Sexual Matters

There is something sacred about stumbling upon an older couple sneaking kisses or holding hands.  In our counter-cultural age of fast-food relationships over before the kids have reached kindergarten, seasoned love is a treat to behold.

I don’t know about you, but I crave this “old people in the park holding hands kind of love.”  I want my husband to desire me at 41, 51, 61 and 91 (Lord willing we attain this age).

But sex is such a tough issue to broach in the church.  We clam up, get awkward and pretend that good Christians don’t really need it.

(As if God didn’t create us to be sexual beings)

We forget that sex is a crucial factor in romance and it is the glue that keeps a marriage chugging on and on over the years.

It is also the one vital factor which separates friendship from love.

Sex matters in a marriage!

Sex helps you feel more connected to your partner, it makes you feel cared for and comforted, and, hello ladies, it’s fun, remember?

My friend reminded me of a comment I made to her years ago.

Sex is like working out.  It’s a pain in the ass to schlep all your gear to the gym and to drag your butt on to the treadmill or into the Zumba class, but once you get there and get warmed up you remember how much you actually like it and then you relax and enjoy the ride (no pun intended).

Yep. Sex is like working out.  And we all know the benefits of a regular workout routine.

The problem is (with both sex and exercise) we make excuses to not be active.  Because, let’s be honest, it’s far easier to be lazy and pretend to be asleep when our husbands make a move toward us.

Life certainly invades…

Through the years, we all change both physically and emotionally, and the days become chaotic with family and sports and demanding work schedules. But, even with the inevitable curve balls we will all encounter in and outside of our relationships, it is possible to keep the sparks flying (or at least smoldering!)

Many couples erroneously believe that the natural attraction and sexual desire they enjoyed during the honeymoon of their relationship will seamlessly carry over, without any effort, throughout their marriage.

Sorry folks…this is a lie.

Romance, desire and sex, will cease to exist unless it is both honored and nurtured by both parties in a couple.  

As neuroscientific research has proven, during the first six to eighteen months of a new relationship, our brain excretes a variety of neurochemicals, which helps to accelerate our biological mating dance.  Our brains are flooded with serotonin and dopamine, which keeps passion ignited, with very little effort on our part.

Then, as mysteriously as these mating neurochemicals arrive, they depart. And when this happens, usually within eighteen months of the start of a relationship, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder when it comes to our sex life.

So if sex is a priority, (which it should be!) then we need to make it important and red flag it on the calendar for the one we love.

Maybe it means taping a favorite show or going to bed earlier or putting the kids in their own room…

According to Rachel Sussman –author of the Breakup Bible, you can keep passion alive and thriving through regular and productive (no blaming, shaming, or complaining, please) communication with your partner about sex.

Be sure to discuss the following:

  • Make a commitment to make sex a priority!
  • Take the time to discuss what sex means to each of you.  To my husband sex=love.  To me it equals affection.  His need might be a little more pressing than mine.
  • If you lead a busy life (and who doesn’t) it’s perfectly OK to put sex dates on the calendar. Don’t worry that scheduling may become “formulaic” –looking forward to sex is a treat for a guy.  And ladies, if you put it on the calendar…do not change the playdate without a conversation and a reschedule. (It’s like telling your kid you are going to Disneyland and canceling because you  have a headache.  Be kind to your man!)
  • Shake it up.  Try something new.  I’ll leave it at that!
  • Worried that you won’t be “in the mood”? Allow yourself a “transitional time”. If sex is in the calendar tonight (or if you’d like it to be) – prepare yourself earlier in the day. Send your spouse a flirty text. Take a bubble bath, grab a glass of wine and allow the days stressors to slide off. Light a few candles, grab your iPod and set the mood.

Have fun, enjoy the love of your life, and make your marriage a priority!

Hint, Hint…

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A few weeks ago I started writing for a new client who runs a relationship bootcamp and does intensive couples coaching. 

At first I thought it was simply a good writing gig.  But now, after writing and researching numerous articles on marriage (and tips to improve relationships), I wonder if there isn’t some sort of grand scheme going on here behind the scenes.

Is the big man upstairs giving me subtle hints?

Jesus, are you trying to tell me I could use a little relational coaching myself?

Because in the last few weeks I’ve done a ton of research and it’s becoming increasingly clear I have a preschooler’s knowledge of building a healthy relationship.

