Thursday, November 27

Me, You and Him

Adjusting to married life was a very interesting process in more ways than one. Sometimes I found myself wondering if every newly-wed couple had to go through the same process of adjusting like we did. And I wished someone could have told me what exactly to expect, so that I would feel like I was better prepared. You know how you ask your friends who recently got married, "So how is married life?" and they just say "It's fine, it's wonderful!". You wish they would say more, but you don't know how to ask. The truth is though, that no matter how much people tell you before, you have to experience some things for yourself. Here's an example of something I wish somebody told me earlier.

In my last three years as a single girl, I had developed a close relationship with God. I used to worship, pray and read my bible every day without fail. I enjoyed spending time in my Heavenly Father's presence as much as I could. I could pour out my heart to my God anytime and He always answered me. I always felt that I was God's special daughter and nothing could take away that wonderful relationship from me. God's love and His presence was always around me. My heavenly father was a big guiding factor in everything I did because I always made sure I consulted Him before making any big decisions. He was the main "man" in my life and my world revolved around Him.

A few months after I finished my Masters degree and moved back home, I suddenly noticed something odd. Something was definitely different in my Christian life, God was out! I had gotten so excited about having a new permanent man in my life that I had edged God out and didn't crave His presence anymore. In the middle of adjusting to married life, having a husband and becoming a wife, my heavenly Father had taken a back seat! My time, my focus and my mind was now filled with thoughts of my husband 24/7 that I didn't have time for God anymore. In essence, I had replaced God with hubby. At first I was slightly worried but I didn't know what to do. I didn't think I had done it on purpose, it just happened that way..... I didn't know whether to feel guilty about it or not..... I didn't know whether this was quite a normal thing to happen to other newlywed brides...... I didn't know whether it was just me getting carried away with my new status. So I didn't do anything, I didn't even discuss it with hubby.

As time went on though, I began to question myself. Why have I replaced God with my husband? Isn't that dangerous? Hubby might be a good man and all, but really nobody can and should take the place of God in my life. I couldn't even pray any more because I had lost the urge to! So I started fretting and making myself confused and worried. Until one day I decided to call my pastor's wife to ask her if she had experienced the same thing when she first got married. I hoped she would then be able to give me some advice. When I called the pastor, I asked to speak to his wife but she was not around. He could tell I was distressed about something so he asked what the matter was. I told him everything I had been feeling and surprisingly he laughed! He said it was alright and God understands, and He was not angry with me for working on bonding with my husband. He also said that the fact that I'm worried about it shows that I am missing something, so I should just relax and allow myself to slowly get back in tune with God.
It was such a relief to hear that! Afterwards I went to pray and it was something along the lines of: "Lord please help me, it's no more just me and You, it's now Me, You and Him so I need Your wisdom to guide me so I can balance having both of you in my life".

About a week later, I was chatting online to a friend of mine from uni and she asked me how married life was going. I told her what I had recently prayed about. To my surprise she said that in her fellowship group, there was a newly-wed lady who recently shared with them about going through the exact same thing! The lady said that she also felt guilty for spending all her time with her husband and not enough time with God anymore! I was really glad to hear this. I felt like it was God's way of telling me that I'm not alone and it's quite normal!

Thankfully with time, prayers and patience I got back in touch with God and I've been able to balance both relationships. God now has His rightful place in my life, and hubby has his right place in my life too. Hubby and I now have our separate quiet time with God, and then have our couple time with God together. It makes me wonder though, how much adjusting I would have to do when children come into the relationship and I have to divide my time, attention and focus even more.

Friday, October 3

Theory and Practical (2)

Hi everyone! I finally got round to posting this second part. I had been a bit down with a cold last week, but I'm fine now. Anyway, as I was saying in my last post, there is a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Sometimes I would do, or not do something I know is right and then have to evaluate my behaviour afterwards. I'll continue with the good but sometimes difficult things I struggle with putting into practice.

