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

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!

Is Purity Even Relevant Today?

There are many reasons to wait for sex –good reasons, lame reasons, and even churchy reasons.   But there aren’t many compelling reasons to actually deter most of us from the dirty deed. 

Sex feels good and life is hard enough, so goshdangdarnit, what kind of overbearing big brother meanie wants to take away all our fun any-who?

I never had to deal with all the Christian angst of dating the first time around.  I was just a big old sinner.  After a solid year in a sorority much of my anxiety swirling around sex dissipated.  I determined I was a decent person “morally,” compared to the other slutty coeds, because I reserved sex solely for relationships (which might have included friends with benefits too).

I picked up my ex-husband in a bar when I was twenty-one.  Three and a half years later we married and sometime in between meeting him and saying “I do,” I fell in love again and brought another guy into the relationship.

It was Jesus.

About a year into the whole Christian dealio, I tried to get on board with the fire and brimstone “purity” message I heard preached at my church –apparently to scare all the singles into behavior modification.  So I tentatively asked my (then) fiancé if we could cease having sex and wait until we were married to resume our intimacy. 

He vehemently said “no,” Ummmm.  Ok.

Ten years later when my ex-husband departed into the arms of another woman and left me with two small children I finally got my chance to try dating as a Christian.

But I don’t know if I was in any way more prepared despite the Christian sticker on my bumper.

Yes…I had given my heart and soul to Jesus.  I knew all the Bible verses, taught women’s Bible studies and was even enrolled in seminary.  And yet I still slipped up in the sex area.

I wanted to honor God.  I earnestly tried HARD in my dating relationships to avoid sex.  And it worked –once.  I was in one relationship where we were both committed to purity and didn’t compromise (and then I found out he was still “technically” married and that ended fast).  But the other five relationships, during my time as a single Christian woman were a little murkier.  We might not have had intercourse, but then again President Clinton redefined modern sex anyway, right?

When I met Tim Keller, now my darling hubby, I was living in this wishy-washy land of sexual compromise.  I wanted to be pure but I’m not sure I believed it was even possible.  I didn’t meet many men, even supposed good Christian men, who actually walked the talk. 

Pastor Tim Keller was an anomaly –an attractive single straight man of thirty-six years who didn’t grab my boobs on the second date.  And even though he wasn’t wealthy from a worldly perspective, usually a non-negotiable in my materialistic heart, he was hot, clearly loved Jesus and had CHARACTER (something lacking in most of the men I dated).

When Tim asked me to be his girlfriend, about five weeks after we started dating, he slipped a purity ring on my finger and fell to one knee.  He implored me, “to wait for him, to wait for God to bless our relationship, and to give “us” a chance to build true intimacy without sex complicating things.”

It sounded like a lot of waiting and I’m not that patient.

And so I freaked out (internally of course) and smiled and cried tears of sheer terror, thinking “How in the heck am I going to remain sexually pure when this man is so yummy?”

Tim also told me he had a zero tolerance policy for error.  If we messed this up: (A) he would not marry me, and (B) he would resign from the church for moral failure.

Now I didn’t want the poor man to lose his job, but dangling the condition of “sex=no wedding” really sealed the deal.   I was head over heels in love with Tim by then and I wanted to marry this man so bad I would wear a habit and chastity belt with a big lock impervious to his washboard abs if I had to.

But something drastic happened to me during our fifteen month courtship.  Something so radical it rocked me to the core.

First, I became aware of how often I pushed to be physical because I needed reassurance that Tim cared for me and was committed to the relationship.  I saw how I used my sexuality to manipulate, to hold power over and to get the attention I desperately craved.

Without sex I had to learn how to ask for what I needed.  I was able to see how Tim treated me even when I didn’t meet all his physical needs, what it meant to work out our problems with no “make-up sex” to gloss over the deeper issues, and I had to learn how to compromise –because I couldn’t hold out on the booty to get what I wanted.

Poor Tim!  I tempted him in the beginning.  I was so bad.  I wore a pink string bikini to a singles ski retreat we both attended and had the audacity to rock it at the hot tub –heathen temptress that I am.  But he held fast, kept his hands to himself and didn’t get out of the Jacuzzi for a very long time.

And slowly I realized by his not being physical, he was actually showing me he loved me.

