The Exhaustion of The Hunt

Maybe I have mentioned this before, I’m a romcom aficionado. I get all teared up and then all warm and fuzzy after watching them. Even a good romantic drama gets me right in the feels. I’m sappy. Too sappy.

There is a common theme in a lot of these comedies, a theme that has also shown itself in stand up routines and has seeped into my own social life: finding a mate is hard work.

My wife and I occasionally have the “if you died” discussion (sounds morbid I know) and we have both come to the conclusion that we would end up old spinsters.

Well, she thinks she would be, and I think I would be, but we are pretty sure the other would be just fine.

She’s hot, she’s hilarious, she has other qualities that would be inappropriate to discuss on this blog, why would she have a problem finding a man?

I’m hot (apparently), I have a great personality, I connect emotionally, and I’m good at… things…. Why would I have a problem finding a mate?

Because the market sucks!

I don’t envy the 20 and 30 somethings out there playing the field and trying to pick up women. I don’t wish to trade places with anyone trying to find someone to settle down with. Even the thought of perusing dating apps and bars and even church is enough to make me want to stay single.

From what I can tell listening to comedians and friends, people are mean. They are deceitful, manipulative, emotional, selfish, and ugly. All the attractive ones (ie not like those) are taken. It is an awful world out there for love.

Even if I managed to snag a good one, it wears out my spirit just thinking about going through the initial stages of a relationship right now.

I remember the boiling passion of our early relationship, it would be insane to go back to that. I am quite content with the simmering passion we have now, the kind that occasionally flashes out of the pan, but never leaves us feeling burned out by the other.

If I ever end up in the market for a new lover, I will probably end up taking out a want ad in the paper, asking for a particular set of qualifications, a photograph, and a promise that she is not nearly as sappy as me.

Because that would just be too exhausting.

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Stop Thinking With Your Penis!

If you read Wednesday’s post, you might have also discovered that The Transformed Wife has many cringe worthy articles, way too many to respond to. But one post has got me particularly heated up.

It wasn’t the “risqué” image she chose, or the standard nonsense about how men are so visual and women are not. It wasn’t the usual “women need to be ashamed of their bodies and cover them completely so that men can’t be enticed by them” lines that got me riled.

That stuff is old hat. I have addressed the Modesty stuff before. The main points of the post were not at all shocking or new to me.

What was shocking was the very first comment:

“…Lori that picture for this blog post is one that could cause a brother to stumble. She is an example of what not to do. Would you please consider changing the image for one of a Godly-attired sister whose dress and shoes and pose will not lead a man who comes here seeking guidance for his wife astray? My husband Jeb is so thoughtful in finding materials that will help me grow (your book!) But he was a little shocked and surprised, and asked me to share his thoughts.

Really, Jeb?

If the image above gets you off, I sincerely hope you never leave your house or browse through any website. The amount of skin and shapeliness I see on a daily basis would send you running for the nearest restroom. Sorry to be a bit crude, but really dude?

If you can’t handle high heels and a little bit of calf, you probably aren’t taking every thought captive. You’re thinking with your penis, not your brain.

We need to stop this nonsense about how women are just a bunch of enticing objects that we can’t help but covet and lust after. We need to quit telling women that God made them a little too good and that we just can’t stop ogling them and making them into objects.

I thought the men going to her site seeking guidance for their wives were the Godly ones? These are supposedly the most self-controlled, upright, and good men out there. These are no men of the streets. And yet apparently they crumble at the site of some legs.

I am not saying that men don’t stumble. Men stumble over all sorts of things, sexually and otherwise. Men can literally make anything into something sinful. If women knew what could possibly make a man stumble she would never leave her bed (although even that in some men’s imagination can be twisted into something depraved).

What I am saying is that men need to grow up. Men need to stop whining about every good looking woman being a stumbling block to them. We need to stop seeing women as objects and start seeing them as beautiful image-bearers of God. We need to stop the limp-wristed weaker brother nonsense and start holding ourselves and others to a higher standard. We should expect men not to lust instead of assuming that they just do. No man has to sin, he chooses it because of wickedness.

So, Jeb, stop being weak, stop thinking with your penis, take your thoughts captive, and kill your sins.

Passion

If passion was clothing,

We’d never be naked…

Some feelings are too immense for words,

Too painfully explosive to cross one’s lips.

And when they dare breach that threshold,

They tumble out jumbled and quivering from exhaustion.

