Monthly Archives: February 2015

Feb 23

My Deep Dark Secret that I Have to Share

By E.J. Smith | Help

In the year and a half or so that I’ve been writing for EM, I feel like there’s been this secret I’ve been keeping from you all.  

And simply, it’s got to go.  It’s not something that I particularly intended to keep from you all, but rather, I didn’t quite know how to address this particular topic on this particular website.  The more I thought about it, however, I recognized that the shame I was carrying regarding this thing— is tied wholly to my faith-based upbringing. 

I am trusting that some folks will be able to relate, and I hope the rest will hear me out.

I’m divorced.

And there you have it.  My scarlet letter. 

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I am currently married to Greg and we have an amazing, loving, wonderful marriage.  He is truly my partner in life, and in love.  Our home and our marriage are testaments to the endless effort and attention we give to them.

But before Greg, there was someone else.  We’ll call him Mark. (Judas, would be a little over-dramatic, don’t ya think?)

As paradoxical as it may seem, I feel like part of the reason my current marriage is so healthy and happy is due in large part to how much of an epic catastrophe #1 turned out to be.

And please don’t think I’m going to spend the next 500+ words bashing Mark.  The marriage was short (only 18 months).  Despite that short timeline, we were able to make a ton of mistakes— very hurtful and sometimes permanent ones.    

4  Things I Learned by Getting Divorced

1) Hiding your problems doesn’t make them go away.  It just befuddles everyone in your support network (friends, family, coworkers even) when the pieces finally come crashing down.

Raised in a family where loyalty was king, I felt very alone and isolated when things weren’t seeming quite right.  But everyone was so happy for me.  I couldn’t let them down!  And I also didn’t want to air my dirty laundry.  When I reached out to a few select folks, I got a lot of “the first year is the hardest…” or “Well, it’s a done deal now— make it work.” 

2) Just because you can’t see bruises, doesn’t make it not abusive.

Mark was not physically abusive.  He never hit me.  True, I can’t hear as well in my left ear as in my right because he screamed into it one time— apparently loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss— but that is not the type of thing that would get me a Lifetime movie.  But there were other types of abusive patterns on both our parts that I don’t think anyone should tolerate. 

  • Verbal Abuse — Name calling, Labeling, Non-constructive criticisms and other personal attacks are the most common forms.  Sometimes the abuse is more subtle, “You know a good wife would _________.”
  • Financial Abuse — Does one person have complete and total control over the finances? Is one partner “barred” or “banned” from working— even if s/he really wants to? Does one partner verbally abuse the other for spending money? (I’m not talking about racking up $30k in credit card debt, but say— buying a new pair of jeans?)
  • Emotional Abuse — Withholding love or affection from your partner as “punishment”, allowing others to verbally or otherwise attack your partner unfairly without seeming to care, expressing indifference towards your partner.
  • Sexual Abuse – Despite long held beliefs to the contrary, spousal rape is a real thing.  This wasn’t something I experienced in my marriage, but I want to put it in here because it’s such a widely held myth that vows some how give complete ownership over one’s body do another.  That’s not marriage. That’s slavery.

3) Pre-Marriage Counseling is Worthless…

Got your attention, didn’t I?

So hear me out— I have been through pre-marriage counseling twice now.  Once through my local Catholic church’s Pre-Canaa and once with a chaplain (Christian). I much preferred the Pre-Cana program to the other.  I loved the topics the couples who facilitated each session brought up for the most part — I’m still slightly scarred from the word viscosity being used with respect to intercourse. 

The problem is that I feel like the whole experience was framed as some necessary “check in the box”.  Other than a “You need to be honest.” at the beginning, there really wasn’t an emphasis on why that honesty was so important for this process.

And at least in my group, there was no real attention to the fact that some people who go through Pre-Cana correctly will (and should) actually come to realization that they should not get married. And then, there was nothing there to support people who would come to that decision— how to handle calling up a reception venue and inform them you’re canceling.  How to have the conversation with your mother or maid of honor.  What to do with this person that was going to be your spouse, but now isn’t even your boyfriend. 

4) The miracle of Life is more precious than the Sacrament of Marriage.

After what felt like an eternity, but was actually less than 3 years between moving to Maryland and our separation— the emotional, verbal, and financial abuse had worn me down to a state where I was almost completely unrecognizable — even to myself. 

I became severely depressed.

A former social butterfly and lover of people, I was isolated, withdrawn and even developed a fear of other people.  I became paranoid that they were judging me— ashamed for them to see the terrible, awful, failure of a person I’d  become. 

