May 3, 2012

Stepping Back and Trusting God with Your Marriage

'Mountain View 2' photo (c) 2009, David Steltz - license:

I’m one of those people who believes in trusting God absolutely. It’s just that I fear that in most circumstances, God could really use a hand. And I try to give it to Him!

That didn’t work tremendously well growing up, and God had to hit me over the head a few times to make me trust Him. I was constantly interfering in friendships, in relationships, trying to force them to go my way because I figured I knew best. And I couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie. I couldn’t do NOTHING. If something was wrong with a friend, or a boyfriend, I had to fix it RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE.

That’s why I had such a hard time trusting God with the fact that I would marry. I wanted to marry so desperately, and in my late teens I was always on the lookout for possible candidates. When I did start dating the man who is now my husband, I barrelled my way all over him. I saw that we would work together, and I made sure he realized that, too. I didn’t exactly wait for him to come to that conclusion; I made sure that he saw it my way.

Unfortunately, that scared him off, and he ended up breaking up our first engagement. I was just moving too fast. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken, and had to wrestle my life out with God again. I had to acknowledge to God that He was my source of strength, not Keith. I had to acknowledge to God that no matter what happened, I would trust Him, not look for fulfillment in other people.

It was a very rough summer, but in retrospect one that I really needed. And Keith came back to his senses and we married anyway.

Lately I have been reminded that God perhaps isn’t finished with these lessons for me. I find in my marriage that “trust” is the last thing I’m able to do. Oh, I can trust Keith fine. I just can’t always trust God to solve my problems. So if Keith and I have a disagreement, I stew and plan and strategize all day, and often call him in the middle of the day, to work it out. I use my brilliant insights. I give him my air tight arguments of what we should do now and where we should go. And usually I end up winning. Yet is it really winning if Keith hasn’t had a chance to think it over, to go to God with it Himself?

What God has been teaching me lately is that I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t need to. God knows what’s best for me, and He knows what’s best for my husband. And sometimes what is best is simply giving my husband space to talk to God himself, rather than trying to manipulate the situation into what I think God wants.

That’s a hard thing to do. What if God doesn’t do what I think He should? And so it all comes back to one’s view of God: Is He really enough for your marriage? Or do you think you know best?

I am trying to wait on God, because it is in Him that I find peace. God is our refuge and strength, not our husbands. My happiness is not dependent on the state of my marriage, but on the state of my relationship with Christ.

And ironically, I’m finding that the closer I am to God, and the more I trust in Him, the happier I am in my marriage anyway. Maybe that’s what God intended all along!

Sheila writes more about marriage at her To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog! ( She loves great conversations about how we can strengthen family and make this world resemble God’s heart. Her newest book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, will be out in February with Zondervan.

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Do We Really Mean Til Death Do Us Part?

Small Town America
'Lonely Woman Watching Sea Waves on Beach' photo (c) 2010, epSos .de - license:

When you married, you pledged that  you would stay together until death do you part.

Now I know many of you completely believed that then, and you still do today.

But other women are really struggling with this. They’re extremely lonely. They cry almost everyday. They’ve sought out counseling because the marriage is so difficult. They’re worried about their kids.

They want a new start at life, where no one is telling them what to do, criticizing them, or perhaps worse, ignoring them. I know some women who have prayed for their husbands to have affairs so that they would have biblical justification in leaving him. And I have talked to other women who have said that they find the whole affair justification strange, because having a one night stand is not nearly as bad as what her husband does to her on a daily basis, but her friend with a husband who had a fling can leave, and she can’t. It doesn’t seem fair.

No, it doesn’t. But here’s the thing: God never promised it would be. I really struggle with the idea that divorce is off limits when I talk to some of these women, because I truly feel for them, and I truly do think their husbands are horrible.

However, just because your marriage is horrible is not justification for ending it. One Christian writer I know well told me that she left her husband because he had violated his marriage vows to love her. He had an anger problem, and even though he wasn’t abusive, he was often angry and sullen, and demanded sex all the time. She felt that the Christian view of marriage was “oneness”. We have been made one, we treat each other with respect and love, and God intended for us to be connected. When that hasn’t happened, as in her case, then you’re justified in leaving.

I don’t believe this. Yes, God intended marriage ideally to be a certain way, but He never says anywhere in Scripture that if the ideal is not met we are welcome to violate our vows. When you marry, you make a vow before God. God takes that seriously. I don’t think we understand that because we live in a society where fulfillment and happiness are the prime goals. To continue in a relationship which drains your spirit rather than fills it seems like a sin in and of itself.

