Marriage Challenge: Sexual Nostalgia

Nostalgia:  Fond memories.  Reminiscences of days gone by.  Longing to return to a specific time or event.  Each person has moments in which nostalgic memories are triggered.  It could be from a scent, a sound, a touch or an experience. Times when our senses are heightened and our thoughts linger.  Today’s marriage challenge is to use this to your advantage concerning your sexual relationship.

Great sex, by it’s very nature, will keep you coming back time and again.  The release of oxytocin (“bonding” or “trust” chemical) during intercourse and orgasm, helps create a deep sense of attachment and intimacy. Beyond that however, if you attach your memories to specific sexual experiences it can be a big libido booster.

Creating what we are calling sexual nostalgia, is really quite simple.  When you make love introduce a different or new variable.  This could be a different room, a specific song/cd, a new position or a certain fragrance.  Then, anytime you see, hear, smell, etc.that variable,  use memory recall to bring to mind the intimacy you shared during that special time together.  If you choose the couch as a place to connect your bodies, allow your mind to recall how special your time spend together in that place was.  If you use a fragrance specifically for an intimate rendezvous, use that scent to trigger sexual thoughts towards your spouse. Etc., etc., etc.

Use your biggest sexual organ to your advantage.  Your brain and all the memories it contains can help orchestrate excitement and sexual pleasure and can help build greater interest in sex with your spouse.

What variables can you add to your sexual repertoire that may lead to sexual nostalgia days, weeks, month or even years down the road?  Take the challenge and build up a memory full of sex positive encounters with the love of your life!

Having the Conversation…With Your Kids:

We’ve written before about the impact pornography is having on our culture, and as a result, marriage. Due to this impact, we wrote about how important it is to “have the conversation with yourself”.  Those who struggle with porn, need to not only acknowledge the impact it’s having on their life, but take the necessary steps to change.  We also wrote about “Having the Conversation With Your Spouse.”  Today, we want to discuss the importance of having the conversation with your kids.

Statistics show that children today see porn for the very first time at age 11.  You may have just done a double-take and thought, “Did I read that correctly?”  Yes.  Yes you did.  11 years old.  Eleven.  On a personal note, I (Justin) was 11 years old 24 years ago.  And that’s the year I first saw porn for the very first time.

It was at that age I had the opportunity to travel with a group of fellow students from my school district to Washington D.C.  A select group of students was chosen for the trip, and I was one of the lucky ones.  It was a first for me.  A long bus trip to our nations capital.  The opportunity to see the White House, Washington Monument and so much more.  And most importantly (for a 6th grader), no chaperone’s staying in the hotel room.  That’s right, 4 young boys in a hotel with no adults, a remote control, and all the channels hotels are known for.  As we sat in our room innocently flicking through the channels, we suddenly saw naked women.  8 eyeballs lit up, and we sat there kind of mesmerized by the experience.  The next morning we discovered we weren’t the only ones.  90% of the other kids on the trip had glazed over eyes the next morning, all being up too late watching the same porn.

At the time of this experience, I wasn’t a Christian.  My family went to church.  I understood who God was.  But I wasn’t a Christian.  That came later.  After I made that decision, however, I quickly began to understand how devastating the porn industry can be.  I remember going on another school trip when I was 15 or 16 years old.  Another long bus ride.  Another city to explore.  Another hotel room with 4 teenage boys and no supervision.  More porn.  Lots more.  But this time I sat uninterested.  I sat in the room innocently playing through some video games instead.

If these experiences taught me anything, it’s that having the conversation with your kids about the porn industry is extremely important.  Nobody ever had this talk with me.  I was on my own.  And being “on your own” when it comes to human sexuality in your teenage years is not a pleasant experience.  It’s unpleasant because as you grow and mature you discover that you’ve learned some lessons the hard way.  When it comes to porn and other sex-related conversations, you don’t want your kids to grow and mature and discover that they, too have learned things the hard way.