Despite what you may believe, pastors and writers and ministry types don’t always have it all figured out.  We swamp through and muddle and muck up relationships too.

(But generally we get fired if our marriage tanks so we have more incentive than you to make it work)

Now I am certainly no expert.

I’ve been divorced.  I know there is no “happily ever after.” 

But I do believe marriage is worth every tear and argument and struggle.

I know the rewards are far greater than the tough moments.  I know there is crazy joy in the journey, delight in the dumbest moments, and glimpses of God through imperfect people trying to love and sacrifice for each other.

As much as I love my husband, I am not the best wife.  I honestly cry when I think of how badly I want to be better and the reality of who and what I am.

Broken. Selfish.  Human.  Capable of snarky quips and extreme disrespect.

But in that space I invite God to do a miracle; to somehow take my tiny little seed of faith and build something more beautiful than I can imagine.

A marriage.  Unity.  Family.  Interdependence. 

A strand of three chords not easily broken.

Here are the articles I wrote in the last few weeks for Relationship Help Centers.    Check out their website and look at the bootcamps for marrieds and singles. 

Because can’t we all use a little help in our relationships?

–Blessings,

Sam

How to Rekindle the Passion

In days of old, people accepted marriage would have its doldrums, but these days unhappiness is not an option. According to a survey conducted among 100 family lawyers –boredom and monotony are now the number one reasons for divorce.  Our expectation for marriage is that it will be fulfilling, vital and passionate.  But how do we keep the flames of passion strong? Lust initially propels us to the altar. It’s when endorphins surge through our brains and create a chemical cocktail that makes our beloved appear bigger than life. But what happens when these sexual opiates fade – as they inevitably will? This becomes the defining moment when a couple can choose whether or not they will continue to have passion in their relationship. Yes, passion is a choice. I can already hear you grumbling…”how am I supposed to feel something I don’t feel?”  Read More

#1 T­ool to make Marriage Last

If there was one thing –one tool to apply to your marriage today that would yield the biggest relational return, wouldn’t you want to own it? No matter what the cost, no matter what the effort…you would have to have it. But what if you already owned the tool? What if you simply forgot how to use it? According to SmartMarriages.com and leading marital relationship experts, you already have what it takes within you to build a foundation for a great marriage. In fact, you’ve probably used this tool before –back when you were dating. Back when you doted on and lingered over and filed away in your mental rolodex every single word your beloved uttered. So what is the MAGIC TOOL?  Read More

10 Tips to Fight Fair

When conflict erupts in a marriage –an inevitable part of all relationships, you can choose to draw closer to one another or barrel through, throw darts and damage the relationship. But unlike the old Pat Benetar song, love does not have to be a battleground.  Instead, the marriage relationship can be a safe place for reconciliation when differences arise. But it takes a little sweat equity and a sound plan. A clear-cut and pro-active approach to conflict sets the boundaries before the argument arises. Set the Rules Here are some “Rules” adapted from Ground Rules for Handling Conflict, John A. Larsen, PhD and “Rules for Fighting Fair” by Priscilla and Greg Hunt, PhD  Read More

 

Crazy Busy Love

Lake Arrowhead

My hubby and I arose early on Saturday morn, climbed in the car and drove a mere hour and fifteen minutes up the mountain into another world. 

We were the keynote speakers at the Radar Love Conference up in Lake Arrowhead –a mountain community so resplendent in the summer all I could think about was the movie “Dirty Dancing.”  For some reason, the lovely lake resort where Baby danced her socks off kept coming to mind.

Radar Love was a Southern California singles conference focused on finding love, how to love and God’s plan for love –all the easy stuff, right?

But what surprised me the most about our little getaway was how often in our crazy busy schedule my husband and I forget to take the time and effort to practice the very things we  preach on.

I’m sure none of you would never forget this “oh so simple” principle either?

There are always plenty of and GOOD reasons and justifications why we slack in our effort towards our spouse.

Here’s mine:  Tim and I have struggled through a tough season.  Circumstances beyond our control have buffeted our ship through stormy waves.  We have clung to each other, held on tightly to our kids and trusted God to see us through the squall.

And we have survived –yes, and we have grown closer –certainly, but there are also wounds and nicks to our heels that we have allowed to sneak into our marriage and quietly steal our smiles.

