Continue with us in our final month of the 5 Sex Needs Challenge!

Women: Romance

The sex need that rated the fifth highest among women in our survey was romance. Nearly 53% of the women placed romance as a top sex need. We suspect that many of you men are thinking, Okay, of all of my wife's sex needs, this is the one I know the most about. This is where I am the expert. I'm the love doctor.

Men, we hate to break this to you, but most women do not equate romance with sex. Several years ago we conducted a survey about how husbands and wives define romance, and we found that men and women are quite different in this area. Of the husbands we surveyed, 50% said the most romantic thing their wife ever did for them involved sex, 25% said it involved food, and 25% said it involved doing something together. Of the women we surveyed, none of them directly mentioned sex in their understanding of romance; most of them felt that romance resulted from spending quality time together.

A wife feels romanced when her husband does anything that shows he cares for her and thinks about her: special phone calls or notes, surprises, something out of the ordinary on an ordinary day. She feels romanced when her husband talks with her without distractions, when he holds her hand and kisses her every morning.

Romance is the bridge between love and sex, so when a wife's need for romance is not met, she struggles to move toward sex. She views her husband more as preoccupied and distant than as her lover. Will she still agree to have sex? Probably. But it's not as exciting or enjoyable for her as it could be.

Gregory Godek, writer, speaker, husband, and incurable romantic, shares his passion for romance in his book 1001 Ways to Be Romantic. He says, "Romance creates a context within which sexuality can be given more meaning. Romance focuses sexuality toward a loving purpose: the growth of intimacy. Without romance, sex is just seduction. Without romance, sex can turn into an empty habit or dull duty. With romance, sex becomes connected to love. With romance, sex becomes about giving, not merely taking."

Many things can deter romance: misunderstandings, the distractions of home, work, kids, and life. But without frequent doses of romance, a sexual relationship will get boring and shrivel up. Romance is a must if you want your sexual intimacy to deepen.

Several years ago Dr. Phil surveyed 37,000 people and learned a lot about the importance of romance.

"Not surprisingly, romance is central to our definition of love: 94% respond that giving flowers, holding hands, or taking your partner for a night out are hallmarks of love (only 6% say those are signs of guilt or duty). Yet almost two-thirds also characterize mundane chores such as taking out the trash, bathing the kids, or doing the dishes as acts of love. What these actions say to your mate is, I want your life to be better, and I'll make personal sacrifices to ensure that. Our respondents don't appear to be materialistic or superficial… money isn't a factor, and appearance doesn't seem to matter, either – 82% wouldn't love their partners any less if he or she gained 100 pounds. Honesty, listening, giving, respect, and tenderness were words that those polled most clearly associate with love… The core element of true love is that you feel like you belong; romantics call it having a soul mate."

So what is romance? Love is a feeling; romance is love in action. Romance is something you do to express the love that you feel. How do you do that? The key is to know your wife. One wife commented that her husband thinks buying a card is a waste of three dollars, so she doesn't buy him cards. But he gives her cards because he knows it gives her delight. Some women think romance is a candlelit dinner at home, while others need to leave home for romance. Some women are bothered if their husbands spend money they don't have, so they prefer a picnic at a park rather than a fancy meal. Romance must be tailored to your wife's unique preferences.

One thing you can do is ask yourself this question: When I was dating my wife and trying to win her heart, what really got her attention? Men tend to stop thinking about those things once they get married. They feel that once they've won the girl, the work is done. From there on out, it's easy sailing. But that simply isn't true. A husband needs to realize that life's responsibilities have a way of wearing down his wife. She needs him to romance her all over again.

When men hear the word romance, they often become intimidated. Two images pop into their heads: a dollar sign (money) and a clock ticking (time). They imagine they'll have to spend a week thinking of what to do, a week planning this special event, and a week earning the money to pay for it! Some guys immediately shove the idea of romance off, thinking, That sappy, mushy stuff isn't for me.

But the real reason many men feel intimidated by romance is because they fear rejection. Perhaps a man has asked his wife several times to reserve two Saturday nights a month as date nights, but every time she has an excuse: she's tired, the kids need her, the house is a mess. Or a husband might give up romancing his wife because he's afraid she won't like his romance ideas. But allowing fear to have the upper hand will harm their desire for sexual intimacy. The passion will drain from the marriage, and apathy or resentment will grow.

