The Problem With Marriage

wedding kissI have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.

–Mother Teresa

Our marriage is probably like many of yours—sometimes effortless and occasionally the hardest work I’ve ever done.

I’ve been married for eight years now. The first six flew by in a breeze. We didn’t have to make it work because it wasn’t that difficult. There were romantic getaways and shared dreams, giggles and tickle fights and a growing family. We started a church and had a baby; we bought a home and moved to suburbia. Life was abundant with service and ministry and blessings. Sure, certain obstacles came our way, but our confidence in each other was high.

And then REAL life hit.

Tragedy and drama and human weakness at it’s finest.  Our fragile foundation rocked and rolled like the San Andreas fault.  My parents were suddenly both taken by fatal disease, Tim injured his back and faced permanent nerve damage and partial paralysis , there was spinal surgery, a long and painful recovery, and our constant battle with infertility that wove itself through every story—miscarriage after miscarriage. Add in a blended family and teenagers in to the mix and for two years we fought to keep our heads above water.

Maybe marriage wasn’t so easy.

Maybe it took work. Hard work.

Fortunately, I married a persistent man who never, ever, gives up. Week after week he showed up at the counselor by my side ready to tackle the broken parts of him and us and me. And even when I was drowning in sorrow and weary, he never let go of my hand.

While I wish certain outcomes were different, because I sure miss my mom and dad (and all the babies I won’t meet until eternity), I don’t regret the journey it’s forced us to travel. Pain brings out our best and worst traits. My husband has seen me unraveled and paralyzed with fear and yet he continues to love me. I have seen him blustering and red in frustration and yet I get up and choose only him every day.

So many people avoid pain. They run, they hide, they cope. I was a master at this.

But with a 72% divorce rate in Orange County, I don’t really think this strategy is working out too well for most of us.

If I learned anything from years of therapy it’s this…don’t avoid the pain–do the opposite–lean in.

Pain has made our marriage better. Adversity overcome together creates the glue of relationship. Pain forced us to restructure our boundaries, to surrender to one another sacrificially and to leave our selfish natures behind for something better—a relationship built on rock and not sand.

Every day we can either deposit love or steal life from one another. It’s a choice we are all given.

Today I sit here and write after another failed pregnancy, and a heartbeat that slipped away, with tears and sadness, and a surgery to remove the remains of another sweet baby. One more soul added to our little tribe in heaven.

But I am content. Not because it doesn’t hurt—oh boy it does, but because I’m facing the pain with my best friend at my side. The friend I have fought for and who fights  for me on a daily basis.

I am what we call in our family “happy/sad.” The sad is obvious, but the happy is because I have fallen in love with my husband all over again through this yucky experience. I am crazy about this man who shares his whole heart unabashedly and shines his light so bright it makes the dark not so scary for me. He holds my hand and whispers prayers when I need encouragement, he points me back to God when my faith wavers, and he makes me laugh through my tears.  I can only hope I will choose to fall in love over and over with this same man for the rest of my life.  I want more than anything to focus on the good and not dwell on the bad, celebrating the smallest victories and offering forgiveness quickly.

The problem with marriage is that it’s not easy.

We have to choose one another every day in spite of the pain and the brokenness of our humanity.

I’m so glad we didn’t give up on the mountain of hard, because the greatest joy was reached only by cresting this summit together.

–Samantha

Dear Santa…love Mom

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SANTA CLAUS
NORTH POLE

Dear Santa,

I know the big day is getting close, so I’m sure you and the elves are crazy busy shopping online, wrapping, and packing the sleigh. I feel your pain Santa…I do!

I want you to know I’ve been a MOSTLY good girl this year. I diligently cared for my husband when he had emergency back surgery and in the following months of his LONG recovery. Santa, he was in terrible pain and (sometimes) very grumpy, but with a lot of prayer, a little wine and weekly therapy we made it through!

DSC_0442-2I also took fabulous care of my children. I took my son back East for a college recruiting trip and we bonded over BPM music, survived a hurricane and slept in crappy hotels. It was awesome! Ok, I might have helped him a little too much on the college applications, (oops!) but I made him pay for the tires he accidentally spiked when he drove through a gated residential entrance. (See Santa…I’m working hard not to enable!)

I’ve also cooked, cleaned, laundered, shopped for, loved, cuddled and cherished every moment with my sweetheart and kids. On my honor, I haven’t missed much church, any games or recitals. I’ve driven Kolby to endless auditions in the hoods of LA and navigated the mean streets of the stage Momster.

DSC_0373Santa, I’ve volunteered at J Serra High School until illness has overtaken me (I lost my voice for 3 weeks!). I’ve worked like a like a dog and sacrificed sleep to these munchkins. I’ve watched 400 freaking episodes of Bernstein Bears, read to my little girl every single night (best part of my day), shopped with my teenagers until I wept from frustration, and I’ve laughed and tickled and cried with each one as life throws its best punches at us.

