General Archives | Page 2 of 8 | Engaged Marriage

Category Archives for "General"

Felt Tree Ornaments

By Amy Latta | General

Hi, friends!  This month, I’m excited to share with you a simple tutorial for a DIY Christmas ornament the whole family can make together!
The idea {like many others} originally came from Pinterest.  My Little Crafter has his very own board and from time to time we’ll browse around and he’ll do some of his own pinning.  Thursday morning, we came across this pin {originally from Forest Fairy Crafts} and LC was immediately intrigued.  “I want that on my board, Mommy!” So, we pinned it, and several hours later, we made it since we actually had all the supplies on hand.
Here’s what you need:
– green felt
– assorted beads and/or sequins
– thread and needle
– scissors
 
That’s it.  Really.  I bet you have all that just laying around your house already.
 

The faceted multicolor beads we used as well as the sequin mix came from our friends at CraftProjectIdeas.com, so now is a good time to thank them for those!

STEP 1: Cut two tree shapes from green felt.

STEP 2: Sew beads onto one of the pieces of felt.  This was so exciting for LC because it was the first time I ever let him use a needle and thread.  I showed him how to pull the needle up from the back, thread on a few beads, then push it back down through.  Priceless.

Look at his concentration!!  He had so much fun with this, and from time to time, he’d just grin and say, “Mommy, I’m sewing!”

STEP 3: Sew top and bottom of tree together, leaving an opening to stuff it.  At this point, I got to show Little Crafter how to do a simple whip stitch.  He, of course, caught on right away.  I held the two pieces together, and he pushed the needle through and pulled all by himself.  He literally made this entire thing with very little help from me whatsoever, other than verbal guidance.  He’s four.  No wonder his Poppy calls him “Boy Genius.”

STEP 4: Stuff with polyfil and finish sewing shut.  He loved the stuffing part.

STEP 5: Add a hanger using silver cord, jute, or ribbon.  We threaded ours through using a large needle, but you could also use hot glue on the back.

Isn’t it adorable?  LC generously decided that the first one he made was for his daddy.  Then he made one for me, which has lots and lots of purple for the Ravens.  It also has an “M” for Mommy, an “E” because it will remind me of my stuffed elephant Peanut, and a “B” for “MomBy.”  This is what I was told.
Finally, he made his own.  He got into a pattern this time, doing a sequin, then a bead, then a sequin, then a bead…you can tell that his three favorite colors are red, blue, and purple!
Once they were finished, he hid them in each of our stockings.  Cute stuff!  I hope you enjoy this idea for ornaments your whole family can make together.  Have a blessed holiday season!
Happy Crafting!

Do NOT Ask This Question in Your Marriage…

By E.J. Smith | Communication , General , Help

ID-10098640

If there’s a gene for being blunt, I promise you that my Jersey Italian family got it two-fold.

We’re not crass or mean-spirited per se, but as my mother would put it, we’re “efficient in our honesty.” (Well, that’s one way to put it!)  Anyway, growing up in this family—this loving, open, boisterous and brutally honest family– gasps of horror at the honest answers to questions like, “Does this dress make me look fat?” or “What do you think of my new hair cut?” often resulted in the aforementioned statement:  Don’t ask the question if you’re not ready to hear the answer.

So you’re probably wondering how this piece of familial “wisdom” relates to fixing troubled relationships.

Allow me to explain:  When one partner in a marriage expresses that a need of his or hers feels unmet, such as, “I don’t feel respected at home,” a question we hope the other partner will ask is:

“What can I do to help you feel respected?”

Why is this question so critical?

This question is critical for two reasons:

#1) Notice that the question makes an offer of assistance—not ownership. 

The partner does not respond by asking what he or she can do to make the other person feel respected.  Assuming you have the power to force a change on someone’s psyche is not only the exact opposite of respect, but also robs the individual of ownership of his or her emotional experiences.

 

Are you with me so far?

 

#2) Asking for guidance as to how one may assist is — in itself–  an act that conveys respect.  You show respect when you assume your spouse is the expert on his or her needs.

So there you go– easy enough, right?  WRONG!

You must NEVER ever ask your spouse, “What can I do to help you feel respected?”  (or something similar) unless you have already considered this:

How willing are you to give your partner what he or she requests? 

How much do you trust that your spouse’s request will be reasonable?

 

Trust and believe,  these are questions worth asking yourself.  If my own past experience and the many couples I’ve met over the years are any indicator, I’m guessing there are probably some needs or compromises to which you’re more willing to acquiesce than others.

And hey,  that’s okay.  You’re allowed to have boundaries too!

The point is to know what those boundaries are, and go into that conversation with honesty.

One of the worst things you could do in this situation is promise to do something and then not do it.

Let me say that again:  One of the worst things you can do in this situation is promise to do something, and then not do it.

Do you hear me?  Worst!

