Monthly Archives: September 2015

Q&A with J: Where’s the Passion?

It’s Monday! Which means it’s question-and-answer time. Today’s reader question comes from a wife happy with her marriage, but noting their sexual intimacy lacks passion.

My husband and I have been happily married for almost 5 years. We saved ourselves for each other and are so glad we did. But we’re both pretty reserved and are not very passionate. I consider myself the higher drive spouse, which was one of the biggest surprises when we got married. I don’t ask for sex but wait for when he wants it (we do take care of each other’s needs in the meantime though), and even then I feel that he’s only doing it for me and that sex is a burden (like I said, not a lot of “passion”). How can I get past that mindset, and relax and enjoy? How can I make it more fun for him when I’m feeling like I’m burdening him? He is a thoughtful, self-sacrificial husband…

Q&A with J: Where's the Passion?

A few things stand out in this query.

They’re both reserved. I know it can be frustrating for one spouse to be the initiator, and the other one is far less so. But as long as there’s some cooperation, you can at least get something started that way.  But what if neither one of you feels comfortable taking the lead? How do you get things revvin’ when no one slides into the driver’s seat and starts the engine?

Some spouses are incredibly shy about sex. They might feel uncomfortable about their bodies or the act itself, or simply lack confidence. Speaking up and initiating sex is tough for them.

How can you overcome your timidity? Well, what gets you past being too reserved in any other area? As a social introvert myself, I suggest a few things:

  • Initiate anyway. In crowded gatherings and conferences, I force myself out of the corner and make a point to talk to others. The rewards have been well worth the effort. Stepping outside your comfort zone to initiate sex, speaking up for what you like, and engaging wholeheartedly is bound to yield great dividends in your marriage.
  • Practice makes comfort. I know it’s supposed to be practice makes perfect, but practicing something makes a habit and over time you feel more comfortable doing that thing. I still get butterflies stepping out of my comfort zone in a crowd, but it’s gotten way easier over time. Go ahead and practice a more confident you in the bedroom, and over time it will become a more comfortable approach.
  • Vulnerability breeds intimacy. And vice versa. There’s a vulnerability to opening up and initiating something difficult with someone else. But when you’re accepted, you have greater intimacy with the person you revealed yourself to. That intimacy helps you feel more comfortable the next time in being vulnerable, and more vulnerability leads to more intimacy, and on and on.

She’s the higher drive spouse. Hello, all of you higher-drive wives! I’m waving at this questioner and so many wives out there who have felt similar surprise when they discovered that they were more interested in sexual intimacy than their husbands.

I don’t know why that is in this marriage, although there are many possibilities — ranging all the way from innocent shyness to secret porn use and solo masturbation. I do know that rejection can make you doubt yourself. But the message here I most want to get across is that being the higher-drive spouse does not make you or your marriage weird.

It’s perfectly normal and fine if you’re more driven to have sex than he is — as long as he is willing to engage and you can learn to take the lead more. Nothing in the Bible says that the husband must be the one to initiate. In fact, the wife in Song of Songs says:Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits” (4:16). “Garden” and “fruits” are symbolic. She’s sending out a very clear invitation to her husband to engage in sexual intimacy.

As the higher-drive wife, you are not alone. If there are underlying reasons for his disinterest, get to the bottom of those. But if it’s just that your libido is higher than his, so be it. Feel surprised, sure. But definitely don’t feel defective.

He conveys that meeting her sexual needs is burdensome. I don’t know if that’s intentional or not. Sometimes a spouse really does give off a vibe that they don’t want to be having sex, because they are less willing or less participatory. Other times we can read into the situation because our spouse isn’t responding how we expected. We might have wrong messages in our head about what a hubby’s reaction to his naked wife or sexual activity should be, and when we don’t get that exact response, we conclude he just isn’t that into it.

I think you two need to have a conversation about sexual intimacy away from the bedroom. You might need to discuss the expectations you had going into the marriage, how sex has lived up to those expectations (did it meet what you anticipated, or did it fall short?), and what you hope to experience in the future.