Real love.  Not SEX/LOVE…the kind of love that holds your hand when you are losing the fight to cancer.   It’s love that sees beauty under the wrinkles and bald spots. It’s love that protects and heals and cherishes.  It’s the sort of love that doesn’t leave when it gets tough and its old people in the park holding hands kind of love.

And Tim was telling me by his behavior I was worth waiting for.  With every smile he told me I was a beautiful treasure and he would not steal from me until it was time to enjoy this gift from God –within a committed marriage relationship.

And somewhere along the way I started to buy into it.  (Not so easy when you have abandonment issues) And I saw, really saw, for the first time in my life the way God sees me.

Valuable.  Treasured.  Worth dying for.

And I believed it –because someone showed me a glimpse of the divine.

Purity isn’t just about being a good Christian and playing by the rules.  It’s about treating another human being with dignity and respect, even when they don’t deserve it.

Purity restored me. 

I am a different person because of my husband. Tim Keller walked the talk. 

And maybe God tells us to wait for sex not because he’s mean, but because he loves us more than we love ourselves.

Sounds like a compelling reason to me.

How Far is too Far?

When I tell people how long my engagement was –a mere four and a half months, they look surprised.

“Well we waited,” I stammer trying to explain.

“Oh, so you dated for many years and then you finally tied the knot?”

“Uuuhhh, no…we dated for fifteen months and WAITED to have sex.”

“What? Why? Are you Mormon?”

“No.”

Blank stare.

And so I explain why we chose purity and a bit of our story (see “Is Purity Relevant Today” for an explanation).  But then the inevitable happens.  The sex questions start.

“Ok, so I get the beautiful romance part.  You guys have this awesome God love, but how did you know the sex part wouldn’t suck? “

And I know what they are really saying is… “What if he can’t perform?  He could be a secret eunuch, or have erectile dysfunction, or be weird, or a thousand other awfuls.  And how would a silly little pure girl know?”  Smart girls apparently try the meat before they buy the bull.

Big gulp.  “I knew his parts worked because for fifteen months he lived in a constant state of anticipation.  No amount of denim can hide that.  When he kissed me goodnight I could tell the man had finesse.  When he cuddled me I knew he was tender. And when I looked into his eyes I saw raw desire -a caged lion waiting to be unleashed on our honeymoon night.

“But how far did you go?  Where did you draw the line?”

When people ask me this I want to weep.  Because it means there is a fundamental disconnect between their belief in God and BELIEVING God.  And I know the difference because I walked down this road too many times.

Here is what I discovered…If I BELIEVE God, I trust that waiting for the booty will be awesome.  I trust He loves me more than I love myself.  I trust He has a chosen a man and/or woman who will delight me.  And ultimately I trust if I follow his guidance I won’t be unsatisfied.

If I believe in God but make up my own rules I am operating under selfish tendencies.  I take because I feel entitled.  I corrupt because God is withholding.  I use sex to get my needs met-attention, power, control, release, and manipulation.  Sex becomes an act. 

When I remove God, who is love, out of the mix I remove real love from sex.  You might love sex.  You might even feel loving towards the person you are sleeping with.  But let’s be honest here…real love is patient, it is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking.  It does not rejoice in evil, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. (From 1 Cor. 13)

When was the last time your hook-up encapsulated any one of these?

Real love doesn’t leave you wondering if the guy is going to jump out of bed in the morning and bail before you smell the Folgers.  Real love showers your front door with rose petals on Valentine’s Day instead of a text at 4:00pm saying “Happy Heart Day.”  Real love doesn’t push for a blow job because it’s technically not intercourse.  And real love doesn’t leave a girl in the dark wondering how he feels about her. 

I wasn’t disappointed on my wedding night (don’t want to boast here).  But even if there were issues, I am confidant my husband would have been open with me.  Love does not deceive.  So when I hear about people who played by all the rules and waited for sex and then had problems, I have to ask if maybe they substituted rules instead of relationship: if authenticity and vulnerability were masked by a fear of being known?  The idea of naked and unashamed is not merely sexual -it includes full disclosure.

Purity is about love.  About treating someone the way you want to be treated -with honor and respect.  It’s not about how far you can bend the rules.  That’s just a warped form of legalism. 

