love, in a deeper, heart-to-heart way, to HIM, I stink! I feel so uncomfortable!

My husband is an ESFJ, if that means anything to you, so feeling valued and appreciated is very important to him. He truly NEEDS to hear affirmation–a LOT. For me, as an ESTJ, I can go without words of affirmation for a long time and be totally fine. Sometimes his constant need for praise feels like insecurity and can be annoying to me. At the same time, I hit the jackpot in regards to husbands and am overwhelmingly grateful most days.

Any insight on how I can become more comfortable in being verbally affirming?

For those who might not recognize the label, that’s a four-letter personality type based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a test I’ve taken, administered, and interpreted. I’m a big fan of the MBTI.

But emotional needs have also been identified through other resources like The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr.  Regardless of which approach you use, you’re likely to discover that you and your spouse are not the same person. Surprise! You express and experience love in different ways.

You're likely to discover that you and your spouse are not the same person. Surprise! You express and experience love in different ways. Click To Tweet

Now most of us expressed love in just about every way possible while courting, because the experience of falling in love does that to a person — makes you gush out your feelings through every pore they can find. Once married, or past the honeymoon phase, we tend to fall back into the habits our personality type is comfortable with. That’s a good thing, because it means we’re maturing in our love. But it’s also a bad thing if we let go of an action that was particularly meaningful to our spouse.

What’s the answer? Well, you can keep your personality type and still meet your spouse’s emotional needs. You will have to do some changing, but it won’t be that painful. Really. Here are my suggestions for meeting the emotional need of verbal affirmation, but the principles can apply to meeting any emotional need for your beloved spouse.

Recognize it will be awkward at first. Whenever we’re setting up a new habit, it feels unnatural at first — because it is. But over time, it will become more natural if you keep at it and let the new habit sink in.

Set up a routine. Make a point of saying something affirming when you wake up, when you leave, when you get home, or whatever triggers work for you. Even set up reminders on your phone to share something positive with your husband.

Write it, if that’s easier. Some people feel weird saying compliments aloud, but find it easier to write them down. If that’s you, then buy some cute post-in notes or stationery and make it a habit to write a word of affirmation and plant it where you husband will see it (e.g., in his lunch bag, on his computer screen, on the bathroom mirror).

Be genuine. Don’t say stuff you don’t believe or “fluff” that you think he wants to hear. Look for something positive in your hubby that you really believe, even if it’s something small, and then comment on that.

Pray. Yeah, pray for the right words and the right attitude and the right reception from your husband. It seems to me that your desire to bless your husband in this way is entirely in line with God’s will, so surely He will bless you in this endeavor if you invite His guidance.

That’s it for today’s questions. More Q&A next week!

Pursuing 4-Dimensional Intimacy

When someone asks me where to get date night ideas, The Romantic Vineyard is the first place I send them. The authors, Tom and Debi Walter, have been blogging for many years with practical tips, biblical truths, and romantic ideas to help couples nurture companionship and intimacy, including 430 date night posts. Wow.

But when I think about Debi Walter, I can’t help but think about how she inspired a chapter in my book. When I took up her challenge to the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association to talk specifically about the gospel, I wrote “The Gospel in the Bedroom.” Not only did I feel that chapter was a special message about sex in marriage — but that God had used Debi to invite me into His calling. An angel in the true sense of God’s messenger.

Thus, I feel particularly privileged to have this angel here on my blog today with a wonderful message about intimacy. Here’s Debi Walter.

Blog post title + close-up of couple embracing in a vineyard

“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
In the secret place of the steep pathway,
Let me see your form,
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your form is lovely.”

“Catch the foxes for us,
The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards,
While our vineyards are in blossom.”

Song of Solomon 2:14-15

This passage speaks of the precious gift a husband and wife share behind closed doors. He longs to see her form and to hear her voice. He compliments her, encouraging her into deeper intimacy with him. Such a picture of innocence and trust. It is precious and worth pursuing.

A man who has eyes only for his bride and a bride who lovingly allows him to have all of her without holding back is intimacy as God designed it. It is beautiful.

Our pastor shared a definition of intimacy that has helped us judge how we are doing in this regard. He says when we share intimacy with our spouse, we are inviting them “into me see.” We aren’t holding back in any area. Total disclosure and total trust.

Intimacy includes four areas where we must regularly invite our spouse in. We refer to it as 4-dimensional intimacy. If you’re not familiar with the term, 4-D is a fairly new way of viewing movies at the theater.

Definition: 4-D (adjective) describes a 3-D film experience that is supplemented with synchronized physical effects.

If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom, they were one of the first to showcase this effect. We went to a 3-D presentation of A Bug’s Life. While we were watching the ants march on the screen, we felt something crawl under our seat. It made everyone jump and scream. Laughter followed when we realized that we were experiencing the movie on a new level.

Imagine what 4-D intimacy could do for our marriages? Let’s consider these four dimensions:

Dimension 1 – The Mind (Intellectual intimacy)

Every day our minds are bombarded with thoughts about work, family, budgets, and schedules. They can be like a tidal wave, and we must spend time sharing what is on our mind with our each other. To stay on the same page, so to speak, in regards to priorities and responsibilities. We must help each other take each thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

This is where we are tempted to worry about the future. Being honest about all the temptations you are both facing will go a long way in building intellectual intimacy together. This intimacy also includes growing and learning new things like current events, science, and history.

