Sexual Intimacy – Getting Past Challenges of Abuse

by Sharon Leukert

My husband is crazy about my body. Through it, we’ve had three children and I suffer the effects of Crohn’s disease, but he’s still crazy about it, so I consider myself blessed! I’ve learned to love his desire for me, and even tease him playfully on a regular basis. A healthy love for your spouse’s physicality is a key part of sexual intimacy, so of course I’m glad he loves to touch me, but it hasn’t always been easy.

Everything was great right after we got married. All of the nuances of married life were so new, so wonderful, that you would never imagine problems creeping into the bedroom, but they did. Aside from a few “risky” encounters (like sex outdoors on the edge of a cliff), I’d always felt safe in my husband’s love and protected in our lovemaking. After our first child was born and we relocated to a new job for Karl, things began to change. When things got tough for my him at work, high amounts of tension came into our home. As his job situation grew worse, so did the stress and frustration. The longer the work problems continued, the more stress made itself known and brought a new dynamic into our relationship – fear.

Fear does a funny thing to you. It reaches into your file cabinets of painful experiences and drags out every single one it can find, focusing especially on the ones that we don’t like to talk about. It thrusts these painful experiences to the forefront and – all of a sudden I was there again, trembling, confused, violated. I had just been molested by my grandparents’ elderly neighbor. I was seven years old.

Suddenly my husband’s caressing of my breasts became an ugly reminder of my painful experience. I knew my caring husband who I wanted share my love with wasn’t that deceitful elderly man who lured me to be alone with him so he could force himself upon me – but all of my emotions were tied up with the new dynamic of fear that had entered our home.

31890942_m

Sex didn’t stop, but it changed. Our marriage didn’t stop, but it changed. When my husband resigned from his job, and we moved to be near family, healing began. But by this time we were both more than a little emotionally damaged. It was a dangerous time to be angry with each other, dissatisfied with each other, to be tempted.

The intense stress that Karl had at his previous job, and the baggage from the past had a deep impacting on our marriage, including, our sex life! We both had to feel safe again. We had to eliminate fear from the bedroom. It took time. It took much effort. We still made so many mistakes, but somehow, miraculously, we came out on the other side more in love with each other than we had been – and expecting our second child.

What this experience has taught us in our own life and as we help other couples is that:

1. We’re not alone. Many people have gone through the same struggle, that when a large negative impact comes, old fears and painful experiences can come to the surface. And it surprises us. We aren’t prepared to deal with it, because we weren’t expecting it. In speaking with one friend in particular, our stories were so similar it was uncanny. This happens to many people. You are not alone and you don’t have to go through it alone.
2. We have to share, even the painful experiences, with our spouse because they impact us and how we relate to others. My husband could have demanded that I get over whatever peevishness I had and said I’m going to touch your breasts whether you like it or not, you’re my wife! But because he knew my past, how deeply it had impacted me, he understood. He didn’t like it, but he understood.
3. It’s okay to ask for help. This was one of our biggest mistakes. We didn’t ask for help as a couple. We tried to do it all on our own – and healing took much longer. After this painful experience is where we began to lose our “you can’t talk about that” attitude. Yes you can talk about it. You need to talk about it. Yes it should be done appropriately. I would suggest speaking with a licensed counselor or therapist instead of the drunk at the corner, or the gossip columnist who can’t wait to spread some juicy news, but yes you can talk about it and get help.
4. Do something together for healing. This is what we got right. We were living in Arizona the year the Arizona Diamondbacks took the baseball world by surprise and won the World Series. At each step along the way, we bonded with “our team.” Their victory was our victory. As they progressed, so did we. It sounds silly, but we needed something to identify with, something that could remind us that we had overcome just as they had. When Luis Gonzales hit that ball that scored the winning run and everyone cheered – our marriage hit a home run. We knew we were going to make it.
5. It sometimes takes more than once. I’d like to say that no more stressful situations ever came into our lives, but that would be a lie. However, the lessons we learned helped us to deal with it much quicker and much better. We know that stressful situations can damage our relationship, so we take more time outs for ourselves when we see it coming. We nurture one another, instead of pulling apart.

Sexual intimacy was created to be a dynamic and beautiful part of marriage. The original plan is that it is to be experienced – unashamed. When painful experiences of the past threaten that intimacy, bringing shame and fear, it’s time to deal with it. Get help. Share with your spouse. Heal together. And experience love again – unashamed!

