Do I Have to Have Sex with My Husband?

When all is well in a marriage and both husband and wife are healthy physically and emotionally and life’s stressors aren’t bearing down, sex is wonderful and reciprocal and hopefully desired by both partners.

But this question is not being asked by a woman in this kind of scenario; it is being asked by a woman in a difficult marriage whose husband does not treat her well on a regular basis.

(Let me press pause to say that though 97% of my audience is comprised of women, I do realize that I do have a few men readers and that the man can just as easily be a victim in these scenarios.)

I’ve had wives tell me that their husbands have quoted Scripture to induce guilt; lovely things like, “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:4) (There’s a name for this, by the way – for using Scripture to attempt to control or manipulate someone – it’s called spiritual abuse.)

I know of a situation where the husband asked the couples’ counselor, in front of the wife, mid-separation, if they should be having sex. The counselor said that, yes, the Bible talked about withholding sex only for times of prayer and that ideally a married couple should he having sex. So the wife went home that night, in an effort to do everything she was told by her counselors, and offered herself to her husband, only for him to make her feel small and disrespected and whore-ish in his icy response.

Yes, as a married couple, we are to give ourselves over to our spouses. Yes, our bodies are no longer our own.  And yet…

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. –Ephesians 5:25

…there are situations and seasons and entire marriages when the husband is being abusive towards his wife, doing the opposite of what Paul commanded here, and yet still expects sex from his wife.

This is one of those times when life just isn’t as it’s supposed to be. And yet the wife in this marriage wants to follow God, wants to be obedient, and perhaps even wants to have sex for sex’s sake, and yet, feels this inner struggle because odds are she may not love her husband, she may have no respect for him, she may feel no desire for him, she abhors – rightly so – feeling used or like a prostitute (without the money left on the nightstand).

And so she’s torn. If this is you…and this has been me…here is what I would do:

  1. Pray. Tell God exactly what you’re feeling. Admit your lack of desire. Admit your anger or resentment. Admit you don’t know what to do and ask for wisdom.
  2. Sift through your circumstances with brutal self-honesty. I ask this with all the gentleness I can muster up: are you truly being abused and mistreated, or are you being stubborn and selfish? I believe that if you ask God to reveal your true motives, he will.
  3. Seek out counsel from someone you trust. Find either a woman who has been in a difficult Christian marriage or a Christian counselor who understands abusive marriages, and share your situation.
  4. Try talking to your husband. Try explaining to him that sex, for you as a woman, is an emotional act, and it is tied into all the other parts of your marriage (from what I understand, that is not the case for the man, so he may not fully understand where you’re coming from). Explain to him that when he is unkind to you, it makes it very difficult for you to want to be intimate with him.
  5. Have sex, but only IF you can do so without it adding resentment onto the pile of issues already stacking up and IF you can do so with a pure motive to serve the man who is your husband.
  6.  OR Don’t have sex, but only IF you cannot do so without being in fear or feeling violated or even more broken.
  7.  Be aware that in the cycle of abuse, sex can be the act that ends the honeymoon phase. I am not saying this so that you may use it to manipulate him to keep him on his best behavior; I am saying this so that you are not thrown off guard if things do go back to being bad after you acquiesce.

This is so very hard, sweet ones. There are no easy answers.  Yes, the Bible says have sex if married, but the Bible also talks about treating each other the way we wish to be treated and laying our lives down for each other.

My personal belief is that, either way, if your heart is in the right place and if you are prayerful, you will not be considered disobedient. And remember that regardless of what you choose to do, you are still loved and there is still grace.

 

 

If this post resonated with you, then you’d benefit from Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage, found here.

A Little Relationship Update

I thought I’d share how my relationship is going for two reasons: 1) because you all apparently care (which I’m basing on the crazy responses to any Tall-Shadow references on my writer page), which is totally sweet, and 2) not that I’m a dating role model by any means but simply so you can see the choices we’re making along the way.

Tall-Shadow and I live ninety minutes apart, so this means he and I are having to put in some serious effort (and mileage) to make this relationship happen. And though he and I are having our fair share of fun (mini-golf, go-karting, golfing, bowling, Starved Rock, Navy Pier, the movies, a boat ride, family dinners, double dates, and lots and lots of lunches and dinners both in and out, with and without kids), dating – for us – is not all fun and games. Fotor0100112140 I am at the age where I am not dating just to be dating.  I am not just hanging out with Tall-Shadow for the heck of it. He and I are both in it to see if we’d be suitable lifelong companions for one another.

