For Better & For Worse

Vegas is always a fun place to go, especially when you’re at your wits end in your marriage and just wanting to let off steam. I didn’t party though, I had gone there on a business training trip. On the last night one of the girls and I went out to see the sights.

A quick gander of the Cowboy Ugly saloon in New York New York lead to meeting a few random people and we explored with them for the rest of the night. One pub here, a restaurant there…little to no drinking on my part, but it was fun! Flirting, laughing, exploring…one of the guys in the group and I hit it off by the end of the night and he had asked me up to his room. As far as I remember, there was no physical contact between us, but that doesn’t mean the desire wasn’t there. In a setting like that, when your marriage is struggling, of course the desire is there. I said no to his offer even though I wanted to. I just knew that I couldn’t realistically act on that urge.

This was another sign to me that I needed to leave my marriage. If the temptation to cheat was so strong, eventually I would give in to it, and I couldn’t do that to my husband. I needed to leave before I hurt him like that. He needed someone to love him more than I did.

It’s so interesting to me that feelings like this and others I had felt in the past, were signs to me that I needed to leave my marriage. If I was struggling with these thoughts, I assumed that I didn’t love my husband enough and I shouldn’t be in my marriage…when in actuality, they were signs of the dysfunction of my own heart, and red flags of correction that I, personally, needed to make. They shouldn’t have been reasons for me to leave my husband, they should have been reasons I needed to be honest with myself and my husband and seek help.

These struggles weren’t abnormal, they were ones that many individuals go through. They aren’t a reason to divorce, they’re a reason to assess the situation. Maybe love isn’t being given and / or received so the individual is looking else where. Maybe connection isn’t being felt. Maybe there’s a spiritual imbalance which has lead to an unhealthy thought life.

None of these issues are impossible! They’re all able to be corrected with counseling, intentional changes within the marriage, corrections to thought processes…But of course, that would mean admitting to my own faults, humbly asking for help and working at applying the steps it would take to make a change.

Doing this is so difficult, admitting unhealthy behaviour or thoughts is a blow to the pride and ego. But leaving a marriage because of these issues doesn’t mean they stop. You still carry these issues into whatever life situation comes next.

Dealing with your own issues before ruining a marriage because of them is the healthier, albeit harder option. It saves a severing that takes years to recover from, if at all. It prevents a situation that God has said he hates. It allows two people to work on themselves and become better individuals and a healthier team. You’ll grow, you’ll learn and God will bless the efforts he sees you making to heal yourself and your covenant.

I truly believe that a bigger blessing is waiting for you on the other side of this struggle. The covenant we make in front of God on our wedding day is sacred, it’s an earthly and obvious reflection of God’s relationship with us. He will back the efforts we put into it and will show us his presence in ways we thought were impossible. We need to stubbornly push through the For Worse to reach the For Better.

Bonding

“But it’s different for me,” I responded “I’m divorced.”

This conversation was between my sister and I, but I had talked about this with multiple people.

Waiting for a second marriage to have sex didn’t count for me, I told myself. I had been married before and so my body and mind had already experienced it. Not only that, but I was closing in on my 30’s. Realistically, I wasn’t going to wait until marriage to have sex again and neither were the guys I would be dating.

Not only had I already experienced sex but, in my mind, because I had experienced it, it wasn’t as big of deal to continue.

What I was saying, without being conscious of it, was that sexual interactions were no longer precious.

Isn’t that how the world views sexual interactions? It’s a physical deed with little importance. I mean, yes, it marks an important moment in a relationship, but other than that it’s for physical pleasure. Sex, the world says, is to an individual what air is to a human. It’s a need, a necessity, and one we quickly take for granted.

Even though, scientifically, we are bonded to another human by having sex or even a more simplistic orgasmic experience because of the release of chemicals, the world shouts that the bond doesn’t matter. Or they don’t acknowledge it. It doesn’t affect us, the world says. It’s the physical act of sex that is appreciated, not the connection it creates.

I have learned about the bonding agent of sexual experiences the hard way. It’s taken broken hearts, STI’s, and lengthened heart-attachments. Embarrassment, shame and one night stands. As much as I wish I could go back, change it all and learn the easy way, I know that my personality needed these difficult moments to truly teach me the importance of sexual connection.

I’ve learned that sex is a bonding agent between two people. Yes, it’s (usually) a special moment, but it’s actually even more than that. It ties two individuals together. It makes you feel connected on a deeper level, even if the foundation of that connection isn’t established. It makes your heart yearn for the person you’ve shared this experience with after they’re long gone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a committed relationship or a casual one.

