Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Posts tagged ‘relationships’

Dealing With Dysfunction

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Everyone has one in their lives- someone who just will not behave, but life circumstances force you to be together. Here are some ideas for dealing with dysfunction, that will help you maintain your own sanity.

First let’s define dysfunction: The dysfunction we are referring to here is limited to a person who repeatedly belittles you, provokes you and/or flies off the handle without provocation. They misinterpret what was said and done, sometimes on purpose, for reasons yet to be discovered. Ideally, they would do well with counseling, but they are not at a point where they will receive it. Interactions with the person are affecting your behavior and your mental health.

1. Be honest with yourself.
Too often we tell ourselves to just forget it, that we don’t know why we let them get to us, that we really should be able to handle things better etc. The fact is that words do hurt. If David, the mighty warrior, and Job, the mature, successful businessman (before the catastrophe) had cause to complain about the words of others, so will you. Words hurt, and some people use words in ways that wound. It is healthier in the long run to deal with reality rather than to deny it. The person you are having trouble with says things that are abusive and like any other form of abuse it really does affect you. So how will this help? By admitting you do hurt, (or become upset, angered etc in response to them) you can now take steps to prevent or lessen their effect on your life.

2. Set boundaries.
Since words do hurt you are going to require strategies for minimizing the damage. Some suggestions are: When dealing with a potentially explosive person, schedule positive things before and after the time you must meet with them. Set time limits on your meetings by arranging other appointments you need to go to, and do not allow yourself to become trapped or under the dysfunctional person’s authority. If you need to arrange for a hotel room instead of staying in their home do so. Will they like the boundaries? No, that is the problem with people who are dysfunctional, they do not respect the rights of others, but they are going to be upset with something sometime anyways, so it might as well be something they can vent about while you are away. Being a trapped audience to their insanity is not helping either one of you.

3. Be clear.
Do not allow yourself to be dragged into their neurosis. Dysfunctional people love to go off topic, and typically stretch the truth while doing so. The topic will typically include why you are such a bad person, and involve many accusations that have only a limited amount of truth (enough so the people around them can ‘see their point’ and be sucked in as well). Do not engage in this. When it become obvious that the person is not looking for a solution, but instead has some other hurtful agenda, steer the conversation back to whatever originally needed to be discussed, make a clear decision and then end the encounter. Likely you were trying to be nice and tried to allow them to have a say in something, but they have proven incapable of having that discussion. Since they have proven themselves to be incapable the ball is now in your court, and the decision is yours to make. Make it and be done.

4. Realize that anger begets anger.
When a person has become irrational and is now spurting accusations that have nothing to do with the topic at hand there is a very good chance you will begin to do the same. Nothing will be accomplished if you too sink to this level. There are a few ways of dealing with this. Since the person has clearly lost it, you must now consider what your relationship to the person is to determine how you wish to proceed. If it is a close relationship, you may want to get close. Though the person is obviously not handling life well, and is intent on hurting you at this moment, what they may really be saying is, ‘I don’t believe you love me.’ If this is the case, shut up and hug them. If this is not the case, and the person is behaves like this at random with everyone, disengage and leave as soon as possible. You, like everyone else, have limits. Do not allow yourself to get caught up in the drama and do, or say, something you will later regret. Disengage before this happens. (This does not mean you get to walk out on every argument you aren’t enjoying. This advice is only for dealing with people who routinely lose control and who cannot be reasoned with. For all other situations, toughing it out and actually solving the problem yields the best results.)

5. Do not allow the angry person to control your life.
Too often we become obsessed with the fact that someone is upset with us. We allow the argument to consume our thoughts, and ruminate on the many ways we are going to solve it. When it becomes obvious that this is a pattern, and not a solvable situation, stop. There are other people in your life who are not unreasonable, and who need and deserve your attention. Stop fixating on the person who is being unreasonable (You have tried and they have proven that they need more help than you can give.) and start intentionally putting your efforts into people who will receive what you have to offer. Too often families suffer because mom or dad is caught up in a drama with an adult relative who simply will not behave. Your spouse and children deserve more than this. Try to settle the dispute, and when it becomes obvious it will not be settled in the near future, disengage. You will need to deal with the problem at times, but it should not be the focus of your life.