3 Spiritual Warfare Mistakes in Marriage

One man, one woman, united together forever in the closest human bond possible and able to experience life together with no hesitations, no holding back – complete trust and transparency. That is the goal of an Unashamed Marriage, as depicted in the Edenic Marriage Model – the man and his wife were naked and unashamed.

Regardless of your “religious” persuasion, if any, if one were to do a review of every poet, author, philosopher, statesman, musician, and comic from the beginning of recorded history to present, there is no denying that humans are “spiritual.” We can go about our lives, careers, plans, hopes, dreams and bucket lists, and find ourselves at a dead stop when we begin to ponder things such as the meaning of life and the future of planet Earth. These thoughts seem much bigger than the normal pontifications of our day to day life. We can’t deny our spiritual side, likewise we can’t hide it from the one we are the most intimate with. To do so would crush our growing awareness of where we fit in this world and put up a barrier in the marriage. Barriers take away from total trust and intimacy. Barriers are the thief of an Unashamed Marriage.

So just being able to talk about your ideas of the meaning of life with your spouse is all it takes to satisfy the openness needed in the spirituality aspect of an Unashamed Marriage, right? It’s not that easy, you see Spirituality is a Double-Edged Sword.

From the beginning of history, including such events as the Crusades, the Puritans, the Hugenots, the Reformation, Communism, and the history of Rhode Island – we can see that whenever religion – defined for our purposes as a particular way of interpreting spirituality – is forced, mandated, or regulated by the state, it gets ugly. The last thing you want in an Unashamed Marriage is for spirituality to become about religion getting ugly. Here are 3 spiritual warfare mistakes couples make in marriage that give opportunity for religion to turn ugly.

35818517_l

 

1. My experience trumps your experience. He prays for a sports car, she prays for a cat. When both things come to pass, he assumes the greater religious fervor because he’s aware that a car is much more expensive and therefore valuable than a cat. But look deeper. He wanted proof of his recent promotion and thought the car was the best thing. She’s wanted a cat all of her life, but her parents are both severely allergic to animals and after college she lived in apartments that didn’t allow pets. The cat is a fulfillment of a lifelong desire. The point is that spirituality goes much deeper than the surface and as humans we tend to judge on the superficial. Couples that respect each other’s spiritual experiences without trying to prove that one was better or more important than they other, are the couples that heighten total intimacy instead of taking away from it.

2. Ignoring religious differences. Earlier we defined religion as a particular way of interpreting spirituality. From flavors of Christianity to Buddhism and secularism to Islam and so much more, the world is full of differing religions. What many couples fail to account for as they begin the dating and eventually engagement and marriage phases of their relationship, is the level of influence in framing our perspectives and worldviews that our particular religion has on our lives. Then suddenly we wake up one morning next to our spouse and realize that their secularism is clashing with our Hinduism. Does this mean that couples who failed to negotiate religious differences before marriage are doomed? It doesn’t have to. But neither will we sugar coat it and say that religious differences don’t add any ripples to the pond. Ignoring religious differences means someone is going to explode when they see the cost of Catholic school tuition for their children when their conservative Protestantism had prepared to homeschool. If religious differences weren’t negotiated before marriage, it is going to be an issue of give and take and agreeing to disagree. Respect for each others’ viewpoint will have to exist. There can still be intimacy in marriage in the area of spirituality, but it will take more effort. Those who married a spouse of like religious beliefs have a common ground to start from and greater ease in achieving total intimacy in spirituality.
3. The Spirituality Hammer. This is where the history of forced religion takes on a personal tone. Couples often mess up when they try to “fix” their spouse with their preferred hammer or religion. Every religion has do’s and don’ts. Beating up your spouse about their thoughts, ideals or behaviors in the context of your religion is going to destroy your marriage. Chastising your wife because she hasn’t been in the habit of buying Kosher items for the pantry isn’t going to make her love the Jewish laws of Kosher. Likewise beating up your husband over his “wasting time” on video games by quoting Scriptures about idleness isn’t going to make him want to jump up and clean the garage. A man convinced against is will is of the same opinion still. Whether it be the Laws of Manu, the Torah, The Bible, or any other holy book, it is easy to find some list of things to do and not do and start telling your spouse where they are wrong. Instead there is the Unashamed Marriage method of sharing form a holy book. If it is about needed changes or correction, that is for you. Apply it to yourself. If it is encouraging, uplifting, inspiring and full of peace, hope and joy – that can be shared with your spouse as well as applied to yourself.

