Friday, February 1, 2013

The Recipe for Love

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post aimed at husbands.  Ladies, this one is just for you!  Please be warned though, that I address the very sensitive issue of our one-flesh relationship with our husband, and I do so in a very straight-forward manner.  It might make you blush, but don't be afraid to read the whole article because of its subject matter.  Instead, read with an open mind and use my suggestions to transform this part of your marriage.  You won't be sorry that you did!


“A little bit of me and whole lot of you.  Add a dash of starlight and a dozen roses, too.  Then let it rise for a hundred years or two.  That’s the recipe for makin’ love.  It doesn’t need sugar ‘cause it’s already sweet.  It doesn’t need an oven, ‘cause it’s got a lotta heat.  Just add a dash of kisses to make it all complete.  And that’s the recipe for makin’ love.”

These are lyrics from one of my all-time favorite songs by Harry Connick, Jr., The Recipe for Love.  If only love were as easy as mixing the ingredients of our favorite recipe, right?  While it’s not exactly as simple as Harry Connick, Jr. makes it out to be, he does have one thing absolutely right:  When it comes to your physical relationship with your husband, your recipe for success IS “a little bit of me and whole lot of you.”  

I know we wives love our husbands.  Even if we don’t feel that lovey-dovey, mushy kind of romantic love like we did when we were newlyweds, undoubtedly, we love our men.  And I think most of us would agree that we really do want to make our men happy and content in our marriages.

When we first fell in love with our husbands, loving them came naturally.  The emotions ran high and we naturally did things to make our men feel loved by us.  We spent time with them doing the things they liked, we said things to them that they liked to hear.  And during our honeymoon – and probably for a few months after – we responded to them sexually with willingness, even eagerness.  But somewhere along the way, that eagerness faded.  It got harder to live out our love for our husbands, and I’m sure that I’m not in the minority when I say that intentionally loving my husband no longer comes naturally.  It is something that I have to work at, and I have to deliberately choose to do things for him that make him feel special and loved.  In order to do that, I have to understand what it is that he needs and what it takes to make him feel loved.  (If you haven’t already figured out how your husband “works,” I suggest reading the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  It is a great resource for understanding how different personalities perceive love.)

According to author and marriage expert Willard Harley, Jr., men typically have five basic needs in their marriage relationship.  The top one is, as expected, sexual fulfillment.  Now, I know that we’ve all heard it said before that men need sex.  And I think many of us hear that as “blah, blah, blah.”  Well, listen a little more carefully this time:  Men need sex.  They need it the way we need chocolate during PMS.  They need it the way we need an afternoon out with our best friend.  They need it the way we need them to listen to us.  Really, they do.  They need it physically, they need it emotionally.  Author Cindy Dagnan writes, “Sex is as necessary as breathing for most men.  They crave it and, because of the periodic buildup of seminal fluid," (which, by the way, happens about every 3 days) "they actually need it.  In addition, for many men sex is the number one way of feeling close to you; that may be exactly their prescription for stress relief after a long hard day.”  I always thought the “72 hour” thing was just some random number, but in reading the book, “Every Man’s Battle,” I learned that it is legitimate!  Men really do need that release every three days.  And the closer they get to the end of that time frame (or the farther they get PAST it!), the more susceptible they are to sexual stimuli.  So, do you want to help your husband resist temptations (notice I said “help,” not “make”)?  Meet his needs at home so he doesn’t have to battle his own body in the process of fighting temptation.

Now, I know that none of us like to feel OBLIGATED to have sex with our husbands.  Good news: you don’t have to!  Here’s how: take the obligation out of it.  You are not obligated to have sex with your husband.  Instead, use sex as an expression of the love that you choose to have for your husband.  See it as a way of meeting his need, as something that he desires FROM YOU, and as a way that you can bless him and tell him you love him unconditionally and without reserve.  Just as we are not obligated to worship God, but are instead compelled to worship Him out of our overwhelming love for Him, let your love for your husband compel you to express it in such a beautiful and intimate way.  It is not referred to as “making love” for no reason.