And sometimes we don’t even realize how much we miss each other. 

Without three kids distracting me, without teen angst and toddler meltdowns, no work stress and ministry challenges, without seminary weighing Tim down with a paper due every stinking day–we were left with nothing to do but speak to the group –something we adore doing together and focus ALL our attention on one another.

In the afternoon, relaxing in a beautiful cabin with endless views, I watched my husband practice his talk for the evening event.  And as he wove together a message of hope and practical dating application, I sat there on the comfy sofa and fell in love with my husband all over again.

I watched him tell hilarious schticky jokes and “cat” analogies that rolled me.  I took in his passion for single adults, clear calling from God to minister and bursting energy to do God’s will –and I let it roll over me and penetrate my heart. 

And once again, I was in awe of the man I call my own.

I remembered how funny and smart he is and I let go of my resentment for the seminary who steals my husband away from me.  I watched his hands waving around to enunciate his words and I thought of those same hands that care for me and hold me when I am scared.  I caught the twinkle in his eye when he looked at me with longing and I felt the same spark deep within me.

Later that afternoon, we had lunch on the lake and took the time to date. 

We walked hand in hand by the water, laid down on a dock in the sunshine side by side as the speed boats gently rocked the floating platform, and shared our hearts with one another.  We explored the little lakeside village, slurped down cappuccinos and met friends for an impromptu chat.

We spent the day giggling and loving and lingering –and it filled my low bucket to the brim with “Keller Love” (which is the best kind of love of all).

Even though I know better –I sometimes forget that one of the best investments I can make is in my marriage.  One night away in a cabin with my sweetheart is worth six months in counseling fees.  And certainly a week away would be even better.

Now, your idea of fun might not be preaching together –but for Tim and I who share this passion it was restorative.  Maybe you and your spouse love to scuba dive, or watch indie films or climb mountains.  Every couple is unique in their bonding method, love language and shared interests –but however you love, don’t stop making the time to do the little things.

Don’t let the JOY slip through your fingers.

My friend Nick Arnette (master emcee and comedienne extraordinaire) sent me this great article from Single Dad Laughing.  The author –Dan is twice divorced and shared a long list of all the things he wished he had done differently in his marriages -“16 Ways I Blew My Marriage.”

And it resonated with me because of the weekend I spent making the effort to love and ENJOY my husband.  As I read this blog, I mentally checked off all the things we got right in one tiny weekend. 

Love is a choice.

It takes concentrated effort, sacrifice and time.  It takes letting go of the walls we build around our hearts and letting God restore us so that we can fully give and receive love.  Love is NOT EASY but there are moments where despite our humanity –God reaches down and we get a glimpse of the divine.

I have a perma-smile when I think of this weekend and the time I spent with my husband. 

Because this is the man who makes my heart sing.

Do you need to sneak away for some intentional love time with your spouse?

Not So Cheap Thrills

I should have known I was in over my head when the woman in reservations asked for my credit card to hold our brunch seating.

But after all my diligent research I figured it couldn’t cost TOO much to celebrate our Daddy in style.
I threw out my old gift giving ways this year.  No ties or sauces for daddy, no sports visors or knick-knack items –this year I wanted to dazzle my man with creativity. 

 My husband Tim adores Bloody Marys so I did a little sleuthing.  I discovered the famous drink was initially formulated by the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, New York.  I also found out the St. Regis in Monarch Beach, not far from our home, offered a three-tier Bloody Mary bar on Father’s day. And the best part…each custom concoction was only a mere $10.

It sounded reasonable, so I called and made a reservation at Motif –the main restaurant at the hotel.

Father’s Day arrived and my hubby was dressed up and amped up for his special DAD activity. After an early breakfast in bed, church, and dropping off the big kids, Tim and I and little Kolby headed over to the stunning hotel overlooking the azure blue sea.

The valet whisked our car away and we entered the grandeur of the St. Regis.  Vistas and views met our every turn and rich people glided and tottered by in impossibly high heels.  We found our dining establishment and checked in with the hostess who handed us glasses of champagne while we waited.  I people watched and played with Kolby who climbed up and down the majestic staircase.