Now, some of you may think that at under three months, that is just too fast to be thinking that way.  You can think that all you’d like. But I am taking this journey very seriously, as is the sweet man. First of all, on almost every date, we ask good questions. I’ve even bought a bunch of dating-questions books and bring my Kindle along a good deal of the time.

Then, we worked through Freeway together, which was so great. I LOVE this small group material. In fact, in my twenty-five plus years of leading and being in small groups, this is hands down my favorite material yet.  I cannot recommend it highly enough to do on your own, in your small group or as a couple. It’ll get you to open up and really dive in to your past hurts and to see the freedom that Christ wants for you in your present and your future.

We then finished that and met with his pastor to talk through some issues.  I met with a sweet divorced woman who has recently remarried to barrage her with questions. And now we’ve started meeting with my counselor to begin talking through pre-pre-marital stuff (might as well figure all this out now, people). And we are going through Les & Leslie Parrott’s Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts book and workbooks.

Again, this may sound too soon to some of you, but my biological clock is ticking…and by that, I don’t mean as in to reproduce (for the love!); I mean that our combined age is 92 and we’re almost dead. We’ve been around the block. We’ve both been married. Life is short and we both know what we’re looking for, what we don’t want, the kind of people we want to be and the marriage we want to have this time around.

Now, one more thing I want to touch on.  I know what it’s like to read someone’s blog or follow a musician’s career and feel as if I know the person…to feel like, “Well, that person did such-and-such, so I can too…” If you feel even an ounce of that with me, just by reading my blog, I want to gently caution you. You can “follow” me to the extent that I am trying to follow Jesus in this (but I’m still messing up along the way…I am totally human after all).  But you cannot and should not follow me step-by-step in my process or in my timeline.

I told my daughter that I feel I have to do this all of this right because I have a thousand women watching me to see how I walk this all out, and my wise-beyond-her-years almost-eighteen-year-old said, “You’re putting too much pressure on yourself.”  (She’s right.)

I may end up getting married sooner than some of you would think is prudent. (I also may totally not.) But what I need you to know is that I love Jesus; Tall-Shadow loves Jesus (ANY man I would even consider marrying would have to love Jesus); we are being prayerful; we are being thorough (trust me, I am leaving no stone left unturned); and because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, we are the experts of our own lives, and have been given a spirit of wisdom and a sound mind to make our own decisions. Just like you.

So please, follow along with me, if you like…but please, do so more out of a healthy curiosity than as any kind of dating leader/guru/trailblazer.  Because Jesus should be your one and only true Guide, and he is the only one who can tell you what’s best for you, just like he will with me.


If this post encouraged you, you’d benefit from Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage or Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman.

How Can I Know If He’s “the One”?

Short answer: You can’t. And it kinda doesn’t matter. (Wait, what??)

Long answer to follow.

Now that I’m seeing someone, I am of course asking myself this very question. Too soon, some may say, but we’re no spring chickens.  We’re not just dating to date. We’re not just having fun.  We’re taking this thing seriously.

So, I’ve been asking myself a ton of questions.

Is he the one for me?

Am I the one for him?

Will this sweet season of affection and tender words last into marriage?

Sure, we get along now, but what if the other shoe drops? (The other shoe always seems to drop.)

Does God want us to be together?

Can we serve God better together than apart?

Can we help each other become closer to Christ?

Now, some of these questions are good and healthy. And some are admittedly a bit self-absorbed.

But I’m not quite sure any of them are really the right question.

I’ve heard it more than once that there isn’t just one person for every person, that there are probably hundreds of people that you could be paired up with to be married to and you’d get along just fine and you could have a good marriage. That what it comes down to is commitment, regardless of what comes.

Because if I am to gauge this decision on whether this man is the one for me based solely on these first few months, then of course I could marry him. In my humanness and selfishness, I could easily commit to being the wife of a man who loves me this well and thinks I’m adorable and buys me presents and prays for me.

