Category Archives: Marriage – General

How Did You and Your Spouse Meet? Here’s My Story.

In the United States, June is considered the month of weddings! Because more weddings take place during this month than any other. My wedding was not in June, but I was thinking about the whole courtship, engagement, nuptials business and thought maybe it was time to tell y’all how I met my husband.

Because I love a good story, and this is a great story. Plus it’s got God running all through it.

Blog post title + picture of J and her husband in the park

After graduating from Abilene Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in history, and no teaching certificate, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I had abandoned my original plan to attend law school, although I wanted to go graduate school in something. However, I wasn’t ready for that step, so I returned home to get a job and make some money.

I got a job at a law firm as a legal assistant (with prior experience as a legal secretary) and began researching what I wanted to do next. With no strings attached, I concluded that I could move anywhere and do anything, and this youthful moment was the time to do that.

J. Parker sitting at office cubicle in law firm where she worked after college

At the office where I worked after college

Having lived in Texas all my life, I hadn’t really been around mountains, and I was supremely curious about that landscape. I concluded I wanted to move somewhere that had mountains (even wrote a song back then titled “I Need Mountains”). Seattle, Washington topped the list. I had friends who’d moved there, and they encouraged me to join them.

But while I worked for money to finance my move, something was happening in Seattle: The job market was declining, and the cost of living was rising. Moreover, I lived in the Piney Woods of Texas where it rains a fair amount, and for every day that it rained where I lived, it rained at least one more in Seattle. I didn’t know how long I’d have to live in my parents’ house and work at the law firm to finance this trip, as well as whether I’d actually like the climate there.

I began to research other possibilities. My priorities: mountains, low to moderate cost of living, good job market. I literally got out a map and identified cities, then gathered information about each. My eventual decision: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Had I ever been to Albuquerque, New Mexico? No, I had not. But I set my sights there and a few months later, I packed everything I owned into my Toyota Corolla and moved to Albuquerque with only a hotel reservation.

1987 Toyota Corolla, four-door, sitting on side of street

Not my actual car, but it looked a lot like this, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My father later said that I made it happen because I didn’t know how crazy it was. (He said it nicer, but that was basically it.) I also discovered later that he quelled my mother’s fears by saying that if it didn’t work out, I’d just drive back home.

Now West Texas is known for being somewhat barren, but it is beaten in that category by Eastern New Mexico. I remember driving for hours as I entered the state and thinking, What have I done? At one point, I needed to use the restroom, and there was no place to go. Not even a tree in sight to hide behind. Looking back, I guess it’s true that God sometimes takes you through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land.

After arriving at my hotel — and discovering that Albuquerque is actually quite beautiful — I did four important things: toured the city (including a trip to the mountaintop on the Sandia Peak Tramway), applied for jobs, started attending church, and hunted for an apartment.

View of Albuquerque from Sandia Peak, with tramway in left of photo

View of Albuquerque from Sandia Peak, photo by Nightscream via Wikimedia Commons

I narrowed my apartment choice down to two places. Objectively speaking, I should have chosen the slightly nicer complex, although I would have to furnish it myself. But when I toured the other complex, I had this strangely positive feeling about it. I chalked it up to this apartment being already furnished and the hospitality of the manager, but looking back, I think something else was going on.

Within three weeks, I had secured a secretarial job at a law firm, moved into the apartment, and began regularly attending a large, local church where the singles group was inviting and active. Mind you, I’m an introvert, so this was all really hard for me … but I was determined to make friends and thrive in my new, chosen home.

With that in mind, I headed to a church singles devotional at a member’s house. I remember the trepidation I had stepping across the threshold, or rather forcing myself to step across that threshold. I would have much rather been at home eating drive-through food and reading a book. But I’d come this far, and I needed to settle in and get to know other Christians.

A few minutes into the evening, a guy walked in, wearing a light-colored shirt, shorts, and a knee brace. He was tall, dark-headed, with glasses, and obviously athletic given his build. I didn’t linger on him, though. I was simply trying to keep my head above water in a group of people I didn’t know. (If you’re a true introvert, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re an extrovert, just trust me — we like people, but it takes time to acclimate.)

After the devotional, we all ended up in the kitchen, and looking at this guy more closely, it struck me that he was familiar. That’s when he said something to me like, “You look familiar. Do we know each other?” We ran through all the possible connections we could have — church affiliations, college attendance, mutual friends, etc. Nothing, not a thing. But where else could I have met this guy? I’d moved to a city three weeks prior in which I knew nobody.