Patience: We all know patience is a virtue and one that every relationship requires. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said I see myself as a very patient person. But now I'm discovering I'm not! It was quite a shock to admit this at first, but now I'm realising I need more and more patience everyday. In fact, recently I had an argument with my sister and afterwards I realised that I should have been more patient to hear her point of view before jumping into conclusions. The same thing in my marriage, I'm figuring out that need lots of patience when arguments happen, when I'm grumpy and hubby asks me to do something, or when things are not going my way. I also need to be patient with other people's faults, including myself. We all make mistakes and nobody gets it right all the time, so I'm learning not to over-react when somebody gets on my nerves.

Forgiveness: Here's the deal, we all know we can't have healthy, happy relationships without forgiveness. Best friends, siblings, married couples, etc have arguments. We are all human and sometimes we unknowingly hurt or annoy someone close to us. Sometimes though, when the other party says "I'm sorry" you don't feel like forgiving them immediately. I know this is bad, but sometimes I hold on to my anger and keep punishing hubby for something he has apologised for. I know it's not fair on him but the idea of him saying he's sorry over and over again is tempting. But one day the tables turned on me: I was apologising for something and he wasn't minding me much. Then I said in frustration, "I've said I'm sorry, what more do you want me to do?" and that was when it clicked to me that I do the same thing to him too. When someone genuinely apologises, the best thing I can do is to forgive quickly, even though I may not feel like it at that particular moment. I've learnt that I need to make the choice first and then let my feelings catch up later. Now I'm also learning to put things behind me once a matter is resolved, so that our relationship can return to a peaceful state quickly.

Appreciation: I've heard that one of the things that couples argue about is the fact that their partner stops appreciating them for who they are and what they do, and instead starts taking things for granted. I've been guilty of this too - one time I was grumpy about something I wanted and hubby had not yet gotten round to responding. Then my former boss said to me, "FG, you've got to appreciate the people in your life who don't let you down". It made me think that perhaps I had stopped appreciating my family and good friends, including my husband who has been nothing but good to me since I met him. I had started taking him and our relationship for granted. I thought about it some more and I realised how easy it is to fall into that trap. I shouldn't take it for granted that he's been a faithful husband - I should appreciate it. I shouldn't take it for granted that he provides for the family - I should appreciate the fact that he's a responsible man. So what if he doesn't take out the trash more often - I should appreciate it when he does. It can be hard to put into practice though, especially if you have certain expectations that you feel your spouse falls short of. But I'm learning to appreciate him more and more for who he is and what he brings to our relationship, instead of focusing on what he's not doing. I'm asking God to help me, when I need reminders on what I have been blessed with.

That's all I can think for now, I hope you'll bear with me. I've been quite busy but I promise I won't be too long before I write my next post!

As always, stay blessed and favoured!

Saturday, September 6

Theory and Practical (1)

As a single girl with a desire to be in a good marriage in future, I set about preparing myself to that reality. I read a lot of books on christian relationships and marriage. I prayed for God to make me a better person everyday. I listened to quite a few discussions and teachings on marriage. I attended quite a number of relationship seminars. I observed a lot of married people around me and took note of what I wanted to emulate and what I wanted to eliminate. Then finally, hubby and I participated in a marriage preparation course. So I would say in terms of theoretical knowledge, I was definitely well prepared for marriage. I mean, how much more preparation does one need?

However, I think we can all agree that knowing something is one thing, but putting it into practice is quite another. I'm sure many of us know the benefits of eating a healthy balanced diet, having regular exercise, making time for daily praise worship and bible study, etc. But in reality we still struggle to put these things into practice. The same thing applies to relationships. I knew what marriage requires, but it wasn't until I was actually in it, that I had to start practicing them. So I'm going to talk about a few of those things that are essential in any relationship, but I sometimes struggle to practice.

