Monthly Archives: July 2014

Jul 28

Advice from Friends: Why You Might NOT Want to Ask or Listen!

By E.J. Smith | Help

ID-10055079Have you ever asked your friends and family what they think of your spouse? Have they ever offered up an opinion regardless of you asking for it? Should you listen to what they say? And if so, how seriously should you take their opinions to heart?

Is there any benefit to hearing feedback about your relationship?

Relationships in general – let alone marriages— do not exist in a vacuum. They are intricate tapestries woven from not just two lives becoming intertwined, but rather two complete lifetimes full of families, friends, and all of those individual and shared histories.

Given the amount of moving parts involved, is it any wonder relationships are often complicated?

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good thing to have people in your corner cheering you on as you face life’s challenges! However, it gets a little bit tricky when those challenges include your romantic relationships and marriage.

Learn the WHEN’s and WHEN NOT’s of feedback:

When should you ask for feedback?

There are times when asking for feedback is not only appropriate, but also very helpful.

One of the major benefits of asking for feedback about a situation or dynamic in your relationship is that it provides the opportunity to hear a different perspective. Especially when we believe strongly or passionately about something, it can be really difficult to shift our lens to another viewpoint.

Asking for feedback may help you to see things from your partner’s perspective, gain empathy and even bring you closer together.

When should you not ask for feedback?

Can I take off the professional hat for a second here? As someone who was her friends’ go to ‘feedback giver’ long before I ever decided (or learned how) to do it professionally, I feel like I need to advocate for all the dear glorious friends and family members out there who so patiently lend an ear when needed:

Please do not ask for honest feedback if you’re not ready to receive it. No one likes the experience of feeling baited. (Am I right?!)

Do not ask for feedback when what you want is a box of tissues, your best friend nodding along and a cheesecake a la The Golden Girls.

On a more serious note, asking for advice about something to a friend or family member that involves very intimate, personal details about your partner could really backfire—especially if it was something that person shared with you in the strictest of confidence.

If that person breaks confidentiality—even by accident… ugh! By going that route you’re taking a tremendous risk with your partner’s faith and trust in you.

If you absolutely need to speak to someone about something your partner has disclosed in the strictest of confidence, then I highly suggest you seek out a professional or clergy member.

Sometimes you ask for it, and sometimes you don’t.  

Folks may offer feedback under a variety of reasons and circumstances—but when should you actually listen to it?

ID-10024387When should you listen to feedback?

It’s important to listen to feedback—even if you don’t like it—as it comes. It’s whether or not you choose to see it as a valid point, throw it away like junk mail, or file it away as something to revisit.

My best advice? Listen for patterns.   Patterned feedback is feedback that has a similar theme or message and comes from several sources.

For example: If one person expresses concern over how your spouse speaks to you in front of others, it might be easy, and perhaps even reasonable to dismiss their concern as ‘just a bad moment’ or something ‘caught out of context’.

However, if your mother, your best friend, a coworker and your running partner express concern over how your spouse talks to you in front of others at different intervals, you might want to consider whether this behavior is a pattern.

You should also take note of positive feedback. Listening to positive feedback from others about your spouse or your relationship can help you rediscover aspects of them that you’ve grown accustomed to and therefore, kind of take for granted.

“Your husband is such an attentive father.”

“I really respect your [spouse] as a professional/colleague/coworker.”

One time, my mother-in-law (who is a woman of few flowery words) told me, “You are very good for my son. He is happy. I can see it.” Receiving that reaffirmation of our relationship felt awesome!

When should you not listen to feedback?

For all the times that feedback is great, it’s also important to acknowledge the times when you should take someone’s feedback with a grain shaker of salt.

I’m sure we all know at least one person who wouldn’t recognize a healthy relationship if they got smacked over the head with one. Ask yourself: Does this person have relationships I admire, even if they’re not currently in one? Are they honest and forthright, or do they play games?

Another issue to consider is whether or not someone has anything to gain from drawing attention to negative aspects of your relationship.

Truly toxic people will place a negative spin on almost anything.  For example, when someone’s feedback focuses on a truly superficial issue—like someone’s appearance or how his or her job/profession stacks up against perceived “social status.”

Feedback can be a really great tool to have in your marriage toolbox, if you know how to ask for it and when to listen to it.

Feedback can add valuable perspective when it is offered from a place of integrity, love, and concern.

Chime in!

Now it’s your turn!

Who do you think would be good sources of feedback? Who would you NOT ask for advice? Tell me in comments below or on social media!

On Twitter?  Remember to include @EngagedMarriage@SimplyEJS in your tweets! 

