4 Recovery Lessons I Learned While Getting My Butt Kicked on a Mountain

mountain-lessons-squareTwo weeks ago I ran a Spartan Race with my wife. And not just any Spartan Race, the Pennsylvania Super in Palmerton, PA at Blue Mountain. For those of you who aren’t up on what a Spartan is and have no idea what I’m talking about then here’s a brief summary.

This race is an 8+ mile obstacle course race with 25+ obstacles that takes you up and down a 1,400-foot mountain three times across very rugged and steep terrain. It’s brutal, even for those who are in great shape.

This race was without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m in pretty good shape but I felt completely unprepared for this adventure.

It took many days for all the pains and aches to go away (especially at 46) but this race is something unique and it teaches you some lessons if you are willing to learn them. It taught me some great ones about marriage and about recovery.

You see, I came into that race the way a lot of people do when they start their recovery process. They have an “idea” about what the journey looks like, but once they get started they realize that it’s not going to be an easy endeavor and may, in fact, be the hardest thing they ever do.

I see so many men (and women) give up on their recovery prematurely. They come in with grand ideas about making a change overnight and then when they realize what’s involved they tap out. It’s a shame. But I get it.

I wanted to tap out on that race 1,000 times over.  

But that day I saw and learned some things that if people understood when they pursued recovery would make ALL the difference in their journey. Here are four:

1. You don’t race alone

I did this race with my wife and that made all the difference. She needed me at times to push her forward, and I needed her at times to help me. About 4 miles into the race I started experiencing really bad knee pain which killed me on anything downhill. It was awful and there were several moments I questioned if I could even make it.

But Katie (my wife) was there every painful step of the way and supported me throughout. I can honestly say she was the difference maker for me that day.

And if you have an accountability partner they will be the difference maker for you.

59619fc1fd4131af6b0f757d-p copy (1)2. It’s not about speed, it’s about progress

Like I said already, I jacked up my knee around mile 4 after a really hard sandbag carry. Neither of us were blazing up the course prior to the sandbags (both not being runners, or joggers for that matter) but when my knee started throbbing our pace slowed to a literal crawl.

The next 4 miles went so slow and each time we passed a mile marker I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me?”

But after hours of walking, crawling, and limping we crossed that finish line and it felt great. We did it. It just took a ton time and whole lot of determination to just keep moving forward.

Recovery is the same. It’s never about how fast or even how far, it just about the progress.

3. Groups united around a purpose make a difference

One of the coolest things about these races is that you meet people from all walks of life. People you probably wouldn’t ever hang out with but during that race we are all the same.

We all have the one mission. To beat that course.

As a result, no one gets heated with each other.
No one condemns.
No one judges.

If you fall, someone is there to pick you up.
If you need a boost, someone is there to do it.

And when you say I don’t know if I can go on, someone is there to say “You sure as **** can!”

Recovery tools like workshops and filters are fine, and even needed. But having a group around you who are united with you in your purpose to find freedom is going to make the real difference in your recovery efforts.

4. It doesn’t have to be pretty when you finish.

Spartan races usually happen in the woods, on the mountains, and through the mud. They beat you up, knock you down, and leave you with some scars (especially if you lift your head up too quickly during the barbed wire crawl).

This race took a toll on me and my wife. Our time to finish was terrible and I’d like to tell you we crushed every obstacle but the truth is we both did a lot of burpees that day (30 burpees is the penalty if you fail any obstacle).

We weren’t superstars by any stretch and when we crossed that finish line we looked like hell (we smelled like it too).

But you know what? We finished.

And that’s what mattered.

When you are going through your recovery process it’s going to be very similar.

You’re going to feel beat up.
You’re going to be tempted to compare your lack of success with others around you.
You’re going to have some colossal “failures.”

And there are going to be days when you feel like the whole process is just one long punch in the gut after another.

But if you stick with it, even through the ugly times, you’ll finish.

And when you do you’ll say I made it. Who cares how I got here.

Are you ready to start your recovery race today?

It’ll be tough but you can do it. You just need to get out on that course!

 

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3 Non-Obvious Reasons That We Get Addicted to Porn

xxxchurch - 3 Non-Obvious Reasons That We Get Addicted to PornLust isn’t the only reason behind your porn addiction. There are subtle snakes in the grass that need to be hunted and confronted. It turns out: there’s pretty ugly stuff, way down deep, that demands our total honesty.

When you begin to kick porn and find recovery, you’re often told to watch out for “triggers,” like sights, sounds, and even smells that send you down the binge-spiral. But external triggers are internally pressing on something that’s already there.

You have a pre-existing framework in your mental basement that’s easily pushed and provoked.

Porn-users use porn for a lot of obvious reasons: unfulfilled sexual desires, drama at work, a deficit of affirmation, a deprivation of human connection. But there are also some hidden, hard-to-spot reasons that porn is a go-to “fix.” Here are three:

1) The Fear of Aging / The Idolatry of Youth

Pornography is a perpetual, poisonous snapshot of unrealistic vitality. In such a plastic fantasy world, there’s no room for aging spouses, no room for broken bodies, and an infantile coping with the inevitable loss of youthfulness.

Hollywood is already a shaming ground for older starlets and body changes, obsessed with the younger model (literally) and the “May-December Romance” fantasy.[1] Female Hollywood actresses, on average, are about fifteen years younger than their male co-stars; both Scarlett Johansson and Maggie Gyllenhaal were called “too old” for roles with much older male counterparts, John Cusack lamented 20-something year old actresses regularly called “menopausal,” and the late, great Carrie Fisher was pressured to lose a ton of weight for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[2],[3],[4]

Even more so, the world of pornography, with bizarre exceptions, worships youthfulness as a grotesque trophy to upkeep at all costs. And though we might get older, our “appetite” for specific porn actors doesn’t age with us, and we become imprisoned to an impossible, unhealthy (and creepy) standard.