However…

Suppose sweet man and I get married. And suppose we get back from our honeymoon. And suppose, his first day back at work, he is in some kind of accident (he said, “Gee, thanks” when I was giving him this example), and he is incapacitated from that day on.

He can no longer work and therefore can no longer provide for himself or now for us.

He can no longer walk and therefore not only cannot go places with me, but he will need to be taken care of.

He can no longer reach for my hand or feed himself.

His tender words are replaced with a bitter attitude.

His faith is replaced with doubt and he therefore no longer prays for me or wants to read Scripture or go to church.

In other words, suppose life happens. And something happens to this sweet man that completely changes him from who I know now.

Which means the real question isn’t how do I know if he’s the one for me? but do I have it in me to be unselfish enough and committed enough to potentially take care of this particular human being for the rest of our lives no matter what happens to either one of us?

In other words, am I ready to die to myself every day?

No one really knows what they’re signing on for when they get married, even those of us who have been married before.

No one really knows what they’re capable of.

No one can predict the future.

No one can, in all honesty, say that they are vowing to die to self when they take their marriage vows. If you think about it, what most are vowing to do is keep loving the person in front of them with the hopes that nothing huge changes.

No one really believes they’re fully ready for something like this.

No one can enter into marriage with one hundred percent certainty that all will go well.

So, in my humble opinion, though, yes, you can take personality tests and work on communication skills, and yes, it’s way better to move forward into marriage with someone who treats you well and you get along with who doesn’t have an addiction or abuse you, of course; but really, what it all comes down to is not how great the man is but instead are you ready to sacrificially love another person for a very, very long time, no matter what?

That’s the better question.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:13

 

 

If this post encouraged you, you should check out Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage and Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman.

Pain is Pain, No Matter the Year

During my marriage, I kept journals. Lots and lots of journals.  Some would say it was a record of wrongs, something we as Christ-followers are called not to do as an act of love.  But I knew better. I knew what my journal meant to me.

It was my lifeline.

It was the place I could be the most honest.

It was holy ground where I wrestled with God, wrestled with the mysteries and sadnesses and fears of my marriage journey that was so continuously confounding to me.

I never once looked at them as evidence, as proof that things were as horrible as I thought. Instead, I was simply a girl who was desperately hurting, begging Jesus on the page to help me figure all of it out.

I never once thought anyone would be privy to those private thoughts.

So, imagine my surprise one day when I was window-shopping with Tall-Shadow at an antique store, and came across this:

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As you might imagine, being a woman who is a journaler, being a woman who was in a difficult marriage, and being a woman whose current life’s work is to come alongside hurting women, I was drawn to this little book.

And in the pages, I read such sad, sad words. So much so that I began crying in the store (completely befuddling Tall-Shadow, I’m sure).

photo (7)

 

 

 

 

 

But I had to have that book. I knew that one of two things would happen with that diary if I didn’t buy it: it would either remain unpurchased, or someone who wouldn’t understand its profound meaning would buy it and perhaps poke fun or roll their eyes. And I felt that in my buying it, I was honoring this sweet woman who was now gone, but who lived in a very difficult marriage.

Her diary chronicles between 1929 and 1935, and she has entries that say things like:

…gave back his Xmas basket…did not get what he wanted…real ornery and mean…

…not a word…nice way to start a new year…

…can’t depend on him…his word doesn’t mean anything…

…found tin of ten eggs he had hid…so mean…

…asked him to dry dishes…refused…said nasty things…

…told me to go to hell…

…did not get up with me this morning to fix fire or put coal on this winter…sure has been fierce…

…is fierce again, almost unbearable…

…did not come home for supper until 8 o’clock…

…went to burlesque show…did not get home til 10:10…

…did not speak to me for two weeks…

…I was sick today…would not lift a finger…

…he sure is sore I enjoyed my vacation, but believe me, I needed it… (This one made me smile.)

…called me a G.D. liar…

…Sunday was terrible…smashed me into the door…made my arm, chest and shoulder black and blue…

…can’t stand it much longer… (This comment – about not being able to stand it much longer – she said at least a half dozen times spanning six years. I totally get it.)

Completely and utterly heartbreaking, right? I almost could not bear to read it. This precious woman was an abused wife, in every way if her chronicles are accurate.  If I could, I would go back in time and walk into her kitchen as she’s writing these words and whisper to her that she is not alone, that there is a better way. That there are options. That there is help. That God sees her pain and loves her.