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Santa, even though I sometimes lose my spit, go a little cray-cray and have to text my therapist and Bible Study gals for extra support, I have managed to show up for work, finish a book, keep the sparks going with my man and love to the best of my ability. I know I’m a little jacked up, far from a typical pastor’s wife (whatever that is), with a broken and old uterus and some social awkwardness to boot, but maybe you could still get me a present? (Hint, hint)

  • MAC Makeup
  • Coach, or Kate Spade Purse
  • Spa Day perhaps? (Optional item if I’ve been really good!)

Thanks Santa! You’re the best! And you look dang sexy in that red hat!

Love, Samantha

When did Naked go out of Style?

playboy-logo

A few months ago as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I noticed an article on the role of sexual power and male/female demographics.  Since Tim and I write on this stuff, I clicked.

Two seconds later I realized I had been redirected to the Playboy website.  With cheeks flaming red, I furtively glanced around, hoping no one at Starbucks noticed where I had landed and then inhaled the info at high-speed so I could exit the site incognito.  In truth, the article was a well-written piece but Playboy is not my usual stomping ground.

A few days later, my husband mentions to me that he accidentally clicked on a link off Facebook and it went to Playboy.  He fessed up early because he knows I get an e-mail once a week with his browsing history.

How awesome is my husband?

So why do I get this  e-mail, you ask? Am I one of those freaky paranoid wives hiding in the corners and spying on her man?

Uh…no.  Although that would make for a good story.

Tim asked me to be his online accountability partner a while back and I am notified once a week if there is any questionable activity.  My husband initiated this self-audit–not moi.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I never have anything to razz him about.

So when he mentions Playboy, I know I can mess with a little.

Husband: “Oh, uh, yeah…so there was this really cool article on Facebook and I clicked and I didn’t know it was on Playboy and…”

Me: “Yeah right, you just clicked on Playboy for the articles?”

Husband: “Yes, I mean, I know it sounds bad, but it was so innocent and I totally freaked out immediately.”

Me: Now dying laughing at his awkward attempts to explain this.  I poke a bit more and then fess up.

Me: “Hey babe, I read the same article.  I know you are telling the truth.”

And he breathes a big sigh of relief and then comes over to tickle me for busting his chops.

………..

When I saw the breaking news on Tuesday that Playboy will no longer post nude pictures it got my attention.  I guess it’s okay to read Playboy at work now.  Men for the first time ever CAN  truthfully claim they read it for the articles.

Playboy explained the drastic move away from their lusty roots citing that nudity is now “passe.” They will instead focus on writing and increasing their readership based on different parameters.  Because of the internet and easy access to porn, the “felt need” for nudity or what some would call “soft porn” has disappeared.  Apparently, twelve-year-old boys could care less about sneaking dad’s mag now since their iPhone is easier to take into the bathroom.

Wow.  It’s hard to believe nudity is so overdone now that iconic brands birthed on a provocative paradigm have transitioned to a less is more slant.  When Abercrombie and Playboy drop the sexy, it’s clear the titillation of a naked body is that of a bygone age.

Call me old school, but I want naked to mean something.

I want to get hot and bothered by my naked man.  (Just to be clear, I’m talking about my husband here folks)  I don’t want to live in the land of rampant sexual inundation where naked is the new norm.  Have we become “so numbed out by porn” that Playboy isn’t sexy anymore?

Am I the only one who wants to struggle a little bit at the mall as I walk by Abercrombie when the half-naked ripped young man  is at the front door.  I want to have the freedom to choose to avoid the men’s underwear aisle because I find toned abs attractive and every package sports a six pack.

I’m the girl who didn’t see Magic Mike, not because I’m not tempted, but because I choose to honor my husband.  But darn it I want the freedom to choose right from wrong.  I don’t want to just assume our culture is perverse and stop caring.

I want NAKED to mean something.

It allows me to FEEL something called temptation. It means I get to choose to stay or walk away from enticement.

I’m bummed that sex on Tinder is given out so freely that it’s lost its sacredness.

Way too many young people are now so jaded that sex is like flossing. “It’s just sex”, they say.

But it’s not just sex and it’s not just naked.

Naked is beautiful and sex is a gift.  Our good God created them.  They are not passe.

This may sound bizarre, because I’m not supporting naked men’s mags, but I grieve the fact that we are so far gone on porn that a gorgeous naked centerfold doesn’t cause teenage boys to go bat-poop crazy anymore.

I heard a Playboy rep say, “The twelve-year-old me is sad at this move.”

Well buddy, the 43-year-old me is sad too, because in our overly saturated sex culture, naked isn’t very naked anymore.

