Monthly Archives: October 2015

Your Sex Life: What If Nothing Ever Changes?

That title is a tough question for many of you. Some marriages are struggling in the area of sexual intimacy, and one or both spouses feel trapped in an impossible situation. Your spouse doesn’t fully understand what you’re going through, and you don’t know how much longer you can hang on.

I get it. I really do.

Because that’s where my marriage was for days, weeks . . . okay, honestly, it was years. I didn’t feel that way every single moment, but there were more moments when I thought we wouldn’t make it than I expected we would. It was so very hard to hang on and believe things could get better.

I’ve said many times on my blog that you cannot change your spouse. You can make requests, explain yourself, encourage change, and make your own choices. But you can’t force someone else to behave the way you want. God gave your husband (or wife) free will, and He won’t take that away because it’s not working out well in a particular moment.

I believe spouses in unhappy situations need to ask themselves that question: What if nothing every changes? What if my spouse keeps doing X? What if we continue to have this struggle? 

Your Sex Life: What If Nothing Ever Changes?

Such questions may feel like a recipe for despair, and maybe even divorce. But NO! That’s not at all what happened when I finally asked myself that question in the worst time of our marriage. I didn’t want to base my answers on the fissures in my heart or the frustration in my head. I wanted biblical, common-sense answers. What I discovered is what I want to share with you today — those of you whose sexual intimacy isn’t everything it should be, and who feel like giving up.

You have many other blessings in your life. When something is going wrong in your life, it’s easy to fixate on that. Likewise in marriage. Believe me, I spent years dwelling on everything that was wrong in my marriage, not bothering to consider what was going right.

That gave me a skewed perspective of the whole and sapped my energy to work on the area that needed improvement. It brought resentment and anger. And it made me blind to my own contributions to our problems.

Instead, consider all the blessings in your life — both in your marriage and elsewhere. Your sex life isn’t what it should be, but you likely have other benefits from being married. I know that doesn’t cover over the problems, but it may give you a healthier perspective and infuse you with a positive desire to work toward increased intimacy.

You can change the way you approach your situation. You are not powerless. You probably feel that way, but you have a say in how you deal with what’s going on. You choose your attitude and your responses.

Sometimes inadvertently enable our spouses to mistreat us regarding sexuality. We cooperate with the cycle of frustration or shutdown. We bring our anger to the forefront and operate from a selfish standpoint.

What if you changed the way you approached the situation? What if you stepped away from the role you’re playing in making things worse and discovered positive ways to approach your spouse and your marriage?

Without knowing your specific situation, I can’t say what that looks like for you. But most of us have some inkling of how we are adding to the problem. If you don’t know or need help figuring out how to change your approach, I recommend seeing a Christian counselor who can help you work through alternatives.

You still have an obligation to your family and to your God to do the right thing. Sorry to break it to you, but you don’t get a waiver from God because your spouse mistreats you. You are still called to act in ways that mirror Christ and exemplify love.

Now if your spouse has been unfaithful or abusive, you might well have reason to leave — permanently. But most troubled marriages fall short of this. Most of us are just unhappy. Yes, the issues may be big or they may be small, but they are likely not insurmountable.

Which means you can still do your part — by being the most loving spouse you can be. I recognize how hard that prescription is, but once again, I have personal experience on this one. Holding myself responsible for living out God’s commands was key to the resurrection of my failing marriage.

But even if my marriage had fallen apart, I could stand before my God and my family and say that I’d done everything I could possibly do.

You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Many of you are heartsick right now, your hope deferred because it feels like nothing will ever change.

But there are happy-ending stories for marriages and marriage beds that seemed they would never work out. If you doubt things can change, read the testimonies of wonderful marriage bloggers like Paul and Lori Byerly, Scott and Sherry Jennings, Chris Taylor, and others.

I’ve received great comments on my blog from couples who rediscovered sexual intimacy after years of frustration, and my email inbox has messages from now-happy couples that were very unhappy with their intimacy before. It happens.

You don’t know what’s coming, but if you can remain faithful, something beautiful could come your way. Pursue the best for your marriage, get help if you need it, and continue to hope that your future could be better.

Once again, even if nothing changes, continuing to hope can get you through a lot. It sure beats despair. And it can help us to “be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

Are you ready to give up and feeling like nothing will ever change? Or do you have a hopeful story to share about your journey from unhappy to happy in your marriage bed?

Our Identity and Beauty as Women by Ngina Otiende

I still remember years ago when I discovered I had readers in Africa. I gasped at the idea that our worlds could converge so easily and felt humbled that my fellow believers on a faraway continent would connect with little ol’ me.