Submission: I've talked about this subject before (here) when it first came to my attention as a single person. I read books about it, asked other people questions and thought I knew what it was all about. But getting into marriage, I was now faced with the reality of living it. And here is where things really become interesting, knowing that this man is now my husband, and he now has legitimate authority in our home. Several times, we have been discussing an issue and it seems like he has made his mind up while I am trying to convince him to take on my view. It takes a lot to know when to back down and accept hubby's decision. Sometimes I can get him to see my point of view and then we both agree on the way forward. Yet, sometimes I feel with every single bone in my body that I am right, but he disagrees and I have to accept his final decision. We have had situations where hubby and I couldn't reach an agreement over something and then later, I feel the Holy Spirit convincing me to go along with my husband's decision. And I've found that when I do, everything usually works out better than I could have planned it. It takes a lot of getting used to, and I'm still not sure I've fully grasped the hang of it, but God is helping me. It has made me think that God put the man as the head of the home to make the tough decisions, so really when I submit graciously, it takes the pressure off me. It still takes a lot of grace and practice, but to have peace in your marriage, I recommend following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Compromise: In relationships, there are two people coming together from different backgrounds, with different opinions, different values and different ways of doing things. Sometimes there is no right or wrong way to do something, we just have a preference for the way we are used to. For example, I hate waiting for ages at train stations and airports so I prefer to arrive very close to the scheduled departure time and board immediately. Hubby likes to leave enough time beforehand and arrive early, in case there is a delay on the way. Now, I find that I get irritated waiting for thirty minutes doing nothing, and he gets irritated if he arrives two minutes before departure and has to run to catch the train or flight. As it is, neither of us can have our own way all the time. So to avoid fights, there has to be some sort of compromise between us as to when we should leave home and when we should arrive at the train station or airport.
That is just one example out of many of the different situations in which I have to practice making compromises. There are so many other things, such as how we spend our income, how we spend our leisure time, how we celebrate birthdays and Christmas holidays and so on. Compromising usually means letting go of some of my choices, and trying to find a middle ground that we both agree with. It's not always easy, but I'm still learning.

Apologising: Who would agree with me that apologising is not always easy? Saying "I'm sorry" usually involves admitting you have done something wrong. Or you are guilty of something, or you have hurt the other person's feelings. Most of the time, it was unintentional too, so you have to apologise even when you didn't mean to annoy or hurt them. It's not easy to say sorry, we all know it's far easier to make excuses for our behaviour. More than once, hubby has pointed out something I did wrong and I have found myself making excuses, or trivialising it as if it doesn't matter. But if it mattered enough for him to point it out, then I should say sorry and try to make amends. I know I expect him to apologise immediately when he has upset me, so I should be ready to do the same thing when I upset him. It's something I'm asking God to help me with, because I struggle with admitting that I'm wrong.

Obedience: This is closely related to submission that I've talked about. Obedience to any authority doesn't usually come naturally, as we human beings have a tendency to question why or rebel when asked to do something. Even when God asks us to do something, we sometimes procrastinate or demand to know the reasons why. And we can carry this attitude into our relationships. Of course I'm not saying that I have no free will of my own, or that I must obey my husband even if something goes against my conscience. But if I put my pride aside, and I recognise that he is acting in love, then obeying him becomes slightly (slightly!) easier.

There are a few more things I'm going to talk about, but I'll continue in my next post.

Stay blessed and favoured!

Sunday, July 13

Sex After Marriage

Greetings bloggers and readers! Apologies for my long hiatus.

This post is one that I felt was necessary to share, sex from a Christian perspective. Let's face it, we are bombarded daily through movies, TV shows, blogs, magazines, newspapers, and so on with the wrong messages about sex. The messages we get out there are stuff like:

(1) there's no need to wait until you are married before you have sex,
(2) having multiple partners is great - in fact the more the better,
(3) sex is a purely physical need you can meet with no strings attached,
(4) saving sex for marriage is unnatural and outdated,
(5) sex is just a bit of fun to be enjoyed and there are no consequences for having sex outside of God's will, etc.

