Monthly Archives: May 2015

Two Words That Could Change the Course of Sex in Your Marriage

I’ve written before about two words I tell husbands over and over and two words higher-drive spouses need to hear. While I think those words are important, there are two other words that many marriages need. If you’re unhappy with the sexual intimacy in your marriage, I truly believe they could change the course of sex in your marriage.

And the two words are: I’m sorry.

Couple in bed, facing away from each other + blog post title

When marriages face problems and challenges in their physical intimacy, there is often a storehouse of hurt in one or both spouses. Even if the issues are external or involve sexual baggage brought into the marriage, when our husbands react poorly to what’s going on, we can feel rejected, attacked, abandoned, or misused. Our hurt feelings are harbored in our hearts and weigh us down.

Logically, we might know we should act differently to resolve our issues. Our husbands may know that as well. But we’re both steeped in personal pain that extends beyond whatever’s going on today. He asks for sex, and she’s reminded of all the times he ignored her emotions and pursued his own pleasure. She rejects his advance, and he feels the burden of all the previous refusals. He wants her to wear revealing lingerie, and she feels the pang of his previous porn use. And on and on.

It could be something large or small, but we feel these slights. And oftentimes, we don’t recognize the hurt we’ve caused our spouse with our words and actions. Maybe it was something we did or said that came across in a way we didn’t even intend.

But the hurt is there, it’s real, and it’s affecting sexual intimacy. Or really, just intimacy in your marriage.

What needs to happen? So many marriages need to start with those two words: I’m sorry.

  • I’m sorry I used porn/erotica.
  • I’m sorry I overlooked your sexual needs.
  • I’m sorry I demanded acts you weren’t comfortable with.
  • I’m sorry I assumed you didn’t love me emotionally when you pursued me physically.
  • I’m sorry I stopped touching you to avoid sex.
  • I’m sorry I pressured you and didn’t wait for our wedding night.
  • I’m sorry I didn’t listen.
  • I’m sorry I yelled.

How many of you in your marriages are longing to hear those two simple words from your spouse? I’m sorry.

Of course, that wouldn’t solve everything, but a genuine apology could change the course of your sexual intimacy — demonstrate that your spouse loves and respects you, renew hope for something better, begin to heal wounds long festering in your heart.

What if your spouse needs to hear those words from you?

Let’s face it: Plenty of us are reading this post and thinking, “This is exactly what my husband needs to do — apologize to me!” After all, if he’s 90% of the problem . . .

But I encourage to think about that. Even assuming he is 90% of the problem, you likely didn’t handle something well. You have your own issues that have hampered progress. Perhaps you even enabled his behavior in some way, not pursuing what was good but what was easy.

Almost everyone has some blame they should own up to. And it may be more than you’ve admitted to yourself, or to him.

Step away from the marital bedroom, sit down for a heart-to-heart conversation, and apologize for whatever you’ve done that has muddied the waters of your physical intimacy. It may be the two words your spouse craves, and it could set a new course for sexual intimacy in your marriage.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

3 Barriers to Communicating with Your Spouse about Sex

Many spouses need to have a conversation about sex with their mates. They are not satisfied with the sexual intimacy in their marriage, and they see issues that need addressing, problems that need solving, holes in their heart that need filling.

Whatever the concern, it’s imperative that they start a conversation about sex. But all too often, such discussions devolve into frustration, contention, and stalemate. What’s keep you from making progress?

Couple with barrier between them + blog post title

1. Making yourself heard. You’re hurt by your spouse’s actions regarding marital intimacy, whether it’s insisting on activities you don’t want to do, resisting sex altogether, or whatever. You are sure that if only they understood how you feel, they would adjust their thinking and things would go more smoothly.

So you start the conversation, explain your thoughts and feelings, present information, argue your points, persuade, plead, beg, cry. Whatever it takes, you’re willing to do it, if only your spouse will listen to you.

Guess what? You’re making that conversation all about you and your feelings. Yes, you and your feelings matter! They matter a great deal. But so do your spouse’s.

Instead, try to ask questions and listen. Find out why they are resisting your viewpoint. What is in the way of them engaging more intimately or giving up porn or whatever you’re dealing with? Show real concern for your spouse’s feelings and give them a safe place to talk about what they are facing.

By doing so, you open up more conversation, gain insight you need to combat the problems, and show genuine care for your spouse. You might be surprised by what you discover if you’ll make the goal letting your spouse be heard and responding to them in love.