I work in the hospital as a chaplain, and even the middle-aged are bewildered and shocked by the ravages of age. No one told them what it would be like. At the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned preacher, our culture now, more than ever, is bombarded by heightened perfection, from Instagram to “wellness drinks” to lip injections. “For the first time in history,” says author and Stanford professor Robert Harrison, “the young have become a model of emulation for the older population, rather than the other way around.”[5]

Pornography, in some ways, denies us the difficult discussions around our mortality, by locking us into unchanging images of young models and vicariously placing us with them. Ironically, this “unchanging” aspect of pornography is artificially created by a rotating stage of models who quickly age out of the business (or who die trying[6]). Pornography, by its very nature, pulls us into a Peter-Pan-vacuum, to avoid aging and dying, when such fear could be confronted by direct dialogue instead of denial.

Solutions: It’s hard to let go of youth. Aging isn’t easy, and I empathize with those who try to grasp backwards for nostalgia. But pornography only buries our ability to cope with age; it keeps us blinded in the vicious cycle of demoralizing the elderly, and eventually ourselves. The only way to gracefully embrace aging is to talk about it.

2) The Loss of Power and Autonomy

One of the classic triggers of porn addiction is frustration. Maybe your kids are flipping tables, your boss beat up on you in a meeting, your marriage is far from the wedding album, your thesis or project or application or manuscript got rejected again: all these are enough to tempt you to the internet dungeon.

These events are all a natural part of life, but because “independence” and “autonomy” are overwhelming social narratives, we have an insanely difficult time with loss, failure, and rejection. Many of us never learned to cope with the eventualities of life, so we turn to porn, pills, or thrills to manage them.

Here’s the recipe: national anxiety, personal uncertainty, and positive pep-talk about the future, which all lead to a ticking time-bomb cocktail of inevitable meltdown. When you’re constantly told you can “pursue your dreams” and “follow your heart” but it leads you to a landfill, it’s no wonder we turn to pornography. Porn is a toxic dose of control that’s predictable, but ends up controlling us. Porn is a fake getaway escape that feels safe, but ends up gutting us whole.

In the Bargaining Model of Depression,[7] when someone doesn’t get their way, they use anger to negotiate their terms and then overpower others for results. But for those who are less likely to vent their anger or to overpower other people, they internalize their situation and fall into a cycle of helplessness. These daily losses of autonomy eventually create depression. And you guessed it: there are high correlations between porn users and those who are severely depressed.[8],[9]

Solutions: Get help. By help, I mean, find people to vent to. Find people who can empower you, who can aid you in smaller tasks, who help you feel “un-swamped.” Also risk the brave waters of confronting your boss, your spouse, your children, with gentleness but firm authority. Let your needs be known. Don’t give into a martyr syndrome of people-pleasing and yes-flattery. Stand up when you must, even with a shaking voice.

3) A Lack of Direction and Purpose

Not every porn addict uses porn because of trauma or frustration or personal demons.

Sometimes, we’re just bored. There’s nothing else to do. And hours are wasted on late-night binging and mindless clicking through the internet abyss.

We crave story, adventure, and purpose: we are meaning-making creatures. Without a story, we fill the void with something else. And the only way to extinguish a “lesser desire” is to expulse it with a greater one, a bigger picture, a higher calling, or the “expulsive power of a new affection.[10]

Solutions: This goes two ways. The first is in finding something greater than yourself and then living into it with all your energy. That can sometimes be enough to quit pornography, because you simply won’t have the time or strength.

The second is if you quit porn cold turkey, you’ll have a bunch of free time during the week. This has to be filled with a more attractive option, or else you’ll go right back to your addiction.

In my book on quitting porn, there’s a chapter called, “Quitting Isn’t Enough,” which says, “Quitting porn is not about quitting porn. You’ll need to find something better.”[11]

This means getting out of the house and finding a venue to serve. It means sacrificing your resources, outside your comfort zone, to lift up a particular cause. It means fighting your drift to complacency.

Pornography is easy because it requires little effort, with seemingly small risk, for a seemingly high pay-off—but in the end, pornography hijacks your brain, dulls your senses, and steals your best years. Living deliberately with purpose and momentum is more difficult, with the possibility of failure, with actual effort and high risk and a slim window of pay-off. But it’s within purposeful living that we are fully there, present, engaged, and completely ourselves. When you taste the electrifying sweetness of purpose, there’s no going back: and you wouldn’t even want to.


[1] http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MayDecemberRomance

[2] http://www.vulture.com/2015/05/emma-jlaw-and-scarletts-older-man-problem.html

[3] http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/john-cusack-hollywood-is-a-whorehouse-that-spits-young-actors-out-2014299

[4] http://people.com/bodies/carrie-fisher-pressured-to-lose-weight-for-star-wars-the-force-awakens/

[5] http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/november/youthful-book-harrison-111914.html

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6LRAyoVsF4

[7] http://anthro.vancouver.wsu.edu/media/PDF/Hagen_2003_The_bargaining_model_of_depression.pdf

[8] Please note that this might be a bit of a “chicken-and-egg” situation. Depression can increase harmful porn use, or harmful porn use can increase depression, and even the perceived guilt of porn use can cause depression as well. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inside-porn-addiction/201111/can-pornography-trigger-depression, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150916185111.htm

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16232040

[10] Alexander Bain, M.A., Mental and Moral Science: A Compendium of Psychology and Ethics, (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1868) p. 345

[11] Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Cutting-It-Off-Breaking-Porn-Addiction/dp/1505350891, ebook: http://www.amazon.com/Cutting-It-Off/dp/B00QE2M6N2

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3 Things That Kept This Pastor Stuck

xxxchurch - 3 Things That Kept This Pastor On PornI can clearly remember the crushing weight of carrying my secret porn addiction onto the church stage each week. It felt like a million pounds on my chest. At times I wondered whether or not a person could die from stress. If so, I certainly felt like a candidate.