So here it is in review:

When dealing with an unreasonable person:

1. Admit that it is tough, and plan for it by surrounding yourself with uplifting people or activities before and after you encounter the person known for tearing you down. Tough emotional situations are times you want to look and feel your best, and then allow yourself time to de-stress before you take your angst and transfer it inappropriately to someone you who does not deserve it.

2. Set time limits on every meeting with the dysfunctional person.

3. Do not get caught up in senseless arguments, but return to the topic at hand. It will be tempting to defend yourself; don’t. Name-calling behavior is never based on reality and you will only reinforce their feeling of being right to abuse you when you stoop to acting as they do.

4. End the argument by loving or leaving. Sometimes the argument is a cry for affirmation, other times it is a hostile life pattern. Decide which it is, then act. If the hug doesn’t work, or is inappropriate, exit and if necessary, try again when they have calmed down.

5. Stop thinking about it. (Easier said than done.) This one takes practice. You must remind yourself that there are more important things in life and focus on what is currently in front of you. People who know how to behave should not lose out because of those who don’t.

I hope this helps. The most freeing thing in my life has been the realization that some people are not going to be nice and there is nothing I can do about it. I try to help, but when the abuse continues, there is not much left for me to do. It is not my fault they misbehave (I did not raise them.) and there is not much I can do about it. But I can limit my exposure so that I too do not become an emotional train wreck as a result of the interaction. Words do hurt, and I am as vulnerable as the next person to emotional abuse. The difference between someone who handles these situations well and those who don’t is often the boundaries they allow themselves to set. Spending 24/7 ruminating on an abusive situation will not allow you to look at the situation with clarity and function as a sane, rational human being. Some things are not for you to solve, and some solutions come when the person realizes people will no longer stand for their behavior.

Photo by Matija Barrett

The Declaration of Independence on Relationships

The Declaration of Independence describes to all nations, not just England, what tyranny looks like, and when it is right and proper to end a relationship. While this is a relationship between Mother England and her colony, it reasonably follows that tyranny is tyranny no matter what the relationship and that the same principles that defined a tyrannical leader in the 1700s should be applicable today.

So what principles can we apply to church, home, employment etc to ensure that we, whenever we have authority, are exercising it properly, and so that we, whenever we are under authority, know when it is proper to say enough is enough?

1. Everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Any behaviors that physically affect a person, keeps them from being free to leave the situation or keeps them from pursuing their dreams is an oppressive relationship. Sure, there are always choices that must be made, and one choice often precludes another choice, but the person whose life is affected by the choice should be either part of the choice, and/or be allowed to leave and choose to pursue happiness elsewhere. (The exception to this is incarceration, where your behavior required you to be separated from others for the good of society.)

2. People should try to restore the relationship, and should not break relationships for ‘transient’ causes (things that are short-lived), but when there is a ‘long train of abuses and usurpations’ then it is a person’s right and duty to throw off this form of government.

There are two important points here:

-The colony (the person under authority) has rights that can be usurped. Being in a position of authority therefore does not give one unlimited power.

-The person who is oppressive is the one who forced the other to break the relationship. It is therefore the oppressive persons fault the relationship failed. The oppressed was correct to leave.

So let us look at the specific things that England did, and examine how an individual may oppress another individual in a similar way.

1. The King, a tyrant, refused to consent to laws for the public good.

Many leaders have this problem. They either do not like to make decisions, or do not like to take advice, so there is little guidance and direction given to the people who are under their authority. Or, if there are rules in place, the leadership undermines these rules by refusing to back up the person charged with enforcing them, by somehow negating the rule or by telling the person in violation ‘not to worry about it.’ Rules provide protection from oppression, as well as a framework that defines how the work is to be done. Too few rules, or no back up leads to the chaos of anarchy, where everyone does whatever they feel to be ‘right.’