–Samantha

 

 

Spiritual Band-Aids

Band-aid My hands move fast, busy about the kitchen.  I cut, prep and toss bits and pieces of veggies and spices into the pan to make chili.  Frank Sinatra croons on the radio and I strain to hear Kolby’s giggle on the swing out on the front porch.  Faith is doing her homework in the next room and Kyle is about to arrive home any minute after football practice.

It’s my normal fast-paced evening as I pull double-duty with three kids while daddy works late.

Suddenly, something red catches my eye on the bowl in my hand.  It’s a bright crimson, almost like strawberry juice—a smear of blood perhaps?

I stop in my tracks.  I slow down and peer closely now.

I gasp.  The red is everywhere.

Panic rises up in my throat.  I think of dead bunnies from Fatal Attraction, psychos and ex-boyfriends.

Why is there blood all over my kitchen?

The white cabinets have streaks of sticky red on the doors on the cabinet pulls.  The china plates on the table are hit.  The fridge and the dishwasher and the cabinets all reveal stains of red.

I look down at my feet and gasp.  Red splotches leave a trail from the stove to the table and back again.  Ooooh gross…I’m walking in it.

The calm side of my brain finally takes over.

“Ok, Sam, assess the damage.  Where is it coming from,” I tell myself.

(I also look for the knives in case I need a weapon)

Am I hurt?  I don’t feel anything.

I do a body check and notice my left hand is covered in blood.

WHAT?

How did I miss that?

I run my hands under cool water and the gash appears on my index finger.  It’s deep and bleeding profusely. I grab a paper towel and make a Viva tourniquet, putting strong pressure on it.

Finally, finally…the pain comes—an intense throb, then sting and the relief of knowing there wasn’t a stalker hiding behind my cupboard.

About an hour later, after dinner, it stops bleeding and I’m able to bandage the wound.

……

My finger boo-boo is constantly on my mind—probably because I’m typing with a bandaged finger, but mostly because I am shocked that I was so oblivious to an injury on my body.

It seems a little crazy; here I am I imagining scenarios that had nothing to do with reality.  I walk around and drip, drop, drip blood and yet assume it’s something beyond me and my person because I didn’t feel the sting.

And then I think of how often I do the same thing in other areas— in matters of the heart—not physical, but spiritual wounds.  Someone hurts me and I either ignore or avoid the pain.  I gloss over it and pretend it’s no big deal—until it starts seeping out in other areas.

I get sick or I withhold from the person who hurt me.  I get defensive or shut down my heart in self-protection.

The wound finds a way of making itself known even when we don’t acknowledge the pain.

……

My husband and I sit in the counselor’s office and we talk about an issue.  It’s maybe my least favorite thing in the world to talk about but my husband digs in.

I’m uncomfortable.  I squirm in my seat.  I hate pulling out this muck from my soul.  I stall and stutter and finally he pushes hard enough and I blurt out, “It’s because you said this “thing” on our honeymoon and it made me feel ashamed.”

Bamm.  The words are out there.

The counselor looks at me wide eyed.  Tim shakes his head in shock.

“I’m so sorry,” he says.  “I had no idea.”

And suddenly I’m back in the kitchen and I’ve found the wound.  Only it’s been years and years of marriage that I’ve been seeping out the blood.

Now I’m ashamed even more for unconsciously holding onto my pain like a prized medal to beat my husband up with.

And as my husband apologizes and holds me as I cry, I finally rip off the spiritual band-aid and start to heal.

……

It’s been seven years of marriage for Tim and me—seven years of figuring this “uniting into one” stuff out.

Can I just say it’s hard?  Clearly marriage is not for the uncommunicative or the martyr—both attributes I exhibit at my worst.

But the more we dig into the cues and wounds of old—the more we can find our triggers and how to move past or avoid them altogether.

Two steps forward—one step back. A daily dance of beauty and intimacy as selfishness hovers nearby just waiting to intrude.

……

I meet a young woman at a party.  She is bitter over a divorce. 

Her words are harsh, “I married potential, I divorced reality.”

I’m shocked at first, but if I’m honest I recognize myself in her.

I have the potential—with God—to be all that he created me to be.  And I have the potential—in my own strength—to fail miserably

I will never get it all right.  But I pray my husband can see both—the good and bad—and love me in spite of it, choosing every single day to stay on the same team and believe the best about one another even when we act our worst.  

……

I know so many of you are hurting and in pain.  You are in the storm.

The blood is all over the kitchen.

And I’ve been there with you.  I’ve walked through the hell of divorce.  It’s a relational death like no other.

But I’ll tell you a secret.  It won’t be easier on the other side.  You will still take “you” into the next relationship.

And if “you” are anything like me, you still need some fixin up and hard edges polished.

Band-aids need to be ripped off so you can heal and be the best you.

I know it’s hard work. And it means letting go and forgiving beyond yourself.