But I can’t.

So this is what I can do.

I can say those words to you, sweet reader. If you are in a relationship that resembles this woman’s, you are not alone. There is a better way. There are options. There is help. God sees your pain and God loves you through and through.

And I can also pray that if I am ever blessed with a new husband and a second chance at marriage, that my new journals will be filled with words of gratitude for a man who loves me well and tenderly and prayerfully. And that that chronicle will override the first half of my life, and will show others that there is light and redemption and hope.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” –Joel 2:25

 

 

If this post resonated with you, I’d recommend Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage.

Why Hearing Someone Say “My Marriage is Healed” Freaks Some People Out

fanpopI recently, in one day, had four women message me that their marriages were turning around, one even crazily giving me and her counselor credit. (That could silence some naysayers if only they’d let it. But anyway…)

Four women. Four marriages. Being restored. Being healed.

Even as a divorced woman, whose marriage did not turn around after fifteen months of a reconciliation attempt and much, much prayer, I can say hallelujah and I get chills.

Because that is gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.

And so, I had this idea to create a new private Facebook group for women whose marriages are either restoring or reconciled.  Because I realized that women in difficult marriages are typically working at their marriages on their own and need a certain kind of support; but then there are women whose marriages have both partners engaged and have a different kind of support need, and why not offer both? Totally innocent, right?

What I didn’t expect was some pushback.

As in, “So, are those of us in the difficult marriage group actually now the destined-to-be-divorced group?” And, “I think the real question is why doesn’t God heal all those other Christian marriages?”

These responses tell me something. Not something new, more of a reminder. And it’s this: there is just so much pain.  So much uncertainty. So much confusion.  So much disappointment.

To the first question of is your destiny divorce? No, sweet one, a thousand times no.  If you are in a hard marriage and your partner is not engaged now does not mean your partner will not engage at some point in the future. Today’s reality is your current reality but I think we all know by now that with God, anything is possible and there is no telling what God may do in you and in your husband and in your marriage. You are married until you are divorced.  And you are not destined to be divorced.

But with that said, yes, some in the difficult marriage group may end up at some point asking me to move them over to the divorced group. And if that happens, it is not a death sentence. If you get divorced, your life will not be over. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: divorce is life-changing, but it is not life-ending. Trust me on this.  Trust me. But let’s not cross that bridge just yet, shall we?

And to the second question of why doesn’t God heal all Christian marriages? Oh honey.  My best guess is this: God is a mystery. He can do whatever he wants. Can he heal every marriage, every person, e-ver-y-thing? Of course. He is sovereign and all-powerful and holy. And yet, he has given us the amazing and wild gift of free will. Which means that though it takes only one to forgive, it takes two to reconcile. You can want something with your whole heart, you can pray every moment of every day, you can do the hard work and read your Bible and attend church and serve your sweet little heart out and go to counseling, but if your husband does not want to reconcile, you can’t make him and God won’t make him, even if it hurts you.

So, I know that hearing of someone else’s good news that runs counter to your own life can sting. I totally get that. And when I say that, I mean it. When I was in my difficult marriage, and I would hear of a marital turnaround, I am embarrassed to admit, instead of rejoicing in God’s healing work, I would sometimes cynically and in my anger be bothered by it, in part because I think I didn’t want to be left all alone in the hard-marriage boat. Misery craves company and all.  So, when I say I get this, I truly get this.

And yet, we are commanded something simple yet profound:

Mourn with those who mourn; rejoice with those who rejoice. –Romans 12:15-

I think we, especially as women, are amazing at mourning with those who mourn, but we have a little work to do in dancing on the tables with others, especially if they are celebrating a victory in an area where we struggle. And yet, this is a part of maturity. This is a part of living like Christ. This is a part of life.

Plus, if and when your victory comes, you want those you love celebrating with you, right?  So, let those healing/healed marriages point you to the hope that it could happen to you  but better still, point you to the One who just might surprise you.

 

 

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.