How far did Tim and I go?  We kissed.  We necked like high school kids at a Drive In theatre and there were too many nights to count when Tim actually got up to run to the restroom and called me from his car ten minutes later.  Like Joseph he fled from temptation, even though half the time I didn’t even know he was struggling.  He also had a group of guys holding him accountable.

But everyone’s limits are different.  If you can’t kiss a girl without ripping off her clothes then don’t kiss her.  Give her a peck on the check.  If holding hands makes you crazy…well then you might need some professional help.  And if you tell me you can go really far without any issues, you’ve missed the point entirely.  (Re-read 1 Cor. 13). 

Waiting might look different to each individual and/or couple but purity is the same. It’s not about how far is too far -it’s about choosing to BELIEVE God has got your back and marriage is well worth the wait!

One Click at a Time

My post Why Guys aren’t Asking Women Out has created a big buzz.  The comments are pouring in and Ruth Rutherford even blogged about her struggle with some of the male comments in “Oh Henry! There’s Gotta be More.”  In this controversial post I suggested the over-sexualization of our culture (and porn specifically) is one of the biggest contributors to the problem of women not getting asked out.

Some agreed, while others clearly did not.  I was dismissed by a few guys who by their very own comments proved my point that many men in our culture are driven by the sexual images they see.  I was also affirmed for identifying this as a cultural crisis, but my FAVORITE response came in this morning from Brandon. 

I wanted to share this because as a woman I lose credibility by the sheer fact that I don’t have a penis, AND maybe some of you can hear this message better from a man. 

(Although this whole post was done in collaboration with my husband –a male pastor and we deal with this issue on a daily basis in our church, ministry, through counseling and in the relationship seminars we speak at.)

Here is Henry’s comment, which I confess I struggle with a bit.

As a guy I have a very different perspective. I’ve dated a ton of women – more than I care to admit. I don’t think porn is the real problem as to why these girls aren’t getting dates. Any honest Christian single guy will admit he’d much rather marry and sleep with his wife/best friend than settle for porn.  Read more…

Brandon replies…

“Henry is right…men DO want somebody to cuddle up with in front of a Cowboys game, enjoy bedroom life with, and read the Bible with…but that’s about it. The long drivel that makes up the rest of his comment is incredibly shallow, ignorant, and short-sighted.

When I first saw the title, “Why Men Aren’t Asking Women Out”, a little thought popped into my head… “Why men aren’t asking women out? That’s simple. Porn.”

For Henry to dismiss pornography and the general sexualization of our society as one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, contributors to this problem means he has his head in the sand. Recently, I have discovered that multiple men very close to me…older men that I have looked up to, some of which that are in ministry or deacons of churches who have by all accounts healthy, close relationships with the Lord have struggled with pornography recently or in the not so distant past. These are men who have served as my personal heroes and confidants, all of which are in their 40s and 50s, all of which have daughters… And they have all come to me separately in the past year to confess that while they were giving me advice in my struggles…they were struggling with lust and secret sins of their own in a way that boys do now starting as early as elementary or middle school.

If these types of men are struggling with this, it’s undoubtedly even bigger than any of us probably even realize.

Pornography and constant easy access to sexual imagery is re-programming our brains one click at a time and the result will be many men and many women that are single much later into their lives, if not for the rest of their lives as well as many ruined marriages that are entered into without full disclosure of the digital women that the groom brings into the equation from Day 1.

In the spirit of transparency, I have met girls before and thought to myself, “She seems awesome. I would ask her out but [insert physical feature] doesn’t really match up with what I’m into.”

I’ve tried to capture those thoughts and re-train my thinking in these areas but with a world full of men that are more likely driven by lust and fulfilling physical desires with such quick and simple ease rather than being driven by Christ-like motivations, there will undoubtedly be millions of women who will continue to pay the price.

The only thing women can really do is pray and ask the Lord to show them areas that they’re falling short in their relationship with him, which will undoubtedly make them more attractive to the right type of man. Also, continue to pray for your future husband. It’s very likely that he is in a spiritual battle with sin and the enemy that needs your interceding. As for men…there are a lot of difficult choices to be made, but the first of which is to step up, take responsibility, get our heads out of the sand, and start fighting for the wives and the children that God has yet to entrust us with because we’ve been warped by a computer screen.”