Finally, he asked, “Where do you live?” You might think this is a question a young lady shouldn’t answer to a relatively strange man. But I don’t recall feeling any fear or hesitation; something about this man put me at ease. (Not that that’s always a good indicator; I’m just recalling my story.) I shared the name of my apartment complex. He answered, “That’s where I live. Which building are you in?” I shared my building number. He answered, “That’s the building I’m in. What apartment?” I shared my apartment number, which was C. He answered, “I’m in apartment D. I’m your next-door neighbor.”

And that’s when it hit me. I’d seen this guy before — on a Sunday morning wearing slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie with his Bible in one hand and taking out his trash with the other. I remembered that moment, because I’d thought how nice it was to see a single man heading out to church as I was.

Our church was big enough that I didn’t recall seeing him there, but we had spotted each other around the complex. And thus began a friendship.

Since I didn’t have a television at the time (it wouldn’t fit in the car), he invited me over to watch shows with him. I cooked him dinner, and he surprisingly still stuck around. He showed up at my doorstep one day with a sack from Wal-Mart and pulled out ice-cube trays he’d bought me, because I’d mentioned that the furnished refrigerator didn’t come with enough trays (my very first gift from him). I played my guitar (which I did fit in the car) and sang him a couple of songs I’d written. We talked about our family backgrounds, church history, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, which we were watching together.

One night, while sitting on my couch, he kissed me.

Later I asked him where and when we had our first kiss, and he said something different that was totally wrong. Because if my memory is a sieve, his is a drain. But that’s okay, because as long as we kept kissing, we’d have plenty of memories to choose from.

J. and her then-fiancé embracing in a close-up photo

J. & her then-fiancé (we’re so young!)

Five months after we met, and about three and a half months after we started really dating, he proposed. Or I should say that he asked me to marry him. There was no on-the-knee, “Will you be my beloved wife?” moment. Rather we were shopping in the mall one day, he pulled me into a jewelry store, and about a half hour later he purchased one of the engagement rings I’d tried on. As we walked out, he said, “Oh, by the way, will you marry me?” Ah, my romantic fella!

Three months after we got engaged, we got married. Oh yes, we did. EIGHT MONTHS from meet to marry! With a son in college, this now horrifies me. What we were we thinking? Just eight months?!

J as a bride, her husband as the groom, a wedding pic of just the two of them

Happy (and with no idea what we’re getting ourselves into)

But remember how I said that God was a main player in this story. What I didn’t tell you is right before heading to Albuquerque, I’d sworn off men. I was done with dating, with looking for the right guy, with even letting my heart consider a relationship. Consequently, I think God’s approach was to slam me upside the head with a fiancé and get me hitched before I could sabotage my destiny. God’s pushy that way.

If you’ve ever tried to resist Him, you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes I do wish my husband and I had waited a little longer, gotten more premarital counseling, and spent more time with our respective families to ease that transition, but the marriage itself was a good idea. And for the rest of my life, I can say that I married the boy next door.

Now share your meet story in the comments. Hopefully, in far fewer words than I took. Just give us the highlights of how you and your spouse first met. I’d love to hear, and it’s always nice to remember what made you choose your special someone.

Bonjour from France!

Just a shout-out to all of you following and reading the Hot, Holy & Humorous blog! I miss y’all and posting here. But I’m actually on a vacation/business trip. And while I’ve tried to write posts and get them up, the internet in the French countryside is spotty at best. There are short windows of time when the connection is working, but I simply can’t get a whole post — with the research, links, pictures, etc. — done with this service.

I will say that if you can manage to travel, whether it’s all the way to a French Chateau or just up the road to a state park, studies show that it’s for good for couples to experience new activities together. You get the same brain buzz that you had when you were first falling in love. I definitely plan to bring Spock with me next time I travel to Europe (miss you, hubby!).

Why not stoke your marital romance? And if you need more ideas, I encourage you to check out The Romantic Vineyard blog.

Where I’m at now:

Picture of French countryside chateau

Chateau Les Carasses, Languedoc, France

Thinking of and praying for you!

Q&A with J: Is It Possible to Have a Great Marriage (and Sex) Long Term?

When I read this question, I immediately knew I had to cover it. Because while the wife describes her specific situation, this is an all-too-common problem.