I’m Divorced & Hate My Life

Someone actually typed in the following sentence into Google and wound up on my site:

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This makes me so very sad.  Now, I don’t consider myself to be an optimistic person (total realist) or a Pollyanna (I want to strangle people who try to feed me clichés when I’m in a hard stretch), but even when I have bad days or weeks or swirly panic months and I can’t seem to get excited about my life (or as I said to a friend a little ways back, “I have nothing to look forward to” {I KNOW I have heaven to look forward to; that’s not what I meant}), I don’t think I have ever really been able to say that I hate my life.  Even when I was in the thick of my hard marriage and crying every day. Even when I was wallowing in my new divorce-ness.

My life has been hard. I have seen some really tough stretches. But I have never hated my life.

Which is why this sentence – “47 divorced female hate my life” – breaks my heart.

I have a feeling, however, that this sweet 47-year-old divorced female is not the only person to feel that way.  So in case she comes back to my blog, I’m writing this for her, and for every woman who feels like life is just too hard or she is just too sad to want to keep going. And I’m writing it for the friend who tweeted that she wished her current story weren’t her story. I completely get this.

What I’m about to say kinda flies in the face of a little something I believe that all we really deserve in life is hell so anything above and beyond that is icing.  (That might sound like a really dark lens to view life through but I’m tellin’ ya, when you think that way, all of life’s gifts feel like extravagances, seriously. And it keeps that whole entitlement sin from creeping in too.)

Anyway, I ran across this verse today, that I’m sure I have read hundreds of times, and it sort of did a little something to my heart.

I am expecting the Lord to rescue me again, so that once again I will see his goodness to me here in the land of the living. –Psalm 27:13-

This sounds to me like I maybe should be expecting a tad more from God in my lifetime.  Now, to be clear, not that I will get and deserve every single thing that I want.  He’s not a vending machine or a my fairy godmother.  He’s God. But good things from God are not just relegated to heaven according to this verse…in the land of the living.  In other words, now-ish.  While, you know, we’re still alive.

Which reminds me of this verse that people have been telling me for years regarding my difficult marriage:

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten… -Joel 2:25-

So all this to say, please hear me when I say this: I know how hard life can be. I have spent decades in hidden pain. I have sob-cried while lying on my bathroom floor more often than I remember. I have been in such sadness that I could feel an actual ache in my chest.  Life is hard. Life is filled with pain. Life doesn’t always go the way we hope or plan. People can hurt you and betray you. You can feel alone.

And yet, I know this to be true…even more true if that make sense:

God is good.
God loves you.
God is the giver of good gifts.
You are created by God.
He has a plan for your life that is good (even when it feels bad).
Jesus came to bring you abundant life.

I am so, so deeply sorry that you are in pain today. I am so sorry that life feels unendurable.  I am so sorry that you hate where you find yourself.  I know, sweet one, I’ve been there.

But please know this: Your life matters. Your life is of deep value. You are loved. You are seen. Your life is worth living. Your life will turn around. It may not turn around today or tomorrow. It  may not look the way you want it to look. But I believe that you can take heart, because you will see God’s goodness in the land of the living.

 

 

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.

Are You Wielding Your Parenting Power Carefully?

I made a stark realization recently that left me very humbled. It came to my attention through a combination of a dear friend and the Holy Spirit that what I write may affect my children at some point, if not now.

I hate to say it, but that was brand new information to me.  My justification all this time has been simple: my kids don’t read what I write.

But someday, they may.  And though I do not aim to hurt the people in my life who have hurt me, I had to admit that in my quest to reach out to hurting women and in my aim to be as authentic as I can be, I sometimes write things that – though true – could wound.

This led me to the decision to change my professional name, hopefully adding a protective barrier between me and my former spouse, and between me and my sweet children. And though it was a difficult decision, it feels right for me and for us.

But what does this have to do with you as you are slogging through your mommy days, sweet one?

It reoccurred to me how profound of an influence we have over our children with our words.  You have the ability to help shape the perception your children have of their father, whether happily married or devastatingly divorced.

You wield much power.  And my question to you today is this: are you wielding it carelessly or are you wielding it well?

Are you thoughtless – even if unintentionally – when in moments of frustration with your husband?  Do your children hear what you say under your breath about him?  Do your children witness arguments?  Do your children hear you venting on the phone with a friend?

Or, are you thoughtful about this?  Do you build up your husband to your kids?  Do you build up your husband in front of your kids?  Do you point out to them what a good dad he is?  Do you shield them from disagreements that are going off the tracks?

