Get in the Game – Play Offense Not Defense

Far too many of us spend our lives constantly playing defense. We react to problems as they arise, focusing our time and energy because we must. We do what we have to do to salvage a relationship, get along and just survive. We put out the fires when and where they ignite. And we assume that if an issue doesn’t surface than we’re good. But what would happen, if instead of always playing defense, we played offense in marriage.

Most of us are only one crisis away from real struggles in marriage. That’s why marriages that go through the loss of a job, or the birth of a special needs child have such high divorce rates. The challenge didn’t create the crack in the marriage, it just highlighted and widened it.

Even seemingly good sex lives can fall apart when we fail to continue growing. Without communication skills, an expanded repertoire and established trust, one bad night can create enough anxiety to cause our natural responses to short circuit.

Playing defense does not build a strong marriage nor a sex life resilient enough to handle challenges. Most of us take our marriage for granted and would rather ignore the cracks then fix them. What would happen if we repaired the cracks by working on ourselves and our marriage before we encountered challenges? Could we prepare for the inevitable curve balls that life throws us? What would it look like to play offense in marriage?

Work on Yourself

The longer I am married the more I realize that marriage is not about losing yourself, but about sharing yourself. The idea that we continually compromise and deny ourselves misses the point. How do we focus on becoming more Christlike regardless of what our spouse does? Can we love our spouse even when they don’t meet our needs? Can we help them become who God wants them to be instead of who we want them to be?

That doesn’t mean that we allow our spouse to trample over us. Just like Jesus, we must extend grace and speak truth in love. Sometimes the best thing we do for our spouse is to set boundaries and say, “This is not okay, and this is not who God created you to be.”

Don’t buy into the victim mentality of blaming your parents, your circumstance or your spouse. Play offense. What can you do regardless of anyone else?

Work on your relationship with God and stop expecting your husband or wife to make you happy. Meet with a group to gain freedom over addictions or bondage. Start seeing a Christian counselor even if your spouse won’t.  Get healthy, emotionally, physically and spiritually. If you have experience betrayal than go after healing. Nurture your soul through friendships, using your gifts or by serving others. Understand that if Christ is in you, then anything is possible.

Work on Your Marriage

Couples that have strong, healthy, resilient marriages, intentionally work on their marriage. They seek out resources like books to read, retreats or conferences to learn about each other and to encourage sharing. They schedule their priorities instead of letting the rest of life rule them. They take date night seriously, and spend time talking each day. Instead of ignoring issues, they embrace conflict as an opportunity to strengthen their marriage.

When something big happens that they can’t seem to navigate, they look for outside help from a friend, counselor or pastor. They live in community for encouragement, accountability and to pour into others. When challenges strike, they don’t hide or run for cover. They vulnerably share and seek wise counsel.

Work on Your Sex Life

My husband and I spent almost 25 years playing defense with our sex life. Besides the first few years, we didn’t read books or try to learn anything new. Communication rarely happened and honestly felt tortuous. Until we intentionally invested in our sex life things did not improve.

So many great sex resources are easily accessible today. To improve communication read a book together. Awaken Love will help you both understand the challenges that wives face, but  also help you create a sex life that will thrill both husband and wife. From Feb 1 – 14 the paperback is 30% off and reduced to just $9.99!!

Listen to a podcast like Sex Chat for Christian Wives or Sexy Marriage Radio and talk about it afterwards. Take an Awaken Love class to learn God’s Design and expand your repertoire. Subscribe to my blog, or to one of the other great blogs like Hot Holy Humorous or Uncovering Intimacy. Sign up for mentoring with Chris over at the Forgiven Wife. Don’t wait until your spouse is ready to give up before you invest in your sex life. Do it today.

Churches

Most churches play defense when it comes to marriage and sex. Pastor’s schedules fill up with counseling sessions for couples already struggling or in crisis. Yet few marriage ministries exist to educate or provide date opportunities for couples. Groups exist for those struggling with sexual sin but how many churches provide classes to help wives and husbands create an amazing sex life in their marriage.