Find out why he doesn’t seem so into it. Because it could be a misunderstanding, it could be that it’s more effort than he anticipated, or it could be that he feels inadequate because his body is not more libido-driven or he doesn’t feel like a proficient lover. There are numerous reasons why you could be getting the message that it’s not “all that” for him. Open up the conversation and make it clear that you are on his side and want to work together for better sexual intimacy.

She wants sex to be more relaxing, enjoyable, and fun. The number one thing I’d suggest for making sex more relaxing, enjoyable, and fun . . . is to reframe your view of what “sex” is. It is not merely the dish served as the main course, and too often we treat it that way. So we have intercourse, and it’s not earth-shatteringly awesome and we wonder why it isn’t so much better. It feels good, sure, but where’s that bone-shivering, heart-swelling sexual experience we expected?

I’d be seriously annoyed if I went into a restaurant, and they simply shoved a plate into my lap and told me to eat up in the corner. I don’t care how good that entrée is, it isn’t a “dining experience.” Likewise, your sexual intimacy is made up of everything that brings you closer together outside the bedroom (like shared time together and affection), to the anticipation of the event (flirtation and initiation), to the building of tension (foreplay and other sexual activities), to the main event (sexual intercourse), to the peak (climax), to the afterglow (lingering in one another’s embrace).

If you want sex to be better for you, and for him, attend to the various parts of this experience. Get your mind in the right space for sexual intimacy, take time to prepare for the event, and spend lots of time touching, exploring, and arousing one another. That’s at least a good place to start.

I also wrote a recent post on helping your husband be more adventurous in bed. That might be a good one to read as well.

Where’s the passion? I believe the passion is inside you. It’s also inside your husband, but since I’m responding to you, the wife, and not him, I’m focusing on your part of the equation. Awaken your own love and let your passion be contagious.

Sometimes when one spouse unleashes their passion and shares it with their mate, it can have a chain reaction. There are no guarantees, but it’s better for one of you to take positive steps, rather than neither of you initiating change. God created you to be a passionate woman and a passionate wife, so lean into His design.

I was recently interviewed by Belah Rose of Delight Your Marriage. Those episodes just went up on her podcast and have more helpful information. I’d love for my readers to check them out: How to Enjoy Sex More and Awaken Love Within You.

Speaking Seductively to Your Wife

Today’s post is for the guys! Listen up, husbands. We hear all the time that men are visual. Do you ever hear what women are?

Women are primarily aural. Which means they respond to the spoken word more than the visual image. I believe this is why porn is usually a stronger temptation for men and erotica a stronger temptation for women. It’s also why romance novels sell so briskly to the female population. We can conjure up an image in our head, but honestly what gets most of us is the words.

But this knowledge doesn’t simply have a negative connotation, with warnings to men not to lust after other women and warnings to women not to fall for another man’s sweet talk. Rather, you can use this information positively in your own marriage — to deepen your connection, your romance, and your sexual intimacy.

Give this a shot, hubbies: Speak seductively to your wife.

How do you do that?

Tell her how beautiful she is…specifically. Talk up her physical assets and her inner charm. Let her know with words how appealing she is to you and that she is your standard of beauty. Get specific about what you like about her feminine form and her unique features. Take time to savor those parts of her with full descriptions.

The Lover in Song of Songs does exactly this:

How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
are like the halves of a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
built with courses of stone[a];
on it hang a thousand shields,
all of them shields of warriors.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
like twin fawns of a gazelle
that browse among the lilies. (4:1-5)

Please use your own words — no teeth like a flock of shorn sheep — but you can follow the principle of overtly telling your wife why she is lovely to you.

Express the depth of your love. Yeah, I know you told your wife you loved her yesterday, but say it again today. And not just the same words you might proclaim to your brewing pot of coffee in the morning: “I love you so much.” Give your words a little depth, guys! Don’t think you can come up with anything? You could always follow the Bob Smiley example:

Well, she might catch on to that. But think about all those movie lines and song lyrics where guys tell the girl how much they love them, and use that as a framework to come up with your own expressions of love. I believe in you — you can do it!

