Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Making time for intimacy

Time is a precious commodity.  You can not buy it, you can not earn it, you can not sell it, and you can not bank it.  Everybody has the same amount of time every day and all you can do is exchange that time for something else.  You can trade time for money, entertainment, education, exercise or sleep, and you can trade that time for sexual and/or non-sexual intimacy with your spouse.

It's easy reach the end of the day where your remaining time must be traded for sleep without trading any significant amount of it for those things that will make your marriage stronger and more joyful.  If this happens too often then the relationship will suffer from neglect.  If you are finding it a challenge to give your marriage the time it needs, consider the following ways to try and change that:

Obligations, Urgencies and Priorities
Our relationship with our spouse should be a very high priority.  Ideally we would spend our time according to our priorities, but that isn't always the case.  We have obligations that demand specific blocks of our time even though they might not be as high a priority as our marriage.  Urgencies also override our priorities.

Ask yourself if you should reduce the obligations you have.  Sometimes when a couple starts to drift apart they can start to fill that void with other interests and activities only to have those things take up so much of their time that it prevents any healing and reconnecting in the relationship.  Are there obligations that you should let go of for the sake of having more time together as a couple?  Are you trading time for what is good instead of what is best?

If you find too much of your time is spend responding to urgencies, is there something you can do to prevent them?  Are there others who can step up to help?

Having a specific night each week set aside as date night is as important to a marriage as Family Home Evening is to a family.  Dates do not have to cost money, it just has to give you time together with minimal outside distractions.

That is not the limit of planning however.  There are lots of little things a spouse can do to show their love, but often nobody thinks to do them.  Rather than rely on inspiration to hit at the right time, we can make plans for doing those things.  Smartphones have alarms and calendar apps that we can use to help.  A husband can set a reminder to pick up some flowers for his wife on his way home on Monday and to mail her a card next Thursday, a wife can set a reminder make his favorite meal on Wednesday and to really spice things up in the bedroom next Saturday evening.  Both can pepper their calendars with reminders for many different displays of love through the month.

Also make a point of planning ahead for special occasions.  Birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, and Christmas should not be last minute afterthoughts.  Be aware of them and plan well in advance how you are going to use the occasion to make your spouse feel loved and appreciated.

Planning specific nights for sexual intimacy was something that really helped my marriage.   Leaving it unplanned, then raising the question right at the end of the day when we were both at our lowest energy point was not a good strategy for us.  When there are specific days where it is understood that sex will happen there can be anticipation and preparation, spouses can hold energy in reserve for what they know is coming and arrive at the bedroom mentally and emotionally primed.  Nor does sex have to happen in the evening.  It can happen right before supper, as soon as you get home from church, in the morning before leaving for work, anytime that works for both of you. Make the world wait for you for a change.

Be creative and flexible with your plans.  And just because you have sex planned on some nights doesn't mean you can't have spontaneous sex at other times. 

There are many ways we can combine non-sexual intimacy with everyday life.  Send a flirty or romantic text when on a break at work.  Go grocery shopping together.  Fold laundry together while watching a romantic movie or just use the time to talk with each other.  I love to sit in Sacrament meeting with my arm around her shoulder, her snuggling into me.  She knows if she leans forward she'll get a back scratch.  Be aware of the opportunities you have to include affectionate touch and loving words into each day.  This is the start of foreplay.

When we trade our time wisely, it becomes an investment.  While the return on that investment won't come in terms of more time, it will come in terms of better times.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Sex and Exaltation

We Latter-Day Saints have a unique perspective on marriage.  That in turn give us a perspective on marital intimacy that is also unique, but I think in many cases we do not fully appreciate the importance sex when it comes to our own exaltation in the kingdom of God.

Now I can tell from the stats for this blog that there are more than a few visitors that come here from Christian marriage websites that are not LDS, and that is great.  I hope you feel welcome here.  Most of the things I've posted have been principles that are pretty universally accepted across all Christian faiths, even if I do quote from sources that a non-Mormon would not consider authoritative.