Instead, it’s best to start a conversation with them early.  As Andy Stanley once said in a message, “I didn’t have ‘the talk’ with my kids.  Instead, I sat them down and said, ‘Today, we’re going to begin a lengthy conversation…and this conversation will be an ongoing conversation.”  This is a great example of we all should converse with our kids.  It has to begin early (much earlier than age 11) and it has to be an ongoing conversation.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when deciding the when and how to talk to your kids about porn:

1.Root out the problem in your own life.  You really must have the conversation with yourself before you can begin the conversation with your children.  As a parent, you must be on your way to dealing with and recovering from your own porn habits or addictions.  A parent’s role isn’t to be the “do as I say but not as I do” person.  We have to set the example.  And when it comes to marriage, sex, and porn, we have to set the example as to what’s appropriate.

2. Develop strong convictions about the dangers of porn.  Having a strong foundational understanding about the dangers of porn, especially as it relates to a young developing mind is integral to having this kind of conversation with your child.  Talk to some professional counselors who have experience in this area.  Get informed.  Do some research on how much porn impacts a child and then arm yourself with ideas about how to prevent porn from entering your home.

One of the most popular ideas for porn prevention is some type of internet filter.  While there are a few out there, we must say at this time that we haven’t heard very good reviews from some of them.  Due to this, we’re not going to recommend any specific ones at this time.  However, if anybody has any good suggestions/experiences with any internet blocking software, feel free to drop a line in the comments below.

3. Remember that it’s an ongoing conversation.  Don’t just have ‘the talk’ and think that one short conversation is enough.  And please, don’t just allow the public education system to have the final say on this subject with YOUR children.  It’s this system that has very grey definitions as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.  This system nearly encourages kids to be sexually active during their teenage years.  Instead of allowing others to educate your children as to what’s appropriate, talk to them regularly to make sure they know what’s appropriate and what’s not.

4. Pray.  At the end of the day, your children are going to make their own decisions.  And they are going to be the ones that have to live with the results of those decisions.  While having an ongoing conversation is extremely important, praying for your kids regularly is just as important.  As a young teenage boy, nobody ever had ‘the talk’ of any kind with me.  But I’m quite certain my mother prayed for me on a regular basis.  Her prayers, I believe, were answered.

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Have any additional tips about “Having the Conversation With Your Kids”?  If so, feel free to drop us a line in the comments below.

Having the Conversation…With Your Spouse: part 2

This series has focused primarily on the subject of pornography.  We began by discussing the importance of having the conversation with yourself.  This means that those who view porn on a regular basis (whether they’re technically ‘addicted’ or not) need to admit to themselves that it’s a problem, and they shouldn’t be viewing it at all.  Then, in our last post we tried to answer the question, “Should I confess this problem to my spouse or not?”  Today, we want to tackle a different part of having the conversation with your spouse.  This segment is dedicated to those who think their spouse might be involved in porn, but they’re not sure.

Those who think their spouse may be involved in porn often ask what ‘symptoms’ to look for.  While these may vary from person to person, some likely symptoms of one who is engaged in porn on a regular basis include:

Privacy: This person wants their privacy protected at all costs.  They don’t allow their spouse to see their facebook/twitter/email account.  They don’t allow their spouse to see their cell phone.  They claim they want “privacy”, but oftentimes what they really want is to hide something.

Internet Useage: Porn is easily available online today.  I (Justin) first saw porn at age 11, far before my family had a computer with dial-up internet access.  Fast forward today, and the internet is a cesspool of porn activity.  Not only is there a ton of porn available online today, but internet browsers all allow a user to quickly clear their recent viewing history.  So, if your spouse uses the computer often and their history is always deleted, you may wonder what they were looking at.

Sex: Someone who is engaging in porn on a regular basis may have a sudden increase for sexual activity, or a strong decrease for sexual activity due to masturbation.  Those who have an increase for sexual activity may start making unusual requests for the bedroom that are different than your normal times of intimacy.

We should note at this point that these are merely the most common symptoms.  And it’s very possible that one spouse may want their “privacy” for a very different reason than porn.  Nevertheless, with marriage as a one-flesh relationship, both parties should be open and honest with all of their email/facebook/twitter accounts and internet useage.  In a marriage relationship, one cannot use the words, “It’s really none of your business.”  The marriage is one relationship, not two.  So what one spouse does is very much the business of their spouse.

The question asked at this point is, “How do I have this conversation with my spouse?”

1) Just ask them.