Tim ventured into the restaurant to take a peep at the Bloody Mary bar.  His eyes were big when he came back and he bubbled over with energy as he described the decadent condiments and accoutrements.  Then he casually inquired how much the brunch cost.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.  “The drinks are only $10 so it can’t be that much, maybe $45 a person?”

This seemed like a large number to me.

Tim wandered away again as I downed my bubbly and played with my little girl.  He came back a few minutes later with a giddy and dazed look on his face.

“You must really love me,” he stuttered.

Quizzically, I turned.  “Yes, I do…why do you say that?”

“Because the brunch is a bit more than your highest estimation,” Tim gulped.

“How much is it?” I whispered.

“It’s $115 a plate and the Bloody Mary Bar is on top of that,” he frantically giggled.

I furtively looked around.  “Maybe we can run?”

Then I remembered they had my credit card.  We were stuck.

My eyes filled with tears.  “I’m so sorry; I didn’t know it was so much.”

Tim looked at me with laughter, kindness and mirth.  “I know honey.  It’s ok.  But we are going to get our money’s worth today.”

We stayed for almost three hours and ate and ate and ate and ate.  And truthfully, it was the finest buffet experience of my life.  Kolby even took a nap and they brought her a blanket to lounge.

I’m realizing over and over again, that although I have plans, God loves nothing more than to mess them up.  His ways are mysterious and daring.  He invites me to trust and to lavish love on my husband. 

It wasn’t in my budget.  I had to charge my almost $300 brunch, but my husband felt treasured and esteemed in a different way than normal.  It was extravagant love and maybe that’s reason enough to be a little crazy and a lot of broke.

Oswald Chambers said…

“It is more and more impossible for me to have programs and plans because God alone has the plan, and our plans are only apt to hinder Him, and make it necessary for Him to break them up.”

Killing Superwoman

 

Growing up in the eighties, I vividly remember a perfume commercial with a gorgeous gal clad in a chic suit prancing home from work in sky-high heels to assemble a gourmet dinner for her adoring family.  The catchy tune playing in the background “I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan…,” became the mantra of a generation of women trying to do it all.  Just being a stay-at-home mom lost its glamour and allure as women flocked into the corporate world.

This pseudo super-woman was beautiful and fit (despite feasting on bacon), a doting mother, sexual tiger to her man, room mom, CEO and host of a weekly wine group.  Mattel even made Dr. Barbie in a white coat and gave the doll a more professional ensemble to match her new identity.  Barbie pushed her twins in a double-stroller and then drove to work in her pink corvette smiling and waving at the nanny.

And a whole generation of young women bought into the lie we could be all things and do all things well, forgetting the natural limitations of energy and balance and sanity. 

Clearly the song forgot to mention how super-woman started having heart palpitations and chronic fatigue before she hit forty.  It failed to acknowledge super-woman’s love/hate relationship with her job, the guilt of constantly dumping car-pool on her neighbor, and the anxiety of slipping out of work early every Thursday to watch her son play t-ball.  The song didn’t address sleepless nights with baby, shouting curses at her husband over who would get up for the four a.m. feeding, playing dead from sheer exhaustion when her husband begs for sex, and stapling badges on her little girl scouts sash in a last minute desperation because she hasn’t a clue where a needle and thread might be hiding.

The song left out all the unspoken but necessary intangibles that go along with a real life of balancing work and children and hubby.  When I recently saw the movie, “How Does She do it all?” I laughed bitterly.  Not only could I have written the script –my life was even more hectic with three kids, a full-time job and a freelance career on the side.  But something in me identified with this compulsion to master motherhood and family despite the toll it was taking on my body.   I wasn’t ready to give up anything, choosing instead to scurry and race along on an endless hamster wheel of busyness, always on the edge of hurtling off into the abyss and a nervous breakdown.

I really thought I could pull it off.  I was the exception.  Sure, my eating habits were getting a little processed and I exercised less often than more; but I was holding up and playing the martyr mommy role with gusto until my heart literally stopped me. 

The details are a little fuzzy, but I recall running on a scorching hot Sunday morning with my baby daughter tucked in her bright orange jogging stroller.  Overly ambitious, thanks to a Venti Americano buzz from Starbucks, I rashly determined to sprint up a monstrous hill near my home at top speed and go for the burn.  I arrived home winded and panting, and headed straight for a hot shower with the baby in my arms.  I lathered up, rinsed and then bent over to pick up my adorable daughter.  As I started to raise her in the air, a slippery soft cherub covered in bubbles, a white light ricocheted through my skull and blackness enveloped me.