So my husband and I have only been married about 1 1/2 years. Lately when I’ve been visiting with other married women from church/Sunday school, they complain constantly about their husbands. If I try to say something nice about my husband, it’s met with “you’re newlyweds…just wait.” Its usually followed by an eye roll and a “husband’s just don’t understand” topped off with “I wish he would do”and ” I have no libido.” I know the honeymoon wears off eventually. But I guess I need encouragement that you can still love each other, have sex, and enjoy one another ten years down the road. I don’t want to dread my future marriage, but that’s what I’ve started doing and it’s started to affect the way I treat hubby. I want to start now to invest in the future so we CAN have a good marriage later. I guess I feel like maybe it’s not possible. Thoughts?

Isn’t that so sad? Didn’t your heart just sink at the thought of this young wife standing among Christian women who could be mentors, as Titus 2:3-5 prescribes, and instead they’re bashing their husbands and dismissing this wife’s desire to stay in Christ-like love with her husband.

Title with silhouette of embracing couple and sunset in background

Let me say emphatically to you, reader, Yes! You “can still love each other, have sex, and enjoy one another ten years down the road.” And 20 years down the road. And 30, and 40, and…

Is marriage without challenges? Of course not. You’re a sinner, and he’s a sinner, and you just merged your lives — with that equation, something will go wrong at some point. But it is more than possible to have a holy, healthy, and happy marriage. And wouldn’t you think the Church would be the one place where this would be announced from the rooftops?

It is more than possible to have a holy, healthy, and happy marriage. Click To Tweet

After all, Christ himself, when asked about the stiff requirements of salvation, responded, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible” (Matthew 19:26). Shouldn’t we be saying, “With God, a beautiful, intimate marriage is absolutely possible”?

Look, my own marriage hasn’t always been happy, but we’re definitely happy now and we’ve passed that 20-year mark. And I could name many couples who are also happy, committed, and, quite frankly, having sex like bunnies. No, I don’t know all the details, but I have conversations with enough wives and hear from enough spouses through this blog to guarantee that plenty of marriages are not just surviving, but thriving. Even those who’ve been married for decades.

Statistics support this as well. In Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, The Good News about Marriage, she explains how the “half of marriage end in divorce” claim is complete bunk, based entirely on projections that turned out to be wrong. About two-thirds of couples stay together, and among those, statistics show that spouses are largely happy. The University of Chicago NORC posts annual findings on Trends in Psychological Well-Being, and in the latest year reported, 2014, spouses who reported being either “very happy” or “pretty happy” comprised a whopping 96.5%.

Now research also shows that marital satisfaction dips after you have children. That isn’t true for everyone, of course. But I’d feel remiss if I didn’t warn you that bringing a child into your home — if that’s something you and your husband plan to do — can temporarily affect your happiness. It’s not that you don’t adore your children and feel happy to have them in your life; it’s just that there’s stress, exhaustion, differences in parenting styles, etc. that go along with having children. However, if you know where the treacherous waters are, you might well be able to avoid them by being intentional in supporting one another.

As for sex, Sheila Gregoire reported in her excellent book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, that wives had their best sexual intimacy long after they were newlyweds. Not to discount what you’re enjoying right now (enjoy it, sweetheart!), but a decade or two into your marriage, you’ll know each other’s bodies even more and have a history of sexual intimacy that makes you feel even more connected. Quantity of sexual interaction often decreases, but quality increases.

So with all this good news, why are women in church standing around bashing their husbands and shushing the one wife trying to be positive?

I’ve been in that circle with those women. Not your particular women, but wives like that. Here’s how they typically work: One wife says something disparaging about her husband, and another wife is quick to jump in and agree. Now the tone has been set. Women, being relational in nature, want to connect with the people in our midst, so others join in with their own complaints — wanting to show I understand, we’re connected, we’re all in this together. Soon enough, it’s become a husband bashing session, and the way to gain acceptance and approval is to share your own can you believe my husband?! story.

Let me give you some practical suggestions in those moments. Look at the circle and find the woman who isn’t joining in. She might be an ally. When sex became the topic of conversation and I was often the lone voice of sex positivity, I realized someone else in the circle wasn’t talking. If I got that woman alone, I’d often find out that she agreed with me, but she just didn’t feel comfortable speaking up. So it turned out that I wasn’t alone. Sometimes that woman was even two women or three women or more. Cultivate those friendships and see if you can set a new tone together.

