Category Archives: Marriage – General

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

10 Last-Minute Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband

In all of our years together, my husband and I have not had Christmas stockings. Yep, that’s right. Even when I’ve been writing posts like 10 Sexy Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband and 10 Sexy, Manly Items for Your Hubby’s Christmas Stocking, I had no place to put such items for my own hubby.

I’m planning to remedy that soon. But whether you drop these items in an actual stocking, in a gift box or bag, or just plop them onto his pillow on Christmas Eve, I’ve come up with a few more ideas. Not all of these are sex-related, but some are. (Click on the picture to open a link to the product.)

10 Last-Minute Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband

1. Secret Love Letters Invisible Ink Writing Set

Secret Love Letters Ink

I found this cute set in my local Barnes & Noble (where you might also find my book, by the way), at the front of the store. Ever wish you could write sexy notes to your guy without others — like your kids — seeing your words? This ink set allows you to write invisible messages that can then be read with a UV flashlight in the pen’s cap.

2. Package of Gum or Mints

Five Gum

Face it: Sometimes you’re not kissing him because he smells like barbecue potato chips or extra onions. How about a package of gum or mints to freshen his breath and make him particularly kissable?

3. Hand-held Massager

Hand-held Massager

Target, Wal-Mart, Academy, and even your local grocery store should have options for a small hand-held massager. Some are pronged like this one for pressure points, some are roller balls, some have spikes. You’ll have to decide which version would be best for your husband, but a good massager can help you deliver a muscle-relaxing rub-down to your man.

4. Personalized Candy Bar

Thanks to Intimate Weddings website for editable and printable templates, as well as instructions to create your own personalized candy bar wrapper. You can use your names as shown here, or edit to include any romantic or passionate message you want. Like: For Your Mouth: This Chocolate & My Lips.

(And if you don’t like this idea or template, trust me — Pinterest has you covered. Just run a search and prepare to spend some time eyeballing all the choices.)

5. Sneaker Balls

Sneaker Balls

Yes, I’m using the word balls on my blog without meaning “his jewels.” (Aren’t you proud?) These are shoe deodorizers in the shape of balls, and some of them even look like soccer balls or basketballs. You can easily find them at a sporting goods store, like Academy or Dick’s Sporting Goods.

6. Personal Lubricant

Wet® Boink N’ Oink bacon lube

The above picture is simply to show you that there is no end to the number of choices in the personal lubricant market. Really? Did we need Boink n’ Oink Bacon Flavored Lubricant? (Although the website says it is paraben-free and kosher. Good to know.) Go online or hit your local store to find your favorite or something you haven’t tried before, then slip it into your husband’s stocking with the obvious message that you two will try it out later.

7. Superhero Underwear

Capt America Boxer Briefs

Want to let your husband know he’s your superhero? How about putting it on his undies? I easily found briefs, boxers, and boxer briefs online and in stores with your choice of superheroes — Batman, Captain America, Superman, Hulk, etc. Or you could ride the wave and go with a Star Wars theme.

8. Dirty Dice

Dirty Dice

I’m not in love with the title of this dice, but they are effective. Essentially this game is played by rolling the dice and matching the instruction (lick, suck) to the body part (lips, ear). Amazon might be your best bet to get them in time for Christmas, but Married Dance (a Christian retailer) carries them as well and you can find knock-offs in various places too.

9. Mistletoe

Mistletoe

Can’t miss the message if you give your sweetheart a sprig of mistletoe! You can find real or fake mistletoe at craft stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby, home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, or basic retailers like Target and Wal-Mart. You might want to make things even clearer by attaching a message like “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” Song of Songs 1:2.

10. Love Letter

Love Letter

All this takes is a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and a little creativity. But wouldn’t your husband love to hear straight from you how much you love him? Or to read how committed you are to your future? How about something playful or passionate? I have tips for you here.

That’s it! Ten more ideas for your hubby’s stocking. Now go forth and finish up that last-minute shopping. I’ll be doing the same this week!

Expect Trouble, But Have Peace

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

You know what? It’s been a hard year, with disappointments, frustrations, and tragedies for so many people I know. I’ve also experienced some challenges.

But one thing that has made a difference in my level of contentment is not expecting everything to go smoothly or for this life to be pain-free. Whatever has happened in 2016, I’m still a happy person. Partly because I expect trouble, but I have peace.