But for whatever reason, God made marriage this way. He gave only a very narrow excuse for leaving, and even then, He doesn’t command us to leave. He just leaves the door open, should we choose to do so. God wanted relationships to be permanent, even if they are far from perfect. Commitment matters. Stability matters.

Why? Because when we commit, we teach our children to commit. We create a society that is based on grace rather than performance. We leave room for God to work. We learn to rely on God in our hard times, rather than thinking another person can fill our voids. We learn to compromise, to accommodate, to give. We become less selfish.

And perhaps there’s a bigger reason. How about, quite simply, because God said so. That is what I am teaching my kids about their future marriages: you stay married because God said so. You don’t look for a way out. Divorce is so hard on kids, even when that divorce is justified. It usually leaves one or the other of you down the wrong path. I have seen divorces occur in my family where one of them became promiscuous and alcoholic after the divorce, which likely would not have happened had they stayed together, because they had stability. Take that stability away and everything falls apart. Marriage increases holiness, even if the husband appears petty, mean, or clueless.

The question becomes, then, “If God wants me to stay, then how am I going to manage it? What can I do to make my life bearable?” And that’s a good question to ask, because it forces us to go to God. It forces us to ask Him to be our peace. It also forces us to confront the real issues in our marriage and make an honest stab at fixing them, whether it means counseling, or a lot of prayer, or persistence.

I don’t think it’s easy. When these women in hard situations come to me, I want to say, “You’re right. You should leave.” Their husbands don’t deserve them. But I can’t say that, because I just don’t think it’s true biblically.

Here’s a bit of encouragement, though. In large scale studies of marriages, they have found that couples who split were less likely to be happy five years later than people who stayed together, even if their marriages were equally miserable. And even better, 78% of couples who had miserable marriages rated their marriages as wonderful five years later. The act of committing to riding it out made them happy. So if you’re going through a rough time, it likely will not always be like this. And no matter what, God is there to help you, to heal you, to comfort you, and to change you (and minister to him). If you’re miserable, throw yourself on Him. Wrestle with Him. He can take it. And ask Him to provide you with an escape from your misery–even if that escape is actually within your marriage!

Sheila writes more about marriage at her To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog! ( She loves great conversations about how we can strengthen family and make this world resemble God’s heart. Her newest book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, will be out in January with Zondervan.

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Can You Seduce Your Husband?

Chocolate Hearts and Pink Roses

'sealed with a kiss' photo (c) 2010, Amber Rae - license: after my husband and I started dating, Valentine’s Day came upon us. And I decided to do something romantic. I had a friend let me in to his dorm room on campus, and I left red cut-out hearts that spelled “I love you” all over his room, in a sort of scavenger hunt.

He loved it. Everything in our relationship was so new and so fresh and that just added to it. And it became a tradition. Not necessarily every year, but most years now one of us creates a treasure hunt for the other.

You know what the fun part of the hunt actually is? It’s creating it! It takes a little bit of time, but while you’re doing it you’re a giggly little girl, thinking about what his reaction is going to be. And you think about how much you love him, and how glad you are you’re together. You renew your commitment to him because you’re going through all this work to show him that you love him. And then you can look back and smile.

Doing romantic things for our spouses doesn’t just help our husbands; it helps us. We start thinking differently. We remember how much we love them. We try to create something that’s fun in our relationship. We’re the ones who spice it up.

Sometimes we women get this romance thing all wrong. We think that romance is something that he is supposed to do for us. But what guy wouldn’t feel amazing to have his wife pursue him?

And so let me ask you: when’s the last time you left a love note for your husband, sealed with a lipstick kiss? When’s the last time you sent him a racy text message? When’s the last time you hid a love note in his pocket, so that he would discover it at work?

Why do we stop doing these things just because we’ve been married for a while? We shouldn’t stop. We should do it all the more. It’s vital that your husband know that you love him, and that you remember how much you love him, too.

Without that romance, you just become two roommates, bound together by children and finances. Don’t let that happen to you.

Perhaps you’re one of those wives that’s thinking: If I write him a note, he’ll think it’s silly or he won’t care. Maybe he won’t. But you will! And if it makes you giddy, or happy about him, isn’t that worth something? Also, sometimes we expect an immediate reaction from our husbands: he’ll instantaneously think how great you are and he’ll gush all over the note. Men don’t always work that way. Maybe you need to write several notes, a few weeks apart, before he really softens to you. Don’t give up. It’s important to tell him that you love him, and why you love him, even if he doesn’t seem too interested in “romance”.

