Marriage Reader Questions: Lightning Round Edition

by | Jul 22, 2019 | Marriage, Uncategorized | 11 comments

Answers to 5 Marriage Questions on everything from emotionally distant marriages to sexual deprivation due to following Levitical law!
Merchandise is Here!

We’re back in Canada!

 

We had a wonderful time in England spending time sight seeing and also doing some genealogy research, but we’re also really glad to be back. 

But in the meantime, while I’m adjusting to the jet lag, I have SUCH a backlog of reader questions that come in that I thought I’d tackle some more today and give you multiple mini-posts in one. Here we go!

1. How do you keep the connection alive when you’re apart so much?

A woman writes in that her husband is gone all the time for work, and she’s feeling their connection slipping away:

Reader Question

How do you stay connected to a husband who absolutely loves his job and works and travels a lot while I’m home with our 2 busy small kids! I’m the one who initiates the emotional connecting and it is getting exhausting and lonely and I’m finding we have less to connect over.

Really common question. And I’ve actually dealt with this myself (and I talked about it at length in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage). When you’re away from your spouse a lot, it can be tempting to not explain all the things that are going on in your life, because it just takes so long. It’s easier to talk to someone who is in the middle of it. So you start relying more on your sister or your mom or your friend, and less on your husband. It’s not that you don’t love your husband, it’s just that to explain about the problem with Jack’s best friend’s mom coming over to the house for a playdate and how she seemed really snooty means that you have to explain about the last three times she came over, when you thought something may be wrong but you weren’t sure. And you hadn’t mentioned those other three times yet, and to go back to the beginning with the story is just too much work.

So you don’t.

And soon he knows nothing about what’s going on in your emotional life!

I spent a lot of June talking about practical things to do to keep your relationship alive, and for this woman, I think these posts are especially important. Figure out each other’s emotional needs. Plan and vision together as a family.

 And then it’s important, even if you don’t share EVERYTHING that’s happening in your life, that you do at least give the highlights. Every night, on the phone, do the “highs” and “lows” exercise, where you share the time today when you felt most in the groove, and the time that you felt the most defeated. You don’t have to explain everything you did, but it’s important to explain the ones that had emotions behind them, and to understand the same about your husband.

Why isn’t he taking the lead more on this? A lot of men are able to compartmentalize easily, and he’s in his own world. He may not realize what he’s missing. But it’s important. I’m sorry you have to bear the burden of this, but it’s worth it to stay close. I hope that helps!

2. Am I Unconsciously Unmarried?

Here’s a woman who is afraid that, in her subconscious, she’s already abandoned her husband. She asks:

Reader Question

 I have been married for 3 years. For the last little while we’ve been living abroad since my husband is from another European country. This season has been very hard on me and I feel he doesn’t understand even if he has tried to show he cares. For the last few months, I have been having dreams about me meeting other men, feeling excitement, feeling pursued sometimes. They are not precisely sexual dreams but sometimes they are. My husband is never in these dreams. In fact, I barely dream about him. It’s as if he didn’t exist. In fact, even now, I feel like my marriage is kind of a fake one. I don’t feel his presence as my husband. And it scares me so much! Did I break up with him in my mind at some point? 

I’m so sorry you’re so lonely! And this is really common when you’ve left your country of origin and you’re in a strange country without friends, especially if your spouse now feels at home. You literally are living in two different worlds. It’s no wonder you feel alone!

As for dreams, we are not to blame for what we dream. People dream all kinds of things, and sometimes those dreams mean something and sometimes they really don’t. It sounds like your dreams are manifestations of your loneliness, and I think that is important to address. It doesn’t mean that you’ve left your husband in your mind, though.

As for what marriage is supposed to feel like–it’s just about doing life together. If you don’t feel like you’re doing life together, then talk to him about it. What exactly do you want to change? Do you want to talk more? Develop some hobbies together? Look at the links for question 1; they’ll likely help you, too.