Both personally and in church, we must stop playing defense and start playing offense in marriage.

How are you investing in your marriage?

How can you help your church invest in marriages?

Learn to Speak Your Spouse’s Language

My greatest desire is to connect emotionally with my husband. Over the past few years as my relationship with God has strengthened, I have started opening up so much more with Jim. At night I lay on my husband’s chest and pour my soul out to him. I share my insecurities, struggles with God, my hopes and my dreams and it has been amazing. The problem is that I don’t want my husband just to listen to me. I want him to emotionally connect with me too. I want him to become an equal partner.

Our Greatest Struggle

Connecting emotionally has become our greatest marital struggle. It is the crazy cycle that we enter over and over. Usually it goes something like this…

First, I share and it feels so good connecting to let Jim know what is really going on with me. But then I start wondering about him. As I get naked emotionally, he stays safe. He’s like a spectator, like he’s going along for the ride without really participating, and I start to feel hurt.

So, I start asking him questions and soon he’s sharing surface details about his day.  Sometimes I am fine with our conversations, but other times I just crave something deeper. And as I start pushing, my husband begins to get that deer in the headlights look of, “I have no idea what you are talking about it.” When I ask how he feels about something, it is as if I am asking him to speak a foreign language. And I feel like I am banging my head against the wall over and over because he never really gets how to emotionally connect.

In my deepest darkest times of frustration over my husband’s lack of skill at connecting emotionally, I have thought, “this must be what it feels like to a man when his wife does not understand the importance of sex!”

Disclosure: What follows uses generalizations about men and women to illustrate a point. If you don’t fit these generalizations then please don’t take offense. Even though your marriage may not fit this scenario, figure out your spouse’s individual desire, take it seriously, and do what you can to grow so that you can meet it.

Different Languages

Men and women seem to speak different languages. When our spouse asks us to speak their language, it feels foreign, terrifying and at times absolutely impossible.

If you crave connection through sex, then take all your feelings of frustration over your wife ignoring your sexual desires, and realize that she probably feels exactly the same way – just over different issues.  And if you’re banging your head against the wall because your husband doesn’t know how to open up and talk from the heart, then understand how hurt he feels because you won’t take steps to embrace sexuality as a powerful way for the two of you to connect.

Learning a New Language

Use your frustration to create compassion towards your spouse and to motivate you to make changes. Just like learning a foreign language, learning something new will require intention. It will not just happen. You may need to take a class, see a counselor or read a book to get started. Learning a new language will take practice and time. If you only remember to apply yourself after a fight, you will make little progress. If you feel coerced or forced to learn something new,  your Spirit will rebel with a, “You can’t make me do it attitude.” Do it because you love your spouse, because you want a better marriage, and because God wants you to learn something new.

You might even feel like what your spouse desires is impossible and want to give up. Change is hard and you can’t do it on your own. But with friends to encourage you along the way, and by depending on Christ, all things are possible.

Our Journey

Some people might think that I am crazy for expecting my husband to learn to connect emotionally. After all, men just don’t operate that way. The same could be said for expecting women to learn to crave and enjoy sex. We just aren’t wired that way, but we can learn new things. When we don’t, we miss out on an amazing part of life.

Little by little, my husband and I will continue our journeys of learning to speak a foreign language. Though I might have embraced connecting through sex first, he has begun to understand my deep desire to connect emotionally. Recently he has made huge strides and I give him a lot of credit. Often those first steps are the scariest. I hope that some day he enjoys my native language, connecting emotionally, as much as I have learned to enjoy sex.

 

 

Inside Your Circle – Working on Yourself.

ReEngage

The best thing Jim and I have done recently to strengthen our marriage was to attend a 16-week marriage ministry called ReEngage. We have since become leaders and taken multiple groups through. Every time we learn something new about ourselves and about each other. ReEngage uses a small group model to create a safe community where we can be honest, authentic, and real. We spend 8 weeks working on our relationship with God and 8 weeks learning about aspects of marriage. Alongside our spouse and 5 other couples, we dive deep into working on ourselves.