They dance around in one’s head,

Jumping to a feverish pitch,

Wanting to consume their object,

Wanting to be one with it,

To mold atom into atom,

To literally be it.

Love is called a fire,

One is said to burn with passion,

To be consumed with it,

To be enraptured by its object.

Love is terrifying in its power,

In its ability to empty one’s mind,

And fill it with nothing but thoughts about the beauty and loveliness of another.

Love has the power to consume hours,

To make time disappear,

As one lies in the arms of another.

Love is a power,

A force,

A thing not to be trifled with.

It is a terrible monster,

Lying in wait,

Waiting to pounce upon two people when they are least expectant,

Waiting to consume them and make them act with insanity.

Love is an action.

Driven by a will to serve another.

Undergirded with a passion to make the other immensely,

And insatiably,

Happy.

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Boyish and Girlish

Oh look, a butterfly, so girly!

My wife sent me a link last week knowing that I would just have to comment. I have written at least three posts about the subject after all. I didn’t ask this exact question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”?

Perhaps that is the wrong question. The more pertinent question is: How do we define what is “boyish” or “girlish”?

The article in question discussed several points like clothing preferences (colors and sparkles) and personality traits like compassionate or caring vs agressive and aloof.

To the first: preferences like these are almost completely cultural. What one culture considers feminine may very well be masculine in another culture. Pink and blue are not inherently gendered. A flashy man is not a less masculine man. There just happens to have been a movement towards dull drab colors on men in our culture over the past 120 years or so. If your son likes rainbows and flash he is not less of a boy for it, he just likes something less boring than the current culture would like him to.

To the second: what makes character traits feminine or masculine? Sure, there are definite hormonal and physical differences between males and females that result in slightly different personalities, but these are hardly universal. And they aren’t even that big of differences when we really look at them. My sons are definitely different from my daughters, but the differences are so subtle I couldn’t tell you if it was gender or simply their personalities.

Why this cultural push to make gentleness and compassion a strictly “female” trait? Why assume that a gentle man is effeminate? Why assume a woman who is strong and courageous is “acting like a man”?

Personally I think we are a culture much too obsessed with sexuality and gender. Since when are people narrowly defined by who they want to have sex with? Since when does gender dictate every character trait and personality quirk?

It’s gotten to the point where people even worry about their sexuality in church. Someone was complaining that worship songs in their church sounded “gay” because they call God “beautiful” or express a sentiment of wanting to be with Jesus. While I could agree that the theology of these types of songs is usually lacking and they are usually set to fru fru tunes it is ignorant just to lay them out as “gay”. Are those sentiments incorrect? Was it “gay” when Jesus washed His disciples feet or when we are told to greet one another with a holy kiss? What is it about expressing love in a gentle fashion that is “gay” or even “unmanly”?

Back to the first question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? For that answer you’ll have to wait for next week.

Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Birth Control, A Dangerous Combination

From “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler

From my previous posts you have learned that I don’t oppose all forms of birth control, but that I urge caution about hormonal birth control.

I have two reasons for this: the first is the fact that hormonal birth control can be an abortificant. The second is much more personal, hormonal birth control can really create havoc on your body and mind.

Shortly before we were married, my wife went to her gynecologist for a routine check and pre-wedding screening (not like she needed it but whatever). While there, the doctor told her she should start taking birth control a couple of months before the wedding. “You don’t want to be inconvenienced by a baby.” she told her. Being young and naive my soon to be wife acquiesced and started taking what the doctor prescribed.

The side effects began her first week on the pill. At first it was a near constant nausea which kept her in bed most of the time. Next, a nearly insatiable libido disappeared. Then came the depression and anxiety. She reported these to the doctor and was assured they weren’t side-effects, she was probably just nervous about the wedding.

Reluctantly, the doctor switched her pills for the patch. Her nausea abated slightly, but the rest of the symptoms remained in full force.

By the time the wedding came, she had very little interest in sex. There were a few nights on the honeymoon where she cried for hours because she couldn’t understand what was happening to her. She didn’t want me anymore. What sort of switch happened that would cause her to suddenly stop her interest in me?

Upon our return, my new wife reported these problems to the doctor only to be told that she was probably just regretting her decision to get married so young. “Depression is not a side effect of birth control.” Nonetheless, her doctor agreed to change the medication again, this time to the Nuva Ring.

While the ring was better for nausea, the depression worsened dramatically. There were nights I would wake up next to a sweating, rocking, tearful woman. Sex was nearly impossible. She contemplated suicide.