(Today, this would be the federal government not enforcing immigration laws, and denying the states the right to handle the problems this lack of enforcement creates themselves.)

2. No one can make necessary rules without the king’s consent.

The people under the king, but over others are not able to make decisions on their own. Everything must pass through the leader (king), except that the king is not available, so when a problem occurs no one feels like they have the right to handle the situation.

3. The person in charge creates situations that make discussions, or meetings so difficult that they are not worth having.

In a marriage, or an employee/employer relationship this may be a person that refuses to listen, yells and goes on the defensive whenever they fear someone may say anything they do not wish to hear. Or they may walk away. There is no way to solve problems since there is no easy method for communication.

4. When someone does stand up for what is right, the leader removes the person, or committee, or shuts down the methods of communication.

This may be shutting down the committee that brought the problem to their attention, removing the suggestion box, refusing to go to counseling/mediation or just being generally unavailable so that no conversations may occur. The person does not like the methods used by the person bringing the matter to their attention and makes no effort to offer another solution to facilitate conversation in a timely manner.

5. The leader makes the people under them aware that life will not go well for them if they do not cater to his whims.

The people under him are scared to disagree. They know that there will be things withheld or they may even lose their position if they do not keep the leader happy.

6. A tyrant also harasses people.

Why? To let them know that, if they think life is bad now, he has the power to make it worse. This keeps people fearful. They know the situation is bad, but they also know it will get worse if they make the leader unhappy by trying to change it.

7. The leader also uses an unreasonable amount of resources.

The person in charge feels that, because they are in charge, they are entitled to use the resources freely, without thought about the people under them and what they might need. In a home, this may be watching what you want on T.V. without thought to what others may wish to see, or what might be appropriate for young children. It may also be spending recklessly, even if it is within the ‘rules,’ even money is tight. In the home this attitude would be, ‘I make the money, so I am entitled to enjoy it.’
A leader in the workplace, or in government is responsible for making right and proper decisions, not skirting the rules so that things work to their, or the people they prefer’s, advantage.
This is not the attitude of someone with a servant’s heart who wants to see their family, business or country prosper.

8. A tyrant also maintains methods of keeping people in line when there is no reason to do so.

The people under this leader have given no indication that they may behave badly, yet the tyrant sets up rules and processes by which to catch people in the act of committing crimes there is no reason to assume they will commit. This creates an atmosphere of fear and perfectionism, where everyone under this authority is afraid of being caught making a mistake. Leaders who do this, like the King of England, often have a group of informants whose word trumps even the most respected people outside their circle. Signs of this type of leadership include excessive security cameras trained on the staff and people who fear meetings since they assume they may be called on the carpet for something at any minute, even though they cannot think of anything they could have done to deserve such treatment.

9. A leader does not respect the rights of the people under them.

For the King of England, this meant that he could quarter troops in private citizens’ homes. In a church, this style of leadership causes members of the congregation to feel that they cannot say no to requests on their time, hospitality or donation of money. In a family, this means you really should talk with your spouse before inviting people over, especially if it is for an extended stay. In the extreme this means, do not tell your mother she can move in with you without speaking to your spouse first!

10. Mock trials: A leader pretends to listen and play fair, but everyone knows the situation has already been decided and the process is a sham.

I attended a meeting once about a Bible study curriculum I did not feel was accurate. When I arrived the DVD series was not available to reference, and it was clear the decision was already made, regardless of what I may have to say, since the ‘decision maker’ was absent and someone was sent with typed notes in their place. Any time you decide to ‘humor’ a person, rather than getting to the root of the problem (which may be the person’s behavior, stubbornness or lack of knowledge) you have circumvented the process of true justice which, if done correctly, should lead to increased knowledge and maturity.

11. Cutting off trade and imposing unreasonable taxes.

A leader who limits what people can do outside of their authority, or makes a person jump through unnecessary hoops to serve is in spirit doing the same thing. They are restricting the opportunities a person has to use their skills in a productive way. This may occur in a marriage when one spouse places unreasonable demands on another that thwarts their ability to get a job or an education, instead of coming up along side of them to help them succeed. In a church, this may be excessive requirements for even the most qualified to go through before they may serve. Often these are tests of ‘loyalty’ designed to produce ‘yes-men’ who will give the leader little trouble even when what he wants to do is complete folly.