Brandon, THANK YOU!  You articulated this beautifully. 

What do you think about Brandon and Henry’s different perspectives?

 

Photo credit: Via pinmarklet

Why Men Aren’t Asking Women Out

Why Aren’t Men Asking Women Out?

Every now and then, a woman will sneak up to me after we speak at an event and with teary eyes choke out, “I’m not very attractive and men don’t ask me out.  Like EVER.”

My heart aches when I see a woman in despair and hopelessness.  They desperately want me to have a fix-it-all answer and I am left stuttering. 

Helping a woman date well is pointless when there are no dates to go on.

I usually respond by going back to God’s word and reassuring them of his ravishing love for them and their true worth and beauty.  But in all honesty, it’s a hard sell when a woman believes she is an ugly duck and no man is willing to fight for her heart and convince her otherwise. 

Ruth Rutherford’s blog –I Kissed my Date Goodnight explores this topic in greater detail.

Although I am weak on answers, my husband and I do have an opinion as to why this scenario is playing out more and more often with single women.

And it’s not because we are JUST an image obsessed culture.  It goes much deeper.

The Problem

The problem is the over-sexualization of our culture. And porn magnifies this.

When men watch beautiful women expose and degrade themselves on a regular basis they begin to subconsciously believe they are entitled to a hot chick that operates in the same fashion in real life. 

But there are a limited number of women who meet this elite criteria.  That leaves the rest of us.

Prior to the first Playboy in mass circulation, it seems as though men were more likely to move towards marriage and relationship.  A below average looking guy would pursue and love a woman who might not meet all of the societal norms of beauty. 

Unfortunately, these days he would rather stay single and settle for his hand and a box of Kleenex.  Real women are complicated and take effort but a fantasy porn woman will bark at his command. 

Porn is cheap and easy.

Many men’s expectations have become so distorted by pornographic images they lose the ability to even be intimate with a woman not digitized on a screen.  As more and more men isolate, real women suffer the consequences and ultimately men do too, although they may not realize it until it’s too late.

The truth is we have an enemy who loves to destroy relationships and porn ruins a man’s ability to engage in healthy dating relationships before he even begins. 

It’s not like this is a new scheme of Satan’s.  Reading throughout the Bible, rampant promiscuity is not fresh to modernity.  It’s just getting more prevalent and widespread with technology.

No Easy Solution

Sadly, there are no any easy or pat answers.  I have a teenage son.  I know all too well it’s a battle men face on a daily basis with an adversary who plays into their weaknesses.

I wish it were different.  But until the day Jesus returns I believe many of us will be left wanting and craving for something more.   

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Via Pinterest

Taking the Honey out of Honeymoon. Why Buddymoon’s are the New Trend.

My husband and I always have the same conversation at weddings.

“Purity or shacking up?” my husband whispers.

I carefully examine the bride.  If she scowls or looks grumpy, it’s a no brainer-“they’ve slept together.”  If she cries walking down the aisle, I know immediately –“sex.” But if she floats down on cloud nine, gallops down with a goofy grin, or smiles like a Cheshire cat it’s just as obvious –“no sex” I exclaim.

It’s a gift I have, this radar for purity and wantonness (possibly because I’ve worn both pairs of shoes).

I can always tell at weddings if the couple has already consummated the relationship.  In marriages where sex is as common as brushing teeth, or better yet –flossing, the wedding is the denouement or the culmination of the relationship. 

These are the “bridezillas” who display a freakish sense of control over every tiny detail.  And it has to be perfect because the big day is about as good as it gets for her.

But for the bride who has a honeymoon to look forward to, a real honeymoon with a slow deliberate unveiling, a full vacation of exploring her beloved’s body, and a once in a lifetime retreat to connect physically with a man she has yearned and waited for, the wedding is just a step towards a new life together.

All things are fresh and new to the couple who has waited to have sex. But I remember all too well, waking up the day after I married my first husband. 

My exorbitantly overpriced bridal frock was crumpled on the chair, the carriage carted off and the ice sculptures melted along with my enthusiasm.  I thought I would feel differently once married, and I did, somewhat, but the disparity was more of an anticlimactic disappointment.  