 

But E.J., what if my spouse requests something of me that I truly am unwilling to give?

Well that’s certainly possible.  Assuming your spouse hasn’t asked you to be an accomplice in some illegal activity, or put your family in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual danger (because I’m assuming you married a reasonable, generally decent person):  Ask yourself what about the request feels unreasonable to you.

 

This inner exploration is wise for two reasons:

1)    You’re much more likely to have a rational, respectful discussion (as opposed to an emotion-filled rant) if you’ve done your inner homework around the request.

2)    Since compromise is an important component of any marriage or relationship, understanding your stance on the issue will also help you reach a compromise that leaves both parties feeling heard and satisfied.

If all else fails, seek mediation from a neutral, safe, and mutually agreed upon third party together.  This might be a chaplain, pastor, or even a counselor.  In this scenario, the ideal would be for you to both be present.  However, if your partner is unavailable or unwilling to meet, I think its at least important that you go.  Get that perspective.  Feel heard and be willing to listen.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and questions.  Can you relate?

Image source: www.freedigitalphotos.net; photographer: stockimages

 

Troubled Marriages & Technology (Part 2 of 2)

By E.J. Smith | Communication , General , Help

ID-100112536

So as you’ll recall, last month I wrote about two of the major ways technology can screw up marriages in Troubled Marriages and Technology (Part 1).  And to be completely honest, it was a heavy conversation.  This month, as promised, I want to talk about some of the ways that you and your spouse can use technology to further your connection, or even rekindle it!

Truth be told, there appear to be far more resources and experts out there talking about how technology, and specifically things like social media and the internet, are taking their toll on relationships.  Last month, I added my own voice to the chorus.  At the same time, I want to let you know that it doesn’t have to be that way.  The Internet, your iPhone and twitter account in and of themselves are not negative.

Believe me, as a military spouse who has endured deployments, the Internet has been a major blessing for my family.  A Facebook message from my husband could leave me grinning ear-to-ear for a week at a time.  And last year when we spent several months apart due to a training assignment, Skype/FaceTime chats allowed us to interact in a more dynamic manner.  Suffice it to say I’m a firm believer that when utilized in the right manner, technology can help couples maintain and even strengthen their marital bonds.

Marriage Affirming Uses of Technology

1)    Playful Flirtation

Remember when you were dating/engaged or first married, and there were those “little things” that each of you would do for the other?  Perhaps it was a little note left where the other person would find it, or flowers for no reason at all?  Not wanting to get off the phone (You hang up first… No, you hang up first!), or driving massively out of one’s way to visit?

Those things were great, weren’t they?

Well now you’re married, and if you’re like me, your life has gotten busier over the years.  Kid stressors, school stressors, work stressors have weaseled their way into your life, and taken up way more time than you ever intended.  Scheduled date nights and sexy time are great, but you miss the everyday romance.

Technology-Facilitated Fix: The Text Message   

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, you may be familiar with a little gadget known as a cellphone.  You more than likely have a feature on it called “text messaging”.  In addition to its practical uses, such as reminding your spouse to pick up milk on the way home, you can also use it as a tool to infuse little romantic gestures into every day life.

Picture this:  You’re having a really stressful day—whatever that looks like for you—and in the middle of that stress, all of a sudden your phone beeps indicating you have a message.  You check the message, “I love you, (pet name)!” Are you smiling at the thought?  I am. Some how in the middle of a hectic day, hearing from my husband seems to make everything a little more manageable.  The next time you’re apart from your spouse, and a loving thought about them crosses your mind—please let him/her know!  Romance doesn’t have to entail huge gestures!

Other options include snapping pictures of things that make you think of them, or even a picture of you and sending them along.

2)    A Wealth of Knowledge and Resources at Your Fingertips

This second tip is one that I think should be a “no-brainer” but at the same time, a staggering number of people email me, Facebook message me, text me asking how to go about creating a thoughtful or romantic experience for their partner.  I’m flattered they think to ask me, but the truth is—the answer is already at their fingertips, and it’s the source for probably 99% of the ideas I’m going to give them.  The answer?  “Google it!”

Technology Facilitated Fix:  Google. 

Yes, seriously.  I don’t mean to sound glib.  The answer really is that simple.  If you want an idea for creating romantic evening for your spouse, cooking a nice dinner, or topics of conversation to get you guys talking again—look no further than the Google search bar.  I’m guessing that’s how you stumbled onto EM.com to begin with—at least that’s how I first found Dustin’s page!

If you’re feeling fancy, you can also check out Pinterest.  Many people, including myself, have created specific boards full of romantic ideas, quotes and tips.  You can check out my Couples Therapy board by clicking on the link.