Even if you’re divorced, you still carry much weight and you still can take steps to minimize the negative your children see and hear, and – even if it feels like vinegar in your mouth – you can think of at least one or two kind things to say about their father to them that will help their relationship in the long run.

Our words matter.  Our influence is deep.  Our children are watching and listening and soaking every little thing in.

What are you saying?

 

 

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Moving on as a Christian Single Mom”, which can be found here.

Marriage is Hard, duh

Marriage is work.

Marriage takes sacrifice.

Marriage takes compromise.

Marriage takes brutal honesty and communication, even when you don’t want to communicate anymore.

Marriage is a dying to self.

Most marriages fail. Or if not fail, simply limp along.

Marriage is hard.

Marriage is hard.

Marriage is hard.

Marriage is hard.

Marriage is hard.

I get it. Ugh.

For the past two or so years, I have been hearing stories daily of women who are “trapped” in awful, awful marriages that would make most people’s skin crawl.  I also hear stories of women who are now separated or divorced, who have left behind horrible, horrible marriages that would make you cry.

And I have been married before, for almost two decades. My marriage was not just a hard marriage, it was a broken marriage. Every day was a battle. My mind never stopped trying to decipher and decode. My marriage, for both of us, was an exhausting marriage, almost all of the time.

Statistics say that fifty percent of first marriages will fail.

Statistics also say that sixty percent of second marriages will fail.

I get it. You – the world, Christian culture, whoever – have all succeeded in freaking me the heck out about remarrying.  Thanks. You’re all a collective peach.

But I have two lingering thoughts that are fighting to override all this doomsday talk.

First, there’s God. Who gently looked at Adam and said it wasn’t good for him to be alone and that he would create a helper suitable. Now, I know that these words were said pre-fall, before all hell broke loose and forever ruined marriage. But still. The original intent was simply partnership in all its beauty and mystery, to be a reflection of both the tender and fierce love between Christ and his Church. And I want that. I’ve always, always wanted that. Besides all that, aren’t we supposed to be trying to live out “as it is in Heaven” here on earth? You know, bringing as much of Heaven’s beauty to this world now?

Which brings me to two, there’s the sweet man in my life. Now, yes, we’ve only been dating a couple months. So, yes, all of you would probably say that he and I are in the infatuation stage where nothing goes wrong and we skip through fields of wildflowers and we both think the other is flawless.  (We’re not, and things have gone wrong, and we don’t skip through anything, and we both know the other has a flaw or two.)

But I sit with him on my couch while he closes his eyes and sleeps for a few minutes before making the ninety-minute drive home. And my mind can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have him living in my home with me and my children.

And I realize that though I seem to have a clock ticking in the back of my mind whenever I’m with people (as in, get me out of here…I’m introvertedly done!), not once – not once – have I wanted this man to leave my presence. (And I say this with the reality that our dates now last between four and fourteen hours each.) I’m just never done with him. I just always want him to stay.

And I realize that though, sure, we don’t agree on everything, we agree on most things. And he is easy to be with. And he thinks I’m easy to be with. (Crazy, I know!) Which means, he and I actually get along, at this point, about ninety-nine percent of the time.  (Some of you in good marriages will not get at all the significance of that statement. The rest of you are gasping.  Yes, sweet ones, it is apparently an option out in the world to get along with your partner. Who knew??)

And I realize that though I love being alone and being independent, the past forty or so dates of him being in my home and making dinner with me and sitting down to a meal with my children and him watching whatever on TV while I take care of a few things all feels like the most natural thing in the world. He doesn’t just fit into my life. It’s not just something I can live with. It feels like he belongs here. Almost like, where have you been all this time?

I know, I know: we’re new. And I know, I know: this isn’t the same as living together as husband and wife. And I know, I know all of that and more. (I’ve done this before, remember??)

But I guess, for today, I need to quiet the voices that are trying to scare the crap out of me, that remind me how freaking hard marriage is.  That make me fear moving forward. That make me walk around with my heart not all in waiting for the other shoe to drop because surely it can’t just be, you know, actually good between me and this man (it is me, we’re talking about, after all, and I’m a well-known pill).

So voices, please. Please just stop. I know all of the hard and all of the work and all of the horrible.  Please stop reminding me. I know.