12. Creating pretend offenses that people under them must answer for.

A despot of a leader often has thin skin and believes that many completely innocent actions are really secret passive-aggressive moves aimed against them. Typically this is because the leader engages in passive-aggressive behavior and so believes that everyone around them is as guilty as they are. Sometimes is it the result of past bullies, who, because the leader was not sure of himself, were allowed to attack him and those he loves for far too long. Many discussions about supposed backstabbing are a sign that this may be the issue.

13. Arbitrary and constantly changing rules that the leader does not apply to everyone.

A tyrant by definition wants things his or her way. They are controlling and a symptom of this is that the rules do not apply to them, or the people they currently favor. Why? Because the rules are not about right or wrong, they are about controlling the people they do not see as worthy. The rules change frequently because they are based on the leader creating the environment they desire and not about what is truly right in each situation.

14. A tyrant feels free to change agreements whenever they wish, even agreements that were put into writing.

This type of leader believes that leadership means they can do whatever they want. Meeting times and other plans will often change at the last minute to fit their needs, because their schedule and what they do in life is very important. They do not see that this has any negative affect on those around them, since they view others as having less important things to do.

15. Declaring people ‘out of his protection’ and waging war against them is his way of maintaining control.

If you do not please this leader he will deny you the things that are under his control that are necessary for you to do your part in the relationship. He will go further and punish you for not doing what he has denied you the ability to do by withholding the resources (which may be information), or creating a time crunch so you will have to rush to get what he wants done, even though others have known about it for weeks.

16. He will enlist others to ‘punish’ you as well.

There are many types of mercenaries, and many reasons why people will be a mercenary even today. Sometimes it is just lack of information. The leader, who is trusted because of his position, has twisted the facts and painted such a bad picture of the person they are thwarting that other people react badly to the person as well. At other times, blind loyalty, or not wanting to be on the leader’s bad side themselves motivates others to avoid and alienate the person the leader is currently displeased with. The addition of these ‘mercenaries’ typically makes the person under such authority leave the situation. While this happens in a church or work environment, this can also happen in a family. Be cautious of the person who is always on the phone telling you how awful so-and-so is.

17. A tyrant incites trouble within the organization or group they are in charge of.

These are people who stir up strife. They are typically experts at making it look like they are not involved and are the only sane person in the situation. But, when there is a pattern of upset people around the person in charge, look closely. There are people who know exactly what to say to create contention. Why? So they can be the heroes; the only person everyone likes, and the person people go to with their problems. It is a way to gain power and control, although it may just be a sign of ineptitude. (i.e. I do not know how to lead, so I play the devil’s advocate to avoid a decision, and then blame the people I riled up for the delay in progress.)

Also contained in the Declaration are the things good people do to rectify these situations. They:

1. They address their problems to the appropriate people humbly.

2. They warn others of the leader’s behavior because they do not want to see them hurt. (This is not malicious gossip, since its intent is to help and the information is pertinent to the situation.)

3. They remind people of the agreements that were made, and show how the leader violated these agreements. (These are not charges with no basis, but things that can be proven and reviewed by others. Good people want the matter out in the open, where people can decide for themselves what is right or wrong. Tyrants want everything hushed up and kept secret. They believe that no one, even people who are appropriate to help in these situations, needs to know their business.)

4. Good people understand that oppression is intolerable and that there is a time when separation is necessary, although that time is only after many, many attempts to reconcile have been tried.

