26 September 2016

Marriage Monday: 5 Simple Questions that Will Change Your Marriage - Question 5

This is the final week of the five-part series of Marriage Monday questions. These questions, written by the blogger at Today's Letters, are designed to draw you into a simple, yet bonding conversation with your spouse. It facilitates communication that creates deeper intimacy. If you are just now joining us, you can read the posts in order, starting with the first question.

To recap, here are the five questions:
1) How did you feel loved this past week?
2) What does your schedule look like for this upcoming week?
3) How can I best love or encourage you this upcoming week?
4) How do you feel about our sexual intimacy and how can we work together to strengthen it?
and finally...
5) How can I pray for you?  

You will then pray for each other, out loud, right then and there. This question may seem like the easiest, but it is surprisingly hard for many people. You may pray for your spouse all the time, but praying in front of your spouse, for your spouse, is often awkward. First the sex question, and now praying out loud! When will the awkwardness end?!

The only reason why I'm asking you to push through and try it is because revealing your heart to your spouse will bring about intimacy like you've never experienced before. It builds intimacy when you tell your spouse what is burdening your heart. When your spouse then prays for you right in front of you, it builds even more intimacy. It is incredibly bonding.

If that isn't reason enough, here's another great one. We are called as Christians to share each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2). Especially in a marriage, if your spouse is stressed about work, dealing with a health issue, heartbroken about a rift in a relationship, fearful, overwhelmed, or burdened in any way, you took a vow to walk alongside them in that time of need. You should be the first person to wipe away their tears, listen to them, encourage them, and especially pray for them.

Many people are not used to praying out loud. It is also hard for many men, because they feel pressure to be the spiritual leader, yet so often the wife is the one with more experience praying out loud in groups. Wives - please do not criticize or make fun of your husband's first attempt to pray out loud in front of you. Doing so will guarantee he will never want to do it again.

Praying is simply talking to God, so there's not a right or wrong way to do it. No need to be eloquent. In fact, start out simple. The first week you can each give one request for the other to pray about. Even now, my husband and I usually just give three requests, but feel free to spend as long or as little of time as you want on this one. I'm often surprised at what my husband reveals to me as the top three things that are burdening him. I'm super thankful to have that insight and be brought in to the inner workings of his heart and have the honor of praying over him.

If you need extra motivation to try this, let's think this through. After talking about question #4 you will have sex on the brain. You will then immediately follow that up by praying for one another, so you will feel incredibly emotionally close as well. You will feel super bonded at that point, so you will most likely want to jump into bed together. You're welcome.

Thanks for joining me for the Marriage Monday series! I would love to hear if you've attempted it and especially if you've adopted it as a weekly ritual with your spouse!

19 September 2016

Marriage Monday: 5 Simple Questions that Will Change Your Marriage - Question 4

It's the week we've all been waiting for! Well... except for me. As it turns out, sex is kind of an awkward topic to discuss with lots of people. Some of which could include my parents (hi mom!), fellow church members, and even some people I've never even met (this will be a great ice breaker!). But good thing I don't shy away from awkwardness, so let's dive right in!

If you are just now joining us, we are four weeks into a post series on weekly marriage questions that my hubby and I like to call Marriage Monday (originally from this amazing blog). Make sure to go back to read the questions in order, starting with this post

This week, you will discuss the previous three questions with your spouse and add in this fourth question: "How do you feel about our sexual intimacy and how can we work together to strengthen it?" Just to clarify, if it isn't obvious enough, I am talking about sex. Not just snuggling. Not emotional intimacy, which was covered in prior questions. For question #4 we are talking about sexual intercourse, doing the deed, insert tab "A" into slot "B," nakey time, or whatever you want to call it. Okay, I'm glad we are now all on the same page!

I know this topic is super hard for many people to talk about, especially if you've never discussed it together before. It's interesting to me how spouses will have sex, which is incredibly intimate, but they don't feel comfortable talking about it, because that somehow feels even more intimate and scary to do. For some couples, especially if sex has been taken off the table for awhile by one spouse, this may take a professional counselor to walk through this process. I encourage you to take that step this week to strengthen this vital part of your marriage if you need to.

As Christians, we need to remember that God created sex as a gift for married couples to enjoy! It's meant to be a fun, pleasurable, and extremely bonding experience. My hubby did an amazing job discussing this topic in detail in this video called "Ideal Sex," so I won't take time replicating what he already said, but I encourage you to watch it. If I thought it would be awkward discussing sex on my blog when I can hide behind a screen, I guess my hubby should be given major bravery points for talking about sex in front of an entire church!

One essential aspect to remember about question #4 is that it asks, "How do you feel about our sexual intimacy..." There is a tendency to think how you feel about your sex life is the right way to feel. But your spouse may feel differently and it is important to know this. Your spouse is allowed to feel however he or she feels about it. Feelings are just that - feelings. Not right or wrong. They are subjective. Just remember that the end goal is stronger sexual intimacy, which can in turn strengthen the marriage.