It wasn’t long before I discovered how much I could learn from my wise African brothers and sisters. One in particular caught my eye — a young wife named Ngina Otiende who started a blog titled Intentional Today. I love her authenticity, her wisdom, and her heart for marriage.

So I was thrilled when she agreed to participate in my Feel Beautiful series with her unique perspective. As someone who has not felt like a girly girl most of her life, I love what Ngina has to say.

We also had a funny little email chat about the benefits and struggles of straight hair versus kinky hair. I think we’d each be willing to trade for a day to see how the other half lives! (Ah, luscious curls! What would that be like…?)

And now to hear from the lovely Ngina herself!

Our Identity and Beauty as Women with Ngina Otiende

As a young girl and into my early teens, I was fascinated with the opposite sex. Not in the way you might think. I wanted to be it . . . I wanted to be a boy. I liked the power the male gender seemed to wield easily in my conservative African society. I looked at the women who did all the work at home and wondered, “Why haven’t you all rebelled and fought for a higher place?”

I still remember the day it hit me that much as I harbored hot ideas of taking over the world, playing rough, it could be confusing to others.

I was around ten or eleven years. My friends and I had been invited to the yearly Maasai (a tribe in Kenya) circumcision ceremony down in the valley. We trekked through rocky cliffs, thick bushes and down a winding valley, a couple of miles on foot. Finally arriving at our destination — a scattering of traditional huts and homes, we stumbled on a group of old men roasting meat in the bushes.

Culturally men and women do not mix during such circumcision festivals. Already some in our rag tag group were anxious because we women saw the old men. We hurried past, with the young men in our group branching out to join the old group of men.

But a voice stopped us in our tracks: “Where is that young man going?”

We all stopped. And it took a while before I figured out who they were talking about. Short scruffy hair, dirty jeans shorts, long scrawny limbs, dirty feet, very flat chest, and no hips. Me.

I was mad that they laughed. Even more upset when my friends laughed and pointed their fingers.

My mum did not think my tomboyish-ness was a laughing matter. At least at a certain age, she expected me to snap out of it. But dad was an ally. He indulged me, laughed when new friends shooed their boys in my direction with “go play with that quiet boy.” This was Africa, it was all harmless, something I would eventually snap out of, especially after meeting the Lord in my teenage years.

Now living in America, my heart breaks when I read about gender confusion and how it spirals out of control. My fascination turned out to be “harmless,” but here I am reminded about the consequences of not understanding (and therefore not appreciating) our identity and beauty as women. And these few things stand out:

We need to guard what we hear. 

I can’t ever recall my mum wearing pants. She was a traditional African mama. As I entered my teenage years, she began to slap (my very uncovered) thighs and told me to sit like a girl. She put me in dresses and noised about being a girl. I hated it then, but now I understand what she was doing. Mothers set the tone for their daughters. It was not about the shorts, but the thinking behind the shorts.

I don’t know why, but society seems to think that parents should allow their kids to discover who they are and go with whatever they find. But Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

It matters what you hear, what you expose yourself to. Read one too many fashion magazines, scroll one too many perfect Instagram photos, and not enough time hearing and believing God, and you’ll spiral out of control.

You cannot tell others who they are if you don’t know who you are.

You can’t give what you don’t have. You can try, but little people (and big people) are smart and will follow your heart, not your words.

The fight to see yourself as God sees you — beautiful, whole, unique — is not just for you. It’s for others too, because we are our sisters’ keepers.

Thats why it’s a fight because the enemy of your soul sees what your little confusion and dissatisfaction will lead to. He sees your daughters, your friends, the people you influence. He has plans for your awkwardness and self-cutting words. There’s nothing more freeing than taking on God’s perspective of “we” instead “me.” Perspective can spur us to work on feeling beautiful, to accept ourselves, for the right reasons.

It’s okay to be different.

I am not a girly girl. At least that’s not my default. I still like my pants and jeans and prefer certain cuts. Yet sometimes when I see women who are well put together, who can dress pretty in under five minutes with perfect make-up and matching jewelry, my heart skips. “I wish I could have such effortless beauty.” My mirror reflects a face with imperfect skin, a mole, kinky African hair, not a lot make-up or jewelry, an accent and often, two left feet when it comes to style or fashion. At that moment I forget that beauty does not have a distinct look, or face or color or shade. Simply the most beautiful person is the one who understands and accepts who they are in God’s eyes.

