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My New Day TV Segment: Shame

Shame has a nasty way of undermining sexual intimacy. In this segment – the first of a three-part series with My New Day TV – I talk about what shame is, how we can recognize it and how we can heal it so that we can experience true freedom.

Why I Couldn’t Get Undressed on My Wedding Night (Emily T. Wierenga)

I met Emily when I was co-hosting The Drew Marshall Show in July. She was speaking on the hang-ups that we, as women, have with our bodies, and I found her insight both powerful and freeing. Our conversation at dinner later that night only reinforced my impression that she is truly an amazing woman with a much needed ministry. I hope you enjoy her post.

We arrived late with a bottle of wine and I stepped on the back of my wedding dress as we crossed the threshold.

I didn’t see anything but the bed, with its nicely folded corners and my new husband already in his boxers and grabbing us glasses from the kitchen cupboard.

I leaned against the wall, drinking the white, in white, and we were 23-year-old virgins who’d never seen each other naked, had only felt each other’s skin and I couldn’t unzip my dress.

I stalled, pulling out my bobby pins and he helped me, and we made a nice little pile of pins and then he asked if he could help me with my zipper.

And I asked him if he wanted another glass of wine.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make love with him.

It’s that I didn’t want him to see me. All of me.

Not because I didn’t trust him, but because I didn’t like myself.

I didn’t like my skin and I thought maybe if we got the room dark enough first and we could do that every night, till death do us part, and he’d never see my flat chest or my wide hips or my pear shaped body.

I ended up slipping the dress around my ankles and then quickly sliding beneath the sheet and it’s taken me 10 years to learn how to walk into the bedroom naked, with the lights on. To look my husband in the eye, standing there in all of my skin, my stomach stretched with marks from two sons and my chest even flatter than it was before.

I am not beautiful because of my skin, nor because of my husband, nor because of my children, but because of my heritage as Abba’s creation.

But even though I was raised in the church, as a pastor’s daughter, who was baptized by the age of eight and went to youth group and memorized Scripture, I didn’t know that womanhood was something to be embraced. I didn’t know there were two different kinds of pride—a hubris kind of pride, which is a lifting up of the soul in defiance of God—and then, the other. The good kind of pride. The kind that Isak Dinesen defines in her book, Out of Africa:

Pride is faith in the idea that God had when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. His success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and he is in love with his destiny.

I thought I was supposed to feel ashamed of my female curves. Of my body.

My mum was insecure and my dad, emotionally absent, so as children, we all battled low self-esteem. We weren’t allowed to watch The Little Mermaid because she had a bare stomach and Mum would get embarrassed if Dad caught her changing. I would be mortified if Dad saw my bra hanging on the clothesline. We thought we needed to be hidden away. Fig leaves, and such.

But Jesus came to change all that.

Jesus came so that shame would go. Jesus came, so that we could know, again, the full idea God had for us when he created us.

I am learning what it means to be a woman —

What it means to embrace all of my femininity and to see it as a loving calling. To know the difference between love of self, and loving myself, and to treat myself as tenderly as I would a friend.

My friend, Celeste Steele-Perez, puts it this way: “As I meditate on what it means to be a woman, I marvel. I feel strong… I celebrate every curvy nuance of the feminine mystique. The memory of birthing makes my blood rush with the knowledge that … I, too, am made in God’s image!”

About the Guest Author:
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, artist, and the author of four books.

She is a columnist for the Christian Courier and Prodigal Magazine, and a paid contributor to The High Calling. In addition to being associate editor, ghostwriter, copy editor, and staff writer, Wierenga has written for Christianity Today (Kyria), Christian Week, Faith Today, Adbusters, Geez, The Anglican Planet, Focus on the Family, Christian Courier, and In Touch. Emily speaks regularly across the continent at women’s retreats, universities, churches and conferences, about her journey with anorexia nervosa.

For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

What You Can Learn from a One-Night Stand

One of the reoccurring complaints that I hear in my coaching practice is that clients (men and women alike) are discontent with the sex they are having with their spouses. As I probe to find out why they are unhappy, I often discover the core problem is that they struggle to communicate their sexual needs and wishes clearly. They are afraid of being open and vulnerable because they fear they will be rejected, shamed or misunderstood. The irony, of course, is that in refusing to reveal themselves fully, they simply end up feeling empty and alone because their spouses have no clue what they want, much less how to meet those needs. As it turns out, no matter how well we think we know each other, we really aren’t mind readers.

So, when I ran across Jazmine Hughes’ article, My One Night Stand Became My Long-Term Boyfriend, I thought I would share it with you. Let me be clear – I am not advocating one-night stands, but I think she makes a great point about the openness needed to cultivate truly good sex – something that we should all strive for in marriage. Here is a blurb from the post:

[During a one-night stand] you’re also totally open about yourself sexually. Again, it’s not someone you like or that you’re really invested in, so you’re not afraid to ask for exactly what you want: harder, slower, on top of the covers with the lights off and no talking. You’re more likely to suggest something new if you’re not worried about him thinking that it’s weird, because you don’t think you’ll ever see him again.