Tell her what you want to do to her sexually. Build anticipation for sex with your wife with your words. Grabbing a body part ain’t gonna cut it, men. How about walking her through what you want her to experience in the bedroom, what arousal you want her to feel, what actions you want to perform, what response you want her to have? Slowly describe what you want to do with your hands, where you want to kiss her body, how much pleasure you want to bring her, how you want to meld your bodies into one, how you want her body to shiver with delight. Try doing all of this before you even take off a single item of clothing or fondle any body parts. Talk through the lovemaking and see if that doesn’t increase her arousal.

How beautiful you are and how pleasing,
    my love, with your delights!
Your stature is like that of the palm,
    and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree;
    I will take hold of its fruit.”
May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine,
    the fragrance of your breath like apples,
    and your mouth like the best wine. (Song of Songs 7:6-9)

Savor the encounter afterward. You can also use the time after a sexual encounter to express verbally what the experience meant to you, how beautiful you feel she is, how much her love means. Wrap the experience in words of gratefulness and contentment. Letting her know how intimate you feel in her naked embrace can go a long way toward giving your wife sexual confidence and a desire to make love again.

Will every wife respond to aural stimuli? No, of course not. Some wives defy type by being more visual than aural, and some wives don’t respond to sexual advances well, even with words. But I venture to say that most marriages would experience a fresh boost of intimacy when a husband takes time to tailor his advance to his wife’s aural tendency.

Stoke the fires of your sexual intimacy with words that build her up.

Unfinished & Beautiful with Kate Aldrich

Brad & Kate Aldrich blog at One Flesh Marriage, with Ephesians 5:31 as their inspiration: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

I love their heartfelt posts on marriage in general, and when they cover sexuality, it’s always with biblical spirituality, authenticity, and practicality. If you’re looking for a place to start on their blog, check out their Top 10 Posts of 2015. They also host the 10-Day Sex Challenge in February.

Today, we’re blessed to have Kate with us, who is a fabulously fun woman and wife, and she’s sharing her heart on Feeling Beautiful. Welcome, Kate!

woman portrait .abstract watercolor

I can’t remember the first time it happened. I have no idea where I was or what brought it on. I can’t even remember how I responded. I just know I can’t remember a time when I was not conscious of my own body and compared it to those around me.

Everywhere I went I was inundated with images of what a woman was supposed to look like if she was going to be considered “attractive.” It took me till the beginning of my 30’s and two biological children (one natural & one emergency c-section) until I started to see myself for who I truly am, who God made me to be, and loving that person.

What woman alive has not struggled with her body image?

I think we could search long and hard and never come up with such a woman. It happens younger and younger now. My hubby and I have three kids. Two boys, ages 12 and 10, as well as a 9-year-old girl. We’ve been diligent about protecting our little girl’s mind and heart from the lies the world tries to sell her. Still at 9, she has asked questions about her body or made comments that make my heart cry! She is such a beautiful creation of God, and we are doing to do our best to tell her that every day. Admiring all that she is in Christ.

The question is how do we as wives, whatever age we are, embrace the beauty that God has created in us? The outside and the inside? Here are few of the things I have learned that have helped to change my perspective:

Loving you means taking care of you!

After we had our first son, I began to see how I took care of myself slipping. It was so much easier to just stay in comfy clothes all day. All of my energy was being devoted to someone else, and to be honest, I was running a little low on energy for myself. I was merely trying to survive the day.

It took me a bit of time, but when I was finally getting a little more sleep I had the opportunity to do more. I added exercise three times a week back into my schedule, and it became a time to take care of me. I also made myself take a shower each day and dress in regular clothes. Those simple things really helped me feel better as a wife and mom.

I continue to do this now, although with life sometimes my workouts don’t happen. But you know what? I just pick right up where I left off and get back on my treadmill. There is no sense beating myself up for a missed workout. Life happens. Yet striving to keep regular exercise in your life will help you take care of you!