This post will be different.  I'm going to delve into some doctrines unique to Mormonism and how they relate to the intimate side of marriage.  Those of you who are not Mormons are welcome to read on, and I'll try and make it understandable for you as I can by explaining and linking to sites that will explain concepts you may not be familiar with.  There are some things however that you may find hard to accept or even offensive.  I hope you will use this as an opportunity to understand Mormons better.  If you have questions you can post them as comments and I'll be happy to address them, but disrespect, hostility, trolling etc. will not be tolerated.

Right From The Start
We believe that before mortal life our spirits lived with God, and he created the earth for us to have a place to obtain a physical body (among other reasons).  We do not know much about our premortal life, but one thing we do know is that even as premortal spirits we had a gender.  The Proclamation on the Family states:  "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."

Consider the implications of that.  Your gender is not solely a physical characteristic, your spirit itself is male or female, matching the gender of the body (barring genetic abnormalities), and it was like that even before your birth.  The Brother of Jared saw the premortal Christ and thought he was seeing a man of flesh and blood, yet Christ told him that the body of his spirit was as his physical body would appear after his birth (Ether 3:8-16)

In Paradise And Mortality
In the creation God made Adam and Eve, who were male and female beings.  He made them husband and wife to each.  They were sexual beings, married and able to lawfully enjoy sexual intimacy when the earth was still a paradise untouched by sin.  In fact they were commanded other to have children, become one flesh and to cleave to each other. (Gen 2:24-25)  This again underscores the eternal nature of our sexuality, and also indicates that the ideal eternal state desired by God is for a man and a woman to be together as husband and wife in a marriage that includes sexual intimacy.

From all this we can see that our sexual nature doesn't end with the death of the body, it is an eternal characteristic of who we are.

Salvation, Exaltation and Sexual Intimacy
Thanks to Christ`s atonement, at some point after death comes the Resurrection. Every person who has ever lived will be resurrected and have a perfected and immortal version of their physical body having the same gender they were born with. (Alma 11:44).

Right after the Resurrection comes the Final Judgement.  While Christ`s atonement saves all mankind from death unconditionally, salvation from sin comes on condition of repentance (Luke 13:3).  Those who have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb are judged and will be assigned to one of the Three Degrees of Glory (or Three Kingdoms of Glory) according to their works (Rev 20:12).  Anybody who makes it to any of those kingdoms is saved from sin and death, but only those who make it to the highest glory are exalted.

One thing that really sets Mormonism apart from other Christian faith is our belief that because of the atonement we have the potential to become like God.  This was actually something that several early Christian fathers like Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and others taught in the early days of the church.  Only those who make it to the Celestial Kingdom will be able to obtain exaltation but they also need to be in an eternal marriage (D&C 131:1-2).  Often we think of that only in terms of having the temple ceremony done to seal a marriage for time and all eternity, but really there are 3 components that are needed for a marriage to be eternal.

1) The willingness of both the husband and the wife
2) The sealing ordinance performed by Priesthood authority
3) The sealing of the covenant by the Holy Spirit of promise

It is only after the Holy Spirit of promise seals the marriage that it truly is eternal, and that doesn't happen until the Final Judgement.  Being married in the temple by itself doesn't mean anything if spouses do not keep their covenants, or if their life together is so unpleasant that they no long wish to be together forever.  If either spouse is no longer willing on judgment day, the Holy Spirit of promise will not seal it and the marriage will come to an end there (D&C 132:18).

Couples who do qualify for the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom receive the greatest blessings possible:
Doctrine & Covenants 132:19-20
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection;... and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
 20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end;... (D&C 132:19-20)
God's law is that sexual relationships must only take place between a husband and wife, and because of that sex has been called the defining characteristic of marriage.  From the above however we can see that in the eternities sexual intimacy is also a defining characteristic of godhood itself.  Only those who are exalted to that level will have a spouse, and through that intimacy they will have 'continuation of seeds forever and ever' and 'have no end'.  This point was also touched on recently by Sister Nelson speaking at a recent YSA Worldwide Fireside where she said "God-ordained marital intimacy is glorious and will continue eternally for covenant-keeping husbands and wives."