Expect Trouble But Have Peace John 16-33

For a long time, this wasn’t true in my life, and in my marriage. Years ago, when my husband and I faced difficulties, I got angry. Not just with him, but with how Life itself had turned on me. Hadn’t I married a great guy? Hadn’t I tried to pursue God? Wasn’t I doing better than anyone, including me, had anticipated? So why wasn’t everything working out for me?

Many marriages have problems that need solving, but then we add to that pile with issues that are really unmet expectations. We thought it would be easy — it wasn’t. We thought our spouse would agree with us — they didn’t. We thought our tough past was behind us — it wasn’t. We thought we’d have sex nearly every day — we didn’t.

I’m not saying these aren’t real issues. I’m saying we make them worse with our personal indignation, that attitude that this shouldn’t be happening to me! Well, to borrow a well-known phrase, whoever promised you a rose garden?

Last I checked, we’re not still in the Garden of Eden, the world is broken in many ways, and Jesus Himself said we’d have trouble. “In this world you will have trouble.” He couldn’t make it any clearer. The apostle Peter also reminds us that Satan’s actively trying to make our lives hard: Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We’re simply not promised perfection here.

But we are promised something that gives us hope, joy, and gratitude. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Oh, that’s right: Jesus has got this covered.

I’ve seen God work in my life — all the trouble that my husband and I have overcome with His help. Other marriages that have come through difficulties and found a better, stronger place. Relationships reconnected. Marriage beds revived.

Maybe this holiday season, we need to remember that Jesus Christ came to Earth for one main purpose — to overcome. He overcame our sin, our hopelessness, our brokenness.

We don’t get to go through this life without challenges and hardships. We should expect trouble. But we can have peace. We can have peace that God is working in our lives and, if we ask Him to, He can work in our marriages.

5 Fresh Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Husband

A couple of weeks ago, I gave you a roundup of all of my previous gift ideas, which you can find here: A Sleigh-ful of Gift Ideas for Your Spouse. But what else have I got? Any other ideas?

As a matter of fact, I was feeling a bit tapped out last month, which prompted me to post this on Facebook:

I do a Christmas gift post every year, and I'm wondering what to do this year. I mean, really, how many sex-related gifts can I come up with us spouses to give one another? I'm just wondering how to shake things up this year. Is there a different angle you'd like to see? Any fresh thoughts on how I can address the gift-giving thing this holiday season?

And y’all gave me some great ideas! I’m going to cover them in categories (including a couple more I came up with myself).

Red background, green wrapped present, title of post

1. Romantic Messages for Your Bedroom. Deuteronomy encourages us to write God’s commandments “on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (6:9). Because displaying important messages in front of our eyes on a daily basis practically guarantees we’ll remember their content and their importance.

Wouldn’t that also be true of your marriage? A few months ago, I finally put up wall art in our bedroom that looks like this:

"I have found the one whom my soul loves." Song of Solomon 3:4

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read that message, and how often it makes me smile. It reminds me that I believe that and to believe that. How about a bedroom decor gift that celebrates your marital love or intimacy?

Gifts.com has a number of wall art options that can be personalized for a couple. Here are two of my favorites (click on the picture to find the item):

And Etsy.com features many shops that make beautiful wall art, including Song of Solomon themed options like these:

I have found the one whom my soul loves, I have found the one my soul loves, Song of Solomon Wall Decal, Song of Solomon Wall Art

EADY TO SHIP,My Beloved Is Mine And I am His,Song Of Solomon 2:16, Scripture Art,Scripture Wall Art,Wood Sign,Wedding Gift, Weddings

2. Date Nights for the Year. Just type that into the Pinterest search bar, and I bet you can find a gazillion ideas. But here’s how Hannah said it on my Facebook page:

I made a date jar for this Christmas. Hubby doesn’t like planning dates because, I’ll be honest, I can be moody and wishy washy. So I made him a date jar with different colored popsicle sticks. Each color represents how expensive that type of date would be so if we are broke he can still pick a date and “plan” it. Takes the stress off of him and gives me what I want, a date I didn’t have to plan. 

What a great idea, Hannah!