You’re never going to know if you don’t ask them, so just ask them.  But don’t do so in a condescending way, instead ask in such a way that your concern is for them.  Your desire is for them to be the person God made them to be, and you want to help them become that person.  To help them become that person, you have to know whether your suspicions are true or not.  So ask them.  And when you ask them, be sure you ask them to look you in the eye as they respond.  A spouse who has been hiding something (whether it’s porn or something else) can’t tell a lie if they’re looking directly into the eyes of their spouse.

2) Emotionally prepare for their response.

We’re quite certain that any woman (or man) who has a spouse involved in porn will be devastated.  There are all kinds of emotions you’ll feel if you discover they are in fact involved in porn.  Do your best to emotionally prepare for their response ahead of time.  As we mentioned above, your desire is for them to become the person God intended them to be.  While you may feel feelings of rejection, feelings of being unsatisfying to them, feelings of being cheated on, feelings of being lied to, feelings of so many other things…you need to deal with many of those emotions ahead of time so that you can help them.

If you’re wondering how you deal with those emotions ahead of time, it’s possible that it may require counseling.  It’s also possible that you’ll realize that the core of their sin is self-centeredness, and the core of any of your sin in your marriage is also a result of your own self-centeredness.  Realizing this will help you to deal with your own sin before helping him/her deal with theirs. Matt. 7:1-5 is a good reminder on this.  Once you are emotionally prepared, then you’ll fully be able to help them.

3) Plan to help them.

You may or may not be able to personally help your spouse get through their struggle.  You may want them to get help, but don’t want to be part of the process.  You just want to know that they’re meeting with somebody on a regular basis and you want them to share their calendar with you.  This is not only understandable, but it’s completely acceptable.  But there still may be some things you can do to help them out in their accountability.

One, is to get some good software installed onto your computers at home.  X3Watch is probably the best software I’m aware of and I’ve personally worked with a few men who have installed this onto their PC’s.  XXXChurch also has some good reading to help you better understand the porn industry and receive some information on how to best work with those who may be struggling.

Another way to help is to do some kind of marriage book study or bible study together.  The more he/she desires to improve the marriage, the better your marriage will become.  To be honest, some of the strongest marriages aren’t the ones who never go through these types of struggles, they’re the ones who go through them and come out stronger and more in love on the other side.

We realize that this series only touches the surface of a deeply emotional sin and very complex industry.  Still, this is a sin that absolutely wreaks havoc within a marriage AND within one’s own relationship with God.  It must be dealt with, and it must be dealt with sooner rather than later.  In our final post in the series we’re going to discuss having the conversation with your kids.  As I mentioned above, I was 11 years old when I first saw porn.  I’ll share that story and more next time.  Until then…

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What other symptoms do you think are common for those who are struggling with porn?  If you or someone you love has struggled in this area before, what steps did they find most helpful in their efforts to stop?

Having the Conversation…With Your Spouse:

Last week we began a short series on the subject of pornography.  While often viewed as innocent self-pleasure, pornography hinders more marriages than anything else. It’s about self-pleasure, not marital intimacy.  It’s about one fulfilling their own desires and not the desires of their spouse.  It’s about one’s flesh, not one flesh.

We began this series simply stating that those who view porn on a regular basis, whether addicted or not, need to have a conversation with themselves about the problem.  Once one admits the problem, they may then get the help they need to move closer to finding real freedom behind closed doors – with their spouse.

This week, we want to tackle a second area: If one admits to him/herself they have a problem, should they confess their struggle to their spouse or not?

Essentially, there are only 2 possible answers to their question – Yes, or no.  And to be completely honest, both answers have the backing of many counselors out there today.  Let’s first look at some of the reasons why one should confess their pornography struggle to their spouse.

1) Marriage is a One Flesh Relationship.

We write about it here often, and scripture has a lot to say about it, too.  Marriage brings two separate people together to one flesh.  One.  They are, in essence, one person in the eyes of God.  Concerning sexual sin, a husband (or wife) caught up in pornography is sinning directly against God AND against their spouse.