Dimension 2 – The Heart (Spiritual intimacy)

Feeding our Spirit with the Word of God and sharing what we are hearing the Holy Spirit say to us is important for our growth in godliness. When we got married, we invited the Holy Spirit to unite us forever, and a miracle took place. No longer were we two, but now we are one flesh.

Spend regular time talking about what God is saying to you. Encourage each other to pursue the Lord. This is spiritual intimacy helping your spouse cultivate their personal relationship with the Lord. This intimacy also includes commitment to the local church and serving others together.

Dimension 3 – The Soul (Emotional intimacy)

Emotions can change like the tide of the ocean — up one day and down the next. They can be predictable in their unpredictability, knowing for certain they will change. We must be committed to not only share our emotions with each other, but also giving each other time to be heard.

When I am feeling the most emotional is when the ground is ripe for a conflict. It takes patience and kindness on my husband’s part, not to mention discernment, in knowing what to say or not say. Often times a hug is all that is needed to let me know that he cares and is there for me. This intimacy also includes having fun together and finding ways to laugh.

Dimension 4 – The Body (Physical intimacy)

This is the intimacy that is supported by all the other intimacies mentioned above. You can have physical intimacy without the first three, but it will be one-dimensional only and not what God intended. Adding this element to the three above is as ecstatic and exhilarating as we felt experiencing the 4-D movie effect for the first time. It caused all the other dimensions to come alive.

It is what King Solomon was describing in our opening verse. Make love not because you have to, but because you get to. It is a gift. If it feels otherwise, I encourage you to seek help to find out why?

Make love not because you have to, but because you get to. Click To Tweet

This brings us to the last part of the verse in Song of Solomon that speaks of catching the foxes that spoil the vine.

Foxes were capable of completely destroying a healthy vineyard. They are known to not only eat the fruit, but also to chew on the trunk, killing the entire vine.

There can be many foxes after your intimacy, and only you know what they are. The question is, have you talked it over with your spouse? Do they know you well enough to know the foxes stalking your mind, heart, soul, and body? If they don’t I encourage you to open up and start the conversation. This is how you go after those little foxes and catch them before the damage is permanent.

Our new book, Cherishing Us: 365 Tips for a Healthy Marriage, can help you begin talking on a regular basis to help deepen your intimacy.

♥     ♥     ♥

Thanks so much, Debi! And to my readers, here’s more about the book:

CLICK TO LEARN MORE OR BUY

Cherishing Us is a compilation of advice shared the past several years on The Romantic Vineyard Facebook page. We brought them together in this handbook to allow you to keep the tips close for easy reference. Read one daily and use it as a springboard to assess your marriage. Let it be a constant reminder of the priority your marriage holds in your life as you seek to grow closer together for a lifetime. Includes monthly Contemplation Questions, Date Night suggestions, and ruminations on the importance of cherishing one another. Ideal for engaged couples, newlyweds, and enduring marriages. Give this as a wedding gift, or anniversary gift, or just because. Every marriage can benefit from daily reminders to honor the one you’ve promised to love and to cherish!

5 Holidays to Celebrate with Your Spouse (Besides Valentine’s)

Valentine’s Day is over for 2018! Either you nailed it, or you have 364 days to show love in other ways to your spouse. Actually, how about we all express our appreciation and desire for our beloveds throughout the year!

However, if you like having a little nudge from a holiday, be assured that February 14 is not your only opportunity. On today’s High Five Saturday, let’s talk about five upcoming holidays on which married couples can celebrate their hot, holy, and humorous love!

Blog post title + illustration flip calendar with heart on front

1. Steak & BJ Day

This year: Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The theory behind this holiday, clearly concocted by men, is that Valentine’s Day is for women — what with the emphasis on greeting cards, flowers, candy, and romance. Meanwhile, what does a man really want to get from the love of his life? Two things: steak and a blow job.

However, I know plenty of husbands who enjoy Valentine’s…and plenty of wives who also enjoy steak and giving their husbands fellatio. So perhaps Steak & BJ Day would be a win-win in your marriage!

For tips on giving a great blow job, check out the chapter on oral sex in my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design.

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2. International Kissing Day

This Year: Friday, April 13, 2018

This holiday celebrates kissing for kissing’s sake, whether or not it leads to other affectionate activities. Why not devote extra time and focus on smooching with each other on this day?

For more on kissing, check out 5 Kisses You Need to Master and my more extensive tips in the Hot, Holy, and Humorous book.

3. National Sex Day

This Year: Saturday, June 9, 2018

It’s either impossible or a complete waste of my time to track who came up with this holiday. Yet it’s become a hashtag on social media and a goal for some couples to make love on this particular day. Although this year you have a whole Saturday to accomplish this challenge, the holiday actually occurs on June 9 every year. That’s 6/9. Get it?

If you want tips on having great sex…yeah, that’s pretty much my whole blog, as well as my books. But in case you want to know what qualifies as sex, check out this post: What Is Sex?