Seek other women who are marriage and sex positive. They’re in your church, because they’re in every church. Oftentimes, they are indeed the quiet ones, because the negative tone has been set by more vocal members. But turn special attention toward older women who’ve been married 25, 40, 50 years. I once sat down at church next to a wife who’d just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary and simply asked, “What’s the secret to fifty years?” Because here was this woman who had golden wisdom, and I wanted it. She wasn’t negative; rather, she was honest, godly, and helpful (she answered, “forgiveness”). Look for those ladies.

Keep speaking positively about your husband. If you maintain your positive attitude and share what’s so great about marriage, eventually they might stop brushing you off and start wondering what you’re doing right. You never know who you might influence with hopefulness and holiness. As Paul so aptly said in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Your marriage may be young, but you can still set a good example.

Your marriage may be young, but you can still set a good example. Click To Tweet

Finally, you’ve noticed a difference in how you’re feeling about your marriage and treating your husband. If these conversations continue to injure your marriage, walk away. Your marriage takes priority. The apostle Paul also said, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character‘” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Wives who continue to bash their husbands and encourage others to do the same seem to me to qualify as “bad company.” Since they are believers, try to alter the tone first, but at some point, you need to do what you must for your marriage.

Also, check out my post on Finding Friends to Support Your Marital Intimacy.

Hopefully you can turn the tide. I’m certainly on your side! I’m a happily married wife, and I know you can be one as well for many, many years to come.

When “I Feel…” Statements Don’t Work

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve heard the suggestion that instead of accusing your spouse of doing something you don’t like, you should re-frame your statement as: When ____ happens, I feel ______.

It’s a bedrock of communication advice, and it was overtly taught in my graduate counseling program. You’ll find this recommendation in marriage and relationship books galore and touted by therapists and psychologists. While I believe this can be great advice in some circumstances, I’ve come to believe it’s not the magic phrase that some seem to imply.

Title with couple on couching facing away from each other

Because I know what’s happening in some of your marriages: You’re frustrated with the sexual intimacy, and so you sit down with your spouse and heed this advice and explain your feelings about the situation. You’re calm, collected, and careful to use those words: When ____ happens, I feel ______. Like When we don’t have sex for two weeks, I feel personally rejected, or When you only touch me when you want sex, I feel used.

After all, if your spouse truly understood your deep feelings on the issue, you suspect they’d see things from a different perspective. After all, they love you, so surely they don’t want you to feel so bad all the time.

Yet it can backfire. And I want to be sensitive to that, and certainly not advise you to do something that could make the sexual intimacy situation in your marriage even more tense.

Here are times when those I feel statements won’t work, and what to try instead:

1. One-uppance. You’ve heard of comeuppance, but I’m calling this one-uppance because it’s the tendency of your spouse to want to one up you on whatever feeling you’re having. So you say: “When ____ happens, I feel ______.” And they answer, “Yeah, well, I feel _____.”

If you’re feeling rejected, they’re feeling exploited. If you’re feeling put upon, they’re feeling ignored. If you’re feeling mistreated, they’re feeling like divorce is imminent if things keep going the way they have. You can barely risk sharing a feeling, because you’ll immediately hear how their emotional pain tops yours.

What can you do? As hard as it is, maybe you can listen to and validate their concerns. Maybe you can say something like, “It sounds like we both have some issues here. I’d really like us to work them out.” Maybe once they feel heard, they can hear you better. Even if their issue is 10% of the problem, and yours is 90% of what’s really happening, remember the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. (See Matthew 7:12.) Take their concerns seriously, let them know you care, and then ask for them to listen to your issues as well.

2. Pooh-poohed. You share the trigger scenario and how it makes you feel, and your feeling gets pooh-poohed — belittled, discounted, brushed off. Your spouse argues that you shouldn’t feel that way. That your feeling is wrong or silly or a figment of your imagination.

Oftentimes it’s a lack of empathy, being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes — or body parts, as the case may be. Since they would not feel that way under similar circumstances, they flat-out don’t understand why you do. So the answer, in their mind, is for you to just stop feeling that way. For instance, if you feel unloved because you haven’t had sex in three weeks, you should just turn off that feeling because it doesn’t relate at all to what they understand.