Just to clarify, It had nothing to do with love or committment to the marriage.  I had both, but by acting married before I was married, I stole my own joy before it’s time, like a kid waking up on Christmas morning and knowing what’s under the tree because they snuck a peek when mom wasn’t looking.

It’s what so many couples do when they play house before the ring is on the finger, forgetting the repercussions which inevitably follow namely a boring honeymoon.

Been there…done that…BIG YAWN.

To compensate for the lack of awesomeness a honeymoon used to symbolize, the new trend according to the New York Times, is to take a “buddymoon “and bring the family and friends along.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist and the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia notes…

“Today, when about 65 percent of couple’s cohabitate prior to marriage, the honeymoon is less likely to be a major turning point in their relationship,” said Professor Wilcox.  “For them, I think having friends come along is less of a big deal and in some ways makes it more of a special and exceptional occasion.”

By taking the “honey” out of honeymoon, couples enter marriage already disenchanted enough with each other to need outside entertainment.  Thus they need “buddies” to get them through the hump of spending one week alone with the person they have just chosen to spend the rest of their lives with.

And this new trend makes me sad.

I think we –as a culture are losing a precious rite of passage by robbing OURSELVES of a once in a lifetime opportunity to revel in our spouse. 

Tim and I treasured our three-week honeymoon to the Mediterranean.  We loved, we laughed and we made new and amazing friends, who as fellow honeymooners shared our fledgling memories.

I believe in my heart that part of the reason my first relationship didn’t work out is because we didn’t hold our purity in high regard.  Because we had sex prior to marriage, it clearly made it easier for my ex-husband to have sex with someone else while we were married.  With God’s grace, I got a second chance to do it right and chose purity for my relationship with Tim…and it changed everything.

The second time around, I practically ran down the aisle (dragging my dad) to join my groom.  People commented they had never seen a smile as big and bright as my beam.  I didn’t notice the flower arch met an untimely crack, or the misplaced name cards or any of the other minor details that were far from perfect. 

All I saw was my honey.  And no offense to my buddies, but we did just fine without you.

Would you consider a buddymoon?

 

Modified from an article first posted on Kellerdating

No Money, No Honey

I’ve never really understood how “visual” men are when it comes to being attracted to the opposite sex.  Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and my metrics for measuring up a dude are vastly different.  Sure, looks played a part in my overall decision-making process but it was never a deal-breaker if the guy had other stellar qualities.

(*note: my husband’s hotness was a bonus on top of his other attributes)

But when I saw a new study in the OC Register the other day, I had an epiphany.  The article, titled –Women aren’t looking for an unemployed man, online dating service’s survey discovers, suggests single men without a job are lonelier than the Maytag repairman as 73% of women refuse to consider dating an unemployed man.

(For those too young to remember, Maytag had an ad campaign showing a lonely repair man in his shop insinuating their washers and dryers rarely break…)

And then it hit me why men date hot chicks who have the brain cell capacity of a flea – it’s because men are wired to be visual in the exact same way women are wired to seek financial security from a mate.

Tit for Tat.  Hot Chicks vs Cold Hard Cash.  Show me the Money vs DD Cup Size

Jokes aside, I have to believe it’s how God designed us.  Despite feminism and women’s rights, the truth is most women feel vulnerable when they are pregnant or raising small children and a husband  with an adequate income allows her to focus on nurturing and caring for her young without the burden of financial stress. 

I know this all too well because when I was single mom the financial stress was OVERWHELMING.  But once I got remarried, the burden lifted.  I still had to go to work and provide but it felt more manageable with a partner.  I don’t believe women are designed to carry the financial burden alone. We can do it (and some do it very well) but it doesn’t sit well on our frame just as most men struggle to get up at night with baby.  They can certainly do it but it mommy does it so much better with a smile and a song instead of bad words from a cranky and grumbling daddy.

The male focus on visual aesthetics is not just immaturity.  According to Dr. Phil McGraw, it’s a “psychosocial, biochemical and neurological gap—so trying to get a man to function according to female standards is like trying to get a pig to fly. It’s just not going to happen. That old but often accurate notion that men are hunters seems especially applicable here.”

 
Men need to be quick on their feet and act fast to bring home the bacon while women need to plan and store provisions for a long winter and hungry mouths to feed.
 