So I thought a little clarity from a Christian's point of view would be helpful to people who read my blog. And since I had promised to be honest when I started this blog, I decided to give it a go. Nothing too explicit- mind!

Well as you (my wonderful readers) can imagine, after abstaining and waiting to get married before having sex, I was more curious than anything else as to what it's really like. Before marriage, I had tried to imagine and ask christian couples about it, but most people were too shy to give me any satisfactory answers. Until I met my mentors and one day I brought up the topic and we had a frank discussion. The wife told me that the first few times is really awkward because it's all new and strange but after some time, you understand yourselves more and more and you get used to it. Which somehow made sense, but wasn't really what I wanted to hear, having read too many Mills and Boons novels as a teenager, painting a picture that sex is a wild, passionate whirlwind of sensations!

It turned out to be true though. Sex in marriage is a journey of discovery. There's no way you're going to be good at something if you've never done it before! It takes time to get to know yourself, what you like and don't like. It also takes time to understand the other person too, so don't let the pressure of having a "fabulous wedding night" get you under pressure. But having no experience is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it's a good thing because marriage gives you a safe and secure framework to discover and express your sexuality. Our first time was quite awkward but I look back on it now and smile. A few days into our marriage, we opened our wedding presents and some people had kindly given us some books on sex written from a Christian point of view. We read some of the chapters and it was good to have some more facts we could add to our knowledge. And things keep getting better and better after the first time. In fact, I think that's the way God designed it so that you won't get bored easily.

Seeing sex now as a married person, I really understand why God designed it to be enjoyed within the commitment of marriage. As a single person, you may think that God's rule is just too harsh, too impractical or too restrictive but there are reasons why. Apart from the purely physical stuff, what makes sex in marriage beautiful and complete for me is the fact that it's a hundred and one percent worry-free, risk-free, guilt-free, God-approved pleasure! Did I mention it's fun too? Ha ha! But it's true though. God's rules are always for our own good.

Sex in a loving committed marriage relationship is worry-free for many reasons. For example: (1) I'm assured that this person loves me and he is committed to me,
(2) I know he's not giving me lyrics just to get in my pants,
(3) I know that he is not selfishly using me to meet his own needs,
(4) I don't have to worry about whether he will dump me tomorrow if he doesn't feel I'm good enough in bed,
(5) I know he's not going to slag me off to his friends tomorrow about that babe he has just 'scored',
(6) I don't have to worry about whether he's sleeping with several other ladies at the same time
(7) I know that sex is an expression of the love we have for each other
(8) Nobody can come and arrest me or accuse me of sleeping with her man
(9)I have no fear of catching any funky diseases
(10) I never regret sex by waking up the next morning thinking "OMG, what did I do last night!"etc.

There's also a big issue of trust involved with sex. I personally can't imagine giving myself to somebody that I don't know or trust enough. The idea just doesn't make sense to me. I think God designed sex to be within marriage because that gives you the framework to be yourself. You have to trust the other person to be able to relax and be completely at ease. You have to trust that they won't hurt you. Otherwise what's the point of giving yourself physically but withholding emotionally? Sex is best when you connect at every level. It just makes the whole package complete because it's about pleasure, intimacy and the bond we share, it's not a performance that I have to measure up to. There's no shame, guilt or embarrassment between us.

I could go on but I'll just say a few more things. Sex is never a "no-strings attached act". It creates a deep emotional and spiritual bond between two people. And that's because God designed it to be an intimacy builder in a marriage. So whenever a married couple have sex, they are actually making their bond stronger. If you take sex outside marriage, it still creates a bond between two people. I'm sure we've all heard of people in toxic relationships who can't seem to leave as they are emotionally tied to the other person because they've had sex with them. Or two people supposedly just having "casual sex" but end up having feelings for each other and someone gets hurt.

