Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Woman of Song of Solomon

Well, as promised due to popular demand, and, i might add, in very appropriate order, our topic for discussion this month is the marriage bed. As christian married women we spend a lot of time and energy trying to emulate the infamous "Proverbs 31 Woman"; but too often i'm afraid, we skip over another wonderful example of a godly helpmeet found just a few pages ahead - the woman of Song of Solomon. Oh, never thought of her in that light? Well read on my friends, read on!

Before we start this discussion though, i feel the need to give you a little context for my stand point, you see, it's not the typical one for a female; Ok, *deep breath* here goes - 
I love having sex
A lot. More in fact, than my husband. That is to say that i desire it more than he does. More often, more intensely, just...more. The downside to this in giving a talk to other women on the topic is that i just can't to relate to you personally when it comes to being on the other, more common side of the female fence, where sex is a selfless "sacrifice" we have to force ourselves to make every now and then for the sake of our husbands and marriages. I've read enough on the subject to understand this phenomenon in my head, but as for the rest of my body, well, that just doesn't get it. The upside however, is that having a sex drive apparently similar to that of the average male, makes me thoroughly equipped to speak to you on why this is such an important issue, and how to help make things work. (Note: After the meeting i realized that i am not the only one in this boat - yay! So, if you are like me and have the higher libido, please keep reading as you can still use a lot of these ideas to get your husband going as well. Also, see the resources section for some other helpful information.)

Why We Need Sex
First, let's talk for a minute about the pure physiological side of the act. Did you know that men produce at least 1500 sperm cells per second? Their bodies are divinely wired to feel the physical need to release some of those little swimmers every few days. I read where someone made the comparison to the nursing mother, who naturally has a let down of milk every so often. For those of you who have been in this position, imagine the discomfort of not being able to express that milk! Now unlike nursing, if a man weren't to have a "release" the result would not be severe engorgement and excruciating pain, his body would simply reabsorb the unused sperm.But my point is that it's a natural, God given need. Not just a carnal desire. One man put it this way,

" a man, sex is like having to eat. When i have missed a meal i unconsciously roam the kitchen, opening cabinet doors, and peer into the refrigerator,  just looking and looking....a few days without sex leaves me in the same condition sexually....i [still] have this overwhelming sexual need that drives me until it is satisfied."

Now, desire accompanies that need of course , and if the need is not met, arousal can and will occur with less and less provocation. This result is again no fault or character weakness in the male, simply a Divine wiring. Filling that need with our bodies as was designed by our Creator, helps to safeguard our husbands from temptation and keep their hearts and minds committed to us alone.
There are also social and psychological implications for sex ; we've all seen the commercials for Viagra or Cialis where the men all float around with these big cheesy grins on their faces and everyone wonders what's happened to them. It's funny, but the principle behind the add is dead on. Did you know that you have a significant amount of control over your husband's success in the workplace, his amount of self confidence, his moods and attitudes towards other people, and his general outlook on life, just by what goes on (or doesn't go on) in the bedroom?  It's like a ripple effect, and it can be both positive or negative. A man who knows that he can fully pleasure and satisfy his wife, will feel  capable of  conquering any task that comes his way. When he knows that he is wanted and desired sexually by her, he will have the self confidence to go after other dreams and goals. Show me a man who is downtrodden, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed out and pessimistic, and i will show you a man who isn't being sexually fulfilled .
(Now i know this is about our men, but i would be remiss if i didn't mention this as well; ladies, did you know that sex is a great hormone regulator? If you've had a rough day and are just not feeling it, maybe "it" is just what you need! I know for me, abstaining for too long turns me into a depressed, angry witch with a capital "B". But the morning after, all is right again in my little world! )
Most importantly though, and less talked about, is men's emotional need for sex. I would post some of the quotes from men on how sex affects them emotionally, but in reading through the chapters on sex in Shaunti Feldhahn and her husband Jeff's books "For Men/Women Only" ,  i found that my answers to the survey questions in this area fell right in line across the board with the majority of the men's answers. So, because i am sympathetic to the dilemma that so many couples are in because of this topic, and i feel that it is so critical for women to properly understand, i am going to be vulnerable and intimate for a minute and try to communicate to you in female terms what it means to me:

