Category Archives: Marriage – General

How to Make Your Valentine Gift Meaningful

blog post title + illustration of envelope with hearts come out

If I didn’t know better, I’d think the first line of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities was actually about couples and Valentine’s Day: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Yep, St. Valentine’s Day is less than a month away — the holiday that some spouses anticipate with excitement, and others dread with exasperation.

Regardless of how you approach it, I suspect you come with your own set of expectations. Maybe they are high expectations that cannot possibly be fulfilled, and maybe they are low expectations that your frustration turns into a self-fulfilled prophecy. But most of us fall somewhere in between.

I’ve written about Valentine’s Day so many times that I wondered what I could possibly say to make this holiday better for married couples. But when I asked members of my Facebook community what I should cover, a lot of answers boiled down to wanting something really meaningful.

So how can you give a meaningful gift to your spouse? What will make this the Valentine’s Day s/he will always remember?

1. Plan.

You might have wondered why I’m writing this post nearly a month before Valentine’s Day. But you may need time to brainstorm ideas, line up a babysitter (and perhaps a back-up babysitter), make a reservation, and/or purchase or make any necessary supplies.

Almost every gift I can think of that a friend happily told me about her husband getting her involved planning on his part. For example, a getaway weekend he had to book ahead of time, bidding on eBay for a treasured item from her childhood, breakfast in bed made by hubby and the children, the love letter he wrote.

As Benjamin Franklin purportedly said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Instead, plan ahead.

2. Prioritize.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I don’t care if this holiday means absolutely nothing to you or you think it’s supremely stupid — if it’s important to your spouse, you need to make something happen. Because that’s love, people. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).

That also means that you must prioritize your time. Clear your calendar to make time with your spouse. You can’t fully connect with your spouse if you can’t disconnect from the other stuff pulling you apart.

You can't fully connect with your spouse if you can't disconnect from the other stuff pulling you apart. Click To Tweet

If you can’t celebrate on Valentine’s Day, pick another day around the same time. But figure out when you can carve out time to be together and then make that happen.

3. Pursue.

One reader commented that she wanted “almost like a ‘take me back to our honeymoon days’ kind of post. I feel so overwhelmed with responsibility in life I sometimes forget the exciting and fun side of things.” I know she’s not alone.

Remember when you were falling in love? When you first held hands or felt that flicker of this could be the one? Remember how excited you were just to be together?

Scientifically speaking, those fluttery feelings involved some brain chemicals that aren’t at the same levels now after being so familiar with one another. But the beauty of our brains is that we can renew those feelings by introducing special moments and pairing them with our spouse. Essentially, you need the attitude that you’re still pursuing your spouse.

Romantic pursuit can be passionate or playful. It can make you burst out in laughter, weep with deep emotion, or simply savor the moments. It can be grand gestures or cozy comfort. It’s whatever romance means to you and your beloved.

But regardless of what form it takes, pursuing your spouse doesn’t simply mark off the box of “I’m married to you” or “I thought of you.” It wholeheartedly communicates “I love you, I want you, and I’d do it all over again.” You’ll know it’s more meaningful when your gift conveys that message.

4. Personalize.

If my husband paid attention to all the statements that women love getting flowers, he’d miss the mark. It’s not that I don’t like getting flowers — which is nice — but it’s not all that meaningful to me. Other gifts have meant far more to me, like when my husband saw me admire a piece of art in a store and it showed up as my gift at the next holiday. He paid attention to what I really like.

Likewise, you have to personalize your gift to your spouse. I’ve given a lot of gift ideas in the past, but you have to look at such lists with knowledge of the person you’re married to:

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

Think about previous gifts or experiences your spouse has had. When did you see your spouse light up? What fond memory have they recounted many times over? What interests, talents, and dreams does your spouse have? How can your gift honor the person they are?

Those are my four tips for giving a meaningful gift: Plan, Prioritize, Pursue, and Personalize.

I can’t leave without mentioning that sex should be very meaningful in your marriage. And right now both of my books, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage and Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, have sales right now on the ebook. Only $2.99! This is a great time to get one or both and get ideas for improving the sex in your marriage, and making sure your Valentine’s Day is meaningfully intimate as well.