3) Status Symbol

You might recall that in Part I of this article series, I mentioned how Facebook posts taking vague (or not-so-vague) digs at your spouse were definitely NOT a good idea in terms of helping your marriage stay healthy.  Neither is implying that you’re getting divorced every time you have a fight by changing your status.  You’d think I was talking about teenagers, right?  But I assure you, I’ve seen full-grown adults with jobs, kids, careers and even graduate degrees behave in this manner.

Technology-Facilitated Fix:  E-go Fluffing!

Despite the fact that the older we get and the less our worlds seem to revolve around our Facebook statuses, social media provides a wonderful outlet for gushing about your spouse in a positive manner.  I call it “e-go fluffing.”  Something I hear over and over again from married folks is that they fear they’ve become dull or boring to their spouses.  Some even feel taken for granted.

While social media cannot begin to undo the totality of those thoughts or beliefs, sharing that you’re going out on a date night, or hanging at home with a cheesy movie can be a fantastic way of communicating your happiness.  Reveling in your partner’s accomplishments on a semi-public platform is also great for bolstering positive feelings.

“Out celebrating my brilliant wife and her new job!”

I particularly love when people gush about each other on their anniversaries—

“11 years ago today, I married my best friend.  What a road it has been!   I’d do it all over again, just to be with you.”

—Seriously, how cute was that?  (And yes, that was a real status I saw a few months back). Again, these are little gestures to compliment some of the more complex and time-consuming tasks of rekindling a marriage.  At the same time, I’ve yet to meet a person who didn’t enjoy seeing/hearing/reading that their partner was proud of them.

So there you have it—3 Ways to Utilize Technology to Rekindle Your Connection!

1) The Text Message

2) Google It!

3) E-go Fluffing

Now it’s your turn!  I want to hear from you in the comments!  Have you tried any of these tips?  Do you have any other uses for technology that really seem to help out your marriage?  The EM community wants to know!!!

 Image Source:  Courtesy of FreeDigitalphotos.net and anankkml (photographer)

 

Wives: Do You Know Why Your Orgasm Matters?

By Julie Sibert | General , Sex & Family Planning

sexual pleasureHow many husbands would continue to have sex if they rarely or never had an orgasm?

Inconceivable, right?

We snicker at such a scenario because it’s just so… well, crazy!  Who among us can even remotely imagine any husband consistently having sex without the likelihood of climaxing?

Not me. Not you. Not anyone, really.

Yet, many wives experience sex with no pleasure on a regular basis. They rarely or never climax during sexual intimacy.

The reasons for a wife’s lack of sexual pleasure vary.

Some don’t think they deserve it.   Some  have yet to learn enough about their own bodies to understand what it will take for them to climax.  Other wives have husbands who are selfish lovers, devoting not even an ounce of compassion toward their wife’s orgasm.

Of course, there are more than a few wives who entered marriage with distorted theology — that sex is gross or wrong or “just for him” or serves no other purpose beyond baby-making.

For a wife peering through the lens of skewed theology, she remains entrenched in a Christian rhetoric void of the biblical message that her sexual pleasure in marriage is good and sacred — even God-designed.

And then there also are wives who just see no value in having an orgasm. Maybe they’ve had one; maybe they haven’t. For whatever reason, though, they are too tired, too spent, too done to give even a passing glance at sex in general, let alone sex that is soul-drenching and mind-blowing.

Are you in any of the above camps?

If so, here are three reasons why your orgasm matters:

1. God designed it.

He could have left it out, you know.

He is the creator of the universe, after all.  It’s His gig.  He called all the shots.  He spoke and things appeared.  Animals, plants, water, sky, people.  The very design of your body was His idea alone.

Your clitoris was His idea. And it serves no other purpose but sexual pleasure. No. Other. Purpose.

Clearly, sexual pleasure isn’t just for your husband. It is for you too.

If we as married Christians long to have His truths flood our hearts, then why do we stumble in embracing His gift of orgasm?  The Lord has vested interest in your sexual pleasure. Do you?

2. Orgasm will make your marriage better.

I can tell when my husband and I have gone too long without sex.  We just aren’t very nice to each other.

On the other hand, when we are regularly enjoying and nurturing our sexual intimacy, it softens us to each other.  We are able to extend more grace.  We like each other better.  It makes our house run smoother and it sets a good example for our kids.

Yes, you climaxing is good for your marriage.

If you are experiencing sexual pleasure, then sex isn’t just something on your “to do” list.  It becomes a priority.

And if your husband is like most husbands, he enjoys sex more when you climax.  (If you are a husband reading this and you are a selfish lover, stop it.  You are robbing your marriage and your wife.  And dishonoring the Lord.)

3. Orgasm is an exclusive privilege.

I could have written that orgasm is a great stress reducer and that all these wonderfully healthy things happen in your body when you climax.  That’s all true, by the way.

BUT, at the core of those benefits (and #1 and #2 mentioned above) is this element of exclusivity.