Terry – a reader from the Register article responded: ” A man is set up on a blind date, first question, what does she look like? A woman is set up on a blind date, first question is, how much money does he have?”
 
But here is the catch, although we are designed to operate in a certain manner, we, unlike our four legged friends, have a choice in the matter.  We don’t have to  take this”pre-wiring” to the extreme.  Not every woman needs to be a gold digger and not every man needs to be a skirt chaser. 

We let the world distort God’s standards of provision and beauty.  We let Cosmo and Maxim tell us what matters most and we tune out the simplicity and brilliance of God’s design for male/female relationships.

A man who can provide a roof over a woman’s head and put food on the table is a good catch.  A man who will take a job at Starbucks, or parking cars or get up every morning and apply for a hundred jobs in a bad economy is a treasure indeed. 

A woman who takes care of herself and others, has a sweet spirit and big smile (though she may not be a super-model) is still a beauty.  A woman who follows God, is faithful and true and loves without barriers is ravishing.  And a woman who is physically appealing on the outside but nasty on the inside is not worth the misery of a dreadful marriage, or worse yet, an expensive divorce.

I think it’s time we stop complaining how men only like hot chicks and women only want guys with a job and instead start redefining what real beauty and real provision actually are.

And maybe we need to fix our broken “pickers” so we spot the real jewels when we find them. 

Is your “picker” in need of some fine-tuning? 

 

 

Christians and the Birth-Control Controversy

Two weeks before my wedding I paid a visit to the lady doctor.  She poked and probed me and then asked me, “What sort of birth control do you use?”

“None,” I replied.

“What?  Aren’t you afraid of getting pregnant?” she suggested in a horrified tone.

“Ummmm…no, I haven’t had sex with my fiancé, so it hasn’t been a big issue.”

The doctor looked at me and frowned.  “Well now that you are getting married, are we putting you on the pill?”

“Nope, we want kids.” I said.

“Ok, after the kids.  Then what?” she asked.

And then I shrugged and sighed and shook my head.   Because the truth is I get confused about the birth control issue and Christian evangelicalism.  It’s a big blurry gray area of dividing ideologies and as time passes even my own paradigm shifts with new revelations, not to mention my own painful experience with different approaches.

What I do know is abortifacient contraception is not an option for me anymore. 

Recent evidence suggests abortifacient contraception –the Intrauterine Device (IUD), the day after pill, and even the regular birth control pill distort the natural design of conception.

So if you believe (like I do) that conception begins when an egg and a sperm meet and a spark of life ignites, then who am I to play God and get in the way of his plan?

For a great in-depth look at this topic -read Albert Mohler’s, “Can Christians Use Birth Control?

But even without this controversial argument, every method of birth control I’ve ever used (besides a diaphragm, condom, or family planning) has always screwed up my body so much, that if I’m honest, I innately knew it wasn’t good for me.

The truth is birth control is just like all of those drugs advertised on TV.  Your initial symptom might go away –but beware of the twenty more issues you will now have… Like all those poor Propecia guys, who tried to grow more hair but now can’t get an erection.  Personally, if I was a dude I’d rather be bald!

And so it goes with birth control and the promise of consequence free sex.

When I took the pill in college, I not only gained weight but got so depressed I hid in a corner curled in a ball weeping.  Then I tried Depo-Provera -a nightmare of synthetic chemicals injected in my behind.  The side effects were so bad it was questionable if I would ever even want to have sex again.  I gained weight, became severely anemic and could barely get out of bed for three months –definitely not sexy!

Then there was the abortion I hid (like all my friends did in their early twenties).  But ironically, Planned Parenthood forgot to tell me and thousands of other young women about the consequences.  They didn’t mention how almost fifteen years later the recognition of what I had done would hit me like a tsunami, drowning me with devastating waves of grief and sorrow I then had to process.  Somehow I repressed the emotions long enough to justify my behavior –until I couldn’t anymore and the pain seeped out like a hidden vault of toxic tears.

All of my efforts to play God with birth control and taking life had detrimental consequences to my body and my heart.  It’s the reason I champion life now and speak to teen moms and parents of unplanned pregnancy. 

Pain changed my paradigm about birth control and life.