I am deeply, madly, desperately in love with my husband. I'm not always that great at communicating with words or gestures though, and a lot of the time i feel that the only way i can truly express to him how i feel is to make love to him. You see, physical touch is my primary love language. I both communicate and interpret love through physical affection more than through any other means. It is the only outlet for my emotions towards him that leaves me feeling fully satisfied and complete. I am both reassured and comforted by his touch; those times when i feel so inexplicably alone or sad, this is what makes me feel close and connected. If i'm exited or in an unusually good mood, this is how i want to manifest it.  This is when i feel most loved by him as well. Because of this, if i am the only one ever initiating, i feel like i am having to force him into loving me, even if he enjoys it in the end. If your primary love language is quality time, it would be like having to call your husband to try and schedule an appointment amidst his busy day every time you needed some time with him. He could tell you that he loves spending time with you until he's blue in the face, but if he doesn't put forth the effort to make it happen, his words are meaningless. If he rejects the act of sex with me, that automatically translates to me as him rejecting me as a person. If he agrees but seems less than exited about it, i feel like i am inadequate for him, that i am unwanted and undesirable. After all, i am putting myself out there, becoming vulnerable, and yet all that i am is still not enough to command his full attention. If we go without for longer than usual, he may as well have just stopped telling me he loves me.

Sex vs. Good Sex
97% of men agreed that getting enough sex, by itself, wasn't enough. Since having sex is the height of emotional connection for a man, if he doesn't feel that his wife is totally and wholeheartedly engaged and satisfied, he is still left feeling unfulfilled. I asked Michael why this was important to him, and this was his response, 

"Well, it's like if we watch a movie together and i know you're not really enjoying it as much as i am, i may still want to watch it, but it takes some of my enjoyment out of it to know that you are watching it just to appease me. It's like you're saying
 ' i'm here and i'll go along with this for you, but i'd really rather be doing something else.' 
and if that's the case, well then i'd just rather not watch it with you" 
 So you see that it's important that we not only submit, so to speak, but that we initiate and engage. One man made the parallel -
"Passive wife = boring life."
Ouch. Understanding now what kind of power we as women wield over our men's tender emotions in this fragile state, what do we do if we're just not in the mood?

 Getting " In The Mood"
For women, (including me) a huge part of getting in the mood is the anticipation factor. Setting the stage so to speak. Now, i've heard of some women who actually put in their schedule just to insure that they reserve time and energy for it, and this seems to help them build up excitement as well. That seems a little sterile to me, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do! I'm going to share some tips and ideas for building anticipation and excitement via all five of the senses.Let's start with-

Hint Hint- It doesn't take much for me, but i like to sometimes tease and throw out subtle little hints to Michael before he leaves for work in the morning, that way i know he'll be thinking about it all day too. :) Text messages throughout the day work too. Also, once you're actually getting into it, learn to verbalize what you like and what you don't like, what feels good and what doesn't. It will be to the advantage of you both. It will help him to get you there faster and more efficiently, and he'll love hearing about how good he is! It may seem awkward at first and you may be hesitant to tell him to stop doing something that just isn't doing anything for you, but trust me it's worth it in the end. I had to do this just recently; there was this one little thing that happened occasionally and had been happening for quite some time that i just couldn't stand. I hadn't wanted to say anything about it because i didn't want Michael to feel embarrassed or like he wasn't doing a good job, but finally, one night after we had said goodnight, i worked up the courage to tell him that i didn't care for it. You know what he said?
"Seriously? You hate that? well good, i do to. I was only doing it because i thought you liked it. I've always felt stupid doing that!"
We joked about it and that was it!
Background music-At the Song Of Solomon party back in February i asked everyone to tell me what "their song" was and we played a "who's song it is anyway?" type of game. It was a lot of fun to see how everyone's styles and tastes differed! Adding mood or background music to a lovemaking session can create energy, allow for relaxation, or just help to create a romantic atmosphere in general. Try creating a couple of different mixes to encourage different moods. Music has been scientifically proven to affect our brains, it works. Ask your husband for his song preferences too.

Aromatherapy is also a proven method of affecting the senses, and there are several scents that can apparently increase erotic desire in both men and women. Here's what i found when i researched this topic:
Lemon or orange citrus: reduces fatigue and nervousness, uplifting and refreshing 
Jasmine: aphrodisiac, said to induce euphoria 
Rose: aphrodisiac scent for females 
Ylang-ylang: sexually arousing spicy-smelling Indonesian flower 
Sandalwood: heightens sexual excitement by simulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is dominant during sexual arousal,...
also smells very similar to small quantities of androsterone, a chemical similar to testosterone -- which means that it sends out very subtle, but effective, erotic signals to the opposite sex. 
Lavender: aphrodisiac, also calming

It might take some creativity to implement some of the following things, but i found the following information rather amusing...
"The scent of the pumpkin pie was found to increase penile blood flow by 40 percent. The scent was also found to increase sexual desire in women.
Cinnamon and vanilla have also been touted for their abilities as aphrodisiacs. The smell of cheese pizza increased blood flow to the penis by 5 percent, while buttered popcorn caused a 9 percent increase. Before heading off to the movies, you may want to stock up on licorice and cucumbers -- the combination of those scents caused the greatest amount of blood flow to the vaginal area."
You can create your own perfumes or body/room sprays very easily with essential oils. Massage oils are also a good option, kind of a two for one there! And of course there is the ever classic candle, which also might be something you want to add to the next segment...