Putting Sexual Intimacy Into An Eternal Perspective
This is why sexual intimacy is such a sacred thing.  It is why abuses like homosexuality or fornication or adultery are serious moral wrongs, because they desecrate something sacred and godly. It is also why it is important for spouses to work out how to have a mutually satisfying intimate relationship with each other. 

It is so much more than finding a way to live together happily in mortality.  It is a stewardship we will have to account for, and like in the parable of the talents a spouse is expected to put they God given sexuality to good use, not bury it like the unprofitable servant.  The bottom line is that when spouses work to improve the intimate side of their marriage they are working towards their exaltation and preparing for eternity.  Perfection will not be achieved in this world in this or any other area, but working to improve in this area is something we should take as serious as working to improve our faith and obedience to God.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Gift Ideas For A Stronger Marriage

The birth of Christ was a divine expression of God's love for us.  Christ gave up so much to come down here, and he did it for us, not for himself.  The gifts we give each other at Christmas should also be an expression of our love for those around us, and a well chosen gift for our spouse can not just express our feelings, but also serve to strengthen the relationship. Below are some gift ideas for things help to do that...

Coupon book
This is one that you can put together for pennies, but it may take some time.  There are ready made coupon books for couples, I would recommend making your own and using the Five Love Languages as a guide for creating both sexual and other coupons.  Some examples are:

Words of affirmation coupons good for things like a love letter or 5 minutes of sincere praise and gratitude.
Acts of Service coupons for specific chores or favors you are willing to do for your spouse that you normally don't do, and know they don't enjoy doing
Physical Touch coupons good for things like a 30 second kiss, a half hour of just cuddling, a shower together, making out in the car, a back rub, a foot massage, specific sexual acts, positions acting out specific fantasies
Quality Time coupons like letting them pick what you do for date night, or what movie you will watch, going for a walk, or reading a book together.

Just be sure that each coupon is for something you intend to joyfully provide, you are committing yourself to do those things.  Also, if there is something you would like to try with your spouse and have been hesitant to ask for, you can create a coupon around that as a way to gently invite them to do that with you.

Some Time At The Spa
Most local spas offer gift certificates that can be given as a gift. Some spas do couple's massages where the two of you can lay on massage tables side by side, holding hands as you each get a massage.  Saunas can be a nice place to make out too, but if you plan on doing anything like that be sure to check what kind of sauna they have first.  Some of them are so tiny there is no room to have fun.

A Short Story
If you ever wanted to try your hand at being a writer, you can write a short erotic story for your spouse staring the two of you.  You can start with a realistic situation, like the kids all take off to spend the weekend with their grandparents leaving the two of you alone, of more fantasy based.  Be daring and specific in terms of the plot and the language.  Fantasizing about being sexual with somebody you are actually allowed to be sexual with is not wrong.  If your wife likes romance novels she'll love this, and most every guy loves to see passion in his wife.  For extra kick, read it out loud to them when you are in bed together.

Tickets to a concert, play or sports event
Pick something they would love to see and get two tickets.  One of those tickets is for you, not a friend of your spouse.  Even if it is something they love and you can't stand, go, enjoy being with them and choose to have fun.  You may find your horizons broadened.

Guys, don't buy lingerie for your wife.  They know that it is really for you, and chances are what  you pick out won't work as well for them as what they would pick for themselves.  Even a gift card has that 'This present is for me you' feeling.

Ladies, YOU go buy some lingerie for yourself.  Pick out something that makes you feel sexy and remember that 'the more it teases the more it pleases'.  If you look like your are about 3 seconds away from being naked then you are on the right track.

Gift wrap it and give it to you husband to unwrap when the kids aren't around.  Enjoy the look on his face when he realizes what it is and have a good laugh, then put it to good use (and not just that one night either).