Maybe if we saw sex in marriage as a gift and as a potential life creating union it would mean more to us.  Maybe if we looked at children as a unique treasure and not as an imposition it would alter our selfish tactics.  Maybe we should question the price of “sexual freedom” and think twice about destroying our bodies for the sake of promiscuity.

As for my husband and I, we have chosen to use natural family planning methods.  For us, this makes sense with our belief in God’s design.

But it hasn’t been an easy road to navigate and there are no pat answers. 

What do you think about the birth control issue within the Christian evangelical realm?

How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

“We had the talk today,” said my ten year old daughter Faith nonchalantly as she climbed in the car after school.

“Oh right, the puberty talk?” I nodded and inwardly groaned as my heart rate started steadily climbing and beads of sweat formed on my brow. “So, do you have any more questions they didn’t cover?”

(Please don’t ask me about sex. Please don’t ask me about sex.)

I looked in the rearview mirror. Faith took a deep breath and glanced up under her long dark lashes shyly. “Mom, why do I have to get a period every month? I mean what’s the point? It seems so terrible? Why did God do this to women?”

Hyperventilating, I thought to myself how this was so much easier with my older son. No curse of Eve, no sanitary items involved. Boners and sex 101, although awkward aren’t as complicated as the implications of the Christian female experience. And while Kyle asked questions much earlier and we had a running dialogue regarding sex –Faith seemed quite content to remain in the land of innocence and childhood naiveté, avoiding the topic altogether.

I paused, prayed and tried to figure out where to start. I don’t actually recall even having a sex conversation with my parents, until after they found a condom in the back of my car my senior year in high school (maybe a little too late…just saying). Sex was a topic, in generations past, we avoided. My husband remembers his mom casually saying, “Make sure to wear a condom,” as he rode over to his new girlfriends house on his bicycle his freshmen year in high school. Nothing against our parent’s methodology, but in our current hyper-sexualized culture, a proactive approach might be the better option.

Being a storyteller, I thought about weaving a tale of great rebellion, the fall of mankind and Jesus’ ultimate redemption and then throwing sex into the mix. But the epic narrative didn’t translate when I actually tried to articulate it, so after a few false starts, I just began with Adam and Eve and tried to stick to the facts without wetting my pants.

Here is what I’ve learned from talking to my kids about sex:

KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)

Depending on how old your kid is, try and stick to what they ask you about. The details of intercourse are not necessary for a four year old asking about how babies are made. “Daddy helped mommy to put the baby in mommy’s tummy,” is probably sufficient. If they press for more, explain it matter of fact and without laughing. After a certain point –before your kids start school, use real names for sexual organs. Peanuts and Ya Ya’s don’t translate real well into elementary school.

Timing

When I explained to Faith how Kolby was conceived, her horrified face was enough to make me grateful I had waited until she was more mature. The last thing you need is your kindergartner telling his friends, “daddy sexed/humped/nailed mommy and now she’s knocked up.” Choose your moment wisely and then periodically check in to see if they have more questions.

;

Explain Puberty in Detail

Puberty is a scary place. Celebrate the changes with your child and make it a sweet passage not a time of insecurity. We had a Man Ceremony with Kyle when his voice started changing at age twelve. Tim also took Kyle away for a dudes camping weekend and used a curriculum called Passport to Purity to start some great conversations. It was a little cheesy but it created openness and a level of safety for Kyle. Many of my girlfriends have also gone to a Puber-Tea, which covers some of the same info for girls and moms in a more feminine environment. (Apparently tea and scones helps a young girl come to terms with PMS and hormonal bitchiness better)

Don’t be afraid to talk about God and Sex.

God made sex. God made us to be sexual creatures. This is your moment as a parent to talk about the beauty of sexuality in marriage. Don’t use shame based language or act as if your kid is abnormal for having sexual desires. Affirm and build up marriage as the place God intended to let us experience this bliss.

Make sure you beat their friends to the punch!

Talk about sex with your child BEFORE their friends do. Talk about porn and sexting and how blow jobs are a sexual act and not a party favor, and all the things they will encounter in Jr. High. Christianity is not a hall pass for avoiding difficult conversations and don’t expect the youth pastor to do YOUR job!

What advice were you given as a kid about sex? Do you have any tips for broaching this conversation with your kids?

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