If all of these things happen with the act of sex, why are we flippant with one night stands? Why do we rush the sexual moments? Why do we not consider the importance and depth of this experience?

A while ago I decided to get to know someone without adding sex to the mix. For several weeks we just got to know each other, went for walks and hikes, watched movies and had great chats. Although he wasn’t wanting the relationship to stay at that level, he did respect my wishes.

When we decided to go our separate ways, I noticed that I was able to mentally move on from that relationship so much faster than any other in the past. I didn’t feel a lengthened attachment to him. I felt like our relationship had a healthy break instead of a strained one.

In the past the relationships that had included sex took so much longer to break from. My heart ached for those connections longer and hurt deeper.

I think that we need to not only see the act of sex but also the connection that is built because of sex, as important and precious. We need to acknowledge it, preach it, believe it. It’s so easy to tell our kids, or even adults that aren’t married yet, that sex should be saved for marriage. But when we tell them about the depth of connection that happens, it’s more than just saving these moments for marriage. It’s saving these bonds for our spouses, these in-depth emotional connections and feelings for someone we want to spend the rest of our lives with.

I am constantly reminding myself of this part of sex. It’s so easy to be brainwashed by the worlds definition of relationships and what should be part of dating. Sometimes it’s hard to remember why I’m trying to set myself apart in this way. But when I remember the hurt that I’ve been through before and how I felt linked to guys that I wanted to be separated from, it’s easier to hold back sexually.

Beyond that, when I think about the connection I want with my husband one day and the distance I want from men in my past, it’s easier to hold back sexually. Still a mental (and spiritual) process, but it’s easier to keep my sights on what is true.

Sex & God

I am totally fascinated by sexuality and the effects of sex on a human being. I’m taking a psychology course and I am completely enamoured with how the human mind works and specifically how sex changes us.

My goal with the course started with becoming a marriage and family counselor, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I need to focus more on the sexual aspect of relationships. It’s what fires me up, puts me on the edge of my seat, makes my eyes light up and my words come out really. really. fast. There’s an obvious passion built into me about this topic and I believe that God has written my story in a way that allows me help others in this area.

It’s interesting looking back on my life and seeing myself progress in the sexual intimacy department. I used to be (probably still am…) the friend that would crack the “that’s what she said” jokes and make innocent comments sexual (it’s amazing what raising your eyebrows can do). From my friends point of view, my marriage sex-life must have been passionate and the sex itself, frequent. If I was so open about sexuality in our friend-group, of course I would be just as open about it when my husband and I were alone.

Not the case.

We had a good sex life, the sex we did have was enjoyable and frequent, but it took some convincing for me to want to participate.

When I heard on Sexy Marriage Radio that sex is a form of communication, it really made me assess my sex life. Dr. Corey Allan and Shannon Ethridge mentioned that the way you live out this part of your life is often the way you live out your day-to-day life.

If this is true, what did it mean for me?

In my marital sex life, I was very distrusting and on edge.

It took everything in me to believe that my husband wasn’t just using me.

I had to be convinced to relax and be vulnerable.

Big sigh.

All of these things could be translated into my life in general.

In friendships I held emotional connection back, creating walls, until I saw that it was safe to let my heart participate. People around me may not have seen the hesitation, but inside, my mind was telling me I shouldn’t trust.

In my day-to-day, my first thought was that people were using me or going to hurt me, and it took a mental game to convince myself that they genuinely wanted a friendship.

I often had to be coerced to do something out of my comfort zone and even when I did participate it took a while for me to relax and enjoy myself. In the meantime a bad attitude and an edgy-ness was obvious (both defense mechanisms).

The way I lived out my marital sex life was absolutely a direct reflection of how I lived out my every day.

Now, what do I do with this knowledge?

Knowledge is power.

I consider how I have changed through the last few years, and how my sex-life has gone from one extreme to another only to settle into what I believe God has called me to. How does this reflect my life and how I communicate myself to others?

Is this even important? To consider how our sex lives are a reflection of other parts of us? I think it is. Sex was given to us by God, built into our humanity. It’s a drive for each of us. It’s important to acknowledge it and it gives us insight to other aspects of our lives.

Even if it’s just helping us see ourselves in a new light, that is important.

So looking at my current sex life (or lack thereof), I can see how I have changed. How I have matured. How God is working and molding me. Leading me in His direction and not my own.

I see the forgiveness I’ve received. The softness of my heart. The grace. The patience. When I look at my sexual journey, strange as it may seem, I see God and His work in my life.