Simply the most beautiful person is the one who understands & accepts who they are in God's eyes. Click To Tweet

David said in Psalm 139:14: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Sometimes we offer broken praise . . . but it’s praise nonetheless. When you wake up and don’t like all the person you see in the mirror, when what you see cannot be fixed by healthier eating or exercise. When what you need is a heart makeover, every single day of your life. You can still offer praise. Still say, “I believe who you say I am God even if I don’t feel it now.”

I love that God will never give up, will never cease to remind us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are His daughters. His faithfulness is what keeps us singing, keeps us believing. May we, may I, never forget that His faithful is what counts. Always.

Ngina OtiendeNgina Otiende is a wife and writer who blogs at IntentionalToday.com, a site dedicated to helping early-wed wives create grace bathed intentional happily-ever-afters. She’s the author of Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After In The Early Years, and in the book she shares lessons from her early years, how God transformed her marriage, and how wives can change the dynamics of their marriage. Ngina and her husband are originally from Kenya but now live in the USA. You can pick a free chapter of her book + a free eBook when you sign up at her website. 

Q&A with J: “Is It Okay for Him to Please Himself While Thinking of Me?”

Today’s question is from a wife who struggles with postpartum blues. At the time she wrote, she was physically and emotionally unable to engage in sexual intimacy with her husband.

I just had baby number 4 . . . I have really struggled with postpartum blues this time. I’ve been trying to communicate my needs and when I’m feeling down so I don’t get too lost, and I think I’m doing okay with that, but some days I am so overwhelmed. This has really really impacted my connection with my husband. I haven’t been able to be close to him much. A couple times the first week or two I did please him with my hand. I don’t like doing it that way but I know he needed it. But then the blues kicked in and I haven’t been able to please him in the last 2 weeks.

Now, he needs his touch, and he has tried (so he says) to be close by hugging or kissing me. Sadly, I don’t respond the way he wants. And just the other day I realized, though, that he hasn’t really strongly pursued intimacy like he usually does. Selfishly I’m okay with this because I don’t feel like I am emotionally able to engage in anything (I can’t have intercourse yet, but there are other things). But then I feared that he was getting it somewhere else. So I asked him. He said that at work he will go to the bathroom and please himself, while thinking of me.

I just don’t know what to think about this. It hurts, yet I now pushed him to it because of my stupid hormones and the inability to get close to him. Is this okay for him to do? He has a past of porn use, before we got married, and so it just brings up bad feelings for me. At the same time, I can’t give him what he needs, so I guess it’s better than porn use or infidelity. There are many other little things that are contributing to our disconnection, but this area of intimacy is tearing us apart right now. And honestly, most of the time lately, I don’t care to do much to change it.

I know that’s the blues talking — how do I fight that?? So I guess my main question is how can I trust that I am not betraying myself and my emotions and that he will care for my heart so that I can give him what he needs physically and not push him to please himself?

Q&A with J: "Is It Okay for Him to Please Himself While Thinking of Me?"

I see three main issues here:

  1. Her struggle with postpartum depression, which is a very real and very difficult road for some new moms.
  2. Her inability to engage with her husband in physical intimacy or affection.
  3. His choice to masturbate on his own to relieve the buildup of sexual tension.

Let’s tackle these in turn.

Postpartum depression. The answer to this one is get help. I’ve written about my own mood problems postpartum and how they affected my sex life. They affected everything else in my life at that time too — my marriage, my ability to parent, my health. Looking back, I didn’t need to wade through that swamp of blues alone.

I appreciate that you’re speaking up with your husband. I wonder if you’ve also talked honestly with your doctor. You may need to look at your hormonal balance or consider a temporary antidepressant to get through this difficult time. Some balk at such measures, but when you begin to feel more like yourself, I think you’ll be glad you reached out and sought answers.

You probably need help in other areas, like housework and childcare. Are there family or friend resources who could help you? Be willing to explain the situation and ask for assistance. Over and over again, I’ve seen that when people are honest with their church community about their needs, godly people come to the rescue. But too often someone is faced with a genuine struggle, and friends have no idea what’s going on. See if you can get someone to help you temporarily while you recover.

Of course, your husband should provide help as well, by doing double-duty for a time. He’s in this parenting thing with you too, and when those kids are little, it’s time to step up and handle whatever gets thrown your way together.

Inability to engage. I appreciate that you tried to satisfy your husband’s needs with your hand. I’m sure he also appreciated your efforts! But you followed with saying that the blues hit and you stopped being sexually intimate. I get that, I really do. It’s a struggle to do much of anything when you’re in the throes of deep depression. However, we have a tendency to withdraw when we feel bad, while the better thing for our marriages is to connect. Your postpartum blues aren’t just your challenge; he’s married to you so it’s his challenge too. And you can walk through this together.