What gets in the way of romance? When we surveyed couples about their ideas on romance, we asked them to tell us their biggest obstacle to romance. These are some of the responses:

  • Busyness and fatigue 
  • Distractions – work, church, unresolved conflict
  • Financial stress
  • Disappointments – "I was thinking of dinner at a low-light, quiet restaurant; he was thinking of the pizza buffet at Village Pub."
  • Unwilling hearts
  • Lack of creativity
  • Chores left to do
  • Indifference

How to Meet your Wife's Need for Romance

Husbands, we have good news. According to our survey, romance and your wife often means doing simple things that don't require much time or money. One wife said, "It's the little things that make me realize how much he cares for me."

Pick a few of the following suggestions and begin the process of meeting your wife’s need for romance.

  1. Learn your wife’s love needs. What makes your wife feel cherished and deeply loved? Study her. Ask her what romance means to her and how you can meet that need. Then really listen to her answers.
  2. Show your wife that you care. Pay attention to what your wife likes. For instance, she may like to dress up when you go out, but you don't. It means a lot to her when you take a shower, smell good, and put on nice clothes when you go out to eat.
  3. Surprise her. Women love to be surprised. You can do it in so many simple ways. Write a love message on a Post-it note, and put it on your bathroom mirror. Make her breakfast some morning. Give her a card for no other reason than to say "I was thinking about you." Take home a treat she likes. Send her flowers at home or work. Give your wife an at-home spa experience. Run a hot bath with some of your wife's favorite fragrance, place lit candles all over the bathroom, and tell her to relax as long as she wants. Plan a date night, but don't let your wife know where you are going.
  4. Get away. As family responsibilities and challenges mount, husbands and wives lose track of each other's needs. Sometimes it takes getting away from the pressures at home to get to know your spouse again. Plan a night to be together. Go for a long drive in the country, and take roads you've never taken before. Enjoy the adventure. Leave town – without the kids! Take mini-vacations.
  5. If you think it, do it. In his article "Strategic Romance," Jim Mueller writes, "If you have a romantic thought during the day, take action! Pick up the phone and make the dinner reservation; stop by the store and pick up a card; call your wife and tell her 'I love you.'"

For Men: Affirmation

"I don't understand why Josh is so withdrawn," Lila told Gary during a counseling session.  During the entire session, she had nothing good to say about her husband. Josh slumped in his chair, staring down at his hands in his lap. In his wife's view he was unable to do anything right. Lila complained, "I honestly don't get what his problem is."

"How's your sex life?" Gary asked her.

"What sex life? He just doesn't turn me on. He's not that good in the sex department. I thought all men were supposed to know what they're doing." She laughed bitterly. "Joshua sure doesn't," she said, crossing her arms and glaring at him.

"I'm beginning to see the picture," Gary said.

A smirk crossed Lila's face, as if she expected Gary to agree with her assessment of her husband's incompetence.

"Lila, when was the last time you said something nice to Josh?" Gary asked.

"What?" She looked a bit shocked.

"When was the last time you affirmed him?"

"What difference does that make?"

"It makes a lot of difference, Lila," Gary told her. "As a wife you wield a tremendous amount of power over Josh and your marriage. How you choose to handle that power will determine the strength and enjoyment of your relationship."

Every time Lila makes a derogatory comment about Josh’s sexuality, it is as if she takes an ice pick to the soul. Once a proud, efficient, loving, fun man, Josh has been worn down by his wife's continual harping. Her behavior has caused him to doubt his self-worth, to withdraw, to become bitter toward her, and to stop meeting her needs altogether. His doubts about his worth and his sexual ability could begin to affect his work, his other relationships, his spiritual life, his faith.

Granted, Lila and Josh's situation seems a bit extreme, but we have had countless conversations in which husbands and wives had nothing good to say about each other. We can only assume that if they were not verbally affirming in public, they were also not affirming inside the bedroom.

Most wives may not realize how much power their words and attitudes carry: words can tear down their husbands or build them up. If a wife wants her husband to be all God created him to be, she needs to affirm him in every way possible. 

Affirmation is so important to a husband that 55% of the men who responded to our survey rated it as a top sex need. What Lila and many wives responding like her do not understand is that a man's self-esteem is often fragile – especially in the area of sex. He needs his wife – more than anyone else – to affirm his masculinity. If his wife doesn't do it, who will? Anyone can affirm his job skills or intellect or sports ability. But only a wife can get to the most sensitive, deep, vulnerable, intimate part of a man. Only his wife can affirm him sexually.