What can you do? Explain how your feelings work. For instance, in a recent conversation with my hubby, he said (for the 10,725th time), “Stop worrying about that.” I finally looked at him and said, “I have no idea what that looks like.” Then I explained that, while that was an achievable goal for his male brain, I couldn’t just flip a switch like that. Once I let him know that his way was fine but it didn’t work for me and why, he was able to feel compassion and show patience with my situation. Just work toward building empathy by letting your hubby know how things work in your world, without dissing his world.

By the way, I believe some husbands pooh-pooh their wives’ feelings like this, not because they don’t care, but because it makes them supremely uncomfortable to see you hurting. In an effort to make the emotional pain end quickly, they suggest that you stop feeling that way. I just want you to understand that sometimes, it really does come from a place of love.

3. Seeing an Iceberg. Icebergs are peculiar things: 87% of their mass is underwater, so that you only see about one-eighth of what really exists. And that’s how some spouses treat let’s talk moments. You decide to share your “When ____ happens, I feel ______” statement, and what you get back is a reaction to the 87% of things you didn’t say. Whether or not they’re true.

Here’s an example: You say, “When you don’t make any effort for me to have an orgasm, I feel disappointed and like my sexual satisfaction doesn’t matter.” And he responds, “So sex is disappointing to you, and you’re not satisfied. Clearly, I’m not enough for you. You’d obviously rather be with someone else!” Say what?! Yet, some of you have experienced a similar conversation, and I say with true Southern honesty: Bless. Your. Heart.

What can you do? Stay calm, and let them know that those are not the issues at hand. You can also reassure them that their fears are unfounded (e.g., “You are the only one I want, but I want our sexual intimacy to thrive”). Then go back to the issue at hand. Too often we want to put our whole marriage on trial, when cases are one fact by fact, witness by witness. Let them know that you just want to deal with this one issue. If he wants to deal with other issues later, you’re open to discussing them at another time … and then follow-up.

4. DNA. You can’t argue with DNA, right? Which is why it’s such a handy argument to pull out when your spouse expresses a feeling that might require you to change. You begin with, “When ____ happens, I feel ______,” and your spouse responds that what you’re wanting isn’t the person they are. They were made differently, and you should just accept who they are.

If they have a nonexistent sex drive, that’s just the way God made them. If they have a ravenous need for sexual variety, it’s in their DNA. If they are uncomfortable with certain acts, that have no biblical commands or principles against them, it’s just who they are. Your feelings might not be good, but how is your spouse supposed to do something different to make you feel better when they’re dealing with hard-wired DNA.

What can you do? First, you can appeal to your own DNA, because why should only one of you get to claim that “that’s just how I am.” Although, frankly, that might end up in more argument. Perhaps you can get your spouse to recognize some other way in which they have changed for the better. Or even how you‘ve changed for the better? “Remember when I used to get angry about you leaving your coffee cups all over the house. But then I made a conscious effort to be patient and more loving. I’m still me, but a better me. What if sex is that way too? What if we could change a little bit toward each other and be more loving and connected?” If we can recognize the ways in which we have indeed changed in our lives, through decision and commitment, maybe we can take a baby step or two in the right direction.

Of course, my suggestions are also not guarantees. But I know that some of you have ended up in conversations like the ones I’ve described. And since I want to be as honest as possible about how to make headway in your marriage, I thought it would be useful to address this topic.

If you’re having conversations that end up like these, rethink your approach. Decide ahead of time how you’ll deal with your spouse’s protests, defensiveness, or frustration. And don’t give up! As inventor Thomas Edison famously said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”aybe ol’ Thomas had read 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.”

Source: United States Coast Guard – How Much of an Iceberg is Underwater

A Free Christmas Short Story for You!

Each year, I try to come up with something special to gift my readers. This year, I wrote y’all a short story!

Here’s Under the Mistletoe: A Christmas Short Story: Download as a PDF.

If you’d rather read with your e-reader’s format, I’ve uploaded the story to several retailers, but I’m still waiting for it to go live. I’ll update as I get the links.

Amazon Kindle

Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble Nook

Kobo eBooks

Scribd

Download as a PDF

I hope you enjoy this quick tale. Here’s the teaser:

It’s Christmas Eve, and Grace still hasn’t seen a present under the Christmas tree from her husband. When Todd announces there is no present coming, she feels snubbed, not realizing that he’s got a different surprise planned. But is his gift what she really wants? Or even what she needs?

I’ll be taking a break from the blog through New Year’s. See you on the other side of 2017.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6