I would regularly commit to myself that this will be the last time, only to find myself feeling frustrated and defeated after ‘acting out’ again. I felt like I had tried everything. I used X3watch. I tried avoiding the internet. I got “accountabili-buddies.” I prayed, pleaded, and begged God to save me from myself. But no matter what I did, the problem only seemed to get worse.

My life went on like that for twelve frustrating years before I finally found a sponsor, a support group, and, eventually, my freedom. Since then I’ve not only learned how to break the bonds of addiction in my life, I’ve also learned a lot about what I did that kept me living out destructive patterns over and over again.

If you’re anything like me and you are still carrying around a secret that is killing you, watch out for these things. One or some of them could be why you’re still struggling to find success.

1. Pride is chronic. 

Everyone is prideful to some degree – no one is immune. It was pride that drove me to say things like, “If I could just…” or “All I need to do is…” But the truth is, I was powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing. And my life had become unmanageable. (If those last two sentences sound familiar, it’s because they’re two of the twelve steps in recovery.)

If you’re struggling to conquer your sin, a prideful attitude may be what’s standing in your way. In that case, the prescription is to work toward understanding that you’re powerless. This can be tough for pastors and church leaders, because we’re supposed to have all the answers, right? But even we are powerless against our addictions, and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can get a handle on them.

2. A jacked-up view of God.

God is all powerful, right? Of course, He is! I never had a problem believing that. I grew up going to church and was always completely familiar with God’s power. My problem was that I didn’t believe God wanted to help ME. I prayed fervently for God to remove my affliction. When He didn’t seem to be doing so, I took it as evidence that He was done with me.

If that resonates with you, then you’re experiencing shame. Shame is the belief that, while others simply make mistakes, you ARE a mistake. Breaking away from shame is no easy task, but it can be done. If you need a good place to begin, start with what the Bible says about you in 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:37-39.

3. It wasn’t painful enough yet. 

One time I called my sponsor after I had just relapsed. I whined about my defeat and asked why I had failed. I’ll never forget his response:

Any living creature, in pain for long enough, will eventually do something about it. I know you’re in pain, but maybe you’re not in enough pain to do what is necessary for you to get better. It’s not the end of the world. It just means you haven’t hit your bottom yet. Don’t worry you’ll get there.”

I did, and it hurt. But it finally hurt enough for me to do something about it.

Do you see any or all of these three things happening in your life? Today can be the day of your redemption, the day you turn it around for good.

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Can I Take Sexy Photos of Myself for My Husband?

xxxchurch - Can I Take Sexy Photos of Myself for My Husband-You’re wondering if taking those risky photos for your husband is okay during his recovery from porn or if it will trigger him to use again. I get it. It sounds innocent enough.

I mean, it is photos of yourself for your spouse.

Technically speaking, you are staying in the lines of what should be accepted into a marital sex life. But, there are some reasons it may be a no go.

Here are a few of thoughts to ponder through before doing a boudoir shoot or something else of that nature:

1. What are YOUR motives in having these photos done?

I know that may seem like the answer is simple, but it’s not. When I was in the midst of my husband’s addiction to pornography, I thought that maybe having sexy photos done of myself would curb his appetite for other forms of pornography. It did none of that.

In fact, he continued to look at porn AND my pictures to find his pleasurable result. I just contributed to him looking at pictures and masturbating to them. When it comes down to it, he said that it felt like I was giving him PERMISSION to continue in the addiction.

Another motive that I had, but just didn’t realize, was so I could feel “as good as” the women in the porn he liked. Pretty twisted, right? Think about it: when our husband’s look at pornography, it makes us feel less than. We feel like we don’t measure up somehow. This is not the truth in any way, shape or form. Our husband’s pornography addiction truly has NOTHING to do with us.

Yet, we still feel unworthy at first. So, in my entangled web of thoughts, I figured that I could prove to him and myself that I do measure up through giving him what I thought he needed. That idea backfired and only left me feeling used.

346x396-recover-inline2You may have not even thought about what the photos could do to you and YOUR recovery. Taking the photos, and then seeing the pleasure that your husband would undoubtedly get from them, could cause some triggers of your own. I know that it set off all the internal triggers of not feeling good enough, having no worth, being a sex object, being a less than wife and reliving all of my husband’s actions.

If those motives sound familiar, you probably should not be taking boudoir photos. Don’t go backward in your recovery. Go forward.

2. Pornography addiction is just that: ADDICTION. With any addiction, there is a cycle.

According to Rob Weiss, LCSW on January 20, 2015, in Sex Addiction Expert Blogs, pornography, and sex addiction cycles look like this: Triggers – Fantasy – Ritualization – Behavior- Numbing – Despair-Triggers.

This means that there are triggers which begin a behavior that leads to the end pleasurable result that leads to despair which starts the cycle all over again. If your hubby is struggling or has struggled with pornography this cycle is true for him. Addictive behavior has triggers. Some of those triggers could simply be “sexy” photos.

While the photos would be of you, the photos could still cause the addictive behavior cycle because they could very well be a trigger. If you are anything like me, the last thing you want to do is possibly trigger your husband to use again. Be an advocate for HIS recovery, not a stumbling block.

3. Lastly, when having Boudoir photos done, it possesses the questions of who is taking them, how are they being stored and where (if you are) are you getting prints?