I encourage you to read my post on Is Depression Impacting Your Sexual Intimacy? I give specific tips for dealing with depression or dysthymia and the marriage bed.

What’s most important is to understand that you must find some way to maintain physical closeness. It doesn’t have to look like what he expected, but it shouldn’t be absent.

Talk to yourself regularly about your husband, his affection, and your sexual intimacy in positive terms, so that your mind can warm back up to the idea. Make time together a priority. With all those little ones, I don’t mean that it has to be time with just the two of you — you may need to snuggle up together on the couch with a child in each of your arms. But be close when you can.

And sometimes, yes, you may do something sexual for your husband that you aren’t all that interested in doing at first. However, there can be great joy in satisfying your spouse in the marriage bed and you may find that you enjoy the experience once you choose to engage.

His masturbation. I don’t believe what your husband did is a problem. In the Bible, masturbation is not condemned as a sin, although God clearly designed sexual intimacy for married couples. What I find to be a good barometer is whether the masturbation takes sexual energy away from the marriage or supports the marriage.

Your husband attempting to deal with his sexual tension while you are unavailable by thinking about you and masturbating to climax seems supportive of your marriage. He isn’t engaging in porn. He isn’t making this a habit. He isn’t masturbating when he could be making love with you. He isn’t thinking of someone else. He isn’t even hiding what he did, since he admitted it when you asked.

This obviously shouldn’t be the new norm — with an absence of intimacy in your marriage bed and him reaching climax alone. But I get why he did it, and give the poor guy a break.

How about suggesting he bring that activity back into the marital bedroom where it best belongs? For instance, he could go ahead and take care of himself while you snuggle up to him naked and/or stroke his testicles. Or consider other activities you could do to enhance your connection while he reaches climax. Then you know you’re the one on his mind and it’s part of a mutual experience.

This is a tough time. But it really is a season. Please pursue answers in the meantime to make things as good as they can be. Resentment can build, for either spouse, when issues like this are not addressed and handled.

However, know that you can reaffirm your sexual love and enjoy many, many years of intimacy in one another’s arms. I pray for healing and blessings for your marriage and for your marriage bed.

Stop Blaming God for Your Low Sex Drive

One of my most shared posts is 8 Things I’d Say About Sex If I Had No Filter (Heaven Help Us All). In the same vein, I’m telling it like it is today.

I get a bit weary of seeing email and posts in which people blame God for their way-too-low sex drive. It usually goes something like this: One spouse announces to the other that they need to get over their objections to their very-low libido with “God made me this way.”

Stop it. Just stop blaming God for a sex drive that isn’t in line with His design for sexual intimacy in marriage. If your sex drive is keeping you from engaging in healthy sexual intimacy in your marriage, that’s on you, not God.

Stop Blaming God for Your Low Sex Drive

Now I’m not saying that those who struggle with libido are terrible people and we should throw stones and blame at them. Of course not! Some have very good reasons why getting in the mood and engaging in sex with their spouses is a struggle. If you have a terrible sexual history, abuse in your background, hormonal deficits, absolute exhaustion, or other issues, it’s not surprising that your libido isn’t what it could be.

But God didn’t make you that way. He made you as a beautiful person, a sexual being, a person worth pursuing in the marital bedroom. He made you to experience pleasure and ecstasy and intimacy. He made you to enjoy the gift of sexual intimacy He provided for marriage.

If that’s not happening, the answer isn’t to blame His workmanship. Instead, consider what He desires for you to have instead.

Look for answers to why your body, your mind, and your spirit are not cooperating. Be intentional and persistent about finding out why sexual intimacy is a struggle for you. Be honest with your spouse about what you feel and enlist their help in figuring it out.

I’m not going to tell you to Just Do It every time — because I think that advice misses what God really intends. He isn’t solely concerned about your higher-drive spouse getting their sexual needs met. You also wants you to experience the physical pleasure and intimacy that He created for the marriage bed. He wants you to enjoy the full feast of delights in your marriage.

“Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” Song of Songs 5:1 (ESV)

Some spouses find ways to remove the obstacles and awaken their latent libido. Others never experience an independent desire to make love but learn to awaken their love in the arms of their beloved. Regardless, please make it a goal to discover how your body can work in tandem with God’s design for intimacy in your marriage.

Don’t blame God — discover what He longs for your marriage to have. And then pursue it.

One place to start is my devotional book, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage. Other low-drive resources for wives include Bonny’s Oyster Bed and The Forgiven Wife.