There's lots of things that you could talk about during this question:

- Are you having sex too much? Not enough?
- Do you wish you could try something new or work on a specific technique together?
- Are you worried about a partner's sudden change in libido? (tip: sometimes a doctor's visit or bloodwork could reveal a hormonal shift or other physical ailment that could be fixed to bring the sex drive back to normal).
- Are you experiencing physical pain of any sort during sex? (one couple had a tough conversation but then discovered that lube was their new best friend and the answer to all their problems!)
- Is there past sexual trauma or abuse that is holding you or your spouse back that needs to be discussed with a counselor?
- Is there something your spouse could do more of or less of during sex?
- Could you benefit from spending a lazy Saturday in bed for a couple of hours just exploring each other's bodies?
- Are there any things you are enjoying during sex that you want to become a regular occurrence? It's good to focus on positives as well! What blew your socks off? (suggestion: don't actually wear socks during sex)

Don't be afraid to get very technical with your answer. The more detailed, the better. It may feel extremely awkward and uncomfortable the first time you discuss this question, but it gradually gets easier and less awkward each time. Just hang in there! 

If you are stumped where to even begin, there's lots of great books out there on the topic. My personal favorite that I always recommend to couples is Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Dr. Kevin Leman. He is a Christian author that gets VERY explicit on details, how-to's, ideas, etc. There's a chapter on sexual positions, another called "Oral Delights," and another called "Thirty-One Flavors - and None of Them Are Ice Cream!" Trust me, you want to read this book. It prompts some great discussions! I have one friend who uses this book as his go-to wedding gift, which is pure genius. This first week doing question #4, you could tell your spouse that reading this book together is what you want to do to start working on and strengthening your sexual intimacy.

As a mom of two littles, as much as I want my husband to always be at the top of my "to-do" list, sometimes my very honest answer to question #4 is that I'm soooooo stinkin tired (which can easily cause a crazy drop in libido). Since I have to come up with a solution, I suggest that if hubby can get me to bed by "x" time - by helping get the kiddos into bed, dividing and conquering the dishes, etc, I'll be much more likely to still have energy left for him. Instead of leaving my sleep deprivation as an obstacle to our sex life, I clue him in on how we can overcome that hindrance. He is more than happy to help out!

Let me know how your Marriage Mondays are going! Next week we will be discussing the fifth and final question to add to your weekly questions. Your training wheels will be officially off!

12 September 2016

Marriage Monday: 5 Simple Questions that Will Change Your Marriage - Question 3

If you're just now joining this conversation, make sure to read back over question #1, and question #2.

How did it go with the first two questions? Did any of your spouse's answers surprise you? Did you have trouble answering a question? This week you will add a third one to the mix. Question #3 is: "How can I best love or encourage you this upcoming week?" 

Whereas question #1 looked back on what you already did to make your spouse feel loved and could have happened by chance, question #3 gives you a foolproof plan of how to best make your spouse feel loved for the upcoming week.

Pay close attention to your spouse's answer, as it may not always be completely in line with their usual love language(s). One of my main love languages is "acts of service." If Hubby takes over cleaning the kitchen after dinner and gets the toddler to bed, I feel VERY loved! But every once in awhile, especially if we've both been busy, I realize I would feel super loved if he planned a fun date night for us. I would even be fine if we set aside a night in to relax together. This means I'm craving the "quality time" love language. Since my main need changed for the week, it's super helpful for me to clue Hubby in so he is able to best love me in the way I need. Hence why this is such an important question!

Despite sounding easy, sometimes this is actually a hard question to think through. Usually Hubby is stumped (maybe because I show love so well already? Ha! J/k). When this happens, you can probe deeper with the following questions:

- What are you feeling discouraged about lately that I can intentionally encourage you about throughout this week?
- What is stressing you out the most that I can possibly help out with?
- Can I verbally affirm or make you feel respected better in a certain area? (words of affirmation)
- Is there anything around the house that I could help you with to make your life easier? (acts of service)
- Would it make you feel loved if I surprise you with a small thoughtful gift this week? (gifts). Note: there's lots of thoughtful gifts that could be free! Comment if you have any ideas to share.
- Do you need us to set aside intentional time for more physical intimacy this week? (physical touch)
- Is there a certain activity, date, or other time together that would make you feel loved? (quality time)

Usually after asking those types of questions it's easy to pick something to feel loved in the upcoming days.

Once you hear your spouse's answer, WRITE IT DOWN! Email it to yourself, add it to your calendar, grab a post-it note, or whatever you need to do. There's nothing more frustrating than spelling out exactly how you want and need to feel loved, only for your spouse to promptly forget or ignore it. If you immediately know it's something that can't happen (like if there's legitimately not a single free night that week to plan a date), discuss right away when you can plan that date in the future and then ask for a tangible way to make your spouse feel loved during the current week.

For this week's Marriage Monday (or whichever night you do your weekly questions), make sure you ask all three questions that we've discussed so far:
1) How did you feel loved this past week? Read more about this question here.
2) What does your upcoming week look like? (calendar syncing). Read more about it here.
3) How can I best love or encourage you in this upcoming week?

Make sure you come back next week, because question 4 has to do with SEX! Everyone's favorite topic.