All the while, the doctor insisted it was in her head.

I don’t remember exactly what clicked in my mind, but one morning I told her to quit the birth control. While the side-effects weren’t spelled out on the packaging, it was too suspicious to me that they would coincide with her first dosages. She quit taking them, much to her doctor’s chagrin.

Within a month her mood was vastly better. Her nausea disappeared. There were still incredible mental and emotional scars that made sex difficult, but her appetite for it returned in force. Two months after quitting (three months after the wedding), she was pregnant.

After our first daughter was born we ignorantly decided to try the BC again. Breastfeeding was a hellish nightmare (thanks to a lack of lactation consultants) and parenting did not seem like something we wanted to do more of at that point.

Side effects came right back full force. She was told “oh, those aren’t side effects” yet again.

Funny how they disappeared shortly after she stopped taking the pill for the second time.

The labels did vaguely mention that you could have suicidal thoughts as a side-effect. But it was listed as an almost unheard of side effect. Our only guess is that women who do not suffer from Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) rarely have those side effects. Or that doctors simply don’t care.

She was never screened for PMDD, we didn’t know she had it until almost ten years later. But the diagnosis made everything make sense. Any fluctuation in hormones brings about emotional and mental changes in her. Birth control, pregnancy, and breastfeeding each had their own effects, whether nausea or severe depression or decreased libido. Like clockwork she gets severe depression about ten days before her period and starts feeling better immediately upon menstruation. Then she is healthy for a week or so after, before plunging back down again.

Most doctors don’t even know what PMDD is, it’s just not on their radar. They are convinced that BC simply doesn’t have any emotional side effects. They barely listened to her about the nausea.

It’s almost like they have an agenda to push. Hence the “you don’t want to be inconvenienced by a baby” comment.

Needless to say, hormonal birth control is definitely not for us. Since this happened to us we have talked to dozens of women who had similar experiences, even ones without PMDD.

If you decide to use it and you experience similar side effects, don’t let the doctor tell you that you are crazy or that you should just switch until you find one that works. Get your hormones checked and talk to a doctor about the possibility of PMDD. It took a general practitioner about ten minutes to make the diagnosis and prescribe medication and other therapies. Now she is healthier emotionally than she has ever been.

It’s not worth living in misery when there are other ways to go about preventing pregnancy.

My Wife Is Fat, Therefore I Look at Other Women

Come on, dude, she’s probably not even THAT big….

Recently I came across a discussion on Facebook that boiled down to this: “How does a woman respond submissively to her husband when he expects her to stay thin during pregnancy and is bothered by her weight gain from 3 kids in 4 years?” 
The question then went on to describe his concern that he might fall into lust because he no longer found her attractive. He argued that men are hardwired to find thin and young looking women attractive and cited this article as a source material for his way of thinking.

Now, of course this post rightfully incited a riot. There are several disturbing things going on with this question. 

First off, his main concern is not that his wife is a glutton, eating herself to death, and in sin. Even the blog post he cites is mainly addressing gluttony (though it’s focus is a bit off). His main concern is that she is losing her physical appeal to his appetite. 

Second, is this really a matter of submission? Is a woman required to keep herself attractive for her husband? Is she required to submit herself to whatever physical standard he deems attractive in the moment? 

Third, did he really marry his wife for merely her physical appearance? Is his love dependent on externals? 

If he was concerned with her eating habits and not just her baby weight, he may have a case. But he would be wise to approach the subject delicately. The last approach he should consider is the “You’re not attractive” route. Perhaps he should even consider leaving it up to her doctor to discuss it with her. Or offer to cook healthy foods for her (and eat them with her). Or exercise with her. I don’t care how ugly you think your wife is, you don’t have to tell her. 

The word “submission” gets thrown around frequently in these sorts of discussions. I don’t believe Biblical submission gives a husband license to ask whatever he pleases of his wife. There are some things, especially appearance wise, that people just can’t change. If this were a question about hair length or body hair or whether or not she wears makeup or certain outfits he has some leeway. But how she gains or loses weight is not something she has much control over. 

There is give and take in marriage. There is no Biblical requirement to stay attractive to your spouse. It is definitely a kind thing to do what you can. If you know they have a preference do what you can to meet it. My wife enjoys my beard and hair, and I like to keep her happy, even if sometimes my face itches and my hair gets hot. But I don’t think you’re in sin if you just can’t meet their standards. 