Confidence and Beauty with Linda Wilson

Lovemaking Cover from LindaWhen couples are looking for a quality book about Christian sex in marriage, I have a short list I give, and one of the books on that list is Lovemaking: 10 Secrets to Extravagant Intimacy in Marriage by Dan and Linda Wilson. I was happy to give it a high review, because the Wilsons did a wonderful job explaining godly intimacy and giving real-life tips to improve sex in the marriage bed.

But I got a big bonus during that review process: I got to know Linda Wilson much better through our communications. And that contact has blessed me personally many times over. She is an amazing encourager with a heart for missions and marriage. And when she submitted her post linking confidence and beauty, I wanted to cheer. Hope you get as much from it as I did!

Confidence and Beauty with Linda Wilson

I hope you have all been enjoying J’s guest posts about beauty this fall as much as I have. Interestingly, I have noticed that many share the concept that beauty is enhanced by confidence. Yes, yes, yes! Let’s explore this idea a bit further.

Confidence makes you look beautiful and feel sexy. Ooh la la. Picture a woman you admire who walks in confidence. She stands taller, smiles easily, and speaks with assurance. I believe this woman is a Proverbs 31 type, one who “laughs at the future” (Proverbs 31:25). And, as we all know, we can only laugh at the future when we are confident, not ruled by fears or insecurity.

So what gives us this confidence?

Sometimes upon leaving the hair salon ,we can feel beautiful. When we have had the best haircut, some great highlights, the expert styling — all of these combined can make us feel attractive.

Nice mani and pedicures can add confidence. Go ahead and admit it. We all notice other people’s nail color, especially in a room full of women.

And clothing. If clothes make a man, they certainly add to or detract from our feelings of femininity and beauty.

Teeth whitening. Botox. Liposuction. Personal trainers. Diets out the wazoo. The possibilities of things we can do to feel beautiful are endless.  The options available to us in today’s culture are mind-boggling, not to mention ridiculously costly in both time and money.

Hair, nails, clothes — all of these might enhance our feelings of beauty, but they are fleeting fixes. How can we not only feel beautiful, but actually be beautiful? Confident beauty comes by knowing who you are and Whose you are.

Confident beauty comes by knowing who you are and Whose you are. - Linda Wilson Click To Tweet

Synonyms for confidence include poise, assurance, certainty.  These traits come from God who gives them to us with delight. You are beautifully and wonderfully made! You have your Father’s eyes. You see, friends, we are daughters of the King of all kings. That makes us royalty. Regal. Lovely. Powerful. Beautiful.

You are a child of God (1 John 3:1). Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you who you really are. You can always believe what God says about you. You are not only a child of God, you are a dearly loved child. You are the object of His affections. Of all the people on earth, He is smitten by one glance of your eyes. You have ravished His heart (Song of Solomon 4:9).

A few years ago I had a dream in which I was seeing sin in my heart. Interestingly, the heart I saw was a physical one as seen in anatomy books. Next a hand came, picked up a paintbrush, and dipped the brush into red paint. With one swipe, the red paint completely covered my heart. His blood completely covered my heart! That is what Jesus sees when He looks at my heart and yours — He sees His blood, not our sin. Lastly I heard Him say to me, “My blood was not wasted.”

Shame or guilt from today or from the past should not haunt us. Our sin is hidden by His sacrifice. We are forgiven. That, girlfriends, should put a spring in our steps, smiles on our faces, and sparkles in our eyes. Nothing is more beautiful than joy! And deep joy comes from confidently knowing that we are forgiven, we are free. Yippee!

“But you (YOU!) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). He chose you! That should make you all giddy with excitement. The King chose you. This is not a Cinderella fairytale. Truth is better than fiction! God chose you, and plans on loving you forever. Allow the feelings of love and gratitude to fill you up, spilling out of you onto others. This, friends, makes you truly beautiful.

Occasionally treat yourself to a spa day or purchase a pretty outfit. But remember that true beauty flows from the inside out. It is quite possible that beauty was one of the “things” Jesus had in mind when he said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Confidently allow others to see Christ in you.

Lovely lady, you are one of a kind. You are spectacularly stunning.  Don’t hide your light under a basket—let it shine (Matthew 5: 15,16).  Laughing at the future, allow the world to know that you are the secure and poised, gorgeous daughter of the true King.

Linda WilsonLinda Wilson is a marriage missionary. She and her darling friend Dan travel around the US and the nations teaching about marriage and sexuality. They also love ministering to widows and orphans.

The Wilsons have co-authored multiple books including 7 Secrets of a Supernatural Marriage and their latest release—Lovemaking. You can discover more about Linda and Dan at SupernaturalMarriage.org.