Sexual intimacy has often been called a spiritual experience. It is undeniable that something so intense and personal could be purely human in origin. We’re far too selfish for that. No barriers in the area of spirituality is going to open up marital intimacy in ways that may make you shudder with pleasure. Couples desiring an Unashamed Marriage must keep in mind that Spirituality can be a Double Edged Sword. Used correctly, it can cut deep into each and every life experience taking it to levels of richness and fullness we never thought possible. But that same sword used incorrectly can cut apart our connection as a couple, severing closeness and intimacy. Wield the sword of Spirituality carefully. Experience all that an Unashamed Marriage can be, instead of severing the closeness that marriage is intended to have.

7 Marriage Lessons from Flying on an Airplane

by Karl & Sharon Leukert

With summer travel in earnest, you might be considering boarding an airplane to take you to your destination for fun and relaxation. When we were younger (and it was our first few times flying) it seemed like such an adventure. Now, after many multiple flights, it too often ends up being a major hassle. This is kind of like marriage – at the start it is so fun and exciting, but after years of the journey, too often it ends up often seeming like more trouble than it’s worth. To help you on your journey, we’ve put together some Marital Flight Rules that will help you regain or retain the sense of adventure.

FlyingCouple

Copyright: andresr / 123RF Stock Photo

1) Everyone has baggage. Some is carry on, some is check on. Everyone enters marriage with “baggage” – EVERYONE! Some of that is very visible. Little idiosyncrasies from how we have been raised, or the culture we’re from, or just from our unique way of seeing the world around us. This is totally normal, even though it may be frustrating to our spouse. But we all also have hidden baggage – learned parenting skills or financial management that are destructive; emotional constructs that impact our relational success or failure; sexual activities prior to marriage (either with your now spouse, someone else, or pornography) that effects your relationship and sexual behavior after the “I do”; abuse in the past that has not been dealt with; damage from divorce; lack of understanding yourself enough to enter the marital relationship with a mature frame of mind. Of course this list is not exhaustive. What can be exhaustive – and exhausting – is that even if the “check ons” are hidden at the beginning of the flight, at some point they will come to the surface and will have to be dealt with. It’s all part of the successful journey of marriage, so don’t get discouraged! (Did you bring your dysfunctional childhood into your marriage?)

2) There will be turbulence. Everyone who been flying for any length of time knows that very few flights are completely smooth from takeoff to landing. As the plane passes through the air it encounters invisible pockets of varying pressure as well as currents, causing the plane to suddenly rise and fall. Usually it is not too concerning (and can actually be a bit fun). When severe enough, though, it can cause serious injury.

Marriage can be like this as well. Every marriage has normal ups and downs, which, while somewhat disturbing, can also be enjoyable, if relationship growth comes from them. Then, there are also occurrences that almost seem like the video above. Financial setbacks, health emergencies, car or home accidents, deaths of family members, relationship crises that seem to hit without warning. All these and more can create havoc in your marriage. So what do you do?

First, don’t get out of your seat, and stay buckled! It’s easy during these times to want to try and run to greater safety. Resist! Second, spend time going back over the most important positive events in your married life.

  • What were your favorite dates?
  • What are your best/worst hotel experiences?
  • Recount what one vacation together you would relive if you could.
  • Make a list of the most memorable POSITIVE sexual experiences.
  • Share some of the things your liked/didn’t like about each place you’ve lived.
  • anything else that reminds you of your good history together

Those good memories are what keeps you in place during turbulent times. Third, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help.

3) Have a destination picked out when you start. No one would get on a plane without knowing where it will land. You have to have a destination determined before boarding. What about marriage? “Til death do us part.” Historically this has been part of vows recited at weddings by both spouses. However, as is too often the case, this seems more of a fantasy than a reality. Does that mean that it should not still be the goal? Hardly. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of long-term marriage. Every day, remind yourself of this destination. Just like you wouldn’t start flying without knowing where you’re going, plan from the beginning (or start now) that “Til death do us part.” is still the ideal.

