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Does Your Husband Need Sex?
Until recently, it has been part of the Christian marriage narrative that men need sex. Christian marriage books over the decades have repeatedly claimed that sex is a primary need for guys in marriage. In many marriages (but not all), husbands would eagerly nod their heads in agreement.  That assumption has now been challenged for a few key reasons. First, more women are speaking out about their sexual desires in marriage. What about a wife’s sexual needs? In approximately 25% of marriages (which is no small number), the woman is the one expressing the greater sexual desire. Secondly, some are sounding the alarm of unhealthy and abusive patterns resulting from the narrative of a “husband’s sexual need.”  I’ve heard Christian speakers say things like, “A woman should never say no to her husband’s sexual advances.” If he needs sex and you’re the only one who can give it to him, sex becomes less romantic than cooking him dinner. If you have followed this advice, you may feel like a “sex dispenser,” just there to meet your husband’s biological needs. Even if you once liked sex, all pleasure and anticipation may have been drained out of it. This is certainly not God’s design for sexuality in marriage. A couple who operates with this thinking is likely to experience no “intimacy” in sexual intimacy. On the other hand, it is unloving to cling to a posture of consistently denying one another sex in marriage. God’s Word tells us that regular sex should be a priority in marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says that both the husband and wife have an obligation to minister to each other sexually. (To learn more about this idea, listen to "Is Good Sex a 'Right' in Marriage?" and read "How To Go From Demand and 'Duty Sex' to True Sexual Intimacy.") How do we value the importance of sex within marriage without sex becoming an on-demand obligation? Rethinking the Word “Need” We have a strange relationship to the word need in our society. We claim to need everything from a cup of Starbucks to the most recent smartphone. In reality, we need very little to survive: food, shelter, community, and family. However, there are other things we don’t need for survival but are necessary to function in our world. For example, you don’t need a car . . . but you do. You won’t die without a car, but unless you live in a big city, it would be very difficult to navigate life without one. We also have emotional needs, like feeling loved and valued. While we won’t die without feeling loved, we also may not want to keep living. Think of sex in a similar vein. No one needs sex, but a marriage needs sexual intimacy to thrive. Intimacy in the bedroom is directly correlated to overall marital happiness. When a couple regularly engages in sex, even their body chemistry is working to build a positive emotional connection. Hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin released during sex have been shown to reinforce bonding and even discourage sexual temptation.1  God has wired our bodies to express the importance of sexual intimacy, whether it is the husband or wife who prompts the other. In the majority of marriages, the husband is the more constant reminder of the priority of sexual intimacy. Because he has more testosterone and his body is wired to respond sexually, it’s usually on his mind much more often than it’s on hers. Some sex therapists refer to this as “initiating sexual desire.”  Beyond an Obligation A good man will not only want sex, he will want his wife to enjoy it. It’s not enough to give him your body while the rest of you is mentally a thousand miles away. The most satisfied husband is the man who has a satisfied wife. If you’ve fallen into the pattern of “checking the sex box” to meet your husband’s needs, it’s likely that neither of you feel sexually fulfilled. Your response to that statement might be, “You mean I have to like it too! Can’t I just fake it?” Instead of seeing this as even more of an obligation, step back and consider it as good news. Your husband isn’t fully satisfied just to have a physical release; he wants intimacy with you. He wants to build sexual memories with you and learn how to bring you pleasure. This means that you are not just a sexual object to him. He wants you to be his lover—to have fun and explore each other. In order to accept his invitation, you may need to switch gears mentally. Your sexual relationship will never be fulfilling if it is oriented only around your husband’s needs.  Here are three practical things you can do to nurture your sexual desire without simply meeting your husband’s “need.”  1. Say "No" So You Can Say "Yes" One of the problems with the “never say no” policy is that it creates a dynamic in marriage in which sex revolves exclusively around a husband’s needs. Instead of saying no, I’d encourage you to say “not now.” In other words, if you had sex right when your husband asks, you may be distracted, exhausted, or frustrated and not able to enjoy it. Even a willing wife will grow resentful with this pattern.  While many men have an “initiating desire” for sex, the majority of women have a “receptive sexual desire.” This means that even if you aren’t thinking about wanting sex, you have the capacity to fully enjoy it once things get going. This means you may need time to relax, think about sex, and anticipate being together.  When your husband initiates, consider giving him a time within the next 48 hours when you will be ready to say yes. This gives you time to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally so that sex can be fulfilling to you too. It also teaches your husband to consider your needs instead of just communicating his. 2. Invest in Your Sex Life Unless you have have a high sex drive, experiencing sexual arousal and fulfillment takes some effort on your part. Your sexual appetite will be little to none unless you work on developing it.  There are many ways to invest in your sex life. For some women, saving energy for sex and investing in some sexy underwear may be helpful. For others, you may be confronting significant barriers like unresolved conflict or triggers from past trauma. Investing in sex might require you to work through the pain, shame, or lies that keep you from experiencing sexual freedom and pleasure.  You may also need to encourage your husband to “invest” in your sex life by learning about your sexual response, engaging in foreplay, and being willing to engage in counseling when needed. 3. Shift Your Paradigm For the first decade of my marriage, I thought of my husband’s sex drive as a curse. My mental dialogue sounded like this: Not again! Didn’t we just do it? I’ve learned over the years to view my husband’s desire for me to be a gift rather than an obligation. This has been a major paradigm shift that has changed the atmosphere of our love life. One day Mike asked me, “Aren’t you glad that I want to be with you all the time? Isn’t it a good thing that I desire you and want to be intimate with you?” I had to agree with him. If it weren’t for sexual intimacy, Mike might get lost in his own world and be content for weeks without connecting with me. This one special part of our relationship causes him to think about me often. Our sex life makes our relationship different than every other relationship he has. Instead of lamenting the fact that your husband needs sex, why not celebrate that your husband needs you!    God has given the gift of sex not just for the immediate experience of intercourse, but for the intimacy forged through a lifetime of navigating desire, obstacles, and even disappointment. Simply approaching sex as a need to be met will shortcut the more significant work of two people learning to become one.   Want to learn more? Grab a copy of Juli's new book, God, Sex, and Your Marriage or join an online book study this winter and read it with other like-minded couples. Check out our ten-week Bible study Passion Pursuit. It shows you how to make passion a priority in a way that honors your husband and God. 1 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795  
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Why Is Healing So Hard?
Tina and I met together for counseling several years ago to work through some traumatic experiences from her past. A year after our work together was done, Tina came in for a “check up.” She shared with me that within that year, she had undergone surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy for breast cancer. What she said next shocked me. Counseling was more painful than what I have been through physically in the past year. I’m so glad I went through this healing, but I never dreamed it would have been so difficult! Many people say “no” to healing because they don’t want to go through the pain of uncovering buried feelings, fears, and memories. They choose to limp through life rather than pursue the arduous path of freedom from the past.  Why does healing have to be so difficult? Isn’t it enough to have suffered through the trauma in the first place? Surely, God is able to miraculously take away the fear, the pain, and the sadness. Yet most often He asks us to walk through grief and sorrow to get to the other side of healing.  Having walked with many through their healing from abuse, betrayal, loss, and disappointment, I’ve often wanted to ask God to speed things up, but God has never been in the business of shortcuts. His healing is sure and miraculous but often demands our patience through stretches of doubt.  When God heals our brokenness, His ways are not like our ways. I’ve been reading through the account of how God delivered His people from the land of Egypt, and I think there are many parallels for us in our journey of deliverance and healing.    Although God hears and sees suffering, His deliverance isn’t usually immediate. When we read the Old Testament stories, sometimes we don’t put them in sequential order and we miss the big picture. The Israelites didn’t start out as slaves in Egypt. In fact, Egypt was initially a place of provision. Remember, Joseph was sold into slavery there. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream about a coming famine and rescued his family from starvation. It was about 400 years later that we pick up the story of Moses and the Israelites’ oppression. God’s people had been suffering for many years before God told Moses His plans of deliverance.  In our human understanding, we ask, “God, why didn’t you come sooner?” Maybe you wonder that about your own situation. Why does healing have to come now instead of God protecting you from the harm to begin with?  Cecil Murphy, a godly man who experienced childhood sexual abuse, asked God this same question. Cecil concluded, “I serve a God of presence, not a God of protection.” While God did not protect the Israelites from cruel treatment and oppression, He was with them.  God said to Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7-8). Throughout Scripture, we see God giving encouragement to men and women like Moses, Joshua, Joseph, Daniel, Mary, and Paul based on the fact that “I am with you.” This is not a trite comfort when we consider that the God of the universe sees, hears, and cares through our pain.    