Don't fear transformation in your marriage.

A caterpillar has its own charm, but God’s desire is for that caterpillar to experience a transformation and become a butterfly.

I doubt that the caterpillar knows to expect a transformation, but it does know to do the task it faces: spin the cocoon that allows the transformation to occur.

It emerges, with a brand new beauty and wings to fly.

I’ve been thinking about butterflies this week. Butterflies and death.

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Has your heart been transformed when it comes to sexual intimacy?

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

I’m an advocate for the “fake it until you make it” approach to improving sexual intimacy. I acted my way into a feeling that I enjoyed sex.

However, I think there is only one reason this approach worked for me:

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What do you remember of your experiences saying "no" to sex?

Throughout most of 2009 and 2010, we were in a nearly sexless marriage. A sexless marriage is a marriage in which sex occurs ten or fewer times per year. Our frequency wasn’t quite that low, but we were close during this time due to health problems and a series of very stressful events in our lives.

We were spiraling away from each other with each passing week. Our unhealthy communication patterns had gone from bad to worse, we spent almost no time with each other, and we had lost some of the energy to even argue with each other. Read More →

 

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I don’t like change much, and I don’t handle even good changes easily. I like my transitions nice and slow, so I can get used to just one small change at a time. And I prefer to know what’s coming in advance so I can mentally prepare.

Is it any surprise that I approached change in my marriage by taking baby steps? Read More →

Note: This post is long—and that comes from someone who already writes long-ish posts. I tried to break this down into several shorter posts that could published throughout the week. I just couldn’t make it work.

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At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy realizes that all along, happiness had been in her own back yard. She’d had the power to go there the whole time.

From adolescence on, I wanted only a few things from my husband (even before I knew who my husband would be). I wanted him to feel connected to me. I wanted him willing to slay a dragon for me. I wanted him to want to care for me. I wanted him to want to be part of me emotionally, not just physically. These are unrealistic expectations, of course. But even after I knew this, there was part of me that still hoped.

As we settled into our marriage and I saw that the man I’d married was not what I had expected husband-wise, there were moments when I could feel the resignation in my own bones. The process of accepting the husband I had was a process of letting go of my youthful heart’s desires and learning to deal with reality (which I really didn’t do so well). The dragon-slaying knight in shining armor who would cherish me might as well have been in Oz.

Like Dorothy on the yellow brick road, I meandered through life, trying to stick to the path in front of me, never knowing what to expect, distracted along the way. I was searching for my heart’s desire.

Many women have craved a stronger emotional connection with their husbands, yearning for intimacy, a bond, a sense of completeness that goes far beyond a physical need. I had a deep yearning for an emotional connection, yet my husband only seemed to want to connect with me sexually. We both were frustrated in these desires, time and time again, year after year, neither of us finding our desires.

Inviting husbands to share

In my recent survey of husbands about duty sex, I asked only three questions:

  1. Which is better—duty sex or no sex at all?
  2. Duty sex provides you with a physical release. What physical, emotional, or spiritual needs are left unfilled by duty sex?
  3. If you have experienced sexual encounters with your wife in which she fully participated (NOT duty sex), please describe the emotional benefits to you of these encounters.

I intentionally asked about emotions because that is how many women have shared they want to be able to connect with their husbands. Inviting men to respond in the language of emotion makes it easier for us to see their hearts. So I asked, and they answered. At the time I am writing this, more than 175 men have responded to the survey.

With exactly one exception, every single man has decried duty sex for being nothing more than a physical release that they could just as easily (well, more easily, in many cases) accomplish with masturbation. Yet they crave so much more than that physical release. So much more.

Oh, dear sisters, do you have any idea that you have within you the power to hold your husband’s heart? All I ever wanted from my husband is mine. If your husband is anything like the men who answered the survey, you, too, have your heart’s desire right in front of you.

Processing this survey has been an emotional experience for me. I guess that’s no surprise to anyone who’s ever visited this blog before. For years, my husband shared his sorrow that we didn’t have intimacy in our marriage. I thought he was just trying to make sex sound like it was more than it was.  Dressing it up so it sounds all emotional doesn’t change the fact that it’s really just about you wanting an orgasm, I would think.

He wanted my body. I thought it was because my body could offer him orgasms. I was wrong. My body contains so much more than the promise of orgasm. My body contains me. It contains the promise of unity, of connection.

When things are going wrong

When things aren’t going so well, it’s easy to think about what’s wrong. My husband would tell me how he was negatively affected by my refusal and gate-keeping. If I had been less selfish, this would have been enough to get me to make some changes.