The Circle

One of the most powerful things we teach in ReEngage is to draw a circle around yourself and then to work on everyone that is inside the circle. Really staying in your circle is just a practical principal that empowers us to stop trying to change our spouse. Though it sounds like a simple thing, it is much harder to practice. Learning to stay in your circle will change your marriage, your parenting and even how you foster deep friendships.

Staying inside my circle does not come easily. It is much easier to look at all the reasons and causes of my actions, than to focus only on myself. I would prefer to share all the circumstances that led up to me pouting. If he just loved me more…If he just talked to me more…If I wasn’t so stressed at work, then I wouldn’t pout.  When I realize that regardless of my circumstances, I get to react in a way honoring to God, then I am empowered to change myself

Focusing on ourselves can feel uncomfortable. Many times, people would rather generalize when they answer questions. We say things like, “We…” or “Most of us…” But when we get in our own circle, then we own our actions, with statements like… “I did this….” Or “I feel …” We vulnerably, honestly share our stuff. It becomes a much stronger statement that pierces our heart when we hurt others.  Learning to own your own stuff takes practice, courage and will change your relationships.

Create a Safe Place

Staying inside your circle also means not giving other people advice on how to fix their situation, unless they ask. When people share hard situations or get emotional, most of us feel pretty uncomfortable. We try to make it go away as fast as we can by trying to fix the problem or directing the focus somewhere else. Not giving advice creates a safe place for honesty and openness about struggles. Leaving space for emotions validates feelings. We have to trust God in the process instead of trying to fix others ourselves.

Another way we get out of our circle is by keeping score. We work on our marriage for a while but as soon as we notice that we’ve made more changes than our spouse, then we feel like they owe us something. We become resentful and backslide thinking why should I do all this work if they aren’t even trying. Working on yourself is not about becoming who your spouse wants you to be. It is about becoming who Christ wants you to be. Regardless of what your spouse does or if they do anything at all, we can work on ourselves.

Draw a Circle

One of the most powerful exercises you can do to help you sort through any struggle is to take a piece of paper and draw a big circle. Then write everything that you can control inside the circle. Everything that you cannot control write outside of the circle.  Pray over the things on the outside of the circle and give them to God. Then focus on the few things on the inside of the circle that you can control and focus on them. What changes can you make? What small practical steps that might help? Where you can start? What choices do you have?

I am often reminded of Matthew 7:3  which says, Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Regardless of our situation, we all have things to learn. Rather than feeling helpless in your situation, get inside your circle and discover what you can change. Own your brokenness and give the rest to God.

Learning to Like Giving Your Husband Oral Sex

Most men love to receive oral sex, but many wives struggle to enjoy giving it. A penis can feel scary and foreign up close. Oral sex can also feel dirty because of past experiences or messages we’ve received. Though we are all very different, I would challenge you that oral sex can be a very intimate way to know a husband. It takes great trust and you can learn new things while focusing just on his pleasure.

But ultimately, if you don’t want to do it, you probably shouldn’t. No one should ever feel forced, coerced or guilted into doing something sexually. But if you want to learn to enjoy giving oral sex, I have a few suggestions for you.

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Battling Satan’s Lies with God’s Truth

We are in a battle. Satan loves to fill us with lies that render us impotent to growth in marriage, parenting or even ministry. He picks at the broken parts of our soul causing us to feel defective, unlovable and stuck. We either lash out trying to prove ourselves or retreat into hiding. But when we embrace God’s unconditional love, rather than striving to measure up, we can learn from past experiences, conflict or suffering. Instead of shrinking into isolation, shame and believing Satan’s lies, we choose to move forward in confidence. We have the courage to live fully known by sharing our  insecurities, failures, hopes and dreams. But Satan doesn’t stop coming at us with lies. He waits for just the right moment and then he’s right back at it, speaking the same old lies, and trying to make us doubt who we are.