Another options is to go shopping for it together.  It's a great way to spend (the first part) of date night.

A Marriage Strengthening Book
This one can be a bit risky.  You don't want to pick a book that makes your spouse feel like they are being criticized or that you are out to 'fix' them.  Instead pick books that will help you do fun things together. There are a number of books out there on fun things couples can do for date night, or books/videos teaching you how to give a massage to each other.  I would encourage you to not order those books online, but go out to your bookstore where you can look through them for a bit first and make sure they are right for you.  With a how-to book on massage you can add in some massage oil and thick bathrobes and make a nice package out of it.

An Intimate Game
There are also a lot of games on the market for couples who want to combine the fun of game night with the fun of intimacy.  You do have to be careful however, the artwork on the box or game pieces may not be appropriate, and the game play may wind up making somebody feel on the spot about doing something they are not comfortable with.  Check the reviews for comments about that and also be sure the game can be customized to suit your tastes. Another option is to make your own game, or invent sexy rules to a game you already have.  Strip Uno?

Yes, this one can be expensive, but I'm not talking about buying some nice jewelry just because it is nice.  Find something that will be a symbol or reminder of something that connects the two of you, something meaningful.  For men it can be cuff-links, or a tie clip, or a ring

It isn't about what it costs, it is about what it means.  I gave my wife a pendant that was made mostly of wood, but it was wood that came from the tree where I asked if she would marry me.

These are just some initial suggestions, feel free to post any additional ideas in the comments below.  You might also want to write out a special Christmas Wish List just for your spouse's eyes only.

Whatever you do this Christmas for gifts, be sure to make your spouse feel loved.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Making The Holidays Merry For Your Marriage

Christmas is a wonderful time, but often it introduces stressful moments and new demands on us that can take a toll on our relationship with our spouse.  It doesn't have to be that way though, Christmas can (and should) be a time where your emotional, spiritual, and sexual bonds with each other are strengthened.  Christ came to this world to make it possible for you and your family to be together forever.  He wouldn't want the celebration of his birth to become an obstacle to having a wonderful relationship with your spouse.  Here are some suggestions to help Christmas become something that strengthens your marriage:

Do Christmas Things Together
There are lots of tasks that are specific to Christmas.  Putting up the tree and decorating it, putting up Christmas lights outside, shopping for gifts, baking, cooking Christmas dinner, etc. etc. etc.  While it is not practical to do all of those things as a couple, there are many that can be shared.  Shopping for gifts for the kids together can be a great date night activity.  Men, don't assume you can't help with Christmas dinner, ask what you can do to help.

Often Christmas opens up opportunities to serve others, and this is something that can sometimes be done as a couple.  Also, going a little further out of our way to serve our spouse and express gratitude for them is very much in keeping with the spirit of Christmas and helps shed holiday stress

Keep The Spirit In Your Home 
Christmas can make it easier to keep the spirit in your home.  Music can be a powerful force to bring in the spirit, and Christmas overflows with music.  Play positive Christmas music softly in the background to create that Christmas feeling in the home and car.  Likewise, there are inspiring Christmas movies that also invite the spirit into your home.

Above all, do not let the business of Christmas keep you from having family prayer, prayer with your spouse, personal prayer, family home evening, and personal and family scripture study.  Be sure that the parts of the scriptures relevant to Christmas are read aloud at some point.

Family Traditions
For a newly married couple, each will have their own families traditions they grew up with, and over the years they will merge and augment those to form their own unique way of celebrating.  My father came from Scandinavia.  Our Christmas traditions were influenced by those of his homeland.  When my wife and I started having Christmas on our own rather than at her parent's or mine, we had to define what 'our' Christmas would be like.

Traditions are good when they remind us of important things and help bring us closer together.  If you don't have some Christmas traditions unique to your family, it is never too late to start one.  One we started for our family is that each year we get a new ornament for the tree that in some way refers to one or more important events from the past year.   We have a ornaments that commemorate the births of our children, the purchase of our first home, and other milestones.  This has made decorating the Christmas tree a trip down memory lane, a reminder of the blessings we have received over the years.