To help you get started, Oh Simple Joys provides a good list with DIY Date Night Jar (52 Almost Free Ideas), Freshly Married has an impressive master list of date night ideas, and The Dating Divas has a Steamy Bucket List you could make as a gift.

3. An Outside-the-Box Activity. I recently listened to an interview of clinical psychologist and marriage author Dr. Les Parrott on The Art of Manliness podcast, and he mentioned an amazing finding. Remember those fluttery feelings when you were first falling in love? Some of that is fueled by the novelty of getting to know your now-spouse, and after a while, that part of the romance seems to fade. Yet you can tap into that by doing novel activities as a couple. You get that same rush of excitement and it’s paired with your beloved when you do something fresh together, whether it’s exploring a new garden or skydiving from a plane.

So how about a gift that isn’t tangible but rather an experience? (Thanks to Ambrosia for this idea.) Book that weekend trip or last-minute cruise deal, buy those tickets to a game or concert, make reservations for a couples cooking class or horseback riding, schedule a tour of your local museum or winery, plan a state park visit or beach outing.

There are many creative ways to put your Date Night in a Box together. But just make sure your idea is something outside-the-box that will bring an opportunity to share new memories, engage in fresh conversation, and foster your friendship and romance.

4. A Celebration of His Manhood. Your man is different from you. Manlier. Of course. Sometimes we overlook the importance of celebrating our guy’s masculinity — his particular interests, hobbies, delights. What if your gift instead celebrated his manhood?

Here’s what Debbie said on my Facebook page:

What about gifts speaking to manly or womanly hearts? Just thinking out loud….I think by far my husbands favorite gift was the braveheart sword I got him one year…

Can you get more manly than a replica of William Wallace’s sword?

William Wallace Sword braveheart 51"

Or maybe an Indiana Jones whip.*

Now I don’t actually know what says to your particular husband, I celebrate the man you are, but I bet you could come up with some ideas. It could be a T-shirt with his favorite fantasy character or movie quote. It could be a crossbow and arrows with a gift certificate to an archery range. It could be tickets to an ice hockey game or a men’s worship conference. It could be the newest gadget that seems like a complete waste of time to you but that catches his eye every time you enter Best Buy.

And yes, I know those ideas sound somewhat stereotypical. It’s still true for a lot of husbands, but maybe your hubby’s masculinity comes out in his cooking and he’d appreciate a chef’s hat and new utensils. Or maybe your husband’s a history buff, and a subscription to WWII History magazine would bring him great joy.

You know your husband and what he likes. Give him something he wouldn’t expect you to buy for him, but that celebrates and shows your appreciation for his manhood.

5. A Sex Schedule. So this is for the wives whose husbands want sex fairly often. (I’ll address how higher-drive wives can use this information in a minute.) What if your Christmas gift to your higher-drive spouse was a 2017 calendar on which you’d marked days you committed to have sex?

Maybe your idea is to choose one day of the week and make that your guaranteed, I’m-a-sure-thing promise. So you’d simply take a calendar, decorate every Thursday (or whatever) with markers, stickers, glitter, etc. and encourage him to hang it somewhere he can see it the next year.

Or maybe you want to promise banner sex once a month, one time that will be more special in some way than the other times. You could select your weekend each month and then theme it, like:

January – Exploring Positions
February – New Location
March – Strip Tease Foreplay

…and so on. You can choose what you want to include, increase his (and your) anticipation, and share the commitment to try some new things for your marriage bed this next year. I suspect this gift would make most husbands smile.

Now to the higher-drive wives … can you use an idea like this? You can, but you’d likely have to change its focus. For lower-drive spouses, this could feel like a demand, and it’s better to issue invitations and flirtations. You might gift him a calendar with a note suggesting you together fill in the dates you’ve had sex throughout the year with the idea of celebrating your sexual intimacy. Sometimes tracking it will help you both see sex as a priority and help you know what’s really happening. You could give him the calendar and ask him to mark up when he would like to have sex. But remember, you don’t want this gift to become a point of contention. So if you think conflict is likely to arise, maybe skip this idea and focus on some of the other ones above that foster your relationship … which will hopefully lead to more sex.

That’s it! Five fresh Christmas gift ideas for your husband.

And what have I bought for my husband? Zilch, zero, nada. (And he’s probably reading this, so I need to get busy shopping.) Let’s come up with something great for our hubbies this Christmas!