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Hidden Struggles

You cannot always tell how people are doing, or what kind of shape their marriage is in.

I remember more than one marriage at church that imploded and nobody had a clue until one spouse completely threw in the towel.

A few months ago we received this letter from a women that participated in an Awaken-Love Class.

When I was asked to be apart of a 6-week Awaken Love class, I thought to myself what in the world was God thinking! Turns out he knew what he was doing. My marriage of 24 years was on the brink of divorce. There wasn’t any thing that was going to change my mind, I was done.

During this class, I learned a lot about how much God loves marriage and how much he’s involved in our marriage beds. I will forever be grateful for the class and the other 6 women, who have become sweet friends. I cherish the time we shared together. The books are awesome too. I plan to read them from front to back. Oh and by the way, my husband was disappointed when the 6 weeks was over. He looked forward to each weeks homework. Our intimacy, our sex life, our love for each other has grown. He told me just this morning that we’re making love more now than ever before. We have both been changed.
Thank you again from the bottom of my heart,

This woman had been involved in church and marriage ministry for years, and my guess is that few people knew what was really going on in her life.

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Happy Thanksgiving

We are so Thankful for what God has done over the last year.

We are thankful for the women in Awaken-Love classes that have shared their stories, ministered to each other, bravely stepped into something new, and committed to bring God back into marriage beds.

We are thankful that the video class has launched,  and that we have several groups taking it for a spin.

We are thankful for the women that God has put in our lives that speak truth to us, pray for us and pick us up when we are down.

We are thankful that we have amazing husbands that stretch with us, pray for us and lead us.

We are thankful for our kids that keep us young and challenge us to think new ideas.

We are thankful for time spent together between Texas and Minnesota.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving,

Ruth and  Mel

What are you thankful for?

 

Sleep Aid

A few years ago my husband took a business trip to Taiwan for a couple of weeks. You can imagine how exhausted he felt when he got home after working in a strange city. Sleeping in a hotel bed and then traveling for 20 plus hours to get back to Minnesota wore him out. Add on top of that a 13-hour time change that left him wide awake when he most wanted to sleep and it sounds like a nightmare.

Back then, my drive was through the roof, so I got the bright idea to become his sleep aid. I made him promise that whenever he found himself wide awake in the middle of the night, he would rouse me for some extracurricular activities. We have never before transitioned so quickly back into life together and feeling connected. In no time he was back on his regular sleep schedule and we had made some wonderful memories.

This week I was reminded of my great experiment – being the sleep aid.

My husband lost his brother last week to liver failure and has been dealing with all the hard choices that come with aging parents. Needless to say, he has a ton of things on his mind and timidly admitted he has not been sleeping well, at all. I wish I could take away all of his pain and wrestling, but I can’t. I wish I could say something to make it better, but words seem so inadequate. But I can keep loving him, and comfort him, and help him sleep. And so for a while, I have made myself available to my husband whenever he needs me. In fact I have admonished him – please wake me – because I don’t want him doing this on his own. And hopefully, it will bring him the sleep he needs.

What would I write about sex?

Recently I read a great book on marriage by a well respected author and of course there was a chapter on sex buried near the end of the book. Since I have been teaching women about sex, I have this habit of filtering whatever I read thru the lens of what a Christian wife would hear.

What I remember from the sex chapters in most Christian books is 2 things…

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What About Romance Novels?

Recently when I was speaking to a group, one of the women asked,

“Are there Christian romance novels that you would recommend?”

I knew exactly what she was asking and so did most of the women in the room. Romance novels help women to get in the mood.

I remember as a teenager just beginning to read real books and stumbling upon the scenes that began to wake up my body. Romances where the guy said all the right things, whisked her off her feet, knew how to take her to the moon and back, and that honestly, stirred warm places in my body.

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