And one last thing, sex should never be used as a bargaining tool. That defeats the whole purpose it was meant for. Withholding sex for selfish reasons cheapens it and turns it into a commodity. It shouldn't happen in a loving, Christian marriage. I'll stop there, but for anyone who has questions, feel free to email me. If anyone wants to read more I've put up links to some books that may be helpful: Intended for Pleasure , The Act of Marriage , The Marriage Book

As always, stay blessed and favoured!

Thursday, March 27

Learning to Listen

It may sound like a cliché but you may have heard many happy couples say the key to staying together is communication. Usually what springs to mind when you hear this is: you and your partner should be able to talk to each other, express your feelings clearly, don't bottle things up, etc. Of course, you can't keep a relationship alive without talking to your partner. How else would you get to know them, find out their likes and dislikes? And how else will you share your feelings, thoughts, goals and motivations with each other?

However, something that is often overlooked in communication is the art of listening. Being in a healthy relationship means you must be able to listen as much as you talk. Really, one person cannot be doing the talking all the time. At any point, somebody will be talking and somebody has to be listening, otherwise the communication is not complete. This is important in any relationship, but even more so in marriage.

In the early stages in a relationship, it's easy to take turns talking and listening because you are curious to know what the other person has to say to what you tell them, you hang onto their every word and enjoy listening to their voice. As you settle down into a long-tern relationship however, we get comfortable together and may develop some bad communication practices: you start getting used to hearing their voice, so you may unconsciously tune them out. Or you get into the habit of thinking you know what they are about to say anyway, so you don't bother to wait for them to finish their sentences. Or you listen to half of their sentence, before interrupting them with something else that you want to say. I'll tell you of a few examples of how easy it is to NOT listen.

Sometimes when hubby and I are discussing a topic that we both have strong feelings about, I've found that it is easy for both of us to talk about his/her own views, because we both want our views to be heard. Not listening to each other sometimes means that at the end of the day, a lot of words have been spoken, but nobody has taken anything new on board. Why? Because we were both talking at the same time and neither of us was listening.

Another thing that springs to mind is when hubby is trying to talk to me when I'm watching TV, chatting to my friends online or reading a book. Sometimes I just don't hear what he is saying. And sometimes I hear with my ears, but my brain doesn't register any information, so some time later, I'll have to ask, "Sorry what were you saying?"

Or another example: I'll ask hubby a question and he'll say yes. Later on he will ask me why I took the action I did and I'll tell him, "But I asked you and you said yes", and he'll say, "When did you ask me?". This means that he wasn't really listening when I was talking to him, he was distracted by something else that was going on.

Previously, I wasn't aware that I had to actually learn the art of listening. I thought those things come naturally as long as we had a healthy relationship. I now know that no matter how good a relationship is, there is always room for improvement. And I needed to improve my listening skills. Not listening to hubby has led to misunderstandings in the past, and a breakdown in our communication; things that I would rather avoid.

Some time ago, I read a chapter of The Marriage Book that dealt with communication: specifically on the topic of talking and listening (I would recommend reading it!). The authors talked about the things you need to do to be a good listener. One important thing is making the effort to give our partner our full attention. This is not as easy as it sounds. Imagine I'm watching my favourite TV show and hubby decides he wants to have a conversation. It will take a lot of effort on my part to switch off from the TV and turn my attention to what he's saying. And if I can't concentrate on what he's saying, it may be worth asking him to give me a few minutes till the end of the programme. But if it's something really important to him, then he should take priority over the TV show right?

Something else the chapter talked about was our body language. Usually when we are giving someone our full attention, we tend to use eye contact and other subconscious signals. If I'm talking to someone and they can't be bothered to look at me or show any signs of interest, then I'm likely to feel ignored. So I'm also learning to pay attention to my body language when I'm having an important conversation with hubby.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. If we are thoughtful of the way we talk and listen to each other in a relationship, we will certainly benefit from better communication. I know I am getting better at listening now than I was a few years ago :)

Monday, February 18

Adjustments (2)

Hello all! As I mentioned in my last post, I had to make some changes and adjustments in my life after the wedding. I’ll like to say that it wasn’t just me though, as Mr had to adjust to being married too. But since I’m writing from my point of view, I’ll focus mainly on my own experiences.