But I believe God won’t leave you in the mess if you are willing to do the hard work and find the wounds.

Christine Caine puts it this way, “On the other side of every disappointment is a God appointment.”

And sometimes the greatest pain is simply a mercy in disguise.

–Samantha

Where have you stuck a band-aid on a wound in your relationship that needs healing?

 

How it’s SUPPOSED to Be

supposed to be

It’s never obvious but it’s there all the same—lingering expectations—the unstated kind.

And it starts from day one—at least it did in my marriage.

Because we all believe marriage is supposed to be…

(fill in the box)

We stand at the altar and unknowingly dump unspoken expectations all over one another.

And we  cloak our aspirations in pretty words and flowery promises.

The pictures don’t lie.

Tim(my husband) cried during the ceremony and my grin is the size of Texas.

Because we erroneously believed marriage was supposed to (fill all our sexual, emotional, and relational needs)

We solemnly read our vows –nervous giggles spilling from my lips and Tim furiously wiping his watery eyes.

We promised to put the other first (and lied).  The crowd coos and sighs.  Then, we make a commitment before God and our guests and say “I do”, sealing the deal with a swoon and a kiss.

Reality vs. Ideals

But what if instead of PROMISES to love and cherish one another, we showed up at the ceremony with our true expectations.

(Play along with me)

“Tim, I promise to freak out when you are late, all too often put the kids first, over-react if you don’t like my cooking, chide you about parenting teens, snap when you forget to say I look pretty after an hour getting ready for our date, and go into hysterics when you ignore me when I am sick or hurting because I have severe abandonment issues.”

Samantha, I promise to get irritable when I forget to eat, expect you to manage all the housework, put work and ministry first (all too often), and snap if you ignore me when you get too caught up in your work because I need your attention too.

It would certainly make for a more honest wedding day.

Real, honest, sometimes selfish and more often than not –patterned expectations of what a marital relation SHOULD be like (in our eyes)

From our family of origin and past relational wounds we each bring an overloaded bag of expectations based on past hurts.

And each of us subconsciously EXPECTs our marriage will look like this.

Yet when all hell breaks loose and feelings get hurt—when we end up in opposite corners instead of on the same team—why, oh why are we so surprised?

Getting Honest

The questions to ponder are this: Are we bound by generational brokenness to repeat the patterns of our past?  Is it possible to strive for a different type of relationship?

Expectations –good or bad are a powerful force in a relationship.  They can influence and sometimes even determine our future because our behavior propels us towards the very things we either hope for or fear.

Expectation Management

My husband Tim loves to explain EXPECTATIONS this way…

Many years ago a friend of his dragged him to see the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s.”  The movie was panned by critics and Tim expected it to be a total dud.

But instead of hating it, he thought it was hilarious—maybe not Oscar worthy, but laugh your butt expectation fun.

So, Tim decided this was a good plan—to manage his expectations by keeping them low.

In his mind it’s better to be pleasantly surprised than terribly disappointed.

And this is a great plan as long as he knows what they (the expectations) are.  But sometimes it takes intense reflection and work to know the deeper areas of our hearts—the expectations we carry without realizing it.

In marriage, like movies, it’s vital to be honest about your expectations (to the degree that we know them) for your relationship—because without transparency there is ONLY disappointment when the other person fails to meet your un-communicated needs.

Do you hate fighting and believe ALL conflict is bad?  Are you always waiting for the shoe to drop and disaster to strike because you lived through a divorce?  Do you believe marriage is a prison or a ball and chain holding you back from the good life?

Or do you believe marriage has its ups and downs and you are committed to seeing both through?

Don’t underestimate the power of these expectations.

But don’t overestimate their power either, because there’s a power that’s even greater than expectations: God can heal our brokenness and it’s usually through the comfort and arms of the spouse pissing you off the most.

Healing the Wounds

Yes, I did say YOUR spouse will be the one to help you heal.

But you have to choose the marriage.

Choosing to behave differently than your past is possible.

We don’t have to live lives as victims of the past.

John Townsend and Henri Cloud say this,

Those who blame external circumstances for their situation do not find what they want.  Those who work on themselves, take responsibility for dealing with their circumstances, and then take action, have success.”

Motivation moves towards personal responsibility.

Marriage experts agree that both before and after you marry; you must be intentional about growth in your relationship.

Tim and I are very open about seeking counseling in our marriage.  It is a non-negotiable with us.  It keeps us growing personally and relationally.  It also keeps the fires lit and the hope strong.

The best decision we have ever made is to invest in our marriage.

We have decided to learn everything we can about ourselves and each other, as well as practical tools to build our skills and strengths.

We study relationship books.

We go to relationship classes, support groups and seminars.

We take the time to do relationship inventories and assessments.

We found a good counselor.