It's no secret that men are visual creatures, and nothing makes me feel sexier than that perfect little something to wear. Wearing sexy lingerie or pretty, flirty undergarments is an instant self esteem booster and will make you feel more confident and attractive, which is vital to a healthy attitude towards sex. It's a win-win.Victoria's Secret clearly has the corner on the market on that one, but, personally, i simply cannot bring myself to spend $50+ on ONE special item that will depreciate in sexiness every time i wear it. Also, am i the only one that feels like they need therapy after leaving that place?! Even walking by the window or watching the commercials for that matter... i look at the photo advertisement of the garment and think. "wow, that's really hot, Michael would go crazy over that!", so with great anticipation i bustle off to the dressing rooms with those larger that life mirrors and ever flattering lighting, wrestle my way into what I'm sure is the perfect little nightie or bustier, and BAM! Sucker punch right to my self esteem. I'm not a pessimist, but i see "cups half empty" in the lingerie department all the time. Suddenly i feel totally inadequate and self aware. This will not boost your self esteem or get you in the mood for anything but a rice cake and the gym. For pretty-but-not-slutty lingerie that won't break the bank, i have come to appreciate Aerie (by American Eagle) . I also love going to the discount department stores like T.J. Maxx, Marshall's , Ross, Rugged Warehouse, and Burlington Coat Factory. These places typically have a pretty good selection that is changed out regularly, at prices that won't make it hurt so much if you only wear it once. Here are few more of my favorite ideas:
~ The thrift store.And i don't mean that awkward rack of second hand bras and moo-moos. We've talked a lot lately about changing things up and trying fresh, new ideas, and this is one area where you can really have fun with experimentation. Go to the blue jeans rack and find a pair that fits up top- won't worry about the legs. Then take a pair of scissors and cut yourself some good old fashioned Daisy Dukes. You could even go crazy and cut the waistband off.  Or, find a slinky, silky, low cut, lacy, or open back top, something that you would never wear out in public. Mini skirts, stilettos, whatever. It's all there and all under a few bucks. If you have children that are still little enough to be pleasantly oblivious, or if you can get them out of the house for a while, i highly recommend surprising your hubby by just going about your regular routine dressed this way. Cooking dinner, cleaning, gardening, it's a part of the tease leading up to the event.
~ Two words- THIGH HIGHS (stockings). Let me tell you, these things are baby makers. Believe me,  i know. Added bonus? You can wear them like pantyhose but without the discomfort and no one will ever know but you ( and your hubby when you secretly give him a little peek/feel under the dinner table at the restaurant ;) . 
~ His button down shirt and tie. A classic, but for some reason, they love it every time. A girlfriend of mine who's a master of creativity wore her husband's wedding shirt and loosened tie, paired with her wedding heels, jewelry and garter for their anniversary. It was a hit.
~ Speaking of, garters. These are another one of those naughty little secrets.Wear it all day under your dress as a flirty reminder to yourself of the evening's fun, and to build anticipation.
~ Sometimes just repurposing regular clothes you have in your closet or wearing them in a different way can do the trick. Who says you have to wear that silk scarf around your neck? Or try a soft or silky blouse with nothing underneath. 
A few additional thoughts and tips...
*The idea that sexy/flirty lingerie also has to be uncomfortable is a complete myth. Don't let that stop you from wearing things that make you feel pretty and desirable.
*ALWAYS match. Or at least coordinate top and bottom, i'm telling you, even if no one sees it, it will make a difference in how you feel about yourself.
* Have pretty, feminine pajamas. I heard a true story once about a woman who called into a relationship guru bemoaning that her husband didn't seem to be interested in her anymore. The first question the guru asked was what the caller wore to bed at night. Her answer was along the lines of a pair of comfy old sweats and a big t-shirt. She was instructed to go out at once and buy a pretty comfortable nightie and ditch the sweats. Soon after she called in again to report that by some miracle, her husband was taking notice of her again and the spark had been reignited in their relationship. True story, just sayin'....
Self portraits-Some of you may be skeptical about the safety of this, but i've had a lot of fun sending my husband pictures. One year for christmas i gave him a little certificate for a "girl or the month" calendar, and every month throughout the following year i emailed him a picture i had taken of myself wearing (ok, or not wearing) something sexy. I picked a different theme every month and set up my camera on a tripod on a self timer so that it would take multiple shots. It's a little involved, but he really enjoyed it. I always put a note in the subject box so he know not to open it up in a public place and he saved them securely, and we've never had a problem with it.
* If you would like for your husband to buy you lingerie but are worried about him being affronted by the abyss of pornographic images online or at boutiques, do a google search for " lingerie websites without live models" . There are actually a few that are very benign and would not give quite such fuel for "the lust of the eyes".