Probably the second most disturbing part about all of this is the way these “Christians” are adopting the world’s idea of what is attractive or necessary in a spouse. The Bible warns against putting too much emphasis on physical appearance because youth and “beauty” fade. 

Christians should seek to find the inner beauty of their spouse attractive.

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4

Inner adornment should be far more important to a husband than his wife’s outward appearance. It’s his job to wash her with the Word and present her without blemish. 

Besides, the world has a stupid standard. The average woman will spend most of her life with a post partum body. Why does the world expect women to forever look pre-baby (or in some senses pre-pubescent) when the reality is that most of womanhood is spent with scars from child bearing and age? 

I sincerely hope that he married her for more than her looks. A man who concerns himself only with how his wife looks is not loving her, he’s merely lusting over a body or a pretty face. Further still, he’s probably basing his standards of beauty on worldly standards. 

The most disturbing part about this question is the fact that he is willing to shift the blame for his sinfulness onto his wife. He is trying to blame his problems with lust on his wife’s appearance. This is nothing new, Adam played the same game when asked about his decision to eat the Forbidden Fruit. 

Christians need to stop writing blog posts and books giving men ammo for their blameshifting. His sin is his own, even if his wife is hideous or withholding sex from him, his lust is his sin. She will answer for her sins, be they gluttony or withholding. He doesn’t get to blame her for his sin anymore than she’ll be able to blame him. 

I’m glad to see the response to that post was overwhelmingly against this guy’s way of thinking. But the fact that these conversations come up at all is still evidence that we have a long way to go. Stop lusting after women, and stop blaming them. 

And please, stop calling your wife fat. 

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Keeping Our Kids Off Porn

Not my method…

Last week,  I discussed the fact that porn is a drug and corrected some common misconceptions about it. This week I intend to give a couple of methods that I see as useful in preventing and fighting porn addiction.

I recommended last time that those who are hooked should stop right now, cold turkey. But while the behavior can be stopped immediately, I think it’s important to examine the root of this addiction and slavery to sexual sin. What makes so many men (and women) vulnerable?

Part of the allure is wiring. Illicit sex is a very enticing sin to many. We are wired with a strong need for intimacy and human touch, and sex is the strongest expression of both. We are often so needy of intimacy that we will settle for even the cheapest of imitations. 

Sex is such a strong desire in our lives, many have over-focused on it and made sexual sin out to be the worst possible sin one can commit. While scripture certainly tells us that sexual sin is especially heinous to the point where one sins against his own body, it is certainly not the unpardonable sin. We need to extend grace to those who have genuinely repented of sexual sins.

It is an understatement to say that we live in a sex-saturated culture. While some of the discussion about sex are healthy and much preferable to the prudishness of previous generations, much if not most of what’s floating around out there is anything but helpful. Most of the sexual discussions out there do not promote healthy sexuality.

What is the root of this porn obsessed culture?

Within the church a large part of it is the “modesty culture.” This sub – culture of Christianity has placed undo sexual meaning to the word “modest” and has created an entire generation of sons who can’t even look around at the mall. 

This group of people have so over obsessed with the sexual attractiveness of the female body that even breastfeeding is shameful and should be kept in bathrooms or in one’s own home. 

Both the church and the secular culture at large have bought into the Freudian lie that sex is the most basic motivator for all human behavior. Our sexuality and sexual appetites define us now. It has become the biggest definer of our self-worth and self-image. 

If everything is sexual, everything becomes Pornographic,  regardless of the content. Even showing affection to your children is sexualized now. 

In the sex-obsessed world we live in it may seem impossible to prevent and kill porn addiction. How do I recommend we do it? 

Short answer: we change our perspective of the human body and sex. Instead of adopting the culture’s pornographic view of the body and sex or the modern church’s prude view of the body and sex, we need to instead adopt a proper and Biblical view. 

The human body:

Much of what attracts young men to porn is the allure of the forbidden. Growing up many if not most Christian boys are constantly told that the allure of the female body is so strong that they have no choice but to lust when exposed to any part of it. 

I believe many young men get into porn as an innocent desire to see what has been hidden. They are told growing up that the sight of a bare breast (thigh, midriff, ankle, etc) will set them into wild fits of lust. They are told to avert their eyes every time a girl walks by in a bikini. This kind of indoctrination creates a curiosity in the young mind. Will the sight of female flesh really make them feel great? What’s under there that is so powerful it must be hidden at all times? 