Of course, saying what we want doesn’t guarantee that our partners will agree to give it to us. But we stand a much better chance than if we remain silent. Overall, learning to speak up and say what we really want leads to much richer sex lives…even when it’s with someone you will see again.

Bedwork 9: Change up the Routine

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

 
Recently, I have been prepping for a TV interview on the topic of infidelity. In the process of my research, I came across a slightly alarming statistic. Of the men and women who confessed to having an affair, 71% of the men and 49% of the women said they did so because they were sexually bored. In fact, the boredom reason far out-paced other justifications such as business trips, high sex drive, close friendships with others and rekindling romance with an old flame. Boredom is a subtle threat that can lead a marriage into very turbulent waters.

For those of us who are in long-term relationships, it is very easy to get stuck in a rut. Sometimes routine is a wonderful thing – everyone gets his/her needs met with a minimum amount of effort. However, sometimes this rut creates a deep sense of dissatisfaction. In order to last the decades together, we need to become experts at recognizing 1) when we are in a rut and 2) how to get out of it.

Here is one rut I notice couples fall into frequently: the time they choose to have sex. They always have it on Sunday night after Game of Thrones (I mean, seriously, that show is hot!) or maybe they have a quickie after date night. Sometimes sex is reserved only for special occasions. It is the same, all the time.

So this week, your Bedwork is to change things up a bit by changing your regular routine for sex. Instead of having it at night, set your alarm clock for half an hour earlier in the morning. Perhaps you can kidnap your spouse at lunch and sneak away to a hotel. Perhaps if you wake up in the middle of the night, you can wake your spouse up too. Whatever you do, just do something different and breathe a bit of life into your routine.

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

Bedwork 7: Clear the Obstacles

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

 
I once had a client who had to have the kitchen completely clean before she could relax enough for sex. There was nothing she hated more than going to bed with a dirty kitchen waiting for her in the morning. It stressed her out – so much so that she was often grumpy if her husband wanted to have sex.

As this woman’s story illustrates, sometimes the things that get in the way of sex are logistical. The kids’ schedules keep you on taxi duty until late into the evening. The TV is a perpetual distraction. The bedroom is a mess and the last place you feel sexy.

Once my client’s husband recognized the source of her resentment, he began pitching in and helping her get it done. In his mind, cleaning the kitchen became part of foreplay. Not only did she feel grateful for the assistance (and therefore much more amorous), but the task got done faster, leaving more time for fun!

For Bedwork this week, think about three things that take your time and focus away from sex and brainstorm solutions. Are the kids up too late? Then move their bedtime back a half-hour for the next couple weeks and see what happens. If the TV is a problem, then turn it off an hour earlier. And that messy bedroom? Clean it up and slap a fresh coat of paint on it so it creates a relaxing atmosphere. And then reap the benefits.

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

The Drew Marshall Show

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed on The Drew Marshall Show – Canada’s Most Listened to Spiritual Talk Show. I had absolutely no clue what to expect, but was delighted by Drew’s ease with the subject and Tim The Tool’s sense of humour. Both made for a lively interview.

For those of you who were unable to catch this segment live, here is a link to the show (scroll down a few guests to find my segment).

 

 

Bedwork 4: Practice Sex

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

Last week, after I had done a seminar on sexual intimacy, a man walked up to me and said, “When you told us that we could have ‘practice sex’ a huge weight rolled off my shoulders.” His words reflected what I see in so many, many people. We put enormous expectations on our sexual relationships. There have to be fireworks each and every time. Every encounter has to live up to the passion that we see onscreen at the movies. Sex has to be good. All. The. Time. There is very little room for “practice sex.”

But in order to really get good at sex (yes, it’s a skill set), you must practice. I don’t just mean have sex more often, although that can be helpful too. I mean you must have times in which you consciously lower your expectations of each other. In practice sex, the two of you decide you want to get more skilled in a particular area. Perhaps she has never had multiple orgasms before, and you want to see what it takes to get her there. Perhaps he would like oral sex as part of your foreplay, and you are completely intimidated by this concept. Perhaps you are bored silly of the same three positions you have been using for the past decade and want to learn something new. Perhaps you just want to slow down a bit and not sprint to the finish line.

Here is your Bedwork for this week: Set aside one time when you and your spouse agree that you are going to try out practice sex. By agreeing ahead of time, you ease the pressure of performance. This experience is all about enjoying each other, not perfection. Then, allow for “mistakes” and “mediocre” sex during this time. Remember, to get really good at sex, you have to go through the awkward learning stage. So be patient with each other and enjoy it as much as possible. It might not be the best in and of itself, but this experience is moving you towards the goal of a deeper, richer skill set together. And that’s when the fireworks happen.