Willard Harley wrote something in his book His Needs, Her Needs that really stuck with me.   It says, “When a man and woman marry, they share high expectations.  They commit themselves to meeting certain intense and intimate needs in each other on an exclusive basis.  Each agrees to ‘forsake all others,’ giving each other the exclusive right to meet these intimate needs. … When they are unmet, that is unfair to the spouse who must go through life without ethical alternatives.”  

Let me create one more picture for you:  I would guess that at one time or another, all of us have tried to watch what we eat, cut back on the junk, to drop a few pounds.  How many of us would feel loved by our husbands if, while we were dieting, he sat down next to us with a big plate of our favorite treat: chocolate, or pizza, or donuts or whatever your weakness might be?  It’s right there, you can see it, smell it …almost taste it…and yet you can’t have it.  Ladies, that’s the same thing we’re doing to our men every night!  We climb in bed and snuggle up next to him to go to sleep, wearing nothing but a thin little night gown.  He can feel you beside him, he can hear you breathe, smell your scent.  But he can’t have you.  Doesn’t seem very fair when you look at it that way, does it?   Choose to meet your husband’s sexual needs because you love him.  This frees you not only from the obligation, but also from the guilt of turning him down when he asks.

One common frustration among wives is that they feel like their husbands are always … how shall we say… “in the mood.”  How are we supposed to deal with their constant requests for sex?  One simple answer: don’t wait on him to ask.  Instead, beat him to it.  And before you throw things at your computer…let me tell you that I can GUARANTEE you that your husband will absolutely LOVE it when you initiate, and it will be worth all the awkwardness you might feel during the process.  Cindy Dagan reports in her book Hot Chocolate for Couples that she surveyed a group of men, asking them what – if anything – they’d like to change about their sex lives.  The most popular answer, of course, was “frequency,” but the only other answer given was that the men would like their wives to initiate, “rather than making them feel like they were always having to beg permission!”  One common complaint that wives have about their husbands is that they are no longer romantic.  Let me ask you, if we expect our husband to initiate the romance to meet OUR need, why do we NOT expect to be the one to initiate sex in order to meet THEIR need?  I know it will feel awkward at first, but with practice – FREQUENT PRACTICE – it will get easier and more natural.  And, if you want a few ideas, the book “Romancing Your Husband” by Debra White Smith is a GREAT source.  Some of her ideas may seem a little silly or elaborate, but if nothing else, it will get your creativity going to come up with some ideas of your own.

Initiating a sexual encounter with your husband doesn’t have to be elaborate or even overly romantic.  Those kinds of evenings are wonderful to have once in a while, and honestly, I think they help keep that extra spark alive in our marriages, but obviously we can’t afford to do that all the time!  Nor would those events continue to be special if they were an all-the-time kind of thing!  We do, however, need to find a way to initiate at home without going to such great lengths.  Find some kind of signal, like a special candle that either spouse could light if they wanted to make love that night.  Maybe you could leave a special card or other small item on your husband’s pillow to let him know that it was his “lucky” night.  Be creative!  Just find something that you feel comfortable with…or that you can GROW comfortable with and do it!  Your husband needs it, and your marriage needs it too.

Of course, understanding your husband’s needs and committing to fulfill them, and then actually following through with that commitment are two very different things.  The way I see it, we’ve got some major obstacles to overcome:
I think the most common issue we have as women is our self-image.  We’re uncomfortable with our bodies.  Rest assured, your husband doesn’t see all your faults; he sees a hot woman that he gets to have sex with!  He doesn’t see all those flaws; all he knows is that he’s in bed with a naked woman and he gets to have sex!  And, because he LOVES you, he doesn’t see all the bad things you see in yourself, he sees you as a beautiful woman that he’s madly in love with.  Your man is NOT looking to see if you have the perfect body.  Cindy Dagnan writes, “What men are looking for in their bedroom is a confident, willing wife who welcomes her husband with her smile, her arms, her heart, and her body.”  (Hot Chocolate for Couples)  