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What Do You Need to Let Go to Have a Better Sex Life?

For the past three years, I’ve chosen a theme of sorts for the year and published posts that encourage us toward the goal. They’ve been:

Feeling Beautiful (2015)
Knowing Scripture (2016)
Praying More (2017)

I’ve given a lot of thought over the past several weeks to my theme for 2018. When I didn’t feel that God was clearly speaking to me on what it should be, I consulted trusted advisors who had provided me godly counsel in the past. Their answers weren’t clear either.

The only thing that kept coming to mind were vague phrases like:

Let go
Step back
Surrender

Hmm, tough words for a gal who likes to be passionately proactive. But after a lot of mulling over those phrases, I feel like God wants me to let go of the theme this year. Not because it isn’t a good idea, and I might return to it in 2019, but keeping that up takes time that might be better spent right now on finishing books, tending to my email inbox, and pursuing speaking in a more focused way.

As usual, I asked myself how this lesson I’m learning in life applies to marriage and the marriage bed. And here it is: Oftentimes improving the intimacy in our marriage doesn’t start with doing more stuff, but rather choosing to let go.

Oftentimes improving the intimacy in our marriage doesn't start with doing more stuff, but rather choosing to let go. Click To Tweet

Although I enjoy giving advice on actions you can take to help your marriage enjoy greater sexual intimacy, sometimes the right answer for a spouse’s situation is to just let something go. Here are some ways in which spouses may need to step back or surrender:

  • Let go of that sexual fantasy your spouse doesn’t want to engage in and appreciate all the activities you do enjoy in your marriage bed
  • Let go anger about your spouse’s past sins and focus on the present and the future
  • Let go of your inhibitions and learn how to absorb pleasure in the moment
  • Let go of the worry about what you might discover or what others will think and visit the doctor or counselor already
  • Let go of unrealized expectations and create new dreams for your marriage bed
  • Let go of the anxiety you feel about confessing sin and come clean to your spouse and/or your Christian community
  • Let go of your tension over the kids knowing that you have sex and embrace lovemaking for your marriage’s sake (and theirs)

What do you need to let go to create a better, more intimate marriage in 2018?

What do you need to let go to create a better, more intimate marriage in 2018? Click To Tweet

I’m sure your answer and mine are not the same. But it’s a question we should ask ourselves. The best goal for the sexual intimacy in your marriage this coming year could be letting go of something you’ve been holding onto that keeps you from experiencing the deep intimacy God wants you to have in your marriage.


Speaking of goals, the Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage ebook is on sale for the month of January for ONLY $2.99! This book is for new marriages, old marriages, and everything in between—because the brief devotions are focused on God’s Word, “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), speaking to us wherever we are.

The New Year is a great time to start, and at $2.99 the ebook is less than a latte at Starbucks! Your marriage is worth more than your next cup of coffee, so head over now and purchase your ebook.

What Ugly Christmas Sweaters Remind Me about Marriage

I do not understand the Ugly Christmas Sweater phenomenon.

Where I live, it’s become such a common trend that (1) my son told me he attended an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at college, and (2) I overheard a Target employee explaining to a customer that as soon as they put out the ugly Christmas sweaters, they were all swooped up.

Really? There are that many people who feel they absolutely must own an ugly Christmas sweater?

In case you haven’t seen any of these, here is a sampling, brought to you by uglychristmassweater.com:

Snowman sweater Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sweater Jesus, Mary & Joseph take a selfie sweater

As someone who tries to “fight the frump” and feel good about myself each day, it’s never really appealed to me to wear a hideous sweater — especially as a way to celebrate Christmas.

But as I was thinking about this fad, I realized that it has three positives:

  1. It demonstrates that one ugly garment doesn’t take away from our whole appearance.
  2. It shows that we like to belong — that people want to share a trend.
  3. It’s a way for us to just be silly with one another.

Hmmm, sounds a bit like marriage to me.