In short, a tyrant’s goal is not justice, but control. Their wish is for everything that is not to their liking to just go away. They punish anyone who doubts their way of doing things, they do not like constructive criticism and tend to see others who do not share their views as being out to get them. Tyrants create fictions about why people should blindly obey or follow them. Even when their motivations are good, they do not feel the need to explain themselves, which makes it difficult for people to follow them, since they do not understand why they are doing the things they were instructed to do. Tyrants may appear anywhere, and are not always the people who have actual positional authority. (For example, many three-year-olds are effective tyrants in homes where parental authority is lacking.) The root of tyranny is selfishness, and a belief that my way is the best way. A tyrant may do many good things, but it is because it serves their own interests (which may be being perceived as good) and not because it is the right and proper thing to do. Life with a tyrant has many ups and downs because it is the rules of whims and not the rule of righteousness that takes precedence (though a tyrant may cite the law, and what is right, when it suits his purpose, but abandons it, or sites a contradictory rule, when it does not).

I hope this helps you sort out the situations you are facing. Many people feel guilty leaving oppressive situations, or standing up and doing anything about them, when the fault and reason something must be done has nothing to do with their behavior, and everything to do with the person over them behaving as if they were the only one whose wants and opinions truly matter. (And yes, we can apply this to the situations in our government as well…)

Paying For Sex


I just read a social media post that looked like a list of New Year’s resolutions (It is that time of year after all.) and on it was ‘stop paying for sex.’ Now I do not know this young man well, but from what I do know I have reason to doubt he is speaking about prostitution. (Or maybe I am being naive, I can be you know.) Which led me to think, ‘What would make a married man feel like he must ‘pay’ for sex with his wife?’

And I began to think of all of the passive-aggressive relationships I have witnessed. And thought, ‘This really could happen.’

While it is true that women tend not to be all that receptive when there are unresolved issues in a marriage, and it is equally true that women tend to be more receptive when their husbands do little things, like helping with a chore that is typically done by her, that show that he loves her, there are times when it becomes more than this. When a spouse becomes petulant when they do not get their way, and only does what the other one wants if the other one caters to their every whim and desire. There are times when human beings slip into very controlling behaviors without noticing it.

And this should not be. Marriage should be about agape love. A love that is there whether, or not, things go exactly as we wanted them to. A love that allows the little things to slide.

So how do we know if we have jumped over to the ugly other side?

There’s likely no way to know other than an honest talk with your spouse.

But don’t have that talk unless you are willing to hear some truth and change. Every marriage needs tweaking. It is good to discuss things that are not quite right. But only if the aim is to fix them.

If you are not ready to hear an honest assessment of how your spouse views life, then don’t go there until you have worked on your own issues surrounding why you can’t handle hearing that maybe you need to change too.

Marriages work when two people honestly communicate about everything. They are less fulfilling when one must tip-toe around telling the other something for fear they will blow up and life will become worse.

So have the conversation. Be willing to compromise and make changes, and for heavens sake, protect the marriage bed! No one should be made to feel like he needs to ‘pay’ before going to bed with his own wife.

Photo by Matija Barrett

For Everyone Who Gets Drawn Into Chaos… Here’s An Answer

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Philippians 4: 8 is contained within a letter that addresses two women who are fighting with each other and what to do when people think differently. This verse is not the whole answer, but it does address what we are to do within ourselves to keep the peace.

It is about what we are to focus our thoughts on.

And it does not say to focus on what the other person said, or did to you. Nor does it say to focus on whatever you believe to be ‘stupid,’ and ‘ungodly.’ Instead it tells us to focus on the truth, not on our opinion of the truth, but on what scripture actually says, because that is the only truth. It is only then that we may accurately discern what is right, and find the ways to explain it to others (rather than yell and try to cram the same things down their throats over and over again).
We are also to focus on what is noble. Wanting to tear someone apart is not typically ‘noble’ behavior, so all of those thoughts about what you would like to see happen to the other person need to be pushed aside. What is noble is to work in the best interests of those with whom you disagree. This may not mean that you buddy up to them and become their best friend. There are very real reasons why we sometimes disagree, and the Bible does tell us to stay far from the wicked and the hot tempered. But, as hard as it may be to do so, we are to focus on being the best person we can be.