If anyone other than your husband is taking the photos, you are allowing someone to see you in a way that is reserved for only your husband. In this day and age of technology, if you are storing the photos on any device, that leaves the door open to your photos accidentally making it onto the internet. If you are having the photos printed, who is printing them?

If you are printing them anywhere outside of your home, you are again allowing other people to see you in a way that only your husband should. If you are printing them at home and storing the physical photos at home, what actions are you taking to ensure your children (or anyone that is not your husband) will not get a hold of them?

All of the actual steps to have the photos need to be thought through thoroughly.

Bottom line here: While there may be some gray areas, if you are looking to spice things up in the bedroom, try to always do it in the flesh together.

Buy some nice lingerie and wear it in person for your husband. Start having conversations about your sex life with each other. Open up the door to honesty and deep conversation.

Instead of spicing it up through actively condoning masturbation, start creating some real intimacy. Real intimacy will make your marriage better! Build up a deeper, genuine relationship. Taking pictures can never compare to the REAL thing.

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A Challenge to Husbands

husbands-challengeI am going to be honest with you.

If you know me, I think you can expect that from me in everything I write.

If you are without a wife or significant other, you can skip this post and read something else.

This blog post is just for the married men or those in committed relationships.

Your journey is not a solo journey.

Since you have a life-partner, she is also dealing with the downsides of your struggle whether she knows it or not. If you have spent any money on your credit card pursuing your addiction, there is a huge chance you had to fill her in on your secret. Maybe she caught you before you sought help, or maybe she is the one who found the My Pilgrimage experience for you.

Either way, she is need of some help, and she might not even know it.

I have sat down with numerous couples who are dealing with sexual betrayal because of porn, affairs or things of that nature.  Every woman I have spoken with tells me what her husband needs or should be doing. They don’t want to talk about what they need to be doing.

I understand some of the pushback.

Let’s say you are 400 pounds and your wife weighs 100 pounds. I tell your wife she needs to go to a weight loss camp she is going to tell me I am crazy. She doesn’t have a food addiction or a weight problem, but you do. In that case, she is right but when it deals with sexual betrayal she has been affected in ways that she doesn’t even know, and this is having adverse effects on her and in your relationship, and it won’t just get better once you get through your journey.

 We created Recover.org because we saw this need for over ten years and let me tell you, this program is amazing. 

It is well thought out and designed around the very topics that need to be dealt with but rarely are. Recover is presented by women who have been through it and shared their experiences and healing to offer hope to women just like them.  Think of what the My Pilgrimage program is for you. 

She needs a support system that guides her towards recovery also. You can’t be this for her.

We have this program priced at $499 with three months of small groups, and we include an abundance of helpful resources as a bonus.

Here is the deal.

I want men to lead in their marriage and their families.

I want men to lead when it comes to the hard stuff.

I want men to take responsibility and see what they have done to their spouse or committed partner.

I want men to purchase Recover for their wives. Don’t send them a link. Don’t say “Hey you should check this out.” Buy it for them PERIOD.

 Don’t wait till next week to do this.

Do it today or at least by tomorrow and I will personally give you $300 off.

Watch this video:

Guess what?! We lose money selling it for $199 with three months of small groups. I don’t care at this point. I am getting upset at the number of men who are not owning this and doing anything for their wives. Many women have written in, and they don’t understand why they should have to pay for this. They shouldn’t have to … you should.

This offer is good for today and tomorrow until 8 PM Eastern, and you won’t see it again.  Don’t email me after the deadline because you stalled or didn’t open my email.  This is good today, and tomorrow only (8 PM Eastern).

Simply head to www.recover.org and use the code “CRAIGVIDEO” at checkout when you select the one-time pay button.

I think a lot of you know we have recover.org/retreat as well in San Diego. Some of you need to send your wives here to get the recovery they desperately need. I have three spots left and have a partial scholarship available if needed just email me at craig@xxxchurch.com this week. 

Purchase Recover Now for $199

 

 

 

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8 Reasons My Husband Won’t have Sex with Me

8-reasons-wifeWhen I wrote a blog post called “8 Reasons My Wife Won’t Have Sex With Me” I got a lot of great feedback from it and it was viewed over 300,000 times on the first day alone. But one question I kept hearing afterward was: “Could you write one for women and explain to me why my husband won’t have sex with me?

Sure. Sounds easy.

Right?

I asked a few friends for answers, and most of us just scratched our heads. Men who don’t want to have sex? Overwhelmingly, we heard this was the case and women wanted answers.

Now, I don’t speak from experience on this one. I am always up for sex, so I looked for thoughts on this topic from some friends, including Dave Wilson, Adam Palmer, Shaunti Feldhahn, Dave Willis and Jon Kitna.

Just like my first post, this is not a definitive list by any means; I’m putting it out there to hopefully encourage you talk about this stuff with your spouse. If you can be honest and open with your spouse about your sex life, you can often get to the bottom of this without even reading this blog. If you don’t know how to talk to each other, enlist a counselor to help you learn how to communicate.

Before I hit the list, let me offer a couple of statistics:

A recent survey of couples discovered that those who said they were fulfilled sexually had sex on average 2.5 times a week. So that’s something to think about (especially how you can get that 0.5 every week).

According to a 2003 Newsweek study, between 15% and 20% of couples are living in a sexless marriage, defined as making love no more than 10 times a year. While sex is not the be-all, end-all to a marriage, it is definitely one of the best ways to maintain intimacy.

Okay, now let’s look at the list of 8 reasons your husband won’t have sex with you:

1. No  Man Wants To Have Sex With His Mom. This is all about respect.   No man wants to have sex with a wife who is constantly mothering him. If you are always on him, critiquing and complaining about what he does or doesn’t do, then he’d probably rather have sex with himself because he knows you aren’t satisfied with his performance in the bedroom, either. There’s a lot more where that came from.