Because for today, I just want…no, I just need…to remember marriage’s original design and that it is gorgeous and that it is possible. Even for me.

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How to Love Someone Through a Hard Time (when you just can’t relate)

I know someone who has miscarried.
I know someone whose husband was killed in a car accident.
I know someone whose husband died of cancer.
I know someone who had breast cancer.
I know someone who is adjusting to being an adoptive mother.
I know someone who is struggling with her foster child and the foster care system.
I know someone who is struggling with recurring health issues.
I know someone who has lost her father.
I know someone who cannot see his children regularly.
I know someone whose child has health issues.
I know someone whose husband isn’t a believer.
I know someone whose husband has been unfaithful.

I have never been through any of these things.  I can’t imagine the intricacies of these particular struggles.  And yet, I want to show compassion. I want to be supportive. I want to be a friend.

And I don’t want to be annoying, or toss out clichés, or disappear, or disappoint, or cause further pain.

So how do we love people who are going through things that we haven’t ourselves been through?

First and foremost, we do not presume to know what it feels like. One of my pet peeves is getting unsolicited advice, let alone from someone who hasn’t walked in my loneliness shoes, or my formerly-abused shoes, or my codependent shoes, or my difficult-marriage shoes, or my divorced shoes, or my single-mom shoes, or my now-dating-as-a-forty-something shoes.  Seriously, I cannot stand it. To the extent that I tend to recoil. I make a mental note to share less with that person. (Okay, possibly not all that healthy on my part, but that’s what I do.)

I liken it to this. Say I have a friend who just found out she has cancer. And say she has done her research and she has prayerfully chosen to try natural methods of healing over radiation and chemotherapy. Never in a million years would I put in my two cents because a) I’m not her, b) I do not know what she knows, c) I’m not a doctor, d) I’ve never had cancer, and, probably most importantly, e) I would trust her and her relationship with God to make the decisions and choices that are best for her.

So, if you have a friend who is going through something you’ve never gone through before, and I say this gently, do not give her advice UNLESS she has asked for it.  (That’s an AlAnon thing and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever learned.)

Secondly, love her.  Even if you don’t understand the pain. Even if you don’t agree with how she’s dealing with her pain. If you feelings-love her, then actions-love her, no matter what.  Now, I’m not saying: if her husband has been unfaithful and she has shared with you that she intends to run him over with her car, you don’t have to offer to fill up her tank and go along for the ride and help dig the hole. But if, for instance, her husband has been unfaithful, and she decides to leave him (or decides to stay with him), love her through it.  Even if it’s not what you would do.  (Because odds are, you don’t actually know what you would do. You might think you know, but you have no idea really until it happens to you.)

Thirdly, ask her what she needs. And if she tells you, and if it’s in your power, do the thing.

Fourthly, pray for her.  Pain makes you think differently.  She needs a different kind of wisdom and clarity and discernment.  Pray God protects her and leads her and reveals what she needs to know when she needs to know it and that she has the courage to make the hard decisions.

Fifthly, walk closely.  Most people scatter when the storm comes through. Not out of evil intentions, but, I think, because they just don’t know what to say or do.  Don’t be that guy. Be the one that moves in closer, that enters in.  That says, as one of my best friends said to me a few years ago, “You can mess up everything and I’m not going anywhere.” Be that friend.

Lastly, understand if your friend needs to find other friends – not in place of you – but in addition to you, who get whatever the thing is she’s going through. She might join a support group or start hanging out with others who are walking in her shoes. It’s not because you lack something but it’s because she is going through something that is super specific and there is nothing like hearing “me too” or “I totally get it”.

So, the next time someone you love is going through something you just cannot comprehend, don’t bail. Don’t tell her how to live her life. Trust her. And love her. You can do this. And she will love you even more for walking her through.

As I have loved you, so you must love one another. –John 13:34b-

 

 

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Now that I Have a Boyfriend, My Life is Perfection

18d(Oh my lands.)

Okay, so having a boyfriend is awesome. {Said like a Valley Girl.} No, but it really is great. Knowing there’s a sweet man out in the world crushing on me is pretty much one of the best things ever.