Make Time For Intimacy, And Make It Special
Absolutely do not let intimacy take a back seat to Christmas preparations, instead take the opportunity to make it something extra special.  Deliberately plan your days and evenings so that you will have time and energy for each other.  Make yourself a gift for your spouse, literally even!  There are a lot of Christmas themed things that can be done to spice things up.  You can even have intimate Christmas traditions that only the two of you know about.   You can send each other Christmas wish lists that are for their eyes only and set about making something from your spouse's list your gift to them.

Don't limit intimacy to the bedroom either, go for a romantic walk in the snow, make a snowman, see if you can still ice skate, go spend time together enjoying the beautiful sights, sounds, tastes and experiences that are only available this time of year.

That should be a good starting point for you to work with, the details will have to be up to the two of you. I count the opportunity to be together with my wife for eternity to be the greatest blessing God has given me, and I know that would not be possible had Christ had not come, so to me Christmas and my marriage are strongly linked to each other.

I hope you all have a VERY Merry Christmas.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

A Woman's Guide To Talking Sexy

Just as most women want their husband to be able to open up and talk about his feelings, most husbands would love to hear their wife open up to them about her sexual thoughts, feelings, and desires.  And just as talking about feelings is often a learned skill for men, sexy talk is often something that a woman needs to work at developing.

Give Yourself Permission
The first step is to give yourself permission.  For many the biggest hurdle to overcome is the idea that a proper Mormon wife just wouldn't talk like that.  It isn't classy, it isn't lady-like, it's dirty.  This isn't about being a lady, this is about being a woman, his woman.  You are his wife, and your sexuality is not 'dirty' or shameful or low-class.  If talking sexily stretches you to the edge of your comfort zone, keep in mind that you are not just allowed, but commanded to be intimate with your husband, so why would it be wrong to think or speak with your husband about something you are allowed to actually do together? 

As his wife, it is perfectly OK for you to have sexual thoughts about your husband, to bask in the feeling of desire for him and linger on sexual fantasies staring the two of you.  It is also perfectly OK to talk with your husband erotically, sharing such thoughts and feelings with him and express in very detailed and clear terms what you like, want, and hope for.  You can and should express gratitude and appreciation for his sexual nature and for what sexual fulfillment he give you.

Be Honest and Sincere
Any intimate conversation should be about sharing how you really feel, not about saying whatever words will produce the reaction you want, true or not.  Don't be a tease who winds up her man saying things that don't reflect how she actually feels.  It's only fun until somebody gets hurt.

If you have trouble thinking and feeling that way about your husband, make the effort to work past that.  If there are unresolved conflicts or hurts that are getting in the way, focus on taking care of those first.  If you have not been able to give yourself permission to think and feel that way about him, work on that, even pray for it.

Get Comfortable With Sexy Words
You need to develop some comfort using erotic words and language.  Innuendo is great, but so is a clear, direct statement.  There are many proper and slang expressions that refer to male and female intimate body parts.  Those that are disrespectful or offensive to your spouse should not be used, but the rest are fair game if both you and your husband are comfortable with them.  Likewise there are other words and phrases that in one context would be cursing, but in another context are just accurate, emotional expressions.

If you have not done much of this before there can be a lot of discomfort saying something even when it is only slightly erotic, but practice builds confidence.  A letter, text or email may be an easier way to start, or memorize some specific things to say in advance and practice saying them in your head and out loud when nobody is around.  Another option may be to make a video or audio recording to send to your spouse, but be sure it will stay private.  When you feel ready, you can talk sexily to him face to face when alone together, or quietly whisper something in his ear when out in public, even at church.  It defiantly should be part of your foreplay, and afterglow.