When I learned about these negative effects from the voices of other refused husbands and wives, something finally broke through my stubborn and selfish heart. That got me started on this journey. I wanted to be able to share some of these negatives here for other women to read, and that’s why I asked the first two questions on the survey about duty sex. I wrote about some of that in this post.

There were times, though, when I found myself wondering if there was anything in it for me. I was doing hard work on myself, and I knew my husband and my marriage would benefit. But sometimes I wondered what my goal was. How would I even know when I had arrived at my destination if I didn’t know what was waiting for me down the road?

As I continued to read and learn, I began to see forum discussions and blog posts that described the joy and connection available in a healthy Christian marriage bed. I saw husbands and wives who were mutually generous, describing how love-making helped them actually make (create) more love between them. I saw emotional connection, contentment, and fun.

Is that possible for us? Could we ever have that kind of marriage?

It was when my eyes opened to the joy that could be found in marriage that I understood that I was on a journey that included a destination. It was when I made a commitment to keep growing. I wanted some of that joy. I was flooded with peace as I realized I was finally doing what God wanted me to do in my marriage.

This “carrot” is why I asked what I think is the most important question on the survey: If you have experienced sexual encounters with your wife in which she fully participated (NOT duty sex), please describe the emotional benefits to you of these encounters. I expected that most respondents would indicate that fully participatory sex is better than duty sex—but I wanted to know why. I wanted to know what happened in the hearts of husbands when their wives willingly and fully share their sexuality with them.

Our husbands’ voices

Our husbands benefit

Husband’s descriptions of the emotional benefits seem to fall into four broad categories: primal, emotional, bonding, and transformational.

Primal benefits include things that get at the core of manhood. Many men commented that they feel more masculine when their wives participate in sex—particularly when she experiences orgasm.

  • “I feel as though I am fulfilling part of my purpose as a man.”
  •  “Nothing makes me feel more like a man.”
  • “One of the important things a man does is provide his wife with an orgasm. We too feel unfulfilled when we fail to or aren’t given opportunity to.”
  •  “I feel loved, desired, wanted, needed, and I feel more like a man knowing that I have been able to satisfy.”
  • “There is nothing that builds a man up on every level like being fully, passionately, ravenously desired by his wife.”
  • “I feel accepted in total.  Like I’m worth more than the work I do, or the service I provide my family.  I feel like I’m left without any further needs for a while.  Totally satisfied with everything in my life.”

Several words were used by quite a few men to describe this area: strengthened, affirmed, respected, admired, satisfied, successful, and desired.

Emotional benefits include such things as feeling loved, at peace, joyful.

  • “It is like hitting my emotional reset button. All is well with the world.”
  • “I feel so much more fulfilled, satisfied and I’m even able to see past my raging sex drive and become aware of other relationship issues or issues in myself that I could not see before.“
  • “All is right with the world!  Feel loved, appreciated, respected, and joy that she is enjoying what I give to her.”
  • “I feel joy in a way that nothing else on this earth can provide.”
  • “The emotional connection is much greater.  I feel loved rather than tended to.  It’s like having someone cook you a three course meal versus buying you fast food.”
  • “I opens my heart up to her. I have told her several times that I am most open to deeper communication in the “afterglow” of that time together. I am much less sensitive about subject matter or criticism (for lack of a better word) because I am confident in the security of our relationship.”

These first two areas are clearly things that directly benefit our husbands. When my husband feels more manly or joyful, those things are mainly about him. I read some eloquent descriptions of emotions, although none of it surprised me.

Our husbands are more connected to us

Quite a few men talked about relational benefits. It is here that we can start to see how wives benefit more directly from what happens in our husbands’ hearts when we fully participate in sex. Most men made some comment about how they feel more bonded with and connected to their wives after fully participatory sex, using words like connected, oneness, sense of wholeness, and completion.

  • “It’s transcendent. We are joined not only in body, but also in minds and spirit. We are generous with one another and it echoes for days after.”
  •  “The difference is that duty sex is all one sided. Making love (not duty sex) is the best outcome of the marriage act and what keeps the marriage the marriage strong. Who would ever want a one sided relationship? That is not what the Creator intended.”
  • “You feel more like you’re one with her!!”
  • “We are closer to being of one flesh not just a couple in the same bed.”
  • “I feel connected, appreciated, like the two of us together is the only thing that matters at that moment in time.”
  • “It is difficult to overstate how emotionally and spiritually connected this can make me feel with her.”
  • “I feel at one with her.”
  •  “There is no comparison. Full participation is a whole-being experience. Emotionally I feel so connected to her when I know she has fully given of herself. I love to please her and that is my goal in our intimacy. I get pleased as a byproduct.”