I don’t know how long I lost consciousness that morning.  I awoke slumped in a heap on the shower floor over my howling and terrified baby with icy cold streams of water prickling my back.  There were hospitals and endless tests and then the results I never expected to hear. 

At the tender age of thirty-nine –under order of a cardiologist, I was forced to pick between juggling two jobs or find myself with a pacemaker within six months.    As a mother of three beloved children, the decision wasn’t too tough.  It was time to kill super-woman. 

My kids and I put Dr. Barbie into a boat and we launched her with glee into the ocean as an act of surrender and a celebration of the beginning of a new season.  (I thought burning Dr. Barbie might be a tad too traumatic for the two-year-old) 

Then I changed every facet of my life starting with work and moving outward circle by circle.  Now when I take a jog, it’s not to fit into a bikini, it’s to keep my ticker going strong for my kids.  Things like nap-time and nutrition have reemerged and rest has taken on a whole new meaning since caffeine isn’t my go-to pick-me-up anymore. 

But the biggest lifestyle modification was changing my broken thinking.   I started to accept I can’t do it all and I certainly can’t do it all well.  Super-woman is a myth which has deceived us all.  Working mothers carry tremendous guilt and stay-at-home mothers struggle with their identity thanks to her.  No one tells a young woman she might someday have to choose between a big family and a successful career –because the personal compromise she will make to do both might eventually destroy either her health or sanity.

Fortunately, I recognized I was getting a second chance to pick what is most important and move towards that which resonates in my soul and gives me life –relationships, family, writing, and a story lived well.  Surprisingly, my list of non-negotiable items was much shorter than I anticipated after I cut off all the good I was doing to make room for the best.

Is it time you killed super-woman?

Photo Source: 500px.com via Alexandria on Pinterest

The Honey-do List

I struggle with certain forms of communication with my hubby –namely how to ASK for anything on the honey-do list.

It’s a lose/lose scenario for me. 

I know my man works hard.  As a pastor he puts in six days a week and on top of that goes to seminary on his day off.  When he is home, the kids vie for his attention along with their demanding sports and activities schedule. He doesn’t have much time off and I feel guilty asking for more, but there are just certain things around the house only a MAN can do.

So I wait and wait and wait.  Then I try to do it all and burn out.  The frustration builds and builds.  By the time I get around to asking him for help, it never comes out right.

I can’t even pin-point where I go wrong, but according to my sweetie every time I say, “Hey Tim, can you please clean the garage or put away your clothes that have been sitting out on the dresser for a month?” it comes out whiny, nagging, or a like a guilt-trip. 

I hear sunshine, he hears bi—yatch.

I think I’m being diplomatic –cautious even, but it comes across as something completely different.  He says it’s my tone.

What tone? 

I tell him my tone is rooted in fear that I will never have a clean garage.  My tone is the sound of a mommy martyr who carries the weight of the world.  My tone is “do you see me slaving away over here while you kick back and watch football?”

Per our normal routine, I asked the wrong way for him to clean the garage.  But this time, I lost it –big time.  I threw a tantrum…over the garage.

(Not my finest moment)

I ended up on my bed sobbing like a child who lost her blankie.  And then I realized it wasn’t about the garage.  It’s never about the “thing” you fight over.  It’s always ten layers deep.

This meltdown was about my dad and his waning health and the reality that my time with his is limited.  This is about surrender and God and trusting him despite my fear.  This fight was about my heart full of aching emotions seeping out.

My husband held me, quieted my tears, and then went downstairs and started cleaning the garage. 

And I think this is what marriage is like.  We bumble things like “tone” and “communication” but we know innately when the other is hurting.  We know when to be an anchor and to hold on tight to our beloved in the midst of a storm.

I love how my husband KNOWS me. 

Marriage is like best friends with benefits, only better, because it is true and intimate and mysteriously interconnected.  It is a naked and unashamed love. It’s love that sees past the dragons and still climbs into the castle window to rescue the wounded princess.

I will probably always screw up the ASK on the honey-do list, although I imagine if I put on the lingerie he bought me for my birthday I might get a different response?

 

 

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