So here are some tips to writing great love notes:

1. Don’t just say “I love you”. Tell him one or two things that you love about him.

2. Keep it short and simple. Make it into a nice surprise he finds periodically in his clothes, in his lunch, in his car.

3. Don’t forget text messages! Sometimes, send him a text message that’s just a little bit racy. Few men can resist that!

4. Want something really fun? Hide a few of these “love coupons” you can download off of my website under his pillow.

Be romantic. Don’t wait for him to be. It will change how you think, and it will make him feel very appreciated!

Sheila is the author of the upcoming “The Good Girl’s Guide to Sex”. She blogs everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

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Keeping Your Bedroom a Sacred Place

BR istock

Phocea Yacht Master Bedroomphoto © 2009 Maxine Simpson | more info (via: Wylio)
What is the most important relationship in your family?

I hope you said your marriage! Your husband was there before the kids, and he’ll be there after the kids move out. And more importantly, once you have children, you have even more of a responsibility to work on your marriage, because other people count on you now. You can’t give your life entirely to your kids. That is wrong.

And ladies, sex is a big part of marriage! Men feel loved through sex, and we women feel much closer to our husbands when we’re connecting on a regular basis.

So let me ask you: is your bedroom a haven for your marriage?
What does that mean?

It means no laundry to be folded all over the bed and the floor. Don’t use your bedroom as a place to store laundry! I know that nice, beautiful big bed, at just the right height, makes it an ideal folding surface. But if you start, chances are you won’t finish, and then at the end of the night clothes are scattered everywhere. Not inviting.

Don’t make your bedroom a repository for stuff, either! I’ve known women who have so much junk in the bedroom because it’s out of the way so company won’t see it. But who is your house supposed to nurture, first and foremost: you and your husband, or the occasional guest? When you put junk in your room, then you feel the weight of it everytime you walk in. It isn’t inviting; it’s like having a neon sign in your bedroom saying, “I need to be cleaned! I need to be organized! I take a lot of work!” That’s hardly conducive to relaxation.

And here’s the hardest one: Making your bedroom a haven means that kids go to sleep in their own rooms. Many women believe in sleeping with the babies and toddlers in the bed because it promotes bonding. You can find co-sleeping websites all over the internet, and this is a widely debated topic on many sites.

Let me give you my two cents. Most men don’t feel comfortable having the kids in bed. My husband is a pediatrician, and he talks to co-sleeping parents all the time, and he has yet to meet a couple where the man didn’t secretly admit that it gives him the creeps having the kids there all the time (and it scares them that they’ll roll on the kids). Usually this is a woman-initiated thing, and the men go along with it.

And this will ruin your sex life! Some moms have written to me saying, “we just make love in other rooms, and be more intentional about it!” But let’s be honest: most sex occurs when we’re not being intentional; we’re just lying there and we snuggle and it goes further. Being intentional takes more energy, and means that sex will be less frequent. And men really do need it.

I know when a baby is first born you may want it in bed to make nursing easier, and if you’re absolutely exhausted, perhaps that’s the best idea. But let it be very temporary. You don’t want children to be your birth control!

Of course, keeping kids out also means that you need a lock on your door. Once, when my youngest was 6, Keith and I were having a good time when we heard the pitter patter of little feet. Freeze. She rattled the doorknob. “It’s locked!” Keith yelled. “Oh, that’s okay,” she replied. Pitter patter pitter patter. We resumed. And all of a sudden the door flew open. Grab the sheets.

It seems that 6 is old enough to know how to pick a lock, but not old enough to know that you don’t want to pick it.

So do what you can to keep kids out. Keep the springs on your bed oiled so the bed doesn’t squeak. Tighten the screws periodically, if you have them, on the headboard so that it’s secure and doesn’t rattle. Invest in comfortable sheets and a nice duvet. Get some candles. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but doing little things to help you feel comfortable and stressfree in your bedroom will help you to relax in it, and then maybe more will happen!

Finally, making your bedroom a haven may involve ditching the television. Do you really need to watch TV together at night? It just intrudes on couple time. Why not let the bedroom be where you snuggle, pray, talk, and cuddle? Why not let the bedroom be just for your relationship, and keep other stuff out?

I think if we show that we prioritize the time with our husbands by keeping the bedroom free of distractions, we’ll reap rewards! Your marriage is the most precious relationship God has given you, and we need to be doing all we can to honor and nurture that relationship!

Sheila is the author of the upcoming “The Good Girl’s Guide to Sex”. She blogs everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

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