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Jul 21

Sexual Touch and What You Might Be Missing

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

sexual touch in your marriageThe way you touch your spouse — what does it say about your sexual desire?

It’s an important question.

Sexual desire — the degree to which we sexually long for the person we married — is a tender vulnerable place.

Rich with possibilities.  And, in some marriages, fraught with discouragement.

My husband and I had not had sex with each other before we were married, so our wedding night set us on an adventure of learning about arousal.  We had much to learn about sexual touch.

Certainly we understood the mechanics of sex, but as far as discovering what we each found arousing with each other — well, that was a blank slate!

And for that we were grateful.

Eleven years in to marriage, and we still love exploring the map, figuring out new ways to turn each other on.  With our touch.

What do you convey when you touch your spouse sexually?  In many regards, words can never measure up to what touch can do.

Yes, therein lies the power. The way we touch can be positive or negative, and the subtleties between the two is more impactful to a sexual connection — and to the entire marriage, really — than many couples care to reflect upon.

Nowhere does our touch speak clearer than in how we use it sexually with the person we married. That is a bold statement. I know.

But think about your own marriage and the way you each express yourselves sexually — with your touch, not your words.  When you look closely at that, what gut feeling are you left with?

One of ravenous gratitude? Or one of disappointment and discouragement?

A common complaint I hear from some people who comment on my blog and who email me is that sex in their marriage has become predictable.  I even had someone tell me once that the way he and his wife had sex was so predictable that he could almost time it down to the second.

He was painfully aware that predictable sexual encounters — especially ones drenched in an obligatory tone of “have to” rather than “get to”fail to take us to the authentic sexual connection we desire.

Just in case you think I’m overly sympathetic to husbands who feel sexually neglected, I do indeed have a heart’s cry for women who find themselves in similar circumstances.  They too hunger for a husband who wants them sexually and clearly expresses that desire in the way he touches her.

If you think sexual touch is an area where you and your spouse can grow, consider these three tips:

Tip #1:  Use your hands to their full potential.

Consider the ways you can use your fingertips and hands — through a variety of light caresses and firm touches — to arouse your spouse.

And don’t forget that sexual arousal is not limited to only certain areas of the body.  Sure, the genitals and breasts are the areas we think of the most, but honestly, the entire body is fair game. You may be surprised at what you discover.

For example, some people find it particularly arousing to have their spouse run their fingers through their hair or along the back of their neck.

Don’t be afraid to ask what they enjoy and also to try new touches and take cues from their feedback (verbal and nonverbal!)

Tip #2:  Don’t be overly anxious to get to the act itself.

I like an intense orgasm as much as the next person, but I think what can be as invigorating is what leads up to that orgasm.  And a lot of that has to do with the time we invest in touching.

Anticipation is powerful, so pay close attention to the way your touch can take your spouse through a delicious cycle of getting close to a sexual edge.  Learn how to take them to that edge, back off it ever so slightly, and then go to the edge again — several times before actually going over.

Couples who figure out that cycle find better sex at the end of it. Amazing.

Tip #3:  Add more sexual touch when you are clothed.

How intentional are you throughout the day to convey to your spouse with your touch, “I want you. I desire you. You’re still the one who turns me on.”

Sadly, too many husbands and wives who couldn’t keep their hands off each other early in the relationship can now go days on end without ever really touching each other, let alone touching each other with passion and playfulness.

It is extraordinary what you can say to your spouse. Without actually saying anything.

Sexual touch — do you know what you are missing?

For more on sex and your marriage, consider the 10 Best Sex Questions to Ask Your Spouse.

Jul 07

Essential moving tools to save your back, your sanity, and maybe even your marriage

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

 essential moving toolsTis the season to be moving, fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, UGH.

Whether you are one of the over 40 million people that will move to a new home this year, a parent moving your child to a college dorm, or a person who adores moving furniture around the living room, I have some essential moving tools to help you get through the task with more joy and less stress.

I think it was at least three houses ago my husband and I declared: This is it. We are never moving again. We are done. When we leave, they will be carrying us out in a box. 

Not only did we continue to move, but this last time we packed our cars and a twenty-eight foot trailer to the roof and headed 1,000 miles south to the beautiful state of Tennessee.

Needless to say, we have learned a great deal about moving over the years, and I am thrilled to be able to share some of that knowledge with you.

As always, be safe and smart with your choices!

Essential moving tools

Work Gloves.  Save your hands and your sanity with these soft and lightweight, latex-coated gloves. Atlas makes the brand we have used for years. They are comfortable, available in different sizes, provide an outstanding grip because of the latex-coated palms, and they are machine washable, too. The link will take you to Amazon, but you can also find them at department and home stores, for around $5-$8.