2. He Doesn’t Feel Wanted. Men want to be wanted. In Shaunti Feldhahn’s book For Women Only, 66% of men said it is very important that they feel wanted by their spouse. Getting sex wasn’t enough by itself—just like wives want to be wanted, husbands also want to be wanted.  Your desire for him is a huge foundation that helps him have confidence in his daily life. I also talked about this in the last post a bit, the games couples play with sex about who initiated last time and all that. If there have been times before in your marriage where you have turned him down, then he just might not have the guts to initiate sex out of fear of rejection. I mentioned this last week and said that this was his issue and he needs to lead, but hopefully this helps you understand why he is not wanting sex and it could be he doesn’t want to get rejected again.

3. He’s Dealing With Medical Issues or Depression. It’s very possible your husband has some kind of medical issue or depression that he just doesn’t want to deal with. We men… we tend to be pretty terrible about acknowledging our weaknesses, even when they’re affecting us and making us lose our appetite for sex. As some of you know, I was sick for months this past year. One of the medicines I decided to take (out of the several that were prescribed) knocked me out at nighttime and left me barely able to wake up in the morning. I noticed that if I took this pill before bed, I had no desire for sex and couldn’t even get it up. Yeah. My wife actually laughed when this happend and then I grabbed the bottle from the bathroom and showed her that was a side effect of the medicine. That was the last day on that medicine. Anyway, there are several different issues your husband could be dealing with medically that effect his sex life and drive. It might be time for a trip to the doctor.

4. Flannel Pajamas Suck. Let’s just be honest: guys are visual and if you aren’t putting any effort into what you look like and making the bedroom an incredible place to be, then he might not be turned on. Life happens—aging, pregnancy, illness, weight gain—you’re not going to look the way you did when you two first met. Fortunately, the deeper we love someone, the less importance we place on the exterior and the more we focus on the interior. That said: It doesn’t hurt to put in a little extra effort to look nice for your hubby. Sometimes even a small change can make a big impact, like resisting the urge to put on ratty sweats as soon as you get home, wearing a cute outfit instead of frumpy jeans for a night out, or actually putting on some of the “sexy” lingerie you’ve bought. My friend Shaunti and I are writing a book called Visual, talking about the visual nature of men, and she mentions men’s “visual rolodex” (or to update it: “visual hard drive”) in her book For Women Only. Wives should be the default image on their husband’s visual hard drive, so make a commitment to take care of yourself as best as you can—maybe you’ll inspire your husband and the two of you can work together to get a healthier lifestyle—both physically and emotionally—and make yourselves visually exciting for each other.

(71.3% of men in the U.S are obese or overweight compared to 68% of women. So, guys you got to work on this even more then your wives)

It will pay off big-time when you’re naked in bed with the lights on.

x3-fighting-for-my-marriage-facebook-105. You Pay More Attention To Facebook than to Him. Maybe this is just me, but it seems like most men I know are done with Facebook. If it isn’t Facebook, it will be something else next week but come on, already. The comments, the posts the likes, the shares… put the damn thing down for a bit and connect with the person in your bed. Words with Friends, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and all these other things have crept into our bedrooms and become a distraction. Now, guys are not immune to this problem – in my house it’s ESPN and my “girlfriend” (my wife’s nickname for my laptop), so make an agreement that, after the kids go to bed, you put everything away and try and connect with each other.

6. He’s Getting It Somewhere Else. Studies show that most (not all) guys need sex every three days or less. If you aren’t having sex anywhere close to this frequency, then I would have to wonder where else he is getting it—either through an affair or through porn. Don’t go hiring someone from the television show Cheaters just yet, but do have a frank discussion with him about the possibility. Most guys or gals will lie when confronted as well, so these are not just easy conversations to ask once and just accept it and move on. Dive into this and get to a place of honesty—and don’t be afraid to enlist a trusted counselor for help if you need it. (And if it’s porn, we can help. Here are some resources you can check out to point him to that help.

7. His Walls Are Up. In the same way that wives can put up walls, so can husbands. While men tend to be fairly good at compartmentalizing their needs, it’s still possible for an issue to build up to the point where it creates a wall. It can be a major issue in your relationship or just in your personal life that affects the two of you relationally, spiritually, or physically. It could be your own depression or physical health, or a change in character that has him wondering what’s going on. Whatever it is, look for signals to talk about it, then run toward that conflict and deal with it. It may be hard, but it’s worth it. Talk. Listen. Then listen some more. Own up to anything you might need to take responsibility for, and remember you’re in this together.

8. He’s English and Prefers Gardening to Sex

I hope this helps. I really hate to see married folks not having sex—even terrible sex is better than no sex. And if your sex is terrible, that just means you get to practice more!

Get to work.

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Friday Rant: Sex Is Not a Chore

sex-not-chore-blog[Note: On Fridays we sometimes post new rants from one of our writers, edited only for typos and spelling. This new series is not for those easily offended or for those who only like to play nice. So read this before you start posting your comments.]

First, let me start by saying this post does not apply to anyone in an abusive relationship. If you are in one, please get the help you need in order to better your situation. This post is for the average, run of the mill marriage.

Second, I am a married woman that struggled with this issue. The more I learn my old way of thinking about sex is incorrect, the more I realize that sex is intended to intimately and wonderfully connect a husband and wife in a way nothing else can. (Aside from God of course!) I want you and your husband to experience the full, loving, gracious, joy-filled marriage that God intended.

Now, let’s talk about sex.

Ladies, this one is for you. Listen closely, sex is NOT a CHORE! Stop treating it that way.