Mark, although I can empathize with some of his frustration, was all too willing to reinforce these beliefs.  He reminded me time and time again that this (me) was not the wife he signed up for.  Friends constantly posted on Facebook how much they loved being married— whereas I couldn’t understand why people would willingly do this to themselves.     

An Honest Question

One day, Mark walked up to me— I was sitting curled up in an overstuffed chair (one of the few things I still miss from that time in my life) — and asked me if I was going to kill myself.  Just like that.  I swear I heard the tiniest bit of hope in his voice.

I looked at him, and I said what was true for me in that moment:  “Why bother, I’m already dead.”  I was serious.  I never thought of killing myself.  Too much effort.  Not worth the end result.

Several months later, I started experiencing odd symptoms that started out as food allergies and the progressed into what I can only describe as biological chaos.  They thought I had celiac, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis— possibly M.S.  After having a panic attack in the specialist’s office—the doctor finally said to me, “I think this is all due to chronic stress.  Whatever it is that is causing this stress— it needs to go.  Because it’s actually destroying your body.  If you don’t get rid of it, you’re looking at a future of autoimmune disease.

And that was my permission slip— my sign, if you will — to get out. 

Choosing Life

I have tears in my eyes as I write this because I remember thinking, “I know God loves marriage… but He loves me too.” And so within a few weeks— the separation papers were signed.

I know I wasn’t perfect in my marriage and that my lack of ownership for my thoughts, feelings and beliefs at the beginning of our relationship allowed certain circumstances to fester— whereas now, I doubt I would stick around long enough from the beginning. 

I have experienced judgement and harsh criticism from fellow Catholics and other Believers.   But the truth is — I know God created me for some Purpose— and being sick, depressed and isolated was not it.  I believe that the current health and the current life, and the current relationships that I enjoy with both God and my husband, Greg,  are directly related to the fact that divorce is part of my history.

So while I don’t want to sounds like I’m advocating for divorce,  I do want readers to understand that getting divorced is not some horrible death sentence in every single case.

Sound Off — Can you connect? Does this relate?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments. 

Feb 16

3 Things Sex WILL Do For Your Marriage

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

3-things-sex-will-doI met recently with a bride-to-be who wanted some insight on sexual intimacy in marriage.

In a few short months, she’ll be joining her life with the man she loves.

She had a few questions about sex, and she wanted me to shed some light on the realities (good and bad) of sex in marriage.

I was her “go to” gal for this, because obviously I have few inhibitions talking about this sort of thing. (I know. You’re surprised, right?!)

If I were to ask those of you who are married about sex in marriage, what would you say?

I know for some of you, your responses would be drenched in heartache, disappointment, confusion and maybe even anger.

Depending on your circumstances, you envisioned sex in marriage to be amazing, frequent and — dare I say — magical.

But those visions have failed to materialize.

If you are a woman, you probably thought it would be a lot like the sex portrayed in your favorite romantic movies.

Easy. Mesmerizing. Passionate. Tender.

If you are a man, you probably thought it would be mutually-valued, frequent and a smorgasbord of stimulation.

God gave you the green light, and you were all about “full speed ahead” on savoring that blessing.

For some of you reading this right now, sex has been all of those things and more.

As someone who has lived a previous marriage where sex was a huge struggle and now am in a marriage where sex rocks my world in the most fulfilling way, I certainly have spent time in both the camp of sexual disappointment and the camp of sexual “wow!”

I’m no idealist.  Marriage is hard, eh?

I think it is one of the hardest endeavors we ever choose to enter, and this may surprise you, but that’s why I think nurtured sexual intimacy is soooo important.

There are benefits to sex in marriage beyond the orgasm.  As great as pleasure is, it is pleasure and connection with the person with whom you do life that affords you marvelous realities that you just can’t find anyplace else.

Here are 3 things sex will do for your marriage:

1.  Help you extend grace.

This is big, and at the beginning of marriage, we can’t fathom how much we are going to need it.

Early in marriage, we are still riding the wave of the fairytale and believing our marriage will be spared the struggles other marriages regularly encounter.

Then we come face-to-face with the truth that doing life with another person who is sinful like us is oftentimes excruciatingly hard.

We have to learn how to extend grace, over and over again.  Sex helps you do that.

There is something about frequently giving yourself sexually to the person you married that softens you to each other.

As I have often said, I like my husband better after we have sex.

Are You Ready to Bring Back the Passion & Intimacy in Your Sex Life?

Use these proven techniques to enjoy more sex and deeper intimacy...so you can feel like newlyweds again:

Click here to learn more about Intimacy Reignited

2. Relieve stress.

This piggybacks a little on point #1.  Life in general is stressful, and marriage is not immune to that.

In fact, in some regards, married life (and the little tykes that eventually show up) can be incredibly draining.

Yes, orgasm from a physiological standpoint has been proven to relieve stress, but more importantly, I think pleasure with the person you are doing life with is what really has power to reduce stress.

Instead of waiting for stress to subside before you have sex, why not reverse that train of thinking?  Be more intentional about having sex regardless of the circumstances in your life.

Convey with your body and heart that your sexual desire for your spouse is not contingent on everything else in life moving along smoothly.

My guess is that deep down, you both want to know without a doubt this tender reassurance: I’m in this with you. I’m right here.

3.  Equip you to be a better witness for Christ.

I’m not going to go all Jesus freak on you, because most people hate that sort of thing.  But I will say this…

Sexual connection with the person you married is one of the best ways you can worship God and serve in His name.

I know.  Sounds completely ludicrous that I so closely tie these two things — sexual intimacy in your marriage AND your Christian witness.

Sadly, I hear from many people whose spouse is completely careless with sex in the marriage, yet steadfast bent on serving at the church.

If you are spending countless hours leading Bible studies, making food for funeral luncheons, organizing Vacation Bible School or singing in the choir — yet you are purposely negligent at nurturing intimacy in your marriage — then I humbly encourage you to pause for a moment.

Take a good look at God’s heart for your marriage.

We are better equipped to serve the Lord if we are diligent about the intimacy — and sometimes sexual healing — that needs to happen in our own home.

When you read the above 3 things sex will do for your marriage, I pray you feel encouraged and inspired.

I pray you will bravely start desiring greater possibilities for sex in your marriage.

You’re worth it. Your spouse is worth it. Your marriage is worth it.

Are You Ready to Bring Back the Passion & Intimacy in Your Sex Life?

Use these proven techniques to enjoy more sex and deeper intimacy...so you can feel like newlyweds again:

Click here to learn more about Intimacy Reignited

Feb 10

How To Deal With A New City, A New Spouse And A New Life

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

New City, New Spouse, New LifeYour long distance engagement has led to a decision to move to a new city for your new spouse.

While it’s certainly exciting, it’s also a little scary because you’re diving head first into the unknown.

Yes, you’re doing it with an open mind and an open heart, but you’re also leaving behind your family, friends, and hometown conveniences, routines, and comforts.

Only too often people fear the unknown without pausing to consider that with risk come rewards, and moving to a new place where you only know one person is an opportunity for personal growth.

7 Opportunities for Personal Growth

Here are at least 7 wonderful discoveries awaiting you:

1. You’ll make new friends.

In a new city, you’ll meet people refreshingly different from the people you now know. They’ll have different ideas, perspectives, and experiences from your own, and by meeting them you’ll enrich your own view of life.

2. You’ll be free of your family’s expectations.

The new people you’ll meet will know nothing about you, and it will be like starting over with a clean slate. If you’re normally shy, for example, you can practice being extroverted. Can you change your personality?

Yes and no. You may not be able to change everything, but you have some leeway when it comes to changing your self-beliefs and your habits.

3. You’ll be exposed to different social patterns.

With new places to go and new people to meet, you’ll find new way to stretch and stimulate you.

4. You’ll have a chance to try out a new lifestyle.

If the city is in a different state or you’re a country person exposed to life in the big city, you’ll find new adventures, new perspectives, and new ways of having fun.

5. You’ll have a chance to reinvent your work.

If you have to work, you may find a new field to interest you, or to go back to school to learn new work skills. You might even be able to try things that you were not able to do before, like start an Internet Marketing business working from home because now you won’t be the only income earner in the household.

When trying to reinvent yourself, value investor Guy Spiers suggest that you should learn from the best, associate with all the right people, and stay honest with yourself and others. Although he was mainly talking about business success, these rules apply to almost everything in life.

In your new environment, you may come across all three of these opportunities.

6. You’ll learn new things.

Your new spouse will probably want to interest you in things that you’ve never tried before—new sports, new hobbies, and new books and courses.

7. You’ll have a chance to drop things that didn’t work.

You’ll have an opportunity to leave behind those aspects of your life that didn’t work too well—cranky friends who complained about everything, dominant bosses who expected too much from you, and even bad habits encouraged by your circle of friends that no longer serve you.

You can bring out hidden or repressed parts of yourself, contemplate your ideals self, and work to become the person that you always wanted to be. This can include improving how you handle relationships, finances, and a lot of other things.

7 Practical Steps to Take

While your new spouse may be able to help you with settling in, you’ll probably have to take many practical steps to make the move.

Here are some things that you will probably want to consider:

1. Get rid of years of clutter.

Deciding what you want to take, leave behind with family, put in storage, sell at a garage sale, post for sale on eBay, donate to a local thrift store, or simply throw away.

Now is a good time for purging old things that you have let clutter your life—from old clothes to things that you haven’t used in years.

2. Sort out your financial affairs.

They may be many things to reconsider and new decisions to make—ranging from loans and leases to banking and insurance.

3. Review your organizational activities.

Close out memberships or transfer memberships in groups or organizations that you’re now participating in.

4. Get help with packing and shipping.

Arrange for long distance movers to help you get all your stuff to your new home.

5. Depart gracefully and cordially.

Start saying goodbye to family and friends early so that you don’t hurt anybody’s feelings by simply packing your bags and disappearing.

6. Learn new skills.

If you’ve lived at home, you may need to learn new domestic skills like how to do laundry, cook meals, or sew.

7. Organize change of address.

You will have to direct all your current mail to your new address.

Conclusion

You’re in for a complete change in your life—a new city, a new spouse, and a new way of living. It can be both exciting and terrifying.

If you take this as an opportunity to grow, adapt, and learn, as well as take care of things before you leave, it will be a wonderful opportunity for you to create a whole new life for yourself.

Moving is stressful as is getting married, and when you combine the two together, expect radical change.

This post was contributed by guest writer Christine Michaels.

Feb 09

Dinner and A Movie–It’s Not What You Think.

By Debi Walter | Romance

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Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and I’ve talked about it often being our favorite holiday of the year. Why? Because it’s a day set apart for romancing my favorite person in the world–my husband.

Do you think of romance as a privilege? Not as something on your ever-growing list of Things You Need To Improve?

Tom and I have recently gone through some events that have made us appreciate every minute we get to spend together. It is a privilege to have one person in this life with whom you can lavish your love. I’ve heard it said that many never know how much something meant to them until it was gone. May that not be true of our marriages. Life is too short–and we need to make the most of every opportunity to express our love in tangible ways.

Which brings me to this month’s post and my chance to spur you on with ideas that are fun, and not difficult to pull off.

Ask an assortment of couples what a date night looks like to them, and more often than not you’ll hear this phrase: Dinner and a Movie. Tom and I like to go to the movies, but we rarely do on date nights. Why? Simply because we like to talk and the people in the movie theater don’t like it when we do. 🙂

I would like to share with you a new twist on Dinner and a Movie.

Instead of going to the movies, watch the movie at home. Instead of eating dinner out, prepare a meal that goes along with the movie. It makes your meal an extension of the whole movie experience. We’ve done this a couple of times and they have ended up being some of our favorite dates.

Not sure how to pull this off? Well, not to worry–we’re not going to leave you stranded. Choose from the following list and have fun planning your next rendezvous–right in your own living room. It may become a regular event.

Six Dinner and a Movie Dates At Home

6. The Godfather and A Sicilian Dinner for Two: Tomato-Sausage Sauce, Antipasto Salad, Sicilian Cannoli

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5. When Harry Met Sally and Katz’s Deli Dinner for Two: Pastrami Sandwich, Coconut Cake with Chocolate Sauce on the side.

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4. The Notebook and Candlelit Crab Boil for Two: Crab Boil, Fingerling Potato Salad, Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream Sundae

3. Sixteen Candles and Updated Cafeteria Fare for Two: Grass-Fed Beef Meatloaf in a Bacon Blanket, Tater Tots with Truffles, Braised Carrots with Crisp Sage, Golden Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Pain Au Chocolat: There were so many delicious recipes to choose from for breakfast, I made a link for you to pick from the list.

1. You’ve Got Mail – Sushi and a selection from Cafe’ Lalo‘s menu. This date provides ideas on where to buy the dishes so you don’t have to cook.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 2.17.00 PM

I hope this gets you thinking of ways to make a Dinner and a Movie date something special.

Bon Appetit!

Photos provided by Delish.com

 

Feb 04

How to Craft the Perfect Love Letter for Valentine’s Day (in about 15 minutes)

By Dustin | Romance

How to Craft the Perfect Love LetterWhile Hallmark may tell you otherwise, there’s simply no better gift for your spouse than a romantic love letter.

It makes your spouse feel special, and it expresses your emotions in a format that creates a very personal keepsake.

Plus, if you’re on budget, you can craft an awesome letter for free!

If you’re like me, the idea of writing a romantic letter to a loved one brings back memories of my high school days.

I wrote a lot of “late night love letters” (as my Mom teasingly called them) during my teenage years, and I actually got pretty good at it.  At least that’s what my girlfriend (and fortunately now my wife) tells me.

A love letter will be appreciated whenever you give it, but let’s make sure your husband or wife knows just how much you love and appreciate them this Valentine’s Day.

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Gift

If love letters are so great, why don’t we write more romantic letters…especially after we get married?

We know they’ll put a smile on our spouse’s face and make them feel fantastic.  It doesn’t take long to write a great letter, it doesn’t require a trip to the store, and it’s a simple way to add some fun and romance to your marriage.

Love letters seem to fall into the category of something you know you SHOULD do, but you never get around to it. So what gives?

The problem is we tend to get overwhelmed when we think about sitting down to express our feelings in a letter.  We’re not sure what to write about, how to get started or the best way to deliver our letter when we do finally get around to writing it.

Use This Love Letter Checklist to Make It Easy

What if you had a checklist to follow that would make your love letter writing simple and effective?

Good news – in honor of Valentine’s Day, we’re giving you our popular Perfect Love Letter Checklist as our gift.

You can click here to grab it now:

When you use this checklist, you’ll find it’s easy to romance your spouse with a love letter…plus:

  • How to never get stuck on what to write about
  • Discover the secret ingredients to craft the perfect love letter, no matter how uncreative you think you are
  • Exactly what to say to make your spouse melt every time
  • How to deliver your romantic letter in a way that will WOW your spouse

Let’s make this the best Valentine’s Day (and night 😉 ) yet – grab your free love letter checklist.

Feb 02

What’s in your wallet?

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

whats in your walletThe question in the headline may bring to mind ads full of burly, weapon-waving Vikings in all sorts of amusing modern situations.

However, the question What’s in your wallet? is a serious one because it will determine your ability to think outside the box when you and your spouse have set your sights on a purchase.

You don’t necessarily need cash to do the deed, and especially if you’re working on dumping your debt, you know you don’t use credit cards, either.

You can use the other currency in your wallet, though: time, talent, and treasure.

Especially treasure.

Like a Vitamix, for instance.

The resources of time and talent

These are the resources that most couples reach for to generate more cash so they can buy what they’ve set their sights on.

You might spend your time and take on a second job.

If you’ve honed your talent over the years—your marketable skills and abilities—you might ask for and receive a raise, move to a higher paying position, or you can freelance.

But there is one more oft overlooked source of revenue.

The resource of treasure

Treasure, in this instance, is anything you own that you no longer need or want.

In some cases, it may also be something you still enjoy, but you’ve decided there’s something you want or need more.

For instance, friends of ours were redoing their kitchen and needed some appliances.

They knew there were deals to be had on Craigslist, so that’s where they headed with their treasure.

Will you take a Vitamix?

I’ll let my friends tell their story, which I’ve edited just a bit.

I had a Vitamix that was given to me and collecting dust on my countertop. I happened to be searching for an appliance set on Craigslist. I felt like I hit the jackpot when I found an ad for a much desired convection oven with the option to swap for a Vitamix blender. What luck! I replied right away, but didn’t hear back. We needed appliances ASAP for the house we were moving into. I continued searching and found a GREAT set of matching appliances for a GREAT deal. We had to take everything, including appliances we didn’t need, but we didn’t mind.

We borrowed a friend’s box truck, tossed in the Vitamix just in case, and drove the hour and a half to the nearby city. We loaded the appliances. I was a little bummed the set didn’t have a convection oven, but it was still a great deal without it. Just then the other person called me, very excited about trading for the Vitamix. We headed over to other side of the city, made our swap, and headed home with our finds: a matching set of stainless steel oven, microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator, an older model washer and dryer, and my beautiful convection oven.

Our cost? $500, plus the Vitamix.

But we weren’t done making deals.

A friend of ours was looking for appliances for an apartment, so we offered him our extras. He named a fair price of $400 for the nearly new refrigerator and oven, which we accepted. Then we sold the washer and dryer for $50.

The final cash outlay, after all of our wheeling and dealing: just $100

We now owned a “new” stainless steel dishwasher, microwave, and convection oven—with the nice glass top I wanted 🙂 —making them just $33.33 each.

This couple looked in their wallet, and in addition to their money, they saw the Vitamix.

At the end of the day, not only did they get what they wanted at a terrific price, but they also got to do a teensy bit of decluttering by letting go of the blender.

The next time you get ready to make a purchase, step back and take a moment to asses your situation, and remember to ask yourself that very important question:

What’s in your wallet?

Comment: How have you used time, talent, or treasure to obtain something you wanted?