There are some practical things you can do to help deal with feeling uncomfortable with your body.  Number one: try to get a couple hours of exercise every week.  I know I always feel better about my body when I’ve exercised.  Second, take a warm shower or bath before bed.  Feeling clean can help you feel sexy.  Next, light a candle.  Its soft light is more flattering than a lamp or other electric light.  Also, treat yourself to a flattering, but sexy, nighty.  You’ll feel good and he’ll appreciate the effort.  Gary Chapman says in his book The Five Love Languages, “We are talking about love, and love is something you do for someone else, not something you do for yourself.”  (Remember Harry Connick, Jr.’s recipe?)

Another major obstacle to our love life is busyness.  Sometimes I’ve got so much going on in my day that by the time I make it to the bedroom, I just want to crawl in and go to sleep.  We have to make time for our men.  When we’re so busy that we’re drop-dead exhausted by the end of the day, it’s no wonder we don’t have the energy left for sex!  Your housework can wait.  Put your kids to bed at least an hour before you expect to go to bed (or if they’re older, make them have some down time in their rooms for an hour) so that you and your spouse can have some alone time together.  Put away the computers and snuggle up next to each other on the couch to watch your favorite TV show or better yet, to talk for a while.  Sit close, hold hands, smooch a little…get the fire lit before you ever head to the bedroom.

One huge issue that you may be dealing with is your husband’s past experiences.  Maybe he slept with other women before he married you.  Maybe he was addicted to porn or went to strip clubs.  You can’t play the comparison game!  He married you, he chose you.  Make it a matter of prayer – together.  Praying together can be such an intimate thing in itself! 

I also want to encourage you not to set yourself or your spouse up for comparisons.  Don’t check out other guys.  It bothers me so much to hear women talk about other men as “hot” or “yummy.”  Sorry, but there’s very little chance that your guy looks like your favorite movie star.  Chances are he doesn’t have the time to work out 8 hours a day, so his muscles aren’t ripped, he hasn’t been sitting on a beach or in a tanning booth so he’s more ghostly than golden.  You don’t want to be compared to Megan Fox or Scarlett Johansson or some other movie star, so don’t compare your man to someone whose looks are unattainable.  Let’s just call that what it is: lust. Adultery.  Matthew 5:28 says, “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Let’s change that around a little and say, “Anyone who even looks at a man with lust has already committed adultery with him in her heart.”  Save it for your husband, ladies. 

Also, be careful about what books you read and movies you watch.  While the “romance” is exciting, the sex scenes – whether played out in your imagination or on a movie screen – are not realistic, and they set up expectations or longings that are not fair or honest to bring into your marriage.   Galatians 5:19 says, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures…”  and verses 24 and 25 say “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”  If you can’t honestly say that the Spirit is leading you to read a book, put it down.  Your husband wants you coming to bed excited about him, not a character in a movie or a book.

But what if you don’t find yourself attracted to your husband?  This, girls, needs to become a matter of prayer.  Make it a daily prayer that God would give you eyes only for your husband.  Pray that you will see his good qualities, that the things that irritate you or “turn you off” will be minimized or even hidden from you.  Pray that you will begin to see him as the most attractive man on the face of the earth.  Pray that you will have an honest sexual desire for your husband. And remember, nothing is impossible for God.  Attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder, and God can direct that “eye.”

You could also take some time by yourself to reminisce.  Think about what attracted you to your husband in the first place.  Remember the things about him that you fell in love with years ago.  Both you and your husband have changed since you first met, but he is still the same man.  Make a list of all the things you appreciate about him and thank God for those qualities.  Keep the list so you can add to it as the Spirit brings things to mind.