So many times we have seen a married couple portrayed as the husband wanting sex and the wife continually acting annoyed because of it. Picture it, the husband and wife are laying down in bed and the husband tries to initiate sex with the wife. The wife turns to him, rolls her eyes and say “You’re kidding, right?”. That is not healthy. That is not funny. That is not marriage. STOP doing that.

Women, sex is for you too! Sex is not just for the men in our lives. Sex is supposed to be enjoyed by both male and female together. I’m pretty sure that is how God intended it from the beginning. Stop making excuses and start trying to get this right.

The most common excuse that I hear women say is they are tired. We are all tired. Get over it. Trust me on this one. I am a mother of three children under the age of eight. I AM TIRED. This is not an excuse. If you are too tired to be intimate with your husband, something else in your life needs to change. Ditch the T.V. show before bed, put the kids to bed earlier, find a way.

Here’s the truth, your marriage NEEDS to be the priority.

Listen, your children are wonderful. Your job is fantastic. Your hobbies are great and I love T.V. too. I get it. I am there sometimes too. So this is going to be hard to hear: your children, your job, your hobbies and especially television are not your first priority. Some of those are big ones, but not your first one.

x3-fighting-for-my-marriage-facebook-10If you’re a Christian, God is the first priority. Do you know what’s after God? Your husband is. Nothing else.

Chances are that your husband loves you. Even though it may not be what you want at the time, chances are that he shows that love through wanting to be with you physically. With that said, every time that you reject being with him, you are rejecting his love for you. You are rejecting his connection to you. You are crushing his self-esteem. You are rejecting him. When this happens one too many times, your marriage starts crumbling. You grow apart. And once it’s just you and your husband and you’re both retired after the kids leave, guess what, you have no real marriage.

This can all be avoided if you allow yourself to enjoy sex with your husband! I know, I know that many of you are thinking “He doesn’t help enough”, “He doesn’t say the right things”, “He isn’t emotionally available like I want him to be”. I get it. Here’s the thing though, YOU cannot change your husband. You can pray for your husband. However, YOU can only change YOU. Start by changing the way you think about sex. Start by allowing your husband to please you.

I used to be there. I used to reject my husband a lot. I have seen the difference in our marriage, friendship and life now that I have a better perspective on sex. I realized that my husband wants to connect with me and when I am receptive to him when it comes to sex, he is more available to connect emotionally. And let’s not forget that the sex is just flat out great!

Women, when you have sex with your husband and truly enjoy it, not treating it like a check on your list, you want to have more sex. Guess what happens after that? Sex gets better, your relationship with your husband gets better, your marriage gets better and then, before you know, your life gets better.

So stop asking how many times a man NEEDS to have sex. Stop treating sex like one more chore on your checklist. Start thinking about your husband. Start making your husband the priority. Start thinking about sex like an opportunity to make your marriage amazing! You will see miracles happen.

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2 Ways to Improve Your Marriage

xxxchurch - 2 Ways to Improve Your Marriage (1)I thought marriage would come easily.

I pictured a handsome man sweeping in to pick me up and make me whole. I guess I have Disney to blame for that – LOL! Obviously, that fairy tale was exactly that – a fairy tale. Marriage can be difficult, and there are times when I have struggled to even like my spouse.

I want to have a better marriage. Here are two things I have learned that have helped and can improve your marriage:

1. Only God can complete you.

The idea of someone coming in, sweeping you off your feet and completing your life is absurd. But, that is exactly what I thought was going to happen when I got married. I put my identity in my marriage and my spouse. Any time our marriage didn’t go the way I thought it should – or any time my spouse disappointed me – I personally felt like a failure.

In other words, I was totally co-dependent. That way of thinking is so wrong.

When I thought of my husband as the means to my happiness, anything he did “wrong” upset the crap out of me because he wasn’t fulfilling his “purpose.”

When I found out about his porn addiction, my world shattered.

I had to come to the realization that he was not my identity. Through treatment, accountability and community, I had to learn that he is not the means to my complete happiness. If I hadn’t, there would have been no way for me to heal from that pain.

So, if my husband isn’t who I am, where is my identity?

God.

I had to put my identity in God. I had to realize that I am a child of God. Loved and wanted. That was the answer I had been searching for all along – even before my husband and I got married. It took his addiction to open my eyes and come to terms with the truth: My identity and path to complete happiness is Christ. No one person could ever fill that void, nor should they ever have that much pressure on them to do so!

Only God can truly bring you to that place of wholeness. Only God can give you all you long for. Once I placed my identity in God, I was free. And guess what? So was my husband. We were able to enjoy one another knowing that it was going to be alright – even when we mess up – because we are not responsible for completing one another’s identity.

2. Marriage = Service

A happy and healthy marriage does NOT come easy. It is hard. My husband and I were recently discussing the fact that we are so very different… in almost every aspect of life.

Honestly, at first, we were angry that God made us almost-exact opposites. “Why in the heck would God make us this way knowing how hard it would be in marriage?” It baffled my brain! Doesn’t God love us and want us to be able to enjoy our marriage? It just seemed unnecessary.

But then, my oh-so-wise husband had a brilliant thought. What if God made us drastically different so that we would HAVE to learn to love like he does?

x3-fighting-for-my-marriage-facebook-10In other words: Agape.

Agape is a Greek word for love. One definition is: “Unconditional love that is always giving and impossible to take or be a taker. It devotes total commitment to seek your highest best no matter how anyone may respond. This form of love is totally selfless and does not change whether the love given is returned or not.”

WOW! It boils down to selflessness and service.

We have to learn to serve to have a great marriage.

We must lovingly serve one another to the point of dying to our own selfishness. Now that, my friend, is a hard concept. Serving each other out of love… even when we don’t really like each other.

That is God’s love. That is what makes us closer to God. That is what makes our marriages stronger and that’s what will improve your marriage.