Choose to believe your husband’s words

My hubby has always sought to lavish me with praise telling me that I am beautiful to him. I would drink it up like a woman in the desert and then, moments later, dispute it. I wanted those words so badly and yet, I couldn’t accept them. All the while he felt like I was calling him a liar. If the world is telling me I am not beautiful, how can I believe my husband thinks that I am?

If the world is telling me I am not beautiful, how can I believe my husband thinks that I am? Click To Tweet

Choosing to believe our husband’s words about our beauty is so important. Your hubby loves and adores you! You need to trust that! When he speaks those things into your life, take them in and say, “Thank you.” You trusted him with your life when you married him, trust him with your beauty!

When you are confident you are beautiful

My hubby says that one of the most beautiful things about me is my confidence. Both in life and in the bedroom. Being a confident person is sexy and beautiful. How did I get to that place, you might ask?

  • Seeking God on who He created me to be and who He is molding me into.
  • Believing that He loves me immensely, beyond words, just as I am.
  • Trusting and believing my hubby that he finds me beautiful.

You are His masterpiece

Five years ago our little girl said she wanted to take dance lessons. For me as a softball and tennis player, I was like “really?” My husband and I are always telling our kids to be who God made them to be, and He made our little girl to dance for Him. As she performed in her first recital, she recited a verse with her entire ballet class: “We are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10.”

“We are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10.” Click To Tweet

As I watched our precious, beautiful little girl proclaim who she was in Christ, I was moved to tears. I knew that God was challenging me that I too must believe I am His beautiful masterpiece. I am unfinished — He is still doing a work in me — but I am His masterpiece.

Ladies, we are unfinished and beautiful! When we embrace it, choose to believe it, and live accordingly, life takes on a while new look. I know I am beautiful in my Jesus’ eyes as well as my husband’s. I am unfinished and beautiful. You are too!

Ask God to give you eyes to see yourself as He sees you and trust what he shows you. Know that it is not always easy and there will be times that we allow doubt to creep back in, since we are all human. God wants you to feel your beauty. For a husband there is nothing like when his wife is confident in her beauty. You can be that wife.

Kate AldrichKate and her amazing hubby, Brad, write and speak on all things marriage. In 2009 they followed God’s prompting and founded One Flesh Marriage Ministries, a blog based on their marriage journey and God’s word in Ephesians 5. Brad is the Director of Small Groups and re|engage (marriage ministry) at their home church, the Worship Center. Kate is a homeschooling mom and a natural light portrait photographer. God has given Brad and Kate three amazing blessings, two biological and one adopted, who have enriched their life and marriage. They live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where the Amish buggies roam.  You can find their blog at www.onefleshmarriage.com

Q&A with J: What Long-term Sexual Refusal Does to Your Spouse

Today’s questioner asks me to cover the topic of long-term sexual refusal in marriage:

I was just wondering if you had ever considered doing a post about the long-term effects of refusal.  I have been refused completely for five years. The effects on my faith and my self-esteem have been devastating. I cannot tell you how horrible this makes me feel. Every time I have tried to discuss with this with my wife, she just insults me more. I really don’t know how long I can go on this way.

Q&A with J: What Long-term Sexual Refusal Does to Your Spouse

You can pick out a few words and feel this husband’s pain: refusal, devastating, horrible, insults. It’s certainly not only husbands who’ve experienced long-term refusal; many higher-drive wives report the same frustration and feelings. And their spouses either don’t get it or don’t care.

I believe the vast majority of refusing spouses don’t get it, mainly because their not caring is based on not understanding what sex means to their spouse, to their marriage, and to God Himself, the Creator of sex and marriage. They have bad theology, past hurts, annoyance with their own body’s lack of cooperation, an erroneous view of male or female sexuality, etc. that hampers their willingness to engage or even discuss the issue.

In many ways, I sympathize because they’re in a bad place and they can’t get beyond their own issues to see the greater gift available not only for their spouse but for themselves. In other ways, I’m frustrated enough to think: Oh my goodness, you’re killing your marriage! Find a way to fix it!

To address both sides, I want to outline damage wreaked by months and years of sexual refusal, but also benefits of sexual generosity. It’s not merely about not saying no, but truly saying yes to sexual intimacy in marriage.