2. Keeping score. “You never…!” “You always…!”

We married people are excellent at keeping score. Especially if you’re unhappy in a specific area like sex. The rejected spouse knows exactly how many days it’s been since the last sex encounter or how many times she initiated and was shot down in the last week. The put-upon spouse knows how many times she’s been hit up for sex with no prior warning, romance, or affection. We don’t have to intentionally keep score; we have to intentionally stop keeping score.

Starting a conversation with a litany of your spouse’s failures is sure to end badly. Would you want to hear about everything you’re doing wrong? Then why do you think your spouse would respond to that?

Instead, talk about what you want. Instead of dwelling in real and perceived hurts, paint a picture of what your sexual intimacy could be like. Refer back to what it has been in the past, or what you imagine for the future, or — the best option! — the way God designed sexual intimacy in marriage. Speak of terms of the pleasure, connection, and closeness you desire to have as a couple; what your vision of sexual intimacy would mean to you, to your spouse, and to the relationship; and how a change in your sexual intimacy would honor God and keep your marriage strong.

Show how a new approach to sexual intimacy would be a beautiful thing for both of you — an ideal worth pursuing.

3. Blaming your spouse. If only he would… If only she would… Plenty of us believe that if our spouse would change, our problems would resolve.

Frankly, sometimes that’s true. Maybe your sexual problems really are the result of your spouse’s selfishness, sexual history, inability to deal with past abuse, or hormonal issues. Whatever it is, it could very well be that your spouse is a bigger part of the problem than you are.

But so what? You’re married. One flesh and all that. If you view your spouse as the enemy, you’re a divided team, and divided teams don’t win.

If you view your spouse as the enemy, you're a divided team, and divided teams don't win. Click To Tweet

Instead, make it a WE problem. One of the great perks of marriage is having someone on your team to support you and help you through tough times. Be your spouse’s biggest ally! Whatever the issue may be, it’s a we issue now — one you can tackle together. Remember Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

Don’t let your spouse fall alone. Reach out and help! Be stronger together. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (v. 12). Together, and with the third cord of God on your side, you can conquer almost anything!

Ask your spouse what you can do to help, and address your sexual intimacy issues as a we thing. “We can build wonderful sexual intimacy, and we can get through this together.”

For more tips on talking to your spouse about sexual problems in your marriage, see How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse.

What difficulties have you experienced talking to your spouse about sexual issues? What has worked for you?

Should Christians Get Plastic Surgery?

I rarely re-run posts. But this past week, I was reading an article from Juli Slattery on Is It Wrong to Get Plastic Surgery? She did an excellent job covering the questions involved with such a big decision.

FashionHowever, Juli Slattery mentions that she’s considered plastic surgery and decided against it. I also considered plastic surgery, and did it. So I wanted to revisit the topic and explain my own thoughts on whether it’s okay to have plastic surgery, from someone who went through it.

First inward, then outward. I have a friend who lost 90+ pounds in a year and went from obese to oh-babe! How did she manage that? I think it’s because she got her inner self right first. She stopped looking at herself in the mirror and seeing a fat person. Instead, she saw the beautiful woman inside and decided she was worth something better. Once she believed in herself, willing to see herself as God saw her, she felt empowered to do the hard work of changing her diet and exercise routine so that she realized her goals.

That’s often how body image improves — not by fixing the external parts first, but rather by appreciating the unique way God knitted you together (Psalm 139:13). You are wonderfully made, beauty! If you’re looking for plastic surgery to resolve your inner self-image issues, you’ll likely be disappointed. Satisfaction with who you are must come first from within. It’s from an understanding of who God created you to be.

Those poor women who have procedure after procedure after procedure never get this. They’re always looking for another outside fix for what really ails them inside. Get your priorities straight and work on your inner self first. It’s only from a position of inner, emotional health that you can make the right decision on what to do to improve your body for health or appearance.

Some things really are a matter of degree. Some Christians believe that it is wrong to have plastic surgery, that altering your appearance is going against God’s design.

Yet we do plenty of everyday things that involve aesthetic reasons, like bracing our kids’ teeth and wearing make-up and coloring our hair. Plus, we correct appearance that goes awry, like skin grafts after fire damage or breast implants after a mastectomy. Before announcing that all plastic surgery is off-limits, we might want to pause and ask what appearance-altering steps we’ve taken and what makes those okay and not others.

Because honestly, some things are a matter of degree. Eating is perfectly fine, but the Bible certainly warns against gluttony. Jesus attended a wedding with wine, but drunkenness is always spoken against in scripture. A little spice in the bedroom is rather wonderful, but an obsession with more and more kink becomes unhealthy. Likewise, some enhancements of our appearance would seem just fine, while extreme changes can become problematic.