Here’s another thing to remember: You feel like a fish out of water living in this country, but he very well may have felt the same thing living where you’re from. One of you is going to feel like a fish out of water in this relationship; that’s what often comes when you happen to marry someone from another country. So you need to decide: is this marriage worth it to me? Truth is, you did vow to be with your husband. I know it’s hard, but throwing yourself in to embracing the culture may really help. Read as many guidebooks as you can. Go to the library. Join some groups. Get out there and embrace the country. It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but that’s part of being married!

The bigger question here is that she’s worried that, in her heart, she’s not married because her emotions are betraying her. But you can also decide to take those thoughts captive and do something with them. What thoughts are you going to nurture? The ones telling  you you’re lonely, or the ones telling you that you love your husband and you’re going to embrace this life? I’m not trying to minimize what you’re going through–I can’t imagine living on the other side of the world in a strange country. I really can’t. But you did marry someone cross-culturally, and part of the challenges of that is embracing the culture so that you can build a marriage.

Perhaps other readers who have similarly done this can chime in here: what are the best ways to embrace your spouse’s culture and feel at home in another country?

3. What do we do with sex postpartum if we’re following levitical law?

I actually know quite a few people who do this, but the woman writes:

Reader Question

Sheila, my hubs is being an absolute bear! We’re 5 weeks postpartum with no intimate contact. We follow Levitical law on separation, so we have another 5 weeks. Everyone I talk to says “oh there’s other ways to be intimate…” but they never tell me these other ways. I’m afraid of him finishing with oral. Ive been unable to finish him by hand…he won’t do it himself… what else is there? Our intimate life was already sparse with three other young children. It’s really tanking the ‘love tank’ as his language is touch which he ONLY receives in the bedroom. Sheila help!! 

Okay, I do feel a lot of sympathy for this woman, but this is the sort of question that I just can’t help with, because I think you’re dealing with a whole bunch of things that are, in and of themselves, unhealthy. And I don’t want to help you continue in unhealthy ways!

There is absolutely no reason for a Christian to follow Levitical law. Jesus came to set us free from the law; you don’t even have to be circumcised anymore, which was the sign of Levitical law, let alone all of those other laws. Here are just a few of the verses that show that we are free from Levitical law:

  • Acts 10:9-16: God gives Peter permission to eat animals that are deemed unclean under Levitical law. Not only does he say that they’re not unclean, God says that He has declared them clean. 
  • 1 Corinthians 7:19-20: Paul expressly states that people do not need to get circumcised anymore
  • Pretty much the entire book of Romans continuously states that we are no longer under the law, but we live under Grace (Romans 4:14-15, 6:14, 7:1-6, and 8:2-3 to name a few references)

If you are following the law to try to be holy, you are missing the whole point of the gospel.

Overall, there are a few key red flags I want to touch on here: 

1. If your husband is being a bear to you because you aren’t having sex postpartum, when you have that many young kids, and he has decided that he wants to follow Levitical law, then perhaps your husband needs to reconsider his attitude as well. If he chooses to follow Levitical law, he also needs to accept the consequences of that and not put that burden on you, especially since you have multiple children already. The mindset he is showing now seems very selfish and entitled–he wants all the good and none of the bad from this lifestyle he has chosen.  

2. If he only touches you after sex, that, too, is a problem. It sounds overall like this is a very one-sided marriage. I do have a post on whether you have to give your husband a hand, and that may help here. If your husband is insisting on no sex, then, according to the Levitical law, there should be no sex. If the only way he’s living by the law is making sure YOU don’t get sex, while he still gets sexual release, that’s so backwards and does not line up with the mutuality that God designed sex to have (1 Corinthians 7:3-4). 

Deciding to give your husband sexual release as a gift every now and then, especially post partum, is not a bad thing at all. But when that is the only way you can have sexual connection in your marriage and the person who gets the orgasm is the one saying that you can’t have an orgasm, that’s just not healthy. Mutuality in cases like this means that you either you both can choose to have sex, or you both abstain for a while. Otherwise, he is using you for release while being allowed to keep you deprived. 