Be Specific and Descriptive
Men's visual nature often leads them to picture in their mind the things they hear said, and sexy talk is largely about painting a mental picture for them.  The more specific and descriptive you can be, the clearer their picture will be and the greater effect it will have on them. Try to make reference to specific actions, feelings, settings, events, and body parts rather than 'safe' generic or general terms.

Make use of adjectives to bring detail to the items you are mentioning.  It helps clarify the picture and also helps your husband to see things as you see them.  He may be surprised to hear how he looks in your eyes.  Adjectives should be liberally used to describe anything you mention when talking sexily to your husband, the location, clothing, furniture, weather, whatever.  The clearer you make the picture the better

Likewise, adverbs clarify the action and turn the picture into a movie.  Rather than paint a picture, you can play out the best love scene ever inside their head featuring the two of you.

One thing to avoid is saying the same things the same way so often that they become vain repetitions in the ears of your husband.

Consider the following examples which express the same idea but with increasing levels of specifics and description:

I love it when you hug me
I really love long hugs with you.
I really love being held for a while in your arms.
My heart still skips a beat when you take me in your strong arms and hold me tight against you like you want to hold me forever.

Can you see how expanding the simple remarks makes it a more powerful expression of love and desire?  If that last one is too over the top for you, that's OK, just recognize the power behind being very clear.

Obviously I'm not going to give examples relating to acts far more intimate than a hug, but you can come up with those yourself.  If you ever did Mad Libs, you may find that kind of approach helpful (filling in the blanks yourself, not asking others to provide the missing words).  Try this one:

I <adverb> <verb> every time your <adjective>, <adjective> <noun> <plural verb> my <adjective> <noun>.

Don't worry about feeling awkward at the start.  Men are not big drama critics and are likely to be so thrilled to see your sexual confidence and desire that they won't have any complaints at all.  The small amount of time it takes to move forward on this will pay off quickly, and you may just find that it gets your motor running a bit too.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

A Man's Guide to Talking About His Feelings

The old stereotype that men really don't want to talk about their feelings exists for a reason.  It isn't that men don't have feelings, in fact I think in many cases men have far more powerful emotions than women do.  Powerful enough to lead a man into self defeating or even destructive behaviour under some circumstances.  The problem doesn't lie in feeling feelings, the challenge for many of us men is in translating feelings into words, and biology is not on our side.

The human mind is divided into two hemisphere's, left and right.  Each hemisphere has it's own area of specialty.  For example, the left side is used for logic, math, language, calculating.  If you are thinking in words, that is your left brain at work.  Conversely, the right brain is used for imagination, creativity, intuition, emotions and non-verbal communications.

So, emotions arise in the right brain, but to fashion them into words is the job of the left brain.  Now this is the same for both men and women, but the difference is that women are highly connected across the left and right brain compared to men.  They are able to transfer data between each side much faster and that enables them to talk about their feelings with much greater ease.  For men it is easier to keep all that on the right side, express our emotions in actions and other non-verbal communications.

There is also some cultural pressure on men to keep their feelings to themselves.  Many men subconsciously feel they are in constant state of competition.  We are uncomfortable exposing any weakness fearing others will use them against us, or feel it will make us less masculine.  We shun making ourselves vulnerable but that is exactly what is required of us in order to talk about our feelings.

None of means that that men can't talk about their feelings, but it does mean it is a skill that needs to be deliberately acquired. Here are suggestions that may help.

Take Time
Imagine you are driving along, and some really great song you never heard before comes on the radio.  After the song was over, would you be able to write out the sheet music for it?  Probably not.  If you wanted to do that you would have to go over it multiple times, in small parts, listening again and again to the same stanzas before moving on to the next.  In the end you likely would have a close but imperfect version of the song.

This is a lot like the process of turning feelings into words.  It takes time, we need to go over in our heads multiple times what we feel (several emotions can arise all together) what caused those feelings, and perhaps hardest of all: why those particular emotions were provoked by whatever stimulated them.  Introspection is a skill gained by doing it, and it is a skill that is needed to overcome the natural man.  While we may not perfectly convey our feelings in words, we can get close.

