sex talk, part 1

A few weeks ago, I was called by a MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) group to come and speak at one of their meetings about intimacy and sex next month. I was excited about this call because MOPS are MY PEOPLE. And helping busy mothers reconnect with both their own bodies and husbands is one of my passions. I am genuinely looking forward to sharing some of my knowledge, but I’m finding it difficult to narrow down WHAT to share and where in the heck to start.

After all, could the subject of sex be any more complicated? NOPE, no. No it could not. And so…I’m just going to start AT THE BEGINNING: finding the time, space, and energy to actually have sex in the first place. So, I’m making the huge stretch in imagining that I am a MOP (totally am) and thinking of my friend and client MOPS, I started with a list because lists are awesome.

Here’s what I came up with so far.

Turn OFFs:

  1. Exhaustion/no energy
  2. Busy schedule, lack of time alone with hubs
  3. Feeling unattractive, not sexy, not liking body
  4. Disconnected from body, sense of self outside of “mommy”
  5. Not feeling emotionally connected to husband
  6. Negative feelings toward husband
  7. Messy house/overwhelming to-do list
  8. Haven’t shaved or showered

Next, we need a pro-sex list. I’m all about balance and fixing the fixable/practical stuff first.

Turn ONs:

  1. Time to have sex
  2. Well rested, relaxed
  3. Feeling appreciated, valued, loved
  4. Connected to husband
  5. Feeling sexy or attractive
  6. Sleeping kids
  7. Clean house
  8. Showered and shaved

Ok, we have our lists. There are practical solutions for many of the items. And clearly, some are a little more complicated. I’m going to address practical solutions, the complicated stuff, and frequency in my next 2 sex talk posts! Stay tuned and I’d love your feedback on your solutions, lessons learned, or challenges!

Save your Relationships: Ask the Right Questions

Not only did this post perfectly put into words a day at home with the kids, but she also so eloquently gives concrete ways to connect better with your spouse/friend/kids, etc. SO GOOD. You must check out http://www.momastery.com, but first…read this!

Save your Relationships: Ask the Right Questions.

what a woman needs from her husband

Based on some recent comments I’ve received on my post,“why men are afraid of their wives” it has come to my attention that some men were reading it and feeling like it added fuel to their negative feelings about marriage and women. This was absolutely NOT my intent or heart!

I wrote it so women might reconsider how their words affect their husbands and to point out the lesson I myself have had to learn, that men need positive affirmation and encouragement most particularly from their wives. I was trying to point out our power (to do harm and to do good) since it seemed less obvious to me than the power husbands have. I’ve found women tend to doubt their influence more.

After reading the comments, my first instinct was to delete the entire post. Then, I decided I should write a post for men regarding their wives. I know I could never do any topic total justice, but I hope I can at least shed some light on dark places.

I’ve found that folks tend to generalize, categorize, label, and discriminate based on (limited) experience, environment, and upbringing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the more I’ve learned, the less I know (unsure who said this first!). The fact is, none of us fit nicely in the boxes others create for us. We must allow our actions and words to rip those boxes to shreds.

There is freedom in understanding. As long as we convince ourselves that the hurtful actions toward us stem from an ugly place, we get stuck in anger, vengeance, and/or a desire for revenge. But what if those actions stemmed from hurt or ignorance or insecurity? I am trying to aid understanding, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

Here goes:

A Women Needs…

1. To hear she’s valued, appreciated, chosen by you, her husband. Insecurity or fear of being hurt or rejected is innate in all of us. When we feel safe, we are free to drop the defense mechanisms we employ thinking we’re protecting ourselves. “Fine! I didn’t need you anyway!” You know the drill.

Your turn! Say something like: “I’m glad I married you.” “I love you exactly as you are.” “Thank you.” “I’m proud to call you my wife.” Do something like: leave little love notes. Plan a date night. Pour her coffee. Pay attention. Ask thoughtful questions.

2. To be found beautiful by you, her husband. We are surrounded by images of women who are perfect. We have been objectified, used, and judged on our appearance. We are not perfect. We get older.