This involves doing what is right. So there is no thought of doing anything vindictive, or passive-aggressive to get the person back. We are to do what is right to do. This also means that we do what is right with regards to the rest of our relationships as well. We do not allow the person we are in conflict with to consume us so that we do not function well in the other areas of our life. We also do not drop everything to run and cater to the person whom we are in conflict with when they make unreasonable demands. Bad behavior is often a ploy to get attention and love in an unhealthy way. Dropping everything in hopes of fixing a relationship over and over again will only reinforce needy behavior, make you miserable, and strain your healthy relationships. Doing what is ‘right’ means that you try to fix the things you can, but you also recognize when someone is being unreasonable, and you do not deprive those who are behaving for unreasonable requests.

We are also to think about what is pure. Your love for your spouse, your children, your love for the Lord- those things are pure, and deserving of your attention. Thinking about what mean thing so-and-so-said, or how much you hate someone is not. Re-focus your attention to the good in your life. Focus on what the people around you do right, rather than on what they do wrong. And learn to put the people who frequently abuse you into a low-priority slot when it comes to the things you allow yourself to think on.

Think about what is ‘lovely’ to you. God created the world and put some impressively talented people in it. Surround yourself with things that you find pleasing. Grow flowers, invest in art if that is what pleases you. I like earth-toned, well-worn objects and my children’s creations. What is ‘lovely’ to you does not have to be ‘lovely’ to everyone. Make sure your home is calming. Play music and create beautiful memories.

Think about what is admirable. When the Sandy Hook massacre happened old advice from Mr. Rogers was circulated telling us to help our children focus on the people who helped and not the man who caused the hurt. While bad people exist in this world it is still amazing to see how many people come together to help when they are needed, even to the point of giving their own lives. Focus on those who sacrifice- the police, firemen, rescue workers. And teach your children about the heroes. Sadly we probably know more about Hitler than we do Mother Theresa. This should change. People need role models to understand what it is to be admirable. Focus on those who are and apply their example to your own life as well.

Finally, we are told to think about what is excellent, or praiseworthy. It is empowering to see what someone else has done well, and doing well is what we should strive for. We are not to settle for less than we could achieve, but instead we were made to use our talents in ways that only we, being unique, could. And we are to praise those who do well. Lifting up people who go above and beyond encourages them and others to do even more. Praise, given when something is truly praiseworthy, buoys the spirit and gives one energy to push even further. Admiring what is good also makes it difficult to have the conflicting emotion that comes with focusing on what is bad. Keep life in perspective, and remember that the ‘good’ deserves more of your attention than the ‘bad.’ It is not that we do not take care of the problems, but when they are done being handled, we are to move on to more wholesome thoughts, trusting God to do the rest in His time.

So, do not allow petty disagreements to consume you, leaving you unavailable for other people who have not recently mistreated you. While words do hurt, we must work to avoid allowing the problems in our lives to be the primary focus of our attention. In doing this we deprive good people of the love and care they deserve from us as well. Prioritize those who treat you well. Not the flatterers, but the ones who truly have your back and love you.

You have a choice. You can fill your head with garbage, awful thoughts that depress and consume. And you can fill your time with people with whom nothing ever seems to go right and you are always crying over. Or, you can choose something different. You can seek people who don’t invite drama into their relationships (be warned, they prioritize well, so you will not have their constant attention- this is co-dependency and it is not healthy!). You can seek to surround yourself with what is good, and focus on what is positive, instead of what is negative. This is what is healthy. This is what allows you to love, and be free and feel joy. This is what God wants for your life.

Will petty squabbles come? Yes. But they are not to consume you. In a healthy relationship there will be fights and misunderstandings, but they will be resolved and as the relationship grows they will become fewer. Immature relationships are marked with frequent fighting, that seems to be resolved, usually with a overly emotional ending where everyone loves each other again, only to be re-enacted in the near future. These are the relationships you need to set boundaries on and de-prioritize. They resolve more quickly when they receive less attention, but it is really the maturing process of the person who engages in this behavior that will determine how long they last, not you, so do what you can, leave it to God and think on other things.

Keeping Your Marriage Hot!