Refusal breeds physical discomfort. Sexual intimacy promotes physical health and pleasure. God designed our adult bodies to desire sexual release. Male reproductive systems suggest sex every 2-3 days, while females tend to be more flexible with timing — typically wanting more sexual release at certain times of their cycle and having less interest during others. But an individual with a normal to higher drive can feel physical discomfort if they do not engage in sexual activity for a long period of time.

(By the way, if you’re single and this an issue for you — don’t go out and have sex. It’s discomfort, not agony. You can do something else with your sex drive for the time being, until the God-prescribed time to awaken that love in the proper context of a marriage covenant.)

For marrieds, the right outlet is sexual intercourse! Refusal in marriage breeds even more physical discomfort, because your remedy is right there and yet unavailable. It’s like being locked in a chocolate factory and told you can’t sample a single treat. Ouch!

Engaging in sexual intimacy, however, has positive effects on your body. Beyond relief for one’s sex drive, sexual intimacy can lower blood pressure, lessen pain, curb prostate cancer risk, improve sleep, and boost libido. Just Google “health benefits of sex,” and you’ll be surprised to find all the goodies God packed into this intimate act. He’s oh-so-generous that way!

Speaking of His generosity, how about the pleasure factor? Even if you’re not eager to get going, your body is designed to experience pleasure when you can relax, lean into intimacy, and enjoy the sensations involved in sex with the one you love.

Refusal breeds emotional pain. Sexual intimacy promotes emotional connection. For refused spouses, sex isn’t merely a physical release. (I’ve often said that if that’s all it was, your spouse could achieve that without you.) Rather, it’s about emotional connection. Making love, as God designed it, is incredibly intimate expression of love.

Withholding your body, your participation, and your pleasure from your spouse is like walling off a huge part of yourself — saying you don’t want to share, to trust, to unite with him or her. Consider Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” For the higher drive spouse, it doesn’t feel like merely a rejection of the act, but a rejection of the person himself or herself. That emotional pain far outweighs any physical discomfort.

Sexual intimacy, however, nurtures emotional connection. Becoming vulnerable, trusting your spouse with your body, sharing what pleasures you and discovering what pleasures them, touching and kissing and fondling, letting go and experiencing a full-on climax — all these things bind you a special way. You can talk to others, spend time with others, laugh with others — but you share this intimate act exclusively with your spouse, and that makes it an emotional bond beyond any other.

Refusal breeds sexual temptation outside marriage. Sexual intimacy promotes faithfulness. Proverbs 5 is a warning against adultery, with plenty of advice on avoiding lust of the eyes, compromising situations, and extramarital temptation. But in the latter half of the chapter, the writer speaks to another important aspect: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well . . . May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love” (v. 15, 18-19).

I’ve heard from so many refused spouses who ache so intensely for sexual connection that temptation taps them on the shoulder and digs in its claws for good measure. Most of them are resisting; they know what they really want is their own beloved in their bed. But it’s hard, because Satan is all over that — seeing how vulnerable a deprived spouse can be. Why leave your spouse so vulnerable to temptation?

Look, I know some people cheat anyway. Yet I believe the vast majority of spouses do not want to cheat on their spouses — they stood up and said their vows fully intending to never bed another person again. Regular sexual intimacy fills their well in a way that leaves much less space for temptation to infidelity. It’s not an affair-proof measure, but it makes a marriage affair-resistant. After all, why be with someone else when your spouse willingly and happily meets all your sexual needs, and lets you meet theirs?

Refusal breeds resentment. Sexual intimacy promotes grace. Refused spouses understandably resent their withholding mates. Here’s an enjoyable experience God has said they can only have in marriage, and they only want from their chosen beloved, but they can’t get it. The one person who could grant sexual intimacy is the one person blocking it. How frustrating!

If you’ve been denying your spouse, imagine how you’d feel if tomorrow he decided to simply stop talking to you altogether? Or if she decided to stop sharing her money and resources, essentially dividing all your finances down to the last penny? What if one of you claimed dibs on the kids and kept them from the other? This sounds preposterous, but withholding something in marriage the other is clearly entitled to leads to real resentment.

