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!

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

Safety First!

by Sharon Leukert

One of the things I (Sharon) have enjoyed doing in my lifetime is being a safety compliance assistant for a small general contractor outfit. There’s nothing like starting your day at 7:00 AM telling a bunch of guys how to be safe as they go about their work day. The guys on the other hand, more often than not, were less concerned about the minutia of details on how to do their job safely. They just wanted to get the job done! They had years of experience and figured they knew how to do what they did without getting hurt, so the rules handed down by OSHA and other organizations just seemed to get in the way. Sometimes, though, I was able to teach them things that were new and beneficial. For instance, they didn’t know that OSHA has a heat app for their smartphones. Now they could get a warning on what the heat index was and know how many breaks to take in the shade and how much water to drink to keep from getting heat stroke on the job.

As I’ve been thinking back on that time I find that there are similarities between safety compliance on the job and the intricacies of women, men, and sex. Husbands who have learned well realize that the key is – you guessed it – Safety First! So exactly what does that look like? Here are three easy ways to practice Safety First and get the job done.

1. Make sure your lovemaking is sex_nach_der_geburt_sh_92296813private and protected. You may get really turned on by a romp in the park, but she wants to be for your eyes only, not on public display. Sex outside can be exhilarating, but take the time to find a safe and private place! Rent a bungalow for a weekend with a lush garden style back yard and a privacy fence. She’ll feel safe and you’ll get the job done.

2. Let her know that her hopes, dreams, thoughts and feelings are safe with you. Here’s where it really hits. If your wife doesn’t feel safe to share her feelings with you, she’s going to start holding back. When she starts holding back feelings, she also starts holding back in bed. You may hate chick flicks, and even worse getting stuck watching them, but they’re important to her. So take turns. This weekend a testosterone filled guy movie as well as a good round of NASCAR, and next week a chick flick and a Hallmark special. When she feels safe to share her hopes for the future, without being laughed at or told it will never happen, she also feels safe to share everything she has in sexual intimacy. Let her know she is safe to be exactly who she is with you.

3. Reassure her with your wallet. We’re not necessarily talking about gifts and flowers delivered to her every week (although it’s not a bad idea either), but a dinner where you present your bride with an envelope showing you’ve taken care of the future – life insurance policies. If you handle the taxes every year, make sure she knows that it is all taken care of and she doesn’t have to worry about last minute trips to the post office on April 15th. Spend the money to have a professional do a job that really matters to her. Yes, you can play plumber on the weekend, because it may indeed take you all weekend to install that new faucet. You may get it done, but she’ll be without a fully functioning kitchen all weekend. Let her know that her convenience is worth the price of hiring a professional and getting that faucet replaced sooner. You want her jumping up and down and thanking you for arranging for it all. That’s a much better option than her complaining about how you took her kitchen away all weekend.

Yes, it takes a little time to and effort to insure safety first, but it’s worth it if it helps you get the job done!

Your Health and Your Sex – Part 5

by Karl Leukert

When God created Adam and Eve, He designed them perfect, including their amazingly complex sexual interactions. This series has been exploring the research that reveals more of the benefits He designed for all couples. This is the fifth part of this series on Your Health and Your Sex. You can read previous parts here: PART ONE, PART TWO, PART THREE, PART FOUR.

We encourage you to signup to receive our blog updates via email in the right hand sidebar so you won’t miss any of the great items coming up.

1) A recent Google search of the term “sleep deprivation effects” yielded nearly 1,280,000 results. It seems that nearly every week a fresh news story comes out about the damage we Americans are inflicting on ourselves by our lack of adequate sleep. It turns out, there is one more bit of damage to add to the list, and hopefully this one will cause some additional sleep when the other study results have not. In an article published in 2015 in the Journal of the International Society for Sexual Medicine, sleep has a direct correlation to sexual likelihood as well as enjoyment. Now, we need to hasten to add that the study done was using college age females. However, the results are significant – a one-hour increase in sleep resulted in better genital arousal the next day and a 14% greater likelihood “of engaging in partnered sexual activity.” Considering other studies that show that healthy marriages already have a greater frequency of sex and report a more satisfying sex life than single college girls, the one extra hour could have an even greater benefit for them. Husbands, do all you can to help this happen! Help with the household chores. Take burdens off your wife and make sure she gets her sleep.