Our sexual love transforms them

There was one category of responses that have me overwhelmed. Dazed. Blown away. Floored. Stunned. Astonished. Amazed. Humbled.

I expected men to say that when their wives were fully sexual with them, they felt more masculine. I expected to find that they felt happier and more content. I even expected to read a lot about connections and the feelings of one-ness.

In As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin says to Carol (played by Helen Hunt), “You make me want to be a better man.” When I saw that movie, I thought how romantic that sounded. It didn’t occur to me that this statement might ever apply in my own marriage.

Sisters, when you fully participate in sex with your husband, sharing your sexuality with him, you transform him. You change him. You make him into a better man—or at least a man who very much wants to be better for you.

  •  “I feel on top of the world, like I can conquer the world.”
  • “I feel bullet proof. I can weather any storm at work or with our family life. I am more capable of trying things I am uncertain of doing well, because I don’t have to rely on that success for my self-worth. I have a wife who loves me.”
  • “I feel like I can do anything, get any job, paint the house.”
  • “I feel I could conquer the world for her.”
  • “You want to do whatever it takes to please her. It makes you want to be her hero.”
  • “Oh, the freeness! It is the best sex EVER and had very little to do with physical release. When she is fully present I can do anything in life! I am capable of doing whatever she asks of me and I would!!”
  • “I feel like protecting her and bending over backwards to meet her needs.  I feel like I’m the king of the world.”
  • “Closest thing I can imagine to Heaven on Earth.”
  • “Able to conquer the world (especially the next morning).”
  • “It is wonderful to feel wanted, desired, sensing her pleasure in our union. I begin to understand what God intended sex to be and ho it models Jesus’’ love for His church. The pleasure continues long after the sex act is over.”
  • “I could take on King Kong, Godzilla and all the rest of them bad boys. There was such a feeling of harmony, oneness, peace and fulfillment.  I wanted to go out of my way to bless her. The weight of being the husband/father was no longer a burden or heavy yoke but a joy. It generates a strength that maybe only other men can really relate to.”
  • “I go to work the next day on a high. I seem to think more clearly and am able to focus better. It is easier to deal with challenges. I know that no matter what happens, I have a safe place, a refuge at home in her arms. I am her man and she is mine…accepted just as I am.”
  • “When my wife really gives myself to me, I feel loved totally, I feel like I can face the dragons in my life.  I feel like I have been validated as a man, as a spouse.”

My body contains my sexuality. And that can change my husband into a better version of himself.

Our sexuality is our superpower

All along, I’d wanted my husband to feel connected to me. I wanted him willing to slay a dragon for me. I wanted him to want to care for me. I wanted him to want to be part of me emotionally, not just physically.

My early expectations of my husband were unrealistic. No husband can do all those things—not all by himself. With his wife’s sexual love and participation, he can become these things. Her sexual love can transform him into someone who feels capable. He can conquer the world. He models Jesus’ love for the church. He can take on monsters. He can face the challenge. He can slay the dragons.

Like Dorothy, I’ve discovered that I had the power to find my happiness all along. In fact, I’ve learned that I have a superpower. The willing sharing of my body makes my husband into a different man. My sexuality is my superpower. With it, I make my husband feel all the things I’d been wanting for years.

Your sexuality is your superpower. Sharing your sexuality with your husband has the power to transform him into the husband your heart has craved.

While I don’t actually believe in superpowers, I can think of no other way to describe the effects of our sexual sharing on our husbands. God designed us to become one flesh in marriage. When we allow ourselves to fully participate in God’s design for us, sharing our sexuality with our husbands as they cleave unto us, good things happen. We experience the ultimate physical and emotional pleasure possible in these bodies God created for us. Even more, we become part of what God provides in helping our husbands grow into the men He wants them to be.

So, ladies, go get yourself a cape. Put it on (and very little else), and go get started transforming your husband.

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For most of our marriage, sex was a source of conflict. Which one of us would win—the one who wanted sex, or the one who didn’t? No matter how it was resolved, one of us would be unhappy; the marriage felt divided rather than unified.

I would read about people feeling a sense of sexual unity and a one-flesh-ness to their marriages. I never really believed it. With all the sexual conflict and division in our marriage, I simply couldn’t imagine what this meant.