It never ceases to amaze me how much we miss when we don’t do things God’s way. Did we have a “happy” marriage before surrendering totally to God? I guess, but let me tell you, it was NOTHING compared to what we have now. Miracle after miracle.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard. I have to remind myself daily to let go of my selfishness, as does my husband. But on days when we get right with God, we get life right and those are the best days!

As I look back, I now see that it was never my husband who was supposed to be my knight in shining armor – it was ALWAYS JESUS.

I thank God that He has my identity.

I thank God that He made men and women so differently.

I thank God that through the mess and craziness of marriage, we learn how to serve like He did and, ultimately, love like He loves.

 

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A Conversation About Fifty Shades Darker

Last week I wrote a blog post about my experience watching 50 Shades Darker with my wife Jeanette and what I learned from the movie. You can read that post here.

Well since then I’ve received a ton of emails and comments on social about my decision to watch the movie and write that post. Some good, some not so good. Many people have said they can’t believe why I would go see the movie at all. Why would I take Jeanette? And so on.

That being said, Jeanette and I had a really great conversation about the movie afterward … and of course I recorded it.

So I want to share that conversation with you. I think you will find it helpful and it also explains some of the reasoning why I went to see the movie with my wife in the first place.

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What I Learned from 50 Shades Darker

Website

I went to see 50 Shades Darker with Jeanette last night in Hollywood.

Two years ago I wrote this blog post.

I was even asked to do a sermon at Daybreak Church about the movie for their AT THE MOVIES SERIES. You can watch that HERE.

We went to the 10pm show and the first thing that stood out to me was the theater was filled with 90% women. I am not talking women with their husbands or boyfriends. I am talking women out with their girlfriends like they were about to watch Magic Mike or Bridesmaids.

Odd.

The person in front of me buying a ticket was a woman, maybe 30 years old by herself at 10pm on a Thursday night.

I had this mindset that the movie was going to attract a bunch of dudes, but I realized that women read the books and women are the ones pouring in to see the movies. That part scares me a bit.

Just a bit.

Back to my story…

The previews rolled. Three of them:

Beauty and The Beast
Baywatch
Girls Trip

Disney’s new Beauty and The Beast before Fifty Shades of Grey? Seems odd.

Not if you just read what I wrote about who is watching these Shades of Grey movies. Girls Trip looks to be one of the raunchiest previews I have seen in a long time.

Now to the movie.

The movie starts out with Christian Grey trying to get Anastasia Steele back. They come to terms with a deal:

No Rules
No Punishment
No Secrets

Throughout the movie, I wrote down one-liners that stood out to me either from Christian or Anastasia. It was dark in the theater, so don’t get mad at me if I didn’t get the quote exactly how it was said, but I am pretty dang close on most of these:

(A) It’s all wrong, all of it is wrong.

(A) It’s not a relationship. It’s ownership.

(A) Don’t crowd me; I need space.

(A) Take me to the red room.

(A) It means the world to me when you open up to me.

(A) Thank you for telling me.

(A) You forbidding it is not us talking about it.

(C) I don’t like strangers gawking at you.

(C) I get off on pushing women who look like my mom.

(C) My arrival into the world isn’t something I feel like celebrating.
In this second movie, you still have a very broken, confused Christian Grey who wants what he lost in the first movie.

Anastasia knows she should not go back to him but can’t refuse. The old saying, “Men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love,” sums up this movie. Anastasia’s refusal for crazy dark sex in the first movie is flipped around in this movie several times when she pushes Christian to even darker sex.

The movie is really slow.

There are some other story lines, but for the most part, you see two very dysfunctional people in a dysfunctional relationship that ends with a proposal, engagement ring, and a YES.

You may think that is great and you are cheering them on…right?

Well, maybe the ladies in front of me were. But for Jeanette and I who have been married now almost 19 years and watched so many of our friend’s divorce, we couldn’t cheer this couple.

What did I learn from 50 Shades Darker?

Here are five things:

1. Sex doesn’t solve problems.

In this movie, Anastasia asks a lot of questions and gets very few answers from Christian about his past, his secrets, and his emotions.

He avoids and dodges a lot of point blank questions from Anastasia. Instead of conversation and communication between the two, you see they avoid them and jump in bed together.

WRONG.

Never happens like this in real life.

Those men who are married for 19 years (or any amount of time for that matter) can relate to what I am saying.

If you and your wife are in a fight and it’s not even a big one, wouldn’t it be great just to have sex and then make up the next day?

Sex isn’t a band-aid and in this movie you only see them having sex instead of communicating. Anastasia engages in crazier sex than she is typically comfortable with in hopes that Christian will open up more, but he never does.

Don’t think that passion and sex can be enough to withstand a broken relationship. It is temporary and that band-aid is going to be ripped off because sex is not going to solve your problems; often it is going to create more of them.

2. One-sided relationships won’t work.

Do you have that friend that always needs something from you?
Do you have that friend that always talks to you, but never listens to what you say?
Do you have that person that you alway have to pay for?
Do you date that person who could care less about your kids, but you’ve invested in their kids?

There has to be give-and-take. If it is not 50/50, it has to be pretty close for a good relationship to work.

This relationship with Anastasia and Christian is tough to watch because it is one-sided.

The quote I mentioned above from Anastasia sums this up. “It means the world to me when you open up to me.”

Christian thinks he is comprising and trying to give into her requests by taking away some of his rules and allowing her to get closer to him. Ultimately he doesn’t know how to open up and communicate and show any emotions and that is why this doesn’t work.

If your spouse or the person you are dating is not willing to comprise, give in, let their guard down, meet you half way, do something you enjoy–you are in trouble, just like Christian and Anastasia.

3. Relationships require hard work.

Christian works hard at winning Anastasia back in this movie, but I wish he would work hard on diving into his past, his issues, and his pain.