One day Mr and I went shopping outside our town. It was just before Christmas, about five months after our wedding. At the mall, we bumped into a friend of mine. I decided to hang out with her, since Mr was getting bored already, so we parted ways and agreed to meet in a few hours. My friend and I shopped to our heart’s content and when we got tired; we went to a cafĂ© and sat down to have a bite and a chat. As we sat down, she turned to me and asked, “So, FG I’ve been meaning to ask you. How is married life?”
I wanted to answer the question honestly, so I told her that married life is a lot of fun, but there are many adjustments to make. She asked me what kind of adjustments, and I told her that they were stuff you would never think of if you were a single girl living on your own and accountable to no one but yourself. I told her, “For example, when we were shopping just now, I had to be mindful about the clothes and underwear I was buying, because someone cares about them”. She found that really funny and said that she couldn’t imagine having to put someone else in the picture when making the smallest decisions such as the clothes she bought or what she wore underneath. I laughed and told her that it does take a long time to get used to.

Apart from that though, there were a few more “inconveniences” we had to work around, for example:

We had to learn to share the television fairly. Who knew that something that sounds so simple in theory can actually be very complicated? Mr and I have very different taste in TV programmes. I like watching dramas and sitcoms, he likes watching wild-life documentaries, sports and news debates. Even when we want to watch movies, his choices are always very different from mine. Cue arguments and accusations such as “change the channel, my show is on now!”….“But you’ve watched that show a hundred times; can I watch my own show now?”….. “Hey, you can’t change the channel; my show comes up in a minute”…… “Can we watch something else?”…… “Babe please change the channel, this show is boring!”…… etc. You get the picture (lol). How we manage to resolve it? Patience, patience, patience and compromise, as in seriously. Recently, reminders and one-hour-later channels have made a big difference too. LOL

One of my hobbies is listening to music. Preferably as loud as possible, with me singing along since I usually know all the lyrics by heart. To me, that’s one of the ways I relax and tune out stress. For example, after a long day at lectures or at work, when I get home, the first thing I do is to put on my CD player or my laptop and turn up the volume. Now this was fine until I got married and I had to factor in somebody else living in the same house as me. I got a shock one day when I was enjoying my music in the afternoon. Mr came into the living room and said I was making noise and he wanted some peace and quiet. I stared at him as if he wasn’t making sense. How could he call my music “noise” and ask me to turn it off? Did he not know that listening to music was one of my favourite things to do? We argued for ages but we still didn’t come to a resolution. I just couldn’t imagine giving up listening to music because of him. He suggested that I should use headphones. I grudgingly obliged but it was just not the same. Now though, I have learnt to leave the room he is in when I’ve got my music playing. And I make the most of it when he is not at home and I can turn it up as loud as I want to!

Something else that needed to be worked out was sharing the chores in the house. In this regard, I must say I’ve not had much of a problem, as Mr gets stuck in with the housework and he doesn’t leave it all to just me. He doesn’t like dirt and grime so he would rather scrub the tub himself, for example, than wait for me to do it. We’ve got some unspoken rules as to who does what, but they are flexible depending on who got there first. And we don’t have a time-table as such so we just do our chores as and when necessary. Usually on Saturdays, he wakes up before me and starts tidying up and I’ll join him later. And sometimes, I take charge, make a list of what needs to be done and we share both the difficult and easy tasks accordingly. It works well for us right now, but I have a feeling that when we have kids, we will need to be clearer on who does what!

Well what else? I think those were the major adjustments for me, but there were some other practical things that I had to deal with so I’ll continue writing about them.

Stay blessed and favoured!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...