 

5 Ways To Make Your Marriage Work

20 years ago, Eric and I began a very tumultuous relationship. After six years of on-again, off-again dating, we decided to pull the trigger and get married. Our friends and family were a little shocked. We were then, and still are, a very passionate couple and passion often manifests itself in a lot of fireworks. While a display of fireworks can be festive and breathtaking, handling explosives is never a completely safe endeavour.

Over the years, we have cultivated the skill to manage the passion without snuffing it out and yet sustaining as little damage as possible. I write this post on our 14th anniversary – we are pretty sure that everyone who wagered bets against us has lost by now – and I decided to share some of the ways we make it work. As I reflect on the years, there are five commitments that Eric and I make that weave strength into our marriage.

1)   We are deeply committed to each other. We have an unusual relationship because we are both public figures, out speaking to churches – but we do so as individuals and on different topics. On one hand, my husband, the Director of Philanthropy for World Relief Canada, tackles the complexities of international poverty, hunger, and education. On the other hand, I speak and preach at churches on the issues of sexual intimacy. Traditionally, the material that I handle is covered by a) a man or b) a couple, so Eric and I are keenly aware that what I do is counter-culture. Could Eric join me? Of course. He is an extremely gifted speaker and thoroughly knowledgeable about marriage. But his calling is different than mine. His work passions lie elsewhere. And I am deeply committed to seeing him grow and flourish in the area to which he is called. But he feels the same way about me. He is actively supportive of my business – from handling the website, to listening to my talking points as I write, to lending a critical eye to my forth-coming book. Truth be told, we love that we are different. We love that we are called to different areas of ministry. We laud each other’s passions and are each other’s biggest fans. We have a deep, abiding respect for the individuality that we bring to our marriage.

2)   We are deeply committed to our marriage. Marriage is not just a combination of two individuals. It is greater than the sum of its parts. It is its own entity. It lives or dies, it communicates to the world, and it can use its powers for good or for evil awesome. Just as Eric and I are deeply rooted in our understanding of ourselves as individuals, we also recognize that our marriage needs nurturing in order to remain strong. If we are not consciously investing in activities that strengthen our marriage, it will become at risk. We therefore jealously guard our date night, we practice what I preach on sexual intimacy, and we understand that we have a calling as a couple to impact the lives of people around us. Because we are people of faith, we believe that God is in the center of our lives, having a relationship with each of us but also having a relationship with our marriage. We build into each other and into our marriage. Here is a (rather crudely drawn) diagram to illustrate this:

3)   We are deeply committed to accountability. We have a circle of people who will speak into our lives and that of our marriage. Not too long ago, a friend sat with me over coffee and asked some very pointed questions. Let me tell you, vulnerability is never easy, but it is crucial. When I asked her what had given her such courage to probe (our relationship is fairly new), she told me that she had just seen another marriage fall apart while she remained quiet. “I decided that I would never be silent again.” This was extremely convicting to me because I have remained silent at times too – fearful that I would be “interfering”. We all need friends who have the courage to speak boldly into our lives, listen with empathy when we open up about our fears, doubts, hesitations and annoyances, and then guide us to greater intimacy with our spouses.

4)   We are deeply committed to authenticity. We have decided that our marriage is not about looking good. No one can weather years of marriage flawlessly. It just doesn’t happen. But when we pretend that everything is fabulous all of the time, it simply serves to make everyone else around us feel inadequate – because they have ups and downs too. Eric and I do have a great marriage, but it is because we have fought hard for it. There have been plenty of times when we didn’t like each other, we hurt each other, we failed to trust each other and we deeply offended each other. I will, no doubt, piss Eric off in the very near future and he will do the same. But that’s ok because marriage is not always a picnic. Very often, the good stuff is on the other side of the hard stuff because you don’t learn the lessons, work on your character, and become the person you need to be without the hard stuff acting as a catalyst to get you there. Inviting people on this journey with us gives us the space to be real and enables others to be real with us.

5)   We are deeply committed to growth. It never ceases to amaze me that people will skip off to a professional development seminar at work, but never carve out the same time for their marriage. Eric and I went on our first marriage retreat a mere four months after we tied the knot. This is not because we were already regretting our decision, but because we were keenly aware that if we did not continue to grow, we would die. This pattern has continued throughout our marriage. In February, we spoke at the Good to Great conference. Because we were taking the sexual intimacy segment, we were the last to present (you have to build up to sex). As we sat and listened to the other three speaker couples, we learned and gleaned new insight.

I am grateful for the 14 years I have had with Eric. He truly is the love of my life, the husband of my youth. I would not be the woman I am today without him. He saw things in me before I ever recognized them in myself. He has called forth greatness in me. Our adventures in passion continue, but they would have exploded into flames years ago if we hadn’t built those five commitments into our foundation.

Keys to Better Sex Revealed

A new study analyses what makes a great sex life. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Communication, self-esteem and understanding each other’s emotions make for great sex
  • Men want to engage in activities which bring pleasure to women.
  • When men are in tune with their partner’s emotions, women are more open to exploration.

You can read the entire article here.

What makes your sex life great?