However, it’s not THEE best thing ever. Hang with me…

I’ve been noticing something odd: people are happy for me and for us. Okay, that’s not odd in and of itself.  In fact, it’s actually really sweet. It’s not like I’d rather have people, you know, egging my house now that I’m in a relationship, but it’s the underlying vibe that I’m getting that I’m a tad concerned about.

Some of these well-wishers seem almost too happy for me. As if romantic love – let alone the gift of a second chance – is the ultimate goal in life.

Don’t get me wrong. Finding someone of the opposite sex – who you’re compatible with, who makes you laugh, who treats you really well, to love God with, among many other things –  to walk through life with is pretty amazing.  I’m grateful every day for this sweet man, no matter how this all plays out.

But I feel like I’m being ever so slightly gushed at.  As if something had been missing from my life and as if my happiness depended upon finding a man and as if my happiness were supposed to be my main pursuit.

Because let me let you in on a little secret…even though I’m coming to terms with being happy in this sweet season, I couldn’t give a flying fig about my happiness.

Again, don’t get me wrong: being happy is great, but it’s not the pinnacle.

And again, don’t get me wrong: being a part of a couple is great, but it’s not the all in all.

I’ve heard everything from, Whew…we were worried you had closed up your heart and you were going to become a nun.

Really? C’mon. It’s called I was in a very hard marriage for almost two decades. And it’s called I went through a really painful divorce. And it’s called I needed to heal and stuff. Geesh.

Or, I’m so happy for you I could just burst.

O-kay… But please don’t.

He’s just a boyfriend.  (Dude, I know you’re reading this…you know what I mean. {Author’s note: a super good boyfriend.})

But he’s not my Savior.

And he’s not my knight in shining armor.  In fact, he asked me a little while ago if I felt I needed to be rescued.  And I said, “Not anymore. And not by you.”  Good answer, he said.

He and I don’t make each other happy.  As Tall Shadow himself put it, I add to his happiness.  Yes, exactly.

We should have both already been living full lives on our own before we met. And I totally was before he came into the picture.

The pinnacle – and you might think it’s easy for me to say now that I’m in a relationship but I would swear by this truth whether I were in one or not in one – the pinnacle is my relationship with God. That’s what is life-changing.

Listen to God’s word:

Your unfailing love is better than life itself. -Psalm 63:3a

GOD’s love is the pinnacle; not human love; not even the love of a really good man, as good as that gift is.

Has this sweet man swooped into my life? Yes.
Is he a gift? Absolutely.
Is he my everything? No. And I shouldn’t be his either.
Would we both be sad if things went south? Of course.
Would it kill either one of us? It sure shouldn’t.

In this man, I haven’t found my meaning and purpose.  Jesus did that for me a long time ago, and continues to refine it.

In this man, I haven’t been completed, Jerry Maguire. For the love.  Jesus completes me.

In this man, I haven’t found my raison d’etre. Jesus gives me a reason to get up each and every day.  He’s also the one who actually, you know, literally gets me up each and every day.

So all this to say…if you’re happy for me, thank you. It’s very sweet and I appreciate it.

If you’re too happy for me, maybe look at why. What in your thinking perhaps needs to be tweaked to be reminded that our standing with God is way, way more important than what box you check under “relationship status”? Or as Paul says in I Corinthians 7:17, “God, not your marital status, defines your life.” (Msg)  Are you, perhaps, living vicariously through those of us in relationships? The grass is not greener, sweet ones, it’s just a different shade.

If you’re not happy for me, I totally get that too. I would totally understand if many of you, my precious readers, would prefer for me to remain single for the rest of my life.  I seriously get that.  But know this: dating someone has not changed my perspective…it hasn’t made me forgetful…it’s just made me a bit calmer and is adding to my experiences.

If you’re in a hard marriage and wishing to be where I am now, I know. I remember. With every fiber of my being, I remember. But don’t go wishing too hard for something you do not have, for something that is not yet appropriate for you to be wishing for. Just keep praying. Just keep seeking help. Just keep holding on.  God sees you. God will answer your prayers, and in ways that you probably won’t expect. God is loving you in your pain.

And if you’re divorced and single and wanting to be coupled up, trust me when I say that as good as it is, being okay with Jesus is better. Walking closely with him – even alone – and knowing you’re being obedient, and I say this from true, deep experience…THAT is the pinnacle.

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  -Romans 8:38

 

 

 

 

If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage or Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman.