Yoo-hoo! Where Ya’ Been?

I know, I know. It’s been over a year, and we left you right in the middle of the Good Marriage Habit Challenge. Sorry about that. But it’ll be worth it. See, during this year of unplanned hiatus, Krista and I have been working hard at developing a new marriage ministry that we believe will provide the kind of practical, life-changing marriage help that most Christians need. We took the last year to test drive it for several couples, and we think it’s almost ready for primetime. Soon, this website will be completely transformed from a blog to, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. We’ll still do some writing along the way, but the main focus will be radically different.

We’re very excited, and we hope you will be, too. Stay tuned here, on Facebook, and on Twitter for updates.

Bye for now! (And, no, it won’t be another year before you hear from us.)

The 2015 Good Marriage Habit Challenge-Habit Eight

ID-10018130When Krista and I do premarital counseling, we ask the couple to abstain from kissing until the wedding. Sometimes, they look at us like we are crazy and ultra prudish, (then after our sex discussions they think we are crazy and whatever is the opposite of prudish), but they usually thank us. Our reason for the request is because kissing is the key that opens the door and starts the motor and empowers the couple to go for a ride. No kissing, no riding (so to speak).

For married folks, our advice is just the opposite—more kissing, more riding. So the next good marriage habit is, you guessed it…


Kiss for one minute without stopping

Suggested guidelines:

  • Set a reminder lest you forget.
  • Set a timer – kiss for the whole minute.
  • Kiss like lovers, not mothers.
  • Start the motor and go for a ride now and then.

 

Image courtesy of Idea go. at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The 2015 Good Marriage Habit Challenge-Habit Seven

Spring is in the air. It’s time to get out and enjoy it. So, the next good marriage habit is…


ID-1009082A 10-minute walk together

Dating couples like to take walks, just the two of them, as often as they can. Good marriages do, too. And since you have been creating all of these good habits in 2015, yours is a good marriage. That means you want to walk together. (See how that works?)

So get out, hand in hand, and enjoy a little stroll each day for the next 21 days.

 

Here are the suggested guidelines

  • 10 minutes is just the minimum. On days when you can afford it, go longer.
  • When time is scarce, set a timer for five minutes – when it goes off, turn around.
  • If you have to miss some days due to travel, etc., just add them to the end of the 21 days.
  • Consider continuing the previous habit (reading a marriage book) and discussing it as you walk.
  • Set whatever reminders are necessary to help you stick to it.

That’s it! Enjoy walking with your lover.

 

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He Knows My Cycle (Yes THAT One)

IMG_1356Let’s just say that my husband has unending patience. As I sit here typing this blog post, he’s considering how to repair my iPhone — again. Just last month I dropped it face-flat on concrete. Guess what! The screens aren’t intended to withstand that kind of treatment. Being the tech wizard that he is, Doug, in his copious free time,  purchased and replaced the screen. There’s no denying it — he loves me.

A couple of nights ago, I dropped it again. Not on concrete this time and not facedown, but on the corner. When I picked it up, the screen was intact but the display was blurry and stripey, and the phone wouldn’t respond. I couldn’t help it, I burst into tears. (And by now you’re wondering what in the world this has to do with my husband knowing my cycle. Wait for it….)

I know there are some husbands who would have had it at that point. Some who would get really frustrated. Some who might simply say “Tough luck.” And some who might actually get angry and yell. My husband did none of these. He looked at me and gently responded, “It was an accident. It’s just stuff.” And he promptly got online to find out how to fix it and what else he might need to buy to restore it.

His response at that moment was very intentional because he knew what day it was. He knew his initial response on that day would carry me or crush me. (On a later day, he suggested I purchase a different, not-so-slippery case.) Thankfully, he understands how crucial that is to our relationship.

Does it creep you out to think of your husband knowing your cycle? That’s personal, female-type stuff, right? Except that for most women, it affects the whole family. So for my husband to understand something about it also benefits the whole family. Let me explain.

There are three ways that Doug knowing my cycle is helpful. Practically, it helps to schedule life or anticipate days when life may seem overwhelming. As we consider our calendar together, we can plan around weeks that PMS may affect my ability to handle big events or busy times. And he knows to plan getaways and date nights when I will be feeling more amorous as opposed to being “unavailable.” He can also remind me on days when I’m struggling most why I’m most likely struggling. When everything I do feels like I’m trudging uphill through mud and I have difficulty thinking straight, he’ll say, “You know it’s Day 18, right?” Suddenly I’m relieved.

Spiritually, Doug encourages me to prepare for attacks from the enemy during upcoming difficult days, which helps keep me alert for temptations. Doug prays specifically for my challenges. He gives me an extra measure of grace without allowing me to make excuses for sin. He knows when I need a hug and a good cry.

Finally, it is very helpful in my relationships with my children. He watches out for my harsh words, and I often wonder if he gives the kids a heads-up too, especially when they spontaneously deliver chocolate hearts to my pillow at just the right time. Or maybe they just know. Either way, I know that I need to guard my tongue on difficult days, and he helps me do it and helps me act lovingly toward my precious children.

It seems that as a woman, I would be mindful of my own cycle and be able to manage my emotions accordingly. But too often my own body catches me off guard. Thankfully, God graciously provided a husband who loves me enough not only to fix the iPhone screen I cracked but also to get over the awkwardness of this female stuff and help me not feel stupid and worthless when I did it again.

Know Her Cycle (Yes THAT One)

ID-100311618I realize that I may have lost most readers with the title. And I will admit I considered something much more inviting like How to Get Your Wife to Have Sex With You Ten Times a Day. But in the end I chose honesty. So, yes, this post is about your wife’s menstrual cycle.

One could almost say that a husband is commanded to know his wife’s cycle. We are told to lead (literally) “according to knowledge” (1 Peter 3:7). And since the cycle has such a profound impact on a woman’s thoughts, motivations, feelings, and behaviors, it seems foolish to ignore it. Full disclosure, I did ignore it for years. In fact, early in marriage I virtually denied its existence or effect. I was an idiot. Both Krista and I paid the price for my ignorance. But I can now tell you (and she would heartily agree) that I know her cycle almost better than she does, and it has brought wonderful results for both of us.

So, husband, come with me, if you dare. It will seem scary and ominous at first. You will be tempted to flee the subject, telling yourself that this is “her department.” But if you persevere, it will progress from terrifying to intimidating to awkward to not-so-bad to this-is-really-helpful to I-think-I’ll-write-a-blog-post-for-the-whole-world-to-see. Those last two stages are where the benefit becomes obvious. You will be a much better leader, encourager, corrector, romancer, partner, and friend as you master her cycle. And although it’s not the main point of this article, it should lead to more and better sex. (Yes, it’s that big of a deal.)

Ok, so now that I have your interest again, how do you do it? Like any other educational subject, you have to study and reflect if you are going to learn. You may be tempted to do some Googling or head to the attic to find your old anatomy and biology books, but I suggest you just commit to studying your wife. That’s what I did, and I have learned a ton.

My method was very simple. I created a spreadsheet and charted several key things about Krista, and I took extensive notes. To some of the gals, this may seem cold and unloving, but the changes that have taken place in how I connect with Krista will speak otherwise. (So will she.) One warning though, especially for those of you who live for spreadsheets—she isn’t like that. She is a person. A female person. Which means that at any moment she will do something completely contrary to the paradigm so that you always remember that she is beyond your ability to simply plot and graph her. It is not as simple as data in/data out. She’s not a trend. On the other hand, it is called a “cycle” for a reason. Study it, and you will be in a much better position to love her.

It seems that there are four distinct phases in this cycle. I will list them below along with a few observations. You should know that some wives are so consistent you could make a calendar out of them. For others, it’s more like predicting the weather – lots of “could be,” “might be,” and “percent chance” language. Use this as a starting place, but the goal is to know your wife.