I don't care if it's Winter and they don't ever see the light of day. I don't care if it's tedious and takes extra time. Who wants to crawl into bed with a cactus at night? Or worse yet, spoon with another pair of man legs? ( All together now - Eeww! ) It's about more than the way it looks. It shows that you are still committed to taking care of yourself and keeping yourself up for him, even if nobody else knows. It will also help you to feel more attractive.
-Try a pair of silky satin sheets to roll around in. Who thought that a roll in the hay was a good idea in the first place?
-Pull your weight during foreplay. You may be the one who needs a little help to get going, but it will enhance the experience all around and show that you are actively engaged if you reciprocate and respond to him likewise.
-Try getting started by swapping massages in the nude.It's sensual, relaxing, and there's no pressure.

The following is a list of foods that are supposed to have an aphrodisiac like affect;
Chilis - or anything hot, increases heart rate, induces sweating, sound familiar?
Chocolate - releases seratonin, the "feel good" chemical in the brain.Mimics the feeling of being in love. ( the same chemical is released with orgasm)
Oysters - high zinc, phosphorus and iodine, good for boosting libido
Shrimp - high in iodine " "
Maca - an Incan superfood. An adaptogen that aids the endocrin system in handling stress, fighting fatigue, and increasing stamina and libido. Buy the organic, raw powdered form.
Whipped Cream - ok, so it's not really an aphrodisiac, but it can be really fun and sexy.
Alchohol - the bible says that wine is good for "lifting the spirits". I do not believe in getting drunk, but there is a wonderful freedom when you are released of some of your inhibitions and fears and insecurities. A nice glass of wine or a good cocktail does just that.

Some random final ideas...
- There are some fun card decks that have different positions on each card, you can also get some "dirty" dice to mix it up a little!
- Play "strip" anything
- Plan ahead game - "Waitress's Words" : make a list of actions, locations, items of clothing or props, and a corresponding list of what a server might say to you during the course of the meal. For example;
 " Can i interest you in dessert?" = use whipped cream
" Hi my name is ____ and i'll be your server." = do it in the kitchen
You can each make your own list or just have a master one that you both contribute ideas to. You can optimize your options by specifying the server's wording ( i.e. "Can i get some drinks started for you" / " what would you like to drink" ) Take your list and enjoy checking it off as you eat out! (Just make sure you don't leave it on the table when you're done like i did o:  )

Choosing to Love
In closing, i want to emphasize the importance of making a healthy, regular sex life a priority.This is so integral to a healthy, happy relationship in general. God said that "the two should become one flesh" There is only one way to do that.The following is an excerpt from an article in Today's Christian Woman and i think it sums up a very generally felt sentiment from women towards sex, along with a crucially important response,

"I felt what i did all day was meet other people's needs. Whether it was caring for my children, working in ministry, or washing my husband's clothes, by the end of the day i wanted to be done  need - meeting. I wanted my pillow and a magazine. But God prompted me : 'Are the "needs" you meet for your husband the needs he wants met?' If our daughter's weren't perfectly primped, he didn't complain. If the kitchen floor needed mopping he didn't say a word. And if he didn't have any socks to wear he simply threw them in the washer himself. I soon realized that i regularly said 'no' to the one thing he asked of me. I sure wasn't making myself available to my husband by militantly adhering to my plan for the day...would the world end if my tires didn't get rotated? I'd been so focused on what i wanted to get done and what my children needed, i'd cut my hubby out of the picture."

Debi Pearl in her book "Created to Be His Helpmeet" says this, 

"For a woman, sexual expression starts in her mind and heart. Love is giving up your center, your self interest. It is choosing another's needs above your own.  A woman chooses to be interested or not interested in her husband's needs. So when a woman's first commitment is to her own needs and feelings, she is necessarily going to view sex as a strictly carnal experience, for then she does indeed have an entirely hedonistic outlook - her self gratification. But if a woman views sex as a ministry to her husband , then it is a selfless act of benevolence. She need not wait until she is stimulated to desire eroticism; she need only seek to fulfill her husband's needs. I have a tip for you: when you make your husband's needs central, you will get turned on to the experience and enjoy it yourself. That is the way God meant it to be. The principle is universal. Compare our christian duties. We don't minister to others because we are blessed - we minister to others because we want to bless them. It is completely incidental that the by-product of selflessly blessing others should result in our being blessed also. Eve was created to be Adam's helper. It is not in seeking personal fulfillment that she is fulfilled, rather, it is in doing her duty to bless him, that a blessing is returned upon her."