Sex was a war. Whichever of us “won” a particular sex battle wasn’t really happy. My husband would get sex, but he wouldn’t have the emotional intimacy that he craved as much as he did the physical release. Or I would be off the hook, as I saw it, but I was deprived of the emotional intimacy that I craved because my husband was so grouchy and physically uncomfortable. Even during the rare encounters that were mutually desired and enjoyed, there was an underlying tension, with each of us knowing that it was a fluke, that this wasn’t the way our sex life really was. Sex was a reminder of what we didn’t have in our marriage. It was a war, and neither of us ever won. Our marriage certainly didn’t.

Three years ago, I took a step of changing my sexual interactions with my husband. It was mostly something of an experiment, just to see if it actually changed anything. At best, I figured it might make my husband less depressed because he’d be having more orgasms and he wouldn’t have to go to battle to get them.

I didn’t expect the overall improvement in our marriage that I’ve seen. Despite my emotional slump of the last two weeks, our marriage is stronger and better than it’s ever been. I’m not surprised. Working on our sex life didn’t magically make anything better, but it removed a major source of tension between us. Without an overlay of sexual discord on everything, we were able to work on our relationship in increasingly healthy ways. We each felt encouraged and supported by each other since we were no longer in a constant sexual battle. We developed a sense of facing the world together rather than facing off against each other. Working on sex changed our marriage.

I didn’t realize that working on sex would change sex as well.

Yesterday, my husband and I sent flirty texts to each other throughout the day. He made dinner reservations so we could have a date. We had a lovely steak dinner seated next to the fireplace in the restaurant. We came home. We went upstairs.

In my husband’s arms last night, I realized that it isn’t just our marriage that has changed; sex itself feels different. As we worked on sex, our communication, love, and sense of unity improved—and these things, in turn, gave us a new version of sex.

The frequency, involvement, and nature of our sexual activity are different, but it’s more than that. Our relationship itself has changed, so sex simply means something different than it used to. Sex is richer, imbued with a deeper texture. Even a romp that seems more about an orgasm than about romance happens over a foundation of love, care, and communication that never used to be there. It isn’t just about the spark of sex; it’s also about the embers that keep the heart alive.

Sex is now a comfort. It is a healing balm. It is a unifier. It is a reminder of what we are and what we have built.

Sex itself transformed into something completely different than I had ever imagined it could be.

Sex isn’t what it used to be.

It’s even better.

What I've learned about myself through a change in sexual intimacy...

When I began my journey of sexual transformation, it didn’t even occur to me that I was beginning a journey. I just figured it was about having sex more often and changing my husband’s attitude and demeanor.

It never occurred to me how much change would happen within me or how much I would learn about myself in the process. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

  1. I am even more stubborn than I knew. My husband always says that the men in his family marry strong-willed woman. He certainly did! I fight change. I think I’m always right. I insist on having the last word. I’m inflexible. It is beyond me how God changed my stubborn heart, because I sure fought Him all the way.
  2. I feel unworthy. I’ve always had some insecurity, but I didn’t realize until recently how little true value I thought I had.  For years, I felt undeserving of joy. I’ve been known to sabotage my own success. Pulling down the walls around my heart was a great act of courage for me. Being vulnerable and fully open to my husband’s love and to God’s love makes me feel spiritually naked. Sometimes, when we are enjoying particularly loving sexual activity, I tremble with the power of the intimacy. I am slowly letting go of my feelings of unworthiness in our marriage, but it takes work and intention on my part.
  3. I am adventurous. Honestly, once I let down the walls, I discovered that sex was even more fun that I remembered. I have been the one to bring most of our new ideas, activities, and “props” into the bedroom. When a package comes to the door for me, my husband chuckles and rolls his eyes and wonders what he’s in for.
  4. I have so much work ahead of me. When I started this journey-that-I-refused-to-think-was-a-journey, I still thought my husband was the problem. He wanted sex. He wasn’t respectful of my time/space/interests. What I have discovered is that I was the problem. I was selfish. I was immature. I was disrespectful of his physiological and emotional needs as a man. I withheld myself from him. Even as I continue to make good changes and see so much growth in myself, it seems that every time I accomplish one thing I discover more that I need to address.
  5. I am beautiful and sexy. You would laugh if you knew me in real life. I am about 70 pounds overweight. I have arthritis in my knees and lower back. My GERD and chronic sinus troubles limit positions and some activities. I have stretchmarks from my thighs to my boobs, and “droopy” is an adjective that can be used to describe much of my body. But yes, I am beautiful and I am sexy. I am my husband’s standard of beauty. I am the only woman who makes his eyes light up and who makes him waggle his eyebrows and smile in a certain way. That has been the best lesson of all.

Image courtesy of nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net