1. One flaw doesn’t take away from how we view each other.

The longer you’re married, the more you likely feel this way. Because even if your spouse seemed flawless when you married them, twenty or thirty years later, body parts have shifted (thanks, gravity!), not to mention that you’ve discovered some personality traits or quirks that you could probably live without. Your spouse has features that are likely the equivalent of an ugly Christmas sweater.

But it’s the person in the sweater that you’ve built a life with, that you adore, that you still find as sexy as ever. And if not’s quite true, maybe you’re spending too much time looking at the “sweater” and not enough time appreciating the person.

2. We like to belong and share.

One of the best things I ever get to say about my husband is just that: my husband.  That possessive pronoun my indicates that he belongs to me, and when he says, “my wife,” it shows that I belong to him. When you signed up for marriage, you signed up to belong to something bigger than yourself — a lifelong trend of becoming one.

Sometimes we forget how much belonging matters to us — when we get busy and spend so much time with work, children, or even ministry that we don’t connect regularly with our spouse; when we neglect sharing our thoughts and feelings and dreams, or stop listening to our spouse’s; when we characterize sex as merely a physical thing that one can do without, instead of understanding it as a conduit of intimacy. Remember that feeling like you belong together is an important part of marriage and needs to regularly nurtured.

3. Just be silly with one another.

I just love that my husband and I have inside jokes. We have a shared sense of humor — the kind that sometimes makes our kids roll their eyes while we’re clutching our bellies in laughter. The ugly Christmas sweater trend gives a strong nod to the notion that we all like to have some silliness in our lives. We want something that makes us smile, laugh, and even roll our eyes.

Marriage is an opportunity to have someone to share those moments with. I suspect many spouses married in part because their mate had a similar sense of humor. But how are we doing in keeping that alive? Do we foster opportunities to laugh? To play? To just be silly? Even in the bedroom?

I’m not quite ready to run out and purchase an ugly Christmas sweater. However, I am willing to learn something about marriage from this trend and ask myself how we’re doing on perspective, belonging, and silliness.

Now, how are you doing?

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Is Seasonal Depression Impacting Your Marriage?

I had other ideas lined up to write about today, but when I sat down and looked at my cursor flashing on the blank screen, I felt this urge wash over me … as if something, someone, was telling me that I needed to come clean today. To spill about a struggle I’ve gone through in hopes that I can provide empathy and support to others going through the same thing.

I’ve written about it before, but I have a propensity toward depression. It’s not some weakness in me; it’s my biology. If you have the same propensity, know that it’s neither an emotional nor a spiritual weakness in you. It’s just that so many processes and chemicals are involved in regulating mood, and sometimes the balance isn’t quite right for some of us.

Most of the time, I’m fine — depression-less, if you will. But this time of year — wintertime in my neck-of-the-woods — can be a challenge for my mood.

This type of depression is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD (“affect” in psychology refers to emotion or disposition). SAD can occur in any season, but wintertime is especially difficult for some. Depression can occur at this time of year due to shortened days and reduced sunlight, which causes a drop in serotonin levels (serotonin regulates mood), increased melatonin (a chemical that helps us sleep), and disruption to our circadian rhythm (that is our “inner clock”).

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be mild, moderate, or rather pronounced, even leading to suicidal thoughts. Regardless, it takes a toll on the sufferer and their marriage.

Blog post title + sad woman staring out a window

At a time when everyone else seems to be more cheerful than ever with seasonal decorations and social events and proclamations of “Merry Christmas!” the person with SAD is struggling to get the regular to-dos done as well as all the extras. Because they’d much rather crawl back into bed and sleep a while longer, like past noon.

SAD sufferers may be lethargic or tearful or grumpy — not exactly the kind of person their spouses want to hang out with. Even when that marvelous romantic date happens, they may return from just those few hours completely tuckered out and wanting to hibernate once again.

And sex? Well, that takes energy. Which is the one thing sorely lacking during a SAD spell. If the spouse’s libido is high enough normally, they may still want to make love regularly, or regularly enough. But if they started with a lower libido? Sex can be a real challenge.

Right this moment, Seasonal Affective Disorder is impacting many spouses and their marriages.