Here’s an issue I can totally empathize with: You can’t transition from being “Mommy” and “housekeeper” to “lover.”  Here are some practical ways to combat this (and, no, I didn’t come up with these all on my own; they are an accumulation of things I have read):
*Think about your husband throughout the day.  Take a minute to daydream about him, fantasize about him even.  (He’s your husband, it’s okay!) Send him a sexy text or email. 
*Touch up your makeup and brush your hair before he comes home from work.  Give him a long kiss when he walks in the front door.
*Again, make sure you have some quiet time with just you and your husband before bed.  This is vital to transitioning from caregiver to friend and lover.
*Help your husband be romantic toward you.  Make GENTLE suggestions to help him know what you like!  (Sometimes they really don’t have a clue!)
 *Make your bedroom a special place just for the two of you.  Teach your children not to play in your room or come in without an invitation. 
*Make date nights a priority.  Ask most women and they’ll tell you, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll come home from your date “in the mood.”
*Find some fun ways to add romance to your relationship.   Fresh out of ideas?  Here is a website that can offer some help: http://www.christian-marriage-today.com/free-christian-games.html  One of my favorite suggestions from this site is to watch a movie together, but before it starts pick a word.  Every time you hear that word during the movie, you and your husband get to kiss.  You’ll find yourself ready – maybe even eager – to head to the bedroom once the movie is over!

Something that is difficult for many women is the fact that their husband doesn’t try to meet her needs, so why should she try to meet his?  Well, it has to start somewhere.  Remember, “a little bit of me and a whole lot of you.”  Marriage is not a standoff, or at least it shouldn’t be.  If both of you refuse to take a step toward the other, you’ll stay at opposite sides forever.  But once one of you moves toward the other, the gap grows smaller.  Marriage should also not include keeping score, and sex should not be viewed as a “reward” for the things your husband does for you.  Withholding sex should absolutely not be used as a way to “punish” your husband for not meeting your needs.  Instead, pray that you can willingly meet his needs and that he will begin to reciprocate.  Pray that your stubbornness will be replaced with a strong desire to please your husband sexually.   First Corinthians chapter seven tells us that husbands and wives should fulfill each other’s sexual needs.  Verse five says, “Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer.”  Submit your attitude about sex and your husband to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to lead you – emotionally and physically – in meeting your husband’s needs.  The book I mentioned before, Romancing Your Husband, along with Stormie OMartian’s book The Power of a Praying Wife can guide you through the process of actively loving your husband when there are no emotions to accompany the actions.  With time, the emotional love will develop when we intentionally, actively love our husbands. Commit yourself to meeting his needs wholeheartedly and often, and I can almost guarantee that he will respond by trying to reach out and meet your needs.   Once he does respond, acknowledge his efforts and then have an open conversation about how you can both do better at loving each other.

I know right now there some of you who are angry at me because of what I’m telling you to do.  Perhaps there is little, if any, emotional love left in your marriage.  Perhaps you’re separated or contemplating divorce.  And what you hear me telling you is that you’re supposed to go home and “meet the needs” of your jerk of a husband.  And you’re angry.  “You don’t know what he’s like,” you’re thinking.  Or, “you don’t know what he did.”  You’re right.  I don’t.  But I know my husband, and I know what he has done.  Every marriage has their own issues, and mine is in no way immune.  Something very hurtful happened between my husband and me, and it very easily could have been the death of our relationship.  And, like you, I probably would have been justified by the world’s standards to just walk away.  But by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I didn’t walk away.  I chose to stay and fight for the man that I pledged myself to over thirteen years ago.  And for me, the term “one flesh” took on an entirely different meaning.

When Scott and I said our wedding vows to each other and before the Lord, God made us into one flesh.  Two separate people, Scott with his personality and I with mine, yet acting as one body.  One flesh.  Melded together in an inseparable bond.  To separate us would be to rip gaping holes in one, or, more likely, both of us.  Holes that will never be filled completely by another marriage partner.   Yes, the consequences of sin hurt.  A LOT.  But walking away from that hurt would never fix it.  It would only make it worse.