2) For most wives, when they get pregnant, it is happiest time(s) of their lives (except for the morning sickness, clothes not fitting right, false labor, REAL LABOR!!!!!) Well, you understand. But, for a small percentage – 3%-5% – it can be life threatening due to a condition called pre-eclampsia. Symptoms include increased blood pressure and protein in the urine and, in some cases, can cause seizures and death. We thank God that He planned ahead for this problem. According to Danish research, frequent sex with the father of the child before conception (as typically happens in marriage) greatly reduces the possibility that the mother will develop this condition. This is due to the HLA-G protein that is present in the father’s sperm. The pre-eclampsia condition is an immune response to what the mother’s body thinks is a foreign body – the baby. If she has had repeated exposure to his sperm, her immune system recognizes similarities in the HLA-G and the baby and will not react the same. There is also some anecdotal evidence that the most beneficial introduction of the sperm is through oral ingestion.

3) We met while we were in college – Sharon a Journalism major and Karl studying Broadcasting. One of the things that attracted Sharon to me (yep, Karl is writing this), was that during Intro to Speech class I did not stay behind the lectern but stood beside it and moved around the platform when I spoke. She said she liked my confidence. Actually, neither one of us has ever been shy to be up front, but we know that some people are. One of the tricks 471-AncientPoetry3_zps785553a0that has been used for people who experience stage fright is to tell them to imagine everyone in their underwear. To me that would be scarier than I can imagine. It turns out that according to research published back in 2005 by Biologic Psychology, the best thing would be to have a great roll in the hay with your spouse before you have to speak. Scientists studied the effects on blood pressure during stressful situations after three activities – masturbation, partnered sexual activity with no penile vaginal intercourse (PVI), and PVI. Discounting all other factors, the couples who reported regular PVI and not other sexual activity showed significantly lower blood pressure reactivity. Have more sex – lower your blood pressure. That’s a great prescription!

 

Marriage Maintenance

This is a guest post from our friends, Mike and Gayle Tucker at Mad About Marriage.

Maintenance is boring UNTIL something breaks down.

These 5 tips are routine maintenance healthy couples follow to stay happy:

1) They tackle problems.

Problems are a reality of life.

Some come from the inside our marriage relationship and others from the outside.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re internal or external, problems must be dealt with.

Healthy couples stay happy because they tackle problems – they don’t stick their heads in the sand.

2) They understand.

Next time you’re disappointed, upset or frustrated with your spouse, try to understand where they’re coming from.

Do what grown ups do: Start a conversation.

Think twice before assuming, attacking or accusing.

You might discover it’s just a simple misunderstanding.

How do you keep from having full-blown, in-your-face conflicts? By dealing with simple misunderstandings along the way.

Healthy couples stay happy because they seek to understand each other.

3) They act.

We have a tendency to react to our environments and relationships.

The challenge is that if this becomes a dominant pattern in our marriage, we can easily create a marital environment where we all we’re doing is reacting to problems.

It’s good to remember that marriage isn’t always about solving problems.

Marriage is about celebrating life and love, which is a pattern of action that keeps love ignited.

So come up with special dates or surprises for your partner; recreate romantic moments.

Be active, not reactionary.

Healthy couples stay happy because they take action to savor life and love.

4) They express their feelings.

Don’t assume your spouse knows you love them.

Healthy couples stay happy because they demonstrate their love routinely.

5. They make love.

If sexual fulfillment is weak or missing from your marriage, your relationship is unhealthy.

Granted, there are situations where, due to a medical situation, sexual intimacy might be lacking.

But generally speaking, a sexless marriage is an unhealthy marriage.

But before blaming your partner for drop-kicking your relationship into the “friend zone” where you behave more like roommates than lovers, evaluate your own behavior to see if anything might be throwing cold water on the fires of sexual intimacy.

Healthy couples stay happy because they enjoy mutually satisfying sex.

These are a few ways healthy couples stay happy.

If things aren’t running as smoothly as you would like, then maybe it’s time for a little routine maintenance.

Back to School

by Sharon Leukert

It’s been said that if you keep studying and learning new things, it keeps your brain younger and active and is beneficial to your overall health. If you’re done with math and science I have a suggestion: get a degree in your spouse.

There is this phenomenon that we believe understanding our mate is seeing how we can relate to them in order that we can change them to be like us. Wrong! True understanding is becoming a student of your spouse and applying that knowledge – hold on to your seat – to your life.

So you found out your wife is a neat freak extraordinaire. Don’t buy her books about how she is OCD. Pick up after yourself. You are demonstrating that you understand your wife and are showing your love. Does your husband do everything by a list? Put away the certificate you got for that class on spontaneity and send him a list of things that are important to you. He’ll see it as his marching orders and it is something he understands – a list!

Time marches across all of our hearts, preferences and ideals. That means that your spouse may have made some modifications over the past 12 years. This is the reason studying your spouse is a lifelong quest. Never stop learning about your spouse. It keeps your brain younger and active and is beneficial to your overall marriage.