There have been more than a few people on Twitter asking how to keep marriage ‘hot’ after children, so I figured I’d share a few things we’ve learned along the way. If you don’t like TMI, I’d stop here. Otherwise, I hope you find something here you can enjoy!

1. Date Night.
Romance starts with the relationship. In order to keep the romance alive, you need to take time to be together and talk. Set aside one night a week to go out. Go someplace you can talk. No chores. No movies. Go someplace you can connect and be romantic. Without trust and a feeling of connectedness, sex, at least for most women, is not nearly as good. So men, talk to her, hold her and make her feel loved. And don’t do stupid things that put her on edge and make her feel like she cannot trust you. (Like what she considers reckless driving, reckless spending etc.) She needs to feel she can trust you before she can fully enjoy you!

2. Sexy underwear.
Wives, invest in nice underwear. If you buy things that must be put on before bed you will rarely wear them. Instead pick things you can wear under your clothes comfortably so you are ready for the night. Sexy underwear also keeps your mind on the fact that there is something to look forward to later tonight. You’d be surprised how much you can wear all day- just don’t go to the gym in it…

3. Share your fantasies.
Talk about what you might like to do. While some of them may be out of the question, they can be modified. Make an effort to try new things. Make it part of your ‘to do’ list. Get creative. Nothing kills romance faster than routine. Don’t get stuck in a rut.

4. Make sure she has ‘fun’ too.
As a couple we read an article that stated that most sex ends when the husband is done. The woman reaches her end only about half of the time at best. And, it usually takes a woman at least 45 minutes to ‘get there,’ on average. My husband took this to heart, and saw it as unfair, especially since a woman’s body can ‘have fun’ more than once. Making the encounter incredibly ‘fun’ for the woman most of the time increases the woman’s interest in doing it more often.

5. You don’t have to get to the end.
You’re married. Sex does not have to end, you will see this person again, hopefully soon. If you only have a few minutes here and there during the day take advantage of them. It keeps you interested, it is pleasant, and an unexpected side effect is that, if the process is drawn out over, let’s say weeks, the male experience is very much increased. So increased that he may begin to want to wait, and just ‘play.’ This is not withholding sex. This is week-long foreplay. There is a difference. (And when children crawl into your bed, sometimes it’s the best you can do!)

6. Get a hotel room.
Get a babysitter and take time for each other. You don’t have to stay all night.

7. Be honest with each other.
Tell each other what you like and what doesn’t quite do it for you. You don’t have enough time to waste on things that aren’t ‘effective.’ Be honest, and don’t be offended. Your goal is to please the other. Talk honestly and get good at it! And whatever you do, do not play games! Say what you mean, all the time in everything. And don’t expect your spouse to take a hint. If you are in the mood, be direct. It’s okay if they say ‘not now please,’ but sometimes you miss your chance because both of you thought the other person wasn’t ready. It’s actually very freeing once you get used to it. Be honest about everything else as well. Emotional guessing games where someone ‘should have known’ damage a relationship, and make you less eager to be with one another.

8. Take turns.
Occasionally it’s nice to have a time when the focus is entirely on one person. Just make sure it’s done fairly.

9. Use everyday necessities to excite each other.
Shower together occasionally. Let him watch you change, especially if you are putting on the ‘nice’ underwear. Touch each other. Hold hands. Rub shoulders. Do chores together and play. And, if possible, take advantage of ‘nap time’ to take a ‘nap’ yourselves. (Yes, that is a euphemism!)

10. Have fun.
Make sure you are having fun. Play with the children together. Joke, laugh, watch movies. Give up your solo time and learn to enjoy life together.

11. Don’t forget to do the little things.
Buy her flowers. Make his favorite meal. Do what you did while you were dating that told the other person they are ‘special.’ Don’t get so caught up in the children that what they want trumps everything else, so you are no longer doing things for your spouse. The children learn to honor their parents by how you treat each other, so set the example well. (My 16 year old son just took out the glass wear and dishes we almost never use and washed them thoroughly for me, just to bless me. He saw a need, and acted on it. Guess where he learned to do things like that from… Who doesn’t want a guy like him as their daughter’s husband?!)