I mentioned in the beginning that the Shulamite woman from the Song of Solomon was a good helpmeet. The bible tells us that we are to love our husbands. This means in every way that they need to be loved. We were created to be his helpmeet ; to serve him in every way he needs serving and to meet all of his needs as we are able. Sex, good sex, is our duty as God honoring wives. It should also be our pleasure as women head-over-heels in love with our men. Love is a verb. As contrary as it seems, feelings and emotions follow actions. Choosing to sexually pursue your husband with a spirit of pleasure and delight will spur those sentiments in you heart even if they weren't there to begin with. I used to work as a barista at a local coffee shop. I loved the job, but i hated having to be there at o'dark thirty on frigid winter mornings to open the store. I realized however, that many people relied on their regular cup of coffee to get their morning started on the right foot and that my attitude in serving them could have an impact on their entire day. So, i decided to force myself to smile and be perky and cheerful no matter how much i wished i were still in hiding in bed under the covers. Without fail, within a matter of minutes i would completely forget about trying, because i would be in a such genuinely great mood. Our hormones repsond to stimuli in much the same matter. If you focus your heart and mind on totally pleasing your man, and respond with enjoyment to his advances, all those feel good juices will kick right in and get your body up to speed as well. It shouldn't be that hard either, think about it; this man, that you are in love with, finds you so irresistible that he just can't keep his hands off of you and is so desperate to tell you how much he loves you that he can't do it with mere words. You are the only one for him; you are his rock, the one he comes home to to find relief and reassurance in after the outside world has beaten him down, peace and relaxation in after the rigors of the day to day, the salve for his spirit when he's broken, his joy and celebration of all things good, his prize. 
I think that's quite an honor. Plus, it's fun! ;) 

Project: Homemade garters. Joann Fabric and Crafts store sells stretchy lace ribbon by the inch in multiple colors. Buy enough to wrap around your mid thigh without falling down or digging in, plus an inch or two. Them pick out a few adornments to add on such as ribbons, bows, rosettes, rhinestones, feathers, tassels, etc. Overlap the ends, add some hot glue and there you go! Have fun ;) ! (Note : i have plenty of lace and adornments left over after the party and meeting if anyone would like to rummage through my supply and make some good use of it! I also might just put it out at the next couple of meetings for anyone who wants to make a garters then in addition to our regular project.) 

Challenge:  As this is a rather personal and intimate topic, i felt that it would be better to encourage a self imposed challenge. Pick something that you would like to work on in your sex life, or an aspect of it that you would like to change or improve on, and decide on a way to go about it. Be specific, and write it down. Some ideas might be - committing to do the initiating a couple of times a month, adding a few fun new garments to your intimate wardrobe, creating a "mood music" or "background music"mix and trying it out, surprising him with a new position to experiment with, etc.

Helpful Resources:
Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl
For Women/Men Only by Shaunti/Jeff Feldhahn
Holy Sex by Michael Pearl
Intended for Pleasure by Ed and Gaye Wheat
A Celebration of Sex by Douglas Rosenau (recommended by Jeff Feldhahn for men who have the lower sex drive)
31 Days to Great Sex by Sheila Wray Gregoire (ebook available at )

Friday, May 3, 2013

Don't Kiss Dating Goodbye

   I hope that this finds you all enjoying the fruits of your pursuits in companionship with your husbands! This month we'll be building on those concepts from our last discussion, and talking about the importance of dating within the marriage. Before we can realize the importance of dating however, we must understand the purpose.

   Why did you date prior to getting married? To get to know each other?  Spend time together? To see if you were compatible....??? Why not do all of this by simply spending time with your intended at their home surrounded by their family? Or maybe by exchanging visits at work or emailing,talking on the phone or writing letters? You would be able to accomplish much the same end by all of these options, so why bother spending the time and money on actually going out and dating? If you had a "suitor" in your single days who never took you out - ever, and only used the above methods of getting to know you, how would you feel? Why is it important to date and be dated? Below are what i feel to be the four main purposes for dating and the reasons why they are still relevant in our marriages today.

1) To show an exclusive interest 
Chances are that when you were dating you would have been pretty upset to find that your boyfriend was also dating several other girls at the same time. Any smart girl would have dropped that guy like a bad habit. You wanted someone who was interested in you to the exclusion of all others. Someone who considered you worthy of top priority. Our husbands need that same attention. Shaunti Feldhahn wrote a book entitled "For Women Only" - ("What you need to know about the inner lives of men") in which she reveals some enlightening truths about the way men think about and process the various aspects of a marital relationship. She and her husband conducted an extensive survey and one of the topics she highlights in the book is romance.  On the issue of priorities, she found that one of the most common concerns among men was that kids are prioritized over the husband. The following are actual statements made by survey takers;

"It's considered the christian thing to do, be with the kids all the time. But for me as a man there is this sense of  ' i've lost my wife'. It could sound selfish but it's not. And it's not too healthy for the kids either."