Your turn! Say something like: “You are beautiful to me.” “I love the way you look.” “I love your inside and outside.” “You are more beautiful to me now than when we first met.” Do something like: kiss her forehead. Kiss her neck. Hug her from behind. Put your hand on her waist or the small of her back. Behave as though you are proud she’s yours. Show your kids the way a man should love and cherish his bride.

Women seem more complicated because we have so many feelings and thoughts SIMULTANEOUSLY. Often these feelings and thoughts are OPPOSITE.  Our brains never rest. We feel we are never good enough. We cannot keep up. We are always behind. I’m not saying women are the only ones with the fears, just suggesting we probably worry about them more consistently. WE ARE TIRED from all the thinking and feeling. It might even make us cranky.

Most of us just want to know that we are SEEN. That it’s ok to rest. That we are OK just the way we are.

Respectfully yours,

Lauren

the secret to giving gifts to women, part II

As stated in the title, this isn’t my first post trying to help a fella out. To summarize my last post : “Women want to feel special, loved, and appreciated. If you put thought and effort into a gift, you are communicating that she is worth your time and effort. And that’s all we really want.”

To add to my last post, I’d like to talk directly to the men who have women with kids in their lives.

Here are some ideas:

Note: For all of the following ideas: you book the babysitter. Don’t give your woman a gift that requires work on her end. Besides, she’ll just end up not using the gift certificate for a long time since she’ll feel guilty leaving you with the kids, spending money on a sitter, or a million other excuses not to do something for herself.

1. Surprise her with a night out. This night out can be with you or with her best girlfriends.
2. Surprise her with a weekend away.
3. Surprise her with a full weekend day and night sans kids at home. Or a cabin. Or hotel. She chooses the way you spend the day.
4. Buy tickets to a concert, show, or event you know she’ll like. There are so many fun things to do in Atlanta: cirque, the fox, fall festivals, concerts…Surprise her.
5. Give her a gift certificate for a massage, facial, pedicure or money…but schedule a time with the sitter for her to use it and/or invite a girlfriend. For example: “Sally will be here in 1 hour. Get dressed and have fun. Here’s some money.”
6. Listen, and give her something she’s mentioned. Leave cards, notes, small gifts in unexpected places.
7. Make a video or book in which you, the kids, you, and others if you like, saying what they love and appreciate about her.

Ladies, men want to feel loved and appreciated, too! They are just usually easier to please!

Everyone, this is important. Being a mom or dad can be an often thankless job. The details of all you do and worry about are usually unseen. Do not let being a wife or husband be a thankless job as well. Don’t get into the rut of expecting your spouse to do all he or she does and forget how hard it can be.
“Honey, thank you for working so hard every day to provide for our family. Thanks for giving baths, making our kids laugh, and helping so much at home. I couldn’t do what I do if not for you!”
“Thanks for making sure the kids have clothes, food, childcare, doctor’s appointments…thanks for reading the books about discipline, sex, etc. You take amazing care of our kids, they are so blessed to have a mom who works so hard to make sure they are healthy.”

You get the idea…pay attention! and say or do something to show your gratitude and love!

Happy Gifting!
-Lauren

date night rut

Let me tell you about the date night rut; you know what I’m talking about, right? You spend all the money on babysitters and FINALLY get time away from the chaos of daily life. Time alone. Together. No kids. All this anticipation of it being THE THING that makes all the other hard, chaotic things better. You build it up. You tell your friends, “I’m finally going on a date with my husband!” Legs are shaven. Makeup is applied. Once at the restaurant, you tag yourself and your hubs at said restaurant with the caption: “Date Night with Hubby! No kids! Woohooooo!” Then, you put your phone down and look at him, unsure of what to talk about outside of the kids, the schedule, the work. Yes, I’m talking about that rut.

It’s amazingly easy to forget how to connect with those you love the most.
To stop the chaos and busy long enough to look them in the eyes.
To ask deeper questions and listen to the answers.
To give and receive love.
To continue growing and learning together.

I cannot tell you enough how important it is to do these things. A study in California revealed the most common reason folks were in the courthouse getting divorced was not feeling loved by their partner.