And we are never above humbly asking for prayer and guidance when we hit the sticky spots.

We don’t have it all figured out—quite the opposite—but we are committed to the journey of figuring it out together.

If you expect to hit some rough patches but have intentionally equipped yourself and your relationship to handle them, you’ll be able to navigate anything that arises. You’ll also know what your resources are and be able to ask for appropriate help as needed. If you intend to learn more and more about yourself and your partner as years go by and follow up those intentions with action, your relationship will stay fresh and current. If you expect that the investment of time and energy in marriage pays off, and add intention to your expectations, you will do what is needed and required to develop a strong, healthy relationship.”

 

Resources: All-in-One Marriage Prep: 75 Experts Share Tips and Wisdom to Help You Get Ready Now, www.allinonemarriageprep.com

When Your Normal is My Crazy

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This is me.  This kid…this is my inner-(mini) me.

And NO, it’s not my mom talking.  It’s my pastor husband.

This picture is HOW I FEEL after church—like I want to bang my head against the wall because my husband won’t stop talking.

Being married to a relationally gifted man of Christ certainly has its perks.

  1. Everyone is a friend
  2. No party is boring
  3. Often we are the party.
  4. (Unless the party is in a foul mood…then we are the party pooper)
  5. We can go to a mall, Starbucks, restaurant, golf course, etc… and come home with five new best friends.
  6. There are no off-topic conversations. EVERYTHING is up for grabs.

But there is a dark side too.

  1. I rarely leave church without my three kids and I experiencing debilitating hunger pains. It’s usually 2:00pm before we get out of the parking lot.
  2. I’ve heard, “I just have to talk to this one guy” a bazillion times.
  3. There is an unspoken acknowledgement between the kids and I that if Tim forgets something at church and has to “run back in real quick” we will probably wait another 30 minutes with the engine running.
  4. And of course, every conversation is for Jesus, so how can we argue?

 

I adore my husband but sometimes he drives me bazonkers in the best of ways.

And he looks at me, wide eyed in befuddlement?  “Why are you irritated darling?  What’s wrong?”

(Because this is HIS normal)

And I want to scream, “Your normal is my crazy!”

But instead I just pray for patience. And every week I suck it up with a weak smile.

And then God gives me this little gift to tell me he hears my heart.

And I finally feel understood.  Heard.  Affirmed. Validated.

Because God knows, I’m just tryna leave!

And he loves me  anyway…

–Samantha

The Man Thing

Tim

They say women are complicated. And I agree—wholeheartedly—but I don’t think men are as simple as some suggest.

It’s not just sex, food and more sex that makes a man tick.

There’s something else I can’t put my finger on. All I know is that I don’t know what it is.

But it’s there—the man thing.

On Sunday, I sit in the back of a pre-marital class my husband runs waiting with the kids for him to wrap up so we can go to lunch.

Tim is moderating a talk on personality differences.

The speaker is Dr. Edward Mendez (my favorite counselor) but I wasn’t paying attention because I’ve heard this talk many times by now. (Sorry Buddy)

But then, Dr. Mendez speaks words I haven’t heard before.

“One of the most thrilling things I’ve ever heard from my wife other than “let’s get it on” is “I study you.”

What?

I stopped and held my breath. What does that mean?

“I study you…”

This is what excites a man?

To be studied?

For Dr. Mendez, this means his wife spends time trying to understand him–to know him, to research and delve deeply into his emotions and heart.

She cares enough to go the extra mile and understand his personality and what makes him tick.

Oh noooo…I think. This is way harder than sex and cooking.

I’m not so good at this part.

I’ve got some issues here.

My dad was, at times, a very difficult man to get along with as I grew up. And although he changed into a gentle guy at the end of his life, in the early years his explosive anger often shut me down into a turtle shell of self-protection.

And sadly, old wounds linger and seep into adulthood.

Sometimes, when my defense goes up, I retreat. I stop trying to know my husband and understand him. I hide in my turtle shell and refuse to come out.

And honestly (God forgive me) I don’t always believe the best about my man.

The next day Tim and I work on a project together. Its three days past deadline, but with our busy schedule and Homecoming high school drama we were left overwrought and without ANY margin this weekend. Finally we sit down and address it.

Tim was tense—short even—and snippy with me.

I am light-hearted for about an hour. Then I get weary of being nice to a grump.

And Everything in me wants to power up and launch back surly for surly.

But then I think about Dr. Mendez’s words and instead of moving to the defense, I carefully measure my words and watch him.

I stay neutral. I don’t retreat or engage. I study him like a history book.

Once we hit send on the project, a huge smile crosses over his face.

“Ahhh babe, Now I can relax and be with you,” Tim sighs.

His countenance changes—storm clouds to sunshine—and he picks up my hand and squeezes it.