If a man finds that no one at his workplace appreciates his skill, he may look for another job in which people value what he has to offer. If no one at church appreciates his spiritual gifts, he may look for another place where they will value his contribution. Similarly, if his wife doesn't encourage, appreciate, and affirm her husband – especially his sexuality – he may look for someone else who will. A wife alone has the ability to make or break her husband in the vulnerable area of sexual ability. A wife is the one person who gets close enough to her husband to build or destroy him.

The woman in the Old Testament book of Song of Songs understood the importance of affirmation. Throughout the dialogue, she boasts of her beloved's ability as a lover. Look at this passage as an example: "How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming!… Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste." Maybe you don't feel comfortable using those words, but no husband will resist a woman who tells him, "You are an incredible lover. You turn me on. You satisfy me. I bet no other woman has a husband who satisfies her the way you satisfy me."

Without hearing those kinds of affirming words, a husband can become insecure. Or worse, hearing negative words can cripple him.

When women asked us, "But what if my husband is not that good in bed?" If a wife has difficulty experiencing orgasm, if she does not feel the tingling sensations that come with foreplay, if she's bored by sex, then she needs to communicate with her husband – but in an affirming, encouraging way. Blurting out "Just forget it. This isn't working," in the middle of sex is not the way to do it. Instead, say something like, "I love you, and I'm so attracted to you. I want to experience the best sex I can with you. I'm just not there yet. Will you help me?"

That does several things. First, it says, I want you. Second, it respects a husband’s self-esteem. Third, it gives him a problem to fix. Remember, men love to fix things. And if a wife calls on her husband to help her "fix" her sexual response, he very likely will take on the role with seriousness.

How to Meet your Husband's Need for Affirmation

Wives, here are some ideas to get you started on meeting your husband's need for affirmation.

  1. Affirm him for who he is. Affirmation starts outside the bedroom. It's a lifestyle, not a technique. Let your husband know that you value him. When you admire him, say it out loud. When he makes a decision that took courage, recognize it and commend him. Notice when he shows perseverance in his work, and say something about it. Help your husband know all the good things you see in him.
  2. Affirm him for being a good lover. Tell your husband what you like about the way he loves you. Tell him what you like about his body. If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask your husband for advice: "I want to affirm you as a lover, but I want to do it right. How can I best tell or show you what a great lover I think you are?" We can guarantee that not one man will rebuff such a question!
  3. Practice the golden rule. This is one place where the golden rule works well. Treat your husband the way you would want him to treat you. Talk to (and about) him the way you would want him to talk to you (and about) you. It's that simple. Become lavish with your praise and admiration.
  4. Understand that for men, body image does matter. A man's body image is important to him. As men age, their bodies change. Their muscle tone diminishes, they begin to lose their hair, and they have a harder time staying in shape. A husband loves to hear that his wife is impressed and turned on by looking at his body. Since a wife is typically not stimulated visually, she probably is not that aroused by viewing her husband's body. But a husband needs to know that his wife likes what she sees, that he's "got what it takes" to be her one and only. This may be a stretch for some women, but when a wife makes an affirming comment about her husband's body, his confidence soars.

Fighting Fair in Your Marriage

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Q: Whenever we have an argument, my spouse retreats when I want to talk it out. How can we learn to "fight fair"?

A: When you are in a conflict, you must communicate openly and honestly. Failure to share your feelings and talk through your differences will stifle any efforts to clear the air and restore intimacy. Following are a few helpful things you can do to handle your inevitable conflicts and learn to fight fair:

Choose an appropriate time and setting. Do you and your spouse really need to solve an issue moments before guests arrive for a dinner party? Select a time and a place that minimize distractions, guarantee privacy from the children, and won't make you tense right before an event.

Ask permission to address the conflict. Make sure your spouse is ready to face the issue before you bring it up. For example, "Are you ready to talk about our disagreement over how to discipline the children?" Or, "I'm ready to confront our money problems. Are you?"