For example, when David sinned by sleeping with Bathsheba (and killing her husband), he later wrote a Psalm to God saying, “Against, You and You alone have I sinned.”   The reader immediately thinks, “What about Bathsheba?  What about her ex-husband David murdered?  Surely David sinned against them, too, right?”  I think a strong case can be made that we can not only sin against God, but against others.  Luke 15 shares the parable of the prodigal son, who when he comes to his senses says, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

The argument, therefore, is that when you sin in the area of pornography, you are sinning both against God and against your spouse.  And just as the prodigal son came to his senses and confessed his sin to his father, so one today who sins against others should confess to them.  James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

2) Your Spouse Can Help Keep You Accountable:

Another reason why confessing sin to your spouse may be wise is that he/she can help keep you accountable.  Think about it, if a guy friend asks the question, “Have you seen any pornography over the past week or two?” it’s a little bit easier to answer the question with partial truth.  But if your spouse is asking the question, you will not be able to lie.  They will see right through it and you will see the pain this problem is causing.

These are only a couple of reasons as to why having the conversation with your spouse may be seen as a good idea.  However, a strong case may be made that it is safer to not confess to them for the following reasons.

1) It May Cause MORE Damage to the Marriage.

Let’s think about this from the perspective of a woman for just a minute.  Her husband lovingly comes to her with a heavy heart, confessing to her that he has been struggling with pornography for a while.  He tells her he’s getting help, but he would like her to pray with him through this ordeal and work through it together.  In this situation, the wife will be devastated.  And ultimately, she will decide to either accept his offer, OR her suffering will take control of the marriage.  She may be somebody who has always struggled with her image, and now she’s left with numerous self-doubts thinking, “All those times he told me how beautiful I was – it was really only a lie!  He finds others much more beautiful than me!”

Sadly, whether it’s a man or woman struggling with pornography, this is often the result.  The one being sinned against is so heavily offended and wounded that the marriage relationship struggles.  The couple is now no longer concerned with accountability, they’re needing heavy marriage counseling just to survive.  Some choose not to accept help, and divorce rips a once happy marriage to shreds.

2) Your Spouse Isn’t a Good Accountability Partner.

This ties in heavily with number one above.  In our marriage, Megan has made it very clear that if I ever struggled with pornography, she wouldn’t want to know.  Over the years, I’ve talked with only a handful (I’m certainly no expert) of men who have struggled with porn.  In one case, his wife was very aware of his struggle.  Her response was simple, “I love you and I’m not going to let this ruin our marriage.  But you need to get help.  I want to know somebody is keeping you accountable, but that person isn’t going to be me.  I don’t want to know the details of your struggle.”

So, you see, when it comes to whether one should openly have the conversation with their spouse, it’s really an up-in-the-air question.  The best real suggestion we can provide is to pray about it.  God knows you, your spouse, and your marriage much better than you do.  Spend serious time in prayer asking whether you should openly communicate to your spouse the struggles you’re having.  Some men (or women) will spend serious time in prayer and decide they have a commitment to their spouse and must tell them.  Others may pray and determine that their love for their spouse is so strong they do not want to cause them severe pain by opening up.  The bible doesn’t clearly say, “Thou shalt…” in this situation.  And maybe that’s because God knows that what’s best for your marriage may be something different than what’s best for somebody else’s marriage.  And that’s just one more reason to let Him decide whether or not you should have the conversation with your spouse.

In our next post we’re going to take a different directly in the “having the conversation with your spouse” idea.  This one will focus on the one who suspects their spouse is involved with porn.  Should they confront their spouse or not?  If so, what symptoms do they look for?  And how do they do so?  We’ll write about that soon.  Until then…

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Do you know of any good resources (books, websites, etc.) for men or women who are struggling with porn?  What about resources for those who have decided to keep one another accountable in this area?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Linking with: Revive Your Marriage

Having the Conversation…With Yourself:

Writing about marriage is often a challenging task, because there are topics here, there and everywhere that must be covered.  Writing about love languages, friendship in marriage, working through problems, ideas for the bedroom, etc. are all subjects that immediately come to the surface.  That said, there’s one subject that comes up through various blogs on occasion, but I’m not sure the drum is always beat as loudly as it ought to be.  The subject is pornography.