4. National Romance Awareness Day…oh wait, MONTH!

This Year: Wednesday, August 1, 2018, and beyond!

Apparently, a single day dedicated to romance is insufficient. We need an entire month! Now, research shows it takes about twice that long to really develop a new habit, but a full month of romance might convince you of its benefits so that you’ll keep it going for years to come.

How to do romance well? Three blogs I follow share quite a few romance tips. Check out The Romantic VineyardLove Hope Adventure, and The Generous Wife.

5. Your Anniversary

This year: _____________________, 2018/2019

If you couldn’t fill in that blank, you’d better figure it out quickly! Because of all the marriage holidays one can celebrate, your own anniversary is probably the one your beloved cares most about. It’s the day unique to the two of you and your marriage.

How should you celebrate? I suggest you ask the spouse who cares the most about this day and commemorate the way they want. Within reason, of course. I mean, I’d love to go to Australia for a full week to celebrate our upcoming 25th! But we’re going to Chicago for a few days, because that’s where I’m traveling already for a business trip and it’s what we can afford. Likewise, figure out how you can do your anniversary up big without breaking your back or the bank.

Of course you don’t need any of these holidays to celebrate the love in your marriage. But if you enjoy the special days, find one or more of these to mark on your calendar and start the joyous anticipation now.

Speaking of marriage (as if I do anything else), I had a wonderful opportunity last Saturday to chat with popular Canadian talk show host, Dr. Drew Marshall. I’d love for you to pop over and listen to the 20-minute interview! Click below to find our segment from February 20, 2018, the Valentine’s Day Special.

Banner to click to listen to show

5 Kisses You Need to Master

I don’t think couples kiss enough in marriage. I’ve written about this before: You’re Not Kissing Enough. But today I want to make sure your repertoire is sufficient to have a great kissing experience with your spouse.

Since it’s High Five Saturday, let’s talk about five different kisses you need to master for your marriage.

Blog post title + illustration of lips

1. The Peck

Chaste, quick, friendly — I’m not sure how you’d describe this one. But all couples need to be able to share a quick peck as a reminder of their connection. It’s the perfect choice for when you’re in a hurry to get to work, when you’re in a family friendly setting, or when you just ate fish and you know your husband hates the smell of fish so you’re trying to spare him. (Okay, that last scenario is autobiographical.)

Make sure your peck is just that: a nice pucker delivered without too much fanfare, but different from what you’d give your mother. Soften your lips a little at the meeting of your mouths and linger for a moment. Add a smile as you pull away to show that you like kissing your spouse — even with pecks.

2. The Soft Kiss

Closed, pliant lips touching and lingering … that’s the good stuff of a nice soft kiss. This is my personal favorite, because it’s a tender and teasing experience. A soft kiss can lead to more fun things, or simply remain a beautiful kiss in and of itself. It’s like the start of a series or a stand-alone — good either way.

Most important tip? Keep your lips flexible. Allow your mouths to mold together by making sure you’re not puckering or flattening your lips too much. Linger longer, a few seconds. You can also do a series of soft kisses to lead up to more passionate kissing.

3. The French Kiss

Ooh La La! Many consider the French kiss to be the pinnacle of puckering. You’re basically giving your mouths over to one another, open and interacting. Lips mashed up together, tongues tangling, hearts pounding. Yeah, this kiss is pretty passionate.

Let your tongue tease and explore, but remember it’s not on a digging mission. Don’t shove your tongue in so far that your spouse feels like a victim in Invasion of the Mouth Snatcher. You can take the lead, but share the experience, working your mouths together like a delicate dance.

4. That Favorite Spot

Some of the best kisses involve the mouth of one spouse and a place other than the mouth on their mate. What is your spouse’s favorite spot to be kissed? Where do your lips drive them wild?

For some, it’s the neck. For others, behind the ear. It could be along the shoulder, down the torso, or moving up the inner thigh. Somewhere on your beloved’s body is a place they would love to be kissed. Ask where that is, and go to it. Use the soft kiss and your tongue to tease and delight that special, sensitive spot.

5. The Text Kiss

Since I don’t want to leave you in an uptight frenzy (in case your spouse isn’t near enough to kiss), I figured I’d close with the text kiss.

When you’re away from each other, you can still send the sentiment of a kiss through a text message! In fact, you have several options:

  • Go with the old standby of XXX or XOXO (kisses or kisses & hugs).
  • Send an emoji with a kissing face. Like this: Kissing Face With Closed Eyes on Samsung Experience 8.5 (Galaxy Note 8)
  • Use a word that means kissing, such as mwah!
  • Take a picture of yourself puckered up and send it through text.
  • Download Bitmoji, make your avatar, and then use one of the kissing images. Here’s one of mine!

Avatar of me, with word "KISSES" and a lipsticked mouth underneath

That’s it! Five kisses you should become your spouse’s personal expert on.

Five kisses you should become your spouse's personal expert on. Click To Tweet

Also, I have a whole chapter on kissing with many more tips in my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, on sale only through Valentine’s Day. Make sure you get your copy!

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