Avoid the silent treatment. Sometimes – especially when you're angry – you might clam up and give the silent treatment, thinking that the silence will communicate your perspective. Don't mistake silence for communication. Silence can be a sign that the problems in the marriage are serious. A husband might initially feel relieved that his wife has stopped nagging, but her silence may, instead, signal that she is emotionally withdrawing. Both husbands and wives can feel rejected and confused by their spouse's silence. It's very important to reestablish communication. First of all, even if you don't feel very loving, reassure your spouse of your love. The goal is to open communication, not to play games.

Agree on a plan for handling conflicts. In a peaceful moment, talk with your spouse about how you will handle conflict when it arises. Is it important to you to avoid shouting matches with your spouse? Can you agree together to do your best to avoid loud arguments? How about agreeing on a timetable for resolving conflicts – that you will resolve any given conflict within a week? Are you open to seeking help from a counselor, a pastor, or a godly trusted friend to settle the most difficult conflicts? Discuss this with your spouse before the conflicts hit.

When conflict does occur, you may choose to set up two folding chairs in the neutral setting where you will discuss the problem. After the conflict is resolved and you have sought each other's heart and perspective, fold the chairs up and put them back in the closet. Many couples report that this tends to give them an increased sense of boundary around these difficult discussions.

Pray. Prayer makes a positive impact on the resolution of conflict. By praying, two people on opposite sides of an issue welcome into the debate a third person: Jesus. Bringing Jesus into the debate means deciding together to play by His rules. Prayer also softens your heart so that you will be sensitive to the hurt in your spouse.

Because resolving conflict in healthy ways is such an important part of a great marriage, we have devoted an entire book to the issue. Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage will help you close the open loop on unresolved conflict and avoid the pain of bitterness.

Stories from the Front Lines

Some friends of ours have been married more than 30 years. They have their times of agreement, and they shared with us how one time they hit a wall and simply could not come to an agreement. The wife turned to her husband and said, "I'm going to submit because I believe that God has put you in that position. And I trust you. But I'm going to tell you something: I'm going to go to God over this issue."

The husband listened to her, gasped, and said, "Wait a minute. You're going to go to God?"

"Yeah, because I know that He loves you and that He, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can deal with you."

This gives a glimpse into the heart of a strong marriage. The man who hears these words from his wife realizes that his wife isn't trying to control him; instead, she desires that he be controlled by the Holy Spirit. She goes to her ultimate authority in prayer because she desires God's outcome for the situation. And her attitude stimulated her husband to see God's will in the situation.

When you get to the point where you aren't seeing eye to eye, transfer the situation to the hands of God and leave it there. Then the Lord has a chance to do wonderful work in your marriage and in your lives. God gets all the glory and credit.

For more on this topic, check out Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage.

For Women: Spiritual Intimacy

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Continue with us in the 5 Sex Needs Challenge!

How is tending to your wife’s spiritual side a sexual need? Women all over the country have told us the same thing: "When my husband takes the lead spiritually, by praying, reading his Bible, and going to church, I am drawn to him on a deep level. It makes me feel so secure that I am eager to give myself fully to him."

Women are so serious about spiritual intimacy with their husbands that 58% ranked it as a top sex need. If you think it's just our survey respondents who feel spiritual things affect what goes on in the bedroom, take a look at a survey conducted by the National Marriage Project, located at Rutgers University. Prominent family experts David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead reexamined the institution of marriage in America. In 2001, Gallup collected the data for the National Marriage Project to study, which included interviews from 1,003 adults who ranged in age from 20 to 29. The results indicate that emotional and spiritual connection rank far above other needs, including financial stability, in forming a romantic partnership. Nearly 81% of the women interviewed reported that it is more important to have a husband who can communicate about his deepest feelings than it is to have a husband who earns a good living. An overwhelming majority (94%) believe that a spouse should be a soulmate first and foremost. 

What does that information tell us? Women want a man who can connect to the deepest part of them – the spiritual part.

In Making Love Last Forever, Gary Smalley writes about finding the power to keep loving: "Why is the spiritual journey so important? Marriage researchers are finding a correlation between one's spiritual journey and one's satisfaction in marriage. Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan Blumberg report that religion has a favorable impact on marriage. They write that religious couples 'are less likely to divorce…show somewhat higher levels of satisfaction…lower levels of conflict about current issues…and higher levels of commitment.'" Similarly, marriage expert Nick Stinnett found that one characteristic common to most happy marriages and families was an active, shared faith in God.

If you want to release deep passion in your wife, then get serious about connecting with her spiritually.