God has a purpose in delaying deliverance. When Moses first announced to the Israelites that God intended to rescue them, they were filled with joy and worship. “So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed low and worshiped.” As you seek the Lord for healing, there will be seasons where you see His grace and rejoice. And then there will be other seasons in which the road to healing seems far longer and more painful than you thought. This is what happened to the Israelites.  As Moses began to ask Pharaoh to let the people go, things got worse before they got better. Pharaoh was furious and made the burden of oppression greater by telling the Israelites to make bricks without providing straw. These same Israelites, who believed and who worshiped, were soon complaining when immediate deliverance didn’t come. They said to Moses, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Moses couldn’t argue with them. He turned to the Lord with the complaint, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” Friend, you may feel exactly like this along the road of healing. Maybe you cry out to God, “This isn’t healing at all! Why did you give me false hope?” The Lord would answer you the same way he answered Moses. He reminded him that He would keep His promises and deliver them by His mighty hand. It wasn’t the way they imagined or the timetable they had hoped for. Yet, God asked the Israelites to trust in His sure deliverance: “I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.” God had work to do. His purpose was not simply to free the Israelites, but to make himself known as the Lord God. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that His mighty power would be displayed before the world.  Throughout their deliverance, the Israelites not only had to wait on God, they also experienced some frightful plagues. Some of the plagues, including frogs, flies, and gnats, affected them as well as the Egyptians. They also witnessed the horrific screams from darkness and death all around them. As miraculous as the parting of the Red Sea was, can you imagine the fear of walking through it with walls of water standing on each side? All of this had to be very traumatic.  On the road to healing, many of us also experience great difficulty in the midst of God’s deliverance. Although there is no Pharaoh, there is an enemy who does not want to let you be free to worship God. In a sense, there is a heavenly battle over the redemption of God’s people. We know who is victorious, but the warfare is traumatic nonetheless.   Often the familiarity of bondage is more appealing than the fear and pain of deliverance.  Throughout Israel’s deliverance, those in the middle of the drama wished that Moses had never come to help them. Although they had been in bondage in Egypt, it was a comfortable and predictable bondage.  "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” If you are in the middle of your healing journey, you may honestly wish you’d never started. You feel stuck; you can’t go back to where you were, but moving forward just seems too painful. But just as God was faithful to deliver His people out of bondage, He will be faithful in your journey! I’ve met many men and women who felt stuck in the process of healing and wanted to go back to a predictable bondage. They wish they’d never found the porn or wished the memories of the abuse could have stayed buried. God may have promised a place of healing and rest, but it seems so far off!  The healing journey takes faith. God will finish the good work of healing that He began in you.    Our deliverance is ultimately about God, not about us.  As humans, the most natural thing is to assume that we are the center of the story. Your tragedy is about you, and God is simply a supporting character in your drama. While this is a normal assumption, it is also a false one.  God cares deeply about each one of us, but He is the center of the story. Your journey isn’t ultimately about you... it’s about Him.  There were over a million people (many Israelites and others who joined them) who journeyed out of Egypt. We only know a few of their names. Each one of them participated in one of the greatest events in human history, but the memory of them is completely gone. The only important One to remember is Yahweh, the Almighty God. Everything that happened was ultimately about His great love, power, and the sovereignty of His will.  While your healing journey is very personal, its greatest purpose is to testify to the Healer and Redeemer. Fifty years from now, the memory of our lives will be gone, but the testimony of God’s faithfulness will pass from generation to generation.   Questions for personal reflection: Read Psalm 139. What does it mean to you that God is with you through your healing journey? How have you been tempted to “go back to Egypt” in pain rather than continuing on the path of healing and deliverance? When you feel this way, what can help you persevere?  How is God being glorified through your story? How is He making himself known through your life?     You may also find the following resources helpful: God's Healing Stinks (blog) Healing After #MeToo (blog) Java with Juli #42: Healing from Trauma (exclusive) Java with Juli #154: Healing Doesn't Happen Overnight (exclusive) Why We Don't Experience Victory (blog) Java with Juli #254: Sex, Race, and Healing: How We're the Same and Different (exclusive)  
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How Do I Know He’s “The One”?