"She spends too much time doting on the children and not enough time on the relationship.

"It's not just the kids that steal a wife, it's the whole to-do list. Even helping others can get in the way."

We may not be having extra marital affairs, but are we giving our husbands priority the have a right to over the other "important" things in our lives?

Maybe you think your man isn't interested in romance anymore. He certainly doesn't act like it... well the answer to the following survey question may surprise you:

"Regardless of whether or not you are able to plan romantic events or whether your wife or significant other appreciates it, do you yourself desire romance?"

The results? A whopping 84% of men said "Yes very much" or "Yes somewhat" !!!
Now that you know, take some time out of your day to focus solely on your man. Show him that he rocks your world and is still worth your undivided time and attention. Be exclusive, even if it's only for a few minutes.

2) For Pursuit
Surveys done on women in the book "For Men Only " - ("a guide for lower life forms") written by Shaunti's husband Jeff revealed that almost 90% of women feel some degree of insecurity about their relationship at some point in time. He explains to the men that their "I Do" will always be followed by "Do you Still?" over the course of the marriage. He makes the analogy of a woman's emotional bank account, that when it gets low or empty, leaves us feeling insecure. The sense of still being pursued by our husband fills up that account and prevents this. So how is this important to our male counterparts aside from avoiding the inevitable but seemingly inexplicable female emotional meltdown? Men are hard wired with a drive to give chase and to conquer. Think about it; they're constantly doing it in other areas of their life, if more subtly. Work, sports, hobbies, working out; always striving to be better, faster, smarter, to get ahead, going after something. They need to pursue us as much as we need them to pursue us. The following was an actual exchange between a woman and her male friend on the topic of romance;

-"Romance is the sense that you're still being pursued."
-"Yeah, but we caught you. Hand me the remote."

Sound depressingly familiar? Give him something to pursue! Keep it fresh! Make him feel like he hasn't    seen everything yet - keep him on his toes! It will give you both a boost.

3) To continue to get to know each other and to develop a close singular bond.
As we talked about last month, we have to continure the process. Just being away and alone together does something - allows for a closeness that can only be achieved this way. During our meeting i asked if anyone had gone through the traditional "courtship" process as opposed to just dating. (Meaning that there was always a chaperone present for any kind of socialization between the couple.) One wife 
( hope you don't mind A.!...) said yes. ( with a dramatic eye roll i might add ;)   ) When i asked what her parents' intentions were in following this process and why they felt it necessary to be present whenever the two were together, (aside from the obvious " they might have sex if we're not here " of course ;)   ) her answer was exactly what -i admit- i was fishing for. More than anything, she said, they wanted to protect her from becoming too emotionally attached. Bingo. Now that we're married, this is the perfect formula for re-sparking that sense of intimacy. Mom and dad, you can relax now. ( although we are having sex...woot woot!...but more on that later...)  This leads into our last main purpose for dating-

4)  For Quality one-on-one time (key words here being Away. and Alone.)
Don't get me wrong, i love a good at-home date night every once in a while,  and sometimes, that's all that's available, but, being at home there is always a mindfulness of "other things". You know how it is, you walk into the kitchen to grab a bottle of wine and realize that you forgot to wipe down the highchair after dinner.You get on the computer to pull up a movie and there's your facebook account with  32 new messages and "friend" requests. You decide to change into something more "comfortable" and run into a pile of laundry that could wait, but it's right there...Then just as things start to settle down ( or start up, however you like it - sorry, i'm on a roll now!) somebody's dropped their pacifier or wet the bed..... Making the time to get out of the house for a proper date night can work wonders. It reinforces the priority/exclusivity factors, again - sparks feelings of intimacy, and gives opportunity for pursuit. A note here; ladies, grocery shopping or shopping for the children (with the exception of something like christmas shopping) does not qualify as a date. Here the focus is still outward. Shopping for the home however was brought up by one wife as a very endearing and bonding experience for her and her husband and i would consider this to be an exception as well, as your home is something that you build together.