What Is Spiritual Intimacy?
You will experience deep spiritual intimacy when you have a mutual, heartfelt desire to be close to God, when you seek God's direction for your marriage – even for your sex life. Spiritual intimacy means that in the midst of conflict, you honor and respect each other. You don't put each other down in an attempt to win; you think about how God would want you to act in the situation. You become united together through prayer. You unite under biblical principles for your lives and marriage. You actively invite God into every aspect of your marriage, including sex.

A wife deeply desires to pursue God with her husband. She wants to have spiritual conversations, to read the Bible together, and to pray together. A wife is attracted to her husband when he provides spiritual leadership.

God designed the husband to be the spiritual leader in the marriage. And your wife really wants to see you succeed in that. When you spiritually lead your wife, she feels encouraged to trust you more. When a husband and wife build their marriage on the foundational commitment to pursue God above all, they are able to share fears, anxieties, joys, and dreams. They are free to experience transparent honesty, knowing that they love each other unconditionally and that neither will ever walk away.

How to Meet your Wife's Need for Spiritual Intimacy
Pick a few of the following suggestions, and begin the process of meeting your wife’s need for spiritual intimacy.

1. Ask your wife what she needs. The best way to start meeting your wife’s needs is to ask her how she would like you to build spiritual intimacy with her. Don't let her give general answers. Probe exactly what she means. If she says, "I want you to be the spiritual leader in our marriage," ask her what that looks like to her on a daily, practical level. Then begin to follow her requests.
2. Be honest about your awkward feelings. In the Reader’s Digest article "How Honest Are Couples, Really?" The author reported the results of a poll showing that men wish they could talk about deeper matters than sports or money – but they don't know how. Nearly a third of the men wished they could talk openly with their wives about spiritual matters. Marriage researcher John Gottman commented on this finding: "That really impressed me. It underscores the meaning of how we live, what we value. It's hard for men to talk about that."        
If you are uncomfortable talking about spiritual things, start slowly. One great way to start is for each of you to share the history of your spiritual life. Use the following questions to discover more about your partner’s faith:    
•    What did your parents believe about God, Jesus, church, prayer, and the Bible?    
•    How and where did you first learn about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? At what age?     
•    What questions about Faith did you have as a child and teenager? Who gave you the answers?     
•    If you could ask God any questions now, what would they be?     
•    When you were a child, did anyone you looked up to as a Christian disappointment you? If so, how has that influenced you as an adult?     
•    How have difficult times affected your faith?

3. Pray for your wife. More than anything else – more than flowers, candy, candlelit dinners, or gifts – your wife needs you to be her "soul protector." Pray for her throughout the day. Pray for her struggles and her dreams. Ask God to show you ways to meet her needs.
4. Pray with your wife. Praying together is probably the strongest knot that binds a couple. 
5. Encourage your wife spiritually. To get started, complete these four statements together:    
•    You could help me grow in my faith by…    
•    I feel most comfortable praying with you when we…   
•    We could grow together in our faith if we…    
•    We could serve God together by…

6. Focus on your wife's spiritual strengths. When you see her make a difficult decision based on her convictions, affirm and encourage her. When you are drawn to God because of her, let her know.
7. Practice forgiveness. When you and your wife have an argument or when she has hurt or frustrated you in some way, know that any unresolved offense can block all kinds of intimacy – emotional, physical, and spiritual. When you sense a wall between you and your spouse, something is wrong. Take responsibility for your wrongs. Ask for forgiveness. And when your wife does the same, choose to forgive her. (Check out our book, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage, for in-depth help in this area.)

For Men: Initiation
In an earlier post, when we discussed a husband’s need for his wife to respond, we said that her resistance to his sexual advances affects his confidence and his view of himself. If a wife’s responsiveness strengthens her husband's self-esteem, think about what her initiating sex will say to him. The men who responded to our survey thought about what it would say. Nearly 61% of them rank a wife's initiation as a top sexual need.

Men enjoy spontaneity. That statement is so important for wives to understand that it bears repeating: Men love spontaneity. A husband needs his wife to initiate so he knows he's not the only one who cares about their sex life. When she initiates sex, he realizes that she cares about his needs, loves him, and thinks about him. Her initiation allows him to take a break from initiating – and the fear of her lack of response – and enjoy a spontaneous sexual encounter. A wife's initiation relieves him of the pressure of starting the process of sexual intimacy.