But that’s not the whole of the story, because sexual intimacy promotes grace. 1 Peter 4:8 says: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I believe that’s true of sexual love in marriage as well. When you are engaged in regular physical intimacy, it can be easier to overlook slights.

Honestly, I’m not that annoyed about my husband leaving out his shoes all over the floor after he’s brought me to the pinnacle of pleasure and left me as a heap of happy flesh. A healthy sexual relationship between husband and wife helps you give grace in other areas. It’s a positive that balances out the negatives, puts points in your “love bank,” and serves as the sort of rose-colored glasses that are good for a marriage.

Refusal breeds doubts about God’s plan. Sexual intimacy promotes trusting God’s design. The questioner said: “The effects on my faith and my self-esteem have been devastating.” Which is another theme I’ve heard many times: An individual excitedly enters marriage, fully expecting to experience God’s blessing of sexual intimacy in its rightful context. Yet, they are denied at every turn.

They feel cheated, especially those who waited until marriage and now face the possibility of never fully knowing the delights of sex. It can quickly turn into laments the likes of the psalmist David: “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” Of course, David was speaking from a different context, but the sentiment is a familiar one to long-refused spouses.

It can be hard for a refused spouse to trust God’s design for sex in marriage. They wonder where God is in helping to heal their pain, improve their marriage, bless them with the gift of intimacy. Why isn’t He coming to their rescue? Why are they rewarded for desiring their own spouse with constant rejection?

Experiencing true intimacy through sexual fulfillment in marriage fosters an entirely different conclusion — that God is good and His design is perfect. Moreover, sexual intimacy can help us better understand God’s plan of intimacy with His bride, the Church. It fosters gratefulness for His generosity. Faith and marital intimacy are not unconnected. There’s good reason why spouses who pray together tend to have more intimate sex lives.

Quick summary? Refusal bad. Intimacy good.

Of course that’s not the whole of it. For instance, a single not-tonight does not constitute refusal; the higher drive spouse needs to be loving and understanding as they pursue healthier intimacy; and sex should be mutually satisfying. But I hope this illuminates some of the damage done by long-term sexual refusal and the far-more-positive effects of seeking sexual intimacy in your marriage.

If this is your situation, I’m not expecting you to start jumping into bed regularly right away. But ask questions about what’s hindering you, diligently seek answers, and open yourself up to pursuing intimacy. One step at a time, and you can discover a much better approach to sex in your marriage — benefiting not only your refused spouse, but you as well.

Put Your Body to Work to Help You Feel Beautiful with Gaye Groover Christmus

Have you ever been to the Calm.Healthy.Sexy website? I’m a regular post subscriber. I love how blogger Gaye Groover Christmus gives authentic, godly, practical insight for wives. So it was an easy decision to me to invite her to contribute to the Feel Beautiful series.

Just as I expected, she came up with great stuff we can start putting into practice right now to own our natural beauty and take charge in feeling more beautiful day by day. Here’s Gaye!

Put Your Body to Work to Help You Feel Beautiful

If you’re in the midst of the struggle to feel beautiful, believe me, I’m right there with you. That struggle is a process for me that tends to involve one step forward and two steps back — and I’m guessing it does for you too. So today I want to suggest a strategy that can help you move forward in that process — by putting your body to work for you. This is an approach that has helped me tremendously, and I think it can be a powerful tool for every woman who wants to embrace and accept her beauty.

Before we begin, I encourage you to remember two things. First, beauty is subjective. Yes, a few people are so objectively beautiful that no one thinks otherwise. But they’re the exception. Most people possess the type of beauty that’s more attractive to some people and less attractive to others. You’ve probably had the experience of saying, “She’s so beautiful,” and your husband or a friend saying, “Really? Do you think so?” In most cases, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Second, beauty is changeable. The way you look today is not set in stone — you can change it. Not by having plastic surgery or an extreme makeover, but by making the most of your natural beauty, taking charge of your body, and growing in confidence. Because what it really comes down to is this — confidence is attractive, and a woman who is becoming confident in herself, her body, and her appearance is becoming more beautiful every day.