Now that we understand why it's important and that our men really do want and need romance too, the big question for many wives is, why aren't they pursuing it?  In her book, Shaunti writes that when asked if they could plan a romantic event that their wife or significant other would appreciate, even though the majority - 56% said " yes, i could do it with style" the remaining 46% - a generous minority, were unsure or lacked confidence. The top reasons?
-"I won't do a good job." - Fear of humiliation. Most men would rather not try, than try with the risk of failing.
- Haunted by past romantic failures. - The story was told of a man who had spent a considerable amount of time searching for a very particular anniversary present for his wife, and was really jazzed about it. She opened it, said "Thanks sweetheart." with a peck on the cheek, and immediately began to talk about where they would be eating dinner. This anticlimactic reaction to all of his hard work and forethought was like a bucket of cold water, and next year she can count on a box of chocolates and a Hallmark card.

-It's difficult for them to change gears. - Imagine you've had an unusually long day - playing catch-up with the housework or dealing with difficult customers at your job, teething baby, headache, burnt dinner, car trouble, fill in the blanks. Your husband walks in the door and the first thing you want to do is.....strap on a sexy piece of lingerie and hop in the sack, right? You know, just "X" out all those little windows in your mind and put it in hibernate for a few. No? Ok, that's about how reasonable it is to expect most men to just drop their load at the door and jump into a romantic interlude. 

-"Yeah but we caught you.Hand me the remote" - oh yeah? read on ladies....

Here's how we as wives can help combat these stumbling blocks of insecurity and unleash the romantic potential our husbands hold.
-Help them to understand what you like, expect, want and need from them romantically so they are not left stabbing in the dark. Our project at the meeting centered around this point. (see below) Give them something to work with so that they can go forth with some amount of direction and confidence.
-Encourage! No teasing. Only sincere appreciation and building up. A great time to do this is in public. Brag to your friends about the wonderful dinner he treated you to. Show off the new piece of jewelry he bought you. Do it in his presence with a wink and a big smile. If he's not around, do it anyway. It's a  good practice. Then go home and tell him all about how you gushed about his romantic prowess to everyone who would listen and how impressed/jealous they were. This man put it very simply,

"Encourage me and affirm my efforts and i'll run through a brick wall to please you. But don't just assume i know you're pleased. I'm way outside my comfort zone. I'm willing to be a fool for you, but just tell me i did good. And give me sex. That helps too"

- Allow them to decompress. Ask how their day was and don't settle for just "fine." Think ahead of some specific questions to spur the daily detox. Practice patient and mindful listening. Allow them to vent and get the world off their shoulders before asking them to take on the needs of the home as well. Once they are freed up in this way they will be better equipped and more willing and able to meet your needs.

- Again, give them something to pursue. Flirt! ( For a fun resource on this check out Rhonda Rich's "What Southern Women Know About Flirting ") Get fixed up! One thing i have learned over the years is to dress for the occasion over the  location. I mean really, if we only get dolled up when he takes us to a 4 star restaurant, first of all you won't have nearly enough opportunities to wear those cute new heels that he loves to see you in (hint hint...) , but secondly, what are we really dressing up for? Even if it's just Taco Bell we still have the same date right? Do it for him. Don't think about looking or feeling out of place, nobody is going to know who you are and where you're headed or where you've just come from. Again, show him that he's still worth the extra effort.Want to see your husband puff up with pride over you like the alpha rooster in a hen house? Put on a little perfume and eyeliner, hang on his arm like a trophy and let him show off his "prize" to all the other men. He will work to be worthy of you. Plus, it's fun.

Now, there may be some of you who's husbands are in that confident 56% and you just don't realize it. Following the question about their need/desire for romance one survey taker who stated that it was very important to him added

  "but we have different definitions"

So the question was posed- "If you take sex out of the equation, which of the following do you find more romantic for yourself?"

They were given three options; the first being the traditional notion of a romantic event- for example, a candlelight dinner,a cozy snuggle by the fire, or watching a sunset on the beach; the second being the idea of getting out and doing things with their wife/significant other and playing together- for example, hiking together, golfing together, or driving around and exploring; and the third option being that neither of the first two seemed romantic. Again, the answer was surprising - 59% chose option one ,  the traditional notion.But, again, a large minority - 39% chose the option of doing something active or playing together. (2% said neither. um...ok....) Last month we talked about the importance of being playful and doing projects or new activities together. Is it possible that you have missed out on opportunities to enjoy a romantic time together because you didn't realize it was romantic? One man put  it this way:

"Most men don't want to abandon their wife to do guy things.They want to do "guy things" with their wife. They want her to be their playmate.It's no different from when they were dating. For a guy, a big part of the thrill was doing fun things together.The woman who is having fun with her husband is incredibly attractive. If you see a woman out playing golf with her husband, i guarantee that all the other guys are jealous. Getting out and having fun together falls of in marriage because of various responsibilities, but men still want to play with their wives."