And I realize his terse behavior isn’t about me at all—it’s about the task at hand.

Holy cow!!! I learn something new about this man.

What you see with Tim (his behavior) is not necessarily what’s going on under the surface.

This is super ironic because I’m tumultuous inside and calm as a cucumber on the outside.

We are polar opposites when it comes to expressing emotion.

It would be easy for me to write off my husband off as over-reactive (and honestly, easy for him to dismiss me as a non-emotive ice cube.)

But when I take the time to study him–to look closer and read his cues, I see another story.

I see a different personality than mine, certainly, but a man with good motives who loves and cherishes me but operates very differently.

It’s evening now. I lay beneath his feet by the sofa, reclining back. Tim plays with my hair for a solid hour as we watch the Patriots get whooped on by the Chiefs.

And despite the fact our fantasy football team (the amazing Ladera Lambyasoures) is losing because the Patriots defense is a bust, I purr like a happy kitten as Tim speaks my love language of affection.

This studying thing was a good investment because I’m pretty sure if I had been bitchy back, I wouldn’t have gotten the princess treatment later.

Maybe men are not so complicated.

Maybe all my man needs is sex, good food, more sex and a woman who truly seeks to KNOW him.

If only I could get this right more often!

Thanks Dr. Mendez…

–Samantha

How do you study your spouse or significant other?

The (married) Sex Challenge

Christmas 2013 1

July 2014

There’s an article traveling around social media. It’s one of those kinds of blogs—you know the sexy kind.

It catches my eye. I fervently look to the right, then to the left, then do the fast swivel to make sure no cameras are watching me… then I click.

It’s called “5 Reasons Why You Should Have Sex with Your Husband Every day.”

Offhand, I can think of way more reasons not to, but since Tim and I’ve been arguing lately and struggling to connect, I think maybe I should read it again.

I go back and re-read it slowly.

And then I mentally battle with it. This chick only has one kid and I have three. She’s young-30 and I’m 42 and freaking exhausted.

She’s probably a man.

Then one of my male friends sends me the article later that day.

It’s multiplying male propaganda.

The article is haunting me.

Now, admittedly, I’ve been a proponent of more vs. less sex in marriage. I speak on marriage and I even teach young couples that it’s good for a relationship.

In fact, I could have written the article

But that was before this year—before my heart broke.

……………..

July 6th, 2014 (from my journal and no God does not speak to me in an auditory voice)

God, are you trying to tell me something? Are you hinting that I need to have more sex with my husband? Because I don’t want to.

“Why?”

Tears roll down my face.

Our sex life took a hit when I watched both my parents die brutal deaths this year. I’m still in shock. I’m still reeling and I miss them like hell.

And honestly, I haven’t felt anything resembling horny in months.

It’s not that my husband isn’t sexy. He is. In fact, I am more attracted to him than ever.

It’s not him. It’s me. I’m the messed up one.

Some days it’s hard to get out of bed and brush my teeth much less get my jiggy on. I don’t feel sexy. I feel sad. And misunderstood. And alone.

And then I feel guilty for feeling depressed because I’m supposed to give all my worry and anxious thoughts to God. So then I end up feeling guilty and depressed and frigid.

Grief is NOT HOT. It’s just not.

But maybe there is something I’m missing in my marriage by keeping my husband at arm’s length.

When I’m sad or we argue the last thing I want to do make love.

But maybe it’s what I need?

July 10th, 2014

I decide to try the sex test to see what happens. I want to know if sex will not only reinvigorate my marriage but also help me grieve.

Week 1: I make an effort. Maybe not daily but at least every few days. I have to force it at first. I’m grumpy and I feel like a sham. I want to say, “Touch my boobs and you die.” But I don’t.

Result: My husband is smiling more. We argue less.

Week 2: He is gone on a work trip. I’m surprised how much I miss him. It catches me off guard, this wave of intense emotion. Then I get mad at him for leaving me alone with three kids. I waver back and forth between desire and pissed off(ness). When he returns home I demand a back rub and a good night of sleep before I let him back into my arms. Truth…reconnecting is wonderful.

Result: I actually feel a wee bit sexy. And when he holds me afterwards I cry hot tears of release. His arms are a refuge for my hurt. He seems happy. He’s walking around with a big goofy smile.

Week 4: Our sex life is regaining speed. Still trying for daily but it’s more like every other day. I am noticing my husband’s body more. He’s lost weight. He looks good. I think about him at work. I think about him a lot.

Result: We are much more connected. We hold hands, we snuggle and I feel loved. I’m talking more about my pain and processing it with him. It’s been five months now since the funerals and the tears are finally flowing. Geez…I’m such a stuffer but it’s coming out now.

Week 5: He’s gone again visiting his family in Seattle. We talk on the phone every day. I tear a muscle in my hip running. When he comes home we have to be careful because of my sore hip but we figure it out and yes…its fun!