Right this moment, Seasonal Affective Disorder is impacting many spouses and their marriages. Click To Tweet

If that is you, I know where you’re coming from. It’s impacting me and mine too. The last couple of weeks, I’ve been sleeping more, lacking energy, and even found my eyes watering at times. Thankfully, I knew what it was: not some problem with me or my marriage, but my biology off-kilter at this time of year. I explained the situation to my husband and started working on solutions.

What can you do when faced with Seasonal Affective Disorder?

  • Get outside. While the sun is shining, get out there in it. I live in an area where the temperatures don’t get so cold that I can’t go out most days, so I’ve determined to make my back porch an outside home office whenever I can. That’s not possible for some of you. But think creatively and find times and ways to spend at least some moments outside.
  • Exercise. Exercise boosts production of serotonin, which elevates our mood. You could make those outside moments a walk or jog through the park, or you can head to an exercise class, or just dance around your house in your jammies. Whatever works to get you moving, find a way to exercise.
  • Light therapy. Daylight helps alleviate the symptoms of SAD, and you can buy products that mimic sunlight to help reset your inner clock. You can spend some of your day sitting a few feet from a light therapy box (like this one) to get the right brain chemicals going, or you can try a “dawn simulator” (like this one), which is essentially an alarm clock that uses imitation sunlight to wake you up and get your body on track.
  • Antidepressants. Some SAD sufferers may require medication to properly regulate mood during this season. Especially if you’re experiencing extreme depression, including any suicidal thoughts, you need to see a doctor and get whatever help you can. Some antidepressants do have an impact on libido, so you might ask about that when you discuss options with your physician.
  • Prayer. This one isn’t in the medical manual, but I’ve definitely turned to prayer in moments when I’m teary for no good reason or feeling like snapping at a family member because I don’t feel good. While still pursuing ways to alleviate the core issue (SAD), it helps to pray for perspective, strength, and joy. God has delivered that to me in various moments.

Be sure to communicate to your spouse what’s going on. If they’re not so sure that it’s a physiological issue, point them to expert resources, like this page on the Mayo Clinic site. Don’t use SAD as an excuse to check out of your marriage, but rather involve your spouse and take action to reduce the symptoms and get your joyful and sexy self back.

That’s what I’m doing this season. And I pray that you will have a cheer-filed season as well!

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10 Movies to Boost Your Holiday Spirit & Get You in the Mood

Now that Thanksgiving is over (in the USA), Christmas season is fully upon us. Perhaps you’re a total Christmas Fangirl, who delves into this season with all the excitement of a toddler in a ball pit. But maybe you’re more like me and struggle to get into the holiday mood.

When you listen to today’s podcast episode for Sex Chat for Christian Wives, you’ll hear about my challenges with this season and my determination to do better this year. One thing I’ve resolved to do, to channel my inner Santa, is engage in holiday activities I truly enjoy. Among those are great Christmas-themed movies.

If they have a romantic bent, all the better … because that reminds me that the holiday season is also a time to enjoy being a couple. ‘Tis also the season to be intimate!

With that in mind, here’s a list of Christmas movies to get yourself in the holiday spirit and in the mood for romance with your spouse! (Quoted descriptions all from IMDb.)

Illustration of movie camera with spotlight on blog post title

10. Christmas in Connecticut (1947). 

“A food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas.”

Movie still of couple riding in sleigh during snowfall

Dennis Morgan & Barbara Stanwyck

A domestic diva, I am not. Thus, I’ve always related well to this heroine’s efforts to appear like she’s got it all together for the holiday season, even if the truth doesn’t quite line up. But amid the comedy of this movie is a nice love story. And I admit (as you’ll see below) that I’m partial to the classics.

9. The Family Man (2000).

“A fast-lane investment broker, offered the opportunity to see how the other half lives, wakes up to find that his sports car and girlfriend have become a mini-van and wife.”

Close-up of couple

Tea Leone & Nicholas Cage

Accused of being a knock-off of It’s a Wonderful Life and filled with sap and saccharine, I respond that this film is “guilty as charged.” But that’s also what makes it a gem to watch! This movie hits all the right notes on what we believe about the deep power of love and family.