Naturally these boys will look for what is most accessible. Unfortunately,  most of what is readily available is highky sexual in nature. The media reinforces the teaching that men can only view women as sex objects by portraying them primarily as sex objects. And, just as prohibiting and limiting alcohol consumption until older and older ages leads many into binge drinking and unhealthy alcohol abuse, limiting healthy exposure to the normal human body leads to unhealthy binge consumption of unhealthily sexualized bodies. What started as a curiosity easily turns into an addiction. 

When you are constantly told “don’t look don’t look don’t look”  your mind is being trained to view women’s bodies (and women in general) as stumbling blocks, not as people. 

I knew guys in college who were proud of the fact that they stared at the sand or the sky every time they went to the beach. They avoided even the slightest sight of flesh. That is not something to be proud of. That’s actually a great sign that you need an adjusted mind. One should be able to see a nude woman (or any part of a woman) without flying into fits of sexual rage. 

We should not confuse attraction with lust. Attraction is normal, wild covetousness of women is not. Men who grow up being told that this is how they will react to the sight of women are in a sense conditioned into lust. Well-meaning “bounce your eyes” teachers tell them that even just one lingering glance is lust. If merely looking is lust, why not continue on to do the real thing?

Many of the “bounce your eyes” porn-fighters make avoiding the sight of the female body the cornerstone of their method. I recommend the opposite approach. I recommend seeing it more, specifically in an artistic, non-sexual setting. 

This serves two purposes. First, it removes much of the “forbidden fruit” aspect of the body that increases unhealthy interest in it. Second,  it trains the mind to view the body as on object of symmetry and beauty, not as a purely sexual object. If the non-sexualized nude body was a normalized sight in our culture this “body = sex” association would be much more difficult to plant in the minds of young men (and women). 

If you can train your mind to “not lust” by averting your eyes you are also training your mind to lust when your gaze lingers. A much better approach is to learn a proper perspective of the body not as a pornographic object but as an object made in the image of God and worthy of our respect and admiration. 

I found that when I started painting and drawing the human figure, much of the sexual aspects of the body faded into the background. It’s not that the body is not attractive, it just becomes attractive in a different way. When viewed as art, the body becomes lines, curves, and symmetry. The body becomes an object of great beauty, not an object of sexual appetite.

If you think that the body uncovered is sin in itself just stick around for my next CRAS post. 

Sex:

My last posts got called out for being “repressive” and “puritanical”. I hope I did not come across as prude to my mainly Christian audience. My intent is not to make sex taboo or make people think it is dirty and couples can’t have fun with it. Quite the contrary, I encourage married couples to experiment and try new things to keep their sex lives spicy. 

Key word there is “married”. That is the box I place sex into. I don’t think it is repressive or “puritanical” (not in the sense most use it anyway) to claim that truly healthy sex is found only within the bounds of committed heterosexual monogamy. Marriage is God’s gift to us and allows us the ability to channel our sexual appetites into a productive and beautiful place, rather than into degrading and harmful places. 

In my opinion,  one of the best ways to take the steam out of the pornographic culture we live in is to teach a healthy ethic of sex. This needs to be done early and often in our children’s lives. Start with basic biology well before puberty begins and slowly introduce them to the fact that sex feels good and has many positive and wonderful effects within a committed and monogamous relationship. 

We need to teach our kids, boys and girls, that attraction is a normal thing. As they grow, they are going to find themselves feeling inclined to look and linger at the bodies of others. We need to teach them that this is normal and healthy and that they shouldn’t be ashamed of it. They should not obsess over or feed these thoughts too much either as they can lead to lust.We shouldn’t be teaching them that this attraction is lust or that every time they notice another person they will lust. They can have these thoughts and feelings and not be mastered by them. 

We then need to teach them that marriage is the channel God intended us to put our sexual thoughts and desires into. Teach them that passionate marriages are a good and blessed thing, and that there is nothing shameful at all about sex within that boundary.

To fight porn’s temptation our children need to understand that sex is not a tool for self-gratification. Sex is a building block of intimacy with another person. It is one way we share ourselves with the one person we will (should) spend the bulk of our lives with. It is a powerful part of building intimacy and as such should be reserved for one person alone. 

There are many more things I could say, but I hope you get the idea. Perhaps one day I’ll get deeper into these discussions as I’m sure some of you will find tons of holes in this that I simply don’t have the ability to fill in so few words. 

But for now, I’ll leave it at this: if you want to keep your self or your kids off porn, work on changing your and/or your children’s understanding of the body and of sex.