If you want to learn more about love languages and how to spot them in your spouse, I highly recommend you read The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman.  I talk about it a lot, especially in our premarital counseling because it truly changes how you show love to your spouse in a way that they actually can feel it!

You can also read about the original weekly questions in the Today's Letters blog post.

Let me know how the questions are going in the comments below!

05 September 2016

Marriage Monday: 5 Simple Questions that Will Change Your Marriage - Question 2

If you missed last week, we are doing a post series on how to set aside important communication time in your marriage. We are walking through five simple questions, originating from a Today's Letter's blog post, to guide you through this, taking it one step at a time. You can go back and read about the first question here, and then join us for question number 2!

How did last week go? You asked your spouse, "How did you feel loved this past week?" Was it interesting to hear his or her response? I know for me, it's often completely unexpected what my hubby picks as his main reason of how he felt loved. Keep what your spouse said in mind this week and see if you can now intentionally do it, or something similar, again to make them feel loved in their native love language. For more on learning your spouse's love language, check out this book.

Now that you've started out with that simple question, it should be easy to add another straightforward question to the mix. Question #2 is: "What does your schedule look like for this upcoming week?"

It always shocks me how I think this will be an easy and boring question but then realize how energized and in tune I feel with my hubby after reviewing our week. Try it and you may be pleasantly surprised that you feel the same way. I once again asked Hubby how he felt about this question. He said reviewing our upcoming week makes him feel like he doesn't have to take on his week alone. He mentioned that even just knowing that I am filled in on his upcoming deadlines and what days might be extra challenging helps lower his stress levels. He feels like he has a partner who understands what he is going through and a teammate that can help him out in any way possible. I totally agree. It's so much easier knowing you don't have to face your week alone, and we each have unique gifting that can be a great help to the other person to lighten their load. That is one of the many benefits of marriage, so it's great to tap into that in such a tangible way!

This question can be tackled a number of ways and it just depends on your preference. For us, we pull out our phones with our google calendars. You may want to pull up your paper calendar, day planner, or whatever you each use to keep track of your days. If you have a spouse that uses none of the above, this is actually an incredibly helpful question, as you can then get the information extracted from their brain onto your calendar so you can be in sync. Once we have our calendars up, I usually go through the week day by day. Our conversation may look something like this:
Me: "Okay, Tuesday night we have our Bible study group. I'm supposed to bring a side dish but I don't think I can get to the grocery store in time with the kids. Could you swing by Trader Joe's on your way home?"
Hubby: "Sure, I'll grab a side dish. I should be able to get off work on time tomorrow since my meetings are earlier in the day. Okay, for Wednesday, I have super busy day so I'm not sure I can make it home for a quick lunch."
Me: "Would it help if I made you a lunch to take with you so you can eat it while working at your desk?"
Hubby: "Yep, that would be such a big help! What's on the schedule for Thursday?"
Me: "Well Thursday I was hoping to be able to have some time to run some errands. I can take the kids but it would go a lot faster if I can go by myself after you get home from work."
Hubby: "That works fine. I can put them to bed if you're not back by then. Okay, nothing else is listed on the calendar, but anything else you want to accomplish this week?"
Me: "I do need some time to work on my blog. And I really want to get caught up on some of the home projects we've been putting off."
Hubby: "Okay, I think we can dedicate Saturday morning to working together to knock those out."
Me: "Great, thanks! I feel ready to tackle our week!"
That conversation obviously varies from week to week, but that's the basics of what it sounds like. For your conversation, here's some guidelines to follow:

- Each person takes turns letting the other know what's on their calendar for the week. You could do one day at a time or review the full week before the other's turn.
- As the other person is telling you what is on his or her to-do list, try thinking about what you could do to help out with it or make it easier for them.
- Review actual events scheduled during the week
- List out any errands you may need help with
- Fill your spouse in on any big projects or things you would like to accomplish, or at least get started on, that may take up time during the week.
- Be direct and ask for help if there's something that is stressing you out or that you know you can't handle or face alone.

I love using google calendar for many reasons.  I can pull it up on my phone or any computer. I use gmail as my main email, so it's easy for me to see an invitation and immediately put it onto my calendar. I have different color coded calendars for different purposes - one for me and one for our shared events. By the color, it's easy to tell if it's something that only I am attending or if Hubby is going with me and needs to keep his day free as well. He also has his own google calendar that he has shared with me so I can view it on mine as well. This makes it easy for me to see what he has coming up throughout the week if something gets added. He also knows that I keep my calendar so up to date, that if someone asks if we are free to go out to dinner, he can immediately check and give them an accurate answer. Let me know if you would like more information or a guide on how to do this!

What have you found to help out with scheduling as a couple?

This week, you will do question #1 and add on this second question. Two questions should still be pretty simple to tackle! As always, set aside a time where you know you can focus, either during dinner or after you put the kiddos to bed.

Let me know how it goes this week and don't forget to join us next week for adding the third question! I'm hoping these questions will truly make you feel more connected and in sync with your spouse. I'm excited to hear how these weeks go for you!

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