4) Don’t get off until you get there. How many of us have heard the speech about what to do with the loss of cabin pressure (“Pulling the mask toward you will start the flow of oxygen…”) or what to do in the event of a water landing (“Your seat cushion will act as a flotation device…”)? Of all the flights we’ve been on, we have yet to hear the flight attendant say, “If you desire to get off of the plane in mid-flight, please press your button as we have parachutes available.” Many times marriage problems show up within the first 5-7 years. It’s at this point too many couples opt for the parachute of divorce. We are not advocating remaining in a an abusive marriage. If you are in an abusive situation, seek help immediately! What we are advocating is to not move to ending the marriage when the normal turbulence of marriage occurs. In fact, if you make it through the first 7 years, you are more likely to make it all the way to “Til death do us part.”

5) Trust other, more experienced flyers. The first time we each went on a flight, we had so many questions. What luggage should I use? How early should we arrive at the airport? What toiletries should I take? Window or aisle seat? Am I taking too many clothes? Etc. Now, we have been able to answer those questions for our oldest child as he went away to college for his freshman year. Asking those who have successfully flown makes a huge difference. For your marriage to be successful, it’s vital to find out what others have done who have solid marriages and learn from that. Do a search online for advice from other couples, but be ready to filter out those things that would not benefit your relationship or fit into the principles of an Unashamed Marriage. Beyond that, look for couples that you know who have solid marriages and ask them to mentor you. It will have tremendous benefits!

6) Enjoy the in-flight refreshments and entertainment. When you’re on a cheap one hour flight (and even longer ones), you’re going to get a soda and maybe some pretzels. It’s fun to watch the flight attendants pass out the goodies and then quickly pick up the garbage before the plane lands! Then there are longer flights where you can order your meal to your preference (and enjoy a movie that’s offered). When we’re on the soda and pretzel flights, we don’t refuse what’s being offered just because other flights have place settings and meals designed by food stylists. Wherever your marriage is at, enjoy the benefits of what’s there in front of you.

God has designed marriage to be full of joy, refreshment and entertainment, when it is lived unashamed. In fact, living out the 9 principles of an Unashamed Marriage will help to make sure they are present in your marriage.

7) Lose some baggage on the way. It was our first flight with all three of our children, two of which were under the age of two. How were we to balance the car seats we would need for our rental car when we arrived with our connecting flights? We made mistakes the first time and we were traveling from one gate to the next with all of the car seats and fixtures. On the return flight home, we found there was a lot more luggage that could be checked in, we didn’t have to carry it with us through all the connecting flights. We even combined our things in to one carry on diaper bag/wonder bag. We adjusted and kept things simpler, enjoying the flight home much more than our trip out. A few other times, our luggage has been delayed and had to be delivered by shuttle. As technology has improved there is much less lost luggage, but here are tips to minimize that even more. (Curious about what’s been found in lost or unclaimed luggage?)

There are some things in your marriage that always need to stay in the forefront – baggage that NEEDS to be lost. Do you have carry-on items that really should have been put into the cargo hold? It’s OK for most or all of that to be lost in transit. Also, know that others on the marriage plane may have extra baggage as well. Be careful not to add to your burden while even on the flight. Regularly go to marriage programs, read marriage strengthening materials, take part in online or offline assessments to see where you are at, or, if necessary, seek a flight attendant (a.k.a. marriage therapist/counselor).

 

Make your marital journey the best it can be! Thanks for flying, UNASHAMED AIRLINES!

Top 10 Ways to Care for the 21st Century Wife

by Nicholas Miller (guest post)

Our friend, Nicholas Miller, came up with this list. We thought it was good and asked him if we could re-post it. He graciously agreed.

 

10. Remember to put the top back on the toothpaste, put the toilet seat down, and leave at least one cell-phone charger free in the bedroom.

9. Listen, listen, listen, and only then, text your response.

8. Be the first to say “I’m sorry,” and avoid the temptation to add “lol,” and especially not “rofl.”

7. Don’t forget to help with the dishes (cause it’s a prime time to watch basketball on the iPad)

6. Take out the trash, change the light bulbs, and defrag her hard drive. For some reason, these are all man jobs.

5. Use a male voice on your GPS, so she can still be the only woman telling you where to go.

4. Keep an extra computer power cord in your briefcase so when she “borrows” your regular one you can more easily be sweet, gracious, and forgiving.

3. Just be there for her, and don’t try to solve her problems—even if you think of a really cool Google search that could do so.

2. Remember, if when she is talking, and you take at least one ear-bud out and one eye off the screen, you MAY get half your dinner.

1. Just remember that emoticons are no substitutes for real emotions, and that hugging her and telling her you love her beats xoxoxoxox, bff, lolo every time.

 

Here’s the link to the list as he posted it on Facebook.

N_Miller