Before you close this page and move on to another blog or article, I want you to think about this for just a second: pornography is ruining more marriages than anything else today.  Some estimates indicate that even among Christian churches today, 50% of those attending services on a weekly basis view pornography regularly.  Others have stated that up to 1/3 of pastors today struggle with it. It is wrecking not only secular society, but the Christian church as well.

Maybe you’re involved in porn personally, and don’t think it’s a big deal…but you know your marriage and sex life isn’t anything like what it could be.  Maybe your spouse is involved in it and you don’t even know…but you know your marriage and sex life isn’t anything like what it could be.  Maybe your kids are involved in it in some way and you don’t even know it.  And you’re beginning to wonder why parenting has suddenly become so frustrating.  Our goal is to discuss each of these things in a series of three posts.

Before we dive into the subject of “Having the Conversation With Yourself”, here are some statistics I want to bring to your attention.  These statistics didn’t come from a “Christian” perspective who inflated the numbers just to make them sound worse than they really are, they came directly from a Business Insider post on the subject of internet porn.

1.  Every second, over $3,000 is spent on porn.

Mark Driscoll points out that the net income for the porn industry on an annual basis is MORE than than of the NFL, MLB, and NBA…combined.  To put it another way, it’s MORE than the annual income of the 3 largest US networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC…combined.  Even those who don’t pay a dime, are supporting the industry due to the advertisers who pay to make it happen.

2. 40 million Americans are regular visitors to pornography websites.  2/3 of these are men, and 1/3 are women.  In fact, the largest growing percentage of porn viewers today are women, not men.

3. 2.5 Billion emails a day are pornographic.

4. 25% of search engine requests are porn related.  Here on the Do Not Disturb Blog, we know this to be true because of some of the search engine requests that lead people to our blog.

5. 35% of all internet downloads are porn related.

6. The average age which a child first sees porn, is 11 years old.  To be completely honest here on the blog, I (Justin) first saw porn when I was 11 years old.  And this was the age before the internet, so I know the truthfulness of this statistic.

There were more statistics offered as well, but these are the ones that stuck out to me the most.

Now, up above we mentioned three different types of situations.  The first one was —  maybe you’re involved in it personally, and don’t think it’s a big deal…but you know you marriage and sex life isn’t anything like what it could be.  Let’s focus on the first part of this for a second: is pornography a “big deal”?

In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery.  But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Translation to today: anytime you like at pornography, you’re committing adultery against your spouse.  You are, essentially, sleeping with someone else.

So before we go on with the rest of this series, here’s what we’re hoping you do today: Have the Conversation…With Yourself.  What does this mean?  Well, it means you need to:

1. Acknowledge the Problem

Maybe you’re not fully addicted to porn.  Maybe you just take a little peak now and then.  You’re thinking, “This won’t hurt anybody.”  And then you don’t look again but you come back a month or two later for another small peak.

Maybe you are addicted.  Maybe it’s something you look at on a near daily basis.  Because you’ve gotten in pretty deep, the only way to satisfy your cravings is to see even more.

Whichever category you may fall in to, you need to acknowledge that it’s got to stop.  Porn. Is. Adultery.  There’s no really kind way to say it.  Not only is it adultery, it’s degrading to women.  Women are being used, lied to, manipulated, and treated in some of the worst “work” conditions possible.  Every time you watch porn, you’re catering to this system.  So acknowledge that it’s a problem.  Make the decision that you really don’t want to be part of this system any more.

If you don’t view porn ever, I think that’s wonderful!  I really do!  But, I’m sure you know others who do.  Many others.  Be sure that you take opportunities to communicate with them why you don’t, and why you don’t feel the need to.  You may be able to be a significant help to those who have a sincere struggle in this area.

2. Get help.

If you’re not involved in a full pornography addiction, you can begin meeting with a trusted counselor or Christian friend who will help you walk through it.  Commit to reading scripture on a regular basis.  Commit to being open and honest with your new friend about what you’ve seen and not seen on a weekly basis.  Commit to loving your spouse and serving her/him more than than you serve yourself.

If you believe you may be fully addicted to pornography, a trusted accountability friend will be helpful, but you may need additional counsel as well.  The addiction doesn’t come from the images themselves, but from the chemicals in your body that are released when you see it.  To stop viewing porn is to deprive your body of a chemical substance it’s used to getting on a consistent basis.  Porn addiction is much like alcoholism and drug addiction.  It often takes more professional help and a complete lifestyle change.

