Just Breathe

Are you feeling stressed? Do you want to replace a bad habit with a good one? Do you need to slow down?

One of the Bible verses that speaks so deeply to my heart is Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Many women stay busy or take on too much, leaving them with little time for rest and relaxation. We put everyone else first and wear ourselves out. By the time our husbands approach us for sex, we may simply be too weary.

If you find yourself in “go” mode for too long, it can be really hard to slow down—and that is exactly when you need to take a deep breath. One summer I had a fairly intense and stressful job filling in for someone on maternity leave. I changed my phone’s welcome message from Welcome, Chris! to Breathe.

Three Problems, One Solution

We might speak without thinking, making our words sting. Perhaps we get so caught up in a to-do list and a flurry activities that we find ourselves feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Maybe we respond out of habit rather than out of intention and wisdom. Or we push away our loved ones, especially those we love most—and those who most need our love. We go, go, go and forget to stop—or even forget how.

I’ve been having online conversations with three different women about things that affect their marriages.

One is trying to change a habit of doing what she’s always done; she wants to make her husband a priority. A second woman is frustrated by stress and anxiety, watching helplessly as her reactions push away her family members. The third woman wants to be more respectful of her husband; she knows that her insistence on having the last word isn’t good for their marriage.

Three women.

Three problems.

I’ve made the same suggestion for each of them:

Just breathe.

Breathing—It’s a Good Thing

Breathing does some good things besides just keep you alive. Taking intentional slow deep breaths can slow your heartbeat, stabilize your blood pressure, and maintain healthy oxygen levels.  This allows you to think more clearly, and it slows you down so you can be intentional about your response.

Along with prayer, breathing got me through the first year of working on my marriage. It became my go-to strategy.

I took deep breaths for courage. It was a deep breath that helped me intentionally show my husband my breasts for the first time in years.

Deep breaths cleared my mind. When I wanted to say no to sex because I just didn’t feel like it, breathing slowed my reaction long enough to think about my response and to choose to have sex, not just react against the idea.

Deep breaths interrupted my habits of response. Rolled eyes and a “no” were my typical response to my husband’s efforts to initiate sex. I forced myself to take a deep breath before responding to anything—even if I knew my answer was going to be yes.

Learning to Breathe

When it came to sex, my tendency was to react thoughtlessly rather than respond thoughtfully.

Proverbs 29:20 tells us, “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Yeah, that verse surely was written for me.

When my husband approached me for sex, my fight-or-flight instinct always seemed to kick in. I thought he was pressuring me, and I felt stressed. I often reacted to him with harsh words, only to realize five minutes later that I actually was interested in sex. By then, however, my words and actions had done their damage.

At the time I began my journey to work on sexual intimacy, I had been reading about dealing with chronic stress. Many articles cited the value of taking deep breaths as a way of counteracting anxiety. I decided to apply that to my efforts to improve in the area of sex.

When I remembered to take a deep breath when he initiated, it actually seemed to help. It slowed me down, I spoke with more thought and kindness, and I was able to engage sexually.

The problem was this: it was hard to remember to do this. Because I had a pattern of feeling anxious and stressed at certain phrases or gestures from Big Guy, more often than not I was too stressed to remember to take a deep breath.

So I practiced. Yes, I actually practiced taking deep breaths.

When my husband said anything to me, I made myself take a deep breath before responding. I forced myself to think about my response. “What’s for dinner?” Deep breath. “Do you need me to carry the laundry downstairs for you? Deep breath. “What time is the movie?” Deep breath.

These situations were not stressful, so it was easier for me to remember to take a deep breath. Over time, taking a deep breath became simply another habit I had when he asked me a question. This new habit eventually bled over into the stressful situation of responding to his sexual approaches.

Be Still

Are you feeling stressed? Do you want to replace a bad habit with a good one? Do you need to slow down?

Be still. Just breathe.

Just breathe, and rest in God.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-29

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