Q: Is there one person I'm meant to marry, or should I just choose a good man? A: This question isn't simply a contemplative exercise; it impacts how you approach dating and marriage. However, I think it is the wrong question to be asking. The question of "Is there one guy I'm supposed to marry?" is fundamentally based on fear. You've likely seen marriages break apart and wonderful romances turn ugly. Perhaps you grew up in the throes of your mom and dad fighting. Judith Wallerstein, one of the foremost experts on the impact of divorce on adult children, noted that they often cope with the reality of divorce by believing true love is like winning the lottery. If you find your "soul mate," you can avoid the inevitability of broken vows and crushed dreams. Christians have spiritualized this by placing their hopes of happily ever after on finding "THE ONE." When marriage gets difficult, a woman may panic, thinking, "Oh, no! I picked the wrong guy." Within the last six months, I've met with two young Christian brides who walked away from their wedding vows. Both of them said the following statements: "I never should have married him. I had doubts before the wedding, and I didn't call it off." In essence, these young women believed because they married the wrong guy, their marriage covenant was "null and void" before God. The truth is, whomever you marry, living out a lifetime commitment of love will be a challenge. One of the Bible's most famous love stories is the account of Isaac and Rebekah, found in Genesis 24. If there was ever a situation in which God clearly said, "This is the one you should marry!," it was this couple. It was truly a match made in heaven. Fast-forward about 30 years. The star-crossed lovers are now parents of twin boys who despise each other. Isaac loves Esau, and Rebekah loves Jacob. We find this husband and wife in a web of manipulation, anger, and deceit. Finding "the one" certainly didn't guarantee a life-long, stress-free love affair. Selfishness and bitterness compromised their love, even though they were ordained by God to fall in love and marry. Instead of asking the question, "Is this the one I should marry?," consider these questions: 1. Am I in God's will? There are some things about your life that God has not clearly revealed to you. Perhaps you don't know who you should marry, what job you should take, or how many children you will have. Instead of spinning your wheels trying to figure out what you don't know, work to be the center of what God HAS revealed is His will for your life. As you seek love and marriage, God has given you some very clear guidelines of His will. Here is one of them: "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Is God withholding His specific will for you because you are not obeying His obvious will for you? For example, if you are sleeping with your boyfriend, know this is not God's will for you. You have stepped out of the place of obediently seeking Him and have chosen to make decisions based on your own desires. Friend, if this is you, God's arms are open to you waiting for you to follow Him in every area of your life. If you know you are not obeying Him in your current relationship, confess your sin and choose to trust Him. If you really want God to direct your steps toward the right man, be obedient to all you know He's asked of you. Read His Word, be faithful in prayer, commit yourself to sexual integrity, surrender your struggles to the Lord, and give thanks for your current circumstances. God speaks to hearts that are prepared to listen and obey. 2. Am I seeking wisdom? Following God's leading isn't always looking for a message in the sky telling you what to do next. Often, God leads through the wisdom of those He has put in our lives. Solomon repeats in Proverbs that the difference between a wise person and a fool is whether or not they are open to feedback. There are general principles of wisdom that can help you in dating and choosing a spouse. For example, it is wise to know a person for at least a year before making the commitment of marriage. You should meet his family and see him in many different types of circumstances. Take advantage of great books like Gary Thomas' book, The Sacred Search. You should also be seeking very specific wisdom. In matters of dating and marriage, you will have some blind spots. There will be patterns and "red flags" about any relationship that are difficult for you to see. You may feel so "in love" and sure about a relationship that you can't imagine it turning sour. When a friend or parent raises a concern, do you write them off or even get angry? "You don't understand. You don't know him like I do!" If you really want to know God's will, listen to the people He has given you as friends and counselors. Ask for their feedback with questions like, "What do you see that I can't see? Are there any red flags I should be concerned about? Do you think we're moving too fast?" Don't just ask one person—ask a handful of advisors, some who are your age and others who have the wisdom of experience. And listen! Take to heart what they say. Be willing to break off a relationship or even an engagement if needed. 3. Am I realistic about the covenant of marriage? There are two extremes in the way young adults think and talk about marriage. While some are overly idealistic, most are fatalistic. Finding true love seems as improbable and random as being picked for a reality TV show. While you might fantasize about the possibility, you are more afraid of being fooled into a miserable marriage. While every marriage has seasons of difficulty and disappointment, they also have times of great joy and celebration. Who you marry is a very important decision. However, marital happiness isn't solely based on finding Prince Charming. The difference between intimacy and broken vows depends largely on the work you're willing to do within marriage. Any two people who are willing to grow and work through challenges can have a dynamic relationship. In many ways, my husband and I were not well-suited to be married to each other. Our backgrounds and personalities were extremely different. There were years when I wondered if I'd married the right guy. We have very different philosophies on parenting, money, and work. But Mike and I have never considered divorce or a distant marriage as options. Even in seasons of disagreement, we've kept our love for each other and for the Lord intentionally front and center. After almost 28 years of marriage, I sincerely feel God hand picked my husband for me and me for him. I can't imagine being married to anyone else. I see the beauty of how our differences have challenged both of us to grow. Did God in his infinite power and wisdom pick Mike and me for each other? I don't know. What I do know is that he has taught us patience, gentleness, and humility by taking two very different people and making us one. Expect that marriage will be a tremendous gift, but one that will require work and commitment. Expect that no matter who you marry, your concept of love will be refined. Expect that by leaning on the Lord, you will have everything you need to be a great wife. As 2 Peter 1:3 promises, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."   Excerpted from 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Love, Sex, and Intimacy by Dr. Juli Slattery. © 2015 by Moody Publishers. Used with Permission.