3. Be free.

Our tag line here has always been, “Finding freedom behind closed doors.”  Guess what, if pornography is in your house in any way, you and your spouse will never truly find freedom in your sex lives.  If you want this to happen, you’ve got to seriously take steps 1 and 2 to heart, get the help you need, and by doing so take the steps to make your marriage that much better.  I won’t lie, this isn’t going to happen in a few days, or even weeks or months.  It will take several months to work through this area.  But if you have the conversation with yourself and acknowledge you truly need the help, and then get the help you need, your marriage will benefit in ways you never imagined.

Now, one of the questions often asked from those who have struggled with pornography is this: Do I talk with my spouse about this and confess to him/her my struggles in this area, or don’t I?  It’s a tricky question, and one we’ll pick up with next time.

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For those not currently struggling with porn, which statistic above surprised you the most?  Why do you think so many people get ensnared in pornography?

Linking with: Revive Your Marriage

The Pain of Past Sexual Thoughts: Sexual Encounters of the Mind

Today, Megan shares a personal story on past dream-state sexual encounters.  This story is shared in order to help others recognize that the vast majority of sexually explicit material may cause uncontrollable damage.

I was a college student the first time it happened.  A virgin, a clean sexual slate.  I had never viewed porn or read any erotic novels.  But there I was feeling violated, dirty, scared, confused.  “What is happening to me?  What is wrong with me?  How can I stop this?”  I was having sexually erotic dreams.  Nightmares really.  Some of the nightmares were of being raped.  Some included me being promiscuous.  None of them left me feeling sexy or turned on.  I felt defeated and discouraged.  I went to bed in fear, never knowing how to truly prevent my subconscious from going down a path I didn’t want to follow.

I recognized it was a spiritual attack, so I prayed, read and memorized scripture and the nightmares would subside for a season.  Still, these nightmares have never been completely absent from my life.  For 15 years I have battled in different seasons these same sexually violent and erotic dreams.  Each time it happens it reminds me just how vulnerable and susceptible my mind and heart are to sexually explicit thoughts.  Thoughts that do not build intimacy between Justin and I but serve to depress and destroy the sexual union in our marriage.

For certain, this is one of the reasons I am passionate about sexual intimacy in marriage….because it matters to God, it matters to my husband and it matters to me.  The most uncomfortable thought is that it matters to the enemy of my soul as well. I believe that at a young age my mind was invaded by dreams that were meant to destroy a beauty that had not yet been experienced.  The joy and bliss of marital intimacy.  The joining of bodies in the deepest emotional, mental, spiritual and physical way possible.  My marriage could have easily begun with a deep sense of shame and disgust for sex but thanks to a great God that did not happen.  For that I am grateful.

I make love with my eyes open and my mind intent on my husband.  Erotic thoughts and visual stimulation could easily show up if invited.  I don’t give the invitation.  I never did.  And it is only through the grace and power of God that those uninvited thoughts and images are made to vanish.

I don’t believe I am the only one susceptible to sexual manipulation.  We all are.  Sex is incredibly powerful.  It is incredibly powerful in positive ways and incredibly powerful in destructive ways.  Basing your sex life on what God intends it to be will never leave you lacking.  Basing it on what others say it should be will leave you searching for more.  As for me, I don’t search for more.  I have a great, satisfying and fulfilling sexual relationship with my husband.  It has grown better over the years because I have loved, listened to and been guided by the God who invented the whole idea.  I know that there is great freedom behind closed doors because I have experienced it.  I know that sex does not have to remain distorted.  I know that what the enemy sent to cause destruction actually built and strengthened my own marriage and planted a seed to minister to other marriages.  I know that the same can be true for you.

This very personal story is shared, in part, as a response to a very erotic book that is currently being sold, “50 Shades of Grey.”  Many other marriage bloggers I respect and admire have written more specifically about the book but this is just further insight into my experiences in life and why I will not invite erotica such as this into my bedroom.  For further reading check out To Love Honor and Vacuum who today posted about this subject and included several links to other blogger’s thoughts.