When a wife tells her husband how much she cares for him, his self-esteem is bolstered. But when she pursues him sexually, he feels on top of the world. He says to himself, she wants me! He wants to shout to the world: "She still finds me attractive!"

And isn't that what you want in your marriage – a husband who is joyful, deeply satisfied, protected, and completed? Fulfill your husband's fantasy: To be desired and pursued by you. 

Kevin Lehman writes, "It is very emotionally fulfilling for a man to have a wife who is interested in him sexually. A man is external. If you want a man to feel wanted and needed, words won't cut it; you need to pursue him sexually."

At a recent conference Suzanne told us, "If initiation is important to Greg, then I've been blind to this area in our marriage. I enjoy sex. I like to respond to him. A couple of times when we were alone at a business convention, I initiated sex, and it blew his socks off. He walked around with a twinkle in his eye that reminded me of our first year of marriage. But I thought it was a 'vacation thing.' Now I realize that I'm sending him the message that sex is important to me only if he wants it, not if I want him. I'm starting to see that he would really be honored if I set the stage for sex by flirting and drawing him in."

Of all the sex needs, initiation seems to be the most difficult for many wives to practice. As we discussed in a previous post, most women don't regularly think about sex, so it doesn't occur to them to initiate something that isn't on their minds. But when women do think about sex, many figure that being responsive is good enough. In fact, some women think initiation is more a luxury than a necessary part of marriage. Well, they're wrong.

How to Meet Your Husband's Need for Initiation
Wives, be willing to step out of your comfort zone and become a sexual initiator in your marriage. Here are some ideas to get you started in meeting your husband's need for initiation.

1. Remember your husband is a sexual being. Honor your husband by taking seriously his need for sex with you. Consider it a joy and privilege to be the one God has chosen to satisfy those needs.
2. View yourself as a sexual being. "I consider myself a loving person. I love to cuddle, listen, and spend time with my husband," says Dana. "I even love romance. But I don't consider myself a sexual person. It takes effort to make me feel sexy; it doesn't come naturally." Although some women are more aware of their sexuality than others, most women do not often think on a sexual level. But when we ask women, "When you are rested, when your husband has connected to you emotionally and spiritually and you feel safe, do you feel sexy?" most women respond yes.
3. Refuse to buy into myths about sex. Women often believe that they must be in the mood to initiate sex. Here is how Clifford and Joyce Penner respond to that myth: "In real life, the more preparation, anticipation, talking, guiding and scheduling you put into your sexual times with each other the better they likely will be. If you wait for some mysterious erotic energy to grab you before you have sex, you may not be having sex very often."
4. Keep sex vibrant in your marriage. Many women think there's nothing they can do to increase or maintain their sexual desire – it just comes and goes. But remember that sex begins in the mind. Start thinking about sex. Plan for it. Mark it on your private calendar. Initiate sex with your husband at least a couple of times each month. Save energy for sex. Pray about it, asking God to give you a desire to initiate with your husband.
5. Pay attention to your body's sexual responses. Ask God to help you recognize sexual thoughts and desires more. Even a flicker can be a great jumping-off point. Take advantage of your increased sexual urge during your hormonal cycle. A study published in Human Reproduction states: "Researchers speculate that a woman's libido may rise during ovulation or that her sexual attractiveness to partners may increase. It could also be that intercourse accelerates ovulation."
6. Become more adventuresome. One of the biggest reasons women don't initiate is because they are nervous and afraid. Their fears say, I don't know what I'm doing. It will be awkward and embarrassing. He'll laugh at me and reject me. He does it better; it's not natural for me. Women who aren't sexually adventurous like to stick with what works. But practice will make it more natural and less awkward. Stepping out on a limb to please your husband will demonstrate your love for him. Even if it's awkward for you at first, your husband will feel honored and loved if you make the effort.
7. Practice. What's the old cliché? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Your husband is not going to laugh at you or reject you for breaking out of the routine to spice up your love life. Hardly. He'll most likely cheer you on. Sex therapists say that the more a couple have sex, the more they enjoy it. The more they enjoy it, the more they do it. Part of getting it right is enjoying sex along the way. Have fun! It's an adventure. Take the risk.

The Rewards of Spiritual Intimacy in Your Marriage

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Ephesians 5 exhorts a husband to give up his life for his wife "to make her holy and clean, washed by...God's Word. Have you ever washed your wife in the Word?