The Period (Days 1-8)

This is one of the two phases that most men seem to know about (the other being PMS). We know this one because it usually means no sex due to bleeding. The woman does not feel good physically during this phase. She has cramps, pains, and other discomfort. She may be emotionally up and down, feeling tired or irritable, especially the first few days. It’s a cloudy and cold stretch. But toward the end, the clouds begin to break apart, and a few rays of sunshine find their way through. Things begin to look up.

I have found that lots of hugs, gentleness, and verbal encouragement have a huge impact on Krista during this time. Her emotional battle is lighter in comparison to the PMS stage, but she is still tempted to lethargy and self-pity. Soft affection coupled with kind, hopeful words will often change her direction. And praying for her with her is great. I will sometimes pray specifically about what is going on in her body, and ask for special grace to overcome. God is faithful, frequently granting her joy in serving Him even when her body fights against her.

Ovulation (Days 9-14)

Or, as I prefer to call it, the Woohoo!! Stage. This is not only the time when women can make babies, it’s also when they want to make babies, if you know what I mean. Jesus designed them that way, see, and He gave them all the things that go with it. Their thoughts, emotions, and bodies all agree—let’s do this. Their hormones are raging in a good way. This is the week she feels best. She has energy and seeks engagement. She is rational and less emotional (you know, for a woman). She is sexually eager and enthusiastic.

I don’t know if this will make sense to you, but during these days, I don’t have to watch out for Krista as much. We are the most like mutual partners, friends, and lovers. She seems largely in control of herself. She gives herself to me in every way. It is definitely the time when she is most encouraging toward and focused on me. Simply put, it’s a fun week in every way.

Week 3 (Days 15-21)

Not a remarkable name, I know, but that’s actually fitting. This is the transition stage, heading toward PMS. Early on she feels pretty good (though not as good as the previous week), but clouds are on the horizon. One interesting thing I have noticed is that there is one day every month, and it’s always the same day, when she really struggles not to be irritable.

Maybe the way to describe this stage is that it largely resembles the ovulation phase, but everything is gradually turned down from ten to three or four. For the most part, both her psyche and her body seem largely unaffected by hormones and “the cycle.”

PMS (Days 22-28)

“Mostly cloudy with thunderstorms likely” seems like a good way to put it. This is when a woman is most tempted to irritability, laziness, emotional fluctuations, lack of self-control, sinful words, etc. Physically, her status moves between poor and awful. Sexually, she is far less interested, which make sense because her body is saying, “Okay, looks like we are not making a baby. Let’s clean up the factory and get it ready for next time.”

In my days of denial, when I gave little credence to PMS, I also gave little grace to Krista. But now I get it, at least as far a non-woman can. I understand that behind much of what she says and does there is a hormonal and physiological change taking place. While PMS does not excuse sin and selfishness, it does explain some of it. Knowing this helps me stay patient with Krista when her words come off a bit strong or when her interpretation of things is a bit darker than would otherwise be reasonable. It helps me to lead and protect her. It helps me ask the right questions and give the right answers, more “I love you” and less “Here’s where you’re wrong.” It keeps me from offering a solution when she cries, or rather, it helps me understand that the best solution is a long hug followed by expressions of love and appreciation. It helps me help her fight the real enemy—her body, and the devil who seeks to exploit her weakness.

My initial analysis took a lot of work. It still does. I’m not a spreadsheet guy. This kind of study is not something I gravitate toward. But it is worth the effort. As Krista will tell you, my leadership and love of her has never been more obvious or effective. In this most practical way, I know my wife deeply. She lives in her cycle every single day. Understanding how it works helps me to walk with her in it every single day. Husband, I urge you to dive into this mysterious part of your wife’s personality and get to know who she is at this awkward yet important level.

 

[Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

The 2015 Good Marriage Habit Challenge—Habit Six

We are giving you this one a little early because it may take a little prep time. (But men, don’t stop the massaging. You get to bless her with that through Saturday night.)

Beginning Sunday, you will…


Read a marriage book together and discuss it

ID-100100972Marriages are strengthened by good discussion, and good books promote good discussion. So it’s a perfect marriage (see what I did there?).