8. The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

“Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand each other, without realizing that they are falling in love through the post as each other’s anonymous pen pal.”

Heroine standing at the corner reading a book, while next to her hero reads a newspaper (both ignoring each other)

Margaret Sullivan & Jimmy Stewart

If that sounds a lot like the plot of You’ve Got Mail, that’s because it is. Nora Ephron didn’t remake the movie, but she used the same setup. The original story, however, was charmingly done with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan and all takes place in the busy shopping season of the holidays.

7. Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

“When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.”

Heroine holding her daughter, with hero looking on

John Payne & Maureen O’Hara (and Natalie Wood)

Not only do we learn to believe in the spirit of Santa Claus, but a single mom finds love in the process. There’s also a remake from 1994 with Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott, which I thought I’d dislike (because I often dislike remakes) but it’s a rather sweet version as well.

6. White Christmas (1954).

“A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.”

Two couples dressed in Santa costumes and singing

Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Bing Crosby

I’ve always thought the plot of this film was a bit thin, but as an avenue for some fun dialogue, wonderful music and dancing, and a lot of Christmas glitz, it can’t be beat. Four incredibly talented actors/singers make this film a classic that’s still worth watching.

5. The Holiday Inn (1942).

“At an inn which is only open on holidays, a crooner and a hoofer vie for the affections of a beautiful up-and-coming performer.”

Hero playing piano and singing, while heroine sits nearby and sings along

Bing Crosby & Marjorie Reynolds

Speaking of musicals, this one has less glitz but more appeal to me. Bing Crosby is joined by Marjorie Reynolds and Fred Astaire in this delightful film that features many holidays, including Christmas. And this film boasts the first movie placement of Crosby crooning “White Christmas.”

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

“Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but his attempts to bring Christmas to his home cause confusion.”

Characters kissing on Pumpkin Hill with large moon behind them

Jack Skellington (“The Pumpkin King”) & Sally

Ah, Jack and Sally, what a beautiful kiss you shared on Pumpkin Hill! If a skeleton and a ragdoll can find love in the crazy world of Halloween Town, then there’s hope for all of us. Yes, I know this is a nontraditional choice, but it really is one of my favorites.

3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

“An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.”

Close-up of couple after dance/pool scene

Donna Reed & Jimmy Stewart

I know what some of you are saying: “Why isn’t this film number one on the list?!” Because as much as I love this film, it focuses some on romance but a lot more on family as a whole. It’s a terrific movie, well worth watching again and again, but not quite as good as the next two (in my opinion) for getting in the romantic mood.

2. Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

“A recently widowed man’s son calls a radio talk-show in an attempt to find his father a partner.”

Heroine holding teddy bear and and hero with son facing her, all on top of the Empire State Building roof

Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks

This enchanting film is about finding love in unexpected places. What always strikes me about this movie is that, despite it lasting an hour and 45 minutes, Ryan and Hanks only spend about two minutes together on screen. I like that choice, because the storyline shows how much personal growth these characters must do to be ready for a life together — a lesson worth considering ourselves.

1. While You Were Sleeping (1995).

“A hopeless romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector is mistaken for the fiancée of a coma patient.”

Couple standing outside in front of Christmas tree

Bill Pullman & Sandra Bullock

Lonely Lucy has no one to spend the holidays with, until her crush on an injured businessman leads her to a family who welcomes her with open arms. However, the kind of man she thinks she wants isn’t who she really needs. (Welcome to how God often works, by the way.)  I appreciate how romance takes the lead, but family is always right there as well.

Perhaps you notice a few of your own favorites missing from my list. Confessions: I’ve never seen Home Alone or Elf, and I disliked A Christmas StoryLove Actually has some great storylines and others that are just, well, ick to me. Meanwhile, I really like Gremlins and Die Hard, but concluded that they’re not the best choices for boosting one’s holiday spirit or getting you in the mood. 

But feel free to come up with your own list. And don’t forget that there are puh-lenty of made-for-TV Christmas movies every year, all in the spirit of holiday cheer and romance, which you can find on Netflix or Hulu or wherever you watch.

Your turn: What did I leave off the list?