Notice the terms he uses here; playmate...thrill...having fun...incredibly attractive... sounds pretty romantic to me! I can personally attest to the truth of this too, because lucky for me, Michael and i have very similar interests and i love being alongside him whatever he's doing. He has told me many times how he loves to brag to his guy friends about how we go snowboarding together, or rock climbing, or how i would rather be outside around a campfire than listening to soft music by candlelight. It makes him feel good, and makes me want to do those things even more. So find out what your man's definition of romantic is and be on the lookout for opportunities to engage him in those activities.

Now, last but not least, the issue of romance and sex. I don't think i can make it any clearer than these men:

"It is hard for men to delineate romance without sex. It's all a part of it. If men are romantic, they want sex. If there were no moral or societal constraints, romance would always lead to sex."

" I love setting up a romantic evening, but it is a lot of work for me.And i don't think my wife realizes that when i am being romantic, i've got a very specific endpoint in mind. So sometimes there's intense disappointment after all that work!" (A note here; ladies, your husband should not feel like he has to put an extensive amount of work into a romantic event to get sex from you. "Do not deprive each other...
1 Cor. 7:5 Just sayin'...)

"A guy wants romance not to somehow manipulate sex, but to re-experience the spark of dating, to reconnect after draining days of work at the office, to feel love and intimacy, to know he is wanted and enjoyed, and to utterly escape the crushing, non - stop pressure of life. And sex can be a wonderful part of all that.Romance is about being with the person you love and discovering to one's monumental delight that she too wants to escape - with me!"

And I love this one - 
"The guy is thinking, if romance is about feeling emotionally connected, and sex is my way of being emotionally connected, and we're already being romantic, then why not now?If we're going to have sex sometime in the next month, wouldn't now be a good time?"

Got it? ; )

A few final thoughts....
-Date night babysitting trade offs. This is one of the best ideas i have heard in a long time and i cannot wait to implement it . Having to hire a babysitter can easily double the cost of a date , not to mention the fact that there are the issues of availability, reliability, time frame, etc., and if you always use family members like we do, there's always the concern that you're overburdening them or that they might feel you are taking their availability for granted. If you can find another family that is close by, has similar family values, and is familiar with your children and vice versa, then it can become an even exchange where you are guaranteed a sitter, and it's free. Set up a monthly or bi-monthly date ( for example: 3rd Friday night,2nd Saturday afternoon) and commit to being available on that date, whether it's to spend time with your husband, or to watch your partner couple's kids so that they can get away. 

-Alternating date planning. Michael and i have been doing this for a while and it's really proven to be a lot of fun. There are several benefits; first of all it takes the pressure off of one person doing all the planning, all the time. It eliminates the "ok we have a sitter, we're dressed and sitting in the car, now where do we go and what do we do" scenario. (emphasis on date planning here.) It's a good way to balance different tastes and preferences - for example, Michael's top pick for cuisine is Japanese. Sushi in particular. His last choice is usually Mexican. This is one area where we differ. My preferences are the exact opposite. Now however, he doesn't have to feel guilty about taking me out to Sushi Thai this month because he knows that next month we'll probably be going to El Dorado. On the flipside of this it also gives you the opportunity to express love for each other in a selfless way and to show deference by planning something that you know the other would especially like, but might not plan for the two of you. It's also a really fun way to spring a surprise. 

Project : "How can you love me? Let me count the ways..."
Make a list of 10 things that you find particularly romantic and give it to your husband as a cheat sheet. Try to keep it general so that the ideas can be used more than once or in more than one way. Foe example, a couple of mine are:

-Outdoor activities
-Going to get coffee
-Dessert and movies in bed

If you'd like, and especially if you plan on doing alternating date planning, have your husband do the same for you. 

Challenge : Plan and execute a date with your man from start to finish (and i mean finish)
Hire a sitter or find a family to trade with, decide where to eat, what to do, what time, get fixed up and have a good time. Bonus points if it's a surprise.

 Creative Date Ideas                                                             
vineyard tours (childress,gregory,shelton...)
lakes (benson,jordan..)
hiking (raven rock,eno river...)
outdoor movies (koka booth, hillsboro street,raleigh art museum...)
motor boats on lake benson
live music
miniature golf
go karts
ice skating
dancing (triangle swing dance society,loafers beach club)

Recommended Restaurants
Oliver Twist
Peak City Grill
P.F. Chang's
2nd Empire
Irregardless Cafe

That's it girls, until next time, have fun ;) ! Can't wait to hear about your awesome dates! Our next meeting will be on Wednesday May 22nd, 7pm at my home.  Our topic, back by popular demand and in seemingly appropriate order, " The Proverbs 31 Song of Solomon Woman" . 
Hope to see you there!....Much Love, Georgia