And the question is then: What constitutes “extreme”? Is it numerous procedures? Surgery itself? Any changes to your appearance?

I suspect most people would agree on where the ends of the continuum are, but it’s that middle section of what’s a-okay that we struggle with. And we should. We should struggle to answer that question. Because if we are considering something as invasive as surgery, we need to ask some hard questions of ourselves and ensure that our choices honor God.

But I also suspect that my answer of where to draw the line might be different from the answer of another Christian whom I love and respect. And that’s where our own soul-searching and conscience come to bear.

For you, not someone else. I did not get bigger breasts for my husband. In fact, my husband was originally opposed to me having breast augmentation, because he was concerned about me undergoing surgery of any kind that wasn’t absolutely necessary (that sweet man). We talked about the pros and cons for a while, and he agreed with my conclusion and supported my decision. But I didn’t do it for him. I did it for me.

I’m always taken aback by the number of women who have plastic surgery as a “gift” to their man. And the number of men who request that. Having plastic surgery because you don’t feel like enough for your lover isn’t a great reason. Indeed, it’s likely to make you feel that you don’t measure up generally — that you’re only acceptable if you can “correct” whatever external appearance issues you have. And love looks beyond that.

Of course I wanted my husband to have more to handle in the bedroom, but that wasn’t my ultimate reason. My husband had already chosen me — flat chest and all. For most husbands, it’s about how much they love us and the feminine form itself. So as long as we wives show up (especially naked), they’re reasonably happy. We don’t have to look like magazine models or waste time and money fixing imagined flaws.

When considering plastic surgery, ask why. Is it for your own convenience and confidence or to feel like you measure up to an unrealistic standard for the sake of someone else? At the end of the day, you will be the one having surgery, you will be the one living with the results, you will be the one changed. So make sure it’s what you want.

Obviously, I wanted to have plastic surgery, I made the decision to do so, and I do not regret it. I’ve been open on my website about my own doubts about plastic surgery, my process and reasons for deciding to augment, and my concerns about jumping in too eagerly to solve body image issues. I’d like to hear your perspective.

When do you believe it’s okay for Christians to have plastic surgery? Have you had any procedures? Why did you choose to do it and what was your experience?

What to Pack for Your Honeymoon or Vacation

What does one pack for one’s honeymoon? In my short story “Suite Nothings,” from Behind Closed Doors: Five Marriage Stories, the main character shuffles through her luggage for this, that, and the other on her wedding night. Unfortunately, she couldn’t adequately plan and prepare for the night she was going to have . . .

Tourist couple walking in city with suitecaseBut the rest of us can do some looking ahead and packing for the honeymoon, or a romantic trip for any wedded couple. Since I am hopelessly bad at organizing and prepping for travel, I consulted with one of my best friends who is a near-genius at such things. She put together a list of ideas, and I fleshed it out with my comments.

Breath mints. You should be doing a lot of kissing and close-up interaction, so make sure your breath smells good. Pack some breath mints or fresh-flavor gum, and maybe mouthwash. Keep your mouth as kissable as you can!

Scented candles. You can set the mood wherever you go with scented candles. If one of you has allergy issues with candles (my husband does), you can try the battery-operated candles which also cast an inviting glow. If you’re nervous about getting undressed the first time on your wedding night, adding some low lights can ease you into the process. If you’re driving to your destination, pack matches or a lighter. If you’re flying, be careful and check the rules on what you can and cannot take in that department.

Chocolate or other sweets. You could buy something when you arrive, but if you have a favorite, you might want to pack a treat. Some wives have a tendency to get hungry post-lovemaking, and it’s nice to reward your sweet tooth when you’re done. You can also bring food items into your lovemaking with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, or whatever appeals to you.

Music CD or playlist. Put together a playlist of romantic mood music or maybe dance music to twirl around to in your hotel room. The right music can create a sensual mood and get you touching and moving together. For playlist ideas, check out my post on music for sexual intimacy.

Azo or Uricalm urinary pain relief pills. If you haven’t had sex, or haven’t had sex in your marriage much lately, engaging in lots of it carries the potential of infection of a gal’s urinary tract. Which is seriously uncomfortable. If you start to feel discomfort while urinating, start taking Azo! While this will not cure an infection — and you’ll still need to consult a doctor — it will definitely help with pain and keep you on the right track to get over the infection quickly.

Movie night package. Believe it or not, you can’t have sex the entire time. Well, maybe you could, but you might want to take a break now and then to regain your energy. Why not cuddle up for a movie night? Grab or download two movies — one manly movie and one click flick; bring microwave or pre-popped popcorn; and toss in Junior Mints or other movie candies. Maybe a little romance on screen will even inspire you!