4. Help me understand submission in marriage!

A confused woman writes:

Reader Question

I love your articles and various views/points. They fire me up and help me learn more about the loving God who cares for our hearts more than what rules we follow. As a young wife whose husband was sinning and betraying me constantly by flirting/texting/chatting with others, I especially needed your articles about what submission is and not enabling sin etc. ( he is now finally on the road of recovery and renewing his mind from lust etc) Anyways my question has to do with submission.Once someone in ur comments said how wives aren’t told to obey their husbands in the bible and you backed that person up. What I’m wondering about are those verses in the bible that do say to obey. Those verses confuse me. Thank you!

For sure! I’ve written a lot about submission and the way that our views on submission can make Jesus seem less important than our husbands. Let’s remember that in the Lord’s prayer, we pray that God’s will is done, not a husband’s will. And we need to keep that first and foremost! 

I won’t rehash all of that here, but I did write a 5-part series on submission last September, and you can read all those posts here:

5. What about Remarriage after Infidelity? And do we really have to wait for marriage for sex?

A woman writes:

Reader Question

 

I have two topics for you to consider. The first is getting remarried (both of us are divorced due to infidelity). The second is I was raised much less conservatively than him. So the waiting until marriage and other topics are new to me ( wanting to read about these things is how I found your blog). So I have to imagine that there might be others struggling with the difference that causes in a relationship.

Absolutely! My big post about remarriage is right here: Why I’m anti-divorce and pro-remarriage. I think divorce should be rare, and a last resort–but I also firmly believe that many times divorce is the right thing to do. I also think that in those cases, the Bible is clear that remarriage is fine. In that time, a divorced woman had no way of supporting herself. To allow for divorce and not remarriage would not have been possible. So if Jesus permitted divorce, then he similarly permitted remarriage.

As for waiting until marriage, I’ve written a bunch on it, but the big thing is that sex can help us feel closer than we may actually be. It’s important to take the time before marriage to work on one’s emotional connection, so that you’re sure you really know each other and love each other. And the world works so much better if sex is kept to marriage! It helps sex be about intimacy, and not just about the physical, because it’s always about commitment and relationship, too.

Some other posts I’ve written about why we should wait for marriage to make love:

There you go–a whole bunch of questions today! Anything stand out to you? And do you have any advice, especially for the cross-cultural marriage or the Levitical law marriage? Let’s talk in the comments!

Struggling in your marriage, or want things to be better? Here are some answers to marriage questions real couples are asking!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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11 Comments

  1. Jane Eyre

    The postpartum woman’s story is rage inducing. So she is obligated to give him a release and he is obligated to deprive her, and this is because she tore her body apart in service of their family??? That’s just sick.

    No advice, except to figure out what other problems are in the marriage and put the kibosh on more kids until this gets straightened out. That attitude almost certainly spills over into other areas of marriage.

    Reply
  2. Nathan

    The postpartum story is very heartbreaking, and I’m so sorry that this is happening. The idea that one person is forced to give to the other, but only in one direction, is completely opposite of what God wants for us.

    Sheila is correct in her statement that Jesus brought us above the law. My pastors say that much of the Old Testament Law was designed to set the Jewish people apart from other peoples in the area. When Jesus came, He didn’t say that the law was necessarily invalid, but that there was a higher calling. God wants us to spend more effort in being good, caring and loving people rather than following page after page of minutiae. I doubt that we’ll get cast into H*ll for wearing a shirt that’s 50% cotton and 50% polyester.

    And this also seems to tie in to the woman asking about submission. As this site has mentioned many times, the phrase “wives submit to your husbands” is part of a larger passage that indicates that wives and husbands are to submit to, love and obey each other EQUALLY. The only real difference is that the bible says that the husband is the spiritual leader of the household (aka the family pastor), but that doesn’t make him the King. The husband and wife are equally in charge.

    Note: My church also supports the idea that husbands and wives are to submit to one another equally. However, they’re also big on “women, dress conservatively at all time, so that men won’t lust”

    Reply
  3. Lydia purple

    I am married cross cultural and we live in my husbands
    country. We are married 11 years and I live here now for 12 years.