I tell couples that are thinking about marriage that marriage is hard work. No one talked to me about that when I was growing up and dating. I don’t like even how this movie ends with the two of them getting engaged, one might leave the theater happy for them, but I didn’t.

Neither one of them are willing to do the hard work that marriage is going to take.

Instead, they settle for band-aids on all their wounds. As a result, their many scars will never heal and their relationship won’t make it.

Your relationship won’t work if you both are not willing to do the hard work that marriage requires.

4. People need other people.

My friend put it on a T-shirt. And I wrote a whole book about it.

The friends and family of the couple in this film just celebrate these two broken people becoming one broken mess.

No one speaks up.
No one says, “I OBJECT.”

I recently had a guy steal from me with Facebook ads. His agency was a total joke and I was in trouble and didn’t know what to do. So I contacted a top agency recommend by Facebook themselves. The CEO was willing to get on the phone with me and offer up advice at $3.00 a minute.

I was impressed actually with the way that phone call was set up and organized. Super legit. At the rate of $180 bucks an hour.

Cheaper than a lawyer, I thought to myself that I should do this.

You know how many hours I spend talking to people who ultimately won’t listen to anything I say? A lot. In fact, in 2017, I said I was done investing so many hours trying to help others that don’t want help.

It is just a fact-most people don’t have anyone to call when they are in a bind or when they are in a messed up relationship that they don’t know how to get out of.

Not one person in this film helps Christian or Anastasia realize they are not right for each other, that they should not be in a relationship right now, that they should work on their issues.

That’s sad, but that is real life for many of you.

You not only don’t have people in your life you feel comfortable asking those questions to; you don’t want to hear what they have to say anyway.

It’s amazing what happens when you pay $3 a minute for advice. You listen. At least I did.

I thought maybe more people would listen to me when they call me in the middle of the night because their marriage is on the rocks and I point them towards the direction I feel they should go.

But, they don’t do it.

Ultimately, whether you pay $3 bucks a minute or you get it for free. You need other people in your life.

If you are dating and thinking about marriage, you need to ask your friends and family (and kids if you have them) what they think of the other person, what they think of you two together, what their concerns are and then LISTEN and TAKE ACTION.

People need other people in good times and bad times.

5. You can’t fix people.

People need other people, but that doesn’t mean people can get you to change or someone can fix you.

Anastasia honestly believes she can get Christian to change. It was hard for me to watch because one of the things she does over and over in the movie is give into the things she was once against.

So, to get Christian to change, she pushes him for darker and darker sex knowing that in the end, it is not a good thing for him.

You and I can’t fix people.

Marriage won’t solve your problems.

If you are fighting and not seeing eye to eye dating, you are not going to get married and just have those problem solved. Instead, they will be compounded.

It’s an ego thing to think you can fix someone because you can’t. If you are healthy and believe that by dating an unhealthy person they will become healthy, you are WRONG.

They will most likely drag you down instead.

Chances are you both are dysfunctional like Christian and Anastasia and instead of tying the knot, these two should be separate and both work on themselves before getting into a relationship.

My friend told me he shouldn’t be in a relationship and needed to work on some things. I agreed. He’s still in a relationship because that is more fun than doing those other things that require deeper work.

My friend asked me to marry him and his girlfriend. I said I would do it, but a few weeks later I sat down with him and said while I would do the wedding, I didn’t think he should marry her.

That was super tough.

I wondered, do I lose a friend over this if I say don’t marry her and I won’t do the wedding?

Do I just suck it up and marry them because that is the Christian thing to do so this couple can have sex?

You think I am exaggerating?

You know how many dumb things I have heard from people who told me their pastor found out they were living together or having sex and then just said, “Let me just marry you right now so you can stop living in sin.”

DUMB.

Marriage, like I said about sex on my first point, doesn’t solve your problems.

My buddy was divorced not long after the wedding I performed.

It was sad to watch, but I feel like so many Christian kids (especially) have been brainwashed to believe that marriage is the answer. That marriage will “fix anything.”

Date for a long time.
Ask hard questions.
Look for red flags.

Ask anyone and everyone you know what they think of him or her and you together. Don’t get caught up in the “I need to get married just so I can have sex” stuff.

Take your time and realize that the red flags you see while you are dating will still be there when you are married and you can’t fix the other person.

I don’t know how the trilogy ends. I can only imagine there is a wedding in movie three, continued dysfunction, and then probably kids at some point thrown into this ugly mess.

Anastasia deserves better and so do the girls in the theater watching this movie last night with all their girlfriends. So do you.

Don’t settle.
Hold true to your standards and beliefs.
Don’t compromise for a man.
Don’t say yes to him when he doesn’t respond to your needs.

And lastly, stop having sex today outside marriage.

Yea, its easier said than done, but it’s the truth.

There is a time and place for it and outside of that complicates things and brings in many other things that you shouldn’t worry about until you have that commitment in marriage.

In the movie, Christian asks Anastasia why she waited to have sex. She said, “I was waiting for something exceptional.” Instead, she ended up with Christian Grey.

Set the bar high.
Exceptional is a good place to start.
Don’t end up with a Christian Grey.

Wrapping this up because it is now 2:00am. Fifty Shades Darker isn’t a movie or a book just about sex (sure there is a lot of sex in the movie).

I don’t recommend the movie.
I do NOT recommend the movie just because of the sex.
It wasn’t a good movie, period.

As you can see from what I just wrote for the past two hours, I didn’t talk about whips, spanking, beads, dungeons, or anything like that.

Nope.

The thing that stood out to me all revolved around two people in a relationship who can’t communicate with one another, so instead they just have sex. In the end that won’t work for them and it won’t work for you either.

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