Here are a few tips to getting out of the date night rut:
1. Find or make space in your weekly/daily lives to be alone.
2. Be lovers. Kiss, touch, hug, snuggle. Have sex regularly*.
3. Date regularly*. Make it happen, no excuses.
4. Ask open-ended questions. Here are some examples:
Talk about your childhood, hopes for the future, traditions you want to start, what you are
looking forward to, the things you love about each other, your first kiss, your first impressions
of each other, your most embarrassing moment, your favorite memory together, your favorite
vacation, gift, etc. How you knew you wanted to marry him/her. How do you feel loved by me?
How can I make you feel more loved?
5. Put down your phone. Look into each other’s eyes. Seek to really understand the person sitting
across from you.

* “Regularly” is defined by you and your spouse. Discuss what you each would like and compromise if necessary, but talk about it and be intentional about what you decide.

Happy Dating!
– Lauren

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marriage counseling 2.0

I’ll be the first to tell you marriage therapy often fails. I even wrote a blog post about it. There are many reasons for this failure: often I find that I can’t get couples to show up regularly, let alone do the things I ask them to at home. Even though it seemed that so much failure was around a lack of commitment from one or both spouses or a rousing round of “the blame game”, I knew that it was also my fault. I truly believe folks live up to the expectations you have for them so I decided I needed to do something about all this failure.

So I did. I got EVEN MORE training (it’s a good thing I love learning!). And I got the assessments, the tools, and the structure to help me utilize John Gottman’s marriage research. He’s my favorite. I teach his material, believe it, and use it…but I didn’t know how to apply it effectively. I took his level 1 training and I learned how. Now, I’m ready. I’m ready to use this stuff and I’m excited about the fresh start on something I used to love so much. I already feel that old spark coming back.

Here’s how it works. I will conduct 3 intake sessions. All sessions will be 1.5 hours. They must be completed in 3 consecutive weeks or less.

1st session: information gathering, giving immediate feedback on my impressions of the direction we’ll take in therapy. I’ll give a packet of assessments for the couple to take home and fill out to bring to the

2nd session: 45 minutes with each spouse alone.

After the session, I will spend time analyzing the assessments and identifying the big issues that cause marriages to fail (according to Gottman’s 30+ years of research).

3rd session: I will have a treatment plan for the couple. This means we’ll identify not only the goals for therapy, but also how I plan to help them reach the goals with a specific plan.

I’ve done this in a much more loose, less organized way in the past. I’ve been too lenient. This can often be fine for individual work, but it doesn’t work for most couple’s therapy. Now, I’m explaining up front the importance of investing in counseling and really giving more time and energy on the front end. It’s so important because it’s hard to keep trying at something that is often not pleasant (marriage therapy) when we lose momentum or don’t see the changes quickly enough. This will alleviate that. Couples will experience positive changes more quickly this way. They will see the tangible plan and have more faith in the process. This will be a motivating factor in completing the things I ask of them. I’m hopeful and excited!

Please let me know if you’d like more information or you are interested in beginning counseling with me.

resolution disillusion

Resolutions are for idealists who live in la-la-land, right? More and more I’m hearing this: “I don’t make resolutions because I never keep them.” I completely understand. It’s difficult to continually be confronted and disappointed by our own inability to live the life we think we “should” be living. Most of us know we “should” work out more, eat better, drink less, sleep more, spend more time with family and friends…you get the idea.

May I suggest some resolutions for our resolution disillusion?

  1. Start small. For instance, if you do not currently exercise, it is unrealistic to think you’ll be working out every day. Make a goal to exercise more and build on that.
  2. Know yourself. If you hate going to the gym and walking/running on the treadmill feels like a slow, painful death, do not join a gym! If you enjoy dancing, yoga, biking, etc. find a way to do what you love. You’re more likely to keep your goals if you make them for yourself and not for someone else. You do not need to fit anyone else’s definition for success.
  3. Simply strive to be better than you are. You define that. Not the folks around you. Stop comparing your insides to other people’s outsides. Believe me, NO ONE has a perfect life no matter how much it may look that way. Live life according to your values, not your to-do list.
  4. Practice gratitude. This alone will motivate you to be more kind, more patient, more loving, and more joyful. It will be easier to keep your goals because you feel better in general. Nothing kills motivation quite like feeling sorry for yourself or being depressed. Continually remind yourself to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t.
  5. Soak in moments. Learn to recognize and then pause to appreciate a scent, taste, feeling, or sight… Give yourself permission to soak it in and appreciate the little gifts we get every day.
  6. Begin verbalizing the positive things you think about others and yourself. It’s amazing what making someone smile can do for your own self-esteem and joy.
  7. Ask for help. If you believe the past, depression, anxiety, relationships, addiction, or something else is hindering you from achieving your goals; I hope you’ll consider counseling a viable option to help you get past those barriers. You do not have to do it alone.