    I have three pieces of advice
    1. take initiative, learn the language, reach out, built your community. Find things you love about the new culture. Eat all the cheese, you’re in Europe!!! It’s an adventure. Your attitude here matters. Try to get yourself in a positive mindset about it, even if it’s hard to be without your birth family and friends.
    2. Talk to your husband about how you feel, and try to find out which aspects of your culture are really important to you, over time you will create an unique family culture. I actually found this freeing because you can choose the best of both worlds, celebrate all your favorite holidays…
    3. pray for God to send you a friend. I have had seasons of incredible loneliness but God never failed me when I asked him for a friend. Most of the time they were the unlikeliest people, so keep your mind open

    And I just thought of a 4th one so this is bonus …😂
    Find a way to serve. If you start to look for ways how you can bless the people around you it takes you out of the needy self pity situation and empowers you to build bridges.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love this, Lydia!

      Reply
  4. Natalie

    I’m not the postpartum questioner who wrote in, but postpartum sexuality is something my husband and I have been dealing with the past couple months. We’d been working on our sexuality since the month before conceiving baby #2. Baby was born in May. Husband was very understanding that I need to recover. I feel like with the first postpartum period we had, he just didn’t disturb me and used porn as his outlet instead. But since we have Covenant Eyes now and he’s not watching porn, after 2 weeks, he came to me and said he was going bonkers with no sex and that he needed some sort of release now. So I gave him a “gift”. But I let him know I’d been horny too recently (even despite all we had going on! Go figure! I was shocked too lol) and that I’d like some intimacy and some release too. Until 6 weeks postpartum, he didn’t try anything on me besides cuddling me and helping with the kids and helping/doing most of the housework whenever I ask, even though I really wanted him to try external stimulation on me (which I also verbalised to him on several occasions). Whenever I asked him why he didn’t want to do that, he said he was scared he’d hurt me more. I knew he was coming from a place of caring, but still, returning to our purely one-sides sex life for these past 2 months really frustrated me. I’m 8 weeks now and he seems to still be a little resistant to touching me down there. Maybe he shouldn’t have been in the room during birth and seeing my vagina do that lol. I think it might have scarred him. 😂😬🙈 But I’m also a little worried that that 2 months postpartum negated all the progress we’d make in the previous 10 months, and that he’s gotten used to me giving giving giving and him lying back and accepting it, which was the standard for our sex life since the honeymoon almost 5 years ago. He says he understands mutuality, but when it comes to actually implementing it, I’m not seeing any corresponding actions on his part.

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Natalie writes…
      > > He says he understands mutuality, but when it comes to actually implementing it, I’m not seeing any corresponding actions on his part.

      That’s many people in a nutshell, and not just in our sex lives. We’re good on theory, but in practice, well…

      From your post, it sounds like you have a basically good husband who struggles with seeing your side of things sometimes. Keep working at it, maybe in baby steps, and here’s hoping for the best for both of you!

      Reply
  5. unmowngrass

    Re: Cross culture, from one who had a cross cultural engagement

    Similar to what has already been suggested, but my specific strategy was to find at least one thing that was MINE in the new culture, that I could introduce to him and tell him about. Similarly, if you can, take on some decisions about your home/family life that you only tell him about once they’re done. I’m talking about things like redecorating or maybe getting a pet. Of course talk in general about the fact that you want a pet or to redecorate, and maybe set a price limit, but then go to the hardware store or pet store by yourself and get what *you* want. Because it will increase the idea that you have *chosen* this life as it is, rather than that it’s something that happened to you. Even better, go with a girlfriend — you’ll have easier conversations in a situation like that than staring at each other over a cup of coffee, and it’s such a natural segway into invitations too. “You must come round when it’s finished to see the end result!” Even better, sometimes you can spend more time with people if you ask for their help than if you just want a social engagement, so long as you’re careful not to overplay that card.

    So far as making friends, obviously you will have been introduced to some people; my recommendation is not to try to join in his immediate circle because you’ll always feel like an outsider. But as you meet people, maybe the wives of his friends, or another acquaintance, find the one or two you like best and ask THAT person to introduce you to their friends. So again you are getting connections of your own, and you will have things to tell him about, that will make it feel like your environment too.