Negative emotions often push us to act rashly, and many an unkind word or deed has resulted from that (followed by hurt and regret).  It is better to remain quiet and work out how to talk about whatever happened than to lash out.  If we feel it may take us a while to master our emotions and distill them into words, we may want to tell our spouse that this is something we'll need to have a conversation about later.  It is also a bad thing for a relationship to never talk about it, bury the feelings and allow resentment and hurt and anger to fester in the dark.

Positive emotions are easier to deal with since your spouse likely will react very favorably.  There is still a lot of value in taking time to look inward and examine the source of those feelings and find a way to express them verbally.

Use The Written Word
There are some real advantages to using the written word to express feelings.  First, it forces you to take your time and gives you the chance to go over what you say and get it as right as you can before your wife reads any of it.  Second, if you are expressing something that will bring positive emotions in your spouse, they have it to keep and read again.  Third, you are not going to be thrown off topic by some question or comment.

Break it up
You don't have to cover everything in one conversion.  Often it is easier to break it up into smaller topics and discuss each one of them individually, in separate conversations.  If a conversation is increasing anger and hurt rather than healing it, take a break and continue it the next day.

Choose The Time and Place Carefully
The nature and topic of the conversation should define the setting the conversation takes place in.  Compliments and expressions of love are acceptable in many circumstances, but resolving conflicts and discussing less than positive emotions often require a high degree of privacy.  Physical intimacy such as being held can help promote a feeling of safety and acceptance that makes it easier to open up emotionally.

Embrace Vulnerability
This is you wife you are talking with.  If you don't feel safe dropping all the walls of emotional self defense with her, then something needs to change.  If there are things happening in the marriage that create a reluctance to make yourself emotionally vulnerable, perhaps those are the first things you need to discuss.  If that is not the case then you are going to have do the brave thing and take a risk, let your soft spots show and trust that she won't knowingly go after them.  This is not going to make you any less of a man in her eyes.  It will increase your emotional intimacy, and that will likely lead to greater spiritual and physical intimacy in the relationship as well.

Ladies, be sure to cut your man some slack.  Don't expect him to instantly be like you in this area.  Give him the time he needs and be encouraging and grateful for his effort.  Don't overlook the non-verbal expressions of his feelings either.

Men, if you can master the ability to look inside at your emotions and find the words to discuss your feelings with your spouse, it will greatly bless your marriage.  On top of that you will be able to do the same in your relationship with God.  You will be able to pray like you never have before.  God gave us weaknesses so that we can overcome them and become strong in those very areas.  It is never too late to rise to the challenge.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Out of the best marriage books...

I've created a Facebook page for this blog.  I'll share new and past blog posts there and I'll also be posting relevant news articles with commentary and brief posts that won't be part of the blog.  If you go to the page at facebook.com/LDMarriage and Like it, then it you can have all that content show on your Facebook wall.  Please also invite others to visit and like the page, or share content from it.

A successful marriage includes a successful sexual relationship (however the couple together would define success), but it is not realistic to expect an easy path to a mutually satisfying sexual relationship in an environment of sexual ignorance.  The mechanics of reproduction are typically not a mystery, adults know what goes where, but the art of being a skilled lover and how to manage the very emotional nature of a sexual relationship are topics many Mormons feel uncomfortable making a focus of study.

When I got engaged I was keenly aware of my ignorance in these areas and it gave me more than a little apprehension about my ability to give my bride a wedding night that would live up to her expectations.  My ignorance was a shame to me, and the prospect of somebody seeing me buy a 'sex book' or asking anybody for guidance was terrifying. 

At some point my fears overpowered my shame and I went to some out of the way bookstore I never went to before (or since) and purchased a well known book on sexuality.  While there was some useful information in it, the entire topic was treated without reverence, and the images in the book were clearly intended to be more erotic than educational (which I suppose was why it was shrink wrapped in the store).  All in all I wouldn't call it the best experience, but it got me started.