Result: I’m generally not annoyed at my husband anymore. For a while, he took the brunt of my anger over the loss of my parents. I can see this now. We are communicating better and I’m getting the affection and empathy I wanted desperately but didn’t know how to ask for. Despite the fact that I’m a writer, I’m realizing I’m a suck communicator when it comes to my marriage.

Week 6: It’s a good week. I remember how much I love sex! I ask Tim to start praying with me daily again like we did when were dating. I feel God prompting me to lean into more than just physical intimacy but spiritual as well. Tim agrees and every day we cuddle up, hold hands and pray together.

Result: No more arguing. For a while, I thought the neighbors would turn us in for yelling at each other. Yes, our sex life is humming along, but more importantly our relationship is healing too as I accept my parent’s death. I wanted to blame him for being a jerk and not understanding my grief but I can clearly see much of it is me—pulling away—holding my heart at a distance. I wasn’t the only one hurt; he was hurt too by my withdrawal.

Week 7: Tim goes out of town for work. I think I might be pregnant? All of this sex has worked a little too good. We giggle and laugh and dream of another baby.

Result: The praying has sealed the deal! Every day we affirm each other, ask if we have done anything to offend, ask what we can do for each other and then ask how we can pray for one another. I have become bold in asking for affection. I tell him when he pisses me off and we clear the slate. Tim asks for sex more often and I’m more willing to please him because both our needs our being met.

Week 8: It doesn’t look like the pregnancy is good. After two weeks of hoping, it doesn’t work out. I’m too old for this (without medical intervention) and my uterus has cried uncle.

Result: Although I’m sad, I’m not spiraling. Tim and I are in a good place. We are praying daily. When I need a hug his arms are near. I have a posse of kids waiting for me in heaven and I hold onto that hope. We have make up for “no baby” sex. Now I’m the one smiling.

Sept 10, 2014

The intimacy I feared is the intimacy I crave.

I feel alive again. Not so sad. The depression is lifting. I’m grateful to have a husband to hold and children to love. I miss my parent’s but it’s not overwhelming me anymore. I think I can face the holidays with joy instead of dread.

And I imagine that’s what my parents would have wanted for me—to live and to love and to ENGAGE in life without guilt. And yes even in the sexual arena.

(that feels really weird to say)

Sex is a great way to connect a marriage. I just needed to take some of my own medicine.

I don’t believe any of us are prepared to cope with great trauma alone—but that’s exactly what we do when we isolate.

The truth is, I’m only alone if I choose to be. God gave me a wonderful and very human husband to grieve with. And the spirit in him ministers to me—if I allow him to.

Sometimes it just takes a stupid article for me to take the hint.

So, I dare you…to pray together and to love one another physically. A sort of (married) sex challenge!

Please don’t take the gift of marriage for granted.

Blessings,

–Samantha

5 Tips to Stay Crazy in Love

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One of the best dates with my hubby was actually a dare.

We were DARED to go to Fashion Island, dress up like fools, sing to the crowd, and then ask some older married couples the secret to a long and satisfying marriage.

Dressing up was a kick, singing (or maybe screeching) at the top of our lungs as rich people averted their eyes and a dog in a stroller howled at us was a wee bit more difficult(and humbling), but approaching the couples for advice was downright fun and eye-opening.

Why, oh why, don’t I listen more to the wisdom of people who fought the good fight (relationally) and won?

Hollywood’s advice stinks, celebrities ditch relationships on a whim, and Disney and Playboy aren’t making it any easier on us either.

Want to know what these awesome couples said?

Here are the tips we learned from couples married 45+ years who still hold each other’s hand and are madly in love…

1. Listen

After the first older gent we confronted at Nordstrom’s (who didn’t run away) stopped laughing at our outfits, he was glad to share from his heart. 

He said the single most important thing in his marriage was to shut up and listen more

Listening to your spouse, instead of always trying to prove your point, brings nothing but the best to your life together. When you listen, you’ll discover insight on how you can love the other person more deeply. You’ll see a picture of their heart—their hopes and dreams, hurts and fears. You’ll piece together why your spouse operates the way they do. You’ll discover belief systems and thoughts that affect your relationship. If you think you ALREADY know everything about them, you’ve already stopped listening. 

Both you and your spouse will continue to change, mature, grow and learn until the day you are called into eternity.  Don’t stop learning about the priceless creation God has entrusted YOU with to cherish.

The next man said this…

2. Recognize Your Spouse’s worth

Recently, a friend of ours had a tumor removed from his brain.  His wife has been blogging and sharing about their journey.  Many times, I have been brought to tears as she describes the beauty of character and humility of her husband through this trial.