    I’d also suggest that you and hubby get a hobby together, and that maybe you also get involved with one of his (just don’t make it your main/only thing), as well as both joining the church. You need lots of shared experiences to balance out the fact that you have separate ones about the culture.

    tl;dr — find things you can tell hubby, and get shared experiences with him.

    PS. It never hurts to be proactive. Email the wife of his friend and arrange a double date without asking him about all the details.

    Reply
  6. Bethany

    What helped us communicate thoughts and feeling’s about sexuality is to watch/listen Ted talks, discuss your blog articles and how it applied to us. After a year of marriage and a baby, we’re still fighting our way to a good sex life.

    Reply
  7. Doug

    Sheila, you usually have excellent Biblical insight, but you missed it on Acts 10 and unclean meats. What was God trying to show Peter in the vision? Verse 28 “God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean”. It was not about unclean meats, it was about unclean people. The Jews had created a non-scriptural tradition that Gentiles were unclean, and God is telling Peter that tradition is wrong. While the brethren had been scattered in Acts 8, the leadership was apparently still practicing this Jewish exclusivism, despite Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations. So, God used this vision, combined with the visit from the Cornelius delegation, the baptism of Gentiles, and the Holy Spirit being poured out on them, to show Peter that the Gentiles were NOT unclean, whereupon Peter taught this to all in Jerusalem. Acts 10 & 11 are the point where the worship of Jesus broke out from being just a Jewish sect to being a worldwide phenomenon. Making the vision be about unclean meats diminishes what it was really about, taking the gospel to the world!

    Concerning the incident itself, God never said the meats were now clean, only that what God has cleansed (meaning the Gentiles, not the meat), Peter must not call impure. In fact, Peter defied God and refused to eat the meats because he knew their uncleanness was Bible-based, and not just a Jewish tradition. God didn’t have a problem with his defiance. Peter did not, however, refuse to visit the Gentiles, because he knew that their uncleanness was NOT Biblical, but only a Jewish tradition.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Doug, I’d agree, but the point of my using this post is that we are no longer under Levitical law, and we are not to follow Levitical law anymore. That’s really the issue the questioner has. God has put an end to Levitical law, for a whole host of reasons, and we should not be putting ourselves back under the law.

      Reply
    • Lindsey

      Thanks so much for saying this. I wanted to say something similar, but you put it all into words for me. I personally don’t eat meats listed as unclean. Most all of the “health laws” in Leviticus were centuries or millennia ahead of their time and implementing them helped avoid diseases (burying feces outside of camp, washing hands in flowing water, not eating the hard “cover fat” of animals or consuming blood. If God is the creator of the human body and He gave His law to bless Israel and set them apart as His special people, it’s wise to believe that this law is the best possible choice for one’s health. This is also why I had my sons circumcised.

      Incidentally, Christ said very specifically that we were NOT to think that He came to do away with the law, but to “make it full”. (Matthew 5:17) Immediately after that He goes in to talk about how it isn’t enough not to murder, you must also not hate. And it isn’t enough not to commit adultery, you must also not lust. He showed us what it meant to have God’s law written in our hearts. Can we be made justified by the law? Of course not, but proof of redemption is obedience.

      Now, the writer of Hebrews (most likely Paul) tells the Christians in Jerusalem that sacrificing and purification rituals that pertained to the temple no longer applied, but in the book of Romans he is discussing our salvation and justification in Christ and our inability to save ourselves, not the lack of necessity to obey God.

      Circumcision was a sign of a particular covenant, which is not the covenant New Testament Christians are under. The sign of that covenant is baptism and proof of redemption – which is obedience and change. The book of James is speaks very clearly to that, and even Paul himself in Romans exhorts us that “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?“ Romans 6:1

      God is love, and at the core of the law is a desire to bless our lives and help us avoid hurt. Not everything is black and white in the Bible, and there’s much that doesn’t make sense or seem to fit, but the purpose of the law was love.

      Reply

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