A little while later I was in an LDS Bookstore and unexpectedly came across a paperback with a blue cover that was written to help prepare ignorant virgin Mormons like myself for the sexual side of marriage.  I don't' recall the title of the book but it was small and thin enough to fit in a suit coat pocket.  I sheepishly purchased it.  The content was far more helpful and reverent towards sexuality and it left me feeling much better prepared.

While our wedding night was a success, the early years of our marriage was a time where everything was wonderful, except in the bedroom.  My wife had little desire for intimacy and it bothered me greatly.  At times I blamed myself, wondering if things would improve if I could better please her, sometimes I wondered if the problem was she no longer loved me like before.  My job downtown was in an office building that was beside a very large bookstore, and sometimes on my lunch break I would go there and try to find a book that would help fix this one sore spot in our marriage.  I still struggled with the fear of others seeing me do this since the book shelves were not high enough to hide me, but I desperately wanted our marriage to improve in this area.

Over time I've found a number of books that were helpful, and my wife likewise made an effort to learn, and found resources that were helpful to her.  I'm no longer ashamed to head into Chapter's and check out or purchase a book on marriage or sexuality.  It is Satan that wants us to feel shame over it and overcoming that is a big step forward.

As I found early on however, there are books on sexuality that treat the topic with due reverence and, and others that do not.  Below are some books that I would encourage you to consider reading:

And They Were Not Ashamed - Laura M. Brotherson
If you only read one book on marriage and intimacy, it should be this one.  Physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy are covered in detail, accurately portraying both male and female perspectives.  Each chapter has exercises that are relevant and helpful.  The teachings of latter-day prophets and apostles are prominently featured in the text and the content is harmonious with the moral standards taught by the church. 

For my wife, it was very helpful to hear some of the things said in this book from a woman and presented in a gospel context.  It they had come from a man she may have dismissed them as self serving, and if they came from a non-Mormon she would be tempted to write it off as the way of the world.  It also covers how to raise children so they are better prepared for marriage.  Likewise it was a great help to me in understanding my wife's feelings on several fronts.

His Needs, Her Needs - Willard F. Jr. Harley
This book details the top five relationship needs for men, and the top five relationship needs for women and teaches spouses how strengthen a marriage by satisfying those needs for their partner.  While it does generalize about men's and women's needs, it is an excellent starting place for a couple to discuss and learn more about each other.

The 5 Love Languages - Gary Chapman
Just because you feel love for your spouse doesn't mean your spouse feels loved.  All of us have a set of internal 'rules' that govern what looks like an expression of love to us and what doesn't.  This book lays our those rules in terms of 'languages' or ways we express love.  For a spouse to feel loved, their partner must express their love in the language their spouse understands.  While it also is a generalization, it is a useful framework for a couple to use in teaching each other how to show their love for each other.

Personality Plus - Florence Littauer
While this book is not specifically about the marriage relationship, it is certainly helpful in building a stronger marriage.  In this book the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of 4 basic personality types are discussed, along with how the different types relate with each other.  Having a better understanding of your spouse's innate personality traits helps reduce personality conflicts, and the same skills are useful in dealing with children, co-workers, people at church etc.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands - Laura Schlessinger
One of the joys of marriage is to have somebody who is so different from you in so many ways love you in spite of those difference, but sometimes those same things make it hard to understand each other and lead to frustration.  Society also projects an image of marriage that often leads women to treat their husbands in ways that are counterproductive.  Dr. Laura takes on the task of helping wives to understand their husbands and work with them in her typical, no-holds-barred style.

There are of course other books that are worthwhile, but these 4 should be at the top of the list for most couples.  It works best if both spouses read them, and that can even be a date night thing, but even if they are read by only one spouse they will be beneficial.

We hold that the glory of God is intelligence, and the church stresses life long learning.  Certainly God is perfectly knowledgeable in this area.  It may mean stepping out of your comfort zone as it did for me, but the blessings of learning the skills of marriage may be result in the greatest blessings of your life.