I've been meditating on the "love chapter," First Corinthians thirteen.  The NLT says it so well: "Love is patient and kind.  Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.  It does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  The parts that jump out at me are these: love does NOT demand its own way, it doesn’t keep track of how and how many times it has been wronged, it never gives up but endures through EVERY circumstance.  Love is not an easy thing!  And truly, it is only possible by the work of the Holy Spirit, as described in Galatians chapter five: But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

So for those of you who are really struggling in your marriages right now, perhaps trying to decide if you even still love your husbands, let me say this:  Don’t give up.   Keep fighting for your marriage.  Even if your husband is struggling with pornography or some other sexual addiction, keep fighting.  Yes, even if he has betrayed you in the deepest sense.  Seek out a counselor, one that will use God’s Word as a guide to help you and your husband find healing and restoration.  And keep looking until you find someone who is a good fit for your situation.  (Just because someone is a licensed counselor, that doesn’t mean he or she is a good fit for you and your husband.)  I know that you’re hurt and angry about your husband’s choices.  I know you feel betrayed, and that your trust in him is broken.  Pray that you will be able to have compassion for him as you struggle together to overcome this addiction or betrayal, or whatever it is that stands between the two of you.   Pray that your anger will be directed toward the one who truly deserves it, and that is our enemy the devil.  Satan has taken something so precious and beautiful as sexuality and turned it into a weapon against us.  He uses it as a hook to pull men and women away from God, their families and their spouses.  Just don’t give up fighting for your husband and your marriage.  As God works in your marriage to bring about reconciliation, the time for you to be reunited sexually will come.  Be patient – work on God’s timeline, not yours – and be diligent in your prayers for your husband.  

I never really thought to ask for God's guidance in my sexual relationship with my husband until our recent troubles.  But I had been studying and memorizing Galatians 5:25, which says, “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in EVERY part of our lives,” and it occurred to me that when God says “every part,” He means it.  But my sex life with my husband is so…private.  Yeah, it is.  But God made us, He created us even in our innermost parts.  He knows all about our private life already, so why not ask for His help?  It may be one of the most difficult things you will ever do, but when God tells you that it’s time for you to “love” your husband sexually again, be ready and be willing.  It is one of the most beautiful, most personal ways that you can say to your husband, “I love you.  Forever.  And I am committed to you and to this marriage.”

Ladies, Satan wants to destroy our marriages because he knows that by doing so he can destroy our families and hurt God’s Kingdom.  One way he destroys marriages is by creating obstacles and discontent.  Let’s be on our guard to keep our marriages strong and our love for our spouse intact.  One way we can do that is by meeting our husband’s sexual needs.  Sex was not meant to be a burden or an obligation or a duty.  God created it as a beautiful and intimate expression of the love you have for your spouse.  It can be fun and exciting and completely fulfilling as you aim to satisfy your husband, and I guarantee that it will make you feel more loved in the process.  Being sexually intimate with your husband requires you to trust him when you are most vulnerable, and when he responds you will feel loved and treasured.  Ladies, we can experience a great level of freedom in our marriages.  But it has to start with us, with a willingness to step out of our comfort zone and to love our husbands with heart, soul and body.

As I close, I offer this challenge to you: Commit yourself to actively loving your husband at least once every 72 hours.  That’s 3 days.  I know that from time to time there will be extenuating circumstances that can’t be avoided, but aside from those, determine to let no more than 72 hours go by without expressing your love to your husband through sex.   Is your husband worth it?  Is your marriage worth it?  I hope your answer is a resounding “YES!”  So…go get to work; you’ve got a recipe to perfect!

2 comments:

  1. Very long read but very good. You should do a post on the friend zone.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, it was rather long...sorry about that! But thanks for reading all the way through. I will read up and pray on the "friend zone" issue and see what thoughts I can share!

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