A husband and wife being able to bring each other sexual pleasure is an experience exclusive to their marriage relationship.  They can’t get it some place else, at least not biblically or morally.

Why does that matter? Because something reserved only for the two of you carries with it profound and tender significance. Climaxing is a spiritual, physical and emotional manifestation of your covenant relationship.

Yes, your orgasm matters.  If you are sexually inhibited or simply want to know the best kept secret to mind-blowing sex, then decide today to right the ship on making sexual pleasure less of an “extra” and more of a “sure thing.”

Is There Hope for Your Sex-Starved Marriage?

By Julie Sibert | General , Sex & Family Planning

Is there hope for a sex-starved marriageThe request seemed rather ludicrous from where I was sitting.

I stared at my computer screen and read the email from a gentleman asking if I could write lyrics to a song that he then was going to have recorded by amateurs and played at his daughter’s wedding.

“Are you crazy?!” is what I wanted to say.

But that seemed slightly rude. And he did want to pay me, so I thought I would let him down gently.

I diplomatically pounded out the sentence, “You know I’m not a songwriter, right?”

“I know!  But you are so talented.  I just know you can do this!” he enthusiastically pleaded.  (He was naively confident in my skills. Obviously.)

He assured me that it wouldn’t be that hard, because it wouldn’t be like starting from scratch.  He wanted me to use the music to an existing song, and simply change the words to be more personalized for his daughter and future son-in-law.

Despite his deep endearment and tender heart motive, I pretty much wanted nothing to do with writing (uh… re-writing) this song. But he pleaded.  He’s a nice guy, who happens to pay well, so I gave in and set to work to tackle this monumental undertaking.

I’m guessing by now, you are wondering, “What does this have to do with hope and my sex-starved marriage?” (Okay, you were probably wondering that eight paragraphs ago, but I’m getting there).

Initially, I thought writing that song — creating this treasured experience for this man and his family — was impossible.  It seemed beyond me.  It seemed painfully unfamiliar and foreign and awkward to even try.

That’s exactly how a lot of people feel about healing what is sexually wrong in their marriage.

They have allowed their intimacy (sexual and otherwise) to get stuck in neutral for a painfully long time — or have haphazardly built sex upon a shaky foundation of skewed theology, brash manipulation and wearisome monotony.

Is there hope for things to look different, though?

As someone who writes and speaks about sex, I have discovered along the way that there is hope for many of the marriages where on the surface it seems like there is none.

A husband and a wife can indeed find their way back to —  or create for the first time — healthier patterns in their intimacy.  This is especially true if the the two people in the marriage are willing to at least take baby steps in that direction — scary and awkward as that may seem.

What helped me write that song is what may help you infuse your sex-starved marriage with hope.  Here are three suggestions:

1. Get out of the camp of “impossible.”

Maybe you have believed for a long time that authentic and profound sexual intimacy is just not possible for your marriage.  “Perhaps for other people,” you think to yourself. “But not for us.”

That sort of thinking has got to take a hike.   2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

The Lord’s Word is clear that sex is His gift for married couples, meant not only to create children, but also to bring a husband and wife pleasure, strengthen their marriage, and allow them to experience mysteriously profound one-flesh connection.  That is truth and it is worth embracing.

2. Break things down into manageable steps.

When I wrote that song, I had to first make sure that the words I was going to write would coordinate with the music. Remember, I was working within the structure of the existing song.

So what did I do?

I took the original words and figured out how many syllables were in each line of the song.  I then could map out my own words that matched the syllable count.

If you want to build healthier sexual intimacy into your marriage, you’d be wise to see it as a journey, rather than a one-time decision.  Every marriage is unique, but here are a few “steps” that you may want to explore in your situation…

Are there past issues you need to address and/or heal from?

How can you make more space in your schedule for connecting as a couple with your clothes on? Great sex is often a natural byproduct of a great emotional friendship with your spouse. (This technique might help).

How can you have more foreplay and communication about what you each like? (If sex is pleasurable for both of you, it’s more likely you will want to have it).

How can you take ownership and ask for forgiveness for ways you’ve been careless with sex?

How can you find ways to better communicate as a couple? 

I can’t write the steps for you, but if the two of you seek them out, you will move toward more nurtured sexual intimacy.   You have to be willing to walk in that direction, though.

3. Adjust often and build upon what works.

Honestly, it took me awhile to get that song right.  I had to look at it, try different things and revisit it often before I felt like I was on the right track (no pun intended).

The same is true of sex in your marriage. Don’t be quick to give up or get defensive, but instead, walk in humility, grace and conviction that your marriage is worth having tender sexual connection.  Adjust often and build upon what works.

Is there hope for a sex-starved marriage?  More often than not, there is.

Just as I discovered when I wrote that song, you as a couple can replace confusion and disbelief with something quite remarkable.

After reading this, do you believe there is hope for your sex-starved marriage?