Deanna values her husband’s Jon’s worth and she lives it loud.  (check out www.DeannaRamsay.com for her blog)

When you value someone’s worth, you don’t belittle or tear down that person. You also won’t take even one day for granted.  You will cherish their heart and build them up in front of others. When you see the true worth in your partner, you’ll appreciate what this person brings into your life on a daily basis.

And you will shout out loud (like Deanna) for the world to hear, because you know you’ve got a good thing.

3. Forgive

We met another older couple from the Middle East outside the food court.  The man was adamant on how “the forgiveness factor”  impacts marriage.

(He also suggested to the guys, to always let the wife win, hee hee!)

No matter how googly-eyed and in love you are, two imperfect human beings are going to hurt each other with insensitive words, selfish actions, and occasional neglect. Forgiving each other is the foundation for any lasting and loving relationship. Without forgiveness, small offenses and wounds accumulate like a fortress in your heart.

Commit to tearing down these fortress walls (on a regular basis) before you can’t see over them anymore.

The Middle Eastern man’s wife said this, “Divorce is not an option where we come from(Palestine), so take it (divorce) out of the equation and learn how to have fun together since you are stuck together.” 

4. Have Fun

I guess if we are stuck together, laughing is better than crying.  And my husband makes me laugh like no one else.  When we sneak away and go on a date, I fall in love with him all over again.  I like who I am with him and he likes who he is with me.  We are better together than apart and I always say (away from uptight church circles) that my husband puts the F and the U in FUN!

Science backs this couple up on their “fun theory.”  Laughing alleviates stress, improves communication, gets past image management, and releases feel-good hormones in the brain. It builds lasting memories, helps heal old hurts, and binds hearts together.

Maybe your spouse is like Tim –always busting you up, or maybe you are both serious in nature, but you laugh at the same dumb movies.

No matter where you uncover the F and the U and the N, laugh together and have some fun.  Apparently, laughing matters!

5. Find a Nice Gal

This comes from my father-in-law, but I had to throw it in.  He told Tim, no matter what; find a nice and kind woman.  I think what he meant was, bitchy women are great to have crushes, on but don’t marry them. 

I like this advice and it certainly applies to both men and women.  When it comes to the daily decision to love, kindness is king. First, it shows appreciation. It also builds up security. It’s difficult to be in a relationship with someone whom you have to walk on eggshells around because you never know when the next constructive criticism or putdown is coming.

What are some of your best marriage tips?

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What Your Marriage Really Needs

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There have been few days in my life so impactful they are singed into my memory as “best days ever.”

The birth of my kids, the day my ex-husband walked, the day I ran down the aisle into the arms of Tim Keller…

Ravishing love, unbearable sorrow, joy beyond imagination – I recall every detail swirled with emotion.

This last weekend I added a new “best day ever” to my mental picture book.

Tim and I attended Relationship BootCamp and it rocked my world.

I’ve always thought marriage was hard work and I just needed to buck up and put in the effort. 

I tell myself, “Don’t give up.  Try harder.  Ok, that didn’t work…Sam, try EVEN harder!”

(After one failed marriage, I have NO intention of a repeat performance)

But is working harder at doing the same thing over and over anything more than a spinning hamster wheel of frustration? Certainly, relationship takes effort, and yet my soul groans for something more –understanding, compassion and a deeper connection.

Why are relationships so difficult?  Why do I struggle (at times) with the man of my dreams?

Why, why, why Jesus?  Why don’t Christians have awesome marriages?  Aren’t we supposed to be getting this right?

I believe I have a good marriage, but in the back of my mind I long and thirst for a glimpse of heaven.  And I feel guilty for wanting more.  I hate the repeated arguments about the same dumb thing.  I hate the communication gap.  I despise the feeling that we are so close to getting this right –and yet a million miles away all at the same time.

I discovered a lot from Relationship BootCamp.

Most of all, I recognized I desperately need healing from past wounds (that I drag into my marriage!) and a huge dose of forgiveness if I want EPIC instead of just ok. 

Surprise, surprise…relationship issues are not about dealing with the difficult people in our life.

Relationship issues are about dealing with the face in the mirror.

I saw five couples this weekend either seperated or with divorce papers signed who turned it around and recommitted.  I saw miracles happen.

I also saw my husband have epiphany after epiphany, right along WITH me. 

I ahhed and oohed too many times to count and I cried desperate tears as I saw my husband in a new light. 

And in the dark recesses of my heart, a glorious unlocking began and HOPE kicked out the despair I didn’t even know I stuffed in there.

I ALMOST NEVER recommend you buy or do anything on this blog, but if you want the relationship you’ve always dreamed about, I highly recommend you consider signing up for a BootCamp!

You’ll probably run into me volunteering and I’ll hug you through the hard parts! 

I believe our country is going through a marriage and relationship crisis.

And I want to be a part of the R3Volution! 

Click Here to find out more and Register!

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