You probably already have a book that you should read (again?). If not, you have a couple of days to run to the bookstore or place an order on Amazon/Kindle or borrow a book from a friend. And, of course, if you don’t get one by Sunday, you can start late and overlap with the next habit. (An alternative would be to choose articles from our blog and discuss them.)

Here are the suggested guidelines:

  • Try to finish the whole book during the 21 days. (You don’t have to read at the same pace, but you will need to stay far enough ahead for meaningful conversation.)
  • Read separately, but discuss together.
  • Plan 10-15 minutes every day to discuss something you found interesting, challenging, helpful, or disagreeable.
  • Take turns sharing. Interact with one person’s thoughts for a while, then the other’s.
  • Plan a few date nights along the way for extended discussion.

We would love to know what you’re reading and any insights you gain along the way. Tell us on Facebook!

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Doug Leads Me and Why I’m Thankful

God designed marriage to be teamwork. The purpose behind the creation of Eve, after all, was to provide a helpmate for Adam. God didn’t intend for us to journey through life alone, to raise a family alone, to navigate the challenges of this world alone. But when there’s a team, there also needs to be a leader. And God designed the husband to fulfill that role. As my husband calls it, he is the IPR — individual personally responsible.

What does this look like in our marriage? Here are five practical examples of how Doug leads in our relationship and family:

1. He oversees my schedule

Although we operate as a team, Doug realizes there is much on my personal plate (probably because he delegated most of it to me). He knows that in addition to home life, I am heavily involved in many ministries at church. I’m grateful that he realizes the pressures and time commitments of a homeschooling pastor’s wife — and he also knows that I have difficulty turning anyone down. We share our calendars online, so he knows my schedule at a glance, and when it becomes overwhelming, he helps me manage it. He encourages me to say No, he relieves me of duties, he lends a hand. It’s comforting to know he has my back.

2. He’s “the Dad”

I spend most of every day with our children, which means I make lots of decisions for them. But I’m also a push-over. My 10-year-old son barely bats an eye and I melt…giving candy, soda, dessert, screen time, permission. That is unless Doug has already made a judgment call. He is the final word, and they won’t mess with me if they know he has put his foot down. On everything from treats to bedtimes, movies to overnights, the buck stops with him. And I am thankful.

3. He’s also “the Principal”

Along those same Dad lines, Doug is also the principal of our homeschool. It’s nice to have his shadow looming behind me as I teach of our children. Consequently, we rarely have disciplinary issues. It’s also helpful to have another set of eyes evaluating curriculum and reviewing our schedule regularly. Just recently, I asked him to look over our plan for next year. His fresh set of eyes found a great improvement to what I had already arranged, a change that will make our lives much easier with two middle schoolers and a high schooler. He also oversees all of the music and theological education in our home.

4. He leads our family spiritually

Doug doesn’t do this because he’s a pastor, he does it because he is the head of our home. Since our evenings are often full with other commitments, he initiated Family Breakfast. We begin each day gathered around the table to share a meal and to learn as Doug leads our Bible study and reads aloud. We pray together. He prompts gospel-centered conversations with the kids, sparking great discussions about faith and practice.

5. He initiates time with me

Whether it’s prayer time, date night, weekend getaways, or conversation, Doug makes sure it happens. Before he leaves in the morning, he’ll pull me aside to pray for our day. He ensures that we have time just the two of us in the midst of a very full schedule. It could be dinner and a movie, a bed and breakfast getaway, or take-out Thai food in the basement (without the kids). And he prepares good questions to draw me into conversation with him. Sure, I plan date nights sometimes, but his leadership reassures me that he wants to spend time with me.

As I review this list, I see again that Doug’s leadership is simply an extension of his love. Could I solely make the decisions described above, could I handle being the IPR? Sure. I’m certainly capable, and Doug recognizes that. But his oversight lovingly removes the weight of that responsibility from my shoulders. We operate as a team, and in God’s wisdom, my husband carries the heavier load.