Free Moving Boxes.  U-Haul hosts a Customer Connect area on their website where you can “Connect with other customers to share or exchange boxes, moving supplies or rides.” I find that Craigslist and Freecycle are also good places to find boxes, as well as your local liquor store (sturdy boxes for books!). We’ve also asked folks who have recently moved if they’d like to get rid of their boxes, and they were thrilled to have us take them off their hands.

Free Packing Materials.  In addition to the places listed above, tap into your workplace or that of friends. My husband worked for a manufacturing plant, and he was able to gather lots of pre-used packaging: sturdy boxes, bubble wrap, and large sheets of plain paper. Not only was this double usage good for the environment, but it was great for the pocketbook! I have included free boxes and packing materials as essential because if you have to buy them, the cost of your move will be significantly higher. Just know you will need much more than you think!

Packing Tape Dispenser.  Whether you are packing boxes to store or move, be sure to invest in a quality tape dispenser. Not only will you be glad to have it at moving time, but it will become an indispensable part of your household toolbox. ULine, a family owned packing and shipping material business, carries several types. I like both the heavy duty tape model as well as the comfort grip dispenser, each under $20. In our house we have a saying: Buy once, buy quality, and that is especially important for tape dispensers and tape.

Pre-marked Tape.  Mark your boxes with at least the name of the room the contents came from. That way, you won’t have to constantly direct helpers to the place the boxes in the right part of the house. UHaul makes Smart Move tape that is both color coded and has messages so organization is easy. If you do a search on Amazon for Moving Tape or Labeling Tape, you will find more choices, too.

Evernote.  We went one step further beyond marking and numbering the boxes. We used the free software Evernote to list the boxes and their contents. Evernote can be accessed across your laptop, mobile devices, and your desktop, which is incredibly handy, especially when you are in the middle of a move. We were able to do a quick search in Evernote to find a specific item and just go to the correctly numbered box to find it.

Stretch Plastic Wrap.  Imagine heavy duty, extra-stretchy, Handi-Wrap on a handle, and what you have is an inexpensive tool—generally $8 to $20 for a large roll—you can’t do without. Rather than using rope, heavy tape, or ties, the stretch wrap holds things together with a minimum of effort and material. We especially love the brands, like U-Haul, that have a handle that allows for tension control.

Got unwieldy skis, poles, hockey sticks, etc? Put a bit of wrap at the top, bottom, and middle of the group. Want to seal the edges of those plastic tubs? Use the wrap. Want to make sure the ziploc baggie of screws stays with the furniture? Wrap them together. Just a word of warning: If you use this on finished wood furniture, it can leave marks if left in storage for months. Just saying . . .

Hand Truck.  We bought a little red beauty from our local Tractor Supply for $55, and it was priceless, especially since it’s rated for 600 pounds! You will be amazed at how handy these are to have around, and they are much easier on the back than carrying those bigger boxes and items. Amazon offers a lightweight, fold-up version rated for 250 pounds that has gotten terrific reviews, too: Wesco Steel Maxi Mover Folding Truck.

Forklift Straps.  These are the gadgety looking things you might have seen in the As Seen on TV! store displays, but don’t let the ads fool you into thinking these are junk. These straps are one of the most helpful tools for moving, especially in regards to keeping your marriage healthy and happy.  I get frustrated that I can’t pick up and/or manage bigger, heavier, things like my hubby can, and these straps help level that playing field somewhat. You can find them at home and department stores, as well as Amazon, starting at around $20 in black, safety orange, and pink, too! Consumer Reports tested them, and you can watch the short video here.

Big Slider.  Innovation and Technology News had this to say about this nifty moving tool:

It was invented by a woman looking for a way to move large items around her house when her husband wasn’t around. The resulting product is a flexible plastic sheet that can move up to 500 pounds on concrete. Best of all, no lifting is required – a person simply tilts, loads and slides the piece where it needs to go. The possible uses are endless; the Big Slider Web site even notes over 100. Among them, moving furniture, transporting machinery in a work area, and hauling bags of grass, mulch and fertilizer around the yard.

We just learned about this, and it is definitely on my list. Plus, think it would make a great gift for a college student, young apartment dweller, or folks who find themselves moving heavy things by themselves. You can learn more and buy it here, where the smaller Sliders start around $25.

Moving is difficult enough on your body, without the added potential of more stress in your life and relationships. Make your moves, whether across the room or cross-country, as easy on yourself and your marriage as possible with these essential moving tools!

Question: What is your favorite tool or tip for moving?