Massage oil. Massage is such a beautiful thing. It awakens your senses, shows affection, and gets your body’s love chemicals firing. Grab some good massage oil or lotion and enjoy the experience of exploring and getting to know one another’s bodies.

Vacation Mad Libs (or other game). Games are a great way to spend time together as a couple, get to know each other, create memories, and have fun. Pack a game or two to play. Remember that almost any game can be made into Strip ___. But here are some posts on other board games to consider:

Two Player Games for Couples, Dates by Design
The BEST 2 Player Games for Date Night, Happy Wives Club
20 Two Player Games to Play with Your Husband, To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Prayer or devotional books. Start your marriage out with God at the center, using a devotional, scripture, or prayer book together. You could grab the pocket-sized book of prayers for The Power of a Praying Wife and The Power of a Praying Husband. If you’ve been married a while, try Closer: Devotions to Draw Couples Together by Jim and Cathy Burns to open up conversations and mutual faith-seeking. Or pick up my devotional book, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage.

Sleep accessories. Let’s face it: If you’re not used to sleeping with each other, or you’re just on vacation for relaxation, you need to set yourself up for a decent night of sleep. Pack some ear plugs to keep the neighbors, his snoring, or your snoring from interfering. Check out a white noise machine to help you sleep better (I recently stayed with a friend at a hotel who had one, and I was surprised by how wonderful it was). Be wiling to pack your favorite pillow or pillowcase. Whatever helps you snooze the night away, or at least a few hours in between you-know-what, slide it into the luggage.

Do Not Disturb sign. You can use the hotel’s provided sign, or create your own. You can find a couple of printable templates here:

Template 1
Template 2

What else do you recommend packing, in addition to the usual clothing and toiletries? What makes for a smooth, romantic honeymoon or vacation?

The Summer of Q&A with J! Ask Me Anything.

I have such a special place in my heart for the readers of my blog. From those who share my posts, to those who comment, to those who read consistently, to those who lurk (yes, I see you!), to those who stumble by on occasion — I write for you.

Although when I write, I don’t picture everyone out there altogether. Instead I tend to visualize a single person, usually a wife, sitting across from me at a table in a coffee shop or café, and I’m sharing my heart about this or that marriage or sexuality issue.

But when it comes to my comments and emails, sometimes the table gets a little crowded. I’m having an increasingly difficult time responding in a timely fashion to questions posed here on my blog or through my blog contact page.

You may have experienced that issue of me taking way too long to approve and reply to a comment or to respond to an email. At times I’m simply away from my computer, and other times I’m overwhelmed with to-do’s. Despite my asking God repeatedly for superpowers (which seems to make Him chuckle), I am still a mere mortal and cannot do it all.

Especially when I prioritize God, family, and the friends in my midst. As a ministry grows, the leader(s) ask questions about how to best use their resources. In my case, one of those resources is my time.

Even so, I sincerely want to answer questions whenever I can, so I’m launching The Summer of Q&A with J! From June through August, I’ll be dealing with one question asked by a reader or e-mailer each week.

Beach with footprints pointing toward ocean and "Ready?" plus blog post title

Ask. Me. Anything.

Yes, anything. Will I answer it? Well, since I’ll only have 13 weeks, I can’t promise to answer everything. But I’ll choose those questions that cover the most ground or address an issue I’ve yet to cover.

Your questions can be about:

  • A specific situation in your marriage
  • What the Bible says about a sexual issue
  • How to do something in your marriage bed
  • Why low-drive/high-spouses think a particular way
  • Health issues regarding sex
  • Body image concerns
  • Contraception or conception and its effect on sexual intimacy
  • A question arising from one of my books
  • What to do with an especially vivacious bunny (thanks to Paul Byerly for that question!)
  • Whatever you can think of regarding marriage and intimacy!

Send your question to hotholyhumorous [at] gmail [dot] com. You can also click on the Contact J button up there on the menu page and fill out the form there.

Please label your question somewhere with the phrase “Q&A” so I’ll know what it’s for!

The Hot, Holy & Humorous staff will go through all the questions and pick which ones J will address.

*insert hysterical laughter*

Oh, I crack myself up! The “Hot, Holy & Humorous staff” is just little ol’ me, checking emails between laundry loads and writing books and raising kids. But I’ll give it all my best shot.

So go ahead. Give me your best shot! Join The Summer of Q&A with J!

Note: Several of you who have emailed me have asked to remain anonymous. Just so you know…I’ll pose all questions as “from a reader,” so you will not be identified by name!