12. Keep life simple.
Don’t let ‘busyness’ take away your fun. And, don’t let emotional people (typically extended family members) hijack your emotional wellbeing. Set boundaries and make sure you are fully there for each other. Life is too short to be wrapped up in drama, and one missed sport season is not going to destroy your child’s life. Plus more time with the family may help ensure your children actually have a relationship with their parents.

13. Make sure the other person is well rested.
Take time to nap, or let your spouse nap. Tired people are rarely romantic.

14. Sneak away.
If there are children in your room, find another ‘appropriate’ place to play. Guest rooms are great, but not everyone has one. Get creative. Just because the child is asleep in your bed does not mean you are trapped there!

15. Remember you are sexy.
Keep your self-esteem up. You are the only person your spouse has. Women, if you have gained weight, enjoy your curves. Men, most women care about how you treat them (i.e. How much you listen to them, and how much you notice things about them.) more than what you look like. So be sexy by paying attention to her! (Have you noticed that a woman’s most common complaint is that you don’t listen?) Learn what she like, dislikes, how she does things etc. One of the most endearing things my husband said to me recently was, ‘I didn’t know you don’t use conditioner every day.’ It means he’s still paying attention, and that is good.

I hope this helps. Just know that at 43 year old, seven kids, and 19 years of marriage, married life can still be very good. Very, very good in fact… So Enjoy!

*Warning: Getting good at these activities can result in very large families.

Men and the Laundry Hamper

Ever noticed that, when you get a group of wives together there is a topic that repeatedly comes up? It can be any group of wives. Rich, poor, working, stay-at-home, you name it, there seems to be a single theme: Men, on average, cannot get their clothing into the appropriate hampers at night.

Why is this? All of the men I know are wonderful husbands who would lay down their lives for their wife and kids. Work a second job? No problem. Take the child to a doctor’s appointment; sit in Chuck-E-Cheese for three hours? No complaints. But when it comes to putting socks into a hamper no amount of nagging seems to work!

Now, just as a disclaimer, my husband actually puts his stuff into the hamper. It involved adopting 3 older children when I had four children, newborn to 4 1/2 years old in the home, but it did happen. I would not recommend going to this extreme just to get his socks off the floor though.

What does interest me is why men seem to buck doing this simple task for the woman they obviously love. They will take out the garbage, put gas in the car, but not pick up the socks. Hmmm.

The problem is, for women this is a big problem. It frustrates them. They cannot figure it out. One woman I know went on strike. Her washing machine was in an alcove across from their bedroom. Every night her husband aimed his clothing towards the alcove so his clothes ended up on the floor of the hallway outside their room. No amount of talking helped, so she stopped picking them up. If the clothes weren’t in the hamper, they were not getting washed. Eventually he ran out of clean clothes. After stepping over his growing mound of unwashed boxers he asked his wife, ‘Honey, do you know where my clean clothes are?’ Yeah, no clue.

As I said, these men are not dumb, nor are they lazy. There is just something in our society that causes grown men to view the laundry hamper as public enemy number one, to be avoided at all costs. Maybe we women make it too hard on them. After all, the majority of us do tend towards buying the nicer hampers with the lids. Maybe if we bought a cheap plastic one and left the top completely open we’d have more luck. Who knows?

What I do know however is a wife, who gave up her career, (and the chance for any mature conversation that doesn’t involve talking about the kids), who is currently at home eating mac and cheese, watching reruns of the latest mind-numbing show kids like, and picking up the same toys she picked up, and stepped on, an hour ago, who knows her husband is having a fancy lunch meeting today is not going to be pleased to have to pick up her husband’s socks too.

The best way I have to explain it is: If you want your wife’s respect, and, more importantly, if you want your wife to see you as a sexual being and not another two-year-old she has to pick up after, get the stuff in the hamper!

I think I’ve made myself clear. Now go have a nice day.

Photo by Matija Barrett

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