Good luck and Happy New Year, friends!

18 life lessons I learned from my Daddy

My dad will be the first one to tell you he isn’t perfect. He’ll tell you he’s made a lot of mistakes. Big ones even. As a child, I thought my dad could do no wrong. He was my superhero. As an adult, I see him as a human and a man; one I still deeply admire and respect. I learned some incredibly valuable life lessons from him. Lessons I have already been passing on.

 I’d like to share them with you, too:

  1. Generosity doesn’t have to be complicated. Just give. No strings attached.
  2. Never, ever call yourself stupid.
  3. Take joy in the little things in life. Yell.  Jump up and down and holler. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks while you do so. Never be afraid to look silly.
  4. Stuff is just stuff. Money is just money. These things are not the important parts of life. They are replaceable.
  5. Work hard. Do your very best.
  6. Smile and look people in the eye.
  7. Don’t ever judge someone else’s music. Keep an open mind.
  8. Every person has value and worth. Do not judge and never think you’re better than someone else.
  9. Apologize and mean it when you’re wrong.
  10. Notice, appreciate, and enjoy the beauty in nature and animals.
  11. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
  12. Treat yourself sometimes. Save some money for a trip and then spend it. Do not worry about money while you do so.
  13. Always make sure that your family knows how much you love them.
  14. Give hugs and high fives. Celebrate other people’s success with them.  Jealousy is a useless emotion.
  15. Worry is a useless emotion.
  16. Play board games as often as you can.
  17. If you’re sick keep your germs away from other people as best you can.
  18. If you fart and it stinks, warn the people around you so they can leave if necessary.

Daddy and I

5 tips for dealing with stress

Stress. It’s a word we hear and think all too often in our busy world.

“I’m so stressed out!”

“Work is so stressful right now.”

“You are stressing me out!”

I know you can relate. It’s hard to juggle all our responsibilities and commitments and still find time for family, friends,  relaxation or fun.  Managing your stress requires a daily commitment to do and think differently. I understand that circumstances prevent us from living a stress free life, but here are a few tips for what you can do to manage stress:

    1. Make a list. List out all the things that cause you stress.  This can be beneficial in couple ways:
      1. See if there are any commitments/activities that are doing more harm than good and consider letting them go. Consider sharing the list with a trusted friend or family member to aid your perspective.
      2. Cross out the things on the list that you can do absolutely nothing about except pray (aka, the stuff outside your control). Remind yourself that the stuff outside your control is simply that, grieve if needed and work on accepting those things. Look at what’s left and make some plans to deal with them. Ask for advice, if needed, on how to do that efficiently.
    2. Talk to a trusted friend.  Sometimes just hearing the words, “me too” can work wonders!
    3. Do something you love. Do something for yourself. For instance, I always have a lot of nonfiction reading I should be doing for work. I incorporate that reading into my day when possible, but at night before bed I read fiction that serves no other purpose than to entertain me. It’s something I look forward to every day!
    4. Turn off the radio, TV, computer, and put away your phone.  We have enough noise in our lives without adding to it unnecessarily.  I suggest technology free times. I highly suggest this in the car, but at home sometimes too. Putting aside these distractions can free us to absorb and appreciate moments with our loved ones and help us focus on what really matters. Today! Be present!
    5. Ask for help. Sometimes, we turn to busyness and stress as a way of avoiding life, marriages, kids, grief, etc. We seek to distract ourselves from the truth/reality. If you’d like some professional help sorting this out, it is available when you’re ready.  While life will always have ups and downs, counseling can offer you perspective and tools for enjoying life more and living it with joy and purpose.

And as always…I wish you blessings on your journey, friend.