Gary often opens his Bible and says to me, "Listen to this, Barb…" Then he reads to me what the living, breathing Word of God is doing in his own heart and how it's changing his life. What a witness and testimony that is, then, for my own life. Sometimes, truthfully, I don't feel comfortable with what he's reading because it challenges my selfish nature. Yet I can't deny that my thoughts are altered, and I want to become more like Christ because of it.


I recall one powerful example of this in our lives. Gary and I were speaking at a FamilyLife conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Our plane landed late the night before the conference was to begin, and we were both exhausted. As we sat in our hotel room with every intention of looking over our notes in preparation for the following day, we were suddenly both overwhelmed.
Gary, who at that time was still dealing with the grief over his dad's death, was emotionally spent. And that week I had received a harsh letter from someone I greatly admired and respected, and I was devastated.


But as we sat in that hotel room, Gary picked up his Bible and began reading to me. Initially, I resisted. My own wound felt too fresh, the pain too deep. But he insisted and kept reading. We were both in tears as he continued to pour the Word of God into our hearts and minds. Gently, God's words pried open my guarded heart and began to heal my wounded spirit. God's Word strengthened both of us, and by the time Gary finished reading, we both felt brand-new. Clean and refreshed. Yes, even holy and clean.


The following week we got a call from the FamilyLife conference manager. His words were, "What happened in Jacksonville last week? Your evaluations were unbelievable. You hit it out of the ballpark!" What happened was that God made us as broken people and restored our souls through His Word and a time of true spiritual intimacy.


When Gary takes the lead in this way, he reflects God's character. As a result of seeing this kind of godliness in his life, I am encouraged to trust God more and follow Jesus more closely. This brings a level of trust and security into our relationship that can be found nowhere else. Now please understand – we struggle with family issues just like everyone else. For example, we struggle with finances. We face a pile of bills. But when Gary leans over in church and says, "Let's give more this week," I sit in awe of what God is doing in my husband. His generosity and obedience to God melt my heart. Do I still have some insecurity about giving more money? Sure I do, but I trust Gary's judgment and his leadership in this matter because he's a man who follows God. When you independently tune in to God, then turn and tune in to your wife, you create an openness that is the ultimate intimacy between a husband and wife.


A husband and wife who build their marriage on the foundational commitment to pursue God above all are able to share fears, anxieties, joys, and dreams. They're able to open themselves up and share thoughts and feelings, even when they hurt. They are free to experience transparent honesty, knowing that they love each other unconditionally and that neither will ever walk away or point fingers.

This post is an excerpt from our book, The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women.

The Frugal vs. Spender Mindset in Your Marriage

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Q: My husband is a dreamer and I'm a realist. We don't have a lot of money. It's really hard now because whenever he wants to do something fun, I'm the one holding back because of the money. It's affecting our marriage because we don't get to go on dates and things like that. I'm the one who's sitting here counting pennies and he wants to go splurge on a nice dinner or something.

A: This is a very common problem. Before you were married, it felt good to have your date spend money on you; it's altogether different once you're married and you're trying to live within a budget and set financial goals. Which suggests that if you're one of those frugal people and your spouse says, "OK, let's go out and do something fun,” you should confess that it creates insecurity and it's scary for you. Confess that when you hear about spending money while you're counting every penny, you fear that you're going to spiral downward with your finances. At this point, your spouse needs to be willing to exercise caution with those decisions so that you can feel secure. At the same time, however, you need to think about your marriage. Figure out a way that you can set aside a few dollars a week to do something fun. Maybe you can't go out for an expensive dinner, but can the two of you head to a fast-food restaurant or get dessert somewhere? How about going to a movie during matinee hours? Do whatever it takes. Your spouse needs that fun time and wants to spend it with you. Count yourself blessed! And then look for creative ways to make it happen.

Our book 40 Unforgettable Dates with Your Mate gives ideas about ways to connect with your spouse on a date and gives practical steps for arranging the date. Each date has an expense range, from very expensive to free! Each date is designed for husbands to meet wives’ love needs and for wives to meet husbands’ love needs. You can tailor the date to match your spouse’s particular preferences. The questions at the end of each chapter provide you with discussion prompts to use while on the date. The communication can be a very practical and inexpensive way for you and your spouse to connect.

This post is an excerpt from our book, The Great Marriage Q&A Book.