“Putting your body to work” to help you feel more beautiful simply means helping your physical body work for you, rather than against you. So many women set aside focusing on their physical bodies in favor of handling dozens of other tasks that clamor for attention. Over time, this lack of focus results in their bodies working against them — making them less able to embrace their God-given beauty. If you find yourself in that position, here are 5 ways you can turn things around and begin putting your body to work for you:

Exercise regularly. God designed our bodies for movement. We look, feel, and function our best when we get up and move regularly. But modern life conspires to keep us from moving — we often spend hours each day sitting, and very few of our daily activities require physical exertion. So we end up feeling sluggish and flabby — hardly conducive to feeling beautiful! The solution is to exercise regularly. And by “exercise” I don’t mean “go to the gym,” although that’s great if you can do it. I mean make a plan that gets your body up and moving almost every day and stick to that plan. You can take a brisk walk, work out with a video, play soccer with your kids, ride a bike — anything that gets you moving, increases your breathing a bit, and engages your muscles.

Stand up straight. For the next few days, notice how people stand and how they move. (Yes, this is a weird form of people watching!) Pay attention to the messages they send with their bodies. What do you notice? In most cases, I think you’ll find that poor posture makes people look older and less attractive, regardless of their appearance otherwise. Good posture, on the other hand, makes people look younger and more attractive. It certainly makes people look more confident, and confidence is inherently attractive. Now, begin working on your own posture. Practice standing up straight, with your shoulders back and your head up. Become aware of how you position your body when you’re sitting, standing, and walking. If you find yourself slumping, as I often do, take a few seconds to realign your body. Do this a number of times each day, until good posture becomes a habit. (Adding upper body and core exercises to your exercise routine can make it easier.)

Walk with confidence. Now that you’re standing up straight, practice walking and presenting yourself with confidence. Try it around the house first, then give it a go when you’re out and about. This doesn’t have anything to do with arrogance or showing off — it’s about accepting and enjoying the body God has given you and embracing its natural beauty. And, walking and presenting yourself with confidence is very attractive — it affects the way you and other people perceive your appearance.

Smile and look people in the eye. When women don’t feel attractive, they sometimes avoid engaging people in a direct and open manner. (“If I don’t look at them, they won’t look at me.” Been there, done that.) But that behavior tends to reinforce negative feelings, because it negatively affects the way people see us. So train yourself to engage others directly and openly. Smile at people, and look them in the eye. Show them that you value them, but also that you value yourself. Practice doing this as you go about your day, until it feels natural.

Maintain a weight that’s healthy and comfortable for your body. I saved this strategy for last, because it’s the hardest. While the first four strategies can yield positive changes fairly quickly, this one takes some time. But let’s tackle it anyway. And right from the start, let’s be clear — I am not saying that women must be thin in order to be beautiful. Not at all. In fact, the version of “thin” that magazines, movies, and other media promote as the standard of beauty is ridiculous. No normal woman is ever going to be that thin, nor should she be. But the reality is that most people (69%, according to the CDC) weigh a lot more than they should. And for many women, as their weight increases, their perception of their beauty decreases. So if your weight is keeping you from feeling comfortable in your body, it may be time to take charge of it and make some healthy changes. Begin by eating real, nutritious food. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Drink more water. Ditch the fast food, junk food, and soda. Begin exercising regularly. Sleep 7-8 hours a night (yes, sleep affects weight loss!). Do some research and put together a weight loss plan that works for you. Work toward reaching and maintaining a weight that’s comfortable for your body, as a way of putting your body to work for you and preventing it from working against you.

The body God has given you is beautiful and “wonderfully made.” If it’s working against you, take charge and put it to work for you. Because when it’s working for you, it can be the greatest beauty tool ever created.

Gaye Groover ChristmusGaye Groover Christmus is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons.  In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field.  Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages.  She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives.  Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy.  She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today — as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.